Category Archives: Daily Life

Bourbon Salmon

I like this recipe a lot.  It’s not overwhelmingly strong or soy-ish like a lot of other recipes, and the mango really brings out the flavors nicely.  To read how to make it, … Continue reading


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Lib’s Fourteen Day Pickles

Lib was my grandmother, and this recipe was handed down to me by her.  You can’t buy pickles like these in a store.

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Really busy!

No blog posts lately!  Ack!  I’ve been really busy with other things.  I still have more to write about.  High on my list is a category called "repatriation nightmares".  I’m planning to start it with my rant about REGIONALIZATION , and specifically a case study about my HP Printer that had been regionalized.  An absolute nightmare, an overreaching business practice.  But, don’t take my word for it …  I’ll write the details soon. 

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Busy Busy

Wow, it seems I just don’t have time to write a lot of blog entries these days.  Really busy! 

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23 January 2009

In a few days we will celebrate Chinese New Year, the start of the new year in the traditional Chinese calendar!  We are leaving the year of the Rat and moving into the year of the Ox.  The big date this year is January 26, 2009. 

Across China right now, millions and millions and millions of people are traveling to their "lao jia" or "old home" for family reunions.  The national holiday is one week, but people traditionally spend as much as a month at their home for family gatherings.  Chinese children have a month off from school now, too. 

Here is a photo of the children I taught last year celebrating the Dragon Dance in their classroom.  The Dragon comes around and eats lettuce, then he spits it out across the room.  Wherever the lettuce lands, brings good luck to the place.  We did not use lettuce, but the real dragon (in the photo above) did!  He went to every large room and floor in the 22 floor hotel and spit lettuce on each floor! 

Here is a link to a popular children’s song that is heard all around China at this time of year.  Join in and enjoy!  The words in Pinyin and translated are: 

Mei tiao da jie xiao xiang

Meige ren de zui li,

Jian mian di yi ju hua,

Jiu shi gong xi gong xi

gong xi, gong xi, gong xi ni-a

gong xi, gong xi, gong xi ni

On a big or little street

Kindly people warmly greet

On their lips are words of cheer

For a joyful new year

All sincere congratulations,

Happy new year yes to you!



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November 26, 2008

When we were anticipating our move to China, we imagined that "Big Brother" would be reading our emails and listening in on our phone conversations.*  Little did we know how true this would be! 

While we always assumed that any conversation might be monitored by the government of our host country, that thought was no surprise to us, because was right in keeping with our Orwellian understanding of Totalitarian systems of government.  We were educated in high school to believe that "they" don’t value freedom and privacy the same way that "we" do. 

After all, one of the major differences between totalitarian and free societies is the protection of civil liberties, right?   It was my paradigm that in the USA — in the land of the free — we have not only right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or freedom from warrantless searches, but also the "penumbra" of rights (think of this as an umbrella) which are necessary to effectuate those expressly protected rights.  One of the watershed cases giving voice to this "penumbra" of rights was the case of Griswold v. Connecticut.  The U.S. Supreme Court discussed several of the enumerated rights within the Constitution and noted that the Right to Privacy was a fundamental cornerstone which underlies those rights.**  The U.S. Supreme Court has established that this penumbra of rights is protected by the 9th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.***  

In other words, as an American, I have a general right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable government intrusion into my private affairs.  It goes beyond the "letter of the law" in terms of what is expressly enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.  Under the 9th and 14th Amendments, this right to general privacy in my affairs extends to things the "founding fathers" could never have imagined, such as freedom from government intrusion into my right to use birth control or the right to home school my children. 

This is not to say that police in the USA can never listen in on my phone conversations.  If police want to listen in on my conversations in the USA, all they have to do is to convince a judge that maybe I’m breaking some law.  If they convince a judge that I might be engaging in criminal activity then there would be "probable cause" to justify a warrant.  The judge would then grant an order to allow police to listen in on my phone calls, intercept my emails, search my computer hard drive, or conduct any other kind of search which might be reasonable under the circumstances. 

There are no such controls in China.  For one, the judiciary is neither as influential nor as independent.  Secondly, it’s not a society built on the notion of the individual as an independent unit, entitled to so much privacy and consideration.  I wrote in another blog entry a few years ago, that it was my observation that if the right of the individual were to be balanced against the collective need, the collective would trump every time.  I think I still agree with that notion.  In this context, what it means is that when the collective need of the society for order, for predictability, for regulation of conduct, is balanced against the right of the individual to privacy, the group’s interest will trump that of the individual.  

