Vicky Collins Online

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The Chinese Scam I Almost Fell For

It’s amazing the lengths people will go to to rip others off.  I recently was contacted by a Mr. Dehua from Henan Yu Xin International Co. Ltd. in Zhengzhou, China.  He emailed to say that his company was making a 20 episode series of 25 minute documentaries in HD for television broadcast.  The intention was to enlighten the Chinese audience about America’s history, economy, culture and tourism.  At first I was a bit skeptical.  How did he find me?  Was it because I did a documentary length piece on Chinese influence in the Caribbean for Dan Rather Reports?  Was it because I spent three months in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics?  Did I impress someone along the way who referred me?  I emailed him back.  He followed up with the project information.  It was in detail and he clearly understood the logistics of production.  He also informed me that they would pay $50,000 to $60,000 US per episode.  The project was a dream come true with a budget that would allow us to produce excellent television.  It kept me up at night thinking of ideas that I would bring to the Chinese and people I would collaborate with.  I worked out a production schedule and sent him off my ideas.  He said “I am so happy that we have a so good beginning.”  Today as I was looking for more information I came across this warning from a production company in Munich, Germany.

Thanks to the internet and the experience of the production company in Munich I was saved from going any further down this scheming road.  I am now posting this as a cautionary tale to warn fellow producers and production companies.  The scam which first swept through Germany and Italy and other European countries has now reached American shores.  I guess if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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BBC: The Joy of Stats

What a clever way to make complicated and essential statistics user friendly. The BBC hit it out of the park with this program. For anyone interested in global poverty and the inequities between the haves and the have nots, Hans Rosling’s demonstration is must see TV.

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War and Remembrance 3

My conversation with Ben Coker, Jr. of South Carolina continues following my Veterans Day post.

In response to your letter to me, I very respectfully offer the following:

I agree with you on the point you made about unity going into WWII. We had been seriously violated by Japan’s blatant and flagrant attack on us at Pearl Harbor. However before I discuss that issue, let’s examine the time at which these events occurred. In 1929 the Stock Market crashed and left a nation in disarray and financially devastated. My father was born in 1910, my mother 1917. They told us children of the difficulty they had suffered through the ensuing years to the conclusion of the war. The American people’s endurance of these traumatic years prepared them to face the difficult years of WWII. They were united and had resolved to defeat the tyrants who had inflicted so much devastation.

This unity persisted throughout WWII; However Churchill had made repeated requests of President Roosevelt to enter the war as ally to England and France without fruition. Our leadership had taken the position that “We did not have a dog in the fight” which seems to be the attitude of most people about so many issues that so immensely impact our lives. Nevertheless, coming out of WWII our nation remained united and we enjoyed much growth and financial advancement during the fifties. Nonetheless, there was an effort by the Communist nations after WWII to spread communism throughout the world. Russia and China were asserting themselves in the effort to spread communism to other nations even if this had to be achieved through hostile action as it had been done in so many other instances.

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Travelling China’s Silk Road

Wonderful story from CBS News about entrepreneurship along the Silk Road in China.  Chinese policy towards America may not be changing much but its people embrace our capitalism and long to compete with us.  The Silk Road is open for business!

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Vacation in Afghanistan

One year ago I was in Beijing, China for a three month gig working at the Olympics.  In November 2008 I headed to Kampala, Uganda again to do more television production work for BeadforLife ( then immediately after a quick trip to Delhi, India for a wedding.  No exotic destinations this summer but I’m hungry for an overseas trip.  I’m already thinking about what to do for our 25th wedding anniversary in 2010.  Saw this article about vacationing in Afghanistan.  The land mines will be cleared out by October.  Bamiyan seems like the place for an intrepid traveler to be.

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How People Live

During April I’ve had a photo exhibit running in Studio 13 Gallery in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District.  It’s called “How People Live” and is a collection of photographs from the streets and slums around the world that illuminate the diversity of people and the condition of the poor.  Photos were taken in Uganda, China, Thailand, India, Brazil, Mexico, and various places in America.  Most of the photos were gathered while I was on television production assignments.  “How People Live” was a fundraiser for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and I want to thank all the people who supported this effort.  I’ve posted the photos to Facebook and Flickr and wanted to share them with a broader audience.  Hope you find them compelling and enlightening.

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The Truth About China

The truth, my friend Song and I agreed, is somewhere in between.  When people see things from completely different points of view, more than likely the reality lies in the middle.  Song and I were having lunch towards the end of the Olympics in the International Broadcast Centre cafeteria and I asked her what she planned to do after the games ended.  She said she’d like to return to Europe and travel around for a while.  Maybe visit Serbia and Montenegro this time.


     “You should come to America?”

     “Oh no, not America.”

     “Why not?”

     “I’m scared.”


Turns out since Song was a small girl she was told negative things about America that cloud her view to this day.  I explained that the United States was not what she imagined, that it is diverse and she would be safe and welcomed warmly by Americans.  Song has been out of China before.  She received her Masters Degree in England and mentioned that as she got acquainted with her new classmates she was surprised that Westerners were not as she had been led to believe growing up.  She found it all quite confusing and wondered if she had somehow been misled.  I explained that if she visited America her experience would probably be very similar to that.    


In the end China was not how I imagined it would be.  It is a fascinating, welcoming land with friendly, mostly content people.  They work hard and enjoy life.  Most in Beijing share in China’s prosperity and get along fine with the government.  Many think the laws of the country are sensible.  Confucious teaches obedience and it is embraced by the Chinese people.  I was even surprised to know that some young Chinese are not willing to judge their leaders and recent history.  It’s not because they are afraid but because they believe it is too new for them to have the perspective that comes with time.


