On this podcast of Streets and Eats, we chat with Jennifer, an avid animal volunteer. She tells us all about her adventures and misadventures while trying to fly rescued Chinese dogs to America. A compelling and touching story, you won’t want to miss a word.
Talking with Jenn, Jim and I felt like we’d known her for years. She travels like we travel. I love it.
I couldn’t believe all Jenn had learned from working with the dog rescue organization about the culture of China. Some other benefits she mentioned was getting to know the other people in the organization as well as the wonderful feeling of being helpful and making a difference to these animals.
Our conversation was varied and fun, and both of us learned a lot.
0:55 – Getting involved rescuing dogs
2:58 – Understanding the difference in volunteer groups
4:40 – The truth about some cultures eating dog meat
9:07 – Getting stuck in Moscow with 10 dogs
13:23 – Jenn’s advice on vetting volunteer organizations
18:37 – Mom’s fears and what happens to the dogs in the U.S.
24:11 – Lessons learned from these rewarding experiences
31:20 – It’s a small world
36:55 – How the pandemic has changed the volunteering
Other inspiring interviews with intrepid travelers:
Guinness World Record Climbers – Iain and Adam
Judging Tiramisu with Christina and Cynthia
Phoebe Thomas’ Amazing Travel Stories
Thoughtful Travel with Amanda Kendle
Coritta Travels with her Family
Morgan and Sage – Hiking in the Dolomites
Morocco Desert Hiking with Eva
Kirsten Discusses Travel with Kids
Mary Jo tell us about her book – Secret in Seattle
Marissa tells us about finding her Irish Ancestors
Some of our articles on China:
– Our Travel Guide to China
– The Great Wall of China Planning Guide
– Xian Itinerary and Terracotta Warriors Planning Guide
Join our Community
We would love for you to join our world travel community. It’s a helpful group of intrepid folks that love traveling as much as you do. Everyone jumps in to answer questions and be very encouraging. We’d love to see you there.
Full Transcript of Podcast
Welcome back to Streets and Eats everyone. And this week, we have an exciting guest on the podcast. And it’s Jenn Lloyd from Sick Girl Travels. And she’s got some really cool stories to tell us about rescuing dogs in China.
Welcome to Streets and Eats, the podcast where we want to inspire your next trip by telling you about some fantastic destinations, and the best food to eat while you’re there. Now remember, until the world opens completely back up, and you feel safe to travel again, use this time to research and plan. That’s what we’re here for.
Hi. Pleasure to be here.
We’re excited to have you. It’s the end of the calendar year, we’re getting close to the holidays. But what a great time to talk about volunteerism and rescuing those poor dogs. Tell us a little bit about it. How did you get, you know, involved in rescuing dogs from the meat market.
I was volunteering with a rescue that was local here in Los Angeles, where I’m based and they are predominantly a Bulldog rescue. And I’ve fostered with them a number of times and I saw on Instagram that they had posted, that they needed someone who had a Chinese tourist visa that could go over to Harbin, China, and was comfortable going alone to help fly back some dogs that were rescued from the meat trade there in China. And I had been to China before, to Beijing as a tourist once on a solo trip, and had a visa that was still active and was more than happy to go over there after, you know, doing some due diligence because I was still worried about going over to a foreign country with people I didn’t know and if this was a reputable organization and whatnot.
But after doing some research, I was gung ho about getting on that plane and helping out in whatever way possible. But yeah, my first trip, there was a little bit of a shock to the system, because I went in January, and it was below about 30, below zero and Fahrenheit. So quite quite cool. Quite cold. And the bulk of the people over there at that time were going for the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival, which is a big draw there. To people who haven’t been before it’s an entire city created out of snow and ice. It’s gorgeous. It’s absolutely stunning to see. And I highly recommend anybody if you’re going to China go check it out. It’s really, really amazing. And not on a lot of people’s radars, people, mostly, you know, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, is kind of where people usually go.
But yeah, I went over there and helped volunteer at their safe house and care for some of the dogs that were there. I think at the time they had about 200 dogs, at the safe house. And then my first trip, I flew back 10 dogs to the US for foster’s and then were eventually adopted into their forever homes here in the United States.
So how are they rescued? Like, what do these volunteers do to get them? I mean, how do they do it?
Right. So the important thing for the rescue that I work with, and I know each rescue is sort of different, but a good rescue will work with the local citizens there in China, because what we don’t want is to come in and impose western values and go, “Hey, guys, don’t eat dog. It’s not how we do it. We’re telling you what to do give us the dogs.”
