Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What I believe?

Tonight I bought vegetarian hot dog wieners. The checkout clerk asked me if they were good or not and why would I buy them and not meat? I told her that they tasted the same (if you close your eyes) and then I stumbled on the WHY? I said something to the lame effect that I wanted to cut back on my meat consumption because it takes more land to produce the plant material to feed the animal than it does to produce a much larger amount of vegetarian food. Ya, it was weak but I hadn't expected to be asked why. I suppose maybe I needed to answer this question for myself.

Maybe I should have responded by asking her if she knows that there is a world food shortage and that last year there were food riots in Africa. Did she know that despite living in Canada and working in an Sobey's grocery store we have some of the cheapest food in the world? That the amount we are paying to have our fruit shipped in from as far away as New Zealand and our Billy Bee honey from Argentina (when we have perfectly good honey made right here in Ontario) is way too low? How can we pay so little for something that travels so far? Well we do pay for it in the long run. We pay on a global scale. Carbon emissions, energy consumption through transportation of food, the raping of the soil by overly technical modern agricultural practises that take nutrients but never gives any back.

Does she care? Does she know anything about what kind of an impact she has on her world? Does she realize that her world can actually be linked in some concrete way to the world that truly exists outside of our small little corner of the planet? Maybe, but if I had answered this way maybe she would have known.

Buying a vegetarian hot dog wiener isn't going to save the world but better consumption choices some of the time are better than none of the time.

Do I have a dream? Ya, Mr. Martin Luther King Junior I do. My dream is that maybe having taught English in China for only 6 months and then returning to my life as a gymnastics coach in Canada I had some sort of effect on my students. Maybe their better English skills will get them better grades. Maybe those better grades will get them an opportunity to travel outside of China to study. Maybe that traveling outside of China will provide them the opportunity to have access to uncensored inforation by a Com/mu/ni/st gover/n/men/t who keeps the truths from it's people so that they don't ask questions (side note ours does too their just better at doing it, ask me for coffee sometime and I'll elaborate if you are so inclined to know). Maybe this experience of a world outside of the regular will provide them with a unique view of their corner of the world. This unique view may motivate them to do something extraordinary, something that will change the world around them and make it a better place.

Maybe. As the Zen Master says, "We will see."

I'm changed for having lived in China even a short while. Maybe I will do something extraordinary. Maybe I already did. We will see.

If you are heading to Daqing to teach please read these two books:

The Last Emperor (don't just watch the movie read the book)


Will the Boat Sink the Water? The Life of China's Peasants. authors Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao

These two books alone will prepare you with a recent history of the once known area of Manchuria. The north eastern part of China. A place full of hard working people with beautiful souls. They have endured so much. So much they don't even realize I think.

Saturday, March 28, 2009



I'm not in Daqing but was discussing with my housemate here in Canada about how well the Chinese conserve energy. In the stairwells of the apartment complexes the lights are on sound detectors so that the lights are never on unless the loud foot steps of people trip the switch, no clothe driers, everything is hung up to dry, the subdivision lights go off at around 11pm or midnight when everyone is asleep. So much sharing of conservation tricks needs to be done.

One hour of darkness can shed so much light.


For my friends that don't believe that I come from a community where the Amish live here is a picture of my nephew and his grandfather (on his dad's side) infront of a wagon being pulled by horses and drive by a Amish guy.

I really do come from an Amish community Pat!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not Daqing

Just letting everyone know I am back in Canada and back to coaching. I thought some of my Chinese friends would like to see me in my home environment. Here I am with a group of kids that I coach. My first day back to work we went to a Tumbling Competition.

Hope everyone is well.

The weather has been about zero every day and we have had temperatures in the mid-teens a couple of times. No more long-johns.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Harbin Budda

Here is the one photo I took of the Buddhist temple in Harbin. It was closed unfortunately so instead we went into the Buddha shops nearby. I liked the sign on this one and the endless rooms packed with Buddha.

