Category Archives: tolerance

China – Under The Hood: China’s Unbearable Air Traffic Congestion and Flight Delays

Flight delay, delay, delay….The glamour of air travel is gone.

In China was it ever thus?

Unquestionably one can consider Laozi (a.k.a ‘ Lao Tzu), the ancient Chinese poet and philosopher who died in 531 BC, truly perceptive when he remarked:

“Yī wèi cōngmíng de lǚxíng zhě méiyǒu gùdìng de jì huà, érqiě bù yīdìng fēi yào dàodá mùdì de [一位聪明的旅行者没有固定的计画,而且不一定非要到达目的地]”, which roughly translates as

“A clever traveller has no fixed plans, and does not necessarily have to reach their purpose.”

For it seems this wise sage back in ‘BC’ times was privy to the staggering state of affairs that would by and large ensue by the end of 2015 when China will have built close to 220 fully operational airports (up from 175 airports in 2011) handling over 870 million passengers and serviced by 46 domestic airlines (exclusive of foreign airlines), with a fleet of just over 2,000 planes (to be expanded to 4,200 aircraft in 2020) vying for limited space overhead.  Add to this mélange the fact that China doesn’t have enough airspace (the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) controls all airspace, only allocating 20% of airspace to civil aviation), and China’s inclement weather (for example, if there is a thunderstorm impinging on a flight route between two cities, the flight will likely be delayed since it can’t divert through controlled airspace), and it is no wonder flight delays snarl China’s clogged and struggling civil aviation transportation system.

With the People’s Liberation Army Air Force blaming chronic air traffic congestion and flight delays on poor airline management and scheduling performance, “having no fixed plans” at least for the day of passage, as in “cancel all other appointments”, is sage advice indeed. China’s airlines have the world’s worst record for flight delays.”

And so to some of the tell-tale signs that all is not well regarding timely aircraft departure from Chinese airports as experienced by myself over the past 12 months almost 100% of the time.

1. The informative announcement

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China - delay delay delay

Actually there is usually no information reflecting the cause of the flight delay problem, except to adopt the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) spin that the fault lies with the airline. It is not uncommon for passengers to have to wait for hours at the boarding gate without any information about how long the delay might last, while ground staff weary of being on the receiving of verbal and physical abuse usually scarper.

2. Queuing to board the aircraft?

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China - Time to board - queuing for food 2

At last we’re off 🙂 Alas, wishful thinking… A queue for food handouts 😦

3. Hand-luggage?

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China - Time to board - queuing for food 3

…not quite… looks like this delay is more than a case of the pilot leaving his passport at home. Noting that the first line of defence in offsetting the bubbling rage of irritated Chinese passengers is to attempt to gratify their appetites, this airline came well prepared!

 4. Food Service

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China Serving meal before the plane moves

After the mad rush to get to the airport, dealing with queues at check-in, security inspection, and boarding, hungry stomachs pang just that bit more at the sight of the commencement of the on-board food service. Unless, as in this case, the aircraft hasn’t budged from its stand. Not a great omen! 😦  In China passengers can wait for hours inside a plane without any information from an equally clueless flight crew.

 5. In-flight Films

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China Staring at the runway - no movement

As last the aircraft is on the move, taxiing towards the runway. Slowly it dawns on us that we are no longer moving, instead being treated to a live 80 minute silent film about the concrete surface just below the plane’s belly.. Mind-numbing in-flight entertainment akin to watching paint dry.

6. Angry Passengers

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China -ready to take off and a demand for explanation why the plane is delayed

Air passengers in China are noted for adopting extreme measures to vent their anger and demand an explanation over why the plane is delayed. This really furious customer sprang up just as the plane was turning toward the runway ready for take-off!

7. The Hard Landing

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China hard landing

Hard landing: Thump! Bounce! Bounce! Bounce! Swerve! Brake! “What the hell was…..?” as we bleary-eyed travellers are instantaneously brought to our senses. Seems the guys up in the cockpit are also worn out. At last, and at least, we’ve finally arrived at our destination. Now just get me off this aircraft!

The joys of flying in China, soon to get worse. “A clever traveler has no fixed plans, and does not necessarily have to reach their purpose.”

Read the somewhat related blog ‘China – Under The Hood: “Bu Hao Yisi” – The animated joys of everyday living in China’ https://nialljoreilly.com/2008/12/20/bu-hao-yisi-mei-banfa-mei-wenti-and-chinese-language-expressions-and-everyday-living/

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Filed under 2014, China, Indifference, tolerance, Travel

Taken down a peg: Not as good a cook as I thought I was?

