Seoul, Korea was the last city and the last leg of my GSA Distinguished International Lecture Tour.  We started in Songdo International City, a new development along the shoreline at Incheon.

Central Park in Songdo International City is a popular place for residents to visit.

Central Park in Songdo International City is a popular place for residents to visit.

There I spoke to high school students at Chadwick International School, and then at the new Songdo Global University, where University of Utah has its newly emerging Asia campus.

The new Songdo Global University incorporates programs from several institutions including the University of Utah – Asia Campus.

The new Songdo Global University incorporates programs from several institutions including the University of Utah – Asia Campus.

From Incheon, we moved to the most prominent university of South Korea–Seoul National University (SNU). Like many other cities of Asia, the tentacles of Seoul are vast.

Seoul is the capital city of South Korea with a metropolitan area of > 25 million people.

Seoul is the capital city of South Korea with a metropolitan area of > 25 million people.

Our host Prof. Yong Il Lee (SNU) used military precision timing to get us in and out of the city to see the highlights that we thought would be impossible to cover.  Those sights included a night tour of city lights and bridges, the secret garden of Changdeokgun Palace, the Bukchon Hanok village, and Seoul Tower (all the way to the top!).  Our visit in Seoul was less than a week, and like most places on my tour, it would have been fun to stay longer.

The Seoul Tower (here shown lit at night) is the highest point in Seoul.

The Seoul Tower (here shown lit at night) is the highest point in Seoul.

My husband and I enjoyed the view of the city from Seoul Tower.

My husband and I enjoyed the view of the city from Seoul Tower.

The Bukchon Hanok village has narrow streets and traditional architecture (foreground).  The Seoul Tower is on the right horizon.

The Bukchon Hanok village has narrow streets and traditional architecture (foreground). The Seoul Tower is on the right horizon.

The South Gate (Namdaemun) of Seoul has been restored and is considered the country’s No. 1 National Treasure.

The South Gate (Namdaemun) of Seoul has been restored and is considered the country’s No. 1 National Treasure.

With commitments for the 2014 GSA Annual Meeting, I flew from Seoul to Vancouver without a break.  It is with a bit of nostalgia that I say this is the end of what has been a wonderful experience.  I logged enough miles to reach gold medallion status with Delta airlines, another first for me.  I enjoyed being an ambassador for both GSA and the University of Utah.  I am thankful for the many fond memories of delightful students, colleagues, and scenes and flavors of international lands and cultures.

- Margie

by Karen Paczkowski – GSA Science Policy Fellow

Geoscientists from around the country came to Capitol Hill on September 17-18, for the 7th Annual Geoscience Congressional Visits Day (GeoCVD). This two day event, organized by GSA and other geoscience societies, is designed to increase the visibility of geoscience and engagement of geoscientists in public policy. The event is centered around small-group meetings with Representatives, Senators, Congressional Committees, and their core staff members on Capitol Hill, with this year’s event totaling over 100 congressional office meetings. The event also includes an extensive training session to make each of these meetings impactful.

Geoscientists meet with Rep. Chet Edwards (R-TX, third from right) during the 2008 Geosciences Congressional Visits Day.

Geoscientists meet with Rep. Chet Edwards (R-TX, third from right) during the 2008 Geosciences Congressional Visits Day.

During the training participants learn the basics of public policy, the outlook for federal funding of geoscience research and education, and gain first hand advice from a panel of congressional staff on how to conduct effective congressional meetings. Scientists learn to formulate their message to legislators, invoking their own research as an example of the importance of federal investment in the geosciences. The training is designed to make participants comfortable with the policy process and able to engage policy makers about their science. Erin Lecky, a current STEPPE intern with GSA, can attest, “It is such a critical time for geoscientists to become engaged in the policy process, but few of us know where to begin. I am so pleased that I got to participate in GeoCVD. This program not only helped me overcome my nervousness, but even made it enjoyable to begin relationships with my congresspeople.”

Tanya Del Valle, a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, participates in the 2009 Geosciences Congressional Visits Day.

Tanya Del Valle, a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, participates in the 2009 Geosciences Congressional Visits Day.

