As is so often the way we do things, this USA 2019 trip has been a long time coming. We started with planning to be at Narda’s son’s Chris’ 40th birthday, several years ago. We wanted to do a combination of Airbnb, Chris’ home in Washington DC and Home Exchanges. This is how we have travelled the past few years in Europe. In Asia we combine Airbnb and hotels/guest houses. The idea was to stay out of hotels for this three-month trip and we succeeded. We first contacted a couple in Denver, 9th of November 2017 and they wrote back soon after. We confirmed exchanging in July 2018 for now, April – May 2019. They are looking at our house for early 2021; their winter, our summer. Currently they are sailing in the Caribbean. In 2018 we began speaking with Lawrence, our teaching mate from our China years, for a trade in Florida. Quick jump in this story is that we had a wonderful stay in Orlando at his home toward the end of this trip.
We have the rest of this year long ago planned/paid (Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), as well as next year, 2020 (settled last year). Currently we are negotiating with people for 2021. I am saying this as even when I re-read our blogs, I think we do so much travel, how does this happen? Narda does the legwork of getting places to stay, tracking down incredible flight deals, and generally does so much that all I need to do is play on the computer, look out the window and excitingly exclaim what a marvellous place we have suddenly been transported to.
Instead of many videos this trip we have made sixteen slideshows and only one video. They are grouped together here or view them as they are slotted into where we are speaking of. The slideshows are about a minute each.
All USA Playlist https://tinyurl.com/y4o3halm I have also made a QR image to click with your phone if that floats your thingy.
15 April Monday
Our last days in Adelaide and we “child sat’’ the grandies. Can’t say babysit anymore now that they are five and seven. We spent a day packing; how to get all we need for three-months into seven kilos carry-on and 22.7 kilos (50 pounds) check-in stuff. Narda is the master-packer, I easily make my piles of all that I want, and she makes ‘executive decisions’ of what is taken, as I see my many favourite tee-shirts and other garments find their way back on to their shelf.
Getting our home ready for three months away is always a project. People will be staying, coming and going and we always seem to have too much stuff in our bulging suitcases. We have been doing this for twenty-years and have yet to master the luggage thing, though we do well leaving home, it is returning that becomes a nightmare with all we collect along the way. This trip was exceptional too much stuff brought back home – I will get to that, later. I am sort of responsible for this excess.
We left Adelaide in the afternoon and had an overnight in Sydney. As we had an afternoon flight, we had planned to take the bus from the front of our house to the airport. Knowing that we can go to our bus stop and 45-minutes later be at an airport then off to anywhere in the world is a wonderful feeling. However, the day before we were to leave, Narda’s sister, Caroline, offered to drive us to the airport which was a nice option.
I try to go to Sydney each year as a memorial to my son, Leigh, who died there in 2003 and this year the only time we could get to Sydney was by doing it on this trip as a stopover to the States. We stayed at the Budget Ibis as it was near the airport and was cheap. Note to self, yuck: location sort of OK, but we had to cross lots of traffic getting there with our crap, though we got a shuttle the next day. The rooms were old, small, dingy which is OK. It was getting from there to the metro to get to Olympic Park that was difficult; lots of construction, crossing busy large intersections. Nevertheless, we had lunch downstairs at the Ibis-Novotel that we try to get to each year. We spent the rest of the day getting back to our cubicle at the Ibis.
Friday we were on the 9 am flight, 17 hours from Sydney to Houston. Long flights are boring, and we
have found United as one of the worse airlines; unfriendly staff, food not very good, though the movie selection is good, and it is the cheapest. We ignore the yucky parts and move forward. We had three hours in Houston before our flight to Washington D.C. A rather uninteresting note; the pilot announced that we had left Sydney at 9.06 am Friday and arrived into Houston at 9.06 am Friday. Groovy. We had just spent seventeen excruciating hours flying, only to discover that we had not used up any time.
We were to stay in DC from Friday evening until the following Tuesday when we were to fly to Denver. However;
Narda’s friend from her teaching days at St Luke’s had a tragic event in her life which changed our plans. Her eldest son, only in his late 20’s, died suddenly several days before we left Adelaide. The day before we left, we learned that the funeral would be on Saturday, the day after we would arrive in DC. Instead of going to Chris’ home after we arrived in DC we decided to continue.
Two hours after arriving in DC we were on the Acela Express to NYC. We booked the overpriced Doubletree Hilton at Times Square (much higher than usual as it was Easter Weekend) and finally got to lay down after close to thirty hours of travel. We were back out around midnight as hunger got the best of us. Luckily, there was a Taco Bell a block away and we got to eat with the denizens of the night before going back and passing out…until the hotel clock radio woke us up at 6 am, no doubt from some previous weary traveller heading out of town.
Once again hunger entered our world and we took a subway to the West Village. Getting off at West fourth we headed to Rocco’s (Pasticceria Rocco) on Bleeker Street for a wonderful NYC breakfast. The funeral we were attending was a few blocks away on Bleeker.
I wore a suit and tie for the first time since working at Dalian American International School in China, five years earlier, such is retirement.
The funeral was incredible, full of JD’s many friends, some dressed in the colourful blazers he loved to collect. The room was decorated with lots of his stuff, notably Star Wars memorabilia. His love of Star Wars was celebrated; after each of his friends gave a eulogy, they would say “may the Force be with you”, and the gathered folk would respond “and also with you”.
After the funeral we went to Cowgirl’s for lunch (519 Hudson St) a couple of blocks away from where Narda taught for five years (St. Lukes). After Cowgirl’s we went uptown and spent time at Ronnie and Karen’s place.
Not having an American sim card, we tried several phone companies; Verizon and some other losers could not help us. The problem is that US sim cards are not compatible with our Australian phones. T-Mobile at Times Square thought they could help and after hours of little success (one of their cards worked in my phone but would not in Narda’s) we left late at night back to our hotel. Times Square is a miserable place. It is used to be groovy in the 1960s, even in the 1970s, but now it is worse than Disneyland.
On Sunday (21st April) we took the bus from NYC to DC. The bus was $30 and took about three hours depositing us at Union Station. It was comfortable with Wi-Fi to keep us from needing to talk with one another. Narda’s son Chris collected us and left us at the church he preaches at and at the end of his session we took Liam home, stopping at his favourite eatery, Chipotle Mexican Grill. I rarely eat at chain restaurants, except for McDonald’s in Australia because they give seniors a free coffee for a purchase over three dollars. Since a coffee cost $3.70, we order one coffee and get the second free and get to read the newspaper. A big day out in our world when in Australia. Chipotle is good though, probably not good for a low-carb diet but they know how to make a vegetarian and a meat eater happy. We spent the next day walking Liam to school, riding on buses and mainly catching up on sleep and getting used to a new time zone that is 13-hours different from what we had been used to.
Well not exactly getting into sync with our new time zones. Though we have been in NYC for a couple of days, one would think we would have gotten some sleep, but we got even less in NYC. We were up too early the next morning and packing ready to fly off to Denver. Believing it would be warm(er) in Denver we left a suitcase behind for when we would return in a month. As we usually do when in DC we took the shuttle to the airport and were off to Denver. Our roundtrip to Denver set us back about twenty bucks for the two of us as we used our United points.
I have been wanting to see Denver Airport terminal since first reading the conspiracy sites about it. One theory is that there is a secret bunker located under the Denver Airport. DIA is the largest airport in the United States, the second largest airport in the world behind King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia. Of course, the conspiracies began shortly after the invention of the internet in the mid-1990s (the internet was invented in 1990) as most conspiracies have. [For example, layout of the runways of the airport is in the shape of a swastika. But it is the artwork on the walls that has everyone going nuts. Murals that can be viewed in the baggage claim area feature content that, according to some, feature future military oppression and a one world government like the concept of “big brother.” The most memorable of these pieces is a large green soldier of sorts with an eagle symbol on his hat, a bayonet tipped gun and a large curved sword in the other hand. Underneath the soldier are signs of poverty and distress, a woman clutching her baby and children sleeping in ruins. Viewers of the piece state that it appears to represent themes of future military oppression and a one world government. The artist of the piece, Leo Tanguma, however, claims that the mural and others like it represent man-made destruction of the environment and genocide while the people of the world come together to live in peace. The two large murals are entitled “In Peace and Harmony with Nature” and “The Children of the World Dream of Peace.” Within the Denver International Airport there is a dedication marker which is inscribed with the compasses and square associated with the Freemasons. Additionally, this marker lists two of the grand lodges of Freemasonry located in Colorado. Among all the odd decor of Denver International Airport is a statue of an open suitcase. Within this suitcase is a honed demon with its head in its hands.] This stuff is from this website if you want to read more, https://www.exploringlifesmysteries.com/denver-international-airport-conspiracy/ And there is more about bunkers beneath the airport, statues and other silly stuff. So, were we rewarded for all our research? No, the whole bloody airport is going through a reconstruction and the walls are covered. Next conspiracy…
We have a house exchange in Denver. Our hosts had left their car at the airport long term parking and we found it with little effort and were off to our new home. American freeways in the dark, with lots of road construction, after driving on the other side of the road for the past whenever months in Australia is a challenge. Not to worry we rocked up at our beautiful new digs and found the remote to open the garage and we were able to get inside and say wow. The house was three sizes larger than ours. In our month there we decided to move into the basement as that was large enough for us, it had a lounge, bedroom, bathroom, and a big table to do our never-ending computer work on. We never used two of the lounges upstairs or the master dining room or several of the bathrooms.
We slept in. We have a month to explore Colorado so there was no need to rush out into the high altitude. That was our first ah ha moment. Not only jetlag, then after sort of adjusting to eastern time for three days we now were in Central or is it Mountain time? Then there is the height thingy. A mile high. Cool. After a couple of trips between the basement, the main floor, the next floor up we were puffed out. I get altitude sickness at two and half thousand metres, or I came to learn of that when we were in Quito, Ecuador, 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) a few years ago. After a couple of days, we had to flee, unfortunately, we only had those couple of days to see that wonderful city. Recently when we spent a couple of weeks in Shimla, India I was fine. There the altitude is 1924.00m (6312 feet). Denver is around 1,730 metres (5,700 feet). Not quite sure why we both got puffed out more in Denver than in Shimla where we walked heaps. We drank lots of water as recommended.
Our first full day in Denver, our stay for the month was in the town of Centennial (Arapahoe County), about sixteen miles from Denver City Centre, “the safest City in Colorado for the last eight years” according to their site, http://www.centennialco.gov/ Not sure as there was a school shooting while we were there, more about that later. We found the area friendly and it was easy to find what we needed. We were in a very suburbia area meaning a car-friendly area; though we did find walking trails not far from our home. We (well me in particular) excitingly found Sprouts Farmers Market, within walking distance. A giant health food store with those wonderfully high-priced products, which happily we found later at Walmart for much less. Left to my own devices I could have walked home with a suitcase of ‘health foods’, needless to say, I didn’t. We stayed home most of the next day too except to go to a nearby Target store to get photos printed. I seem to be stuck in the digital world of photos and Narda likes to print photos and put them in her diary. As we travel, we look for stores that have a photo machine that does small prints, for her book. As Narda points out, we still have family photos from many years ago (I have family photos from the early 1900s from my parents, not with me in them in the early 1900s, I am only 72) and we have lost many digital setups. So, there you go. Having both is the way to save those fleeting memories that last for hundreds of years. We worked on our projects at home; Narda’s writing diary and my online textual-photos I post on too many social sites.
On our third day we got out into the world and found a T-Mobile centre to try and sort out our phones. We found a friendly chap that not only got us a three-month card but gave us new phones with it. Not top of the range of course but they work as phones and not as computers and cameras, recording devices, navigational, and all the other useless bells and whistles that phones have. They still took photos and had navigation and all the basics, just not high quality, which all we wanted them for was as phones, and for that they were fine. Our Australian ‘high-end’ phones were still useful as cameras and computers when there was Wi-Fi.
After three days we rose from our zombie-zoned-out times and felt normal. Our friends, Frank and Kay from teaching days in Dalian, China, came to visit. The last time we saw them was in 2014 in Bagan, Myanmar, when we were also with Jean and Sean from our Dalian teaching days and who we will visit later during this trip, in Florida. They stayed for a couple of nights with us. It was fun.
After an evening and next morning of catching up and sharing stories with our friends a bit we Frank drove us on a sight-seeing tour of some of the mountains. We went to where Buffalo Bill was buried and did some stuff and learned about cool Bill, found it all quite interesting took photos then moved on to Red Rocks Amphitheater. http://tiny.cc/b6xdcz
Red Rocks Amphitheater at Morrison, Colorado, https://www.redrocksonline.com/ is the home of outdoor music on steroids. Most music stars since the early 1900s have played in the 9500-capacity arena. My personal experience here was great. We were trolling around the place looking at the music hall of fame, looking out at the view, taking too many photos when I realized I did not have my phone. (I change lenses on my camera and thought I must have set my phone down when putting the zoom on our camera) Not only did I not have my phone but my phone was one of those wallet setups that us post-millennials (decades-post…) put our credit cards, driver’s licenses, photos of ourselves or our loved ones, which ever fits in the most… in panic we all looked all over, spoke to people, left phone numbers and went off to find the best way to cancel our credit cards which of course would have stuffed us up no end. As we were walking out of Red Rocks toward our car one of the staff came running up to us and said, “is this your phone”. It became our Red Rocks miracle.
Frank and Kay live in Loveland, Colorado. There are about three excellent sculpture parks in Loveland. Benson Sculpture Garden is the one we spent the most time at. Well worth the visit. Our little slide show of the sculpture garden is over at http://tiny.cc/4cydcz.
We spent a few days, two different times at their home. They were such great tourists guides, we had experienced this in Myanmar five years earlier when they showed us around their hometown, at the time, of Yangon. We spent a day driving up into Rocky Mountain Park, and even in April there was snow on the ground. See our one-minute slideshow of this amazing area at http://tiny.cc/yeydcz
We had a couple of down days staying at home, eating low-carb, organic, allegedly nutritional substances, walking around our area, acting out the same routine as we do back in Adelaide with our morning walk. I have a bowl of seeds, probably bird seed, but I like to think it is doing me good, have our super healthy dinner and watch Netflix series. We watched ‘After Life’ (http://tiny.cc/bgydcz); series created, produced, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais. We haven’t liked too many shows that Ricky Gervais is part of, he seems to appeal to the millennials, (we rarely think he is funny) but this series was well worth the watch. I see there will be a season two so that will be what we will watch in some other part of the world. (Netflix has announced it is renewing “After Life” for a six-episode season 2, which will launch in 2020. … But now I have to make sure the second season is even better, so I’ll probably have to work much harder than usual. Annoying really“ said Gervais. Apr 3, 2019). We also watched ‘Hell on Wheels’, which I describe a bit below when writing about Cheyenne. Really the series to be watching when in this part of the world.
As excited as children possibly can be, we awoke 30th, April to snow. We went bananas. It may be difficult to discern, but there is snow falling in the below photo. I built a snowman (on the outside table) and posted the photo on Facebook. (spoiler alert, I did this photo in Photoshop)
We found a local cinema (AMC) and the only movie that looked interesting was one about India partition; ‘Kalank’, a 2019 Indian Hindi-language period drama film set in 1945 in the pre-independence British era (http://tiny.cc/bkydcz). As we are going to Pakistan for a few weeks in October, originally crossing the border from India, but due to some conflict between those two we are going from Colombo, Sri Lanka, we are trying to make sense of what their beef is. The next time we visited this cinema there is a school shooting, described below, but this time we enjoyed the film. Though apparently, I fell to sleep for a portion of the movie according to Narda. But the part I saw was interesting.
We went to Loveland for our extended visit with Kay and Frank.
Cheyenne Wyoming Slideshow http://tiny.cc/ypydcz A lot of photos of our day in Cheyenne.
I had wanted to go to Cheyenne since the start of this trip. A blast from the past and all. I lived there in 1974 in one of those strange moments in one’s life where we look back decades later and think, I did what? I was in a cult group; The Holy Orders of MANS, in the 1960s (I joined in Hawaii), then left in 1971 and returned in 1974 to the San Francisco centre. Bottom line, they sent me to Cheyenne as they had one of their many cult-houses there. I was in a subset of the Order called the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light. Meaning I had to wear a robe and be in that group for a year. The Brown Brothers was the celibate section of the Order, where I was sent off to, for former ‘indiscretions’. What was tough was walking around Cheyenne in a brown robe. People would laugh, (you are probably laughing right now), call me names and whatnot. I spent six-months in the winter of ‘74-’75 there, not very happily.
That was then, this is now…all those celibate years later, caught up in the Me2 hype of being an appropriate male, or not.
This year (2019) Wyoming celebrates the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage, they were the first state to give women the right to vote along with lots of other women’s firsts:
If you get to Cheyenne visit the ‘The Cowgirls of the West Museum’, what’s not to like about such a museum? http://cowgirlsofthewestmuseum.com/ and it is free entry. Checkout the slideshow above for shots of women in cowgirl gear, and other random pics of Cheyenne.
Cheyenne is also an early railroad hub – See the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Frank and Kay told us about the Netflix series, “Hell on Wheels“, which is set in Cheyenne in the late 1860s and is about the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States. Well worth the viewing if you are into historic fiction, with a bit of Hollywood. To get the lowdown of how the story goes check out, “Why is Cheyenne called the “Magic City of the Plains”? Cheyenne was called the “Magic City of the Plains” because it seemed to spring up practically overnight”. https://tinyurl.com/y2aydorc Well there, I spoiled the narrative, but still, look it up.
On a trip to Denver, we took a tram around the city to get a feel for the place. On the tram I took this photo of this girl with a service dog. I couldn’t work out what was wrong with her. Where we come from a service dog is the eyes or ears for someone who does not have physical sight or hearing.
I did not realize why this girl had this service dog until now, back home in Australia, when I was writing up our trip. We did notice a lot of people with ‘service dogs’, at airports, bus and train station. Everywhere. Wow, what was going on in the States? We did not learn until two months later when we were visiting our friends in Florida that people have ‘emotional support animals’. What?
If you have an emotional disability, you can legally qualify for an ESA, short for emotional support animal. You must be certified as emotionally disabled by a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or other duly licensed and/or certified mental health professional.
Damn! What is going on over there? We lived in the States from 2002 – 2010, and of course, I am a Yank from the get-go, though I left in 1981, for the stable sensible land of Australia and neither of us had ever heard of an ESA.
All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!).
OK folks, here is the reality. Another word for an emotional support animal is pet. Get over it. I think people were just looking for a way to get their pet onto flights for free and not have Fido stuck in the hold of the plane. Of course, I don’t have an opinion on all this but it did take us by surprise. We both felt that America is in crisis, people were more upset, insecure, paranoid, than when we lived there (during the Obama era) and now the good citizens of the USA need support animals to protect them from the harsh reality around them.
We left Frank and Kay’s about 1 pm, stopped at a thrift shop and I got a Colorado tee shirt for a dollar (big spending tourist that I am). I was looking for a cowboy shirt with a fringe. I thought it would suit me but in Denver they were around the $200 mark and I had a budget of five dollars. I want to look like a rodeo rider when I get back to Australia. Unfortunately, in months of looking in thrift shops I never found one so I will look like another elderly person riding a bike in Adelaide instead of a stud in a cowboy-rodeo shirt, on a bike.
Our favourite shop is Walmart and we did most of our shopping there. My friend, Randy, Eugene, Oregon, never went into a Walmart all his life. Principles or something. But it was our shop of choice, so much cheap crap. Now, with the mass shooting in El Paso (August 2019), I am not sure whether we would go to Walmart. And the tweets that say the owners make 11-million dollars an hour and workers $11 an hour do not make it the shop of choice. However, for the likes of us, retired, on a budget, why pay twice as much for the same thing at the local hippie organic shop?
I always have projects I am working on. I have been doing a combination of paintings/photos/text since the mid-1960s when I first started being a street-artist in New York City. My longest time in one place was in New Orleans 1968 and 1972 – 1974, though I had about the same length of time being a street artist in Adelaide (1993 – 1995). Other places have been Waikiki (1980), Baltimore (1978 – 1979) and in the mall in Washington DC (summers of 1978 and 1979). I no longer sit in streets displaying stuff but do it online on numerous sites. I was working on my ‘Thoughts in Patterns 7’ on this trip which I managed to complete and make available on Amazon as print and as an e-book. They are really ‘thoughts in travel’ with the combination of images of places we are in with thoughts embedded. Book 7 with many photos and textual impressions is at https://amzn.to/2NgoQvU
My nephew lives in Denver (his mother, my sister, lives in New York) and we visited him on a couple of occasions. We have a short photo album of Denver at https://is.gd/Vkpvyd
Back home in our little burb we went to the picture theatre. There was little of interest except for comic book films so the one that looked least painful to us (meaning we did not need to know a backstory or have seen a previous edition to understand it), BTW, we still didn’t understand it (Captain Marvel) but that is not what we remember about the day. Actually, now a couple of months later I have no recall of the movie but of the day. As we entered the car park, we saw many police cars, ambulances, a couple of helicopters I looked on my breaking-news app and saw that there was a shooting nearby. This photo is from the cinema door. We went into to see Captain Marvel, at this time the report stated that the shooters had not been found. We live a short distance from Columbine High School, site of the Columbine High School massacre which was commemorating the twenty-anniversary of the shooting, this week. Seven years earlier, also in Aurora, where we were seeing the movie a person went into a theatre and killed a lot of people. At the time, the attack had the largest number of casualties (82) in one shooting in modern U.S. history.
When we came out of the film, they were still reporting the incident, the people involved were in custody. As we constantly pay out Fox News, not believing anything they say, at least politically, re. climate change, etc etc, Narda wanted to meet face-to-face Fox news people. Of course, news gathers are not the same as the nut cases that fill the Fox channel with their incoherent drivel (not that I have any opinions about this fake-news media.
As we are in Littleton, we explored the town. We discovered that Littleton is a sister city to Bega, Bega is a town in the south-east of New South Wales. They have a statue of a kangaroo and their idea of Australia. There is even the Ned Kelly pub. Not having been to Bega, Australia, we cannot confirm whether these two cities are sister cities or just me2 wannabes. We had a couple of other snowy mornings, each time just a bit then gone with the sun. We found what looked like a typical USA taco joint (Taco House – 1390 W Littleton Blvd) for lunch in Littleton, not sure if they have one like it in Bega. For anyone passing through Littleton, it is a bit of a dive, though cheap, probably authentic. We both had indigestion for a while after which simply could be that we are not used to this type of cuisine or the over-saturated oiled Mexican dishes we ate.
Toward the end of our stay in the Denver area we went to Colorado Springs. Narda has an Australian nephew living there. After a visit we spent the rest of the day in the rock formations nearby, Garden of the Gods, an amazing place to wander around in. See our one minute slideshow of this area at https://bit.ly/2k5frLm
We also visited Suzanne, who worked with us at the school in Dalian, China. She has an amazing house built into the same type of rocks as there are tossed about at the Garden of the Gods. I had wanted to go to the top of Pikes Peak, but the road was closed due to snow or some sort of wintery mix. One of the Yank’s favourite tunes, “America the Beautiful” was put together by Katharine Lee Bates after she visited the Pikes Peak summit in 1893. Not having made it to the summit I was unable to match her creativity. This is close as we got (using our 300 mm lens). The 14,110-foot summit is visited by more people annually than any other peak in America, and it ranks as the second-most visited mountain in the world, after that one in Japan (now I am really upset I didn’t get to the top).
Before we left Colorado, we had another big day out with Kay and Frank. We looked at motor-homes and chose ones we would tour the world in (houses on wheels) and had lunch at a famous truck stop; Johnson’s Corner. https://www.johnsonscorner.com/ “Retro American diner & travel plaza opened in 1952 serving classic comfort food & cinnamon rolls.” In 1995, Johnson’s Corner was a location for the Hollywood movie “Larger than Life,” starring Bill Murray, Matthew McConaughey. The film was financially and critically unsuccessful. Not to worry the restaurant was good.
We not only had a large beautiful house but a good van to explore the Denver area with. This is why we love house exchanges; we get to live as if we were locals. So far, we have spent time in Denmark (six-weeks in the beautiful town of Ringkøbing), Spain (Noja), Berlin, a few places in the Netherlands, with many more coming up; two more Netherlands, a few in the UK, France and lots in the planning. We still do a lot of Airbnb. After nineteen years of travelling we have just begun, there is so much more to experience.
This was an especially easy place for us, our hosts left their car at the airport and we left it there again at the end. How easy is that? Again, I had hoped to find all the conspiracy images at Denver Airport but due to remodelling the walls were still covered. Obviously in preparation for a future alien invasion. We had an easy time through security – even got through with a few pounds over our fifty-pound suitcase limit.
My little special treatment for each flight; can’t go through the security scan because of my defibrillator/pacemaker thingy. They should let me choose which person gets to frisk me. ‘I will take that lady there please…the agent with the red stilettos, & the USA flag tattooed on her thigh …’ bloody ‘me-too’ movement put the kibosh on that didn’t they?
We arrived Newark at 1 pm with a six-hour layover on the way to Albany, New York. We had recently changed our Chase credit card to a different one, same United points setup, but about $50 a year cheaper than their other card. With it we get priority boarding which is great in the States. Unbelievable you Yanks. In Australia, as well as with international flights we get seven-kilos carry on. This includes all carry on, camera bag, computer bag, and all the other crap we drag around the planet that has to be at our beck and call at any moment (well me, I need a computer and our Nikon, and zoom plus other lenses, always, Narda seems content with just a Kindle and a passport – wow how thrifty) but in the States? Wow! Firstly, there does not seem to be a weight limit, secondly the size is close to a regular suitcase, plus the extra bag is equal to a large backpack. Then there are the service pets that the Yanks need to comfort themselves in these trying times. I have seen people barely able to lift their suitcases. This all makes it very difficult to get bags into the overhead once on the plane if there are a lot getting on first. Priority boarding put us up right behind the first-class suckers (no jealously intended). They also now wave foreign transaction fees (which has been costly in the past), give us free luggage check-in (saving $30/bag) and the other fantastic ‘reward’ with our new Chase card was that we had a free hangout in a United First-Class lounge, Over in the A section where you enter through security, near gates 27, 26. Newark Liberty International Airport, as you would know, is the worst airport in America, and is only 16 spots shy of being the worst airport in the world. It must be true, the report (study) is on the internet – https://njersy.co/2U0BIYu. Not to worry, we had the United Lounge thanks to Chase. It was wonderful; good soup, the cheddar broccoli was fantastic, lots of finger foods, salads, free alcohol (pity I stopped all alcohol in 2005, and Narda only had one glass of wine, now Narda is sleepy, but just the thought of unlimited alcohol made me a bit drunk with memories of when and why I don’t anymore), juices, coffee and on and on, good Wi-Fi, comfy seats. I was obviously a bogan (an Australian term, look it up) in the wrong setting but who cares? I had my stuff spread all over; computer mixed with food and drinks; clothing scattered about… Life is good. After six-hours we had to leave our natural habitat and go sit with the riffraff, waiting for our flight to the world-class-cosmopolitan city of Albany, New York.
