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London2018

Kuala Lumpur to London 07/August/2018

11 am – One hour into our flight, Australia all around; sky, land, air, Australian clouds drifting by, sure they are foreign, ruffled refurbished refugee clouds. This sky again – millions of years in the making, I have seen it before, multiple times. Machine learning sky, reformatting to my projections; first saw this space 1980. I went to an astrological conference in Sydney flying through Yankee sky: Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, Auckland, no longer Yankee space; then Australia, bloody Australia…thirty-8 years later leaving again. Lost the times I have been in these skies, leaving; between 25 – 30 times. Probably many more. I even wrote two books; Leaving Australia 1 (Leaving Australia ‘Again’: Before the After) and 2 (Leaving Australia, ‘Again’: Book 2 ‘After’), published them on Amazon- sold one a few years ago; girl from my past took issue with my description of her and our early 1970s foray into youth and the streets of New Orleans. Another complained about us in Baltimore at the end of the 1970s I changed their names, everyone else in my books are now dead except for one son and an ex-wife I have had no contact with for fifteen-years so I no longer get notifications from people and my depiction of them.

I got off task here… so good to be in flight again. Three months in Australia is quickly over. Our India three months was fantastic, and we are already planning the next exploration of the sub-continent, but that trip is three months behind us. Now a three months European run: UK, The Netherlands for three weeks Berlin a month and Northern Spain a month. It has been a year since this area. We did Denmark for six weeks and the Baltic last year at this time. I turned 70 in St. Petersburg, Russia with the evening out-to-sea; a metaphor for my life. This week I will be 71, half in London and half in The Netherlands.

Malaysian Airline Kuala Lumpur to London

Malaysian Airline Kuala Lumpur to London

Australia was a good stay; family, creative stuff, mowed the lawn, tried to declutter the shed; decades of boxes of memories. I did throw away a few papers. When we get back I will attempt another declutter. We’ll be planning for 2019 and the USA for three months and Pakistan-India later in the year. And there will be the lawn to mow, family to attend to so the decluttering may have to wait until 2020, though I won’t mention that to Narda, she has brought up ‘the shed’ for several years. She even escorted me to a ‘declutter’ class (twice) when we were in upstate New York around 2003 or 4. I found them quite interesting and dragged a container of stuff to China for our three-years there, added more and now it is all in our shed. Not just my stuff but my dead family’s stuff: father, brother, son, mother as well as some dead-friends’ things. A shed filled with dead people’s belongings- but they give me comfort. And yes, Narda has past stuff there too.

So here we are, in the clouds again. Getting away from our stuff. Narda is a master packer. We each have one bag less than twenty-Kilos and a seven kilogram carry on bag. Half my weight is computer, phones (Android and iPhone; need options), hard drives, camera, lenses, tripod…. Narda is looking forward to the time I can travel with just a phone (or two) using it for video, photos, computer and my endless hours using Adobe. I am still tethered to my computer for editing/creative madness and I like my Nikon and 300mm lens. Phones are not quite there. And books. Narda changed to Kindle fifteen or so years ago. My last old thing, I would rather read a book. Narda reads books too but still all those cheap e-books… for example, I have 8 e-books I have published, all very cheap, they don’t sell. I was almost finished with my thick and too heavy to bring Henry James’ ‘New York Stories’, all written in the 1880 – 1890 era.  I have been reading literature from last century the past couple of years. Though for this trip I moved forward and brought a book on the poetry of the 1950s. Eye rolling from the passenger next to me I brought along on this trip.

Our first stop is Kuala Lumpur, we are on Malaysia Airlines. Instead of trying the whole thing, Australia to Europe in one go, we are breaking this up into two trips. I turn 71 in a few days so we’re taking it slower. And this is my start; just wrote this on my phone while listening to music from the 1950s and 1960s. On some level I suppose I am progressing.

Finally, something to write about. We had a typical ordinary flight. With Malaysia airlines picking seats it is an add-on, as most airlines are now. However, booking 72 hours before the flight brings up the seat chart. We chose the front row with a window and isle on the two-seat side row plan. We realized our error within minutes but were unable to change. We were told to change we’d provoke a fee, but if we waited until 48 hours before departure we could change seats. Our obvious error was we were next to the front row of crazed babies and their wailing. With 48 hours to go the plane looked empty. No one is leaving Adelaide. Really, why would they? (CNN reports that Adelaide is the number ten most livable city in the world for 2018). Low and behold when we got to loading up time there was not a spare seat. Wow a brain-drain on Adelaide, everyone is bailing. TIP 1, choose seats 72 hours early. Sure enough there was a baby screaming the whole eight hours in the front row. With my noise cancelling headset filtering the best music of the 1950s and 1960s I was fine a few rows back but Narda seemed spooked.

Narda, the wise, has us overnight in Kuala Lumpur, central, they spell it Sentral. The last time we were in KL we took a taxi into downtown, well actually to the India area and stayed several days. It took so long, we were stuck in traffic all the way. This time, older, somewhat wiser, we took the KLIA Ekspres train to Sentral; 28 minutes, air conditioned, worth the 200 ringgets ($50 USD for two, round trip). TIP 2 take the bloody KL express airport to Sentral.

The downside with an overnight is the immigration line. In KL it is always bad – quite chaotic, taking more than an hour to get through. After eight-hours sitting it is too long to stand, going back it will be after a thirteen-hour flight.

TIP 3 We almost stuffed up this one; we could have had our luggage go on tomorrow’s flight and not be incumbent on it following us everywhere, but we didn’t. If the continued flight is within twenty-four hours they will take care of it. We got to Sentral and saw that with our KL Express return we could give our luggage to the airline and they would take it to the airport and have it arrive with us tomorrow. I believe it is only with Malaysian planes. So we got rid of our crap for awhile. It was just a ten-minute stroll to our room and the first thing we saw was an ad for a massage; 50 local thingies ($12 USD) for an hour so we grabbed a bite to eat and rocked up for our hour of rubbing by the seeing-impaired folks. Narda was happy with her hour, even proclaiming it was the best massage she ever had. Me, good grief, writing this on our flight KL to London a day later I am still sore. OK so he couldn’t see me but when I said ouch several times he should have gotten the clue I was not whistling Dixie. We used to get massages often in China and they would be either too hard or great.

TIP next Get the right person for your massage.

We upgraded a bit, taking Economy Plus which gave much more leg room. TIP, upgrade to Business – you can plug your computer in for more entertainment/creativity.

Twelve hour flight to London; five hours to go, I have used up my computer battery doing my Photoshop-textual wonders (https://plus.google.com/collection/E_6JaB), finally found something to view on the airline movie channels, ‘Jailhouse Rock’, 1957, Elvis first film. So different than what’s on offer now. I followed that with 1955 James Dean ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. Life is good. I am UpToDate. Another Tip: don’t rely on a battery hungry 15-inch-plus16 GB RAM computer, doing several Adobe programs, to be satisfying for long.

We arrived in London, a bit worse for wear at 4 pm, immigration was much quicker than KL. We bought an Oyster Card – putting 25£ on each, which turned out to be enough for three days of travel around London. The underground took us close to an hour to get to Narda’s family members where we were to stay for the next couple of nights. They have a spectacular view over the Thames, near the new US Embassy and a short walk to Parliament, Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, some note worthy bridges the London Eye; all of which we saw in a couple of days.

changing of the guard, view from our balcony, Big Ben having a face-lift, the London Eye

changing of the guard, view from our balcony, Big Ben having a face-lift, the London Eye

As usual, in any city we go to, we took random bus rides and walked heaps. We need to travel just to get off our butts and grab some exercise. Buses are only 1.50£ (less than a couple of USD bucks). Our big day out was a rainy day so sitting looking out the window from upstairs in a big red bus is a great way to see London from a non-tourist view. When we got hungry we got off, went to a pub, The Joiner’s Arms, Camberwell. A most friendly girl served us well, and yes this is a tip-free space. For my birthday, 10th of August, we took a random bus on a most perfect weather day and got off when we were hungry in burb called Clapham and again had a great pub meal.

We ate at pubs – always the best places. Having been on a low-carb diet for the past four-months or since India, I enjoyed the rising of my blood sugars with the local foods; the plan is to get back to serious carbs-counting mode when in The Netherlands where we will have our own kitchen and to continue throughout our three-months in Europe. We booked the Eurostar for our three-hour journey to Rotterdam. The Netherlands will be the next write-up – next week or next month. Cheers. In the meantime my daily scribbles are at https://neuage.org/2018 and my photo-digital-textual thingies are up in several places such as twitter (https://twitter.com/neuage)  and google-plus above.

Random big-Red bus rides - hanging in front on the top level

Random big-Red bus rides – hanging in front on the top level

TIP, read my (our) blogs – and yes, I will post Narda’s writing and observations and photos in the future too. This one was my exhaling.

Langkawi wowie

video for Langkawi at http://youtu.be/xjsETcPNtNI

Not to be confused with Maui wowie or anything to do with Hawaii except what a great place Langkawi is.

Left home. Home was back there. Back there was Ao Nang. We had made ourselves at home so quickly. Like within hours. We left the motor scooters out front where we got them two-weeks earlier. I re-read the local tourist magazine ‘Passport Magazine’ again paying particular attention to the section about ‘motorbiking in Thailand’ as I had ignored it before we rented our motor scooters; “Statistically, Thailand is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drive (or ride)’… the article goes on to say a lot of scary stuff about how many people get killed a day, especially tourists riding motor scooters. Not to worry. We survived for two-weeks on country roads and highways with others who seemed to have little regard for us or who cared whether I stayed alive to write this blog. After all I had survived heart surgery in Hong Kong two months ago and I have survived three major car accidents any of which I should have been killed in and I survived the 1960s and 1970s and of course the following decades but it was the 1960s that was the most challenging as all people in their 20s come to realize that if they can get past their 20s they will make it a bit further.

