Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan
25 January, Thursday
Narda slept most of the way from Agra to Jaipur. We had first class sleepers which were comfortable. I sat up the whole way (six hours) and played with some Photoshop stuff.
We got to Jaipur after eleven pm and took the first tuk tuk driver we spoke with. For 100 rupees he got us to our hotel and along the way he told us that he had fallen on hard times and he would give us a tour for the day for 500 rupees (less than $8 USD). He did not have a card or website (very few do) but he gave us his brother’s phone number if we were so inclined. I did write it down, but we never got in touch again. The reason being that every time we walked out of our hotel, restaurant, shop, there would be dozens of tuk tuk drivers offering their services. When we said we were just going for a walk people would walk alongside us offering tours, guides, rides, marijuana, hash, even opium, along with carpets, and textiles to view and purchase.
The Anaraag Villa (http://www.anuraagvilla.com/) was quite a change from our place in Agra. Both were around $20 USD but this place was heaps better with a garden that filled with peacocks in the morning and evening (I counted twelve once). And the food was excellent for the whole week.
We spent most days wandering around our neighbourhood, a couple of times we took a random bus ride into town and one day we had a tuk tuk drive us around.
The famous places are the forts, which we went past but not inside, and the Pink City. I bought a new suitcase as the wheel fell off the one I have used for the past couple of years, Narda got dresses and scarves and generally we just chilled.
We walked for a couple of hours in the Pink City (the paint was produced from a calcium oxide compound), where, once, long ago, everything was pink, though now it is all a bit of a mildewed brown. At a restaurant we met a couple of fellas from Albany, New York, which is where I am from, I grew up twenty miles away in Clifton Park, New York, though I left there in 1965. Narda and I taught in Albany, New York 2002 – 2007 so I did have another run at that town. We saw them again several days later in Jaisalmer and had a chatty evening with them. We are on one of the tourist treks between cities that people go to one after another, but it is still interesting to see people from one’s obscure hometown.
Below is the Hawa Mahal (palace of winds) which is really just a front – there is no building in back. The Mahal was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799. Word on the street is that the Mahal was constructed to enable the Royal women of Rajput family to view the happenings in the city.
Below is the Hawa Mahal (palace of winds) which is really just a front – there is no building in back.
Jaipur Pink City
Getting around Jaipur tuk tuks
Amer Fort…It was constructed by Raja Mansingh in the year 1592.The red sandstone and marble stone construction reflect a blend of Hindu-Muslim architecture. We didn’t go inside but we got a lot of photos of the outside.The Anaraag Villa has been a real treat. The building is beautiful, 3 stories with lovely wall and ceiling frescos and marble floors. In the back a shady garden, peacocks grazing and tables and chairs where you can eat and relax. Only issue is the flute player who comes during breakfast times, playing his wooden flute to a mechanical drone. It was truly horrible. He played scales over and over again, never changing key. ….for 1 ½ hours. It drove me crazy. I actually asked for him to stop while we had our breakfast and to the credit of the staff here, they accommodated Miss Grumpy!
Jaipur has been nice. The air is much cleaner, the weather fantastic. We have slept well and done some explorations of the Pink city, a section of town with craftsmen and even visited a guru, who told us a whole lot of crap.
Yesterday we decided to go real local and took the bus across town to the World Trade Park. Enjoyed a movie “The Post”…loved it. Took our first Uber home. A nice easy ride.
World Trade Park is an amazing modern plaza for this part of the world. We have not seen anything like this yet. We saw a movie here and ate in there tripped out dinning area. The Uber ride we took cost 200 rupees ($3 USD) for a 45 minute drive.
Elephants take cargo and tourists up the mountain. Elephants take cargo and tourists up the mountain. We went up with a tuk tuk. The driver asked for 200 rupees for three hours of showing us around, we gave him 300 ($4.50 USD). We went to the various carpet shops, dress and scarf shops and worse of all an idiot guru. Our tuk tuk driver told us how he had been ill for years – some stomach thing – and he went to this famous guru who reads auras and the dude sold him some gem and then he was well. The ‘guru’ had a jewellery shop and we were parked in front of a glass case filled with silver and ‘amulets’ and the good ‘guru’ said a lot of stupid things to both of us and we left. (For example, he said I had dementia in my aura – which I ‘decided myself’ to quickly forget; of course, if I purchased some stone – it would help). We were extra upset to discover our poor tuk tuk driver who told us he had a crippled daughter plus two other children at home, his wife had died, and his elderly mother was home looking after the children. This ‘guru’ who had read his aura had sold him an amulet for 3000 rupees to heal him. The tuk tuk driver is lucky to get a couple of hundred rupees in a day. India is filled with sad stories. Everyone we meet has a list of dead people, troubled home situations and just difficult lives. People plead with us to show us things; to hire them for a couple of hours. There are so many more tuk tuk drivers than passengers. We hear stories of drivers getting no passengers for days. This is their livelihood. Then so called ‘gurus’ hustle illiterate people for all they can get from them.
Situated in the middle of Mansagar Lake is the groovy Jal Mahal. It was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II in the 18th century, as a hunting lodge and summer retreat. Not visible is the high level of pollution in the lake with lots of rubbish – I enhanced the colours a bit on my photo to give more blue and less grey and less yuck in the lake.In the evening, as we do at home (wherever that may be at any given time) we watch TV series. We have yet to figure out how to watch television, though we have tried in several cities, so we watch our Netflix series on our laptop. Currently we are finishing up the “The Good Fight” season one; which is an extension of “The Good Wife” that we loved except for the series ending, which sucked.
Narda was back to her Delhi Belly ways so we went to the local chemist and got a repeat of the pills we paid about $35 a piece for in Australia for $1.50 USD for a pack of ten. We didn’t need a script, like going to the chemist in China, if you know the name of the drug, they will sell it, no questions asked.
And there is always someone to ask for directions, even if everyone points a different direction.
I also do this blog at our India site which is located at http://neuage.org/india and is often more up to date than this as we are too busy exploring where we are or reading. Currently Narda is reading, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and I am reading “Homo Deus A Brief History of Tomorrow” both by Yuval Noah Harari. I have already read the book Narda is reading. We love these books and recommend them to everyone. Any time left, which is little I post my photo textual work at https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB
I post my daily thoughts at http://neuage.org/2018/
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
As usual everyone seems so short…
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.
I took 188 photos and a lot of video today and I am trying to select the best 20 or 30 or maybe 50 for today’s album which I am uploading to Facebook, Google+ and a few other photostreaming sites.
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.
Thursday, December 27, 2012 Sapa
The train did not look anything like the photos but rather a world-war II vintage of a China train (just my opinion). We got the first class soft sleepers though the translation in Vietnamese of the word soft is a hard one inch mat on a metal frame. Four of us in the room; most of the tourist as always in Nam were Australian and Dutch. In our ‘first-class-sleeper’ the Dutch were friendly and they exchanged with Narda stories and drank beer. The two in our room were a young couple from Canada and they promptly put in earplugs and went to sleep.
I struggled to get a couple hours of sleep as the train made as much noise and shook as much as possible on the track. I am not at all complaining and happily, worse for wear, we dragged out sorry asses out of the train at six am.
Our hotel room was not ready so we went walking for five hours then got into our room and slept two hours and went out walking again. Sapa, I suppose for this time of year – though it could be year-round, was in the clouds or in our terms, foggy. We will probably rent motor scooters tomorrow but the fact that we can see barely a meter in front of us may curb our cycling enthusiasm.
The local tribe people who are constantly selling their goods no matter how many times no comes out; they follow you down the street and keep selling, are quite colourful and a big part of their business is trekking – or we do the trekking and follow them to their village. It is all supposed to be quite the thing to do here but some villages are ten kilometers away and we feel like it has been a trek going a dozen blocks. It is very mountainous. Sapa is like an outlet mall for ‘The North Face’ brand of clothes. Shop after shop sells coats that would sell in the States for hundreds of dollars for $25 – $35 US. Narda bought ‘The Northface’ walking shoes and I got waterproof pants with their ‘gore-tex’ insulation for like 900,000 dongs or $42 for the lot. The pants cost close to a hundred in shops in the West. ‘The North Face’ brand are made in Vietnam so I suppose we are helping the local economy. We did other stuff to help the local economy and fill our suitcases by buying other stuff that we could probably do without.
The above picture shows how foggy it is here and this is with an extreme close-up.
I have heaps of photos in my Facebook and Google+ and they will be at
http://neuage.us/2012/vietnam next week once we are back in China. And videos too as I cannot edit them on this computer.
And that is it for today.
25 December 2012 Christmas Day Hanoi
As I forgot to add this URL the last blog I scribbled out whilst dashing to a plane in Hoi An here it is http://blog.travelpod.com/members/3bybike We met this couple and their about ten-year old daughter at our hotel. They left Denmark last June and rode through Europe, Thailand, Cambodia and now Vietnam on their way to Australia then to South America on a year-long trek. I traveled with my two boys back in the 1992s but we took planes and trains from Australia through the States, England, France and Germany. They were 8 and 10 at the time and I was a single parent trying to keep track of us; I should have taken a bike built for three and trekked around with them instead of going the comfortable, but by no means easy, way.
After days out in the thicket of humans, and an evening in, after finishing the Book Thief and receiving yet again Shantaram for Christmas – I had read the first hundred pages a year ago and didn’t like it, I will give it another go. But not being in a reading mood I will try and blog. Not sure why I do, I get something like three maybe five hits when I blog so I know I am not writing for anyone else. Nevertheless – to remember, I tell myself – take notes.
Christmas Eve, how does a city get so crowded? It was not a weekend, and do communists even care about Christmas – wait they do; why give up an opportunity to sell just because of beliefs?
We decided to purchase a Christmas Tree and have Brendan and his girlfriend over for The Day. There was more Christmas crap than in the States at a Christmas store bankruptcy sale…
It was a bit of a chore but we did get a little tree with stuff on it for about three US dollars and a string of blinking lights for another buck; 20 dongs which now sits blinking crazily away in our house.
Our house is a three stories affair. The first floor is a bit of a garage for us, Brendan parks his motor scooter there when visiting and there is a bit of a bar or coffee area there. It was or sometimes maybe, a café; we don’t know, we are renting it through airbandb (https://www.airbnb.com/) as we have in other cities (Melbourne, and Harlem in NYC). The lounge/living space is on the 2nd floor with a kitchen and the bedroom is on the third floor. We have balconies overlooking Truc Bach Lake and West Lake (Ho Tay). The narrow house is on Nguyen Truong To and easy walking distance to the old section, easy if you are not us. We managed to take over an hour to walk the 20 minute walk getting lost all the way last night, Christmas Eve. Of course with so many people out it took more than an hour to get home.
The house is good though with a few things that would have been better; they did not leave a quilt or blankets and we huddled under sheets and bath towels and we ran out of cooking gas the first day and the shower doesn’t work but there is a stove in the café downstairs that we were able to fire up. We had a candlelit dinner on the balcony on Christmas Eve with Brendan, girlfriend and us…
Life is good here; a combination of hustle and fast and slow. On the way back from Brendan’s house this afternoon the taxi driver tried to tell us the 72,000 dong fair was 72,000,000 something like going from $3.50 to $35. When we purchase fruit, mango being our favourite, the price really jumps. This is a cheap place but sellers quickly change prices. Often though the price is like 10,000 dong more, like fifty-cents, and in our world vs. their world to us it is not much but to them….
Last night we ate at a local-like place, meaning there were no other westerners in the place and they had a menu with various ways to have your dog prepared. Grilled and boiled were the most popular. I like dogs but I cannot imagine eating one. But I don’t eat any animals and it is for the same reason, I like animals and I am not going to eat something smarter than me. It all started out for religious/spiritual/metaphysical reasons back in the 1960s but even then I think I thought eating an animal was a bit barbaric without the other reasons. I have never come at it since. I believe I have gotten rid of every fiber of religious/spiritual/metaphysical bits out of me so not eating meat is not based on beliefs as I basically don’t have any; though of course every thought is a belief of some sort. I suppose just the image of killing an animal to eat it is too gross for me to contemplate eating one. (perhaps this is why no one reads my blogs, I am too opinionated – of course no one reading my blogs does not prove this because if no one reads my blog then no one would know I may be too opinionated.
I shot this photo on the way to the shop this afternoon. Who could possible want to kill them and eat them?
What I often wonder is how people seem so happy when surely they are not making big bucks? A lot of people have so little. A lot of people walk around all day selling stuff from what they carry. For example I watched this woman with her fruit and nuts and she walked down our street a few times with no one buying anything. After a while she stopped and chatted with some folks for a bit then picked up her baskets and went on. She was always smiling or at least not appearing too gloomy. Of course she did not know I was tracking here with a 300 mm lens on my pricey Nikon camera from the comfort of my balcony drinking my overpriced flavoured soy-milk.
We have had a good stay. We did not go to any tourist stops this time in Hanoi, we did a lot of that last year. We just had a little living here time. Tomorrow we are off to Sapa on the overnight train for almost a week then back here for New Years a couple of days then back to cold Dalian, China to work enough to get our sorry asses to Australia in February. Life is good and if it really did end back on the 21st as so many believed it would then whatever dimension we are living in is quite good.
