China surely is the champion of what is and what is not and perceptions mashed together to morph into possibly acceptable perceptions, but not really. Reality is a mistaken illusion – it always has been; look at religion, personal-relationships and politics and education…. Maybe it is best not to look to see but to look to enjoy – surely not to look to ponder or philosophize, that would be akin to giving accreditation to what is really all just for fun. Do not take what you perceive to be real as truth, just enjoy. This is China – I tell myself that often – just as I would tell myself that in those psychedelic moments of the 1960s, or in my Tarot Card readings and mystical belief system of the 1970s and astrological interpretations of events/thoughts/life for some 40 years before waking up one day and saying ‘this is bullshit’. Perception is just how we colour reality in front of us. To me China and the 1960s have similarity in their un-realness. The moment is just about fun, to enjoy, to build memories for future moments when life returns to boring, which from my experience it always does.
A week from today school is over and we are preparing to travel to New York, Atlanta, Malaysia, Australia but today is a holiday; Dragon Boat Festival. Duān wǔ jié happens on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar and believe it or not I did not get a pop up message on my phone, ipad, computer; not from Google Calendar – which boldly proclaimed ‘you have no new events’ – surely it could have said ‘go back to bed it is a holiday’ but no – no reminders or messages to tell me of this glorious event. And to contribute to all those bloody fives I was wide awake at five AM demanding of my unwilling mind to go back to sleep because this is a holiday.
According to Chinese custom folks race boats, eat Zongzi, and drink wine – pretty much like an Aussie Barbie celebration for anything.
Then last night we were watching that most stupid of series (that everyone else is ranting and raving about how it is the best series of all time; what??!!!) ‘Game of Thrones’ and that idiotic Southern California blonde chick started season two or is it three – it is so mindless that I am always updating my web-pages during it and forget where in the story we are – she goes and gives birth to dragons. Good golly how could anyone like this? Narda says we should just watch it for a while because everyone is ranting and raving that it is the best series of all time and maybe at some point we may like it or at least understand what is going on. She said that about Dexter too. All that blood. We watched the whole bloody thing – to give realism to that Australian/Pommie saying – but of course I was updating my web-pages during all of that but at least it was easy to follow – just find a baddie and kill him.
From an email to staff at our school about today from our Mandarin teacher:
‘This Festival is to commemorate an upright minister called Qu Yuan. He was an excellent poet and literati as well in 300BC, the end of the Spring and Autumn Dynasty. To protect the country, Qu Yuan advised many suggestions to his emperor. While the emperor was irritated and Qu Yuan was put into a river and drowned. People were sad and took boats to save Qu Yuan, and meanwhile they wrapped zong zi and throwed into river, avoidding fishes eating Qu Yuan’s body.
Until today Chinese people retain the traditions. First zong zi was made by sticky rice only, and gradually zong zi has different types like meat inside, peanut inside. I like the very first type– with rice only–and dip some sugar on it.’
When we were asked to sign up for a celebration of all of this last Sunday we were informed that only 20 could go and a bus would take us to the Tong li Gong Palace in Kaifaqu. Of course I was excited being the academic tourist that I am. I quickly sent an email to reserve seats for Narda and I. I could barely restrain myself from running down to her room to share this wonderful news that not only had I registered for us to go but we were accepted on the bus that would only take 20 of us most chosen to this glorious event. Well she was a bit less than thrilled and wanted to know why I would want to go and hear some children singing songs. Now perhaps I had a misconception as normally I do of the reality of the event. Dragon Boat Festival? Well it sounded really great to me. I had no idea it could be anything else. Narda said that the Tong li Gong Palace was not a palace but was the women and children’s centre of Jinzhouixinqu. Damn! She had taken a first grade class there to sing earlier in the year and it is where the owner of Dalian American International School has a language school which many of our teachers work at in their spare time – though being a teacher at this school I am not sure when there is spare time.
At another time in my life I would have been disappointed but at my age everything tends to be so unlike I thought it would be at the start that I have become immune to concepts of disappointment. I suppose I would be surprised if anything in my life turned out to be how I imagined it to be at the start of the process of adventure that I had hurdled myself at before crashing into a wall of reality.
The big day arrived – last Sunday, and dragging a complaining Narda to the lobby to mingle with the assumed 20 teachers who were quick enough to sign up before the bus was full we were greeted by the other three teachers who signed up to go. We ended up going in two cars instead of a bus load of chirping, happy, Dragon Festival celebrating mates. I like the entrance to Tong li Gong Palace which of course by now I had realized was not a palace but as all things in China are – just a misconstrued notion of what a palace would be if it was a four floor office building. And yes that is a huge construct of a mother and child on top of the building – giving away any illusion that it could be anything else. Not sure when angels arrived on the Chinese mindset but there they are, western looking cherubs up there with a not very Chinese looking mother. Welcome to China where we are not quite sure of our icons or what we should believe in.
And as luck would have it – there is a YouTube clip of this wonderful event at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ - another one of those ‘gone- viral’ extremely-sought-after video clips; wait that is my illusion – now three days later – there has been one hit to it. I think that was me looking at it on another computer. But to save my two or three readers who no doubt have had a gut-full and have stopped reading by now, the thrill or agony of watching yet another one of my five-hundred plus video clips I will simply say yes some children sang, a grop danced; but that is not all. We made zong zi – a sticky rice, bean paste, red date in banana wrap thingy. However, I was a total failure and after being tutored by a patient local gal with great wrapping skills who patiently showed me over and over how to fold the stupid things quit – or I quit – here is a photo of me trying this – of course the YouTube video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ shows this even better.
The other highlight – other being second to me making zong zi, was this traditional paint dude who we were told is famous. OK I have thousands of web pages and more than five-hundred videos on line – I bet he has not done that – anyway, all those pesky planets I have in Leo constantly get in my story-line; this painter dude made a great ink drawing. I think we are taking a course with him in the fall so that will be groovy. He did this calligraphy & Chinese zither in about ten minutes. You can see this in the video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ.
To quote some stuff from the program list of what we saw:
It is two days ago, Monday that I started off talking about but having woken at five AM – it is now after 8 and Narda is still happily sleeping the holiday away and I am fading I drifted off about what today’s holiday actually was for – a dragon boat festival but as we are on the sea and not on a proper lake or river there are no races.
Monday, we, well Narda did not go as elementary stayed at school and sang or rolled about or whatever elementary children do, took the middle school and high school children to Discoveryland (大连发现王国). Discoveryland is our province’s concept of what Disneyland would be if created by Chinese. Yes I have a YouTube video at http://youtu.be/lOoeM46fwl0, and yes I do a lot of work not only at school but at home for school – I just fit in my own personal crap early in the morning or while watching riveting TV shit-shows like Game of Thrones. This is my early morning holiday last posting probably before flying off to New York next week.
We were doing one of those amazing race races. I do not agree with children doing a learning project for hours before having time to play on their own. They pay their own fee in to the amusement park, 100 RMB (about $15 US) – which is cheap compared to the States and to have to do work for hours is nuts. This year we teachers each had a station with an exercise for the students to do – my event was to take a photo of a one-perspective and a two-perspective line up of the children. We all have an advise group and I have 10 middle school children in mine. So my advise group started off at my station which was an OK place as it was beneath a building providing some shade. After my event they draw a card to see where the next exercise is and go off to that. The important part is that they work together and stay together and do the exercise. Well after ten minutes two of my girls come back and want to rent a scooter to go around from event to event. Of course I said no as one of the rules is not to run to the next event or lost ten-points. We did not make a rule that children could not rent a scooter to go from event to event because who would allow such a thing? So the girls run off to the principal and ask and he says yes they can so they do. That was the end of my advise group’s cohesion and after a couple of hours the other children in my group came back and said they could not do the events because they could not find the girls roaring around on their scooter so I dismissed them and said go have fun.
As it is Dragon Boat festival week holiday the place was crowded – not sure why we would go on a holiday and not a week earlier but such is life. Lines to rides were four hours long instead of the usual two. Only a few children went on a ride – for the most part they wandered around in the afternoon and the ones I saw did not seem that happy. I took lots of photos of our students as I do to put on the TV screen in the window of my computer lab and to have footage for my twice weekly in-house TV show that I do with my film class so I was entertained. My favourite part is their Discoveryland Parade. As tacky as any such thing would be this is especially strange as they have mostly non-Chinese in the parade. Most of the participants are youthful Russians. The Egyptian group consisted of very camp males in their twenties dressed in gold skirts and gold plastic to look like metal tops dancing as if they were the Village People doing WMCA. On top of the floats were youthful females with few clothes on wiggling about.
I got a lot of short clips that I can use as backgrounds as my film class has gone blue-screen crazy.
Last Saturday was Narda’s birthday – see the wonderful clip of this most timely of events at http://youtu.be/ik8Ms09Q-NY
Narda said she just wanted to gig for her birthday so here at Campus village cafe at Dalian American International School that is what she did
The best of living in Campus Village, assisted living, as we call it is that our little community tags along together. Last night we went out to the Discoveryland Hotel for beer and food – the people are great – the ones we work with – the beer was what it is in China but the food was crap. I struggled to find a vegetarian dish and that ended up being tofu with fish – so that concept got lost in the translation. For Narda’s birthday a dozen or so old people came to our flat for din din – we made up a good vegetarian lasagna and some other stuff. Everyone seemed happy – a few murmurs about ‘oh no no meat’ but that is the way it is in my kitchen. We went the three-floors down to Campus Café and Narda with the others were happy, sounding great and entertained us and the other twenty – thirty folks. It was by far her best birthday in the past 13 years since we left Australia. Being early June – the problem with Gemini – we have not been around her family in so long. But with our community and with a microphone and good musicianship her birthday came to life.
It is so fundamental but the loo can so govern the day, especially in China. (Loo being Australian/British and etc. for toilet: (From Wikipedia: “When people flung their potty waste out of the window, they would shout “Gardez l’eau” [gar-day low]. That’s French for “watch out for the water”. We probably get the word “loo” from this expression, although some people think it comes from “Room 100″ which is what European people used to call the bathroom.” “The word appears to originate no earlier than James Joyce’s usage in Ulysses in 1922 — “O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. water closet.” — perhaps Joyce came up with it.”)
My favorite is at the Shangrali in Shanghai with a remote control for many functions; spray water, various forms of heat and many buttons that I did not try. The loo at the Vutup Dentist Clinic at the Shangrali Hotel Dalian is a treat. As soon as the door is open the seat pops up, it is warm and it too has buttons. I have yet to be game to push them but Narda tried one and it gave her a bit of a spray wash – she did not try the other buttons. OK the picture does not give much of the pleasure of use but compared to the usual toilets in China, even at the ultra- modern new Dalian North Railroad station, it is a real find. I hate squat toilets and in my two years here have not used one except to pee. Anything else waits until I get home or find a western hotel. Last week a woman’s baby got flushed down one (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/chinese-baby-flushed-down-toilet-1923771) and survived. I always thought that someday I should have therapy about the fact I was put in an orphanage and taken out three times then finally adopted by some mad-cap Christians in 1950 but this person is going to really need therapy. Narda has the technique down – the squatting part and does not mind too much. She
has demonstrated to whomever is interested – not in real-action, but showing us a good squat position to make things move along. The worst toilets are in the Jinshitan Market where, if one can get past the smells, even the women just squat along a wall with an open trough. Narda, a user of said trough, could not understand the gestures of a woman squatting next to her one time. She kept point a finger in the air – not the finger but a finger – this is China where people are not as rude as us Westerners. Then Narda realised the woman was telling her to put her bag on a hook on the wall so it would not touch the foul floor.
Toilets in Holland I find difficult too, and though they are proper sit-down toilets the drain is placed in the front so everything sits not in water but on the base, stinking up the room until flushed.
I suppose if one watched heaps of ER shows, or Grey’s Anatomy and had an interest in what their deposits in the loo looked like they could easily observe it in a Dutch toilet.
Not sure how I got onto this topic when there was so much other I wanted to note to remember the past two weeks, but at one am I was so wide awake and it being
Saturday night well actually Sunday morning I thought I would write a bit then go back to bed. It is now three AM and my concern is that I will be sleepy for Sunday which I suppose is fine as all we will do is shop at the local Longshawn Village for veggies and tofu for the week. Couple with the fact that I have taken photos of loos for some odd reason – maybe just to appreciate what a proper one with heat, spray and the what-not incorporated within. I think adding music would be good – something classical – though hip-hop could be OK. Even country and western would be fine – they are always talking about loss. Then there are the blues, surely we could have some really good B King tunes play when we sat and shat. The one at the Vutup Clinic is adequate though. As soon as the door is open the seat cover pops up and when you leave it goes back down. It does not differentiate between male or female so the seat ring thing is still down and needs to be lifted for the male release thing.
It is three am so I will try once again to go to sleep. I had already lain awake for an hour before getting up at one am. My mind is so active. Not sure why. School is full-on, we leave for the summer in two and a half weeks for the States a couple of weeks then Australia for four weeks and a side trip to Malaysia so it is all pretty chilled and no reason not to sleep. I tried to contact the inner Self and find peace and solace using techniques I learned back in the 1970s when I was a brother in the Holy Order of Mans but they did not work and I question these past few years whether all what I once believed in whilst in my decade long metaphysical stupor was real or are we just caught up in evolution’s game being nothing more than the ones who prepare the next generation who will do the same and within all that the species evolves toward something or the other?
Yesterday we went into Dalian on the 轻轨, qing gui (light rail), thinking by leaving at 8:30 we would get a seat in but no luck it is always so crowded. Out of boredom I wrote down all the stations on line 3 – speaking of threes – most of the stations are broken into three words on the signs though in reality, my reality, they are really one word: Jin Shi Tan, Xiao Yao Wan (the stop for the future city, Wolong Bay, that is being built – see my youtube video from last year at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-drgVo45WWs) DD Port, Bao Shu Qui,
Kai Fai Qu (5 colur city see my clip of Kaifaiqu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAz3eqFzfRg), Jim Ma Li, Da Lian Wan (in the Ganjingzi District of Dalian City), Hou Yan, Auan Shui (markets), Jin Jai Jie, Xiang Lu Jiao (Metro, Sams Club, Decathlon sports store – 迪卡侬(香炉礁店, Ikea) and finally stopping at the last stop – Dalian Station. The school’s shopping bus stops at Metro where we fill boxes and suitcases of what we need for a month then put it on the bus and go off for the day. The bus driver unloads our crap back at Campus Village and we collect it whenever we drag our sorry asses back home.
, about a 45 minute ride, Narda managed to rush onto the train at the Dalian Station
and get a seat. I was fast but when a hundred Chinese are going for a couple of dozen seats it is the really quick who get a seat and I was left standing to analyze my poor strategy for getting a seat. Never the one to shy away from strangers I saw Narda and the girl next to her passing the girl’s cell phone back and forth. They did this all the way to the Kai Fai Qu station where suddenly Narda moved over giving me a space to sit. They were using the phone to carry on a conversation with both translating back and forth and the topic of discussion was that when the girl got off I would have a seat. At the start of their ‘conversation’ the girl wrote that Narda could help her with learning English. This is what is so enjoyable about living here; people will find a way to communicate whether they share a common language or not.
