Back in 1979, I was on a college program that was permitted to travel into mainland China. Apparently, it was the first college group allowed into China…which made my parents a little uneasy.


It was an amazing experience. China was a very backward country at that time. Underdeveloped was an understatement. Roads were empty of all but military vehicles. Civilians used bicycles.

Everything smacked of communism. Large, looming pictures of Mao Tse Tung were hung everywhere. Lenin, too. In the airport was a wooden box with the sign: “Accusation Box.” I was never quite sure if it meant “suggestion box” or an actual “turn your neighbor in” kind of box.

People’s clothing was colorless. Gray and drab, like army fatiques. I brought home a pair of Mao pants and my dad made me get rid of them!

Mostly, we passed weary water buffalo slogging through flooded rice fields. Those fields have been paved over. Today, they are thriving cities.

As the Olympics get underway, I’m going to be posting pictures of my first trip to China. The comparisons of then-versus-now are jaw-dropping.

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