Narda got our home from searching on airbnb.com and it was one of our better finds. The price was reasonable; a whole house for $22 US a night and the scooters were six dollars US a day. Of course we did not pay for insurance for the motor scooters. What could go wrong on a little thing like that? The house was basic but being in a quiet forest area at the bottom of a cliff we found it our kind of home. There were a few things that were different than living in Campus Village back in Dalian; such as the huge rats that would run along the rafters and clang around the roof at night until I would throw something at the metal roof then they would quiet down for a bit or until I put in earplugs then they would not seem so bothersome. We learned on the first day that no food could be anywhere not even a crumb. Ants of various sizes and the red ones do bite would be so quick to be there – like spontaneous combustion – well that is a stupid analogy but they did appear suddenly. Of course anything edible would bring forth the rat families. They even chewed up the sponges we washed dishes with no doubt being tricked by some foot smells on them of course there were spit out chewed up bits of sponges further down the way; stupid rats.

The frogs were OK though the first time I heard them at night when I went outside to the loo – well not outside outside but outside to the loo that was attached to the outside of the house; I thought someone was saying hello in a deep voice so I kept saying ‘hello’ back until I realized there was no one there. After a few nights of freighting myself in the middle of the night I realized it was not a human saying ‘hello’ but a frog I stopped saying it myself to no one at all but to frogs. It is the dumb things we do in life that no one knows unless of course we tell them, which I would never do, that are funny but they are only funny to ourselves if we do not tell someone else and a problem I have is that I will tell someone something that I think is funny and they don’t so after many decades of being a self-appointed-comedian I am thinking about call it a day with my humour and I will learn to laugh at other people’s jokes instead of my own that no one else thinks is funny.

And there are the cats who live nearby that hang out at our door for affection or food or maybe even both but who are too lazy to chase away the rats or who are afraid of them as the rats are the size of the cats. They must have been given attention by the previous tenants as they believe; there are three, that they can just waltz into our home when they want and meow. We did not feed them during our two weeks thinking they would go away but they didn’t. This morning I gave them a bowl of sweetened condensed milk as we had a tin left. We developed a taste then an addiction for sweetened condensed milk back in Hanoi a few years ago and now only drink coffee with it in. Narda said they would get sick from such rich milk but I gave them the tin full anyway. The kitten of the trio took to it right away but the older cats only had a bit. Blimey, I am getting bored with writing this…

This is always a writing dilemma; keep my audience, which is me, interested, at least to the end of the paragraph. I do not believe in astrology and I have written about this in length before, but as a non-believer I will just add that part of my writing dilemma is having Mars conjunct Uranus at 25 degrees in Gemini. (really very interesting is that Uranus was discovered when it was at 25 Gemini in 1781 and here I have it at its returning point in 1947; holy cow – see http://www.stariq.com/Main/Articles/P0000270.HTM for the meaning of Uranus) I suppose that if I said and that conjunction is in my 8th house you would say ‘well this sentence is dead in the water’. Get it? 8th house being the natural house of Scorpio, a fixed water sign. My 8th house is ruled by Taurus and I have my Moon in Taurus there as parts of my fixed cross between Moon opposite Jupiter all square my four planet conjunction in Leo in the tenth. Go figure!   So all that is why I no longer believe in astrology; of course it is obvious with my Neptune in the 12th and Neptune rules my 5th house which is the natural house of Leo. I once gave presentations at astrological conferences on ‘The fifth house and self-realization‘. Thus is life; a series of miss guided belief systems we cling on to try and explain why something or why we are the way we are.

Our house, probably a shack by some definitions; had lots of open windows, all without screens. So besides the rats and the talking frogs and the ants and cats we had heaps of mosquitoes. Fortunately we slept under a mosquito net and we had lots of mosquito coils and mosquito spray to slow the bites. I showed a picture of my knees well bitten on the previous blog ‘next’. Obviously with everything we could do we could not keep from getting bitten. Not to worry if we were getting any diseases from them I am sure we would have them now.

We did like our little house though. We had a lazy time. We even developed a routine of walking to the main road, about twenty minutes, to get coffee at a local outdoor ramshackle bamboo hut then across to a market for a liter of water each and back home to get our scooters then off for a bit of a ride.

In the late afternoon we had a swim, and either we would go out for dinner or make something at home and watch a couple of episodes of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ which I find rather dumb, predictable and over acted but we have the series with us. There were other routines too such as the rats having a party at two or three in the morning – I would throw something at them, whatever I could find, so there were often shoes or other items that flew out the window when I missed the ceiling and there was the call-to-prayers about 5.15 every morning. What is that about? Considering we live on a country road with a house on both sides and one across the road then nothing for a long way why such a loud production each morning? I am not a music person like Narda is a music teacher and musician but to me ever who was doing it seemed really off key. It did not sound as musical as what I have heard when we were in Istanbul or KL or other Muslim entranced places. Nevertheless I never had a good sleep so part of my routine was taking a nap every afternoon. Narda saw this stay as a trial toward retirement but I hope retirement does not have so many rats, mosquitoes, stray cats and talking frogs and ants and calls-to-prayer.

Really. Do those prayers really change anything? As a researcher of many belief systems and a down-to-earth human being I would say nope.

And the king, what is up with him? Photos of him everywhere sometimes doing various activities and of course he is on the paper money. We learned this from a previous time in Northern Thailand a few years ago that it is best not to even mention the king. I think of the prime minister of Australia and how everyone just makes fun of him or her or whatever is in office. The same with the president of the US everyone seems to have a go at him. And the king and queen of the Brits get dissed often in Australia but not the king of Thailand. My favourite photo of him is on their one-hundred baht bill with him holding a camera. Maybe he is a photo buff as I have seen large paintings of him with a camera around his neck. It is a Cannon and I have a Nike so we are on a different page. He probably was not a hippie either nor does he hoon around Thailand on a motor scooter or stay at $22 US a night digs with rats. What is the point of a king? But the people of Thailand seem to think he is an OK chap. We have read and been told that if you drop paper money with his image on it and it starts to blow away do not run over and put your foot on the money to stop it as one can get a fine or go to jail for that.

Our lives are governed, controlled? By turns taken. We are sitting on this crap ferry because of a direction taken not meant to be taken or at least by the conscious part of what we think we use to control the directions we take in life; our brain. We researched and decided to take a train from nearby; probably Trang, down to KL; about a day and a half. What we have read was that the overnight sleeper through Thailand is great but the train through Malaysia is air conditioned and quite cold but we still wanted to do the ride. We rode our scooters to Krabi Town – half an hour from home, to purchase a ticket. We had read we could buy one in Krabi Town. When we got to Krabi Town we came to an intersection that we could not get across nor could we turn right which was the direction to downtown where we wanted to purchase our train ticket to KL. After sitting too long and getting freaked out by the traffic, and remembering the article about Thailand being one of the most dangerous countries to drive in,  we went left thinking we could make a U-turn and get our sorry-asses downtown. There was nowhere to immediately make a U-turn and in fact there was a foot high barrier in the midst of Utarakit Road for a kilometer or two.

When we did get to the U-turn we thought it was another one of our synchronous moments because right there at the U-turn was the Government Tourism Office. The dude in there printed out a train timetable for us and in the midst of our excitement over getting a train all the way to KL he rang someone whom he sent us to so we could purchase our fun ticket. I wrote about our Muslim travel-agent chick in the last blog, ‘Next’ so I will leave it to the fact that she was not sure how to get us a train ticket but she could get us on a ferry to Langkawi and from there a flight to KL. She made it all sound so groovy and pleasant we left singing her praises – me singing off-key like our neighboring call-to-morning-prayers chanter or whatever they are referred to as.

So here we are sitting on the Tigerline Ferry. What a horrible little piece of junk it is. A fast ferry? Not sure about that. The webpage and brochure shows a two level deck and the ticket lady that convinced us to go this way instead of by train said there was a café on board where we could order food. All that is close to that is some deck hands selling beer and water from an esky at the front of the boat. We are sandwiched into our narrow row – four seats on either side of the row with little leg room on the first level with scant air conditioning. There is a pool of liquid in front of the loo door coming down the aisle. The second level is upstairs as all second levels are – but it is outside with a small covered area. They have sold twice as many tickets as there are seats so the top is covered with folks sitting on the deck in the glaring sun. it is also very loud as the motor with two smoke pipes pouring out thick polluting smoke are up there too. The boat is old, rusty and filthy. There are a lot more people than there are life jackets and we have noted where the kick-out-windows are in case this thing goes down. The ferry we took from Phuket to Ao Nang was first class compared to this. The ferry we took from Dalian to Yantai was more like a small ship had state rooms and was cleaner than this. This boat should be condemned and sunk or used for target practice for the military.

Maybe it is because we are old and get grumpy over things. I do not see anyone complaining, just Narda and me. We started off with a mini-bus from Ao Nang to Krabi. When we got on the Tigerline Ferry mini-bus there were already six people on it and we collected four more in Krabi. They were all in their 20s. A different mix than when we took a mini-van tour in Phuket with a van full of folks from India.  These kids were quite the mix: three males from South Africa, a couple from Denmark, two girls from Briton, a girl from Germany a couple with an accent I could not work out and us wherever we are from. Young travelers are good and they just accept the way things are. Young people just think of sex and beer no other part of the brain has kicked in yet so conversations are limiting usually. Travelers are a little easier to speak with but with large signs advertising ‘beer pong tonight’ in the backpackers where we collected some I think all people in their twenties are pretty much the same. Narda said I was an original hippie from San Francisco and the British girls seemed impressed. One asked if I wore flowers in my hair. I am not sure about that but I did have hair to my waist and I did live quite the hippie life in San Francisco at the end of the 1960s. And I suppose at other times along the way.

