Wednesday, October 26, 2005

China, the Postcard Version

I have resisted mightily passing myself off as an authority on China after spending only two weeks there, mostly in the company of people dedicated to making sure I had a good time. Nevertheless, this is the Blogosphere, not Foreign Affairs, and I have honed my responses after one steady week of conversations that start out, "how was China?"

There are many directions the conversation goes from there. To food — not at all disgusting, surprising variety, little rice, and many delights. To bicycles in Beijing — not as many as in the old newsreels running in your head, and a lot more cars. To safety — yes, we felt quite safe. To pollution and health — not horrible, not as bad as expected, but far short of what we'd consider acceptable here. To language — not as dislocating as you might think; lots of people who can speak some English, at least enough to conduct a transaction. And to the people — really wonderful; proving once more we should never undertake war with people we haven't met. Trip of a lifetime? Depends.

Scotland. Could go back again and again, but would never want to live there.
Mexico. Good memories and that's good enough.
Italy. Loved what it did to my state of mind, and could see the appeal of retiring there, but would never want to work there.
New Zealand. Christchurch was the only place I've ever looked at real estate ads. But I've already lived through the 1950's once, and that's enough.
China. My eyes and heart were opened to the Chinese people. Every American should visit there, especially while it is still China.

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