Did you know…

  • One third of deaths – some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day – are due to poverty-related causes. That’s 270 million people since 1990, the majority women and children, roughly equal to the population of the US. (Reality of Aid 2004)
  • Every year more than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases – that’s over 30,000 per day and one every 3 seconds. (80 Million Lives, 2003 / Bread for the World / UNICEF / World Health Organization)
  • Over 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day with nearly half the world’s population (2.8 billion) living on less than $2 a day. (UN HDR, 2003)
  • 600 million children live in absolute poverty. (SCF, Beat Poverty 2003).
  • The three richest people in the world control more wealth than all 600 million people living in the world’s poorest countries. (Source:ChristianAid)
  • Income per person in the poorest countries in Africa has fallen by a quarter in the last 20 years. (Source:ChristianAid)
  • 800 million people go to bed hungry every day. (Source:FAO)
  • Every year nearly 11million children die before their fifth birthday. (Source:UNICEF)

    So, while we are sitting around stockpiling drugs for the Asiatic bird flu, worrying that some kid in the midwest shot up his schoolyard, watching Tom Cruise become more of a freak and hanging on the fact that Nicole Richie looks like she is impoverished – some 18 million people are ceasing to exist… makes you feel kind of bad – doesn’t it? And I thought it sucked when Mom used to only give us $2 a day for lunch money.

    Millenium Campaign

    The sad thing is that I would give more money to these charities if I felt like it wasn’t going to end up in someone else’s pocket like the Tsunami aid and Red Cross. If you see them around, tell them that I want my $200 back and I’m going to fly to Sri Lanka and hand it to someone rather than give to those corrupt dickwads.

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    I am currently at my company’s annual meeting which they have scheduled in Estonia. It is the dead of the winter (at least in my mind) and they had us get up this morning at 8 am to sit in meetings all day, back to back until 6 pm. Now we have dinner at 7 and at 8.30 pm they have this nifty little “team building” session that is supposed to run for 2 1/2 hours outside in the streets where it is snowing and -3c.

    Not only is this a long and tiring day, but I have really bad Raynauds and know that if I go outside even for 20 minutes this would be pushing it.

    This is where the fun comes in. I had explained all of this to HR a week ago and told them that I may not be able to participate in outside snow events due to my Raynauds. They were fine with this and seemed to understand.

    I am still assigned to a team of people who are all pumped up to do this event. And then I tell them that I don’t think I can make it because I can’t go outside for that long in the snow. They look at me and say something along the lines of “stop being a wimp”! At which time I try to briefly explain my disease and medication that I have to take to try to prevent Raynauds. They all look at me like I am a giant whiner and, honestly, I don’t even feel the need to tell half of these people my condition because it is none of their business and I’m not seeking sympathy from them. Nor do I feel that anyone can understand a 30 second breakdown of my health situation that is pretty complex.

    So now I am sitting in my hotel room crying because I would love to be able to participate. I would love to be able to go outside when it is cold for longer than 10 minutes. I would love to jump into a swimming pool in the summer and not have my hands and feet turn white. And I would especially love for people not to tell me to just get over it.

    But I know the consequences if I do go outside and have to deal with the physical pain. So I guess I will just end up looking like an asshole and being reminded that I am sick and I will always be sick. Great… I’m feeling like part of the team already.

    (I guess that was a little bit whiney – but makes me feel better to vent it somewhere than sit here and be sad)

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    2005 is dead and gone. A lot of bad things happened over the year. A lot of good things happened over the year. And no matter what I do, I keep getting older. What’s up with that?

    Is there a point to making resolutions for the new year? I always break them and they are pretty pointless. So can’t I just make long term resolutions that I leave up here and then can avoid having to ever do this crap again?

    1. Love my friends and family and Roley
    2. Stop being such a selfish bitch
    3. Save some money
    4. Stop buying dumb shit
    5. Stay healthy
    6. Learn new things
    7. Travel to new places
    8. Write Grandma Yamakawa
    9. Meet new people
    10. Be happy

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    The point of travelling for people can have very different purposes. The basic principal for travellers is to gain a greater understanding of the world around them. This can mean seeing new cultures, trying new things, meeting new people, etc…

    So things that I have learned from my travels…

    1. I like to travel in comfort. I spend a lot of my life sitting on planes and in airports… I get sick of it. I have learned ways to lighten my stress when I travel. This means travelling comfortably, sleeping enough and trying to stay healthy.

