Saturday 21 December
Warmth has many interpretations, perceptions, explanations: emotional, physical, spiritual, local, worldly, universal, chemical, mental and so forth and so here we are seeking warmth that encompasses it all. Simply put, because really who wants to hear one whinge and whine about their lot in life? I will just say ‘oh look we are going to southern Thailand for a three-week holiday to get warm’, who wants to know that when they can stay at home and watch the television and news shows showing the worst of humanity over and over.
Again, here we are at the International area at Shanghai Airport, we’ve done this stop heaps or at least some dozen or more times which is heaps to some and not many for others. Usually we are here on the way to Australia. Though this is one of those rare times when we are spending Christmas not in Australia. I think we have missed going to Adelaide two or three times in the past dozen years. Before these past three years in China it was the 30 hours of travel from New York, usually a couple of times a year, to Australia. At least these past three years we have been close to the same time-zone.
Shanghai Airport, the last few days of 2013, still struggling with English words – in their international departure area I know, seeing ‘coffee and cates’ means no one here is in a rush to become Western too fast… there are lots of indications throughout China that yes they will cater to our lot but we are and always will be outsiders and why don’t we just learn their bloody language and stop being so precious about the English language and of course we Westerners are just too precious.
Last night was good. Yesterday, Friday, being the last day of school before the holidays meant that many bailed at the end of the day or were packing to leave this morning. But there were at least thirty-five that showed up for a sing-a-long in the lobby of Campus Café. Narda played piano and Tyler guitar – our music teachers bringing everyone together. It wasn’t just singing Christmas songs; there were a whole slew of songs with the words on the wall and from children to us oldies and every decade in between happily singing along. From our sports teacher to the owner of the school, principals, head of school, elementary, upper school and our Chinese school, Huamei teachers we had quite the cross section. Narda thought maybe no one would show up because of it being the start of holidays but this is a school that is a community and with us all living here music brings everyone together. We often say it is really assisted living though of course those in their 20s, 30s, even 40s would not want to say that but us over 50, OK over 60… damn I am the oldest, see it as assisted living. I was there in my slippers, so was Narda, others had their blankets; Joe Fred and Cindy had their Dallas Cowboy blanket over them. We are not big Grid-Iron fans but we did live in New York for a decade and watched the Giants beat some team, I think from the mid-west, in the Superbowl at a pub in Brooklyn a few years ago so I suppose that makes us Giant fans. But saying anything to Joe Fred about how Dallas is doing this year, or the past few years, is not a happy topic. I think they lost by a point or two the last few games. But they beat the New York Giants, though of course everyone is beating them this year including their selves, so who am I say? But they had their blanket and they shared it with the head of school and on a minus six degrees centigrade night we all were warm. And here we are at Shanghai Airport headed for a warm climate full of warm thoughts.
Narda has just finished her last concerts; the elementary winter concert, helping Tyler with the high school one and last Sunday conducting with some folks for the first international concert of our province. She had practiced for months with a group from some local school. At the Sunday concert there were politicians and a mixture of our school and whomever we had joined with. The concert was supposed to be at 2 pm but due to a least moment comrade-meeting by The Party the concert was put off until 6 pm because some members wanted to go to the concert and we were told you don’t mess with them. Sort of like ‘don’t mess with Texas’. But now it is all over, Narda’s concerts are at a break until the next series start up, the spring concert and I think she is doing ‘Sound of Music’ later in the next year, next year being next week.
Narda has a long history of doing concerts. When she was ten years old she would get her sister, 8 years old, to join in and they would do concerts for their nieghbourhood. Narda and Helena would wear matching dresses, put flyers in letterboxes on their street and perform for ten – fifteen minutes, playing guitar and singing. They would charge like ten-cents and I am not sure what would happen to the children of the street if they did not come but the Narda-ten-year-old-mafia-style-concert always had an audience. The only song I remember her saying she did was ‘you have lost that loving feeling’ by the Righteous Brothers. I find it interesting how we follow our destinies that we map out in youth. I was going to be a writer when I was ten-years old. I use to write all the time, novels, stories, poems, movie scripts… but over the decades that dwindled down to a few blogs and all that I ever got published was a children’s story that Scholastic Magazine published in the mid-1980s. My brother and I use to play restaurant and make up a menu and cook for each other Sunday night but neither of us got to the restaurant stage of life though I did manufacture tofu and many tofu products and to combine my ten-year old wants I am working on my tofu e-book (subtitled ‘Astrology made me a bad tofu maker’) which is really a novel/story/autobiography/cookbook and that of course I will never finish. (And of course it would never come close to Joanne Harris’s “Five Quarters of the Orange” which I just finished reading and I like about the best of any book I have ever read. She uses parts of a journal the mother in the story wrote which tells the story mixed in with recipes. I was doing the same thing but after reading “Five Quarters of the Orange” I wonder why I would continue with my book. Harris wrote the book : “Chocolat” one of my favourite movies and in fact is the first movie I saw with Narda after we got married which of course has nothing to do with what I am writing about here which is our holiday here in Thailand and Narda being a concert giver.) All unlike Narda with her making sure the neighbourhood showed their presence at her concerts and she would rehearse and prepare and make her posters all of which she is doing now many, many – (oops now I would be in trouble if she read my blogs) years ago.
We get into Kuala Lumpur at 1.30 – that is 1.30 AM – sometime after midnight, then grab a flight to Phuket at 4.30 AM and get there at 5.30 AM or so. It is easier to do the 30 plus hour flights from New York to Australia because the flights are long and sleep is just a pill away but these short hauls are a bugger and we will be more loopy than usual when we stagger into our hotel in Phuket. Last I saw it was 30 degrees centigrade which is warm, maybe hot, but not what it was in Adelaide this week which was 43.5 C or 110 F.
Sunday 22 December
On the short flight Dalian to Shanghai they hand out their boxes of food. For once they got it straight that I am a vegetarian and they even stopped at my seat to confirm it. What could they possible give me? Considering on these short trip we only ever get a roll and a sweet bun it was not like they were going to pull off some strange; possibly chicken or a derivative of a farm animal, and give me a piece of carrot which is usually the way. In my little box, which said veg on the outside I got a whole-meal roll instead of a white roll like my neighbour passengers got. And a small piece of possibly carrot cake whereas my surrounding guests got something looking chocolate like, it was brown. The longer flight Shanghai to KL was better with a curry veggie smothered in rice and not the other way around. Surely we can make analogies to life based on experience on Chinese airlines with China Eastern being at a class in need of enlightenment (the lowest caste, the Dalits in the Hindus trip) and Singapore Airlines being the Brahmins.
So when we got to KL in the early hours and then to Phuket at even a more unreasonable time – like five AM and to our hotel in Phuket Town at seven giving us a 24-hour trip with a reasonable three hours at the max sleep. We get more sleep going from New York to Beijing or to Melbourne not having interrupted… I am losing interest in my story here..
Monday 23 December
So Phuket is OK. We stayed in a guesthouse; Summer Breeze in Phuket Town) that was in sort of a small village off to the side of stuff and that is always more interesting than being tossed in with the tourist throngs. We did the one-day tourist journey to Monkey cave and to James Bond Island (Koh Tapu off of the Ko Khao Phing Kan island in the Phang Nga Bay, Strait of Malacca) – all too expensive and a waste of a day. We almost never go on tours but fend for ourselves getting lost on buses or just wandering and being our own tourist guides. If we don’t know what something is we make it up as we would remember our own historical narratives as much as if some tourist guide told us what something is and our interpretation is always good. We should start a tourist guide business and whatever we say something is then, dig it that is correct. ‘and on the right of your tuk tuk Buddha blessed that tree, which of course is thousands of years old… well the tree isn’t, obviously, it is just a few years old, but the great-ancestor to where that current tree now is stood a mighty tree that the Buddha looked up at and said “life sure is kool” before going on and starting a religion that people even today leave fruit on alters for in hopes that it will be eaten by the Buddha but surprise surprise it is still there the next day’.
Tuesday 24 December
We took the ferry over to Ao Nang Beach, Krabie for the two-hour run. I fell to sleep soon after we left port. One thing I have always been good at is going to sleep – staying asleep is another thing – I wake up at two in the morning ready to climb a mountain or at least go look for something to eat. My best sleeping time is when we are taking off in a plane. I almost always will be asleep by or soon after being in the air. My record that I remember is one time being awake as the plane started down the runway and I thought I would just close my eyes for a moment – and waking up half an hour later in the clouds. Waking in the clouds is quite different than my usual being already awake in the clouds such as when I am at work. I rarely am tired or plan on sleeping I just like to close my eyes when the plane is leaving but almost every single time I am asleep by air time.
When you get on to the ferry everyone is told to put their bags into one large area so a couple of hundred people with a couple bags each, a couple of hundred bags, all happily leave their bags. The majority of the passengers, at least on our boat, were Australians and being young and backpackers were happy to find all the open areas at the front to show off their tats and youthful bodies to one another whilst Narda and I found the padded comfortable seats inside.
Somewhere in this setup there was a potential pain-in-the-ass moment.
We found it.
So when we get to Ao Nang Beach and everyone grabs their bags and get on land Narda and I count our bags. Of course unlike backpackers who have one bag each we have seven in total. Just because we have traveled steadily for decades does not mean we have figured it out. Oh wait! We now have six bags and the next set of passengers are all rushing on. I go back to find the missing bag but there is already a pile of bags where ours once were and one still is. The boat is leaving in five minutes and no they will not unpack the ferry to find ours but they will ring us when the ferry is back in port if they find a bag at the next island before the next group gets on and the ferry stops again at Ao Nang Beach. We are concerned mainly because we cannot remember what is in the bag. We have both our computers, Ipad, Kindle, cameras and lenses and clothes but even after unpacking we cannot figure out what is in the bag. Until I go to take my heart-medication; something to do with having four stents put in a few weeks ago in Hong Kong.
Oops maybe we should worry.
Narda’s friend from Hamburg is on holiday in Northern Thailand and we were planning at trying to get up there but now there is a concern about my pills. We stopped at a travel centre and it will take us a whole day to get to Koh Lipe (Koh Lipe is a small island in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago of the Andaman Sea, in the Satun Province of southwest Thailand, close to Malaysian border). Four hours by min-bus and several hours by ferry, one overnight and another whole day coming back. Narda writes Mau that it is all quite difficult plus there is the potential that my pills would be gone. We hadn’t seen Mau for years, we use to pop into Hamburg each year on the way to Australia from New York but lately we seem to be Asia based. She realizes how difficult it will be to visit and she is going back to Germany at the end of the week so we will wait until somewhere else in the world is easier to get to visit in. My tie to her is from eleven years ago when we stopped in to visit; Narda met her in Budapest Hungary in the 1980s at a Kodály study program and they have been friends since. We spent several days at her home and I started writing my never-to-be-read by anyone except maybe my son, “Leaving Australia” in July 2003. It ended up being 570 pages and about 170,000 words plus lots of pictures, experiences, philosophies come and gone, relationships… I printed and leather bound two copies one for Sacha and the other sits on my shelf in China. It was a book to my children, as I was the existing parent, or sole parent from babyhood to hoods, explaining my life and why our life was the way it was based on my life’s experience. I wrote heaps for three days as Narda and Mau caught up on stories of their life. Two weeks later my son, Leigh, would fly to Sydney from where Leigh was playing baseball in Florida for the Los Angeles Dodgers and went off his 15 story hotel because his girlfriend broke up with him. It took me another six years to finish my book then I decided I would finish it for both sons even though only one decided to stay on the planet. Somewhere in the universal mind – some place in the slippery slope of galactic evolution there may be a particle of Leigh that exists and is conscious of what I say to him, so often, sometimes daily, sometimes just in my dreams. So that is my connection with Mau and every time we would go visit I would add to my “Leaving Australia”.
The ferry is due to stop at five pm at Ao Nang and at 4.30 Narda is insistent that we meet the ferry and not wait for them to ring us. We have rented motor scooters for two-weeks and go swimming each day – the water is warm – and go exploring and get ourselves lost on lots of back roads. So we get to the ferry and wow wow they have my bag with my pills. Not knowing what else we could have in the bag we quickly look and see our four seasons of “Sons of Anarchy”; we watched the first two seasons back in China. I have not really taken to the series mainly because the acting is so bad and the storylines are just stupid but because the two series we have been watching: ‘Homeland’ and ‘the Good Wife’, are done for the season and we did not have anything else to watch, ‘Sons’ became something to watch in the evening as I worked on my webpages and Narda watched. Narda’s DVD player, which plugs into her computer, was in the bag too. So we were happy though we have yet to have a TV on since being in Thailand for a week.
Then a day later, today, Thursday evening, we are looking through the bag we had left on the ferry and found my US Passport in a side pocket. Oops again. I only use it for when I enter the States, using my Australian Passport for everywhere else. Really! Who wants to say they are an American when traveling? I also found my Chinese bankcard which would have been a mess to replace.
What we realize when we travel and do not put the telly on is how peaceful and wonderful the world is. When we watch the news all they have is stories about bombing here and there and shootings in the States. We have no idea what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Egypt or really anywhere, now. Here the weather is fine the neighbours are great – Muslims are unlike what the news tries to do to portray them as such badies and even Narda has started to cover up like the local women but she does it because it is so bloody hot and when we are riding our motor scooters she gets so sunburnt so a black scarf over her head under her helmet covering her shoulders gives a local look. When we are on holiday I wonder why we ever bother to watch the news to begin with. Maybe that is what one does in retirement let the world get all crazy about the stupid news reports. I often wonder why we sit there looking at what is happening someplace where we are far from, have no ties to, will no doubt never go to, and which has and never will have an effect on us. It is close to being as bad as celebrity watching, something I have never paid much attention to. It is a good feeling to see a face on magazine covers and have no idea who it is; makes me feel not sucked in. I could not name a celebrity, singer or actor under forty and I am proud of that. Life is good here far away yet in the middle.
Thursday 26 December 26, 2013
And I have found warmth. From the sun to the people of Thailand to the foot massage – an hour for 200 Thai Baht ($6.10 US/ $6.84 Australian) which included a head and shoulder massage – to the warmth of being with Narda and the warmth of not having anywhere to go or anything to do. And Narda just read me that where we are, Aonang – is the world’s second best beach as stated by many travel magazines. The article did not say what magazine or what was the world’s finest beach. Having just come back from a swim as the sun set we can say it is definitely quite good.
Maybe I will post this and edit my videos in the Premier Creative Cloud Suite. Now there is warmth and the only news I need that today’s Adobe Creative Cloud Suite updates are downloading even with a slow Internet. And of course that the Australian dollar is back to 88 cents from 95 cents last month and that is the extent of the news we need. And of course that our friends and family are well and had a good Christmas and we got to Skype OK. Yesterday was Christmas and our Christmas present was a swim in the ocean and an hour massage. I think today we will ride our scooters to Krabi which we are told is half an hour away though we being old and slow and stopping too many times along the way, not to mention how easily we get lost and change our mind it will no doubt take the whole afternoon.
Tomorrow we buy our train tickets to Kuala Lumpur from Trang Thailand – leaving in two weeks on the 30 hour train ride.
Video for this Hong kong trip is at http://youtu.be/aUYG8gn72MQ
Macau two weeks later or last week http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
I was having a quiet Friday evening watching thoughts drift by of what to do on the upcoming weekend. Sort of a quiet day. We arrived home at noon from a week in Xi’am seeing Terracotta Warriors, a Great Wild Goose Pagoda (go figure), peddling a bike around on top of a wall going around the city and merging with so many Chinese on holiday during 国庆节 (Chinese National Day) in a very polluted city of less than a trillion people though it seemed as if there were more than a trillion people in Xi’am frantically searching for a clean air-molecule or two. I personally had not found any and for the most part had held my breath for five days to avoid clogging up my airways. See a previous blog at http://wp.me/scHIf-xian
Though I do not think that holding my breath for five days had anything to do with what would happen next.
We had finished dinner and being a bit hungry I was in the kitchen looking for more. As we had been away for a week there was not much but I had found something which at the moment I forget what but as I took a step I passed out and came to on the floor a few seconds later. Narda was standing next to me and thought I had slipped and fell. When I came to I was quite disorientated or more disoriented than usual may be more accurate. And confused to add. Having never had passed out, or at least not in a self-propelled way as I may have on occasion done when I was past my youth but not quite to maturity – some time in a seemingly very distant past, this was all new territory.
