Blue Sky, White Clouds

by Jessica Marlow

Artist’s Statement

Fig. 1 Cloud (Hertzel)


“This is your captain speaking. We are approaching Beijing Capital International Airport.[1] Please buckle your seatbelts and prepare for landing.”

As the booming voice over the intercom comes to an abrupt halt, the man sitting to Reyna’s left shifts, finally emerging from his past fourteen hours of deep, snore-filled slumber. Reyna stifles a yawn – she hasn’t been able to get much sleep herself. Rather, the prospect of landing in Beijing has kept her awake and her nerves jittery, and she finds herself returning yet again to that little plane icon denoting their position creeping painstakingly across the 5×8’ TV attached to the chair in front of her.

“Mama, are we there yet?” The little head on Reyna’s lap sleepily lifts.

“Not yet, baobei,[2] but almost. Probably only thirty minutes or so. You go back to sleep, okay sweetie?” Reyna is returning to China for the first time with her young daughter, Lucy. Though Reyna has been back several times since she first immigrated to the United States as a newlywed, both she and her husband, Daniel, agreed that they should wait until Lucy was a bit older before introducing her to her mother’s homeland. Reyna’s mind whirls. She so wants Lucy to like it in Beijing, to be able to meet her puopuo,[3] to see all the sights Reyna grew up seeing – well some of them. Things have changed a lot in the fifteen years since she left for the first time, but regardless of the change, Beijing will always be home.

They arrive. Again, the voice over the intercom booms, prattling on and on – first about the weather in Beijing, 23° and cloudy, then about the spats of turbulence that peppered the flight, an unfortunate occurrence as Reyna has a tendency towards motion sickness. The pilot’s announcement was almost conversational and seemed to last for ages. Finally, Reyna hears the flight attendant begin the telltale words that indicate yes, the speech is over and soon, all the passengers will be free to escape their $2,000+ prison cells and emerge into the real world.

“Please remain seated with your seatbelts fastened. Your captain will be with you momentarily with a message. We have arrived.” Reyna nudges Lucy, still sleeping soundly on her lap. “Wake up, sweetie. We’re here.”

Lucy stirs gently, letting out a soft nnnhh ­– she doesn’t want to wake up yet. Reyna understands – Lucy hasn’t had as much sleep as she is accustomed to. The day before, they had set off on their journey at an unearthly time of day, with their flight leaving from their local airport back home in South Carolina for Detroit at exactly 4:32 AM. While Lucy was thankfully able to sleep for the entirety of the two-hour flight, as soon as they set foot in DTW, the hustle and bustle of the airport woke Lucy up and unfortunately reminded her of the novelty of the situation. So naturally, Lucy was not able to sleep for any of their five-hour layover and, instead, devoted herself to the task of prying any and all possible information from her mother about their approaching destination. Reyna sighs. Of course, she would love to tell Lucy everything. But there’s something that makes it difficult, something stopping the colors and images and feelings flowing from her heart from flowing the same way from her mouth. Maybe it’s that she has been away for so long that the smells and the sounds of her youth have faded to gray, or that the years of living in the sea of banality that is the suburban American South, with its cookie cutter neighborhoods[4] and chain restaurants and mammoth grocery corporations, has relegated her memories of Beijing to the distant far-off reaches of her mind.

Reyna is jolted from her reverie by another booming announcement from the intercom: “Good afternoon, and thank you again for flying United Airlines. Momentarily, staff will be coming around with forehead scanners.[5] Please remain calm and remain seated as we go through this necessary health procedure. Our staff will be with you shortly. In the meantime, please keep the aisles clear to ensure this process can be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thank you.”

