Barry’s Gleanings: Angola

Angola large color map

One reason we like to travel is we see the daily news from different perspectives than we find at home in the U.S.  The China English language CCTV, for instance, has a daily news report from Africa – of mainly good news – not just Ebola, HIV, war, and strife.  An example is a Nov. 17, 2014, news article, “Changing the face of real estate in Angola,” by Li Jing in the business section of the China Daily.
“Since Angola’s civil war ended in 2002, Africa’s second-biggest oil producer has surged economically, with a 5.1 percent growth rate in 2013.

The government has invested heavily to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, in an effort dubbed by the leaders as ‘national reconstruction.’ Construction of new roads, railways, schools and hospitals has cost tens of billions of dollars.

With its abundance of resources that include crude oil, diamonds and gold, the southern African nation has seen scores of China’s State-owned enterprises and private companies enter its borders hoping for an economic opportunity.

In 2008, CITIC Construction Co, a State-owned enterprise and one of the largest construction companies in the world, joined the nation’s reconstruction efforts.

‘We are an active and responsible player in the country’s post-war reconstruction process,’ says Liu Guigen, president of the African regional division of CITIC Construction . . .

That year, the company won a bid to build housing in Kilamba Kiaxi, one of the capital city of Luanda’s six urban districts that is located 30 kilometers from downtown. . . .

Last year, the $10 billion project was completed with a total of 20,000 residential homes, 200 retail stores, 24 kindergartens, nine primary schools and eight middle schools. CITIC claims 90 percent of the homes are already occupied.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos hailed the satellite city project as a model for the country’s post-war reconstruction.

CITIC Construction, which was tasked with mapping out the satellite city’s overall development strategy, worked with about 40 other enterprises from China to install water, sewage and electricity systems.

The companies then set up a 300-strong team to train Angolans on maintenance and security work for the neighborhoods. . . .

Backed by the success in Kilamba Kiaxi, the company is now working with other Angolan city governments to build similar housing projects. It is also exploring opportunities in the nation’s farming sector to help reduce Angola’s dependence on food imports to feed its population of 18 million.

‘Angola has so much fertile land, but it is also a large food importer,’ Liu says. . . .
The company has also invested heavily in the country’s school system.

In May 2014, the CITIC BN Vocational School was founded in Luanda to provide free vocational training for impoverished city youths from ages of 16 to 25. The students can learn skills in electrical and mechanical engineering and will eventually be recruited by the Chinese company after graduation. . . .

Since 1999, when China encouraged its State-owned companies to invest overseas, CITIC Construction has conducted almost 95 percent of its work abroad. It says that 60 percent of its business is in the African market.

‘We are confident that we will expand projects across Africa in 2016,’ Liu says.
CITIC Construction plans to kick off new projects in Kenya and Cameroon at the end of this year” (p. 14).

It’s wonderful to know that good things are happening in Africa.

Aloha & Zaì jiàn, Barry & Renée

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China’s Two-Child Policy?

Children in Yangzhou, China

Children in Yangshou, China

“Every two years a cohort of infants roughly equal to the population of Canada crawls on to the world stage. . .

‘I know people in the West don’t like our one-child policy,’ smiles Mei Yu, a university-graduated bureaucrat who works for the central government. ‘But our resources are limited and I understand it: we shouldn’t be thinking about what’s best for us, but what’s best for society,’ notes an article in the Toronto Star.

With a population of 1.3 billion, China is still the most populous country.  But it has significantly fewer citizens because of its one-child policy. “Since its introduction in the late 1970s, the nation’s family planning regulations have resulted in an estimated 400 million of fewer births” (Shanghai Daily, 6 Nov. 2014, A3). The 2014 total population of the U.S., by the way, is just over 319 million!

“Song Shuli, a spokesman for the family planning commission, said that managing birth rates has been a key issue in China for generations.

‘As the world’s most populous country, population control is a long-term challenge as it is closely linked with sustainable development,’ he said” in “Applications to have 2nd child fall short of forecast” by Cai Wenjun (Shanghai Daily, 6 Nov. 2014, A3).

After-school pick-up, Yangshou, China

After-school pick-up, Yangshou, China

In 1979, the Chinese government recognizing its uncontrolled birth rate caused many problems imposed what we in the West often see as the draconian one-child policy.  But over the years, the policy has been relaxed.  Minorities could have more children.  Also if the first child was a girl, farmers could wait for four years and have another child.

