Archive for December 20th, 2006

Hi Sheila and everyone else,

My friend Sheila asked these questions, but I guess everyone might be interested.

What news networks are broadcast in China? What do your Chinese friends have to say about this administration and the war in Iraq? Can you read the NYTimes or Washington Post online?

There is one main English language station CCTV International from Beijing that we can get 24 hours. It’s a combination of commercial and public tv with many informative programs that focus on China today and its culture. You could even learn Chinese if it’s really possible to learn Chinese. My western ears and tongue are not having an easy time of it. It’s hard to mimic with your mouth what you can’t hear with your ears. The news on CCTV seems pretty even handed given most news anywhere is pretty shallow and unquestioning of the hard issues. We see news stories that talk about Chinese pollution problems and corruption and copyright issues. The central government doesn’t get criticized but the problems are aired. The war in Iraq is covered but America isn’t criticized. But the dividedness of the American population and Congress is mentioned. Coverage of the Middle East is fair too. But then China has always been good to the Jews and many came here to excape Hitler!

Shanghai just had an exhibit of the life of Jews who came from Germany and found a home in Shanghai. There is a video called Shanghai Ghetto that a librarian in the Philly Public Library told me about. You can go to their web site and watch the series on the Yangtze that they are broadcasting now. Go to google and type in cctv international English and you should be able to find it. We also watch channels 8 and 9 because they sometimes have English language programs in the evening. America’s Funniest Home Videos neither gain or lose in translation. (It’s broadcast in English.) Other American shows are on too. For a while we could watch Katie Couric at 7:30 am our time on Channel 9 , but now it’s either a Chinese infomercial or even worse one in English with Alexander Haig. But now we get ABC evening news in that time slot on Channel 8. I think 8 and 9 come from Hong Kong. There are lots of other channels, but they are in Chinese and they all have commercials!

We can go online and read from or and Randal does both. My computer time goes to Much more intriguing than world politics at this point. Interestingly we had dinner last night with 5 college graduates all in their early 20s. 2 of them had 5 kids in their family! The other 3 had 2 children, but the oldest in all cases were boys. All of these examples contradict what we had heard about 1 child per family. Because of the language barrier I didn’t ask how this could be, but they would have spoken honestly. We have had discussions with Lillian and with our Chinese friends at the boat yard. As I’ve said in the past, most people seems interested in family and building good lives for their families or getting good and interesting jobs….just like Americans.

And best of all I still am a member of the Roanoke County Public Library and can go online to the magazine and newspaper databases and read! Actually I could read the electronic books too.

After our first trip to China I read Annie Dillard’s book about visiting China to advise the powers that be what English language books should be translated and published in China with it’s then limited and precious paper resources. Her answers were interesting, but more so was her view of China which I found myself agreeing with from my short impressions. I think the title was something like..Arthur Miller in China. Your local library will help you find it if you are interested.

Do you drive in China?

I believe we would need a license to drive here. I made a joke about driving, because it would be a joke…too much traffic coming from every which way for me to want to drive, and I think we really can’t. But I’ll double check. Of course since the speeds are posted in kilometers I would be in a fix trying to convert all of the time.

How much more work needs to be done on your boat and when do you anticipate leaving China? Who will be on the boat with you and Randal…will you have anyone to help navigate and sail the boat?

Well, we’re not exactly sure when the boat will be done, but hopefully soon. We’ll go to Hong Kong and then on to the Philippines and then and then and then…. Just Randal and me on the boat. We have lots of electronic navigation equipment that he is teaching himself to use so he can teach me too. But that’s what we’ll do with our time in the Phillippines, learn the boat and get really comfortable before we really set off.

If any of you have questions, just ask. I once had to do a segment of Roanoke County Today on the public access channel. The County Administrator, Mr. Hodge was going to ask me questions about the library and I was supposed to answer. I was quite panicked about it, thinking I would have no answers and would just go catatonic. But just before broadcast I said, "You can ask anything you want, but I can only tell you what I know." Actually Mr. Hodge was very skilled at this sort of thing and got me through it with flying colors. I must have even enjoyed it because the then library director, Spencer Watt’s little boy said that I looked like I would be fun to play with! Funny what you remember.

The only way to find answers is for me to ask people and try to take good notes, easier said than done. There is no place to go to look up information, and most information at hand is in Chinese. For a retired reference librarian it is kind of frustrating, but I won’t resort to making it up…at least not yet.


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Ruth and Randal

Boston Red Sox hat travels the world.