Immediately, a low hum fills the air. It increases, growing in both intensity and anxiety as passenger turns to passenger with questioning eyes, unsure of what to make of their situation. Reyna is confused as well. What forehead scanners? Necessary health procedure? In all the times she has made the long voyage from China to the US and vice versa, she has never heard any mention of forehead scanners. She glances down at the little head still resting on her lap. No, it will be okay. She has seen on the news various mentions of a particularly vicious strain of influenza creating a problem in certain rural regions of China, so this is probably related. What was it called again? H1N1?[6] H1N2? Reyna is unsure. Either way, neither she, nor Lucy, has shown signs of flu, and they both got the flu vaccine earlier in the year, so she has no reason to worry.[7][8]

But as they continue to wait, Reyna’s anxiety grows. The air conditioning turned off when the plane landed, so the main cabin is getting uncomfortably hot and stuffy from the heat radiating from the hundreds of bodies sharing the small space. Lucy has now woken up, and she begins asking questions.

Mama, if we’re here, why are we not getting off the plane? I’m tired of the plane.”

“I’m sorry, sweetie, we have to stay on for a little bit longer, until our flight attendant gets to us. You like our flight attendant remember? He’s nice.”

“But mama, I don’t want to wait anymore. I’m hungry. And tired. I want to go home and see Daddy.

Reyna smiles and ruffles her daughter’s downy brown head before she bends down to rustle up some of the Kellogg’s princess fruit snacks[9] she had packed specifically for this purpose, saying, “I know, baby, but Daddy’s not here right now. He still has work, so he won’t be joining us for a couple days. Aren’t you excited to see puopuo though?” Successfully finding the evasive little pink bag which would be sure to put a smile on her daughter’s little face, Reyna internally sighs with relief.

“Look, sweetie! Your favorite!”

Lucy’s eyes immediately light up, and all complaints are put to rest as she diligently opens the snack pack and empties all the gummies out onto her little palms.

“Look, mama, its Princess Ariel! And I have three of Princess Cinderella!”

Reyna sighs again, though not from relief this time. She knows that fruit snacks are probably not the healthiest snack to be feeding her little girl, but Lucy loves them so much. Besides, one pack of Princess fruit snacks has 100% of the daily value of Vitamin C, and the box does say “Made with real fruit,” so they can’t possibly be that bad. Either way, Lucy has been appeased, and the “staff” mentioned over the intercom has finally come into view.

Instead of the congenial yet harried middle aged man who had been providing them with lukewarm plates of food, “Asian” trail mix, and cups of hot tea for the flight over, this staff member is bedecked in white scrubs, with a mask covering her mouth. She moves methodically from one person to the next, instructing each in a low, monotone voice to stay still until the scan is complete, thank you, before moving on. Seeing the mask, Reyna immediately recalls the three boxes of 3M N95 masks sitting in the belly of the plane. Every time she returns to China, she spends many a late night communicating with friends and family back home in Beijing over weixin – the Chinese equivalent to Facebook[10] – about what American goods they would like her to bring back with her. Crunchy peanut butter is always a popular commodity among her friends, as are Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Kisses, and there are usually several packages of each packed snugly in her checked bag.

But this year was different. This year, Reyna was surprised to see messages from several of her close girl friends from college, her sister-in-law, and her mother, all asking for 3M surgical masks. Reyna was baffled. What use did they have with surgical masks? They responded in kind, asking had she truly not kept up with the air conditions in Beijing? As of recent, the rates of PM 2.5 – fine particulate matter – in the air have been consistently in the “unhealthy” range of the Air Quality Index.[11] “Unhealthy” meaning, that everyone exposed to the air may begin to experience health impacts. All over Chinese social media, there are warnings for people more sensitive to air quality like children, those with asthma or respiratory illnesses, and participants in strenuous activity to limit prolonged exposure to outdoor air. Some days, the Air Quality Index has even reached “Very Unhealthy” conditions, meaning that the entire population is likely to be affected and should limit exposure to the air outdoors.

Reyna was appalled. While she had heard that pollution as an increasing issue in the crowded and highly populated city of Beijing,[12] she would never have imagined that the situation was so dire.

