Independence Day Viewing

Today is Independence Day in the United States, sometimes known simply as “The Fourth of July,” or simply “The Fourth.” With apologies to my British readers (not really), it is the day we commemorate telling the King of England to “scram!” Or, as the Chinese might say, “Liberation!”

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I know that most July Fourth activities are best done outside — grilling, picnicking, boating, blowing things up — but if you should find your celebrations rained out and are looking for something to do inside, I’d like to recommend this fantastic PBS series called Liberty! The American Revolution. Here’s the blurb:

LIBERTY! The American Revolution is a dramatic documentary about the birth of the American Republic and the struggle of a loosely connected group of states to become a nation. The George Foster Peabody award-winning series brings the people, events, and ideas of the revolution to life through dramatic reenactments performed by a distinguished cast. LIBERTY! is hosted by ABC news anchor Forrest Sawyer and narrated by Edward Herrmann.

Liberty! The American Revolution

On July 3, John Adams, who of course features prominently in the documentary, wrote to his wife Abigail describing his thoughts and emotions following the Continental Congress’ approval of the resolution calling for independence from Great Britain the day before:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.—I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. (source: Founders Online, National Archives)

May you have a wonderful day of Pomp, Parades, Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires ,and Illuminations.

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All the Tea in China

Last week, the Boston Globe’s photography platform The Big Picture featured a collection of photos highlighting tea culture and production in China. Here’s the description:

According to a legend, tea was first discovered by the legendary Chinese emperor Shennong in 2737 BC. Today, China is the world’s biggest tea producer, selling many varieties of tea leaves such as green tea, black tea, oolong tea, white tea and yellow tea. It is the most highly consumed beverage in the world. China still boasts many teahouses, particularly in cities with a strong teahouse culture such as Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Chengdu. Different regions are famous for growing different types of tea. Hangzhou is famous for producing a type of green tea called Longjing or the Dragon Well tea. Tea tastes also vary regionally. Drinkers in Beijing tend to prefer jasmine tea while in Shanghai prefer green tea. Processing raw tea leaves for consumption is a time and labor-intensive activity and still done by hand in many areas in China. The Chinese tea industry employs around 80 million people as farmers, pickers and sales people. Tea pickers tend to be seasonal workers who migrate from all parts of the country during harvest time. The pickers work from early morning until evening for an average wage of around 120 RMB (around 16 euros) a day. Tea can be sold from around 80 RMB (around 11 euros) to over 4,000 RMB (around 525 euro) per kilogram. In 2016, China produced 2.43 million tons of tea. Chinese people believe that the practice of brewing and drinking tea can bring the spirit and wisdom of human beings to a higher level.

And here’s just ONE of the numerous photos:

You can check out all the great photos here.

If you’re a tea lover, and interested in the history of tea in China, I highly recommend the China History Podcast 10-part series, The History of Tea. You can find links to all 10 podcasts on this page (start at the bottom).

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Image credit: The Boston Globe

Chinese Propaganda With Buddhist Characteristics

In the Beijing neighborhood that I stayed in last week, I noticed a wall covered with propaganda paintings (in the US, we might call them “public service announcements”). I’m always fascinated by these paintings and/or posters as they give a glimpse into what the leaders are concerned about and what the leaders think the people should be concerned about.

These propaganda paintings are typically done in the style of “socialist realism” — sturdy, square-jawed hero conquering whatever difficulty lies before them.

But these were different. In terms of color and style, they seemed to be evoking traditional Buddhist art instead of socialist realism. I know that the government has been on a campaign to promote traditional culture and cultural values; this was the first I had seen it reflected artistically in propaganda.

Here are a few examples:

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The Blue Bag

When I moved back to the States 5 years ago, I envisioned returning to China often, so even though I closed up my apartment and shipped nearly all of my belongings, I left behind at a friend’s house a small blue bag with some items I didn’t want to haul back and forth. Think toiletries and a hair dryer.

It’s been convenient because whenever I do go to Beijing I stay with that friend, and she always greets me at the door with my blue bag!

Last Sunday morning, as I was preparing to leave Beijing and fly back to Minnesota, my friend said to me, “See you next time. As long as your blue bag is here, I know you’re coming back!”

And of course she’s right!

Feeding the 3000

Last week I attended a conference at the Asia World Expo in Hong Kong, a large convention center near the airport. Given it’s rather remote location, there are no eating places nearby (except at the terminal). And surprisingly, within the complex itself I only spotted a Subway and a Starbucks.

So how do you feed 3000+ conference attendees? You line them up and give them box lunches. Like this: (email readers, go here to see the vide0)

One of the lines I found myself in was serving a box lunch with pork chops a potatoes. When that was announced, the people in line behind me exclaimed, “What, no rice? That will never do!” and then hightailed it to another line.

Once we got our box lunches we were directed to return to our seats in the large meeting room and eat there.

It was amazingly efficient!

Friday Photo: Millican, Oregon

My sister and I spent the better part of this week traversing the western United States on our drive home from a family reunion in Oregon. The timing of the reunion coincided with my mom’s 90th birthday. We all gathered outside of Bend, the city where she grew up.

My mom (aka Gracie) was born in Westbrook, MN in 1927. In 1931, when she was just four years old, she and her 3 siblings and her parents climbed into a Model A and headed west.  Their destination was Bend, Oregon, where her father had accepted a call to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church.

Even though she was very young when she made the trip, she still has quite a few memories of the drive. One story she told us was of stopping at a “town” in the Oregon desert, east of Bend called Millican. “There was just one building,” she told us. “I remember it because we all thought it was so funny that a town would only have one building.”

On Monday, as my sister and I were driving across the Oregon desert (my mom and brother-in-law having left by plane earlier in the day), we were on the look-out for the one-building “town” of Millican. Sure enough, it was there, only the establishment that may or may not have been there in 1931 was definitely closed! Why it is listed on the map is a mystery.

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And if you ever have the chance to drive across the desert of eastern Oregon, do it! It’s gorgeous!

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We are back home now, and declare the two weeks of birthday celebrations officially over!