A caged canary in China. 

Malik from Visit Greenland presenting Greenland tourism opportunities to agents in Beijing at the Icelandic embassy.

For anyone who follows me on Facebook or Instagram, you might have noticed that I’ve been silent for the past week or so. The reason: I went to China and back again.

It was a whirlwind business trip to promote Icelandic and Greenlandic tourism where we saw mainly Chinese agents, hotel ballrooms, train stations and not much else. It was still great to be back. The food, the buzz of life, the curious smells sparked memories. I practised my underused Chinese language skills and realised that there was still hope.

The Chinese firewall
Most people know that Facebook is banned, but they don’t realise that many other everyday channels that they use are banned or very slooooooooooooow too. I had to Baidu and Yahoo my way to places, because Google maps is useless there. My office uses Gmail, which we could get through to only sometimes. Dropbox, Flickr, Youtube, Instagram were sometimes very slow, or completely inaccessible. Foreigners and Chinese have been able to survive with a VPN, but this is something that is becoming more and more expensive or difficult for the normal person to access.

After a few days, I changed my internet habits. I revived my Weixin account in order to chat to friends in China. Watsapp still worked, so that I could talk to my family back home. I stopped checking whether I could get through to Facebook or Instagram… and felt alleviated from the hassle of having to read about other people’s lives. I felt free as a bird.

But flying through to the other side of the Chinese firewall and back is not the point of this blog title.

A canary from the High North
In the past, coal miners used to bring caged canaries deep into the shafts with them. The canaries acted as a warning sign if there was a gas leak. If the canary died, the miners had a chance to put masks on and get the hell outta there. Perhaps my fellow Greenlandic colleague Malik and the other Icelanders were the true canaries, but I certainly felt like one. Having lived the past few years in Nuuk in one of the purest environments in the world, I could definitely feel the difference in the air. Greenland and Iceland have both the most pristine air and clearest waters in the world. In contrast, the air in the big cities of China tasted a bit sour, and the visibility to see far depended on the smog levels. My body could feel the difference in the air I was breathing.

It made me realise again how lucky it is to live where the nature is pure and there is quality of life. In Australia right now, it’s been pouring rain for four days straight creating havoc for everyone. In Greenland, there were snow storms that also prevented people from going into work. All these natural disasters, were precisely that – natural. I’ve never been so thankful to hear that there were snow storms, because at least they weren’t manmade. It put another perspective into things.

So guys, I hope that where ever you are that you stay safe and dry, warm and healthy. I will battle the snow storms in Spring, but I will now do it with a bit of gratefulness that I can. Have you ever realised that you are extremely lucky?

Shanghai – the French Concession. A beautiful leafy quarter in the city.

2 thoughts on “A caged canary in China. 

  1. Oh I do not look forward when it comes to the bad air and Internet during the upcoming trip to China…I just hate it when I can’t even see the horizon anymore or even blue sky for several week 😦

    • When you are there for awhile you get used to it again… but the question is whether one should HAVE to get used to it again!

      There are of course many bright sides to China, hey. The food, the diversity, the night life… I wondered often when I was there what my life would have been like if I had just lived on there for more years….

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