GeoCVD participants are all invited to the US Geological Survey (USGS) Coalition Reception on Capitol Hill, which recognizes policy makers who are champions for the geosciences. This year, Senators Murkowski (R-AK), Wyden (D-OR), Udall (D-CO), and Heller (R-NV) were honored for their support of USGS programs through their bipartisan work as the lead sponsors of the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013. As Kasey White, the Director for Geoscience Policy at GSA and the Treasurer for the USGS Coalition stated, “Their bipartisan work on the Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013 has helped increase awareness of the important role the USGS plays in assessing domestic and global mineral resources. The Senators clearly understand that we all benefit every day from USGS science. The agency’s research and information contribute to economic growth, improve public health and safety, and enhance our ability to smartly manage our biological, hydrological and geological resources.

Kasey White presents the 2013 USGS Coalition Leadership Award to Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) for his support of hazard and other USGS research.

Kasey White presents the 2013 USGS Coalition Leadership Award to Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) for his support of hazard and other USGS research.

As these and other geoscience issues increasingly appear in the public and policy spheres, geoscientists need to take an active role in informing the policy process. Congressional visits are a great opportunity for geoscientists to come together and present a unified voice about the importance of federal investment in geoscience research and education, as well as build lasting relationships with their representatives as scientific resources for geoscience relevant policy. GSA Past President John Geissman, also a participant in this year’s GeoCVD, stressed this by saying, “My experience at the 2014 Geosciences CVD was most rewarding and informative, and I very much appreciate the efforts of all of the organizers.  Yes, although the word on the Hill regarding federal support for science and technology is certainly not rosy for the near future, it is clearly important for the geoscience community to continue to interact with, and provide support on numerous issues for our nation’s decision makers.”

GSA Executive Director Jack Hess and UCAR scientist Betsy Weatherhead discuss science funding with Senator Bennet.

GSA Executive Director Jack Hess and UCAR scientist Betsy Weatherhead discuss science funding with Senator Bennet during the 2012 Geosciences Congressional Visits Day.

A consistent presence of scientists on Capitol Hill sends a powerful reminder to policy makers of the need not only to verbally support geoscience programs but to financially invest in them as well. By participating in the GeoCVD geoscientists put a face on and personal story behind scientific investment and advocate for the need of continued, robust support for geoscience research and education. The GeoCVD is held annually and is open to all geoscientists. For further information about GeoCVD and on how to participate check out GSA’s CVD website.

by Nick Eyles and Andrew D. Miall – Department of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto

Disclaimer: This post is a guest reflection piece and is not intended to represent the Society’s official position on climate change.

In 2010, we published what is now a best-selling (and award-winning) book Canada Rocks-The Geologic Journey aimed at telling the dramatic story for a public audience of how Canada (and North America) has evolved over the last 4 billion years. It was a milestone in our professional and personal lives as we went on many field trips to fill in gaps in our own understanding and in the process stepped well beyond our own areas of expertise. We learned much about this fantastic country and its geology.

What is patently obvious from reviewing Canada’s ancient history is that scientists still do not have an adequate understanding of Earth’s complex systems on which to base sound economic and environmental policy. From the upper reaches of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans onwards to the deep interior of the planet our knowledge of complex earth systems is still rather rudimentary. Huge areas of our planet are inaccessible and are little known scientifically. There is still also much to learn from reading the rock record of how our planet functioned in the past.

In so many areas, we simply don’t know enough of how our planet functions.

And yet……

Scarcely a day goes past without some group declaring the next global environmental crisis; we seemingly stagger from one widely proclaimed crisis to another each one (so we are told) with the potential to severely curtail or extinguish civilization as we know it. It’s an all too familiar story often told by scientists who cross over into advocacy and often with the scarcely-hidden sub-text that they are the only ones with the messianic foresight to see the problem and create a solution. Much of our science is what we would call ‘crisis-driven’ where funding, politics and the media are all intertwined and inseparable generating a corrupting and highly corrosive influence on the scientific method and its students. If it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t lead is the new yardstick with which to measure the overall significance of research.

