Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy Belated Mother's Day - An Article

Here's my Mother's Day column for the May issue of beijingkids.
Still can't get into my own blog, but I can see that my little messages are getting to you. And I can see my Google Reader piling up with unreachable posts. I'm still hoping to get access back some time in June, but who knows? Gotta love those Chinese censors.

the air we breathe

James Fallows stopped by the Embassy to give a talk last week. He's a smart, interesting guy, and it doesn't hurt that I'd like to be him when I grow up - or at least be able to make a living as a writer like he does. Alas.... Anyway, recently he posted a little ditty on his blog about air quality here versus the States.
Can't wait to get home this summer and breathe some clean air.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

See? It isn't just me.

Sorry I can't post the link to this article - as you might imagine, I can't get to it. Can't read any blogs, either.  On the plus side, I save lots of time when I'm not spending any time visiting my google reader.


Bloggers frustrated as Beijing blocks Google service

Staff Reporter


20 May 2009

South China Morning Post

Blogger.com, Google's free blog service, has been blocked by mainland authorities since late last week, and thousands of users have complained.

It is the second time in less than two months that users have been unable to access popular platforms.

In March, netizens were denied access to Google's video-sharing website YouTube after a film showing police brutally beating Tibetans in last year's Lhasa riots was uploaded. Xinhua said the video was fabricated by supporters of the Dalai Lama.

This time, netizens do not know why their blogs are being blocked, with many assuming it is related to political sensitivity.

Nick Wong, who has used Blogger since 2006 and first found his blog was blocked last Friday, said most users believed the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown on June 4 could be the reason.

Mr Wong said overseas hosts were the only choice for bloggers who criticised the government, and used sensitive characters in their posts. He said he was going to have to move his blog. "This is my fourth blog to be blocked by the government since 2005," he said.

Google's China headquarters have yet to comment.

Outspoken blogger Bei Feng, whose Blogger site was blocked five years ago, estimated that 200,000 users may have been affected. He added that many Chinese users of Blogger were based overseas.

Amid the release of the memoirs of late party chief Zhao Ziyang , "it was not surprising officials wanted to cut channels like Blogger that the mainland public could use to access Zhao's articles", he added.

Users were already posting hints on forums about how they could blog without censorship. Others were concerned they would lose everything they had posted.

"It really hurts when you realise you might lose all your work from the last couple of years," said Mr Wong, adding that he was not even able to access his blog through a proxy server. "It is even worse when there is nowhere for you to complain."

Amid the series of sensitive anniversaries, which also include the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic on October 1, the authorities have been tightening controls over the media and internet.

Asked about the YouTube block in March, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the government did not fear the internet. "In fact, it is just the opposite," he said.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tragedy on the High Seas

Aidan's kindergarten class had a field trip last week, and boy-oh-boy was it ever exciting. First they went on a bus! All together! To the Blue Zoo! And there were sharks and eels and fishies and even a mermaid! (pretty sure that last one was a person swimming in the aquarium, but whatever.) After that, they had a picnic! With snacks! Two snacks! (I know there were two because I packed the snacks, and he told me for days in advance that it was imperative everyone bring TWO snacks! Two!) After that, they went to the fish market, where the kids chose new fish for the classroom aquariums! He and Timothy chose TWO fish! Two! And they named them.... are you ready for this? They named them "Big Taxi" and "Little Truck" (insert lots of exclamation points here!!!)
So that was Friday. He returned to school this morning, only to find that one of his fish had, tragically, expired. And then, as if that weren't bad enough, the other one leapt out of the tank, bashed its head open, and died. Right there before his very eyes. This was a tragedy of monumental proportions. Two fish, his only fish, over whom he was supposed to watch for the rest of the school year, and both tragically died on his very first day as caretaker, one an apparent suicide.
I listened to the whole story with the kind of empathy only a mother can muster. And then I made the mistake of trying to talk. I was curious, you see, which fish had leapt to its doom. And so, with my best sad face, I said, "I'm so sorry that happened, Aidan. Tell me again, was it Big Taxi or Little Truck who jumped out of the tank?"
And then, gentle reader... I burst out laughing. Because honestly, who names a fish "Big Truck"? Or "Little Taxi," for that matter? Do fish names really need adjectives?
And when I started laughing, Shay started laughing. Soon enough, even Aidan joined in, though I'm not sure he understood why it was so gut-wrenchingly, uproariously funny.
Rest in Peace, Big Taxi.
Same to You, Little Truck.
We hardly knew thee....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hello? Hello?

