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February 22, 2008
Uncategorized

China!


China! Home of nearly a fifth of the planet’s population (and certainly a higher percentage of its bicycles and its smog)!

Unfortunately, we don’t have as much time in each speaking location as we did in Australia, so we rushed through Hong Kong, Shenzen, and Shanghai, and just got to Beijing today and will be going next to Taipei on the way home.

It is quite a juxtaposition to go from the wide, scarce, clear and green expanses of Australia to the tight, crowded, scurrying, choked and gray cities of China. Commerce is king here, and we are witness to countless millions of people climbing away from rural, peasant lifestyles to the imagined superiority of urban middle class. But whatever you might pity these people for, you must admire their determination and their quick, plucky zest for the new.

Best Jogs in the world: I love to get up early and go for a jog as life is waking up and getting going all around me. There is something uniquely exciting about running through a new atmosphere or backdrop, observing and marveling at what you pass and letting your endorphins embed the sensations into your soul.

I keep finding places that seem to me to be the ultimate experience in jogging. There have been at least four on this trip that ought to be nominated:

  1. Around the circular quay in Sydney, along the waterfront of the harbor, out around the Opera House on the jutting walkway above the sea, and on up through the botanical park rising above the harbor.
  2. Along the endless, curving, sugar-fine sand of the bays beside the rolling surf along the Gold Coast in Queensland near Brisbane.
  3. Down the river path by the Yarra River from Richmond to Melbourne beneath towering eucalyptus trees, paralleling the rowing crew boats with a soundtrack of new and unique bird calls.
  4. Atop the Great Wall that has divided Mongolia from China for 3,400 years, snaking around the bends in the wall, marveling at what might be the greatest structure ever built by man.

Here are some random observations about China and about the Chinese:

    • It’s hard to even imagine the scope of the population or of the economy. I mentioned to someone that 40 million people watch a particular show in the States, and he commented that that would be less than one half of one percent of the population of China.
    • The country has been transformed in the past quarter century. I was in Beijing in 1982 and stayed in what was really the only major hotel in the city, the Beijing Hotel, (a red-carpeted museum type of a structure) and the city was 99% bicycles. (by the way, listen to the song “9 Million Bicycles in Beijing” if you are hungry for a new favorite song, and if you want to discover Katie Melua, my new favorite singer). Today Beijing is an impressive city, becoming another Shanghai (which has become another Hong Kong), and with hotels as good as those in New York City.
    • Preparation for the Olympics later this year is amazing. The “bird’s nest” where they will have the opening ceremonies and the “ice cube” where the swimming events will occur are the iconic structures, but the whole thing, and the scope of it, are dazzling. And they have put it all up with amazing speed (and unlike Atlanta, there is no last-minute scrambling to get it ready in time. It is basically all done. In a one party, communist system with an unlimited labor force, you can do every thing according to plan.

The Olympics here will be absolutely overwhelming. We saw a pageant, just a little one, in Shenzhen, with 500 acrobats and wild participants of all kinds, and just started to imagine it times 100 in terms of what the Olympic opening ceremony will be.

  • The Chinese are great copiers. They can take an invention or a product and copy it perfectly and produce it faster and cheaper than anywhere else in the world. And I don’t just mean gadgets or electronics. In Shenzhen, we stayed by a theme park called Windows of the World, which has an Eiffel tower, a German village complete with cathedrals, pubs, and cobblestone streets, and they are perfect to the last detail.
  • They are also quite the planners. Everything happens on something similar to the “Five Year Plan” model from early communist days, and the Urban Planning Museum in Shanghai is truly amazing. The world expo will be held there in 2010, and there is a plan to “fix” every blighted part of the city before people start flooding in.
  • With a one-party, completely centralized government, freedoms are lost, but efficiencies are gained. Beijing, in preparation for the Olympics, recently cut auto pollution by fifty percent in one day, by simply declaring that cars with license plates ending with an even number could drive only on even numbered days, and those with odd numbers could drive only on odd numbered days. Lots of inconvenience, and a further reduction of freedom, but it also cut congestion and traffic by half.


Although the Chinese are losing many things as they urbanize and globalize, this part of the world still has amazing family traditions. The grandparents are the most respected and listened-to people in families, and ancestors are revered and remembered. This is true particularly in rural areas. Those in the autumn of their lives really count here.

One thing we are grateful for as we travel is technology. My cell phone works here. Internet is easy to find. Emails shrink the distance between kids and grandkids that we miss, and there is less and less excuse for anyone not to actively make family the first priority no matter where he is or what he is doing.

China! Home of nearly a fifth of the planet’s population (and certainly a higher percentage of its bicycles and its smog)!