The other thing that’s important is that we also don’t want to pay for dogs, which I think a lot of organizations will do and is very hard not to do when you’re faced with seeing that meat truck. And somebody going, “We won’t give you these dogs unless you pay for them.” But the problem is, if you’re handing over money, it just lets the meat dealers buy more dogs. And so you’re in this never ending sort of cycle of paying these people to then get more dogs, and then have to pay to rescue them. And it goes on and on.
I have a one bit of good news that came out of COVID, is that the laws have changed in China. Fortunately, that they really saw this, you know, dog meat as being a problem coming out of these wet markets and things. The dogs are not vaccinated there that end up in the meat trade. And so it’s just breeding distemper and Parvo and other you know, canine coronaviruses and things that are making the dogs and people very sick. So China, with a lot of pressure put on them had decided to take dogs off of the livestock list. So you can no longer legally serve dog in a dog meat restaurant, you can no longer legally sell dog for the purposes of meat. However, that’s not to say people don’t do it, because just like murder is illegal here. People do it.
I mean, 1000s of years of culture, and from what I understand one of the reasons people do eat dog in Asian cultures is that they feel that it gives them strength, that it’s you know, it’s transferred a type of like fortitude to them. And that’s something like you said, “We don’t want to come in and change your culture,” but the other side of the coin? You know, it’s part of it there.
There’s a few layers to this. I think in Harbin, where it’s very northern China, there is a belief that if you eat dog, it will keep you warm. It’ll keep you strong throughout the winter, which is sort of a hard thing to convince people that it doesn’t have these magical powers. However, if you look at something like Yulin, that’s not something that’s been going on for, you know, even more than a decade, it’s something that was thought up to bring tourists into an area, and to get people to, you know, come to the city and come in, it’s not something that’s deeply entrenched in culture. It’s not something that’s been passed down for hundreds of years.
I thought getting involved in this, I was like, “Oh, that’s it, who am I to tell them, they can’t do this.” It’s just like them coming here and saying, “You can eat chicken” and, like, I go, “You’re crazy. That’s what we eat and stuff.” But it’s not as tied to culture as we would think it is something that’s also not tied to poverty.
Dog meat, in a lot of these places like Harbin, is sort of a social status thing that if you can afford to go to a dog meat restaurant, it’s, you know, a notch in your belt. So it is like a fine dining experience in some places. So, you know, to dispel some rumors, it’s not always just born out of poverty, there are certainly people that, you know, raise dogs and eat dogs, because it’s the only thing that’s available to them. But it’s predominantly not the main reason throughout China.
Wow, I did not know that. But it’s like you said, well, first of all, China is a huge country. And just like United States, you know, each region has its own cultural history and background. So that makes sense that certain areas would be more prone to it than others, I think.
Sure, sure. It’s like in northern China, you don’t see a lot of people eating cat meat or selling cat meat. That’s something that you do, however, see a lot of in southern China, but like you’re saying, tons of different cultures, tons of different traditions throughout different areas. And it varies wherever you go.
It’s nice that they changed the law, to include dogs and hopefully cats too. But like you said, it’s been going on for so long, that just changing the law, I’m sure isn’t going to do away with the practice completely. So they’ll still need volunteers.
They absolutely do. And it’s also incumbent upon these rescues, there in China to enforce the law, because you have to deal with them. Notify the Agriculture Department when you come upon one of these slaughterhouses, or you come upon one of these breeding facilities to go, this is illegal, let’s get the authorities involved.
I think there are still some bad rescues. I won’t name names, but people you know, like posting these graphic images, because it brings in money. So if you’re seeing a rescue that is just graphic video after graphic video, please question, “Are they using the law?” because it does help with donations. And I know, these organizations do really need money to operate. But to put an end to this, you really have to get the authorities on your side and start making these places close down.
So, on your first trip to China, when you went to Harbin, and you were able to get the 10 dogs out, I read on your blog that it was quite the experience. And I traveled, the very first time I was in China, I traveled with my daughters to Xiann, and Beijing. And we got stuck in Shanghai overnight. But we didn’t get there until midnight. And it was pretty much a harrowing experience. Here I am with my two teenage daughters thinking, what the heck have I gotten myself into here? And of course, as travel does, it all worked out. It is for you as well. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that. I think it’s a fascinating story.
I can’t imagine doing that with 10 dogs.
It’s been an adventure. I will say the very first time I went it went pretty smoothly. It was a shock to the system to see, you know what was happening over there. But it went smoothly as far as travel goes. So I was like, I’ll come back whenever, guys, it’s been a great experience. I’m glad to help.
