My Global Book Shelf: Almost Home, by Janet Brown

almost homeAlmost Home, The Asian Search of a Geographic Trollop, is Janet Brown’s second travelogue. In Tone Deaf in Bangkok, which I reviewed in my previous blog, here, Janet took us on a journey through the back alleys of the Thai capital, offering us glimpses of the city that very few tourists care to see. More importantly, she took us on her own private journey, as she explored facets of her identity. In her own words, Tone Deaf in Bangkok was a “thank-you note to Bangkok which became a book, a long series of stories about my years there.”

In Almost Home, Janet pushes her exploration further. After seven years in the US, feeling like an exile, she has decided to move permanently to Bangkok. But the political situation has become deeply troubled, and she no longer feels at home in the city she loves so much. As she travels to Hong Kong, Beijing and Penang, spending weeks and months at a time in each place, she wonders : “Could I live here?” Almost Home is a quest for a place to call Home, that most elusive of notions.

As the author mentions, wisely, at the end of her fascinating journey : ” I’ve found out that exploring can range wide on familiar ground or can be quite narrow in exotic territory. “I have traveled a great deal in Concord,” Thoreau said, while centuries later, backpackers often spend their time in Bangkok in front of a computer screen or a TV blasting Western movies.”

Janet’s way of traveling is conscious, and meticulously deliberate.  She is not interested in sights (as someone who feels the need to see those sights with my own eyes, in a way that sometimes borders on mania, it is something I find equally puzzling and enviable) as much as she’s interested in people. Every walk she takes (and does she walk!) is an adventure to be savored, the way she savors food: slowly, in exquisite, meaningful detail. She has the true gift of observation, turning the most mundane scene into beauty, as that morning when she’s standing at the window of her room, in Chungking Mansion, Hong Kong, and sees “objects drifting past like snowflakes, but very large snowflakes. Plastic bags, wads of paper, bits of Styrofoam floated down from an upper floor, surreal, silent, and somehow lovely as they fell. I thought of living here, where garbage became performance art…”

Janet Brown not only exhibits a wanderlust she traces back to her childhood, when her “mother told some neighborhood children that [she] could not go with them because [she] was “too little to go exploring,”” she also exudes passion, and a daredevil lust for life I find totally irresistible: “The whisper of waves had been replaced by a soft rush of wind moving the surrounding trees and for a minute I greedily longed to stand in this place during a storm.”

Her writing style is precise, elegant, often lyrical, and surpassed only by an immense generosity. Even as she grants her readers the privilege of discovering fascinating places through the magnifying lens of eyes that see well beyond the obvious, she also gives us the opportunity to get a feel for the real people who inhabit them as they go about their daily lives, all the while inviting us to follow her own intimate reflexions.

“Could I live here?” Could I call this place Home? Where is Home, when you can choose the whole world? Where is Home, when you were born with a wandering soul and insatiable curiosity? Where? That question resonates within the hearts of most, if not all expatriates or exiles. I know it looms large over us. Where do we want to live, later, once we no longer have a job or an organization making that decision up for us?

If I still lived in Dhaka, I would definitely suggest this as one of our book club reads. Most of us are now scattered all over the world, some having returned to their passport country, but I know we would all spend a great evening trying to find an answer to this question.

Janet Brown has found it, in a way that gives her quest meaningful and satisfying closure. Luckily for us, her readers, it does not mean the end of her wanderlust. She’s currently back in Bangkok, and you can follow her at her blog, Tone Deaf in Thailand.


Paris and Padlocks…

Recently, I read this article in the New York Times complaining about the small locks that have started appearing on some bridges in Paris. Coincidentally, I was myself in Paris, a couple of weeks ago, and my reaction to this new phenomenon was quite different.

I first noticed the lines of padlocks on the Pont des Arts, as the bus took us to the Musée d’Orsay. I couldn’t figure out what they were, and wondered briefly if maybe it was some Modern Art exhibit. Then, as we came out of the Musée d’Orsay, we decided to cross to the other side of the Seine river. We went up the steps of the Passerelle Léopold Sédar Sanghor, and there they were again, thousands of padlock attached to the metal railings.

