TRYING TO BE ANALOG

 

A few weeks ago I wanted a few days of low tech living. My goal was to leave my digital camera behind and ignore email, twitter, facebook for a mere three days. I would find my roots and shoot film. I would leave my iPhone behind(or at least turn it off). I was going to have a great awakening. Then I woke up in a lovely little mountain town in the hills of Shanxi province where farmers grow dates in live in homes that are dug into caves. While ”showering” with no running water is pretty common, I did have a funny “what the what” moment when technology found me and I was told me they had cell service and internet. I sucked it up, bit my lip, and checked my email. Progress is everywhere in China. Who am I to turn my back on it.  I did stick to one of my guns and shot film though. I’ll try to untether myself again next time.

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Kashgar for Operation Smile

A few weeks ago I packed my gear and headed off to Kashgar to cover a mission by Operation Smile there. Kashgar, a city in China’s western state Xianjing, is where the sun stays out until at least 9PM and is home to  Uighurs, ethnic Chinese Muslims. While the past few years have seen violent encounters between the Uighur population and their Han Chinese neighbors,  my job did not give me the freedom or time to look at that side of life in Kashgar. Instead I followed the hundreds of people looking to give their children a new face. Over the course of four days 158 patients, many of whom were from some of the furthest areas of China’s west and were seeing a doctor for the first time, received reconstructive surgery by a team of 50 volunteers from China, Australia, and the U.S.

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MS UNIVERSE-CHINA


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After overtaking Japan to become the number two economy in the world, it seems it’s time for China to set it’s sites on it’s next conquest. Producing this year’s winner of the Ms Universe contest. Apparently winning the Donald’s beauty contest is such a priority, a training camp was set up to teach contenders to walk, talk, smile, use make up, and have that killer instinct one needs to win this coveted crown. It’s hard not to be tongue and cheek about it when I kind of felt like I was in boot camp. A perfumed, lip glossy kind, but still a sort of boot camp.

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COVERING THE TSUNAMI IN JAPAN

I spent most of March and April covering the tsunami aftermath in Northern Japan. It’s feels like forever. It’s been quite difficult emotionally and logistically. Resources such as fuel, food, and transportation are still in short supply. While that makes it challenging to get around, its pretty trivial in the face of all of this. Since I arrived I’ve heard so many people tell me the stories of loved ones lost or homes destroyed. At the same time I’ve heard people talk about hope and having a never give up spirit through all of this. I’ve met a mayor of a town who lost his wife yet has barely slept since the tsunami trying to hold his town together.

Tsuyako Ito, 84, a geisha since she was 14, sits in the rubble next to her home inKamaishi, Iwate prefecture, Japan, Thursday, April 7, 2011. Mrs. Ito was forced to flee her home as she was carried on the back of a fan after the March 11 tsunami and earthquake that devastated northern Japan.  Photo by Keith Bedford for SternTsuyako Ito, 84, a geisha since she was 14, sits in the rubble next to her home inKamaishi, Iwate prefecture, Japan, Thursday, April 7, 2011. Mrs. Ito was forced to flee her home as she was carried on the back of a fan after the March 11 tsunami and earthquake that devastated northern Japan. 
TSUNAM_BLOG_001A woman walks past a by destroyed tanker ship March 22, 2011 in Kesennuma, Japan. Eleven days after the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan that left thousands dead with still many missing. Presently the country is struggling to contain a potential nuclear meltdown after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant was seriously damaged from the quake.
MOMEPAGE004Rescue workers remove bodies from a washed out motorway in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, Japan more than a week after the area was hit by a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, Sunday, March 20, 2011. With over 1700 people missing and over 400 dead, Rikuzentakata, having the greatest human loss in the prefecture with nearly 10% of it’s population, has an active body search and recovery mission.
TSUNAM_BLOG_005Residents warm themselves by a fire at an evacuation center in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, Japan more than a week after the area was hit by a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, Monday, March 21, 2011. With over 1700 people missing and over 400 dead, Rikuzentakata, having the greatest human loss in the prefecture with nearly 10% of it’s population, has an active body search and recovery mission.
TSUNAM_BLOG_007The remains of a house floats in the river March 22, 2011 in Kesennuma, Japan. Eleven days after the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan that left thousands dead with still many missing. Presently the country is struggling to contain a potential nuclear meltdown after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant was seriously damaged from the quake.
TSUNAM_BLOG_009Families and relatives of the dead cry as they identify their family members at a temporary burial ground March 25, 2011 in Higashi Matsushima , Japan. Under Japanese Buddhist practice a cremation is the expected traditional way of dealing with the dead but now with the death toll so high crematoriums are overwhelmed and there is a shortage of fuel to burn them. Local municipalities are forced to dig mass graves as a temporary solution. Two weeks after the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan the death toll has risen to 10,000 dead with still thousands missing and the expectation is that it will end up well over 20,000.

 

 

 

 


MONDAY BACK FROM THE DEAD

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For months I’ve been a bad little blogger. Again. I’ve spent the last few months trying to sort out a visa for India, gone to Haiti(again), covered elections(again), and moved around the world(again). Throughout it all, I’ve neglected to blog. I started this thing to share my work and clear my head. Kind of like an online after action report. I’m still trying to work out the kinks and be more efficient with it. It’s a one of my New Year’s resolution. That and run in the New York City Triathlon. We’ll see how it goes.

Anyway….. After half a year in I am off to a new city and new country. I am now in Beijing for the forseeable future. While I miss India, my firends, colleagues, and Diwali and want to go back more than I ever imagined,  I have had enough of being in j-visa limbo. I am still holding out hope and am planning a trip there in the spring but in the meantime I can find new bureaucrats to drive me nuts.  While I enjoyed my most recent time in New York but my heart is here in Asia. If I can’t be in one rapidly growing Asian country of 1 billion I guess I’ll have to settle for the other rapidly growing Asian country of 1 billion.

I’ve had  had the good fortune to work with Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal since getting to Beijing earlier this month. This week I got to work a story on farmers who are stockpiling their harvests of cotton in hopes that the prices will rise back to the record high from a few moths ago before a sharp drop just recently. With a year of inflation and higher costs for fertilzer and labor it’s easy to understand what motivates them. Growing up I spent my summers working on my grandparents’ farm, so I’ve always had a place in my heart for farmers. I can empathise with them on how much it costs to work the land especially in a season of drought. It’s been tough on them. Many of them seem hopefull that there will be a rebound in the coming months. In the mean time they are storing the stuff in backyard closets and even living rooms. Check out the WSJ Photo Journal piece here. If you want to read the story click here.

I’m adjusting to being here slowly but surely. I hate the cold and not knowing Mandarin but there’s good stories to be told. I am getting on to telling some of them.

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