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Yulin Dog Meat Festival: The Liberation

The first thing I want to make clear is I do not have any more of an issue with the meat of a dog being eaten than the meat of a pig or a cow. A common argument made about the protests of the Yulin Dog Meat festival is: Where are all the people protesting the eating of cows or pigs or chickens? And I fully appreciate that sentiment. While it is absolutely not part of my culture to eat dog and I have an emotional attachment to them I can appreciate that in some cultures dog is just another livestock animal. I was vegetarian for 15 years

Dog meat soup.

and vegan for 5 of them. I began eating meat again several years ago and I have made my peace with that. If I am willing to eat a pig, a fish, a snake, an insect, or a cow, I should be able to eat a dog.

Also, as I am sure many of you know already, as part of my research I actually attended the Yulin Dog Meat festival 2 years ago. It was the most emotionally challenging thing I have ever put myself through. I blogged about it here but in short I did not see anything I was expecting. I was expecting horrible cruel people torturing sweet puppy dogs to death. What I found was to this day some of the very nicest people I have met in China. Everyone was kind and welcoming to me and after the cruelness of many of the people in the city where I live I was surrounded by the dead carcasses of dogs and the barking and whining of the those awaiting slaughter and yet I still felt more comfortable and more welcomed there than I usually do in Xi’an.

dinner.

While I was there I did see thousands of dogs. Most of them appeared to be street dogs, dogs raised as livestock, or very old dogs the families had gotten rid of for cash. As depressing as it was I did not see any pure breed pet looking dogs. I also saw hundreds of dogs killed and every single one was done humanely with a slit to the throat. The dogs I saw did not appear to have ever felt the loving touch of a human and they were killed for food much in the same way as goats are. I am sure I have seen all the photos, all the videos, and read all the same articles as you have about the horrors of the Dog Meat Festival. All I can write about is what I saw.

Now on to part two of my research: The Liberation. I have made friends with a very active animal rights activist here in Xi’an. He told me they had stopped a dog truck on its way to the Dog Meat Festival and I said I wanted to see them. I was told there had been about 100 dogs on the truck and most of them had been adopted already. When I arrived there were about 25 left. Some were sweet as if maybe they had been a pet but most were definitely street dogs that would growl, snarl, and snap if you got to close. There was one greyhound.

Rescues from the first truck

While there my friend told me there was another truck coming through tonight and asked if I wanted to join them in stopping it. Are you kidding? Of course I did! I was supposed to be attending a going away party that night but I sent her a nice voice message saying I knew there would be loads of people there and no one would really miss me and the dogs were very important to me, love you and see you around! She understood.

So here’s how it went down: Someone from the rescue group has a contact that works on the highway. They pay him if he calls and reports a dog truck is coming through. Then they know how long it takes the truck to get from that point to closer to Xi’an. There were several cars of us and we sat waiting at the highway entrance to catch the truck. It was a highly suspenseful time. The truck knew we were waiting for them and the car we had tailing it kept commenting to say they were taking alternate routes trying to lose us. We would speed down one road then U-turn, turn left or right and speed down another. When we finally knew we were almost to the truck my friend and I got stuck behind traffic on a road with no shoulder so no way to get around. We were flashing our lights and honking our horn and as soon as we could we sped around them. As we turned a corner we came up on a big brawl in the middle of the road and saw one of our guys jump into a big truck, pull a crazy fast U-turn and speed off. We all followed the truck while a small group of people was left on the side of the road, people that had been traveling with the dogs.

The truck I was involved in stopping

We drove to a deserted road, pulled over, and raised the tarp covering the dogs. It was one of the saddest sites I have ever seen. The only thing I thought about was Jews being sent off to concentration camps. There were over 300 dogs crammed into this one truck and many on the bottom had been trampled to death. There were Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, a husky with beautiful blue eyes, and hundreds of others. These were no street dogs and certainly were not dogs raised as livestock. When we closed the tarp back up so we could drive on the dogs screamed, and howled, and cried like nothing I have ever heard before. It has been over a week and I am tearing up right now as I type this. It was like the most horrifying cries from the pits of hell. I felt so sorry for them.

With the tarp removed

We drove on to the designated stopping place. Everyone contacted everyone they knew to tell them to come out and see the dogs. By now it was almost 1:00 in the morning but about 200 people came out to see the truck. This may seem funny but I was struck by how nicely everyone was dressed. It reminded me of the stories we hear of the first battles of the Civil War when the wealthy would set up seats to watch. The Chinese do like fashion. Women will walk up mountains in dresses and heels and this was no different.

While driving the two hours back to Xi’an I found out we had not only stolen the truck but also kidnapped the “owner” of the dogs. What needed to happen now was he needed to call the police to report his dogs stolen but when the police arrived he needed to tell the policeman he didn’t want the dogs anymore and relinquish ownership to the rescue group. I will leave it up to your imagination as to how they helped change the “owner’s” mind but in the end he did relinquish ownership. After that the truck was driven to a shelter outside of Xi’an where they had agreed to take in the dogs and the guy was given his truck back.

I wasn’t exactly sure of what I was going to do when the police came since…uh…well…I’m kind of a foreign citizen involved in some not exactly legal action therefore risking jail time and deportation but at 2:00 AM when we had no idea if the police were coming in 15 minutes or 15 hours and I was offered a ride home I took it.

Does this look like a dog bred for meat to you?

The next day I got the location of the shelter and paid a driver to take me out there. It was terribly depressing. There were so many pets. These were clearly stolen house pets. They were sweet precious babies that were used to sleeping on couches under the air conditioning while being loved on. They were definitely not livestock. I was horrified. Many of them clearly were street dogs, many seemed to fit what I saw in Yulin two years ago very old pets that no one wanted to care for anymore so they sold it for meat, but oh my god more than 25% of them were definitely stolen house pets.

 

The condition of the truck and stolen house pets is what I am fighting against. My baby boy is laying in bed next to me as a write this.

