June 6, 2009
Thanks to everyone who supported me on my goal of visiting Mt. Everest Base Camp on foot. I set this goal almost three years ago in the Fall of 2006 after reading Ed Viesturs’ book No Shortcuts to the Top which I found to be one of the best climbing/adventure books out there. I’ve always loved to be outdoors and high elevation trekking and climbing makes for me an insatiable combination of enjoyment and challenge. Travelling 10,000 miles to the other side of the world and spending a month adapting to new cultures, people, food, tiolets, volatile politics, highly dynamic environmental conditions, and high elevation made this trip really fun and rewarding (and I racked up 20,000 frequent flyer miles ).
On November 11th 2007 I put my goal into action when I sent the following message to four friends (Erik, Arvind, Charles D., and Wes) and my two brothers (Damon and Bryon).
All, You're getting this email because I've either chatted with you (probably many times) about a trip to Everest Base Camp or I think you're probably crazy enough to join me even though we haven't talked about it yet.
... deleted details on trek cost and timing ... That's what I've come up with so far. I'm thinking about penciling in November 2008 on my calendar. Three weeks is a minimum so you'll probably want to have a full month free. I'd love to get everyone's thoughts.
As it turns out, I only got one of the final participants correct on my first invitation attempt, Erik Severinghaus. Scott Dillard and Charlie Schmidt who later joined our crew would be invited by Erik and I respectively through various conversations during the planning process.
During the year and a half of planning we had at some points as many as eight people confirmed in our crew. In the end half dropped out as we expected, some of them very last minute. Our final crew included myself, Erik Severinghaus (UNC college friend and former and current business partner in Chicago, Il), Scott Dillard (UNC college friend and recent med school graduate in Mobile, AL), and Charlie Schmidt (high school friend and restaurant owner in Sylva, NC).
When we began to plan this trip in November of 2007 we planned to spend three weeks trekking in Nepal followed by one week of celebration and relaxation on the beaches of Thailand. Because of the schedules of a few of the people in our crew we ended up flipping the order and going to Thailand first which for most strategic reasons was quite backwards but because of timing was required. We also moved the trip from November 2008 to May 2009 to accommodate Scott’s May 9th 2009 graduation from medical school. The final trip schedule included three nights in Bangkok, Thailand, three nights on the southern Thai island of Ko Samui, two nights on the southern Thai island of Ko Phanang (including the famous Full Moon Party on the East Beach on May 9th), seven nights in Kathmandu, Nepal, and fourteen nights on the trekking route between Lukla, Nepal and Everest Base Camp.
In order to update family and friends back home of our progress I rented an Iridium Satellite Phone for the month and sent SMS text updates to Twitter almost daily. Until this trip I had forgotten how much it sucks to send text messages from old school T9 text input phones (ie: phones without a QWERTY keyboard). You can view my tweets between May 3rd 2009 and May 31st 2009 to see the updates I sent via satellite phone.
During our 14 days on the trekking route to Everest Base Camp we stayed in Lukla, Phakding, Namche Bazaar, Pangboche, Dingboche, Lobuche, Gorak Shep, and Pherice for one or more nights along the way. We rode on one of the coolest and scariest flights you’ll ever see from Kathmandu to Lukla where the runway is cut into a cliff and ends abruptly at a brick wall. We walked and climbed 44,000 gross vertical feet round-trip and 8,600 net vertical feet one-way from Lukla to Everest Base Camp. We reached a maximum elevation of right around 18,000 feet where the atmosphere contains 45% of the oxygen that it does at sea level. We suffered the traditional headaches, coughing, lack of appetite, lack of energy, dizzyness, numbness, tingling, and diarea common with high altitude trekking. We reached Everest Base Camp on May 22nd 2009 at 12:20PM Nepali Local Time and returned to Gorak Shep that evening through a light blizzard of snow, ice, and clouds (we spent nine hours total on the trail that day). The following day as we descended to Pherice we heard word of 10 feet of snow that had fallen on Everest Base Camp immediately after we left putting all of the season-end camp breakdown and transport on hold because the yaks and porters couldn’t pass the trails.
