On the Tenth Day of China: History’s History

One thing I noticed fairly early on in my trip is that the Chinese use the word “new” to talk about anything from the Qing dynasty onward. The Qing dynasty started in 1636, just moments after the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. The thousands of years of dynasties before that are the real history to the Chinese. They’ll talk about sections of the Great Wall or ancient palaces and gardens that are “new” because the Qing restored them…300 years ago. Or even the Mings, who ruled from 1368-1636! This different frame of reference fascinates me. I realize that the land of the United States was not vacant prior to 1620, but the history of me as an American, the history I can identify with, is only as old as what is “new” to the Chinese.

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Return to Spain

Against my own personal rules for how best to take advantage of a life that is far too short to absorb everything the world has to offer, I have traveled to an international destination twice. Two weeks ago, I went to Spain. Fourteen years ago I lived there, working in a summer camp in Andalusia with kids who by now are somewhere around the age I was during those brief moments when we knew each other, young adults out in the real world.

I didn’t feel like much of an adult at that age, but I certainly do now, which is why I didn’t mind retracing my steps a bit. That summer camp job was a lifetime ago and I was another person. I have only a few handwritten notes and photos printed from film to remind me of my previous adventures in the land of valiant conquered and intrepid conquerors. This time, I’m transferring what I jotted down into this blog post, structured according to the chapters in Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. De Botton is a modern day philosopher whom I greatly admire. The Art of Travel was the first book I read with Ironman, who accompanied me on this trip, for our long-distance book club, one of the many ways we have of staying close while we are geographically distant.

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Pools of Mud in San Jacinto, Nicaragua (May, 2008)

San Jacinto 1San Jacinto 2

While You Are There: Hang out in León for a few days, see the ruins, go to the beach, go sandboarding, and drink some rum. There’s no shortage of activities in this part of the country. León is easily my favorite place in Nicaragua (although Ometepe is pretty great too!) and this quote from Lonely Planet captures my feelings well:

Intensely political, buzzing with energy and, at times, drop-dead gorgeous (in a crumbling, colonial kind of way), León is what Managua should be – a city of awe-inspiring churches, fabulous art collections, stunning streetscapes, cosmopolitan eateries, fiery intellectualism, and all-week, walk-everywhere, happening nightlife. Many people fall in love with Granada, but most of them leave their heart in León.

Why It’s On My List: Because you feel like you are defying death when you go. You don’t know if the ground beneath your feet is suddenly going to collapse and send you plummeting into a scalding, muddy death. There aren’t exactly closed off, safe walkways like you find in such a place in the States. It’s also on my list simply because I had a great experience staying in León. I made some wonderful friends and the San Jacinto mud pools was one small day trip we took together in the car I had rented. Then we went to a little restaurant nearby and sipped cervezas in the Nicaragua heat. It was a good day.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Indian Step Wells (August, 2000)

While You Are There: Bring a book and hang out for a few hours in the cool escape from a hot day. Play with the local children. Imagine the women in their brightly colored saris lounging and chatting. Soak up the history.

Why It’s On My List: I had never read about or heard of such a thing until I saw my first step well in Ahmedabad. The university I attended was in Gujarat, where there is a large concentration of these wells, or vav as they are know. Some of them are fantastically intricate and beautiful. They are all mysterious to me.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.