At Albany Airport we rented a car for the week. Albany is an important place in our world. We lived there 2002 – 2006, teaching at Albany Academy for Girls and Albany Academy for Boys. That was a neat gig; Narda was the chair of performing arts and I was the chair of technology, for both schools. We even shared a small office; two chairs living the life. I also taught part time at the State University of Albany and at Russell Sage College, Troy. We were in the area for those years to look after my father who was in his late 90s (he hung out until he was 102 – https://neuage.org/100) I grew up (well, made a grand try of it) nearby in the town of Clifton Park, leaving there in 1964 when I was 17 to explore the world. The farm I grew up on is below, that is my brother and me on the barn roof. I think this was taken early 1960s. Now route nine is four lanes and the farm is all concrete with Cracker Barrel exactly sitting where our house once did. As usual when in this area we ate at Cracker Barrel and as usual I thought about what a change in sixty-years. Where I used to live I now eat – not so unusual – though in this case it is. Cracker Barrel is one of the few chain restaurants we go to. Not expensive and a good feed, especially when one is a vegetarian and the other eats roadkill.
We went to Oneonta, to visit my sister and her family for a couple of days. She is a very talented artist (https://omordah.com/). Narda sang with Susan’s dog Kota,
The Dog Whisper (video) https://bit.ly/2kq3dNO
we talked about our lives, explored the Oneonta area had lunch at some nifty cafe then drove back to our Airbnb in Clifton Park. We like going to this part of the world, having bought two one-hundred year old houses and renovating them https://neuage.org/house in the boutique historic town of Round Lake, New York. Returning to one’s childhood stomping grounds is a mind twister. I left when I was 16-17 years old, came back over the years to visit my parents in the 1960s, a few times in the 1970s, twice in the 1980s (once as a single parent with two children in tow; age six-months and two and half), 1992 (again with children following along), then not again until Narda and I moved there in 2002. As all places it has changed in my seventy years back and forth. Lots of suburbs, shopping centres, freeways. I grew up on a farm; they don’t seem to exist anymore. Clifton Park was established in the 17th century and named in 1707, not really a new burb. I went to Shenedehowa Central School. When I started in 1954, there were 1700 students for the whole school now there are more than 9800 students spread over a few campuses. Just an example of the growth of this area. Where I grew up there is a shopping centre. When I lived there Clifton Park had one small general store, the church I got dragged to for many years, and two pubs. The cemetery is there, though a bit shaggy. We went and saw my father’s, mother’s, and brother’s grave. There were several people raking up leaves. A couple of people remembered my parents and one fellow remembers my mum as his elementary school teacher in the early 1950s at the old school on Cemetery Road, just a hundred metres from the cemetery.
We sold our houses in Round Lake a few years ago. In our large house the new owners found a box of stuff I had left behind. Instead of tossing the content they wrote me so we went to visit and collect the box of stuff that should have been tossed. There were a lot of records from the early 1900s. I kept two for us and two for my son who likes to mix tunes in his studio back in Melbourne. This happened to us the last time we were there, a couple of years ago, several boxes of stuff we didn’t really want in the first place were waiting for us. Stuff that was more than a hundred-years old. Stuff that was never meant to be dragged across the world then down-under to Australia, but I did. More boxes in the shed laying in the trenches for declutter day. Or as I recently said to my son, good luck when we die sorting out our stuff. Of course, Narda and I know everything will be sent off to landfill. Four sons, no collectors. Where have we failed.
This has been another one of those ‘catching up’ trips. Everywhere we go. To add to our list we had dinner with several of Narda’s teaching mates from Albany Academy. By the end of the trip we would have caught up with six from our teaching days in China (in Denver, Colorado Springs, and in Florida), four from upstate New York, everyone Narda taught with during her five-years at St Lukes in NYC, as well as friends of mine since high school in the mid-1960s. As well as my sister and family, Narda’s sons, and other once-have-known people. A lot has to do with Facebook, keeping up with folks.
We also met an old fellow probably well into his 90s at De Voe’s Rainbow Orchard, there on Route Nine, Clifton Park, who remembers my father. DeVoe’s has been around since 1931. My father used to pick fruit since it opened. I used to pick fruit there too; apples and strawberries that I remember, in the 1950s and early 1960s. When we lived in the area 2002 – 2005 we used to go there for our fruit and vegetables. If you are in the area, get off the Northway (the freeway between Montreal and New York City) Exit 9, Clifton Park and go up Route 9 – it is right before Walmart. Tell them Terrell and Narda said hi.
By 26th May it was time to head toward our next adventure. We dropped off the rental car at Albany Airport and got a Lyft to the Albany/Rensselaer train station for the ride to DC. It stops for a change in NYC and got us to DC at 8.30 pm where Narda’s son, Chris, collected us. Amtrak is a better train than the Overland. We took the Overland from Adelaide to Melbourne recently (722 Kilometres) and the eleven-hour ride was good but there is no Wi-Fi, or electric outlets. Amtrak to DC from Albany (600 Kilometres) took about seven hours and we had Wi-Fi and we could charge our laptops. However, the Overland provided us with good meals, ( we paid extra for that) and the seats, though old, are comfortable with a lot of leg room. We love trains everywhere. The ride along the Hudson from Albany to NYC is great. We used to love taking that train in the winter when it was snowing.
The day after we got to DC we went to the Memorial Day Parade (see our one minute slideshow) https://bit.ly/2kCjmPY
The parade seemed a bit boring with mainly high school bands but still worth the watch. We walked many hours, following the parade and wandering around DC. There are many things that make DC amazing. One is Rock Creek that goes through the district. It was a ten-minute walk from Chris and Jessica’s house where we were staying to the creek. The park was created by an Act of Congress in 1890. It was only the third national park established by the U.S., following Yellowstone in 1872 and Mackinac National Park in 1875. Three-year old Liam would ride his bike alongside us, and it became almost a daily walk. One can be in nature, on a wooded trail following a mountain stream then be walking or bike riding to the White House, Capitol, museums all in a very short space of time.
Narda, Liam, Jessica, and Stuart at Rock Creek on one of our frequent walks.
Here is our one-minute slideshow of Rock Creek Park Sunday Walk. https://bit.ly/2lZzoUq
See our slideshow for the Smithsonian Museums, Smithsonian Museums https://bit.ly/2lCwHrP
Brendan, Narda’s son teaching in Pakistan, arrived on the third of June and we went to collect him at the airport. On the sixth the rest of the family arrived from Australia; Stuart (making the third son to be present in DC), Narda’s ex-husband and his wife. Narda’s birthday was on the eighth, making this her favourite birthday of all time: three sons, two husbands and a grandson. A couple of days later was Chris’ 40th birthday, the reason we are all in DC. We had Brendan’s 40th birthday in Phnom Penh a couple of years ago (we went to that and so did Stuart and the other husband), the next 40th will be my son, who lives in Melbourne. We haven’t sorted what to do for that yet. Stuart wants to have his 40th in Bali in a couple of years. Fact being, Narda and I may be getting old.
We drove Brendan to Union Station so he could catch a bus to Pittsburgh for a few days visiting a friend. Being near the capitol building we thought we would just park the car nearby and go catch a senate hearing. Life seems so simple before having a clue that there could be more than the original idea. Any original idea. Firstly, we were unable to find a place to park, obviously, and carparks looked expensive, and we saw a few tow trucks sneaking around looking for customers – like our car, so we just kept going away from the capitol. Going up Third Street or Third Avenue, not sure which now, we noticed it looked quite residential and folks were street parking with no meters or harassing signs to tell them to piss off. On Rhode Island and Third we shoved the car into a spot and headed out. As we needed a toilet (bathroom to the Yanks) and there were no shops anywhere within sight we saw a bus stop and thought that a random bus ride would get us to some place of relief. Along came bus number 96 and we got on having no idea where to. We have always enjoyed random bus rides in various cities and where this was going, we didn’t care as long as we saw a shopping centre or public loo along the way. Lo and behold the bus wound around hither and thither ending at Union Station, right where we had left Brendan a couple of hours earlier and a couple of blocks to the Capitol. The Hill and all that. Can’t recall but I think we found a loo which was our original mission – no doubt at Union Station.
There were long lines everywhere in the visitor’s centre, except at the international desk. We showed our Australian Driver Licenses and became our own little line, getting into the senate with seats to spare. Sucked in Yanks, waiting in lines. Apparently, if you are from the US of A you need to get a note from your representative, we don’t have one because we are foreigners.
Well, I am a duel citizen but we didn’t tell them. As long as I keep my mouth shut no one knows that I am from these woods. It was all quite boring as there was a vote being held on some person or the other taking on some position on some committee. The vote was in the 80s or 90s for and only 8 or nine against, so everyone seemed to like the dude. We got to see Chuck Schumer who we favour and Mitch McConnell (Moscow Mitch) whom we don’t. If we had done it all correctly, we would have gone to the Congress chambers. AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was there and they had a big vote about The Dreamers thing that has been in the news for quite some time. AOC, is my hero in politics at the moment.
We easily found the bus back to where we had parked, and that was our day on The Hill.
As Chris and Jessica’s house is so full we were lucky that we could get an Airbnb two houses away from them for a couple of weeks. We still spent most of the day together but how many family members fit into a three-bedroom house? Chris and Jessica were working on making their basement into an Airbnb while we were there, it is finished now, so if you want a great place at a great price a block from bus service, not far to DC central with all their buildings and the metro to everywhere, let us know. We have a good connection to help you out.
On Narda’s birthday we found that there was a gay parade so we went to see floats and folks dressed up. As it started rather late in the day we were there for only a bit and did not see much as we were all going to dinner for the birthday girl. This was good for lots of reasons for Narda. From 2002 – 2015 we were overseas (from Australia) on her birthday with only me around. Since being back in Australia we have had a few birthdays with her family though not with all her sons since 2001.
Birthdays are why we are here, not just us as humans on planet earth, we the visitors for family birthdays in Washington DC. One could say the main event was Chris’ 40th birthday. Or we could say the main event was Narda’s 65th. Or are we here to celebrate Father’s Day in the USA? (Father’s Day is in September in Australia). Or are we all here just to groove? Nonetheless, Narda’s birthday was first, not first as she is the oldest ever, but first on the list of celebrations. 8th of June. After twenty-years of gift giving I was having a difficult time finding the best next thing. Fortunately, in Denver, Kay and Frank had a nifty wine bottle top that chirped. (ChirpyTop Wine Pourer) Kay got me one and I was able to keep it hidden for a month in my bag. (they have some over at Amazon, so when you are purchasing one of my books and need a chirping wine pourer go to https://amzn.to/2lMfpZc) Nothing unusual about that except Narda is always repacking my bag and for a month I was constantly rushing to pack my bag. She thought I was taking responsibility for my packing, ha ha, the month is over. I always get her an Amazon voucher for her birthday and she buys books for her Kindle all year with it, so it was good to have something to go along with the usual. Of course, Narda’s best-ever birthday was because she had her three sons together. And a couple of husbands. One of Narda’s sons is a pastor and the previous Sunday (my rare times I go to church – with Narda to see her son) one of his congregation, thinking I was Chris’ father, made a mention of something and I said, ‘oh, that is her other husband’. So Narda’s three sons, her ex and his wife, Chris’ wife and the grandkid, Liam, Narda and me went for a walk along the beautiful Rock Creek that flows through DC, and in the evening went out for a great birthday dinner.
Narda’s three children, (Chris, Stu, Brendan) not such children now, watching the Adelaide Crows in a rare win early one morning DC time, evening game time in Adelaide. Or perhaps they were watching something else, as they have wine glasses, so maybe not early in the morning. Though I did see them with their father, Peter, one morning, five am, glued to the telly watching a Crow’s game.
Narda and I moved into the neighbour’s Airbnb leaving a crowded house for the others. It is great, we have meals together and spend the day tromping around DC. The Aussie males had a great first morning in DC, arriving Saturday, on Narda’s birthday; Stuart, Peter and Marion were just in time to watch the Adelaide Crows game that was being played Friday evening in Adelaide along with Chris and Brendan. And to make everyone happy the Crows won. In my Australian family the Crow’s situation makes the weekend around us. Narda and I are not really fans, though we went to a game once. There are two teams in Adelaide: Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows. Narda’s family are Crow supporters except for Chris who favours a team in Victoria. Funny how wins and losses can affect a family for a couple of days, and it spreads all the way to Pakistan. If the Crows lose, which they seem to do often, we can hear the groans all the way up to Pakistan with Brendan expressing his grief. I suppose it is like the Yankees and the Mets in New York. Being a New Yorker, I grew up liking the Yankees and even though I no longer follow professional baseball in the USA I still would be a Yankee fan if I were a fan of baseball at all.
By the 10th of June we were all settled for Chris’ 40th birthday. We had a nice family gathering at a Mexican place in town, and then on the following weekend, a party a block away at a pub that was decorated for us and Chris’ friends. All fun and party!!! As is always the case, Narda and I left and were home and asleep before ten, probably before nine thirty.
As it was the end of the school year, we all toddled off to watch Liam graduate from preschool in full graduation drag. They sure won’t do such a production in Australia. The excited family (Narda, Stuart, Brendan, Peter (ex), Chris, Jessica, Marian (ex’s wife) watching the event of the year with Liam expressing excitement beyond belief.
I spent a couple of days wandering around DC on my own. One show I particularly liked was THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH PRESENTS:
THE DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TWITTER LIBRARY See the Washington Post on this at http://tiny.cc/46eybz
18 June Tuesday
The Washington Express Bus is cheap, $30, takes about 3.5 hours, has Wi-Fi, power points, and comfortable seats. I was so comfortable that I left my phone on the bus, rang them as soon as we discovered I didn’t have a phone on me (minutes – such is the importance of always being connected) but the bus had already left and they said come back the next day. Sure enough the driver had found my phone and once again I felt whole. Not that I lose stuff (every day)… outside of my phone at Red Rock Amphitheatre, Denver, a month earlier but I sort of left my laptop on the same bus company a year and a half earlier. We discovered so when we had gotten settled at Chris and Jessica’s house in December 2017. At midnight we drove to their depot in the back blocks of Jersey City, recovered the wandering computer, and got back home intact hours later. No point in going re. other items gone astray (some returned) over the years, suffice to say, Washington Express Bus is a good company.
Our flat in Bronx. OMG. Narda puts a lot of effort in finding us places to park. NYC was pretty much booked full due to gay month or some such gathering. Brendan was at a conference at Columbia University for this week, sent there by the American School of Lahore, so Narda was tasked with finding a place not too far. Brooklyn was too far, Manhattan too expensive and the Bronx, just right. The Goldie Locks of burbs; close enough to Columbia, affordable, transportation, local Bronx vibe. The apartment was a bit small, two small bedrooms, Narda suggested the boys could share one room and sleep foot to head. Of course, why not, the girls do (age 5 and 7) when we go camping in our caravan. Brendan took the coach, Stu the small bedroom and we took the master suite, meaning there was enough room to turn around in. We had a small, one person could fit, kitchen. And the lounge was large enough for us to sit in when Brendan wasn’t sleeping. Across the street was the local ambulance centre, 8 – 10 ambulances about the place when they weren’t sounding their sirens and roaming the Bronx. Next to our four-storey building were 25 storey projects, blocks of them. Being summer, the locals were sitting in front of the projects playing loud foreign Bronx music, until when, I don’t know, once the earplugs were in deep enough I could hear them but eventually would go to sleep, by morning it was qui except for the usual sirens, babies crying, dogs barking – just like in those TV detective shows. We, being fearless, would walk the fifteen minutes to the nearest subway, which was at Yankee Stadium. Even at night. We were the token whites for the hood, and everyone ignored us. We had a key lock outside of the building to leave the front door and our apartment door key in. One evening, Stuart had gone home earlier than us, and the keys were not in the ‘secure-keylock box’. Poor fellow had to wait quite some time for us. Narda rang the Airbnb owner who did not seem alarmed and said she thought she knew who would have it. Considering we each had a laptop (mine was one day old, Narda’s a couple of months old – both expensive) and our passports, money, etc were all inside, we were not impressed. Eventually someone let us in and we were all highly annoyed.
Growing up in New York, of course, I was a Yankees fan. My long-time friend, Marta, a Yankee fan, suggested we catch up at a game. The last time we had a quick breakfast with her when driving through Poughkeepsie, New York, a couple of years earlier. We have known one another since the mid-1960s, when she was my brother’s girlfriend and we try to catch up when we can. A few years ago, she wrote a book on my brother, which I was fortunate enough to contribute to. ‘The Art and Life of Robert J. Adsit’ (https://martawaterman.com/).
Narda and her two sons, Brendan and Stuart, had never been to a baseball game. I had stopped following baseball after my son, Leigh, pitcher the for the LA Dodgers, died in 2003 (a couple of weeks after turning 20), and for me this was closer to watch a game again. Since the age of ten, Leigh said he would play for the Yankees when he grew up, and he never got far enough in life to fulfil his goal.
We met Marta at a well-known eatery (I forgot the name) a block from the stadium. We were all excited. It was raining and we were worried the game would be stopped. Our tickets were the next to the last row at the top. Marta had said this was the best place as it was undercover in case it rained. Lucky us, the section in front of us, seats being in the $150 range were wet, our seats were $28 and dry. The game started at 8 pm instead of seven, after the rain stopped. Narda and I forgot to bring jumpers and getting cold we went to the stadium shop and found the cheapest jumpers, $75. In the future we forget about the cost and remember the experience. Well this is three-months later, I have the jumper on now, and still remember the cost. The Yankees were doing well, there were some homeruns, and we were all very happy. By 11 pm there were still a few innings to go, we were tired, Marta had a long way to go home to Woodstock, New York, so we left and discovered the next day the Yankees had won. If you would like to share the photos of our one-minute slideshow see them at http://tiny.cc/2kt2bz
We spent the rest of the week wandering NYC. I got to tell Brendan and Stuart stories from when I was a hippie in NYC in the mid-1960s; about 1963 – 1967, before I wandered on down to Florida, New Orleans and finally to California and Oregon ending the 1960s in Waikiki. (I saw myself as a beatnik at the time instead of the commercial hippie label). Whether everyone wanted to hear my stories or not they got them. I even got to show them St Mark’s Church on East 10th Street where I read poetry with famous poets such as Alan Ginsburg in a 1965 Fast for Peace reading. St Mark’s Place (East 8th street) was my stomping grounds in the 1960s and on the top of my list of places to see again and to show the family.
In her 400-year history of St. Mark’s Place (St. Marks Is Dead), Ada Calhoun called the street “like superglue for fragmented identities” and wrote that “the street is not for people who have chosen their lives … [it] is for the wanderer, the undecided, the lonely, and the promiscuous.” St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street.
‘A’ train to JFK to Florida arrived 7 pm, dinner at airport – Lyft to Lawrence’s.
Lawrence is our last house exchange for this three-month trip. We taught with Lawrence in China. He was a principal at our school. Lawrence helped me set up one of my most fun-filled positions at any school. I put together an inhouse television station. See sample of DAISlive at https://bit.ly/2ltar3z I still have Lawrence’s greenscreen and lights, they are in the shed for our little video studio that we use to make silly movies with the grandchildren. We spent a couple of weeks at Lawrence’s home. Because Lawrence belonged to the local country club nearby, we did a daily swim in a very warm pool. Our only mishap was when Narda picked up a hitchhiker – a tick, as we walked along the lakefront amongst the grass instead of going around on the road. This is the view from Lawrence’s backyard. I pulled out the tick (the photo has been censored, in other words, Narda doesn’t want me to share it with you – the tick waving from Narda’s leg), we put it in a jar, with its little antennas gyrating furiously, we went off to the nearest emergency room. Just to be sure we did not pick up Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, an infectious disease caused by a bacterium named Borrelia which is spread by these little buggers. We spent a good fifteen minutes at the hospital, the nurse looked at it, the doctor looked at it, prescribed an antibiotic, she did not want to see the still dancing tick in the jar, and, I watched the clock, spent a whooping five-minutes with the patient, Narda. The next person came in with the bill for us to pay on the spot. $1500. OK, we are insured but hey that is a bit rich. We were told the doctor bill would come separate, and it did, a few weeks later, $950. OMG! What a corrupt system the US medical institution is. If you have a calculator handy, let’s say the doctor sees 5 people an hour at about a thousand each, times five hours a day for a four-day week…. Gee, a new Bentley every month.
Around the lake there is a lot of wildlife. We heard that there was even a bear and a cub or two, but we didn’t see them. We did see deer that came up to the house and lots of birds that visited.
Our first trip was to the Cape Canaveral Coast https://bit.ly/2kgCbs6 We enjoyed our newish Mercedes, quite a luxury compared to the tug we drive back in Australia, Billy, who pulls our caravan, Holiday, around various destinations in Australia.
We had set out early in the morning having seen online that there was a space thingy launch. After finding a good spot along the coast someone passing by said it had been scrubbed. Nevertheless, we went to Cape Canaveral then on to Coco Beach which advertisements claimed to be one of the more famous/beautiful beaches, in the universe? Living in Australia, beaches everywhere, and having been on beaches on several Hawaii islands, as well as beaches in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and lots of other places, we were excited to go to a ‘must put on your bucket list’ that we saw advertised in many places. Wow what a dump. Sorry, just first and only impression. We went to their idea of a fancy pier, ‘It’s Not Just a Day at the Beach, It’s the Ultimate Beach Adventure! A historic landmark on Florida’s Space Coast, the world-famous Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier …’ Really? Last year we were at the Brighton Pier in the UK. Now there is a pier. We trotted out to the end of the pier; overpriced restaurants, wannabe pubs, generations XYZ struggling to look relevant. Nothing special. Nevertheless, I quickly added it to my bucket list so that I could cross it out. On the way to the coast is the beautiful Manatee Sanctuary Park, located at 701 Thurm Blvd. It is a 10-acre park that is set on the Banana River.
Lawrence’s daughter was still at home. Lawrence and the rest of his family were in Russia on a visit. She is attending her second year at University of Central Florida. It is the first time we have ever been in an exchanged home with someone still there. But what a lovely young person. Young people could take lessons from her in social skills. Perhaps growing up in Russia makes a difference. Having an academic family (mother has a school in Moscow that she can run from anywhere online; Lawrence has been a principal at a few international schools, and they are both teaching in Orlando.) She shared some meals with us (being a vegan was the first compatible thing) and was always willing to listen to us, something few people would do – respect us old tarts. She showed us around her university and gave advice of places to visit. Her name is Sasha, my son’s name is Sacha – and his mother is Russian so that was interesting. She also drives a new Subaru Outback, the same as my Sacha in Melbourne, same colour too. That is where the similarity stops, though Sacha is a hard working determined young person (well not quit so young – edging 40) and Sasha (maybe 20) is extremely determined, talking about what she wants to do her masters in, something mathematical and beyond our brain space. An example, we went away for a few days, coming home on the eve of the 4th of July, party time for most Americans, got home about eleven pm and she was at the kitchen table studying for an upcoming test. A young person not covered in tattoos, or on drugs, that values education above all and that had the time and patience for the likes of us. I didn’t know they still made them.
Slideshow for Orlando, Disney Springs, https://youtu.be/eg4iZ-DXhF8
We were not interested in Disney crap, which is what this area is all about. “Orlando, Florida, had 75 million visitors last year as the theme park mecca continued to be the most visited destination in the United States” Why? What is wrong with humans? OK, so I did take my kids to Disneyland in LA (twice) during my single-parent days, but that is because my friend Daniel Bushnell, who we were visiting (1985 & 1992) talked me into it. Suffice to say that Narda and I did not have interest in going to such an overrated overpriced thingy. Saying all that, Sasha recommended going to Disney Springs, which is a bit like a free Disneyland without the silliness. We even took one of their free buses to some Disney village place and back. There were OK restaurants there and lots of children wearing Disney hats, and their parents too.We took two more road trips. One to St. Augustine / Daytona Beach and the other to the west coast, see here for a one-minute or so, slideshow of our trip to and west coast of Florida, https://bit.ly/2lCu1dy
This picture, is the result of a very long trip in my world. I left home in 1964, before I turned 17. I had a few mishaps/missteps in life back in Clifton Park, New York / Shenendehowa Central School. Suffice to say that I left before completing tenth grade, not that I was doing well, I was a terrible student and the only subject that I passed was band. I took off on my motorcycle, ended up in Florida, not sure why in Groveland, but that is where I ended. When the next school year began, I was 17, sort of midway between tenth and eleventh grade, I signed up at Groveland School. My parents must have funded me, I don’t think I worked. Believe it or not, my apartment became a hangout for teenagers. I think there was some beer and females involved, short story shorter, my academic career came to a grinding halt, I lost my apartment, so I went to Key West, Florida. This is in my book, ‘Leaving Australia’ available from Amazon. I remember reading an article when I was there that Disney was buying up land in the area for another Disneyland. If only I had bought land, there then… so on our trip to Englewood we had to go through Groveland. I think I remembered something or the other but where I lived, who knows? The original school had burnt down (no it wasn’t me) but I had to return to the place where my life was a bit shabby. Here I was parked in front of where I once was a crazy teenager, now with a new Mercedes (OK, not mine, but still I was driving), and with a PhD. I had my tenth grade education until I was in my mid-40s then did the long haul of seventeen years of school in Australia, getting my BA in journalism, Honours in Children’s literature, and Masters in communications from Deakin University in Melbourne, then the seven year stretch of completing a PhD at the University of South Australia. A few years later I got a teaching degree too.