The author of the article is so annoyed about them, she titled her piece “An Affront to Love, French Style.” An affront, really? I’m French (maybe not the “Frenchest” of  French people, but nevertheless born and raised in Paris, with a French father, a French passport, and the first 24 years of my life lived in that country), and I happened to think it was a cute, rather endearing thing to do. Some people complain, apparently, about the preservation of our architectural heritage. I’m not sure how the architectural heritage is desecrated, here. The Passerelle Leopold Sédar Sanghor is not even an old footpath : the original Pont de Solférino built under Napoleon III was destroyed and rebuilt first in the Sixties, and then in the Nineties. Not exactly old. As for the Passerelle or Pont des Arts, well, art and love go well together, don’t they? One of the comments at the bottom of the article’s online version mentions that young people used to make love on that small footpath, at night. Different times, different customs ? Besides, the city administration already had the bridges cleaned of all those locks, once – they can do it again whenever it becomes too much.

According to the author of the article, “Walking on those bridges has become almost insufferable for” Parisians. Bah ! Parisians certainly love to grumble and complain – All French people do, it’s a national passe-temps. Still, “insufferable?”

Finally, using this as an excuse to wax philosophical, and give us a lesson about how French people have lived and understood love since the Sixteenth Century, no less ? N’importe quoi, as we say in Molière’s language ! I’d bet some of those locks don’t belong to lovers, but simply to tourists who wanted to leave a little souvenir back in the beautiful city of Paris. And I’d also bet that some of those padlocks belong to lovers who happen to be French. If the red one in the picture below is any indication, it also takes some preparation. I don’t know many people who walk around with a padlock bearing a heart, two names, and a date…

Whether in Rome, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or numerous other places around the world, people throw coins in fountains and make a wish. The love locks or wish locks have their own diverse history, it seems, and whether the tradition started in Taiwan, in Serbia before the Second World War, or in Uruguay, it certainly touches hearts on some level. It’s a basic human need for symbols that transcends cultures and borders. Like carving hearts and names on a tree bark. If I’m to choose, I’d rather see lines of padlocks on a metal railing.

Jet Lag through the ages – well, mine.

I’m Back in Dhaka, after a 2-month summer holiday that’s taken me to France, to the Dominican Republic, and back to Bangladesh by way of Paris, where we stopped for a few days in hopes of alleviating the effects of jet lag. Fat chance. I have not been able to fall asleep at night since we landed, three days ago, and at 4 am, this morning, my confused, exhausted mind began crafting this post.

In my twenties, when I first travelled far enough to cross a few time zones, Jet Lag had a delicious, exotic quality. It meant that I had become a globe trotter. I was young, full of energy, and even as someone who’s always needed a lot of sleep, skipping a night was not worth even a passing thought.

At 30, I moved to New York City, and for a few years, I went back and forth between France and the US. Jet Lag was still exciting, still something I could negotiate without pain, but I did start to notice some patterns. It was easier to travel from France back to the US than it was to fly the other way, for instance. Going West simply meant that I’d wake up very early for a few days. Going East, well, it would take me a day or two to adjust.

In my late thirties, I became a mother. Oh boy! From one day to the other, sleep became a mirage, something elusive that you desperately long for. During the first few months, until our daughter slept at least five hours through the night, I basically stumbled about life – the perfect Zombie Mama. Taking my baby daughter to France for three weeks when she was only two months old did not help her to settle into a sleeping routine, of course. And then, we moved from New York City to Nigeria. Thankfully, our little one quickly developed the rare ability of adjusting her sleep to the needs of our schedule. Did we go to bed at 10 or 11 PM for some reason? She’d conveniently sleep until 10 or 11 AM the following morning. Not always. But all things considered, pretty often.

Then, came our second daughter, born in New York City, between our appointment in Nigeria and our new posting in India. The first few weeks in the US were slightly easier than the beginnings with our first baby because my mother, who’d come to help, this time, took the 5 AM shift. Still, when the little one turned six weeks old and we had to fly to Hyderabad, ten time zones away, the combination of postpartum hormones, accumulated fatigue, and the usual stresses linked with moving meant that I cried the entire day. I cried as I showered, and frantically packed suitcases. I cried behind my sunglasses as the taxi took us to the airport. I cried some more when we were checking in, and I had to rush to the toilet because  my periods had chosen that moment to return. I was still crying in the plane as it took off, and I continued to cry until we were way over the Atlantic ocean. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to go to India. I just didn’t want to leave Brooklyn, not right then. We landed in Hyderabad around midnight, local time, exhausted beyond words, but proud that both our daughters, the 4-year-old, and the 6 weeks old, had behaved impeccably throughout the whole journey. We crashed in our hotel room, and I remember that our baby was sleeping on the bed, beside me. When I woke up, six hours had passed, and the baby was still sleeping! She’d just slept through her first night. I always attributed this little miracle to the fact that we had changed time zone and day had turned into night. A good consequence of Jet Lag.

