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Vietnam

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china again

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

See my site for December at http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam/

We left our Hanoi hotel at 5:30 AM; similar time that we got there a few days earlier after the train from Sapa tossed us out onto the payment of Hanoi. And at the airport @ 6:30ish then landing in Guangzhou, China time, at 11ish. We did not have a flight until 8 PM so we took the subway (metro) to downtown, found some Western food, and walked, once again, way too much._DSC4730

A hotel lobby dude at a hotel told us that there was a bus to the airport and we went off to a tall building he pointed to that looked close but it took us 45 minutes of walking before it finally popped up in front of us. It is like walking to the Eiffel tower; only seems a few blocks away and the more you walk the longer it takes to get to it. To cut a nonsensical story short we took the airport bus back which was a lot better than being in a subway and it took less time, about 45 minutes.

So China again. After Vietnam the contrast is startling. China the any-brand-knock-off; Ikea personified land of imitation. Vietnam; Sapa, Hoian, Hanoi… the places we spent the past three weeks in, with so much richness of life. And the food is OK; baguettes and well prepared fruit dishes. Thank the French for their occupation to give a country some class. A few hours in Guangzhou and the land of shopping malls and cheap copies leap out to strangle any possible creative and originality left of its population. What has happened to you China? All those inventions and culture you once produced reduced to copycats.

But…. We are back home, in our adopted country, and it feels good to be headed back to our apartment with all our crap there as well as a cupboard of my belongs at school and shelves of my things in the computer lab: my PhD thesis, National Geographic books from the 1920s – 1940s my father had collected, some antique cameras, a boomerang, posters, a 500 page novel I wrote, ‘Leaving Australia’ and other assorted things. We have stuff all over the place from a shed of stuff in upstate New York to our furniture in our Jersey City home and a shed of our belongings in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia as well as boxes of our stuff in storage at Narda’s sister and at her parents. And now we have about a suitcase of new stuff and a suitcase and a half of our clothing in storage on this plane. I like the Buddhist ideals of not wanting things, of living in the moment, of respecting all life (well at least I do that by not eating animals) but I reckon there is a way to go before I can say I am a Buddhist. Firstly we need to shed four houses; three in the States and one in Australia that we no longer want or can afford. We should shove all of them over the fiscal cliff. Of course the good thing about traveling is that we have seen almost no news for three weeks so perhaps the world did end on 21 December though after seeing 22-million Chinese today I doubt that and maybe the States did go over their cliff… who knows? Does anyone really care? What was so good about the village people back in Sapa is that they just live day to day pretty much the same as they have for the past thousand years. Take away CNN and BBC and the ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) and etc. and stay clear of newspapers – easy to do when there are not any around in English, and the world is such a nice place. When we retire we will not watch the news anymore or read about the nonsense in the rest of the world and wherever we are will be just our grand life in our everyday grand adventure of living life to the fullest.

Four days before being back at work. I suppose I have lots to do to be ready for classes; lessons to write, ties to sort out to wear… I bought four more on this trip so now I have more than a hundred ties from around the world; not boring basic business ties but unique, usually from thrift shops – my favourite place to get ties; they are there because others didn’t want them because they were too different to wear but I wear them. I got my newly self-designed shirt I had made in Hoian and so much more.

my-shirt

China below Guangzhou today Vietnam below – which has more soul?
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In less than a month we will be off again – to Australia for a week – Chinese New Years week and this will probably be my last blog about travel until then. Probably including then too because what could I possibly blog about Australia? I will visit my son in Melbourne and that is great but not something I normally blog about though I did mention him in a blog when he visited us a few months ago here in China, that was special. We are going to Narda’s granddaughter’s Christening and her son turning 30 party but that is for her to blog about. She blogs but it is on paper in her scrapbook with tickets and stuff from places we went; much better than my blogs, more interesting and intelligent writing but I am only the other one who reads them. Then again I get about two or three hits to my blogs; no doubt all three from Chinese censors and I really just write for myself to remember what we did.