On no account put it to an Italian your gastronomic skills are within walking distance of his, especially if he is a kitchen maestro who has a passion for creating delicious food.

And so it was: A Skype Chat..

Niall:        I hate to ruin your day but

Niall:         …………….

Niall:        well your son mentioned last night.. that my cooking was “like my father’s“…..

Niall:        I take that as a huge accolade 😉

Mr. U (C’s father): I told him to be very polite, gentle, educated and even if he doesn’t like something, always say that was excellent.

That’s how a friend of 24 years humbles an Irishman who hitherto retained a high opinion, albeit short-lived, of his culinary dexterity. Oh well!

[There is a bit of history here: The June 1989 Beijing Food Massacre.

On June 6th I was cooking an Irish stew on a small electric stove in  Room 1106 at the Beijing Language Institute (ak.a. Beijing Language and Culture University).  A telephone call from an unflustered Noel Kilkenny, First Secretary of the Irish Embassy in Beijing, diverted my attention. The city was in lock-down mode, rumours of civil war and further crackdown swirling. He put me in the picture and soon I was running down ten flights of stairs to meet him, having instinctively unplugged the stove and grabbed my toothbrush.

Four months later, I unlocked the door of 1106… Ah the stew still there on the stove… rotten, slimy and mouldy…. And then my roommate Mr. U, the kitchen maestro, arrived!]

Putrid Smily Rotten

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Filed under China, Food, Friend, Taste, tolerance

Queen Muffin II – The World’s Most Beautiful Dog

Queen Muffin II

Wrapped in Gold

No matter driving rain, howling gale, bitter cold, or blazing sun, walking the length of Dun Laoghaire Pier I am conscious no one values the very unique brilliance of my thoughts and words as much as Muffin does. Behaves gracefully in all situations and circumstances. She never asks why, just sniffs the ground to keep abreast of where we are, wags her tail and pulls forward.  Wonderful!

“…beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity; and all the virtues of man without his vices.

– Lord Byron, ‘Epitaph to a Dog’ (1808)

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Filed under Beauty, Dog, Friend, Moorefield, Poetry, tolerance

Atheist? Muslim? Hindu? Buddhist? Christian? My Religion Is Very Simple

My spiritual compass is guided by the clarity of Francesco Forgione (1887 – 1968), John Woolley (1928 – 2008), and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (1935-).

I am a Catholic first and last because I believe the highest moral standard one can have are the teachings of Jesus. In addition, I also have credence in Buddhism’s karma.

That is my faith in a nutshell.

“No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means”

(George Bernard Shaw)

My Religion Is Very Simple - Padre Pio

Francesco Forgione (1887 – 1968)

My Religion Is Very Simple - Father John Woolley

John Woolley (1928 – 2008)

My Religion Is Very Simple - 14th Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (1935- ).

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Filed under Character, Inspirational, Niallism, Religion, tolerance

China – Under The Hood: The Curious Incident Of The Dissolving Peach

No, I’m not being self-absorbed, and it’s not as if loads of locals around me are succumbing to nasty, mysterious illnesses (anyway the local tabloids always tone down the numbers). Nevertheless, of late in conversations with Hangzhouers I’ve noticed three questions coming up again and again in a tone verging on alarm.

-What are we eating?

-What are we drinking?

-and…. What the hell are we breathing?

-and I’ll toss in another issue…. How can one of the two peaches I bought in the local fruit shop last Sunday turn from unripe into a liquefied mush within 36 hours of purchase? That toxic peach dissolved right before my eyes!

[Anecdote:  A couple of weeks ago having enjoyed a second Kelloggs Nutri-Grain bar (courtesy of a Red-Cross parcel from my mother back home in Ireland, also filled with a critical supply of Barry’s Tea bags) I found myself checking out the nutritional label on the back of the wrapper. Clueless as to what I was reading, it suddenly dawned on me what I was reading wasn’t anything about food.  Why did I just eat a load of preservatives which are of zero benefit to my body? Why indeed..]

If you want to participate in a live laboratory in which the food – [and air-we-breath] – chain(s) are “unintentionally” (yeah right! the expressions of innocence on the faces of those perpetrators regularly showcased to the media are as fake as the vile products they have been caught tainting) exposed to poisonous industrial chemicals with the potential to totally wreck our bodily processes, then all roads lead to China.