During the closing ceremony as the IOC’s Jacques Rogge complimented China on “exceptional games” he said, “through these Games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the world.”  Hopefully that will be the enduring legacy of this time in Chinese history.  The door will open a bit wider. 


Now as I sit home and reflect on the adventure I had I find myself missing China very much.  I miss the yin and yang of the old China and new China.  I miss evenings hanging out on the rooftops in the hutongs drinking Tsingtao beer with Chinese and Western friends.  I miss walking down busy Beijing boulevards and seeing shops and lanterns and so many people coming and going on foot and bicycles.  I miss tai chi in Behai Park.  But mostly I miss Jack and Eir and Ming and Song and Sophie and Lynn and Matt and all the laughs.  I especially miss the immersion into another culture and the opportunity to really see a country through the eyes of someone who lives there.  One learns that despite what they’ve heard, the truth is somewhere in between.


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Olympic Countdown

The Olympic Games are less than three weeks away and Beijing is spiffing up.  When you have a workforce of over a billion people you can get lots done in a short time.  Every day the city transforms itself more and more.  Signage has gone up from one end of town to the other.  You drive over logos in special Olympic lanes, see Fuwas and banners flapping in the wind and pass huge floral displays that have been planted at major intersections.  You can not turn around without being reminded the Olympics are coming.  There are so many people cleaning, planting flowers and scurrying about to get the city ready.  The air is even clearer and this coming week traffic will lighten up as odd/even license plate restrictions keep half the cars off the road. 

Days are busy indeed, but at night Beijing slows down and that is my favorite time.  I love to walk about in the evening.  In my neighborhood, women gather together on benches to visit and fan themselves.  Men with their shirts rolled up to show their exposed bellies sit around, smoke and play board games.  Stylish young couples fill restaurants and children hang out with their grandparents in the alleys around their homes.  Squat legged dogs putter about and now and then you come across a litter of puppies.  One of my favorite scenes is the many people who show up every night outside the Outback Steakhouse near Worker’s Stadium for ballroom dancing.  The whole world seems to come to the street.  It’s an Olympic city for sure but it is still very much Beijing and those who are coming to see it are in for a treat.

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Ginger and the Great Wall

There were two places on my must see list on this journey to China and this past weekend in an Olympic sightseeing marathon I visited both.  On Saturday friends and I flew to Xian for a whirlwind day trip to see the Terra Cotta Warriors and on Sunday three of us visited the Great Wall of China.  The Terra Cotta Warriors are amazing to ponder.  What compelled some Chinese royal to create such an army in the first place?  Did he really believe the soldiers, generals, archers and horses could help him rule in the afterlife?  And what would drive an invading army to pillage and burn such a spectacular treasure?  Were they not in awe like I was?  Archaeologists have done a brilliant job restoring the ancient warriors, and continue their work to this day, but answers to these questions still escape me.



As incredible as they are I’m not writing about the Terra Cotta Warriors.  I’m writing about the Great Wall.  We chose to visit a fairly remote section between Jingshanling and Sumatai after it was recommended by intrepid colleagues.  They said it was the most spectacular section and far less crowded than the areas at Badaling and Mutainyu that are packed with tourists and closer to Beijing.  They warned us though that it was a difficult hike with lots of steep sections going up and many areas where the wall is crumbling and difficult to descend.  It was an understatement.



It’s a two hour drive from Beijing to the spot in Inner Mongolia where we would embark on our ten kilometer hike.  As we entered Hebei province and the wall started to reveal itself in the distance a hush fell over the car.  The wall snaked its way up and down high green mountains and we all were quietly thinking this might be more than we could handle.  I suppose there are hundreds of reasons to talk yourself out of making this trip but if you muster the courage it will be one of the most memorable things you do in China.  Our driver left for Sumatai.  We had no choice but to proceed.



As we set off on the rugged wall in Jingshanling, a group of Mongolian farm women fell in step with us.  They had tsotchkes for sale and as we hiked they engaged us in conversation.  “Where are you from?  How long have you been in China?  Are you family?  Do you have children?” We really didn’t want them along.  It was an uneasy arrangement.  You don’t come to a place this remote to be hustled but as I struggled with one of the most challenging physical feats I’ve ever attempted, Ginger was by my side.  She coached me, told me to watch my step and walk slowly.  After 103 huge steps straight up, when I could hear my heart pound in my head and could barely breathe, she offered me a hand to help me up.  When she sensed I needed a break she would wait, and when she thought I could go on she would move again.  When I finally got up to the tower she would fan me in the shade.  “You are almost at the top,” Ginger would say.  “Keep going.”


At the halfway point as we crossed back into Beijing province Ginger had to leave.  I bought a t-shirt, some bookmarks and a bottle of water.  Another woman picked up where Ginger left off and walked towards Sumatai with me.  “Where are you from?  How old are you?  Do you have children?  I have twins.”  Before she headed down a trail to her farm I bought some bracelets from her.  Somewhere on the border of Hebei and Beijing provinces I pushed through the pain and found myself in a state of grace.  It occurred to me that we are all walking alongside each other on this journey.  You support me, I support you and we both come away feeling whole.  A short while later I made the final push to the top in Sumatai and rode a zip line down to the parking lot.  I felt powerful like a warrior.            

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Hen hao (very good) taxi ride

Mr. Li gets the good Olympic citizen award.  I left my new Nike sweatshirt in his taxi following a ride to the Emperor Hotel.  After a couple days of searching my Chinese colleague tracked him down and learned he had delivered the item to the hotel thinking I was a guest there.  When she told him otherwise, he retrieved it and delivered it to me at work clear across town.  He refused to accept any compensation or even a tip for his trouble.  I fell over myself trying but he said no.  Mr. Li told me he wanted to do the right thing and treat foreign guests to the Olympics well.  Xie Xie, Mr. Li.

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