Charles Darwin ushered in a new era of thinking where change was expected and necessary. Our species as are all others, is the product of ongoing environmental change and adaption to varying conditions; the constancy of change. In the last 15 years or so however, we have seemingly reverted to a pre-Darwinian mode of a fixed ‘immutable Earth’ where any change beyond some sort of ‘norm’ is seen in some quarters as unnatural, threatening and due to our activities, usually with the proviso of needing ‘to act now to save the planet.’ Honest scientific discourse and debate is often rendered impossible in the face of the ‘new catastrophism.’

Trained as geologists in the knowledge of Earth’s immensely long and complex history we appreciate that environmental change is normal. For example, rivers and coastlines are not static. Those coasts, in particular, that consist of sandy strand-plains and barrier-lagoon systems are continually evolving as sand is moved by the waves and tides. Cyclonic storms (hurricanes), a normal component of the weather in many parts of the world, are particularly likely to cause severe erosion. When recent events such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy cause catastrophic damage, and spring storms cause massive flooding in Calgary or down the Mississippi valley, and droughts and wildfires affect large areas of the American SW these events are blamed on a supposed increase in the severity of extreme weather events brought about by climate change. In fact, they just reflect the working of statistical probability and long term climate cyclicity. Such events have happened in the past as part of ongoing changes in climate but affected fewer people. That the costs of weather and climate-related damage today are far greater is not because of an increased frequency of severe weather but the result of humans insisting on congregating and living in places that, while attractive, such as floodplains, mountain sides and beautiful coastlines, are especially vulnerable to natural disasters. Promises of a more ‘stable future’ if we can only prevent climate change are hopelessly misguided and raise unnatural expectations by being willfully ignorant of the natural workings of the planet. Climate change is the major issue for which more geological input dealing with the history of past climates would contribute to a deeper understanding of the nature of change and what we might expect in the future. The past climate record suggests in fact that for much of the Earth’s surface future cooling is the norm. Without natural climate change Canada would be buried under ice 3 km thick; that is it normal state for most of the last 2.5 million years with 100,000 years-long ice ages alternating with brief, short-lived interglacials such as the present which is close to its end.

It is self-evident to us that the public debate concerning environmental change largely lacks an understanding of natural variability. Since the last Ice Age ended, some 12,000 years ago, Earth has been through several periods lasting hundreds of years and possibly longer when it was either warmer or colder than at present. Several earth scientists have suggested that a study of natural variability over recent geologic time should be completed in order to provide a baseline against which anthropogenic change may be evaluated, but this important history has not been introduced fully into the public debate, and is a long way off. It has to be said that the natural variability of the last few thousand years or hundreds of years or tens of years has formed almost no part in the ongoing discussion of climate change which in some circles assumes that any change since 1940 is largely man-made. This opinion is uninformed by geologic science.

The way forward it strikes us is for more scientific honesty and less politics, less grandstanding. ‘We don’t know’ is an honourable credo for scientists. In this regard, we need more science to be directed to the environment, particularly toward better planning of the world’s communities to make them more resilient in the face of change. And it is an increasingly urban face that our planet presents. The many large supercities of the rapidly-approaching future world will be absolutely massive consumers of resources and producers of wastes; they will be the biggest determinants of our global environmental footprint; and it is surely there that much of our effort should be spent. Today, the rate of change of some parts of the world, especially in regard to urbanization and the ‘rush to the city’ is taxing our abilities simply to map and assess the environmental repercussions of transforming a natural environment to a built landscape. There is no simple technological fix either. Satellite and other monitoring data for example still has to be collected, interpreted, ground truthed, and acted on; steps available only to wealthier countries. In large areas of the planet the lack of human and financial resources, equality and personal freedoms and political choices trump any global environmental concerns and hobble international co-operation. To these people our obsession with saving the environment must ring hollow. The onus here is on the wealthiest nations with the largest scientific academies to put forward credible notions of how our planet is changing and to discuss the possible origins in an intellectual environment where data gaps are fully acknowledged free of catastrophic overtones.