I’d never even heard of most of these chemicals by name. Sure I can hardly pronounce them:

  • Watermelons overdosing (exploding melons of mass destruction) on forchlorfenuron growth hormones (May 2011)

  • Sports and fruit drinks laced with “particularly damaging to a young male’s fertility” dioctyl phthalate (imported from Taiwan, June 2011)
  • The “high blood pressure” yielding heavy metal cadmium in rice (February 2011); toxic “kidney failure” conducive melamine in milk (ongoing?)
  • Arsenic in soy sauce (ongoing?)
  • Copper in coffee (imported from Japan, 2008)
  • Bleach in mushrooms (December 2010)
  • The detergent borax in pork (added to make it resemble beef, April 2011)
  • and a whole host of fruit and vegetables smeared in deltamethrin, a synthetic insecticide, and preservatives with extremely long names!

Sure it only seems like yesterday when my buddy Umberto, who being Italian takes his cooking very seriously, watched a pot of fresh tomatoes turn white in a boiling confusion of red artificial colouring (2006).

Here in Hangzhou, affectionately known as “The Pond”, on account of its scenic West Lake,  so far (and counting…)we have:

  • Lead in the air (a lot of it apparently, courtesy of the local battery manufacturing industry)
  • Phenol in the water (courtesy of a tanker driver whose load tipped into the water supply, June 2011)… anyway phenol only causes severe eye damage, and sure what’s 25 tons of the stuff?

Spare a thought for those Harbiners up north whose Songhua River water supply was  contaminated with at least 80 tons of the carcinogen Benzine (ok, so that was back  in 2005 –‘water under the bridge’…so the local officials will tell you, long-term cancer risks notwithstanding).  No doubt, these same faceless apparatchiks will point to Germany’s e-coli cucumbers and bean sprouts (last week), the UK’s Mad Cows (hmmm) and Ireland’s contaminated pig meat (2008) as symptomatic of a global problem not just a China problem   – I’ve noticed they don’t really like talking about the “far worse than governments are revealing to the public” Fukushima nucleur disaster.

The Good News

Yes there is. Multiple the uproar each food scandal outside China receives by 1,000 times and you’ll get a sense of the disgust local Chinese feel about the continuing government incompetence and cynical manipulation of consumers by devious producers. China’s ‘You Are What You Eat’ sensitive generation is becoming increasingly aware of potential hazards of almost everything they eat and drink. What they see all around them are poor public hygiene surveillance and low standards of food quality all of which are cultivated by official incompetence, slapdash law enforcement, corruption and a corner-cutting culture among some businesses. It’s common knowledge that corrupt manufacturers and growers still use bribery and corruption to escape scrutiny.

Which brings me back to the bad news – that peach.

Eat The Peach? Certainly Not!

The facts:

  • Sunday evening in the neighbourhood fruit store

A shop widely considered to trade in Hangzhou’s finest selection of fruits. A large store, open 24×7, all year round, I supposed its popularity was simply down to the fact you are given what you pay for: natural fruit, preservative and pesticide free, as in normal fruit, grown locally… generating visions of suppliers being meticulously selected by a resident ‘Man from Del Monte’, giving his nod of approval to the perfect pineapple or apple… Well not quite, clearly a figment of my imagination.

The shop has a large imported section, offering exotic fruits from all over the world to their bàofā hù (nouveau riche) patrons mad for anything deemed exotic, to know off their knowledge and sophistication.  In my mind best to avoid this part of the shop for the same reason I’d avoid purchasing any ‘fresh’ consumable products from outside China, knowing the length it took to get from source to shelf (Kiwi from New Zealand, Apples from the USA? Bananas from South America? Hmm, imported fruit just looks too perfect and do we really believe they’re all air-freighted in?).

So the local fruit section it is.

  • Discerning shoppers everywhere like pawing their fruit for ripeness and the masses here are no different

However, in a big fruit shop that can make for a lot of grubby paws feeling up the goods: ‘The greener the fruit, the less manhandled its likely to be; let it ripen at home’, so the prevailing wisdom goes.

Two curvy, still hard, peaches caught my attention. I reckoned after being stored at an average room temperature of about 22 Celsius they’d be perfect to eat in three days. Back in the apartment, I left them on the table in their open plastic bag and went about my business, as in business trip to another city.

