Friday, November 6, 2009


In my small village street in Cádiz province there are around 20 houses. Several years ago my neighbours Chris and Richard invited me one evening for a drink along with some of their friends. I found myself talking for a lengthy period to Arnold who lived just doors away.

Now Arnold (de Wease) is American and had lived in the village for many years. I was fascinated to learn that in a previous life he had been a journalist and worked for many of the USA’s top newspapers.

Two years ago Arnold was a lucky man for he sold his house high before the market collapsed and moved inland to Granada province where he purchased a far cheaper house that is now his base. In between times he travels the world, largely in the Far East. True sometimes he stays with family or friends but rather than the intrepid American of old who trekked from Hilton to Hilton he stays in cheap boarding houses. I should add Arnold is no spring chicken, more a well matured broiler – so I doff my tattered hat to him.

When Arnold is on his travels he sends a round-robin missive to his friends but generally doesn’t correspond so I was delighted and flattered to receive an email from him this week.

The majority of readers of my blog are in Europe and the USA where we take the freedom of the internet for granted. So Arnold’s email came as an acute reminder that for many people the freedoms we enjoy simply do not exist. So I will now hand over to Arnold who can explain the situation far better than I and he also tells the tale of the endangered pandas of Chengdu:

“I am now in Bangkok and on 27th this month to Boxing Day I will be back in Burma where blogs and everything else are censored or embargoed and Internet connections are so bad there that it is almost impossible to get on-line. I will have to wait for my return to Thailand to read your fine column. Keep it going, hombre.

“Internet is better in China, though outgoing and incoming blogs are embargoed. Not even Facebook can get over the Great Wall of China. But after returning from Burma Boxing Day I can pick up your blogs again until my return to China in a few months.

“My travel reports aren’t yet embargoed by Chinese censors unless a statement or word is considered a threat to government policy. A couple of years ago I filed a report praising the 105-hectare panda reserve that is a beautiful and wild-like park in Chengdu where the lovely beasts are protected from road killing, poachers, etc., but made the mistake of titling it Sanctuary for Endangered Pandas. "Endangered" was a suspect word and the file attachment wouldn’t move. After a few attempts to send it I changed the title simply to Pandas and it went without a hitch.”

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