I had a sore knee from twisting my leg on the way done and not being conscious to stop myself I had not grabbed anything to slow my descent – OK so it is not like parachuting from a great distance in the stratosphere but it is still a long ways to the floor when the microwave is at eye level one second and the floor the next. I pulled the dishwasher out of its place so I did go down with a thud. It was not a near-death experience because there was no tunnel with angels and whats-his-name at the end shoving me quickly back into the physical so I could constantly work off whatever karmic dept to the universe I seem to be laboring at.
Narda was concerned. I was confused. I assured her that obviously I just slipped on some butter that was on the floor but for whatever reason there was no apparent sign of butter when I went to show her. I said not to worry to her running for her phone to ring the Beijing SOS clinic so they could ring our doctor who actually lives here in Campus Village but we are not to go banging on the doctor’s door but have to go through protocol. Narda has in large print on our door the SOS clinic telephone number because, yes, we have used it before – see http://wp.me/pcHIf-eS when for some reason I seemed to have become unstuck after eating something and within fifteen minutes of her calling Beijing I was in the emergency room of our clinic (two floors below us) and with a drip into my arm. This seems to be my year for medical stuff I think.
To keep Narda happy, which as a useful husband type of tip I can offer, by saying it is always a good thing to keep one’s wife a bit on the happy side if at all possible. Of course that has to be balanced in a sensible and creative way though the sensible part I must admit I have yet to master but the creative part I have down really well. I just say ‘yes dear’. Nevertheless Saturday morning we took the elevator from our third floor apartment to the first floor and walked past the lobby to the clinic. We call life here ‘assisted living’ and any teacher living at Campus Village would agree. Doctors rotate every eight weeks and on this eight week rotation we had our really great doctor, Wilhelm. Steve our other rotating doctor, and the one who looked after me when I had my bit of food poisoning episode is fantastic too. Wilhelm did lots of tests on me from blood letting to EKG and the like and was so concerned he thought maybe I should stay in the clinic for the weekend or at the least to take it easy. I chose the latter and played softball with our school team against the local Taiwan mob as we do each Sunday. I did a bit lighter weights for the next couple of days and no free weights of rather heavy; heavy for me as I am 66, just 60 kilos (132 pounds) that I have been building up from, but taking Wilhelm’s, I thought overly-cautious, approach, I only did the attached weights. I did not swim either as he was concerned I would pass out in the pool and that could pose a problem. I went to work as usual because I love work, I love creating and teaching film and just having a great time with technology. I surely had no intentions of staying home and being old.
Wednesday I was sent into Dalian to the Vitup Hospital and had an ultrasound and a halter-cardiac monitor attached to wear for 24-hours. I felt light headed and a bit wobbly and a bit spacy but that is pretty much how I feel most of the time anyway and have since the 1960s so I am quite use to it except the degree for normal behavior that I have enjoyed or not enjoyed at times for the past 40 years was increased though not enhanced. So of course being the verbal person I am I told my doctor I was not quite the same in the head as I was and he seemed a bit more concerned and started talking about maybe going to Seoul or Hong Kong for a bit of a more thorough check-up. I thought I could do the same in Beijing but he was not so confident. Over the next few days the talk became more of you need to go to Seoul or Hong Kong with Hong Kong being the doctor’s choice. I was in favor of Seoul because it is one hour away and a cheaper flight whereas Hong Kong is 3.5 hours direct flight and twice the airfare. I was still doing my weights and Friday morning we rode bikes to our local shopping area before school and on the weekend I played softball and went to the dentist.
Another week went by and another and by the 23rd of October, almost three weeks since kissing the floor of the kitchen we were on a flight to Hong Kong.
We were booked into the Adventist Hospital 40 Stubbs Rd, Hong Kong and staying at The Emperor Hotel in Happy Valley. On the way in from the airport the taxi dude said this was a very busy night to drive to our hotel as the races were on and it was Oktoberfest. Our hotel was like a five minute walk to the The Hong Kong Jockey Club. Yes this is an actual photo of our walk-in and somehow we managed to get up the stairs and into the stands.
The cost to get in was 10 Honk Kong dollars ($1.29 US). I was mixed up with feelings; I was getting tested 9 AM the next morning and possible surgery as a result of it, I just wanted to be back at work. Who wants to be at work? Here we were in Hong Kong at the races, except if things went a certain direction I could be cactus in a few days. I listened closely to my heart – not in a romantic way where I am all goo goo because I am spending a night with this kool chick from Australia – oh wait that is my wife, and of course that is romantic an all but what I was listening to was whether my heart was physically doing the correct thing and thumping away like a normal heart should – and it sort of was but not completely. I wanted to relax and enjoy the moment. I had only ever been to horse races twice in my life. Once Narda and I went to the races in Saratoga, New York. (you know that song by Carly Simon “You are so Vain”?
“Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won…”
Of course we own houses in Round Lake just a fifteen minute drive from Saratoga Springs and I grew up a short distance from there too but I only ever went to the races the one time with Narda. Another time Narda and I went to a race in Adelaide, South Australia and that is it. We made a couple of bets when at the Saratoga track but I do not recall whether we won. This time Narda said “let’s place a bet‘.
First of all we had no idea what to do, secondly we could not get the folks at the betting counter to understand what we wanted. They did not speak English and we did not speak whatever they spoke. We watched for awhile and by race three we decided it was time to jump in. Narda picked by numbers – the number 23 because it was October 23, we were on the 23 floor of our hotel, we sat in row 23 on the plane and there was some other times the number came up so she picked a horse with a 23 to one odds. I looked out in the paddock or whatever they call the area they warm in and one horse was just not in sync. It would rear its head, go the opposite direction of the other horses and just was generally ready to take off. I thought that if I were a horse that is exactly how I would act, a bit of all over the shop type of animal, so I picked horse number five. Feeling not lucky, how could I? I was off for heart inspection in a day I was conservative and put 10 Hong Kong dollars on horse number five, the same amount Narda put on the horse with a 23 to one odds. Horse number five, King Derby, was behind all the other horses most of the race. Coming around, I think they call it the clubhouse turn – or at least where all the stands are, I could see horse number five go to the outside of all the horses and just pass them right to the crossing line when it drew level then passed the lead horse, to win. The odds were like four to one so we ended up with 44 Hong Kong dollars which paid for our two bets, the entrance fee for both of us and with a bit of a top up there was enough left for me to purchase a small carton of soy milk. I did not want to bet on another horse because I did not want to leave as a loser which could have happened.
Being Oktoberfest the crowds were probably larger and more rowdy than usual but never having been there before I am not sure. There was a time when we were trying to get out, with me holding on tight to my winnings, and Narda holding tight on to me that we did not move in any direction. I was of course thinking about my heart when I should have been thinking about my luck. Narda had said “just think if we had put down our houses and any cash we had anywhere in the world and then maybe even had borrowed some. We could retire.” Retire? I was wondering if I was going to get out of the racecourse. What if my heart played silly buggers and took me out right here? I was so pinned in if I died I would have died upright (“he was an upright citizen”) and no one would know. There would be no sound of my winnings hitting the ground, no last words heard amongst the blasting music from someone announcing a winner in a drawing, not even Narda would know for a few moments as she was pinned in too. We were all frozen together on a warm Hong Kong night.
Yes of course eventually we got back to our hotel, I am writing this a couple of weeks later and I think I am still alive. As a matter of fact next week today we will be back in Hong Kong and I will be getting a bunch of tests to continue on with what I will say befell me whilst in Hong Kong back at the end of September. So yes, I believe I am alive. Still! Still as in quiet compared to my pre-Hong Kong self.
The next morning, Thursday, I was off to Adventist Hospital to get tests. I met Dr. King the cardiologist who was going to sort me out and I was sent off for eight tests. In Australia when I go to the heart centre and see my cardiologist each year the visit lasts about ten minutes, this has been going on for about a decade. He takes my pulse, does a couple of readings and sends me on my way with a sentence or two of advice. I thought this would be the same, just pop in – OK spending a couple of thousand of dollars to go and get that advice wasn’t what I wanted but Dr. Wilhelm thought it was important. I liked Dr. King. He had a sense of humour, was good at explaining and said he would arrange for a few tests. Then and there. All day Thursday. Seven or eight tests. A stress test on a treadmill with lots of monitors and beeping machines as the endurance speed and difficulty were increased to a point where the machines made more frequent noises and I felt worse. Then on to blood tests, a PET thingy (Positron Emission Tomography). In this test, I had a radioactive dye injected so that my heart showed on the scan. Laying down I was shoved into a doughnut-shaped machine to have images taken of my heart. When the dye went through there was a hot sensation going through my body which was not good. Being claustrophobic from an incident in my adolescence I spent about an hour in semi-panic. But the worse was yest to come; the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Laying down on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produced a magnetic field and again feeling quite claustrophobic with large banging sounds each time the magnets did whatever they did. I had a heavy plastic mask put over my face either because I was too ugly for the nurses to look at or to protect me from I know not what. It was like a helmet players of American Gridiron games wear. When I lived in the States we called it football but in Australia they say gridiron as footy is what Australians play and football is soccer some places but no matter what the sport having one on and being inside a tube fastened down was not fun. What was worse than the banging noses was some weird background music. Someone playing the same piano piece over and over. This went on for an hour. There is a button to push if one gets too stress and at some point I did and they took me out of the tunnel. I sat up said it was all a bit too much and being sympathetic nurses they smiled, took my helmet face mask off for about ten minutes put it back and and shoved me back for more noise and said this time it would be only for another fifteen minutes which somehow I endured. There was another test which I do not remember the name of where I was hooked up to several monitors and laying down they wanted to shove me into yet another machine. There was some problem with it because I have a very irregular heart beat and on their monitor it showed my pulse in such a low range – low in the teens – that the technician in charge got a bit worried. I told her it was her machine that was malfunctioning and not me. She said she had never had a problem with the machine and that maybe something was drastically wrong with me. She called in several other people and they all looked at me then the machine and they all looked a bit worried. I said it was their machine that sucked. Fortunately one technician had enough sense to physically take my pulse and she was relieved and I commented that it was their machine. They hooked me up to another machine and that seemed to work better. Actually this test was before the PET thingy because they had already put the dye into me and they had to have their monitors working before shoving me into the PET thingy. They said the new PET thingy could work with people with irregular hear beats like mine but there was only one of the newest machines and that was at Sanatorium Hospital, which incidentally was across the street from where we were staying and had a view of the horse racecourse. I of course volunteered to be tested there as being surrounded by 5 or 6 concerned, worried, semi-confused technicians, nurses and doctors was giving me the heebie jeebies. Someone rang Dr. King and someone said OK, probably the same person and it was all back on with me being put into the Pet thingy. There was the CT scan and the Ultrasound and a 24-hour wearing a halter-cardiac device all to find out what was in (too much calcium?) and what was out with what could be wrong with me if indeed anything was wrong.
We had spent about eight hours in hospital with me poked and prodded and early evening we finally got to go back to our hotel. Being told to take it easy and with my 24 hour halter-cardiac device with plugs stuck to various parts of my body firmly in place we took double decker buses around town. Being situated in Happy Valley which is a hub or the start of several double decker buses gave us a lot to choose from.
We just rode, got off; everything looked too Chinese for us – it was like being in China – oh wait maybe we still were – and got back on another one. The evening was so warm. We sat on the top deck and took lots of video which at some point will show up on my youtube channel.
Friday we were back to the hospital in the morning to hear the good news; that I was fine, the tests showed that I had had a bit of indigestion and we could go back home Sunday on our booked flight and be back to work on Monday with a bit of an expensive three day break from school. We figured since we were in Hong Kong we would make the best of it and spend the rest of the day Friday and Saturday wandering around Hong Kong. Maybe try to squeeze in a boat trip to one of the islands.
Well that didn’t work out did it?
Dr. King said that I had a few narrow arteries filled with calcium and that I would need surgery. He said until he put a catheter into my arteries he would not be sure but I would need at least three stents. He went over what the procedure was about and that Sunday would be good to do it. Being a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital they were not in full swing on a Saturday. I think Saturday is their Sunday. Go figure. Nevertheless with this not so groovy news we set up for Sunday to be a day of no-fun. I was to check in Saturday night – OK so they let people check-in Saturday but operations get put off until Sunday. I was listening to Janis Joplin sing ‘Another piece of my heart’ in my head and wondering whether I should make this my phone’s ring-tone.
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now…”
Of course like everyone I have my brush with fame story; Janis Joplin. Back in 1969 I was almost run over by her in her Porsche. I knew it was her. We all knew that car as she sped around San Francisco. I use to go and listen to her at the Fillmore and in Golden Gate Park and I still listen to her when I am lifting weights at Campus Village at Dalian American International School 44 years later. Strange how things stick in one’s mind but I always remember that moment and how close I almost came to my end then but didn’t and she did not long after and here I am writing about her instead of her writing about me. Not that she would but perhaps if she had lived and I had been knocked over I could have featured in one of her songs and she could be tweeting about how even now 44 years later she remembers that moment. But of course that is all silly to think of now when I am writing about something totally different. My heart.
We went off to the billing department and they said we would need to get in touch with our insurance company to get pre-approval and that of course there should not be a problem with that. Having had problems with our insurance company for the past three-years we were not that confident. Someday I will put into writing the name of our insurance company but as we need them now and in the near future we will just say ‘our insurance company’. We rang the insurance company from the hospital and they said to send them a bill for the pre-approval. We took a peek at the future bill (the tests were only in the $3000 plus range) and sort of gasped. Seventy-thousand plus (not Hong Kong dollars but USA dollars) for a night in the hospital plus a few stents tossed in. I was thinking the insurance company would be better off paying off my fifty-thousand dollar death coverage than to pay this but over and over we have been told that we have a really good insurance company. Yeah right! So we went back to our hotel and wrote Dalian American International School to say we will not be back until Wednesday as I am having a bit of surgery on Sunday and I need to rest for two days so we will fly back Tuesday night and I would be back at work on Wednesday. Narda and I wrote and sent lesson plans for the extra two days.
Friday night we made multiple phone calls to both the China and the USA departments of our insurance company. This spilled into Saturday when we were told over and over that it would all be cleared up in a couple of hours and we would get the go ahead. By late Saturday afternoon we had to cancel the Sunday surgery as we had still not gotten the OK. All day Saturday we rang speaking to one person after another each saying it would be a matter of a couple of hours because anything over fifty-thousand dollars had to go to an underwriter. We went to Stanley Market and did a bit of shopping and then we discovered we had to move out of our hotel because Sunday night was booked out. We had planned to fly back to Dalian Sunday. Happy Valley was getting to feel like home and of course just a couple of days earlier we had our big win at the local track so moving was not going to be fun especially when our insurance company was being mean to us. One person, she was a supervisor, suggested we go to Florida because I could have the same operation done for about 45-thousand. We could not believe someone, especially a supervisor, suggesting we fly from Hong Kong to Florida to save the insurance company money. We did find a hotel; L’Hotel Island South http://www.lhotelislandsouth.com/eng/front/ and it was really a good four-star place. We got a room with the mountain view on the 32nd floor and thought OK if this is where we have to bunker down for a long time this will be it. We moved in Sunday afternoon still getting phone calls saying it would just be another couple of hours.
Narda was emailing everyone she could find in the insurance company and still at mid-night Saturday she was ringing and emailing. Finally someone said that the underwriters don’t work on weekends and that we should know within a couple of days when they got back to work on Monday. It was looking more and more like we were going to be stuck in Hong Kong for awhile. Sunday we went to Aberdeen and found a great little restaurant on Old Main Street, Myanmar Thai Palace We are going to Myanmar for Chinese New Year in January to see our ex-workmates; Frank and Kay and we are going over with Jean and Sean so it will be quite the crazy week. There in Myanmar. Going back to L’Hotel Island South we took a nap in the afternoon and at 5 pm we got a phone call that the insurance company had approved it. One of the many people Narda had phoned had pushed the whole thing through. Actually it was the head of customer service, a man in India that Narda has contacted many times to sort out situations from the past. Nothing major just some basic tests we get done every year to be sure we are functioning well, stuff like that. The amount of work the insurance company goes through to get out of paying anything is always remarkable. But this one dude on a Sunday morning had gotten through where no one else was able to and got us moving forward.
Arrangements were made for me to check into the hospital on Monday morning and have surgery late in the afternoon. We went back to the Myanmar Thai Palace for dinner, sat along the river and wondered what would happen next. I was a tad bit nervous about the whole thing. Having been an astrologer for forty-years and having stopped looking at planetary positions a decade ago I thought I would have a peek for old times sake. Nothing looked too good and if I were to believe in astrology again I could easily have made some linkage. Uranus was in 9 degrees and 34 minutes Aries which is fine as it was trine my Venus at 10 degrees Leo meaning quick and successful surgery. But the real indicator of all the fuss was and still is Saturn at 13 degrees and eight minutes Scorpio so exactly square my Saturn conjunct Pluto at 13 degrees Leo an eight minutes. And yes you saw it too; square my Venus.