Unfortunately, we don’t have as much time in each speaking location as we did in Australia, so we rushed through Hong Kong, Shenzen, and Shanghai, and just got to Beijing today and will be going next to Taipei on the way home.

It is quite a juxtaposition to go from the wide, scarce, clear and green expanses of Australia to the tight, crowded, scurrying, choked and gray cities of China. Commerce is king here, and we are witness to countless millions of people climbing away from rural, peasant lifestyles to the imagined superiority of urban middle class. But whatever you might pity these people for, you must admire their determination and their quick, plucky zest for the new.

Best Jogs in the world: I mentioned a couple of columns ago that when I am traveling, particularly in new places, I love to get up early and go for a jog as life is waking up and getting going all around me. There is something uniquely exciting about running through a new atmosphere or backdrop, observing and marveling at what you pass and letting your endorphins embed the sensations into your soul.

I keep finding places that seem to me to be the ultimate experience in jogging. There have been at least four on this trip that ought to be nominated:

  1. Around the circular quay in Sydney, along the waterfront of the harbor, out around the Opera House on the jutting walkway above the sea, and on up through the botanical park rising above the harbor.
  2. Along the endless, curving, sugar-fine sand of the bays beside the rolling surf along the Gold Coast in Queensland near Brisbane.
  3. Down the river path by the Yarra River from Richmond to Melbourne beneath towering eucalyptus trees, paralleling the rowing crew boats with a soundtrack of new and unique bird calls.
  4. Atop the Great Wall that has divided Mongolia from China for 3,400 years, snaking around the bends in the wall, marveling at what might be the greatest structure ever built by man.

Any other morning runners out there? Send me an email of a place where you like to run — your favorite jog. It doesn’t need to be some known or exotic place, just somewhere where the nature around you has touched you while you ran — where you have felt an aesthetic charge of joy as you have exercised early in the morning. Send me a description . Maybe we can all motivate each other to run or walk or exercise more.

Here are some random observations about China and about the Chinese:

    • It’s hard to even imagine the scope of the population or of the economy. I mentioned to someone that 40 million people watch a particular show in the States, and he commented that that would be less than one half of one percent of the population of China.
    • The country has been transformed in the past quarter century. I was in Beijing in 1982 and stayed in what was really the only major hotel in the city, the Beijing Hotel, (a red-carpeted museum type of a structure) and the city was 99% bicycles. (by the way, listen to the song “9 Million Bicycles in Beijing” if you are hungry for a new favorite song, and if you want to discover Katie Melua, my new favorite singer). Today Beijing is an impressive city, becoming another Shanghai (which has become another Hong Kong), and with hotels as good as those in New York City.
    • Preparation for the Olympics later this year is amazing. The “bird’s nest” where they will have the opening ceremonies and the “ice cube” where the swimming events will occur are the iconic structures, but the whole thing, and the scope of it, are dazzling. And they have put it all up with amazing speed (and unlike Atlanta, there is no last-minute scrambling to get it ready in time. It is basically all done. In a one party, communist system with an unlimited labor force, you can do every thing according to plan.

The Olympics here will be absolutely overwhelming. We saw a pageant, just a little one, in Shenzhen, with 500 acrobats and wild participants of all kinds, and just started to imagine it times 100 in terms of what the Olympic opening ceremony will be.

  • The Chinese are great copiers. They can take an invention or a product and copy it perfectly and produce it faster and cheaper than anywhere else in the world. And I don’t just mean gadgets or electronics. In Shenzhen, we stayed by a theme park called Windows of the World, which has an Eiffel tower, a German village complete with cathedrals, pubs, and cobblestone streets, and they are perfect to the last detail.
  • They are also quite the planners. Everything happens on something similar to the “Five Year Plan” model from early communist days, and the urban planning museum in Shanghai is truly amazing. The world expo will be held there in 2010, and there is a plan to “fix” every blighted part of the city before people start flooding in.
  • With a one-party, completely centralized government, freedoms are lost, but efficiencies are gained. Beijing, in preparation for the Olympics, recently cut auto pollution by fifty percent in one day, by simply declaring that cars with license plates ending with an even number could drive only on even numbered days, and those with odd numbers could drive only on odd numbered days. Lots of inconvenience, and a further reduction of freedom, but it also cut congestion and traffic by half.
  • The Church, though limited, thrives here. We had one member at one of our speeches who goes to a ward in Shanghai that has to meet in a house, but it is bulging with people. It is a country (though I felt this even more when I was here 25 years ago) that could see truly mass conversions.

