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  • : Blog on being a disabled person, different cultures, diversity, equality, disability, travel, being diaspora Chinese and disabled travel.
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Here are some of my photos. This shows some of my travels.


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Books I am reading

Xiaolu Guo
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
A love story - cultural differences, misunderstandings and yes, I see what she is saying.
Su Tong
Binu and the Great Wall

Binu and the Great Wall

Binu And The Great Wall is a wonderful myth retold in the words of Su Tong, the author of ‘Rice’.  The myth of Binu and how her tears washed away the Great Wall have been passed down through the ages. It is a tale of hardship, brutality and undying love. Su Tong’s version of the myth, brings to the reader the harshness and brutality that led to the constuction of the wall and the terrible effects it had on the common people.

5 février 2008 2 05 /02 /février /2008 23:34

Definitions of bohemian on the Web:

  • Gypsy: a member of a people with dark skin and hair who speak Romany and who traditionally live by seasonal work and fortunetelling; they are ...
  • of or relating to Bohemia or its language or people
  • a native or inhabitant of Bohemia in the Czech Republic
  • a nonconformist writer or artist who lives an unconventional life
  • unconventional in especially appearance and behavior; "a bohemian life style"
I've fancied myself as a type of bohemian - a gypsy, immigrant child of immigrants,  roaming - driven by circumstance rather than choice. Something like the song sung by Helen Segara in the Notre Dame de Paris French musical - Bohemienne

But I think I make it too grandiose. I am none of those things - immigrant yes, but not Czech but Chinese and not really unconventional nor artiste :-(

But what about Li Po's /Li Bai's famous poem, Thoughts on a Still night
Thoughts_on_a_still_night.gif Before my bed, the moon is shining bright,
I think that it is frost upon the ground.
I raise my head and look at the bright moon,
I lower my head and think of home.

(Source - http://www.chinese-poems.com/lb4t.html)

There is no moon tonight but it is cold. Chinese new year is approaching but my thoughts of home are not of China but of Malaysia - where it is equatorial steamy heat. Its my parents who are from China and I am in UK which is even colder than my ancestral village in Quangzhou.

What does it all mean? Does it have to mean anything? I find myself wishing i have someone to get excited about that it is the new year coming. While I am at it does it mean I have the advantage of calling myself a global citizen or a rootless immigrant? I am in West Midlands, home to Shakespeare - did he create any characters who feel as rootless as I do? Why do I think of Caliban?

My kids are bored of my questions of where I want my ashes to go - they think it is morbid. I think it is too. I shall return to this question of rootlessness later right now it seems like self indulgence.

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28 janvier 2008 1 28 /01 /janvier /2008 00:37
Yesterday  I went to  the cinema for P.S I love you supposedly with Denise except she had an emergency so I went on my own. The film was okay - Hilary Swanks was a treat as was Cathy Bates. The men were good eye candy. However I had to watch the movie at the far right of the cinema even when all the seats in the front 4 rows were practically empty because they had designated two wheelchair spaces at both ends.

I was livid. I paid full price so what did I have to have crappy seats? So I sat bang right in the middle at the ailse at the back of those 4 rows before the ticket man came and said I was blocking the exit. What exit I asked him - there was loads of space around me but he said I should complain but he had to obey management. I gave up in the end and went to the end of the ailse - still not the designated seats. There was a young teenaged girl at the other end - she was not in her designated seat neither. But I think I embarrased her by my protest. I didn't want to miss the film so I actually didn't make as much noise as i could have done.

At the end of the showing i complained to the manager - I should ask for the address and send it in writing but I couldnt be bothered. I suggested they took better seats. After nobody would choose to sit in those designated seats - so is that not discrimination if they made those designated seats for wheelchair users?
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17 janvier 2008 4 17 /01 /janvier /2008 00:03
Men's toilet

We went to Dallas, Texas. There were the four of us, John, Nick and his PA, Ben. I did not have the time to write about it while we were there. The journey went smoothly - much better than I had feared. Gatwick Airport  was efficient and checked us in and dispatched us to the door of the plane without insisting that we transferred to their chairs. It helped that my brother in law, KC, had us upgraded to business class. John especially was happy that we got to wait at the first class lounge when we checked in - with the  limitless drinks ans snacks offered.
Nick reading at First class lounge, Gatwick Airport

Nick was happy with his choice of magazines and I thought I could finally relax because I was tense with fear that things might go awry about wheelchairs etc.

