May 6. Quake Relieve and One kg more

We are still in Chengdu, but we don’t want to leave without a Cause for our project. And that is where Peter Coff comes in. He explains us a lot about his Hong Kong based NGO Sichuan Quake Relief and we decide to wire our donation to him. He has gone through all the paperwork and it is still hard to get through all the checkpoints to reach the disaster zone, a trip he undertakes nearly every weekend. I respect him a lot. We tell our story and earn recognizing nods. We will write a short article about Quake Relief and showcase it as one of the ngo’s in China that are “supporter friendly”.

At night we meet Asgeir and two Chinese women working for ngo’s to do some more networking. We have worked here all day and went out only for a quick noodle soup in a local restaurant. They tell us about the popular Chinese grassroots ngo “1kg more”, simply encouraging (Chinese) travelers to take schoolbooks on their travels and hand them out to needy rural schools. The concept is working successfully for a couple of years already. A strong point is the low overhead: the organization consists essentially of the website, maintained by volunteers. Travelers read about rural schools and contact them individually. Given the fact that most airlines allow for thirty kg of check-in luggage, travelers could freight serious aid packages and on a minor detour from their sunny holiday destination, distribute it to the needy.
Asgeir, a Norwegian anthropologist on a quest to get to know all those interesting travelers, tells us a lot about South Asia and Bali, where he has been earlier. He lives in the other free room in Dhane’s apartment and we have made friends with him the other day. We exchange travel tips and I must have seemed a bit conceited as I revealed entripid travelers’ insider knowledge about Lapland, a Russian visa, Belarus bureaucracy, Kiev, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, the Transsiberian, the Baltics, the Crimea. Well, the atmosphere is very nice and we take smiling pictures.

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May 6. Quake Relieve and One kg more

We are still in Chengdu, but we don’t want to leave without a Cause for our project. And that is where Peter Coff comes in. He explains us a lot about his Hong Kong based NGO Sichuan Quake Relief and we decide to wire our donation to him. He has gone through all the paperwork and it is still hard to get through all the checkpoints to reach the disaster zone, a trip he undertakes nearly every weekend. I respect him a lot. We tell our story and earn recognizing nods. We will write a short article about Quake Relief and showcase it as one of the ngo’s in China that are “supporter friendly”.

At night we meet Asgeir and two Chinese women working for ngo’s to do some more networking. We have worked here all day and went out only for a quick noodle soup in a local restaurant. They tell us about the popular Chinese grassroots ngo “1kg more”, simply encouraging (Chinese) travelers to take schoolbooks on their travels and hand them out to needy rural schools. The concept is working successfully for a couple of years already. A strong point is the low overhead: the organization consists essentially of the website, maintained by volunteers. Travelers read about rural schools and contact them individually. Given the fact that most airlines allow for thirty kg of check-in luggage, travelers could freight serious aid packages and on a minor detour from their sunny holiday destination, distribute it to the needy.
Asgeir, a Norwegian anthropologist on a quest to get to know all those interesting travelers, tells us a lot about South Asia and Bali, where he has been earlier. He lives in the other free room in Dhane’s apartment and we have made friends with him the other day. We exchange travel tips and I must have seemed a bit conceited as I revealed entripid travelers’ insider knowledge about Lapland, a Russian visa, Belarus bureaucracy, Kiev, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, the Transsiberian, the Baltics, the Crimea. Well, the atmosphere is very nice and we take smiling pictures.

May 5. Please do NOT give.

We haven’t given up our quest for Chinese ngo’s, not yet. I make phone calls: they hang up on me. Jane Goodall foundation? Winrock foundation? PLAN China? Forget it. But Dhane tells us he knows that some poor earthquake victims have been relocated to a Chengdu hospital and if we could find out where they are we could support them and their suffering communities directly. Sounds like a good idea, and we walk into a building where a friendly man at a counter sends us to the Red Cross, that is to a bulky state controlled organization. We try to explain that we want to write an article about independent charity work and its possibility in China, but aren’t understood.
In the afternoon, we head back to Lichiqong who explains me then that for some reason, it is better to give up the idea and NOT donate to the families. Is there a soldier standing at every bed? Is it undermining the state when individuals support each other? I want to yell, but I nod quietly. In the end, we don’t even visit a hospital, we see no poor earthquake victims introducing smart community programs to us that need some monetary supprt – and get a bad taste about Chinese state-controlled aid. We will be enlightened tomorrow, but today, we sleep unsatisfied.

May 5. Please do NOT give.

