A French Family in Huai Zhong Village

My name is Annie, I am 54 and a teacher of English in France. I had already travelled to China and to Gansu province before with my son, Guillaume, but this time my husband, Dominique, who is also a teacher and has just retired decided to accompany us. Apart from my husband and my 15-year-old son, we were also travelling with our friend from Chongqing, Mr Zhao.

                                   Together with Mr Zhao on our arrival in Chongqing from France
Before I tell you more about our time in the village, I would like to explain something about the languages we can speak. Unfortunately, we only know a couple of words in Chinese and have many difficulties using the right tones, so most people cannot understand us, even when we try… However, we had Mr Zhao to help us. Mr Zhao and I have a language in common, it is not English, but Esperanto. You might not know much about Esperanto, so I have to do some explaining I think… Well, Esperanto is a language which was invented at the end of the 19th century, by a Pole called Ludwig Zamenhof, to be the second language of everyone around the globe… It did not succeed as well as he had hoped, but there are Esperanto groups in many places in the world.
I had already taught English in another village, in 2007, with the help of Green Camel Bell, our aim was to do it again, as a family. We travelled on the train from Chongqing to Xi’an and then Lanzhou. In Lanzhou we went to the Green Camel Bell offices, where we discussed what we wanted to do, explained what we were prepared to do etc…

                                     Us being welcomed in the Green Camel Bell office
Less than two hours after we had left the office, we got a phone call saying they had found a village where we could go and teach! So off we went, on the train still. We were picked up from the station in Jiu Quan and taken to the village. In the village we stayed with the family of one of the Green Camel Bell staff. They are farmers. There are 5 people in the household: the grandparents, the parents and the 17-year-old son. The father has a job outside the farm, which means they all work hard, to produce their cereals and vegetables on the farm. We had two rooms for ourselves and we took our meals with our hosts. Most of what we ate was produced on the farm: noodles, vegetables, a little bit of meat.
On our first day, we went to see our “school”, which was a building with a courtyard. The day after, we prepared the room and the outside also, to play sport too. We did not have much cleaning to do because lots of people were already doing it, everyone was helping.
                                                                Preparing the “school”
On the Monday, we were all ready to start. The children were ready too. Many children came. Some were as young as 7, others were 17. Everyone seemed keen to learn some English! There were more than 50 children, so we decided to make two groups: we would teach the younger ones in the morning and the older ones in the afternoon.
Everyday new children came. Their parents came to introduce them. Every day, I had to find new English names for new children… Some came only once though! All in all, in each group there was a chore of children, about 15, who came every day for the two weeks we stayed.
Let me now tell you about a normal day: I would be taken to the school by the son of the house, with his motorbike and little trailer at 8. I taught for about 90 minutes, then my husband joined me and took half of the group. With him they practiced table tennis, badminton and darts. We then swapped groups. We went home for lunch and some rest. At 2 in the afternoon, I set off again, my son and my husband joined me after about an hour, we then had 3 groups: one group doing English with me, one group doing sport with my husband and one group being introduced to rock and roll, western music by my son, again, we swapped groups.

                                       Guillaume teaching, for the first time in his life…
As to the teaching of English, I would like to now focus on the difficulties I faced. Most children (except a few very young children) knew their alphabet in English, that does not mean, however, that they could read!… Many children, even among the older ones, had no idea about how to read English words… I thus had to spend some time on reading tasks, with sort of flash cards, labels, made by my young helpers (several young people helped me, their English was quite basic, but they were very friendly and always trying to do their best). The fact I was trying to get them to ask questions, communicate was also something which was not straightforward: the children are used to choral repeating in their English lessons, communicating was in fact something new for them and although some showed me their books with quite a lot of words they were supposed to know, they had never used them to communicate. Another problem I faced was the lack of interest that some children showed… Several of them came because (I am just guessing…) their parents wanted them to or because they wanted to play with their friends… So, I think preparing in advance, informing the families in Chinese, so that everyone knew what the teaching was about, why and how would have helped me to make sure my teaching was really efficient. At least, now I have a clearer picture of what the children’s difficulties are.

               Mr Zhao and one of my young helpers with some children from the morning group
We stayed in the village for two weeks, we had brought a bread machine, which we left for our hosts to use and on the last day we also made bread for the children, which I think they liked. We learnt about life in the country. For us that was a great experience. It is a pity I can’t ask the children about their opinion of these two weeks!