Hello! Wow is this so possible?
Saturn takes 28 years to get to this position and to have Uranus in trine to my Leo planets (Venus, Saturn Pluto, Sun, Mid Haven, Part of Fortune) is statistically almost impossible – maybe the planets get in this position every few thousand years. Lucky me. Jupiter was still in trine with my Jupiter – separating two degrees so that was helpful. Pluto (is that still being used as a planet now that it has been kicked out as a planet?) was inconjunct or quincunx to my Venus and of course square by nature of the qunicunx to Uranus at the time. If I were to believe in this stuff I would have been alarmed that transit Saturn was conjunct Mercury (was there some bad advice being given?) meaning that both planets were squaring exactly my Saturn Pluto conjunction (I used to give presentations and wrote some articles on the Saturn Pluto conjunction in Leo being the symbol of the baby boomers. All that free-love (Leo – heart) with Pluto overthrowing Saturn. I had really lengthy examples and proofs sort of back in the day. Now I just ramble on and no one has a clue what I am talking about. Narda just popped in, she watches all these medical shows; 13 years without fail she watched ‘ER’ and now she is going through season after season of Grey’s Anatomy. She loves all this medical and I don’t. I have never watched any of them.
So Narda asks what I am writing about and I am sitting here with the astrology chart for 28 October on her iPad and I am saying I don’t believe any of this anymore and she says if you did what would that chart say?
See this is what I mean. I tell her and basically all I can say is that it means what actually happened. I did not need the symbolism of astrology to know something was going wrong. OK one more thing; the Moon was in Leo. Holy Cow! There is the moon sitting on top of my Sun dragging all those influences into being. Saturn as Saturn does, delayed and made us go crazy and of course having calcium in my arteries is well explained by Saturn squaring my Saturn in Leo – ruler of the heart. For a couple of decades I was really into medical astrology even to the point of making magic potions and elixirs for people based on their rising sign and the position and aspects to their ruling planet. I was sort of known for this in New Orleans when I was a street artists. I use to drink a lot of lemon grass tea as that was suppose to be a Venus ruled herb and Venus rules my astrology chart (Libra rising with Venus being strongest by being in the 10th house and having so many aspects). Another interesting point is that at the time of surgery for Hong Kong at 4 pm there was Aries rising with Uranus in the first house and the fifth house – the house of the heart – being ruled by the heart sign, Leo, so all my Leo points and planets were in the fifth house during the surgery. I use to love astrology but it got in my way and there was a time I could not just live my life but had to do astrology charts on everything. It was when Leigh killed himself (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) that I just could no longer use astrology. I was not seeing reality but was off following symbols that were based on interpretation and I got caught interpreting life through my eyes and wants and I missed what was really going on.
The Adventist Hospital being a vegetarian hospital seemed so natural. It went along with what was roughly my life-long life: hippie communes in the 1960s, eating vegetarian foods for the past 45 years, being in a new age cult group for a decade, various religious and philosophical beliefs embraced then discarded over the decades each pushing the vegetarian life style, being a tofu manufacture for eight years in South Australia – see my slowly evolving e-book http://neuage.us/tofu/ There was even a time when I was going to build a big tofu factory – compared to the small tofu factory I had for eight years – and sell to the Seventh Day Adventists in Australia. It is all quite remarkable and now here I was lying in a bed with needles in my arm and an oxygen thing in my nose and eating wonderful vegetarian food. The food was so good I kept ordering more off of the menu. The staff there must have thought that I had not eaten for days.
Every few minutes nurses would come in and take my blood pressure, give me some medication, take pulses and I would ask to see the menu again. At four pm I got rolled down the hall all neatly snug in my bed with my lame looking gown on and things hanging out of me and over me. Not that I see many hospital movies but times that I have passed through the lounge and Narda has one on there is always some poor joker on a bed being wheeled into surgery. Now I was one of them. I looked around for the camera crew and the make up artist but I was put into the operation theatre with little fan fare. Narda could not even come in. To make matters worse I was not given some really nice powerful mind altering drug. All they did was put some local numbing agent on my arm where they were shoving a needle up my vain and into arteries around my heart. I could see what was going on with three big screens in front of me and none of it looked to comfortable. Actually I was very uncomfortable and kept hearing ‘you have to lay still’. I never sit still and never lay still but I was trying. All the time my chest was feeling like a heart of elephants were doing a ballad on top of it. It was all so uncomfortable and there were so many people with jobs. I counted 9 at one time. But this is China. There are always a mingling mob for each job. I think it is called full employment. Everyone looked quite concerned and busy with their tasks at hand. Of course they all spoke in some language that I was not familiar with. If only I had taken those Chinese language courses offered at our school. Narda and I did one and we sort of never got back and here we are three years later not knowing anything.
I tried to take my mind off of what was going on by thinking about useful stuff. Like my lesson unit – that put me to sleep and they said I had to stay away so I thought of places I had lived, things I had done. Most of all I wondered if these people had a clue of what they were doing. I thought about various stuff I had believed in during my time on this planet and wondered if everyone changes their beliefs as often as I do. I suppose it is a times like this when someone is shoving rods into the heart that the question and importance of life become forthcoming. Unfortunately I did not get any insights. I no longer do. I think it has to do with our school taking on Standards. It makes people stupid; both teachers and students alike. We are losing the creative aspect and teaching sameness and in-fusing it into bland world of massive robotic proportions. I use to believe in reincarnation, astrology, evolution and all that kind of stuff.
Now I believe we are just the fodder, unripe food for the next wave of people/machines which of course will be combined and already has its start with Google Glass and other wearable tech things. My son Sacha said if I could wait a few years they would just send in an army of nanobots to clean stuff up and stitch the veins. I could have main vain veins with a search engine embedded that would scour the world’s medical knowledge and new procedures and not only find but implement the procedure and create the fixings by combining DNA strands various cellular molecules and have nanobots fly out of my ears and go off to factories in distant places maybe on another planet or asteroid get what was needed and arrive back to my body and go to the factory somewhere in my body and fly off to the part of my body that needed fixing and life would be beaut. I could have a whole nano-factory built somewhere in my body and a constant movement of things fixing and improving throughout my body as I lifted weights at the gym and listened to Janis Joplin.
These are the kind of things I think about when laying on a bed in a operating room with masked people speaking in a language I did not understand and hopefully they shared as they at times spoke in hurried phrases then a few of them would come running over and my wrist where they had the injection point would sting and then my chest would feel like a herd of elephants were doing the Watusi on my chest.
“There’s a dance called the Watusi it’s out of sight,
First you slide to the left then to the right.
The Watusi is out of sight,
You slide to the left, then to the right.
Take two steps up and keep it tight.
And do the Watusi, it sure is a sight.”
There were three large monitors that I could watch what was going on on. I looked up once or twice and it sort of freaked me out so I went back to thinking. This all went on for more than two hours and I just could not find a good range of thoughts to centre on. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s I use to believe in all the mind control of your body stuff. For years I carried around “The Science of Mind”, by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes  believing all that crap. He was on about how our thinking creates diseases in our body. For example negative thoughts created negativity which manifested as dis-ease, not at ease, in our body. I furthered this thinking for a decade in the Holy Order of Mans when I was a brother in their centres in Hawaii, San Francisco, Cheyenne Wyoming, Wichita Kansas, Detroit, Syracuse New York and finally Baltimore Maryland. They had all this material about the higher Self and how our body was just a vehicle we traveled about in and if things went wrong it was karmic from some other lifetime or the miss use of energy now. I managed to go through their initiations of Self-illumination and Self-Realization before leaving for good and learning to re-live my life without the muddled illusions of superstitious belief systems. I must admit though whilst having stuff shoved into my arteries next to my heart and a herd of elephants doing the Watusi on my chest I tried to rise above my body or at least try to do something more metaphysical than just lay there hurting but I did not have any luck. My mind has ground down into the physical so strongly that I wonder how did I ever get into believing all the hocus-pocus stuff I once believed in.
At some point I got wheeled out of the operating room and there was Narda on the other side of the door. I know this happens all the times in her medical shows she watches but I had never been in an operating room before. Even when my two sons were born, I helped deliver both, it was just a simple room. Especially the one in Kahuku Hawaii where Sacha was born on the North-shore of Oahu. There was just Dr. Branch, the alleged mother and me. Leigh was born in Ashford Hospital Adelaide and I was there and at that birth so was Sacha, age two and a half.
Narda is always there making the continuity of life good. All I felt was hunger and of course a sore chest and sore arm and sore wrist. Dr. King (who has a Chinese name in brackets between the Peter and the King) said it went better than he had thought. Good grief what had he thought? He did put in a fourth stent after he was deep into my chest and found another artery that looked suspect. He kept saying to lay still which for me is very difficulty. I struggle to sit still for ten minutes and to sit still for two hours is gruesome. First I was cold so they put some horse blankets on me then I was hot so they took them off. I think I am a bad patient. Even my dentist is constantly telling me to relax when she has her head half way down my throat. I just am not the ideal ER patient.
The menu is great. I ordered half the stuff on the menu then ordered some more. Narda stayed in the hospital overnight. Lucky for you my photos are on my phone which is over in my classroom at school or I would show a photo of the room, probably one with me all hooked up to oxygen and drips and monitors but smiling because the food was good. It was like staying in a hotel with lots of room service. I had to stay in bed until the next day which was making me go funny in the head but we made it through the night and by the next evening, Tuesday we checked out and went back to L’Hotel South.
It is strange to go back only a day later to someplace when so much has changed. Now for the rest of my life or at least until they crank up the nanobots I have to wear material inside my body up near my heart.
Wednesday, two days after surgery – that is me in front of the sign the day following stents shoved in, not feeling great but at least a bit mobile. I liked this sign because I thought it said Old Man Street. I even made it my Facebook profile photo. A week later I realised it said Old Main Street. I felt like a real goose but I have kept the photo for now. No wonder I get so confused I misinterpret everything I see. That was always my problem with astrology. I am sure it is all there but I misinterpret it all.
We took a boat over to Lamma Island for the afternoon. Lamma Island does not have cars on it. Like Prince Islands in the Bosphorus Sea outside of Istanbul. We like quiet islands with no cars. Wish they would take them off of that island we call home, Australia. I wasn’t feeling to flash, a bit dizzy, light headed and weak. I guess when they poke around a heart it leaves one not feeling their best. We did not make it very far but found a nice quiet beach to sit at and later in the day took the ferry back to Aberdeen and went home.
Thursday afternoon we went home getting back to Dalian at 11 PM. Friday we were back at work. The people at Dalian American International School are the best. Lots of welcome backs and hugs (even though I am a product of the 60’s and lived in communes in California and did all that new age crap – hey my name is Neuage – I am not a touchy touchy person and don’t like hugging but I put up with it this time). The middle school choir, under Tyler, put together a song, Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life and sent it to me. Of course they left out a line or two which would not be appropriate for middle school children to sing – even to an old goat like me. In my middle school class a sixth grader ran across the room and threw her arms around me and said she was so happy I was now OK.
My students were so good whilst I was away. I had written up my lesson plans and one day even partially taught my high school film class via Skype. The students all did their assignments and emailed their work to me and my high school students put their work in their Google Sites pages for me to review.
I had on my table the DVDs of my heart operation. I had not looked at them and just figured in between classes I would have a look-see. Of course my middle school kids wanted to know what was on those disks and I said nothing that you would want to see – it is my heart operation and of course they then wanted to see it. I was quite unsure, Narda, whose music room is next door, was looking through my door shaking her head no. Can you imagine having a film studio next to the music room? I produce two shows for school a week called DAISlive with stories and events and the like about what is going on around school. In most interviews, stories and what not there is a first grade flute class or fifth grade singing rehearsal for the upcoming Christmas musical or worse, third grade drum class in the background.
I said to the children that it would probably gross them out which of course makes an adolescent want to see it all the more so we watched. Actually there was nothing gruesome to view. On the one DVD we looked at there were 36 video clips – in black and white – showing like a string with a lasso on the end going through the vein to position the stents. One 8th grader who wants to be a doctor after watching for a minute said that I had an irregular heart beat. Well I hadn’t even noticed that.
So here I am three weeks after surgery and we are going back next weekend, hopefully just for three days this time, to be sure everything is in place. I was told not to lift weights for the first two weeks and that this week it was OK to go lightly so I have done that. I said to a nurse “what about my six-pack I am trying to develop” (at 66 years old) and she said “why?” because I was married. I said that matrimonial status had nothing to do with vanity but she did not get that. We have gone for walks which is OK though I feel pretty crappy after about 20 minutes. Of course I am wondering whether ever having anything done was the correct thing to do.
To freak myself out even more I read a story in the New York Times Health blog section this morning,
“Heart Stents Still Overused, Experts Say” By ANAHAD O’CONNOR August 15, 2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/heart-stents-continue-to-be-overused/?_r=0
which says one out of ten don’t need them and that doctors and hospitals make good money doing these procedures. Damn!
It is so fundamental but the loo can so govern the day, especially in China. (Loo being Australian/British and etc. for toilet: (From Wikipedia: “When people flung their potty waste out of the window, they would shout “Gardez l’eau” [gar-day low]. That’s French for “watch out for the water”. We probably get the word “loo” from this expression, although some people think it comes from “Room 100” which is what European people used to call the bathroom.” “The word appears to originate no earlier than James Joyce’s usage in Ulysses in 1922 — “O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. water closet.” — perhaps Joyce came up with it.”)
My favorite is at the Shangrali in Shanghai with a remote control for many functions; spray water, various forms of heat and many buttons that I did not try. The loo at the Vutup Dentist Clinic at the Shangrali Hotel Dalian is a treat. As soon as the door is open the seat pops up, it is warm and it too has buttons. I have yet to be game to push them but Narda tried one and it gave her a bit of a spray wash – she did not try the other buttons. OK the picture does not give much of the pleasure of use but compared to the usual toilets in China, even at the ultra- modern new Dalian North Railroad station, it is a real find. I hate squat toilets and in my two years here have not used one except to pee. Anything else waits until I get home or find a western hotel. Last week a woman’s baby got flushed down one (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/chinese-baby-flushed-down-toilet-1923771) and survived. I always thought that someday I should have therapy about the fact I was put in an orphanage and taken out three times then finally adopted by some mad-cap Christians in 1950 but this person is going to really need therapy. Narda has the technique down – the squatting part and does not mind too much. She
has demonstrated to whomever is interested – not in real-action, but showing us a good squat position to make things move along. The worst toilets are in the Jinshitan Market where, if one can get past the smells, even the women just squat along a wall with an open trough. Narda, a user of said trough, could not understand the gestures of a woman squatting next to her one time. She kept point a finger in the air – not the finger but a finger – this is China where people are not as rude as us Westerners. Then Narda realised the woman was telling her to put her bag on a hook on the wall so it would not touch the foul floor.
Toilets in Holland I find difficult too, and though they are proper sit-down toilets the drain is placed in the front so everything sits not in water but on the base, stinking up the room until flushed.
I suppose if one watched heaps of ER shows, or Grey’s Anatomy and had an interest in what their deposits in the loo looked like they could easily observe it in a Dutch toilet.
Not sure how I got onto this topic when there was so much other I wanted to note to remember the past two weeks, but at one am I was so wide awake and it being
Saturday night well actually Sunday morning I thought I would write a bit then go back to bed. It is now three AM and my concern is that I will be sleepy for Sunday which I suppose is fine as all we will do is shop at the local Longshawn Village for veggies and tofu for the week. Couple with the fact that I have taken photos of loos for some odd reason – maybe just to appreciate what a proper one with heat, spray and the what-not incorporated within. I think adding music would be good – something classical – though hip-hop could be OK. Even country and western would be fine – they are always talking about loss. Then there are the blues, surely we could have some really good B King tunes play when we sat and shat. The one at the Vutup Clinic is adequate though. As soon as the door is open the seat cover pops up and when you leave it goes back down. It does not differentiate between male or female so the seat ring thing is still down and needs to be lifted for the male release thing.
