Friday, May 23, 2008

Travels with Jennifer

Scouting the North American Northwest has turned up some really nice places to study China and Central Asia. Both the University of Washington and the University of British Columbia are lush with Asianness. Vancouver itself is 25 percent Chinese according to the guidebook. Though the UBC seems to be a sprawl of endlessly modern block concrete turtle-style buildings -- in the back of the campus tucked into the Douglas Firs next to the anthropology museum of fantastic totem poles the Asian Center shimmers resplendent in its water garden at the head of a trail down to the pristine Wreck Beach. A beach which faces snow capped mountains and the curved horizon of the Asian Pacific itself.

Seattle is one of America's favorite places to live -- it throbs with life like a floatplane trying to skim like a skimmer fish. An emerald city of friendly fair trader coffee drinkers, Brett Walton, the Central Asian Studies Group president at UW, tells me his critical mass of Uzbek friends in the city call it a sister to Tashkent. Every Central Asian language is taught here in the Gothic revival lecture halls of UW -- organized for optimal views of Mount Rainier. The Chinese students in the Asian Languages and Literatures department fed us vegetarian pizza and told us they never want to leave Seattle. All the students I talked to said they want to live and die in Seattle. We're thinking it might be a good plan.

For us New Yorkers this is wild country -- vibrant greens and free air. The people we meet offer us their welcome and their firewood if we want it. It is another way altogether of trying to live. I'll be thinking more about it over the next few weeks.