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February 05 2014

Top 10 Chinatowns in the World

THE WORLD OF CHINESE takes a look at some of the oldest and biggest Chinatowns in the world, including the ones in San Francisco, Vancouver, Lima (Peru), Havana (Cuba), London, Paris, Manila, Singapore and Melbourne. 

Podcast: Taiwan

Sinica Podcast held a discussion about Taiwan from their personal experiences. The discussion explores Taiwanese's personal identity, their culture, media situation, health care system, as well as Taiwan's political relations with the mainland.

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Dear soup.io fans and users,
 
today, we have to share very sad news. Soup.io will stop working in less than 10 days. :(
 
It's breaking our heart and we honestly tried whatever we could to keep the platform up and running. But the high costs and low revenue streams made it impossible to continue with it. We invested a lot of personal time and money to operate the platform, but when it's over, it's over.
 
We are really sorry. Soup.io is part of the internet history and online for one and a half decades.
 
Here are the hard facts:
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February 02 2014

13 Olympic Memes as Sochi Games Approach

As the Sochi Winter Olympics are fast approaching (the opening ceremony is this coming Saturday), RuNet Echo takes a look back at some of the funnier jokes that the Russian online community made about the logo, the torch, and other Olympic accouterments during the years of preparation for the games.

1. The logo itself has been the butt of various memes, the most ubiquitous of which is its pairing with a “saw” mascot, as a play on the verb “to saw,” a Russian slang term for “embezzlement.” This is, of course, contextualized amid years of accusations of wasteful spending and embezzled funds during the construction process:

The friendly embezzling saw. Anonymous image distributed online.

The friendly embezzling saw. Anonymous image distributed online.

2. A more succinct joke comes at the expense of the easily parodied font:

“A f*cking shame” reads the modified Olympic logo. Anonymous image found online.

3. Another Olympic accusation of corruption — this is one on behalf of Russia's students:

“The Olympic flame burned your stipend” reads the caption of this alternative logo. Anonymous image found online.

4. A 2010 competition to design a mascot to go with the logo, organized by Russia's Olympic committee, resulted in several meme-worthy entrants. This one utilizes the ancient RuNet “Превед медвед” (“Preved medved”) meme. (This meme was at one point so widespread, it has its own KnowYourMeme entry.)

“Preved!” says the bear. Anonymous image distributed online.

5. Bears are an easy sell for Russian-hosted Olympics — ever since the lovable 1980 mascot. This entry into the 2010 contest uses the well known “Pedobear” meme:

Skiing-kuma. Anonymous image distributed online.

Skiing-kuma. Anonymous image distributed online.

6. Fans of Lovecraft had their own approach:

Ktulhu for President (of the Olympics)! Anonymous image distributed online.

Cthulhu for President (of the Olympics)! Anonymous image distributed online.

7. And fans of the classic Soviet kid's cartoon “Cheburashka,” their own (albeit similar):

Cheburashka fhtagn! Anonymous image found online.

Cheburashka fhtagn! Anonymous image found online.

8. The most popular entry (although it later turned out it was part of an astroturf campaign to raise contest popularity) was the Arctic hypno-toad nicknamed Zoich, created by cartoonist Egor Zhgun.

2014 sort of looks like ZOIЧ, a mix of English and Russian characters.

9. The mascots that were eventually selected, drew accusations of plagiarism both from Russia's last Olympics:

“Plagiarism is when you take someone else's thing and make it worse.” One of new mascots side by side with the 1980 Mishka the Bear. Anonymous image found online.

10. And from foreign Olympics:

“F*cking shameful,” reads the caption. Salt Lake Olympic mascots on the right. Anonymous image found online.

11. The Sochi Olympic torch relay, plagued as it was with the flame constantly going out [Global Voices report], also became the butt of jokes. Some pointed out its similarity to a Vodka logo:

“Russian” brand vodka looks suspiciously like the Olympic torch. Anonymous image found online.

12. Others noted the similarities between this bearded relay runner holds his torch, and the way Chechen guerrillas hold their guns:

Olympic terrorists. Anonymous image found online.

Olympic terrorists. Anonymous image found online.

13. Perhaps the harshest meme of them all, this Olympic Bingo sheet has been translated from the Russian original by RuNet Echo. Various versions of the meme are widespread on Russian imageboards and forums. All deal with some form of failure on the part of the Russian hosts. This, folks, is Russian fatalism at its most depressed:

Anonymous image translated by RuNet Echo.