For the best stories from the trip you’ll have to grab me in person. There are just too many to write down. Everyone else in our crew kept journals along the way but as Sarah always says I have a “memory like a steel trap” so I opted to spend my free time sleeping, reading, and listening to my iPod. Mostly sleeping. And additionally, I have a strong philosophy against writing down stories immediately when they happen. In these cases you’re apt to forget to include all of the great details that didn’t quite happen. These types of stories don’t get any better over time and therefore are far less interesting than their ever-improving counterparts. Those are the stories I like to tell. It’s worth mentioning that Big Fish is one of my most favorite movies of all times. That guy knows how to tell a story.
Anyway, to save countless thousands of words, I’ve titled and organized pictures from our trip and grouped them by segment. I hope you’ll take a look: Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek Pictures on Flickr.
As an aside, on the trip I was able to read a few books. Specifically Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and The Diamond as Big as the Ritz and Other Short Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I tried like hell to get through The 80/20 Principle but I just couldn’t do it. I am permanantly stuck on page 30. When a book puts its own conclusion on the cover and you immediately identify with it, it becomes hard to want to spend 280 pages reconfirming it to yourself via someone else’s irrelevant examples. Maybe I’ll try this one again later.
Again, thanks to the Preation team, Ryan, Neil, Greg, Lee, Lynn, Phil, and Debbie for allowing me to be out of the country and completely disconnected from email and phone for an entire month in order to accomplish this goal. On the iContact side as well Ryan, Tim, our VP Team, and the Board of Directors all supported me from day one. I’m incredibly lucky to have such supportive co-workers and friends. And also Sarah, who after spending the last eight years together was kind enough (or possibly just mad enough) to let me jet off to Southeast Asia without her to do some backpacking with the boys for 29 days.
Thanks again to all. I’m glad to be home.
December 19, 2008
Sarah and I had great seats tonight at the UNC game against Evansville at home in the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill. Our friends at Trust Company of the South provided us with a nice upgrade to our normal season tickets which are literally the four worst seats in the Dean Dome… an upper level corner section in row Y.
For this game I had a great vantage point five rows up from half court. I was able to shoot this video as Tyler Hansbrough scored his 2,292 point at UNC (make sure to click for the ‘high quality’ version once you get to YouTube) in a classic Hansbrousian shot through double teamed defense on the low post. When the shot went in off the bank the crowd erupted and Roy called a time out. Tyler thanked and waved to the crowd and shook hands with the team. Photographers rushed the court and piled up around half court to take pictures of Tyler who was shaking hands with Phil Ford.
The new Chancellor of UNC Holden Thorpe was sitting four rows in front of us. I never really thought about it before but he sure had great seats. Hey Holden, if you’re going out of town for any reason let me know and I’ll keep those seats warm for you. And one more question, did you know about those seats before you applied for the position? Well played sir!
August 28, 2008
A few weeks back on the weekend of August 2nd I spent a few days in Chicago with friends. On Friday we attended the Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates game at Wrigley Field and then spent the evening at Lollapalooza. Unfortunately the Cubs lost despite all the “it’s gonna happen” signs displayed on high.
That afternoon we saw The Raconteurs on one of the big stages. They were pretty good and pulled a huge crowd. I thought their music was a nice combination of indy creativity and mainstream appeal but they certainly looked wild. It was a fun show overall. That evening we saw Radiohead on the other main stage, with a crowd literally eight football fields in size. The visualizations with lights above the stage and on the display screens was pretty cool but the music was slow and from a combination of the heat, humidity, and the dragging on and on of each tune the crowd thinned out early. We left with about an hour left to head into town for a bite to eat.
On Saturday we saw Dierks Bentley in the afternoon and then spent the rest of the day before dark preparing for what was sure to be a blowout show that evening in Rage Against the Machine. We lined up with a packed crowd about one and a half hours before show time, about 60 “rows” back from the stage. We were at the top of a very small bump in the lawn which gave us a great vantage point and made keeping track of our original standing easy as the crowd forced us to migrate throughout the evening. Everyone was standing in a crowd that was easily over 200,000 in total. Walking without people in your path from the front edge of the stage to the back of the lawn would have probably taken 5 full minutes at a fast clip and the width was easily 200 yards.
MTV.com put up a nice review of the intensity and urgency of the situation that began shortly thereafter. The show started with Testify and Bulls on Parade and as soon as the first note screamed out the surge of the crowd pressing forward tightening everyone in around us. The group didn’t even make it to the end of the third song in the set before they pulled the power and shut the music down in an attempt to calm the crazed crowd. The intensity was incredible and the tunes brought me back to listening to Rage and similar genres while cruising down the ski hill with my headphones on in the cold of winter. It’s certainly the type of music that gets you excited and that’s what it did to the crowd.
I shot some video of the band pleading with the crowd to take several big steps back and to calm down which they did a total of four times throughout the night. We joked that it was like Rage had an insurance policy they were worried about as their pleas seemed more like the demands of the man than their honest intention. At one point the band even put one of their security team members on the microphone to plead for people upfront to thin out to prevent injury. Our jokes were probably as much out of jest as they were out of nervous concern for our own safety as kids nearby started shoving and punching circles into the crowd. The best indication I saw all night of the damage going on up in front of us was a husband and wife and their probably 14-year-old son holding hands and rushing in a single-file line while pushing hard to escape the crowd just minutes into the show. Their eyes said it all, pure panic.
Overall it was one heck of a show and one heck of an experience but I got what I wanted out of it. Next time I’ll be there with similar intensity but probably at a vantage point a few more feet back from the stage. Rock on!
July 23, 2008
Yesterday I got the chance to ride a second generation Segway at the Fortune Brainstorm Technology Conference in Half Moon Bay, California. Myself, Ryan, and a group of about 25 total attendees from the conference started on a nearby tennis court and were trained one-by-one on how to mount, drive, stop, steer, and dismount the Segway. As each person was trained we moved over to the other side of the court to practice getting around. Only two wrecks later (neither were me) the whole group was trained in about 30 minutes and we were off to cruise along the high cliffs of the Pacific Ocean, luckily on a nice cement trial about 15 feet back from the edge.
Even though I had only been a Segway rider for less than an hour I felt comfortable riding along beside the cliffs. I guess you can at least jump off of the thing if it were to try to take you in a direction you didn’t want to go. After we returned from our quick tour around the property and trails of the Ritz Carlton along the ocean we returned to the parking lot beside the training tennis courts. Although we had done all of our cruising around on the turtle mode which limits the top speed to about 6 mph the tour guides turned turtle mode off and we took a few quick turns and shots around the parking lot at 12 mph. I never realized twelve miles per hours was so fast, at top speed I really felt like I was shooting along. I can see why they wouldn’t recommend it to beginners, you could get yourself seriously hurt if you fell off or accidentally steered into something.
Ryan shot a short video of me playing with the Segway at its top speed. Super fun! There may very well be a Segway in my commuting future. It goes about 24 miles on a single charge at a cost of about 10 cents (I cannot remember if that was 10 cents total or 10 cents per mile). My daily commute is about three miles each way. Stay tuned.
July 13, 2008
During the Thanksgiving holiday of the Fall of 2005 Sarah and I and her mother and father visited her Uncle Charles for a wedding in Hartford, Connecticut. We had an excellent time and it was an event that will never be forgotten. While we were there we did some sightseeing which included one of Mark Twain’s residences. I sent the following note home via email.
Hartford is cold, apparently they have real winters up in this part of the country. I almost miss the bitter cold, the kind that makes you wonder if your face is going to sustain some type of permanent damage before you get into a car or a house. It’s clearly the dry air and the wind that make the difference. Just that alone reminds me of my childhood in Wisconsin.
We landed in the middle of a blizzard last night, a few inches of snow fell over the evening after we arrived and made the roads a tad slippery on our 20-minute or so drive to the hotel. Landing in the snow was amazing, it looked like fog as we came down into it but it was clear as the light on the end of the wing was illuminating it that there were thick particles, not just clouds, in the air. The 30-mile-an-hour winds in the last 1000 feet or so of our descent made for a more than interesting ride.
Last night we had enough time to get settled and spend about an hour or so touring Uncle Charles’ house here in the little town/suburb of New Britain, CT. It’s an amazing house, all brick, built in the 1930s, with an absolute labyrinth of underground passages making up the basement. It’s a three story house with original wood floors in nearly every room.
This morning we bundled up and drove about 8 miles back toward Hartford to tour Nook Farm, a small hilltop where Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and her sister (Isabelle I believe??) all had houses side-by-side. There is now a very nice museum for Mark Twain there built just across from the house, on the other side of his carriage house. The mansion is amazing, but the most interesting fact is that neither his wealth nor status as a successful writer helped him build it, because at that time neither existed. He simply married well, his wife paid the full cost of $45,000.00 when they built it in 1874. The majority of his most famous works were actually written on a small corner desk in the billiards room in the top floor of the house. He lived in Hartford when he was in his 30s and into his 40s, at which point he already had 7 servants, including a butler and a coachman all living on site. The restoration of the house is simply amazing, since it’s actually been an apartment complex, a boys school, and a public library since the time he lived there.
Of some interest is the fact that Nook Farm was named after the nook in the Park River that the property is located within, and the old pictures verify it being nearly out his living room window. Although, today, for pollution reasons the Park River has been “put underground” as the tour guide mentioned. The area where the river used to be is now a series of parking lots, a condominium, and several busy city streets. I’m not sure whether the fact that the river has been completely covered up and you wouldn’t know it ever existed is the most odd piece of this situation, or whether it’s the fact that the tour guide said “put underground” as her way of describing what had been done to the river as if this were something one could just do in a lazy afternoon. It is a shame that the river cannot be seen in any direction from the Twain house today.
I picked up a couple of magnets with his quotes on them today, including “The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds” and “The lack of money is the root of all evil” and “Scotch whisky … I always take it at night as a preventive of toothache. I have never had the toothache; and what is more, I never intend to have it.” I didn’t purchase a magnet with this one, but I found humor in his simply understated remark “I have sampled this life” written above one of the rooms in the museum dedicated to stories of his travels and adventures.
I’ve provided a good picture of the outside of the house that we took today and a picture of Sarah and I on our way in to give Mr. Clemmons himself a holiday greeting. Regretfully, we just missed him.
July 12, 2008
It wasn’t a surprise today to see that local news channel WRAL selected a Puggle (pug, beagle mix) as their first prospect for a new program they’re calling the Bad Dog Challenge. The program helps pet owners with unbelievably bad pets attempt to provide some obedience through teaching tips on how to handle specific bad behaviors. For instance, the Puggle Albie featured in this issue enjoyed chewing everything in sight, stealing things (probably clothing, towels, and blankets if I had to guess), and barking and shaking her crate while caged up.
I wasn’t surprised because of my recent (since November 2006) experiences with Puggles. In fact, to make their lack of obedience even more fun we got a boy and girl from the same litter so they enjoy each other more than us and always follow each other’s lead before ours. For dogs that have been described as having the best features of Pugs (I haven’t found one yet) combined with the positive aspects of Beagles (very loving but strongly instinctive) I would have to say something is missing upstairs. Maybe they’re stubborn, maybe they just don’t learn, or both, as our professional dog trainer shouted as he returned them back into our handling after three very expensive months living within his facility. In result they returned to us very happy to be back home, very loving, and sort of house broken. Biting, barking, screaming (a unique Pug characteristic), house soiling, sock stealing, shoe and sandal licking, feces eating, jumping, aggressively playing inside, and attention getting remained.
But, they sure are cute and loving when they’re sleepy (possibly the only redeeming quality of a Puggle). As some advice to future Puggle owners… crate train religiously in the beginning (probably for 1-2 years straight), never ever give them the freedom to roam the house without supervision, buy lots of Nylabones in an attempt to allow them to wear themselves out, and no matter how cute they are at the breeders facility DO NOT get two (especially not a brother and sister from the same litter).
We’ve also found that because of their sensitive noses (probably from the Beagle side considering the Pug has no talents to speak of) they need twice as much time as a normal dog to go to the bathroom outside even when they have to go badly. This is where a fenced in yard comes in really handy and is a must-have with this breed. Just make sure to get a privacy fence or a picket fence at least four feet tall and with a 1.5 inch or less gap between the pickets (they are small dogs after all). Expect them to ignore people passing by but to bark and scream at each other ferociously when another dog walks near (we still haven’t figured this behavior out because they don’t really bark at the passing dog).
July 8, 2008
Sarah and I and about 15 friends and spouses of iContact employees spent Saturday a week ago in Chapel Hill working on a beautiful Habitat for Humanity home. The home is for a family who lived previously in a Habitat Home in the area that burned down recently. The lot is within an incredibly peaceful and quiet neighborhood just south of Chapel Hill that was an entire Habitat for Humanity neighborhood going as far back as 20 years ago. A previous house on this same lot was recently demolished to make way for the new construction.
