It has been awhile since I last wrote here. As you may have figured, I was in China for some time. I had been wondering before I left whether I would be able to access my blog. I’d been able to learn that WordPress was blocked by the Chinese government, but also that it might not be blocked anymore. Anything that gives people an avenue for open discussion and large audiences, perhaps particularly when linked to the world outside of China, is subject to scrutiny and, sometime, suppression there.
I was interested to learn that, in all its ingenuity, the government did not block my blog, but it DID block me from getting to the WordPress dashboard. Thus I could read my old posts. But I could not add more. I also learned that, on my friend’s blog, Saved by Dogs, I could read her new posts, but I could not comment.
It was a wonderful, amazing, magical trip. My friends’ generosity was so enormous, I am so deeply grateful. I would love to acknowledge all my friends there by name, show their pictures, and give them their due thanks. But because I am going to say critical things about the Chinese political system, it is better if I don’t. If you are reading this – you know who you are and I thank you.
We (my friend and I) visited Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an. I was so fortunate to have a Chinese friend who wanted to travel to all these places with me. Without her, I could not have understood many of the people we met and who hosted us as my friend also acted as my translator.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’m fascinated by China, especially its history and politics. I had been reading a lot of novels and non-fiction before I went. It definitely enriched my trip.
This is a picture taken with my iphone from the supertrain between Beijing and Shanghai. This train goes about 180 miles an hour – I was wondering how the pictures would come out. They give a sense of the motion, don’t they? I loved this part of the trip as I got to see the countryside. We saw lots and lots and lots of corn being grown. Interesting, because the Chinese eat very little corn. But they do eat more and more meat and corn can be fed to many types of livestock. And they also produce more and more grain ethanol from corn. As my friend suggested, when people who have the right to farm a plot in a village leave for the city, they often plant corn. I’ve grown corn and I can say that, other than needing quite fertile soil, if there is enough rainfall, it takes care of itself until harvest and this is why so many people who no longer live in villages choose to plant it.
This is a picture from the China pavillion at the World Expo site. Like everything in China, it is HUGE! The theme was “City of the Future” and this building showcases a fantasy of what urban China will look like in the future (very environmentally protective).
And this is what urban China actually looks like. Notice the air pollution. It is said that half of the world’s construction cranes are in China right now. I don’t believe it. I think 90% of the cranes are there. In all three cities, I saw literally thousands of high rise apartment buildings being built. While the migration to urban China from the countryside is enormous (my friend sent me an article saying 10 million people are expected to move there in the next few years) nobody knows who is going to be able to afford to live in these apartment buildings. I think of all the shocking things I’ve seen in my life, the number, size, ugliness of these under-construction buildings is one of the top. I simply can’t express how ubiquitous and unbelievable their size and number was.
This is from a wonderful tea shop I got to visit and spend time in and see how tea should be drunk. These friends of friends were very kind and I loved their shop.
One of the first things I notice was this display – which said in Chinese “Do Not Touch” — their son had made it. If you play computer games at all, you will recognize this as a replica of all the Angry Birds birds. I was able to whip out my ipad and explain to the adults what it was. And this little boy made me my own angry birds (in my fave colors) which now rest on the little shelf by my kitchen sink.
We went to four wonderful history museums in the three cities. I loved seeing China’s artifacts displayed in different ways – in one museum, they organized by material – all bronze and calligraphy together, for instance. In another, by era. I was fascinated.
But one of the things I quickly realized is that I should have brought one more book – my #63 Rough Guide Chronicle of Chinese history. Because in museums, everything is, of course, listed by dynasty. So, by museum two, I asked to please first go to the gift shop and get a book – which is the one above #83 The Dynasties of China by Bamber Gascoigne. In the beginning it lists all the dynasties and briefly describes them – perfect! And then it describes each in fascinating detail in the chapters. Gascoigne is a lively writer, not afraid to inject humor or sarcasm and I really enjoyed this book.
I’m sorry I’ve been away from the blog for so long – some of this was my trip, then I picked up a respiratory flu from my plane seatmate on the way back, and I had two MASSIVE projects due at work this week. So, I just have been trying to survive and get enough time and energy to pick it up again. One of the things I promised myself is that I would not over do this first post. Just something fairly short and sweet.
So, I’ll end with this shot of my 16 year old cat grooming my 1 year old golden retriever – they groom each other very frequently. Trading off, if you can imagine a 16 year old cat tolerating a big, enthusiastic golden retriever tongue, he does and with relish. You can see how much Gus the dog enjoys this by the look of complete bliss on his face. I’m going to work on getting some better shots of this little ritual of theirs, but here you are – one of the 99 wonders of the world – Gus and Fred grooming each other!
Happy reading, Ruby
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