“Do not take my Vegemite ”
In the past six weeks we have gone through eight airports with their security checks: Dalian, Beijing (three times), Newark (twice), Atlanta, Albany, New York, Kula Lumpur (twice), Adelaide (four times), and Melbourne (twice).
Narda bought a jar of Vegemite and a jar of Promite at Woolies (Woolworth’s) in Adelaide after we had packed our check-in luggage so she placed it in our carry-on. No worries, we went through customs at Adelaide and KL. After a short night’s sleep at Metro Park Lido in Beijing (we arrived in Beijing at one AM and got to the hotel at 2:30 AM, up for breakfast five hours later and to the airport in time for our fight to Dalian which we just discovered has been delayed four hours. Most flights in China or out of China are delayed by many hours.
Customs @ Beijing Domestic was brutal. We had to take almost everything out of our carry-on bags then they took the jar of Vegemite and Promite from Narda’s bag. Narda was far from ‘she’ll be right mate’.
Vegemite ad from the 1960s “We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek.”
The customs agent chick walked off with the two jars in her hands with Narda close by saying ‘give me back my vegemite’. Good grief. I shoved all my bits and pieces into my bags – three carry-on bags because we were overweight for check-in plus Narda’s carry-on bags and ran after the jar carriers. At some desk in a corner of the terminal the customs lady was trying to open the jars which Narda was trying to take back from her. Narda kept saying that it was food and that every other airport allowed it through. Finally Narda opened the Vegemite jar, the woman sniffed it and started to look up on her computer monitor but Narda had the jars in her hand and we were off to our gate. I think the smell was a bit OK as it looks and smells a bit like something that could have been created out of soy bean paste. Narda was still upset but we had the stuff. Granted I remember seeing a few tubes and jars of it at home in our pantry but I suppose there never can be too much of one’s comfort foods. It is like Dutch Salty Liquorice, we always have a bag or two near at hand; well Narda does and I will have a salty drop now and then. Her parents always have a box of them next to their driver seat so whenever we go someplace there is the Salty Liquorice. Most people hate it and will spit out the liquorice right away though I do not mind them. I wonder if we would have had such an ordeal with customs if they took away Narda’s salty liquorice.
We did get out of Beijing though several hours later than we were scheduled to. Standing in front of us were two new teachers at our school and their sons from Peru, though at the time we did not know that. We saw them a few days later when school started and I said to them that I was standing behind them in line on the way to Dalian.
As always our true and faithful driver, Jack was there to meet us at the airport and we instantly felt like we were back at home. Being back in our home after six weeks flying around and rescuing vegemite from the grasping hands of officialdom was a nice experience. Our plants had been watered by the cleaning ladies and our home with all our crap was there shaking with excitement at our return.
On the note of all our crap… as if I have joked/complained/explained in the past it is scattered: in a house in upstate New York, in a shed in upstate New York, furniture in our Jersey City home, a piano in our Adelaide home, of course our home in China with even closets filled with boxes from years ago that we dragged here from the States two years ago and our furniture and now a storage bin in Adelaide full. We get exhausted just thinking about all the material belongings we have and I wonder how I managed to spend decades with just a bag of things when I was in my 20s and early 30s and traveled the world. The stuff in Adelaide has been moved about for more than a decade from being in the parent’s shed to Narda’s son’s shed then he moved and now into paid storage. Our firm confirmation, including a handshake, was that we would go through each box and toss what we did not really really need/want. We had left Adelaide in 2002 bound for New York with the belief we would be back in one maybe two years. Now eleven years later we have made the decision it will be one more year overseas then back home. So what we stored twelve years earlier we have managed to live without and therefore no longer would keep. Narda wants to sell everything and buy a live-in vehicle and travel around Australia for years as normal retired folks would which would mean all the more that we need to dump stuff. When we were in upstate New York a few weeks ago we went into one of those large bus-homes that Yanks trawl the USA, staying overnight in Walmart car parks in. It was ten years old, had pullout sides and would have suited us fine and we considered purchasing it on the spot until reason reared its ugly head and we realized it was not only impracticable but we did not have the money or place to store it not to mention that we have no intention to live in the States again. Nevertheless we got ourselves all psyched up and went to the storage bin with a whole day in front of us to do nothing but go through all our stuff and put it in a locked bin. At the moment it was all sitting outside of bins until we arrived to dump and store. We opened two or three boxes realized we did not know whether we wanted to keep the stuff within or not, resealed the boxes and put them into a storage bin. So hopefully a year from now we will move into our house in Adelaide or get an RV with less worldwide possessions and hit the road. We are following the grey nomads, an Australian site, http://thegreynomads.com.au/ that are blogs of folks that live and travel around Australia in their vans.
So my word for the summer is ‘letters’. Firstly, I found a box of letters from my brother Robert that he wrote to people in the 1960s and 1970s (he died in 1994). I found a box of letters from ex-girlfriends but we won’t tell Narda that I slipped that box in between other boxes I kept and then there are the most important discovery of the past ten years for me.
When my son, Leigh, was playing baseball in South Africa for the Australian National Team in 1999 he met Jackie. I would find her name in his belongings years later. I contacted her once in about 2005 and said I found her name and could she tell me anything about her meeting with my son. I also told her that Leigh committed suicide in 2003 a few weeks after turning 20. I set up a Facebook site for Leigh which has hundreds of people who knew him on it. A year ago Jackie contacted me via Leigh’s Facebook page to tell me she had moved from South Africa to Perth in Western Australia and that she had a pile of letters that Leigh had written her. I do not check Leigh’s Facebook page much as it is too difficult for me. I see all his friends, most of whom have children now, including Jackie. I usually check on his birthday in July and read the wonderful tributes his friends write him on that day. I told Jackie I would be in Australia last month and she sent me his letters. There were seven of them, some ten pages long. He had written them in late 1999 when he was in Adelaide and early 2000 when he moved to Florida to play in the LA Dodgers organization. They were love letters. I had never known that he had met someone in Africa. He had a girlfriend in Adelaide and as I was a single parent with him and his brother I thought I knew all that was going on. I never knew he was having problems in his mind until I read his last very long email to his girlfriend in Australia written August 10th (my birthday) 2003 in which he said he had known since the age of ten that he would kill himself. What am I supposed to do with that?
