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.
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.
China surely is the champion of what is and what is not and perceptions mashed together to morph into possibly acceptable perceptions, but not really. Reality is a mistaken illusion – it always has been; look at religion, personal-relationships and politics and education…. Maybe it is best not to look to see but to look to enjoy – surely not to look to ponder or philosophize, that would be akin to giving accreditation to what is really all just for fun. Do not take what you perceive to be real as truth, just enjoy. This is China – I tell myself that often – just as I would tell myself that in those psychedelic moments of the 1960s, or in my Tarot Card readings and mystical belief system of the 1970s and astrological interpretations of events/thoughts/life for some 40 years before waking up one day and saying ‘this is bullshit’. Perception is just how we colour reality in front of us. To me China and the 1960s have similarity in their un-realness. The moment is just about fun, to enjoy, to build memories for future moments when life returns to boring, which from my experience it always does.
A week from today school is over and we are preparing to travel to New York, Atlanta, Malaysia, Australia but today is a holiday; Dragon Boat Festival. Duān wǔ jié happens on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar and believe it or not I did not get a pop up message on my phone, ipad, computer; not from Google Calendar – which boldly proclaimed ‘you have no new events’ – surely it could have said ‘go back to bed it is a holiday’ but no – no reminders or messages to tell me of this glorious event. And to contribute to all those bloody fives I was wide awake at five AM demanding of my unwilling mind to go back to sleep because this is a holiday.
According to Chinese custom folks race boats, eat Zongzi, and drink wine – pretty much like an Aussie Barbie celebration for anything.
Then last night we were watching that most stupid of series (that everyone else is ranting and raving about how it is the best series of all time; what??!!!) ‘Game of Thrones’ and that idiotic Southern California blonde chick started season two or is it three – it is so mindless that I am always updating my web-pages during it and forget where in the story we are – she goes and gives birth to dragons. Good golly how could anyone like this? Narda says we should just watch it for a while because everyone is ranting and raving that it is the best series of all time and maybe at some point we may like it or at least understand what is going on. She said that about Dexter too. All that blood. We watched the whole bloody thing – to give realism to that Australian/Pommie saying – but of course I was updating my web-pages during all of that but at least it was easy to follow – just find a baddie and kill him.
From an email to staff at our school about today from our Mandarin teacher:
‘This Festival is to commemorate an upright minister called Qu Yuan. He was an excellent poet and literati as well in 300BC, the end of the Spring and Autumn Dynasty. To protect the country, Qu Yuan advised many suggestions to his emperor. While the emperor was irritated and Qu Yuan was put into a river and drowned. People were sad and took boats to save Qu Yuan, and meanwhile they wrapped zong zi and throwed into river, avoidding fishes eating Qu Yuan’s body.
Until today Chinese people retain the traditions. First zong zi was made by sticky rice only, and gradually zong zi has different types like meat inside, peanut inside. I like the very first type– with rice only–and dip some sugar on it.’
When we were asked to sign up for a celebration of all of this last Sunday we were informed that only 20 could go and a bus would take us to the Tong li Gong Palace in Kaifaqu. Of course I was excited being the academic tourist that I am. I quickly sent an email to reserve seats for Narda and I. I could barely restrain myself from running down to her room to share this wonderful news that not only had I registered for us to go but we were accepted on the bus that would only take 20 of us most chosen to this glorious event. Well she was a bit less than thrilled and wanted to know why I would want to go and hear some children singing songs. Now perhaps I had a misconception as normally I do of the reality of the event. Dragon Boat Festival? Well it sounded really great to me. I had no idea it could be anything else. Narda said that the Tong li Gong Palace was not a palace but was the women and children’s centre of Jinzhouixinqu. Damn! She had taken a first grade class there to sing earlier in the year and it is where the owner of Dalian American International School has a language school which many of our teachers work at in their spare time – though being a teacher at this school I am not sure when there is spare time.