It is three am so I will try once again to go to sleep. I had already lain awake for an hour before getting up at one am. My mind is so active. Not sure why. School is full-on, we leave for the summer in two and a half weeks for the States a couple of weeks then Australia for four weeks and a side trip to Malaysia so it is all pretty chilled and no reason not to sleep. I tried to contact the inner Self and find peace and solace using techniques I learned back in the 1970s when I was a brother in the Holy Order of Mans but they did not work and I question these past few years whether all what I once believed in whilst in my decade long metaphysical stupor was real or are we just caught up in evolution’s game being nothing more than the ones who prepare the next generation who will do the same and within all that the species evolves toward something or the other?
Yesterday we went into Dalian on the 轻轨, qing gui (light rail), thinking by leaving at 8:30 we would get a seat in but no luck it is always so crowded. Out of boredom I wrote down all the stations on line 3 – speaking of threes – most of the stations are broken into three words on the signs though in reality, my reality, they are really one word: Jin Shi Tan, Xiao Yao Wan (the stop for the future city, Wolong Bay, that is being built – see my youtube video from last year at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-drgVo45WWs) DD Port, Bao Shu Qui,
Kai Fai Qu (5 colur city see my clip of Kaifaiqu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAz3eqFzfRg), Jim Ma Li, Da Lian Wan (in the Ganjingzi District of Dalian City), Hou Yan, Auan Shui (markets), Jin Jai Jie, Xiang Lu Jiao (Metro, Sams Club, Decathlon sports store – 迪卡侬(香炉礁店, Ikea) and finally stopping at the last stop – Dalian Station. The school’s shopping bus stops at Metro where we fill boxes and suitcases of what we need for a month then put it on the bus and go off for the day. The bus driver unloads our crap back at Campus Village and we collect it whenever we drag our sorry asses back home.
, about a 45 minute ride, Narda managed to rush onto the train at the Dalian Station
and get a seat. I was fast but when a hundred Chinese are going for a couple of dozen seats it is the really quick who get a seat and I was left standing to analyze my poor strategy for getting a seat. Never the one to shy away from strangers I saw Narda and the girl next to her passing the girl’s cell phone back and forth. They did this all the way to the Kai Fai Qu station where suddenly Narda moved over giving me a space to sit. They were using the phone to carry on a conversation with both translating back and forth and the topic of discussion was that when the girl got off I would have a seat. At the start of their ‘conversation’ the girl wrote that Narda could help her with learning English. This is what is so enjoyable about living here; people will find a way to communicate whether they share a common language or not.
Last weekend Narda’s sister, Carolin and her husband Michael stopped in for a couple of days. They are celebrating being fifty and are on the way to Holland, England, France and places like that. On Saturday evening we went into Dalian on the light rail – kuai-gui to stay overnight at the Harbour View Hotel and we went to see the Beijing Beatles on the rooftop at the Lenbach German Restaurant ( Xinghai Square). They
were sponsored by the International Club of Dalian. I have a short video clip at http://youtu.be/WzsnK6uUQx8 without watching the clip let it suffice to say they were quite terrible sounding. Narda had just done a Beatles concert a few days earlier with her elementary children and they were much better. A couple of Narda’s fourth/fifth graders were at the gig and they went on stage and told the Beijing Beatles who by the way are from Australian and great Britain – that they sang the wrong words for Yellow Submarine. The children would know that one as they sand it for weeks before their concert. I heard them daily as my video-film studio at Dalian American International School is next door to Narda’s music room. A lot of my little video shows I do twice weekly with my students for the school to play has her children singing off in the background because of our thin walls. There were a lot of expats at the show – many from our school and it was enjoyable no matter the fact that they were not in harmony, missed lyrics, and were just generally horrible. They have a website which make them sound good http://thebeijingbeatles.com/ but in reality – think of a college piss-up where everyone knows the lyrics because it is the Beatles and there is a lot of drinking going on and no one really cares how bad the band sounds because it is so easy to sing along.
We have two weeks left of work then we are off to the States (NYC, upstate New York, and Atlanta), Malaysia, and Australia then back at the start of August. As usual life is hectic at school with so many things to deal with. In my little world things are great with my film class and our setting up a film program and studio. We have been going nuts with blue screens and having lots of interesting backgrounds. I am still looking for a proper professional camera for next school year with little luck. I will probably have to wait until Australia to get one. It has been an amazing year for me both as technology integration coordinator as we move toward a one-to-one device program. It is a challenge with so many devices and operating systems. Back at Albany Academy when I was the Director of Technology it was straight forward, we all used macs and that was it. In my video production class thanks to an Intel grant we are getting set up well and coming with good products, looking forward to next school year.
In my little self-centred world I have been creating web pages since the early 1990s when the World Wide Web was first invented. I have created thousands of pages and have many domains as any self-serving Leo would: neuage.org, http://neuage.me, neuage.mobi, neuage.us, neuage.info, to name just a few. Last week I put a tracker-cookie on 590 pages (about ten percent of my pages) so I could have a better idea of where people go so I could improve and change them to more mobile friendly and perhaps start creating neuage apps for my tofu pages or my picture poems, children stories, many blogs and etc. I thought it would give me a good idea of where the masses are flocking to. As a night-mare on Leo Street would have it after three days I had one hit to one page out of 590. I think I could be in a record book for having the fewest visits to the most created pages on the web. Narda does not understand why I would care if anyone visited any of my webpages but she is a Gemini so I understand her confusion. I have Mars conjunct Uranus in Gemini so I do have a little bit of non-Leo in my makeup and I know that part of me; Mars and Uranus confuse me often as well as those around me.
When Narda’s sister and brother-in-law were here last weekend we went to the
And in Dalian to the Korean Market
Dinner seemed fine, just scrambled eggs with a bit of cheese and hash brown potatoes. But a few minutes later I was sicker than ever in my life. Narda was OK so we ruled out food poisoning but after getting rid of dinner and all else before and getting worse by the minute Narda insisted on calling for help. This is not calling a hospital in the States or Australia which would have had Narda driving me to a hospital then me sitting in a waiting room for a long period as the world continued to swim around me and I did not know if I would survive another moment. Living here is what some would call a third-world spot; though China would not agree. I know we always say we do not want to end up in a Chinese hospital. But we had no worry of that.
I managed to say a few times that I would be OK – surely one more vomit and one more laying on the bathroom floor as I held on from blacking out then I would be fine. After the nagging wife said for too many times she should be calling for help I mumbled just call to see what they would say. Of course telling a wife such a thing is a green-light, open-door, the horse-has-bolted, thing to agree to.
We have the number for the SOS International medical emergency on our door. Narda rang telling my symptoms and some other medical stuff about me and a few minutes later our doctor said to meet him at the clinic in ten-minutes. Our doctor lives in our building though I do not know which apartment and the emergency routing service is through Beijing – off in the distance.
Again this is not the States or Australia where we are from. This is in a foreign country where only people around us speak English.
What is so unique is that we live in a community that has everything. The Dalian American International School with a large fence, gates, and guards 24-hours a day has more than a school within the compound. It has Campus Village, where we live, students live, and families working for Intel, Goodyear and the likes live. It also has a restaurant and most importantly a medical clinic. Last year we went to the clinic a few times for flu shots, occasional blood tests for some ongoing stuff and general checkups. It was only a few months ago that we saw there was more than the waiting room and a couple other rooms where doctors talked about their life in other countries in between prescribing medication. There were several other rooms for overnight patients and a whole little emergency room.
What is unique about this job is how our lives are so communal. At most schools people work together, sometimes go for a drink; when Narda was chair of the performing arts at Albany Academy in New York she would have her staff meetings at a local pub but aside of that most schools do not have such a community environment. Here I see the doctor at the gym or bike riding; I see kids at school, then at the Campus Café or on the shopping bus that trolls the highway between our compound and the nearest shopping areas half an hour away and on Saturday all the way into Dalian – more than an hour – where we go to Ikea, Metro or Sams Club to load up on crap. Parents are at the school, and then at the gym or swimming pool, at the café, doctor’s, chasing after their children on the school oval. Our actual living is a bit separated but in the same compound. We have the teachers wing – three stories of us, each with a different story to tell; the Chinese boarding students are in the same building but in a different wing with the boys on the third floor and girls on second; and administration, families and ‘important people’ living in larger flats in the next building and over and beyond that, yet still within the walls of our school area, are the townhouses that the expat employees live in. They are of course on a different pay scale than us and their children go to our school and they have drivers on call whenever they want to go someplace. We have drivers too but we have to pay them. Of course we are mere teachers and not movers and shakers at international companies.
And what is most interesting is our doctor who lives in the same wing as us; I think on the second floor – I have never been to his place. Doctors are on 24-hour duty and I think it is six weeks on and six weeks off duty. Our current doctor is from Ohio (I think) our other usual doctor is from South Africa. They belong to Doctors without Borders. They work in all sorts of environments and seem to have to know about everything as they are all we have to look after anything that can go wrong.
It was about 8:30 when Narda rang SOS-International in Beijing and they in turn rang our doctor who rang us and said to be at the clinic in ten-minutes. Our clinic is open 8 – 6 Monday to Friday and a bit on Saturday but of course in an emergency it is always open. Our current doctor, Steve, did lots of tests on me including an EKG (electrocardiogram) in between my staggering to the loo to vomit whatever was left which at this point was not much. Before long I was lying in bed in a room next to the emergency/operating room with an IV line in my arm and as the world spun a bit out of control I drifted off due to a combination of some heavy sleep inducing stuff and whatever other medication was being pumped in. As the clinic was closed Doctor Steve rang one of the nurses to come in and watch me throughout the night. When I was still conscious I felt bad about someone having to come in for the night when she was the day time nurse that day. Narda told me the next day that Doctor Steve slept in the room next to me with the door open instead of going back to his flat. During the night I was aware of the nurse checking me, taking blood pressure and checking the IV drip.
Narda came in a six in the morning and left a bowl of cereal and my soy milk. When I awoke at 8 I gave Narda the instructions to where my lesson plans for my classes were on the school drive so they could be passed on to whoever was taking my class.
At 8:30 the nurse took off the IV as I was feeling better and I wanted to go home – which in this case is taking the elevator up three floors. A nurse wanted to go with me in case I got dizzy but I insisted I was OK. I slept most of the day and today, Friday, I was back at school, though tired and weak it was good to know that I probably had some of the best care I could have had anywhere in the world.
Sometimes I think life was easier back in the States or in Australia (well not always; as a single parent for 20 years in Australia that was difficult) but I have never been in a place where a medical emergency was so quickly attended to.
Last summer Narda and I got hit from behind by a large truck on a four-lane highway in Mississippi at 70 mph and if it was not for the concrete blocks separating us from the oncoming traffic we would have been in a bit of a pickle but we just totaled the car and had shock but otherwise not injured. We waited for more than an hour that time in a very hot sun on a major freeway before the police arrived. If we had been injured we surely would not have been in an emergency room within fifteen minutes like here.
Of course if I had listened to Narda I would have been downstairs a couple of hours earlier and perhaps not have gotten myself into such an emergency state to begin with. Then again if I had not listened to her and decided to tough it out which was my notion then most likely I would not be writing this now.
To make a short story a tad bit longer; another amazing aspect of our close living together is everyone knows everything. Everyone I saw at school the next day, today, wanted to know how I was doing. The teacher next door heard me gagging and exploding in the bathroom so of course she wanted to know how I was.
And what happened? The doctor reckons it was a case of severe food poisoning. I ate the same as Narda for tea but for lunch we did not have the same thing. We usually come home and make a sandwich then go back to school unless I have lunch duty which I have twice every eight-day cycle. Lunch duty means eating with the kids downstairs in the café. But yesterday Narda stayed at school as she is doing heaps of extra work for the elementary concert; “All you need is love” a tribute to the Beatles, for next week. I went home and decided to have some pasta and to make a white sauce for it and as there was an open pack of milk in the fridge I used that instead of my usual soy milk. What we have sort of determined was that the long life milk was the culprit. Last Friday we had no electricity for about fifteen hours as I wrote about in the previous blog and stuff thawed out then re-froze; our long life milk packs we keep in the freezer. Then it could have been transit Mars in Taurus opposite Saturn in Scorpio making a T-square to my four planet conjunction in Leo (Venus, Saturn, Pluto and Sun and my Part of Fortune too all in my 10th house). Whatever it was life in China is good. We often say it is safer here than living in the States or Australia mostly because folks don’t walk around with guns.
Walking home from school Narda and I pass the clinic and there is our doctor leaning out the window asking how I am feeling. Where else does that happen?
I use to live in communes in the San Francisco area in the 1960s and this is not far removed from that where everyone works and lives and plays together. I would like to have a large communal garden but as we all go away for the summer it won’t work.
Quoting Jean, “We can’t lose you – you are our mascot”. Good golly what does one do with that piece of knowledge?
Sunday morning, wanting to write up what is a bit of a big thing in my small world and definitely may bring some closure but of course never full closure as it shouldn’t to my meandering through this life or at least one significant aspect to it but after one paragraph we were off to Long Shan Village which consists really of only a couple of streets with commerce and is a ten minute bike ride away.
This is our favourite shopping area as it is so local and of course cheap, much cheaper than going to nearby Jinshitan or taking the shopping bus from Campus Village as we did yesterday into Kaifaqu, the centre of the DDA (Dalian Development Area) where our veggies at the green door (our name for it as we have no idea what the lettering in front says and of course we would not be able to say it if we did know) cost twice as much as at Long Shan – see Narda below buying the week’s fruit…
The destination was our local stationary store to get bits of pieces we both needed for school. Narda got three pairs of Crocs for 20 RMB a bit over three US dollars, not needed for school but cheap shoes and a woman… Imitations? Who cares? What strikes me as a fun shop that would not be in Australia or the States is that at this shop one could buy pens, paper, computer bits and pieces; I got a laser pointer light for my classroom and a bag to put camera equipment in. Narda got some more notebooks with some strange English-like sentences, three pairs of Crocs, shoelaces; and one could also buy strong alcohol which sits on the same shelf as plastic toys but the best of all is on the way out one could buy an ice cream and fireworks. We stopped and looked at the firework rockets and the shop keeper waved her arms and said ‘booom’ and laughed but we gave it a miss this time – see below…
I first heard of Facebook when I was teaching a speech class at the State University of New York in Albany. Students were presenting speeches about something that was new and interesting in their lives and one student had just been invited to join Facebook which at that time no one else in the class had heard of it. This was about 2005 and so we all became her friends. It seems so long ago when there were only a few college students in Facebook – joining other students in Boston. I still have that account but as I no longer have my university email I do not use it. A year later I made a Facebook page for my son who had decided to leave his life behind; he was a pitcher for the LA Dodgers living in the States when he left the Dodgers in Florida, not telling anyone (they looked all over for him as they were concerned about his mental well-being that week – they said) on August 13th due to a quarrel with his girlfriend who was appearing in the Australian Idol series in Sydney.
When Leigh was 16 he was clocked at 91 mph by an Atlanta scout; more scouts followed. He was courted by Atlanta, Minnesota, and Arizona as well as the Dodgers. I wanted him to go to Arizona as I liked their youth program but at 17 he signed with LA and that was it.
He arrived in Sydney after the 20 hour trip from Florida (I still have his return ticket) spent a day with his girlfriend and booked the highest floor and went off the 15th story balcony of the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park Hotel. He was facing the baseball stadium where he had practiced with the Australian Olympic team for the upcoming Athens game. I went there for the first eight years after and left flowers where he died but I have not gotten to Sydney the past two years though for the tenth anniversary I plan to go this year.
I made a Facebook page for Leigh and a lot of his friends have written over the years, especially on his birthday – he has hundreds of friends.
In 1998, Leigh, playing for the Australian U 16 (he was 15) squad in a series in Johannesburg, South Africa, stayed with a family, as all the team did. In his belongings several years ago I found the address of the people he stayed with and wrote them. At some point when I was reading letters people had written in his Facebook Timeline I saw one from a girl who said she knew him from his stay in Johannesburg. I do not go to his page much these past few years but I thought I would check it a few days ago. It is difficult to see his friends living their life, most with children and know he should be there too – and be pitching in the major leagues. He worked so hard at it. When he was ten he use to tell people he would pitch for the New York Yankees one day and of course being the non-baseball country of Australia people would tell him he should play cricket or footy. We use to go out every morning before school and he would do a hundred pitches and again every day after school. Sacha use to join us for years but then he became more interested in basketball, then graffiti then rap and hip hop and now he is the alive and successful one living in Australia and Leigh is just a memory.