Anonymous image translated by RuNet Echo.

Russians are fond of self deprecation. Hopefully the 2014 Winter games will prove them wrong.

January 31 2014

A Visual and Musical Journey Through Myanmar

Like a visual postcard, the short video A handful of Myanmar by Berta upe Tilmantaitė invites its viewers to marvel at the wonders of the Southeast Asian country. Reid Willis‘ music replaces the natural sounds of the place, as rhythm and tempo adapt to the flow of the rivers and the laughter of young monks.

China's Propaganda-Heavy New Year's Gala Fails to Impress Viewers

It annoys more than it entertains. That seems to be the message people are expressing via social media after this year's broadcast of state-owned China Central Television's Spring Festival Gala celebrating Chinese New Year.

Known in Mandarin as Chunwan, the variety show regularly draws tens of millions of viewers every year and has become an essential part of celebrations for the New Year since its start three decades ago. The South China Morning Post reported that 750 million Chinese watched the gala last year, more than six times the viewership of the Super Bowl in America.

But its popularity has dwindled in recent years. This year's nearly five-hour long event on January 30, 2014, consisting of stand-up comedy, dancing, singing, magic and other performances, drove home the themes of the Chinese Dream - an idea promoting hard work and collective effort for the prosperity of China - and nostalgia for the country's red past. 

The show was never short on rosy language. For example, a song titled “I am not too demanding” performed by a popular comedian presented a comfortable middle-class life as representing the Chinese Dream:

The lyrics go:

I have an 80 square-meter house and a gentle wife. Our kid already finished college and secured a great job right after graduation. I commute between my workplace and home quite smoothly, rush hour is non-existent. I exercise outdoors and see the blue sky every day.

Pensions and health care are not problems because they will be covered by the government. This is my Chinese Dream, it’s small and simple. I am not striving to become a dragon or a phoenix. Instead, I want to be immersed in happiness. It’s easily attainable by standing on your tiptoes.

The backdrop behind the performance displayed the vast landscape of China, complete with newly built rural houses and some showcase infrastructure projects – all packaged to represent the Chinese Dream, a phrase coined by President Xi Jinping which is frequently evoked in media discourse and official speeches.

In addition to the theme of the China Dream, a session was devoted to the Chinese Communist Party's revolution history. The ballet performance of the Red Detachment of Women, a Chinese ballet set in the 1930s, made its debut during the show at a time when the legacy of red culture remains a contentious issue in China. The storyline follows peasant-turned female soldiers’ devotion to communism:

The political underpinnings are subtle but pervasive, in the words of the hosts, and reflected in the choreography. These messages lacing the performances are ordered from above – in an earlier visit to CCTV, Minister the Central Propaganda Department Liu Qibao urged that the gala should “spread positive energy” and promote “the rhythm of our era – the Chinese Dream”.

However, the gala is losing its magic spell on ordinary people. According to a recent survey, nearly 60 percent of the viewers were extremely disappointed in the program this year, particularly with the reduced number of stand-up comedy routines, which usually mock social happenings. The news of Cui Jian, godfather of rock music in China, pulling out of the show caused the gala's reputation to take a hit. He reportedly quit after refusing to comply with censorship requirements for his songs. 

The comments trickled in as the gala was underway, and the topic has remained trending as of the morning of January 31. Microbloggers in China have been largely critical of this year's show. Editor-in-Chief for the Financial Times Chinese Zhang Lifeng exclaimed:

春晚啊,你到底怎么了???

Chunwan, what has happened to you???

Some took notice of the “red” performance. A Beijing-based media professional under the Weibo name Zhangwen de Wenzhang wrote:

春晚,红色娘子军主导!

Chunwan has been dominated by the Red Detachment of Women.

Xiong Peiyun, an outspoken commentator, found the program full of conflicting values:

奴役与自由、丑与美、暴力与温柔,在同一时代的舞台。如果我承认一个集体的中国梦,这个梦就是希望这个国家彻底告别“红色娘子军”,走向“玫瑰人生”。

Enslavement and freedom, uglyness and beauty, violence and softness, all displayed on the same stage. If I subscribed to a collective Chinese Dream, it would be a dream that is detached from the “Red Detachment of Women”, a dream that would lead to a “rosy life”.

