Don’t Donate Money to Japan?

Non-MonetaryDonationCash Donations Post-Disaster

A clever writer at Rueter’s stirred up controversy recently with an opinionated article titled “Don’t Donate Money to Japan“. He has a point, although written quite offensively to many, which has made me think twice about sending cash immediately after a disaster.  A Yahoo Japan donation page recently showed that over $7,100,000 has been raised since the earthquake. You might be thinking, “Go us!”… but it certainly is peanuts compared to what governments shift around on a daily basis for foreign aide and one-off assistance. I’m not saying we should stop donating money to disasters like the recent one in Japan, but we should use our brains a little more before doing so.

It’s true that we feel good about ourselves afterwards, but there are MANY other ways we can help out. The donation issue has motivated me to do something about it. I’m going to put direct links on AL.ME to non-cash requesting organizations. The delivery food, drink, clothing, toys, study materials, etc. You send them products that haven’t expired or are in good condition, and they will wholeheartedly deliver to those in need. Yes, they also need money to run their organization, but they will find that money in other ways… the common man need not worry!

One of the needy organizations at this moment, which isn’t getting much attention is Second Harvest Japan.
* Food & Beverage (MUST be unexpired): rice, canned items, retort-pouch food, food for elderly people, baby formula and baby food
* Items for Baby & Elderly People (MUST be unopened): baby diapers and adult diapers
* Items for Soup Kitchen(MUST be unused): paper plates, paper cups, plastic spoons, plastic forks, chopsticks and saran wraps.

Donated food and supplies will be used both in the disaster zone and outside the zone to reach those in need.

Or send donations directly to local governments:

1. Foods (instant foods, dietary supplements, baby foods)
2. Warm blankets (That north part of Japan is still really cold now)
3. Clothing
4. Baby clothings, and DIAPERS!!!!

Attn: Earthquake relief supplies
Miyagi Prefectural Office
3-8-1, Honcho
Aoba-ku, Sendai city, Miyagi
980-8570, JAPAN

Attn: Earthquake relief supplies
Iwate Prefectural Office
10-1 Uchimaru Morioka city, Iwate

Attn:Earthquake relief supplies
Aomori Prefectural Office
1-1-1 Nagashima, Aomori city,
Aomori, 030-8570, JAPAN

Attn:Earthquake relief supplies
Fukushima Prefectural Office
2-16 Sugitsuma-cho, Fukushima City
960-8670, JAPAN

Japanese Radioactive Rain

"Japanese Earthquake! That's great!"

In the past few days, since the earthquake/tsunami crisis in Japan, a lot of rumors have spilled over into the rest of Asia. With a death toll climbing, there has been an awkwardly friendly tone between the Chinese and Japanese. Chinese QQ groups often send each other a gif (animated picture) of laughing Chinese farmers with a caption about how the great news happening in Japan… I guess we (Americans) aren’t the only ones with twisted humor!

Visit Second Harvest Japan to donate food and supplies to victims who still need assistance. Thank you!

But with all the political rhetoric that exists we are merely human and quite gullible! Since the nuclear reactor explosions, there have been notices about how we should not go outside during rainstorms because of the acidity circulating in the “Asian weather system” right now. It’s possible that the Koreas and Northeast China might be effected, but its really hard to believe this would effect Southern China… about 2,000 KM away from Japanese ground zero. The jet stream makes it literally impossible.

Fukushima, Japan

As far as dangerous rain, we should be used to it here in the industrialized parts of China. Pollution has been spewing into rivers and lakes for decades! For the sake of the locals, let’s hope that the current situation isn’t deemed “acceptable” now that the acid rain rumors have been washed out to sea.

Neighbors of Japan have also expressed legitimate fears of what has emptied out of rain clouds immediately after the nuclear power plant in Fukushima (ironically translated as “Good-Fortune Island”) exploded. After spewing illegally-toxic radioactive water into the sea, many neighbors of Japan have begun to react. People are keeping children home from school on rainy days all across Northeast Asia.


A Super-Sized Metropolis in China?

A Guess from The Telegraph

A metropolis of humongous purportions is said to be in the works for southern China, although there are reports on this being false. The cities of  Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Jiangmen, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Huizhou and Zhaoqing would merge together, theoretically, amalgamating various public services, including: health care, job opportunities, communication networks, transportation, natural resources, etc. With one big city they would eliminate long-distance calling fees and reduce over-burdened facilities, such as hospitals. Merging into one unit, with a completed high-speed train network, would allow citizens to travel to other city areas when their current location is overwhelmed by local demand. Continue reading A Super-Sized Metropolis in China?