                                           Little girls enjoying bread and                The last afternoon, Guillaume had brought his saxophone

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GCB 2012 strategy planning

This month we held a 3 day planning session to look into the future work of GCB in 2012. We examined current projects, potential new projects, funding, volunteers and management… all that hard nitty gritty stuff! Thanks to all the facilitators from outside of GCB who volunteered their time to help guide discussions and ensure a smooth and successful strategy session.
Additionally, we will be holding our Annual Meeting with board members on 3rd January. This meeting is open to the public. If you are keen to come along please get in touch with our office to register your interest and find out more details 电话 TEL: 0931-2650202

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GCB Newsletters

Hi all! Happy to publish our first translation of our monthly newsletters. For the translation work, we owe a big thanks to Seigi Karasaki, an American volunteer currently based out of Guyuan, Ningxia province.
Please click below for the August 2011 edition. Hopefully more to follow soon! :)
Newsletter GCB August 2011

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Birthday celebrations for GCB

This month was Green Camel Bell’s 7th birthday! We celebrated in the Lanzhou office with many staff and volunteers making hundreds of dumplings. We took the time to reflect on the years progress on many of our projects, acknowledge the hard work of new and old staff, celebrate the fantastic volunteers we have and give thanks to our donor agencies and key partners.
Here is a short photo collage video which displays many of the people involved in GCB work and some of our project sites.
Happy birthday GCB!!!

Picture: Making dumplings before celebrations begin.

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Environmental and linguistic adventures in Gansu Grasslands

Maqu, Gannan, རྨ་ཆུ་རྫོང, 玛曲

8 hours via bus from Lanzhou lies Maqu in Gannan prefecture, a Tibetan area known
for its rolling grasslands through which the Yellow River snakes. Green Camel Bell
has been working in this community for the past year and a half, aiming to improve
degraded grasslands and engage in social development and environmental education

Specifically the purpose of the trip is to collect stories from older Tibetans in the
area on conservation practices. From this we are collating the stories into a book
for preservation and study for younger Tibetans and outsiders to better understand
Gannan Tibetans.

I, a native English speaker, am travelling with two GCB staff, one a Cantonese
and Mandarin speaker, the other a local Maqu Tibetan who has learnt Chinese
recently. We have a great time together naming objects in each others languages and
attempting to get our mouths around the guttural sounds non-existent in English or
Chinese. However, at times the conversation becomes a little more tangled when
questions from local herdsmen need to be translated from Tibetan into Chinese and
then from Chinese into English (and back again!).

We interview a number of monks, herding families and also city residents. Many of
the stories are interlinked with religious beliefs, for example;
“We never collect the water from the river with a dirty bucket. It needs to be free
from milk or blood otherwise the river gods get angry”

Yet other stories showed Tibetans deep understanding of their natural world,
“The China Zokor has a little underground nest where it hides a
plant called Potentilla anserina, if you know where the burrow is you can take a small
amount of the plant from inside, ensuring you leave enough for the animal also”
“In the past there were many deer, wolves, bears, snow leopard,
Tibetan antelope, who lived behind the monastery. It wasn’t a safe place to go into the
forest. Now days there has been so many removal of trees for firewood the forest is
disappearing, and with it the home for many of these big animals.”

We pitch our tents inside a farmers shed to keep warm, but also to keep safely away
from the enormous and vicious Tibetan mastiffs. I later learn that that is not the only
animal we need to be concerned about. On a walk through the fields one afternoon we
see a large flock of birds of prey. Jinba, our Tibetan colleague, tells us that they are
vultures and when gathered like this it usually means they are coming into feed from
the remains of something a wolf has killed. Running over the neighbouring hill we see
two wolves that have attacked a yak calf by ripping through its neck. A fully grown
yak can fetch up to 3000-4000RMB at market, so it’s a great loss to the herder’s

The people in the community live simply as they have to transport all their
possessions when they move from winter to summer camp each year. Their winter
homes have traditionally been made of mud brick, but now some have cement also.
Inside is just one room, which acts as kitchen, living room and sleeping quarters for
the entire family. Most of the villagers cannot speak Mandarin, and have not been
educated past primary school. The women and girls especially do it tough by having
to engage in domestic labour, such as drying yak dung for fuel. As these tasks take up
most of the day, many families do not send their daughters to school. We are hoping
to set up a women run clean energy team. As they already take charge of dung drying,
we want to include them in training for maintenance of newly installed solar panels,
and see what other opportunities for learning we can help provide them with.
Looking forward to my next visit already!

