China: Provinces

Harbin: "Wear Everything"


January, 11 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

"Oh, my goodness!"

The airplane from Beijing descends through the clouds towards the Harbin airport. I stare at the landscape below and I think, "Oh, my goodness!" Actually, "Oh, my goodness" is not the exact phrase that comes to mind. "Holy cow" is a little closer but still not 100% accurate.

Deserted roads and snow-covered farms spread out everywhere like an Amish quilt that landed in a vat of bleach. Smoke from a tall smokestack rises in a disturbing pattern; it blows horizontally.

"Be happy where you are, Jan. What did you expect? Tropical waves washing up against white sand? Coconut palms, maybe, swaying in a light breeze? You are in Harbin for the Ice Lantern Festival. Harbin. 45 degrees North Latitude. North of Vladivostok and halfway to the North Pole. Ice, Jan, ice. Think ice."

Harbin: "The World's Treasures"


Heilongjiang Province
January 12, 2008

My Dear Friends and Family around the World,

Now, here's a list of names from the 1920's:

Kulas, Soskin, Longovich, Kabalkin, Gofman, Makievsky, Katz, Azachovski, Trabgin, Kagan, Skidelski, Kisiliov, Kaufman, Drizin, Dobisov, Mordokovich. Russians all. One Austrian: Rosenfield.

Such names! Are they from the Lower East Side of New York? Northeast Philadelphia? The Near Westside of Chicago? Moscow?
None of the above.

Luoyang: "The Seasons"

Henan Province
Peoples Republic of China

January 20, 2008

Yesterday: Light Snow
Today: Heavy Snow
Tomorrow: More Snow

Dear Family and Friends,

Back in 1974 my wife Alice Dawn and I moved from Philadelphia to Boston. On our very first drive on the suburban country roads I noticed an unusual sight. A tall, thin, red, ten-foot steel pole was attached to every fire hydrant. At the top of the pole was a small, red, metal triangular flag. What the hell? It took me only a moment to guess the meaning of that particular artifact. I pointed it out to Alice and asked for her interpretation. Alice was no fool and she quickly understood. We both shuddered.

Luoyang: "Questions and Answers"


Henan Province

January 18, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

My old friend Konrad is curious about my traveling lifestyle. He writes, "How did it all begin? How would you suggest one get started?"

The reasons for my travels are varied and complex and Konrad deserves a proper response. In the meantime, I can offer two simple answers to his questions:

Datong: "Marathon Man, Part 1: Boston"

The snow in Luoyang never let up. I was lucky to get a seat on a train east to Zhengzhou where the airport was open. I flew back to Beijing. The weather in Beijing was clear so I made a side trip to Datong.

Shanxi Province

January 23, 2008

Dear Family, Friends and Runners Everywhere,

Did you know that Jan was a Marathon Man? Yes, it's true. Many years ago, my "salad days" coincided with the Running Explosion that erupted after the American runner Frank Shorter won the 1972 Olympic Marathon in Munich. I was one of the millions of insufferable, "I-own-the-road" joggers who clogged the streets and sidewalks of every city and town.