Dream Weaver

Dream Weaver

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

ToT - Tag der Offenen Tür

Last Sunday was the Open Day of FiBL. I am not going to report on the activities of the day or give official figures like how many guests visited, for details you can check here http://www.fibl.org/de/medien/medienarchiv/medienarchiv13/medienmitteilung13/article/tag-der-offenen-tuer-am-fibl-1.html

Let me first started with Saturday the day before the open day, we had another big event for the FiBL colleagues and trainees - the MitarbeiterFest! But the day began with rains, and we were called to help setting up 20 pavilions for stalls in different locations. After working for the morning being soaked and tired, my stomach was compensated with lots of good cheese and bread. In the afternoon we did some shopping for the food stall and got back to the bee house doing some final preparation. The party started sharply at 5pm when the Cuban live music started slowly. Can't imagine the institute all of a sudden turned into a party place. A banquet hall with nicely set up tables and chairs with fine wine glasses on top. Colleagues got crowded around some finger food, FiBL wine and drinks. After some time of chit chat and getting together, we were ready for the food - organic and fresh full course first started with salad, the main course, dessert and unlimited supply of organic wine and beer. Of course, the best part is the dance floor of Cuban music, most of us moved along the music started dancing slowly, and I learned some new steps and moves too.

On the Open day I was running between the international group stall "the world of organic agriculture" and the bee house. At the bee house of course I would have loved to spend most of my time there. We had quite a lot activities such as honey tasting of 3 kinds of organic honey - mountain, flower and forest, the sound of bee - which is a local artist tries to harmonize bee sounds with human vocal. Salvador was giving explanations on organic and bio-dynamic bee keeping  to the visitors. He plans to do an international bee keeping course next year Spring, this course will run for 3-4 months during honey producing season. It would be cool to involve in his projects in FiBL.
Me- searching for my own camera

Salvador was explaining to the visitors - from Asia and Europe

kids looking at a small demonstrated bee frame

the sound of bees
For the international group, they showcased different projects in Africa - the African Organic Agriculture Manuel with some visual exhibition like how to make your own insect trap with recycled materials, a small cinema shows short films about market development projects in Africa and so on. I like the way they decorated the farm house - with African fabric and bundles of dried straws. Outdoor there were stalls for the cocoa projects in Malaysia, Bolivia and Ghana, cotton projects in India and so on. Pictures worth more than words, I will stop here and do more readings before midnight.
small African world in FiBL
Beate was giving out 100% chocolate powder as tasting

Irene our colleague from Kenya was explaining how African farmers practice diversified cropping

Nora and Monika the cocoa and cotton expert
Next month I will be in Germany for a month to attend workshops and conferences... Probably I will update the blog after a month or hopefully earlier!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

~~Viva Con Aqau! - in Freiburg~~

 After 2 days in Bern to meet my thesis mentor and doing some data stuff, I'm glad that I had a "get-away" weekend to Germany -  Freiburg to see my friend Benni and his girl friend Sabrina. It's just 1.5 hours by train from Bern, and I reached already the green city of Freiburg, the student- uni town well-known for its alternative out-spoken activists campaigns and movements. It actually has a nice "Altstadt" the old city and small streams that flow through the streets. It's been almost a year since my last visit to this beautiful town. I made plans to come over Freiburg quite spontaneously, was thinking to just do a bit of sight-seeing and go to the Black Forest. It turned out I did something not that touristic at all and got the chance to learn about a really cool organisation - Viva Con Aqua.

They started in Hamburg, Germany. A "non-traditional NGO", founded by a German soccer player in 2008 and it's like a young people movement in Germany from cities to cities. What they do is to go to events, concerts, sport events like soccer games and parties, to collect "Pfand" (beer-bottles ransom) from the audience and raise money for water projects in Uganda and other developing countries, to help people access to clean-drinking water. My friend Benni was one of the core campaigners in Freiburg. They contact event organisers, clubs and bars, go to the events and collect "Pfand". Sometimes in good events they can raise up to 4000-8000 euros per night, which is pretty cool. People from different background can engage in their activities, they also give educational events and school talks about water conservation projects and global environmental issues. With their large social networking, it's easy to get people involved, like many artists, musicians, and cross-cultural activities. More to check on their website http://www.vivaconagua.co.uk/