Writer Beicui criticised the propaganda nature of the gala:

春晚现象:为什么春晚总导不好?仿佛经年痼疾?病灶到底在哪里?就在它“用文艺节目推销意识形态”,谁导都得贯彻这个主旨,就像要人把一杯白水说成美酒那样痛苦;2、为何年年吐槽年年看年年骂?也是因为同一个原因“推销意识形态”,热议的是意识形态,不是文艺;3、伟光正存在一天这现象就持续一天。

Chunwan phenomena: Why is it difficult to direct Chunwan? As if it's some chronic disease? What is the root cause? The answer is found in the fact that it uses the show to promote ideology, whoever directs the show has to implement the theme, it's like making plain water into good wine; 2 Why do [people] lash out at Chunwan every year while continuing to watch it? It's for the same reason of ideology promotion, the hotly debated part is the ideology itself rather than the art; 3 The phenomena will last as long as the “grand glow” [referring to directives from state leaders]. 

On Twitter, Chunwan has also generated a buzz. Jeremiah Jenne, a PhD candidate at Beijing Foreign Studies University, wrote:

Elaine wasn't entertained, she lamented:

Human rights researcher Joshua Rosenzweig seemed to poke fun at Chunwan:

This wasn't the first year that the show's declining popularity was a topic of discussion. Writing in a Chinese newspaper in 2007, Ren Yi, a former visiting scholar of Harvard University, commented:

The Spring Festival Gala still needs to accomplish its political mission and disseminate political information. But its current format still uses the old political propaganda methods which will lose more and more of the younger audiences. Young people want to watch truly interesting entertainment programs, not to attend a class in political theories. In my opinion, that type of politicized style is in serious conflict with the market and commercial needs.

January 30 2014

Château-Rouge: A Promiment African Food Market in Paris

Market in Chateau-Rouge, Paris by Zanbard on Flickr via CC-BY-NC

Market in Chateau-Rouge, Paris by Zanbard on Flickr via CC-BY-NC

In order to find ingredients for African cuisine in Paris, the go-to place is still the Château-Rouge area located in the 18th District, specifically in the Rue Dejean street market [fr] that operates every day except Monday. The African Expatriate explains why the market is such a draw for many shoppers :

Visiting this predominantly African neighborhood in Paris, is like stepping right into Congo Market in Freetown, Serrekunda Market in Banjul, Sandaga Market in Dakar, Adjame Market in Abidjan. Your eyes will instantly take in the colorful array of fresh food produces lined haphazardly along the streets [..] all in all you would love it, for it would surely transport you back to a typical market day in Africa.

Metro Politics points out that gentrification has had an impact on the local market:

The extraordinary density of business activities in the neighbourhood masks large-scale daily mobility flows that connect it to other residential and commercial spaces, and which extend beyond the metropolitan area.   67% [of surveyed shoppers] said they did not live in the neighbourhood. These non-residents share certain characteristics: over 70% of them were born outside mainland France, of which half in Sub-Saharan Africa.  

January 29 2014

PHOTOS: Drone Captures the Beauty of Thailand

Giant Buddha at Wat Muang in Ang Thon

Giant Buddha at Wat Muang in Ang Thon

Richard Barrow, blogger and long time resident of Thailand, is a trusted source of journalists and tourists about the situation in Thailand. In addition, he has been consistently promoting the rich tradition and natural beauty of Thailand. His new blog, Thailand from Above, features some marvelous aerial photos of Thailand which Richard took using a Quadcopter Drone.

Richard shares his experience in flying a drone while using a smartphone:

I don’t have any experience of flying any other drones so I cannot do any comparisons for you. But, I will tell you a few things that I found cool. Firstly, it is very easy to fly the drone and then take your hands off the controls to concentrate on the smartphone. In theory it will just hover in the same place. But a gust of wind might blow it away so do keep one eye on it. The next coolest thing is that the pictures from the camera on the drone are streamed live to your smartphone.

Pagoda in the river. Phra Samut Chedi in Samut Praka

Pagoda in the river. Phra Samut Chedi in Samut Praka

Wat Ban Rai in Dan Kun Tod, Nakhon Ratchasima

Wat Ban Rai in Dan Kun Tod, Nakhon Ratchasima

Temple of the Buddha’s Footprint. Wat Phra Phutthabat in Saraburi

Temple of the Buddha’s Footprint. Wat Phra Phutthabat in Saraburi

Pa Sak Jolasid Dam in Lopuri is the biggest reservoir in Central Thailand.