At another time in my life I would have been disappointed but at my age everything tends to be so unlike I thought it would be at the start that I have become immune to concepts of disappointment. I suppose I would be surprised if anything in my life turned out to be how I imagined it to be at the start of the process of adventure that I had hurdled myself at before crashing into a wall of reality.
The big day arrived – last Sunday, and dragging a complaining Narda to the lobby to mingle with the assumed 20 teachers who were quick enough to sign up before the bus was full we were greeted by the other three teachers who signed up to go. We ended up going in two cars instead of a bus load of chirping, happy, Dragon Festival celebrating mates. I like the entrance to Tong li Gong Palace which of course by now I had realized was not a palace but as all things in China are – just a misconstrued notion of what a palace would be if it was a four floor office building. And yes that is a huge construct of a mother and child on top of the building – giving away any illusion that it could be anything else. Not sure when angels arrived on the Chinese mindset but there they are, western looking cherubs up there with a not very Chinese looking mother. Welcome to China where we are not quite sure of our icons or what we should believe in.
And as luck would have it – there is a YouTube clip of this wonderful event at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ – another one of those ‘gone- viral’ extremely-sought-after video clips; wait that is my illusion – now three days later – there has been one hit to it. I think that was me looking at it on another computer. But to save my two or three readers who no doubt have had a gut-full and have stopped reading by now, the thrill or agony of watching yet another one of my five-hundred plus video clips I will simply say yes some children sang, a grop danced; but that is not all. We made zong zi – a sticky rice, bean paste, red date in banana wrap thingy. However, I was a total failure and after being tutored by a patient local gal with great wrapping skills who patiently showed me over and over how to fold the stupid things quit – or I quit – here is a photo of me trying this – of course the YouTube video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ shows this even better.
The other highlight – other being second to me making zong zi, was this traditional paint dude who we were told is famous. OK I have thousands of web pages and more than five-hundred videos on line – I bet he has not done that – anyway, all those pesky planets I have in Leo constantly get in my story-line; this painter dude made a great ink drawing. I think we are taking a course with him in the fall so that will be groovy. He did this calligraphy & Chinese zither in about ten minutes. You can see this in the video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ.
To quote some stuff from the program list of what we saw:
It is two days ago, Monday that I started off talking about but having woken at five AM – it is now after 8 and Narda is still happily sleeping the holiday away and I am fading I drifted off about what today’s holiday actually was for – a dragon boat festival but as we are on the sea and not on a proper lake or river there are no races.
Monday, we, well Narda did not go as elementary stayed at school and sang or rolled about or whatever elementary children do, took the middle school and high school children to Discoveryland (大连发现王国). Discoveryland is our province’s concept of what Disneyland would be if created by Chinese. Yes I have a YouTube video at http://youtu.be/lOoeM46fwl0, and yes I do a lot of work not only at school but at home for school – I just fit in my own personal crap early in the morning or while watching riveting TV shit-shows like Game of Thrones. This is my early morning holiday last posting probably before flying off to New York next week.
We were doing one of those amazing race races. I do not agree with children doing a learning project for hours before having time to play on their own. They pay their own fee in to the amusement park, 100 RMB (about $15 US) – which is cheap compared to the States and to have to do work for hours is nuts. This year we teachers each had a station with an exercise for the students to do – my event was to take a photo of a one-perspective and a two-perspective line up of the children. We all have an advise group and I have 10 middle school children in mine. So my advise group started off at my station which was an OK place as it was beneath a building providing some shade. After my event they draw a card to see where the next exercise is and go off to that. The important part is that they work together and stay together and do the exercise. Well after ten minutes two of my girls come back and want to rent a scooter to go around from event to event. Of course I said no as one of the rules is not to run to the next event or lost ten-points. We did not make a rule that children could not rent a scooter to go from event to event because who would allow such a thing? So the girls run off to the principal and ask and he says yes they can so they do. That was the end of my advise group’s cohesion and after a couple of hours the other children in my group came back and said they could not do the events because they could not find the girls roaring around on their scooter so I dismissed them and said go have fun.
