A SECOND LIFE FOR MEI LING LI

By TIMEA ESCOBAR OLLIVIER  JUNE 23, 2015

Mei Ling Li and her familly in front of the buffet of her restaurant

Mei Ling Li and her familly in front of the buffet of her restaurant

“I realize how lucky I’ve had in my life”

Mei Ling is a 25 year old immigrant originally from a modest village in southern China. Today she works in her restaurant, an Asian buffet in Madrid.

Mei Ling was born and raised in China with her four sisters and two parents in a house without running water or electricity. His father was a laborer and his mother a seamstress, allowing them to keep the family earning about $ 200 a month working 14 hours a day. He also had the good fortune to go to school and was among the best in class, she leaved school at 15. On leaving school Mei Ling helped at home, took care of her sisters and sometimes helped her mother in the sewing workshop when she was too tired. Despite the quiet life they had, Mei Ling wanted a better life, “I want to have my own room and not have to go to a well to drink.”

One day, his father suffered an accident at work and was fired. The situation of her familly was aggravating. Beeing 18 years, Mei Ling decided to leave home and go to look for work in Europe, as it was common thing in his province, and knew a family that was living in Madrid. Her parents had never left the village and were against, until the economic situation worsened, the family saw that  they didn’t have no choice. “I promised I would send them money every month and save for them to come.” They asked for some money to all residents and used their savings to pay for the trip, that was very long and tiring in bus as it came in. Upon arrival, he settled on the floor that had the family she knew in the outskirts of Madrid, and began working as a waitress in the restaurant where they working aswell. Quickly, the restaurant boss noticed that Mei Ling had potential. When the boss opened another restaurant, he appointed her as manager, earning enough to save money in addition to monthly send money to their parents. “Every month when I called my parents were very grateful for the efforts they made and they were very proud.”

After three years, Mei Ling could pay bus tickets to his parents and sisters and rent a small apartment on the outskirts. All family members except the youngest started working in the restaurant. They were happy to be finally reunited after three years of separation. “Being together maked us stronger.” And saving money, the family was able to open his own restaurant buffet with the family that helped Mei Ling. Today, the restaurant works well, and the youngest of the family goes to school. Mei Ling has her own room and bathroom “I am now happy with my family,” she smiles. I ask if she intends to return to China with the money she earned to make her business there, but she’s formal, not return, her life is here now, she has found a boyfriend, and friends. His parents think to return for their retirement,  because they have not been able to adapt just as well as their daughters.

This model of social promotion is common in Europe, most immigrants arrive young and save to send money to their parents or let them come, because they know that even if it’s hard and dangerous, the second life that offers immigration is not rejectable. Asians are the most who follow this familiar pattern, and you can check by the amount of Asian restaurants that are in all the cities of rich countries.

We All Can Do It!

The role of women in politics is something that has been disputed for many years and in the region of Asia-Pacific we have seen throughout the years some examples of the power that women have in politics. The first female ever to be head of government in the world was Sirinavo Barandike, president of Sri Lanka in 1960. Other women such as Corazon Aquino, mother of the current president of Philippines, and Prathiba Patil, were a fresh air for their countries, as being the first female president.

Margaret Chan - WHO Director General

Margaret Chan – WHO Director General

Sri Mulyani Indrawati - World Bank Manager Director

Sri Mulyani Indrawati – World Bank Manager Director

Nowadays we don’t see many women taking important roles in Asian policy, at the moment only one is head of an Asian state, Park Geun-hye of South Korea. Other countries, as Japan, are trying to improve and the current president wants to have 30% of women in the government by 2020. We can see protests similar to the Suffrage movement due to the lack of female representation in Asian governments.

On the other hand, since 1894 in New Zealand and 1919 in Australia, women have played an active role within their political systems. In New Zealand the movement started with Elizabeth Yates, Mayor of Onehunga a province of Auckland. She became the first female mayor of the British Empire. Respectively in Australia it started in 1919 with Grace Benny, however in 1921 Australia made a huge statement when Edith Cowen was elected as a member of parliament. Australia and New Zealand have since then paved the way for women in Asia to stand for parliamentary positions with key figures such as Julia Gillard, first female leader of the Australian labour party and the first female Prime Minister of Australia (2010 – 2013). Now in Australia we have seen Julia Bishop become the Minister of Foreign Affairs and a leading member of the Australian liberal party.

Although New Zealand has not been as active as Australia, Margaret Wilson, former Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, is one of their key representatives of women in politics as well as a key figure for the New Zealand Labour Party.

We can see that the majority of female representation in Oceania comes for the left to central wings, showing a trend of the modernisation of the liberal politics, yet that the right is still somewhat male dominated. However the change that has taken place in these countries is a prime example of how Asia can change and educate women to become key members of parliament, changing their perspective.

Asia is perceived as a male dominated and chauvinistic continent where women are under represented. A region where we would never imagine women would have such important roles, both on a regional and an international level, since they have always been oppressed and their voice was never strong enough to make a change. Nowadays, women are “climbing the ranks”, making their way to the top. We find women not only in all sorts of high professional positions, such as diplomats, but also in the most influential humanitarian organizations in the world and in politics as we can see in South Korea or the Philippines. Now women will not be ignored, they now have a strong voice and due to the power many of them have they can finally make a difference and be “more influential than ever”.