We haven’t given up our quest for Chinese ngo’s, not yet. I make phone calls: they hang up on me. Jane Goodall foundation? Winrock foundation? PLAN China? Forget it. But Dhane tells us he knows that some poor earthquake victims have been relocated to a Chengdu hospital and if we could find out where they are we could support them and their suffering communities directly. Sounds like a good idea, and we walk into a building where a friendly man at a counter sends us to the Red Cross, that is to a bulky state controlled organization. We try to explain that we want to write an article about independent charity work and its possibility in China, but aren’t understood.
In the afternoon, we head back to Lichiqong who explains me then that for some reason, it is better to give up the idea and NOT donate to the families. Is there a soldier standing at every bed? Is it undermining the state when individuals support each other? I want to yell, but I nod quietly. In the end, we don’t even visit a hospital, we see no poor earthquake victims introducing smart community programs to us that need some monetary supprt – and get a bad taste about Chinese state-controlled aid. We will be enlightened tomorrow, but today, we sleep unsatisfied.

May 4. India Gypsy Bikeride!

Still in Chengdu. We sleep the morning then have lunch at a place called Sultan with Dhane. It turns out we have a lot in common and we happily share our stories. He is currently working here as an English and after school teacher in preparation of his epic India bikeride from november 2011 onward. That ride will take him from Kathmandu via Calcutta all the way south to Chennai and into Kerala, then back up again to Mumbai and back to Katmandu, where he will settle down for a while. The journey is smartly scheduled: only riding in this configuration the cyclist won’t meet a typhoon. Dhane plans to recruit some more cyclists, and is open to everyone. So go ahead! He will distribute the donations he collects prior to and during the ride to orphanages along the way, and also invite children living on the street to join the ride until they have found a suitable orphan home for them. It all sounds beautiful to us and we recommend it to every cyclist, also to novices since you can opt for joining the journey only part of the way, as we might do ourselves when we revisit Ephphata in Tiruvannamalai.

After lunch we follow Dhane to Lichiqongs place. Lichiqong is a friendly Chinese who is keen on his children’s education and has an English program running constantly. Also, his son plays violin and I am happy to teach him some techniques and tricks in exchange for our dinner. The Sichuan cuisine is good and at Lichiqongs place, surrounded by friendly smiles and loud children, everything tastes even better.

May 4. India Gypsy Bikeride!

Still in Chengdu. We sleep the morning then have lunch at a place called Sultan with Dhane. It turns out we have a lot in common and we happily share our stories. He is currently working here as an English and after school teacher in preparation of his epic India bikeride from november 2011 onward. That ride will take him from Kathmandu via Calcutta all the way south to Chennai and into Kerala, then back up again to Mumbai and back to Katmandu, where he will settle down for a while. The journey is smartly scheduled: only riding in this configuration the cyclist won’t meet a typhoon. Dhane plans to recruit some more cyclists, and is open to everyone. So go ahead! He will distribute the donations he collects prior to and during the ride to orphanages along the way, and also invite children living on the street to join the ride until they have found a suitable orphan home for them. It all sounds beautiful to us and we recommend it to every cyclist, also to novices since you can opt for joining the journey only part of the way, as we might do ourselves when we revisit Ephphata in Tiruvannamalai.

After lunch we follow Dhane to Lichiqongs place. Lichiqong is a friendly Chinese who is keen on his children’s education and has an English program running constantly. Also, his son plays violin and I am happy to teach him some techniques and tricks in exchange for our dinner. The Sichuan cuisine is good and at Lichiqongs place, surrounded by friendly smiles and loud children, everything tastes even better.

May 2-3. Chengdu.

May second is an empty space, we have a very late breakfast and hop on our sleeper train to Chengdu. Our couchsurfing host there calls us just as we are about to move to the station, strengthening our belief that it’s time to move on. Xi’an is crowded today but we have secured our train tickets, hard sleeper class this time, and stock up on snacks in the train station. The overnight ride is comfortable, and I awake with a fresh mind to find myself in another seven-million metropole: Chengdu.

The north of Chengdu is chaotic and crowded, as our host Dhane teaches us later. We wade through the crowd and make it to a dumpling place, from where we call Dhane. He explains how to get to his place: cross a little river and take the second road to the left. It all sounds like a rural place just outside of town, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Chengdu has three rings and Dhane lives just outside the second ring. A twenty minute busride and subsequent gesture-steered autorickshaw ride take us across the little creek and soon we find ourselves in Dhane’s apartment.
We are tired and just hang out, having a good conversation about Charity Travel and learning about Dhane’s six month India Charity Ride from december 2011 we might join part of the way. This is how things go folks. It makes me realize how much depends on the right communication networks. I also know, however, that those networks are fragile and need to be maintained. It’s not just an internet platform serving communities of likeminded people. It needs some outspoken strong individuals with straightforward profiles and behavior we can count on. We are great apes after all.

After buying some local produce I am able to make a mushroom omelet for our late night dinner.