Yesterday I was with Benni, Sabrina and a few Viva Con Aqua volunteers in a reggae concert in a suburb cultural club Smitz Katze. We started setting up around 2pm, it was totally hot and maybe the weather was too fine and people preferred to stick around in cafes in the city or do bike trips somewhere else. At the end of the day, we collected around 30 Pfand and raised 30 euros..We broke the record I think, of raising the lowest money?! But it was great to get to know about the NGO, talk to the volunteers and most of all, free entrance to the mid-night reggae concert. After some mid-night dancing moves to the relaxing reggae music and Jamica night, we were already pretty tired and rode the bike back home.
Find out more : http://www.schmitz-katze.com/

On Sunday we hiked to the Black Forest to the Schauinsland forest, where you can take a cable car to the mountain top and see an overview of the Freiburg area and a bit of the Alps. We took a cool Weizen beer in a mountain hut after walking for an hour and I was disparately looking for schwarzwälder kirschtorte (Black forest cake), but ridiculously I couldn't find any in the Black forest, but a nice cafe shop in a nearby valley village Günsterstal.

This weekend was really absolutely a "perfekt" get-away :)

 African Kiss Festival in Freiburg 22-24 November 2013
the 7th year!

Friday, 9 August 2013

So Far, so close…

Where am I situated right now? Friends may wonder where I have been the last 2 months. At the moment when I am writing this passage, I am still in Ningxia China, sitting along lakeside with lots of lotus leaves and a bright sun overhead. So far away from Switzerland, so close to my home – Hong Kong, only with 3 hours flight. In a week time I will be back to the land of mountains and cheese. And most of all, I will say good-bye to Mandarin Chinese and switch back to German mode again.

It is stupid that in China people can’t use Facebook or Google because of censorship and there’s always limitation of information you can get from the national news. It’s definitely true to say China is like a black box, there is always a mysterious side of things. Government officials, companies, communities, a person, people just like to keep things on their own. Unlike Western culture, Chinese don’t work directly and straight forward. We have a saying goes as “A man takes you wandering in a garden” means things don’t work out right away, but take lots of turns.

Let me first briefly say why I am in China. Here is North West China in Ningxia province. You can hardly find people from southern provinces, like Guangdong, or even from Hong Kong. I’m staying in a town called Qingtongxia, 40 km from Gangchengzi village, where I carried out my field work to interview apple growers. I visit their orchards for farm assessments. Until now, I have visited around 20 orchards to find out what had changed in their farm practices after converting to organic farming. Also, to see what are the social, economic and ecological benefits of growing organic apples, and what do they plan for the future. Another thing is to carry out RISE (Response Induced Sustainability Evaluation) for 10 orchards and at the end, to hold a farmer workshop to feedback the results to those farmers.

I am glad that things turned out quite well at the end, although there were some tough times and frustrated moments. Because of the early April hailstorm, apple blossoms were hit and apple trees can bear only little fruits, 60-80% less than the normal yield. Therefore, many farmers were not at home and out of town for side-jobs, as construction workers or work for some nearby vineyards. So it was hard for me to contact farmers for interview or to visit their orchards. Only their wives or grandsons- or daughters stay at home. For a few times I slept over at their homes because it’s already late when I finished the interview at late night. But most of them are very warm welcoming; getting known I am from afar and generally they are helpful all the time. It’s funny to see one farmer has a big mansion with a rose garden next to his apple orchard. I nearly got lost when I was looking for a toilet. Most farmers have a big pasma or LCD TV at home and quite well living standard. I wonder if they earn more than what we earn in Hong Kong, as most of them own beautiful houses.

The highlight of my stay was to hold a farmer workshop to present the topic what is farm sustainability and findings from my RISE assessments. Talking about time keeping, Chinese farmers ain’t like Swiss. We planned the workshop at 7 pm and there were only a few came. I was so worried back then, but people started showing up one by one, slowly, and finally the workshop started at 9:15am. I tried my best to finish it on time. It was the first time for me to present in Chinese. To be frank I speak English better than Chinese, but I am happy that they told me my mandarin Chinese had improved a lot in a month time. My parents also came for visit and support, I’m glad to let them know what my work is actually about and everything in a Chinese farm village was new for them – people from the big city.

The sun is heating really hard right how overhead me, I guess I have to go and hide inside a library. Last few days in Ningxia, I plan to visit a few closer apple growers and farewell with them, travel to south of Ningxia to the “no-man’s land” and gather myself again. My dad mocked me, saying I live like a Gypsy, a nomadic girl, moving from place to place. I also wonder where and when will I find a place to settle down, where I feel like home.