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Kristi Heim: The World in China

Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim explores a changing China on the world stage.

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August 22, 2008 6:23 AM

A patch of green in a sea of gray

Posted by Kristi Heim

Beijing is a grand city on a larger-than-human scale, but it makes living here a daily confrontation with huge boulevards, traffic, noise, and mountains of glass and cement. After pounding pavement all day on three hours of sleep, I was desperate for some relief.

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Most of the farmland in Beijing has been turned into buildings. But there's one place where a prime piece of farmland has been preserved, a refuge for people looking to escape the city. A couple turned it into an organic fruit orchard, botanical garden and lake, with a restaurant that serves food from the garden.

I visited The Orchard, opened in 2002 by West Virginia native Lisa Minder and her husband Wu Yintao. They manage to do something good for the environment, sustain a healthy business and find room for charitable projects. Such are the pockets of green among an ocean of gray.

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At a Starbucks cafe nearby, students from Beijing Forestry University were surveying customers about Beijing's so-called Green Olympics. Starbucks was sponsoring their work, along with an earlier event called the "Green Long March," where student volunteers walked along the Yangtze River to raise environmental awareness. They asked people what they thought about the ban on free plastic bags in Beijing, the odd-even days traffic system to reduce driving, and the state of the environment in Beijing.

My response: no medal yet. "Jia You!"

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