Saturday, May 31, 2008

It aint funny

I can't comment back because blogger is blocked in China ...

it isn't funny, what happened to Falun Gong followers in China. The brainwashing campaign in China, which i posted on before, is extremely successful. The kids here know nothing of the torture and persecution. When falun gong is mentioned in China, people invariably laugh, as if the local village idiot had just been mentioned. They are considered here to be crazy and deluded and has entered the language now as a byword for foolishness.

i found the government reliance upon the falun gong to maintain order as ridiculous and funny, but it aint.

Thanks for reminding me about what is really going down, andromeda.

Kids Day

Tomorrow is kids day in China so a group of us are headed north to Shifang to play drums and be funny guys for the kids in the refugee camps. I already have a song called "Stank Feet" all thought out.

Today I read a notice issued by the police to the citizens of Shifang, Mianzhu and the surrounding area. In the notice they put the blame for rumors about floods, disease and bandits squarely on the shoulders of the Falun Gong. Although this is not funny, I had to laugh. I mean, the Falun Gong? I guess its just the timeless tradition of rolling out the usual suspects. The Falun Gong is so discredited that it has become a joke for most Chinese.

Every now and then a big character poster will appear at a school exhorting the populace to "throw down the fake Party" a play on one of the Party's labels for Falun Gong, the fake qi gong. Kids laugh when they see it.

Friday, May 30, 2008

my people

I was brought into a new community recently, Matador Travel Community and i must say i really dig it. i usually hate forums and communities because they demand much and they spring up like mosquitos in the night. Butthis one is filled with people like me so I am down. I put two stories up there the past couple of days, so you can go and check them out. But they are stories I have wanted to put up here as well.

you will have to go to Matador to check em out ...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Addendum



This is my house -- the farm. About 10km southeast of Chengdu in Three Gods Flower Village, where farmers grow roses and tulips and offer up their homes as teahouses for the semi-affluent of the city. There are some quiet nooks here off the teahouse path where one can chill.



This is Tenz, my half-Tibetan rapper-hustla fat-fingered technician homie with whom I spar on the chess board.

I wrote a column for antiwar.com today about the need for us foreigners to take it easy on China, cuz rufflin their feathers just makes them hysterical. But the truth is it infuriates me that i cannot discuss things here. I get off on talking about whats right and wrong and what we can do to fix it. but here as a foreigner there is a wall between you and the community that is almost unbreakable.

but it has gaps. so no matter how much it pisses me off that i have to treat some of my friends like children, i have slipped through the rents in the fence a few times and found the experience to be all there is needed in life.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Test Runs for the Big Show

Wass happenin ya'll? Its been an easy few days recently. My cats are in heat again so the dirty toms are serenading us all from the backyard. Big Tenz had a rough day of chess yesterday hehehehe ... he brought his projector to the Farm and we have been enjoying wide-screen Planet Earth sessions. The neighbor girls are really curious and want to know how much such an entertainment system costs.

I just finished the book Generation Kill, which is probably the best Iraq War book I have read so far. What amazes me every time is the nonchalant listing of casualties and destroyed military vehicles and aircraft. Does anyone remember hearing of 20 Black Hawks going down outside of Nasiriyah during the first week of the war? Or the 100-odd Marines killed and wounded in those first days?

Today, it became slightly apparent what the Chinese government has been up to with these weekly warnings of massive aftershocks coming to bury us all under cement and brick. Yesterday, SMS buzzed through the stratosphere telling everyone that the government officials of Guangyuan and Dayi counties predict a 7.5 earthquake to hit between 3 and 4pm. The other day, when a 5.8 aftershock hit the area, the government released information about the 400,000 buildings which were destroyed by that aftershock, just an hour or so after the fact. No quake hit yesterday.

The Mass Panic of last week, when the entire city of Chengdu emptied out into the fields around Third Ring Road, was followed by a series of aftershocks which reportedly destroyed 75,000+ buildings. Now we all figured that this was your typical government bullshit. Numbers spat out to create a semblance of order.

The whole scaremongering seemed to be the familiar crude tactics of a government that completely disrespects its people and considers them to be morons. Alas ... how wrong can they be?

I hold out hope that these weekly fire drills are not just to keep the minds of the people off of the Mandate of Heaven and dead school children, but a sneaky and effective training session for a possible massive flood. This NYT story bolsters my optimism.

Tonight i will write a story entitled: Will Autumn Ever Come?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tapfere Leute



Photo by Julia Zimmermann

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Auntie Lickums




So yo. I have two female cats, Stony and Crackhead, that are sisters and they both gave birth on the same day almost two weeks ago. Stony had three kittens of which two survived and Crackhead had two kittens of which one survived. This is as far as I can tell, I actually only know of the deaths. I didn't see all of the births.

I was horrified by the kittens cold stiff bodies and flung the first from me into the bushes, the second I placed next to the other. The second died after I found him several hours later, crawling onto the courtyard seeking us. He spent one night with his family, then died in the morning.

The first do die was an abnormally large stillborn. Crackhead, the mother of the still born -- had one more kitten. Although I did not see this happen, one kitten is striped like Crackhead and is larger than the other two, which are Stony's little gray and white kitties.

Crackhead loves these kitties to death. On the day they were born, she attacked several male cats in the area. Since then, she has been Auntie Lickums, lavishing tongue-ings on the three survivors at all times. For a while, she would take one out and play with it, then forget it. Three separate times I had to find missing kitties. Now, I believe she has realized how distressed this makes me, so it should be over.

One of Stony's kitties has a bum leg. its bent and such. They are very young, so I don't know what to do, I figure let nature take its course. I am worried about the kitty becoming a crippled cat ..

its a tough life out here.

Crackhead sleeps with Stony and the kids, licking and purring like mad. Recently, she loves to get petted on the tummy, where her nipples are dry and unused, as Stony has done all of the nursing. She also meows forlornly more than before. I wonder if she knows that her only kitty thinks she is not mommy, but auntie lickums.

Pictures of Qing Cheng Mountain

I posted some pics here of Qing Cheng after the quake. If anyone has any information or people they would like me to contact, please let me know. I am headed back up there this weekend.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

False Alarms and Party Poopers

Yesterday Chengdu went crazy as every man, woman and child rushed to the streets to throw up tents (again) or jump in cars to head out of the city. Radio, CCTV, SMS and other media screamed out, "run fo' ya LIVES!" and we all responded. Once again I had a large crew of people at my house, sleeping out in the courtyard and on couches.

Here is a good story about the volunteers that are swarming all over Sichuan now. There are supposedly as many as 300,000 volunteers. The group I ran into in Qing Cheng Mtn was headed to Wenchuan, any way they could.

Here and Here are two good pieces on Obama's foreign policy.

Clinton must concede.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Woe unto the Enemies of the State


Patriotism at the expense of another nation is as wicked as racism at the expense of another race...Let us resolve to be patriots always, nationalists never.
– Rev. William Sloane Coffin


Today at 2:28pm, the entire Chinese nation stood at attention for three minutes to remember the victims of the Sichuan Earthquake. Today's edition of the Chengdu Economic Daily came out at noon and was dressed in mourning.

In the center of the city, Tianfu Plaza, thousands of people gathered at the appointed time and bowed their heads in silence as air sirens and car horns blared throughout the three minutes. A clarion call of sorrow. The country will be at half-mast for the next three days.

Afterward, the crowd chanted "Go China!" several times to show support not only for the people affected by the earthquake, but also the nation as a whole. China has had an eventful year. They are gearing up for the main event this summer.

We in the West have very bad associations with nationalism; we know what horrors have been done in the name of the state. Here as well, the people have suffered under state-sponsored programs carried out by zealous patriots throughout the last century.

Is it possible to have a benevolent, peaceful wave of patriotic love that could surge across China's borders? I think that entirely depends on how the world reacts to a nation bursting with pride and emotion, as China is now.

Imagine if China, in a gesture born of brimming passion and goodwill, invited the Dalai Lama to the Olympics and sat with him as cousins should. Imagine if all of the western politicians who have threatened to boycott the Opening Ceremony quietly re-considered, and came anyway.