Friday, December 21, 2012
So quickly to find our life is not as adventuresome as the next person to pass by. Everywhere we travel their life is so unique and interesting but we no complain. Getting on our bikes this morning to look at local house rentals; we had heard a house goes for about $400 a month and who would not want to live here? We met a couple with a ten-year old girl traveling the world for a year on bikes. From Denmark they started last July coming down through Europe and the past several months biking through Asia. The father and girl have a tandem bike with the girl in front and all their belongings for a year with them. They are telling stories about how Cambodia is the poorest of the Asian countries they had been through. They told how large areas were just huge rubbish dumps and as they rode and air-conditioned tourist buses went by they were constantly surprised at the poverty and pollution. Of course we were those tourists flying around Cambodia on air-conditioned buses a couple of years ago. I had some relatives that were missionaries in Vietnam and Cambodia and growing up in New York I was drowned with their stories of poverty in those places. This couple with the child will be travelling for a year through Southeast Asia, Australia then South America. Maybe that is what I should have done with my kids. Next time I see the travelers I will grab their blog address and put it on here knowing their blog will be so much more interesting than mine.
It is quite the change from -15 C when we left Dalian last Saturday to spend winter break in Vietnam.
Hanoi was hot, like in the high 20s and I think around 32 the first day. That is centigrade not Fahrenheit. We stayed at the Green Mango which we did not like as much as last year’s place but breakfast was good and for only a couple of nights it was not the end of the world. Actually speaking of the end of the world; we have been in Hoi An for the past five days and every evening there has been end of the world movies. Last night we watched the ending of the Body Snatchers and the night before we saw some of The Day of the Locust and before that there was some desert thing and some climate and other snuff us out on the 21st of December tales. Tonight we were are watching Hellboys and Armageddon; unfortunately, I feel to sleep half way through Armageddon though Narda said Bruce Willis saved the world by exploding a nuclear warhead into an asteroid. Thanks Bruce for letting us live to see another day.
When I was in a cult order, 1969 – 1978, there was a lot of narrative about the Mayan Calendar. One of our leaders even wrote the pope to alert him of the end times saying it was vital to sync our calendars together to prepare us for when the shit hits the fan sometime in the future; in 2012 on December 21. Then as an astrologer during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and up until 2003 (my son committing suicide put an end to such stupid belief systems) I believed in this nonsense. So what does one do after waiting for more than 40 years for an event to happen? Well if it was not for some bloody roosters in the backyard I would have slept longer but at 6 am I sat in a sort of naked state in front of my window and posted Facebook photos of our trip so far. Outside the window another beautiful day waiting for our exploration and as soon as Narda wakes up and we have another breakfast of fresh fruit and museli we will be off into the world around Hoi Ann. I think we will rent motorcycles today. We rode bikes every day so far, four days, and my butt hurts so something more comfortable will be great. By the way, today, the 21st, the world did not end. What this should tell everyone is that we can only live in the moment that no one has ever predicted the future and no one ever will because the future is based on what we do now and what we do now is always so changeable. Oh well such as life, insecure people believe in and hang on to non-realistic teachings. The whole human race is crawling forward at roughly the same speed and no one is really more evolved than anyone else so believing that someone does is really detrimental to one’s growth.
In Hoi An we are at the Orchard Garden Homestay for a week. It had top marks in trip advisor and we have not been a bit disappointed. We have a bungalow on the second floor.
Last night they gave a party to all the guests, about 20 of us. People across from us are from Adelaide, and just a suburb away from our home at that, some New Zealanders, Dutch – lots of Dutch here; Narda being from Holland and an Australian she got to be from the two main groupings in this town, and a couple from Poland and some folks from Brittan. We had a full meal and wine. The hospitality is really good.
So I found material I liked – to replicate a shirt I saw back in October when we spent a week in Yantai; a shirt of two materials doing alternate things, a plaid panel and a solid panel with opposite sleeves and cuffs and collar.
The tie I bought at a street shop for 60 dongs, about 3 dollars. I will make a series of them – suits my thinking; swatches of patches sewn into a non-coherent form making up a whole – it has always explained me now I can wear my personality on my sleeve. Next I will go to more colour and try for three then four swatches. “Clothes created from multiple thoughts – some which even are capable of co-inhabiting.
Narda has a different approach; she is more organized and fashionable and found her fashion in the same material market that I did.
She drew out both our set of clothes so I suppose in the Narda-Terrell slumber-assisted living over 65 sort of consciousness we possess she would be the designer.
Narda found some rock-the-boat material, designed it and showed the chic chick the three layers she wanted for her over 55 party-poser win.
Of course designing and having our clothes made does not take from our –its-good-for-the-economy purchasing sprees we embrace in the local clothes and jewelry markets. Not actually sure why I found 5 new shirts and some ties in my shopping party bag when I lighted home, one flowery shirt of which Narda claims if I wear she will not be privy to my existence, has taken my fancy.
Dongs are the trendy choice here though they will take the US dollar. 20,000 dongs equals 96 cents USA. We rented a scooter for a day for 100,000 dongs – five US dollars. Travelling roads the width of a footpath we stopped at little one room houses that had a shop front for our Vietnamese coffee. We have been drinking coffee this way for more than a year since last being here. At home a spoonful of sweet condensed milk is enough; here they put a lot more. We got our little metal drip coffee maker last time in Nam and not able to get Vietnamese coffee in China we get our beans ground just right to make pretty much the same cuppa. Of course the best coffee is supposed to be Weasel Coffee or ca phe chon. The coffee beans that have been carefully selected and digested by a weasel, then used to make coffee. Yumm!
We were at dinner a couple of nights ago, the only ones at the restaurant when we were asked if we were staying for the dancing. Of course we said we did not feel like dancing we had just come for dinner. Though somehow we were transferred from our balcony eating spot to the main dining room with a stage and being the only ones there we felt most self-conscious when the dancing started – cham dance, it is the ethnic Cham people, who are from this area who do these dances though we did not have enough knowledge to have a clue what was going on. . It went on for an hour – four girls, who changed customs four times showed us four dances. Another couple came in for a drink, from Queensland, of course it is mostly Australians here, then left after one dance so it was us wanting to leave but being too polite we stayed. I have no idea what the dances were about; one they had water pots on their heads, and two they had big umbrellas and another was something about a fertility dance that they seemed as embarrassed dancing as we did watching.
I did make a good contact with a local Water Buffalo, even making a video of him that I said would be on youtube which made him most excited but I deleted it by mistake and only have a portrait to show for my efforts.
Hoi An, like all poorer places in the world sees tourists as dollar signs. It is impossible to sit at a meal or have a coffee or even walk down the street without the parade of people trying to sell beads and trinkets. It is not as bad as some cities we have been to but it does wear on you.
We did go for an hour boat ride for 100,000 dongs, again less than five dollars. The driver was the same age as me, 65, and he did look the worst for wear making me realize that our lives are probably a bit easier in the long run. Narda drove the boat for about 20 minutes. At first the driver was not sure about her wanting to take over but as most males soon realize it is usually best to give her what she wants and after a few nervous moments the guy went to the back of the boat and relaxed as we went motoring down the river, Narda at the helm.
The big way to hustle tourists here is through friendly banter; ‘where are you from?’ of course we say China and some laugh and some walk away but we are from China – it is where my drawer of socks and jocks are so that is home. The second question is ‘do you have children?’ then if we are foolish enough to say yes and start talking about them out comes the trinkets, or maybe we would like a massage, or a boat ride or usually some clothes made. Already our suitcase is double what it was when we came here and we get too much made for us back at Campus Village as it is. My most recent big garment is a cape. The talk of the school. Even the guards stop and look and second graders say I look like Batman, Count Dracula, and etc. I wore it to a school dinner and fellow teacher, Pat Herding, asked if it was Narda’s – that hurt – for a half second – but I love it. It comes down to my knees, has a hood and is wool with silk lining and even pockets inside. With the material it cost $60 US. I will take a photo when we get back and post it.
Last weekend we were in Hanoi and we are going there tomorrow for Christmas then on to Sapa on the overnight train for a few days, taking the overnight train back to Hanoi for New Years and a couple of days later back to Campus Village to work on Standards Based lesson plans. Talk about taking the fun out of education and taking away creative learning. One thing I have done is change my classroom from a table learning space to a more comfortable interactive sphere of learning. I took out desks dragged in a couple of sofas – of course without asking because administration only knows how to say no, and put a rug in and a coffee table and I have a great space. I project on the wall some clips that references our learning – I am teaching video broadcast journalism in my high school course then we have discussions, and I bring in a laptop cart of utrabooks and some kids sit on the sofa and some go to a couple of tables I have in another area of the room and we get more done than we use to. I still have to take my class to the computer lab some days for programming work because the software is only on the desktops at this time but I feel the learning environment supports a student centred learning and I still manage to integrate the standards.
In Hanoi last week we were there to hang with Narda’s son Brendan and meet his girlfriend. The weather was great. Apparently it had been cold and raining then the days we were there it was so hot. It was all good. Now we get to spend Christmas with them. Usually we go to Australia for Christmas so this will be our first one in a while not there.
I have taken heaps of video and photos but my laptop stayed home and I do not have the programs on Narda’s so I will wait until we get back to do videos and make a webpage for this trip, probably. When I do everything will be at http://neuage.us/2012/vietnam after 6 January 2013.
Youtube video at http://youtu.be/mfIh5gvLq9A and at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/25-Dalian-Harbour-View-Hotel.html
Friday morning 6 AM waking up saying to Narda maybe we should stay in Dalian for the weekend; get away from school and campus village – take a break, stay someplace nice. Ten minutes later she has booked into the (Best Western Premier) Dalian Harbour View Hotel; 2 Gangwan Street, Zhonshan District along the port and across from the Dalian Passenger Terminal.
It has been a good though as usual an over-the-top busy week. In my little world I have been teeing people up for my broadcast journalism students to interview. Next couple of weeks we are focusing on interviewing and I wanted to steer clear of them interviewing one another or teachers as is usually the model. Having done my Ph.D. thesis ‘Conversational Analysis of Chatroom “talk”’ – (http://neuage.org/All.htm) and having the bloody 550 page book (165,000 words) sitting in an obvious place in my room for students to say ”wow, you wrote this?” it seems only fitting that I continue with online communication. Person-to-person is always so messy – one feels like thumping the other person if they are not active listeners – well they are active listeners in that they interrupt at every chance to change the conversation to about themselves – oh wait, this is interviewing they are supposed to do that. Nevertheless, we are interviewing only via Skype. Last month we had an hour Skyping session with Canyon H.S. School in Bhopal, India as part of the ISA plan through the British Council School’s team “World Class” (and yes, I have an ever evolving webpage on these projects at http://edu.neuage.us/blogs/schools.html).
Back to this week, so I am gathering people to interview: Brandan – a Silicon Valley programmer with Expedia (his parents work at our school so that was an in, and I make fun of his parents to him which gives me an even more in factor), four of our ex-teachers; two in Brazil – they met at our little school, Dalian American International School, got married then pissed off to Brazil. My students are interviewing them Monday morning. Two others who met at our school last year, then got married now in Qatar – hopefully we have them Skyping with us next week; and a woman who is writing a choral piece for our school to perform, living in the State of Washington, will be interviewed by my student and we will be live-streaming rehearsals and the final performance. I have said to the woman we can do the live-streaming but being in China; last Tuesday we did not have electricity for the day so teaching computing was fun. I had them doing storyboarding. With the school in India we had times where the Internet went down but we got back on enough to have done enough work on our project which was about festivals in our two countries to complete our tasks.
I am trying to get my son in Melbourne to come on board with a Skype interview but he has not responded since I asked him last week. He works with asylum seekers (boat people) coming illegally into Australia and he records and performs hip hop acts so there are two interviews there. He spoke about hip hop in Australia to high school students earlier this year when he visited and I was/am hoping there would be a follow on to that.
As well as driving myself nuts with organizing too much stuff I have set up a 4th and 5th grade project for after school starting late November with N.H.Goel World School situated in the city of Raipur the capital city of Chhattisgarh and a Skype project to do with afterschool high school students, probably with a school in the States. The project I am doing with afterschool 4th and 5th graders I am doing with Narda so we will involving music into the mix and both the coordinator at the N. H. Goel World School and us are quite excited about this. The high school project I am doing with the high school music teacher so that will be interesting too as he wants to try and create a musical piece with two schools at once.
So regardless of how busy we were this past week; and I am also starting our laptop program tomorrow, Monday, and have been doing a lot of work putting that together plus of course teaching my classes, it was time to get out of town.
We took the school’s shopping bus into Dalian, stopped at Metro to get grazing food figuring we would sit in our room and watch the forecasted storm pass by, went to Ikea for lunch and took a taxi to the Best Western Premier Dalian Harbour View Hotel at 2 Gangwan Street in the Zhonshan District across from the Dalian Passenger Terminal and Dalian Port, where we found ourselves in a fairly good place. We booked a suite; small lounge and large bedroom. The view was great looking down at the incoming ferries. There were four that came in on ‘our watch’ including the one we took back from Yantai last month; http://neuage.us/BLOGS/21-ferry.htm.