1969 Oregon Coast with Terrell and Desiree

1969 Oregon Coast with Terrell and Desiree

Maybe I have gone full cycle or full semi-cycle. Life is cyclic often and we do end up where we were though we should be at a higher place on the circle than we were the first time around.

I dropped out in the 1960s as many of us did; tune-in, drop-out, turn-on then kind of tried to integrate myself back into society raising children and teaching in universities and K-12 schools for the past 15 years or so and now we are dropping back out gradually. I think some refer to it as retirement.

Kids today; not sure how different they are. We all had long hair and dressed quite colourfully in the 1960s and now the thing is to have tattoos and piercing. People in their twenties have lots of tats. At the beach it is so noticeable of course as these are not Muslim kids but Western kids in a Muslim area thought no one seems to care. Some tats are picturesque but some are look like a drunken sailor had a go with some needles and ink. And the piercing; belly buttons, lips, eyelids, ears, tongue, checks, and probably some areas that were barely covered. Other than the tats and piercing and the music adolescents or whatever the next stage is now are the same as they/we were in the 1960s.

Before my generation there was not much happening for folks in their twenties, just wars and farm or factory work. The main difference now is that these kids are not part of a big war movement like we were in the 1960s and the protest movement has moved from the streets of developed countries for the most part to developing countries like in the middle east. There seems to be a big protest movement in Thailand or at least in Bangkok but as I only have seen glimpses of headlines for the past two-weeks I am not sure what the beef is. Where we are there is no protest and all the westerners are out having a great time. It seems that a large number of people in Thailand want to shut down the country on January 13th. We left Thailand two days ago on the seventh so we are good.

My son has a huge tat across his chest and probably by now lots more. He turned 33 a couple of days ago and in my opinion is now too old to get tats. I Skyped him and told him I got married when I turned 33 and had him; he may do the same this year following in my style though hopefully with a better marriage experience than I did when his mother and I got hooked up for some unexplained reason.

I have told the story before so will not get into it again; we met at an astrological conference in Sydney, she visited me in Maryland a few months later – we hated each other from the get-go but being young as acted and still in our twenties even though we were in fact in our 30s and thought of little more than sex and beer as all twenty years think only of… so she went back to Adelaide in March of 1980 (after the two of us drove across the USA from Baltimore Maryland to San Francisco drinking huge amounts of hard liquor as we drove for four days and at the end I deposited her at the SF Airport; which should reinforce the message not to drink and drive because the results can be disastrous) and I went to Hawaii to hang out with Randy Dandurand whom I first met toward the start of 1969 in Laguna California and knew from too many trips (I will not elaborate on what that exactly means) and who at the end of 1969 I ran in to in Honolulu and who got me into the cult order I ended up in for a decade. Again in Hawaii, again with Randy Dandurand and again stuck – this time in June 1980 when I got a phone call that started with ‘guess what?’ and not to repeat the whole story again, that was 33 years ago and that was Sacha on his way. I have my Moon descendant line or is it the MH line? going through Hawaii so that could explain my two interactions in Hawaii; joining a cult order and getting married, neither of which worked out. Fortunately I no longer believe in astrology so that of course is all nonsense.

I was just saying to Narda yesterday the thing about learning is not the learning but what is being learned. I studied astrology for 40 years and I know all the interpretations and calculation systems and heaps of crap all of which I wish I had never learned because it is all nonsense. I am not sure why I think it is nonsense but I know for 40 years I used to make decisions based on where the planets were and almost all those decisions were stupid, ill founded, mistaken, crap. I have not followed astrology since 13 August 2003 and life outside of the event that caused me to stop believing in it or looking at it anymore has been OK. I think I make a lot of decisions based on common sense and they tend to be good whereas I use to make plans and decisions based on astrology and they did not work out.

Nada says I assemble together too many words to say something. So in fewer words or simple thought I wish I had learned a language instead of learning astrology. Which simply put as a life learned lesson do not learn stuff that you will never use in the future but of course how could we know that at the time on embarking upon the learning? Then again learning, anything anytime anywhere no doubt is good for the brain muscles. Some things we should have learned along the way but did not because we did not see the importance. For example in boy scouts I did not go for the orienteering badge and yesterday we got helplessly lost coming home from downtown where we are now. After that – the next time out – Narda drew a map of every street and turn and building along the way so we would not get lost again. Of course that was not needed as we got a ride home the next time we walked to the downtown area of where we are now by the owner of where we are living but more of that later. The price we paid was that after walking for more than four hours in the sun along a country road Narda, having one of those Northern European types of skin, got burnt and I became darker.

After the first half hour and we were out of Krabi the Thailand countryside was well worth the trip. It was about two hours to Trang and most everyone was asleep except the driver and me when we got close – which was good. I listened to my 1960s music: Dylan, Joplin and the likes so I would keep perspective on my life. Thailand has really beautiful countryside. The last hour we were along the coast passing through small fishing villages and large palm tree plantations on our narrow country road.

On the road to Trang Thailand

On the road to Trang Thailand

At the Port of Trang we waited for the ferry that was to arrive at 12:30. It arrived at two pm. I sat on the pier with the kids from our mini-van; three South Africans and the girls from England and Germany. Narda found an old couple; well probably our age, from Holland and stayed with them. What do young people see when they look at me? I feel at about the same level as them feeling youthful and liberal and free and though I have invisible tats and non-piercing piercing I have them psychologically and I am sure I could win at beer pong except for the fact I don’t drink beer but psychologically I feel intoxicated. The Brits said I was really kool whatever that means in their language. Probably like my “my granddad is your age and he is really kool”. “I mean he has a pace-maker and sits in his wheel chair all day in front of the telly and he drools and wets himself but for the few moments he is conscious every day after a bit of gin and a smoke he says some funny shit…” so that is about the level they see me. “Hey girls I was quite the stud in my day… I could tell you stories.. wait here comes my wife…maybe later I will tell you about living in a commune in San Francisco in 1968 – 1969 or the time I lived on a nude beach on the island of Maui in 1971 (Makena Beach) or… damn old age where is the toilet around here?”  Actually we had a chilled time waiting for the luxury ferry and then there it was.DSC_3754Bloody ferry should be condemned. The whole Tigerline Ferry should be closed down. We got into the main cabin – well actually there was only one cabin, and it was packed. Luckily we managed to find two seats left but the 40 or so passengers that also got on at Trang had to go up on top. The ferry had come from Phuket and was full.

DSC_3765 Our baggage was tossed amongst the rest – see photo below…DSC_3761Toward the end of the day we got close to Koh Lipe. Those of us headed for Malaysia were herded to one side of the boat and the majority on board going to Lipe got on the other side. We were put onto a Longtail Boat – much like we rode in Ao Nang and in Krabi. No one, or none of us, knew what was happening. Someone joked we were going to Malaysia in it but of course that seemed impossible. There were 14 of us with the hundreds of others getting on another ferry and headed to the nearby beautiful shore of Koh Lipe, a young person’s paradise so of course it was only fit to send us away.

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe

DSC_3775Then they took our passports and the teenager that took them made jokes like ‘bye bye’ after collecting most of them. All except Narda and mine which she was not going to turn over until we realized we were not going any further until we did. Apparently this is immigration, Thailand style.

Koh Lipe with our boat heading toward us (really). As the sun began to set we got off at the floating immigration and our passports were taken to some other boat that said Thailand on the side.

longtail boat from Tigerline Ferry to immigration dock

longtail boat from Tigerline Ferry to immigration dock

DSC_3823My biggest concern was that there was no toilet at immigration and another person said wait until sun sets in a few minutes and go over the side. With more than a dozen  people standing around I thought I needed to get over myself and my being old and wait until we got to Malaysia which we were told was only an hour and half away by fast boat when the actual boat arrived.

Thailand immigration dock

Thailand immigration dock

When the boat arrived and we got in and took off everything changed. I sat in the back taking a zillion photos as I do and as the sun set our boat with its two 250 hp motors took us onto a journey like I had never been on before.

DSC_3814Once it became dark and my camera was away I just watched the darkness with only the waves from the back of the boat visible. Here we were riding very fast in an open sea; the Andaman Sea. Riding between two countries we could have been smugglers, James Bond types, anything; even ourselves. I wondered what would happen if we saw a boat coming at us and stopping us a gun point and taking us hostage. There are kidnappings and extremists wandering around Southern Thailand and Malaysia. I thought maybe I would throw my US Passport overboard but Narda thought maybe the Yanks would be the ones who would rescue us and me being the only Yank on board, I use my Australia Passport all the time and only use the US one when I enter the States, could get us all saved. The rest on the boat were from Australia, Holland, Poland and some non-definable, though Western, countries. The driver and his mate looked like adolescents and surely were not over 20 so what they would do to protect us I am not sure. Narda said she was thinking how it could turn out if the motors stopped and we drifted to one of the islands along the way and no one found us and we became like the people in the series, ‘Lost’. After half an hour I just stopped thinking and plugged my iPhone into my ears and listened to Dylan, Creedence,  ‘Layla’ by Derek and the Dominos (often voted on radio stations as the greatest rock song of all time) and just chilled like I have never in my life. This became the greatest ride of all time for me.DSC_3830All because we could get across Ut Tharakit Road back in Krabi Town and ended up at the government travel bureau that directed us to some small tourist centre where the chick there could not figure out the train ticket to KL from Trang or did not want to and hooked us up with Tigerline Ferry. She told Narda that at one time the brother or cousin of the owner of Tigerline Ferry wanted to marry her. Not sure how the dialogue got to that point but Narda and her had quite the tongue waggle and Narda said “you are quite the character aren’t you?” Whether the Muslim chick had a clue what Narda said or not I have no idea but even though her English was limited (not Narda, the other chick) they seemed to hit it off.

