About Electric Cars

There are some electric cars that don’t travel so fast as to require a driver’s license on the streets of Guiyang. A friend of mine sells motor scooters and also has a line of electric cars. I had a chance to talk to Sarah about her little car products and made a short video about these surprising vehicles. The two  things I found most interesting  about these cars are the low price and the range of these “hybrid” vehicles.

Youku       About Electric Cars

Youtube    About Electric Cars



Won’t Eat Snakes and Bats

Considering all the Covid hoopla over the eating of snakes and bats, I have decided to ban snakes and bats from my diet, effective immediately. I think the evidence is pretty compelling that eating snakes and bats are bad for you  I have compiled all the  Covid information that I have posted to www.tourguizhou.com into one link:

Snakes and Bats 

This page has some poignant photos, commentary, links to a chronology of stories, and at the bottom there are a couple links to  videos related to the Covid situation.

Covid Update 20200512 — Not Gone, and Memories Remain.

Is that Covid Thingy Gone Yet?

These two friends know something is very wrong, and they have to watch out. Like the rest of us, they have no idea exactly what it is, if it is near, or exactly what they have to watch out for. One thing we know for sure is that we’ve got to keep our eyes open and watch out!

Here are the three iconic pictures on my hard drive that I remember when I think about my time here in China during the Covid-19 Lockdown:

This photo was taken on March 1, about one month into the lockdown. We were permitted to leave our housing developments once every other day to get groceries and supplies.  Only one person from a household was permitted to go out. We actually checked in and checked out with the security people at the main gate of our housing development.

This stairway is deserted.  It is part of the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system. There is a ring road (“Middle Ring Road” circling the city. The express bus system has stations built in the median of the expressway, every three or four minutes in your bus trip. When you get off the bus, you go down the stairway, and then go through a pedestrian tunnel under the expressway to go to your destination.  This is a little used stairway, even in normal times, but the shopping center it serves was closed. It was nearly total privacy. I happened to go down the stairs because it was near my home and I had gone shopping on the opposite side of the city at the Metro grocery store (the biggest in town). I wanted to get around to the front of the couple to get a better angle, but I really felt self conscious about interrupting their privacy.

I imagine that I know the back story on these two lovers. Of course they are lovers. They are single people, living with their parents. They colluded with each other to leave their homes to go get groceries (there was no limit on how long you were permitted to go out). They met each other in the most deserted place they could think of, the BRT station stairway to the tunnel near a closed shopping center. Note that they respect each other’s health by leaving their masks on as they sit with locked arms, talking to each other.

This picture was taken February 15, a little over two weeks into the lockdown. Obviously it is in an elevator and you can see that there is plastic over the buttons. What about the styrofoam and toothpics? I didn’t get it either for a couple days until I got on the elevator and somebody grabbed a toothpic and pushed the elevator button.  The plastic just wasn’t safe enough. You were deemed safer if you pushed the button with a toothpic.  There was a paper cup, off camera, that you put the toothpic in after using it. We all read about a whole apartment building in Hong Kong that was contaminated by one sick person using the elevator buttons. Elevators feel pretty safe. For a few weeks the elevators seemed to alway have fresh bleach on the floor. Not so much anymore.

This picture was take March 27, almost eight weeks after lockdown. The leader of the police in my district (Poly Hot Springs) came by to check on me. He brought some extra masks. Eight weeks prior I had no masks and didn’t know where to find them. I called the Police and within an hour, Officer Wang brought me a mask.  This time he brought a couple of his assistants. I’m not sure why it took three police officers. Maybe if I was hard to handle he had some extra help. Anyway, I appreciated the attention. These police seemed a little more friendly than the ones I remember in the USA. By the way, the blury hand was that when I snapped the photo he was in the middle of a salute.

Actually, the fact that we exchanged photos came in quite handy a few days later when I got stopped at a checkpoint. I went into a residential area where I wasn’t on the listed of permitted persons. I was visiting my old apartment, which is now just used for storage. In the course of the investigation they called Officer Wang and the picture he took was delivered to the checkpoint by cell phone and it turned out to be very handy in identifying me.

This was taken on March 11 when I decided that I didn’t trust the masks that I had. It seems as if the air comes in and out beside the nose, and some of it doesn’t filter through the cloth.  Certainly if a mask takes care of 90 percent of the risk, it is better than nothing, but with some thought, I figured I could do better. I have sleep apnea, and at night I breath through a pressurized mask, with a tight seal around the nose. I cut up an old mask and tube and fabricated the mask and put it over the cloth mask. Now that really felt safe.  A pair of wrap around sun glasses prevented me from touching my eyes accidently (eyes are an entry point for virus) and I was good to go. Of course I looked odd, but as a foreigner, people stare at me anyway.

