July 4 Fireworks — Made in China

A question for my American readers — did you enjoy your local fireworks display last night? They were most likely made by hand in a small factory somewhere in China.

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The Asia Society blog recently posted a series of photos from a fireworks factory in China. Here is some of the accompanying text:

Fireworks and the United States have a longstanding relationship dating back to 1777, when John Adams commissioned a fireworks show as part of the Independence Day celebrations, prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He wrote that the festivities should include “pomp and parade” but most notably, “illuminations from one End of this Continent from this time forward forever more.”
Though some may believe fireworks to be a distinctly American tradition, they are — like many things — believed to have been invented in China more than 1,300 years ago. Indeed, most of the fireworks exploding in the U.S. skies this weekend will have come from China, the world’s largest producer and exporter. And there’s no shortage of demand. In 2012, the U.S. spent roughly $1 billion on fireworks, with a staggering $645 million spent on July 4 festivities alone. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), this number continues to grow steadily, earning the industry the title “recession-proof.”
The amount of hard work to produce these short lived light shows is eye-opening. In China, fireworks are predominantly made by hand by factory workers.

Click here to see the full collection of photos.

And in case you’re wondering, I did not go anywhere to watch the fireworks last night. This video clip showing the scene from my apartment window in Beijing during Spring Festival every year will explain why!

(if you receive this post by email and cannot see the video clip, click here)

 

 

8 Things I Love about the USA

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Even though I have spent the better part of my life as an expat, I still love the patriotic American holidays and am unable to sing the national anthem without choking up.

Last week a friend and colleague from Southeast Asia and I were walking around one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. We got to talking about how, even though we love the countries that we have worked in (China, Laos, and Myanmar), we also love our home country, the United States. In fact, as a result of living overseas for so many years, there may be things we appreciate about this place that we wouldn’t otherwise.

So on this Fourth of July, here are 8 things that I really appreciate about the United States:

1. The clean air. We have virtually no pollution in the Twin Cities, something that I greatly appreciate after living so long in Beijing.

2. The traffic. When I lived in Beijing I always figured that it would take me at least one hour to get anywhere. In the Twin Cities, everything is 20 minutes away (at least inside the 694/494 loop). I spent the first several months back in town being 40 minutes early to everything,  and when my friends or family fuss about the traffic here I laugh at them with derision.

3. Public libraries. Since most of my work is of the free-lance variety, I spend a lot of my time working in the local public library. I love that I can spend the day there working, and can even bring my lunch!

4. Public toilets. Ok, this may sound strange, but I LOVE the fact that I can go anywhere and find a clean public toilet!

5. Public parks. I love the fact that the seemingly thousands of parks are open to the public for free and are well kept. No walls, gates, or ticket sellers.

6. The interstate system. A fantastic way to get around a beautiful country.

7. The National Park system. 22 down, 27 to go!

8. Our political system. Yes, I like our political system. It’s chaotic and messy and inefficient, but it still provides levels of liberty and freedom and opportunity that are unimaginable in most places. I’m definitely with Winston Churchill on this one: “It is said that democracy is the worst form of government except all others that have been tried.”

Happy Independence Day!