As is so often the way we do things, this USA 2019 trip has been a long time coming. We started with planning to be at Narda’s son’s Chris’ 40th birthday, several years ago. We wanted to do a combination of Airbnb, Chris’ home in Washington DC and Home Exchanges. This is how we have travelled the past few years in Europe. In Asia we combine Airbnb and hotels/guest houses. The idea was to stay out of hotels for this three-month trip and we succeeded. We first contacted a couple in Denver, 9th of November 2017 and they wrote back soon after. We confirmed exchanging in July 2018 for now, April – May 2019. They are looking at our house for early 2021; their winter, our summer. Currently they are sailing in the Caribbean. In 2018 we began speaking with Lawrence, our teaching mate from our China years, for a trade in Florida. Quick jump in this story is that we had a wonderful stay in Orlando at his home toward the end of this trip.
We have the rest of this year long ago planned/paid (Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), as well as next year, 2020 (settled last year). Currently we are negotiating with people for 2021. I am saying this as even when I re-read our blogs, I think we do so much travel, how does this happen? Narda does the legwork of getting places to stay, tracking down incredible flight deals, and generally does so much that all I need to do is play on the computer, look out the window and excitingly exclaim what a marvellous place we have suddenly been transported to.
Instead of many videos this trip we have made sixteen slideshows and only one video. They are grouped together here or view them as they are slotted into where we are speaking of. The slideshows are about a minute each.
All USA Playlist https://tinyurl.com/y4o3halm I have also made a QR image to click with your phone if that floats your thingy.
15 April Monday
Our last days in Adelaide and we “child sat’’ the grandies. Can’t say babysit anymore now that they are five and seven. We spent a day packing; how to get all we need for three-months into seven kilos carry-on and 22.7 kilos (50 pounds) check-in stuff. Narda is the master-packer, I easily make my piles of all that I want, and she makes ‘executive decisions’ of what is taken, as I see my many favourite tee-shirts and other garments find their way back on to their shelf.
Getting our home ready for three months away is always a project. People will be staying, coming and going and we always seem to have too much stuff in our bulging suitcases. We have been doing this for twenty-years and have yet to master the luggage thing, though we do well leaving home, it is returning that becomes a nightmare with all we collect along the way. This trip was exceptional too much stuff brought back home – I will get to that, later. I am sort of responsible for this excess.
We left Adelaide in the afternoon and had an overnight in Sydney. As we had an afternoon flight, we had planned to take the bus from the front of our house to the airport. Knowing that we can go to our bus stop and 45-minutes later be at an airport then off to anywhere in the world is a wonderful feeling. However, the day before we were to leave, Narda’s sister, Caroline, offered to drive us to the airport which was a nice option.
I try to go to Sydney each year as a memorial to my son, Leigh, who died there in 2003 and this year the only time we could get to Sydney was by doing it on this trip as a stopover to the States. We stayed at the Budget Ibis as it was near the airport and was cheap. Note to self, yuck: location sort of OK, but we had to cross lots of traffic getting there with our crap, though we got a shuttle the next day. The rooms were old, small, dingy which is OK. It was getting from there to the metro to get to Olympic Park that was difficult; lots of construction, crossing busy large intersections. Nevertheless, we had lunch downstairs at the Ibis-Novotel that we try to get to each year. We spent the rest of the day getting back to our cubicle at the Ibis.
Friday we were on the 9 am flight, 17 hours from Sydney to Houston. Long flights are boring, and we
have found United as one of the worse airlines; unfriendly staff, food not very good, though the movie selection is good, and it is the cheapest. We ignore the yucky parts and move forward. We had three hours in Houston before our flight to Washington D.C. A rather uninteresting note; the pilot announced that we had left Sydney at 9.06 am Friday and arrived into Houston at 9.06 am Friday. Groovy. We had just spent seventeen excruciating hours flying, only to discover that we had not used up any time.
We were to stay in DC from Friday evening until the following Tuesday when we were to fly to Denver. However;
Narda’s friend from her teaching days at St Luke’s had a tragic event in her life which changed our plans. Her eldest son, only in his late 20’s, died suddenly several days before we left Adelaide. The day before we left, we learned that the funeral would be on Saturday, the day after we would arrive in DC. Instead of going to Chris’ home after we arrived in DC we decided to continue.
Two hours after arriving in DC we were on the Acela Express to NYC. We booked the overpriced Doubletree Hilton at Times Square (much higher than usual as it was Easter Weekend) and finally got to lay down after close to thirty hours of travel. We were back out around midnight as hunger got the best of us. Luckily, there was a Taco Bell a block away and we got to eat with the denizens of the night before going back and passing out…until the hotel clock radio woke us up at 6 am, no doubt from some previous weary traveller heading out of town.
Once again hunger entered our world and we took a subway to the West Village. Getting off at West fourth we headed to Rocco’s (Pasticceria Rocco) on Bleeker Street for a wonderful NYC breakfast. The funeral we were attending was a few blocks away on Bleeker.
I wore a suit and tie for the first time since working at Dalian American International School in China, five years earlier, such is retirement.
The funeral was incredible, full of JD’s many friends, some dressed in the colourful blazers he loved to collect. The room was decorated with lots of his stuff, notably Star Wars memorabilia. His love of Star Wars was celebrated; after each of his friends gave a eulogy, they would say “may the Force be with you”, and the gathered folk would respond “and also with you”.
After the funeral we went to Cowgirl’s for lunch (519 Hudson St) a couple of blocks away from where Narda taught for five years (St. Lukes). After Cowgirl’s we went uptown and spent time at Ronnie and Karen’s place.
Not having an American sim card, we tried several phone companies; Verizon and some other losers could not help us. The problem is that US sim cards are not compatible with our Australian phones. T-Mobile at Times Square thought they could help and after hours of little success (one of their cards worked in my phone but would not in Narda’s) we left late at night back to our hotel. Times Square is a miserable place. It is used to be groovy in the 1960s, even in the 1970s, but now it is worse than Disneyland.
On Sunday (21st April) we took the bus from NYC to DC. The bus was $30 and took about three hours depositing us at Union Station. It was comfortable with Wi-Fi to keep us from needing to talk with one another. Narda’s son Chris collected us and left us at the church he preaches at and at the end of his session we took Liam home, stopping at his favourite eatery, Chipotle Mexican Grill. I rarely eat at chain restaurants, except for McDonald’s in Australia because they give seniors a free coffee for a purchase over three dollars. Since a coffee cost $3.70, we order one coffee and get the second free and get to read the newspaper. A big day out in our world when in Australia. Chipotle is good though, probably not good for a low-carb diet but they know how to make a vegetarian and a meat eater happy. We spent the next day walking Liam to school, riding on buses and mainly catching up on sleep and getting used to a new time zone that is 13-hours different from what we had been used to.
Well not exactly getting into sync with our new time zones. Though we have been in NYC for a couple of days, one would think we would have gotten some sleep, but we got even less in NYC. We were up too early the next morning and packing ready to fly off to Denver. Believing it would be warm(er) in Denver we left a suitcase behind for when we would return in a month. As we usually do when in DC we took the shuttle to the airport and were off to Denver. Our roundtrip to Denver set us back about twenty bucks for the two of us as we used our United points.
I have been wanting to see Denver Airport terminal since first reading the conspiracy sites about it. One theory is that there is a secret bunker located under the Denver Airport. DIA is the largest airport in the United States, the second largest airport in the world behind King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia. Of course, the conspiracies began shortly after the invention of the internet in the mid-1990s (the internet was invented in 1990) as most conspiracies have. [For example, layout of the runways of the airport is in the shape of a swastika. But it is the artwork on the walls that has everyone going nuts. Murals that can be viewed in the baggage claim area feature content that, according to some, feature future military oppression and a one world government like the concept of “big brother.” The most memorable of these pieces is a large green soldier of sorts with an eagle symbol on his hat, a bayonet tipped gun and a large curved sword in the other hand. Underneath the soldier are signs of poverty and distress, a woman clutching her baby and children sleeping in ruins. Viewers of the piece state that it appears to represent themes of future military oppression and a one world government. The artist of the piece, Leo Tanguma, however, claims that the mural and others like it represent man-made destruction of the environment and genocide while the people of the world come together to live in peace. The two large murals are entitled “In Peace and Harmony with Nature” and “The Children of the World Dream of Peace.” Within the Denver International Airport there is a dedication marker which is inscribed with the compasses and square associated with the Freemasons. Additionally, this marker lists two of the grand lodges of Freemasonry located in Colorado. Among all the odd decor of Denver International Airport is a statue of an open suitcase. Within this suitcase is a honed demon with its head in its hands.] This stuff is from this website if you want to read more, https://www.exploringlifesmysteries.com/denver-international-airport-conspiracy/ And there is more about bunkers beneath the airport, statues and other silly stuff. So, were we rewarded for all our research? No, the whole bloody airport is going through a reconstruction and the walls are covered. Next conspiracy…
We have a house exchange in Denver. Our hosts had left their car at the airport long term parking and we found it with little effort and were off to our new home. American freeways in the dark, with lots of road construction, after driving on the other side of the road for the past whenever months in Australia is a challenge. Not to worry we rocked up at our beautiful new digs and found the remote to open the garage and we were able to get inside and say wow. The house was three sizes larger than ours. In our month there we decided to move into the basement as that was large enough for us, it had a lounge, bedroom, bathroom, and a big table to do our never-ending computer work on. We never used two of the lounges upstairs or the master dining room or several of the bathrooms.
We slept in. We have a month to explore Colorado so there was no need to rush out into the high altitude. That was our first ah ha moment. Not only jetlag, then after sort of adjusting to eastern time for three days we now were in Central or is it Mountain time? Then there is the height thingy. A mile high. Cool. After a couple of trips between the basement, the main floor, the next floor up we were puffed out. I get altitude sickness at two and half thousand metres, or I came to learn of that when we were in Quito, Ecuador, 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) a few years ago. After a couple of days, we had to flee, unfortunately, we only had those couple of days to see that wonderful city. Recently when we spent a couple of weeks in Shimla, India I was fine. There the altitude is 1924.00m (6312 feet). Denver is around 1,730 metres (5,700 feet). Not quite sure why we both got puffed out more in Denver than in Shimla where we walked heaps. We drank lots of water as recommended.
Our first full day in Denver, our stay for the month was in the town of Centennial (Arapahoe County), about sixteen miles from Denver City Centre, “the safest City in Colorado for the last eight years” according to their site, http://www.centennialco.gov/ Not sure as there was a school shooting while we were there, more about that later. We found the area friendly and it was easy to find what we needed. We were in a very suburbia area meaning a car-friendly area; though we did find walking trails not far from our home. We (well me in particular) excitingly found Sprouts Farmers Market, within walking distance. A giant health food store with those wonderfully high-priced products, which happily we found later at Walmart for much less. Left to my own devices I could have walked home with a suitcase of ‘health foods’, needless to say, I didn’t. We stayed home most of the next day too except to go to a nearby Target store to get photos printed. I seem to be stuck in the digital world of photos and Narda likes to print photos and put them in her diary. As we travel, we look for stores that have a photo machine that does small prints, for her book. As Narda points out, we still have family photos from many years ago (I have family photos from the early 1900s from my parents, not with me in them in the early 1900s, I am only 72) and we have lost many digital setups. So, there you go. Having both is the way to save those fleeting memories that last for hundreds of years. We worked on our projects at home; Narda’s writing diary and my online textual-photos I post on too many social sites.
On our third day we got out into the world and found a T-Mobile centre to try and sort out our phones. We found a friendly chap that not only got us a three-month card but gave us new phones with it. Not top of the range of course but they work as phones and not as computers and cameras, recording devices, navigational, and all the other useless bells and whistles that phones have. They still took photos and had navigation and all the basics, just not high quality, which all we wanted them for was as phones, and for that they were fine. Our Australian ‘high-end’ phones were still useful as cameras and computers when there was Wi-Fi.
After three days we rose from our zombie-zoned-out times and felt normal. Our friends, Frank and Kay from teaching days in Dalian, China, came to visit. The last time we saw them was in 2014 in Bagan, Myanmar, when we were also with Jean and Sean from our Dalian teaching days and who we will visit later during this trip, in Florida. They stayed for a couple of nights with us. It was fun.
After an evening and next morning of catching up and sharing stories with our friends a bit we Frank drove us on a sight-seeing tour of some of the mountains. We went to where Buffalo Bill was buried and did some stuff and learned about cool Bill, found it all quite interesting took photos then moved on to Red Rocks Amphitheater. http://tiny.cc/b6xdcz
Red Rocks Amphitheater at Morrison, Colorado, https://www.redrocksonline.com/ is the home of outdoor music on steroids. Most music stars since the early 1900s have played in the 9500-capacity arena. My personal experience here was great. We were trolling around the place looking at the music hall of fame, looking out at the view, taking too many photos when I realized I did not have my phone. (I change lenses on my camera and thought I must have set my phone down when putting the zoom on our camera) Not only did I not have my phone but my phone was one of those wallet setups that us post-millennials (decades-post…) put our credit cards, driver’s licenses, photos of ourselves or our loved ones, which ever fits in the most… in panic we all looked all over, spoke to people, left phone numbers and went off to find the best way to cancel our credit cards which of course would have stuffed us up no end. As we were walking out of Red Rocks toward our car one of the staff came running up to us and said, “is this your phone”. It became our Red Rocks miracle.
Frank and Kay live in Loveland, Colorado. There are about three excellent sculpture parks in Loveland. Benson Sculpture Garden is the one we spent the most time at. Well worth the visit. Our little slide show of the sculpture garden is over at http://tiny.cc/4cydcz.
We spent a few days, two different times at their home. They were such great tourists guides, we had experienced this in Myanmar five years earlier when they showed us around their hometown, at the time, of Yangon. We spent a day driving up into Rocky Mountain Park, and even in April there was snow on the ground. See our one-minute slideshow of this amazing area at http://tiny.cc/yeydcz
We had a couple of down days staying at home, eating low-carb, organic, allegedly nutritional substances, walking around our area, acting out the same routine as we do back in Adelaide with our morning walk. I have a bowl of seeds, probably bird seed, but I like to think it is doing me good, have our super healthy dinner and watch Netflix series. We watched ‘After Life’ (http://tiny.cc/bgydcz); series created, produced, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais. We haven’t liked too many shows that Ricky Gervais is part of, he seems to appeal to the millennials, (we rarely think he is funny) but this series was well worth the watch. I see there will be a season two so that will be what we will watch in some other part of the world. (Netflix has announced it is renewing “After Life” for a six-episode season 2, which will launch in 2020. … But now I have to make sure the second season is even better, so I’ll probably have to work much harder than usual. Annoying really“ said Gervais. Apr 3, 2019). We also watched ‘Hell on Wheels’, which I describe a bit below when writing about Cheyenne. Really the series to be watching when in this part of the world.
As excited as children possibly can be, we awoke 30th, April to snow. We went bananas. It may be difficult to discern, but there is snow falling in the below photo. I built a snowman (on the outside table) and posted the photo on Facebook. (spoiler alert, I did this photo in Photoshop)
We found a local cinema (AMC) and the only movie that looked interesting was one about India partition; ‘Kalank’, a 2019 Indian Hindi-language period drama film set in 1945 in the pre-independence British era (http://tiny.cc/bkydcz). As we are going to Pakistan for a few weeks in October, originally crossing the border from India, but due to some conflict between those two we are going from Colombo, Sri Lanka, we are trying to make sense of what their beef is. The next time we visited this cinema there is a school shooting, described below, but this time we enjoyed the film. Though apparently, I fell to sleep for a portion of the movie according to Narda. But the part I saw was interesting.
We went to Loveland for our extended visit with Kay and Frank.
Cheyenne Wyoming Slideshow http://tiny.cc/ypydcz A lot of photos of our day in Cheyenne.
I had wanted to go to Cheyenne since the start of this trip. A blast from the past and all. I lived there in 1974 in one of those strange moments in one’s life where we look back decades later and think, I did what? I was in a cult group; The Holy Orders of MANS, in the 1960s (I joined in Hawaii), then left in 1971 and returned in 1974 to the San Francisco centre. Bottom line, they sent me to Cheyenne as they had one of their many cult-houses there. I was in a subset of the Order called the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light. Meaning I had to wear a robe and be in that group for a year. The Brown Brothers was the celibate section of the Order, where I was sent off to, for former ‘indiscretions’. What was tough was walking around Cheyenne in a brown robe. People would laugh, (you are probably laughing right now), call me names and whatnot. I spent six-months in the winter of ‘74-’75 there, not very happily.
That was then, this is now…all those celibate years later, caught up in the Me2 hype of being an appropriate male, or not.
This year (2019) Wyoming celebrates the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage, they were the first state to give women the right to vote along with lots of other women’s firsts:
If you get to Cheyenne visit the ‘The Cowgirls of the West Museum’, what’s not to like about such a museum? http://cowgirlsofthewestmuseum.com/ and it is free entry. Checkout the slideshow above for shots of women in cowgirl gear, and other random pics of Cheyenne.
Cheyenne is also an early railroad hub – See the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Frank and Kay told us about the Netflix series, “Hell on Wheels“, which is set in Cheyenne in the late 1860s and is about the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States. Well worth the viewing if you are into historic fiction, with a bit of Hollywood. To get the lowdown of how the story goes check out, “Why is Cheyenne called the “Magic City of the Plains”? Cheyenne was called the “Magic City of the Plains” because it seemed to spring up practically overnight”. https://tinyurl.com/y2aydorc Well there, I spoiled the narrative, but still, look it up.
On a trip to Denver, we took a tram around the city to get a feel for the place. On the tram I took this photo of this girl with a service dog. I couldn’t work out what was wrong with her. Where we come from a service dog is the eyes or ears for someone who does not have physical sight or hearing.
I did not realize why this girl had this service dog until now, back home in Australia, when I was writing up our trip. We did notice a lot of people with ‘service dogs’, at airports, bus and train station. Everywhere. Wow, what was going on in the States? We did not learn until two months later when we were visiting our friends in Florida that people have ‘emotional support animals’. What?
If you have an emotional disability, you can legally qualify for an ESA, short for emotional support animal. You must be certified as emotionally disabled by a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or other duly licensed and/or certified mental health professional.
Damn! What is going on over there? We lived in the States from 2002 – 2010, and of course, I am a Yank from the get-go, though I left in 1981, for the stable sensible land of Australia and neither of us had ever heard of an ESA.
All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!).
OK folks, here is the reality. Another word for an emotional support animal is pet. Get over it. I think people were just looking for a way to get their pet onto flights for free and not have Fido stuck in the hold of the plane. Of course, I don’t have an opinion on all this but it did take us by surprise. We both felt that America is in crisis, people were more upset, insecure, paranoid, than when we lived there (during the Obama era) and now the good citizens of the USA need support animals to protect them from the harsh reality around them.
We left Frank and Kay’s about 1 pm, stopped at a thrift shop and I got a Colorado tee shirt for a dollar (big spending tourist that I am). I was looking for a cowboy shirt with a fringe. I thought it would suit me but in Denver they were around the $200 mark and I had a budget of five dollars. I want to look like a rodeo rider when I get back to Australia. Unfortunately, in months of looking in thrift shops I never found one so I will look like another elderly person riding a bike in Adelaide instead of a stud in a cowboy-rodeo shirt, on a bike.
Our favourite shop is Walmart and we did most of our shopping there. My friend, Randy, Eugene, Oregon, never went into a Walmart all his life. Principles or something. But it was our shop of choice, so much cheap crap. Now, with the mass shooting in El Paso (August 2019), I am not sure whether we would go to Walmart. And the tweets that say the owners make 11-million dollars an hour and workers $11 an hour do not make it the shop of choice. However, for the likes of us, retired, on a budget, why pay twice as much for the same thing at the local hippie organic shop?
I always have projects I am working on. I have been doing a combination of paintings/photos/text since the mid-1960s when I first started being a street-artist in New York City. My longest time in one place was in New Orleans 1968 and 1972 – 1974, though I had about the same length of time being a street artist in Adelaide (1993 – 1995). Other places have been Waikiki (1980), Baltimore (1978 – 1979) and in the mall in Washington DC (summers of 1978 and 1979). I no longer sit in streets displaying stuff but do it online on numerous sites. I was working on my ‘Thoughts in Patterns 7’ on this trip which I managed to complete and make available on Amazon as print and as an e-book. They are really ‘thoughts in travel’ with the combination of images of places we are in with thoughts embedded. Book 7 with many photos and textual impressions is at https://amzn.to/2NgoQvU
My nephew lives in Denver (his mother, my sister, lives in New York) and we visited him on a couple of occasions. We have a short photo album of Denver at https://is.gd/Vkpvyd
Back home in our little burb we went to the picture theatre. There was little of interest except for comic book films so the one that looked least painful to us (meaning we did not need to know a backstory or have seen a previous edition to understand it), BTW, we still didn’t understand it (Captain Marvel) but that is not what we remember about the day. Actually, now a couple of months later I have no recall of the movie but of the day. As we entered the car park, we saw many police cars, ambulances, a couple of helicopters I looked on my breaking-news app and saw that there was a shooting nearby. This photo is from the cinema door. We went into to see Captain Marvel, at this time the report stated that the shooters had not been found. We live a short distance from Columbine High School, site of the Columbine High School massacre which was commemorating the twenty-anniversary of the shooting, this week. Seven years earlier, also in Aurora, where we were seeing the movie a person went into a theatre and killed a lot of people. At the time, the attack had the largest number of casualties (82) in one shooting in modern U.S. history.
When we came out of the film, they were still reporting the incident, the people involved were in custody. As we constantly pay out Fox News, not believing anything they say, at least politically, re. climate change, etc etc, Narda wanted to meet face-to-face Fox news people. Of course, news gathers are not the same as the nut cases that fill the Fox channel with their incoherent drivel (not that I have any opinions about this fake-news media.
As we are in Littleton, we explored the town. We discovered that Littleton is a sister city to Bega, Bega is a town in the south-east of New South Wales. They have a statue of a kangaroo and their idea of Australia. There is even the Ned Kelly pub. Not having been to Bega, Australia, we cannot confirm whether these two cities are sister cities or just me2 wannabes. We had a couple of other snowy mornings, each time just a bit then gone with the sun. We found what looked like a typical USA taco joint (Taco House – 1390 W Littleton Blvd) for lunch in Littleton, not sure if they have one like it in Bega. For anyone passing through Littleton, it is a bit of a dive, though cheap, probably authentic. We both had indigestion for a while after which simply could be that we are not used to this type of cuisine or the over-saturated oiled Mexican dishes we ate.
Toward the end of our stay in the Denver area we went to Colorado Springs. Narda has an Australian nephew living there. After a visit we spent the rest of the day in the rock formations nearby, Garden of the Gods, an amazing place to wander around in. See our one minute slideshow of this area at https://bit.ly/2k5frLm
We also visited Suzanne, who worked with us at the school in Dalian, China. She has an amazing house built into the same type of rocks as there are tossed about at the Garden of the Gods. I had wanted to go to the top of Pikes Peak, but the road was closed due to snow or some sort of wintery mix. One of the Yank’s favourite tunes, “America the Beautiful” was put together by Katharine Lee Bates after she visited the Pikes Peak summit in 1893. Not having made it to the summit I was unable to match her creativity. This is close as we got (using our 300 mm lens). The 14,110-foot summit is visited by more people annually than any other peak in America, and it ranks as the second-most visited mountain in the world, after that one in Japan (now I am really upset I didn’t get to the top).
Before we left Colorado, we had another big day out with Kay and Frank. We looked at motor-homes and chose ones we would tour the world in (houses on wheels) and had lunch at a famous truck stop; Johnson’s Corner. https://www.johnsonscorner.com/ “Retro American diner & travel plaza opened in 1952 serving classic comfort food & cinnamon rolls.” In 1995, Johnson’s Corner was a location for the Hollywood movie “Larger than Life,” starring Bill Murray, Matthew McConaughey. The film was financially and critically unsuccessful. Not to worry the restaurant was good.
We not only had a large beautiful house but a good van to explore the Denver area with. This is why we love house exchanges; we get to live as if we were locals. So far, we have spent time in Denmark (six-weeks in the beautiful town of Ringkøbing), Spain (Noja), Berlin, a few places in the Netherlands, with many more coming up; two more Netherlands, a few in the UK, France and lots in the planning. We still do a lot of Airbnb. After nineteen years of travelling we have just begun, there is so much more to experience.
This was an especially easy place for us, our hosts left their car at the airport and we left it there again at the end. How easy is that? Again, I had hoped to find all the conspiracy images at Denver Airport but due to remodelling the walls were still covered. Obviously in preparation for a future alien invasion. We had an easy time through security – even got through with a few pounds over our fifty-pound suitcase limit.
My little special treatment for each flight; can’t go through the security scan because of my defibrillator/pacemaker thingy. They should let me choose which person gets to frisk me. ‘I will take that lady there please…the agent with the red stilettos, & the USA flag tattooed on her thigh …’ bloody ‘me-too’ movement put the kibosh on that didn’t they?
We arrived Newark at 1 pm with a six-hour layover on the way to Albany, New York. We had recently changed our Chase credit card to a different one, same United points setup, but about $50 a year cheaper than their other card. With it we get priority boarding which is great in the States. Unbelievable you Yanks. In Australia, as well as with international flights we get seven-kilos carry on. This includes all carry on, camera bag, computer bag, and all the other crap we drag around the planet that has to be at our beck and call at any moment (well me, I need a computer and our Nikon, and zoom plus other lenses, always, Narda seems content with just a Kindle and a passport – wow how thrifty) but in the States? Wow! Firstly, there does not seem to be a weight limit, secondly the size is close to a regular suitcase, plus the extra bag is equal to a large backpack. Then there are the service pets that the Yanks need to comfort themselves in these trying times. I have seen people barely able to lift their suitcases. This all makes it very difficult to get bags into the overhead once on the plane if there are a lot getting on first. Priority boarding put us up right behind the first-class suckers (no jealously intended). They also now wave foreign transaction fees (which has been costly in the past), give us free luggage check-in (saving $30/bag) and the other fantastic ‘reward’ with our new Chase card was that we had a free hangout in a United First-Class lounge, Over in the A section where you enter through security, near gates 27, 26. Newark Liberty International Airport, as you would know, is the worst airport in America, and is only 16 spots shy of being the worst airport in the world. It must be true, the report (study) is on the internet – https://njersy.co/2U0BIYu. Not to worry, we had the United Lounge thanks to Chase. It was wonderful; good soup, the cheddar broccoli was fantastic, lots of finger foods, salads, free alcohol (pity I stopped all alcohol in 2005, and Narda only had one glass of wine, now Narda is sleepy, but just the thought of unlimited alcohol made me a bit drunk with memories of when and why I don’t anymore), juices, coffee and on and on, good Wi-Fi, comfy seats. I was obviously a bogan (an Australian term, look it up) in the wrong setting but who cares? I had my stuff spread all over; computer mixed with food and drinks; clothing scattered about… Life is good. After six-hours we had to leave our natural habitat and go sit with the riffraff, waiting for our flight to the world-class-cosmopolitan city of Albany, New York.