Stanley

He is not food. I could not kill and eat my dog any easier than I could kill and eat my daughter. He is family. And someone stole other people’s babies, shoved them onto this hellish truck, and sent them all the way across the country to be slaughtered and eaten.

Before anyone asks I have seen trucks transporting cattle and pigs in China. They look just like the trucks in the US do. They don’t shove more than 300 pigs onto one truck and have them so packed in that they are distorted and the ones on bottom are trampled to death. This is a special way of transport just for dogs apparently.

It has been 8 days since then. I have been to the shelter 5 times to help clean the kennel, bathe the dogs, and give them love. Yesterday for the first time some other people came with me. It was very nice to have help. Local Chinese volunteers come out everyday and say they are there to help but just like the night of the heist and hiking up mountains they wear nice clothes and don’t want to get them dirty so they won’t come in the kennel with the dogs. Instead they stand around taking pictures of me working and post them on their We Chat. It infuriates me but on the other hand I remind myself that volunteering and helping others, especially dogs, is not a part of Chinese culture so the mere fact that they are there really does say something. For a short while a group of five locals came in the kennel to help clean. They told me they had adopted a dog on the first day and they wanted to come back and help. I almost cried. It was the first time I had seen any Chinese person other than shelter employees actually come in the kennel and get dirty. Tomorrow a local friend of mine is going to help. I do not mean to have the White Savior Complex and imply the locals that come out don’t care. They really do. Why else would they drive so far to get there? I think they just don’t really know what to expect, they wear their normal nice clothes, and then realize there’s not really anything they can do without ruining them. I hope they’ll all come back next week in their old jeans and help!

Some friends and I bathing dogs

The owner of the kennel and the manager really care. The manager of the shelter was so overwhelmed with emotion the first time I met her she cried, the owner is a Buddhist and has Buddhist chants playing at all times on the grounds. Another way they show they care is giving the dogs bones to chew on even though they are dog bones and that is pretty weird from my cultural way of thinking. I wonder if it’s a Buddhist thing? Waste nothing? I really don’t know.

The kennel itself is a mixture of happiness and sadness. Some of the dogs are badly injured and some of them are very ill. They cannot afford medical treatment so the dogs either heal or die. One to five of them die everyday. Some are in such terrible shape that I arrive in the morning and they are dead by the time I leave in the afternoon but euthanasia is strictly against Chinese culture. They think of it as murder. No matter how much the poor thing is suffering they will just leave it there to die instead of putting it out of its misery. But that’s not a thing with just this shelter. That’s China. Omg when my poor baby cat went into kidney failure at the age of 16 and I couldn’t find a vet to help put her out of her misery I just about went crazy.

My babies

During the first 2 days almost all of the pure breed dogs were adopted. There is still one German Shepherd puppy with a deformed foot, one ancient Rottweiler, one Mastiff, and one adorable Golden Retriever/Mastiff mix, and one Malamute, other than that it’s almost all mixed breeds. Between adoptions and deaths about half of them are gone now. Many of them are so sweet you’d cry if you came and want to take them all home with you. There are maybe 50 that were clearly street dogs and cower and run away when you get too close. I have fallen in love with a couple of them and it truly breaks my heart that I will have to leave them soon. I only have 22 days left in China.

Left overs

I have been so miserable here and for the past 6 months I have been counting the days before I get to get the fuck out and now one month before I leave I fall in love and have the greatest reason to stay. The saddest, saddest thing to me is that when I leave there will be no one to give them love. They’ll live the rest of their lives in that kennel and may never feel human touch again. I don’t blame the shelter at all. Oh my god they care, they really care but there are no more than 5 people there and they have 2,000 dogs to take care of. They don’t have time to give the dogs affection. And other foreign volunteers? They’ll lose interest. Please prove me wrong if you’re reading this.

I just got home from my sixth time to go out there and help in nine days. We rescued over 300 dogs. Fifty to sixty of them, basically all the pure breeds, have been adopted, fifty to sixty have died and I see little hope for the rest to ever find homes. About twenty of them are either sick or injured and about thirty of them are wildish street dogs. In the end was it really worth it? I struggle with that. I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just depressed. I looked around this afternoon and thought to myself these are the leftovers. These are the ones no one wants. It doesn’t matter how sweet their personalities are they don’t look expensive so they get looked over. Out of over 300 dogs 50 of them found homes and the rest are either dead, sick, injured, or will live the rest of their lives locked in a cage. Is taking a sweet, sweet happy little puppy dog and locking it in a cage with little to no human contact for the rest of its life really better than cooking it up for dinner?

 

 

 

 

I’m Done.

All my life I have always been told I am the friendliest person anyone has ever met. I smile at people, I talk with strangers, I help people even when it is an inconvenience for me. I go out of my way to make people happy. If I know I can do something to make someone else’s life a little easier I always do it. That’s who I am.

People ask me frequently how/why my Chinese is so good after studying so little and I credit it to my personality. I am super friendly and I speak to pretty much everyone I see. I think this is a main reason that I have many experiences in China that lots of others seem to not have. Also, I have not been working so I did not immediately walk into an English speaking environment and an instant circle of friends. When I moved here I spent my days 100% alone while my husband was at work and my daughter was at school. I did not meet my first English speaker for the first 8 months I was here. I was in a sink or swim situation. I was either going to be depressed and crying at home or fucking go out, learn the language, and make friends. Anyone that knows me knows I would choose option B.

It has not served me well. As of today I give up. I refuse to speak to strangers anymore. I will not go out anymore unless it is with the very few people that I know and trust and if any stranger approaches me I very well may tell them to fuck off. It has taken a long time and a LOT of bad experiences to make me, ME, embittered but I am finally there.

I’m not the super friendly, outgoing, smiley, helpful woman that I was two years ago. I’m just not.

