On Luck and Sea Eagles

As Wayne Gretzky once said:

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

The same applies to birdwatching, of course. You miss 100% of the birds you don’t get out to see. New Years Day 2016 was calm, clear, and bitingly cold. The weather report said -9C | 15F but you can always knock a few more degrees off for my side of town which doesn’t suffer from the Urban Heat Island effect.

Rather than do the sane thing and sleep-in on such a frigid morning, I made a thermos of coffee and staggered out of the house and into the SUV with loyal Spider to pop down to the riverbank for some scoping.

There’s very little open water remaining this late in winter, and once the river ices up completely the ducks will move on. This was one of my last chances to look for lost or (very) late migrants. My efforts were not to be in vain! Continue reading On Luck and Sea Eagles

“Master of Minnows” – Taking Huilin Fishing in Benxi

Fishing is part of being a Heath. I had a rod in my hands as soon as I could ask for one. But where we live in China the natural environmental condition is very poor. There are artificial fishing ponds, but sitting for hours in the sun hoping for a bite is no way to introduce a child to fishing. There will be plenty of opportunity to disappoint yourself when you’re older!

So these few years I had not made any great effort to take Huilin fishing. Eventually, however, he began to express an interest and so I asked my cousin-in-law Dandan to take us out when he had time. Dandan is a few years younger than me and an accomplished fisherman in the northeast Chinese style. The fish one typically catches here would be better classified as “bait” in America – they are truly that small.

But a fish is a fish, and fishing is fishing, and my son Huilin wanted to go fishing. So with thanks in our hearts, one brisk afternoon in October we piled into a borrowed minivan and drove out into the countryside. Continue reading “Master of Minnows” – Taking Huilin Fishing in Benxi

参观棋盘山的向阳寺 – Visiting Qipanshan’s “Sun-facing Temple”

In late June, when Spider was only three weeks old, I took advantage of a beautiful morning to drag the entire group – wife, M-I-L, son, and puppy – to the nearby Xiangyang Temple for some fresh air.

Xiangyang Temple (向阳寺), literally “Sun-facing Temple”, overlooks the southwestern reaches of Qipanshan lake. You can see the temple and surrounding area for yourself via Google Earth if you input the following coordinates in GE’s search bar:

41°55’52.75″ N, 123°38’41.75″ E

According to the temple’s own history, it was built around 500 years ago. I declare that unlikely on the grounds that this part of China was very sparsely populated during the time claimed. Things didn’t start really happening around here until the Manchus declared Shenyang their capital in the 1600s. Furthermore, whatever structures may have existed by the 20th century were almost certainly destroyed during the Cultural Revolution as part of the “Four Olds” campaign by the Red Guards and other associated geniuses. That all the buildings on the grounds look brand-spanking new (and probably are) does not in any way detract from the experience, however! The architecture is still lovely.

View of the main gate from the upper parking lot
View of the main gate from the upper parking lot

Continue reading 参观棋盘山的向阳寺 – Visiting Qipanshan’s “Sun-facing Temple”

10 Years!

Ten years ago today I sat hunched over my laptop in my new dorm room at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University and tapped out a blog post documenting my trip from America, creatively titled Traveling to Japan. Drew’s Journal was born. Ten years!

My version:

I freaked out, went to Japan, built a career in China, international trader, THAT’S WHAT I DID!

And here’s the passport stamp that started it all:

On 2005-09-11 one life ended and another began.
On 2005-09-11 one life ended and another began.

What will the next ten bring?

Drew Builds a Duck Blind

I went birding at Huanzidong Reservoir a couple of weeks ago and found the water level way, way down. Hundreds of meters of mudflats were exposed. This attracts all sorts of birdlife, but leaves the hopeful birder no place to hide. Even with a spotting scope, trying to identify sandpipers at 300m totally sucks.

Rubbing salt in the wound, over the summer some local government genius spent who knows how much money building this fucking awesome bird-watching tower:

A lovely design except for the fact that it's sited a kilometer from the water's edge.
A lovely design except for the fact that it’s sited a kilometer from the water’s edge.

But they forget to put it anywhere remotely near the reservoir so now it’s a fucking awesome corn-watching tower.

Looking ahead to the upcoming arrival of the Siberian Cranes, I decided to take drastic action: I would build a duck blind.

Continue reading Drew Builds a Duck Blind

Stitching for Sanity

I’ve been known to state that during any given week at work I’ll enjoy my job 4 days and on the fifth day want to either throw myself or somebody else off a building.

What I’m saying is from time to time things can be a bit stressful.

Additionally, one of the lesser known aspects of my job is being feted at dinners – and occasionally banquets – all over the world. In America that means you can look forward to a fantastic steak and high-priced cocktails. In Asia that means seafood and whores.

Yep. Whores.

Continue reading Stitching for Sanity

8,000 Years of Civilization and China Still Can’t Eat Seeds Properly

I love eating sunflower seeds. I don’t go in for any of those fancy-shmancy flavors they have now like BBQ, Ranch, or Dill; but I will never, ever turn down a handful of traditional roasted and salted sunflower seeds.

It doesn't get much more American than this.
It doesn’t get much more American than this.

Look at that bag. That is ICONIC. I would put DAVID sunflower seeds right up there with Levis jeans, Marlboro cigarettes, Jeep Wranglers, and Hershey bars on a list of things I can buy that are more American than the American flag.

Continue reading 8,000 Years of Civilization and China Still Can’t Eat Seeds Properly

Teaching the Blind to See

I spent last weekend in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam. While an all-around awesome trip, it proved to be the last dying breath of my trusty Nikon Monarch binoculars. With the threads on both eyepieces jammed solid and the focus differential knob out of sync, they were done. Saturday morning I dropped them off at the Nikon Shenyang Authorized Service office (“We don’t really do binoculars, we’ll have to ask Shanghai next week…”) and this morning took Spider down to the Hun River to do some scoping.

It was only 15C when Spider and I set out. Shenyang embraces Autumn without hesitation! Migratory species are already beginning to pass through Liaoning province in fits and starts, within another two weeks they will become a torrent.

Continue reading Teaching the Blind to See

Local Chinese Reactions to Egregious Environmental Pollution

My daily commute takes place almost entirely upon the Third Ring Road of Shenyang. If you overlay the ring road on a clock face, our home is at 3 o’clock, my son’s preschool at 12 o’clock, and my workplace at 9 o’clock.

So it happened that on Monday morning after dropping off my son, I was somewhere between 12 and 11 on the clock face speeding SW on the ring road when I noticed a towering black column of smoke arching up into the otherwise blue Shenyang sky.

Your first instinct is always to wonder what it could be? What’s around that area that would be capable of producing so much smoke?

Unfortunately, what immediately came to mind was the military airfield located in that part of town. The PLA airforce runs training flights into and out of that airfield every day. Given the quantity and acridity of the smoke I figured either a jet had gone down with lots of fuel on-board or an entire apartment building was going up.

Continue reading Local Chinese Reactions to Egregious Environmental Pollution

est. 2005