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.

http://www.filmingholidays.com/2012/07/18/beware-b2b-scam-from-china/

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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The Camel and the Cell Phone

Andres from Switzerland, his girlfriend, Paola from Brazil and I were riding on camels in the Thar Desert outside of the western Indian town of Jaisalmer. We were in a spot as remote as I’ve ever been, 21 hours by train from Delhi, just 60 kilometers from the border with Pakistan. It’s a flat, arid locale, punctuated by sand dunes and populated by only villagers, camel wallas and shepherds with their flocks of sheep and goats. To me it was a place that time forgot, more like the Middle East than India. It probably hasn’t changed much at all in a thousand years. I felt like a silk or spice trader heading west into the desert. I was deep into my reverie on a camel named Michael when suddenly my thoughts were interrupted by the Nokia ringtone. Dadadadadadadadadadadadada. It seemed our guide, Ali, was a very popular man. For the entire camel safari his cell phone rang. It rang on the sand dunes, it rang under the tree where we stopped to have our vegetables and chapati lunch, it rang at sundown while we were drinking our beer. It rang after we went to bed under the stars and it was the first sound I heard at sunrise. The Nokia ringtone, piercing the tranquility of the desert.

 

Ali and his cell phone

 

The Lonely Planet guide book said the power generating wind turbines that have sprouted around Jaisalmer were altering the historic and mystical qualities of the area, that they made it harder to transport yourself to another time and place. But I barely noticed them. I found it was Ali’s cell phone that kept me coming back to now. I had a similar experience while working at the Olympics in Beijing. Dean, Jim and I took a day trip to hike the Great Wall of China. We climbed in Hebei Province, in Inner Mongolia, about two and a half hours outside of Beijing. We took a 10 kilometer trek from Jinshanling to Sumatai. Up and down stairsteps in a place far out of the way. Yet there was cell service. No place this remote would be served by AT&T in the U.S.A. My colleague, Jim, who probably shouldn’t have been on the adventure because he was so busy with his Olympic assignment as the head technical supervisor of the Bird’s Nest Stadium, spent the entire trip talking on his cell phone. I have no idea how he managed to catch his breath as he scrambled up and down the mountainside. It was truly the most difficult physical challenge of my life, yet he yakked the whole way on his mobile.

We have gotten to a place where we are so interconnected that you can no longer escape, even in some of the most remote spots on earth. While in India I have stayed in touch with friends by Skype, email and Facebook. I tuned in to an computer chat on http://msnbc.msn.com that my friend, Kerry Sanders, a correspondent for NBC News, was holding as he covered the rescue of the miners from Chile. There was really no update from family, friends and colleagues that was inaccessible to me from a half a world away. And even though I am grateful for all the technology and connectedness at my fingertips, and understand the need of the camel walla to stay in touch with his people when he travels through the desert too, I still wish the only sounds that day were my thoughts, the wind and the camels, and not Ali’s incessant Nokia ringtone.

For more on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Delhi’s Commonwealth Games Face

When I came to Delhi in 2008 I remember the palpable culture shock.  It was overwhelming even for a rather intrepid traveler.  I had been in Beijing and Uganda earlier in the year so I thought I would be prepared for anything, but nothing I had ever experienced set me up for India.  On the roadway from the airport cows roamed the street.  The traffic was indescribable and everyone honked their horns. There were thousands of stray dogs loafing in the sun, then at night they would roam in hungry packs and turn aggressive.  Squatters camped along the roadways and children would race up to your car when you were stopped at intersections to beg or perform little tricks in hopes of a handout.  It took me about 24 hours to adjust and I still am ashamed of my ugly American moment when I couldn’t get the hot water to work.

Two years later, I see a different city.  For all the international ridicule Delhi suffered as it ramped up to the Commonwealth Games, the Indian capitol definitely has on its game face now.  The cows and dogs have been relocated for the time being to shelters.  There are few squatters and I haven’t seen one beggar yet.  Traffic is moving well and things are clean and tidy.  It remains to be seen what it will be like in three months when the international spotlight turns away (I still wonder how Beijing transformed once the Olympics were over.)  Of course Delhi will be left with the emotional and financial hangover these huge international sporting events leave behind, but for the moment, it is a new day in Delhi.  The only thing that hasn’t changed is the warmth of the people.  That is the same as it was in 2008.  Warm smiles and namastes.  Great hospitality to cure the worst case of culture shock.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Some Thoughts on Home

This month’s “More” magazine has a series of essays, by influential women authors, about the meaning of home.  “A Wanderer’s Retreat” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni really speaks to me.  Her writing is flavorful and evocative as chai.  Her story about first loving her grandfather’s home, connecting with landscapes after his loss, then finally finding home in her own heart resonates with the wanderer in me and perhaps would even have meaning for my parents who shared her immigrant experience.  When I was getting ready to leave Vancouver and the Olympics people would ask if I was excited to go home.  It’s a complicated question.  Of course I was more than ready to see my family and be a part of my community again, but I have never considered Denver, Colorado to be home.  There are memories in every house, but I’m not attached to any of the abodes I’ve lived in as an adult.  On the other hand, each time I think of Waa Street and see the skyline of Honolulu, and the lush landscape of Hawaii that’s what fills my soul.  Folks say “home is where the heart is” but maybe as Chitra found out “heart is where the home is.”  For all of my footloose friends and readers who, like me, have moved to chase dreams around the world, perhaps this is what home really looks like.   