As it is Dragon Boat festival week holiday the place was crowded – not sure why we would go on a holiday and not a week earlier but such is life. Lines to rides were four hours long instead of the usual two. Only a few children went on a ride – for the most part they wandered around in the afternoon and the ones I saw did not seem that happy. I took lots of photos of our students as I do to put on the TV screen in the window of my computer lab and to have footage for my twice weekly in-house TV show that I do with my film class so I was entertained. My favourite part is their Discoveryland Parade. As tacky as any such thing would be this is especially strange as they have mostly non-Chinese in the parade. Most of the participants are youthful Russians. The Egyptian group consisted of very camp males in their twenties dressed in gold skirts and gold plastic to look like metal tops dancing as if they were the Village People doing WMCA. On top of the floats were youthful females with few clothes on wiggling about.
I got a lot of short clips that I can use as backgrounds as my film class has gone blue-screen crazy.
Last Saturday was Narda’s birthday – see the wonderful clip of this most timely of events at http://youtu.be/ik8Ms09Q-NY
Narda said she just wanted to gig for her birthday so here at Campus village cafe at Dalian American International School that is what she did
The best of living in Campus Village, assisted living, as we call it is that our little community tags along together. Last night we went out to the Discoveryland Hotel for beer and food – the people are great – the ones we work with – the beer was what it is in China but the food was crap. I struggled to find a vegetarian dish and that ended up being tofu with fish – so that concept got lost in the translation. For Narda’s birthday a dozen or so old people came to our flat for din din – we made up a good vegetarian lasagna and some other stuff. Everyone seemed happy – a few murmurs about ‘oh no no meat’ but that is the way it is in my kitchen. We went the three-floors down to Campus Café and Narda with the others were happy, sounding great and entertained us and the other twenty – thirty folks. It was by far her best birthday in the past 13 years since we left Australia. Being early June – the problem with Gemini – we have not been around her family in so long. But with our community and with a microphone and good musicianship her birthday came to life.
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.
Jinshitan Storming Sunday, November 04, 2012 blogs 2012
We had our storm. Nothing like Sandy visiting the East Coast of the US but the earth had its moments of spitting and farting then the electricity went off. I was doing non-significant stuff at 6:15 am on a Sunday morning; writing up my lesson plans for my broadcast journalism class for the week. Is this nuts or what? Firstly, I should have been sleeping in, or at least playing with my Nikon or sitting on the balcony enjoying a cuppa but no, I was working on my bloody lesson plans. I do enjoy what I am teaching – “Broadcast Journalism” creating in-house twice weekly TV-like shows of announcements and stuff, presented by my class, played in upper school classrooms. This past week we visited the main television station in Dalian; took me a month to get through all the ‘red’-tape to do that one. I made a comment in the main control room of the television station to my students, ‘this is where they would take over if there was a revolution’ and the kids moved away from me, saying; “we have no idea who he is – he is not with us”. But aside of my thinking I was funny it was interesting. A couple of weeks ago we started Skyping with the Canyon School in Bhopal, India and we are working toward creating a documentary in real-time between our classes so that is a bit exciting.
Our neighbours, here in Campus Village, at Dalian American International School, let us know there was no electricity, OK, we are old but we knew that. However, we realized there was power in the hall – some backup generator thingy. We moved our coffee pots, blenders and what-nots out to the hall. We often say where we live is like living in an assisted-living establishment. Me being me moved a table to the hall and set my computer back up. Someone said I was addicted to computers, huh? And on I went with my lesson plans – didn’t need the modem, just the laptop which was already low on battery.
Here we are (well, not me, I was taking the photo) in the hallway this morning – looking for electricity;
The girls (yes, I can call them that as I am 65 and they are all ‘considerably’ younger than me) walked to the beach, which was far from calm, and took these photos:
This first is the road to the beach we ride bikes most morning on though this morning because of the winds and rain and no electricity; not that that has anything to do with not exercising but it is an excuse and any excuse not to exercise at six am is good;
And no, those are not the ‘girls’ picking up stuff along the shore but locals – of course we are locals, but they are extreme-locals. I assume they are collecting some animals that have burrowed into the storm-washed beach. Glad I am a vegetarian and not one who would eat burrowed sea animals.
