Sunday, August 31, 2008

Donations in Shaghai

I'm moving this weekend and am in the process of cleaning out my closets, etc. If I were doing this in California I wouldn't think twice about what to do with my unwanted things. There are many great non-profit organizations to donate to in the Bay Area. But, living in Shanghai this was another one of those times when something that's a no-brainer in the US becomes a head scratcher in China. What to do with unwanted, slightly used clothes....

It takes some digging around, I usually start by asking friends and then move on to websites like Shanghai Expat where I can post my questions on message boards.

Turns out there is a great non-profit organization in Shanghai called River of Hearts that takes donations of clothing, bedding and shoes and ships it out to people in need all over China.

If you're looking for a place to take your slightly used unwanted clothing, you can drop your things off at one of their many drop off points all over Shanghai (Puxi & Pudong).

Check them out: River of Hearts or

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chinese Displaced for Olympics?

A friend forwarded this article to me yesterday - I haven't heard anything about this before, but living in China there are many things I don't hear about so that really doesn't mean anything.

The article states that according to the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE),
The Beijing Olympics has displaced 1.5 million people since 2000.

They also go on to say that "I
nternational Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to award the Games to Beijing has been a catalyst in increasing forced evictions and displacements in Beijing. COHRE’s new report holds the Chinese government guilty of widespread forced evictions along with other human rights violations during preparations for the Beijing Olympics"

I am not at all surprised to learn about this report - mainly I'm saddened by the lack of information in China. It's easy to forget as I go about my everyday life here how much of a stronghold the government has on it's people.

To download the whole report and come to your own conclusions click here:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New York Times - Not quite on the money this time...

Here's an article from the New York Times about the Olympics written by Jere Longman - I agree 70% of the time, but his comments about no lines and buses running on time is totally off....

Check it out:

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Great Wall

While my sister was here visiting, we took a day trip from Beijing out to one of the sections of the Great Wall at Simatai that has been restored by the government. Check these photos out - the Wall is just an amazing, amazing sight. It's my second time to the Wall (different section) and I'm still just totally blown away by awesomeness of it all.

In Memory

Baby aka. Xiao Woo
January 2001- August 2008

Back in Shanghai

I arrived back in Shanghai 2 days ago. My sister was visiting from the USA (see her guest posts below), we spent most of our time in Xi'an and Beijing. Xi'an is a fascinating place - the history is amazing and we enjoyed a fabulous dumpling banquet (see photo below). But Beijing was certainly more memorable (sorry Xi'an the Olympics trump Chinese history any day).

Unfortunately while we were in Xi'an I received some bad news - my cat passed away. She has been with me since college and has traveled all over the world. From the USA to China. I'll miss her terribly.

With the emotional bad news of a beloved pet passing away, the experience of the Olympics helped to keep my mind off of the sadness and enjoy the excitement and joy of everyone in Beijing. I was really very impressed with how clean and green everything was. The city really did a great job, I hope they continue to keep things at the same level even after the Olympics is over. Shanghai certainly has some catching up to do before the 2010 Expo!

Now that I'm back - I have to get into the swing of things again. Our apartment is ALMOST done being renovated!! We are scheduled to move on Sept. 1st. Let's hope that date sticks. I'm so excited about how things are turning out and can't wait to post the final photos in a few days!

I've got to get back to watching the Men's Beach Volleyball finals on TV - USA vs. Brazil!

Chinese Gymnasts Under Age...

I've been hearing a lot about this topic - especially at the Olympic Games. Rumor has been that the Chinese forged paperwork so that their gymnasts appeared older than they really are. Minimum age for competition is 16, and I have to agree with the critics - some of those girls look much younger than 16. Even though many Chinese girls look younger than their age....these girls look really really young.

Turns out some hacker has been able to dig into the Chinese administrations files and prove that a few of the Chinese gymnasts really are younger than 16.

Click here to read more:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympic Food - What the *#$^!?

