Animal Kingdom!

 

Life Goal: Open an amazing animal sanctuary for rescued buddies in need called ‘Animal Sanctuary’

 

Do we all love furry, fluffy, small softies? A pupper, a kitty, a bunny, any living, breathing animal that is naturally adorable and in comparison to fellow human beings does not talk gibberish, is sincere and lacks complications. As a companion or as a free being roaming about  our surrounding habitats, animals represent for me the ultimate sacred thing: I respect them, love them and wish to protect them at any cost. Thus, I am a strong supporter of animal rights and I believe that each country should have laws that protect animals, should have proper shelters for abandoned souls and animals in need, should have a police force encharged with the safety of animals  (like ASPCA  in the U.S.) and education for children and adults alike on how to treat and respect our lovely friends who give us nothing but love.

But, unfortunately the should I mentioned above is more like a best case scenario. In reality, society is overflowed with cases of mistreated animals, with human beings who hate animals, who don’t understand them or who are scared of them. It is all around us. Directly in the media or in the invisible web of information that flows through a city’s veins in poor, developing countries that care not for our furry friends, but for the development of their economy at any cost.  In veiled, isolated cases and in subtle informational layers of connoisseurs groups in well off countries. It is distressing to see that happening.

A few weeks back I had a revelation concerning my future goals. I would like to make my own start-up, a shelter that will function as a social enterprise. It will be a safe haven for rescued dogs, cats, bunnies, mini pigs, hamsters and so on. I imagine it to be an amazing colorful space full of pillows, shelves, books, toys, bones, snacks, small obstacle courses for animals. They will sleep comfortably there on soft mattresses, play, enjoy life and have a huge adjacent garden or forest to wander through and run around. Of course, the end purpose of the shelter will be to find loving families to adopt the animals. In order to raise the funds to feed the animals, buy toys, vaccinate them and take them to the vet I will offer animal training services, I will run a small animal cafe, produce handmade animal themed objects, offer day visits to people who want to play and caress animals for a certain cost and sell toys and food for animals. All the ensuing profit will go to rescuing animals and creating an excellent huge common shelter home for them.

How did I realize I want to do this? First of all, I love animals so much that I become miserable when I see them lonely, unloved or mistreated. And the more I live the more I see this happening all around me. In Romania, dog shelters are vile. They barely have any space, dogs are infested with ticks, flees and suffer from various health problems. On top of that they have no toys, they hardly get fed and when they do, the food is some leftover dry bread crust soaked in water. To top that they get no affection and no space to play or to enjoy their lives.

In Shanghai there is no actual physical shelter so all the rescued animals go to individuals who are willing to them for some limited time. Thus, a lot of them are left on the street, in bushes, in garbage collection areas because there aren’t enough people who are good-hearted enough or who wish to ‘burden themselves’ with these poor souls in need of help. Another problem are the so-called animal cafes in Shanghai.  I visited one recently and I was shocked. Why? Because these animals (dogs, cats, hamsters, one bunny, birds) were exploited for the sake of making private profits and they utterly were neglected. They were extremely dirty and they lived in small confined spaces. These animals are used and they have no say in it. After I felt sorry for a small Corgie who had accumulated  ear fulls of cerumen, I offered to clean his ears to the waiters/ animal caretakers of the cafe. My proposition was refused.

Two years ago in Shanghai I faced a situation when I thought that my anger would burst and I would punch a man in the face. Why? Because he was using a monkey on a tight rope leash to make money out of passersby who were allowed to touch or play with the monkey for a few yuan.

Another stomach churning instance was finding out that some pet shops in Shanghai offer boarding for animals for the ridiculous amount of 10 euros per night for caging your companion in a space where he or she doesn’t have any other option then to sleep. These spaces are horrendous and they look like insanitary basements with animal excrements flowing on the floor, disgusting smells and defecation in cages or trolleys where they leave some of the animals awaiting assistance. What is more, they also sell some pets such as dogs, cats, fish, hamsters and Guinea pigs. When I was inspecting the place I noticed 4 small white hamsters and a dead one lying belly up with an open raw wound in a terrarium. It looked like it had been there for at least one day. The puppies were begging to be touched and played with and their eyes said: ‘Take me home, take me out of this hell’. I am crying out loud…what does it take to put in an extra bit of effort and make sure these animals live a comfortable life and enjoy it? But well, in China, in Romania and in many other places on Planet Earth people care more about making money and they would do anything for it, even exploiting and mistreating animals to reach their objectives. I feel like shouting and protesting, but it might be in vain. It is a battle I would lose on a global scale, but I can start my own initiative in the future and make sure I contribute to a lot of animals being rescued and treated properly at least on one point on the world map.