At Albany Airport we rented a car for the week. Albany is an important place in our world. We lived there 2002 – 2006, teaching at Albany Academy for Girls and Albany Academy for Boys. That was a neat gig; Narda was the chair of performing arts and I was the chair of technology, for both schools. We even shared a small office; two chairs living the life. I also taught part time at the State University of Albany and at Russell Sage College, Troy. We were in the area for those years to look after my father who was in his late 90s (he hung out until he was 102 – https://neuage.org/100) I grew up (well, made a grand try of it) nearby in the town of Clifton Park, leaving there in 1964 when I was 17 to explore the world. The farm I grew up on is below, that is my brother and me on the barn roof. I think this was taken early 1960s. Now route nine is four lanes and the farm is all concrete with Cracker Barrel exactly sitting where our house once did. As usual when in this area we ate at Cracker Barrel and as usual I thought about what a change in sixty-years. Where I used to live I now eat – not so unusual – though in this case it is. Cracker Barrel is one of the few chain restaurants we go to. Not expensive and a good feed, especially when one is a vegetarian and the other eats roadkill.
We went to Oneonta, to visit my sister and her family for a couple of days. She is a very talented artist (https://omordah.com/). Narda sang with Susan’s dog Kota,
The Dog Whisper (video) https://bit.ly/2kq3dNO
we talked about our lives, explored the Oneonta area had lunch at some nifty cafe then drove back to our Airbnb in Clifton Park. We like going to this part of the world, having bought two one-hundred year old houses and renovating them https://neuage.org/house in the boutique historic town of Round Lake, New York. Returning to one’s childhood stomping grounds is a mind twister. I left when I was 16-17 years old, came back over the years to visit my parents in the 1960s, a few times in the 1970s, twice in the 1980s (once as a single parent with two children in tow; age six-months and two and half), 1992 (again with children following along), then not again until Narda and I moved there in 2002. As all places it has changed in my seventy years back and forth. Lots of suburbs, shopping centres, freeways. I grew up on a farm; they don’t seem to exist anymore. Clifton Park was established in the 17th century and named in 1707, not really a new burb. I went to Shenedehowa Central School. When I started in 1954, there were 1700 students for the whole school now there are more than 9800 students spread over a few campuses. Just an example of the growth of this area. Where I grew up there is a shopping centre. When I lived there Clifton Park had one small general store, the church I got dragged to for many years, and two pubs. The cemetery is there, though a bit shaggy. We went and saw my father’s, mother’s, and brother’s grave. There were several people raking up leaves. A couple of people remembered my parents and one fellow remembers my mum as his elementary school teacher in the early 1950s at the old school on Cemetery Road, just a hundred metres from the cemetery.
We sold our houses in Round Lake a few years ago. In our large house the new owners found a box of stuff I had left behind. Instead of tossing the content they wrote me so we went to visit and collect the box of stuff that should have been tossed. There were a lot of records from the early 1900s. I kept two for us and two for my son who likes to mix tunes in his studio back in Melbourne. This happened to us the last time we were there, a couple of years ago, several boxes of stuff we didn’t really want in the first place were waiting for us. Stuff that was more than a hundred-years old. Stuff that was never meant to be dragged across the world then down-under to Australia, but I did. More boxes in the shed laying in the trenches for declutter day. Or as I recently said to my son, good luck when we die sorting out our stuff. Of course, Narda and I know everything will be sent off to landfill. Four sons, no collectors. Where have we failed.
This has been another one of those ‘catching up’ trips. Everywhere we go. To add to our list we had dinner with several of Narda’s teaching mates from Albany Academy. By the end of the trip we would have caught up with six from our teaching days in China (in Denver, Colorado Springs, and in Florida), four from upstate New York, everyone Narda taught with during her five-years at St Lukes in NYC, as well as friends of mine since high school in the mid-1960s. As well as my sister and family, Narda’s sons, and other once-have-known people. A lot has to do with Facebook, keeping up with folks.
We also met an old fellow probably well into his 90s at De Voe’s Rainbow Orchard, there on Route Nine, Clifton Park, who remembers my father. DeVoe’s has been around since 1931. My father used to pick fruit since it opened. I used to pick fruit there too; apples and strawberries that I remember, in the 1950s and early 1960s. When we lived in the area 2002 – 2005 we used to go there for our fruit and vegetables. If you are in the area, get off the Northway (the freeway between Montreal and New York City) Exit 9, Clifton Park and go up Route 9 – it is right before Walmart. Tell them Terrell and Narda said hi.
By 26th May it was time to head toward our next adventure. We dropped off the rental car at Albany Airport and got a Lyft to the Albany/Rensselaer train station for the ride to DC. It stops for a change in NYC and got us to DC at 8.30 pm where Narda’s son, Chris, collected us. Amtrak is a better train than the Overland. We took the Overland from Adelaide to Melbourne recently (722 Kilometres) and the eleven-hour ride was good but there is no Wi-Fi, or electric outlets. Amtrak to DC from Albany (600 Kilometres) took about seven hours and we had Wi-Fi and we could charge our laptops. However, the Overland provided us with good meals, ( we paid extra for that) and the seats, though old, are comfortable with a lot of leg room. We love trains everywhere. The ride along the Hudson from Albany to NYC is great. We used to love taking that train in the winter when it was snowing.
The day after we got to DC we went to the Memorial Day Parade (see our one minute slideshow) https://bit.ly/2kCjmPY
The parade seemed a bit boring with mainly high school bands but still worth the watch. We walked many hours, following the parade and wandering around DC. There are many things that make DC amazing. One is Rock Creek that goes through the district. It was a ten-minute walk from Chris and Jessica’s house where we were staying to the creek. The park was created by an Act of Congress in 1890. It was only the third national park established by the U.S., following Yellowstone in 1872 and Mackinac National Park in 1875. Three-year old Liam would ride his bike alongside us, and it became almost a daily walk. One can be in nature, on a wooded trail following a mountain stream then be walking or bike riding to the White House, Capitol, museums all in a very short space of time.
Narda, Liam, Jessica, and Stuart at Rock Creek on one of our frequent walks.
Here is our one-minute slideshow of Rock Creek Park Sunday Walk. https://bit.ly/2lZzoUq
See our slideshow for the Smithsonian Museums, Smithsonian Museums https://bit.ly/2lCwHrP
Brendan, Narda’s son teaching in Pakistan, arrived on the third of June and we went to collect him at the airport. On the sixth the rest of the family arrived from Australia; Stuart (making the third son to be present in DC), Narda’s ex-husband and his wife. Narda’s birthday was on the eighth, making this her favourite birthday of all time: three sons, two husbands and a grandson. A couple of days later was Chris’ 40th birthday, the reason we are all in DC. We had Brendan’s 40th birthday in Phnom Penh a couple of years ago (we went to that and so did Stuart and the other husband), the next 40th will be my son, who lives in Melbourne. We haven’t sorted what to do for that yet. Stuart wants to have his 40th in Bali in a couple of years. Fact being, Narda and I may be getting old.
We drove Brendan to Union Station so he could catch a bus to Pittsburgh for a few days visiting a friend. Being near the capitol building we thought we would just park the car nearby and go catch a senate hearing. Life seems so simple before having a clue that there could be more than the original idea. Any original idea. Firstly, we were unable to find a place to park, obviously, and carparks looked expensive, and we saw a few tow trucks sneaking around looking for customers – like our car, so we just kept going away from the capitol. Going up Third Street or Third Avenue, not sure which now, we noticed it looked quite residential and folks were street parking with no meters or harassing signs to tell them to piss off. On Rhode Island and Third we shoved the car into a spot and headed out. As we needed a toilet (bathroom to the Yanks) and there were no shops anywhere within sight we saw a bus stop and thought that a random bus ride would get us to some place of relief. Along came bus number 96 and we got on having no idea where to. We have always enjoyed random bus rides in various cities and where this was going, we didn’t care as long as we saw a shopping centre or public loo along the way. Lo and behold the bus wound around hither and thither ending at Union Station, right where we had left Brendan a couple of hours earlier and a couple of blocks to the Capitol. The Hill and all that. Can’t recall but I think we found a loo which was our original mission – no doubt at Union Station.
There were long lines everywhere in the visitor’s centre, except at the international desk. We showed our Australian Driver Licenses and became our own little line, getting into the senate with seats to spare. Sucked in Yanks, waiting in lines. Apparently, if you are from the US of A you need to get a note from your representative, we don’t have one because we are foreigners.
Well, I am a duel citizen but we didn’t tell them. As long as I keep my mouth shut no one knows that I am from these woods. It was all quite boring as there was a vote being held on some person or the other taking on some position on some committee. The vote was in the 80s or 90s for and only 8 or nine against, so everyone seemed to like the dude. We got to see Chuck Schumer who we favour and Mitch McConnell (Moscow Mitch) whom we don’t. If we had done it all correctly, we would have gone to the Congress chambers. AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was there and they had a big vote about The Dreamers thing that has been in the news for quite some time. AOC, is my hero in politics at the moment.
We easily found the bus back to where we had parked, and that was our day on The Hill.
As Chris and Jessica’s house is so full we were lucky that we could get an Airbnb two houses away from them for a couple of weeks. We still spent most of the day together but how many family members fit into a three-bedroom house? Chris and Jessica were working on making their basement into an Airbnb while we were there, it is finished now, so if you want a great place at a great price a block from bus service, not far to DC central with all their buildings and the metro to everywhere, let us know. We have a good connection to help you out.
On Narda’s birthday we found that there was a gay parade so we went to see floats and folks dressed up. As it started rather late in the day we were there for only a bit and did not see much as we were all going to dinner for the birthday girl. This was good for lots of reasons for Narda. From 2002 – 2015 we were overseas (from Australia) on her birthday with only me around. Since being back in Australia we have had a few birthdays with her family though not with all her sons since 2001.
Birthdays are why we are here, not just us as humans on planet earth, we the visitors for family birthdays in Washington DC. One could say the main event was Chris’ 40th birthday. Or we could say the main event was Narda’s 65th. Or are we here to celebrate Father’s Day in the USA? (Father’s Day is in September in Australia). Or are we all here just to groove? Nonetheless, Narda’s birthday was first, not first as she is the oldest ever, but first on the list of celebrations. 8th of June. After twenty-years of gift giving I was having a difficult time finding the best next thing. Fortunately, in Denver, Kay and Frank had a nifty wine bottle top that chirped. (ChirpyTop Wine Pourer) Kay got me one and I was able to keep it hidden for a month in my bag. (they have some over at Amazon, so when you are purchasing one of my books and need a chirping wine pourer go to https://amzn.to/2lMfpZc) Nothing unusual about that except Narda is always repacking my bag and for a month I was constantly rushing to pack my bag. She thought I was taking responsibility for my packing, ha ha, the month is over. I always get her an Amazon voucher for her birthday and she buys books for her Kindle all year with it, so it was good to have something to go along with the usual. Of course, Narda’s best-ever birthday was because she had her three sons together. And a couple of husbands. One of Narda’s sons is a pastor and the previous Sunday (my rare times I go to church – with Narda to see her son) one of his congregation, thinking I was Chris’ father, made a mention of something and I said, ‘oh, that is her other husband’. So Narda’s three sons, her ex and his wife, Chris’ wife and the grandkid, Liam, Narda and me went for a walk along the beautiful Rock Creek that flows through DC, and in the evening went out for a great birthday dinner.
Narda’s three children, (Chris, Stu, Brendan) not such children now, watching the Adelaide Crows in a rare win early one morning DC time, evening game time in Adelaide. Or perhaps they were watching something else, as they have wine glasses, so maybe not early in the morning. Though I did see them with their father, Peter, one morning, five am, glued to the telly watching a Crow’s game.
Narda and I moved into the neighbour’s Airbnb leaving a crowded house for the others. It is great, we have meals together and spend the day tromping around DC. The Aussie males had a great first morning in DC, arriving Saturday, on Narda’s birthday; Stuart, Peter and Marion were just in time to watch the Adelaide Crows game that was being played Friday evening in Adelaide along with Chris and Brendan. And to make everyone happy the Crows won. In my Australian family the Crow’s situation makes the weekend around us. Narda and I are not really fans, though we went to a game once. There are two teams in Adelaide: Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows. Narda’s family are Crow supporters except for Chris who favours a team in Victoria. Funny how wins and losses can affect a family for a couple of days, and it spreads all the way to Pakistan. If the Crows lose, which they seem to do often, we can hear the groans all the way up to Pakistan with Brendan expressing his grief. I suppose it is like the Yankees and the Mets in New York. Being a New Yorker, I grew up liking the Yankees and even though I no longer follow professional baseball in the USA I still would be a Yankee fan if I were a fan of baseball at all.
By the 10th of June we were all settled for Chris’ 40th birthday. We had a nice family gathering at a Mexican place in town, and then on the following weekend, a party a block away at a pub that was decorated for us and Chris’ friends. All fun and party!!! As is always the case, Narda and I left and were home and asleep before ten, probably before nine thirty.
As it was the end of the school year, we all toddled off to watch Liam graduate from preschool in full graduation drag. They sure won’t do such a production in Australia. The excited family (Narda, Stuart, Brendan, Peter (ex), Chris, Jessica, Marian (ex’s wife) watching the event of the year with Liam expressing excitement beyond belief.
I spent a couple of days wandering around DC on my own. One show I particularly liked was THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH PRESENTS:
THE DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TWITTER LIBRARY See the Washington Post on this at http://tiny.cc/46eybz
18 June Tuesday
The Washington Express Bus is cheap, $30, takes about 3.5 hours, has Wi-Fi, power points, and comfortable seats. I was so comfortable that I left my phone on the bus, rang them as soon as we discovered I didn’t have a phone on me (minutes – such is the importance of always being connected) but the bus had already left and they said come back the next day. Sure enough the driver had found my phone and once again I felt whole. Not that I lose stuff (every day)… outside of my phone at Red Rock Amphitheatre, Denver, a month earlier but I sort of left my laptop on the same bus company a year and a half earlier. We discovered so when we had gotten settled at Chris and Jessica’s house in December 2017. At midnight we drove to their depot in the back blocks of Jersey City, recovered the wandering computer, and got back home intact hours later. No point in going re. other items gone astray (some returned) over the years, suffice to say, Washington Express Bus is a good company.
Our flat in Bronx. OMG. Narda puts a lot of effort in finding us places to park. NYC was pretty much booked full due to gay month or some such gathering. Brendan was at a conference at Columbia University for this week, sent there by the American School of Lahore, so Narda was tasked with finding a place not too far. Brooklyn was too far, Manhattan too expensive and the Bronx, just right. The Goldie Locks of burbs; close enough to Columbia, affordable, transportation, local Bronx vibe. The apartment was a bit small, two small bedrooms, Narda suggested the boys could share one room and sleep foot to head. Of course, why not, the girls do (age 5 and 7) when we go camping in our caravan. Brendan took the coach, Stu the small bedroom and we took the master suite, meaning there was enough room to turn around in. We had a small, one person could fit, kitchen. And the lounge was large enough for us to sit in when Brendan wasn’t sleeping. Across the street was the local ambulance centre, 8 – 10 ambulances about the place when they weren’t sounding their sirens and roaming the Bronx. Next to our four-storey building were 25 storey projects, blocks of them. Being summer, the locals were sitting in front of the projects playing loud foreign Bronx music, until when, I don’t know, once the earplugs were in deep enough I could hear them but eventually would go to sleep, by morning it was qui except for the usual sirens, babies crying, dogs barking – just like in those TV detective shows. We, being fearless, would walk the fifteen minutes to the nearest subway, which was at Yankee Stadium. Even at night. We were the token whites for the hood, and everyone ignored us. We had a key lock outside of the building to leave the front door and our apartment door key in. One evening, Stuart had gone home earlier than us, and the keys were not in the ‘secure-keylock box’. Poor fellow had to wait quite some time for us. Narda rang the Airbnb owner who did not seem alarmed and said she thought she knew who would have it. Considering we each had a laptop (mine was one day old, Narda’s a couple of months old – both expensive) and our passports, money, etc were all inside, we were not impressed. Eventually someone let us in and we were all highly annoyed.
Growing up in New York, of course, I was a Yankees fan. My long-time friend, Marta, a Yankee fan, suggested we catch up at a game. The last time we had a quick breakfast with her when driving through Poughkeepsie, New York, a couple of years earlier. We have known one another since the mid-1960s, when she was my brother’s girlfriend and we try to catch up when we can. A few years ago, she wrote a book on my brother, which I was fortunate enough to contribute to. ‘The Art and Life of Robert J. Adsit’ (https://martawaterman.com/).
Narda and her two sons, Brendan and Stuart, had never been to a baseball game. I had stopped following baseball after my son, Leigh, pitcher the for the LA Dodgers, died in 2003 (a couple of weeks after turning 20), and for me this was closer to watch a game again. Since the age of ten, Leigh said he would play for the Yankees when he grew up, and he never got far enough in life to fulfil his goal.
We met Marta at a well-known eatery (I forgot the name) a block from the stadium. We were all excited. It was raining and we were worried the game would be stopped. Our tickets were the next to the last row at the top. Marta had said this was the best place as it was undercover in case it rained. Lucky us, the section in front of us, seats being in the $150 range were wet, our seats were $28 and dry. The game started at 8 pm instead of seven, after the rain stopped. Narda and I forgot to bring jumpers and getting cold we went to the stadium shop and found the cheapest jumpers, $75. In the future we forget about the cost and remember the experience. Well this is three-months later, I have the jumper on now, and still remember the cost. The Yankees were doing well, there were some homeruns, and we were all very happy. By 11 pm there were still a few innings to go, we were tired, Marta had a long way to go home to Woodstock, New York, so we left and discovered the next day the Yankees had won. If you would like to share the photos of our one-minute slideshow see them at http://tiny.cc/2kt2bz
We spent the rest of the week wandering NYC. I got to tell Brendan and Stuart stories from when I was a hippie in NYC in the mid-1960s; about 1963 – 1967, before I wandered on down to Florida, New Orleans and finally to California and Oregon ending the 1960s in Waikiki. (I saw myself as a beatnik at the time instead of the commercial hippie label). Whether everyone wanted to hear my stories or not they got them. I even got to show them St Mark’s Church on East 10th Street where I read poetry with famous poets such as Alan Ginsburg in a 1965 Fast for Peace reading. St Mark’s Place (East 8th street) was my stomping grounds in the 1960s and on the top of my list of places to see again and to show the family.
In her 400-year history of St. Mark’s Place (St. Marks Is Dead), Ada Calhoun called the street “like superglue for fragmented identities” and wrote that “the street is not for people who have chosen their lives … [it] is for the wanderer, the undecided, the lonely, and the promiscuous.” St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street.
‘A’ train to JFK to Florida arrived 7 pm, dinner at airport – Lyft to Lawrence’s.
Lawrence is our last house exchange for this three-month trip. We taught with Lawrence in China. He was a principal at our school. Lawrence helped me set up one of my most fun-filled positions at any school. I put together an inhouse television station. See sample of DAISlive at https://bit.ly/2ltar3z I still have Lawrence’s greenscreen and lights, they are in the shed for our little video studio that we use to make silly movies with the grandchildren. We spent a couple of weeks at Lawrence’s home. Because Lawrence belonged to the local country club nearby, we did a daily swim in a very warm pool. Our only mishap was when Narda picked up a hitchhiker – a tick, as we walked along the lakefront amongst the grass instead of going around on the road. This is the view from Lawrence’s backyard. I pulled out the tick (the photo has been censored, in other words, Narda doesn’t want me to share it with you – the tick waving from Narda’s leg), we put it in a jar, with its little antennas gyrating furiously, we went off to the nearest emergency room. Just to be sure we did not pick up Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, an infectious disease caused by a bacterium named Borrelia which is spread by these little buggers. We spent a good fifteen minutes at the hospital, the nurse looked at it, the doctor looked at it, prescribed an antibiotic, she did not want to see the still dancing tick in the jar, and, I watched the clock, spent a whooping five-minutes with the patient, Narda. The next person came in with the bill for us to pay on the spot. $1500. OK, we are insured but hey that is a bit rich. We were told the doctor bill would come separate, and it did, a few weeks later, $950. OMG! What a corrupt system the US medical institution is. If you have a calculator handy, let’s say the doctor sees 5 people an hour at about a thousand each, times five hours a day for a four-day week…. Gee, a new Bentley every month.
Around the lake there is a lot of wildlife. We heard that there was even a bear and a cub or two, but we didn’t see them. We did see deer that came up to the house and lots of birds that visited.
Our first trip was to the Cape Canaveral Coast https://bit.ly/2kgCbs6 We enjoyed our newish Mercedes, quite a luxury compared to the tug we drive back in Australia, Billy, who pulls our caravan, Holiday, around various destinations in Australia.
We had set out early in the morning having seen online that there was a space thingy launch. After finding a good spot along the coast someone passing by said it had been scrubbed. Nevertheless, we went to Cape Canaveral then on to Coco Beach which advertisements claimed to be one of the more famous/beautiful beaches, in the universe? Living in Australia, beaches everywhere, and having been on beaches on several Hawaii islands, as well as beaches in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and lots of other places, we were excited to go to a ‘must put on your bucket list’ that we saw advertised in many places. Wow what a dump. Sorry, just first and only impression. We went to their idea of a fancy pier, ‘It’s Not Just a Day at the Beach, It’s the Ultimate Beach Adventure! A historic landmark on Florida’s Space Coast, the world-famous Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier …’ Really? Last year we were at the Brighton Pier in the UK. Now there is a pier. We trotted out to the end of the pier; overpriced restaurants, wannabe pubs, generations XYZ struggling to look relevant. Nothing special. Nevertheless, I quickly added it to my bucket list so that I could cross it out. On the way to the coast is the beautiful Manatee Sanctuary Park, located at 701 Thurm Blvd. It is a 10-acre park that is set on the Banana River.
Lawrence’s daughter was still at home. Lawrence and the rest of his family were in Russia on a visit. She is attending her second year at University of Central Florida. It is the first time we have ever been in an exchanged home with someone still there. But what a lovely young person. Young people could take lessons from her in social skills. Perhaps growing up in Russia makes a difference. Having an academic family (mother has a school in Moscow that she can run from anywhere online; Lawrence has been a principal at a few international schools, and they are both teaching in Orlando.) She shared some meals with us (being a vegan was the first compatible thing) and was always willing to listen to us, something few people would do – respect us old tarts. She showed us around her university and gave advice of places to visit. Her name is Sasha, my son’s name is Sacha – and his mother is Russian so that was interesting. She also drives a new Subaru Outback, the same as my Sacha in Melbourne, same colour too. That is where the similarity stops, though Sacha is a hard working determined young person (well not quit so young – edging 40) and Sasha (maybe 20) is extremely determined, talking about what she wants to do her masters in, something mathematical and beyond our brain space. An example, we went away for a few days, coming home on the eve of the 4th of July, party time for most Americans, got home about eleven pm and she was at the kitchen table studying for an upcoming test. A young person not covered in tattoos, or on drugs, that values education above all and that had the time and patience for the likes of us. I didn’t know they still made them.
Slideshow for Orlando, Disney Springs, https://youtu.be/eg4iZ-DXhF8
We were not interested in Disney crap, which is what this area is all about. “Orlando, Florida, had 75 million visitors last year as the theme park mecca continued to be the most visited destination in the United States” Why? What is wrong with humans? OK, so I did take my kids to Disneyland in LA (twice) during my single-parent days, but that is because my friend Daniel Bushnell, who we were visiting (1985 & 1992) talked me into it. Suffice to say that Narda and I did not have interest in going to such an overrated overpriced thingy. Saying all that, Sasha recommended going to Disney Springs, which is a bit like a free Disneyland without the silliness. We even took one of their free buses to some Disney village place and back. There were OK restaurants there and lots of children wearing Disney hats, and their parents too.We took two more road trips. One to St. Augustine / Daytona Beach and the other to the west coast, see here for a one-minute or so, slideshow of our trip to and west coast of Florida, https://bit.ly/2lCu1dy
This picture, is the result of a very long trip in my world. I left home in 1964, before I turned 17. I had a few mishaps/missteps in life back in Clifton Park, New York / Shenendehowa Central School. Suffice to say that I left before completing tenth grade, not that I was doing well, I was a terrible student and the only subject that I passed was band. I took off on my motorcycle, ended up in Florida, not sure why in Groveland, but that is where I ended. When the next school year began, I was 17, sort of midway between tenth and eleventh grade, I signed up at Groveland School. My parents must have funded me, I don’t think I worked. Believe it or not, my apartment became a hangout for teenagers. I think there was some beer and females involved, short story shorter, my academic career came to a grinding halt, I lost my apartment, so I went to Key West, Florida. This is in my book, ‘Leaving Australia’ available from Amazon. I remember reading an article when I was there that Disney was buying up land in the area for another Disneyland. If only I had bought land, there then… so on our trip to Englewood we had to go through Groveland. I think I remembered something or the other but where I lived, who knows? The original school had burnt down (no it wasn’t me) but I had to return to the place where my life was a bit shabby. Here I was parked in front of where I once was a crazy teenager, now with a new Mercedes (OK, not mine, but still I was driving), and with a PhD. I had my tenth grade education until I was in my mid-40s then did the long haul of seventeen years of school in Australia, getting my BA in journalism, Honours in Children’s literature, and Masters in communications from Deakin University in Melbourne, then the seven year stretch of completing a PhD at the University of South Australia. A few years later I got a teaching degree too.