I have experiences here that others seem to not have. I have people not believe me, I have people tell me that China is the safest place in the world for women, I have expat women tell me they have never had such experiences here and you know what? Fucking good for you. I’m happy for you. I can already imagine now all the comments I’m going to get saying nothing like that happens/happened to me in China. I have thoughts on why that is:

Most expats I know live in expat bubbles. They only hang out with other expats and the only Chinese people they know are their co-workers and perhaps their co-workers’ friends. They also speak little to no Chinese so they have no clue what strangers are saying to them most of the time. Their Chinese co-workers speak English and are college educated and they base all Chinese people off them. According to Wikipedia 6% of Chinese people speak English and 17% of Chinese people go to college. So they are basing all Chinese people off the maybe 10-15 people they know from the top, top, top tier of society. Sure, maybe they talk to the parents of the kids they teach. You know, the kids whose school tuition is at least 3 x’s higher than the local minimum wage. That’s like a Chinese person going to America and attending Harvard for one semester then basing all Americans off the friends they made there.

I have far more interactions with local people than any of them do. They are at work all day and I’m out talking to people. I talk to 15-20 people a day or more. I stop and have conversations with security guards, I talk to the cashier at the market, I talk to the person next to me on the subway, I talk to the other people that are out walking their dogs while I am walking mine, I talk to the person at the table next me at the coffee shop, I talk to the person in the elevator, I talk to the taxi driver, I talk to the waiter, I talk to the lady doing the awesomely huge cross-stitch I’ve been watching for a year now that sits on the sidewalk every afternoon working on it, I talk to the lady at the cardboard recycling place across the street, I talk to my neighbors. I freakin’ talk to everyone. And my Chinese is pretty decent these days. I can have conversations with these people I speak with.

I have lived in Xi’an, China for 2 years, 3 months, and 7 days. In that time here are a few the experiences I have had:

  1. While standing at a bus stop with my husband a man walked over and groped my ass.
  2. While reaching in my pockets to find money a motorcycle taxi driver grabbed my breast.
  3. While standing in line for a restroom 3 men tried to drag me into a room. Your guess is as good as mine what they planned to do to me in there.
  4. In an elevator a man grabbed my arm with one hand and my breast with his other while pushing me up against the wall.
  5. A man walked straight up to me on a sidewalk and molested my breasts.
  6. While dancing in a club a woman dropped to her knees and began giving me oral sex through my clothes.
  7. A woman jumped on me and began dry humping me and I had to fight her off me.
  8. A woman grabbed my breasts with both hands and refused to let go.
  9. A taxi driver, while I was handing him money through the bars, grabbed my hand and began kissing it while repeatedly begging me to have sex with him.
  10. I have had 6, yes 6, taxi drivers ask me to go to a hotel and have sex with him during his break.

Is ten enough? Naw… let’s just talk about my past 4 days. Friday night I went to a concert at a very small venue. I was there by myself and I was seated on a couch with some people I did not know. I was my normal friendly self and all of a sudden after about half an hour the guy next to me just takes my hand. I was a bit startled and before I could even react he asked me to go home with him. That’s not even where the story ends. When I refused and he left angry his friends seemed shocked I did not take him up on his offer. They told me he was rich, he could do anything he wanted with women, and I should have gone with him. I told them he picked the wrong woman.

Then today, and remember that was Friday and this is Monday, I was feeling a bit lonely because my husband and daughter are in the US for Christmas and I went to a coffee shop. The guy at the table next to me spoke a little English and was thrilled to practice it. My Chinese is way better than his English so we spoke about 75% Chinese 25% English. He was very pleasant and we had a really nice talk. We spoke for about twenty minutes when I told him I was going to go home. That’s when he said…drum roll please… “I can drive you home and we can fuck.” (In English)

And I haven’t even touched on how many people here so frequently call me fat and ugly since I already blogged about that a few months ago. It hasn’t stopped.6055443e0392de0f563187a91882cf92

Am I saying that every single Chinese person I meet is an asshole or a disgusting pig? No. I have met some truly wonderful people here. Am I saying that I have met enough assholes and pigs here to make me, ME, an angry bitter woman that does not even want to talk to people anymore? Yes.

Can these things happen to me anywhere in the world, even the US? Yes! They absolutely could but the fact is they have not. This is my own empirical evidence based on my own personal experiences. I have never had such a high rate of such incidents in my life and I have traveled in over 20 countries. I know it’s not a China and only China problem. I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is these are some of things that have happened to me while living here. Why do I not write more about all the good times I have here? Because none of the good things need to be changed. If we don’t talk about the bad shit that happens in the world how will it ever get better?

Oh! And here’s the best part. I will have more people call me a racist bitch over this blog entry. I wrote about 12 creepy sexual assaults or comments but if I had to come up with a number I would say I have been either assaulted or been told something sexually crude, called fat and told I eat too much, and/or been called ugly somewhere between 300-350 times. And that’s on the low end. I have lived here 827 days. That means that every 2.2 days here I have been assaulted either physically or verbally. I don’t like it here and I am ready to go. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: maybe I’ll hate the next place too! But I sure am ready to give it a try.

Big advantage of the next place: I will be working too! I get the luxury of English speaking all day and the instant friends.

 

 

 

NAFTA, New Balance, TPP, and Trump

I am deeply saddened from all the pro-NAFTA posts I have seen from my otherwise well informed, left leaning friends. Please stop it. You are doing exactly what the other folks do. Just because Trump is against something does not mean you should love it. Life is not that simple.

Absolutely everything out of Trump’s mouth is not wrong. While the things that he says that are wrong are so very, very wrong I could never look past them, some of the stuff he says is alright. Like NAFTA was a bad idea and the TPP is too. Don’t want to trust me? Bernie Sanders is against the TPP as well. So were many of you until all of sudden now when Trump says he is against it many of you have back tracked and are saying maybe TPP isn’t so bad. I mean if Trump is against it then I have to love it, right? WRONG.

Let me guess… you don’t really, and I mean REALLY, even know what NAFTA is right? Outside of the North American Free Trade Agreement and possibly a middle school level explanation a teacher gave you years ago. It’s okay. No one can see you reading this, even me, so you only have to admit it to yourself.