36 hours later I noticed a damp blot on the table cloth under the plastic bag and lifted it up. Liquid is seeping right through the plastic bag, and while one of the peaches looks exactly like it did when purchased, the other has simply dissolved into a gooey toxic mush.

  • And the upshot of this morbid tale about defiled peaches?

Yesterday, still incredulous, I recounted the story to the wife of Umberto, who, Umberto often complains, is overly preoccupied by a fear of preservatives, toxic chemicals, phony foods, and corrupt practices. Mother of three, Wu Bei wasn’t in the least bit surprised offering me the following prudent advice the next time I go fruit hunting in China:

“.. pick the fruit that’s looks somewhat chewed  and scarred by insects, because if  it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for you…. The most flawless delicious looking fruit is the most dangerous of all”.

A slightly more resigned Umberto quips that perhaps the best rule of thumb is to keep changing your poisons.

Seeing is believing…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fast forward to March 2013

– Rivers of blood: the dead pigs rotting in China’s water supply

“Shanghai’s drinking water is under threat after 16,000 diseased pig carcasses are found in tributaries of the Huangpu river…” Source / read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/29/dead-pigs-china-water-supply?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

The reason why 16,000 pigs ended up in the Huangpu River was never fully explained by the authorities.

Fast forward to April 2013

– Bottled water scandal highlights food safety challenges

“The quality “..criteria Zhejiang’s Nongfu Spring uses are looser than national tap water standards in terms of the amount of arsenic and cadmium allowed in its products…. Nongfu Spring uses criteria that were set by the government of east China’s Zhejiang Province in 2005. National standards were upgraded in 2007…. Nongfu Spring was the only drinking water company to participate in drafting the Zhejiang provincial standards….. enterprises are only allowed to adopt local standards in exceptional cases when there are no relevant national standards….Nongfu Spring’s products do not meet the requirements for such an exception… China has formulated nearly 5,000 compulsory food safety criteria due to its excessive number of government departments….”

” Source / read more: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2013-04/12/c_132304484.htm

Fast forward to May 2013

– Forget mutton: in China, it’s rat, fox and mink dressed as lamb

Sold in thinly sliced rolls for consumption in hotpots  the “…”lamb” was mixed with rat, fox and mink with additives including gelatin. The meat was sold to farmers’ markets in the two cities…” Source / read more: http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20130505000018&cid=1103

Fast forward to October 2013

– China’s Gutter Oil Scandal: 1/10 Of China’s Cooking Oil May Be Recycled From Garbage

“… In our current society everybody tries to swindle everybody else there’s nothing we can do about it.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kne4PL5uH7c

….. and this food scandal concerning the cat meat trade…

“.. selling cat meat to butchers who then repackaged it and sold it as rabbit…” Source / read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10417032/Chinese-police-find-slaughterhouse-selling-cat-meat.html

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Filed under China, Chinese, Corruption, Damage, Food, Hangzhou, Health, Indifference, Scandal, Taste, tolerance

Building a woman from a man for US$6,325

Staying with the marketing theme, this time with an advertising twist, here is another interesting sex-related oddity (well at least I think it is) – The “sex change” 变性倾向, for those of you who feel like women trapped in a man’s body, or who feel like men trapped in a woman’s body: Gender identity disorder, as it’s referred to in the medical world.

So there I was the other morning, lying on my Bangkok [http://wp.me/p15Yzr-12 (or Krung thep maha nakorn boworn ratana kosin mahintar ayudhya amaha dilok pop nopa ratana rajthani burirom udom rajniwes mahasat arn amorn pimarn avatar satit sakattiya visanukam) hotel room bed when a copy of the Bangkok Post newspaper quietly slips under my door.

Building a woman from a man for US$6,325 - Bangkok Post Saturday July 24 2008 army chief urged to act

The Bangkok Post, Saturday July 24 2008 – “Army chief urged to act”

Glossing over the front page, muttering to myself not much has changed since my last trip back in January, with talk of a military takeover and all that…., when my eyes set upon the banner advertisement at the bottom of the page: “Sex change  1,625 us$”

Bangkok Post Saturday July 24 2008 - Army chief urged to act  - sex change anyone?

The Bangkok Post, Saturday July 24 2008 – “Army chief urged to act” and by the anyone want a sex change?

Building a woman from a man for US$6325 Sex change Kathoey Thailand

Not exactly the kind of advertisement you’d find of the front page of the Irish Times, the Financial Times, or Washington Post (well perhaps on Singapore’s Straits Times), but then this is Thailand and even for such an eminent newspaper as the Bangkok Post advertising sex change operations just adds to the endless clichés, quirks and idiosyncrasies associated with life in this teeming, chaotic metropolis of ten millions.

