This is really about my friend Dell and a tribute to him but I do wander in about Dell in particular as I am tossing in some updates about travel between China and Australia this past month as I do not have the time or inclination to write a separate blog about before last week. I am sure Dell would understand that my narrative goes astray at times. We both lived those kind of lives that seem to go off track, whatever track we were on.
Before our knowing we are still speaking/thinking of the person; even nurturing them in our thoughts which if we believe we are all connected the mind begins asking “what then becomes of those thoughts/feelings/virtual warmth rays we surround another with? We die when the last person to have known us in real-life dies. There is a difference between the death of someone we have had moments with and someone that has died we did not have any interactions with such as a cut-out character viewed through non-touchable media; sort of a part of our psychic DNA. I worry about my parents because of this kind of thinking. My father died at age 102, I will be 67 in a couple of weeks, there are very few people left who knew him and when we die off then he dies. People exist through memory but only live via shared experience. Of course we all have a different view of someone dependent on our interactions with that person. Even names are changed and they live as those names. For example, Dell who was Dell to everyone that I know and we seldom heard any other name was known by his birth name to his cousins; Delbert, one of whom recently told me that he did not know that he went by the name of Dell. Of course we did not know his name was Delbert and maybe how we knew him would have changed if we had called him Delbert instead of Dell. Perhaps there have been ten-billion people who have lived and died and now there are seven or so billion more all destined to be remembered to someone for a moment then forgotten. I never understood why people grieve or experience loss when someone they have never met but who they may have seen on TV in a movie, read a book of/about goes belly-up. What? Someone can not take from us that has never met us therefore it is impossible to have a loss. Maybe a virtual loss, a mental loss because someone who was writing great scripts no longer is around to continue to enchant us but really how selfish? It is when someone we have encountered and shared and bounced around with leaves that a part of us leaves. That part of us that only the person who has left would know – they took it with them. I know this as I have had two mothers a couple of fathers, girl friends, a son, brother and friends die. People take from me. Each one another piece. I wish people I knew would stop dying.
I think it is because I have Saturn conjunct Pluto conjunct my Venus that I get these losses. And with my Moon in Taurus in the 8th house of death of course I get emotional but with Mars conjunct Uranus in Gemini in the 8th I can still intellectualize about it. And of course I do not believe in any of this astrological mumble jumble so it is easy to dissect my chart and then dismiss it. And now with transit Saturn in 17 degrees Scorpio in my first house in conjunction with my Jupiter and exact square my Sun – damn I’m screwed. But tonight with the moon in 29 Cancer conjunct my Mercury and going on through Leo tomorrow this is the time to write about my friend Dell. It was that Saturn making all the constriction on my Sun in Leo that shoved me in a hospital again last month in Hong Kong to get a party balloon put into my heart valve (get it Party Balloon – I’m a Leo). Back in October 28th when I was in Hong Kong with Saturn at 13 degrees 8 minutes Scorpio it was squaring my Saturn and Pluto both at 13 degrees and five minutes of Leo and I had five stents. How astrologically spooky that was. I tell you I tore up my chart after seeing that. Well not really but I should have. Back to Dell in a moment… But I have left Hong Kong. We had stopped in thinking I should visit my cardiologist who had put four stents in my heart area six months earlier. Surely just a short ‘how ya doin’ mate?’ would suffice. He lined me up for tests to see how I was doing. Lots of them. A day of tests. Machine after machine. Each one leading to another. By late evening after a full day of tests good ole Dr. King says there are concerns. Doctors saying stuff like this is a concern. The next morning he says I need another endogram. ‘The Endogram works by occluding blood flow in the arm and then gauging the post-ischemic pulsatile component of flow and the artery’s largest volume change…’ I hate these things. They put a tube up through the arm starting at the wrist and into the heart area. I just get a local in my wrist and I feel it all. There are big monitors to observe what is going on… for three hours. I get a balloon or two stuck in and told this is a new cardiovascular disease. Yeah go tell someone who cares. Last October I showed the DVD of the procedure to my film class and some liked it. Patrick showed his 8th grade science class that was working on a unit on fiber optics, so the movie of my heart being poked at got a showing in a few classes at Dalian American International School. After a few days and some ‘moments’ with our insurance company I was patched up and sent on my way. I have left China after three years and I have left Hanoi and we had a great time in Laos if following the lives of old people as tourist could at all be interesting. I like Laos the people in general seem content and not so attached to the slavery of western style consumerism. I did my part and kept to purchasing fridge magnets; not overly consumptions but enough to give me a memory of Laos. A third of the population of Laos live below the international poverty line which means living on less than US$1.25 per day. Laos is a low income economy, with one of the lowest annual incomes in the world.” According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laos). How is one to feel in these situations? We surely have no restraints with spending money wherever we go so I am sure there were a lot of people who got more than a buck twenty-five out of us before the week was over. “As of 2008, Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world. An average of one B-52 bomb-load was dropped on Laos every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973.” How forgiving humans can be. A few decades later and they are happy to have the Yanks come spend money along with people from the rest of the world. My how places change. We did the sightseeing adventures Luang Prabang, Kuang Si waterfalls, Wat Xieng Thong temple, Tat Kuang, Si Bear Rescue Centre and taking a ferry across the Mekong. Staying at the Thongbay Guest house (http://www.thongbay-guesthouses.com/was great. It is on the Nam Khan River with views of the Phousi Mountain.Narda and I had a cabin and Narda’s son, Brendan had a cabin next to us. I would suggest that is the place to stay if one were looking for a place to stay in Luang Prabang.
A few youtube videos I made from Laos
I have said a few times I think maybe Dell died but there was no one to confirm or deny this. I felt this for more than a year. But should we trust our feelings? In 1973 (maybe it was 1974) I went through a time when I heard my birth-mother calling for me. I was a street artists in New Orleans at the time and I knew nothing of my birth-mother as I had been put up for adoption in 1950. I confirmed the date I was feeling my mother had died with my sister who I met at the end of the 1980s and it was like the same month. I do not remember the details at the moment. In 1973 or maybe 1972 – do dates really mean that much after a few decades? I met Dell, or rather he met me. I was a street artist selling my picture poems in front of Jackson Square in New Orleans (know little about the image below except it is me with a passing horse in the background and a passing girl next to me. This is the only photo I have of then and 40 years on is a long time to remember much though I think I have seen that horse before.
(from “Leaving Australia, page 120 – re. 1973) January 27th took three …. painted 160 pictures – took two hours to do it and two hours to clean up. END OF VIET NAM WAR – Dell stopped in, brought some good LSD. (have no idea what that could mean – 7/26/2014 – but surely it was not me or the me who I have become)
I was selling picture-poems
reading my picture-poems She said what my poems said shouldn’t be said she came and told me that every day at noon But I paid no attention (like any man would) Until the day she took me to her home somewhere north in the constellation of Andromeda (the chained lady)
I met her anthropomorphic parents
4-17-94 Victor Harbor South Australia
A lot of what I write about Dell below is edited (after all decades later I am a member of today’s society and much of the experiences one has when they are younger are best left on the shelf) from a 560 page book (150,000 words) that I wrote some years ago; ‘Leaving Australia’. I made two leather bound copies, one for Sacha and one for me. It is a large book (A4 pages) with lots of photos and poems and having two copies seems excessive but I am an excessive person.
“Dell was always a bit of a scary person. He was a bit Gothic, a bit strange at a time when everyone was a bit strange. Dell was several years older and better off materialistically than the rest of us. He was the only one I knew who had a car. He dressed better than the rest of us. He had better… (I will say recreational enhancers for here but in “Leaving Australia” there are different words) I think he worked on oil-rigs for a few months at a time, making large amounts of money. Dell had a spider web tattooed on his hand which I had not seen on anyone else then or even now. In the 1970s, it was not so common to have tattoos as it is now when to be different from others is not to have a tattoo such as Narda and I who are different because we do not have tattoos do not have.
Dell has been a friend for the rest of my life and I saw him several months ago (this is from “Leaving Australia written years ago) before he went to South America. He believes that America is becoming a police state and that it is safer living in one of the small scary countries below Mexico. Dell defies logic when it comes to living. He just keeps on living no matter what. He has been knifed in foreign cities, he has taken heaps of drugs even did crack for a while but did not like it. He was in a Mexican jail for a year (and liked it).
One afternoon I went to Dell’s apartment and he invited me to friends who lived on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. Before leaving the city, we (in “Leaving Australia again I am not repeating what is written there but there was an altered state involved). We drove across Lake Pontchartrain Bridge, which at the time was the longest bridge in the world, 24-miles, in a dense fog. I will always remember that drive as being the most frightening of my life. I was … and I am sure Dell was too but we got to where we were going and I spent hours throwing up from the fright of the ride and …. I stayed overnight wherever it was we went to party and got a ride during the day the next day with someone else. I did not see Dell for about a month. He use to come and go in people’s lives. Often I doubt he even knew where he was going or where he was. He lived in the moment better than anyone I have ever met and to this day I am trying to get to a point where I totally live in the moment.
I know that Dell use to visit me in my constantly moving houses (something that has never changed in my life even to this day in July 2014; Narda and I have lived in eight houses in three countries the past twelve years and there was a time when I was a single parent that my boys and I lived in ten houses in ten years in South Australia).
I remember that I was intensely studying the Qabbalah – Kabbalah and the occult. I was very intrigued by Aleister Crowley. Good old Alex had been in an Order too, very similar to the one I had been in. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was one of the early occult orders that believed it was part of the White Brotherhood’s plan. Alex though went his own way eventually. He believed he was ‘The Beast’ and went by the number ‘666’. He wrote several books, ‘Sexual Magix’, (The sexual magic of the Ordo Templi Orientis – a Thelemic Order ‘OTC’) and his motto was ‘do what thou will shall be the whole of the law’ which he wrote he says whilst in a trance. I had many of his books and I still have one on astrology and a little white book on ‘The Law’. I used his brand of Tarot Cards and I thought that he was really quite the dude to follow.”
Obviously all that is in the past and the only reason I thought of Crowley was when I was unpacking boxes that had been in storage for 12 years while we lived in the States and China. I saw piles of astrological work I had done over thirty or so years and lessons from the Order I had been in and boxes of astrological and occult books. I kept them because I seem to keep everything. I have lost interest in all that is metaphysical for quite some time. I enjoy living in the moment and not trying to interpret what is going on or what could possibly happen. I am amazed at how many astrological charts I have. I used to do them on everything. From when I first met someone to when I thought up a business idea or any other idea. What I have realised is that my life has been far more successful since following astrology than while doing so. I even have lots of subliminal tapes none of which really made a difference in my life. It seems my life has gone the smoothest the past decade without any of this stuff. For example this morning, the third of August, seven days before turning 67, I got up at 5:30 am and worked on this blog. Twenty or thirty years ago I would do an astrological chart on what I should do today or try to see what would happen this week. I know what will happen this week; whatever and then some more whatever and I will face the whatever and deal with it in whatever way I feel like at that whatever moment. I do not need to have an iChing reading or Tarot card or mediation or read a chart, tea leaves, or my palm. The sun will rise the sun will set and in between I will do stuff and have a variety of thoughts.
I saw Dell in June 2004 and again September, 2005. He was always trying to get me to read his astrological chart. I never would. I no longer lived in the New Orleans mindset and no longer believed in much of anything except lets live in the moment and enjoy.
I had lost my cell phone (mobile phone) on this particular day that I had gone to Lake George with Dell and Narda and when I got home, I used another phone to ring my phone in hopes that if someone had found it they would tell me where it was. I thought that maybe I had lost it in my day’s outing to Lake George. I rang for a couple of days and finally Narda went to the shop where we bought it to buy another one and she tried one more time and Dell in his spacey distant voice said, “hello”. It turns out that when I had visited Dell at his motel after our day out so he could show me his art he was putting on his computer that my phone had fallen out of my pocket into the back of the chair I was sitting on. Dell said he frequently heard music coming from his chair, my ring-dial, but did not know what it was so he did not look until, after hearing it so many times he decided to investigate, he finally looked and saw it was a phone. That really sums Dell up. A cool person but a bit spacey.
