Last night I joined some family members for a mid-summer baseball game at Target Field, home to the Minnesota Twins. I’m not that interested in baseball unless the Twins are winning, which they are definitely NOT doing this year, but I really wanted to see the new stadium.
The stadium is fantastic–love that Minneapolis skyline in the background–but the game was ever-so-slow. And of course we lost.
Never mind. A good time was had by all.
Loving the clean air of Minnesota….but it’s back to the Beijing smog next week.
You may be tempted to think this blog post will be about my sister and I riding bucking broncos and rolling around an arena in barrels. You would be wrong.
Just over a week ago, on our road trip across Oregon, we pulled into the town of Sisters, Oregon just as the pre-rodeo parade was making its way through town. Sisters is a small cowboy town that sits at the foot of The Three Sisters, 3 volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range.
Instead of following the detour around the parad route and heading out of town, we decided to stop and enjoy a great slice of Americana.
I have the privilege this week of travelling around Oregon with my mom (aka Gracie), sister, and oldest niece. We’re visiting relatives and the towns where my mom grew up (Bend and Portland). It’s a ‘memory lane’ trip for my mom, and we get the benefit of hearing great stories of her childhood as each place jogs her memory.
Today we took a drive up the Columbia River Gorge with my cousins, stopping at the beautiful Multhomah Falls and then driving up to Crown Point to get a view of the river. This prompted her ‘story of the day””
“I remember coming here the day after World War II ended, ” she said. “The day after the Japanese surrendered, gasoline rationing ended. As soon as the news broke, my dad piled the family into the car, filled the tank up with gas (something we hadn’t been able to do for years) and we drove out to Crown Point and Multnomah Falls. Just because we could. ”
The scenery today was just as gorgeous as it would have been on that August day in 1945.
When I started studying Chinese years ago, we of course had to learn the vocabulary and phrases to describe leisure activities. You know, things like ‘watch TV’ (kan dianshi), ‘go shopping’ (mai dongxi), and ‘chat with friends’ (gen pengyou liaotianr). I was always intrigued that kan hongye (see the red leaves) was in the list of common leisure activities. “What do you like to do on weekends?” “I like to see the red leaves.” Apparently an ancient poet (most likely during the Tang Dynasty) wrote about the joy of seeing the red leaves on the hills outside of Beijing. Presto! It’s an activity. This time of year the leaves on a few trees actually do turn red in the Fragrant Hills Park outside Beijing, and 20 million residents fight their way out to see them. Gotta get out and kan hongye!
I’m not in Beijing at the moment, but I’ve sure had some great hongye viewing here in the US. On October 1 and 2, my mom, sister and I made a quick swing up along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Absolutely gorgeous!
This past week, after attending a conference in Boston, I took a day to drive around northern New Hampshire to kan hongye. Stunning!
I had good intentions of blogging my way across the western US last week, but alas, was just too tired at the end of each day of driving. We made it to California and I now have a bit of time and space to jot out a few thoughts, stories, and photos.
Just outside of Scott’s Bluff, Nebraska we visited the Scott’s Bluff National Monument, which preserves the history of the Oregon Trail, which went through this area. It was a humbling experience to think of what the pioneers endured on their journeys west. The Chinese have a phrase called chi ku, which means “to eat bitterness.” It is often used as an adjective to mean endurance or perseverance, or the ability to bear up under immense suffering. With 5000 years of history, the Chinese are known as people who can eat bitterness. It is not a term that is oft
en today used to describe Americans, but a visit to this monument is a reminder that that was not always the case. Certainly these pioneers who left everything behind and set out across the plains, deserts, and mountains knew how to eat bitterness.
In Southern Utah, we enjoyed drives through the bizarre canyons of Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion National Parks. Surprisingly, there’s another amazing spot that is not in any of the national parks, called The Burr Trail, which is to the southwest of Capitol Reef. I think it’s my new favorite place in the country. The various rock formationswere endless. In China, rock formations seem to always have names thatdescribe what someone thinks the rocks resemble. In Guilin there’s a mountain that’s called elephant and horse. Supposedly it looks like a horse coming out of a cave and an elephant going in. I think you have to be a bit tipsy to see it. Anyway, along the Burr Trail was a strange rock formation (photo above). If it were in China I decided it would be called “The Imperial Chicken Contemplates the Meaning of Life.”
A special treat was the peak of fall foliage in southern Utah. This photo was taken along Highway 24, between Torrey and Boulder, Utah.
Our goal had been to drive from Minneapolis to Santa Barbara without taking any freeways. We almost made it. We ended up on freeways twice: between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming; and between Las Vegas, NV and Barstow, CA. Not bad. If you’ve got the time and enjoy road trips, take my advice: GET OFF THE FREEWAYS AND SEE THE COUNTRY!
We made it from the Cities to Grand Island, Nebraska today. It was a great drive, although we had a hard time getting out of the starting block. After picking my sister up at her house at 9, we headed west out of town on highway 169. At Jordan (about 30 miles from Minneapolis), a voice in my head (or was it my stomach?) told me to pull over at the apple farm to buy some apple donuts. That’s where I discovered that I didn’t have my billfold with me. No money, but more importantly, no driver’s license. Since my sister wasn’t into being the only driver between Minnesota and California, we had no choice but to go back! The billfold was right where I’d left it–on my bed! Back on the road. We passed the infamous apple orchard again at noon, just two hours from when we’d been there before.
We stopped for a late lunch in Windom, where I ended up in one of those “conversations from the twilight zone” that I often find myself having in China, only this time, I had taken up the role of the Chinese person.
As we stopped at the local DQ, I suggested that we make a kitty of money for our food along the journey. My sister looked at me funny, then said she didn’t think that was a good idea. I couldn’t fathom why she didn’t immediately see the brilliance of my idea. I’d done this a few years ago with some friends on a driving trip from Beijing to the ancient Mongol capital of Xanadu in Inner Mongolia (follow the link to read all about it), and it had worked so well.
Finally she spoke up and said that since she is on a diet, she may be ordering less food than I or my mother, so it probably wouldn’t be a fair system. Since I’m no good with math, I looked at her funny, and seeing that she wasn’t going to go for this plan, said “no problem.”
After we ate, and I was back behind the wheel of the car as we drove through mile after mile of cornfields, I was still trying to figure out what was so odd about that conversation and why we had been talking past each other. Then it hit me.
In China this system always works because meals eaten out are always communal affairs, with dishes ordered and shared by everyone at the table. If the bill is divided, it can always be divided up evenly. No one orders individual meals for themselves. I don’t get kung pao chicken and you get black pepper beef. We get them both. But that’s not the way it is here. We all get our own individual meals.
Who knew I might have such a cross-cultural insight in the middle of a cornfield?