June 18 – 24, 2014
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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.
video at http://youtu.be/8Osc_Ckmz3E (Phuket)
http://youtu.be/8YGAf2A7NtM (Ao Nang)
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.
Above is in front of our house – road to town.
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.
And so here we are in the Best Place to be which is where we are at and everything we have done in life has gotten us to here.
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.
“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.”
We’re happy little Vegemites – The original TV Advertisment
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?
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.
Frank had it more difficult as his station was on a bridge with no shade and there he stood for hours in the hot sun.
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.
International Day @ Dalian American International School
youtube clips for this are at http://youtu.be/fdkrxDDErXk (overview); http://youtu.be/Y7Vpt3vXI7M (druming); http://youtu.be/sVxYglz5xfI (choral piece written for this event)
neuage webpage for this is at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/42-internatiotional-day.htm
Every day is international day at our school, after all we have about 25 countries and 15 different languages but once a year we call it International Day. The difference is that we can dress up and be a country – usually one we are from. I chose to be Australia because I sort of am an Australian – a duel citizen, being born in the States and only living in Australia for 22 years a bit less than a third of my time on this planet but enough Australian and with no one else representing it I tossed myself into the nationality pool for a day. Narda could have been the real Australian but she joined the Dutch having been born there. We are both Australian by next-after-birth spot; though she was a boat person having arrived with assisted passage during those days Australia was flirting with that part of Europe to come and be them back in the 1950s. Now days a boat person is frowned upon and the unhappy lot get tossed into detention centres. I was a plane person arriving in 1981 and Narda was a boat person so really I too am an Australian though I am told I sound more like I am from New York.
I wore my son’s clothes as one does on these types of days. Leigh played for Australia before signing with the LA Dodgers and this was his shirt he wore on the U-18’s World Series in Canada in 1998.
Last year we had the , Drum Club come out from Dalian and they did not fail to entertain and get us all moving again this year. I made a bit of a clip and put it on youtube drums http://youtu.be/Y7Vpt3vXI7M – though only three minutes of about half an hour I recorded. Like last year this was the first warm – sort of warm day, of the year it got up to 16 centigrade which I think is 61 ferinheight only because Narda says that 16 turned about is 61 – and as she has reminded me in the past she comes from the clever country as Australians say – but I too am sort of from the clever country and I never know stuff like that.
What these countries do have in common is that they are meat eaters which means where am I from? Some distant galaxy? Speaking of such things at least North Korea did not get too silly. I noticed that there were five planets in Aries this week and with the moon transiting there too I thought that would be a trigger to give us an interesting week.
Well as one of those people who worked on this event and was at it at again at 6:30 this morning and now it is 11:06 pm I will make this a short blog and toddle off to bed. At least I was not as sick as Narda who was running this event and has spent the two past two days really sick – some of us get to watch life from the sidelines and that is sort of what I did and now I am just sleepy though it could be the healthy does of sleeping pills that are making it almost impossible to hit one key after another……but I feel good so that is beaut.
I took hundreds of pictures but I got smitten by pictures of shoes which is unusual as I am not into footwear a whole lot except for the practical purposes of not stepping in dog shit and stuff like that. Maybe it was because I had on my son’s baseball shoes that he pitched in when he played for the LA Dodgers. I have had them in my closet for a decade – well lots of closets as I have moved about a dozen times since getting them in 2003 and I had never put them on. They fit well and being baseball shoes they have cleats on the bottom and being in that shoe frame of mind I took these photos amongst hundreds – not of feet but of people too.
A highlight to the whole day for many was the world premiere of a song written in several languages by Lana Mountford in the state of Washington for Dalian American International School and Directed by Tyler Smith. The work was done through emails and Skype and though the performance in our gym is not as good as in a concert hall this gives a bit of a sample of it. My film class Skyped Lana at the start of her work last October and again last week. She is part of a group who write choral pieces for schools. I am not the go to person on this so I am writing from a very limited perspective which is that she was given a poem and had to compose her music using several languages. She said was fine with the English and Spanish and I think German parts but writing sections in Chinese and Korean was her biggest challenge. I put it on youtube but it does not do the piece justice. My video suite is two rooms away and I have been listening to them practice for many weeks. Having it played in a gym with people milling around and speaking themselves in many different languages made it more difficult. Nevertheless here is my clip of it on youtube, http://youtu.be/sVxYglz5xfI Our music teacher Tyler Smith
Had them right on target…
There were lots of other
performances as well as parade of nations at then end – I carried the Australian flag as mentioned earlier and there were dozens of countries set up throughout the school
A few weeks past which is what happens when life is full to live and there is no time to pause and reflect – maybe today I can get back on track…
Shenzhen for a weekend a few weekends ago; other cities always look so great; Shenzhen is best. We had a two-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment for two nights with a balcony opening from each bedroom and the living room on the 15th floor with view of Hong Kong Harbour and Hong Kong.
In China it is not being where you have gone to but getting there that is the amazing experience. I am more surprised by the fact that we arrived at our destination in one-piece than anything else. Our taxi driver from the Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (深圳宝安国际机场; formerly named Shenzhen Huangtian Airport) not only drove at the highest speed his wobbly rusty cab could go, weaving in and out of traffic, beeping his horn the whole way – ‘out of my path got Westerners on board’ but he blinked his high-beam lights all the way. We would get really close to someone’s bumper and he would flash his high-beam on and off and beep then swerve around them. Luckily for all of us it was only a 45 minute ride of terror. I suppose in my younger years instead of going to a theme park and riding a terrifying ride I would have just gone to China and grabbed a taxi for a death-defying thrill. We have only had one close accident – well every time getting in to a car in China is close to an accident – we had the bonnet or hood (depending which country you associate the front of the car with) come up and break the window but that one time the driver was actually going close to the speed limit and there was no one in front of us to smash into. We had our bit of a scrape last July on the interstate in Mississippi in the US of A when at 70 mph a truck sideswiped us sending us across a four lane busy highway see https://neuage.me/2013/02/01/a-piggly-wiggly-story/ but in China it is always like this driver is going to kill us. But as one would have suspected by now – he didn’t.
Traveling with Narda one realizes comfort is number one. Most places we seem to change rooms. In Hoain, Viet Nam we changed after one night, too close to the road, OK so the new apartment was a good place for a week. In Hanoi a couple of months ago we lasted one hour before Narda was at the front desk getting us a room change – forget why now.
(In 1962 France launched a ship named Ancerville, which was purchased by the People’s Republic of China in 1973 and renamed Minghua. 10 years later the ship was permanently berthed at Shekou, Shenzhen, where she was refurbished and rebranded – this time as the hotel and entertainment complex, “Shekou Sea World. The Minghua was berthed at Sea World Plaza, the water which originally surrounded her has been reclaimed to allow construction of a golf course. The land reclamation continued southward, and today the coastline has been moved several hundred metres, leaving the Minghua completely landlocked.)
We arrived at the Frazier Centre at midnight and took a strong sleeping pill so nothing would disturb us, went to bed and damn it was a Chinese bed – might as well as sleep on the floor. Once; on a weekend rafting trip, we took a pillow top mattress with us, rolled tightly and stored in the bus cargo area. That was a worthwhile decision as the typical Chinese bed was rock hard.
I was tired enough to sleep on the floor if not the bed but Narda was already half out the door saying we needed to get a different room. Not to argue I opened the door and watched her rush off to the elevator.
Ten minutes later she returned; bellboy in tow carrying a large pillow top mattress; we did have a king size bed. Together they made up the bed which was a bit funny as Narda and I were feeling the effect of our sleeping pill, and we no surely most have appeared rather drunk. Nevertheless we woke the next morning, a good six hours later, with some I disturbed sleep behind us. As usual, Narda was right getting us more comfortable.
We got to Campus Village a couple of years ago at two AM where we still live, though of course we have moved apartments since then only to discover our bed was hard. Fortunately Nard saw a pillow top mattress in a storage room the very next day and soon the security guards were lugging it to our apartment. Since then we have purchased another mattress to add to it sows have a pretty good bed by now. Not that I Am suggesting a pattern here but that first week Narda moved her classroom too; understandable as the room assigned her was not really suitable. If only others would realize what I did years ago; she is often right and the best judge of what we should have so do it right from the get go and let the good times roll.
We had our weekend workshop at Shekhou International School in the Shekhou area of Shenzhen, a five minute walk from the Frazier Apartments with now a rather soft bed.
We were at an ipad work shop which is good in itself but we are a PC school and I was told not only would our school never have macs installed but that we would never have ipad support but here there are four of us keeping up with integrating technology in education despite administration. Because the most important basis to education is to provide tools for 21st century learning and at the present time the ipad is the best resource available to students. Many of our students use macs and iPads and instead of trying to hide from this fact I want to have the knowledge to support their learning which is why the other three teachers from our school were there.
Narda’s fellow music teacher uses his ipad in all his classes and so did our previous music teacher who left to teach at a progressive international school in the Middle East. Narda was reluctant to get an ipad but by the end of the weekend she loves it and will be making good use of it. I personally do not have a great desire for it as I make webpages, program with Flash and create videos and newscast which I use my laptop for and will for some time. At the moment I am writing this on my iPhone using Pages which Narda downloaded yesterday onto her ipad which downloaded to my phone as we share our apps account whilst flying.
OK a couple of weeks later and the iPad is in the drawer. We have given up trying to get Ted Talks with the Internet speed here; even leaving it on overnight does not produce results. But we will re-visit it soon.
The International School of Beijing (ISB) like Shekou International School is a beautiful school. SIS has three campuses and we were at the elementary one whereas ISB is one large campus with 1700 or so students K – 12. I went to see the video/film program as I am putting together one at our school. Not much to say except it would be a great place to work. Beijing as always was quite polluted. I got the app for my iPhone ‘China Air Quality’ which was probably a bad idea as I am a bit obsessed with it keeping track of my local town of Dalian. Today Dalian is ‘slightly polluted’ at 106 and at the moment Beijing is 398 (‘very unhealthy, protection recommended). When I was there it was about 450 – choke choke, and there was a time last month when it was off the chart at close to a thousand. Shanghai, where we are spending next week is either 133 or 68. On this app there are two readings for most cities. One is from the US Consulate – 133 for Shanghai the other, 68, from the Chinese, so one can follow which ever. I tend to believe the Yanks – not sure why.
ISB is outside of downtown but the pollution is still evident. When I was there a soccer tournament was underway and I couldn’t help wonder why people would pay so much money to have their kids at a top school but where the air is so unhealthy and with them running around gasping for air and kicking balls.
I collected information on their film/video program but with them having about ten times the budget I have, even with a recent healthy grant to get some equipment, I will not be competing well in any film shows these next few years. They had a wall of trophies and plaques for competitions they have won in the Asia arena.
And that is it. Two great schools in two weeks and now when we go to Shanghai we will be at the EARCOS Conference at Concordia International School Shanghai.
Spent today planning trips for school break mid-June – first days of August; New York, Atlanta, maybe a week in Florida and three weeks in Australia. Just some more stuff to add to my travel pages; http://neuage.us/2013/
A Piggly Wiggly story
I do not recall having heard of the Piggly Wiggly chain of stores before last summer. Not sure why that is as I lived in the States for about 42 of my 65 years on this planet and I surely have wandered through the south where they have 600 stores in 17 states. And it is not because they just started popping up around the place. In fact their website says they have been “bringing home the bacon for millions of American families since 1916”. Perhaps it is because my vegetarian life has created a subliminal blind spot for sellers who are such whole-hearted braggers, sporting the bringing home the bacon rhetoric – though it could just as easily have been my birth in the year of the pig that placed them over with other things I have avoided as much as possible in life: restrictive humans, haircuts, Pisces and most water-signed-people (having only Jupiter in Scorpio I did have some strange fixed fascinations in my youth with aspects of that sign – I use to find women with Venus and Mars in Scorpio a bit of a fascinating matrix to get involved in, as long as there was an escape clause – having five planets in Leo I am not afraid of the Scorpion sting but of the threat of water to put out my fire, I still avoid water sign people because of that; how they put the damper on us fire people is appalling… I am drifting here), and the clinging to material possessions such as umbrellas which this blog is actually about.
I horde stuff; a shed full in South Australia, a house full of stuff here in Northern China, stuff in an attic in our upstate New York house, and the shed next door to it, and our furniture in our house in Jersey City but that is not really an indicator of clinging to material possessions. It is really art artifacts that someday I hope to assemble in various arrays of sculpture and do gallery shows. That was a dream of mine during the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and then I got married (again) and the idea of gallery shows was replaced by stored artifacts around the world that no doubt will end in the rubbish tip before I get to collect them all into one non-disposable spot.
