Group Email, sent July 7, 2009:
News while you are traveling is always sparse and fragmented, especially in my current situation. I can’t read the Mandarin newspapers or listen to the Chinese news channels, and while prevalent in Beijing, English sources are now scarce. I have gotten some inquiries from some of you concerning recent events in China. I just wanted to send a quick note to let you know I’m doing well and everything has been going well for us. While I am in Yunnan province, we are far enough away that we did not know there was an earthquake right away. And while the organizers of the trip had originally planned for us to be in the city where the riots are occurring, we are not and will not be in that area (if we were, I’ve been told, we probably would have been quarantined and sent home). So I just wanted to let you know that I am doing well.
I am currently in the highly popular local tourist destination of Lijiang. It is sort of a Chinese “western frontier” town that was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1996. It has since been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a beautiful city in the eastern Himalayas. I can see the beginning of the Tibetan Plateau on a clear day, with the Jade Dragon Mountain, which is over 18,000 ft. The town is at about 7,800 ft. Our tour guide described this small Chinese city of 200,000 as a “one horse town.” The population density in China is just on a completely different level than the U.S. Today we went out to a local farm and learned about the Naxie culture (pronounced Na-shee). We also went to a nature conservancy in the wetlands and to a Naxie Opera. It’s been a very good day. It is pouring rain outside and I’m off to have my hot chocolate with my compatriots. We are just across the way from our amazing hotel (old Chinese style with courtyards). Feel free to let me know about any news (Tiananmen?), since my sources here are limited. I hope you have a great day.