Taken For A Ride

*white* knuckle bus ride to Logan
A Literal WHITE Knuckle Ride From Portland to Logan Airport Monday En Route To The Tropics

Yes, I *know* that it’s SO annoying to hear that Eric and Alison are traveling to some exotic location to learn about exotic food. Again. That said, most of you have heard that Alison was selected as an artist in the US State Dept. Arts Envoy Program and sent to Doha, Qatar to spend a week teaching painting. THAT will have to be the subject of another possible set of posts by Alison — I’ve seen only the photos she’s been emailing around, and occasional TXTs checking-in. Her trip brought her within an easy flight of India, which triggered my suggestion to finally have a look at The Jewel.

On Thursday Alison will leave Doha on a direct flight to Bengaluru/Bangalore (local/English names which appear here interchangeably (admittedly I’ve stuck to the western friendly areas so far) but I will call it Bangalore from now on) to join me on yet another food adventure. We will spring-board from this new MegaTechCity to the West through Karnataka toward the intersection with Kerala and Tamil Nadu states at the paint drip end of the Indian sub-continent.

I have just arrived after quite an incredible journey (from the perspective of how a modern system of amazing logistics in the era of terrorists targeting travelers operates more or less efficiently) from Boston through London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 Habitrail then on through the night to land in Bangalore where my fun “Welcome To India” story begins…
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Spring, Maine Style

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POSTSCRIPT: Yesterday the “Nor’Easter Bomb” went off farther out into the ocean that had been initially predicted, so we got ONLY the wind (not the snow) from it: steady 30 mph winds with gusts up to 50 mph…which has “settled down” this morning to 15 to 25 mph winds, while the thermometer read 2 degrees.

The Ice Storm Cometh

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This was all supposed to leave by 9am Sunday…it continues to add ice as of now at 10am Monday, and they say it may not clear out until tonight…or later…

Our power went out yesterday around 3pm but came back on at 7pm…it’s now begun to flicker again, and if it goes out it could stay out for a while given how wide the iced area seems to be. We will have light and heat without grid power but we have stored as much water as possible in buckets and jars…the cows drink about 30 gallons a day…

Day 2
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Don’t Take My Word For It

Here’s an excellent overview of the Uighur situation by the NY Times, which concludes that through its heavy handed repression of the Uighur population in Xinjiang, the Chinese government “could unwittingly radicalize a generation of young people, said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for Human Rights Watch who is based in Hong Kong. ‘The entire Uighur ethnicity feels asphyxiated, having become suspect as sympathetic to extremism,’ he said. ‘Xinjiang is trapped in a vicious circle of increased repression that only leads to more violence.'”

I wonder, however, if the Chinese government’s efforts are the opposite of “unwittingly” because as soon as there is a violent incident that is indisputably linked to a Uighur resistance group, the government will then have “license” to wipe out all but a few token Uighur communities, and their assumption of this HUGE region will be complete, claiming outright their only petroleum reserves and an increasingly crucial trade link to the rest of Asia and Europe.

Turpan Story

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The wirey man in the small room did not sit at a desk, but stood at a small metal stand — perhaps a music stand? – holding paperwork and my and Alison’s passports. He seemed young – smooth faced, long and lean, almost feline – but it’s often difficult for me to estimate age in Han men. He wore an all black uniform along with a black cloth baseball cap that had a short brim and Chinese characters stitched into the front.

“What is your name?”

“Eric Rector?” I replied as a question, obviously nervous.

“What is the purpose of your visit?” He had not yet looked at me, and continued working through the paperwork on his stand whether I replied or not. Perhaps he was filling in the blanks of a Rural Village Visa application, I wasn’t sure.

“I am touring Turpan for pleasure.” I said using the terms available in the list of options on the imagined visa form.

He laughed, which did not make sense because I’m sure he wasn’t reading any irony into this situation. My host family had tried to register our visit to their home with the village police, and the local police wanted nothing to do with us. They insisted that my hosts call the city police and follow their lead. In the village station my host called and was told: bring them to the city headquarters – we want to talk to the visitors. We also want them to check into a hotel in the city; there are not adequate facilities for them in your village.

“What is the purpose of your visit to _____ Village?” he clarified.
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Expat Experience

After an unfortunate (for all involved) mistake on the part of our Super Funky Hotel for our last night in Beijing, we “landed” at the Four Seasons a few blocks away from the US Embassy in the northeast corner of the inner-ish city (Third Ring Road out of six so far). We are surrounded by other western and western style (Kempinski?) hotels, High Fashion boutiques (Rolex, Tudor, Chopard…) in glossy shopping malls, and large boulevards.

Last night we met up with Michael and his wife (Dee) and co-worker Hao at a real micro-brewery for draft beers, lamb burgers, onion rings, and bbq chicken wings (the day before I was munching on spicy pickled chicken feet in a Chengdu market). The crowd was WAY expat with a sprinkling of hip locals, and the talk was about today’s China and how we each related to it.

When we got back to our 23rd Floor room at the ‘Seasons, I said to Alison, “it’s too bad that we aren’t going to be able to experience the ‘real’ Beijing on our last day.” And then, looking out the window at all the office towers, apartment towers, flashing advertising, and bumper-to-bumper traffic, I realized I was wrong. This experience — a westerner in the Four Seasons in this commercial and diplomatic district — this WAS a ‘real’ Beijing experience, just as much as exploring the hutongs in the Dongcheng district, visiting the landmarks, biking the streets, eating (and making) dumplings, and climbing the Drum Tower to watch the twisting pigeon flocks orbit their home roofs. We were still in Beijing where nothing and everything was changing.