On with the umbrella story…
Last summer we were driving around the south. We left Atlanta with Narda’s son’s car headed to my old stomping grounds of New Orleans. I had wanted to take Narda there for the whole decade we were living in New York but we ended up making little trips to Europe, Asia and the yearly hops over to Australia, leaving no time or money to explore the States. Somewhere in the south: Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas or maybe we were in Alabama or Louisiana but somewhere down there we were in a small town lost on a country road and there was this big Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Narda saw it as quite funny, the born-in-the-year-of-the-pig part of my over active reptilian brain was offended but with no other shops in site and the last temperature reading we saw being 102 Fahrenheit ( Celsius = 38.88) the thought of something from a fridge was becoming overpowering. But getting a cold drink was not enough. At the checkout were umbrellas with the Piggly Wiggly emblem on them so of course I had to have one.
The umbrella got buried for a couple of weeks in the boot of the car as we drove around and we wondered how we would get it back to China. And not just back to China, but to Australia too as we were going there for a few weeks first. Narda wanted to bring back a curtain rod too because she could not find one in Dalian that was long enough to span two large windows in our lounge so she could hang some over-priced hand-sewed laced curtains we had bought in Belgium – yes Belgium lace, a few years ago. She found the curtain rod she wanted in one of those southern states and she taped it together with the umbrella that somehow magically would find its way back to Campus Village here in Northern China via Australia – and of course flying out of Atlanta, NYC, and all the stops between like Melbourne and Adelaide and Guangzhou in China.
First hiccup…. We were driving on a four-lane freeway heading north. Narda was driving and I was playing with my new Nikon camera when there was a big bump and Narda said ‘he hit me’ and at about 70 miles an hour we were going across a couple of lanes of freeway sideways and fortunately for this story to be told there were concrete blocks dividing us from traffic going the other way and we smashed into them sideways. Another few feet and we would have rolled. Of course Narda being Narda managed to restart the car to chase this huge truck that had hit us thinking he would get away. The back end of the car was dragging and we had flat tires. I was as much in shock from Narda restarting the engine and us going forward as I was from spinning across a few lanes of freeway. The truck did stop which was good because so did our car. Narda said afterwards she was waiting for the pain to hit her when we started spinning and I was waiting to hear the crashing of glass. I had been in three major car crashes before and that memory stays. There was no crashing of glass, the air bags did not open, and we did not get hurt but the car was totaled. We stood alongside the road in 104 degree heat – that is the absolute truth – the truck driver rang for the police – he took full responsibility, saying he did not see us when he switched lanes. Narda often says people don’t see her because people don’t see women past 50, but this was a whole bloody car he didn’t see. As we stood alongside the concrete barriers traffic passed by with almost no space between cars at high speeds. It was quite amazing no one hit us as we crossed lanes; there was just this few seconds let up in traffic when we decided to go for a bit of a spin.
Here is a photo of Narda under our Piggly Wiggly umbrella with a state trooper.
I wish I had had presence of mind to tell Narda to turn the umbrella so as to show the Piggly Wiggly figures but who thinks of these things at a moment like this?
We told Narda’s son we put a bit of a ding in his car – impossible to repair – was the verdict, rented a bright red car so we could be seen and I drove about ten hours straight back to Atlanta. Narda was still in shock, I did not want to stop for a day and besides we had about two days left before our flight to Australia. The truck company was really good and bought the car at a really good price and took care of our rental and on we went.
There was not any problem with the airlines; they just put the umbrella/curtain rod in with checked luggage. In Melbourne we took a domestic flight to Adelaide and again no problem.
Here I am in Adelaide with my Piggly Wiggly umbrella in Rundle Mall with my favourite sculptures – pigs of course.
So we tape up the umbrella with the curtain rod to hold our Belgium laced curtains and checked them into the flight to Melbourne. In Melbourne I visit my son, Sacha, for a couple of days, and Narda and I check our umbrella with the curtain rod into baggage. There was our name in large letters as well as our Chinese address and phone number. No problems everyone is happy. We fly out at 10 pm as is normal and arrive in Guanzhou about 8 am the next morning, switch to the domestic to Dalian. Our baggage has been check through from Melbourne to Dalian so life is good.
We get to Dalian Airport late in the evening and wait for baggage. The suitcases come along just fine. Jack, our driver, is waiting for us as usual which is so great after a long flight. We wait and wait but no umbrella and curtain rod. Narda finds someone with a handful and a half of English. We show our baggage claim for our parcel. They ring Melbourne and sure enough it left there and it was even traced to Guanzhou but then it stopped. They said to ring the next day. We did. Day after day for a couple of weeks until finally they said they would give us money. I think we got about $50 US maybe less but it did not come close to paying for the umbrella. It only costs seven dollars or so in real terms at the Piggly Wiggly store but what we had gone through no money could have paid for it.
So that is my Piggly Wiggly story. If I ever get back to one of their stores I may get another one but it won’t be the same. It looks as if we will be in Atlanta in six months, so perhaps I will get another one and this time take it as carry-on luggage.
I am not sure if I fully understand the differences between hording, cherished possessions with attachments, and material things that are filling spaces of ours around the world. What looks like junk to others, i.e. my wife, has special meaning to me. And I am sure if the Piggly Wiggly umbrella had survived the trip and not been lost once it hit China we would use it on rainy days and remember standing in the very hot sun alongside a freeway after an accident that surely we should have come to grief in but didn’t.
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
See my site for December at http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam/
We left our Hanoi hotel at 5:30 AM; similar time that we got there a few days earlier after the train from Sapa tossed us out onto the payment of Hanoi. And at the airport @ 6:30ish then landing in Guangzhou, China time, at 11ish. We did not have a flight until 8 PM so we took the subway (metro) to downtown, found some Western food, and walked, once again, way too much.
A hotel lobby dude at a hotel told us that there was a bus to the airport and we went off to a tall building he pointed to that looked close but it took us 45 minutes of walking before it finally popped up in front of us. It is like walking to the Eiffel tower; only seems a few blocks away and the more you walk the longer it takes to get to it. To cut a nonsensical story short we took the airport bus back which was a lot better than being in a subway and it took less time, about 45 minutes.
So China again. After Vietnam the contrast is startling. China the any-brand-knock-off; Ikea personified land of imitation. Vietnam; Sapa, Hoian, Hanoi… the places we spent the past three weeks in, with so much richness of life. And the food is OK; baguettes and well prepared fruit dishes. Thank the French for their occupation to give a country some class. A few hours in Guangzhou and the land of shopping malls and cheap copies leap out to strangle any possible creative and originality left of its population. What has happened to you China? All those inventions and culture you once produced reduced to copycats.
But…. We are back home, in our adopted country, and it feels good to be headed back to our apartment with all our crap there as well as a cupboard of my belongs at school and shelves of my things in the computer lab: my PhD thesis, National Geographic books from the 1920s – 1940s my father had collected, some antique cameras, a boomerang, posters, a 500 page novel I wrote, ‘Leaving Australia’ and other assorted things. We have stuff all over the place from a shed of stuff in upstate New York to our furniture in our Jersey City home and a shed of our belongings in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia as well as boxes of our stuff in storage at Narda’s sister and at her parents. And now we have about a suitcase of new stuff and a suitcase and a half of our clothing in storage on this plane. I like the Buddhist ideals of not wanting things, of living in the moment, of respecting all life (well at least I do that by not eating animals) but I reckon there is a way to go before I can say I am a Buddhist. Firstly we need to shed four houses; three in the States and one in Australia that we no longer want or can afford. We should shove all of them over the fiscal cliff. Of course the good thing about traveling is that we have seen almost no news for three weeks so perhaps the world did end on 21 December though after seeing 22-million Chinese today I doubt that and maybe the States did go over their cliff… who knows? Does anyone really care? What was so good about the village people back in Sapa is that they just live day to day pretty much the same as they have for the past thousand years. Take away CNN and BBC and the ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) and etc. and stay clear of newspapers – easy to do when there are not any around in English, and the world is such a nice place. When we retire we will not watch the news anymore or read about the nonsense in the rest of the world and wherever we are will be just our grand life in our everyday grand adventure of living life to the fullest.
Four days before being back at work. I suppose I have lots to do to be ready for classes; lessons to write, ties to sort out to wear… I bought four more on this trip so now I have more than a hundred ties from around the world; not boring basic business ties but unique, usually from thrift shops – my favourite place to get ties; they are there because others didn’t want them because they were too different to wear but I wear them. I got my newly self-designed shirt I had made in Hoian and so much more.
|China below Guangzhou today||Vietnam below – which has more soul?|
In less than a month we will be off again – to Australia for a week – Chinese New Years week and this will probably be my last blog about travel until then. Probably including then too because what could I possibly blog about Australia? I will visit my son in Melbourne and that is great but not something I normally blog about though I did mention him in a blog when he visited us a few months ago here in China, that was special. We are going to Narda’s granddaughter’s Christening and her son turning 30 party but that is for her to blog about. She blogs but it is on paper in her scrapbook with tickets and stuff from places we went; much better than my blogs, more interesting and intelligent writing but I am only the other one who reads them. Then again I get about two or three hits to my blogs; no doubt all three from Chinese censors and I really just write for myself to remember what we did.
What I am looking forward to the most these next four days before returning to work is working on my videos. I have so many from the past three weeks and aside of I didn’t take my computer on this trip and Narda doesn’t have a program that I can use with my camera, besides there has not been time to go through a hundred if not hundreds of short clips to make about four five – seven minute movies to put on youtube and etc. I have more than 400 videos online from the past ten years so a few more will get me caught up to date with our travels. Plus I want to make webpages for this trip and they will be linked from http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam
What I will think about in the future when I am being told my lesson plans are not quite to the American Standards (yes those standards that keep America in about 25th place in education in the world) that our school is so obsessed about is not the next lesson plan or lesson unit that a principal or two are demanding but of walks with tribal people in their villages outside of Sapa. That is what is important in life – to have been exposed to people who live wholesome lives who are not grabbing at material possessions and soulless educational expectations. The children we met were happy, learning, holistic and so full of enthusiasm unlike the children we teach who spend days and nights hunched over computers memorizing facts for the next test and who lose all sense of creativity because they have no concept how to apply learning to life only to tests.
But it is all good… life is good and I am happy that at 65 and close to retirement that I am once again reminded of the wholesomeness of life and that simplicity really is what is complicated at achieving. I lived this way in the 1960s, living in communes in California, Oregon and Hawaii and no doubt in the future Narda and I will be living in some village in Cambodia, India, Vietnam, Thailand or in South America with all our belongings that we have collected in the rubbish dump and all that we will have will be each other and our most basic items to survive then we will have arrived at freedom and correct living.
Writing this on China Southern flight Guangzhou to Dalian with too little sleep to stay awake much longer but there is still an hour left of this bloody flight and Narda has been asleep for the past two hours… lucky her but I have four days in front of me to sleep and make video clips…. Yippee.
Thursday morning the third of January – some sleep and looking out the window – damn where did the warm weather go? Jack, our driver – the real Jack – not one of his mates – as usual, was waiting for us at the airport in Dalian and drove us the one hour ride home getting us back to Campus Village at midnight. It is so nice to be home; the maids cleaned the apartment and did our laundry whilst we were gone and I just dropped out a lot of laundry to do.
Turned on the news after three weeks and righto the world did not end, the Yanks shoved everything back up on to the cliff and we even made a ten-percent increase overnight on our Chase stocks. Life is good.
Youtube video at http://youtu.be/mfIh5gvLq9A and at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/25-Dalian-Harbour-View-Hotel.html
Friday morning 6 AM waking up saying to Narda maybe we should stay in Dalian for the weekend; get away from school and campus village – take a break, stay someplace nice. Ten minutes later she has booked into the (Best Western Premier) Dalian Harbour View Hotel; 2 Gangwan Street, Zhonshan District along the port and across from the Dalian Passenger Terminal.
It has been a good though as usual an over-the-top busy week. In my little world I have been teeing people up for my broadcast journalism students to interview. Next couple of weeks we are focusing on interviewing and I wanted to steer clear of them interviewing one another or teachers as is usually the model. Having done my Ph.D. thesis ‘Conversational Analysis of Chatroom “talk”’ – (http://neuage.org/All.htm) and having the bloody 550 page book (165,000 words) sitting in an obvious place in my room for students to say ”wow, you wrote this?” it seems only fitting that I continue with online communication. Person-to-person is always so messy – one feels like thumping the other person if they are not active listeners – well they are active listeners in that they interrupt at every chance to change the conversation to about themselves – oh wait, this is interviewing they are supposed to do that. Nevertheless, we are interviewing only via Skype. Last month we had an hour Skyping session with Canyon H.S. School in Bhopal, India as part of the ISA plan through the British Council School’s team “World Class” (and yes, I have an ever evolving webpage on these projects at http://edu.neuage.us/blogs/schools.html).