Except for the required masks on public transportation and in public stores, everything seems normal. Taxis and public transit requires a cell phone scan for access. That seems reasonable for contact tracing purposes. Restaurants are mask free after you sit down, but the schools are still not open. We hear that this should happen by the end of May.  The schools are a big deal because child care with working parents is a pervasive problem.
Finally, I got a photo from an English friend that is circulating in Britain, and I don’t know where else . . .

Recently I had pizza with an international group talking about Covid,
Dinner and Covid (Youtube)
http://Dinner and Covid (Youku)

 China and America are symbols
of Communism and Capitalism, sort of?

The following links have something to do with Covid:

January Personal Impressions  20200131
Good News  20200226
Late February Update 20200226
March 29 Update  20200326
 Seventy Percent   20200410
Development of a Pandemic 20200413
Lockdown Over  20200428
Not Gone and Memories Remain  20200512







Lockdown is Over- Covid-19 Update 20200428

It seems that the lockdown for Guiyang is over. On April 24 I discovered that no cell phone scans or body heat checks were required upon entry to my apartment complex. More convincingly, the back door to the apartment complex was usable. Even though I had a combination to that door, the Chinese had wired the door shut so you couldn’t use the door.  Today, that wire has been removed and I can enter through the back door shortcut. I did get a cell phone scan in a taxi, and the face mask and cell phone scan is still required on the bus, but for all practical purposes, it is over.  It has been reported that, although Wuhan is clean, there are still lockdowns in Shanghai and Beijing, at least for some neighborhoods.  Chinese contact tracers are working full time on some returnees near the north border with Russia, and apparently there are a few other hot spots, but for me, its over.

For myself, I would mark the beginning of the lockdown at January 23 for Wuhan and January 30 for Guiyang.  It took a little less than three months to complete the task. Current status, we essentially have full access to the city, although face masks are still very prominent.  Many people though don’t wear them except for going into public buildings and public transportation. This would suggest 85 days total, but it seems more like 60 days. Traffic jams, shopping centers, and public parks all seemed available, but a little nervous about April first.  To the best of my knowledge, I think the movie theaters are still closed, and perhaps other unique high risk stuff, like spectator sports, but I am not sure.

It was interesting because I need two combinations to get into my apartment tower. The main gate needs a numberic combinatin, and then the door to my apartment tower also needs a combination.  I hadn’t used those for over sixty days and I had forgotten one of them.  For almost 3 months I had had an official “greeter”, neighborhood watch kind of a guy. These “greeters had heat guns and scan cards to make sure you had a temperature check before entering the apartment complex, plus a cell phone scan. Tonight I had to go find a greeter (security person) to help me figure out my apartment tower combination. For three months there had been enough security around that the left the doors open and they checked everybody. Tonight was different.

Dining outside is common, and people don’t wear masks. Traffic is still not as great as prior to the virus. Taxi driver complain that their business volume is about half of what it was prior. The Ma and Pa shop across the street has business at the same level as prior to the virus. The primary school are not certain about an opening date.  Middle school and high schools have a target opening date for just after the May holiday, May 3 or 4.  Normal working hours are expected to follow the school openings.  Perhaps the middle to end of May will see schools resume normal operation.

Apparent outbreaks in the future can change this schedule and local governments have the power to decide for themselves, however, these decisions must be consistant with Central Government will. Any outbreak is expected to create an extreme reaction from the local government. After three months of experience, Chinese people seem to agree that the Chinese government has been handling this properly, especially compared with other countries.

Seventy Percent Recovered — Covid-19 Update 20200410

This post has been five days in the making and still isn’t done.  The darn Iphone, that new model that is so “user friendly” has been fighting me on givng up the videos that really make this post come alive . . . I will add the video and photos later n the interest of time . . . jsp20200416.

My unscientific reckoning is that Guiyang has recovered to about 70%, of the economic activity prior to the outbreak.  The virus is about 99% destroyed. I believe that perhaps this is a fair proxy for the other areas in China. This 70% is my guess of the back to work people. Business is not good because a lot of people lost money.

About ten days ago I got caught in a traffic jam. I really do hate Guiyang trafic jams. This was the first one in about six weeks. It meant that people are getting back to work.  The theaters are closed, no concerts, large gatherings are prohibited, and to some extent, some restaurants are still closed. Schools are expected to begin opening next week. In fact there are two grades, for age 15 to 17 that are already open.  They are studying for the national exam..