Westerners tend to react with shock and horror to this idea, but there are some good aspects to that.  For one, the China of today remains an orderly society in spite of a seething lava of discontent just underneath the surface.  Just 100 years ago, China was governed by feudal warlords.  This is not a society that has a long history of self governance or resolution of issues through public debate.  Order, in such a society, can be a good thing.  When riots do break out, they tend to become violent mob outbursts, not the nonviolent sit-in’s more commonly associated with protest in the West.  Crime, though it exists, is better controlled.  (I, personally, felt safer walking on the streets in China than I do in the USA.)  And when the collective power is applied to public works, the result is amazing.  The Three Gorges Dam is but one example.  Public debate was stifled, but the dam was built; and no matter what you think about it, that dam supplies power and controls flooding downstream, flooding which has caused catastrophic loss of life in years past. 

So, there he is, Big Brother watching out for us, watching over us in China.  The first thing one does upon arriving to live in China is to register at the local police station.  And if you don’t register, well, they know about it and come knocking on your door asking to see your passport. 

As for the electronic eavesdropping, it’s not that we ever really knew about it or could prove it was happening.  No little message pops up on the screen and says, "Hi, my name is Xiao Xin and I’m going to be monitoring your email messages this morning!"  Whatever monitoring was done was completely invisible — perhaps even all conjecture on my part. 


(Thanks to
for link to this image)

Instead, I found myself wondering now and then . . .

  • Gee, my email seems to be loading really slowly this morning.  Is it a coincidence, or is someone inside there just a slow reader? 
  • Was it just a coincidence that my computer crashed right when I finished typing that "T" word? 
  • Was it really a computer malfunction that caused my internet to die for a week when I said "x" in an instant message?   (This happened fairly often, and I came to imagine these mysterious blackouts as warnings, like slaps on the hand, but who knows, maybe they really were random with no human explanation other than it must be my computer.)
  • What’s that little clicking noise on my phone? 
  • Why didn’t my mom respond to my email, did she get the message? 

I’ve read that there are over 100,000 people in China who are employed to spy on personal electronic transmissions. 

Bill Clinton was right in one crucial aspect, however, which is the value of engagement.  Electronic communications and email are so pervasive in China that it is impossible to monitor every conversation or every transmission.  The web relies on key words to be trapped by computer programs designed to flag certain conversations.  For example, I’m told that if you type one of the forbidden "T" words, a computer program will flag that email for special examination.  A human will then determine what to do.  If the person who typed something forbidden is Chinese, and if he is a blogger, he might have his computer confiscated or worse.  For me, well, . . . I might just lose my internet connection for a few days, or, maybe it would go through.   Most of my Chinese friends, however, think that even this is fairly low risk.  They say there are so many people using the internet now in China that it is impossible for Big Brother to read or control everything. 

As part of the solution to stifling speech, in China there are whole domains of names that are blocked.  What we refer to as the "Great Firewall" makes it impossible for people to use the internet to research controversial views about certain topics.  For instance, all of Wikipedia is blocked (because of factual assertions concerning some of the "T" places that are contrary to government viewpoints); all of Blogspot and Livejournal is blocked.  For some reason, at one time all of the website of GWU (a university my daughter was applying to) was blocked.  There are certain terms that one simply cannot research.  (If you use common sense, you can think what these might be; I’m not going to type them here!)  This was the subject of the famous journalist discontent during the Olympics.  It’s not my intent to talk about the Firewall in this blog post, however; but rather I wish to discuss the direct monitoring of conversations by humans who listen in on them. 

The bottom line is that in the USA, you need a warrant to listen in on a phone conversation; in China you don’t.  This is no surprise, it’s right in keeping with our notions of the differences between the two countries.  Isn’t it?  After all, the two countries are very different, aren’t they?  Or, I always assumed they were.  Unfortunately, in recent years my assumptions have been assaulted. 

One time I was joking on the phone, in an international phone call, with a friend.  I said something stupid, meaning I joked about a "nuke" or a "uzzi" or something equally ridiculous, which could have been quite threatening if it had been real.  My friend cautioned me not to talk like that.  I said, "Yeah, the Chinese government might not like it too much."  He replied, "It’s not just the Chinese.  There’s this new thing called the Patriot Act.  You should be careful what you say." 

Well, I guess he was right, except it wasn’t the Patriot Act.  I learned just this week that it’s called the "foreign intelligence" exception to the Fourth Amendment requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures. 