Thanks Australia, you’re the best. And of course, hooking up with the supremely cool and popular, all-star wife, Narda and my groovy son, Sacha. And I am only 72, just starting this exciting trip called life.
Back on track… we were on our way to Englewood to see Sean and Jean, whom we worked with in China for a few years. We saw them last in Myanmar (remember the photo of us with them and our friends in Colorado; Kay and Frank, all of us on motorbikes, earlier in this short narrative?) and as this trip seems to be a reunion of people we have worked with a couple of more were on the ticket. (this must be a reunion year as we will be seeing our friends; Tim and Agnes, in Chiang Rai, Thailand in a few weeks)
On the fourth of July we went up to Tarpon Springs to visit Kathleen and Jimmy. Kathleen, I have known since my strange days at Shenedehowa, she was my girlfriend back in tenth grade before misadventures/missteps/mishaps found me headed to the wonderful town of Groveland in 1963. The wonders of Facebook, we had gotten in touch about ten years ago, forty-five years after last seeing one another. We caught up for a dinner a couple of years ago in Clifton Park, New York, and we were planning to stay a couple of days this time in Tarpon Springs. Unfortunately, it did not work out and we only had lunch at a very nice seaside restaurant. Also unfortunately we do not have any photos of our visit, but of course we all look the same as we did back in 1963 so if you have the Shenendehowa Yearbook for 1963, as I do, you can see how we still look the same, except my hair is a tad bit longer, there is some grey shit sneaking into my once beautiful black hair, now brown through no fault of my own, and I am more educated, somewhat.
Knowing we had a five-hour drive ahead of us, and it being fourth of July, we left as darkness overtook our visit. It was an interesting drive with fireworks throughout the night especially when we got into the Disney-Madness area there were fireworks welcoming us back to Orlando on both sides of the highway and in front of us. When we got home around eleven pm, they were still going off in our neighbourhood, as I mentioned earlier, Sasha was home studying for an exam when we came in.
We had a few down days, going to our local pool and gym and getting caught up on writing. I completed two more books and made them available on Amazon;
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
In my world a biggie as I have spent a lot of hours over this past year, including three-months on this trip getting them finished so it was all making me feel a bit accomplished.
It is terrible with the gun stuff in the USA, one marketing tool that was creepy we saw was a gun-proof backpack for children. It was quite heavy and for $250 seemed a strange way to protect a child. Firstly, children’s backpacks are heavy as it is. I watch Mabel, age 5, and Maggie age 7, with their backpacks and they seem to weigh as much as the child carting them about. Then what is a child to do? Someone starts shooting at them and they put their heavy bag in front of them to stop the bullets?
We did one last road trip up the east coast to St Augustine, the oldest city in the USA. The area was first spotted on April 2, 1513 by Spanish dude, Juan Ponce de León. The city grew, the Spanish killed off lots of Indians with Smallpox and Measles and were themselves raided in karmic led attacks by pirates and the Brits and various other unfriendly folks. Nearly a century of conflicts and raids convinced the Spanish that a strong fort was needed at St. Augustine. In 1672, the Spaniards began construction on the Castillo de San Marcos, creating the fort as a barrier to enemies. The structure still stands today. That is the history lesson for now.
On the way to St. Augustine we stopped at Daytona Beach. I had only been here once, back when I had left home in 1964. I had gone to Daytona Beach for a holiday – perhaps that is not the exact narrative, I don’t remember why I was there but I was walking through town along the boardwalk thinking of sleeping on the beach at night as I had little or no money for a hotel, and at the time did not have a house to exchange and there were no Airbnbs, if I had money. Short story shorter, police stopped me, put me in jail for vagrancy, so I had to call my parents for money to go wherever I was headed in life at the time. This was another one of those closure moments. Hey Dayton police, look at me, driving a Mercedes through your ungrateful town. Meaning they were not grateful for someone returning and spending money in their town (we had lunch).
We took the scenic route from Daytona Beach up to St. Augustine along route A1A along the coast, so much better than the freeway which we took back to Orlando from St. Augustine. Hurricane Matthew in 2017 wiped out much of this road and it is currently going through a rebuild, especially at Flagler Beach where it is slow moving but interesting to see. Lucky for this area Hurricane Dorian, September, 2019) came close but did no more damage. Check for hurricanes before driving along here, otherwise, enjoy.
With a few days left in our USA odyssey we flew back up to DC to say a final goodbye to Chris, Jessica, and Liam. When we were at Chris’ birthday party at the local pub, I got to talking with the neighbour who gave us his Airbnb for a couple of weeks, and he said that he was a bell ringer at the Washington National Cathedral. I said we would love to see the bells and the cathedral, and we made arrangements for when we came back after Florida to get the tour.
In morning went to Washington National Cathedral with Alex for an hour and a half – walked around the cathedral. If you don’t look at any of our slideshows do check out this video of the bell ringing tour we had, https://tinyurl.com/y4ydfdym
Simply amazing. He has been a bell ringer here for more than a decade, including a four-hour session on the fourth of July. He knows about what places in the world have bells, such as knowing which cathedrals in Adelaide had them. This is not a common gig in the world as most places have recorded bells ringing. Also, this is not one of the tours on offer by the Washington National Cathedral, making us feel special, well we always do, but this was extra special. We were up in the tower overlooking the city, even went out on the roof. Did you know that the CIA/FBI have listening devices and cameras straight across to the Russian Embassy from where we were? Of course, we are not admitting or denying that we know anything about this. It could have just been something we saw once in a comic book. Or not.
And that is it. One other thing, we do not eat out much, my crazy dietary desires/wants/requirements (vegetarian, low-carb, organic, blessed by a Tibetan monk/Hippie minstrel, and all the rest) along with our opposition to tipping (hey, if you come to Australia, don’t tip, it is not done here, no no no) precludes our eating out, but because it is Liam’s favourite place we did a few times have Chipotle’s takeaway. No tipping, inexpensive, immigrant-flavoured dishes, vegetarian options. I personally only had the food twice as it is high-carb and my blood sugars went to high, plus it is not blessed by a Tibetan monk or Hippie minstrels. But if you want a good feed Chipotle is OK.
That was our little trip. As I got several of my books from Amazon delivered to Chris’ house, we had them in our luggage. When we opened our suitcases in Adelaide, we saw that they had been thoroughly inspected. My books were separated from their lovely envelopes. What did they think were in these packages? As we have been watching Queen of the South on Netflix, we thought obviously we look the part of drug mules. Saying that, if you get the opportunity to see a great movie, see The Mule, directed and starring Clint Eastwood, I would say his best flick.
See ya next time. Next week we will be in Thailand, taking the train up from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, spending a month in Sri Lanka, couple of weeks in Pakistan visiting with Narda’s son, Brendan, then back to Thailand for a couple of weeks. Just a nine-week trip instead of our usual three-months. Perhaps, we are getting older and need more time at home. No that would not be correct as we are home for two months for Christmas when hopefully Narda’s three sons come and my son Sacha and his partner are here then to The Netherlands for three months. Follow our blogs to see if we are in your neighbourhood somewhere in the world. Cheers Narda and Terrell
In the Aljazeera interview today 16 September, 2019, with Imran Khan “Imran Khan on ‘genocide’ in Kashmir and possible war with India” Khan said he could see Pakistan starting using nuclear weapons against India – we will be there in a month – hey mate, wait for us… https://bit.ly/2lXohv9
Videos associated with this blog:
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 at http://youtu.be/8Osc_Ckmz3E (Phuket)
http://youtu.be/8YGAf2A7NtM (Ao Nang)
(Koh Klang Island, Krabi) http://youtu.be/92Vx8hSsXzs
What Narda saw from her hammock http://youtu.be/l02Wi9lYdbc
2013 http://neuage.us/2013/ I could do over. Perhaps in a parallel universe or at least in a better written narrative I would have changed a few things. But what I would have changed could have been simple infractions such as not getting as many haircuts; I think there were four maybe five even six that happened, none by my suggestion, all by Narda’s perceptions of what a dude at my age should look like or what her dude should look like at any age. But to change anything else… nah. I spent a lot less time on Facebook than in the previous years; finding it a bit too much time-consuming. How many baby pictures can one see in a week – do they change that much? How many meals people post about, photos of last night’s pizza??? or comments about what I have no idea what they are talking about. So I check once a month or so and it is great seeing what folks are doing and having a peep into others lives; like everyone else my Facebook friends span a lifetime which in my case is lots of decades and lots of interactions and I am grateful for the people in and out of my life the past years and I will always be interested in what they are doing so I suppose at the end of the day Facebook is really great and as long as it exists or perhaps as long as I do; whichever comes/goes first…
2013 was a good year. They all are; with their different presentations/illusions/fulfillment/obstacles, choices to make or crafted by others and we are swept up in those choices leaving us to make our choices within the realm of someone else choices who no doubt is making choices within someone else parameters or perhaps if there are other life times we are reacting to how we acted before or setting the stage for the next life or the return to the One or we are preparing to be dinner for a great white shark or the revenge for someone’s belief system or simply the end of the localized life system we call our life.
Simply put, as everything in my life, it was good. Four years ago after my school in New York City ‘dismissed’ everyone over 55 – there were about eight of us. I signed up for employment assistance in NYC and signed up with the New Jersey unemployment bureau as we own property in Jersey City and I was getting unemployment from that great state. I have worked the past three years at Dalian American International School and I have been happy with that but I forget to stop my New Jersey employment alerts. This is all they had to offer me this week….
|Your job matches from Jobs4Jersey Job Alert|
|Your resume generated the following matches|
Not sure how my resume gives me this sort of job ability. Perhaps this is all one gets offered after a PhD in Communication and New Media at the University of South Australia. Gosh Darn! Spent seven years on the bloody thing with a 575 page book at the end of it and the whole thing online at http://neuage.org/ODAM (Online Discourse Analysis Method) which I had once dreamt of becoming ODAT (Online Discourse Analysis Theory) but of course becoming a theory takes a long time and many folks on-board and perhaps a Nobel Prize; nothing of which my way ventured.
|UNKNOWN, NEW YORK, NY|
|Adventure Educator NEW YORK NY TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR GUIDING EXPLORATIONS OF THE EVERETT CHILDREN’S ADVENTURE GARDEN FOR SCHOOL PROGRAMS AND DROP-IN FAMILIES. IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE COORDINATOR OF ADVENTURE GARDEN PROGRAMS, PROVIDE FEEDBACK AND IDEA FOR DEVELOPING AND IMPROVING CURRICULUM.|
|SUMMER CAMP COUNSELOR|
|The Educational Alliance, NEW YORK, NY|
|Summer Camp Counselor DESIRE TO SPEND THE SUMMER OUTDOORS ALL STAFF IS REQUIRED TO: TAKE A CAMP BUS TO CAMP SWIM ATTEND ALL ORIENTATIONS BEFORE SUMMER ATTEND ALL STAFF MEETINGS DURING THE SUMMER SAFETY IS COUNSELOR’S #1 PRIORITY. COUNSELORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE HEALTH, SAFETY, AND GE|
I could have stayed in the States and had jobs like this to prospect for. Wow what a mistake. That is all they have to offer me for this week and I think for the month. Unemployment was/is brutal but I did get another degree to amend my PhD; one in teaching, which got me lined up for life in China. It was a good year in China. Not that I am keen on China and being now in Thailand I could easily turn my nose up to it. Of course I would do that in Viet Nam, Cambodia, Guatemala, India and a number of other countries that we have loved. China has done us well but it is a difficult environment.
The people in Thailand, India, Viet Nam and Cambodia to name a few places, are much gentler and dare I say cleaner and well-mannered? For example we have had motor scooters in India (watching out for cows everywhere of course), Viet Nam and here in Thailand and I would not be so sure of doing the same in China. They all move so aggressively and without indication of what comes next, like for example, a vehicle next to them.
But China has done us well. The people are warm and friendly it is just when they group together in the millions such as on the trains and buses and sidewalks and shopping centres and food places that they get pushy and did I mention spit a lot? We started 2013 – January 1 and of course ended 2012 – in Hanoi. This has been pretty much an all Asia year with our usual visit to Australia (just once this year), the States; saw my sister and her family in upstate New York. I have only seen her like four times in my life as I was adopted and she wasn’t – my adopted father said it was because I talk all the time but I never really believed that. I first found her in the 1980s and saw her with my two sons first in 1991, again in 2003 or so and a couple of times since. My blood-brother who lives in Hawaii I have only seen once.
We checked our beautiful Victorians in Round Lake New York http://neuage.org/house I caught up with friends, a first girl-from 1963 – Kathleen, my adopted http://neuage.indiko.com/robert_adsit.htm brother’s friend, Marta Waterman http://martawaterman.com/ who is writing a book about him and we spent a week in Atlanta with Narda’s son and daughter-in-law. Actually we went to Australia twice; once in February and the other time in July for a couple of weeks. We shifted our belongings in our storage area. This is our life; stored past, boxed memories, what-the-hell-will-we-do-with-this-crap futures. The idea was to spend two maybe three days going through our belongings and tossing crap. We talked about this on endless occasions; well Narda talked and I agreed that we would be ruthless. Our happy result (Narda’s happy result) would be a couple of boxes (she would probably have put smiley faces on them) and everything else would morph into rubbish to be landfill for some future resort in a South Australian vineyard or wherever trash ends up in South Australia.
Meaning that one of my cherished memories protected in a box for a decade or even decades if it had been a box stored from before we met, or even before I had children or even before I left Clifton Park in the mid 1960s; OK so I hoard a bit, and now in landfill to rot away and become a nutrient mixed with a manure composition of too many wayward thoughts upon which a seed would be planted and a grapevine would grow and from that a bottle of fine wine would be produced and I would re-incarnate in 2047 a hundred years after the life I had lived had begun and my need to hoard, no doubt coming from being adopted and having Venus conjunct a Saturn & Pluto exact conjunction 10 degrees 40 minutes of Leo in the 10th house square my Jupiter in Scorpio (it is those fixed signs that have been the bane of my existence) in the first house near my ascendant and I would, to make a long thought short, drink the wine a couple of decades later, 2067, and become intoxicated by memories, that being unidentifiable (after all this is a reincarnation of myself and I may not even believe in reincarnation at that time just as I am not sure whether I believe it this time though there have been times in this life when I did believe in it but not now I think) would just be some flashing images of something stored in my ROM (read-only-memory) because by then with our cyber-enhanced brain we would have embedded search engines and what is real and what is someone else animational thoughts would mesh together much like my thoughts do now. So really thinking about this as we of course all do; in the future we will re-incarnate sort of because our consciousness will be uploaded and we will download the consciousness or plural that if which to have multiple personalities or simply be a Gemini and we will be who we downloaded.
So here I am at the end of 2013 mid-day in a beautiful place in Thailand. Today we have done little or we have done much. Life is so interpretable. This morning I was up at 6.30 AM, crawling out of bed with a mosquito-net covering the bed though I did not fare too well with many bites on both knees. And that is with sleeping under a net as well as using bug spray. And that is one night’s worth of din din for a family of backpacking hungry mosquitoes.
I worked on a video of yesterday’s travel around here, Ao Nang, and when Narda got up an hour later we walked to the nearby shop half an hour down the road and dropped off our laundry. We bought a liter water each found a great stationery shop with all kinds of strange stationary stuff and we bought a bag of stuff. I got some signs in Thai such as one with a line through a handgun. I assume it says ‘do not bring your handgun into the kitchen at tea time’ though not being able to read Thai I do not know. I will put it on the door of our flat at Campus Village when we get back to work. Another one had a picture of a water tap and a light bulb and I assume it says ‘turn off’. It could have said something rude – I will put it on my office door at school. I got a notebook that had some strange translation of English sentences which I find funny and read aloud with Narda hitting me in the side saying I was being rude. This happens so often I will probably start wearing padding under my clothes as apparently I often say inappropriate stuff in public though to me it is funny. We even have a code word that Narda says if she thinks I should shut up – I can’t put it here because then it would no longer be our secret code word for my saying stuff I should not be saying. I hear it at school from her a lot so apparently my humour and her sense of normal decent social verbalization are at times not synchronized.
I took a few photos of ants on flowers and have been sitting writing this and now it is one pm and maybe I will take a nap so we can stay up and watch fireworks tonight. Such is the end of another great year. In our almost all Asia year we went to Shenzhen for an iPad workshop and to Shanghai for a technology conference. We spent a week in Xi’an for Chinese New Year’s hanging out in the Muslim Quarters, seeing the Terracotta Warriors and spending actual Chinese New Year’s at the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. We spent a week in Dandong on the North Korea border and did a few other sides. In early 1981 I started a tofu factory living in and raising my children, babies at the time, selling tofu and tofu products at the same time as dreaming of success in one of many businesses. I had a children’s furniture idea with rocket beds being my first piece I built. Actually it was the last. We dragged that thing around from home to home; I lived in ten houses in ten years, a difficult parenting period. In this photo with my one and only rocket bed; inside was a playhouse and the bed was on top with a bookshelf in the back; my children: Leigh is standing in the front and Sacha is sitting on the bookshelf in the back are all happy campers. The other children were often parked at my house in Mt. Compass for me to look after; I forgot where there hippie parents were off to but this was my lot in life then. I wrote children stories http://neuage.org/stories/ I had a few novels underway; these were handwritten as I did not have a typewriter and computers for the likes of me was not yet available. There was my tofu business http://neuage.us/tofu/ my picture poem business http://picture-poems.net/ and I had about 15 other ideas none of which I can remember at the moment. I was probably doing some astrological readings as I actually believed in it then and I did start a daycare centre in Mt. Compass which was taken over by some women after I had it up and running – one of the themes of my life; move over let women take over. The big business was the tofu business.
The big turning point in my life that never turned was Jurlique. http://www.jurlique.com.au/ I had a bean grinder loaned to me from Jurgen Klein who used our okara (the soy fibre left after making tofu) and some tofu for body creams he was just beginning to make. Years later he would become one of the top cosmic companies and Jurlique would have stores from Australia throughout Europe and Asia to New York City. For a while it looked as if I would be having production in the same factory as Jurlique but as dreams and circumstances changes those dreams never happened and Jurgen has moved onto great success and me, I am writing this. It is these paths we embark on and some continue and some do not. Now when I see a Jurlique store I take a deep breath and wonder how I got so far from my dream and how other people’s dreams are so wonderfully real. Are we assigned paths or do we create them and fall off of them and continue lost for a while or for a long time? If I had been able to put together a successful tofu business would I now have products worldwide or would I at least have been able to have a good stay in Australia? I was building a large tofu factory on Tooperang Road Mount Compass in the old Mount Compass Piggery. My children and I lived at bottom of the hill in a two-story chalet like house. To make a really long story short I had borrowed money from a person who was going to help me sell my products to Sanitarium run by the Seventh Day Adventist. My neighbor who had gotten me the bank loan was some high-to-do person in the organization but things went sour and the factory never got built and Jurgen Klein set up his factory in the old cheese factory in Mt. Barker and he grew his herbs for his product at his home there. We stayed in contact for a little while before my business went bankrupt then I never was in touch again. Just a side note as most of life is compared to the greater whole or lesser hole or larger community or sometimes even to ourselves I have a link to the Seventh-day Adventist mob that I have not consciously created and I have been a vegetarian for about four decades.
This from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Creek_Sanitarium) The Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, United States, was a health resort based on the health principles advocated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, most notably associated with John Harvey Kellogg. The complex was purchased by the U.S. Army during World War II and converted into the Percy Jones Army Hospital.(a funny side note to my larger side note is that I was born in this hospital delivered by an Army Dude: The Physical Me 1. I was born 10th August 1947 Battle Creek Michigan in a military hospital and delivered by Hugh Robins, M.D. and left with the name Terry Miller which was changed upon adoption to Terrell Adsit which was changed when I joined a cult order to Arthur Adsit and upon marriage to Terrell Neuage (first marriage 1980). From Leaving Australia) Kellogg was an advocate of vegetarianism and is best known for the invention of the corn flakes breakfast cereal (which incidentally is the only cereal I eat if I buy commercial cereal other than granola due to its low sugar content)
There has been a lot of studies on random events in life and that we just put meaning to randomness to make it sound kool and as if our sorry-ass-lives really do have meaning and purpose and there is a map or destiny we are fulfilling as the progressions to our astrological chart and transits; especially the slower moving outer planets, and of course our relationship to the galactic centre evolves over thousands of years as our soul tries to find a better way to get us laid or whatever it is we consider the ultimate zenith of our lives…. And I am so happy I do not believe any of this anymore but just worry about local concerns like this morning we did not have any water. It seems we used up the water in the water tank which was our two-week allotment in our first week. But in my defense I was watering the garden here in paradise which our neighbor said when he filled our tank this morning that we did not need to do every day. And to me this is really the whole thing.
Stuff the metaphysics and what random events seemingly coincide just let’s get on our motor scooters and spend another day exploring the beauty of An Nang Thailand. Here we just end the year and start the next the same as we ended it sitting writing, walking to the nearby shop to buy our water and stop in to get signs at the stationary sign such as my no-gun sign and whatever meaningful words go with it. We have so many notepads with mixed translations on them but the one I bought for this year says
and that will be my overriding thought of metaphysical intent for this year of 2014.
Last night we were going to stay on the beach until mid-night and watch fireworks but hey when one lives in China and there are fireworks almost every day they do not become such a highlight that staying up until midnight is fun. We did make a picnic and sit on the beach and look out at the boats and islands and folks setting lanterns into the sky and all that until 9.30 and I am sure we were asleep by 11. Our neighbours are Muslims and I do not think they make a lot of noise or carry on. We get such a fright about Muslims living as Westerns but Christian and Buddhist and any extremists are all just as dangerous. Right-to-life clinics get blown-up and doctors killed by people saying they want to save lives. Belief systems are so weird and dangerous. Anyway back to the Muslims here. We went to a travel agent chick last week in Krabi who was veiled and all. She was quite the character. We had planned to take a train up to KL but what we found on the Internet was that the trains in Malaysia are very cold with air-conditioning on full force the whole time and that part of the trip would be 20 hours plus and the trains through Southern Thailand are coming under attack by some group that is pissed off with something or the other – probably people like Narda and I though we do not know how anyone could be upset with us. Apparently they are targeting Western teachers; but as I am a student of life I should be good. Nevertheless it all was becoming difficult too as the train is several hours by mini-bus away and mini-buses are uncomfortable. We just did one last week for almost three hours to go see the stupid James Bond Island and Monkey Cave and that was not only uncomfortable but the driver took too many chances in trying to scare the poop out of us. Narda was OK talking to others – the other eight passengers were from India which seems to be the primary foreigners this time of year in Phuket. So our Muslim chick, Narda’s age (quite young – see I do say nice things about her – in geological time scales…) got us on an eight hour ferry to Langkawi Island, Malaysia where we will stay for two days then a flight from there to Kuala Lumpur which leaves at 1.30 in the morning for Shanghai and gets us home in time to get back to work where I will go back to making videos and writing storylines and working on our school’s broadcast show; not really a big change from what I am doing now; though with faster Internet I will be able to work more online.
So our Muslim chick turns out to be quite an OK person who laughs, I think she saw Narda as more interesting than me and she did not laugh at my jokes but she seemed to think Narda was a bit funny and of course I never get pangs of jealousy when she gets more attention than me; I am used to it because everyone loves her and in the States and in China everyone thinks she is so kool and she has such a great accent – hey I am Australian too; sort of, I am a dual citizen and at least I got there by plane and Narda is just a boat person arriving on a boat from The Netherlands when she was young…. But being overlooked when in her presence never bothers me; well sometimes, a bit. But all I really wanted to say was that for some stupid I am such a Western-programed human – I thought the Muslim chick was just a normal person. And now with our little interactions with our neighbours I am not sure of what my fears of them were. They don’t drink alcohol, I haven’t for seven years, they don’t do drugs, they wear colourful clothes, and they don’t eat pork – now if they would stop eating meat all together we would be on the same page. What I do find different the most about locals and we saw this in Phuket too, is that they do not seem to have furniture. Everyone sits on the floor on rugs. We looked in windows of new houses and they would have their mammoth television and everyone would be sitting on the floor watching. They eat meals on the floor too. Otherwise we are all the same except they do not speak the same language as me they look different and they sit on the floor and take their shoes off when going inside whether it is home or a business. That is a good idea though. Oh and the Muslims overdress themselves – even at the beach.
Our local beach, this time of year is flooded with Europeans, Russians, Swedes, Germans and the like and they have no problem with showing their bodies and some of them should be covered but I suppose when they only get a few hours a day sun they want the sun to see as much of them as possible which explains why the sun quickly goes behind a cloud when a big fat Russian disrobes on the beach. I mean have you ever seen a big fat hairy Russian in underwear on a beach? Not a pretty site. I have made a deal with Narda that if I spend a block of time writing in the morning we will get to a real-estate office this afternoon to look at buying or renting long-term. Of course this is part of the ever continuing saga of conversation about retirement which seems to be just around some mysterious; to me, corner. At the end of this contract I will be 67 and just starting my career; Narda who is much younger than me by 8 years or so wants to retire. Not sure what that means. The plan I think is that we arrive in Australia this coming July and then maybe do some part time work maybe I will apply to adjunct at university. Actually we have a business idea involving film making and Chroma-screen and storytelling and all my slowing acquired knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud products but we will see though I really hope we can do something and that it turns out better than my tofu business I had in Adelaide for eight years. And mingled/mangled in with this is some retirement concept with us traveling heaps and spending time in third world countries like the United States of America and progressive countries like Cambodia, Viet Nam and places like that.
I grew up with stories of Cambodia and Viet Nam from my relatives who were missionaries back in the 1950s and 1960s. It was because of them sort of that I left home when I was about 16. I got so sick of their stories and hearing about the good missionaries in these heathen locations that I had to get out of Clifton Park, New York.
I was living in Hawaii in 1970 being a brother in a New Age cult order going through cosmic initiations such as Illumination and Self-Realization and feeling full of light and quite the chosen cosmic incarnate as most people in their early 20s feel when Mr. Doty, our missionary pain-in-the-ass of my youth stopped in Hawaii on his way home following one of his five-year save the Asians tours. For some stupid reason, probably because my father asked me to, I went to see him at his upscale Waikiki hotel which no doubt was financed by my parents and their fund-raising exercises with their church and money that went to the Doty’s instead of my brother and me so that those poor people bound by the evil thoughts of the Buddha could be saved.