To continue on this moment; Dell had been living at our house in 13 Second Street Round Lake, New York but being a night person and our needing to sleep so we could go off to work in the morning we could not have Dell banging around the house all night. We put him in a motel up along Route 9 on the other side of Clifton Park, a fifteen minute drive. He lived there for a couple of months though we did not know why except he wanted to be near us as Dell never seemed to have many friends in the world.
His motel room was more cave like and defied how one would think people should live. It was a bloody disaster zone to be specific. Aside of no clothes seem to ever finding their way into drawers there were boxes of unfinished meals, half drunk bottles of alcohol, cigar smoke and really no where for a visitor to sit comfortably. The shades were always down as Dell liked it dark all the time. He would usually have no shirt on and his long stringy hair to his waist would give one an impression of caveman. Dell was always very underweight. In the midst of this disheveled person and an extremely messy room Dell would be sitting cross-legged with his 17-inch Mac-book. There were partially completed paintings all over with paint on the rug on the furniture on the table and even some on the canvas he was working on. What was out of place was the computer. If you can imagine a caveman living in a messy cave in a cave-time era working on a laptop then you have a picture of Dell’s environment. Then one day he left. I do not recall him even telling us. The next we heard was a letter saying he was in Guatemala.
To backtrack just a bit… when Dell arrived the first time in Clifton Park in about 2003 to visit us; we were living in a trailer in a caravan park across from my father who was 98 years old at the time… he rang me to say he was at a petrol station nearby but he had lost his keys. I walked over and we spent hours looking for his keys which he had in his hands when he stopped to get petrol and to ring me to get driving instruction to our home. Somehow he had lost them which made me wonder how in the world did Dell get from place to place in life? Dell had a van that he lived in when he did not have a home to live in. He eventually drove it down through South American and had it when we visited him in Guatemala. His worldly belongings filled his van and we had to empty it to find his keys which turns out he had dropped between the car seats when he had gotten out to ring me.
Narda (well Narda more than me) spends huge amounts of time on keeping track of our life of where we are going; for example if we are going to Burma or Thailand or Paris and etc. she does a lot of research unlike Dell who is just where he is. I supposed I was more like Dell and only because of Narda there is some sort of order in our life. I like both life styles; having a sense of where stuff is and what to do is good, but the chaotic whirlwind life of Dell and that I lived all my life until I met Narda is cool too.
To add one more little story before going back to the original time-frame I was working in (1973); one time I was with Dell in Walmart in Clifton Park (the really big supercentre on Route 9) and Dell as usual had his shirt unbuttoned and being the skinny person he was with his long hair and a knife hanging on a string around his neck he was enough to startled anyone. I looked up the aisle we were walking in and a lady with a child was walking toward us and as soon as the woman saw Dell she grabbed her child and turned and quickly went into another aisle. I have always found that so humorous. Dell does look frightening and not what one expects to see in your local shopping centre but if one knew Dell; he was really quiet, peaceful, he was strong about his opinions and his anti-society views but he was in a morbid sense a great person to know. I always enjoyed being around Dell. He made me feel human and regular. Dell could just have easily spent his life as a monk on the top of a mountain but with a laptop and his paintings. Most of us see road blocks ahead of us and drive around them but Dell would just drive through. Dell was not self-conscious or worried at all about what others thought of him. If anything he really was shock value personified. We see celebrities who put on their makeup and who try to look outlandish and be weird in public but they just do that for the publicity. Dell was just real. I often thought if I could be ten-percent of Dell it would be his lack of caring what others thought and just do what I felt like doing in the moment.
During the summer of 1973, Dell was driving to his parents in New Lenox, Illinois. I wanted to see Carol Ann and Desiree. Carol Ann was living with her parents in Mokena, a few miles east of New Lenox so I went with Dell. I stayed with Carol Ann, Desiree, and Carol Ann’s parents for a few days. Desiree was seven years old and she only knew me through the stories Carol Ann told her. On a footnote to Carol Ann who I joined a cult religious order with in Hawaii in 1969 and was in and out of for another decade I am Facebook friends with her daughter who is about 46 now. I spent the first few years of her life with her. I was at a concert in 2002 in NYC when Carol Ann’s sister rang me and said that Carol Ann had died. My once-long-ago circle of friends gets smaller each year.
I returned to my Order in April 1974 and lost touch with Dell for a year but somehow we connected. I was in Wichita Kansas in the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light (really) and celibate branch of the Holy Order of MANS. Another side-note; I never did very well with the celibate part and was constantly getting myself in strife. Nevertheless there was a time when I really tried to toe the line. I had been successful with doing the ‘right things’ in the Order in San Francisco then Cheyenne Wyoming for a winter. I was in Wichita when I had two visitors both of whom did their best to get me to leave. Firstly there was Robyn Harper (who died about fifteen years ago without getting to Australia to visit. She wrote many times saying she was on the way but never made it.) who tried all her best feminine persuasions to lure me out of the Order but I was determined and sent her on her way back in 1975. We had been close in New Orleans but I was working toward becoming a priest and I wanted that more; at least at the time. Dell showed up a month later with mind-altering substances none of which I was interested in. He had a lot of convincing arguments for my leaving the Order but I stayed on.
Before the Internet era how people kept track of one another over the years is a mystery. I did not hear from Dell (that I remember now) between winter 1975 and 1983. In 1983 with my first wife I was in the States (we lived in Adelaide, South Australia) visiting tofu factories (I was a tofu manufacturer for eight years in South Australia, see: http://tofu.neuage.us/) when we stopped in New York City. Dell was living in a bit of a rough area down by the Brooklyn Bridge on the top floor of a tenement building. Nothing unusual about that as I have done that many times but what I remember from Dell’s apartment hearing neighbourhood sounds such as a baby crying all night, people screaming at one another, sirens on the streets; and building on both side of his building were burnt out. The wife and Sacha (age about one and a half) and I moved to a hotel after that. I had been at an astrological conference in New Zealand in Sydney at the start of 1980. While in Sydney I met someone I did not get along with and for some stupid reason gave her my address in Towson, Maryland where I was living at the time. After the conference I went back to Towson and low and behold the person I did not get along with at the Sydney astrological conference rang me saying she had driven across from LA to D.C. and wanted a place to stay for a day on her way to NYC. I was in the process of moving back to Hawaii at the time and had nothing left in my house except a bed which we agreed we had to share but under no circumstance would we touch each other. Five days later we basically got out of bed and drove to San Francisco. Half way across the country we began to argue and realised we just had to get away from one another. The woman I was with (who yes it is true rang me a month later when I was in Hawaii to say ‘guess what?’ then she was there in Hawaii and we had Sacha then one day she said if you want to see your son anymore you will have to go back to Adelaide with me, which I did, and as this is not about that part of my life I am now telling suffice it to say we had Leigh then separated and my children and I lived in our tofu factory then on a farm in Mt. Compass then Victor Harbor and a bunch of other places for the next twenty years) anyway we stayed with Dell somewhere out in the country on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. I dropped her off at the SF airport and stayed with a female friend of Dell’s. I remember she was a Pisces and she helped me forget my recent traveling companion or at least until she rang me when I had gotten to Hawaii saying ‘guess what’? I kept in touch with Dell after going back to Australia after he we had stayed with him in NYC for a night. He never mentioned coming to visit like my other friends. He did write letters. They are very difficult to read and I try to piece them together almost one word at a time. His handwriting was amazingly difficult to read. Years later when we could communicate via email I still had a hard time reading his writing because his spelling was so bad. His letters were always about trying to get to Europe until around 2000 when he started speaking of then moving to Guatemala. What I could make of his letters were that life was always difficult.
I would like to have my friend, Marc Seifer, who is also writing a book about my brother, Robert Adsit to look at Dell’s handwriting some day. Marc is a handwriting analysis specialist. He has published many books including the Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis, Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 2008. When I was visiting him in Rhode Island a few years ago he was telling me about my brother and how his handwriting showed that he was a genius. I showed Marc my handwriting and he did not say much. Oh well. Though I would like to know what he has to say about Dell. Not to worry I have always believed that my friends were cooler than me and that is OK. Dell was always an artist. Like 97.6% of artists he wanted to be known for his work. The only image I have is of a painting he spent more than a decade on which I will show further below. Dell was a night person and would sleep during the day and paint all night. Several of his letters speak about some slides he took and sent to galleries and that usually no one replied to. He was excited for awhile saying a gallery in New York City was interested in his paintings but nothing came of that. I do not think Dell ever had a show anywhere which has always been such a sad thing in my thinking. He did a lot of work which now a year after his death I do not believe exist anywhere. He had a large volume of work in storage in Illinois. There is such a fine line between one who is a successful and famous artist and one who creates for fifty – sixty years almost daily then has nothing after they die for anyone to see. My brother was an artist (http://neuage.org/robert_adsit.htm) who did a lot of work and fortunately Marta Waterman http://martawaterman.com/ along with Marc Seifer http://www.marcseifer.com/ are writing a book on him which gives him a live-on sphere of influence to others or at least those of us who were and still are; if the dead are still alive within us, being influenced by him. I know the artist mindset or at least I believe so. Since being a street artist in New Orleans I rarely have had a time when I was not creating something. Like Dell I have a large body of work, like Dell no one sees my stuff, unlike Dell they still exist; in my closet I have boxes of picture-poems and on a ship between China and South Australia there are more boxes. I have put some on our wall but because I share a home I can not put them everywhere. Narda http://narda.us/ has suggested we do a whole wall just of my picture-poems (http://picture-poems.net/) which is really nice but I won’t do it. I am hanging out for a gallery show like Dell always was and like my brother often did.
After 1990 Dell was living in NYC we went to visit him in Chinatown; actually we went to visit my brother (who died of AIDS two years later) and my father and a few others in the States, but he wasn’t home I don’t think, the front door was missing and there were many broken windows and a lot of graffiti on the walls. We did not go inside as it was all too spooky. Dell then said he would meet us at Grand Central Station but didn’t so we went back to my brother’s and then took the Amtrak to Albany. It would be the last time I would see my brother. A week later my children and I went to Europe for awhile then back to Australia.