His letters to Jackie did say he was having problems but he never said what they were and I always thought that he was at the top of the world being chased by six or seven major league teams since he was 16 (1999). His brother and I lived what I thought at the time was a fairly happy life.
I wrote my hand-writing analysis friend two days ago; he is a world authority and works with the FBI and police in the States and has written several books on the subject and I asked if he would look at Leigh’s letters. He wrote straight back that he would. I scanned and sent off several pages. So this is why the real word in my mind to describe the summer holiday was ‘letters’. Today is my 66th birthday (August 10 – see? Leo all the way) but that is not the significant day of my life. August 13 2003, ten years ago, Leigh flew to Sydney without notifying the Dodgers; met up with his ‘girlfriend’ at the time, not Jackie (story at http://neuage.org/Idol-star.gif click on the image to enlarge) and the next morning he was at the bottom of his fifteen story balcony at the Novotel Hotel Olympic Park across from the baseball stadium where he had practiced for the Olympic team that was to play in Athens. I did not even know he was in Australia.
I was finishing my PhD at the University of South Australia and we were to head back to New York after the weekend to go back to teaching. Narda came in to my office put her arms around me and said ‘Leigh is dead’. Nothing can change those words. We flew to Sydney and I had to identify him. Narda kept me together then and has since and here a decade later we are preparing for classes again. Now is not like then. We flew back to New York after the funeral and with a couple of hours sleep, incredible depth of despair, jetlag, and all the rest I was standing in front of a room of girls at Russell Sage College welcoming them back to a new year of school. I did not say “I am falling apart because my son killed himself five days ago” but instead taught that first class which was on ‘communication’ and the rest of my classes that day and my classes at the other school I was teaching at, the University of NY at Albany. I managed to appear and teach but it was just a holography of me the real me had died too.Ten years does not diminish depths it only gives it more texture. There is nothing that can be done. I still wake from the same type of dreams; Leigh has done something that has gotten him out of baseball and I am trying to get him back as he keeps asking me – then I awake… Narda hears me my despair wakes her too. I find comfort in going to the gym and lifting weights. I keep lifting more as if I can lift the burden off of me. I suppose it is better to do that than any other escape, at least it is healthy. Leigh use to life weights and spent a lot of time at the gym, maybe which has added to my escape. Leigh was big and strong, he weighed 220 pounds, was six foot four and a solid athlete. He has been reduced to a box of ashes which I still have no idea what to do with. So ‘letters’ were my theme and one word mindset. After death everything pales into insignificance, almost everything. I have a son who is happy and successful and doing stuff that is good: recording hip-hop, working with boat people who have crashed into Australia, works with youth programs involving street kids getting them into street art and hip-hop, giving their life meaning, so he and Narda – my islands and mountains and strengths and they who make me laugh and help me go forth into the day so I can believe that when I feel that all else is insignificant that nothing can hurt me ever again I can still love; my son and wife give me that, they are my two protectorates. I have become inoculated against suffering, nothing can be taken away. In a way it is a liberating feeling to know nothing more can be taken only layers and my core is not accessible by life’s activities or babbling voices that echo off the walls of my Self. I also have freed myself of beliefs that I had which too is liberating because the beliefs that we have, usually passed on to us or brainwashed into us via media or spiritual hustlers are nonsense to begin with. To stop believing is to start living. Instead of following where planets are I now look at a moment and see how that can morph into something creative. How can I storyboard a mesh-up of many different colours happening at once?
We were talking today about standards yesterday, a big focus within our school, and I said I am not following one standard, like the technology one. I am using the Language Arts Standards to create the story, the music standards, the Arts Standards, IT, maybe math and other standards – I want to use every subject in our school to produce a collaborative film. Then I want to take the story, whether written by the Language Arts, or some other department and send it to Frank and Kay who are now in Burma and have their students create a film interpretation of the story as well as my film class to do the same then we can make a composite film. We integrate technology, actually that is my job at our school, but I want to integrate creativity using every department into film making this a year of production of the parts of the whole. Something like that in simple statements. Instead of getting too hung up on grades I want to unfetter the yoke of learning and see if we can find the divine spark in each student to create not only their masterpiece but a collective community of strangers piece. To quote Jefferson Airplanes (1960s)
“you are the Crown of Creation
And you’ve got no place to go’
I would add yes they have a place to go – take it to the next realm. We quit too easy. I continued with 14 years of university under trying times; raising two children, poverty, ten homes in ten years, no family support (I was in a foreign country, Australia, which strangely enough is now my home and the USA is my foreign country. Though I am a duel citizen I no longer feel that I am a Yank I don’t care how much my wife tells me I most definitely sound like one) and when you’ve got no place to go the only way out is to be creative. Maybe it was because I was a street person most of my life and I could live in the moment which is quite a creative thing to do. Creativity to a street person is survival meaning to survive one needs to be creative. But in reality I was most not successful I failed to read my son and at the time I thought I was very tuned into my children, I thought I was psychic in regards to them I was at the top of the spiritual mountain but hey it is all an illusion. One son is now happy has a great girl friend and will soon be making a three month tour of Europe. I think he and his life is real kool. I thought my ball playing son was kool too. We threw a ball every morning and every evening, one-hundred times, I taught him to be a major league pitcher then he no longer wanted it all. He had star potential. We all have start potential.
At the Dwight School in upper Manhattan the graduating students could choose anyone to give their graduating speech. Dwight is a prestigious school with many famous people having children at it (Paris Hilton was there up until the year before I started and members of The Strokes a popular rock band started their band while students at The Dwight School). I was just a silly person who came up with silly ideas for projects. But I was the overwhelming choice to give their farewell speech. I was going to say no but the Leo in me jumped out and said yes. I told them the story of my son – it was sad I suppose – high school students were teary eyed, maybe I am just mean but I had to tell the story. I was a bit graphic but I sure highlight the good times too. My message was simple that no matter how difficult life gets do not kill your self. My son ended his life because his relationship to his girlfriend ended. My belief is that because his mother was not an active part of his life he could not have another female reject him though I would never say that to anyone – maybe I said it to his mother at his funeral because she said mean things to me that day and told me it was all my fault.