Back to this week, so I am gathering people to interview: Brandan – a Silicon Valley programmer with Expedia (his parents work at our school so that was an in, and I make fun of his parents to him which gives me an even more in factor), four of our ex-teachers; two in Brazil – they met at our little school, Dalian American International School, got married then pissed off to Brazil. My students are interviewing them Monday morning. Two others who met at our school last year, then got married now in Qatar – hopefully we have them Skyping with us next week; and a woman who is writing a choral piece for our school to perform, living in the State of Washington, will be interviewed by my student and we will be live-streaming rehearsals and the final performance. I have said to the woman we can do the live-streaming but being in China; last Tuesday we did not have electricity for the day so teaching computing was fun. I had them doing storyboarding. With the school in India we had times where the Internet went down but we got back on enough to have done enough work on our project which was about festivals in our two countries to complete our tasks.
I am trying to get my son in Melbourne to come on board with a Skype interview but he has not responded since I asked him last week. He works with asylum seekers (boat people) coming illegally into Australia and he records and performs hip hop acts so there are two interviews there. He spoke about hip hop in Australia to high school students earlier this year when he visited and I was/am hoping there would be a follow on to that.
As well as driving myself nuts with organizing too much stuff I have set up a 4th and 5th grade project for after school starting late November with N.H.Goel World School situated in the city of Raipur the capital city of Chhattisgarh and a Skype project to do with afterschool high school students, probably with a school in the States. The project I am doing with afterschool 4th and 5th graders I am doing with Narda so we will involving music into the mix and both the coordinator at the N. H. Goel World School and us are quite excited about this. The high school project I am doing with the high school music teacher so that will be interesting too as he wants to try and create a musical piece with two schools at once.
So regardless of how busy we were this past week; and I am also starting our laptop program tomorrow, Monday, and have been doing a lot of work putting that together plus of course teaching my classes, it was time to get out of town.
We took the school’s shopping bus into Dalian, stopped at Metro to get grazing food figuring we would sit in our room and watch the forecasted storm pass by, went to Ikea for lunch and took a taxi to the Best Western Premier Dalian Harbour View Hotel at 2 Gangwan Street in the Zhonshan District across from the Dalian Passenger Terminal and Dalian Port, where we found ourselves in a fairly good place. We booked a suite; small lounge and large bedroom. The view was great looking down at the incoming ferries. There were four that came in on ‘our watch’ including the one we took back from Yantai last month; http://neuage.us/BLOGS/21-ferry.htm.
As we so often do, we did not end up eating all the food we bought instead dragged it back home the following day. We went up to the revolving restaurant just to have a sticky beak, check out the food and view. The revolving restaurant only revolves between 6 and 8 pm so we said we would be back at six; by now it was only 3 pm and raining too hard outside to go exploring so we did what normal hard working people do on a day off, we went back to our room and took a nap for an hour. At six pm we were all smiley at the revolving restaurant with camera, lens, tripod, and video in hand. We thought to save money and I was ordering a vegetarian pizza and Narda was eyeing something dead to eat but the buffet was looking and smelling good and tired of our cheapskate ways (well the hotel was not cheap, being a five star, ‘Best Western’ chain hotel, which in our world means soft beds as most hotels in China one may as well as sleep on the floor the beds are so bad. I think they just have box springs and no mattress usually, maybe a throw-back on Chairman Mao who believed life was meant to be hard) we thought spending 135 Yuan ($21.46 US, $20.66 Australian, 1,480.87 Syrian Pound – OK that is just getting silly) was worth it for the view and the food was good. Sometimes we would eat at the all you can eat Chinese restaurant in Clifton Park, New York a few years ago and then it was only about $11 and actually I liked the food there better. (As there are 7 Chinese buffet places now in Clifton Park listed on Google I do not know which one we use to go to back when there was only one a few years ago; maybe there are more Chinese in upstate NY now than in Dalian – damn) We like the Chinese buffet in Australia and in the States better than the ones here. I think they put too much MSG in everything and I get heartburn. Nevertheless the view was good and in the hour that we stuffed ourselves we went all the way around; beer and juice was free making the revolving restaurant revolve all the more. My photos did not come out well because of the reflections on the window but we did get some from our room and I put it both on youtbue at http://youtu.be/mfIh5gvLq9A and on my webpage for this particular blog – http://neuage.us/BLOGS/25-Dalian-Harbour-View-Hotel.html
A view from our hotel.
We went for a walk, in the early morning rain;
All over China there are these homes for the workers, they are filled with bunk beds and from having peeked into many windows at constructions sites they look quite un-inviting as a place to live.
Narda loves tug boats – she had relatives in The Netherlands who were tug boat drivers and she says it is in her blood. When we lived in upstate New York we use to go to the tugboat regalia in Watervliet, New York. There would be lots of tugboats, most come up the Hudson River from NYC.
Another view from our window looking toward the ship building area.
The ferry on the lower right arrived in the morning from South Korea, a 16 hour trip – it looks quite rusty to me.
And today, Sunday, we checked out at noon, we had already called Jack to come and get us; Jack is our driver, but we call all the drivers Jack, and the one who collected us was not the real-Jack but we were happy to see him and called him Jack and even with stopping at Longshan for groceries on the way home we were home in one-hour.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 More at http://dalian.neuage.us/videos/Boee_Brilliant_Villas_.Hill.html
photo album for this is at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/photos/
Last Sunday we changed our day around – I suppose if it was my classroom we could say it was the flipped classroom model but I am not going to equate a day of leisure with an academic day. Not that every day is anything but learning; life the classroom and all that crap, but a flipped something is not the same as a non-flipped something.
Now that we got that out of the way and yes I do sometimes do the flipped classroom approach when it is suitable which in China is not always possible because students cannot use youtube or participate in western social sites due to the great firewall of China.
Instead of going out in the afternoon; we tend to spend the morning on the Internet doing books, keeping up with family, and Facebook, and other schools – are they offering a better package for next year, is it more interesting than living in the part of China that is more Ikea than historic China; for example, Myanmar (Burma) really has our eye at the moment and of course who would not want to live in and teach in India?
I had my first Skype session with Canyon H.S. School in Bhopal, India doing an ISA (British Council International School Awards) project “Festivals and Aborigines” with my Broadcast Publication class last week. It took a bit of effort and time to understand each other, us their accent and them ours (I have Korean, Chinese, Trinidad, and American students), our Skype connection went down as well as the whole Internet a few times but overall it was really successful and students from both schools were really excited. I am starting a unit I am calling “Foreign Correspondent” with the longer term plan of having our students do a collaborative documentary which will really test our technology as well as my planning and implementation skills.
Damn! Talking about work again…
So we headed out on our bikes at 9 AM last Saturday; we were going to do the same today but already it is eleven AM, we are still in our pajamas, on-line, and I want to ride our bikes to the Jinshitan Port – which we have never been to and no doubt is just a small fishing port or kelp port, but I want to go nevertheless. But it is cold and windy outside so no doubt we will take the # 1 bus from the light rail station, if how I am reading the map is correct. Then again we may spend the day indoors which is not my ideal. Yesterday, Saturday, Narda went to an orphanage in Dalian City – all babies and the oldest I think was in the two year old range. She went with a group of teachers. Apparently it was all heart-wrenching. These are children that are left for whatever reason; the one baby policy of China or because they are deformed and etc. Teachers volunteer to go just to hold the babies and have a bit of play because they are stuck in their cribs all the time otherwise. We brought up the ideas of students visiting in our middle school assembly last week asking if any students would want to spend a Saturday morning at the orphanage – and I was extremely surprised when every single student in grades 6 – 8 stood up. My day yesterday was not so altruistic as I spent nine hours at school working on standard based lessons – something everyone at school is so opposed to, but again I am not talking about work now.
Near us is yet another huge apartment development, Boee Brilliant Villas Hill. We tromped in with cameras in hand and viewed the first smaller apartment that they were selling for 7 and a half million RMB, about one and a quarter million dollars US. See our video of this exploration at http://youtu.be/gQ0Noz1pF_c Or other related blogs at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/
The outside is quite nice –
We saw two apartments the one above on the right was 20 million RMB or about three-million US. Going along with the one child stuff of China it had a spa bath and little glass garden in the child’s room as well as two walk in closets and a study.The picture on the left above is the kid’s bath with spa and stone garden and on the right is the parent’s room – through the window they can see how us lowly teachers live in campus Village off next to the hills straight through the window.
We wandered on to the new city being built down the road – Xiaoyaowan (an earlier video I made of this is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-drgVo45WWs&feature=share&list=UUzGrI_yggI56Gpp2ZyNQAXw) and drove along the three and four lane empty roads leading to huge holes which I suppose will be for a river they are putting in and bridges and skyscrapers. I made a clip of the day and put it on youtube at http://youtu.be/NyME0iqSMhs.
In the distance is the end of the bridge which is not built that will go over the new river.
Narda at the first part of a large bridge to be built over a river that will be put in soon?
The infrastructure is in place – large highways to large holes in the ground.
This is what is happening to the old village to make room for Xiaoyaowan.
The future mega city or a part of Dalian – who knows?
What it will look like they think, in a few years – now just empty holes.Well here it is 8 pm – we ended up going into Dalian and eating at Tapas Spanish restaurant which is a couple of blocks past the Korean Market which is great – I had ‘berenjenas gratin adas’ (grilled eggplant), and ‘cremade espinacasy esparragos’ (spinach and asparagus cream).
We had a driver – one of Jack’s mates takes us in and wait for us to eat and go to the Korean Market to get a winter coat that Narda wanted me to get – one of those hundreds of dollars coats that one gets cheap. Narda had the coat go from 450 RMB down to 250 meaning about $35 US. All in all as a last minute thought it was a five hour round-trip including dinner and getting my coat when all I really wanted to do was write some blogs for the day.
A lot more to say but I will ramble on next time…
Saturday, September 29, 2012
How are some weekends different from other weekends? When there seems to be no end to the particular one being experienced is my favourite way; for example, this weekend syncs with next weekend in that the days between are part of the holiday of the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) and no I have not advanced in my Mandarin to have written that – it is a paste job; saying that, I know that this character 大 is the start of Dalian and we watch for it to get on the correct bus or is it the start to Jinshitan, our local hood? – we get lost a lot but at 1 RMB – 15 cents US for a bus ride it is affordable to hop on another bus and if we get way to far afield we grab a cab, show our business card which is in Chinese on the opposite side to what we can read. Unlike New York City cabs or Sydney, Paris, Rome and other cities we tromp about these are quite cheap. To get home from Jinshitan is 15 RMB – a tad bit over two bucks US for a fifteen minute ride. NYC it would be like going from the West Village to Harlem and cost about $20. Not that I had planned to write about money.
So we are here at the start of the Mooncake Festival (Zhongqiu Festival) 3000 years in the advancing and most everyone I work with is out of here. We did get our fair share of mooncakes on Friday, one of my favourite Chinese foods, well actually, aside of tofu, just about the only thing I eat that is not western. I tried to be more culturally globalized but my stomach had other ideas.
It is Saturday and most teachers have flown off to Viet Nam, Korea, Thailand and various spots in China. We are staying home a few days then flying out Monday to Yantai in northeastern Shandong province. Sound exotic but actually we could not make up our minds where to go until it was too late. I had wanted to go up to Dandong but last week when we finally decided to go there all buses and trains were booked out. Being one of the most traveled times of the year for the locals flights out of Dalian seemed to be doubling by the hour. One of the few places left was Yantai – half an hour away. There is a ferry to come back on that takes a few hours so we are flying there and cruising home on Thursday or Friday or if we get to wandering around various other cities we may come back on the weekend by ferry from Weihai or Yantai or some such service, it is just across the bay.
I started last week off quite excited about our new laptop program. I went home with the new Zenbook with Windows 8 installed and spent a few days downloading lots of stuff. But now I am not so sure whether I like this; the speed is great – I get onto the Internet (more about that in a moment) quickly and programs run well: Adobe Flash, Dreamweaver, Sketchup and etc. but it jumps when keying. It is impossible to write more than a couple of letters before it jumps to another line – or maybe it is for incredibly fast people – read young. I need to plug in a keyboard to keep from going nuts. Or switch to my older true and sure laptop like I am doing now. The keypad is way too sensitive and it will be an issue when the kids get it if I cannot tighten it up. The Zenbook would make a great travel companion (when the wife is shopping or printing off grand- daughter photos) and I am left to my own devices.
Friday, yesterday, it was like being in the stone ages. Holy cow – no Internet for a day! It started the night before during a thunder storm; it was a dark and rainy night or is that stormy? Whatever it was up to no good was going to happen with lightening all over the shop, of which, one wayward bolt knocked out the server box. In the middle of uploading photos, videos, words of wisdom/scattered thoughts or whatever I was uploading to one of my sites my ftp-server crashed and that was it. So what was there left to do? I could always talk to my wife, but I have done that before, so we watched another episode of Dexter. We are on season 4 and it is wonderfully horrific – just the show to watch on a stormy night with a banging door and chairs blowing across the porch. The next day the server was still down – I put up a note for my students that there was no Internet due to a lighting strike and they thought I was joking. They often think I am joking though I am not sure why they think that. Not using the Internet is fine, I had some classes using Google Sketchup and we were not able to do stuff we were to do on the last day before a holiday like getting grades done, submitting lesson plans and all those wonderful time absorbing tasks that will just have to wait until after the holidays. I found time to even clean my room which given the choice of being online or cleaning has always been put at the bottom of the pile of to-do projects. We have had other times when the Internet was down for a bit and even a couple of times when the electricity was off for most of the day but this time it seemed more OK. No one got to play our DAISlive video which I had spent several hours just on the introduction to but I am sure I can get staff to play it when we are back in session.