Narda is a social creature whereas I just look around for a place to get onto the internet – ‘hey what is the password?’

For example, we were riding our scooters around the back roads of Ao Nang and Narda wanted to check out real-estate of all things, something about coming here for six months when we retire soon; good grief. So we came across streets with nice little houses with for rent or sale signs in front and if there was a European hanging about Narda would end up in conversation. I would sit a few meters behind looking for the way out. We spent one afternoon doing this. Of course we have now found another place Narda wants to retire to; Ko Langkawai. I imagine Ko means island as it is front of every island name.

We did get to Langkawai; proof is that I am writing this from there, and everything where we docked was dark except for one light in a building which we once again turned over our passports. Narda went off to find an ATM to get some Malaysian ringgits and I stayed behind guarding our crap and waiting for our passports. We started off with bag each so how we ended up in Malaysia with seven bags I am not exactly sure but I think we have more crap to put into storage when we get back to Australia after we leave China in six months. Of course the amount of stuff we have in China to send to Australia will fill a container vessel by itself. Now I know what the difference between the twenty-year old backpackers we see everywhere and us. It is not their youthful tattooed-pierced bodies barely covered and their sole thoughts of beer and sex that differs us but that they travel with a backpack and that is probably all they own in the world and we lug around cargo ships of merchandise.

Once we had our passports and ringgits and seven bags lined up we saw all the rest of the folks get into the three taxis that were there. A man said he would take us for 40 ringgits (about $12 US) to where we were going but he was not an official taxi driver. Another couple was left behind and they were going to the same area as us so we negotiated at 30 ringgits per couple and piled in. OK what not to do in a foreign country in the dark with no one around; get into a car with someone who speaks a few words of English and head out into the night. But we have found ourselves in sticky places in Guatemala, Mexico City, Cambodia and heaps of other places and we lived in Jersey City for three years being the only white people in our area so we go through life taking chances and living in the moment. Narda had the phone number for where we were going so that helped and the driver actually found our way out of the way place and at 10.30 pm we arrived at this beautiful house.

Home now is much different than our rat infested shack back in Ao Nang but we are paying four times more and there is a bit of downside. We really are in the country. The next morning, yesterday, we looked out and saw the paddocks and the little bike width road to town. ‘Only about 20 minutes” people staying in the next cottage said. So we walked it and half an hour later arrived onto the main street of town and across to Pantai Cenang Beach. We had been there the night before at 10:30 PM. When we arrived in Langkawi we were very hungry having had only a couple of sandwiches that we had brought with us for the day. The owner of the place we are now at sent us by taxi to her café which is on the beach, an incredible and beautiful place; white sand tables on the beach and really good food. We ate there the next night, last night too.

Little Lylias Chillout Cafe, Pantai Cenang

Little Lylias Chillout Cafe, Pantai Cenang

Sayang Villas Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia

Sayang Villas Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia

road-to-townbeach-sunsetbulldead-wildlifebeach-writerComing back home yesterday we got lost and walked for three hours along a country road and burnt Narda and me we were not impressed. We got this place the day before we left Ao Nang as we thought we were taking a train and never having heard of Langkawi.

We had a good stay howbeit the long walk to any place to buy food was off putting and the beach was a half hour walk but the swimming was great.

All in all our three-week winter holiday was relaxing and now at two AM we are waiting for a plane in KL to get us to Shanghai though not fun being so tired and all I must say it has been good. This could be our last trip during a school holiday as we may not work after this school year and where we will be next year to start 2015 will be as much of a surprise that we will not know about until we are in the moment once again just like we had no idea we would be out to sea on a fast boat between Thailand and Malaysia until we got on to the boat. We never even had heard of the fantastic island of Langkawi until a week before we went there. So life goes forward taking a turn here and a twist there and if we just can perfect the letting go and enjoying where we are being taken all will be fine.

my feet after riding three weeks in the sun with sandals

my feet after riding three weeks in the sun with sandals – the rest of my body is as dark as the dark part of my feet

Of course some things never change. When we got back to Dalian low and behold they lost two pieces of our luggage. Once again. Just like the times before. Thanks China Eastern you make life so predictable.

http://youtu.be/8Osc_Ckmz3E (Phuket)
http://youtu.be/8YGAf2A7NtM (Ao Nang)
(Railay) http://youtu.be/0O4WK_fCm2A
(Krabi) http://youtu.be/08hPnWF7PWw
(Koh Klang Island, Krabi) http://youtu.be/92Vx8hSsXzs
What Narda saw from her hammock http://youtu.be/l02Wi9lYdbc

Warmth

Warmth

video at http://youtu.be/8Osc_Ckmz3E (Phuket)
http://youtu.be/8YGAf2A7NtM (Ao Nang)
(Railay) 
http://youtu.be/0O4WK_fCm2A
(Krabi) http://youtu.be/08hPnWF7PWw

Photos

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.

Shanghai airport - 'Coffee & Cates' shop

Shanghai airport – ‘Coffee & Cates’ shop

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.

Campus Village, Dalian American International School Christmas sing-a-long

Campus Village, Dalian American International School Christmas sing-a-long before winter break

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’.

Monkey Cave Temple, Phuket

Monkey Cave Temple, Phuket

Monkey Cave Temple, Phuket

Monkey Cave Temple, Phuket

Monkey Cave Temple, Phuket

Monkey Cave Temple, Phuket

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.

our house for the next two weeks in Aonang

our house for the next two weeks in Aonang

mountain-end-of-road-sidewayAbove is in front of our house – road to town.

Narda-bike

our part in doors and part outdoors kitchen

our part in doors and part outdoors kitchen

ferry to Krabi

ferry to Krabi

James Bond Island Phuket

James Bond Island Phuket

DSC_2882

Do not take my Vegemite

“Do not take my Vegemite ”

  • Vegemite
  • Storage
  • Letters
  • Chinese police using geese
  • Best loo in Kaifaqu
  • In-flight Movies
  • Lenovo
  • Baggage allowances
  • Australians are easy going, maybe some of the most laid back of any nationality. You will hear “she’ll be right mate” more than anything else. In fact there’s not that much going on down under. The weather is the weather, not much news there. Folks live their lives, watching the footy, whinging about the polllies (translation for Americans: politicians.). Not a lot ruffles an Australian but take away their Vegemite and we have a ‘situation’ at the security desk.

In the past six weeks we have gone through eight airports with their security checks: Dalian, Beijing (three times), Newark (twice), Atlanta, Albany, New York, Kula Lumpur (twice), Adelaide (four times), and Melbourne (twice).

Narda bought a jar of Vegemite and a jar of Promite at Woolies (Woolworth’s) in Adelaide after we had packed our check-in luggage so she placed it in our carry-on. No worries, we went through customs at Adelaide and KL. After a short night’s sleep at Metro Park Lido in Beijing (we arrived in Beijing at one AM and got to the hotel at 2:30 AM, up for breakfast five hours later and to the airport in time for our fight to Dalian which we just discovered has been delayed four hours. Most flights in China or out of China are delayed by many hours.

Customs @ Beijing Domestic was brutal. We had to take almost everything out of our carry-on bags then they took the jar of Vegemite and Promite from Narda’s bag. Narda was far from ‘she’ll be right mate’.

Vegemite ad from the 1960s “We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek.”

We’re happy little Vegemites – The original TV Advertisment

The customs agent chick walked off with the two jars in her hands with Narda close by saying ‘give me back my vegemite’. Good grief. I shoved all my bits and pieces into my bags – three carry-on bags because we were overweight for check-in plus Narda’s carry-on bags and ran after the jar carriers. At some desk in a corner of the terminal the customs lady was trying to open the jars which Narda was trying to take back from her. Narda kept saying that it was food and that every other airport allowed it through. Finally Narda opened the Vegemite jar, the woman sniffed it and started to look up on her computer monitor but Narda had the jars in her hand and we were off to our gate. I think the smell was a bit OK as it looks and smells a bit like something that could have been created out of soy bean paste. Narda was still upset but we had the stuff. Granted I remember seeing a few tubes and jars of it at home in our pantry but I suppose there never can be too much of one’s comfort foods. It is like Dutch Salty Liquorice, we always have a bag or two near at hand; well Narda does and I will have a salty drop now and then. Her parents always have a box of them next to their driver seat so whenever we go someplace there is the Salty Liquorice. Most people hate it and will spit out the liquorice right away though I do not mind them. I wonder if we would have had such an ordeal with customs if they took away Narda’s salty liquorice.

We did get out of Beijing though several hours later than we were scheduled to. Standing in front of us were two new teachers at our school and their sons from Peru, though at the time we did not know that. We saw them a few days later when school started and I said to them that I was standing behind them in line on the way to Dalian.

As always our true and faithful driver, Jack was there to meet us at the airport and we instantly felt like we were back at home. Being back in our home after six weeks flying around and rescuing vegemite from the grasping hands of officialdom was a nice experience. Our plants had been watered by the cleaning ladies and our home with all our crap was there shaking with excitement at our return.

