Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Do not take my Vegemite

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

“Do not take my Vegemite ”

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

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

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

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

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

We’re happy little Vegemites – The original TV Advertisment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lao Chai and Ta Van Village, Sa Pa, Vietnam

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Trek-outside of Sa Pa Day 2 Sunday, December 30, 2012

We said we wanted an easier walk today from yesterday’s trek up and down the local hills (mountains to my legs) through the rice paddies of Lao Chai and Ta Van Village. We hiked with the Henderson, from Liverpool, who we met and trekked with yesterday, at breakfast and we all decided to have another go and village hopping. They are on the way to stay with their daughter who has started a language school in Siem Reap, Cambodia, using her own money.

So we went firstly to Ta Phin village about an hour’s drive and two hour walk from Sapa, the little hillside village located in midst of the Hoang Lien Mountains. Several tribes live peacefully here: the Kinh, Red Dao and Black Hmong people. After getting past the overnight ‘sleeper’ (we didn’t sleep due to a hard mat and a loud rattling old train) and the hour winding climb to the town the journey of exploration is fantastic.

our-guideOur guide was an 18 year from the Black H’mong people (they wear black clothing). We said to her at the start that we did not want to buy stuff because the day before we were followed and hassled so much – and we did buy a lot of stuff yesterday – we just wanted to trek and be left alone. She said whatever to everyone that came at us and we had a great day of walking, talking and of course climbing up and down so much.

I took a lot of photos of children, something I rarely do as in some places people get really upset. When we were in Guatemala we were warned not to take photos of children because they get kidnapped and sold to Americans; we could have gotten beaten, killed or worse – they would have taken our camera. But here no one seemed to mind. I have posted some in an album in Facebook and Google+ and in my Flickr account in this set http://www.flickr.com/photos/neuage/sets/72157632393552028/ and I will have more in my webpage for this trip when I get home to Dalian China next week @ http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam

_DSC4232

Our guide, perhaps Vivvie – that is what we called her, which was close to what we think she said her name was, and she was OK with that was really good at answering our so many questions. Her English was quite good and she humoured our lame humour.

On Saturday nights in Sa Pa they have the ‘love market’. We kidded her about going tonight to it and she said ‘but no one wants me’. We of course said that was not true and when we passed some young male who looked at her we would say ‘maybe you should meet him at the love market’ and she would laugh and say no. Actually a lot of people in her tribe get married through arranged marriages and she is planned on going to Hanoi to university next year to start a teaching degree (gosh darn who in their right mind would want to do such a thing?) and come back and teach in her local village.

Here is a little about the Sa Pa love market that I borrowed and stole and amended from the world wide web; “Sa pa is famed for its “Love Market” – sort of a cross between a peacock mating ritual, a Middle Eastern arms bazaar, an Amish square dance, a bad Pavarotti concert and Bangkok’s Patpong (except here the people wear clothes). On Saturday nights, Red Dao hill tribe youths of both sexes congregate in a weekly courting rite, singing tribal versions of Loretta Lynn love songs to woo the opposite sex. The songs are highly personalized and boast of the composer’s physical attributes, domestic abilities and strong work ethic. While Dao women are indeed highly industrious, the men, it seems, prefer to spend most of their time drinking, smoking opium or sleeping, only occasionally slapping the rump of a lethargic bovine moving more slowly than they are. Few of their songs, though, are about drinking, smoking opium, sleeping or slapping rumps.” Lifted from http://www.sapatrain.com/local_market_sapa_laocai_vietnam.html

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We did go through the market and saw much carrying-on Saturday night – with a group of males playing instruments and dancing in the church square, see photo above.

I saw this woman in the local stream washing her clothes and I am not sure what she thinks of being single by the words on the back of tee shirt

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I asked Vivvie lots of questions – I don’t remember many at the moment but some were:

“Are there police/law-enforcement people in your village?” She said there wasn’t and the village didn’t need them. Having lived in the States for 40-plus years and Australia some 22 years and now China it is difficult thinking that a society could exist without law enforcement. What is wrong with a village where people do the right thing? Surely they should have automatic rapid-firing machine guns like they do in the States available to everyone. Surely there are people who murder, rape, steal and generally misbehave. I think all the villagers should go live in New York City or any city in the States for a year to learn how to live with other humans. She said she was a Buddhist, of course that explains it – one of those hippy-like religions where people respect each other and don’t kill animals for food or each other for sport. Those tripped out belief systems where people care for one another and work together. No wonder the Yanks bombed Hanoi and Vivvie said they bombed Sa Pa too – we cannot have people running around like this who respect one another and who look after their environment and who are not materialistic wanting more and more. Can you imagine being happy living in a house like this?