How much more fun can one have in life than to say to some kids ‘hey let’s make some films, do some news shows, make rock videos, collaborate with students in other countries and create a film via Skype with them? The older I get the more interesting life is becoming. I goofed off and partied and did what I thought was creative stuff – like my thousands of on-line picture poems and before that I was a street artist in New Orleans, NYC, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Adelaide, South Australia where I did my last shows in 1997 when at age fifty I finally woke up and thought maybe I am too old for this and I should just go nuts on academic stuff. I found I loved doing research, I loved computers and when the World Wide Web was invented in 1990 I knew my life had just started. I probably have ten-thousand web pages; if I believed in astrology I would say it is such a Leo thing. No doubt this will be my last year of teaching but the next thing to do will be even more fun or creative or fulfilling; I have ideas but they are best kept set aside to be nurtured throughout this year.
Malaysian Airlines (international) – check-in, they have allowed us 24 kilos (any number of bags), plus 7 kilos carry-on, strictly enforced (this was ‘enforced’ at the Adelaide end, we were a bit over, almost a kilo, but Aussies help when they are able) and a camera bag or computer bag. The carry-on rule was not checked in KL because we were in transit and as Malaysia is touting themselves as the shopping capital of the world (forget Singapore and Hong Kong) they would not mind if we bought heaps of crap at the airport and added it to our carry-on which of course we did – oh look more stuff to put into storage and drag through life with us).
China Southern (domestic) – check-in = 20 kilos (any number of bags), carry-on – there seems to be no restrictions; we were overweight for check-in and took three bags as carry-on, all quite heavy as they would not allow our extra bag to be checked-in. They then disputed Vegemite as a liquid. Good grief!
Virgin Airlines or any Australian airline (domestic), inflexible – check their info.
USA, good golly what a mess… As I wrote a couple of blogs ago Delta lost our stuff three times for one destination (simply put it was on a flight to Newark which was cancelled after we sat on the tarmac for a couple of hours so instead of staying in Atlanta overnight and going on a flight the next day we took a flight to Albany, New York that evening and we were told our luggage was on our flight but it was not. Three days we were upstate and our stuff never arrived. After three days we said not to send our things to Albany as we were going back to Jersey City and we would collect it at Newark. When we got to Newark Narda’s bag was there but not mine, it was sent to Albany hours before we arrived and it took another couple of days to get it. Though we do appreciate that Delta reimbursed the $400 we spent for ‘necessities’ we needed until I did finally get my luggage).
Basically even United International will not allow more than one bag per person unlike Malaysian Airlines.
As this is getting a tad bit long and I already have begun thinking about my next blog I need to wrap this up – I just wanted to catch up for the past couple of weeks – I write for myself so to remember stop, after all I am now 66 did I mention that already?
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?
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!
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,
We were on the 26th floor of the Premiera Hotel with a great view, below is watching the reflection of traffic on a building,
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.
We 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.
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.
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?
China surely is the champion of what is and what is not and perceptions mashed together to morph into possibly acceptable perceptions, but not really. Reality is a mistaken illusion – it always has been; look at religion, personal-relationships and politics and education…. Maybe it is best not to look to see but to look to enjoy – surely not to look to ponder or philosophize, that would be akin to giving accreditation to what is really all just for fun. Do not take what you perceive to be real as truth, just enjoy. This is China – I tell myself that often – just as I would tell myself that in those psychedelic moments of the 1960s, or in my Tarot Card readings and mystical belief system of the 1970s and astrological interpretations of events/thoughts/life for some 40 years before waking up one day and saying ‘this is bullshit’. Perception is just how we colour reality in front of us. To me China and the 1960s have similarity in their un-realness. The moment is just about fun, to enjoy, to build memories for future moments when life returns to boring, which from my experience it always does.
A week from today school is over and we are preparing to travel to New York, Atlanta, Malaysia, Australia but today is a holiday; Dragon Boat Festival. Duān wǔ jié happens on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar and believe it or not I did not get a pop up message on my phone, ipad, computer; not from Google Calendar – which boldly proclaimed ‘you have no new events’ – surely it could have said ‘go back to bed it is a holiday’ but no – no reminders or messages to tell me of this glorious event. And to contribute to all those bloody fives I was wide awake at five AM demanding of my unwilling mind to go back to sleep because this is a holiday.
According to Chinese custom folks race boats, eat Zongzi, and drink wine – pretty much like an Aussie Barbie celebration for anything.
Then last night we were watching that most stupid of series (that everyone else is ranting and raving about how it is the best series of all time; what??!!!) ‘Game of Thrones’ and that idiotic Southern California blonde chick started season two or is it three – it is so mindless that I am always updating my web-pages during it and forget where in the story we are – she goes and gives birth to dragons. Good golly how could anyone like this? Narda says we should just watch it for a while because everyone is ranting and raving that it is the best series of all time and maybe at some point we may like it or at least understand what is going on. She said that about Dexter too. All that blood. We watched the whole bloody thing – to give realism to that Australian/Pommie saying – but of course I was updating my web-pages during all of that but at least it was easy to follow – just find a baddie and kill him.
From an email to staff at our school about today from our Mandarin teacher:
‘This Festival is to commemorate an upright minister called Qu Yuan. He was an excellent poet and literati as well in 300BC, the end of the Spring and Autumn Dynasty. To protect the country, Qu Yuan advised many suggestions to his emperor. While the emperor was irritated and Qu Yuan was put into a river and drowned. People were sad and took boats to save Qu Yuan, and meanwhile they wrapped zong zi and throwed into river, avoidding fishes eating Qu Yuan’s body.
Until today Chinese people retain the traditions. First zong zi was made by sticky rice only, and gradually zong zi has different types like meat inside, peanut inside. I like the very first type– with rice only–and dip some sugar on it.’
When we were asked to sign up for a celebration of all of this last Sunday we were informed that only 20 could go and a bus would take us to the Tong li Gong Palace in Kaifaqu. Of course I was excited being the academic tourist that I am. I quickly sent an email to reserve seats for Narda and I. I could barely restrain myself from running down to her room to share this wonderful news that not only had I registered for us to go but we were accepted on the bus that would only take 20 of us most chosen to this glorious event. Well she was a bit less than thrilled and wanted to know why I would want to go and hear some children singing songs. Now perhaps I had a misconception as normally I do of the reality of the event. Dragon Boat Festival? Well it sounded really great to me. I had no idea it could be anything else. Narda said that the Tong li Gong Palace was not a palace but was the women and children’s centre of Jinzhouixinqu. Damn! She had taken a first grade class there to sing earlier in the year and it is where the owner of Dalian American International School has a language school which many of our teachers work at in their spare time – though being a teacher at this school I am not sure when there is spare time.
At another time in my life I would have been disappointed but at my age everything tends to be so unlike I thought it would be at the start that I have become immune to concepts of disappointment. I suppose I would be surprised if anything in my life turned out to be how I imagined it to be at the start of the process of adventure that I had hurdled myself at before crashing into a wall of reality.
The big day arrived – last Sunday, and dragging a complaining Narda to the lobby to mingle with the assumed 20 teachers who were quick enough to sign up before the bus was full we were greeted by the other three teachers who signed up to go. We ended up going in two cars instead of a bus load of chirping, happy, Dragon Festival celebrating mates. I like the entrance to Tong li Gong Palace which of course by now I had realized was not a palace but as all things in China are – just a misconstrued notion of what a palace would be if it was a four floor office building. And yes that is a huge construct of a mother and child on top of the building – giving away any illusion that it could be anything else. Not sure when angels arrived on the Chinese mindset but there they are, western looking cherubs up there with a not very Chinese looking mother. Welcome to China where we are not quite sure of our icons or what we should believe in.
And as luck would have it – there is a YouTube clip of this wonderful event at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ – another one of those ‘gone- viral’ extremely-sought-after video clips; wait that is my illusion – now three days later – there has been one hit to it. I think that was me looking at it on another computer. But to save my two or three readers who no doubt have had a gut-full and have stopped reading by now, the thrill or agony of watching yet another one of my five-hundred plus video clips I will simply say yes some children sang, a grop danced; but that is not all. We made zong zi – a sticky rice, bean paste, red date in banana wrap thingy. However, I was a total failure and after being tutored by a patient local gal with great wrapping skills who patiently showed me over and over how to fold the stupid things quit – or I quit – here is a photo of me trying this – of course the YouTube video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ shows this even better.
The other highlight – other being second to me making zong zi, was this traditional paint dude who we were told is famous. OK I have thousands of web pages and more than five-hundred videos on line – I bet he has not done that – anyway, all those pesky planets I have in Leo constantly get in my story-line; this painter dude made a great ink drawing. I think we are taking a course with him in the fall so that will be groovy. He did this calligraphy & Chinese zither in about ten minutes. You can see this in the video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ.
To quote some stuff from the program list of what we saw:
It is two days ago, Monday that I started off talking about but having woken at five AM – it is now after 8 and Narda is still happily sleeping the holiday away and I am fading I drifted off about what today’s holiday actually was for – a dragon boat festival but as we are on the sea and not on a proper lake or river there are no races.
Monday, we, well Narda did not go as elementary stayed at school and sang or rolled about or whatever elementary children do, took the middle school and high school children to Discoveryland (大连发现王国). Discoveryland is our province’s concept of what Disneyland would be if created by Chinese. Yes I have a YouTube video at http://youtu.be/lOoeM46fwl0, and yes I do a lot of work not only at school but at home for school – I just fit in my own personal crap early in the morning or while watching riveting TV shit-shows like Game of Thrones. This is my early morning holiday last posting probably before flying off to New York next week.
We were doing one of those amazing race races. I do not agree with children doing a learning project for hours before having time to play on their own. They pay their own fee in to the amusement park, 100 RMB (about $15 US) – which is cheap compared to the States and to have to do work for hours is nuts. This year we teachers each had a station with an exercise for the students to do – my event was to take a photo of a one-perspective and a two-perspective line up of the children. We all have an advise group and I have 10 middle school children in mine. So my advise group started off at my station which was an OK place as it was beneath a building providing some shade. After my event they draw a card to see where the next exercise is and go off to that. The important part is that they work together and stay together and do the exercise. Well after ten minutes two of my girls come back and want to rent a scooter to go around from event to event. Of course I said no as one of the rules is not to run to the next event or lost ten-points. We did not make a rule that children could not rent a scooter to go from event to event because who would allow such a thing? So the girls run off to the principal and ask and he says yes they can so they do. That was the end of my advise group’s cohesion and after a couple of hours the other children in my group came back and said they could not do the events because they could not find the girls roaring around on their scooter so I dismissed them and said go have fun.
As it is Dragon Boat festival week holiday the place was crowded – not sure why we would go on a holiday and not a week earlier but such is life. Lines to rides were four hours long instead of the usual two. Only a few children went on a ride – for the most part they wandered around in the afternoon and the ones I saw did not seem that happy. I took lots of photos of our students as I do to put on the TV screen in the window of my computer lab and to have footage for my twice weekly in-house TV show that I do with my film class so I was entertained. My favourite part is their Discoveryland Parade. As tacky as any such thing would be this is especially strange as they have mostly non-Chinese in the parade. Most of the participants are youthful Russians. The Egyptian group consisted of very camp males in their twenties dressed in gold skirts and gold plastic to look like metal tops dancing as if they were the Village People doing WMCA. On top of the floats were youthful females with few clothes on wiggling about.
I got a lot of short clips that I can use as backgrounds as my film class has gone blue-screen crazy.