EF Staff Feb 28th

On February 28th, 2009 the EF Xin Cun school in Daqing had a staff that looked like this. The next day, March 1st, Gregg and I finished our contracts. Gregg is the beared-Britt. The staff is looking forward to receiving a new British teacher in the next couple of weeks. All the best to everyone there. I thought I would throw in a golden, prosperity frog for good luck to you all.

EF Xin Cun, Daqing at Night

Maisie High Flyer Starters

Daqing EF Play Way Archie & Maisie

Maisie here are two pictures of our little Play Way class. I hope Kyla is treating them well and that they are treating Kyla well. They have lots of energy and a dash of attitude.

Pictures for the school

I am adding a bunch of pictures for the school from my last couple classes. Some will not have any stories but are simply posted here for my friends in China to gather them for their own uses or for EF Daqing.

Pizza Making in Daqing

Here are some cute pictures of the little guys making Pizza at Friendship Pizza. The students got to experience making their own pizza and having an English lesson at the same time. I think there were more parents and adults than kids but we all had a good time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A little black spot

"there's a little black spot on the sun today,

it's the same old thing that was yesterday"

-king of pain

Look for the two kites trapped in the high tree top.

"i can feel sorrow but not regret"

mia farrow, in a movie i will not name

Monday, February 23, 2009

Daqing Dragons

Here are a few dragons I found at the Jiu Long Tan restaurant. jiu = 9, long = dragon, tan = not sure.

Pat in Daqing

I guess if Kyla gets her own post so should you Pat. Good old high quality Haerbin beer. Nothing better ... when it's cold, that is.

Kyla in Daqing

Just wanted to post something lighter. I have been reading and viewing information about Unit 731 this evening.

Kyla liked the other picture I posted of her so I thought I would post another.

Kyla is a new young Calgarian who is working at EF here in the Xin Cun district of Daqing. She now lives downstairs in what was my apartment.

Looking good Kyla'r!!

Unit 731 2

There are still a few elderly Chinese people in the north and central regions that bare the external wounds of anthrax infections but all here are taught to remember what the Japanese did 70 years ago.
Another Youtube search line: THE FOOT OF ALL EVIL - 1/2
will give you an idea of what these individuals endure.
This search line will take you to a documentary about the lasting effects of anthrax infections. Again you may not want to watch.

I have added to this post a picture of a Chinese family that I followed through the museum. The mother stood sternly behind her 9 year old son as he read every piece of information. An interesting choice for a day out over the winter vacation. It was saddening and simultaneously imploring. I found it striking to see this child being forced to think about those things which I at my age find difficult to comtemplate.
There are no Japanese in Daqing, not even at the cooks at the Japanese restaurant are Japanese and no one here is particularly interested in ever visiting Japan. Understandible I supose.

Unit 731

I had never heard of the Chinese hatred for Japanese. I knew that Chinese people hate to be mistaken for Japanese but here in Daqing it has become blazingly clear the reason for such abhorrence. I traveled to the government sponsored museum located just south of Haerbin. It is the sight of the infamous (as I have now learned) Japanese Unit 731 station. It was once known as the worlds leading medical research centre. It was externally known as the "Water Treatment Facility" but inside one of the worlds worst wartime atrocities was taking place. This Japanese run facility studied the effects of a diversity of pathogens, diseases, and torture on the human body. As well it was the leading research site on germ warfare. All test subjects were innocent civilians most of which were local Chinese villagers.
My trip to this museum was frightening. Auschwitz terminated a larger number of people but Unit 731 did far worse things. Far worse.
I have done some more research on-line and would think it best for only the strong to watch the following Youtube video (search line: Unit 731 Japanese Torture & Human Medical Experiments). This search line will bring you to an awful account of what took place in this part of China between 1937 and 1942. It is harsh but the 19 minutes it takes to watch it will change your view of what the Japanese were like.
I traveled to this museum and took a few pictures but did not think to take a picture of the crematorium chimneys that stand ambiguously far from the main building. I found a picture on line that resembles what I saw and also added a wartime photo of the full facility. The long narrow building to the left of the square shaped central facility is what still stands today.
As well I have added an interesting picture of a Japanese monk who visited the memorial that is deep inside the thick, brick walls of the main entrance of what was once the sprawling Unit 731 facility. Also, I have added here a picture of one of the only Japanese Unit 731 workers who testified in China's defence about the atrocities that took place. I added these two pictures to remind us that apologies can be made and that the world is not what it was then.
No formal apology or compensation has even been given to the Chinese people.
This museum has appealed to UNESCO to be designated a World Heritage Site. I searched to see if it received this status but could not successfully find out if it had.
"This is not just a concern for China. This a concern for humanity." the museum curator