Nope. We managed to get to our seats without too much fuss although we didn't get the seats I thought I had reserved for us. Rightly or wrongly, I think American Airlines is good about getting wheelchair customers support right. We certainly appreciated the comfortable seats which were adjustable - Nick could not have done without them for the journey was a grueling 10 hour trip.

KC met us as planned and he had the hired accessible Dodge mini van (from Wheelchair Getaway) which took the two power wheelchairs. I had booked us into Embassy Suites near Galleria shopping center. It had okay rooms and two swans in the restaurant area. We all thought it was cruel to keep swans in a hotel - they must be driven mad by boredom if nothing else.

My relatives asked what is there to do in Dallas apart from shopping. I asked that myself but we managed to fit in going to a rodeo in Fort Worth, going to South Fork ranch (from the Dallas series fame), Sixth Floor museum where JRK got shot and lots of eating. I have never been to a rodeo before so it was quite fun - doing the Texan thing. Everything was quite accessible. The only fly in the ointment was the singer - she screeched and wailed till I thought she was going to do my head in. I think - and hope- she was a stand in.

Fort Worth rodeo

I only wished we had enough time to have gone to see more of Texas but KC took us to some hotel conference place - Gaylord Resort- which had some awful replicas of San Antonio Riverwalk and the Hill country. We also went to South Fork ranch. Never ever really watched the Dallas series nor a fan of the Ewing family, the saving grace for me was a very entertaining young tour guide by the name of Clare who told us some ripping yarns and she was pretty to boot much to the appreciation of my companions..

tour-guide.jpg Our journey back was quite uneventful until we got to Gatwick. They wanted us to transfer. Nick stood his ground and they eventually transported our chairs to meet us at the door of the plane. The staff were not originally willing to move the distance from the lifts. It was worth kicking up a fuss and the crew agreed with us that it was right that we should have our chairs awaiting us at the door of the aircraft. After all we did give them an hour's notice that we needed them.

For  the first time  I  took the train back  from Gatwick to  Coventry.  It was not too bad I changed at  Watford and did  not have to go through  Central London.nti_bug_fck
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6 janvier 2008 7 06 /01 /janvier /2008 02:20
Keith Armstrong posted this youtube - thanks, Keith!  its great to know! I love the music too.

It is worth going to youtube to read the citations he gave. And when it is disability culture on youtube here is also Petra Kuppers " An Olimpias Disability Culture Project. A Collaboration between Lakshmi Fjord (audio-description), Petra Kuppers (poetry), Neil Marcus (audio improvisation), Lisa Steichmann (photography), Sadie Wilcox
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2 janvier 2008 3 02 /01 /janvier /2008 02:11
Tonight i came back to Coventry in time for Quesha's 18th birthday. I couldn't believe it when they told me at euston that I have to come home in a taxi - black cab all the way.. It must cost Virgin a fortune to send all those who cannot take buses in taxis!
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1 janvier 2008 2 01 /01 /janvier /2008 03:25
I rang home to wish mum and dad a Happy New Year and could not believe it that they are actually working today! They dont stop working except on Chinese New year!

All through the Christmas holidays I felt a little lost because all around me people were celebrating with their families and although daughter Naomi was with me and that was great, I felt a bit of an exile from my friends. And I felt bad for not providing that for the kids - when we had the nuclear family christmas with going to mass, Christmas dinners, advent calendars etc. I felt that my actions had caused me to be adrift away from loved ones and friends. However, this is self indulgent and my New year's resolution is to be positive, eat more greens, go do more exercise and to make lists and have set work priorities.

