USA

St. Louis

I spent a few days in St. Louis with my brother Kenton, who’s working there for the summer with Stages St. Louis.  It was the first time we’d seen other in 5 years.  Needless to say, we had a lot of catching up to do.

Here are some of the things we saw (and ate):

 

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 Kenton at the Mud House cafe

 

 

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St. Louis Cathedral

 

 

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Chicken panang curry – Thai restaurant

 

 

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Vegetarian platter – Mediterranean restaurant, Kirkwood

 

 

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Chicken shawerma plate – Mediterranean restaurant, Kirkwood

 

 

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I loved the Kirkwood, Missouri, train station.

 

 

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Parting view – the St. Louis Gateway Arch (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) from the Amtrak train

 

 

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Ole Man River – crossing the Mississippi

 

 

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On the train – next stop, Chicago!

St. Joseph, Missouri

I was back in my home town for 6 days.

When my students in China ask me to describe St. Joseph, Missouri, I don’t quite know what to say. I usually end up explaining that it was an important outfitting and supply center for pioneers traveling west in the mid-19th century, and that it was the starting point for the Pony Express mail delivery, which operated for a few years between St. Joseph and Sacramento, California.

 

 

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My dad, Gene, stepmother Bonnie, and my brother Kenton.

 

 

The occasion for my return was my father’s 85th birthday.  It was my longest visit in many years, and my first return to the USA since leaving for China in 2006.

 

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Three Joneses:  Kenton, Dad, and Roger

 

 

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Family & friends at Starbucks

 

 

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Dad’s 85th birthday dinner, Texas Roadhouse


 

After the birthday festivities, it was time to take the train to St. Louis to spend a couple of days with my brother Kenton. The weather has been incredibly hot and humid.

 

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Kansas City Union Station

 

Next stop:  Chicago.  My train journey continues tomorrow.  Tonight we’re getting some much-needed rest at the Pear Tree Inn in Fenton, outside of St. Louis.  More later, after I get to Chicago.

back in the USA

seatac-airport-arrival Arrival:  Seattle-Tacoma Airport

 

 

 

It was weird. First, there was the sign that said “Welcome to the United States of America,” a country  hadn’t set foot in for 5 years.  Then, there was the friendliness – everywhere.

“Welcome home,” said the smiling U.S. passport control officer, handing back my passport.  The smile threw me, as did the “How are you today?”  Smiling government functionaries seemed foreign to me after living for so long in China.

 

 

 

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My first food on American soil:  ham and cheese on a bagel, Seattle-Tacoma Airport

 

 

Things here seemed familiar, yet somehow very foreign.  Within 5 minutes of landing at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, I was in reverse culture shock.

My first view of the United States had been group of snow-covered mountains peeking through the clouds.  Then there were more mountains, large expanses of water, and everywhere, the green of pine trees.  It seemed an alien landscape.  I’d never been in the Pacific Northwest before, yet this was all I would see of it, from a plane window.

I wandered through the airport, slightly dazed after my flight from Beijing.  The people here were different: they were all Americans, and they all spoke English.  For the first time in years, I blended in with everyone else.

My first impressions of being back in the U.S.: drinking fountains, toilet paper and towels in the restrooms,  green money, “Have a nice day.” I changed my Chinese RMB into dollars at a currency exchange, and accidently left my suitcase behind.  15 minutes later, it was still there.

I had almost 4 hours to kill before my onward flight to Chicago. In total, I would be on the move for 24 hours before arriving at the hostel on Halsted Street in Chicago where I could rest my weary and confused self.

 

 

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Chicago at last.  The Parthenon Hostel is in the shadow of the Sears (Willis) Tower.

 

 

 

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Breakfast  at Artopolis Bakery, Cafe, & Agora

 

 

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“Home of Chicago’s Best Gyros” – I ate there twice in 24 hours

 

 

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Carson Pirie Scott store (Louis Sullivan) – entrance detail

 

 

I arrived in Chicago, took the train to the Parthenon Hostel just west of the Sears Tower, checked in, and immediately went to a corner restaurant for my first Greek gyros sandwich in 5 years.  I ate it so fast I don’t think I even tasted it. The following day was for walking and stretching my legs after sitting on so many airplanes.   I revisited some of my favorite buildings downtown, hung out at the Cultural Center to escape heat in the 90s, and visited a couple of bookstores.

Next morning, it was back to O’Hare Airport for the next leg of my journey, Kansas City, and a reunion with my family.

 

 

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Chicago Cultural Center

 

 

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 The Rookery Building, atrium

sentimental journey

Autumn sun, Lincoln Park, Chicago, 1978

The above photo was one of the first that I took with my new Pentax KX SLR in 1978.  I bought the camera when I graduated from Northwestern University, and I still have it over 30 years later; I used it until I bought my first digital SLR a couple of years ago.

In 2 days I’ll fly to the USA for the first time in 5 years, in honor of my father’s 85th birthday.  I’ll visit my brother Kenton, and end my trip with 6 days in Chicago.  I’ll be returning to places I knew many years ago.  It will be a sentimental journey, but also a bit of a time warp and a culture shock. According to the internet, the Chicago temperature is in the 80s, but in my home state of Missouri it’s supposed to climb to 97 (36 Celsius) in the next few days.  Whew.  I’ll spend a lot of time indoors.

I’ll update my blog with photos, and impressions of my home country in the midst of an economic depression, joblessness, and attacks on workers, unions, and public employees.  I wonder what kind of place it will seem to me.  I’ll let you know.