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Really, look how stressed out these kids look who are not playing on their iPhones or laptops

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_DSC4280_DSC4302_DSC4327Vivvie said there people have been in this area for about 1500 years doing pretty much the same stuff. What has changed in the villages, or most of them, is that they have electricity and television but most people do not watch and they are too busy living life to stay inside and spend time on the Internet and watching TV. Tourism is changing life in that people have money but she did not say much about what they do extra in the past few years with the influx of Westerners. She said she thought she would get paid ten-dollars for today’s tour – which was about five hours with us. The Hendersons and we each gave her five bucks which equals her day’s salary. She refused the money but we insisted.

She said that when a woman got married she had to live with the husband in his village. There is intermarriage between villages but it is the husband’s village that is home. She said she would not get married until after her uni but at 18 years old and not having lived in a city I wonder how much of that will remain. She said when people do leave the village they almost all come back.  Even though she seemed quite liberated she said most definitely she would live with her husband’s tribe if she married someone from another village.

There are a lot of languages but I think about six main ones in this area and they do not understand other languages but they all learn Vietnamese and now English. So they communicate with each other.

One thing that is so different from our glorious Western ways is that people barter and help each other out in emergency no wonder America was out bombing them and the communists hated them. There seems to be a lot of tension between the communists and the H’mong people though I think it is the ones in Laos that have had the most trouble according to the Internet.

Last year there was snow for the first time in memory or some-such-time-period and a lot of water buffalo died. They are expensive and a primary part of the life in the villages. The people have gotten together to help each other out giving rice and etc._DSC4300

Of course we were interested in how does one buy land and live in such a great environment. Apparently one can buy land and live here – something worth exploring.

We bought a lot over the three days here and got a large embroidered  bag from the Flower Hmong

As usual everyone seems so short…_DSC4255

Well off to Hanoi and another overnight train.

I am sure I will write more about our visit to Sa Pa but this is all for today.

Lao Chai Village, Sa Pa, Vietnam

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012 Sa Pa, Vietnam

We trekked to two villages today. The first was Lao Chai village, 6 km from the centre town, where the H’mong people are living. The trek was through rice fields and quite steep. The most difficult part was walking and balancing on the edge of the terraced rice paddies. In my embarrassment of being 65 a village girl had to hold my hand over quite a long stretch that was about six inches wide and straight down a long ways on the right and into the water on the left. I managed to slip into the water several times but the girl kept me from falling down the mountain. Narda had a girl with a baby on her back holding her from slipping down the side.

_DSC3983

We took about two hours to get down to the bottom to the beginning of the Muong Hoa valley. Our guide who collected us from where we are staying this week; the Thai Binh Sapa Hotel (http://thaibinhhotel.com/), was from the H’mong tribe and she spoke good English. She had her baby strapped to her back the whole way and was really a good guide and a steady hand to Narda over some of the slippery and muddy parts of the path.

We had lunch at her village and went on to to Ta Van Village which borders Lao Chai Village.

A better description is from http://www.allsapatours.com/sapa-vietnam/Ta-Van-Village.html, “Ta Van means “a big turning road” like a basket brim, or tripod-leg line. Vast terrace fields with unique position of a big turning road become a landscape and a destination of Ta Van. Seo Mi Ti scenery-old pine forest, a half day of sloping road away from township centre, is also a particularly interesting eco-tourist site of Ta Van. And Ta van has become an integral tourist site for ecological excursions in Sapa.”

Lunch was good with the only complaint being the constant harassment from children selling stuff. We did purchase a bed spread and some other embroidered things from our guide’s mother. The bed spread she said took three-months to make, OK so we believe things but it was well done and the mother (in the photos below) was making them whilst we were  there and a lot of work goes into these things. We paid 700 dongs about $35 US and for a handmade spread that seemed cheap. They die the fabric with indigo plants that make it go green. The fabric is soaked for months; the longer it is in the dye the darker. We picked some of the plants and it instantly makes skin turn green. Our guide is on the left below and her mother is holding the baby after hours on the back of the mother as we climbed down the mountain.