Although the Chinese are losing many things as they urbanize and globalize, this part of the world still has amazing family traditions. The grandparents are the most respected and listened-to people in families, and ancestors are revered and remembered. This is true particularly in rural areas. Those in the autumn of their lives really count here.

One thing we are grateful for as we travel is technology. My cell phone works here. Internet is easy to find. Emails shrink the distance between kids and grandkids that we miss, and there is less and less excuse for anyone not to actively make family the first priority no matter where he is or what he is doing.

February 20, 2008
Uncategorized

Amazing Australia!

After almost a month in Australia, we are moving on to China! Our month here has been incredible. We’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing parents and families and to get new ideas as we passed a few on to them! Sydney was spectacular and we had so much fun in Brisbane Perth, Melbourne and Tasmania! We were so happy to be there at a historic time when the new Prime Minister officially said “Sorry” to the Aborigine’s for a Stolen Generation (see previous blog entry) and begin a new chapter in Australia’s history. What we learned, not only from the parents we taught but from the history that was taking place was invaluable! What a rare privilege we have experienced!

February 12, 2008
Uncategorized

Journey into Autumn: Notes from a Seeker #2

The Four Key Words of the Title
Richard Eyre
For the entry in this week’s journey, I am trying to focus on four words from the title:
1. “Journey”……where we are at the moment, and what we may be able to learn from the culture and the nature of each new place.
2. “Autumn”…… where we are, each of us, you and I, in the phases of our lives. (I see myself at the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn.)
3. “Notes”………where I am on whatever I am writing at the moment (at least if it is anything I think Meridian readers might find interesting) where the idea part of my head is presently.
4. “Seeker”…….where my heart is and what I am finding out about who I am and about what I want to be (particularly if it is something I think you might be looking for to)

It occurs that all four parts are really about travel…..

The first is about physical travel, which I always find awareness-expanding and perspective-enhancing (although not everyone looks at it like that, Thoreau once said “He who travels is a fool, because the whole world exists in his own back yard.”)

The second is about time travel, wherein we all pass through the seasons of life. Our youth and education is the Spring, the full-blooming, family raising, career building years are our Summer, the grandparenting, full maturity time is Autumn, and the winding down, (will it ever come) rich-memory and reflective years are Winter.

The third is about thought travel, where we pass from idea to idea, and hopefully grow in awareness and understanding….maybe even in wisdom.

The fourth is about character travel, as we evolve and become more and more of what we could be and should be….moving, hopefully, toward our fore-ordinations.

Travel of the body, travel of the years, travel of the mind, and travel of the spirit.

All four parts are also about perspective and awareness (which I boldly claimed last week comprise the essential difference between man and God.)

Travel through the world (whether in planes, computers, or books) opens us to how others live, and see, and perceive.

Travel through our lives (including all the disappointments and adversity as well as the good times) opens great new veins of awareness and perspective as we look at things from the eyes of youth, of young parents, of seasoned leaders, and of experienced observers.

Travel through our brains (or through the brains of others, by the magic of “crystal ball heads” (discussed in last week’s column below) helps us see as others see and understand what they have learned, often spawning new ideas that we can share in return.

Travel through the growth of our own character spins our clarity and vision higher and ever so gradually toward the total awareness and perspective of God

Journey

I am surprised at how much I like Australia. We’ve been here a couple of weeks now, speaking to audiences about parenting and life-balance, touring, watching the Open Tennis….and we are constantly delighted by the country and the people. It just consistently exceeds our expectations. Here are some of the reasons why:
–Its a nice combination of England and America, a nice midpoint, a good compromise. Aussies are not quite as reserved as the British, but not quite as obnoxious as some Americans. They are at least as friendly and open as Americans, but almost as articulate as Englishmen. Lost of homes and shops look English, but the countryside is open and U.S.-like. Unlike England, it has fantastic food, some of the best fresh seafood anywhere.
–It’s so uncrowded. With a landmass as big as the US and less than a tenth of our population, there are just not many people anywhere. Even big tourist attractions, at this, the height of summer, are lightly attended, easily accessible. No traffic jams to speak of. Easy to get around. (Melbourne has a fantastic public tram system.)
–Casualness. Everyone is comfortable, casual dress rules. And why not, it’s sunny and pleasant most of the time. The lifestyle is laid back but responsible.
–Fairly young and vibrant political system. The newly elected Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is calling a national summit, assembling the 1,000 “best and brightest” from all different walks of life to meet and brainstorm about the ten areas that will determine the future of the country. They also have something that is just great, and that I tried to propose in the US, which is the requirement that new legislation and new national policy must attach a “family impact statement” that analyzes how the action will affect families.
–The suburban neighborhoods are great, lots of leafy parks, lots of recreation, fountains and drinking fountains, lots of grammar schools with cute kids (lots of red heads) in school uniforms.
–Beaches everywhere. Most of the people live in coastal cities, lots of ferries, lost of bridges, and all have endless beaches, surfing, jogging, cookouts, outdoor life reigns.
–Friendly, accommodating, humorous people that you can’t help but like. Curious too, they don’t even honk at people trying to remember to stay on the left side of the road.
–Variety, and getting lots of things in one location. Take the Huon valley for example, a place we went in Tasmania. There are fantastic, old-growth rain forests there, and the ocean with ships and yachts, and great mountains, and rolling-hill farms, all in the same place.
–They are also totally sports crazy, which appeals to me a little more than it does Linda. The first night we were here, she was flipping through TV channels and, to her dismay, could not find one that didn’t have sports on it…tennis, football (soccer), Aussie rules football, cricket, you name it. One guy told us that he went to a big game one time, in a packed stadium, and there was an empty seat next to him. He asked the guy on the other side of the empty seat if he knew whose it was. The other fellow said “well, its my wife’s seat, but she died.” “Oh,” said the first guy, “well couldn’t you have given the ticket to a relative or friend?” “No,” he replied, “they are all at the funeral.”