Well, I’d entered my forties, by then, and our second daughter turned out to be quite different from her sister. She does not need a lot of sleep, and she’s not very good with Jet Lag. She’s now eight years old, and she’s spent the last three nights wide awake, and determined not to be left alone. She keeps barging into our bedroom, declaring that she has nothing to do. When it is 3 AM, and all you wish is to melt into Morpheus’ slippery embrace, having such an imperious little person around is pretty hard on your frazzled nerves. Fortunately, school started again, this morning, and she had to get up at 7 AM. I’m counting on sheer exhaustion to take care of her Jet Lag – and hopefully, mine, too. But as I prepare to exit my forties, I hereby declare that Jet Lag is no longer fun or exotic. It is a pain.

Racing boats and celebrating Women in Agoiljhora, Barisal

Last week, I (along with 8 fantastic ladies) visited the village of Agoiljhora, a couple of hours drive from the port town of Barisal, in the south of Bangladesh. We were gone only 48 hours, just enough to travel back and forth and partake in the celebrations around International Women’s Day, but these hours were filled with intense, fun-filled, and unprecedented experiences.

We left Dhaka aboard one of the Rocket Boats, a paddle-wheel river steamer built in the 1920’s, and I’ll dedicate another post to that first leg of our journey. For now, I would like to rush to the Barishal regional office of TARANGO, the acronym for Training, Assistance and Rural Advancement Non-Goverment Organization, where a traditional welcome with marigold garlands, and the traditional Tilaka or Tikka (the area is predominantly Hindu) awaited us.

In the past 30 years, TARANGO has helped tens of thousands of women through their programmes (Handicrafts, Women Entrepreneurship Development, Village Savings and Loan Association, and Women Institutional Development.) They’re best known for their beautiful jute bags, and their baskets sold across the UK and other European markets, including fancy stores like The White Company, London.

Recently,  TARANGO started organizing a women’s boat race on International Women’s Day, but this year, the race involved a group of unexpected, if rather conspicuous participants: eleven Bideshi (foreigners in Bengali) women crazy enough to embark on a traditional flat bottom boat without any preparation whatsoever. All we had was a pair of arms each, and plenty of enthusiasm.

I had somehow accepted the responsibility of steering the boat, being blessed with reasonable good balance, but after only a few minutes during which I narrowly escaped falling headfirst into the water, and almost clobbered my friend sitting at the tail of the boat, a man wearing a dhoti tucked high up on his legs jumped aboard, grabbed the steering paddle from my hands, and proceeded to steer the boat while yelling orders in Bengali that none of us could hear – the racket was astonishing – forget about understanding them. In his considerable enthusiasm, our rescuer also cheered us up, shouting, and swinging his arms wildly back and forth. Incidentally, he also hit my head and shoulders (and those of my friend paddling on the other side of the boat) whenever they happened to be in his way – pretty much all of the time. And when he felt we were not paddling fast enough, he’d drop the steer, leap forward to the middle of the boat, which immediately diverged according to the current (which was pretty strong and contrary, I forgot to mention), yell and swing his arms some more, before he remembered his mission and bounced back to his steering position.  I have no idea how long the race lasted, but thanks to this impromptu collaboration, we eventually did glide under the red string marking the finishing line.

Of course, we lost the race. But it’d been a long time since I’d laughed so much. And, if the joy and appreciation demonstrated by the very large public is any indication (the banks of the river were packed with throngs of people on each side, as shown in pictures below), the story of our clumsy participation will keep the area’s villagers entertained for many years to come. Invitation was already extended for us to come back again next year, and indeed, why not ? It would be nice if we could train, though, so we don’t look so utterly ridiculous, next time. Maybe I’ll bring a helmet, too.

