Final Post

This blog is still getting some traffic so it seems like I should add a final post, although it is probably a bit unnecessary. The photos at the bottom are some more of my favorites. I thought I would base the text of this post around three of the most common questions I get asked about my trip:

What was your favorite thing about China?

The people and the food.

During our travels I found the people in China to be very welcoming, friendly, and beautiful. I felt comfortable the moment we stepped outside of the Beijing Airport. I was perhaps most impressed with how social everyone seems to be. Public gathering spaces are abundant and well utilized by people of all ages. Despite the language barrier most people I encountered were very engaging. The mention of the social aspect of China offers a great segue into the food.

The food was absolutely amazing, which I reiterated ad nauseam throughout this blog. During our 3 weeks in China we tried hundreds of different dishes. One meal alone could easily have a variety of 10 different things to try. The great array of plates on the table was commonplace because we almost always ate as a large group. As you may have seen in the photos, there is typically a ‘lazy susan’ in the middle of the table and the dishes are spun around and shared. There are usually some favorites and some competition for those favorites; which is entertaining at the least and certainly important for group relationship building. The point of all this babble is that in China not only do they eat phenomenal food but they often engage in group meals that are very social. In the U.S. we often eat in isolation or sit in front of our computers at work and wolf down lunch. The professionals we interacted with in China were pretty much appalled at our working lunch attitude in the States.

What was the best part of the trip?

I can’t even begin to say how lucky I felt to have the opportunity to travel through China with a purpose, and with such a great group of people. We were constantly on the move attending meetings, visiting relevant sites, eating amazing food, and traveling to new places. I really appreciate the members of the What If group and all the people we met during our journey.

My favorite part in many ways was our visit to Alashan. This region is located in Inner Mongolia and it is not as common a place to visit as Shanghai and Beijing, kind of off the beaten path if you will. I certainly don’t want to downplay our time in Beijing or Shanghai as I thoroughly enjoyed (and would return to) both of those places. But Alashan was magical and I pretty much felt privileged to be there.

I also really enjoyed keeping this blog. Thanks for checking it out!

What did you learn?

I learned a great deal about China’s water resource and environmental issues. I also learned a lot about how things work in China. A generic statement to be sure, but a Central Government operates a lot differently than what we are accustomed to in the United States. There are good and bad things about a Central Government. An obvious disadvantage, among many, is the suppression of information. One advantage though, is that policies that benefit the population can be put into action much quicker.

I was really excited to learn about the emergence of NGOs in China. I wrote about this already, but I think NGOs could ultimately be the driving force of major change in China. I also think NGOs have great potential to build bridges with other countries and allow international cooperation in solving environmental and social problems in China. This would have positive repercussions throughout the globe.

I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the great deal I learned from the group I traveled with. While we are all professionals involved with water resources, our backgrounds and specialties are different. It was nice to be part of such well rounded discussions.

Last, I learned (or was reminded) that I have incredible family, friends, and colleagues who supported and inspired me during my trip.

The end.

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Some More Photos

Just in case anyone is still checking (or just now stumbling upon) this blog, I thought I would put up some more photos. Many of these have already been posted or are variations of pictures that have been put up already, but some are new. I think my jetlag is gone for the most part. The 4th of July celebrations seemed to help quite a bit. I will add some additional pictures in a day or two.

Be well,


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A Quick Follow-up

On Sunday I said I would post something yesterday or today, so I better keep my word. I had a plan to develop some more photos and add them, but I honestly haven’t had time. I will try to do this over the weekend but it may be Tuesday when I add a new post. The number one question I have been getting lately is about jetlag. There is a theory that it takes one day for each time zone you travel across to fully adjust/recover. In this case it would be about 12 days, and when I flew from the U.S. to China this formula was quite accurate. Upon my return it seems to be going much faster. Although I did feel a bit out of it the first two days, today I feel almost back to normal. I have somehow gotten regular sleep each night and I feel lucky for it. The biggest adjustment for my body so far has been the food. The food I typically eat in the States is much more calorie dense than the wonderful food we ate in China. Other than that, my re-entry to ‘life as I know it’ has been pretty seamless.

Since I don’t have any photos for visual stimulation I added a Google map of our general travels. China is a huge country so it was nice to draw some lines and plot some points to see where we visited. Click here to check it out.

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Final Day in China

Well Beijing, you’ve sweat me through my last set of clean clothes. Until next time I suppose. Today was a heater, clocking in at 34 degrees on the Celsius scale with air so moist you could almost go for a swim while strolling down the sidewalk. We leave tomorrow bright and early, so I thought I would add a few shots and put down my last words while still in China. I will post something next week most certainly, probably on Wednesday or Thursday. Thanks again for reading and looking at the photos. This has been an incredible journey, and it will likely take me a long time to fully process it.

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798 Art District

Today a good portion of the group went to the 798 Art District in Beijing. It is a pretty trendy and commercial place, but is also completely fascinating. 798 is situated in an old industrial area and is an ideal setting for galleries and street art. Most of the galleries request that you don’t take photos, and I respected that for the most part. Because of this a lot of the shots are of graffiti, which is something I really enjoy and saw very little of in China. If you are ever in Beijing and you like art I HIGHLY recommend stopping through 798.

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Day 18 – Final Symposium Day

Today we wrapped up the symposium. The Chinese and American What If delegations discussed ways to create further collaboration between the United States and China on water issues. We also explored ways to engage high school and college students on topics of environmental protection and water resources. I am out of touch with students these days, but I think it is important that they are made aware of the newly emerging green economy and the variety of career paths associated with it. When I was a student and expressed an interest in the environment everyone told me my only option was to be a park ranger. While that is a great profession, it is fortunate we have come a long way since then.

We also had some time to have an open exchange with the Chinese delegation. It was nice to have a chance to ask candid questions and was a great opportunity to learn more about the perspectives of our peers in China.

A highlight of my day was getting to ride the Shanghai light rail during rush hour. When the train arrived and opened its doors there appeared to be space for about 3 people. Somehow 15 people were squeezed in like sardines. This may sound terrible but it was something I wanted to experience. It was certainly more packed than Chicago’s Blue Line during rush hour, but somehow much more civil and relaxed.

We are now on our way back to Beijing and will spend two days there before flying to the States. I plan on taking a lot of photos and posting them to the blog.

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Day 17 – The Peppers were Hot and the Beer was Cold

As we ate dinner overlooking the Huang River and the famous buildings of the Shanghai Financial District we talked about the symposium held earlier in the day. From 9 to 5 the Chinese and American participants of the What If program worked in groups sharing ideas on how China and the United States can collaborate on environmental protection and access to clean drinking water.

In the morning my group explored the following question, “What are the long term policies that have realistic chances to make significant gains in fighting environmental degradation?” There were a lot of great ideas shared. I offered the United State’s experience with the Energy Policy Act of 1992 as an example to learn from and expand on. This piece of legislation, among other things, created new standards for plumbing fixtures such as toilets, showerheads, and faucets. Water use in the United States greatly declined because of this.

One thing I was very excited to learn about on this trip is the emergence of NGO’s in China. There seems to be a paradigm shift in regard to how policy is influenced here. I am hopeful that NGO’s may provide a bridge in which the U.S. and China can work together. We discussed this a bit as well today, and I plan to explore it more in the future.

In the afternoon we worked on creating a curriculum for a website that would inform young professionals about global water issues. We had quite a brainstorming session and came up with a lot of great ideas. This is a very multidisciplinary group and we are learning a lot from one another, and each person has unique input.

Not a lot of pictures to share today. I did eat a duck foot during dinner, but I didn’t have my camera with me. Hope you are well.


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