P.S: Let’s all fight together and do everything in our power to improve the livelihoods of animals and our friendly companions. Let’s treat them as we would our friends, family and other human beings…..with compassion, empathy, love, kindness, care and support.

And here’s my beloved Osho, pampered by being called at times: Oshi Boshi.

Oshi

 

Daydreaming

 

A red lucky moving hand Japanese cat

Looks insistently at a Westerner with a hat

The street barbecue floats in fat

The teachers gave a talk to a random Matt

A handsome Korean on an Alvar Aalto chair sat

Another daydreaming session in a café

With my pet the rainbow bat

The letters of a faded, burnt postcard

Rotate with fervor in a mental hospital ward

Imaginary friends eat a bowlful of lard

The emperor’s castle collapsed and killed the bard

The foundations of this fantasy story are hard

Covered in milk the lamp seems a tart

I am stuck in a corner; I am Alice in love with a leopard

At the counter full of cakes there is a clown

The odd collection of teaspoons fell down

The construction worker, the nurse, the guard are all sound

But the sofas, the fluorescent walls, the plants are bound

Are chained to my notebook while they drown

In the room there is a single crown

The queen lost, the plot was written by my hound.

Advanced society?

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I came across this poem and I felt I stumbled upon my truth, my reality. It struck me and sometimes I would l like to cry out loud and shout for people to wake up and care, care, care. Wake up from mediocrity and from the little or much you have (emotionally, mentally or materially) and share with others in order to work towards a more egalitarian society. 

Copyright: @ Fauxcroft 

Why are there still slums

And homeless people

Living in an advanced society

How we claim to be progressive

When so many actions are regressive

Cutting back on health care and benefits

Treat some people like they are less than shit

Why we think it’s OK to flaunt rich lifestyles on display

While other people having nothing at all

Why in an advanced society are people not equal

Equal chances of a good education

Equal chances of good jobs in life

Equal share of wealth that’s created

Instead we get taxes through stealth

Meanwhile the food banks are growing

And the class divides are showing

Is there help for those who fall through the cracks

No because our society lacks

The ability to care and share

And make real change that will take us there

To a world of equality without the homeless and slums

Or we will remain at the present with the trickle down theory

Where we are fed crumbs

From the table of the rich and elite

Where you get a reward if you behave like a sheep.

Christmas and Love: Controversial in Shanghai

 

 

 

It’s a rather warm Sunday, winter afternoon and it is Christmas Eve. It is one of the most charming and lovely days for me. I would have liked to admire the frozen nature and for my face to be bitten by the rushing wind, the flakes of snow and the cold air. Since mother Nature refuses to comply with my wishes I decide to make the most of my time strolling through a park. Thus, I leave the coziness and isolation of my house for a relaxing walk in People’s Park. (In China, by name, everything belongs to the people; e.g. :people’s money, people’s square, people’s bank, people’s hospital etc. Sounds like heaven, unfortunately it isn’t so).

Back to myself. I feel nostalgic and memories of Christmases past flood my mind. Imagine! Hills covered in blankets of immaculate snow, children giggling and running towards the very top of sharp-sculpted valleys with their sledges, people going to church when evening settles in, groups of boys and girls travelling from house to house to sing decades old carols, hosts receiving guests with a glass of mulled wine and a slice of sweet walnut bread (cozonac), delicious food shared by family and friends near the stove, the smell and heat of burning wood in my grandparents’ house, rosy cheeks and noses, woolen hats and gloves and vapors of hot air leaving our mouths and becoming magical floating smoke in the cold. And that is the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of winter that I am missing so in China. I did find at least a dozen small Christmas markets in Shanghai and fancy elaborate Christmas decorations in every reputable shopping mall. Probably this made it better than being stuck for Christmas in…let’s say, Saudi Arabia. However, the superficiality and commercialism of the holiday is what dominates Christmas in China. The kindness of Christmas, the spirit of Christmas, the feeling of being in a community where people share the same believes and relate to the most important festive season of the year in the same way is somewhere far away.