Far from the gray, smog-filled cityscape Beijing has become, Reyna remembers the Beijing of her youth. When she was a young girl, about Lucy’s age, Reyna lived only a five-minute walk from Longtan Park. The park was vast and sprawling, with a two-mile-long path circling a lake, surrounded by luscious gardens and community spaces for the old men to play badminton and xiangqi – Chinese chess.[13] She would visit every morning without fail with her grandparents as early as the sun rose, so her puopuo could practice taichi,[14] and her gonggong[15] could meet with friends under the sweeping willow trees and chat, hanging their birdcages on the slender limbs as their thrushes trilled morning salutations as sweet as the candied grapes her gonggong would sneak to Reyna after dinner some days. Reyna smiles to herself as she recalls the many mornings spent frolicking with neighborhood kids, exploring the rock statue gardens, and sometimes, just lying down on the green grass and staring up at the clear blue sky. It was the first time her puopuo found her like this that Reyna learned her first chengyu – a traditional four-character Chinese idiom. Instead of scolding her for dirtying her clothes as Reyna half feared and half expected, Puopuo simply chuckled and joined Reyna on the ground. She pointed up at the sky and said: “Lantian baiyun – blue sky, white clouds,” as softly as could be. In those four simple words, there was beauty, there was hope, and there was peace. In that same exact spot, they laid for hours, staring up at the endless sapphire expanse until their eyes filled with rainbows, taking turns picking out dogs and lions and dragons from the foamy white blooms stretching across this inverted sea until gonggong and his thrush found them and told them that it was already noon, he was hungry, and it was time to go home and make lunch.

Reyna shakes her head. She still does not fully understand how it has come to this, how Beijing’s lantian baiyun has turned to gray. But then again, China has changed a lot since she was last there. Yes, things have changed.

One example is peanut butter. She had jumped the gun earlier in the year and bought several jars of Skippy Super Chunk Extra Crunch when they went on sale at the local grocery store, assuming come time for her return to Beijing, many of her relatives would message her with requests for their favorite nut spread. However, none came, so Reyna continued to wait. She received requests for Coach wallets from her sister-in-law, Burt’s Bee lotion from her best friend from college, and, of course, 3M N95 masks, but none for peanut butter. Puzzled and unwilling to allow the 8 extra jars of peanut butter to continue to clutter her pantry – Lucy and Daniel are both allergic – Reyna decided to ask her best friend.

“Why does no one want peanut butter anymore? I already bought several jars – Extra Crunchy, just like everyone likes!”

“Well… You see, Reyna, we can buy peanut butter here now. It’s not even that expensive. You can get it at wa’er ma – Walmart – or shamu dasha – Sam’s Club – for a good price.[16] We don’t need you to carry it all the way across the ocean for us anymore.”

Walmart and Sam’s Club? Aren’t those both American companies? On second thought, Reyna is not overly surprised. In recent years, the mom-and-pop shops in her American hometown of Taylors, South Carolina have begun to close. Before, she would be able to find good deals on fresh produce from farmers selling their vegetables by the road side often, with fresh tomatoes so fresh in every shade imaginable, from chartreuse to dandelion to tangerine to crimson. Her favorite was always peach season, the time of year which lasted from mid-May to late-August.[17] In fact, one of her very first experiences after coming to the United States was visiting a peach orchard with Daniel’s entire family. It was a sweltering hot day in July, and Reyna, having only lived in major metropolitan centers all her life, was at a loss for words. They were paying money to do the work of picking fruit off trees? It made no sense at all. There were dozens upon dozens of angry mifeng[18] buzzing around – they obviously thought that the fruit was their property, a fact Reyna pointed out to Daniel, speaking in rapid, angry Chinese. She couldn’t believe that he had brought her here of all places, especially when she wanted to make a good impression on his family, not embarrass herself by falling off ladders and sweating like a pig. Laughing despite himself, Daniel set his hands lovingly on Reyna’s shoulders, asking her to “Please, wait a minute and listen.”

She glared at him, crossing her arms stubbornly over her chest as if she were daring him to say something, anything to try to convince her that she was not utterly and completely furious as the turn of events.

“Reyna, please, listen. This is a family tradition! We come out here at least once a summer to pick peaches together, all of us. The peaches are fresh, they’re sweet, and, to top it all off, this orchard is owned by one of Mom’s friends from high school. He doesn’t use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides on his trees, so that’s why there are lots of bugs everywhere. But that’s how farming should be – bugs ‘n all.”