DAISlive is our news/events video that I do with my high school broadcast class. It is shown two times a week and lasts around three minutes. I spend way too many hours editing it. I started it last year as a way to get my middle school publication class to do some real-time speaking. By the end of the school year every single middle school student had appeared several times as anchor, news-reader, and creator of an ad, usually for the school store. My publication class is a six-week unit in our applied studies course. There are six applied studies units ranging from robotics to ‘The Odyssey of the Mind’ and a student government component. I found this a very effective way to get students who had English as a second language to become surer about their speaking. My favorite example was during my first few week. Everyone in my class had to present in front of the camera but one girl would break into tears whenever she had to speak English. She would whisper a few words and that was it. We got her to say ‘thanks for watching DAISlive’ then she gave a big smile. After that she would be the first to volunteer to be on our show. This year I am doing DAISlive as part of my high school broadcast journalism course. We have been given a large room in the basement of the school which I am gradually turning into a video studio. So far since starting more than a year ago all I have had is a cheap video camera and I used AVS Video Editor until recently when we purchased a site license of Power Director 10 with the hopes the students would do all the editing. They are still learning the program and last week I spent like four hours just making a new introduction. I have had one short session with them using Boinx TV to make a real-time newscast but after holiday we will dive into that and have wonderful blue screen backgrounds. soon my hours of editing will be turned over to the students and my too much editing will end and I will have all that extra time, hopefully, to learn new stuff. I was told yesterday we may be getting Adobe CS6, which I put in for last year but at about ten-thousand dollars it got knocked back and now it appears we may get it which excites me to no end and I am looking forward to Narda printing more granddaughter photos and shopping for more shoes and me doing fantastic stuff like more web pages to add to my current thousands, and more video clips and finally finishing my e-book “Tofu Again – ‘The lost book of tofu” http://tofu.neuage.us/ which is not just another book of tofu recipes but has lots of stories about my days as a tofu maker (eight years) in Australia whilst raising two children by myself (Try This ~ http://neuage.org/trythis.htm) along with tofu recipes. Needless to say creating an eBook with InDesign and making phone apps with Dreamweaver will be my first endeavors. There is also talk of getting some good video equipment and lights for the video studio.
My real excitement is bundled into our next step in DAISlive when we go global, sort of. I have been corresponding with five schools in India to add a section of Collaborative Broadcast Journalism to our program. I got involved with the British Council programme called International School Awards last year then hooked up with the British Council Schools team “World Class” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldclass/) and out of that five schools have been corresponding with me about doing projects http://neuage.us/edu/blogs/collaborative-broadcast.html. Then this past week when the head of ISS (more further down) came to visit he got me in touch with Raphael Raphael (that is his real name, first and last) at an International school in Kazakhstan. Raphael has a doctorial in film and like me is the tech dude at his school. We will do some real-time news broadcasts with our students and hopefully I can bring in India too. “and now to our reporter in India… Kazakhstan (No! not Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan). I did several projects like this when we lived in New York City. Narda’s school, St. Luke’s and my school, Ross Global Academy did several live interactions together from Narda having her 3rd grade and our 3rd grade class do songs together to my 8th graders doing a hip-hop workshop with her 8th graders. We went with three schools a couple of times but never internationally. A school I taught at two summers ago in south Australia wants to be involved too so maybe we will have this incredible learning space between Kazakhstan, India, Australia and us in little old Jinshitan. My ultimate, though it will probably never happen, is to get involved with a school in North Korea and do this. It would not be political – just students of the same age hanging out talking about stuff in their life, about what is going on at the moment at their school.
Overall it has been a good week here at Campus Village/Dalian American International School in Jinshitan – (Golden Pebble Beach) in the DDA (Dalian Development Area which is also Kaifaqu), Dalian, Liaoning province, China.
Charles Gregory, the head of ISS (International School Services – https://www.iss.edu/) which runs our school, visited for the week. We get to see him a couple of times a year. He lives an incredible life, having personally started 16 schools internationally the past nine years. He has so many stories from cobras in the hallway of a school in the Congo to students trying to push a large bear over the fence to starting a school in Myanmar a decade ago when supplies had to be carried on the backs of people through jungles. He has such a great and positive view of education throughout the world and I have inspiration for my next writing project because of him. The life of being an international school teacher is really special and I wish I had started a few decades ago back when I was a single parent living in a coastal town of Australia. My children would have loved living in all the places other teachers tell us about. I hope to teach in one more country before it is all over though at 65 then 66 next school year and I think another year older after that the choices are dwindling. I have a list of countries that issue work visas for teachers and the list is quite small with maybe a dozen with no age limit and a few with 70. But then again if they let me stay in China we could be here quite some time. I hear that our area is one of the few places in China that will issue a visa past 65. Several of the southern provinces won’t issue them to anyone past 58. Damn I may have to retire someday and write books about tofu.
We had the first of two-days of parent teacher’s conference at our school today. I have done this at schools before, nothing new, but I did get to thinking about life in general and the turns and twists one takes on the journey.
Sitting there with parents I remembered my days as the parent with my children. Life was so different then. I was a single parent in South Australia (I was the foreigner there, being a Yank and all, though allegedly I spoke the same language as the teacher) and usually there was a problem with at least one of my children, I will not say which one. Of course I blamed the teacher because obviously the reason my child acted out was because the class was not challenging enough and my son was creative and beyond their slowed down standards. Actually I was probably the parent from hell.
This was between 1985 and about 1999. Not sure why but my children attended lots of schools. We started off with Mt. Compass, and then there was Pt. Elliot, Meadows, Victor Harbor, Christies Beach High School, and that was just primary. There was Wirreanda High School later on and a temporary school because of some discipline stuff and maybe Seaton High too; I lost track.
I started my own studies in 1991 and went straight through to 2005; 14 years of university, from starting my BA when I was 44 to collecting my PhD at the University of South Australia when I was 58. I started teaching in 1999 at age 52, when most people start to look at retiring. Before that I had been a tofu maker for seven years, a brother in a religious order, a cook, street artist in New Orleans, NYC, South Australia, Honolulu; a happy hippie living in communes in the 1960s and a variety of things but sitting in front of parents talking about their children always amazes me; especially here in China, where I need an interpreter for Chinese, Korean, German and or etc. and I am happy to present myself as the teacher or as is the case now, the student’s advisor. I try to recall my children in school and think of nightmares – principal’s phone calls, me defending my children, the fire in the boys toilet that many years later a son said yes it was him, to the court appearances for graffiti and on and on.
One of my favourite moments (not) was when I was being showed my son’s diary (this happened with both children). There were lots of absent days with my signature – this was at Wirreanda High School, my children would have been in about 8th and 10th grade. There were days when they did not have their uniform with some excuse about it is in the wash –this was in many entrees. The reasons for missing school were everything from baseball practice at another school (that son was later signed by the LA Dodgers as a pitcher) or meetings at the dentist, doctor and a host of visits I barely could have imagined. All signed by me. When I pointed out it was not my signature anywhere in the diary I was shown the front page of the original signature – my children had signed my name from day one. OK so I never looked at their diaries – poo hoo on me. I had other things to deal with like being a perfect parent.
What I find really fascinating is when two parents are talking a mile-a-minute in a foreign language, and looking up every once in a while at me then going back to saying stuff I have no idea what. 他无法组织一个妓院的螺丝 (He couldn’t organize a screw in a brothel).
Today a student was the interpreter for the mother. “How is my daughter doing?” So I go on about if she stopped using her cell phone, talked less during class, did work… I am sure she did not tell her mother what I said. The mother looked at me with a bit of – was that amusement, disdain, surprise, shock…? How would I know? The daughter could have said, “Dr. Neuage says if you do not have enough water in the basin when cooking beans they will burn.” I did hear the Dr. Neuage part.. the result was a blur of sounds and pitches; some going up and some going down.
I also never know when to bow or shake a hand. The Koreans like to bow when greeted the Chinese will go for the paws. But then I never get the Europeans and Aussies kissing on one side then the other thingy. I lived in Australia for 22 years and still never know which cheek to peck first. I am not saying I still can not tell the difference between Koreans and Chinese that would be rude I suppose but truth be told I can’t. And what happens if we bow at the same time and hit heads and one of us gets knocked out?
I love my job – teaching broadcast journalism and being our video media person and creating our school news shows and working with teachers with technology and teaching my middle school publications class. It is just a long ways from being a single parent living on a pension with naughty children and a tenth grade education until one day I thought shit I am in my 40s and doing not much and then 14 years later I was Dr. Neuage. Whats next? The only thing that is the same is that I am, as always, in a foreign country.
Well tonight is Friday and early tomorrow morning we are off with the International Club of Dalian for a two day trip to one of Dalian’s best getaways destinations – Bingyu Valley 冰峪沟! “Beautiful scenery, exciting white water rafting, fresh air and interesting people…” More about that next week, after the trip.
Pt Elliot South Australia – 1989 Sacha 8 and a half and Leigh six – me – 42.
Saturday, September 08, 2012
Just call me 牛腾然（niu teng ran)
I have had a few names in my life…
Started off with the most boring name of Terry Miller –
How could I go through life like that? So I got myself adopted by the time I was three by some Christians in upstate New York who named me Terrell Adsit.
They tried to create me into some unnatural image of their beliefs but they were not terribly successful so I went off and did the 1960s in Greenwich Village, New Orleans and on to San Francisco, Eugene, Oregon
and by 1969 I was in Hawaii and somehow ended up in a cult group for about the next decade. They changed my name to Brother Arthur so I trolled around in a cosmic fog with this name.
In 1980, when I was living in Towson, Maryland I took a trip to Auckland then Sydney for an astrological convention.
I met someone I didn’t like and she ended up in Maryland a few months later and some stuff happened and we drove across to San Francisco where I put her on a plane back to Adelaide, South Australia and I went on to Honolulu. Well the stuff that happened back in Maryland sort of started to manifest and soon she was in Hawaii and more stuff happened then we needed to get married and I did not like nor was I able to pronounce her Ukrainian name and she did not like the Adsit name so we made up a new name. My mate Randy Dandurand said “well you two think you are such new age people why don’t you call yourselves new age?” We thought that was just dumb. I changed my name to Neuage and by getting married we both were Neuage. Needless to say we were not that new age and a few months after son number one, Sacha, was born, whom I helped deliver in a little hospital on the north shore of Hawaii, we were on our way to Australia; Adelaide, South Australia. We had another son then got divorced and I was a single parent for the next two decades stuck in a foreign country with my Neuage name. I still have the Neuage name but not to stop at name changes I now have a Chinese name.
What I have always like about neuage is that it is not too common. Can you imagine trying to get any cred on Google or Bing or Yahoo and etc. with a name like Terry Miller? I started making web pages in the early 1990s, soon after the World Wide Web was invented and for decades there were no other neuages in any search engine; just thousands of me. I loved it. Now there are some wankers using the neuage name; there is a rapper, someone hustling stuff on Amazon and a judge off in Nevada or Arizona – one of those dessert places. But there are still thousands of my pages coming up when putting neuage on in a search. I just checked my new Chinese name, “niu teng ran” – and there are none in any search so perhaps I could start again – make thousands of new webpages all under my new name. Damn I just remembered I have some work to do for school – well maybe next weekend I will start…
Terrell:牛腾然（niu teng ran).”niu” sounds like Neuage, which means a family name in China.”niu” also means “ox”. Ox presents diligent and dependable meanings in Chinese culture. “teng ran” sounds like “Terrell”, which means the flying appearance. “teng” is a splendid character in a Chinese name, which means ‘up’ or ‘fly’ as we wish our family, career, money….everything goes up and up.
Not wanting to be the only one with a new name Narda, who by the way did not become a Neuage or an Adsit and in fact returned to her maiden-pre-last-married name, now too has a Chinese name.
Narda: 毕娜达（bi na da) “bi” sounds like “Biemond”, which is a family name in China.na “means fascinating elegant, delicate and gentle. It is a good word used in feminine names. “da” means “super” and “fantastic”.
