I suppose now that more than a month has passed I should say something about my trip to China with my mom.
Beijing was a disappointment to us. I will be perfectly content to skip that city altogether on my next trip.
First of all, it’s smoggy. Seriously smoggy. But don’t worry, they’re going to fix that before the olympics, no problem. The athletes have nothing to fear. Also, the whole area is such a tourist trap. There are people on practically every corner waiting to shove something in your face to buy. The Great Wall, for example. Fortunately, we went on a Christmas hike on a section of the “wild wall” which hasn’t been restored, so we got to see how amazing the wall could really be, but later we went on a bus tour that took us to Badaling. When I finally gasp my way to the highest tower on a section of the Great Wall, I don’t want my view obstructed by someone trying to sell me a “I climbed the Great Wall” T-shirt. (Okay, yeah, I bought a T-shirt.)
Beijing was also a very cold reminder that I will have some readjusting to do when I get back to Minnesota. Which will be soon. I will tell you the details of that in the near future. Which, given my blogging track record, probably means 7 or 8 months after I get back.
Anyway, I submit to you the following picture as a summary of Beijing. Unclear skies, the olympic dream, and the Great Wall swarming with tourists.
One final complaint about Beijing and China in general is the lack of 7/11s and other such convenience stores. For someone accustomed to Taiwan, this flaw makes the place seem virtually unfit for human habitation. Where, I ask you, is a girl supposed to satisfy a 3:00 AM Snickers bar craving?
The major purpose of the trip for me was returning to Hangzhou, where my family lived 20 years ago. A lady never reveals her age, so I’ll just say that 20 years ago I was older than 3 but younger than 5. So my memories are hazy at best, and of very random things. Still, it is a very significant part of my life since it sparked the interest in Asia that eventually led me here.
I didn’t have high hopes for Hangzhou after Beijing, but I ended up loving it. I even found myself entertaining fantasies of living there. I think I’m calling it quits in Asia for a while, but if I were looking for a new location on this side of the world, Hangzhou would be high on my list.
My mom brought a bunch of old pictures with her, and we wandered around trying to recreate them. Here is an example from a part of Hangzhou which hasn’t changed too much (I’m a little bit taller though).
That seems to be about the only unchanged part of the city. It is unbelieveable, even to me who only sort of remembers it, how much Hangzhou has modernized. Many of the places in the photos simply don’t exist anymore, others have changed radically. A good example is the Hangzhou Foreign Language School where my parents taught. Here is the building in which it was located 20 years ago:
Here is just one portion of the current campus.
I have to include some sheep pictures, just because this statue with the sheep is my clearest memory of Hangzhou. For some reason, while all my other memories are distant and fuzzy, those sheep made a serious impression.
2007 (The sheep are sadly neglected by most these days, but my love for them will never fade) :
That is all the blogging I have in me for now. Many more pictures, as always, here. Peace out.