When I first arrived in Madrid to take part in the internship that I subsequently quit to go volunteer on a farm, I was put up by a friend of my fathers who works at the British embassy.
Saying that makes me sound a lot better connected than I actually am.
During the few days I stayed with her in her apartment we had a couple of evenings chatting over a late-night cup-o-tea. It turned out we had one massive thing in common; China.
It turned out her Grandfather, Jack Perry, was one of the pioneers of British-Chinese trade after the Second World War. It was by no means made easy for him; there were American lead embargos and boycotts, hostility from HongKongese companies that saw themselves as the bridge between Britain and China as well as general wariness of anyone willing to do business with the Commies. You can read a bio of this fantastic man on the China-British Business Council website here.
It just so happens that he wrote a book, which I have just finished reading, and is one of the most refreshing accounts of 20th century China I have ever read. Despite coming from a business background he does not address solely this area. He muses about the philosphy of the country and tells many great stories; from his first ever long train ride from the South to the North of the country, to the time his wife had a chat with Che Guevara.
He is very pro-Chinese, occasionally to the point of excess (he scoots over the horrors of the cultural revolution and practically defends Tian'anmen Square and blames it on America), but his approach to Chinese socialism is a breath of fresh air when compared to the constant barrage of criticism made on the country by modern, Western, mainstream media.
I am pretty sure his book, From Brick Lane to the Forbidden City, is out of print and practically impossible to find, but I wanted to write this blog about it to urge you to search out alternative points of view on the country that seems to have come to dominate my life. I am not one to defend some of the stuff that happened in the cultural revolution, Tian'anmen Square, the Uighur riots of last year or those in Tibet in 2008, but by reading accounts that are able to defend them, my own view of the country becomes more rounded and balanced.
For the love of God, don't judge the country on the Guardian.co.uk China collumn.
Even if you seek out and read what you know is controlled propoganda, at least then you can understand the intentions of what is soon going to be the most powerful nation on Earth.
And of course, if you are ever fortunate enough to come across Jack's book, don't hesitate to pick it up.
Friday, 20 August 2010
Thursday, 12 August 2010
First things first, watch this. It's a fantastic summary video of Summer in the City 2010 by CasioClark. I appear in it a couple of times, waving my hands about and shouting... which is pretty standard for me at SitC events.
SitC this year was especially important for me, because it was the first time I have seen my virtual friends since last summer, and it's also the last time I will see them until next years event. Lots of long hugs were had and I'm gutted for all the people who couldn't come; NSG, whataboutadam, MissYau etc. But it was exactly what I needed in the middle of this long hot summer... and it's 95 degrees in the shade...
I am ashamed for quoting Girls Aloud. Apologies.
So, I've been in Madrid for the past six weeks or so. I've kinda kept that under my belt. Unintentionally of course. I have to do at least 8 weeks here as part of my Uni course, so was here on an internship with an media company. I won't go into details, wouldn't be professional and all that, but due to the circumstances in which I was working and a dodgy relationship with the boss I decided to quit. So for the past week and a half or so I have been jobless, trying desperately to find something to do with my time. I tried charities, other internships, but no one seemed to be hiring or looking for help. To be fair, it's also Madrid in at the beginning of August, half the businesses close down for the holidays.
I have ended up settling on wwoofing my last couple of weeks here. Wwoofing (Willing workers on organic farms) is an organisation based around a website where willing workers (volunteers) work on organic farms... funnily enough. You get put up and looked after in exchange for doing various jobs around the farm. I have wanted to do this for ages. It was an option when I was touring Japan, and I was thinking of doing it around New Zealand next summer after I finish my second year in China. But I had a good friend from Uni doing it so I thought I would join her, so in a couple of hours I will be on a bus bound for Barcelona, arrive there in the morning, and hopefully be on the farm by tomorrow afternoon or early evening.
One annoying thing was that I went food shopping only a couple of days ago. This was all very last minute by the way. And so I have been eating like a pig so I don't get rotting vegetables in my cupboard when I get back. Not that it has mattered that much, loads of my carrots, my lettuce and all my pork chops went off prematurely over the last couple of days. I was very annoyed.
On another note, I haven't mentioned the house that I'm staying in! It's wonderful. It's all a bit touch and go because not all the people are here because it's summer, and people have been arriving and leaving as the rooms switch over, but it's full of young people from all over Europe. A good few of them are artists, and all very friendly. It's very similar to L'Auberge Espagnole if anyone has ever seen it, just in Madrid, not Barcelona.
I wish I had a camera so I could show photos of my time here. When I have money I will be sure to invest.
I will update when I have things to update. I'm not taking my laptop to Catalunya because I think some time offline will do me good. Which may seem ironic to those of you who are still waiting on new RWO videos. I still haven't managed to sort out the technological difficulties on that front. Sorry.
In the mean time, a photo from SitC
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Some of you may know that I am one of the organisers for the largest YouTube gathering in Europe, Summer in the City, which will be taking place next weekend between the 6th and 8th of August.
One of my bigger jobs is that of editor of the SitC Publication, which is a guide/ magazine/ souvenir for the weekend with articles, information and pretty pictures. If all goes smoothly there will be a publication this year as well (touch wood) for which I have the great privilage of writing the forward. I thought I would give you all a little teaser of the publication by posting part of my forward here. Enjoy, and I will see you next weekend.
For those of us that have been here for a while, YouTube has in many cases either had to take a back seat as our ‘real’ lives develop, or has grown to become our livelihoods and careers. I myself have spent the last year in China, so my life online has had to take a back seat. I have become somewhat detached from the core of the site; I’m not sure who everyone is watching, what companies have been cosying up to us lately and I have no idea where all the stars have gone. However, I have deliberately planned my summer so that I will be in London for this gathering, why?
At the beginning gatherings, I’m thinking back to 2007, were a way to geek out with people who had the same interests as you, with whom you shared hobbies, ambitions and idols. As time went on these people became not just our YouTube friends, but some of the most important people in our lives; our flatmates, our boyfriends and girlfriends, our support network for when we broke up with these boyfriends and girlfriends.
This process begins at every single YouTube meet-up. Whenever it is someone’s first gathering, they are meeting people that may become long standing features of their world. YouTube attracts a certain kind of person; we’re all a bit too nerdy for our own good, we all like meeting new people and we all like to show off a bit. No matter how much YouTube changes, no matter how commercial it will or will not become, whether you call them a Pogotribe, Nerdfighters or just plain YouTubers, this kind of person will still be coming to these kinds of meet-ups. For the foreseeable future, I will still be coming to these meet-ups, whether my channel lays neglected or not, because the people you meet at YouTube gatherings are often some of the most quirky, fascinating and loyal people you will ever meet.