When they came back the electricity came on – not sure what is with that. And even more strange was that the storm ended. We walked to the main road and hopped the first bus, shelling out our 1 yuan (15 cents) and went to our favourite photo-printing shop. They do such a great job and the price is so cheap – like 5 yuan (80 cents US, 77 cents Australian) for an A3 glossy photo and I am not sure what we paid for a lot of A2 – letter size prints and a dozen 5X7’s but the total bill was 110 yuan ($17.46 US) for a large pile of photos including some 20 pages of Narda’s blog she has been writing with photos and text.
The large A3 photo was of my favourite recent photo – Narda in Jackson Square, New Orleans, last July – home for years of my almost youth – I was a street artists there in the early 1970s – in my early 20’s. I took the photo as a black and white so this is not a Photoshoped job. It has a French look to it.
We thought we were clever enough to take a bus in front of the art store home. It wound all over the place through Jinshitan, past the light rail stop and we figured it would come back to our area but it ended up back at the art store. In our simple senior citizen type of way we thought it was funny. Nevertheless we got our sorry assess back home without much more effort.
Yesterday was a simpler day, we went into Dalian on the school’s shopping bus, got our month’s supply of crap from Metro, put our suitcase full of crap back onto the bus and took the light rail to Kaifaqu where as usual we spent way too much at the local western goods shop, Harbor Deli, buying over inflated-priced cheese and peanut butter, caught the shopping bus back home from Kaifaqu and booked the rest of our trip for winter holidays. We are spending the five-weeks in Viet Nam. We booked the Green Mango Hotel in Hanoi for a few days; we saw it last time in Hanoi but stayed elsewhere, then we are off to HoiAn for a week, one of those great places to be in the world. Then back to Hanoi for Christmas and a few days after. We have a week after we have not planned; leaving it open; maybe to go to Laos or Myanmar – where we still want to live and teach.
Last week was Halloween; something we have managed to escape from for more than a decade but this year the owner of our school asked Narda to judge – probably knowing we were escape artists – we surely hid last year, and for me to take photos. I didn’t mind, but Narda just does not take to this holiday. It is not Australian or Dutch – she sees it as just children begging for lollies.
And I am ending this rather mundane week with what we see many times outside our window – fireworks. I use to like them heaps, and even bought a box when my son, Sacha, came to visit, but it seems a lot of money that goes quickly. For Sacha’s visit I got a box of 36 rockets – which of course was well worth it – I was so happy to have him here – up from Melbourne – but still as often as they set them off – how they afford it?
One last little complaint about my un-interesting life and even less interesting blogs; the storm, Sandy, which left so many without electricity and Internet wiped out half of my reading audience of my blogs. I was having 8 – 10 hits each time I posted a blog then last week’s on neuage.me – https://neuage.me/2012/10/28/rambling-weekends/ I only had three hits. So without sounding pathetic that is it for this week. Just read recently about people getting hundreds of thousands of hits a day for their blogs – I average 8 – 10 a week. Go Neuage!!
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 More at http://dalian.neuage.us/videos/Boee_Brilliant_Villas_.Hill.html
photo album for this is at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/photos/
Last Sunday we changed our day around – I suppose if it was my classroom we could say it was the flipped classroom model but I am not going to equate a day of leisure with an academic day. Not that every day is anything but learning; life the classroom and all that crap, but a flipped something is not the same as a non-flipped something.
Now that we got that out of the way and yes I do sometimes do the flipped classroom approach when it is suitable which in China is not always possible because students cannot use youtube or participate in western social sites due to the great firewall of China.
Instead of going out in the afternoon; we tend to spend the morning on the Internet doing books, keeping up with family, and Facebook, and other schools – are they offering a better package for next year, is it more interesting than living in the part of China that is more Ikea than historic China; for example, Myanmar (Burma) really has our eye at the moment and of course who would not want to live in and teach in India?