The second time I came back. I was just going to meet dogs in Beijing, and then spend one night and fly them back to the US to Los Angeles.However, Eva airways, which I was flying on, was having a strike at the time. So they had canceled my ticket and then rebooked me but they didn’t rebook the dogs. So I was then at the Beijing Airport, and they said, “You can go back to LA but the dogs can’t.” So I said, “Well, that’s the whole reason that I’ve come here.” I didn’t know what to do. I’m freaking out. I called the girls at the rescue who are based in Harbin.
And they were like, “Well, we can rebook you on a flight. But the bad news is the only flight available is to go on Aeroflot from Beijing to Moscow, Moscow all the way back around to LA.” So I literally flew around the world. It’s not really the way that I wanted to say that I flew around the world.
That wasn’t on your bucket list?
You’re RTW traveler!
So ended up being able to get back on this plane and I had a layover in Moscow for like, eight hours, and I had the dogs. In cargo, they take great care of them, and they take them out and feed them and walk them. But you know, I’m stuck in Moscow airport, with one of the dogs that I had as a hand luggage. He was a tiny, tiny little guy. And I just got a sleep pod in the Moscow airport and let him like, run around in the pod as I’m trying to get some rest, before hopping on the plane to go back around the world.
So it was a real, you know, huge adventure for me and sort of scary, because I didn’t want to have them, you know, have spent all this money on tickets to get to China just to go. Hi, dogs, I’m leaving. Good luck. Go back home. So I, you know, agreed to it. But it was such an adventure. And luckily, everybody got where they needed to go in the end. But it was yeah, that was a lot of hours.
Was there a lot of red tape involved? I mean, customs and dogs?
Yeah, you know, there is a lot of paperwork involved. And again, another downside that’s happened from COVID, really, is that the United States government has put a lot of restrictions on dogs coming into the US. So the CDC now has blocked any dogs coming in from China. So if and when I’m able to go to China again, and rescue dogs, I can’t bring them back to the US.
I would happily volunteer as a flight volunteer, take them to Canada, or I think Germany and France still allow bringing in dogs. But they’ve gotten, not so much on COVID, which is, you know, the Chinese government still has a belief that dogs can transmit COVID to people. We know here that that’s not possible. But the CDC is concerned about countries there where they have rabies. And, again, good organizations are, you know, you can test they have the paperwork, I bring over little passports with the dogs that show, they’ve all been vaccinated, and everything’s on the up and up.
Unfortunately, they’ve had a few bad organizations where dogs have come into the country sick. And so that’s really, you know, put a stop to things for the time being. I hope that they’re able to enact stricter regulations on dogs coming over so people can’t exploit the system. I think a lot of dogs do come in for breeding purposes, unfortunately, from places like Eastern Europe, which you know, it hurts because we want to do what’s right for these dogs that have been through so much abuse and so much trauma and get them good homes here. And it’s thwarted by greedy people, unfortunately. So we’ll see where that ends up.
So you had said earlier that you wanted to really vet the organization? Have you volunteered before? And how do you do the research to know that it’s a reputable organization that you can trust and you know, traipse out of the country?
I recommend that anybody that’s considering volunteering overseas, really, if you see something on social media that’s like, “Hey, we’re looking for volunteers.” Really reach out to other people that are commenting or other people that you see that have volunteered for that organization and say, “Hey, what was your experience like?” And not just one person because you never know if they’re like, especially if they tell you to contact this one person. Then go, “Oh I don’t about that.”
You really want to reach out to, independently, to people that you see that have volunteered through that organization, because you don’t want to get all the way there and be surprised that it’s not on the up and up. Or, you know, you’re stuck somewhere, nobody comes to get you. Especially as a solo traveler and a solo female traveler, and a solo female disabled traveler. It’s really scary to be stuck somewhere, especially in you know, someplace fairly remote like I was going into the villages outside Harbin. And it’s not really a place that you want to get stuck.
Also, if the organization partners with other rescues in your country. So for me, I saw that the rescue I volunteered with, which is Slaughterhouse Survivors, that they were very transparent on their website and said, hey, here are rescues that we partner with around the world. And so on top of me reaching out to people that had volunteered there, I reached out to these rescues and said, “Hey, how long have you guys been doing, you know, working with this organization? How many dogs have you brought in? hWho do you talk to? Was the experience good? Are you still working with them?” And I found a lot of positive response from that. I know not everybody does, but you really have to do your homework because you do not want to get stuck somewhere.
Like you said, there are so many people out there willing to take your dollar and, you know, treat you wrong? I mean, that’s just the way of the world. Speaking of which, do you have to pay to be a volunteer? Some volunteer organizations, you pay them?
