Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stories for travelers to Vermont

I know... I am so sorry I did not write any more stories about China for a while. I would still like to. There are so many things I did not discuss yet: the nice Shikumen houses in Shanghai, the Hakka round houses we visited in a day trip from Xiamen, the wonderful karaoke with our friends Mark and Tina, when we even sang the Canadian hymn! And more...
But I am been so busy trying to tell interesting stories on Vermont... that I did not seem to find the extra time. So, in the meantime, if you would like to read about all the wonderful things to see or do in Vermont, you can read me at:!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The palanquin of a Chinese bride

That was a little treasure in the middle of a wonderful day. A few seconds of being transported – it seemed – in another world. On that warm day of spring in Fujian province, I actually witnessed a moment which I thought only belonged to historic books and novels. It was the parade of a traditional Chinese wedding, and a glimpse at the palanquin of the bride. And I could imagine the rest of that day for her: earlier, getting ready at her home, now, in this red palanquin being carried by four men on that dirt country road to the home of her future husband, with a veil on her face probably… and later, the ceremony where her future husband and her will discover each other’s faces… may be for the first time… who knows?
It was just like stories from the 19th century or even from 30 years ago (I had read the long description of such a day in Mao’s Dancer a few weeks prior). And on that day, in the beautiful countryside, 3 hours away from Xiamen, from the top floor of one of these traditional round Hakka houses, I was witnessing it! A very special moment of Chinese tradition! May be it did not mean much to my travel fellows, but for me, it was one of the most exciting moments I lived in China…

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Photos from Spratly!

As per popular demand, I have loaded some photos from our expedition to Spratly... more photos than you've ever seen from me!
You can see them on our radio expedition website N1URSpratly, but I made sure that a number of them were not "radio stuff"!
The only thing you won't see is the famous "shark" and the cool sight of divers floating under us, while we were snorkeling! Too bad I did not have that underwater camera!!
Anyway, enjoy!
PS: Next, I am virtually traveling back to China. I need to talk to you about that really cool old Shikumen home we visited in Shanghai!!

Monday, March 31, 2008

News from Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia

We are flying back home. Long, long trip back home (5 flights over 36 hours from Spratly to Kota Kinabalu to Taipei, Los Angeles, New York and Burlington, VT).
And while I am flying half around the world (it seems), I hear that one of my friends from Vermont, Ariana, is in Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia, for a very exotic trip it seems - from horse backriding to skiing to cooking... Quite exotic indeed. So while I get back into the swing of things here in Vermont, and get my body clock back to US time, I thought I would share her blog with you, so that we can all dream about going to such a remote place one day... You can read her blog at And don't forget that I still have a number of good China stories to share!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Encounter with a shark!

Here in Layang, Layang, Spratly this week, we truly feel like the odd couple. Everyone here is a diver. One American even asked us - very surprised - "How is it possible?! You are here in one of the top diving spots in the world and you don't realize it?!". Well, we answered: "You are here in one of the most desired remote locations for amateur radio and you don't know it!!".
It must be true though. There are people from all over the world here: France, Germany, Poland, Italy etc... One young man from Poland is especially coming to photograph sharks, and he has been doing this everywhere already it seems: Galapagos, South Africa, Maldives, etc.
In any case, between two sections on the radio yesterday, we managed to walk to the end of the small island and try our snorkeling equipment. Nice! Very nice! The reef was swallow, the water clear and we saw a number of tropical fishes. But the reason why this place is so incredible for divers, is that there is a very abrupt drop of the reef, to what seemed like bottomless ocean.
The funny story though belongs to my husband Ed. He was following a nice big and colorful fish, when he suddenly saw a shark... "Cool, I need to get closer" he thought, and here he went... After a few seconds though, he reached "consciousness": "Eh, what in the world am I doing?... This is a SHARK!!! And I don't even know if it is dangerous, or how big or how far it is..." Funny, no?...
I guess we enjoyed it though because we were back snorkeling today, but this time we took the boat with the divers. Fantastic... Sting rays and many fishes. But the most beautiful sight for me was actually the first few seconds under water when I discovered the reef and a few divers starting their dive just under me. It was almost like a smooth and peaceful dance... And the water was so incredibly clear. Too bad I did not buy that underwater camera afterall!!