We ALL can do it!

We ALL can do it!

An Unlikely Alliance

Since the end of the Soviet Union, Russia has been a country wanting to regain power. With President Vladimir Putin leading the Russian campaign, many expected a continual growth, what they did not expect were the relations formed with their once enemy China.

For many years the two communist countries had an alliance, though it continued to break down. It was during Richards Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 that relationships were frayed. Since then China has began to prosper, with a constantly growing economy, to create the Confucian academies around the globe to promote their culture and using soft power to their advantage. However Russia has pulled further away from the EU, due to sanctions on trade related to the annexation of Crimea. The further Russia has moved from the EU though; they have formed closer ties with China.

On May 8th, 2015, the relations between China and Russia came to a diplomatic victory when President Putin and Xi Jinping met, commemorating the 70 years anniversary of the end of WWII and the surrender of the Nazism regime in Moscow. Important economic meetings where held hoping to join the two countries, by forming a “joint investment bank”.

Sin título

The meeting became a success for both countries as they signed 32 agreements, including the financing of a new project of train in Russia. They also will be working with Byelorussia and Kazakhstan to promote the EAEU -the Eurasian Economic Union-.

This was not the first deal to be signed by the two countries as recently China and Russia agreed upon a $400 billion contract for gas, as well as several new agricultural business ventures in the Chinese region of Heilongjiang, which is in the northernmost part of the country.

The meeting coincides with the publication of the text of Fidel Castro “Our right to be Marxist-Leninists” where he talked about the Sino-Russian relations:

“With their close cooperation, modern science and powerful armies and brave soldiers, they constitute a powerful shield of world peace and security, so that the life of our species may be preserved”

Russia and China are more likely to become allies since they have been supporting each other for a long time. As Xi Jinping stated “decades ago, the Chinese and Russian nations shared weal and woe and forged an unbreakable war friendship with fresh blood,” he wrote. “Today, the two peoples will jointly move forward, safeguarding peace and promoting development […]” However, Russia has four myths which act as a handicap to drive the alliance process further. These myths are:

  • China is growing and developing at a constant and continuous speed
  • Several Chinese citizens will migrate to Siberia since both countries share a huge border
  • If they finally agree to become allies Russia’s main concern is about becoming too close to China that ends up depending on it, specially on economic means
  • They are both big countries and are worried about the security of the country, which causes mistrust between the countries they share borders with and is probably the basis of all the reasons why China and Russia haven’t become allies yet

An economic avalanche for Nepal

On 25th April 2015, Nepal suffered a 7.8 earthquake destroying all on its way to Kathmandu; which also caused an avalanche at Mount Everest killing 18 climbers. The death toll has now risen to over 7,500 people with a further 14,500 are said to have been injured. The UN estimates that the earthquake has affected around 8 million people.

4 month old baby rescued in Nepal

Nepal is a country straddling the Indian plate and the Asian plate. By subduction, the Indian plate is pushed under the Asian plate. In addition, the epicenter of the earthquake was 80 km from the capital. This violent earthquake also caused landslides and avalanches.

Countries such as India, China, Pakistan, Australia, Israel, Japan, the UK and the US, are sending economic and rescue aid to Nepal. India has sent military Aircraft and members of its National Disaster Response Force. The Chinese consulate in Nepal is operating as a temporary shelter for the Chinese tourists stranded in Nepal. China is also sending 20m Yuan in humanitarian. Israel has sent a 260-member team to Nepal along with 95 tons of humanitarian and medical supplies.

Everyday more news about the tragedy are reaching the western world, with many charities now calling for donations of money to be made. Other have stated that it will take a long time to rebuild cities such as Kathmandu, and especially rural areas, where many people are said to be in desperate need of aid, but there is an insufficient number of ways to reach them, unless via helicopter.

Due to many rural areas being unreachable for the moment, NGO’s have warned of a spike of trafficking could take place. Over 15,000 girls a year are trafficked every year from rural areas of Nepal and the earthquake could see the number rise. This has caused an increased effort of aid being sent to help the country and to stop illegal crimes such as prostitution taking place due to the disaster.

The survivors to this tragedy are now trying to rebuild the place as well as surviving day per day while waiting for humanitarian aid from the different NGO’s such as AmeriCares, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Direct Relief, Red Cross, Mercy Corps, GlobalGiving, Save the Children or Seva Foundation, between many others.

People can give help through social network sites such as Facebook, where donations will go directly to International Medical Corps, which has emergency response teams in regions hardest hit by the earthquake. Also, Facebook will be matching every dollar donated through the site until they reach $2 million.

The UN OCHA (United Nations Office Of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) has stated that it will take nearly $415 million to help save lives and make a difference in Nepal, with over £38 million alone being raised in the UK, they are well on their way to reaching the target. UNICEF says it is preparing two cargo flights with a combined 120 tons of humanitarian supplies.