Monday, 24 September 2007

Blood donation in China

The blood donation tends to be very similar around the world, as far as I know, but there are certain differences also. In China they're only now moving to the completely voluntary donations, certainly a good move as the paid "donations" led to individuals over-donating and disease-spreading etc. At least Beijing seems to be in voluntary donations now, the countryside is probably behind in matters.

The confusing part for me at least was that there aren't dedicated places for blood donation, but this is done in so called "blood buses" that are parked around the city, and then one would have to figure out where are they and when. But I gather they are in the same places pretty much every day, from 10 AM to 6 PM, more or less. Other than that, the donation proceeds in much the same way as elsewhere (well, my experiences are from Finland and the UK). First there's a form to fill (in Chinese) with the regular questions about illnesses and sexual behaviour and so on. Then they take a blood sample, presumably to measure the hemoglobin and whatever other tests they might do, I didn't ask what they did with it. They do use new needles, thankfully. And then it's the donating part which is the same as anywhere really, although you don't lie down in the buses but it's done while sitting. They gave me a T-shirt for thanks, those are really cheap over here.


Zhangjiajie is a nice but touristy town in Hunan province, claiming to fame with natural parks full of beautiful mountain scenes and nice waterways. The downside is the same as always in China, there are just too many people. Fortunately this isn't quite as popular as some other sights yet, so the number of people is somewhat manageable, but it undoubtedly is a problem for the local wildlife. Which, to my utterly pleasant surprise, exists! In the form of monkeys at least.

The company outing over there started by drifting down some rapids and water cannon fights to make sure everyone got soaked, later visiting a rather nice park dedicated to the culture of the Tujia minority people... You know, there are more Tujia people than there are Finns, so it really didn't feel as much of a small minority group as I guess it was supposed to! But I bought really nice handmade straw sandals over there, they're really light and in every way feel so much better than any stupid factory-made footwear. Much recommended.

The following days were filled with mountains, hiking up and down them, and admiring the great sceneries. Plus a huge limestone cave for the last day. A very nice trip, even if food wasn't all that great... They did get vegan foods for me, but especially in the beginning both quality and quantity were lacking somewhat. And I admit to getting a bit tired of the "what would you do if you came across a tiger that wanted to eat you" style of questions when I didn't let a colleague kill a bug at our table but chased it away instead. Tired enough to have my first bubble bath in years with a good book, wouldn't do it in BJ with the water shortage but it seemed different in Hunan. The pics are at flickr. But not of the bug nor me bathing, mostly the mountains, sorry if that disappoints. :-P


Got tagged for a me-me by Dreamy...

Here are the “official” rules:
# Players must list one fact, word, or tidbit that is somehow relevant to their life for each letter of your first or middle name.
# When you are tagged you need to write your own post containing your first or middle name game facts, word, or tidbit.
# At the end of your post choose one person for each letter of your name to tag.
# Don’t forget to leave a comment telling them ,they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
# If I’ve tagged YOU, please join in on the fun!

Ok, so Jari (which, btw, means a helmet-laden warrior) stands for:
J - Jolly. Once a year I turn into a jolly old fat man, as you can see in this picture from last winter with the nephews...
A - Anti-cruelty. I believe in the equality of all life, and I don't feel one has a right to cause deliberate harm to other beings.
R - Romany aka Gypsy. Well, I'm only a quarter Gypsy but it still works for me as an excuse to keep travelling! Life is a winding Road that goes far and wide in unpredictable ways.
I - Independence. Finns are people of the forests, having our own little houses somewhere in the middle of nowhere, with no neighbours for miles. Traditionally, that is. This causes the character to be quite self-reliant. We hardly ever ask for help.

And of course all know my middle initials are P.T. which stands for Perpetual Traveller. :-)

Friday, 21 September 2007

Tempeh goreng and wild Finnish mushrooms

Here's last night's dinner and today's lunch, my very first take on "tempeh goreng" coupled with spinach noodles and wild Finnish mushrooms. I had no recipe for tempeh goreng, so this is just my usual case of using whatever I happen to have around, which tends to be salt and a mix of peppers -- even my chili sauce had seen the end of its lifespan. The tempeh I brought from Germany, haven't found any in China. The mushrooms are trumpet-shaped chantarelles, they're one of the richest natural sources of vitamin D and totally yummy. The whole thing tasted even better with the egg-free mayonnaise from Plamil -- which was brought from England, it's not available in China either. So the only Chinese obtained thing were the noodles and the spices. Oh well.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Dalian and Qingdao

More travelling to the travel blog, I just got back from my beach holiday to Dalian and Qingdao. I started off by taking the train to Dalian, it's about 1000 km or 10 hours from Beijing but should be more eco-friendly than flying. A lovely city by the seaside, Dalian happened to host the Summer Davos 2007 at the time, which was very much visible on the streets and one famed beach resort was closed due to the conference. The other beaches were open though so on to the water! The beaches weren't overly clean but up to the Chinese standard, and the many Russian tourists in Dalian made it sure I was generally taken as a Russian as well. I should learn more Russian so I could play with that a bit more...