So back to Facebook; I saw this person from Johannesburg had written in Leigh’s Timeline that she had 6 letters each about nine pages long and if I wanted them I could send an address where to send them to. She had moved to Perth a few years ago and recently had these letters sent to her. Now she will be sending them to my in-laws in Adelaide and I will have them in August. I am so excited about this – to have something that my son wrote in the time before his death. All I have is a very long goodbye letter to his girlfriend and why he was going to leave his life. It is the saddest thing I have ever read. I may find these letters waiting for me just as sad but I hope not.
Years ago I even had a lot of Leigh’s Facebook friends playing Farmville with me. It started off with me playing Farmville and not having friends enough to give me gifts and Narda thought it was just silly so I created a bunch of accounts; dead people: Leigh, my brother, my father, mothers (being adopted I had two mothers, both dead, both Farmville friends), a couple of ex-girlfriends (being dead I suppose they are ex), a dog and a series of me (Farmer Terrell, Saint Terrell, Another Instance of Terrell, and etc.).
http://neuage.co/LeighFarmvilleMarch2011.html is a short video of my farm ‘growing’. I quit after a couple of years and the past two years I have been too busy or too sane to continue with my farms.
A couple of years ago I started an online project on with a professor from Singapore who was teaching in London and was looking at how people deal with death on-line. I lost contact with her in my past move to China and will just continue with my own research and project on dealing with death on-line.
Coffee stop in Long Shan Village.
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/
Sunday, January 13, 2013 Campus Village, Golden Pebble Beach, Dalian Development Area, China
Those were the days….
Has the best already happened?
Everything is one’s perspective I suppose.
It is not really an age thing because that would mean I believe I have experienced the best and these are some sort of twilight spans of space and time segments of dwindling consciousness and that is not true. Every day I think is better which is good at 65.
I was thinking as I watched another show today on global warming, food shortages, over population, water disasters from not enough to drink to rising tides from melting ice cubes in the Arctic how fortunate I have been to have had a run through the planet the past few decades. Some of the stuff I was able to experience is no longer possible.
I have written a lot of this in a book, “Leaving Australia” of which I made two 550 page bound copies; one for me and one for my son documenting a lot of the experiences along those travels. What I was getting at is that in today’s world is this possible? Travel of course is easy as we do that all the time being in New York City every year for the past twelve years as well as Australia and many places in between including but not limited to New Orleans and my past stomping grounds of San Francisco, LA, Hawaii, Oregon and new stomping grounds such as Utrecht The Netherlands (about six times in the past decade), Paris a few times and of course Australia. And our little airport at Dalian here in Northern China I have flown out of nine times in the past two years. So maybe these are the best times even with all the planetary problems. But are we free to have no money in pocket and stand at the Lincoln Tunnel and hitchhike to New Orleans, Miami, LA, San Francisco? I arrived in Honolulu in 1969 with five dollars, girlfriend and year old Desiree and somehow we moved forward in those days. Unfortunately the girl friend died and Desiree is 44. Desiree and I looked so good back in 1969 – how did the world change us.
When I travel now it is with too much and we are always sure we are cashed up and we actually know where we are going and have hotels booked, all of which was outside of my consciousness back in the 1960s and 1970s as well as 1980s and 1990s.
It is not that I stopped believing that there was anything to astrology but that I just grew out of it. Having been astrological free for a decade I find living in the moment and not perceiving the present as a particle of some over-seeing deliberation by higher selves, and thoughts masking as planetary overlords affecting our lives is really fun. As we know not only did not the world end according to the Smurfs who believed in the Mayan Doomsday scenarios or we have not gone belly up as the pathetic David Ickie followers believe clinging to their constant updates to our doomed lives and the overtaking of the reptilians and on and on – how does he sell out his appearances in Australia and New Zealand – are they that nuts? But what is different and what I am on about in my line on ‘those were those days’ is that people are more fearful. We were fearful of Richard (Dick) Nixon in the late 1960s and early 1970s (don’t change Dicks in the middle of a screw vote for Nixon in ‘72) all the way to sticking pins in Voodoo dolls in New Orleans – a lot of good those beliefs did, but that was a different fear. We were afraid the communists would take over, and I just had a great three weeks in Vietnam and live in China – so much for the commies… but they do block Facebook and Twitter and even my blog at neuage.me which is really just a backdoor into WordPress which of course is blocked and that is all pretty evil. Is it going to get better? Life? As always there are the two forces of forward and pushback. The forward momentum is giving us better medications, which I wish they had done before my brother died of Aides in 1992 – now they would have the stuff to have kept him going.
What is kool is that some folks are writing a book about him from his artistic days in New York. http://neuage.indiko.com/robert_adsit.htm So maybe these are better days with medications. The internet is great for communication and I have put over 500 youtube pages and thousands of travel photos that no one will look at but I do. I have many thousands of my own webpages and sometimes I will spend a couple of holiday hours looking at my picture poems, essays, blogs, videos and other stuff. I like books for reading better and I rarely watch television – sometimes for a few moments every few days to see if the world has gone belly up yet.
I work more. Heaps. Probably another facet of youth – don’t do much work, just play, party, be irresponsible for 40 years than try to get on board with social games. The older I get the more I work. When I was a single parent I did not do much work – I played with my kids a lot and we traveled too. We did three overseas trip to the States and one to Europe too and another time a trip around Australia in a camper van with my 87 year old father over from New York. We had a pretty laid back child-parent life. I wrote children’s stores made tofu in my factory see – http://tofu.neuage.us/ made webpages from 1992 – well I still do, have more than ten-thousand. There is something obsessive there. It give me comfort like nothing else does,
I was a good parent – we didn’t have the money thing going well but the three of us had one another.
We were really quite happy, even when the kids were teenagers, though of course there were some hiccups but in this photo we look serious – one of the rare moments when we were. By some standards, like my current wife, when we first met, she interpreted our home as a bit of a disaster but we were happy We all dreamed, I wrote them stuff, I thought I should have been parent of the year, at least gotten a trophy or a plaque but I was always in court fighting the witch of a mother over something or the other, usually money, which is too bad as it tinted my children made their bonding with money unhealthy. My son in Melbourne with his BMW sports car and $1700 racing bike does not quite support my anti-material stances though he is doing great stuff with youth. My other son, the one who played for the LA Dodgers, http://neuage.org/leigh.html, I still talk with him often, ask his opinions, garner his insights tell him how sorry I am and how the past ten years since he ended his life a month after turning 20 are difficult for me, all the moments, everyone, empty, moldy, but filled with memories. I made a Facebook page for him and more than 250 of his friends are on it. Once in a while I will pop in and see what his generation is up to. Most are having children. Leigh would no doubt be a pitcher still for the LA Dodgers – he would have been successful. The Dodgers were going to bring him up from the minors to the majors the next season they told me that at his funeral. So many of his friends write how they miss him especially on his birthday even now ten years later. I stopped astrology after he chose to leave and any other metaphysical belief and embraced everyday reality which makes understanding easier and clears my consciousness knowing that my beliefs structures fogged my thinking with prior thoughts of the way-it-is and other people’s delusional falseness. A couple of decades ago I would have been insecure about living where I do now in Northern China with my Uranus conjunct Mars descendant line going right through our house. Of course the way they drive in China even without this configuration we are no doubt cactus. We had a big truck knock us across a four lane freeway in Mississippi last summer, totaled our car and we did not get a scratch. I had a Mercury MH line go through there – lucky I don’t believe in any of this anymore.
Living like a gypsy does not seem viable anymore – creative living in a conservative insecure world is narrowed down to practical tenure-ship in the local community – probably in a high rise.
Below gypsy Terrell in the 1970s.
In today’s world we give less freedom to our children. I see this as a teacher. Kids all wanting to get into great universities though I am not sure why. Parents getting into tens of thousands of dollars of debt usually for life. When I taught university classes at University of New York in Albany, New York I could always depend on my first couple of Monday morning classes to be easy as the students would be so out of it after a weekend of partying with their parent’s credit cards they did not need no learnin’. Still overall students are more conservative everyone so worried about the future. No one gets to do stupid things for a bunch of years and not worry about it. Like I was in a cult order for a decade, I did not worry about the future, I still don’t. My wife plans for retirement but I am not sure what that means. I am thinking about writing a letter to my dead son today and that is as far as the future is for me. Those were the days, these are the days that I will write about in the future as those were the days. Life is good. The planet is just having a bit of a cough and needs to get over herself.
Here is to you earth!
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
See my site for December at http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam/
We left our Hanoi hotel at 5:30 AM; similar time that we got there a few days earlier after the train from Sapa tossed us out onto the payment of Hanoi. And at the airport @ 6:30ish then landing in Guangzhou, China time, at 11ish. We did not have a flight until 8 PM so we took the subway (metro) to downtown, found some Western food, and walked, once again, way too much.
A hotel lobby dude at a hotel told us that there was a bus to the airport and we went off to a tall building he pointed to that looked close but it took us 45 minutes of walking before it finally popped up in front of us. It is like walking to the Eiffel tower; only seems a few blocks away and the more you walk the longer it takes to get to it. To cut a nonsensical story short we took the airport bus back which was a lot better than being in a subway and it took less time, about 45 minutes.
So China again. After Vietnam the contrast is startling. China the any-brand-knock-off; Ikea personified land of imitation. Vietnam; Sapa, Hoian, Hanoi… the places we spent the past three weeks in, with so much richness of life. And the food is OK; baguettes and well prepared fruit dishes. Thank the French for their occupation to give a country some class. A few hours in Guangzhou and the land of shopping malls and cheap copies leap out to strangle any possible creative and originality left of its population. What has happened to you China? All those inventions and culture you once produced reduced to copycats.
But…. We are back home, in our adopted country, and it feels good to be headed back to our apartment with all our crap there as well as a cupboard of my belongs at school and shelves of my things in the computer lab: my PhD thesis, National Geographic books from the 1920s – 1940s my father had collected, some antique cameras, a boomerang, posters, a 500 page novel I wrote, ‘Leaving Australia’ and other assorted things. We have stuff all over the place from a shed of stuff in upstate New York to our furniture in our Jersey City home and a shed of our belongings in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia as well as boxes of our stuff in storage at Narda’s sister and at her parents. And now we have about a suitcase of new stuff and a suitcase and a half of our clothing in storage on this plane. I like the Buddhist ideals of not wanting things, of living in the moment, of respecting all life (well at least I do that by not eating animals) but I reckon there is a way to go before I can say I am a Buddhist. Firstly we need to shed four houses; three in the States and one in Australia that we no longer want or can afford. We should shove all of them over the fiscal cliff. Of course the good thing about traveling is that we have seen almost no news for three weeks so perhaps the world did end on 21 December though after seeing 22-million Chinese today I doubt that and maybe the States did go over their cliff… who knows? Does anyone really care? What was so good about the village people back in Sapa is that they just live day to day pretty much the same as they have for the past thousand years. Take away CNN and BBC and the ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) and etc. and stay clear of newspapers – easy to do when there are not any around in English, and the world is such a nice place. When we retire we will not watch the news anymore or read about the nonsense in the rest of the world and wherever we are will be just our grand life in our everyday grand adventure of living life to the fullest.
Four days before being back at work. I suppose I have lots to do to be ready for classes; lessons to write, ties to sort out to wear… I bought four more on this trip so now I have more than a hundred ties from around the world; not boring basic business ties but unique, usually from thrift shops – my favourite place to get ties; they are there because others didn’t want them because they were too different to wear but I wear them. I got my newly self-designed shirt I had made in Hoian and so much more.
|China below Guangzhou today||Vietnam below – which has more soul?|
In less than a month we will be off again – to Australia for a week – Chinese New Years week and this will probably be my last blog about travel until then. Probably including then too because what could I possibly blog about Australia? I will visit my son in Melbourne and that is great but not something I normally blog about though I did mention him in a blog when he visited us a few months ago here in China, that was special. We are going to Narda’s granddaughter’s Christening and her son turning 30 party but that is for her to blog about. She blogs but it is on paper in her scrapbook with tickets and stuff from places we went; much better than my blogs, more interesting and intelligent writing but I am only the other one who reads them. Then again I get about two or three hits to my blogs; no doubt all three from Chinese censors and I really just write for myself to remember what we did.
What I am looking forward to the most these next four days before returning to work is working on my videos. I have so many from the past three weeks and aside of I didn’t take my computer on this trip and Narda doesn’t have a program that I can use with my camera, besides there has not been time to go through a hundred if not hundreds of short clips to make about four five – seven minute movies to put on youtube and etc. I have more than 400 videos online from the past ten years so a few more will get me caught up to date with our travels. Plus I want to make webpages for this trip and they will be linked from http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam
What I will think about in the future when I am being told my lesson plans are not quite to the American Standards (yes those standards that keep America in about 25th place in education in the world) that our school is so obsessed about is not the next lesson plan or lesson unit that a principal or two are demanding but of walks with tribal people in their villages outside of Sapa. That is what is important in life – to have been exposed to people who live wholesome lives who are not grabbing at material possessions and soulless educational expectations. The children we met were happy, learning, holistic and so full of enthusiasm unlike the children we teach who spend days and nights hunched over computers memorizing facts for the next test and who lose all sense of creativity because they have no concept how to apply learning to life only to tests.
But it is all good… life is good and I am happy that at 65 and close to retirement that I am once again reminded of the wholesomeness of life and that simplicity really is what is complicated at achieving. I lived this way in the 1960s, living in communes in California, Oregon and Hawaii and no doubt in the future Narda and I will be living in some village in Cambodia, India, Vietnam, Thailand or in South America with all our belongings that we have collected in the rubbish dump and all that we will have will be each other and our most basic items to survive then we will have arrived at freedom and correct living.
Writing this on China Southern flight Guangzhou to Dalian with too little sleep to stay awake much longer but there is still an hour left of this bloody flight and Narda has been asleep for the past two hours… lucky her but I have four days in front of me to sleep and make video clips…. Yippee.
Thursday morning the third of January – some sleep and looking out the window – damn where did the warm weather go? Jack, our driver – the real Jack – not one of his mates – as usual, was waiting for us at the airport in Dalian and drove us the one hour ride home getting us back to Campus Village at midnight. It is so nice to be home; the maids cleaned the apartment and did our laundry whilst we were gone and I just dropped out a lot of laundry to do.
Turned on the news after three weeks and righto the world did not end, the Yanks shoved everything back up on to the cliff and we even made a ten-percent increase overnight on our Chase stocks. Life is good.
Cat Cat, Sa Pa Vietnam 30 December 2012
The first rainy day or actually all night previous but not to worry the rain did clear on Sunday morning with just a mist over Sapa and the one place we had not been to yet was the nearest village to Sapa, Cat Cat. Yes, that is its name. The H’Mong ethnic group tribal folks fill the area before, during and after.
Cat Cat is walking distance but the walk at the moment has a lot left to be a proper walk of any hue. The first kilometer there basically is no road where there was once a road or where there will be a road; it is difficult to figure which. There was a lot of mud – and jumping from stone to stone and wonderment whether we were going to be cactus before reaching the actual village.
There was a dude that seemed quite anxious with a megaphone thingy and we just thought he was trying to help us from slipping into the endless river of mud until he got us past the area and down part of the hill then there was yelling into his megaphone thingy and an explosion and a section of the hill moved with rocks and smoke and us sort of out of the way.
Cat Cat is similar to other villages in that everyone and their child is trying to sell their trinkets and weavings. All the young women seem to have babies on their back as we have seen the last few days and I have shown in previous posts. Most of these folks get married around 15 years of age and have two babies by 18; except, for Vivian, the guide we had yesterday – see yesterday’s blog, who has no intention to get married until after doing a university degree… good luck girl.
What is the most different about Cat Cat is the environment… it is very mountainous whereas the other villages were hilly but open with all their rice fields. Cat Cat; yes, I enjoy saying that, is like Aspin, Colorado or any mountain forest place.
The main attraction for us was the waterfall…
It took us an hour to get to it and that was our day. We had already made arrangements with some hustlers at the top to collect us at the bottom to save our weary asses from having to climb back to the top.
The owner of our hotel told us not to go to Cat Cat because it was too touristy but we reckon it was because unlike the other two days when he sold us tours Cat Cat is too close to Sapa to have a tour to. We did not see any tourists along the way probably because it had rained all night and no one was stupid enough to slip around in the mud and go down the dangerous trails… oh wait! We did. It was a great trip.
To save from writing another blog before getting back to Campus Village at Dalian American International School in two days I will jump to now which is New Years Day and we are back in Hanoi.