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I am not sure how much the villages are affected by the tourist coming through. They are better off and have built schools off the proceeds so we are doing our little bit. The village by Western standards are quite poor and I am not sure we could live like they do for very long which probably illustrates our materialistic ways.

There are six major groups in the Sa Pa area each speaks their own language though they share Vietnamese they do not understand the other village’s languages. Each village has its own culture and beliefs. Our guide is Buddhist and she married a fellow from another village. Some villages are Christian some have no beliefs – which is impossible because we all believe something or the other – but they all co-exist and have for I suppose many hundreds if not thousands of years. Apparently they were not affected by the American war in the 1960s and early 1970s and the government has pretty much left them alone, probably because they are so isolated and non-threatening. This is really something to see; we, with all our Western beliefs and wants and to see tribes living like they have for so long makes one believe that society may continue. They will be still here when all the Christians, Muslims, Jews and spiritualists of many hues destroy themselves. The teenagers do not run off to Hanoi but stay in their villages and keep the traditions going.

_DSC4104I took 188 photos and a lot of video today and I am trying to select the best 20 or 30 or maybe 50 for today’s album which I am uploading to Facebook, Google+ and a few other photostreaming sites.

This is the view from our hotel room

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We have two more days here and hope to get to the other villages. The weather has been fantastic.

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Lao Chai Village, Sa Pa, Vietnam

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012 Sa Pa, Vietnam

We trekked to two villages today. The first was Lao Chai village, 6 km from the centre town, where the H’mong people are living. The trek was through rice fields and quite steep. The most difficult part was walking and balancing on the edge of the terraced rice paddies. In my embarrassment of being 65 a village girl had to hold my hand over quite a long stretch that was about six inches wide and straight down a long ways on the right and into the water on the left. I managed to slip into the water several times but the girl kept me from falling down the mountain. Narda had a girl with a baby on her back holding her from slipping down the side.

_DSC3983

We took about two hours to get down to the bottom to the beginning of the Muong Hoa valley. Our guide who collected us from where we are staying this week; the Thai Binh Sapa Hotel (http://thaibinhhotel.com/), was from the H’mong tribe and she spoke good English. She had her baby strapped to her back the whole way and was really a good guide and a steady hand to Narda over some of the slippery and muddy parts of the path.

We had lunch at her village and went on to to Ta Van Village which borders Lao Chai Village.

A better description is from http://www.allsapatours.com/sapa-vietnam/Ta-Van-Village.html, “Ta Van means “a big turning road” like a basket brim, or tripod-leg line. Vast terrace fields with unique position of a big turning road become a landscape and a destination of Ta Van. Seo Mi Ti scenery-old pine forest, a half day of sloping road away from township centre, is also a particularly interesting eco-tourist site of Ta Van. And Ta van has become an integral tourist site for ecological excursions in Sapa.”

Lunch was good with the only complaint being the constant harassment from children selling stuff. We did purchase a bed spread and some other embroidered things from our guide’s mother. The bed spread she said took three-months to make, OK so we believe things but it was well done and the mother (in the photos below) was making them whilst we were  there and a lot of work goes into these things. We paid 700 dongs about $35 US and for a handmade spread that seemed cheap. They die the fabric with indigo plants that make it go green. The fabric is soaked for months; the longer it is in the dye the darker. We picked some of the plants and it instantly makes skin turn green. Our guide is on the left below and her mother is holding the baby after hours on the back of the mother as we climbed down the mountain.

_DSC4145

I am not sure how much the villages are affected by the tourist coming through. They are better off and have built schools off the proceeds so we are doing our little bit. The village by Western standards are quite poor and I am not sure we could live like they do for very long which probably illustrates our materialistic ways.

There are six major groups in the Sa Pa area each speaks their own language though they share Vietnamese they do not understand the other village’s languages. Each village has its own culture and beliefs. Our guide is Buddhist and she married a fellow from another village. Some villages are Christian some have no beliefs – which is impossible because we all believe something or the other – but they all co-exist and have for I suppose many hundreds if not thousands of years. Apparently they were not affected by the American war in the 1960s and early 1970s and the government has pretty much left them alone, probably because they are so isolated and non-threatening. This is really something to see; we, with all our Western beliefs and wants and to see tribes living like they have for so long makes one believe that society may continue. They will be still here when all the Christians, Muslims, Jews and spiritualists of many hues destroy themselves. The teenagers do not run off to Hanoi but stay in their villages and keep the traditions going.

