Good Times

Journey to the East

8 Comments 27 April 2010

If you are wondering why this blog has not been updated in nearly two weeks, wonder no more. I have been on the other side of the planet for the last 10 days and am almost fully recovered from the whirlwind that I experienced while away. My journey took me to the East – way far East, actually – five days in Beijing and three days in Tokyo (and two days of planes, trains, and automobiles)! The trip was the final act of my MBA program which has been on-going for the last 21 months. That’s right, I said FINAL ACT* – can I get an amen??!

*Technical note – I missed one class when Casey was in the hospital and the babies were being born. Classes are only offered once a year with this program so I will be taking an accounting course next February to complete my course work. My official graduation will happen in May 2011.*

The trip was much like the program has been – overall very good with heavy doses of challenging, exhausting, and sleep deprived all in the mix. The schedule was jam packed with touristy stuff (Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square) and even more jam packed with company visits, factory tours, dinners, and more. In between all of the visits and bus rides there was little sleep and even less eating – oh my gosh they eat some nasty food over there! Yes, I tried the squid (as in a whole squid, plucked from the ocean and plopped on my plate!), but I resisted the fish gut, the super-bony goose, and the donkey meat, thank you very much! Let me just say it is a very good thing that I am a fan of the trail mix (HEB brand, of course)!!

While I was away, Casey and Grandma Stevie held it down with the Six Pack…I am pretty sure I am never allowed to leave the house again…ever! They had fun, but just like my trip away, their time here was also challenging, exhausting, and sleep deprived much of the time! I have to give the makers of Skype some major love, by the way. Casey and I were able to video call each other every day and I was able to talk to Eliot and see the babies most of the time…and it was all for free! The Skype highlight has to be Lila constantly pointing at my face on Casey’s computer screen and exclaiming, “Da-da!” over and over…it was so awesome! Nothing felt better than coming home to my family after such a long time away! Coming in as a close second would be coming home to American cooking!

Of the two cities, without a doubt Tokyo was my favorite – what a vibrant place!  It had a very New York City kind of feel which is great because I love The Big Apple!  It was huge, clean, active, and colorful, the people were incredibly gracious and forgiving of our band of ugly Americans…and did I mention it was clean??  After spending five days in Beijing, cleanliness was a valuable asset!  I am sorry to say that I am not a huge fan of Beijing.  It is a filthy place – the smog was so thick that it appeared foggy every day, the water and food is not safe for consumption, and I won’t even mention the restroom situation!

The trouble I have with Beijing goes much deeper than the layers of dust and grime that seem to cover every surface of the place, however.  As I traveled through the city, seeing the sites and listening to our tour guide proclaim the greatness of China, its history, and its leaders, I could actually feel the weight of oppression which bears down on this country and on its citizens.  No doubt Beijing has many beautiful cultural relics from China’s dynamic history and it is booming economically – our hotel was world class and was a short walk from both a Ferrari and a Lamborghini dealership, two banks, and several high end retailers.  But walk a little further past the glitz and look just beyond the facade of the great historical structures and you will see a different picture.  Not two blocks from our hotel and those car dealerships and seemingly everywhere else in this city of 20 million people, the poverty declares its dominance as the real story of Beijing’s past, present, and future.  The buildings are broken down, tattered shells which unbelievably are still occupied.  The great historic buildings and sites are rotting relics, ill-maintained and ill-suited as symbols of a country’s strength and prosperity.

And the people?  They are wonderful, gracious, and beautiful…and they are also shamefully beaten down by their history and their omni-present oppressors (we complain about stop light cameras, they have cameras EVERYWHERE).  Their students are not taught about the student revolution which took place in Tiananmen Square in 1989 or other cultural uprisings in China’s history (read about Tiananmen Square here) and they also do not know of the atrocities committed by their hero, Mao Zedong, whose policies are widely believed to have caused 50 to 70 million deaths yet whose face is ever-present on buildings, souvenirs sold in the public square, and on the local currency (read about Chairman Mao here).  About Chairman Mao our tour guide said, “sometimes it is necessary to rule with an iron fist.”  This was shortly before he recited some of Mao’s “beautiful poetry.”  Wow.  And about the communist government he said, “sometimes the people cannot be trusted.”  No one asked about the PEOPLE running the government and if they also cannot be trusted…

I could go on and on, but I won’t bore you with my political rantings…sorry, sometimes I can’t help myself.  I do not want this to overshadow the fact that I had a great trip and an even better return home, however!  Baylor University once again put together a fantastic program and as always took great care to ensure the quality of the programs that we engaged in.  Most importantly of all is that this marks the official end of my 20-30 hour per week “second job”!!  No more Monday and Thursday nights away from the family, no more weekend study groups, no more projects or papers, and a whole lot less stress…………outstanding!!!

God bless,


P.S.  The top three pictures are of Beijing and the bottom two are of Tokyo…notice the difference?  The Great Wall is hardly visible because of the haze!  That is pollution, not fog – the view actually got worse the higher you climbed on the wall because you were going higher up into the smog!

Your Comments

8 Comments so far

  1. Suzanne Bradford says:

    Well said, Ethan. It was great trip, but very eye-opening. It’s wonderful to be home!

  2. Amanda says:

    Congrats on a wonderful trip and for finally being finished. I am sure it will be well worth it!

  3. Jane says:

    Congratulations, go out and celebrate… you deserve it!:) Take Casey out… She is AMAZING!

  4. Stacy says:

    Glad to hear you made it back safely. Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to get away & see new places, but always nicer to come home. :) I bet your clan isn’t leaving your side. Congrats on completing your program. You should be proud of yourself – we all are!

  5. Laura T. says:

    Wow! Those are great pics. It sounds like you had one heck of a trip. Congrats in advance on your MBA- that’s awesome!!
    I had never heard of y’all before tonight… I happened to be flipping channels & saw your documentary on Discovery Health. Boy, was I surprised to see the Austin skyline! It’s so neat that y’all got a show- it will be really cool to keep up with a local family on tv :)
    ((HUGS)) to all of y’all!

  6. Regan E. says:

    Congrats on the safe trip!! I cant wait for your show to start airing on TLC!!

  7. Kristen says:

    Wonderful recap of your trip! My husband is in an executive MBA program at USC, graduating June 2011. He’s going to Beijing in November with his class. I’m going to share this with him, I think he’ll find it very interesting!

    I just saw your show on TLC, and loved watching your family. Wishing you all the best! God Bless!

  8. Carol says:

    Thanks for the awesome photos and commentary on your Asian trip. You tell it like it is and I appreciate that. That gave me a true picture of two of our competitors.
    Congrats on finishing 95% of your MBA program! I hope this opens many, many doors and enables you to enjoy your beautiful family once again. Good luck with the construction company too!
    God Bless all 8 of you!

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