Last weekend Narda’s sister, Carolin and her husband Michael stopped in for a couple of days. They are celebrating being fifty and are on the way to Holland, England, France and places like that. On Saturday evening we went into Dalian on the light rail – kuai-gui to stay overnight at the Harbour View Hotel and we went to see the Beijing Beatles on the rooftop at the Lenbach German Restaurant ( Xinghai Square). They
were sponsored by the International Club of Dalian. I have a short video clip at http://youtu.be/WzsnK6uUQx8 without watching the clip let it suffice to say they were quite terrible sounding. Narda had just done a Beatles concert a few days earlier with her elementary children and they were much better. A couple of Narda’s fourth/fifth graders were at the gig and they went on stage and told the Beijing Beatles who by the way are from Australian and great Britain – that they sang the wrong words for Yellow Submarine. The children would know that one as they sand it for weeks before their concert. I heard them daily as my video-film studio at Dalian American International School is next door to Narda’s music room. A lot of my little video shows I do twice weekly with my students for the school to play has her children singing off in the background because of our thin walls. There were a lot of expats at the show – many from our school and it was enjoyable no matter the fact that they were not in harmony, missed lyrics, and were just generally horrible. They have a website which make them sound good http://thebeijingbeatles.com/ but in reality – think of a college piss-up where everyone knows the lyrics because it is the Beatles and there is a lot of drinking going on and no one really cares how bad the band sounds because it is so easy to sing along.
We have two weeks left of work then we are off to the States (NYC, upstate New York, and Atlanta), Malaysia, and Australia then back at the start of August. As usual life is hectic at school with so many things to deal with. In my little world things are great with my film class and our setting up a film program and studio. We have been going nuts with blue screens and having lots of interesting backgrounds. I am still looking for a proper professional camera for next school year with little luck. I will probably have to wait until Australia to get one. It has been an amazing year for me both as technology integration coordinator as we move toward a one-to-one device program. It is a challenge with so many devices and operating systems. Back at Albany Academy when I was the Director of Technology it was straight forward, we all used macs and that was it. In my video production class thanks to an Intel grant we are getting set up well and coming with good products, looking forward to next school year.
In my little self-centred world I have been creating web pages since the early 1990s when the World Wide Web was first invented. I have created thousands of pages and have many domains as any self-serving Leo would: neuage.org, http://neuage.me, neuage.mobi, neuage.us, neuage.info, to name just a few. Last week I put a tracker-cookie on 590 pages (about ten percent of my pages) so I could have a better idea of where people go so I could improve and change them to more mobile friendly and perhaps start creating neuage apps for my tofu pages or my picture poems, children stories, many blogs and etc. I thought it would give me a good idea of where the masses are flocking to. As a night-mare on Leo Street would have it after three days I had one hit to one page out of 590. I think I could be in a record book for having the fewest visits to the most created pages on the web. Narda does not understand why I would care if anyone visited any of my webpages but she is a Gemini so I understand her confusion. I have Mars conjunct Uranus in Gemini so I do have a little bit of non-Leo in my makeup and I know that part of me; Mars and Uranus confuse me often as well as those around me.
When Narda’s sister and brother-in-law were here last weekend we went to the
And in Dalian to the Korean Market
Actually this is more than a weekend memory of what-we-did as Thursday and Friday is just as much of this extended weekend at least in my memory as Saturday and Sunday is. Of course Thursday and Friday were work days. With my job as technology coordinator however I am always on the job as I read technology and educational blogs and updates whether I am at school or on the shopping bus, sitting on the loo or waiting in a dentist’s office. Saturday whilst Narda was in the dentist chair for more than an hour I took enough notes from what I had found to be potentially useful stuff for possible integration or to-try at school that I will be spending days engaging with it. There are so many blogging-filming apps now that I am looking forward to what I can do with my classes next year that are specializing in multimedia, and film specifically. This is an exciting time to be developing a film program in a school. Helping students to become always-journalist will be one of the most important lessons for them. Journalism has not changed but the delivery and sharing has. When I was doing my journalism degree at the start of the 1990s I concentrated on radio-broadcasting, helping to start the community radio station E-FM (Encounter FM) in Victor Harbor, South Australia. My part of the radio station needless to say was news and children’s radio (CAR = Children’s Australian Radio – my little contribution to Australian community radio) where my children managed to star on.
I am teaching broadcast journalism along with filming. Merging these with social sites and story development and sharing more than ‘we had pizza last night’ will greatly assist students. I am having them blogging using their phones as well as filming and bringing it into the classroom for editing. Next year I will collaborate with the English department (write the story), music department for backing tracks as well as my classes for filming and editing.
The next big shift in schools is from integrating technology to integrating film in every department. Students are already doing this in their life outside of school putting clips onto whatever site is their favorite at the moment. Students are self-branding all the time and assisting as well as providing time and space to do this will improve their self-image i.e. self-brand. We have been putting a lot of emphasis on student portfolios lately but social sites are there real portfolios and I feel that is the area we need to develop. Employers are looking at social sites as part of their investigations of potential new hires and if the social site has wonderfully crafted video-blogs and short films this becomes a living-portfolio. This area has not been very well addressed and it is an area I will be working on next year so students will have their shared-online-lives crafted to look like mini-film-festival. ‘The Festival of Me’ – it sounds so Leo and having five planets in Leo I feel qualified for such a category of instruction or for at least me. In my middle school publication class I have students making a magazine in InDesign titled ‘About Me’ where they create a whole newsletter/e-zine about themselves. Their initial reaction is that writing more than fifty words about themselves is impossible becomes more engaging when they write about their favorite video game or movie and get to insert photos (Creative Commons only of course) and interview each other and write up a commercial and on and on.
We have been corresponding with a school in India to do a collaborative on-line real-time film project and we have the assistance of a film producer in Los Angeles who recently had her film accepted into the Sundance film festival in Utah. Our class has been Skypping her and we have been discussing their individual projects for this quarter as she ‘looks over our shoulders’. My neighbor, Frank, and his wife are moving to Yangon, Myanmar to teach at an international school next year. We have been putting together a plan to do a collaborative film project which in my little world is quite exciting. I am thinking of his and my students writing a script together – back and forth then having our individual classes create and edit the script and have them playing side by side as one film with two interpretations of the same story. His students are mostly Myanmar citizens and mine are a collection from around the planet which would make this a very global endeavor.
To emphasize my integration of film in the student’s life where most of their daily short clips are posted to social sites from their smartphones..
An Australian filmmaker has won first prize at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival with a short film shot entirely on a Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone. The film explores the influence of hip hop, which started in the Bronx, on the indigenous communities in regional Australia and how it helped youth reconnect with tribal elders and tell stories using this style of music.
see it on youtube at http://youtu.be/W8Lewbdm8lg
Last Thursday it was Narda’s elementary student concert, ‘All you need is love’ that put us into a Beatles mood. She has been doing a lot of work on this for the past months and I have been filming little segments as commercials for our school’s video-news show, DAISlive. As Narda’s biggest fan the past twelve years I would say this was up there with her best work. Of course it is not the same as when she did a Beatles tribute at Albany Academy in upstate New York a decade ago but that was with high school and there was dance involved as Albany Academy for Girls has a strong dance program. Being in a Beatles mood we are off to see the Beijing Beatles next weekend who are playing in Dalian. Carolyn, Narda’s sister and her husband are visiting from Australia then so they can too see what China has to offer to the musical past. One of the Beijing Beatles is from Australia so they couldn’t be that bad. The name of the show is We do like to be beside the seaside – tour to Dalian.
Friday we needed to collect our passports so we could go to the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang this coming Tuesday. Narda has to sort out some stuff with the Yanks and I have to go along being the Yank of a sponsor. As always these things are so complicated; whether to keep a Green Card – problem is being out of the States for the past two years, surrendering it is an issue and becoming a citizen is another kettle of fish. We just hope to be able to sort it out in one trip. With less than four weeks before we leave for the States she is now in no-man’s land. They won’t give her a visitor’s visa without tossing the Green Card and she may not be unable to renew the Green Card and now with the recent Boston problems the Yanks are all the more tighter about stuff. When we first went to the States in 2002, shortly after 9-11, we had a terrible time. According to many phone calls we had everything in order. When we arrived in Sydney – with our flight booked for the next day to New York, not only were they very rude to us but they said in the photos of Narda her ear was not showing enough and we would have to re-do the photo and come back in a week. At the time we were homeless, having sold Narda’s home in Adelaide, and storing away all our belongings we were left to cancel our flight with no idea when we would be able to get Narda with a visia. We were not going for a usual visit, we were moving there. I had been out of the country for 20-years so they said something about not having domicile and as a sponsor of Narda who, like me, had jobs in the States; she was at Albany Academy for Girls and me at the State University of New York at Albany, and my father was 97 years old waiting to see me before he left the planet. After three days of abuse by the wankers at the US consulate in Sydney I contacted my cousin Fredrick Miller who knew Congressman Sweeney and Sweeney sent a congressional letter to the consulate in Sydney. All of a sudden they were nice to me, and said I could come in right away and we could fly out in the evening. There was a period we thought we would never get in to the States. Now after living there for more than a decade, owning three homes and Narda having a son living in the States married to a Yank (I started the trend in her family of marrying non-Dutch people). Before I came bopping along Narda and her three sisters and all their relatives had only ever married Dutch people, having migrated to Australia from the Netherlands in the 1950s. Since me one son has married a Yank and lives in Atlanta, Georgia and another son has married a POM – prisoner of Mother England, and her third son now in India, has a pommie girlfriend too so I changed their directions. They had all been staying in the Dutch genetic pool for five-hundred plus years; so they must be thankful to me. To make a too long story short about going to New York my father hung around for another five years and we were happy that Sweeney was able to get us in. Fortunately for us this was before Sweeney got into a bit of trouble: In September 2006, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its ‘The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress’ and Sweeney was one of the 20.
Our visit to the Chinese visa issuing place was much different than the one to Sydney. We had one of those Chinese moments where everything takes longer and goes slow compared to what us Westerns want but after a couple of hours, chatting about stuff like the price of wine in Australia and how many children we had and lots of smiles and interpretations we got our passports with our official work-visa to July 31st 2014. Being past 65 this is a big deal for me as in most provinces the work-visa limit is 60. I believe from our conversation at the visa office that Chinese retirement is 60 then I think they get a pension which puts away the thought that china does not look after their people.
What we are finding is that a lot of stuff we have been told in the Western media is quite different than the China we see on a day-to-day basis. People; whether authorities or folks in the street are really quite friendly. They stop and stare like we are from another galaxy but with five planets in Leo it does not bother me. They are generally a very curious lot and want to know about Westerns. We are curious too; and of course I am very curious about their fascination with all things French as I will show in a moment.
Saturday was the big 11th Annual Dalian International Walking Festival. We signed up before realizing we had a dentist appointment at 11 AM. We figured we would walk for an hour then catch a cab into town. As things would have it, in a town that does not see much rain fall, all day Saturday it rained. I put on my waterproof ‘Tommy Hilfiger’ trendy coat (even old people like to look stylish) and we took the school van in a dozen or so other ‘walkers’ from school.
There were a lot of people, like many thousands, all with their umbrellas up headed out on the 5 – 30 kilometer walk going along the Coastal Road, “Bin Hai Road”. We had intended to do just the first five. Actually we did the first few blocks then disappeared up a side street and caught a cab to the dentist.
At the start of the race is Dalian Castle Hotel, a 6-star hotel (300 rooms) due to open December 1, 2013.
It overlooks Xinghai Bay, 星海广场 and of course a million or so walkers in May, rain or shine.
Of course it is the statue in front that I find even more interesting than a walled castle being constructed in the midst of a city;
Definitely my kind of hotel if I could afford a six-star hotel, I did not even know they had such a ranking.
After the dentist we took the light rail (轻轨, qing gui) to Kaifaqu. Normally we take the shopping bus and get our groceries but we missed the bus. Harbor Deli is one of our stops as it is near the Kaifaqu qing gui station which is the Five Colour City stop and they have Western crap; cheese, cereal and that which we cannot otherwise find. Of course the rain was ever present as we took a bus (for one RMB = 15 cents US) instead of walking to the green-door – not the name of the place but we have no idea what the sign says – and loaded ourselves down for the week.
We figured we would take a cab home but after a couple of cabbies said no and another said two-hundred RMB (30 bucks) we realized the only way home for us was to call Jack – our regular driver who came and collected us and took us for 70 RMB – about 1/3 the cost of a taxi. Of course it was not Jack himself but one of his mates – we call them all Jack. If this was Australia we would just add an o to the end as Australian’s do and call him Jacko but we don’t and we won’t.
We were so exhausted by the time Jack came as will as wet we were ready to go to sleep on the sidewalk. This is one of the most difficult things with living at Campus Village; the transportation is almost too difficult. This is the second time we spent an exhausting Saturday and got ourselves stuck. If there is a lesson we are not learning it except that we should stop shopping anywhere but our local Long Shan Village.
We received the invite; ‘Famous French and English Bands’ at the Chateau du Vin Bordeaux in our school email. Chateau du Vin Bordeaux, which was called, last year, Chateau De Bourdeux, across the street from us – I can see it from my balcony. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTioCA7Ct44&feature=share&list=UUzGrI_yggI56Gpp2ZyNQAXw, a year ago) has been another castle dreaming of France but this one you can live at as they are The Dalian Haichang Group is building 400 luxury villas in this style. We toured the place last year and when we asked why they had not sold any we were told because they were too expensive, like a million dollars plus. The Haichang Group have been purchasing lots of chateauxs in France – see The Chinese Chateaux In Bordeaux for the down-and-dirty. Of course we are hoping this will mean cheap French wine locally.
Some of my images for this afternoon visit to almost France – China style.
The first one is a view of our apartment from the local million dollars plus flat.
Dinner seemed fine, just scrambled eggs with a bit of cheese and hash brown potatoes. But a few minutes later I was sicker than ever in my life. Narda was OK so we ruled out food poisoning but after getting rid of dinner and all else before and getting worse by the minute Narda insisted on calling for help. This is not calling a hospital in the States or Australia which would have had Narda driving me to a hospital then me sitting in a waiting room for a long period as the world continued to swim around me and I did not know if I would survive another moment. Living here is what some would call a third-world spot; though China would not agree. I know we always say we do not want to end up in a Chinese hospital. But we had no worry of that.
I managed to say a few times that I would be OK – surely one more vomit and one more laying on the bathroom floor as I held on from blacking out then I would be fine. After the nagging wife said for too many times she should be calling for help I mumbled just call to see what they would say. Of course telling a wife such a thing is a green-light, open-door, the horse-has-bolted, thing to agree to.
We have the number for the SOS International medical emergency on our door. Narda rang telling my symptoms and some other medical stuff about me and a few minutes later our doctor said to meet him at the clinic in ten-minutes. Our doctor lives in our building though I do not know which apartment and the emergency routing service is through Beijing – off in the distance.
Again this is not the States or Australia where we are from. This is in a foreign country where only people around us speak English.
What is so unique is that we live in a community that has everything. The Dalian American International School with a large fence, gates, and guards 24-hours a day has more than a school within the compound. It has Campus Village, where we live, students live, and families working for Intel, Goodyear and the likes live. It also has a restaurant and most importantly a medical clinic. Last year we went to the clinic a few times for flu shots, occasional blood tests for some ongoing stuff and general checkups. It was only a few months ago that we saw there was more than the waiting room and a couple other rooms where doctors talked about their life in other countries in between prescribing medication. There were several other rooms for overnight patients and a whole little emergency room.
What is unique about this job is how our lives are so communal. At most schools people work together, sometimes go for a drink; when Narda was chair of the performing arts at Albany Academy in New York she would have her staff meetings at a local pub but aside of that most schools do not have such a community environment. Here I see the doctor at the gym or bike riding; I see kids at school, then at the Campus Café or on the shopping bus that trolls the highway between our compound and the nearest shopping areas half an hour away and on Saturday all the way into Dalian – more than an hour – where we go to Ikea, Metro or Sams Club to load up on crap. Parents are at the school, and then at the gym or swimming pool, at the café, doctor’s, chasing after their children on the school oval. Our actual living is a bit separated but in the same compound. We have the teachers wing – three stories of us, each with a different story to tell; the Chinese boarding students are in the same building but in a different wing with the boys on the third floor and girls on second; and administration, families and ‘important people’ living in larger flats in the next building and over and beyond that, yet still within the walls of our school area, are the townhouses that the expat employees live in. They are of course on a different pay scale than us and their children go to our school and they have drivers on call whenever they want to go someplace. We have drivers too but we have to pay them. Of course we are mere teachers and not movers and shakers at international companies.
And what is most interesting is our doctor who lives in the same wing as us; I think on the second floor – I have never been to his place. Doctors are on 24-hour duty and I think it is six weeks on and six weeks off duty. Our current doctor is from Ohio (I think) our other usual doctor is from South Africa. They belong to Doctors without Borders. They work in all sorts of environments and seem to have to know about everything as they are all we have to look after anything that can go wrong.
It was about 8:30 when Narda rang SOS-International in Beijing and they in turn rang our doctor who rang us and said to be at the clinic in ten-minutes. Our clinic is open 8 – 6 Monday to Friday and a bit on Saturday but of course in an emergency it is always open. Our current doctor, Steve, did lots of tests on me including an EKG (electrocardiogram) in between my staggering to the loo to vomit whatever was left which at this point was not much. Before long I was lying in bed in a room next to the emergency/operating room with an IV line in my arm and as the world spun a bit out of control I drifted off due to a combination of some heavy sleep inducing stuff and whatever other medication was being pumped in. As the clinic was closed Doctor Steve rang one of the nurses to come in and watch me throughout the night. When I was still conscious I felt bad about someone having to come in for the night when she was the day time nurse that day. Narda told me the next day that Doctor Steve slept in the room next to me with the door open instead of going back to his flat. During the night I was aware of the nurse checking me, taking blood pressure and checking the IV drip.
Narda came in a six in the morning and left a bowl of cereal and my soy milk. When I awoke at 8 I gave Narda the instructions to where my lesson plans for my classes were on the school drive so they could be passed on to whoever was taking my class.
At 8:30 the nurse took off the IV as I was feeling better and I wanted to go home – which in this case is taking the elevator up three floors. A nurse wanted to go with me in case I got dizzy but I insisted I was OK. I slept most of the day and today, Friday, I was back at school, though tired and weak it was good to know that I probably had some of the best care I could have had anywhere in the world.
Sometimes I think life was easier back in the States or in Australia (well not always; as a single parent for 20 years in Australia that was difficult) but I have never been in a place where a medical emergency was so quickly attended to.
Last summer Narda and I got hit from behind by a large truck on a four-lane highway in Mississippi at 70 mph and if it was not for the concrete blocks separating us from the oncoming traffic we would have been in a bit of a pickle but we just totaled the car and had shock but otherwise not injured. We waited for more than an hour that time in a very hot sun on a major freeway before the police arrived. If we had been injured we surely would not have been in an emergency room within fifteen minutes like here.
Of course if I had listened to Narda I would have been downstairs a couple of hours earlier and perhaps not have gotten myself into such an emergency state to begin with. Then again if I had not listened to her and decided to tough it out which was my notion then most likely I would not be writing this now.
To make a short story a tad bit longer; another amazing aspect of our close living together is everyone knows everything. Everyone I saw at school the next day, today, wanted to know how I was doing. The teacher next door heard me gagging and exploding in the bathroom so of course she wanted to know how I was.
And what happened? The doctor reckons it was a case of severe food poisoning. I ate the same as Narda for tea but for lunch we did not have the same thing. We usually come home and make a sandwich then go back to school unless I have lunch duty which I have twice every eight-day cycle. Lunch duty means eating with the kids downstairs in the café. But yesterday Narda stayed at school as she is doing heaps of extra work for the elementary concert; “All you need is love” a tribute to the Beatles, for next week. I went home and decided to have some pasta and to make a white sauce for it and as there was an open pack of milk in the fridge I used that instead of my usual soy milk. What we have sort of determined was that the long life milk was the culprit. Last Friday we had no electricity for about fifteen hours as I wrote about in the previous blog and stuff thawed out then re-froze; our long life milk packs we keep in the freezer. Then it could have been transit Mars in Taurus opposite Saturn in Scorpio making a T-square to my four planet conjunction in Leo (Venus, Saturn, Pluto and Sun and my Part of Fortune too all in my 10th house). Whatever it was life in China is good. We often say it is safer here than living in the States or Australia mostly because folks don’t walk around with guns.
Walking home from school Narda and I pass the clinic and there is our doctor leaning out the window asking how I am feeling. Where else does that happen?
I use to live in communes in the San Francisco area in the 1960s and this is not far removed from that where everyone works and lives and plays together. I would like to have a large communal garden but as we all go away for the summer it won’t work.
Quoting Jean, “We can’t lose you – you are our mascot”. Good golly what does one do with that piece of knowledge?
Power off Life on
We have had these notices before… “The school is informed by the Electrical Company that there will be a power outage on Friday, May 3 from 7am to 4pm. If you bring your own lunch, please make sure that it does not need heating up as the microwave will not work.” Not to worry, I teach technology, how could having no electricity affect me? I have two teaching areas; one is in the basement with no windows and that is our video/film studio/area, the other is my fishbowl; so anyone strolling the halls sees everything and anyone from the library can wave to my kids as they do.
Not to worry, lots of glass plus the windows to outside overlooking just another China construction site with a dozen cranes and lots of people scurrying about to keep us entertained when I have lost the plot. But with no electricity one realizes how dark it still is even surrounded by glass. Computer class was no problem; we just used the new Intel Zen Ultrabooks from the computer carts which had been charged up. They were not able to save to their folders on the intranet but we had a good session with Adobe Fireworks, InDesign and Photoshop and hopefully they will remember what we did by next class. Of course middle school students at the start of spring… maybe not. My basement area was not useable. It reminded me of when photography was more fun when film processing was done in the darkroom. My video area surely is dark enough but I doubt the equipment is even available to develop film anymore.
I went to for a semester in 1969 and took courses in photography. It was such a disjointed time in my life; living with Carol Ann and her one year old daughter, Desiree (who now is 45), a friend on Facebook living in Colorado now. Back in 1969 we barely knew the day of the week but I did get to my photography classes.
Then before the end of the year we ended up in Hawaii in a cult religious order
and I somehow got myself a job in a photography studio in Honolulu. I got back into photography and darkroom development toward the end of the 1970s in and used my work as part of my picture poem art which I exhibited in various art shows 1977 – 1979. Part of teaching photography should involve developing film in a darkroom but I doubt that will ever happen again.
So we were told that at four pm we would have electricity. Last year this happened too and it did go back on. At four pm the electricity did not come on and when it became too dark to see and there was nothing much to eat and all we have is an electric stove and appliances we asked others, now flushed out into the hall, what their dinner situation was. Folks over at the other apartment complex have gas stoves which lead us to Jean and Sean’s. With candlelight and a gas stove. The electricity did come on for ten minutes and that was it. I made a large pot of spaghetti then Narda and I found our way home in the dark. At about 4 AM the electricity was back on which lacks in excitement when sleep seems to be the only option, however, it was short lived and went off until 7.
Below is the guard station to Dalian American International School from our balcony with no electricity
Looking from our balcony toward our neighbours who obviously had more candles than we did with a the electricity over and out.
There were a couple of flickers of off and on but Narda had time to Google+ chat her sons and granddaughter between Australia and Atlanta Georgia. The one in India must have been in between online moments so he did not make it to the ‘hangout’.
We missed the shopping bus and took the light rail into Kaifaqu ( 开发区 ) eating some good Western tucker at Tarsa in Five Colour City (our video of it last year). Expats, especially the young ones like
Five Colour City but we find it run down, seedy, past its whatever-it-was-meant to be heyday, though it is where we buy Western food stuff at Harbour View and purchase stuff for our non-Chinese brains. I read this review of the place recently which sums it up quite well: “There is nothing quite like Five Color City. It’s as if a group of first grade students designed the buildings in crayon for a classroom art project”. [http://www.whatsondalian.com/guide-74-rise-and-fall-of-five-color-city-in-dalian.html].
At the teacher’s get together pot-luck meals tonight – with a day of electricity under our belts the talk was that someone got the wires crossed. OK where did they get their electrician degree from? It was a highly inconvenient stuff-up but as always we enjoyed the moments. I made tofu burger balls, what I usually bring as my contribution and they all got eaten so that is good. I just cooked up a couple cups of black rice, added couple of cups of peanuts, carrots, onions, tofu, spices, flour and deep fried small balls in olive oil. I bring them to each hall party/apartment pot-luck/ and wherever else we end up eating in groups. I used to make them in my tofu factory thirty years ago and took them to barbeques in Australia so my life really does not change in so many ways.
On my bike ride this morning I took photos of a sign that points visitors, hopefully not angry government officials from our neighbours up the road (North Korea – 200 kilometer highway hike or a boat ride away) to where we live and work. Not sure where they got their info from but I found two glaring things for those Chinese Government officials who are readers of my blog to think about the next time they take an English writing course then proceed to put up a sign: Dalian Amerircan Lnternational School – OK OK it is just point to a school – no need to do a spell check and they even have a map showing how to get to who they think we are,
Actually we are not the United States of America School – come on mate that is making us into a big target. We are all from many different countries; actually I am from a country called Terrell so surely I am not one to reckon with.
Not to be picky but Bondeaux Wine Manor? Really this is not a wine growing area, of course it is another miss-spelt word the signs on the “manor” is “Chateau De Bourdeux” (our video of this development last year which has gone heaps further now) which is just a strange housing sale office. See http://bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk/blog/2012/09/moving-bordeaux-to-china/ We have done the tour and found it quite enjoyable in a humorous way. This strange structure is across the street from us and they are building 800 homes like it. What is most fascinating is the workers who are from various parts of China and are itinerant workers who find us Western living in their midst quite amusing too. We pass them on our morning walks to the beach and we all have the giggle toward one another. Below is a photo from our balcony.
And yes it is not blue burry valley as it says on the sign above. It is Blueberry Valley with a lovely restaurant at the top of the hill where we use to go last year on Friday’s after school. This school year we have not gone there though I am not sure why. The mix of teachers who come and leave changes a lot each year and the previous mix as well as a lot of us first year here teachers clumped together heaps. This school year we all seem to go to place on our own and the social setting is quite different.
I found one of my dozens of domains information a few hours ago. I suppose when someone makes a webpage they hope not to be in last place and I guess I am not with billions of webpages out there but as a Leo (Sun, Mercury, Venus and that awful Saturn and Pluto exact conjunction in Leo all in my 10th house – what the hell happend?) I was hoping for a higher ranking than 6,298,119, meaning six million and two hundred ninety eight plus sites are in better position than mine. Maybe it is my colour scheme or lack of sense, a flair for a random artistic flavor that I have always championed going through life. Being popular when there are 7 or 8 billion people is difficult though I think I am ahead of a few billion but I do not know if that is very good.
Neuage.org created in 24/04/2003 (what is not noted is that my first neuage.org site was made ten years earlier in 1992 – two years after the WWW was invented and at that time I was ahead of the curve) and owned by Terrell Neuage. Neuage.org takes 6298119th position in global internet… with 159 estimated visits per day.
We had one of our evening together dinners last night, a celebration of warmer times, at least from a weather perspective. Yesterday was the first time since last October – seven months ago, that we were out and about without jumpers, a tee-shirt day. Today it is 23 (centigrade) so it is bike-riding long-distance time again. I want to go where they are building the new city about half an hour away [Newly Buried Villages of China] .
Here is a photo from my balcony looking at where we had dinner last night; I asked about it and the story is that our librarian came across this and others like it in a field went and got the school van and driver and took them to her house. We live near an art school so I would assume it was probably an installation from artists and they probably wonder who stole their art. I use to do art installations – hanging pictures amongst trees as a show and would have been shocked to find them missing. I did a series of clothing that I dipped in plaster of paris and when dried I sprayed painted and wrote poems on them and hung them in a park in the centre of Adelaide and no one took them. I did this once with a dress from a girlfriend and hung in a tree in front of the art school in Adelaide and it lasted a couple of weeks before disappearing. Now that the librarian is leaving she gave these paper machete figures away with this one landing on the porch of our neighbor across the way. I call it ‘caged thievery’.
An evening without electricity and candles make any mood just so good.
Sunday morning, wanting to write up what is a bit of a big thing in my small world and definitely may bring some closure but of course never full closure as it shouldn’t to my meandering through this life or at least one significant aspect to it but after one paragraph we were off to Long Shan Village which consists really of only a couple of streets with commerce and is a ten minute bike ride away.
This is our favourite shopping area as it is so local and of course cheap, much cheaper than going to nearby Jinshitan or taking the shopping bus from Campus Village as we did yesterday into Kaifaqu, the centre of the DDA (Dalian Development Area) where our veggies at the green door (our name for it as we have no idea what the lettering in front says and of course we would not be able to say it if we did know) cost twice as much as at Long Shan – see Narda below buying the week’s fruit…
The destination was our local stationary store to get bits of pieces we both needed for school. Narda got three pairs of Crocs for 20 RMB a bit over three US dollars, not needed for school but cheap shoes and a woman… Imitations? Who cares? What strikes me as a fun shop that would not be in Australia or the States is that at this shop one could buy pens, paper, computer bits and pieces; I got a laser pointer light for my classroom and a bag to put camera equipment in. Narda got some more notebooks with some strange English-like sentences, three pairs of Crocs, shoelaces; and one could also buy strong alcohol which sits on the same shelf as plastic toys but the best of all is on the way out one could buy an ice cream and fireworks. We stopped and looked at the firework rockets and the shop keeper waved her arms and said ‘booom’ and laughed but we gave it a miss this time – see below…
I first heard of Facebook when I was teaching a speech class at the State University of New York in Albany. Students were presenting speeches about something that was new and interesting in their lives and one student had just been invited to join Facebook which at that time no one else in the class had heard of it. This was about 2005 and so we all became her friends. It seems so long ago when there were only a few college students in Facebook – joining other students in Boston. I still have that account but as I no longer have my university email I do not use it. A year later I made a Facebook page for my son who had decided to leave his life behind; he was a pitcher for the LA Dodgers living in the States when he left the Dodgers in Florida, not telling anyone (they looked all over for him as they were concerned about his mental well-being that week – they said) on August 13th due to a quarrel with his girlfriend who was appearing in the Australian Idol series in Sydney.
When Leigh was 16 he was clocked at 91 mph by an Atlanta scout; more scouts followed. He was courted by Atlanta, Minnesota, and Arizona as well as the Dodgers. I wanted him to go to Arizona as I liked their youth program but at 17 he signed with LA and that was it.
He arrived in Sydney after the 20 hour trip from Florida (I still have his return ticket) spent a day with his girlfriend and booked the highest floor and went off the 15th story balcony of the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park Hotel. He was facing the baseball stadium where he had practiced with the Australian Olympic team for the upcoming Athens game. I went there for the first eight years after and left flowers where he died but I have not gotten to Sydney the past two years though for the tenth anniversary I plan to go this year.
I made a Facebook page for Leigh and a lot of his friends have written over the years, especially on his birthday – he has hundreds of friends.
