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2014-11-11 Postcards
   2014-11-09 19:56:48    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Zhang Kun

Hello and welcome to Postcards, a show which takes you across borders without actually leaving home. I'm Shen Ting.

Cambodia is thought to produce some of the best wild honey in Southeast Asia, mainly due to its climate and topography. Most of it is harvested informally and sold cheaply at local village markets. Now, one company is helping some of the country's poorest people by employing them to hunt for honey, then selling it commercially. Here I would like to share with you this postcard from Cambodia.

Searching through the long tall grass of Cambodia's southern Koh Kong Province, these men aren't hunting for wild animals but honey.

Each of them has been gathering the sweet food in these forests for years, but until recently each man worked alone.กก

That all changed around 2010.

That's when the Cambodian Federation for Bee Conservation and Community Based Wild Honey Enterprise, or CBHE, was started.

The organization has now registered 42 honey hunters working in six provinces.

They use sustainable techniques to protect the forests, and the enterprise enables them to earn extra income by finding new markets for their products.

And this is what they're looking for, the Giant Honey Bee, which is native to several parts of tropical and subtropical Asia including Cambodia.

The bees usually build their nests hanging from the branches of trees.

They migrate seasonally, often returning to the same nest sites again and again.

When feeling threatened, they use a practice called 'defense waving' much like a Mexican wave at a football match.

The CBHE honey group leader in this area, Veoun Saray, explains the techniques they use.

"We work with five local honey buyers who in turn work with 42 honey collectors. To collect the honey they make a smoke bomb first. They cut only the part of the honeycomb with liquid honey, usually about 70 percent of the head, and they keep 30 percent intact to make sure the nest stays alive."

So that collectors can get at the honey, the bees are chased away using smoking torches made from leaves.

Giant Honey Bees have been known to attack people when threatened so plenty of smoke is essential.

The nest itself comprises a single comb with the honey stored in the highest part, which is cut off without destroying the entire nest.

Around a quarter of the head is left on the tree, which means the nest can regenerate and be revisited again in the future.

After harvesting, the honey is returned to a local CBHE centre, where it's weighed and logged.

Honey collector Mun Ti has been hunting for honey in this region since he was a boy.

"When we go out to find the nests and we see that they are too fresh, we don't take the honey. We take it after about 17 days - if we recognise it is 17 or 18 days old we take it. We cut about 70 percent of the honeycomb off the tree and put it in plastic bags and bring it to the organization."

The honey is then brought here to the NatureWild centre in Phnom Penh.

The CBHE teamed up with NatureWild last year to help improve quality-control, marketing and sustainable honey collection techniques.

For the next stage of production, the honey is poured into trays and a dehumidifier is used to extract excess moisture.

A small sample of each batch is tested for water content and quality before being poured into jars.

But what does it taste like?

Customers Laang Hak and Virai Sat seem to be enjoying it. They're both locals from here in Phnom Penh.

"It smells very fresh, like flowers, it smells like fresh flowers. The flavour is sweet, sour and bitter - delicious."

"I think it smells a little sweet, the flavour is a little bitter and the aroma is fresh like flowers, it smells fresh from the jungle flowers. You can tell it is natural honey from the jungle."

The honey is sold here at NatureWild's headquarters in Phnom Penh and at several other locations in the capital and in Siem Reap.

Honey from each of the six provinces is labelled and sold separately at around 30 US Dollars for half a litre.

Motor industry insiders are concerned that four-wheel drive vehicles are getting too high-tech to handle the Australian outback. They say that the more sophisticated technology a vehicle has, the more risk there is for drivers navigating deserted roads in the bush. Here's Ning Yan with this postcard from Australia.

Four-wheel drive vehicles are supposed to be specifically designed to access remote and rugged territory.

It's especially important to have a reliable vehicle in remote places like Western Australia's outback.

Neville Hernon is a bush mechanic.

For 15 years, he's been working on the Gibb River Road, a bush track and former cattle route that cuts 660 kilometres through the wilderness that is The Kimberley.

One of the few mechanics in the area, he has seen what the rugged track can do to vehicles.

He is well respected among locals and tourists alike.

"Genuine bloke, loves the area, looks after everybody, anything you need. Tyres, mechanical..."

Today he has helped a Canadian couple who ran into trouble with their hire car en route to Kununurra - they were back on the road within half an hour.

"We made it about forty kilometres outside of the Roadhouse out there and got a flat."

But Hernon says he is increasingly presented with a different type of repair job; one that exceeds his expertise.

"Once a computer is playing up, you're in strife. I don't have the software or the computer to diagnose a lot of that stuff."

So often there is no choice but to call a tow truck and have the vehicle delivered to the nearest capital city. In Australia that could mean a drive of several hours, or even days.