On the note of all our crap… as if I have joked/complained/explained in the past it is scattered: in a house in upstate New York, in a shed in upstate New York, furniture in our Jersey City home, a piano in our Adelaide home, of course our home in China with even closets filled with boxes from years ago that we dragged here from the States two years ago and our furniture and now a storage bin in Adelaide full. We get exhausted just thinking about all the material belongings we have and I wonder how I managed to spend decades with just a bag of things when I was in my 20s and early 30s and traveled the world. The stuff in Adelaide has been moved about for more than a decade from being in the parent’s shed to Narda’s son’s shed then he moved and now into paid storage. Our firm confirmation, including a handshake, was that we would go through each box and toss what we did not really really need/want. We had left Adelaide in 2002 bound for New York with the belief we would be back in one maybe two years. Now eleven years later we have made the decision it will be one more year overseas then back home. So what we stored twelve years earlier we have managed to live without and therefore no longer would keep. Narda wants to sell everything and buy a live-in vehicle and travel around Australia for years as normal retired folks would which would mean all the more that we need to dump stuff. When we were in upstate New York a few weeks ago we went into one of those large bus-homes that Yanks trawl the USA, staying overnight in Walmart car parks in. It was ten years old, had pullout sides and would have suited us fine and we considered purchasing it on the spot until reason reared its ugly head and we realized it was not only impracticable but we did not have the money or place to store it not to mention that we have no intention to live in the States again. Nevertheless we got ourselves all psyched up and went to the storage bin with a whole day in front of us to do nothing but go through all our stuff and put it in a locked bin. At the moment it was all sitting outside of bins until we arrived to dump and store. We opened two or three boxes realized we did not know whether we wanted to keep the stuff within or not, resealed the boxes and put them into a storage bin. So hopefully a year from now we will move into our house in Adelaide or get an RV with less worldwide possessions and hit the road. We are following the grey nomads, an Australian site, http://thegreynomads.com.au/ that are blogs of folks that live and travel around Australia in their vans.

storage bin in Adelaide, South Australia

storage bin in Adelaide, South Australia

  • Letters. Today in teacher’s prep for the upcoming school year at Dalian American International School we did an intro of ourselves to one another that included one word or phrase to describe our most significant moment/activity and etc. over the summer school break. There were words like ‘beach’, ‘sunburn’, ‘beer’… I did not say my most significant word for the summer but instead said ‘film’ which I suppose has meaning in the sense that I studied film creation over the summer and worked with Adobe Premiere and the other products in the Adobe Creative Cloud suite (love them all – now if I can find the time to learn and work with them) and I am writing a script. The real word to describe the past six weeks for me was ‘letters’ but of course that is not something to say in public or for that matter put in a blog then post to the web but we all have some idiosyncrasies in us I suppose; mine are based on five planets in Leo with a Venus, Saturn, Pluto, Sun conjunction squaring my Jupiter in my first house (of course I no longer believe in astrology so that is good) – I have Mercury just starting Leo or maybe even with a feather in Cancer (29 degrees and 59 minutes) and my midhaven and part of fortune in Leo all in the tenth house – damn beliefs are hard to kick, probably because of my Moon in Taurus, Jupiter in Scorpio (damn grand square no wonder my life is this way) and the other fixed planets which gives me 7 out of 10 planets in fixed signs. Not to worry I am married to a Gemini and as all mutable sign people keep us fixed people on our toes my fixedness is just my own illusion. Try being fixed with a Gemini at your side – it just ain’t goin’ happen.

So my word for the summer is ‘letters’. Firstly, I found a box of letters from my brother Robert that he wrote to people in the 1960s and 1970s (he died in 1994). I found a box of letters from ex-girlfriends but we won’t tell Narda that I slipped that box in between other boxes I kept and then there are the most important discovery of the past ten years for me.

When my son, Leigh, was playing baseball in South Africa for the Australian National Team in 1999 he met Jackie. I would find her name in his belongings years later. I contacted her once in about 2005 and said I found her name and could she tell me anything about her meeting with my son. I also told her that Leigh committed suicide in 2003 a few weeks after turning 20. I set up a Facebook site for Leigh which has hundreds of people who knew him on it. A year ago Jackie contacted me via Leigh’s Facebook page to tell me she had moved from South Africa to Perth in Western Australia and that she had a pile of letters that Leigh had written her. I do not check Leigh’s Facebook page much as it is too difficult for me. I see all his friends, most of whom have children now, including Jackie. I usually check on his birthday in July and read the wonderful tributes his friends write him on that day. I told Jackie I would be in Australia last month and she sent me his letters. There were seven of them, some ten pages long. He had written them in late 1999 when he was in Adelaide and early 2000 when he moved to Florida to play in the LA Dodgers organization. They were love letters. I had never known that he had met someone in Africa. He had a girlfriend in Adelaide and as I was a single parent with him and his brother I thought I knew all that was going on. I never knew he was having problems in his mind until I read his last very long email to his girlfriend in Australia written August 10th (my birthday) 2003 in which he said he had known since the age of ten that he would kill himself. What am I supposed to do with that?

His letters to Jackie did say he was having problems but he never said what they were and I always thought that he was at the top of the world being chased by six or seven major league teams since he was 16 (1999). His brother and I lived what I thought at the time was a fairly happy life.

I wrote my hand-writing analysis friend two days ago; he is a world authority and works with the FBI and police in the States and has written several books on the subject and I asked if he would look at Leigh’s letters. He wrote straight back that he would. I scanned and sent off several pages. So this is why the real word in my mind to describe the summer holiday was ‘letters’. Today is my 66th birthday (August 10 – see? Leo all the way) but that is not the significant day of my life. August 13 2003, ten years ago, Leigh flew to Sydney without notifying the Dodgers; met up with his ‘girlfriend’ at the time, not Jackie (story at http://neuage.org/Idol-star.gif click on the image to enlarge) and the next morning he was at the bottom of his fifteen story balcony at the Novotel Hotel Olympic Park across from the baseball stadium where he had practiced for the Olympic team that was to play in Athens. I did not even know he was in Australia.

I was finishing my PhD at the University of South Australia and we were to head back to New York after the weekend to go back to teaching. Narda came in to my office put her arms around me and said ‘Leigh is dead’. Nothing can change those words. We flew to Sydney and I had to identify him. Narda kept me together then and has since and here a decade later we are preparing for classes again. Now is not like then. We flew back to New York after the funeral and with a couple of hours sleep, incredible depth of despair, jetlag, and all the rest I was standing in front of a room of girls at Russell Sage College welcoming them back to a new year of school. I did not say “I am falling apart because my son killed himself five days ago” but instead taught that first class which was on ‘communication’ and the rest of my classes that day and my classes at the other school I was teaching at, the University of NY at Albany. I managed to appear and teach but it was just a holography of me the real me had died too.Ten years does not diminish depths it only gives it more texture. There is nothing that can be done. I still wake from the same type of dreams; Leigh has done something that has gotten him out of baseball and I am trying to get him back as he keeps asking me – then I awake… Narda hears me my despair wakes her too. I find comfort in going to the gym and lifting weights. I keep lifting more as if I can lift the burden off of me. I suppose it is better to do that than any other escape, at least it is healthy. Leigh use to life weights and spent a lot of time at the gym, maybe which has added to my escape. Leigh was big and strong, he weighed 220 pounds, was six foot four and a solid athlete. He has been reduced to a box of ashes which I still have no idea what to do with. So ‘letters’ were my theme and one word mindset. After death everything pales into insignificance, almost everything. I have a son who is happy and successful and doing stuff that is good: recording hip-hop, working with boat people who have crashed into Australia, works with youth programs involving street kids getting them into street art and hip-hop, giving their life meaning, so he and Narda –  my islands and mountains and strengths and they who make me laugh and help me go forth into the day so I can believe that when I feel that all else is insignificant that nothing can hurt me ever again I can still love; my son and wife give me that, they are my two protectorates. I have become inoculated against suffering, nothing can be taken away. In a way it is a liberating feeling to know nothing more can be taken only layers and my core is not accessible by life’s activities or babbling voices that echo off the walls of my Self.  I also have freed myself of beliefs that I had which too is liberating because the beliefs that we have, usually passed on to us or brainwashed into us via media or spiritual hustlers are nonsense to begin with. To stop believing is to start living. Instead of following where planets are I now look at a moment and see how that can morph into something creative. How can I storyboard a mesh-up of many different colours happening at once?

We were talking today about standards yesterday, a big focus within our school, and I said I am not following one standard, like the technology one. I am using the Language Arts Standards to create the story, the music standards, the Arts Standards,  IT, maybe math and other standards – I want to use every subject in our school to produce a collaborative film. Then I want to take the story, whether written by the Language Arts, or some other department and send it to Frank and Kay who are now in Burma and have their students create a film interpretation of the story as well as my film class to do the same then we can make a composite film. We integrate technology, actually that is my job at our school, but I want to integrate creativity using every department into film making this a year of production of the parts of the whole. Something like that in simple statements. Instead of getting too hung up on grades I want to unfetter the yoke of learning and see if we can find the divine spark in each student to create not only their masterpiece but a collective community of strangers piece. To quote Jefferson Airplanes (1960s)

“you are the Crown of Creation
And you’ve got no place to go’

I would add yes they have a place to go – take it to the next realm. We quit too easy. I continued with 14 years of university under trying times; raising two children, poverty, ten homes in ten years, no family support (I was in a foreign country, Australia, which strangely enough is now my home and the USA is my foreign country. Though I am a duel citizen I no longer feel that I am a Yank I don’t care how much my wife tells me I most definitely sound like one) and when you’ve got no place to go the only way out is to be creative. Maybe it was because I was a street person most of my life and I could live in the moment which is quite a creative thing to do. Creativity to a street person is survival meaning to survive one needs to be creative. But in reality I was most not successful I failed to read my son and at the time I thought I was very tuned into my children, I thought I was psychic in regards to them I was at the top of the spiritual mountain but hey it is all an illusion. One son is now happy has a great girl friend and will soon be making a three month tour of Europe. I think he and his life is real kool. I thought my ball playing son was kool too. We threw a ball every morning and every evening, one-hundred times, I taught him to be a major league pitcher then he no longer wanted it all. He had star potential. We all have start potential.

