Notes from Beijing


Every March for the past eighteen years I have spent the first two-thirds of the March break visiting families and alumni in Asia. Over the years the pattern has changed little. Our visits have included Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Hong Kong, and in more recent years, Beijing, where we are right now.

Beijing’s pollution is famous. On my first visit here a couple of years ago I remarked to John Davies, who sometimes accompanies me on this Asian swing, how foggy it was. He had visited Beijing a number of times, and turned to me knowingly, shaking his head. The “fog” was simply heavy pollution, casting a haze over everything. Beijing sits in a geographical anomaly, so that the wind that you would normally expect to drive the pollution away instead drives it into the confluence in which Beijing lies, thickening the atmosphere. It rained the night we arrived, so yesterday the air was pretty clear. Today it is sunny, but the familiar haze of pollution has returned. They do say that the pollution here shortens lives.

Once we have visited some alumni and current and past families over the next couple of days, my wife, Joan, and I will be off to Hong Kong where we have the largest contingent of alumni of any part of Asia. The School first accepted a student from Hong Kong in 1970; this particular alum has had three of his own children go through the school, the first of whom turned up at our Seattle alumni reception a week ago, a graduate of 2001. One of the alumni I will visit next week is Ian Burchett, a graduate of 1977, who is now Canadian Consul-General in Hong Kong. The intricate web of SMUS connectedness moves through time and geography, no escaping it.


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