Wednesday, May 8, 2013

First Impressions: A Warning in San Jose

Imagine you've been living in China for years and often wonder whether its air, food, water, or other potential sources of dangerous chemicals are having a significant negative impact on your health. But today is different because you've just arrived at the international airport in San Jose, California. It feels safer here.

Perhaps you're overjoyed to see the clear blue sky. Maybe you're eager to buy some fruits & vegetables from an organic market. Possibly you're thinking about a trip to the mountains where you'll enjoy some fresh air.

So after going through immigration and customs, you're excited to begin your time in San Jose. As you're considering what to do first, you enter an elevator in the airport. After the door closes, you notice this sign:

sign with message "NOTICE. WARNING: This area contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm. California Cod of Regulations Title 22, Section 1260."

Some of these thoughts may now run through your mind:
  • Is my health at risk?
  • Why would they put up this sign instead of fixing the problem?
  • If there isn't any problem, why put up this sign?
  • Why wasn't this message provided before I entered the elevator?
  • How quickly can I get out of here?
There are other possibilities, many of which could be more colorful. Whatever the case, your trip to San Jose has begun with a rather unexpected experience and set of emotions.

Californians might shrug off this sign. Having additional context can matter. But what would you think if this was one of the first signs you saw when visiting an unfamiliar country? What might it say about the country? What might it not say? How might it influence your perceptions of the country? How might it influence your perceptions of your own country?

More later. I'll continue this theme in the next post with another example of a sign I saw in the US.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reconnecting With Another Unexpected Connection

Yesterday, I made another unexpected connection when I was at Seoul Plaza in Seoul, South Korea.

people relaxing on the grass at Seoul Plaza

While there I was reminded of my visit to Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, US.

people relaxing on the grass at Klyde Warren Park

And in case you're wondering, yes, this post ends my longest non-posting period since starting this blog. The pause was partly due to having plenty on my plate* during my first visit to the US in several years. Another reason was that when my plate appeared empty, it seemed like a good time to keep it that way.

But now I'm back, both in terms of blogging and being in Asia. Although I am eager to return to the usual themes, while they are still fresh in my mind I will share some assorted thoughts about my several weeks in the US.

More soon. Really.

*This was meant figuratively, but the literal interpretation also holds true.

Friday, April 26, 2013

In the Mood for Lunch in Mississippi

Another unexpected connection during my visit to the US occurred when I stopped by Jackson, Mississippi, for lunch.

inside a restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi

As soon as I entered the restaurant I was reminded of a restaurant far away in a much larger city. See here for an earlier post about that restaurant, Cafe de Goldfinch in Hong Kong. Although the restaurant in Jackson didn't serve Canto-Western style food and hasn't been featured in a movie by director Wong Kar Wai, it similarly could stir up feelings of nostalgia. If you're ever in Jackson, I recommend stopping by the Elite Restaurant on Capitol Street primarily for its atmosphere. The bread rolls are really good too.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unexpected Connections

During my explorations in China and elsewhere in Asia, I found that an experience in a new location could remind me of another I had elsewhere. Sometimes it seemed obvious what caused my mind to connect them. Sometimes it was not so obvious.

Recently, as I looked out from a restaurant deck onto Mobile Bay in Spanish Fort, Alabama, US, I was unexpectedly reminded of the views of Erhai Lake around Xizhou, Yunnan province, China.

two trees in Mobile Bay
Mobile Bay

three dead trees in Erhai Lake
Erhai Lake

I'm not sure why it was specially Erhai Lake that came to my mind, but it seemed to be partly about my emotions as I looked across the water.

I can't say I ever expected to make a connection between Alabama and Yunnan. For me, it was a sign of why I enjoy exploring the world. It's not just about seeing something new, but changing your perpectives on the "old". More on that topic soon.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Back in a Strange Land

Since my brief visit to Taipei, I have done a bit of traveling. And far away from the Keelung River, I recently saw another river.