At the Dwight School in upper Manhattan the graduating students could choose anyone to give their graduating speech. Dwight is a prestigious school with many famous people having children at it (Paris Hilton was there up until the year before I started and members of The Strokes a popular rock band started their band while students at The Dwight School). I was just a silly person who came up with silly ideas for projects. But I was the overwhelming choice to give their farewell speech. I was going to say no but the Leo in me jumped out and said yes.  I told them the story of my son – it was sad I suppose – high school students were teary eyed, maybe I am just mean but I had to tell the story. I was a bit graphic but I sure highlight the good times too. My message was simple that no matter how difficult life gets do not kill your self. My son ended his life because his relationship to his girlfriend ended. My belief is that because his mother was not an active part of his life he could not have another female reject him though I would never say that to anyone – maybe I said it to his mother at his funeral because she said mean things to me that day and told me it was all my fault.

  • Chinese police using geese as guard dogs. My favourite story in the ‘China Daily’ that I collected at the Beijing airport was about a police station that bought a lot of geese to help prevent thefts, because geese will honk and chase intruders. There is a copy of the story here, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-08/03/content_16867985.htm I especially like the story because of the stories Narda has told me about geese she had and how they carried on. (notice how the two geese in the left front row are in step) geese
  • Movies we watched – we flew Malaysian Airlines for a few reasons. It stops in Kuala Lumpur – currently one of our favourite cities, and from there flies directly to Adelaide instead of Melbourne which was always a difficult connection to make after an overnight nine hours of little sleep. In Melbourne there is customs to go through then to switch to domestic but flying to Adelaide was great and the added bonus that one of the family will be there waiting for us (thanks Helena). Flying back to China was even better as we went day time from Adelaide to KL. The food is not bad compared to China Southern or China Eastern (the worse). The Chinese just give rice and a chunk of overcooked cabbage all smothered in MSG sauce for their vegan meal whereas the Malaysians actually give a proper meal without rice and perhaps without MSG. I do not think I have ever recommended a movie in my life except for Jim Carrey flicks which my wife cannot believe that not only will I watch but that I think are really funny (who could not love ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’, ‘The Mask’, ‘Dumb & Dumber’, ‘Batman Forever’, ‘Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls’, ‘The Cable Guy’, ‘Liar Liar’, ‘The Truman Show’, ‘Me, Myself & Irene’, ‘Bruce Almighty’, ‘Fun with Dick and Jane’, and’ Kick-Ass 2’? to mention what I think are the funniest and best of his. Narda did like ‘The Majestic’ and ‘The Truman Show’ and I did watch half of ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ on one of our flights whilst Narda read her Kindle.) Where was I? Oh yes, a recommendation; ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ we loved everything about this movie, a really unique and well done story. We also watched the Tom Cruise movie “Oblivion’ which is a typical stupid Tom Cruise movie – what a bad actor and predictable script but it is an entertaining time-waster in between vegetarian meals on a long flight. We watched some other movies but I have forgotten them already. Hey I just turned 66 I am lucky to remember where I put the car keys. Oh wait, we are in China and we do not have a car. Now I remember we left our car keys in the ignition when we got out at the airport in Adelaide. Luckily Narda’s son drove off with it.
  • Melbourne trip – I loved going to Melbourne but it is mainly because my super kool son lives there. He just wished me a happy birthday which always helps too. And he sent photos of children he cares for in his job working with illegal boat people. Australia in all its wisdom is now sending the boat people to PNG – I will not comment because this is such a hot topic now and I have my opinions but they are best kept in my own head. Sacha looks after the ones who are under 18, the rest get sent to intern camps then off to PNG. Melbourne is probably one of the better cities in the world though very expensive. We looked at some real estate in the hills outside of the city and we are ready to move there but probably won’t.
  • Back to school. Back to work. Back to as interesting as life can be. We all have different paths to get to where we are. Mine is probably not the most typical teacher’s path. I got into teaching because I like to create and youth are so creative.  For the most part adults have lost or covered or buried their creativity, the urge to be wild with imagination. I was not a very good student and passed only band in grade 10. I actually got a lower mark in French and in math doing both over for a second year. I still have my report card with the 40’s and 50’s for final grades just so I do not get on my high horse and say ‘look at me I have a PhD. I left before finishing tenth grade and that was it until 1991. I was 44 with two boys at school and a failed tofu business and illusions of being a writer and a creative free spirit. So I enrolled in a BA program at Deakin University, Melbourne and my ex-wife said that I would never make it past one year because I was too stupid. Maybe it was because that pissed me off so much that I persevered and four years later I had a BA in journalism, then I went and got an Honours in Children’s Literature, then a Masters in literature and whilst doing a degree in computing science at the top ranked tech school, Flinders University in Adelaide, I switched to a PhD which took me seven years to complete in 2005,14 years after starting uni. My midlife crisis was that I discovered I loved learning. I have gotten more degrees (and just three years ago I did another one to get my teaching degree) and computing certificates and whatnots since. Maybe when I retire I will just go back and get some more degrees. Of course I was very lucky living in Australia where I never paid anything; their system takes it out of one’s taxes and since I have not really made any money in Australia since getting all these degrees I sort of never paid for any. What I have loved about teaching is that I have been lucky to teach creative stuff. And even luckier to be teaching film and video and collaborating with students who have much better ideas for films than many adults.

How much more fun can one have in life than to say to some kids ‘hey let’s make some films, do some news shows, make rock videos, collaborate with students in other countries and create a film via Skype with them? The older I get the more interesting life is becoming. I goofed off and partied and did what I thought was creative stuff – like my thousands of on-line picture poems and before that I was a street artist in New Orleans, NYC, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Adelaide, South Australia where I did my last shows in 1997 when at age fifty I finally woke up and thought maybe I am too old for this and I should just go nuts on academic stuff. I found I loved doing research, I loved computers and when the World Wide Web was invented in 1990 I knew my life had just started. I probably have ten-thousand web pages; if I believed in astrology I would say it is such a Leo thing. No doubt this will be my last year of teaching but the next thing to do will be even more fun or creative or fulfilling; I have ideas but they are best kept set aside to be nurtured throughout this year.

  • Lenovo …. what a heart breaker you are.. all my grief to bear… so I researched what I wanted; sixteen gigabytes RAM, a terabyte HD, fast video card all in a solid 15 inch laptop. I bought it in Atlanta and had a wonderful time for a few weeks with it. Wrote blogs, did some video and photography stuff, started experimenting with the new Adobe Creative Cloud – give me more time universe I need time to create – and had a good run of it. There were a few days in the mountains of Georgia, Big Canoe, outside of Atlanta where I sat early mornings watching the sun come up and bonding with Lenovo. Then days in Jersey City and days in Malaysia editing stuff – love Malaysia and I will need chunks of time to edit more clips and photos from those days, then three weeks in Australia which started off well. After a few days Lenovo (Yoga 500 = bloody yoga what are we reliving the 1960s?) died, blue screen of death. I spent a day on phone calls. Australia Lenovo would not fix one bought in the States and the States said I needed a boot disc which they did not give me with the computer but they would send it to me. They would not send it to Australia and I spoke to several people including a supervisor. They would only send it to the States or Canada and Lenovo rabbits on how global they are. What? So I gave them Narda’s son’s address in Atlanta and I wrote him to send it special three day mail and I would pay the one-hundred dollars for the special service. He wanted to save us money and paid $15 for what he was told would take seven working days to get to us. Twelve working days later, a week ago Thursday we had to leave Adelaide and the DVD still was not there. The next day, Friday when I checked my email at the Beijing Airport after Narda rescued her Vegemite I received an email from Narda’s mum saying it had arrived so she went to the post office and sent it to me here in China. We have had mail get lost coming here so if it ever arrives that will be wonderful. Lenovo I hate you.
  • Baggage allowances – these sometimes are a grey area depending on the person at the counter. We always look at each person to see who will be most sympathetic to all our many needs: check the veggie meal for me, an aisle seat as I have a fear of being trapped in life: physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically,  seats toward the front, as we are always in a hurry to get off – though not bulkhead seats as we have long legs and need to stretch out, and of course our constantly year after year, trip after trip extra luggage and/or weight, and aside – can you  not put us in a row with or near babies which have a tendency to holler all the way? We sometimes make a bad assessment and having “no is not the correct answer” as our mantra, we then need a supervisor)

Malaysian Airlines (international) – check-in, they have allowed us 24 kilos (any number of bags), plus 7 kilos carry-on, strictly enforced (this was ‘enforced’ at the Adelaide end, we were a bit over, almost a kilo, but Aussies help when they are able) and a camera bag or computer bag. The carry-on rule was not checked in KL because we were in transit and as Malaysia is touting themselves as the shopping capital of the world (forget Singapore and Hong Kong) they would not mind if we bought heaps of crap at the airport and added it to our carry-on which of course we did – oh look more stuff to put into storage and drag through life with us).

China Southern (domestic) – check-in = 20 kilos (any number of bags), carry-on – there seems to be no restrictions; we were overweight for check-in and took three bags as carry-on, all quite heavy as they would not allow our extra bag to be checked-in. They then disputed Vegemite as a liquid. Good grief!

Virgin Airlines or any Australian airline (domestic), inflexible – check their info.

USA, good golly what a mess… As I wrote a couple of blogs ago Delta lost our stuff three times for one destination (simply put it was on a flight to Newark which was cancelled after we sat on the tarmac for a couple of hours so instead of staying in Atlanta overnight and going on a flight the next day we took a flight to Albany, New York that evening and we were told our luggage was on our flight but it was not. Three days we were upstate and our stuff never arrived. After three days we said not to send our things to Albany as we were going back to Jersey City and we would collect it at Newark. When we got to Newark Narda’s bag was there but not mine, it was sent to Albany hours before we arrived and it took another couple of days to get it. Though we do appreciate that Delta reimbursed the $400 we spent for ‘necessities’ we needed until I did finally get my luggage).

Basically even United International will not allow more than one bag per person unlike Malaysian Airlines.

