Our current life with Covid as of 26 January 2021 Adelaide, South Australia
Thoughts in Isolation https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08TW5FNHN
Lucky us: we left South Australia four days before the border was closed due to Covid 19, We left Port Macquarie a few days after massive rain and floods that would have put us under water where we were camping and we left Sydney 14 days after it is now being shut due to Covid 19. Here we are waiting to see you. And going over a few of our notes of the last part of our trip to New South Wales
Italics are Narda’s notes – straight up – Terrell’s scribbles…
Jerry’s Landing and Beyond December 6, 2020
The girl going in the opposite direction wound down her window looking a little alarmed at my frantic waving. “How much further?” I asked her. No, it’s not like asking “are we there yet, mum”. I was driving on a very bad stretch of corrugated dirt road. I had been promised by Google and by some blogs that this shortcut from Jerry’s Landing to Bathurst was “all sealed”, “suitable for a caravan”, and yet here we are. What the heck. Luckily, she assured me it was “not much further”. Another couple of kms at 5 kms per hour and we start climbing steeply, still on dirt. Worse still we had to come down the mountain. I engaged low gear and 4-wheel drive and inched my way down, heart pounding. Terrell, completely unfazed, happily took photos.
We questioned whether we should be leaving the New South Wales coast where we have been the past three weeks: Port Macquarie, Forster…various beaches, rainforests. Hiking, swimming, biking…chilling and wishing we lived here more permanently. For some odd reason we started thinking maybe we should get back to Adelaide by mid-December for various appointments and of course to see Maggie and Mabel who recently not only turned 7 and nine years old recently but who obviously are almost teenagers – at least by the looks of the posts that their parents put up. Mabel at seven already a basketball star, Maggie a star in so many ways. So, we are headed inland. Instead of going the way we came through Dubbo and Broken Hill we are going a bit south via Bathurst then across through Mildura. We had wanted to go through Victoria to stop in Melbourne and see Sacha but then there is the virus…Victoria has just opened…what if South Australia makes people go into two weeks at an expensive hotel when we cross the border like Sacha did last month ($3,000 for a mandatory 2-week quarantine)? We are just scraping Victoria – as Mildura is approved if we do not stop between the New South Wales border and South Australia.
As we did on the way to the coast, we stopped overnight for free camping at Jerrys Plains. It is off the main highway, Past Pagan Street, where else would one want to camp?
Jerrys Plains is horse country. It reminds us of Kentucky except the fences are not painted white.
Off @ 7 am – not us, but us; off down the Golden Highway, until we turned off to take the scenic route to Bathurst.
OMG what a winding up the bloody mountain down the bloody mountain even a dirt road thrown in to the ‘scenic mix’ journey. The dirt road is corrugated [‘Washboarding or corrugation of roads comprises a series of ripples, which occur with the passage of wheels rolling over unpaved roads at speeds sufficient to cause bouncing of the wheel on the initially unrippled surface and take on the appearance of a laundry washboard.’]. In other words, it was an extremely bumpy road. Narda pulled over a passing vehicle to ask how much further before the road became a ‘real road’. We were going at the amazing speed of about ten kilometres an hour at the time with Narda toying with the idea of turning around and going back. How we were supposed to turn around with Billy (our truck) pulling a two-tonne caravan (Holiday) was not discussed…probably because there was nowhere to turn around, anyway, the driver, a young girl with lots of face piercing and tats and red hair (why do I notice all this in a four-minute interaction?) said it was only a short piece before we got to pavement, keeping us going forward for the next half hour. Narda was driving at this point and became more alarmed when the ‘washboard’ road became a steep descent.
Short 30 second video of this road… Take a left at Denman and be thrilled by the “National Park” signs.
Of course, we survived, I am writing this, arriving at the town of Bylong with its one store. I took over driving for the next hour and lucky for me the road was just a regular country road.
Road trip to Bathurst
After stopping in Kandos for petrol we arrived in Bathurst at 1.30; our GPS had innocently proclaimed we would arrive at 10.30 when we left Jerrys Plains. Chalk it up to the elderly out on a scenic drive.
Looking back, with some PTSD, and cup of coffee, I don’t regret that road. The scenery was amazing! We were on the leeward side of the Blue Mountains, valleys and national parks and beautiful Victorian villages with little development. We had 2 eggs and toast while sitting near a table with two paramedics, me busy.straining to eavesdrop. They said that their last job was a couple nights ago, “there were 3”. I filled in the blanks myself (3 bodies? 3 cars?) and was glad they were not
A crazy old broad (also from Adelaide) came racing to us in her golf cart, skidding around corners. She was fun and friendly and signed us into the Bathurst Showground for 2 nights.
We got more than we bargained for with a “severe” thunderstorm and large hailstones promised. What do you do? Well, we took down the awning, which we can now do in under a minute (we’ve been practising) and unplugged the computers. We even asked the man in charge of the carnival, which was also parked in the showgrounds, sadly in the rain. He said, “don’t worry about the hailstones, the sky has to be green for that to happen”. Seriously, he said that. The guys standing around looked up at the sky and sagely nodded their heads in agreement. They call themselves “carnies”. We bought $5 admission tickets out of sympathy, and free hotdogs and chips was part of the deal. It rained the whole time; we were their only customers.
We are camping out at the Bathurst Showgrounds. Lucky for us there is a fair going on so Narda bought a hot dog and the only vegetarian thing they had was chips, so we had our nourishment for the afternoon and settled in for a nap.
After a stormy night – not us – the weather; high winds, thunder/lightening, rain, we did a bit of exploring in Bathurst, including going up the mountain to the racetrack. For non-Australians, it is the most famous of the racetracks: “Mount Panorama Circuit is best known as the home of the Bathurst 1000 motor race held each October, and the Bathurst 12 Hour event held each February.” https://www.mount-panorama.com.au/ We drove around the track at the blistering speed of 60 Ks – taking about 12 minutes to go around. The track record is 2 minutes, with the top speed being 300 km/h (190 mph) on a straightaway.
Tomorrow we are going to Sydney for the day, leaving at 7 am. The 4-hour train ride is through the mountains. The train back is at three pm; we will spend a day in one of those world cities you read about in the comic books. Being seniors, we get to do the whole day for $2.50 each which includes the train, ferries in Sydney, buses, and trams. Of course, we will spend our year’s pension on food.
We had coffee in midtown Bathurst with a friend of Narda’s she had not seen for twenty years. While talking about how we had thought of going to Sydney but changed our mind as we did not want to drag the caravan over the mountains to get there. She suggested we take the train. Not only that but that we use the New South Wales Opal card to get there. The Opal card gives seniors a day’s travel on any transportation in New South Wales for the crazy price of $2.50 for the day. That includes ferry, train, bus, and tram. We went back to our home at the showgrounds clutching our borrowed opal cards and waited as any children would do for sunrise to rush off to the train station.
@ 7.34 am we were settled in with our facemasks on. BTW, this is the first time since arriving in Australia from The Netherlands eight months earlier in March that we have had masks on or seen anyone else with one on.
The signs at the station and on the train suggest wearing a mask on public transportation but not as a rule. On the train we saw only one person not wearing a mask. I posted a photo of us on the train on FB and my sister in New York immediately wrote back for us to change seats as the person in front of us did not have mask on. Such is the life in the States. We did not change seats and wore masks for the day when inside.
In Sydney, more people wore masks in the shopping centres but not on the streets. Sydney is coming off a hard lockdown with no new cases for the past few weeks.
The reason I wanted to come here was to “see Leigh”. Leigh died in 2003 falling from the Novotel Hotel in front of the Olympic Stadium – I try to get here every year though sometimes we do not. What I always find surprising is that the tape is still on the pole where I posted a memorial of him in 2003 along with his baseball card from the Dodgers. The memorials have long been gone but the tape is still there. https://neuage.org/leigh.html
I find sitting across the hotel one of my comfort places in the world.
As we only had a few hours from when we arrived in Sydney to taking the train back at 3 pm we did not do more than go out to Olympic Park.
Catching the train at Central is almost like travelling again.
The ride home was as beautiful as the train ride there – well duh! Of course, it was on the same track.
Riding through the Blue Mountains [The Blue Mountains are an extensive Triassic sandstone plateau rising to 1,100 metres (3,609 ft) near Mount Victoria
We saw the effect the 2019-2020 bush fires had on the area, almost a year later green is beginning to re-emerge:
From an online page about the fires, “Here in the Blue Mountains the extent of the fires has greatly exceeded any previous recorded fire seasons. Over 80% of the Blue Mountains National Park has been impacted with 63% partly or fully burnt. In the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area of over one million hectares (eight reserves including the Blue Mountains National Park), over 68% has been fully or partly burnt and over 122 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been impacted.” https://www.bluemountains.org.au/bushfires.shtml
Then we drove back to Adelaide, taking four days, staying at free camping places along the way:
Lucky for us the river was not flooding the park when we were there – that would be a week later
And here we are back home. After five days home we realized we needed to go away again and booked flights and an Airbnb in Darwin for the month of February. As Australia has closed its borders to the world we will explore more of this great country. Our next road trip will be three or four or five months to Queensland after April or perhaps May.
“Can I help you find something?”. The cleaning lady at Maccas was full of ideas. So was Terrell. So yesterday we went everywhere man! Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse at Seal Rocks,
a long drive three on the road with a Wallis Lake on one side and the 7 Mile Beach on the other. The iced coffee we bought at Bluey’s Beach General Store was not Farmers Union, but it hit the spot. We took a decent walk through some rainforest; 200m (that’s metres not miles I hate to admit!!) and got lost on the way back.
We discussed a way of tagging our car, but don’t really know how to. Other than installing a load beeper….we are open to suggestions.
I’m writing today on a ‘down day’. The weather is cool, some rain maybe. The washing is in the $4 slot machine. This park is specie, called Lanis Holiday Park, with lots of nature where tenters can find the own isolated spot, mostly with water front onto lakes. It’s a little version of Thailand, compete with mozzies!. Could live here. Hm.
Riding over a very long bridge in winds gusting at 50Km is a bit scary, though it was a designated bike path with fences, preventing us from tipping into the traffic.
This is a flat town, great for bike riding without the bike paths. But riding on the footpaths these days seems quite acceptable. The views are amazing, another lake, fed by a giant river, running into a pounding surf beach. Northern New South Wales abounds with very respectable rivers. I’m quite impressed. Pity it’s so bloody far from Adelaide….nearly 2,000Km.
My favourite place on today’s hours of hiking was this blowhole – see it in the video above…
Day via ferry to Crescent Head
On the road early this morning; well, by 9.30 am. In retirement speak that is early. Locals have been saying we should visit the nearby hamlet of Laurieton, 42 km south of Port Macquarie. As you would know from your upbringing the Birpai (also known as Birrbay) people have lived in this area for more than 40,000 years.
We rode our bikes around town, over a couple of bridges which are in the amazing video below; the one with friendly kangaroos, a slow-moving goanna, a pod of hungry pelicans, and to the top of North Brother Mountain – with its fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean and our day at Diamond Head. Not the one in Hawaii – of course.
Further useful information is that Captain James Cook named “the Brothers” on 12 May 1770 for their resemblance to mountains in his native Yorkshire. He was unwittingly mirroring the name given to them by the Birpai. The Camden Haven area was explored on foot by John Oxley in 1818 and was first settled by Europeans in the early 1820s. A convict settlement was established at nearby Port Macquarie in 1821 and the first settlers were limeburners burning oyster shells for buildings there. Some of these lived at the foot of North Brother.
We did come across some large oyster farms on our bike trip. Too expensive for me, and Narda does not like them. They were $20 a dozen at the factory – before they hit the shops. I looked up whether these were overpriced and discovered that the most expensive oysters in the world come from Coffin Bay, a mere two hours up the road, and retail for $100 EACH. Why? Well, they are ENORMOUS: 18cm long and weighing up to 1kg.
We stopped at the local Coles Supermarket and bought lunch fixings of smoked salmon, rolls, Castello Blue cheese, and Farmer Union Iced Coffee (the best iced coffee in Australia, of course, from South Australia and took the dirt road to Diamond Head Camping grounds in the Crowdy Bay National Park. [Diamond Head gained its name from the quartz rich rocks, plentiful in the area, which contain an abundance of small, perfectly formed, clear quartz crystals whose appearance resembles diamonds.] Having lived in Waikiki for more than a year, a few blocks from Diamond Head Crater, I was intrigued by the sign pointing to Diamond Head when we were driving out of town. It is a beautiful place overlooking the Pacific with a lot of folks camping. If we had not already settled in on back in Port Macquarie we may have come here. Of course, Diamond Head in Hawaii is a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi. The Hawaiian name is most likely derived from lae plus ʻahi because the shape of the ridge line resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin.
We took the Hastings River Ferry from the Ferry terminal in Port Macquarie, New South Wales across the North Shore then rode the 9 K’s to the Settlement Point Ferry through the countryside. then back home to our caravan park.
November 24 2020
Yesterday, strong winds near a lighthouse warning of sharp rocks. A very blue sky, and an even bluer ocean. Walks with trails warning of snakes, glorious overhanging rainforest. Us on a balcony high above Port (the name the locals have for their lovely little city), There is a view and a constant breeze all around us. Our final night on the hill was a spectacular light show of lightning, with jagged spikes and light flashes showing the whole coast for a split second. We relaxed, the thunder came much later.
Today, cycling to Maccas for our morning 2-for-one decent senior coffee. Under the cicadas in the trees, the noise is sometimes deafening. Our caravan park is on the shore of the Hastings River. Last night we sat near the wharf in total silence.
Even the water, a wide expanse, had no ripples, Only those caused by the lone pelican which patrols the wharf. He seems quite old.
Today is Maggie’s 9th birthday. She got some money. I asked her what she might spent it on. She replied, in her 15-year-old voice, “clothes oma, duh”.
An offer of home exchanging with Pt Macquarie came through Homelink from Geoff and Rosalind. So here we are tyres pumped to 45 and 38 at the front, car serviced and way too many clothes packed. We managed Adelaide to Broken Hill in one shot, despite our misgivings. Following the same route as Brendan did in July. Stayed at the racecourse on the outer edge of town, not a great spot though it had lots of caravans ($20 no power), but next morning took a nice walk down main street with a coffee stop and a magnet purchase at the newsagent, which had opened 6.30am on a Sunday morning. Impressive!
We are up and ready early; thought we would be on the road at seven, maybe even six am. We slept in the caravan the night before and had the car attached, ready to race across Australia @ our usual elderly, dragging our home behind us pace. These plans seldom mature, we did well though, 8:15 out the door and headed across the country. Fifteen minutes later we were at the grandchildren’s house as we will miss Maggie’s ninth birthday later in November, we dropped off her birthday present. We give cash these days as children have too many toys that disappear into landfill for the next generation of architectural nightmares to be built upon. Maggie was happy as she is saving for roller skates.
Finally, on the road by nine, still a good start for us. We managed to go for almost an hour before pulling over for our first coffee stop. Port Macquarie seemed like a long way away. ‘18 hr 4 min (1,747.9 km) via Sturt Hwy/A20’ according to Google Maps, meaning it will take us five days if we hurry.
What a time we live in. This is our first long road trip since arriving back from The Netherlands more than seven months ago when we went into quarantine for a couple of weeks and stayed home for the following months except for two short camping trips.
We had Brendan with us for these seven months. Teaching in Lahore, Pakistan he was given 48-hour notice to leave due to Covid-19, did his quarantine in Adelaide then spent every weekday with us teaching his fifth-grade class via Zoom @ our house. The door was closed but we would listen in sometimes. They sounded like quite lively classes, quite different from the years Narda and I were teaching. One of my favourite interactions was when Narda took him a cup of coffee and a child in Lahore watching said, ‘you still live with your mother?’ We stayed away the rest of the time. We would have dinner every day at five pm as that was lunch time in Lahore and the children would be away for half an hour. They still had their regular schedules such as their specials; Phys ed, library, even music classes. All through Zoom as they were home. Sixteen students are a lot, I would think, to keep track of via computer, but Brendan did. It is an American private school with classes taught in English. We had visited Lahore in November 2019 (blog @ https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/) including a visit to Brendan’s school.
Brendan returned to Lahore a few days ago. They were doing a mixture of in-person teaching at the school and online teaching. After a week, the school went into lockdown and Brendan is back to teaching on Zoom, hopefully temporarily.
Two days before we left, my son, Sacha, came over from Melbourne. He had to do a two-week quarantine at a hotel as the border between his home state, Victoria and our COVID-19-free state has been closed since July so we got to see him for a couple of days before leaving. I wrote about that , ‘A cautionary tale’, https://neuage.me/2020/10/25/a-cautionary-tale/ at the time.
What a time before we left. I voted a month ago as I am a duel citizen, born in Michigan, growing up (sort of) in New York until 16 then all over the States (mainly New Orleans, NYC, Hawaii, California, Maryland, and Oregon until 33 years old when I moved to Australia). As New Jersey was our last home (Narda and I lived in Jersey City in 2010) I am voting through that state. Sacha, another one of those duel citizens you read about in comic books, born in Hawaii in 1981, six-months before we moved to Adelaide, voted in his first USA election, via Hawaii.
Narda, not exactly a duel citizen, we lived in New York from 2002 – 2010 (including a bit in New Jersey at the end) has a strong tie to what happens in the States. Her son, grandson and daughter-in-law live in Washington DC not far from the White House. We were so sure Biden would win by a landslide and it would be obvious by the end of election day on the third of November. We were aware of all that Bill Maher has been saying all year that Trump would be ahead by election night and would proclaim himself the victor. Tuesday in the USA is Wednesday in Adelaide. We had the TV on all day and as the day progressed so did Trump’s numbers. We were extremely upset and stressed along with 75,000 million Americans who voted for Biden. I became physically ill, sore throat, cough, runny nose – not COVID-19 because we had not been anywhere to catch it. The next day, our Thursday, things were looking even worse, with Trump declaring himself the winner. We got Sacha’s car back to him at six am as he was through his 14-day quarantine and we went out to brekky. At home we continued to pack and prepare for our road trip and three-week house exchange in Port Macquarie. We spent Friday with Sacha, the news of Biden getting Michigan (my birthplace) then leading in Nevada and Arizona was helping us heal. Then there was Georgia. Really! How could that be? A southern state voting for a Democrat. Holy Guacamole! Yes, it was true with more and more votes going toward Biden.
We felt good driving toward our first night’s destination, Broken Hill. We got there five o’clock, taking only eight hours for a typical five-and a half hour drive. We take turns every hour or so and the passenger keeps the driver UpToDate with what is happening in the States. We even took a break from the election, that Saturday, four days later, to listen to Michael Palin’s audiobook on his trip to North Korea. A good listen or read if you need something interesting to take your mind off whatever.
Broken Hill was our first time out of South Australia since March. There was no one at the border stopping people coming in. I believe it is only those coming into South Australia that are being stopped and checked that they have permission to enter. We are hoping when we return in December that the border is totally open. We plan to come home via Victoria if those borders are open. It is impossible to know what will be. The worse that could happen would be a new surge of viruses and we would have to quarantine in a hotel in Adelaide like Sacha did, @ $3000 for two-weeks, which we will not do. We will just camp as long as it takes to get home.
I passed through Broken Hill in 1992 when my 87-year old father came to visit from New York. My two children and I picked him up at Sydney Airport with a rented large RV and spent a few weeks driving up through Queensland and back to Adelaide via Broken Hill. [tales of such a life in, “Leaving Australia, ‘Again’: Book 2 ‘After’” https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M2CBL0X]. Narda and I had coffee and took a short walk with the agreement that we would return here in a few months and spend a week exploring Broken Hill
We found Broken Hill Racecourse Campground, which is listed in our free and/or cheap caravan places. It cost $20, cheaper than the usual $35 – $45 formal camping places.
Clean bathrooms and showers and quiet. We left the next morning @ 7.30 AM, stopping for coffee and a couple of hour later in the town of Wilcannia. This was the third largest inland port in the country during the great river boat era of the mid-19th century. At the 2016 census, Wilcannia had a population of 549. We had heard/read quite negative things about this town, though all we saw were closed shops with bars over the windows. We had a bit of lunch alongside the Wilcannia River. Narda, as she does, found some lads fishing and sat down and had a conversation with them about fishing, school, the river…’the river has gone down a lot over the years’.
The four boys were in agreement about Perch being much nicer to eat than Carp. They had sling shots which they told me were quite strong. I got a demonstration. The stone reached the other side of the Darling River. Two of the boys were in grade 4, one in grade 3. ’But he is in grade 5’. There is clearly a pecking order.
About the water level, was it getting lower? I was assured in an Eastern European accent by the boy in grade 5 that in 2016, the water level rose ‘very high’.
I told them I was a teacher. They looked at me with no expression and made no comment.
I had read several blogs written by my Grey Nomad fellow travellers, warning against stopping too long in this town. It was supposed to be dangerous and there was talk about caravans being vandalized.
All the windows we saw, petrol station, Catholic Care office, and the supermarket had completely barred windows.
The river is currently quite low.
Our next stop was along the Bogan River in Bogan Shire. Of course, I had to get my photo taken in front of the sign…
noun: bogan; plural noun: bogans
an uncouth or unsophisticated person regarded as being of low social status.
Definitions from Oxford Languages
There is a great Australian series for those not versed in Australian lore… Upper Middle Bogan (TV Series 2013–2016) – IMDb “Middle class woman, Bess Denyar, discovers she’s adopted. She’s shocked to find her birth parents head up a drag racing team in the outer suburbs.” I loved this series, and it is what has made me realize that all I want in life is to enhance/fulfill my life as a bogan in retirement.
Caravan park. We watched Jo Biden speak to the nation while eating chiko rolls at the local service station. The Indian person behind the counter obligingly turned up the volume for us.
This trip has been completely dominated by the US election. We have had trouble sleeping but are now making jubilant daily phone calls with Chris in celebration mode.
By late afternoon we arrived in Cobar, staying @ the Cobar Caravan Park, http://www.cobarcaravanpark.com.au/. We paid $20 for a site without electricity/water. It was better than the power sites as they are closer to one another. The shower/toilet blocks are available for all and as we do not need the electricity non-powered sites are best for us. We rode our bikes through the small town and that is about all we can say for this stop.
Tuesday, the 10th, a week since election, we are feeling better about the States. We avoid any news about Trump, so that we can view life as once again normal. We managed to go for almost two hours before stopping for coffee and ice cream in a town called ‘Nevertire’. To state the obvious, not being tired we continued to Dubbo.
Adelaide is the haemorrhoid of Australia. This was our greeting as we pulled into a central, somewhat feral caravan park called Poplars. The guy had travelled all over, Bolivia, Thailand and South African, but he was not having Adelaide. He charged us $30 pn with power. Turns out Bren was there too, on a grassy spot with a view of the bridge. Kmart, Coles etc across the road, lots of bike trails and parks and a decent Asian Wok takeway. Easy stop, despite the caretaker. So, we stayed and did the right thing by visiting the Dubbo Zoo. We rode our bikes and it was great.
The only memory I have of Dubbo is from my drive-thru with my 87-year old father and Sacha (11) and Leigh (9). We went to the Dubbo Zoo, which is a zoo one can stay in their vehicle and drive through. [Formerly an army camp during World War Two, the site was transformed into a 300-hectare oasis of woodland and irrigated grassland. Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo opened to the public on 28th February 1977 and was the first zoo in Australia to be constructed on the open range principle.] This time Narda and I rode our bikes to the zoo from the Poplars Caravan Park we spent two nights at. The zoo is merely fifteen minutes away and we spent most of the day riding through the zoo. We are not zoo people; I think the only one we have been to in the past twenty years was the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo in Kerala, India, which is a great zoo with huge outdoor areas for the animals. Dubbo Zoo has larger areas than the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo for animals to roam. We especially liked a performance by some bamboo apes – We have a short clip at https://youtu.be/ug_n_TG6WcA
Our other favourite display were the Galapagos tortoises – We have a short clip at https://youtu.be/RtVWFWGrG4M
As with any tourist event we were met at the entrance to the zoo by the local mayor-peacock,
The Poplars Caravan Park is a bit feral, a few long-term stayers, a bit of rubbish and car parts and ‘bogans’ around the place. At $30 per night it is cheap. The toilet blocks are a bit gross, the owner a loud opinionated character; “I loved America, the only problem is that it is full of Americans”. Narda has some quotes in her piece above. However, we did not mind, it is across the street from a shopping centre with Coles and Target and two blocks from the main street where we got take-away Chinese food our first night. There is a good bike trail along the Macquarie River taking us to the zoo and further if we were less lazy. The caravan park gets a one- and two-star rating on the Internet. We found it all quite convenient and quiet enough for a stay.
Fancy fences for horses in beautiful country. A shady spot, free, with clean toilets; this was Jerry’s Landing. We considered the pub but agreed on another caravan meal to eat through our fresh stuff, accompanied by Terrell’s gourmet egg dish which we have named “Bloody Eggs”: two sunny -side-up eggs slathered in tomato chutney. YUM.
We are out by 8 am and to our next destination, a free camp area in the village of Jerry’s plains. One of our better stays. Quiet, except for the road trains on the nearby highway. A very well cared for toilet block is nearby and we have a good sleep and are rested for our early morning trek to the New South Wales coast.
Google claims it is only a tad bit over three hours to Port Macquarie, so we are up early I eat brekky (Narda is doing one of those 16-hour fasts, eating only between noon and 6 or 7 pm) and we are on our way. We have all day as we are to meet our house-exchange hosts at five pm. After a couple of hours we see the New South Wales Coast, and as it is only mid-day and we have hours before we need to be in Port Macquarie and we are elderly folks who have already driven for a couple of hours, we pull over, have lunch, take an hour nap. We did not put the top of the caravan up as we did not want to look settled in.
Try it sometime, getting a big chunky caravan onto a vacant block, which has many trees and slopes steeply in two directions. Add to that a friendly neighbour, who offers to keep an eye on it, but does not want it to have a view of her living room, nor be anywhere close to her overhanging bushes which are due for a clipping on Wednesday. Half an hour later I had crushed the top of the awning against a tree. OK, enough; we have the caravan on the highest plastic risers and can sleep in it. If we decided to go to the portapotty sometime during the night, we would stagger into the left wall of the van.
Despite all this, we slept well. We enjoyed a nice evening tea with our hosts featuring local whiting (they assured us that the SA King George whiting was better), but it was nice evening meal. We were introduced to the Blue Burmese cat aristocracy. She, an elite member, has complete control over the occupants of the house. She sleeps in the queen bed in the master bedroom, uses the ensuite toilet (not kidding!!!). The only thing she does not do, is flush the toilet.
Our hosts come from SA originally, she was a Uniting Church pastor in Dernancourt, and knew the Hope Valley folks. Small world. Lovely people.
EmCee, the cat, does not sleep with us. We have decided to use the other bedroom and she’s not allowed in. Despite that, she will happily sleep on our laps while we watch Netflix, and we are actually taking quite a shine to her. This morning at 6.30 am she was waiting at our door. Bless.
There are a couple of guys working on solar panel on the house opposite in very HIGH winds. I have my caravan first aid kit ready to go. We’ve had warm weather, a nice walk yesterday morning to Miner’s Beach, just a few minutes down the road. Speccie!! Today we are getting the storms that seem to be crossing our country. Here just very windy with some spots of rain but not cold.
We got 2 cups of coffee, one small and one regular. The small one was free a Maccas for us tight arsed seniors. The area is called New Setttlement. Lots of homes on water front, which has been extended by artificial canals. But nice. We prefer the older bits, with a mixture of old houses, ex beach shacks and places on stilts. The new area is all square Lochiel Park style housing, mostly white.
“Ten years ago, my wife left me for my best friend. I still miss him”. That’s our host on the cruise. He and his wife busily doling out generous serves of pizza which was delivered to the boat on the of the landings. Then icecream with choose-your-own maltesers and lollies. No dophins really, just the occasional arched dive you had to be quick to see. But all in all very pleasant on a Sunday morning.
So now I am watching with alarm as these tradies and trying to hoist the panels onto the to roof across the road. The wind has not abated.
After two days here we did the most touristy thing to do, a dolphin cruise. https://cruiseportmacquarie.com.au/ We saw a few dolphins, the two-hour cruise was really good including all the pizza we wanted, I always get a lot as few chose the vegetarian selection.
,morning we took an hour walk down the cliff and to Miners Beach. What a beautiful area we are in, every day we will walk a different route either through the rainforest or along the beach. Our clip of Miners Beach – https://youtu.be/9lHozBc4vzM
There is so much to do and see. Today or tomorrow we will go to the Koala hospital, https://www.koalahospital.org.au/. We are looking at some 4-wheel drive into heavy rain-forest areas north of here too.
Meanwhile, we are settling in to a routine of getting up early, walking along the beach or through the local rain forest, blogging, taking an afternoon nap and watching shows on Netflix and Stan; currently watching Scorpion (Stan) which is getting routine by season three or four – whatever it is we are up to – they all blend into the same do-overs, Republic of Doyle, on Netflix, a Canadian comedy-drama television series set in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – two places we are looking for a house-exchange in as they look really good. Like Scorpion, it is getting quite routine by season four, but we like the characters. And the wacky Black Books, a British sitcom that must be watched to believe – up there with Schitt’s Creek though sillier. And less ‘nice’.(N). And ‘Brave New World’.
Tuesday, the 17th, we did the Sea Acres rain-forest walk, almost walking distance from our home, though we drove there. Well worth the visit.
There is an elevated path through it. We have a minute video at https://youtu.be/NNvjTWOedSo
We liked seeing and learning about the Strangler Fig, a Steven King type of vegetation.
After six or seven months of no virus in South Australia and the borders closed to Victoria, news today has it that Adelaide has its first Covid-19 cluster – 17. Not much compared to the rest of the world or even the rest of Australia but enough to shut down the state. Within a day of the news Western Australia and the Northern Territory have closed their borders to South Australia. We are in the next state over and so far, there is no lock down with New South Wales. Thought they are saying if you were in South Australia since the ninth of November to quarantine here, lucky for us we left SA on the seventh of November. At this time, we are still planning to go back home December 3rd, so we will see what happens.
STOP…OK things change. Yesterday, 18th, November – Wednesday, the folks who we are exchanging homes with rang. ‘Adelaide has just gone into a six day hard shutdown…as of midnight no travel…’ there was more but at 3 pm, when our hosts first heard the news they had until midnight to get out of South Australia or face staying at our house for six-days. Nothing bad about that, we have a nice home with a yard, a shed with my 183 ties [https://neuage.org/iso/], greenscreen studio and so much more as well as a sometimes-visiting koala in our front gumtree as well as very at home magpies visiting daily. However, they were concerned it could turn into two weeks then longer. Being in their 80s they did not wish to hang about in a covid hotspot, so they made a runner for the New South Wales border town of Broken Hill. They managed to get there by 9 pm which is really a good run to do in six hours. It took us much longer but then we stop for coffee every ten minutes or so. Bottom line, they want their house back. We checked out caravan places, we love it here and are not ready to go back to locked down South Australia, we could not travel there anyway now. We found what we liked best along the Hastings River.
Today, the next day, from the day before; which some call tomorrow if they were saying this yesterday, morning, our hosts rang and said they were going to take their time coming across New South Wales and were visiting family on the way. Perhaps next Monday, today is Thursday, they would arrive. We are happy with this arrangement as we like their large home overlooking Port Macquarie – and it is easier making a mess in their kitchen than in our caravan.
Talk at ya later…
“You can stay downstairs if you like. We would like to leave as Adelaide is going into full lock down, starting midnight. We’re planning to drive out of the state before midnight”. “That’s fine, said we, “there is always the caravan and we can find a park in this town easily.” Our minister host and her husband are on their way back.
So off we went to check it all out. The first park, the town park is expensive, right on the beach and people are walking through it all the time. We actually discovered this park on yesterday’s beach walk. Up a hill, down a hill, along a beautiful beach and so on. Then there is the Park next to Aldi’s. A bit too Aldi, even for us! Then we found a beautiful park in the Hastings River, full of residents, and only a few caravan sites, quiet and relatively cheap….. and a bonus: still close to Aldi. Bike riding country, nice and flat, unlike where we are currently living on the top of Summit Rd….the name speaks for itself.
“We have arrived in Broken Hill and have decided to meander around and take our time to get home”. OK so now we can stay until Monday or Tuesday. It’s all good; nice to have the freedom to be flexible.
Before the Rainforest board walk, I bought my groovy new drink bottle for $18 eeek.
Strangler figs abound. They grow from the top down, wrap their tentacles around the host tree, which dies in time, leaving a (often enormous) hollow strangler fig, which provides food for the inhabitants of the forest.
Finally, I have ordered new glasse., though I could change my mind before the eye test on Monday! 😊
I am off to grab my umbrella from the car to go hang gliding – hope to see ya all soon.
A cautionary tale
My son, Sacha, lives in Melbourne, Victoria. He came to Adelaide, South Australia. The state of Victoria has been in lock-down for more than three months with restrictions just starting to be lifted. My son had to apply 14 days before crossing the border. At the border he realized he needed more petrol and was told he could not stop in South Australia until Adelaide. He was meeting the police at two PM and had an hour to go 30 k’s back to a petrol station and be back at Bordertown by 2. At the border he had a police escort, the police car in front with flashing lights and a big sign; ‘follow me’ and the police car following just flashing lights. In Bordertown there were three other cars coming to Adelaide making a convey of four cars and two police cars for the five-hour trip to Adelaide. The whole trip from Melbourne to Adelaide is more than eight hours. By Tailem Bend where the police switched cars one of the passengers in another car needed the loo. They all went to the next petrol station where they were told they could not use the facilities, being from Victoria’s restrictions. They ended up using the loo at the Tailem Bend police station then continued for the next hour fifteen minutes to Adelaide. Sacha is booked into the Stamford Plaza.
He is in quarantine for 14 days with tests at the start and end. Being stuck in a small room, not impressed with the meals; this after paying $3000 for 2-weeks stay, we bought a box of ‘health’ snacks to hopefully last a few days. He brought $20,000 of music production gear so he will be occupied. Also, we brought his car home to save on the expensive fee the hotel was charging. To take his car, we were met by a policeman, Narda as driver had to put on full pp-gear: mask, gloves, plastic cover and be observed wiping down the interior of the car before we could go. The car is now parked in our driveway and we have been told it can not be driven for 15 days – until after Sacha has been cleared. See photos below. Saying all this, we do not have covid in South Australia. We have been lucky to be able to go to the gym and morning aqua Zumba and live life as usual. No one wears masks but we always wipe down. This is how South Australia has kept everything open without any cases and hopefully will not get any in the future. In a few weeks we are driving with our caravan across country to Port Macquarie in New South Wales for a month. When we leave South Australia, we will wear masks and do the whole nine yards and hopefully return in December to a covid free state.
