CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I'll be the first to admit that science is not my strong suit. For some reason, though, I've been very intrigued with the Human Genome Project. Maybe it's that cool double-helix design -- or a throwback to the genetics section of a biology class years ago.
So, when I saw that President Clinton referenced the project in his commencement remarks at WVU, I decided to delve further into some of the research. The statistic Clinton cited was that "the sequencing of the human genome revealed all people are 99.9 percent the same."
How can that be? It's hard to imagine that only one-tenth of 1 percent of DNA makeup separates Israelis and Palestinians. Or men and women.
I recently had the opportunity to reflect on this theory when I traveled to China with my husband, my best friend since kindergarten and a group from the Charleston Area Alliance. What an experience! To be on the other side of the world -- in a culture so different from ours -- helped me to see the differences and the similarities among us.
As Americans, I believe, we've become spoiled because so many parts of the world have accommodated us by learning English -- and even printing bilingual signs. And we hardly have a leg to stand on when referring to our country's 200-something years of existence as history -- when compared with those of multiple thousands of years steeped in tradition by other countries.
The Alliance had paved the way for us with our visas and all the arrangements for access and enjoyment of China's business and cultural attributes. (Kudos to Matt, Drew, Jeri, Danny and Mike!) What a contrast between the cities and the countryside -- from a canal trip through a local village that could have taken place in an earlier century -- to the high-speed maglev train that travels 300 miles an hour -- above the rails. I never saw telephone poles whiz by so fast!
Beijing and Shanghai have populations of 17 million and 19 million, respectively. As testament to this, we continually saw mopeds and bicycles weaving in and out of traffic, along with miles and miles of high-rise apartments to house the population. Seeing "The Bird's Nest" in Beijing brought back memories of the 2008 Olympics. And a nighttime visit to the business center of Shanghai, The Bund, made me think of Times Square on steroids!
Our hike of the Great Wall, though, brought such respect for the history of the region. Standing in Tiananmen Square brought back poignant flashbacks. And the ornate Forbidden City, which housed a series of emperors, was breathtaking.