Let me tell you a little about NAFTA:

Corn farmers in the US get government subsidies. That means the US government pays them to grow corn. Mexican farmers do not get paid to grow corn. That means that in small, local markets all over Mexico corn that was grown in the United States and shipped on trucks all the way to Mexico is still cheaper than the corn Jose right down the road grew on his farm. So Jose goes broke because if you’re a poor Mexican you buy the cheap corn.

NAFTA took land away from the indigenous people’s of Mexico and sold it to US corporations. People that had been living on the land for hundreds, even thousands, of years all of a sudden found themselves kicked off their homesteads with nowhere to go. Men in suits came with papers saying this land belongs to us now, built fences, and bull dozed homes. What were the people to do? (Look into the Zapatista movement)

imagesUS corporations, took the indigenous peoples’ land and built factories on it, told them they could then have jobs paying shit in the factory that was on the land their ancestors had lived on since the beginning, the wages are menial, the products are then shipped back to the US (tariff free) and sold at incredible markup to keep the companies getting ever richer.

When people lose their ancestral homes, or lose their farms due to cheaper US foods coming in they often turn to the only thing they can to keep their families alive: crime. Cartels grow, murders grow, kidnappings grow, theft grows, the gun trade grows and more. These gangs are often formed by families that lost their land and lost their livelihood to NAFTA. Most of the drugs are then shipped to the US to be sold to the very people that took away the only way of life they had ever known. So we, the people of the United States, took what was theirs, called it our own, and now blame them for the crime we created.

Others, the ones that don’t turn to crime, may risk their lives to get to the US. They illegally cross the border, to live in the shadows, bust their asses working long hours and living in shit conditions, under the constant fear of being found out and deported and all the while being harassed by the right just so they can send money home to support the families that they used to support with their farm. Their farm they lost because of NAFTA .

And I haven’t even touched on how NAFTA is responsible for the sad state of Flint, Michigan these days. I haven’t mentioned how over one million US jobs have been lost do to NAFTA. And I won’t. You have Google. Go!

tpp_finalNow the TPP is a plan that will do the same things and have all the same effects but on even more countries. New Balance, as a company, is anti-TransPacific Partnership because of the worldwide negative effects it will have. Donald Trump is also anti TPP. When Matthew LeBretton of New Balance said “The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us, and, frankly, with president-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.” he was not speaking of hate, he was speaking of keeping factories in America. On this topic I agree with Trump and I am not ashamed to admit it. I am anti-NAFTA and I am anti-TPP. It has been a complete PR disaster for them and we, the left, should stand behind them and show them our support.

I will still wear my New Balance shoes and I will wear them proudly. 960x0

Cassandra is on Self Imposed Exile

So let’s talk about the presidential election. I was not surprised by the results. I know many of you were and I am fully prepared for all the hate that will come my way for saying this but many people simply don’t see reality. I believe it is human nature but far too many people fall for the False-Consensus Bias. That’s what my husband and I call the Look Left, Look Right Syndrome. If all your friends drink a twelve pack a night that’s what you think is normal. In the same way if all your friends lean one political way that’s what you think is normal. Also, most people swear they are not under the bias of False Consensus and that they are realists. Let me assure you my friends, you are wrong.

Most of the people I am friends with, therefore most of the people that will read this, are from major cities. Most people in cities lean to the left. When is the last time you spent any real time outside of the city? Like more than a day trip to the mountains or perhaps a weekend visit to the in-laws? Before leaving the country 2 years ago I had spent the last 5 years in the most conservative county of one of the most conservative states of America. I spent 5 years surrounded by the people that elected Trump. In fact ¾ of my life has been spent outside of big cities in the US. I have always been the outsider, the one liberal in a sea of red.

Many of my friends are from Atlanta so I will share this picture of the Atlanta voting map taken from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-4-54-17-pmYou voted Democrat right? And everyone you know voted Democrat right? So how did this happen? Most likely it is true. I mean look at this map. You live in the city, you have always lived in the city, you spend very little time outside of the city, you’re probably one of those people that after 5 years never once came to one of my monthly parties because it was in the ever-dreaded OTP (Outside The Perimeter), and so the liberal lean you have seems normal to you. But you see where it turns red up there? That’s where I spent my last 5 years in Georgia. ¾ of my life has been in various red areas of our national map!!! I know how they think and I know they are there.

I have been complaining about, and terrified of this growing hate-filled, anti-intellectual, pro-ignorance movement in the US for a long time. When I talk about it or warn about it, as I am often prone to do, I am always met with resistance. I have people tell me I am exaggerating. They tell me I am overreacting. They tell me I am too cynical. They tell me it’s not really that bad, that I should calm down, things are getting better and better. They give me condescending lectures and act like they know better than me. They say things like oh, you just think that way because you’ve had bad experiences. Look! We even have a black man as president! I have warned and warned about this coming and no one listens. Why do they not listen? Because they live in liberal bubbles of the big cities and they think that it is normal for the rest of the country. I saw it coming and I left. Now that the US has elected a hatemongering, racist, sexist, Islamaphobic, pussy-grabbing, reality TV star as our president will I be taken seriously? Probably not. It’s okay. I’m used to it.
Want a feel for what America is like? Get out of your comfort zone. Leave the city and do it often. Choose some random small town and go spend the weekend in it. Eat in greasy spoons. Talk to the locals. You’ll see they are nothing like the people you know in the city. You don’t have to go far. Less than 2 hours from your home and I assure you it’s a different world. If you do that you will begin to understand that the United States of America is not the place you think it is. Well maybe this election made you see that but spending time outside of the city, real time not just the occasional drive through, will make you understand why.

 

Why are Chinese people so mean?

I complain about this a lot but Chinese people are mean and I hate it. It’s days like this that I have to chant to myself over and over again one more year, just one more year and it’s a different culture, they don’t mean to be mean, it’s a different culture.