Volcanologists don’t usually think much about legislative affairs, but in the past year as GSA’s Science Policy Fellow, I’ve found out that science and government – particularly in this country – are intertwined in ways that geoscientists don’t think about much. Now that Congress is in recess and the capital has quieted down for the summer, I’ve had a chance to reflect on how I understood science policy coming into this job, and leaving it.

Working on policy in DC gives you a new perspective – in a lot of different ways!

Working on policy in DC gives you a new perspective – in a lot of different ways!

I grew up in the Washington DC area, and when you’re in such close proximity to the nation’s capital it’s hard not to be at least a little aware of what goes on there. But for me, like most people, what happened behind the scenes on Capitol Hill was always a murky concept. I knew the basics that everyone learns in civics or government classes, but beyond that my exposure was mainly filtered through the news (not always the most objective medium). As a student in college and grad school, I was pretty determined that I was going to be a researcher, but I also became involved heavily in science communication through my blog and activities with various professional societies. That’s what led me to apply for a policy position when I was finishing up my PhD, and I think it’s been a major factor in how much I’ve enjoyed working for GSA’s policy office.

As an “in-house” policy fellow, my experience differs a bit from the Congressional fellows (like the one sponsored by GSA). Instead of working as a staffer on the Hill, where I might have covered anything science-related for my office, I instead get to focus on legislative issues that directly concern GSA members: funding for basic research, energy and natural resource assessments, climate change policy and greenhouse gas regulation, and natural hazard mitigation and response.

 

A staffer’s-eye view of a briefing on carbon capture and sequestration in the Senate Natural Resources Committee room

A staffer’s-eye view of a briefing on carbon capture and sequestration in the Senate Natural Resources Committee room.

 

I attend and report on hearings and briefings on Capitol Hill, but I also help GSA work with coalitions that support the agencies that fund geoscience research, as well as arrange congressional visits for GSA members to share their science with policymakers. Keeping track of legislation and how it progresses through Congress (or not) is a great challenge, since it means I have to know background on not only the legislative process but the history of whatever agency, funding source or topic is relevant to the bills I’m following. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about a wide range of things that I might never have encountered in research – everything from what constitutes a critical mineral to how federal disaster declarations are handled on reservations.

Attending a “Constituent Coffee” at Senator Merkley’s (D-OR) office with Dr. Jeff Rubin, chair of GSA’s Geology and Public Policy Committee.

Attending a “Constituent Coffee” at Senator Merkley’s (D-OR) office with Dr. Jeff Rubin, chair of GSA’s Geology and Public Policy Committee.

 

 

Senator Merkley discusses emergency management with Dr. Rubin.

Senator Merkley discusses emergency management with Dr. Rubin.

 

One of the most important things I’m learning – and one that’s crucial to any science policy job – is how to “translate” between the language and culture of policy and those of geoscience. Scientists and legislators may have similar goals but very different approaches to achieving them, and miscommunication between us can be a detriment to getting policy enacted. I find it really satisfying to figure out how to frame a topic so it’s relevant and impactful for both sides of the divide, and it’s definitely something I can carry on to a research career. (Broader impacts statements, anyone?)

There have been other important lessons I’ve learned from my time in DC:

 