Okay, well, it appears the Chinese have shut down blogger again, because I can't access any blogs, including my own. I can't even get into my google blog reader. Really annoying stuff here. Did Jill Perlman have her baby yet? What's going on with the American in Norway? Will I ever read the next installment of Greener Grass? Who knows? It's not just me... I've heard from other folks who've also been shut down.
I have not much to say here. I'm just testing a little sumpin-sumpin my sneaky sis set up for me when I first moved here, so I could blog in peace despite constantly changing Chinese restrictions. If you can read this, it worked! And, hey, Chinese government - what's going on? Give me back my blogger. Please?
Always something fun going on around here...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

still writing....

...trying to, anyway.

Here's a little article I wrote recently for the Foreign Service Journal.

And - exciting news alert! - I just sold my first kids' piece to Highlights Magazine. I'm not sure which month it'll run, but I've already deposited the check, so it ought to be soon. I'll keep you posted on that. I've been trying for ages to break in there, so I'm ever-so-pleased.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mosquito Season

Winter is gone, Spring has flown by and here we are, entering Summer already. You can tell summer is here because the mosquitoes have arrived, and it’s time to put new batteries in the tennis rackets.

Seriously. They sell these tennis racket-like devices that you use to kill mosquitoes. Put a couple of AA batteries in them, press a button and aim for a mosquito. It fries the mosquito instantly, and it’s a enormously satisfying way to spend a summer evening in your house. It turns even the most mild-mannered person into a cackling freak. I definitely plan on bringing some rackets back home next year.

It’s been a busy month, with work and kids and work and kids and work and… (sleep, every so often)… and kids and, well, at the end of the day, I’m just too exhausted to update you all.

But my dirty little secret? Going to work is a heck of a lot easier than staying home. It’s quiet; it’s organized; I have a definite, achievable goal in mind; no one calls me a “dummy” or a “meanie”… the list goes on. The hardest part of the day is the transition between the two places. Leaving in the morning isn’t so bad, as the boys are already out the door for school and the girls are preoccupied with Xiao Tong’s arrival. Coming home is trickier: the boys arrive just before me, and want to tell me all about their day. Or, alternately, the boys don’t arrive just before me and I have no idea where they’ve gone (typical of Aidan, who last night didn’t walk in the door until 6:30, and then was surprised when I chewed him out). The girls are all smiles and ready to head out to the playground. They don’t even want to wait for me to change out of my work clothes.

All in all, though, I have to say I’m enjoying work. It’s nice to be writing and know for certain that I’ll be paid for what I’m doing. And it’s interesting and grown-uppy and all that. So I’ll keep going until school lets out, when I’ll need to focus my attention back on the little ones.

The big news of the week is that Ainsley turned one, and like moms everywhere, I had to ask: how’d that happen so fast? But it did, and my little baby girl has poked her first molar through and is on the verge of walking. She claps, she waves, and she holds out her hand, palm upturned, when she wants something to eat. Her eyes might be hazel, her hair might be blonde, but even though she’s a year old, nothing’s certain yet.

This weekend should be busy, with kiddie birthday parties and soccer games and even a Cinco de Mayo party. And, of course, a bit of mosquito tennis.

from 2008...

...to 2009

Please. Write your own stuff.