Breakfast news that’s difficult to swallow. (Kidney, anyone?)

Today was sickening. There were three disgusting events that made me feel physically revolted when I watched them on the news. Can you guess them,  those of you playing at home?

One: The footage of yet another Syrian civilian, blood smothered and dusty, trapped by the remnants of his shelled house. Today, the civilian is a child. Too young to be injured like this, too young to be exposed to so much death, so much darkness and desperation. Along with this footage, we are told of the ‘successful’ escape of the injured photographer, Paul Conroy, who was working with Marie Colvin, a Times journalist who was killed last week. Last week when they reported her death and that of photographer Remi Ochlik, I yelled in sheer frustration at the radio, “Civilians are dying every day!”  I now regret that outburst. Journalists that are brave (some might say stupid, careless?) enough to report from this war zone are the reason we know what is happening, the reason we have these horrific images – horrific but real – images out in the media. We need their news, pictures, footage, or the darkness will win.

The current status of three other reporters, one known to have been injured, is unknown. They were separated in the rescue attempts, which was carried about by Syrian opposition activists. It is reported that 13 of these activists died during this mission, of literally, carrying Paul Conroy out to safety. People are dying to save these international journalists! And I understand why! If you can’t get word out to the rest of the world of the absolute horror, death and tyranny that is occurring in your country, what is there left to do?

Two: The footage of cattle being slaughtered in disgustingly inhumane conditions in Indonesia. Cattle that has been exported live from Australia. Chopped up whilst still alive, having their throats cut in a poorly executed manner, leaving them to a slow death after so much suffering endured (presumably) from the time they leave our shores. Any person with a heart, with a pet, with any skerrick of compassion in them, could only watch these scenes with disgust. I could hardly watch them as they were replayed over and over throughout ABC’s morning coverage. I looked at my beautiful, smiling, Staffy, and shoved the idea of him in pain far from my mind.

Three: 18 Shiite Muslims were murdered by gunmen in Pakistan. Murdered because they were Shiite Muslims, reportedly killed by those of the Sunni majority. Taken off a bus, killed for their faith. Disgusting, unbelievable, shocking.

There is bad news every day, and there are atrocities happening all over the world, and we don’t even know about it.

The problem is, that for some time leading up to today I was planning on writing a blog about China, and the Epoch Times. Maybe I’ll still tell you about that anyway. I was going to talk about what has been reported in the Epoch Times for many, many years – the human rights violations, the murder, the use of persecuted Chinese people, such as prisoners, Tibetan Buddhists, but mostly Falun Gong practitioners as living organ donors. Have you heard about this, I was going to say? Have you heard that this has been happening in China?

People are being used as lab rats, they are being use as LIVING ORGAN DONORS. How can I not know about this you might ask? How is this not making headlines EVERY DAY, along with Syria and all the other dreadful stories?

I starting taking an Epoch Times off its quiet, passive distributors on my way home from uni, back in 2003. Back then, the first article that caught my attention was about this organ harvesting. The Epoch Times is a newspaper printed in many languages, but predominantly will report on news coming out of China, for the Chinese living away from their home, and to educate foreigners about issues being reported from China, stories that are often leaked, or at least only safe to be written about from outside the country. This week’s Epoch Times is still headlining this organ harvesting, as a former major Doctor of these practices defects and seeks protection from the US.

Falun Gong is like Tai Chi, it is spiritual practice and exercise, and its adherents have been persecuted, many imprisoned without reason or trial since 1999. The imprisoned live in camps, and many are never seen by their families again once they have been taken.

The international community has long condemned the treatment of Falun Gong members, and it has been internationally recognised that organ harvesting IS happening. Chinese people can buy a new organ for big bucks, and ‘hospitals’ can literally have a matching organ ‘donor’ in days. They are made to order practically, as there are thousands of possible imprisoned ‘donors’ to be chosen from, executed, used for their organs, and discarded. However, for whatever political or economic reasons, the international community is ignoring this issue that has been known about for far too long, as unjustly imprisoned Chinese citizens sit in prisons somewhere, hoping that their blood type and organ health will not be needed the next day for some unknowing person needing, or wanting, a new, healthier organ.

Please watch the following video (taken from the Toilet Paper), research this issue, talk about it, and pick up the Epoch Times when next you see it distributed.

Bordering on Sanity

I peed in a softdrink bottle. An empty Sprite bottle to be more specific. 1.25 litres. And, before all you ladies marvel at my remarkable aiming skills, it was a Sprite bottle with the top quarter cut open. But did I mention I was on a train? I’ll start at the beginning of this somewhat too much information story.

