Life Along the Yangtze River

On Monday The New Yorker Magazine published a series of photos taken along the Yangtze River by photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz.

Yangtze River

Abdulaziz/Yangtze River – PB.
Caption: Boats trawling for seaweed and shrimp. Honghu, China, 2015.
Credit line: Mustafah Abdulaziz / WWF-UK

Peter Hessler introduces the photos:

Approximately one of every fifteen people on earth lives in the watershed of the Yangtze. At moments, Abdulaziz felt as if each of these four hundred and fifty million individuals were interfacing with the river in a completely different way. “There’s no agreed format,” he told me. “With the Ganges, there was a commonality, with the spiritual aspect of how people interact with the river. In China, I didn’t feel that. It’s trading. People are trading on some aspect of the river.” In Abdulaziz’s images, there are fishermen and poachers, conservationists and polluters, huge transport ships and tiny sampans as slender and slight as river reeds. There are shots taken from the steel decks of luxury liners, where tourists stand with their heads cocked at angles of forty-five degrees. “The people aren’t looking at the Yangtze,” Abdulaziz said. “They’re looking up, not down. They’re not really experiencing the river.”

For a fascinating glimpse of life along the Yangtze, check out all the photos.

Image credit: The New Yorker

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Cruising the Yangtze

Home at Last

And just like that our epic road trip comes to an end. We finally rolled back into town Monday evening after a LONG drive across northern Wisconsin. We drove 5655 miles (just 40 shy of what we drove on our  trip to Alaska 2 years ago) through 7 states and provinces.


It was a fantastic trip, and we all left a bit of our hearts in Newfoundland. I’m already plotting my return.

On our last day on the island we drove through the fog to visit the Rose Blanche Lighthouse, at the end of the highway that runs east from Port aux Basque. We were not disappointed.

rose blanche lighthouse

If you ever have a chance to visit Newfoundland, do it!

Related Posts: 

Road Trip Reading

A Former Fjord

The Newfoundland Pittmans

Newfoundland and 9/11

Breaking Bread


Farewell Newfoundland

Farewell Newfoundland

On Thursday afternoon, we boarded the MV Highlander in Channel Port aux Basque, Newfoundland for the 6-hour run across the Cabot Strait to North Sydney. It was day 1 of our 5-day journey back to Minnesota.

newfoundland ferry

When we got on, both town and ship were shrouded in fog; by the time we reached North Sydney, the weather had changed completely.

newfoundland ferryOnce the ship docked, we returned to Big Red, which was parked down on deck #5, to begin our drive home.

newfoundland ferry

That’s Gracie saying “Farewell, Newfoundland; we’ll be back!”


I have a thing for sunglasses. If the sun is out, I pretty much can’t function without them. So, high on the priority list of things to take on this 17-day road trip was a pair of sunglasses. Well, multiple pairs, actually, because I wouldn’t want to be caught without any. Before we left I gathered up all the pairs of sunglasses I own and made sure they were in a designated place in the car.

I suppose it’s good to be prepared, but perhaps this is a bit ridiculous!


Breaking Bread

If you want to find the best visitor center in Newfoundland…no, in Canada….no, in North America, you need look no further than the one at Boutte du Cap Park in Cape St. George.

The park sits at the very western edge of Cape St. George, a gorgeous headland along the southwestern coast of the province. Boutte du Cap means “The Boot Cape” for the unique boot-shaped rock formations along the cliffs.

When we rolled into the park late Wednesday morning, our intention was simple — to catch a glimpse of the rugged cliffs that form the coastline. Instead, we stumbled upon a tradition that is being kept alive in the communities on the Cape — community bread ovens.

Upon entering the small visitor’s center, we were greeted by two friendly park staff kneading bread dough.

community bread

“Stick around,” they said. “We will be serving fresh bread at noon!”

Fresh bread? In a tourist visitor center? Only in Newfoundland.

There was no way we were going to miss out on this, so even though it was only 11, we decided to explore the park while waiting for the bread.

Shortly before noon, the smell of baking bread drew us back to the outdoor oven where we joined the bakers, other tourists, and a few locals to swap stories of our travels and of life in Newfoundland.

We also gave excited pronouncements of what we would put on the bread.

“Molasses!” said one visitor from Newfoundland.

“Butter!” said another.

“Peanut butter!” my sister declared. “We are Americans after all!”

Promptly at noon, the women took the freshly baked rolls out of the oven and served them to us.

What a fun way to end our time in Newfoundland — breaking bread with new-found friends!

Thanks to my sister for taking these photos:

community bread

community bread

community bread

To read more about the community bread ovens around Cape St. George, here’s an interesting article from the Huffington Post (2014).

And if you find yourself in southwestern Newfoundland during the summer, be sure to pop in between noon and 12, Monday – Saturday for fresh bread!

Newfoundland and 9/11

On September 11, 2001, there were hundreds of planes flying from Europe and other parts of the world towards the United States. Within hours of the attack, the airspace over the US was closed and all in-bound flights had to either turn around (if they had enough fuel) or land.

Thirty-eight of those planes landed in the Newfoundland city of Gander. The 10,000 residents of the city took in the nearly 6000 stranded passengers, providing food, shelter, and even clothing. Mostly, they provided comfort and friendship.

During the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 201o, NBC aired a special report on this little-known story, titled “9/11: Operation Yellow Ribbon.” You can watch it here:

There’s also a book about it called The Day the World Came to Town, by Jim Defede. Here’s the description from the back of the book:

When thirty-eight jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland, on September 11, 2001, due to the closing of United States airspace, the citizens of this small community and surrounding towns were called upon to care of the thousands of distraught travelers.

Their response to this challenge was truly extraordinary. Oz Fudge, the town constable, searched all over Gander for a flight-crew member so that he could give her a hug as a favor to her sister, who managed to reach him by phone. Eithne Smith, an elementary-school teacher, helped the passengers sheltered at her school fax letters to loved ones all over the world. And members of a local animal protection agency crawled into the cargo hold of the jets to feed and care for all of the animals on the flights.

These stories and hundreds more are beautifully rendered in The Day the World Came to Town, the true account of a community that exemplifies love, kindness, and generosity.


The Day the World Came to Town Publisher: Harper Paperbacks

My mom found the book in a local store yesterday and promptly bought it. She can’t put it down.

I get it next.


The Newfoundland Pittmans

Besides the sheer beauty of the place and charm of the locals, there’s another reason why we have come to love Newfoundland: apparently we’re from here!





I do know that my one of my dad’s ancestors came over from England in the early 1700’s, landing in Rhode Island. Perhaps a brother or another relative got off in Newfoundland.


A Former Fjord

On Sunday afternoon my sister and I took a boat tour of Western Brook Pond Fjord in Gros Morne National Park. In fact, it was the pictures on this site that motivated us to drive 2000+ miles to Newfoundland.


The guide on the boat told us that it is actually a former fjord (that’s a 2-syllable word in Newfoundland dialect, by the way). Apparently it no longer retains the status of a full fjord because it is no longer connected to the sea. Once upon a time there was a glacier in the valley, but when it melted the receding of the seawater or the thrusting up of the land (depending on who you talk to) cut the valley off from the ocean. In time, the salt water was replaced with fresh water, and now it is a lake (or as the locals say, a pond).



Thanks to the crew of the boat operated by Bon Tours for a spectacular tour.