I had my first Skype session with Canyon H.S. School in Bhopal, India doing an ISA (British Council International School Awards) project “Festivals and Aborigines” with my Broadcast Publication class last week. It took a bit of effort and time to understand each other, us their accent and them ours (I have Korean, Chinese, Trinidad, and American students), our Skype connection went down as well as the whole Internet a few times but overall it was really successful and students from both schools were really excited. I am starting a unit I am calling “Foreign Correspondent” with the longer term plan of having our students do a collaborative documentary which will really test our technology as well as my planning and implementation skills.
Damn! Talking about work again…
So we headed out on our bikes at 9 AM last Saturday; we were going to do the same today but already it is eleven AM, we are still in our pajamas, on-line, and I want to ride our bikes to the Jinshitan Port – which we have never been to and no doubt is just a small fishing port or kelp port, but I want to go nevertheless. But it is cold and windy outside so no doubt we will take the # 1 bus from the light rail station, if how I am reading the map is correct. Then again we may spend the day indoors which is not my ideal. Yesterday, Saturday, Narda went to an orphanage in Dalian City – all babies and the oldest I think was in the two year old range. She went with a group of teachers. Apparently it was all heart-wrenching. These are children that are left for whatever reason; the one baby policy of China or because they are deformed and etc. Teachers volunteer to go just to hold the babies and have a bit of play because they are stuck in their cribs all the time otherwise. We brought up the ideas of students visiting in our middle school assembly last week asking if any students would want to spend a Saturday morning at the orphanage – and I was extremely surprised when every single student in grades 6 – 8 stood up. My day yesterday was not so altruistic as I spent nine hours at school working on standard based lessons – something everyone at school is so opposed to, but again I am not talking about work now.
Near us is yet another huge apartment development, Boee Brilliant Villas Hill. We tromped in with cameras in hand and viewed the first smaller apartment that they were selling for 7 and a half million RMB, about one and a quarter million dollars US. See our video of this exploration at http://youtu.be/gQ0Noz1pF_c Or other related blogs at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/
The outside is quite nice –
We saw two apartments the one above on the right was 20 million RMB or about three-million US. Going along with the one child stuff of China it had a spa bath and little glass garden in the child’s room as well as two walk in closets and a study.The picture on the left above is the kid’s bath with spa and stone garden and on the right is the parent’s room – through the window they can see how us lowly teachers live in campus Village off next to the hills straight through the window.
We wandered on to the new city being built down the road – Xiaoyaowan (an earlier video I made of this is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-drgVo45WWs&feature=share&list=UUzGrI_yggI56Gpp2ZyNQAXw) and drove along the three and four lane empty roads leading to huge holes which I suppose will be for a river they are putting in and bridges and skyscrapers. I made a clip of the day and put it on youtube at http://youtu.be/NyME0iqSMhs.
In the distance is the end of the bridge which is not built that will go over the new river.
Narda at the first part of a large bridge to be built over a river that will be put in soon?
The infrastructure is in place – large highways to large holes in the ground.
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.
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.
Saturday, September 01, 2012
Morning walks before school are what creates our day in many ways. We have been doing morning walks before school for years; ever since living and working in New York City. We tried to walk every morning from the World Trade Centre subway stop to Narda’s school in the west Village, St. Luke’s. I was a bit unemployed for a couple of years though it was more of a study period so I could get my teaching degree to supplement my PhD to work overseas. In NYC I could teach in private schools but it was time to be more international and what’s another degree when one is already in their 60’s? The NYC walk would take about half an hour and I would go on to the gym and workout for an hour and a half to keep the rust off the bones and keep the old body going for another couple of years. The walk along the Hudson was one of my favourite walks in the world, and we would walk whether it was hot or snowing and cold – always the best times.