Dell wrote me for the next decades, and when he got onto the Internet we stayed in touch. Dell was not happy with politics in the States and said it was all getting too difficult and insane. He was particularly unhappy with Bush – Bushes actually. I have never paid much attention to politics so I was not a good sounding board for Dell. He moved to Guatemala and started saying we should purchase a piece of land next to him. Narda and I decided to visit him and we had planned a trip with two other people who Dell and I had wandered the French Quarter of New Orelans with back in 1973-74; Randy Dandurand and Shane (now Mariya Fields) but when it came time to go only Narda and I went to San Pedro la laguna, Solola, Guatamala. Lake Atitlán Aldous Huxley famously wrote of it: “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Atitlan)
What is it about friends that lives deep in our consciousness that we will not reveal even to ourselves? I think one aspect could be comparison. Perhaps it is part of our DNA something to do with survival. We immediately compare ourselves to others when we meet even for a few seconds; friend-foe, sexy-give-it-a-miss, potential this or that; of course I do not do that but others do. I can feel/see/sense it when I am shopping, being a tourist (I am always a tourist – never being settled; on my gravestone someone will write ‘tourist’ probably because it is obvious that I never did anything else on this planet except be a tourist. Though I stayed away from tours, I did a lot of sightseeing, had heaps of opinions about too many things and as any tourist probably a bit too loud, too flashy – except now in old age I just drag my sorry ass from destination to destination.) I have a few photos of Dell but no video. I was saying to Narda this morning that we must take more video. Of her aging parents, of friends and family. I should have filmed Dell sitting in the motel room with his laptop, or in Guatemala. I have video of Guatemala but not with Dell in it. Now days with Instagram and all it is so easy but I do not think it is being saved long term. What I find so frustrating about the Internet is how lousy a retrieval system it is. I can not find anything on Dell and all that I can find about my brother is what I have put up. The Internet does not replace correspondence such as letters. It adds to correspondence a bit; I can find emails from Dell but none from my brother who died just as the Internet was coming into being. I have some emails but not many from my son who took his life and left little behind even though he was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and his baseball card is available on Ebay all that exists are the many pages I have made for him. http://neuage.org/leigh.html I have no video of Leigh even though I was a single parent and raised him. I have heaps of photos. Now I take videos all the time and have several hundred on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/neuage09, https://www.youtube.com/user/tneuage and a few other places though I forget where at the moment. But letters trumps all the electronic correspondence. They show who the person is through their writing style, even how much pressure a person puts on the paper, according to Marc Seifer. Dear Dell We will be in Guatemala city June 17 – 19th and two nights in Panajachel at Hotel Princess It looks as if we will arrive in San Pedro toward the end of the day Monday the 21 st of June. We will come across the lake from Panajachel. And that we did. Global Nature named Lake Atitlan the ‘most threatened lake of the year’ in 2009 (http://blogs.egu.eu/gfgd/2014/01/30/field-research-in-guatemala-3-environmental-hazards-at-lake-atitlan/)
Back to Dell in a moment
now back in Adelaide August 2014
We signed up to do relief teaching and thought maybe we would get a day or two a week. We have been relief teaching since the day after and that put off our getting settled into our home today I had reception and grade one; reception is the same as American kindy. Walking in to say good day to 29 children as their teacher walks out (she had a conference to attend) is always a humbling experiencing. As there is often difficulty with saying good morning Dr. Neuage between about K and 2nd grade I say they can call me Dr. N. That always works fine. Of course they think I am a medical doctoring dude and I have given up trying to explain the difference between a medical doctor and an academic doctor; not sure if academic doctors are surgeons or not so we go through the day with me being Dr. N. I have not had a kindy class since Ross Global Academy in NYC five years ago when I would have a computer lesson with them once a week. I have never been left with a class full for a day. They were beaut we read a story, watched Hansel and Gretel and made gingerbread houses, played outside and on computers. There were a few tears here and there: someone said someone else would not play with them, another said someone said something rude, another said another said they were weak there were a few spills and we went through a few band-aids but overall what great children. I am unable to edit video in Adobe Premiere or shoot some good chroma-screen footage or philosophize about anything at all. There was a point when I took them out to the play area and so did a lot of other classes and soon I realised there were no other teachers and I was surrounded by at least a hundred children many of whom had issues about someone not playing with them or someone saying something they perceived to be as unkind. My favorite as always were issues with not knowing what to do. Hey we are on a playground with playground equipment and a hundred children and you are asking someone who will be 67 in two weeks what to do? I would just say, “go play” and they would say “OK” and be off. And I got a PhD to come up with these lines? Eventually some other teachers came out and stood around talking with one another so somehow I became the go to dude for issues. I think it is a bit rare having a male in primary or maybe they are amazed someone so old is still walking around. One stray child probably about grade five of six followed me around telling me all the words he knew that Americans spell differently. OK so we leave out the u in lots of words and use a z instead of an s. Yesterday I had grade two and they were like taking the best children one could find in a country and putting them in one classroom. We had a great day and actually they enjoyed learning. Last week in a different suburb I had a class where they took all the worse kids in Australia and put them in the same class. How do they do that? Those children did not want to do any learning activities and spent most of the day wrestling, running around and yelling along with using toys for unguided missiles. I have been called back some more as they say no one wants to work at that school as a relief teacher. I wonder why?
I have a history of being surrounded by children. When I was a hippie in California Eileen Busby and I lived in Glen Ellen. Glen Ellen has a bit of fame from Jack London who write such things as ‘Call of the Wild’, ‘White Fang‘, ‘The Sea-Wolf’, ‘The Iron Heel’, and etc. We lived on this side road of about six houses that was named Hippy Hollow. All the other houses had single mothers with children and as the mothers were often in states of consciousness that impeded their parenting children would come over to our house for meals. Often we would have five or more children eating a spaghetti meal I had made. There were also times when a mother or two would go into San Francisco – a few hours away – and not return for a day or two and their children would camp out in our lounge. We had a pickup truck (a ute in Australia terms) and being one of the few people on Hippy Hollow road with a vehicle children would pile in the back and off we would drive. We never got a ticket for having people without seat-belts in the back of our truck or perhaps there were no laws about that then. Today taking a third-grade class a boy asked if it was true that kids in high school are allowed to have sex. I replied that I was from American and was unsure if that was allowed here, trying to be a bit diplomatic about the subject. A girl answered that yes they were allowed to have sex in high school. I moved us on to another subject but there was a continuing discussion about this among several of the children. Maybe I should stick to reception and first grade they do not come up with these kinds of questions.
We decided to stay with Dell in San Pedro instead of staying at a hotel. Guatemala was a part of a world-trip that summer. Narda and I were teaching in NYC and not being soccer fans we got a bit swept up in the World Cup of that year. We watched games of Australia and The Netherlands in San Pedro, and while driving through France, seeing the final in front of the Eiffel Tower with thousands of Spanish fans (Narda had her Dutch flag wrapped securely around herself) with Spain beating The Netherlands 1 – 0 at the end. Of course this last World Cup in Brazil we watched as we traveled between China, Hong Kong, Hanoi and Laos only to see The Netherlands not quite make it to the final. We saw the previous World Cup of soccer in Istanbul sitting outside watching Australia get thrashed by someone. I only bring this soccer stuff up as a shadow of our life that summer of 2010. We do not follow soccer and Dell was not interested but Narda and went and watched a few games at a pub in town. We were in pubs because we could not really eat at Dells. He tried to make his home comfortable for us and we did appreciate that. We spent our first day at his house cleaning his kitchen which kind of embarrassed him but it was really beyond what we could cope with. Dell built an incredible house. I have never seen anything like it. He had bought land on the side of a hill and there was no road to his house only a path. All material for his house was brought up by horse and on the backs of the workers building his house. Dell had drawn out a plan for how his house was to look. He did not have an architect look at the plans until it was almost done.
With a large portion of the house done Dell asked an architect to look at how it was going and the architect said it would all collapse without pillars and braces. Dell had the pillars put in – see below for the lounge;
Dell had a beautiful view of Lake Atitlán but he had bars over his windows and due to mold and dirt it was impossible to see outside the windows. He wanted to leave Guatemala for several reasons. One was his health which had been going downhill for years. He had something wrong with his back and to be able to walk without pain he would carry rocks in a bag over his shoulder which of course gave him quite a strange presentation. He said he was always in pain. He spoke of wanting to go to Berlin. He had been there the summer before and stayed with a lover or a friend, I could not sort which, but the person did not want to see Dell ever again. This happened many times. I think I am one of the few people who stayed friends with Dell so long. I remember my friend, Linda, who lived in Lake Charles in Louisiana who wrote me back sometime in the late 1970s to get Dell to leave her house. Linda was one of our friends in New Orleans and Dell had written me if I knew someone he could stay with while he worked on a painting. I had stayed with Linda earlier and thought she would be fine with it. She wrote me that he insisted on having the lights out and that he would just sit in her lounge all night staring at the wall. He even had a falling out with Randy when he stayed with him in California. They each told me different stories so I am not sure what happened really. But Narda being the caring an nurturing person she is felt sorry for Dell and we both tried to make our stay with him good. And Dell tried too. He was depressed as he has been every since I met him back in 1973 and he was very anti-religious which he has been since I met him but we all tried to make the best of the visit. For Dell it was very important because no one had visited him in the seven or so years he had been in Guatemala. We brought him lots of stuff like cigars, an ipod and several other items such as tea and herbs he was unable to find locally. His cousin in New Lenox had loaned him a thousand dollars so we could bring him things.
Dell had sort of a toy-boy, an 18-year old who we thought was hustling him and we had a bit of difficulty adapting to. He gave the toy-boy the ipod which we were opposed to but Dell said he made him happy and it was all a mutually beneficial situation. The toy-boy was a street person whose parents had kicked him out of the family due to his sexual persuasions. Having always been strongly heterosexual I have not understood really a lot of what people are on about. My brother died of AIDs, Dell just always did his thing and I never thought much about it, and being a non-judgmental person for what people do with their lives I don’t put any thought into stuff like ones sexuality. However, I still felt Dell was being taken. Narda looked the other way when she showed photos of her sons and Dell said ‘I like that one’, gulp! OK so why do we hang around people that we do not understand. I use to say with Dell that I am amazed that he stays alive for so long. I think I have studied Dell for forty years, probably not something to base friendship on but not knowing anyone that is so different from every life style I have known or people I have known I am just fascinated by him.
At the end of March the rains from Tropical storm Agatha triggered a landslide. Rocks and mud came down the San Pedro volcano. We were quite concerned for Dell. He wrote that the mudslide was meters from his house but that he was fine. We set up a donation centre at St. Luke’s School in NYC where Narda was working as their music teacher and collected several boxes of shoes and clothes to take with us to San Pedro. The shoes and clothes were new designer stuff still with labels on them. St. Luke’s has lots of celebrities’ children at it so there was a great pouring out of help. Unfortunately we were limited with luggage and ended up taking a suitcase and a half of stuff with our meager poor persons personal clothing stuffed in between the good stuff to give away. Due to Dell’s strong opposition to anything to do with Christianity we could not give it to a local church-mission place but we did find someone who was a part of the relief efforts and we gave what we had. We toured the path of destruction next to Dell’s house. I do not know if his house would have withstood the onslaught of huge rocks tumbling down the mountain – though he did have a lot of concrete involved in building his house.
His house was huge. It was three stories with each story being about fifteen feet high. There was no railing on the stairs and the toilet and shower was open with no privacy which Narda was not thrilled about.
Dell’s primary complaint was the government had cracked down on drugs and there was not much good cocaine around any more. He was also concerned due to the mold everywhere and the effects it was having on his paintings.
He was quite excited when we there about one painting in particular. I probably would be the only person in the world who would know when Dell was excited because he does not give any outward clues. He was working on a painting when he was staying with us in Round Lake New York. He showed it to us and said he had been working on it for years and it was to be his masterpiece and he would sell it then buy a house in Paris and we could come and stay with him. When we were in San Pedro he told us how he had spent a lot of time recently working on his painting to have it finished while we were there. He had been working on it for more than a decade. We were not allowed to see it right away as he had little more to do on it so his 18 year old toy-boy showed us around town for a day and we went and watched soccer another day and another day we took boat rides around the lake until the last day we were there he was finished and he brought us up to his balcony to show us his painting he had worked on for ten years. We did not know what to say. He told us it was the universe or actually many universes exploding and life was beginning in various areas of the painting. I would say the canvas was about 36 inches by 36 inches maybe a bit bigger. He was reluctant to have me take a photo of it but I insisted and I am so happy I did as it may be the only record of its existence.
Dell wanted to sell his house so we brought up a real estate agent that we found online living in San Pedro. The person was amazed and simply told Dell he had no idea how he could sell it. There were not really rooms. Upstairs there was sort of a lean-to structure with a bed and a few shelves. Narda and I stayed in there the week we were at Dell’s. The bed was uncomfortable the house was shocking but to this day we both say we never slept so well. Narda and I are really bad sleepers in that we wake up many times during the night which means we wake each other up. Rarely in the thirteen years we have been together have we slept through the night without waking at least once if not many times. In San Pedro La Laguna at Lake Atitlan we slept through every night and felt so rested the next day. I usually have to go to the toilet more than once at night – OK so I am old – but either because we slept so well or I was terrified of the stairs with no railings but I did not get up once. We spoke about how well we slept to other people we met and they said the same. Lake Atitlan is known for its peacefulness. In such a dangerous country it is something to have a place so peaceful. Before seeing Dell we stayed in Guatemala City – one of the most dangerous cities in the world according to web reports – people at the hotel we stayed at said we should not cross the street after dark unless we had one of the armed hotel people with us but we did to go to a restaurant down the street. At the restaurant there were two men one at each door with machine guns – that is how dangerous the city is. We were told it is dangerous to walk around in the daytime too but we were told that in Mexico City and we stayed during some horrific drug feud squabbles. We own a house in a rough area of Jersey City and lived there for three years. Like Dell we just go forward until we are unable to anymore.
Dell built his house like a fort because he had been robbed so often and even this peaceful part of Guatemala was really dangerous. There are no buses in San Pedro so one gets about hitching rides in the back of pickup trucks; similar to the songthaew in Thailand. It seems dangerous but it is fun. As Dell lived on a bit of a back road and his van was parked in storage in another town the only way to get around was on horseback or in the back of a pickup truck. Narda and I did ride horses through the coffee fields one day but that was more as tourists than transportation.
One night we just could not eat what Dell had – nothing against his kitchen – well… but I being a vegetarian we will suffice it to say we wanted something else so Dell and Narda and the toy-boy and I walked down the hill; which in itself was quite a project as it was always muddy and steep and we are all old, well except for the toy-boy to the road. We walked for awhile when Narda saw a pickup truck in front of someone’s house so with Dell shaking his head no and me say ‘it is OK she does this kind of thing all the time’ Narda went to the door and asked for a ride into town. Of course we do not speak Spanish and Dell was back on the road looking embarrassed and they did not speak English but it was obvious what Narda wanted pointing at their truck and pointing in the direction of town and besides it was starting to rain. To our amazement; well Dell and me – not Narda she usually gets what she goes after (at St. Luke’s School in NYC the teachers have a saying, she worked there for five-years ‘what would Narda do?’) they agreed and we all piled into the back of the truck as well as about five family members and off we went. The end of the story is that we got a good meal in town does not matter as it was getting there that was fun. We found another pickup truck to take us back home and we climbed up the steep hill in the mud and rain and were happy to be back home. We were concerned about the scorpions in the house. Dell had said just watch for them. He had been bitten twice. The first time he said was quite painful the second time he got high. We were lucky I suppose as no scorpions bit us
We decided to go to Antigua for a few days and I forget why but Dell was going to meet us there instead of go with us. We had come out from Guatemala City by car for a hundred dollars US as everyone says the chicken buses (really old USA school buses painted up) are very dangerous and we had read so many stories online about people being robbed and killed and beaten up on them that we did not take any. But to save some money we took a van to Antigua with about a dozen others. The others were young people traveling around South America. In the three hour or so ride we heard lots of horror stories about travel in Guatemala. I know Dell said once that he was driving along on a back rode and a bunch of bandits tried robbing him at gun point so he threw a bunch of money out the window and drove as fast as he could.
We stayed at the Four Seasons at Radisson Villa Antigua Resort in Antigua Guatemala. Not because we are snobs or rich; it was just affordable and we needed a nice place. Dell arrived a few days later and rang that he was in the lobby. Now picture a five-star hotel with its fancy lobby and in the middle is Dell with his bag of stones over his shoulder because of his back pain and a tattered bag with his clothes all of which obviously need a wash and – well there he was. We went to the front and collected him and as we had a two-bedroom apartment for that week or it was less than a week but for ever how long we stayed it was all quite good. Dell said he had not stayed at such a place for decades or did he say ever? We toured around Antigua the best we could – Dell could not walk a lot but we had lots of laughs and we even watched a soccer game with The Netherlands at a restaurant.
We really did plan to go to see Dell again. We were with in June – July 2010. The next summer we went to Ecuador then on to China to live for the next three years – until a month ago actually. We did not tell Dell we were going to South America as he would have wanted to meet up with us or have us visit him. He was quite stressed and we just did not know what we could do. I started making a webpage to help him sell his house but we could not come up with what his house could be used for. We thought maybe some new-age centre or a place for a craft/artist person. The view is amazing but the house is just so huge and strange. We wrote back and forth and thought maybe after our China tour we would go to visit meaning like now. I had said to Narda for the past year that I thought Dell was dead and I was feeling quite sad about it. There was no way to contact him. He did not have Internet on at home and could only use it when it went into San Pedro which was maybe once a month or so. His phone at his house did not work. His cousin said that he had put it on my Facebook a year ago that Dell had died but I did not see it. Facebook is banned in China and I would view it rarely using our VPN.
Dear Terrell and Mrs.–
Glad I found the correct email address for you.
Delbert died in an accident at his home in May 2013. He had locked himself out of his house and was attempting to climb the outside wall to get in. He fell, as I understand it, from between two and three stories. A neighbor heard his cries and went to help. (I didn’t even know he had neighbors. I thought he was out there by himself in a remote area. He never spoke of neighbors.) A doctor and others were called to help. In the process of taking him to town, he had a heart attack and died. The death certificate indicated thoracic trauma.
A person from the US Embassy in Guatemala contacted me about three days after he died. It took them that long to locate my information. He informed me about the accident and that deaths were handled differently in Guatemala than in the US. No refrigeration, no embalming, etc. The heat and humidity had bad effects on the body and burial was done as soon as possible after death. He is buried in a cemetery in Sololá in an unmarked grave. A grave can be rented for 6 years and then the person is either buried like Delbert, or rented again. It was not possible at that time to dig him up and ship him home, so he is forever in Sololá.
I do miss him. Miss the unexpected phone calls. Miss hearing what is going on in his life, mostly problems. His legs and back were bothering him and causing him considerable pain, and I cannot understand what possessed him to think he could climb a house in his physical condition. We will never know.
I hope all is well with you and your wife.
How is it we think ~ dwell ~ feel someone that is not in the physical and create in this moment with them? I do it. I am influenced by my dead son, by Dell, by my brother Robert, by my son, by girl friends; not all at once of course but I can be writing or talking or going through my day then suddenly this person from the past influences me and I change or add or morph – whatever I do at that particular moment. I disassociate with the moment, even sometimes with myself and associate with someone else. But I do not become who I was when I was with them but maybe who they are now being with me if there is life after life where the dead can embed themselves into now.
8-25-94 Victor Harbor
here is to you mate:
Mariya Field There are many things to have been said about Dell and I also was part of the Musketeers who knew him in 1973. I was a teen run away on the streets of New Orleans, Terrell, Randy and Dell were my protective, loving, quirky, generous big brothers. I was never afraid when I was with them, and trust me the streets in those days could be brutal. Dell had a way of making silence beautiful. He introduced me to some of the most amazing and haunting music I ever heard, all on vinyl, he loved a good glass of vine, some serious pasta and an evening with a few of us contemplating the universe even the darker side at times.. (Terrell will remember a late night trip to Charity) . A few years ago I received a somewhat rambling email from Dell mentioning this coffee house on Royal street called Until Waiting Fills it was a true artist hang out (Like only existed in the 70″s) and over many cups of tea or carrot juice we contemplated the magic around us….Dell’s life was a bit harsh at times, he followed no known path he definitly was creative, different,, smart and loyal….and I hope wherever he landed his spaceship he can listen to his Voltaire and drink some killer red wine….Cheers dear brother
Durand Dandurand Dell was so different from anyone I’ve ever known. Dark and moody, always interesting; he did what he pleased, even if he was living in your house. Very strange guy, but I always liked him. A toast to you, Dell!
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April 19 – 20
I thought it was last weekend but then I was wrong; so I thought it was the week prior then the weekend prior to that but now looking at the date it was a month ago. When yesterday was a month ago and last weekend was closer to tomorrow and tomorrow in reality does not matter as it has yet to manifest then living in the moment has been actualized. It is really the goal of human existence; if not stated then at least alluded to in one’s subconscious or super-subconscious or maybe even in the collective mind that we work so hard at denying exists so that we can have our alleged individual-walled off-tweeted minds but it is a trick. We really do live in the moment.
It is simple physics that what exists is existing now and not tomorrow and not really what did exist because that is what did and what is, is the magic of now. Part of the magic of now though, as humans, and maybe animals – how would we know? Is that we can transcend now and live elsewhere without living there. So I am thinking that it seemed like last weekend but it was not and that is fine because there has been so much good stuff since what I am really going to write about at least at first here that I have not had the opportunity to write since that great weekend because of all the other great moments since. Narda says I use way too many words to get to the point and because she is much smarter than me I suppose that is correct so I will get on with it.
In between or during, on top of, along-the-side of, those great moments are the mundane though thought provoking due to their life changing results moments; such as packing. It is close to moving-on to the next experience in life time and to alienate myself from what I believed in the paragraph above and just a few moments ago I am thinking and probably trying to live a tad bit in to the future because what we have been doing will be reflected in our future. For example what do we toss, what do we ship, what is carry-on luggage, what is dragged along with us stuff? A minor problem, well not problem but more of an issue is that all our belongings; I need to rephrase the part about all our stuff as we have a shed full of stuff in Adelaide, Australia that has been in storage for about 12-years, we have furniture and nicknacks in our house we our renting out in Jersey City and stuff in both of our houses in upstate New York that for some reason we have not really gotten rid of and we actually avoid any conversation about whether we should get rid of because it will just cause stress and no one wants too much stress in their life so we put the ‘we-have-crap-to get-rid-of’ bag over our consciousness and go forward into the weeks, months, years and now decades of whether we should have a conversation about bringing our past into the future.
For now we live in the moment – the ideal space – and what we collected and stored in the past can just stay there for now. I am not fond of packing unless of course I am packing to drag more of my past into the future then I am a real fan of packing. Back in the mid 1980s when I was a single parent in Australia living on a farm in Mt. Compass out on Tooperang Road (on the Fleurieu Peninsula) – the photo below is where my children and I lived from 1986 – 1988 – the years get blurry sometimes but strangely enough alive enough to feel like last weekend too. I even moved my tofu making business here – see my never-ending ~ ever-evolving e-book on making tofu and raising children with stories such as when the cows came and ate all my tofu-burger mix for the week at http://tofu.neuage.us/ what I do notice about this picture and where I live now in China is the blue sky and white clouds; all so different than the polluted skies and air we have here.
Back in the mid-1980s my children and I packed boxes and I said the next time we open them we will be in New York. It never happened and those boxes of toys and clothes stayed packed and we moved them from place to place; we lived in ten homes in about 12-years; not the easiest life being a single parent but overall it was good. Of course my children at the time were about five and seven years old and the concept of storing and dragging memories and loot from place to place was not really a manifest destiny at the time other than what they saw in one place was magically transferred to the next; not magic for me as I packed and lugged then unpacked to give our home in so many places that seamless ‘it is home’ look. Not that it is now thirty years later makes me any different. I read recently in an article about designing responsive web pages that fifty percent of our personality has genetic causes meaning I obviously inherited the need to hoard from those who came before. [Prinker, Steven, ‘How the Mind Works,’; in Aarron Walter’s article on ‘Redesigning with Personality’ in Smashing Magazine.}
That weekend ago; I looked forward to it for a month; actually now a month later I am looking back at it a month; sort of the midpoint between now and then and the month before when I first decided to play in a softball tournament in Kunshan (a bury burb of Shanghai). “The ‘Zhou City Cup’ slow pitch softball Kunshan Grand Prix; 25 teams from across the Taiwan Strait…of intense athletics.” Source: China News – Views: 7-Times (four of those times was me, showing how popular this article was in a month’s time in a country with a billion plus people http://www.vhteam.cn/feed/en_1996233).
The population of Kunshan is 1.647 million (by 2010) according to Wikipedia which is more people than Adelaide, South Australia which is the fifth largest city in all of Australia with 1.203 million people (2010 – I know I counted them) and which we are moving back to in five weeks. Kunshan is a small town in China. To get an idea of how small it is The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that at least 15 mega-cities with 25 million residents are now in China (all of Australia has 22.68 million (2012). Kunshan is, like most of China, a construction site with highways all over the shop being tossed in.
The fact that most of the people on our team were half my age had Narda asking ‘are you sure you want to do this’? There were seven of us English garbling folks; five from Dalian American International School and two that work at local international companies. The rest of the team were Taiwanese. We have been practicing with them on Sundays for the past year and last year when I had a bit of a heart problem and got sent off to Hong Kong to get four stents put in some place in my heart area they got together and signed a softball with all their names and no one thought I would or probably that I should play with them again. The doctor said whoa but four weeks later I was out there chasing flys and hitting the ball all the way to the pitcher – OK so I am the worse player on the team but I am also the oldest.
Actually I do not look that terribly old – the next oldest is ten years younger and most are in their 30’s with Brandon there at 24 and some in their 40’s. So to recap; one in the sixties (66 and in another two months 67 – yippee), one in his fifties and the rest just young.
It was a hoot. On Saturday it rained all day so we just slipped and skidded around and I even got a hit and got on base – what a dude. I was the catcher as they probably thought I would have a heart attack if I had to run after the ball and I did make a few good plays. We lost by heaps the first game something like 17 to two, and won the next. On Sunday we lost one and won one and did not do well enough to make it to the next round so we only played four games. For whatever karmic reason that we get what we get in life we got the crap field with lots of mud holes.
We played at the Kunshan Zhoushi Middle School and it was closed meaning toilets and any human related facilities were not available. We managed to get our bus driver to go off and find a Starbucks and bring us back large cups and luckily I brought enough sandwiches for two days because the box lunch that were provided looked and smelt pretty foul being composed of meat from indeterminable origins. Or to say I did not see any cats, dogs, rats, birds, bats, flies, butterflies and etc. in the area could be a hint of what could have been in the lunch boxes. We had fun though and we all laughed a lot and the younger ones had not problem with making fun of one another.
We stayed at the Crown International Exhibition Hotel Kunshan for the weekend getting in Friday night after mid-night. I knew for weeks that enough sleep was not going to be on the agenda. Narda and I usually go to bed at nine pm and we are up at six but this weekend Narda was a bit concerned that I would not have enough sleep – even my wife thinks I am old. Sure enough I was up and down for breakfast around six am on Saturday and off playing by eight. The others had stayed up a couple of hours more to have drinks. Saturday night I was determined to be asleep by ten but first we were all off to the KTV attached to the hotel. If you have never been in China and have no idea what KTV is well I suppose one could Google it. Basically you get a large room and it is to sing in on the lowest end of the scale. It is not a front for prostitution (they say) but where one pays to have a girl sit with them then according to how much you pay then you get more. Girls are led in, in groups of 5 – 7 and if none are chosen the next group is brought in.
A person will even announce how much a girl to drink with you is; in the first group it was 500 RMB for a girl to talk with you and have drinks which were extra. One group we were told was 700 each as they were some top sort of girls whatever that meant and then one group was a special at only three hundred per girl. In the short time I was there I counted six groups of girls. Us baseballers were just looking at the TV and laughing at the songs and drinking. Well I drank water as I stopped drinking alcohol about seven years ago. I was told several times not to take photos but I did anyway and took video clips until at the end when I was taking video in the hall I was escorted out by three tough looking dudes who had no smiles between them. I am not making any youtube type of clips for various reasons but here are some images I took off of the video clips I managed to get.
The girl in the blue flight suit was kind of in charge – there were a couple of them and when someone chose a girl – the Taiwan players were keen the girl would turn over some electronic device to the girl in the blue which I supposed was an expense account-tracker.
The TV in the background is the karaoke screen. I do not remember if the hand in front of me is telling me once again to put away my camera or if it was choosing a girl. After some people looked aggro at me with my Nikon (especially when I had a zoom lens on) I took photos with my iPhone and sent them to Narda (hey guess where I am?)
I took video in the hall because it was such an impressive place with stained glass and lovely furniture and I thought no one could see me but I was quickly escorted out of the building – but here is an image from a video of a hall:
I thought it was all quite interesting from a cultural anthropological position studying the primordial role and development of the reptilian brain of sports players. Everyone was having a good time drinking beer, singing, and me watching until a female sat next to me and started saying ‘hello’. I did not want to be antisocial but I was not interested in talking either. And further more she did not speak English and she was young enough to be my granddaughter. I don’t want to sound like abnormal as a sports player but I was thinking maybe I should get a blanked to put over her as she seemed very skimpily dressed for the air-conditioned room and she could easily catch a cold then she may be missing school. I could have asked her why she was not home doing homework but again there was a language barrier. I have no idea why she was sitting next to me trying to talk then I realized the Taiwan dude next to me, I am sure, paid for her for me. He asked me if I could speak Chinese so I could talk to her and he assured me she was good. Good in meaning she gets all A’s at school? Or she sings well in the local church choir? When I went to take a sip of my water she took her glass and clunked mine and said something and I smiled and said, ‘sorry dear I have to go’. Gosh things change when one goes from being in their twenties to their 60’s. So I went back to my hotel took a sleeping pill and slept from nine pm until feeling refreshed Sunday morning I was ready to play ball.
The first time I came across a KTV was when three couples were in Dalian for the weekend our first month at Dalian American International School. We had all started at the same time; now three years later, one couple: Frank and Kay are in Burma – we went to visit them a few months ago and the other: Jean and Sean, are still here. We had no idea what we were walking in to and we sat down and these scantly dressed females came in. I think it is about karaoke as there is always a large television screen and you get a microphone. We got into laughing fits and left. That was my full KTV experience until Kunshan. Everyone was going in the evening after dinner. Dinner was quite the event with band and singers all in a large Chinese-style-over-the-top-chandelier laced room.
Reason for doing.
Everything we do is because of.
Conscious or not.
I was conscious about why I was going to play softball with a group of energetic young folks. I do not socialize much here and rarely have socialized much anywhere. My idea of a nice weekend is creating a new webpage or doing some writing, making something in Premiere or After Effects, having a play in Photoshop; I have had a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite for the past year and there are not enough hours in a week to learn and create in all the programs and do all the wonderful things I try to squeeze a few moments in a day out of to make something. I am fortunate to have a job where I can use lots of programs during the day at Dalian American International School. One of the creative parts of my job is DAISlive which is our in-house news show that I do with my middle school and high school classes. I try new animation and video features each week. The rest of my position is ‘technology integration coordinator where I work with teachers and we create stuff using film in courses from literature to science and we use designing and CAD programs so I will miss all this creative buzz with students and teachers. But outside of school I do not do much with others except of course Narda. I am lucky for many reasons but one of them is she likes to spends stacks of time on the Internet looking at real estate or on Skype with her granddaughters or sons in their various places of residence (Hanoi, Adelaide, South Australia, Atlanta, Georgia) and now as we are moving back to Australia she is looking on Gumtree (Gumtree is Australia’s answer to Craigs List in the States) for furniture so now at 5:30 AM I get to continue to write.
OK drifting is so often common in my thinking which manifests in my writing too often and to wander off to the actually point of playing softball at a tournament at the age of 66 almost 67 six months after heart-repair and a few aches and pains acquired from who knows where?
When Leigh was fourteen he went on his first out of town baseball tournament. He went to Melbourne playing for a spot on the U-16 National Team playing in St. Louis Missouri. (sites I made at the time: http://www.angelfire.com/hi/U16/australia.html and http://leigh.neuage.info/u16.htm). He did not tell any of his friends that he was trying out for the national team because he did not want to say he did not make it. He was ready to keep going though and had a week’s clothes and his passport with him. I had spent a lot of time in family court getting permission for him to go as his mother did not want him leave Australia thinking that in someway I would run over there and keep him there. By this time in 1997 I had been a single parent since 1984 when Leigh was a year old and Sacha three and a half but we had already been to family court heaps (we managed 66 times in court during the course of parenting, mostly over money and my wanting to take the children to the States to see their grandparents which I managed to get permission for twice). He made the team and helped Australia to get into 4th place in a field of 12 countries. There were a lot of away tournaments following that from playing on National Schoolboy teams to Australian National Teams, a World Cup in Taiwan, a series in Africa and the Under 18s World Series in Canada (http://leigh.neuage.info/u-18.htm) and on to playing for the LA Dodgers. Leigh was constantly taking a bus, train, flight to somewhere to play ball. Sacha had left home the last couple of years Leigh was home before Narda and I too left and went off to New York to live in 2002. I would clean Leigh’s room and sit in there thinking about him traveling around and try to visualize his life on the road. I often made web pages for whatever team he was on or tournament he was at. Between 1997 and 2003 Leigh got to travel a lot. So my going off with a team and playing in a tournament was exercising ghosts and mind-spacings I have had for a long time. http://neuage.org/leigh.html says it best.
I was successful with my travel. I would not do it again but taking a flight and buses and staying at a hotel and wearing Leigh’s baseball cleats and using his glove all put me in the right place and I have cleared a bit part of my life and now I can drift off into old-age knowing that I too played ball in an international tournament. Riding with the guys on a big yellow bus – I think if Leigh had stayed on the planet he would have thought this was kind of kool – of course he would probably be a big-time ball player but hey we all have to start somewhere and getting on the bus to the game is the first step. It has been a month now and no scouts have rung me like they did when Leigh was a teenager when scouts from Atlanta, Arizona, Minnesota, and finally LA though there were others whom I have forgotten all visiting me because of my son. Maybe I did not do well enough or it could have been the language barrier.
We got home after midnight or early Monday morning. Somehow I managed a couple of hours of sleep and then I was off to school. Needless to say it was a day of being tired. The downside of working where you live – or nearby, as Dalian American International School is a five minute walk to Campus Village where we live, is that it is very tempting to go home and have a nap which I have not done in three years but it is reassuring to know it is possible.
May 10 – 11
Vivian has worked with us for the past couple of years. She teaches Mandarin at our school. She speaks English very well and as she lived in Minnesota for a few years she is quite Western sounding. When she sent out the invitation to the whole school 27 of us signed up to go to her wedding in Liaoyang. At first we thought we were at the wrong venue because the photoshop folks had kind of made Vivian look not like her but sure enough we were at the correct place.
Liaoyang, another close to two-million people town has wide streets and is known for its petroleum products; maybe not widely known, I had no idea what that meant until after a weekend there. It is is one of the ‘oldest continuously-inhabited cities in northeast China’ according to Wikipedia.
I had not been out of town for almost two weeks since going to play ball in the international tournament down in Kunshan as us sport players who are constantly on the road just have this need to go to the next town. We took the fast train up which only took 1 hour 40 minutes and cost 143.5 RMB (23 US dollars). The fast trains in China are one of the best things in this country. They are exactly to the minute on time,very comfortable, cheap, clean and of course fast. The ordinary trains are quite budget.
This was our second Chinese wedding and they never fail to entertain. See http://youtu.be/hXTnilDBg1Q for this wedding and http://blog.neuage.info/?p=35 for my blog about a previous wedding which also at http://youtu.be/PJoDYbCswC8.
After the wedding we spent the day touring. On Sunday we stayed together with the group that went up and Vivian gave us a narrated tour but on Saturday when the wedding and brunch was over, all before noon, Narda and I went off in search of the local pagoda in Liaoyang White Tower Park. Guangyou temple, first constructed in 1145 houses a giant statue of Buddha made from sandalwood. From my observation it was about four stories high and as always he looks quite happy.
There were heaps of interesting images (just a smattering are here) including a series of creatures holding up Buddha’s foot.
And wondered how a controlling country like China keeps track of 1.3 billion people and saw our answer in the park; they send children out on patrol missions in little vehicles.
And that is it… probably my last blog written here as we ship everything off next week to Australia and we are off soon after: firstly to Hong Kong to have another peak at my heart then to Hanoi and on to Laos and sometime in mid-July we will regroup in Adelaide and a month later our shipment of crap will arrive and by then we will be looking around wondering why did we move back to Australia.
train to Hua Hin http://youtu.be/tjxnVU4FoGk
King of Thailand passing by http://youtu.be/XvOScADNIKQ
Bangkok at night and the Chao Phraya (แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา) River http://youtu.be/ykrkrZ06zH8
Cabbages and Condoms and Bangkok protests http://youtu.be/3lXhsVCd19M
Three years ago our school, Dalian American International School, gave us our spring break unfettered. Professional Development, as a Common Core (a favorite buzzword at our school) active-learning-function, should be embedded within school-time, according to values held amongst staff, was separated from holiday time. Professional Development of course is part and partial of instructional education and as the name implies (professional development) is a segment of what enhances the teaching environment which is what people pay to send their darlings to our school to learn. Three years ago the EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council of Schools) conference was in Bangkok and as usual went from Thursday to Saturday. Spring Break holidays followed the next week. As our school gives us a thousand dollar stipend for PD we usually use it for a conference and the thousand dollars US comes close to paying the airfare, the conference, and the hotel. So naturally when the conference is during school days prior to a holiday why would we not combine them? which we did three years ago and about half the teachers pissed off on a Wednesday went to a conference in Bangkok then on to holiday the following week. I think we went to Viet Nam that year after the conference. Which made sense as our airfare was paid for most of the way by going via Bangkok.
Not to worry we made do and Friday right after school we were on the way to the airport, one hour away, with Jolly from our Jack-controlled fleet of drivers. Being five o’clock in Dalian add a 45 minutes but we were in flight and arriving in Guangzhou before mid-night. We chose to get out of town thinking we would get to our sea-side town by Saturday noon and to have five-days before being burden with the great mind minds in the educational world; should not be sarcastic here as there are always a few guiding lights at these conferences though a large quantity of ‘look at how great I am‘ presenters too.
Staying at the Pullman Hotel at Guangzhou Airport, a five minute walk away from the entrance to Gate A – International is the best way to start a holiday. Yes, there are soft beds in China and large soft pillows. Even at top hotels we find hard beds waiting for us but not at the Pullman and five thirty Saturday morning came just too soon for the comforts one craves at any age. We got to Bangkok and taking the Airport Rail
Link (06:00-midnight) that connects downtown Suvarnabhumi International Airport with Bangkok we were at Hua Lamphong Railway Station (สถานีรถไฟหัวลำโพง – ah the joys of cut and paste), or for those of us who struggle with any language of any sort, the Bangkok Railway Station.
(my youtube video for this is at http://youtu.be/tjxnVU4FoGk).
The train station is a typical older big city Asian place. The toilets are horrible (bring your own tissue – and be prepared to squat if squat action is what your body needs to do), there are restaurants, we ate at one upstairs that was very grubby but the tofu stew I had was fine though I suspect that like most meals was heavily laced with MSG which makes me more hyper than usual which is fine after a cup of coffee and a long train ride. The noon train was fully booked and the only place left on the next train at 2.30 was first class sleeper which sounded groovy and comfortable and elitist and we bought on for those moments of merging with the chosen and higher echelon of whatever social grouping we were to be embedded with. Eventually we were off to Hua Hin; promoted as the closest beach resort of Bangkok, located 281 kms away.
The photo of the Hua Hin Train Station below is the next day.
We brought snack food with us which was good because I was unable to eat the dead-animal-laced meals that were on offer but we did have drinks in the restaurant car and a good view of the landscape which was mainly flat and rice fields (see the video). The upper crust we were on board with looked pretty working class or below which probably coincided with the fare of about $15 US. So this was not Amtrak and the sleeper car definitely was not what we expected (see image above) but was actually our seats folded down with a pull down bunk on top and a thin mat on top and curtains. OK so it was mid-day and we did not need sleepers but we thought it would be a hoot (I think it was me that was thinking in turns of ‘oh boy this will be kool‘) to get the beds made up and I went off to find a porter type of dude who made up the beds with pillows and sheets and the half inch piece of foam that would serve as our mattress. Of course as we live in a world of ‘hey they are doing it so we should do it too‘ and of course with us being the only westerners on the train obviously we knew what we were doing so the people across from us did it. They had a child of about five who thought it was all a big Cubby House and chattered the whole trip (six hours, two hours longer than the advertised time) and climbed between up and down bunks.
Then the next seat did it and soon as shown above the whole car was one big sleeper and it was only about four in the afternoon. Not to be a trend-starter for no reason I climbed up on the top bunk and promptly fell to sleep for about an hour and I was not even sleepy to begin with. But I tend to relax and go to sleep quite easy. I do it on airplanes; often being sound to sleep from starting on the runway to waking in the clouds – maybe something about my level of consciousness being played out there. One of my stranger times I suppose was going to sleep whilst the dentist was drilling a few months ago, they woke me up a couple of times. And forget massages – Narda will tell me that soon after they start I am snoring. The bad part of my sleeping habits is that I awake a few hours later, like around one or two in the morning wide-awake ready for the day and I just lay there, usually quite frustrated for a couple of hours before going back to sleep. I tend to fall asleep always within half an hour before it is time to get up.
Nevertheless we got to Hua Hin station about 8.30 PM with the people who we had arranged our airbnb waiting the extra hours for our arrival. In contrast to our smartypants idea that leaving Friday night would have our toes in the warm waters of Thailand and away from the still freezing weather of Dalian was quite in error in judgement as some others left our school Saturday morning and once at Bangkok Airport took another flight and got to their beach side resort early Saturday afternoon with us leaving a dozen hours earlier and getting to our destination hours later than the others.
We stayed in a small apartment owned by a Dutch couple@ the Tira Tiraa Condominium (http://www.tiratiraahuahin.com/). The whole joint is full of Northern Europeans, lots of Danes and Germans who live there for several months at a time and of course Narda was thrilled and the word retirement came up multiple time. (It sound like an echo off of a distant mountain filtered through many layers of resistance in my brain stem scratching against the reptilian part of my brain.). Good western restaurants and we went to the ‘S & S Indian Restaurant’ which is listed a Ranked#9 of 348 restaurants in Hua Hin in Tripadvisor and we ranked it as number one of three restaurants we ate at which of course is a higher ranker but not as credible because we are no-body. We had several eats at ‘I Rice’ which was only a block away and we ranked it as number two out of three though Tripadvisor Ranked it as #70 of 348 restaurantsin Hua Hin. Forgot where we ranked number three, I think it was where we had breakfast.
The Tira Tiraa Condominiums have a wonderful large swimming pool and we made use of it and a gym which I made use of everyday. The rest of the time we wandered around, took a random bus to Cha Am which is a distant extension of Hua Hin and is full of Northern European tourists beneath kilometer after kilometer of umbrellas. See below:
As we usually do we took random tuk tuks to places we did not know including this random bus that went to the next town, Cha Am. The town centre is nowhere as nice as Hua Hin so we started down the road to the beach (see umbrella infested shore photo above) on a very hot day and fortunately were able to hail a taxi truck (“songthaews”) most of the way. We walked all the way back to town which was miserable, taking an hour in the noon-day sun.
We got the bus back toward Hua Hin but being the tourists that we are and having read about The Venezia Hua Hinwhich online (http://www.theveneziahuahin.com/) and on our tourist map boasted its significance: “The Venezia Hua Hin: The inspiration of this magnificent project came from the charming of the world famous river city named ‘Venice, Italy’. Venice is known as a city that massively uses water transportation by using the canal as a traffic channel through out the city. In addition, the Venice has also preserved traditional stores with beautiful sculpture surrounding of the canal area. These charming can be compared to one of the most charming in Thailand, Hua Hin.
Hua Hin is the major tourist destination and long time famous city in Thailand. As of the fact that Hua Hin is currently regarded as the prime tourism potential in terms of rapidly and steadily growing in the business and numbers of both Thai and foreign tourists. As the distance between Hua Hin and Bangkok, it is very convenient to travel as same day trip between Bangkok and Hua Hin; It takes less than two hours by car. Hua Hin, the city of relaxing place for living and visiting supported by surrounding many major attractions. Of course, huge buying power of over 65 million people across the country and oversea visitors.”
We loved being in Venice and all the other places of Italy we have wandered about in so a day at a Venetian Shopping Centre – of course, why not?
Holy Cow! The shopping centre had to be the most tacky and ill conceived place I have ever seen. To make it even more idiotic they charged 50 baht to get in; OK so it is only $1.50 US but the nerve… Surely it was built by the Chinese as I doubt any other country could have come up with such a stupid concept. Due to the heat being in an air-conditioned mall was a relief but what a bunch of stupid shops. Everything was so overpriced and the place so empty.
There were mixed styles; some I think were suppose to mimic Italy in someone’s twisted dream and some just did make sense. I think they were a Thai copy of Disney, not sure. There was a sort of Christmas theme happening too I think even though we were in the middle of March.
A Christmas theme in the sense that there were reindeer or horses with horns and trees with lights and packages beneath. I doubt whether the builders/designers had ever been to Venice. It was even more tacky than the The Venetian Macao (see my blog of Macao @ http://wp.me/pcHIf-iz). We discovered that we needed cash and the ATM did not take our Chinese Union-pay Card (most countries and ATMs do including in Hua Hin, Bangkok, Burma and etc) but not at this strange place which was good as Narda had found some wings she was buying for her two-year old granddaughter and a soft sheep. We had just enough cash to get on a bus back to Hua Hin.
Once we had dragged our sorry asses out of the air-conditioned mall and alongside the sun-killing highway we waited and waited though it was only 20 minutes for the bus. There was no shade and I tried entertaining myself and Narda (she was not entertained) by making fun of a bullock in the paddock next to us.
Not to worry we got home had dinner at ‘I Rice’ and had a swim in the pool and Narda talked about retirement and I checked out the bandwidth which needless to say was a lot better than what we get at Campus Village back home in Dalian which is close to non-existent. I am not sure whether it is funding cuts at our school that has gotten us less bandwidth or the fact that the Internet mainly filters through student housing first to keep them happy or if it is because of the government. No one is enlightening us on why our Internet in China is so much worse than it was two years ago. So I hastily uploaded YouTube clips of our travels so far on this trip. And of course posted to and read Facebook and Twitter and other sites banned in China.
We walked along the beach in Hua Hin stopping at the Hilton Hua Hin Resort & Spa because when one wants a proper toilet a western hotel is the place to go. The Hilton did not let us down and we rested in their beautiful lobby overlooking the sea (picture below)
(http://www.centarahotelsresorts.com/centaragrand/chbr/) which was formerly the Hua Hin Railway Hotel (when it was affordable). The lawns are amazing with sculptured bushes and all the old world charm in the lobby before whatever bad-tastes-tourism’s wrecking ball has done to the beautiful places of the world. If we were not staying at the Tira Tiraa Condominium and had three-hundred dollars per night to spend on
lodging we would have stayed at the Centara Grand Beach Resort Hotel. Narda says we will stay here for a week to celebrate our twenty anniversary of when we did the ‘M’ thing back in 2001 so we have seven-years to save our coins in a jar and by then if the world has not gone on some crazy end-of-the-earth bang we will stay at the former Railway hotel.
We went off to grab a photo of the train station and inspect more of funky Hua Hin – which is good at this moment in time because it is not filled with tourists like the other resort areas in Thailand.
There are the retired and semi-retired who have homes for months at a time (Narda’s direction for us – just make sure there is fast Internet and I will be OK) but for packs of tourists, not yet. Narda had a bag she bought in Yangon a few weeks ago that needed repair so we stopped at a sewing place. I looked down the road and saw all the traffic stopped two blocks before the one round-about in town. Walking to the one round-about in town I saw traffic was stopped in a directions and the road crossing town was empty except for police and military lined up. Not having a clue as usual I went out to the centre of the round-about to take photos and video and cops from several directions came running toward me waving to stop filming so I went down the street and behind a pole began filming again; see http://youtu.be/XvOScADNIKQ, turns out that the King of Thailand was going to his summer palace which is just outside of Hua Hin. The people lining the street were chanting and waving Thai flags. It was all rather quaint. Narda was nervous that I would be arrested. Actually I am a bit of a journalist as I have a BA in Journalism from Deakin University in Melbourne and having never really had much chop at using it in a real world situation I thought this would be a good time to get a story but in actual fact there was no story to get as apparently the king spends a lot of his time at his Hua Hin home.
