First was Beijing, and the tourist highlight was a trip to the Great Wall. I went to the Juyongguan. With an excellent public transportation system (if one is willing to sit through rickety bus rides, that is) it wasn't too hard, despite a near zero ability to communicate, to find my way to Juyonggaun. [For the next person desperately scouring the interwebs to find their way to Juyongguan, here's how: I took the subway line 13 to Long Ze, then took bus no 20, and for the last short segment took a cab for 10RMB without bargaining; on the way back I took bus no. 68 (which I could have taken instead of number 20 on my way to the pass -- in fact number 68 goes all the way to the pass) to Long Ze, and subway line 13 from there. It is useful to look for directions in Google maps, so that you will have some idea of which way to walk to get to the bus from the subway station. I think it took over 2 hours in one direction.]
The Israel trip, less than week after returning from Beijing, was surprisingly hassle-free. The photos show a view of the old city of Jaffa (from the beach at Tel Aviv), and a couple of views in the old city in Jerusalem. The wall is the one that goes around the old city. The cafe (showing men playing board games) is the same one in front of which I got to witness some interesting action the night before.
To round off this entry, here is a photo from my train trip from Chicago Union Station to New York Penn Station, some time in April. The trip turned out to be as nice as I expected. I would have taken the train back to Chicago, if I didn't have to rush back to teach a class.
More photos here, here and here.