Last Saturday was Narda’s birthday – see the wonderful clip of this most timely of events at http://youtu.be/ik8Ms09Q-NY
Narda said she just wanted to gig for her birthday so here at Campus village cafe at Dalian American International School that is what she did
The best of living in Campus Village, assisted living, as we call it is that our little community tags along together. Last night we went out to the Discoveryland Hotel for beer and food – the people are great – the ones we work with – the beer was what it is in China but the food was crap. I struggled to find a vegetarian dish and that ended up being tofu with fish – so that concept got lost in the translation. For Narda’s birthday a dozen or so old people came to our flat for din din – we made up a good vegetarian lasagna and some other stuff. Everyone seemed happy – a few murmurs about ‘oh no no meat’ but that is the way it is in my kitchen. We went the three-floors down to Campus Café and Narda with the others were happy, sounding great and entertained us and the other twenty – thirty folks. It was by far her best birthday in the past 13 years since we left Australia. Being early June – the problem with Gemini – we have not been around her family in so long. But with our community and with a microphone and good musicianship her birthday came to life.
Actually this is more than a weekend memory of what-we-did as Thursday and Friday is just as much of this extended weekend at least in my memory as Saturday and Sunday is. Of course Thursday and Friday were work days. With my job as technology coordinator however I am always on the job as I read technology and educational blogs and updates whether I am at school or on the shopping bus, sitting on the loo or waiting in a dentist’s office. Saturday whilst Narda was in the dentist chair for more than an hour I took enough notes from what I had found to be potentially useful stuff for possible integration or to-try at school that I will be spending days engaging with it. There are so many blogging-filming apps now that I am looking forward to what I can do with my classes next year that are specializing in multimedia, and film specifically. This is an exciting time to be developing a film program in a school. Helping students to become always-journalist will be one of the most important lessons for them. Journalism has not changed but the delivery and sharing has. When I was doing my journalism degree at the start of the 1990s I concentrated on radio-broadcasting, helping to start the community radio station E-FM (Encounter FM) in Victor Harbor, South Australia. My part of the radio station needless to say was news and children’s radio (CAR = Children’s Australian Radio – my little contribution to Australian community radio) where my children managed to star on.
I am teaching broadcast journalism along with filming. Merging these with social sites and story development and sharing more than ‘we had pizza last night’ will greatly assist students. I am having them blogging using their phones as well as filming and bringing it into the classroom for editing. Next year I will collaborate with the English department (write the story), music department for backing tracks as well as my classes for filming and editing.
The next big shift in schools is from integrating technology to integrating film in every department. Students are already doing this in their life outside of school putting clips onto whatever site is their favorite at the moment. Students are self-branding all the time and assisting as well as providing time and space to do this will improve their self-image i.e. self-brand. We have been putting a lot of emphasis on student portfolios lately but social sites are there real portfolios and I feel that is the area we need to develop. Employers are looking at social sites as part of their investigations of potential new hires and if the social site has wonderfully crafted video-blogs and short films this becomes a living-portfolio. This area has not been very well addressed and it is an area I will be working on next year so students will have their shared-online-lives crafted to look like mini-film-festival. ‘The Festival of Me’ – it sounds so Leo and having five planets in Leo I feel qualified for such a category of instruction or for at least me. In my middle school publication class I have students making a magazine in InDesign titled ‘About Me’ where they create a whole newsletter/e-zine about themselves. Their initial reaction is that writing more than fifty words about themselves is impossible becomes more engaging when they write about their favorite video game or movie and get to insert photos (Creative Commons only of course) and interview each other and write up a commercial and on and on.
We have been corresponding with a school in India to do a collaborative on-line real-time film project and we have the assistance of a film producer in Los Angeles who recently had her film accepted into the Sundance film festival in Utah. Our class has been Skypping her and we have been discussing their individual projects for this quarter as she ‘looks over our shoulders’. My neighbor, Frank, and his wife are moving to Yangon, Myanmar to teach at an international school next year. We have been putting together a plan to do a collaborative film project which in my little world is quite exciting. I am thinking of his and my students writing a script together – back and forth then having our individual classes create and edit the script and have them playing side by side as one film with two interpretations of the same story. His students are mostly Myanmar citizens and mine are a collection from around the planet which would make this a very global endeavor.
To emphasize my integration of film in the student’s life where most of their daily short clips are posted to social sites from their smartphones..
An Australian filmmaker has won first prize at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival with a short film shot entirely on a Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone. The film explores the influence of hip hop, which started in the Bronx, on the indigenous communities in regional Australia and how it helped youth reconnect with tribal elders and tell stories using this style of music.
see it on youtube at http://youtu.be/W8Lewbdm8lg
Last Thursday it was Narda’s elementary student concert, ‘All you need is love’ that put us into a Beatles mood. She has been doing a lot of work on this for the past months and I have been filming little segments as commercials for our school’s video-news show, DAISlive. As Narda’s biggest fan the past twelve years I would say this was up there with her best work. Of course it is not the same as when she did a Beatles tribute at Albany Academy in upstate New York a decade ago but that was with high school and there was dance involved as Albany Academy for Girls has a strong dance program. Being in a Beatles mood we are off to see the Beijing Beatles next weekend who are playing in Dalian. Carolyn, Narda’s sister and her husband are visiting from Australia then so they can too see what China has to offer to the musical past. One of the Beijing Beatles is from Australia so they couldn’t be that bad. The name of the show is We do like to be beside the seaside – tour to Dalian.
