UNH Writers Series Presents Tom Haines

Thursday, February 9, 2012
Bookmark and Share

Russian Seal Hunting

Two seal hunters brave the ice edge during an early morning outing on the Russian side of the Bering Strait. Photo by Essdras M Suarez/The Boston Globe


The UNH Writers Series presents Tom Haines, assistant professor of journalism and Society of American Travel Writers Travel Journalist of the Year (2003, 2005) Thursday, Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. in MUB Theater 1.

During two decades as a journalist, Haines reported in more than 40 countries on five continents on topics ranging from coal to cricket, art to revolution. As a staff writer at The Boston Globe, he was three times named Travel Journalist of the Year in North America, and his stories were anthologized in “The Best American Travel Writing” and elsewhere. Read an excerpt of Haines' writing below.


Adventures in Transition Nation

SHANGHAI -- Stand on the concrete promenade of the Bund, a once-chaotic river wharf at the very center of this city, and spin: The horizon towers for 360 degrees. Neon streaks in blue, red, orange, and green. Silver apartment buildings merge at the edge of sight. Turn after turn, the fantasy of the Oriental Pearl Tower and the certainty of the 88-story Jinmao Tower punctuate new Pudong, a district sprung from swamp and farmland.

Tom Haines

Tom Haines, Photo by Perry Smith, UNH Photographic Services.

If the goal were simply reinventing the physical face of a place, then the game in Shanghai has been won: In the blur of a dozen years, hundreds of acres of low, lane-linked neighborhoods have surrendered to skyscrapers. So many people in this city of 18 million have scrambled from their torn-down homes and traditions into dizzying new terrain of 2,000 towers and more. Individual lives react again as Shanghai leads China's charge from closed communism toward free-market modernity, stopping who knows where. Politicians and planners cite statistics and strategies to debate whether Shanghai, and China behind it, will conquer or crash.

It is better to enter this place, senses alert, at street level: There lurk subtler signs of progress and peril.

Nearly lost, less than a mile south of the Bund on an open riverside lot littered with bricks and timber of tumbled homes, stands a solitary three-story building. A windbreaker hangs from a clothesline outside a window, and a shaking staircase leads to a door. When he answers a knock, Lu Wai Ming opens it only a few inches. Soon the thin man with thick black hair steps over the threshold and points at four white sheets of paper posted on the outside of the door. The typed Chinese characters announce repeated warnings of eviction from Shanghai Qili Moving Co., Ltd. At the bottom of one page, Lu penned a response in blue ink: "Do you think you are doing moving work? What kind of flag are you holding? What, exactly, are you doing?"

The UNH Writers Series is made possible through the support of the MacArthur/Simic and Edmund G. Miller Funds. All events are free and open to the public. For more information call 862-1313.