  • You can’t necessarily pigeonhole people on issues by party. My favorite example is the current chair of the House Science Committee. He makes no pretense about, for example, being extremely skeptical about anthropogenic climate change – nearly every science-related hearing begins with him and the ranking Democratic Member squaring off on the topic – but he is also an astronomy buff and has called multiple hearings about the future of space exploration. (He’s also got a space-themed tie collection.) The same can be said of almost every Member; there are specific things they are for and against, often depending on their district’s industry but sometimes it’s based on personal conviction, and you can’t necessarily predict which is which based on party lines.
  • Legislators are human. The fact that you usually only see them on TV or in newspapers doesn’t impart any kind of superhuman powers or infallibility; they’re mostly normal people who are really good at fundraising and convincing others they’re worthy of a vote. They have preferences and biases and senses of humor just like anyone else, even if they do get to use special elevators and wear fancy pins. They mess up as often as the rest of us, and they’re just as capable of doing great things.
  • Anyone can watch the process of government going on. Legislation gets written and debated in hearings, and they are almost all open to the public and broadcast online. (It’s a bit harder to go see the chambers in session, but that’s usually on CSPAN anyway.) Hearings can be alternately enlightening, aggravating, shocking, informative, boring, interesting, contentious and amicable, but they are almost always worth attending. After all, these are your elected representatives in action, and engaging in politics doesn’t end with voting!
  • Capitol Hill is essentially run by people in their twenties. Senior staff and members tend to be older, but many of the staffers in congressional offices are very young, sometimes right out of college. They work hard and cover lots of issues, so they tend to have a broad but shallow knowledge of things like science topics. However, I’ve never met a staffer who wasn’t at least polite, attentive and gracious. If you ever go on a congressional visit, these are probably the people you will speak with!
  • Some things move fast, some things move slow, and networking is how you keep up with them. Nowadays it can take years for a simple reauthorization bill to get through Congress. But when changes happen in a bill’s status, they can happen pretty quickly. There are lots of news outlets that follow science legislation and post up-to-the-hour updates on what’s going on, but where do they get their scoops? Networking. Know someone working in the relevant office and you’ve got the gossip on what’s happening next. The same goes for having an influence on legislation: when we take people on visits, we make the point that the personal meeting is often going to have more of an impact than an email or a letter. If someone in a Congressional office remembers that you’re willing to be a resource, they may turn to you when the next bill needs professional input.

 

Politics can be every bit as messy as your faculty (or committee, or club, or association, or whatever) meeting. We may see political gridlock in DC and wonder why Congress can’t seem to get anything done, but it’s often for the very same reasons that we dread our own planning meetings or faculty retreats: people have different opinions, different values, and different approaches to dealing with challenges. Legislators and their staff are only human, and they can’t be experts in everything. That isn’t to say Congress hasn’t created a lot of their own problems, but having perspective on the mechanics of the policy world has helped me understand how they got there.

Ultimately, I’ve come out of this experience firmly believing that all geoscientists – especially anyone who depends on federal funding for their research – should make an effort to be at least a little aware of how the political process operates, and how we can participate in it. We’re in a period where funding for basic research, particularly in the geosciences, is not only decreasing but sometimes actively under attack, and we have to be ready to think about why geoscience research is important and how we can justify spending money on it. And it’s not hard to take the next step: go on a congressional visit, become a resource for testimony at a hearing, or even just write a letter to your representatives letting them know what you want them to do.

As I trade my suits for hiking boots and t-shirts, I like to hope that I’ll still have time to practice what I preach. Rejoining the world of geoscience research will mean I have to put in a special effort to keep up with the latest appropriations bills or congressional testimony. But now that I know how all that relates to my next grant proposal, you can be sure I’ll be writing letters and going on visits as often as I can!

Jessica Ball, outgoing GSA Science Policy Fellow

6/6/14

Before leaving Changping (the north outskirts of Beijing) we were able to visit the Ming Tombs arriving early to beat the crowds and long lines of traffic.  I got a tour of impressive facilities at China University of Geosciences closer to the central city of Beijing.  Nearby we visited the Summer Palace vacation home for the Ming and Ching emperors.  At the Old Summer Palace Yuanmingyuan it was sad to see how it had been looted and destroyed in the 1860s.

All of the China geoscience universities feature this prominent statue at the entry gates.  Here we get a tour of the campus with host Prof. Hongyu Wang.

All of the China geoscience universities feature this prominent statue at the entry gates. Here we get a tour of the campus with host Prof. Hongyu Wang.

In a country of 1.35 billion, in a city of 21 million, a familiar face says hi to me at the hotel breakfast bar.  It is colleague Dr. Lisa Pratt from Indiana who has been doing field work in China.  Ok, we were both staying at the hotel on the China University of Geosciences campus, but still what are the chances of that??!

China University of Geosciences has these brand new university buses for student field trips.  I think they get to ride in style!

China University of Geosciences has these brand new university buses for student field trips. I think they get to ride in style!

I also gave a talk at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences (CAGS), under the government’s Ministry of Land and Resources branch.  This academy conducts frontier, fundamental and strategic studies that are key to geoscience and resources.

