First time on this blog? Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn is probably a good place to start.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Thinking of you in Minneapolis

First off, to everyone back home, I just want to say I hope you are all safe, along with your family, friends and loved ones. I know many of you, like myself, crossed that bridge regularly. Please keep me posted.

This has been kind of a surreal day. When I woke up, the first thing I did, as always, was fire up the computer to talk to my wife and read the news. The web was down, which is very unusual. Since my computer is my phone here, I wasn’t able to call home. Then I got a text message from a coworker here, asking if I was watching CNN.

My first thought was that something quite bad had happened in Beijing. It was a punch to the gut to see disaster, ruin and flames back home, to see my city on the news – I haven’t even seen any images of home in months, of course – with Wolf Blitzer asking obviously shocked eyewitnesses, complete with the Minnesota accent, to describe the collapse.

I’ve spent the whole day in a little bit of a daze. I called Shannon on my cell, international rates be damned, and was glad to talk to her because, as went through all of YOUR minds, you just never know who ran an errand or took a different route or whatever. So I reassured myself that my family was safe, called my bosses back home to get news about coworkers (thank God for working overtime!) and checked in with friends.

To me, it’s been like a mini-9/11. (Not to diminish this disaster in any way by calling it 'mini', of course, but you know what I mean.) All day I’ve been reading everything I can and trying to imagine what it looks like. I’m combing my memory for the last time I went over the bridge and under it – going under it, especially, it always seemed like such an erector set, and the sound of the traffic always sounded like it was roaring out of a tin speaker.

Most surreal, of course, is that while I’m having these feelings, hardly anyone around me knows where I’m from, much less that something bad happened there. They’re acting the way I imagine all you acted when 500 Chinese died in mudslides last month, or how I acted a couple weeks ago after watching a report about a building collapse in India.

That’s no critique of them or you or me or even human nature, which after all is what I’m talking about. But it really has driven home to me that every disaster is a local disaster.

For my own sake, I wish I was home. But I am thinking about you, and I’m right there with you. Take care.