    2. I’m a lazy traveller. I feel like the rest of my life is so rushed that when I am on holiday I like to have a little bit of relaxation.

    3. I am comfortable eating a lot of foods. I am definitely not a picky eater when it comes to new foods. I do, however, draw the line at domestic pets and insects.

    4. I take really shit photos. I wish I had an eye for photography. I guess I can blame the equiptment that I use, but it really comes down to a complete lack of any patience or eye for photography. We’ll just have to say I make up for it in my documentation of travels in writing with my witty style (come on, throw me a bone here).

    5. I like to bargain. This is my newly aquired skill from Asia and I really enjoyed this quite a bit.

    6. Poverty scares me. I think this goes back to the being comfortable bits. I haven’t seen people literally starving, but I have seen some desperation and it frightens me because what prevents that from happening to any of us.

    7. People are people. Everyone smiles. Everyone laughs. Everyone gets angry. You may be black, white or slant eyed. People are people and there are moments that you can share with someone else where you lock eyes and you both laugh out loud despite not understanding a damned word they are saying.

    8. The world is a small place despite there are a hell of a lot of people in it. You never know when you are going to run into someone you know.

    9. McDonalds and Starbucks are everywhere. Well, at least the places that I go. And I hate this fact. Hurry up and try to see the world before it is overrun with this garbage and spoiled.

    10. I still have a lot of travelling to do.

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    image I am so sorely disappointed in this movie that I feel the need to write about it to complain. In fact, I don’t even know why I am wasting my breath on it other than to warn anyone that hasn’t seen it to not waste their time watching it or even thinking about it.

    Elizabethtown now tops my list of most hated movies of all time.

    What else is on this list?

    1. Gummo – not because it isn’t a good movie, but because it was so fucking disturbing that it made me feel physically ill. I couldn’t even sit all the way through it despite owning it and attempting to watch it several times.

    2. Vera Drake – boring boring boring. Bored me to tears which is all the woman did the entire time after she got arrested for being an abortionist.

    3. Gigli and Bounce – ouch Ben Affleck, you hurt me with your helmet hair and bad acting. I did like you a lot in School Days though.

    4. The Aviator – this movie pained me so much that I walked out of it, thereby ending my date with a rather cute guy…even Leo couldn’t force me to deal…

    5. Elizabethtown – yes, it is official. I want to cry for Cameron Crowe on this one. After such brilliant movie classics as Fast Times and Say Anything he just made me really really bummed out. The only reason that I kept watching it is because Orlando Bloom is fucking hot as hell.

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    Day 8 – The Empress Has a Cold
    Woke up and packed our stuff then dropped it downstairs and settled the bill. Forgot to eat breakfast and then went out into what was a pretty sunny and nice day. This day was also the beginning of Arlie’s sore throat and snotty nose.

    Jumped into a taxi and went over to the Forbidden City. Walked along a wall and into a giant square (which we later found out was Tianament Square, duh). Bought some tickets into the palace and entered.

    forbidden city

    This was with about 45 minutes before the Forbidden City was due to close. Everything we had read said that it should take about 2-3 hours to walk through. Arlie and I figured that since we were the power sightsee’ers that we could jam through pretty quickly.

    We rented our audio tour with Roger Moore and were off.

    The forbidden city was really amazing. Beautiful architecture and so big that it is astounding. After watching the Last Emperor the night before it also added a little sense of reality to the place, although, you can’t even begin to absorb how it might have been to have lived in such a place during any time period.

    the last empress

    We made it through in time. Whooohoo! Then on the other side realised that we forgot Tianamen square and were told that we had to go all the way to the other side. So we hopped on a rickshaw with a really nice man who cycled us all the way across again for 30 yuan. These guys work so hard.

    Got to the other side and realised that we had already actually been there. Dumb and Dumber.

    Jumped in a taxi and went to the Silk Market with about 45 minutes to spare before we had to get on our overnight train back to Shanghai. Did some bargaining, spent all of our money and then realised that we hadn’t eaten all day. Arlie was about to die and ran out and got some McD’s. Yes, we ate McD’s in China. I have finally come clean about it. And it was good.

    Got the train and took off to Shanghai. By this time, Arlie was really sick and coughing and sneezing all over the place. Yipee!

    Day 9 – Arlie Loses a Foot, but Gains Asiatic Bird Flu
    This day wouldn’t even be worth mentioning since our only objective was to get from the train station in Shanghai to the airport. However, when we got off the train and went to get a taxi, we were attacked by some crazy gypsy Chinese taxi controlling mafia. Seriously. 7 AM we step off the train and pay some porters to carry our bags to the taxi. Once we step foot outside the trainstation gates some lady comes up and starts to drag our bags off while saying taxi taxi.