In a refugee camp in Mianzhu, a couple guys were passing out leaflets to all the refugees. The leaflets were from the Police Bureau letting everyone know that rumors of Tibetans roaming the camps stealing stuff was false and inflammatory. In every place I visited, they called my "an international friend" and thanked me, spoke with me, offered me a seat and some water.

We'll see where China channels all of this new energy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

gotta ease back

Tomorrow is chill out time with my kitties. Ima ride my bike around and beat Tenzin in chess.

mad love

mom i can't see your hand

A Poem by an anonymous Chinese circling the web(translated):

Children quick
quick
Hold fast to Mother's hand
The Road to Heaven
Is so dark
Mom is afraid
you'll hit your head
Quick
Hold fast to Mother's hand
Have Mom walk with you

mom
I'm afraid
The road to heaven
is so dark
I cant see your hand
Since the walls fell
and stole away the sun
I haven't been able to see
your tender gaze

Child
Go
The road ahead carries no more sorrow
no more boring school books
you won't ever see Dad's fist again
You should remember
The image of your Father and I
In the next life, we'll walk together again

mom
don't despair
the road to heaven is crowded
there are classmates and friends here
we all say
don't cry don't cry
every person's mom is also my mom
every chid is my mother's child
since my days are finished,
give your love to the living children

mom
you shouldn't cry
the glimmer of tears gives no light
its our road
let us take it ourselves

mom
I will remember the image of you and dad
and remember our promise
in the next life, we'll walk together again

A Theory of Relativity

First off: Blogger is blocked in China, so people cannot see it here, I cannot comment back to any of you and i do use a proxy.

There is so much to tell ... I drove from Chengdu up north to a place called Hanwang today, through the towns of Shifang and Mianzhu.

Shifang was the first stop. The city is a satellite of Deyang Town, which is an industrial city surrounded by wheat fields and rice paddies. Its a poor town with older buildings, near the mountains and itself surrounded by several destitute villages living off of industry and small time local business. The city center was hit, but not hard. Almost all of the buildings are standing and there is a refugee camp in the middle of town. The refugees are both shell-shocked peasants and workers from the suburbs and urbanites who don't dare return to their cracked and splintered apartments.

The outlying villages and towns suffered enormously. Thousands are dead, thousands missing, thousands injured ... in every such town in northern Sichuan, there is a large placard with figures, pictures and details of sorrow that each town experienced. There was one picture in Shifang of a school of 400 in a village called Yinghua -- more than 300 died -- and the picture shows two girls, bodies horribly stretched, twisted and shattered. They have running pants and sneakers on. They are skinny and both have light blue underwear.

A man named He was pointing at the picture and explained that the two were girls he knew. He pulled his son out the wreckage of that school. His son has two broken legs and is in a hospital in Chongqing. Later I was in an apartment nearby and watched three girls point out their teacher on TV whose daughter had died. They knew that girl too.

On the road to Mianzhu, the damage started getting bad. Its wheat threshing season, so there are mobile threshing machines on the road and peasants in the fields. They return to tents of red, white and blue plastic when the work is done. Their houses have all fallen in, or been damaged to heavily to support people so they wrap bamboo around trees and telephone poles and bring their beds out into the open. The road is lined with tent cities, spaced by government supply depots with field hospitals and bands of volunteers stopping and unloading. Some drive BMWS and Audis, others tiny CheryQQs and tinbox bread trucks. Some, like the French, arrive in a caravan of 30 double wide semi trucks filled with supplies.

The supply train stretches 156km long and probably twice as wide, spread out over highways, two- and three-laners, unfinished piles of stone and pavement waiting to be melted into asphalt and potholed dirt roads where we dodge tractors and blind men on motorbikes.

Mianzhu has rubble in the streets. The area has been cleared and is stocked with supplies. It took heavy damage, but here as with all cities in China, buildings built in different eras with different materials stand next to each other. The older buildings built of concrete, sand and brick are largely demolished. The new modern complexes with steel, re bar, good bricks and solid cement stand pristine, towering over a refugee camp in the middle of town. One guy came out in shorts and broken sandals and told me, this is all i got, the pants on my butt and these scruffy sandals. He laughed as he pointed down and everybody laughed with him. I joked with the kids there for a while. I named one Stankfoot and the other Boogerface. Everybody joined in the joke-fest. They kept offering me water and food. Everyone gathered around and I made the little kids laugh till snot came out their noses. Its easy: a big laowai speaking like a peasant makes everybody bust out ...

I said: you guys are awesome, smiling and laughing in the middle of this thing ...
They replied:
we're chinese, we can withstand anything.
It feels good to be alive
no matter what life brings, we always stay happy ...

It was a Hallmark moment so I brought it down by telling Stankfoot to go and wash himself.

Mianzhu to Hanwang is where we began to see the real devastation -- on a macrolevel -- that the earthquake did to northern Sichuan. Nothing was intact. Nobody was indoors.

Hanwang, named after legendary general Liu Bang, will have to be completely re-built. The whole city is a vast ruin -- those structures that still stand are gutted and split. There were people everywhere. Mine Rescue and Recovery teams from Shaanxi, Hebei and Sichuan Provinces. Army Units from Sichuan, Hunan and Hebei. Police lights flashed, heavy equipment rolled past, medics went from tent to tent looking at the survivors.

The mood was not chaotic or desperate, just methodical and even jovial at times. Some of the wreckage gave off the smell of rotting death and these were handled by teams of 10 - 15 soldiers with shovels and disinfectant who would wait while tractors sifted skillfully through the rubble,then they would dig out anything they would find. A local policeman pointed out his jacket and they retrieved it from the rubble.

The statue of Liu Bang in the middle of town had its head knocked off and the clock nearby is stuck on 2:28p, the time of the earthquake.

Yesterday, when I returned from Qing Cheng Mtn, I ate hot pot with Charlie and Ramon. Ramon seems bedeviled by the feeling that, although he had been in the middle of the earthquake and seen its fury face-to-face, he still remained untouched.

"I don't want to be untouched"
"Maybe you feel your experience was inadequate," said Charlie. "Maybe you feel like you don't deserve to have survived."
"Yeah, Survivor's Guilt," I said.
"Maybe," said Ramon. "All i know is, I was in the middle of the quake and I still feel like a tourist. Like somehow being foreign got me through it all ..."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Around Qing Cheng ...

Yesterday i climbed as far as it is possible to climb right and Qing Cheng mtn is def. devastated near the top. Past the Tai An Old town basically every building lies in ruins. There are a few valleys which will take months to clear. Boulders and huge chunks of mountain clog the roads at the very top and have buried several hundred people, both locals and older tourists retiring in the Jade City.

The Daoist monks, all 16 of them, made it out as far as I now. They are at th bottom of the mountain. The White Cloud (not Lotus) Monastery is shaken but still standing. The people are in good spirits, but very listless. They are living in tents and receiving more than enough supplies and aid from military, private indiv. volunteer groups and the police. The relief effort is bad-ass. The soldiers showed up on the 14th and had all important roads cleared by the night of the 15th. Supplies and such rolled in soon after. No one will die there anymore.

But the locals relied on tourism to live, so their homes and livelihoods have been taken away from them. There is an air of uncertainty and stoicism, laughter and silent stares, generosity and muted pleas to have us spread the word ...

a few notes:

CNN those crackers, reported that "all is good" the Americans have arrived with generators. What BS. The Americans donated 500,000USD which I have to defend now where ever I go. When the locals hear I am American, they immediately say: 500K? what the hell? And then they praise me and thank me because I showed up. Its important that people see that all Americans aren't crackers like those in office.

Betcha those generators run on 110V ... hahaha

Jackie Chan gave about 13million USD. Granted, he's Chinese, but the US is supposedly the "Greatest Goddamn Nation in the World!"

and one more note that I think is pretty insane (amongst the hundreds that I could write):

a teenager pulled out of the rubble yesterday -- surrounded by the rotting dead bodies of his classmates said:

"Uncle, can I get a Coke?"
"Sure son, right away!"
"Uncle! make sure its ice cold ..."

China will come out of this stronger ... peace.

Tongiht i will take the time to put pics and links up.

Friday, May 16, 2008

China handles business

President Hu Jintao made it to Dujiangyan today and shook hands with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao...

