Three for the Road

My mom, sister, and I are fixing to take a road trip!  Again.  This time we're headed out to the Denver/Boulder area for the Memorial Day weekend.  We plan to drive straight through, staying on the freeways this time.  Not enough time to meander across Nebraska this trip. This is primarily a fun trip — visiting friends and relatives.

In case you are in need of a massive China fix, I would highly recommend taking a look at a special feature that the Guardian newspaper is running all this week, titled "China at the Crossroads."  There are lots of great articles and video clips that give an interesting glimpse into the country.

A Year Since the Ground Shook

May 12 marks the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province in which more than 90,000 people lost their lives.  Below are some links to recent articles and other resources commemorating the tragedy. 

Enduring grief, new joys: one year on from the Sichuan earthquake (The Guardian)

China Quake:  from rubble, civil society builds (The Christian Science Monitor)

China quake scars linger amid rebuilding (CNN, via China Digital Times)

China earthquake: a year of recovery (National Public Radio)

A year after quake; new births, old wounds (The New York Times)

On May 19, 2008, one week after the quake I joined thousands of mourners in Tiananmen Square to observe 3 minutes of silence, which I wrote about in a post titled "A Nation Mourns."

Even though life goes on, and the world has moved on to other events, it's important to stop and remember those who are still hurting.

Boarding Time is….

I flew back to Beijing yesterday (May 2) from Taipei on Korean Airlines, via Seoul.  I had signed up to take an 1130AM shuttle bus from my hotel to the airport in order to arrive in time for my 345pm flight.  My plan was to hang out at the hotel in the morning working on my computer. 

By845AM, I was all packed, and hauled my stuff down to the lobby.  On my way to the lobby I suddenly had the idea to try to catch the 9AM shuttle to the airport.  Since I was flying on a frequent flier business class ticket, I had access to the lounge, where I was thinking I would get a better internet connection.  It seemed like a decent place to wait a few hours for my afternoon flight. When I got to the lobby I asked the conference coordinator if I could switch and take the 9AM shuttle instead.  No problem. 

The shuttle bus got to the airport around 1015 and I headed to the Korean Air check-in counter.  "Window seat, please." Like everyone else I encountered in Taiwan, she was sweet and polite and dutifully went through all her procedures.  When she was finished, she handed me my passport and boarding pass and said "boarding time is 11:45."  Come again???  "What time does the flight depart," I asked her, the blood now draining from my face and my heart starting to race as it slowly dawned on me what was happening (and what almost happened).  "12:15," she replied. 

For some reason, the arrival time in Seoul (3:45pm) had gotten deeply embedded into my brain as the departure time from Taipei. If I hadn't impulsively decided to take the early shuttle I would have arrived at the airport as my flight was departing!!!  It took me a few minutes to recover, and when I did I said a quick prayer of thanksgiving for being delivered from my stupidity. God is good.  I'm an idiot!

I made it back into Beijing right on time last night, and am now re-packing my bags to fly back to Tokyo and on to Minnesota tomorrow!  I know my flight is at 9AM.  I was on it last Monday morning!  By the time I land in Minnesota, I will have been to 5 countries in the space of 1 week:  China, Japan (twice), Taiwan, Korea, and the US.

Taipei! Taipei!

I’ve spent the past 5 days in Taipei, Taiwan.  Following are ten random observations:

1.  It is definitely Chinese, but without the extra layer of surly socialist skin that covers the society on the mainland.
2.  People (at least in the service industry) are super polite, almost to the point of excess.
3.  Taipei is kind of like Hong Kong, only squashed.  There aren’t that many tall buildings (compared to HK or even any Chinese city), but right smack in the middle stands Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building.  Where did that come from?
4.  It’s the least crowded Asian city that I have ever been to.
5.  The native Taiwanese language is the strangest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.  It makes me grateful that I was able to study Mandarin Chinese, which seems easy by comparison.
6.  The triangle-cut sandwich (vegies and mystery meat) seems to be the national breakfast food.  Ironically, they call it “American breakfast.”
7.  There is much less English in use than on the mainland.
8.  The suburb where I stayed is the doufu (tofu) capital of Taiwan.  Guess what we had every meal?
9. It’s nice to be in foreign land and not have a language barrier (Mandarin is the official language).
10.  What’s not to like about a city where the taxi cabs are Toyota Camrys and the drivers wear neck-ties?

Taipei 101


Taipei City, from the top of Taipei 101

Taipei! Taipei!

I've spent the past 5 days in Taipei, Taiwan.  Following are ten random observations:

1.  It is definitely Chinese, but without the extra layer of surly socialist skin that covers the society on the mainland.
2.  People (at least in the service industry) are super polite, almost to the point of excess.
3.  Taipei is kind of like Hong Kong, only squashed.  There aren't that many tall buildings (compared to HK or even any Chinese city), but right smack in the middle stands Taipei 101, the world's tallest building.  Where did that come from?
4.  It's the least crowded Asian city that I have ever been to. 
5.  The native Taiwanese language is the strangest thing I've ever heard in my life.  It makes me grateful that I was able to study Mandarin Chinese, which seems easy by comparison.
6.  The triangle-cut sandwich (vegies and mystery meat) seems to be the national breakfast food.  Ironically, the call it "American breakfast."
7.  There is much less English in use than on the mainland.
8.  The suburb where I stayed is the doufu (tofu) capital of Taiwan.  Guess what we had every meal?
9. It's nice to be in foreign land and not have a language barrier (Mandarin is the official language).
10.  What's not to like about a city where the taxi cabs are Toyota Camrys and the drivers wear neck-ties?
IMGP0433 (Small)
Taipei 101

IMGP0436 (Small)
Taipei City, from the top of Taipei 101