_DSC4104I took 188 photos and a lot of video today and I am trying to select the best 20 or 30 or maybe 50 for today’s album which I am uploading to Facebook, Google+ and a few other photostreaming sites.

This is the view from our hotel room

_DSC4169

We have two more days here and hope to get to the other villages. The weather has been fantastic.

_DSC4011

Home as a tourist destination

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Home as a tourist destination

I was born this
This way
Everything else
I make up
As I go
(July 1995 Hackham, South Australia)

I do not really have a home. I have a tourist destination. I am a tourist at home. Places I refer to as home are not homes but stops on the way home. And like the people who visit the cities and towns I live in I too am just visiting where I am. Of course I am not really sure what home is. Even more removed from the equation is where home is. If home is where the heart is then I would be remiss to say my home is my heart because that would make me slutty. I would have to say that my heart was a tourist destination and at my age I don’t think that is going to happen. I purchase fridge magnets from where I live and my fridge side are covered with magnets from so many countries so many homes. My home is represented by fridge magnets. When I was going through my divorcee back in 1984 which left me with two children to raise my ex-witch of a thingy submitted a report to the Adelaide Family Court about me from her psychiatrist, a person who never interviewed or met me: “… I noticed in his writing that he talks about disintegration within his personality; and there is evidence of thought disorder such as loose associations and flights of ideas, which together with his general suspicious demeanor suggests psychotic thinking”. At the time I was writing children stories and continuing with poetry that I had been writing for decades and as a side note completing my PhD. Anyone who has done a PhD knows there is little sanity involved during or at the end of the thing which in my case took seven nasty years to do. The fact that my home is a tourist destination somehow syncs with my writing and back in 1984 with my ex-witch-thingy and her psychiatrist. The reason I have lived in your home or you may have lived in mine is because we are all tourists at the same destination. We were in Family Court more than sixty times between 1984 and 1998 – my lawyer said a record. Adelaide Family Court was a tourist destination and I had never planned to set up camp there – it was just a stop along the way.

The last time my home was the only place and not a place in between places was in 1964 or 1963. I was about 16 when I left my safe little place in the world, Clifton Park – Saratoga County in upstate New York. I was having some problems at Shenendehowa Central  School ; I think boredom was a deciding factor.  I told some people at a recent party that I still had my yearbooks from when I was in kindergarten and first they did not believe me then they all were just about on the floor from laughing so hard. Damn I thought everyone carried around their yearbooks. I only have them from 1954 (above) to 1964 when I left to find my fame and fortune.  In the picture above I am in the top row third from left when my name was Terrell Adsit. I have gone into how my name became Neuage in past blogs; something about getting an Australian pregnant and she not liking my name and me not hers and Randy Dandurand said ‘you two think you are such new age people…’ – Really! We had met at an astrological conference in Sydney, had a passing fling between Baltimore Maryland and California for a week and ending up in Hawaii the names got changed then we got divorced and I was a single parent in Australia for twenty years. But that is not the point of what I want to say this time.

So I got out of Clifton Park:  and yes that is my mother reading probably not her email and me siting in the trailer being silly like I was eating raw corn back in the late 1950s. This next  photo is of when I first tried to leave Clifton Park, New York. I was about six and I was headed out of town but got as far as the front of the house before getting stuck in a snow drift.The fact being that I was just a tourist in Clifton Park but at the time no one would believe me.

None of this is here now, they put in freeways, and a shopping centre and a Home Depot megastore where I attempted to grow up.