What I am looking forward to the most these next four days before returning to work is working on my videos. I have so many from the past three weeks and aside of I didn’t take my computer on this trip and Narda doesn’t have a program that I can use with my camera, besides there has not been time to go through a hundred if not hundreds of short clips to make about four five – seven minute movies to put on youtube and etc. I have more than 400 videos online from the past ten years so a few more will get me caught up to date with our travels. Plus I want to make webpages for this trip and they will be linked from http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam

What I will think about in the future when I am being told my lesson plans are not quite to the  American Standards (yes those standards that keep America in about 25th place in education in the world) that our school is so obsessed about is not the next lesson plan or lesson unit that a principal or two are demanding but of walks with tribal people in their villages outside of Sapa. That is what is important in life – to have been exposed to people who live wholesome lives who are not grabbing at material possessions and soulless educational expectations. The children we met were happy, learning, holistic and so full of enthusiasm unlike the children we teach who spend days and nights hunched over computers memorizing facts for the next test and who lose all sense of creativity because they have no concept how to apply learning to life only to tests.

But it is all good… life is good and I am happy that at 65 and close to retirement that I am once again reminded of the wholesomeness of life and that simplicity really is what is complicated at achieving. I lived this way in the 1960s, living in communes in California, Oregon and Hawaii and no doubt in the future Narda and I will be living in some village in Cambodia, India, Vietnam, Thailand or in South America with all our belongings that we have collected in the rubbish dump and all that we will have will be each other and our most basic items to survive then we will have arrived at freedom and correct living.

Writing this on China Southern flight Guangzhou to Dalian with too little sleep to stay awake much longer but there is still an hour left of this bloody flight and Narda has been asleep for the past two hours… lucky her but I have four days in front of me to sleep and make video clips…. Yippee.

Thursday morning the third of January – some sleep and looking out the window – damn where did the warm weather go? Jack, our driver – the real Jack – not one of his mates – as usual, was waiting for us at the airport in Dalian and drove us the one hour ride home getting us back to Campus Village at midnight.  It is so nice to be home; the maids cleaned the apartment and did our laundry whilst we were gone and I just dropped out a lot of laundry to do.

Turned on the news after three weeks and righto the world did not end, the Yanks shoved everything back up on to the cliff and we even made a ten-percent increase overnight on our Chase stocks. Life is good.

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Hoi An, Vietnam

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.

 view from our bedroom
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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.

 my-shirt
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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.

_DSC3498Dongs 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!

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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.

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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.

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Narda the boat driver

Narda the boat driver

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.

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My China Links

I grew up surrounded by bits and pieces and stories from/of China. Clifton Park New York in the 1960s  was/is a long ways from anywhere.

Clifton Park New York

route 9 & 146 Clifton Park NY. Now there is a shopping centre here.

I left ‘the farm’ when I was about 16 or 17 – there was a blurring effect toward the end of the 1960s. Firstly I went to Orlando Florida then Key West then New Orleans then San Francisco for the summer of love and New York City in between then on to Oregon and to Hawaii, and on and on with so many places and memories between then and now.

Growing up in upstate New York I heard the stories of my relatives who were missionaries. Some in Cambodia and Viet Nam and some in China. I still have a suitcase of silk robes and bound-foot wear from the 1930s before the missionaries were shown the way out of China.

We have been packing all year – that is eight months. Firstly it was our house in NYC and sending a 7X6X5 foot crate to Dalian and leaving a house of furniture then renting it out. Then there were the two houses in upstate New York with more stored stuff and now rented out so we can forget those belongings for the time being. In a long round-about route we ended up in Clifton Park in 2002 to look after my father who lived to three months short of 102 for four years before grabbing some teaching gigs in New York City for these past five years.

But it is here in Adelaide, South Australia where I lived for twenty-years the largest pile of the past has lived. A shed full. Now that the in-laws are in their 80s and moving into a smaller home we had to move our shed of crap to Narda’s son’s house in the hills.   There were more than one-hundred boxes of the past and in one was the passport of my aunty from my childhood who went to China – in the 1930s. Now we are going to Dalian China for two years, not as missionaries – well missionaries of capitalism I suppose, but as school teachers. We have been to China four times in the past: Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. We never thought of living in China, we had planned to move to India but all these years after living in a house with a lot of items from China we are off to there in six days. I will take my aunty’s passport with me and perhaps leave it in China. I have spent a few hours on this chilly Saturday 23 July reading about missionaries in China in the 1930s. An interesting study but sorry mate and my family’s past but I left those beliefs behind back in the 1960s except for a seven year period (1969 – 1978) in a cult order that I would like to leave further behind than Clifton Park. 

My aunty's Chinese passport 1934

My aunty's Chinese passport 1934

passport 1934

Just another American to China My aunty's Chinese passport 1934

got to tell ya about this

was me

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yesterday perhaps before