Posted by: Brad Nixon | May 10, 2017

Welcome. Xie Xie!

I value all my readers. You come from innumerable countries around the world. You represent a rich array of cultures, points of view and expertise in a vast range of subjects. I’ll never see all the places you live, and certainly not the endless variety of interesting locations you write about. Thank you for visiting.

It’s interesting to see visitors from a previously unrepresented country appear in my blog statistics. While the largest percentages of visitors come from countries with large populations of native English speakers — the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and India — you’re from everywhere around the globe. The counter looked like this on a recent day:

UWS blog stats page

One of the pleasures of writing this blog is to have visitors from countries with which the United States has not always had open communications. I also note that many of you are citizens of nations that didn’t exist until quite recently, and I have a lot to learn about your countries.

This has been a particularly gratifying week for me on the blog.

It’s due to a small matter: one single hit to a blog post. It’s from a country I visited on a video assignment some years ago. While I spent the bulk of my time in offices and conference rooms, or in transit between shoots, I had a small amount of free time, and tried to make the most of it. (To see the photos below full size and read captions, click on them.)

There were everyday street scenes that resembled nowhere I’d ever been:

There were some memorable meals with my crew, eating food I’m not accustomed to …

… and familiar fast food outlets with a distinctively local character.

KFC Beijing Brad Nixon 0691 (640x480)

No, I did not eat there.

I toured a vast, ancient palace in the midst of one of the world’s largest cities.

Summer Palace Brad Nixon 71 (640x471)

In the world’s largest city (24 million people), I watched practitioners of an ancient art as the sun rose.

And I had a brief visit to the most recognizable monument of that country, and perhaps in all the world:

Until last week, not one of the 60,000 visits to Under Western Skies had come from the People’s Republic of China, despite the fact that nearly 1.4 billion people live there.

There are some obstacles. Language is one. I write only in English, and not everyone in China reads it. Culture may be another hindering factor; my subjects may not interest the citizens of an astoundingly rich and varied country with thousands of years of history and vast regions of endlessly interesting places of their own to explore.

There are some infrastructure limitations, too, instituted by governments that limit access to the world wide web. I’ll let that issue go without commenting other than to say that I had concluded it was simply impossible to access Under Western Skies from China.

Then, last week: one click. An icon of a red flag, a large gold star and an arc of 4 smaller stars appeared in the list indicating the origin of visits for that day. A visitor from China.

UWS blog stats with China 2

It won’t alter the course of history or make life on our planet significantly different, but it does matter that people connect with one another.

Just as I’m pleased to have visitors from Albania, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Libya, Russia, Slovenia, and dozens of other nations with which it hasn’t always been easy to correspond, or which are relatively new, I welcome the China contingent.

The best moment of that trip I made to China — one of the greatest travel experiences of my life — was one of making connections. On the day off that had started with the trip to the Great Wall, my producer and I were at the Summer Palace in Beijing, which was thronged with visitors enjoying one of the Golden Holidays. It’s a remarkable place, and has a building with what remains my favorite name of all the world’s structures. The Hall of Listening to Orioles’ Song, below:

Hall of Listening to Orioles Song Brad Nixon 77 (640x583)

At the time, China — especially Beijing — was preparing to host the Summer Olympics. Everyone was eager to practice their English, and innumerable people would walk up to me and say something like, “Hello. Are you an American?” and happily extend the conversation as long as vocabulary and time permitted. Smiles all around.

A crowd of schoolchildren were entering the Summer Palace at the same time I was.

Nix and kids Shannon Wickliffe 48 (640x473)

Somehow, they identified me as an American (!) One after another, they tried out their English:

“Hello!” “How are you? “Where are you from? “Are you American?”

I got into a rhythm of answering and asking them questions in return: “How are YOU?” “Yes, I’m from America.” “Where are you from?”

Each time one would answer, “I am from China,” I’d slap my head in amazement, “You’re from CHINA! Wow!”

That got a good laugh. Wonderful laughter from children as we shared a moment of pure, human communication — and a silly joke.

I can read only a limited amount of a few of the languages you readers speak. I regret I don’t know more. I know only one phrase in Mandarin, so let it stand for all:

Xie xie. Thank you.

Many things divide us. Talking to one another can bridge some of the distance.

© Brad Nixon 2017. Photos of me in China by Shannon Wickliffe, used by kind permission.



  1. What a fun post and an amazing trip!


  2. Beautiful experience you got there, Brad. I always want to visit China. Hope I can make it one day. By the way, i love the quote you put in the last words..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Nurul. I have some confidence that a significant portion of bloggers believe something of the sort, or we wouldn’t be trying to explain so much of our worlds to one another! Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So I’m not the only one looking at the tiny maps and wondering what people from Mongolia might find in my plucky little blog then! Welcome to the Chinese contingent!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Two of the people who stopped me Beijing to try out their English were college students from Mongolia. I tried to get them to tell me about their world, but they were intent on asking the foreigner about his distant land. Everyone’s curious, there simply have to be fewer barriers against inquiry. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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