On with what I want to say, home as a tourist destination probably means that of going somewhere and living as a visitor, most likely because it is a passing through moment. I went in 1963 to Florida, to New Orleans, New York City, did the San Francisco stop at the end of the 1960s and lived in a commune across the bay, on to Oregon, to Hawaii – joining a religious cult for a decade – and living during that time in Kansas, Wyoming, New York, Baltimore, New Orleans and a few other places too. Then I ended up in Australia as a single parent with two boys and we moved ten times in ten years and settled down to live in two places for almost three years each. Then I got married successfully again, another Australian, and we tromped off to northern  New York and lived in three places in five years; two of them beautiful Victorians, which we still own in Round Lake NY. We then moved to New York City for five years and lived in only two places there, one of which we still own and even managed to live in South Australia sometimes and yes we own a house there too but we do not live anywhere that is our home still. When we moved to China we thought we were settled but now we have moved twice in two years; in the same building but in different apartments.

Maybe it is because I have Aquarius on my fourth house cusp with the ruler, Uranus conjunct Mars in Gemini in the 8th house – and of course I am married to a Gemini.  And Mars rules my 7th house, the house of marriage, so if I believed in astrology that would explain why I have not felt settled in a home since 1963 – not that I felt settled there either because I was adopted and brought to that location kicking and screaming when I was three years old. So it is fortunate that I do not believe in astrology or I would be quite confused.

I like living here in Campus Village in Northern China. It feels like home but most homes I have had have been tourists destinations (I am thinking of Maui, Honolulu, San Francisco, New York City, LA, New Orleans – my favorite, Victor Harbor South Australia – Victor really is a tourist destination because it is the end of the road – to go further one drives into the sea, unlike most towns and cities that one can drive through on the way to someplace else, Victor Harbor – where I raised my two sons for many years in several homes, is the end of the road. We, my good wife – the one I have now, and I have lived in Paris, Utrecht, The Netherlands, her place of birth, Ferrara Italy, Goa, India, San Pedro La Laguna on the Western shore of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala with my friend Dell, and Eugene Oregon and just so many places. I do not mean overnight places but places I, we, called home, though perhaps for only a week in some places. Mexico City we got settled in as well as in some places in Ecuador, though after only four days in Quito I had to get out of town because I had such a bad case of altitude sickness I just was not going to last in our home there so we got down to the shore and life was good. I thought we were settled in Istanbul but suddenly it was time to leave.

New York City was a fair effort of five years. That is a good example of home that others tromp through all the time. We did too. Every day I felt like I was a tourist except for paying mortgage and electricity bills and all those other home equations but still I was just passing through.

We are all just passing through until we get to where we are now. Home is where we are now. I am a tourist in my own home. I take the guided tour quite often. There are paintings my brother did back in the 1960s. He died of AIDS and I am so excited because his best mates are writing a book about him. There are belongings of my sons.  My son, I spent such a life time raising him, he was signed by the LA Dodgers, then committed suicide soon after turning 20; http://neuage.org/leigh.html. My fantastic still alive son, who even came to visit me here in Northern China is doing so well after all our moving around. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, one of the world’s greatest tourist destinations. I tour my life – it is on the walls, all those places I have lived in; posters, gadgets, my 600 page book “Leaving Australia” that I made two copies of – one for my son in Australia and the other I read when I want to be a tourist in my own life.

And that is all that was on my mind at this time.

Melbourne Again

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Now I am really really upset with China Eastern. It is not bad enough they have the worst food of any airline I have ever been on (and I have been flying internationally for 40 years with many airlines). As we are leaving the States for good (except for our three houses there which somehow keeps us attached) and moving way too much stuff to China and storing way too much in Australia for someday when we are settled in one place we have five overweight suitcases and several carry-on bags with us, I thought putting Leigh’s ashes into my checked-in luggage would be fine. Not only did they break open the box to see what was inside (there is a label on the box clearly stating “the remains of…”) but the box, which had also been inside a plastic bag, was left to spill all over my clothes and other articles. Since Leigh died in 2003, throwing away a successful career as a LA Dodgers’ pitcher for a girl, I have had his ashes with me. I was bringing them back to Adelaide with the thought of someday putting them somewhere. It is a traumatic thing to begin with now China Eastern has made my life a bit more difficult. Sacha has some ashes too and he does not know what to do with them. For now they are in his recording studio because he too wants to keep Leigh nearby.

It is so cold in Melbourne, a rainy winter storm night. A few days ago it was 98 degrees in New York City now I realise my winter clothes are in storage on a dock waiting to be shipped to China.

