I've been continuing to have a fabulous time here, and am always thinking of interesting things to write about, but always finding that my 力不从心 (the spirit is willing ..., so to speak).
Lately, I've gotten involved in a anti-smoking advocacy student group at Xia Da (that's 厦大, short for 厦门大学, or Xiamen University). The group is the Green Breathing Association. I don't know about you, but my first reaction to the name was something other than enthusiasm. It brought to mind trying to inhale toxic chlorine gas. It think the name is intended to connote fresh, clean, natural air, uncorrupted by smoke or any other man-made chemical, but I usually think of that kind of air as transparent, not green.
It's interesting how I found this group. Those of you who've been following my blog should know that I've been smoke free for over a year and a half now, ever since I had my sister send me some nicotine patches to Shanghai, at great expense, and great trouble to her. Ever since quitting this time, I've become one of those notorious ex-smokers you've heard about: I now detest even the slightest whiff of cigarette smoke, anywhere. China, of course, has a lot of smokers, and not only smokers, but completely oblivious smokers. It's a rare day that I don't encounter somebody who lights up in a public place, often while sitting right under a no-smoking sign stuck on the wall.
So for a long time I've thought about trying to start a student group in Xia Da to fight against this scourge, and to educate people about their rights to a smoke-free environment. I thought about it, off and on, for months, but never did anything more than bounce around on the Internet looking for information. These surf sessions were always frustrating. There's a surfeit of anti-smoking information out there, but it's all so disorganized and nebulous, and I've never found a good site that can help me figure out what I can actually do, as an individual in China, to fight the problem. I'd have loved to have found, for example, a site to help people set up their own student group on a college campus -- sort of a getting-started kit of information and promotional resources.
The last such time, I wandered my way to Smokefree.net, which is mainly a site that has hundreds of topic-specific or location-specific email lists. I looked through the descriptions of all of them, and, predictably, there was nothing China-related. So I sent an email to the general "contact" address, describing my situation, and asking for advice. I got a reply right away, suggesting I contact a woman named Bonnie, who was also an American in China. So I sent her an email, and she also responded promptly. At the beginning of her email, she wrote "Greetings from Xiamen". I blinked a couple of times when I saw that -- at first I thought she must have made a mistake, and meant to write something like "Greetings to Xiamen", but then I checked the email I wrote, and nowhere did I mention what city I was in. Hah! What a coincidence, she's right here. Even more of a coincidence, she'd already done what I was thinking of doing all along, and that is, start a student group at Xia Da. Thus I found Green Breathing.