Postcards from (smoggy) Beijing

Pollution levels reached "hazardous" levels in Beijing on Saturday. Some scientists have labled Beijing as "unlivable" because of the poor air quality in the city.

Air pollution reached “hazardous” levels in Beijing on Saturday. Some scientists have labeled the city as “unlivable” because of the poor air quality.

Pollution masks have become a necessity in the capital. I started wearing them a couple of years, after I noticed that I was getting sore throat and coughs more frequently.

Pollution masks have become a part of everyday life in the capital. I started wearing them a couple of years ago, after I bought a bike and began using it to commute around the city.

View of suburban Beijing from a subway car. Some scientists have labeled the city as "unlivable" because of the poor air quality.

View of suburban Beijing from a subway car. An Australian soccer player who spent a year in China told the magazine FourFourTwo that playing in the smog “was like closing your garage door, turning your car exhaust on and running around in the enclosed space.”

 

Advertisements

Postcards from Tagaytay

trees

Coconut trees along a highway outside Manila.

A group of police officers on an early morning run in a small town near Manila.

A group of police officers on an early morning run in a small town near Manila.

A brand-new Catholic Church. Around 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic.

A brand-new Catholic church. Around 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic.

The inside of a church under construction near Tagaytay.

The inside of a church under construction near Tagaytay.

tagaytay

Tagaytay is located about 65 km south of Manila. Because of its high altitude, temperatures are mild, and many people from Manila come to Tagaytay to escape the heat and humidity.

The area around Taal Volcano is regarded as one of the most attractive spots in the Philippines.

The scenery around Taal Volcano in Tagaytay is stunning, and is regarded as one of the most attractive locations in the Philippines.

Postcards from Guangxi

A bridge in Guilin.

A bridge in Guilin, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

A street performer in Guilin. The sign on the left says: "Don't eat cats and dogs. Don't eat friends." The other one says, "With global warming comes smog/haze. The country (government) should ban firecrackers."

A woman I passed on the way to my hostel in Guilin. The sign on the left says, “Don’t eat cats and dogs. Don’t eat friends.” The other one says, “With global warming comes smog/haze. The country (government) should ban firecrackers.” Fireworks are commonly used to celebrate Chinese New Year, but some people have called for a ban on them to curb air pollution.

In a cab, somewhere between Guilin and Yangshuo.

In a cab, somewhere between Guilin and Yangshuo county.

IMG_5566

Yangshuo county, one of the most popular tourist destinations in China.

IMG_5452

Biking through an old town outside Yangshuo county.

Scenery unforgettable; the camera bag, not so much

I’ve traveled enough that preparing for a trip has become routine. The night before I leave, I make sure essential items have already been packed. Plenty of clean underwear. Passport. Cellphone charger. ATM card. Digital SLR camera.

I sleep easier knowing that when I wake up the following morning, all I have to worry about is brushing my teeth (never optional) and showering (sometimes optional).

For Chinese New Year, I traveled to Yangshuo (阳朔), a county in southern China’s Guangxi (广西)Zhuang Autonomous Region. Because of its unique landscape, Guangxi is a place I’d been wanting to visit ever since I moved to China. The province’s karst peaks give it an otherworldly feel. Continue reading

Lake evokes memories of summers past

My favorite place in the world to watch the sun set is on the edge of my grandparents’ dock in Traverse City, Michigan. Sure, there are plenty of places more beautiful. But none hold more memories.

As I dip my feet in the chilly waters of Lake Leelanau, I’m reminded of all the summers I spent here, frolicking with cousins and pulling up stones submerged underwater in search of crayfish. I remember my once muscular grandfather, now too frail to stand on his own, wading into the water with his shirt unbuttoned, pulling a 10-foot aluminum boat to the shore with one hand. Continue reading

Reunion road leads to Santa Fe

During a recent trip home to the United States, I flew to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to visit my uncle Jim.

Jim and I became close after my father — his youngest brother — died when I was in fourth grade. Something about his presence helped fill the gap that Dad’s absence left. We’d horseplay in my front yard, and Jim, built like a defense lineman, would sling me to the ground using techniques he learned during tai chi classes.

Jim and I.

Jim and I.

I hadn’t seen him since 2008, a couple of years before I moved to Beijing. The first few times I came home to Kentucky for my annual leave, we talked on the phone but I didn’t visit. I felt guilty, and so this year I decided to go West. Continue reading

Sitting on top of the world — almost

On my last day in Shangri-La, I hiked to the top of a hill overlooking the city. The incline wasn’t steep, but every 20 paces or so I had to stop to catch my breath. The city has an altitude of 3,200 meters, and my body still hadn’t completely adjusted to the elevation.

Along the hike, I passed several tombs that had been dug into the hillside. Some were very elaborate, with sculptures of lions and carvings of people dressed in ethnic attire. I assume families chose this spot as their loved ones’ final resting place because of the view. From the hill you can see a giant golden prayer wheel – the largest in the world – and rows of mountain peaks that grow taller as you look farther into the horizon. Continue reading