While all of this makes sense because Christmas is not a holiday rooted in Chinese culture my heart still aches. Why? In the upcoming years the government and certain cultural conservationist advocacy groups decided to forbid Christmas decorations in public areas. Their scope is to encourage Chinese people to concentrate on their own holidays and customs. They want to sabotage Christmas! Gosh, that is sad. People won’t even be free to enjoy Christmas decorations in public places any longer? Let’s just take it the other way around. In any of the countries I have lived before (Romania, UK, Turkey, Belgium) I was free to enjoy and attend celebrations belonging to various religious and ethnic groups. Displays of joy and decorations were welcomed and not ostracized. Shouldn’t we, inhabitants of Earth, by now celebrate and accept multiculturalism? Withdrawing into our own conservative, nationalistic corners that proved times and again to fail is not the right path for future evolution. Didn’t we learn already that not love and accepting each other means failure?

So just because I am not Buddhist or because I am not Asian, it does not mean that I should not be allowed to  celebrate or share the meaning and joy of Chinese New Year. Many other people and I are curious about others’ holidays and their meanings and would like to celebrate along with them.  And we usually have the freedom to experience that in any European country. But tables might turn in China….Chinese people might not have the same privilege in their own country and with them everyone else will be denied Christmas.

Now, let me tell you what Christmas was all about in People’s Park. The main scene was occupied by a huge marriage market. Middle-aged people and a few youngsters arranged colorful open umbrellas on the sides of alleys on the ground and stuck A4 papers on top. These sheets of paper contained the personal information of the elders’ daughters, sons or other related singles who wanted to get lucky in love. If you have ever been to a market: vegetable, fruit, flea market, etc. you will have an idea of how things were displayed here. Every person was standing next to the other and was advertising attractive marriage partners on A4 papers placed on top of her or his umbrella. They were also calling attention to more than one person. The most interesting part was that the man or woman who was mentioned on the sheet paper was not present and there wasn’t even a picture of them displayed. So what did this paper contain? The year of birth, age, job, height, university attended, phone number, what was their material situation (whether they had a car or a house), what province they were born in and future requirements from a partner. Everything was so chaotic and there were probably a few hundred people circulating through the market. There was a constant flow, a vibe of looking for the right arrangement. Old people were walking around and engaging in talks with one another exchanging information about their ‘goods’. The ones who were publicizing and trying so hard to find suitable partners for their offspring were calling out to passers-by. According to which principles are these marriages arranged? Who is considered a potential suitable partner for one’s daughter or son? What are usually regarded as good marriages in China according to parents and grandparents? Most old people or middle-aged ones resort to traditional matchmaking methods. Thus, they try to match future partners by analyzing their birth dates and their representative animal signs. Due to the unequal ratio of men to women (too many men and not enough women) brides-to-be require houses and cars or other monetary gifts as wedding dowries. Where is the love in all of these? Potential partners contact each other by phone or wechat (the Chinese version of whatsapp) and end up going for blind dates. Arranged marriages or at least arranged blind dates are all too common in China. Why? Because parents and grandparents pressure young people to get married and have children. That is the ultimate goal that young people should fulfill in China. The pressure is even higher for women, who come to be considered leftover women if they reach the age of 30 and they are still single.

Where is the love in all this affair? The delight and freedom of selecting one’s partner, the spontaneous first interactions and innocent flirts, the idea that you are independent and that you are in charge of selecting whom to share your life with, the ideal that love is not material, that love is not something that should be arranged or advertised or sold? That love happens in mysterious ways and exactly that is its charm? Well, that concept of love, that construction of the feeling of love varies from individual to individual and from country to country. Love is nothing but a made-up cultural and psychological concept which we learn from childhood onwards. We acquire the information on how to live it, how to feel it and how to think about it from our surroundings and experiences. The concept of love: what I described above, the ‘genuine love’ that some might say comes spontaneously and is partly based on shared interests, personalities, physical attractions and common goals is something we see in movies, in magazines, on TV shows, at celebrities, in articles, in books, idealized in our own minds and most of all in talks with people who share the same ideas about what love is. However, in China love can happen in arranged marriages, love can happen through blind dates, love can happen through negotiation and love can come if material requirements are met.

Becoming

 

He called me frivole!