I am having a great time at the Olympics so far - I have two more events to see and then I'll be heading back to Shanghai.

I have only a few "suggestions" to make concerning this year's Olympics in Beijing. The biggest issue I and my guests ran into was the lack of food! At all venues there is of course strict security and no food or liquids is allowed into any venue. I can understand this - and I don't mind it but if inside the venue the food offerings are bad then it becomes an issue.

All all of the venues the same food is offered at food stands, it includes some of the following; soda, water, beer, chips, cookies, popcorn, sausage & a boxed meal that heats on it's own (rice and meat). At the Olympic Green exactly the same food is offered and the ONLY other option is 2 McDonalds restaurants. That's it!!!

It's really pretty terrible - if you have two events in the same day in the Olympic Green area (we had Tennis & Swimming yesterday) there isn't really any other place you can go - the area is too large to walk out of and back into. I was very very disappointed to basically be forced to eat crap for two days straight. I was hoping for more of a sampling of Chinese food from the different regions, or at least more food stands and different choices beyond just McDonalds.

Olympics - Boxing, Women's Volleyball, Swimming & Tennis

Hi everyone! Being in Beijing at the Olympics has been a fantastic experience so far.

We arrived from Xian on Thursday and managed to score last minute tickets to Beach Volleyball and Boxing for Friday. Even though we thought it was going to be really hard to get last minute tickets to anything, it's been amazingly easy. On Saturday we already had tickets to swimming and tennis. All events were just a really great time overall.

There are a few ways to go about getting tickets if you don't have them already:

1. Craigslist - Beijing edition
2. Go to the event early and stand around looking for scalpers. They're there at all the events regardless - but you'll pay at least 3-4 times the original face value ticket price.

Back to the games - from what I've seen so far of the Olympic Green (main area) and the Volleyball & Boxing venues have all been excellent. This comes from my foreigner perspective but it's a very nice surprise to see clean facilities everywhere (especially bathrooms, with soap and toilet paper!) and TONS of Olympic Staff.

Speaking of cleanliness, I have never seen Beijing so clean in my life!!! I hope the government can keep it up.

So far Tennis and Swimming have been the most "impressive", we saw both Michael Phelps and Dana Torres swim yesterday and then saw Federer play in the men's doubles gold medal match.

I've posted some photos below of both events below. I'll post more tomorrow about all the other interesting Olympic sights I've seen so far....

Go USA!!!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympics Medal Tracker

Can the US keep up with China this year!?

Olympic Medal winners at NBC!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

20 Questions

Emily's sister Lilia here again. Today we wrapped up our second day of sightseeing in the city of Xian in central China. The highlight of the day was the truly awesome Terracotta Warriors archaeological site that is still being excavated here after being discovered in 1974 by some local peasants trying to dig a well.

Our local Xian native tour guide, I'll call her "Mindy", has been with us since we arrived from Shanghai. In addition to providing some helpful historical background during our visits to local sites, she also unknowingly given us an cultural lesson with her endless barrage of questions.

I'd read a bit about this tendency on the part of Chinese thanks to the Lonley Planet and other guide books and was confident in my ability to patiently fend off any curious tourguide or cabby. But Mindy was a champ. A fresh-faced visitor to China such as myself was no match for her girlish giggle and perky pony tail.

Thankfully, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I was not judged interesting enough to attract Mindy's incessant questioning, (something I'm still a little a little miffed about actually.) Instead, she focused on my sister and brother-in-law: what he does for a living, how long they are planning to live in Shanghai, what kind of car my sister drives, the sq footage of her apartment. As we parted ways and said goodbye this afternoon, I was just waiting for her to yell out the car window as she drove away, "So, ah, how much money does your brother-in-law make a year after taxes?"