Reyna kept her arms crossed, not entirely convinced. But seeing the light in her husband’s eyes, she sighed and decided she would endure, pasting a smile on her face as she started towards the rest of the family clan, who were waiting expectantly by a crooked peach tree a few rows down, baskets in hand. Somewhere along the line while picking peaches, Reyna and her father-in-law, Charles who everyone knew as “Charlie,” fell away from the rest of the group. She was standing on the ground holding the peach basket, and he, above her on the ladder. They worked this way for a while, not a whisper between them. Aside from the buzzing of the bees, there was only the rhythmic swish, thud, swish, thud, of the branches rustling and ripe yellow peach after yellow peach falling gently from Charlie’s hand into Reyna’s raised basket. Until, that is, Charlie began to speak. When he spoke, he did not directly address Reyna. Rather, it was as though he was reliving an experience, and Reyna was simply a bystander fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, who was able to step back in time to when Charlie was a young man. While the wizened white hair continued to stubbornly attempt to escape the confines of his faded baseball cap and the deep-set crow’s-feet continued to dance bemusedly at the corners of his eyes, Charlie’s sapphire spheres glowed with youthful vigor as he began to recount his experience working in the peach orchards.

“Back in my day, peach season started later, in early-June, and ended in late-August.[19] In fact, it overlapped the beginning of the fall school semester, and there were so many peach orchards ‘round here that come peach season, everyone was working in the fields. That is, of course, unless you were allergic to the peach fuzz.” He smiled, chuckled a little. “The peach fuzz was a real problem. After working a day – no matter if you were pickin’, holdin’ baskets, sortin’ damaged fruit, or packin’ – come time to go home, you would be absolutely coated in fuzz. This? This here is nothin’. But it was good pay, and it was a good time to spend with a lot of other folks our age. In fact, it’s where I managed to charm my beautiful wife Laura over there – well, at the time she wasn’t my wife. We had always gone to the same school, but she never paid me any attention. She always was too good for me, and she knew it too. But there was something about the peach orchards and spendin’ all that time together – of course, it did help that I would pick up on her slack every now and then, well, no, that’s wrong. She was always a real good worker, that’s something I liked about her. Back then, peach farmin’ was a way of life for lots of people, and it was a big part of our lives too. It was something that brought the community together and connected us both to each other and the land we live on. I guess that’s why we do this, every year. By the time we had kids and they were old enough, a lot of the peach orchards closed though.[20] High school kids didn’t work there anymore – most of ‘em like Daniel got jobs at one of the grocery stores nearby, or at a department store or something. By coming here every year, we can remember where we came from, how Laura and I came together, and how important the earth and the land is to our lives. And the peaches are a sweet bonus to top it all off.”

Reyna still remembers the way Charlie ended his monologue, climbing down off the ladder and lying down on the rotten peach spotted ground beneath the peach tree. His eyes, formerly dancing with nostalgia, were shut in an expression of complete and utter contentment. In each hand, he held a ripened peach – neither perfect, both marred by wrinkles and spots. Raising one to his own mouth, he motioned for Reyna to take the other and patted the ground beside him. She moved forward, at first hesitantly, then confidently, taking the peach and laying down beside him. They stayed like this for a period, Charlie with his eyes closed, but Reyna with hers wide open. She embraced the warmth of the sun on her face, the buzz of the mifeng she had feared in her ears. The pungent odor of rotting fruit mixed with the sweet fragrance of ripe peaches permeated the air, different yet comforting, and she traced the edges of those fluffy white clouds of cotton in the sea of blue with just as much intentionality as she had as a girl in Longtan Park. It was in this moment that she realized the United States, this completely foreign land, was truly not so different from her homeland, that regardless of her geographic location, wherever there is lantian baiyun, she will always be able to find a home.