So there is Mr. Doty sitting in the lobby with his bible in his hand speaking loudly at me that the first thing he saw when he got to Honolulu Airport was the same Buddhist dressed people, only in this case they were Westerners, at the airport chanting and asking for money and that was proof that America had gone to Satan. Here we have poor Mr. Doty who had spent his life in Viet Nam and Cambodia ‘saving’ people and getting them to turn from Buddhism to the Christian’s religion only to find that this evil scourge had spread worldwide. I had a hard time to control myself from laughing as what he saw at the airport were the Hara Krishna groups that were popular in the 1960s and 1970s and were populated with the youth looking for something different than what their parents had fed them. We all did this and it is happening still. People in their 20s and 30s get into a whoop whoop religious thingy whether it is Krishna, New Age, Christianity, Muslim and all the others then when they get older and wiser they have a bit of a laugh of what they use to believe in and go on with their life. What is next? 2014 here we come with really a different year in front of us because we are officially quitting work. I have to deal with some heart surgery and other stuff and who knows? Maybe I will join or start a new spiritual movement or start a new business or write some more crap or take some photos but whatever I do I will do one thing that I have always done. Live in the moment. 2014 looks great – how could it look any different? We are into day 2 of 2014. 2013 was good. A little consciousness bump a couple of days ago when we were in Krabi. We were wandering around this small wonderful Southern Thailand city when Narda said ‘don’t look to the left’. OK so I look to the left. Jurlique. Those bloody shops are everywhere we go. And my whole could have been different life momentarily passed by then I looked at Narda and my life and went down the street headed into 2014/
Saturday 21 December
Warmth has many interpretations, perceptions, explanations: emotional, physical, spiritual, local, worldly, universal, chemical, mental and so forth and so here we are seeking warmth that encompasses it all. Simply put, because really who wants to hear one whinge and whine about their lot in life? I will just say ‘oh look we are going to southern Thailand for a three-week holiday to get warm’, who wants to know that when they can stay at home and watch the television and news shows showing the worst of humanity over and over.
Again, here we are at the International area at Shanghai Airport, we’ve done this stop heaps or at least some dozen or more times which is heaps to some and not many for others. Usually we are here on the way to Australia. Though this is one of those rare times when we are spending Christmas not in Australia. I think we have missed going to Adelaide two or three times in the past dozen years. Before these past three years in China it was the 30 hours of travel from New York, usually a couple of times a year, to Australia. At least these past three years we have been close to the same time-zone.
Shanghai Airport, the last few days of 2013, still struggling with English words – in their international departure area I know, seeing ‘coffee and cates’ means no one here is in a rush to become Western too fast… there are lots of indications throughout China that yes they will cater to our lot but we are and always will be outsiders and why don’t we just learn their bloody language and stop being so precious about the English language and of course we Westerners are just too precious.
Last night was good. Yesterday, Friday, being the last day of school before the holidays meant that many bailed at the end of the day or were packing to leave this morning. But there were at least thirty-five that showed up for a sing-a-long in the lobby of Campus Café. Narda played piano and Tyler guitar – our music teachers bringing everyone together. It wasn’t just singing Christmas songs; there were a whole slew of songs with the words on the wall and from children to us oldies and every decade in between happily singing along. From our sports teacher to the owner of the school, principals, head of school, elementary, upper school and our Chinese school, Huamei teachers we had quite the cross section. Narda thought maybe no one would show up because of it being the start of holidays but this is a school that is a community and with us all living here music brings everyone together. We often say it is really assisted living though of course those in their 20s, 30s, even 40s would not want to say that but us over 50, OK over 60… damn I am the oldest, see it as assisted living. I was there in my slippers, so was Narda, others had their blankets; Joe Fred and Cindy had their Dallas Cowboy blanket over them. We are not big Grid-Iron fans but we did live in New York for a decade and watched the Giants beat some team, I think from the mid-west, in the Superbowl at a pub in Brooklyn a few years ago so I suppose that makes us Giant fans. But saying anything to Joe Fred about how Dallas is doing this year, or the past few years, is not a happy topic. I think they lost by a point or two the last few games. But they beat the New York Giants, though of course everyone is beating them this year including their selves, so who am I say? But they had their blanket and they shared it with the head of school and on a minus six degrees centigrade night we all were warm. And here we are at Shanghai Airport headed for a warm climate full of warm thoughts.
Narda has just finished her last concerts; the elementary winter concert, helping Tyler with the high school one and last Sunday conducting with some folks for the first international concert of our province. She had practiced for months with a group from some local school. At the Sunday concert there were politicians and a mixture of our school and whomever we had joined with. The concert was supposed to be at 2 pm but due to a least moment comrade-meeting by The Party the concert was put off until 6 pm because some members wanted to go to the concert and we were told you don’t mess with them. Sort of like ‘don’t mess with Texas’. But now it is all over, Narda’s concerts are at a break until the next series start up, the spring concert and I think she is doing ‘Sound of Music’ later in the next year, next year being next week.
Narda has a long history of doing concerts. When she was ten years old she would get her sister, 8 years old, to join in and they would do concerts for their nieghbourhood. Narda and Helena would wear matching dresses, put flyers in letterboxes on their street and perform for ten – fifteen minutes, playing guitar and singing. They would charge like ten-cents and I am not sure what would happen to the children of the street if they did not come but the Narda-ten-year-old-mafia-style-concert always had an audience. The only song I remember her saying she did was ‘you have lost that loving feeling’ by the Righteous Brothers. I find it interesting how we follow our destinies that we map out in youth. I was going to be a writer when I was ten-years old. I use to write all the time, novels, stories, poems, movie scripts… but over the decades that dwindled down to a few blogs and all that I ever got published was a children’s story that Scholastic Magazine published in the mid-1980s. My brother and I use to play restaurant and make up a menu and cook for each other Sunday night but neither of us got to the restaurant stage of life though I did manufacture tofu and many tofu products and to combine my ten-year old wants I am working on my tofu e-book (subtitled ‘Astrology made me a bad tofu maker’) which is really a novel/story/autobiography/cookbook and that of course I will never finish. (And of course it would never come close to Joanne Harris’s “Five Quarters of the Orange” which I just finished reading and I like about the best of any book I have ever read. She uses parts of a journal the mother in the story wrote which tells the story mixed in with recipes. I was doing the same thing but after reading “Five Quarters of the Orange” I wonder why I would continue with my book. Harris wrote the book : “Chocolat” one of my favourite movies and in fact is the first movie I saw with Narda after we got married which of course has nothing to do with what I am writing about here which is our holiday here in Thailand and Narda being a concert giver.) All unlike Narda with her making sure the neighbourhood showed their presence at her concerts and she would rehearse and prepare and make her posters all of which she is doing now many, many – (oops now I would be in trouble if she read my blogs) years ago.
We get into Kuala Lumpur at 1.30 – that is 1.30 AM – sometime after midnight, then grab a flight to Phuket at 4.30 AM and get there at 5.30 AM or so. It is easier to do the 30 plus hour flights from New York to Australia because the flights are long and sleep is just a pill away but these short hauls are a bugger and we will be more loopy than usual when we stagger into our hotel in Phuket. Last I saw it was 30 degrees centigrade which is warm, maybe hot, but not what it was in Adelaide this week which was 43.5 C or 110 F.
Sunday 22 December
On the short flight Dalian to Shanghai they hand out their boxes of food. For once they got it straight that I am a vegetarian and they even stopped at my seat to confirm it. What could they possible give me? Considering on these short trip we only ever get a roll and a sweet bun it was not like they were going to pull off some strange; possibly chicken or a derivative of a farm animal, and give me a piece of carrot which is usually the way. In my little box, which said veg on the outside I got a whole-meal roll instead of a white roll like my neighbour passengers got. And a small piece of possibly carrot cake whereas my surrounding guests got something looking chocolate like, it was brown. The longer flight Shanghai to KL was better with a curry veggie smothered in rice and not the other way around. Surely we can make analogies to life based on experience on Chinese airlines with China Eastern being at a class in need of enlightenment (the lowest caste, the Dalits in the Hindus trip) and Singapore Airlines being the Brahmins.
So when we got to KL in the early hours and then to Phuket at even a more unreasonable time – like five AM and to our hotel in Phuket Town at seven giving us a 24-hour trip with a reasonable three hours at the max sleep. We get more sleep going from New York to Beijing or to Melbourne not having interrupted… I am losing interest in my story here..
Monday 23 December
So Phuket is OK. We stayed in a guesthouse; Summer Breeze in Phuket Town) that was in sort of a small village off to the side of stuff and that is always more interesting than being tossed in with the tourist throngs. We did the one-day tourist journey to Monkey cave and to James Bond Island (Koh Tapu off of the Ko Khao Phing Kan island in the Phang Nga Bay, Strait of Malacca) – all too expensive and a waste of a day. We almost never go on tours but fend for ourselves getting lost on buses or just wandering and being our own tourist guides. If we don’t know what something is we make it up as we would remember our own historical narratives as much as if some tourist guide told us what something is and our interpretation is always good. We should start a tourist guide business and whatever we say something is then, dig it that is correct. ‘and on the right of your tuk tuk Buddha blessed that tree, which of course is thousands of years old… well the tree isn’t, obviously, it is just a few years old, but the great-ancestor to where that current tree now is stood a mighty tree that the Buddha looked up at and said “life sure is kool” before going on and starting a religion that people even today leave fruit on alters for in hopes that it will be eaten by the Buddha but surprise surprise it is still there the next day’.
Tuesday 24 December
We took the ferry over to Ao Nang Beach, Krabie for the two-hour run. I fell to sleep soon after we left port. One thing I have always been good at is going to sleep – staying asleep is another thing – I wake up at two in the morning ready to climb a mountain or at least go look for something to eat. My best sleeping time is when we are taking off in a plane. I almost always will be asleep by or soon after being in the air. My record that I remember is one time being awake as the plane started down the runway and I thought I would just close my eyes for a moment – and waking up half an hour later in the clouds. Waking in the clouds is quite different than my usual being already awake in the clouds such as when I am at work. I rarely am tired or plan on sleeping I just like to close my eyes when the plane is leaving but almost every single time I am asleep by air time.
When you get on to the ferry everyone is told to put their bags into one large area so a couple of hundred people with a couple bags each, a couple of hundred bags, all happily leave their bags. The majority of the passengers, at least on our boat, were Australians and being young and backpackers were happy to find all the open areas at the front to show off their tats and youthful bodies to one another whilst Narda and I found the padded comfortable seats inside.
Somewhere in this setup there was a potential pain-in-the-ass moment.
We found it.
So when we get to Ao Nang Beach and everyone grabs their bags and get on land Narda and I count our bags. Of course unlike backpackers who have one bag each we have seven in total. Just because we have traveled steadily for decades does not mean we have figured it out. Oh wait! We now have six bags and the next set of passengers are all rushing on. I go back to find the missing bag but there is already a pile of bags where ours once were and one still is. The boat is leaving in five minutes and no they will not unpack the ferry to find ours but they will ring us when the ferry is back in port if they find a bag at the next island before the next group gets on and the ferry stops again at Ao Nang Beach. We are concerned mainly because we cannot remember what is in the bag. We have both our computers, Ipad, Kindle, cameras and lenses and clothes but even after unpacking we cannot figure out what is in the bag. Until I go to take my heart-medication; something to do with having four stents put in a few weeks ago in Hong Kong.
Oops maybe we should worry.
Narda’s friend from Hamburg is on holiday in Northern Thailand and we were planning at trying to get up there but now there is a concern about my pills. We stopped at a travel centre and it will take us a whole day to get to Koh Lipe (Koh Lipe is a small island in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago of the Andaman Sea, in the Satun Province of southwest Thailand, close to Malaysian border). Four hours by min-bus and several hours by ferry, one overnight and another whole day coming back. Narda writes Mau that it is all quite difficult plus there is the potential that my pills would be gone. We hadn’t seen Mau for years, we use to pop into Hamburg each year on the way to Australia from New York but lately we seem to be Asia based. She realizes how difficult it will be to visit and she is going back to Germany at the end of the week so we will wait until somewhere else in the world is easier to get to visit in. My tie to her is from eleven years ago when we stopped in to visit; Narda met her in Budapest Hungary in the 1980s at a Kodály study program and they have been friends since. We spent several days at her home and I started writing my never-to-be-read by anyone except maybe my son, “Leaving Australia” in July 2003. It ended up being 570 pages and about 170,000 words plus lots of pictures, experiences, philosophies come and gone, relationships… I printed and leather bound two copies one for Sacha and the other sits on my shelf in China. It was a book to my children, as I was the existing parent, or sole parent from babyhood to hoods, explaining my life and why our life was the way it was based on my life’s experience. I wrote heaps for three days as Narda and Mau caught up on stories of their life. Two weeks later my son, Leigh, would fly to Sydney from where Leigh was playing baseball in Florida for the Los Angeles Dodgers and went off his 15 story hotel because his girlfriend broke up with him. It took me another six years to finish my book then I decided I would finish it for both sons even though only one decided to stay on the planet. Somewhere in the universal mind – some place in the slippery slope of galactic evolution there may be a particle of Leigh that exists and is conscious of what I say to him, so often, sometimes daily, sometimes just in my dreams. So that is my connection with Mau and every time we would go visit I would add to my “Leaving Australia”.
The ferry is due to stop at five pm at Ao Nang and at 4.30 Narda is insistent that we meet the ferry and not wait for them to ring us. We have rented motor scooters for two-weeks and go swimming each day – the water is warm – and go exploring and get ourselves lost on lots of back roads. So we get to the ferry and wow wow they have my bag with my pills. Not knowing what else we could have in the bag we quickly look and see our four seasons of “Sons of Anarchy”; we watched the first two seasons back in China. I have not really taken to the series mainly because the acting is so bad and the storylines are just stupid but because the two series we have been watching: ‘Homeland’ and ‘the Good Wife’, are done for the season and we did not have anything else to watch, ‘Sons’ became something to watch in the evening as I worked on my webpages and Narda watched. Narda’s DVD player, which plugs into her computer, was in the bag too. So we were happy though we have yet to have a TV on since being in Thailand for a week.
Then a day later, today, Thursday evening, we are looking through the bag we had left on the ferry and found my US Passport in a side pocket. Oops again. I only use it for when I enter the States, using my Australian Passport for everywhere else. Really! Who wants to say they are an American when traveling? I also found my Chinese bankcard which would have been a mess to replace.
What we realize when we travel and do not put the telly on is how peaceful and wonderful the world is. When we watch the news all they have is stories about bombing here and there and shootings in the States. We have no idea what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Egypt or really anywhere, now. Here the weather is fine the neighbours are great – Muslims are unlike what the news tries to do to portray them as such badies and even Narda has started to cover up like the local women but she does it because it is so bloody hot and when we are riding our motor scooters she gets so sunburnt so a black scarf over her head under her helmet covering her shoulders gives a local look. When we are on holiday I wonder why we ever bother to watch the news to begin with. Maybe that is what one does in retirement let the world get all crazy about the stupid news reports. I often wonder why we sit there looking at what is happening someplace where we are far from, have no ties to, will no doubt never go to, and which has and never will have an effect on us. It is close to being as bad as celebrity watching, something I have never paid much attention to. It is a good feeling to see a face on magazine covers and have no idea who it is; makes me feel not sucked in. I could not name a celebrity, singer or actor under forty and I am proud of that. Life is good here far away yet in the middle.
Thursday 26 December 26, 2013
And I have found warmth. From the sun to the people of Thailand to the foot massage – an hour for 200 Thai Baht ($6.10 US/ $6.84 Australian) which included a head and shoulder massage – to the warmth of being with Narda and the warmth of not having anywhere to go or anything to do. And Narda just read me that where we are, Aonang – is the world’s second best beach as stated by many travel magazines. The article did not say what magazine or what was the world’s finest beach. Having just come back from a swim as the sun set we can say it is definitely quite good.
Maybe I will post this and edit my videos in the Premier Creative Cloud Suite. Now there is warmth and the only news I need that today’s Adobe Creative Cloud Suite updates are downloading even with a slow Internet. And of course that the Australian dollar is back to 88 cents from 95 cents last month and that is the extent of the news we need. And of course that our friends and family are well and had a good Christmas and we got to Skype OK. Yesterday was Christmas and our Christmas present was a swim in the ocean and an hour massage. I think today we will ride our scooters to Krabi which we are told is half an hour away though we being old and slow and stopping too many times along the way, not to mention how easily we get lost and change our mind it will no doubt take the whole afternoon.
Tomorrow we buy our train tickets to Kuala Lumpur from Trang Thailand – leaving in two weeks on the 30 hour train ride.
Video for this blog at http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
Where we are always seems to be not as interesting as where someone else is though why we say that I am not quite sure when wherever we are is where we are because that is the totality of all we have done so far in life and the final destination at this moment. One turn anywhere in life and most likely we would be somewhere else more or less interesting than where we are now.
Think I will come back to that thought in a bit.
Two weekends ago we where in Hong Kong or was it the weekend before two weekends ago? I stop and think for a moment what did we do yesterday – or even worse – what did we do earlier in the day. Not because at 66 I am slowing down in memory – I did that back in the year 1966 – go figure – what I did in 1966 and of course those interesting years later – effects the way I think now on the eighth of December is how long since we were tromping around Hong Kong. I went to see my doctor – who I think is quite kool though why a doctor is kool I have no idea but he just seems kool. Dr. King. I believe his name is TIAN LUNG but thankfully for me he goes by Dr. Peter King; Chief of Cardiology, who speaks English, Mandarin, Shanghainese, and Cantonese. I know I have been in China for three years and this may sound quite stupid but saying one speaks Mandarin, Shanghainese and Cantonese to me sounds like me saying I speak New Zealand, British, Canadian, Australian and American. Nevertheless Dr. King speaks great English. They did their slew of tests on me from lots of tins of blood to scans of various sorts. After a couple of days meeting again with Dr. King he said I may need to have some laser treatment on my heart. A month earlier he slipped four stents into my arteries. I could use some laser treatment to get rid of some wrinkles here and there but shooting at my heart?
To celebrate something – most moments of a day should be celebrating something though what we were celebrating at the time I do not currently recall; anything from we did not have to get to morning meeting at 7.30 AM at school or stay after school for meetings until five PM or that even though we just spent two-thousand dollars for three days of Hong Kong – it is as expensive as Australia, or it could even have been something to do with my stents still being in place though I am still not sure if I needed them anyway… for whatever reason, as it should be, we felt like celebrating a bit. We only had one day when it was not full of hospital tests and doctors visits as the other two days takes us most of the day to get to and fro. We leave home at ten in the morning to get a one PM flights to get to Hong Kong at 4.30 then an hour train into Hong Kong and another half hour to our hotel. Coming back we leave our hotel at noon and get home at midnight then back to work Wednesday morning. Not really a fun way two spend two-thousand dollars (that is US not Hong Kong dollars) but nevertheless we did have a day and making the best of any day is good.
We took the fast ferry over to Macau. I wanted to see the old Portuguese section.
And since this is China there were a few people out for the day. In fact there were moments when we could not move forward or backward and this was just the foot traffic. Getting a taxi around Macau is even more fun and more up close. We watched the movie ‘World War Z’ last night – believe me not worth watching except for the graphics and being a film teacher ‘but I am watching this for my film class to teach about stuff’‘ I use chroma screening with my kids though we are not quite to the level of ‘Games of Thrones’ or ‘World War Z’. Whilst watching ‘World War Z’ which is about a virus attacking the world and everyone becoming zombies as Brad Pitt runs around looking like your typical everyday hero I could not help but associate the crowds we get stuck in here in China with the crowds going nuts and everyone biting each other and becoming zombies. In a way that has already happened. There are always crowds of zillions of people all in a shopping frenzied madding way. ‘the shopping zombie-virus’
Someone else wanted to see the casinos. We spent about two hours being historical tourists seeing old shit then we were off to the casino across the causeway. We took the Macau-Taipa Bridge over to Taipa (Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge) to the Cotai casinos. See my youtube video – http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
We took the fast ferry over to Macau. I wanted to see the old Portuguese section someone else wanted to see the casinos. We spent about two hours being historical tourists seeing old shit then we were off to the casino across the causeway. We took the Macau-Taipa Bridge over to Taipa (Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge) to the Cotai casinos. See my youtube video – http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
These are supposed to be some of the great casinos of the world. Not sure. Firstly, they are quite a distance apart but there are buses going to the next casino at each one. Unlike Las Vegas where a lot are within walking distance or that groovy monorail, Macau is like being in individual cities for each place. But of course China has to overdo everything.
As soon as we got to Macau Narda got a lot of text messages as one does when they arrive in a new town – at least that is what happens here in China. We figured they were advertisements to casinos, especially the first one which said ‘City of Dreams’ with lots of foreign stuff following. So after being dutiful tourists and seeing a bunch of old shit for a couple of hours we got into a taxi and Narda showed the first text message on her phone, without us having a clue what it said. That is when we got on to the Macau-Taipa Bridge. After awhile we began doubting our choice of communication but then we saw The Venetian (the largest casino in the world ~ the sixth-largest building in the world by floor area) followed by the ‘City of Dreams’ a huge hotel-casino complex which looks bigger than The Venetian. We spent almost twenty minutes in there. I tried taking video and photos but every time I took out the camera I was stopped. But I did get a shot of their ceiling.
And a shot of Narda kissing a gold bear so that we could have heaps of good luck whilst playing in the casino. It didn’t work we invested $20 Honk Kong dollars = a couple of bucks US, and lost it all. So we decided from that to just tour several casinos and keep our money for useful stuff like a fridge magnet.We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe which would be an easy place to give a miss to. We waited for more than two hours to be served. I don’t think it was because we are old and ugly but they were understaffed and everyone seemed upset. The food was good but for people in a hurry to tour every casino in Macau in a few hours it was a time waster.
The Venetian Casino, being the biggest casino in the world, though not having been to every casino in the world I can not verify that – just read this fact in several places including their own propaganda. Casinos really are all the same. Huge noise making flashing lights places to give people the illusion they are having fun and that of course giving their money away to strangers who own the casino is really a worthwhile thing to do. I lost my interest in all forms of slot machines back in the 1980s. About mid-1980. I was a single parent living in South Australia. Up until about 1985 the pubs in Adelaide were a good place to go to hear live music and pick up chicks (did I really say that?). Then in came the pokies. All the good pubs took out their areas of dance and frivolity. There were no live bands on weekends just stupid sounding machines with people hunched over them. It was difficult if not impossible to meet people and my life of a would-be wild single parent transitioned to a stay home parent writing children stories hunched over a computer. Of course back then we did not have the Internet and my computer had a green screen and I could do little else than type but I suppose staying home and being on a computer heaps was just as non-social as going to a pub and sitting in front of a slot machine. Hey I still sit at home hunched over a computer so my evolutionary path has not really evolved a whole lot. I never got money for my stories except for once I got a story published by Scholastic Magazine; ‘Vegy Fighters’ http://neuage.indiko.com/vegi_fighters.htm which I got two hundred dollars for. ‘Vegy Fighters’ was about a kid who would not eat his veggies because he thought there were flying saucers and etc. in them. I just looked at it – a couple of decades later – a bit of a lame story but I made more off of it than I have in all my casino gambling triads of my life which probably amount to an expenditure of less than fifty dollars if I add up my world-wide gambling investments. I realised back in my twenties that I was not lucky. With a Saturn conjunct my Venus I could see I would never do well economically and with Saturn squaring my Jupiter in fixed signs and in cardinal houses it is obvious that I will never be lucky. I am really happy that I do not believe in astrology or I would be really really spooked by my chart. Especially these months with transit Saturn squaring my Venus, Saturn, Pluto and Sun whilst sitting exactly on my Jupiter and bloody Uranus stirring up my heart by being in Aries trine my Venus in Leo home of the heart. This is such a bad astrological period for me that if I believed in any of this I would go hide under the bed.
The Venetian of course has that Italian look to with its gondola ride. We did not do the gondola ride because of the time factor and in fact we spent less than half an hour at The Venetian which was spent walking quickly through it to find the bus stop to get back to the ferry to get back to Hong Kong. This photo below I took after dark (this being winter that was about six pm) but they do quite well with the illusion that it is day.
We went to The Galaxy and a few other casinos but after awhile they all blend and blur and we had more fun hopping buses from casino to casino. From the last casino we got a bus back to the ferry port. Here is a tip; plan on going on a ferry hours after you plan on going on one. Those zillion shopping-zombies we saw back in the Portuguese section of Macau as well as the zillion slot-playing-casino zombies were all back at the ferry ten seconds before us. How did they do that? We had planned to take a seven o’clock ferry back to Hong Kong but discovered that the next one with any seats was going to be at 10.45. Our bed time is nine pm so of course this troubled our aging brain. There was a ferry to Kowloon at 8.30 so we grabbed that and got a subway close to home and home, Happy Valley, by eleven, well past our bed time. As is the way in China, everyone surges forward. The concept of a line is as foreign in China as it is to a Dutch person (they are not good at forming lines either – go to the Netherlands and get in a line and you will know what I mean. Or watch a group of Dutch people at an airport or train station – easy to spot they do not get in line). At the ferry terminal everyone, like they do at the train station – especially in Dalian, when the doors open everyone just pushes forward. We were actually in a line that had been started more than an hour earlier and when the doors opened people all came running in from the side. Narda scolded a lady for trying to push in front and when she got teary eye Narda put her arm around her and let her in front but told her that she was a naughty girl which was translated to her by others around us. The woman was our age but clearly had not been taught about social lines. The people from Hong Kong were worse. They went on about how the Chinese from the mainland have no class and do not know how to act. It all got quite political whilst being pushed through two doors with hundreds behind us all trying to get through the same door. We had assigned seats on the ferry so I am not sure why they panic.It is always good though because Narda and I are usually bigger than everyone else. But little ladies can be quite aggressive. I suppose they have had a lot of decades of trying to get anything in the midst of so many people.
The next day, Tuesday, we flew back to Dalian in the afternoon but before that we did another loop of downtown somewhere. All of Hong Kong seems like downtown but I think we were near Victoria Square. I was fascinated, as always, by the bamboo scaffolding that builders construct even on the tallest buildings. out of the videos and multiple photos I think these two show the jest of the work…
Hans, my relative through Narda, in Holland, wrote to my image in Facebook that no doubt they will be growing buildings out of bamboo like this and not just using bamboo for scaffolding. I did take a ten-week Chinese painting course recently, every Wednesday after school, and learned how to paint bamboo but in reality that is not related and I am fortunate that I could find a way to say I did a Chinese painting course. Of course I was the worse in the class and never did get the hang of painting bamboo though my ambition at the start of the class was to paint those galloping horses one sees in Chinese paintings. Again it is no doubt that I have Saturn sitting on top of my Venus in Leo that my artist talents are held back. And having that conjunction in my tenth house makes it obvious to the public.
A friend from awhile back; maybe 40 years since I saw him last, was saying he was stuck in Maryland about 20 miles NW of DC. I remember that area from the 1970s. It is easy to see someone else as being in a more interesting location. I look around where we are now and think I would much rather be 20 miles from DC. I liked that area but of course the me of the 1970s found interesting what I probably would not. I liked Hong Kong but that was just a passing just as everywhere I have lived has been. Sometimes I think it would be great just to stay in one place, though not here. Here is difficult do interesting stuff. The good part about living at Campus Village is that there is a medical clinic two floors down, so as far as assisted living type of life goes that is easy and there is a restaurant on the first floor though the food is crap and there is nothing I can eat that they serve but they have good fresh bread. And the gym is a two minute walk away and of course work is three minutes walk which is better than years I sat in traffic getting to work in various cities of the past. But that is it. To go shopping is such an ordeal. We have to get a driver into Dalian an hour away or Kaifqu half an hour away. We can ride our bike to a real local shopping and that only takes ten minutes and is good for fruit and vegetables but that is about it. I use to have a rule that I would never live more than half an hour from an airport but our airport is an hour away. So much for rules.
Where everyone else has lived sounds more interesting to us. We hear stories from other teachers that have taught in Somalia, Libya (they escaped with their daughter as bombs dropped around them), Syria, and heaps of other places. Then of course there is Lawrence who was going to help me become a great film person but just moved up to Moscow last month after meeting a woman and marrying her and his travels and adventures and I listen to everyone and feel my life has been a bit slow and boring. But still we are in the best place to be because that is where we have gotten to.
I liked this sculpture – construction – hopefully not art that was in downtown. It was two days before the American Thanksgiving holiday. When we got back to school there was the Thanksgiving lunch and dinner in the evening. Thanksgiving is not big in Narda and my world. Narda because she is not American and me because the thought of eating turkey does not fit into my vegetarian world. When we lived in New York we use to drive up to Canada to avoid Thanksgiving and the invitations from people who would invited us to their home feeling sorry for us because we had no one to spend Thanksgiving with.
This weekend we went to the Winter Charity Ball at the Shangri-La in Dalian. It was Friday night so we stayed overnight. I am not big into dress-up balls but it is one of those things one should do once. It was a yearly fund raiser for helping local schools and the tickets (given to us or we would have had a quiet week at home) were 500 RMB ($81 US) each and for that we got a meal. I mentioned that I was a vegetarian from the start and it worked out OK. I got some veggies that were not fully cooked. Narda being a meat eater was a bit looking forward to the Australian Rib-Eye Steak that was on her menu. She got four very small thin pieces primarily fat. OK so we didn’t pay and the entertainment was interesting.
My fellow tech teacher played guitar and sang too so that made the evening almost personable. I got credit on his latest youtube video for video creator so there is my claim to fame if he ever gets any. That is not him in the image above she just seemed more attractive.
Dalian is just another dirty Asian city but after three years we are use to it. Here is a new moon night photo – actually after our charity ball we didn’t get back to our room until midnight – we are getting young like again.
Transit Jupiter is exactly conjunct my Jupiter today and trine transit Saturn so I can be thankful for that though I am not thrilled about Saturn giving me all these stupid life lessons I could do without and I will feel better I hope in a month when Saturn moves on a few degrees. Also, I am really really relieved that I no longer believe in astrology or I would be freaked about my upcoming aspects.
In two weeks we will be in Thailand for a month holiday (hey Thailand stop all your in-fighting and get along we will be there in two weeks) then back to work for a week then to Burma for a week to visit Frank and Kay who write that there are cobras falling from the trees where they live. Oh boy.
Video for this Hong kong trip is at http://youtu.be/aUYG8gn72MQ
Macau two weeks later or last week http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
I was having a quiet Friday evening watching thoughts drift by of what to do on the upcoming weekend. Sort of a quiet day. We arrived home at noon from a week in Xi’am seeing Terracotta Warriors, a Great Wild Goose Pagoda (go figure), peddling a bike around on top of a wall going around the city and merging with so many Chinese on holiday during 国庆节 (Chinese National Day) in a very polluted city of less than a trillion people though it seemed as if there were more than a trillion people in Xi’am frantically searching for a clean air-molecule or two. I personally had not found any and for the most part had held my breath for five days to avoid clogging up my airways. See a previous blog at http://wp.me/scHIf-xian
Though I do not think that holding my breath for five days had anything to do with what would happen next.
We had finished dinner and being a bit hungry I was in the kitchen looking for more. As we had been away for a week there was not much but I had found something which at the moment I forget what but as I took a step I passed out and came to on the floor a few seconds later. Narda was standing next to me and thought I had slipped and fell. When I came to I was quite disorientated or more disoriented than usual may be more accurate. And confused to add. Having never had passed out, or at least not in a self-propelled way as I may have on occasion done when I was past my youth but not quite to maturity – some time in a seemingly very distant past, this was all new territory.
I had a sore knee from twisting my leg on the way done and not being conscious to stop myself I had not grabbed anything to slow my descent – OK so it is not like parachuting from a great distance in the stratosphere but it is still a long ways to the floor when the microwave is at eye level one second and the floor the next. I pulled the dishwasher out of its place so I did go down with a thud. It was not a near-death experience because there was no tunnel with angels and whats-his-name at the end shoving me quickly back into the physical so I could constantly work off whatever karmic dept to the universe I seem to be laboring at.
Narda was concerned. I was confused. I assured her that obviously I just slipped on some butter that was on the floor but for whatever reason there was no apparent sign of butter when I went to show her. I said not to worry to her running for her phone to ring the Beijing SOS clinic so they could ring our doctor who actually lives here in Campus Village but we are not to go banging on the doctor’s door but have to go through protocol. Narda has in large print on our door the SOS clinic telephone number because, yes, we have used it before – see http://wp.me/pcHIf-eS when for some reason I seemed to have become unstuck after eating something and within fifteen minutes of her calling Beijing I was in the emergency room of our clinic (two floors below us) and with a drip into my arm. This seems to be my year for medical stuff I think.
To keep Narda happy, which as a useful husband type of tip I can offer, by saying it is always a good thing to keep one’s wife a bit on the happy side if at all possible. Of course that has to be balanced in a sensible and creative way though the sensible part I must admit I have yet to master but the creative part I have down really well. I just say ‘yes dear’. Nevertheless Saturday morning we took the elevator from our third floor apartment to the first floor and walked past the lobby to the clinic. We call life here ‘assisted living’ and any teacher living at Campus Village would agree. Doctors rotate every eight weeks and on this eight week rotation we had our really great doctor, Wilhelm. Steve our other rotating doctor, and the one who looked after me when I had my bit of food poisoning episode is fantastic too. Wilhelm did lots of tests on me from blood letting to EKG and the like and was so concerned he thought maybe I should stay in the clinic for the weekend or at the least to take it easy. I chose the latter and played softball with our school team against the local Taiwan mob as we do each Sunday. I did a bit lighter weights for the next couple of days and no free weights of rather heavy; heavy for me as I am 66, just 60 kilos (132 pounds) that I have been building up from, but taking Wilhelm’s, I thought overly-cautious, approach, I only did the attached weights. I did not swim either as he was concerned I would pass out in the pool and that could pose a problem. I went to work as usual because I love work, I love creating and teaching film and just having a great time with technology. I surely had no intentions of staying home and being old.
Wednesday I was sent into Dalian to the Vitup Hospital and had an ultrasound and a halter-cardiac monitor attached to wear for 24-hours. I felt light headed and a bit wobbly and a bit spacy but that is pretty much how I feel most of the time anyway and have since the 1960s so I am quite use to it except the degree for normal behavior that I have enjoyed or not enjoyed at times for the past 40 years was increased though not enhanced. So of course being the verbal person I am I told my doctor I was not quite the same in the head as I was and he seemed a bit more concerned and started talking about maybe going to Seoul or Hong Kong for a bit of a more thorough check-up. I thought I could do the same in Beijing but he was not so confident. Over the next few days the talk became more of you need to go to Seoul or Hong Kong with Hong Kong being the doctor’s choice. I was in favor of Seoul because it is one hour away and a cheaper flight whereas Hong Kong is 3.5 hours direct flight and twice the airfare. I was still doing my weights and Friday morning we rode bikes to our local shopping area before school and on the weekend I played softball and went to the dentist.
Another week went by and another and by the 23rd of October, almost three weeks since kissing the floor of the kitchen we were on a flight to Hong Kong.
We were booked into the Adventist Hospital 40 Stubbs Rd, Hong Kong and staying at The Emperor Hotel in Happy Valley. On the way in from the airport the taxi dude said this was a very busy night to drive to our hotel as the races were on and it was Oktoberfest. Our hotel was like a five minute walk to the The Hong Kong Jockey Club. Yes this is an actual photo of our walk-in and somehow we managed to get up the stairs and into the stands.
The cost to get in was 10 Honk Kong dollars ($1.29 US). I was mixed up with feelings; I was getting tested 9 AM the next morning and possible surgery as a result of it, I just wanted to be back at work. Who wants to be at work? Here we were in Hong Kong at the races, except if things went a certain direction I could be cactus in a few days. I listened closely to my heart – not in a romantic way where I am all goo goo because I am spending a night with this kool chick from Australia – oh wait that is my wife, and of course that is romantic an all but what I was listening to was whether my heart was physically doing the correct thing and thumping away like a normal heart should – and it sort of was but not completely. I wanted to relax and enjoy the moment. I had only ever been to horse races twice in my life. Once Narda and I went to the races in Saratoga, New York. (you know that song by Carly Simon “You are so Vain”?
“Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won…”
Of course we own houses in Round Lake just a fifteen minute drive from Saratoga Springs and I grew up a short distance from there too but I only ever went to the races the one time with Narda. Another time Narda and I went to a race in Adelaide, South Australia and that is it. We made a couple of bets when at the Saratoga track but I do not recall whether we won. This time Narda said “let’s place a bet‘.
First of all we had no idea what to do, secondly we could not get the folks at the betting counter to understand what we wanted. They did not speak English and we did not speak whatever they spoke. We watched for awhile and by race three we decided it was time to jump in. Narda picked by numbers – the number 23 because it was October 23, we were on the 23 floor of our hotel, we sat in row 23 on the plane and there was some other times the number came up so she picked a horse with a 23 to one odds. I looked out in the paddock or whatever they call the area they warm in and one horse was just not in sync. It would rear its head, go the opposite direction of the other horses and just was generally ready to take off. I thought that if I were a horse that is exactly how I would act, a bit of all over the shop type of animal, so I picked horse number five. Feeling not lucky, how could I? I was off for heart inspection in a day I was conservative and put 10 Hong Kong dollars on horse number five, the same amount Narda put on the horse with a 23 to one odds. Horse number five, King Derby, was behind all the other horses most of the race. Coming around, I think they call it the clubhouse turn – or at least where all the stands are, I could see horse number five go to the outside of all the horses and just pass them right to the crossing line when it drew level then passed the lead horse, to win. The odds were like four to one so we ended up with 44 Hong Kong dollars which paid for our two bets, the entrance fee for both of us and with a bit of a top up there was enough left for me to purchase a small carton of soy milk. I did not want to bet on another horse because I did not want to leave as a loser which could have happened.
Being Oktoberfest the crowds were probably larger and more rowdy than usual but never having been there before I am not sure. There was a time when we were trying to get out, with me holding on tight to my winnings, and Narda holding tight on to me that we did not move in any direction. I was of course thinking about my heart when I should have been thinking about my luck. Narda had said “just think if we had put down our houses and any cash we had anywhere in the world and then maybe even had borrowed some. We could retire.” Retire? I was wondering if I was going to get out of the racecourse. What if my heart played silly buggers and took me out right here? I was so pinned in if I died I would have died upright (“he was an upright citizen”) and no one would know. There would be no sound of my winnings hitting the ground, no last words heard amongst the blasting music from someone announcing a winner in a drawing, not even Narda would know for a few moments as she was pinned in too. We were all frozen together on a warm Hong Kong night.
Yes of course eventually we got back to our hotel, I am writing this a couple of weeks later and I think I am still alive. As a matter of fact next week today we will be back in Hong Kong and I will be getting a bunch of tests to continue on with what I will say befell me whilst in Hong Kong back at the end of September. So yes, I believe I am alive. Still! Still as in quiet compared to my pre-Hong Kong self.
The next morning, Thursday, I was off to Adventist Hospital to get tests. I met Dr. King the cardiologist who was going to sort me out and I was sent off for eight tests. In Australia when I go to the heart centre and see my cardiologist each year the visit lasts about ten minutes, this has been going on for about a decade. He takes my pulse, does a couple of readings and sends me on my way with a sentence or two of advice. I thought this would be the same, just pop in – OK spending a couple of thousand of dollars to go and get that advice wasn’t what I wanted but Dr. Wilhelm thought it was important. I liked Dr. King. He had a sense of humour, was good at explaining and said he would arrange for a few tests. Then and there. All day Thursday. Seven or eight tests. A stress test on a treadmill with lots of monitors and beeping machines as the endurance speed and difficulty were increased to a point where the machines made more frequent noises and I felt worse. Then on to blood tests, a PET thingy (Positron Emission Tomography). In this test, I had a radioactive dye injected so that my heart showed on the scan. Laying down I was shoved into a doughnut-shaped machine to have images taken of my heart. When the dye went through there was a hot sensation going through my body which was not good. Being claustrophobic from an incident in my adolescence I spent about an hour in semi-panic. But the worse was yest to come; the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Laying down on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produced a magnetic field and again feeling quite claustrophobic with large banging sounds each time the magnets did whatever they did. I had a heavy plastic mask put over my face either because I was too ugly for the nurses to look at or to protect me from I know not what. It was like a helmet players of American Gridiron games wear. When I lived in the States we called it football but in Australia they say gridiron as footy is what Australians play and football is soccer some places but no matter what the sport having one on and being inside a tube fastened down was not fun. What was worse than the banging noses was some weird background music. Someone playing the same piano piece over and over. This went on for an hour. There is a button to push if one gets too stress and at some point I did and they took me out of the tunnel. I sat up said it was all a bit too much and being sympathetic nurses they smiled, took my helmet face mask off for about ten minutes put it back and and shoved me back for more noise and said this time it would be only for another fifteen minutes which somehow I endured. There was another test which I do not remember the name of where I was hooked up to several monitors and laying down they wanted to shove me into yet another machine. There was some problem with it because I have a very irregular heart beat and on their monitor it showed my pulse in such a low range – low in the teens – that the technician in charge got a bit worried. I told her it was her machine that was malfunctioning and not me. She said she had never had a problem with the machine and that maybe something was drastically wrong with me. She called in several other people and they all looked at me then the machine and they all looked a bit worried. I said it was their machine that sucked. Fortunately one technician had enough sense to physically take my pulse and she was relieved and I commented that it was their machine. They hooked me up to another machine and that seemed to work better. Actually this test was before the PET thingy because they had already put the dye into me and they had to have their monitors working before shoving me into the PET thingy. They said the new PET thingy could work with people with irregular hear beats like mine but there was only one of the newest machines and that was at Sanatorium Hospital, which incidentally was across the street from where we were staying and had a view of the horse racecourse. I of course volunteered to be tested there as being surrounded by 5 or 6 concerned, worried, semi-confused technicians, nurses and doctors was giving me the heebie jeebies. Someone rang Dr. King and someone said OK, probably the same person and it was all back on with me being put into the Pet thingy. There was the CT scan and the Ultrasound and a 24-hour wearing a halter-cardiac device all to find out what was in (too much calcium?) and what was out with what could be wrong with me if indeed anything was wrong.
We had spent about eight hours in hospital with me poked and prodded and early evening we finally got to go back to our hotel. Being told to take it easy and with my 24 hour halter-cardiac device with plugs stuck to various parts of my body firmly in place we took double decker buses around town. Being situated in Happy Valley which is a hub or the start of several double decker buses gave us a lot to choose from.
We just rode, got off; everything looked too Chinese for us – it was like being in China – oh wait maybe we still were – and got back on another one. The evening was so warm. We sat on the top deck and took lots of video which at some point will show up on my youtube channel.
Friday we were back to the hospital in the morning to hear the good news; that I was fine, the tests showed that I had had a bit of indigestion and we could go back home Sunday on our booked flight and be back to work on Monday with a bit of an expensive three day break from school. We figured since we were in Hong Kong we would make the best of it and spend the rest of the day Friday and Saturday wandering around Hong Kong. Maybe try to squeeze in a boat trip to one of the islands.
Well that didn’t work out did it?
Dr. King said that I had a few narrow arteries filled with calcium and that I would need surgery. He said until he put a catheter into my arteries he would not be sure but I would need at least three stents. He went over what the procedure was about and that Sunday would be good to do it. Being a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital they were not in full swing on a Saturday. I think Saturday is their Sunday. Go figure. Nevertheless with this not so groovy news we set up for Sunday to be a day of no-fun. I was to check in Saturday night – OK so they let people check-in Saturday but operations get put off until Sunday. I was listening to Janis Joplin sing ‘Another piece of my heart’ in my head and wondering whether I should make this my phone’s ring-tone.
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now…”
Of course like everyone I have my brush with fame story; Janis Joplin. Back in 1969 I was almost run over by her in her Porsche. I knew it was her. We all knew that car as she sped around San Francisco. I use to go and listen to her at the Fillmore and in Golden Gate Park and I still listen to her when I am lifting weights at Campus Village at Dalian American International School 44 years later. Strange how things stick in one’s mind but I always remember that moment and how close I almost came to my end then but didn’t and she did not long after and here I am writing about her instead of her writing about me. Not that she would but perhaps if she had lived and I had been knocked over I could have featured in one of her songs and she could be tweeting about how even now 44 years later she remembers that moment. But of course that is all silly to think of now when I am writing about something totally different. My heart.
We went off to the billing department and they said we would need to get in touch with our insurance company to get pre-approval and that of course there should not be a problem with that. Having had problems with our insurance company for the past three-years we were not that confident. Someday I will put into writing the name of our insurance company but as we need them now and in the near future we will just say ‘our insurance company’. We rang the insurance company from the hospital and they said to send them a bill for the pre-approval. We took a peek at the future bill (the tests were only in the $3000 plus range) and sort of gasped. Seventy-thousand plus (not Hong Kong dollars but USA dollars) for a night in the hospital plus a few stents tossed in. I was thinking the insurance company would be better off paying off my fifty-thousand dollar death coverage than to pay this but over and over we have been told that we have a really good insurance company. Yeah right! So we went back to our hotel and wrote Dalian American International School to say we will not be back until Wednesday as I am having a bit of surgery on Sunday and I need to rest for two days so we will fly back Tuesday night and I would be back at work on Wednesday. Narda and I wrote and sent lesson plans for the extra two days.
Friday night we made multiple phone calls to both the China and the USA departments of our insurance company. This spilled into Saturday when we were told over and over that it would all be cleared up in a couple of hours and we would get the go ahead. By late Saturday afternoon we had to cancel the Sunday surgery as we had still not gotten the OK. All day Saturday we rang speaking to one person after another each saying it would be a matter of a couple of hours because anything over fifty-thousand dollars had to go to an underwriter. We went to Stanley Market and did a bit of shopping and then we discovered we had to move out of our hotel because Sunday night was booked out. We had planned to fly back to Dalian Sunday. Happy Valley was getting to feel like home and of course just a couple of days earlier we had our big win at the local track so moving was not going to be fun especially when our insurance company was being mean to us. One person, she was a supervisor, suggested we go to Florida because I could have the same operation done for about 45-thousand. We could not believe someone, especially a supervisor, suggesting we fly from Hong Kong to Florida to save the insurance company money. We did find a hotel; L’Hotel Island South http://www.lhotelislandsouth.com/eng/front/ and it was really a good four-star place. We got a room with the mountain view on the 32nd floor and thought OK if this is where we have to bunker down for a long time this will be it. We moved in Sunday afternoon still getting phone calls saying it would just be another couple of hours.
Narda was emailing everyone she could find in the insurance company and still at mid-night Saturday she was ringing and emailing. Finally someone said that the underwriters don’t work on weekends and that we should know within a couple of days when they got back to work on Monday. It was looking more and more like we were going to be stuck in Hong Kong for awhile. Sunday we went to Aberdeen and found a great little restaurant on Old Main Street, Myanmar Thai Palace We are going to Myanmar for Chinese New Year in January to see our ex-workmates; Frank and Kay and we are going over with Jean and Sean so it will be quite the crazy week. There in Myanmar. Going back to L’Hotel Island South we took a nap in the afternoon and at 5 pm we got a phone call that the insurance company had approved it. One of the many people Narda had phoned had pushed the whole thing through. Actually it was the head of customer service, a man in India that Narda has contacted many times to sort out situations from the past. Nothing major just some basic tests we get done every year to be sure we are functioning well, stuff like that. The amount of work the insurance company goes through to get out of paying anything is always remarkable. But this one dude on a Sunday morning had gotten through where no one else was able to and got us moving forward.
Arrangements were made for me to check into the hospital on Monday morning and have surgery late in the afternoon. We went back to the Myanmar Thai Palace for dinner, sat along the river and wondered what would happen next. I was a tad bit nervous about the whole thing. Having been an astrologer for forty-years and having stopped looking at planetary positions a decade ago I thought I would have a peek for old times sake. Nothing looked too good and if I were to believe in astrology again I could easily have made some linkage. Uranus was in 9 degrees and 34 minutes Aries which is fine as it was trine my Venus at 10 degrees Leo meaning quick and successful surgery. But the real indicator of all the fuss was and still is Saturn at 13 degrees and eight minutes Scorpio so exactly square my Saturn conjunct Pluto at 13 degrees Leo an eight minutes. And yes you saw it too; square my Venus.
Hello! Wow is this so possible?
Saturn takes 28 years to get to this position and to have Uranus in trine to my Leo planets (Venus, Saturn Pluto, Sun, Mid Haven, Part of Fortune) is statistically almost impossible – maybe the planets get in this position every few thousand years. Lucky me. Jupiter was still in trine with my Jupiter – separating two degrees so that was helpful. Pluto (is that still being used as a planet now that it has been kicked out as a planet?) was inconjunct or quincunx to my Venus and of course square by nature of the qunicunx to Uranus at the time. If I were to believe in this stuff I would have been alarmed that transit Saturn was conjunct Mercury (was there some bad advice being given?) meaning that both planets were squaring exactly my Saturn Pluto conjunction (I used to give presentations and wrote some articles on the Saturn Pluto conjunction in Leo being the symbol of the baby boomers. All that free-love (Leo – heart) with Pluto overthrowing Saturn. I had really lengthy examples and proofs sort of back in the day. Now I just ramble on and no one has a clue what I am talking about. Narda just popped in, she watches all these medical shows; 13 years without fail she watched ‘ER’ and now she is going through season after season of Grey’s Anatomy. She loves all this medical and I don’t. I have never watched any of them.
So Narda asks what I am writing about and I am sitting here with the astrology chart for 28 October on her iPad and I am saying I don’t believe any of this anymore and she says if you did what would that chart say?
See this is what I mean. I tell her and basically all I can say is that it means what actually happened. I did not need the symbolism of astrology to know something was going wrong. OK one more thing; the Moon was in Leo. Holy Cow! There is the moon sitting on top of my Sun dragging all those influences into being. Saturn as Saturn does, delayed and made us go crazy and of course having calcium in my arteries is well explained by Saturn squaring my Saturn in Leo – ruler of the heart. For a couple of decades I was really into medical astrology even to the point of making magic potions and elixirs for people based on their rising sign and the position and aspects to their ruling planet. I was sort of known for this in New Orleans when I was a street artists. I use to drink a lot of lemon grass tea as that was suppose to be a Venus ruled herb and Venus rules my astrology chart (Libra rising with Venus being strongest by being in the 10th house and having so many aspects). Another interesting point is that at the time of surgery for Hong Kong at 4 pm there was Aries rising with Uranus in the first house and the fifth house – the house of the heart – being ruled by the heart sign, Leo, so all my Leo points and planets were in the fifth house during the surgery. I use to love astrology but it got in my way and there was a time I could not just live my life but had to do astrology charts on everything. It was when Leigh killed himself (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) that I just could no longer use astrology. I was not seeing reality but was off following symbols that were based on interpretation and I got caught interpreting life through my eyes and wants and I missed what was really going on.
The Adventist Hospital being a vegetarian hospital seemed so natural. It went along with what was roughly my life-long life: hippie communes in the 1960s, eating vegetarian foods for the past 45 years, being in a new age cult group for a decade, various religious and philosophical beliefs embraced then discarded over the decades each pushing the vegetarian life style, being a tofu manufacture for eight years in South Australia – see my slowly evolving e-book http://neuage.us/tofu/ There was even a time when I was going to build a big tofu factory – compared to the small tofu factory I had for eight years – and sell to the Seventh Day Adventists in Australia. It is all quite remarkable and now here I was lying in a bed with needles in my arm and an oxygen thing in my nose and eating wonderful vegetarian food. The food was so good I kept ordering more off of the menu. The staff there must have thought that I had not eaten for days.
Every few minutes nurses would come in and take my blood pressure, give me some medication, take pulses and I would ask to see the menu again. At four pm I got rolled down the hall all neatly snug in my bed with my lame looking gown on and things hanging out of me and over me. Not that I see many hospital movies but times that I have passed through the lounge and Narda has one on there is always some poor joker on a bed being wheeled into surgery. Now I was one of them. I looked around for the camera crew and the make up artist but I was put into the operation theatre with little fan fare. Narda could not even come in. To make matters worse I was not given some really nice powerful mind altering drug. All they did was put some local numbing agent on my arm where they were shoving a needle up my vain and into arteries around my heart. I could see what was going on with three big screens in front of me and none of it looked to comfortable. Actually I was very uncomfortable and kept hearing ‘you have to lay still’. I never sit still and never lay still but I was trying. All the time my chest was feeling like a heart of elephants were doing a ballad on top of it. It was all so uncomfortable and there were so many people with jobs. I counted 9 at one time. But this is China. There are always a mingling mob for each job. I think it is called full employment. Everyone looked quite concerned and busy with their tasks at hand. Of course they all spoke in some language that I was not familiar with. If only I had taken those Chinese language courses offered at our school. Narda and I did one and we sort of never got back and here we are three years later not knowing anything.
I tried to take my mind off of what was going on by thinking about useful stuff. Like my lesson unit – that put me to sleep and they said I had to stay away so I thought of places I had lived, things I had done. Most of all I wondered if these people had a clue of what they were doing. I thought about various stuff I had believed in during my time on this planet and wondered if everyone changes their beliefs as often as I do. I suppose it is a times like this when someone is shoving rods into the heart that the question and importance of life become forthcoming. Unfortunately I did not get any insights. I no longer do. I think it has to do with our school taking on Standards. It makes people stupid; both teachers and students alike. We are losing the creative aspect and teaching sameness and in-fusing it into bland world of massive robotic proportions. I use to believe in reincarnation, astrology, evolution and all that kind of stuff.
Now I believe we are just the fodder, unripe food for the next wave of people/machines which of course will be combined and already has its start with Google Glass and other wearable tech things. My son Sacha said if I could wait a few years they would just send in an army of nanobots to clean stuff up and stitch the veins. I could have main vain veins with a search engine embedded that would scour the world’s medical knowledge and new procedures and not only find but implement the procedure and create the fixings by combining DNA strands various cellular molecules and have nanobots fly out of my ears and go off to factories in distant places maybe on another planet or asteroid get what was needed and arrive back to my body and go to the factory somewhere in my body and fly off to the part of my body that needed fixing and life would be beaut. I could have a whole nano-factory built somewhere in my body and a constant movement of things fixing and improving throughout my body as I lifted weights at the gym and listened to Janis Joplin.
These are the kind of things I think about when laying on a bed in a operating room with masked people speaking in a language I did not understand and hopefully they shared as they at times spoke in hurried phrases then a few of them would come running over and my wrist where they had the injection point would sting and then my chest would feel like a herd of elephants were doing the Watusi on my chest.
“There’s a dance called the Watusi it’s out of sight,
First you slide to the left then to the right.
The Watusi is out of sight,
You slide to the left, then to the right.
Take two steps up and keep it tight.
And do the Watusi, it sure is a sight.”
There were three large monitors that I could watch what was going on on. I looked up once or twice and it sort of freaked me out so I went back to thinking. This all went on for more than two hours and I just could not find a good range of thoughts to centre on. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s I use to believe in all the mind control of your body stuff. For years I carried around “The Science of Mind”, by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes  believing all that crap. He was on about how our thinking creates diseases in our body. For example negative thoughts created negativity which manifested as dis-ease, not at ease, in our body. I furthered this thinking for a decade in the Holy Order of Mans when I was a brother in their centres in Hawaii, San Francisco, Cheyenne Wyoming, Wichita Kansas, Detroit, Syracuse New York and finally Baltimore Maryland. They had all this material about the higher Self and how our body was just a vehicle we traveled about in and if things went wrong it was karmic from some other lifetime or the miss use of energy now. I managed to go through their initiations of Self-illumination and Self-Realization before leaving for good and learning to re-live my life without the muddled illusions of superstitious belief systems. I must admit though whilst having stuff shoved into my arteries next to my heart and a herd of elephants doing the Watusi on my chest I tried to rise above my body or at least try to do something more metaphysical than just lay there hurting but I did not have any luck. My mind has ground down into the physical so strongly that I wonder how did I ever get into believing all the hocus-pocus stuff I once believed in.
At some point I got wheeled out of the operating room and there was Narda on the other side of the door. I know this happens all the times in her medical shows she watches but I had never been in an operating room before. Even when my two sons were born, I helped deliver both, it was just a simple room. Especially the one in Kahuku Hawaii where Sacha was born on the North-shore of Oahu. There was just Dr. Branch, the alleged mother and me. Leigh was born in Ashford Hospital Adelaide and I was there and at that birth so was Sacha, age two and a half.
Narda is always there making the continuity of life good. All I felt was hunger and of course a sore chest and sore arm and sore wrist. Dr. King (who has a Chinese name in brackets between the Peter and the King) said it went better than he had thought. Good grief what had he thought? He did put in a fourth stent after he was deep into my chest and found another artery that looked suspect. He kept saying to lay still which for me is very difficulty. I struggle to sit still for ten minutes and to sit still for two hours is gruesome. First I was cold so they put some horse blankets on me then I was hot so they took them off. I think I am a bad patient. Even my dentist is constantly telling me to relax when she has her head half way down my throat. I just am not the ideal ER patient.
The menu is great. I ordered half the stuff on the menu then ordered some more. Narda stayed in the hospital overnight. Lucky for you my photos are on my phone which is over in my classroom at school or I would show a photo of the room, probably one with me all hooked up to oxygen and drips and monitors but smiling because the food was good. It was like staying in a hotel with lots of room service. I had to stay in bed until the next day which was making me go funny in the head but we made it through the night and by the next evening, Tuesday we checked out and went back to L’Hotel South.
It is strange to go back only a day later to someplace when so much has changed. Now for the rest of my life or at least until they crank up the nanobots I have to wear material inside my body up near my heart.
Wednesday, two days after surgery – that is me in front of the sign the day following stents shoved in, not feeling great but at least a bit mobile. I liked this sign because I thought it said Old Man Street. I even made it my Facebook profile photo. A week later I realised it said Old Main Street. I felt like a real goose but I have kept the photo for now. No wonder I get so confused I misinterpret everything I see. That was always my problem with astrology. I am sure it is all there but I misinterpret it all.
We took a boat over to Lamma Island for the afternoon. Lamma Island does not have cars on it. Like Prince Islands in the Bosphorus Sea outside of Istanbul. We like quiet islands with no cars. Wish they would take them off of that island we call home, Australia. I wasn’t feeling to flash, a bit dizzy, light headed and weak. I guess when they poke around a heart it leaves one not feeling their best. We did not make it very far but found a nice quiet beach to sit at and later in the day took the ferry back to Aberdeen and went home.
Thursday afternoon we went home getting back to Dalian at 11 PM. Friday we were back at work. The people at Dalian American International School are the best. Lots of welcome backs and hugs (even though I am a product of the 60’s and lived in communes in California and did all that new age crap – hey my name is Neuage – I am not a touchy touchy person and don’t like hugging but I put up with it this time). The middle school choir, under Tyler, put together a song, Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life and sent it to me. Of course they left out a line or two which would not be appropriate for middle school children to sing – even to an old goat like me. In my middle school class a sixth grader ran across the room and threw her arms around me and said she was so happy I was now OK.
My students were so good whilst I was away. I had written up my lesson plans and one day even partially taught my high school film class via Skype. The students all did their assignments and emailed their work to me and my high school students put their work in their Google Sites pages for me to review.
I had on my table the DVDs of my heart operation. I had not looked at them and just figured in between classes I would have a look-see. Of course my middle school kids wanted to know what was on those disks and I said nothing that you would want to see – it is my heart operation and of course they then wanted to see it. I was quite unsure, Narda, whose music room is next door, was looking through my door shaking her head no. Can you imagine having a film studio next to the music room? I produce two shows for school a week called DAISlive with stories and events and the like about what is going on around school. In most interviews, stories and what not there is a first grade flute class or fifth grade singing rehearsal for the upcoming Christmas musical or worse, third grade drum class in the background.
I said to the children that it would probably gross them out which of course makes an adolescent want to see it all the more so we watched. Actually there was nothing gruesome to view. On the one DVD we looked at there were 36 video clips – in black and white – showing like a string with a lasso on the end going through the vein to position the stents. One 8th grader who wants to be a doctor after watching for a minute said that I had an irregular heart beat. Well I hadn’t even noticed that.
So here I am three weeks after surgery and we are going back next weekend, hopefully just for three days this time, to be sure everything is in place. I was told not to lift weights for the first two weeks and that this week it was OK to go lightly so I have done that. I said to a nurse “what about my six-pack I am trying to develop” (at 66 years old) and she said “why?” because I was married. I said that matrimonial status had nothing to do with vanity but she did not get that. We have gone for walks which is OK though I feel pretty crappy after about 20 minutes. Of course I am wondering whether ever having anything done was the correct thing to do.
To freak myself out even more I read a story in the New York Times Health blog section this morning,
“Heart Stents Still Overused, Experts Say” By ANAHAD O’CONNOR August 15, 2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/heart-stents-continue-to-be-overused/?_r=0
which says one out of ten don’t need them and that doctors and hospitals make good money doing these procedures. Damn!
When the television is off for a week and there is nothing to do but nothing to do the world is really an OK place. It was not really our own choice but the choice was good. A few things this past week have not been our choice but then again we have been making do with ‘outside’ and ‘others’ choices for a lot this year. The first few days we stayed at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. In the Bajiaxian Xihuanmen hood to be specific. There were no television stations in any of the many languages that we speak/understand: Australian English, American English (Narda questions whether that is really English – ‘just a dialectic of the Queen’s English badly butchered’), New Zealand English, Canadian and of course Narda speaks the language of her birthplace up there in Utrecht (The Netherlands) but anything else we have to turn the telly off for and anything else was all there was on the television in the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. The rest of the week in the apartment we were in we were not ever able to sort out how to turn the television on. We tried every button and every combination of every button and just saw characters on the screen that seemed to be laughing at us in our ignorance of how to put meaning to them. I have a Ph.D in communication (constructed all in Australian English – 155,000 words, 550 pages with diagrams and images – http://neuage.org/ODAM) which is all about the construction of meaning – see image below – but in that whole seven years of research and of course the masters and other degrees leading to that, I never learned how to put meaning to the images we were seeing on the telly so we could figure how to get the bloody thing to go to an actual television station. Of course we no doubt would not have found a station in any language that we understood if we did so we would not have known what was going on in the world after all, especially the first few days of our stay at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an where we did not get Internet either.
I will attempt to stay on task of our trip to Xi’an; though, as I have not written since returning from summer break and our little journey to the States, Australia and Malaysia and we have had a very busy month since returning to work and the weekend before going to Xi’an we were on the North Korea border staying in Dandong I probably will have moments of drifting to other thoughts/insights/visions/illuminations/realizations/memories and the like.
Speaking of drifting – I write for myself – if no one reads anything I write ever that is fine. I have had comments that my spelling infuriates some (I switch from Australian to whatever it is the Yanks speak – being a duel citizen and all) so my excuse is color is colour and sometimes a ‘z’ is an ‘a’ and some words are slang and some no doubt I have made up and that is my writing that I do for myself because I enjoy writing and I do it for myself and I do a lot of writing to remember what we have done. I wrote a 170,000 word book called ‘Leaving Australia’ and made two bound copies of it; one for my son and one sits on my shelf and I like to read it sometimes as it helps me remember stuff. I don’t even have portions of it on-line. Anymore. I did for awhile but some characters that I have met along the way who were in my narrative were really upset to find their portrayals on-line; true that it was but of course we all have those sections of life we pretend never happened and hope that no one will ever divulge either. But my story is also the story of interactions with people in specific situations at a certain time and space that we shared and to change or even delete those moments makes the continuum of my story choppy and invested with deep holes – so that is why I only printed two books.
On the way to Xi’an the funnest of funnies… because of the upcoming national holiday the stewardess gave everyone China flags to wave – which they did. Following that people went up to the front and sang stuff. A stewardess came and asked me to sing. I said Narda was not only a professional singer but also a music teacher of course Narda did not hear all of this and the next thing she knew I was pushing her up the aisle. And even though I could not get a video of her singing because of all the people standing in front of me I did listen as everyone on the plane did. She of course could not sing a Chinese patriotic song but she did make up a song using happy birthday. Some words about ‘I wish you well China and on and on…’ we all cheered and my only disappointment is that I did not get it recorded.
Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. I will start with that. Because the place had a top listing for places to stay in Xi’an (Ranked #1 of 86 Xi’an B&B and Inns by Trip Advisory) and it looked as funky as could be we booked it some six weeks ago, August 24th to be precise, it was the place for us. We spent a lot of time trying to find the owner of the place. All the web searches for it lead to Expedia, Agoda, travelpod, booking.com and all the rest are just to rent the place. We did find the actual telephone number eventually and rang the owner who had his wife meet us at the airport bus stop. It was fortunate that we did as the place is almost impossible to find. It is located down an alley after a few other side streets. It is not a building dedicated to the Warriors Apartment but in actual fact three apartments, one located on the 7th floor where there is no Internet and two on the second floor. The building is about 25 stories high and is amongst many other tall buildings all several decades old. We booked a one-bedroom apartment for a week and were happy to be given a two-bedroom apartment. Inside is so much our style. Who would not want to have a home with warriors all over the place? In every room including the kitchen and about 40 holding up the bed (no comments please)
as well as four holding up the sink in the bathroom.
We were only about five minutes walk to Beiyuanmen Muslim Street which is the in place to hang out. Because we went during the Chinese National Day holiday week (celebrating the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, in 1949) the place was so packed that there were times we could not move in any direction.
See http://goo.gl/S2dh8L or click on the QR code.
We got out to see the Terracotta Warriors in the morning. Bus lines were enormous with a couple of hours wait for the tourist bus that is mentioned in Lonely Planet. We gave up and found a more of a local bus on the other side of the car park – bus 615, which got us there in an hour and we waited only about 20 minutes. We came back on bus 614 which took two hours but that was because of traffic. The pits were will worth seeing once in a life time. (lines were much longer than appears here – they wrap around and go out past the train station and through a large car park out to the main bus station across the road.)
I could never have been one of the people digging these things up. It is all quite painstaking and required endless amounts of time using small brushes and files to scrape off thousands of years of muck. In pit two and one which are smaller – there is still digging and crap going on to expose all this. We have a book written by the owner of the Warriors Apartments which is quite good and of course there is heaps on the Internet.
I wanted to go to the top of the mountains across the road but we did not have the time. We were an hour from Xi’an and still the pollution was so thick that even at noon the mountains looked too hazy to get a good glimpse of.
To divert a bit. We got home yesterday afternoon and as always had a Jack-driver meet us at the airport and we did our shopping for the month on the way home. In the afternoon we were just chilling and after dinner I was in the kitchen and without warning I blacked out and ended on the floor. I only say this now as I will probably forget somewhere in the future – like next week – and I want to record what happened. As a person who has never fainted or passed out before it was a unique experience. One minute I was putting something in the microwave and the next I was gaining consciousness on the floor. I did not feel light headed or any signs of anything even a second before. I did not even recall going down. Narda said I looked in shock when I came to. The whole event lasted seconds but I did get some aches and pains such as a twisted knee from crashing to the floor. What is slightly interesting in all of this is that things just happen maybe even for no reason. I felt fine after and we went and used the large massage chair on the second floor, coming home feeling great. So today I went to the S.O.S clinic on the first floor and Dr. Wilhelm looked after me. He took some blood, did an EKG which he sent to Hong Kong for a specialist to look at (oh boy maybe we get to fly to Hong Kong next week) and spent more than an hour doing all kinds of tests and at this point we do not know why I kissed the floor. Being a holiday week and the staff mostly out of town I pretty much had the clinic to myself. I only mention all this because nothing like this has ever happened before. In Xi’an the traffic was brutal. Cars, buses, scooters, trucks and people all going in all directions often in total disregard of any laws that would be in place if anyone was around to enforce them. (Travel operators in China have a huge new set of rules to follow now that the country’s first tourism law is in place. The 112-article law came into effect October 1 But I do not think it applies to people trying to get through an intersection) All manner of vehicles go through red lights so they are not a deterrent from disaster. Narda and I surely mingled with the masses and crossed in-between buses and carts and all the rest. Our tactic is usually to use others as a human shield and cross in the midst hoping others will protect us. Luckily for any reason I did not have a black out – my one and only of my life – in one of those crossing the street situations. And luckily we were not riding bikes in our dangerous fashion alongside main roads and darting across roads in front of traffic that would not be aware of a red light or anything else that could possibly slow down their forward motion.
We did ride bikes in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province on the wall that surrounds the city. It is one of the oldest cities in China and the largest city in the world in 582 according to people in the know. There is all kind of historical crap to look at. We rode up on the wall that surround the city. It is some 14 kilometers and we rode three-fourths of it. Because we rented bikes for only 100 minutes and we are old and slow and take way too many photos and videos and there are four bike rental areas at the four main turns of the wall: yes, the North and the South and the West and the East gates we only got to the third gate by the time we peeled our sorry asses off of the bike seat.
After the first days in the Warriors Apartment we had a bit of a shock. At the door was standing three people and the owner’s wife. She said they too were booked into our apartment. It did not register at first and when I saw it was three teachers from our school – that we live on the same floor as – I welcomed them in thinking they were in the second floor apartment. We knew they were staying at the same place so this was not a totally unreasonable thought to have. It was not like waking up on the kitchen floor wondering how I suddenly passed out. Low and behold they had their bags with them and were told they could stay in our second bedroom. Now we realise that there is a difference in customs and how people interact. Perhaps in the local Chinese world having three people in a bedroom and another couple in the other is not uncommon. But these three women had already paid for the apartment we were in and not only that but more than Narda and I had. So of course everyone, except the owner, was upset. I just sort of drifted out of the picture knowing that four pissed off middle age women would figure stuff out a lot more efficiently than a 66 year old ex-hippie. The owners blamed Agoda saying they stuffed up the booking. The women called Agoda and Agoda rang the owner who said everything was fine and that he was taking care of it. What a balls-up – never seen such a situation. Right up there with fainting for the first time in my life. I suppose that is why life is mildly interesting to me it is so incredibly unpredictable.
We were told to wait until six pm, but it was about 7.30 when Clarence showed up to sort out the dilemma. In the meantime everyone was a bit agro. His initial ‘idea’ was for us all to stay together and he would refund some money. Well that was a stupid idea so he said he would go off and look for something to move someone into. As we had booked a single room apartment it was obvious that we were going to get the boot and we did. Clarence, his wife and son all showed up and with Narda and I were taken out of the old quarter that we were really getting to like and into some crappy new city area quite the distance. The apartment we were given was terrible. Clarence said that it would be very difficult to find a place because of the holiday. The apartment was dirty, there was left over food in the small kitchen and the bathroom was just dirty. We were quite upset but that is where we were left. Whose fault it was, whether it was Agoda not passing on the booking or Clarence’s it was handled very badly. He had no problem with taking the money – which incidentally was on the same day – we independently rented the same apartment in the same city on the same day – 24th of August. Clarence saw them as the same booking but of course anyone would see that there were two lots of money. We were exhausted by the time we got to the apartment and did not put up enough of a fight.
As always is the case we made the best of our new surroundings. We found our way to the subway and took Line 1 which began operation on September 15, 2013, like a couple of weeks ago. I love subways and always ride one in a city comparing them to New York City and Paris which not as old as London are great subway lines. I have never been on a subway line that is less than a month old. OK there was nothing special and it was so crowded because of the holiday that we barely could get on. But it did get us back into the old quarters. We were also near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayan Pagoda) which was begun in 652 and though another pagoda is not so exciting we did go to the fountain light show in the evening. I have some good footage in youtube but my still photos of the fountain light show are a bit average as you can see but I did get this fairly OK shot of the pagoda thingy.
Again there were so many people it was difficult getting around. Outside of spending a couple of more days tromping around Xi’an, riding the metro and looking at huge shopping malls that were fancy from the outside but just like every other shopping mall inside were the same old we just looked around at another polluted over crowded city.
However in one mall was this huge screen on the ceiling,
This ceiling LED display of more than 3000 square meters (168 meters long and 17.92 meters wide) located in Qin Han Tang Emporium which is next to the Goose Pagoda was impressive. I will have a clip on my youtube site at http://youtube.com/neuage09 any moment now. At the same time as writing this I am editing clips in Adobe Premier Pro Creative Cloud – my new favourite subscription software in a suite of lots of groovy creative projects. I am loving After Effects and Photoshop along with some 20 plus other programs but Premier definitely does for me at the moment. Having hundreds of video clips and a thousand photos I will have enough to do, along with an actual job, and being a caring/listening/nurturing husband (will there be time for that?) to keep me off the streets for awhile or hopefully off of the kitchen floor.
Thankfully I was not hanging onto the side of a tuk tuk as it found its way through traffic. These things are off-putting to me but as Narda likes them we do ride them in various countries.
I started a new series here at Dalian American International School – the DAIS Cooking Show. Well, I have had one show which was with meat eating Patrick. He showed how to make meat burgers – good grief, and in front of me too; I showed my tofu burger making skills refining one of my recipes from http://neuage.us/tofu/ where I showcase experiences/recipes/stories garnished from seven years as a tofu manufacturer in Adelaide, South Australia. We filmed it all with two cameras; a Nike and our new school semi-professional JVC. I now have several hours of banter, silliness, cooking, eating and live audience (Narda, Sean, Jean, JoeFred – not a big audience) to edit. I have several other shows getting lined up and soon the next in the series will be up and hopefully by the end of the school year some mega China television broadcasting networking system will offer me a huge contract to show what to do with tofu on live television… oh wait! This is China – home of tofu. Well I am giving it a shot that is for sure.
I did like the street we were on, it had art all along it much like we saw in Mexico City.
Here are just a couple of the pieces – there were probably a hundred:
At the end of it all after walking 8 – 10 hours a day for five days in a very polluted Chinese city I think we would have been better off on one of the other holidays teachers took this week such as to Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, inner Mongolia and lots of better holidays than we took. Not to worry we are off to Thailand for three weeks at Christmas and lots of other great destinations for the next holidays.
The weekend before we left on our Warrior-less Apartment we went the three hour drive up to Dandong with about 55 people from our school. Dandong is across a narrow river divide of North Korea.
Walking out on Friendship bridge we could see the fake amusement park on the North Korea side. The Ferris wheel is just a cut-out thingy. We did hear children playing and actually saw them playing along the river. Online stories say this part of North Korea has been tarted up for tourist to look across and see that everything is quite normal.
The boat trip is well worth it and I even got up close to some North Korean soldiers,
Maybe I could get them interested in my tofu cooking class.
At the Museum Commemorating the War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea there is lots of anti-Western stuff to look at. I photographed several of their write-ups but not having been in this part of the world and only having an American view I can not comment on what the beef was all about.
But Dandong is not just about North Koreans and their possibly tainted view of us – I mean Kim Jong Un is friends with Dennis Rodman, they are BFFs, how could they be anything but sympathetic toward others?
The best thing to do is go along the wall where it starts. Of course this was before I blacked out in my kitchen and twisted my knee (there goes my softball career – every Sunday we play against a team from Taiwan here at school and this was going to be the game that I actually hit the ball far enough to get on base – saying all that, everyone is much younger than me) so I was able to climb and climb and climb. We were a bit worse for wear when we got to the top but the view was fantastic. We could see straight into North Korea but I did not see Kim Jong Un though he may have seen me.
“Do not take my Vegemite ”
In the past six weeks we have gone through eight airports with their security checks: Dalian, Beijing (three times), Newark (twice), Atlanta, Albany, New York, Kula Lumpur (twice), Adelaide (four times), and Melbourne (twice).
Narda bought a jar of Vegemite and a jar of Promite at Woolies (Woolworth’s) in Adelaide after we had packed our check-in luggage so she placed it in our carry-on. No worries, we went through customs at Adelaide and KL. After a short night’s sleep at Metro Park Lido in Beijing (we arrived in Beijing at one AM and got to the hotel at 2:30 AM, up for breakfast five hours later and to the airport in time for our fight to Dalian which we just discovered has been delayed four hours. Most flights in China or out of China are delayed by many hours.
Customs @ Beijing Domestic was brutal. We had to take almost everything out of our carry-on bags then they took the jar of Vegemite and Promite from Narda’s bag. Narda was far from ‘she’ll be right mate’.
Vegemite ad from the 1960s “We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek.”
The customs agent chick walked off with the two jars in her hands with Narda close by saying ‘give me back my vegemite’. Good grief. I shoved all my bits and pieces into my bags – three carry-on bags because we were overweight for check-in plus Narda’s carry-on bags and ran after the jar carriers. At some desk in a corner of the terminal the customs lady was trying to open the jars which Narda was trying to take back from her. Narda kept saying that it was food and that every other airport allowed it through. Finally Narda opened the Vegemite jar, the woman sniffed it and started to look up on her computer monitor but Narda had the jars in her hand and we were off to our gate. I think the smell was a bit OK as it looks and smells a bit like something that could have been created out of soy bean paste. Narda was still upset but we had the stuff. Granted I remember seeing a few tubes and jars of it at home in our pantry but I suppose there never can be too much of one’s comfort foods. It is like Dutch Salty Liquorice, we always have a bag or two near at hand; well Narda does and I will have a salty drop now and then. Her parents always have a box of them next to their driver seat so whenever we go someplace there is the Salty Liquorice. Most people hate it and will spit out the liquorice right away though I do not mind them. I wonder if we would have had such an ordeal with customs if they took away Narda’s salty liquorice.
We did get out of Beijing though several hours later than we were scheduled to. Standing in front of us were two new teachers at our school and their sons from Peru, though at the time we did not know that. We saw them a few days later when school started and I said to them that I was standing behind them in line on the way to Dalian.
As always our true and faithful driver, Jack was there to meet us at the airport and we instantly felt like we were back at home. Being back in our home after six weeks flying around and rescuing vegemite from the grasping hands of officialdom was a nice experience. Our plants had been watered by the cleaning ladies and our home with all our crap was there shaking with excitement at our return.