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: 

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment is the basis for everything we Americans take for granted about the requirements of search warrants.  There have been exceptions carved out from time to time.  For instance, the mobility of an automobile means that it might be removed from a crime scene before a warrant could be obtained.  This has led to a whole body of law dealing with "exigent circumstances" and various exceptions to the requirement of a warrant.  Though there are several similar exceptions, nevertheless, the police agency is supposed to obtain judicial oversight whenever possible. 

I want to stress, the only requirements of the Fourth Amendment are (1) reasonableness and (2) judicial oversight.  Is this so much to ask?  I really don’t think so!  Policemen need to stay within the law, too, and judges help them do that.  This system of checks and balances, with the executive power being moderated by the judiciary, is one of the strengths of our government that every high school student is taught about in basic civics class.  

As for exceptions to the warrant requirement, I suppose the fact of being overseas could, itself, be considered in the same category as an "exigent circumstance,"  but that doesn’t seem to be the basis for the possible "foreign intelligence"  exception.  This exception has three bases:  (1) the president’s power to conduct foreign relations; (2) the costs of imposing a warrant requirement; and (3) the absence of warrant procedures.  It’s a Cold War doctrine, warmed over.  This exception has always been applied as against foreign powers and their agents, not U.S. Citizens residing abroad.  Until just a few weeks ago. 

In the recent case of  In re Terrorist Bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa (Fourth Amendment Challenges), (for link to this 11/24/08 decision click HERE), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the foreign intelligence exception would be applied to warrantless wiretapping and search of a U.S. Citizen living abroad.

A brief perusal of the decision appears, to me, to be a sharp slide down a short, slippery slope.  The rationale for leaving out the judiciary from the probable cause determination don’t really seem to apply here.  This case did not involve sensitive negotiations with or between foreign governments, it does not involve a non-U.S. citizen or any issues regarding sovereignty of another country’s judicial standards or processes.  These days, there are very fast and economical ways of communicating with federal judges, even across vast distances.  An order issued by a U.S. judge regarding a U.S. Citizen would not need to involve any other power nor affect any right within the foreign country.  Moreover, the fact that the drafters of the Fourth Amendment did not envision this particular application does not change the fact that it was intended as a protection of the rights of citizens  Finally, it is no excuse that procedures are not currently in place.  Procedures are not impossible to create.  

I must say, this decision flabbergasts me in its narrow mindedness and dogged determination to rationalize limiting the scope of a right that is fundamental to the American notion of due process.  The court took more than a year to issue its opinion, which is 30 pages long, and one might surmise that the case got so much judicial attention and care because it was obviously headed for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.  However, the opinion is so badly lacking in analysis or precedent that a first year law student could have written it.  I can only hope that when the issue is finally decided at a higher level, it will receive the proper briefing and painstaking analysis that it deserves. 

In a sense, my concern over the depth of this issue is needless. For one thing, as a practical matter, eliminating the warrant requirement is not going to make a diddly damn bit of difference for most Americans living abroad.  It will be as transparent to other, ordinary people as it was for me.  Secondly, as currently applied, the erosion of the warrant requirement will only affect criminals.  In order for it to impact ordinary citizens, it will have to be combined with erosion of other rights, such as free speech.  The painful erosion, in other words, would only occur when the warrantless search were combined with curtailment of free speech.  It’s only in that monopoly game, as yet unplayed, when whispered conversations critical of government land the player in jail.  On the other hand, what does this say about erosion of that which it means to be an American?  about values concerning fundamental rights and liberties we take for granted as U.S. Citizens? 

There is a saying that "bad cases make bad law."  Nowhere is this more evident than in the knee jerk responses to 9-11.  Yes, of course as a country we must fight terrorism, lawlessness, and intolerance.  But we need not become terrorist , lawless, or intolerant ourselves in the process. 


*(The term "Big Brother" is a reference to the surveillance activities in the novel 1984 by George Orwell.) 

** For those strict constructionists who think there ought to be no rights other than those specifically enumerated in the Constitution, I’ll note that Griswold was decided not in the context of abortion, but rather to strike down a Connecticut law which made it a crime to prescribe any form of contraception.  In other words, unless you believe the government should be able to forbid any form of birth control whatsoever merely on the basis of right or wrongness of birth control itself (as opposed to regulations designed for safety or health), and unless you agree with the notion that police ought to be able to come into your bedroom to ascertain whether you are violating anti contraception laws, then you too agree with the fundamental idea that there ought to be a Right of Privacy, and thus you cannot be a strict constructionist.  

***The 9th Amendment reads, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people," while the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment reads, "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;" with the concept of "Due Process" construed as encompassing everything that it takes to ensure the rights enumerated in the first seven Amendments.   