Thanks Australia, you’re the best. And of course, hooking up with the supremely cool and popular, all-star wife, Narda and my groovy son, Sacha. And I am only 72, just starting this exciting trip called life.
Back on track… we were on our way to Englewood to see Sean and Jean, whom we worked with in China for a few years. We saw them last in Myanmar (remember the photo of us with them and our friends in Colorado; Kay and Frank, all of us on motorbikes, earlier in this short narrative?) and as this trip seems to be a reunion of people we have worked with a couple of more were on the ticket. (this must be a reunion year as we will be seeing our friends; Tim and Agnes, in Chiang Rai, Thailand in a few weeks)
On the fourth of July we went up to Tarpon Springs to visit Kathleen and Jimmy. Kathleen, I have known since my strange days at Shenedehowa, she was my girlfriend back in tenth grade before misadventures/missteps/mishaps found me headed to the wonderful town of Groveland in 1963. The wonders of Facebook, we had gotten in touch about ten years ago, forty-five years after last seeing one another. We caught up for a dinner a couple of years ago in Clifton Park, New York, and we were planning to stay a couple of days this time in Tarpon Springs. Unfortunately, it did not work out and we only had lunch at a very nice seaside restaurant. Also unfortunately we do not have any photos of our visit, but of course we all look the same as we did back in 1963 so if you have the Shenendehowa Yearbook for 1963, as I do, you can see how we still look the same, except my hair is a tad bit longer, there is some grey shit sneaking into my once beautiful black hair, now brown through no fault of my own, and I am more educated, somewhat.
Knowing we had a five-hour drive ahead of us, and it being fourth of July, we left as darkness overtook our visit. It was an interesting drive with fireworks throughout the night especially when we got into the Disney-Madness area there were fireworks welcoming us back to Orlando on both sides of the highway and in front of us. When we got home around eleven pm, they were still going off in our neighbourhood, as I mentioned earlier, Sasha was home studying for an exam when we came in.
We had a few down days, going to our local pool and gym and getting caught up on writing. I completed two more books and made them available on Amazon;
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
In my world a biggie as I have spent a lot of hours over this past year, including three-months on this trip getting them finished so it was all making me feel a bit accomplished.
It is terrible with the gun stuff in the USA, one marketing tool that was creepy we saw was a gun-proof backpack for children. It was quite heavy and for $250 seemed a strange way to protect a child. Firstly, children’s backpacks are heavy as it is. I watch Mabel, age 5, and Maggie age 7, with their backpacks and they seem to weigh as much as the child carting them about. Then what is a child to do? Someone starts shooting at them and they put their heavy bag in front of them to stop the bullets?
We did one last road trip up the east coast to St Augustine, the oldest city in the USA. The area was first spotted on April 2, 1513 by Spanish dude, Juan Ponce de León. The city grew, the Spanish killed off lots of Indians with Smallpox and Measles and were themselves raided in karmic led attacks by pirates and the Brits and various other unfriendly folks. Nearly a century of conflicts and raids convinced the Spanish that a strong fort was needed at St. Augustine. In 1672, the Spaniards began construction on the Castillo de San Marcos, creating the fort as a barrier to enemies. The structure still stands today. That is the history lesson for now.
On the way to St. Augustine we stopped at Daytona Beach. I had only been here once, back when I had left home in 1964. I had gone to Daytona Beach for a holiday – perhaps that is not the exact narrative, I don’t remember why I was there but I was walking through town along the boardwalk thinking of sleeping on the beach at night as I had little or no money for a hotel, and at the time did not have a house to exchange and there were no Airbnbs, if I had money. Short story shorter, police stopped me, put me in jail for vagrancy, so I had to call my parents for money to go wherever I was headed in life at the time. This was another one of those closure moments. Hey Dayton police, look at me, driving a Mercedes through your ungrateful town. Meaning they were not grateful for someone returning and spending money in their town (we had lunch).
We took the scenic route from Daytona Beach up to St. Augustine along route A1A along the coast, so much better than the freeway which we took back to Orlando from St. Augustine. Hurricane Matthew in 2017 wiped out much of this road and it is currently going through a rebuild, especially at Flagler Beach where it is slow moving but interesting to see. Lucky for this area Hurricane Dorian, September, 2019) came close but did no more damage. Check for hurricanes before driving along here, otherwise, enjoy.
With a few days left in our USA odyssey we flew back up to DC to say a final goodbye to Chris, Jessica, and Liam. When we were at Chris’ birthday party at the local pub, I got to talking with the neighbour who gave us his Airbnb for a couple of weeks, and he said that he was a bell ringer at the Washington National Cathedral. I said we would love to see the bells and the cathedral, and we made arrangements for when we came back after Florida to get the tour.
In morning went to Washington National Cathedral with Alex for an hour and a half – walked around the cathedral. If you don’t look at any of our slideshows do check out this video of the bell ringing tour we had, https://tinyurl.com/y4ydfdym
Simply amazing. He has been a bell ringer here for more than a decade, including a four-hour session on the fourth of July. He knows about what places in the world have bells, such as knowing which cathedrals in Adelaide had them. This is not a common gig in the world as most places have recorded bells ringing. Also, this is not one of the tours on offer by the Washington National Cathedral, making us feel special, well we always do, but this was extra special. We were up in the tower overlooking the city, even went out on the roof. Did you know that the CIA/FBI have listening devices and cameras straight across to the Russian Embassy from where we were? Of course, we are not admitting or denying that we know anything about this. It could have just been something we saw once in a comic book. Or not.
And that is it. One other thing, we do not eat out much, my crazy dietary desires/wants/requirements (vegetarian, low-carb, organic, blessed by a Tibetan monk/Hippie minstrel, and all the rest) along with our opposition to tipping (hey, if you come to Australia, don’t tip, it is not done here, no no no) precludes our eating out, but because it is Liam’s favourite place we did a few times have Chipotle’s takeaway. No tipping, inexpensive, immigrant-flavoured dishes, vegetarian options. I personally only had the food twice as it is high-carb and my blood sugars went to high, plus it is not blessed by a Tibetan monk or Hippie minstrels. But if you want a good feed Chipotle is OK.
That was our little trip. As I got several of my books from Amazon delivered to Chris’ house, we had them in our luggage. When we opened our suitcases in Adelaide, we saw that they had been thoroughly inspected. My books were separated from their lovely envelopes. What did they think were in these packages? As we have been watching Queen of the South on Netflix, we thought obviously we look the part of drug mules. Saying that, if you get the opportunity to see a great movie, see The Mule, directed and starring Clint Eastwood, I would say his best flick.
See ya next time. Next week we will be in Thailand, taking the train up from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, spending a month in Sri Lanka, couple of weeks in Pakistan visiting with Narda’s son, Brendan, then back to Thailand for a couple of weeks. Just a nine-week trip instead of our usual three-months. Perhaps, we are getting older and need more time at home. No that would not be correct as we are home for two months for Christmas when hopefully Narda’s three sons come and my son Sacha and his partner are here then to The Netherlands for three months. Follow our blogs to see if we are in your neighbourhood somewhere in the world. Cheers Narda and Terrell
In the Aljazeera interview today 16 September, 2019, with Imran Khan “Imran Khan on ‘genocide’ in Kashmir and possible war with India” Khan said he could see Pakistan starting using nuclear weapons against India – we will be there in a month – hey mate, wait for us… https://bit.ly/2lXohv9
Monday morning, we had the big breakfast with eight family members and my two mentors; Maggie and Mabel. As is usually the case the eight family members sat around at the table talking and Maggie and Mabel and I went outside to play. When those adults came outside Maggie and Mabel complained that they were not paying them attention as they raced up and down our miniature racecourse then eventually one adult (not counting whatever I am) watched. Maggie yelled out ‘everyone look!’ so she managed to get a larger but not complete audience, though their father was inside, probably watching footy or whatever young Aussie males do.
When we got tired of the adult non-attention and outside we did the usual thing, computers. Maggie at age five likes the games but I am trying to steer her toward programming and Photoshop. Mabel is starting to use Photoshop, a few months ago, in Washington D.C., Liam, age eighteen months, give or take a month, had his first lesson in Photoshop… so bottom line, who wants to hang out with adults who no doubt are talking about politics when they can hang out with younger humans who want to play?We told everyone that we were leaving Tuesday but by Monday afternoon we started packing the caravan to drive to Melbourne. We had booked in a caravan park for Friday – Sunday in Melbourne giving us five days to get there. Five days for 1000 kilometres should be a couple hundred a day. That is about two or three hours driving. We don’t go very fast with Narda liking to stay around 90 Ks an hour and getting anxious with me comfortable at 100-110, so to maintain equilibrium in marriage I try to stay around 90. Not sure why but we took a long time packing and did not leave until after four pm. About an hour away we got to Truro Roadside stop. Roadside stops are fine and there are many listed in our free-camping book, “Camps 8”. The only problem is that on a main road, it is noisy from trucks all night, which was the case with the Truro Roadside stop.
Looking up Truro we find that it is known for a spate of killings; about eight in a few weeks a few years back and of course that is always what you want to read about when camping in a dark place alongside a highway outside of a small town. We watched the movie ‘Selma’ and I didn’t think about the serial killings again; until I awoke at two in the morning. We drove on the road that Martin Luther King and his mates walked to Selma which was the basis of the movie a few years ago, giving us the feeling that we were part of something that had happened some time ago that changed the southern mindset for a while.
As we approached the Victorian border we saw the ominous sign, “no fruit or vegetables in the Riverland or an on the spot fine of $350 applies”. We had a large bucket full in the van. Damn. So being thrifty and conscious retirees, we pulled over into the next parking bay, turned the gas on, and boiled the tomatoes (yummy tomato soup), the sweet potatoes, broccoli and something else green (yummy stampot….it’s a Dutch thing) and the apples (yummy appelmoes…another Dutch thing). So congratulating ourselves and feeling very smug, we drove past the sign and the bin where we should put our precious produce (an American thing), and happily ate for free for the next 3 days; leaving money in the budget for more Crispy Crème Donuts.
We were up bright and early (and not killed by anyone, which was pleasing to us) and continued our epic journey to Melbourne. Perhaps it is not epic mileage-wise as we recently did a round-the-world, four-month, trip, but epic in the sense that every moment is epic or could be… or possibly part of an epic-experience that we call our life.
Coburg, another dying town. Terrell and I have decided that what Australia needs is to spend lots of money on trains, and revive all these lovely country towns. Fill the country with a maze of trains. Some could be high speed, connecting small towns with cities and employment. Terrell decided that he will be the mayor of one of these towns, and I can be the post mistress. Hmm. And Coburg can open up a dedicated yabbie store instead of leaving it to the earthmoving store. There were 3 general stores in the past we discovered on our exploration using our bikes, each with their own speciality: pizza, petrol and other general goods. Two of them now boarded up.
And yet there was a beautiful riverside park in Coburg, welcoming ‘grey nomads’ to park there for ‘a small donation’. There were many caravans and RVs there. The park was great alongside the Murray River, with some amazing scenery, wildlife, old gum trees, tracks for cycling and grassy areas for camping.
A source of happiness for me is waving to the other drivers with caravans on the back. When they wave back, I smile. It’s complicated though. You have to be careful not to be offended if they don’t wave back. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the driver is too young and too trendy. Or perhaps their rig is just so much superior to ours. Or perhaps they are concentrating on their driving, with a huge Mac truck tail-gating them. So there it is, small things in our life.
Our next night was at Kings Billabong camping area 8 km south-east of Mildura. Mallee Country outside of Mildura. For our friends, not familiar with Aussie stuff, a billabong is an oxbow lake, an isolated pond left behind after a river changes course. Billabongs are usually formed when the path of a creek or river changes, leaving the former branch with a dead end. Wikipedia. Mallee Country is an informally defined region of north-western Victoria with Mallee trees like in the picture below.
We buy Mallee roots for our fireplace as it is slow burning. If Mallee roots are really your thing, there is a contest every year for the world’s largest. See; ‘Guinness World Record officials have put a little town in north-west Victoria on the map — thanks to a very big root’ (of course to Australians ‘root’ has a different meaning so if you’re here from overseas be careful with some terms: Root (verb and noun): synonym for f*ck in nearly all its senses: “I feel rooted”; “this washing machine is rooted”; “(s)he’s a good root”. A very useful word in fairly polite company. http://www.koalanet.com.au/australian-slang.html). The town staved off a challenge from the nearby community of Tooleybuc to take out the top honour’. Who knew? http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-27/mallee-root-festival-sees-ouyen-take-out-big-record/8389516
We camped at Psyche Bend which is part of Kings Billabong Park campsite. The road becomes corrugated soon into the park which rattles our truck, caravan, and us to smithereens. Being new at driving off-road we have always gone slow over them and put up with our bones clinking against each other. However, asking folks lately, it seems we should be driving much faster, like 60 – 80 Ks instead of 15 – 20 Ks, and deflating our tyres which we have never done which of course means having to pump them back up which means buying a pump of some sort. We have a lot to learn before doing the loop (driving around Australia, taking six-months to do which will involve lots of off-road, outback driving). We’re planning to use the upcoming month of June to get in some real outback driving by going to Coober Pedy (opal capital of the world) and getting off road north of there. Watch for out blog of that trip sometime in June, probably toward the end of June. Needless to say, we did not drive very far but took the first camping spot we saw along the billabong. Below is the road leading to our campsite.
The place was ideal for tent camping and not our 20-foot thing we pull behind our truck but Narda, being the great backer-upper that she is, got us out of an almost impossible spot the next morning. We rode our bikes over to Psyche Bend as the sunset to see the waterbirds (pelicans, swans, herons and ducks) on the large billabong. There were several other caravan campers there making the spot we chose ideal. We could turn up our TV or radio and not test how far from the caravan we could go before still hearing us. We started watching the classic movie ‘Manchurian Candidate’ but being so quiet and dark and a bit chilly we got under covers and were asleep probably about 8 pm. Early, with the sunrise, the cockatoos, galahs, rosellas, parrots, and honeyeaters all let us know we were in their area and seemingly were having conferences with the usual loud mouths and disagreements one hears at a conference.
Photos below are where we camped at Kings Billabong Park on the right and the photos on the left where we camped along the Murray the next night in Nyah.
Taking our time getting to Melbourne, not that I was putting off seeing Sacha who we get to see about twice a year, but that we just want to travel slow, we managed to drive almost three hours before our next stop which was at Nyah Recreation Reserve Camping Area, alongside the harness racing track and alongside the river. Not only is it free camping, though there is a contribution box which we added to but one can stay for seven-days unless there are horses running amok on the track. We found great bike riding areas there too. The town of Nyah is quieter (deader) than our last exploration of Terowie, South Australia, see: https://neuage.me/2017/04/05/terowie/. There is only one shop to purchase milk etc. open anymore and all the other once-were-shops are boarded up. Our bikes, not the cool racing bikes others have, but bikes we bought our first month of our three-year stay in China working at Dalian American International School and sent to Adelaide, take us to many off-beat places.
After four-nights/days of free-camping we stayed at the Golden Nugget caravan park in Bendigo. We bought solar panels so we could get power for longer but we ran out of water which is something we need to work on before taking our next trip. I got a power inverter so we could keep our computers going; I’m good with roughing it as long as I have my Nikon and laptop and smartphone charged and at the ready. We could probably go without watching a video or one of our Netflix series but a computer and camera are a must on every trip. I could even do without a phone for a day or two seeing that we do not use it as a phone, Sacha is the only one who ever rings me, but we get 3G/4G all the time and it makes me feel secure knowing I could see if WW III has started or not. I suppose we would just hide among the gum trees and camp for the next few years. For the most part we avoid the news when we camp except to troll the headlines every few days.
Today in Melbourne, we are back in a trailer park (for those Aussies who don’t know what that is, watch an episode on Trailer Park Boys on Netflix). The community is amazing, everyone talks to everyone. And you don’t have to be cool or wealthy or intelligent or good looking. There’s the lady across the road from us who has 9 brothers. She came from Malta but will never go back “26 hours on the plane, are you kidding me, it’s too bloody far”. She has a grandchild I don’t think she has met yet. There’s the guy who is waiting for his son to pick him up. He doesn’t drive anymore because he had a stroke, He told his son it would be fine to drive “but just in the country” but his son is fine with picking him up.
Narda, the social one in our family of two travellers, manages to strike up conversations with folks quite easily. Me, I am happy talking to a tree or a magpie. Humans kind of confuse me. I tend to be the one making a meal, playing with some Adobe update, or taking photos of something I can use for my picture-textual-thingies that I have done since the mid-1960s. (see https://plus.google.com/collection/E_6JaB, https://youpic.com/photographer/Neuage, or possibly https://www.flickr.com/photos/neuage/ for some I have done recently). Narda, seems to collect the misfits in life (that is why she married me) and gathers interesting stories from them. I think she should start a series of ‘tales along the way’ or some such narrative title.
Below is the ever-growing Melbourne apartment buildings, these to have 96 stories. Apparently, they are throwing together another one soon (The project consists of a 317-metre-tall (1,040 ft) apartment building with 1,105 apartments over 100 floors) that will be bigger yet. Already, they have the tallest building (Eureka Tower – 297.3-metre, 975 feet), an apartment building, in the southern hemisphere.
We stayed at a caravan park in Melbourne (Springvale) for three days/nights; Sundowner Caravan Park http://sundownercp.com/ as that is the closest to Sacha’s home. Melbourne is lacking in caravan parks and there definitely is no free-camping anywhere near. Sundowner was not as good as some places ($33/night which is cheap for Melbourne) that we have paid for in that there was no Wi-Fi but the hot showers are nice compared to a cold wash-up in our caravan. Also, plugging into electricity is good as our 12V caravan will not run my 1000W smoothie maker but does charge the computer, lights, fridge (though the fridge runs colder when on gas) and TV and radio. When plugged in we can also put on the heater making camping a luxury on a cold night. I made four-days of smoothies when we started and again I made that much to get us home. Being on a low-carb diet my kale, hemp seed, almond milk (yes, I soak my almonds then take off their skins to make my own milk), protein powder (pea protein), fruit, sprouts, yogurt, (we make our own yogurt every day too) and whatever else is laying about is my main nutritional intake. I make my own low-carb cookies and bread too which is fine because we have a gas oven. Along with vinegar (the one with ‘the mother’) and olive leaf oil extract every day, and of course no meat, I seem to keep my body going though Narda thinks I’m a bit high maintenance.
Three days with Sacha as always is good. For those who know him (he is not on Facebook or I believe he is but he won’t tell me what name he is using in fear I will embarrass him which of course is what parents have children for) he is doing well; thinking of starting a family with his partner of the past fifteen-years, still doing music stuff with a room full of recording stuff, and working for Melbourne Council with troubled youth and he is very happy. What more could a parent want? Oh, and he has a new car that he bought a week earlier, very sporty and fast, so he took us up into the hills outside of Melbourne for a tour.
We left Melbourne and stayed at Lake Bolac in a rain storm. We found a place away from others (there were three others camping in the area) and settled in early. Even with the rain we were quite happy with where we were. It was the darkest and quietest place we had been in. With a break in the weather we went for a bike ride. During the stormy night we watched the movie, ‘Hereafter’ with Matt Damon playing the role of a psyche who could communicate with dead people, directed, co-produced, and scored by Clint Eastwood. I liked this movie as it is never far from my mind this sort of thing because of my son, Leigh – http://neuage.org/leigh.html
Lake Bolac, one of the stops on the way back was a surprise. In the middle of farming country, this substantial lake. The weather forecast was rather grim; strong wind warnings with the possibility of large hailstones. We discussed the possibility of finding shelter in a local hay shed. Well it turned out to be fine. The darkness was complete, with thick cloud cover, and though we did get some rain, the tarp we had added to the roof (we sprang a small leak) did the job nicely.
Wannon Falls Needing some waterfalls for a new series I am working on (video poetry) we stopped at Nigretta Falls then past Hamilton on B 160. See the clip below…
Along the way we stopped for sheep to wander off to a new paddock – see clip below…
On this trip we listened to ‘Lake Wobegon, A Prairie Home Companion’, with Garrison Keillor. Narda took me to one of his shows at The Town Hall, New York City, for my birthday years ago and she bought me a two-cd set of his shows for a birthday about five-years ago and finally with time to listen we had a great vision of all those Lutherans up at Lake Wobegon.
This is really about my friend Dell and a tribute to him but I do wander in about Dell in particular as I am tossing in some updates about travel between China and Australia this past month as I do not have the time or inclination to write a separate blog about before last week. I am sure Dell would understand that my narrative goes astray at times. We both lived those kind of lives that seem to go off track, whatever track we were on.
Before our knowing we are still speaking/thinking of the person; even nurturing them in our thoughts which if we believe we are all connected the mind begins asking “what then becomes of those thoughts/feelings/virtual warmth rays we surround another with? We die when the last person to have known us in real-life dies. There is a difference between the death of someone we have had moments with and someone that has died we did not have any interactions with such as a cut-out character viewed through non-touchable media; sort of a part of our psychic DNA. I worry about my parents because of this kind of thinking. My father died at age 102, I will be 67 in a couple of weeks, there are very few people left who knew him and when we die off then he dies. People exist through memory but only live via shared experience. Of course we all have a different view of someone dependent on our interactions with that person. Even names are changed and they live as those names. For example, Dell who was Dell to everyone that I know and we seldom heard any other name was known by his birth name to his cousins; Delbert, one of whom recently told me that he did not know that he went by the name of Dell. Of course we did not know his name was Delbert and maybe how we knew him would have changed if we had called him Delbert instead of Dell. Perhaps there have been ten-billion people who have lived and died and now there are seven or so billion more all destined to be remembered to someone for a moment then forgotten. I never understood why people grieve or experience loss when someone they have never met but who they may have seen on TV in a movie, read a book of/about goes belly-up. What? Someone can not take from us that has never met us therefore it is impossible to have a loss. Maybe a virtual loss, a mental loss because someone who was writing great scripts no longer is around to continue to enchant us but really how selfish? It is when someone we have encountered and shared and bounced around with leaves that a part of us leaves. That part of us that only the person who has left would know – they took it with them. I know this as I have had two mothers a couple of fathers, girl friends, a son, brother and friends die. People take from me. Each one another piece. I wish people I knew would stop dying.
I think it is because I have Saturn conjunct Pluto conjunct my Venus that I get these losses. And with my Moon in Taurus in the 8th house of death of course I get emotional but with Mars conjunct Uranus in Gemini in the 8th I can still intellectualize about it. And of course I do not believe in any of this astrological mumble jumble so it is easy to dissect my chart and then dismiss it. And now with transit Saturn in 17 degrees Scorpio in my first house in conjunction with my Jupiter and exact square my Sun – damn I’m screwed. But tonight with the moon in 29 Cancer conjunct my Mercury and going on through Leo tomorrow this is the time to write about my friend Dell. It was that Saturn making all the constriction on my Sun in Leo that shoved me in a hospital again last month in Hong Kong to get a party balloon put into my heart valve (get it Party Balloon – I’m a Leo). Back in October 28th when I was in Hong Kong with Saturn at 13 degrees 8 minutes Scorpio it was squaring my Saturn and Pluto both at 13 degrees and five minutes of Leo and I had five stents. How astrologically spooky that was. I tell you I tore up my chart after seeing that. Well not really but I should have. Back to Dell in a moment… But I have left Hong Kong. We had stopped in thinking I should visit my cardiologist who had put four stents in my heart area six months earlier. Surely just a short ‘how ya doin’ mate?’ would suffice. He lined me up for tests to see how I was doing. Lots of them. A day of tests. Machine after machine. Each one leading to another. By late evening after a full day of tests good ole Dr. King says there are concerns. Doctors saying stuff like this is a concern. The next morning he says I need another endogram. ‘The Endogram works by occluding blood flow in the arm and then gauging the post-ischemic pulsatile component of flow and the artery’s largest volume change…’ I hate these things. They put a tube up through the arm starting at the wrist and into the heart area. I just get a local in my wrist and I feel it all. There are big monitors to observe what is going on… for three hours. I get a balloon or two stuck in and told this is a new cardiovascular disease. Yeah go tell someone who cares. Last October I showed the DVD of the procedure to my film class and some liked it. Patrick showed his 8th grade science class that was working on a unit on fiber optics, so the movie of my heart being poked at got a showing in a few classes at Dalian American International School. After a few days and some ‘moments’ with our insurance company I was patched up and sent on my way. I have left China after three years and I have left Hanoi and we had a great time in Laos if following the lives of old people as tourist could at all be interesting. I like Laos the people in general seem content and not so attached to the slavery of western style consumerism. I did my part and kept to purchasing fridge magnets; not overly consumptions but enough to give me a memory of Laos. A third of the population of Laos live below the international poverty line which means living on less than US$1.25 per day. Laos is a low income economy, with one of the lowest annual incomes in the world.” According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laos). How is one to feel in these situations? We surely have no restraints with spending money wherever we go so I am sure there were a lot of people who got more than a buck twenty-five out of us before the week was over. “As of 2008, Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world. An average of one B-52 bomb-load was dropped on Laos every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, between 1964 and 1973.” How forgiving humans can be. A few decades later and they are happy to have the Yanks come spend money along with people from the rest of the world. My how places change. We did the sightseeing adventures Luang Prabang, Kuang Si waterfalls, Wat Xieng Thong temple, Tat Kuang, Si Bear Rescue Centre and taking a ferry across the Mekong. Staying at the Thongbay Guest house (http://www.thongbay-guesthouses.com/was great. It is on the Nam Khan River with views of the Phousi Mountain.Narda and I had a cabin and Narda’s son, Brendan had a cabin next to us. I would suggest that is the place to stay if one were looking for a place to stay in Luang Prabang.
A few youtube videos I made from Laos
I have said a few times I think maybe Dell died but there was no one to confirm or deny this. I felt this for more than a year. But should we trust our feelings? In 1973 (maybe it was 1974) I went through a time when I heard my birth-mother calling for me. I was a street artists in New Orleans at the time and I knew nothing of my birth-mother as I had been put up for adoption in 1950. I confirmed the date I was feeling my mother had died with my sister who I met at the end of the 1980s and it was like the same month. I do not remember the details at the moment. In 1973 or maybe 1972 – do dates really mean that much after a few decades? I met Dell, or rather he met me. I was a street artist selling my picture poems in front of Jackson Square in New Orleans (know little about the image below except it is me with a passing horse in the background and a passing girl next to me. This is the only photo I have of then and 40 years on is a long time to remember much though I think I have seen that horse before.