Monday, March 24, 2008

China media coverage of the Tibet situation

I am not an expert on Chinese politics nor the Tibet situation and for that reason I have never touched on political subjects in this blog. The closest I got to discussing politics was when I touched on the fact that young Chinese people never seem to discuss Mao time. So, I won’t do it more today than I have before. What I am sharing here is how we felt last week, when trying to get news about Tibet from “inside China”… You had to be there to realize how the “picture” of what was happening could be incredibly distorted!
As the Tibet violence started last week, it was amazing to see that in the matter of a couple of hours, the Yahoo news were blocked… and a few hours more, we could not even access anymore the Yahoo page all together! Some people could not even access their Yahoo email! Surprisingly, we could still visit, which had “softer” headlines about what was happening. YouTube was of course also blocked, but this is not anything new.
That night, Tibet was of course a subject of conversation as we shared a few beers with some expats (it was Saint-Patrick’s day after all!)… Interesting enough, we had brought our young Chinese friend with us. I was observing him as we were talking, and the look on his face was truly saying “I don’t know what you guys are talking about”. Not surprising. So that was Monday.
Unfortunately, I don’t read or speak mandarin, so we were pretty disconnected from what the Chinese media were saying all week. We did keep up to date with the situation using my husband’s company VPN (virtual private network).
We were flying out from China Friday, and the TVs at the airport - in English interestingly – had one headline “other Asian countries support China’s action in Tibet”. They mentioned India and Pakistan. Another headline was that “China was complaining about the bias of international media”. Wow! Indeed a different angle… in a message targeted to foreigners, if we consider that most Chinese don’t speak English. Interesting complaint, when China itself does a lot more than spreading biased news… it simply blocks them! Then, on the plane, finally we could read some news on Tibet – in English – in the Hong-Kong paper, the “South China Morning Post”. It mentioned that India actually prevented some Tibetans to cross the border to China to help reduce the tensions. There is indeed a good reason for India and Pakistan to support China’s actions, and it is to avoid violence in their own countries in the border areas where some Tibetans live.
We could also read about the way China justifies its actions of restricting the news “to avoid violence to spread to other regions”… Truly, there is never “One truth”…
I will end this posting by mentioning a really interesting blog (for those of you who can reach French)… a fascinating memorandum actually signed by 30 Chinese intellectuals (names and professions included), with a very comprehensive point of view I thought. Interestingly enough, the blog itself is hosted by the French newspaper Le Monde, and I am just wondering what kind of risk these intellectuals were taking by signing this article, if the fact it was written in French was helping them not getting censured (or is this blog censured in China?), where these intellectuals resided, in China or in France, why Le Monde was hosting such a highly political blog… so many questions…
In any case, it was definitely an interesting way to “speak up” in this difficult context.
I will end this posting with all these unanswered questions but there is no doubt that last week has shown us how extensive and complex the “freedom of speech” issue truly is in China…

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Layang Layang: One island, one resort

After an overnight in KK, we flew to Layang, Layang, a Malaysian Spratly island yesterday morning. One-hour flight to reach this tiny island in the middle of the South China Sea. It is actually a circular reef with the island at the tip of it. Unfortunately I cannot show you photos before we leave because it is forbidden to upload and download photos here at the resort. It is also forbidden to take photos of the Navy base located at the end of the island (at least if I want to keep my camera!). It is hard to imagine what is here. As we are rolling on the landing strip, we can see - just there on the left - the rooms and the swimming pool of the resort. Fortunately, there is only one flight a day. So, the noise of planes won't really disturb us. As I said before, that's all there is here: the airstrip, the Navy base and the resort. So, it is funny to come to the supper buffet and not being asked any question or any proof you are staying at the resort... if you are here, you got to be at the resort!!
Hard for me to find something historic (as I like to do) on the island, but it is definitely a strategic spot. It was used as a base during the Vietnam war... And this morning, we had the honor to show our room with all the radio equipment, to noone else than the top commander of the Malaysian Navy, who was visiting the island today... Yep, you heard right "the top guy"... He was fascinated about us coming from so far and connecting with people from around the world. I won't expand about our radio stuff here (we have the other blog) but yes, I have talked from here with people from Oregon, Scotland, Australia, Korea, Taiwan, Hong-Kong and to tons of Japanese!! And it is just the beginning!