City Views.108

An Earthquake in Sichuan

I am deliberately leading with this photo, to remind us all that life does go on even in the midst of such tragedy as a 7.9 or 8.0 earthquake. Returning to the US with its continued willful obsession with the tragic events of 9/11 and sheer stubborn unwillingness to, as it were, move on…well, it seems there are things our leaders and fellow citizens could learn from the good folks of Sichuan about accepting tragedy and moving on constructively and engagingly with life.

So , as it happens, I was in Paris debriefing from my eight+ months in Port Harcourt, when the earthquake in China happened. Having studied Chinese language and history in college; having lived in China for more than two years if you add up my time there with MSF and my student days in Taiwan, and being readily to hand in Paris for the emergency desk to ask if I’d be willing or able to help out with any relief effort we decided to try to launch…well, let’s just say that rather than returning as planned to the US and enjoying Oberlin’s graduation weekend and the celebration of Shansi’s successful fundraising campaign, in which I played an enjoyable and not insignificant role for the past four or five years, I headed off to Asia less than a week after returning to Paris from Africa. Everyone’s read the news reports, I’m sure, and knows that the government’s response has been impressive and thorough. I won’t get on the soapbox for long, but let’s just say the citizens of New Orleans would have fared far better under this regime, which so many in the US delight in criticizing endlessly, than under the band of thieving incompetents we’ve allowed to run our country for the past eight years. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves here.

…Above, you can see the mountains in the hazy background — they’re really quite close, as this town butts more or less up against them, but there was always a lot of haze (or was it pollution?) in the air. Below: I do, always have and always will, love the countryside of China. I just love rice fields and wheat fields and the small low-tech way they’re still run in China, by contrast to the superfarms that have driven American small farmers out of business…while allowing us all to pay nearly nothing in cash for our food and put off the real environmental and social costs of such factory farming for future generations to sort out. (Ooh…sorry, I’m really in a soapbox mood today, aren’t I? Sorry!)

And Then There Were the Pandas :-)

During my brief time in Chengdu it was pretty much long work days and no down time really. On the very last day, though, I managed to slip out with my delightful colleague Sarah for a visit to the famous Panda Research & Breeding facility on the outskirts of Chengdu city. There’s a larger, more forested and wild place a good deal farther outside the city, but that one was out of the question. This one was possible, only taking up a couple hours on my last morning there. I’m not at all sure this layout will work: further down there’s a sequence of shots of some young pandas playing, which I tried to lay out in sort of a filmstrip fashion from top left to bottom right…if they overlap on your browser, try launching another one: I find that strangely enough explorer often interacts better with blogspot than firefox, much as I usually prefer firefox…

By explanation: adult pandas do what many of us have seen the adult pandas do in zoos in our home countries: lie around snoozing, or if you’re early in the morning (as we were) chomping on bamboo. (Yum! I’d like mine with the spicy salsa, please!) The young pandas are another matter altogether: they’re like the young of many other mammals, overloaded with energy and playfulness, and they were a total treat to watch endlessly playing with each other like a litter of puppies.

Anyway, it was nice to be able to enjoy Chengdu even a little bit. Otherwise it seems a very nice city and I was happy with how at home I felt there, and how well my spoken Chinese came back after nearly two years away from China; the city itself was very little affected by the earthquake or the aftershocks, though of course everyone felt them all and was quite jittery, understandably.