The first stage of The China Chronicles is almost finished

The first stage of The China Chronicles is almost finished
For the last several weeks, aside from my travel time, I’ve been working on pulling all my China posts from the last seven years into WordPress pages, to make finding and reading them more easy. The eventual goal is to turn them into a book of some kind. Here’s the introduction to what I’m calling The China Chronicles for now. You can also find the links to it and the chapters following in the righthand sidebar. This is a work in progress, so please excuse the rough edges.

This week in Republican scientific ignorance

This week in Republican scientific ignorance
Stupid or ignorant? You be the judge. On Monday, a state senator in Idaho, Rep. Vito Barbieri (above, left) showed some confusion about human anatomy. He asked if doctors could send a small camera into a woman’s stomach to conduct a remote gynecological examination. The question Monday from Republican state Rep. Vito Barbieri came as the House State Affairs Committee heard nearly three hours of testimony on a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication through telemedicine. Dr. Julie Madsen was testifying in opposition to the bill when Barbieri asked the question. Madsen replied that would be impossible because swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina. “Fascinating. That makes sense,” Barbieri said, amid the crowd’s laughter. Link. A few days later, Nevada assemblywoman Michele Fiore — also a Republican — declared on a radio program that cancer is a fungus, and can be flushed out of the body with intravenous injections of salt and baking soda. “If you have cancer, which I believe is a fungus,” she began, citing a widely debunked theory that the American Cancer Society warns about, “and we can put a pic line into your body and we’re flushing with, say, salt ...

Cool! Watch a Martian sunset

Cool! Watch a Martian sunset
NASA link Look familiar? I hope so. The colors are bluish, because the Martian atmosphere is much thinner and has less oxygen and nitrogen than Earth’s.

2015 Winter Holiday travels on $67 a day

2015 Winter Holiday travels on $67 a day
JISHOU, HUNAN — So, I spent two and half weeks — 18 days — traveling around southern China. How much did it cost? About $67 day, for a total of $1,200, almost as good as those “travel on $50 a day” books say. As I’ve told my friends and family, the biggest expense in traveling around China is getting there. Once you’re in country, costs are remarkably affordable. Had I not set myself a strict $1,000 budget (yeah, I went over, mostly because I stayed in Hong Kong two days), I could have traveled for several days more. Also, if I had avoided taking the high speed rail and been more frugal in choosing hotels, I could have traveled even more cheaply. The regular trains in China are slower, but priced lower. So, if you don’t mind spending half the day or even more on the train, you can see a lot of China for very little money. Here’s the breakdown by category for the trip. Lodging $520 Transport $347 Food $282 Miscellaneous $55 (including entry fees for attractions) TOTAL $1,204 For lodging, most of the time I was mostly staying in three-star or higher-rated hotels. I like to be ...

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Beihai and Nanning

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Beihai and Nanning
Since I came to China, I’ve had two opportunities to visit Beihai, but instead chose to go elsewhere. This time, I decided I should go see whether this coastal city is as wonderful as some of my Chinese friends say. Well, I hate to say it, it’s not that wonderful. If you want quality beach time, especially in February, skip Beihai and ante up for a more expensive visit to Sanya in Hainan. Beihai is nice enough for one or two days, but after that it’s pretty boring. Before I get into details, here’s some perspective. Beihai is in Guangxi Province, one of the poorest provinces in China. During the 19th century, Beihai was an important international port, but went into decline during the 20th century as other cities in China — like Guangzhou — became more important international ports. Development of Beihai as a tourist city is still underway. There’s now a high-speed rail line linking it to the larger city of Nanning; its airport is new and modern; and there are new hotels and condos going up all over the city. In addition, the government is trying to develop Beihai into a passenger seaport, with daily departures to ...

2015 Winter Holiday travel: Shenzhen, again, and its tired Soviet aircraft carrier

2015 Winter Holiday travel: Shenzhen, again, and its tired Soviet aircraft carrier
BEIHAI, GUANGXI PROVINCE — OK, OK, I know I just blogged about visiting Shenzhen, but that visit was before Hong Kong. This blog is about visiting Shenzhen after Hong Kong. I know, I messed everything up by starting in the middle. I lead with Hong Kong because there was some important current events happening while I was there. My bad. So, my plan after Hong Kong was (1) stay a night in Shenzhen, where hotels are cheaper, before (2) flying to Beihai to stay a few days with a Couchsurfing.com friend. Originally, I had planned to take the high speed train from Shenzhen to Nanning, then the high speed train to Beihai. But those plans went awry, due to the coming Spring Festival travel crush. My attempts to book train tickets online were foiled, as there appeared to be none available on the days I wanted to travel. (In retrospect, the website was probably just having problems updating availability, but I didn’t realize it at the time.) Rather than deal with long lines at the Shenzhen North Railway station, which I had already witnessed dropping Sophia off there a few days before, I opted to fly to Beihai from the ...