(Thanks to Angelia Guam at our school, Dalian American International School for our new names)
What I really wanted to share with myself as a memory I could look at when I am unable to sleep, like this morning when I was wide awake by 4 AM and decided to get up and go through my email I did not have time to read this past week which took me until 7.30 to get through and now it is 7:45 and I am writing this so either I am taking a break from going through my in-box or I quit. I am too sleepy to keep track of what I was doing. Anyway a silly memory… we were on the way back from Australia a couple of months ago, flying China Southern, and I was looking out the little round window in the back of the plane, taking pictures of something, probably more clouds to add to my thousands of pictures of clouds form the past decades. I suppose Narda was asleep leaning against our window so no doubt that is why I had my camera with me peeping out the window. After stretching and moving about; I had sat frozen in my seat for some dozen hours and the muscles and bones were sticking, I went to the loo. Not to worry it all seemed quite normal to me. After I had gotten myself settled back into my nesting mode a stewardess quizzed me why I had taken my camera into the bathroom. I couldn’t believe it. She said in her few English words that a passenger had report me taking a camera into the toilet. It wasn’t my small digital camera but my Nikon though why would it matter and what stupid human would report such a thing? I just looked at the woman and turned away but low and behold didn’t another twit come up to me and start asking why I took a camera into the toilet. Then there was a third person with more English quizzing me. I said I was taking pictures out the window then I needed to take a piss – they left after that and no one asked any more questions. It was funny but I am amazed at these people. I should have asked which passenger reported me and then asked her, of course it would have been a female, and no male would be that stupid, why she had such perverted thoughts.
We are back at school from a summer of travel to the States and Australia which I have gone on about in previous blogs. We have about 18 new staff and at least ten who have left after last school year to teach in schools in India, Istanbul, Brazil, the Middle East, and many other places. In my broadcast journalism course I will be doing a lot of global-video-collaborative projects and look forward to our expats from here syncing with us from their new schools. I will continue my educational blog as soon as school starts on the 16th of August http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html
Here is where our school is – in the fun area of Dalian
(from http://www.chinatouristmaps.com/travel/liaoning/dalian/dalian-transportations.html) Discoveryland is not shown but it is a bit off this map or a ten-minute bike ride away – the Chinese tacky version of Disneyland. We either walk (20 minutes) or ride our bikes (7 minutes) to the beach before school each morning except when it is too cold to ride then we rug-up and walk.
Today, Sunday, we were going to take the light rail into Dalian but it rained all day and we didn’t get out of the house until almost 10 AM. We took the school’s shopping bus into Kaifaqu, did some shopping and took the light rail home. Not much of an eventful day except it is so good to be home. The States and Australia were great and catching up with family is the best but being back here is tops. We really are not ready to settle in the west. I loved the fact I could turn 65 a couple of days ago and be happily teaching and exploring. That teachers are swept in the dustbin in so many countries is awful. My last school in New York City retrenched us over 55 year olds – eight of us, and hired 20 plus year-old teachers. The school was closed down the next year as one of the worst in NYC – Ross Global Academy.
We are reminded of the constancies of life – when I got into the taxi from the light rail to home I tried to put on my seat belt and the driver waved his hand saying no. Wow, we got a $300 ticket a couple of years ago because Narda had taken off her seat belt for just a moment in a small town in Australia. And I was happy to get soy milk and tofu from my favourite tofu shop in Kaifaqu so all in all it was a great first day back in town shopping even in the rain.
We have moved apartments and the one we have now has great views of the Yellow Sea with a stretch of three balconies to walk out onto from the bedroom, lounge and office. See photo below – a rainy day but off in the distance is the sea. In front is the incredibly tacky new housing development going up across the street from us.
And this is another view slightly to the right showing the hills view with the guard stations and entrance to Campus Village.
And this is looking down the row of housing known as Campus Village. The blue roofs at the end are the swimming pool and gym of our school.
And here is the actual road distance from where we live (A) to where we are going (B) – see we are surrounded by seas.
And here is the actual road distance from where we live (A) to where we are going (B) – see we are surrounded by seas.
no longer in the future
no longer in the past
what a time to re-create me
Who is it?
is this me?
Not me before
Not me future
HERE I AM
Laughing in the noonday sun
Falling from the sky
landing to fly
into all that will be
when I open my eyes and exhale
synchronizing my senses
to possibilities yet to be imagined
Goodbye to all before
Did it ever even exist?
to re-invent a new instance of me
arriving Dalian, China after six weeks away: New Orleans (home of my soul), the south, dying on a freeway in Mississippi or was that Alabama where a truck ran us off the road only to re-boot my life so I can write such stupid stuff as this? And a month in Australia – and back again but not really because back then is no longer now. terrell neuage 5 August 2012 Golden Pebble Beach; Jinshitan
I was going to write a blog at least once a week; perhaps daily. It was a fine goal, right up there with I was going to work on one of my novels, poems, paintings or children stories a little bit every day, especially the ones I started back in the 1970s, then the one I did in the 1980s and surely I would add to the finished ones of the 1990s and my favourite, “Leaving Australia” that was completed five years ago. That one, all 550 pages, I printed and bound two copies of; one for my son in Melbourne and one for me. When Sacha came to visit a month ago I asked him if he had read the one I gave him four years ago and he said he was going to read it on his trip to Dalian but it was too heavy to carry with his other stuff; something about traveling lightly. Good golly. But surely a blog, added to if not daily at least weekly would be easy. Then as usual life got in the way and I just noticed I had not written anything since Chinese New Years almost four months ago. I have put up many youtube videos in that time from our wanders in Thailand, and various places in China but to write…. It is school – I work so much on lesson plans and projects that I never write anything for myself.
So I will just jot down notes about yesterday as it was a bit of a typical this-is-China day.
It started way to early, Saturday the 19th of May. I was awake at 3 AM, worried about something; our renters moving out of one of our houses – the one in NYC, or was it my Flash class that my overly-driven Korean students are determined to get a perfect score and the more challenging I make the content even getting them to learn ActionScript coding, the more determined they are to outdo me, or was it that I got an email about re-roofing our house in upstate NY; the Victorian house with a slate roof – not cheap, or our upcoming little trip: to Beijing and getting to Atlanta a week after Narda as I have to stay back and do some IT stuff @ school then taking a driving holiday around the deep south and going to New Orleans for a week – my old stomping grounds in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was a street artist in Jackson Square, then back to Beijing and on to Australia for July and then back to work here in Dalian – though I was not worried about the road-trip but that we may have to fly to New York because of having to deal with renters or roofs or some other fun-not stuff. I was worried that I was getting more grey hair – though people tell me that at a few months nearer to 65 than I wish to be, the fact I have little grey hair now is a fact to celebrate and not moan about having a few grey hairs is not what I want to see. I look in the mirror and say who is that old fart?
Back to yesterday. Maybe I did fall asleep for a while but I was awake at five and got up because I was scheduled to chaperone our middle-school overnight lock-in. I managed to get out of any overnight duty and was slotted into the 6 – 10 AM section. The children were already running around, some having slept less than a couple of hours. They were doing their overnight in the gym and surrounding rooms so I did my early morning weights routine and played some basketball with them and herded about 60 middle schoolers off to the school and to breakfast. (We live a two minute walk to the gym and another one minute walk to school so our work and home life is all muddled together and many of the children live here too as their parents work for the big companies nearby: Intel, Goodyear, VW – stuff like that). So yes the morning shift was easy – though I was sleepy. It was the rest of the day…
A couple of our teachers were celebrating their 40 anniversary together and wanted to have a shared celebration at Discoveryland. Discoveryland is a Disneyland Chinese copy. It is also a ten-minute bike ride away. We live rather remotely but not far away is the national resorts of Golden Pebble Beach (our morning walks before school) and forested areas and the big tourist thingy of Discoveryland. We had never been inside, because the idea of being in a place like that was quite repulsive. So we ride over, tie up our bikes, pay the 170 RMB (about $25 US) to go in and though it is supposed to be the largest adventure park in China and one of the largest in Asia it was the most budget thing I had seen. It is not Disneyland – though in some fake Chinese manner it is quite similar. The food places were all Chinese and quite bad. I managed to get a vegetarian meal but Narda took one bite of her alleged meat ball and could not eat any more. We noticed someone had thrown up at the next table and a crew came in to clean up but it pretty much summed up the place. I found it interesting that inside their large medieval castle there was a cathedral and the cathedral was actually the start of the ghost-house tour and there were bats flying around the stained glass windows. I suppose it is the Chinese concept of religion as superstition and they wanted to be clear about it. We did not want to go on any rides though some of the teachers we went with got in line for the roller-coaster and two hours later they were still in the same line. We walked around, Narda bought a dress – always the way to make a great day better and we hopped on our bikes and headed home leaving the rest of the people we went in with to enjoy Discoveryland without us. The downside? Yes, I get to go there next week with our whole upper school, a kind of end-of-year event. How exciting. Maybe I will take my camera – this was the first time I had not taken videos or stills in years which tells even more how much I enjoyed myself.
So I am buggered and decide to take a nap at 3. Narda was a bit concerned as she was given a couple of tickets to the “Dalian Korean Youth Orchestra’ concert. As some of her students were in the group parents had given her tickets to attend this ‘special event’. Luckily, she was going with another person and I was going to be left to take a nap. At 3.15 the friend said she was ill and could not go. At 3.20 Narda rang our driver and said to cancel the car to Kaifaqu and everything seemed great. At 3.40 the driver rang and said he was downstairs waiting – we have had no communication problems in the past but Narda was sure that the driver understood ‘cancel’ ‘no car’ no no no. Narda doesn’t want to go alone and then I am up and dressed in five minutes and we are hurdling toward our concert at 3.45 that is to start at 4 and Kaifaqu is half an hour away except for the way most people drive they manage to cut the time down heaps. It only took us 20 minutes. We have learned not to look out the front window because it is too scary the way people weave and cut and beep horns and rarely use blinkers. One thing Narda noticed at a traffic light was a person laying on the grassy part between streets. He wasn’t moving and there were a couple of cars stopped but no one was looking after him. We realized he was dead. In China if someone causes an accident and injures someone it is up to the accident causing person to look after the injured for the rest of their life. It is better if the person dies as they only have to do the funeral. Also, and we saw this our first week here with a person who fell or was knocked off his motorbike and lay dead in the road and was still there hours later, it is up to the family to come and collect the person. Bottom line, don’t get killed in China.
So we got into the concert fifteen minutes late but no one had started – like most things we see in China, this was quite chaotic and we just sat in the first empty seats we found instead of finding our actual seats which seemed to cause confusion around us. In China we have noticed, people talk all the time no matter the setting and as someone up front was introducing or saying something everyone around us just kept chatting like there was no one on the stage. The thing started at 4.35 and got off to a bit of a shaky start. At one point a child behind me, being restless and as bored as us, started kicking the seat in front of him, which was mine. I turned around and said ‘will you stop kicking my chair it is very annoying’ in nice clear English without realizing that these people probably had no idea what the words were but the content was obvious as the mother hit the kid and yelled a whole stream of foreign words at him. He didn’t kick my seat anymore.
We managed to slip out at intermission and decided to attend a movie, something we had not done in China. At the Cinema we found that the new movie (we think it is new) “Avengers” was playing. As we have gotten adapt with pointing and head nodding and shaking we saw it was in English and it was 3-D and we got free popcorn and soda all for 55 RMB (about $9) and it was starting right then and there. The theatre and large screen were better than what we had seen in NYC and the seats were large and comfortable. The last time we had been to a movie in Asia was in India and we walked out after half an hour because the movie was so stupid and violent.
We got a taxi home – I carry my business card with me that has our home in Chinese so we get around easily, and that was our day.
Last weekend we spent the weekend, two-nights, at the 5-star Kempinski Hotel in downtown Dalian overlooking Labor Park http://dalian.neuage.us/LaborPark.html. And previous to that we have been to Thailand for spring break and Beijing and just exploring here on the weekends. Maybe the next blog will be from a one-star motel in Alabama as we go off to see the real-America.
Keeping warm; of course this is Australia and warm is the in thing to be. Like 30C lots and on Sunday – New Year’s Day it will be a mere 40 C (yes 104 Fahrenheit). What is so interesting about that? Well on Tuesday we fly to Harbin China ( now -28C; -18 Fahrenheit – definitely a warm streak compared to what is expect next Tuesday when we arrive) to hang out at the ice festival for a few days before going back to work in warm Dalian which now is -10 a plus 14 Fahrenheit; 18 degrees below freezing. The last couple of weeks in China was interesting with me being a judge at the 10th 21st Century CASIO National Elementary/High School English Speech Competition for Liaoning Province. Of course at 43,746,323 people it is only the 14th most populated province in China but still a lot of folks to choose the best from. What was most amazing was that the contestants spoke perfect English whether 7 or 18 years old. They gave great speeches. The younger ones tended to give speeches about how much they loved their mothers and fathers. The older ones how much they loved China or a great invention they would create. After they gave their 3-4 minute speeches I asked a question that they had to answer. That is when they became unstuck. Most of them did not have a clue of what they had said. If I asked, what have you done lately for your parents or a question about their ‘invention’ they would have no idea what I was saying. Like China they could imitate and copy. It reminds me of my iPhone 5 – it looks like the real thing, if there was an iPhone 5 but it does little. It says 64 gigs on the back but really has like 24 kilobyte memory. Actually I got our real iPhone 4 unlocked yesterday so hopefully that will put me in the real loop next week back in China. Back to the speeches; so there I was on the stage with the winners, “from Australia, professor of speech at universities in the United States and in Australia, Dr. Neuage.” I did this for four weekends and the last one was televised so after five months in China I make it on TV. The whole bloody thing was televised, eight hours of it – not sure who would watch it but in a province of close to 44-million I am sure someone saw it. I am expecting to have a contract for TV appearances when I return next week.