The Hanoi Tourist train back was a lot better as the mattress on the bed was quite comfortable unlike going to Sapa when it was so thin and hard I had bed sores by morning. I still did not get get any sleep because it was such a loud and jumpy train. We paid for an extra night at our hotel because we got into Hanoi at five am pretty much the worse for wear. After a couple of hours of sleep we were out and about. The next day, which is today, New Year’s Day we went to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. It is pretty ghoulish seeing the dude laying there. I wanted to shake him and say something witty but there are so many guards and they look quite serious and push us forward so we can’t linger that I did not have a chance.
Friday, December 21, 2012
So quickly to find our life is not as adventuresome as the next person to pass by. Everywhere we travel their life is so unique and interesting but we no complain. Getting on our bikes this morning to look at local house rentals; we had heard a house goes for about $400 a month and who would not want to live here? We met a couple with a ten-year old girl traveling the world for a year on bikes. From Denmark they started last July coming down through Europe and the past several months biking through Asia. The father and girl have a tandem bike with the girl in front and all their belongings for a year with them. They are telling stories about how Cambodia is the poorest of the Asian countries they had been through. They told how large areas were just huge rubbish dumps and as they rode and air-conditioned tourist buses went by they were constantly surprised at the poverty and pollution. Of course we were those tourists flying around Cambodia on air-conditioned buses a couple of years ago. I had some relatives that were missionaries in Vietnam and Cambodia and growing up in New York I was drowned with their stories of poverty in those places. This couple with the child will be travelling for a year through Southeast Asia, Australia then South America. Maybe that is what I should have done with my kids. Next time I see the travelers I will grab their blog address and put it on here knowing their blog will be so much more interesting than mine.
It is quite the change from -15 C when we left Dalian last Saturday to spend winter break in Vietnam.
Hanoi was hot, like in the high 20s and I think around 32 the first day. That is centigrade not Fahrenheit. We stayed at the Green Mango which we did not like as much as last year’s place but breakfast was good and for only a couple of nights it was not the end of the world. Actually speaking of the end of the world; we have been in Hoi An for the past five days and every evening there has been end of the world movies. Last night we watched the ending of the Body Snatchers and the night before we saw some of The Day of the Locust and before that there was some desert thing and some climate and other snuff us out on the 21st of December tales. Tonight we were are watching Hellboys and Armageddon; unfortunately, I feel to sleep half way through Armageddon though Narda said Bruce Willis saved the world by exploding a nuclear warhead into an asteroid. Thanks Bruce for letting us live to see another day.
When I was in a cult order, 1969 – 1978, there was a lot of narrative about the Mayan Calendar. One of our leaders even wrote the pope to alert him of the end times saying it was vital to sync our calendars together to prepare us for when the shit hits the fan sometime in the future; in 2012 on December 21. Then as an astrologer during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and up until 2003 (my son committing suicide put an end to such stupid belief systems) I believed in this nonsense. So what does one do after waiting for more than 40 years for an event to happen? Well if it was not for some bloody roosters in the backyard I would have slept longer but at 6 am I sat in a sort of naked state in front of my window and posted Facebook photos of our trip so far. Outside the window another beautiful day waiting for our exploration and as soon as Narda wakes up and we have another breakfast of fresh fruit and museli we will be off into the world around Hoi Ann. I think we will rent motorcycles today. We rode bikes every day so far, four days, and my butt hurts so something more comfortable will be great. By the way, today, the 21st, the world did not end. What this should tell everyone is that we can only live in the moment that no one has ever predicted the future and no one ever will because the future is based on what we do now and what we do now is always so changeable. Oh well such as life, insecure people believe in and hang on to non-realistic teachings. The whole human race is crawling forward at roughly the same speed and no one is really more evolved than anyone else so believing that someone does is really detrimental to one’s growth.
In Hoi An we are at the Orchard Garden Homestay for a week. It had top marks in trip advisor and we have not been a bit disappointed. We have a bungalow on the second floor.
Last night they gave a party to all the guests, about 20 of us. People across from us are from Adelaide, and just a suburb away from our home at that, some New Zealanders, Dutch – lots of Dutch here; Narda being from Holland and an Australian she got to be from the two main groupings in this town, and a couple from Poland and some folks from Brittan. We had a full meal and wine. The hospitality is really good.
So I found material I liked – to replicate a shirt I saw back in October when we spent a week in Yantai; a shirt of two materials doing alternate things, a plaid panel and a solid panel with opposite sleeves and cuffs and collar.
The tie I bought at a street shop for 60 dongs, about 3 dollars. I will make a series of them – suits my thinking; swatches of patches sewn into a non-coherent form making up a whole – it has always explained me now I can wear my personality on my sleeve. Next I will go to more colour and try for three then four swatches. “Clothes created from multiple thoughts – some which even are capable of co-inhabiting.
Narda has a different approach; she is more organized and fashionable and found her fashion in the same material market that I did.
She drew out both our set of clothes so I suppose in the Narda-Terrell slumber-assisted living over 65 sort of consciousness we possess she would be the designer.
Narda found some rock-the-boat material, designed it and showed the chic chick the three layers she wanted for her over 55 party-poser win.
Of course designing and having our clothes made does not take from our –its-good-for-the-economy purchasing sprees we embrace in the local clothes and jewelry markets. Not actually sure why I found 5 new shirts and some ties in my shopping party bag when I lighted home, one flowery shirt of which Narda claims if I wear she will not be privy to my existence, has taken my fancy.
Dongs are the trendy choice here though they will take the US dollar. 20,000 dongs equals 96 cents USA. We rented a scooter for a day for 100,000 dongs – five US dollars. Travelling roads the width of a footpath we stopped at little one room houses that had a shop front for our Vietnamese coffee. We have been drinking coffee this way for more than a year since last being here. At home a spoonful of sweet condensed milk is enough; here they put a lot more. We got our little metal drip coffee maker last time in Nam and not able to get Vietnamese coffee in China we get our beans ground just right to make pretty much the same cuppa. Of course the best coffee is supposed to be Weasel Coffee or ca phe chon. The coffee beans that have been carefully selected and digested by a weasel, then used to make coffee. Yumm!
We were at dinner a couple of nights ago, the only ones at the restaurant when we were asked if we were staying for the dancing. Of course we said we did not feel like dancing we had just come for dinner. Though somehow we were transferred from our balcony eating spot to the main dining room with a stage and being the only ones there we felt most self-conscious when the dancing started – cham dance, it is the ethnic Cham people, who are from this area who do these dances though we did not have enough knowledge to have a clue what was going on. . It went on for an hour – four girls, who changed customs four times showed us four dances. Another couple came in for a drink, from Queensland, of course it is mostly Australians here, then left after one dance so it was us wanting to leave but being too polite we stayed. I have no idea what the dances were about; one they had water pots on their heads, and two they had big umbrellas and another was something about a fertility dance that they seemed as embarrassed dancing as we did watching.
I did make a good contact with a local Water Buffalo, even making a video of him that I said would be on youtube which made him most excited but I deleted it by mistake and only have a portrait to show for my efforts.
Hoi An, like all poorer places in the world sees tourists as dollar signs. It is impossible to sit at a meal or have a coffee or even walk down the street without the parade of people trying to sell beads and trinkets. It is not as bad as some cities we have been to but it does wear on you.
We did go for an hour boat ride for 100,000 dongs, again less than five dollars. The driver was the same age as me, 65, and he did look the worst for wear making me realize that our lives are probably a bit easier in the long run. Narda drove the boat for about 20 minutes. At first the driver was not sure about her wanting to take over but as most males soon realize it is usually best to give her what she wants and after a few nervous moments the guy went to the back of the boat and relaxed as we went motoring down the river, Narda at the helm.
The big way to hustle tourists here is through friendly banter; ‘where are you from?’ of course we say China and some laugh and some walk away but we are from China – it is where my drawer of socks and jocks are so that is home. The second question is ‘do you have children?’ then if we are foolish enough to say yes and start talking about them out comes the trinkets, or maybe we would like a massage, or a boat ride or usually some clothes made. Already our suitcase is double what it was when we came here and we get too much made for us back at Campus Village as it is. My most recent big garment is a cape. The talk of the school. Even the guards stop and look and second graders say I look like Batman, Count Dracula, and etc. I wore it to a school dinner and fellow teacher, Pat Herding, asked if it was Narda’s – that hurt – for a half second – but I love it. It comes down to my knees, has a hood and is wool with silk lining and even pockets inside. With the material it cost $60 US. I will take a photo when we get back and post it.
Last weekend we were in Hanoi and we are going there tomorrow for Christmas then on to Sapa on the overnight train for a few days, taking the overnight train back to Hanoi for New Years and a couple of days later back to Campus Village to work on Standards Based lesson plans. Talk about taking the fun out of education and taking away creative learning. One thing I have done is change my classroom from a table learning space to a more comfortable interactive sphere of learning. I took out desks dragged in a couple of sofas – of course without asking because administration only knows how to say no, and put a rug in and a coffee table and I have a great space. I project on the wall some clips that references our learning – I am teaching video broadcast journalism in my high school course then we have discussions, and I bring in a laptop cart of utrabooks and some kids sit on the sofa and some go to a couple of tables I have in another area of the room and we get more done than we use to. I still have to take my class to the computer lab some days for programming work because the software is only on the desktops at this time but I feel the learning environment supports a student centred learning and I still manage to integrate the standards.
In Hanoi last week we were there to hang with Narda’s son Brendan and meet his girlfriend. The weather was great. Apparently it had been cold and raining then the days we were there it was so hot. It was all good. Now we get to spend Christmas with them. Usually we go to Australia for Christmas so this will be our first one in a while not there.
I have taken heaps of video and photos but my laptop stayed home and I do not have the programs on Narda’s so I will wait until we get back to do videos and make a webpage for this trip, probably. When I do everything will be at http://neuage.us/2012/vietnam after 6 January 2013.
Youtube video at http://youtu.be/mfIh5gvLq9A and at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/25-Dalian-Harbour-View-Hotel.html
Friday morning 6 AM waking up saying to Narda maybe we should stay in Dalian for the weekend; get away from school and campus village – take a break, stay someplace nice. Ten minutes later she has booked into the (Best Western Premier) Dalian Harbour View Hotel; 2 Gangwan Street, Zhonshan District along the port and across from the Dalian Passenger Terminal.
It has been a good though as usual an over-the-top busy week. In my little world I have been teeing people up for my broadcast journalism students to interview. Next couple of weeks we are focusing on interviewing and I wanted to steer clear of them interviewing one another or teachers as is usually the model. Having done my Ph.D. thesis ‘Conversational Analysis of Chatroom “talk”’ – (http://neuage.org/All.htm) and having the bloody 550 page book (165,000 words) sitting in an obvious place in my room for students to say ”wow, you wrote this?” it seems only fitting that I continue with online communication. Person-to-person is always so messy – one feels like thumping the other person if they are not active listeners – well they are active listeners in that they interrupt at every chance to change the conversation to about themselves – oh wait, this is interviewing they are supposed to do that. Nevertheless, we are interviewing only via Skype. Last month we had an hour Skyping session with Canyon H.S. School in Bhopal, India as part of the ISA plan through the British Council School’s team “World Class” (and yes, I have an ever evolving webpage on these projects at http://edu.neuage.us/blogs/schools.html).
Back to this week, so I am gathering people to interview: Brandan – a Silicon Valley programmer with Expedia (his parents work at our school so that was an in, and I make fun of his parents to him which gives me an even more in factor), four of our ex-teachers; two in Brazil – they met at our little school, Dalian American International School, got married then pissed off to Brazil. My students are interviewing them Monday morning. Two others who met at our school last year, then got married now in Qatar – hopefully we have them Skyping with us next week; and a woman who is writing a choral piece for our school to perform, living in the State of Washington, will be interviewed by my student and we will be live-streaming rehearsals and the final performance. I have said to the woman we can do the live-streaming but being in China; last Tuesday we did not have electricity for the day so teaching computing was fun. I had them doing storyboarding. With the school in India we had times where the Internet went down but we got back on enough to have done enough work on our project which was about festivals in our two countries to complete our tasks.
I am trying to get my son in Melbourne to come on board with a Skype interview but he has not responded since I asked him last week. He works with asylum seekers (boat people) coming illegally into Australia and he records and performs hip hop acts so there are two interviews there. He spoke about hip hop in Australia to high school students earlier this year when he visited and I was/am hoping there would be a follow on to that.
As well as driving myself nuts with organizing too much stuff I have set up a 4th and 5th grade project for after school starting late November with N.H.Goel World School situated in the city of Raipur the capital city of Chhattisgarh and a Skype project to do with afterschool high school students, probably with a school in the States. The project I am doing with afterschool 4th and 5th graders I am doing with Narda so we will involving music into the mix and both the coordinator at the N. H. Goel World School and us are quite excited about this. The high school project I am doing with the high school music teacher so that will be interesting too as he wants to try and create a musical piece with two schools at once.
So regardless of how busy we were this past week; and I am also starting our laptop program tomorrow, Monday, and have been doing a lot of work putting that together plus of course teaching my classes, it was time to get out of town.
We took the school’s shopping bus into Dalian, stopped at Metro to get grazing food figuring we would sit in our room and watch the forecasted storm pass by, went to Ikea for lunch and took a taxi to the Best Western Premier Dalian Harbour View Hotel at 2 Gangwan Street in the Zhonshan District across from the Dalian Passenger Terminal and Dalian Port, where we found ourselves in a fairly good place. We booked a suite; small lounge and large bedroom. The view was great looking down at the incoming ferries. There were four that came in on ‘our watch’ including the one we took back from Yantai last month; http://neuage.us/BLOGS/21-ferry.htm.
As we so often do, we did not end up eating all the food we bought instead dragged it back home the following day. We went up to the revolving restaurant just to have a sticky beak, check out the food and view. The revolving restaurant only revolves between 6 and 8 pm so we said we would be back at six; by now it was only 3 pm and raining too hard outside to go exploring so we did what normal hard working people do on a day off, we went back to our room and took a nap for an hour. At six pm we were all smiley at the revolving restaurant with camera, lens, tripod, and video in hand. We thought to save money and I was ordering a vegetarian pizza and Narda was eyeing something dead to eat but the buffet was looking and smelling good and tired of our cheapskate ways (well the hotel was not cheap, being a five star, ‘Best Western’ chain hotel, which in our world means soft beds as most hotels in China one may as well as sleep on the floor the beds are so bad. I think they just have box springs and no mattress usually, maybe a throw-back on Chairman Mao who believed life was meant to be hard) we thought spending 135 Yuan ($21.46 US, $20.66 Australian, 1,480.87 Syrian Pound – OK that is just getting silly) was worth it for the view and the food was good. Sometimes we would eat at the all you can eat Chinese restaurant in Clifton Park, New York a few years ago and then it was only about $11 and actually I liked the food there better. (As there are 7 Chinese buffet places now in Clifton Park listed on Google I do not know which one we use to go to back when there was only one a few years ago; maybe there are more Chinese in upstate NY now than in Dalian – damn) We like the Chinese buffet in Australia and in the States better than the ones here. I think they put too much MSG in everything and I get heartburn. Nevertheless the view was good and in the hour that we stuffed ourselves we went all the way around; beer and juice was free making the revolving restaurant revolve all the more. My photos did not come out well because of the reflections on the window but we did get some from our room and I put it both on youtbue at http://youtu.be/mfIh5gvLq9A and on my webpage for this particular blog – http://neuage.us/BLOGS/25-Dalian-Harbour-View-Hotel.html
A view from our hotel.
We went for a walk, in the early morning rain;
All over China there are these homes for the workers, they are filled with bunk beds and from having peeked into many windows at constructions sites they look quite un-inviting as a place to live.
Narda loves tug boats – she had relatives in The Netherlands who were tug boat drivers and she says it is in her blood. When we lived in upstate New York we use to go to the tugboat regalia in Watervliet, New York. There would be lots of tugboats, most come up the Hudson River from NYC.
Another view from our window looking toward the ship building area.
The ferry on the lower right arrived in the morning from South Korea, a 16 hour trip – it looks quite rusty to me.
And today, Sunday, we checked out at noon, we had already called Jack to come and get us; Jack is our driver, but we call all the drivers Jack, and the one who collected us was not the real-Jack but we were happy to see him and called him Jack and even with stopping at Longshan for groceries on the way home we were home in one-hour.