Cold in the wind of winter

I saw the word as a binder,

Hot, bitter, sour in a mug

Frivolous!

He called me addicted!

Flinging and clinging with desperation

The word brought into mind frustration,

Illusion, delusion, necessity are sweet

Addictive!

He called me désolée!

A fading color leaf in autumn

I took the word as utterly forgotten,

In flight and dance of rouge created

Desolated!

 

Childhood

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In the middle of the green fields

I was alone,

I was in reverie

Thinking, dancing, mumbling

Existence was soft

Was as easy as picking scented flowers

Nectar filled plants

Listening to bees

Tasting the grass

Hearing the wind whispering

My dreams of growing up

Got caught up in spider’s webs

And playing games

Was not for wining, was not for losing

Running around

Stealing fruits

The value of goods

Was in sharing

Children on the streets

Jumping in the rain

Building bridges in the mud

The sweet taste of childhood

Lies in its simplicity.

Christmas is coming. Still unemployed!

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Random thoughts have been going through my head for a month already. So here it goes. Finally I have the time and courage to write down what has been bothering me. I gave up my three or four part-time jobs as an English teacher and my Chinese language course will end soon. That means my visa will expire soon…how soon? The end of January…and I’ve got nothing sorted out….I am stressed, I might be kicked out of this country and I am not even sure I have enough money to buy a plane ticket to go back to my home country. I am basically stranded. And my home is in Shanghai already. I feel the Christmas spirit here, my lovely dog is here with me…what am I gonna do with him if I have to leave? He is my responsability and I love him so much. I could leave him with my boyfriend, but I would miss him too much.

Meanwhile, I am constantly looking for jobs in my domain (anthropology > NGO, social entrepreneurs’ companies,  cultural advisor, exchange semester coordinator or study advisor…abstract and idealistic type of jobs).  Yeah, this is what stimulates my imagination and my dream is to get involved in projects that could alleviate poverty, help discriminated people, come up with ideas and ways to help migrants integrate better and receive real chances to start over in their new countries. To be honest, ever since I was a child empathy was one of my biggest qualities. I remember seeing beggars, wounded animals or poor children and starting to cry. My whole day became miserable and I didn’t care about my happy circumstances anymore. Well, I don’t know if you can classify empathy as a quality. Sometimes it makes life impossibly hard. I am way too sensitive and I sometimes end up crying in a corner by how fucked up the world is and by how insensitive and selfish people are. I am one of those people who cannot imagine living life only for herself. I can’t die thinking that all I have done during my short, meaningless life was to build a future only for myself and my family. So no, I want to help the world, thus I want to become a social activist. Unfortunately, so do many other people…millions of other people…why? because nowadays it is trendy to do that…it is fashionable…basically it goes like this…some people think the world is divided into the following categories:

  •  Rich individuals, big corporations, corrupt politicians > aka business minded, mainly interested in money people
  • The other side > the good guys, the ‘do good’, save the world, talk big and put some positive shit on your CV

But out there people are more than that, more than 2 narrow categories. Black, white and grey zones mingle. What frustrates me the most are people who are nowadays social activists or work in domains that are obviously related to anthropology and sociology, but have nothing to do with these areas. They use language and terms that are unrelated to social and cultural issues and even augment problems by spreading wrong messages and using general terms (such as: let’s educate people > how abstract is that? ). And the main problem with this is that they have no theoretical knowledge and no background in how to deal with different communities. All the data they have on certain communities comes from superficial dialogues they had with a few individuals. There is no ethnography involved, no significant sample group, no extended period of time interviewing and participating in the community’ s life. Hence, everything is just completely biased and presented from the perspective of the person who wants to help. However, this help can sometimes do more wrong than good for certain communities if we are not analytical enough. That also involves a lot of self-criticism and challenging yourself at every step. So here’s my issue…do some people want to help because they would like to see problems solved? Are they really in it to genuinely offer other people chances to improve their lives? Or do they want to help because it is trendy and weighs a lot on their resume? I think there are a lot of posers out there who occupy jobs that I might be suitable for.

And here’s the paradox…..

