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Snapshots of Irene

September 1st, 2011 7 comments

What a surprise to move to New York, then experience my first earthquake, followed by Hurricane Irene! Dan and I were evacuated from our house on Saturday morning, August 27th, as Irene rattled up the coast. The night before, we had watched our neighbors haul away boats and board up windows. Police were cruising through the neighborhood belting mandatory evacuation orders through bullhorns. Stores were bursting with people scrambling to buy water, batteries, and non-perishable foods.

On Saturday, we headed to stay with friends who live in a more protected house than ours. By then, Irene had downgraded in our area to a tropical storm. The sky was gray and leaden during the day. That night, something eerie and electric fizzed in the air as I drifted to sleep.  Read more…

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Warriors, Buddhas, and More (Part 2)

March 15th, 2011 11 comments

Next morning’s adventure led us east on a bullet train to the 4,000-year-old city of Luoyang, in Henan Province. It was a mass of humanity. A friendly Kentucky Fried Chicken employee we met helped us understand the true scale of China’s cities. He told us about his “small” hometown—of only four million people! Luoyang’s traffic was bonkers. One of our drivers changed lanes by swerving across the dividing line into oncoming cars.

In Luoyang we had another animated twentysomething guide. Dong Dong was a walking encyclopedia. He taught us about everything from the I Ching to the sociological effects of China’s one-child policy. We drove to Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These are Buddhist caves into which 1,300-1,500-year-old statues are carved. I felt powerful energy emanating from the stones, amplified by the beautiful river flowing alongside them.  Read more…

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Warriors, Buddhas, and More (Part 1)

March 15th, 2011 4 comments

China is developing at lightning speed. The never-ending cranes, construction sites, and new cars on the road are but a few symbols of its growth. Yet one of the most compelling aspects of living here is the ever-present connection to history. I mean old history.

Hosting friends in town last week was the perfect opportunity to visit Xi’an, in Shaanxi Province. Xi’an was once part of the Silk Road trade route. Today people flock there for college and to work in industries such as machinery, electronics, textiles, and national defense. Its prime tourist attraction is the Terracotta Warriors.  Read more…

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Chun Jie Kuai Le!

February 5th, 2011 11 comments

Welcome Year of the Rabbit! February 2nd marked the highly anticipated lunar New Year’s Eve here in China. I awoke to the boom of fireworks (which I still hear outside my window, days later, as I type these words). I jumped out of bed feeling excited. Dan and I had been invited to share a traditional celebration that evening with the family of his wonderful colleague, Shao Jun.  

We headed out late morning in search of gifts for Shao Jun’s family. The quiet streets surrounding our apartment gave the sense of being in a small town instead of in China’s capital. Masses of Beijingers had already left the city to celebrate the holiday with family in their hometowns.   Read more…

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Travels in Southern China

November 2nd, 2010 11 comments

Last week I joined a doctor and nurse on a trip to southern China. The purpose of our travels was to deliver health care education to the village of Reshui. (Fun fact: Reshui      is in Hunan Province, which is home to the mountains from Avatar.)

On Sunday we boarded the evening train and settled in for a 19-hour journey. My travel companions included: Gail, a Canadian doctor who has worked extensively in postwar Bosnia and with the Inuit population in northern Canada; Susan, a Chinese nurse who lights up any room; and Susan's father, a retired farmer with wonderful stories about China's culture and history. The train was packed upon arrival. Adults paced the aisles with toddlers. Families huddled around card games and bags of peanuts. Staff members bellowed sales of ivory charms and fake cigarettes. I climbed high into my bed as night     fell and drifted into fitful sleep.

Below is a photo of Beijing West Train Station:   Read more…

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The Great Wall of China

October 7th, 2010 12 comments

A few weeks ago Dan and I piled into a van with friends and headed to the Great Wall.       I had been really looking forward to our visit, which we purposely postponed until fall to avoid the intense summer heat. The wall was originally built to protect northern China       from invasions by various nomadic tribes. Today numerous sections are open to tourists; our group opted for a lesser-crowded part called Mutianyu.

Although we awoke to rain, the fog had mostly lifted by the time our van pulled into        the site's parking lot. We meandered past colorful booths and food stands to buy our entrance tickets, then hopped on a chair lift up the mountain. Views from the lift were breathtaking: The wall snaked high above, mountains blanketed below, and villages hummed in the distance.  Read more…

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Shanghai Highlights

September 17th, 2010 9 comments

Earlier this month, I tagged along with Dan on a work trip to Shanghai, where we stayed for 10 days. Shanghai is about two hours south of Beijing by airplane and is considered¬†¬†¬†¬† to be the business center of China. Thought I’d share a few highlights!

Our hotel overlooked the beautiful Huangpu River, which slices through the city. We had ¬† a wide view of the water–I could have sat for hours watching boats glide by. The river is especially striking at night, when the boats and buildings light up like ornaments. Below was a midday view from our room:¬† Read more…

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The Latest from Beijing

August 18th, 2010 8 comments

It’s official. I’m falling in love again. This time, with China. This is such a captivating country that I feel energized just by being here. Of course, there have been adjustments. After Dan’s cough passed, I got sick as my body struggled to adjust to the new environment. But we’re both riding the wellness train now and have been meeting new friends, exploring the city, and eating a whole lot.

When it comes to food, Beijing is the gift that keeps on giving. You can find just about anything here, from every corner of the world, and often for a terrific price. One night we had a five-course meal (including drinks and dessert) for 70RMB, or $10.30. Naturally we’ve been eating at lots of Chinese restaurants—which can be rambunctious. The dishes are served in large family style portions and are heavy and filling. Usually when I walk out the door I’m so full I can’t imagine ever needing to eat again. And although chopsticks and I don’t always get along, we're moving in the right direction. Read more…

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Landing in Beijing

The People’s Republic of China is a country that has long fascinated me. When Dan told me that he had been offered a yearlong fellowship in Beijing, I was shocked. So much so that my legs suddenly felt weak. I lowered to the ground in front of a theater, absorbing the news as movie-goers politely dodged around me.

Luckily my shock wore off, because here we are! Last week’s trip went as smoothly as seventeen hours of travel could go. Our excitement must have been visible; on our layover in Chicago, a woman randomly asked if we were newlyweds. No, we replied,       just looking forward to our travels. From Chicago to Beijing we sat in the last row of the enormous aircraft. Sleep was extra difficult to grab because our route took us high above the Arctic Circle, so the sky stayed light for most of the flight.  Read more…

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A Night to Remember

I can hardly believe that our time in Vienna is already coming to a close. Dan and I         were happy to find out that the annual Sommernachtskonzert (Summer Night Concert) was going to take place during our last week in town. This is a free outdoor concert featuring the world-renowned Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Plus, it’s set on the spectacular grounds of Schönbrunn Palace. This year’s concert was also going to include music from Star Wars.

On Tuesday evening we arrived at the palace more than two hours early, knowing the event would attract a crowd of many thousands. The weather was wonderful, and the people-watching was even better. We strolled past a few people sporting Star Wars costumes; others were decked out in their Sunday best; and many, like us, wore casual summer clothes. Settling on a blanket, we waited for the sun to drop and the concert to begin. Read more…

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