My goal is to be on a sit-com; I would be the silly Yank who thinks he is Australian (well I do have an Australian passport and I am an Australian citizen but just yesterday a woman said to me, ‘oh you are from New York right?’ bloody hell, I am an Australian why can’t people see that?); the foreign English-speaking buffoon. I did get some bright red folder with a document signed by some person of note. It was very cold when we left Dalian on the 17th of December so we were fine being in Melbourne. I enjoyed spending a few days with my son and I am working with him to make a webpage for his music so I am happy about that, keeping me up-to date and even a bit trendy. Narda is all gushy about being a grandmother, I am just happy to be making webpages and preparing my Flash animation classes for two weeks from today. And that is it.
It comes in a nice looking box. iPhone 5. There is even an information guide and all the places in the world to contact Apple. If there was a real iPhone 5 then this would be somewhat of a clone but since there is not it is just the China iPhone 5 idea thingy that looks like an iPhone though the software is a bit lacking. I paid 300 Yuan about $47 USD in the street stall or actually table in downtown Dalian. I saw it later for 288 Yuan but what is a couple of dollars amongst friends? It says 64 GB on the box but I think it is more like 64 mg as it says no more memory after two photos. I took one with the front and one with the back camera – both are crap. Now there does not seem to be enough memory to save a phone number. But not to worry as a phone it rings loudly and the time is right whereas my Google Android phone is tired and needs replacing. It does have TV which is quite fuzzy and foreign, I will try it in Australia in December. I do not think it is getting 3G or 4G or any G though I will wait until I get to school and ask one of the locals what all the Chinese writing is about. There surely is no App Store or iPod as it shows on the box.
To activate my real iPhone I have to wait until we get to Australia for winter break to unlock it as no one can do it here – they say it is too new. But I felt trendy for five minutes and that is the purpose of a clone or, well it is not a clone, I actually have the iPhone 5. Now if I could clone a younger me I could feel trendy for even longer. The iTerrell 5 available in downtown China (the software is not up to snuff; lacking memory, short circuits, aged…).
We had a great day, riding the light rail into Dalian with about ten others from school. We went to a fabrics & textiles market; about six floors of just too much material. It was much more organized than the one we saw at the beginning of October in Hanoi. That one was a bit of a mess though cheaper and actually more interesting. I bought some wool for a suit coat and some tricked-out Asian material for the lining and for the lining of another vest. I am getting into vests as I found one of our locals who works at school has a husband who makes clothing and I can get really trippy looking things made. I bought material in Hanoi a couple of weeks ago and those vests came out good now I am going for more. I may have to wait as not only are a lot of others getting things made but too many children are having Halloween customs made for next week. Narda got a lot of material for winter clothing and she has a new dress or skirt or whatever those things women wear is called from material she got in Hanoi. So between getting some new threads and an iPhone 5 that really does little more than rings loudly which is really all one needs in a phone it was a good day.
As always we were not the only ones headed into town. My problem was I really really needed a loo and it took a long time to get to a WC and as in everywhere in China people push and shove but I am bigger than them and I had to pee and I was a bit aggro so I pushed and used my arms more than I normally would have. What is so kool here is that I can have a go at saying things to people I would never say if I thought they knew English. In the States they would just shoot me – here they don’t have guns. Not even the police, the few that are visible. Then you see the heavily armed police in American cities and you wonder which system is really working. I know the foreign press really make China look bad, maybe it is – after all they block Facebook and Twitter and my 400 videos on Youtube and that is really quite evil but I think I see more happy people here than in the States. Especially young people, there seems to be a lot of mirth and carrying on amongst them. Last weekend we took a day bike trip around our area and found a quiet fishing village. It was quite a contrast to all the construction for the million dollar French style homes going up across the street from us. And as teachers tend to do we noticed a bit of a spelling error – I tell you someone is not going to be getting an A anytime soon. We may have found a place more suitable for us than Campus Village next to the Dalian American International School – why are we living where we work? It may be a bit drafty with the cool air starting to kick in but it looks cheap and we would have a nice sea view – out there in back of us we would be able to see China test its new aircraft carrier to; like prime time journalist. And it is really only a good boat paddle away over to North Korea. I want to go over there and have a bit of a sit-down conversation with them and get some education happening.
And that is it for this week. Nothing more… just odd things like next Monday the electricity will be shut off for all of the Golden Pebble Beach area from eight AM until five PM. It will be interesting for me teaching my computer courses. Luckily it is the day I have my class in publication and we are working on morning announcements, something I started at the beginning of the school year; DAISlive, a video show we do. It is fun and the students love it. I am finding that even my EAL (English as an additional language – formally ESL, English as a second language) students who have English as a second or third language are embracing it. So far it is only played in the school but my idea is to someday have it as a WebTV broadcast. We don’t need electricity for it this Monday, just our video camera and the announcements and some stories and I have a backup battery for my computer so I can edit and have it ready to put live for the school the following
morning. We did not have electricity for a day a couple of weeks ago and my web design class made sketches and storyboards for their web pages. So all in all we don’t really need electricity. This is China, we learn to live with whatever we are presented with. Though now I am a bit annoyed that I cannot get onto Facebook or Twitter or Youtube even with a VPN; what is with that? But it looks as if my wordpress account (neuage.me) works and so does my account at blog.neuage.info and I think wordpress sends an announcement to my twitter and facebook accounts so no one can read it which is the nature of my life. I suppose having five-planets in Leo was too good of a thing; no one notices me.
Last night teachers got together and showed slides of places they have taught or lived the past few years. What an interesting group of people from Borneo to throughout the Middle East, Africa, South America, Europe and Asia teaching in international schools is really the top employment to have and we sort of wish we had started a couple of decades ago but we didn’t and though it is safe, except for the drivers on the road, here we still would like to have taught in some of the places other teachers have. I think any teacher who had taught in the States and had taught in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, or across Africa would never go back to teaching in the States I know we couldn’t or back to teaching in Australia either. We signed up for the teacher’s conference in Bangkok for next March this week – the start of spring break, so once again we will meet international teachers from around the area. Any one who is young (under 60 I think is young) teach in an international school and your life will be changed. We barely watch news from the States anymore – is anything of interest going on there, really?
Narda moved her blog from blog.narda.us as she was unable to update it to http://blog.travelpod.com/members/nbiemond
At first we thought it would be a luxury hotel. Then someone said it was going to be a winery still others said a display home. Whatever was going up at such a rapid rate was looking quite interesting. It was going to be kind of French as there is a large development going on across the street called ‘Chateau de Bourdeux’. By the large scale developer Haichang Land Limited. They were over in Paris at a wine festival recently pushing our neck of the wood’s wines.
It was all a mystery until today when after two months of watching this thing being built it looked rather complete and we decided to have a look-see. The person at the front door of the mini-castle, built in a few months, was very friendly and invited us in. The fact he could not speak much English and our Chinese has yet to kick in did not matter. It also did not matter that we looked pretty scruffy. I had not shaved for a few days as it is Sunday and I slum it on the weekend and Narda was not dressed for a party either. We live in Campus Village across the street and have been watching the building from our window.
We really did not expect what we saw. It was like one of those USA Michaels arts and crafts retail chain store had dumped all their most tacky plastic stuff into one place for a showcase; Michaels on steroids. In the main area of the showplace thingy there was a pretend bar where we were served coffee. Wine bottles were everywhere as well as wine barrels. They do not sell or serve wine, it is just for looks. We asked to go on a tour of a display home and Peter (his Western name) Chinese people take on Western names because us simple people cannot pronounce their Chinese names. I know this is good at school, especially in my class where there are four people with Kim for a surname and Korean names I am unable to pronounce for their given names. The Chinese names are even more difficult to say, at least for me. In our office at school, Snow is the one that keeps us surviving in this environment and Sunshine works in the front office too.
So Peter shows us around the ten-million RMB house (about 1.2 million US). It is four-story and looks as if someone read a child’s picture book of France and threw in a bunch of made-in-China things, oh wait! This is China.
They are building 700 of these homes across the street from us. These are summer homes for the wealthy, mainly from Dalian. So far, according to Peter, no one has bought one because they are too expensive. But the idea is they will be lived in for four weeks a year as holiday homes. The rest of the time our neighbourhood will be empty except for us teachers.
We wanted at least a new restaurant or pub or some shops put in but Peter does not think that will happen.
What happened to capitalism and what happened to communism?
There is a video on youtube at http://youtu.be/dTioCA7Ct44
And that is where we live – in the back to the left of Narda on the third floor facing the castle for the rich Chinese and us school teachers get to live at Campus Village but we are happy and that is what matters.
Funny that I happened to be wearing my Tour De Francetee shirt today from when we were there last year in the real south of France. Those cranes to the right of me in the back are where they are building the 700 new homes as part of Chateau de Bourdeux. Go figure!! The blue roof in back of Narda is the school’s new swimming pool. In the hills to the left is Blueberry Farm and a great restaurant we all go to on Friday after school.
The end of another week though a short one at that; a short work-week actually, with the Moon Festival school closure Monday. School as always is an amazing place to be. I had students in my after-school-activities group perform their first newscast that we aired throughout the upper school the following morning. Next week we start doing one for the elementary school too. I named it DAISlive and everyone; students and teachers alike, are onboard with great ideas and contributions. I also got a bit of a promotion to an academic technology coordinator position and though it is a lot more responsibility and I will be here for an extra week at the end of the school year whilst Narda will be going back to the States five days earlier than me, to stay with her son Chris in Atlanta and I have to be back a week earlier at the end of the summer, Narda will hang with her new grand-daughter and family in Adelaide for that week, I am excited about it all. Being an unemployed teacher back in NYC was not fun, thrown out onto the ‘you-should-retire’ heap when the US government is saying we should be working later in life; with what job? one would ask, I am most lucky to be able to use the past decades of work for this perhaps my last hurrah. Working with ESL students with a handful of English words in my computer classes is a challenge – I will go on about this in my educational blog ~ http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html
Our first cooler day after lots of nice hot days. We need to appreciate and ride our bikes as much as possible. We usually go for a bike ride in the morning before school. Everyone says winter is brutal here and goes from November until about March.
Playing the money market, again. Today the US dollar is strengthening against the Aussie dollar. In the past four minutes the US dollar has gone from .96 to .98 cents. Of course when it was worth .60 cents before the US dollar went belly up a couple of years ago we were in better stead; but we will take what we can and today we have to transfer before the US dollar dives again. It is all quite nerve racking. The China Yuan just stays the same day in day out. We get paid partly in Yuan and partly in US dollars. If only I had paid attention in math class some fifty years ago I would be able to figure out whether I should purchase soybeans by the ton in China or in the US or in Australia. Of course why would I do that is beyond reality – my favourite place to exist.
The building in our area is still going on at a frantic pace. The major project is starting to take shape – it looks like something straight out of Southern France; believe it will be a winery. The main building, looking like a cathedral has ornate sides/windows/panels all happening. And the buildings at Chateau Bordeuax across the street are starting to have some rooftop shapes that look French. We may end up with a French village across the street. Of course it will probably be empty like so much of the buildings are in China. Someone told me at the conference in Shanghai last week there were about five million migrants in Guangzhou building – with most of the buildings left empty. Here we have large housing tracks, beautifully finished with no one living in them. China has about zero unemployment because there is a building job for everyone. Of course people cannot afford them so they stand empty or investors purchase them and leave them empty. It is like they are building ghost towns. Hard to imagine there are more than a billion people in this country with so much emptiness. Perhaps if they started building at a frantic rate in the States there would be zero unemployment too.
We are booking our tickets to Atlanta and back to Beijing then on to Australia for next June – August with something in South America after Atlanta for a week. A nice Saturday to spend money.
Here are some photos I took out of our hall window here at Campus Village this morning:
Our new winery – a touch of France here in China. Across the street this was taken from our hall here at Campus Village, Pebble Beach National Resort in Jinshitan, Dalian China
View out of the hallway window
In the distance one of many large housing tracks with few if any one living in them, this particular one is Yosemite, and we ride our bikes to there to go to the Kangaroo Bar and the Busy Bee shop which is similar to a 7-11 store in the States and Australia only with Chinese products.
Looking toward the hill where Blueberry Cafe – our favorite Friday night dinning place. On the right the blue roof over the new swimming pool
The Wedding! Someone else’s style.
