Kunming, Yunnan

Your Email

Thank you to the many people that have emailed me over the last year about birth control in china. I really have tried to respond to everyone who has written.

Today I tried to respond to message that I received from N.K. in Uganda, but the email you gave doesn’t work. Please email me again from the contact page! Or email a message directly to aoi3ewn3.JPG

Everyone be safe!

Running Off

Washington, D.C.Well, I will be running off soon. Kunming has been my home for a year and a half, but I’m going back to the U.S. this month. I will be starting my new life in Washington, D.C. I’ve never lived in the capital before, and never really thought I would, but that’s what’s happening.

Next week we finish up classes. My final exams are on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then Jeremy and I are planning to travel around Yunnan. Hopefully we can avoid the cold weather.

Although today was pretty mild, it has been a chilly week. And I should remind you all that Kunming doesn’t have indoor heating, so everyone wears their coats inside. And once your fingers and toes turn to ice, it’s impossible to warm them back up without the aid of some sort of dangerous electric heating appliance — I have a space heater, electric blanket, and plug-in hot water bottle.

Very Dangerous-Looking Space HeaterElectric BlanketPlug-In Electric Hot Water Bottle


Shockingly, I have a cold that has lingered for almost two weeks. At least the fever went away, but I have that terrible chapped nose from blowing my nose constantly. Ugh.

A Different MirrorI just finished a book my dad lent me, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki. It is a very engaging history of the U.S. from the beginnings to just after the cold war. (It was published in 1993.) Really reminds you that the U.S. has always been multicultural, and our image of a “real” American being white just doesn’t make any kind of sense at all. Of course there were plenty of white guys in early America, plenty of English-speaking Anglos, but there were so many other groups of people — immigrants and Native Americans. And it’s interesting to see how and when certain people became “us” and others remained “them.” I’m not talking about immigrants stubbornly resisting the melting pot! There were all kinds of barriers set up to prevent people from becoming citizens and to prevent people from getting an education and finding work. I guess I should make that last sentence present tense! We are still a country that loves waging war internally between “us” and “them.” And the point of the book is that “us” is “them”… and er… “them” is “us”… er… we are they. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together… I am the walrus!…” Anyway, it isn’t really all that psychedelic, but it is highly recommended.

Lethal InjectionOh, and here is a disturbing piece describing capital punishment and lethal injections in Yunnan. It is an interview with Liu Renwen, “a death penalty expert,” who advocates the use of lethal injection over “execution by shooting” which is still the favored method in China. How very progressive!

In Memory of Michael Sutherland

This is a sad story that filtered through the expat community a week and a half ago.

A longtime expat in Kunming, Michael Sutherland, died in a rafting accident August 26, 2007. At least two other people, including his girlfriend, also died in the accident. Everyone was wearing safety gear, but they capsized in a dangerous stretch of the river. It’s very likely that he died trying to save his girlfriend.

Today I found an article from Michael’s hometown newspaper in Wisconsin. This is the only written account of the story that I’ve been able to find. Other stories have made the rounds here through word-of-mouth. Nothing has appeared in the Chinese press.

Appleton Post-Crest: Former Appleton resident dies in Chinese rafting accident (September 8, 2007)

Ease on Down

I have a new niece! But because certain family members are paranoid about stalkers, I can’t release anymore information about her existence. Anyway, I’m very excited and I hope the mom recovers soon.

thewiz.jpgI watched the 1978 vintage classic The Wiz last night. There was a lot more singing than I remember and a lot less story. And a lot of references I didn’t get last time — the (Jim) Crows, taxis that don’t stop for you, New York stuff. And wow is Michael Jackson ever awesome as the scarecrow.

It really is a miracle that kind of quality entertainment is available for less than 1USD on the streets of Kunming, China. Who knew?

Do you speak more Mandarin than 34% of China’s population?

product-pth.jpgIt can be frustrating studying Chinese, a.k.a. “Mandarin” or “Mandarin Chinese.” Inside China, the language we study is called 普通话 (pǔ tōng huà) or “the common language.” Before I came to China, I didn’t realize — or fully appreciate it anyway — that every region has a local dialect. People here in Kunming speak the Kunming dialect. It is the language you are most likely to hear on the streets — in restaurants, vegetable markets, and the corner stores. On the university and college campuses, signs are posted for students to please speak and write Mandarin. Presumably this is because the government needs to make sure educated people can speak it. It is also worth noting that classes are (supposed to be) taught in Mandarin, and furthermore the students come from a variety of places and often truly don’t share a common dialect… hence the need for Mandarin, the COMMON (i.e. SHARED) language.

According to an article in the Shanghai Daily, the Chinese government reports that “only 45.1 percent of rural residents could speak Mandarin, compared to 66 percent of urban residents.”

This article is actually about how dialects isolate migrant communities in China. It’s an interesting and worthwhile subject that shares a lot of characteristics with the situation in the U.S. with the Spanish-speaking migrants.

However, I what really surprised were these numbers! If they’re accurate, that means less than 66% of China’s total population speaks Mandarin, less than 66% of Chinese people speak (what we call) Chinese. Weird!

Does that mean I speak more Mandarin than 34% of China’s population?

PHOTO: This t-shirt is brought to you via Sinosplice and it reads: “请讲普通话” which means “please speak Mandarin.”