Posts Tagged ‘Great Wall of China’

In China, darkness before the light

July 2, 2010

This was first published Dec. 13, 2009, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.” It’s one of my favorites!

Mike Foote (left) and his mother Alice Foote riding in a rickshaw in Hangzhou

WHO: Alice Foote, 65, of Wilmette, Ill., with sons Mike Foote, 30, of Montpelier, Vt., and Jesse Foote, 30, and his wife, Beth Huston, 29, of Jamaica Plain, Mass.

WHERE: China.

WHEN: Two weeks in July.

WHY: To view the total solar eclipse on July 22. “It was my mom’s idea,’’ Mike Foote said. “She’s a retired teacher and an astronomical phenomenon chaser.’’

Mike (left) and his brother Jesse Foote with eclipse glasses at an eclipse viewing point at a reservoir outside of Anji, China

FAMILY AFFAIRS: The Footes have seen other heavenly events. “As a family we saw the total solar eclipse in Mexico in 1991, and we were on a ship in the Pacific to see Halley’s Comet in 1986.’’ The Footes, from the Chicago area, frequented the Adler Planetarium there. The eclipse tour was organized by the Adler and led by China Advocates.

FELLOW TRAVELERS: On a whirlwind tour, the group visited attractions in Beijing (including the planetarium) and Xian, before the big day a week later. From their hotel in Hangzhou, the group of about 20, including a planetarium director from Australia, was bused to Anji, the best place in the country to view the eclipse. “We drove for hours up into the mountains to this big reservoir,’’ Foote said. “There were about 6,000 people, from all over the world.’’ Groups seated around their respective bus tours lined the reservoir, with leaders holding distinguishing items. “Our leader carried a yellow umbrella with a red rooster on it, and we wore Adler T-shirts.’’

Beth Houston (left) and Jesse visiting the Bird's Nest (National Stadium) in Beijing

THE CLOUDS PARTED: “It was cloudy out. We were all nervous, not knowing if we’d be able to see anything. But the clouds parted enough where we were. It starts off with ‘first contact,’ when you see a teeny shadow over a teeny part of sun. In ‘second contact,’ the moon starts to move over the sun and you get a 360-degree sunset. Right before the moon covers the sun, you see a diamond ring, a brilliant spot. Then there’s a wall of shadow that sweeps over you, and it’s completely dark.’’

Mike (left) and Jesse climbing the Great Wall of China

DAY AND NIGHT: ’’When the moon is over the sun, you can see it with the naked eye, and we saw a solar flare. All the night animals start making noises, and the stars come out.’’ The total eclipse was exceptionally long, at more than five minutes.

MADE IN CHINA: At ‘third contact,’ when the moon starts to leave the sun, viewers were expecting the usual second diamond ring, but not a waterfall. “Across the reservoir was an island, and we think the Chinese released a waterfall at third contact, because no one noticed it before. That’s China – capping the eclipse with something spectacular and manmade.’’

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Have ticket, will travel the world

March 3, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published March 2, 2008, in the Boston Globe) 

From Di’s eyes: A round-the-world trip is just the thing to kick off a law career and is much more interesting and educational than the typical week in the Caribbean. Here’s to great jobs and a wonderful life for these two young adventurers!

WHO: Andrew Hass, 26, of Acton, Mass. and Lauren Hager, 25, of Sacramento, Calif.

WHERE: Around the world.

WHEN: Nine weeks from August to October.

Andrew Hass and Lauren Hager; CLICK TO ENLARGEWHY: The friends, fellow law students at the University of Miami, decided to reward themselves for finishing school and the bar exam by taking a trip. “Most students do, but not like this,” said Hass, who attended Boston University for undergraduate studies.

WITH A MAP AND A WISH LIST: “We basically sat down with a map and alternated places we wanted to go,” Hass said of their planning. They booked what’s called a Blue Ticket through the Student Travel Agency. “If you keep going in the same direction you can get great fares,” said Hass, who paid about $4,500 for all his flights. They visited 11 countries, starting in Peru and then going to Argentina, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel, Russia, Mauritius, India, China, and Japan, spending four days to a week in each. Their luggage was lost – and found – twice.

PLOTTING IT OUT: “We got our tickets first, and once we knew where we’d be, we scheduled budget hotels and hostels,” Hass said. In harder-to-navigate countries, such as India and China, they set up personal tours and drivers. By the end of the trip, they’d seen many of the world’s great sites, including the pyramids at Giza, the Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China, as well as glaciers, deserts, oceans, and mountains. “Our top three places as far as activities and overall fun were Peru, South Africa, and Japan.”

Andrew Hass at Machu Picchu, Peru; CLICK TO ENLARGEANDES FANS: “Machu Picchu is an experience in and of itself,” Hass said. “It’s in the middle of nowhere, up this winding road. It’s so magnificent and breathtaking.” Their favorite view of the ancient ruins was from Putukusi Mountain. “It was a three-hour hike to the top and you had to go up hundreds of feet of wooden ladders, straight up, without a rope or a net. It was quite a rush.”

GREAT FRIGHT: From their favorite hostel, the Ashanti Lodge in Cape Town, the adventure seekers booked a cage dive among great white sharks. “It was quite an experience,” Hass said of being surrounded by sharks. “They throw chum in the water and the sharks dive at it with their jaws open. It was scary and awe-inspiring.”

Andrew Hass at the Great Wall of China; CLICK TO ENLARGESECOND WIND: By the time they reached Japan, after fleeing a typhoon in China, they were ready to get home, but the country invigorated them. “We spent a night in Tokyo, then took the trail to Kyoto. Our hostel was typical Asian budget. You sleep on the floor, and low on amenities, but not in a bad way. It really catches the local flavor.” They spent a somber day touring Hiroshima. “Even 60 years after it happened, it really hits you.” On a lighter note, they were thrilled to attend a major league baseball game. And Hass traveled all the way to Japan to discover he actually liked sushi.

SUSPENSEFUL JOURNEY: Because they left the country a few days after taking the bar exam, they didn’t know their outcomes. “Lauren found out she passed when we were in China,” said Hass, who was in suspense until he returned home – to good news.