IMG_20160428_093326By using the standard US sizing chart the average Chinese woman is a size 2. That’s the average sized woman. The woman pictured here is a woman I saw a couple months ago. She is the standard of beauty here.  The thinner you are and the more skeletal you look the more beautiful you are. You only think it is bad in the States. A girl I know here is a size 6 and people call her fat. Her own mother calls her fat. She calls her almost everyday and tells her no man wants to marry a fatty and she’s going to have to lose weight. Size 6!!!!

I am a US size 12 today. That’s a full 6 times larger than the average Chinese woman but the average American woman is a size 14. When they call a size 6 fat just imagine how they treat me. I am brought to tears on a regular basis. Strangers walk up to me in the street, grab my arm and call me fat. In restaurants people at other tables joke that the owner should tell me I can’t eat anything because I’m fat enough, I have even been called a whale more than once. One time a group of children surrounded me pointing and laughing at me while calling me fat. Another time a complete fucking stranger sat down with me at a café and told me I was too fat and too ugly to be out in public and I needed to stay home. I’ve been window shopping before, just window shopping, and the employees come out and shoo me off while yelling at me that I’m too fat and they don’t have anything for me. That has happened several times.  This is me. I took these pictures last week:

megym1megym2

No one in the US would ever call me fat.

The same thing always happens to me. I always start crying on the spot. I have been brought to tears in my two years in China more often than ever before in my life. But today something happened. I was finally able to get angry instead of sad!

As many of you know I had cancer 9 years ago. The tumors themselves weren’t really that bad of a problem but there were many complications with my surgery and I was left with a very serious health problem. VERY SERIOUS. While no one can look at me and see that I am sick I really am. No need to get into details here but my illness prevents me from raising my heartbeat too much which prevents me from exercising too hard or I could oh yeah, you know, die. And I’d kinda rather not do that. I can exercise but I can’t push myself too hard and it has to be light stuff. I walk on the treadmill, I use an elliptical, and I lift weights. I go to the gym 5 days a week. Before my sickness I was a size 7 and while a size 12 is not huge I am very sensitive to it and I don’t need to be reminded 5 times a day that I’m fat and ugly.

Well today I was at the gym on the treadmill and one of the trainers approached me. She didn’t waste any time. The first thing she told me was “你胖了” you’re fat. She didn’t wait for me to speak she just laid into me. You’re fat, you have to run or you will always be fat. You need to work harder because you are so fat. You really are very fat. Run faster. You are fat.

I told her exactly what my Chinese teacher taught me to say. I have a health condition, the doctor says I cannot exercise too hard. This is the most I can do. But she just kept repeating I was fat and I had to run faster. I thought maybe she didn’t understand me so I pulled out my phone translator I typed up that I have a serious illness and I cannot run I can only walk. She told me I was wrong and I needed to run. She told me I was sick because I was fat. She kept saying it over and over again. Of course you are sick. You are sick because you are so fat.

I walked away from her 2 times and she followed me. She kept saying that I was sick because I was fat and I had to lose the weight. You’re fat. You’re really fat. Work harder. You’re fat. You will be sick your whole life if you stay so fat. You are so fat.

Finally I snapped and I said I’m leaving and I stormed out of the gym. She followed me and kept asking what was wrong and why I was leaving. I told her to fuck off. With that she left me alone. I have only cursed at a couple people here in China and they have all been taxi drivers. I do curse often but I do not curse at people. That is different. I must be very angry to curse at a person.

This behavior is very common here in China. If you don’t know about it  and you live here it’s because you’re not of a size they consider fat or ugly, or if you don’t live here no one talks about it with you for fear of being called a racist. Well fuck that. By a Western standard Chinese people are fucking mean.

With that being said I understand that I am coming from a completely Western biased opinion. Don’t forget my degree is in sociology and I understand this stuff. I get it… collectivist society and all that jazz. I had a long conversation with a Chinese friend of mine about it today. He is a sociologist. We agreed that it is a collectivist thing. No one here gives a fuck about the individual, only the group matters. No one cares about others’ feelings and no one cares at all about what they say or don’t say to an individual. Children are not taught to be considerate of others’ feelings. The feelings of the individual simply do not matter and are never brought into consideration during conversation. That’s just how they roll. They don’t realize how awfully mean they come across as to Westerners when they say such things and I’m at least fairly certain that if they knew how mean we thought it was they wouldn’t say it but OMG some days I just can’t take it.

I once read a very interesting article on how traveling the world can make one more elitist and I have to say it’s happening to me. Ever since I was a kid I have been that uber lefty super open-minded accepting and loving of everyone person but living in China is changing that about me.

I cannot say I am disappointed about coming here. I really have enjoyed learning the language. It is so very difficult and I love the challenge. And I have done loads of academic research on the culture. I understand it and from an objective standpoint I can write about what they do and why the do it but on a personal level I do not have to like it. I can absolutely without one hesitation for even a split second say I do not like Chinese culture.

I am not required to like everyone and everything I encounter in life. I fully understand why they do the things I hate so much and I understand that I hate it because of my Western upbringing but that does not change the fact that I hate it. I understand that allowing their kids to take a shit in the elevator is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. I understand that when they hold their toddlers over the swimming pool to let them pee in it it is not because they are bad people but uneducated people. I understand that spitting on the floor of the restaurant is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. I understand that when my housekeeper spits loogies up on my living room floor she thinks it’s perfectly fine because she will mop it up later and it is my Western bias that thinks that’s gross. I understand that calling me fat and ugly is only wrong by my standards and not theirs. But the simple fact is I am Western and when I am called fat and ugly at least 5 times a day it does take a toll on me.

I get it. I came to their country I need to accept their standards. But I can’t. I just can’t. I am ready to go. My two years here have turned me into an angry, cynical, overall not happy at all person when this is not who I want to be.