If couples did have more children without permission, penalties were imposed.  Some penalties were more harsh than others: both partners would lose their jobs, forced abortions, the unapproved child would not be allowed to go to school or later get a regular job, high fines, and more.  Mickey, a student of mine from ZAFU is now about 24.  He was an unapproved 2nd child.  Although his parents were farmers, they hadn’t waited the four years after his sister had been born to have another child.  When he was born, Mickey told me with a smile, the government took all his family’s furniture.  He said that his family didn’t really care because he was a boy!

Having a boy has been essential because until the last few years, the Chinese have had no pensions or any Social Security system.  And the basic rule for retirement in China has been 45 years old for factory workers; for professionals, it’s 55 for women and 60 for men.  The retired parents have had to have a boy to provide for them.  This fact is likely the reason we have darling Chinese girls who have been adopted in the West.

However today, family responsibility has placed a huge burden on the young Chinese males.  Not only does he have to buy a condo before he can get married, he has to provide for his parents, grandparents, and if he is kind and able for his wife’s family as well.  The Chinese government has realized the one-child policy causes problems too and has been adjusting its rules.

Besides fewer people in this already crowded country, another result of the one-child policy is that every child I’ve seen here in China seems wanted and loved. (Well, except for the Western dad I heard yelling at his kid and a Chinese mom unhappy over her daughter’s grades grumbling at her cute and well-dressed but crying 10-year-old).  Parks are filled with cheerful, often stylishly dressed children and doting parents and grandparents – who may be accused of being too attentive but never of being neglectful.  Each child I’ve seen is treated as a treasure.  Limiting each family to one child means that child has the attention and the resources of the whole family!  Each child is born into a two-parent family that wants and can care for the child.

A girl and her parents in Guilin, China

A girl and her parents in Guilin, China

Chinese friends say my view of all treasured children is too rosy.  They think many Chinese children are neglected because they are left in the villages in the care of their grandparents (many in their 40s & 50s) while the parents are away in the city working long hours.  The children have the constant attention of two loving adults and other extended family and are in the countryside and can go outside and play in a basically unpolluted environment.  Hummm – and that is neglect!   One of my students, “Molly” – a second girl in her family — did say that when she was an infant, her mom had to take her to work since her grandmother refused to take care of her – because she was a girl.  Molly said she did love her grandmother and understood.  I wish we had just such complaints about neglect in the U.S.

Mom, grandpa, grandma, and child in Kunming, China

Mom, grandpa, grandma, and child in Kunming, China

Kunming, China

A treasured girl in Kunming, China

But even with the “reduced population” in China, competition is intense for everything: schools, jobs, housing, health care, transportation, clean water, safe food, and resources of all kinds.

Waiting for a bus in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Waiting for a bus in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

Kunming, China - crowds everywhere

Kunming, China – crowds everywhere

Sunday in Green Lake Park, Kunming, Yuannan

Sunday in Green Lake Park, Kunming, Yunnan Province, China

In the evolution of the family planning laws, a few years ago some Chinese provinces allowed a second child if each partner in the marriage was an only child.  In November 2013, some Chinese provinces started allowing couples in which one spouse was a single child to apply to have a second child.

However, according to the article, “Application to have 2nd child fall short of forecast,” by Cai Wenjun, “Of the 11 million couples now eligible to have a second child, just 6 percent, or about 700,000 have registered applications and 620,000 of them got a permit, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said” (Shanghai Daily, 6 Nov, 2014, A3).

A happy Chinese girl

A happy Chinese girl

In a China Daily article, “Fewer couples want second child,” Shan Juan quotes Lu Jiehua, a professor of demography at Peking University.  Lu says, “The lower-than-expected number of applications might reflect a changing perception of reproduction, particularly in urban settings, among those with a high education level. . . .

The latest relaxation [of the one-child policy] aims to address a rapidly aging society and to maintain a sustainable labor supply, Lu said.

In reality, childbirth for some is more of an economic issue.

Liu Yulin and his wife, both in their early 30s, are still trying to decide whether to have a second child.

‘My first is a boy.  I don’t think I can afford to have another boy, for whom I have to buy housing, ‘ said Liu . . .

Guilin Airport

Guilin Airport – treasured boy

The couple are white-collar workers in Beijing, where quality education and housing remain expensive “ (30 Oct. 2014, p. 1).

For instance, “In Shanghai, 8,000 couples applied to have a second child between March – when the city adopted the new regulations—and June.  The rule change made an extra 400,000 couples eligible to extend their families,” noted Cai Wenjun (Shanghai Daily, 6 Nov, 2014, A3).

A boy and his family are expected to provide a condo for the young couple before a young woman (and her family) will even consider accepting a marriage proposal.