On the note of all our crap… as if I have joked/complained/explained in the past it is scattered: in a house in upstate New York, in a shed in upstate New York, furniture in our Jersey City home, a piano in our Adelaide home, of course our home in China with even closets filled with boxes from years ago that we dragged here from the States two years ago and our furniture and now a storage bin in Adelaide full. We get exhausted just thinking about all the material belongings we have and I wonder how I managed to spend decades with just a bag of things when I was in my 20s and early 30s and traveled the world. The stuff in Adelaide has been moved about for more than a decade from being in the parent’s shed to Narda’s son’s shed then he moved and now into paid storage. Our firm confirmation, including a handshake, was that we would go through each box and toss what we did not really really need/want. We had left Adelaide in 2002 bound for New York with the belief we would be back in one maybe two years. Now eleven years later we have made the decision it will be one more year overseas then back home. So what we stored twelve years earlier we have managed to live without and therefore no longer would keep. Narda wants to sell everything and buy a live-in vehicle and travel around Australia for years as normal retired folks would which would mean all the more that we need to dump stuff. When we were in upstate New York a few weeks ago we went into one of those large bus-homes that Yanks trawl the USA, staying overnight in Walmart car parks in. It was ten years old, had pullout sides and would have suited us fine and we considered purchasing it on the spot until reason reared its ugly head and we realized it was not only impracticable but we did not have the money or place to store it not to mention that we have no intention to live in the States again. Nevertheless we got ourselves all psyched up and went to the storage bin with a whole day in front of us to do nothing but go through all our stuff and put it in a locked bin. At the moment it was all sitting outside of bins until we arrived to dump and store. We opened two or three boxes realized we did not know whether we wanted to keep the stuff within or not, resealed the boxes and put them into a storage bin. So hopefully a year from now we will move into our house in Adelaide or get an RV with less worldwide possessions and hit the road. We are following the grey nomads, an Australian site, http://thegreynomads.com.au/ that are blogs of folks that live and travel around Australia in their vans.
So my word for the summer is ‘letters’. Firstly, I found a box of letters from my brother Robert that he wrote to people in the 1960s and 1970s (he died in 1994). I found a box of letters from ex-girlfriends but we won’t tell Narda that I slipped that box in between other boxes I kept and then there are the most important discovery of the past ten years for me.
When my son, Leigh, was playing baseball in South Africa for the Australian National Team in 1999 he met Jackie. I would find her name in his belongings years later. I contacted her once in about 2005 and said I found her name and could she tell me anything about her meeting with my son. I also told her that Leigh committed suicide in 2003 a few weeks after turning 20. I set up a Facebook site for Leigh which has hundreds of people who knew him on it. A year ago Jackie contacted me via Leigh’s Facebook page to tell me she had moved from South Africa to Perth in Western Australia and that she had a pile of letters that Leigh had written her. I do not check Leigh’s Facebook page much as it is too difficult for me. I see all his friends, most of whom have children now, including Jackie. I usually check on his birthday in July and read the wonderful tributes his friends write him on that day. I told Jackie I would be in Australia last month and she sent me his letters. There were seven of them, some ten pages long. He had written them in late 1999 when he was in Adelaide and early 2000 when he moved to Florida to play in the LA Dodgers organization. They were love letters. I had never known that he had met someone in Africa. He had a girlfriend in Adelaide and as I was a single parent with him and his brother I thought I knew all that was going on. I never knew he was having problems in his mind until I read his last very long email to his girlfriend in Australia written August 10th (my birthday) 2003 in which he said he had known since the age of ten that he would kill himself. What am I supposed to do with that?
His letters to Jackie did say he was having problems but he never said what they were and I always thought that he was at the top of the world being chased by six or seven major league teams since he was 16 (1999). His brother and I lived what I thought at the time was a fairly happy life.
I wrote my hand-writing analysis friend two days ago; he is a world authority and works with the FBI and police in the States and has written several books on the subject and I asked if he would look at Leigh’s letters. He wrote straight back that he would. I scanned and sent off several pages. So this is why the real word in my mind to describe the summer holiday was ‘letters’. Today is my 66th birthday (August 10 – see? Leo all the way) but that is not the significant day of my life. August 13 2003, ten years ago, Leigh flew to Sydney without notifying the Dodgers; met up with his ‘girlfriend’ at the time, not Jackie (story at http://neuage.org/Idol-star.gif click on the image to enlarge) and the next morning he was at the bottom of his fifteen story balcony at the Novotel Hotel Olympic Park across from the baseball stadium where he had practiced for the Olympic team that was to play in Athens. I did not even know he was in Australia.
I was finishing my PhD at the University of South Australia and we were to head back to New York after the weekend to go back to teaching. Narda came in to my office put her arms around me and said ‘Leigh is dead’. Nothing can change those words. We flew to Sydney and I had to identify him. Narda kept me together then and has since and here a decade later we are preparing for classes again. Now is not like then. We flew back to New York after the funeral and with a couple of hours sleep, incredible depth of despair, jetlag, and all the rest I was standing in front of a room of girls at Russell Sage College welcoming them back to a new year of school. I did not say “I am falling apart because my son killed himself five days ago” but instead taught that first class which was on ‘communication’ and the rest of my classes that day and my classes at the other school I was teaching at, the University of NY at Albany. I managed to appear and teach but it was just a holography of me the real me had died too.Ten years does not diminish depths it only gives it more texture. There is nothing that can be done. I still wake from the same type of dreams; Leigh has done something that has gotten him out of baseball and I am trying to get him back as he keeps asking me – then I awake… Narda hears me my despair wakes her too. I find comfort in going to the gym and lifting weights. I keep lifting more as if I can lift the burden off of me. I suppose it is better to do that than any other escape, at least it is healthy. Leigh use to life weights and spent a lot of time at the gym, maybe which has added to my escape. Leigh was big and strong, he weighed 220 pounds, was six foot four and a solid athlete. He has been reduced to a box of ashes which I still have no idea what to do with. So ‘letters’ were my theme and one word mindset. After death everything pales into insignificance, almost everything. I have a son who is happy and successful and doing stuff that is good: recording hip-hop, working with boat people who have crashed into Australia, works with youth programs involving street kids getting them into street art and hip-hop, giving their life meaning, so he and Narda – my islands and mountains and strengths and they who make me laugh and help me go forth into the day so I can believe that when I feel that all else is insignificant that nothing can hurt me ever again I can still love; my son and wife give me that, they are my two protectorates. I have become inoculated against suffering, nothing can be taken away. In a way it is a liberating feeling to know nothing more can be taken only layers and my core is not accessible by life’s activities or babbling voices that echo off the walls of my Self. I also have freed myself of beliefs that I had which too is liberating because the beliefs that we have, usually passed on to us or brainwashed into us via media or spiritual hustlers are nonsense to begin with. To stop believing is to start living. Instead of following where planets are I now look at a moment and see how that can morph into something creative. How can I storyboard a mesh-up of many different colours happening at once?
We were talking today about standards yesterday, a big focus within our school, and I said I am not following one standard, like the technology one. I am using the Language Arts Standards to create the story, the music standards, the Arts Standards, IT, maybe math and other standards – I want to use every subject in our school to produce a collaborative film. Then I want to take the story, whether written by the Language Arts, or some other department and send it to Frank and Kay who are now in Burma and have their students create a film interpretation of the story as well as my film class to do the same then we can make a composite film. We integrate technology, actually that is my job at our school, but I want to integrate creativity using every department into film making this a year of production of the parts of the whole. Something like that in simple statements. Instead of getting too hung up on grades I want to unfetter the yoke of learning and see if we can find the divine spark in each student to create not only their masterpiece but a collective community of strangers piece. To quote Jefferson Airplanes (1960s)
“you are the Crown of Creation
And you’ve got no place to go’
I would add yes they have a place to go – take it to the next realm. We quit too easy. I continued with 14 years of university under trying times; raising two children, poverty, ten homes in ten years, no family support (I was in a foreign country, Australia, which strangely enough is now my home and the USA is my foreign country. Though I am a duel citizen I no longer feel that I am a Yank I don’t care how much my wife tells me I most definitely sound like one) and when you’ve got no place to go the only way out is to be creative. Maybe it was because I was a street person most of my life and I could live in the moment which is quite a creative thing to do. Creativity to a street person is survival meaning to survive one needs to be creative. But in reality I was most not successful I failed to read my son and at the time I thought I was very tuned into my children, I thought I was psychic in regards to them I was at the top of the spiritual mountain but hey it is all an illusion. One son is now happy has a great girl friend and will soon be making a three month tour of Europe. I think he and his life is real kool. I thought my ball playing son was kool too. We threw a ball every morning and every evening, one-hundred times, I taught him to be a major league pitcher then he no longer wanted it all. He had star potential. We all have start potential.
At the Dwight School in upper Manhattan the graduating students could choose anyone to give their graduating speech. Dwight is a prestigious school with many famous people having children at it (Paris Hilton was there up until the year before I started and members of The Strokes a popular rock band started their band while students at The Dwight School). I was just a silly person who came up with silly ideas for projects. But I was the overwhelming choice to give their farewell speech. I was going to say no but the Leo in me jumped out and said yes. I told them the story of my son – it was sad I suppose – high school students were teary eyed, maybe I am just mean but I had to tell the story. I was a bit graphic but I sure highlight the good times too. My message was simple that no matter how difficult life gets do not kill your self. My son ended his life because his relationship to his girlfriend ended. My belief is that because his mother was not an active part of his life he could not have another female reject him though I would never say that to anyone – maybe I said it to his mother at his funeral because she said mean things to me that day and told me it was all my fault.
How much more fun can one have in life than to say to some kids ‘hey let’s make some films, do some news shows, make rock videos, collaborate with students in other countries and create a film via Skype with them? The older I get the more interesting life is becoming. I goofed off and partied and did what I thought was creative stuff – like my thousands of on-line picture poems and before that I was a street artist in New Orleans, NYC, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Adelaide, South Australia where I did my last shows in 1997 when at age fifty I finally woke up and thought maybe I am too old for this and I should just go nuts on academic stuff. I found I loved doing research, I loved computers and when the World Wide Web was invented in 1990 I knew my life had just started. I probably have ten-thousand web pages; if I believed in astrology I would say it is such a Leo thing. No doubt this will be my last year of teaching but the next thing to do will be even more fun or creative or fulfilling; I have ideas but they are best kept set aside to be nurtured throughout this year.
Malaysian Airlines (international) – check-in, they have allowed us 24 kilos (any number of bags), plus 7 kilos carry-on, strictly enforced (this was ‘enforced’ at the Adelaide end, we were a bit over, almost a kilo, but Aussies help when they are able) and a camera bag or computer bag. The carry-on rule was not checked in KL because we were in transit and as Malaysia is touting themselves as the shopping capital of the world (forget Singapore and Hong Kong) they would not mind if we bought heaps of crap at the airport and added it to our carry-on which of course we did – oh look more stuff to put into storage and drag through life with us).
China Southern (domestic) – check-in = 20 kilos (any number of bags), carry-on – there seems to be no restrictions; we were overweight for check-in and took three bags as carry-on, all quite heavy as they would not allow our extra bag to be checked-in. They then disputed Vegemite as a liquid. Good grief!
Virgin Airlines or any Australian airline (domestic), inflexible – check their info.
USA, good golly what a mess… As I wrote a couple of blogs ago Delta lost our stuff three times for one destination (simply put it was on a flight to Newark which was cancelled after we sat on the tarmac for a couple of hours so instead of staying in Atlanta overnight and going on a flight the next day we took a flight to Albany, New York that evening and we were told our luggage was on our flight but it was not. Three days we were upstate and our stuff never arrived. After three days we said not to send our things to Albany as we were going back to Jersey City and we would collect it at Newark. When we got to Newark Narda’s bag was there but not mine, it was sent to Albany hours before we arrived and it took another couple of days to get it. Though we do appreciate that Delta reimbursed the $400 we spent for ‘necessities’ we needed until I did finally get my luggage).
Basically even United International will not allow more than one bag per person unlike Malaysian Airlines.
As this is getting a tad bit long and I already have begun thinking about my next blog I need to wrap this up – I just wanted to catch up for the past couple of weeks – I write for myself so to remember stop, after all I am now 66 did I mention that already?
Saturday, June 22, 2013 YouTube video clip
Never kept track of flights. Life is a flight. In-flight again. I don’t think I have done Air Canada before. Up here listening to Janis Joplin, OK I have done that before. She is my flight attendant. As one who rarely listens to music except when I travel I stick to what I know to hedge against the approaching unknown. I listen to Dylan, Joplin, Cream… Stuff like that. I almost got knocked over by Janis once in San Francisco in 1969, she was speeding along in her Porsche and I was crossing the street in one of those altered-alternative states people in the 1960’s got into. My one almost claim to fame so now when I fly I listen to her because she can no longer can run me down.
It is a bit of a different trip. Narda and I left Beijing at the same time, almost. Fifteen minutes apart – meeting in Vancouver fifteen minutes apart, racing through the night for eleven hours. We made a slight error when booking – damn we got on different airlines. We do connect in Vancouver and fly on the same plane on to New York City. We thought we were both doing United tickets – not that I was paying attention I was probably listening to Janis Joplin or trying to keep from getting run over by her to double check our flights.
We had a nice overnight in Beijing. We stayed in a Hutongs – one of those remaining bits of China that have not been knocked over to create another luxury apartment building that no one can afford to live in.
I think it was called Candy Inn; that was the user and password for Internet usage so little else matters. The hotel, more of almost a youth hostel, was in a very small lane. Everyone was friendly, though young. We usually stay at four or five star places which are comfortable but boring. This place was about a half a star with a small room with enough room for the bed but meals were good.
Before we knew that Candy Inn served good meals we went out in search of something ‘western’. After walking too many blocks past dozens if not hundreds of Chinese eateries and growing excessively exhausted and not even thinking of the “look we’re lost” but we are constantly lost so we did what we do best when we are lost we took the first bus that came along, a double decker bus where we quickly grabbed seats upstairs. Our policy is always that a bus with a seat is the bus we will take no matter where it is headed. Being seven pm and still very much on the right sight of light I captured fleeting moments with my zoom lens as pedestrian’s privacy found their ways into my next YouTube videos. At some point we felt we had gone far enough and not that there is a downtown but it looked like some city centre so off we went looking for a western restaurant. Seeing a TGIF we entered one of those huge empty modern malls that get built then left all over China. Thank-God-it’s-Friday was on the top floor of the mall and as we rushed toward the entrance we were told it was not open yet and to come back on the 12th, probably the 12th of never.
After more blocks of malls and empty buildings Narda spotted a Hooters restaurant – about the last place a feminist wife would want to go to but she said that if I could get past the tits we could at least get western food. “Past the tits?” “Pass the tits” I’m a guy.
Then she said if there is a Hooters there would be other western places nearby and just when I was wondering what a Chinese Hooters would be like low and behold she saw The Den, a very western looking spot. The food was good, I got my vegetarian meal, a salad – good grief, what one puts up with, Narda ate some dead meat and we watched Hawthorn vs. West Coast on the Friday night ABC footy game of the week. (Well almost all of it we left just when Hawthorn drew within a kick of West End; to non-Australians footy is football, though not grid iron as played in the States, or football that is soccer elsewhere and West End is Perth and Hawthorn is in footy-mad Victoria; and still for those not knowing much about Australia, Melbourne is the big city in the state of Victoria. Ballarat and Geelong are other cities in Victoria).
We were so lost and far afield from Candy Inn’ (Narda has corrected me claiming it is ‘Classic Courtyard’- 31 Beixin Hutong Yonghegong Street, Dongcheng District, Dongcheng, 100007 Beijing, China) that we grabbed a cab back. Not sure why the sign in front says ‘Candy Inn’ – maybe it was a brothel during Chairman Mao’s time; giving the peasantry something to escape their cultural ruinations with.
There were so many people on the street. I suppose after a long brutal winter everyone is please for the warm air. But the air! It was so polluted that we could barely breathe and I had a sore throat and could taste the grit. What will ever become of Beijing and so many other cities in China?
This morning we discovered the good food of where we stayed; Narda getting the European Breakfast and me the American “hold the meat” meal. I was taken by the nearby food shop and the ‘Magical Dumplings of the Immortal Emperor’ – I think I had something like that back in the 1960’s in San Francisco but it was closed.
We went to the Lama Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery” and not really joining in but at least being sympathetic to whatever it was they were burning incense and asking various gods for we grabbed some photos to prove their devotion.
The Chinese are not really a law-abiding group of folks as below shows with their putting incense where they were told not to.
It was raining most of the day but umbrellas have been a theme in the past of mine and I found some interesting reflections of folks reflecting on whatever it is, is they were reflecting on whilst burning their incense.
Narda as always stands out here she is the only one who forgot to bring any incense.
And that was China…
So here on another moment to Vancouver, I do what I can to be annoying – and I really did pre-order the vegetarian meal and there was none for me. So every few minutes they brought me food – starting with an apple and a pear, then cookies – well I don’t eat sugar do I? Then came a salad, then a big bag of great tasting mixed nuts and a bag of cranberries… I am doing well though neighboring passengers are looking at me as if I am just an attention seeking wanker. I was going to take a sleeping pill but they are in a bag I cannot get to. This is when my traveling companion of the past twelve years is so missed, she would have had all the crap I believe and some of which I actually do need all sorted out, probably in alphabetical harmony, too, and travel we do. We have been going to Australia about twice a year for more than a dozen years, usually from the States though these past couple of years from the States and China, and this year we may be going to Australia three times.
So not having sleeping pills I am watching movies and iPodding (perhaps I should say blogging on the iPod; I just looked up iPodding to see if there is one p or two and got this response from the Urban Dictionary; 1. “The act of illuminating the genitals with the use of ipod backlight during a 69.” 2. “Rubbing your nipple in a circular motion like you have an ipod in your shirt pocket”, good golly I am old and not up to-date) this blog and watching the movie ‘Stoker’ with Nicole Kidman. I would recommend the movie to anyone who is flying for close to a dozen hours without sleeping pills with a plane full of Canadians (vs. iPodding as the Urban Dictionary sees it). I do enjoy their accent, after Asia, it is a holiday to hear some form of a language that I sort of understand. Canadians sound quaint. I think the flight-attendants (except, of course, Janis Joplin) are from the same area in Canada as they all have that slow-long-drawn-out way of saying stuff.
Breakfast was good, lots of fruit, more food than the people around me. I wish I could show more appreciation but my only knowledge about Canadians is from South Park, which of course is the only show the Yanks put together that is informative. I have tried their other news shows: ‘Jersey Shores’, ‘desperate housewives’, Fox News…. They just do not give a feeling of investigative journalism that South Park provides. Unfortunately we do not get it at Campus Village @ Dalian American International School, though why I am not sure. Maybe China blocks it or maybe our TV provider does not provide it, giving us the third rate Fox News instead.
Twenty minutes then we land in Vancouver and either Narda will be waiting for me or I will be waiting for her then on to New York City. With five percent left on this iPod I doubt I will finish this tale before getting to NYC. After about one hour sleep no doubt I will pass out anyway.
So I get to Vancouver and in my stupor I get sent to the interrogation area. Something about having two pieces of fruit in my possession. I explained that the airline did not get my vegetarian order and plied me with fruit for a dozen hours and that it was Air Canada so no doubt the fruit was from Canada to start with. She was a hard-nosed Yank, not one of those slow talking Cannucks that I had been getting used to hearing since freeing myself of Chinatown over there in China. She had one of those ‘I have heard it all before’ tones. In fear that I could be smuggling a backpack and camera bag full of apples and pears she had her lackey, clad in anal-probing gloves, take everything out of my bags. Obviously, finally, to her I really was innocently in possession of possible Chinese-toxin-bearing fruit and I was sent on my merry way.
Narda was waiting for me and she too had not slept. Now on our flight to… well that is the next blog.
China surely is the champion of what is and what is not and perceptions mashed together to morph into possibly acceptable perceptions, but not really. Reality is a mistaken illusion – it always has been; look at religion, personal-relationships and politics and education…. Maybe it is best not to look to see but to look to enjoy – surely not to look to ponder or philosophize, that would be akin to giving accreditation to what is really all just for fun. Do not take what you perceive to be real as truth, just enjoy. This is China – I tell myself that often – just as I would tell myself that in those psychedelic moments of the 1960s, or in my Tarot Card readings and mystical belief system of the 1970s and astrological interpretations of events/thoughts/life for some 40 years before waking up one day and saying ‘this is bullshit’. Perception is just how we colour reality in front of us. To me China and the 1960s have similarity in their un-realness. The moment is just about fun, to enjoy, to build memories for future moments when life returns to boring, which from my experience it always does.
A week from today school is over and we are preparing to travel to New York, Atlanta, Malaysia, Australia but today is a holiday; Dragon Boat Festival. Duān wǔ jié happens on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar and believe it or not I did not get a pop up message on my phone, ipad, computer; not from Google Calendar – which boldly proclaimed ‘you have no new events’ – surely it could have said ‘go back to bed it is a holiday’ but no – no reminders or messages to tell me of this glorious event. And to contribute to all those bloody fives I was wide awake at five AM demanding of my unwilling mind to go back to sleep because this is a holiday.
According to Chinese custom folks race boats, eat Zongzi, and drink wine – pretty much like an Aussie Barbie celebration for anything.
Then last night we were watching that most stupid of series (that everyone else is ranting and raving about how it is the best series of all time; what??!!!) ‘Game of Thrones’ and that idiotic Southern California blonde chick started season two or is it three – it is so mindless that I am always updating my web-pages during it and forget where in the story we are – she goes and gives birth to dragons. Good golly how could anyone like this? Narda says we should just watch it for a while because everyone is ranting and raving that it is the best series of all time and maybe at some point we may like it or at least understand what is going on. She said that about Dexter too. All that blood. We watched the whole bloody thing – to give realism to that Australian/Pommie saying – but of course I was updating my web-pages during all of that but at least it was easy to follow – just find a baddie and kill him.
From an email to staff at our school about today from our Mandarin teacher:
‘This Festival is to commemorate an upright minister called Qu Yuan. He was an excellent poet and literati as well in 300BC, the end of the Spring and Autumn Dynasty. To protect the country, Qu Yuan advised many suggestions to his emperor. While the emperor was irritated and Qu Yuan was put into a river and drowned. People were sad and took boats to save Qu Yuan, and meanwhile they wrapped zong zi and throwed into river, avoidding fishes eating Qu Yuan’s body.
Until today Chinese people retain the traditions. First zong zi was made by sticky rice only, and gradually zong zi has different types like meat inside, peanut inside. I like the very first type– with rice only–and dip some sugar on it.’
When we were asked to sign up for a celebration of all of this last Sunday we were informed that only 20 could go and a bus would take us to the Tong li Gong Palace in Kaifaqu. Of course I was excited being the academic tourist that I am. I quickly sent an email to reserve seats for Narda and I. I could barely restrain myself from running down to her room to share this wonderful news that not only had I registered for us to go but we were accepted on the bus that would only take 20 of us most chosen to this glorious event. Well she was a bit less than thrilled and wanted to know why I would want to go and hear some children singing songs. Now perhaps I had a misconception as normally I do of the reality of the event. Dragon Boat Festival? Well it sounded really great to me. I had no idea it could be anything else. Narda said that the Tong li Gong Palace was not a palace but was the women and children’s centre of Jinzhouixinqu. Damn! She had taken a first grade class there to sing earlier in the year and it is where the owner of Dalian American International School has a language school which many of our teachers work at in their spare time – though being a teacher at this school I am not sure when there is spare time.
At another time in my life I would have been disappointed but at my age everything tends to be so unlike I thought it would be at the start that I have become immune to concepts of disappointment. I suppose I would be surprised if anything in my life turned out to be how I imagined it to be at the start of the process of adventure that I had hurdled myself at before crashing into a wall of reality.
The big day arrived – last Sunday, and dragging a complaining Narda to the lobby to mingle with the assumed 20 teachers who were quick enough to sign up before the bus was full we were greeted by the other three teachers who signed up to go. We ended up going in two cars instead of a bus load of chirping, happy, Dragon Festival celebrating mates. I like the entrance to Tong li Gong Palace which of course by now I had realized was not a palace but as all things in China are – just a misconstrued notion of what a palace would be if it was a four floor office building. And yes that is a huge construct of a mother and child on top of the building – giving away any illusion that it could be anything else. Not sure when angels arrived on the Chinese mindset but there they are, western looking cherubs up there with a not very Chinese looking mother. Welcome to China where we are not quite sure of our icons or what we should believe in.
And as luck would have it – there is a YouTube clip of this wonderful event at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ – another one of those ‘gone- viral’ extremely-sought-after video clips; wait that is my illusion – now three days later – there has been one hit to it. I think that was me looking at it on another computer. But to save my two or three readers who no doubt have had a gut-full and have stopped reading by now, the thrill or agony of watching yet another one of my five-hundred plus video clips I will simply say yes some children sang, a grop danced; but that is not all. We made zong zi – a sticky rice, bean paste, red date in banana wrap thingy. However, I was a total failure and after being tutored by a patient local gal with great wrapping skills who patiently showed me over and over how to fold the stupid things quit – or I quit – here is a photo of me trying this – of course the YouTube video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ shows this even better.
The other highlight – other being second to me making zong zi, was this traditional paint dude who we were told is famous. OK I have thousands of web pages and more than five-hundred videos on line – I bet he has not done that – anyway, all those pesky planets I have in Leo constantly get in my story-line; this painter dude made a great ink drawing. I think we are taking a course with him in the fall so that will be groovy. He did this calligraphy & Chinese zither in about ten minutes. You can see this in the video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ.
To quote some stuff from the program list of what we saw:
It is two days ago, Monday that I started off talking about but having woken at five AM – it is now after 8 and Narda is still happily sleeping the holiday away and I am fading I drifted off about what today’s holiday actually was for – a dragon boat festival but as we are on the sea and not on a proper lake or river there are no races.
Monday, we, well Narda did not go as elementary stayed at school and sang or rolled about or whatever elementary children do, took the middle school and high school children to Discoveryland (大连发现王国). Discoveryland is our province’s concept of what Disneyland would be if created by Chinese. Yes I have a YouTube video at http://youtu.be/lOoeM46fwl0, and yes I do a lot of work not only at school but at home for school – I just fit in my own personal crap early in the morning or while watching riveting TV shit-shows like Game of Thrones. This is my early morning holiday last posting probably before flying off to New York next week.