    We get to the taxi and about 5 of them start grabbing our stuff from the porter and throwing into the taxi. OK. So then we hop in and start driving slowly away when we hear the trunk pop and we see them grabbing our bags out of the trunk and running off. Arlie and I start freaking out and yelling at the taxi driver to stop. Arlie opens the door to jump out, but the taxi driver still isn’t stopping. I look up to see the taxi driver pulling around the corner near a bus and yell to Arlie to close the door, but she doesn’t hear in all the commotion. The door hits the bus and closes on Arlie’s foot and ankle. Not too nice. Arlie jumps out and I’m yelling to her to run and grab the bags while I watch the stuff in the car.

    The gypsies throw her bag into the trunk of another taxi. Then they start pulling the rest of our shit out of the car. I am yelling at them to fuck off and get away from us, Arlie is yelling… and then we are shoved into the other taxi. The taxi driver hands them some money and then everything is calm.

    WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT? We were completely shocked. Thankfully Arlie didn’t lose her foot despite her bruises and thankfully we didn’t lose our bags. But it was all too much and too weird and not a nice way to end our journey.

    Made it to the airport alive and then after a 5 hour wait got onto our 12 hour flight home. Arlie was sick and sneezing and snotting the entire trip with her asiatic bird flu. Now I am getting it too. So if you complain that we didn’t bring anything back from China – then think again!

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    Day 7 – What’s so great about this wall? And kick off 2006
    OK, so Arlie and I had a really stupid plan about the movie that we were going to make when we go to the Great Wall (of China, duh). The script went something like this….

    Arlie (or Stephanie) standing next to the wall looks down and touches it.

    Arlie says: I’m here now at the Great Wall and I just want to know – what is so great about this wall.

    Camera pans to the Great Wall.

    OK – it is really fucking stupid, I know that. You know that. We probably knew that, but obviously thought it was way funnier when we were drunk on martinis and came up with the concept.

    So today was the day we were going to execute. Finally…

    get your corn on

    We got up – the earliest since arriving in China – at 8.30 AM and got out the door to meet our private tour guide and driver by 9.30 AM. And we were off towards the Great Wall. The drive takes about 1 hour. On this particular morning, it happened to be the very first snow in Beijing. We were really excited that we would get some breathtaking views of the wall with some snow.

    We forgot one thing. Chinese drivers are crazy. They just swerve into any lane and go at really fast speeds. Add this to some icy roads and you have what resembles a video game. There were at least 15 accidents that we drove past on our way to the Wall. And we ourselves were almost victims to a pretty hardcore crash with a Jetta that bounced off one side of the motorway, almost hit us but missed due to some great manuvering by our driver and then crashed into the other side. Seriously missed us by a hair. Just adds to the excitement of the journey.

    Arrived to the wall and our tour guide dropped us off telling us to come back in an hour. We were at the first entrance to the wall and there were quite a few tourists. And did I mention that it was COLD as all hell? Yes. It was.

    The first thing on my agenda was to find the warmest possible thing. There was a vendor (just like in ancient days) at the base of the stairs that was selling corn on the cob and hot cans of coffee. So I bought both. Stuck the coffee into my pocket and ate the corn for breakfast. Then the real fun starts.

    Climbing up the stairs was no small feat. And there are quite a few stairs. Add this to icy stairs with a lot of tourists and you have trouble brewing. This was some trouble that I wasn’t going to be a willing participant in, so I opted to climb to the lower part and then stand and wonder when we were going to have to amputate my feet from frostbite (and enjoy the view). Arlie – the brave soul that she is – decided to climb up the stairs. Needless to say, she didn’t get very far before she realised that going up was the easy part and coming down was the really crappy part. It was so steep and slippery that you had to grab onto the railing and hope that no one above you fell. Scary stuff.

    hi mom!

    Arlie made it down alive and then we made our really stupid video. We were quite proud of ourselves.

    After the wall, we went to visit the obligatory upsell at the Cloissone vase factory where we ate some really nasty lunch and bought some garbage.