As this is getting a tad bit long and I already have begun thinking about my next blog I need to wrap this up – I just wanted to catch up for the past couple of weeks – I write for myself so to remember stop, after all I am now 66 did I mention that already?

  • Best loo in Kaifaqu… As we know finding a sit-down toilet in China is definitely the shits – I mean a chore. I have never squatted because I do not have the legs for it, well maybe, I do ride my bike almost every day and I spend heaps of time at the gym. Just last month for July Narda got me a month membership at a great fitness place in Adelaide, ‘Goodlife’,  and some days I would spend close to two hours there escaping dark thoughts that sometimes enter my head when I am in Adelaide and I think of my time there with my children and how they are no longer there, one is no longer anywhere… back to toilets so in Kaifaqu where we do a majority of our shopping not even McDonalds has a sit down loo but a squat one. I discussed toilets in a previous blog and even showed an image of a squat toilet so we will give that a flush, OK so I have lost any sort of literary uniqueness. But we found not only a sit down toilet but a really great loo with unfinished cedar wood walls, fancy wash basins and a really trendy place to just hang out. Go upstairs in Manns Coffee for a relief. They also have wifi but I was unable to get my phone fired up but it was not important enough to pursue. We got a mug of American coffee for 30 RMB about five dollars which is the going price. It is not as good as coffee at McDonalds but throw in the loo and it is worth it. We also had their waffles with fruit which was my birthday breakfast. Manns Coffee is on the main street past Ansheng shopping centre – the spelling may be wrong – hey I was a high school drop out until I was 44 and now I am 66 with heaps of degrees and certificates so it is a wonder I can spell anything. And on the next block is what we call the Green Door shopping centre. I do not know the name of the place as it is written in funny looking characters but it has green doors. This is where we shop the most as nuts and vegetables are cheap and the big thing for me is that it sells fresh soy milk and tofu. They make their tofu there and after two years they always give me a big smile and know what I want. I have my milk bottles and they just ladle it in and about two liters of soy milk and a kilo of tofu cost about 10 RMB or a buck fifty. I use to sell a block of tofu from my tofu factory in Adelaide back in the 1980s for a dollar for half a kilo. I am still working on my tofu ebook – http://neuage.us/tofu/ with the sub chapters such as ‘tofu made me a bad astrologer’ and many other tales along with recipes.

Reason to believe

July 12-13 2013: Friday/Saturday

Home – I think – after decades where home is becomes questionable I think we are home. If we go by where the majority of our crap is that would be China but if we go by where we own our home then that is either one of two houses in upstate New York but nether of them feels like home anymore and our house in New Jersey we saw our furniture in there last week but that no longer feels like home. So perhaps Adelaide is home but this is not quite what I remember. I lived in various places in South Australia from 1981 – 2002 so this I suppose is home. My children and I lived in ten houses in ten years during 1984 – 1995, a bit of an unstable time.

Australia as visiting-home; from 2002 until February 2013 we would visit for four or five weeks a year as we lived in New York then China. We even built a house in Adelaide, in Lochiel Park, that we have never lived in and our tenant has now had it for three years and we wish he would buy it. When we would visit here for the past eleven years we stayed in an apartment upstairs from Narda’s parents but they moved a couple of months ago and for the first time in Adelaide we are homeless. Narda lived here ever since getting off of a boat from Holland when she was four up until teaming up with me. Now we are both homeless where we feel at home.

Not to worry we loved Malaysia and even managed to see a lot considering we lost one day after Malaysian Airlines canceled our flight and put us up for an extra day and night in Beijing.

It was the easiest airport we have gone through anywhere in the world. Just a stamp in the passport. No stupid questions both when we arrived and when we left. Malaysia is courting old folks so perhaps that is what they think we are. They want Westerners to retire there as long as they have three-thousand dollars a month to live on. I think that is per couple. The people are very friendly though I do admit I am at a loss to understand their belief system. I have always wondered why people believe what they do and why they are so adamant that their beliefs are the way it is. I have tried many belief systems even spent years toward becoming a priest and decades being an astrologer and basically I think they all have something to offer but none of them are really the complete system. I have taken bits and pieces from different belief systems and believe-in what makes sense to me which I suppose is what the majority of people do. Every religion is based on a leader who at the end of the day if you take away what the reality at the start of their trip was and then morph it over the centuries it is never like what everyone claims that person did or was or even still is. Perhaps humans believe in and follow someone because they are afraid to live their life without the crutch of an outside force/person/being/etc. It is easier to believe in someone who no longer or never did exist and describe it in terms of faith than to take on the responsibility for one’s own life. I blunder through life I know but I surely am not going to ask an outside non-existing being or ‘invisible’ deity for guidance. I am going to make a rational stab at going in a direction that makes sense and do what I think is best, and depend on mistakes/short comings/walking-into-walls and random experiences that may or may not have been beneficial/correct/moral (as per someone else belief system). I mean do we want to believe David Icke’s trip about how reptilian people are waiting to take over the planet? I must admit I have looked at his stuff for the past couple of decades for entertainment purposes and he is a hoot, one of the world’s great comedians and even funnier are those who believe him or take him seriously. Many people are just ‘trying-it-on’ and I am sure they are just as amused that anyone takes them as true blue as I am.

I have always loved monorails – every since seeing one in the movie Fahrenheit 451 in the mid-1960’s and riding one at the Montreal World’s Fair in 1967 and of course the one in Sydney I have thought a city should have lots of them and not just as a tourist attraction. Kuala Lumpur has a functioning good monorail and we rode it end to end. They do not have subways but elevated trains and the train to the Islamic Arts Museum stops at Pasar Seni which is one of the main places to go to. The other really different experience in KL is raised pedestrian walkways. Instead of footpaths (they have them too) along the road they have footpaths in the air (I have video clips but not photographs though if I were not so lazy I would use Adobe Premier and take a photo out of the video. I love the Adobe Creative Cloud and have a year’s subscription and have downloaded all their programs. Want to just stay at home and use the Creative Cloud but I hear there are other things one needs to do when coming to visit family, like visit family)

Below is me hanging out with Narda’s daughter-in-law. The last time we were here, six-months ago in February, Maggie would start crying every time she saw me, which I thought was just a normal female reaction to me, but this time we got along and collaborated over some technology. She was showing me stuff on my iPhone and I was going to show her how to make her own webpage using Creative Cloud Dreamweaver but she was not that interested which I understand a bit as she is only about 18 months old. She was even less interested in my new computer which has 16 gig-memory and all the latest bells and whistles and did I mention the whole new Adobe Suite – why would I leave the house?

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This was our first visit to a Muslim (65 per cent they say) country. I do like the get-up folks wear and if it is not irreverent to say it is like being at a costume party with us being the ones who forgot to bring any kool looking gear. We went to the Islamic Arts Museum which was really interesting. Their art is great but after reading lots of stuff from their beliefs and looking at exhibits I really do not understand what they are on about or why they do what they do. I did come away with the feeling that they are really really pissed off at the Jews and Israel. Again, I am not a politician or know much stuff, probably really don’t know anything about anything but if their exhibits are true then Israel really did do the dirty on the Palestinians. I see there is a book to buy called ‘A brief history of Palestine for dummies‘ that I can download, perhaps that will clear up my confusion. I read one book in the museum – it was really thin – about how the Christian’s Paul was really a bad dude – I never realised how much someone disliked him. I read it because on the back cover it said that the author had studied religion and that this book described the differences between the early Christians, Paul (which the book said was pretty much a bad Jew) and the Muslim religion. After skimming through it I realised it was quite the pro-Muslim read and was not really a thesis on comparing religions.

Besides the rhetoric and propaganda we did like their art. I would love to have our home – if we actually knew where our home existed – with tiles like they do. Of course they embed their verses from that book they like to read into a lot of their art and I am not sure if I want some of those lines on the wall of my home.

It is 12 RM ($3.78 US) per person to get into the museum but they only charged us 10. I thought they were being kind to us until I looked at our tickets more closely after we left and saw the word ‘senior citizen’ 10 RM at the bottom of the ticket. What? Are we that obviously old?

Narda in front of the museum – I have lots from inside even though there were signs, which I saw after – that said no photos, oops!

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Our hotel was really good. At the bottom was a large shopping centre and of course having Narda come through the door of any shopping centre is a cause of celebration and welcoming for the locals,

door

We were on the 26th floor of the Premiera Hotel with a great view, below is watching the reflection of traffic on a building,

night view

Of course the big thing to do is visit the Petronas Towers. I think I found a new thing for 911 conspirators to think about – you know how they come up with all these theories and why the New York City towers came down – well I saw tee-shirts that said ‘Petronas Towers – currently the tallest twin towers in the world’. Maybe it was not one of those many conspiracies that folks on the Internet want us to believe but in actual fact the sellers of these tee-shirts who had family members do the deed just so they could sell more tee-shirts that said they were the tallest twin towers in the world.

towersWe did make one sort of a blunder. We got lost as we do wherever we go and Narda suggested we pop into a hotel we saw right where we were lost. The Majestic Hotel – OK so it looked a bit classic, later we learned that it was built in 1932 and I love the movie ‘The Majestic’ with Jim Carey so we went into the very fancy lobby sat down and asked for a cup of coffee.

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Well we were surprised at how small the cup of coffee was. It was served in fancy ornate small tea cups with a pretty little bowl with sugar. We relaxed and stopped at the bar to pay – holy cow – 45 RM which is $14.17 (because we put it on our credit card the Visa charge on our account is $15.22 US for two small cups of coffee) or to put the two cups together which still would not equal a full cup; we paid twenty-eight dollars, US for a cuppa. Blimey. To put that in perspective we had a full breakfast of eggs, toast, two cups of coffee and two cups of orange juice each at a our favourite Indian restaurant (Lotus Restaurant in Chow Kit) earlier in the day for nine dollars for the two of us. Not to worry, we just are not the classy folks that we thought/think/wish/perceive ourselves as. I suppose we should have just booked in a couple of days and eaten our meals there and forgotten about affording the rest of our trip.