The Chinese I’ve talked to say the average monthly salary for a college-educated guy is now around the equivalent of $666 U.S. a month (4,000 yuan) in Shanghai.  A two-bedroom condo in Shanghai in a good, but not the very best neighborhood, is over a million U.S. (6,000,000 yuan)!   To get a loan, buyers must be able to make a down payment of 30%!  To be able to buy real estate like that is impossible for a young guy.  He has to rely on his family.

A boy and his dad, Mu Shan, Yunnan Province, China.  The boy will rely on his parents for many years to come.

A boy and his dad, Mu Shan, Yunnan Province, China. The boy will rely on his parents for many years to come.

If two boys are in a family, their parents would have to be very wealthy in order to provide for them both.

Guilin boys

Guilin boys

However another factor besides economics may be involved.  In a Toronto Star article,  “A child is born in China, 18 million times a year,” Bill Schiller and Liang Lili note, “As with so many categories of human development, China has come a long way in a short time in the science of childbirth.

Not long ago, giving birth in this country was dangerous. As recently as 1996 almost 25 of every 1,000 newborns died in the process.

Today, that figure [of infant mortality] is down to 8.3, according to government data. The comparable number for the U.S. is 4 — and for Canada, just 3.  While China might not be on a par with the West yet, this is a huge gain for the country. The Lancet, the British medical journal, recently wrote, “Other countries can learn from China’s substantial progress” (Published on Sun Dec 11 2011.

“Lu said that a careful analysis of new births next year under the new policy is required to assist future decision-making, primarily when to introduce a comprehensive two-child policy”  (Shan, China Daily, 30 Oct. 2014, p. 1).

The issue is complex and many sided.  What’s worrisome (at least to me) about the two-child policy is if one child is a girl and the other a boy, will most of the family’s resources go for the boy?  In China, men usually get paid more than women for the same job.  Traditionally, the men are expected to earn most of the money.  In a more than one-child family, will the family use its money to give the boy the best figuring a girl will just get married and be taken care of by the husband?

SHNU students

SHNU students

Many of my students here in China these last four years have been lovely girls whose parents have put all their resources into that one child to help her get as much education and training as possible.  We just met a young Chinese woman whose parents gave her the money to open a boutique hotel near Dali.   Will that change now that the second child could be a boy?  Even Mao said, “Women hold up half the sky.”  He also rewarded women for having many children.  During Mao’s leadership, China’s population grew from around 550 to over 900 million (   All those children born without restraint is a major reason China has such a big population now.

Waiting for another bus in Kunming, China

Waiting for another bus in Kunming, China

In the future, shouldn’t every child have the best opportunities his or her parents can provide?  Could governments help shape guidelines?  What is best for a family? What is best for society?  What is best for each child?  What can actually be sustainable population growth? The Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission is making that consideration and so are Chinese couples.

But what about the rest of us on Earth?  What is sustainable population growth?  Could we too have guidelines to help insure that each child in the future is wanted and can have good opportunities?  Perhaps we too could be considering a sustainable population growth so that each child in the world can actually have hope of a good future.

The children of the future need us to make good decisions now.

The children of the future need us to make good decisions now.

Aloha &  Zaì Jiàn, Renée

A bicycle made for three.  Mu Shan Village, Yunnan Province, China

A bicycle made for three. Mu Shan Village, Yunnan Province, China.  How many can fit on your bicycle?



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Yangshou: Karsts and Cormorants

Barry and I are traveling again in China and have come to Yangshou, near Guilin, an area of fantastic topographical limestone karsts, the subject of many paintings since ancient times.


From  - a karst (kärst) is defined as 

n.  An area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns.

Here, the karats rise up from the land in fantastic shapes.

Besides the karats, today we saw our first cormorants.  I’d see photos of these huge birds that fishermen use to catch fish.  The fisherman usually goes out at night with a lantern to lure the fish toward the surface.  He tethers the cormorant’s leg and ties off its throat, so the bird can neither fly away nor swallow the fish he’s dived in for and caught.  Fishing with cormorants must be slow and unreliable – and in November, it would be cold at night.

On this November afternoon, Barry and I came across the birds and their keeper relaxing at the edge of the Li River in Yangshou.

A "fisherman" and his comerants in Yangshou

A “fisherman” and his cormorants in Yangshou.  Notice his sign says 3 yuan.

This fisherman charges for photos.  He took a look at Barry and me and, sizing us up, charged us 5 yuan (75cent U.S.).  We laughed and gave him the money.



We think this “modern” business person cormorant fisherman is doing well although his birds would likely prefer to be flying and diving on their own.

