Back in Beijing, Hu in Seattle

We arrived Monday afternoon back in Beijing, flown from the sunny blue Aegean to the Chinese capital at the tail end of a 10-day dust storm. Parked cars and buildings are coated in light brown powder that matches the color of the sky. Bicyclists squint against the dust, pedaling furiously and blindly against the wind. Every trip outdoors makes you feel like you need to shower again, or at least brush some of the grit out of your teeth. But today the dust is finally supposed to blow over, and the bit of blue already visible in the early morning sky seems to promise a better day today.

And, browsing the morning papers, I see that Hu Jintao is visiting Seattle, beginning a four-day trip to the US by meeting with the Governor and Howard Schultz, owner of Starbucks. I usually begin my visits to my former but still favorite town by visiting Linda’s Tavern and Volunteer Park, but to each his own. There were some Falun Gong protesters there to greet him when he arrived. And, oddly, there was a Greek Falun Gong supporter at the airport to greet us when we arrived in Athens. Neli, there at the airport on behalf of the travel agency who booked our Greece trip, asked where we were from. ‘Beijing,’ we said. ‘Ni Hao!’ she excitedly replied, then told us she was learning Chinese along with the Falun Gong exercises. What a funny world.