And before any of you go and write me and say I shouldn’t let it bother me I assure you my answer will be fuck off. If you lived in a society where at least 5 times a day you were called fat and ugly I imagine you would struggle with it to. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Yeah. Fuck that. Words hurt.

 

Funeral in a rural village in China 坡头村

So my friend texted me after midnight last Wednesday to tell me that his mother had died. He asked me if I would please come to the funeral. I said of course I would not only because his mother died but especially because of my interest in death rituals around the world. My friend lives in a rural village about an hour outside of the city so I was really curious about what the funeral would be like.

As far as I know I may be one of the only foreigners that has ever been to a rural funeral in China. Of course that is only through my own anecdotal research but I have asked everyone I know here and no one has ever been or even knows anyone that has ever been to a funeral in China and I do know for a fact that I and my family are the only foreigners that have ever visited this particular village.

When I arrived I immediately felt out of place because I was wearing black. I had asked a couple people what I should wear and I was told to wear black and white, or black, or white. I don’t have any white clothes other than a white Tshirt so I wore an all black kind of nice outfit. I was the only person in black and I felt I stood out like a sore thumb. Everyone else was in white. I think a crappy white Tshirt would have been more fitting than my black outfit.

Family members were wearing white robes and white pieces of cloth tied around their heads that made them look a lot like extras from a kungfu movie. Word spread immediately that I was there, and I mean like I had not been there 15 seconds before my friend came rushing up to me. He escorted me into his house where they had an alter set up to his mom where I was made to kneel, light incense, then bow to a photo of her her. Then I was taken to the guest gift registry room where there were several old men sitting around a table and one had a long scroll in front of him and a paint brush he was using to record gifts and names. I gave 200¥ (about $30USD) and everyone seemed pleased. Minimum wage in China is $181USD a month and these people live significantly under minimum wage so $30 is a lot of money. IMG_20160617_093211

I sat around for a bit waiting for things to get started while everyone was staring at me, touching me, and asking me a million questions about who I was and why I was in China.

Soon we all paraded to the burial place. The casket was inside a really neat looking litter with a big dragon’s head and tail.

IMG_20160617_094646Music was played, there was much weeping, so much in fact I would believe they were paid to be there,

and a bit to my surprise much celebration. It was like a mixture of an old times Spanish funeral with all the wailing and a good ol’ Irish wake. The family was wailing and the friends were having a grand ol’ time.

At some point about halfway to the burial place we all stopped. Immediate family members were guided by some leader type guy in how to pray in front of the casket. They had to hold their hands in a proper way, kneel a proper way, and bow a proper way a proper amount of times. Some guys teased me and tried to get me to go do it too. It was so weird. I was trying to be all somber and respectful but they were all teasing me and having loads of fun.

We got to the burial site and the hole was already dug. The band set up and played music the while time. The hole was different than we do in the west. It was dug about 10 feet down but then they dug in. So the casket was lowered down and then put into the ground kind of like a drawer. Then they made a wall of bags of dirt where the casket was. Then, and this part apparently is very important because everyone made sure I saw it. A guy took a huge gulp of xi feng jiu (rice liquor local to this province), spit it in a small opening towards the casket, and lit it on fire and a huge flame burst out while they scrambled to get out of there.

 

Then the music stopped quite abruptly and everyone walked back to the house.

My friend requested I wait with him. We hung back for about half an hour and were the last people to return to his home. Apparently at Chinese funerals the immediate family are supposed to be the very last people to leave the graveside. I am definitely not immediate family but he wanted me there so I stayed.

When we got back to his home there was a huge feast. There were at least 200 people there and a lot of xi feng jiu. At things like this everyone wants to drink with the foreigner so by 11:30 in the morning I was very, very drunk.IMG_20160617_112529

I left by 12:00.

After the funeral my black taxi driver (illegal taxi) and I went to explore some old cave dwellings people used to live in during the War of Japanese Aggression, better known to most of you as World War II. I will write about them later.

 

 

 

Every gun article I saw in 12 hours of one day.

I’ve lived in China a year and a half now and people still ask me almost every day if I miss America. My answer is not really. It’s not that I think China is all that.  It’s just I don’t really miss America. Sure, I miss a few things like clean public restrooms, conversations with strangers, finding clothes that fit, and coffee shops that open before 11AM. And don’t think I’ve forgotten you, I miss some of my friends too but let’s be real we probably talk more now that I’m in China than we did for the 4 years I lived in the hell called Gainesville.

It’s like the gods wanted to remind me of how much I don’t miss America. Yesterday I saw a record amount of gun related stories stream across my Facebook wall. I collected a list. Here is every story I saw in a 12 hour span of one day, January 3, 2016:

Good Guy With Gun Kills Shoots Teen for Ringing Doorbell

Good Guy With Gun Shoots Child in Car

Responsible Gun Owner Shoots 9 Year-Old during New Year’s celebration. 

Responsible Gun Owner Tries to Use Gun as Alarm Clock

Armed Militia Has Taken Over Federal Building

Road Raging Good Guy With Gun Shoots Woman in Head

Student Crashes Car After Being Shot

Open Carry Nut Fatally Shoots His Own Two Toddlers

Man Fatally Shoots Self While Securing Dog to a Chain

Four Dead From Gun Shot Wounds After Arguing Over Laundry

Responsible Gun Owner Mistakes Gun for Wallet, Shoots Self

Gun Discharges in MRI Machine at VA Hospital

US Cops have already killed more since Christmas Than UK Cops Have Killed in the Past 5 Years

Ammosexual Robbed of His Gun at Gunpoint

Man Dies of Stupidity. Puts Gun to Head While Joking. 

Texas Businesses Adapt to Open Carry Law

Man Fatally Shot Inside Fast Food Restaurant

Gun Violence Archives

玉林狗肉节 The Yulin Dog Meat Festival

This past week I took the trip to 玉林中国 (Yulin China) to experience the 狗肉节 Dog Meat Festival. From what I had read about the place and from my own personal feelings towards dogs I expected to see and meet a bunch of brutal, heartless people. I thought they would be monsters.

