Monday, June 30, 2008

An all-too-brief post about my travel comrades here in Shanghai:

Jyothi and Vik moved from Boston to Shanghai about 18 months ago. He works with GM, she works on her dissertation. They both raise 2 year old Sadhna, who has christened me "Pizzapizza!" because of a very fun game she and I invented that involves pretending to eat foam puzzle pieces (as pizza, naturally) and then trying (with thrilling unsuccess) to hide them on top of your head. This, combined with my ability to lift (and hold, for her entire 9 minute attention span) her high enough to reach the doorbell try-before-you-buy section at the local big box hardware store seem to have cemented a fine friendship.

Margaret (known variously as EmPee, Dr MAP, MPost, MAP-PhD and myfriendMargaretPost) is no stranger to this space, but she's also the whole reason for this trip in the first place: we celebrated her masters with a trip in the Pacific northwest and now we're celebrating her doctorate with this Chinese adventure -- which tomorrow finds us on a night train to Beijing, so I should hurry up and get myself to a relish-able bed. G'night!

(Oh, but not before sharing this twilight view of the Shanghai skyline from Jyothi and Vik's balcony...)

Friday, June 27, 2008

It could just be the jetlag, but at the moment I think these might be three of my favorite photographs ever. I took them yesterday, dazed and delighted, in a city whose thick air muffles endless and sharp sounds, suffuses would-be-orienting light, and ferries that ubiquitous Big City garbage smell to the part of your nose that's closest to your brain. I've been traveling since late May but this if the first time I've had the giddy feeling (with its edges of recklessness and trust) you get when you're aimless and open, aware and ignorant, knowing only that your metrocard is fresh and that, if you can find your way back, you'll have a room over your head tonight — all despite not understanding a single lick of what anyone around you is saying.

Shànghǎi is a crowded city, of course, and one of savage contrasts — but beyond the clichés it strike me as a city constructing itself, as I read it has for centuries. (The oldest evidence of human habitation here is nearly six millennia old, but it was the canals that drained the marshland in the 1600s that kicked things into high gear.) I'll refrain from waxing philosophical about an economy, history, government and future I would be kidding myself to think I understood. But I will say that Mandarin (and Shànghǎihuà, its distant cousin) is a mystery to me and that visual learners seem to have it especially hard. Four tones? Somewhere in those characters? I wonder how long I can get by with a hopeful smile and my three workhorses: 你好, 对不起, and 谢谢 — hello, I'm sorry, and thank you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Two more pictures with no-time-to-write-the-whole-story captions.

Candles at the San Xavier Mission del Bac on the Tohono O'odham Nation near Tucson AZ

Christa and I practicing our PBS Frontier House faces, hiking near Wildcat Peak CA.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Just because I don't have time to write anything at the moment doesn't mean I can't post these photos, right?


The view out the back of one of my trains on my 60-hour Amtrak adventure from Saint Paul to San Francisco.

The view out the side window, trundling across Montana

The view from the porcelain convenience at Portland's BackSpace cybercafe.  (No, I do not normally have my camera with me on the commode.  But when you're traveling alone you have everything with you everywhere, right?)