A WANDERER’S RETREAT by Chitra Vanerjee Divakaruni

     My father was a footloose man, so as a child I was shunted from town to town in India, a different one almost every year. Our houses blur in my mind. What I remember most is the smell of new paint and the nervousness in my stomach as I got ready to attend yet another school where I knew no one.  Home to me was my grandfather’s house in our ancestral village of Gurap, in the eastern part of India.  To my child’s eye, it was the biggest house in the world and the best (though on returning as a young woman, I realized that it was, in fact, quite ordinary.)

     The two story brick house had a long veranda that looked out on jasmine trees and gardenia bushes.  My grandfather, a retired doctor, was an avid gardener and whenever I visited him, I helped enthusiastically.  Behind the house was a mango orchard that was exciting and scary.  Rumor was, people had seen cobras there– and ghosts.  My days at grandfather’s were filled with freedom and wonder.  I went with him for long walks in the fields of mustard flowers and listened at night, in his cool, tiled bedroom lit by a kerosene lamp, to stories of gods, heroes and demons with the snarling heads of animals. 

     My family left for the United States when I was 19.  My entire first year in my new country, I wept for that house, knowing instinctively that by the time I went back to visit, it would not be the same.  And it wasn’t.  When I was 22, my grandfather died, and with him much of the house’s magic passed out of this world. 

     I must have inherited my father’s footloose nature, because I too have moved around, sometimes for my husband’s career, sometimes for my own, to Illinois, Ohio and a succession of cities in California.  Now we live in Texas.  Perhaps my willingness to relocate comes from being an immigrant: Once you give up your first home, once you suffer through that initial heartache, giving up one more house doesn’t seem to matter so much.  I lost faith in man-made structures and became attached to landscapes: the windy expanse of Lake Michigan, the wide flowering of buckwheat trees, the ancient redwoods and the curve of the Pacific, the water oaks bordering shady bayous that harbored egrets.  Yet I couldn’t hold on to them either. 

     As I grew older, I began to yearn for a permanent home.  Even after we’d been in Texas for seven years, I still wondered if permanence could exist in this sublunary world. 

     One day, by fortunate blessing I discovered meditation.  Through it, I began to feel the quiet center within, filled with light and the deep comfort of belonging and being loved.  This is what I’d always been searching for in all those houses and gardens and all the illuminated beauties of nature.  And all this time it had been in my heart, waiting patiently for me to turn to it: the home of all homes.    

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Tim Horton’s Coffee Commercial

Just another couple of days and I’ll be heading home from Vancouver.  Didn’t want to leave the Olympic city without sharing this commercial with you.  Over the course of the games, out of the corner of my eye, I kept joining this television ad in progress.  I never quite grasped what it was about because I didn’t see it in its entirety until tonight.  It comes from Canadian coffee chain, Tim Horton’s, and like it’s brew it will warm your soul.  What a wonderful spot and way to promote the brand.     

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Olympic Moments

It’s hard to believe that the Olympics are almost at an end.  It is already Day 15.  Soon the closing ceremony will be here and the torch will be extinguished and it’s all over.  Vancouver will be back to its old self with perhaps a wicked Olympic hangover.  It happens every time a city returns to normal after being the center of the sporting universe.  The life cycle of this event is extraordinary.  It’s like a rare moth cocooning for an extended period then it is born as an spectacular creature and within 17 days it dies.  But during those 17 days the entire world is touched by the things they see and experience and others are touched by the things they missed.  Of course we all shared in the triumph and tragedy of Joannie Rochette, who skated through her pain to a bronze medal after her mother died upon arrival in Vancouver.   Joannie will always be remembered for her courage and the legacy of inspiration she leaves behind.  We had a bit of a life altering experience on our team too.  One of our editors, John, came in yesterday morning all shaken up.  His wife had gone into labor the night before and gave birth to his first child, a son.  I suspect they rolled the dice thinking the baby would wait until he got home but he lost that bet.  Instead he gained an extended family who hugged him through his tears, offered him parenting advice and supported him while he worked through what must have been an incomprehensible roller coaster of emotions.  Just seeing him in the morning and hearing how he received the call on the train to work and sobbed all the way in got me all choked up.  I had to take a walk just to ponder the sacrifices that people make so they can be here.  Today I passed John in the hall.  “How’re you doing today?  Top of the world.  I’m a dad.  I’m happy.”  Soon John will meet little Aiden and I trust that someday he’ll have the first of many Olympic moments to share with his boy. 