But now, Reyna worries. The annual family peach-picking trip has become increasingly difficult as more and more peach orchards close. Now, they must plan far in advance and make sure they arrive early to the orchard, lest the trees be picked bare before they even arrive. Recent severe weather patterns have exacerbated the small farmers’ struggles as dry spells combined with late freezes have made for very difficult crop conditions, and fewer new peach trees are planted each year.[21] So, it is no wonder that the small roadside stalls are becoming increasingly rare. Another factor is consumer habits. She, like most of her friends, has become accustomed to doing most of her family grocery shopping at large, chain stores, and has done so for several years. It is not a surprise that these kind of stores – Walmart especially – are branching into China where the densely populated cities provide large consumer markets excited for the chance to buy products like Skippy’s Super Chunk Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter.[22]

Regardless, Reyna brought the peanut butter. But never mind the contents of her suitcase – the medical staff has reached the row in front of them. Thank goodness, it’s almost over. Reyna and Lucy bought their tickets relatively late, so they are sitting in the second to last row in the back of the plane. Only twelve more foreheads to scan before they will be free from the confines of this stifling steel container. The heat has increased as they wait, and Reyna sees a small bead of sweat forming on the furrowed brow of the man to her left.

“Please remain still until the scan is complete. “

“Thank you.”


“Please remain still until the scan is complete.”

“Thank you.”


The woman moves closer and closer, methodically, reminding Reyna of one of the robots from the futuristic, sci-fi movie she watched earlier on the flight. She wonders if maybe one day soon, it won’t be a robotic woman scanning foreheads, but a woman robot – that is, if robots even have gender. Far from remaining relegated to the confines of the screen, use of robots has become increasingly common place, particularly in industrial settings, though Reyna recalls seeing on the news a story of a robot specifically designed to pull weeds, thus eliminating the need for chemical pesticides which often have negative side effects to human health.[23] [24] When she was Lucy’s age, she would never have imagined a robot farmer of all things. Reyna can only wonder what the world will look like when Lucy is her age. Perhaps the need for human labor will be completely eliminated. Or perhaps technology will enable people to teleport across long distances in a split second, eliminating the need for airplanes and other such modes of transport. Who knows, maybe temperatures will have risen such that life on Earth is no longer feasible, and humans will be looking towards other planets to live on. Reyna hopes not.

The robot-like woman has finally reached their row. She leans over the man to Reyna’s left, the one slightly perspiring.

“Please remain still until the scan is complete.”

The scanner beeps shrilly. The woman checks the back of the scanner and apparently is pleased with the number she sees.

“Thank you.”

She leans in Reyna’s direction and the scanner, with its unnatural azure glow and shining white surface descends, much like a seabird to the water’s edge, until it rests, hovering, just inches from Reyna’s skin.

“Please remain still until the scan is complete.”

She holds her breath, heart beating rapidly. She feels fine, yet the intensity of the moment has her doubting her confidence in her own state of health.

“Thank you.”

She breathes a sigh of relief, but her heart refuses to slow, instead pulsing madly, as the woman moves towards Lucy. Reyna pulls Lucy into her lap, comforting her daughter whose eyes have grown wide and white as she watches the impeding scanner. Reyna whispers into Lucy’s downy locks, “It’s okay sweetie. Mommy’s here. It’s all okay. The nice lady is just going to take your temperature okay? Then we can go soon.”

The woman’s voice sounds: “Please remain still until the scan is complete.”

The scanner beeps. Reyna’s heart stops. The air, previously humming with the rise and fall of hundreds of voices, seems to still as she waits in anticipation for the answer which will determine the nature of her daughter’s first introduction to Reyna’s motherland.

“Thank you.”

Reyna exhales loudly, then proceeds to smother Lucy with relieved kisses, tickling her until the sweet gurgle of her innocent laugh fills the stagnant air of the plane cabin. The last forehead is scanned, and the intercom pings for the final time.