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Melamine Tainted Milk in China: A Personal Issue For Me

29 September 2008

A bit more than two years ago, we met with some expat friends at our favorite restaurant for Yum Cha (Dim Sum) on a Saturday morning.  Two members of our party at the table were the heads of human rights enforcement for large, multinational corporations.  On a daily basis, these expats were in the trenches of enforcing Western human rights standards in an environment where those values were not shared.  Needless to say, we had lively and interesting discussion.*

But then, looking outside at the grey coat of smog that obscured an otherwise perfect view of the Pearl River, our conversation turned away from protective guards on heavy machinery, and on to another issue involving health, namely pollution. 

One of the expats reported, with a wry smile on her face, "Our company’s doctor informs me that [in his estimation] as long as I’m here less than five years, the health effects are reversible."  We all joked about it.  Reversible.  Yeah.  We knew it was hurting us.  I had developed asthma, as had my youngest child Munchkin.  But we expected it to be reversible when we returned to our home country.

We laughed, but we all put a lot of store in that word:  reversible.  Though we knew we were among the fortunate, it was a fact: we were lucky. We could and did expect to leave the fishbowl of cloudy water at some time. We were not facing irreversible threats to our physical integrity in an environment that was inescapable.  We had options.  Our primary, unspoken, cares were for the millions of Chinese citizens who will swim in that fishbowl all their lives, for whom five years is just one part of a long lifetime, in a country that has phenomenally high rates of cancer, asthma, and emphysema. 

Sure enough, I am now in the relatively unpolluted environment of my home country.  Though Munchkin and I still have asthma, my hope is that it will diminish over time.  My unspoken assumption has been, "I’m out of China now, the effects will be reversing themselves now too." 

But — shake up my fantasy a little — the Chinese melamine tainted milk story affects me more personally than I’d like to admit.  For, while we lived in China, my family and I all drank Chinese milk. 

Many of my friends only drank milk imported from Hong Kong or even from New Zealand.  Not us.  We went "native" to a higher degree than many expats.  I always purchased Chinese milk.  And we did it for four years.  My two, growing daughters drank Chinese milk every day. 

Though I knew on an intellectual level that food products could have contaminants, the food in China generally "seemed fine" to me.  Even though I heard that mothers who eat Chinese food test positive for DDT in their breast milk (theoretically impossible because there officially is no DDT in China), the vegetables and fruit in the Chinese markets is lovely.  Generally speaking, the produce in Chinese markets appears far superior to the somewhat stale looking food I now see in American grocery stores.  And gee, as long as we’re safe about germs — triple washing lettuce in bottled water for example — how bad can a little bit of pesticide residue be?  It didn’t kill the cow, after all?

And the milk didn’t seem tainted.  It tasted good and seemed fresh. I thought my worst risk was exposure to hormones or antibiotics that were fed to the cows producing the milk. I also admit, I succumbed to the irrational self-reassurance that, "everybody else in China seems to be drinking it, and so we’re all in the same boat and it doesn’t seem to be making them sick."

There was one time that I passed up a temptation, and I’m glad I did.  I complained about the price of our milk.  We purchased six eight ounce bottles of milk every day, which was delivered to our door by a "milkman".  The price had gone up to 8.5 RMB per 8 ounces (this translates to about $17 per gallon).  The milkman offered to sell me a much cheaper brand.  It was only 2.5 or 3 RMB per 8 oz.  We tried it, and it just didn’t taste right.  It seemed to taste watered down.  I didn’t trust it and so I switched back to the expensive brand.  (We just cut our consumption down to four eight ounce jars per day, which was enough for each child to have a bowl of cereal for breakfast, some milk in our coffee, and a bit left over for various other uses.)  

So, I hear the news about the melamine tainted milk, and I’ll tell you, there’s something a bit different about this one for me. 

At the time of my conversation over breakfast, I thought that any health effects from living in China were reversible and (hopefully) not so serious. 

Like, asthma.  Asthma comes on insidiously.  At first it’s just a cough, or it seems like one’s bronchitis hangs on a bit longer than it ought.  It feels like a chronic, low grade annoyance, and hey, it’s going to go away when I return to my home country, right?  Nothing permanent.  It’s also a risk that is plain as "day".  If I swim in air pollution every day, I shouldn’t be surprised to develop it.   Maybe this was pure rationalization on my part.  After all, when one is in a situation one has no control over, one tends to adjust mentally. 

But I never planned to or consented to drink poison in my baby’s milk!   I never envisioned having to ask myself, "GEE, DO I NEED TO TAKE MY DAUGHTERS TO GET TESTED FOR KIDNEY STONES?" 