Zaì jiàn, Renée

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Sages and Students: Shared Words

SHNU students taking their final essay exam. Front to back: Max, Chloe, Cici, Melody, Lily, Woody

SHNU students taking their final essay exam. Front to back on right: Max, Chloe, Cici, Melody, Lily, Woody                        In  left row: Holiday, Maevis

My Shanghai Normal University English writing class students shared both quotations that inspire them and their own words of wisdom during their final exam.   The selections reflect a bit about these lovely 20-year-old Chinese students and their values.

Zoe quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”

Teemo quoted Brioso, Brioso, “Hut! Two, three, four. Big targets are the best – there’s more to aim at.”

“God helps those who help themselves,” Black noted Benjamin Franklin’s quotation in his essay about his failing the college entrance exam the first time he tried (when all his friends passed). Black studied another whole year and tried again . . . and he is now a very good student at SHNU!   Black’s experience has taught him, “Everyone is the master of his or her fate . . . [and] Although the reality is cruel, we should keep our dreams and aspirations.”

Iverson in front, July behind

Right – front to back: Iverson, Jerry, Sarah, Grace,  Jenny & Zoe  Left – Roxanne, Mandy, Vicky, Candy, Seven, Claire

Woody quotes the Chinese proverb, “Where there is life, there is hope.”   She also says, “Your heart decides whether you are beautiful, not the face.” Her mom told her, “Failure is the mother of success.”

Iverson quoted Shakespeare, “Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.”

Candy says, “I learn experiences from the school life. I get happiness from my family. The world I come from is easy and satisfying.” [University life for the students can be quite different from the anguish most Chinese students experience in trying to get into a college. And because Candy is female, she does not have the societal and family pressure to get the high-paying position necessary for the males]

Charlotte cited Albert Einstein, “Try not to become a man of success but rather, try to become a man of value.”

“Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul,” Seven noted this General Douglas MacArthur quotation.

Hilary quoted Confucius, “Better to light one candle than curse the darkness.”

Maevis  wrote about who inspires her: “Because of Chris Paul, the great NBA basketball player, I’ve tried my best to learn English well since middle school. No matter spoken English or written English, I knew it’s a unique way for me to communicate with him . . . so I should learn English well. Therefore, I am very grateful for his spiritual encouragement although he doesn’t know me. In brief, the reason I could be admitted to SHNU was because of Chris Paul!”

Tom quoted John Ruskin, “Living without an aim is like sailing without a compass.”

“Goals determine what you are going to be,” said Roxanne quoting Julius Erving.

Henry quoted Scarlett, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Max shared, “All men’s gains are the fruit of venturing” – Herodotus, Greek historian

She also quoted Muhammad Ali,  “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Jackson, Frank, Tom, Henry, July, Dorophy, Peter, Black

Jackson, Frank, Tom, Henry, July, Dorophy, Peter, Black, & Troy

Frank noted, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted” – John Lennon.

In an essay, July shared something that might be considered negative about his family, which is rarely ever done in China – at least not in my experience of being a teacher for a few hundred Chinese university students. Unlike many of us Americans who seem eager to carry on about our dysfunctional families or how hard we have had to work on our own to be our great independent selves, Chinese students often express gratitude for their families and their feelings of responsibility toward their much loved parents. Even in his essay about his “Chinese Tiger Mom,” July in the end expresses gratitude.

July wrote, “When I was two, my mother decided I should play piano. My mother made me practice three hours every day . . . sometimes four or five hours. I didn’t like the black and white thing. I wanted to play games and be with my friends. . . . If I refused or didn’t play well, she would hit my hand.  So I was afraid of her and I hated her sometimes in my early life . . . My life from 2 to 14 was black. . . . Finally, music suddenly became my favorite thing. . . . I now can teach children and perform for money. I love piano, singing, and music. . . At last, I can’t say a [bad] word about my mother.”

As you may understand from this quick glimpse, I really enjoy teaching and learning from my SHNU students.  My contribution is a Chinese proverb, “He who has health, has hope.  And he who has hope, has everything.”

I’ll end this selection with words from Claire and Abraham Lincoln.   Claire advises, “If you exert yourself now, you will have fewer regrets later.” Claire too failed her first college entrance exam because she had “idled away precious time,” but she is now one of the best students. Claire learned, “The past can’t be changed, but it can be fixed.”  She quotes Abraham Lincoln: “I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards.”

Hope you are all moving forward.

Zaì jiàn, Renée

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Learning to Eat from the Land


This is a terrific site for information about growing your own food in Hawaii. If you aren’t quite ready, remember to support your local farmers.

Originally posted on marketlessmondays:

Reprinted from Hawai’i Homegrown Food Network Newsletter 25 JULY 2013.