After that little expense we walked to Central Market and along the Historic Walk all about twenty minutes away from the propaganda wielding art centre. We got another bag of clothes with the illusion that we needed more and the hope that we could squeeze just a few more garments into our bag and once again ate our meals in Indian places as most eatery places were closed due to Ramadan fasting.

Below is a curve in the tracks in Kuala Lumpur.

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So here we are, Adelaide, sort of home for me for more than 20 years plus a visit place for another 12 years, in the midst of winter which compared to where we live in Northern China is not cold at all.

After the start of our mishaps with Delta Airlines (who just wrote to say they would reimburse us for the $400 we spent on ‘necessities’ due to lost luggage, – see earlier reports – so we sort of like Delta a bit and almost apologize for what I said last week how they were a crap organisation) then having Malaysian Airlines cancel our flight to KL (and their putting us up at a good hotel and paying for three meals) we did get ourselves here and it is up to us to have an enjoyable time.

This will probably be my last blog until going back to China in three weeks because what would I write about? Everyone in Australia is so normal there is nothing to say about them. I will spend lots of time, if I have any free time, sorting out the previous couple of week’s video clips and putting them on YouTube and of course having a grand old time with Adobe Creative Cloud. I know there has been a lot of complaining about taking away purchasing programs and giving us subscriptions. I would rather have the subscription because every month Adobe updates various bits and pieces in the 26 programs I have – some I have never used before. Social and family life? Hey can I put that all on hold for a year just to get really good at making webpages, e-books, videos, apps, games, and enhance photos of myself so I will not look so old in a few weeks when I turn 66?

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Blue Sky

July 09 Tuesday 2013

Blue sky

After a couple of choking days in Beijing – it was much worse than times before – what a relief to see blue sky again.

Surely we would not have two flights canceled in the same trip. Surely it is only Delta that is unable to get us from place-to-place with our luggage happily going elsewhere. But no it is the nature of travel period. We use to fly around-the-world every year, did so for 12 years plus lots of flights between New York and Australia and we did not get any canceled flights. A couple of times luggage arrived at a different time than us but we got our compensations and life move forward, sometimes better dressed than when we left thanks to misplaced luggage and insurance. But this year is quite different. It started in February when our flight Dalian, China to Adelaide was canceled – I rabbited on about that in a previous blog-tale, ‘A Chinese Miracle’. That was important because Narda’s first grand-daughter was being Christened, not something that would happen in my family as I did not quite do all the society-rituals that most humans do as I blundered through life raising my sons, but it was important to Narda plus her son was turning 30 so being told our flight was canceled to Australia did not go well with her and we found ourselves on a different airline later that day and all went well.

In Atlanta last week at least we were at the end of the runway before being told our flight was not going to take us to Nirvana or any other such similar sunny summer spot. Stuff them! They took us back to the terminal and said perhaps the next day we could go but we thwarted them and got a flight that night to Albany, New York and left the other passengers floundering about to get hotel vouchers and a hope that the next day they would get to NYC. Not us we are too impatient, got-to-travel, it does not matter where, just take us some place. It is like when we are home in China (did I say home? Actually I suppose it is because 67 percent of our crap is there, the rest being scattered around New York, New Jersey and Adelaide, Australia – I always say Australia after Adelaide because no one has ever heard of it – check your wine bottle mate – that is if you drink good wine – it will be from near Adelaide); when we are in China, Golden Pebble Beach where 67 percent of our crap is – we take random buses, of course we do that wherever we go just to be on the move. Our only criteria is that there are two empty seats on the bus. Where it goes does not matter.

Jersey-window-closeupJersey City industry

clouds-in-window

Not over Beijing

Yesterday we checked in, went through security, customs, immigration and then were told our flight was canceled. They gave us breakfast – in a restaurant that advertised cowboy bones,

cowboy-bones-smallI suppose they were just making fun of vegetarians. We had a somewhat decent breakfast on the expense account of Malaysia.

Then we had to go back through immigration, where they stamped ‘delete’ on our entry stamp, back through customs, and back on the airport train to the baggage area to collect our stuff that thought it would go somewhere but instead came back to us. I know my suitcase has been flying about the place on its own lately and it looked at me with dismay as it did not get to go anywhere this time. I took firm possession of my wanderlust suitcase – written with photo included in a previous blog-tale ‘my wanderlust suitcase’ and we were clumped together into a bus headed for downtown. I took photos of Narda with my cell-phone but they did not come out very good and I was reluctant to drag out my Nikon to shoot; the shots being of Narda in the midst of a posse of Muslim women half her size and overdressed for the warm weather if you know what I mean. We have, or to be precise, she has, a word-warning for when I am being inappropriate – I can’t say what it is for some reason, but it is the name of a city, and she is going ‘Melbourne’, ‘Melbourne’ as I am making, what I think are funny, comments. I seem to hear that word a lot when we are out amongst people so if I am talking to you and Narda is saying ‘Melbourne’, ‘Melbourne’ it is either we are landing at Melbourne airport or we are off to visit my son, Sacha who lives in Melbourne or it is because I am saying stuff I should not be saying. Honestly I never think I am saying inappropriate stuff but I hear ‘Melbourne’, ‘Melbourne’ and stop saying whatever it is I am on about.

We get to Metro Park a rather OK place and we quickly get to the counter to get our room. With probably more than 200 passengers we have been moving through the masses with considerable ease. It was lunch time and the airline had given us vouchers for smorgasbord lunch as well as smorgasbord dinner. We were up at 4 am and by afternoon were ready for a day off. After a frantic visiting and travel difficulties in the States a day down was a good idea and for someone else to pay the bill always means we have more money to use on the important things of life, shopping.

What was difficult was that we were sort of left at the hotel, all a couple of hundred of us. None of the hotel staff knew if we were flying out the next morning or even how to get in touch with the airline. We were told by five pm a note would be slipped under our door. Well that did not happen and we expected it won’t so we were on the phone to Malaysian Airline in Malaysia as no one would pick up the phone in their offices in Beijing. The hotel was not keen on us making long distance phone calls but they were not familiar with the Narda verb (see earlier posts) and we were on the phone until we got a half- hearted nod (we could not see the nod but it felt like someone down there in Malaysia was nodding) that possibly we could be on the next morning flight which was already full and that possibly we could take the four PM flight which of course Narda let it be known was not possible.

At five AM, this morning, Tuesday, July 9, we got a room-service phone-call informing us to get our sorry asses down to the lobby in preparation for a six AM bus departure for the airport. Some time during the night they had slipped a note under the door informing us that we all had to go to the airport whether we were on the next flight or not.

Not to worry – they at least had box lunches for us with some bread like substance an egg which smelt strange so we tossed them and Narda went off to get us coffee which they said we had to pay for and Narda informed them we wanted coffee and that we were not going to pay for it and sure enough she returned with our coffee, free, of course, then she went back to get milk when I noticed there was none in the coffee. It is not that I am lazy, I do heaps in our relationship, but at the moment I was reading sports scores in the newspaper and as a male that is one of my roles in life.

To make this first part which is just getting to KL short, suffice it to say we got onto the bloody nine AM flight and we will be landing in half an hour so we will have a couple of days of either rest or adventure before going to Australia where Narda will busy herself with grandmother duties and I will have a play on my new computer; 16 gig RAM and all the latest stuff and the whole Adobe Creative Cloud software to explore.

Not that it matters but in a city the size of Beijing we were surprised to be staying at a hotel (we have stayed at Metro Park in Shanghai, a good chain of hotels for sure, but the hotel we had booked in the night before was onlyt a block away so in our couple of days in Beijing we did not go far. I suppose most people visiting Beijing would be somewhat more exploitative but we could not breathe the air and we have wandered about Beijing enough and it is not really our city, not like New York City is.

Overall we are happy with Malaysian Airlines, they did the right thing. We discovered they did a bit of a lie. They told everyone that the flight was canceled due to weather in Hong Kong but when we researched it the weather in Hong Kong was fine. A bloke we were speaking to at the Malaysian Airline desk in Malaysia said that there was mechanical problems with the craft and it was not flying. This was right after the crash in San Francisco with the same type of plane and we think that was related – they did an extra check on our plane and probably a few bolts were missing. Whatever the cause airlines tend to say weather related because then they get out of being responsible as it is an ‘Act-of-God’ .

Our first impression of Malaysia is really good. I probably should not say this but at the airport it was like being at a costume party – I have never been in a city that had so many different clothing styles. Going through customs and immigration was so quick. We have been so busy lately we did not check to see even if we needed a visa but they just asked what we were doing here and we said holiday and they said have a good time and we were on the way. Nothing like all the check points in China. The airport is good the people are friendly and we got a taxi to our hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur and we got a room with a view on the 26th floor of a new modern place. See the Petronas Twin Towers in the distance – that will probably be our first visit today but as always we are up at five AM and no one else is. The second image is a view from our window at night. Wake up KL we have room in our shit case for more stuff.

It is Ramdim fasting time so it is limiting to where we can eat.

We have to use a VPN to use Facebook and Twitter and all the rest so must be social Western sites are blocked but the Internet is very fast probably faster than in the States and surely faster than China. Yesterday in Beijing to insert a photo into my blog took about an hour for each here it is just seconds.

view from 26th floor room at the Premiera Hotel Kuala Lumpur

view from 26th floor room at the Premiera Hotel Kuala Lumpur

view from 26th floor room at the Premiera Hotel Kuala Lumpur

view from 26th floor room at the Premiera Hotel Kuala Lumpur

got to tell ya about this

was me

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yesterday perhaps before