As we so often do, we did not end up eating all the food we bought instead dragged it back home the following day. We went up to the revolving restaurant just to have a sticky beak, check out the food and view. The revolving restaurant only revolves between 6 and 8 pm so we said we would be back at six; by now it was only 3 pm and raining too hard outside to go exploring so we did what normal hard working people do on a day off, we went back to our room and took a nap for an hour. At six pm we were all smiley at the revolving restaurant with camera, lens, tripod, and video in hand. We thought to save money and I was ordering a vegetarian pizza and Narda was eyeing something dead to eat but the buffet was looking and smelling good and tired of our cheapskate ways (well the hotel was not cheap, being a five star, ‘Best Western’ chain hotel, which in our world means soft beds as most hotels in China one may as well as sleep on the floor the beds are so bad. I think they just have box springs and no mattress usually, maybe a throw-back on Chairman Mao who believed life was meant to be hard) we thought spending 135 Yuan ($21.46 US, $20.66 Australian, 1,480.87 Syrian Pound – OK that is just getting silly) was worth it for the view and the food was good. Sometimes we would eat at the all you can eat Chinese restaurant in Clifton Park, New York a few years ago and then it was only about $11 and actually I liked the food there better. (As there are 7 Chinese buffet places now in Clifton Park listed on Google I do not know which one we use to go to back when there was only one a few years ago; maybe there are more Chinese in upstate NY now than in Dalian – damn) We like the Chinese buffet in Australia and in the States better than the ones here. I think they put too much MSG in everything and I get heartburn. Nevertheless the view was good and in the hour that we stuffed ourselves we went all the way around; beer and juice was free making the revolving restaurant revolve all the more. My photos did not come out well because of the reflections on the window but we did get some from our room and I put it both on youtbue at http://youtu.be/mfIh5gvLq9A and on my webpage for this particular blog – http://neuage.us/BLOGS/25-Dalian-Harbour-View-Hotel.html
A view from our hotel.
We went for a walk, in the early morning rain;
All over China there are these homes for the workers, they are filled with bunk beds and from having peeked into many windows at constructions sites they look quite un-inviting as a place to live.
Narda loves tug boats – she had relatives in The Netherlands who were tug boat drivers and she says it is in her blood. When we lived in upstate New York we use to go to the tugboat regalia in Watervliet, New York. There would be lots of tugboats, most come up the Hudson River from NYC.
Another view from our window looking toward the ship building area.
The ferry on the lower right arrived in the morning from South Korea, a 16 hour trip – it looks quite rusty to me.
And today, Sunday, we checked out at noon, we had already called Jack to come and get us; Jack is our driver, but we call all the drivers Jack, and the one who collected us was not the real-Jack but we were happy to see him and called him Jack and even with stopping at Longshan for groceries on the way home we were home in one-hour.
Jinshitan Storming Sunday, November 04, 2012 blogs 2012
We had our storm. Nothing like Sandy visiting the East Coast of the US but the earth had its moments of spitting and farting then the electricity went off. I was doing non-significant stuff at 6:15 am on a Sunday morning; writing up my lesson plans for my broadcast journalism class for the week. Is this nuts or what? Firstly, I should have been sleeping in, or at least playing with my Nikon or sitting on the balcony enjoying a cuppa but no, I was working on my bloody lesson plans. I do enjoy what I am teaching – “Broadcast Journalism” creating in-house twice weekly TV-like shows of announcements and stuff, presented by my class, played in upper school classrooms. This past week we visited the main television station in Dalian; took me a month to get through all the ‘red’-tape to do that one. I made a comment in the main control room of the television station to my students, ‘this is where they would take over if there was a revolution’ and the kids moved away from me, saying; “we have no idea who he is – he is not with us”. But aside of my thinking I was funny it was interesting. A couple of weeks ago we started Skyping with the Canyon School in Bhopal, India and we are working toward creating a documentary in real-time between our classes so that is a bit exciting.
Our neighbours, here in Campus Village, at Dalian American International School, let us know there was no electricity, OK, we are old but we knew that. However, we realized there was power in the hall – some backup generator thingy. We moved our coffee pots, blenders and what-nots out to the hall. We often say where we live is like living in an assisted-living establishment. Me being me moved a table to the hall and set my computer back up. Someone said I was addicted to computers, huh? And on I went with my lesson plans – didn’t need the modem, just the laptop which was already low on battery.
Here we are (well, not me, I was taking the photo) in the hallway this morning – looking for electricity;
The girls (yes, I can call them that as I am 65 and they are all ‘considerably’ younger than me) walked to the beach, which was far from calm, and took these photos:
This first is the road to the beach we ride bikes most morning on though this morning because of the winds and rain and no electricity; not that that has anything to do with not exercising but it is an excuse and any excuse not to exercise at six am is good;
And no, those are not the ‘girls’ picking up stuff along the shore but locals – of course we are locals, but they are extreme-locals. I assume they are collecting some animals that have burrowed into the storm-washed beach. Glad I am a vegetarian and not one who would eat burrowed sea animals.
When they came back the electricity came on – not sure what is with that. And even more strange was that the storm ended. We walked to the main road and hopped the first bus, shelling out our 1 yuan (15 cents) and went to our favourite photo-printing shop. They do such a great job and the price is so cheap – like 5 yuan (80 cents US, 77 cents Australian) for an A3 glossy photo and I am not sure what we paid for a lot of A2 – letter size prints and a dozen 5X7’s but the total bill was 110 yuan ($17.46 US) for a large pile of photos including some 20 pages of Narda’s blog she has been writing with photos and text.
The large A3 photo was of my favourite recent photo – Narda in Jackson Square, New Orleans, last July – home for years of my almost youth – I was a street artists there in the early 1970s – in my early 20’s. I took the photo as a black and white so this is not a Photoshoped job. It has a French look to it.
We thought we were clever enough to take a bus in front of the art store home. It wound all over the place through Jinshitan, past the light rail stop and we figured it would come back to our area but it ended up back at the art store. In our simple senior citizen type of way we thought it was funny. Nevertheless we got our sorry assess back home without much more effort.
Yesterday was a simpler day, we went into Dalian on the school’s shopping bus, got our month’s supply of crap from Metro, put our suitcase full of crap back onto the bus and took the light rail to Kaifaqu where as usual we spent way too much at the local western goods shop, Harbor Deli, buying over inflated-priced cheese and peanut butter, caught the shopping bus back home from Kaifaqu and booked the rest of our trip for winter holidays. We are spending the five-weeks in Viet Nam. We booked the Green Mango Hotel in Hanoi for a few days; we saw it last time in Hanoi but stayed elsewhere, then we are off to HoiAn for a week, one of those great places to be in the world. Then back to Hanoi for Christmas and a few days after. We have a week after we have not planned; leaving it open; maybe to go to Laos or Myanmar – where we still want to live and teach.
Last week was Halloween; something we have managed to escape from for more than a decade but this year the owner of our school asked Narda to judge – probably knowing we were escape artists – we surely hid last year, and for me to take photos. I didn’t mind, but Narda just does not take to this holiday. It is not Australian or Dutch – she sees it as just children begging for lollies.
And I am ending this rather mundane week with what we see many times outside our window – fireworks. I use to like them heaps, and even bought a box when my son, Sacha, came to visit, but it seems a lot of money that goes quickly. For Sacha’s visit I got a box of 36 rockets – which of course was well worth it – I was so happy to have him here – up from Melbourne – but still as often as they set them off – how they afford it?
One last little complaint about my un-interesting life and even less interesting blogs; the storm, Sandy, which left so many without electricity and Internet wiped out half of my reading audience of my blogs. I was having 8 – 10 hits each time I posted a blog then last week’s on neuage.me – https://neuage.me/2012/10/28/rambling-weekends/ I only had three hits. So without sounding pathetic that is it for this week. Just read recently about people getting hundreds of thousands of hits a day for their blogs – I average 8 – 10 a week. Go Neuage!!
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 More at http://dalian.neuage.us/videos/Boee_Brilliant_Villas_.Hill.html
photo album for this is at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/photos/
Last Sunday we changed our day around – I suppose if it was my classroom we could say it was the flipped classroom model but I am not going to equate a day of leisure with an academic day. Not that every day is anything but learning; life the classroom and all that crap, but a flipped something is not the same as a non-flipped something.
Now that we got that out of the way and yes I do sometimes do the flipped classroom approach when it is suitable which in China is not always possible because students cannot use youtube or participate in western social sites due to the great firewall of China.
Instead of going out in the afternoon; we tend to spend the morning on the Internet doing books, keeping up with family, and Facebook, and other schools – are they offering a better package for next year, is it more interesting than living in the part of China that is more Ikea than historic China; for example, Myanmar (Burma) really has our eye at the moment and of course who would not want to live in and teach in India?
I had my first Skype session with Canyon H.S. School in Bhopal, India doing an ISA (British Council International School Awards) project “Festivals and Aborigines” with my Broadcast Publication class last week. It took a bit of effort and time to understand each other, us their accent and them ours (I have Korean, Chinese, Trinidad, and American students), our Skype connection went down as well as the whole Internet a few times but overall it was really successful and students from both schools were really excited. I am starting a unit I am calling “Foreign Correspondent” with the longer term plan of having our students do a collaborative documentary which will really test our technology as well as my planning and implementation skills.
Damn! Talking about work again…
So we headed out on our bikes at 9 AM last Saturday; we were going to do the same today but already it is eleven AM, we are still in our pajamas, on-line, and I want to ride our bikes to the Jinshitan Port – which we have never been to and no doubt is just a small fishing port or kelp port, but I want to go nevertheless. But it is cold and windy outside so no doubt we will take the # 1 bus from the light rail station, if how I am reading the map is correct. Then again we may spend the day indoors which is not my ideal. Yesterday, Saturday, Narda went to an orphanage in Dalian City – all babies and the oldest I think was in the two year old range. She went with a group of teachers. Apparently it was all heart-wrenching. These are children that are left for whatever reason; the one baby policy of China or because they are deformed and etc. Teachers volunteer to go just to hold the babies and have a bit of play because they are stuck in their cribs all the time otherwise. We brought up the ideas of students visiting in our middle school assembly last week asking if any students would want to spend a Saturday morning at the orphanage – and I was extremely surprised when every single student in grades 6 – 8 stood up. My day yesterday was not so altruistic as I spent nine hours at school working on standard based lessons – something everyone at school is so opposed to, but again I am not talking about work now.
Near us is yet another huge apartment development, Boee Brilliant Villas Hill. We tromped in with cameras in hand and viewed the first smaller apartment that they were selling for 7 and a half million RMB, about one and a quarter million dollars US. See our video of this exploration at http://youtu.be/gQ0Noz1pF_c Or other related blogs at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/
The outside is quite nice –
We saw two apartments the one above on the right was 20 million RMB or about three-million US. Going along with the one child stuff of China it had a spa bath and little glass garden in the child’s room as well as two walk in closets and a study.The picture on the left above is the kid’s bath with spa and stone garden and on the right is the parent’s room – through the window they can see how us lowly teachers live in campus Village off next to the hills straight through the window.
We wandered on to the new city being built down the road – Xiaoyaowan (an earlier video I made of this is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-drgVo45WWs&feature=share&list=UUzGrI_yggI56Gpp2ZyNQAXw) and drove along the three and four lane empty roads leading to huge holes which I suppose will be for a river they are putting in and bridges and skyscrapers. I made a clip of the day and put it on youtube at http://youtu.be/NyME0iqSMhs.
In the distance is the end of the bridge which is not built that will go over the new river.
Narda at the first part of a large bridge to be built over a river that will be put in soon?
The infrastructure is in place – large highways to large holes in the ground.
This is what is happening to the old village to make room for Xiaoyaowan.
The future mega city or a part of Dalian – who knows?
What it will look like they think, in a few years – now just empty holes.Well here it is 8 pm – we ended up going into Dalian and eating at Tapas Spanish restaurant which is a couple of blocks past the Korean Market which is great – I had ‘berenjenas gratin adas’ (grilled eggplant), and ‘cremade espinacasy esparragos’ (spinach and asparagus cream).
We had a driver – one of Jack’s mates takes us in and wait for us to eat and go to the Korean Market to get a winter coat that Narda wanted me to get – one of those hundreds of dollars coats that one gets cheap. Narda had the coat go from 450 RMB down to 250 meaning about $35 US. All in all as a last minute thought it was a five hour round-trip including dinner and getting my coat when all I really wanted to do was write some blogs for the day.
