Monday, May 26, 2008

China Travel Journal: An Introduction

Since I actually took this trip to China in order to fulfill six course credits, I actually had to do some school work while I was there. One of the requirements was to keep a travel journal where you recorded your thoughts about the environment, medical facilities, school culture, and just your general experiences. So I spent quite a bit of time grinding out these entries.

However, there is something that the reader should know. Going into this trip, I knew very little about China. Yes, I read articles and books to bone up on the culture and the topics my classes covered (the environment, medicine, education, etc), but all of my opinions were distinctly American. Really, you can't expect anymore than that. After all, my information came through a Western lense. This is obvious in my first couple entries when I was trying to get a handle on China. I think that this generally changes throughout the journal, but you'll have to make that decision for yourself.

All of the opinions expressed in these entries are my own. Feel free to comment or ask questions. I will answer to the best of my ability.

And so, we begin...

13 May 2008
10:05 AM (Beijing time)
Somewhere over Russia

I'm not sure if I'm totally mentally prepared for where I'm going. One plane is much like another (excepting the food, which can make or break the whole experience), so I might as well be flying to a country that I know well rather than the unknown. And I have a feeling that no matter how much reading I do on the subject of Chinese culture, I'll be almost catatonic with culture shock. I'll survive, of course-- I always do. Still, on a plane you're given little to do but wonder.

I've tried to occupy my time by reading some of the environmental articles, but the sheer number of statistics and scientific abbreviations has blown my English major's mind. I think the meaning that I'm supposed to glean is hidden between these numbers, but I haven't found it yet. Thre is a reason that I barely passed any science classes. :) However, I've become aware of just how unstable environmentally China is. I'm surprised that the entire country just hasn't imploded in on itseld in a puff of coal dust and CFCs. Floods, landslides, dust storms, water shortages, the disappearance of rivers-- that's quite a list. I wonder what the regualr Chinese citizen thinks of all of this. Would he or she be so used to it tht it ceasese to make an impact on the general thought process? Or is her or she poised to become an international spokes person about the dangers of misused resources? Also, what the hell was the IOC thinking when they awarded the 2008 Olympics to Beijing, which apparently suffers from debilitating dust storms that limit visibility to near zero? How many athletes are going to risk their healths and athletic careers to compete here?

I suppose these questions will be answered for me at some point-- if I remember to ask them, anyway.


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