Our current status (Narda and me) @ – we have arrived in Adelaide after 10 weeks in the Netherlands and flights back via Amsterdam and Singapore where we spent 17 hours – we have been given amazing help with a home in Swan Reach along the Murray River where we did our quarantine of two weeks in Adelaide until the 8th of April. Thanks to family, friends, strangers… for so many good thoughts, offers of help and keeping us positive. After fourteen days in quarantine plus two-hundred and two days in semi-isolation while carefully following South Australia’s strict guidelines for wandering amongst the locals, with our daily walks, bike rides, protective shopping, and of course starting this week – 09 June, Aqua Zumba and the gym. When we are not at the gym we are off in our caravan seeing South Australia, camping off-the-grid for a week at a time then back home, then out again. As of 25 October 2020, we feel good, but we can not visit you yet. Cheers. Updated Tuesday 25 October/2020 8.47AM #Perseverance Road, Vista, South Australia. e-books
The Amazing Tie Challenge – Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, LAST DAY/TIE final update 10 October/2020 @ #Perseverance Road, Vista, South Australia
Behance Project – Thoughts in Isolation April 2020 – Adelaide, South Australia
Behance Project – Thoughts in Travel 2020 March – The Netherlands
BLOG – OUR TIME IN ROTTERDAM (MARCH 2020)
Our current status (Narda and me) @ home – we arrived in Adelaide after 10 weeks in the Netherlands and flights back via Amsterdam and Singapore where we spent 17 hours – we have been given amazing help with a home in Swan Reach along the Murray River where we did our quarantine of two weeks in Adelaide until the 8th of April. Thanks to family, friends, strangers… for so many good thoughts, offers of help and keeping us positive. After fourteen days in quarantine plus sixty-six days in isolation, then semi-isolation then carefully following South Australia’s strict guidelines for wandering among the locals, with our daily walks, bike rides, protective shopping, and of course starting this week – 09 June, aqua Zumba and the gym. As of 14 June 2020, we feel good. Cheers. Updated Sunday 14/June/2020 8.47
WHAT ONE DOES @ HOME IN ISOLATION – Tie Challenge Day 66 updated updated 14/June/2020
The ties are due to needing to wear a tie when I was teaching in New York & China (2002 – 2014) – I started collecting ties from thrift shops etc. around the world for the next decade. Instead of tossing them out I am doing this dumb challenge as I am @ home and cannot visit you. I think there are over 100. Perseverance Road, Vista, South Australia
February 20, 2020
This is our story of our stay in Nieuwerkerk an de Ijssel which is between Gouda and Rotterdam. We took the train from Arnhem to Nieuwerkerk an de Ijssel on 29th of February two days after the first coronavirus case in the Netherlands. In those days, when we thought of it being primarily in China with a few cases in the States we did not take any extra precautions. How different the world would be a month later. Our trip was cut short by three weeks with us returning to Australia’s quarantine toward the end of March. Narda’s writing is in italics and mine whatever else. Starting with arriving at the train station in Arnhem. Our neighbour drove us to the train station as it was rainy that morning. It was a fifteen-minute walk with an already increased luggage amount six weeks which with we arrived in The Netherlands six weeks ago.
We have included a few of the photos we took (we took a couple of thousand to be exact, 30 – 40 I have used in my series ‘Thoughts in Travel 2020‘)
They wanted to build an e-hub, offering e-bikes and e-cars for rent. Two fresh faced young Dutchmen offered us free coffee in exchange for an interview.
“Your main concern?” (in impeccable English)
“We have ‘being wobbly’ issues if you offer e-scooters”
We were reassured and took the train to Arnhem Centraal. Today was a train carnival. We started, getting a lift from Eef, our kindly neighbour. A day pass from Actievandedag.nl, so plenty of time, between spits (my new Dutch word, meaning rush-hour). The next train (we did not plan ahead) took us straight back in the direction we had just come, heading for Breda via Nijmegen. A bit out of the way, but with little wait time. After an hour of lovely scenery came an announcement that this train would stop in Den Bosch. What the hell? I could not find it on the map. Turns out that this is the ‘local’ name for ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Not sure about the ‘s, but we knew it from Hans Albers, and our host, Fred as it has Jan de Groot’s Bakkerij selling ‘Bossche Bollen’. We have yet to try this. If it involves chocolate I will be there. Apparently long lines are the order of the day on weekends, it is THAT good!!!!
A couple of friendly girls helped me with my smartphone challenges and mapped out a good route to Nieuwerkerk an de Ijssel. So back again, this time headed for Woerden (near Utrecht) on the local train, stopping every 5-7 minutes. One more leg and we’re there. No Uber. Tried 3 times. Raining. We considered the bus but could not find our bus passes. A MAJOR CATASTROPHE. No not really. We hoofed it, took about ½ hour for a 17-minute walk. Not awful, though Terrell was a shining star insisting on taking the bulk of the weight. When will we learn to travel with less!!!! We woke up the next morning feeling rather sore.
Now we are settled, feeding our funny bunnies, who have residence here, once a day.
The coffee machine makes great coffee….I select ‘mild taste’ and add ½ cup of hot water. Dutchies are into spoon-standing-up-straight strong. We have ridden our very large Dutch bikes to Jumbo. I can sit completely upright; for me the mark of an excellent bike. We also drove to a hardware exactly the same as Home Depot (USA) or Bunnings (Australia) in search of face masks, which are sold out, as they are all over the world.
Covid-19 End of February
About 84,000 people in at least 56 countries have been infected, and about 2,900 have died. A new element to our trip.
We cancelled our China Southern and Guangszhou o/night stay for the next trip in June; luckily a full refund. We bought a new non-stop flight from Perth-London. Less variables, I guess. The virus seems to be spreading pretty fast.
(bought ticket Perth to London on 27th February. Our flight is for the end of June 2020, not sure if that will happen.)
It rained the first four or five days at our new home so we only did short bike rides around our neighbourhood which consisted of two-three story attached houses with canals all over the place and dedicated bike paths giving us the illusion we could ride in safety as, like everyone else here, we don’t have helmets.
In Australia we get a $200 fine for not wearing one. Perhaps the bike riders here are deemed safer drivers or the fact that the bike rider is always right if there is an accident – the vehicle running you over, takes the blame no matter what the situation. The local shopping centre is Reigerhof (https://winkelcentrumreigerhof.nl/) with our favourite grocery store, Jumbo, and favourite bakery because they have fresh low-carb bread baked every day, Bakker Klootwijk, and Hema – a Dutch variety store-chain that we like; we even found one in Berlin a couple of years ago. There is a large Albert Heijn supermarket with more in it than Jumbo but generally more expensive and taking only cash or a European credit card which we don’t have. Jumbo and Hema were the only two stores taking our credit card, by mid-March no one was taking cash due to the virus, so our shopping became limited. The shops were quite early in the social distancing dance with tape on the floor six feet apart to wait in line in. Several shops had either glass or plastic in front of the checkout person, not for protection like in a New York City liquor shop where shop keepers are paranoid of robbers but to keep out sneezes and coughs. Though Narda, the ever-perseverer managed to get one shop keeper to take cash. This was in those days when the shop keepers did not only want the customer at quite the distance but only a European card could be swiped for a purchase. Narda wanted tape to wrap around something she was packing. The shop keeper said absolutely no cash only a European credit card. Needless to say, once Narda wants something, consider it hers. She left the change on the counter a good distance from the shop keeper and she cautiously scooped it into the cash register using a glove. Of course, I wanted to purchase a fridge magnet, offering cash…no deal. If only I were Narda.
We did go for a car drive to find a hardware store to get a tool to raise my bike seat. Fred and Chantel have the most wonderous car, with graffiti on the side. We get interesting looks from others. These two elderly people, obviously infected with something, driving this car. If they hear me talk, they quickly realize with my New York accent (which Narda says I have but I believe my accent is clearly Australian) we are being typical New Yorkers, and they no longer look quizzingly at us.
To Utrecht March 3rd
After 3 angry flashes from cars coming toward us, I decided to pull over and figure out how to turn off my high beam. I can’t blame the Dutch for everything! Terrell discovered the solution quickly and we headed off again, slowly as I go. Terrell keeps reminding me that I can drive up to 80 km/hr and am currently ‘only driving 55’. Thing is, we have this competition going. It’s called ‘String of Pearls’. It started in our big-beast-caravanning days, when we would see who could accumulate the most cars following very close behind us in a ‘string of pearls’. On this trip I made it to 12, which I think is my record. Then I pull over, they drive past angrily, and we start again.
Well on this trip, returning from Utrecht, choosing ‘no freeways’, and ‘no tolls’ we were hit with a short but very intense hailstorm. I pulled over again, and we had tomato soup with balletjes (me), without for him; a nice little pub. The last part of the trip was dark and hairy, roads had narrowed to single width with significant waters on either side. When a car came toward us, they would move to the side a bit, and I would pass them with a pounding heart.
Oom Piet and Oom Rienk helped us devour a significant amount of cake, apple pie, some sort of nut tart and a sugary mix of cream and custard. Licking our chops (it was a good stop to the bakery on the way) we chatted over coffee about Oom Piet’s war experiences; Terrell missing most of it as it was conducted in Dutch. Rienk smartly reminded his brother-in-law that ‘Terrell cannot understand you’. Piet lifted his game and continued in pretty good English. He’s a trooper.
The day was lovely. We had lunch with Hans and Jose and then together saw an art exhibition in the Central Museum, a local well-known surrealist painter named Moesman. Interesting is a mild way to describe it. Coffee afterward at the museum.
Now we are watching Biden take the lead. Hmm. Perhaps this will be a good thing. Folks just want Obama back and that’s the closest they can get to their beloved former president. We’ll see. All we have on TV is Super Tuesday and Covid-19. Even hand sanitiser is impossible to buy. Apparently, the Aussies have done a panic buy on toilet paper. Shelves empty! Pretty funny. Just wonder where they heard that they might need so much? Reminds me of one of my images from Jinshitan when we taught at Dalian American International School over there in China. I called it toilet paper bride – 2011.
Rotterdam March 4th
Yesterday I gorged myself on cake and apple pie with slagroom. So today I’m trying to make up for it and increased my fast to 18 hours. It was OK, not too hard, you just have to keep up the coffee intake.
A beautiful sunny cold day, not too windy, we headed off on the bikes in the direction of Rotterdam. We found a park called Hitland…not quite sure of the origins of that name! But despite our concerns it was lovely,lots of great bike paths and scenery.
I think we stopped in Capelle aan den Ijssell and walked up and down the shopping street in an unsuccessful quest for croquettes. A little bonus, we found another giant Kringloop (second-hand store) and bought a sugar spoon for Frasier.
Yes, we did find a good second-hand store; I had a couple of records in hand for Sacha, as I always get him some strange (to us) records when we travel; he has a large collection back in Melbourne. As we were riding bikes we only left with a coffee cup for me, choosing to come back later with the car to get another suitcase (all ours are full and we already have so much more crap to drag back) and the records. Unfortunately, when we did come back a couple of weeks later the second-hand store as well as most others were closed due to the virus, so we bought a new suitcase for way too much money at an empty shopping centre near us. We had a two-hour bike ride which I find extremely helpful in controlling diabetes, my sugars go from an unhealthy 9 to ten to a normal 5.5 or so. I found I can get the result from riding for less than an hour, sometimes even half an hour if riding into the wind. I never get such good results from walking, weightlifting, though back in Adelaide I was getting that kind of result from doing aqua Zumba. I spend a good part of the day in retirement mode.
Terrell’s new tour plan. We ride into the wind for as long as we can manage, then come back with ‘the wind in our sails’. A very nice plan. He has an impeccable sense of direction, and when we got back to our town, rode straight home. I would have taken many different turns, so luckily, he was in front! 😊
Next day the same criteria, heading north-west this time. Through some dodgy cow country, in the rain, along narrow roads which we had to share with cars, then following A20 to the turn off to Moordrecht. BONUS. A gorgeous ancient town, best of. I complemented a few random citizens on the beauty of their town, and they responded enthusiastically with anecdotes. Then the next bonus, was the River Ijssell, which we had not yet been able to locate, up to this point in time. We rode over the hill; these are extremely rare, and I suspect this one was merely a dyke, though there’s nothing ‘merely’ about a dyke, and found another Pont. For 1.25 EU each, we took our bikes to the other side of this very serious river.
And the third bonus, we finally found our croquettes! A day late, but good. Terrell had the bami-filled version, also good. The trip home was simple, follow the Ijssell River back to Nieuwerkerk aan den IJSSELL. Duh!
As one who doesn’t shy away from compliments, I am constantly lost, I just don’t tell Narda and power forward; she thinks I know where I am headed but I never do. We took more than an hour to get to Moordrecht, on the bike trail following the highway. I just made a lucky, ‘let’s go right here’ direction and we stumbled upon Moordrecht. I could easily live here; the old town is about three- or four-square blocks. It seems like a simple easy to live place with clean air and not far from Gouda, another half hour or couple of hours if you get lost like us, ride up the path. Another day we were off doing one of our random bike rides only to discover if we stay on a particular path from near our house, Moordrecht is exactly fifteen minutes away from our door riding a dyke, and what true-blue fellow doesn’t want to do that?
Rotterdam March 10th
Back to ‘against the wind’, we rode along the dyke with a 35km wind blowing at us. It was gorgeous, long stretches along the Ijssell River, fast flowing river on one side, and lowlands (below the river) with green waterlogged fields and many canals on the other. Then we would come across small towns, with the obligatory old church, and some lovely old houses. Some modern blocks of flats, three stories high with a room or two on each level looked attractive as a living option. There was always the view of the river and the community which is a nice combination.
I was getting pretty hungry. The plan was to stop at a café (like a fish and chip shop but with croquettes). Nothing open until 4pm. So we kept going and found the Zalm (Salmon) restaurant. Classy, no room except at the bar, which we took. An hour later, we were served some expensive stuff, which satisfied the hunger. Flashy place, nice to go to in the evening for a function I think, but not really our kind of place.
A halfway stop for apple pie and coffee and then we sailed home, fast and easy.
This was one of my favourite bike rides. We took a couple of hours to get to the restaurant though that was not our goal. We had no end game. The wind slowed us down so going home was ‘a breeze’; no, I didn’t say that. We rode around through some small village, probably a burb of Rotterdam, there was no place to eat open, so finding a place to eat by 2 in the afternoon was becoming the thing to do. Narda has been maintaining her fasting thingy of sixteen hours and that had passed by a couple of hours when we found this one place open. We spent fifty euros for a ten-dollar meal to sit amongst the trendy folks of Rotterdam who were not concerned with social distancing. We came close to walking out after an hour and fifteen minutes when we it was past three; my bloody sugars were upset, Narda’s fasting was no longer fun, but then our food came. We were unable to get a table, the place was booked full, so we languished at the bar. We had a glass of orange juice while we waited and were contemplating where such expensive and prized oranges would be from that they could charge ten euros when the food arrived.
The ride was great, aside of a strong wind shoving itself at us, the view along the river was specky. We came across a large lift bridge, the Hollandsche Ijsselkering, that had a lock beneath for barges and signs with stories about the area and the great floods of 1953 when thousands died (1800+ in The Netherlands). Because the dykes broke from a large storm from the North Sea, a Delta committee was appointed to repair the dykes, this bridge was the first result. Narda reads some of this in the video above. This bridge protects the lowest-lying part of the Netherlands and was the first of 13 to be completed.
We found the largest land based modern windmill in the world. Its wing tips can reach a speed of 350 Km per hour, it can fully support 16,000 households and its whooshing noise does not bother anyone.
(And does not cause cancer as trump claims)
This turned out to be a car day and we found Futureland quite easily. An interesting presentation of the latest extension to the Rotterdam Port. The new port, Maasvlakte 2 will be covering 20 square kms, and offering a port of 20 metres deep to accommodate the largest ships. The land is being reclaimed from the sea. We watched these purpose-built ships drawing sand from the seabed further out and pouring into place to build the new port.
Nice drive out there, no traffic and interesting industrial scenery.
FutureLand is the port at Maasvlakte 2 built out of reclaimed land. Watch our video. This is an amazing place. At the visitor’s centre not only are there many displays explaining it all but there are interaction virtual spaces; for example, to find what you are suitable at. Of course, I figured I should be a captain of a major ship but after going through the exercise I came off as best to work in the engine room doing what I am told – like being married.
Regardless of the less than anticipated results of employment opportunity I learned a lot about this area and how Holland reclaims land. In this ever-expanding port, huge ships pump out water and sand forming new land; the depth of the water is 30 – 40 metres, deep enough for the largest ships in the world to bob about in. As with everything in our life lately, we were lucky to have seen this as it was closed soon after our visit due to the virus.
On the next day, March 09, Narda’s lifelong friend from Hamburg, Mäu, came to visit. She stayed for a week and at that time there were not so many Germans with the virus. A couple of weeks later they were one of the most infected. We did two trips with Mäu; Rotterdam Centrum and Gouda.
Chipcards are complicated. You have to swipe in and remember to swipe out or you lose all your credit. So, armed with 2 of them, I went to collect Mäu from Rotterdam Centraal. Punctuality is paramount! The train arrived at platform 14, as promised at 5.25pm and we dashed off to platform 15 to take the Sprinter back to Nieuwerkerk.
Last night a walk through the bike paths of our area, Mäu style! Not another soul in site. It’s rainy, so we’ll just have to talk. 😊
We are not panic buying, but we wash our hands and sing ‘Happy birthday’ twice, as instructed. The online chemist has sold out of medical alcohol (there’s a joke there somewhere but I can’t make it) and so I have ordered 12 little 100ml bottles of the stuff. The predictions are that it will get much worse; the USA has only just begun. They are woefully under-prepared. We saw huge crowds (on TV) at airports where folks dashed back to the USA ahead of being banned from landing there. No sanitizers in sight, and people are crowded together.
We have decided to hunker down, only shop when the store is pretty empty and as little as possible. Bike rides are good but we will avoid visiting our relatives for now. Chris and Stu are looking at virtual church, and Bren in Pakistan cancelled his trip to Egypt, and could be teaching from home until the end of the school year. We have decided together with our exchange partners to stay put, and perhaps postpone going home. So we may be here a bit longer if the bloody Schengen zone lets us. I like the idea actually.
It was a nice few days; a trip to Gouda by bus 190, along the dykes. We wandered though the old town, checked out the beautiful town hall and tasted some stroop wafels from a place that claimed to make them from scratch. The bus ride back was hairy; a very competent driver with her pedal to the metal on a road designed for single rows of cars, and steep drops to water (River Ijssell) on one side and low country (lower than the water) on the other. Then another bus, driving the same way coming from the other direction. We thought we were in Cambodia!!! Better to keep your eyes closed, though I did not make that suggestion to the driver.
Mau enjoyed the Kunst Museum in Rotterdam. We were too tight and uncultured to go with her and ate apple pie instead. But together exploring the back blocks of downtown Rotterdam was fun. Nasi Goreng and Satay Chicken was yummy at a great little café overlooking the yacht harbour. You can see I don’t step out much, food wise. Mau got back to Germany just int time before the borders closed!!!!
Mau heading back to Germany on Friday only had her ticket to Rotterdam Centraal, so I went with her for the ride there, and then back. Nice coffee (Koffie verkeert, my new fav…lots of milk).
Then there was bike riding to Seven Houses, or Zevenhuizen as it is locally known. Following Terrell’s impeccable travel plan of always riding into the wind on the way up, we managed a 45 minutes ride over the wetlands, and a 20 minute ride home. The thing was we were riding INTO the wind the whole time. Not sure how that is even possible…unless the wind conspired and changed direction midway!!!
Sunday, March 15 was a strange day as we reviewed our situation. Discussing the possibility of extending our stay here until things improve. Fred and Chantal are also keen to lay low at our place. No one is going anywhere. The numbers are skyrocketing in Italy, the new epi-centre. On Monday March 16, Europe closed its borders. Today March 10 Spain is catching up to Italy in numbers and France has locked everything down. Folks have to fill out a form to go anywhere.
We did our Last shopping at Hema and Jumbo at Reigerhof Nieuwerkerk aan de Ijssel, taking the five pm train to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. We booked an airport hotel – forget which one at the moment – took the shuttle to it only to discover that there were three with the same name and we were at the wrong one. We were already tense and stressed from the train ride and a bit grumpy. To make matters worse I put our luggage which had grown in size from since we left Australia to another suitcase and another bag onto a baggage cart which I got stuck in the revolving door. The girl at the desk was annoyed and had to get someone else to help move the door inch by inch to finally get it to move. I tried to be sorry and polite, but she was not impressed and chose to comment about why I couldn’t have figured out my crap would not fit into the revolving door. I am sure it had something to do with her thoughts about an elderly person on the loose. I noticed she had a run in her stockings which made me feel equal in inside thoughts we both harboured. And of course, she was a millennial which is one of my constant pet peeves. We did get another shuttle to the proper version of our hotel which was a crappy version of what we had seen online.
Next morning, we wandered through the empty airport and got our flight to Singapore. The flight was quite full, and the dozen hours went by OK. We did have one turn of fortune on the flight…my vegetarian meal – the alleged vegetarian meat balls were meat – I had my food taster tester sample it because it looked too much like meat to me and Narda gave the roadkill verdict. I called the flight attendants and pointed out their grievous error. It wasn’t their fault as the meals are made outside and they just warm it up and throw it at us the hapless passenger. I had at least four flight attendants apologize included some in charge type of person. I pointed out that I had been a vegetarian for about 55 years, and this was not vegetarian. As compensation along with a proper vegan type meal I was given a 75$ (Singaporean) coupon – about $50 USD – to purchase something from their inflight catalogue. I immediately found a watch I liked – one of the Citizen brands that cost about $1500USD. Realizing it was best to find something under $75 we found about two items in the whole catalogue. We needed a portable charger cube for phones and too many devices we cart around so we got one with interchangeable plugs we can use in travel for $50 bucks and that is our good news story.
We got to Singapore worried as usual. We had read that Singapore was closing the airport for all transit passengers at midnight, Sunday. Our flight is due to leave at 11:55.
We booked an airport hotel day room at the Aerotel Transit Hotel, Terminal 1. We are not allowed outside the airport unless we go into 14 days quarantine have visas and sing their national anthem. The airport itself was empty – we were there at 7 am and were to leave at 11.55 pm so finding our way to the Aerotel was easy. We had paid (too much, like $213 USD) for 12 hours; with that we got two meals and three-hours to use in the premium lounge after the 12 hours so all in all it was fine. The room didn’t have a window which was fine as we slept right away for hours after our overnight flight from Amsterdam and suspect meal. We were the only ones in the dining area, and we could look out at the many airplanes parked for who knows how long sitting on the runways. Which we find quite sad – this whole virus thing makes us sad. The Aerotel has a rooftop swimming pool but our swimming gear was in storage somewhere for the flight to Adelaide. The lounge was good too and we just ate our selves sick until our flight to Adelaide. We were concerned that the flight was about 75% full as it was one of the last flights to Australia at the time.
To Adelaide (Swan Reach)
Like they say on those dating sites (not that I know – read about them on some newsthingy) ‘it’s complicated’. We arrived at the Adelaide airport, got through all the checks. The checks are what has kept us tense: Amsterdam, Singapore, Adelaide – everyone taking temperatures all over the place. Singapore was particularly annoying as they had set up stations every 50 meters or so with testing and things being pointed at us. We were nervous we would get separated and sent off to some quarantine space for 14 days. We had read enough horror stories to keep us in a hyper psychotic state of mind, more than our usual hyper psychotic state of mind. Luckily, we survived it all. We got a taxi to Narda’s sister, where Narda’s ex-husband had left a ute for us and several family members had packed it with food. (We made a list and my list was different apparently to what people are used to; one sister said she would never ever go grocery shopping for me again and what is tempeh, spirulina, chia and about 30 other items anyway?) Apparently, she spent hours at a few places trying to get what was on my list…sorry.
Our house exchange people from our home in Rotterdam have our house and car as they are having issues getting to their next destination. We had hoped to stay in Holland, but the government would not renew our 90-day visa and we had the fear that if one of us became sick and hospitalized in Holland the other would be sent home which is quite nightmarish. So, we came home three weeks early. Meanwhile, Fred and Chantel were unable to get to their next house exchange. Narda’s son, Stu, put up on Facebook that we needed a place for a couple of weeks and a family member had a holiday house in Swan Reach they were not using and Narda’s ex, Peter, had an extra ute for us to take. It all worked out wonderfully and we had a great two weeks just chilling out in the Riverland.
We have ended our quarantine and are happy back in our home. Fred and Chantel are in northern Queensland – getting the last flight out of Adelaide. They will stay until the Dutch government flies them back.
In the future we will look back and see these guys in their apartment and in our house. We will remember them as a very special young (40ish) couple, dealing with a hell of a lot more than the average person, virus or no virus. She is permanently confined to her wheelchair, a victim of the horrible permanent disease, Muscular Dystrophy, and he is her full time, and I mean FULL time loving caregiver. They are full of courage and the spirit of adventure, and despite these setbacks, travel the world with enthusiasm and gusto. We feel privileged to have met them and to make our home exchanges with them. From both ends, our exchanges had to be cut short in this strange new world but we both plan to resume and complete them when all the drama is over. They have become our friends. Hey Fred and Chantal, we will see you again. If you have guests, we’ll just have croquettes with you and maybe some tomato soup.
We have no idea when we will travel again. We can’t even take the caravan out. We have a trip booked for July – September: UK, then Queen Mary II from Hamburg to NYC, DC and a house exchange for a month in Chicago. Looks like that will be postponed for a year as we won’t travel until we can have a vaccine. I update my homepage every day – https://neuage.org/
in the meantime
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Thoughts in Patterns 7
I long had dreams of going to Shimla, based mainly on watching the TV series “Indian Summers”. The setting is a beautiful green valley, with lovely gardens and walking trails. Shimla is NOTHING like that! It is a vertical city, perched on the steepest, largest mountain sides I have ever seen. Each building is above or below the next. A difficult city to get around.
We arrived on the narrow-gauge railway, built a hundred years ago by the meticulous Brits, to give their ex-pat citizens a place to cool down in the summer. The trip takes 6 or 7 hours about 22 Kms.
The train to here was amazing; see our clip of the Himalayan Queen here
The trains are old and restored, listed as World Heritage. You go over 800 bridges, through 103 tunnels and ascend to 7,500 ft, and there you are; Shimla.
We are staying in a small village, perched on a narrow ridge on the top of a mighty big mountain.
You look behind houses on one side of the road, and there is an almighty drop, then cross the road to the other side, and another similar drop. Blimey. Today we decided to head to downtown Shimla, where some lovely historical buildings can be seen along the “Mall”.
So we took the local bus. It is only a short distance, but takes an hour, with crazy turns; the fast-moving bus driving precariously close to the edge of a cliff.
I had to move to the other side of the bus and look away. The return trip was worse, with way too many people squished in, and us trying to stand. Each time when we thought, “no way, no more people, I can’t breathe”, another 5-people got on. The passengers were very good natured, no one got upset at having an elbow in their face, or their nose in someone’s armpit. Everything in Shimla is like that; that’s what I meant by difficult. It’s all a matter of perspective. We have a lot to learn.
See our one-minute video of our bus ride @
It is SPECTACULAR. The views are mind blowing. The Himalayas just keep on going, as you look towards the horizon, and the mountains get bigger and bigger. So here we are; the agony and the ecstasy.
We have a nice Airbnb, which is gorgeous inside, lots of space and friendly hosts living upstairs. However it can only be reached by going very slowly down a long set of outdoor steps, VERY steep and scary, especially with luggage. We are starting to get used it to it…a bit.
Our village, called Kasumpti, is becoming familiar. We have the older guy who sells us large bottles of water (you can only buy smaller ones from the other little stores), and eggs at 5 Rs (8c) each, sometimes a bottle of soda water and Cadburys chocolate. The village is just a strip along the mountain. There are often lots of people congregating in a central area, called the bazaar, who are waiting for buses. There is also a wine shop; first we’ve seen in India. I asked about the price of a bottle of Kingfisher. It was marked 85 Rs but he insisted that we should pay 180 Rs, so no-sale for me. Other store owners just charge the price on the item. Oh well.
Yesterday began another hospital day. I had squirties again, and a tummy ache, so I thought, better get onto this early. Our host very kindly offered to walk us to the local hospital. He has never driven a car! I guess this makes sense in this part of the world. The traffic is chaotic; with the road circling those mountains, always with 1000 ft drop on one side and steep mountain on the other. There is NO wiggle room. He told us that several times a year a bus rolls off the road into the gully. Everyone is always killed. I’m surprised that it is not more often. Anyway, you can’t drive up or down the mountain. There are steps which join the road loops around it. So, it’s mainly walking for most people. It’s much further to take the circling roads. We finally arrived at the hospital and I was waved ahead of a longish queue. I walked to the front, apologising to the folks, who simply smiled and pointed the way forward. The lady at the desk, a very efficient woman, who had it all ‘in hand’, said she was surprised that I was ‘a senior’. She then became my new best friend. I got the paperwork done and we (the three of us) sat down to wait. It wasn’t too long before we got to see a doctor in another building, who sent me off to have some tests.
We walked back home. Our host had been with us for some hours, a kind man. Today we returned and I had my very first Indian ultra-sound. Kinda cool. The radiologist himself was operating the thing….a wand? He dictated to his assistant the whole time and told me what he saw. ‘probably not appendix’ I have a really sore spot on the right side, which is some sort of infection, ‘needing further investigation’ when we return. Oh well.
The hospital ‘ground floor’ is actually the 7th story. So you can enter from here. Then you go down to the 4th floor (where the ultra-sound room is) and step out the back. When you look down it’s the roof of another 6 or 7 story building. The building seems to be anchored somehow to the mountain side.
The other day we took a walk in the other direction, following a very narrow path cut into the mountain side; the same deal. A massive drop to one side, and the steep side on the other. It’s so steep that you can hold you hand up to it to steady yourself. I keep my eyes on the path. I can only look around when I stop. It truly freaks me out. As we progressed, the path got narrower and I had to stop and head back. Terrell was completely comfortable with it, but not me. On the way back, we were greeted by a man sitting outside his house, which basically sticks out over the valley. We had a friendly chat, and he asked us in for a cup of tea. It was really nice. The couple are both retired, speak English well, and it was interesting. One of their grown-up kid’s lives in Chicago, the same as the son of our host. The house is heritage listed, 100 years old. He told us that the forest is also protected, 100-year-old pine trees filled with black faced little monkeys. It really is very beautiful.After our month in Kerala (see our Kerala blog) we stopped in Delhi for a couple of days. As usual we stayed in the Paharganj area in the Main Bazar. We have posted enough clips of that bustling area in previous blogs. We stayed at Hotel Hari Piorko with a fish tank in our room.
Our first room didn’t meet our requirements; i.e. the TV didn’t work, the bed was too hard, we couldn’t plug our computer into the powerpoint… so we got them to change our room – something which happens surprisingly often. We enjoyed our stay; the next room was good. I did worry about one of the fish in the tank – it looked depressed, didn’t swim around with the others, and kept to herself. Narda said it was a ‘bottom-feeder’ and that was perhaps its normal behaviour. It did move about a bit but she did not respond to my tapping on the glass. Maybe I should reassess my communicative style with females.
The rooftop restaurant was good both for the view and food. We had an Ayurveda massage and I got some Ayurveda crap for my hair; allegedly makes it grow thicker, longer, healthier, and perhaps will awaken my brain-cells clustered at the foot of my hair follicles.
Kalka is a town in the Panchkula district of Haryana.
We arrived on the train from Delhi at 11 pm, staying at the $16 USD/night, Kalka Hotel Dharam Villa, which was a good hotel. They made us a great omelette breakfast the next morning. The room was clean and the shower sort of OK. I think it was our cheapest place in three months of travel. We paid $22 USD for it on the way back a week later due to it being high season for tourism.
We grabbed a smoothie on our way to the train station in the morning,
Got a tuk tuk to the train station and got on the toy train.
On the way to the train I saw a very distressed horse with a sore foot. I spoke at great length with him and Narda and I went out to find an apple for him, but as we do, we got side-tracked and when we went back the horse had disappeared. He was obviously in pain. Someone had put on a plastic bag and tape, but the poor thing was not happy.Solan
The trip from Kalka to Shimla is about six-hours. We went for four hours, stopping at Solan.
Solan is our first venture into the state of Himachal Pradesh (listen), literally “snow-laden province” which is situated in the Western Himalayas with such groovy borders as Tibet and Kashmir. See the map that I borrowed from Wikipedia.
Folks have been enjoying the cold and heights for heaps of time, for example, the Indus valley civilisation flourished here between 2250 and 1750 BCE – so after more than four-thousand years one would think this is one of the more advanced areas of civilisation in the world. This is what we are in a quest to find. Is there an advanced civilisation in the world or are we all just muddled bystanders to the winds of fate? We Westerners like to think we are the top of the pile but watching the news I think we are the bottom-feeders. To read more about Himachal Pradesh check out Wikipedia’s article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himachal_Pradesh.
Folks have been enjoying the cold and heights for heaps of time, for example, the Indus valley civilisation flourished here between 2250 and 1750 BCE – so after more than four-thousand years one would think this is one of the more advanced areas of civilisation in the world. This is what we are in a quest to find. Is there an advanced civilisation in the world or are we all just muddled bystanders to the winds of fate? We Westerners like to think we are the top of the pile but watching the news I think we are the bottom-feeders. To read more about Himachal Pradesh https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himachal_Pradesh Wikipedia’s article.
We stopped at Solan at a height of 5,000 feet (1,600 metres) so I could climatize to higher altitudes before hitting the 8,000-foot mark in Shimla. Years ago, in Quito, Equator, at ten-thousand feet we had to get off the mountain due to my not being able to breath. Of course, even in small towns Narda finds things we ‘need’. Solan is a city that reminds me of a medieval European city with narrow streets and oldness, a bit more mildew and more trash about the place with a few cows standing in the middle of the street looking overwhelmingly content and people speaking Asian, Solan is tops for us. One night, two days is not enough to hang out here. In the evening from about 6 – 10 the main street is blocked from traffic so the locals all go out for a stroll; so cool. We stayed at the Mayur Hotel Bar And Restaurant, http://www.mayurhotelsolan.com/ an adequate space at $26 USD/night. There were no fish tanks in the room but good just the same.