It is five AM, Narda is happily asleep probably dreaming of someplace warm and I am wide awake, shivering (they do not have central heating in houses in Australia) thinking it is 5.00 PM the evening before this morning. ‘Hey body clock get with the program.’ But it is great being here. From 1980 to 2002 Australia was home. I was poor with two children in tow  those years. I am still poor but I get to fly around now instead of taking buses. So much has changed but decades changes everyone. Back in the 1980s I had a tenth grade education (that is why my syntax is still budget often); then for some strange reason at 43 years old, that would be 1991, I thought I would try and educate myself as it was obvious I was not going to become a well loved, sought after poet with no learnin’. I applied for, tested for, was accepted for a BA program at Deakin University in Melbourne. I thought, sure, easy, two kids, a failed tofu business, almost homeless, I can get a degree. Well I worked really hard and four years later I had a BA in literature and journalism. Then I thought, hey maybe I am smart and capable and applied to do an Honours degree, did that, and went for a Masters, did that and went for a PhD, which almost killed me and took seven years on two continents, but after 14 years I had gone from a tenth grade drop out to a doctor something. So I taught at university in Adelaide and then in New York then became a high school computer teacher then a middle school computer teacher then a primary school computer teacher and then it seems I was too old for any school in the States to want me so I went and got my teacher’s certificate from Darwin University. I did that off-campus whilst living in NYC watching Narda go off to work everyday, teaching. I did my ten-week practicum at Torrens Valley Christian School in Adelaide last July – September and lived upstairs from Narda’s parents whilst she was happily teaching in NYC. Got the teaching degree then got hired by Dalian American International School, Dalian China to be the middle school computer teacher and technology integrator. I am so excited. And sitting here, shivering in the dark, so as not to wake Narda, not even 24 hours back in Australia I realise what an interesting trip this has been. Not sure why I never did well with schooling in the States and Australia I do so much. Perhaps it is because my Mercury passes through Adelaide, like if that matters.

I suppose I am not a Yank anymore. After fleeing the States of the past 9 years I am totally using my Aussie passport. Lived here 22 years, and the States 41 years but now my China work visa says Aussie. ‘Hey World I’m OK.” Yet everyone says I sound like a Yank. Just don’t get it.

Sacha is doing so well, so maybe a little bit of my parenting rubbed off. His new DVD is so good but of course it seems everyone is doing a new DVD (except me – I am just writing an e-book on tofu – tofu.neuage.us). And yes Facebook/Twitter/youtube was blocked in China but it seems my blog links show up in Twitter and Facebook even if I don’t see them in China.

This is our second home in airbnb. In Harlem we lived for 17 days in Penny’s pad, we learned a -lot about her from her photos and poems all over the walls. In Melbourne we are at Imogen Manins’ studiom http://elwoodstudio.com.au/ which is only a few blocks from Sacha’s house. From the posters on the wall we learn that Imogen, http://www.imogenmanins.com/about.htm, is a cellist with lots of awards.

Staying in airbnb places http://www.airbnb.com/ is so much better than hotel rooms.

Now it is 6.30 AM, still dark outside, mid-winter and all, and I am ready to go back to bed. But I am starving and all we have is a loaf of bread. See I am wealthy.

The ‘to-do-list’

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

It is one of those moments when one realizes the suitcase is still ten-pounds overweight, the last-minute list has few things crossed off of it: ‘Go to Hoboken and change the insurance policy from home-owner to four young computer guys from India are renting our house’, ‘redirect mail to Australia’ which would be fine if the post office actually redirected mail. Since having redirected to our apartment in Harlem from our home in Jersey City 15 days ago we have not received one redirected piece of mail and I am now off to meet up with one of the Indian dudes who is bringing all our non-redirected mail into Manhattan to save a trip to Jersey City – though it does not save us a trip to Hoboken because our insurance company said they will not send our policy or any correspondence to Australia or to China, then that pesky ‘last-minute-list’ of Narda’s (she has been hanging last-minute-lists on doors and walls for the past 11 years, as we always seem to be packing and headed to an airport somewhere): close T-Mobile – we hate that company, return scales to school – probably because we are always over weight, not us, just the baggage – and to think the shipment to China which was like 800 pounds over weight is waiting for a ship that won’t sink to drag it over to Dalian, mail packages – that is because we are overweight so we are posting stuff at $58 per 12X12X5 inch box, book town-car for Friday, good golly that is two days away then we are off to JFK,  cancel New York Sports Club – which I can’t get to today because of this damn last minute list, something about changing something with the airlines, order my vegetarian meals for China Eastern – oh no – they take out the meat and give me an extra serve of sticky yucky white rice, purchase excess luggage from Melbourne to Adelaide… and I just do not want to read on. I just wanted to go to the gym and work on my six-pack-not and biceps and those other saggy 63-year-old bits.
So what does one do when they get overwhelmed by ‘yes we are leaving the USA after nine-years, hoping renters in three-houses will behave and pay rent and not party too hard, and all those things we were going to do in NYC and the rest of the USofA and never did and all the people I was going to look up and say hi-bye to and all I did was get nine-years older with yet another to-do-list in front of me? Well what I do in these situations is work on my webpages and blogs and think OK I will give the gym a miss and this list will just get done through some cosmic virtual abstraction.