    Then on to the Ming Tombs. The Ming Tombs are – well – obviously tombs of Ming. It was originally built only as Changling, the tomb of Emperor Zhuli and his empresses. This is the most magnificent of the tombs. The succeeding twelve emperors had their tombs built around Changling.

    kickin it with buddha

    We went into one of the structures – there are 13 in total – housing all those old emperor’s bodies from the Ming dynasty. In total there were 16 Ming Emperors, but we were told that 3 of their bodies weren’t there. One was in Nanjing where the capital used to be. And the other two were lost. Oops.

    After this we went to a silk factory with more upselling that we didn’t buy and then back to the hotel to prepare ourselves for our super New Year’s festivities.

    These festivities included going downstairs for some Chinese food while wondering if you are in China and you eat Chinese food, do you call it just food? Then going back to our room to watch a pirated copy of the Last Emperor. At midnight we called up and ordered french fries and chocolate cake and celebrated by opening a can of coke and diet coke. Party animals we are!!!! Read More

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    Day 6 – Hutong Clan
    On the sixth day of Xmas, Arlie and I toured the hutongs of Beijing.

    A hutong is an ancient city alley or lane typical in Beijing, where hutongs run into the several thousand. Surrounding the Forbidden City, many were built during the Yuan (1206-1341), Ming(1368-1628) and Qing(1644-1908) dynasties. In the prime of these dynasties the emperors, in order to establish supreme power for themselves, planned the city and arranged the residential areas according to the etiquette systems of the Zhou Dynasty. The center of the city of Beijing was the royal palace — the Forbidden City.

    hutong clan

    The hutongs are dying out quickly with many residents preferring to live in the high rise buildings rather than in these old buildings. Plus, as you can imagine, this is some prime real estate that they are built on that you can pack many more people into.

    Arlie and I were on the free tour from the hotel that took us out in some rickshaws along the hutong path. We visited a family residence along the way and went in to ask about their everyday life in the hutong. I found this to be a bit odd…a bunch of foreigners trampling into someone’s house and then sitting in their daughter’s and grandma’s bedroom, but I suppose they get some subsidy from it and the lady was very nice.

    The actual hutong structure was old and slightly grimy. Although we did see some nice outer hutongs that looked pretty posh. There are upwards of 3 families living in some of these structures. All of them share an inner courtyard. The neighborhood has neighborhood watch programs that look our for everyone and the elderly (as the hutongs are filled with a lot of elderly). The lady explained that when there are disputes, they have one person who is elected to be in charge of each hutong for the year – if this person can’t resolve the dispute then it goes to a neighborhood commitee to resolve. Some popular disputes could be kids fighting or too much noise from one family.

    captain of the hutong clan

    During the hutong tour, the rickshaws drove us by this frozen lake and river. This was quite a sight. A bunch of people out there on the ice in makeshift skates – things like bicycles and chairs with some blades attached to the bottoms. There was even a little dog that was being pushed in a chair around. Oh, did I mention that I was about to die from the cold??? Yes, I was.

    Another funny sight was the old men Chinese polar bear club. These crazy old men were getting down to their underwear and jumping into a hole in the ice and going for a swim. Quite a few of the old fellows. Pretty sexy stuff.

    uncle cold balls

    After we visited a museum and gardens (of which I can’t remember the name), we ended up at the Bell and Drum tower where Arlie went up the stairs to take photos and I went inside to thaw my frozen toes.

    Then we had a nice Chinese tea ceremony complete with the upsell to the magical porcelin cups that change their picture into the Great Wall and panda bears when you pour the hot water into them.

    When we arrived back to the hotel, we had a nice cup of gloog and then decided to do some more shopping or browsing. We went out of the hotel and down the street to check out the freaky food vendors.

    crickets anyone?

    Lots of lots of crazy, disgusting stuff going on down there. You can get snake, frogs, silkworm, octopus, crickets and some other stuff that I’m not even sure what it was. Arlie and I ended up eating corn on the cob and having some banana fritters. Pretty much the most normal things you can get there.

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    image Sweet – so Sean Lennon is looking for a girlfriend? I think I qualify as meeting his requirements…

    The requirements: They must have an IQ above 130 and they must be honest. They must not have any clinical, psychological disorders and a kind heart. Clearly beautiful – but beauty on the inside is more important – but no deformities, third legs, fifth nipples.

    Well apart from that fifth nipple – wait – where the hell are the 3rd and 4th nipples on my body?

    Anyways – wouldn’t that be cute? Two little happa kids keeping the Nipon heritage mixed with the honkey fathers together. Basically we could reproduce our own little happas. Awesome. Bring it on, Sean!

    Read the article here

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