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com


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Oh Canada

Walking down Granville Street in Vancouver tonight I saw something you hardly ever see  in the United States.  Twenty something girls playfully singing and strutting to their national anthem.  They were on the crosswalk and at the top of their lungs they were singing “Oh, Canada, our home and native land…”  Of course patriotism and spirit are running high at the Olympics but the Canadians also have a very singable anthem with an extremely catchy melody.  So catchy in fact, that John Furlong, the head of the Vancouver Olympic Committee, chose the English lyrics “With Glowing Hearts” and “Des plus brillants exploits” from the French version as trademarked slogans for the 2010 Olympics.  On the other hand, our Star Spangled Banner, composed when Francis Scott Key was watching the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, is set to the tune of a British drinking song and at one and a half octaves is more difficult to get right.  We sing it with all due respect at sporting events but always wonder if the vocalist will get through it without becoming pitchy or butchering it with some bizarre rendition.  The Canadian anthem, on the other hand, rolls off the tongue especially if you’re 20 something and maybe have had a couple drinks.  Purists thought young Nicky Yanofsky, who sang it at the Opening Ceremony, took too many liberties with the melody but I think it’s pretty no matter how you sing it.  So when Americans aren’t on the podium and Canadians are, you might be tempted to sing along.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

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Gretzky Lights the Flame

Immediately after the opening ceremony people began to run.  They hoofed it to the International Broadcast Centre to see the after party.  Wayne Gretzky rode in a flatebed truck with the Olympic torch aloft to light an external flame outside the building.  The crowd went wild, shouting “Gretzky, Gretzky, Gretzky.”  Amazing to see how Canadians adore The Great One.  A Shaun White look alike and his sidekicks led the crowd in the rousing anthem “O Canada” while another man in a red maple leaf jacket got the crowd cheering “we want gold!”  This Olympics Canadians believe they can win.  The flame was framed by spectacular fireworks over the harbor.  Afterward, I walked in the light rain back to my hotel on Granville Street.  The crowd was rowdy, cheering, festive.  A little wet weather is not going to dampen the Olympic spirit tonight.

For more on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Why I Work at the Olympics

My 16 year old son is mad at me.  When I call home his anger is palpable.  He does not understand why I leave home for extended periods of time every couple of years to work at the Olympics.  He won’t listen when I try to explain so I’m putting it out to the world.  Being part of a production team at the Olympics is, well, like being an Olympian.  This is a pinnacle in broadcasting and all of my colleagues aspire to work at the games.  It is a global coming together of the best television professionals from around the world.  Every couple of years we rekindle old friendships and make new ones and try to fit in a beer here and there.  We learn the state of the art and the latest technologies.  We work around the clock in a pressure cooker.  Are we having any fun yet?  Hell, yes.  The work that is done to bring viewers the Olympics is nothing short of extraordinary.  We challenge ourselves to acheive feats in broadcasting that are remarkable and inspiring.  It is our Olympics too.  It always stuns me that years of planning and so much money and effort go into just 17 days.  Olympics transcend sports and for those of us lucky to be a part of the games, it is completely addicting.  It is a very unique culture. 

The other thing that makes me want to come back year after year is the way the Olympics inspire communities.  Today all Canadians are walking a bit taller, all decked out in red, for the start of the games.  You sense the pride and anticipation in Vancouver.  Low key Canada is showcasing what makes it special.  It’s enlightening to know how much talent it has given to the world.  And not to be all rah rah about Canada but this country has taken advantage of this moment, not just to offer meaningless apologies to its first nations, but to partner with them in the Olympics.  You will see in the opening ceremonies how the native Canadians are honored.  It is an unprecedented peace.  I might be a bit pollyanna here but I am also still inspired by the idea that the Olympics can foster understanding around the world.  Bring nations together and let young warriors hammer it out on the playing field.  Win for the country then shake hands and hug and if you don’t win at least you participated and made your people proud.

At the end of all this we are completely spent and wondering how we could possibly do this again.  Then we go home to our families and catch up with our sleep and as the next games are a year and a half away we are getting back in touch with our associates and raising our hands again.  I have been producing television for 30 years and I am still on fire about the Olympics.  This morning when I was watching NBC’s Today Show kick off its coverage of the games and I heard the Olympic fanfare I got all choked up.  The Olympics are here.  Let the games begin!  Get the party started.  And Kyle, if you are reading this, that’s why your mom is here.

For more information about Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Olympics: Canada Style

I walked out of my hotel room in Vancouver this morning to see a flock of seagulls squacking their heads off.  That’s the most noise I’ve heard since I arrived in Canada.  Toto, we’re not in Beijing anymore.  In 2008, with the Olympic Games a week and a half away, the city was buzzing with anticipation and chaotic with last minute preparations.  Thousands of people were planting flowers, cleaning up and security was fierce.  Here in Vancouver it is so calm and low key you hardly know it will soon be the center of the universe.  There are some banners, new buildings and infrastructure improvements but you don’t sense that Canada’s place in the world hangs on these games.  I’ve been asking around and people tell me that’s just how it is in British Columbia.  People are pretty relaxed and take things in stride.  Even the security is laid back.  Police greet you with friendly smiles.  Maybe it’s because there aren’t that many media, athletes or guests here yet, or maybe folks are being polite and deferential to those who felt the money could be better spent.  Or maybe it’s just that the only thing Canadians get really worked up about is sport.  As one young woman told me, “I’ll get excited for the men’s hockey.”

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.