Today I took a ride with a civil engineer and a security and infrastructure assessment expert around the northwest suburbs of Chengdu. We visited Chongzhou, Qingcheng Mountain and the outskirts of Dujiangyan.

The purpose of the trip was to give the security's expert's clients -- corporate clients -- an idea of the damage done in Chengdu and the economic impact on their businesses.

We saw hundreds of vehicles heading north out of Chengdu toward Dujiangyan -- a veritable rag tag fleet i.e. Battlestar Galactica -- loaded up with water, blankets, clothes and instant noodles. Many of these vehicles were turned back by police. Some of them dropped their supplies off, others were not able to.

The reasoning behind this was explained by the civil engineer, who has extensive experience in disaster areas such as Sudan and West Africa in the 1970s and 80s and more recently in Indonesia after the tsunami. A lot of times, well-meaning volunteers create more problems than they solve. Often with tragic consequences.

What all of us have seen here is in direct contrast with the situation we saw in New Orleans during and after the tsunami. The sense of social responsibility in China does not exist in our society. Any person who would actually dare to loot, pillage, shoot someone or rape during this time of crisis would be lynched by the neighborhood before the police even heard of it. But the point is, it would never happen here.

We saw the wave of nationalism that took over the nation following the Tibetan protests and the media wave that followed. This ability to unite is in full force again and the world is now seeing the flip-side of a united China -- determined instead of aggressive.

After the government and the people of China showed that they can mobilize quickly and efficiently, the western media flip-flopped from criticism of government efforts to praise for a China that has "finally learned" how to be civilized. It smacks of civilizational fear.

Anyway. In Qingcheng mountain everybody is living in tents, all houses and buildings have been damaged in some way or another, but its extraordinary that the vast majority of these buildings are still standing. I know that the areas farther north closer to the epicenter are decimated and in ruins, but near the outer edge of the earthquakes impact, almost all buildings -- although maybe shaken -- will house people again in the near future.

The people are resilient and in good spirits. The first words out of every one's mouth was: "Thank you for coming and caring about us." They let us know what they need -- basically medicine, water and dry clothes -- but they also offered us water and noodles. This is quintessentially Chinese. I know this place is corrupt as hell and after the dust settles heads will roll, but now is not the time. I believe all people pull together like this in times of need ... or did once, before we let ourselves be divided.

The relief effort has not reached many towns and villages that could use help, but this is a function of the earthquake's impact and the vast population of Sichuan Province. Every 5km one passes a township of around 50,000 people. Every 20km a town of about 100,000 pops out of the rice fields. The relief crews are focusing on those areas with bleeding, dying, trapped people. Those that are uninjured hunker down in tents, while rain pours into their living rooms. They register with the local government authorities and wait for someone to tell them what is next.

As far as I can see, the relief effort is astounding and well-organized. Around Chengdu, drop-off points for supplies are constantly filling up. Foreigners are giving what they have as well and holding benefit concerts and the like, but our assistance is minuscule and symbolic. The Chinese can handle their own business.

Back to Qingcheng Mountain: The mountain itself was hit very hard and most buildings, temples and pagodas where we once spent afternoons composing bad poetry and dreaming about sages are gone forever. I still don't have reliable info on the White Lotus Monastery -- but I will go back up with Charlie tomorrow to retrieve his bike and to meet with the old woman he carried out. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

To Mianyang

Tomorrow we will try and head up to see if we can help. THe local authorities and Red Cross have designated the Bookworm and Cafe Paname as two foreign est. where supplies can be dropped off and from which teams might be able to head up and help. Earlier today, a group of Brits trapped in Wolong PAnda Reserve were helicoptered out. The rumors now are that they were helpless, but not dying and the government decided to get them out of there before int'l scrutiny became too hard. The radio reported the news and some Chinese were a little angry, accusing the gov of airlifting out foreigners when Chinese are dying everywhere.

If possible, we will try and get to Mianyang, where a refugee camp is growing. I will keep you posted.

Here are some headlines ... and a lot of good coverage and this story here was really hard to read.

There are still tremors throughout the night and rumors don't stop. Planes are being delayed here at the airport as thousands attempt to leave and thousands more attempt to get in. It is a crzy time to be here and it is only going to get more intense.

For those who have been asking about Qing Cheng Mtn, there is really not much specific information I can give ... judging from the damage of the surrounding areas, the videos that are already online and Charlie's first-hand account, I would say the mountain was devastated and will not be seeing any visitors for some time. It is impossible to say who survived, who didn't and who is missing right now.

I'll make ya famous

Well Chengdu is basically back to normal. My friend Charlie's harrowing experience is all over the web now -- here is the AP story, which also has the video. You can check out the text here.

We'll be heading up north tomorrow in a caravan filled with goodies. It will probably only be a daytrip because it is impractical for us to stay up there unless we bring tents .., tents that are better used to house homeless and injured.

Yesterday around 9pm we saw a car full of kids head out to Wenchuan with camping gear and supplies. Some of them were journalists, others were just concerned citizens. The Chinese Red Cross is not taking any more blood, because they are already overflowing with donated blood.

I have heard some rumors that many people are returning their tickets to the Olympics and calling off trips out here that were long planned. I know a few guide book projects I was working on are now on hold. The Chinese embassies are still hassling everyone who wants to come here in the next few months. The combination of natural disasters, Tibetan protests, aggressive nationalism and visa problems is causing an exodus of sorts amongst some of the foreigners here, and it is also keeping others away.

It is a very sad thing to contemplate, an unsuccessful Olympics. For Chinese who have grown up in the past 25 years, it is very confusing and hurtful to have the West scrutinize them so. They don't understand why.

Last night we were talking about the consequences of an unsuccessful Olympics. We basically agreed that China would retreat into itself like a turtle, again, if this were to happen. Here are a few stories about this issue.

We shall see.

The dude I referred to in my last post as stupid and selfish got what he wanted. His video is all over the world, he got paid big money by AP and they interviewed him. I have really seen the inside of the media machine for the first time with this natural disaster. I have mixed feelings about it all. The individual journalists are people just like everyone else, but when the machine gets in motion, I find myself being spun around like straw in a mudslide.

My "friend" Rafael is a reporter for La Vanguardia. We traveled together for one month in Xinjiang in 2003. Since then he has called me twice. Once to find out if I can be his translator and help him find Tibetans and Han that live near each other, in Lhasa .. basically find him the perfect story and report it for him.

The last was the day before yesterday, He showed up in Chengdu and asked me to hook up a car and translate and take him around the earthquake stuff. When i said I couldn't he hung up on me and dipped.

My boy Tenz just said: Amazing how this can impact so many individuals in so many different ways. For me its a clean slate, I can leave China. For others its the most traumatic and horrible experience of their lives. For others its a chance at fame and success ... "

I wrestle with myself about all of this too.

Chachin aint easy ya'll ...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Chillin in Flower Village

Well the tremors have picked up now and rumors are rife about another large earthquake. But rumors have been flying all day about no water, polluted water, airport open then closed and so on.

its safe out in my little farmhouse and I got a crew out there and some kitties to look after. Charlie's story is starting to circle around the web, despite the mercenary nature of his "companion" on the trip. That dude is hoarding all the images cuz he sees his big chance coming up. Very unprofessional, very selfish and very stupid. Had he made everything public, he would already be ... famous I guess.

Anyway Charlie and me are going to head out to the country side and ease back.

Chengdu Earthquake day after

Here is a story I wrote that didn't find space ... its a time-pegged story which means I can probably not publish it anywhere else. So here you are, a look at what was happening in the Du the day after:

In Chengdu a slight drizzle coats thousands of people who have taken to the streets and open public spaces, rather than spend the night in their apartments. The city, mercifully spared the destruction that has ravaged areas further north, has resumed bus transportation around the city. Restaurants and supermarkets are open and phone lines are more or less open.

It is the day after the largest earthquake in more than 30 years reduced vast areas of northwestern Sichuan Province to rubble, killing at least 11,000 people, with more reported missing or buried under rubble. More than 500,000 buildings have collapsed, according to state television, and coal, oil and chemical plants have been ordered to halt production following the disastrous collapse of two ammonia plants in Shifang, which buried more than 900 people, killing at least 90.