Just looked in the mirror – something I usually avoid – and saw two grey hairs – oh no! I had planned to wait until after 65 for that… This is what leaving the USofA has done to me.

Harlem

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

like all moves, it was not easy, until it was over, then it seemed easy… by comparison. It was the lead up to moving that was the long process ~ a mere six months. A lot longer than eleven years ago when Narda helped me move out of my home in Christies Beach, South Australia on a 41 C (that is over one-hundred Fahrenheit) day and it seemed I had no concept of de-cluttering @ the time.
View Larger Map

Eleven years later I know the concept but the reality has failed to integrate. Back in 2000 we just shoved it all in her father’s van and trailer and headed to Adelaide. Now after nine years in the States, the last three in Jersey City it was time to move on. We packed our main collectables and had a freight company pick them up a couple of weeks ago to ship to Dalian, China. I just received an e-mail that said we went over our 2500 pound agreement and now we need to pay $600 more. What??? our precious little collectables weigh more than 2500 pounds? “But dear they were just a few souvenirs I picked up along the way on our travels of the past decade

This particular move, once the 2500 pounds + memorabilia was ready to sail the ocean blue across the great Atlantic (as we wish to avoid the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) Was OK. We have rented our house in Jersey City to four chaps from India who say they will take good care of our home. They are in their 20s and computer people. Of course they will keep our home tidy. They may even have some mates come visit from India time to time – I suppose if 0001% of the 1,155,347,700 population over there are coming to visit that would be 11553 friends … oh dear!

We shoved every thing in the car including Brendan and me, dropped off the Comcast cable stuff and drove to our new apartment (for 17 days) in Harlem – a really nice place I might add. Once Narda met us we dragged our meager belongings (minus the 2500 pounds waiting its turn for hijacking off the coast of somewhere). Same day we sold the car, well we sold it two days before but the buyer needed to wait to get insurance, nerve (he has never owned a car before) and the what-nots so I was there for him later. OK he did not get all his bits and pieces on Tuesday so on Wednesday he fronted up with insurance papers, license plates and the what-nots of a proud first-owner-car owner. Of course he had not realised it was a stick shift (our almost new 1995 Honda Civic with some rust as proof we lived in the snowy northern parts of New York for years) and he had not really driven a whole lot, but he did have his driver’s license. SO I  drove the first leg of the journey of one of life’s great explorations (teaching someone to drive on a crowded Harlem street). “Be sure the clutch is in (this is the clutch) when you shift gears and slowly let out…” – I think that is what I said. I explained the speeds one should be at whilst in first, second and all those other gears. I showed reverse, the blinkers and said that Narda favours having the emergency brake on when stopping on a hill. Of course I never do, I mean what is that bloody clutch there for anyway? But knowing how horrified she gets with my hill stops and she is always right (she tells me that so it must be true) so I passed on some form, howbeit probably a bit abbreviated, of the etiquette of hill stops.

Then it was his turn, Tommy, the new car owner. Blimey! We lurched and ground and stopped suddenly and took off quickly and made darting turns down one-way streets (the other directional one-way) and I told him to ignore the cars beeping in their out-of-tune fashion (now there is a job for Narda; tune up the horns of NYC drivers so that they sound…. well, in-tune, I suppose) and just get comfortable with the driving experience.