*  (Their stories supplied me with a treasure trove of what otherwise could be interesting case studies, except that I cannot repeat them because to do so might violate their privacy.)  

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My Tailor in Guangzhou

Many Americans find that they are too large to wear Chinese size clothing.  For example, on a recent trip to a clothing market I was looking for a dress.  A small is something like our size zero to two.  A medium is a size four to six, and a large is a size 8.  An extra large is about a size 10.  Larger than this, and you’ll have difficulty finding much. 

The good news is that in Guangzhou, it’s very easy to have clothing made.  Near the Haiyin Bridge there is a fabric market.  First find a tailor and select an item of clothing from their photo catologs.  Then they will measure you and tell you how much fabric to purchase, then purchase the fabric.  Get a friend to help, especially a friend who can act as translator.  And don’t take anything for granted.  One of my friends made a big mistake in that she just assumed the tailor would hem her dress the correct length.  The dress had been made by a seamstress outside, with finishing to be done by the girl in the shop.  But the girl didn’t measure properly and cut so much off the bottom that the dress couldn’t be salvaged.  So look carefully at the quality of the work in the shop, the styling, and notice if there seems to be a steady stream of local customers (or not). 

Be aware that unless you are a regular customer in the fabric shop, the asking price per meter will probably be about double the price the shopkeeper would charge to a local.  It is worthwhile to have a Chinese language speaking friend go with you to negotiate, or at least hold out for a lower price. If  in doubt, ask for a swatch of the fabric you are considering, take it to the tailor and ask whether it’s a good choice of fabric and what is a good price.  The tailor often will know where to get the best price and may negotiate on your behalf.  Shopkeepers give tailors good prices because they know they’ll be back. 

Occasionally someone asks me for the name of my tailor.  The tailor we use for men’s clothing speaks some English (it’s improving all the time).  His name is Leo and his phone number is 135-6022-6068.  He prefers not to have the overhead of a shop, he comes to the house.  The seamstress I personally use doesn’t speak a word of English, and she’s not the same person I’d use for an evening gown, but her prices are reasonable and she is very helpful.  She is in shop E46 in the building closest to the bridge.  Her phone number is 3357-4756. 

The seamstress I’d recommend for an evening gown is in the second building away from the bridge, on the first floor, near the manicure place and across from the shop that has nice linen.  Sorry don’t know the shop number or phone number.  They are much more expensive but the quality is far superior for design and quality in women’s clothing.  Of course there are many tailors and seamstresses and these are just three.  Choose carefully. 


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Regulations Governing Import of Dog or Cat to USA

Update on August 1, 2008

This is my blog entry in "How To Bring a Dog or Cat Into the United States"

I apologize for the rambling nature of this post, but at the moment I don’t have time to rewrite it.  There are actually four different posts, in reverse chronological order, which I posted as I learned how to do it.  Basically, I list the resources and information you will need to import a dog or cat out of China and into the USA and then describe my own experience in doing so.  I made each posting as I got the information, and then I updated it as I learned more. 

It was much easier to do than I had anticipated, and also it was definitely much cheaper to do it myself.  If you have any particular questions, please feel free to send a message and I will tell you if I know the answer or not.  Also, my information only applies to pet dogs and cats, but the resources listed below will help you figure out how to import other pet animals. 

We made the decision to only bring the dog, mostly because we didn’t think our cat would do so well on the trip and we were able to find a really good home for the cat.  She was very skittish and got upset easily.  In hindsight, it was so easy to bring the animal and I really miss her, and I wonder if it was the right decision.  However, the person who has her now is giving her a great home and assures me that she is happy.  So, I’m happy.  The dog is doing fine and has adjusted amazingly well.  She’s a little chihuahua who loves her family and is happy wherever we are.  She hasn’t seemed phased in the least by the universe that seems to keep changing around her.  She is perfectly happy as long as she’s with us, which is almost every minute of every day since she’s so small and easy to carry.  (The only time we leave her at home is when she isn’t allowed to go with us or when she’d have to wait in a hot car.) 

Anyway, as you read, bear in mind that there are four posts in this one entry, and you may want to begin with the first one (far below) which was way back in late May or early June, as we were preparing to leave Guangzhou: 

Update on June 27, 2008:
We carried Fido in a carry on bag onto the plane and brought her back into the USA with zero trouble at all.  Here’s how it worked.  I double checked with the airline ahead of time to make sure we were set to take the dog.  When we got to the check-in counter at the airport, the clerk had to call the manager.  He took the white certificate from the Chinese government (official document saying the dog had all vaccinations and was free from disease) and then he created another document which he called a "security clearance".  Then he sent us on our way.   We just walked through departure and customs.  Then at security, they had us take the dog out of the carrier and carry her through the metal detector while they xrayed the carrier bag (which I learned is required to be soft sided for interior cabin use). 