High Speed Rail Around Asia


High Speed Rail (HSR) is not new to Asia, although the biggest network is now being constructed in China. HSR has been in Asia for decades and is getting upgraded all the time. As you experience various countries across North Asia, it is important to get familiar with these amazing trains and be sure to work them into your trip! The thrill of legally speeding at 340 km/h (210 mph) on the ground is an awesome feeling.


I was lucky enough to experience the early HSR in South Korea (called KTX), which opened just as I arrived there in 2004. It speeds across the country in just under 3 hours. Of course Korea is pretty small, but the KTX beats the 5+ hours car trip plus $60 tolls.

Continue reading High Speed Rail Around Asia

Chinese Education in 2011

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

The New Year has passed in the West, but we are gearing up for a the Year of the Rabbit in China! Last year was an important year for setting up my online training programs, but 2011 is the year that things get really interesting: we turn up the heat on our existing web-based training and in-person study abroad programs.

EFET set up an Online Learning Academy last year using BuddyPress, which allows for private social networks built on top of WordPress. Take a look at my school and join a free session of the English Corner Buffet, which is a joint program I offer with Bu Duan Wang. BDW is a Chinese not-for-profit organization which supplements the limited courses offered to primary school students in poor rural areas. Students who don’t get a Science, Math, Chinese or English class can now study in their wired classrooms. Learn more about the volunteers in their goodwill programs on their English site.

Although it is a bit early to be sure, another development is happening for me in China in 2011. With international study abroad programs accepting over 300,000 students last year, and forecasting 645,000 by 2025, more Chinese students are chasing their dreams abroad. However, there is a disconnect between the education systems of their home and guest countries. University professors in America often find that these students lack “critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, and communication skills.”[* 08/11/2010]  In the article published on The Diplomat’s website, a principal from Beijing (Jiang Xueqin) was working toward providing better preparation for students who plan to go abroad. Unfortunately, many Chinese parents disagree about what makes a “successful” student. SAT, AP, IELTS, and TOEFL are usually considered the (only) keys to success here.

We can’t ignore the value of these exams for a student’s educational prospects, but no study abroad preparation program would be complete without a strong concentration on building people-skills. That is why I’d also like to take on the challenge of delivering better-prepared Chinese students to western universities and colleges. Of course, we have a lot to learn from how others have started building programs which may increase the chances of achieving this goal.

Ultimately, this year will introduce many challenges but it is going to be a great year! If any of the above topics interest you, please feel free to contact me through or ben @

Was there an Earthquake in Guangdong?

Earthquake Region
Earthquake Region

No worries… at least for now. I was in the library this afternoon preparing for the HSK exam, when I felt a slight shake in the room. It was like an earthmover rumbling past the other side of the campus; not too close to hear, but just close enough to feel. As a New Englander, I’ve never experienced the actual “feel” of an earthquake before today. It was just a couple hours ago in fact. Yang Jiang seemed to have the biggest part of it with 4.9 mag. (See the far-left city on this map.)

With the Asian Games going on in Guangzhou right now, Chinese blogs are already comparing it to the massive quake in Sichuan before the Olympics in 2008. Of course, from what I’ve seen today, it hasn’t been a fraction of the size of that disaster. Thankfully, I hear business-as-usual around the neighborhood and the streets are buzzing as the sunsets outside my window…

For my family, please don’t worry. I’m perfectly fine. 🙂

HSK: Certify Your Chinese

Enter the Dragon...

For the past few weeks I’ve been away from AsianLiving to work on a long-standing goal of mine: Crush the HSK. Conquering this exam has been an interest of mine since 2007. At that time I had already been in China for 1 year and started feeling pretty confident about my daily-use Chinese. I had already traveled to the Yellow Mountains by myself and played tour guide for my brother’s New Year visit. But little did I know that there would be a beast of an exam waiting to swallow me whole…

The Chinese proficiency exam (HSK) is the only standardized test of Standard Mandarin for non-native speakers. It is administered by the Chinese government through Han Ban, the “China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.” With a scale of 1-6, HSK basically tests your ability to memorize the minuscule differences among verbs, pronouns, prepositions, etc. My goal is to get 4, but that is REALLY hard. HSK has been pummeled by complaints over the years for its lack of practicality. So, they created CTEST in 2006 for students to certify their daily-use Chinese and, for the first time, speaking!

