Iceland

In Iceland. It’s cold. And lovely.

And I am literally running out the door, late, late, on my way to a big day filled with geothermal power plants, geysers, waterfalls. And the reason I’m leaving you people without a full post? Because I want a fried egg, damn. And some smoked salmon. And the lovely Hilton Hotel where I’m staying has a whole bunch of fried eggs and smoked salmon just waiting for me downstairs at the breakfast buffet.

Three things I have noticed about Iceland.

1. Everyone seems to think I’m Icelandic. It’s kinda fun. Except when they go “(@(*&$*&@#$*&#$*&^!*&^” at you, and then I have no idea what is being said and get this very scared look on my face. Even the flight stewardess. I thought she would have seen through my oh-so North American veneer very quickly.

2. I have never had smoked salmon that tasted like this. It makes me quiver.

3. Despite there being very few hours of daylight right now, it’s a lovely dusk a lot of the time. It’s a lot lighter than I thought it would be.

Lamest post ever. I promise it will get better.

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Me no fix blog can

Well, I have great respect for all those blog savvy web thingy-thing people out there. I’m just going to say that I have learned a lot in the last few days, made some hilarious mistakes and while it may not look like it, this blog is all messed up at the moment. It will be fixed. Eventually. I promise. In the meantime, I also promised people, you know, actual content. I decided that was more important than oh, say, domains and forwarding and a new web host and complications and an Icelandic firewall.

(Bangs head against desk)

Top Ten China Myths of 2009

Just a few China myths for you, courtesy of the New Yorker…

My favorite?

“The Internet might be censored but it can never be rolled back in China”

and

“China is a land of no siblings.” (People always ask about that one).

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2009/12/top-ten-china-myths-of-2009.html#ixzz0ZrkhjSiB

Pollution in China, incredible photos

Pollution was something that I thought about far more in China than I do here in Canada. A lot of that was on a simple day-to-day level – when I hacked up suspicious black things and suffered from constant eye infections. Or checking the pollution ratings each day and seeing the reports of a “blue sky day” when the pollution was so thick I would have to turn on my bike light in the middle of the day to find my way home.

On a broader level, I found that I also thought about the bigger issue so much more. What was the cost of development? Was clean-up even possible? What would happen say, 10, 20, 30 years down the line? How could the infrastructure support caring for people who would suffer from the medical effects of pollution later on?

Click here or on the picture above to see some photos of the pollution in China that… I hesitate to use a word to describe them because nothing seems to fit.  Over the past week or so I keep coming back to them to flip through them again and again. They are incredible.

The photos were taken by Chinese photographer Lu Gang (卢广) who won the $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his documentary project, “Pollution in China.”

Journalism challenges in China

keyboard

In many ways, the media here is still very young and developing in China, as compared to North America. Some of my work here involves editing stories written by Chinese reporters who, I must say, have slightly different “rules” to play by than the ones that were drilled into my head at journalism school.

First off – plagiarism. It’s absolutely rampant here and honestly, there is complete acceptance amongst my bosses here that it takes place. The other week, a reporter (who generally struggles quite seriously with English) handed me a story that began, “A look of satisfaction played on the trade official’s face as he reeled off statistics recently from a ministry report about China’s booming commerce with Africa.”

Um, full stop. I knew immediately something was strange and typed the phrase into Google. Turns out, Howard French of the New York Times wrote that very same lead on a story back in 2004. As I read on, it turned out the entire story, in fact, had been plagiarized.

I was horrified.

I met with the reporter, who then flatly denied that she plagiarized anything. An incredibly uncomfortable situation then took place where I explained that she deserved to be fired. Insert some tears and a boss who said that it was fine just to tell her not to do it again and I left rather frustrated and sad, to be honest.

One of the other problems is the language thing. Now, I know that writing in a foreign language would be a great challenge and I’m sure if I wrote in either French or German, my work would be littered with grammatical errors. That being said, here is another example of what someone handed into me the other week.

“Before occurrence of the international financial crisis the American, European and Japanese car companies were working for sollowing the markets movement through sequestration and blocking networks that were known by cars manufacturing industry during recent years. The storm of money market came to shake these entities on their crowns, so many have fallen and the rest of these giant entities who continued became unstable like wearing pendulum, which search on whom stopping its random swinging.”

Errrr…. come again?

The importance of the oh-so fabulous poncho

poncho

As I hopped on my bike yesterday to head towards home, I couldn’t understand why everyone was riding in such an insane fashion.

Now, riding a bike here in the beginning was a harrowing, white knuckle experience. I’m trying to come up with an analogy, so let’s say, picture the entire city of Montreal on a bike – drunk – and that’s kinda what Beijing feels like to me most of the time. People are constantly heading the wrong way, cutting you off, stopping in the dead center of the road, swerving into you, smashing into you from behind. Nothing at this point surprises me anymore and yet I’ve managed to find this strange zen feeling when I ride. Whereas I used to mutter “Don’t die, don’t die,” during each ride, I now morph into this strange daze where I think of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.

But yesterday a storm was coming. The clouds crackled and it appears every cyclist went crazy. If there’s another thing people hate here, it’s getting wet. Most people whipped out their ponchos. People pedalled the fastest I have ever seen. One woman in a slightly ridiculous pair of three inch red heels (trust me, heels were NOT made for cycling in) decided to open her umbrella, while riding her bike, while TALKING on her cell phone and smoking a cigarette. Mad skills.

I, on the other hand, the good rainy B.C. native, simply accepted my lot in life and prepared to get wet. I was also about 11 km away from home and realized there was no way I was going to make it even close.

And boy, did it rain. Huge claps of thunder, driving rain so hard I could hardly see. I was soaked in about 45 seconds and by the time I made it home, there were puddles about four inches deep across the courtyard.

I got in the elevator dripping water everywhere and there was one of my elderly women neighbours. She looked at me – horrified – and promptly went into a lecture about how I was going to get sick and die.

“Where is your poncho?” she said. “You need a poncho.”

I told her i didn’t have one and she made this face like I had said, “I don’t have pants.”

She then made me get off on her floor. I waited, somewhat unsure of what she was doing. She came back and thrust two things in my hand. One, some strange tea. And two, a purple poncho.

She then scolded me a bit more and let me go on my way.

And despite that fact that I now feel like a 5-year-old, it made me laugh pretty darn hard.

And now I have a poncho.

One very odd note stuck on my door

The other day I arrived home and found this note on my front door. In fact, I found three identical notes on all the doors surrounding my apartment. My roomate and I are the only foreigners in the building, so it apparently seems there is a need for our services.

NOte

We laughed pretty hard.

They big questions being… does this person want an English tutor, a prostitute or a pay-as-you-go friend? And what’s with the age range of 10 – 35?

Well, in the interest of figuring it out, I actually went at 7:30 a.m. yesterday only to be STOOD up by the creepy person who left me a note.

My feelings are strangely hurt. Not hurt enough to write them an email, mind you.