A lot more to say but I will ramble on next time…
Home as a tourist destination
I was born this
I make up
As I go
(July 1995 Hackham, South Australia)
I do not really have a home. I have a tourist destination. I am a tourist at home. Places I refer to as home are not homes but stops on the way home. And like the people who visit the cities and towns I live in I too am just visiting where I am. Of course I am not really sure what home is. Even more removed from the equation is where home is. If home is where the heart is then I would be remiss to say my home is my heart because that would make me slutty. I would have to say that my heart was a tourist destination and at my age I don’t think that is going to happen. I purchase fridge magnets from where I live and my fridge side are covered with magnets from so many countries so many homes. My home is represented by fridge magnets. When I was going through my divorcee back in 1984 which left me with two children to raise my ex-witch of a thingy submitted a report to the Adelaide Family Court about me from her psychiatrist, a person who never interviewed or met me: “… I noticed in his writing that he talks about disintegration within his personality; and there is evidence of thought disorder such as loose associations and flights of ideas, which together with his general suspicious demeanor suggests psychotic thinking”. At the time I was writing children stories and continuing with poetry that I had been writing for decades and as a side note completing my PhD. Anyone who has done a PhD knows there is little sanity involved during or at the end of the thing which in my case took seven nasty years to do. The fact that my home is a tourist destination somehow syncs with my writing and back in 1984 with my ex-witch-thingy and her psychiatrist. The reason I have lived in your home or you may have lived in mine is because we are all tourists at the same destination. We were in Family Court more than sixty times between 1984 and 1998 – my lawyer said a record. Adelaide Family Court was a tourist destination and I had never planned to set up camp there – it was just a stop along the way.
The last time my home was the only place and not a place in between places was in 1964 or 1963. I was about 16 when I left my safe little place in the world, Clifton Park – Saratoga County in upstate New York. I was having some problems at Shenendehowa Central School ; I think boredom was a deciding factor. I told some people at a recent party that I still had my yearbooks from when I was in kindergarten and first they did not believe me then they all were just about on the floor from laughing so hard. Damn I thought everyone carried around their yearbooks. I only have them from 1954 (above) to 1964 when I left to find my fame and fortune. In the picture above I am in the top row third from left when my name was Terrell Adsit. I have gone into how my name became Neuage in past blogs; something about getting an Australian pregnant and she not liking my name and me not hers and Randy Dandurand said ‘you two think you are such new age people…’ – Really! We had met at an astrological conference in Sydney, had a passing fling between Baltimore Maryland and California for a week and ending up in Hawaii the names got changed then we got divorced and I was a single parent in Australia for twenty years. But that is not the point of what I want to say this time.
So I got out of Clifton Park: and yes that is my mother reading probably not her email and me siting in the trailer being silly like I was eating raw corn back in the late 1950s. This next photo is of when I first tried to leave Clifton Park, New York. I was about six and I was headed out of town but got as far as the front of the house before getting stuck in a snow drift. The fact being that I was just a tourist in Clifton Park but at the time no one would believe me.
None of this is here now, they put in freeways, and a shopping centre and a Home Depot megastore where I attempted to grow up.
On with what I want to say, home as a tourist destination probably means that of going somewhere and living as a visitor, most likely because it is a passing through moment. I went in 1963 to Florida, to New Orleans, New York City, did the San Francisco stop at the end of the 1960s and lived in a commune across the bay, on to Oregon, to Hawaii – joining a religious cult for a decade – and living during that time in Kansas, Wyoming, New York, Baltimore, New Orleans and a few other places too. Then I ended up in Australia as a single parent with two boys and we moved ten times in ten years and settled down to live in two places for almost three years each. Then I got married successfully again, another Australian, and we tromped off to northern New York and lived in three places in five years; two of them beautiful Victorians, which we still own in Round Lake NY. We then moved to New York City for five years and lived in only two places there, one of which we still own and even managed to live in South Australia sometimes and yes we own a house there too but we do not live anywhere that is our home still. When we moved to China we thought we were settled but now we have moved twice in two years; in the same building but in different apartments.
Maybe it is because I have Aquarius on my fourth house cusp with the ruler, Uranus conjunct Mars in Gemini in the 8th house – and of course I am married to a Gemini. And Mars rules my 7th house, the house of marriage, so if I believed in astrology that would explain why I have not felt settled in a home since 1963 – not that I felt settled there either because I was adopted and brought to that location kicking and screaming when I was three years old. So it is fortunate that I do not believe in astrology or I would be quite confused.
I like living here in Campus Village in Northern China. It feels like home but most homes I have had have been tourists destinations (I am thinking of Maui, Honolulu, San Francisco, New York City, LA, New Orleans – my favorite, Victor Harbor South Australia – Victor really is a tourist destination because it is the end of the road – to go further one drives into the sea, unlike most towns and cities that one can drive through on the way to someplace else, Victor Harbor – where I raised my two sons for many years in several homes, is the end of the road. We, my good wife – the one I have now, and I have lived in Paris, Utrecht, The Netherlands, her place of birth, Ferrara Italy, Goa, India, San Pedro La Laguna on the Western shore of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala with my friend Dell, and Eugene Oregon and just so many places. I do not mean overnight places but places I, we, called home, though perhaps for only a week in some places. Mexico City we got settled in as well as in some places in Ecuador, though after only four days in Quito I had to get out of town because I had such a bad case of altitude sickness I just was not going to last in our home there so we got down to the shore and life was good. I thought we were settled in Istanbul but suddenly it was time to leave.
New York City was a fair effort of five years. That is a good example of home that others tromp through all the time. We did too. Every day I felt like I was a tourist except for paying mortgage and electricity bills and all those other home equations but still I was just passing through.
We are all just passing through until we get to where we are now. Home is where we are now. I am a tourist in my own home. I take the guided tour quite often. There are paintings my brother did back in the 1960s. He died of AIDS and I am so excited because his best mates are writing a book about him. There are belongings of my sons. My son, I spent such a life time raising him, he was signed by the LA Dodgers, then committed suicide soon after turning 20; http://neuage.org/leigh.html. My fantastic still alive son, who even came to visit me here in Northern China is doing so well after all our moving around. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, one of the world’s greatest tourist destinations. I tour my life – it is on the walls, all those places I have lived in; posters, gadgets, my 600 page book “Leaving Australia” that I made two copies of – one for my son in Australia and the other I read when I want to be a tourist in my own life.
Ferry from Yantai to Dalian
Youtube clip at http://youtu.be/gcx5Ll4V0iY
Yantai is a coastal city on the Bohai Sea in Shandong province. It’s located in the northeast of China near Qingdao and Dalian. Total population is about 6.5 million people. Yantai port is located in Zhifu Bay overlooking Liaodong Peninsula across the sea. The Yantai Port Passenger Transport Station is at No.155 Beima Road.
Ferry from Yantai to Dalian is advertised as six but it took seven hours. It is quite basic. Not finding anything on Google or Youtube that would tell us about it we chose the 8 berth room – they also have six and state rooms. I was able to use the electricity to use my computer and the room full of Chinese was fine except for some loud snoring. Walking around the ferry is good. Well worth the ride taking the day trip. We left at 9 AM and got to Dalian at 4 PM. The 8 berth was 210 Yuan about $35 US. We got a taxi for 7 yuna – a bit more than a US buck from our hotel, The Golden Gulf Hotel. In Dalian it was chaos and impossible to get a taxi to figure out what we wanted so we hoped the first bus which eventually got us to the light rail which we took home.
The people were friendly and as usual there was always someone wanted to get into a photo with us;
We spent a lot of time on the upper deck – on a clear calm day in October.
The ferry terminal in Yantai.
Back in Dalian it was total chaos getting off the boat. We were herded onto a bus which ended at the Dalian International Passenger Terminal. We wanted to go to Metro to get groceries but no one could understand what we wanted so we got on the first city bus we saw. It wove around the city and we could not get a grip on where we were. We forget what a big city this is – only 6.5 million but it is so spread out and every time we go to Dalian we find new areas. Eventually we saw the train station and walked to that. After the quiet city of Yantai being packed amongst so many people was quite trying. We did get to the light rail and eventually got a seat and home by 6.30 pm. Campus Village is our home – we forget this. With the café open and we could just order a meal sent up to our apartment it all becomes so easy. I doubt we would do this ferry ride again. The toilets were shocking and the room was really crowded with four bunk beds. Narda did fall to sleep and I spent about five hours putting together photos and five videos to post on youtube.
Today is Saturday and believe it or not I am looking forward to getting back to school and the routines there.
Next trip is in ten weeks to Viet Nam for three weeks for winter break, then to Australia in February for Chinese New Years.
Monday, October 01, 2012 Dalian Airport
I am not sure whether it is our airlines; OK Airlines, or the sign over the gate we are departing from that causes concern. Not that I am concerned, this is China, what could possibly go wrong? I am sure these local flights are up to export standards. Like our shoes. We were just commenting before leaving home that we both have Rockport shoes that have really gone the distance, made in China. Narda got a pair she still wears from the Lake George, New York, outlet store ten-years ago and she has worn them in India, Viet Nam, Cambodia, tromping around France, Australia, Thailand, China and of course the USofA and they are still in good shape though she put a bit of superglue on them this morning but the leather is good. My Rockports I got at the same shop in Lake George about seven years ago and they are still good. We have bought shoes, bags and etc. here in China that fall apart quite quickly, so there must be an export quality that lasts. I am hoping the same is true of OK Airlines between here and Yantai where we are off to for the Fall/mooncake Festival holiday. The reason we are going there is because no other destination seems to be available. Narda looked at one place we had thought of going to and the tickets to there have gone from $200 US to more than a thousand dollars in the past week.
I did not know what to make of their airline magazine – did this say the airline was in ruin or that OK Air is groovy.
They are so polite about their air services at the Dalian International Airport (think 1980s Albany, New York, or Adelaide Airport about 1985) they keep playing this loop “we regret to inform you that flight …. has changed gates…”. Usually the regret an airline would report is that ‘OK Airlines has run out of fuel and has landed on the freeway’. But that we are going from the gate for ‘Abnormal Flights’ seems something they should be regretting.
Not to worry, we are coming back on the ferry – about 6 – 8 hours. We looked it up, a huge boat, and there was a Google story about how a few years ago the same line had their ferry catch fire whilst between Yantai and Dalian and 22 people of the 300 on board survived. Now Narda is a bit nervous about the ferry.
We have been talking about disasters this whole holiday (well the first two days of it). We decided to climb to the top of our local hill which has a great view of the sea, our school and valley. This picture does not do our climb justice – it took us almost two hours to get to the top and we were so puffed out. In the distance is our school and behind the strange ship they built along the highway headed into our resort district.
Continuing with our disaster conversations we worried what to do if a poisonous snake crossed our path, then we worried about what to do if there was a forest fire and we got caught then we wondered if there were bear or other crazed creatures in the woods then we just worried. It took us another hour to get down and we ended up at the local spa but their prices were out of proportion to what we made as teachers so we walked home.
Here I am at the Five-Star Golden Pebble Tang Dynasty International Hot Spring Resort at the bottom of the hill – which was a mountain to us, with my mate, obviously a remnant of the Tang Dynasty. I told him I was a Leo but he didn’t seem impressed or to understand so we walked on in blissful ignorance of our un-importance.
Another view of our school and where we live at Campus Village.
My concern re. the small plane we are taking to Yantai is that the wheels look to small and I am sitting right across from them and the propeller seems to be going a tad bit slow…
And what is with the writing on the side of the plane facing my seat of where to evacuate? Evacuation Direction – damn… I never know what to do in those kind of situations. And there was no pre-flight speech about dropping down air masks and putting them onto the children last or is that first?
And that we are on a “Modern Ark” is disturbing at some level… but I did get to like our little plane – which did get us safely to Yantai.
But those bloody Chinese cab drivers – ours give us the fright of our life all the way into town; weaving, and creating lanes where there was none and going way too fast and of course there were no seat belts in the back. I am always terrified driving in a cab in China but then again we did arrive OK.
We wanted to go five-star but not at a Western chain so we picked the only 5-star Chinese because we want soft beds and most hotels the beds are incredibly hard. We are staying at the Golden Gulf Hotel – an old hotel right on the shore. And what a great walk along the coast it is. We like this city – so far, the most of any we have been in. We even found the old area, a Hutong, right behind the hotel – kind of a Chinese New Orleans or old town in Barcelona.
not to worry – we got the buffet dinner and that was really quite good and now off to a soft bed and tomorrow is Tuesday and we do not have to go to school and write up bloody lesson plans or standards or whatever mind-numbing thing we are to do in the future. Why we can not be like the world’s best schools – Finland – where they start at age seven – that by the way is when I started at Shenendehowa Central School in Elnora New York in 1954 – the first year of that school – and look at me… well I left home at 16 – didn’t finish tenth grade – but at age 44 to 58 did every uni degree possible and now, like the Finnish schools I feel a academically OK – maybe I am an OK Air type of person after all.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
How are some weekends different from other weekends? When there seems to be no end to the particular one being experienced is my favourite way; for example, this weekend syncs with next weekend in that the days between are part of the holiday of the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) and no I have not advanced in my Mandarin to have written that – it is a paste job; saying that, I know that this character 大 is the start of Dalian and we watch for it to get on the correct bus or is it the start to Jinshitan, our local hood? – we get lost a lot but at 1 RMB – 15 cents US for a bus ride it is affordable to hop on another bus and if we get way to far afield we grab a cab, show our business card which is in Chinese on the opposite side to what we can read. Unlike New York City cabs or Sydney, Paris, Rome and other cities we tromp about these are quite cheap. To get home from Jinshitan is 15 RMB – a tad bit over two bucks US for a fifteen minute ride. NYC it would be like going from the West Village to Harlem and cost about $20. Not that I had planned to write about money.
