Archive for August, 2008

Congratulations America!

What a great day. Really. Even though I’ve waited my entire political life (wow, can it have been 17 years since I earned the right to vote?) to cast a vote for one of my favorite statesmen of all time (Sen John McCain), I am SO proud to be an American tonight. What a much overdo step forward for our great nation – the nomination of Sen Barak Obama is indeed cause to celebrate. While I do not agree with many of his policy positions, I am reveling in the glow of this historic moment.

Living in a country that rules by the will of a few, without the benefit of an involved or politically educated electorate, my appreciation for the democratic processes of the American system has grown exponentially. The Democratic party’s contest between the first woman and the first African American nominees was hard fought and substantive. It can only benefit our democracy to throw open the doors of opportunity to any qualified person, regardless of gender or race.

As a former campaign staffer, I saw first hand the ravages of state wide campaigns. National campaigns exact an unimaginable toll on the candidate and his or her loved ones. Sen Clinton and Sen Obama both deserve our gratitude for the risks they took and the sacrifices they made.

Every February, we read to our children from Martin Luther King Jr’s speeches. The day he dreamed about, the one I teach our children to work for – when no person will be judged by their outside appearance, but rather by the content of their character – I can’t say for sure that day has come, but we seem to be a lot closer tonight. Congratulations, America. The light from the “shining city on the hill” looks beautiful from here.


Is China Safe?

Taxi drivers often wait outside the gate of our apartment complex. This is a very common and convenient practice – certain drivers get to know the habits of the folks who live in the complex, then wait for the predictable fares that will come. For example, many of the expats in our community attend the one English language international fellowship every Sunday morning. We pour out of our buildings at roughly the same time each week – all headed the same direction. The ritual is so ingrained, we don’t even have to say where we are going any more.

One particular driver at our friend’s apartment complex ALWAYS starts the conversation in the taxi with the observation that in America, many people have guns, but in China, there are no guns. Which is true, though I suspect SOME people have guns in China – but they are police or military so it’s not really a fair comparison. We hear this observation quite often – America is rich, but it is very dangerous. The ‘entertainment’ we’ve exported – “Prison Break” being one of the most popular shows in China – doesn’t help our image, nor does the news of violence in major cities, in schools, in churches …

… so, the question of day, and in light of the recent and senseless stabbing of an American tourist in Beijing – is China safe? Our unequivocal answer is yes. China is incredibly safe. We live in an urban area of 13 million souls. Most of our fellow Tianjinren (Tianjin local people) would be considered poor under any definition held by US sociologists – many are under-employed. Many only have an elementary education. And yet, violent crime is almost non-existent.

I am comfortable walking or biking around our city anytime of the day or night – alone. Now, my bike may not be safe (and in fact, my brand new bike with the awesome McCain for President bumper sticker was just stolen last week) – my backpack might not be safe – but I have no fear at all for my personal safety.

Why are the experiences in urban and sub-urban America so different from urban China? My cursory guess is that the quick, sure and severe nature of law enforcement in China plays a large role. The unavailability of guns and drugs (drug dealers in China receive the death penalty – no questions asked) undoubtedly helps. Even the moral code, which spreads the shame and guilt from one person’s actions onto their parents, grandparents, teachers and community, enforces certain social behavior.

Whatever the formula (and of course, I am not espousing means that restrict basic human rights), China is a safe place to visit – and a safe place to live. As we head into our 3rd year living in Tianjin, may we not take that for granted!

PS Anybody have an extra McCain for President bumper sticker they can send? They are hard to find around here!!!

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Our First Olympic Games!

Thursday, August 7, our family went to the Tianjin Football (soccer for our friends in the US) Stadium for a preliminary Olympic match between the USA and Japan, followed by a match between Nigeria and the Netherlands (yes, De Jongs, we cheered for the Dutchies!). It was awesome to be a part of the Olympic fever gripping our host country.

Kennedy Family heading into Tianjin Stadium 8/7/08

A few reflections:

  • Holding our hands over our hearts while listening to America’s national anthem is too sweet to put into words. We’d forgotten how precious it is to openly celebrate our patriotism.
  • Watching Chinese crowds learn how to “do the wave” is a riot. The clapping was louder when the wave went around the whole stadium than for the one goal of the night!
  • Americans are conditioned to watch for instant replays. For the entire night, any call that might be remotely controversial was blocked out on the replay by the Olympic signs. Our theory is that this move promotes peace in the stands – no one else can second guess the referees. Maybe a good idea, but so frustrating for those of us ready to make the call for ourselves!

(These pictures are for you, Jen and Niels! Go Dutchies!)

Basking in the afterglow of a successful wave

It was a wonderful night for our entire family. Today of course is the start of the official Beijing Olympics. We managed to sort through the chaos and actually order the cable package that will allow us to watch the games on CCTV at home. Though we will miss the ENGLISH commentary and explanations, sappy athlete vignettes and mind-bogglingly expensive commercials, we are thankful to watch the games in real time!

On a funny note, just as the Chinese government has declared there are no time zones in China (though the land mass is comparable to the US, we have only one time zone), and that heat north of the Yangtze River is needed precisely between November 15 – March 15 … they’ve also decided that tomorrow can be 08-08-08 as well, at least in the post office. Popular demand for mail postmarked with today’s luckiest of days is so high that patrons can have their mail postmarked with today’s date — tomorrow!

Enjoy the games!


My quest for the Olympic torch

I woke up early this morning in hopes of capturing this shot of the Olympic torch as it made its way through our city:

However, I did not. I pulled this off the official Olympic website ( This is as close as I could get:

So my theory is that I barely saw the people who might have seen the Olympic torch. It was a big moment for me. As you can see, we the people, could not get anywhere near the actual route – every street, back alley, sidewalk looked like this:

And they weren’t messing around.

So my friend and took the opportunity to observe the others that came out to catch a peek at the flame. Not sure who was watching who…

People were running everywhere. Vendors were selling flags. Police were stopping vendors from selling flags. Camera crews were out. It was nuts (and no one could even see the torch!).

Finally, this is one of my favorite shots. In amongst all of this chaos, this guy was fishing right next to the blocked off road in a little canal. Maybe he comes to this spot every Saturday at this time. He seemed unimpressed and unaffected. I suspect he will be fishing in that spot long after the torch leaves China.

– Dan