Here’s an article that sums up some of the main thoughts on eating very local that I’ve had since starting this blog.

Learningtoeat Laderman image003Harvest for a Marketless Monday, left to right in a circle (sort of): cane syrup, jackfruit, eggs, daikon, dried coconut, lilikoi, bananas, lime, yakon, sweet potato, air porato, orange, avocado, blue corn, peanuts, and papaya.

I moved to Hawai’i Island close to three years ago, straight from a desk job in a small city in the northwest U.S., to my lifetime dream of learning to live off the land. My kids were mostly grown, and I was disillusioned with the effectiveness of my job as an environmental health educator. I had a new partner who shared my desire to go “back to the garden.” But unlike me, Dan had planned ahead and owned 20 acres off-grid along the Hamakua…

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How to Know You Are Growing Non-GMO Papaya


This is helpful information for those of us who want to know about the food we are growing and eating.

Originally posted on marketlessmondays:

Originally published in Hawaii Homegrown Food Network Newsletter on April 21, 2014.

A large percentage of open pollinated papayas contain genetically modified DNA.A large percentage of open pollinated papayas contain genetically modified DNA.

Do you know if your papaya trees are GMO? I thought I did. I thought that since I raised trees from organic papaya seeds from a seed exchange or health food store, they were pretty certainly non-GMO. But I wasn’t positive, so last February I attended a “Seedy Saturday” workshop that included free testing of papaya trees. I learned about papaya genetics, cross-pollination, and how to ensure you grow non-GMO. And I learned that at least 6 of our roughly 50 trees were GMO.

However you feel about eating GMO papaya, organic growers must avoid planting GMO seedlings or seeds if they want to produce fruits that can be marketed as organic. That may not be as simple as it sounds.

 The purpose of this article is…

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Supermarkets in China – Now

I’ve read that some people coming from Third World Countries are amazed by our U.S. supermarkets with their rows and rows of pet food, cereals, and all manner of consumable products.  Where can you find such aisles now?

P1030170 A full aisle of toothpastes, tooth brushes, and other dental aids.  Five years ago, we had a hard time finding dental floss in Lin’an, China.

P1030174                                                                       The Cereal Aisle

An Imported Products aisle

An Imported Products aisle

Packaged Food

Packaged Food


For your pets too.

For your pets too.

A wall of pet food.

A wall of pet food.

Some sections could be in a U.S. market:

Fresh lettuces

Fresh lettuces

Fresh breads

Fresh breads

Crisp fall apples!

Crisp fall apples!

Wines from Australia

Wines from Australia – and beyond

Budweiser - here an imported beer

Budweiser – here an imported beer

Local beer - under 50 cents a bottle

Local beer – under 50 cents U.S. a bottle

However, in some sections, we know we are in China.   Here’s Barry in the tea aisle.

Many choices of tea.

Many choices of tea.

More teas

More teas

The dried fish section.

The dried fish section.

Fresh fish

Fresh fish

The meats

The meats


The chickens



Prepared foods

Prepared foods

Prepared salads

Prepared salads

We recognized some “street food” in a prepared foods section.  Although we have never gotten sick by eating street food here, we figured it might be safer to buy in the supermarket than on the street.  So we picked out a few things.  Too late, Barry realized that one of the choices  - a pork stuffed wanton was – not cooked!  Yikes.  We’re back to the streets.

Many, many aisles of packaged foods

Many, many aisles of packaged foods

Packaged foods galore!

Packaged foods galore!

The abundant packaged foods and the ubiquitous fast-food restaurants are leading some Chinese to make unhealthy choices.

McDonald's in Shanghai

McDonald’s in Shanghai – and he’s smoking :(

And just so you don’t think that China just seems ordinary like another U.S. city, I’ll add this.  A day when Barry and I had just been in the Shanghai Carrefour Supermarket and were walking back to our hotel, we passed a hutong, an old traditional neighborhood.  We saw a crowd of people huddled over something on the ground across the street.  I had to go look.  I hoped it wasn’t a dog.

Goat on the street

Fresh meat on the street

It was a goat being cut up!  The U.S. Department would not approve of a curb-side butcher.

However, we learned on the news that night that Muslims were celebrating Eid Al-Adha, “The Festival of the Sacrifice.”   A part of that tradition is to give charity; they are to sacrifice an animal and distribute its meat among family, friends, and the poor.  So what we had seen was an act of giving; the people from the hutong who received the meat must have been happy and grateful.

So when you come to China, you won’t be very surprised by their supermarkets.  However, you are likely to find surprises on the streets.

Zài Jiàn and Aloha, Renée


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