Matt Raudonikis, the editor of 4X4 Australia magazine, says today's 4x4s are too reliant on computer software, and are more suited to the city than the outback.

"The technology makes the cars better to drive in the bush - better, safer and more comfortable - but the concern is, if they go wrong, no one out there can fix them."

Getting stranded in certain areas is not only inconvenient but also dangerous.กก

"If you're in a place where you can't get it fixed, it could totally ruin your holiday, your expedition. Or it could even be life-threatening if you're in a remote enough place."

According to Raudonikis, there is a trend among some locals to update their older cars rather than risk a software breakdown in the bush.

Hernon says he knows the benefits of his battered old 4x4 - and won't upgrade to anything high tech any time soon.

A classic Russian fairytale has come true for the village of Ulyanovka, about 40 kilometers away from Saint Petersburg. In the story, an old hag called Baba Yaga lived in a house on chicken legs, and was able to make the whole building spin around in a circle whenever she asked it to. Now Ulyanovka has a spinning house all of its own, but there's no witch or magic commanding it. Here's Zhao Jianfu with this postcard from Russia.

This wooden spinning house doesn't need the magic command of the old witch Baba Yaga to make it turn.

Perched on giant chicken legs, it spins continuously.

The man who built it is Vasily Kozin. He says there's no magic involved in making it spin. But a little like Baba Yaga, he insists that he's the only one who knows how to do it.

"The main difficulty was the high centre of gravity and the question of constructing it on two legs because it didn't look good on four legs. Then it was rather easy to build it. In fact there is a metal structure inside, then we just made a form of the legs with plaster. And that's it. It was not difficult."

Kozin used to be the head of a lemonade factory, but when it became bankrupt in the mid 2000's he decided to buy a plot of land in Ulyanovka and use it to fulfill a lifelong dream - to build Baba Yaga's fairytale house.

The construction weighs more than 15 tons.

The base contains a special gear motor, taken from a Soviet mobile crane, to help the house spin around.กก

There's a lot more work to be done to perfect the house, but Kozin says it's already become a popular sight for tourists and locals.

"Mainly newlyweds and tourists climb up here to have a look. You know, sometimes they close the door and do something. I have no idea what. Well, I haven't finished it all here yet, but for now it is not important that the appearance isn't done. It is not totally materialistic. I would say it is more something like a temple for me."

Inspired by fairy tales written by the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, Kozin says everything is possible when you have a dream, and money should never be a barrier.

Today he earns a living from building smaller versions of Baba Yaga's house for local children.

Kozin says the villagers didn't know what to make of his spinning house at first, but they soon warmed to it.

Artist Alexander Schurov is even helping him complete the project.

"It is very interesting here indeed, because firstly, I can step aside from certain conventional standards; and secondly, if there are more things like this, then it will be more interesting to go and look around. Also one can visit such places and get acquainted with people."

Kozin lives alone. He has separated from his wife and his children are grown up, but he says his wooden house keeps him happy.

On the road that connects Saint Petersburg to Moscow, thousands of cars and lorries drive by Kozin's hut each day. Some drivers stop to take photos. Konstantin Raikhlin is a passer-by.

"This is a real attraction in a place forgotten by God because here there is nothing else to see except this. But when you drive by, you will smile, I think it's good."

For Kozin this is really the stuff of fairy tales, and it's proving a winner all round.
Playgrounds aren't just for children any more. A specially designed park has opened in Texas catering specifically for senior citizens. Here's Tu Yun with this postcard from the United States.

They may not be young in body, but they're certainly young at heart.

Senior citizens have taken over this playground in Southeast Texas.

The specially designed equipment targets the exercise needs of older residents.

84-year-old Galveston County resident Zady Jones is among the many using the new facilities. She seems to favour the "balance and hip twist" exercise most.

"In fact, I like all of it, but this is my favourite."

The equipment and exercises are designed to help seniors maintain their balance and coordination.

"Kinda makes you invigorated, you just feel like you can do anything."

Galveston County spent 36,000 US dollars on the special equipment at Carbide Park, which has 15 exercise stations.

Stephen Holmes is Galveston County Commissioner.

"We were looking to replace a playground, we had the money budgeted for a playground replacement, this was a great idea, it fit well with what we already do here in the park with our senior program, it just happened to be the right fit at the right time."
Organizers tout the playground as the first of its kind in Texas with a "motion wellness system" for older adults.

"It's very important, because you know, when you start looking at the causes of accidents and what happens to seniors - most of the time, it's for falling, it's motor control, it's the motor skills and losing those motor skills. This will help their hand-eye coordination and things of that nature. This will definitely help to improve that and to continue it and to maintain it."