So we are here at the start of the Mooncake Festival (Zhongqiu Festival) 3000 years in the advancing and most everyone I work with is out of here. We did get our fair share of mooncakes on Friday, one of my favourite Chinese foods, well actually, aside of tofu, just about the only thing I eat that is not western. I tried to be more culturally globalized but my stomach had other ideas.
It is Saturday and most teachers have flown off to Viet Nam, Korea, Thailand and various spots in China. We are staying home a few days then flying out Monday to Yantai in northeastern Shandong province. Sound exotic but actually we could not make up our minds where to go until it was too late. I had wanted to go up to Dandong but last week when we finally decided to go there all buses and trains were booked out. Being one of the most traveled times of the year for the locals flights out of Dalian seemed to be doubling by the hour. One of the few places left was Yantai – half an hour away. There is a ferry to come back on that takes a few hours so we are flying there and cruising home on Thursday or Friday or if we get to wandering around various other cities we may come back on the weekend by ferry from Weihai or Yantai or some such service, it is just across the bay.
I started last week off quite excited about our new laptop program. I went home with the new Zenbook with Windows 8 installed and spent a few days downloading lots of stuff. But now I am not so sure whether I like this; the speed is great – I get onto the Internet (more about that in a moment) quickly and programs run well: Adobe Flash, Dreamweaver, Sketchup and etc. but it jumps when keying. It is impossible to write more than a couple of letters before it jumps to another line – or maybe it is for incredibly fast people – read young. I need to plug in a keyboard to keep from going nuts. Or switch to my older true and sure laptop like I am doing now. The keypad is way too sensitive and it will be an issue when the kids get it if I cannot tighten it up. The Zenbook would make a great travel companion (when the wife is shopping or printing off grand- daughter photos) and I am left to my own devices.
Friday, yesterday, it was like being in the stone ages. Holy cow – no Internet for a day! It started the night before during a thunder storm; it was a dark and rainy night or is that stormy? Whatever it was up to no good was going to happen with lightening all over the shop, of which, one wayward bolt knocked out the server box. In the middle of uploading photos, videos, words of wisdom/scattered thoughts or whatever I was uploading to one of my sites my ftp-server crashed and that was it. So what was there left to do? I could always talk to my wife, but I have done that before, so we watched another episode of Dexter. We are on season 4 and it is wonderfully horrific – just the show to watch on a stormy night with a banging door and chairs blowing across the porch. The next day the server was still down – I put up a note for my students that there was no Internet due to a lighting strike and they thought I was joking. They often think I am joking though I am not sure why they think that. Not using the Internet is fine, I had some classes using Google Sketchup and we were not able to do stuff we were to do on the last day before a holiday like getting grades done, submitting lesson plans and all those wonderful time absorbing tasks that will just have to wait until after the holidays. I found time to even clean my room which given the choice of being online or cleaning has always been put at the bottom of the pile of to-do projects. We have had other times when the Internet was down for a bit and even a couple of times when the electricity was off for most of the day but this time it seemed more OK. No one got to play our DAISlive video which I had spent several hours just on the introduction to but I am sure I can get staff to play it when we are back in session.
DAISlive is our news/events video that I do with my high school broadcast class. It is shown two times a week and lasts around three minutes. I spend way too many hours editing it. I started it last year as a way to get my middle school publication class to do some real-time speaking. By the end of the school year every single middle school student had appeared several times as anchor, news-reader, and creator of an ad, usually for the school store. My publication class is a six-week unit in our applied studies course. There are six applied studies units ranging from robotics to ‘The Odyssey of the Mind’ and a student government component. I found this a very effective way to get students who had English as a second language to become surer about their speaking. My favorite example was during my first few week. Everyone in my class had to present in front of the camera but one girl would break into tears whenever she had to speak English. She would whisper a few words and that was it. We got her to say ‘thanks for watching DAISlive’ then she gave a big smile. After that she would be the first to volunteer to be on our show. This year I am doing DAISlive as part of my high school broadcast journalism course. We have been given a large room in the basement of the school which I am gradually turning into a video studio. So far since starting more than a year ago all I have had is a cheap video camera and I used AVS Video Editor until recently when we purchased a site license of Power Director 10 with the hopes the students would do all the editing. They are still learning the program and last week I spent like four hours just making a new introduction. I have had one short session with them using Boinx TV to make a real-time newscast but after holiday we will dive into that and have wonderful blue screen backgrounds. soon my hours of editing will be turned over to the students and my too much editing will end and I will have all that extra time, hopefully, to learn new stuff. I was told yesterday we may be getting Adobe CS6, which I put in for last year but at about ten-thousand dollars it got knocked back and now it appears we may get it which excites me to no end and I am looking forward to Narda printing more granddaughter photos and shopping for more shoes and me doing fantastic stuff like more web pages to add to my current thousands, and more video clips and finally finishing my e-book “Tofu Again – ‘The lost book of tofu” http://tofu.neuage.us/ which is not just another book of tofu recipes but has lots of stories about my days as a tofu maker (eight years) in Australia whilst raising two children by myself (Try This ~ http://neuage.org/trythis.htm) along with tofu recipes. Needless to say creating an eBook with InDesign and making phone apps with Dreamweaver will be my first endeavors. There is also talk of getting some good video equipment and lights for the video studio.
My real excitement is bundled into our next step in DAISlive when we go global, sort of. I have been corresponding with five schools in India to add a section of Collaborative Broadcast Journalism to our program. I got involved with the British Council programme called International School Awards last year then hooked up with the British Council Schools team “World Class” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldclass/) and out of that five schools have been corresponding with me about doing projects http://neuage.us/edu/blogs/collaborative-broadcast.html. Then this past week when the head of ISS (more further down) came to visit he got me in touch with Raphael Raphael (that is his real name, first and last) at an International school in Kazakhstan. Raphael has a doctorial in film and like me is the tech dude at his school. We will do some real-time news broadcasts with our students and hopefully I can bring in India too. “and now to our reporter in India… Kazakhstan (No! not Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan). I did several projects like this when we lived in New York City. Narda’s school, St. Luke’s and my school, Ross Global Academy did several live interactions together from Narda having her 3rd grade and our 3rd grade class do songs together to my 8th graders doing a hip-hop workshop with her 8th graders. We went with three schools a couple of times but never internationally. A school I taught at two summers ago in south Australia wants to be involved too so maybe we will have this incredible learning space between Kazakhstan, India, Australia and us in little old Jinshitan. My ultimate, though it will probably never happen, is to get involved with a school in North Korea and do this. It would not be political – just students of the same age hanging out talking about stuff in their life, about what is going on at the moment at their school.
Overall it has been a good week here at Campus Village/Dalian American International School in Jinshitan – (Golden Pebble Beach) in the DDA (Dalian Development Area which is also Kaifaqu), Dalian, Liaoning province, China.
Charles Gregory, the head of ISS (International School Services – https://www.iss.edu/) which runs our school, visited for the week. We get to see him a couple of times a year. He lives an incredible life, having personally started 16 schools internationally the past nine years. He has so many stories from cobras in the hallway of a school in the Congo to students trying to push a large bear over the fence to starting a school in Myanmar a decade ago when supplies had to be carried on the backs of people through jungles. He has such a great and positive view of education throughout the world and I have inspiration for my next writing project because of him. The life of being an international school teacher is really special and I wish I had started a few decades ago back when I was a single parent living in a coastal town of Australia. My children would have loved living in all the places other teachers tell us about. I hope to teach in one more country before it is all over though at 65 then 66 next school year and I think another year older after that the choices are dwindling. I have a list of countries that issue work visas for teachers and the list is quite small with maybe a dozen with no age limit and a few with 70. But then again if they let me stay in China we could be here quite some time. I hear that our area is one of the few places in China that will issue a visa past 65. Several of the southern provinces won’t issue them to anyone past 58. Damn I may have to retire someday and write books about tofu.
The youtube video for this is at http://youtu.be/nKQkC-qTqaM
a slideshow with heaps of photos is at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/weekend/index.html
We needed the weekend off – something different, calming, invigorating and maybe even fun. There were about 30 of us from our school, teachers and the like – well actually teachers. There was another bus, parents and children – that is a thing about our school we all live in the same place – Campus Village. Work and after work get intertwined. Teachers that had been in Tunisia were concerned about what happened yesterday there – a mob attacked the US embassy and destroyed the school they had been at. What put our ears to the conversation was that we had a letter waiting to send with our resume for jobs there. There is a music job and we were asking if there was something for me too. The letter would have gone out when we got back from our trip but maybe not now. Maybe we are best staying in an Asian country. China is so much safer than a lot of places. There is even less violence than in the states. We are fenced in and have guards everywhere but I cannot image something like what is happening in the Middle East happening here. Of course people at our school that were in Libya last year and barely escaped and from Damascus which is being leveled as we speak keep us thinking that where we are is probably best. We are still hoping to teach in India/Viet Nam/Cambodia and etc. before we retire – though the countries taking people over 65 are dwindling. Maybe a country in turmoil would be good at least we would end our career with stories to tell.
The Dalian International Club hosted our weekend trip to Dalian Bingyu National Geopark and got us the Binguanzhuanyong Hotel – just slides off of the tongue doesn’t it? Bingyu Valley Scenic Area is called ‘Oriental Miniature Switzerland’ though we are not sure why. There is some resemblance but hey China, China is not quite Switzerland.
What I find about China that I had not realized before was how, at least from highways, it looks like most anywhere else. We could have been going through upstate New York except the signs were not legible but otherwise driving on the same side as the States and the other side if Australian. Even the road stops were dissimilar to the ones on the New York State Thruway. The toilets were squat toilets – something I will never use to and the food was in Chinese but for the most part a sort of similar copy to an American brand and of course like the NY Thruway not a good place to eat except for chips and candy and ice coffee. I was disappointed that I was unable to get a fridge magnet – something I try to get everywhere I go – the side of my fridge is totally covered with about a hundred magnets. It is the one thing I can collect that easily fits in my bag.
I started collecting metal signs from train stations but after getting two; one from a Paris train station and the other from Lyon when I was traveling the world with my children in 1990 and I still have them. But I am sure the station master would take a slim view of me if I had been caught. I tried pulling this sign off but it was nailed in – I thought it would like good in my classroom.
I suppose the suggestion is one should throw away things with vigor. Cautiously? spelt causiously is just as good. We what know what you mean mate.
Dalian Bingyu National Geopark was where we were headed. What a great place and less than three hours from home. We rode a few boats along the way before hitting the river in rafts ourselves.
But being the one who is rowing – no that is not entirely true, Narda rowed too – but she had the umbrella…
The town of Bingyu is quite the place. There was a lot of singing in the streets – see our video clip on youtube – listed at the top… and dancing…. and fireworks… it is a great place to go. And I am too tired to add more but here are some photos from our weekend the rest are on our slideshow… cheers
Why I ate tofu – why eat something that can not run away because its feet are stuck in bucket…
The opium cart and other herbs – including poppies – something that looked and smelt like hash along with other carts of weird things all appeared in front of our hotel – I suppose they figure a bunch of teachers need a break
Below is the hotel we stayed at – Binguanzhuanyong – it said on our toothbrush packet so probably the name of the place.
was Buddha a drag queen?
We had the first of two-days of parent teacher’s conference at our school today. I have done this at schools before, nothing new, but I did get to thinking about life in general and the turns and twists one takes on the journey.
Sitting there with parents I remembered my days as the parent with my children. Life was so different then. I was a single parent in South Australia (I was the foreigner there, being a Yank and all, though allegedly I spoke the same language as the teacher) and usually there was a problem with at least one of my children, I will not say which one. Of course I blamed the teacher because obviously the reason my child acted out was because the class was not challenging enough and my son was creative and beyond their slowed down standards. Actually I was probably the parent from hell.
This was between 1985 and about 1999. Not sure why but my children attended lots of schools. We started off with Mt. Compass, and then there was Pt. Elliot, Meadows, Victor Harbor, Christies Beach High School, and that was just primary. There was Wirreanda High School later on and a temporary school because of some discipline stuff and maybe Seaton High too; I lost track.
I started my own studies in 1991 and went straight through to 2005; 14 years of university, from starting my BA when I was 44 to collecting my PhD at the University of South Australia when I was 58. I started teaching in 1999 at age 52, when most people start to look at retiring. Before that I had been a tofu maker for seven years, a brother in a religious order, a cook, street artist in New Orleans, NYC, South Australia, Honolulu; a happy hippie living in communes in the 1960s and a variety of things but sitting in front of parents talking about their children always amazes me; especially here in China, where I need an interpreter for Chinese, Korean, German and or etc. and I am happy to present myself as the teacher or as is the case now, the student’s advisor. I try to recall my children in school and think of nightmares – principal’s phone calls, me defending my children, the fire in the boys toilet that many years later a son said yes it was him, to the court appearances for graffiti and on and on.