So no ,I mean, I had to pay for my flights there. But some people do, you know, work with a rescue here in the US, or in whatever country they’re bringing dogs in through and if you’re working with a partner rescue, and you’re doing with them, sometimes the rescue that you’re bringing dogs back to will pay for your tickets. So I’ve had, you know, a rescue here that I brought dogs back to once for them, and they paid for my flights. The second time I did it, I think I paid for my own trip.
But then after that, I was going around the world so much, I was just using miles, I was like, “Hey, anybody, you know, I know you guys are on the up and up, and you need to save money and help the dogs like, I’ll use my miles for this, I’m totally fine with that.” And accommodations where I was going were so dirt cheap, it was like, that was fine for me, because the first time I stayed in a hostel there and it was $6 a night. And then the next time I stayed at a pretty nice hotel, and I think it was still about $35 a night. So it was not a huge expenditure for me. So ii was happy to do it.
But yeah, you shouldn’t be paying anybody for the pleasure of shoveling dog poop, ever. General life advice. You know, yeah, if somebody’s asking you to give them a bunch of money to come help out, and then do chores and volunteer with them, that’s kind of a red flag for me. But yeah, I covered my own expenses to get there. That’s not uncommon.
That makes sense. So when you’re doing the rescue, it sounds like you have an organization there in California, that has partnerships with the people in China. So you’re just going and getting the dogs and then coming back to the rescue there. And they take over the dogs.
Yeah, so the rescue here that I work with, they have volunteers that foster the dogs coming in. And so they want to make sure that they’re not going, you know, it’s really hard for the, for the organization in China to vet people overseas. Because normally, when you’re rehoming dogs, like you want to get a good idea that they’re going to a good home, and not just, you know, getting picked up by somebody who’s going to use them as bait dogs or do something, you know, not on the up and up. So you want to bring them back and work with an organization, that’s, you know…
I’m certainly not going to take 10 dogs into my home as much as I love dogs, like a lot. So they want to take them and just make sure everybody’s medically okay. Some of the dogs coming over, because they’ve been in cargo, might get like a little cold or cough or something. So you want to make sure everything’s taken care of. Get a good idea of their temperament so that they are going to homes where that’s a good fit. And we can sort of describe these dogs. Because coming from where they came from in China, they’re in a big, safe house with hundreds of dogs.
And so, you know, they get, you know, time in the yard to play but like you really can’t suss out like individual personalities a lot of the time. Some of them. but to know 300 dogs really, really well is a big ask. So when they come here, yeah, they’ll go into fosters with the organization, they’ll figure out, you know, is the health what they say they are? Is everybody okay? They go to homes, what’s the temperament like? And then yeah, then they have people apply and they get adopted out. And I stay in touch with some of the the dog owners that have adopted some of the dogs. Actually, my mom adopted one of the dogs and my sister adopted one of the dogs from my flights. So that’s been a really nice thing to
And what is their experience. What do they think about having these dogs? Are they are they just like, these are the best dogs ever?
My mom was my mom was like, 90% Sure, I was gonna get murdered and have my organs harvested when I was out. “Make sure we know exactly where you are.” Like, you know, my mom hasn’t really left the country very much and often gets scared by some of the places I go. This one she was a little skittish about. But yeah, when she saw the dogs, you know, me interacting with them and how they came back and she fell in love with this little Frenchie that was on my first flight. And she was like, “Well, that’s it. You know, your father and I wer’e like, we’re not getting another dog. We’re old.” And then my dad read a study that people, dog owners, live longer. And so he was like, we’re getting a dog. So they decided this little girl was for them.
And she’s been absolutely wonderful. My dad actually had a small aneurysm a couple months ago, and while he was going downstairs he fell. He’s all right now but my mom was upstairs in the back bedroom reading and Goldy, their dog ran down the stairs and was barking, standing by my dad’s side and alerted my mom to come down and get medical help. So now they’re really absolutely in love with this dog, she’s great. She’s actually great.
A fun story: my niece was about eight years old when Goldie came over. She was like, “I really want to bring Goldie to school for show and tell and tell them how Goldie came here.” My mom and my sister were like, “Okay, we can do that. “We’ll take her out and get the kids to all sign waivers that everybody’s cool with a dog. But you cannot say that people eat, were going to eat her. You’re going to scare anybody in the class, Just you cannot say that.”
Immediately my mom brings Goldy through. Everyone’s getting all excited and my niece goes, “Can you believe they were going to eat her?” Teacher was like, “And we’re done.”
Hilarious! And is that your sister ho adopted one of the dogs?