That’s not what I experienced at all. I met the most heart-warming, friendly, kind, welcoming people I have encountered in my 10 months in China. Everyone wanted to make sure I felt welcomed in their home town. It was a trying experience for me all around since I have only been studying Chinese for 9 months and I traveled alone for 6 days. In my entire 6 days I only met 4 people that could speak even a few words of English. So I was dealing with the stress of knowing I was about to see fresh dog and cat meat in an open-air market and I could barely communicate with anyone.

Travel time to Yulin from where I live in Xi’an is 36 hours by train plus a layover. One 24 hour train, a several hour layover and then a 12 hour train. I arrived very tired very late at night. The taxi driver screwed me on the fare but honestly I was so tired at that point I didn’t even care. I arrived at my hotel and while no one spoke a word of English they tried their best to communicate with me and I got checked in.

The next morning was the big day. It was the day before the festival and I was going to go to the meat market to see what it was like. It was a 20-minute walk to the market. When I arrived the first thing I saw was a butcher shop with dead cats and dogs hanging on racks. It was shocking. I attempted to take pictures but an old woman yelled at me so I moved on.yulin1

The place is huge and I had no idea where to go and I wound up in the fowl section. There were hundreds, no thousands, of cages of birds of all kinds for sale. There were chickens, ducks, and pigeons, and geese, sparrows, some birds I had never seen before all ready to be bought by you, killed and plucked for eating.yulin2

Next I walked through the fish section. It was a very large area with hundreds and hundreds of tanks with fish. They also sold oysters and clams.yulin3

Next I saw goats. There were whole goats hanging on hooks at stalls. There was goat heads lying about on tables. There were big piles of goat legs. There were various parts of goats lying around and happy, cheerful women chopping them up.

Then I saw several tables of pig and one table of cow meat. Everyone was friendly to me. All the butchers wanted to know who I was, where I was from, why I was there, and if they could get their picture with me.yulin10

Finally, drum role here, I came to the dogs. Besides the quick jolt of emotion from my dog loving heart it wasn’t really that bad. There were butchered dogs right next to butchered goats.yulin27

Westerners have a real disconnect about knowing where their food comes from. We don’t like to think about the fact that my burger was once a living animal. We don’t even like to eat fish with bones in it and the idea of getting served a chicken with it’s head still on it is the stuff of nightmares for many. It’s not like that here. The people know where their food comes from. When they want meat they go to the butcher and they see the whole dead animal hanging there on the hook. And if you buy a chicken in the supermarket it still has it’s head and feet.

To them dog is just another livestock animal like a goat. They’re not eating people’s pets. They’re eating dogs raised to be food. Now I can’t say that I know 100% that no pets are stolen and sold to be eaten but I didn’t see any of it and I asked several people and they had never heard of that happening.

Sure there are pictures of dogs with collars at the market but it’s very different here. Most dogs in China are kept only as protection and they are on short chains tied up somewhere out front of the house and they’re lucky when someone throws them a little food. They are miserable beings in poor health that no one ever touches. They live from puppy to death on a 6-foot chain with no protection from the elements, and no affection. They eat and sleep in their own shit. They are not considered, or even called in their language, pets. In the Chinese language they have completely different words for a dog that lives in your home with you and a dog that’s tied up out front. The one in your home with you may be considered part of the family but the one tied up out front is given no more consideration than a goat in a pen.yulin31

The dogs with collars are often people’s old guard dogs that have never been touched by a human in their lives. The owners have decided the dog is too old or not good at its job for some other reason and they’ll take it to the market like a pig or a goat and try to make some money on it. These are not dogs that run and play with children, these are not kind house pets, they are livestock.

A friend we’ve made that lives in a rural village about an hour away has one of these dogs. We went to visit and of course I wanted to play with the puppy dog! I asked the dog’s name and my friend just looked at me funny. Name? Then when I went to pet the dog our friend freaked out and told me not to touch the dog, it’s not a pet, and it’s dirty. Of course I didn’t listen and when I could sneak out of the house without being seen I went to pet the dog. We’ve been back 2 times and each time I give the dog as much love as I can. It looks to be about 10 years old and I’m the only human that has ever touched it. These are the kinds of dogs with collars that you see in the pictures of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival.

Honestly, I think these dogs are better off dead. What kind of an existence is that? Living their entire life on a short chain? Living in their own urine and feces? Constantly on the verge of starvation because the only food they get is the occasional scraps thrown at them. No affection at all ever. I’m bothered by eating dog, I am, but for these poor creatures I see their death as a mercy killing. I am far more disturbed by the way that these dogs live their lives than I am by what happens to them after their deaths.

That’s that for the ones in collars. But the vast majority of the dogs are raised as livestock on farms. They grow them in pens just like pigs and goats. While it’s hard for Westerners to think about dogs being raised like that it’s just a matter of fact in Yulin. They don’t see any difference in the dog on the pen than a goat in the pen.yulin7

I spent my entire day in the market. I saw hundred of dogs butchered and sold in front of me. I saw a dog killed. They slit it’s throat humanely just like they do the goats. I had many conversations. Many people wanted to know the same things from me: Why do Westerners come here and get mad at them for eating dog? They eat cow, they eat pig, they eat chicken, why don’t they eat dog? And why do they not want us to eat dog? It was a great point. It’s the same argument vegans make when they post those pictures on Facebook with pictures of cute puppies saying you won’t eat this but you’ll eat this with a picture of a piglet. I explained to them that in American culture dogs are part of the family and eating a dog would be likened to eating a child.

Every person I told that to was shocked. It was an ah-ha moment for them because now they understood why the foreigners that come are so angry but they were always quick to explain that they weren’t eating pets. These dogs have never slept on a couch, and sat in a lap, or licked a face, these dogs were raised as food. I told them I understood that but most Americans don’t.