A friend of mine has closed his restaurant and moved away because business was bad, even though it was legal to open.  Most people are still wearing their face masks. Of course in the the restaurants masks are not particularly useful.  I believe people are also still shy about going out to restaurants because they don’t want to get the virus. We have had little sign of the virus for weeks now. It is clear to me that a complete job of virus eradication can take place in six to eight weeks of intense effort. Then you must be on guard for hotspots. It probably isn’t possible in the USA. I have friends that are outraged that our Governor wants people to stop golfing until the the virus is under control.

There is confidence in the public that hte virus is not a significant danger right now. There are people standing in groups in public places, some with masks and others, not. This video was taken about April 8.   Huaguo Yuan Shopping area They seem to have the confidence that the very strict methods for controlling the virus will work, and can be reimposed should there be a flairup. Every taxi, bus, or train has a cell phone scan to make sure contact tracing can be done should someone get sick.

On the Bus

Public buildings have the same kind of cell phone ID and location scanning. If someone gets sick, the government will trace the people that the sick person came in contact with. The video below was taken about a week ago and, about April 10 and shows the scanning process as well as the casual nature of the “Social Distancing” Chinese style.

I think that Wuhan was shut down on January 23 and Guiyang was shutdown about January 26.   About this time I got a phone call from the local police.  I didn’t know that they were police.  Usually when somebody calls me speaking Chinese I don’t understand what you’re saying.  I just say in Chinese that  I am a foreigner and don’t understand what they are saying.  Then I hung up.  This person persisted and called me again.  This time she called me by my Chinese name.  So I decided that since only  the people with my Visa knew my Chinese name, I assumed they were police.I struggled through the Chinese and managed to talk to them about what they were thinking.  They have a list of all the foreigners living in Guiyang.  They called every one of us.  I checked with my friends and they all received a telephone calls like this.  A friend has a legal visa to live in China but he has not registered with the local police department. I don’t know if he got a call.

So the phone calls from the local police served several functions. They wanted to make sure that I was OK, that I was wearing a face mask, and to update their list as to where all the foreigners were living in Guiyang.  I confirmed my English and Cinese names, my phone number, my WeChat (similar to WhatsApp) address, my emergency contact, etc. I really didn’t know how to explain to the police that I didn’t have a good face mask. I was using a scarf at the time. As you would expect, all the stores were sold out of facemasks. I finally was able to ask them if they could get me a face mask. They said that they didn’t have any extra face masks. I decided to just contnue searching.  Of course that was rediculous. The last thing anybody wanted was a foreigner going from store to store, without a mask on, looking for a facemask. After I hung up, an  hour later a policeman showed up at my door and gave me facemask. That was a good solution.  He was the guy in charge of the neighborhood police, and I was able to meet him and get his WeChat address.  We took pictures of each other. We then saluted rather than shake hands at the end of the meeting.
As I write this on April 12, Guiyang out seems pretty normal.  I am fairly well known in my neighborhood and I feel safe.  I’ve lived here for three years and people recognize me.  I think that’s because I’m very fat and and very white, with a big nose (Chinese often comment on how fat I am and what a big nose I have).  So I feel like it’s no problem for me.  I have seen some information about blacks who have been targeted as being Covid-19 carriers.  There has been some racist views online that has made it uncomfortable. In some cities blacks in particular, especially in Guangzhou there has been some trouble . . .  Nigerian blacks being evicted.  Hopefully this will diminish as the memory of the virus diminishes.  If it grows then I can see how whites could also be targeted.  It was particularly difficult when some of the Chinese were accusing the U.S.  of a bio-attack.  In response our leadership (the USA President)  labeled the virus the “W***n” virus, or the “Ch***se” virus. (Incidentally, sometimes the “bots” are set up to block inflamatory language on websites coming into China. I use *** because I don’t want this page to be blocked.)

There seem to be two impediments to a rapid return to prosperity right now.  Restaurants are open, but business is not so good. As my friend, the restaurant owner, pointed out, people lost a lot of money during the six to eight week shutdown. They just don’t have a lot of extra money for discretionary spending. The second block is a bit more difficult. the Chinese still have a very significant dependency on international trade for income.  As the borders around the world are closed and airlines shut down, China is losing a lot of income. Accordingly, a full recovery in China depends on an expansion in world trade, and recovery in its major trading partners. The world trade leader  is the USA, and the USA is still failing after three and a half months. World trade was falling prior to the Covid-19 due to the trade war. There is no coherent plan of attack on the virus.  This bodes ill for the future of the world economy, and the USA economy in particular.