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Sharpen your eyes – interactive GCB game

Here is a new interactive game one of GCB’s volunteers has deigned to help others know more about GCB in a fun way! Li Chenyang, is a former 2010 intern of GCB, who recently graduated from Lanzhou University of technology and now works for a foreign company. He was involved in GCB’s water project, started investigation at Weiwei city, and helped with GCB’s “Water Walking” project. In addition he has also helped in GCB’s volunteer administration, and training program for GCB’s volunteers and college students environmental groups.
To view this game please click here.
*Note those accessing inside of China must be using VPN
Instructions: Click “view” in tab menu, select “start presentation”. Slide 3 of 30 is a menu please select the topic you are interested in and you will enter that part of the game (there are instructions once you select the section you want to view).
Have fun! Thanks Li Chenyang!

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Authored by Doug Hoschek

Polar Pollution is a comprehensive story written by the author Doug Hoschek from his forty plus years of marketing and developing outdoor textile fabrics. Called out on the title cover “Outdoor memoirs of Polarfleece.”
The books most important topics are a comparison of developing and manufacturing outdoor textile materials in the United State by American workers and owners vs the off shoring of todays brands that do no manufacturing in the United States of the same outdoor textile materials and finished products.
Catastrophic water pollution in Asia, especially China has created death, destruction and a global call from places like the United Nations for change.
Teaming with an ngo in China, Green Camel Bell, the author marries his expertise including being the creator of Polarfleece to the activist progress of brave citizens in China. A colorful memoir of how the textiles and brands were created finds passion of the outdoors married to a small business until the off shoring allowed investor greed to pollute water and air that today daily reaches the shores of the west coast of the United States. Building the authors case of why are these iconic outdoor brands voicing sustainable leadership when in fact they are the cause of the water and air pollution in the United States and China and other parts of Asia. The book itself with many sub headings to help the reader through each chapter surely offers an insight that anyone carrying a backpack wants to read while enjoying outdoor recreation.

Publication Date:October 31 2011
ISBN/EAN13: 1461154308 / 9781461154303
Page Count: 244
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 7″ x 10″
Language: English
Color: Black and White with Bleed
Related Categories: Business & Economics / General

About the author:
Doug Hoschek age 67 a forty five year veteran of outdoor recreation textiles.
Credited as the creator of polarfleece and polarfleece technology.
Created the first recycled 100% polyester fabric for outdoor textiles from recycled soda bottles in 1993-94.
Numerous outdoor activist accomplishments including the present ngo GreenCamel Bell in China.
Educated on the beaches of Long Island and the mountains of Montana.
Business marketer of outdoor textiles created from Seattle and Portland Oregon manufacturing in polyester and wool fibers.

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Volunteers help clean up Cha Yuan and Lanzhou for future generations

As part of the global Clean up The World campaign, Green Camel Bell, was joined many volunteers in Lanzhou and in Cha Yuan (Longnan, Gansu) in an extraordinary effort to protect and improve the environment for future generations. Volunteers picked up masses of rubbish by the river, in empty fields and in common areas.

Despite torrents of rain local villagers in Cha Yuan joined together on Sunday 18th September to join a rubbish cleaning competition which lasted half the day. The clean up efforts were lead by students from Bi Kou Middle School, with funding and organisation from Green Camel Bell.

Villagers of Cha Yuan collected more than 40 kilos of rubbish and 10 kilos of recycling. A competition to collect the most rubbish was run by the students of Bi Kou Middle School. The students weighed rubbish, organised materials and gave away prizes such as sacks of rice, tins of cooking oil and bags of washing powder.

Speaking on behalf of Green Camel Bell, Xiao Xie, expressed her appreciation for the efforts of local volunteers, “Clean up efforts from volunteers have shown that the people of Cha Yuan and the students of Bi Kuo Middle School really do care about the state of the environment, and are willing to do something practical about it.”

Over the past year Green Camel Bell has worked in Cha Yuan to install 8 rubbish rooms for centralised collection of rubbish in the village. Due to inaccessibility for transportation the village previously has not had a rubbish collection system. Until recently waste had been organic in nature and thus biodegradable. Motorbike access is more common now, although the unseal road remains treacherous in the wet, and more plastic packaging and waste has made its way into the village. In the past waste was discarded in fields, streams and around the house. The new rubbish rooms have helped alleviate the sprawl of non-recyclable rubbish and villager education has helped increase the recycling rate for bottles.

On the same weekend, in Lanzhou – Gansu’s capital, 20 volunteers gathered together at Zhong Shan Bridge to collect rubbish along the banks of the Yellow River.

