Sunday, March 25, 2007

my trip to burma and the green lake

I only seem to be able to upload only one picture at a time. So, painstakingly, I did it. Here is a little view of what I've been up to:

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Way back in January, we "took" (I tagged along) six Tibetans from a village in Deqin to Luquan (uplands of Yunnan) and Xishuanbanna (down south) for field visits - so that they could see other project sites. It was an amazing trip, and I went through a slight depression after they went home. This picture is of us in Burma, where we crossed the border for about ten minutes. Hmmm.. gives me some ideas for planning my next trip..

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This is a more recent photo! I've been at the migrant center for only a week, but I'm going to become a pretty committed volunteer. They took me to the community the children live in, and they're going to be starting an oral history project there pretty soon. Many of these kids will hang out at the center after school and on weekends. It is Kunming's first migrant center, and opened only in February! My original project proposal was on rural-to-urban migration from the rural perspective, so I'd say that for me, finding this place was perfect. It's just that it changes my research focus... a lot...

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Last Saturday, we took the kids on a field trip to the Green Lake (we only passed by, briefly) and then Yunnan University. I don't want to write too much about this center yet because, depending on who sees this (as in, the one person who reads this in the United States) - actually, the problem is more if I publish it -, anything negative I write about the children's conditions or their lives could put pressure on the government to actually shut the center down. Well, anyway, these children are wonderful.

Friday, March 16, 2007


As I sit here waiting for my shower water to heat up (which will later provide a shower which is also physically situated above our toilet - hey, I never said I was living in posh conditions!), I felt that it was about time to write an update.

Being in China, I have gotten used to the changes that occur about once a day. I never fully know what's going on and what will happen in the future, which makes things a little hard, especially as I may have some visitors coming in the next few weeks. It also means I have a lot of highs and a lot of lows. After being in a high early February, only to have it interrupted for a month by being away from Yunnan, I am now back on the horse. And tomorrow I will have a meeting which may push it even further. I am back to being rather busy - and it's great! Of course, if it could come at a steady pace, that would be even more divine.

To stop being vague for a few minutes, here it all is, in a nutshell: Philippines (Boracay Beach) was amazing and highly recommended; Fulbright conference was intense; I am currently connecting with many NGOs, including a newly opened migrant center that I will be volunteering at this Saturday!!!; still working on some slightly new projects in the same villages I've been based in; about to begin focusing on research on village cooperatives; recently engaged in a Chinese birthday (my own) (where the tradition is to treat all your free-loading friends :D); and... hip hop exists in Kunming!

And I would now like to use my celebrity status (aka, the fact that you're reading my blog) to mention an issue I had never given that much thought to: leprosy victims. In the 50s and 60s, the Chinese government, as you might know, created leprosy villages in order to isolate them. In Yunnan there are over 100, at least one in each county. The villages were provided with some subsidies, but things are still hard today. For example, markets are far away, and many people refuse to sell to or buy from these victims. Even after being cured, sufferers cannot easily reunite with their families, due to both the government and society. And the families suffer anyhow - one man's son could not find a job, not even with the army, because of his father having leprosy. In the end, he couldn't find a wife, and had to marry far away - to a woman with mental disabilities.

These stories were told to me tonight by a man working for a rehabilitation center. I asked him what someone outside of his organization could do, and he simply said, "Come with us." Well, I don't see what else my money is supposed to help me do. Though I am not so sure what you, my readers, can do yet, hopefully I will have more information in the future.