In 1998, Leigh, playing for the Australian U 16 (he was 15) squad in a series in Johannesburg, South Africa, stayed with a family, as all the team did. In his belongings several years ago I found the address of the people he stayed with and wrote them. At some point when I was reading letters people had written in his Facebook Timeline I saw one from a girl who said she knew him from his stay in Johannesburg. I do not go to his page much these past few years but I thought I would check it a few days ago. It is difficult to see his friends living their life, most with children and know he should be there too – and be pitching in the major leagues. He worked so hard at it. When he was ten he use to tell people he would pitch for the New York Yankees one day and of course being the non-baseball country of Australia people would tell him he should play cricket or footy. We use to go out every morning before school and he would do a hundred pitches and again every day after school. Sacha use to join us for years but then he became more interested in basketball, then graffiti then rap and hip hop and now he is the alive and successful one living in Australia and Leigh is just a memory.
So back to Facebook; I saw this person from Johannesburg had written in Leigh’s Timeline that she had 6 letters each about nine pages long and if I wanted them I could send an address where to send them to. She had moved to Perth a few years ago and recently had these letters sent to her. Now she will be sending them to my in-laws in Adelaide and I will have them in August. I am so excited about this – to have something that my son wrote in the time before his death. All I have is a very long goodbye letter to his girlfriend and why he was going to leave his life. It is the saddest thing I have ever read. I may find these letters waiting for me just as sad but I hope not.
Years ago I even had a lot of Leigh’s Facebook friends playing Farmville with me. It started off with me playing Farmville and not having friends enough to give me gifts and Narda thought it was just silly so I created a bunch of accounts; dead people: Leigh, my brother, my father, mothers (being adopted I had two mothers, both dead, both Farmville friends), a couple of ex-girlfriends (being dead I suppose they are ex), a dog and a series of me (Farmer Terrell, Saint Terrell, Another Instance of Terrell, and etc.).
http://neuage.co/LeighFarmvilleMarch2011.html is a short video of my farm ‘growing’. I quit after a couple of years and the past two years I have been too busy or too sane to continue with my farms.
A couple of years ago I started an online project on with a professor from Singapore who was teaching in London and was looking at how people deal with death on-line. I lost contact with her in my past move to China and will just continue with my own research and project on dealing with death on-line.
Coffee stop in Long Shan Village.
International Day @ Dalian American International School
neuage webpage for this is at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/42-internatiotional-day.htm
Every day is international day at our school, after all we have about 25 countries and 15 different languages but once a year we call it International Day. The difference is that we can dress up and be a country – usually one we are from. I chose to be Australia because I sort of am an Australian – a duel citizen, being born in the States and only living in Australia for 22 years a bit less than a third of my time on this planet but enough Australian and with no one else representing it I tossed myself into the nationality pool for a day. Narda could have been the real Australian but she joined the Dutch having been born there. We are both Australian by next-after-birth spot; though she was a boat person having arrived with assisted passage during those days Australia was flirting with that part of Europe to come and be them back in the 1950s. Now days a boat person is frowned upon and the unhappy lot get tossed into detention centres. I was a plane person arriving in 1981 and Narda was a boat person so really I too am an Australian though I am told I sound more like I am from New York.
I wore my son’s clothes as one does on these types of days. Leigh played for Australia before signing with the LA Dodgers and this was his shirt he wore on the U-18’s World Series in Canada in 1998.
Last year we had the , Drum Club come out from Dalian and they did not fail to entertain and get us all moving again this year. I made a bit of a clip and put it on youtube drums http://youtu.be/Y7Vpt3vXI7M – though only three minutes of about half an hour I recorded. Like last year this was the first warm – sort of warm day, of the year it got up to 16 centigrade which I think is 61 ferinheight only because Narda says that 16 turned about is 61 – and as she has reminded me in the past she comes from the clever country as Australians say – but I too am sort of from the clever country and I never know stuff like that.
What these countries do have in common is that they are meat eaters which means where am I from? Some distant galaxy? Speaking of such things at least North Korea did not get too silly. I noticed that there were five planets in Aries this week and with the moon transiting there too I thought that would be a trigger to give us an interesting week.
Well as one of those people who worked on this event and was at it at again at 6:30 this morning and now it is 11:06 pm I will make this a short blog and toddle off to bed. At least I was not as sick as Narda who was running this event and has spent the two past two days really sick – some of us get to watch life from the sidelines and that is sort of what I did and now I am just sleepy though it could be the healthy does of sleeping pills that are making it almost impossible to hit one key after another……but I feel good so that is beaut.
I took hundreds of pictures but I got smitten by pictures of shoes which is unusual as I am not into footwear a whole lot except for the practical purposes of not stepping in dog shit and stuff like that. Maybe it was because I had on my son’s baseball shoes that he pitched in when he played for the LA Dodgers. I have had them in my closet for a decade – well lots of closets as I have moved about a dozen times since getting them in 2003 and I had never put them on. They fit well and being baseball shoes they have cleats on the bottom and being in that shoe frame of mind I took these photos amongst hundreds – not of feet but of people too.
A highlight to the whole day for many was the world premiere of a song written in several languages by Lana Mountford in the state of Washington for Dalian American International School and Directed by Tyler Smith. The work was done through emails and Skype and though the performance in our gym is not as good as in a concert hall this gives a bit of a sample of it. My film class Skyped Lana at the start of her work last October and again last week. She is part of a group who write choral pieces for schools. I am not the go to person on this so I am writing from a very limited perspective which is that she was given a poem and had to compose her music using several languages. She said was fine with the English and Spanish and I think German parts but writing sections in Chinese and Korean was her biggest challenge. I put it on youtube but it does not do the piece justice. My video suite is two rooms away and I have been listening to them practice for many weeks. Having it played in a gym with people milling around and speaking themselves in many different languages made it more difficult. Nevertheless here is my clip of it on youtube, http://youtu.be/sVxYglz5xfI Our music teacher Tyler Smith
Had them right on target…
There were lots of other
Ah Tomb Sweeping Day, Qingming Festival;; the day that one tends the graves of their once-were-mates. One of those great non-Western holidays that we celebrate by not working, well working but not usual working, working in the plan-our-holidays way. The thing is about two and a half thousand years old and for the most part from what I see they do a few extra fireworks – a few extra – considering most mornings I hear fireworks from some local cemetery – a few extra gets to be a bit annoying when one wants to sleep in a bit. And they burn paper money though I am not sure what that is for. Nevertheless we jumped fully into the day; firstly, by changing our ticket back to Australia in July. Originally we had a six hour stop in Kuala Lumpur, on our ticket from Beijing to Adelaide after two weeks in the States. Today we changed that to four days in KL. The reason being that Narda has been looking for places we may retire to.
Somehow my mind disappears when I hear about retirement as my life I am doing sort of backward. I started my university career as a student at the age of 44 and continued it for 14 more years in the midst of being a single parent in the middle of a foreign country trying not to be foreign to myself but I may have failed and just ended up re-inventing myself as an old person. I started to teach at uni in 1998 whilst doing my seven year trek through the brain-numbing, though at times, interesting, world of a PhD, at the University of South Australia – age 51 – when some start thinking of retirement I started thinking what I would do when I grew up and finished my bloody thesis http://neuage.org/ODAM. I liked my world – the kids would go to Wirreanda High School in Morphett Vale for the day and I would take the train into Adelaide and spend the day in my office. It was an escape back when the Internet and making webpages was fun before the world was swamped with so much instant changes and so much information. I went slower in those days; fifteen years ago when I was only 51 I went at a much slower pace than now, probably enjoyed life much more, and definitely accomplished more in a day. I could teach classes, work on my thesis, and have time to be a parent, write children stories, do my picture poems, be on a basketball and a baseball team with my children and oh so much more.
I loved being a single parent and would recommend it to anyone if not everyone. We roamed the world; doing a couple of round-the-world trips, we dreamt of incredible futures – which almost eventuated and life was good. Life is still good but I felt I was more retired when I was in my 40s being a single parent, dreaming impossible dreams and just chilling. Now I have embraced adulthood – even must say it is quite enjoyable – I am just getting going and retirement? Nay, it’s not for me. But Narda, she is looking at the beaches, and grandchildren, and travel as if three trips to Australia and a trip to the States as well as other local spots: Viet Nam, various Chinese cities, in a year is not enough. One of the places that Narda has been reading about is Penang, Malaysia so we are looking for places to stay in George Town, an hour flight away from Kuala Lumpur. Four days in Penang and no doubt I will be shown the merits of retirement.
Actually I equate Tomb Sweeping Day with retirement. What I did get done on this glorious holiday was putting together my vast number of video clips from last week’s pop into Shanghai and distilling them down to two three minute clips. They are now youtube videos: http://youtu.be/KzbtUqU7Qcs = Shanghai, and http://youtu.be/FgWA_yne1VI = Zhujiajiao, as well I have made them additions to my blog for those two events: http://neuage.us/BLOGS/39-Shanghai2013.htm for my two blog readers in all of China and whom may not be able to get on to youtube due to not having a VPN. What we should have done today was ride out bikes but it is still cold and windy and well we tried a mini-retirement day. I even stayed in my jammies for most of the day and took a fifteen minute nap and now I will toddle off to the gym and work on body sculpturing or keeping the fat bits away anyway. I suppose if retirement was like today it was OK though I am really looking forward to tomorrow to go back to work.
I have my film class first block; 8:45 in the morning and we are finishing up quarter number three. We are Skyping with people in India and a person in the State of Washington who has written an orchestra piece that our school is performing. As well we are preparing our Skype work with a co-producer in LA who has recently had her film in the Sundance Festival and she is working with my class to do a film online. So retirement? Not this week mate. I love my job – I have so many projects going at once and rush from thing to thing, reminding me of decades ago when I lived a project-based life and in the midst had time to laugh with my children and dream incredible futures. That is what I love about my job; I not only can accomplish stuff I need as well as want to do but I have lots of flexibility to try new things and get involved in new directions. And now at 65 when others think of retirement I have started a new career as a film dude as I am getting involved in a kool global niche of creative possibilities I had not dreamt of even last semester.
Oh Narda has just found a caravan for us to purchase – another retirement plan of hers. We will have a caravan in Australia and live in it when we visit family when we are not cruising the Nile or trekking Nepal or whatever it is old people do that have money – well that is not us, too ugly and too poor maybe but not ones with money so maybe we will just buy an old caravan – tie it up to our old car that sits in storage in Australia – and become trailer trash and get fat and live along the coast of Australia. Every day will then be Tomb Sweeping Day.
Another conference now history another system of notes to integrate into my life another direction to life; all for the forward thrust of evolution for those who come next; the children so I am told. I have been to conferences. Mostly in New York (the best being NAIS’ ‘New York State Association of Independent Schools’ in Mohonk at the Mountain House – in New Paltz in the Catskills) – and recently in Asia: Bangkok, Shanghai (twice), Shenzhen… well that is all. The Asian ones are quite different in that the term networking is overused and really means ‘is your school better than mine and if so can I get a job there?’ In Australia or the States with unions and accountability and ethics in schools conferences really are about listening to new information or in my situation as technology dude, learning about new programs. One learns about another person’s school not because they want to leave their current school post-haste but because they are genuinely interested in how another school runs, especially in their topic. I am always surprised at how many people are disgruntled with their school and it is always the same complaints which centre around administration. Stuff that would never happen overseas happens with reckless abandon in Asia where teachers report micromanaged lives to the point of dictatorship. I try to avoid the tales of woe and for the most part did.
This was a great conference for me for the very reason a conference should be great for anyone. I met three great dudes that are doing wonderful things with film – my new baby. The best, for me, workshops were the ones centred on film. Breen O’Reilly, from Beijing International School, and David Gran from Shanghai International presented Asia through film; http://asiathroughfilm.wikispaces.com/ The trick will be to find the same films with English subtitles – they exist because the clips that Breen and David showed had subtitles. What I will miss will be all their narratives about the films and the directors of them. One movie in particular will be my first target to find is “Mardi Gras: Made in China” (2005). The writer, David Redmon wondered where the Mardi Gras doubloons came from – well we all know that don’t we? So he went and investigated and found a factory in China where they were made. The people at the factory had no idea who would want such things. I am really into this as I lived through several Mardi Gras in New Orleans and I have a large poster from 1978 –made by a friend and I have had this on my wall in many homes in many cities and three countries (Australia, China, USA) over the past 35 years. Here it is on my wall in Dalian, China. I collect things from my past – my wife says ‘hordes’ things from my past and yes I still have two of those made in China’ Mardi Gras coins – that I have in my wallet some 35 years later. Gosh.
Apparently ‘Made in China’ was made with one camera and done in imovie – the poster below is from Wikipedia
David Gran introduced and showed clips from the EARCOS Shanghai Asia Film Festival http://www.shanghaifilmfest.org/. I was lucky to spend lots of time with him; Breen O’Reilly and Joshua Sternlicht at this conference which I hopefully will be able to work with in the future to kick start our film courses in Dalian American International School.
My synchronous moment of Saturday, the last day of the conference was sitting at a table with two others at a film workshop. One is from Albany NY – wife to David Gran and the other, Joshua Sternlicht, from Schenectady NY, the filmmaker now at the International School of Manila – two towns next to where I grew up – we all went to neighbouring schools – and we are all doing film at our schools; one teaching in Manila, one in Shanghai and me up north where it is still cold and we are going back to in a couple of hours. Maybe I should make a film of this… or is it just four planets in Aries now and Saturn in 13 Scorpio exactly square my Pluto/Saturn conjunction; a waxing square. And true enough projects I started on at my Saturn return seven years ago are changing now just like it is said in astrology. Yesterday I walked into a class door and almost knocked myself out – luckily I don’t believe in astrology or I would say there was linkage. Speaking of which, I was an astrologer for 40 years and even met my first wife on an astrological trip to New Zealand and Australia in 1980 – I was living in Baltimore at the time. I stopped astrology in 2003 due to events in my life (Leigh) but for whatever reason I downloaded the app ‘Celeste’ onto my iphone. It does a complete chart. This is something I wish I had back in the 1960s – 2000. I use to do charts all the time for everything but always using an ephemeris and by hand. This is so instant I can always know where everything is. Not that I care anymore but the planets positions for when I walked into a glass window really did explain it –every planets relationship to my natal chart said ‘you will walk into a glass window’ – damn. No wonder I don’t want to see this – especially after the fact.
Staying at an airbnb, the ”lujiazui riverview room shanghai” in the New Pudong section of Shanghai with spectacular views; for example, Shanghai World Financial Center – the tall one in front, 101 stories – I went to the top, above the hanger part, on a previous trip alone because Narda doesn’t like heights. Behind it is the Shanghai Tower being built to go to 125 stories 2,073.87 feet when all is said and done. Where we are staying looking at this we are only on the 29th floor so that seems safe.
In the news this weeks is “A sand scandal is brewing in China, with concerns that low-quality concrete has been used in the construction of many of the country’s largest buildings — putting them at risk of collapse. The Ping’an Finance Center is planned to top out at 660m, making it not only China’s tallest building but the second-tallest building in the world after the Burj Dubai. Revelation from Shenzhen’s Housing and Construction Bureau that substandard sea sand concrete had been used in its construction…”
View from our 29th floor balcony, looking out on the Huangpu River – which Narda was nervous about me being out on.
I took some hundred photos and heaps during the day too but it is the night views that I liked. This is basically the view from lying in bed.
We had our apartment near the Pudong Avenue Station, Subway Line 4, a 4-minute walk up to the subway station.
