Last weekend I was a guest speaker for a group of young Chinese women. They’re preparing to apply to college, and their leader—an exceptional woman—asked me to help inspire their growth in the interim.
The topic of the workshop was “Thinking Outside the Box.” One objective was to explore activities the girls could pursue to boost their personal development and college apps. We dug into interests that appeared unrelated (i.e. science and music), and looked for ways to combine them in unique projects. We pulled back the curtain on perceived obstacles, reasons why we think something is not possible, and brainstormed alternate routes to success. Read more…
Next morning’s adventure led us east on a bullet train to the 4,000-year-old city of Luoyang, in Henan Province. It was a mass of humanity. A friendly Kentucky Fried Chicken employee we met helped us understand the true scale of China’s cities. He told us about his “small” hometown—of only four million people! Luoyang’s traffic was bonkers. One of our drivers changed lanes by swerving across the dividing line into oncoming cars.
In Luoyang we had another animated twentysomething guide. Dong Dong was a walking encyclopedia. He taught us about everything from the I Ching to the sociological effects of China’s one-child policy. We drove to Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These are Buddhist caves into which 1,300-1,500-year-old statues are carved. I felt powerful energy emanating from the stones, amplified by the beautiful river flowing alongside them. Read more…
China is developing at lightning speed. The never-ending cranes, construction sites, and new cars on the road are but a few symbols of its growth. Yet one of the most compelling aspects of living here is the ever-present connection to history. I mean old history.
Hosting friends in town last week was the perfect opportunity to visit Xi’an, in Shaanxi Province. Xi’an was once part of the Silk Road trade route. Today people flock there for college and to work in industries such as machinery, electronics, textiles, and national defense. Its prime tourist attraction is the Terracotta Warriors. Read more…
Beijing’s leading English bookstore, The Bookworm, is in the midst of its spring literary festival. Author events are among my biggest pleasures in life. I bought a bunch of tickets and am learning a ton.
Today I saw former Wall Street Journal correspondent, Leslie T. Chang, speak about her book Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China. Named one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2008, Factory Girls documents the true stories of young women who leave home to work in China’s factories.
Leslie’s goal was not only to expose the injustices facing factory workers, but to paint an emotional, human portrait of how they adapt to their starkly new realities. I was deeply impressed by her intelligence, compassion, and grounded demeanor. She spoke of migration as a combination of terror and liberation, loneliness and adventure. She also touched on the workers’ underlying search for meaning—something we all share.
Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book, but plan to after seeing Leslie speak. If you’re interested in China’s trajectory, you might enjoy checking it out as well.