Return from South of the Clouds

Yesterday I got back from Yunnan Kunming, my old home. That’s one reason I haven’t blogged for so long. WordPress is firewalled in mainland China, and although you can use a circumventor to view it, I don’t know one which will let me post.

I went originally for the 5th meeting of FK Nework China, the good people who sent me to China in the first place. Then I was 18, spoke no Chinese, and to be honest, didn’t have a great deal of interest in China. I desperately wanted to go to Russia and learn Russia, or failing that, to Africa. But I needed a project which would pay for me to go, fell into the Sinonor project… and well, that was that.

The FK conference lasted for the weekend, and was I thought, very productive and interesting. There were representatives from the Sinonor project in Ningxia, the Sekwa Eye Hospital project in Beijing, the Hainan fishing project, environmental projects based in Changsha, Nanjing, Hong Kong… not sure who I’ve left out. Although most folk at the meeting were Chinese, there were also participants from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and of course Norway. We mostly discussed the continuing spin-off projects, including aiding children with visual impairements in Yinchuan, raising awareness about water shortages in Ningxia, and the website. And also SYCCNO, the new organisation started by my friend Qin Wen and two Norwegian ex-participants.  Watch this space.

It was so lovely to be back in Kunming. I stayed with Yunqi,Liyang and Annabel eating home cooking and catching up on the last 100 days, hung out with good friends, and ate a spectacular western meal cooked by my teacher Chuanmei. Was very sorry to return to a Hong Kong of non-stop essays and exams. But from 18th May I’ll be free again! I dragged it out a bit longer by returning to HK by train. 27 hours rattling through the countryside and industrial towns of eastern Yunnan, Guangxi and Guangdong provinces, sharing sunflower seeds with fellow travellers who were full of advice about where I should visit next. Anhui, Henan and Heilongjiang moved even further up the list of places I really want to go. But arriving in Guangzhou exhausted and disorientated at 8.30pm, squeezing across the HK border just before it closed for the night, and missing the last bus home, wasn’t the ideal start to a weekend of “productive study”.

Now I’m ostensibly writing a 5000 word essay comparing the fiscal stimulus packages of the US and HK withe respect to their own economic systems and relation to the financail crisis. Luckily its a big and interesting topic… makes it a bit easier to force myself to write it…

The computer isn’t letting me upload photos, but when I finally escape from this library, I’ll try and post a few from beautiful beautiful Yunnan. (Which literally means “South of the Clouds”, hence the not entirely random post title).

(Btw, FK stands for Fredskorspet which in Norwegian means the Peace Corps (not Fred’s Corpse though it sounds similar). It operates very differently from the US Peace Corps, which is I think why they avoid the name, tending just to use the acronym FK instead. One key difference is that projects are funded bottom up – not started from above, but create themselves at grass routes and apply for funding. Also, they strongly recognise that with most “volunteering work”, it is the volunteers who get most out of it, not the people they are supposed to be “helping”. So all the projects are an exchange, not one-way. Lastly, a large proportion of their projects are “south south” exchanges, started between two countries eg China and Thailand, and do involve Norwegian “volunteers” at all.)

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