When we arrived in Tokyo, we were paged and met by an airline or airport representative when we got off the plane.  He looked at our documents and asked if we had an extra copy.  We didn’t know if we did or not, so we asked him to make a photocopy, which he did.  This added maybe ten minutes to our transfer time.  Then, we walked through the airport security again (again, taking dog out of kennel and walking her through the metal detector) and went to our departure gate. 

None of the airports or places had any place for the dog to relieve herself.  Fortunately, she is paper trained so we were able to take her to the rest room and use newspapers for that purpose and then clean them up. 

When we arrived at USA Customs, we checked the box where it said we had a live dog.  Then we had to go to a special Agriculture Department counter.  The guy there looked at her immunization records and then looked at her to ascertain that she was, indeed, alive, then flagged us through.  That did not add much time, either, maybe ten minutes. 

Home free!  We were already past security checks and didn’t have to do any more of that prior to boarding our last flight. 

Finally, the vet had given us a sedative to use if needed, but we didn’t need it.  The only time she ever whimpered was when she was out of our sight, and that was only a few times when we set her carrier down and we were not in her line of visibility. 

Good traveler, good experience, and I’m so glad it all worked out okay.

Update on June 3, 2008:  My regular vet, John Wu in Guangzhou, returned from a trip to the USA after I wrote this.  He explained things and rescued me from the translation issues and red tape of the Chinese

He explained to me that the "red passport" was a
Guangzhou City registration.  Ten days prior to departure, his staff
will carry that little red book — along with my pets’ vet records, a letter from him certifying good
health, two passport style photos of each pet (one from front and one
from side), and my passport — all to the appropriate government agency.  For a fee of course, they will take care of getting the official certification from the Chinese agency that will allow
my pet to travel out of China. 

I threw the burden on my travel agent
to make the plane reservations for the pets.  The airline instructed
them to tell me that I will just need a rabies certificate to get into
the USA (I plan to have the letter of good health and complete
immunization records on hand as well). 

The cost per pet to travel as
carry on luggage (both are small) is $130 per animal.  Taking a larger pet as air cargo has different issues, involving both cost and climate control on the airplane (it gets pretty cold at 35,000 feet) and in airports (it gets pretty hot in  cargo areas of airports during summer weather).  Portability is one reason we chose a chihuahua as a pet! 

Original entry: 

Packing, moving, saying goodbye to friends, shopping for and buying the few things we want to take back with us, locating a new place to live in the USA,  . . .  the list of what needs to be done five weeks prior to departure is very long. 

That "to do" list includes figuring out how to get Fluffy and Fido — a cat and a dog — back into our home country.  For some strange reason, I never imagined that I’d ever become an expert in the regulations governing import and export of pets into and out of the United States.  But, it brings to mind something my Great Grandmother once told me.  She said that in her life, at age 90-something, she had learned the truth of the motto:  "Never say never." 

Sure enough, I’ve had to figure out how to get Fluffy and Fido back into the USA.  It seems like such a common issue that I decided to share the information as I obtain it.  (If anyone who has more experience with this has better information, please notify me and I’ll change the post.  I note also that the requirements for dogs are not the same as for cats; and the requirements for fish, birds, rodents, etc., are altogether different.  If you are researching for pets other than dogs or cats, these pages will help you but my post specifically relates to dogs and cats.)

A web page that seems to have a fairly succinct summary for many types of animals is the brochure "Pets and Wildlife: Licensing and Health Requirements" published by the U.S. Customs Service, Publication 0000-0509 and available at this link: .  Unfortunately, it doesn’t give enough detail to be particularly helpful. 

One pet relocation company says, "Sure, we’ll relocate Fido for you," but they want 10,000 RMB per pet.  In various years, I’ve head prices ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 per pet.  Some people pay this, or their employer pays it.  It’s a legitimate part of the cost for what it takes to place an expat family overseas (and back).  No doubt about it, moving a family and leaving the pets behind is traumatic. The presence of pets provides comfort and continuity for children and adults alike.  Considering that something like 70% of failed expat assignments are related to poor adjustment of the expat’s family, the expense can be justified as a business expense.  By contributing to the well being of the family, the pet relocation contributes to the success of the expat assignment.  Nevertheless, this price is pretty steep.  It’s more than many Chinese people earn in a year of work.  In some countries, it’s more than several years worth of average wages.  I decided to look around a bit more. 

