Across Continents

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Sea cucumbers

May 16th, 2011

Sea cucumbers from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken discovers sea cucumbers in the shallow waters around Lady Musgrave Island. Southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. Commentary includes teasing references to Chinese eating habits. Not in the least bit influenced by the presence of forty or so of their number close by. Heaven forbid. Just remember, the only thing they won’t eat with legs is a table. Enough said.

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Free radicals

October 20th, 2010

Chinese characters, American student William explained, were originally pictograms. But that was five thousand years ago, and a lot of stylisation had since crept in. I’d wondered about their origins, noticed a pattern of sorts amongst the numbers.

Did some delving, confining myself to objects, expressions that might have existed many millennia ago. Like woman, possibly carrying firewood, child, tree, field and plough, the symbol of strength (below, left to right).

Chinese chars - first line - web

Some were compounds. Intangible concepts such as good, represented by a mother and child (below, left). Or man, a combination of field and plough (below, right). And some intriguing ones, both old and modern. A cat headed eagle equating to owl, split mind disease describing schizophrenia, electric brain a computer.

Chinese chars - second line - web

Today, the vast majority of individual characters have two parts. One that hints at meaning – the radical, and another that gives an indication as to pronunciation. But no more certainty than that. So still a lot to learn.

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Finding your way

August 15th, 2010

“Can I help” she asked. “Actually, yes, there is one thing” I replied, explaining my map showed the Chinese characters for just the cities. Perhaps she could translate a few of my smaller proposed nightly stops. That way I’d avoid inadvertently missing a turning.

Navigating in China - web version

I’d met Mao at a petrol station. She’d majored in English at University, worked as an interpreter for some years, but was now a traffic police officer. Off duty, she was travelling with her young son. She thought the road dangerous, but sought to assure her I thought drivers very considerate, the road surface of a standard I’d rarely seen since Turkey.

What did I think of China, she enquired? Early days of course, I explained, but I was already impressed. The neat, clean streets of Khorgas, the huge investment in infrastructure, road building in the mountains, the sheer beauty of Lake Sayram Hu. And the friendliness of people. Passers-by giving me breads, fruit and water.

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