Pa Sak Jolasid Dam in Lopuri is the biggest reservoir in Central Thailand.

Richard is sharing photos via social media through the Twitter hashtag #thaidrone

Drones were also used by many journalists to monitor the ongoing protests in Bangkok, the country's capital.

*Photos are from Richard Barrow, used with permission

Kazakhstan's Largest City Hides Its “Beautiful” Side from Cameras

Top rated Russian photo-blogger Ilya Varlamov presents [ru] a photo report about his recent trip to Almaty, Kazakhstan's capital before 1997. What the blogger found most surprising about the city is that police officers do not allow anyone “photographing anything good, beautiful, and new” in Almaty. Curious travelers are, therefore, restricted to snapping pictures of the “uglier” side of Kazakhstan's largest city.

almaty

Woman selling mushrooms at a market in Almaty. Image by Ilya Varlamov, used with permission.

January 28 2014

Sri Lanka's Best Bus Terminal

Freelance writer, translator and blogger Nandasiri Wanninayaka writes about the multi-purpose bus terminal-cum shopping and entertainment complex in the resort town of Negombo:

You wouldn’t expect a bus stand in Sri Lanka to be like a mini airport. But if you happen to go to Negombo Bus Stand, renamed as “Negombo Bus Terminal,” it is a little airport. It has almost all the facilities needed in a modern day bus stand. It is considered Sri Lanka’s best bus stand in terms of facilities.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan: Trip to the Dying Aral Sea

The Aral Sea lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was once one of the world's four largest lakes. Over the last five decades, however, the sea has lost over 90 percent of its original size, mainly as a result of disastrous irrigation projects which diverted rivers feeding it. On the Caravanistan travel blog, Aziz Murtazaev presents a photo report about his recent trip to the “dying sea”. A more detailed report by the blogger, in Russian, can be accessed here and here.

Qaraqalpaqstan, the ‘Forgotten Stan’ of Central Asia

Qaraqalpaqstan (or Karakalpakstan) is one of the least-known “stans” of Central Asia. Part of Uzbekistan, this region is a true gem for a curious traveler. On the Caravanistan blog, Steven writes about this “forgotten stan”:

…Living under the shadow cast by the desiccation of the Aral Sea, this little-known stan has gotten a bad rep and has drawn mostly disaster tourism in recent years.

Tourists with an open eye, an extra day to loiter and the imagination to appreciate the weight of history, the power of landscape and the nomadic traditions of a desert nation however, will find Karakalpakstan a fascinating place…

Most surprising is the long history of the region. Places like the UNESCO World heritage desert castles of Toprak Qala, Ayaz Qala, Koy-Kirilgan Qala, Big Guldursun, Pil Qala, Anka Qala, Kurgashin Qala and Djanbas Qala Mizdakhan give an inkling of a once-blooming society, the powerful state of Khorezm that guarded part of the ancient Silk Road. These are places few foreigners get to see, and they are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of archaeological treasures strewn around in the desert…

January 27 2014

Malaysia: The Most Beautiful Sound in the World

The winner of the ‘most beautiful sound in the world’ competition is ‘Dusk by the Frog Pond’ by ‘Wild Ambience’ recorded in a Sarawak swamp in Borneo, Malaysia.

January 26 2014

Outdoor Air pollution in Bhopal

Proloy Bagchi reports that outdoor air pollution in Bhopal, the capital of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, has risen to an alarming proportion mainly from the emission of the transports. The blogger slams at the inaction of the state government and stresses the importance of reducing this pollution. According to WHO outdoor pollution causes cancer, more so than passive smoking.

January 25 2014

Saving Elephants in Laos

Photo from Facebook page of Elephant Conservation Center

Photo from Facebook page of Elephant Conservation Center

Laos was once called the ‘land of a million elephants’ but today elephant population has been reduced to several hundreds because of poaching and illegal ivory trade. Some are dying because of overwork in logging areas.

It is estimated that wild elephants number around 300 to 600:

Scattered in small fragmented herds, population numbers of wild elephants are believed to be around 300-600. Like many other countries, wild elephants in Laos are threatened by problems caused by humans. This includes deforestation, poaching, expansion of human settlement and human-elephant conflict.

