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."