None of us took their cameras on board the boat. We weren’t even sure we’d be able to operate it without capsizing it. Besides, we’d seen a few of the local participants frantically scooping water out of theirs, so we also had to worry about it sinking. But I still hope some pictures or short video will turn out, somehow.

In the meantime, here are photos of the area, the crowds cheering on each side of the river, and last but not least, the official participants to the 2011 TARANGO Boat Race.

This lady kindly demonstrated the paddling moves for us.

Before the races, we sat under a colorful tent as they kicked off the day's celebrations with a few speeches and, much more to my taste, a couple of songs.

As we only participated in the last race, with the winning team, we first got to follow the action onboard a "speed boat" - well, it had a motor. This was the bottom! See what I mean when I mention the possibility of sinking?

On your marks! Get set! Go!

As I said, there were a few people around...

The winners, their red and white saris still soaking wet. It was a joy to witness their pride and unabashed happiness. The team was awarded medals that we each passed around their necks, and... a television to be shared by the community.

By then, it was only the middle of the day, and we still had a few mundane things to do, like break a clay pot blind-folded, sing a cappella in front of hundreds (more?) people, and dance, but this is for another post…

Pnom Penh, back in 1993, and at the turn of 2012.

In March 1993, I was in Bangkok, about half-way through a backpacking tour of South East Asia, when I met some travelers headed for Cambodia. At the time, the mention of Cambodia brought forth thoughts of civil war, mass killings, and land mines ; Pol Pot was still alive, and the Khmer Rouge actively blowing up trains and generally trying to disrupt the fragile peace accord signed in 1991, along with the incoming UN-administered elections. Opinions in the Bangkok guest-house were divided : some thought the situation too volatile to risk going there, while the rest was inclined to override such concern and just go, ’cause, hey! what an adventure!

I was crazy (or wise) enough to belong to the second category, and so, boarded an old Russian plane from Kampuchea Airlines and landed (after being thoroughly shaken, stirred and smothered in thick white fumes) in Pnom Penh’s dust and heat. I have unearthed my journal, and translated some excerpts. On a side note, this was before the digital age, so the number of pictures is limited, as is the quality, I’m afraid. I regret that, and it’s made me realize, more than ever, how much easier and convenient things have become for travelers, nowadays. We can carry hundreds of pictures on a card the size of a thumbnail, as opposed to loading film rolls, having to protect them from rain and dust and sand by storing them in Ziplock pouches, etc. Not to mention the comfort of being able to take a picture, check if it’s any good, and simply delete and start again when it isn’t. But let’s return to Cambodia, in the spring of 1993.

“Pnom Penh is a vast pile of ruins with, here and there, an old, crumbling colonial mansion emerging from the rubbles, a glimpse of splendors past. 

The streets are mostly dirt tracks with some paved avenues and lots of two or three-wheel-vehicles sputtering along as they carry as many passengers and merchandises as possible: strange bicycles fitted with a second saddle lower than the first one, side-cars, cyclo-pousses, and motorcycles. In fact, when we want to go somewhere, we just stand on the side of the street or the road and within seconds, someone stops and offers to take us wherever we want to – for a little money, of course. Moto-taxis. Sometimes, communication is easy, as when our young driver spoke English and explained to us that his parents had been killed by the Pol Pot regime and he’d had to interrupt his studies in Mathematics. Other times, they don’t understand us any more than we understand them, and we have to rely on body language and lots of finger-pointing, as we try to find our destination : no small feat when, like me, the orientation fairy forgot to show up at your cradle. But we always end up where we meant to, if not by the most direct route.

I don’t believe there’s more than two or three traffic lights in the whole of Pnom Penh. People just launch themselves onto the road, and the strongest or fastest wins. To this sputtering chaos, we must add hundreds of ubiquitous white Land Cruisers and trucks with the painted black UN logo on their sides. They’re everywhere. […]

It is brutally hot, dusty, and a rats’ playground. Lots of signs in French, and lots of French restaurants I cannot afford. BUT there is the baguette – without salt, alas! which renders it rather tasteless. With some Vache qui rit (my food staple, here, along with heavenly mangoes, as the food in the streets is rather unpalatable and boring – I love noodle soup, but to a point), it works fine. […]

What is striking is how young people are. You don’t see many old men or women around. Children. Women. And young men. […]

There is a feeling of excitement in the air laced with an undercurrent of fear, as if we’re sitting on a volcano, with no way of knowing whether it is extinct or might erupt at any moment. Hope is strong, almost palpable, and yet shadowed with uncertainty… at the elections, reports of Khmer Rouge bombings here an there, the situation with Vietnam.” […]

“People are extraordinarily nice. They smile constantly. Children run to or after us, laughing and shouting “Hello!”.”