Meanwhile, there are around 420 captive elephants:

Sadly captive elephant populations are in decline. Only an approximate 420 remain in Laos. The new millennium has bought with it the burden of financial gain, with mahouts (elephant owner) having to work their elephants seven days a week to earn a living. Elephants are mainly employed in the logging industry, a very hard and dangerous job. Male elephants are too tired and busy to reproduce and can even die from logging accidents.

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness about the need to protect the elephants in the country. One of the groups spearheading this advocacy is the Elephant Conservation Center:

Elephant Conservation Center differentiates itself from elephant tourist camps by being a haven for elephant reproduction, lactation, convalescence and disease diagnosis. Do NOT expect to see package tours riding these elephants all day long!

It is also the first elephant hospital in Laos as well as serving as an ecotourism camp. It provides technical and livelihood assistance to elephant owners or mahout who depend on the elephants for their daily income.

The center is also a sanctuary for rescued elephants. They were able to rescue a young elephant which they named Noy. After a few years, the elephant will pick his new name through a process described by head veterinarian Emmanuelle Chave:

At three years old, elephants are trained by their future mahout, to respond different cues, in order to work with humans. A shaman organizes this important journey, where the elephant leaves the forest world for the human world. At the end of the training, the young elephant is offered three sugarcanes, on which are written names. The name on the first sugarcane he picks up will be his.

Brita visited the center and recognized its role in protecting the welfare of elephants:

The Elephant Conservation Center is probably one of the few places you can visit where it’s not about elephants adapting to people’s schedules and needs but where people adapt to the rhythm and needs of the elephants

I am very picky when it comes to choosing an Elephant “place” as there are far too many all over the world which treat their elephants badly and which just means moving from one horrible life (=logging) to another (= bad treatment for tourism purposes).

jo ebisujima also visited the center and learned that putting chairs on the back of an elephant is painful for the animal:

One of the important things that were learnt was that the chairs that are used for carry people and luggage on an elephants back (hawdah) really isn't good for them. This is due to the shape of the bones…It is more comfortable for the elephant to be ridden without any kind of saddle and sat on their neck.

January 20 2014

Uruguay Among 10 Most Ethical Destinations for Fourth Consecutive Year

Foto publicada por Brennan Paezold en Flickr, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo published by Brennan Paezold on Flickr, under Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to the prestigious publication Ethical Traveler, Uruguay has made the list for the fourth consecutive year of the ten most ethical destinations in the world.

Every year the Ethical Traveler team, after exhaustive research, chooses the ten best countries to visit in the developing world, choosing destinations with attractive natural landscapes and cultures. These countries must also demonstrate a commitment to the conservation of their natural resources. These selections are aimed at recognizing the efforts of these countries and encouraging neighboring countries to follow their example.

Tourism has become one of the world’s main industries, but it can have a negative impact on the host communities and ecosystems, so the World Tourism Organization has created a Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, a list of “do's and don't” that aims to improve lives and protect the planet through responsible tourism.

Many nations have accepted this code through their tour operators, redirecting their tourism industry practices to ensure the welfare of travelers, host communities, tourism workers and the environment.

Uruguay is one of the countries that has channeled its tourism in this direction and this has earned it recognition for the fourth consecutive year. This has placed it in the top 10 ethical destinations in the world in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

This distinction is considered a prize for the efforts by the players in the Uruguayan tourism industry who have signed the commitment to adhere to the code of ethics of the World Tourism Organization, as noted in the Viaje a Uruguay [es] portal.

Meanwhile, the news was received and published in a short article on the website of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports [es].

The rest of the countries chosen for 2014 are the Bahamas, Barbados, Cape Verde, Chile, Dominica, Latvia, Lithuania, Mauritius and Palau.

January 12 2014

Russia Bans All Liquids on Aircraft

RA-96016 Russia State Transport Company, 20 June 2009, photo by  Pieter van Marion, CC 2.0.

RA-96016 Russia State Transport Company, 20 June 2009, photo by
Pieter van Marion, CC 2.0.

In the aftermath of the twin bombings in Volgograd before the New Year's holiday [GV article], Russia’s Transportation Ministry has revised its rules on what airline passengers can bring on board. The previous rules resembled American regulations, banning any liquid containers over 100ml. The new rules forbid liquids in any volume. Russia’s Transportation Ministry [ru] released on statement on January 8, 2014, asking passengers to understand and cooperate. 