“Thank you for your cooperation. We have certainly enjoyed having you on board today, and we hope to see you again soon. Thank you for flying United Airlines. Xiexie.[25]

Time slows to a crawl as Reyna and Lucy gather their belongings and wait, the long line of people in front of them to funneling out of the aircraft, one by one. They inch forward, growing closer and closer to the mouth of the bird, Reyna fairly brimming with anticipation while a heavy-lidded Lucy nestles snuggly in her arms. After what feels like an eternity, they reach the front of the plane. Reyna hesitates – closes her eyes. It is just one step, one step that will transport her from one country to another, from the only world Lucy has ever known to one completely foreign, a world Reyna used to know but in recent years has changed so much she fears she will no longer recognize it. She takes a deep breath, pries her eyes open, then forces her feet forward.

At first, Reyna’s senses are overwhelmed. People chatter, some voices high and others low, some speaking Chinese and others English. Suitcases clatter as they are yanked down from circling conveyer belts. Carts with loose wheels rattle as they are pushed across the smooth tile floors. Scents waft, some pungent and some aromatic. Freshly cooked French fries and spicy dandan mian[26] sold side by side meld together,[27] teasing Reyna’s olfactory nerve. She is unaccustomed to smelling these two foods, one Western and one Eastern, together, but she pushes her thoughts aside. She ignores the voice in the back of her head telling her to track down her 3M mask-filled suitcase and disregards the rumbling of her stomach. Instead, her feet point determinedly forward, and she moves. One step – two – three – until she reaches her destination.

It is a window, slightly clouded with telltale water stains from the last rain that have yet to be wiped clean. Reyna peers beyond the haze and sees, finally sees, the city of her childhood, the city of twenty-two million people, the city which has seen so much change. But the city is not what she is looking for. Holding her now sleeping daughter ever closer, Reyna tilts her head upwards, to the sky, to the heavens, and, with tears in her eyes, whispers into her daughter’s hair — “lantian baiyun.


Works Cited

Adcox, Susan. “What Are the Chinese Names for Grandmother?” The Spruce. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

Alcindor, Yamiche. “Anti-vaccine Movement Is Giving Diseases a 2nd Life.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 08 Apr. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

Barboza, David. “A Popular Chinese Social Networking App Blazes Its Own Path.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

“Beijing Population 2017.” World Population Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

“Causes of Climate Change.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 20 Mar. 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

Hetzel, Tracy. Cloud. 2011. Long Blue Straw. 24 Aug. 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Huesemann, Michael, and Joyce Huesemann. Techno-fix: Why Technology Won’t save Us or the Environment. Gabriola, B.C.: New Society, 2011. Print.

“Historical Retrospective of SC’s Peach Industry.” News. N.p., 2 July 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2017.

Kahn, Matthew E. “The Environmental Impact of Suburbanization.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 19.4 (2000): 569. ProQuest. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

Li, Yong, Lirong Wang, Gengrui Zhu, Weichao Fang, Ke Cao, Changwen Chen, Xinwei Wang, and Xiaoli Wang. “Phenological Response of Peach to Climate Change Exhibits a Relatively Dramatic Trend in China, 1983–2012.” Scientia Horticulturae 209 (2016): 192-200. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Mackey, Robert. “A New Airport Ritual, Swine Flu Screening.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 29 July 2009. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

Onag, Gigi. “The perfect blend: the emergence of modern western-style chains is changing not only the look and feel of Asia’s coffee culture, it is also changing consumer attitudes and drinking habits.” Business Traveller Asia Pacific July-Aug. 2011: 52+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Ostfeld, Richard S., and Felicia Keesing. “Biodiversity and Disease Risk: The Case of Lyme Disease.” Conservation Biology 14.3 (2000): 722-28. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

“Park Life.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 16 Dec. 2015. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

“Protecting Children from the Harmful Effects of Food and Drink Marketing.” WHO. World Health Organization, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Ridley, John D. “The Peach Industry in South Carolina.” International Society for Horticultural Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Severson, Kim. “When Is Peach Season? It’s a Bit Fuzzy.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 July 2016. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

The Associated Press. “Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club: A Bright Spot in China.” The Denver Post. N.p., 31 May 2016. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

The World Air Quality Index Project. “Beijing Air Pollution: Real-time PM2.5 Air Quality Index (AQI).” N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

[1] In an interview, Ann Cummins, author of Yellowcake said, “place is as important as character. They’re intertwined.” As this story blends biographical and fictional elements, I have chosen a plane landing in Beijing Capital Internal Airport as the setting. This is the airport my family always flies into when we travel to China and is thus reflective of my own personal experience. However, more importantly, the plane signifies transition, reflecting not only Reyna’s own feelings, but also the large scale environmental changes Reyna contemplates later in the story.