February 6, 2008
Uncategorized

When Kidnapping was Legal

This is a picture of a picture from The Australian Newspaper which adds to the story below. The word referred to is “Sorry” and when you read the article below, you’ll see why:

I am writing from Perth, Australia. As you may have read earlier in this blog Richard and I are on a speaking tour with seven stops in Australia and then five in China. It is an amazing, life-changing opportunity to learn about the culture of families and their history first hand. The story of one group of families here is as heart-wrenching as the history of African Americans in the U.S.

The biggest difference is that instead of stories of slave traders kidnapping Africans at will and treating them almost as animals, the story here is of the Aborigines who lived on the land when the first settlers arrived in Australia. When settlers wanted the land, the indigenous Aborigines in their path were simply killed like wild animals. Men women and children were just eliminated. As time went on the violence decreased but Aboriginal tribes which were as varied and numerous as our Native American tribes were still severely discriminated against.

Beginning in 1850 those in power in the government decided that children of Aborigines would be better off if they were taken away from their parents and government officials began forcefully removing children from their homes. In 1909 the Aboriginal traveling protector James Isdell, who had formed the view that Aboriginal women were “prostitutes at heart” wrote in official letters, “The half-caste (children who were not full-blooded Aborigines) is intellectually above the aborigine and it is the duty of the state that they be given a chance to lead a better and purer life than their brothers. I would not hesitate for one moment to separate any half-cast from its aboriginal mother, no matter how frantic her momentary grief may be at the time. They soon forget their offspring”.

In 1902, a father pleading with the Aborigines Department for the return of his son, wrote:” I am afraid that (my wife) will cimmit suesdied if the boy is not back soon for she is good for nothing only cry day and night…I have as much love for my dear wife and churldines as you have for yours…so if you have any feeling atole pleas send the boy back as quck as you can. It did not take long for him to go but it takes a long time for him to come back.”

Though mothers were frantically smearing their lighter-skinned children’s faces with burned charcoal to make them look “blacker”, the “removals” under the policies of protection, absorption, integration and welfare went forward. Incredibly, from then through as late as 1970, children were taken, not only from their homes, but were sometimes even torn away from their mothers at grocery stores and cafes.

Wandering through the Australian Museum yesterday and seeing the faces and stories that surrounded them was a sad experience. The children were taken to institutions where they learned to be proper servants to white families. Mothers who couldn’t bear the grief were sent to insane asylums and children grieved their entire lives even though they were punished for “remembering”. A generation later, victims of what is now being called The Stolen Generation” are still looking for the parents they were taken from. Many rejoice at reunions, some find that their parents have passed on. Most of those grown children are still mourning the loss of a childhood with their families. Of course, in all fairness, some upon finding their families living in horrible conditions where abuse and alcohol reign, do feel that they were rescued.

Now, more than 100 years after all this began, the new Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd is going to make a historic speech on February 13th as he begins his new administration. It will include the first formal apology to the Aborigine people for this awful chapter in their history. Incredibly there are still those who say the Stolen Generation is a “myth” which matches the statements of those who say that the holocaust was a myth! Still the new Prime Minister is heroically forging a speech that will mark a new chapter that will begin the healing process for the Aboriginal families of Australia!

Learning about history is not only important but in this case, it helps us to remember to appreciate even those really difficult days with our own children and gives us a reason to hug our kids a little tighter!

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