Prominent photo-blogger Ilya Varlamov noted:

Это не первое ужесточение правил провоза жидкостей. С 2007 года запретили провозить на борту самолета больше 100 мл, а теперь всю жидкость, то есть нельзя провозить вообще ничего, даже зубную пасту.

This is not the first tightening of the rules for transporting liquids. Since 2007, they've banned bringing more than 100ml onto the aircraft, and now it applies to all liquids, i.e. you cannot bring anything, even toothpaste.

He then warned his readers to be careful and provided details about the regulations at different airports.

Blogger Sergei Anashkevitch found the ban confusing:

Но я одного не могу понять – а в чем вообще проблема жидкостей на борту самолета??? Почему с этим такая истерия? Даже с объемом больше 100 мл?

Так скоро запретят провозить ремни, шнурки, наушники и т.д. Список может быть бесконечным.

Чем мешают жидкости?

But there is one thing that I don’t understand—what is the main problem with liquids on board a plane??? Why is there such hysteria? Even with a volume greater than 100ml? 

Soon they will ban belts, shoelaces, headphones, and so on. The list could be endless.

Why are they bothered by liquids?

Anton Buslov joked:

For security reasons, starting on January 8, 2014, airline passengers in Russia will be transported only in a state of induced coma, in straitjackets.

In his blog at Echo of Moscow, Matvei Ganapolsky [ru] defended the authorities’ new rules, saying that the inconvenience of security measures is worth the peace of mind he feels when he flies. However, he noted that there are apparently exceptions to the new rule, with authorities granting certain special requests. Given this, he wondered how meaningful the new rules are, if there exceptions are possible

Моя эховская коллега просила провести ушные капли – ей разрешили, но в виде исключения. Вот так и получается, что вообще–то нельзя, но если очень попросишь, то разрешат. Но если разрешают, то значит, нарушают – это к вопросу об осмысленности принятых решений.

My colleague from Echo asked to carry on ear drops, and she was allowed, but as an exception. And so it turns out that it is not allowed, but if you really ask, it is allowed. But if they are allowing it, this means that they are violating [their own policy]. This raises questions about how much sense the authorities’ decisions make.

Maxim Kononenko [ru] reminded his readers that the authorities are just “playing catch–up” again, and cast doubt on the claim that such measures are necessary. He alleged that airline regulators are only acting to protect their careers, if a another terrorist attack does take place.

Max Katz [ru] thought the ban was the result of hysteria in the wake of the twin bombings in Volgograd. Katz also claims that a liquids alone would be insufficient to destroy an airplane, and wrote a public letter to Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev conveying this complaint.

The authorities at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow released a statement [ru] on January 11, 2014, advising passengers that they can still purchase liquid items in Duty Free shops, after they pass through the security checkpoint. The announcement ends:

Просим вас с пониманием относиться к новым правилам досмотра пассажиров сотрудниками служб авиационной безопасности.

We ask you to be sensitive to the new rules of passenger-screening by aviation security personnel.

Time will tell if the new rules will have any impact on safety before or during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, beginning on February 7. For now, it appears that all the regulations have done so far is make the Russian blogosphere even more upset with the authorities.

January 11 2014

Chinese Feminist Activist Walks 2,000 Kilometers to Protest Sexual Abuse

Traveling alone on foot is still a new concept in China. While some women like the adventurous idea, they worry about sexual harassment on the road. That’s why Chinese feminist activist Xiao Meili started her new project: Beautiful Feminist Walk- A Protest Against Sexual Abuse to Promote Women’s Freedom.

Xiao, the lead actor in the Chinese version of the “Vagina Monologues”, is walking all the way from Beijing to the southern city of Guangzhou – a distance of about 2,000 kilometers – to protest against sexual harassment and child abuse. She has already spent four months on the road and along the way has been collecting signatures, staging performances and handing out information to local governments. She has been sharing her experience on her blog with photos, writing and drawings.

Veteran feminist activist Xiao Meili(screenshot from youku)

Veteran feminist activist Xiao Meili (screenshot from youku)

Born in 1989 in China’s Sichuan province, Xiao has done many feminist projects to promote sexual equality and freedom. On Valentine’s Day in 2012, she was one of the three women who dressed up in blood-splattered wedding gowns in protest of domestic violence. She once occupied a men’s toilet to protest China's toilet inequity, calling for the government to provide more public toilet stalls for women (according to a Time magazine report, men take 30 seconds to use the bathroom on average, while women take 90 seconds). In August 2013, she shaved her head in protest of the discrimination against women students in university enrollment.

