I’m not much of an outdoorsy person, but growing up in Texas, going camping, and taking weekend trips to state parks made me really appreciate fresh air and nature. Plus, sometimes I just need to get out because otherwise it’s too depressing to have carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists at my age from typing too much like the sad indoor grunt that I am. Now I’m in a city among cities, but last year, before leaving China and Shanghai (another city among cities), I climbed a mountain!
My friend &C had gotten involved in one of Shanghai’s many hiking/meetup groups, so I joined her on a group trip to Anhui Province’s Tiejiang Mountain and Wuyue Ancient Path. It was a Golden Week holiday, I had nothing planned, and I was itching to get out of the city. The description said “easy hiking,” but golly gosh if that’s what you’d call easy, then I’d say you’re reading from the wrong dictionary. On the first day I just about died – from exhaustion, my legs giving out, slipping on wet rocks, and half-falling into a river. But I survived (obviously), albeit with a waterlogged camera and legs absolutely covered in bruises, and had a great time!
On the last day before heading back to Shanghai, we took a break by a lake and despite all the trash, it was just so great. All those endorphins, ya know? And ya know what? I had climbed a mountain! I was pretty darn proud of myself for doing all of that. Now I’m back to spending the majority of my day sitting at a white desk, staring at a computer screen. And my go-to footwear are black pointy-toed flats that are merely marginally comfortable. Eh, it ain’t fresh air and it may seem stuffy, but I still like it. When the weather warms up I really need to visit Central Park and Calvary Cemetery though.
The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is located in DC on the Mall by the Capitol. It’s a good walk … and it’s free! … and hot! Ya know, because I’m poor. And, ya know, because it’s chilly outside. Apparently there are three parts: the Conservatory, the National Garden, and Bartholdi Park. Saw the first two, but didn’t venture to the park because I didn’t know it existed until I checked Wikipedia later. Whups.
The Conservatory (the enclosed building aka greenhouse aka what you probably think of when you picture the USBG) was built in 1933 by Lord & Burnham, and I gotta say I love the keystones on the entrance façade. Each keystone has a different face and I just love those little flourishes of detailed ornament on solid Neoclassical architecture. It’s the little things that get me.
The main central space (which is called the Jungle) has an upper-level walkway, which provides a nice change of perspective … but be prepared to get a bit misted when they spray the plants. Oh, and if you have a coat, scarf, hat, and mittens (as you should if you’re in DC in the winter), be prepared to carry them through the gardens – because it’s a bit steamy in there!
To be honest, I don’t know much about plants and I don’t really care all that much about learning about plants. But it sure is fun to look at ’em (well, some of them – some are just boring to look at). The USBG is much bigger than I thought it would be when I approached, since the Conservatory is fairly deep and has many different sections, and there’s also the entire outdoor garden (National Garden) adjacent to the conservatory. Unfortunately the National Garden isn’t heated and a lot of the plants looked a bit … lacking life. Nice way to kill some time and be reminded that the world isn’t all concrete and steel. Plants – THEY’RE ALIVE!
Ugh … for a while there I was being good at updating this blog rather regularly. And then I forgot about it. Oops.
Anyway, a while back I went to a farm in the outskirts of Shanghai on a sort of group field trip. Overall, it was rather boring. I like nature (to a degree) and I’ll spend the day in the park sketching away, but being stuck on a farm is a bit different. In the afternoon we picked pears and corn, which was the highlight of the trip. But then we had to sit through a lecture about sustainability blah blah blah and we had to design a poster about sustainability in groups. Due to the language barrier, I had a 10-year-old kid translating everything for me, which was a very weird experience. Also, while I appreciate what the farm (which is organic) is trying to do, I’m not very gung-ho about the whole concept, so when they were explaining things to us, it seemed like they were saying, “Hey, I’m saving the world whereas you’re killing it. You should be ashamed and grovel at my feet.”
The Austin farmer’s market is awesome and having lived in Austin, I have a certain degree of fondness for the hippie environmental folks. But that condescending attitude is seriously annoying. My Chinese is still rather limited, so I couldn’t follow a lot of what they were saying and was obviously bored. One of the guides suggested I take off my shoes and socks and walk around in the dirt in order to connect with nature. Um … no.