In Chengdu, hundreds of cars line up around gas stations, waiting to receive their ration of 100RMB worth of gas – about 30 liters based on current prices.

“There is no more gasoline being delivered for the time being,” said Wang Bo, a custodian at the PetroChina gas station on Yong Feng Road in south Chengdu. “Only official vehicles can fill up, all others are allotted only 100RMB worth.”

Many of the vehicles are actually waiting out the shocks and tremors which have continued into the morning and afternoon following yesterday’s 7.9 earthquake that leveled buildings in the counties and municipalities of Wenchuan, Beichuan. Mianyang, Deyang and Dujiangyan.

“We are not getting any reliable information from the government,” said Mr. Liu, a local resident standing next to his car on the south side of the city. “We were told to leave our apartments because there will be another quake sometime before six o’clock. I don’t dare go back home, so my family and I will wait here.”

Earlier today, an aftershock measuring 6.5 rocked Wenjiang, just 30 minutes outside of Chengdu. The tremors and shocks from that quake had the city's residents jittery all day -- the atmosphere became ripe for rumors. Nobody is sure where the rumors began, but almost all apartment complexes in the city have been emptied of people. Residents are forced to wait in their cars, under umbrellas and tents or in teahouses across the city listening to the radio and waiting for the tremors to stop.

Wang Xiao Qing and her niece Li Ya Juan spent last night in a tent on the Second Ring Road in Chengdu. They plan on staying outside and sleeping in an open space tonight, as well. Ms. Wang’s sister, the mother or Miss Li, is a Mianyang, Pingwu native and they have heard nothing from that area since the earthquake hit.

“We were told by the apartment authorities to stay out of our homes today, because a big earthquake will hit again this afternoon, sometime before six,” said Ms Wang. “I have heard nothing from my sister – I am worried, but not worried at the same time. I just wish we had reliable information, it is hard to know what is really going on.”

The State Council organized a live press conference this afternoon, giving the exact number of official dead – 11,922 – and expressing thanks for the offers of international assistance from around the world.

“We welcome aid in the form of materials and money from the international community,” said a State Council spokesman. “But we cannot allow foreign relief teams to enter China at this time, as our own teams have not yet managed to reach the worst-affected sites.”

Chengdu’s International Shuangliu airport re-opened this morning at 8am to allow relief teams from around China to get into the area. Rail lines across the country have been damaged by the earthquake, including one gasoline-filled freight train which was derailed in Gansu, subsequently bursting into flame. According to Xinhua, 149 cargo trains have been delayed or blocked on their way to Chengdu.

In a lighthearted moment, a slight tremor this afternoon sent the entire staff of the luxury hotpot restaurant, Huang Cheng Lao Ma, scattering into the street. Young women in uniform were giggling uncontrollably and holding each other. The last one to walk out was the manager, a large, heavy-set man who sauntered out of the restaurants doors to applause from his staff out on the street.

Local officials have stressed that the worst is over and that only small tremors will be felt from here on out, but residents of Chengdu are not convinced. Few are returning to their homes and most are taking their safety in their own hands by stocking up on water, flour and peanuts.

“I am spending the day in San Sheng Xiang (a flower manufacturing base 20 minutes southeast of the city) with water and cigarettes,” said Ran Wei. “I don’t know if there will be another big one and neither does anyone else.”

Local radio stations report that caravans of volunteers are heading north to Dujiangyan with water, tents and supplies, but these reports could not be independently confirmed. Tents and umbrellas were being passed out at elementary schools around the city to small children, the elderly and handicapped and local TV also asked for concerned locals to take care of each other and to seek out the elderly and weak to help them with water and shelter.

“The last time we felt anything like this was back in 1976 when an earthquake hit Songpan,” said elderly resident Xu Qing Guo. “This one is more horrible, because the tremors keep coming and we don’t know when it will all end. Al I can do is sit out here with my wife and listen to the radio.”







Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Even if there is only a sliver of hope ..."

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's speech is looped on TV and radio and seems to have an effect. One line that inspired was:

"Even if there is only a sliver of hope, we will increase our efforts 100-fold to save those people"

Rumors are out now about the water. Water is turned off in Chengdu and in many of the hard hit areas farther north they are calling for people to deliver water to them in any way possible. Other than sporadic water -- Chengdu is basically back to normal. As if nothing ever happened.


A lot of Chinese are getting very angry and are quick to blame shoddy construction, corruption and inefficiency for the number of deaths.
Everyone is asking why there were so many schools destroyed, but that is a natural reaction.

From what I have gathered over the past few days through combing the media and being interviewed by the BBC -- the Western media has a vested interest in controversy and the Chinese government is a convenient target. Any breath of corruption and the Guardian is all over it.

It is hard to say what the truth may be. I think it is very possible that the construction firm who gained the contract to build schools in Dujiangyan and Deyang skimped on materials and quality. But so did every other construction firm in the country on every single project they are involved in. China is in the midst of a commercial revolution -- selling out and making profit is glorious.

So on one hand, perhaps some of the deaths could have been avoided. But who is truly to blame? And can anyone have predicted an earthquake?

I think for Americans it is easy to compare with Hurricane Katrina -- the slow response to prior warnings and the even slower response to the destruction of New Orleans. From what I and many of my friends have seen here, the Chinese are doing a much better job of pulling together as one to help people injured, buried or displaced by the earthquake than the US Government did for the people of New Orleans. The NYT, here, on the same issue.

There are no reports of looting, prices are fixed and there are no reports of people taking advantage (yet) of a shortage of supplies and locals are eager to head north with water and/or give blood.

What happens to the construction firms and their government sponsors later? ... well the Chinese have a saying for that:

Qiu Hou Suan Zhang

"We'll get the numbers straight after the harvest ..."

Spent last night with my People

I want to first reply to those who have commented about Qing Cheng Mountain:

If anyone has ever been there you may remember the very large gate that leads from the parking lot into the actual temples area? That gate is gone. All of the small bed and breakfast inns along the road up the mountains were either partially or completely destroyed. The road up to Qing Cheng Mountain is still blocked right now, but police, medical and military personnel are in the area helping those people who live and work on the mountain out.

According to Charlie, the damage is extensive and in many places irreparable ... the mountain was raining boulders throughout the first day and rain caused mudslides the next day and most likely today as well.

According to local reports, water is hard to come by in the Qing Cheng Mountain/Du Jiangyan area and caravans of cars and trucks are headed north from Chengdu oaded with water to help the victims of the quake. They just today reached the worst hit areas of Wenchuan and Li Xian. I will keep info coming as I get it. There should be pictures of Qing Cheng Mountain up from Charlie either at his blog, the 19th Step or here.


Last night my whole crew rolled out to where i live in the countryside 20 minutes southeast of Chengdu. I have a little farmhouse up there with kitties and a stankin dog. We rested and slept for the first time in a while. Played chess and talked about the quake. We all firmly agree that the CHinese government and People are doing the best they can -- which is quite a lot -- to help the people and areas destroyed by thte quake.

The BBC interviewed Charlie last night about his experience, but it was a little disappointing. The large media is very hard-working and diligent, but they have a certain frame that they place on the news and certain methods to maintain what they hope is "objectivity." It truly is a machine, the media.

Anyway, we have a plan to head up in two days with a busload of water. When it happens I'll keep you all posted.

Charlie's Story: Surviving the Sichuan Earthquake

On the day of the earthquake in Sichuan Province, Charlie, Ramone and John met at the Shamrock Bar and Grill in Chengdu at 7am and left on motorbikes for a tour of Qing Cheng Mountain.

Qing Chengd mountain is one of the most famous Daoist sites in China, covered in temples, pagodas and tea houses. It is about an hour northwest of Chengdu, right outside of Dujiangyan, an area hit hard by the earthquake.

It was a beautiful day for a bike ride. The sun was shining and there was a slight breeze. The ride up to Qing Cheng Mountain is lined with bamboo-covered hills and small brooks.

The three friends reached the top of the mountain just after noon and spent a couple hours taking pictures and touring the area. They decided to head down right around three o’clock. They paused for a moment on the way down, parking their bikes and stretching, when the earthquake hit.