Xiao is currently making a living by teaching drawing and selling vintage things through online shop Taobao. She calls for donations on her Taobao page to support her journey. She also asks that women in local cities to walk with her, or provide a sofa for her to stay the night. 

Check out the video below to see Xiao in action:

January 07 2014

Why Elders Protect Doves in Rural Mali

Doves in rural Mali via Fasokan with his permission

Doves in rural Mali via Fasokan with his permission

Fasokan explains why elders in rural Mali pay special attention to the protection of doves [fr] :

Les vieilles personnes font tout pour protéger ces oiseaux contre la tuerie des enfants pendant leurs chasses avec des lance-pierres. Si par hasard il arrive qu’un groupe de jeunes garçons attrape une tourterelle vivante, une vieilles personne du village rachète l’oiseau et le libère. Cet achat a pour but de mettre les enfants dans leur droit parce qu’ils ont fourni de l’effort pour l’attraper.[..] les tourterelles sont considérées comme annonciatrices d’évènements futurs selon leurs chants, comme l’arrivée d’un étranger ou d’une étrangère. De village en village pour les commissions des parents, les tourterelles informaient les jeunes envoyés en cours de route, sur la position de celui ou celle qu’ils devaient aller voir dans un autre village.

Elders would do everything in their power to protect doves when children go for a hunt with their slingshots. If a group of young boys happen catch a live dove, an old person from the village would buy the dove from them and then release it. The purchase aims not only to protect the dove but also to not punish the kids because it took some effort and ingenuity to make the catch [The reason why Doves are protected is because] they are considered harbingers of future events based on their songs of the moment. For instance  it could announce the arrival of a guest. When children run errands for their parents from village to village, doves would inform children whether the people they were looking for were at home.

January 05 2014

PHOTOS: Humans of Ethiopia

Inspired by Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York (HONY), Nina Steinberg has created a Facebook page Humans of Ethiopia that provides glimpses into people's lives in Ethiopia.

The description reads:

As I explore Ethiopia this summer I have decided to create a space where I can share my glimpses into the lives of strangers, new friends, and the fascinating way of life I am coming to understand here. Inspired by Brandon's Humans of New York.

Take a look at a few photographs republished from the Humans of Ethiopia page. 

Weaving. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia.

Traditional cloth weaving is a centuries-old tradition in Ethiopia. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia. Used with permission.

Camouflage

Ethiopian soldiers walking in an empty street. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia. Used with permission.

Ethiopian women carrying wood on their back. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia.

Ethiopian women carry wood on their backs to make a living. The load they carry goes up to 70 pounds and the hike distances that can be more or less than 18 miles. Some of these women may even weigh less than the load they are carrying. Their average daily income is less than two US dollars. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia. Used with permission.

Ready for Ethiopia coffee ceremony. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia.

An Ethiopian coffee ceremony is a beautiful ritualized way of drinking coffee. The green coffee beans are roasted and then the pan is walked around the room so that everyone can get a waft of the coffee aroma. The coffee beans are crushed, mortar-and-pestle style. The coffee powder is then boiled in a clay pot called a Jebena (seen in the left of the photo). Finally, the coffee is poured into little china cups on a tray and served to everyone – it is served three times. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia. Used with permission.

I caught them waving chat at the goat and laughed at the thought of a goat getting high. But when I came over to snap a photo, the father wouldn’t smile until he clarified that he was only feeding the goat chat… not his precious little girl. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia.

I caught them waving chat at the goat and laughed at the thought of a goat getting high. But when I came over to snap a photo, the father wouldn’t smile until he clarified that he was only feeding the goat chat… not his precious little girl. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia. Used with permission.

Eat at facefood. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia.

Eat at facefood. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia. Used with permission.

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.” -John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia.
“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”
-John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia. Used with permission.

Ethiopian designer, Salam Nigussie, showing off her product: “I designed and made what I'm wearing.” – Salam Nigussie. Photo by Humans of Ethiopia. Used with permission.

One Year in Asia

Antoine Lavenant, with his girlfriend spent a year in Asia – China, Laos, Cambodia, Thaïland, Malaysia, Philippines and Sri Lanka. The video is a brief record of their exciting journey.

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