Bowl of Noodles

My Mama always said, life is like a bowl of noodles…

Well, ok, maybe my Mama has never had a bowl of noodles quite like the ones that I eat here in China. I was hoping some grand metaphor for the Chinese state of mind would fit in here somewhere, but I guess I’m not feeling particularly brilliant at the moment…

rice noodles

Continue reading “Bowl of Noodles”

Ode to Ibu

You Are My Sunshine
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away

The other nite, dear,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried.

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

I’ll always love you
And make you happy
If you will only say the same
But if you leave me
To love another
You’ll regret it all some day;

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

You told me once, dear
You really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you’ve left me
And love another
You have shattered all my dreams;

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

Louisiana my Louisiana
the place where I was borne.
White fields of cotton
— green fields clover,
the best fishing
and long tall corn;

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.
Crawfish gumbo and jambalaya
the biggest shrimp and sugar cane,
the finest oysters
and sweet strawberries
from Toledo Bend to New Orleans;

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

China’s Tainted Goods

The recent sale of unsafe and low quality goods produced in China has raised an uproar in the United States and other countries that import products from the Asian giant. In these countries, Chinese produced goods are often thought of as cheap, low quality, and even unsafe knockoffs of things that are more expensive to produce domestically. In the increasingly globalized marketplace, the trade of food, cosmetic and medicinal products has made this issue of quality and safety control all the more important. This impression China as the land of cheap plastic toys and tainted toothpaste needs to be rethought, however. The entrance of low quality, Chinese produced products into the American marketplace is more a reflection of the business practices of importers than it is on China’s ability to produce quality goods.

Here in Kunming, in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan, a majority of the factory produced goods, sold in places from the hi-tech supermarket to the roadside stalls, are both high quality and uniquely Chinese. The sneakers sold at the sports store are not feeble imitations of Nike basketball shoes, but are proudly touted as the fruit of the labor of Chinese innovation.

Also, in terms of quality dependent products such as food and cosmetics, the experience of the average Chinese person and that of the American using a Chinese produced toothpaste might be radically different. The government does not tolerate the sale of tainted products in China, and people selling them will be “severely dealt with,” according to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, a Chinese government agency.

The sale of tainted products in America is result of simple supply and demand. While low quality goods may not be given space on the shelves here in China, the same Chinese manufacturers often have no qualms about selling them to foreigners wanting to turn a profit by paying the least amount in the quickest amount of time.

The Idea of Development

The people of Kunming, China, are facing the question of how exactly to understand and deal with the concept of “progress” in a very unsubtle way.

Perhaps in our modern times, the word itself, “progress,” needs to be completely rethought. With consequences that seem to be so incredibly ambiguous, perhaps the process indicative in the word should take on a more objective and less subjective meaning. While describing that process and the changes it inevitably brings, it should not envoke an automatic sense of understanding or movement in one direction or another.

Here in Kunming, a very strong push by the government is resulting in constant change and unignorable consequences. The face of the city, the entire country in fact, is changing at a dizzying rate.
get off the street with your peaches!

Continue reading “The Idea of Development”

In land of Mosques, defining the role of a unique Islam

Indonesia has been getting a lot of press lately, due to recent domestic as well as international activities. In the country, Indonesia has made several arrests, and seems to be on a campaign to clamp down on the Islamic radical groups that have been responsible for violence and acts of terror, such as the bombings in Bali and Jakarta.

Indonesia is also working to define itself as a player on the international scene. As both a democracy and a predominantly Islamic country, with good relations with both Western countries and the Islamic countries of the Middle East and Asia, Indonesia has a unique perspective on world affairs and is in a unique position to work for positive change. The most recent of the conflicts in Palestine, for example, is one of the reasons for an the Indonesian brokered meeting/ negotions this August in Palestine.

Indonesia Redifines Itself with Terrorist Arrests

Indonesia, Saudi Arabia make gains against Islamist militants

Lip Service Vs. Real Intentions

The direction that China takes as it continues to develop its policy, both domestic and foreign, should be the concern of everyone in the world. With the largest population and a rapidly developing economy, the impact the rapidly changing country will have on the world in the next few years is going to be exponentially greater than any other single country. Studying here in Yunnan, in China’s South West, the fact that a great majority of the media is government controlled makes me an instant skeptic when it comes to a good deal of the ‘statements’ that come from Beijing in regards to progressive or controversial policy changes. China seems to be taking on a role in which it does its best to keep other countries happy while at the same time working quietly and almost inconceivably diligently to gain every advantage in terms of both its internal development and its international relations. In line with this strategy, the media is almost instantly flooded with reports and government statements whenever an issue seems timely or controversial. The stories and reports come together all too conveniently to tell a story that always seems to say “China recognizes this problem and has devised a strategy that will solve it and make the world better for everyone.”

Environment and climate change issues are a good example.  CCTV International, China’s English language television channel, rarely seems to go more than a few days without a feature about one environmental challenge or another. The country has come under pressure from the international community, of course, to take dramatic efforts to control the impact that its changing economy, industries, and lifestyles of its massive population are having and will have on the global climate. Listening to the Chinese television, you’ll find nothing but support for these calls to action. Climate change, says CCTV, poses a great threats to China and world. International treaties on climate change are frequently heralded as important and necessary. However, even as China supports these agreements, it consistently makes the point that it is a ‘developing country’ – it must balance the need to protect the environment with the need to improve the lives of its large rural populations and burgeoning urban centers.

Article about China and environment policy, Seed Magazine

Game Epidemic

Both boys and girls, school children from the very young all the way to university students crowd the internet cafes of China. It’s a statistic that may be interpreted by some as the rise of the empowered and informed masses, the armament of a population to resist the singularly dominating force that is the Chinese centralized authority. China has the world’s second largest population of internet users, after the US, and it is thought that a majority of these are of the youngest generations.

However, looking around as I sit in the rickety chair of this internet cafe in Kunming, Yunnan Province, listening to the constant pulse of key strikes and the frequent zings, pops and whizzes from nearby headphones, it is easy to interpret something different entirely. A vast majority of the computer screens here – almost every single one, in fact – is illuminated by Orks building castles and battling humans, avitars dancing to doped up generic techno music, or special forces operatives picking off the enemy through a night vision scope. A few screens have a movie playing in one corner, a program downloading mp3’s in another, and three different chat conversations happening simultaneously in whatever is left on the lcd.

Granted, email and other digital chat services have been proven as effective organizational tools in some cases of activism and social action, but judging by the number of smiley faces and cute pictures in the chat conversations and the giggles of the typers, I am guessing that the topic of the democracy movement has not come up today.

In fact, the popularity of internet cafes in China’s cities has reached levels that have provoked responses from the authorities. While other actions have indeed been blatant attempts to maintain control over access to information and communication, these recent acts have been a response to what is seen by many as an epidemic of online game playing. Some places do not allow people under the age of 18, and others won’t let children in if they are wearing school uniforms or if it is during school time.

I recently had a conversation with someone who was researching the occurance of homeless children in Kunming, and she said that one of the causes leading to child homelessness has been internet cafes. Children go to the cafe to play games so often that they just stop going home – they spend all the money they have, and turn to petty crime to fund their habit/ addiction.