(from “Leaving Australia, page 120 – re. 1973) January 27th took three …. painted 160 pictures – took two hours to do it and two hours to clean up. END OF VIET NAM WAR – Dell stopped in, brought some good LSD. (have no idea what that could mean – 7/26/2014 – but surely it was not me or the me who I have become)
I was selling picture-poems
reading my picture-poems She said what my poems said shouldn’t be said she came and told me that every day at noon But I paid no attention (like any man would) Until the day she took me to her home somewhere north in the constellation of Andromeda (the chained lady)
I met her anthropomorphic parents
4-17-94 Victor Harbor South Australia
A lot of what I write about Dell below is edited (after all decades later I am a member of today’s society and much of the experiences one has when they are younger are best left on the shelf) from a 560 page book (150,000 words) that I wrote some years ago; ‘Leaving Australia’. I made two leather bound copies, one for Sacha and one for me. It is a large book (A4 pages) with lots of photos and poems and having two copies seems excessive but I am an excessive person.
“Dell was always a bit of a scary person. He was a bit Gothic, a bit strange at a time when everyone was a bit strange. Dell was several years older and better off materialistically than the rest of us. He was the only one I knew who had a car. He dressed better than the rest of us. He had better… (I will say recreational enhancers for here but in “Leaving Australia” there are different words) I think he worked on oil-rigs for a few months at a time, making large amounts of money. Dell had a spider web tattooed on his hand which I had not seen on anyone else then or even now. In the 1970s, it was not so common to have tattoos as it is now when to be different from others is not to have a tattoo such as Narda and I who are different because we do not have tattoos do not have.
Dell has been a friend for the rest of my life and I saw him several months ago (this is from “Leaving Australia written years ago) before he went to South America. He believes that America is becoming a police state and that it is safer living in one of the small scary countries below Mexico. Dell defies logic when it comes to living. He just keeps on living no matter what. He has been knifed in foreign cities, he has taken heaps of drugs even did crack for a while but did not like it. He was in a Mexican jail for a year (and liked it).
One afternoon I went to Dell’s apartment and he invited me to friends who lived on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. Before leaving the city, we (in “Leaving Australia again I am not repeating what is written there but there was an altered state involved). We drove across Lake Pontchartrain Bridge, which at the time was the longest bridge in the world, 24-miles, in a dense fog. I will always remember that drive as being the most frightening of my life. I was … and I am sure Dell was too but we got to where we were going and I spent hours throwing up from the fright of the ride and …. I stayed overnight wherever it was we went to party and got a ride during the day the next day with someone else. I did not see Dell for about a month. He use to come and go in people’s lives. Often I doubt he even knew where he was going or where he was. He lived in the moment better than anyone I have ever met and to this day I am trying to get to a point where I totally live in the moment.
I know that Dell use to visit me in my constantly moving houses (something that has never changed in my life even to this day in July 2014; Narda and I have lived in eight houses in three countries the past twelve years and there was a time when I was a single parent that my boys and I lived in ten houses in ten years in South Australia).
I remember that I was intensely studying the Qabbalah – Kabbalah and the occult. I was very intrigued by Aleister Crowley. Good old Alex had been in an Order too, very similar to the one I had been in. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was one of the early occult orders that believed it was part of the White Brotherhood’s plan. Alex though went his own way eventually. He believed he was ‘The Beast’ and went by the number ‘666’. He wrote several books, ‘Sexual Magix’, (The sexual magic of the Ordo Templi Orientis – a Thelemic Order ‘OTC’) and his motto was ‘do what thou will shall be the whole of the law’ which he wrote he says whilst in a trance. I had many of his books and I still have one on astrology and a little white book on ‘The Law’. I used his brand of Tarot Cards and I thought that he was really quite the dude to follow.”
Obviously all that is in the past and the only reason I thought of Crowley was when I was unpacking boxes that had been in storage for 12 years while we lived in the States and China. I saw piles of astrological work I had done over thirty or so years and lessons from the Order I had been in and boxes of astrological and occult books. I kept them because I seem to keep everything. I have lost interest in all that is metaphysical for quite some time. I enjoy living in the moment and not trying to interpret what is going on or what could possibly happen. I am amazed at how many astrological charts I have. I used to do them on everything. From when I first met someone to when I thought up a business idea or any other idea. What I have realised is that my life has been far more successful since following astrology than while doing so. I even have lots of subliminal tapes none of which really made a difference in my life. It seems my life has gone the smoothest the past decade without any of this stuff. For example this morning, the third of August, seven days before turning 67, I got up at 5:30 am and worked on this blog. Twenty or thirty years ago I would do an astrological chart on what I should do today or try to see what would happen this week. I know what will happen this week; whatever and then some more whatever and I will face the whatever and deal with it in whatever way I feel like at that whatever moment. I do not need to have an iChing reading or Tarot card or mediation or read a chart, tea leaves, or my palm. The sun will rise the sun will set and in between I will do stuff and have a variety of thoughts.
I saw Dell in June 2004 and again September, 2005. He was always trying to get me to read his astrological chart. I never would. I no longer lived in the New Orleans mindset and no longer believed in much of anything except lets live in the moment and enjoy.
I had lost my cell phone (mobile phone) on this particular day that I had gone to Lake George with Dell and Narda and when I got home, I used another phone to ring my phone in hopes that if someone had found it they would tell me where it was. I thought that maybe I had lost it in my day’s outing to Lake George. I rang for a couple of days and finally Narda went to the shop where we bought it to buy another one and she tried one more time and Dell in his spacey distant voice said, “hello”. It turns out that when I had visited Dell at his motel after our day out so he could show me his art he was putting on his computer that my phone had fallen out of my pocket into the back of the chair I was sitting on. Dell said he frequently heard music coming from his chair, my ring-dial, but did not know what it was so he did not look until, after hearing it so many times he decided to investigate, he finally looked and saw it was a phone. That really sums Dell up. A cool person but a bit spacey.
To continue on this moment; Dell had been living at our house in 13 Second Street Round Lake, New York but being a night person and our needing to sleep so we could go off to work in the morning we could not have Dell banging around the house all night. We put him in a motel up along Route 9 on the other side of Clifton Park, a fifteen minute drive. He lived there for a couple of months though we did not know why except he wanted to be near us as Dell never seemed to have many friends in the world.
His motel room was more cave like and defied how one would think people should live. It was a bloody disaster zone to be specific. Aside of no clothes seem to ever finding their way into drawers there were boxes of unfinished meals, half drunk bottles of alcohol, cigar smoke and really no where for a visitor to sit comfortably. The shades were always down as Dell liked it dark all the time. He would usually have no shirt on and his long stringy hair to his waist would give one an impression of caveman. Dell was always very underweight. In the midst of this disheveled person and an extremely messy room Dell would be sitting cross-legged with his 17-inch Mac-book. There were partially completed paintings all over with paint on the rug on the furniture on the table and even some on the canvas he was working on. What was out of place was the computer. If you can imagine a caveman living in a messy cave in a cave-time era working on a laptop then you have a picture of Dell’s environment. Then one day he left. I do not recall him even telling us. The next we heard was a letter saying he was in Guatemala.
To backtrack just a bit… when Dell arrived the first time in Clifton Park in about 2003 to visit us; we were living in a trailer in a caravan park across from my father who was 98 years old at the time… he rang me to say he was at a petrol station nearby but he had lost his keys. I walked over and we spent hours looking for his keys which he had in his hands when he stopped to get petrol and to ring me to get driving instruction to our home. Somehow he had lost them which made me wonder how in the world did Dell get from place to place in life? Dell had a van that he lived in when he did not have a home to live in. He eventually drove it down through South American and had it when we visited him in Guatemala. His worldly belongings filled his van and we had to empty it to find his keys which turns out he had dropped between the car seats when he had gotten out to ring me.
Narda (well Narda more than me) spends huge amounts of time on keeping track of our life of where we are going; for example if we are going to Burma or Thailand or Paris and etc. she does a lot of research unlike Dell who is just where he is. I supposed I was more like Dell and only because of Narda there is some sort of order in our life. I like both life styles; having a sense of where stuff is and what to do is good, but the chaotic whirlwind life of Dell and that I lived all my life until I met Narda is cool too.
To add one more little story before going back to the original time-frame I was working in (1973); one time I was with Dell in Walmart in Clifton Park (the really big supercentre on Route 9) and Dell as usual had his shirt unbuttoned and being the skinny person he was with his long hair and a knife hanging on a string around his neck he was enough to startled anyone. I looked up the aisle we were walking in and a lady with a child was walking toward us and as soon as the woman saw Dell she grabbed her child and turned and quickly went into another aisle. I have always found that so humorous. Dell does look frightening and not what one expects to see in your local shopping centre but if one knew Dell; he was really quiet, peaceful, he was strong about his opinions and his anti-society views but he was in a morbid sense a great person to know. I always enjoyed being around Dell. He made me feel human and regular. Dell could just have easily spent his life as a monk on the top of a mountain but with a laptop and his paintings. Most of us see road blocks ahead of us and drive around them but Dell would just drive through. Dell was not self-conscious or worried at all about what others thought of him. If anything he really was shock value personified. We see celebrities who put on their makeup and who try to look outlandish and be weird in public but they just do that for the publicity. Dell was just real. I often thought if I could be ten-percent of Dell it would be his lack of caring what others thought and just do what I felt like doing in the moment.
During the summer of 1973, Dell was driving to his parents in New Lenox, Illinois. I wanted to see Carol Ann and Desiree. Carol Ann was living with her parents in Mokena, a few miles east of New Lenox so I went with Dell. I stayed with Carol Ann, Desiree, and Carol Ann’s parents for a few days. Desiree was seven years old and she only knew me through the stories Carol Ann told her. On a footnote to Carol Ann who I joined a cult religious order with in Hawaii in 1969 and was in and out of for another decade I am Facebook friends with her daughter who is about 46 now. I spent the first few years of her life with her. I was at a concert in 2002 in NYC when Carol Ann’s sister rang me and said that Carol Ann had died. My once-long-ago circle of friends gets smaller each year.
I returned to my Order in April 1974 and lost touch with Dell for a year but somehow we connected. I was in Wichita Kansas in the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light (really) and celibate branch of the Holy Order of MANS. Another side-note; I never did very well with the celibate part and was constantly getting myself in strife. Nevertheless there was a time when I really tried to toe the line. I had been successful with doing the ‘right things’ in the Order in San Francisco then Cheyenne Wyoming for a winter. I was in Wichita when I had two visitors both of whom did their best to get me to leave. Firstly there was Robyn Harper (who died about fifteen years ago without getting to Australia to visit. She wrote many times saying she was on the way but never made it.) who tried all her best feminine persuasions to lure me out of the Order but I was determined and sent her on her way back in 1975. We had been close in New Orleans but I was working toward becoming a priest and I wanted that more; at least at the time. Dell showed up a month later with mind-altering substances none of which I was interested in. He had a lot of convincing arguments for my leaving the Order but I stayed on.
Before the Internet era how people kept track of one another over the years is a mystery. I did not hear from Dell (that I remember now) between winter 1975 and 1983. In 1983 with my first wife I was in the States (we lived in Adelaide, South Australia) visiting tofu factories (I was a tofu manufacturer for eight years in South Australia, see: http://tofu.neuage.us/) when we stopped in New York City. Dell was living in a bit of a rough area down by the Brooklyn Bridge on the top floor of a tenement building. Nothing unusual about that as I have done that many times but what I remember from Dell’s apartment hearing neighbourhood sounds such as a baby crying all night, people screaming at one another, sirens on the streets; and building on both side of his building were burnt out. The wife and Sacha (age about one and a half) and I moved to a hotel after that. I had been at an astrological conference in New Zealand in Sydney at the start of 1980. While in Sydney I met someone I did not get along with and for some stupid reason gave her my address in Towson, Maryland where I was living at the time. After the conference I went back to Towson and low and behold the person I did not get along with at the Sydney astrological conference rang me saying she had driven across from LA to D.C. and wanted a place to stay for a day on her way to NYC. I was in the process of moving back to Hawaii at the time and had nothing left in my house except a bed which we agreed we had to share but under no circumstance would we touch each other. Five days later we basically got out of bed and drove to San Francisco. Half way across the country we began to argue and realised we just had to get away from one another. The woman I was with (who yes it is true rang me a month later when I was in Hawaii to say ‘guess what?’ then she was there in Hawaii and we had Sacha then one day she said if you want to see your son anymore you will have to go back to Adelaide with me, which I did, and as this is not about that part of my life I am now telling suffice it to say we had Leigh then separated and my children and I lived in our tofu factory then on a farm in Mt. Compass then Victor Harbor and a bunch of other places for the next twenty years) anyway we stayed with Dell somewhere out in the country on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. I dropped her off at the SF airport and stayed with a female friend of Dell’s. I remember she was a Pisces and she helped me forget my recent traveling companion or at least until she rang me when I had gotten to Hawaii saying ‘guess what’? I kept in touch with Dell after going back to Australia after he we had stayed with him in NYC for a night. He never mentioned coming to visit like my other friends. He did write letters. They are very difficult to read and I try to piece them together almost one word at a time. His handwriting was amazingly difficult to read. Years later when we could communicate via email I still had a hard time reading his writing because his spelling was so bad. His letters were always about trying to get to Europe until around 2000 when he started speaking of then moving to Guatemala. What I could make of his letters were that life was always difficult.
I would like to have my friend, Marc Seifer, who is also writing a book about my brother, Robert Adsit to look at Dell’s handwriting some day. Marc is a handwriting analysis specialist. He has published many books including the Definitive Book of Handwriting Analysis, Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 2008. When I was visiting him in Rhode Island a few years ago he was telling me about my brother and how his handwriting showed that he was a genius. I showed Marc my handwriting and he did not say much. Oh well. Though I would like to know what he has to say about Dell. Not to worry I have always believed that my friends were cooler than me and that is OK. Dell was always an artist. Like 97.6% of artists he wanted to be known for his work. The only image I have is of a painting he spent more than a decade on which I will show further below. Dell was a night person and would sleep during the day and paint all night. Several of his letters speak about some slides he took and sent to galleries and that usually no one replied to. He was excited for awhile saying a gallery in New York City was interested in his paintings but nothing came of that. I do not think Dell ever had a show anywhere which has always been such a sad thing in my thinking. He did a lot of work which now a year after his death I do not believe exist anywhere. He had a large volume of work in storage in Illinois. There is such a fine line between one who is a successful and famous artist and one who creates for fifty – sixty years almost daily then has nothing after they die for anyone to see. My brother was an artist (http://neuage.org/robert_adsit.htm) who did a lot of work and fortunately Marta Waterman http://martawaterman.com/ along with Marc Seifer http://www.marcseifer.com/ are writing a book on him which gives him a live-on sphere of influence to others or at least those of us who were and still are; if the dead are still alive within us, being influenced by him. I know the artist mindset or at least I believe so. Since being a street artist in New Orleans I rarely have had a time when I was not creating something. Like Dell I have a large body of work, like Dell no one sees my stuff, unlike Dell they still exist; in my closet I have boxes of picture-poems and on a ship between China and South Australia there are more boxes. I have put some on our wall but because I share a home I can not put them everywhere. Narda http://narda.us/ has suggested we do a whole wall just of my picture-poems (http://picture-poems.net/) which is really nice but I won’t do it. I am hanging out for a gallery show like Dell always was and like my brother often did.
After 1990 Dell was living in NYC we went to visit him in Chinatown; actually we went to visit my brother (who died of AIDS two years later) and my father and a few others in the States, but he wasn’t home I don’t think, the front door was missing and there were many broken windows and a lot of graffiti on the walls. We did not go inside as it was all too spooky. Dell then said he would meet us at Grand Central Station but didn’t so we went back to my brother’s and then took the Amtrak to Albany. It would be the last time I would see my brother. A week later my children and I went to Europe for awhile then back to Australia.
Dell wrote me for the next decades, and when he got onto the Internet we stayed in touch. Dell was not happy with politics in the States and said it was all getting too difficult and insane. He was particularly unhappy with Bush – Bushes actually. I have never paid much attention to politics so I was not a good sounding board for Dell. He moved to Guatemala and started saying we should purchase a piece of land next to him. Narda and I decided to visit him and we had planned a trip with two other people who Dell and I had wandered the French Quarter of New Orelans with back in 1973-74; Randy Dandurand and Shane (now Mariya Fields) but when it came time to go only Narda and I went to San Pedro la laguna, Solola, Guatamala. Lake Atitlán Aldous Huxley famously wrote of it: “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Atitlan)
What is it about friends that lives deep in our consciousness that we will not reveal even to ourselves? I think one aspect could be comparison. Perhaps it is part of our DNA something to do with survival. We immediately compare ourselves to others when we meet even for a few seconds; friend-foe, sexy-give-it-a-miss, potential this or that; of course I do not do that but others do. I can feel/see/sense it when I am shopping, being a tourist (I am always a tourist – never being settled; on my gravestone someone will write ‘tourist’ probably because it is obvious that I never did anything else on this planet except be a tourist. Though I stayed away from tours, I did a lot of sightseeing, had heaps of opinions about too many things and as any tourist probably a bit too loud, too flashy – except now in old age I just drag my sorry ass from destination to destination.) I have a few photos of Dell but no video. I was saying to Narda this morning that we must take more video. Of her aging parents, of friends and family. I should have filmed Dell sitting in the motel room with his laptop, or in Guatemala. I have video of Guatemala but not with Dell in it. Now days with Instagram and all it is so easy but I do not think it is being saved long term. What I find so frustrating about the Internet is how lousy a retrieval system it is. I can not find anything on Dell and all that I can find about my brother is what I have put up. The Internet does not replace correspondence such as letters. It adds to correspondence a bit; I can find emails from Dell but none from my brother who died just as the Internet was coming into being. I have some emails but not many from my son who took his life and left little behind even though he was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and his baseball card is available on Ebay all that exists are the many pages I have made for him. http://neuage.org/leigh.html I have no video of Leigh even though I was a single parent and raised him. I have heaps of photos. Now I take videos all the time and have several hundred on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/neuage09, https://www.youtube.com/user/tneuage and a few other places though I forget where at the moment. But letters trumps all the electronic correspondence. They show who the person is through their writing style, even how much pressure a person puts on the paper, according to Marc Seifer. Dear Dell We will be in Guatemala city June 17 – 19th and two nights in Panajachel at Hotel Princess It looks as if we will arrive in San Pedro toward the end of the day Monday the 21 st of June. We will come across the lake from Panajachel. And that we did. Global Nature named Lake Atitlan the ‘most threatened lake of the year’ in 2009 (http://blogs.egu.eu/gfgd/2014/01/30/field-research-in-guatemala-3-environmental-hazards-at-lake-atitlan/)
Back to Dell in a moment
now back in Adelaide August 2014
We signed up to do relief teaching and thought maybe we would get a day or two a week. We have been relief teaching since the day after and that put off our getting settled into our home today I had reception and grade one; reception is the same as American kindy. Walking in to say good day to 29 children as their teacher walks out (she had a conference to attend) is always a humbling experiencing. As there is often difficulty with saying good morning Dr. Neuage between about K and 2nd grade I say they can call me Dr. N. That always works fine. Of course they think I am a medical doctoring dude and I have given up trying to explain the difference between a medical doctor and an academic doctor; not sure if academic doctors are surgeons or not so we go through the day with me being Dr. N. I have not had a kindy class since Ross Global Academy in NYC five years ago when I would have a computer lesson with them once a week. I have never been left with a class full for a day. They were beaut we read a story, watched Hansel and Gretel and made gingerbread houses, played outside and on computers. There were a few tears here and there: someone said someone else would not play with them, another said someone said something rude, another said another said they were weak there were a few spills and we went through a few band-aids but overall what great children. I am unable to edit video in Adobe Premiere or shoot some good chroma-screen footage or philosophize about anything at all. There was a point when I took them out to the play area and so did a lot of other classes and soon I realised there were no other teachers and I was surrounded by at least a hundred children many of whom had issues about someone not playing with them or someone saying something they perceived to be as unkind. My favorite as always were issues with not knowing what to do. Hey we are on a playground with playground equipment and a hundred children and you are asking someone who will be 67 in two weeks what to do? I would just say, “go play” and they would say “OK” and be off. And I got a PhD to come up with these lines? Eventually some other teachers came out and stood around talking with one another so somehow I became the go to dude for issues. I think it is a bit rare having a male in primary or maybe they are amazed someone so old is still walking around. One stray child probably about grade five of six followed me around telling me all the words he knew that Americans spell differently. OK so we leave out the u in lots of words and use a z instead of an s. Yesterday I had grade two and they were like taking the best children one could find in a country and putting them in one classroom. We had a great day and actually they enjoyed learning. Last week in a different suburb I had a class where they took all the worse kids in Australia and put them in the same class. How do they do that? Those children did not want to do any learning activities and spent most of the day wrestling, running around and yelling along with using toys for unguided missiles. I have been called back some more as they say no one wants to work at that school as a relief teacher. I wonder why?
I have a history of being surrounded by children. When I was a hippie in California Eileen Busby and I lived in Glen Ellen. Glen Ellen has a bit of fame from Jack London who write such things as ‘Call of the Wild’, ‘White Fang‘, ‘The Sea-Wolf’, ‘The Iron Heel’, and etc. We lived on this side road of about six houses that was named Hippy Hollow. All the other houses had single mothers with children and as the mothers were often in states of consciousness that impeded their parenting children would come over to our house for meals. Often we would have five or more children eating a spaghetti meal I had made. There were also times when a mother or two would go into San Francisco – a few hours away – and not return for a day or two and their children would camp out in our lounge. We had a pickup truck (a ute in Australia terms) and being one of the few people on Hippy Hollow road with a vehicle children would pile in the back and off we would drive. We never got a ticket for having people without seat-belts in the back of our truck or perhaps there were no laws about that then. Today taking a third-grade class a boy asked if it was true that kids in high school are allowed to have sex. I replied that I was from American and was unsure if that was allowed here, trying to be a bit diplomatic about the subject. A girl answered that yes they were allowed to have sex in high school. I moved us on to another subject but there was a continuing discussion about this among several of the children. Maybe I should stick to reception and first grade they do not come up with these kinds of questions.
We decided to stay with Dell in San Pedro instead of staying at a hotel. Guatemala was a part of a world-trip that summer. Narda and I were teaching in NYC and not being soccer fans we got a bit swept up in the World Cup of that year. We watched games of Australia and The Netherlands in San Pedro, and while driving through France, seeing the final in front of the Eiffel Tower with thousands of Spanish fans (Narda had her Dutch flag wrapped securely around herself) with Spain beating The Netherlands 1 – 0 at the end. Of course this last World Cup in Brazil we watched as we traveled between China, Hong Kong, Hanoi and Laos only to see The Netherlands not quite make it to the final. We saw the previous World Cup of soccer in Istanbul sitting outside watching Australia get thrashed by someone. I only bring this soccer stuff up as a shadow of our life that summer of 2010. We do not follow soccer and Dell was not interested but Narda and went and watched a few games at a pub in town. We were in pubs because we could not really eat at Dells. He tried to make his home comfortable for us and we did appreciate that. We spent our first day at his house cleaning his kitchen which kind of embarrassed him but it was really beyond what we could cope with. Dell built an incredible house. I have never seen anything like it. He had bought land on the side of a hill and there was no road to his house only a path. All material for his house was brought up by horse and on the backs of the workers building his house. Dell had drawn out a plan for how his house was to look. He did not have an architect look at the plans until it was almost done.
With a large portion of the house done Dell asked an architect to look at how it was going and the architect said it would all collapse without pillars and braces. Dell had the pillars put in – see below for the lounge;
Dell had a beautiful view of Lake Atitlán but he had bars over his windows and due to mold and dirt it was impossible to see outside the windows. He wanted to leave Guatemala for several reasons. One was his health which had been going downhill for years. He had something wrong with his back and to be able to walk without pain he would carry rocks in a bag over his shoulder which of course gave him quite a strange presentation. He said he was always in pain. He spoke of wanting to go to Berlin. He had been there the summer before and stayed with a lover or a friend, I could not sort which, but the person did not want to see Dell ever again. This happened many times. I think I am one of the few people who stayed friends with Dell so long. I remember my friend, Linda, who lived in Lake Charles in Louisiana who wrote me back sometime in the late 1970s to get Dell to leave her house. Linda was one of our friends in New Orleans and Dell had written me if I knew someone he could stay with while he worked on a painting. I had stayed with Linda earlier and thought she would be fine with it. She wrote me that he insisted on having the lights out and that he would just sit in her lounge all night staring at the wall. He even had a falling out with Randy when he stayed with him in California. They each told me different stories so I am not sure what happened really. But Narda being the caring an nurturing person she is felt sorry for Dell and we both tried to make our stay with him good. And Dell tried too. He was depressed as he has been every since I met him back in 1973 and he was very anti-religious which he has been since I met him but we all tried to make the best of the visit. For Dell it was very important because no one had visited him in the seven or so years he had been in Guatemala. We brought him lots of stuff like cigars, an ipod and several other items such as tea and herbs he was unable to find locally. His cousin in New Lenox had loaned him a thousand dollars so we could bring him things.
Dell had sort of a toy-boy, an 18-year old who we thought was hustling him and we had a bit of difficulty adapting to. He gave the toy-boy the ipod which we were opposed to but Dell said he made him happy and it was all a mutually beneficial situation. The toy-boy was a street person whose parents had kicked him out of the family due to his sexual persuasions. Having always been strongly heterosexual I have not understood really a lot of what people are on about. My brother died of AIDs, Dell just always did his thing and I never thought much about it, and being a non-judgmental person for what people do with their lives I don’t put any thought into stuff like ones sexuality. However, I still felt Dell was being taken. Narda looked the other way when she showed photos of her sons and Dell said ‘I like that one’, gulp! OK so why do we hang around people that we do not understand. I use to say with Dell that I am amazed that he stays alive for so long. I think I have studied Dell for forty years, probably not something to base friendship on but not knowing anyone that is so different from every life style I have known or people I have known I am just fascinated by him.
