Learning from others
I learned lots from my group of international journalists while visiting France’s Loire Valley in September. The ten of us, shown here after our wonderful hot-air balloon voyage, came from Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Moscow and America, by way of Berlin.
The next story in my series about the trip will run on Dec 11 and I hope you will read it.
I was the eldest of the group by probably 15 years. That’s me in the middle, wearing green.All but me had i-Phones and most of them logged on to do blogs each day. Journalists are a curious bunch and we all asked a lot of questions, but since we were in each other’s company at least 12 hours a day a dynamic of courtesy evolved among us. I learned that people from Beijing and Hong Kong are very different and don’t even speak the same language, although here in America we know both as Chinese. As a food writer, I know that the Chinese typically don’t eat cheese so I asked them why. “We don’t like the smell,” replied Peng, shown in the yellow shirt in front of the group.
But our colleague Siu Ming Chan (standing, far right) from Hong Kong devoured the beautiful French cheeses we were offered, including those served for dessert. When I learned that Yoshiharu Fujiwari (far left) was born in Nagasaki just a few years after the city was bombed in World War 2, I was curious about what life was like for him as a child. But after learning the bomb site is still a large, lifeless area that’s off-limits more than 60 years later, I got the sense that further questions would not be welcomed.
Petite and pretty Xue Zhao, probably in her mid-20s and second from left above, asked me to call her Snowflake when she discovered that I couldn’t get my lips around her name. “I was born in a snow month,” she said. “That’s my nickname.”
Whenever we crossed the street in busy Nantes, Snowflake would come to my side, and firmly take my arm in hers to cross the street. I quickly realized that she probably perceived me as elderly and the Chinese respect and revere their elders. I took no offense and found it delightful, but after a few days of watching me scale castle ramparts and jump in and out of a hot air balloon she stopped doing it.