Two blocks from our house is the Shanghai Ferry. What was so much fun about this two RMB (thirty cents) ride across the Huangpu River is that it is all motor scooters – the extent of which will be in my youtube video http://youtube.com/neuage09
It is about equal to the ferry across the Mississippi in New Orleans. The views, hanging out of the side of the boat of Shanghai was well worth the ride. There is nothing on the other side of the river at the arrival point except for fifty scooters roaring off and up an unlit roads so we shelled out another two RMB and rode back home.
Yesterday we went to Zhujajiao, a water town – there are several water towns that surround Shanghai. We went to one of the closest. Zhuajiao took an hour to get to and is well worth the visit. The bus driver thought he was driving a sports car as they do in China and we changed lanes at high speed with reckless abandon. Zhujajiao is a bit over an hour from downtown Shanghai. It was only 14 RMB (couple of bucks) for the ride – cheaper than a thrill ride at an amusement park and twice as scary.
It is interesting seeing other Westerners who try to place where you are from. We were looking at quilts and this person about my age started speaking to me in German which I do not understand. Narda answered him in German but the guy ignored me and kept talking until I made it clear I did not speak German. Later some people thought they had met us the day before – said they saw Narda at a gem centre – considering we were flying to Shanghai that day and went straight to our apartment how we look like every other Western I am not sure or that I look German. I barely look like me anymore.
Zhujajiao, located in the Qingpu District of Shanghai, is called the Venice of China but so are a few other water towns such as Zhouzhuang and Suzhou and Tong Li. Zhujajiao was established about 1,700 years ago. There are claims that there are archaeological findings dating back 5,000 years but having left my carbon dating machine home I cannot verify that. 36 stone bridges and numerous rivers line Zhujiajiao, and many ancient buildings still line the riverbanks, several looking like they will collapse at any moment. We did not do the tour of the town at 88 RMB not because of money but because a two and a half hour walking tour with someone learning English seemed difficult. We wandered the town checking out Yuanjin Buddhist Temple, built, they say, ‘originally’, an operative word in post-Mao China, in 1341. OK, so we are the skeptical tourists but so much is so much a replica and even replicas are turning out to be replicas of replicas that we doubt that anything is as it is proclaimed. Nevertheless we enjoyed ourselves and rode one of their boats along one of their rivers.
In the midst of Shanghai there is ‘Old Street’, historically called Miaoqian Dajie, which is either a bit of a restored section or a replica of the town from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) created for tourist. We have been to Shanghai five times now and this place at least three of those times. At least it is not referred to as the Venice of China.
We even fond an everyday, or three in a row, breakfast place not far from People’s Square, getting off at the East Nanjing Road Station and getting out at exit three. Mojos serves a proper Western breakfast so we had toast (though they did not have jam for the toast and by day three we had brought our own jar), eggs over easy, hash browns and coffee. The first day they had loud thumping music and Narda asked them to turn it down so they turned it off making the morning much more pleasant. The other days they had a wide mixture of music from Jimi Hendrix to B. B. King to Dido, obviously the ‘Western tunes mix’.
After a couple of years in China we are so over Chinese food. I even eat at KFC, something I never did in the past because in China they have a good corn, carrot some other vegetable mix and mashed potatoes – the only two things they have I will eat and cannot get elsewhere.
One thing I do notice about this trip is the lack of being able to get my video clips edited and put on line. I have been lugging my 17 + inch computer with me for years but we thought we would make our trip lighter and just bring an iPad, iPhones and small laptop all of which have no way to edit my many clips into a proper movie. Yes it is good to write and send out stuff sitting on the metro but in those spare moments at our hotel when I would normally be putting together my clips I now just look at hundreds of photos with no way to edit my video. So already I know what I will be doing when I return home on Sunday for a day. I will have at least three youtube clips ready to go before Monday because nothing says it better than a movie.
We moved out of our apartment with the great view yesterday after three days and now we are staying at the Metropark Hotel at 159 New Golden Road Pudong. We are in Shanghai to attend the EARCOS (East Asia Region Council of Schools) conference and the Metropark is near the school the conference is at; Concordia International College. The school proclaims on their web site that they are grounded in Christian values, which is something to say in this country of rapidly evolving capitalism; Mao would be shocked, though he would be pleased with the constant destruction of the country to make way for the modern, soon to fall down because they are made from sea-sand, buildings. The hotel looks like a strange concept of a castle though it is really a good hotel and the beds are so comfortable that going to a conference does not seem like we are on holiday which we sort of are as this is our spring break we have given up so we can continually be doing school work.
A few weeks past which is what happens when life is full to live and there is no time to pause and reflect – maybe today I can get back on track…
Shenzhen for a weekend a few weekends ago; other cities always look so great; Shenzhen is best. We had a two-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment for two nights with a balcony opening from each bedroom and the living room on the 15th floor with view of Hong Kong Harbour and Hong Kong.
In China it is not being where you have gone to but getting there that is the amazing experience. I am more surprised by the fact that we arrived at our destination in one-piece than anything else. Our taxi driver from the Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (深圳宝安国际机场; formerly named Shenzhen Huangtian Airport) not only drove at the highest speed his wobbly rusty cab could go, weaving in and out of traffic, beeping his horn the whole way – ‘out of my path got Westerners on board’ but he blinked his high-beam lights all the way. We would get really close to someone’s bumper and he would flash his high-beam on and off and beep then swerve around them. Luckily for all of us it was only a 45 minute ride of terror. I suppose in my younger years instead of going to a theme park and riding a terrifying ride I would have just gone to China and grabbed a taxi for a death-defying thrill. We have only had one close accident – well every time getting in to a car in China is close to an accident – we had the bonnet or hood (depending which country you associate the front of the car with) come up and break the window but that one time the driver was actually going close to the speed limit and there was no one in front of us to smash into. We had our bit of a scrape last July on the interstate in Mississippi in the US of A when at 70 mph a truck sideswiped us sending us across a four lane busy highway see http://neuage.me/2013/02/01/a-piggly-wiggly-story/ but in China it is always like this driver is going to kill us. But as one would have suspected by now – he didn’t.
Traveling with Narda one realizes comfort is number one. Most places we seem to change rooms. In Hoain, Viet Nam we changed after one night, too close to the road, OK so the new apartment was a good place for a week. In Hanoi a couple of months ago we lasted one hour before Narda was at the front desk getting us a room change – forget why now.
(In 1962 France launched a ship named Ancerville, which was purchased by the People’s Republic of China in 1973 and renamed Minghua. 10 years later the ship was permanently berthed at Shekou, Shenzhen, where she was refurbished and rebranded – this time as the hotel and entertainment complex, “Shekou Sea World. The Minghua was berthed at Sea World Plaza, the water which originally surrounded her has been reclaimed to allow construction of a golf course. The land reclamation continued southward, and today the coastline has been moved several hundred metres, leaving the Minghua completely landlocked.)
We arrived at the Frazier Centre at midnight and took a strong sleeping pill so nothing would disturb us, went to bed and damn it was a Chinese bed – might as well as sleep on the floor. Once; on a weekend rafting trip, we took a pillow top mattress with us, rolled tightly and stored in the bus cargo area. That was a worthwhile decision as the typical Chinese bed was rock hard.
I was tired enough to sleep on the floor if not the bed but Narda was already half out the door saying we needed to get a different room. Not to argue I opened the door and watched her rush off to the elevator.
Ten minutes later she returned; bellboy in tow carrying a large pillow top mattress; we did have a king size bed. Together they made up the bed which was a bit funny as Narda and I were feeling the effect of our sleeping pill, and we no surely most have appeared rather drunk. Nevertheless we woke the next morning, a good six hours later, with some I disturbed sleep behind us. As usual, Narda was right getting us more comfortable.
We got to Campus Village a couple of years ago at two AM where we still live, though of course we have moved apartments since then only to discover our bed was hard. Fortunately Nard saw a pillow top mattress in a storage room the very next day and soon the security guards were lugging it to our apartment. Since then we have purchased another mattress to add to it sows have a pretty good bed by now. Not that I Am suggesting a pattern here but that first week Narda moved her classroom too; understandable as the room assigned her was not really suitable. If only others would realize what I did years ago; she is often right and the best judge of what we should have so do it right from the get go and let the good times roll.
We had our weekend workshop at Shekhou International School in the Shekhou area of Shenzhen, a five minute walk from the Frazier Apartments with now a rather soft bed.
We were at an ipad work shop which is good in itself but we are a PC school and I was told not only would our school never have macs installed but that we would never have ipad support but here there are four of us keeping up with integrating technology in education despite administration. Because the most important basis to education is to provide tools for 21st century learning and at the present time the ipad is the best resource available to students. Many of our students use macs and iPads and instead of trying to hide from this fact I want to have the knowledge to support their learning which is why the other three teachers from our school were there.
Narda’s fellow music teacher uses his ipad in all his classes and so did our previous music teacher who left to teach at a progressive international school in the Middle East. Narda was reluctant to get an ipad but by the end of the weekend she loves it and will be making good use of it. I personally do not have a great desire for it as I make webpages, program with Flash and create videos and newscast which I use my laptop for and will for some time. At the moment I am writing this on my iPhone using Pages which Narda downloaded yesterday onto her ipad which downloaded to my phone as we share our apps account whilst flying.
OK a couple of weeks later and the iPad is in the drawer. We have given up trying to get Ted Talks with the Internet speed here; even leaving it on overnight does not produce results. But we will re-visit it soon.
The International School of Beijing (ISB) like Shekou International School is a beautiful school. SIS has three campuses and we were at the elementary one whereas ISB is one large campus with 1700 or so students K – 12. I went to see the video/film program as I am putting together one at our school. Not much to say except it would be a great place to work. Beijing as always was quite polluted. I got the app for my iPhone ‘China Air Quality’ which was probably a bad idea as I am a bit obsessed with it keeping track of my local town of Dalian. Today Dalian is ‘slightly polluted’ at 106 and at the moment Beijing is 398 (‘very unhealthy, protection recommended). When I was there it was about 450 – choke choke, and there was a time last month when it was off the chart at close to a thousand. Shanghai, where we are spending next week is either 133 or 68. On this app there are two readings for most cities. One is from the US Consulate – 133 for Shanghai the other, 68, from the Chinese, so one can follow which ever. I tend to believe the Yanks – not sure why.
ISB is outside of downtown but the pollution is still evident. When I was there a soccer tournament was underway and I couldn’t help wonder why people would pay so much money to have their kids at a top school but where the air is so unhealthy and with them running around gasping for air and kicking balls.
I collected information on their film/video program but with them having about ten times the budget I have, even with a recent healthy grant to get some equipment, I will not be competing well in any film shows these next few years. They had a wall of trophies and plaques for competitions they have won in the Asia arena.
And that is it. Two great schools in two weeks and now when we go to Shanghai we will be at the EARCOS Conference at Concordia International School Shanghai.
Spent today planning trips for school break mid-June – first days of August; New York, Atlanta, maybe a week in Florida and three weeks in Australia. Just some more stuff to add to my travel pages; http://neuage.us/2013/
so much of it
Islands ~ continents
Pools of wetness
Next to me too
Different dreams than me
I dream of the future
that is the past
long ago past
when decades I have known
I had not known yet
but you were with me
even during that phase of me
that you were still
far into the future
How is that?
This is why I like
Dreaming in flight
Skies Stretch Silently So Sensually
Clouds are sections of life
->-> I blow out the window
to land – maybe I won’t again
keep your distance
I am staying in the sky
where I belong.
flight between Melbourne and Dalian
There were always evolutionary steps, there always will be. Whether it is the biggies in evolution when sea-stuff such as fish clambered out of the sea, breathed some air, got a leg up, developed then lost enough intelligence to become reflective-questioning humans millions of years later or this current crop of folks tossing about within the evolution of love, parenting, making a stab at understanding the moment; there will be change. Every moment is the big-bang – with the unforeseeable consequences of not only enfoldment of that moment but the resultant climax of it, or the big crunch.
Encounter and Victor, what descriptive terms of not only life in general but of a particular patch of my own life; 1984 – 1995 I lived down south in the Fleurieu Peninsula in Victor Harbor also known as Victor which is part of the Encounter Coast. I even helped start a community radio station in 1991 call E-FM – Encounter FM. Look up why it is called the Encounter Coast – I am not getting Internet reception where I am writing this now because the motel I am staying at outside of Melbourne has large hills surrounding it and there is not a phone tower nearby to pick up through my phone. So what I remember about the Encounter Coast is that some white folks encountered some aboriginals in the area then I suppose killed them all as white people do with any native culture they first encounter. Maybe there is no point looking it up, it would just be depressing.
This is an unusual week; I could not have choreographed such synchronicity no matter how much I wanted to or past experiences I wanted to integrate. It is pointless to see how tomorrow can be anything more than a composite of today meshed with yesterday and spiced with times before.
I look for a perfect moment like a chef does with dessert or a programmer is able to smoothly watch a binary code dissolve imperfection in order to release a sensual video clip or smoothly disrupt someone’s cherished production. Evolution is hacking at its finest. We will hack the genetic code, we will hack the false concepts of God and her sticky dolls: Jesus, Mohammad. Zarathustra, Janis Joplin, Krishna, Buddha, Microsoft, Honda, Paris and all the other cream poofs that have tricked so many into believing, killing, and drooling in their name. Everything is sensual; everything except religion, spirituality and other mind-numbing fantasies. Breathing is the sexiest thing we can do; breathe in, exhale – unification, growth, immersion, the vital humour of a passionate organismic evolution.
It wasn’t always so. After waking one morning as a single parent with children aged less than one year old and two and a half living in Mt. Compass I was not sure if I would continue to inhale the prana of the south of South Australia. I was too far away from home, which I had lost track of where exactly it was though four years earlier I had been living in Hawaii and before that in New York, Maryland, New Orleans (here I am in the south coast of South Australia and it is February 12, 2013, Mardi Gras Day but I am 40 years too far away from there to reach and touch it even with my mind), and there was California, Kansas, Wyoming, Florida and many states that I was in many states in before waking one morning with two children here in the south of the south.
We are here now. Last week we were in northern China and the afternoon we left it was -15C. It is in the 30s here – 30+ Centigrade not Fahrenheit like I use to think in. Nothing is like the way I use to think. That is the thing with ageing, our thinking changes; perhaps evolution is really a change in our thinking and when people don’t change then we don’t evolve; lessons aren’t learnt, innovations stagnate and business is unable to put us all into debt buying new electronic devices all the time.
Besides the point…
It is Chinese New Year week – something to do with a full lunar moon. Whatever it is we got here through a Chinese-Miracle – see the previous blog http://neuage.us/BLOGS/35-A-Chinese-miracle.html.
We: Narda + 3 sons (one here from Hanoi, another from Atlanta, Georgia , one from Adelaide), a granddaughter, couple of wives and me or seeing it as another format: seven adults and a bit are spending four days, three nights at a large house we rented in Pt. Elliot. 4 Stock Street and what a good place it is; four bedroom, three bathe with a large yard and view to the sea.
When we lived in the area: Pt. Elliot for six months, Middleton for a year, both houses along the coast and after that we; the boys and me, lived in Victor Harbor a block from the sea for several years and then in another area in Victor, our lot in life was not that good; nine homes in ten years and too many schools; 1985 – 1995. A couple of years at Mt. Compass Area School, a couple at Pt. Elliot Primary, a couple at Victor Harbor Primary and even awhile at Meadows because my tofu factory (http://tofu.neuage.us) was there, all before middles school. I may have been the stereotypical single parent, male-single-parent at that. I even moved my tofu factory four times in seven years. Maybe it is me that is so unsettled. Since I left my home in upstate New York in 1965 I have had more than fifty homes in multiple countries and states and provinces.
I look at where we are staying now and it is so far from when I lived here twenty years ago.
