Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Were myfriendMargaretPost still here, her practical side would gently point out that I should probably start packing for tomorrow's flight back to the States. But since she left 4 days ago (and is most certainly missed) you get these 4 photos from my weekend in Fujian Province instead.

Fuzhou is the capital of Fujian Province, a city of 6 million people on the coast about 400 miles south of Shanghai.

My gracious guide and generous host there was Xiaoshan, an English teacher who visited my hometown of Blue Earth for a year back in 1990. (That's her on the left, next to her policeman son and future daughter-in-law in a lovely park near their apartment.)

Xiaoshan's beloved dog is called (if I understand the translation right) Sweet Grandpa. Or maybe Grandpa Sweetness. He's 14 years old.

There will be plenty more photos in the near future (once, you know, I pack and fly across 12 time zones and all that) from my whirlwind trip to this region, but for now I'll leave you with this shot from today's lunch. Anybody who can name more than 5 of the 13 foods on my plate gets Major Bonus Points.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The good news is that the thoughtful folks at Yangshuo Mountain Retreat have a really affordable (if less than speedy) internet connection. The bad news is that the computer screen is drawing lots of late night insects. So this'll be quick: China is stunning. Ambivalence and ambiguity seem elemental here, but so does ambition.

Margaret and I didn't lack ambition either when we signed up for a decidedly out of the ordinary Great Wall of China experience: hiking for 4.5 hours through an unrestored part of the wall (starting in a forest on the 'enemy side') to an in-process-of-restoration section, and ending at the restored-and-touristy section. Here's a shot from the first part.

It was beastly hot, and humid beyond belief, but our guide said it was the first time in weeks that you could see this far. The view wasn't our only reward, however -- we ate at a full-fledged mom & pop restaurant in a traditional part of the city, where the Peking Duck was as authentic as it was delicious. As proof, here's all that was left of my once-heaping plate. (As you can see, the vinegar peanuts at 12 o'clock and the lotus root with hawthorn at 10 o'clock didn't fare as well.)

And finally, here's a photo from a park on the way to the Forbidden City, which totally belies the mad crowds and unrelenting traffic on the other side of the thick, ancient walls. (For the record, 'mad,' 'unrelenting' and 'thick' also describe the sweltering heat Beijing subjected us to -- God help the Olympic athletes who show up in a few weeks. They've already stopped non-essential construction, the bulk of commercial trucking, and many industries in the region to help clear the air of the city's famous pollution.)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

We need to make our way to the overnight train pretty soon, so here are 5 highlight shots with minimalist captions. Enjoy — and see you after 8 July!

Fabricated 'antique' about to be transported to who-knows-where.

Spinach in a wet market.

Crickets in cages outside the Flower, Bird & Fish Market.

Gooseberries. Amazing.

Blooming water lily in the People's Park.