Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Little Nervous, A Lot Excited

And so the time came to add a little intrigue to our journey...

Considering how many places we could go, when we finally decided to leave Beijing for a few days, I had two criteria.

(1) While I love all the history of China, I needed a break from imperial architecture (and temples, in particular!).

(2) While I love spending time in Beijing, and accept that summer can be soupy, I longed for a place to breath the free air.

Add to my requests that of Steve and the kids that we go somewhere new, and Yanji became the place of choice.

Nestled between layers and layers of beautiful green mountains in northeast China, Yanji is a stepping stone to a few extraordinary sites, one of which raised a few hairs on the back of my neck. Never quite satisfied with the norms of touring, we decided to head to a very unusual border...A place where three truly remote countries bump against one another, albeit not without watch towers and barbed wire fencing...China, Russia, and North Korea.

Fangchuan is a really unique, pristine area where all three countries and the Sea of Japan can be viewed simultaneously. I have to admit that I was a bit shaky as we set out on a plane to a long-distance bus to a taxi to reach this out-of-the-way destination. It was certainly strange knowing that to venture into North Korea, while perfectly fine for our Chinese counterparts, would be illegal for us as Americans. We're not used to that paradox! Also strange to me was my lack of concern about the Russian border. Perhaps I would have felt a bit different had this trip been in the 70s or 80s, when I recall a different feeling I possessed toward that country.

In any case, my nervousness was quelled by the obvious demarcations on all sides and therefore quickly turned to fascination with thoughts of the peoples who dwell on the other sides of those fences. I was humbled by the realization that I was standing in a place where so few Americans have ever and will ever stand, peering at a land so closed off to the outside world.



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