Jinshitan Storming Sunday, November 04, 2012 blogs 2012
We had our storm. Nothing like Sandy visiting the East Coast of the US but the earth had its moments of spitting and farting then the electricity went off. I was doing non-significant stuff at 6:15 am on a Sunday morning; writing up my lesson plans for my broadcast journalism class for the week. Is this nuts or what? Firstly, I should have been sleeping in, or at least playing with my Nikon or sitting on the balcony enjoying a cuppa but no, I was working on my bloody lesson plans. I do enjoy what I am teaching – “Broadcast Journalism” creating in-house twice weekly TV-like shows of announcements and stuff, presented by my class, played in upper school classrooms. This past week we visited the main television station in Dalian; took me a month to get through all the ‘red’-tape to do that one. I made a comment in the main control room of the television station to my students, ‘this is where they would take over if there was a revolution’ and the kids moved away from me, saying; “we have no idea who he is – he is not with us”. But aside of my thinking I was funny it was interesting. A couple of weeks ago we started Skyping with the Canyon School in Bhopal, India and we are working toward creating a documentary in real-time between our classes so that is a bit exciting.
Our neighbours, here in Campus Village, at Dalian American International School, let us know there was no electricity, OK, we are old but we knew that. However, we realized there was power in the hall – some backup generator thingy. We moved our coffee pots, blenders and what-nots out to the hall. We often say where we live is like living in an assisted-living establishment. Me being me moved a table to the hall and set my computer back up. Someone said I was addicted to computers, huh? And on I went with my lesson plans – didn’t need the modem, just the laptop which was already low on battery.
Here we are (well, not me, I was taking the photo) in the hallway this morning – looking for electricity;
The girls (yes, I can call them that as I am 65 and they are all ‘considerably’ younger than me) walked to the beach, which was far from calm, and took these photos:
This first is the road to the beach we ride bikes most morning on though this morning because of the winds and rain and no electricity; not that that has anything to do with not exercising but it is an excuse and any excuse not to exercise at six am is good;
And no, those are not the ‘girls’ picking up stuff along the shore but locals – of course we are locals, but they are extreme-locals. I assume they are collecting some animals that have burrowed into the storm-washed beach. Glad I am a vegetarian and not one who would eat burrowed sea animals.
When they came back the electricity came on – not sure what is with that. And even more strange was that the storm ended. We walked to the main road and hopped the first bus, shelling out our 1 yuan (15 cents) and went to our favourite photo-printing shop. They do such a great job and the price is so cheap – like 5 yuan (80 cents US, 77 cents Australian) for an A3 glossy photo and I am not sure what we paid for a lot of A2 – letter size prints and a dozen 5X7’s but the total bill was 110 yuan ($17.46 US) for a large pile of photos including some 20 pages of Narda’s blog she has been writing with photos and text.
The large A3 photo was of my favourite recent photo – Narda in Jackson Square, New Orleans, last July – home for years of my almost youth – I was a street artists there in the early 1970s – in my early 20’s. I took the photo as a black and white so this is not a Photoshoped job. It has a French look to it.
We thought we were clever enough to take a bus in front of the art store home. It wound all over the place through Jinshitan, past the light rail stop and we figured it would come back to our area but it ended up back at the art store. In our simple senior citizen type of way we thought it was funny. Nevertheless we got our sorry assess back home without much more effort.
Yesterday was a simpler day, we went into Dalian on the school’s shopping bus, got our month’s supply of crap from Metro, put our suitcase full of crap back onto the bus and took the light rail to Kaifaqu where as usual we spent way too much at the local western goods shop, Harbor Deli, buying over inflated-priced cheese and peanut butter, caught the shopping bus back home from Kaifaqu and booked the rest of our trip for winter holidays. We are spending the five-weeks in Viet Nam. We booked the Green Mango Hotel in Hanoi for a few days; we saw it last time in Hanoi but stayed elsewhere, then we are off to HoiAn for a week, one of those great places to be in the world. Then back to Hanoi for Christmas and a few days after. We have a week after we have not planned; leaving it open; maybe to go to Laos or Myanmar – where we still want to live and teach.
Last week was Halloween; something we have managed to escape from for more than a decade but this year the owner of our school asked Narda to judge – probably knowing we were escape artists – we surely hid last year, and for me to take photos. I didn’t mind, but Narda just does not take to this holiday. It is not Australian or Dutch – she sees it as just children begging for lollies.
And I am ending this rather mundane week with what we see many times outside our window – fireworks. I use to like them heaps, and even bought a box when my son, Sacha, came to visit, but it seems a lot of money that goes quickly. For Sacha’s visit I got a box of 36 rockets – which of course was well worth it – I was so happy to have him here – up from Melbourne – but still as often as they set them off – how they afford it?
One last little complaint about my un-interesting life and even less interesting blogs; the storm, Sandy, which left so many without electricity and Internet wiped out half of my reading audience of my blogs. I was having 8 – 10 hits each time I posted a blog then last week’s on neuage.me – https://neuage.me/2012/10/28/rambling-weekends/ I only had three hits. So without sounding pathetic that is it for this week. Just read recently about people getting hundreds of thousands of hits a day for their blogs – I average 8 – 10 a week. Go Neuage!!
Monday, October 01, 2012 Dalian Airport
I am not sure whether it is our airlines; OK Airlines, or the sign over the gate we are departing from that causes concern. Not that I am concerned, this is China, what could possibly go wrong? I am sure these local flights are up to export standards. Like our shoes. We were just commenting before leaving home that we both have Rockport shoes that have really gone the distance, made in China. Narda got a pair she still wears from the Lake George, New York, outlet store ten-years ago and she has worn them in India, Viet Nam, Cambodia, tromping around France, Australia, Thailand, China and of course the USofA and they are still in good shape though she put a bit of superglue on them this morning but the leather is good. My Rockports I got at the same shop in Lake George about seven years ago and they are still good. We have bought shoes, bags and etc. here in China that fall apart quite quickly, so there must be an export quality that lasts. I am hoping the same is true of OK Airlines between here and Yantai where we are off to for the Fall/mooncake Festival holiday. The reason we are going there is because no other destination seems to be available. Narda looked at one place we had thought of going to and the tickets to there have gone from $200 US to more than a thousand dollars in the past week.
They are so polite about their air services at the Dalian International Airport (think 1980s Albany, New York, or Adelaide Airport about 1985) they keep playing this loop “we regret to inform you that flight …. has changed gates…”. Usually the regret an airline would report is that ‘OK Airlines has run out of fuel and has landed on the freeway’. But that we are going from the gate for ‘Abnormal Flights’ seems something they should be regretting.
Not to worry, we are coming back on the ferry – about 6 – 8 hours. We looked it up, a huge boat, and there was a Google story about how a few years ago the same line had their ferry catch fire whilst between Yantai and Dalian and 22 people of the 300 on board survived. Now Narda is a bit nervous about the ferry.
We have been talking about disasters this whole holiday (well the first two days of it). We decided to climb to the top of our local hill which has a great view of the sea, our school and valley. This picture does not do our climb justice – it took us almost two hours to get to the top and we were so puffed out. In the distance is our school and behind the strange ship they built along the highway headed into our resort district.
Continuing with our disaster conversations we worried what to do if a poisonous snake crossed our path, then we worried about what to do if there was a forest fire and we got caught then we wondered if there were bear or other crazed creatures in the woods then we just worried. It took us another hour to get down and we ended up at the local spa but their prices were out of proportion to what we made as teachers so we walked home.
Here I am at the Five-Star Golden Pebble Tang Dynasty International Hot Spring Resort at the bottom of the hill – which was a mountain to us, with my mate, obviously a remnant of the Tang Dynasty. I told him I was a Leo but he didn’t seem impressed or to understand so we walked on in blissful ignorance of our un-importance.
And what is with the writing on the side of the plane facing my seat of where to evacuate? Evacuation Direction – damn… I never know what to do in those kind of situations. And there was no pre-flight speech about dropping down air masks and putting them onto the children last or is that first?
But those bloody Chinese cab drivers – ours give us the fright of our life all the way into town; weaving, and creating lanes where there was none and going way too fast and of course there were no seat belts in the back. I am always terrified driving in a cab in China but then again we did arrive OK.
We wanted to go five-star but not at a Western chain so we picked the only 5-star Chinese because we want soft beds and most hotels the beds are incredibly hard. We are staying at the Golden Gulf Hotel – an old hotel right on the shore. And what a great walk along the coast it is. We like this city – so far, the most of any we have been in. We even found the old area, a Hutong, right behind the hotel – kind of a Chinese New Orleans or old town in Barcelona.
not to worry – we got the buffet dinner and that was really quite good and now off to a soft bed and tomorrow is Tuesday and we do not have to go to school and write up bloody lesson plans or standards or whatever mind-numbing thing we are to do in the future. Why we can not be like the world’s best schools – Finland – where they start at age seven – that by the way is when I started at Shenendehowa Central School in Elnora New York in 1954 – the first year of that school – and look at me… well I left home at 16 – didn’t finish tenth grade – but at age 44 to 58 did every uni degree possible and now, like the Finnish schools I feel a academically OK – maybe I am an OK Air type of person after all.
We are back at school from a summer of travel to the States and Australia which I have gone on about in previous blogs. We have about 18 new staff and at least ten who have left after last school year to teach in schools in India, Istanbul, Brazil, the Middle East, and many other places. In my broadcast journalism course I will be doing a lot of global-video-collaborative projects and look forward to our expats from here syncing with us from their new schools. I will continue my educational blog as soon as school starts on the 16th of August http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html
Here is where our school is – in the fun area of Dalian
(from http://www.chinatouristmaps.com/travel/liaoning/dalian/dalian-transportations.html) Discoveryland is not shown but it is a bit off this map or a ten-minute bike ride away – the Chinese tacky version of Disneyland. We either walk (20 minutes) or ride our bikes (7 minutes) to the beach before school each morning except when it is too cold to ride then we rug-up and walk.
Today, Sunday, we were going to take the light rail into Dalian but it rained all day and we didn’t get out of the house until almost 10 AM. We took the school’s shopping bus into Kaifaqu, did some shopping and took the light rail home. Not much of an eventful day except it is so good to be home. The States and Australia were great and catching up with family is the best but being back here is tops. We really are not ready to settle in the west. I loved the fact I could turn 65 a couple of days ago and be happily teaching and exploring. That teachers are swept in the dustbin in so many countries is awful. My last school in New York City retrenched us over 55 year olds – eight of us, and hired 20 plus year-old teachers. The school was closed down the next year as one of the worst in NYC – Ross Global Academy.
We are reminded of the constancies of life – when I got into the taxi from the light rail to home I tried to put on my seat belt and the driver waved his hand saying no. Wow, we got a $300 ticket a couple of years ago because Narda had taken off her seat belt for just a moment in a small town in Australia. And I was happy to get soy milk and tofu from my favourite tofu shop in Kaifaqu so all in all it was a great first day back in town shopping even in the rain.
We have moved apartments and the one we have now has great views of the Yellow Sea with a stretch of three balconies to walk out onto from the bedroom, lounge and office. See photo below – a rainy day but off in the distance is the sea. In front is the incredibly tacky new housing development going up across the street from us.
And this is another view slightly to the right showing the hills view with the guard stations and entrance to Campus Village.
And this is looking down the row of housing known as Campus Village. The blue roofs at the end are the swimming pool and gym of our school.
And here is the actual road distance from where we live (A) to where we are going (B) – see we are surrounded by seas.
And here is the actual road distance from where we live (A) to where we are going (B) – see we are surrounded by seas.
It comes in a nice looking box. iPhone 5. There is even an information guide and all the places in the world to contact Apple. If there was a real iPhone 5 then this would be somewhat of a clone but since there is not it is just the China iPhone 5 idea thingy that looks like an iPhone though the software is a bit lacking. I paid 300 Yuan about $47 USD in the street stall or actually table in downtown Dalian. I saw it later for 288 Yuan but what is a couple of dollars amongst friends? It says 64 GB on the box but I think it is more like 64 mg as it says no more memory after two photos. I took one with the front and one with the back camera – both are crap. Now there does not seem to be enough memory to save a phone number. But not to worry as a phone it rings loudly and the time is right whereas my Google Android phone is tired and needs replacing. It does have TV which is quite fuzzy and foreign, I will try it in Australia in December. I do not think it is getting 3G or 4G or any G though I will wait until I get to school and ask one of the locals what all the Chinese writing is about. There surely is no App Store or iPod as it shows on the box.
To activate my real iPhone I have to wait until we get to Australia for winter break to unlock it as no one can do it here – they say it is too new. But I felt trendy for five minutes and that is the purpose of a clone or, well it is not a clone, I actually have the iPhone 5. Now if I could clone a younger me I could feel trendy for even longer. The iTerrell 5 available in downtown China (the software is not up to snuff; lacking memory, short circuits, aged…).
We had a great day, riding the light rail into Dalian with about ten others from school. We went to a fabrics & textiles market; about six floors of just too much material. It was much more organized than the one we saw at the beginning of October in Hanoi. That one was a bit of a mess though cheaper and actually more interesting. I bought some wool for a suit coat and some tricked-out Asian material for the lining and for the lining of another vest. I am getting into vests as I found one of our locals who works at school has a husband who makes clothing and I can get really trippy looking things made. I bought material in Hanoi a couple of weeks ago and those vests came out good now I am going for more. I may have to wait as not only are a lot of others getting things made but too many children are having Halloween customs made for next week. Narda got a lot of material for winter clothing and she has a new dress or skirt or whatever those things women wear is called from material she got in Hanoi. So between getting some new threads and an iPhone 5 that really does little more than rings loudly which is really all one needs in a phone it was a good day.
As always we were not the only ones headed into town. My problem was I really really needed a loo and it took a long time to get to a WC and as in everywhere in China people push and shove but I am bigger than them and I had to pee and I was a bit aggro so I pushed and used my arms more than I normally would have. What is so kool here is that I can have a go at saying things to people I would never say if I thought they knew English. In the States they would just shoot me – here they don’t have guns. Not even the police, the few that are visible. Then you see the heavily armed police in American cities and you wonder which system is really working. I know the foreign press really make China look bad, maybe it is – after all they block Facebook and Twitter and my 400 videos on Youtube and that is really quite evil but I think I see more happy people here than in the States. Especially young people, there seems to be a lot of mirth and carrying on amongst them. Last weekend we took a day bike trip around our area and found a quiet fishing village. It was quite a contrast to all the construction for the million dollar French style homes going up across the street from us. And as teachers tend to do we noticed a bit of a spelling error – I tell you someone is not going to be getting an A anytime soon. We may have found a place more suitable for us than Campus Village next to the Dalian American International School – why are we living where we work? It may be a bit drafty with the cool air starting to kick in but it looks cheap and we would have a nice sea view – out there in back of us we would be able to see China test its new aircraft carrier to; like prime time journalist. And it is really only a good boat paddle away over to North Korea. I want to go over there and have a bit of a sit-down conversation with them and get some education happening.
And that is it for this week. Nothing more… just odd things like next Monday the electricity will be shut off for all of the Golden Pebble Beach area from eight AM until five PM. It will be interesting for me teaching my computer courses. Luckily it is the day I have my class in publication and we are working on morning announcements, something I started at the beginning of the school year; DAISlive, a video show we do. It is fun and the students love it. I am finding that even my EAL (English as an additional language – formally ESL, English as a second language) students who have English as a second or third language are embracing it. So far it is only played in the school but my idea is to someday have it as a WebTV broadcast. We don’t need electricity for it this Monday, just our video camera and the announcements and some stories and I have a backup battery for my computer so I can edit and have it ready to put live for the school the following
morning. We did not have electricity for a day a couple of weeks ago and my web design class made sketches and storyboards for their web pages. So all in all we don’t really need electricity. This is China, we learn to live with whatever we are presented with. Though now I am a bit annoyed that I cannot get onto Facebook or Twitter or Youtube even with a VPN; what is with that? But it looks as if my wordpress account (neuage.me) works and so does my account at blog.neuage.info and I think wordpress sends an announcement to my twitter and facebook accounts so no one can read it which is the nature of my life. I suppose having five-planets in Leo was too good of a thing; no one notices me.
Last night teachers got together and showed slides of places they have taught or lived the past few years. What an interesting group of people from Borneo to throughout the Middle East, Africa, South America, Europe and Asia teaching in international schools is really the top employment to have and we sort of wish we had started a couple of decades ago but we didn’t and though it is safe, except for the drivers on the road, here we still would like to have taught in some of the places other teachers have. I think any teacher who had taught in the States and had taught in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, or across Africa would never go back to teaching in the States I know we couldn’t or back to teaching in Australia either. We signed up for the teacher’s conference in Bangkok for next March this week – the start of spring break, so once again we will meet international teachers from around the area. Any one who is young (under 60 I think is young) teach in an international school and your life will be changed. We barely watch news from the States anymore – is anything of interest going on there, really?