India is known for its sweets – and once again I gave my sugar-free diet a rest… as well as Narda did so likewise,Narda has posted about the toy train to Shimla. The only downside was that there was a narrow path to the train station, so we were unable to get a tuk tuk from the town of Solan to it. The night before we really struggled to get up the hill with all our crap, plus it was raining so we were on the bit of a self-pity side of life when we finally did get to our hotel.
Coming back was fine with it being down a steep hill to the station. There are more than one-hundred tunnels between Kalka and Shimla – this one is next to where we were sitting at the station. People pass through them, I suppose as a shortcut, which explains why the train sounds its horn when it gets to each tunnel. For those of our multitude of readers (I think we have four or five family members who feel obliged to skim through these long winded things) who are familiar with the children stories about Flat Stanley http://www.flatstanleybooks.com/ I am sure one could think of that being the result of folks who do not obey the train whistle warnings.
The train made several stops and we all piled off. At one of the stops, children lined up to have their photo taken with Narda. Not sure why she is always so popular (more than me – but I am not complaining – just wondering what I can do to get as much attention) – this has happened for many years in many countries. A selfie with Narda is just so cool for folks. I know I do it too. The carriages are smaller than regular Indian trains as they are on narrow gauge tracks. There are toilets in the front and back of each carriage. The distance from Kalka to Shimla by rail is 97 kilometers with several bends, 102 tunnels, 988 bridges and 917 sharp curves. It takes more than six-hours to make the trip up.Last year, the train had met with an accident near Dharampur while it was travelling at a speed of 28 km/hour. The driver was dismissed for speeding. The one we were on went considerably slower, making leaning out the window to take photos and video easy, though Narda gets nervous as I go out the window or door to get footage. Our favourite sign along the way at one of the stations on the way up to Shimla. Now, a week after Shimla, in Amritsar, the centre of Sikhism (that story is next) we are learning this is the crux of what the Sikhs have to say.
Shimla ( listen), also known as Simla, is the capital and the largest city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The climatic conditions attracted the British to establish the city in the dense forests of the Himalayas as the summer capital, from the 1940s. The main shopping area is Mall Road in the centre of the city. It is closed to traffic except for emergency vehicles, making walking rather pleasant. There are many monkeys around the place – I liked this bold one.
And of course, Narda got more folks rushing up to her to get a selfie – no one asked me.We had a nice Airbnb, Narda wrote about this above. We were on the edge of a forest area and often monkeys would be everywhere. The photo below is moneys at our house – one was licking the wall. Narda captured one of their capers this morning; I had put out a bag of trash, hearing lots of noise, a monkey was taking a few prized possessions out of the bag – we didn’t record much, so it does not show that there were six or seven soon after at our door. They are very bold and used to humans. Narda’s sister, Caroline, was bit by one a couple of years ago in Indonesia and had to have shots.
See the short clip of our monkey-thief
Narda has written about our stay in Shimla. I will just add that it is one of our memorable places we have visited. We would not do it again as it was a bit difficult for us. The narrow roads, steep drops, climb down and up to where we lived, and our flat; two-bedrooms, two bathrooms, large lounge area, lots of English news stations and easy to plug in our HDMI cable to watch our latest series of our computer, ‘The Last Ship’, and the Netflix documentary on the Rajneeshees, ‘Wild Wild Country’ – we were just in Pune for a week, even stayed at an AirBnB run by a couple of their devotees and last year we were in Oregon, their US Centre – so we are quite interested in their stuff. Of course, you can reread the ‘Pune’ blog about this. And the other difficult part for us, the elders, was that there was no heat. It would be five-degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit), cold for us, warm for our New York family and friends, in the morning. There was no shower, as we have done in other places, we used the bucket provided and got enough warm water to dump over our shivering bodies. During the day it was warmer, outside, but for a week, we never got warmed up in the house. We wold wrap up in blankets in front of the TV. The other minor complaint we have had before is that beds are incredibly hard. Luckily there were enough quilts to pile under our sheets to make it bearable.
These houses are built not only on mountainsides but in areas that are not accessible by vehicles, every brick, window, roof tile, everything is carried in. We have seen men with washing machines on their backs, 50-kilo bags of cement mix, and so much more. When we left our flat we were unable to carry our suitcases up the hill and paid a man to carry them; he took two suitcases and a bag of our not-needed crap (hey family we bought you each something) all together on his back.
We took the railcar – a single carriage train back down the hill. 8,000-foot drop in four hours. As it left Shimla at 5 pm we only had an hour of daylight. After dark I spent a few hours catching up on our writing and video editing, all the things I seldom have time to do as we keep adding more experiences to our trip. There was only one stop along the way and we all ran to the toilet and grabbed a bite to eat then we were on our way. We stayed at the same hotel in Kalka that we stayed at coming up.
See our clip of the Shimla to Kalka Rail Motor Car – about two-minutes
We only had a few seconds to see the sunset as the mountains covered the setting sun most of the way. This was not touched in Photoshop. Do the Shimla trip once in your life.
video for Langkawi at http://youtu.be/xjsETcPNtNI
Not to be confused with Maui wowie or anything to do with Hawaii except what a great place Langkawi is.
Left home. Home was back there. Back there was Ao Nang. We had made ourselves at home so quickly. Like within hours. We left the motor scooters out front where we got them two-weeks earlier. I re-read the local tourist magazine ‘Passport Magazine’ again paying particular attention to the section about ‘motorbiking in Thailand’ as I had ignored it before we rented our motor scooters; “Statistically, Thailand is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drive (or ride)’… the article goes on to say a lot of scary stuff about how many people get killed a day, especially tourists riding motor scooters. Not to worry. We survived for two-weeks on country roads and highways with others who seemed to have little regard for us or who cared whether I stayed alive to write this blog. After all I had survived heart surgery in Hong Kong two months ago and I have survived three major car accidents any of which I should have been killed in and I survived the 1960s and 1970s and of course the following decades but it was the 1960s that was the most challenging as all people in their 20s come to realize that if they can get past their 20s they will make it a bit further.
Narda got our home from searching on airbnb.com and it was one of our better finds. The price was reasonable; a whole house for $22 US a night and the scooters were six dollars US a day. Of course we did not pay for insurance for the motor scooters. What could go wrong on a little thing like that? The house was basic but being in a quiet forest area at the bottom of a cliff we found it our kind of home. There were a few things that were different than living in Campus Village back in Dalian; such as the huge rats that would run along the rafters and clang around the roof at night until I would throw something at the metal roof then they would quiet down for a bit or until I put in earplugs then they would not seem so bothersome. We learned on the first day that no food could be anywhere not even a crumb. Ants of various sizes and the red ones do bite would be so quick to be there – like spontaneous combustion – well that is a stupid analogy but they did appear suddenly. Of course anything edible would bring forth the rat families. They even chewed up the sponges we washed dishes with no doubt being tricked by some foot smells on them of course there were spit out chewed up bits of sponges further down the way; stupid rats.
The frogs were OK though the first time I heard them at night when I went outside to the loo – well not outside outside but outside to the loo that was attached to the outside of the house; I thought someone was saying hello in a deep voice so I kept saying ‘hello’ back until I realized there was no one there. After a few nights of freighting myself in the middle of the night I realized it was not a human saying ‘hello’ but a frog I stopped saying it myself to no one at all but to frogs. It is the dumb things we do in life that no one knows unless of course we tell them, which I would never do, that are funny but they are only funny to ourselves if we do not tell someone else and a problem I have is that I will tell someone something that I think is funny and they don’t so after many decades of being a self-appointed-comedian I am thinking about call it a day with my humour and I will learn to laugh at other people’s jokes instead of my own that no one else thinks is funny.
And there are the cats who live nearby that hang out at our door for affection or food or maybe even both but who are too lazy to chase away the rats or who are afraid of them as the rats are the size of the cats. They must have been given attention by the previous tenants as they believe; there are three, that they can just waltz into our home when they want and meow. We did not feed them during our two weeks thinking they would go away but they didn’t. This morning I gave them a bowl of sweetened condensed milk as we had a tin left. We developed a taste then an addiction for sweetened condensed milk back in Hanoi a few years ago and now only drink coffee with it in. Narda said they would get sick from such rich milk but I gave them the tin full anyway. The kitten of the trio took to it right away but the older cats only had a bit. Blimey, I am getting bored with writing this…
This is always a writing dilemma; keep my audience, which is me, interested, at least to the end of the paragraph. I do not believe in astrology and I have written about this in length before, but as a non-believer I will just add that part of my writing dilemma is having Mars conjunct Uranus at 25 degrees in Gemini. (really very interesting is that Uranus was discovered when it was at 25 Gemini in 1781 and here I have it at its returning point in 1947; holy cow – see http://www.stariq.com/Main/Articles/P0000270.HTM for the meaning of Uranus) I suppose that if I said and that conjunction is in my 8th house you would say ‘well this sentence is dead in the water’. Get it? 8th house being the natural house of Scorpio, a fixed water sign. My 8th house is ruled by Taurus and I have my Moon in Taurus there as parts of my fixed cross between Moon opposite Jupiter all square my four planet conjunction in Leo in the tenth. Go figure! So all that is why I no longer believe in astrology; of course it is obvious with my Neptune in the 12th and Neptune rules my 5th house which is the natural house of Leo. I once gave presentations at astrological conferences on ‘The fifth house and self-realization‘. Thus is life; a series of miss guided belief systems we cling on to try and explain why something or why we are the way we are.
Our house, probably a shack by some definitions; had lots of open windows, all without screens. So besides the rats and the talking frogs and the ants and cats we had heaps of mosquitoes. Fortunately we slept under a mosquito net and we had lots of mosquito coils and mosquito spray to slow the bites. I showed a picture of my knees well bitten on the previous blog ‘next’. Obviously with everything we could do we could not keep from getting bitten. Not to worry if we were getting any diseases from them I am sure we would have them now.
We did like our little house though. We had a lazy time. We even developed a routine of walking to the main road, about twenty minutes, to get coffee at a local outdoor ramshackle bamboo hut then across to a market for a liter of water each and back home to get our scooters then off for a bit of a ride.
In the late afternoon we had a swim, and either we would go out for dinner or make something at home and watch a couple of episodes of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ which I find rather dumb, predictable and over acted but we have the series with us. There were other routines too such as the rats having a party at two or three in the morning – I would throw something at them, whatever I could find, so there were often shoes or other items that flew out the window when I missed the ceiling and there was the call-to-prayers about 5.15 every morning. What is that about? Considering we live on a country road with a house on both sides and one across the road then nothing for a long way why such a loud production each morning? I am not a music person like Narda is a music teacher and musician but to me ever who was doing it seemed really off key. It did not sound as musical as what I have heard when we were in Istanbul or KL or other Muslim entranced places. Nevertheless I never had a good sleep so part of my routine was taking a nap every afternoon. Narda saw this stay as a trial toward retirement but I hope retirement does not have so many rats, mosquitoes, stray cats and talking frogs and ants and calls-to-prayer.
Really. Do those prayers really change anything? As a researcher of many belief systems and a down-to-earth human being I would say nope.
And the king, what is up with him? Photos of him everywhere sometimes doing various activities and of course he is on the paper money. We learned this from a previous time in Northern Thailand a few years ago that it is best not to even mention the king. I think of the prime minister of Australia and how everyone just makes fun of him or her or whatever is in office. The same with the president of the US everyone seems to have a go at him. And the king and queen of the Brits get dissed often in Australia but not the king of Thailand. My favourite photo of him is on their one-hundred baht bill with him holding a camera. Maybe he is a photo buff as I have seen large paintings of him with a camera around his neck. It is a Cannon and I have a Nike so we are on a different page. He probably was not a hippie either nor does he hoon around Thailand on a motor scooter or stay at $22 US a night digs with rats. What is the point of a king? But the people of Thailand seem to think he is an OK chap. We have read and been told that if you drop paper money with his image on it and it starts to blow away do not run over and put your foot on the money to stop it as one can get a fine or go to jail for that.
Our lives are governed, controlled? By turns taken. We are sitting on this crap ferry because of a direction taken not meant to be taken or at least by the conscious part of what we think we use to control the directions we take in life; our brain. We researched and decided to take a train from nearby; probably Trang, down to KL; about a day and a half. What we have read was that the overnight sleeper through Thailand is great but the train through Malaysia is air conditioned and quite cold but we still wanted to do the ride. We rode our scooters to Krabi Town – half an hour from home, to purchase a ticket. We had read we could buy one in Krabi Town. When we got to Krabi Town we came to an intersection that we could not get across nor could we turn right which was the direction to downtown where we wanted to purchase our train ticket to KL. After sitting too long and getting freaked out by the traffic, and remembering the article about Thailand being one of the most dangerous countries to drive in, we went left thinking we could make a U-turn and get our sorry-asses downtown. There was nowhere to immediately make a U-turn and in fact there was a foot high barrier in the midst of Utarakit Road for a kilometer or two.
When we did get to the U-turn we thought it was another one of our synchronous moments because right there at the U-turn was the Government Tourism Office. The dude in there printed out a train timetable for us and in the midst of our excitement over getting a train all the way to KL he rang someone whom he sent us to so we could purchase our fun ticket. I wrote about our Muslim travel-agent chick in the last blog, ‘Next’ so I will leave it to the fact that she was not sure how to get us a train ticket but she could get us on a ferry to Langkawi and from there a flight to KL. She made it all sound so groovy and pleasant we left singing her praises – me singing off-key like our neighboring call-to-morning-prayers chanter or whatever they are referred to as.
So here we are sitting on the Tigerline Ferry. What a horrible little piece of junk it is. A fast ferry? Not sure about that. The webpage and brochure shows a two level deck and the ticket lady that convinced us to go this way instead of by train said there was a café on board where we could order food. All that is close to that is some deck hands selling beer and water from an esky at the front of the boat. We are sandwiched into our narrow row – four seats on either side of the row with little leg room on the first level with scant air conditioning. There is a pool of liquid in front of the loo door coming down the aisle. The second level is upstairs as all second levels are – but it is outside with a small covered area. They have sold twice as many tickets as there are seats so the top is covered with folks sitting on the deck in the glaring sun. it is also very loud as the motor with two smoke pipes pouring out thick polluting smoke are up there too. The boat is old, rusty and filthy. There are a lot more people than there are life jackets and we have noted where the kick-out-windows are in case this thing goes down. The ferry we took from Phuket to Ao Nang was first class compared to this. The ferry we took from Dalian to Yantai was more like a small ship had state rooms and was cleaner than this. This boat should be condemned and sunk or used for target practice for the military.
Maybe it is because we are old and get grumpy over things. I do not see anyone complaining, just Narda and me. We started off with a mini-bus from Ao Nang to Krabi. When we got on the Tigerline Ferry mini-bus there were already six people on it and we collected four more in Krabi. They were all in their 20s. A different mix than when we took a mini-van tour in Phuket with a van full of folks from India. These kids were quite the mix: three males from South Africa, a couple from Denmark, two girls from Briton, a girl from Germany a couple with an accent I could not work out and us wherever we are from. Young travelers are good and they just accept the way things are. Young people just think of sex and beer no other part of the brain has kicked in yet so conversations are limiting usually. Travelers are a little easier to speak with but with large signs advertising ‘beer pong tonight’ in the backpackers where we collected some I think all people in their twenties are pretty much the same. Narda said I was an original hippie from San Francisco and the British girls seemed impressed. One asked if I wore flowers in my hair. I am not sure about that but I did have hair to my waist and I did live quite the hippie life in San Francisco at the end of the 1960s. And I suppose at other times along the way.
Maybe I have gone full cycle or full semi-cycle. Life is cyclic often and we do end up where we were though we should be at a higher place on the circle than we were the first time around.
I dropped out in the 1960s as many of us did; tune-in, drop-out, turn-on then kind of tried to integrate myself back into society raising children and teaching in universities and K-12 schools for the past 15 years or so and now we are dropping back out gradually. I think some refer to it as retirement.
Kids today; not sure how different they are. We all had long hair and dressed quite colourfully in the 1960s and now the thing is to have tattoos and piercing. People in their twenties have lots of tats. At the beach it is so noticeable of course as these are not Muslim kids but Western kids in a Muslim area thought no one seems to care. Some tats are picturesque but some are look like a drunken sailor had a go with some needles and ink. And the piercing; belly buttons, lips, eyelids, ears, tongue, checks, and probably some areas that were barely covered. Other than the tats and piercing and the music adolescents or whatever the next stage is now are the same as they/we were in the 1960s.
Before my generation there was not much happening for folks in their twenties, just wars and farm or factory work. The main difference now is that these kids are not part of a big war movement like we were in the 1960s and the protest movement has moved from the streets of developed countries for the most part to developing countries like in the middle east. There seems to be a big protest movement in Thailand or at least in Bangkok but as I only have seen glimpses of headlines for the past two-weeks I am not sure what the beef is. Where we are there is no protest and all the westerners are out having a great time. It seems that a large number of people in Thailand want to shut down the country on January 13th. We left Thailand two days ago on the seventh so we are good.
My son has a huge tat across his chest and probably by now lots more. He turned 33 a couple of days ago and in my opinion is now too old to get tats. I Skyped him and told him I got married when I turned 33 and had him; he may do the same this year following in my style though hopefully with a better marriage experience than I did when his mother and I got hooked up for some unexplained reason.
I have told the story before so will not get into it again; we met at an astrological conference in Sydney, she visited me in Maryland a few months later – we hated each other from the get-go but being young as acted and still in our twenties even though we were in fact in our 30s and thought of little more than sex and beer as all twenty years think only of… so she went back to Adelaide in March of 1980 (after the two of us drove across the USA from Baltimore Maryland to San Francisco drinking huge amounts of hard liquor as we drove for four days and at the end I deposited her at the SF Airport; which should reinforce the message not to drink and drive because the results can be disastrous) and I went to Hawaii to hang out with Randy Dandurand whom I first met toward the start of 1969 in Laguna California and knew from too many trips (I will not elaborate on what that exactly means) and who at the end of 1969 I ran in to in Honolulu and who got me into the cult order I ended up in for a decade. Again in Hawaii, again with Randy Dandurand and again stuck – this time in June 1980 when I got a phone call that started with ‘guess what?’ and not to repeat the whole story again, that was 33 years ago and that was Sacha on his way. I have my Moon descendant line or is it the MH line? going through Hawaii so that could explain my two interactions in Hawaii; joining a cult order and getting married, neither of which worked out. Fortunately I no longer believe in astrology so that of course is all nonsense.
I was just saying to Narda yesterday the thing about learning is not the learning but what is being learned. I studied astrology for 40 years and I know all the interpretations and calculation systems and heaps of crap all of which I wish I had never learned because it is all nonsense. I am not sure why I think it is nonsense but I know for 40 years I used to make decisions based on where the planets were and almost all those decisions were stupid, ill founded, mistaken, crap. I have not followed astrology since 13 August 2003 and life outside of the event that caused me to stop believing in it or looking at it anymore has been OK. I think I make a lot of decisions based on common sense and they tend to be good whereas I use to make plans and decisions based on astrology and they did not work out.
Nada says I assemble together too many words to say something. So in fewer words or simple thought I wish I had learned a language instead of learning astrology. Which simply put as a life learned lesson do not learn stuff that you will never use in the future but of course how could we know that at the time on embarking upon the learning? Then again learning, anything anytime anywhere no doubt is good for the brain muscles. Some things we should have learned along the way but did not because we did not see the importance. For example in boy scouts I did not go for the orienteering badge and yesterday we got helplessly lost coming home from downtown where we are now. After that – the next time out – Narda drew a map of every street and turn and building along the way so we would not get lost again. Of course that was not needed as we got a ride home the next time we walked to the downtown area of where we are now by the owner of where we are living but more of that later. The price we paid was that after walking for more than four hours in the sun along a country road Narda, having one of those Northern European types of skin, got burnt and I became darker.
After the first half hour and we were out of Krabi the Thailand countryside was well worth the trip. It was about two hours to Trang and most everyone was asleep except the driver and me when we got close – which was good. I listened to my 1960s music: Dylan, Joplin and the likes so I would keep perspective on my life. Thailand has really beautiful countryside. The last hour we were along the coast passing through small fishing villages and large palm tree plantations on our narrow country road.
At the Port of Trang we waited for the ferry that was to arrive at 12:30. It arrived at two pm. I sat on the pier with the kids from our mini-van; three South Africans and the girls from England and Germany. Narda found an old couple; well probably our age, from Holland and stayed with them. What do young people see when they look at me? I feel at about the same level as them feeling youthful and liberal and free and though I have invisible tats and non-piercing piercing I have them psychologically and I am sure I could win at beer pong except for the fact I don’t drink beer but psychologically I feel intoxicated. The Brits said I was really kool whatever that means in their language. Probably like my “my granddad is your age and he is really kool”. “I mean he has a pace-maker and sits in his wheel chair all day in front of the telly and he drools and wets himself but for the few moments he is conscious every day after a bit of gin and a smoke he says some funny shit…” so that is about the level they see me. “Hey girls I was quite the stud in my day… I could tell you stories.. wait here comes my wife…maybe later I will tell you about living in a commune in San Francisco in 1968 – 1969 or the time I lived on a nude beach on the island of Maui in 1971 (Makena Beach) or… damn old age where is the toilet around here?” Actually we had a chilled time waiting for the luxury ferry and then there it was.Bloody ferry should be condemned. The whole Tigerline Ferry should be closed down. We got into the main cabin – well actually there was only one cabin, and it was packed. Luckily we managed to find two seats left but the 40 or so passengers that also got on at Trang had to go up on top. The ferry had come from Phuket and was full.
Our baggage was tossed amongst the rest – see photo below…Toward the end of the day we got close to Koh Lipe. Those of us headed for Malaysia were herded to one side of the boat and the majority on board going to Lipe got on the other side. We were put onto a Longtail Boat – much like we rode in Ao Nang and in Krabi. No one, or none of us, knew what was happening. Someone joked we were going to Malaysia in it but of course that seemed impossible. There were 14 of us with the hundreds of others getting on another ferry and headed to the nearby beautiful shore of Koh Lipe, a young person’s paradise so of course it was only fit to send us away.
Then they took our passports and the teenager that took them made jokes like ‘bye bye’ after collecting most of them. All except Narda and mine which she was not going to turn over until we realized we were not going any further until we did. Apparently this is immigration, Thailand style.
Koh Lipe with our boat heading toward us (really). As the sun began to set we got off at the floating immigration and our passports were taken to some other boat that said Thailand on the side.
My biggest concern was that there was no toilet at immigration and another person said wait until sun sets in a few minutes and go over the side. With more than a dozen people standing around I thought I needed to get over myself and my being old and wait until we got to Malaysia which we were told was only an hour and half away by fast boat when the actual boat arrived.
When the boat arrived and we got in and took off everything changed. I sat in the back taking a zillion photos as I do and as the sun set our boat with its two 250 hp motors took us onto a journey like I had never been on before.
Once it became dark and my camera was away I just watched the darkness with only the waves from the back of the boat visible. Here we were riding very fast in an open sea; the Andaman Sea. Riding between two countries we could have been smugglers, James Bond types, anything; even ourselves. I wondered what would happen if we saw a boat coming at us and stopping us a gun point and taking us hostage. There are kidnappings and extremists wandering around Southern Thailand and Malaysia. I thought maybe I would throw my US Passport overboard but Narda thought maybe the Yanks would be the ones who would rescue us and me being the only Yank on board, I use my Australia Passport all the time and only use the US one when I enter the States, could get us all saved. The rest on the boat were from Australia, Holland, Poland and some non-definable, though Western, countries. The driver and his mate looked like adolescents and surely were not over 20 so what they would do to protect us I am not sure. Narda said she was thinking how it could turn out if the motors stopped and we drifted to one of the islands along the way and no one found us and we became like the people in the series, ‘Lost’. After half an hour I just stopped thinking and plugged my iPhone into my ears and listened to Dylan, Creedence, ‘Layla’ by Derek and the Dominos (often voted on radio stations as the greatest rock song of all time) and just chilled like I have never in my life. This became the greatest ride of all time for me.All because we could get across Ut Tharakit Road back in Krabi Town and ended up at the government travel bureau that directed us to some small tourist centre where the chick there could not figure out the train ticket to KL from Trang or did not want to and hooked us up with Tigerline Ferry. She told Narda that at one time the brother or cousin of the owner of Tigerline Ferry wanted to marry her. Not sure how the dialogue got to that point but Narda and her had quite the tongue waggle and Narda said “you are quite the character aren’t you?” Whether the Muslim chick had a clue what Narda said or not I have no idea but even though her English was limited (not Narda, the other chick) they seemed to hit it off.
Narda is a social creature whereas I just look around for a place to get onto the internet – ‘hey what is the password?’
For example, we were riding our scooters around the back roads of Ao Nang and Narda wanted to check out real-estate of all things, something about coming here for six months when we retire soon; good grief. So we came across streets with nice little houses with for rent or sale signs in front and if there was a European hanging about Narda would end up in conversation. I would sit a few meters behind looking for the way out. We spent one afternoon doing this. Of course we have now found another place Narda wants to retire to; Ko Langkawai. I imagine Ko means island as it is front of every island name.
We did get to Langkawai; proof is that I am writing this from there, and everything where we docked was dark except for one light in a building which we once again turned over our passports. Narda went off to find an ATM to get some Malaysian ringgits and I stayed behind guarding our crap and waiting for our passports. We started off with bag each so how we ended up in Malaysia with seven bags I am not exactly sure but I think we have more crap to put into storage when we get back to Australia after we leave China in six months. Of course the amount of stuff we have in China to send to Australia will fill a container vessel by itself. Now I know what the difference between the twenty-year old backpackers we see everywhere and us. It is not their youthful tattooed-pierced bodies barely covered and their sole thoughts of beer and sex that differs us but that they travel with a backpack and that is probably all they own in the world and we lug around cargo ships of merchandise.
Once we had our passports and ringgits and seven bags lined up we saw all the rest of the folks get into the three taxis that were there. A man said he would take us for 40 ringgits (about $12 US) to where we were going but he was not an official taxi driver. Another couple was left behind and they were going to the same area as us so we negotiated at 30 ringgits per couple and piled in. OK what not to do in a foreign country in the dark with no one around; get into a car with someone who speaks a few words of English and head out into the night. But we have found ourselves in sticky places in Guatemala, Mexico City, Cambodia and heaps of other places and we lived in Jersey City for three years being the only white people in our area so we go through life taking chances and living in the moment. Narda had the phone number for where we were going so that helped and the driver actually found our way out of the way place and at 10.30 pm we arrived at this beautiful house.
Home now is much different than our rat infested shack back in Ao Nang but we are paying four times more and there is a bit of downside. We really are in the country. The next morning, yesterday, we looked out and saw the paddocks and the little bike width road to town. ‘Only about 20 minutes” people staying in the next cottage said. So we walked it and half an hour later arrived onto the main street of town and across to Pantai Cenang Beach. We had been there the night before at 10:30 PM. When we arrived in Langkawi we were very hungry having had only a couple of sandwiches that we had brought with us for the day. The owner of the place we are now at sent us by taxi to her café which is on the beach, an incredible and beautiful place; white sand tables on the beach and really good food. We ate there the next night, last night too.
Coming back home yesterday we got lost and walked for three hours along a country road and burnt Narda and me we were not impressed. We got this place the day before we left Ao Nang as we thought we were taking a train and never having heard of Langkawi.
We had a good stay howbeit the long walk to any place to buy food was off putting and the beach was a half hour walk but the swimming was great.
All in all our three-week winter holiday was relaxing and now at two AM we are waiting for a plane in KL to get us to Shanghai though not fun being so tired and all I must say it has been good. This could be our last trip during a school holiday as we may not work after this school year and where we will be next year to start 2015 will be as much of a surprise that we will not know about until we are in the moment once again just like we had no idea we would be out to sea on a fast boat between Thailand and Malaysia until we got on to the boat. We never even had heard of the fantastic island of Langkawi until a week before we went there. So life goes forward taking a turn here and a twist there and if we just can perfect the letting go and enjoying where we are being taken all will be fine.
Of course some things never change. When we got back to Dalian low and behold they lost two pieces of our luggage. Once again. Just like the times before. Thanks China Eastern you make life so predictable.
http://youtu.be/8YGAf2A7NtM (Ao Nang)
(Koh Klang Island, Krabi) http://youtu.be/92Vx8hSsXzs
What Narda saw from her hammock http://youtu.be/l02Wi9lYdbc
Saturday 21 December
Warmth has many interpretations, perceptions, explanations: emotional, physical, spiritual, local, worldly, universal, chemical, mental and so forth and so here we are seeking warmth that encompasses it all. Simply put, because really who wants to hear one whinge and whine about their lot in life? I will just say ‘oh look we are going to southern Thailand for a three-week holiday to get warm’, who wants to know that when they can stay at home and watch the television and news shows showing the worst of humanity over and over.
Again, here we are at the International area at Shanghai Airport, we’ve done this stop heaps or at least some dozen or more times which is heaps to some and not many for others. Usually we are here on the way to Australia. Though this is one of those rare times when we are spending Christmas not in Australia. I think we have missed going to Adelaide two or three times in the past dozen years. Before these past three years in China it was the 30 hours of travel from New York, usually a couple of times a year, to Australia. At least these past three years we have been close to the same time-zone.
Shanghai Airport, the last few days of 2013, still struggling with English words – in their international departure area I know, seeing ‘coffee and cates’ means no one here is in a rush to become Western too fast… there are lots of indications throughout China that yes they will cater to our lot but we are and always will be outsiders and why don’t we just learn their bloody language and stop being so precious about the English language and of course we Westerners are just too precious.
Last night was good. Yesterday, Friday, being the last day of school before the holidays meant that many bailed at the end of the day or were packing to leave this morning. But there were at least thirty-five that showed up for a sing-a-long in the lobby of Campus Café. Narda played piano and Tyler guitar – our music teachers bringing everyone together. It wasn’t just singing Christmas songs; there were a whole slew of songs with the words on the wall and from children to us oldies and every decade in between happily singing along. From our sports teacher to the owner of the school, principals, head of school, elementary, upper school and our Chinese school, Huamei teachers we had quite the cross section. Narda thought maybe no one would show up because of it being the start of holidays but this is a school that is a community and with us all living here music brings everyone together. We often say it is really assisted living though of course those in their 20s, 30s, even 40s would not want to say that but us over 50, OK over 60… damn I am the oldest, see it as assisted living. I was there in my slippers, so was Narda, others had their blankets; Joe Fred and Cindy had their Dallas Cowboy blanket over them. We are not big Grid-Iron fans but we did live in New York for a decade and watched the Giants beat some team, I think from the mid-west, in the Superbowl at a pub in Brooklyn a few years ago so I suppose that makes us Giant fans. But saying anything to Joe Fred about how Dallas is doing this year, or the past few years, is not a happy topic. I think they lost by a point or two the last few games. But they beat the New York Giants, though of course everyone is beating them this year including their selves, so who am I say? But they had their blanket and they shared it with the head of school and on a minus six degrees centigrade night we all were warm. And here we are at Shanghai Airport headed for a warm climate full of warm thoughts.
Narda has just finished her last concerts; the elementary winter concert, helping Tyler with the high school one and last Sunday conducting with some folks for the first international concert of our province. She had practiced for months with a group from some local school. At the Sunday concert there were politicians and a mixture of our school and whomever we had joined with. The concert was supposed to be at 2 pm but due to a least moment comrade-meeting by The Party the concert was put off until 6 pm because some members wanted to go to the concert and we were told you don’t mess with them. Sort of like ‘don’t mess with Texas’. But now it is all over, Narda’s concerts are at a break until the next series start up, the spring concert and I think she is doing ‘Sound of Music’ later in the next year, next year being next week.
Narda has a long history of doing concerts. When she was ten years old she would get her sister, 8 years old, to join in and they would do concerts for their nieghbourhood. Narda and Helena would wear matching dresses, put flyers in letterboxes on their street and perform for ten – fifteen minutes, playing guitar and singing. They would charge like ten-cents and I am not sure what would happen to the children of the street if they did not come but the Narda-ten-year-old-mafia-style-concert always had an audience. The only song I remember her saying she did was ‘you have lost that loving feeling’ by the Righteous Brothers. I find it interesting how we follow our destinies that we map out in youth. I was going to be a writer when I was ten-years old. I use to write all the time, novels, stories, poems, movie scripts… but over the decades that dwindled down to a few blogs and all that I ever got published was a children’s story that Scholastic Magazine published in the mid-1980s. My brother and I use to play restaurant and make up a menu and cook for each other Sunday night but neither of us got to the restaurant stage of life though I did manufacture tofu and many tofu products and to combine my ten-year old wants I am working on my tofu e-book (subtitled ‘Astrology made me a bad tofu maker’) which is really a novel/story/autobiography/cookbook and that of course I will never finish. (And of course it would never come close to Joanne Harris’s “Five Quarters of the Orange” which I just finished reading and I like about the best of any book I have ever read. She uses parts of a journal the mother in the story wrote which tells the story mixed in with recipes. I was doing the same thing but after reading “Five Quarters of the Orange” I wonder why I would continue with my book. Harris wrote the book : “Chocolat” one of my favourite movies and in fact is the first movie I saw with Narda after we got married which of course has nothing to do with what I am writing about here which is our holiday here in Thailand and Narda being a concert giver.) All unlike Narda with her making sure the neighbourhood showed their presence at her concerts and she would rehearse and prepare and make her posters all of which she is doing now many, many – (oops now I would be in trouble if she read my blogs) years ago.
We get into Kuala Lumpur at 1.30 – that is 1.30 AM – sometime after midnight, then grab a flight to Phuket at 4.30 AM and get there at 5.30 AM or so. It is easier to do the 30 plus hour flights from New York to Australia because the flights are long and sleep is just a pill away but these short hauls are a bugger and we will be more loopy than usual when we stagger into our hotel in Phuket. Last I saw it was 30 degrees centigrade which is warm, maybe hot, but not what it was in Adelaide this week which was 43.5 C or 110 F.