When I put off taking the exam in 2007 I had become busy with other projects. In 2009 I had signed up for a Fall exam in Guangzhou, but became too busy to attend the scheduled exam… but now, I’m ready! I will not let it slip through my fingers again! Expected a republished article about my experience preparing for this exam when it is over…

After November 28th I will get back to Asianliving and update with some new recipes I’ve learned! A new Toufu recipe is coming + a tasty vegetable dish that floats!

Wish me luck!

Expat Blogging in Asia

AsianLiving.ME is not really an expat site, although expats can find it useful. The health, lifestyle, and cooking tips are meant for people trying to live a better life in their own country. That is one of the major differences that AL.ME offers to readers.

There are countless blogs that support the expat community around Asia and the World. When I first came to China I was frequently using WuxiLife, an expat site which was always worth checking up on.

Every 1 million+ city in Asia has its own local expat site, so this page is a place for my guests to find the ones with the most content and information. A directory of blogs and expat communities around the world! (See our Listing!)

Best Blogs Asia: A directory of blogs from around Asia. (AL.ME is a member!)

Outsource Asian Cooking with Craigslist

Indian Dishes

Too busy to cook? Don’t like to cook? Don’t really know how to cook?! Well, kiss those days of pop-tart breakfasts and hot-pocket dinners good bye! You are going to get a crash course on how to organize properly prepared meals for yourself and family that are healthy and very reasonably priced. Don’t fret, no one will be stepping foot inside your kitchen. If this sounds good, read on…

A leader in personal outsourcing (or at least collecting these good ideas), Tim Ferris, quoted a reader of his who successfully setup a $5 per meal system. After simply posting his requirements on Craigslist, he could enjoy Indian/Asian vegetarian meals every day! Imagine the time savings involved. No grocery shopping, no setup, no excess clean up. And no one steps foot in his kitchen.

Still not buying it? To understand how costly it might be; simply calculate what you spend on “real meals” everyday (not sandwiches or garden salads). Figure out how much you spend at the grocery store for these meals and divide by the number of real meals you make. Then, decide whether having delicious meals prepared by others is the right choice – from my experience, it always is! The only effort required will be going to your new chef’s home and picking up your meals. Freezing meals for later use is also a great idea.

Simple cooking for myself is never as good as real authentic cooking. But the above method can be used for any variety: Japanese, Korean, Thai, Italian, Spanish, etc. Have fun!

Give it a try and let us know how your experience went!

Two Kinds of Chee

“Chee” is one of those concepts that floats around in the English-speaking world, but is rarely understood outside of its cultural context. I’ve written about this before in Ginseng and Ginger posts. There are loads of potential benefits to your health if you consider Qi in your daily life. But, first we need to get an understanding of the meaning of the word “Qi” and then we can drape more layers of meaning on top of that.  After all, language defines culture and allows it to breath, which is not too far away from the literal meaning of Qi.

气 [qì]

氣 (traditional character)

Qi Gong Pose

Meanings: Air, gas, breath, mood, smell, manner, anger, etc.

The more familiar of the two Qis (mmmm, cheese…) is something called “Qi Gong”  气功 – literally “air” + “results/success”,and known as “a system of deep breathing exercises,”[*] it is a form of meditation and has been used by martial artists and common people for hundreds of years. The image to the right shows the flow of Qi through the body, with the 3 “elixir fields.” These are basically places where energy is stored. The arrows show how energy flows point-to-point through the body, although it is not always in this direction.

Dantian Energy Flow

Trivia time! Where is the center of the human body? When I was first asked this question I pointed to my naval/waist area. Where did you point? In fact, according to Qi Gong, the center of your body is at your upper lip. Yep, its in your face! This comes from the idea that energy is draped over your body from the top.

Combining body movements and breathing exercises are key to this practice and can have great health benefits, similar to Tai Ji or “Tie Chee”. Due to better blood circulation, relaxed breathing, and reduced stress, these exercises are used for health maintenance by millions of people around the world. As you can imagine, the field of Qi Gong is extremely deep and could take a lifetime to understand fully. Continue reading Two Kinds of Chee