The trains that run along the old Silk Road route, from China, through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and up to Russia, have their toilets locked when approaching, and for a while after, a stop at a station. This is because the waste is ‘flushed’ directly onto the train tracks. We had left Urumqi at midnight, and were almost at the China/Kazakhstan border after waking from as good a sleep as you can get in a bed that’s about 70cm wide, and alas – it was 8am, and we had reached the Chinese border, and the toilets were locked.

We alighted (scary at any time when you are unsure of how long your train will be stationary for), hoping for a toilet, and got waved back onto the train by a railway guard. Chinese border patrol dudes in their classy hats and red arm bands jumped on board, went through everyone’s luggage and took our passports for processing, whilst their colleagues manned the doors to prevent any passengers from doing runners. I answered the questions, opened my bags, and watched the man check my laptop for some sort of anti-communist information or photos, all the while holding my legs together – god my bladder was so full.

The whole process was still going at 11am, and I asked the conductor to use the toilet, not needing to fake the pained look on my face as I held my stomach. He gave me a sympathetic look and said something, I assume, as he pointed to the Chinese guards, that while they we there, no one was getting to pee. Not until, pointing at the 6 on my watch, half past 11. Feck.

I lay on my bed. I tried to think about something else. I couldn’t move. I was in pain.

“Pee in the bottle.” Troy says, reading my mind.

“I’m a girl, it’s not that easy to just pee into small spaces.” I say.

The rest, you don’t need to know about, but I was impressed with my aim, and shocked at how much my bladder held. It got dangerous, but we were ok. I would never have been able to hold it. And, especially as after the ‘leaving China’ border, we went 5 minutes down the track before spending another 2 and a half hours at the ‘entering Kazakhstan’ border.

Moral of the story? Wake up before a stop to get to the toilet before the opportunity has gone. And sometimes, you might just have to pee in a bottle.

You can choose your friends, but not your berth

It is 6pm when we leave Beijing, for Urumqi. We will be on the train for about 35 hours, and we are sharing a train cabin which is less than 2 metres across and about 2 metres long. It is 4 berth, which means that we will be living in this close proximity to the Chinese couple that have the two beds opposite ours. At first it is all fine, we have a good laugh trying to understand each other, and they offer us much of their food to try. (The woman hands me something in a vacuum sealed packet – it looks like a type of cheese, or paste, or something remotely nice. She insists I try it, and I tear off the opening, and attempt to pull a small portion off the top of the yellowish-white thing inside. It is smooth, and I can’t break any off – it is hard inside, and finally looking at the thing properly, I realise – it’s a chicken foot. I decline, made obvious by the way I somewhat recoil in horror.)

But then it all goes wrong. We have an episode where they ask for money – and we eventually realise they want money from our country. We show them our coins and notes, and give them a $5 one. The man gives me 5 Yuan in return – 70c. I have been collecting money from every country for my dad, so I show them other currency also – I don’t really want to, but they are probing through my things and so it can’t be helped. The man picks up a 20 Baht note (65c) from Thailand, and takes it. It is crumpled so I don’t mind. He then pulls out my beautiful, flawless 50 Ringgit ($18) that I have collected, and puts that on the little pile he is accruing, taking out a 50 Yuan note ($7.50) for compensation. “No, no, no, this is mine” I say, retrieving my dad’s note, and packing away my money.

The couple tell us they are disembarking at 3am, and so they stay up until then, answering their phone noisily every 30min or so, having brief angry disputes, sometimes sitting on my bed whilst packing up their stuff, and being all round noisy neighbours. When they finally leave at 3am, we are so happy. And even happier that our trip after Urumqi will no longer involve any 4 berth shared cabins.

At least, however, the Chinese couple were not slappers. And I’m not referring to those with a reputation for being promiscuous. No, this is worse. Two slappers inhabited our Shanghai hostel dorm, a couple who would noisily slap their faces with some sort of moisturising cream or treatment as part of their nightly, and morning, beauty routine. Each slapping would go for at least 15 minutes. This would be fine if they kept normal hours, but this woman – and man – would come in at 11pm every night, and loudly slap away. They would then rise at 6am, and loudly slap away. They would also talk extremely loudly, use the hairdryer just outside the doorway and not close the door, and even turn the main room light on, despite the fact that 10 other people were asleep in their beds. I was at a loss to understand how people like this existed; I once asked the man to close the door whilst the hair drying was going on; once got up angrily and closed it myself; and one morning merely sat up in bed, bleary eyed, staring at the girl slapper, who was slapping away at 6am, hoping that my beady eyes would make her realise that there was something so very wrong with her.

Back on the train, 8 hours after the Chinese couple left our cabin, we were joined by a lone Chinese man for the last 4 hours or so of the journey. Who was lovely.  He paid for our lunch, filled up the thermos of water for me, gave us a present and his contact details, and was all round nice.

You can’t choose your berth, but sometimes you get a good one.