Our team for the day was broken into a morning crew and an afternoon crew. Our morning crew began around 8AM and had 15 people.
We spent the morning putting our new iContact Habitat t-shirts to work while nailing vinyl siding to the back and two sides of the house. Vinyl is very easy to install because it basically just requires lightly tacking roofing nails into small slots within the top of each row of siding. But, it’s not easy to get right. Each row requires measuring and remeasuring and you have to get it perfect or the rows of siding won’t line up on the corners (which looks real funny if you get it wrong).
Another part of our team dug out around a pipe in the back of the house that would need to be replaced. It took a number of hours to get through the thick rock and root systems around the pipe but we eventually got it done by using multiple shovels and a tall vertical pick. I jumped in because breaking rock and roots was a bit more dynamic and enjoyable than hanging siding and I got to use some brute strength which is always fun. I worked hard enough at that to get a nice blister even through my work gloves.
At lunch we joined the afternoon crew at noon and passed on what we had learned in the morning to them so that they could finish the projects we began earlier that day. Cindy and Michelle brought in four huge bags of Subway sandwiches and coolers of drinks so we had everything we needed to recharge.
June 17, 2008
In the summer of 2002 I spent 10 days as an adult leader on a Boy Scout out-island trip in the Florida Keys. Shortly after returning I wrote the following account of a specific experience I had along the way.
At the time this picture was taken I had just spent 5 days on a tropical island about 35 miles from Key West, Florida (Big Munson Island), I had showered only once (right before this picture) in the last week, and had lived in a caustic saltwater environment for several days straight. My eye had been blackened after being smashed and then sown up on a picnic table by lantern light.
Here’s what happened.
It all started with night snorkeling, which as it sounds is scary as can be, in kayaks, no lights for miles except for the island campfires we left minutes before, keep in mind we’re about 6 miles out from the coast of the keys.
At this point I’m scared. We swim in a coral reef about two miles from the island in the pitch black of night with heavy around-the-neck underwater flashlights. As we do this I can only see what’s exactly in front of me in the water… fish, etc are two feet from me when they come into view… we’re all worried about sharks but a few of the guys are really experienced and say we are fine.
I was looking out for sharks the entire time… we saw a few fish that were large enough to be scary by themselves… but they were moving quickly so I’d turn my head and only see a fin… even more scary.
So we get back into the kayaks (they were actually called Polynesian War Canoes, they hold 8 guys in each) and row in unison back into the out-water docks which are about 1/4 mile out from the shore. It’s gets so shallow in the low-water that we have to moor here and wade into the shore. The bottom is just MUCK, and walking more than 10 feet in 30 seconds is really good. Each step gets glued to the ocean floor and you have to pry it up for over 500 steps in a row… a very tiring ordeal each time.
So we’ve just seen all kinds of underwater life… yet the surface of the water is silent. As we pull into the floating docks, a few guys are on the docks nearby… they have just caught a shark. They’re intentionally fishing for sharks by gutting the fish they just caught and tossing them in bloody pieces into the water beside the docks… IE: the docks we have to tie up to, GET OUT NEXT TO, and walk into the shore from.
The second we arrive they have a shark on the line… and this shark is battling and eventually bites through the STEEL leader line and gets away. So right as we get in, we have 1 angry shark with a hook and line in its mouth, and a whole ocean’s worth of sharks that smell the blood already floating around the docks.
I say ‘already’ in the water because at this exact moment I begin to add more. We begin practically running in the goo to get back to shore, the entire wade from the docks is about waist-deep in the water. I jump out of the boat into the water with the rest of the frightened crew.
By a horrible stroke of luck, on my way out of the boat I drop straight down into the water… this part was planned. Although, my flashlight, weighing about 10 pounds, drops instead… into the boat.
By chance, the flashlight happens to be held by a short lanyard around my neck, thus as I continue to fall the flashlight comes whipping back up with my entire weight pulling it as I fall from above the water. At the exact time the flashlight exits the boat going up, my face is falling past the same location heading down. That’s where they meet.
I was pretty stunned at first, and I fell to the bottom, a bit over my head at this point. As I come back to the top I see the guys quickly swimming away from me and no one looking back.
I initially move as fast as I can in their direction. The first guy I catch I stop and ask him to check my face, I thought it might be bleeding from the collision. At this point my light was not working and I was in too much of a daze to take my hand way to examine what happened.