Finally taking a weekend off from our full-tilt life. I think we took a weekend off several months ago in NYC and since then we have been on the go throughout months in Australia and now for a month in China. Today is five weeks since arriving on a Saturday morning at 2 am. We were so excited arriving in Dalian and meeting our new boss and entering our new home for the next couple of years. Since then we have had few stopping moments. It is after 8 on a Saturday morning and Narda is still asleep. I was up, as usual, before six. Every other weekend we have been off to Dalian or Kai Fa Qu on the school’s shopping bus. During the week? Well we work and after school we are off to Kai Fa Qu on the shopping bus or riding our new bikes to the Jinshitan market, or walking to Golden Pebble Beach in the morning before school. It is not just us, half of the teachers are where we are too. Last night we walked the five-minutes over to the Blueberry Farm. The food is really very good there. It came out to be about $12 USD for Narda and I with about seven dishes, about one vegetarian. The eggplant and sweet potato are my favourites.
The exciting new news is that we have found out what a big project going up across the road from us is. We have been watching a few French-type buildings go up and it does look like southern France. This is across from the large development called ‘Chateau de Burgundy’ which I spoke about in my previous blog http://blog.neuage.info/?p=34 it is a winery that will be selling wine from the new Golden Pebble Beach Grape Valley vineyards, just a bike ride away. This will surely make the school day end that much more pleasant. Actually we found an Aussie pub, The Jinshitan Kangaroo Bar, (read about it on the Dalian Expat Page) a fifteen minute walk away on Jinshi Road at Jinshi square near Discovery Kingdom and the sprawling over the top Yosemite housing area for the Intel and other wealthy non-teacher types. Yes there is a Disney-like-theme-park just down the road along the beach from us. Narda and I will pop in someday when we need a break from whatever it is we would need a break from.
According to a blurb I found online about the Yosemite development; “The resort area is located approximately 40km away from the Dalian central city. Tourist attractions already established at the Golden Pebble Beach include: Golden Pebble Golf Club (on the top ten best in the world list), Golden Rock Park, Waxwork Museum, China Martial Arts Hall, Mao Zedong Badge Exhibition Hall, Model Art School, and the International Hunting Club”. Oh yes there is a hunting club nearby – between the constant fireworks, the 24 hour a day building across the road and the hunting club nearby this gets to be quite the noisy place. It is a different noise than New York City – I have gotten use to it, though I do wake suddenly when a lot of fireworks are set off. There is a university – an art school, a technology college (this is China’s Silicon Valley) and a fashion school – nearby and those students love their firecrackers. Another piece on Yosemite says “The “Oriental Yosemite” is the biggest comprehensive tourism project in the Golden Pebble Beach State Tourism Resort. It is created by the Dalian Luneng Realty Co., Ltd. with 15 billion Yuan investment. A few days ago, another two projects were started. They are the Golden Pebble Commerce Centre and the Golden Pebble Ocean Hot Spring.” 15 billion Yuan is 2,349,580,000 USD, so it is nice to know they are spending some money on housing in our neighbourhood.. There is a bigger project than Yosemite nearby and I will put that into a video I am doing of this area soonish.
Other news: I got a soy milk maker for my birthday – and even though the instructions are in Chinese somehow I got the thing to make me a cup of milk from a cup of soybeans – seems like quite an effort but I know it is not going to have lots of other stuff in it. Another item to add to my tofu site at http://tofu.neuage.us It was more than thirty years ago when I started making soy milk and from that, tofu for eight years, in Adelaide and now I am in China with my little soy milk maker all these years later. Tonight I am bringing tofu burgers to our neighbour’s birthday bash.
School is great – I will have some news about stuff regarding that in a couple of days. I am writing up on my educational blog http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html later today or tomorrow or sometime soon.
Life is so different here at Campus Village. We seem to have lots of instant parties. Someone’s birthday and we swarm – beer is so cheap (though I am told not very good) here. Tonight it is actually a planned party, and I am making tofu burgers – seems I am stuck in my ideas of anything new. I never lived in a college dorm but I am told life in them is similar to this; a cross between a college dorm and a timeshare apartment. It seems we are on a permanent holiday.
This blog is not really about all that is above. It is about the wedding we went to last Sunday. Our first Chinese wedding. Aside of leaving Sunday morning on the ‘shopping bus’ to Dalian at 7.30 Am when all we wanted was a big sleep in we were most entertained. The groom was one of our IT staff. The first part was having a toast in the couple’s house. Marriage in China is a long drawn out event. They were actually married two months earlier, but the presentation or whatever it is – like coming of age or something was last Sunday. First of course was the fireworks – I will start my video off with that, which I hope to post tonight in between parties – after all we have that dorm-type of life with stuff always happening in our building. The teachers all live in this building, and the administration and couples with children live in the next resort like building. We have two floors of living, then the lobby and a restaurant and in the basement, the gym and recreation room. Like all couples here we have a two-bedroom apartment, so when you come to visit we can put you up; single people either get a one-bedroom apartment or a loft. People tend to not like the lofts; they are two-story with an open floor plan. I think if I was single I won’t mind, especially if it was in Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, New York City or wherever there was a city. We are out in the country, about an hour from Dalian or half an hour to Kai Fa Qu which is a city-suburb and fifteen minutes from Jinshitan but Jinshitan is not really an expat type of area. There are about 16 apartments per floor here at Campus Village and I think only a couple of them are empty. There is a guest apartment for when one of us need a place to put visitors – in-laws and people like that (down the hall and not in our apartment – just kidding mum/dad). There is a huge shopping mall being built not far away so that could make shopping easier though we prefer to go to the local Jinshitan market and haggle for already cheap as can be fruit and veggies. Then before long there will be the new city they are building, supposed to rival Hong Kong they say. There is a model of it which we keep meaning to slot in time to go see that is really quite impressive. With the new city there will be the new China movie industry headquarters. They have been building the infrastructures for years with huge freeways (everything done in China is huge) and lots of land clearing including the leveling of three large hills that I spoke of a few blogs ago. It will rise up between Kai Fa Qu and where we live here at Golden Pebble Beach. There will be a world-class yacht arena too. I think we are mid-way through a ten-year plan for that.
After the fireworks the groom comes in then the bride all dressed in drag (no not New York City drag) but wifey just married drag (OK so that could be NYC too). Then lots of stuff is said in Chinese. There is a table with bowls of fruit and a plate of cigarettes – they love their cigarettes here. And some stuff is drunk. Then a little boy jumps up and down on the couple’s bed – this is too bring good luck and a male child, then they throw nuts on the bed, not sure why, but perhaps that too is in hopes of a male… then flowers are tossed on the bed and well us males from the school kept our hands to our self, and then the couple closes the bedroom door for a while and us male teachers as well as most of the female all have our thoughts and try to keep them in check. The parents have a bedroom too as the trip here is that the parents get together and buy a new apartment for the couple and I think when they get old one set of them gets to live with the kids. Not sure how that works out, perhaps they throw dice or arm wrestle to see which couple gets to do the old age thing with the couple. It all seems quite awkward with this one kid policy they have in China.
At some point we all take off the slippers that were given us when we entered the apartment and head out to the bus and go to the reception. The reception was in a huge banquet hall with about eight people per table. I end up with about four other couples from our school and we just were plain silly. The beer was flowing and so was something that was about 60-proof, and it was only ten in the morning. There was lots of food and of course a plate of cigarettes on the round thing that the Chinese love to put on tables and that us westerns just spin around. I guess I broke the silly barrier when they put the lone chicken head on the plate on the revolving table and I stuck a cigarette in its mouth and sent it for a bit of a spin. It is in the video – you’ll love it. I also like the part where the bride-chick comes around and puts a chocolate or a cigarette in each person’s mouth (though she missed the chicken). That too is in the video. Overall we were there for several hours and got home late in the afternoon wishing we had another day to the weekend.
Today, Saturday, Narda went off to Kai Fa Qu shopping and I had a day home puttering around. She came back with a printer/scanner, lots of food and bags of stuff. It is still hot here though I think it will cool down soon.
Narda will be writing in her blog tomorrow, forgot what but I know she has said a few times of the past couple of days, “I am going to write about that in my blog”, so don’t miss that at http://blog.narda.us
Next Thursday I am off to Shanghai for a few days for an IT conference and Narda is taking a four hour drive with several of the women here to some really cool city north of here for a few days. It is a long weekend, with Monday some sort of national holiday. A lot of the people are going north to Dandong where the China-North Korea Friendship Bridge is. I really wanted to go but couldn’t fit it. It is only a couple of hours away so Narda and I will go up in the near future for a weekend. And that is all from here for today.
Three weeks? I thought it was just a few days ago that I wrote a bit of a blog. It has been such a full-on section of life with non-stop everything. I look out the window and see (and hear) the 24 hour a day building across the street with eight cranes in one area and several a block away along with jack hammers, lines of trucks, and just so many workers and just like life in China it just does not stop. On the way to nearby Kai Fa Qu, Dalian counted 41 cranes working on buildings in the 25 plus story range – apartment buildings, then I saw as many a few kilometers further. And there is the new city they are building nearby that will not only host the new China movie industry but will have a yacht marina and housing for zillions or so people. The area across the street from us will be million dollar homes (yes this is China) in a walled-in area called ‘Chateau de Burgundy’ and a block away what they are building is identical to where we were touring a year ago in southern France. It is even being built to look old. french chateau next to Dalian American International School
french chateau next to Dalian American International School
As I sit here trying to get caught up from the past three weeks I hear the fireworks. It is 6.30 AM Sunday. This is China – fireworks and more fireworks. They love their fireworks. Anytime of the day or night there will suddenly be a barrage of them. Whether here in the countryside, or in downtown Kai Fa Qu or along Golden Pebble Beach, downtown Dalian, or where we shop locally in Jinshitan (which is also Pebble Beach – go figure) there will be smoke and ashes and noise of the fireworks.
The water to Pebble Beach (Dalian Golden Pebble Beach National Resort is the first National Resort approved by the State Council of P.R China, the main function of which is for hosting foreign guests) was turned off for a couple of days. We filled our bath tub and every bucket we could find but since it was Friday we decided to go into Dalian City (about an hour away) for the weekend when school let out. Two other couples went with us. We took a car in (our driver we call Jack, not that we know who Jack actually is, we just all have Jack’s phone number on our phone and we ring Jack wherever we are and a car soon arrives and we are taken where we want to go. It is often a different driver each time. We just go up to the car and say Jack? and they nod and off we go. We try not to look out the window when in a car. It is the scariest thing you could imagine. Where there are three lanes marked, ‘Jack’, or the shopping bus, or whatever we are in, often makes a fourth lane. Drivers rarely signal and everyone goes really fast, beeping horns and coming so close to constant disaster. I had to go into Dalian for some medical stuff last week and my driver was easily doing close to a hundred coming back – it was a van. We came to a blocked area of the freeway so instead of patiently (there is no patience in our neck of the woods) he made a sudden turn off the freeway up a dirt construction road around a hill and got back on the freeway further up where there was no traffic jam. It was absolutely terrifying. Oh, and he was on his cell phone most of the time. I suppose he felt he had to have me back at school as quick as possible so I won’t miss any work. And of course there are no seat belts.
So this past Friday, with no water into our building or the whole area we went into downtown Dalian. Outside of too many dealings with government officials to get my working visa finally through we had not been in Dalian, except for one night we had a school trip to Brooklyn, the expat pub and pizza diner in downtown Dalian. Once our driver fought his way through the heavy traffic going into the city (we went in two cars for eight of us, four couples, and six of us ended up at the same hotel) and dumped our bag in our rooms we went out in search of a meal. Our Chinese lessons begin next week so for now we depend on our electronic translator. We went into a restaurant that covered several stories. When we made enough gestures to prove without any doubt that we were starving we were sent up to about the fifth or sixth floor. After being herded into a small room the food started coming out and we cooked it in boiling somethings on our table. I have a video (and photos) that I will post soon on my Dalian Page http://dalian.neuage.us/ that shows what would be too difficult to explain. Needless to say the food was really good and we had some of the best laughter up to that time.
So after dinner everyone seemed to be in the mood for a drink (it is difficult to keep people over 55 from partying) and we went off into the night. Near our hotel was a 30+ story hotel with a name very similar to ours (so we initially thought we had booked into the wrong place) and we were riding up and down the elevator
looking for a pub type of area and on the fourth floor saw a sign that seemed to mean a place to have a drink. We barged into a room that had a bar and lots of alcoholic bottles on the shelf only to instantly be met by about a dozen women with tight red dresses. Realizing that we must be in the wrong area we looked into another room with the same response. (I have a video of this too but I think we were laughing so hard – damn rude Westerners, that it may be a bit shaky – it will soon be on my Dalian page in the video section). The third room seemed better as no women in red tight dresses greeted us. We sat down at a long table on comfy sofas and hoped that someone would soon be in with the drinks menu. Instead two people came in and started handing out microphones and put on the large TV screen, we realized then that this was actually a karaoke bar/room and Shawn, one of our traveling mates/teachers/new found friend, said that we had a friend downstairs waiting for us and off we went into the night again. We never did find a place to drink. Like pirated DVDs prostitution is illegal in China and like pirated DVD’s they are everywhere. We saw girls with flashing neon badges dressed to the nines and signs that read ‘sex’ with large arrows.