“It was like an explosion. The houses started breaking apart all around us, the ground was shaking and glass was flying everywhere,” said Charles.

They got on their bikes and tried to navigate down the rolling mountainside, Charles was in front and was brought to a screeching halt when a landslide took out the road fifty feet in fron of him. His friends stopped behind him, and they turned around and headed back up the mountain. They hadn’t gone five city blocks when they came to a house that had collapsed into the street, blocking the way up.

“It was surreal. We were trapped and all of the buildings around us were crumbling into dust. The white powder covered everyone’s face, people came out into the road screaming and crying. There were many injuries – broken limbs, head trauma. It looked like Ground Zero after 911.”

By now, massive boulders and chunks of the old Daoist mountain were tumbling down into the small gorge next to the road. They were far away from where the friends were trapped, but they could hear them.

“The mountain blew up right in front of us. There were tremors every few mintues. I will never forget the thunderous echo of those boulders – as big as two-story buildings – crashing down the mountain and into the gorge. We saw a small bridge that crossed the gorge and led to a small hotel with a tennis court. We mustered up the balls to cross it and made our way into the tennis court.”

The earthquake subsided after five or so large tremors and the friends were safe on the far side of the river in the open tennis court. People wandered around in a daze, silent and staring up at the mountain.

“We used a ping pong table to build a small camp on the tennis courts and people started wandering over. In every building people had died. There were infants and old people; people trapped in the rubble. Everyone formed groups and tried to enter the buildings to rescue their friends and family, but it was still too dangerous. The tremors still shook the area, boulders fell from the mountain and buildings were still crumbling.”

Ramone and John took a headcount of all the people – 105 – and collected supplies. They found 300kg of rice, propane gas and some umbrellas. The camp was in a precarious position. The tremors kept coming, the mountains was falling apart and the sun was going down. As night fell, Ramone, Charlie and John huddled up with the locals and tried to get some sleep.

“It started raining hard when night fell and it was impossible to stay dry. We could hear the boulders falling and felt every tremor. I learned to distinguish the boulders by their sound: the little ones felt like rushing water and the big ones like thunder and explosions. The tremors always began small and rapid, then grew violent before subsiding again.”

They planned to leave at sunrise, but as dawn fell across the small gorge they were trapped in, the whole group stood and simply waited for something to happen. Then a tremor hit and a giant piece of the mountain came crashing into the gorge. Everybody panicked. The group rushed up the near side of the mountain, pulling themselves up through the mud and brush. The very old and the very young raced up and away from the mountain shattering across the gorge.

When they reached the top, they found a path that led to a tea house with chairs and a wooden shelter. The group gathered under the shelter and started a fire, cooking up rice porridge for breakfast/

“All of a sudden, a leader emerged. A man stood up on one of the benches and started yelling at the crowd. I couldn’t understand much, because the dialect is very thick. But from what I gathered, he said: I know the way, I can lead you out, who is with me? The whole crowd yelled “Hao!” (Yes!) and we set out.”

The man led the group down a clear path, then veered back down toward the river. The mountainside was muddy and denuded of trees, so it was very slow going. They were closer to the area where the boulders were falling and the raging river was right below. Them. It was long, tense hour before they managed to get all of the people across the muddy mountain and down to the road. The road was almost completely destroyed. Pieces had fallen into the river, boulders and landslides blocked the path. The group picked up pace and headed down the mountain.

“He led us through the damaged road, past total devastation. The small town on the shoulder of the mountain completely destroyed. I restaurant I had eaten lunch at thirty minutes before the quake it was gone, complete wreckage. Temples were destroyed, temples knocked over. It was like an abandoned war-zone with buildings half-exposed, but almost no other people. The whole town was flipped upside down.”

The followed the road down, often reaching parts virtually wiped out, leaving only one small path for the group to follow. When the group reached the ticketing office of the Qing Cheng Mountain Tourism Area, they joined about 500 people waiting in line. Local and military police organized everybody into two lines and guided them down the mountain. The roads and all paths were demolished. Everyone had to hang onto branches and bamboo and climb down a precarious, muddy path. Ramone and Charlie carried an old woman with head trauma along a path that hugged the cliff. She was in heels and ankle deep in mud. It was still raining and the tremors kept up throughout the day.

The road resumed farther down the path. Police and motorcycles started appearing on the road and the survivors stumbled past another destroyed village. When they reached the foot of the mountain, hundreds of people were milling about with their belongings in plastic bags, looking for transportation out of Qing Cheng Mountain. This is where the three friends split from the group.

“We found a car, but he did not have enough gas to get back to Chengdu and nobody was selling any gas, so we decided to go to Dujiangyan. We had no clue about the earthquake – where it was centered, how the rest of Sichuan had been affect or anything. We were shocked when we reached Dujiangyan. The city was in total chaos. Hundreds of thousands of people crowded the streets and military units were marching in formation carrying shovels – they were on the scene very quickly. Military and police vehicles flashed their lights and every open space in the city was covered in a tent. The buildings were not all totally demolished, but every building had sustained extensive damage. The bus station was closed and there were people everywhere with bags waiting to leave.”

They found a car back to Chengdu and listened to the radio on the hour-long drive back, learnkng of the extent of the damage done by the earthquake.

A few hours later, Charlie sits in the Sultan Restaurant in south Chengdu and shakes his head at the experience. He pulls out an ace of diamonds and shows it to me.

“This helped me get through, man. It was the only happiness I felt during that night. It was cold and wet and terrifying, but when I found that pack of cards I just felt a surge of happiness. I told everybody: Hey look, a deck of cards, we can really use this.”

He shakes his head and laughs.

Monday, May 12, 2008

We felt it comin ...

My friend Rachel wrote the day before the quake: "I feel like the world is shifting"

if ya'll check the first few lines of my post "The Illusion of Coincidence" you'll see that there was something in the air ...

just to embellish a bit: yesterday was Buddha's birthday.

The plates that caused this earthquake are the Tibetan plate rubbing againt the Sichuan basin (Tibet and Han rubbing against each other).

Earlier this year this area was hit with snowstorms.

Aba Prefecture, where the earthquake was centered, was the site of Tibetan protests in March.

China has invited the Dalai Lama to attend the Games.

The world is indeed shifting. How can one not be spiritual at a time like this?

A tremor, again, as I write.

A shaky night

There is a tremor going on as i write -- has been shaking my building for the past three minutes. still shaking. had tremors all night and all morning and the news has been getting worse every hour. Chengdu seems ot be ok for now, but north of here it is real bad. Chinese Prime Minister is in Dujiangyan overseeing rescue efforts -- they have yet to reach the epicenter counties. There are military police or PLA approaching on foot.

the death toll has risen to 10,000 and its climbing. man this last tremor is still shaking ... at 8:30am -- began at 8:25. SOme experts expect deaths of up to 50,000.

Its raining outside and most people are either huddled in tents in open spaces or have already returned home. The tension is pretty high. After every tremor I can hear women outside exclaiming.

I am in my underwear chillin. If Buddha strikes again from his mountain retreat near Tibet, I'll roll to heaven in my Calvin Kleins hehehe

1:26pm: The Day After -- sure feels like a day after to me. it is very quiet outside. It rained all evening and the temperature dropped. I am going out with a camera and a pen to see whats going on. I know lots of my friends camped out last night at sichuan university. people were camped put all night everywhere actually. wonder how they did in the rain. Otherwise Chengdu is really calm.

No Sleep tonight

Well now that i feel i have done my part cross-referencing links and straining at Chinese characters its time to write lil something for my people. Its gonna be scary tonight for sure.. there was a tremor just now at 939pm and it last till 942. it wasn't strong but if any of you have ever been in an earth quake the overwhelming feeling is helplessness and a fear of monstrous, cataclysmic forces.

I am spending the evening in the city, although my home is in the countryside ...

some media have contacted me and i wrote something up earlier today. but what i wrote is irrelevant now that thousands are dead. we'll see how the night goes. my friend Himmler from the 19thstep was in Dujiangyan when the quake hit. I hope he is all good. Have not been able to get through to him.