The advertisement would appear to support the perception by a casual observer (i.e. me) that kathoey, or transgenders (“the third sex”),  are  fully accepted by Thai society.  Previously, an enlightened (sic) Thai friend and former colleague,  explaining the Thai Buddhist principles with respect to tolerance and Karma, declared “being a kathoey is the result of wrongdoing in past lives”, which therefore vindicates the consideration that kathoey are deserving of pity rather than blame.

Hmm…. well, such a mind-set may be true if you look at the ever smiling drag queens working in Bangkok’s famous cabaret shows, and the more traditional female occupations such as make-up artist and hair-stylist.  However, I’d be in doubt about how such sentiments would play out in my native Ireland where its ok to be gay, but tough to be trans!

Yet, in truth the road to normal acceptance by society can be rougher than a poorly-honed breast enlargement (“silicone implants ranging from  1,125 us$, mammoplasty with Mentor/ES prosthesises included” as per the advertisement).  It is very unlikely you will meet a kathoey with a job in a bank, school, corporation, or in government.  They face many social and legal obstacles:  Legal recognition is non-existent, and they are not permitted to change their legal sex.  Trouble can also occur in relation to access to amenities such as toilets [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7529227.stm], while a wayward kathoey still has to stay in an all-male prison if convicted of a criminal offence.

So about that advertisement….. What sort of English reading / speaking foreign “woman” trapped in a man’s body would, after reading the Bangkok Post advert, be motivated to pick up the phone to dial 02 2545888? A cross-dresser already taking hormones?  Nah, likely someone who wants to meet the drop-dead gorgeous Miss Tiffany Universe 2007… only to find out that Khun Tanyarat is actually a guy!

Now that’s a misleading advertisement if there was ever one.

Note: My calculator informs me the total cost of untrapping the woman from within the man is 6,325  us$ and counting!

Building a woman from a man for US$6,325 - The famous Calypso Ladyboy Cabaret show in Bangkok

The famous Calypso Ladyboy Cabaret show in Bangkok

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Filed under Bangkok, Beauty, Culture, Extravagence, Thailand, tolerance

On what holds a life together

“He is simply a wonderful husband. We met in life at time we were both settled. We were grown up, we were settled, we knew the value of a companion, of a partner. Because of that, we have enjoyed this relationship in a really special way. It’s not like when you are still young, you are too demanding. No, no. We just accept each other as we are. And we enjoy every single day as if it is the last day. Because of that, it has been wonderful to have him as a husband..”

Graca Machel, 62, on her husband Nelson Mandela, 90 (June 26th 2008).

They were married ten years ago. Graca Machel was 27 years younger than Nelson Mandela.  The only woman in the world to have been first lady in two countries, her first husband Samora Machel was president of Mozambique when he died in a unexplained plane crash in 1986.

Nelson Mandela, along with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, Anwar Ibrahim, and Mum are my five all-time heroes.

Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graça Machel,

Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel

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Filed under Beauty, Inspirational, Love, Niallism, tolerance

China Under The Hood: Nothing to My Name………

The father of Chinese rock

The father of Chinese rock

Nothing to my name: A clever atypical portrayal of impatience in a love relationship to the words of the L’Internationale that became rallying anthem for the Tiananmen Square student protesters of 1989 [Read more at: http://wp.me/p15Yzr-r]. For the have nothing have nots, the disillusioned young and old feeling left behind by the staggering pace of communal change in today’s Middle Country, those without access to economic opportunity, or even a critical minimum of fairness and justice, “I have nothing” is as appropriate now as it was when originally scribed in 1985. Perhaps more so.

Nothing to my name, by Cui Jian 최건 (1985)

I have asked you endlessly,

When will you go with me?

But you always laugh at me with,

Nothing to my name

I want to give you my dreams,

And give you my freedom.

But you always laugh at me with,

Nothing to my name.

Ohhh….

When will you go with me?

 

The earth beneath my feet is moving.

The river beside me is flowing.

But you always laugh at me with,

Nothing to my name.

Why do you always laugh at me so?

Why don’t I give up?

Why do you see me as,

Forever having nothing to my name?

Ohhh….

Just go with me now!

 

Listen – I’ve waited so long,

So I’ll make my final request.