It’s not like the GOVERNMENTS are charging that much.  If one can do it for themselves, surely it’s a lot cheaper.  I’m also told that the process of import and export isn’t that hard, either.  If all your paperwork is done properly, I’m told it’s a piece of cake.  I’ve met people in airports who tell me that meeting the requirements is simple and that they take their dog everywhere they go, all over the world.  Getting the right paperwork is simply a matter of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.  But the risk is high.  What if we got to the airport, tickets in hand two hours prior to departure, and we were told Fluffy and Fido couldn’t get on the plane with us?  What’s the fallback plan for that?  Worse, what if we arrived in the USA and were at the counter at Customs and were told Fluffy and Fido couldn’t come into the USA?  What’s the fallback plan then

So, here’s the flow chart.  First you have to figure out what’s required to exit the exporting country.  Second, you have to figure out what is required by your airline.  Third, you have to figure out what’s required to enter the importing country.  Fourth, you have to figure out what’s required to enter the particular state, district, or city that is your destination.  Here’s what I’ve found so far:  


To leave China.  I was told today that there is a special red passport which is issued when the animal gets its rabies shot.  One veterinarian wanted 150 RMB for this passport.  Another wanted 1,500 RMB.  However, neither veterinary office had an actual, licensed vet in the building.  Because of requirement #2 (below), I did not want the shot administered by a non-licensed vet, so I did not get the shot today. 


Find this out by looking at the web page for your airline.  A hard carrier meeting certain specifications will certainly be required, as will special reservations and handling arrangements.  During the hottest summer months, airlines do not allow animals to be stored in cargo holds.  Bear all of this in mind as you are planning your travel. 


To enter the United States.  Import of an animal into the USA appears to be governed by three, separate U.S. Agencies: 

A.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes a regulation at 42 CFR 71.51.( "
Title 42–Public Health, Chapter 1 — Public Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services, Part 71 — Foreign Quarantine," )

B . The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 9 CFR 93.600 requires every dog to have been examined fewer than five days prior to departure and certified by a licensed veterinarian to be free from screwworm:
( )

C.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has a web page which basically requires most dogs to present with proof of rabies vaccination certified by a licensed veterinarian.  ("Importation
of Pets and Other Animals Into the United States," )

D.  The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention publishes its own regulations.  But at least they’re on a FAQ web site ( at CDC "Importation of Pets, Other Animals, and Domestic Products into the United States," ). 

E.  The penalty if you don’t get it right is pretty stiff:  According to the CFR, an animal denied entry into the USA must either be destroyed or sent back to the country of origin.  As hard as it might be to leave Fido behind, imagine the trauma to one’s children of having Customs confiscate the animal and kill it.  In other words, DON’T MAKE A MISTAKE! 


The final step is to get your animal into your state, territory, or any other city that has jurisdiction over you.  For regulations governing your particular state, see this link: 


Anyone considering importing their animal by themselves needs to create a chart which lists the requirements of every agency / party / airline involved, and make sure they have complied with every requirement by every agency.  In my case, this means I need a certificate from a licensed veterinarian saying that the animal is in good health, along with a rabies vaccination showing a sticker from a recognized vaccine and signed by a license veterinarian at least 30 days prior to departure.  To be safe, I’ll also show evidence of Bordetella vaccine (don’t let your pet be around other animals unless it’s had this vaccine) and deworming.  I’ll also be sure to have all this translated into English, and in the little red passport that I was shown today.  The kennel must meet size and hardness specifications, and it also must be clean and free from organic material such as straw bedding (which is forbidden for import).  If I get any more information, I’ll post. 


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Guangzhou Torch

May 7, 2008

It’s here!  Munchkin’s school sent notice home yesterday that it was closing at 2:00 PM today because of traffic disruption caused by the Olympic Torch.  This was the first time it occurred to me that this symbol would be coming within miles of my home!  In my mind, it’s always been something very distant and "somewhere else". 

If you’ve never experienced crowds in China, then you’ve never experienced crowds.  If anything, protests by the rest of the world have inspired national people here to come out and support their Olympics and their athletes.  I’d frankly love to see the torch, but I’m not sure if we’d even be able to get close enough for a peek! 