11:09pm: tremors continue into the night and i am with my Buddha and friends Hakim and Rachel. She hits up the tarot cards for luck and Hakim is chillin. No word from Himmler or my roommate Oliver. Phone lines are still down ...

11:29pm: more tremors, making me a little dizzy and nauseous ... rail lines across the nation are facing problems -- from Harbin all the way down to Kunming, making any efforts more difficult ... chemical companies and electricity plants have been hit as well.

1:57am: just had a 4.5 tremor. it keeps you dizzy. i was just interviewed by the BBC -- they might get at me again about things. There is not much for me to say that is new, just re-hashing and adding on to stuff that i pick up in the news. the news has started to trickle in from china, but the outside world is now waking up and reacting. the death toll is now at 9600+ and Himmler's phone is off. i am sure his ass is alright. if not: i get yer toys punk!

updates on Chengdu earthquake: its getting worse

Thousands dead and injured in Beichuan county -- the TV is not reporting any of this, getting it off of Xinhua news. All media is locked into the "central brain" local TV is reporting on the "man in the street" and constant quotes on how people felt, where they ran too ...

Update: Here is the Chinese Sina News site where i am getting all of my news ... if you cannot read Chinese, then take a morbid look at the numbers and video. Dujiangyan has 50 confirmed deaths ... mostly children.

www.shanghaiist.com has English updates on the spot.

More bad news via shanghaiist and sina.com.

Power stations have been knocked out. i am going to chill for now and read the news. there is nothing much i can add anymore. peace out everybody.

updates on Chengdu earthquake: Deyang has at least five schools collapse

The schools are taking a hit across the northern part of Sichuan. Deyang is 45 minutes NE of Chengdu, Dujiangyan is 45minutes NW ..

PArty Secretary's statement is playing every two minutes on the news

Chengdu TV on earthquake

The tv news just reported 107 deaths and 648 injuries. They also say that gas is tough to come by -- some people have been waiting for 3 or more hours for gas.

the death toll is rising as the news report goes on --

4 people dead in Aba
5 people in Leshan
20 or more people in Guizhou and Yunnan

People in Gansu and Xian were also injured and there may be deaths.

cops are all over the city trying to get people to go home, the news is also saying that it is all over and people should head home.

Municipal Party Secretary Liu Qi Bao is now on TV reading a statement saying that all public utilities (transportation, hospital, police) are mobilized to all parts of the city and nearby affected areas to bring food, shelter and medical aid when necessary.

He said there is a possibility that there will be aftershocks through the night but there is no danger of a large damaging earthquake and people are safe to return home.


Update: There may be more students buried in Deyang and other parts of Chengdu Municipality, that is the latest from the TV news ... their buildings also collapsed. Not confirmed though!!

rumors of more earthquakes coming

Rumors are spreading fast throughout the city that there will be another large earthquake this evening at 830pm ... this has not been confirmed by anyone in the scientific world.

from Shanghaiist:
"Intrigue. There were rumours of a "huge impending earthquake" but concerned villagers in the Matang Village of the Maerkang County were told by the Abeizhou Seismic Bureau that those were just rumours and everything "got back to normal quickly."

people are staying in the streets. the radios are keeping them updated on the traffic situation (still jammed on the way out) and asking them to remain calm and return home. There is no mention in the radio or on the tv about another earthquake on the way

More Updates for Chengdu Earthquake

The death toll is rising -- so far it is up to 107 and the schoolchildren in Dujiangyan are not completely accounted for. The countryside around Chengdu a=has taken a big hit, with houses in Leshan, Guanghan and Guanyuan collapsing. The damage will be most extensive north of Dujiangyan -- that area was also the site of Tibetan protests in March, so I doubt that many people will get up there to see what has happened.

Shanghaiist has great coverage of the earthquake -- including a video from Sichuan University that has played on CNN ...

chengdu earthquake gets worse

Dujiangyan has been hit with tragedy. 900 schoolchildren are believed to be buried under their schoolhouse when it collapsed. DJY is 56km north of chengdu, making it less than 50km from the epicenter.

updates on Chengdu earthquake

we just experienced another tremor at 710pm. the locals are trying to drive out of the city, but most of the roads out are jammed-packed with cars. Cars are parked near the highways west, south and north out of the city, but they are not moving due to the traffic jams. Many people have taken advantage of the situation to play cards and socialize in parks. Although there is still a nervous tension in the air, Chengdunese are trying to enjoy the surprise day off from work. The recent tremor sent people scattering a bit and conversation picked up, but the city is very calm.

Many groups are congregating around radios and listening to the news. The news is reminding people to stay outdoors for the time being, but to return home by nightfall. There is little or no damage in Chengdu, but the news is reporting the deaths in Chongqing. Chengdu, being a flat area in a basin, seems to have escaped being damaged. Nowhere within the 3rd ring road is any serious damage visible. Chongqing and Mianyang are mountainous areas and Chongqing in particular is a sprawling city with many slums and sub-standard buildings.




yo

for those confused about the time of my posts, i had it on pacific time.

shaky chach

its all good everybody. the buildings shook for about 5 minutes. there was an aftershock 20 mins later and all of the buildings withstood the damage. All the locals are out in the streets chillin on the curbs or sittin in circles. radios are letting people know that all is good. the quake's epicenter was 100km north of here in Wenchuan in the tibetan area of Aba -- it was felt all over asia, from beijing all the way down to bangkok ...

here are some pics. mad love





Sunday, May 11, 2008

earthquake hits the DU!

i was in the middle of a shave when an earthquake hit and the whole neighborhood spilled out onto the street. here is a pic of my mug. i will have more pics up soon i hope. i learned that standing in the doorway is a decent way to "survive" earthquakes ... the buildings are still shaking

love atcha

here are some pics of my kitties. there are three surviving kitties and the two sisters take turns licking and caressing the lil kitty-cats. i believe the white one is the mom. I have already thought up a fairy tale based on Auntie Lickems, Mommy and the three adventurous furballs. I cannot comment back or comment on most people's blogs from here, just know i be sendin love atcha ...






I, like God, do not play at dice ...

which is a lie. I actually do roll the dice often and play cards most every week. But i still dont believe in chance. This may seem ridiculous, but i can see the cards in the deck sometimes. The only evidence I have for this very ephemeral ability is the plus/minus column. in six years or so of cards and dice, I am comfortably in the black.

I have been made the project manager for Odyssey's new Sichuan Guide, so today i meet with Kempinsky Hotels to try and get them to sponsor a bit of the cost. They have a new train service coming out soon, the Tangula Trains -- I will be struggling with the other kittens for a shot at the Tangula nipple: a five-day luxury ride from Beijing to Lhasa or Lijiang.

I may have to shave my mullet down for this meeting.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Chinese activism

this is about Migrant Workers jumping from buildings to protest corrupt ass developers who refuse to pay salaries. its a spoof in Sichuan Dialect.

Ba bu Ba Si

I am down with Sichuan Hua.

holla at me

does anyone out there work with alternative fuels/renewable energy on a large scale -- research, investment, development, promotion over breakfast at the sunny side up on lyndale can ya feel me ???

i bet there are at least five peeps reading this. anyway. this story and others like it have me very excited and optimistic. i'm tellin you ... we all goin green.

here is a story that's pretty funny: China and India being "more green" than the US. Oh my Lord is that hilarious. but its an interesting point. China and India are polluted nations and its getting worse. but they head to open air markets for their food and ride bikes. it has to do with economic choices rather than green choices. If everyone in China could get a car, they would.

The fusion of economic choices with environmental choices can create a very fine society: making green living desirable because it represents modernity, consciousness and conjures up images of sci-fi Utopias ....

I wish i knew more. so holla at a ninja!

Xenophobia

China is really making it hard for the foreigners these days. All visas are a big pain in the ass -- my main man in Beijing, a guy that for years was able to get us visas, had his office ransacked and all foreign passports confiscated.

People who have been here for years and have good relations with the government -- businessmen and women with big money and influence -- are getting hassled by the cops left and right. Random racist attacks on foreigners are worse than they have ever been.

At the same time, one must realize that this is basically still a small group of cops and fools behind a lot of this. The vast majority of the people are cool and curious and friendly and hospitable. But the minority -- as in Burma/Myanmar -- is reverting back to the Old Days when foreigners were devils and dogs and Asians were heroes of culture and wisdom fighting against the barbarian tide.

