Dispatches from Abroad: Truckin’ with Trikes

I’ve been in China for over seven weeks now, and as a people-watcher and photographer, nothing has caught my eye more than the panoply of three-wheeled vehicles meandering the roads. When I was a college student in the late 1970s studying Chinese, there were virtually no cars in China; just shy of 40 years later, BMWs outnumber bicycles in many Chinese cities, and the two-wheelers once pushed by peds on pedals are now mostly electrified. But through it all, the trikes remain, anachronistic work-horses that fill the gaps between bikes and BYDs, Vespas and Teslas.

I spent a few hours this afternoon—my last in Beijing before I move on to Kunming tomorrow morning—walking the streets and alleys, photographing three-wheelers, and reflecting on stasis and evolution in transportation systems.

Continue reading

Dispatches from Abroad: Beijing Bebop

The seminar storm has wound down – in the last 11 days, I’ve given 12 talks at 10 universities and research institutes in three major cities spanning nearly 2000 km It’s a new personal record for me that, despite the daily adrenaline rushes, I’d rather not repeat anytime soon.

flag_of_the_peoples_republic_of_china-svgSince the beginning of this week, I’ve been based at the Chinese Academy of Science’s Research Center for Eco-Environmental Research (RCEES) in northwest Beijing, conveniently down the road from the Chinese National Science Foundation offices and more-or-less around the corner from Peking University. The skies have been clear, the taxi rides uneventful as I’ve shuttled to and from seminars at the Institute for Tibetan Plateau Research [2], Beijing Normal University [1], Minzu University [1], Peking University [2], RCEES [2], the food plentiful and interesting, and the friends and colleagues wonderful. And today, October 1, is China’s National Day, celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic of China on this day in 1949.

Continue reading

Dispatches from Abroad: A First Look at, and Taste of, Beijing

Well not really a first look, but my first for this trip and this blog.1 I left Xi’an mid-morning on Tuesday on a high-speed train to Beijing. The Xi’an high-speed train station (across town from the regular train station) is its own marvel. With more than 20 platforms, the whole complex felt a lot more like an airport—complete with security checks, x-ray machines, pat-downs, and gate-checks—than a train station, and it was easily as big as a standard international airport terminal, too.

beijing-1-20160906-ame-092621

Continue reading