There were a couple of years we did not have a car, which is difficult when living an hour from Adelaide. I walked a lot and would send my children on a bus to Adelaide the weekends that their mother would take them. I lost my tofu business in 1988 which was devastating after seven years of hard work but tofu was not a real goer in the 1980s. Now, in China, I buy a large block of firm tofu for about four-RMB which is like 70 cents. I use to sell the same size block of tofu for a buck back in the early 1980s. So I lost my tofu business and car and we lived pretty much in poverty along a beautiful coast.
Below, 1989 – the arrow points to our house on the seashore; Sacha and Leigh ages eight and six and Puppy walking to the main road to catch a bus to school at Pt. Elliot Primary.
In 1990, realizing my life was shit; I started university through distance education at Deakin University in Melbourne. It is the only thing in my life that I became constant at; 15 years non-stop: BA in journalism, honours in children literature, Masters in literature then seven years doing my PhD at the University of South Australia, proving that even a drop-kick can re-invent their life at 44 and get their act together, together, according to Western evolutionary standards. Now I even have fifteen years of teaching accomplished including teaching at four universities in two countries and teaching in every grade K-12 in six schools in three countries. But when I lived in Pt. Elliot my life looked quite hopeless.
Leigh (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) started baseball in Pt. Elliot in 1988, he was five and we had a baseball, a bat and a glove. My oldest, Sacha, was not quite so interested in baseball, he was seven and a half. We had moved to Victor Harbor by the time Leigh played his first organized baseball – tee-ball. Sacha played too. Leigh was seven or maybe eight. He started little league when he was about ten – we were still in Victor. By the time he got into serious baseball we moved closer to the city; Hackham then Christies Beach. He kept getting better. We had spent hours a day on his baseball since he was five. He started representing South Australia then Australia. He played in World Series, firstly at age 14 in the Under 14 World Series in the States, and under 16s in South Africa and under 18s in Canada and in the World Cup in Taiwan. He was in so many teams and was even South Australia junior sports person of the year when the, at the time, world’s number one tennis player, Lleyton Hewitt, was the senior sports person of the year. We did fund raisers and even went to the welfare group, The Smith Family, for funds to pay for trips. I studied and kept getting degrees, Sacha worked on his hip hop, and graffiti – with lots of court appearances at the Victor Harbor court to verify his emerging skills and life seemed it was going well. I had met Narda in 2001 and we got married and moved to New York where I started to teach at the State University of New York and Narda at the Albany Academy for Girls and I was completing my PhD. Sacha was in Melbourne actually making money doing spray art murals for the council and working in a youth centre running drop-in hip hop workshops for street kids. He is still doing that now in 2013; along with working with asylum seekers.
At age 17, in the year 2000, Leigh signed with the LA Dodgers, and went off to Dodgertown, in Vero Beach, Florida. In 2003 Narda and I were in Adelaide for a summer (winter in Australia). The last I knew about Leigh was that he was doing well; I had his rookie card, something amazing considering our difficult life in Pt. Elliot and in South Australia in general, he had played a year for the Georgia Waves in the minor leagues and there was talk from the Dodgers that he was going to get moved up.
I saw in the Adelaide Advertiser today that only six Australians had ever made it to the major leagues in baseball in the States. Ten years ago Leigh was on track to be another Australian in the majors.
August 16, 2003, I was in my office at the University of South Australia, well a temporary office that I used for July and August to put the finishing touches on my PhD thesis. We were due to leave for the States the next day in order to get ourselves back to work. Narda came in and put her arms around me and said “Leigh is dead”. Ten years later I still hear those words. He was having difficulty with his girlfriend who was in Sydney in the finals of one of those Australian pop idols things and Leigh left the Dodgers, flew to Sydney and went off his 15 story hotel balcony. I wrote this all extensively long ago in a book I wrote for my children; “Leaving Australia” and have no intentions of ever writing it all up again.
I am not sure why the mother’s name got into the newspaper as she had almost nothing to do with Leigh’s life and surely nothing to do with Leigh’s baseball except fight me in court every time he wanted to go overseas to play. I had to get a court order every single time he left Australia or even South Australia when he was 14 and 15.
I do not feel bad that where I am staying now I could never do with my children, I was just unable to provide luxury or extras for them. We had a really rough time in South Australia, but there were times of real happiness here in Pt. Elliot and in Victor. We even got to get out of Australia a couple of times though I had to get court orders to take them both times. My parents paid for us to come to New York in 1985; traveling with a two year old and a five year old is a challenge but we made it there and back and I have wonderful memories though my children would have been too young. In 1992 we did the trip again, they were 11 and nine and we had a hoot; stayed with a friend from my 1960s hippie days in Hawaii, visited my father in New York, met my blood sister who I had just found a few years earlier, visited friends in Los Angeles and Baltimore and stayed with my brother in New York City and hung out with him which was good as he died from AIDS a few months after our visit.
We went to London and Paris and travelled through Germany, went back to New York and on to Australia. Poverty is fine when someone else is footing the bills for traveling experiences. My father came to visit us at the age of 87; my adopted father who went on to live until 102, my mother died long before. Actually two mothers; the first died when she was 40 in the early 1970s but I never knew her and my adopted mother in 1990 or so – I forget the exact date. So many people around me die I forget when they do it. When my father came to visit we collected him at the Sydney Airport, rented a large camper van and my father two sons and me drove up to the Gold Coast, Brisbane, on over to Broken Hill and down to Victor Harbor – took us a couple of weeks. Overall it is still a great memory though at times the three of them pissed me off. They would all complain over something or the other; an 87 year old and a nine and eleven year old. I of course did all the driving, cooking and trying to keep everyone happy. My father paid the cash for the experience and that was good.
Today I saw two of my friends, and considering I have about five friends worldwide, to see two in one day is quite the odds. Sandy and his wife visited this morning. Sandy was a single parent in Victor too. We started a radio station; Encounter FM, in 1991 and that went well for a while until the local Christians took over and booted us out. And Don Cannon my photography friend took me to a photography meeting in Goowla which is down the road a bit from here.
I have lived in a lot of places since the Encounter Coast days twenty years ago. Driving between Pt. Elliot and Victor today I felt at home. I do not feel at home anywhere; New Orleans was a great re-visit last summer after having had such a good life there 40 years ago but it did not feel like home, neither has Adelaide, upstate New York where I grew up or even our living in New York City for five years before moving to China even though I lived there quite often in the 1960s and 1970s. I have two passports so I am not even a one country person but I did feel at home driving along the Encounter Coast. I could not live there again, too many memories, but for a few days I just chose the best of those memories and enjoyed my encounter and feeling like a victor over my Victor Harbor past.
Now, February 15, two days after being on the Encounter Coast living in the past I am with Sacha in Melbourne; holy cow he is 32; how did that happen? I drove around in his BMW sports car, what a yuppie. Where did I fail? But he is happy with his hip hop stuff, piecing (legally) and getting paid for it, working with asylum seekers, telling me about his next set of tattoos he is getting. I really do not like tattoos but I am not saying anything.
Evolution! Take me back when I was living along the Encounter Coast dreaming of a great future with my children. Tomorrow I am back to freezing northern China. I love the warm days here in Australia but in reality I cannot keep up with Sacha’s fast paced life style. I keep thinking about taking a nap and then we are off again. He said last night he and his girlfriend were going to bed early so we could leave early to go out to the country. At 12:30 – thirty minutes past midnight, three hours past my normal bed time they went off to bed saying we had to get up early which turned out to be ten am. Evolution? Not for me – I am going to regress and get caught up on sleep. Oh wait I can’t. Tomorrow we return to China and the next morning we are at work. Damn.
Below, Horseshow Bay at Pt. Elliot and below that The Bluff at Victor Harbor.
Below, Leigh age 9 and Sacha age 11 at our E-FM (Encounter FM) radio station in a small caravan in
Victor Harbor, 1992.
A Chinese miracle
Just to prove that miracles are not the sole (soul) domain of the Western religious-philosophers-‘we-are-the-chosen’ we discovered that even in China miracles do occur. I am defining miracle as that which is outside the ‘normal’ realm of our flitterings through life; those events that happen with some possible intervention beyond some dim bats occasional form of self-interpreted helpfulness. I grew up (really I did) with the notion that according to the Methodists anyway that China’s communist darkness would never allow in a sliver of light that would guide a couple of lost Westerns who were not lost until the Chinese directed them toward a path that could have led directly to disaster – disaster in the sense of experience deprivation of wanted experience, not a disaster of impending doom.
OK! The story.
We left Campus Village all excited about getting our sorry asses to Adelaide in time for Narda’s sons and one of their 30th birthday parties; one son flying in from Atlanta, Georgia, one from Hanoi and birthday boy at home in the Adelaide Hills with granddaughter in tow; and us popping in from China just for a party. We booked our flight six months in advance knowing that everything would be booked for Chinese New Years. We got to Dalian Airport three hours in advanced knowing how they have a tendency to stuff things up. We had gotten an email the night before saying our flight was on-time and wishing us a great journey or ever what they say, in Chinese. At the China Southern counter, ‘flight canceled’! After recovering from the shock of that news we were informed that another flight to Guangzhou was leaving in a few hours, which of course would be too late to hop onto our flight to Melbourne.
These are the same people, I am sure, at least it is the same airline, who lost our Piggly Wiggly umbrella – see the previous post http://neuage.me/2013/02/01/a-piggly-wiggly-story/ after it made the journey from Atlanta, Georgia to NYC to Melbourne > Adelaide > back to Melbourne to Guangzhou – then somewhere between Guangzhou and Dalian China Southern managed to lose it – the umbrella.
After finding someone with some English to understand that we could not miss our flight to Melbourne they said they could fly us to Shanghai then put us on another airline, China Eastern – which we hate, but we had to get to Melbourne by the next afternoon to continue our flight on to Adelaide to get to Narda’s son’s birthday party in the Adelaide Hills. We had even taken two days off from work without pay to do this. Plus Narda surely wanted to be at her granddaughter’s christening – which a fellow worker wondered how we got two days leave to attend a pagan festival – which is Sunday. We had to get to Australia.
We got ourselves OK to Shanghai and ran through the airport dragging too much crap as we do, getting into line – body blocking aggressive Chinese passengers trying to pass us in the queue and collapsed in front of the ticket counter as we tossed out suitcases of too much crap onto the weighing machine. ‘Flight full – no seats, take your bags off’. Holy guacamole – did they really say that? We told them about China Southern saying we could switch airlines – we had our vouchers but they said to go and wait at the standby counter. Narda was fighting back tears, I was trying to keep us from annihilation, and the crowding people around us all looked like enemy foo fighters – whatever that is.
At the standby counter they said the flight was overbooked and already full. Narda said we had to get on the flight to get to Adelaide for her son’s wedding. Me, never being good as a spy or secretive person said whose wedding, which of course upset Narda all the more because I am a bit of an idiot in these situations.
They said we would be moved to the top two if any seats were opened which would only happen if there were two no-shows, the chances we none to slim. We looked at the options which would be to try and get to Guangzhou the next day and hope we could get onto the next night’s flight which too was booked full and we would miss Narda’s party which was the whole idea of this trip we had planned for months.
At 7:30 the flight was closed and at 7:32 we got the call to the desk with a simple ‘passports’ and that was it. We quickly got our suitcase onto the conveyor belt and got our boarding pass plus a sticker to put on our clothes that indicated that we were to rush through lines like customs and passport control and all those other things the Chinese like to check us out with. These things always tax me – running through airports with camera bag, computer bag, things falling out of my pocket – it is easier for Narda – she is organized with stuff in one bag, and she is seven and a half years younger than me and I get out of breath trying to keep up with her but of course what man could keep up with such a vibrant chick on a very focused mission of seeing her sons within 24 hours? Puffing and panting, waving off potential heart-attacks, leg cramps, a very real stomach ache, and head ache I followed her through the VIP lines and somehow we got to the gate panting and puffing to find the flight was delayed by an hour.
We use to fly through Shanghai on China Eastern as part of round-the-world fares with Star Alliance and every time, this would be at least four if not five times, the flight from Shanghai to Melbourne was hours late. Now our concern was the flight Melbourne to Adelaide which Narda said left Melbourne at 11:30 AM and we were due to arrive at 11 AM the next day. Thirty minutes to get through baggage, customs and get our boarding pass at Qantas domestic which is a long hike from the international terminal
Bottom line was that we were on a plane finally though 20 rows apart but at least on the same plane. I told the first hostess that I saw about our changed flights and that I had to have vegetarian. Two reasons for that is that one I am a vegetarian two even Narda orders vegetarian because the meat meals on Asian airlines are shockingly horrible and taste worse – so I am informed. I was told there were no vegetarian meals but she would check first class and lucky there was. I asked to trade my economy seat for a first class meal to a first class seat but her English was not good enough to understand my request, or else she thought I was not funny, or possibly just stupid, nevertheless, I did get a good meal for din din and again for brekky.
We got to Melbourne at 11ish and the impossible task of getting the next flight loomed. We discovered the best thing about being the last onto the plane meant our luggage was the first down the chute at the end of the trip. ‘The last shall be first’ of my Methodist upbringing was actually realistic. Now I wish I had listened to more of their fairy stories. Whilst waiting for the baggage we changed over some 26,000 RMB that we had stored away and got about $3700 Australian for it, a bad deal by hundreds but we were not fretting now. It was good to have some real currency again. The passport line was long as several flights arrived in Melbourne at the same time. For the first time ever we tried using the kiosk for checking in with our passports because we had the new ones with electronic chips in them and it worked saving us another long line. At baggage inspection the line was incredibly long and Narda pleaded with some official type and we got sent through a very short line and no one checked our bags which is very unusual coming into Australia we had saved about 45 minutes so far but we only had 15 minutes to get to the gate so again we ran through the airport panting and puffing and collapsing at the counter pleading to get onto the plane leaving at 11:30, it was now 11:15. The counter person said there was no 11:30 flight that in fact our flight left at 12:10 so for the first time since leaving Campus Village 24 non-sleeping hours earlier we actually had enough time to walk to the gate and sit and wait.
So that is our miracle.
Arriving in Adelaide Narda’s three sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter were all waiting… of course Maggie burst in to tears – probably not of joy – of seeing us. Ooops
But she made good a few moments later for a good family photo
And we got to Stu’s birthday party, worse for wear, and even stayed until about 11 PM last night. Now, the next day, Saturday, we are booking my flight to Melbourne next Thursday for me to see my son, Sacha and his partner, Georgia, for a couple of days before going back next Saturday to arrive Sunday night in time to be at work Monday morning. And tomorrow Narda and sons are all excited about baby Maggie’s christening.
A fun week we will have next week. We have rented a sea side place for Narda’s three sons and a couple of wives, granddaughter and us for four days; Pt. Elliot, which is where I use to live with my two sons back in the 1980s when I was a single parent wondering what would become of my life. And now I know thirty years later, married, living in China with one son left to share it with and my new great family.
In general I must say life is good.
A Piggly Wiggly story
I do not recall having heard of the Piggly Wiggly chain of stores before last summer. Not sure why that is as I lived in the States for about 42 of my 65 years on this planet and I surely have wandered through the south where they have 600 stores in 17 states. And it is not because they just started popping up around the place. In fact their website says they have been “bringing home the bacon for millions of American families since 1916”. Perhaps it is because my vegetarian life has created a subliminal blind spot for sellers who are such whole-hearted braggers, sporting the bringing home the bacon rhetoric – though it could just as easily have been my birth in the year of the pig that placed them over with other things I have avoided as much as possible in life: restrictive humans, haircuts, Pisces and most water-signed-people (having only Jupiter in Scorpio I did have some strange fixed fascinations in my youth with aspects of that sign – I use to find women with Venus and Mars in Scorpio a bit of a fascinating matrix to get involved in, as long as there was an escape clause – having five planets in Leo I am not afraid of the Scorpion sting but of the threat of water to put out my fire, I still avoid water sign people because of that; how they put the damper on us fire people is appalling… I am drifting here), and the clinging to material possessions such as umbrellas which this blog is actually about.