The most surreal experience I had was sitting and petting a cocker spaniel while a woman was chopping up dog heads right there next to me. I was so close that little bits and blood were splattering on my leg. I asked the woman how she could do this all day and have a pet dog at the same time and she didn’t understand my question. Once again she made it clear to me that her cocker spaniel is a pet and this dog she’s cutting up is food. They are not the same.yulin6

Almost everyone I met was incredibly warm and friendly. They were leery of me at first but when I explained that I was not here to protest them they opened up to me and welcomed me. The woman with the cocker spaniel invited me for dinner with her family and they took me out that night. They drove me around in a car and showed me the town. They took me to a fancy teashop and we had a tea ceremony. Then at 12:30 at night we went out for a midnight snack. They were nothing but laughter and warmth the whole time. They weren’t heartless monsters at all. They were the nicest people I’ve met since moving to China.

I was there in Yulin for 2.5 days. I met more friendly people and felt more welcomed there than I have felt anywhere else in China. I loved the people there. Sure, some people didn’t want their picture taken and I respected that. Many of them know that foreigners come to protest them so they are very defensive about having their picture taken. More than once I had old men or women shake their fists at me but it was like the stereotypical old man yelling “Get off my lawn” it wasn’t as if they were really going to hurt me. Most of the time after talking to them for a moment they turned all smiles and let me take all the picture I wanted. Some simply requested that I not get their face in the picture. There was one time that I was somewhere I didn’t exactly have permission to be and I was shooting video and a guy got mad at me and sprayed me with a water hose. If I were a CNN reporter I would claim I was assaulted.

I have read all the articles and seen all the coverage just like you have and I can honestly say that almost everything CNN and other news reporters say is sensationalism looking for ratings. An old man shaking his fist and yelling at kids to get off his lawn is not “threatening” those kids. A butcher with a knife in his hand yelling at me to not take his picture is not threatening me with a knife. He’s a butcher and he’s at work of course he has a knife in his hand. I never once felt threatened or in danger in the slightest while I was there.

I met happy, kind, friendly, loving, smiley people that wanted nothing more than to make me feel welcomed. There was one woman that was really excited to have me take her picture. She wants me to put it on the Internet because she wants to be famous! I’m torn about whether I should actually post her picture here or not because she was so nice to me I don’t want people to use her picture against her on activist sites.

One more thing: the Dog Meat Festival is a pretty small thing. It’s not a big deal in town at all. It’s like when any big city in the States has a festival of some kind. Sure people go but it’s not like everyone does. The population of Yulin is one million people. That’s roughly the size of Dallas, Texas. There were maybe 5,000 people at the festival. I met people all over the city that don’t eat dog, don’t go to the festival, and couldn’t believe that I had come all the way here just to see it.

The protesters have been really good for their business. Apparently ever since activists have been drawing attention to the festival it is getting more and more popular every year! In Yulin dog meat is available in the market 365 days a year there and it’s eaten all the time but the festival itself is only becoming more and more popular and they believe it is the activists that are bringing them the business.

In the end, they’re not monsters they are wonderfully kind people. They don’t view dogs the same way we do and they don’t understand why we’ll eat pig but we won’t eat dog. If you’re reading this unless you’re a vegan it’s hard argue with them on an objective level. Humans have been raising dogs and breeding them to look exactly how we want them to look for tens of thousands of years. We selectively breed them to make them cute and cuddly, to watch us, to obey us but ultimately they are animals. We have real emotions and feelings towards dogs. These people don’t have the same feelings. In the end pigs are highly affectionate and highly intelligent animals as well. How can you eat a pig with no problem but never consider eating a dog? Where are the activist starting petitions and paying to save hundreds of pigs from slaughter? We’ll save the dogs because we are emotional about them but what about the chickens?

yulin16

 

Here are my best of photos. You DO NOT have my permission to use my photos elsewhere.

 

Holi Festival in Xian at Redfort Restaurant

Ah Spring time! The forgiving of trespasses, blooming of flowers, cleaning of homes, buying of new clothes, the welcoming of Spring is heralded worldwide often through festivals. There is the Songkran Festival in Thailand, Las Fallas in Spain, Easter in the United States, Nowruz in Persia, The Spring Festival in China, Holi in India and many, many more.

This past weekend I celebrated the Indian Holi Festival here in China at the Redfort Indian Restaurant. An Indian couple that worked at the same school as my husband resigned and Saturday was their last day here. Several of us joined them in celebrating Holi as a farewell party. If they were not leaving I wouldn’t have even known about the event at the restaurant.

Holi is all about frolic and play. Traditionally anyone in an open space is fare game to have dye thrown on them but for us it was a bit subdued. We were quite the spectacle as there were a bunch of Indians and white folk dancing and throwing colored dye on each other in the designated area while scores of Chinese people stood around watching us and taking pictures.

There was an all you can eat and drink buffet for $30. There was music, dancing, throwing of colored dye, water guns, and yoga performances.IMG_1326

Many of you know that in my twenties I did the totally stereotypical spiritual quest that many Western youngsters do and became very interested in Eastern culture. I’m still extremely interested in Indian culture and I’d love to visit or even live there for a while sometime.IMG_1339

I’ve participated in many Indian themed events but truly this Holi festival at the Redfort was by far my favorite. The all you can drink part helped with the awkwardness of being around some of the people that were there that aren’t exactly my favorite people in the world, Indian food is one of my all time favorite foods, and I love dancing.

Indian men are always the best dancers and I’ve always had a thing for Indian men so with the combination of great food, wine, music, and attractive men covered in paint dancing in front of me it was a pretty awesome time.

We took our daughter and thought she would have a blast but instead what she did most of the day was hide and cry. It turns out loud music and a bunch of adults dancing while covered in paint is more scary to an 8 year old than it is fun. It makes me feel like a bad artist mom. As if I haven’t exposed my child to enough craziness. Well I guess I can’t do everything for her. She’s 8 and she’s been to 13 countries I shouldn’t be too upset that dancing purple people scared her.

Here’s a short video I made.