Sunday 22 December
On the short flight Dalian to Shanghai they hand out their boxes of food. For once they got it straight that I am a vegetarian and they even stopped at my seat to confirm it. What could they possible give me? Considering on these short trip we only ever get a roll and a sweet bun it was not like they were going to pull off some strange; possibly chicken or a derivative of a farm animal, and give me a piece of carrot which is usually the way. In my little box, which said veg on the outside I got a whole-meal roll instead of a white roll like my neighbour passengers got. And a small piece of possibly carrot cake whereas my surrounding guests got something looking chocolate like, it was brown. The longer flight Shanghai to KL was better with a curry veggie smothered in rice and not the other way around. Surely we can make analogies to life based on experience on Chinese airlines with China Eastern being at a class in need of enlightenment (the lowest caste, the Dalits in the Hindus trip) and Singapore Airlines being the Brahmins.
So when we got to KL in the early hours and then to Phuket at even a more unreasonable time – like five AM and to our hotel in Phuket Town at seven giving us a 24-hour trip with a reasonable three hours at the max sleep. We get more sleep going from New York to Beijing or to Melbourne not having interrupted… I am losing interest in my story here..
Monday 23 December
So Phuket is OK. We stayed in a guesthouse; Summer Breeze in Phuket Town) that was in sort of a small village off to the side of stuff and that is always more interesting than being tossed in with the tourist throngs. We did the one-day tourist journey to Monkey cave and to James Bond Island (Koh Tapu off of the Ko Khao Phing Kan island in the Phang Nga Bay, Strait of Malacca) – all too expensive and a waste of a day. We almost never go on tours but fend for ourselves getting lost on buses or just wandering and being our own tourist guides. If we don’t know what something is we make it up as we would remember our own historical narratives as much as if some tourist guide told us what something is and our interpretation is always good. We should start a tourist guide business and whatever we say something is then, dig it that is correct. ‘and on the right of your tuk tuk Buddha blessed that tree, which of course is thousands of years old… well the tree isn’t, obviously, it is just a few years old, but the great-ancestor to where that current tree now is stood a mighty tree that the Buddha looked up at and said “life sure is kool” before going on and starting a religion that people even today leave fruit on alters for in hopes that it will be eaten by the Buddha but surprise surprise it is still there the next day’.
Tuesday 24 December
We took the ferry over to Ao Nang Beach, Krabie for the two-hour run. I fell to sleep soon after we left port. One thing I have always been good at is going to sleep – staying asleep is another thing – I wake up at two in the morning ready to climb a mountain or at least go look for something to eat. My best sleeping time is when we are taking off in a plane. I almost always will be asleep by or soon after being in the air. My record that I remember is one time being awake as the plane started down the runway and I thought I would just close my eyes for a moment – and waking up half an hour later in the clouds. Waking in the clouds is quite different than my usual being already awake in the clouds such as when I am at work. I rarely am tired or plan on sleeping I just like to close my eyes when the plane is leaving but almost every single time I am asleep by air time.
When you get on to the ferry everyone is told to put their bags into one large area so a couple of hundred people with a couple bags each, a couple of hundred bags, all happily leave their bags. The majority of the passengers, at least on our boat, were Australians and being young and backpackers were happy to find all the open areas at the front to show off their tats and youthful bodies to one another whilst Narda and I found the padded comfortable seats inside.
Somewhere in this setup there was a potential pain-in-the-ass moment.
We found it.
So when we get to Ao Nang Beach and everyone grabs their bags and get on land Narda and I count our bags. Of course unlike backpackers who have one bag each we have seven in total. Just because we have traveled steadily for decades does not mean we have figured it out. Oh wait! We now have six bags and the next set of passengers are all rushing on. I go back to find the missing bag but there is already a pile of bags where ours once were and one still is. The boat is leaving in five minutes and no they will not unpack the ferry to find ours but they will ring us when the ferry is back in port if they find a bag at the next island before the next group gets on and the ferry stops again at Ao Nang Beach. We are concerned mainly because we cannot remember what is in the bag. We have both our computers, Ipad, Kindle, cameras and lenses and clothes but even after unpacking we cannot figure out what is in the bag. Until I go to take my heart-medication; something to do with having four stents put in a few weeks ago in Hong Kong.
Oops maybe we should worry.
Narda’s friend from Hamburg is on holiday in Northern Thailand and we were planning at trying to get up there but now there is a concern about my pills. We stopped at a travel centre and it will take us a whole day to get to Koh Lipe (Koh Lipe is a small island in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago of the Andaman Sea, in the Satun Province of southwest Thailand, close to Malaysian border). Four hours by min-bus and several hours by ferry, one overnight and another whole day coming back. Narda writes Mau that it is all quite difficult plus there is the potential that my pills would be gone. We hadn’t seen Mau for years, we use to pop into Hamburg each year on the way to Australia from New York but lately we seem to be Asia based. She realizes how difficult it will be to visit and she is going back to Germany at the end of the week so we will wait until somewhere else in the world is easier to get to visit in. My tie to her is from eleven years ago when we stopped in to visit; Narda met her in Budapest Hungary in the 1980s at a Kodály study program and they have been friends since. We spent several days at her home and I started writing my never-to-be-read by anyone except maybe my son, “Leaving Australia” in July 2003. It ended up being 570 pages and about 170,000 words plus lots of pictures, experiences, philosophies come and gone, relationships… I printed and leather bound two copies one for Sacha and the other sits on my shelf in China. It was a book to my children, as I was the existing parent, or sole parent from babyhood to hoods, explaining my life and why our life was the way it was based on my life’s experience. I wrote heaps for three days as Narda and Mau caught up on stories of their life. Two weeks later my son, Leigh, would fly to Sydney from where Leigh was playing baseball in Florida for the Los Angeles Dodgers and went off his 15 story hotel because his girlfriend broke up with him. It took me another six years to finish my book then I decided I would finish it for both sons even though only one decided to stay on the planet. Somewhere in the universal mind – some place in the slippery slope of galactic evolution there may be a particle of Leigh that exists and is conscious of what I say to him, so often, sometimes daily, sometimes just in my dreams. So that is my connection with Mau and every time we would go visit I would add to my “Leaving Australia”.
The ferry is due to stop at five pm at Ao Nang and at 4.30 Narda is insistent that we meet the ferry and not wait for them to ring us. We have rented motor scooters for two-weeks and go swimming each day – the water is warm – and go exploring and get ourselves lost on lots of back roads. So we get to the ferry and wow wow they have my bag with my pills. Not knowing what else we could have in the bag we quickly look and see our four seasons of “Sons of Anarchy”; we watched the first two seasons back in China. I have not really taken to the series mainly because the acting is so bad and the storylines are just stupid but because the two series we have been watching: ‘Homeland’ and ‘the Good Wife’, are done for the season and we did not have anything else to watch, ‘Sons’ became something to watch in the evening as I worked on my webpages and Narda watched. Narda’s DVD player, which plugs into her computer, was in the bag too. So we were happy though we have yet to have a TV on since being in Thailand for a week.
Then a day later, today, Thursday evening, we are looking through the bag we had left on the ferry and found my US Passport in a side pocket. Oops again. I only use it for when I enter the States, using my Australian Passport for everywhere else. Really! Who wants to say they are an American when traveling? I also found my Chinese bankcard which would have been a mess to replace.
What we realize when we travel and do not put the telly on is how peaceful and wonderful the world is. When we watch the news all they have is stories about bombing here and there and shootings in the States. We have no idea what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Egypt or really anywhere, now. Here the weather is fine the neighbours are great – Muslims are unlike what the news tries to do to portray them as such badies and even Narda has started to cover up like the local women but she does it because it is so bloody hot and when we are riding our motor scooters she gets so sunburnt so a black scarf over her head under her helmet covering her shoulders gives a local look. When we are on holiday I wonder why we ever bother to watch the news to begin with. Maybe that is what one does in retirement let the world get all crazy about the stupid news reports. I often wonder why we sit there looking at what is happening someplace where we are far from, have no ties to, will no doubt never go to, and which has and never will have an effect on us. It is close to being as bad as celebrity watching, something I have never paid much attention to. It is a good feeling to see a face on magazine covers and have no idea who it is; makes me feel not sucked in. I could not name a celebrity, singer or actor under forty and I am proud of that. Life is good here far away yet in the middle.
Thursday 26 December 26, 2013
And I have found warmth. From the sun to the people of Thailand to the foot massage – an hour for 200 Thai Baht ($6.10 US/ $6.84 Australian) which included a head and shoulder massage – to the warmth of being with Narda and the warmth of not having anywhere to go or anything to do. And Narda just read me that where we are, Aonang – is the world’s second best beach as stated by many travel magazines. The article did not say what magazine or what was the world’s finest beach. Having just come back from a swim as the sun set we can say it is definitely quite good.
Maybe I will post this and edit my videos in the Premier Creative Cloud Suite. Now there is warmth and the only news I need that today’s Adobe Creative Cloud Suite updates are downloading even with a slow Internet. And of course that the Australian dollar is back to 88 cents from 95 cents last month and that is the extent of the news we need. And of course that our friends and family are well and had a good Christmas and we got to Skype OK. Yesterday was Christmas and our Christmas present was a swim in the ocean and an hour massage. I think today we will ride our scooters to Krabi which we are told is half an hour away though we being old and slow and stopping too many times along the way, not to mention how easily we get lost and change our mind it will no doubt take the whole afternoon.
Tomorrow we buy our train tickets to Kuala Lumpur from Trang Thailand – leaving in two weeks on the 30 hour train ride.
Video for this blog at http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
Where we are always seems to be not as interesting as where someone else is though why we say that I am not quite sure when wherever we are is where we are because that is the totality of all we have done so far in life and the final destination at this moment. One turn anywhere in life and most likely we would be somewhere else more or less interesting than where we are now.
Think I will come back to that thought in a bit.
Two weekends ago we where in Hong Kong or was it the weekend before two weekends ago? I stop and think for a moment what did we do yesterday – or even worse – what did we do earlier in the day. Not because at 66 I am slowing down in memory – I did that back in the year 1966 – go figure – what I did in 1966 and of course those interesting years later – effects the way I think now on the eighth of December is how long since we were tromping around Hong Kong. I went to see my doctor – who I think is quite kool though why a doctor is kool I have no idea but he just seems kool. Dr. King. I believe his name is TIAN LUNG but thankfully for me he goes by Dr. Peter King; Chief of Cardiology, who speaks English, Mandarin, Shanghainese, and Cantonese. I know I have been in China for three years and this may sound quite stupid but saying one speaks Mandarin, Shanghainese and Cantonese to me sounds like me saying I speak New Zealand, British, Canadian, Australian and American. Nevertheless Dr. King speaks great English. They did their slew of tests on me from lots of tins of blood to scans of various sorts. After a couple of days meeting again with Dr. King he said I may need to have some laser treatment on my heart. A month earlier he slipped four stents into my arteries. I could use some laser treatment to get rid of some wrinkles here and there but shooting at my heart?
To celebrate something – most moments of a day should be celebrating something though what we were celebrating at the time I do not currently recall; anything from we did not have to get to morning meeting at 7.30 AM at school or stay after school for meetings until five PM or that even though we just spent two-thousand dollars for three days of Hong Kong – it is as expensive as Australia, or it could even have been something to do with my stents still being in place though I am still not sure if I needed them anyway… for whatever reason, as it should be, we felt like celebrating a bit. We only had one day when it was not full of hospital tests and doctors visits as the other two days takes us most of the day to get to and fro. We leave home at ten in the morning to get a one PM flights to get to Hong Kong at 4.30 then an hour train into Hong Kong and another half hour to our hotel. Coming back we leave our hotel at noon and get home at midnight then back to work Wednesday morning. Not really a fun way two spend two-thousand dollars (that is US not Hong Kong dollars) but nevertheless we did have a day and making the best of any day is good.
We took the fast ferry over to Macau. I wanted to see the old Portuguese section.
And since this is China there were a few people out for the day. In fact there were moments when we could not move forward or backward and this was just the foot traffic. Getting a taxi around Macau is even more fun and more up close. We watched the movie ‘World War Z’ last night – believe me not worth watching except for the graphics and being a film teacher ‘but I am watching this for my film class to teach about stuff’‘ I use chroma screening with my kids though we are not quite to the level of ‘Games of Thrones’ or ‘World War Z’. Whilst watching ‘World War Z’ which is about a virus attacking the world and everyone becoming zombies as Brad Pitt runs around looking like your typical everyday hero I could not help but associate the crowds we get stuck in here in China with the crowds going nuts and everyone biting each other and becoming zombies. In a way that has already happened. There are always crowds of zillions of people all in a shopping frenzied madding way. ‘the shopping zombie-virus’
Someone else wanted to see the casinos. We spent about two hours being historical tourists seeing old shit then we were off to the casino across the causeway. We took the Macau-Taipa Bridge over to Taipa (Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge) to the Cotai casinos. See my youtube video – http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
We took the fast ferry over to Macau. I wanted to see the old Portuguese section someone else wanted to see the casinos. We spent about two hours being historical tourists seeing old shit then we were off to the casino across the causeway. We took the Macau-Taipa Bridge over to Taipa (Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge) to the Cotai casinos. See my youtube video – http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
These are supposed to be some of the great casinos of the world. Not sure. Firstly, they are quite a distance apart but there are buses going to the next casino at each one. Unlike Las Vegas where a lot are within walking distance or that groovy monorail, Macau is like being in individual cities for each place. But of course China has to overdo everything.
As soon as we got to Macau Narda got a lot of text messages as one does when they arrive in a new town – at least that is what happens here in China. We figured they were advertisements to casinos, especially the first one which said ‘City of Dreams’ with lots of foreign stuff following. So after being dutiful tourists and seeing a bunch of old shit for a couple of hours we got into a taxi and Narda showed the first text message on her phone, without us having a clue what it said. That is when we got on to the Macau-Taipa Bridge. After awhile we began doubting our choice of communication but then we saw The Venetian (the largest casino in the world ~ the sixth-largest building in the world by floor area) followed by the ‘City of Dreams’ a huge hotel-casino complex which looks bigger than The Venetian. We spent almost twenty minutes in there. I tried taking video and photos but every time I took out the camera I was stopped. But I did get a shot of their ceiling.
And a shot of Narda kissing a gold bear so that we could have heaps of good luck whilst playing in the casino. It didn’t work we invested $20 Honk Kong dollars = a couple of bucks US, and lost it all. So we decided from that to just tour several casinos and keep our money for useful stuff like a fridge magnet.We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe which would be an easy place to give a miss to. We waited for more than two hours to be served. I don’t think it was because we are old and ugly but they were understaffed and everyone seemed upset. The food was good but for people in a hurry to tour every casino in Macau in a few hours it was a time waster.
The Venetian Casino, being the biggest casino in the world, though not having been to every casino in the world I can not verify that – just read this fact in several places including their own propaganda. Casinos really are all the same. Huge noise making flashing lights places to give people the illusion they are having fun and that of course giving their money away to strangers who own the casino is really a worthwhile thing to do. I lost my interest in all forms of slot machines back in the 1980s. About mid-1980. I was a single parent living in South Australia. Up until about 1985 the pubs in Adelaide were a good place to go to hear live music and pick up chicks (did I really say that?). Then in came the pokies. All the good pubs took out their areas of dance and frivolity. There were no live bands on weekends just stupid sounding machines with people hunched over them. It was difficult if not impossible to meet people and my life of a would-be wild single parent transitioned to a stay home parent writing children stories hunched over a computer. Of course back then we did not have the Internet and my computer had a green screen and I could do little else than type but I suppose staying home and being on a computer heaps was just as non-social as going to a pub and sitting in front of a slot machine. Hey I still sit at home hunched over a computer so my evolutionary path has not really evolved a whole lot. I never got money for my stories except for once I got a story published by Scholastic Magazine; ‘Vegy Fighters’ http://neuage.indiko.com/vegi_fighters.htm which I got two hundred dollars for. ‘Vegy Fighters’ was about a kid who would not eat his veggies because he thought there were flying saucers and etc. in them. I just looked at it – a couple of decades later – a bit of a lame story but I made more off of it than I have in all my casino gambling triads of my life which probably amount to an expenditure of less than fifty dollars if I add up my world-wide gambling investments. I realised back in my twenties that I was not lucky. With a Saturn conjunct my Venus I could see I would never do well economically and with Saturn squaring my Jupiter in fixed signs and in cardinal houses it is obvious that I will never be lucky. I am really happy that I do not believe in astrology or I would be really really spooked by my chart. Especially these months with transit Saturn squaring my Venus, Saturn, Pluto and Sun whilst sitting exactly on my Jupiter and bloody Uranus stirring up my heart by being in Aries trine my Venus in Leo home of the heart. This is such a bad astrological period for me that if I believed in any of this I would go hide under the bed.
The Venetian of course has that Italian look to with its gondola ride. We did not do the gondola ride because of the time factor and in fact we spent less than half an hour at The Venetian which was spent walking quickly through it to find the bus stop to get back to the ferry to get back to Hong Kong. This photo below I took after dark (this being winter that was about six pm) but they do quite well with the illusion that it is day.
We went to The Galaxy and a few other casinos but after awhile they all blend and blur and we had more fun hopping buses from casino to casino. From the last casino we got a bus back to the ferry port. Here is a tip; plan on going on a ferry hours after you plan on going on one. Those zillion shopping-zombies we saw back in the Portuguese section of Macau as well as the zillion slot-playing-casino zombies were all back at the ferry ten seconds before us. How did they do that? We had planned to take a seven o’clock ferry back to Hong Kong but discovered that the next one with any seats was going to be at 10.45. Our bed time is nine pm so of course this troubled our aging brain. There was a ferry to Kowloon at 8.30 so we grabbed that and got a subway close to home and home, Happy Valley, by eleven, well past our bed time. As is the way in China, everyone surges forward. The concept of a line is as foreign in China as it is to a Dutch person (they are not good at forming lines either – go to the Netherlands and get in a line and you will know what I mean. Or watch a group of Dutch people at an airport or train station – easy to spot they do not get in line). At the ferry terminal everyone, like they do at the train station – especially in Dalian, when the doors open everyone just pushes forward. We were actually in a line that had been started more than an hour earlier and when the doors opened people all came running in from the side. Narda scolded a lady for trying to push in front and when she got teary eye Narda put her arm around her and let her in front but told her that she was a naughty girl which was translated to her by others around us. The woman was our age but clearly had not been taught about social lines. The people from Hong Kong were worse. They went on about how the Chinese from the mainland have no class and do not know how to act. It all got quite political whilst being pushed through two doors with hundreds behind us all trying to get through the same door. We had assigned seats on the ferry so I am not sure why they panic.It is always good though because Narda and I are usually bigger than everyone else. But little ladies can be quite aggressive. I suppose they have had a lot of decades of trying to get anything in the midst of so many people.
The next day, Tuesday, we flew back to Dalian in the afternoon but before that we did another loop of downtown somewhere. All of Hong Kong seems like downtown but I think we were near Victoria Square. I was fascinated, as always, by the bamboo scaffolding that builders construct even on the tallest buildings. out of the videos and multiple photos I think these two show the jest of the work…
Hans, my relative through Narda, in Holland, wrote to my image in Facebook that no doubt they will be growing buildings out of bamboo like this and not just using bamboo for scaffolding. I did take a ten-week Chinese painting course recently, every Wednesday after school, and learned how to paint bamboo but in reality that is not related and I am fortunate that I could find a way to say I did a Chinese painting course. Of course I was the worse in the class and never did get the hang of painting bamboo though my ambition at the start of the class was to paint those galloping horses one sees in Chinese paintings. Again it is no doubt that I have Saturn sitting on top of my Venus in Leo that my artist talents are held back. And having that conjunction in my tenth house makes it obvious to the public.
A friend from awhile back; maybe 40 years since I saw him last, was saying he was stuck in Maryland about 20 miles NW of DC. I remember that area from the 1970s. It is easy to see someone else as being in a more interesting location. I look around where we are now and think I would much rather be 20 miles from DC. I liked that area but of course the me of the 1970s found interesting what I probably would not. I liked Hong Kong but that was just a passing just as everywhere I have lived has been. Sometimes I think it would be great just to stay in one place, though not here. Here is difficult do interesting stuff. The good part about living at Campus Village is that there is a medical clinic two floors down, so as far as assisted living type of life goes that is easy and there is a restaurant on the first floor though the food is crap and there is nothing I can eat that they serve but they have good fresh bread. And the gym is a two minute walk away and of course work is three minutes walk which is better than years I sat in traffic getting to work in various cities of the past. But that is it. To go shopping is such an ordeal. We have to get a driver into Dalian an hour away or Kaifqu half an hour away. We can ride our bike to a real local shopping and that only takes ten minutes and is good for fruit and vegetables but that is about it. I use to have a rule that I would never live more than half an hour from an airport but our airport is an hour away. So much for rules.
Where everyone else has lived sounds more interesting to us. We hear stories from other teachers that have taught in Somalia, Libya (they escaped with their daughter as bombs dropped around them), Syria, and heaps of other places. Then of course there is Lawrence who was going to help me become a great film person but just moved up to Moscow last month after meeting a woman and marrying her and his travels and adventures and I listen to everyone and feel my life has been a bit slow and boring. But still we are in the best place to be because that is where we have gotten to.
I liked this sculpture – construction – hopefully not art that was in downtown. It was two days before the American Thanksgiving holiday. When we got back to school there was the Thanksgiving lunch and dinner in the evening. Thanksgiving is not big in Narda and my world. Narda because she is not American and me because the thought of eating turkey does not fit into my vegetarian world. When we lived in New York we use to drive up to Canada to avoid Thanksgiving and the invitations from people who would invited us to their home feeling sorry for us because we had no one to spend Thanksgiving with.
This weekend we went to the Winter Charity Ball at the Shangri-La in Dalian. It was Friday night so we stayed overnight. I am not big into dress-up balls but it is one of those things one should do once. It was a yearly fund raiser for helping local schools and the tickets (given to us or we would have had a quiet week at home) were 500 RMB ($81 US) each and for that we got a meal. I mentioned that I was a vegetarian from the start and it worked out OK. I got some veggies that were not fully cooked. Narda being a meat eater was a bit looking forward to the Australian Rib-Eye Steak that was on her menu. She got four very small thin pieces primarily fat. OK so we didn’t pay and the entertainment was interesting.
My fellow tech teacher played guitar and sang too so that made the evening almost personable. I got credit on his latest youtube video for video creator so there is my claim to fame if he ever gets any. That is not him in the image above she just seemed more attractive.
Dalian is just another dirty Asian city but after three years we are use to it. Here is a new moon night photo – actually after our charity ball we didn’t get back to our room until midnight – we are getting young like again.
Transit Jupiter is exactly conjunct my Jupiter today and trine transit Saturn so I can be thankful for that though I am not thrilled about Saturn giving me all these stupid life lessons I could do without and I will feel better I hope in a month when Saturn moves on a few degrees. Also, I am really really relieved that I no longer believe in astrology or I would be freaked about my upcoming aspects.
In two weeks we will be in Thailand for a month holiday (hey Thailand stop all your in-fighting and get along we will be there in two weeks) then back to work for a week then to Burma for a week to visit Frank and Kay who write that there are cobras falling from the trees where they live. Oh boy.
Video for this Hong kong trip is at http://youtu.be/aUYG8gn72MQ
Macau two weeks later or last week http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
I was having a quiet Friday evening watching thoughts drift by of what to do on the upcoming weekend. Sort of a quiet day. We arrived home at noon from a week in Xi’am seeing Terracotta Warriors, a Great Wild Goose Pagoda (go figure), peddling a bike around on top of a wall going around the city and merging with so many Chinese on holiday during 国庆节 (Chinese National Day) in a very polluted city of less than a trillion people though it seemed as if there were more than a trillion people in Xi’am frantically searching for a clean air-molecule or two. I personally had not found any and for the most part had held my breath for five days to avoid clogging up my airways. See a previous blog at http://wp.me/scHIf-xian
Though I do not think that holding my breath for five days had anything to do with what would happen next.
We had finished dinner and being a bit hungry I was in the kitchen looking for more. As we had been away for a week there was not much but I had found something which at the moment I forget what but as I took a step I passed out and came to on the floor a few seconds later. Narda was standing next to me and thought I had slipped and fell. When I came to I was quite disorientated or more disoriented than usual may be more accurate. And confused to add. Having never had passed out, or at least not in a self-propelled way as I may have on occasion done when I was past my youth but not quite to maturity – some time in a seemingly very distant past, this was all new territory.
I had a sore knee from twisting my leg on the way done and not being conscious to stop myself I had not grabbed anything to slow my descent – OK so it is not like parachuting from a great distance in the stratosphere but it is still a long ways to the floor when the microwave is at eye level one second and the floor the next. I pulled the dishwasher out of its place so I did go down with a thud. It was not a near-death experience because there was no tunnel with angels and whats-his-name at the end shoving me quickly back into the physical so I could constantly work off whatever karmic dept to the universe I seem to be laboring at.
Narda was concerned. I was confused. I assured her that obviously I just slipped on some butter that was on the floor but for whatever reason there was no apparent sign of butter when I went to show her. I said not to worry to her running for her phone to ring the Beijing SOS clinic so they could ring our doctor who actually lives here in Campus Village but we are not to go banging on the doctor’s door but have to go through protocol. Narda has in large print on our door the SOS clinic telephone number because, yes, we have used it before – see http://wp.me/pcHIf-eS when for some reason I seemed to have become unstuck after eating something and within fifteen minutes of her calling Beijing I was in the emergency room of our clinic (two floors below us) and with a drip into my arm. This seems to be my year for medical stuff I think.
To keep Narda happy, which as a useful husband type of tip I can offer, by saying it is always a good thing to keep one’s wife a bit on the happy side if at all possible. Of course that has to be balanced in a sensible and creative way though the sensible part I must admit I have yet to master but the creative part I have down really well. I just say ‘yes dear’. Nevertheless Saturday morning we took the elevator from our third floor apartment to the first floor and walked past the lobby to the clinic. We call life here ‘assisted living’ and any teacher living at Campus Village would agree. Doctors rotate every eight weeks and on this eight week rotation we had our really great doctor, Wilhelm. Steve our other rotating doctor, and the one who looked after me when I had my bit of food poisoning episode is fantastic too. Wilhelm did lots of tests on me from blood letting to EKG and the like and was so concerned he thought maybe I should stay in the clinic for the weekend or at the least to take it easy. I chose the latter and played softball with our school team against the local Taiwan mob as we do each Sunday. I did a bit lighter weights for the next couple of days and no free weights of rather heavy; heavy for me as I am 66, just 60 kilos (132 pounds) that I have been building up from, but taking Wilhelm’s, I thought overly-cautious, approach, I only did the attached weights. I did not swim either as he was concerned I would pass out in the pool and that could pose a problem. I went to work as usual because I love work, I love creating and teaching film and just having a great time with technology. I surely had no intentions of staying home and being old.
Wednesday I was sent into Dalian to the Vitup Hospital and had an ultrasound and a halter-cardiac monitor attached to wear for 24-hours. I felt light headed and a bit wobbly and a bit spacy but that is pretty much how I feel most of the time anyway and have since the 1960s so I am quite use to it except the degree for normal behavior that I have enjoyed or not enjoyed at times for the past 40 years was increased though not enhanced. So of course being the verbal person I am I told my doctor I was not quite the same in the head as I was and he seemed a bit more concerned and started talking about maybe going to Seoul or Hong Kong for a bit of a more thorough check-up. I thought I could do the same in Beijing but he was not so confident. Over the next few days the talk became more of you need to go to Seoul or Hong Kong with Hong Kong being the doctor’s choice. I was in favor of Seoul because it is one hour away and a cheaper flight whereas Hong Kong is 3.5 hours direct flight and twice the airfare. I was still doing my weights and Friday morning we rode bikes to our local shopping area before school and on the weekend I played softball and went to the dentist.
Another week went by and another and by the 23rd of October, almost three weeks since kissing the floor of the kitchen we were on a flight to Hong Kong.
We were booked into the Adventist Hospital 40 Stubbs Rd, Hong Kong and staying at The Emperor Hotel in Happy Valley. On the way in from the airport the taxi dude said this was a very busy night to drive to our hotel as the races were on and it was Oktoberfest. Our hotel was like a five minute walk to the The Hong Kong Jockey Club. Yes this is an actual photo of our walk-in and somehow we managed to get up the stairs and into the stands.
The cost to get in was 10 Honk Kong dollars ($1.29 US). I was mixed up with feelings; I was getting tested 9 AM the next morning and possible surgery as a result of it, I just wanted to be back at work. Who wants to be at work? Here we were in Hong Kong at the races, except if things went a certain direction I could be cactus in a few days. I listened closely to my heart – not in a romantic way where I am all goo goo because I am spending a night with this kool chick from Australia – oh wait that is my wife, and of course that is romantic an all but what I was listening to was whether my heart was physically doing the correct thing and thumping away like a normal heart should – and it sort of was but not completely. I wanted to relax and enjoy the moment. I had only ever been to horse races twice in my life. Once Narda and I went to the races in Saratoga, New York. (you know that song by Carly Simon “You are so Vain”?
“Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won…”
Of course we own houses in Round Lake just a fifteen minute drive from Saratoga Springs and I grew up a short distance from there too but I only ever went to the races the one time with Narda. Another time Narda and I went to a race in Adelaide, South Australia and that is it. We made a couple of bets when at the Saratoga track but I do not recall whether we won. This time Narda said “let’s place a bet‘.
First of all we had no idea what to do, secondly we could not get the folks at the betting counter to understand what we wanted. They did not speak English and we did not speak whatever they spoke. We watched for awhile and by race three we decided it was time to jump in. Narda picked by numbers – the number 23 because it was October 23, we were on the 23 floor of our hotel, we sat in row 23 on the plane and there was some other times the number came up so she picked a horse with a 23 to one odds. I looked out in the paddock or whatever they call the area they warm in and one horse was just not in sync. It would rear its head, go the opposite direction of the other horses and just was generally ready to take off. I thought that if I were a horse that is exactly how I would act, a bit of all over the shop type of animal, so I picked horse number five. Feeling not lucky, how could I? I was off for heart inspection in a day I was conservative and put 10 Hong Kong dollars on horse number five, the same amount Narda put on the horse with a 23 to one odds. Horse number five, King Derby, was behind all the other horses most of the race. Coming around, I think they call it the clubhouse turn – or at least where all the stands are, I could see horse number five go to the outside of all the horses and just pass them right to the crossing line when it drew level then passed the lead horse, to win. The odds were like four to one so we ended up with 44 Hong Kong dollars which paid for our two bets, the entrance fee for both of us and with a bit of a top up there was enough left for me to purchase a small carton of soy milk. I did not want to bet on another horse because I did not want to leave as a loser which could have happened.
Being Oktoberfest the crowds were probably larger and more rowdy than usual but never having been there before I am not sure. There was a time when we were trying to get out, with me holding on tight to my winnings, and Narda holding tight on to me that we did not move in any direction. I was of course thinking about my heart when I should have been thinking about my luck. Narda had said “just think if we had put down our houses and any cash we had anywhere in the world and then maybe even had borrowed some. We could retire.” Retire? I was wondering if I was going to get out of the racecourse. What if my heart played silly buggers and took me out right here? I was so pinned in if I died I would have died upright (“he was an upright citizen”) and no one would know. There would be no sound of my winnings hitting the ground, no last words heard amongst the blasting music from someone announcing a winner in a drawing, not even Narda would know for a few moments as she was pinned in too. We were all frozen together on a warm Hong Kong night.
Yes of course eventually we got back to our hotel, I am writing this a couple of weeks later and I think I am still alive. As a matter of fact next week today we will be back in Hong Kong and I will be getting a bunch of tests to continue on with what I will say befell me whilst in Hong Kong back at the end of September. So yes, I believe I am alive. Still! Still as in quiet compared to my pre-Hong Kong self.
The next morning, Thursday, I was off to Adventist Hospital to get tests. I met Dr. King the cardiologist who was going to sort me out and I was sent off for eight tests. In Australia when I go to the heart centre and see my cardiologist each year the visit lasts about ten minutes, this has been going on for about a decade. He takes my pulse, does a couple of readings and sends me on my way with a sentence or two of advice. I thought this would be the same, just pop in – OK spending a couple of thousand of dollars to go and get that advice wasn’t what I wanted but Dr. Wilhelm thought it was important. I liked Dr. King. He had a sense of humour, was good at explaining and said he would arrange for a few tests. Then and there. All day Thursday. Seven or eight tests. A stress test on a treadmill with lots of monitors and beeping machines as the endurance speed and difficulty were increased to a point where the machines made more frequent noises and I felt worse. Then on to blood tests, a PET thingy (Positron Emission Tomography). In this test, I had a radioactive dye injected so that my heart showed on the scan. Laying down I was shoved into a doughnut-shaped machine to have images taken of my heart. When the dye went through there was a hot sensation going through my body which was not good. Being claustrophobic from an incident in my adolescence I spent about an hour in semi-panic. But the worse was yest to come; the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Laying down on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produced a magnetic field and again feeling quite claustrophobic with large banging sounds each time the magnets did whatever they did. I had a heavy plastic mask put over my face either because I was too ugly for the nurses to look at or to protect me from I know not what. It was like a helmet players of American Gridiron games wear. When I lived in the States we called it football but in Australia they say gridiron as footy is what Australians play and football is soccer some places but no matter what the sport having one on and being inside a tube fastened down was not fun. What was worse than the banging noses was some weird background music. Someone playing the same piano piece over and over. This went on for an hour. There is a button to push if one gets too stress and at some point I did and they took me out of the tunnel. I sat up said it was all a bit too much and being sympathetic nurses they smiled, took my helmet face mask off for about ten minutes put it back and and shoved me back for more noise and said this time it would be only for another fifteen minutes which somehow I endured. There was another test which I do not remember the name of where I was hooked up to several monitors and laying down they wanted to shove me into yet another machine. There was some problem with it because I have a very irregular heart beat and on their monitor it showed my pulse in such a low range – low in the teens – that the technician in charge got a bit worried. I told her it was her machine that was malfunctioning and not me. She said she had never had a problem with the machine and that maybe something was drastically wrong with me. She called in several other people and they all looked at me then the machine and they all looked a bit worried. I said it was their machine that sucked. Fortunately one technician had enough sense to physically take my pulse and she was relieved and I commented that it was their machine. They hooked me up to another machine and that seemed to work better. Actually this test was before the PET thingy because they had already put the dye into me and they had to have their monitors working before shoving me into the PET thingy. They said the new PET thingy could work with people with irregular hear beats like mine but there was only one of the newest machines and that was at Sanatorium Hospital, which incidentally was across the street from where we were staying and had a view of the horse racecourse. I of course volunteered to be tested there as being surrounded by 5 or 6 concerned, worried, semi-confused technicians, nurses and doctors was giving me the heebie jeebies. Someone rang Dr. King and someone said OK, probably the same person and it was all back on with me being put into the Pet thingy. There was the CT scan and the Ultrasound and a 24-hour wearing a halter-cardiac device all to find out what was in (too much calcium?) and what was out with what could be wrong with me if indeed anything was wrong.