The picture above was taken by the stadium, where families seemed to camp out on mats. And always, always, smiles and laughter.

And a view of the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda, from what was then called Lenin Boulevard.

We were allowed to see the gorgeous murals depicting scenes from the Reamker, which is the Khmer version of the Ramayana, inside the Silver Pagoda’s compound.

But in order to see the Silver Pagoda and the Emerald Buddha, an official authorization from the Ministry of Information and Culture was needed. My fellow travelers were much amused when I devoted the next two days to trying to get said authorization. I ended up having long conversations with government officials, usually in French, and they must have laughed a lot, as they sent me from one office to another, from one ministry to another (Department of conversation of monuments, Ministry of Information and Culture, and a few in between – that only was an adventure, as many of the signs for said ministries were written in Khmer), maybe knowing all the time that I would never get said authorization. I don’t know. I didn’t get to see the Silver Pagoda, but in spite of my disappointment, the quest was fun.

I finally entered the Silver Pagoda, this time around. The Emerald Buddha is gorgeous, but the famed solid silver tiles covering the floor are now entirely hidden under carpets. We lifted a corner and saw a few underneath. Oh well ! I’d waited eighteen years to see them, so the reality couldn’t possibly match what I had imagined all this time, anyway.

And now, a few pictures of Pnom Penh, this time in December 2011.

I loved the energy, in Pnom Penh. The city is very different from what I described in my journal. Except for the people smiling. Things work, the food is great, and I loved walking along the Tonle Sap river, on the Croisette, and seeing Cambodians enjoy the evening as they sit about, watch the world go by, exercise with a boom box or on the machines available to all, or buy offerings for the temples. Our stay there was ridiculously brief – about 36 hours, we spent much more time in Siem Reap – to be able to say much more, but it is the kind of place I could totally see myself settling in.

Next post, we’ll travel to Siem Reap, and again, back in time.

China – and what do you do in your free time ?

It started at the airport departure terminal, in Dhaka. The only passengers having fun (as opposed to watching animal documentaries on TV, looking bored, or talking and texting on their phones) were the Chinese, who’d turned the top of a cabin suitcase in a table, and were playing cards.

We spent our first week-end in Beijing visiting the sights, obviously, but also walking, walking, walking from one to the other. We were using a map that gave us a wrong feeling for distances at the beginning. “Oh, this here is really close, let’s go.” And we’d end up hiking for an hour, or more. Or we’d try to get a taxi, couldn’t, and pushed a little more, a little more, until we finally got there on foot. We were so sore, after the first two or three days, my husband and I would collapse in bed, at night, groaning and moaning. Our girls didn’t complain much, not even the little one, who doesn’t like walking, usually, and it says a lot about how easy and nice it is to navigate in that very large city. Ok, I can’t resist inserting a picture. See? How clean, with a separate lane for bicycles. We were so impressed, we felt compelled to take a photo of an empty street and road signs.

Street in Beijing

Here is the type of street scene we get, in Dhaka.

Street in Dhaka

I know, comparing is not fair. I said it, and I mean it. Still, hard not to, at times.

But I digress.

Let’s go back to the way Chinese people spend their leisure time on week-ends. They play – cards, chess, dominos. They sing. They dance. Ballroom Dance is pretty popular, apparently. They practice their Tai Chi forms. They visit their monuments, and enjoy their truly beautiful parks. They fly kites.

What I loved, more than anything, is their total lack of self-consciousness. In Kunming, we spent an afternoon in a gigantic park south of the city, and saw two ladies who had brought their boom box and were singing and dancing together, right there in the open, for all to see and enjoy. So refreshing.

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A picture with me, a picture with you.