The senior playground unit uses components such as low chin-up bars, fitness steps and a rope-type walking bridge. Other features are a stretching board, knobs and bolts and a wavy balance beam.

Holmes says he doesn't think senior playgrounds will stay a novelty for long.

"Because I do believe that this is going to be an idea that catches on throughout the rest of the state, and rest of the country. These are going to be things that are going to be popping up everywhere."

Officials estimate that more than 100 senior citizens have used the equipment since it opened.

Hollywood's latest fitness trend is harkening back to glitzy days of films gone by. Synchronized swimming is making a splash on the west coast - old Hollywood style. Before we come to the end of today's show, I would like to share with you an extra postcard from the United States.

It's reminiscent of Hollywood films gone by, but now synchronised swimming is having a renaissance.

Donning 1940's style swimsuits, bathing caps and old-style makeup, participants say it's a fun way to work out under the Californian sunshine.

This class is run by Aqualillies, a synchronised swimming and dance company based in Los Angeles.

They conduct weekly classes at this old Hollywood stomping ground, named the Sportsmen's Lodge Hotel in Studio City.

It was once frequented by the likes of John Wayne, Clark Gable, Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn.

This 1 hour and 15-minute class is designed for hotel guests and anyone else looking to take retro-underwater swimming classes.

Mesha Kussman is the company's founder and director. He says women who once grew up watching actor and competitive swimmer Esther Williams can enjoy replicating her moves.

"This is designed for women who love to workout, have a really hardcore workout but also feel glamorous. An Aqualillies instructor is going to take you to a beautiful pool like the one that we have here at The Sportmen's Lodge and is going to teach you how to do synchronised swimming skills, the kind you see in the Olympics, maybe not at the beginning, but as you get more advanced, you'll start to do some more challenging moves. And also going to teach you how to hold yourself with poise so you feel both strong and also super graceful."

According to Kussman, beginners love the class because it's a full cardiovascular workout and also a chance to express yourself.

Course participant Heather Lounsbury is enjoying herself.

The 32-year-old singer and dancer enjoys the chance to replicate old Hollywood-style moves in the pool.

"It's so much fun. You get to be a mermaid for a couple of hours every week and not go to the gym, which is fantastic. You dress up in vintage little swimsuits and flower caps and the nose plugs and everything. So, it's straight out of a Hollywood movie in the 40's and 50's. It's so much fun."

Makeup artist Robyn Baker, 28, loves the combination of going swimming and getting a full workout.

"I enjoy it because it's a lot of fun. I love swimming and it's a full-body workout. And it works arms, legs and it's great cardio (cardiovascular exercise) and the great thing is you're having so much fun it doesn't feel like you're working out."

Of course, with any kind of strenuous workout, the appropriate care must be taken.

Michelle P. Tamondong has a Masters in Physical Therapy.

She opened her own facility in 2006 to focus on women's body issues and Pilates-based rehabilitation for orthopaedic sports-related injuries.

She's also been a member of the American Physical Therapy Association since 1997 and the National Strength and Conditioning Association since 2005.

She says it's important to stretch properly before even entering the swimming pool.

"Flexibility is very, very important when you have to do synchronised swimming. We suggest that you do a lot of hamstring stretches, quad stretches, back strengthening therefore you also have to have flexible muscles especially in your posture muscles in the back of the spine to support the spine. You have to have flexible shoulder joints so that when you're doing back strokes like your freestyle, elementary backstrokes, sidestrokes you're not limited otherwise you can't float."

According to Tamondong, swimming is a good choice for exercise, even when recovering from an injury.

"When you are in rehab, in any type of physical therapy - whether it's minor or major - swimming is the first thing sometimes when people are not indicated for land based therapy like gym exercises. Even walking after surgical procedures, people need to be in the water."

The venue for the synchronised swimming classes has seen something of a facelift.

The Sportsmen's Lodge's 1960's lobby has been transformed with modern decor.

The adjoining 'Patio Cafe' also boasts a modern theme, but with retro pictures reminding guests of Hollywood's star-studded past.

In its heyday, Hollywood's elite used to come here and fish for trout at several manmade ponds.

Today, the ponds have gone but the hotel's swimming pool remains.

According to hotel general manager Stephen Chavez, their location is the perfect fit for an old Hollywood-themed fitness class.

"You know synchronised swimming is definitely a part of old Hollywood. All the old Esther Williams films, the hotel and lodge date back to when that royalty was really big in this area. And to bring back the synchronised swimming of what encapsulates old Hollywood is something we are excited to do here."

With that, we wrap up today's "Postcards." Your comments, suggestions or questions are always appreciated and you can contact us via e-mail at: postcards@cri.com.cn. For program producer Zhao Jianfu, I'm Shen Ting. See you next week.



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