We had spent about eight hours in hospital with me poked and prodded and early evening we finally got to go back to our hotel. Being told to take it easy and with my 24 hour halter-cardiac device with plugs stuck to various parts of my body firmly in place we took double decker buses around town. Being situated in Happy Valley which is a hub or the start of several double decker buses gave us a lot to choose from.
We just rode, got off; everything looked too Chinese for us – it was like being in China – oh wait maybe we still were – and got back on another one. The evening was so warm. We sat on the top deck and took lots of video which at some point will show up on my youtube channel.
Friday we were back to the hospital in the morning to hear the good news; that I was fine, the tests showed that I had had a bit of indigestion and we could go back home Sunday on our booked flight and be back to work on Monday with a bit of an expensive three day break from school. We figured since we were in Hong Kong we would make the best of it and spend the rest of the day Friday and Saturday wandering around Hong Kong. Maybe try to squeeze in a boat trip to one of the islands.
Well that didn’t work out did it?
Dr. King said that I had a few narrow arteries filled with calcium and that I would need surgery. He said until he put a catheter into my arteries he would not be sure but I would need at least three stents. He went over what the procedure was about and that Sunday would be good to do it. Being a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital they were not in full swing on a Saturday. I think Saturday is their Sunday. Go figure. Nevertheless with this not so groovy news we set up for Sunday to be a day of no-fun. I was to check in Saturday night – OK so they let people check-in Saturday but operations get put off until Sunday. I was listening to Janis Joplin sing ‘Another piece of my heart’ in my head and wondering whether I should make this my phone’s ring-tone.
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now…”
Of course like everyone I have my brush with fame story; Janis Joplin. Back in 1969 I was almost run over by her in her Porsche. I knew it was her. We all knew that car as she sped around San Francisco. I use to go and listen to her at the Fillmore and in Golden Gate Park and I still listen to her when I am lifting weights at Campus Village at Dalian American International School 44 years later. Strange how things stick in one’s mind but I always remember that moment and how close I almost came to my end then but didn’t and she did not long after and here I am writing about her instead of her writing about me. Not that she would but perhaps if she had lived and I had been knocked over I could have featured in one of her songs and she could be tweeting about how even now 44 years later she remembers that moment. But of course that is all silly to think of now when I am writing about something totally different. My heart.
We went off to the billing department and they said we would need to get in touch with our insurance company to get pre-approval and that of course there should not be a problem with that. Having had problems with our insurance company for the past three-years we were not that confident. Someday I will put into writing the name of our insurance company but as we need them now and in the near future we will just say ‘our insurance company’. We rang the insurance company from the hospital and they said to send them a bill for the pre-approval. We took a peek at the future bill (the tests were only in the $3000 plus range) and sort of gasped. Seventy-thousand plus (not Hong Kong dollars but USA dollars) for a night in the hospital plus a few stents tossed in. I was thinking the insurance company would be better off paying off my fifty-thousand dollar death coverage than to pay this but over and over we have been told that we have a really good insurance company. Yeah right! So we went back to our hotel and wrote Dalian American International School to say we will not be back until Wednesday as I am having a bit of surgery on Sunday and I need to rest for two days so we will fly back Tuesday night and I would be back at work on Wednesday. Narda and I wrote and sent lesson plans for the extra two days.
Friday night we made multiple phone calls to both the China and the USA departments of our insurance company. This spilled into Saturday when we were told over and over that it would all be cleared up in a couple of hours and we would get the go ahead. By late Saturday afternoon we had to cancel the Sunday surgery as we had still not gotten the OK. All day Saturday we rang speaking to one person after another each saying it would be a matter of a couple of hours because anything over fifty-thousand dollars had to go to an underwriter. We went to Stanley Market and did a bit of shopping and then we discovered we had to move out of our hotel because Sunday night was booked out. We had planned to fly back to Dalian Sunday. Happy Valley was getting to feel like home and of course just a couple of days earlier we had our big win at the local track so moving was not going to be fun especially when our insurance company was being mean to us. One person, she was a supervisor, suggested we go to Florida because I could have the same operation done for about 45-thousand. We could not believe someone, especially a supervisor, suggesting we fly from Hong Kong to Florida to save the insurance company money. We did find a hotel; L’Hotel Island South http://www.lhotelislandsouth.com/eng/front/ and it was really a good four-star place. We got a room with the mountain view on the 32nd floor and thought OK if this is where we have to bunker down for a long time this will be it. We moved in Sunday afternoon still getting phone calls saying it would just be another couple of hours.
Narda was emailing everyone she could find in the insurance company and still at mid-night Saturday she was ringing and emailing. Finally someone said that the underwriters don’t work on weekends and that we should know within a couple of days when they got back to work on Monday. It was looking more and more like we were going to be stuck in Hong Kong for awhile. Sunday we went to Aberdeen and found a great little restaurant on Old Main Street, Myanmar Thai Palace We are going to Myanmar for Chinese New Year in January to see our ex-workmates; Frank and Kay and we are going over with Jean and Sean so it will be quite the crazy week. There in Myanmar. Going back to L’Hotel Island South we took a nap in the afternoon and at 5 pm we got a phone call that the insurance company had approved it. One of the many people Narda had phoned had pushed the whole thing through. Actually it was the head of customer service, a man in India that Narda has contacted many times to sort out situations from the past. Nothing major just some basic tests we get done every year to be sure we are functioning well, stuff like that. The amount of work the insurance company goes through to get out of paying anything is always remarkable. But this one dude on a Sunday morning had gotten through where no one else was able to and got us moving forward.
Arrangements were made for me to check into the hospital on Monday morning and have surgery late in the afternoon. We went back to the Myanmar Thai Palace for dinner, sat along the river and wondered what would happen next. I was a tad bit nervous about the whole thing. Having been an astrologer for forty-years and having stopped looking at planetary positions a decade ago I thought I would have a peek for old times sake. Nothing looked too good and if I were to believe in astrology again I could easily have made some linkage. Uranus was in 9 degrees and 34 minutes Aries which is fine as it was trine my Venus at 10 degrees Leo meaning quick and successful surgery. But the real indicator of all the fuss was and still is Saturn at 13 degrees and eight minutes Scorpio so exactly square my Saturn conjunct Pluto at 13 degrees Leo an eight minutes. And yes you saw it too; square my Venus.
Hello! Wow is this so possible?
Saturn takes 28 years to get to this position and to have Uranus in trine to my Leo planets (Venus, Saturn Pluto, Sun, Mid Haven, Part of Fortune) is statistically almost impossible – maybe the planets get in this position every few thousand years. Lucky me. Jupiter was still in trine with my Jupiter – separating two degrees so that was helpful. Pluto (is that still being used as a planet now that it has been kicked out as a planet?) was inconjunct or quincunx to my Venus and of course square by nature of the qunicunx to Uranus at the time. If I were to believe in this stuff I would have been alarmed that transit Saturn was conjunct Mercury (was there some bad advice being given?) meaning that both planets were squaring exactly my Saturn Pluto conjunction (I used to give presentations and wrote some articles on the Saturn Pluto conjunction in Leo being the symbol of the baby boomers. All that free-love (Leo – heart) with Pluto overthrowing Saturn. I had really lengthy examples and proofs sort of back in the day. Now I just ramble on and no one has a clue what I am talking about. Narda just popped in, she watches all these medical shows; 13 years without fail she watched ‘ER’ and now she is going through season after season of Grey’s Anatomy. She loves all this medical and I don’t. I have never watched any of them.
So Narda asks what I am writing about and I am sitting here with the astrology chart for 28 October on her iPad and I am saying I don’t believe any of this anymore and she says if you did what would that chart say?
See this is what I mean. I tell her and basically all I can say is that it means what actually happened. I did not need the symbolism of astrology to know something was going wrong. OK one more thing; the Moon was in Leo. Holy Cow! There is the moon sitting on top of my Sun dragging all those influences into being. Saturn as Saturn does, delayed and made us go crazy and of course having calcium in my arteries is well explained by Saturn squaring my Saturn in Leo – ruler of the heart. For a couple of decades I was really into medical astrology even to the point of making magic potions and elixirs for people based on their rising sign and the position and aspects to their ruling planet. I was sort of known for this in New Orleans when I was a street artists. I use to drink a lot of lemon grass tea as that was suppose to be a Venus ruled herb and Venus rules my astrology chart (Libra rising with Venus being strongest by being in the 10th house and having so many aspects). Another interesting point is that at the time of surgery for Hong Kong at 4 pm there was Aries rising with Uranus in the first house and the fifth house – the house of the heart – being ruled by the heart sign, Leo, so all my Leo points and planets were in the fifth house during the surgery. I use to love astrology but it got in my way and there was a time I could not just live my life but had to do astrology charts on everything. It was when Leigh killed himself (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) that I just could no longer use astrology. I was not seeing reality but was off following symbols that were based on interpretation and I got caught interpreting life through my eyes and wants and I missed what was really going on.
The Adventist Hospital being a vegetarian hospital seemed so natural. It went along with what was roughly my life-long life: hippie communes in the 1960s, eating vegetarian foods for the past 45 years, being in a new age cult group for a decade, various religious and philosophical beliefs embraced then discarded over the decades each pushing the vegetarian life style, being a tofu manufacture for eight years in South Australia – see my slowly evolving e-book http://neuage.us/tofu/ There was even a time when I was going to build a big tofu factory – compared to the small tofu factory I had for eight years – and sell to the Seventh Day Adventists in Australia. It is all quite remarkable and now here I was lying in a bed with needles in my arm and an oxygen thing in my nose and eating wonderful vegetarian food. The food was so good I kept ordering more off of the menu. The staff there must have thought that I had not eaten for days.
Every few minutes nurses would come in and take my blood pressure, give me some medication, take pulses and I would ask to see the menu again. At four pm I got rolled down the hall all neatly snug in my bed with my lame looking gown on and things hanging out of me and over me. Not that I see many hospital movies but times that I have passed through the lounge and Narda has one on there is always some poor joker on a bed being wheeled into surgery. Now I was one of them. I looked around for the camera crew and the make up artist but I was put into the operation theatre with little fan fare. Narda could not even come in. To make matters worse I was not given some really nice powerful mind altering drug. All they did was put some local numbing agent on my arm where they were shoving a needle up my vain and into arteries around my heart. I could see what was going on with three big screens in front of me and none of it looked to comfortable. Actually I was very uncomfortable and kept hearing ‘you have to lay still’. I never sit still and never lay still but I was trying. All the time my chest was feeling like a heart of elephants were doing a ballad on top of it. It was all so uncomfortable and there were so many people with jobs. I counted 9 at one time. But this is China. There are always a mingling mob for each job. I think it is called full employment. Everyone looked quite concerned and busy with their tasks at hand. Of course they all spoke in some language that I was not familiar with. If only I had taken those Chinese language courses offered at our school. Narda and I did one and we sort of never got back and here we are three years later not knowing anything.
I tried to take my mind off of what was going on by thinking about useful stuff. Like my lesson unit – that put me to sleep and they said I had to stay away so I thought of places I had lived, things I had done. Most of all I wondered if these people had a clue of what they were doing. I thought about various stuff I had believed in during my time on this planet and wondered if everyone changes their beliefs as often as I do. I suppose it is a times like this when someone is shoving rods into the heart that the question and importance of life become forthcoming. Unfortunately I did not get any insights. I no longer do. I think it has to do with our school taking on Standards. It makes people stupid; both teachers and students alike. We are losing the creative aspect and teaching sameness and in-fusing it into bland world of massive robotic proportions. I use to believe in reincarnation, astrology, evolution and all that kind of stuff.
Now I believe we are just the fodder, unripe food for the next wave of people/machines which of course will be combined and already has its start with Google Glass and other wearable tech things. My son Sacha said if I could wait a few years they would just send in an army of nanobots to clean stuff up and stitch the veins. I could have main vain veins with a search engine embedded that would scour the world’s medical knowledge and new procedures and not only find but implement the procedure and create the fixings by combining DNA strands various cellular molecules and have nanobots fly out of my ears and go off to factories in distant places maybe on another planet or asteroid get what was needed and arrive back to my body and go to the factory somewhere in my body and fly off to the part of my body that needed fixing and life would be beaut. I could have a whole nano-factory built somewhere in my body and a constant movement of things fixing and improving throughout my body as I lifted weights at the gym and listened to Janis Joplin.
These are the kind of things I think about when laying on a bed in a operating room with masked people speaking in a language I did not understand and hopefully they shared as they at times spoke in hurried phrases then a few of them would come running over and my wrist where they had the injection point would sting and then my chest would feel like a herd of elephants were doing the Watusi on my chest.
“There’s a dance called the Watusi it’s out of sight,
First you slide to the left then to the right.
The Watusi is out of sight,
You slide to the left, then to the right.
Take two steps up and keep it tight.
And do the Watusi, it sure is a sight.”
There were three large monitors that I could watch what was going on on. I looked up once or twice and it sort of freaked me out so I went back to thinking. This all went on for more than two hours and I just could not find a good range of thoughts to centre on. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s I use to believe in all the mind control of your body stuff. For years I carried around “The Science of Mind”, by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes  believing all that crap. He was on about how our thinking creates diseases in our body. For example negative thoughts created negativity which manifested as dis-ease, not at ease, in our body. I furthered this thinking for a decade in the Holy Order of Mans when I was a brother in their centres in Hawaii, San Francisco, Cheyenne Wyoming, Wichita Kansas, Detroit, Syracuse New York and finally Baltimore Maryland. They had all this material about the higher Self and how our body was just a vehicle we traveled about in and if things went wrong it was karmic from some other lifetime or the miss use of energy now. I managed to go through their initiations of Self-illumination and Self-Realization before leaving for good and learning to re-live my life without the muddled illusions of superstitious belief systems. I must admit though whilst having stuff shoved into my arteries next to my heart and a herd of elephants doing the Watusi on my chest I tried to rise above my body or at least try to do something more metaphysical than just lay there hurting but I did not have any luck. My mind has ground down into the physical so strongly that I wonder how did I ever get into believing all the hocus-pocus stuff I once believed in.
At some point I got wheeled out of the operating room and there was Narda on the other side of the door. I know this happens all the times in her medical shows she watches but I had never been in an operating room before. Even when my two sons were born, I helped deliver both, it was just a simple room. Especially the one in Kahuku Hawaii where Sacha was born on the North-shore of Oahu. There was just Dr. Branch, the alleged mother and me. Leigh was born in Ashford Hospital Adelaide and I was there and at that birth so was Sacha, age two and a half.
Narda is always there making the continuity of life good. All I felt was hunger and of course a sore chest and sore arm and sore wrist. Dr. King (who has a Chinese name in brackets between the Peter and the King) said it went better than he had thought. Good grief what had he thought? He did put in a fourth stent after he was deep into my chest and found another artery that looked suspect. He kept saying to lay still which for me is very difficulty. I struggle to sit still for ten minutes and to sit still for two hours is gruesome. First I was cold so they put some horse blankets on me then I was hot so they took them off. I think I am a bad patient. Even my dentist is constantly telling me to relax when she has her head half way down my throat. I just am not the ideal ER patient.
The menu is great. I ordered half the stuff on the menu then ordered some more. Narda stayed in the hospital overnight. Lucky for you my photos are on my phone which is over in my classroom at school or I would show a photo of the room, probably one with me all hooked up to oxygen and drips and monitors but smiling because the food was good. It was like staying in a hotel with lots of room service. I had to stay in bed until the next day which was making me go funny in the head but we made it through the night and by the next evening, Tuesday we checked out and went back to L’Hotel South.
It is strange to go back only a day later to someplace when so much has changed. Now for the rest of my life or at least until they crank up the nanobots I have to wear material inside my body up near my heart.
Wednesday, two days after surgery – that is me in front of the sign the day following stents shoved in, not feeling great but at least a bit mobile. I liked this sign because I thought it said Old Man Street. I even made it my Facebook profile photo. A week later I realised it said Old Main Street. I felt like a real goose but I have kept the photo for now. No wonder I get so confused I misinterpret everything I see. That was always my problem with astrology. I am sure it is all there but I misinterpret it all.
We took a boat over to Lamma Island for the afternoon. Lamma Island does not have cars on it. Like Prince Islands in the Bosphorus Sea outside of Istanbul. We like quiet islands with no cars. Wish they would take them off of that island we call home, Australia. I wasn’t feeling to flash, a bit dizzy, light headed and weak. I guess when they poke around a heart it leaves one not feeling their best. We did not make it very far but found a nice quiet beach to sit at and later in the day took the ferry back to Aberdeen and went home.
Thursday afternoon we went home getting back to Dalian at 11 PM. Friday we were back at work. The people at Dalian American International School are the best. Lots of welcome backs and hugs (even though I am a product of the 60’s and lived in communes in California and did all that new age crap – hey my name is Neuage – I am not a touchy touchy person and don’t like hugging but I put up with it this time). The middle school choir, under Tyler, put together a song, Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life and sent it to me. Of course they left out a line or two which would not be appropriate for middle school children to sing – even to an old goat like me. In my middle school class a sixth grader ran across the room and threw her arms around me and said she was so happy I was now OK.
My students were so good whilst I was away. I had written up my lesson plans and one day even partially taught my high school film class via Skype. The students all did their assignments and emailed their work to me and my high school students put their work in their Google Sites pages for me to review.
I had on my table the DVDs of my heart operation. I had not looked at them and just figured in between classes I would have a look-see. Of course my middle school kids wanted to know what was on those disks and I said nothing that you would want to see – it is my heart operation and of course they then wanted to see it. I was quite unsure, Narda, whose music room is next door, was looking through my door shaking her head no. Can you imagine having a film studio next to the music room? I produce two shows for school a week called DAISlive with stories and events and the like about what is going on around school. In most interviews, stories and what not there is a first grade flute class or fifth grade singing rehearsal for the upcoming Christmas musical or worse, third grade drum class in the background.
I said to the children that it would probably gross them out which of course makes an adolescent want to see it all the more so we watched. Actually there was nothing gruesome to view. On the one DVD we looked at there were 36 video clips – in black and white – showing like a string with a lasso on the end going through the vein to position the stents. One 8th grader who wants to be a doctor after watching for a minute said that I had an irregular heart beat. Well I hadn’t even noticed that.
So here I am three weeks after surgery and we are going back next weekend, hopefully just for three days this time, to be sure everything is in place. I was told not to lift weights for the first two weeks and that this week it was OK to go lightly so I have done that. I said to a nurse “what about my six-pack I am trying to develop” (at 66 years old) and she said “why?” because I was married. I said that matrimonial status had nothing to do with vanity but she did not get that. We have gone for walks which is OK though I feel pretty crappy after about 20 minutes. Of course I am wondering whether ever having anything done was the correct thing to do.
To freak myself out even more I read a story in the New York Times Health blog section this morning,
“Heart Stents Still Overused, Experts Say” By ANAHAD O’CONNOR August 15, 2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/heart-stents-continue-to-be-overused/?_r=0
which says one out of ten don’t need them and that doctors and hospitals make good money doing these procedures. Damn!
When the television is off for a week and there is nothing to do but nothing to do the world is really an OK place. It was not really our own choice but the choice was good. A few things this past week have not been our choice but then again we have been making do with ‘outside’ and ‘others’ choices for a lot this year. The first few days we stayed at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. In the Bajiaxian Xihuanmen hood to be specific. There were no television stations in any of the many languages that we speak/understand: Australian English, American English (Narda questions whether that is really English – ‘just a dialectic of the Queen’s English badly butchered’), New Zealand English, Canadian and of course Narda speaks the language of her birthplace up there in Utrecht (The Netherlands) but anything else we have to turn the telly off for and anything else was all there was on the television in the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. The rest of the week in the apartment we were in we were not ever able to sort out how to turn the television on. We tried every button and every combination of every button and just saw characters on the screen that seemed to be laughing at us in our ignorance of how to put meaning to them. I have a Ph.D in communication (constructed all in Australian English – 155,000 words, 550 pages with diagrams and images – http://neuage.org/ODAM) which is all about the construction of meaning – see image below – but in that whole seven years of research and of course the masters and other degrees leading to that, I never learned how to put meaning to the images we were seeing on the telly so we could figure how to get the bloody thing to go to an actual television station. Of course we no doubt would not have found a station in any language that we understood if we did so we would not have known what was going on in the world after all, especially the first few days of our stay at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an where we did not get Internet either.
I will attempt to stay on task of our trip to Xi’an; though, as I have not written since returning from summer break and our little journey to the States, Australia and Malaysia and we have had a very busy month since returning to work and the weekend before going to Xi’an we were on the North Korea border staying in Dandong I probably will have moments of drifting to other thoughts/insights/visions/illuminations/realizations/memories and the like.
Speaking of drifting – I write for myself – if no one reads anything I write ever that is fine. I have had comments that my spelling infuriates some (I switch from Australian to whatever it is the Yanks speak – being a duel citizen and all) so my excuse is color is colour and sometimes a ‘z’ is an ‘a’ and some words are slang and some no doubt I have made up and that is my writing that I do for myself because I enjoy writing and I do it for myself and I do a lot of writing to remember what we have done. I wrote a 170,000 word book called ‘Leaving Australia’ and made two bound copies of it; one for my son and one sits on my shelf and I like to read it sometimes as it helps me remember stuff. I don’t even have portions of it on-line. Anymore. I did for awhile but some characters that I have met along the way who were in my narrative were really upset to find their portrayals on-line; true that it was but of course we all have those sections of life we pretend never happened and hope that no one will ever divulge either. But my story is also the story of interactions with people in specific situations at a certain time and space that we shared and to change or even delete those moments makes the continuum of my story choppy and invested with deep holes – so that is why I only printed two books.
On the way to Xi’an the funnest of funnies… because of the upcoming national holiday the stewardess gave everyone China flags to wave – which they did. Following that people went up to the front and sang stuff. A stewardess came and asked me to sing. I said Narda was not only a professional singer but also a music teacher of course Narda did not hear all of this and the next thing she knew I was pushing her up the aisle. And even though I could not get a video of her singing because of all the people standing in front of me I did listen as everyone on the plane did. She of course could not sing a Chinese patriotic song but she did make up a song using happy birthday. Some words about ‘I wish you well China and on and on…’ we all cheered and my only disappointment is that I did not get it recorded.
Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. I will start with that. Because the place had a top listing for places to stay in Xi’an (Ranked #1 of 86 Xi’an B&B and Inns by Trip Advisory) and it looked as funky as could be we booked it some six weeks ago, August 24th to be precise, it was the place for us. We spent a lot of time trying to find the owner of the place. All the web searches for it lead to Expedia, Agoda, travelpod, booking.com and all the rest are just to rent the place. We did find the actual telephone number eventually and rang the owner who had his wife meet us at the airport bus stop. It was fortunate that we did as the place is almost impossible to find. It is located down an alley after a few other side streets. It is not a building dedicated to the Warriors Apartment but in actual fact three apartments, one located on the 7th floor where there is no Internet and two on the second floor. The building is about 25 stories high and is amongst many other tall buildings all several decades old. We booked a one-bedroom apartment for a week and were happy to be given a two-bedroom apartment. Inside is so much our style. Who would not want to have a home with warriors all over the place? In every room including the kitchen and about 40 holding up the bed (no comments please)
as well as four holding up the sink in the bathroom.
We were only about five minutes walk to Beiyuanmen Muslim Street which is the in place to hang out. Because we went during the Chinese National Day holiday week (celebrating the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, in 1949) the place was so packed that there were times we could not move in any direction.
See http://goo.gl/S2dh8L or click on the QR code.
We got out to see the Terracotta Warriors in the morning. Bus lines were enormous with a couple of hours wait for the tourist bus that is mentioned in Lonely Planet. We gave up and found a more of a local bus on the other side of the car park – bus 615, which got us there in an hour and we waited only about 20 minutes. We came back on bus 614 which took two hours but that was because of traffic. The pits were will worth seeing once in a life time. (lines were much longer than appears here – they wrap around and go out past the train station and through a large car park out to the main bus station across the road.)
I could never have been one of the people digging these things up. It is all quite painstaking and required endless amounts of time using small brushes and files to scrape off thousands of years of muck. In pit two and one which are smaller – there is still digging and crap going on to expose all this. We have a book written by the owner of the Warriors Apartments which is quite good and of course there is heaps on the Internet.
I wanted to go to the top of the mountains across the road but we did not have the time. We were an hour from Xi’an and still the pollution was so thick that even at noon the mountains looked too hazy to get a good glimpse of.
To divert a bit. We got home yesterday afternoon and as always had a Jack-driver meet us at the airport and we did our shopping for the month on the way home. In the afternoon we were just chilling and after dinner I was in the kitchen and without warning I blacked out and ended on the floor. I only say this now as I will probably forget somewhere in the future – like next week – and I want to record what happened. As a person who has never fainted or passed out before it was a unique experience. One minute I was putting something in the microwave and the next I was gaining consciousness on the floor. I did not feel light headed or any signs of anything even a second before. I did not even recall going down. Narda said I looked in shock when I came to. The whole event lasted seconds but I did get some aches and pains such as a twisted knee from crashing to the floor. What is slightly interesting in all of this is that things just happen maybe even for no reason. I felt fine after and we went and used the large massage chair on the second floor, coming home feeling great. So today I went to the S.O.S clinic on the first floor and Dr. Wilhelm looked after me. He took some blood, did an EKG which he sent to Hong Kong for a specialist to look at (oh boy maybe we get to fly to Hong Kong next week) and spent more than an hour doing all kinds of tests and at this point we do not know why I kissed the floor. Being a holiday week and the staff mostly out of town I pretty much had the clinic to myself. I only mention all this because nothing like this has ever happened before. In Xi’an the traffic was brutal. Cars, buses, scooters, trucks and people all going in all directions often in total disregard of any laws that would be in place if anyone was around to enforce them. (Travel operators in China have a huge new set of rules to follow now that the country’s first tourism law is in place. The 112-article law came into effect October 1 But I do not think it applies to people trying to get through an intersection) All manner of vehicles go through red lights so they are not a deterrent from disaster. Narda and I surely mingled with the masses and crossed in-between buses and carts and all the rest. Our tactic is usually to use others as a human shield and cross in the midst hoping others will protect us. Luckily for any reason I did not have a black out – my one and only of my life – in one of those crossing the street situations. And luckily we were not riding bikes in our dangerous fashion alongside main roads and darting across roads in front of traffic that would not be aware of a red light or anything else that could possibly slow down their forward motion.
We did ride bikes in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province on the wall that surrounds the city. It is one of the oldest cities in China and the largest city in the world in 582 according to people in the know. There is all kind of historical crap to look at. We rode up on the wall that surround the city. It is some 14 kilometers and we rode three-fourths of it. Because we rented bikes for only 100 minutes and we are old and slow and take way too many photos and videos and there are four bike rental areas at the four main turns of the wall: yes, the North and the South and the West and the East gates we only got to the third gate by the time we peeled our sorry asses off of the bike seat.
After the first days in the Warriors Apartment we had a bit of a shock. At the door was standing three people and the owner’s wife. She said they too were booked into our apartment. It did not register at first and when I saw it was three teachers from our school – that we live on the same floor as – I welcomed them in thinking they were in the second floor apartment. We knew they were staying at the same place so this was not a totally unreasonable thought to have. It was not like waking up on the kitchen floor wondering how I suddenly passed out. Low and behold they had their bags with them and were told they could stay in our second bedroom. Now we realise that there is a difference in customs and how people interact. Perhaps in the local Chinese world having three people in a bedroom and another couple in the other is not uncommon. But these three women had already paid for the apartment we were in and not only that but more than Narda and I had. So of course everyone, except the owner, was upset. I just sort of drifted out of the picture knowing that four pissed off middle age women would figure stuff out a lot more efficiently than a 66 year old ex-hippie. The owners blamed Agoda saying they stuffed up the booking. The women called Agoda and Agoda rang the owner who said everything was fine and that he was taking care of it. What a balls-up – never seen such a situation. Right up there with fainting for the first time in my life. I suppose that is why life is mildly interesting to me it is so incredibly unpredictable.
We were told to wait until six pm, but it was about 7.30 when Clarence showed up to sort out the dilemma. In the meantime everyone was a bit agro. His initial ‘idea’ was for us all to stay together and he would refund some money. Well that was a stupid idea so he said he would go off and look for something to move someone into. As we had booked a single room apartment it was obvious that we were going to get the boot and we did. Clarence, his wife and son all showed up and with Narda and I were taken out of the old quarter that we were really getting to like and into some crappy new city area quite the distance. The apartment we were given was terrible. Clarence said that it would be very difficult to find a place because of the holiday. The apartment was dirty, there was left over food in the small kitchen and the bathroom was just dirty. We were quite upset but that is where we were left. Whose fault it was, whether it was Agoda not passing on the booking or Clarence’s it was handled very badly. He had no problem with taking the money – which incidentally was on the same day – we independently rented the same apartment in the same city on the same day – 24th of August. Clarence saw them as the same booking but of course anyone would see that there were two lots of money. We were exhausted by the time we got to the apartment and did not put up enough of a fight.
As always is the case we made the best of our new surroundings. We found our way to the subway and took Line 1 which began operation on September 15, 2013, like a couple of weeks ago. I love subways and always ride one in a city comparing them to New York City and Paris which not as old as London are great subway lines. I have never been on a subway line that is less than a month old. OK there was nothing special and it was so crowded because of the holiday that we barely could get on. But it did get us back into the old quarters. We were also near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayan Pagoda) which was begun in 652 and though another pagoda is not so exciting we did go to the fountain light show in the evening. I have some good footage in youtube but my still photos of the fountain light show are a bit average as you can see but I did get this fairly OK shot of the pagoda thingy.
Again there were so many people it was difficult getting around. Outside of spending a couple of more days tromping around Xi’an, riding the metro and looking at huge shopping malls that were fancy from the outside but just like every other shopping mall inside were the same old we just looked around at another polluted over crowded city.
However in one mall was this huge screen on the ceiling,
This ceiling LED display of more than 3000 square meters (168 meters long and 17.92 meters wide) located in Qin Han Tang Emporium which is next to the Goose Pagoda was impressive. I will have a clip on my youtube site at http://youtube.com/neuage09 any moment now. At the same time as writing this I am editing clips in Adobe Premier Pro Creative Cloud – my new favourite subscription software in a suite of lots of groovy creative projects. I am loving After Effects and Photoshop along with some 20 plus other programs but Premier definitely does for me at the moment. Having hundreds of video clips and a thousand photos I will have enough to do, along with an actual job, and being a caring/listening/nurturing husband (will there be time for that?) to keep me off the streets for awhile or hopefully off of the kitchen floor.
Thankfully I was not hanging onto the side of a tuk tuk as it found its way through traffic. These things are off-putting to me but as Narda likes them we do ride them in various countries.
I started a new series here at Dalian American International School – the DAIS Cooking Show. Well, I have had one show which was with meat eating Patrick. He showed how to make meat burgers – good grief, and in front of me too; I showed my tofu burger making skills refining one of my recipes from http://neuage.us/tofu/ where I showcase experiences/recipes/stories garnished from seven years as a tofu manufacturer in Adelaide, South Australia. We filmed it all with two cameras; a Nike and our new school semi-professional JVC. I now have several hours of banter, silliness, cooking, eating and live audience (Narda, Sean, Jean, JoeFred – not a big audience) to edit. I have several other shows getting lined up and soon the next in the series will be up and hopefully by the end of the school year some mega China television broadcasting networking system will offer me a huge contract to show what to do with tofu on live television… oh wait! This is China – home of tofu. Well I am giving it a shot that is for sure.
I did like the street we were on, it had art all along it much like we saw in Mexico City.
Here are just a couple of the pieces – there were probably a hundred:
At the end of it all after walking 8 – 10 hours a day for five days in a very polluted Chinese city I think we would have been better off on one of the other holidays teachers took this week such as to Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, inner Mongolia and lots of better holidays than we took. Not to worry we are off to Thailand for three weeks at Christmas and lots of other great destinations for the next holidays.
The weekend before we left on our Warrior-less Apartment we went the three hour drive up to Dandong with about 55 people from our school. Dandong is across a narrow river divide of North Korea.
Walking out on Friendship bridge we could see the fake amusement park on the North Korea side. The Ferris wheel is just a cut-out thingy. We did hear children playing and actually saw them playing along the river. Online stories say this part of North Korea has been tarted up for tourist to look across and see that everything is quite normal.
The boat trip is well worth it and I even got up close to some North Korean soldiers,
Maybe I could get them interested in my tofu cooking class.
At the Museum Commemorating the War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea there is lots of anti-Western stuff to look at. I photographed several of their write-ups but not having been in this part of the world and only having an American view I can not comment on what the beef was all about.
But Dandong is not just about North Koreans and their possibly tainted view of us – I mean Kim Jong Un is friends with Dennis Rodman, they are BFFs, how could they be anything but sympathetic toward others?
The best thing to do is go along the wall where it starts. Of course this was before I blacked out in my kitchen and twisted my knee (there goes my softball career – every Sunday we play against a team from Taiwan here at school and this was going to be the game that I actually hit the ball far enough to get on base – saying all that, everyone is much younger than me) so I was able to climb and climb and climb. We were a bit worse for wear when we got to the top but the view was fantastic. We could see straight into North Korea but I did not see Kim Jong Un though he may have seen me.
“Do not take my Vegemite ”
In the past six weeks we have gone through eight airports with their security checks: Dalian, Beijing (three times), Newark (twice), Atlanta, Albany, New York, Kula Lumpur (twice), Adelaide (four times), and Melbourne (twice).
Narda bought a jar of Vegemite and a jar of Promite at Woolies (Woolworth’s) in Adelaide after we had packed our check-in luggage so she placed it in our carry-on. No worries, we went through customs at Adelaide and KL. After a short night’s sleep at Metro Park Lido in Beijing (we arrived in Beijing at one AM and got to the hotel at 2:30 AM, up for breakfast five hours later and to the airport in time for our fight to Dalian which we just discovered has been delayed four hours. Most flights in China or out of China are delayed by many hours.