At the end of March the rains from Tropical storm Agatha triggered a landslide. Rocks and mud came down the San Pedro volcano. We were quite concerned for Dell. He wrote that the mudslide was meters from his house but that he was fine. We set up a donation centre at St. Luke’s School in NYC where Narda was working as their music teacher and collected several boxes of shoes and clothes to take with us to San Pedro. The shoes and clothes were new designer stuff still with labels on them. St. Luke’s has lots of celebrities’ children at it so there was a great pouring out of help. Unfortunately we were limited with luggage and ended up taking a suitcase and a half of stuff with our meager poor persons personal clothing stuffed in between the good stuff to give away. Due to Dell’s strong opposition to anything to do with Christianity we could not give it to a local church-mission place but we did find someone who was a part of the relief efforts and we gave what we had. We toured the path of destruction next to Dell’s house. I do not know if his house would have withstood the onslaught of huge rocks tumbling down the mountain – though he did have a lot of concrete involved in building his house.
His house was huge. It was three stories with each story being about fifteen feet high. There was no railing on the stairs and the toilet and shower was open with no privacy which Narda was not thrilled about.
Dell’s primary complaint was the government had cracked down on drugs and there was not much good cocaine around any more. He was also concerned due to the mold everywhere and the effects it was having on his paintings.
He was quite excited when we there about one painting in particular. I probably would be the only person in the world who would know when Dell was excited because he does not give any outward clues. He was working on a painting when he was staying with us in Round Lake New York. He showed it to us and said he had been working on it for years and it was to be his masterpiece and he would sell it then buy a house in Paris and we could come and stay with him. When we were in San Pedro he told us how he had spent a lot of time recently working on his painting to have it finished while we were there. He had been working on it for more than a decade. We were not allowed to see it right away as he had little more to do on it so his 18 year old toy-boy showed us around town for a day and we went and watched soccer another day and another day we took boat rides around the lake until the last day we were there he was finished and he brought us up to his balcony to show us his painting he had worked on for ten years. We did not know what to say. He told us it was the universe or actually many universes exploding and life was beginning in various areas of the painting. I would say the canvas was about 36 inches by 36 inches maybe a bit bigger. He was reluctant to have me take a photo of it but I insisted and I am so happy I did as it may be the only record of its existence.
Dell wanted to sell his house so we brought up a real estate agent that we found online living in San Pedro. The person was amazed and simply told Dell he had no idea how he could sell it. There were not really rooms. Upstairs there was sort of a lean-to structure with a bed and a few shelves. Narda and I stayed in there the week we were at Dell’s. The bed was uncomfortable the house was shocking but to this day we both say we never slept so well. Narda and I are really bad sleepers in that we wake up many times during the night which means we wake each other up. Rarely in the thirteen years we have been together have we slept through the night without waking at least once if not many times. In San Pedro La Laguna at Lake Atitlan we slept through every night and felt so rested the next day. I usually have to go to the toilet more than once at night – OK so I am old – but either because we slept so well or I was terrified of the stairs with no railings but I did not get up once. We spoke about how well we slept to other people we met and they said the same. Lake Atitlan is known for its peacefulness. In such a dangerous country it is something to have a place so peaceful. Before seeing Dell we stayed in Guatemala City – one of the most dangerous cities in the world according to web reports – people at the hotel we stayed at said we should not cross the street after dark unless we had one of the armed hotel people with us but we did to go to a restaurant down the street. At the restaurant there were two men one at each door with machine guns – that is how dangerous the city is. We were told it is dangerous to walk around in the daytime too but we were told that in Mexico City and we stayed during some horrific drug feud squabbles. We own a house in a rough area of Jersey City and lived there for three years. Like Dell we just go forward until we are unable to anymore.
Dell built his house like a fort because he had been robbed so often and even this peaceful part of Guatemala was really dangerous. There are no buses in San Pedro so one gets about hitching rides in the back of pickup trucks; similar to the songthaew in Thailand. It seems dangerous but it is fun. As Dell lived on a bit of a back road and his van was parked in storage in another town the only way to get around was on horseback or in the back of a pickup truck. Narda and I did ride horses through the coffee fields one day but that was more as tourists than transportation.
One night we just could not eat what Dell had – nothing against his kitchen – well… but I being a vegetarian we will suffice it to say we wanted something else so Dell and Narda and the toy-boy and I walked down the hill; which in itself was quite a project as it was always muddy and steep and we are all old, well except for the toy-boy to the road. We walked for awhile when Narda saw a pickup truck in front of someone’s house so with Dell shaking his head no and me say ‘it is OK she does this kind of thing all the time’ Narda went to the door and asked for a ride into town. Of course we do not speak Spanish and Dell was back on the road looking embarrassed and they did not speak English but it was obvious what Narda wanted pointing at their truck and pointing in the direction of town and besides it was starting to rain. To our amazement; well Dell and me – not Narda she usually gets what she goes after (at St. Luke’s School in NYC the teachers have a saying, she worked there for five-years ‘what would Narda do?’) they agreed and we all piled into the back of the truck as well as about five family members and off we went. The end of the story is that we got a good meal in town does not matter as it was getting there that was fun. We found another pickup truck to take us back home and we climbed up the steep hill in the mud and rain and were happy to be back home. We were concerned about the scorpions in the house. Dell had said just watch for them. He had been bitten twice. The first time he said was quite painful the second time he got high. We were lucky I suppose as no scorpions bit us
We decided to go to Antigua for a few days and I forget why but Dell was going to meet us there instead of go with us. We had come out from Guatemala City by car for a hundred dollars US as everyone says the chicken buses (really old USA school buses painted up) are very dangerous and we had read so many stories online about people being robbed and killed and beaten up on them that we did not take any. But to save some money we took a van to Antigua with about a dozen others. The others were young people traveling around South America. In the three hour or so ride we heard lots of horror stories about travel in Guatemala. I know Dell said once that he was driving along on a back rode and a bunch of bandits tried robbing him at gun point so he threw a bunch of money out the window and drove as fast as he could.
We stayed at the Four Seasons at Radisson Villa Antigua Resort in Antigua Guatemala. Not because we are snobs or rich; it was just affordable and we needed a nice place. Dell arrived a few days later and rang that he was in the lobby. Now picture a five-star hotel with its fancy lobby and in the middle is Dell with his bag of stones over his shoulder because of his back pain and a tattered bag with his clothes all of which obviously need a wash and – well there he was. We went to the front and collected him and as we had a two-bedroom apartment for that week or it was less than a week but for ever how long we stayed it was all quite good. Dell said he had not stayed at such a place for decades or did he say ever? We toured around Antigua the best we could – Dell could not walk a lot but we had lots of laughs and we even watched a soccer game with The Netherlands at a restaurant.
We really did plan to go to see Dell again. We were with in June – July 2010. The next summer we went to Ecuador then on to China to live for the next three years – until a month ago actually. We did not tell Dell we were going to South America as he would have wanted to meet up with us or have us visit him. He was quite stressed and we just did not know what we could do. I started making a webpage to help him sell his house but we could not come up with what his house could be used for. We thought maybe some new-age centre or a place for a craft/artist person. The view is amazing but the house is just so huge and strange. We wrote back and forth and thought maybe after our China tour we would go to visit meaning like now. I had said to Narda for the past year that I thought Dell was dead and I was feeling quite sad about it. There was no way to contact him. He did not have Internet on at home and could only use it when it went into San Pedro which was maybe once a month or so. His phone at his house did not work. His cousin said that he had put it on my Facebook a year ago that Dell had died but I did not see it. Facebook is banned in China and I would view it rarely using our VPN.
Dear Terrell and Mrs.–
Glad I found the correct email address for you.
Delbert died in an accident at his home in May 2013. He had locked himself out of his house and was attempting to climb the outside wall to get in. He fell, as I understand it, from between two and three stories. A neighbor heard his cries and went to help. (I didn’t even know he had neighbors. I thought he was out there by himself in a remote area. He never spoke of neighbors.) A doctor and others were called to help. In the process of taking him to town, he had a heart attack and died. The death certificate indicated thoracic trauma.
A person from the US Embassy in Guatemala contacted me about three days after he died. It took them that long to locate my information. He informed me about the accident and that deaths were handled differently in Guatemala than in the US. No refrigeration, no embalming, etc. The heat and humidity had bad effects on the body and burial was done as soon as possible after death. He is buried in a cemetery in Sololá in an unmarked grave. A grave can be rented for 6 years and then the person is either buried like Delbert, or rented again. It was not possible at that time to dig him up and ship him home, so he is forever in Sololá.
I do miss him. Miss the unexpected phone calls. Miss hearing what is going on in his life, mostly problems. His legs and back were bothering him and causing him considerable pain, and I cannot understand what possessed him to think he could climb a house in his physical condition. We will never know.
I hope all is well with you and your wife.
How is it we think ~ dwell ~ feel someone that is not in the physical and create in this moment with them? I do it. I am influenced by my dead son, by Dell, by my brother Robert, by my son, by girl friends; not all at once of course but I can be writing or talking or going through my day then suddenly this person from the past influences me and I change or add or morph – whatever I do at that particular moment. I disassociate with the moment, even sometimes with myself and associate with someone else. But I do not become who I was when I was with them but maybe who they are now being with me if there is life after life where the dead can embed themselves into now.
8-25-94 Victor Harbor
here is to you mate:
Mariya Field There are many things to have been said about Dell and I also was part of the Musketeers who knew him in 1973. I was a teen run away on the streets of New Orleans, Terrell, Randy and Dell were my protective, loving, quirky, generous big brothers. I was never afraid when I was with them, and trust me the streets in those days could be brutal. Dell had a way of making silence beautiful. He introduced me to some of the most amazing and haunting music I ever heard, all on vinyl, he loved a good glass of vine, some serious pasta and an evening with a few of us contemplating the universe even the darker side at times.. (Terrell will remember a late night trip to Charity) . A few years ago I received a somewhat rambling email from Dell mentioning this coffee house on Royal street called Until Waiting Fills it was a true artist hang out (Like only existed in the 70″s) and over many cups of tea or carrot juice we contemplated the magic around us….Dell’s life was a bit harsh at times, he followed no known path he definitly was creative, different,, smart and loyal….and I hope wherever he landed his spaceship he can listen to his Voltaire and drink some killer red wine….Cheers dear brother
Durand Dandurand Dell was so different from anyone I’ve ever known. Dark and moody, always interesting; he did what he pleased, even if he was living in your house. Very strange guy, but I always liked him. A toast to you, Dell!
train to Hua Hin http://youtu.be/tjxnVU4FoGk
King of Thailand passing by http://youtu.be/XvOScADNIKQ
Bangkok at night and the Chao Phraya (แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา) River http://youtu.be/ykrkrZ06zH8
Cabbages and Condoms and Bangkok protests http://youtu.be/3lXhsVCd19M
Three years ago our school, Dalian American International School, gave us our spring break unfettered. Professional Development, as a Common Core (a favorite buzzword at our school) active-learning-function, should be embedded within school-time, according to values held amongst staff, was separated from holiday time. Professional Development of course is part and partial of instructional education and as the name implies (professional development) is a segment of what enhances the teaching environment which is what people pay to send their darlings to our school to learn. Three years ago the EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council of Schools) conference was in Bangkok and as usual went from Thursday to Saturday. Spring Break holidays followed the next week. As our school gives us a thousand dollar stipend for PD we usually use it for a conference and the thousand dollars US comes close to paying the airfare, the conference, and the hotel. So naturally when the conference is during school days prior to a holiday why would we not combine them? which we did three years ago and about half the teachers pissed off on a Wednesday went to a conference in Bangkok then on to holiday the following week. I think we went to Viet Nam that year after the conference. Which made sense as our airfare was paid for most of the way by going via Bangkok.
Not to worry we made do and Friday right after school we were on the way to the airport, one hour away, with Jolly from our Jack-controlled fleet of drivers. Being five o’clock in Dalian add a 45 minutes but we were in flight and arriving in Guangzhou before mid-night. We chose to get out of town thinking we would get to our sea-side town by Saturday noon and to have five-days before being burden with the great mind minds in the educational world; should not be sarcastic here as there are always a few guiding lights at these conferences though a large quantity of ‘look at how great I am‘ presenters too.
Staying at the Pullman Hotel at Guangzhou Airport, a five minute walk away from the entrance to Gate A – International is the best way to start a holiday. Yes, there are soft beds in China and large soft pillows. Even at top hotels we find hard beds waiting for us but not at the Pullman and five thirty Saturday morning came just too soon for the comforts one craves at any age. We got to Bangkok and taking the Airport Rail
Link (06:00-midnight) that connects downtown Suvarnabhumi International Airport with Bangkok we were at Hua Lamphong Railway Station (สถานีรถไฟหัวลำโพง – ah the joys of cut and paste), or for those of us who struggle with any language of any sort, the Bangkok Railway Station.
(my youtube video for this is at http://youtu.be/tjxnVU4FoGk).
The train station is a typical older big city Asian place. The toilets are horrible (bring your own tissue – and be prepared to squat if squat action is what your body needs to do), there are restaurants, we ate at one upstairs that was very grubby but the tofu stew I had was fine though I suspect that like most meals was heavily laced with MSG which makes me more hyper than usual which is fine after a cup of coffee and a long train ride. The noon train was fully booked and the only place left on the next train at 2.30 was first class sleeper which sounded groovy and comfortable and elitist and we bought on for those moments of merging with the chosen and higher echelon of whatever social grouping we were to be embedded with. Eventually we were off to Hua Hin; promoted as the closest beach resort of Bangkok, located 281 kms away.
The photo of the Hua Hin Train Station below is the next day.
We brought snack food with us which was good because I was unable to eat the dead-animal-laced meals that were on offer but we did have drinks in the restaurant car and a good view of the landscape which was mainly flat and rice fields (see the video). The upper crust we were on board with looked pretty working class or below which probably coincided with the fare of about $15 US. So this was not Amtrak and the sleeper car definitely was not what we expected (see image above) but was actually our seats folded down with a pull down bunk on top and a thin mat on top and curtains. OK so it was mid-day and we did not need sleepers but we thought it would be a hoot (I think it was me that was thinking in turns of ‘oh boy this will be kool‘) to get the beds made up and I went off to find a porter type of dude who made up the beds with pillows and sheets and the half inch piece of foam that would serve as our mattress. Of course as we live in a world of ‘hey they are doing it so we should do it too‘ and of course with us being the only westerners on the train obviously we knew what we were doing so the people across from us did it. They had a child of about five who thought it was all a big Cubby House and chattered the whole trip (six hours, two hours longer than the advertised time) and climbed between up and down bunks.
Then the next seat did it and soon as shown above the whole car was one big sleeper and it was only about four in the afternoon. Not to be a trend-starter for no reason I climbed up on the top bunk and promptly fell to sleep for about an hour and I was not even sleepy to begin with. But I tend to relax and go to sleep quite easy. I do it on airplanes; often being sound to sleep from starting on the runway to waking in the clouds – maybe something about my level of consciousness being played out there. One of my stranger times I suppose was going to sleep whilst the dentist was drilling a few months ago, they woke me up a couple of times. And forget massages – Narda will tell me that soon after they start I am snoring. The bad part of my sleeping habits is that I awake a few hours later, like around one or two in the morning wide-awake ready for the day and I just lay there, usually quite frustrated for a couple of hours before going back to sleep. I tend to fall asleep always within half an hour before it is time to get up.
Nevertheless we got to Hua Hin station about 8.30 PM with the people who we had arranged our airbnb waiting the extra hours for our arrival. In contrast to our smartypants idea that leaving Friday night would have our toes in the warm waters of Thailand and away from the still freezing weather of Dalian was quite in error in judgement as some others left our school Saturday morning and once at Bangkok Airport took another flight and got to their beach side resort early Saturday afternoon with us leaving a dozen hours earlier and getting to our destination hours later than the others.
We stayed in a small apartment owned by a Dutch couple@ the Tira Tiraa Condominium (http://www.tiratiraahuahin.com/). The whole joint is full of Northern Europeans, lots of Danes and Germans who live there for several months at a time and of course Narda was thrilled and the word retirement came up multiple time. (It sound like an echo off of a distant mountain filtered through many layers of resistance in my brain stem scratching against the reptilian part of my brain.). Good western restaurants and we went to the ‘S & S Indian Restaurant’ which is listed a Ranked#9 of 348 restaurants in Hua Hin in Tripadvisor and we ranked it as number one of three restaurants we ate at which of course is a higher ranker but not as credible because we are no-body. We had several eats at ‘I Rice’ which was only a block away and we ranked it as number two out of three though Tripadvisor Ranked it as #70 of 348 restaurantsin Hua Hin. Forgot where we ranked number three, I think it was where we had breakfast.
The Tira Tiraa Condominiums have a wonderful large swimming pool and we made use of it and a gym which I made use of everyday. The rest of the time we wandered around, took a random bus to Cha Am which is a distant extension of Hua Hin and is full of Northern European tourists beneath kilometer after kilometer of umbrellas. See below:
As we usually do we took random tuk tuks to places we did not know including this random bus that went to the next town, Cha Am. The town centre is nowhere as nice as Hua Hin so we started down the road to the beach (see umbrella infested shore photo above) on a very hot day and fortunately were able to hail a taxi truck (“songthaews”) most of the way. We walked all the way back to town which was miserable, taking an hour in the noon-day sun.
We got the bus back toward Hua Hin but being the tourists that we are and having read about The Venezia Hua Hinwhich online (http://www.theveneziahuahin.com/) and on our tourist map boasted its significance: “The Venezia Hua Hin: The inspiration of this magnificent project came from the charming of the world famous river city named ‘Venice, Italy’. Venice is known as a city that massively uses water transportation by using the canal as a traffic channel through out the city. In addition, the Venice has also preserved traditional stores with beautiful sculpture surrounding of the canal area. These charming can be compared to one of the most charming in Thailand, Hua Hin.
Hua Hin is the major tourist destination and long time famous city in Thailand. As of the fact that Hua Hin is currently regarded as the prime tourism potential in terms of rapidly and steadily growing in the business and numbers of both Thai and foreign tourists. As the distance between Hua Hin and Bangkok, it is very convenient to travel as same day trip between Bangkok and Hua Hin; It takes less than two hours by car. Hua Hin, the city of relaxing place for living and visiting supported by surrounding many major attractions. Of course, huge buying power of over 65 million people across the country and oversea visitors.”
We loved being in Venice and all the other places of Italy we have wandered about in so a day at a Venetian Shopping Centre – of course, why not?
Holy Cow! The shopping centre had to be the most tacky and ill conceived place I have ever seen. To make it even more idiotic they charged 50 baht to get in; OK so it is only $1.50 US but the nerve… Surely it was built by the Chinese as I doubt any other country could have come up with such a stupid concept. Due to the heat being in an air-conditioned mall was a relief but what a bunch of stupid shops. Everything was so overpriced and the place so empty.
There were mixed styles; some I think were suppose to mimic Italy in someone’s twisted dream and some just did make sense. I think they were a Thai copy of Disney, not sure. There was a sort of Christmas theme happening too I think even though we were in the middle of March.
A Christmas theme in the sense that there were reindeer or horses with horns and trees with lights and packages beneath. I doubt whether the builders/designers had ever been to Venice. It was even more tacky than the The Venetian Macao (see my blog of Macao @ http://wp.me/pcHIf-iz). We discovered that we needed cash and the ATM did not take our Chinese Union-pay Card (most countries and ATMs do including in Hua Hin, Bangkok, Burma and etc) but not at this strange place which was good as Narda had found some wings she was buying for her two-year old granddaughter and a soft sheep. We had just enough cash to get on a bus back to Hua Hin.
Once we had dragged our sorry asses out of the air-conditioned mall and alongside the sun-killing highway we waited and waited though it was only 20 minutes for the bus. There was no shade and I tried entertaining myself and Narda (she was not entertained) by making fun of a bullock in the paddock next to us.
Not to worry we got home had dinner at ‘I Rice’ and had a swim in the pool and Narda talked about retirement and I checked out the bandwidth which needless to say was a lot better than what we get at Campus Village back home in Dalian which is close to non-existent. I am not sure whether it is funding cuts at our school that has gotten us less bandwidth or the fact that the Internet mainly filters through student housing first to keep them happy or if it is because of the government. No one is enlightening us on why our Internet in China is so much worse than it was two years ago. So I hastily uploaded YouTube clips of our travels so far on this trip. And of course posted to and read Facebook and Twitter and other sites banned in China.
We walked along the beach in Hua Hin stopping at the Hilton Hua Hin Resort & Spa because when one wants a proper toilet a western hotel is the place to go. The Hilton did not let us down and we rested in their beautiful lobby overlooking the sea (picture below)
(http://www.centarahotelsresorts.com/centaragrand/chbr/) which was formerly the Hua Hin Railway Hotel (when it was affordable). The lawns are amazing with sculptured bushes and all the old world charm in the lobby before whatever bad-tastes-tourism’s wrecking ball has done to the beautiful places of the world. If we were not staying at the Tira Tiraa Condominium and had three-hundred dollars per night to spend on
lodging we would have stayed at the Centara Grand Beach Resort Hotel. Narda says we will stay here for a week to celebrate our twenty anniversary of when we did the ‘M’ thing back in 2001 so we have seven-years to save our coins in a jar and by then if the world has not gone on some crazy end-of-the-earth bang we will stay at the former Railway hotel.
We went off to grab a photo of the train station and inspect more of funky Hua Hin – which is good at this moment in time because it is not filled with tourists like the other resort areas in Thailand.
There are the retired and semi-retired who have homes for months at a time (Narda’s direction for us – just make sure there is fast Internet and I will be OK) but for packs of tourists, not yet. Narda had a bag she bought in Yangon a few weeks ago that needed repair so we stopped at a sewing place. I looked down the road and saw all the traffic stopped two blocks before the one round-about in town. Walking to the one round-about in town I saw traffic was stopped in a directions and the road crossing town was empty except for police and military lined up. Not having a clue as usual I went out to the centre of the round-about to take photos and video and cops from several directions came running toward me waving to stop filming so I went down the street and behind a pole began filming again; see http://youtu.be/XvOScADNIKQ, turns out that the King of Thailand was going to his summer palace which is just outside of Hua Hin. The people lining the street were chanting and waving Thai flags. It was all rather quaint. Narda was nervous that I would be arrested. Actually I am a bit of a journalist as I have a BA in Journalism from Deakin University in Melbourne and having never really had much chop at using it in a real world situation I thought this would be a good time to get a story but in actual fact there was no story to get as apparently the king spends a lot of his time at his Hua Hin home.
Narda always says we need to live somewhere beautiful, it does not matter whether it is in a poor area or – well I think a poor area is what we can afford and Thailand is so full of beautiful places but it is gradually, like the world itself getting overrun by… well I suppose it is people like us. We all want to live in a beautiful place and not in polluted choking places like most major industrial areas. But we bring our industrialized values with us which is stuffing up the once beautiful places. I don’t know what will happen to this planet in the next couple of decades but from first hand viewing it does not seem as going too well. Of course we would just be happy with a reasonable shack with some solar panels, a veggie patch and some chooks on a beach somewhere in Asia but then the water rises and a tsunamis comes or radiation from North Korea or everyone is running out of drinking water and food and gosh…
We took a bus back to Bangkok. It was a 22-seat-coach to Suvarnabhumi Bangkok Airport, comfortable and less than four-hours. A lot better than the train. I slept most of the way, not sure why as I was not sleepy when we got on at noon but I seem to sleep wherever I am.
We arrived Bangkok in the evening and caught up with Kay and Frank our neighbours last year here in Campus Village and recently our host at their home in Yangon, Burma and a few others grabbed a foot massage, I fell to sleep and snored and Narda in the next seat woke me and the next day Thursday we were at the EARCOS conference.
I of course attended the tech ones such as ‘Innovate now or become irrelevant’ and about Digital Badges which has merit but after digging around in it there are too many companies just in it for the money. Of course education is about money and when you get into private schools and narrow that down to international schools the flow of money overrides it all. I attended too many sessions that were in essence a sales pitch either to take a course to get credit but of course these are paid courses and what more do I want to add to a PhD I am not sure but this is perhaps where open badges comes into play. That we can get cred for whatever we do. But then again to issue badges costs money. Ryan our elementary tech person is working on it and has already issued me with a badge;
though somehow I think it misses the educational systems hierarchy of sustained learning. I in turn made him a badge with something about educational rapping as he is our local rock star (Cronkite Satellite) and in fact I filmed the video for one of his songs for a you-tube clip – http://youtu.be/sOide6Bf140 and I have been doing some chroma-screen (blue screen) work with him for projects in our video suite at school.
Back to the conference – so presenters seem to be focused on selling their courses or selling a web-based program. The venders all line up in the lobby but all we do is taking pens, thumb-drives, bags and other crap on their tables. One presentation I went to was identical to what he presented at the last couple of conferences I have been to. The good part of these events is to hear the lingo I suppose, though I do not feel I moved forward with anything useful. I have known about digital badges and questioned their usefulness years ago. I am on-board with them and once we figure the java scripting for them I will issue some for my film class. Of course they will not have the currency that one issued by a university or the United Nations will have but I will at least have my students mindful of earning more in life than grades.
Narda and I took a river cruise and of course as usual got lost.
Don’t ask me how one gets lost on a river but we did it. We were told we could get off wherever we wanted and catch a river-taxi back. After an hour I was busting for a loo so we got off at a stop that looked useful and that was large enough to catch one back to the Shangri-La Hotel where the conference was. Off of the boat we realised we were kind of nowhere and we after walking found a bustling centre of whatever suburb we were in and after using the loo and sitting on the pier until the sun set we asked a chap about when the next boat back to the Shangri-La Hotel was. OK so there was none because the last boat stopping there was the one we were on and the ones we saw going by were only stopping somewhere where we were not. The man write out what buses to take – and as all people do with us either because we appear to be old, and possibly are, or because they think we are deaf they say the instructions louder over and over. Saying stuff louder in a foreign language does not make the meaning any clearer.