One of my favourite moments (not) was when I was being showed my son’s diary (this happened with both children). There were lots of absent days with my signature – this was at Wirreanda High School, my children would have been in about 8th and 10th grade. There were days when they did not have their uniform with some excuse about it is in the wash –this was in many entrees. The reasons for missing school were everything from baseball practice at another school (that son was later signed by the LA Dodgers as a pitcher) or meetings at the dentist, doctor and a host of visits I barely could have imagined. All signed by me. When I pointed out it was not my signature anywhere in the diary I was shown the front page of the original signature – my children had signed my name from day one. OK so I never looked at their diaries – poo hoo on me. I had other things to deal with like being a perfect parent.
What I find really fascinating is when two parents are talking a mile-a-minute in a foreign language, and looking up every once in a while at me then going back to saying stuff I have no idea what. 他无法组织一个妓院的螺丝 (He couldn’t organize a screw in a brothel).
Today a student was the interpreter for the mother. “How is my daughter doing?” So I go on about if she stopped using her cell phone, talked less during class, did work… I am sure she did not tell her mother what I said. The mother looked at me with a bit of – was that amusement, disdain, surprise, shock…? How would I know? The daughter could have said, “Dr. Neuage says if you do not have enough water in the basin when cooking beans they will burn.” I did hear the Dr. Neuage part.. the result was a blur of sounds and pitches; some going up and some going down.
I also never know when to bow or shake a hand. The Koreans like to bow when greeted the Chinese will go for the paws. But then I never get the Europeans and Aussies kissing on one side then the other thingy. I lived in Australia for 22 years and still never know which cheek to peck first. I am not saying I still can not tell the difference between Koreans and Chinese that would be rude I suppose but truth be told I can’t. And what happens if we bow at the same time and hit heads and one of us gets knocked out?
I love my job – teaching broadcast journalism and being our video media person and creating our school news shows and working with teachers with technology and teaching my middle school publications class. It is just a long ways from being a single parent living on a pension with naughty children and a tenth grade education until one day I thought shit I am in my 40s and doing not much and then 14 years later I was Dr. Neuage. Whats next? The only thing that is the same is that I am, as always, in a foreign country.
Well tonight is Friday and early tomorrow morning we are off with the International Club of Dalian for a two day trip to one of Dalian’s best getaways destinations – Bingyu Valley 冰峪沟! “Beautiful scenery, exciting white water rafting, fresh air and interesting people…” More about that next week, after the trip.
Pt Elliot South Australia – 1989 Sacha 8 and a half and Leigh six – me – 42.
Saturday, September 08, 2012
Just call me 牛腾然（niu teng ran)
I have had a few names in my life…
Started off with the most boring name of Terry Miller –
How could I go through life like that? So I got myself adopted by the time I was three by some Christians in upstate New York who named me Terrell Adsit.
They tried to create me into some unnatural image of their beliefs but they were not terribly successful so I went off and did the 1960s in Greenwich Village, New Orleans and on to San Francisco, Eugene, Oregon
and by 1969 I was in Hawaii and somehow ended up in a cult group for about the next decade. They changed my name to Brother Arthur so I trolled around in a cosmic fog with this name.
In 1980, when I was living in Towson, Maryland I took a trip to Auckland then Sydney for an astrological convention.
I met someone I didn’t like and she ended up in Maryland a few months later and some stuff happened and we drove across to San Francisco where I put her on a plane back to Adelaide, South Australia and I went on to Honolulu. Well the stuff that happened back in Maryland sort of started to manifest and soon she was in Hawaii and more stuff happened then we needed to get married and I did not like nor was I able to pronounce her Ukrainian name and she did not like the Adsit name so we made up a new name. My mate Randy Dandurand said “well you two think you are such new age people why don’t you call yourselves new age?” We thought that was just dumb. I changed my name to Neuage and by getting married we both were Neuage. Needless to say we were not that new age and a few months after son number one, Sacha, was born, whom I helped deliver in a little hospital on the north shore of Hawaii, we were on our way to Australia; Adelaide, South Australia. We had another son then got divorced and I was a single parent for the next two decades stuck in a foreign country with my Neuage name. I still have the Neuage name but not to stop at name changes I now have a Chinese name.
What I have always like about neuage is that it is not too common. Can you imagine trying to get any cred on Google or Bing or Yahoo and etc. with a name like Terry Miller? I started making web pages in the early 1990s, soon after the World Wide Web was invented and for decades there were no other neuages in any search engine; just thousands of me. I loved it. Now there are some wankers using the neuage name; there is a rapper, someone hustling stuff on Amazon and a judge off in Nevada or Arizona – one of those dessert places. But there are still thousands of my pages coming up when putting neuage on in a search. I just checked my new Chinese name, “niu teng ran” – and there are none in any search so perhaps I could start again – make thousands of new webpages all under my new name. Damn I just remembered I have some work to do for school – well maybe next weekend I will start…
Terrell:牛腾然（niu teng ran).”niu” sounds like Neuage, which means a family name in China.”niu” also means “ox”. Ox presents diligent and dependable meanings in Chinese culture. “teng ran” sounds like “Terrell”, which means the flying appearance. “teng” is a splendid character in a Chinese name, which means ‘up’ or ‘fly’ as we wish our family, career, money….everything goes up and up.
Not wanting to be the only one with a new name Narda, who by the way did not become a Neuage or an Adsit and in fact returned to her maiden-pre-last-married name, now too has a Chinese name.
Narda: 毕娜达（bi na da) “bi” sounds like “Biemond”, which is a family name in China.na “means fascinating elegant, delicate and gentle. It is a good word used in feminine names. “da” means “super” and “fantastic”.
(Thanks to Angelia Guam at our school, Dalian American International School for our new names)
What I really wanted to share with myself as a memory I could look at when I am unable to sleep, like this morning when I was wide awake by 4 AM and decided to get up and go through my email I did not have time to read this past week which took me until 7.30 to get through and now it is 7:45 and I am writing this so either I am taking a break from going through my in-box or I quit. I am too sleepy to keep track of what I was doing. Anyway a silly memory… we were on the way back from Australia a couple of months ago, flying China Southern, and I was looking out the little round window in the back of the plane, taking pictures of something, probably more clouds to add to my thousands of pictures of clouds form the past decades. I suppose Narda was asleep leaning against our window so no doubt that is why I had my camera with me peeping out the window. After stretching and moving about; I had sat frozen in my seat for some dozen hours and the muscles and bones were sticking, I went to the loo. Not to worry it all seemed quite normal to me. After I had gotten myself settled back into my nesting mode a stewardess quizzed me why I had taken my camera into the bathroom. I couldn’t believe it. She said in her few English words that a passenger had report me taking a camera into the toilet. It wasn’t my small digital camera but my Nikon though why would it matter and what stupid human would report such a thing? I just looked at the woman and turned away but low and behold didn’t another twit come up to me and start asking why I took a camera into the toilet. Then there was a third person with more English quizzing me. I said I was taking pictures out the window then I needed to take a piss – they left after that and no one asked any more questions. It was funny but I am amazed at these people. I should have asked which passenger reported me and then asked her, of course it would have been a female, and no male would be that stupid, why she had such perverted thoughts.
What we did on the weekend
Because the weekends disappear on us and we forget what we did I am going to track each weekend this year to see what we do with all that time.
|Date||What we did|
|September 16||Our Itinerary for this weekend. I will add to it when we get back
International Club of Dalian is glad to invite you to join us for a trip to one of Dalian’s best getaways destinations – amazing Bingyu Valley! Beautiful scenery, exciting white water rafting, fresh air and interesting people are totally not to be missed. Tour along the river offers similarly stunning views.
|September 09||We started off with the question of whether we are staying another year – signing another contract. The school wants to begin putting in for a visa for me as I am over 65 and in some provinces that is an issue. We said we would think about it for the next two weeks. Contracts here are not really due until about December and it would be good to have that much time to look at options. The idea of teaching in India or Cambodia or Viet Nam is appealing but the security of not looking for another position, especially when a lot of countries will not take someone over 65 is appealing. We did not come up with any decisions and probably won’t for a while.
On the more definite side we put in for and got a personal leave day for a day and a half before Chinese New Years in February so we could get to Australia. Narda’s son Stu turns 30 and her granddaughter is getting christened that weekend. I will go mid-week to Melbourne to see Sacha. Now the tickets are paid for and one more thing is sorted out in our life. We have our tickets for three weeks in Viet Nam for winter break which we got a couple of weeks ago. And to save money we are just staying in our province for the October break going up to Dandong and some remote places north.
The rest of the weekend I spent at school working on setting up portfolios for the upper school.
|September 02||As weekends go we did not do a lot. Another stay around home. On Saturday took the shopping bus into Dalian, bought a month’s supply of foods from Metro, mostly stuff we cannot get out here: tetra pack low-sugar soy milk, butter, cheeses, peanut butter; doing better, bought only about 1200 RMB this time, last month it was almost 3000 ($500USD). Had lunch at Ikea – only place to get a good Western meal. Ikea in Dalian is actually good. I like the veggy wrap and corn soup. Last year we would go to the one in Jersey City, across from Newark Airport but it seems every time we went there it was worse. The fat servers were always grumpy and the food was shocking – so we stopped going there. Took the light rail back to Kaifaqu, stopped at the Western food store (Harbor Deli) and got molasses and more cheese and caught the school’s shopping bus back home.
some sort of protection for whatever is behind the door in this shop in Kaifaqu – we didn’t go in.
Sunday we went over to school; Narda worked some on her After School Activities projects and I wrote a school in India I may be doing some projects with; http://neuage.us/edu/blogs/collaborative-broadcast.html and worked on my school’s Google Sites for my Broadcast Publication’s class, which I can only get using my VPN; bloody China – drives me nuts trying to get stuff done – https://sites.google.com/a/daischina.org/drneuage
In the afternoon we rode bikes, with one of the new teachers, from North Carolina, to our favourite local area to shop and bought vegetables and fruit for the week. And now it is bed time and another week starts in the morning. I finally got my editing suite for 20 computers in my lab, Power Director 10 Ultra, so I am excited about teaching my students that and getting us really going with our school’s television set and hopefully we will be doing a collaborative project with a couple of schools in India.
My son, Sacha, in Melbourne, sent me a Happy Father day’s email so that was nice as he usually never does – forgets my birthday too.
|August 28||It was not really a weekend but school was closed to the perceived threats of Typhoon Bolaven that yesterday looked like it was going to give us a bit of a look-see, but no, it is now headed toward North Korea – Bolaven was a fizzler. We should not call it a weekend because it is Tuesday but it is a day off from work, so what did we do? We looked at the weather report way too much, thought I would have a video to put on youtube, http://www.youtube.com/tneuage to be exact, a story about being 65 and still working that I dream of the New York Times printing, or maybe I would cook some dynamite tofu dishes, or maybe do some work on my rubric for a special project my Broadcast Journalism are doing. But we did little to speak of so I will write about it so when we say what was it we did on our typhoon day we will remember. Well I wrote this – ten minutes of the day. Actually I am writing this while watching Dexter. This is 8:30 PM. The rest of the day? I did make a good vegetable and tofu soup, some peanut butter cookies, worked on standards for one of my courses – I am not really into all this using American type of standards, my students will learn beyond what the standards will say, and to have such planned out nonsense is, well nonsense… We sat on our third floor balcony for a bit to see if the winds would pick up but they didn’t. We did some Facebooking and I read some educational blogs which is all somewhat frustrating sometimes here because we have to use a VPN to get must sites. Lately we are not even getting Google without a VPN. When we go to Google we get some Chinese site with stupid music and it is impossible to get anything else except Bing.com works. Go figure. This also means I am unable to get gmail without a VPN which is not good because Narda and I share a VPN – meaning only one of us can be on Facebook or Google at a time. And that was our day off – not really sure what we accomplished but we are ready to go to school tomorrow.|
|August 25 – 26||Ordered tickets for Hanoi they will deliver them Monday – 6800 RMB about $550 each. Narda Google+ with 3-sons; Atlanta, Adelaide, Hanoi – started trip planning for three weeks wandering around in Viet Nam at Christmas, booked a place in South Australia for us all to be together for a few days in February during Chinese New Year break. And we decided to save money during October break and stay local so we will go up to Dandong and northern China by train and just cheap-around for a week.
We did little else – rode bikes to shops for groceries and spent a lazy weekend home for the first time probably this year. Narda painted her shoes; I worked on some web stuff, and wrote to several teachers who were at our school last year about sending short clips for me to put on our in-house tv shoe for my broadcast publication class. I am having my students add a new segment called “where are they now”. Teachers who leave a school after a few years are forgotten for all their work and contributions. Our teachers went to new places: Brazil, Dubai, Istanbul, India and several other countries. I want this to be a real global-collaborative year for our school and build on those who we worked with last school year. Also, we want to think about where we would like to teach next if we can find schools that will hire people past 65. We always seem to be moving (4 weeks in Australia as usual we moved our belongings from one place to another), here we spent the first week back moving apartments, last school year I would spend way too much time planning for the upcoming week lessons. We took a week-end off from school preparation and I am sure we will do fine. It was a great weekend, just like a holiday – a holiday from our life.