My sister also later adopted one of the dogs. Yeah, she she adopted this dog that was a really small kind of fluffy puppy. Ended up being a good portion Newfoundland Terrier, which is an over 100 pound dog. So I think she got more dog then she bargained for but yeah, they have a nice big yard. So she’s happy and the dog has a good home and is really cool with kids. And it’s been a good experience. Sometimes you don’t know what’s mixed in with that breed. They were like it’s a lab. Just kidding. It’s a horse.
I mean, sure. I mean, they have sketchy histories to say the least.
I mean, they’re all kept in one big pen sometimes there. You don’t know who’s been mixing with who. So yeah, you get a little surprised.
Yeah, it sounds like there’s quite a mix. And so these are dogs that are actually being raised as livestock?
Sometimes yeah, sometimes it’s a lot of that. It’s a lot of also stolen dogs. Also they have, you know, certainly, breeders for pets like we have here. Unfortunately, if a dog doesn’t sell when they’re a puppy, the worth goes down precipitously. So sometimes these meat dealers will go, or the breeders rather will go, “Well, I don’t want to… it’s not going to make money. I’ll sell it to the meat truck.” So they then end up on that.
Yeah, so all different breeds. It’s not just big dogs, like people assume. There’s chihuahuas in there. There’s Bulldog, there’s little Frenchies, there’s pugs. There’s everything. It’s a mix of anything you can imagine.
Yeah, but some of those breeds it eems like it’s hardly worth it.
I know. That’s what I said. But they said they use them in soup. So they’re boiled for these terrible, they’re boiled for stock. It’s really horrible. So yeah, yeah, that’s just depressing. I know. I’m sorry. I wanted to be a bright ray of sunshine and how to get involved.
Well, actually, you are.
Well the outcome is…
The outcome is good. Yeah. No, I have a lot of positive news to bring into this. It’s certainly you know, it’s the numbers of these facilities are decreasing. And luckily, the laws are now going on our side. So things are turning around slowly, but surely. So I’m happy to say that it’s not all bleak.
Sounds like a very worthwhile thing to do. And we applaud you, for me, especially going to China. Like you said, a lot of people are just scared to go there. It’s a lovely country and easy to get around for the most part, but I can see people’s trepidation with going to China to to do these types of things.
It’s scary too, I think, especially in places, cities like Harbin, where there’s not a large English speaking population. I understand a lot of people would be scared, especially as a solo, you know, tourist to go anywhere, where it’s like, “Well, how easy am I going to be able to communicate? How do I get around? I don’t know, this place very well.”
But I’ve been really fortunate, not just in China, but going to a lot of places where I was so outside my comfort zone, and just it teaches you so much about the world and people and you get an entirely new perspective, when you do push yourself out of that, you know, comfort zone. There’s more to the world than just going to Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower, I promise you.
You learn so much more about yourself at the same time.
You really do. And I was scared. I mentioned to somebody who is disabled that I have severe back pain, I’ve had a number of back surgeries and issues and so use a cane and it’s certainly this negative 30 degree weather is rough on my body. But I made it work. And I was so happy I did. I was so so happy that I did. And I’m not saying that if I can do it, everybody could do it because that’s not true. There are certainly a lot of people that can’t do it. But, you know, I was really happy just personally that I could push myself to do something that I didn’t know was possible.
Well and I think that’s very important. You know, like you said, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, whatever that comfort zone is and then to help on top of that, to provide a service. I mean, that’s just exponentially amazing.
Yeah it really was. It really is. And I also, like I learned so much just through that, that there are flight volunteers needed all over the world. So even if you’re going on a trip to Aruba, there are dog rescues there were, you know, you may be needed to help. Just all you do is carry the dog on the plane, or just the dog is going in cargo, and you’re the person that claims them at baggage and gives them to whatever organization you’re going to.
So it really doesn’t require much from you as a person to do any hard labor, you’re not shoveling poop, you’re not walking dogs, you’re not doing anything. But you’re doing something really kind of amazing to a life that is in need. And so I think that’s, that’s really awesome for people that can’t go to these crazy, you know, off the beaten path locations, you still might be able to do something good if you could, you know, just look up the location you’re going to in flight volunteer, and see if there’s an organization that needs volunteers.
That’s a really good piece of advice. And, probably a good way for people to start doing it. Start feeling comfortable with volunteering. Is to do something small, and then sort of build yourself up if it’s something that you’re interested in.
Yeah, you don’t necessarily have to jump off the deep end right away. Like I was a little crazy. Yeah. Baby steps.
Yeah, baby steps. So is there, would you say there’s anything in particular that you feel like you’ve learned during this process?