Customs @ Beijing Domestic was brutal. We had to take almost everything out of our carry-on bags then they took the jar of Vegemite and Promite from Narda’s bag. Narda was far from ‘she’ll be right mate’.
Vegemite ad from the 1960s “We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek.”
The customs agent chick walked off with the two jars in her hands with Narda close by saying ‘give me back my vegemite’. Good grief. I shoved all my bits and pieces into my bags – three carry-on bags because we were overweight for check-in plus Narda’s carry-on bags and ran after the jar carriers. At some desk in a corner of the terminal the customs lady was trying to open the jars which Narda was trying to take back from her. Narda kept saying that it was food and that every other airport allowed it through. Finally Narda opened the Vegemite jar, the woman sniffed it and started to look up on her computer monitor but Narda had the jars in her hand and we were off to our gate. I think the smell was a bit OK as it looks and smells a bit like something that could have been created out of soy bean paste. Narda was still upset but we had the stuff. Granted I remember seeing a few tubes and jars of it at home in our pantry but I suppose there never can be too much of one’s comfort foods. It is like Dutch Salty Liquorice, we always have a bag or two near at hand; well Narda does and I will have a salty drop now and then. Her parents always have a box of them next to their driver seat so whenever we go someplace there is the Salty Liquorice. Most people hate it and will spit out the liquorice right away though I do not mind them. I wonder if we would have had such an ordeal with customs if they took away Narda’s salty liquorice.
We did get out of Beijing though several hours later than we were scheduled to. Standing in front of us were two new teachers at our school and their sons from Peru, though at the time we did not know that. We saw them a few days later when school started and I said to them that I was standing behind them in line on the way to Dalian.
As always our true and faithful driver, Jack was there to meet us at the airport and we instantly felt like we were back at home. Being back in our home after six weeks flying around and rescuing vegemite from the grasping hands of officialdom was a nice experience. Our plants had been watered by the cleaning ladies and our home with all our crap was there shaking with excitement at our return.
On the note of all our crap… as if I have joked/complained/explained in the past it is scattered: in a house in upstate New York, in a shed in upstate New York, furniture in our Jersey City home, a piano in our Adelaide home, of course our home in China with even closets filled with boxes from years ago that we dragged here from the States two years ago and our furniture and now a storage bin in Adelaide full. We get exhausted just thinking about all the material belongings we have and I wonder how I managed to spend decades with just a bag of things when I was in my 20s and early 30s and traveled the world. The stuff in Adelaide has been moved about for more than a decade from being in the parent’s shed to Narda’s son’s shed then he moved and now into paid storage. Our firm confirmation, including a handshake, was that we would go through each box and toss what we did not really really need/want. We had left Adelaide in 2002 bound for New York with the belief we would be back in one maybe two years. Now eleven years later we have made the decision it will be one more year overseas then back home. So what we stored twelve years earlier we have managed to live without and therefore no longer would keep. Narda wants to sell everything and buy a live-in vehicle and travel around Australia for years as normal retired folks would which would mean all the more that we need to dump stuff. When we were in upstate New York a few weeks ago we went into one of those large bus-homes that Yanks trawl the USA, staying overnight in Walmart car parks in. It was ten years old, had pullout sides and would have suited us fine and we considered purchasing it on the spot until reason reared its ugly head and we realized it was not only impracticable but we did not have the money or place to store it not to mention that we have no intention to live in the States again. Nevertheless we got ourselves all psyched up and went to the storage bin with a whole day in front of us to do nothing but go through all our stuff and put it in a locked bin. At the moment it was all sitting outside of bins until we arrived to dump and store. We opened two or three boxes realized we did not know whether we wanted to keep the stuff within or not, resealed the boxes and put them into a storage bin. So hopefully a year from now we will move into our house in Adelaide or get an RV with less worldwide possessions and hit the road. We are following the grey nomads, an Australian site, http://thegreynomads.com.au/ that are blogs of folks that live and travel around Australia in their vans.
So my word for the summer is ‘letters’. Firstly, I found a box of letters from my brother Robert that he wrote to people in the 1960s and 1970s (he died in 1994). I found a box of letters from ex-girlfriends but we won’t tell Narda that I slipped that box in between other boxes I kept and then there are the most important discovery of the past ten years for me.
When my son, Leigh, was playing baseball in South Africa for the Australian National Team in 1999 he met Jackie. I would find her name in his belongings years later. I contacted her once in about 2005 and said I found her name and could she tell me anything about her meeting with my son. I also told her that Leigh committed suicide in 2003 a few weeks after turning 20. I set up a Facebook site for Leigh which has hundreds of people who knew him on it. A year ago Jackie contacted me via Leigh’s Facebook page to tell me she had moved from South Africa to Perth in Western Australia and that she had a pile of letters that Leigh had written her. I do not check Leigh’s Facebook page much as it is too difficult for me. I see all his friends, most of whom have children now, including Jackie. I usually check on his birthday in July and read the wonderful tributes his friends write him on that day. I told Jackie I would be in Australia last month and she sent me his letters. There were seven of them, some ten pages long. He had written them in late 1999 when he was in Adelaide and early 2000 when he moved to Florida to play in the LA Dodgers organization. They were love letters. I had never known that he had met someone in Africa. He had a girlfriend in Adelaide and as I was a single parent with him and his brother I thought I knew all that was going on. I never knew he was having problems in his mind until I read his last very long email to his girlfriend in Australia written August 10th (my birthday) 2003 in which he said he had known since the age of ten that he would kill himself. What am I supposed to do with that?
His letters to Jackie did say he was having problems but he never said what they were and I always thought that he was at the top of the world being chased by six or seven major league teams since he was 16 (1999). His brother and I lived what I thought at the time was a fairly happy life.
I wrote my hand-writing analysis friend two days ago; he is a world authority and works with the FBI and police in the States and has written several books on the subject and I asked if he would look at Leigh’s letters. He wrote straight back that he would. I scanned and sent off several pages. So this is why the real word in my mind to describe the summer holiday was ‘letters’. Today is my 66th birthday (August 10 – see? Leo all the way) but that is not the significant day of my life. August 13 2003, ten years ago, Leigh flew to Sydney without notifying the Dodgers; met up with his ‘girlfriend’ at the time, not Jackie (story at http://neuage.org/Idol-star.gif click on the image to enlarge) and the next morning he was at the bottom of his fifteen story balcony at the Novotel Hotel Olympic Park across from the baseball stadium where he had practiced for the Olympic team that was to play in Athens. I did not even know he was in Australia.
I was finishing my PhD at the University of South Australia and we were to head back to New York after the weekend to go back to teaching. Narda came in to my office put her arms around me and said ‘Leigh is dead’. Nothing can change those words. We flew to Sydney and I had to identify him. Narda kept me together then and has since and here a decade later we are preparing for classes again. Now is not like then. We flew back to New York after the funeral and with a couple of hours sleep, incredible depth of despair, jetlag, and all the rest I was standing in front of a room of girls at Russell Sage College welcoming them back to a new year of school. I did not say “I am falling apart because my son killed himself five days ago” but instead taught that first class which was on ‘communication’ and the rest of my classes that day and my classes at the other school I was teaching at, the University of NY at Albany. I managed to appear and teach but it was just a holography of me the real me had died too.Ten years does not diminish depths it only gives it more texture. There is nothing that can be done. I still wake from the same type of dreams; Leigh has done something that has gotten him out of baseball and I am trying to get him back as he keeps asking me – then I awake… Narda hears me my despair wakes her too. I find comfort in going to the gym and lifting weights. I keep lifting more as if I can lift the burden off of me. I suppose it is better to do that than any other escape, at least it is healthy. Leigh use to life weights and spent a lot of time at the gym, maybe which has added to my escape. Leigh was big and strong, he weighed 220 pounds, was six foot four and a solid athlete. He has been reduced to a box of ashes which I still have no idea what to do with. So ‘letters’ were my theme and one word mindset. After death everything pales into insignificance, almost everything. I have a son who is happy and successful and doing stuff that is good: recording hip-hop, working with boat people who have crashed into Australia, works with youth programs involving street kids getting them into street art and hip-hop, giving their life meaning, so he and Narda – my islands and mountains and strengths and they who make me laugh and help me go forth into the day so I can believe that when I feel that all else is insignificant that nothing can hurt me ever again I can still love; my son and wife give me that, they are my two protectorates. I have become inoculated against suffering, nothing can be taken away. In a way it is a liberating feeling to know nothing more can be taken only layers and my core is not accessible by life’s activities or babbling voices that echo off the walls of my Self. I also have freed myself of beliefs that I had which too is liberating because the beliefs that we have, usually passed on to us or brainwashed into us via media or spiritual hustlers are nonsense to begin with. To stop believing is to start living. Instead of following where planets are I now look at a moment and see how that can morph into something creative. How can I storyboard a mesh-up of many different colours happening at once?
We were talking today about standards yesterday, a big focus within our school, and I said I am not following one standard, like the technology one. I am using the Language Arts Standards to create the story, the music standards, the Arts Standards, IT, maybe math and other standards – I want to use every subject in our school to produce a collaborative film. Then I want to take the story, whether written by the Language Arts, or some other department and send it to Frank and Kay who are now in Burma and have their students create a film interpretation of the story as well as my film class to do the same then we can make a composite film. We integrate technology, actually that is my job at our school, but I want to integrate creativity using every department into film making this a year of production of the parts of the whole. Something like that in simple statements. Instead of getting too hung up on grades I want to unfetter the yoke of learning and see if we can find the divine spark in each student to create not only their masterpiece but a collective community of strangers piece. To quote Jefferson Airplanes (1960s)
“you are the Crown of Creation
And you’ve got no place to go’
I would add yes they have a place to go – take it to the next realm. We quit too easy. I continued with 14 years of university under trying times; raising two children, poverty, ten homes in ten years, no family support (I was in a foreign country, Australia, which strangely enough is now my home and the USA is my foreign country. Though I am a duel citizen I no longer feel that I am a Yank I don’t care how much my wife tells me I most definitely sound like one) and when you’ve got no place to go the only way out is to be creative. Maybe it was because I was a street person most of my life and I could live in the moment which is quite a creative thing to do. Creativity to a street person is survival meaning to survive one needs to be creative. But in reality I was most not successful I failed to read my son and at the time I thought I was very tuned into my children, I thought I was psychic in regards to them I was at the top of the spiritual mountain but hey it is all an illusion. One son is now happy has a great girl friend and will soon be making a three month tour of Europe. I think he and his life is real kool. I thought my ball playing son was kool too. We threw a ball every morning and every evening, one-hundred times, I taught him to be a major league pitcher then he no longer wanted it all. He had star potential. We all have start potential.
At the Dwight School in upper Manhattan the graduating students could choose anyone to give their graduating speech. Dwight is a prestigious school with many famous people having children at it (Paris Hilton was there up until the year before I started and members of The Strokes a popular rock band started their band while students at The Dwight School). I was just a silly person who came up with silly ideas for projects. But I was the overwhelming choice to give their farewell speech. I was going to say no but the Leo in me jumped out and said yes. I told them the story of my son – it was sad I suppose – high school students were teary eyed, maybe I am just mean but I had to tell the story. I was a bit graphic but I sure highlight the good times too. My message was simple that no matter how difficult life gets do not kill your self. My son ended his life because his relationship to his girlfriend ended. My belief is that because his mother was not an active part of his life he could not have another female reject him though I would never say that to anyone – maybe I said it to his mother at his funeral because she said mean things to me that day and told me it was all my fault.
How much more fun can one have in life than to say to some kids ‘hey let’s make some films, do some news shows, make rock videos, collaborate with students in other countries and create a film via Skype with them? The older I get the more interesting life is becoming. I goofed off and partied and did what I thought was creative stuff – like my thousands of on-line picture poems and before that I was a street artist in New Orleans, NYC, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Adelaide, South Australia where I did my last shows in 1997 when at age fifty I finally woke up and thought maybe I am too old for this and I should just go nuts on academic stuff. I found I loved doing research, I loved computers and when the World Wide Web was invented in 1990 I knew my life had just started. I probably have ten-thousand web pages; if I believed in astrology I would say it is such a Leo thing. No doubt this will be my last year of teaching but the next thing to do will be even more fun or creative or fulfilling; I have ideas but they are best kept set aside to be nurtured throughout this year.
Malaysian Airlines (international) – check-in, they have allowed us 24 kilos (any number of bags), plus 7 kilos carry-on, strictly enforced (this was ‘enforced’ at the Adelaide end, we were a bit over, almost a kilo, but Aussies help when they are able) and a camera bag or computer bag. The carry-on rule was not checked in KL because we were in transit and as Malaysia is touting themselves as the shopping capital of the world (forget Singapore and Hong Kong) they would not mind if we bought heaps of crap at the airport and added it to our carry-on which of course we did – oh look more stuff to put into storage and drag through life with us).
China Southern (domestic) – check-in = 20 kilos (any number of bags), carry-on – there seems to be no restrictions; we were overweight for check-in and took three bags as carry-on, all quite heavy as they would not allow our extra bag to be checked-in. They then disputed Vegemite as a liquid. Good grief!
Virgin Airlines or any Australian airline (domestic), inflexible – check their info.
USA, good golly what a mess… As I wrote a couple of blogs ago Delta lost our stuff three times for one destination (simply put it was on a flight to Newark which was cancelled after we sat on the tarmac for a couple of hours so instead of staying in Atlanta overnight and going on a flight the next day we took a flight to Albany, New York that evening and we were told our luggage was on our flight but it was not. Three days we were upstate and our stuff never arrived. After three days we said not to send our things to Albany as we were going back to Jersey City and we would collect it at Newark. When we got to Newark Narda’s bag was there but not mine, it was sent to Albany hours before we arrived and it took another couple of days to get it. Though we do appreciate that Delta reimbursed the $400 we spent for ‘necessities’ we needed until I did finally get my luggage).
Basically even United International will not allow more than one bag per person unlike Malaysian Airlines.
As this is getting a tad bit long and I already have begun thinking about my next blog I need to wrap this up – I just wanted to catch up for the past couple of weeks – I write for myself so to remember stop, after all I am now 66 did I mention that already?
July 12-13 2013: Friday/Saturday
Home – I think – after decades where home is becomes questionable I think we are home. If we go by where the majority of our crap is that would be China but if we go by where we own our home then that is either one of two houses in upstate New York but nether of them feels like home anymore and our house in New Jersey we saw our furniture in there last week but that no longer feels like home. So perhaps Adelaide is home but this is not quite what I remember. I lived in various places in South Australia from 1981 – 2002 so this I suppose is home. My children and I lived in ten houses in ten years during 1984 – 1995, a bit of an unstable time.
Australia as visiting-home; from 2002 until February 2013 we would visit for four or five weeks a year as we lived in New York then China. We even built a house in Adelaide, in Lochiel Park, that we have never lived in and our tenant has now had it for three years and we wish he would buy it. When we would visit here for the past eleven years we stayed in an apartment upstairs from Narda’s parents but they moved a couple of months ago and for the first time in Adelaide we are homeless. Narda lived here ever since getting off of a boat from Holland when she was four up until teaming up with me. Now we are both homeless where we feel at home.
Not to worry we loved Malaysia and even managed to see a lot considering we lost one day after Malaysian Airlines canceled our flight and put us up for an extra day and night in Beijing.
It was the easiest airport we have gone through anywhere in the world. Just a stamp in the passport. No stupid questions both when we arrived and when we left. Malaysia is courting old folks so perhaps that is what they think we are. They want Westerners to retire there as long as they have three-thousand dollars a month to live on. I think that is per couple. The people are very friendly though I do admit I am at a loss to understand their belief system. I have always wondered why people believe what they do and why they are so adamant that their beliefs are the way it is. I have tried many belief systems even spent years toward becoming a priest and decades being an astrologer and basically I think they all have something to offer but none of them are really the complete system. I have taken bits and pieces from different belief systems and believe-in what makes sense to me which I suppose is what the majority of people do. Every religion is based on a leader who at the end of the day if you take away what the reality at the start of their trip was and then morph it over the centuries it is never like what everyone claims that person did or was or even still is. Perhaps humans believe in and follow someone because they are afraid to live their life without the crutch of an outside force/person/being/etc. It is easier to believe in someone who no longer or never did exist and describe it in terms of faith than to take on the responsibility for one’s own life. I blunder through life I know but I surely am not going to ask an outside non-existing being or ‘invisible’ deity for guidance. I am going to make a rational stab at going in a direction that makes sense and do what I think is best, and depend on mistakes/short comings/walking-into-walls and random experiences that may or may not have been beneficial/correct/moral (as per someone else belief system). I mean do we want to believe David Icke’s trip about how reptilian people are waiting to take over the planet? I must admit I have looked at his stuff for the past couple of decades for entertainment purposes and he is a hoot, one of the world’s great comedians and even funnier are those who believe him or take him seriously. Many people are just ‘trying-it-on’ and I am sure they are just as amused that anyone takes them as true blue as I am.
I have always loved monorails – every since seeing one in the movie Fahrenheit 451 in the mid-1960’s and riding one at the Montreal World’s Fair in 1967 and of course the one in Sydney I have thought a city should have lots of them and not just as a tourist attraction. Kuala Lumpur has a functioning good monorail and we rode it end to end. They do not have subways but elevated trains and the train to the Islamic Arts Museum stops at Pasar Seni which is one of the main places to go to. The other really different experience in KL is raised pedestrian walkways. Instead of footpaths (they have them too) along the road they have footpaths in the air (I have video clips but not photographs though if I were not so lazy I would use Adobe Premier and take a photo out of the video. I love the Adobe Creative Cloud and have a year’s subscription and have downloaded all their programs. Want to just stay at home and use the Creative Cloud but I hear there are other things one needs to do when coming to visit family, like visit family)
Below is me hanging out with Narda’s daughter-in-law. The last time we were here, six-months ago in February, Maggie would start crying every time she saw me, which I thought was just a normal female reaction to me, but this time we got along and collaborated over some technology. She was showing me stuff on my iPhone and I was going to show her how to make her own webpage using Creative Cloud Dreamweaver but she was not that interested which I understand a bit as she is only about 18 months old. She was even less interested in my new computer which has 16 gig-memory and all the latest bells and whistles and did I mention the whole new Adobe Suite – why would I leave the house?
This was our first visit to a Muslim (65 per cent they say) country. I do like the get-up folks wear and if it is not irreverent to say it is like being at a costume party with us being the ones who forgot to bring any kool looking gear. We went to the Islamic Arts Museum which was really interesting. Their art is great but after reading lots of stuff from their beliefs and looking at exhibits I really do not understand what they are on about or why they do what they do. I did come away with the feeling that they are really really pissed off at the Jews and Israel. Again, I am not a politician or know much stuff, probably really don’t know anything about anything but if their exhibits are true then Israel really did do the dirty on the Palestinians. I see there is a book to buy called ‘A brief history of Palestine for dummies‘ that I can download, perhaps that will clear up my confusion. I read one book in the museum – it was really thin – about how the Christian’s Paul was really a bad dude – I never realised how much someone disliked him. I read it because on the back cover it said that the author had studied religion and that this book described the differences between the early Christians, Paul (which the book said was pretty much a bad Jew) and the Muslim religion. After skimming through it I realised it was quite the pro-Muslim read and was not really a thesis on comparing religions.
Besides the rhetoric and propaganda we did like their art. I would love to have our home – if we actually knew where our home existed – with tiles like they do. Of course they embed their verses from that book they like to read into a lot of their art and I am not sure if I want some of those lines on the wall of my home.
It is 12 RM ($3.78 US) per person to get into the museum but they only charged us 10. I thought they were being kind to us until I looked at our tickets more closely after we left and saw the word ‘senior citizen’ 10 RM at the bottom of the ticket. What? Are we that obviously old?
Narda in front of the museum – I have lots from inside even though there were signs, which I saw after – that said no photos, oops!
Our hotel was really good. At the bottom was a large shopping centre and of course having Narda come through the door of any shopping centre is a cause of celebration and welcoming for the locals,
We were on the 26th floor of the Premiera Hotel with a great view, below is watching the reflection of traffic on a building,
Of course the big thing to do is visit the Petronas Towers. I think I found a new thing for 911 conspirators to think about – you know how they come up with all these theories and why the New York City towers came down – well I saw tee-shirts that said ‘Petronas Towers – currently the tallest twin towers in the world’. Maybe it was not one of those many conspiracies that folks on the Internet want us to believe but in actual fact the sellers of these tee-shirts who had family members do the deed just so they could sell more tee-shirts that said they were the tallest twin towers in the world.
We did make one sort of a blunder. We got lost as we do wherever we go and Narda suggested we pop into a hotel we saw right where we were lost. The Majestic Hotel – OK so it looked a bit classic, later we learned that it was built in 1932 and I love the movie ‘The Majestic’ with Jim Carey so we went into the very fancy lobby sat down and asked for a cup of coffee.
Well we were surprised at how small the cup of coffee was. It was served in fancy ornate small tea cups with a pretty little bowl with sugar. We relaxed and stopped at the bar to pay – holy cow – 45 RM which is $14.17 (because we put it on our credit card the Visa charge on our account is $15.22 US for two small cups of coffee) or to put the two cups together which still would not equal a full cup; we paid twenty-eight dollars, US for a cuppa. Blimey. To put that in perspective we had a full breakfast of eggs, toast, two cups of coffee and two cups of orange juice each at a our favourite Indian restaurant (Lotus Restaurant in Chow Kit) earlier in the day for nine dollars for the two of us. Not to worry, we just are not the classy folks that we thought/think/wish/perceive ourselves as. I suppose we should have just booked in a couple of days and eaten our meals there and forgotten about affording the rest of our trip.
After that little expense we walked to Central Market and along the Historic Walk all about twenty minutes away from the propaganda wielding art centre. We got another bag of clothes with the illusion that we needed more and the hope that we could squeeze just a few more garments into our bag and once again ate our meals in Indian places as most eatery places were closed due to Ramadan fasting.
Below is a curve in the tracks in Kuala Lumpur.
So here we are, Adelaide, sort of home for me for more than 20 years plus a visit place for another 12 years, in the midst of winter which compared to where we live in Northern China is not cold at all.
After the start of our mishaps with Delta Airlines (who just wrote to say they would reimburse us for the $400 we spent on ‘necessities’ due to lost luggage, – see earlier reports – so we sort of like Delta a bit and almost apologize for what I said last week how they were a crap organisation) then having Malaysian Airlines cancel our flight to KL (and their putting us up at a good hotel and paying for three meals) we did get ourselves here and it is up to us to have an enjoyable time.
This will probably be my last blog until going back to China in three weeks because what would I write about? Everyone in Australia is so normal there is nothing to say about them. I will spend lots of time, if I have any free time, sorting out the previous couple of week’s video clips and putting them on YouTube and of course having a grand old time with Adobe Creative Cloud. I know there has been a lot of complaining about taking away purchasing programs and giving us subscriptions. I would rather have the subscription because every month Adobe updates various bits and pieces in the 26 programs I have – some I have never used before. Social and family life? Hey can I put that all on hold for a year just to get really good at making webpages, e-books, videos, apps, games, and enhance photos of myself so I will not look so old in a few weeks when I turn 66?
July 09 Tuesday 2013
Surely we would not have two flights canceled in the same trip. Surely it is only Delta that is unable to get us from place-to-place with our luggage happily going elsewhere. But no it is the nature of travel period. We use to fly around-the-world every year, did so for 12 years plus lots of flights between New York and Australia and we did not get any canceled flights. A couple of times luggage arrived at a different time than us but we got our compensations and life move forward, sometimes better dressed than when we left thanks to misplaced luggage and insurance. But this year is quite different. It started in February when our flight Dalian, China to Adelaide was canceled – I rabbited on about that in a previous blog-tale, ‘A Chinese Miracle’. That was important because Narda’s first grand-daughter was being Christened, not something that would happen in my family as I did not quite do all the society-rituals that most humans do as I blundered through life raising my sons, but it was important to Narda plus her son was turning 30 so being told our flight was canceled to Australia did not go well with her and we found ourselves on a different airline later that day and all went well.
In Atlanta last week at least we were at the end of the runway before being told our flight was not going to take us to Nirvana or any other such similar sunny summer spot. Stuff them! They took us back to the terminal and said perhaps the next day we could go but we thwarted them and got a flight that night to Albany, New York and left the other passengers floundering about to get hotel vouchers and a hope that the next day they would get to NYC. Not us we are too impatient, got-to-travel, it does not matter where, just take us some place. It is like when we are home in China (did I say home? Actually I suppose it is because 67 percent of our crap is there, the rest being scattered around New York, New Jersey and Adelaide, Australia – I always say Australia after Adelaide because no one has ever heard of it – check your wine bottle mate – that is if you drink good wine – it will be from near Adelaide); when we are in China, Golden Pebble Beach where 67 percent of our crap is – we take random buses, of course we do that wherever we go just to be on the move. Our only criteria is that there are two empty seats on the bus. Where it goes does not matter.
|Jersey City industry|
Not over Beijing
Yesterday we checked in, went through security, customs, immigration and then were told our flight was canceled. They gave us breakfast – in a restaurant that advertised cowboy bones,
Then we had to go back through immigration, where they stamped ‘delete’ on our entry stamp, back through customs, and back on the airport train to the baggage area to collect our stuff that thought it would go somewhere but instead came back to us. I know my suitcase has been flying about the place on its own lately and it looked at me with dismay as it did not get to go anywhere this time. I took firm possession of my wanderlust suitcase – written with photo included in a previous blog-tale ‘my wanderlust suitcase’ and we were clumped together into a bus headed for downtown. I took photos of Narda with my cell-phone but they did not come out very good and I was reluctant to drag out my Nikon to shoot; the shots being of Narda in the midst of a posse of Muslim women half her size and overdressed for the warm weather if you know what I mean. We have, or to be precise, she has, a word-warning for when I am being inappropriate – I can’t say what it is for some reason, but it is the name of a city, and she is going ‘Melbourne’, ‘Melbourne’ as I am making, what I think are funny, comments. I seem to hear that word a lot when we are out amongst people so if I am talking to you and Narda is saying ‘Melbourne’, ‘Melbourne’ it is either we are landing at Melbourne airport or we are off to visit my son, Sacha who lives in Melbourne or it is because I am saying stuff I should not be saying. Honestly I never think I am saying inappropriate stuff but I hear ‘Melbourne’, ‘Melbourne’ and stop saying whatever it is I am on about.
We get to Metro Park a rather OK place and we quickly get to the counter to get our room. With probably more than 200 passengers we have been moving through the masses with considerable ease. It was lunch time and the airline had given us vouchers for smorgasbord lunch as well as smorgasbord dinner. We were up at 4 am and by afternoon were ready for a day off. After a frantic visiting and travel difficulties in the States a day down was a good idea and for someone else to pay the bill always means we have more money to use on the important things of life, shopping.
What was difficult was that we were sort of left at the hotel, all a couple of hundred of us. None of the hotel staff knew if we were flying out the next morning or even how to get in touch with the airline. We were told by five pm a note would be slipped under our door. Well that did not happen and we expected it won’t so we were on the phone to Malaysian Airline in Malaysia as no one would pick up the phone in their offices in Beijing. The hotel was not keen on us making long distance phone calls but they were not familiar with the Narda verb (see earlier posts) and we were on the phone until we got a half- hearted nod (we could not see the nod but it felt like someone down there in Malaysia was nodding) that possibly we could be on the next morning flight which was already full and that possibly we could take the four PM flight which of course Narda let it be known was not possible.
At five AM, this morning, Tuesday, July 9, we got a room-service phone-call informing us to get our sorry asses down to the lobby in preparation for a six AM bus departure for the airport. Some time during the night they had slipped a note under the door informing us that we all had to go to the airport whether we were on the next flight or not.
Not to worry – they at least had box lunches for us with some bread like substance an egg which smelt strange so we tossed them and Narda went off to get us coffee which they said we had to pay for and Narda informed them we wanted coffee and that we were not going to pay for it and sure enough she returned with our coffee, free, of course, then she went back to get milk when I noticed there was none in the coffee. It is not that I am lazy, I do heaps in our relationship, but at the moment I was reading sports scores in the newspaper and as a male that is one of my roles in life.
To make this first part which is just getting to KL short, suffice it to say we got onto the bloody nine AM flight and we will be landing in half an hour so we will have a couple of days of either rest or adventure before going to Australia where Narda will busy herself with grandmother duties and I will have a play on my new computer; 16 gig RAM and all the latest stuff and the whole Adobe Creative Cloud software to explore.
Not that it matters but in a city the size of Beijing we were surprised to be staying at a hotel (we have stayed at Metro Park in Shanghai, a good chain of hotels for sure, but the hotel we had booked in the night before was onlyt a block away so in our couple of days in Beijing we did not go far. I suppose most people visiting Beijing would be somewhat more exploitative but we could not breathe the air and we have wandered about Beijing enough and it is not really our city, not like New York City is.
Overall we are happy with Malaysian Airlines, they did the right thing. We discovered they did a bit of a lie. They told everyone that the flight was canceled due to weather in Hong Kong but when we researched it the weather in Hong Kong was fine. A bloke we were speaking to at the Malaysian Airline desk in Malaysia said that there was mechanical problems with the craft and it was not flying. This was right after the crash in San Francisco with the same type of plane and we think that was related – they did an extra check on our plane and probably a few bolts were missing. Whatever the cause airlines tend to say weather related because then they get out of being responsible as it is an ‘Act-of-God’ .
Our first impression of Malaysia is really good. I probably should not say this but at the airport it was like being at a costume party – I have never been in a city that had so many different clothing styles. Going through customs and immigration was so quick. We have been so busy lately we did not check to see even if we needed a visa but they just asked what we were doing here and we said holiday and they said have a good time and we were on the way. Nothing like all the check points in China. The airport is good the people are friendly and we got a taxi to our hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur and we got a room with a view on the 26th floor of a new modern place. See the Petronas Twin Towers in the distance – that will probably be our first visit today but as always we are up at five AM and no one else is. The second image is a view from our window at night. Wake up KL we have room in our shit case for more stuff.
It is Ramdim fasting time so it is limiting to where we can eat.
We have to use a VPN to use Facebook and Twitter and all the rest so must be social Western sites are blocked but the Internet is very fast probably faster than in the States and surely faster than China. Yesterday in Beijing to insert a photo into my blog took about an hour for each here it is just seconds.
On the road again. Just a whistle stop in the States, ten-days: Jersey City, Atlanta, Big Canoe (in the mountains north of Atlanta), upstate New York (Albany, Round Lake), New York City and now waiting for a plane Newark – Toronto – Beijing. Just a short visit to see family, friends, our money person (who said we should not take a year off – what? We have to keep working to see the world? Damn!) and assorted people who keep our life moving forward: Chris, Narda’s son and his wife in Georgia – thanks for the three days in the mountains what a relaxing time. And we even had a day we did not spend money except for some fridge magnets I bought at a very southern garage sale. Seven magnets of seven states all of which we have lived in at some time for a total of three bucks. My fridge is covered with magnets
of where we visit – Narda says I can only buy where we have stayed at least one night. Why do wives put restrictions on us normal humans who collect stuff and cart most of it from place to place? OK so we have stuff in storage or in homes in China, Australia, New Jersey (yes that is a country) and in a shed in between our houses in upstate New York, but a few more things to keep especially as small as fridge magnets surely is domestically legal. The stay in Big Canoe, which incidentally is not a big canoe as in the Big Banana in Queensland, or the big lobster in South Australia and other such stupid things but the name of a closed community where the wealthy folks have ‘cabins’ they retreat to when city life is too consuming. Our cabin was a three story house that could have easily housed three families or in some cultures ten families. Porches that were screened in so we could sit out and watch the days come and go – see two blogs earlier. And staying with them in Atlanta was good too. I was able to find a Goodwill store and bought a tie to add to my collection of more than a hundred ties that are not the regular wear-to-work type of ties and I found a shirt, that Narda was quite opposed to – that probably came from a black school marching band.
Our Jersey City tenant – a couple with a two-year old from the same country that we work in…. what a mess our house is in. It is a three-story townhouse built in the 1800’s. We left it in quite good shape with our furniture – some pieces are antiques and are from my father’s home that he had before I came along more than sixty-years ago. Their two-year old has taken over the house and I think it will take a lot of cleaning once they leave. The good thing is that they are staying for another year saving us an agency fee of getting new tenants.
Our upstate New York, Round Lake, tenants; churning out the babies, but they are staying for another year and are looking after our homes and making our gardens looks specky. Below 15 Second Street – we only lived in this for one year and we lived in 13 Second Street before moving to NYC and our current tenants have lived there for six-years whilst ones before lived there for a year. We will be getting the front painted this year
An elderly driver crashed into the porch of 13 Second Street a couple of weeks ago and knocked part of the steps away as well as a load-bearing pillar which is bit of a concern. Apparently he was on the Northway (the freeway between Albany and Montreal) when he realised his brakes were failing so he coasted off exit 11 – Round Lake – managed to cruise into the village and down our street and bang right into the porch. Helpful for us is that our tenant works for our insurance company and she is getting it all sorted out
We also met with our painters, William and his wife – Sue, they have been painting and repairing a side each summer for years and this year they are doing the front all the way to the peak including putting some fancy antique lightening rod thingy on top. An interesting note for us is that they found a photography of the house from the early 1990’s that had been hand coloured and the colours were very similar to what we have had it painted in. The quick story of the nine colours of our house is that we hired someone we had heard about who chooses colours for Victorians. He has a national reputation. He sat in the park across from our house and spent an afternoon looking at the house – ‘communicating with the house’, he claims. People around Round Lake would stop at our house and ask why was this person staring at our house talking to himself and writing down notes. Nevertheless we went with his recommendations exactly; every railing, trim and side – he charged us like about $900 and we are still using the same colour scheme.
Our little claim to fame is that possible President Roosevelt stayed our house, FDR – apparently he was on holiday in the Adirondacks when the then president died – the person living at our house had to go and find him and inform him he was president. Round Lake in those days was a major train stop. This information is from the village’s local historian who when we lived there would tell us stories of not only our house but the village itself. Stories of bootlegging during prohibition and various characters who lived and visited the village. Now it is just a great Victorian village waiting to gain some fame so the prices will shoot up and we can sell out and retire. Our money manager person said it is not good owning two houses on the same street though not being a money person myself I do not recall why. I think we have a great set up where a family can live in the big house and put the grandparents or grown children in the little house. In other words buy the two properties and set us free.