Saturday, September 01, 2012
Morning walks before school are what creates our day in many ways. We have been doing morning walks before school for years; ever since living and working in New York City. We tried to walk every morning from the World Trade Centre subway stop to Narda’s school in the west Village, St. Luke’s. I was a bit unemployed for a couple of years though it was more of a study period so I could get my teaching degree to supplement my PhD to work overseas. In NYC I could teach in private schools but it was time to be more international and what’s another degree when one is already in their 60’s? The NYC walk would take about half an hour and I would go on to the gym and workout for an hour and a half to keep the rust off the bones and keep the old body going for another couple of years. The walk along the Hudson was one of my favourite walks in the world, and we would walk whether it was hot or snowing and cold – always the best times.
We continued with our morning walks before school here in Jinshitan as soon as we got to Dalian American International School. Only a few times, when the weather was dreadfully cold, we didn’t walk. Our walks were always to the beach, Golden Pebble Beach, a 20 minute walk each way. This year since we have been back, a month now, we have been riding bikes in the morning. We still spend about 45 minutes, but we get to see more, going further and exploring areas we normally did not get to when we walked.
Yesterday we decided not to bike but walk and instead of going on the road we went bush – well that is what they would say in Australia, away from the rapidly built up area across from us and the school. A couple of years ago this whole area was country but now it is being built up at a rapid rate. Our school is about five years old and teachers who have been here for a while said there were pigs roaming around and living here seemed quite out in the middle of nowhere.
We have drivers here that take us to the light rail, into town or wherever we need to go. Jack, our main driver – we call all the drivers Jack, because they all are his mates; when we need to go somewhere, whether to the airport or shopping, we call Jack and someone shows up within ten-minutes. When we get the real Jack we joke with him that he is the real Jack, though I doubt he understands anything we say. None of them speak English but they know where we want to go because we go to so few places; airport, light rail, Kaifaqu ,Dalian… What I was going to say and got into a bit of an off spin was that Jack grew up here – really here. He lived where the school’s football/soccer oval now is.
Before I upload some photos from our walk I want to see if I get blocked for writing something. I have noticed that in Facebook, which we have to use a VPN for which should make us out to be in another country, that if I say some things not only does Facebook stop but I get knocked off line for a period of time and what I wrote does not show up. For example, I wrote about a certain group which is banned for their meditative ways and bang I was knocked off as soon as I put the name of the group in. I was telling how our local ex-mayor’s wife was being charged with the murder of a Brit and it was linked with how bodies were obtained for the shows that are so popular in the States showing bodies. They are prepared and done here in our local city of Kaifaqu, a burb of Dalian. The bodies are those of the practitioners of so and so group which I am not saying as I want to post this and not have it blocked. The other thing I said recently in Facebook was just mentioning how our school was closed due to an approaching typhoon – that the government suggested all schools in our province be closed because the storm was the largest in fifty-years, and I wrote; “who am I to go against the Chinese Government?” and those must have been some keywords that blocked me. The storm changed course enough to go over to the right and hit the Koreas and I had put that the North one got primarily hit but when I put the words Korea and North together I was blocked again. So we are seemingly allowed to use a VPN though locals I have heard can get into strife using one because it is supposed to be tunneling through the Great Firewall of China which is illegal but we really are watched all the time. And of course there was the fight between Google and our host and I can only get onto my gmail when I am on my VPN – as service we pay for. A few people have had their VPN shut down – the provider, but so far ours, which I am not saying which one, is going well. I think the strife between Google and here is that they refused to not say stuff about the square in Beijing and what happened there.
It is the same with all the guards we have around the place where we live. Are they guarding us from some outside threat or are we being watched and kept track of? We go outside of our compound all the time and there are no threats but our housing and school is surrounded by a large fence with guards at the gates and even guards inside the gate in the lobby of our apartment building and at the entrance to our school.
Back to our morning walk and some photos:
the strange looking ship in the background on the left is in the middle of the highway leading to the Golden Pebble Beach resort area. Directly in the back is the new million dollar houses that are suppose to look French – we don’t like them, and to the right is our home and school.
It is often this foggy outside our balcony; and is now as I write this and it has been like this all day – we hope it is not smog, but on a clear day we can see the sea and the mountains and the guard station at the entrance…
Our maids are so good, very friendly, a couple of them are trying to teach us some Chinese words, Narda is doing much better than me, but we are hopeless. Every morning they have a bit of a talking to. There is a person standing in front of them and they all say a few things back and forth in unison. We have no idea what they say. They line up by size , I got this photo on the way to the lift before our morning walk – this would be about 6 AM on the third floor. On the second floor the guards line up, by size too.
What I like most about this photo is the guy peeing in the background. A common site in China. Why go looking for a toilet when there is the whole out doors? They use these sort of hand made brooms to sweep the roads in all weather. In the winter they sweep the snow off the roads with them – not that we get much snow. Last winter we had two days each with about an inch of snow.
The locals are so friendly. This man was along our walk in the countryside.
It really is country where we live but in a few years it will all be built up so we enjoy bush walking whilst we can.
This was the first photo we saw of Dalian American International School on the Internet and we love walking past it in the morning and thinking back to not much more than a year ago when we were jumping up and down in our hotel room in Shanghai, after our interview, because we were offered a contract to teach at this school. We were so excited. That was January First 2011, we were returning to the States after Christmas break in Australia. We were living in NYC and Narda was at St Luke’s and I was wondering if anyone would hire someone approach 65 years old. By June 2011 all our belongings were on a ship headed to Dalian and by August 2011 we were teaching here – just a bit over a year ago. Now we feel like locals. And yes it is possible to have a good job and be 65.
We are back at school from a summer of travel to the States and Australia which I have gone on about in previous blogs. We have about 18 new staff and at least ten who have left after last school year to teach in schools in India, Istanbul, Brazil, the Middle East, and many other places. In my broadcast journalism course I will be doing a lot of global-video-collaborative projects and look forward to our expats from here syncing with us from their new schools. I will continue my educational blog as soon as school starts on the 16th of August http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html
Here is where our school is – in the fun area of Dalian
(from http://www.chinatouristmaps.com/travel/liaoning/dalian/dalian-transportations.html) Discoveryland is not shown but it is a bit off this map or a ten-minute bike ride away – the Chinese tacky version of Disneyland. We either walk (20 minutes) or ride our bikes (7 minutes) to the beach before school each morning except when it is too cold to ride then we rug-up and walk.
Today, Sunday, we were going to take the light rail into Dalian but it rained all day and we didn’t get out of the house until almost 10 AM. We took the school’s shopping bus into Kaifaqu, did some shopping and took the light rail home. Not much of an eventful day except it is so good to be home. The States and Australia were great and catching up with family is the best but being back here is tops. We really are not ready to settle in the west. I loved the fact I could turn 65 a couple of days ago and be happily teaching and exploring. That teachers are swept in the dustbin in so many countries is awful. My last school in New York City retrenched us over 55 year olds – eight of us, and hired 20 plus year-old teachers. The school was closed down the next year as one of the worst in NYC – Ross Global Academy.
We are reminded of the constancies of life – when I got into the taxi from the light rail to home I tried to put on my seat belt and the driver waved his hand saying no. Wow, we got a $300 ticket a couple of years ago because Narda had taken off her seat belt for just a moment in a small town in Australia. And I was happy to get soy milk and tofu from my favourite tofu shop in Kaifaqu so all in all it was a great first day back in town shopping even in the rain.
We have moved apartments and the one we have now has great views of the Yellow Sea with a stretch of three balconies to walk out onto from the bedroom, lounge and office. See photo below – a rainy day but off in the distance is the sea. In front is the incredibly tacky new housing development going up across the street from us.
And this is another view slightly to the right showing the hills view with the guard stations and entrance to Campus Village.
And this is looking down the row of housing known as Campus Village. The blue roofs at the end are the swimming pool and gym of our school.
And here is the actual road distance from where we live (A) to where we are going (B) – see we are surrounded by seas.
And here is the actual road distance from where we live (A) to where we are going (B) – see we are surrounded by seas.
no longer in the future
no longer in the past
what a time to re-create me
Who is it?
is this me?
Not me before
Not me future
HERE I AM
Laughing in the noonday sun
Falling from the sky
landing to fly
into all that will be
when I open my eyes and exhale
synchronizing my senses
to possibilities yet to be imagined
Goodbye to all before
Did it ever even exist?
to re-invent a new instance of me
arriving Dalian, China after six weeks away: New Orleans (home of my soul), the south, dying on a freeway in Mississippi or was that Alabama where a truck ran us off the road only to re-boot my life so I can write such stupid stuff as this? And a month in Australia – and back again but not really because back then is no longer now. terrell neuage 5 August 2012 Golden Pebble Beach; Jinshitan
July blog and some of June too
Sunday, July 29, 2012 PM
Spending this week at Bellbrae Country Club, five minutes from Bells Beach, an hour from Melbourne; 1992 my father came to Australia, he was 87, traveling alone, from upstate New York. I was with my two sons, Sacha age 11 and Leigh, 8.
We rented a large mobile home, collected my father from Sydney Airport and drove north to the Gold Coast and Brisbane, spent a couple of weeks getting back to Adelaide and parked in front of our house in Victor Harbor with our mobile home. I am not sure who was the most handful on the drive; my children or my father – they were all so demanding. Not only was I the sole driver, cook, sorting out three complaining humans but I seemed to be the unofficial happy person to keep everyone else the same. Bottom line, we got to Bells Beach a month after collecting my father in Sydney. Sacha said he would surf no matter what. We parked his surfboard in the toilet of the mobile home and I doubted the wisdom of bringing it from the get-go. We parked overnight on the beach in front of the ‘no camping’ sign. Sacha proclaimed the water too cold, and that was it for my eleven year-old surfing champ. The next day we dropped my father off at Tullamarine Airport, took our mobile home to the rental agent and flew back to Adelaide, with an unused surf board.
Twenty-years later we are back. A different configuration; my father and Leigh are dead and I am here with Narda. Sacha and his girlfriend visited for the weekend. We all went to a micro-brewery and the Jack Rabbit Vineyard. Sacha long ago left his surfing career behind and is happy with his life; working with and recording hip-hop, working with asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan and etc. Sacha left a few hours ago to go back to work in Melbourne and we are watching the show Mad Men, waiting our next group arrival; Narda’s son Stu, wife, Claire and of course the seven-month old granddaughter, Maggie. The one who covers are fridge back in China.
that is me on right – the one with the blown-away look – Sacha is the other one. Bells Beach.
This is now but this is just an add-on to what I was going to post a few days ago….
One month later than I was going to write. Not a long time but not on time to be current, except as reflections of then compared to now and long ago reflect in now like any normal hologram type of holistic comparisons. Then again one year ago today I was packing to move to China and that seems not too long ago; ten years ago I was packing to move to New York; twenty years ago I was doing my BA in journalism, something I never really used; thirty years ago I was a single parent living on a farm with my two boys and on it goes, all seemingly just moments ago. I wrote a book for my children, “Leaving Australia” (550 pages leather bound, two copies; one for the one who decided to stay on the planet and one for me) in which I listed everywhere I was at on Christmas for the years 1965 – 2005 (when I stopped writing it) and I had been in something like 35 places in those 40 years at Christmas.
Last Christmas I was at:
1965 – Key West, Florida, alone
1966 – New York City, with a girlfriend whom I cannot recall
1967 – New Orleans – have no memory of the day
1968 – Glen Ellen, California – living in a commune
1969 – 1970 Honolulu – in a religious Order with Carol Ann
(whose daughter I helped raise for a while and whom is a friend on Facebook 42 years later)
1971 – Clifton Park, New York with a girlfriend, forget her name
1972 – Clifton Park, New York at my parents
1973 – New Orleans with a girlfriend, not sure which either Rita, Chialeah, or Robin or Tamzon
1974 – Cheyenne, Wyoming – in a religious Order – trying to be celibate
1975 – Syracuse, New York – in a religious Order – failing celibacy at an alarming rate
1976 – Baltimore, Maryland- in a religious Order – failed again
1977 – Towson, Maryland
1978 – Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland – with a girlfriend, Beverly, who wrote recently that she did not want to be in touch with me ever again; after not being in touch for like 30-years, then finding me on-line and emailing me to say she did not want to be in touch again – why do females make so little sense?
1979 – Towson, Maryland with a different girlfriend than the Christmas prior, I think she was Lynn, who committed suicide – I think it is my Venus conjunct Saturn/Pluto all in Leo square my Jupiter that gets me with people who do these things… just my dumb luck to be born with Saturn conjunct Pluto in Leo, exact to the minute, and with Mars conjunct Uranus in the 8th house – no wonder….luckily I no longer believe in that crap! Especially since Mars and Uranus descendant go through where I live in northern China, where we return to next week – talk about weird; Uranus was at 25 Gemini when I was born and that is the degree and sign it was in when discovered in March 13, 1781. [I love this quote: The discovery degree of Uranus has been found to be primarily important in three categories of individuals. The first is writers, particularly those who achieve wide recognition during their lifetimes. The second is political reformers, and the third is astrologers. Ralph Waldo Emerson was born with Mercury at 24 degrees Gemini. Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle both had Jupiter at 26 Gemini and Aldous Huxley had his Jupiter at 25 Gemini, the discovery degree of Uranus. http://www.stariq.com/Main/Articles/P0000270.HTM%5D Of course I am living proof this is not true.