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Shenzhen/XiaoMeiSha

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Shenzhen/XiaoMeiSha
SHENZHEN, GUANGDONG — This was my second visit to Shenzhen, as I had come through here on my way to Hong Kong in December, but this time I wasn’t staying in the downtown area, but in the so-called beach resort area of XiaoMeiSha 小每沙 (literally “little sea water”) to the east. I say so-called because, quite frankly, there’s no “there” there. Since we were there off-season, I suppose I could cut the town some slack, but in fact, there was not much to do there. My friend Sophia K. and I stayed in an inexpensive hotel in XiaoMeiSha for five days, but aside from two visits to the beach and waterfront, most of the time we took the bus to Shenzhen proper and enjoyed the activities available there. So, why did we go there? Budgetary constraints, mostly. Sophia really wanted to see the shore (only her second time) and she had only 1,000 RMB and a week of time. Sanya, in Hainan, the best place to go, was too expensive, for both of us. Her friends said XioaMeiSha was better than Beihai (correct, as I discovered), so we settled on XiaoMeiSha. It wasn’t horrible, but somewhat disappointing. DaMeiSha 大梅沙 (“big ...

This week in America’s drive for excellence: Oklahoma to defund AP US History

This week in America's drive for excellence: Oklahoma to defund AP US History
Once again, the College Board AP program is under attack, this time in Oklahoma. Legislators there think the AP US History program is just like the Common Core — a pernicious influence on tender young American minds who will not learn that America is The Greatest Nation of All Time. So, state Rep. Dan Fisher (R-Nutjob) wants to defund the AP US History program. It’s another great step in making American exceptional, but in the wrong way. The Tulsa World has this report of a committee hearing about education funding: During discussion and debate, however, it was suggested that AP courses are similar to Common Core, in that they could be construed as an attempt to impose a national curriculum on American schools. It was also suggested that AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core, with state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, saying she has asked the state Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on the matter. That legislation gives sole control of curriculum and assessment to the state, although it was not immediately clear whether the requirement applies to all courses or only to required courses. Last year, conservative educators in Colorado also attacked ...

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Guangzhou

2015 Winter Holiday travels: Guangzhou
GUANGZHOU, GUANGDONG PROVINCE — I spent a little more than two weeks touring southern China this long winter holiday, and Guangzhou was the first stop outside Hunan. Originally, my friend Sophia and I had planned to meet in her hometown of Hengyang to travel together to Guangzhou and Shenzhen, but she had to attend a relative’s wedding in the countryside, so I ended up spending one night in Changsha, and catching a train to Hengyang the following day. We then proceeded to Guangzhou, where she stayed with an old friend from high school and I stayed in a hotel near my friends there. Let me introduce my companions. All three were English education majors and among my first students in China. Dee (below) returned to Jishou University briefly to earn a bachelor’s degree in Business English, but financial considerations required her to abandon those plans and get a job. All three work in foreign trade at different companies, Dee and Sarah as sales people and Mary (at left and also below) as a receptionist/translator. I arrived on a Sunday, so they were free to hang out. Dee and Mary met me first at the train station and we took the ...

China ranks near the bottom in 2015 World Press Freedom Index

Not that it should surprise anyone, China, at #176 of 180, is among those nations ranking lowest in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index, released by Reporters Without Borders this week. The organization cites continuing government pressure on journalists and authors, including trumped-up criminal charges and incarcerations, as reasons for China’s rank near the bottom with Vietnam, Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. The Kong Kong SAR ranks in the middle at #70. The RSF cited self-censorhip by domestic and foreign media outlets in the wake of the long Occupy Central protests, as well as pressure from the Beijing government on the ostensibly autonomous region. The Macau SAR is not included on the list. RSF ranked the USA at #49 in the “yellow zone,” saying this: In the United States, 2014 was marked by judicial harassment of New York Times investigative reporter James Risen in connection with the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer charged under the Espionage Act with giving him classified information. US journalists are still not protected by a federal shield law that would guarantee their right not to name their sources or reveal other confidential information about their work. Meanwhile, at least 15 journalists ...

Expectant Hunan mother lops off the hair she’s grown for 13 years

Expectant Hunan mother lops off the hair she's grown for 13 years
CHANGSHA — Zhu Qing 祝青, an expectant mother from a nearby town, made a difficult decision recently — to cut off the hair she’s grown for the last 13 years. She chose to cut her hair both for practical reasons — washing and drying 1.3 meters (4 feet 3 inches) of hair takes a lot of time — and for traditional medical reasons — the belief that such long hair would deprive the baby of nutrition and strength. She began growing out her hair at 14, after reading Chinese romances in which the heroines only cut their hair upon marriage. Zhu and her husband went to a hair salon in Changsha to get hair cut short. As this photo below shows, her feelings were definitely mixed. Photos and story from news.qq.com . . . . . .

Winter holiday 2015: The non-political part of my Hong Kong visit

Winter holiday 2015: The non-political part of my Hong Kong visit
Since I’ve already started in the middle of my travels, I’ll finish telling about my two days in Hong Kong. To recap, my friend, Sophia K., and I had traveled together to Guangzhou and Shenzhen for a week. That was all the time she had, and so had to return home. I, on the other hand, didn’t. But the question was, where to go next? Shenzhen and Hong Kong are separated only by a river, and a political boundary. I really like Hong Kong, but the hotel prices there are normally too high for my modest teacher salary. Yet, even though I had already spent five days in HK in December to hang out with my son, it beckoned to me. Quite by chance, Hotels.com sent me a low, low price offer for hotels in major cities. Most of the Hong Kong deals, though, were either still exorbitantly priced (for my budget, anyway) or shoeboxes that make my university flat seem palatial. Most were in Kowloon and the north side of Hong Kong Island, where I’ve stayed before. But one caught my eye: two nights for the price of one at the Ovolo Southside in Aberdeen. Even at 50% off, ...
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