We continued with our morning walks before school here in Jinshitan as soon as we got to Dalian American International School. Only a few times, when the weather was dreadfully cold, we didn’t walk. Our walks were always to the beach, Golden Pebble Beach, a 20 minute walk each way. This year since we have been back, a month now, we have been riding bikes in the morning. We still spend about 45 minutes, but we get to see more, going further and exploring areas we normally did not get to when we walked.
Yesterday we decided not to bike but walk and instead of going on the road we went bush – well that is what they would say in Australia, away from the rapidly built up area across from us and the school. A couple of years ago this whole area was country but now it is being built up at a rapid rate. Our school is about five years old and teachers who have been here for a while said there were pigs roaming around and living here seemed quite out in the middle of nowhere.
We have drivers here that take us to the light rail, into town or wherever we need to go. Jack, our main driver – we call all the drivers Jack, because they all are his mates; when we need to go somewhere, whether to the airport or shopping, we call Jack and someone shows up within ten-minutes. When we get the real Jack we joke with him that he is the real Jack, though I doubt he understands anything we say. None of them speak English but they know where we want to go because we go to so few places; airport, light rail, Kaifaqu ,Dalian… What I was going to say and got into a bit of an off spin was that Jack grew up here – really here. He lived where the school’s football/soccer oval now is.
Before I upload some photos from our walk I want to see if I get blocked for writing something. I have noticed that in Facebook, which we have to use a VPN for which should make us out to be in another country, that if I say some things not only does Facebook stop but I get knocked off line for a period of time and what I wrote does not show up. For example, I wrote about a certain group which is banned for their meditative ways and bang I was knocked off as soon as I put the name of the group in. I was telling how our local ex-mayor’s wife was being charged with the murder of a Brit and it was linked with how bodies were obtained for the shows that are so popular in the States showing bodies. They are prepared and done here in our local city of Kaifaqu, a burb of Dalian. The bodies are those of the practitioners of so and so group which I am not saying as I want to post this and not have it blocked. The other thing I said recently in Facebook was just mentioning how our school was closed due to an approaching typhoon – that the government suggested all schools in our province be closed because the storm was the largest in fifty-years, and I wrote; “who am I to go against the Chinese Government?” and those must have been some keywords that blocked me. The storm changed course enough to go over to the right and hit the Koreas and I had put that the North one got primarily hit but when I put the words Korea and North together I was blocked again. So we are seemingly allowed to use a VPN though locals I have heard can get into strife using one because it is supposed to be tunneling through the Great Firewall of China which is illegal but we really are watched all the time. And of course there was the fight between Google and our host and I can only get onto my gmail when I am on my VPN – as service we pay for. A few people have had their VPN shut down – the provider, but so far ours, which I am not saying which one, is going well. I think the strife between Google and here is that they refused to not say stuff about the square in Beijing and what happened there.
It is the same with all the guards we have around the place where we live. Are they guarding us from some outside threat or are we being watched and kept track of? We go outside of our compound all the time and there are no threats but our housing and school is surrounded by a large fence with guards at the gates and even guards inside the gate in the lobby of our apartment building and at the entrance to our school.
Back to our morning walk and some photos:
the strange looking ship in the background on the left is in the middle of the highway leading to the Golden Pebble Beach resort area. Directly in the back is the new million dollar houses that are suppose to look French – we don’t like them, and to the right is our home and school.
It is often this foggy outside our balcony; and is now as I write this and it has been like this all day – we hope it is not smog, but on a clear day we can see the sea and the mountains and the guard station at the entrance…
Our maids are so good, very friendly, a couple of them are trying to teach us some Chinese words, Narda is doing much better than me, but we are hopeless. Every morning they have a bit of a talking to. There is a person standing in front of them and they all say a few things back and forth in unison. We have no idea what they say. They line up by size , I got this photo on the way to the lift before our morning walk – this would be about 6 AM on the third floor. On the second floor the guards line up, by size too.
What I like most about this photo is the guy peeing in the background. A common site in China. Why go looking for a toilet when there is the whole out doors? They use these sort of hand made brooms to sweep the roads in all weather. In the winter they sweep the snow off the roads with them – not that we get much snow. Last winter we had two days each with about an inch of snow.