1980 – Honolulu with wife number one
1981 – 1982 – Adelaide, South Australia with wife number one and Sacha
1983 – Adelaide, with wife number one, Sacha, and Leigh
1984 – Clifton Park New York with my brother and parents
1985 – Clifton Park New York with my brother and parents and two children; Sacha age 4 and Leigh age 2 and a half – I traveled alone from Australia to New York with my children – not so easy
1987 – Mt. Compass, South Australia, with my children (three different
homes, a different one each Christmas. Uranus rules my 4th house and I have never kept a home for very lone)
1988 – Port Elliot, South Australia, with my children
1989 – Middletown, South Australia, with my children
1990 – 1994 – Victor Harbor, South Australia, with my children
1995 – 1997 – Hackham, South Australia, with my children
1998 – 2001 – Christies Down, South Australia, with my children
2002 – Clifton Park, New York, with my 97-year-old father, with Narda
and two of her sons
2003 – Round Lake, New York, with my 98-year-old father, Sacha,
Narda and her son, Stu.
2004 – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, with Sacha
2005 – Paris, France with Narda
2006 – Melbourne, Australia, with Sacha
2007 – Crossville, Tennessee with Narda and her son Chris and his wife
2008 – Melbourne
To cut to the chase here I am for the tenth summer, actually winter in Australia, staying in our little apartment upstairs from the in-laws. For ten years it was part of our summer holidays from New York, this time it is our summer holiday from China. Nevertheless it is our last time in this house as the parents are moving out and a change once again is in front of us, except we get to spend our summer in winter once again.
Two weeks ago we got a taste of summer and that is really what I want to write about as it really does bring into memory so many decades. We left Dalian, China in the warmth and arrived in Atlanta with 40 C (104F) greeting us for the next two weeks. After driving off with Narda’s son Chris’ and his wife Jessica’s car we got off the interstate as soon as possible and in Mississippi stayed at a motel that looked not as bad as the ones next to it. Yes it is true that motels in the south are almost all run by citizens from India. A curious situation that has been reported (even a movie was made about it) in the NY Times – “According to the latest figures from the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (A.A.H.O.A.), slightly more than 50 percent of all motels in the United States are now owned by people of Indian origin.” And that was said in 1999, now I would believe from our experience over the years it is about 87.46 % though I may be off by a fraction.
I added “Life behind the Lobby: Indian American Motel Owners and the American Dream” to my Goodreads Book list to read. Unfortunately the list is growing and the read for pleasure vs. the read because I am teaching the bloody subject (Adobe CS6, and too many other programs) is becoming a gap too wide for this year. Saying all that we stayed at this place either called the Motel Alabama or the Alabama Motel; usually we read up on a place first but we read after that people complained that there were drug dealers and prostitutes all over this place. Having watched five seasons of Breaking Bad I was up for an interesting night and kept looking out the peep hole in the door for interesting action but nothing seemed to be going on and suffice it to say we had a good sleep. The importance of a good sleep was that we were jet lagged to buggery and actually fell to sleep as soon as we checked in at 3 PM for a couple of hours with our bodies thinking they were still on the way to work over in China. No matter how many times we told our bodies it was 3 PM and not 3 AM they just would not pay attention.
Driving route 80 over to Selma we saw reminders of the 1965 civil rights walks. So much has changed since “Sheriff Jim Clark had issued an order for all white males in Dallas County over the age of twenty-one to report to the courthouse that morning to be deputized… Seconds later, the troopers began shoving the demonstrators. Many were knocked to the ground and beaten with nightsticks. Another detachment of troopers fired tear gas. Mounted troopers charged the crowd on horseback…” from Wikipedia.
We found a soul food restaurant in Selma and the food was good – the people there reminded us of our life in China, where everyone seems to stare at us like we are aliens. I suppose they do not get many of us type of people in their area. Back in 1965 we would no doubt have been beaten as sympathizers – hungry sympathizers who did not want to eat at McDonalds over in the white area.
Our end game was New Orleans. I had wanted to take Narda since meeting her eleven-years earlier and seeing her play saxophone in her big-band, the ‘Little Big Horns’ at a firemen’s ball in Adelaide. New Orleans is my favourite city in the world. Of course when I was a street artist in Jackson Square 40 years earlier life was a shade different; I was younger, I had not gone through the 40-years I just experienced, the world just seemed to be an easier and more liberal place in the early 1970s. There were only about two and a half billion people, now there are seven billion. But that was then and now my dream back then of being with a jazz saxophone playing female had come true. I have a photo of me in 1972 selling picture poems alongside Jackson Square at http://picture-poems.net/ and in my mind little has changed.
I never liked the first few blocks of Bourbon Street with its strip bars – not even when I was young and feistier than I am at 64 and eleven-months.
Further down the street, about @ St. Peters the music clubs take over and all that New Orleans is known for fills the air. Of course even the French Quarter changes over forty-years. I could not find the music clubs I loved in the late 1960s or the gallery I had further down Bourbon Street. It was called Tiphareth, after the Tree of Life – middle path on the Kabbalah. Tiphareth is the beauty sphere. I sold my art and a few other’s craft and art things there. It was at the end of an alley off of Bourbon that seems to no longer be there. I was in New Orleans in 1967 – 1968 with lots of journeys in and out; hitch hiking back to New York occasionally and once stowing away on a freighter bound for England which I got into heaps of strife because of. After a few years in a cult order (1969 – 1971) in Hawaii I was back in New Orleans 1972 – 1973 before going back to the order for another five years. It was those years in New Orleans I remember best; selling my pictures alongside the fence of Jackson Square with all the other artists; reading astrology charts and tarot cards for people; telling passing girls how well our charts synchronized, for personal gains I will not elaborate on here. I rented a large house at the end of Bourbon Street and because none of my hippy friends made money I paid the rent from my street art stuff. We could not find the house anymore – in its place there is something newish which is too bad. We did find some good music halls and listened to late into the night which surprised us as we usually are off to bed when the young people are going out.
New Orleans is the best. I still keep in touch with a few people from those days; Randy Dandurand who I had known since our days in Los Angeles and San Francisco during those days of fun at the end of the 1960s, then he got me involved in that Order in Hawaii in 1969 and that stuffed me up for a while, but I returned the favour getting him out of it in 1972 when he was in charge of some station in Nashville and we headed off to New Orleans. When we got there we were almost out of money and slept in our sleeping bags on the lawns of Tulane University out in the Garden District where passing students the next morning woke us and someone told us to piss off. I spent my last five-dollars on some water colours and art board and made a few pictures and sold them at Jackson Square; which became my source of employment for a couple of years. Randy now lives in Eugene Oregon and makes a living off selling old shit on EBay. I still keep in touch with Dell Crowther who went off to Guatemala during the Regan era because of his political disagreement with the US and he built a huge weird house in San Pedro la Laguna on Lake Atitlan. We visited him a couple of years ago; he is so depressed and quite ill but refuses to come back to the States. He is 70 now. We are the only people to ever visit him in Guatemala but I doubt if we can again. Guatemala is so dangerous and Dell is so difficult and it is all so far away from China and Australia. When we were New Orleans hippies we all looked up to Dell, he was just this really cool person. My how times change us all. And there is Shane who changed her name to Mariya —- and I keep in touch with her on Facebook but I have not seen here in person since 1994 when I took my two boys, age eleven and eight at the time on a trip around the world and we stopped in Louisiana to see Mariya, Los Angles to see Daniel Bushnell who I was in that Order with in Syracuse New York and Towson Maryland and I see on Facebook but we don’t seem to say much to each other, Hawaii to visit Randy, Indiana to visit Tamzon and New York City to see my brother who was dying of AIDS then we went to London, Paris, Germany, and Switzerland; it was a good trip. And there is Tamzon, she joined that Order from our days in New Orleans and seems to have had more favourable thoughts toward it. She befriended me for a couple of weeks on Facebook but was upset about what I had said about her in my Leaving Australia book which I had as a pdf on-line but I took it off to save some people embarrassment though I do not understand why some are so precious about what they did in the past. She seems to have dim thoughts of me now.
The only people I still know from four-decades ago are the ones I met in New Orleans; except for my first girl-friend from the early 1960s or was it the mid-1960s? who I keep up with on Facebook and who will hopefully one day sell our houses in upstate New York and Marta Waterman who I knew as a child and who is writing a book about my brother.
We liked the Treme series and drove around the area which has been re-done, for the most part. It is next to the French Quarter and the music is less touristy and more authentic some say. I have always liked the street musicians and there are still plenty of them about. See my youtube video —- http://youtu.be/QGzf4mQVNtQ
After a few days in New Orleans; and Narda loving the place too, though maybe she tired of so many of my stories from so long ago, we went south and stayed for three days at a bed and breakfast in the Bayou. We did the tourist thing of going on a swamp alligator airboat, it is on youtube @ http://youtu.be/hYxw0-T8O7c. Spent a couple of days wandering around to the tip of Louisiana and put our feet in the gulf where it was so warm but having forgotten to bring our bathers we did not plunge all the way in.
Leaving Louisiana we stayed somewhere in Alabama. It was so hot that we were in the motel pool within ten minutes of checking in and planned the next morning to be back in Atlanta by early afternoon.
As they say, ‘one never knows what is around the next corner’.
Narda was driving on the interstate rolling along at about 70 mph, 112 Kph, I was looking at something, probably at our new Nikon D5100; what a great improvement to the little digital camera we had been using, when there was a big bump, our car started swerving all over. We were in the middle lane. Narda said, ‘he hit me’ and I waited for the glass to break and the car to roll but when we hit the concrete block in the middle of the highway separating us from oncoming cars I felt everything would be fine. Narda said she was waiting for the pain to hit. When we came to a grinding halt and the car stopped Narda discovered she could restart the car and went off chasing the truck that hit us. I could not believe it but of course it is such a Narda thing to do. The back wheel was broken, we were in shock, and we are off. Luckily the truck pulled over and stopped. I took lots of photos and by the time I got out of the car Narda was already standing in front of the driver, ‘what was that?’ she demanded. Fortunately the truckie was a good bloke and rang the police and took full responsibility. He somehow did not see us when he changed lanes and clipped us sending us across a couple of lanes.
Luck was on our side that no one was in our lane or the next one over except for the truck that sent us on our merry way. The interstate was extremely busy and there was just this little break in the traffic when we decided to kiss the wall. And of course we were lucky to have the bloody wall as some places there is no dividing barrier which would have meant we would have been going across the lanes coming toward us too which would have killed us off for sure.
We stood in the sun, 104 degrees, 40+ c, for more than two hours watching the heavy traffic go pass us, waiting for a police then a trooper then a tow truck. Having been in three previous serious accidents and never getting a scratch I wonder what keeps me going. I survived the 1960s, car accidents, marriages and just so much and I am still full of gas – well probably that is not the correct analogy at my age… We rented a fire-truck-red Volkswagen and got our sorry asses back to Atlanta, though still in shock, by that night, Friday.
I said to Narda on Sunday as we boarded a plane to Chicago > Beijing that if we had been killed we would be having burial things done about then. We spent a night in Beijing and went on to Adelaide the following day. I said we had a great chance to re-boot our lives. Maybe we were killed out on the Interstate and now we can re-craft our new lives. It has been a rather liberating feeling – that we had this choice either to be dead meat or to keep on living and embrace every day anew.
At the moment I am writing this in Horsham, Victoria. We left this morning, 26th July, Thursday, and got this far on our way to Melbourne; doing another road trip. This is so different. Whereas driving Atlanta to New Orleans is filled with towns and cities and massive freeways and wild truck drivers; here is not really nothing, there is the outback, which at the moment is quite green due to so much rain of late, single lane each direction roads, with massive trucks – road trains they call them and instead of the single trailer they pull two and even three giving us the feeling that we truly would be cactus if they hit us.
Of course we stopped at the The Giant Koala another of those Australian Big Things. Located in Dadswells Bridge, Victoria…
Tomorrow we get to Melbourne and I am excited that my son will stay with us for the weekend, the one that is still alive; the other son visits too often, but in reality he is dead, and his visits freak me out. It is almost nine years ago since he flew from the Dodger’s headquarters in Vero Beach Florida to Sydney and went off of a 15-story hotel balcony when his girlfriend broke up with him. The Dodgers were looking for him and were concerned because he was acting strange the week leading up to then and he left without telling anyone. I had a dream recently that he had pitched a perfect game but of course that is not true at least not in my realm. I have been having dreams for all these years where he is in some sort of trouble and he asks me to help him get back on track to get back into baseball then I wake up and say ‘no you are dead’. I hate those dreams and I get them regularly month after month year after year. It is all so disconcerting.
Then I remember the 1960s and early 1970s in New Orleans when I had nothing and how simple it was. But then again it could be true that we died out on the Interstate a couple of weeks ago and all this is just some wayward thoughts coming through someone else. Just like my son asking me for help and I awake and say but you are dead, we may awake and someone will tell us that we died out on the Interstate. For now, I will go back to Leigh pitching a perfect game, somewhere in the universe; http://neuage.org/leigh.htm the perfect son.