in Musings, Travels

Highlights of 2007: Trip to China

Mark at Great Wall

One unforgettable event of 2007 was my trip to China in early March. I spent ten days between Beijing and Shanghai and had a wonderful time in this most unusual country. I was there for training but got a little sightseeing in, too, including the obligatory trip to the Great Wall, though few can probably boast of sliding down the Great Wall on their keister the way I did.

The training I conducted went very well, with the Beijing session being outshined by the following Shanghai one: a day I’ve called one of the highlights of my career. I felt at the top of my game then.

China twists Westerner’s heads around so often that one can’t help but be struck by all the intriguing differences between cultures. I felt so enlightened while I was there, fascinated by the smallest details. I felt I had to blog everything. Cabbies would eye me suspiciously whenever I’d whip out a notepad and begin scribbling while way to somewhere. But I couldn’t help myself. China is bigger than life and it simply must be seen to be believed. I laugh now thinking that this sentiment hasn’t changed for many thousands of years.

Its a complex relationship, though. Its foreignness drew me in while at the same time making me long for home. I wondered how a guy like me who likes to speak truth to power would be able to hold my tongue in this authoritarian nation. Yet I didn’t hold back in my blog posts, though, even as I posted them from tourists hotels in China.

I got the impression that the Chinese people are in on a private joke. Their government may say one thing but the people know the truth. Chinese culture has lived through many, many governments. It will live through this one, too.

I remember walking through a bookstore in Beijing that was more crowded than any I had ever seen. The store was massive with multiple floors, and each was wall to wall with people. It seemed to me that the Chinese ave an insatiable thirst for knowledge. I was impressed.

China’s pollution was readily apparent and it saddened me. I hope these great people aren’t mortgaging their futures away to chase the capitalist dream. The choking air pollution was my biggest reminder that this was not home. I worry for anyone having to live in such conditions.

I look back fondly on my trip to China and hope to return some day.