I horde stuff; a shed full in South Australia, a house full of stuff here in Northern China, stuff in an attic in our upstate New York house, and the shed next door to it, and our furniture in our house in Jersey City but that is not really an indicator of clinging to material possessions. It is really art artifacts that someday I hope to assemble in various arrays of sculpture and do gallery shows. That was a dream of mine during the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and then I got married (again) and the idea of gallery shows was replaced by stored artifacts around the world that no doubt will end in the rubbish tip before I get to collect them all into one non-disposable spot.
On with the umbrella story…
Last summer we were driving around the south. We left Atlanta with Narda’s son’s car headed to my old stomping grounds of New Orleans. I had wanted to take Narda there for the whole decade we were living in New York but we ended up making little trips to Europe, Asia and the yearly hops over to Australia, leaving no time or money to explore the States. Somewhere in the south: Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas or maybe we were in Alabama or Louisiana but somewhere down there we were in a small town lost on a country road and there was this big Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Narda saw it as quite funny, the born-in-the-year-of-the-pig part of my over active reptilian brain was offended but with no other shops in site and the last temperature reading we saw being 102 Fahrenheit ( Celsius = 38.88) the thought of something from a fridge was becoming overpowering. But getting a cold drink was not enough. At the checkout were umbrellas with the Piggly Wiggly emblem on them so of course I had to have one.
The umbrella got buried for a couple of weeks in the boot of the car as we drove around and we wondered how we would get it back to China. And not just back to China, but to Australia too as we were going there for a few weeks first. Narda wanted to bring back a curtain rod too because she could not find one in Dalian that was long enough to span two large windows in our lounge so she could hang some over-priced hand-sewed laced curtains we had bought in Belgium – yes Belgium lace, a few years ago. She found the curtain rod she wanted in one of those southern states and she taped it together with the umbrella that somehow magically would find its way back to Campus Village here in Northern China via Australia – and of course flying out of Atlanta, NYC, and all the stops between like Melbourne and Adelaide and Guangzhou in China.
First hiccup…. We were driving on a four-lane freeway heading north. Narda was driving and I was playing with my new Nikon camera when there was a big bump and Narda said ‘he hit me’ and at about 70 miles an hour we were going across a couple of lanes of freeway sideways and fortunately for this story to be told there were concrete blocks dividing us from traffic going the other way and we smashed into them sideways. Another few feet and we would have rolled. Of course Narda being Narda managed to restart the car to chase this huge truck that had hit us thinking he would get away. The back end of the car was dragging and we had flat tires. I was as much in shock from Narda restarting the engine and us going forward as I was from spinning across a few lanes of freeway. The truck did stop which was good because so did our car. Narda said afterwards she was waiting for the pain to hit her when we started spinning and I was waiting to hear the crashing of glass. I had been in three major car crashes before and that memory stays. There was no crashing of glass, the air bags did not open, and we did not get hurt but the car was totaled. We stood alongside the road in 104 degree heat – that is the absolute truth – the truck driver rang for the police – he took full responsibility, saying he did not see us when he switched lanes. Narda often says people don’t see her because people don’t see women past 50, but this was a whole bloody car he didn’t see. As we stood alongside the concrete barriers traffic passed by with almost no space between cars at high speeds. It was quite amazing no one hit us as we crossed lanes; there was just this few seconds let up in traffic when we decided to go for a bit of a spin.
Here is a photo of Narda under our Piggly Wiggly umbrella with a state trooper.
I wish I had had presence of mind to tell Narda to turn the umbrella so as to show the Piggly Wiggly figures but who thinks of these things at a moment like this?
We told Narda’s son we put a bit of a ding in his car – impossible to repair – was the verdict, rented a bright red car so we could be seen and I drove about ten hours straight back to Atlanta. Narda was still in shock, I did not want to stop for a day and besides we had about two days left before our flight to Australia. The truck company was really good and bought the car at a really good price and took care of our rental and on we went.
There was not any problem with the airlines; they just put the umbrella/curtain rod in with checked luggage. In Melbourne we took a domestic flight to Adelaide and again no problem.
Here I am in Adelaide with my Piggly Wiggly umbrella in Rundle Mall with my favourite sculptures – pigs of course.
So we tape up the umbrella with the curtain rod to hold our Belgium laced curtains and checked them into the flight to Melbourne. In Melbourne I visit my son, Sacha, for a couple of days, and Narda and I check our umbrella with the curtain rod into baggage. There was our name in large letters as well as our Chinese address and phone number. No problems everyone is happy. We fly out at 10 pm as is normal and arrive in Guanzhou about 8 am the next morning, switch to the domestic to Dalian. Our baggage has been check through from Melbourne to Dalian so life is good.
We get to Dalian Airport late in the evening and wait for baggage. The suitcases come along just fine. Jack, our driver, is waiting for us as usual which is so great after a long flight. We wait and wait but no umbrella and curtain rod. Narda finds someone with a handful and a half of English. We show our baggage claim for our parcel. They ring Melbourne and sure enough it left there and it was even traced to Guanzhou but then it stopped. They said to ring the next day. We did. Day after day for a couple of weeks until finally they said they would give us money. I think we got about $50 US maybe less but it did not come close to paying for the umbrella. It only costs seven dollars or so in real terms at the Piggly Wiggly store but what we had gone through no money could have paid for it.
So that is my Piggly Wiggly story. If I ever get back to one of their stores I may get another one but it won’t be the same. It looks as if we will be in Atlanta in six months, so perhaps I will get another one and this time take it as carry-on luggage.
I am not sure if I fully understand the differences between hording, cherished possessions with attachments, and material things that are filling spaces of ours around the world. What looks like junk to others, i.e. my wife, has special meaning to me. And I am sure if the Piggly Wiggly umbrella had survived the trip and not been lost once it hit China we would use it on rainy days and remember standing in the very hot sun alongside a freeway after an accident that surely we should have come to grief in but didn’t.
Sunday, January 13, 2013 Campus Village, Golden Pebble Beach, Dalian Development Area, China
Those were the days….
Has the best already happened?
Everything is one’s perspective I suppose.
It is not really an age thing because that would mean I believe I have experienced the best and these are some sort of twilight spans of space and time segments of dwindling consciousness and that is not true. Every day I think is better which is good at 65.
I was thinking as I watched another show today on global warming, food shortages, over population, water disasters from not enough to drink to rising tides from melting ice cubes in the Arctic how fortunate I have been to have had a run through the planet the past few decades. Some of the stuff I was able to experience is no longer possible.
I have written a lot of this in a book, “Leaving Australia” of which I made two 550 page bound copies; one for me and one for my son documenting a lot of the experiences along those travels. What I was getting at is that in today’s world is this possible? Travel of course is easy as we do that all the time being in New York City every year for the past twelve years as well as Australia and many places in between including but not limited to New Orleans and my past stomping grounds of San Francisco, LA, Hawaii, Oregon and new stomping grounds such as Utrecht The Netherlands (about six times in the past decade), Paris a few times and of course Australia. And our little airport at Dalian here in Northern China I have flown out of nine times in the past two years. So maybe these are the best times even with all the planetary problems. But are we free to have no money in pocket and stand at the Lincoln Tunnel and hitchhike to New Orleans, Miami, LA, San Francisco? I arrived in Honolulu in 1969 with five dollars, girlfriend and year old Desiree and somehow we moved forward in those days. Unfortunately the girl friend died and Desiree is 44. Desiree and I looked so good back in 1969 – how did the world change us.
When I travel now it is with too much and we are always sure we are cashed up and we actually know where we are going and have hotels booked, all of which was outside of my consciousness back in the 1960s and 1970s as well as 1980s and 1990s.
It is not that I stopped believing that there was anything to astrology but that I just grew out of it. Having been astrological free for a decade I find living in the moment and not perceiving the present as a particle of some over-seeing deliberation by higher selves, and thoughts masking as planetary overlords affecting our lives is really fun. As we know not only did not the world end according to the Smurfs who believed in the Mayan Doomsday scenarios or we have not gone belly up as the pathetic David Ickie followers believe clinging to their constant updates to our doomed lives and the overtaking of the reptilians and on and on – how does he sell out his appearances in Australia and New Zealand – are they that nuts? But what is different and what I am on about in my line on ‘those were those days’ is that people are more fearful. We were fearful of Richard (Dick) Nixon in the late 1960s and early 1970s (don’t change Dicks in the middle of a screw vote for Nixon in ‘72) all the way to sticking pins in Voodoo dolls in New Orleans – a lot of good those beliefs did, but that was a different fear. We were afraid the communists would take over, and I just had a great three weeks in Vietnam and live in China – so much for the commies… but they do block Facebook and Twitter and even my blog at neuage.me which is really just a backdoor into WordPress which of course is blocked and that is all pretty evil. Is it going to get better? Life? As always there are the two forces of forward and pushback. The forward momentum is giving us better medications, which I wish they had done before my brother died of Aides in 1992 – now they would have the stuff to have kept him going.
What is kool is that some folks are writing a book about him from his artistic days in New York. http://neuage.indiko.com/robert_adsit.htm So maybe these are better days with medications. The internet is great for communication and I have put over 500 youtube pages and thousands of travel photos that no one will look at but I do. I have many thousands of my own webpages and sometimes I will spend a couple of holiday hours looking at my picture poems, essays, blogs, videos and other stuff. I like books for reading better and I rarely watch television – sometimes for a few moments every few days to see if the world has gone belly up yet.
I work more. Heaps. Probably another facet of youth – don’t do much work, just play, party, be irresponsible for 40 years than try to get on board with social games. The older I get the more I work. When I was a single parent I did not do much work – I played with my kids a lot and we traveled too. We did three overseas trip to the States and one to Europe too and another time a trip around Australia in a camper van with my 87 year old father over from New York. We had a pretty laid back child-parent life. I wrote children’s stores made tofu in my factory see – http://tofu.neuage.us/ made webpages from 1992 – well I still do, have more than ten-thousand. There is something obsessive there. It give me comfort like nothing else does,
I was a good parent – we didn’t have the money thing going well but the three of us had one another.
We were really quite happy, even when the kids were teenagers, though of course there were some hiccups but in this photo we look serious – one of the rare moments when we were. By some standards, like my current wife, when we first met, she interpreted our home as a bit of a disaster but we were happy We all dreamed, I wrote them stuff, I thought I should have been parent of the year, at least gotten a trophy or a plaque but I was always in court fighting the witch of a mother over something or the other, usually money, which is too bad as it tinted my children made their bonding with money unhealthy. My son in Melbourne with his BMW sports car and $1700 racing bike does not quite support my anti-material stances though he is doing great stuff with youth. My other son, the one who played for the LA Dodgers, http://neuage.org/leigh.html, I still talk with him often, ask his opinions, garner his insights tell him how sorry I am and how the past ten years since he ended his life a month after turning 20 are difficult for me, all the moments, everyone, empty, moldy, but filled with memories. I made a Facebook page for him and more than 250 of his friends are on it. Once in a while I will pop in and see what his generation is up to. Most are having children. Leigh would no doubt be a pitcher still for the LA Dodgers – he would have been successful. The Dodgers were going to bring him up from the minors to the majors the next season they told me that at his funeral. So many of his friends write how they miss him especially on his birthday even now ten years later. I stopped astrology after he chose to leave and any other metaphysical belief and embraced everyday reality which makes understanding easier and clears my consciousness knowing that my beliefs structures fogged my thinking with prior thoughts of the way-it-is and other people’s delusional falseness. A couple of decades ago I would have been insecure about living where I do now in Northern China with my Uranus conjunct Mars descendant line going right through our house. Of course the way they drive in China even without this configuration we are no doubt cactus. We had a big truck knock us across a four lane freeway in Mississippi last summer, totaled our car and we did not get a scratch. I had a Mercury MH line go through there – lucky I don’t believe in any of this anymore.
Living like a gypsy does not seem viable anymore – creative living in a conservative insecure world is narrowed down to practical tenure-ship in the local community – probably in a high rise.
Below gypsy Terrell in the 1970s.
In today’s world we give less freedom to our children. I see this as a teacher. Kids all wanting to get into great universities though I am not sure why. Parents getting into tens of thousands of dollars of debt usually for life. When I taught university classes at University of New York in Albany, New York I could always depend on my first couple of Monday morning classes to be easy as the students would be so out of it after a weekend of partying with their parent’s credit cards they did not need no learnin’. Still overall students are more conservative everyone so worried about the future. No one gets to do stupid things for a bunch of years and not worry about it. Like I was in a cult order for a decade, I did not worry about the future, I still don’t. My wife plans for retirement but I am not sure what that means. I am thinking about writing a letter to my dead son today and that is as far as the future is for me. Those were the days, these are the days that I will write about in the future as those were the days. Life is good. The planet is just having a bit of a cough and needs to get over herself.
Here is to you earth!
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
See my site for December at http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam/
We left our Hanoi hotel at 5:30 AM; similar time that we got there a few days earlier after the train from Sapa tossed us out onto the payment of Hanoi. And at the airport @ 6:30ish then landing in Guangzhou, China time, at 11ish. We did not have a flight until 8 PM so we took the subway (metro) to downtown, found some Western food, and walked, once again, way too much.
A hotel lobby dude at a hotel told us that there was a bus to the airport and we went off to a tall building he pointed to that looked close but it took us 45 minutes of walking before it finally popped up in front of us. It is like walking to the Eiffel tower; only seems a few blocks away and the more you walk the longer it takes to get to it. To cut a nonsensical story short we took the airport bus back which was a lot better than being in a subway and it took less time, about 45 minutes.
So China again. After Vietnam the contrast is startling. China the any-brand-knock-off; Ikea personified land of imitation. Vietnam; Sapa, Hoian, Hanoi… the places we spent the past three weeks in, with so much richness of life. And the food is OK; baguettes and well prepared fruit dishes. Thank the French for their occupation to give a country some class. A few hours in Guangzhou and the land of shopping malls and cheap copies leap out to strangle any possible creative and originality left of its population. What has happened to you China? All those inventions and culture you once produced reduced to copycats.
But…. We are back home, in our adopted country, and it feels good to be headed back to our apartment with all our crap there as well as a cupboard of my belongs at school and shelves of my things in the computer lab: my PhD thesis, National Geographic books from the 1920s – 1940s my father had collected, some antique cameras, a boomerang, posters, a 500 page novel I wrote, ‘Leaving Australia’ and other assorted things. We have stuff all over the place from a shed of stuff in upstate New York to our furniture in our Jersey City home and a shed of our belongings in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia as well as boxes of our stuff in storage at Narda’s sister and at her parents. And now we have about a suitcase of new stuff and a suitcase and a half of our clothing in storage on this plane. I like the Buddhist ideals of not wanting things, of living in the moment, of respecting all life (well at least I do that by not eating animals) but I reckon there is a way to go before I can say I am a Buddhist. Firstly we need to shed four houses; three in the States and one in Australia that we no longer want or can afford. We should shove all of them over the fiscal cliff. Of course the good thing about traveling is that we have seen almost no news for three weeks so perhaps the world did end on 21 December though after seeing 22-million Chinese today I doubt that and maybe the States did go over their cliff… who knows? Does anyone really care? What was so good about the village people back in Sapa is that they just live day to day pretty much the same as they have for the past thousand years. Take away CNN and BBC and the ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) and etc. and stay clear of newspapers – easy to do when there are not any around in English, and the world is such a nice place. When we retire we will not watch the news anymore or read about the nonsense in the rest of the world and wherever we are will be just our grand life in our everyday grand adventure of living life to the fullest.
