This post continues the incredible saga of my trip from Myanmar back into Yunnan.
The last stage of my journey was actually supposed to be the second-to-last. But then I lost my day-pack, and plans went awry.
Not just the day-pack was lost. The contents, in ascending order of importance: cellphone, Kindle, camera, iPod touch (which is my laptop when travelling), highly marked-up copies of 《中国非传统安全研究报告（2012版）》 and Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth Century, and lastly a notebook filled with crucial research notes for a thesis due in six weeks. Bad things to lose. Real bad. Continue reading
I’m back in America. Owen and I landed yesterday morning, after a long and sleepless but blessedly uneventful trip home. The first thing Owen said when we landed was, “America is closed. Go back to China.” I laughed so hard I choked. Twelve hours back across the Pacific? I didn’t think so. But how was I supposed to convince a two-year-old of the awesomeness of our “new” home? [We moved to China when he was 2.5 months old, so it is his only known home.] I tried the weather: “Look at the blue sky! And the mountains and the grass and the trees!” I was choked up, actually streaming tears in seat 41K as we pressed our faces to the plane’s window. California must be the loveliest point of entry. Owen was somewhat impressed, but unconvinced. “We can pick strawberries here,” I offered. His eyes lit up. He jumped up in the seat and yelled to all the passengers, “Go to America now! Pick strawberries!”
The immigration agent asked us jokingly if we were siblings, and we shared a short, easy laugh. When I requested that he stamp Owen’s passport (the general practice for re-entering U.S. citizens is to pass through immigration without receiving a stamp), he grinned. As he leafed through Owen’s passport, his eyes widened. “Wow, extra pages! This boy’s been all over. I’m going to give both of you stamps.” And he did: thwack, thwack, “Welcome home.” Continue reading
Editor’s (okay, Bayley’s) note: This post and the next are a quick look back at the final segment of our (okay, Nick’s) winter travels: from Chiang Mai to Mandalay and along the Burma Road back into Yunnan.
Nick here: Well, I’ll start this off by saying there’s certainly not much I can add to all the hype about Myanmar that already exists out there. Western backpacker blogs already wax endlessly poetic about how they beat a path to get off the beaten path to travel there “before everything changes.” All the politicians have now long since exalted the country’s Hope and Change and the fact that they got to hug and kiss, repeatedly, Aung San Suu Kyi. The geo-strategists of the interwebs have probably already written all there is to write (and more) about all the very serious and momentous geopolitical possibilities now on the horizon. And now in the past few months the human rights skeptics have already gotten to chime in with their I-told-you-so’s and not-so-fast’s. What’s left to say? Continue reading
Nick here. Yes, it’s been a while. After I last surfaced in Mae Salong, I continued into Myanmar, came back to China, shut myself in a room for 7 weeks and wrote a little master’s thesis, and then hauled 白丽 White Beauty and 鸥汶 Little Seagull off on one last trip to see Zhejiang’s coastal islands. All stories worthy of a post or two, and maybe I’ll actually write something intelligent now that I hold a graduate degree from such a prestigious Chinese university. Although, truth be told, my made-in-China degree may be pretty worthless even here.
But anyway, speaking of college degrees, and their being conferred at graduation ceremonies and such, there’s one thing I want to write about first: Vice President Biden’s commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania. Continue reading
I’m flying home in one week. That means my two years in China are nearly up, and so you all must be chomping at the bit to know what my highs and lows are, top-ten style. Well, okay. Here, then, a dual list: things I will miss and things I will not. (This may become a short series, but I’ll stick with ten for tonight.)
Things I Will Not Miss
1. Grandmas constantly scolding and chastising me for my parenting decisions, from warmth of clothing to choice of snacks to leniency in allowing my child to do things on his own
2. Going into a clothing store and realizing that I am the completely wrong size, shape, dimension, and height for every item (including shoes) Continue reading
The hospital where I have my prenatal appointments is the best in town, and I am fortunate to be allowed to see a doctor at the international clinic (foreigners only!), where service—besides being conducted in English by bilingual Chinese people—is relatively fast, easy and warm. The price is higher than in the regular hospital, but it is still a fraction of what I would pay out-of-pocket in the States. (An ultrasound, for example, costs $22; a visit with the doctor, $30.) The service for the average person at this hospital (the average person who is Chinese, that is) is agonizingly slow and convoluted. The waiting rooms are crammed with sick people, some with bodily fluids leaking out. The floors cannot stay clean with this many people, and the paper on the patient beds is not rotated. Every service takes place in a different hall, floor, wing, or building, so people can expect to spend all day walking from waiting room to waiting room, forking over papers and cash and endless patience. I reiterate that this is the premier hospital in town, and that I am extremely fortunate to be seen at the VIP/foreigner clinic there. My experience has, overall, been good, and certainly it is leaps and bounds better than what I could expect as a Chinese person in the normal medical system. But, there have been some humorous moments in my time spent there, and I relay them to you now. Continue reading
I’ve written about the park across the street, No. 6 Gongyuan, previously here. But, as with Heraclitus’s river (which you cannot step in twice, for each time both the river and you have changed), so it is with the Chinese public park: no two trips are identical, and in fact the longer we live here the more unpredictable our outings here become.
Since I last wrote about the place, Owen’s ayi has taken to airing him out by the West Lake nearly every day, and apparently she is not nearly as turned-off as I am by the thronging fans (read: she tells people his name when they ask, which I have stopped doing for reasons that will soon become clear). Thus, everyone who lives and works within a mile-radius of our home knows Owen’s name. The men who paddle the boats on the lake whoop “O-wen!” when I pass by; the woman who sell the laser-beam-and-blaring-music-enhanced automated bubble guns in the shape of sharks clucks “O-wen!” as we stroll; and the men and women who plant flowers and sweep and pick up trash with 4-foot-long metal tongs wheel around when we show up, smiling, his name on the tip of their tongues. Continue reading