Friday we needed to collect our passports so we could go to the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang this coming Tuesday. Narda has to sort out some stuff with the Yanks and I have to go along being the Yank of a sponsor. As always these things are so complicated; whether to keep a Green Card – problem is being out of the States for the past two years, surrendering it is an issue and becoming a citizen is another kettle of fish. We just hope to be able to sort it out in one trip. With less than four weeks before we leave for the States she is now in no-man’s land. They won’t give her a visitor’s visa without tossing the Green Card and she may not be unable to renew the Green Card and now with the recent Boston problems the Yanks are all the more tighter about stuff. When we first went to the States in 2002, shortly after 9-11, we had a terrible time. According to many phone calls we had everything in order. When we arrived in Sydney – with our flight booked for the next day to New York, not only were they very rude to us but they said in the photos of Narda her ear was not showing enough and we would have to re-do the photo and come back in a week. At the time we were homeless, having sold Narda’s home in Adelaide, and storing away all our belongings we were left to cancel our flight with no idea when we would be able to get Narda with a visia. We were not going for a usual visit, we were moving there. I had been out of the country for 20-years so they said something about not having domicile and as a sponsor of Narda who, like me, had jobs in the States; she was at Albany Academy for Girls and me at the State University of New York at Albany, and my father was 97 years old waiting to see me before he left the planet. After three days of abuse by the wankers at the US consulate in Sydney I contacted my cousin Fredrick Miller who knew Congressman Sweeney and Sweeney sent a congressional letter to the consulate in Sydney. All of a sudden they were nice to me, and said I could come in right away and we could fly out in the evening. There was a period we thought we would never get in to the States. Now after living there for more than a decade, owning three homes and Narda having a son living in the States married to a Yank (I started the trend in her family of marrying non-Dutch people). Before I came bopping along Narda and her three sisters and all their relatives had only ever married Dutch people, having migrated to Australia from the Netherlands in the 1950s. Since me one son has married a Yank and lives in Atlanta, Georgia and another son has married a POM – prisoner of Mother England, and her third son now in India, has a pommie girlfriend too so I changed their directions. They had all been staying in the Dutch genetic pool for five-hundred plus years; so they must be thankful to me. To make a too long story short about going to New York my father hung around for another five years and we were happy that Sweeney was able to get us in. Fortunately for us this was before Sweeney got into a bit of trouble: In September 2006, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its ‘The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress’ and Sweeney was one of the 20.
Our visit to the Chinese visa issuing place was much different than the one to Sydney. We had one of those Chinese moments where everything takes longer and goes slow compared to what us Westerns want but after a couple of hours, chatting about stuff like the price of wine in Australia and how many children we had and lots of smiles and interpretations we got our passports with our official work-visa to July 31st 2014. Being past 65 this is a big deal for me as in most provinces the work-visa limit is 60. I believe from our conversation at the visa office that Chinese retirement is 60 then I think they get a pension which puts away the thought that china does not look after their people.
What we are finding is that a lot of stuff we have been told in the Western media is quite different than the China we see on a day-to-day basis. People; whether authorities or folks in the street are really quite friendly. They stop and stare like we are from another galaxy but with five planets in Leo it does not bother me. They are generally a very curious lot and want to know about Westerns. We are curious too; and of course I am very curious about their fascination with all things French as I will show in a moment.
Saturday was the big 11th Annual Dalian International Walking Festival. We signed up before realizing we had a dentist appointment at 11 AM. We figured we would walk for an hour then catch a cab into town. As things would have it, in a town that does not see much rain fall, all day Saturday it rained. I put on my waterproof ‘Tommy Hilfiger’ trendy coat (even old people like to look stylish) and we took the school van in a dozen or so other ‘walkers’ from school.
There were a lot of people, like many thousands, all with their umbrellas up headed out on the 5 – 30 kilometer walk going along the Coastal Road, “Bin Hai Road”. We had intended to do just the first five. Actually we did the first few blocks then disappeared up a side street and caught a cab to the dentist.
At the start of the race is Dalian Castle Hotel, a 6-star hotel (300 rooms) due to open December 1, 2013.
It overlooks Xinghai Bay, 星海广场 and of course a million or so walkers in May, rain or shine.
Of course it is the statue in front that I find even more interesting than a walled castle being constructed in the midst of a city;
Definitely my kind of hotel if I could afford a six-star hotel, I did not even know they had such a ranking.
After the dentist we took the light rail (轻轨, qing gui) to Kaifaqu. Normally we take the shopping bus and get our groceries but we missed the bus. Harbor Deli is one of our stops as it is near the Kaifaqu qing gui station which is the Five Colour City stop and they have Western crap; cheese, cereal and that which we cannot otherwise find. Of course the rain was ever present as we took a bus (for one RMB = 15 cents US) instead of walking to the green-door – not the name of the place but we have no idea what the sign says – and loaded ourselves down for the week.
We figured we would take a cab home but after a couple of cabbies said no and another said two-hundred RMB (30 bucks) we realized the only way home for us was to call Jack – our regular driver who came and collected us and took us for 70 RMB – about 1/3 the cost of a taxi. Of course it was not Jack himself but one of his mates – we call them all Jack. If this was Australia we would just add an o to the end as Australian’s do and call him Jacko but we don’t and we won’t.
We were so exhausted by the time Jack came as will as wet we were ready to go to sleep on the sidewalk. This is one of the most difficult things with living at Campus Village; the transportation is almost too difficult. This is the second time we spent an exhausting Saturday and got ourselves stuck. If there is a lesson we are not learning it except that we should stop shopping anywhere but our local Long Shan Village.
We received the invite; ‘Famous French and English Bands’ at the Chateau du Vin Bordeaux in our school email. Chateau du Vin Bordeaux, which was called, last year, Chateau De Bourdeux, across the street from us – I can see it from my balcony. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTioCA7Ct44&feature=share&list=UUzGrI_yggI56Gpp2ZyNQAXw, a year ago) has been another castle dreaming of France but this one you can live at as they are The Dalian Haichang Group is building 400 luxury villas in this style. We toured the place last year and when we asked why they had not sold any we were told because they were too expensive, like a million dollars plus. The Haichang Group have been purchasing lots of chateauxs in France – see The Chinese Chateaux In Bordeaux for the down-and-dirty. Of course we are hoping this will mean cheap French wine locally.
Some of my images for this afternoon visit to almost France – China style.
The first one is a view of our apartment from the local million dollars plus flat.
A few weeks past which is what happens when life is full to live and there is no time to pause and reflect – maybe today I can get back on track…
Shenzhen for a weekend a few weekends ago; other cities always look so great; Shenzhen is best. We had a two-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment for two nights with a balcony opening from each bedroom and the living room on the 15th floor with view of Hong Kong Harbour and Hong Kong.