I, you know, I’ve met some really incredible people. I’ve learned so much about, you know, like we’re talking about in the beginning, I had so many misconceptions about this being you know, why dog meat is consumed, who’s consuming dog me. What dogs are going into the the meat market and where they come from. So I’ve, you know, I have all these notions as a Westerner about just things I’ve been fed, of like, these are reasons why and this is just horrible, and there’s little we can do to change it. And the fact of the matter is, it’s not really true. And I wouldn’t know that unless I went there.
And I met these people over there doing this hard work. Yeah. And even my friends that I met over there, they’re the girls that run their organization that I volunteered with, they’re three women who came over there to teach English and one from Australia, one from England, and one from Ireland. And they became involved with locals that were protesting the meat trade, and really helping, you know, rescue these dogs and rehome them.
And when they first got there, they were like, we don’t see meat restaurants. What are you talking about? That’s not a big thing. Chinese people don’t eat dog, stop it. And then once they, you know, got out of the main city region and realized, oh, wow, these places do exist. And there are meat trucks, and the violence is terrible. And people are keeping dogs in horrible conditions and tons of disease. And they’re abusing them. They went, “Oh, wow, it is really true. And it’s prevalent. It’s just not in plain sight.” So yeah, I mean, you don’t necessarily learn these things unless you’re there and you witness them, or you’re with people that witness them on a daily basis. So yeah, I’ve had a lot change and what my notions were of what was going on and how.
That’s really interesting. But it’s true. When you travel to any country for any reason, you learn so much more than you think you might learn. I mean, who cares? Some people do, about the history of, you know, the battles of Napoleon. I mean, those are important things. But for me, that whole cultural side to it and learning things that you were unexpecting to learn. I think that’s one of the bonuses.
Yeah, I urge anybody who’s traveling just to stay open to the experience, like more than what the guidebook says, talk to people you encounter. I’ve made friends traveling other places, and even within China, that have moved and they’ve gone to other places I had a friend that I met also in China that moved to Australia and married an Australian guy, and she’s like, “Come visit me in Sydney.” So I’m like, “Okay, I’ve not been to Sydney. Now I have a place to go in Sydney.” And then I have locals that live there that show me around and show me a side that’s more than just like: there’s the Opera House. This is the bridge. This is a kangaroo. Like it’s really cool to see stuff that you go, okay, that’s not in my guidebook. That’s awesome. Now I get to have these, this other side of it experience.
Well, I actually have a pretty funny story about that. My daughter’s I told you, the first time I went to China, we traveled together just my two teenage daughters and myself. And the last day we were in Xian. Now Xian is a great place to visit. But there’s really only a couple days worth of things to do there. Right? You have to sort of get inventive and we just decided to go get our nails done, because why not?
And if you think about salons in the states, that’s where people go and they talk and they chat. And it was a pretty similar experience. We happened to go into this salon that was all women with their daughters. So here’s another woman with her daughters except I had two.
Well their first, their first statement was, “You’re so lucky, you’re so lucky,” because I had two daughters, right? They could only have one child at that time when we went. Now I think it’s changed. And so then we sit around, one lady goes running out to get us bean paste popsicles for a treat because it’s a hot day. We get invited to this lady’s house for dinner. And this is all from just getting our nails done. Because we didn’t have a tour to go, you know what I mean? And you just have to be open to it. So speaking of China, in particular, I can agree with you that you’ll meet really cool people there.
You really will, I’ve had it happen in Nicaragua, I’ve had it everywhere, everywhere. If you’re just a nice person, you’ll meet other nice people, not to say don’t go with strangers into weird places alone. But you know what I’m saying?
You make a judgment call. But you can’t go through the world not talking to strangers, because once you leave your home, everybody’s a stranger. And it’s just, yeah, you have to be open to the experience.
Yeah, for sure. I had another experience when I was in Japan. And we were sitting on one of the subways there. And I was with my fiancee and he looks up and across the train sees a guy that he thinks he recognizes. Now, we’ve never been to Japan before. Why would we see a guy that we recognize” This guy lived in his dorm, his freshman year of college and like left after like a semester, but he recognized him. And this is a huge city and he was like, come on to dinner, I’ll take you to this bar, this well off the beaten path that like no tourists are going to and it’s all Japanese people. And we had one of the best meals I’ve ever had. And one of the best times I’ve ever had. And it’s because we weren’t sitting there with our heads in our phone. We were looking up and saw somebody we recognized and it was such a great experience
Well, that’s amazing, actually, that a: you would find somebody you now.
In Tokyo on a subway.