To get a notion of the crowds, take a peek at this video, filmed at 7:45 AM this morning: 

Well, yesterday, I needed to go out to Beijing Lu to shop for an item.  Beijing Lu is a pedestrian walking street in one of the oldest parts of the city.  There is a dugout section with archaeology excavation showing the old city wall dating at least to 900 AD.  When I got there, the street was lined on both sides with Olympic flags.  There was a girl selling pairs of little flags — one red, China flag and one Olympic flag — for 3 RMB per set.   I looked at it, and decided it didn’t look like 3 RMB material to me, so I passed. 

As I looked at the flags on the street, I suddenly realized why they were there — that it was being readied for arrival of the torch!   The street seemed cleaner and quieter than usual.   I wish I had taken a picture of the flags!  I had my camera, but I was in such a hurry that I didn’t take time to do it!  I noticed that there was a heavier than normal presence of traffic police, there were fewer people than usual asking me if I wanted to buy "copy watch," and the glass covering the archaeology exhibit was freshly washed.  (I did take time to try and photograph the ancient street, because it was the cleanest I’ve ever seen the glass covering and hence the best visibility ever, but there was too much glare from the glass to get a good shot.)

As we left to go home, I decided to buy Munchkin a flag.  At the other end of the street, where we had ended up, there was a line of young people waiting to buy from one seller.  I asked him "how much," and he replied 2 RMB per set.  Sixty six percent of the other price.  I thought about it, and gave him 6 RMB.  I was thinking, three daughters, three sets.  He gave me back two sets.  Was I mistaken?  Another boy came up and asked him how much, and he told that boy 2 RMB in Cantonese.  So I told him in Cantonese that I wanted three sets.   "Oh," he replied, and handed me another one.  At Beijing Lu there are a lot of foreigners who come and don’t  speak any of the language and I guess kind of throw their money around.  You have to be really careful shopping there not to get the foreigner ripoff prices! 

As soon as Munchkin had the two flags in her hands, she became an object of lots of approving interest.  I speculated that people really like to see a foreigner supporting the Olympics here.  I speculate that to an ordinary Chinese person, they feel that they just want the Olympics to be about sports.  They want to put on a good face to show the world that they are a good place, and they want the world to be happy and supportive.  I speculate that all this protesting is a bit baffling — does it mean that the protesters don’t support China as it tries to modernize and improve the lives of its people?  And Munchkin was a happy contrast to that.   A happy little foreign girl waving the Chinese and Olympic Flags and very happy to be supportive of China and its Olympics.  So, she met with a lot of smiles and approval, lots of people telling her how cute she was and wanting to touch her.  It brought back memories of when we first came here and she was just very little, blonde "ai wa wa," the height of cuteness.  We had a lot of challenges then with unwanted attention and touching, but that has diminished as she’s now much older and not such a "cute cute baby" anymore.  Nowadays, nobody tries to touch her or asks anymore to have their photo taken with her.  But that was different yesterday.  Everybody wanted to touch her.  They really loved to see her waving those flags! 

Well, it was the beginning of 5:00 traffic as we exited the pedestrian portion of the street and there were few taxis.  I figured that with a small child hanging on my arm there was no way I was going to be able to compete in the shuffle for a taxi, so Munchkin and I decided to walk to the bus stop.  As we were walking, our bus passed by.  We waited at the bus stop for a long, long time, maybe half an hour, and still no bus.  Lots of other buses passed, though, and they were full to the brim with people headed home from work.  I was dreading standing on a crowded bus carrying a guitar in one hand and trying to hold on to Munchkin with the other, and somehow trying to keep my balance.  Additionally, this bus doesn’t go straight to our house but drops us off a few blocks away. 
As I was thinking about this, somebody got out of a taxi right where we were.  We ran to it and got in.  Just as the driver was pulling off to take us home, our bus arrived and there was hardly anyone in it.  I asked the driver if he knew the route of the flag scheduled for today.  He said he didn’t, but I could find it out from watching the TV.  I did ask a Chinese friend and she got the route for me.  It will be coming near our house late this afternoon.  I don’t know if I’m brave enough to face the crowds, but I may. 

In a very personal sense, I agree with the Chinese bystanders who line the streets to see the torch. For them, this isn’t about world politics, it’s about their people celebrating, a people who have suffered much in the last hundred years.  I see the point of the protesters.  I think things ought to be different at high political levels.  I was so disappointed to hear word on the street that the current talks with DL are intended as a sham and occurring only because the government has been instructed that it "has" to have talks "or else".  But I don’t think that fighting over the torch is the right venue.  At this moment, at this place in the world where I sit, what it feels like to me subjectively is that the torch relay represents support  for the sport and the games, and support for the Chinese people in their joyous celebration of that. 


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