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lantern Festival in Daqing Pic 5

Lantern Festival in Daqing Pic 4

Lantern Festival More Pics 3

Lantern Festival More Pics 2

Uploading problems so I'm posting one at a time. Tedious.
Nothing like candied-apples and balloons to make a festival complete.

Lantern Festival Daqing More pics

Lantern Festival in Daqing

I am a little late posting these pics but I have been busy doing extra classes in order to get everything wrapped up for the end of next week. I don't have time to tell you much about the Lantern Festival other than it falls on the first full moon of the Chinese Lunar New Year. This year the moon was at its fullest and brightest in 52 years and there was a secondary lunar eclipse (which means there was a partial shadow that dulled the moon around 10:00pm but did not block it out completely). The night was beautiful and clear with a soft breeze. Perfect for fireworks and lanterns. We went down to the government square to see the fireworks. People set off little paper lanterns with candles inside them. It was eerie to watch as these little glowing UFOs coasted silently off into oblivion and blinked out.

I was happy to have a chance to mingle amongst the locals who were as always excited to see foreign faces and were proud to see us joining them in celebrating their uniquely Chinese traditions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Daqing Never Knew Pu Yi

I haven't written anything for a while but am finding myself presently intrigued by a biography about Pu Yi, The Last Emperor of China. I never managed to see the movie version of this book which came out in 1987 (I was 11 years old then and watching historical dramas was not a high priority) but it is now on my list of "Must See" films.

I knew so little of this part of the world but through historic films, the Internet, chatting with my new friends here in Daqing and this book, I am finding that this part of the world as a long and deeply interesting history.

My time here in Daqing has been intoxicating. Some of my local friends may say that this statement is a literal description based on my recent altercations with Chinese wine (baijiu). But my meaning is rather that of learning, flooding my mind with a 'newness' that I was both looking for and had yet been unfathomable to me until I immersed myself in a new culture. Crazy though it may seem to take oneself out of the regular (and admittedly comfortable) life, and dropping oneself into a world where everything screams 'difference', my life here in Daqing has been harrowing and humbling.

Similar to the few months that I lived in Guyana, South America, I feel that I have had a chance to grow, to give water to my roots, to spread my branches a little further out and to reach a little higher into the sky providing myself with a broader view of the world. If others cannot find it in themselves or find the opportunity (no fault of their own) to do something similar maybe I can at least tell them a story or three so that they too can find the world a slightly larger place than it was yesterday.

Pu Yi's world was made small by his limited existence within the confines of his various 'prisons' but the story of his tribulations now widens mine. How recent the tumultuous past of this region. How, now, I am able to better understand the conflicting emotions (or as the case maybe, so straight forwardly decided the emotions remain) displayed towards foreigners in this part of the world. What must live on in the minds of the population over 50 here in Heilongjiang of the relations between the Chinese and those who adamantly fought for what should have belonged to the people of the Chinese Northeast. Russia's and Japan's greed for this prosperous land and its hardy inhabitants. The discovery of the all-important oil wells and the power struggles for governance. I'm impressed by the calm and the progress. I can only sit back and try to display some reverence of my own for such a land.

What the future holds will be revealed in time.

ganbei (Cheers!) to the Chinese New Year!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Daqing Christmas Truman Kang

Even the Big Boss Man needs to sit on Santa's lap to put in his requests.

Truman is a great sport and had a load of fun getting his picture taken with Mr. and Mrs. Clause.

More Daqing Christmas Pics

The kids looked really cute in the Santa hats, the little guys loved showing off their ability to do the Chicken Dance, the school looked festive with all the decorations and my little friends were all smiles.
Great Christmas!