In China it is not being where you have gone to but getting there that is the amazing experience. I am more surprised by the fact that we arrived at our destination in one-piece than anything else. Our taxi driver from the Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (深圳宝安国际机场; formerly named Shenzhen Huangtian Airport) not only drove at the highest speed his wobbly rusty cab could go, weaving in and out of traffic, beeping his horn the whole way – ‘out of my path got Westerners on board’ but he blinked his high-beam lights all the way. We would get really close to someone’s bumper and he would flash his high-beam on and off and beep then swerve around them. Luckily for all of us it was only a 45 minute ride of terror. I suppose in my younger years instead of going to a theme park and riding a terrifying ride I would have just gone to China and grabbed a taxi for a death-defying thrill. We have only had one close accident – well every time getting in to a car in China is close to an accident – we had the bonnet or hood (depending which country you associate the front of the car with) come up and break the window but that one time the driver was actually going close to the speed limit and there was no one in front of us to smash into. We had our bit of a scrape last July on the interstate in Mississippi in the US of A when at 70 mph a truck sideswiped us sending us across a four lane busy highway see https://neuage.me/2013/02/01/a-piggly-wiggly-story/ but in China it is always like this driver is going to kill us. But as one would have suspected by now – he didn’t.
Traveling with Narda one realizes comfort is number one. Most places we seem to change rooms. In Hoain, Viet Nam we changed after one night, too close to the road, OK so the new apartment was a good place for a week. In Hanoi a couple of months ago we lasted one hour before Narda was at the front desk getting us a room change – forget why now.
(In 1962 France launched a ship named Ancerville, which was purchased by the People’s Republic of China in 1973 and renamed Minghua. 10 years later the ship was permanently berthed at Shekou, Shenzhen, where she was refurbished and rebranded – this time as the hotel and entertainment complex, “Shekou Sea World. The Minghua was berthed at Sea World Plaza, the water which originally surrounded her has been reclaimed to allow construction of a golf course. The land reclamation continued southward, and today the coastline has been moved several hundred metres, leaving the Minghua completely landlocked.)
We arrived at the Frazier Centre at midnight and took a strong sleeping pill so nothing would disturb us, went to bed and damn it was a Chinese bed – might as well as sleep on the floor. Once; on a weekend rafting trip, we took a pillow top mattress with us, rolled tightly and stored in the bus cargo area. That was a worthwhile decision as the typical Chinese bed was rock hard.
I was tired enough to sleep on the floor if not the bed but Narda was already half out the door saying we needed to get a different room. Not to argue I opened the door and watched her rush off to the elevator.
Ten minutes later she returned; bellboy in tow carrying a large pillow top mattress; we did have a king size bed. Together they made up the bed which was a bit funny as Narda and I were feeling the effect of our sleeping pill, and we no surely most have appeared rather drunk. Nevertheless we woke the next morning, a good six hours later, with some I disturbed sleep behind us. As usual, Narda was right getting us more comfortable.
We got to Campus Village a couple of years ago at two AM where we still live, though of course we have moved apartments since then only to discover our bed was hard. Fortunately Nard saw a pillow top mattress in a storage room the very next day and soon the security guards were lugging it to our apartment. Since then we have purchased another mattress to add to it sows have a pretty good bed by now. Not that I Am suggesting a pattern here but that first week Narda moved her classroom too; understandable as the room assigned her was not really suitable. If only others would realize what I did years ago; she is often right and the best judge of what we should have so do it right from the get go and let the good times roll.
We had our weekend workshop at Shekhou International School in the Shekhou area of Shenzhen, a five minute walk from the Frazier Apartments with now a rather soft bed.
We were at an ipad work shop which is good in itself but we are a PC school and I was told not only would our school never have macs installed but that we would never have ipad support but here there are four of us keeping up with integrating technology in education despite administration. Because the most important basis to education is to provide tools for 21st century learning and at the present time the ipad is the best resource available to students. Many of our students use macs and iPads and instead of trying to hide from this fact I want to have the knowledge to support their learning which is why the other three teachers from our school were there.
Narda’s fellow music teacher uses his ipad in all his classes and so did our previous music teacher who left to teach at a progressive international school in the Middle East. Narda was reluctant to get an ipad but by the end of the weekend she loves it and will be making good use of it. I personally do not have a great desire for it as I make webpages, program with Flash and create videos and newscast which I use my laptop for and will for some time. At the moment I am writing this on my iPhone using Pages which Narda downloaded yesterday onto her ipad which downloaded to my phone as we share our apps account whilst flying.
OK a couple of weeks later and the iPad is in the drawer. We have given up trying to get Ted Talks with the Internet speed here; even leaving it on overnight does not produce results. But we will re-visit it soon.
The International School of Beijing (ISB) like Shekou International School is a beautiful school. SIS has three campuses and we were at the elementary one whereas ISB is one large campus with 1700 or so students K – 12. I went to see the video/film program as I am putting together one at our school. Not much to say except it would be a great place to work. Beijing as always was quite polluted. I got the app for my iPhone ‘China Air Quality’ which was probably a bad idea as I am a bit obsessed with it keeping track of my local town of Dalian. Today Dalian is ‘slightly polluted’ at 106 and at the moment Beijing is 398 (‘very unhealthy, protection recommended). When I was there it was about 450 – choke choke, and there was a time last month when it was off the chart at close to a thousand. Shanghai, where we are spending next week is either 133 or 68. On this app there are two readings for most cities. One is from the US Consulate – 133 for Shanghai the other, 68, from the Chinese, so one can follow which ever. I tend to believe the Yanks – not sure why.
ISB is outside of downtown but the pollution is still evident. When I was there a soccer tournament was underway and I couldn’t help wonder why people would pay so much money to have their kids at a top school but where the air is so unhealthy and with them running around gasping for air and kicking balls.
I collected information on their film/video program but with them having about ten times the budget I have, even with a recent healthy grant to get some equipment, I will not be competing well in any film shows these next few years. They had a wall of trophies and plaques for competitions they have won in the Asia arena.
And that is it. Two great schools in two weeks and now when we go to Shanghai we will be at the EARCOS Conference at Concordia International School Shanghai.