Narda always says we need to live somewhere beautiful, it does not matter whether it is in a poor area or – well I think a poor area is what we can afford and Thailand is so full of beautiful places but it is gradually, like the world itself getting overrun by… well I suppose it is people like us. We all want to live in a beautiful place and not in polluted choking places like most major industrial areas. But we bring our industrialized values with us which is stuffing up the once beautiful places. I don’t know what will happen to this planet in the next couple of decades but from first hand viewing it does not seem as going too well. Of course we would just be happy with a reasonable shack with some solar panels, a veggie patch and some chooks on a beach somewhere in Asia but then the water rises and a tsunamis comes or radiation from North Korea or everyone is running out of drinking water and food and gosh…
We took a bus back to Bangkok. It was a 22-seat-coach to Suvarnabhumi Bangkok Airport, comfortable and less than four-hours. A lot better than the train. I slept most of the way, not sure why as I was not sleepy when we got on at noon but I seem to sleep wherever I am.
We arrived Bangkok in the evening and caught up with Kay and Frank our neighbours last year here in Campus Village and recently our host at their home in Yangon, Burma and a few others grabbed a foot massage, I fell to sleep and snored and Narda in the next seat woke me and the next day Thursday we were at the EARCOS conference.
I of course attended the tech ones such as ‘Innovate now or become irrelevant’ and about Digital Badges which has merit but after digging around in it there are too many companies just in it for the money. Of course education is about money and when you get into private schools and narrow that down to international schools the flow of money overrides it all. I attended too many sessions that were in essence a sales pitch either to take a course to get credit but of course these are paid courses and what more do I want to add to a PhD I am not sure but this is perhaps where open badges comes into play. That we can get cred for whatever we do. But then again to issue badges costs money. Ryan our elementary tech person is working on it and has already issued me with a badge;
though somehow I think it misses the educational systems hierarchy of sustained learning. I in turn made him a badge with something about educational rapping as he is our local rock star (Cronkite Satellite) and in fact I filmed the video for one of his songs for a you-tube clip – http://youtu.be/sOide6Bf140 and I have been doing some chroma-screen (blue screen) work with him for projects in our video suite at school.
Back to the conference – so presenters seem to be focused on selling their courses or selling a web-based program. The venders all line up in the lobby but all we do is taking pens, thumb-drives, bags and other crap on their tables. One presentation I went to was identical to what he presented at the last couple of conferences I have been to. The good part of these events is to hear the lingo I suppose, though I do not feel I moved forward with anything useful. I have known about digital badges and questioned their usefulness years ago. I am on-board with them and once we figure the java scripting for them I will issue some for my film class. Of course they will not have the currency that one issued by a university or the United Nations will have but I will at least have my students mindful of earning more in life than grades.
Narda and I took a river cruise and of course as usual got lost.
Don’t ask me how one gets lost on a river but we did it. We were told we could get off wherever we wanted and catch a river-taxi back. After an hour I was busting for a loo so we got off at a stop that looked useful and that was large enough to catch one back to the Shangri-La Hotel where the conference was. Off of the boat we realised we were kind of nowhere and we after walking found a bustling centre of whatever suburb we were in and after using the loo and sitting on the pier until the sun set we asked a chap about when the next boat back to the Shangri-La Hotel was. OK so there was none because the last boat stopping there was the one we were on and the ones we saw going by were only stopping somewhere where we were not. The man write out what buses to take – and as all people do with us either because we appear to be old, and possibly are, or because they think we are deaf they say the instructions louder over and over. Saying stuff louder in a foreign language does not make the meaning any clearer.
This happens often in China, people just say stuff slower and louder like we would understand it. So we dragged our sorry-asses to a bus stop asked some people where to get the bus got on and rode for a very long time until we got stuck in traffic and grabbed a taxi. We were rushing to get to the Shangri-La Hotel because they were having their conference dinner at the pools and by the river night. We have been to these before and the food is not too bad; a little light on the vegetarian crap but for meat loving Narda there was plenty. And of course it is free tucker and we figured we would catch up with the rest of the 18 teachers from our school and others that use to work at our school and are now elsewhere but still being sent to these conferences being in Asian schools and all but we saw like two or three people. We ate as much as could shove in, had a few
drinks and that was it.
We went to the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant with a group – see below and that was good. The restaurant at 6 Sukhumvit Soi 12, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok 10110, is a bit of a condom crazed place. Their profits go to help poor people and it is all very interesting. We gave our condoms back that they give at the end of the meal saying ‘look at us do we look like we need them?’. Some interesting things are shown below –
Now back home shopping in the Jinshitan market Saturday morning bundled up.
We have twelve weeks left here before our little three-year journey in China is over then we go to Hong Kong to check my four stents put in awhile back and on to Laos for a couple of weeks and back to Australia after a twelve year absence. We went to New York back in 2002 for a couple of years but that turned into nine years and then three here. I am sure we will be back in some other country within another year or two.
Today was good; Sunday the sixth of April. I practiced softball with the Taiwan team this morning as we get ready to go to Shanghai for our
tournament in two weeks. We had a whole school bar-b-que at Campus Village; something we will miss in the future. Last night I had the whole gym to myself and shot baskets whilst listening to the Delta Blues station on my iphone. Being a fan of anything from my New Orleans era of the 1960s is incredible so many years later. Yes, I will miss this place. And even better, tomorrow, Monday, is a holiday; tomb sweeping day. Yes, I will miss this place.
There are so many ways to travel, to be a traveler/visitor/observer.
Not to worry. I will go on about being an observer before I forget what the last couple of days have looked like. We are in Bagan – up north in Myanmar with four others from last year’s Dalian American International School grouping two of whom are our host; Kay and Frank teaching in Yangon and showing us around for the ten-day Chinese New Year break. Thanks mates
We may feel like we are in Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club (that ridiculously silly show that we have watched five seasons of in a month back home in China; we even have our own VP (Narda) and I am sure the village people run into their huts in fear as we approach. Of course they would not hear our hogs because our choppers are electric and they go about the speed of an ox-cart.
It is old-people-like enough that we live in Campus Village, our assisted-living like environment back at work but this is really embarrassing. Not to worry we rode into the local village – New Bagan, then on to Old Bagan. The difference is that everyone who once lived in Old Bagan was moved to New Bagan by some passing government. It was a good thing though because governments only do good things. Well not China; they had that culture de-evolution period that wiped out anything old or of historical meaning at least from a tourist’s view, well, and to anything civilized all together, and replaced it then and still today with crap. I read in a paper in Korea on the way to here that the new head of China looks up to Mao and saw him as a great person. Damn! There goes any hope of China ever trying to save anything of its past. Could anyone ever do as much destruction as Mao? Oh wait; they are building ghost-cities and knocking down anything that remains of the past. Good on ya new China Head, you may outdo Mao yet.
Myanmar; not its real name, it was Burma until the 1980s when some passing government saw fit to change the name to something that would barely fit on a fridge magnet, did do something really right. They preserved their heritage and still are. How wonderful China would be to live in if they were not so hell-bent on wiping out of anything of value and replacing it with brand-name copies. See I am not a bit political and I have no opinions about running countries though if I were asked how to do it I could probably think of some stuff to make people happier, or at least fed and the generals to have fewer luxury cars and stop destroying the environment so a few people could be stupidly extremely wealthy. Like the destruction of mountains by Chinese land-stealers for jade (see “Myanmar suffers from curse of the jade scorpion” http://www.afr.com/p/lifestyle/review/myanmar_suffers_from_curse_of_the_yEBvn1gLsJ8cGXnYJEN6VI)
We went into lots of pagodas finding the one thing the couple of thousand had in common, a statue of their hero. One of their more famous and largest is a pagoda that has a replica of a tooth of the Buddha and the way they determined where to build it was by putting the replica of the tooth into a gold box on the back of an elephant and where the elephant laid down they said that was the spot. Of course in a place so hot and dry the poor beast probably died on the spot but why diss a sacred story? The story is more believable than the one that has a hair of Buddha beneath a huge rock that is now painted gold. For some reason Buddha lifted the damn thing and put a hair beneath it. I think he did it to keep the rock from falling down the hill and killing off life forms. I love religion. Everyone has such fantastic stories surrounding the hero. If the world came to an almost complete end now and all that could be found by a new set of people were some comics and videos about Batman a religion would emerge and Batman and the Son of Batman would become the heroes and worshiped. Good grief.
So the airport here in Bagan. What’s with these domestic airlines? We came here on Air-Mandalay which was fine – an old creaky prop-job but it found the runaway and stopped too so that was good. Their fleet is currently comprised of two ATR-72-212s and one ATR 42-320. If there was any doubt about how safe these things are we are completely reassured by their safety statement: “All aircraft in Air Mandalay’s fleet and the maintenance facility are inspected once a year by the Direction General de I’Aviation Civile (DGAC) of France.”. Of course being in Burma we know there is no chance of corruption. Once a year does not seem very often. I use to look under the hood of our car more often than that and I am surprised to this day we are still alive from our last car. Fortunately in China we do not have a car. We rely on the mechanics and drivers in China for our safety. Have I already said ‘good grief?’ The airport in Bagan is like the airport pre-when-I-got-there-1981-Adelaide-Airport or something in the states in the 1950s or to be generous, early 1960s. That is fine but now we are at the airport waiting to go back to Yangon and the flight was supposed to have left a couple of hours ago. No one is sure where the plane is…
OK here it is and on life goes.
OK that is really old news as we are up up away on a propeller driven thing that too no doubt is pre-fifty years ago. Air KBZ ‘Flying Beyond Expectations’. I am not sure what that quote which is on everything from the vomit-bag to the packs of powered milk for the powered coffee. Their fleet is currently comprised of four ATR 72-500 and two ATR 72-600 aircraft – prop planes. I know it sounds like Air Mandalay’s fleet but I think they are older craft even though the numbers are higher.
I call it Air KGB and wonder why no one laughs but then I have been wondering that for years. When I wanted my students at uni to laugh after saying what I thought was funny and everyone looking at me like I was nuts I would say ‘not to worry my wife doesn’t think I am funny either’ and that would put them over the top with laughter.
We have discovered the main bank where we get our cash converted into cash or Kyats into US dollars is also KBZ. Below is a quick snapshot of their bank; the photo does not do the volumes of cash piled up justice. They bring in lots of metal crates stuffed with cash. The locals like US dollars and of course who doesn’t? However, the bills have to be perfect; no marks, no creases and look like they just were printed which possibly they were. No problems with the amount of hundred-dollar bills either. We set down our pile of Kyats; one-thousand equals one US dollar approximately. They had a pile of US one-hundred dollar notes with three tins of Red Bull on them. I tried to grab a photo but the bank-girl would not move and I had no real line other than ‘could you move over dear I want to take a photo of a stack of hundred dollar bills with tins of Red Bull on them’. US dollars and Kyats are treated as equal but on the day it was about one-thousand Kyats to one US dollar and one cent. We needed a few hundred US dollars for flights to Bagan as travel agents prefer US dollars to the local currency. Taxi drivers and shop keepers are happy with a US dollar so when paying three dollars for a taxi ride slipping in a US dollar is OK.
And talking about taxi rides. We use to think Dalian was cheap. Well actually it is as 6 RMB about a US buck will get one through town but we pay $20 to get to the airport which takes an hour. In Yangon we could get an hour taxi ride for 3 to four dollars; four if after dark. From where we stayed with our friends Kay and Frank who taught with us last year at Dalian American International School and now are at Yangon International School, a five-minute walk away, to downtown is usually half an hour away if there is no traffic but that is rare. We usually were caught in traffic.
Yangon is going through a bit of a change which is easy to look about so I will stick to my observations and not what the media or the web says. Yangon is like other Asia cities with too many cars. That is what I saw. Apparently just a year or two ago there were a lot less cars but as the country is trying on a bit of freedom stuff everyone seems to have a car. Back to Yangon shortly but I realised I was still talking about Bagan.