Taking pictures in China is fun. It seems that everybody has either a camera or a phone, and they’re not shy when it comes to using them. People are happy if you take their pictures, and more often that not, they’re actually the ones to ask if you will pose with them. Man, woman, young and old, English or no English, they walk up to you with a wide smile, and it’s simply impossible to say no. Once, in Xi’an, we created a mini congestion, as a picture with one person turned into half a dozen with young women crowding our kids so they could fit in the frame, too. And let’s not forget: everyone holding index and middle finger in a V sign. I’m not that inclined to let strangers go away with my picture or that of my children, but in China, really, it felt genuine, and bon enfant. And I liked the reciprocity. I take your picture. You take my picture. Let’ all take each other’s pictures, and everyone will be happy.

Our family also attracted a lot of stares and open curiosity because of our obvious mixed heritage. But there again, I never felt any animosity. Once only, on the first day, a group of older Chinese men and women stood in front of me and my little one (we were sitting on a rock, in a park, at the end of a long day, after a very long night flying there) talking about us in a way that was too obvious not to be somewhat rude. I don’t speak Chinese, but it was clear that they wondered if my daughter was mine, and they were trying to find similar features in our faces. Then, they saw my husband, and there was a lot of laughter, and they walked away. That was the only time I was slightly annoyed. Otherwise, it felt like candid curiosity about something unusual – to them.

Once, my husband even heard “movie star” (yes, in English) and all of a sudden, he had a dozen young Chinese women surrounding him, and pictures were taken left and right. Someone in China, at this minute, may be searching the Internet, looking for a black movie star, and feeling very disappointed that the guy on her mobile phone or camera is nowhere to be found.

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So, where do I start? The great, the grand, the fascinating or the exquisite? The modern or the ancestral? The efficient, the dynamic or the well-organized? Do I sound like I liked it? Good. But that’s an understatement. I was bowled over by China.

Of course, this comes  from someone who’s spent the last ten years of her life calling Nigeria, India, and now Bangladesh, home. Not that comparing is ever fair. Bangladesh is a small, young country, for instance. Still : small and young are not excuses for the appalling governance, lack of even basic infrastructure and general chaos that plague this country. Nigeria is huge, and don’t start me on the governance or chaos there. India is even bigger, even though I found it much, much more user friendly than Nigeria. We often hear of India and China in the same breath when it comes to talking about the economical powers of the future. That’s where avoiding comparisons becomes difficult.

As an Indian lady who’s been working for UNICEF in Beijing for two and half years put it when we had dinner with her : “China has left us (meaning India) in the dust.”

I’m not going to dwell on the human rights issues (most intolerable, definitely). Nor can I pretend to have an exhaustive, and informed opinion about China. I was there as a tourist, and only eight days. All I know is : We’re already planning to go back, next time to Shanghai and the south, and I know it will be another wonderful voyage.

I’ll try and post some vignettes in the days to come. Just one aside, and it will only serve to emphasize my point. The flight there, and back, was the stuff of nightmares. And not only because I find it increasingly difficult to fly overnight.

China Eastern has got to be one of the worst airlines I’ve used in my many years of traveling (and that includes some pretty scary flights out of Sumatra or into Pnom Penh, some seventeen years ago.) Just as an example, they didn’t spray the cabin after all the passengers boarded the plane in Dhaka.

Dhaka is infested with mosquitoes, the type of infestation that has people swiping the air constantly in order to push swarms of the buzzing dengue or malaria-carrying blood suckers away (quite inefficiently, I might add). For almost an hour after we boarded, we were surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes, and I had to use the aircraft safety card as a fan to shoo them away. And of course, the airplane attendants, although perfectly polite and charming, barely understood or spoke English. Only once in the air, and the air conditioning working full blast, did the mosquitoes seem to go into hiding – I have not figured out where.

The return flight from Kunming was another adventure. Again, flying around midnight, we reached an airport that was packed with people, showed our tickets, and several attendants instantly tied purple satin-like ribbons around our wrists. We were then lead to a counter. Only it was the counter for passengers to Bangkok (not that we would have minded flying to Bangkok rather than going back to Dhaka). We had to visit another counter before we ended up at the right one. There, we learned that the plane’s departure had been advanced by 45 minutes and we had barely made it on time – of course, there had been no email, nor sms to warn us. We were rushed to the gate, only to have to wait, and wait, and wait, and in the end, the plane left later than the original time.

This type of anecdotes travelers collect by the dozen, I know. But I’m getting older, and we’re traveling with two children. Most of all, I use these examples to emphasize how even these inconveniences couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm about China.

More to come…