[2] Baobei means darling, baby, or treasured one in Chinese. This is a commonly used term of endearment which can be used in either a romantic – as it is in this case – or romantic sense.

[3] Puopuo – 婆婆 – is the more informal Chinese term for maternal grandmother. In Chinese, there are multiple different words for grandmother depending on closeness of relations as well as if she is maternal or paternal. Historically, Chinese grandparents have a very significant role in helping to raise grandchildren, which makes Reyna and Lucy’s separation from puopuo all the more culturally significant. See Adcox for more information on Chinese grandparents, their names, as well as their role in society.

[4] Modern suburbia represents a monument environmental issue, both in terms of resource consumption and health. See Kahn for a more detailed examination of suburbanization’s impact on energy consumption and unsustainable land use. For an examination into suburbanization’s impact on habitat fragmentation and the attendant biodiversity issues that arise, refer to Kahn. Habitat fragmentation often has a direct correlation with the rise of certain infectious diseases like Lyme Disease as it encourages the interaction of humans with vectors which carry the disease. For a case study researching Lyme Disease, see Ostfeld.

[5] During the H1N1 epidemic in China, it was not uncommon for passengers on incoming flights to get scanned for fever upon landing in China. Passengers found with above normal temperatures and/or symptoms of disease were then quarantined to prevent further spread of H1N1. I experienced this in 2009 when my family returned to China to visit my puopuo. See Mackey for a video of swine flu screening.

[6] Refer to Ying-kit for more information on how influenza continues to evolve and how the increased interaction between humans and animals like pigs who carry swine flu can influence human health outcomes.

[7] Though influenza has affected humanity for decades, even centuries, it still has tremendous impact. Though it does not wipe out thousands of people as it did in 1918 with the outbreak of the Spanish Flu, people die and families are affected, as emotionally recounted by Zwanziger.

[8] Recently, the anti-vaccine movement, spurred by people who do not trust the government and others who believe that vaccines cause autism, have resulted in a reemergence in diseases which have been largely forgotten like measles and whooping cough. It is critical that people continue to both get annual vaccines and vaccinate their children in order to prevent spread of diseases which can be avoided. See Alcindor for more information on the need for vaccines in combatting infectious disease.

[9] When I was a child, Kellogg’s princess fruit snacks were always a household favorite. While my older sister and I appreciated our usual snack of “ants on a stick” – celery stalk with peanut butter and raisins on top – we much preferred the little packets of gummy fruit snacks. However, in terms of nutrition, fruit snacks are far inferior and also contain considerably higher sugar content. Diets full of high sugar, highly-processed food contribute to obesity which in turn increases the risk of a wide array of negative health consequences. However, companies producing these types of food often encourage consumption by targeting young consumers and even positioning these items in stores such that they are at eye-level for children. See WHO for more on the impact of food advertising on child health.

[10] However, weixin is more than just another social media platform. Rather, it signifies China’s development and progress, particularly in science and technology. See Barboza for more information on weixin, technology development in China, and its social impact.

[11] For more information on air quality, please visit The World Air Quality Index Project. Here, users can see real-time air quality indexes for cities around the globe, including Beijing. There are also helpful links to recent air quality news and air quality related products like protection masks and purifiers. The 3M N95 mask can be located here.

[12] For a more comprehensive look at Beijing’s population, how it has evolved over time, as well as demographic distribution, refer to “Beijing Population 2017.”

[13] My puopuo, like Lucy’s, lived only a five-minute walk from a large nearby park. I remember walking there every morning and observing the different activities taking place. I chose to include this in one of Reyna’s flashbacks not only because of my personal connection, but also because it illustrates a peaceful, community oriented aspect of Chinese culture which is often overlooked by people unfamiliar with Chinese culture. For more information on Chinese park activity, refer to “Park Life.”