On the trade front, if nobody knows if an American is sick with a virus, no American will be permitted to cross the border of a foreign country. This is a very, very uncomfortable situation for people trying to predict the future economic activity in America or China. Will the USA continue to be a trading nation? Three months ago the USA was the world’s largest economy and the world’s most active trading nation. Three months or three years from now, who knows when this situation will be resolved?

China is steadfast in fighting the virus. About a week ago I went  to my old residence, a factory. The factory has rooms for workers, and I rented two of them. When I moved into my new place, I left one room and saved the other for storage.  I have a friend with a lot of books that I stored for him and he pays the rent. My friend saved all his books for over 20 years and thinks he is going to return to China and use them, or maybe donate them to a worthy cause. (Ray’s Library ) I also have some of my stuff stored in there as well. I hope to use that room if I am told to leave China, currently scheduled for two months from now.  A week ago, when I went to check out the books and my stuff in storage, I was stopped at the Bazhai Road checkpoint. That checkpoiont is about 1/4 mile from my current residence. The security in China is still very diligent, protecting every neighborhood from any possible source of virus. They wanted to know who I was and what was my business there.  I told them that I was there to check my stuff that I had in storage.They called for backup and asked me to sit down. I refused.

This was my old neighborhood and people knew me. I had bought veggies and eggs at the old outdoor market I used to shop at. I had the eggs in my back pack.  I was afraid that if I sat down, then I would forget about the eggs and eventually lean back, crushing the eggs in my backpack. I was asked to wait and several times I was asked to sit down. I refused. I usually do what I am asked to do by the authorities, but this time I was a bit annoyed and was really worried about crushing the eggs. While I was waiiting for the beaurocracy to do it’s thing, My old student came by and just hung around. This was  three years ago that I lived in that the factory apartment and the landlord’s daughter had studied English with me. I didn’t recognize her with her mask, and she had grown from 14 to 16. She hung around and confirmed that I did indeed have an apartment in her neiighborhood. While we were waiting, my old landlord (her father) showed up and only stayed for a little while.  A little while later, the guy that used to sell me my drinking water came by and said “Hi”.

When the little boss from  the police showed up (the backup) he was talking on the phone for some time and then asked me if I wore glasses. I said yes, sometimes I do for reading, and I showed him  the glasses. He pulled up a cell phone photo of me wearing glasses, with the big boss of the police department.  The big boss remembered that he had a picture of me. They confirmed that I hadn’t gone anywhere outside of the neighborhood in the last 14 days and that I lived in the neighborhood. From then on, it was no problem.  My former student accompanied me throughout the neighborhood. I bought some beer from a tiny little grocery story next to my old apartment and of course the student carried the beer. I had brought the wrong key to the apartment and we had to talk to “Grandma” who I had left an extra key with. I got into the apartment and confirmed that everything was ok, and selected an old full lenght mirror that had been in storage. I was done.

Before leaving I surveyed Ray’s old library and asked my old student if she needed any English books. She said she already had too many English books, thanks but no thanks.  Then I notied the algebra/trig book. It was an English/American math book. I asked her about her age and she was sixteen, just the right age for algebra and trig.

Back in the USA I had a very small robotics business and one of my friends was a Chinese native PhD, in the Oakland Univesity Engineering Department. He had told me that he was the “go to” guy when Chinese engineering students needed help with math. The Chinese that come to the USA are typically very good in math. The only problem is that they learned math in Chinese, rather than English. These kids have a terrible time transitioning between Chinese and English math. My PhD friend helps them with the transition.

Anyway, I asked my old student how her math was, and she said just so so. I told her that she needs another Algebra/Trig book at her age and I pointed out that an English math book might help her understand the math better also. Her English was pretty good. I told her that Ray wanted her to have the math/trig book, but if he asks for it back, then she must give it to him.  She was so happy. I hope it helps her. She might be another imported Chinese engineer. Heaven knows our STEM program in the USA could use a boost!

That was a small gesture of offering a math book to a young girl in a poor part of China.  A math book helps women in general, letting her know that she is important. It also helps the USA attract students, and even future scientists who speak English, I hope.  Perhaps this young Chinese girl can take the bit in her teeth and help turn around the USA brain drain. Articles about the H-1b American brain drain shows us just how fast national fortunes can turn around. Now, rather that attracting talent from around the world, the Trump administration seems to be doing its best to get rid of immigrants, no matter how much they might contribute to our economy in the West:


Covid-19 March 26 Update

On March 23 I went to dinner with some Chinese at a restaurant here in Guiyang. It’s the first time that I went out to dinner here in China in the last two months. About ten days ago I was in a very significant traffic jam. Guiyang, China has an expression “Cool. Cool. Guiyang, traffic jam heaven.”  (It actually rhymes in Chinese.) I hate the traffic jams. There are way too many cars and not enough capacity in the roads. When the virus hit  there was about 4 weeks when the roads were almost empty. There was a car or truck every two or three seconds on a six lane road , a road that ofen has traffic backups. It is strange how the emotions work. I actually really enjoyed my first traffic jam. It meant that the worst was behind us in the quarantine. Since that time there have been almost no new cases of Covid-19, except for the imports of people returning to China from overseas.  