Some say the blog is all about food, so here we come to the topic. Dalian seems to have two vegetarian restaurants -- the list provided by IVCB only carries one, the other was found randomly on the street. Tian Yuan (天缘素食店) was a tiny little place but relatively central, and the food quality wasn't remotely comparable to the fine vegetarian restaurants of Beijing or Shanghai, but it was edible and vegan. So edible, I guess, that my belt broke down while I was eating there! Perhaps that's only for the better, it was the last animal product I had in daily usage, given to me over 15 years ago when I wasn't vegan yet. Unfortunately there are no pictures in this blog entry because I only took pictures with my phone and lost it when leaving Qingdao.

The second vegetarian restaurant is one of three parts of a restaurant by a central hotel in Dalian, I don't have the address here but will update this entry with that later. The other parts are a regular Chinese restaurant and an Indian restaurant... actually it turned out the vegan food in the Indian restaurant was nicer than the one in the Chinese vegetarian, not to mention the nicer atmosphere and lower price. This place is considerably fancier than the street diner Tian Yuan, but the food wasn't much better and the vegetarian part was quite small. As people go to Dalian for seafood, they did provide a lot of mock alternatives.

From Dalian I took a boat to Yantai, a port city in Shandong province. This was a fast catamaran, the trip took a bit over 3 hours but I would suggest taking the slower boat instead: people weren't allowed on the deck during the ride, there was nothing onboard but seats, the windows were mostly too dirty to see through, and the seasick lady in front of me and the TV screaming dubbed Deep Blue Sea in far too high volume didn't make the ride any more comfortable. Yantai seemed to be a relatively dull industrial city, I had a small dinner there and jumped in a bus to Qingdao.

Qingdao, formerly romanized as Tsingtao, is the beer capital of China, but also famous for beaches. They did have a nice seaside walk, 40 km long, which I went through and of course made a stop at all the beaches passed for a swim. Beside the staring and comments (positive ones, but still) of the locals, all this shirtless walking also got me a mild sunburn, silly me I thought I wouldn't burn in the sun of northern China in September. The beaches were a bit nicer than those of Dalian, fine sand and the less central ones seemed quite clean, beaches 1 and 6 (they're numbered) were slightly dirtier and more crowded. With the lack of Russian tourists the beaches were filled with Chinese men; it seems very few Chinese women go to beaches. One odd thing to see at the seaside were newlyweds having their wedding photos taken by the sea. There were dozens of them, going knee-deep in the water in their wedding dresses! Unfortunately, again, the pictures were lost.

Qingdao seems to have only one vegetarian restaurant, at least in the list and I didn't see any others either. This one is quite far from the city centre or the seaside, and while the atmosphere and service were friendly and nice, I'm afraid the food quality wasn't any better than in Dalian. Overall these two cities do provide nice places to swim and veg*an people can certainly survive there, but don't expect culinary delights from such a trip. In that sense it was a happy return to Beijing, although the blue skies now seem a distant dream again. Oh, and I did get a replacement SIM card already with the same number, and the phone was provided by the company anyway so the only real loss were the pictures. The phone must have fallen out of my pocket as I was running for the bus back to Beijing. A bus with beds, never seen one of those before, but it was a reasonable ride, although the beds were a bit short and narrow for me, made for the slightly smaller Chinese people I assume. Ah, and note that Qingdao is confusing with railway stations right now, perhaps the proper one will be repaired by the Olympics but right now the one in use is Sifang station quite far from the centre and not knowing this had me going to the wrong place and almost late from the bus back (which would be why I was running). Next off to Zhangjiajie in a couple of hours, about that later...

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Beijing Raptor Rescue Centre

I finally found the time to visit the Beijing Raptor Rescue Centre this weekend. This centre was established in 2001 by IFAW and Beijing Normal University (BNU) on BNU grounds. It provides rehabilitation and medical treatment for raptors that are e.g. hurt when flying into kite strings or glass buildings, or kept illegally as pets. The centre holds the birds for a maximum of three months, trying to heal them with the target of releasing them into the mountains. This target has been reached for hundreds of birds, but unfortunately about 1/3 of them cannot be rehabilitated and are euthanised instead. They also educate people on raptor conservation.

The centre has had many international visitors and is endorsed by organizations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Several of the people working there are vegetarian, which is very much a rarity in China. The raptors, obviously, are not. They're fed with chicken and mice. Their cages weren't terribly large, but probably bearable for short time keeping, especially for the smaller birds. They had also artificial rain in parts of the cages and tried to keep human contact to a minimum so the birds would live more naturally. Detailed health logs are kept on each bird.

In any case, it was very interesting and very positive to see a wildlife rescue centre in China, there are very few and from the lack of wildlife, they would be very much in need. At the moment the centre had 20 gorgeous birds, hopefully they can all be released soon.