This happens often in China, people just say stuff slower and louder like we would understand it. So we dragged our sorry-asses to a bus stop asked some people where to get the bus got on and rode for a very long time until we got stuck in traffic and grabbed a taxi. We were rushing to get to the Shangri-La Hotel because they were having their conference dinner at the pools and by the river night. We have been to these before and the food is not too bad; a little light on the vegetarian crap but for meat loving Narda there was plenty. And of course it is free tucker and we figured we would catch up with the rest of the 18 teachers from our school and others that use to work at our school and are now elsewhere but still being sent to these conferences being in Asian schools and all but we saw like two or three people. We ate as much as could shove in, had a few
drinks and that was it.
We went to the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant with a group – see below and that was good. The restaurant at 6 Sukhumvit Soi 12, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok 10110, is a bit of a condom crazed place. Their profits go to help poor people and it is all very interesting. We gave our condoms back that they give at the end of the meal saying ‘look at us do we look like we need them?’. Some interesting things are shown below –
Now back home shopping in the Jinshitan market Saturday morning bundled up.
We have twelve weeks left here before our little three-year journey in China is over then we go to Hong Kong to check my four stents put in awhile back and on to Laos for a couple of weeks and back to Australia after a twelve year absence. We went to New York back in 2002 for a couple of years but that turned into nine years and then three here. I am sure we will be back in some other country within another year or two.
Today was good; Sunday the sixth of April. I practiced softball with the Taiwan team this morning as we get ready to go to Shanghai for our
tournament in two weeks. We had a whole school bar-b-que at Campus Village; something we will miss in the future. Last night I had the whole gym to myself and shot baskets whilst listening to the Delta Blues station on my iphone. Being a fan of anything from my New Orleans era of the 1960s is incredible so many years later. Yes, I will miss this place. And even better, tomorrow, Monday, is a holiday; tomb sweeping day. Yes, I will miss this place.
video at http://youtu.be/8Osc_Ckmz3E (Phuket)
http://youtu.be/8YGAf2A7NtM (Ao Nang)
(Koh Klang Island, Krabi) http://youtu.be/92Vx8hSsXzs
What Narda saw from her hammock http://youtu.be/l02Wi9lYdbc
2013 http://neuage.us/2013/ I could do over. Perhaps in a parallel universe or at least in a better written narrative I would have changed a few things. But what I would have changed could have been simple infractions such as not getting as many haircuts; I think there were four maybe five even six that happened, none by my suggestion, all by Narda’s perceptions of what a dude at my age should look like or what her dude should look like at any age. But to change anything else… nah. I spent a lot less time on Facebook than in the previous years; finding it a bit too much time-consuming. How many baby pictures can one see in a week – do they change that much? How many meals people post about, photos of last night’s pizza??? or comments about what I have no idea what they are talking about. So I check once a month or so and it is great seeing what folks are doing and having a peep into others lives; like everyone else my Facebook friends span a lifetime which in my case is lots of decades and lots of interactions and I am grateful for the people in and out of my life the past years and I will always be interested in what they are doing so I suppose at the end of the day Facebook is really great and as long as it exists or perhaps as long as I do; whichever comes/goes first…
2013 was a good year. They all are; with their different presentations/illusions/fulfillment/obstacles, choices to make or crafted by others and we are swept up in those choices leaving us to make our choices within the realm of someone else choices who no doubt is making choices within someone else parameters or perhaps if there are other life times we are reacting to how we acted before or setting the stage for the next life or the return to the One or we are preparing to be dinner for a great white shark or the revenge for someone’s belief system or simply the end of the localized life system we call our life.
Simply put, as everything in my life, it was good. Four years ago after my school in New York City ‘dismissed’ everyone over 55 – there were about eight of us. I signed up for employment assistance in NYC and signed up with the New Jersey unemployment bureau as we own property in Jersey City and I was getting unemployment from that great state. I have worked the past three years at Dalian American International School and I have been happy with that but I forget to stop my New Jersey employment alerts. This is all they had to offer me this week….
|Your job matches from Jobs4Jersey Job Alert|
|Your resume generated the following matches|
Not sure how my resume gives me this sort of job ability. Perhaps this is all one gets offered after a PhD in Communication and New Media at the University of South Australia. Gosh Darn! Spent seven years on the bloody thing with a 575 page book at the end of it and the whole thing online at http://neuage.org/ODAM (Online Discourse Analysis Method) which I had once dreamt of becoming ODAT (Online Discourse Analysis Theory) but of course becoming a theory takes a long time and many folks on-board and perhaps a Nobel Prize; nothing of which my way ventured.
|UNKNOWN, NEW YORK, NY|
|Adventure Educator NEW YORK NY TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR GUIDING EXPLORATIONS OF THE EVERETT CHILDREN’S ADVENTURE GARDEN FOR SCHOOL PROGRAMS AND DROP-IN FAMILIES. IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE COORDINATOR OF ADVENTURE GARDEN PROGRAMS, PROVIDE FEEDBACK AND IDEA FOR DEVELOPING AND IMPROVING CURRICULUM.|
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I could have stayed in the States and had jobs like this to prospect for. Wow what a mistake. That is all they have to offer me for this week and I think for the month. Unemployment was/is brutal but I did get another degree to amend my PhD; one in teaching, which got me lined up for life in China. It was a good year in China. Not that I am keen on China and being now in Thailand I could easily turn my nose up to it. Of course I would do that in Viet Nam, Cambodia, Guatemala, India and a number of other countries that we have loved. China has done us well but it is a difficult environment.
The people in Thailand, India, Viet Nam and Cambodia to name a few places, are much gentler and dare I say cleaner and well-mannered? For example we have had motor scooters in India (watching out for cows everywhere of course), Viet Nam and here in Thailand and I would not be so sure of doing the same in China. They all move so aggressively and without indication of what comes next, like for example, a vehicle next to them.
But China has done us well. The people are warm and friendly it is just when they group together in the millions such as on the trains and buses and sidewalks and shopping centres and food places that they get pushy and did I mention spit a lot? We started 2013 – January 1 and of course ended 2012 – in Hanoi. This has been pretty much an all Asia year with our usual visit to Australia (just once this year), the States; saw my sister and her family in upstate New York. I have only seen her like four times in my life as I was adopted and she wasn’t – my adopted father said it was because I talk all the time but I never really believed that. I first found her in the 1980s and saw her with my two sons first in 1991, again in 2003 or so and a couple of times since. My blood-brother who lives in Hawaii I have only seen once.
We checked our beautiful Victorians in Round Lake New York http://neuage.org/house I caught up with friends, a first girl-from 1963 – Kathleen, my adopted http://neuage.indiko.com/robert_adsit.htm brother’s friend, Marta Waterman http://martawaterman.com/ who is writing a book about him and we spent a week in Atlanta with Narda’s son and daughter-in-law. Actually we went to Australia twice; once in February and the other time in July for a couple of weeks. We shifted our belongings in our storage area. This is our life; stored past, boxed memories, what-the-hell-will-we-do-with-this-crap futures. The idea was to spend two maybe three days going through our belongings and tossing crap. We talked about this on endless occasions; well Narda talked and I agreed that we would be ruthless. Our happy result (Narda’s happy result) would be a couple of boxes (she would probably have put smiley faces on them) and everything else would morph into rubbish to be landfill for some future resort in a South Australian vineyard or wherever trash ends up in South Australia.
Meaning that one of my cherished memories protected in a box for a decade or even decades if it had been a box stored from before we met, or even before I had children or even before I left Clifton Park in the mid 1960s; OK so I hoard a bit, and now in landfill to rot away and become a nutrient mixed with a manure composition of too many wayward thoughts upon which a seed would be planted and a grapevine would grow and from that a bottle of fine wine would be produced and I would re-incarnate in 2047 a hundred years after the life I had lived had begun and my need to hoard, no doubt coming from being adopted and having Venus conjunct a Saturn & Pluto exact conjunction 10 degrees 40 minutes of Leo in the 10th house square my Jupiter in Scorpio (it is those fixed signs that have been the bane of my existence) in the first house near my ascendant and I would, to make a long thought short, drink the wine a couple of decades later, 2067, and become intoxicated by memories, that being unidentifiable (after all this is a reincarnation of myself and I may not even believe in reincarnation at that time just as I am not sure whether I believe it this time though there have been times in this life when I did believe in it but not now I think) would just be some flashing images of something stored in my ROM (read-only-memory) because by then with our cyber-enhanced brain we would have embedded search engines and what is real and what is someone else animational thoughts would mesh together much like my thoughts do now. So really thinking about this as we of course all do; in the future we will re-incarnate sort of because our consciousness will be uploaded and we will download the consciousness or plural that if which to have multiple personalities or simply be a Gemini and we will be who we downloaded.
So here I am at the end of 2013 mid-day in a beautiful place in Thailand. Today we have done little or we have done much. Life is so interpretable. This morning I was up at 6.30 AM, crawling out of bed with a mosquito-net covering the bed though I did not fare too well with many bites on both knees. And that is with sleeping under a net as well as using bug spray. And that is one night’s worth of din din for a family of backpacking hungry mosquitoes.
I worked on a video of yesterday’s travel around here, Ao Nang, and when Narda got up an hour later we walked to the nearby shop half an hour down the road and dropped off our laundry. We bought a liter water each found a great stationery shop with all kinds of strange stationary stuff and we bought a bag of stuff. I got some signs in Thai such as one with a line through a handgun. I assume it says ‘do not bring your handgun into the kitchen at tea time’ though not being able to read Thai I do not know. I will put it on the door of our flat at Campus Village when we get back to work. Another one had a picture of a water tap and a light bulb and I assume it says ‘turn off’. It could have said something rude – I will put it on my office door at school. I got a notebook that had some strange translation of English sentences which I find funny and read aloud with Narda hitting me in the side saying I was being rude. This happens so often I will probably start wearing padding under my clothes as apparently I often say inappropriate stuff in public though to me it is funny. We even have a code word that Narda says if she thinks I should shut up – I can’t put it here because then it would no longer be our secret code word for my saying stuff I should not be saying. I hear it at school from her a lot so apparently my humour and her sense of normal decent social verbalization are at times not synchronized.
I took a few photos of ants on flowers and have been sitting writing this and now it is one pm and maybe I will take a nap so we can stay up and watch fireworks tonight. Such is the end of another great year. In our almost all Asia year we went to Shenzhen for an iPad workshop and to Shanghai for a technology conference. We spent a week in Xi’an for Chinese New Year’s hanging out in the Muslim Quarters, seeing the Terracotta Warriors and spending actual Chinese New Year’s at the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. We spent a week in Dandong on the North Korea border and did a few other sides. In early 1981 I started a tofu factory living in and raising my children, babies at the time, selling tofu and tofu products at the same time as dreaming of success in one of many businesses. I had a children’s furniture idea with rocket beds being my first piece I built. Actually it was the last. We dragged that thing around from home to home; I lived in ten houses in ten years, a difficult parenting period. In this photo with my one and only rocket bed; inside was a playhouse and the bed was on top with a bookshelf in the back; my children: Leigh is standing in the front and Sacha is sitting on the bookshelf in the back are all happy campers. The other children were often parked at my house in Mt. Compass for me to look after; I forgot where there hippie parents were off to but this was my lot in life then. I wrote children stories http://neuage.org/stories/ I had a few novels underway; these were handwritten as I did not have a typewriter and computers for the likes of me was not yet available. There was my tofu business http://neuage.us/tofu/ my picture poem business http://picture-poems.net/ and I had about 15 other ideas none of which I can remember at the moment. I was probably doing some astrological readings as I actually believed in it then and I did start a daycare centre in Mt. Compass which was taken over by some women after I had it up and running – one of the themes of my life; move over let women take over. The big business was the tofu business.
The big turning point in my life that never turned was Jurlique. http://www.jurlique.com.au/ I had a bean grinder loaned to me from Jurgen Klein who used our okara (the soy fibre left after making tofu) and some tofu for body creams he was just beginning to make. Years later he would become one of the top cosmic companies and Jurlique would have stores from Australia throughout Europe and Asia to New York City. For a while it looked as if I would be having production in the same factory as Jurlique but as dreams and circumstances changes those dreams never happened and Jurgen has moved onto great success and me, I am writing this. It is these paths we embark on and some continue and some do not. Now when I see a Jurlique store I take a deep breath and wonder how I got so far from my dream and how other people’s dreams are so wonderfully real. Are we assigned paths or do we create them and fall off of them and continue lost for a while or for a long time? If I had been able to put together a successful tofu business would I now have products worldwide or would I at least have been able to have a good stay in Australia? I was building a large tofu factory on Tooperang Road Mount Compass in the old Mount Compass Piggery. My children and I lived at bottom of the hill in a two-story chalet like house. To make a really long story short I had borrowed money from a person who was going to help me sell my products to Sanitarium run by the Seventh Day Adventist. My neighbor who had gotten me the bank loan was some high-to-do person in the organization but things went sour and the factory never got built and Jurgen Klein set up his factory in the old cheese factory in Mt. Barker and he grew his herbs for his product at his home there. We stayed in contact for a little while before my business went bankrupt then I never was in touch again. Just a side note as most of life is compared to the greater whole or lesser hole or larger community or sometimes even to ourselves I have a link to the Seventh-day Adventist mob that I have not consciously created and I have been a vegetarian for about four decades.
This from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Creek_Sanitarium) The Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, United States, was a health resort based on the health principles advocated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, most notably associated with John Harvey Kellogg. The complex was purchased by the U.S. Army during World War II and converted into the Percy Jones Army Hospital.(a funny side note to my larger side note is that I was born in this hospital delivered by an Army Dude: The Physical Me 1. I was born 10th August 1947 Battle Creek Michigan in a military hospital and delivered by Hugh Robins, M.D. and left with the name Terry Miller which was changed upon adoption to Terrell Adsit which was changed when I joined a cult order to Arthur Adsit and upon marriage to Terrell Neuage (first marriage 1980). From Leaving Australia) Kellogg was an advocate of vegetarianism and is best known for the invention of the corn flakes breakfast cereal (which incidentally is the only cereal I eat if I buy commercial cereal other than granola due to its low sugar content)
There has been a lot of studies on random events in life and that we just put meaning to randomness to make it sound kool and as if our sorry-ass-lives really do have meaning and purpose and there is a map or destiny we are fulfilling as the progressions to our astrological chart and transits; especially the slower moving outer planets, and of course our relationship to the galactic centre evolves over thousands of years as our soul tries to find a better way to get us laid or whatever it is we consider the ultimate zenith of our lives…. And I am so happy I do not believe any of this anymore but just worry about local concerns like this morning we did not have any water. It seems we used up the water in the water tank which was our two-week allotment in our first week. But in my defense I was watering the garden here in paradise which our neighbor said when he filled our tank this morning that we did not need to do every day. And to me this is really the whole thing.
Stuff the metaphysics and what random events seemingly coincide just let’s get on our motor scooters and spend another day exploring the beauty of An Nang Thailand. Here we just end the year and start the next the same as we ended it sitting writing, walking to the nearby shop to buy our water and stop in to get signs at the stationary sign such as my no-gun sign and whatever meaningful words go with it. We have so many notepads with mixed translations on them but the one I bought for this year says
and that will be my overriding thought of metaphysical intent for this year of 2014.
Last night we were going to stay on the beach until mid-night and watch fireworks but hey when one lives in China and there are fireworks almost every day they do not become such a highlight that staying up until midnight is fun. We did make a picnic and sit on the beach and look out at the boats and islands and folks setting lanterns into the sky and all that until 9.30 and I am sure we were asleep by 11. Our neighbours are Muslims and I do not think they make a lot of noise or carry on. We get such a fright about Muslims living as Westerns but Christian and Buddhist and any extremists are all just as dangerous. Right-to-life clinics get blown-up and doctors killed by people saying they want to save lives. Belief systems are so weird and dangerous. Anyway back to the Muslims here. We went to a travel agent chick last week in Krabi who was veiled and all. She was quite the character. We had planned to take a train up to KL but what we found on the Internet was that the trains in Malaysia are very cold with air-conditioning on full force the whole time and that part of the trip would be 20 hours plus and the trains through Southern Thailand are coming under attack by some group that is pissed off with something or the other – probably people like Narda and I though we do not know how anyone could be upset with us. Apparently they are targeting Western teachers; but as I am a student of life I should be good. Nevertheless it all was becoming difficult too as the train is several hours by mini-bus away and mini-buses are uncomfortable. We just did one last week for almost three hours to go see the stupid James Bond Island and Monkey Cave and that was not only uncomfortable but the driver took too many chances in trying to scare the poop out of us. Narda was OK talking to others – the other eight passengers were from India which seems to be the primary foreigners this time of year in Phuket. So our Muslim chick, Narda’s age (quite young – see I do say nice things about her – in geological time scales…) got us on an eight hour ferry to Langkawi Island, Malaysia where we will stay for two days then a flight from there to Kuala Lumpur which leaves at 1.30 in the morning for Shanghai and gets us home in time to get back to work where I will go back to making videos and writing storylines and working on our school’s broadcast show; not really a big change from what I am doing now; though with faster Internet I will be able to work more online.
So our Muslim chick turns out to be quite an OK person who laughs, I think she saw Narda as more interesting than me and she did not laugh at my jokes but she seemed to think Narda was a bit funny and of course I never get pangs of jealousy when she gets more attention than me; I am used to it because everyone loves her and in the States and in China everyone thinks she is so kool and she has such a great accent – hey I am Australian too; sort of, I am a dual citizen and at least I got there by plane and Narda is just a boat person arriving on a boat from The Netherlands when she was young…. But being overlooked when in her presence never bothers me; well sometimes, a bit. But all I really wanted to say was that for some stupid I am such a Western-programed human – I thought the Muslim chick was just a normal person. And now with our little interactions with our neighbours I am not sure of what my fears of them were. They don’t drink alcohol, I haven’t for seven years, they don’t do drugs, they wear colourful clothes, and they don’t eat pork – now if they would stop eating meat all together we would be on the same page. What I do find different the most about locals and we saw this in Phuket too, is that they do not seem to have furniture. Everyone sits on the floor on rugs. We looked in windows of new houses and they would have their mammoth television and everyone would be sitting on the floor watching. They eat meals on the floor too. Otherwise we are all the same except they do not speak the same language as me they look different and they sit on the floor and take their shoes off when going inside whether it is home or a business. That is a good idea though. Oh and the Muslims overdress themselves – even at the beach.
Our local beach, this time of year is flooded with Europeans, Russians, Swedes, Germans and the like and they have no problem with showing their bodies and some of them should be covered but I suppose when they only get a few hours a day sun they want the sun to see as much of them as possible which explains why the sun quickly goes behind a cloud when a big fat Russian disrobes on the beach. I mean have you ever seen a big fat hairy Russian in underwear on a beach? Not a pretty site. I have made a deal with Narda that if I spend a block of time writing in the morning we will get to a real-estate office this afternoon to look at buying or renting long-term. Of course this is part of the ever continuing saga of conversation about retirement which seems to be just around some mysterious; to me, corner. At the end of this contract I will be 67 and just starting my career; Narda who is much younger than me by 8 years or so wants to retire. Not sure what that means. The plan I think is that we arrive in Australia this coming July and then maybe do some part time work maybe I will apply to adjunct at university. Actually we have a business idea involving film making and Chroma-screen and storytelling and all my slowing acquired knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud products but we will see though I really hope we can do something and that it turns out better than my tofu business I had in Adelaide for eight years. And mingled/mangled in with this is some retirement concept with us traveling heaps and spending time in third world countries like the United States of America and progressive countries like Cambodia, Viet Nam and places like that.
I grew up with stories of Cambodia and Viet Nam from my relatives who were missionaries back in the 1950s and 1960s. It was because of them sort of that I left home when I was about 16. I got so sick of their stories and hearing about the good missionaries in these heathen locations that I had to get out of Clifton Park, New York.
I was living in Hawaii in 1970 being a brother in a New Age cult order going through cosmic initiations such as Illumination and Self-Realization and feeling full of light and quite the chosen cosmic incarnate as most people in their early 20s feel when Mr. Doty, our missionary pain-in-the-ass of my youth stopped in Hawaii on his way home following one of his five-year save the Asians tours. For some stupid reason, probably because my father asked me to, I went to see him at his upscale Waikiki hotel which no doubt was financed by my parents and their fund-raising exercises with their church and money that went to the Doty’s instead of my brother and me so that those poor people bound by the evil thoughts of the Buddha could be saved.
So there is Mr. Doty sitting in the lobby with his bible in his hand speaking loudly at me that the first thing he saw when he got to Honolulu Airport was the same Buddhist dressed people, only in this case they were Westerners, at the airport chanting and asking for money and that was proof that America had gone to Satan. Here we have poor Mr. Doty who had spent his life in Viet Nam and Cambodia ‘saving’ people and getting them to turn from Buddhism to the Christian’s religion only to find that this evil scourge had spread worldwide. I had a hard time to control myself from laughing as what he saw at the airport were the Hara Krishna groups that were popular in the 1960s and 1970s and were populated with the youth looking for something different than what their parents had fed them. We all did this and it is happening still. People in their 20s and 30s get into a whoop whoop religious thingy whether it is Krishna, New Age, Christianity, Muslim and all the others then when they get older and wiser they have a bit of a laugh of what they use to believe in and go on with their life. What is next? 2014 here we come with really a different year in front of us because we are officially quitting work. I have to deal with some heart surgery and other stuff and who knows? Maybe I will join or start a new spiritual movement or start a new business or write some more crap or take some photos but whatever I do I will do one thing that I have always done. Live in the moment. 2014 looks great – how could it look any different? We are into day 2 of 2014. 2013 was good. A little consciousness bump a couple of days ago when we were in Krabi. We were wandering around this small wonderful Southern Thailand city when Narda said ‘don’t look to the left’. OK so I look to the left. Jurlique. Those bloody shops are everywhere we go. And my whole could have been different life momentarily passed by then I looked at Narda and my life and went down the street headed into 2014/
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.
When the television is off for a week and there is nothing to do but nothing to do the world is really an OK place. It was not really our own choice but the choice was good. A few things this past week have not been our choice but then again we have been making do with ‘outside’ and ‘others’ choices for a lot this year. The first few days we stayed at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. In the Bajiaxian Xihuanmen hood to be specific. There were no television stations in any of the many languages that we speak/understand: Australian English, American English (Narda questions whether that is really English – ‘just a dialectic of the Queen’s English badly butchered’), New Zealand English, Canadian and of course Narda speaks the language of her birthplace up there in Utrecht (The Netherlands) but anything else we have to turn the telly off for and anything else was all there was on the television in the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. The rest of the week in the apartment we were in we were not ever able to sort out how to turn the television on. We tried every button and every combination of every button and just saw characters on the screen that seemed to be laughing at us in our ignorance of how to put meaning to them. I have a Ph.D in communication (constructed all in Australian English – 155,000 words, 550 pages with diagrams and images – http://neuage.org/ODAM) which is all about the construction of meaning – see image below – but in that whole seven years of research and of course the masters and other degrees leading to that, I never learned how to put meaning to the images we were seeing on the telly so we could figure how to get the bloody thing to go to an actual television station. Of course we no doubt would not have found a station in any language that we understood if we did so we would not have known what was going on in the world after all, especially the first few days of our stay at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an where we did not get Internet either.
I will attempt to stay on task of our trip to Xi’an; though, as I have not written since returning from summer break and our little journey to the States, Australia and Malaysia and we have had a very busy month since returning to work and the weekend before going to Xi’an we were on the North Korea border staying in Dandong I probably will have moments of drifting to other thoughts/insights/visions/illuminations/realizations/memories and the like.
Speaking of drifting – I write for myself – if no one reads anything I write ever that is fine. I have had comments that my spelling infuriates some (I switch from Australian to whatever it is the Yanks speak – being a duel citizen and all) so my excuse is color is colour and sometimes a ‘z’ is an ‘a’ and some words are slang and some no doubt I have made up and that is my writing that I do for myself because I enjoy writing and I do it for myself and I do a lot of writing to remember what we have done. I wrote a 170,000 word book called ‘Leaving Australia’ and made two bound copies of it; one for my son and one sits on my shelf and I like to read it sometimes as it helps me remember stuff. I don’t even have portions of it on-line. Anymore. I did for awhile but some characters that I have met along the way who were in my narrative were really upset to find their portrayals on-line; true that it was but of course we all have those sections of life we pretend never happened and hope that no one will ever divulge either. But my story is also the story of interactions with people in specific situations at a certain time and space that we shared and to change or even delete those moments makes the continuum of my story choppy and invested with deep holes – so that is why I only printed two books.
On the way to Xi’an the funnest of funnies… because of the upcoming national holiday the stewardess gave everyone China flags to wave – which they did. Following that people went up to the front and sang stuff. A stewardess came and asked me to sing. I said Narda was not only a professional singer but also a music teacher of course Narda did not hear all of this and the next thing she knew I was pushing her up the aisle. And even though I could not get a video of her singing because of all the people standing in front of me I did listen as everyone on the plane did. She of course could not sing a Chinese patriotic song but she did make up a song using happy birthday. Some words about ‘I wish you well China and on and on…’ we all cheered and my only disappointment is that I did not get it recorded.
Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. I will start with that. Because the place had a top listing for places to stay in Xi’an (Ranked #1 of 86 Xi’an B&B and Inns by Trip Advisory) and it looked as funky as could be we booked it some six weeks ago, August 24th to be precise, it was the place for us. We spent a lot of time trying to find the owner of the place. All the web searches for it lead to Expedia, Agoda, travelpod, booking.com and all the rest are just to rent the place. We did find the actual telephone number eventually and rang the owner who had his wife meet us at the airport bus stop. It was fortunate that we did as the place is almost impossible to find. It is located down an alley after a few other side streets. It is not a building dedicated to the Warriors Apartment but in actual fact three apartments, one located on the 7th floor where there is no Internet and two on the second floor. The building is about 25 stories high and is amongst many other tall buildings all several decades old. We booked a one-bedroom apartment for a week and were happy to be given a two-bedroom apartment. Inside is so much our style. Who would not want to have a home with warriors all over the place? In every room including the kitchen and about 40 holding up the bed (no comments please)
as well as four holding up the sink in the bathroom.
We were only about five minutes walk to Beiyuanmen Muslim Street which is the in place to hang out. Because we went during the Chinese National Day holiday week (celebrating the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, in 1949) the place was so packed that there were times we could not move in any direction.