By the look on his face I immediately realized what had happened. He practically jumped out of his skin trying to swim away from me, and by the light of my two brothers’ flashlights – who were nice enough to stay and help me – I realized that I was not only bleeding, blood was literally running down the side of my head and chest and pouring into the water.
Basically it was the longest 15 minute walk of my life. We made it to shore safely although I was expecting the entire time to lose the back of my leg because there was no way I could protect it being that it was behind me and under water.
A small flap of skin below my right eye could be lifted to expose the bone beneath. One of the other adult leaders was a doctor and he said I needed stitches pronto or I was going to have a nasty scar and due to the proximity might get an infected eye. We spoke to the emergency communications contact on the island and decided that it was serious enough to warrant a boat or helicopter rescue if we didn’t feel comfortable dealing with it there. So under lantern light my friend Doctor Savell put in three stitches to close the wound as I layed on the picnic table in our dining tent… less than 15 feet from waves breaking on the shore.
June 1, 2008
My good friend Charles sent me the email below last Friday about an adventure he had over memorial day weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Western North Carolina, a park that I’ve spent plenty of time in over the years. Charles and his girlfriend Holly were following a pretty standard route from Newfoundland Gap in the higher elevations down to Deep Creek in the lower elevations along the Thomas Divide Trail. As an aside, the overlook at Thomas Divide near Cherokee, North Carolina just up the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the spookiest places I’ve ever been. The closest run-in with anything I’ve ever seen in person that I would describe as supernatural happened there when I was 17 years old. Ask me for the full story if you’re interested. The trails in this area are steep but not extremely remote, seeing wildlife along these routes is possible but not as much as some of the further out locations in the national park.
Here is Charles’ story, I’ve included the pictures inline which spoils the outcome a bit but you can probably guess what happened anyway. Wow!
For Memorial day Holly and I went on a backpacking trip to Deep Creek in the Smoky Mountains National Park. Everything was going well, until the second night when I ran into a bear. I was pumping water by the creek around dusk and a few meters down steam was a black bear. We rattled our pots and made lots of noise on our side of the creek and then went to hang our bear bags just to be on the safe side.
Now, by this time it was almost completely dark and when we came back into camp he was standing about 15 feet from us. I blew my emergency whistle and waved my hands and he scurried off. Well, needless to say we were both a bit concerned, neither one of us was going to sleep that well, so we decide to hike out the last six miles in the dark.I began to take down the tent and looked up to see that the bear had made a circle around us and was now standing 10 feet from me watching me take down the tent. Once again I moved toward him yelling shaking the brush to make myself appear larger, and began looking for a good rock to throw. Well, by that point it was dark and I was certainly ready to leave. I thought that he was associating me food, (I guess he came across a backpack or trash earlier in the week and had made the connection between humans and food) which is never a good combo. So, I told Holly that we would just leave the tent flat on the ground, leave the packs up in the bear bag rigging and hike out.
Those of you who have done deep creek before know the last 3 miles up to Newfoundland gap road is not easy, and its really not easy in the dark! I even looked behind us every few minutes to start with to make sure we weren’t being stalked. We spent the night in the car and hiked back down to claim the gear the following morning. Upon entering camp we realized that the tent and both threma rest had be completely shredded!! After seeing that, we were looking around us quite regularly We stopped and talked to a park ranger on the way out who was very interested. In the end we are just happy to be back in civilization.
May 20, 2008
Bryon returned from Beijing tonight after spending five months on exchange with Elon University in China. He emailed his return flight details a few days in advance and a request to eat a large American hamburger pretty much immediately upon landing. We drove into Chapel Hill and Bryon had the Montana Burger at Top of the Hill which he nearly finished. Damon and I snapped some quick pictures of us with Bryon before my camera entirely ran out of power.
He mentioned a bit about the recent earthquake in Chengdu in central China. Apparently in Beijing it wasn’t very strong although some of the higher buildings were felt swaying just a bit. According to Google maps it looks like Shanghai is actually slightly closer to Chengdu than Beijing. Some of our family friends are currently in Chongqing which is also in central China, just a few hundred miles away from Chengdu. Reports on the condition there during the quake were pretty incredible. For several days people didn’t feel safe to go back inside so they slept in the parks and open areas and most of the stores were closed.