Now I know Wendy was just trying to be friendly and keep up a nice banter; I appreciate that and don't hold any hard feelings of course. Now that I've had a few Mindy-free hours to reflect, the whole experience has served as more of a reminder to appreciate opportunities to learn about other cultures, no matter how taxing or uncomfortable it may seem at the time. Mindy mentioned that she has never left China but would love to visit Russia and the U.S. someday, which made me pause and appreciate being able to visit China, its Terracotta warriors and the memorable Mindy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Xi'an - Beijing

I've had a guest blogger, my sister who's in China visiting for a few weeks. We spent a week in Shanghai, and arrived in Xi'an early (too early) this morning. It's my first time to Xian and it's a beautiful city! We took it easy today - went to see a few sights and tomorrow will spend more time out visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors among many other things. I'll post photos once I get them all downloaded. Pace of life is a little slower here, even though this city has 12 million people. In comparison to Shanghai, Xi'an is probably a lot closer to "real life" China.

We have a great tour guide, Mindy, whose pride in this city is infectious! It's great history is amazing and I can't wait to learn more about it. In the meantime we're trying to keep up to date on the Olympics, and it's not hard to do since it's all over TV. There are even big screen TV's set up in major public places for people to watch. The highlight is still going to be going to Beijing to see the Olympics - we can't wait!!! Go USA!!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olypmics Information

There are multiple sites you can go to for info on the Olympics. I suggest the following:


I will be in Beijing on the 14th for the following events; Swimming, Tennis, Diving & Table Tennis - I will report on what the sights and atmosphere are like! I'm very excited!!! GO USA!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Phone cards and human rights

Emily's sister here, about mid-way through my first trip to China. Needless to say, there is a lot to take in in a city of about 20 million. We've been pretty busy, visiting local sites, sampling Shanghainese food and elbowing through rush-hour subway crowds. Tonight we had some down time so, I thought I would catch-up on some news via my usual online sources.

Glancing through my email news alerts, I noticed the Huffington Post had an article about members of the US press being detained when they landed in Beijing with President Bush a few days ago. Intrigued, I tried to click through to the article, but instead, got an error message.

Now it's not that I was all that surprised I couldn't access the article, (Emily has actually written about the Chinese government's internet censorship in the past) but because I work in the human rights field, and am also a bit of an on-line news junkie, this censorship first-hand really strikes a nerve. Earlier today, (via a translator, otherwise known as my bilingual Mandarin-English brother-in-law) an older Chinese man selling phone cards on a streetcorner told us about being dislocated from his spot by local police because he was not an authorized dealer. "You should know since you're foreigners," he said. "There are no human rights in China."

Now Chinese zoning regulations aside (which I know nothing about), this elderly, working class Chinese man's discourse about human rights struck me. Did he use the term because he recognized that we were clearly Western foreigners and thought it would resonate with us? Or did he genuinely view his inability to pursue his livelihood thanks to the local police, as infringing on his economic, and therefore human rights?

This past week in China has sparked more than a few musings on democracy, human rights, nationalism, development theory, and lots of other fun "isms" but we'll save those for another time.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Beijing releases etiquette code book.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Beijing has released an Etiquette Code Book for the Olympics.

"Beijing officials have distributed 4.3 million copies of an etiquette book outlining rules on good manners and foreign customs, including rules about what not to wear. The guide is part of an effort by various departments within China's government to clean the city up in preparation for the at least 400,000 foreign visitors who are expected to descend on its capital for the Olympic Games, which start Aug. 8."

This is funny - especially since it outlines what to wear, what not to wear. Has anyone seen the official Chinese Olympic Uniforms?! They are awful. I guess that what happens when a bunch of middle aged, communist, government officials get to play fashion designer. Good lord.

Some sites not censored

Andrew Lih posted earlier about some internet sites that are not being blocked by the Chinese government. He lists the following as sites that he has been able to access:
  • (Radio Free Asia)
  • (Apple Daily HK, newspaper critical of Beijing)
I've also checked them out and I'm also able access all of the sites above - this is actually really great as all of the sites above are usually not accessible from inside China.

Check out the rest of Andrew's post here: