Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Beijing - Forbidden City of the Past, Formidable City of the Future

Delicate balance between earth & sky along the wall
of the Forbidden City
As I have not had much time to post since returning from China and Taiwan, I thought I would at least provide a link to a photo slide show that I have put together from my visit to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square in Beijing.  Please keep in mind that this slide show is in pdf format and is quite large, so the download time is approximately 3 minutes with a broadband connection.  I've been told the photos are worth the wait.  Make sure you turn up your computer's speakers as well, as I have added some background music along with the photos to add to your viewing pleasure.  Hope you all enjoy.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

No Fireworks but Plenty of Memories This July 4th

Do you know what today is”, I could have asked any Singaporean today. “Yeah, it’s Sunday”, would have been the probable answer. Not exactly the affirmation for which I was looking.

Beyond the guy in the gym today who was wearing workout pants that had the pattern of the U.S. Flag on them (note he was not an American), that was my only reminder that today is American Independence Day. Of course I heard from my co-worker on Friday that some of his British colleagues refer to this date as “Traitors Day”. Poor Brits…we Yanks take so much abuse from you guys, and all we do is love you Buggars back even more.

Walking the streets today I was thinking about my homeland and why it makes me so proud. I thought about past 4th of Julys, the family, the food, the fun, and the fireworks. I thought about how hot July usually is back home and then smiled that no place can possibly be any hotter than where I was at that moment, sweat dripping off as I walked home from the subway station to my apartment through the humid topical air of Singapore.

I thought about family get-togethers on this special day, which usually took place in backyards or campgrounds with an array of varying guests. Parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, and people I’m pretty sure weren’t related to me but were just in it for the food.

Ah yes, the food. Bar-b-que was made for the Fourth of July. Hamburgers, hotdogs, ribs, steaks or anything else that becomes mouthwatering when the whispery kiss of an open flame brings out the best in each savory dish. Let’s not forget the sides now. Mom’s potato salad with extra pickles just because I like it that way, baked beans, and a fresh watermelon that Grandpa had picked up from the market just that day. “I hope it is a good one”, he would say. Of course it usually always was. For dessert you could count on Grandma’s famous lemon pie which she made from scratch, crust and all.

For fun there would surely be a game of pinochle going on where the adults would be trying to do each other in. Dad would try and “Shoot the Moon”, and demonstrate his card-playing prowess. Things might switch up later on for a round of Gin Rummy or maybe Blackjack played for M&Ms, which were always my favorite stakes. I’d take those card games over the ones in Vegas any day.

As nightfall came the excitement would build up within me. Numerous weekend trips to the firework stand had culminated to this very moment each year. There would be “fountains” and “whistlers” that would emit showers of colorful sparks or shriek with ear-splitting decibels. And for the really good stuff (usually illegal), I would have made a trip with friends over the border to Washington State for some roman candles, bottle rockets, and several bricks of firecrackers.

These are the special memories that have served me so well today, even though I am far from home. I am sure each and every one of you reading these words has your own wonderful recollections of this date over the years. As with most commemorations, it has less to do with the actual events that take place that day than the people for which you share in these activities. Do yourself a favor and turn back the old memory banks and dial in some 4th of July moments. It’ll surely bring a smile to your face just as it did for me. Here is wishing that each of you has a very special 4th of July which can be added amongst your other festive times.