We were doing one of those amazing race races. I do not agree with children doing a learning project for hours before having time to play on their own. They pay their own fee in to the amusement park, 100 RMB (about $15 US) – which is cheap compared to the States and to have to do work for hours is nuts. This year we teachers each had a station with an exercise for the students to do – my event was to take a photo of a one-perspective and a two-perspective line up of the children. We all have an advise group and I have 10 middle school children in mine. So my advise group started off at my station which was an OK place as it was beneath a building providing some shade. After my event they draw a card to see where the next exercise is and go off to that. The important part is that they work together and stay together and do the exercise. Well after ten minutes two of my girls come back and want to rent a scooter to go around from event to event. Of course I said no as one of the rules is not to run to the next event or lost ten-points. We did not make a rule that children could not rent a scooter to go from event to event because who would allow such a thing? So the girls run off to the principal and ask and he says yes they can so they do. That was the end of my advise group’s cohesion and after a couple of hours the other children in my group came back and said they could not do the events because they could not find the girls roaring around on their scooter so I dismissed them and said go have fun.
As it is Dragon Boat festival week holiday the place was crowded – not sure why we would go on a holiday and not a week earlier but such is life. Lines to rides were four hours long instead of the usual two. Only a few children went on a ride – for the most part they wandered around in the afternoon and the ones I saw did not seem that happy. I took lots of photos of our students as I do to put on the TV screen in the window of my computer lab and to have footage for my twice weekly in-house TV show that I do with my film class so I was entertained. My favourite part is their Discoveryland Parade. As tacky as any such thing would be this is especially strange as they have mostly non-Chinese in the parade. Most of the participants are youthful Russians. The Egyptian group consisted of very camp males in their twenties dressed in gold skirts and gold plastic to look like metal tops dancing as if they were the Village People doing WMCA. On top of the floats were youthful females with few clothes on wiggling about.
I got a lot of short clips that I can use as backgrounds as my film class has gone blue-screen crazy.
Last Saturday was Narda’s birthday – see the wonderful clip of this most timely of events at http://youtu.be/ik8Ms09Q-NY
Narda said she just wanted to gig for her birthday so here at Campus village cafe at Dalian American International School that is what she did
The best of living in Campus Village, assisted living, as we call it is that our little community tags along together. Last night we went out to the Discoveryland Hotel for beer and food – the people are great – the ones we work with – the beer was what it is in China but the food was crap. I struggled to find a vegetarian dish and that ended up being tofu with fish – so that concept got lost in the translation. For Narda’s birthday a dozen or so old people came to our flat for din din – we made up a good vegetarian lasagna and some other stuff. Everyone seemed happy – a few murmurs about ‘oh no no meat’ but that is the way it is in my kitchen. We went the three-floors down to Campus Café and Narda with the others were happy, sounding great and entertained us and the other twenty – thirty folks. It was by far her best birthday in the past 13 years since we left Australia. Being early June – the problem with Gemini – we have not been around her family in so long. But with our community and with a microphone and good musicianship her birthday came to life.
It is so fundamental but the loo can so govern the day, especially in China. (Loo being Australian/British and etc. for toilet: (From Wikipedia: “When people flung their potty waste out of the window, they would shout “Gardez l’eau” [gar-day low]. That’s French for “watch out for the water”. We probably get the word “loo” from this expression, although some people think it comes from “Room 100” which is what European people used to call the bathroom.” “The word appears to originate no earlier than James Joyce’s usage in Ulysses in 1922 — “O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. water closet.” — perhaps Joyce came up with it.”)
My favorite is at the Shangrali in Shanghai with a remote control for many functions; spray water, various forms of heat and many buttons that I did not try. The loo at the Vutup Dentist Clinic at the Shangrali Hotel Dalian is a treat. As soon as the door is open the seat pops up, it is warm and it too has buttons. I have yet to be game to push them but Narda tried one and it gave her a bit of a spray wash – she did not try the other buttons. OK the picture does not give much of the pleasure of use but compared to the usual toilets in China, even at the ultra- modern new Dalian North Railroad station, it is a real find. I hate squat toilets and in my two years here have not used one except to pee. Anything else waits until I get home or find a western hotel. Last week a woman’s baby got flushed down one (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/chinese-baby-flushed-down-toilet-1923771) and survived. I always thought that someday I should have therapy about the fact I was put in an orphanage and taken out three times then finally adopted by some mad-cap Christians in 1950 but this person is going to really need therapy. Narda has the technique down – the squatting part and does not mind too much. She
has demonstrated to whomever is interested – not in real-action, but showing us a good squat position to make things move along. The worst toilets are in the Jinshitan Market where, if one can get past the smells, even the women just squat along a wall with an open trough. Narda, a user of said trough, could not understand the gestures of a woman squatting next to her one time. She kept point a finger in the air – not the finger but a finger – this is China where people are not as rude as us Westerners. Then Narda realised the woman was telling her to put her bag on a hook on the wall so it would not touch the foul floor.
Toilets in Holland I find difficult too, and though they are proper sit-down toilets the drain is placed in the front so everything sits not in water but on the base, stinking up the room until flushed.
I suppose if one watched heaps of ER shows, or Grey’s Anatomy and had an interest in what their deposits in the loo looked like they could easily observe it in a Dutch toilet.
Not sure how I got onto this topic when there was so much other I wanted to note to remember the past two weeks, but at one am I was so wide awake and it being
Saturday night well actually Sunday morning I thought I would write a bit then go back to bed. It is now three AM and my concern is that I will be sleepy for Sunday which I suppose is fine as all we will do is shop at the local Longshawn Village for veggies and tofu for the week. Couple with the fact that I have taken photos of loos for some odd reason – maybe just to appreciate what a proper one with heat, spray and the what-not incorporated within. I think adding music would be good – something classical – though hip-hop could be OK. Even country and western would be fine – they are always talking about loss. Then there are the blues, surely we could have some really good B King tunes play when we sat and shat. The one at the Vutup Clinic is adequate though. As soon as the door is open the seat cover pops up and when you leave it goes back down. It does not differentiate between male or female so the seat ring thing is still down and needs to be lifted for the male release thing.
It is three am so I will try once again to go to sleep. I had already lain awake for an hour before getting up at one am. My mind is so active. Not sure why. School is full-on, we leave for the summer in two and a half weeks for the States a couple of weeks then Australia for four weeks and a side trip to Malaysia so it is all pretty chilled and no reason not to sleep. I tried to contact the inner Self and find peace and solace using techniques I learned back in the 1970s when I was a brother in the Holy Order of Mans but they did not work and I question these past few years whether all what I once believed in whilst in my decade long metaphysical stupor was real or are we just caught up in evolution’s game being nothing more than the ones who prepare the next generation who will do the same and within all that the species evolves toward something or the other?
Yesterday we went into Dalian on the 轻轨, qing gui (light rail), thinking by leaving at 8:30 we would get a seat in but no luck it is always so crowded. Out of boredom I wrote down all the stations on line 3 – speaking of threes – most of the stations are broken into three words on the signs though in reality, my reality, they are really one word: Jin Shi Tan, Xiao Yao Wan (the stop for the future city, Wolong Bay, that is being built – see my youtube video from last year at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-drgVo45WWs) DD Port, Bao Shu Qui,
Kai Fai Qu (5 colur city see my clip of Kaifaiqu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAz3eqFzfRg), Jim Ma Li, Da Lian Wan (in the Ganjingzi District of Dalian City), Hou Yan, Auan Shui (markets), Jin Jai Jie, Xiang Lu Jiao (Metro, Sams Club, Decathlon sports store – 迪卡侬(香炉礁店, Ikea) and finally stopping at the last stop – Dalian Station. The school’s shopping bus stops at Metro where we fill boxes and suitcases of what we need for a month then put it on the bus and go off for the day. The bus driver unloads our crap back at Campus Village and we collect it whenever we drag our sorry asses back home.
, about a 45 minute ride, Narda managed to rush onto the train at the Dalian Station
and get a seat. I was fast but when a hundred Chinese are going for a couple of dozen seats it is the really quick who get a seat and I was left standing to analyze my poor strategy for getting a seat. Never the one to shy away from strangers I saw Narda and the girl next to her passing the girl’s cell phone back and forth. They did this all the way to the Kai Fai Qu station where suddenly Narda moved over giving me a space to sit. They were using the phone to carry on a conversation with both translating back and forth and the topic of discussion was that when the girl got off I would have a seat. At the start of their ‘conversation’ the girl wrote that Narda could help her with learning English. This is what is so enjoyable about living here; people will find a way to communicate whether they share a common language or not.
Last weekend Narda’s sister, Carolin and her husband Michael stopped in for a couple of days. They are celebrating being fifty and are on the way to Holland, England, France and places like that. On Saturday evening we went into Dalian on the light rail – kuai-gui to stay overnight at the Harbour View Hotel and we went to see the Beijing Beatles on the rooftop at the Lenbach German Restaurant ( Xinghai Square). They
were sponsored by the International Club of Dalian. I have a short video clip at http://youtu.be/WzsnK6uUQx8 without watching the clip let it suffice to say they were quite terrible sounding. Narda had just done a Beatles concert a few days earlier with her elementary children and they were much better. A couple of Narda’s fourth/fifth graders were at the gig and they went on stage and told the Beijing Beatles who by the way are from Australian and great Britain – that they sang the wrong words for Yellow Submarine. The children would know that one as they sand it for weeks before their concert. I heard them daily as my video-film studio at Dalian American International School is next door to Narda’s music room. A lot of my little video shows I do twice weekly with my students for the school to play has her children singing off in the background because of our thin walls. There were a lot of expats at the show – many from our school and it was enjoyable no matter the fact that they were not in harmony, missed lyrics, and were just generally horrible. They have a website which make them sound good http://thebeijingbeatles.com/ but in reality – think of a college piss-up where everyone knows the lyrics because it is the Beatles and there is a lot of drinking going on and no one really cares how bad the band sounds because it is so easy to sing along.
We have two weeks left of work then we are off to the States (NYC, upstate New York, and Atlanta), Malaysia, and Australia then back at the start of August. As usual life is hectic at school with so many things to deal with. In my little world things are great with my film class and our setting up a film program and studio. We have been going nuts with blue screens and having lots of interesting backgrounds. I am still looking for a proper professional camera for next school year with little luck. I will probably have to wait until Australia to get one. It has been an amazing year for me both as technology integration coordinator as we move toward a one-to-one device program. It is a challenge with so many devices and operating systems. Back at Albany Academy when I was the Director of Technology it was straight forward, we all used macs and that was it. In my video production class thanks to an Intel grant we are getting set up well and coming with good products, looking forward to next school year.
In my little self-centred world I have been creating web pages since the early 1990s when the World Wide Web was first invented. I have created thousands of pages and have many domains as any self-serving Leo would: neuage.org, http://neuage.me, neuage.mobi, neuage.us, neuage.info, to name just a few. Last week I put a tracker-cookie on 590 pages (about ten percent of my pages) so I could have a better idea of where people go so I could improve and change them to more mobile friendly and perhaps start creating neuage apps for my tofu pages or my picture poems, children stories, many blogs and etc. I thought it would give me a good idea of where the masses are flocking to. As a night-mare on Leo Street would have it after three days I had one hit to one page out of 590. I think I could be in a record book for having the fewest visits to the most created pages on the web. Narda does not understand why I would care if anyone visited any of my webpages but she is a Gemini so I understand her confusion. I have Mars conjunct Uranus in Gemini so I do have a little bit of non-Leo in my makeup and I know that part of me; Mars and Uranus confuse me often as well as those around me.
When Narda’s sister and brother-in-law were here last weekend we went to the
And in Dalian to the Korean Market
Actually this is more than a weekend memory of what-we-did as Thursday and Friday is just as much of this extended weekend at least in my memory as Saturday and Sunday is. Of course Thursday and Friday were work days. With my job as technology coordinator however I am always on the job as I read technology and educational blogs and updates whether I am at school or on the shopping bus, sitting on the loo or waiting in a dentist’s office. Saturday whilst Narda was in the dentist chair for more than an hour I took enough notes from what I had found to be potentially useful stuff for possible integration or to-try at school that I will be spending days engaging with it. There are so many blogging-filming apps now that I am looking forward to what I can do with my classes next year that are specializing in multimedia, and film specifically. This is an exciting time to be developing a film program in a school. Helping students to become always-journalist will be one of the most important lessons for them. Journalism has not changed but the delivery and sharing has. When I was doing my journalism degree at the start of the 1990s I concentrated on radio-broadcasting, helping to start the community radio station E-FM (Encounter FM) in Victor Harbor, South Australia. My part of the radio station needless to say was news and children’s radio (CAR = Children’s Australian Radio – my little contribution to Australian community radio) where my children managed to star on.
I am teaching broadcast journalism along with filming. Merging these with social sites and story development and sharing more than ‘we had pizza last night’ will greatly assist students. I am having them blogging using their phones as well as filming and bringing it into the classroom for editing. Next year I will collaborate with the English department (write the story), music department for backing tracks as well as my classes for filming and editing.
The next big shift in schools is from integrating technology to integrating film in every department. Students are already doing this in their life outside of school putting clips onto whatever site is their favorite at the moment. Students are self-branding all the time and assisting as well as providing time and space to do this will improve their self-image i.e. self-brand. We have been putting a lot of emphasis on student portfolios lately but social sites are there real portfolios and I feel that is the area we need to develop. Employers are looking at social sites as part of their investigations of potential new hires and if the social site has wonderfully crafted video-blogs and short films this becomes a living-portfolio. This area has not been very well addressed and it is an area I will be working on next year so students will have their shared-online-lives crafted to look like mini-film-festival. ‘The Festival of Me’ – it sounds so Leo and having five planets in Leo I feel qualified for such a category of instruction or for at least me. In my middle school publication class I have students making a magazine in InDesign titled ‘About Me’ where they create a whole newsletter/e-zine about themselves. Their initial reaction is that writing more than fifty words about themselves is impossible becomes more engaging when they write about their favorite video game or movie and get to insert photos (Creative Commons only of course) and interview each other and write up a commercial and on and on.
We have been corresponding with a school in India to do a collaborative on-line real-time film project and we have the assistance of a film producer in Los Angeles who recently had her film accepted into the Sundance film festival in Utah. Our class has been Skypping her and we have been discussing their individual projects for this quarter as she ‘looks over our shoulders’. My neighbor, Frank, and his wife are moving to Yangon, Myanmar to teach at an international school next year. We have been putting together a plan to do a collaborative film project which in my little world is quite exciting. I am thinking of his and my students writing a script together – back and forth then having our individual classes create and edit the script and have them playing side by side as one film with two interpretations of the same story. His students are mostly Myanmar citizens and mine are a collection from around the planet which would make this a very global endeavor.
To emphasize my integration of film in the student’s life where most of their daily short clips are posted to social sites from their smartphones..
An Australian filmmaker has won first prize at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival with a short film shot entirely on a Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone. The film explores the influence of hip hop, which started in the Bronx, on the indigenous communities in regional Australia and how it helped youth reconnect with tribal elders and tell stories using this style of music.
see it on youtube at http://youtu.be/W8Lewbdm8lg
Last Thursday it was Narda’s elementary student concert, ‘All you need is love’ that put us into a Beatles mood. She has been doing a lot of work on this for the past months and I have been filming little segments as commercials for our school’s video-news show, DAISlive. As Narda’s biggest fan the past twelve years I would say this was up there with her best work. Of course it is not the same as when she did a Beatles tribute at Albany Academy in upstate New York a decade ago but that was with high school and there was dance involved as Albany Academy for Girls has a strong dance program. Being in a Beatles mood we are off to see the Beijing Beatles next weekend who are playing in Dalian. Carolyn, Narda’s sister and her husband are visiting from Australia then so they can too see what China has to offer to the musical past. One of the Beijing Beatles is from Australia so they couldn’t be that bad. The name of the show is We do like to be beside the seaside – tour to Dalian.
Friday we needed to collect our passports so we could go to the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang this coming Tuesday. Narda has to sort out some stuff with the Yanks and I have to go along being the Yank of a sponsor. As always these things are so complicated; whether to keep a Green Card – problem is being out of the States for the past two years, surrendering it is an issue and becoming a citizen is another kettle of fish. We just hope to be able to sort it out in one trip. With less than four weeks before we leave for the States she is now in no-man’s land. They won’t give her a visitor’s visa without tossing the Green Card and she may not be unable to renew the Green Card and now with the recent Boston problems the Yanks are all the more tighter about stuff. When we first went to the States in 2002, shortly after 9-11, we had a terrible time. According to many phone calls we had everything in order. When we arrived in Sydney – with our flight booked for the next day to New York, not only were they very rude to us but they said in the photos of Narda her ear was not showing enough and we would have to re-do the photo and come back in a week. At the time we were homeless, having sold Narda’s home in Adelaide, and storing away all our belongings we were left to cancel our flight with no idea when we would be able to get Narda with a visia. We were not going for a usual visit, we were moving there. I had been out of the country for 20-years so they said something about not having domicile and as a sponsor of Narda who, like me, had jobs in the States; she was at Albany Academy for Girls and me at the State University of New York at Albany, and my father was 97 years old waiting to see me before he left the planet. After three days of abuse by the wankers at the US consulate in Sydney I contacted my cousin Fredrick Miller who knew Congressman Sweeney and Sweeney sent a congressional letter to the consulate in Sydney. All of a sudden they were nice to me, and said I could come in right away and we could fly out in the evening. There was a period we thought we would never get in to the States. Now after living there for more than a decade, owning three homes and Narda having a son living in the States married to a Yank (I started the trend in her family of marrying non-Dutch people). Before I came bopping along Narda and her three sisters and all their relatives had only ever married Dutch people, having migrated to Australia from the Netherlands in the 1950s. Since me one son has married a Yank and lives in Atlanta, Georgia and another son has married a POM – prisoner of Mother England, and her third son now in India, has a pommie girlfriend too so I changed their directions. They had all been staying in the Dutch genetic pool for five-hundred plus years; so they must be thankful to me. To make a too long story short about going to New York my father hung around for another five years and we were happy that Sweeney was able to get us in. Fortunately for us this was before Sweeney got into a bit of trouble: In September 2006, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its ‘The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress’ and Sweeney was one of the 20.
Our visit to the Chinese visa issuing place was much different than the one to Sydney. We had one of those Chinese moments where everything takes longer and goes slow compared to what us Westerns want but after a couple of hours, chatting about stuff like the price of wine in Australia and how many children we had and lots of smiles and interpretations we got our passports with our official work-visa to July 31st 2014. Being past 65 this is a big deal for me as in most provinces the work-visa limit is 60. I believe from our conversation at the visa office that Chinese retirement is 60 then I think they get a pension which puts away the thought that china does not look after their people.
What we are finding is that a lot of stuff we have been told in the Western media is quite different than the China we see on a day-to-day basis. People; whether authorities or folks in the street are really quite friendly. They stop and stare like we are from another galaxy but with five planets in Leo it does not bother me. They are generally a very curious lot and want to know about Westerns. We are curious too; and of course I am very curious about their fascination with all things French as I will show in a moment.
Saturday was the big 11th Annual Dalian International Walking Festival. We signed up before realizing we had a dentist appointment at 11 AM. We figured we would walk for an hour then catch a cab into town. As things would have it, in a town that does not see much rain fall, all day Saturday it rained. I put on my waterproof ‘Tommy Hilfiger’ trendy coat (even old people like to look stylish) and we took the school van in a dozen or so other ‘walkers’ from school.
There were a lot of people, like many thousands, all with their umbrellas up headed out on the 5 – 30 kilometer walk going along the Coastal Road, “Bin Hai Road”. We had intended to do just the first five. Actually we did the first few blocks then disappeared up a side street and caught a cab to the dentist.
At the start of the race is Dalian Castle Hotel, a 6-star hotel (300 rooms) due to open December 1, 2013.
It overlooks Xinghai Bay, 星海广场 and of course a million or so walkers in May, rain or shine.
Of course it is the statue in front that I find even more interesting than a walled castle being constructed in the midst of a city;
Definitely my kind of hotel if I could afford a six-star hotel, I did not even know they had such a ranking.
After the dentist we took the light rail (轻轨, qing gui) to Kaifaqu. Normally we take the shopping bus and get our groceries but we missed the bus. Harbor Deli is one of our stops as it is near the Kaifaqu qing gui station which is the Five Colour City stop and they have Western crap; cheese, cereal and that which we cannot otherwise find. Of course the rain was ever present as we took a bus (for one RMB = 15 cents US) instead of walking to the green-door – not the name of the place but we have no idea what the sign says – and loaded ourselves down for the week.
We figured we would take a cab home but after a couple of cabbies said no and another said two-hundred RMB (30 bucks) we realized the only way home for us was to call Jack – our regular driver who came and collected us and took us for 70 RMB – about 1/3 the cost of a taxi. Of course it was not Jack himself but one of his mates – we call them all Jack. If this was Australia we would just add an o to the end as Australian’s do and call him Jacko but we don’t and we won’t.
We were so exhausted by the time Jack came as will as wet we were ready to go to sleep on the sidewalk. This is one of the most difficult things with living at Campus Village; the transportation is almost too difficult. This is the second time we spent an exhausting Saturday and got ourselves stuck. If there is a lesson we are not learning it except that we should stop shopping anywhere but our local Long Shan Village.
We received the invite; ‘Famous French and English Bands’ at the Chateau du Vin Bordeaux in our school email. Chateau du Vin Bordeaux, which was called, last year, Chateau De Bourdeux, across the street from us – I can see it from my balcony. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTioCA7Ct44&feature=share&list=UUzGrI_yggI56Gpp2ZyNQAXw, a year ago) has been another castle dreaming of France but this one you can live at as they are The Dalian Haichang Group is building 400 luxury villas in this style. We toured the place last year and when we asked why they had not sold any we were told because they were too expensive, like a million dollars plus. The Haichang Group have been purchasing lots of chateauxs in France – see The Chinese Chateaux In Bordeaux for the down-and-dirty. Of course we are hoping this will mean cheap French wine locally.
Some of my images for this afternoon visit to almost France – China style.
The first one is a view of our apartment from the local million dollars plus flat.
Dinner seemed fine, just scrambled eggs with a bit of cheese and hash brown potatoes. But a few minutes later I was sicker than ever in my life. Narda was OK so we ruled out food poisoning but after getting rid of dinner and all else before and getting worse by the minute Narda insisted on calling for help. This is not calling a hospital in the States or Australia which would have had Narda driving me to a hospital then me sitting in a waiting room for a long period as the world continued to swim around me and I did not know if I would survive another moment. Living here is what some would call a third-world spot; though China would not agree. I know we always say we do not want to end up in a Chinese hospital. But we had no worry of that.
I managed to say a few times that I would be OK – surely one more vomit and one more laying on the bathroom floor as I held on from blacking out then I would be fine. After the nagging wife said for too many times she should be calling for help I mumbled just call to see what they would say. Of course telling a wife such a thing is a green-light, open-door, the horse-has-bolted, thing to agree to.
We have the number for the SOS International medical emergency on our door. Narda rang telling my symptoms and some other medical stuff about me and a few minutes later our doctor said to meet him at the clinic in ten-minutes. Our doctor lives in our building though I do not know which apartment and the emergency routing service is through Beijing – off in the distance.
Again this is not the States or Australia where we are from. This is in a foreign country where only people around us speak English.
What is so unique is that we live in a community that has everything. The Dalian American International School with a large fence, gates, and guards 24-hours a day has more than a school within the compound. It has Campus Village, where we live, students live, and families working for Intel, Goodyear and the likes live. It also has a restaurant and most importantly a medical clinic. Last year we went to the clinic a few times for flu shots, occasional blood tests for some ongoing stuff and general checkups. It was only a few months ago that we saw there was more than the waiting room and a couple other rooms where doctors talked about their life in other countries in between prescribing medication. There were several other rooms for overnight patients and a whole little emergency room.
What is unique about this job is how our lives are so communal. At most schools people work together, sometimes go for a drink; when Narda was chair of the performing arts at Albany Academy in New York she would have her staff meetings at a local pub but aside of that most schools do not have such a community environment. Here I see the doctor at the gym or bike riding; I see kids at school, then at the Campus Café or on the shopping bus that trolls the highway between our compound and the nearest shopping areas half an hour away and on Saturday all the way into Dalian – more than an hour – where we go to Ikea, Metro or Sams Club to load up on crap. Parents are at the school, and then at the gym or swimming pool, at the café, doctor’s, chasing after their children on the school oval. Our actual living is a bit separated but in the same compound. We have the teachers wing – three stories of us, each with a different story to tell; the Chinese boarding students are in the same building but in a different wing with the boys on the third floor and girls on second; and administration, families and ‘important people’ living in larger flats in the next building and over and beyond that, yet still within the walls of our school area, are the townhouses that the expat employees live in. They are of course on a different pay scale than us and their children go to our school and they have drivers on call whenever they want to go someplace. We have drivers too but we have to pay them. Of course we are mere teachers and not movers and shakers at international companies.
And what is most interesting is our doctor who lives in the same wing as us; I think on the second floor – I have never been to his place. Doctors are on 24-hour duty and I think it is six weeks on and six weeks off duty. Our current doctor is from Ohio (I think) our other usual doctor is from South Africa. They belong to Doctors without Borders. They work in all sorts of environments and seem to have to know about everything as they are all we have to look after anything that can go wrong.
It was about 8:30 when Narda rang SOS-International in Beijing and they in turn rang our doctor who rang us and said to be at the clinic in ten-minutes. Our clinic is open 8 – 6 Monday to Friday and a bit on Saturday but of course in an emergency it is always open. Our current doctor, Steve, did lots of tests on me including an EKG (electrocardiogram) in between my staggering to the loo to vomit whatever was left which at this point was not much. Before long I was lying in bed in a room next to the emergency/operating room with an IV line in my arm and as the world spun a bit out of control I drifted off due to a combination of some heavy sleep inducing stuff and whatever other medication was being pumped in. As the clinic was closed Doctor Steve rang one of the nurses to come in and watch me throughout the night. When I was still conscious I felt bad about someone having to come in for the night when she was the day time nurse that day. Narda told me the next day that Doctor Steve slept in the room next to me with the door open instead of going back to his flat. During the night I was aware of the nurse checking me, taking blood pressure and checking the IV drip.
Narda came in a six in the morning and left a bowl of cereal and my soy milk. When I awoke at 8 I gave Narda the instructions to where my lesson plans for my classes were on the school drive so they could be passed on to whoever was taking my class.