Posted in "From East to East", Africa, Blogging, Central Europe, China, Eastern Europe, European Union, Hong Kong, Journalism, Lesotho, Parenting, Photography, South Africa, Teaching, Writing, tagged Afrikaans, Afrikaner, Basotho, Bratislava, Chinese Counterfeiting, Ex-Communist Eastern Europe, Freelance Foreign Correspondent, Freelancer, Makos Retes, Maseru, Mitteleuropa, Mokhoro, Poppy-Seed Strudel, Prague, Rondavel, Training on November 20, 2011|
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One of my new Basotho friends, grilling meat roadside in Lesotho. (Photo: mjj)
MASERU, Lesotho – Surreal. It’s a shopworn term – defined as unbelievable, fantastic or incongruous – that is thrown around way too casually in the Anglophone world. By me, included.
But how else to describe my sensations this past week, as I stumbled into the next stage of my life: here in remote Lesotho, the “Kingdom in the Sky” of the Basotho people?
Just two months ago, I wrapped up 17 years as a Central Europe-based foreign correspondent. The place may be rife with cobblestones and castles, age-old hatreds and poppy-seed strudel, but the post-Communist world is also perched on the doorstep of wealthy, industrialized Europe – and hitched to the fate of the European Union.
Then I spent two months in China, mostly in the hyper-developed, hyper-kinetic and hyper-counterfeiting mega-cities of Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. The Chinese seem hell-bent on proving to the planet – and to themselves – that they’re worthy of the mantle “the next global superpower.”
A mere 36 hours later, via plane, train and automobile, I arrived in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho. Courtesy of my wife’s job in international development, I find myself with our three kids, for three years, in one of the world’s poorest, least-developed, and worst-HIV-ridden countries.
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Posted in "From East to East", "Mantle", Humor, tagged Antiques, Beijing, Budapest, China, Chinese Counterfeiting, Ecseri Flea Market, HKBU, Hong Kong, Humor, Hungary, Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei on November 8, 2010|
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[The following post appeared Nov. 8 on The Mantle.]
Thrill of the Hong Kong hunt: the shop where I bagged my trophies. (Photo: mjj)
HONG KONG – A big fat discount. That’s what I wanted on my last day in Hong Kong – a reasonably priced memento of my seven weeks here.
So, I stalked my prey: an antique store in the heavily Chinese neighborhood of Yau Ma Tei. I’d already visited twice and was sufficiently impressed by the layer of dust on their paintings, carvings, calligraphy sets and other crafts.
Maybe these things are truly old … not just scuffed to look that way?
I spotted two small pictures in my modest price range. The larger, an elaborate peacock painted on porcelain (for my burgeoning peacock-themed collection, naturally), had a sticker price of 1,800 Hong Kong dollars (US$232). The second, a father and two children painted on glass, was HK$650 (US$84).
I wanted both. Life’s too short to choose between tchotchke. Better to snag both. Yet, not at these prices. Which is why I needed a strategy. Since everything in such places is marked up exponentially – as if shopkeepers are giggling at the thought of gouging suckers like me – each price-tag is negotiable. Despite any Oscar-worthy protest by the proprietor.
Worse, though, is the nagging fear I’ll be ripped off. Or in China’s case, it’s the inevitability of being ripped off. After all, the Chinese are world-class forgerers of purported “antiques.” According to some estimates, as much as 95 percent of the antiques peddled are fakes.
And it’s not just the antiques, of course. (more…)
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