At the Chinese Academy of Geosciences, we learned about SinoProbe, a major earth science effort funded by the Chinese government to conduct deep exploration to understand structure, and evolution of lithosphere of China’s continental lithosphere using multiple techniques.  The principal investigator is Prof. Dong Shuwen (right of me, with some of his staff).

At the Chinese Academy of Geosciences, we learned about SinoProbe, a major earth science effort funded by the Chinese government to conduct deep exploration to understand structure, and evolution of China’s continental lithosphere using multiple techniques. The principal investigator is Prof. Dong Shuwen (right of me, with some of his staff).

Nearby, we were able to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, with great views from nearby temple gardens.  We also enjoyed visiting “798”, an up and coming arts district on the northeast side of Beijing. Of course we couldn’t leave Beijing without having Peking Duck.

Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square (looking south from the Forbidden City).

Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square (looking south from the Forbidden City).

The Gate of Heavenly Peace, by the south entry to the Forbidden City, the largest palace complex in the world.

The Gate of Heavenly Peace, by the south entry to the Forbidden City, the largest palace complex in the world.

From Jingshan park, you can see the overview of the Forbidden City with China’s best preserved ancient buildings.

From Jingshan park, you can see the overview of the Forbidden City with China’s best preserved ancient buildings.

This draws the second trip of the GSA lecture tour to a close.  There were so many great experiences and people in Asia, and I am still trying to absorb all that has happened.  I loved the Japanese culture and even though I am a 3rd generation American, I had always wanted to visit China.  One student tells me, in China I am referred to as a “banana” – yellow on the outside but white on the inside.  Hmmm…. the trip has added many colors, cultures, and landscapes to my perspective.   Most of all, it has been great to share and exchange ideas and enthusiasm for geoscience around the world.

On a warm June evening we saw the famed “bird nest” stadium constructed for Beijing’s 2008 summer Olympics.

On a warm June evening we saw the famed “bird nest” stadium constructed for Beijing’s 2008 summer Olympics.

In the bustle of Beijing, there are still some serene moments looking at the Summer Palace grounds.

In the bustle of Beijing, there are still some serene moments looking at the Summer Palace grounds.

- Margie

6/2/14

This shows one of the few days of blue sky at the very northern of Beijing where there are mountains in the horizon.

This shows one of the few days of blue sky at the very northern end of Beijing where there are mountains on the horizon.

We are now in Beijing, our final city in China.  At the northern end of Beijing, I gave a full day “short course” to 90 graduate students at China University of Petroleum.  They have an active AAPG student chapter and although many are in a petroleum track, they had penetrating questions about Mars geology. Some students from the AAPG chapter in Qingdao made a 270 km trek here to participate in the short course.

Here I am pictured with my host Prof. Youliang Ji (next to me) and several of the energetic students and AAPG chapter members who helped with the short course and my visit.  My M.S. student Kangcheng Yin is at the far right.

Here I am pictured with my host Prof. Youliang Ji (next to me) and several of the energetic students and AAPG chapter members who helped with the short course and my visit. My M.S. student Kangcheng Yin is at the far right.

I gave a total of three lectures at sign the 90 certificates of short course completion for the students at China University of Petroleum.

I gave a total of three lectures and signed the 90 certificates of short course completion for the students at China University of Petroleum.

On the day we arrived, it was the first time we had really seen deep blue sky, but unfortunately it didn’t carry over to the day we went to see the Great Wall of China.  Still, the Great Wall is everything you have heard and seen and more.  Like the Terracotta Warriors, it is hard to describe as it is so unique, and the scale is so impressive over such mountainous terrain.  We got up very early to walk in the cooler part of the day and to avoid some of the intense crowds.  When we first arrived, the parking lot only had a few dozen cars.  A few hours later when we returned, the parking lot looked full with dozens and dozens of tour buses all idling to keep the air conditioning going (a sigh for global warming…..).   The wall has been reconstructed in many parts, and the grey brick steps are heavily cupped from so much foot traffic.  Some parts are very steep and sometimes slippery even though it isn’t wet. Visitors of all ages crowd up or down the popular section where some ride a gondola to the top, and/or take a sled ride down.  We hiked one section to Gate 12 where it is a dead end segment. That was the part I enjoyed the most because hardly anyone was on that segment and you really get a feeling of the expansiveness that required the efforts and lives across so many dynasties.