I think I will try sleeping. Riding the 13 hour flight from Toronto to Beijing – and there is still nine hours to go whilst the people around me are asleep and I am the pesky human with a computer blazing as I listen to Jimi Hendrix on the flight’s recordings. Way to go Air Canada – keep us baby boomers happy though the Chinese people around me probably would not be impressed. My sleeping pill is kicking in and before I start drooling down my shirt, snoring and flopping around the place I should position myself for sleep. Perhaps I will put my legs over the seat in front of me though that would probably piss them off to no end. Narda has a relative who took a stilnox sleeping pill and apparently undressed in the laboratory – though the story has taken on several angles since the first telling of it – I am sure I will just go for a walk-about and hopefully not out any doors at 50,000 feet.
Before I do though… I have my vegetarian meal which is good because I get it before all those pork and dog eaters or whatever it is they are eating around me dive into their blood and gore of a meal. But I knew the person next to me would be getting a vegetarian meal too. Humans are so predictable. Probably a student returning to some international school in Beijing and her hippie parents. Not only did she too get a vegetarian meal but I noticed her name on her meal, ‘Hope’, gosh why do parents name their kids this way? I know when my first son, Sacha was born in the Northshore Hospital in Hawaii I wanted his middle name to be ‘Unity’ because he was born on a Sunday and had Leo rising and his initials Sacha Unity Neuage would = SUN. His alleged mother was opposed to the middle name and we ended up with Urij, a Russian or Ukrainian name which is what the alleged mother is. He still has the SUN initials. I think I let women boss me about too much. One simple fact is that my hair would be a lot longer if I had my way and why don’t I have my own way? I believe wives, especially previous mother ones who raised males – take raising three males for example as Narda did, us husbands get tossed in with the raising-sons mindset. I was like a mother for a long time, raising my two sons without female intervention between 1984 and 2001 but I was let-the-world-be-of-ones-making-type-of-parenting.
I wrote in my previous blog about the meaningful visits with our real-estate agent, Kathy, my first girl friend back in 1963; Marta – my role model for living life without restrictions, and my sister and her family. I met my sister in 1991 I think it was. I was young, just in my early 40s at the time. Our mother had put me up for adoption in 1950 – my birth certificate had a misspelling for my mum so I was unable to track down my family until the mid-1980s and finally met them early 1990s when I was living in Australia and my sister in New York. We have seen each other twice since.
We visited my only living relation – from my growing up adopted family – Joyce. Her son was visiting and there was a bit of a standoffish thing happening at first. My last interaction with Joyce was when we lived upstate in about 2002 – whenever that little tousle with Afghanistan began. Narda and I were so opposed to going into Iraq – we said it would be trillions of dollars, lots would be killed, and nothing would change except the States would go deeply in debt and regret and lose. Holy cow is that not exactly what happened? Joyce was so ‘let us go kick their butts’ that we ended with door slamming and bitterness with only a bit of a retrieve when my adopted-father died a few months shy of 102 http://neuage.org/101 I suppose the fact that Joyce’s son, Derek, volunteered to go to Iraq gave her a bit of a red-neck leaning in favour of that adventure. I am sure when we got to see Joyce last week, Derek thought we would say something about the great things for the world that the trending activists Snowden, Assange and Manning were accomplishing. But as Narda and I are so far from being political we scarcely know what anyone is doing in any country or for any cause. We are often too busy planning our next trip to know what is going on. Is this un-patrotic? Irresponsible? Or just living the moment to the fullest? We talked about life in China and obviously we had not gone communist or anti-American describing our experiences and insights – damn, they block Facebook. YouTube and Twitter how could we be pro-China. As the morning progressed Derek could see that we were not a threat to his ideology – hell, we would go to Iraq and Afghanistan – but as tourist and of course I would want to buy fridge magnets and Narda would want to buy clothes and probably shoes. And to further our retirement plans he said our houses in Round Lake would go up in value with the chip factory there and that he was planning on teaching at the college there; he works for GE (General Electric) with heavy ultrasound stuff – testing building structures using ultrasound and lasers. And that he may be able to inform us where to advertise to attract the tech people with too much money, Overall a good visit.
I think the percentage of people who carry photos of their lives everywhere they go are less than 7 % worldwide. Not to worry I carry thousands and thousands wherever I go just in case I forget something or in this case want to show a photography.
Our NYC visits as I discussed in my previous blog were great.
Our Jersey City stay was a bit budget. We have been doing Air B&B for the past few years always with great success but this place was the shits. It was not the narrow small flat but how dirty it was. Narda wanted to move to a hotel within a few minutes but we had already paid for four days and after our mishaps with luggage and Delta airlines I just wanted to settle anywhere. We spent most of our time roaming The City and visiting but if you are staying at a Jersey Air B&B don’t stay at 323 5th Street. The location is great, fifteen minutes to the PATH but the place is just dirty. Though to me it was OK. It was what I was use to from the 1960’s living in the lower east side in various flats; it was probably even cleaner but we won’t tell Narda that. She still speaks of when she first met me, after I had spent a week cleaning in preparation of her first visit – how she was shocked that someone lived like I did – something about having so much stuff – hording I think she calls it – but I was a single parent with two adolescents and I am a male, what was she expecting?
And that is the US of A for another while. Maybe we will get back next summer, June – July, maybe not. It looks as if Australia is our future life but we still have property to get rid of and Narda’s son lives in Georgia and I am a Yank even though I have an Australian passport.
With my boys, 1997, Hackham, South Australia, waiting for the future to unfold: Sacha, left, age 16, me age 20, Leigh the tallest age 14.
ah back in Beijing with the pollution so thick we spent fifteen minutes on walking-about and our eyes and throat were sore as shown below whereas the States – blue sky and clear. After no sleep for 24-hours it is good to hop into a bed. And of course Narda managed to get into the baggage room to meet me, she was on the earlier flight and walked past the guards with them chasing her and she had to find someone who spoke English to explain that I was in the baggage area and did not have my suitcase and she would need to go to baggage claim with me as I would not know where we are staying. In other words she told them I did not know my ass from a hole in the ground, and there she was. As I said in my previous scribble, at St Luke’s, Narda is a verb meaning to go ahead and do it then explain. Good golly she will be the death of me. And all ended well with my suitcase being the last one, we are not good at waiting.
This has been a fantastic visit with friends, family, business people and just being in the States. However, this is because we have learned through decades of travel to get only just so crazy with the actual travel part of our travel. Getting to the destination and getting to the destination with our belongings has often put in the mindset of why did we ever walk out the door of our home to begin with. As I dribbled on about in the two previous blogs getting from Dalian to Beijing to Vancouver to Newark then to Atlanta was all as normal as travel in the electronic age can be. Getting from Atlanta to wherever it was we were headed for but finally ended up at and four days later still wondering where parts of our extended selves – e.g. our luggage are.
Those companies that are upsetting our peaceful blissful zen-like traveling selves:
Delta – who is running your show? Are you really a business that gets people and things to places they pay for? Delta you make China Southern almost look like a real airline and they just lost our luggage for good last year though it was only my Piggly Wiggly umbrella and a specialized curtain rod Narda had found in one of those southern states few tourists ever go to – she said it would be good for our window in China. We had them so well marked and you lost them somewhere between Melbourne Australia and Guangzhou China and spent weeks stringing together enough words in English before we realised they were gone forever and the compensation we received did not match the emotional attachment that I had formed with my Piggly Wiggly umbrella – but not to worry, we know China Southern struggles to act like a proper airline; we know this how? Because we have traveled for the past few years with them and are constantly amazed how we ever get anywhere, not to mention our precious luggage. And we have learned to bring our own food because no one in their right-mind could eat that crap China Southern serves.
Delta! You are the queen of shit.
So we have our flight from Atlanta. What a restful time we had in Atlanta; three days in the mountains at a large lovely house deep in a mountain forest a few days with Narda’s son and his wife and all was good until we got to the airport. We checked in our luggage and got on the plane and even to the end of the runway. After a few moments the pilot went on about some traffic delays in Newark and we would be delayed a few minutes. The next announcement was that we would be leaving in 45 minutes. An hour later we were told the plane was headed back to the terminal but not to worry it would be just a slight delay but we did need to get off of the plane and take our stuff with us. “Just stay in the waiting area and we will have you on your way soon…” another hour – “the flight has been canceled”. OK these things happen so we are told we would not get a flight out Sunday night – we were suppose to leave at 2 PM Sunday. Turns out there is no way to get to Newark but we are able to get to Albany on a ten pm flight. Albany is where we are headed anyway. We were going to Newark to collect a rental car and drive upstate stopping overnight at Marta’s house in the Catskill then going on up the next morning to do our many errands.
We were very clear that our luggage was to get sent to Albany and we were told that all along the way; at the counter where we got our tickets and at the check-in counter at the gate we were told our luggage was definitely on the flight. When we arrived at Albany our luggage was not there and after much checking we were told it would be on the next flight which would have been seven AM Monday morning if that had not been canceled but not-to-worry there was a flight arriving at 2 in the afternoon and they would deliver out stuff to our hotel. In the meantime we could purchase what we needed for the night and for clothing for the next day but keep it under $50 or they will look at it more closely.
Who knows this?
It is not what airlines will tell you but it is true. Once our luggage went for a walk-about when we got to Scotland. We told them we were off for a week and could not wait until the next day for our stuff and we were told to purchase what we needed which to keep this short and not to reveal my dim-memory we needed to purchase a suitcase to carry all our new stuff in. When we got back to Edinburgh a week later we collected our luggage and nicely added our new suitcase of clothes and ‘necessities’ and went on our way and they paid for all we purchased.
At midnight we went to the only place open, Walmart, in Clifton Park; which by the way is close to where I grew up and lived more than 50-years earlier, and bought a few things. The next morning, Monday, still without our luggage we bought some more. And we did keep our purchases below $500.
Tuesday we needed to drive on to New York City and still our stuff was in Newark. We rang three times telling them not to send our belongings to Albany as we were driving to Newark Airport to collect our things. They assured us everything would be held for us.
This is just the baggage and car-rental part of my story. The family, friends, good news, houses and what a trip really is about I will say next so I will not forget which is the only reason to write anything down because I forget stuff the next day and to remember all the good stuff is easy but to put it into context or even in some sort of chronological sequence of it-was-three-years-ago, no, actually it was last month is useful for various reasons though I can not recall why at the moment.
So rentals have been a pain this trip. This was our third rental. The first was with Advantage Car Rental and we dealt with the biggest wanker in New Jersey with our first rental of a couple of days. The final bill was more than three times what was offered on Expedia which is more than usual. We always allow for twice the quote but by the time so many various taxes and stupid stuff was added the bill was more than three times the original quote. We rented from Advantage again in Atlanta for a few days and that was OK. This time we rented from Alamos Car Rental from Albany Airport for two days to deliver to Newark Airport. Our quote from Expedia was about a hundred bucks with taking it to a different location but our final bill was $275 and that is with us bringing back a full tank of petrol. So we have a lovely time visiting upstate – which I will get to – and midway to NYC – which I will get to and we get to Newark and there is no such location to return it to that is on our paperwork. We are a bit nervous by now as our phone has almost no charge left because the charger is in our suitcase at Newark Airport. We ring Alamos to find out where to take the car as the address does not exist they gave us. A rude cranky person gives us another address and we go there but there is no Alamos Car Rental there. With but a few seconds left we pull over and get Alamos Car Rental on the phone and say it is an emergency, come get us then our phone dies. We do not like sitting alongside the runway with no Alamos Car Rental or any place of business near where we are sitting which is where we were told Alamos Car Rental was. We decide to be more pro-active and to leave it at the first car-rental place at the airport we see. As we are driving toward the airport on this side-road we see a tow truck rushing past us – no doubt to our emergency. The first car-rental we come to at the airport is National and we drive in, get out, and say to the woman checking in cars that we are leaving this car and that it is an Alamos Car Rental and she says fine and gives us a receipt and off we toddled to Delta Baggage to liberate our suitcases. So aside of the huge price change Alamos Car Rental was OK they just have terrible service and have no idea where their cars belong. Obviously this happens heaps as it was easier to abandon our rental than we thought it would be.
At Delta, to our surprise, though I am not sure why, there was Narda’s bag but not mine. Holy-cow, they sent mine to Albany a couple of hours earlier. They said it could not come back until the next day, Wednesday, and to get on the first flight it would have to go with United then if we waited for 6 – 8 hours after its arrival we probably would have it delivered to our address. As we are not staying at a hotel but renting an Air B & B place for this week and we had an appointment with our finance adviser in The City Wednesday afternoon we rang and told them we were coming to collect it. This little communication with a company that would be unable to organize a screw in a brothel took more than an hour. The first person I believe was speaking English as some of the words sounded like English but most did not seemed to convey that perhaps the plane with my luggage did leave Albany and had arrived in Newark at 5.40 this morning but as it was a United flight and my bag had a Delta number on it she could not fine it in the system. At eleven AM without our first cup of coffee we got our sorry asses to the PATH train and to Newark. Now at Newark one can take a bus to the airport which we usually do for a couple of bucks but it takes awhile and stops heaps and we were agitated, without coffee, and in a hurry so we took Amtrak, at $16.50 for the two of us, the one stop to Newark Airport. Of course it takes people to the AirTrain at Newark only before going on its merry way. Unknown to us there is another fee of $5.50 on the AirTrain to go the couple of minutes to the terminal. We had already paid too much so following Narda which one tends to do especially when she is acting taller than her five-foot eleven tallness and she is agitated, without coffee, and in a hurry I quickly went through the gate which was open due to the person in front of Narda opening it to get her bags through and walking fast so as to not hear if someone was calling back to pay some unfair fee we discovered that the AirTrain was not running and we all got herded onto a bus to the terminal.
We had tea (dinner) last night with Narda’s art teacher friend (from five years working together at St. Luke’s School in the West Village) and Nancy use to say back in those years that she was going to have a bracelet made that would say, “what would Narda do” because Narda had a reputation for doing what Narda does and she is a great role model (though at times, frightening) for getting done what needs to be done. Nancy reminded us of that last night. Of course Narda said Nancy was true blue which is a great compliment to another human. According to the Australian Urban Dictionary “true blue = The real thing, no bullshit”.
Today having lunch with a few of Narda’s ex-work mates they were saying how “Narda” is a verb at work. “I will Narda it” or “I Narda-ized it” which is doing what is needed then telling someone. Or doing something then asking permission. I know we do this, not just us but most people at our current workplace because to ask first means getting a no but doing what needs to be done or should be done or want to have done then telling about it gets far better results.
Of course my suitcase was not at Delta’s baggage when we got there at 11:30 and Narda in her scary way walked straight into the back area where baggage is stored as three people were yelling at her not to go into the back area. Eventually a woman was on the phone calling United telling them it was an emergency that my bag had to be at the Delta area within the next ten minutes. I was left at the counter as Narda headed upstairs to get a taxi voucher to get us to our appointment on Lexington Avenue – a couple of blocks from Grand Central.
Did you know this? The airlines will give you a taxi voucher to where you are staying if you go to collect luggage that was not on your flight. We got a voucher to where we are staying this week in Jersey City the night before including paying extra to have the person stop at a super market so we could get some groceries. Airlines will never tell you these things about getting supplies if your luggage does not arrive or getting taxi vouchers you have to confront and get this done.
My suitcase did arrive at the Delta Baggage Area and now it was 12:30 – almost seven hours after the plane landed and three days after it never made it on the same flight to Albany this past Sunday evening.
The Delta paid-for taxi, the driver driving like he was in China; no seat belt and going very quickly and weaving in and out of traffic got us to Lex Ave. within an hour which was really good considering the traffic. We got to our appointment on time – our Australian money advice person – and all was good.
We are quite happy that the Aussie dollar is dropping like a stone the past couple of weeks going from $1.05 to 91 cents making our Yankee dollars worth more than ten% more than a few weeks ago. Part of the reason is because of the slow down in China – go China.
Narda says I use to many words to say what I have to say. She use to tell me by mid-day that I had used up my word-count for the day. What? I suppose part of taking on a wife is dealing with their ideas, concepts, stuff-in-general. She does not say that anymore either because I use less words in a day or because she is being kind or she has given up and accepts my dribbling on. However, saying that, I doubt I could have said this all about Delta in any fewer words.
Being in upstate New York was so good. I grew up or made a bloody good attempt at it until I had a gut full of the place and at age 16 headed out on my own to become a writer and artist and 50 years later realising this did not come about but being more accepting of life’s muddy and murky path or at least the ones I have usually gotten on to I am not stressed about the fact I never became the artist-writer celebrity that as one with so many planets and points in Leo should have realised I move forward in a semi-blissful way.
We firstly checked on our houses in Round Lake, http://neuage.org/house/. Beautiful Victorians with good tenants. In our large house the couple have had four children since moving in six years ago and in our smaller house the couple had a child their first year there. These are very fertile houses. We have a great painting couple who paint a side of the house every year; this is the downside of Victorians – absolute money-pits. And we had lots of stories to swap between upstate New York where the new Global Foundry is only a ten minute drive or half an hour bike ride away. (“Fab 8 in Saratoga County, New York is currently the largest commercial capital expansion project in the USA”) and our adventures in China. They are building a college there as well as some other chip company and lots of tech companies are moving in all close to our little retirement investment places.
We had lunch with my first girl-friend, Kathy, from more than fifty years ago. Kathy is now our real-estate chick and is looking after our houses if anyone wants to purchase a couple of beautiful Victorians so we can retire she is the one to speak with. My father use to be upset that I was dating her because she was a Catholic and in Clifton Park, a 99.9% WASP area then – not anymore, that was really outside the box. My father use to give me those Bible tracks that had a heading “what happens if I marry a Catholic?” well years later I did find out as my first wife (the witch) was a Catholic and true enough my life turned to shit.
Two days ago, Tuesday, we visited my sister and her family. It was the third time in my life that I had seen my sister. A long story that I will not tell now but I was adopted and spent decades trying to find my family and I did and I have a blood brother in Hilo who I have seen once and my sister Sue that I have seen twice before. In other words I have little sense of family. I was a single parent raising my two children and for the most part before meeting Narda and being adopted by her wonderful family twelve years ago I have been on my own.
This was by far my best visit with Sue and her sons and a daughter and her grandchildren. I feel like at age 65, a few weeks from 66, I may end up being a part of my original family yet. Susan’s son, Justin, is so similar to my son Sacha that one would have thought they had grown up together to have such similar traits. Maybe there is something to bloodline.
On the way to Newark – to collect our luggage – I believe I mentioned that above – we stopped in to have lunch with Marta – http://martawaterman.com . Marta is one of my role-models in life. She is a few years older than me – living life to the fullest and on her terms. She is a musician, professor, actor, author and heaps of other stuff. She was a girl-friend of my adopted brother back in the mid-1960s. Marta and Marc Seifer http://www.marcseifer.com/ a professor who was a friend of my brother and writer of many books are writing a book on my brother who was an artist, writer and musician in NYC up until dying in 1992.
and that is the past couple of days
Here is a picture of my wander-lust of a suitcase – how could they miss it?
What a great day in NYC and having lunch with the Butlers was great with Narda catching up with her old – well not old as in we are old but former – workmates in their wonderful home built in the 1700’s – the only wooden house still standing in the West Village from the 1700’s.
POME = Prisoner of Mother England; our British speaking GPS
Monday, June 24 2013
Following on from yesterday’s blog; https://neuage.me/2013/06/26/lama-temple-and-beyond/ – flying Beijing to Vancouver and on to New York City, arriving at one AM and sleeping a few hours we collected our car rental and plugged in the GPS that Randy Dandurand gave us some five years ago. Great how these things keep working. It had slept in its little padded cell for a year. We used it a year earlier to get lost around in several Southern States.
Isn’t it something how humans can attach human traits to items? When we plugged it in, our British speaking male voice started right off with the directions we needed to get to where we wanted to go. Of course we should know without a GPS, having lived in Jersey City for three years, how to get to our home to see the condition our renters have kept it in but Jersey City is a very confusing place to drive about in, especially in the airport area.
We expected our GPS to be a bit more personal, like ‘how ya doin? Good to see you again. My you have lost weight’ (that was Narda’s thinking wondering why it was not more personal). I want a GPS that talks, not just give instructions in a dry humourless British voice. How about some jokes? Even some sarcasm like ‘I cannot believe you two will not follow what I say and even with my step-by-step instructions you stuff up’. Maybe some jokes or a little bit of a tour guide of wherever we are. A GPS that sings and hums and whistles, one in which we can put in your name; ‘my my Terrell aren’t we a bit precious today, not enough sleep? You are sounding so cranky if only you would have turned right instead of left – this is not Australia surely you know which side of the ride you should be on….’
I have often wondered why humans personalize stuff. When I lived with Lynn back in the late 1970’s in Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland she had a Volvo named ‘Harvey’. “i am going to take Harvey out for a wash”, “I need to fill up Harvey”, “it looks as if will snow tonight so I will put Harvey inside”. She named lots of things but I only remember the car. I would ask her about her life with inanimate objects but she committed suicide in 1982.
Narda has exchanges with objects too. I have heard her talk to her computer and tell it she is sorry but it will be replaced, maybe it was a practice line for me. “Sorry you are a bit fragile and slow I will have to put you down…” I bought a new computer yesterday; a Lenovo, 16 gig RAM, 1 terabyte HD – lots of great features – top of the gaming computers reviews say. Great red back-light under the keys and I have a year’s Adobe Creative Cloud membership – every product they have now on my desktop so I can edit more of my boring YouTube clips and my thousands of webpages and soon too many apps that no-one will want. I am hoping I can continue with my subscription in China using my VPN but I am concerned I will not be able to as Adobe just gives the finger to China. But to get back to speaking to objects. When I get back to China I am just going to flat-out tell my three-year-old laptop that it has been replaced by something younger, faster and better looking and that I am in love with my new computer and it is going off to an orphanage where some kid will change the English keyboard to Chinese then probably drop it. Why beat around the bush? Of course some people would apologize to the bush before beating around it.
To change the objects topic for a moment – our first stop was the outlet malls and no amount of jet lag can stop such meaningful events. When my son Sacha and his girlfriend, Georgia, visited us a few years ago I collected them from JFK – they had flown Melbourne – Bangkok – NYC with no sleep and lots of free alcohol but before we went to our home in Jersey City we went to this outlet mall just like Narda and I did last night. We have the rest of our life to sleep but a sale only lasts for so long.
Our rental car was great and fancier than our previous old Honda we had three-years ago when we lived in the States. No we did not talk to it; well I didn’t – Narda a bit of a conversation with it. The car did not start with a key but with a button which was fine and even though we were jet lagged we decided to go out past the Newark Airport to the docks so I could get some photos and video as the sun set. I drove the first long ways where we stopped to take photos:
Narda had the second shot at driving and the car would not start. She kept pushing the button and nothing happened. Of course we got into some kind of laughing fit that two old people naturally would when they discovered the car they were driving would not start and there was no one anywhere near as it was Sunday evening on the Jersey City docks. Narda pleaded with the car to start – I am not so polite when it comes to objects not working and I would just well have dropped a match into the petrol tank and proclaimed that the bloody car was a piece of junk and no longer worked. After many long moments of discussion with the car – Narda in her best elementary-teacher voice trying to get the stupid thing to function – she realized that when she put her foot on the brake then pushed the button it started. I am only telling this story so that we can look it up on my blog the next time we get a car without a key that will not work. Then Narda got us hopelessly lost in some dangerous-looking hood in Newark which recently was labeled the murder capital of the States. For some reason the GPS got left back at our hotel – probably for acting so prissy in telling us how to get to places; and no it was not me that took it out of the car and put it back in a suitcase – but as I am not one to lay blame I will not.
What I love about Jersey City is its competitive manner she takes to out-pollute the world more than Beijing. Here is one of their picturesque evening sketches:
There are so many smells in this area from sicking sulphate odors to various food smells – a lot of imitation foods and flavours are created in Jersey City – really, we looked it up on the Internet. If you want your pork to taste like apples or your perfume to smell like muskrats this is the place to find it.
We were excited about eating at ihop where breakfast is a lot more than rice and more rice covered with MSG and other stuff, maybe even from Jersey City, that is served for breakfast in restaurants in China.
We visited our tenant who has been renting for the past year our three story row house in Jersey City, who happily is taking another year, saving us the realtor fee of finding someone new. Nothing ironic about it but our tenant is from China; he and his wife and two year old have made quite the messy house for us. Their kid has taken over the house and the place was an absolute pig stye. It wasn’t just the wall-to-wall toys but just the general mess. And that was just the lounge, he was not keen on showing us upstairs or downstairs though as the landlords we should have asked to see. There is no escaping China for us. We even had a couple from China looking at purchasing our house in Australia but we have taken it off the market so there was no further dealings. Maybe it is my tofu diet of the past 40 years that links me with Asia; see http://tofu.neuage.us but whatever it is there is no escape. I am sure our large Victorian in upstate New York will be just as messy; the couple there have three children, all three born since they have been renting. Our little Victorian next to it is rented by a couple who just had a child so whatever it is about us renters like to pump out the children in our homes. http://neuage.org/house
When we left NYC two years ago the new World-Centre building was about half of what it is now. In China they would have built the whole thing in six months. We will stomp around NYC for a few days next week before continuing with jet-lag games in Australia. I love NYC having done my hippie internship there between 1964 – 1969 before going west: California, Oregon, Hawaii then Australia for 22 years and back to New York 2002 – 2011 and now China 2011 – 2014. We have not been in the States for Fourth-of-July as we went to Australia every summer for our ten years in New York and with the 4th a week away we will try to be like other east-coast folks and train it to a beach on the Jersey Shore.
Next stop, Atlanta, Georgia
Saturday, June 22, 2013 YouTube video clip
Never kept track of flights. Life is a flight. In-flight again. I don’t think I have done Air Canada before. Up here listening to Janis Joplin, OK I have done that before. She is my flight attendant. As one who rarely listens to music except when I travel I stick to what I know to hedge against the approaching unknown. I listen to Dylan, Joplin, Cream… Stuff like that. I almost got knocked over by Janis once in San Francisco in 1969, she was speeding along in her Porsche and I was crossing the street in one of those altered-alternative states people in the 1960’s got into. My one almost claim to fame so now when I fly I listen to her because she can no longer can run me down.
It is a bit of a different trip. Narda and I left Beijing at the same time, almost. Fifteen minutes apart – meeting in Vancouver fifteen minutes apart, racing through the night for eleven hours. We made a slight error when booking – damn we got on different airlines. We do connect in Vancouver and fly on the same plane on to New York City. We thought we were both doing United tickets – not that I was paying attention I was probably listening to Janis Joplin or trying to keep from getting run over by her to double check our flights.
We had a nice overnight in Beijing. We stayed in a Hutongs – one of those remaining bits of China that have not been knocked over to create another luxury apartment building that no one can afford to live in.
I think it was called Candy Inn; that was the user and password for Internet usage so little else matters. The hotel, more of almost a youth hostel, was in a very small lane. Everyone was friendly, though young. We usually stay at four or five star places which are comfortable but boring. This place was about a half a star with a small room with enough room for the bed but meals were good.
Before we knew that Candy Inn served good meals we went out in search of something ‘western’. After walking too many blocks past dozens if not hundreds of Chinese eateries and growing excessively exhausted and not even thinking of the “look we’re lost” but we are constantly lost so we did what we do best when we are lost we took the first bus that came along, a double decker bus where we quickly grabbed seats upstairs. Our policy is always that a bus with a seat is the bus we will take no matter where it is headed. Being seven pm and still very much on the right sight of light I captured fleeting moments with my zoom lens as pedestrian’s privacy found their ways into my next YouTube videos. At some point we felt we had gone far enough and not that there is a downtown but it looked like some city centre so off we went looking for a western restaurant. Seeing a TGIF we entered one of those huge empty modern malls that get built then left all over China. Thank-God-it’s-Friday was on the top floor of the mall and as we rushed toward the entrance we were told it was not open yet and to come back on the 12th, probably the 12th of never.
After more blocks of malls and empty buildings Narda spotted a Hooters restaurant – about the last place a feminist wife would want to go to but she said that if I could get past the tits we could at least get western food. “Past the tits?” “Pass the tits” I’m a guy.
Then she said if there is a Hooters there would be other western places nearby and just when I was wondering what a Chinese Hooters would be like low and behold she saw The Den, a very western looking spot. The food was good, I got my vegetarian meal, a salad – good grief, what one puts up with, Narda ate some dead meat and we watched Hawthorn vs. West Coast on the Friday night ABC footy game of the week. (Well almost all of it we left just when Hawthorn drew within a kick of West End; to non-Australians footy is football, though not grid iron as played in the States, or football that is soccer elsewhere and West End is Perth and Hawthorn is in footy-mad Victoria; and still for those not knowing much about Australia, Melbourne is the big city in the state of Victoria. Ballarat and Geelong are other cities in Victoria).
We were so lost and far afield from Candy Inn’ (Narda has corrected me claiming it is ‘Classic Courtyard’- 31 Beixin Hutong Yonghegong Street, Dongcheng District, Dongcheng, 100007 Beijing, China) that we grabbed a cab back. Not sure why the sign in front says ‘Candy Inn’ – maybe it was a brothel during Chairman Mao’s time; giving the peasantry something to escape their cultural ruinations with.
There were so many people on the street. I suppose after a long brutal winter everyone is please for the warm air. But the air! It was so polluted that we could barely breathe and I had a sore throat and could taste the grit. What will ever become of Beijing and so many other cities in China?
This morning we discovered the good food of where we stayed; Narda getting the European Breakfast and me the American “hold the meat” meal. I was taken by the nearby food shop and the ‘Magical Dumplings of the Immortal Emperor’ – I think I had something like that back in the 1960’s in San Francisco but it was closed.
We went to the Lama Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery” and not really joining in but at least being sympathetic to whatever it was they were burning incense and asking various gods for we grabbed some photos to prove their devotion.
The Chinese are not really a law-abiding group of folks as below shows with their putting incense where they were told not to.
It was raining most of the day but umbrellas have been a theme in the past of mine and I found some interesting reflections of folks reflecting on whatever it is, is they were reflecting on whilst burning their incense.
Narda as always stands out here she is the only one who forgot to bring any incense.
And that was China…
So here on another moment to Vancouver, I do what I can to be annoying – and I really did pre-order the vegetarian meal and there was none for me. So every few minutes they brought me food – starting with an apple and a pear, then cookies – well I don’t eat sugar do I? Then came a salad, then a big bag of great tasting mixed nuts and a bag of cranberries… I am doing well though neighboring passengers are looking at me as if I am just an attention seeking wanker. I was going to take a sleeping pill but they are in a bag I cannot get to. This is when my traveling companion of the past twelve years is so missed, she would have had all the crap I believe and some of which I actually do need all sorted out, probably in alphabetical harmony, too, and travel we do. We have been going to Australia about twice a year for more than a dozen years, usually from the States though these past couple of years from the States and China, and this year we may be going to Australia three times.
So not having sleeping pills I am watching movies and iPodding (perhaps I should say blogging on the iPod; I just looked up iPodding to see if there is one p or two and got this response from the Urban Dictionary; 1. “The act of illuminating the genitals with the use of ipod backlight during a 69.” 2. “Rubbing your nipple in a circular motion like you have an ipod in your shirt pocket”, good golly I am old and not up to-date) this blog and watching the movie ‘Stoker’ with Nicole Kidman. I would recommend the movie to anyone who is flying for close to a dozen hours without sleeping pills with a plane full of Canadians (vs. iPodding as the Urban Dictionary sees it). I do enjoy their accent, after Asia, it is a holiday to hear some form of a language that I sort of understand. Canadians sound quaint. I think the flight-attendants (except, of course, Janis Joplin) are from the same area in Canada as they all have that slow-long-drawn-out way of saying stuff.
Breakfast was good, lots of fruit, more food than the people around me. I wish I could show more appreciation but my only knowledge about Canadians is from South Park, which of course is the only show the Yanks put together that is informative. I have tried their other news shows: ‘Jersey Shores’, ‘desperate housewives’, Fox News…. They just do not give a feeling of investigative journalism that South Park provides. Unfortunately we do not get it at Campus Village @ Dalian American International School, though why I am not sure. Maybe China blocks it or maybe our TV provider does not provide it, giving us the third rate Fox News instead.
Twenty minutes then we land in Vancouver and either Narda will be waiting for me or I will be waiting for her then on to New York City. With five percent left on this iPod I doubt I will finish this tale before getting to NYC. After about one hour sleep no doubt I will pass out anyway.
So I get to Vancouver and in my stupor I get sent to the interrogation area. Something about having two pieces of fruit in my possession. I explained that the airline did not get my vegetarian order and plied me with fruit for a dozen hours and that it was Air Canada so no doubt the fruit was from Canada to start with. She was a hard-nosed Yank, not one of those slow talking Cannucks that I had been getting used to hearing since freeing myself of Chinatown over there in China. She had one of those ‘I have heard it all before’ tones. In fear that I could be smuggling a backpack and camera bag full of apples and pears she had her lackey, clad in anal-probing gloves, take everything out of my bags. Obviously, finally, to her I really was innocently in possession of possible Chinese-toxin-bearing fruit and I was sent on my merry way.
Narda was waiting for me and she too had not slept. Now on our flight to… well that is the next blog.
China surely is the champion of what is and what is not and perceptions mashed together to morph into possibly acceptable perceptions, but not really. Reality is a mistaken illusion – it always has been; look at religion, personal-relationships and politics and education…. Maybe it is best not to look to see but to look to enjoy – surely not to look to ponder or philosophize, that would be akin to giving accreditation to what is really all just for fun. Do not take what you perceive to be real as truth, just enjoy. This is China – I tell myself that often – just as I would tell myself that in those psychedelic moments of the 1960s, or in my Tarot Card readings and mystical belief system of the 1970s and astrological interpretations of events/thoughts/life for some 40 years before waking up one day and saying ‘this is bullshit’. Perception is just how we colour reality in front of us. To me China and the 1960s have similarity in their un-realness. The moment is just about fun, to enjoy, to build memories for future moments when life returns to boring, which from my experience it always does.
A week from today school is over and we are preparing to travel to New York, Atlanta, Malaysia, Australia but today is a holiday; Dragon Boat Festival. Duān wǔ jié happens on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar and believe it or not I did not get a pop up message on my phone, ipad, computer; not from Google Calendar – which boldly proclaimed ‘you have no new events’ – surely it could have said ‘go back to bed it is a holiday’ but no – no reminders or messages to tell me of this glorious event. And to contribute to all those bloody fives I was wide awake at five AM demanding of my unwilling mind to go back to sleep because this is a holiday.