See http://goo.gl/S2dh8L or click on the QR code.
We got out to see the Terracotta Warriors in the morning. Bus lines were enormous with a couple of hours wait for the tourist bus that is mentioned in Lonely Planet. We gave up and found a more of a local bus on the other side of the car park – bus 615, which got us there in an hour and we waited only about 20 minutes. We came back on bus 614 which took two hours but that was because of traffic. The pits were will worth seeing once in a life time. (lines were much longer than appears here – they wrap around and go out past the train station and through a large car park out to the main bus station across the road.)
I could never have been one of the people digging these things up. It is all quite painstaking and required endless amounts of time using small brushes and files to scrape off thousands of years of muck. In pit two and one which are smaller – there is still digging and crap going on to expose all this. We have a book written by the owner of the Warriors Apartments which is quite good and of course there is heaps on the Internet.
I wanted to go to the top of the mountains across the road but we did not have the time. We were an hour from Xi’an and still the pollution was so thick that even at noon the mountains looked too hazy to get a good glimpse of.
To divert a bit. We got home yesterday afternoon and as always had a Jack-driver meet us at the airport and we did our shopping for the month on the way home. In the afternoon we were just chilling and after dinner I was in the kitchen and without warning I blacked out and ended on the floor. I only say this now as I will probably forget somewhere in the future – like next week – and I want to record what happened. As a person who has never fainted or passed out before it was a unique experience. One minute I was putting something in the microwave and the next I was gaining consciousness on the floor. I did not feel light headed or any signs of anything even a second before. I did not even recall going down. Narda said I looked in shock when I came to. The whole event lasted seconds but I did get some aches and pains such as a twisted knee from crashing to the floor. What is slightly interesting in all of this is that things just happen maybe even for no reason. I felt fine after and we went and used the large massage chair on the second floor, coming home feeling great. So today I went to the S.O.S clinic on the first floor and Dr. Wilhelm looked after me. He took some blood, did an EKG which he sent to Hong Kong for a specialist to look at (oh boy maybe we get to fly to Hong Kong next week) and spent more than an hour doing all kinds of tests and at this point we do not know why I kissed the floor. Being a holiday week and the staff mostly out of town I pretty much had the clinic to myself. I only mention all this because nothing like this has ever happened before. In Xi’an the traffic was brutal. Cars, buses, scooters, trucks and people all going in all directions often in total disregard of any laws that would be in place if anyone was around to enforce them. (Travel operators in China have a huge new set of rules to follow now that the country’s first tourism law is in place. The 112-article law came into effect October 1 But I do not think it applies to people trying to get through an intersection) All manner of vehicles go through red lights so they are not a deterrent from disaster. Narda and I surely mingled with the masses and crossed in-between buses and carts and all the rest. Our tactic is usually to use others as a human shield and cross in the midst hoping others will protect us. Luckily for any reason I did not have a black out – my one and only of my life – in one of those crossing the street situations. And luckily we were not riding bikes in our dangerous fashion alongside main roads and darting across roads in front of traffic that would not be aware of a red light or anything else that could possibly slow down their forward motion.
We did ride bikes in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province on the wall that surrounds the city. It is one of the oldest cities in China and the largest city in the world in 582 according to people in the know. There is all kind of historical crap to look at. We rode up on the wall that surround the city. It is some 14 kilometers and we rode three-fourths of it. Because we rented bikes for only 100 minutes and we are old and slow and take way too many photos and videos and there are four bike rental areas at the four main turns of the wall: yes, the North and the South and the West and the East gates we only got to the third gate by the time we peeled our sorry asses off of the bike seat.
After the first days in the Warriors Apartment we had a bit of a shock. At the door was standing three people and the owner’s wife. She said they too were booked into our apartment. It did not register at first and when I saw it was three teachers from our school – that we live on the same floor as – I welcomed them in thinking they were in the second floor apartment. We knew they were staying at the same place so this was not a totally unreasonable thought to have. It was not like waking up on the kitchen floor wondering how I suddenly passed out. Low and behold they had their bags with them and were told they could stay in our second bedroom. Now we realise that there is a difference in customs and how people interact. Perhaps in the local Chinese world having three people in a bedroom and another couple in the other is not uncommon. But these three women had already paid for the apartment we were in and not only that but more than Narda and I had. So of course everyone, except the owner, was upset. I just sort of drifted out of the picture knowing that four pissed off middle age women would figure stuff out a lot more efficiently than a 66 year old ex-hippie. The owners blamed Agoda saying they stuffed up the booking. The women called Agoda and Agoda rang the owner who said everything was fine and that he was taking care of it. What a balls-up – never seen such a situation. Right up there with fainting for the first time in my life. I suppose that is why life is mildly interesting to me it is so incredibly unpredictable.
We were told to wait until six pm, but it was about 7.30 when Clarence showed up to sort out the dilemma. In the meantime everyone was a bit agro. His initial ‘idea’ was for us all to stay together and he would refund some money. Well that was a stupid idea so he said he would go off and look for something to move someone into. As we had booked a single room apartment it was obvious that we were going to get the boot and we did. Clarence, his wife and son all showed up and with Narda and I were taken out of the old quarter that we were really getting to like and into some crappy new city area quite the distance. The apartment we were given was terrible. Clarence said that it would be very difficult to find a place because of the holiday. The apartment was dirty, there was left over food in the small kitchen and the bathroom was just dirty. We were quite upset but that is where we were left. Whose fault it was, whether it was Agoda not passing on the booking or Clarence’s it was handled very badly. He had no problem with taking the money – which incidentally was on the same day – we independently rented the same apartment in the same city on the same day – 24th of August. Clarence saw them as the same booking but of course anyone would see that there were two lots of money. We were exhausted by the time we got to the apartment and did not put up enough of a fight.
As always is the case we made the best of our new surroundings. We found our way to the subway and took Line 1 which began operation on September 15, 2013, like a couple of weeks ago. I love subways and always ride one in a city comparing them to New York City and Paris which not as old as London are great subway lines. I have never been on a subway line that is less than a month old. OK there was nothing special and it was so crowded because of the holiday that we barely could get on. But it did get us back into the old quarters. We were also near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayan Pagoda) which was begun in 652 and though another pagoda is not so exciting we did go to the fountain light show in the evening. I have some good footage in youtube but my still photos of the fountain light show are a bit average as you can see but I did get this fairly OK shot of the pagoda thingy.
Again there were so many people it was difficult getting around. Outside of spending a couple of more days tromping around Xi’an, riding the metro and looking at huge shopping malls that were fancy from the outside but just like every other shopping mall inside were the same old we just looked around at another polluted over crowded city.
However in one mall was this huge screen on the ceiling,
This ceiling LED display of more than 3000 square meters (168 meters long and 17.92 meters wide) located in Qin Han Tang Emporium which is next to the Goose Pagoda was impressive. I will have a clip on my youtube site at http://youtube.com/neuage09 any moment now. At the same time as writing this I am editing clips in Adobe Premier Pro Creative Cloud – my new favourite subscription software in a suite of lots of groovy creative projects. I am loving After Effects and Photoshop along with some 20 plus other programs but Premier definitely does for me at the moment. Having hundreds of video clips and a thousand photos I will have enough to do, along with an actual job, and being a caring/listening/nurturing husband (will there be time for that?) to keep me off the streets for awhile or hopefully off of the kitchen floor.
Thankfully I was not hanging onto the side of a tuk tuk as it found its way through traffic. These things are off-putting to me but as Narda likes them we do ride them in various countries.
I started a new series here at Dalian American International School – the DAIS Cooking Show. Well, I have had one show which was with meat eating Patrick. He showed how to make meat burgers – good grief, and in front of me too; I showed my tofu burger making skills refining one of my recipes from http://neuage.us/tofu/ where I showcase experiences/recipes/stories garnished from seven years as a tofu manufacturer in Adelaide, South Australia. We filmed it all with two cameras; a Nike and our new school semi-professional JVC. I now have several hours of banter, silliness, cooking, eating and live audience (Narda, Sean, Jean, JoeFred – not a big audience) to edit. I have several other shows getting lined up and soon the next in the series will be up and hopefully by the end of the school year some mega China television broadcasting networking system will offer me a huge contract to show what to do with tofu on live television… oh wait! This is China – home of tofu. Well I am giving it a shot that is for sure.
I did like the street we were on, it had art all along it much like we saw in Mexico City.
Here are just a couple of the pieces – there were probably a hundred:
At the end of it all after walking 8 – 10 hours a day for five days in a very polluted Chinese city I think we would have been better off on one of the other holidays teachers took this week such as to Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, inner Mongolia and lots of better holidays than we took. Not to worry we are off to Thailand for three weeks at Christmas and lots of other great destinations for the next holidays.
The weekend before we left on our Warrior-less Apartment we went the three hour drive up to Dandong with about 55 people from our school. Dandong is across a narrow river divide of North Korea.
Walking out on Friendship bridge we could see the fake amusement park on the North Korea side. The Ferris wheel is just a cut-out thingy. We did hear children playing and actually saw them playing along the river. Online stories say this part of North Korea has been tarted up for tourist to look across and see that everything is quite normal.
The boat trip is well worth it and I even got up close to some North Korean soldiers,
Maybe I could get them interested in my tofu cooking class.
At the Museum Commemorating the War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea there is lots of anti-Western stuff to look at. I photographed several of their write-ups but not having been in this part of the world and only having an American view I can not comment on what the beef was all about.
But Dandong is not just about North Koreans and their possibly tainted view of us – I mean Kim Jong Un is friends with Dennis Rodman, they are BFFs, how could they be anything but sympathetic toward others?
The best thing to do is go along the wall where it starts. Of course this was before I blacked out in my kitchen and twisted my knee (there goes my softball career – every Sunday we play against a team from Taiwan here at school and this was going to be the game that I actually hit the ball far enough to get on base – saying all that, everyone is much younger than me) so I was able to climb and climb and climb. We were a bit worse for wear when we got to the top but the view was fantastic. We could see straight into North Korea but I did not see Kim Jong Un though he may have seen me.
“Do not take my Vegemite ”
In the past six weeks we have gone through eight airports with their security checks: Dalian, Beijing (three times), Newark (twice), Atlanta, Albany, New York, Kula Lumpur (twice), Adelaide (four times), and Melbourne (twice).
Narda bought a jar of Vegemite and a jar of Promite at Woolies (Woolworth’s) in Adelaide after we had packed our check-in luggage so she placed it in our carry-on. No worries, we went through customs at Adelaide and KL. After a short night’s sleep at Metro Park Lido in Beijing (we arrived in Beijing at one AM and got to the hotel at 2:30 AM, up for breakfast five hours later and to the airport in time for our fight to Dalian which we just discovered has been delayed four hours. Most flights in China or out of China are delayed by many hours.
Customs @ Beijing Domestic was brutal. We had to take almost everything out of our carry-on bags then they took the jar of Vegemite and Promite from Narda’s bag. Narda was far from ‘she’ll be right mate’.
Vegemite ad from the 1960s “We’re happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Our mummies say we’re growing stronger
Every single week,
Because we love our Vegemite
We all adore our Vegemite
It puts a rose in every cheek.”
The customs agent chick walked off with the two jars in her hands with Narda close by saying ‘give me back my vegemite’. Good grief. I shoved all my bits and pieces into my bags – three carry-on bags because we were overweight for check-in plus Narda’s carry-on bags and ran after the jar carriers. At some desk in a corner of the terminal the customs lady was trying to open the jars which Narda was trying to take back from her. Narda kept saying that it was food and that every other airport allowed it through. Finally Narda opened the Vegemite jar, the woman sniffed it and started to look up on her computer monitor but Narda had the jars in her hand and we were off to our gate. I think the smell was a bit OK as it looks and smells a bit like something that could have been created out of soy bean paste. Narda was still upset but we had the stuff. Granted I remember seeing a few tubes and jars of it at home in our pantry but I suppose there never can be too much of one’s comfort foods. It is like Dutch Salty Liquorice, we always have a bag or two near at hand; well Narda does and I will have a salty drop now and then. Her parents always have a box of them next to their driver seat so whenever we go someplace there is the Salty Liquorice. Most people hate it and will spit out the liquorice right away though I do not mind them. I wonder if we would have had such an ordeal with customs if they took away Narda’s salty liquorice.
We did get out of Beijing though several hours later than we were scheduled to. Standing in front of us were two new teachers at our school and their sons from Peru, though at the time we did not know that. We saw them a few days later when school started and I said to them that I was standing behind them in line on the way to Dalian.
As always our true and faithful driver, Jack was there to meet us at the airport and we instantly felt like we were back at home. Being back in our home after six weeks flying around and rescuing vegemite from the grasping hands of officialdom was a nice experience. Our plants had been watered by the cleaning ladies and our home with all our crap was there shaking with excitement at our return.
On the note of all our crap… as if I have joked/complained/explained in the past it is scattered: in a house in upstate New York, in a shed in upstate New York, furniture in our Jersey City home, a piano in our Adelaide home, of course our home in China with even closets filled with boxes from years ago that we dragged here from the States two years ago and our furniture and now a storage bin in Adelaide full. We get exhausted just thinking about all the material belongings we have and I wonder how I managed to spend decades with just a bag of things when I was in my 20s and early 30s and traveled the world. The stuff in Adelaide has been moved about for more than a decade from being in the parent’s shed to Narda’s son’s shed then he moved and now into paid storage. Our firm confirmation, including a handshake, was that we would go through each box and toss what we did not really really need/want. We had left Adelaide in 2002 bound for New York with the belief we would be back in one maybe two years. Now eleven years later we have made the decision it will be one more year overseas then back home. So what we stored twelve years earlier we have managed to live without and therefore no longer would keep. Narda wants to sell everything and buy a live-in vehicle and travel around Australia for years as normal retired folks would which would mean all the more that we need to dump stuff. When we were in upstate New York a few weeks ago we went into one of those large bus-homes that Yanks trawl the USA, staying overnight in Walmart car parks in. It was ten years old, had pullout sides and would have suited us fine and we considered purchasing it on the spot until reason reared its ugly head and we realized it was not only impracticable but we did not have the money or place to store it not to mention that we have no intention to live in the States again. Nevertheless we got ourselves all psyched up and went to the storage bin with a whole day in front of us to do nothing but go through all our stuff and put it in a locked bin. At the moment it was all sitting outside of bins until we arrived to dump and store. We opened two or three boxes realized we did not know whether we wanted to keep the stuff within or not, resealed the boxes and put them into a storage bin. So hopefully a year from now we will move into our house in Adelaide or get an RV with less worldwide possessions and hit the road. We are following the grey nomads, an Australian site, http://thegreynomads.com.au/ that are blogs of folks that live and travel around Australia in their vans.
So my word for the summer is ‘letters’. Firstly, I found a box of letters from my brother Robert that he wrote to people in the 1960s and 1970s (he died in 1994). I found a box of letters from ex-girlfriends but we won’t tell Narda that I slipped that box in between other boxes I kept and then there are the most important discovery of the past ten years for me.
When my son, Leigh, was playing baseball in South Africa for the Australian National Team in 1999 he met Jackie. I would find her name in his belongings years later. I contacted her once in about 2005 and said I found her name and could she tell me anything about her meeting with my son. I also told her that Leigh committed suicide in 2003 a few weeks after turning 20. I set up a Facebook site for Leigh which has hundreds of people who knew him on it. A year ago Jackie contacted me via Leigh’s Facebook page to tell me she had moved from South Africa to Perth in Western Australia and that she had a pile of letters that Leigh had written her. I do not check Leigh’s Facebook page much as it is too difficult for me. I see all his friends, most of whom have children now, including Jackie. I usually check on his birthday in July and read the wonderful tributes his friends write him on that day. I told Jackie I would be in Australia last month and she sent me his letters. There were seven of them, some ten pages long. He had written them in late 1999 when he was in Adelaide and early 2000 when he moved to Florida to play in the LA Dodgers organization. They were love letters. I had never known that he had met someone in Africa. He had a girlfriend in Adelaide and as I was a single parent with him and his brother I thought I knew all that was going on. I never knew he was having problems in his mind until I read his last very long email to his girlfriend in Australia written August 10th (my birthday) 2003 in which he said he had known since the age of ten that he would kill himself. What am I supposed to do with that?
His letters to Jackie did say he was having problems but he never said what they were and I always thought that he was at the top of the world being chased by six or seven major league teams since he was 16 (1999). His brother and I lived what I thought at the time was a fairly happy life.
I wrote my hand-writing analysis friend two days ago; he is a world authority and works with the FBI and police in the States and has written several books on the subject and I asked if he would look at Leigh’s letters. He wrote straight back that he would. I scanned and sent off several pages. So this is why the real word in my mind to describe the summer holiday was ‘letters’. Today is my 66th birthday (August 10 – see? Leo all the way) but that is not the significant day of my life. August 13 2003, ten years ago, Leigh flew to Sydney without notifying the Dodgers; met up with his ‘girlfriend’ at the time, not Jackie (story at http://neuage.org/Idol-star.gif click on the image to enlarge) and the next morning he was at the bottom of his fifteen story balcony at the Novotel Hotel Olympic Park across from the baseball stadium where he had practiced for the Olympic team that was to play in Athens. I did not even know he was in Australia.
I was finishing my PhD at the University of South Australia and we were to head back to New York after the weekend to go back to teaching. Narda came in to my office put her arms around me and said ‘Leigh is dead’. Nothing can change those words. We flew to Sydney and I had to identify him. Narda kept me together then and has since and here a decade later we are preparing for classes again. Now is not like then. We flew back to New York after the funeral and with a couple of hours sleep, incredible depth of despair, jetlag, and all the rest I was standing in front of a room of girls at Russell Sage College welcoming them back to a new year of school. I did not say “I am falling apart because my son killed himself five days ago” but instead taught that first class which was on ‘communication’ and the rest of my classes that day and my classes at the other school I was teaching at, the University of NY at Albany. I managed to appear and teach but it was just a holography of me the real me had died too.Ten years does not diminish depths it only gives it more texture. There is nothing that can be done. I still wake from the same type of dreams; Leigh has done something that has gotten him out of baseball and I am trying to get him back as he keeps asking me – then I awake… Narda hears me my despair wakes her too. I find comfort in going to the gym and lifting weights. I keep lifting more as if I can lift the burden off of me. I suppose it is better to do that than any other escape, at least it is healthy. Leigh use to life weights and spent a lot of time at the gym, maybe which has added to my escape. Leigh was big and strong, he weighed 220 pounds, was six foot four and a solid athlete. He has been reduced to a box of ashes which I still have no idea what to do with. So ‘letters’ were my theme and one word mindset. After death everything pales into insignificance, almost everything. I have a son who is happy and successful and doing stuff that is good: recording hip-hop, working with boat people who have crashed into Australia, works with youth programs involving street kids getting them into street art and hip-hop, giving their life meaning, so he and Narda – my islands and mountains and strengths and they who make me laugh and help me go forth into the day so I can believe that when I feel that all else is insignificant that nothing can hurt me ever again I can still love; my son and wife give me that, they are my two protectorates. I have become inoculated against suffering, nothing can be taken away. In a way it is a liberating feeling to know nothing more can be taken only layers and my core is not accessible by life’s activities or babbling voices that echo off the walls of my Self. I also have freed myself of beliefs that I had which too is liberating because the beliefs that we have, usually passed on to us or brainwashed into us via media or spiritual hustlers are nonsense to begin with. To stop believing is to start living. Instead of following where planets are I now look at a moment and see how that can morph into something creative. How can I storyboard a mesh-up of many different colours happening at once?
We were talking today about standards yesterday, a big focus within our school, and I said I am not following one standard, like the technology one. I am using the Language Arts Standards to create the story, the music standards, the Arts Standards, IT, maybe math and other standards – I want to use every subject in our school to produce a collaborative film. Then I want to take the story, whether written by the Language Arts, or some other department and send it to Frank and Kay who are now in Burma and have their students create a film interpretation of the story as well as my film class to do the same then we can make a composite film. We integrate technology, actually that is my job at our school, but I want to integrate creativity using every department into film making this a year of production of the parts of the whole. Something like that in simple statements. Instead of getting too hung up on grades I want to unfetter the yoke of learning and see if we can find the divine spark in each student to create not only their masterpiece but a collective community of strangers piece. To quote Jefferson Airplanes (1960s)
“you are the Crown of Creation
And you’ve got no place to go’
I would add yes they have a place to go – take it to the next realm. We quit too easy. I continued with 14 years of university under trying times; raising two children, poverty, ten homes in ten years, no family support (I was in a foreign country, Australia, which strangely enough is now my home and the USA is my foreign country. Though I am a duel citizen I no longer feel that I am a Yank I don’t care how much my wife tells me I most definitely sound like one) and when you’ve got no place to go the only way out is to be creative. Maybe it was because I was a street person most of my life and I could live in the moment which is quite a creative thing to do. Creativity to a street person is survival meaning to survive one needs to be creative. But in reality I was most not successful I failed to read my son and at the time I thought I was very tuned into my children, I thought I was psychic in regards to them I was at the top of the spiritual mountain but hey it is all an illusion. One son is now happy has a great girl friend and will soon be making a three month tour of Europe. I think he and his life is real kool. I thought my ball playing son was kool too. We threw a ball every morning and every evening, one-hundred times, I taught him to be a major league pitcher then he no longer wanted it all. He had star potential. We all have start potential.
At the Dwight School in upper Manhattan the graduating students could choose anyone to give their graduating speech. Dwight is a prestigious school with many famous people having children at it (Paris Hilton was there up until the year before I started and members of The Strokes a popular rock band started their band while students at The Dwight School). I was just a silly person who came up with silly ideas for projects. But I was the overwhelming choice to give their farewell speech. I was going to say no but the Leo in me jumped out and said yes. I told them the story of my son – it was sad I suppose – high school students were teary eyed, maybe I am just mean but I had to tell the story. I was a bit graphic but I sure highlight the good times too. My message was simple that no matter how difficult life gets do not kill your self. My son ended his life because his relationship to his girlfriend ended. My belief is that because his mother was not an active part of his life he could not have another female reject him though I would never say that to anyone – maybe I said it to his mother at his funeral because she said mean things to me that day and told me it was all my fault.
How much more fun can one have in life than to say to some kids ‘hey let’s make some films, do some news shows, make rock videos, collaborate with students in other countries and create a film via Skype with them? The older I get the more interesting life is becoming. I goofed off and partied and did what I thought was creative stuff – like my thousands of on-line picture poems and before that I was a street artist in New Orleans, NYC, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Adelaide, South Australia where I did my last shows in 1997 when at age fifty I finally woke up and thought maybe I am too old for this and I should just go nuts on academic stuff. I found I loved doing research, I loved computers and when the World Wide Web was invented in 1990 I knew my life had just started. I probably have ten-thousand web pages; if I believed in astrology I would say it is such a Leo thing. No doubt this will be my last year of teaching but the next thing to do will be even more fun or creative or fulfilling; I have ideas but they are best kept set aside to be nurtured throughout this year.
Malaysian Airlines (international) – check-in, they have allowed us 24 kilos (any number of bags), plus 7 kilos carry-on, strictly enforced (this was ‘enforced’ at the Adelaide end, we were a bit over, almost a kilo, but Aussies help when they are able) and a camera bag or computer bag. The carry-on rule was not checked in KL because we were in transit and as Malaysia is touting themselves as the shopping capital of the world (forget Singapore and Hong Kong) they would not mind if we bought heaps of crap at the airport and added it to our carry-on which of course we did – oh look more stuff to put into storage and drag through life with us).
China Southern (domestic) – check-in = 20 kilos (any number of bags), carry-on – there seems to be no restrictions; we were overweight for check-in and took three bags as carry-on, all quite heavy as they would not allow our extra bag to be checked-in. They then disputed Vegemite as a liquid. Good grief!
Virgin Airlines or any Australian airline (domestic), inflexible – check their info.
USA, good golly what a mess… As I wrote a couple of blogs ago Delta lost our stuff three times for one destination (simply put it was on a flight to Newark which was cancelled after we sat on the tarmac for a couple of hours so instead of staying in Atlanta overnight and going on a flight the next day we took a flight to Albany, New York that evening and we were told our luggage was on our flight but it was not. Three days we were upstate and our stuff never arrived. After three days we said not to send our things to Albany as we were going back to Jersey City and we would collect it at Newark. When we got to Newark Narda’s bag was there but not mine, it was sent to Albany hours before we arrived and it took another couple of days to get it. Though we do appreciate that Delta reimbursed the $400 we spent for ‘necessities’ we needed until I did finally get my luggage).
Basically even United International will not allow more than one bag per person unlike Malaysian Airlines.
As this is getting a tad bit long and I already have begun thinking about my next blog I need to wrap this up – I just wanted to catch up for the past couple of weeks – I write for myself so to remember stop, after all I am now 66 did I mention that already?
China surely is the champion of what is and what is not and perceptions mashed together to morph into possibly acceptable perceptions, but not really. Reality is a mistaken illusion – it always has been; look at religion, personal-relationships and politics and education…. Maybe it is best not to look to see but to look to enjoy – surely not to look to ponder or philosophize, that would be akin to giving accreditation to what is really all just for fun. Do not take what you perceive to be real as truth, just enjoy. This is China – I tell myself that often – just as I would tell myself that in those psychedelic moments of the 1960s, or in my Tarot Card readings and mystical belief system of the 1970s and astrological interpretations of events/thoughts/life for some 40 years before waking up one day and saying ‘this is bullshit’. Perception is just how we colour reality in front of us. To me China and the 1960s have similarity in their un-realness. The moment is just about fun, to enjoy, to build memories for future moments when life returns to boring, which from my experience it always does.
A week from today school is over and we are preparing to travel to New York, Atlanta, Malaysia, Australia but today is a holiday; Dragon Boat Festival. Duān wǔ jié happens on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar and believe it or not I did not get a pop up message on my phone, ipad, computer; not from Google Calendar – which boldly proclaimed ‘you have no new events’ – surely it could have said ‘go back to bed it is a holiday’ but no – no reminders or messages to tell me of this glorious event. And to contribute to all those bloody fives I was wide awake at five AM demanding of my unwilling mind to go back to sleep because this is a holiday.