The Badaling section of the Great Wall is very popular because it is close and accessible to Beijing.

The Great Wall snakes up and down the hillsides like a dragon, protecting the northern boundary of Beijing.

 The Badaling section of the Great Wall is very popular because it is close and accessible to Beijing.

The Badaling section of the Great Wall is very popular because it is close and accessible to Beijing.

My husband John points back to one of the Great Wall gates that we had just walked from.

My husband John points back to one of the Great Wall gates that we had just walked from.

- Margie

5/29/14

The tall Big Goose Pagoda tower is a popular site.

The tall Big Goose Pagoda tower is a popular site.

Over the course of three days, I lectured at three different universities in Xi’an, all relatively close and accessible to the city center. Many of the Chinese faculty have opportunities to further their professional experience as visiting scholars at foreign universities and we often swap stories of different places they have been. Xian Shiyou University specializes in petroleum related programs. At Northwest University, I gave 2 lectures plus a Q&A session with an engaging group of students. They liked the primer on how to give good powerpoint presentations and we discussed the application process to U.S. graduate schools. Chang’an University is conveniently located right across the road from the Shaanxi History Museum, which limits visitors to only 4,000 per day. On our tour of the museum, a local guide told us the background innovation stories behind some of the artifacts. That was fascinating.

In the summer evenings, many locals gather by the Big Goose temple grounds for a large light and water fountain show.

In the summer evenings, many locals gather by the Big Goose temple grounds for a large light and water fountain show.

The city of Xi’an has many interesting sights, but one highlight was an evening bike ride on top of the 14 m-wide, fortified inner ancient city wall built during the 14th century Ming dynasty.

China is a mix of old and new.  Inside the 500 year old massive city walls, there are no huge high rise buildings, which helps preserve the feeling of the old.  We biked on top of the wall for the entire 14 km circumference seeing very few other riders or pedestrians, an experience to remember.

China is a mix of old and new. Inside the 500 year old massive city walls, there are no huge high rise buildings, which helps preserve the feeling of the old. We biked on top of the wall for the entire 14 km circumference seeing very few other riders or pedestrians, an experience to remember.

A new multi-story shopping mall has a huge, ginormous animated “TV screen” ceiling, where scenes of a tropical ocean were played over our heads, making it seem like we were in the bottom of an enormous aquarium. The scenes change to winter ski scenes, hot airballoons, or watching flying geese overhead etc., and of course the less exciting interspersed ads.

A new multi-story shopping mall has a huge, ginormous animated “TV screen” ceiling, where scenes of a tropical ocean were played over our heads, making it seem like we were in the bottom of an enormous aquarium. The scenes change to winter ski scenes, hot airballoons, or watching flying geese overhead etc., and of course the less exciting interspersed ads.

Another highlight was our visit to the Tomb of Han Emperor Jingdi (Han Yangling). An underground museum path with some glass floors led us through and over this ancient burial site where they have excavated “small warriors”, pottery animals, and many artifacts. These are reminiscent of the Terra Cotta warriors, but are scaled down (much like large dolls ~ 30 cm high), and are not as detailed. However, it is still an amazing glimpse of the culture preserved in a royal mausoleum that is much less crowded with visitors.

This mound is the burial site of Emperor Jingdi (Han Yangling).

This mound is the burial site of Emperor Jingdi (Han Yangling).

Emperor Jingdi’s tomb is surrounded  by small warriors (shown in the pit) and a variety of animals.

Emperor Jingdi’s tomb is surrounded by small warriors (shown in the pit) and a variety of animals.

Emperor Jingdi’s tomb is surrounded  by small warriors and a variety of animals (here shown in the museum).

Emperor Jingdi’s tomb is surrounded by small warriors and a variety of animals (here shown in the museum).

After all that tourist fun, one might need a little counseling…

After all that tourist fun, one might need a little counseling…

- Margie

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