Four days before being back at work. I suppose I have lots to do to be ready for classes; lessons to write, ties to sort out to wear… I bought four more on this trip so now I have more than a hundred ties from around the world; not boring basic business ties but unique, usually from thrift shops – my favourite place to get ties; they are there because others didn’t want them because they were too different to wear but I wear them. I got my newly self-designed shirt I had made in Hoian and so much more.
|China below Guangzhou today||Vietnam below – which has more soul?|
In less than a month we will be off again – to Australia for a week – Chinese New Years week and this will probably be my last blog about travel until then. Probably including then too because what could I possibly blog about Australia? I will visit my son in Melbourne and that is great but not something I normally blog about though I did mention him in a blog when he visited us a few months ago here in China, that was special. We are going to Narda’s granddaughter’s Christening and her son turning 30 party but that is for her to blog about. She blogs but it is on paper in her scrapbook with tickets and stuff from places we went; much better than my blogs, more interesting and intelligent writing but I am only the other one who reads them. Then again I get about two or three hits to my blogs; no doubt all three from Chinese censors and I really just write for myself to remember what we did.
What I am looking forward to the most these next four days before returning to work is working on my videos. I have so many from the past three weeks and aside of I didn’t take my computer on this trip and Narda doesn’t have a program that I can use with my camera, besides there has not been time to go through a hundred if not hundreds of short clips to make about four five – seven minute movies to put on youtube and etc. I have more than 400 videos online from the past ten years so a few more will get me caught up to date with our travels. Plus I want to make webpages for this trip and they will be linked from http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam
What I will think about in the future when I am being told my lesson plans are not quite to the American Standards (yes those standards that keep America in about 25th place in education in the world) that our school is so obsessed about is not the next lesson plan or lesson unit that a principal or two are demanding but of walks with tribal people in their villages outside of Sapa. That is what is important in life – to have been exposed to people who live wholesome lives who are not grabbing at material possessions and soulless educational expectations. The children we met were happy, learning, holistic and so full of enthusiasm unlike the children we teach who spend days and nights hunched over computers memorizing facts for the next test and who lose all sense of creativity because they have no concept how to apply learning to life only to tests.
But it is all good… life is good and I am happy that at 65 and close to retirement that I am once again reminded of the wholesomeness of life and that simplicity really is what is complicated at achieving. I lived this way in the 1960s, living in communes in California, Oregon and Hawaii and no doubt in the future Narda and I will be living in some village in Cambodia, India, Vietnam, Thailand or in South America with all our belongings that we have collected in the rubbish dump and all that we will have will be each other and our most basic items to survive then we will have arrived at freedom and correct living.
Writing this on China Southern flight Guangzhou to Dalian with too little sleep to stay awake much longer but there is still an hour left of this bloody flight and Narda has been asleep for the past two hours… lucky her but I have four days in front of me to sleep and make video clips…. Yippee.
Thursday morning the third of January – some sleep and looking out the window – damn where did the warm weather go? Jack, our driver – the real Jack – not one of his mates – as usual, was waiting for us at the airport in Dalian and drove us the one hour ride home getting us back to Campus Village at midnight. It is so nice to be home; the maids cleaned the apartment and did our laundry whilst we were gone and I just dropped out a lot of laundry to do.
Turned on the news after three weeks and righto the world did not end, the Yanks shoved everything back up on to the cliff and we even made a ten-percent increase overnight on our Chase stocks. Life is good.
Cat Cat, Sa Pa Vietnam 30 December 2012
The first rainy day or actually all night previous but not to worry the rain did clear on Sunday morning with just a mist over Sapa and the one place we had not been to yet was the nearest village to Sapa, Cat Cat. Yes, that is its name. The H’Mong ethnic group tribal folks fill the area before, during and after.
Cat Cat is walking distance but the walk at the moment has a lot left to be a proper walk of any hue. The first kilometer there basically is no road where there was once a road or where there will be a road; it is difficult to figure which. There was a lot of mud – and jumping from stone to stone and wonderment whether we were going to be cactus before reaching the actual village.
There was a dude that seemed quite anxious with a megaphone thingy and we just thought he was trying to help us from slipping into the endless river of mud until he got us past the area and down part of the hill then there was yelling into his megaphone thingy and an explosion and a section of the hill moved with rocks and smoke and us sort of out of the way.
Cat Cat is similar to other villages in that everyone and their child is trying to sell their trinkets and weavings. All the young women seem to have babies on their back as we have seen the last few days and I have shown in previous posts. Most of these folks get married around 15 years of age and have two babies by 18; except, for Vivian, the guide we had yesterday – see yesterday’s blog, who has no intention to get married until after doing a university degree… good luck girl.
What is the most different about Cat Cat is the environment… it is very mountainous whereas the other villages were hilly but open with all their rice fields. Cat Cat; yes, I enjoy saying that, is like Aspin, Colorado or any mountain forest place.
The main attraction for us was the waterfall…
It took us an hour to get to it and that was our day. We had already made arrangements with some hustlers at the top to collect us at the bottom to save our weary asses from having to climb back to the top.
The owner of our hotel told us not to go to Cat Cat because it was too touristy but we reckon it was because unlike the other two days when he sold us tours Cat Cat is too close to Sapa to have a tour to. We did not see any tourists along the way probably because it had rained all night and no one was stupid enough to slip around in the mud and go down the dangerous trails… oh wait! We did. It was a great trip.
To save from writing another blog before getting back to Campus Village at Dalian American International School in two days I will jump to now which is New Years Day and we are back in Hanoi.
The Hanoi Tourist train back was a lot better as the mattress on the bed was quite comfortable unlike going to Sapa when it was so thin and hard I had bed sores by morning. I still did not get get any sleep because it was such a loud and jumpy train. We paid for an extra night at our hotel because we got into Hanoi at five am pretty much the worse for wear. After a couple of hours of sleep we were out and about. The next day, which is today, New Year’s Day we went to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. It is pretty ghoulish seeing the dude laying there. I wanted to shake him and say something witty but there are so many guards and they look quite serious and push us forward so we can’t linger that I did not have a chance.
Trek-outside of Sa Pa Day 2 Sunday, December 30, 2012
We said we wanted an easier walk today from yesterday’s trek up and down the local hills (mountains to my legs) through the rice paddies of Lao Chai and Ta Van Village. We hiked with the Henderson, from Liverpool, who we met and trekked with yesterday, at breakfast and we all decided to have another go and village hopping. They are on the way to stay with their daughter who has started a language school in Siem Reap, Cambodia, using her own money.
So we went firstly to Ta Phin village about an hour’s drive and two hour walk from Sapa, the little hillside village located in midst of the Hoang Lien Mountains. Several tribes live peacefully here: the Kinh, Red Dao and Black Hmong people. After getting past the overnight ‘sleeper’ (we didn’t sleep due to a hard mat and a loud rattling old train) and the hour winding climb to the town the journey of exploration is fantastic.
Our guide was an 18 year from the Black H’mong people (they wear black clothing). We said to her at the start that we did not want to buy stuff because the day before we were followed and hassled so much – and we did buy a lot of stuff yesterday – we just wanted to trek and be left alone. She said whatever to everyone that came at us and we had a great day of walking, talking and of course climbing up and down so much.
I took a lot of photos of children, something I rarely do as in some places people get really upset. When we were in Guatemala we were warned not to take photos of children because they get kidnapped and sold to Americans; we could have gotten beaten, killed or worse – they would have taken our camera. But here no one seemed to mind. I have posted some in an album in Facebook and Google+ and in my Flickr account in this set http://www.flickr.com/photos/neuage/sets/72157632393552028/ and I will have more in my webpage for this trip when I get home to Dalian China next week @ http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam
Our guide, perhaps Vivvie – that is what we called her, which was close to what we think she said her name was, and she was OK with that was really good at answering our so many questions. Her English was quite good and she humoured our lame humour.
On Saturday nights in Sa Pa they have the ‘love market’. We kidded her about going tonight to it and she said ‘but no one wants me’. We of course said that was not true and when we passed some young male who looked at her we would say ‘maybe you should meet him at the love market’ and she would laugh and say no. Actually a lot of people in her tribe get married through arranged marriages and she is planned on going to Hanoi to university next year to start a teaching degree (gosh darn who in their right mind would want to do such a thing?) and come back and teach in her local village.
Here is a little about the Sa Pa love market that I borrowed and stole and amended from the world wide web; “Sa pa is famed for its “Love Market” – sort of a cross between a peacock mating ritual, a Middle Eastern arms bazaar, an Amish square dance, a bad Pavarotti concert and Bangkok’s Patpong (except here the people wear clothes). On Saturday nights, Red Dao hill tribe youths of both sexes congregate in a weekly courting rite, singing tribal versions of Loretta Lynn love songs to woo the opposite sex. The songs are highly personalized and boast of the composer’s physical attributes, domestic abilities and strong work ethic. While Dao women are indeed highly industrious, the men, it seems, prefer to spend most of their time drinking, smoking opium or sleeping, only occasionally slapping the rump of a lethargic bovine moving more slowly than they are. Few of their songs, though, are about drinking, smoking opium, sleeping or slapping rumps.” Lifted from http://www.sapatrain.com/local_market_sapa_laocai_vietnam.html
We did go through the market and saw much carrying-on Saturday night – with a group of males playing instruments and dancing in the church square, see photo above.
I saw this woman in the local stream washing her clothes and I am not sure what she thinks of being single by the words on the back of tee shirt
I asked Vivvie lots of questions – I don’t remember many at the moment but some were:
“Are there police/law-enforcement people in your village?” She said there wasn’t and the village didn’t need them. Having lived in the States for 40-plus years and Australia some 22 years and now China it is difficult thinking that a society could exist without law enforcement. What is wrong with a village where people do the right thing? Surely they should have automatic rapid-firing machine guns like they do in the States available to everyone. Surely there are people who murder, rape, steal and generally misbehave. I think all the villagers should go live in New York City or any city in the States for a year to learn how to live with other humans. She said she was a Buddhist, of course that explains it – one of those hippy-like religions where people respect each other and don’t kill animals for food or each other for sport. Those tripped out belief systems where people care for one another and work together. No wonder the Yanks bombed Hanoi and Vivvie said they bombed Sa Pa too – we cannot have people running around like this who respect one another and who look after their environment and who are not materialistic wanting more and more. Can you imagine being happy living in a house like this?
Really, look how stressed out these kids look who are not playing on their iPhones or laptops
Vivvie said there people have been in this area for about 1500 years doing pretty much the same stuff. What has changed in the villages, or most of them, is that they have electricity and television but most people do not watch and they are too busy living life to stay inside and spend time on the Internet and watching TV. Tourism is changing life in that people have money but she did not say much about what they do extra in the past few years with the influx of Westerners. She said she thought she would get paid ten-dollars for today’s tour – which was about five hours with us. The Hendersons and we each gave her five bucks which equals her day’s salary. She refused the money but we insisted.
She said that when a woman got married she had to live with the husband in his village. There is intermarriage between villages but it is the husband’s village that is home. She said she would not get married until after her uni but at 18 years old and not having lived in a city I wonder how much of that will remain. She said when people do leave the village they almost all come back. Even though she seemed quite liberated she said most definitely she would live with her husband’s tribe if she married someone from another village.
There are a lot of languages but I think about six main ones in this area and they do not understand other languages but they all learn Vietnamese and now English. So they communicate with each other.
One thing that is so different from our glorious Western ways is that people barter and help each other out in emergency no wonder America was out bombing them and the communists hated them. There seems to be a lot of tension between the communists and the H’mong people though I think it is the ones in Laos that have had the most trouble according to the Internet.
Last year there was snow for the first time in memory or some-such-time-period and a lot of water buffalo died. They are expensive and a primary part of the life in the villages. The people have gotten together to help each other out giving rice and etc.
Of course we were interested in how does one buy land and live in such a great environment. Apparently one can buy land and live here – something worth exploring.
We bought a lot over the three days here and got a large embroidered bag from the Flower Hmong
Well off to Hanoi and another overnight train.
I am sure I will write more about our visit to Sa Pa but this is all for today.
Friday, December 28, 2012 Sa Pa, Vietnam
We trekked to two villages today. The first was Lao Chai village, 6 km from the centre town, where the H’mong people are living. The trek was through rice fields and quite steep. The most difficult part was walking and balancing on the edge of the terraced rice paddies. In my embarrassment of being 65 a village girl had to hold my hand over quite a long stretch that was about six inches wide and straight down a long ways on the right and into the water on the left. I managed to slip into the water several times but the girl kept me from falling down the mountain. Narda had a girl with a baby on her back holding her from slipping down the side.
We took about two hours to get down to the bottom to the beginning of the Muong Hoa valley. Our guide who collected us from where we are staying this week; the Thai Binh Sapa Hotel (http://thaibinhhotel.com/), was from the H’mong tribe and she spoke good English. She had her baby strapped to her back the whole way and was really a good guide and a steady hand to Narda over some of the slippery and muddy parts of the path.
We had lunch at her village and went on to to Ta Van Village which borders Lao Chai Village.
A better description is from http://www.allsapatours.com/sapa-vietnam/Ta-Van-Village.html, “Ta Van means “a big turning road” like a basket brim, or tripod-leg line. Vast terrace fields with unique position of a big turning road become a landscape and a destination of Ta Van. Seo Mi Ti scenery-old pine forest, a half day of sloping road away from township centre, is also a particularly interesting eco-tourist site of Ta Van. And Ta van has become an integral tourist site for ecological excursions in Sapa.”
Lunch was good with the only complaint being the constant harassment from children selling stuff. We did purchase a bed spread and some other embroidered things from our guide’s mother. The bed spread she said took three-months to make, OK so we believe things but it was well done and the mother (in the photos below) was making them whilst we were there and a lot of work goes into these things. We paid 700 dongs about $35 US and for a handmade spread that seemed cheap. They die the fabric with indigo plants that make it go green. The fabric is soaked for months; the longer it is in the dye the darker. We picked some of the plants and it instantly makes skin turn green. Our guide is on the left below and her mother is holding the baby after hours on the back of the mother as we climbed down the mountain.
I am not sure how much the villages are affected by the tourist coming through. They are better off and have built schools off the proceeds so we are doing our little bit. The village by Western standards are quite poor and I am not sure we could live like they do for very long which probably illustrates our materialistic ways.
There are six major groups in the Sa Pa area each speaks their own language though they share Vietnamese they do not understand the other village’s languages. Each village has its own culture and beliefs. Our guide is Buddhist and she married a fellow from another village. Some villages are Christian some have no beliefs – which is impossible because we all believe something or the other – but they all co-exist and have for I suppose many hundreds if not thousands of years. Apparently they were not affected by the American war in the 1960s and early 1970s and the government has pretty much left them alone, probably because they are so isolated and non-threatening. This is really something to see; we, with all our Western beliefs and wants and to see tribes living like they have for so long makes one believe that society may continue. They will be still here when all the Christians, Muslims, Jews and spiritualists of many hues destroy themselves. The teenagers do not run off to Hanoi but stay in their villages and keep the traditions going.
This is the view from our hotel room
We have two more days here and hope to get to the other villages. The weather has been fantastic.