According to Chinese custom folks race boats, eat Zongzi, and drink wine – pretty much like an Aussie Barbie celebration for anything.
Then last night we were watching that most stupid of series (that everyone else is ranting and raving about how it is the best series of all time; what??!!!) ‘Game of Thrones’ and that idiotic Southern California blonde chick started season two or is it three – it is so mindless that I am always updating my web-pages during it and forget where in the story we are – she goes and gives birth to dragons. Good golly how could anyone like this? Narda says we should just watch it for a while because everyone is ranting and raving that it is the best series of all time and maybe at some point we may like it or at least understand what is going on. She said that about Dexter too. All that blood. We watched the whole bloody thing – to give realism to that Australian/Pommie saying – but of course I was updating my web-pages during all of that but at least it was easy to follow – just find a baddie and kill him.
From an email to staff at our school about today from our Mandarin teacher:
‘This Festival is to commemorate an upright minister called Qu Yuan. He was an excellent poet and literati as well in 300BC, the end of the Spring and Autumn Dynasty. To protect the country, Qu Yuan advised many suggestions to his emperor. While the emperor was irritated and Qu Yuan was put into a river and drowned. People were sad and took boats to save Qu Yuan, and meanwhile they wrapped zong zi and throwed into river, avoidding fishes eating Qu Yuan’s body.
Until today Chinese people retain the traditions. First zong zi was made by sticky rice only, and gradually zong zi has different types like meat inside, peanut inside. I like the very first type– with rice only–and dip some sugar on it.’
When we were asked to sign up for a celebration of all of this last Sunday we were informed that only 20 could go and a bus would take us to the Tong li Gong Palace in Kaifaqu. Of course I was excited being the academic tourist that I am. I quickly sent an email to reserve seats for Narda and I. I could barely restrain myself from running down to her room to share this wonderful news that not only had I registered for us to go but we were accepted on the bus that would only take 20 of us most chosen to this glorious event. Well she was a bit less than thrilled and wanted to know why I would want to go and hear some children singing songs. Now perhaps I had a misconception as normally I do of the reality of the event. Dragon Boat Festival? Well it sounded really great to me. I had no idea it could be anything else. Narda said that the Tong li Gong Palace was not a palace but was the women and children’s centre of Jinzhouixinqu. Damn! She had taken a first grade class there to sing earlier in the year and it is where the owner of Dalian American International School has a language school which many of our teachers work at in their spare time – though being a teacher at this school I am not sure when there is spare time.
At another time in my life I would have been disappointed but at my age everything tends to be so unlike I thought it would be at the start that I have become immune to concepts of disappointment. I suppose I would be surprised if anything in my life turned out to be how I imagined it to be at the start of the process of adventure that I had hurdled myself at before crashing into a wall of reality.
The big day arrived – last Sunday, and dragging a complaining Narda to the lobby to mingle with the assumed 20 teachers who were quick enough to sign up before the bus was full we were greeted by the other three teachers who signed up to go. We ended up going in two cars instead of a bus load of chirping, happy, Dragon Festival celebrating mates. I like the entrance to Tong li Gong Palace which of course by now I had realized was not a palace but as all things in China are – just a misconstrued notion of what a palace would be if it was a four floor office building. And yes that is a huge construct of a mother and child on top of the building – giving away any illusion that it could be anything else. Not sure when angels arrived on the Chinese mindset but there they are, western looking cherubs up there with a not very Chinese looking mother. Welcome to China where we are not quite sure of our icons or what we should believe in.
And as luck would have it – there is a YouTube clip of this wonderful event at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ – another one of those ‘gone- viral’ extremely-sought-after video clips; wait that is my illusion – now three days later – there has been one hit to it. I think that was me looking at it on another computer. But to save my two or three readers who no doubt have had a gut-full and have stopped reading by now, the thrill or agony of watching yet another one of my five-hundred plus video clips I will simply say yes some children sang, a grop danced; but that is not all. We made zong zi – a sticky rice, bean paste, red date in banana wrap thingy. However, I was a total failure and after being tutored by a patient local gal with great wrapping skills who patiently showed me over and over how to fold the stupid things quit – or I quit – here is a photo of me trying this – of course the YouTube video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ shows this even better.
The other highlight – other being second to me making zong zi, was this traditional paint dude who we were told is famous. OK I have thousands of web pages and more than five-hundred videos on line – I bet he has not done that – anyway, all those pesky planets I have in Leo constantly get in my story-line; this painter dude made a great ink drawing. I think we are taking a course with him in the fall so that will be groovy. He did this calligraphy & Chinese zither in about ten minutes. You can see this in the video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ.
To quote some stuff from the program list of what we saw:
It is two days ago, Monday that I started off talking about but having woken at five AM – it is now after 8 and Narda is still happily sleeping the holiday away and I am fading I drifted off about what today’s holiday actually was for – a dragon boat festival but as we are on the sea and not on a proper lake or river there are no races.
Monday, we, well Narda did not go as elementary stayed at school and sang or rolled about or whatever elementary children do, took the middle school and high school children to Discoveryland (大连发现王国). Discoveryland is our province’s concept of what Disneyland would be if created by Chinese. Yes I have a YouTube video at http://youtu.be/lOoeM46fwl0, and yes I do a lot of work not only at school but at home for school – I just fit in my own personal crap early in the morning or while watching riveting TV shit-shows like Game of Thrones. This is my early morning holiday last posting probably before flying off to New York next week.
We were doing one of those amazing race races. I do not agree with children doing a learning project for hours before having time to play on their own. They pay their own fee in to the amusement park, 100 RMB (about $15 US) – which is cheap compared to the States and to have to do work for hours is nuts. This year we teachers each had a station with an exercise for the students to do – my event was to take a photo of a one-perspective and a two-perspective line up of the children. We all have an advise group and I have 10 middle school children in mine. So my advise group started off at my station which was an OK place as it was beneath a building providing some shade. After my event they draw a card to see where the next exercise is and go off to that. The important part is that they work together and stay together and do the exercise. Well after ten minutes two of my girls come back and want to rent a scooter to go around from event to event. Of course I said no as one of the rules is not to run to the next event or lost ten-points. We did not make a rule that children could not rent a scooter to go from event to event because who would allow such a thing? So the girls run off to the principal and ask and he says yes they can so they do. That was the end of my advise group’s cohesion and after a couple of hours the other children in my group came back and said they could not do the events because they could not find the girls roaring around on their scooter so I dismissed them and said go have fun.
As it is Dragon Boat festival week holiday the place was crowded – not sure why we would go on a holiday and not a week earlier but such is life. Lines to rides were four hours long instead of the usual two. Only a few children went on a ride – for the most part they wandered around in the afternoon and the ones I saw did not seem that happy. I took lots of photos of our students as I do to put on the TV screen in the window of my computer lab and to have footage for my twice weekly in-house TV show that I do with my film class so I was entertained. My favourite part is their Discoveryland Parade. As tacky as any such thing would be this is especially strange as they have mostly non-Chinese in the parade. Most of the participants are youthful Russians. The Egyptian group consisted of very camp males in their twenties dressed in gold skirts and gold plastic to look like metal tops dancing as if they were the Village People doing WMCA. On top of the floats were youthful females with few clothes on wiggling about.
I got a lot of short clips that I can use as backgrounds as my film class has gone blue-screen crazy.
Last Saturday was Narda’s birthday – see the wonderful clip of this most timely of events at http://youtu.be/ik8Ms09Q-NY
Narda said she just wanted to gig for her birthday so here at Campus village cafe at Dalian American International School that is what she did
The best of living in Campus Village, assisted living, as we call it is that our little community tags along together. Last night we went out to the Discoveryland Hotel for beer and food – the people are great – the ones we work with – the beer was what it is in China but the food was crap. I struggled to find a vegetarian dish and that ended up being tofu with fish – so that concept got lost in the translation. For Narda’s birthday a dozen or so old people came to our flat for din din – we made up a good vegetarian lasagna and some other stuff. Everyone seemed happy – a few murmurs about ‘oh no no meat’ but that is the way it is in my kitchen. We went the three-floors down to Campus Café and Narda with the others were happy, sounding great and entertained us and the other twenty – thirty folks. It was by far her best birthday in the past 13 years since we left Australia. Being early June – the problem with Gemini – we have not been around her family in so long. But with our community and with a microphone and good musicianship her birthday came to life.
It is so fundamental but the loo can so govern the day, especially in China. (Loo being Australian/British and etc. for toilet: (From Wikipedia: “When people flung their potty waste out of the window, they would shout “Gardez l’eau” [gar-day low]. That’s French for “watch out for the water”. We probably get the word “loo” from this expression, although some people think it comes from “Room 100” which is what European people used to call the bathroom.” “The word appears to originate no earlier than James Joyce’s usage in Ulysses in 1922 — “O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. water closet.” — perhaps Joyce came up with it.”)
My favorite is at the Shangrali in Shanghai with a remote control for many functions; spray water, various forms of heat and many buttons that I did not try. The loo at the Vutup Dentist Clinic at the Shangrali Hotel Dalian is a treat. As soon as the door is open the seat pops up, it is warm and it too has buttons. I have yet to be game to push them but Narda tried one and it gave her a bit of a spray wash – she did not try the other buttons. OK the picture does not give much of the pleasure of use but compared to the usual toilets in China, even at the ultra- modern new Dalian North Railroad station, it is a real find. I hate squat toilets and in my two years here have not used one except to pee. Anything else waits until I get home or find a western hotel. Last week a woman’s baby got flushed down one (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/chinese-baby-flushed-down-toilet-1923771) and survived. I always thought that someday I should have therapy about the fact I was put in an orphanage and taken out three times then finally adopted by some mad-cap Christians in 1950 but this person is going to really need therapy. Narda has the technique down – the squatting part and does not mind too much. She
has demonstrated to whomever is interested – not in real-action, but showing us a good squat position to make things move along. The worst toilets are in the Jinshitan Market where, if one can get past the smells, even the women just squat along a wall with an open trough. Narda, a user of said trough, could not understand the gestures of a woman squatting next to her one time. She kept point a finger in the air – not the finger but a finger – this is China where people are not as rude as us Westerners. Then Narda realised the woman was telling her to put her bag on a hook on the wall so it would not touch the foul floor.
Toilets in Holland I find difficult too, and though they are proper sit-down toilets the drain is placed in the front so everything sits not in water but on the base, stinking up the room until flushed.
I suppose if one watched heaps of ER shows, or Grey’s Anatomy and had an interest in what their deposits in the loo looked like they could easily observe it in a Dutch toilet.
Not sure how I got onto this topic when there was so much other I wanted to note to remember the past two weeks, but at one am I was so wide awake and it being
Saturday night well actually Sunday morning I thought I would write a bit then go back to bed. It is now three AM and my concern is that I will be sleepy for Sunday which I suppose is fine as all we will do is shop at the local Longshawn Village for veggies and tofu for the week. Couple with the fact that I have taken photos of loos for some odd reason – maybe just to appreciate what a proper one with heat, spray and the what-not incorporated within. I think adding music would be good – something classical – though hip-hop could be OK. Even country and western would be fine – they are always talking about loss. Then there are the blues, surely we could have some really good B King tunes play when we sat and shat. The one at the Vutup Clinic is adequate though. As soon as the door is open the seat cover pops up and when you leave it goes back down. It does not differentiate between male or female so the seat ring thing is still down and needs to be lifted for the male release thing.
It is three am so I will try once again to go to sleep. I had already lain awake for an hour before getting up at one am. My mind is so active. Not sure why. School is full-on, we leave for the summer in two and a half weeks for the States a couple of weeks then Australia for four weeks and a side trip to Malaysia so it is all pretty chilled and no reason not to sleep. I tried to contact the inner Self and find peace and solace using techniques I learned back in the 1970s when I was a brother in the Holy Order of Mans but they did not work and I question these past few years whether all what I once believed in whilst in my decade long metaphysical stupor was real or are we just caught up in evolution’s game being nothing more than the ones who prepare the next generation who will do the same and within all that the species evolves toward something or the other?
Yesterday we went into Dalian on the 轻轨, qing gui (light rail), thinking by leaving at 8:30 we would get a seat in but no luck it is always so crowded. Out of boredom I wrote down all the stations on line 3 – speaking of threes – most of the stations are broken into three words on the signs though in reality, my reality, they are really one word: Jin Shi Tan, Xiao Yao Wan (the stop for the future city, Wolong Bay, that is being built – see my youtube video from last year at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-drgVo45WWs) DD Port, Bao Shu Qui,
Kai Fai Qu (5 colur city see my clip of Kaifaiqu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAz3eqFzfRg), Jim Ma Li, Da Lian Wan (in the Ganjingzi District of Dalian City), Hou Yan, Auan Shui (markets), Jin Jai Jie, Xiang Lu Jiao (Metro, Sams Club, Decathlon sports store – 迪卡侬(香炉礁店, Ikea) and finally stopping at the last stop – Dalian Station. The school’s shopping bus stops at Metro where we fill boxes and suitcases of what we need for a month then put it on the bus and go off for the day. The bus driver unloads our crap back at Campus Village and we collect it whenever we drag our sorry asses back home.
, about a 45 minute ride, Narda managed to rush onto the train at the Dalian Station
and get a seat. I was fast but when a hundred Chinese are going for a couple of dozen seats it is the really quick who get a seat and I was left standing to analyze my poor strategy for getting a seat. Never the one to shy away from strangers I saw Narda and the girl next to her passing the girl’s cell phone back and forth. They did this all the way to the Kai Fai Qu station where suddenly Narda moved over giving me a space to sit. They were using the phone to carry on a conversation with both translating back and forth and the topic of discussion was that when the girl got off I would have a seat. At the start of their ‘conversation’ the girl wrote that Narda could help her with learning English. This is what is so enjoyable about living here; people will find a way to communicate whether they share a common language or not.
Last weekend Narda’s sister, Carolin and her husband Michael stopped in for a couple of days. They are celebrating being fifty and are on the way to Holland, England, France and places like that. On Saturday evening we went into Dalian on the light rail – kuai-gui to stay overnight at the Harbour View Hotel and we went to see the Beijing Beatles on the rooftop at the Lenbach German Restaurant ( Xinghai Square). They
were sponsored by the International Club of Dalian. I have a short video clip at http://youtu.be/WzsnK6uUQx8 without watching the clip let it suffice to say they were quite terrible sounding. Narda had just done a Beatles concert a few days earlier with her elementary children and they were much better. A couple of Narda’s fourth/fifth graders were at the gig and they went on stage and told the Beijing Beatles who by the way are from Australian and great Britain – that they sang the wrong words for Yellow Submarine. The children would know that one as they sand it for weeks before their concert. I heard them daily as my video-film studio at Dalian American International School is next door to Narda’s music room. A lot of my little video shows I do twice weekly with my students for the school to play has her children singing off in the background because of our thin walls. There were a lot of expats at the show – many from our school and it was enjoyable no matter the fact that they were not in harmony, missed lyrics, and were just generally horrible. They have a website which make them sound good http://thebeijingbeatles.com/ but in reality – think of a college piss-up where everyone knows the lyrics because it is the Beatles and there is a lot of drinking going on and no one really cares how bad the band sounds because it is so easy to sing along.
We have two weeks left of work then we are off to the States (NYC, upstate New York, and Atlanta), Malaysia, and Australia then back at the start of August. As usual life is hectic at school with so many things to deal with. In my little world things are great with my film class and our setting up a film program and studio. We have been going nuts with blue screens and having lots of interesting backgrounds. I am still looking for a proper professional camera for next school year with little luck. I will probably have to wait until Australia to get one. It has been an amazing year for me both as technology integration coordinator as we move toward a one-to-one device program. It is a challenge with so many devices and operating systems. Back at Albany Academy when I was the Director of Technology it was straight forward, we all used macs and that was it. In my video production class thanks to an Intel grant we are getting set up well and coming with good products, looking forward to next school year.
In my little self-centred world I have been creating web pages since the early 1990s when the World Wide Web was first invented. I have created thousands of pages and have many domains as any self-serving Leo would: neuage.org, http://neuage.me, neuage.mobi, neuage.us, neuage.info, to name just a few. Last week I put a tracker-cookie on 590 pages (about ten percent of my pages) so I could have a better idea of where people go so I could improve and change them to more mobile friendly and perhaps start creating neuage apps for my tofu pages or my picture poems, children stories, many blogs and etc. I thought it would give me a good idea of where the masses are flocking to. As a night-mare on Leo Street would have it after three days I had one hit to one page out of 590. I think I could be in a record book for having the fewest visits to the most created pages on the web. Narda does not understand why I would care if anyone visited any of my webpages but she is a Gemini so I understand her confusion. I have Mars conjunct Uranus in Gemini so I do have a little bit of non-Leo in my makeup and I know that part of me; Mars and Uranus confuse me often as well as those around me.
When Narda’s sister and brother-in-law were here last weekend we went to the
And in Dalian to the Korean Market
Actually this is more than a weekend memory of what-we-did as Thursday and Friday is just as much of this extended weekend at least in my memory as Saturday and Sunday is. Of course Thursday and Friday were work days. With my job as technology coordinator however I am always on the job as I read technology and educational blogs and updates whether I am at school or on the shopping bus, sitting on the loo or waiting in a dentist’s office. Saturday whilst Narda was in the dentist chair for more than an hour I took enough notes from what I had found to be potentially useful stuff for possible integration or to-try at school that I will be spending days engaging with it. There are so many blogging-filming apps now that I am looking forward to what I can do with my classes next year that are specializing in multimedia, and film specifically. This is an exciting time to be developing a film program in a school. Helping students to become always-journalist will be one of the most important lessons for them. Journalism has not changed but the delivery and sharing has. When I was doing my journalism degree at the start of the 1990s I concentrated on radio-broadcasting, helping to start the community radio station E-FM (Encounter FM) in Victor Harbor, South Australia. My part of the radio station needless to say was news and children’s radio (CAR = Children’s Australian Radio – my little contribution to Australian community radio) where my children managed to star on.
I am teaching broadcast journalism along with filming. Merging these with social sites and story development and sharing more than ‘we had pizza last night’ will greatly assist students. I am having them blogging using their phones as well as filming and bringing it into the classroom for editing. Next year I will collaborate with the English department (write the story), music department for backing tracks as well as my classes for filming and editing.
The next big shift in schools is from integrating technology to integrating film in every department. Students are already doing this in their life outside of school putting clips onto whatever site is their favorite at the moment. Students are self-branding all the time and assisting as well as providing time and space to do this will improve their self-image i.e. self-brand. We have been putting a lot of emphasis on student portfolios lately but social sites are there real portfolios and I feel that is the area we need to develop. Employers are looking at social sites as part of their investigations of potential new hires and if the social site has wonderfully crafted video-blogs and short films this becomes a living-portfolio. This area has not been very well addressed and it is an area I will be working on next year so students will have their shared-online-lives crafted to look like mini-film-festival. ‘The Festival of Me’ – it sounds so Leo and having five planets in Leo I feel qualified for such a category of instruction or for at least me. In my middle school publication class I have students making a magazine in InDesign titled ‘About Me’ where they create a whole newsletter/e-zine about themselves. Their initial reaction is that writing more than fifty words about themselves is impossible becomes more engaging when they write about their favorite video game or movie and get to insert photos (Creative Commons only of course) and interview each other and write up a commercial and on and on.
We have been corresponding with a school in India to do a collaborative on-line real-time film project and we have the assistance of a film producer in Los Angeles who recently had her film accepted into the Sundance film festival in Utah. Our class has been Skypping her and we have been discussing their individual projects for this quarter as she ‘looks over our shoulders’. My neighbor, Frank, and his wife are moving to Yangon, Myanmar to teach at an international school next year. We have been putting together a plan to do a collaborative film project which in my little world is quite exciting. I am thinking of his and my students writing a script together – back and forth then having our individual classes create and edit the script and have them playing side by side as one film with two interpretations of the same story. His students are mostly Myanmar citizens and mine are a collection from around the planet which would make this a very global endeavor.
To emphasize my integration of film in the student’s life where most of their daily short clips are posted to social sites from their smartphones..
An Australian filmmaker has won first prize at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival with a short film shot entirely on a Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone. The film explores the influence of hip hop, which started in the Bronx, on the indigenous communities in regional Australia and how it helped youth reconnect with tribal elders and tell stories using this style of music.
see it on youtube at http://youtu.be/W8Lewbdm8lg
Last Thursday it was Narda’s elementary student concert, ‘All you need is love’ that put us into a Beatles mood. She has been doing a lot of work on this for the past months and I have been filming little segments as commercials for our school’s video-news show, DAISlive. As Narda’s biggest fan the past twelve years I would say this was up there with her best work. Of course it is not the same as when she did a Beatles tribute at Albany Academy in upstate New York a decade ago but that was with high school and there was dance involved as Albany Academy for Girls has a strong dance program. Being in a Beatles mood we are off to see the Beijing Beatles next weekend who are playing in Dalian. Carolyn, Narda’s sister and her husband are visiting from Australia then so they can too see what China has to offer to the musical past. One of the Beijing Beatles is from Australia so they couldn’t be that bad. The name of the show is We do like to be beside the seaside – tour to Dalian.
Friday we needed to collect our passports so we could go to the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang this coming Tuesday. Narda has to sort out some stuff with the Yanks and I have to go along being the Yank of a sponsor. As always these things are so complicated; whether to keep a Green Card – problem is being out of the States for the past two years, surrendering it is an issue and becoming a citizen is another kettle of fish. We just hope to be able to sort it out in one trip. With less than four weeks before we leave for the States she is now in no-man’s land. They won’t give her a visitor’s visa without tossing the Green Card and she may not be unable to renew the Green Card and now with the recent Boston problems the Yanks are all the more tighter about stuff. When we first went to the States in 2002, shortly after 9-11, we had a terrible time. According to many phone calls we had everything in order. When we arrived in Sydney – with our flight booked for the next day to New York, not only were they very rude to us but they said in the photos of Narda her ear was not showing enough and we would have to re-do the photo and come back in a week. At the time we were homeless, having sold Narda’s home in Adelaide, and storing away all our belongings we were left to cancel our flight with no idea when we would be able to get Narda with a visia. We were not going for a usual visit, we were moving there. I had been out of the country for 20-years so they said something about not having domicile and as a sponsor of Narda who, like me, had jobs in the States; she was at Albany Academy for Girls and me at the State University of New York at Albany, and my father was 97 years old waiting to see me before he left the planet. After three days of abuse by the wankers at the US consulate in Sydney I contacted my cousin Fredrick Miller who knew Congressman Sweeney and Sweeney sent a congressional letter to the consulate in Sydney. All of a sudden they were nice to me, and said I could come in right away and we could fly out in the evening. There was a period we thought we would never get in to the States. Now after living there for more than a decade, owning three homes and Narda having a son living in the States married to a Yank (I started the trend in her family of marrying non-Dutch people). Before I came bopping along Narda and her three sisters and all their relatives had only ever married Dutch people, having migrated to Australia from the Netherlands in the 1950s. Since me one son has married a Yank and lives in Atlanta, Georgia and another son has married a POM – prisoner of Mother England, and her third son now in India, has a pommie girlfriend too so I changed their directions. They had all been staying in the Dutch genetic pool for five-hundred plus years; so they must be thankful to me. To make a too long story short about going to New York my father hung around for another five years and we were happy that Sweeney was able to get us in. Fortunately for us this was before Sweeney got into a bit of trouble: In September 2006, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its ‘The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress’ and Sweeney was one of the 20.
Our visit to the Chinese visa issuing place was much different than the one to Sydney. We had one of those Chinese moments where everything takes longer and goes slow compared to what us Westerns want but after a couple of hours, chatting about stuff like the price of wine in Australia and how many children we had and lots of smiles and interpretations we got our passports with our official work-visa to July 31st 2014. Being past 65 this is a big deal for me as in most provinces the work-visa limit is 60. I believe from our conversation at the visa office that Chinese retirement is 60 then I think they get a pension which puts away the thought that china does not look after their people.
What we are finding is that a lot of stuff we have been told in the Western media is quite different than the China we see on a day-to-day basis. People; whether authorities or folks in the street are really quite friendly. They stop and stare like we are from another galaxy but with five planets in Leo it does not bother me. They are generally a very curious lot and want to know about Westerns. We are curious too; and of course I am very curious about their fascination with all things French as I will show in a moment.
Saturday was the big 11th Annual Dalian International Walking Festival. We signed up before realizing we had a dentist appointment at 11 AM. We figured we would walk for an hour then catch a cab into town. As things would have it, in a town that does not see much rain fall, all day Saturday it rained. I put on my waterproof ‘Tommy Hilfiger’ trendy coat (even old people like to look stylish) and we took the school van in a dozen or so other ‘walkers’ from school.
There were a lot of people, like many thousands, all with their umbrellas up headed out on the 5 – 30 kilometer walk going along the Coastal Road, “Bin Hai Road”. We had intended to do just the first five. Actually we did the first few blocks then disappeared up a side street and caught a cab to the dentist.
At the start of the race is Dalian Castle Hotel, a 6-star hotel (300 rooms) due to open December 1, 2013.
It overlooks Xinghai Bay, 星海广场 and of course a million or so walkers in May, rain or shine.
Of course it is the statue in front that I find even more interesting than a walled castle being constructed in the midst of a city;
Definitely my kind of hotel if I could afford a six-star hotel, I did not even know they had such a ranking.
After the dentist we took the light rail (轻轨, qing gui) to Kaifaqu. Normally we take the shopping bus and get our groceries but we missed the bus. Harbor Deli is one of our stops as it is near the Kaifaqu qing gui station which is the Five Colour City stop and they have Western crap; cheese, cereal and that which we cannot otherwise find. Of course the rain was ever present as we took a bus (for one RMB = 15 cents US) instead of walking to the green-door – not the name of the place but we have no idea what the sign says – and loaded ourselves down for the week.
We figured we would take a cab home but after a couple of cabbies said no and another said two-hundred RMB (30 bucks) we realized the only way home for us was to call Jack – our regular driver who came and collected us and took us for 70 RMB – about 1/3 the cost of a taxi. Of course it was not Jack himself but one of his mates – we call them all Jack. If this was Australia we would just add an o to the end as Australian’s do and call him Jacko but we don’t and we won’t.
We were so exhausted by the time Jack came as will as wet we were ready to go to sleep on the sidewalk. This is one of the most difficult things with living at Campus Village; the transportation is almost too difficult. This is the second time we spent an exhausting Saturday and got ourselves stuck. If there is a lesson we are not learning it except that we should stop shopping anywhere but our local Long Shan Village.
We received the invite; ‘Famous French and English Bands’ at the Chateau du Vin Bordeaux in our school email. Chateau du Vin Bordeaux, which was called, last year, Chateau De Bourdeux, across the street from us – I can see it from my balcony. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTioCA7Ct44&feature=share&list=UUzGrI_yggI56Gpp2ZyNQAXw, a year ago) has been another castle dreaming of France but this one you can live at as they are The Dalian Haichang Group is building 400 luxury villas in this style. We toured the place last year and when we asked why they had not sold any we were told because they were too expensive, like a million dollars plus. The Haichang Group have been purchasing lots of chateauxs in France – see The Chinese Chateaux In Bordeaux for the down-and-dirty. Of course we are hoping this will mean cheap French wine locally.
Some of my images for this afternoon visit to almost France – China style.
The first one is a view of our apartment from the local million dollars plus flat.
Dinner seemed fine, just scrambled eggs with a bit of cheese and hash brown potatoes. But a few minutes later I was sicker than ever in my life. Narda was OK so we ruled out food poisoning but after getting rid of dinner and all else before and getting worse by the minute Narda insisted on calling for help. This is not calling a hospital in the States or Australia which would have had Narda driving me to a hospital then me sitting in a waiting room for a long period as the world continued to swim around me and I did not know if I would survive another moment. Living here is what some would call a third-world spot; though China would not agree. I know we always say we do not want to end up in a Chinese hospital. But we had no worry of that.
I managed to say a few times that I would be OK – surely one more vomit and one more laying on the bathroom floor as I held on from blacking out then I would be fine. After the nagging wife said for too many times she should be calling for help I mumbled just call to see what they would say. Of course telling a wife such a thing is a green-light, open-door, the horse-has-bolted, thing to agree to.
We have the number for the SOS International medical emergency on our door. Narda rang telling my symptoms and some other medical stuff about me and a few minutes later our doctor said to meet him at the clinic in ten-minutes. Our doctor lives in our building though I do not know which apartment and the emergency routing service is through Beijing – off in the distance.
Again this is not the States or Australia where we are from. This is in a foreign country where only people around us speak English.
What is so unique is that we live in a community that has everything. The Dalian American International School with a large fence, gates, and guards 24-hours a day has more than a school within the compound. It has Campus Village, where we live, students live, and families working for Intel, Goodyear and the likes live. It also has a restaurant and most importantly a medical clinic. Last year we went to the clinic a few times for flu shots, occasional blood tests for some ongoing stuff and general checkups. It was only a few months ago that we saw there was more than the waiting room and a couple other rooms where doctors talked about their life in other countries in between prescribing medication. There were several other rooms for overnight patients and a whole little emergency room.
What is unique about this job is how our lives are so communal. At most schools people work together, sometimes go for a drink; when Narda was chair of the performing arts at Albany Academy in New York she would have her staff meetings at a local pub but aside of that most schools do not have such a community environment. Here I see the doctor at the gym or bike riding; I see kids at school, then at the Campus Café or on the shopping bus that trolls the highway between our compound and the nearest shopping areas half an hour away and on Saturday all the way into Dalian – more than an hour – where we go to Ikea, Metro or Sams Club to load up on crap. Parents are at the school, and then at the gym or swimming pool, at the café, doctor’s, chasing after their children on the school oval. Our actual living is a bit separated but in the same compound. We have the teachers wing – three stories of us, each with a different story to tell; the Chinese boarding students are in the same building but in a different wing with the boys on the third floor and girls on second; and administration, families and ‘important people’ living in larger flats in the next building and over and beyond that, yet still within the walls of our school area, are the townhouses that the expat employees live in. They are of course on a different pay scale than us and their children go to our school and they have drivers on call whenever they want to go someplace. We have drivers too but we have to pay them. Of course we are mere teachers and not movers and shakers at international companies.
And what is most interesting is our doctor who lives in the same wing as us; I think on the second floor – I have never been to his place. Doctors are on 24-hour duty and I think it is six weeks on and six weeks off duty. Our current doctor is from Ohio (I think) our other usual doctor is from South Africa. They belong to Doctors without Borders. They work in all sorts of environments and seem to have to know about everything as they are all we have to look after anything that can go wrong.
It was about 8:30 when Narda rang SOS-International in Beijing and they in turn rang our doctor who rang us and said to be at the clinic in ten-minutes. Our clinic is open 8 – 6 Monday to Friday and a bit on Saturday but of course in an emergency it is always open. Our current doctor, Steve, did lots of tests on me including an EKG (electrocardiogram) in between my staggering to the loo to vomit whatever was left which at this point was not much. Before long I was lying in bed in a room next to the emergency/operating room with an IV line in my arm and as the world spun a bit out of control I drifted off due to a combination of some heavy sleep inducing stuff and whatever other medication was being pumped in. As the clinic was closed Doctor Steve rang one of the nurses to come in and watch me throughout the night. When I was still conscious I felt bad about someone having to come in for the night when she was the day time nurse that day. Narda told me the next day that Doctor Steve slept in the room next to me with the door open instead of going back to his flat. During the night I was aware of the nurse checking me, taking blood pressure and checking the IV drip.
Narda came in a six in the morning and left a bowl of cereal and my soy milk. When I awoke at 8 I gave Narda the instructions to where my lesson plans for my classes were on the school drive so they could be passed on to whoever was taking my class.
At 8:30 the nurse took off the IV as I was feeling better and I wanted to go home – which in this case is taking the elevator up three floors. A nurse wanted to go with me in case I got dizzy but I insisted I was OK. I slept most of the day and today, Friday, I was back at school, though tired and weak it was good to know that I probably had some of the best care I could have had anywhere in the world.
Sometimes I think life was easier back in the States or in Australia (well not always; as a single parent for 20 years in Australia that was difficult) but I have never been in a place where a medical emergency was so quickly attended to.
Last summer Narda and I got hit from behind by a large truck on a four-lane highway in Mississippi at 70 mph and if it was not for the concrete blocks separating us from the oncoming traffic we would have been in a bit of a pickle but we just totaled the car and had shock but otherwise not injured. We waited for more than an hour that time in a very hot sun on a major freeway before the police arrived. If we had been injured we surely would not have been in an emergency room within fifteen minutes like here.
Of course if I had listened to Narda I would have been downstairs a couple of hours earlier and perhaps not have gotten myself into such an emergency state to begin with. Then again if I had not listened to her and decided to tough it out which was my notion then most likely I would not be writing this now.
To make a short story a tad bit longer; another amazing aspect of our close living together is everyone knows everything. Everyone I saw at school the next day, today, wanted to know how I was doing. The teacher next door heard me gagging and exploding in the bathroom so of course she wanted to know how I was.
And what happened? The doctor reckons it was a case of severe food poisoning. I ate the same as Narda for tea but for lunch we did not have the same thing. We usually come home and make a sandwich then go back to school unless I have lunch duty which I have twice every eight-day cycle. Lunch duty means eating with the kids downstairs in the café. But yesterday Narda stayed at school as she is doing heaps of extra work for the elementary concert; “All you need is love” a tribute to the Beatles, for next week. I went home and decided to have some pasta and to make a white sauce for it and as there was an open pack of milk in the fridge I used that instead of my usual soy milk. What we have sort of determined was that the long life milk was the culprit. Last Friday we had no electricity for about fifteen hours as I wrote about in the previous blog and stuff thawed out then re-froze; our long life milk packs we keep in the freezer. Then it could have been transit Mars in Taurus opposite Saturn in Scorpio making a T-square to my four planet conjunction in Leo (Venus, Saturn, Pluto and Sun and my Part of Fortune too all in my 10th house). Whatever it was life in China is good. We often say it is safer here than living in the States or Australia mostly because folks don’t walk around with guns.
Walking home from school Narda and I pass the clinic and there is our doctor leaning out the window asking how I am feeling. Where else does that happen?
I use to live in communes in the San Francisco area in the 1960s and this is not far removed from that where everyone works and lives and plays together. I would like to have a large communal garden but as we all go away for the summer it won’t work.
Quoting Jean, “We can’t lose you – you are our mascot”. Good golly what does one do with that piece of knowledge?