It is a bit better of a prop-plane than the one we came on as the seat is at least tall enough to rest my head on if I were so inclined. The Air-Mandalay plane was something designed as a child’s school bus if children were to fly to school. The fact that there is no leg room is just part of the package. We did get dinner; being that this is obviously the dinner cruise flight. We got a chocolate croissant and a piece of what could possible be sponge cake and then they passed out candies wrapped up. Three desserts for dinner; the diabetic special, but really I am happy. We all are. What a fantastic place Bagan is. The fact that my blood sugars are through the roof after a week and a half in Burma is something my body will just have to deal with. Really, after seeing tins of Red Bull atop hundred-dollar bills I started drinking them often in Myanmar with some strange psychological belief that the two were related and soon hundred-dollar bills would come my way if only I would keep drinking Red Bull which my fellow travelers could not believe I would drink. ‘You look so healthy, vegetarian, gym careful of what you eat and you drink that shit?’
We stayed at Ruby True http://www.rubytrue.com/, which had individual cabins/huts with little porches. The place is on a dirt road which no doubt is at the end of New Bagan town. Tourism is new I think in this part of the world. As I was going to talk about at the start of this section labeled, I think, ‘observation’, which I am full of but I lack in knowledge about what I am observing.
I am trying to learn here though. This is different than going to Krabi, Thailand like we did a month ago and spending weeks going swimming, riding motor scooters and living a relaxing life. This is different than going to all the other places; China, what do I know about the place after three years? Really little to nothing. I know the Chinese are having another culture revolution to destroy whatever heritage and culture they missed the first time around and that they are building empty cities but that is from looking and seeing and interpreting usually from my own thoughts.
Here. Burma, it is different. The pace is slow at least up in Bagan.
We had dinner along the Irrawaddy River, rode our motor bikes (e-bikes), Narda bought material to make longyis, those long dress-like pants that men wear there. See our youtube video at ttp://youtu.be/tmni8aPnHMY. Frank and Sean wore theirs to dinner but unfortunately I forget where in our hotel room mine ended up. Luckily we found them the next day, after photos were taken and now they are in a box with lots of material Narda will make lots of dresses with. Kool.
Along the way we came across what I thought was a wedding – we had heard it for hours as we toured around New Bagan and took a bit of footage when it began its trek down the main road. See http://youtu.be/O4FeilB7_QY I have been corrected on that – it was children becoming monks.
Back in Yangon where we stayed with Frank and Kay we continued to explore and spend money as one does on holiday. For some unknown reason four of us when we were out and about; Kay and Frank were at work as they do not celebrate Chinese New Years like we do (ten days off from work), someone said ‘oh look lets look at glasses’. It is more of a female thing I think, to get more glasses. I think Kay has about a dozen or maybe less, Narda just bought glasses in Hong Kong which she really like for a day or two and I got glasses three years ago in Dalian. I actually was the only one who needed glasses as mine are a bit scratched and I need stronger glasses because I got really old the past couple of years. To make a tedious story shorter we all went in and bought glasses. We are all happy that we can see and with designer-type glasses that cost half the price as they do in China. Mine are titanium frame scratch-resistant tri focal progressive and so are Narda’s and mine includes magnet attached sunnies. Sean mentioned that it was like getting eyes tested 40 years ago and it did look quite basic and yesterday and I only hope that I can see a month from now. At the moment they are stronger than what I had so that is good.
Narda and I had one of those life changing experiences whilst in Yangon. We had several meals at Monsoons downtown (85-87 Theinbyu Road in Botataung Township) and one day after lunch we went to the Yangon River and took a ferry at Pansodan Terminal across to Dala. There are two government-owned ferries, the Kyan Sit Khar and the Anawyahta and we did one going over and the other coming back. Youtube video = http://youtu.be/iVIZ1nUQmxA. The ferry is incredibly noisy and very crowded with a handful of tourists or at least western-styled ones and laborers and vendors who sell at Kyimyindaing Market, the major wholesale market for fishery products in Yangon.
We met a fellow on the ferry who was a trishaw driver (rickshaw in other places). Narda does not mind talking to strangers and often seeks them out whereas I would rather swim across the muddy terribly polluted Yangon River before talking to someone. Narda actually asked if he could drive us around Dala and I in my usual doubtful way about humans being little more than hustlers after something for themselves at our misfortune was trying to remember how much money we actually had with us. I think we had recently drawn out 300000 Kyats which is $300 US. It is easy, just rub out the last three zeros. The trishaw driver said he would charge us 2000 Kyats ($2 US). Narda said we were too heavy for both of us to go with one person so he lined up with another driver and off we went. The roads are wide enough for two passing bikes or motorcycles.
Before going on here: help us find these two trishaw drivers, we want to help them;
They drove around for a couple of hours. At the end instead of 2000 Kyats that they had asked for we gave them 15000. $15 to us is so little but to someone who earns a couple of dollars a day it becomes a week’s earning. Both had lost family during Cyclone Nargis the second deadliest cyclone of all time which wiped out most of this town in 2008 including killing off the family of the boys giving us bike tours. Aung who has four daughters lost his parents and brother in the cyclone. Of course what people say could be anything so I base what I know on what I observe.
We rode through incredibly impoverished areas along the Twante Canal which connects the Irrawaddy River and the Yangon river. If we had time we would have taken a boat ride for an hour but it was already afternoon. They took us to a village with no roads and we walked along the footpath with children running up and wanting to have their photos taken. It was not like in India where they ask for money or expect gifts. They genuinely seemed excited to have visitors in their village. There is no running water in the village but then again we did not see running water anywhere. We did see people with pails of water in the late afternoon. There are only two times a day people can collect water so when we were headed back to the ferry about five pm we saw a lot of water being carried. There are a few pumps along the way nearer the ferry terminal. The pumps were put in by some United Nations organisation. There were no pumps near where the village we visited was.
Koko’s dream is to go to university which he said he could do for $25 a month. If we lived in Myanmar we would have tracked down the uni and set up an arrangement where we would pay for his schooling based on his attendance. Perhaps one day we will. We have read that the government often bulldozes these shanty towns away leaving the people to start again. We were told the Chinese are buying up all the land which is what is forcing the people off of it. I would suggest reading The Irrawaddy Magazine which is online at http://www.irrawaddy.org/ for more about what the Burmese government is up to. We have the latest issue and have been reading how China is raping the land for jade.
We stopped at the one internet cafe before ending our trip. The computers were pretty dirty and old but we had to check our email and find where we were going for dinner with Kay and Frank and off we went. If I lived in Yangon I would go on weekends and teach internet usage. I think if I could set up our two drivers with email accounts and promoted them on Trip Adviser they may get more business. They were really fun guys and we had laughs and just a great tour.
Koko’s dream is to go to university which he said he could do for $25 a month. If we lived in Myanmar we would have tracked down the uni and set up an arrangement where we would pay for his schooling based on his attendance. Perhaps one day we will. We have read that the government often bulldozed these shanty towns away leaving the people to start again. The Chinese are buying up all the land which is what is forcing the people off with no where to go. I would suggest reading The Irrawaddy Magazine which is online at http://www.irrawaddy.org/ for more about what the Burmese government is up to. We have the latest issue on how China is raping the land for jade.
We visited Yangon International School where our hosts work. I went to Frank’s 7th grade class twice as I am making some clips for my in-house news show, DAISlive, back at Dalian American International School. One of the things I have started to do on the show is to have a bit of movement. For house points the students are supposed to move to about a minute and a half dance thingy. So we had Frank’s class do one that I will put on the first show when we get back. I have middle school moving about but the high school students just sit and watch and some will say ‘we moved our eyes’ so my movement portion is not quite the success I had hoped for as of yet but we still have another semester to go and I am determined to get students up and moving so we will see.
We did not see any of the cobras that we have heard so much about. Maybe not disappointed but footage of at least one would have been nice. Frank said they found three at their school last week. We were visiting at the best time of the year when it was not too hot and there was no rain. When it rains the walk to school or anywhere is pretty gruesome with water past ones ankles and always the chance of having a cobra winding up your leg.
We took taxis everywhere and one of my favourite times was when we offered a puppy to a driver. Frank and Kay have some dogs and one had puppies that are now two months old and they are looking for homes for them. The puppies are from Bonnie of the Bonnie and Clyde street dogs they have adopted. I had never seen so many street dogs anywhere as I have in Burma and they are almost all brown. Kay and Frank have set up a bit of rescue street dogs situation where they clean them up and look for homes for them. At the time of our visit there were a dozen brown dogs but five were puppies and Bonnie and Clyde live outside the gate as they are street dogs and only come in to the house on occasion. So long story short it was good a taxi driver took a puppy. We drove into town with him and he had the puppy on his lap the whole way and he was quite happy. He said he had three children and they would like it.
We did the usual visit to pagodas including The Shwedagon Pagoda in the centre of town. I think everything in Yangon is measured from the distance to The Shwedagon Pagoda. There is a replica of Buddhas’ tooth and so much more. The only downside to these visits is one has to be barefoot and on a hot day the feet do burn. We found ourselves almost running from shrine to shrine to keep from burning our feet.
I love the written language it looks so creative. Even on their license plates;
The other thing to do in Yangon (number one is to take the ferry and go to the villages on the other side and do something helpful/useful) is to take the Yangon Circular Train. We rode for quite some time on it and the only reason it was free was because we could not work out how to purchase tickets so we just got on and no one seemed to care. Of course the women folk like shopping and were off to the Bogyoke Aung San Market where Narda found more material. We went to Coffee Circle for western breakfast and had a good massage at the Pearl Centre.
Oh wait! Massages – right up there with what to do. I had two. One at an upmarket joint which set me back eight dollars US for one and a half foot shoulder back legs massage and I gave the girl a three dollar tip which the others in the group said was a lot. Then we went to the Pearl Centre and that was even better and cheaper. Seven dollars for the hour and a half head, shoulder, back, foot massage. Of course we tipped them, a dollar. It is easy to feel guilty in some situations. In China we pay ten to fifteen dollars for a foot massage and up to fourty dollars for two hours full body. But then everything is realitive. I paid about $120 in Clifton Park New York for a Valentine gift massage years ago for Narda. Maybe my future life will be to go to a village for a day to help people then in the evening get a massage for seven bucks.
Our last meal in Yangon was at The House of Memories. This is where General Aung San had offices before being killed off. The food is excellent – I had a really good tofu dish and my new favourite, tea leaf salad though this time with ginger. We went to the gate of Aung San Suu Kyi and asked the guard if we could come in but of course we were not invited in. Shucks.
House of memories, No. 290, U Wizara Road, Kamaryut Township, www.houseofmemoriesmyanmar.com General Aung San’s first office
I would write heaps more but I have to get ready for school and as so often it happens that I did not create lesson plans whilst on holiday. Damn!
And, not an excuse, but I have spent the weekend trying to upload this one blog. All day Saturday and most of Sunday. To upload each image takes up to an hour. Then of course the whole site crashes. Maybe I can use my VPN in China to get onto Facebook, YouTube and my blog but the Internet is slow it is almost not worth the effort. I put up four YouTube videos at the airport in Seoul in less than an hour. Here I started one Saturday night at six pm and by nine AM Sunday – fourteen hours later, finally a six minute video got uploaded to YouTube. I wouldn’t even try to post it on to Facebook that would take a couple of days and then there is always the Internet crashing. China is about at the same level as Burma when it comes to Internet.
As far as I could imagine
was never far enough
to place me here.
I was prospecting in a small town up north
(Papunyu in the Northern Territory)
The circus had left a small tent behind.
I peeked inside, looking for adventure.
There was a gypsy sitting naked in front
of a crystal ball she was fondling.
She had my portrait tattooed on her breasts…
it was impossible not to notice – even for a man.
She said my future was mapped in my hands
would I put them on my portraits
I remembered her from some distant shore
(when we were children it was her dolls
I had sacrificed to Aphrodite
during mass and she never forgave)
I didn’t want my future told
I knew where all the doors were
AND THAT IS ALL ONE NEEDS TO KNOW TO GET OUT
As I left the tent
I felt Chiron’s hot laughter behind me
and turned just in time to watch the tent
disappear into the screaming mist
Before long I did forget it all
until tonight when my concupiscent concubines
came home and said a gypsy was looking for me
to tell my future
she was no longer smiling.
Now I know it is my end because I sacrificed
to the wrong god so long ago
like all men do to bring about their end
Storiette #7 4-17-94 Victor Harbor SA
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