These events were part of one of the world’s most successful community-led global environment campaigns, Clean Up the World. The campaign involves an estimated 35 million volunteers in 130 countries each year, uniting them in a common goal to clean up, fix up and conserve our environment.

Clean Up the World originated in Sydney, Australia in 1993 and is held in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The campaign brings together non-government organisations, community groups, schools, governments, businesses and individuals to undertake activities to improve water quality, clean up local streets, parks, waterways and forests and educate children about the environment.
For more information about Clean Up the World please visit :

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From Amusement Park to Power Plant: finding the point-source of a Yellow River sewage stream

Author: Allegra Fonda-Bonardi

Our journey begins near a small amusement park in western Lanzhou. Walking along the Yellow River several weeks ago, Green Camel Bell staff discovered a small river running through the park that seemed to drain into the Yellow River. The water in this tributary was odorous, black and filled with garbage. Today, we retrace their steps to the fun park and find the tributary– black bubbles floating to the surface and plastic bags drift lazily in the murky current. The carcass of what used to be a street dog bobbs forbodingly in the morning sun.

We walk to the back of the park, out the heavy iron gates, and up a hill along where the small black river seems to lead. We stop to buy some water on the side of the road, and the shopkeeper informs us that the waste water river flows from the west, over in Lanzhou’s industrial district, several kilometers away. As we hike along the river heading west, we pass car dealerships, a recycling center, and a coal-fired power-plant far up on a hill to the left. As we hike, we notice that the water in the tributary, although still grey with specks of black and bubbles, is decreasing rapidly. When we finally get to what seems like the source of the tributary, we are in a grassy floodplain criss-crossed by a large bridge. Standing at the top of the bridge, we notice that the tributary veers right, into what looks like a trash collection station.

Into the collection station, we find two large pipes spilling grey-and-black speckled water, exactly the same as at the amusement park. A woman who lives across from the sewage pool says that on the rare occasions that it rains, the sewage pool overflows onto her patio, cracking the cement (she gestures to cracks that look like several small earthquakes have hit her front deck). Also, she says that people come regularly at night with trucks to dump waste and trash from other sites into the tributary~ But nobody is watching, nobody is managing this, she says.

Walking back along the tributary, we meet a man who has lived in this industrial area his whole life. He offers to take us to what he says is the real source of the sewage tributary–not the sewage pools we have just seen, but rather to several sites leading to a power plant and a sewage treatment plant that is still under construction.

Driving quickly through narrow mud walls and down alleyways to snap pictures of mountains of trash, electronics, and the polluted tributary, we finally get to a field just half a kilometer from the power plant. Our guide shows us a small trickle of filthy water. Here, he says, is where the polluted water begins its eastward journey. We suspect that the original source is somewhere close to this, but that the company probably has it well guarded, or more likely still, houses have been built over the pipes so that they literally ‘vanish’ from the visual landscape.

From where we stand near the power plant to the amusement park is many kilometers of walking and bus-riding. In fact, it has taken us hours to retrace this sewage river to its source. However, the Yellow River itself is quite nearby. The factory seems to have its own reasons for directing its waste water down such a winding path to the Yellow River many kilometers away.

The man who has been our unofficial guide to the pollution source drops us at the bus stop and speeds away. We seem to have found the source of the smelly black bubbly water~ our Yellow River walk, is complete. For today. Coming back to the site at night time, when the waste water flow is at its heaviest, might lead to still more information regarding this small polluted river.

West Lanzhou is the industrial center, where lots of big enterprises are located and thousands of small enterprises as well. In order to protect the Yellow River, the enterprises should manage their waste treatment, ensuring the whole productive process is managed well and responsibly. Green Camel Bell will follow to find the real source of polluted river, using different strategies and action to make enterprises close down or collect their waste to treatment plant.

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Carbon Calculator launch at Lanzhou Airport

The first flight carbon calculator in China was unveiled recently in Lanzhou’s domestic flight terminal. This devise can be used free of charge by passengers to determine the amount of carbon produced in their flight, as well as the amount of carbon produced in travelling to the airport. It is hoped that this carbon calculator spurs passengers to be more conscientious with their travelling habits and learn to live more lightly on the planets resources. The project was jointly funded by Gansu Radio Media, Shan Shui (Environmental NGO based in Beijing) and Green Camel Bell. Additionally as part of the “Go Green” project, Green Camel Bell volunteers also gave out sustainable travel booklets to the general public in the airport.

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