According to Chinese custom folks race boats, eat Zongzi, and drink wine – pretty much like an Aussie Barbie celebration for anything.
Then last night we were watching that most stupid of series (that everyone else is ranting and raving about how it is the best series of all time; what??!!!) ‘Game of Thrones’ and that idiotic Southern California blonde chick started season two or is it three – it is so mindless that I am always updating my web-pages during it and forget where in the story we are – she goes and gives birth to dragons. Good golly how could anyone like this? Narda says we should just watch it for a while because everyone is ranting and raving that it is the best series of all time and maybe at some point we may like it or at least understand what is going on. She said that about Dexter too. All that blood. We watched the whole bloody thing – to give realism to that Australian/Pommie saying – but of course I was updating my web-pages during all of that but at least it was easy to follow – just find a baddie and kill him.
From an email to staff at our school about today from our Mandarin teacher:
‘This Festival is to commemorate an upright minister called Qu Yuan. He was an excellent poet and literati as well in 300BC, the end of the Spring and Autumn Dynasty. To protect the country, Qu Yuan advised many suggestions to his emperor. While the emperor was irritated and Qu Yuan was put into a river and drowned. People were sad and took boats to save Qu Yuan, and meanwhile they wrapped zong zi and throwed into river, avoidding fishes eating Qu Yuan’s body.
Until today Chinese people retain the traditions. First zong zi was made by sticky rice only, and gradually zong zi has different types like meat inside, peanut inside. I like the very first type– with rice only–and dip some sugar on it.’
When we were asked to sign up for a celebration of all of this last Sunday we were informed that only 20 could go and a bus would take us to the Tong li Gong Palace in Kaifaqu. Of course I was excited being the academic tourist that I am. I quickly sent an email to reserve seats for Narda and I. I could barely restrain myself from running down to her room to share this wonderful news that not only had I registered for us to go but we were accepted on the bus that would only take 20 of us most chosen to this glorious event. Well she was a bit less than thrilled and wanted to know why I would want to go and hear some children singing songs. Now perhaps I had a misconception as normally I do of the reality of the event. Dragon Boat Festival? Well it sounded really great to me. I had no idea it could be anything else. Narda said that the Tong li Gong Palace was not a palace but was the women and children’s centre of Jinzhouixinqu. Damn! She had taken a first grade class there to sing earlier in the year and it is where the owner of Dalian American International School has a language school which many of our teachers work at in their spare time – though being a teacher at this school I am not sure when there is spare time.
At another time in my life I would have been disappointed but at my age everything tends to be so unlike I thought it would be at the start that I have become immune to concepts of disappointment. I suppose I would be surprised if anything in my life turned out to be how I imagined it to be at the start of the process of adventure that I had hurdled myself at before crashing into a wall of reality.
The big day arrived – last Sunday, and dragging a complaining Narda to the lobby to mingle with the assumed 20 teachers who were quick enough to sign up before the bus was full we were greeted by the other three teachers who signed up to go. We ended up going in two cars instead of a bus load of chirping, happy, Dragon Festival celebrating mates. I like the entrance to Tong li Gong Palace which of course by now I had realized was not a palace but as all things in China are – just a misconstrued notion of what a palace would be if it was a four floor office building. And yes that is a huge construct of a mother and child on top of the building – giving away any illusion that it could be anything else. Not sure when angels arrived on the Chinese mindset but there they are, western looking cherubs up there with a not very Chinese looking mother. Welcome to China where we are not quite sure of our icons or what we should believe in.
And as luck would have it – there is a YouTube clip of this wonderful event at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ – another one of those ‘gone- viral’ extremely-sought-after video clips; wait that is my illusion – now three days later – there has been one hit to it. I think that was me looking at it on another computer. But to save my two or three readers who no doubt have had a gut-full and have stopped reading by now, the thrill or agony of watching yet another one of my five-hundred plus video clips I will simply say yes some children sang, a grop danced; but that is not all. We made zong zi – a sticky rice, bean paste, red date in banana wrap thingy. However, I was a total failure and after being tutored by a patient local gal with great wrapping skills who patiently showed me over and over how to fold the stupid things quit – or I quit – here is a photo of me trying this – of course the YouTube video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ shows this even better.
The other highlight – other being second to me making zong zi, was this traditional paint dude who we were told is famous. OK I have thousands of web pages and more than five-hundred videos on line – I bet he has not done that – anyway, all those pesky planets I have in Leo constantly get in my story-line; this painter dude made a great ink drawing. I think we are taking a course with him in the fall so that will be groovy. He did this calligraphy & Chinese zither in about ten minutes. You can see this in the video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ.
To quote some stuff from the program list of what we saw:
It is two days ago, Monday that I started off talking about but having woken at five AM – it is now after 8 and Narda is still happily sleeping the holiday away and I am fading I drifted off about what today’s holiday actually was for – a dragon boat festival but as we are on the sea and not on a proper lake or river there are no races.
Monday, we, well Narda did not go as elementary stayed at school and sang or rolled about or whatever elementary children do, took the middle school and high school children to Discoveryland (大连发现王国). Discoveryland is our province’s concept of what Disneyland would be if created by Chinese. Yes I have a YouTube video at http://youtu.be/lOoeM46fwl0, and yes I do a lot of work not only at school but at home for school – I just fit in my own personal crap early in the morning or while watching riveting TV shit-shows like Game of Thrones. This is my early morning holiday last posting probably before flying off to New York next week.
We were doing one of those amazing race races. I do not agree with children doing a learning project for hours before having time to play on their own. They pay their own fee in to the amusement park, 100 RMB (about $15 US) – which is cheap compared to the States and to have to do work for hours is nuts. This year we teachers each had a station with an exercise for the students to do – my event was to take a photo of a one-perspective and a two-perspective line up of the children. We all have an advise group and I have 10 middle school children in mine. So my advise group started off at my station which was an OK place as it was beneath a building providing some shade. After my event they draw a card to see where the next exercise is and go off to that. The important part is that they work together and stay together and do the exercise. Well after ten minutes two of my girls come back and want to rent a scooter to go around from event to event. Of course I said no as one of the rules is not to run to the next event or lost ten-points. We did not make a rule that children could not rent a scooter to go from event to event because who would allow such a thing? So the girls run off to the principal and ask and he says yes they can so they do. That was the end of my advise group’s cohesion and after a couple of hours the other children in my group came back and said they could not do the events because they could not find the girls roaring around on their scooter so I dismissed them and said go have fun.
As it is Dragon Boat festival week holiday the place was crowded – not sure why we would go on a holiday and not a week earlier but such is life. Lines to rides were four hours long instead of the usual two. Only a few children went on a ride – for the most part they wandered around in the afternoon and the ones I saw did not seem that happy. I took lots of photos of our students as I do to put on the TV screen in the window of my computer lab and to have footage for my twice weekly in-house TV show that I do with my film class so I was entertained. My favourite part is their Discoveryland Parade. As tacky as any such thing would be this is especially strange as they have mostly non-Chinese in the parade. Most of the participants are youthful Russians. The Egyptian group consisted of very camp males in their twenties dressed in gold skirts and gold plastic to look like metal tops dancing as if they were the Village People doing WMCA. On top of the floats were youthful females with few clothes on wiggling about.
I got a lot of short clips that I can use as backgrounds as my film class has gone blue-screen crazy.
Last Saturday was Narda’s birthday – see the wonderful clip of this most timely of events at http://youtu.be/ik8Ms09Q-NY
Narda said she just wanted to gig for her birthday so here at Campus village cafe at Dalian American International School that is what she did
The best of living in Campus Village, assisted living, as we call it is that our little community tags along together. Last night we went out to the Discoveryland Hotel for beer and food – the people are great – the ones we work with – the beer was what it is in China but the food was crap. I struggled to find a vegetarian dish and that ended up being tofu with fish – so that concept got lost in the translation. For Narda’s birthday a dozen or so old people came to our flat for din din – we made up a good vegetarian lasagna and some other stuff. Everyone seemed happy – a few murmurs about ‘oh no no meat’ but that is the way it is in my kitchen. We went the three-floors down to Campus Café and Narda with the others were happy, sounding great and entertained us and the other twenty – thirty folks. It was by far her best birthday in the past 13 years since we left Australia. Being early June – the problem with Gemini – we have not been around her family in so long. But with our community and with a microphone and good musicianship her birthday came to life.
Actually this is more than a weekend memory of what-we-did as Thursday and Friday is just as much of this extended weekend at least in my memory as Saturday and Sunday is. Of course Thursday and Friday were work days. With my job as technology coordinator however I am always on the job as I read technology and educational blogs and updates whether I am at school or on the shopping bus, sitting on the loo or waiting in a dentist’s office. Saturday whilst Narda was in the dentist chair for more than an hour I took enough notes from what I had found to be potentially useful stuff for possible integration or to-try at school that I will be spending days engaging with it. There are so many blogging-filming apps now that I am looking forward to what I can do with my classes next year that are specializing in multimedia, and film specifically. This is an exciting time to be developing a film program in a school. Helping students to become always-journalist will be one of the most important lessons for them. Journalism has not changed but the delivery and sharing has. When I was doing my journalism degree at the start of the 1990s I concentrated on radio-broadcasting, helping to start the community radio station E-FM (Encounter FM) in Victor Harbor, South Australia. My part of the radio station needless to say was news and children’s radio (CAR = Children’s Australian Radio – my little contribution to Australian community radio) where my children managed to star on.
I am teaching broadcast journalism along with filming. Merging these with social sites and story development and sharing more than ‘we had pizza last night’ will greatly assist students. I am having them blogging using their phones as well as filming and bringing it into the classroom for editing. Next year I will collaborate with the English department (write the story), music department for backing tracks as well as my classes for filming and editing.
The next big shift in schools is from integrating technology to integrating film in every department. Students are already doing this in their life outside of school putting clips onto whatever site is their favorite at the moment. Students are self-branding all the time and assisting as well as providing time and space to do this will improve their self-image i.e. self-brand. We have been putting a lot of emphasis on student portfolios lately but social sites are there real portfolios and I feel that is the area we need to develop. Employers are looking at social sites as part of their investigations of potential new hires and if the social site has wonderfully crafted video-blogs and short films this becomes a living-portfolio. This area has not been very well addressed and it is an area I will be working on next year so students will have their shared-online-lives crafted to look like mini-film-festival. ‘The Festival of Me’ – it sounds so Leo and having five planets in Leo I feel qualified for such a category of instruction or for at least me. In my middle school publication class I have students making a magazine in InDesign titled ‘About Me’ where they create a whole newsletter/e-zine about themselves. Their initial reaction is that writing more than fifty words about themselves is impossible becomes more engaging when they write about their favorite video game or movie and get to insert photos (Creative Commons only of course) and interview each other and write up a commercial and on and on.
We have been corresponding with a school in India to do a collaborative on-line real-time film project and we have the assistance of a film producer in Los Angeles who recently had her film accepted into the Sundance film festival in Utah. Our class has been Skypping her and we have been discussing their individual projects for this quarter as she ‘looks over our shoulders’. My neighbor, Frank, and his wife are moving to Yangon, Myanmar to teach at an international school next year. We have been putting together a plan to do a collaborative film project which in my little world is quite exciting. I am thinking of his and my students writing a script together – back and forth then having our individual classes create and edit the script and have them playing side by side as one film with two interpretations of the same story. His students are mostly Myanmar citizens and mine are a collection from around the planet which would make this a very global endeavor.
To emphasize my integration of film in the student’s life where most of their daily short clips are posted to social sites from their smartphones..
An Australian filmmaker has won first prize at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival with a short film shot entirely on a Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone. The film explores the influence of hip hop, which started in the Bronx, on the indigenous communities in regional Australia and how it helped youth reconnect with tribal elders and tell stories using this style of music.
see it on youtube at http://youtu.be/W8Lewbdm8lg
Last Thursday it was Narda’s elementary student concert, ‘All you need is love’ that put us into a Beatles mood. She has been doing a lot of work on this for the past months and I have been filming little segments as commercials for our school’s video-news show, DAISlive. As Narda’s biggest fan the past twelve years I would say this was up there with her best work. Of course it is not the same as when she did a Beatles tribute at Albany Academy in upstate New York a decade ago but that was with high school and there was dance involved as Albany Academy for Girls has a strong dance program. Being in a Beatles mood we are off to see the Beijing Beatles next weekend who are playing in Dalian. Carolyn, Narda’s sister and her husband are visiting from Australia then so they can too see what China has to offer to the musical past. One of the Beijing Beatles is from Australia so they couldn’t be that bad. The name of the show is We do like to be beside the seaside – tour to Dalian.
Friday we needed to collect our passports so we could go to the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang this coming Tuesday. Narda has to sort out some stuff with the Yanks and I have to go along being the Yank of a sponsor. As always these things are so complicated; whether to keep a Green Card – problem is being out of the States for the past two years, surrendering it is an issue and becoming a citizen is another kettle of fish. We just hope to be able to sort it out in one trip. With less than four weeks before we leave for the States she is now in no-man’s land. They won’t give her a visitor’s visa without tossing the Green Card and she may not be unable to renew the Green Card and now with the recent Boston problems the Yanks are all the more tighter about stuff. When we first went to the States in 2002, shortly after 9-11, we had a terrible time. According to many phone calls we had everything in order. When we arrived in Sydney – with our flight booked for the next day to New York, not only were they very rude to us but they said in the photos of Narda her ear was not showing enough and we would have to re-do the photo and come back in a week. At the time we were homeless, having sold Narda’s home in Adelaide, and storing away all our belongings we were left to cancel our flight with no idea when we would be able to get Narda with a visia. We were not going for a usual visit, we were moving there. I had been out of the country for 20-years so they said something about not having domicile and as a sponsor of Narda who, like me, had jobs in the States; she was at Albany Academy for Girls and me at the State University of New York at Albany, and my father was 97 years old waiting to see me before he left the planet. After three days of abuse by the wankers at the US consulate in Sydney I contacted my cousin Fredrick Miller who knew Congressman Sweeney and Sweeney sent a congressional letter to the consulate in Sydney. All of a sudden they were nice to me, and said I could come in right away and we could fly out in the evening. There was a period we thought we would never get in to the States. Now after living there for more than a decade, owning three homes and Narda having a son living in the States married to a Yank (I started the trend in her family of marrying non-Dutch people). Before I came bopping along Narda and her three sisters and all their relatives had only ever married Dutch people, having migrated to Australia from the Netherlands in the 1950s. Since me one son has married a Yank and lives in Atlanta, Georgia and another son has married a POM – prisoner of Mother England, and her third son now in India, has a pommie girlfriend too so I changed their directions. They had all been staying in the Dutch genetic pool for five-hundred plus years; so they must be thankful to me. To make a too long story short about going to New York my father hung around for another five years and we were happy that Sweeney was able to get us in. Fortunately for us this was before Sweeney got into a bit of trouble: In September 2006, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its ‘The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress’ and Sweeney was one of the 20.
Our visit to the Chinese visa issuing place was much different than the one to Sydney. We had one of those Chinese moments where everything takes longer and goes slow compared to what us Westerns want but after a couple of hours, chatting about stuff like the price of wine in Australia and how many children we had and lots of smiles and interpretations we got our passports with our official work-visa to July 31st 2014. Being past 65 this is a big deal for me as in most provinces the work-visa limit is 60. I believe from our conversation at the visa office that Chinese retirement is 60 then I think they get a pension which puts away the thought that china does not look after their people.
What we are finding is that a lot of stuff we have been told in the Western media is quite different than the China we see on a day-to-day basis. People; whether authorities or folks in the street are really quite friendly. They stop and stare like we are from another galaxy but with five planets in Leo it does not bother me. They are generally a very curious lot and want to know about Westerns. We are curious too; and of course I am very curious about their fascination with all things French as I will show in a moment.
Saturday was the big 11th Annual Dalian International Walking Festival. We signed up before realizing we had a dentist appointment at 11 AM. We figured we would walk for an hour then catch a cab into town. As things would have it, in a town that does not see much rain fall, all day Saturday it rained. I put on my waterproof ‘Tommy Hilfiger’ trendy coat (even old people like to look stylish) and we took the school van in a dozen or so other ‘walkers’ from school.
There were a lot of people, like many thousands, all with their umbrellas up headed out on the 5 – 30 kilometer walk going along the Coastal Road, “Bin Hai Road”. We had intended to do just the first five. Actually we did the first few blocks then disappeared up a side street and caught a cab to the dentist.
At the start of the race is Dalian Castle Hotel, a 6-star hotel (300 rooms) due to open December 1, 2013.
It overlooks Xinghai Bay, 星海广场 and of course a million or so walkers in May, rain or shine.
Of course it is the statue in front that I find even more interesting than a walled castle being constructed in the midst of a city;
Definitely my kind of hotel if I could afford a six-star hotel, I did not even know they had such a ranking.
After the dentist we took the light rail (轻轨, qing gui) to Kaifaqu. Normally we take the shopping bus and get our groceries but we missed the bus. Harbor Deli is one of our stops as it is near the Kaifaqu qing gui station which is the Five Colour City stop and they have Western crap; cheese, cereal and that which we cannot otherwise find. Of course the rain was ever present as we took a bus (for one RMB = 15 cents US) instead of walking to the green-door – not the name of the place but we have no idea what the sign says – and loaded ourselves down for the week.
We figured we would take a cab home but after a couple of cabbies said no and another said two-hundred RMB (30 bucks) we realized the only way home for us was to call Jack – our regular driver who came and collected us and took us for 70 RMB – about 1/3 the cost of a taxi. Of course it was not Jack himself but one of his mates – we call them all Jack. If this was Australia we would just add an o to the end as Australian’s do and call him Jacko but we don’t and we won’t.
We were so exhausted by the time Jack came as will as wet we were ready to go to sleep on the sidewalk. This is one of the most difficult things with living at Campus Village; the transportation is almost too difficult. This is the second time we spent an exhausting Saturday and got ourselves stuck. If there is a lesson we are not learning it except that we should stop shopping anywhere but our local Long Shan Village.
We received the invite; ‘Famous French and English Bands’ at the Chateau du Vin Bordeaux in our school email. Chateau du Vin Bordeaux, which was called, last year, Chateau De Bourdeux, across the street from us – I can see it from my balcony. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTioCA7Ct44&feature=share&list=UUzGrI_yggI56Gpp2ZyNQAXw, a year ago) has been another castle dreaming of France but this one you can live at as they are The Dalian Haichang Group is building 400 luxury villas in this style. We toured the place last year and when we asked why they had not sold any we were told because they were too expensive, like a million dollars plus. The Haichang Group have been purchasing lots of chateauxs in France – see The Chinese Chateaux In Bordeaux for the down-and-dirty. Of course we are hoping this will mean cheap French wine locally.
Some of my images for this afternoon visit to almost France – China style.
The first one is a view of our apartment from the local million dollars plus flat.
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?
Power off Life on
We have had these notices before… “The school is informed by the Electrical Company that there will be a power outage on Friday, May 3 from 7am to 4pm. If you bring your own lunch, please make sure that it does not need heating up as the microwave will not work.” Not to worry, I teach technology, how could having no electricity affect me? I have two teaching areas; one is in the basement with no windows and that is our video/film studio/area, the other is my fishbowl; so anyone strolling the halls sees everything and anyone from the library can wave to my kids as they do.
Not to worry, lots of glass plus the windows to outside overlooking just another China construction site with a dozen cranes and lots of people scurrying about to keep us entertained when I have lost the plot. But with no electricity one realizes how dark it still is even surrounded by glass. Computer class was no problem; we just used the new Intel Zen Ultrabooks from the computer carts which had been charged up. They were not able to save to their folders on the intranet but we had a good session with Adobe Fireworks, InDesign and Photoshop and hopefully they will remember what we did by next class. Of course middle school students at the start of spring… maybe not. My basement area was not useable. It reminded me of when photography was more fun when film processing was done in the darkroom. My video area surely is dark enough but I doubt the equipment is even available to develop film anymore.
I went to for a semester in 1969 and took courses in photography. It was such a disjointed time in my life; living with Carol Ann and her one year old daughter, Desiree (who now is 45), a friend on Facebook living in Colorado now. Back in 1969 we barely knew the day of the week but I did get to my photography classes.
Then before the end of the year we ended up in Hawaii in a cult religious order
and I somehow got myself a job in a photography studio in Honolulu. I got back into photography and darkroom development toward the end of the 1970s in and used my work as part of my picture poem art which I exhibited in various art shows 1977 – 1979. Part of teaching photography should involve developing film in a darkroom but I doubt that will ever happen again.
So we were told that at four pm we would have electricity. Last year this happened too and it did go back on. At four pm the electricity did not come on and when it became too dark to see and there was nothing much to eat and all we have is an electric stove and appliances we asked others, now flushed out into the hall, what their dinner situation was. Folks over at the other apartment complex have gas stoves which lead us to Jean and Sean’s. With candlelight and a gas stove. The electricity did come on for ten minutes and that was it. I made a large pot of spaghetti then Narda and I found our way home in the dark. At about 4 AM the electricity was back on which lacks in excitement when sleep seems to be the only option, however, it was short lived and went off until 7.
Below is the guard station to Dalian American International School from our balcony with no electricity
Looking from our balcony toward our neighbours who obviously had more candles than we did with a the electricity over and out.
There were a couple of flickers of off and on but Narda had time to Google+ chat her sons and granddaughter between Australia and Atlanta Georgia. The one in India must have been in between online moments so he did not make it to the ‘hangout’.
We missed the shopping bus and took the light rail into Kaifaqu ( 开发区 ) eating some good Western tucker at Tarsa in Five Colour City (our video of it last year). Expats, especially the young ones like
Five Colour City but we find it run down, seedy, past its whatever-it-was-meant to be heyday, though it is where we buy Western food stuff at Harbour View and purchase stuff for our non-Chinese brains. I read this review of the place recently which sums it up quite well: “There is nothing quite like Five Color City. It’s as if a group of first grade students designed the buildings in crayon for a classroom art project”. [http://www.whatsondalian.com/guide-74-rise-and-fall-of-five-color-city-in-dalian.html].
At the teacher’s get together pot-luck meals tonight – with a day of electricity under our belts the talk was that someone got the wires crossed. OK where did they get their electrician degree from? It was a highly inconvenient stuff-up but as always we enjoyed the moments. I made tofu burger balls, what I usually bring as my contribution and they all got eaten so that is good. I just cooked up a couple cups of black rice, added couple of cups of peanuts, carrots, onions, tofu, spices, flour and deep fried small balls in olive oil. I bring them to each hall party/apartment pot-luck/ and wherever else we end up eating in groups. I used to make them in my tofu factory thirty years ago and took them to barbeques in Australia so my life really does not change in so many ways.
On my bike ride this morning I took photos of a sign that points visitors, hopefully not angry government officials from our neighbours up the road (North Korea – 200 kilometer highway hike or a boat ride away) to where we live and work. Not sure where they got their info from but I found two glaring things for those Chinese Government officials who are readers of my blog to think about the next time they take an English writing course then proceed to put up a sign: Dalian Amerircan Lnternational School – OK OK it is just point to a school – no need to do a spell check and they even have a map showing how to get to who they think we are,
Actually we are not the United States of America School – come on mate that is making us into a big target. We are all from many different countries; actually I am from a country called Terrell so surely I am not one to reckon with.
Not to be picky but Bondeaux Wine Manor? Really this is not a wine growing area, of course it is another miss-spelt word the signs on the “manor” is “Chateau De Bourdeux” (our video of this development last year which has gone heaps further now) which is just a strange housing sale office. See http://bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk/blog/2012/09/moving-bordeaux-to-china/ We have done the tour and found it quite enjoyable in a humorous way. This strange structure is across the street from us and they are building 800 homes like it. What is most fascinating is the workers who are from various parts of China and are itinerant workers who find us Western living in their midst quite amusing too. We pass them on our morning walks to the beach and we all have the giggle toward one another. Below is a photo from our balcony.
And yes it is not blue burry valley as it says on the sign above. It is Blueberry Valley with a lovely restaurant at the top of the hill where we use to go last year on Friday’s after school. This school year we have not gone there though I am not sure why. The mix of teachers who come and leave changes a lot each year and the previous mix as well as a lot of us first year here teachers clumped together heaps. This school year we all seem to go to place on our own and the social setting is quite different.
I found one of my dozens of domains information a few hours ago. I suppose when someone makes a webpage they hope not to be in last place and I guess I am not with billions of webpages out there but as a Leo (Sun, Mercury, Venus and that awful Saturn and Pluto exact conjunction in Leo all in my 10th house – what the hell happend?) I was hoping for a higher ranking than 6,298,119, meaning six million and two hundred ninety eight plus sites are in better position than mine. Maybe it is my colour scheme or lack of sense, a flair for a random artistic flavor that I have always championed going through life. Being popular when there are 7 or 8 billion people is difficult though I think I am ahead of a few billion but I do not know if that is very good.
Neuage.org created in 24/04/2003 (what is not noted is that my first neuage.org site was made ten years earlier in 1992 – two years after the WWW was invented and at that time I was ahead of the curve) and owned by Terrell Neuage. Neuage.org takes 6298119th position in global internet… with 159 estimated visits per day.
We had one of our evening together dinners last night, a celebration of warmer times, at least from a weather perspective. Yesterday was the first time since last October – seven months ago, that we were out and about without jumpers, a tee-shirt day. Today it is 23 (centigrade) so it is bike-riding long-distance time again. I want to go where they are building the new city about half an hour away [Newly Buried Villages of China] .
Here is a photo from my balcony looking at where we had dinner last night; I asked about it and the story is that our librarian came across this and others like it in a field went and got the school van and driver and took them to her house. We live near an art school so I would assume it was probably an installation from artists and they probably wonder who stole their art. I use to do art installations – hanging pictures amongst trees as a show and would have been shocked to find them missing. I did a series of clothing that I dipped in plaster of paris and when dried I sprayed painted and wrote poems on them and hung them in a park in the centre of Adelaide and no one took them. I did this once with a dress from a girlfriend and hung in a tree in front of the art school in Adelaide and it lasted a couple of weeks before disappearing. Now that the librarian is leaving she gave these paper machete figures away with this one landing on the porch of our neighbor across the way. I call it ‘caged thievery’.
An evening without electricity and candles make any mood just so good.
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/
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;