[14] Taichi is a form of Chinese martial art that focuses on internal strength and reduces stress. It can be practiced by people of all ages, though it is common to see groups of older people practicing taichi in Chinese parks in the early morning.

[15] Gonggong is the more casual Chinese term for maternal grandfather.

[16] Whereas when my mother was growing up in Beijing, people bought all of their groceries from farmers who came into the city to peddle their crops, usually on a cloth laid out on the side of the street in the early morning, nowadays, many people living in large cities get their groceries at Walmart or Sam’s Club. The influx of these Western corporations not only represents growing globalization, but is also changing the way Chinese people shop for food and influencing their eating culture. See The Associated Press for more information on Sam’s Club in China.

[17] Refer to Severson for more on the peach growing season in different regions.

[18] Mifeng is the Chinese term for bee. Reyna’s distaste for bees is significant in that it represents the mindsets of many people today. Instead of cherishing bees for pollinating flowers and enabling agriculture to flourish, much of society fears bees or sees them as a menace, perhaps simply because they were stung once as a child. Refer to “To be or not to bee; Agriculture” for more on the importance of bees to America’s agricultural wellbeing and current strides taken to prevent further bee loss.

[19] Note, peach season in South Carolina now begins earlier. This is largely due to the impacts of climate change on budding season. As it generally warms earlier, peach trees bud earlier, while defoliation has been delayed. See Li for a detailed research study into peaches in China.

[20] The peach industry is integral to South Carolina’s economy. Though South Carolinians only began growing peaches commercially after the 1850s, South Carolina estimates over 200 million pounds of peaches per year at a value of $35 million. However, in recent years, this annual average has decreased to between $20-30 million, largely due to drought and poor weather conditions. The number of peach packing sheds has also decreased from 125 to 10 as the industry has become more centralized. Global climate change and globalization have both had monumental impact on the lives of small-scale peach farmers in South Carolina, just as they have in many other agricultural sectors. For more information on the South Carolina peach industry, see “Historical Retrospective of SC’s Peach Industry.”

[21] Global climate change, which many scientists argue has been primarily caused by human activities, results in many abnormal weather patterns which makes agriculture both difficult and unreliable for farmers. For more information regarding climate change, refer to “Causes of Climate Change.” See Ridley for more on its effects on the South Carolina peach industry in particular.

[22] Consumer culture in China and many other countries has evolved as more western influences become common place. Walking down the streets of Beijing myself summer of 2016, I noticed several American chain restaurants and stores, including but not limited to KFC, Starbucks, and 7/11. As these American businesses move into Asia, they do not only integrate themselves into the physical landscape, but also change consumer practices and attitudes. While Reyna experiences this with regards to grocery shopping and peanut butter, see Onag for a parallel examining the integration of Western coffee shops into Asian culture.

[23] Technology has always been at the forefront of society. One of mankind’s most critical inventions was the wheel which made transportation much faster and more feasible. For the Romans, their hallmark technological innovation was the aqueduct. As we look to the future, many people believe technology is the answer, that innovation will reverse much of the harm humans have wrecked on our environment. This mentality places extreme weight on the idea of a “technofix,” or technology that will save the environment. For an interesting critic of this ideology, read Huesemann and Huesemann’s Techno-fix.

[24] Despite opposition to the “techno-fix,” technology can be used for good. For more information on this robot which removes weeds and seven other new robots entering the market, refer to Wang.

[25] Xiexie is the Chinese term for “thank you.”

[26] Dandan mian is a type of spicy Chinese soup noodle that originates in the Sichuan province.

[27] I emphasized this mingling of scents as it symbolizes the mingling of cultures which results from globalization. French fries, likely sold from an American chain fast food restaurant, are sold beside a restaurant selling food from the Sichuan province of China, but they are both in the Beijing airport. Not only has Eastern culture melded with Western culture, but regional differences within Chinese culture have come together as well.