 As I write this, I remember a young lady I worked with in 2003, my first teaching gig in China. She complained a lot about the relatively harsh conditions we experienced as teachers in a new school. That school wasn’t set up for foreign teachers. We were in lockdown for the SARS quarantine. A doctor came to our room every morning and tested our body temperature. We were told that Guizhou was the only province in China to avoid getting the SARS virus. This was attributed to the large amount of Zheergen (a fish smelling herb – yuxingcao 鱼腥草) eaten by the locals, as well as a large amount of Moutai a favored drink of the locals. Moutai is a 106proof liquor produced locally in Guizhou. No matter how much you drink, you don’t get a hangover because of it’s purity. It is possible that there is a point between very drunk the next morning and dead, where you might get a hangover, but I never found that point. I accidently tested that limit one evening, but that is another story.  

Getting back to my original digression, the complaining young lady refused to honor the lockdown and against the “recommendation” of the school leaders, she travelled to another city. Upon returning she was locked in her room for thirty days and had no teaching responsibilities for the duration (I think it wasn’t a full thirty days, as the administration relented). She wasn’t paid for that time off. My room was next door to her and I spent time with her, even though she didn’t like me and the reverse was also true. We did have a TV with very few English language shows. I will never forget her excited laughter when we turned the channel and found a football game (football season was over). She said, “Wow! Its football! I don’t even like football! The moral to the story is that we can all adjust our thinking as times require. It is nothing to fear. 

As of March 26, travel is getting more convenient, but the entire situation is monitored. Most public places test your body temperature and your cell phone scans report your location when entering buildings or using any public transport. Everybody still wears masks. You can feel that the country is starting to roll again. I offered a toast at the dinner the other day congratulating China on behalf of the American People for being almost free of the virus. Oops. I didn’t get the reaction I had expected. They all drank to my toast, but I could tell that the extreme quarantine had taken its toll and and that the pain of this “fight the virus” was still fresh. Also, there is a lot of propaganda about blaming America for this bio-attack on the Chinese homeland and it’s people. There will be a lot of work to do if we are to recreate an ongoing work relationship here. It will be hard to accomplish, but the US and China together can help humanity advance. If we don’t,  we won’t.

If there is a takeaway from this rambling narrative, I have been locked up twice over the 17 years, and it isn’t so bad. There is an incredible solidarity of people working together, empathy for each other. There is a lot of free time, with not very much to do. It is good to have some time to think, to remember what is important. My point is that China has come through this challenge in about a six-week period after taking a massive hit in Wuhan, a transportation hub with a population of eleven million. The coordinated counterstrike by the Chinese Government has the virus on the run. The Chinese are still vigilant, but we can see the economy picking up rapidly. The people are getting more confident. China has survived the same hardship that the US is facing. As long as you have electricity, food, sewer and water, access to health care, and the other necessities (cell phone and internet) by working together you can survive. The fear of the unknown is holding the US leadership back from doing what is necessary in my opinion.  

I completely agree with the assessment of Bill Gates, who has been spending a fortune to fight sicknesses around the world. He says we can’t just ignore the bodies piling up in the corner. Restarting the economy without a China style lockdown probably won’t work as planned. People will overwhelm the health care system, all health care services. Health care professionals will get sick. The economy will fail anyway because the economy needs healthy workers. The “herd immunity” which is a central feature of the plan may not matrerialize for years. Also, anticipated vaccines might not be right around the corner. We know that a full commitment to fight the virus will yield favorable results within six weeks of beginning. We haven’t begun to fight. It is time.  (Come on US !) 

  Bill Gates Update

Thank You Video to the Medical Teams

I don’t know the origin of  this video, but it appears to be of American origin, based on the dialogue and the apparent native American accent.

Recently I witnessed a commotion in downtown Guiyang where there were a lot of honking horns and police were standing at attention, saluting.  There was a traffic procession. It turns out that the doctors from Guiyang who went to Wuhan to fight the virus were returning home after about one month on duty. They were being given an honorable welcome home from the local people.