Spent today planning trips for school break mid-June – first days of August; New York, Atlanta, maybe a week in Florida and three weeks in Australia. Just some more stuff to add to my travel pages; http://neuage.us/2013/
September 11 2011
A brief scribble from my end of the desk in our office in our apartment @ Campus Village, Dalian American International School, No. 2 Dianchi Road Golden Pebble Beach National Resort, Jinshitan in the Dalian Development Area (DDA; Chinese: 大连开发区) in the Jinzhou District, Dalian, Liaoning province, China.
I thought I would have so much time today to write blogs, work on some 15 videos I have too many clips for, maybe even do some laundry instead of leaving it for the laundry woman to do; however, I am exhausted and it is not even eleven am. Luck that I even got here last night then until 1.30 AM I decided to twitter and google plus and Facebook; though I am finding Facebook really quite boring these days – too little worthwhile content and after a few years of hearing what people are unhappy about, who they are or should be or not sleeping with or how much they have drunk or what they are having for tea, do we really care? I was up all bushy eyed or is that bushy-tailed? At 6 AM after a solid four and half hour sleep I was excited to get into all that was presented at the learning2 conference in Shanghai. Of course I had probably less sleep the past few days keeping up with so much at the conference and now that it is almost eleven AM I am ready to sleep. I figured home alone for two days; Narda is in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, a smallest town of eight million. She went with five other women – they hired two drivers for four days – and drove the six hours up. I didn’t spend any money in Shanghai at all thanks to our school, but Narda, what a worry. She said on the first day, couple of days ago, that she had done a bit of shopping. I figure those women will be coming back with a u-haul. Our shipment from the States was to be here last week but now of course it will be sometime in October so we are stuck with what we brought and the u-haul of stuff Narda has probably bought.
but basically… Spent the time at the conference because I have wandered around Shanghai several other times and I had a bit of a mandate from the head of our school to gather and gather I did. As far as technology conferences go there were a few things that were interesting and one actually new. The new was that anyone could have a un-conference meeting by signing on a board. There were several interesting ones. I found the keynote speakers did not have anything new to say and even at times not only me but others said ‘what?’ It was the overused ‘my four year old or six-year-old or whatever their child was on about using technology. There was a lot to the point of way too much of family in the presentations. We all have families most of us have children and grandchildren and yes of course they are using flip cameras and using the web and doing creative stuff from the earliest ages, so what? I have taught kindy and first grade and assisted 2nd graders in NYC with their hip hop YouTube videos. Come on presenters let us get away from hearing about your ‘special’ family and your ‘special’ life. We come to see nuts and bolts and integration from a cosmic level these days. Good golly this is not new rocket science. Cave people discovered with fire they could cook, read a novel, and create a weapon, stay warm and so much more to the point of their version of technology integration was much more organic than ours. Throughout history we have integrated. I have seen this, talk about how my 7-year-old can do this or my six-year-old buys LSD on eBay and on and on at conferences in New York City (CUNY Annual IT Conference) and at those groovy IT conferences at Mohonk Mountain House in the Catskills and heaps of other places. Are IT parents so needy they have to tell us about little Matilda and how she can waltz and blog at the same time? We learned about websites, none of which were new to me at least. Conferences are known as a place of heightened egos and claims of possessors of great knowledge but in today’s world the practical ‘this is how we are using something’ in the classroom is the important thing. I did learn from the InDesign class and the Moodle class and a few like that. The presentations in the main hall were just self-serving, ‘this is me, these are my children’ – forget it mate. Have at least one Raymond Kurzweil presenter to take us to a new place. The Kurzweil Educational Systems begun in 1996 shaped so much and his ‘The Singularity Is Near’ and daily blogs so surpass anything I saw at this pony show.
I think for me the most useful moment of the conference was taking a taxi to the airport at the end. Our main purpose was to learn about implantation of a one-to-one laptop program; see what others are doing, what platform, what was the process. I shared a ride with the middle school principal from the American International School of Guangzhou who had just started their one-to-one laptop program. In half an hour I gathered more than I did in three days at the conference.
Saying all that I am glad that I went and I believe the connections that I and the rest of our school team (six of us) made will be very valuable in our integration of technology. Because it is only at these conferences that we meet others doing the same thing; if I avoid the keynote speakers unless it is a Kurzweil or someone who really has something to say, I will be fine.
So back to getting home. Blimey talk about luck. Forty years ago when I believed such nonsense I would have said my higher Self was taking over or I would have gone on about a full-moon in Pisces back when I traveled the conference circuit yakking on about astrology (hey that is how I ended up in Australia) at the end of the 1970s. Now I am interested in spiritual-machines and the cybeSelf and SecondLife. Back to getting home… so I was told the plane left at 10.35. At 7 PM I thought to grab a taxi and head out to Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Firstly a couple of women want to share a taxi – can’t go wrong with that. Secondly they are the ones who have just started a one-to-one laptop program at the American International School of Guangzhou so I collected and collated the info I came to the conference to get. I get to the airport and figure I have a few hours but I saw the domestic China Southern section and figured I get lost so easy I would never find it again so I go and get in line even knowing I have three hours before my alleged 10.35 flight. I get my ticket and an emergency row seat which I always ask for so I can stretch and wander on. It is 8.15 PM and I happened to look at my ticket which reads 8.15 boarding time. Rushing through security and panting down to as is always the way the gate is the furthest away I fall onto the plane which is already boarded and they close the door and the bloody thing starts moving. It even left fifteen minutes early. The last time we were leaving Shanghai for Dalian, a long five weeks ago, the plane was delayed three hours. So I get to Dalian at 10.15 instead of 10.45 (even though I was told I was leaving Shanghai at 10.35 – a mix up of course and the apologies for my near heart attach have been placed) and there is my driver waiting for me and I have a lovely ride home. He doesn’t speak English and I forgot what my two words in Chinese were. He even played classical music and drove rather slowly instead of the 140 kilometers an hour our other driver taking us to the airport did.
First time I have no photos or video – did some with my phone, but I have so many photos and videos of Shanghai I will give it a miss. Think I will go take an afternoon nap then work on my educational blog.