UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

February 2003

From Asia and Africa

Qian Ye of China, a visiting scientist in the Environmental and Societal Impacts Group, and Cindy Bruyère of South Africa, a visiting scientist in the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division, are just two of dozens of staffers who came here from overseas. This is the last part of a three-part Staff Notes Monthly series profiling a few of these visitors and long-term staff who have noticed striking differences—or, in some cases, similarities—between Boulder and their homelands.

Qian Ye

If you sit down with Qian Ye of ESIG, there’s one thing you will learn about him very quickly: he genuinely enjoys people. He loves talking to them, being around them, and even studying them. Considering where he’s from, it’s not hard to understand why. Qian’s home “town” is Shanghai, China—the largest city in the world’s most populous nation.

Yuren, Qian, and Samantha Ye.

“For the Westerners, when they arrive either in Beijing or Shanghai, the first impression about China will be, ‘there are so many people around, day and night!’” he says. Growing up surrounded by about 12 million people, Qian hardly ever had space to himself; even walking to a local shop could involve making his way through a crowd. Although some might shrink at living alongside so many others, Qian quickly became enthralled with people in general.

This love of people is, interestingly enough, an integral part of Qian’s job in ESIG, which focuses on using weather and climate knowledge to help society. For example, Qian recently finished a NOAA project with fellow ESIG scientist Mickey Glantz that revisited the 1998 “Great Flood” in the Yangtze River Basin. By reviewing such past floods, Qian can help policy makers explore the costs and benefits of increasing the accuracy of weather forecasts, building more dams to prevent major floods, and possibly discouraging people from living in flood-prone areas.

While formally trained in natural sciences, it is the social side of science that excites Qian. He earned his master’s degree from Peking University in Beijing, and his Ph.D. in satellite climatology at Oregon State University, where his adviser was former ESIG director Allan Murphy. It was Allan who introduced Qian to the social aspects of applied meteorology.

Qian lives in Boulder with his wife, Yuren, and their four-year-old daughter, Samantha. Boulder is quite a change of pace from Shanghai, but Qian enjoys quiet hikes in and around the town. Yuren works at CU’s Health Services Center in Denver, and the couple feels quite settled here. “I feel like I have two homes,” Qian says.

A new program in China

Qian is currently working on a project that bridges his two homes. He is creating a climate affairs program in conjunction with the China Meteorology Administration in Beijing and several Chinese universities. This program, initiated by Mickey, will help train Chinese scientists look at the social and economic aspects of climate and weather. Working on this project allows Qian to travel back to China frequently and keep in touch with family and friends.

As much as he appreciates Boulder, Qian misses certain things about his homeland. “Chinese culture is based on food,” he says. “There are many different kinds of food in restaurants and markets. I miss that variety.” Qian and his family have taken on common American eating habits—which sometimes means eating the same thing over and over. “My mother asked my daughter what we fed her at home,” he says with a smile. “My daughter said a bagel. On Monday, a bagel, on Tuesday, a bagel, on Wednesday, a bagel. . . .” However, there are many things that make Boulder feel more familiar to Qian. The CU library has a large collection of Chinese literature, which he displayed to his parents on their last visit to Boulder. And Qian has many old school friends nearby—17 out of 25 of his Beijing classmates are in the United States, and 3 are right here in Boulder.

When Qian returns to China, he notices that the country is changing rapidly as it moves toward a more free market–oriented economy that is heavily influenced by the United States. Qian says televisions, microwaves, and washing machines were rare 20 years ago, but now, “My parents have a TV in every room in their apartment.” With McDonald’s and Starbucks in many large cities, Qian doesn’t have to travel far to get a little taste of the United States.

Not all the rapid changes are positive, in Qian’s view. “Ten years ago, only people with power in the government had a car,” he says. But now more people can afford to buy cars, and the city of Beijing is actually encouraging people to drive. This worries Qian because of the potential impact on air quality, traffic, and the pace of daily life. Qian is hoping the program he is helping to implement in China will look at the implications of this trend on society.

As a long-time NCAR visitor, Qian hopes to continue traveling back and forth between China and the United States, bridging his two homes with the Climate Affairs Program. •Ellen Leslie

Cindy Bruyère

A native of South Africa, Cindy Bruyère arrived at NCAR in August 2001 after earning a master’s degree in meteorology from the University of Pretoria. She has a three-year assignment in MMM helping to develop and provide community support for two models: the Penn State/NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5) and the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF).

Cindy Bruyère (above) is a native of South Africa, a nation of stunning geographic and societal diversity.

Meteorology is a relatively small field in South Africa, and, Cindy says, “coming here was a way to stay in the field of my choice as well as be involved at the development stage of the models, rather than simply using the models.”

Cindy was raised in Pretoria and speaks both English and Afrikaans, which is similar to Dutch. Those are just 2 of South Africa’s 11 official languages. While this diversity of languages adds to the cultural richness of the country, it also complicates life at times. Until recently, legal documents had to be translated into all 11 official languages. (English is now the official court language, but translations are provided when needed.)

Upon coming to America, Cindy and her husband, Marcel, were surprised at how many differences there are between South African and American English. For example, they put “petrol” in their cars, not gas; and they stop at “robots,” not traffic lights. “Since the word ‘robot’ does have a different meaning in America, it often requires some explaining to get our message across,” says Cindy.

Although South Africa is a troubled country in many respects, the land itself is serenely beautiful. It’s so geographically diverse that people refer to it as “a world in a country.” The land encompasses rain forests and deserts, open grass savannas and snow-capped mountains, and beautiful beaches. Cindy talks about the mildness of the climate (think San Francisco), the beauty of the bushvelds (grasslands with scattered bushes), and the abundant bird life—which Cindy and Marcel miss in Colorado. “It’s just an incredibly beautiful country that is hard to describe if you haven’t visited,” Cindy says. They also miss South African foods, such as boerwors, a type of sausage, and rusks, which are similar to biscuits.

“Where’s the fence?”

What they don’t miss, however, is the crime in South Africa, which Cindy believes has become a “national sport.” She recalls houses that look like prisons, surrounded by barbed-wire fences and guarded by dogs. Unprotected houses are vulnerable to squatters, who may set up an impromptu family home in the front yard. “It’s very unsettling,” she says. “You hardly ever feel safe.” The crime rate is exacerbated by one of the worst AIDS rates in the world, which has made orphans of countless children—many of whom have no lawful way of supporting themselves.

As much as she misses her friends and family in South Africa, Cindy understandably is delighted at how safe it is to live here. When she and Marcel send a photo of their Erie house to friends in South Africa, the initial response is, “Where’s the fence?” The couple enjoys life in Colorado, and they spend time in the mountains, hiking, biking, four-wheeling, and camping.

Cindy and Marcel return to South Africa once a year, and they’re trying to convince their families to make yearly visits to Colorado. They’re undecided on whether to try to settle permanently in the United States or to return at some point to South Africa. The decision, Cindy explains, will depend on whether South Africa can offer good job opportunities, lower its crime rate, and provide them with a quality of life as good as the one they have in the United States. •Carol Park (RAP)

Also in this issue...

Coming soon:
New Mesa Lab attractions

Mentoring talk offers tips for nonscientists

Understanding cloud systems:
Are researchers closing in on a general theory of convective cloud systems?

Random profile: Pete Siemsen

A SOARS pacesetter

Delphi Questions

Still soaring high

Back to front page


about staff notes
past issues
favorite photos
communications home
UCAR home