New Day Herald

Days 1 & 2 of the China Trip with the Travelers

Article imageThis is the first in a series of articles and images from NDH correspondent, David Sand, on the road in China with John-Roger, John Morton and 108 traveling peacemakers.

Arrival–Beijing, August 14
The city is modernizing fast–wide, tree-lined streets, cars starting to outnumber bicycles at times. It’s got that modern city veneer over ancient decay that you find in cities like Cairo, Mexico City, St. Petersburg.

What strikes me most about Beijing as opposed to other third world cities is an almost eerie quietness. People seem subdued, disciplined, undemonstrative. This is probably what Tokyo looked like before the 1960s. We get off the plane, meet for dinner, get into our rooms, and collapse.

Day two – August 15

Woke up a bit depressed, but it wasn’t mine; other people felt it too. It’s as though there’s a sense of resignation in the air. Hopelessness is way too strong a word–it’s more like these sweet, genuine, hardworking people are living their lives without the active, outgoing, hopeful thrust of people in western countries.

I decide I’m not going to go through the trip being a victim of whatever is hanging around in the ethers–so I decide to just start smiling in spite of what I’m feeling. Within an hour I’m back to my old self.

We walk through city streets and smelly back alleys, dirty but not filthy, poor but an almost middle-class, responsible poverty.

Take the subway a few stops (somewhere between the old New York subway grime and Tokyo subway crowdedness and efficiency). Sweltering, humid heat.

The destination: Buddhist and Confucian temples. Beautiful huge Buddha statues.

Then on to lunch where we’re serenaded by a local musical group. (Lots of wailing and crashing cymbals. Lucky I brought my earplugs.)

Back to the hotel by rickshaw.

By dinnertime John-Roger, John Morton, and the rest of the participants have arrived. A fun feast.

But it ends with a blackout in the restaurant (maybe something to do with the heat and humidity?) and we finish by candlelight, and walk back to the hotel in the sticky-warm summer night.

Click here to view Children of China Special Feature

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