China: A Glimpse of the "Other Half"
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
April 29, 2010
It just happened that my wife Karen was scheduled by her manager to teach middle eastern dance to a group of ladies in Beijing, China. Since in all my years, I had not had a chance to get off the continent and needed to get out of my comfort zone to "see how the other half lives", I decided to invest my personal monies for the flight to go with her for the week-long trip. Toward the end of the seventeen hour flight we flew over snowy Alaska and Mongolia, then finally into Beijing. Before visiting China, I knew very little about it.
I knew that according to USA Today, China is "the biggest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury debt in January even as it trimmed its holdings for a third straight month". I knew the top population countries are: China 1,330,044,544, then India with 1,147,995,904 and the United States at 303,824,640 as of October 2008 according to About.com. I found that China is in land size, number four behind Russia, Canada and the United States.
But when a local Chinese businessman told me he believed Catholics to be the predominant religion in China, I didn't believe him. Wikipedia says that "Abrahamic" religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism are the largest generic religious group.
What I did not know was how immersed in business China is. The streets are loaded with individual entrepreneurs. The poor seem to have a look of optimism found lacking in other poor people I have seen in other cities during my lifetime. Building of high rises is rampant.
As for Beijing, its people were most gracious. Of the forty-two cities in China with over a million population, the Capitol, Beijing located in northern China has 17,430,000 compared with China's largest city in the southern part of China, Shanghai's at 18,884,600 population. The streets were full of cars as are most large cities. Many signs in Chinese have English right under them so I was delighted. Among other sites, I visited Tiananmen Square, an upscale former street corridor with light rail running down it that had the look of New York or perhaps Paris with high end shops well in evidence. I visited the Forbidden City, the Heavenly City and of course, the Great Wall, which stretches for some 5,500 miles!
Just down the hill from the Great Wall portion we visited was a "Schoolhouse Restaurant" run by an American married to a lady from China. The weather was perfect just like it has been here and the setting idyllic. Then an American family sat down next to us and I detected a Texas accent. Then I heard "Mi Tierra" in their conversation! What a small world. We met and exchanged brief pleasantries about San Antonio and the coincidence of all being there at the same time.
More to follow this glimpse later.