Is this only an Asian thing? I have been to a few other countries and anti-foreigner rhetoric is always there, but in my experience the anti-foreigner racism of Asia is one of the more rock-solid in the world.

In the States we have racism along color lines, but not necessarily ethnic lines ... it is a blurred edge no doubt, as different colors usually mean different ethnicities. In Europe, anti-foreigner sentiment seems confined to the Old and New Right ... but its starting to seep into the mainstream. I suppose Outsiders have always been hated, its always there.

The bullshit reason-less hatred I am subjected to at times in China has made me more of a nationalist than I would have ever become on my own. I am still not a Fortress America proponent ... but the world is filled with regular people with their heads down trying to make ends meet and dominated by loud-mouthed demagogues who see nothing but differences between us all. It makes me want to retreat and blow things up at the same time.

"We need to run these crazy baldheads out of the town ..."

If anyone has anything to say, holler.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

who's the cracker?

The Illusion of Coincidence...

A great many strange things have happened in the past few days ... perhaps not as many as may be transmitted by the feeling that accompanies one or two strange happenings, but nonetheless ... something is happening.

I was sitting with my friend Himmler one evening. His woman Jodie and roommate Wu Tong were in attendance and we were focusing hard upon the twin challenges of the Primary and Starcraft. My phone was dead. Wu Tong comes into the living room, smells our sweat and says:

"sascha, call for you ..."

Its my girl, Yu Shi, on the other end, crying and very upset. Her dog had been confiscated by some cracker-ass peasants in my neighborhood. For those not in the know, i live in the sticks outside of Chengdu and for me cracker denotes anyone with buck-teeth, tendency to yee-haw, funny hair, smothered in innocent moral failings aka ignorance etc....

So i call up these peasants and ask them how they want to solve the problem.

They say: "Gei Qian Saa!" which means, gotta pay me fool!

Two or three dudes take turns on the phone. I can tell its an assembly of quarter-intellects. Discussing anything with crackers is tedious at best, infuriating at worst. I lose my temper after the fourth or fifth unanticipated yee-haw burped into the receiver and slam the phone down.

I call Yu Shi and be like: chill. call up your media people and have them meet you tomorrow at 11:30. I'll call the police and have them roll through my house right now (i was in the city, she was at my home) and we'll have the crackers meet us at noon. We'll tell them we got the money and they should bring the dog.

So I boogie home and meet the cops. They are pretty much useless. I should go into "China style cops and robbers" shit here but basically imagine a corrupt and lazy force that is only motivated by fear from reprimands emanating from the murky heights of the Party. And they love paperwork. Anyway they take her down to the station -- its midnight by now -- and after all sorts of bullshit, including asking her what she's doing with a foreigner (typical) they tell her alright, you can walk home now.

But these men are cowards. So i get on the phone and say: you dumb son of a bitch bring her home. So they do. (I know I sound like a badass, but its my blog suckas).

The next day the media show up and they are all geared up Spies like Us style. Its great. They have a camera in a bag and they pretend to be Yu Shi's buddies. I disappear, because my work is done. If a foreigner presses to hard here in China, xenophobia rears its ugly head.

The crackers show up with their wives and old mothers. A whole Yee-Haw gang. They say point blank: if you don't give us 1800RMB (250USD), we'll keep the dog. The cops show up. The media reveal themselves. Now begins the bullshit session.

Now a bullshit session in China is really something to behold. Logic and reason have no place in the session. Its ad hoc improv style arguing with the combatants bringing up Chairman Mao, the Three Represents, The role of the Peasant vis a vis the role of the Young Girl in building a New China, word play (by crackers no less ...). Anyway in the end, the cops say give the crackers 100RMB and take the dog. The crackers point to their mom and say: she spent so much time taking care of this dog. They point to the wives, they made special dog food for him. They demand a gratitude fee for not slaying and eating the dog. They haggle. All this is on camera, by the way.

The dog's name is Lei Feng, who was a Communist Hero: the model man in the socialist society. The cracker served in the Lei Feng Regiment of the 8th Route Army. He brings this up, gets emotional and decries the decadent path of the New China.

I am currently trying to get a copy of the report that aired two nights ago to put it up here. You won't need to understand anything.

On the way back to our house, dog in tow, a call comes in from another hysterical girl who lost her dog in the neighborhood as well. She says maybe Yu Shi found her dog, switched his collar, then lost him again. For real.

Yu Shi decides yesterday that she can't take care of Lei Feng anymore, because she has no time or place for him and so she calls this woman up. She happens to be a translator of English and German and I need a translator. We bond over doggie biscuits and tea. The translator might take Lei Feng home in a day or two.

Last night, another girlfriend of mine calls up hysterically and says her home was broken into. She lost her computer, camera and wallet.

Meanwhile, Yu Shi is back on the job, as a reporter for the Economic Daily. She has two jobs: to infiltrate the traffic police by pretending she is a small child trying to cross a busy street. The traffic police tell her that they have to first consult with the leaders before they can leave their offices and head to the street to control traffic. This is all caught on tape and reported the next day. Today there is a picture of those same pigs out on the street, attempting to do their job.

Her other job was to attend a meeting about the small protest in Pengzhou against a planned chemical factory that will affect the water supply. The meeting -- held by the leaders of the paper -- was to inform all reporters to stay away from Pengzhou, not to talk about it, send SMS about or do anything. Because the project is a pet of the Provincial Governor Zhang Zhong Wei.

International media and Cantonese media reported on it instead.

Sichuan is the epicenter of all that is cracker.

Meanwhile, my homie Boogie is back in town with his mom. He is looking ot me to aid him in a visa hunt. The guy we all used to go to for visas had his office in Beijing raided and all passports, including Boogie's, were confiscated. There has been no word as of yet.

A German photographer and an English writer asked me to help them with visas over the past few days as well.

Another Econ Daily reporter called me up and tried to get me to agree that CNN's "apology" for Jack Cafferty's statements wasn't actually an apology at all. I said: "Bitch we got the First Amendment!" Unfazed, she pressed on till I finally said: Yes, it is an apology, but I know it doesn't suit well with the nation's victim campaign, so write whatever the hell you want. She said thanks and offered to buy me dinner today. She didn't quote me in the paper and the headline said: CNN: "regret, does it mean apology or sorry?" In Chinese there is a slight distinction between some of these phrases. What they want is for Cafferty to kow tow. I just shake my head sometimes. there truly is no lack of bullshit in our world.

Meanwhile, my cats gave birth the other night, outside in the rain. I didn't realize until this morning when i walked downstairs and my neighbor said: hey, yer cats gave birth, pointing to a wriggling furball in the grass. I trip and take the three kittens and spend the rest of the morning trying to find them a safe place. They end up in my closet, wrapped up in my chupa -- a very useful fur-lined Tibetan cloak. I have two cats. The one that gave birth watched the kitties, while the other attacked male cats in the area with a ferocity I have never seen. She is also pregnant and gave birth to one giant kitten last night that died. The two cats are taking turns nursing the three kittens.

Last night as I took a break from all of this craziness with my pipe and some Buddha, a fourth kitten comes squirming out of the grass and mewls up at me. I trip some more and take this Lucky lil bastard up into the closet. He immediately went for the nipple. He is doing fine.

There is more going on. Really, I haven't even told half. But this is enough to let you know that this week has been very eventful -- and I feel the pattern coalescing around me, even if I am clueless as to its purpose, design or frame of mind.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tell that b*tch to chill!

Its time to concede Hillary.

I like to believe that the universe works according to my whim. My decision to stay here in China until after the Olympics and then boogie to Portland in September seems to be in line with all that is transpiring in the world.

In September, I will see if it is at all possible to influence the politics of the nation. After November, when Obama -- if all goes according to my whim -- becomes the first mulatto president of the US, then I will see what institutions and tools are already in place to help unify and marshall the American people.

It can happen. Kennedy created the Peace Corps to take our asses out into the World, what will Obama create to bring our asses back home to re-make the American Dream in the image of the people who dream it?

"Let's do this, girl!"

