Any trip is what you make it. When you travel with a group, dynamics can be a funny thing. I was so privileged to share this experience with an amazing bunch of colleagues, that I must take this opportunity to remember them and thank them all publicly for making my first trip to China one I will never forget. So, for my traveling companions, this post is for you.
I'm going to begin with our fearless leader, so I'll start with the men.
Vincent W. - There simply aren't enough words to express my thanks to Vincent for planning and leading this trip. He opened doors for us all that would have been closed had it not been for his connections and tireless efforts in planning. He managed the good and the bad with courtesy and humility. We couldn't have asked for a better person to guide us.
Steve N. - Steve became known as "Old Nash" and "Nash Man" on our trip. He took the designation as most senior member in stride. I am grateful for having had Steve to talk to about music and books on many of our long drawn out bus rides.
Jonathan W. - Jonathan managed to get through a difficult situation on this trip with strength and grace. I feel lucky to have learned so much about his Mom and am glad he chose to share and celebrate her life with us.
Richard W. - Our resident museum expert was game for just about anything we threw at him. I'm so glad he joined our small group of friends on our (MY) big adventure in Beijing.
The last two men on this list were actually selected as alternates. When one of the original seminar members dropped out, both of these guys were added. I can't imagine having made this trip without them.
Andy M. - Andy was our music man who saw every performance event possible, and enjoyed the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. His quick wit kept us all laughing.
Nezih A. - Women all over China fell for Nezih and his goatee and felt this incurable urge to pull on it. (I believe we have pictures as proof!) Even though Andy was the member of our group who ate snake, we could count on Nezih to try just about anything put in front of him, like the head of a Peking duck.
Now for the women. I had the pleasure of rooming with each of these ladies, and am so grateful for having had the opportunity to get to know them better. I don't have a picture of the five of us together, so here's a picture with everyone but Carol.
Carol S. - Carol definitely raised the intellectual level of the group. She always asked thoughtful questions. However, Carol will always be remembered for her energy. Even in Lhasa when most of us were in slow motion, Carol had energy to burn.
Melissa L. - Our other resident political scientist, Melissa fueled my interest in areas well outside of my expertise with her questions about NGOs and foreign policy. She also served as our ever-patient sounding board when we needed to vent.
Miriam M. - Miriam has been living and working on the floor below me for years, but I never got to know her until this trip. She was our resident yoga expert who managed to find her way to studios in Taipei and Beijing. Miriam even practiced in Beijing at the Temple of Heaven.
I could say much more about each of these folks, but I'll end just by thanking them all one last time for making this trip so memorable. We sat for more group photos than I can recall, but I can't seem to find a picture that includes all of us. Here's one for now, minus Dana. This was taken outside the Potala Palace, where we were joined by some monks visiting the site. When I do get a decent shot of all 11 of us, I'll post it here.