Talk show debut  

I’m a guest on Easy Talk this week, China Daily online’s web television talk show. It was my debut appearance, so I was a bit nervous and fumbled some lines.

Take a look here.

The show ‘s topic was whether children today are pushed into too many extracurricular activities and overscheduled by their parents. 

I was shocked to see what I look like on TV (yes, I can clearly see I need to lose weight). And yes, there were a couple of moments watching the final cut when I thought, “I said that?” 

Overall, it was a good experience and the show’s host and producer, Hu Zhe, also known as Flora, did a great job bringing it all together.

I hope they’ll ask me to appear again. 


Hungry Ghost Festival is Sunday 

Sunday marks another special event in the lunar calendar, as the Chinese celebrate the Ghost Festival, often called the Hungry Ghost Festival. It’s a traditional Buddhist festival held on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month, this year falling on Aug. 10.

It’s believed that ghosts and spirits come to earth to see their living families. In this way it’s different from two other holidays related to the deceased, Qingming in the spring and the Double Ninth Festival in the fall, as those call for living descendants to honor their ancestors. 

Ceremonies and rituals are performed to relieve the suffering of the deceased. People will prepare food for the dead, burn incense, paper money and paper figures of other items the deceased might need in the afterlife.  


Tight fit in Beijing subways 


It’s not rush hour. It’s 9:30 pm Sunday on a Beijing subway.

It doesn’t matter if it’s 7 a.m. on a Saturday or 9:30 at night on a Sunday - Beijing’s subways are always packed

It’s not surprising, given that there are about 20 million residents and close to half of them ride the subway every day. And sometimes, especially during rush hour, it seems as if all 20 million are crowding your station and pushing into your car. “Sea of humanity” is no exaggeration.

Still, the Beijing subway is a cheap, efficient means of rapid transit around this huge city. A one-way ride is 2 yuan, or about 32 cents. There are 17 lines and it’s expanding. There’s a special train to the airport, much faster than taking a taxi.

It’s also clean and safe, albeit like any other big city”s metro system, there are pickpockets. Just keep an eye on your wallet and purse. 


China Daily in Washington, DC 


Buy a copy of China Daily on the streets of Washington, DC.

My friend, the Elizabeth Anne Sclater of Washington, DC, sent me a snapshot of this China Daily newspaper box on 13th Street NW between K and L. 

When I posted the picture on Facebook, friends marveled that it’s still a print daily - and only 25 cents a copy. And my sister Theresa noted she’s seen it in her hometown, Boston.

It’s nice to see that the English-language “window into China” is available in some of America’s biggest cities.

But you don’t have to live in a big American city to see what we’re publishing. Come visit our newspaper’s website, www.chinadaily.com.cn, which is where I work. We’re open 24/7, bringing you all of China, all the time. 


Forbidden City royal animations go viral 

China Daily online ran a story today about a group of Flash animations based on royal art at the Forbidden City gone viral.

The animations of pictures of the Emperor Yongzheng (1678-1735) feature the ruler washes his feet in a river, fights a tiger and teases a monkey with a piece of fruit.

The animations have received more than 800,000 hits, say officials at the Palace Museum, the official name of the former royal residence in the center of Beijing.  


Love was all around for Qixi Festival 

Lovers everywhere in China on Saturday celebrated the Qixi Festival, often called the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day (which Chinese couples celebrate too).

Gifts, a meal in a nice restaurant and bouquets of flowers marked the festival for many Chinese couples. 

The festival is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, which this year fell on Aug. 2.

It’s based on a sad, sweet tale of a humble goatherd and a weaving goddess, also called the weaver girl, who fall in love, marry, have two children and then are cruelly separated. The weaving goddess is compelled to return to heaven but once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, she and her earthly husband are allowed one night together.


China Book Club  


Sky Burial by Xinran is a compelling tale of enduring love.

I just finished reading a wonderful book by a modern Chinese author. Sky Burial by Xinran, the pen name for Chinese journalist Xue Xinran, is a short work that follows a young wife’s decades-long search for her beloved husband after he disappears in Tibet.

Shu Wen is a bride in 1950s China when her husband, a young doctor in the Chinese army, is sent to Tibet. Within months, Shu Wen is told that the husband she adores is dead. There is no explanation. Unable to find the answers to the many questions surrounding his death, she enlists in the Chinese army to follow his path. 

Half a lifetime later, Shu Wen’s incredible journey leads her to the answers she so desperately sought. 

It’s a compelling story that I couldn’t put down.


Summer camp for foreign kids in North Korea 

Want to go to summer camp in North Korea?

To many people in the world, this must be a crazy joke, right?

But it’s not. Here’s the story from China Daily online and our audio news department.

A summer camp in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea? It’s got one -and it’s got everything from giant water slides and a private beach to video games and volleyball courts, not to mention a big bronze statue of the late leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il surrounded by children.

After some on-the-spot guidance from DPRK leader Kim Jong-un and a major facelift, the Songdowon International Children’s Camp reopened on Tuesday for this year’s foreign campers – more than 300 young children and teenagers from Russia, China, Vietnam, Ireland and Tanzania.

It goes on to say that the kids get to cook, swim, go boating and meet young people their own age from North Korea, officially known in China as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 

The annual camp has operated for almost 30 years. Campers sleep in air conditioned cabins and experience the best the country has to offer. There are TVs and video games and other luxuries, the article says.

Officials organized the summer camp to help deepen relations with friendly socialist and other countries. Young people from any country are welcome - even the United States.

So what do you say, fellow Americans? Ready to send your kids north of the 38th Parallel next summer for a couple of weeks?


A political sign speaks volumes 


A political banner in Sanlitun.

“Diaoyu Islands have been China’s inherent territory.”

The red political banner bearing those words, hung above a restaurant in Sanlitun, is an unusual one for Beijing’s premier entertainment district. But it’s one that resonates with the Chinese people.

For years now the small group of seemingly unimportant, tiny islands have been at the heart of a dispute over who owns them. China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands, claims they belong to the mainland, while Japan, which refers to them as the Senkaku Islands, says they are Japanese territory. Taiwan also says it owns the islands, but the biggest dispute now is between the mainland and Japan.

Both countries want the islands, mainly due to potential undersea oil reserves.  The dispute means that relations between China and Japan, often frosty, especially in light are contentious now.   


New digs, new department 

New desk

I’ve got a new job - more or less - working in the Culture Department of the China Daily website. 

My new working home is on the fifth floor of the main China Daily newspaper building on Huixin Dongjie in north Beijing. It’s beautiful. I have a big, Ikea-style desk. The air conditioning kicks on well before 10 a.m. And there’s an odor-free ladies room that features a Western-style potty!!

Plus, a couple of my friends from the paper work in the same area as me. That was a nice surprise.

This gig is temporary right now, as I’m replacing a co-worker who had a family emergency and had to return to the US for at least a month. If it works out, my stay here may be permanent.

In the meantime, since we are shorthanded at the web, I’ll be doing my usual hard news editing, audio news broadcasts and Sunday column as well as editing lifestyle, food and travel stories. I’m looking forward to the challenge.