Suzy the cat with Chritmas tree

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29 décembre 2007 6 29 /12 /décembre /2007 16:27
I asked for and received Walt Balenovich Travels in a Blue Chair : Alaska to Zambia Ushuia to Uluru, a series of short stories from North America's Disabled Adventurer for Christmas.

I was looking forward to reading it - since he is a fellow polio survivor, however, I am left feeling let down. Here is a chap who is clearly adventourous and undaunted by stairs etc ( I am amazed at the number of places he stayed at which were up steps and stairs where he had to be carried up by strangers) BUT he does not leave clear impressions of the people he encountered or the places. I also wish that there is some system to the way he numbered his chapters, from the first chapter in Tokyo, he went to Uluru in Australia and by the third chapter, he was in Paris. Neither the geography nor the chronology was evident to me. I might be anal as a wannabe librarian but some inklng of how he got from one continent to the next would be useful.

Here is a sample of his writing: http://www.bluechairbook.com/index_files/Page1084.htm

Without sounding too negative, I am bemused at gems like, "My notions of the staid Japanese were immediately challenged and I realized that Asia was going to be a totally unique experience for me." I started wondering if he ever ventured to any Asian neighbourhoods in North America before he took the plane to Tokyo. Is he naive or are Canadians that confident of their reception and survival abroad?

The questions I am left with asking is how does he see that his travelling in a wheelchair has coloured his viewpoint - apart from the environmental barriers and the help he recieved from strangers, how does he compare attitudes towards his fellow disabled in these countries he visited? Did he encounter any?

And if it is a purely tourist book, he left no hints about the countries he visited. Am I being too harsh ? For example I read his chapter on his visit to Singapore - he wrote: "The real reason I wanted to visit was that it had formerly been a British colony and so they spoke English. After my earlier visit to Japan, I was looking forward to being able to taLK to some of the locals." But the thing is that he did not really have any conversations with any of the locals. There is so much about Singapore beyond the facile remarks about its rules about no chewing gum etc.

My opinion about the book? Its sad - but apart from applauding his undoubted adventourous spirit, I don't feel I have learnt anything from reading his book.

Here is his blog - http://travelsinabluechair.blogspot.com

Best read him in his words and decide for yourselves.
p/s I hope this is not too harsh a review for a fellow wheelchair traveller but I still think he ought to reoganise his chapters and some of his stories/accounts could do with some fleshing out. I get the impression that he just threw out those chapters like he emptied his knapsack - for the stories to have more merit he could put in some more editing.
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14 décembre 2007 5 14 /12 /décembre /2007 04:45
It was EU parliamentary week again in Strasbourg and there were no hotel rooms for love or money. Luckily my friend Berta, who is Mexican, was kind enough to agree to have me. She even gave me breakfast in bed one morning. I was so tired.

Berta, the best!
Berta the best!
Anyway while I was there I managed to fit a visit to the EU Disability Intergroup meeting  where they were going to discuss a green paper on urban Transport. I put in a word for inclusive design so that they bear in mind that accessible transport is for the benefit of all. A speaker from the Danish disability group asked for accessibility to be holistic - to include door to door and information not just that the transport itself be accessible.

I was happy to get to have cous cous at my favourite little restaurant at the Esplanade. They only do that on Thursdays and I was there with Helen. It was also good to catch up on news with her.

Cous cous
My coucous meal

Helen had beans!
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11 décembre 2007 2 11 /12 /décembre /2007 04:11
I had taken the earliest train from Coventry  which would normally have arrived at just after 7 but there was a delay due to some track problem and we were waiting outside Rugby. I managed to catch my Eurostar train - I found the staff very helpful in helping me change my ticket and we were off.

At the Gare du Nord, Herve from PTITCAR was waiting for me as promised and whisked me off to La Villette which was further than I had anticipated.

  accessible taxi

He was just as punctual waiting for me to get me back to Gare de l' Est to catch the train to Strasbourg.
The station has finished its renovations and look much brighter and has many more shops - I managed to get some pasta -

Pasta at the Gare de l ' Est

The TGV is much more spacious than the UK counterparts much though i am indepted to Virgin trains, it cannot be compared to French trains - where I can transfer and put up my feet.