The end of another week though a short one at that; a short work-week actually, with the Moon Festival school closure Monday. School as always is an amazing place to be. I had students in my after-school-activities group perform their first newscast that we aired throughout the upper school the following morning. Next week we start doing one for the elementary school too. I named it DAISlive and everyone; students and teachers alike, are onboard with great ideas and contributions. I also got a bit of a promotion to an academic technology coordinator position and though it is a lot more responsibility and I will be here for an extra week at the end of the school year whilst Narda will be going back to the States five days earlier than me, to stay with her son Chris in Atlanta and I have to be back a week earlier at the end of the summer, Narda will hang with her new grand-daughter and family in Adelaide for that week, I am excited about it all. Being an unemployed teacher back in NYC was not fun, thrown out onto the ‘you-should-retire’ heap when the US government is saying we should be working later in life; with what job? one would ask, I am most lucky to be able to use the past decades of work for this perhaps my last hurrah. Working with ESL students with a handful of English words in my computer classes is a challenge – I will go on about this in my educational blog ~ http://neuage.us/edu/blog.html
Our first cooler day after lots of nice hot days. We need to appreciate and ride our bikes as much as possible. We usually go for a bike ride in the morning before school. Everyone says winter is brutal here and goes from November until about March.
Playing the money market, again. Today the US dollar is strengthening against the Aussie dollar. In the past four minutes the US dollar has gone from .96 to .98 cents. Of course when it was worth .60 cents before the US dollar went belly up a couple of years ago we were in better stead; but we will take what we can and today we have to transfer before the US dollar dives again. It is all quite nerve racking. The China Yuan just stays the same day in day out. We get paid partly in Yuan and partly in US dollars. If only I had paid attention in math class some fifty years ago I would be able to figure out whether I should purchase soybeans by the ton in China or in the US or in Australia. Of course why would I do that is beyond reality – my favourite place to exist.
The building in our area is still going on at a frantic pace. The major project is starting to take shape – it looks like something straight out of Southern France; believe it will be a winery. The main building, looking like a cathedral has ornate sides/windows/panels all happening. And the buildings at Chateau Bordeuax across the street are starting to have some rooftop shapes that look French. We may end up with a French village across the street. Of course it will probably be empty like so much of the buildings are in China. Someone told me at the conference in Shanghai last week there were about five million migrants in Guangzhou building – with most of the buildings left empty. Here we have large housing tracks, beautifully finished with no one living in them. China has about zero unemployment because there is a building job for everyone. Of course people cannot afford them so they stand empty or investors purchase them and leave them empty. It is like they are building ghost towns. Hard to imagine there are more than a billion people in this country with so much emptiness. Perhaps if they started building at a frantic rate in the States there would be zero unemployment too.
We are booking our tickets to Atlanta and back to Beijing then on to Australia for next June – August with something in South America after Atlanta for a week. A nice Saturday to spend money.
Here are some photos I took out of our hall window here at Campus Village this morning:
Our new winery – a touch of France here in China. Across the street this was taken from our hall here at Campus Village, Pebble Beach National Resort in Jinshitan, Dalian China
View out of the hallway window
In the distance one of many large housing tracks with few if any one living in them, this particular one is Yosemite, and we ride our bikes to there to go to the Kangaroo Bar and the Busy Bee shop which is similar to a 7-11 store in the States and Australia only with Chinese products.
Looking toward the hill where Blueberry Cafe – our favorite Friday night dinning place. On the right the blue roof over the new swimming pool
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.
Three weeks? I thought it was just a few days ago that I wrote a bit of a blog. It has been such a full-on section of life with non-stop everything. I look out the window and see (and hear) the 24 hour a day building across the street with eight cranes in one area and several a block away along with jack hammers, lines of trucks, and just so many workers and just like life in China it just does not stop. On the way to nearby Kai Fa Qu, Dalian counted 41 cranes working on buildings in the 25 plus story range – apartment buildings, then I saw as many a few kilometers further. And there is the new city they are building nearby that will not only host the new China movie industry but will have a yacht marina and housing for zillions or so people. The area across the street from us will be million dollar homes (yes this is China) in a walled-in area called ‘Chateau de Burgundy’ and a block away what they are building is identical to where we were touring a year ago in southern France. It is even being built to look old. french chateau next to Dalian American International School
french chateau next to Dalian American International School
As I sit here trying to get caught up from the past three weeks I hear the fireworks. It is 6.30 AM Sunday. This is China – fireworks and more fireworks. They love their fireworks. Anytime of the day or night there will suddenly be a barrage of them. Whether here in the countryside, or in downtown Kai Fa Qu or along Golden Pebble Beach, downtown Dalian, or where we shop locally in Jinshitan (which is also Pebble Beach – go figure) there will be smoke and ashes and noise of the fireworks.
The water to Pebble Beach (Dalian Golden Pebble Beach National Resort is the first National Resort approved by the State Council of P.R China, the main function of which is for hosting foreign guests) was turned off for a couple of days. We filled our bath tub and every bucket we could find but since it was Friday we decided to go into Dalian City (about an hour away) for the weekend when school let out. Two other couples went with us. We took a car in (our driver we call Jack, not that we know who Jack actually is, we just all have Jack’s phone number on our phone and we ring Jack wherever we are and a car soon arrives and we are taken where we want to go. It is often a different driver each time. We just go up to the car and say Jack? and they nod and off we go. We try not to look out the window when in a car. It is the scariest thing you could imagine. Where there are three lanes marked, ‘Jack’, or the shopping bus, or whatever we are in, often makes a fourth lane. Drivers rarely signal and everyone goes really fast, beeping horns and coming so close to constant disaster. I had to go into Dalian for some medical stuff last week and my driver was easily doing close to a hundred coming back – it was a van. We came to a blocked area of the freeway so instead of patiently (there is no patience in our neck of the woods) he made a sudden turn off the freeway up a dirt construction road around a hill and got back on the freeway further up where there was no traffic jam. It was absolutely terrifying. Oh, and he was on his cell phone most of the time. I suppose he felt he had to have me back at school as quick as possible so I won’t miss any work. And of course there are no seat belts.
So this past Friday, with no water into our building or the whole area we went into downtown Dalian. Outside of too many dealings with government officials to get my working visa finally through we had not been in Dalian, except for one night we had a school trip to Brooklyn, the expat pub and pizza diner in downtown Dalian. Once our driver fought his way through the heavy traffic going into the city (we went in two cars for eight of us, four couples, and six of us ended up at the same hotel) and dumped our bag in our rooms we went out in search of a meal. Our Chinese lessons begin next week so for now we depend on our electronic translator. We went into a restaurant that covered several stories. When we made enough gestures to prove without any doubt that we were starving we were sent up to about the fifth or sixth floor. After being herded into a small room the food started coming out and we cooked it in boiling somethings on our table. I have a video (and photos) that I will post soon on my Dalian Page http://dalian.neuage.us/ that shows what would be too difficult to explain. Needless to say the food was really good and we had some of the best laughter up to that time.
So after dinner everyone seemed to be in the mood for a drink (it is difficult to keep people over 55 from partying) and we went off into the night. Near our hotel was a 30+ story hotel with a name very similar to ours (so we initially thought we had booked into the wrong place) and we were riding up and down the elevator
looking for a pub type of area and on the fourth floor saw a sign that seemed to mean a place to have a drink. We barged into a room that had a bar and lots of alcoholic bottles on the shelf only to instantly be met by about a dozen women with tight red dresses. Realizing that we must be in the wrong area we looked into another room with the same response. (I have a video of this too but I think we were laughing so hard – damn rude Westerners, that it may be a bit shaky – it will soon be on my Dalian page in the video section). The third room seemed better as no women in red tight dresses greeted us. We sat down at a long table on comfy sofas and hoped that someone would soon be in with the drinks menu. Instead two people came in and started handing out microphones and put on the large TV screen, we realized then that this was actually a karaoke bar/room and Shawn, one of our traveling mates/teachers/new found friend, said that we had a friend downstairs waiting for us and off we went into the night again. We never did find a place to drink. Like pirated DVDs prostitution is illegal in China and like pirated DVD’s they are everywhere. We saw girls with flashing neon badges dressed to the nines and signs that read ‘sex’ with large arrows.
The next day, Saturdaywe headed to Zhonshan Square and had lots of fun shopping, hopped on a falling apart bus because we were so tired to go to the Ikea store outside of downtown Dalian. We showed the driver an Ike shopping bag and he held up three fingers so we paid the three yuan (47 cents USD, 45 cents Australian) and as all drivers he made his own lane which in our case was the opposition direction lane. Somehow he squeezed back into the lane that was our direction as cars came racing toward us and next we knew there was Ikea. I wanted to go see the aircraft carrier that China is building which is only a few blocks in back of Ikea but with all the bags of stuff we had purchased and five tired old people trailing behind me it was not going to happen. We ended up just buying lots of Swedish food because we need a change from Chinese food and then Narda and I went to the Decathlon sports store next to Ikea and bought really good bikes and helmets an locks and etc. which will be delivered in a couple of days. Hopefully we won’t get killed ridin our bikes on these incredibly dangerous road ways. We plan on doing lots of riding. Then we took the light rail, so crowded that we barely got in – New York City subway you hold nothing on a crowded Chinese tram.
[dudes with hats]
our new red-star hats
The shopping bus leaves Campus Village (where we live) on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday morning. It stops in Kai Fa Qu on the way into Dalian. We use to go in during the week but after a day at work we just go in on Saturday to Kai Fa Qu. Two weeks ago we walked the hour hike to the light rail that starts in Jinshitan (there is a planned station for our school but it may be another year or two before it happens) and took the 4 yuan half hour ride and fortunately got a seat in and after buying way too much stuff we took the shopping bus in the afternoon back home. Home is great. It is like living at a four star (five star for China) resort/hotel. We are sparsely furnished but it is OK– our heap of junk we shipped from NYC won’t be here until October. We have a two bedroom apartment with a balcony (there is or will be a video in our video area of my Dalian site) for some photos see http://dalian.neuage.us/photos/Aug%2012%202011/ (sorry about the URL will fix it sometime). We have a gym on the first floor, it is not the New York Sports Club which I took a liking to for the past five years but there are some machines and heaps of free weights so I get to stretch and groan every day. Then there are the guards. Not sure why. It is safer here than most places we have lived. The whole property, Campus Village and the school have a large fence all around and there are guards at every entrance and every building. Twenty-four hours a day. They are not the doorman they are guards usually dressed in army uniforms. Whether they are protecting us or being sure we do not suddenly move out I am not sure but they are friendly and we have learned to say ni hao (hello) but I said hee haw for the first couple of weeks – probably means something not nice.
Narda and I found a small shopping area twenty minutes walking away. It is so local, and so cheap. We both got haircuts for 15 yuan – about $2.50 both haircuts look quite Asian.
School so far is great. After teaching at the NYC Charter school, Ross Global Academy (the Courtney Sale Ross, widow of Steve Ross, the former C.E.O. of Time Warner, experiment in education which was closed down by the city of NYC for its momentous failure) this is such a contrast. The kids are behaved, want to learn and we are having a great time. I make big mistakes such as asking if anyone could speak Korean as my student was not following me at all only to be told by a Korean student that ‘he is Chinese’. And names? Forget it. Most of the Asians have taken on names like Tony and Oscar. Our life-saving secretaries, Snow and Sunshine keep things rolling. I still have not had time to set up a VPN so I can get on Twitter and Facebook and post my new lots of video on youtube but I have an eighth grade student who has found a Japanese VPN that he is setting up on my machine. I have several students whose parents work for Intel nearby. Campus Village not only houses the teachers for DAIS but for the big overseas companies that are moving into this area which is kind of a Silicon Valley of China. They live in townhouses and we live in apartments so there is a difference but we are not complaining. Narda likes having a maid and getting our house cleaned and clothes washed and ironed but I am not sure – though it is cheap, it seems a bit unnatural to me.
The building around our area makes me dizzy but in the midst of it all, across the road, five minutes away, is the Blueberry Farm. A very large area with a pub, tea rooms, lake, streams and a great restaurant. Nine of us trekked up to the restaurant a couple of Fridays ago. Nothing was in English, fair enough, this is China. I managed to get across I was a vegetarian and the first eight or nine dishes that came out were so amazing, some of the best food I have ever have had. There was so much food, and beer, and soda and at the en it came out to about eight dollars USD each. I have a couple of photos http://dalian.neuage.us/photos/BlueberryFarmDAIS/ and will put a video soonish in the video area of my Dalian page.
We rarely watch the news. There is just too much going on here. We get about 35 channels, mostly Chinese but we do get HBO, BBC, CNN and an Australian channel so I have gathered some of the males over to watch Aussie Rules Footy. It looks pretty grim in the States. I know we have lost about 15% on investments in less than a month and we have no intentions of selling houses. We are becoming quite removed from the rest of the world and we are happy with that. We have a two year contract which we may or may not renew or maybe they won’t want us. It does not matter now. We feel like we are on a holiday and life is just great. We have begun planning our trip to Hanoi for our October week break. Everyone here, being from the States, or in our case, Australia-States, the talk of travel is the number one conversation (after the academics of course – hey we are working) and where everyone is going is compared and shared. We are off to Australia for Christmas than to the ice festival in Harbin in January and maybe India for spring break then the States for a couple of weeks for summer than on to Australia then back here. I am so happy I managed to stay alive this long. There were some very rough years and for now life is great.
Well Narda is off with some ‘girls’ to get a foot massage in Jinshitan. They have rung ‘Jack’ and several cars are on the way to collect them. Me? I am finally having a bit of time to myself, think I will work on so many dozens of videos I have started and perhaps do some lesson planning for next week and edit some photos, go to the gym, take a walk, take a nap – it has been such a full-on three weeks, make tofu burgers for din din and try to figure out how to use my soy milk maker that Narda bought for my 64th birthday eleven days ago.
Next weekend we have been invited to a Chinese wedding so that will be fun. Apparently it is a good thing to invite or have westerners at a Chinese wedding and these are big events here.
Narda has a great blog – well she has posted some and more is waiting to be posted after her foot massage today. blog.narda.us
tri color city in Kai Fa Qu
just a pub in Kai Fa
30 July Dalian Development Area
Thanks for everyone who emailed that they were able to see this post via a link from Facebook and Twitter. We hope to get a VPN soonish then we too can see all our friends having wonderful western fun (they did have a jar of peanut butter in our pantry so we would not have too much of a culture shock and Narda brought Vegemite).
After a two and half hour flight delay – we are getting use to this, we arrived at Dalian airport where we were met by our new boss, the headmaster at DAIS. We learned a lot in our one hour drive to Campus Village – our new home, arriving five AM Saturday (Melbourne time, three AM). We got to bed at six AM – exactly 24 hours after leaving Melbourne. Now I am sort of awake and exploring our new home at 9 AM Saturday. Three hours sleep is enough though Narda seems to want more and I will be quiet.
My favourite tidbit on the way in is that here in the Dalian Development Area they have leveled three large hills. One of which was the largest in the area or province or whatever these sections are referred to. All done in eleven weeks of 24-hour earth movement. The dirt, rocks, fossils, trees and whatever that was in the way has been dumped along the sea where a new coast line is being constructed for the new city (a mere two-million population eventually) and the new industry of movie making. Hollywood folks have already been here putting in bids for studios. Gosh. It won’t all be done this weekend. Apparently they are only in the third of a ten-year plan. The film industry (Is it Chollywood?) is suppose to be like everything in China, a bit big. There will also be a marina for a yacht club. I want to be the token American/Australian old person in a sitcom here, wish me luck.
So our home. New, large two bed-room, big walk-in closets and two full bathrooms. All modern furniture which left us to say ‘what were we thinking?’ The fact is somewhere out there on the ocean blue is a lift-van, seven/six/five feet of our stuff steaming at a rapid rate to here. Full of “antiques”. We even sent a large desk (well it has been in the family for a long time) chests, bookshelves, dishes, junk and more junk. Where all those pirates when they are needed? Not only is there no room but basically, how embarrassing. It all looked good in our one-hundred year old house in upstate New York and our one-hundred year house in the hood in Jersey City, but here, heaven help us all.
We are excited about our school. Our headmaster is looking forward to our involvement and I have lots of ideas.
Well off to explore. And again thanks for letting us know that the Facebook/Twitter links work from this blog. We will make Narda’s OK to view soon.
cheers from over here
Swimming Pool at Dalian American International School
My biorhythm chart but I feel great so obviously these are nonsensical