The locals are so friendly. This man was along our walk in the countryside.
This was the first photo we saw of Dalian American International School on the Internet and we love walking past it in the morning and thinking back to not much more than a year ago when we were jumping up and down in our hotel room in Shanghai, after our interview, because we were offered a contract to teach at this school. We were so excited. That was January First 2011, we were returning to the States after Christmas break in Australia. We were living in NYC and Narda was at St Luke’s and I was wondering if anyone would hire someone approach 65 years old. By June 2011 all our belongings were on a ship headed to Dalian and by August 2011 we were teaching here – just a bit over a year ago. Now we feel like locals. And yes it is possible to have a good job and be 65.
We are back at school from a summer of travel to the States and Australia which I have gone on about in previous blogs. We have about 18 new staff and at least ten who have left after last school year to teach in schools in India, Istanbul, Brazil, the Middle East, and many other places. In my broadcast journalism course I will be doing a lot of global-video-collaborative projects and look forward to our expats from here syncing with us from their new schools. I will continue my educational blog as soon as school starts on the 16th of August http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html
Here is where our school is – in the fun area of Dalian
(from http://www.chinatouristmaps.com/travel/liaoning/dalian/dalian-transportations.html) Discoveryland is not shown but it is a bit off this map or a ten-minute bike ride away – the Chinese tacky version of Disneyland. We either walk (20 minutes) or ride our bikes (7 minutes) to the beach before school each morning except when it is too cold to ride then we rug-up and walk.
Today, Sunday, we were going to take the light rail into Dalian but it rained all day and we didn’t get out of the house until almost 10 AM. We took the school’s shopping bus into Kaifaqu, did some shopping and took the light rail home. Not much of an eventful day except it is so good to be home. The States and Australia were great and catching up with family is the best but being back here is tops. We really are not ready to settle in the west. I loved the fact I could turn 65 a couple of days ago and be happily teaching and exploring. That teachers are swept in the dustbin in so many countries is awful. My last school in New York City retrenched us over 55 year olds – eight of us, and hired 20 plus year-old teachers. The school was closed down the next year as one of the worst in NYC – Ross Global Academy.
We are reminded of the constancies of life – when I got into the taxi from the light rail to home I tried to put on my seat belt and the driver waved his hand saying no. Wow, we got a $300 ticket a couple of years ago because Narda had taken off her seat belt for just a moment in a small town in Australia. And I was happy to get soy milk and tofu from my favourite tofu shop in Kaifaqu so all in all it was a great first day back in town shopping even in the rain.
We have moved apartments and the one we have now has great views of the Yellow Sea with a stretch of three balconies to walk out onto from the bedroom, lounge and office. See photo below – a rainy day but off in the distance is the sea. In front is the incredibly tacky new housing development going up across the street from us.
And this is another view slightly to the right showing the hills view with the guard stations and entrance to Campus Village.
And this is looking down the row of housing known as Campus Village. The blue roofs at the end are the swimming pool and gym of our school.
And here is the actual road distance from where we live (A) to where we are going (B) – see we are surrounded by seas.
And here is the actual road distance from where we live (A) to where we are going (B) – see we are surrounded by seas.
no longer in the future
no longer in the past
what a time to re-create me
Who is it?
is this me?
Not me before
Not me future
HERE I AM
Laughing in the noonday sun
Falling from the sky
landing to fly
into all that will be
when I open my eyes and exhale
synchronizing my senses
to possibilities yet to be imagined
Goodbye to all before
Did it ever even exist?
to re-invent a new instance of me
arriving Dalian, China after six weeks away: New Orleans (home of my soul), the south, dying on a freeway in Mississippi or was that Alabama where a truck ran us off the road only to re-boot my life so I can write such stupid stuff as this? And a month in Australia – and back again but not really because back then is no longer now. terrell neuage 5 August 2012 Golden Pebble Beach; Jinshitan
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