On the TGV, I can put up my feet on the train

This is the system where they get you up on a train - they call it a passerelle which means a bridge. They put you on it and then they cranck it up to the train level.

Getting on the TGV with the ' passerelle'
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11 décembre 2007 2 11 /12 /décembre /2007 00:22
I made it to the French Disabled Women's Association « Femmes pour le dire, Femmes pour agir" 3rd Annual conference Forum Femme Création Handicap and gave my little 5 minute speech as Maudy Piot, the President had asked me to - in French. Matthieu helped me with the translation.

I was late getting there because I did not want to stay the night in Paris  and I missed  quite a bit of the  conference at the beginning and the end - which is a shame because the programme looked very impressive. I enjoyed what I did see and can report on those bits.

I arrived at about lunch time and there was a tribal dance Grillons Papillons on stage. It looked very colorful.

« Femme Création Handicap » "Danse tribale avec les Grillons Papillons"

I made my way to Maudy Piot in the front row with her guide dog, she was happy I could make it and told her husband, Alain, who was the compere that I would be giving a short speech.

During the lunch interval I wenat around the different stands/stalls called ' ruches' (hives/cells). There were many organisations which did disability arts or music and theatre - a mixture of those ran by disabled people and some by therapists - I do not think that there would be such a mixture of non disabled and carers with disabled groups in a UK organised event.
There were some artwork depicting mental health survivors but the stand was not ' manned' and the explanations were hung too high for me to read properly.

A fabric undressed doll sitting caged in box with string : Femme pour le dire femmes pour agir conference, Paris

There was a ' foot and mouth' artists stand too. However, I was impressed by Sandrine Lepelletier's ceramics.

Sandrine Lepelletier showing a ceramic to a visitor at Femme pour le dire femmes pour agir conference, Paris

I spoke with someone whom I think is one of the Retour d' image organisers, she told me she needed her lunch too much to talk to me but that there was a film festival happening just across the hall the 3rd Festival Retour d'image :

Our team programs movies featuring disabled characters, in accessible french cinemas and cultural centers.  All the films are subtitled and audio-described in french. A debate is conducted following each screening, by a disabled film critic or professional. French sign language interpreters are provided at every venue.

Certainly I missed Sandrine Bonnaire who was the guest of honour - she had just had a documentary out about her autistic sister:
Elle s'appelle Sabine de Sandrine Bonnaire,
documentaire Français, 2007, 85 mn, produit par Mosaïque films.
Le portrait émouvant par Sandrine Bonnaire de sa soeur autiste Sandrine, d'un an sa cadette.
I did not miss Nicolleta, however, she did not sing but she gave a lovely speech which she topped by saying that she is involved in the organisation because her mother had a learning  disability.

For me, the most impressive event was the premiere of the musical l’Opéra du désert par Duo Soma. The two Somas are both disabled musicians and singers and I was entranced by the breadth and the profound message in the music and the story. There was a verve, a joy, exuberance which is powerful and thoroughly enjoyable.  It was not intimidating at all inspite of being called an opera. My rough translation of the story as given is -

16th century AD in North Africa
A Berber noble, Tin Hinan, ‘She who came from faraway’ crossed the Sahara accompanied by her loyal servant, Takamat, to meet the spirits of Hoggar – volcanic mountains in mid Sahara – and to find her destiny. The spirits revealed her own liberty as a free woman and that she had to decide her own destiny for herself…
Legend has it that Tin Hinnan was a magnificent woman with immense and passionate eyes. She was also an authoritative woman who was the queen of her community.

Three actors on a stage : Première de l’Opéra du désert par Duo Soma - Femme pour le dire femmes pour agir conference, Paris

Unfortunately, after my very short speech, I had to leave to catch my train for Strasbourg.

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