Posted by: Jason | December 10, 2009

Guiyang Day 1

Over half of our first day in Guiyang was taken up with the flight and the bus ride to our hotel, but our hosts (Sarah, a postdoc at the Geochemistry Institute, as well as two students from the Karst Institute) wanted us to spend the afternoon at a restored 600 year-old village.  I think I speak for everyone in our group that we were also glad to get out into the poorer parts of China.  We’d spent almost a week in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, which are some of the wealthiest and most urban parts of China, and we were hankerin’ for some poverty.  And we got it – or at least we drove through it, and gaped at it through the windows.  It’s one thing to read statistics about per capita GDP and purchasing power – or even look at pictures and watch documentaries, for that matter – but it’s a whole different beast to watch people squatting in the ditch, sorting through electronics for pieces that can be melted down and sold.  (And it’s worth noting that we’re still one or two steps removed from the most desperate poverty – the outskirts of Guiyang are as different from Hong Kong as the rural villages are from the outskirts of Guiyang.) 

In any case, the restored village was quaint and strikingly beautiful, and our group injected a lot of yuan into the local economy.   Steve and I also made some Chinese teenagers giddy when we agreed to pose for pictures with them.  It was adorable that they asked, and we were happy to be their tall, bearded, American spectacle. 

Sarah and I also had a long conversation about education in China – particularly about the utter lack of a liberal arts tradition, and what that means for their approach to environmental problems.  The timing of these posts is a little wonky (I’m on a two-day lag for the main posts, but I’ve been posting a handful of things out of order), and I wrote more about our conversation yesterday morning.

 

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