And good for him to go up and say, you know, the chances are low but…
I know. He was like you, “Do we know each other from BU in Boston from years ago?” And the guy was like, “Oh, yeah. Wow, Jim.” So yeah, we went and hung out. Yeah.
That’s really cool. Well, we lived in Japan for five years total. That’s another wonderful place. You know, we’ve been everywhere so yeah, it’s it’s just awesome. Yeah. You can make friends in Japan.
And I can really picture in my mind, you know, that evening or that night that you had going out to his favorite bar and restaurant we’ve had those kid of experiences too.
Yeah, it was so like, here’s, here’s the fish head you eat. It’s good luck for company. And we’re like, oh, celebration fish head. Okay. We’re into it. Collagen. Okay. Yes, exactly. He was convinced because my illness is a connective tissue disorder. were I have faulty collagen. And he’s like, “Well, the eye is where the collagen is. You must eat it.” I wasn’t cured it but it was an experience.
You know, that in the natural world that the eyes of the prey are one of the most nutritious things. Wwe were camping in Katmai National Park where you have all the Grizzlies come to the waterfalls for salmon fishing. A lot of the salmon, I mean, a lot of the bears will just take the salmon, eat the eyes out of it and then throw the rest of the fish away.
Yeah, once they had enough meat. They’ll get the juicy parts and leave the rest there for the seagulls.
See, bears know.
It’s amazing. Our world is pretty amazing.
So how many trips have you done on a rescue mission like that?
I have now gone six times. Some of them just, you know, quick turnarounds in Beijing. I’ve been three times to volunteer actually at the safe house in Harbin. So yeah, yeah, it’s, it’s been a lot.
Yeah. Okay. So there was a period of time where I was living in California, and Corinne and our girls were living in the Netherlands for like a year and a half. So I was making pretty constant trips back and forth out of Schiphol. And at one point in time, the customs there, kind of alerted on me saying, wait a minute, this guy’s made a lot of trips back and forth. Now. We need to talk to him. So have you had any, any run ins with customs about that?
I haven’t. Luckily, but I will tell you it has always been a concern I, because I do imagine all of these trips were done in 2019. So that was a lot of time. And especially, I was worried doing this quick turnarounds where I was getting dogs and going back because I was spending a day in Beijing and leaving. And so I thought…
That’s a red flag,
Yeah, I had carry on. I was, I was sure that if anything that was going to be where I was going to run into trouble, not you know, standing in the streets trying to block off meat trucks or rescue animals. I was like, the customs officials are where I’m going to get trouble. But knock on wood. No, I was really lucky that I never had an issue, but especially the last, like, you know, two trips, I was starting to sweat it out a bit going, “Oh they’re gonna grab me and throw me in a room somewhere and interrogate me.”
But you know, no, I had I had a 10 year tourist visa at the time. Which they don’t tell you when you fill out, by the way, tourist visas. Anybody going to China, when eventually they open borders again. It’s not on the form but you can get a 10 year visa, which is good, because you never know when and if you’re going to go back to China. And it’s nice not to have to file all the paperwork again.
That’s a good tip right there.
I know. Yeah. I always go for the max, why would you pay to do these forms over and over again? Get the max. And if you go there, great. If not, you know, it costs the same.
So when is your ten year visa up?
Well, so here’s the thing, um, due to COVID. When they shut the borders and forced everybody out of there, they cancelled all the visas, so I’d have to go back and reapply. When and if I want to go back. Yeah, I mean, you know, it’s not bad. I live in LA. So getting a visa is a little bit easier for me because it’s a complex right around the corner. But yeah, it’s, you know, it’s a hassle. It stinks. But if that’s the worst thing that happened to me, I’m fine with it. I can le paper work.
Yeah right? Okay, well, when was the last trip that you took? You said 2019?
So yeah, that’s it. The last trip I took was at the end of November, it would have been right after Thanksgiving. And I really got very lucky because we didn’t know that COVID was a thing. But it was already in China. And the volunteers that went after me, two girls that came back to bring dogs to the same rescue I work with here in Los Angeles, they both ended up getting COVID. And at the time, nobody knew what it was. And they were like, I’ve had bronchitis for three months. Something’s not right. And then when the news started coming out by March, it was like, we know that’s what it was.
The same thing happened to us.
Yeah, I was due to go there in January of 2020. And the girls I was working with in China said, “Do not come, something’s going on.” And so I had been back and forth on WeChat with, you know, friends over there. And they were like, something’s up. Just don’t don’t come over here. It’s gonna be bad. It’s gonna be really bad. And sure enough, yeah, it was , it was really scary.
