Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chinese Interogation

I'm currently 2 hours outside of Chengdu City, about a 3 hour flight east of Shanghai. I'm on my way to the area in Sichuan province where the earthquake last year had hit hardest. But as I'm finding out this morning, my translator and I are running into one political roadblock after another. Every district we enter, we are asked to step into a government office to be questioned, meet the local officials and basically, be interogated. I'm asked the same questions over and over again: where are you from? Who do you work for? Why are you here? What kind of camera? Would you like some tea?

At first, it was kind of scary. The government buildings look like old-runned down schools or hospitals, the doors are stained with dirt--as if it hadn't been washed in years. And upon entering each room, I'm greeted by a uniformed officer dressed from head to toe in official military garmet--some sporting a rainbow of medals on his chest. But, as the conversations went on, they seem to open up, and as human as they are too, they laugh, smile, and even offer me tea. Hmmm, maybe communism is letting up a bit.

I'm trying to gain access to film in a town called Betrund (excuse my spelling). It is currently blocked off to all foreign media, but I'm going to try my luck today. I have a good fixer working with me, and she seems to be good at mingling with local officials. If we gain access, I will spend the night in the village and try to capture as much as possible.

Its freezing here, colder than Shanghai. Luckly I was able to find a jacket when I was in Shanghai a few days ago (previous post below). It says Columbia Sportswear on it, but I doubt it really is--as everything sold here seems to be a knock off.

Lately, I've been in and out of China going back and fourth to Taiwan to work on multiple stories. But today, I'm focused solely on earthquake story.

I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I haven't slept much the last two nights, and the realities of being on foreign assignment are starting to kick in. Its week #3 for me, with three more weeks to go. Its cold, I'm shivering as I'm typing this post on my Blackberry. Need to buy gloves.

We currently have two government guids assigned to follow my every move. One guy is a tall skinny soldier, maybe the star basketball player on his platoons b-ball team. The other guy is short and chubby, maybe just along for the ride. I know the tall one can beat me to the ground if he wanted to. As for the short one, I can probably out run him.

I will update again soon when I return to the city. Wish me luck. Hope this finds you well.


Sarorn Ron Sim, csc

Sent Via Blackberry


Wander to the Wayside said...

I find it curious that I find myself more nervous for you where you are now than when you're in a war zone, I guess because it's creepy to have your every step monitored. Please take care - and get lots of good photos.

I hate being cold. Can you get some thermal underwear? Maybe that's something you should put on your list for future winter trips -they pack easily, small and light.

Deboshree said...

Jeez..you always find yourself in ALL types of situations, don't you?

I wish you luck to get through this assignment. Seems like a tough one.

All the best, my friend and do take good care of yourself!
Buy some gloves the moment you see them!


John said...

Dude, what's CSC? Cheap Skate Canadian?

Vera said...

This was 'real-time' writing, Ron. Gosh, I felt right in the experience with you. Great atmosphere. Hope you continue to travel safe.

canadasue said...

I was reading another's tribute to a great photographer... so thought of you... I hope your work is talked about this way in the years to come... http://allthingsizabella.typepad.com/me/2009/11/tribute-to-a-favorite-photographer.html

I was going to say "Be Safe"... but then realized "Be Alive" is better!

Tanya said...

Not knock offs so much nowadays as 'off the back of a truck'. The markets here,in Cambodia, and next door in Vietnam are full of Columbia and North Face, Adidas and Gap because the factories are here. They have real trouble with half empty or worse containers arriving at their destinations having been striped of their labelled cargo before they have even left Sihanoukville. Why bother making a 'knock off' when the real thing is just as easy to come by. 20USD for a thick authentic Columbia jacket at Central market Phnom Penh, I know because we just bought a couple in prep for Christmas in Italy :)

TheChicGeek said...

How scary to be questioned like that! I'm glad you have stayed safe, Ron :)
Hugs :)