Somehow we managed to get back to our new address in Harlem. I was so in shock that I muttered something about he was doing well and it is really a practice thing until driving becomes intuitive and I thanked someone I was still alive (I was so in shock it was probably god as there was no one else around) and collapsed on the bed of our new abode. Of course then I realised I had left our New Jersey license plates on the back seat and I would have to see Tommy again.  I texted him and he wrote back that he loved the car (which dispelled any lingering doubt whether there is some higher protective good force looking after the Tommys of the world) and of course it meant he got back home to his wife (she has never driven before) and their child (oh dear is the baby going to drive this car?) and that he would get the plates back. This is Thursday afternoon and I suppose I should ring and find out when these plates will arrive, but I am afraid he may have missed a turn or forgot my handbrake lesson and is at the bottom of the Hudson.

And that is this week’s move.

We get to explore this really groovy looking area of Harlem – 145th street and Saint Nicholas (the gift giving dude). I got to the local gym and of course everyone looks so much more fit than me and they play hip hop (well this is that kind of area) but I will look good by the time we leave in 16 more days, flying over to Australia with way too much stuff then on to China where hopefully some of our boxes float to shore.

home again

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Sacha asleep in the lounge and so is girl friend Georgia.

What a long trip this has been.

The last time Sacha and I were asleep in the same house in New York was in March of 1992. We were visiting my father and brother in Clifton Park. Mum had died several months earlier and the last time we were together with her was in 1984. It is a long way from Australia so the visits were not frequent. My brother Robert was dying of AIDS. We stayed in his upper east side apartment for a week before going to Clifton Park and staying with my father. He would come to visit us in October of that year, age 87. The boys and I rented a mobile home and with dad in tow we drove around Australia for a few weeks. Those were great times. Leigh was nine years old and talking about pitching for the New York Yankees. Sacha, now asleep in my lounge here on Albermarle Road, Brooklyn, was eleven and as worldly as an eleven year could be. We had already traveled together between Australia and New York a couple of times and we had ‘done’ France, Germany, Hawaii, California and New York along with too many places in Australia.

I just got back last night from Holland. Sacha and Georgia came over from Melbourne to stay at our apartment. I left for Tennessee the day after they got here for new step-son Chris Moreman’s wedding. Then three days later Narda and I were off to Holland for the parent’s 80th birthday celebration. That went for ten-days. If it weren’t for the in-laws there would only be Sacha and I left. Marrying Narda gave me three step-sons and a large family of sisters and parents and lots of relatives in Holland and in Australia. I have my own step-sister and step-brother who I have met once – in Hawaii – but outside of them there is no one left in the States for me.

Since Sacha and I prowled New York back in 1992, my father has died (last year 23 January – three weeks after I started a new teaching job at The Dwight School), Leigh – the tragedy I can not shake – killed himself soon after turning 20 – after achieving his goal to play professional baseball but there was something wrong with him that neither the LA Dodger’s psychiatrist could fix and I did not know about – he went to Sydney then left the world August 16th 2003. Brother Robert died in 1992 soon after our visit.

Now I have three days with Sacha before he and Georgia go to Thailand for a week then back to Melbourne. I get to see Sacha often, we spent a few days together last July and in August in Melbourne and I manage to see him each August since Leigh died but always in Australia. This will probably be our last time together ever in New York or even in the States. Sacha was born in Hawaii and then we moved to Australia soon after. I will see him this coming July-August in Melbourne and again on Christmas Day 2008 as we already have our ticket. It has become easier flying back and forth to the point that I do it about twice a year.

I miss seeing Leigh. I have no idea what the future holds and of course no one really does but as long as I have memory, Sacha’s visit this week to NYC will be one of my favorites. We have gone a long ways since the two boys and I lived together in South Australia (Hackham, Mt. Compass, Victor Harbor, Middleton – we lived in ten houses in ten years). I always thought that by this time I would be watching Leigh playing baseball but that died. I did get my PhD after seven years of too much work and sorrow and Sacha is an happy adult of 27. I have been married for six years and that has been good and has given me a connection to Holland and many other places. But I am still the same person of the 1980s that had great dreams and believed that my two children and I would have an incredible trot on this planet. We were so poor and our life was so rough but there was a good quality and depth to it. I enjoyed living and playing with my children in Australia with the great plan of us all living in the USA one day. Here I am living in NYC and Sacha is visiting. It is as close to my dream of the 1980s that I will ever come to.