Sort of the same thing happened to us. We flew to Indonesia in December, late December. And coming back wee came back through KL Kuala Lumper. And there was quite a few flights coming in from China. You can see that there was sick people. And we got back into Japan. And within three days, all three of us came down with really strong symptoms. We didn’t end up in the hospital. Nobody knew what it was. But yeah, it lasted for months and months.
Thank goodness you’re alright. I can’t imagine that stress.
And we had no idea because it was during the time when no one knew.
Around March, when we started seeing all the symptoms coming out. We’d be like, oh, yeah, check. Yeah.
They were sending me videos from hospitals over there and how overcrowded things were in there. Like it’s something, nobody knows what, and they’re not telling us. But don’t come here. And I was like, good, cool. Okay. Trip canceled. I’ll eat the loss. I’m not going so yeah, I’m happy. I did.
Have you been in touch with the the organization over there? How are they surviving?
So yeah, things are somewhat back to normal for them. They have a lot more dogs because they haven’t been able to fly dogs out. So they’ve still been taking dogs and they’ve had to purchase a second location. But you know, they’re getting on all right. They put in lockdown pretty quickly over there if a case develops. So if there’s somebody that you you know, everybody’s on their phone, you get an alert, you’ve been in contact with somebody who’s been in contact or you know, they’ll shut down your neighborhood, you’re not allowed to come in and out.
They’ve really kept cases down to you know, very, very low numbers. Whether you agree with the methodology of how they do that is a separate issue that I won’t get into but, you know, yeah, their numbers are really low. So we have again, a lot of people that I talked to, have a misconception that things are still ramping up over there and you don’t want to go. And I go, “Well, actually, it’s, you know, pretty low.”
They really put everybody on lockdown and stop that, you know, pretty early, which, again, you could argue wrong or right. But the numbers are low. Yeah. And one of the girls that was based in, she’s from England, she left because her fiance contracted COVID Back in the UK. And she wanted to go home because he had a, he had a preexisting lung condition. And she’s very worried. When she left, she couldn’t get back into China.
And due to the fact that they open borders in the US here for people to come over again from the UK, she just flew in to see some of the other volunteers I was up there with in Portland, and we all met up to go hang out for the first time since 2019. So last weekend, we all got together, and it was incredible. I was so happy to just see, you know, their faces again. It was so nice. And I wish that I could have seen all the girls from over in China. But I’m happy that I got to see the people that I did get to see because they mean so much to me. I went over there so many times and formed these great friendships. It’s great that we could all get together in some capacity.
I think that’s amazing. Portland’s always a good place to meet up. It has so many great restaurants and breweries.
Yeah. It really does. I love it. I love the whole Pacific Northwest and Portland’s Great. Y
All right. Well, is there anything else you want to tell us that we didn’t talk about? About the rescue or anything really anything that?
Yeah, anybody that’s interested in learning more, they can go look up Slaughterhouse Survivors. And you can read all about it on their web page. And they’re phenomenal organization. And if you’re not based in the US, if you’re listening to this in Canada, you could still get involved. They’re still looking for flight volunteers. If you’re somebody that is in China on a work visa of some kind or going, or a Chinese citizen, you can still possibly help out. But yeah, they’ll have more details and you can learn all the stuff that I didn’t get to here.
And we can find you…? Are you on Instagram?
You can find me on Instagram. SickGirlTravels, and you can look at my website SickGirlTravels. Thank you., have promoted them over me. But yeah.
Yeah, a little bit of a both.
I’m just, I’m writing about fun spots. But yeah, check me out too, especially if you’re disabled in anyway, I get into a lot of accessibility issues and travel, and how to make travel easier for people with disabilities.
Well, Jenn, we really, really appreciate you coming on.This was something I can honestly say in the last half an hour I’ve learned a lot more then I expected.
It’s such a pleasure chatting with you guys. Thank you so much for having me.
All right. Well, that wraps up another episode. Thanks for joining us here at Streets and Eats where we want to encourage you to savor the adventure. We’d love for you to come to our website, Roving Vails, or our sister site, Reflections Enroute and sign up for our newsletters. That way you’ll never miss a podcast or a blog post. And join us on Facebook in our private Facebook group Streets and Eats where we talk all things travel, get advice from fellow travelers, answer questions, and just have a great conversation. Thanks for listening. And
Ciao for now.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Podcaster Bios for Jim and Corinne: Jim and Corinne are a married couple who love everything travel. Having met and married in Germany, they’ve never stopped. Along the way, they have raised two kids, visited over 90 countries (including every country in Europe), and have plenty of stories and travel tips to share. Read more about them on our About page.