I, with a background in anthropology and I, who really want to delve into nowadays’ societal and cultural issues, am standing on the bench of unemployment while individuals who have no idea how to approach cultural and social issues or who have no theoretical background in this are shouting out loud: ‘Help people with special needs’! . Gosh, that was a talk I listened to at PIC (Pyramid Impact Collective) Shanghai. So let’s discriminate people and place them into a special and separate group from ours by calling them : people with special needs. It is ridiculous: us (normal) versus them (special needs). I am not gonna go deeper into this, but it does seem like we are regressing to previous issues of us (white, intelligent) versus them (non-white, colonized). Except now we have different categories of us (full physical and mental abilities individuals) and them (individuals who mentally and physically relate to the world in a different way). I thought we were over that.

But getting back to the job problem.  As I was saying, I find this battle of mine to find an entry-level job as a young graduate paradoxical. Why? Because, on one side, people without experience and proper backgrounds in anthropology and sociology are working in domains that require both practical and theoretical knowledge. On the other side, the more I struggle to swim through nowadays competitive market the more I feel like I am worthless. Most of the jobs out there are for people with 2+ years experience. On top of that, the more certificates you have, the more languages you speak, the more freaking additional skills you have the better it is. And I feel left out, I am not a superhuman. I wonder who is? Then how do young people find jobs? And how do all these individuals without sociological and anthropological backgrounds end up in NGOs?

You would say, well, they start with an internship….and that’s fine…for those who want to do that…but I can’t and I am really against that…why? Because for more than 7 years of my life (bachelor and master) my parents have been supporting me financially and I feel ashamed to ask them to keep supporting me for one more year while I work for free. Because that’s how I see it. Big companies want interns that slave for them…no? Aren’t interns a kind of modern slaves? No offence to those who do internships…I’m sure you gain a lot of valuable skills and knowledge…but at the same time why don’t companies pay at least a minimum wage so graduates can sustain themselves and become independent? I mean, I will be 27 years old on the 13th of December and I want to be independent and to start my career in an NGO or a social  entrepreneurship group. Because my studies are related to that and afterall, this is my passion. Why don’t I get the chance to do that? I mean, what’s the point of studying at all if all I get to do is an internship or getting a job in something that completely bores me and drains all my energy just to be able to put food on the table and pay the rent?

I agree that we live in a very competitive society and we have to fight for what is ours, but isn’t this pushed to an extreme? I am not the type of individual who can multitask to the extent that I can juggle a full-time internship and many part-time jobs to pay the rent and at the same time save some personal time for myself to stay sane. I feel like internships are for rich kids. My parents can’t support me any longer. And when I think about it, my parents were financially independent when they were about 24. So how can I ask them for money and work for free or for a meagre amount of money just to gain experience?  If you ask me…internships are just a cheap and dirty way to cut down on costs and make poor susceptible young graduates slave and do jobs that otherwise employees would do for a real salary. So no, I am not going to do an internship…I am going to keep looking for that one workplace that will give me the chance to get a visa, earn a fair salary and be able to survive in this city and in this country by paying my own bills and buying my own food and by giving me the chance to develop and use my energy, my creativity, my skills in their company.

P.S: One last thing, I was given a free piece of ‘smart advice’. I was told by some people (who supposedly are great, intelligent and working in social change) that I victimize myself and that I create a negative image for myself by complaining or by revealing that I am unemployed and looking for a job and for a chance to start my career. I was advised to pump up my image and to advertise myself,  to present myself as what I want to be instead of what I am. And that, to me, seems to be faking it…’smart advice’ from self-image and goal setting coaches. What is wrong with admitting the truth, with recognizing that I am vulnerable and  that I am going through a situation that many other people faced at some point in their lives? And btw, the PR department uses negative publicity once in a while as a positive thing. ‘Bad publicity is better than no publicity at all!’

Leaving all jokes aside: I am fed up with this : ‘Everything works fine and I am a great individual with no problems’ and with ‘I will never show my weak spots and I will not admit to needing help’. I am going to make a parallel here. It is like asking racially discriminated people to stop complaining about it and stop showing it to others because they would become vulnerable and everyone will perceive them as victims. But hell, they have been mistreated and the problem comes from the others, not from them. What a load of crap: we should be talking about it, we should be revealing it…because part of the problem is that society, people, companies, the environment and everything that belongs to it is treating us like that. We, young people, want more chances to work and to show what we are capable of! And people who have been racially discriminated want society to own up to it. We should make those responsible realize that they are unfair…and that we want a change!