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.
Everyone in China is very proud of their long history and enduring civilization. Fortunately for the rest of us younger civilizations, despite 5,000 years of civilizing themselves they still have a tremendous amount of bad habits… like dumping trash wherever the fuck they feel like it.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My work-wanderings took me to Sao Paolo, Brazil this week. This is my second visit to Sao Paolo, the first being back in 2013 just before the anti-corruption riots broke out. Sao Paolo is a lively, vibrant city with warm people and outstanding cuisine. I was excited to spend another week here just basking in the ambiance… but my local partner had other, better plans!
My work takes me all over the world. In the past 2 years I’ve set foot in more than two dozen countries. The nature of the work never changes – sales, service, negotiations – just typical international trade.
But the people! Have I ever met some fantastic people. If I ever leave this company or this position what I’ll miss most, by far, are the people around the world that I’ve gotten to know and become friends with be they partners, customers, or just other dudes and dudettes struggling to make it in the same industry.
Alexey is one such awesome dude.
Alexey is our new business partner in the Moscow area. His father was a submariner. His grandfather was a submariner. How hard was it to be a submariner in the Soviet Navy? They retired and went on pension at age 32 to 35 depending on how many days at sea you had accrued. That’s some brutal living.
No matter how strained the relationship between the US and Russian governments, the Russian consulate in Shenyang continues to issue me visas, so I continue to do business there.
I feel a profound sense of happiness and hope whenever I visit Russia and see friends like Alexey, because I know our relationship would be unthinkable only 40 years ago. Despite hiccups and setbacks here and there, I do believe society is progressing in a net positive direction.
Here are Alexey and me at the Russian Museum of Astronautics in Moscow. In the photo behind us are the crews from NASA and the Soviet space program that docked in orbit during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, a major moment in Cold War détente and essentially the end of the Space Race.