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Keeping a promise – The Getu village rice thresher project

By on Oct 19, 2014 in Volunteer work and fundraising | 2 comments

Last year in October 2013, Pete and I went to the tiny village of Getu in Southern China for a climbing holiday. It is a stunning part of the world, filled with fields of rice crop that change colour with the seasons. From lush greens to soft yellows and chocolate-like browns. The entire landscape is dotted with towering karst mountains and barrel shaped water buffaloes. We love that place… Last year was the first time I had seen a rice harvest take place and it knocked me off my feet to see people toil like that; day in and day out they whack big bundles of rice plants against wooden tubs in an effort to separate the grain from the plant. The average annual income for a rural family in China is roughly 5000CNY a year, and a mechanical rice threshing machine costs 1000-2000CNY. Saving up for one of these machines is something only those who have family members who work in the cities...

Carving a house

By on Oct 13, 2014 in Travel in China | 6 comments

I used to accompany Pete on all of his agro-forestry field trips. He goes to the most amazing places for his research, places that are not on any tourist map of Yunnan. Many places are still just the way they were hundreds of years ago, tucked away behind hills and mountains and roads so bad that I was like the A-Team’s Mr T on those roads – I had to be drugged senseless else I would either claw a hole in Pete’s arm from fear or I would vomit my lungs out the whole way. Whenever I came to from my drug induced slumber (Pete thought it is important that I point out the slumber was due to my anti-motion sickness pills, not something illegal!) I did appreciate the stunning scenery as well as the driver’s incredible skill at avoiding killing us all by driving off the un barricaded road sides. On one of these trips we were very close to the border of China and Myanmar, in an area...

China recycles

By on Oct 6, 2014 in Life in Yunnan | 3 comments

You won’t go far in Kunming, or any other place in China for that matter, without seeing someone somehow transporting a mountain of waste products. Be it paper, plastic, styrofoam, or scrap metal… People carry bags of waste on long bamboo poles slung across their shoulders, they haul it along on their backs and they strap it to tricycles. There is literally an army of people who scour the streets and rubbish bins everyday in search for something that they can take to a recycling depot. As Mr Wu who works at the rehab clinic with me says: ”China has the manpower for this. So many people walk around everyday trying to find something to do to buy food, so they pick up rubbish and sell it to the depots” The rehab clinic where i work is situated above one of these depots, one of hundreds in Kunming city. They load the one and only truck they have up to the heavens with one type of waste and...

The great wall of China

By on Sep 29, 2014 in Travel in China | 5 comments

One of my favourite memories of life in China so far must be my visit to the great wall of China a few years back. I went to Beijing to deal with some passport admin and seized the chance to go see one of China’s most iconic sites. Before going I researched the areas of the wall that is close to Beijing and found that the least visited part of it was at Jinshanling, which was built during the Ming Dynasty from 1386 until 1389 and it was then re-constructed in 1571. I read many warnings of how dangerous walking along that part of the wall was, since big parts of it has crumbled away especially when you got closer to Simatai. Despite not having any recent re-constructions it was said to be the most complete part of the wall that has not been touched by modern hands. It sounded right up my alley! So I left in a little van with four other tourists around 6am, and after a three hour drive...

Lotus flower love

By on Sep 22, 2014 in Life in Yunnan | 7 comments

From late summer to early Autumn it is lotus flower time in Kunming. All along the streets you will find street vendors selling lotus flower seed pods in their bamboo baskets, and the whole of Green Lake is covered in the bright pink and white flowers. It is quite a sight to behold, one that my point and shoot camera sadly did little justice to! Not only are these flowers incredibly beautiful, but they also carry a deep symbolism in Chinese culture. Since the flower grows out of dirty muddy water, and is still so beautiful, people feel that the lotus flower represents the ability to  rise above the  bad things in life. Anything that speaks of rising above misfortune and struggle is something I can certainly identify with! How about you? Do you think the beautiful lotus flower growing out of murky, muddy water is a good metaphor for rising above unfortunate events or circumstances?...

What’s in a stitch part four – Miao embroidery

By on Sep 15, 2014 in Our craftsmen | 2 comments

Even though most of the embroidered bags I currently have in stock have embroidery from China’s neighbours, I also really love the embroidery from within China. The most renowned embroiderers here are the Miao women. The Miao people currently number around 9 million people in China, with the majority living in the Southwestern province of Guizhou. Years ago the Miao people consisted of many small tribes that are now grouped together under the current Chinese administration. These separate groups of Miao people all developed their own styles of embroidered clothing, throughout the years, but now it is almost impossible to tell which kind of embroidery came from which Miao group. Traditional Miao embroidery is called “Miao xiu” and it stands out from more traditional Chinese embroidery techniques as a unique form of embroidery. The colours are quite bright, and the themes chosen by...