Mississippi River in New Orleans

Nearby was some live music.

band playing outdoors in New Orleans

And plenty of color could be found:

colorful painting on a building in New Orleans

I'm not in Kansas, but I am now much closer to it. I enjoyed my visit to New Orleans, Louisiana, and a walk alongside the Mississippi River.

Since arriving in the U.S. last week, I have already been in five states and more are on the way. I'm here for a variety of purposes, but it was my desire to surprise some family members that until now caused me to hold off on publicly announcing my arrival.

No, this is not going to be one of those "why I'm leaving China" posts. I have a return ticket. But in addition to the typical themes found here, during the next couple of weeks I plan to share some of my thoughts about being back in the land of the free and home of the rather large portions of food. Not only has the U.S. changed since I last set foot here almost 3 years ago, but I have changed as well. I'm curious to see what I notice, especially since my new perspective on America makes it feel all the more like Nacirema.

More soon.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Dragon and a Tailor in Taipei

A spiritual and urban view from Taipei's Chingfu Kung (Jingfu Gong / 景福宮) temple:

view of street from Chingfu Kung (景福宮) in Taipei

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Keelung River

I have yet to receive a correct identification of the city seen in photos I posted here and here. Given the prominent sign of the Tainan noodle restaurant in the first photograph, I was not surprised that the best guess by far was Tainan--a city in southern Taiwan. However, the correct city is found farther north in Taiwan.

Both photos from Taipei included Songshan Road and were taken from areas north and south of the Songshan Train Station. Several sights are in the area, including the Raohe Street Night Market and the Keelung (Jilong) River:

Keelung (Jilong) River and Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan

Even if the above river scene is not familiar, I suspect some readers will recognize the iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper on the left side of the photo.

As you may have already assumed, my recent series of explorations in Southeast Asia have concluded. Perhaps I will share some more thoughts about that later. For reasons I'll explain in several more days, during the next few weeks my posting might be lighter than usual. Or it might not be. Whatever the case, more is on the way--including some new perspectives on a place I have only occasionally discussed here in the past.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Another View of Another Street Somewhere in Asia

I've received some good guesses, but nobody has yet correctly identified the city (or the street) featured in the previous post. You may have noticed that the street appears to end at a building with blurry details in the photo. The building is a useful clue, so I'll share a photo taken from one of its upper floors while looking back towards the pedestrian bridge where I took the earlier photo.

Now the building isn't so blurry. Can you identify the location? One more clue: I expect most readers have at least heard of this city (the street would be a different issue though).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Another Street Somewhere in Asia

A number of recent posts related to my experiences in Ho Chi Minh City and more are on the way. However, I am no longer there. So here is a scene from where I landed after flying out of Vietnam:

multi-laned street with cars

And now it's time for an old game. Can you identify the city (bonus points if you can identify the street)? There are a number of clues in the photo.

I will likely be traveling quite a bit during coming weeks. I'm especially curious to see what it's like for me to experience the culture at my next destination. I expect it will be quite a change of pace from both Ho Chi Minh City and the city seen above. More soon...

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Bridge in Huizhou, China

One of the bridges I crossed in Huizhou, Guangdong province:

bridge over a river in Huizhou with buildings and mountains in the background

An earlier post with some information about Huizhou and a set of photos can be found here. Two other posts, here and here, include a few other photos. They were an attempt to see if anyone could identify the city where I spent Thanksgiving a year and a half ago.

That's all. After the weekend, I plan to delve back into some posts with more... words.

An Alley in Guiyang, China

A scene from two years ago in Guiyang, Guizhou province:

an alley full of people walking

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Street Scene from Lanzhou, China

Here is a scene I saw last year in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province in Northwest China.

For some scenes from Lanzhou's Zhengning Street Food Night Market, see here.

That's all for today, but I hope to be getting back up to speed soon. More later.