Spending the holiday in Yunnan is a lot like spending any other US holiday in China. Which is to say there's isn't much to it that's familiar. Thanksgiving flies low under the radar - no images of Pilgrims or harvest baskets, no parades.
Nonetheless, in the commercial spirit of ramping up for Christmas, which is largely celebrated, the cashiers at the local Wal-Mart donned their Santa hats today. Something Westerners are accustomed to, but seems suddenly out of place. Mostly, it's an unruly combination of scooters, cars, buses, and bicycles. Shiny Audis speed past weathered farmers pedaling their carts of oranges, tubers, and chickens about the city. Kunming is a prototypical southern metropolis, uniquely representing some twenty-six colorful Chinese ethnic minorities. Here's an unsettling concert of development that would leave any American slack-jawed. Only two years have passed and the skyline from our eleventh floor balcony has seemingly doubled. The night horizon is still dotted with welding sparks.
This scene, paired with that of Beijing, is a sobering reminder of how fast and far this country is evolving. Beijing is a glistening metropolitan testament to the will (and capital) of the Chinese, and an example of what a city like Kunming will invariably become. The glowing Olympic venues recall the neighboring Forbidden City, all overwhelming in scope and quietly disconcerting to some. Either way, it's a lot to take in for anyone.
Thanksgiving has come and gone here, while many of you back home are bundled up in your sleeping bags dreaming of turkeys and holiday sends. Sleep and climb well, friends.