I want to grab you by the hands,

And take you with me.

Now your hands are trembling,

Now your tears are falling.

Perhaps you are saying,

You love me with nothing to my name

Ohhh….

Just go with me now.”

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Real people I know……. Is life really so cheap?

This past month appears to have been out of the ordinary. Nevertheless was it really so exceptional?

April 18th – Death in a foreign land. RK, a German man, died suddenly, his body remains unspoken for in the refrigerator of a mortuary in Hangzhou.

April 24th – FB, can’t afford to give birth to her baby in a private hospital, and doesn’t want to move through the turmoil of street, labour room, delivery room, maternity ward and back out on the street in less than 48 hours. By phone from abroad the self-conscious, well off, pollinator continues in self-denial: “It’s not mine”.

April 28th – Suicide or survive. CF attempted suicide with a razor – her second attempt.  The mind numbing pain of grinding poverty. Vulnerable CF had reached the point of no return.  Said a family member:

“…lately my sister was very quiet and never came out from her room. I was shocked because my sister attempted suicide for the second time. All the family was in a panic and we sent her to the hospital”.

Meanwhile, CF’s uncle died and the family couldn’t even afford a coffin.

April 30th – To appease the concerns of her Indian boyfriend’s mother, JQ went to hospital in Beijing to terminate her pregnancy, a two month old life. In a panic, she telephoned me because she didn’t understand the instructions of the Chinese surgeon. “Take a traditional Chinese medicine for one week” or “have an operation”, what were they saying? Would there be side effects? Yes, many, especially JQ’s emotional well-being. I advised her Indian boyfriend to take her and his child home. He did: A defiance of the traditional Indian mother-son bond in favour of a life.

May 8thOm mani padme hum. JH hasn’t been seen or heard of in the 10 weeks since she embarked on a trip to India / Nepal. I would like to think that she has fled her brutal husband to begin a new life, but I suspect this nasty man had a hand in her disappearance. JH’s story is one of innocence ripped away by a Russian gangster whose mind-boggling depravity she knew nothing of until it was too late.

May 10th – Single mum, IS’s anxiety gnaws away at her mind all night long, every night. She needs to put food on the table and provide for her son’s education, ashamed of being reliant on her brother-in-law for handouts, while all the other village kids, except her own, attend school.

May 13th – NS, whose new born son has rubella, now worries about the well-being of her dear uncle as greedy loan sharks seek to grab hold of his land, the rice paddies his family have owned for generations.

May 16th – IE owes her employer the equivalent of €500 for borrowings needed to care for her sick mother, and knowing it will take years to pay off accepts her fate as a bonded slave.

 Real people I know - Is life really so cheap

Real people, real lives, happening now – just some of the people I know. What about the people you know?

If you haven’t been there, you will have no idea what grinding poverty and pounding emotional pain are like, or perhaps you do.

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Filed under Indifference, Niallism, Poverty, tolerance

China – Under The Hood: Sounds of Hangzhou – Tweet, beep, toot, honk, screech

Shanghai banned the honking of the horn in its commercial districts last month. Apparently, even police sirens are banned in all but emergencies… I hear that car owners are now paying to have their horns tuned with music or a human-voiced warning instead of a honk. Will noisy Hangzhou follow suit?

I seriously doubt such a ban would ever be effective here in The Pond where the taxi, bus, police and (the worst of them all) ‘official’ car drivers are a law on to their own.  Here they honk at everyone who’s in their way, and who they think is in their way, and who they are passing, and who they think is trying to pass them.  Every bicycle needs a honk in case the driver can’t see them. Every pedestrian, most definitely, because they’re not looking at anything except their feet as they float out in front of a car!

The constant cacophony of horn noise is such that everybody tunes it out in order to function, so the horns are pointless.  Nobody is listening to the horns.  But honking them is a habit the Chinese driver / rider can’t break.

Okay, now here comes a legitimate reason to honk the horn, an emergency, perhaps someone walking right out in front of a car. What does the Hangzhou driver do? He flicks his headlights. Just how stupid is that? If the pedestrian can’t hear your horn, he sure as hell can’t hear your headlights. Of course he can’t see your headlights, because he’s not looking at you. Plus, it’s daytime.

On the subject of street noise…. Wonder if Hangzhou’s apparatchik is actively measuring the city’s decibel levels. Would be interesting to see a reading.

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Filed under China, Damage, Hangzhou, Pollution, Shanghai, tolerance, Travel