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Word

I have tried to emphasize the need for us to turn back to home and see what we can do there instead of sticking our under-educated noses into everyone else's business. This column here by Thomas Friedman lays down what we already feel.

On Brainwashing

In China, indoctrination of the youth begins very early. At age 6, young kids are given their first Chinese Reader to learn the vast collection of characters, poems and proverbs that make up the Chinese language. The book begins with a small rhyme about flowers and their need for the sunshine, then goes into the people and their need to deeply love the Communist Party as an analogous sentence. Important vocab includes:

Re Ai: literally Hot Love
Gong Chan Dang: Communist Party
Hua: Flower
Yang Guang: Sunshine

Later, most children read the story of San Mao, one of the hundreds of thousands of street urchins and orphans that crowded the streets of many a Chinese city right after Japan's surrender and before the final victory of the Communist Party over the Nationalist Party in 1949.

In the first chapter of this book, published in 1959, the trials and struggles of San Mao and his street brothers are listed: starvation, freezing, no shelter, no family, short-hard lives ahead of them.

The landlords scorned them. The Nationalists, described as Guo Ming Dang Fan Dong Pai -- which means "the Nationalist Reactionary Group" (students of Communism will recognize the belief in the inevitability of the Socialist Utopia) -- are primarily to blame for their plight, through mismanagement, corruption and callous disregard for the People in general.

And the American Devils "wu yuan wu gu da si tamen" which means beat them (the orphans) to death without rhyme or reason.

The book is actually a collection of comic-book style depictions of the orphans and the capitalist pigs, foreign devils and anti-Revolution traitors who torment them. The Communist Party and Mao Zi Dong are the saviors of the orphans ...

It goes on. In Middle school there is Si Xiang Ping De class, which translates into Philosophical Tenets or Moral and Philosophical Laws ... Students love this class because it does not count toward their final grade and there is no homework. Its only purpose is to indoctrinate the children in Communist Party Thought. There is little mention of the great Chinese philosophers, unless something they wrote blends well with the Communist Party Rhetoric.

In high school and university, there are the Deng Xiao Ping Theory and Mao Zi Dong Important Thought classes. Similar to Si Xiang Ping De except more focused on the individuals who exemplify the Communist Rhetoric.

At work, most Dan Wei (work units) are ruled over by the Party Secretary of that particular company, area or office. There are regular meetings that deal with what is and is not correct according to the Party and what Important Campaigns are currently underway.

In the Tibetan regions for example and in those regions that border them, like Chengdu, Party members were instructed to go into every monastery, every Tibetan area and begin wholesale, hardcore re-education. This involves having Tibetans break, spit on and denounce pictures of the Dalai Lama, mass arrests, beatings and criticism sessions and, most horrifying, a call for all of the People to keep their eyes open for suspicious characters and report them to the relevant authorities.

It is the Cultural Revolution of the New Millenium. The Party is so terrified of the future ... it truly is fitting that in China, the land with the most amazing and glaring contradictions I have ever witnessed, the Ruling Elite will be most terrified during their most dramatic moment of triumph.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

HK Torch Relay II

Some words from a fellow laowai.

HK Torch Relay

here is a column i wrote for Antiwar.com that will not get published:

On Friday the torch arrives in Hong Kong. Demonstrators from around the world are arriving ahead of time to take advantage of this opportunity: after Hong Kong the flame will be traveling through Mainland China, where security will be extremely tight. This may be the last chance for demonstrators to make a statement that will be heard on the international stage.

This Friday is pivotal for the well-being of the Games. If protestors manage to disrupt the flame – and get beaten by patriots and police for their efforts – the tense atmosphere that has been gathering around the Beijing Olympics since March will reach a new and perhaps irreversible height.

Several pro-Tibetan groups are forming an alliance and have organized strategies to disrupt the torch’s path. As seen in other cities, small groups harassing the flame along its path has proven to be successful. Hong Kong has seen its share of city-wide demonstrations. Pro-Democracy marches in Hong Kong attracted up to 500,000 people and the city is much more open, educated and liberal than its massive cousin to the west.

Although the true democratic nature of Hong Kong can be debated, the people consider themselves blessed with more political freedom than Mainland China and have taken to the streets to defend that freedom.

In 2005, when the WTO Ministerial was held in Hong Kong, the local security forces were not prepared for the organized, determined efforts of the protestors. The anti-WTO protestors managed to disrupt the talks and undermine the legitimacy of the body. The locals discussed the issues openly, in the papers and in the streets – and many of them were supportive of and sympathetic to the anti-WTO movement. Obviously, protesting against an international trade body and protesting against the Motherland are two very different things, but Hong Kong is accustomed to free speech and political activism. It is possible to discuss issues there and not get beaten for it.

That might change very quickly if the local security has not learned the lesson of the WTO protests in 2005. A failure to contain any demonstrations could be disastrous for Beijing’s Big Party.

The tense atmosphere will be ripe for an act of rebellion during the Games, which could be provocative enough to cause great problems – including the cancellation of the Games.

The image of the Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City is an image that much of the world knows and remembers. At the time, the two American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, were expelled by the International Olympic Committee for violating the Game’s apolitical stance. They also faced death threats and were ostracized at home in the US.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 70s in the US was successful in some ways, unsuccessful in others. This is not the only example of the Olympics becoming a forum for international politics, but it is the most similar to what Beijing may face in the coming months.

Imagine if an athlete -- Buddhist, French or otherwise – wins a medal and displays a picture of the Dalai Lama, or a medallion with his picture, or the Tibetan flag during the medal ceremony.

Pro-China demonstrators have already shown that they can and will resort to violence and threats to suppress the opinions and free speech of others, no matter what country they are in . In Beijing, if an act of “rebellion” were to be televised around the globe, such as the Black Power Salute, it is not out of the question to expect nation-wide demonstrations and riots. Chinese fans in Beijing and locals would be compelled to express themselves.

Chinese government spokeswoman Jiang Yu praised Chinese students “defending the integrity of the torch” in South Korea – what would the government do to those who would defend national integrity at the risk of disrupting the Games?

It is safe to say that any athlete pulling a Tibetan Power Salute will be expelled immediately. The question is not the consequences for the athlete, but the reactions of the Chinese. The Olympics, Tibet and the West are very emotional topics for some Chinese. There is no discourse on these topics, as many have already discovered. The potential for violence is palpable. It happened with the Japanese during the Asian Cup, which they won after defeating the Chinese team in the final, and it is happening to Carrefour now.

The real issue here can be illustrated very succinctly by comparing what happens in Hong Kong on Friday – and the Chinese government’s response to it – and what happened in San Francisco when the Olympic Torch arrived there.

The US did an excellent job of providing a forum for all opinions – pro- and anti-China – while protecting the flame and allowing everybody to get a look at it. This is what a free and modern society can do: have the strength to allow dissension and discussion without violence and repression and still get the job done.

Chinese students abroad are considered brainwashed because, so far, the ability to discuss the issues in a rational manner has not been demonstrated. On Friday we may learn how rational or irrational things can get here. The consequences for hopeful athletes around the world could be dire.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sleeveless Tendencies

First off ... looks like the fervor might be dying down. we shall see. Does anyone else see the parallels between the Games and the Primary? We are down to the last few states and it is getting crucial -- for china they are down to the last few cities on the torch relay. But even if the West backs off and the Games go smoothly, it will go hard for those who raised their voices ...

My Shifu got the job doing security for the Games -- he was hired as a team leader and starts o the 9th. At the last second there were still doubts, because he is "short and carries himself with too much humility"... i suggested they test him. So they tested his english and his gong fu ... he was hired on the spot cuz he took out a bar full of englishmen and cussed em out as they flew out the windows ... hehehe

there once was an Emperor of China who was gay and had a lover with whom he was infatuated. One afternoon, they were lying together amidst the silk and gold and the Emperor's sleeve was caught under his lover's body. Instead of waking his lover, he slipped out of his sleeve and went to do whatever it is Emperors do in the afternoon ...

Ever since, "sleeveless" has become a byword for gay lovin. in Chinese pinyin it is called:

duan xiu zhi pi ...

Here is a picture of my homie Ripitus gettin some ink ... sans sleeves.