The pictures in this entry are taken from different places I visited in China. The picture above shows you what the air in Beijing looks like much of the time: it's definitely smog, a mixture of fog and pollution. I was told that the air in Beijing is so bad it's the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day on your lungs, and I do believe that. We were visiting the Imperial City and I caught a glimpse of these buildings, thought it looked pretty cool, and snapped the picture.
Other than the air, Beijing is a very exciting city. The first thing I noticed in China is a distinct feeling of becoming. There is an air of dynamic progress (helped along by constant construction everywhere), energy, and optimism. Early in the morning, city dwellers get out of bed and go exercise: some fly kites, play badminton in the square, perform intricate dances with fans or swords. Across from our hotel, a bunch of older citizens brought a boom box and set it up to ballroom dance and waltz. And then it's all packed away, the stores open, and the streets are filled with cars, bicycles, motor scooters. No trace remains of the early morning activities.
In Shanghai, this barber shop on the street appeared weekly. The square was just a block away from our hotel. Dynamic enterprise was everywhere. The food in Shanghai was my favorite, but maybe that was just because Qian (our colleague) grew up there and knew all the best dishes. People are everywhere; China's cities are crowded. Pollution is rampant across the entire country, and people smoke everywhere. Almost everyone had a cellphone and would talk loudly into their phones as if they were deaf, adding to the cacophony.
On our month-long visit in 2007, we took a train to Harbin in the part of China that used to be Manchuria, in northeastern China. This is Harbin from inside my hotel room. As you can see, it's very developed. We were there to attend a conference on climate change. A student from the Harbin Institute of Technology was there, and she was so excited by what she was learning and hearing that she asked Mickey (my boss) to come to HIT and give a talk. There was no time after the meeting, except for Saturday morning. She said she would arrange it if he would do it, and she did! At 8:00 am the next day, more than 200 students came to hear Mickey talk about how to deal with climate change.
Qian is in the black t-shirt, Mickey in the light blue shirt, and my husband in the bright blue shirt. These students were so excited about the possibility of actually doing something positive about the environment that their enthusiasm was infectious. It was truly a wonderful event. We in the USA are in trouble: have we had our day and now China is on the rise? That's the way it feels.
In western China, visiting Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, we were taken on a two-hour bus ride outside of town to visit a yurt village of Tajik nomads. We saw the incredible differences that exist between the Han Chinese and these nomadic Tajiks who are also called Chinese. This village of about 40 yurts picks up and moves on when the seasons change. Urumqi is where the recent unrest began, and you could see some of the reasons when you saw the inequities in treatment. As an outsider, I could only speculate about the reasons, but one sympathetic person told me that Xinjiang Province sees itself as being occupied by China in the same way that Tibet does.
But China is so much more than its government. Its people are the future of our planet, and if they are interested in making a positive difference, I believe it will definitely happen.