The next day, Saturdaywe headed to Zhonshan Square and had lots of fun shopping, hopped on a falling apart bus because we were so tired to go to the Ikea store outside of downtown Dalian. We showed the driver an Ike shopping bag and he held up three fingers so we paid the three yuan (47 cents USD, 45 cents Australian) and as all drivers he made his own lane which in our case was the opposition direction lane. Somehow he squeezed back into the lane that was our direction as cars came racing toward us and next we knew there was Ikea. I wanted to go see the aircraft carrier that China is building which is only a few blocks in back of Ikea but with all the bags of stuff we had purchased and five tired old people trailing behind me it was not going to happen. We ended up just buying lots of Swedish food because we need a change from Chinese food and then Narda and I went to the Decathlon sports store next to Ikea and bought really good bikes and helmets an locks and etc. which will be delivered in a couple of days. Hopefully we won’t get killed ridin our bikes on these incredibly dangerous road ways. We plan on doing lots of riding. Then we took the light rail, so crowded that we barely got in – New York City subway you hold nothing on a crowded Chinese tram.
[dudes with hats]
our new red-star hats
The shopping bus leaves Campus Village (where we live) on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday morning. It stops in Kai Fa Qu on the way into Dalian. We use to go in during the week but after a day at work we just go in on Saturday to Kai Fa Qu. Two weeks ago we walked the hour hike to the light rail that starts in Jinshitan (there is a planned station for our school but it may be another year or two before it happens) and took the 4 yuan half hour ride and fortunately got a seat in and after buying way too much stuff we took the shopping bus in the afternoon back home. Home is great. It is like living at a four star (five star for China) resort/hotel. We are sparsely furnished but it is OK– our heap of junk we shipped from NYC won’t be here until October. We have a two bedroom apartment with a balcony (there is or will be a video in our video area of my Dalian site) for some photos see http://dalian.neuage.us/photos/Aug%2012%202011/ (sorry about the URL will fix it sometime). We have a gym on the first floor, it is not the New York Sports Club which I took a liking to for the past five years but there are some machines and heaps of free weights so I get to stretch and groan every day. Then there are the guards. Not sure why. It is safer here than most places we have lived. The whole property, Campus Village and the school have a large fence all around and there are guards at every entrance and every building. Twenty-four hours a day. They are not the doorman they are guards usually dressed in army uniforms. Whether they are protecting us or being sure we do not suddenly move out I am not sure but they are friendly and we have learned to say ni hao (hello) but I said hee haw for the first couple of weeks – probably means something not nice.
Narda and I found a small shopping area twenty minutes walking away. It is so local, and so cheap. We both got haircuts for 15 yuan – about $2.50 both haircuts look quite Asian.
School so far is great. After teaching at the NYC Charter school, Ross Global Academy (the Courtney Sale Ross, widow of Steve Ross, the former C.E.O. of Time Warner, experiment in education which was closed down by the city of NYC for its momentous failure) this is such a contrast. The kids are behaved, want to learn and we are having a great time. I make big mistakes such as asking if anyone could speak Korean as my student was not following me at all only to be told by a Korean student that ‘he is Chinese’. And names? Forget it. Most of the Asians have taken on names like Tony and Oscar. Our life-saving secretaries, Snow and Sunshine keep things rolling. I still have not had time to set up a VPN so I can get on Twitter and Facebook and post my new lots of video on youtube but I have an eighth grade student who has found a Japanese VPN that he is setting up on my machine. I have several students whose parents work for Intel nearby. Campus Village not only houses the teachers for DAIS but for the big overseas companies that are moving into this area which is kind of a Silicon Valley of China. They live in townhouses and we live in apartments so there is a difference but we are not complaining. Narda likes having a maid and getting our house cleaned and clothes washed and ironed but I am not sure – though it is cheap, it seems a bit unnatural to me.
The building around our area makes me dizzy but in the midst of it all, across the road, five minutes away, is the Blueberry Farm. A very large area with a pub, tea rooms, lake, streams and a great restaurant. Nine of us trekked up to the restaurant a couple of Fridays ago. Nothing was in English, fair enough, this is China. I managed to get across I was a vegetarian and the first eight or nine dishes that came out were so amazing, some of the best food I have ever have had. There was so much food, and beer, and soda and at the en it came out to about eight dollars USD each. I have a couple of photos http://dalian.neuage.us/photos/BlueberryFarmDAIS/ and will put a video soonish in the video area of my Dalian page.
We rarely watch the news. There is just too much going on here. We get about 35 channels, mostly Chinese but we do get HBO, BBC, CNN and an Australian channel so I have gathered some of the males over to watch Aussie Rules Footy. It looks pretty grim in the States. I know we have lost about 15% on investments in less than a month and we have no intentions of selling houses. We are becoming quite removed from the rest of the world and we are happy with that. We have a two year contract which we may or may not renew or maybe they won’t want us. It does not matter now. We feel like we are on a holiday and life is just great. We have begun planning our trip to Hanoi for our October week break. Everyone here, being from the States, or in our case, Australia-States, the talk of travel is the number one conversation (after the academics of course – hey we are working) and where everyone is going is compared and shared. We are off to Australia for Christmas than to the ice festival in Harbin in January and maybe India for spring break then the States for a couple of weeks for summer than on to Australia then back here. I am so happy I managed to stay alive this long. There were some very rough years and for now life is great.
Well Narda is off with some ‘girls’ to get a foot massage in Jinshitan. They have rung ‘Jack’ and several cars are on the way to collect them. Me? I am finally having a bit of time to myself, think I will work on so many dozens of videos I have started and perhaps do some lesson planning for next week and edit some photos, go to the gym, take a walk, take a nap – it has been such a full-on three weeks, make tofu burgers for din din and try to figure out how to use my soy milk maker that Narda bought for my 64th birthday eleven days ago.
Next weekend we have been invited to a Chinese wedding so that will be fun. Apparently it is a good thing to invite or have westerners at a Chinese wedding and these are big events here.
Narda has a great blog – well she has posted some and more is waiting to be posted after her foot massage today. blog.narda.us
tri color city in Kai Fa Qu
just a pub in Kai Fa
hardware, software, knowledge of staff, time to learn and integrate more, finding commonality – this can be the largest task; one favours Mac or PC, Android, Ubuntu, Windows, Open Source, Microsoft, Adobe, laptop, Zoom, iPad, Blackberry, Firefox, Opera, Explorer, Open Office, Safari, Flash, and on and on. I have hundreds of programs on my computer, I have hundreds of video servers and web servers. I have highlighted a few that should be useful in a school environment at http://neuage.co/tabor
this is first and foremost with integrating technology.
I have more than fifty I subscribe to (see http://neuage.org for forty or so) and blogs – again I use six main ones and a handful of others I am having a go with to see what may be useful. OK so I was adopted, and I am a Leo with five planets and my MH in Leo but even without those little annoyances I still would be investigating all this so as to be the best educator I can be.
from being in Shanghai last week I know Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and about 25 other services I have tried are not available in China. I will look at building our own in-house social media site as I want to have a webTV service for our school as well as collaborative events available with several schools; St. Luke’s School in NYC definitely wants to be apart of us. Skype education is good for this and I am sure we will find the best way to broadcast and set up a small webTV for our school. I will follow David Truss (http://davidtruss.com) and his blogs as he was the principal of our neighbouring school in Dalian for the past few years though now he seems to have left. But he is very much into integrating technology and having done this in Dalian will give me a lot of guidance.
Each day that I am able to I will jot down what I am exploring/working with. I need to go to Melbourne and collect visas for China and we will be doing family things but most days I should be able to look at useful stuff. I will list each day also what web sites I have followed that day that may or may not influence my thinking in educational technology.
packing a crate to send to China back in NYC then dragging five overweight suitcases to Adelaide and now dwindling that down to one suitcase each to take to Dalian that I have not had much time to work on this. Plus getting renters settled in three houses; two in New York and the other in New Jersey. And of course we have to go through a shed of our stuff here. We went to New York for a two year working period and to look after my father who in his middle 90s was getting old but he lived to 102 and we stayed in New York for nine years. Now the shed of our stuff in Australia is in pretty bad shape and all that has to be sorted out but there will be time to blog on setting up technology for China.
started this tech educational blog for China (http://drupal.neuage.us) though I will post it elsewhere probably. Going though the new Fireworks 5.1 to see changes. DAIS has Adobe CS4 but I want to do e-books (like my tofu e-book – see http;//tofu.neuage.us) and teach this to others and inDesign CS5.5, just released, should be useful for this. But today it is Fireworks I am working with and Dreamweaver CS5.5 and reading David Truss’ blogs to get familiar with Dalian.
I started keeping track with 19 weeks to go.
We were hired via Skype whilst in Shanghai on our return from Christmas in Australia; 31 December 2010, we left New Year’s Day 2011 for NYC. When we heard those last words ‘we would like to hire you both’ we jumped up and down on our bed like children learning their parents had run away with the circus. What a way to end one year and start another one.
Being a teacher in New York City is good. Watching the City delete teachers is not good. Of course the last school I was at, Ross Global Academy was closed by the city’s education department for being about the worst school in NYC. It was not me, I only was the computer guy, it was those running the school; like with seven principals it its six year history, and the love of hiring teachers straight out of college (a cost saving) who had no experience dealing with an inner city public school or any school for that matter.
From their homepage “RGA is committed to providing a holistic education to enable students to develop a global worldview and the skills necessary for success in the 21st century. RGA prepares students to think critically and creatively, understand and respect different cultures, become leaders, use technology, live healthy lives and develop a passion for learning.”
Aside from using technology I did not see the rest of their ideals happening. RGA was a battlefield. But I am not knocking RGA, I enjoyed my working there and I set up some innovative projects such as our live musical interactions between RGA and the overly talented music teacher at St. Luke’s School (oh wait that is other one off to Dalian with me to teach, who was jumping on the bed at the end of December with me in Shanghai).
Seven days from now we get the local limo out of Harlem and head to JFK for a meal or two on the way to Shanghai for a couple of days then to Melbourne to see one son for a few days and off to Adelaide for six weeks to see more of the family. Narda is excited about her grandchild which is incubating in the Adelaide Hills. We will miss that birth, November, but we will be back for Christmas with an armful of strange baby things from China.
In the past 19 weeks we have managed to reduce our belongings to one seven by five by six foot container, collected a few weeks ago and sitting near some wharf to be tossed aboard some float-able device headed for Dalian. And two overweight suitcases and a few bags disguised as carry-on camera bags for our flights. We have gotten a painter for our houses in Round Lake and a new tenant for one of our houses up there and four Indian lads in their 20s renting our house in Jersey City. I think we are almost ready to go.
Of course we still have a few stray bags and boxes which we have to either wear or discard as they just won’t fit on the plane.
After nine years in New York we are out of here.
We came for a year or two in 2002 to look after my then 97 year-old-father, who shuffled about until a few months shy of 102. Now we are headed to China. We have one week left to explore and do all those things in New York City that we may never get to do again.
After being interviewed via Skype in Shanghai 31 December 2010 for jobs at Dalian American International School – we flew to New York the next day – first of January 2011 – we have taken the for-real step of getting there. Today, almost five months later, the shippers collected our many boxes, about 40 of them, a desk and a chest, and drove out of Jersey City to put our belongings in storage to ship to Dalian.
We have spent months sorting and getting rid of nine years in New York of accumulation. Then when we thought we were finished we were told to take out any DVDs, CDs, Videos, Tapers and hard-drives, computer parts and a lot of other things. We just spent three days doing that. Then as they were loading the boxes this morning we received a phone call saying everything had to be counted. We had labeled each box describing content such as clothes, books, dishes and etc. Now they want the number of everything: ten pairs of socks, 12 new pairs of jocks, 17 tee-shirts, and one embarrassing box says 16 pairs of shoes (that would be Narda’s, not mine). And not only that, but whether the sheets were wool, cotton, linen… good golly what are getting ourselves into?
But now the house has one empty room. The rest of the house, all three-stories, is full of furniture and belongings. Fortunately we were able to rent it to four lads from India who are happy with a furnished house. Including a lot of electric goods, a well supplied kitchen, beds, blankets, cupboards, lamps…. Then there are the two houses in upstate New York, both rented out and both with our belongings in places, like the attic, basement and even a part of a shed. We will never get out of the States. Then there are all our belongings in Adelaide South Australia and our house there.
Maybe someday we will just give it all up and be happy with nothing and teaching/living/learning in a third world country.
Now with seven days left in this house we have to get ourselves packed with what we will drag to Australia. In one week we are moving to Harlem for 17 days as we rented this house from the first of June.
Back to Dalian…. yes we are excited. I have started making a list of what I want to teach. I will get to that tomorrow. Today we managed to see our belongings begin their journey.
Move To Dalian