Archive for the ‘China’ Category

walking into glass @ EARCOS

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

EARCOS TeachersConference 2013 Shanghai

Another conference now history another system of notes to integrate into my life another direction to life; all for the forward thrust of evolution for those who come next; the children so I am told. I have been to conferences. Mostly in New York (the best being NAIS’ ‘New York State Association of Independent Schools’ in Mohonk at the Mountain House – in New Paltz in the Catskills)  – and recently in Asia: Bangkok, Shanghai (twice), Shenzhen… well that is all. The Asian ones are quite different in that the term networking is overused and really means ‘is your school better than mine and if so can I get a job there?’ In Australia or the States with unions and accountability and ethics in schools conferences really are about listening to new information or in my situation as technology dude, learning about new programs. One learns about another person’s school not because they want to leave their current school post-haste but because they are genuinely interested in how another school runs, especially in their topic. I am always surprised at how many people are disgruntled with their school and it is always the same complaints which centre around administration. Stuff that would never happen overseas happens with reckless abandon in Asia where teachers report micromanaged lives to the point of dictatorship. I try to avoid the tales of woe and for the most part did.

This was a great conference for me for the very reason a conference should be great for anyone. I met three great dudes that are doing wonderful things with film – my new baby. The best, for me, workshops were the ones centred on film. Breen O’Reilly, from Beijing International School, and David Gran from Shanghai International presented Asia through film; http://asiathroughfilm.wikispaces.com/ The trick will be to find the same films with English subtitles – they exist because the clips that Breen and David showed had subtitles. What I will miss will be all their narratives about the films and the directors of them. One movie in particular will be my first target to find is “Mardi Gras: Made in China” (2005). The writer, David Redmon  wondered where the Mardi Gras doubloons came from – well we all know that don’t we? So he went and investigated and found a factory in China where they were made. The people at the factory had no idea who would want such things. I am really into this as I lived through several Mardi Gras in New Orleans and I have a large poster from 1978 –made by a friend and I have had this on my wall in many homes in many cities and three countries (Australia, China, USA) over the past 35 years. Here it is on my wall in Dalian, China.  mardgradladyresizedI collect things from my past – my wife says ‘hordes’ things from my past and yes I still have two of those made in China’ Mardi Gras coins – that I have in my wallet some 35 years later. Gosh.

doubloonsresized

Apparently ‘Made in China’ was made with one camera and done in imovie – the poster below is from Wikipedia

Mardi Gras: Made in China” (2005). by David Redmon
Mardi Gras: Made in China” (2005). by David Redmon

-http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/89/Made_In_China.jpg

David Gran introduced and showed clips from the EARCOS Shanghai Asia Film Festival http://www.shanghaifilmfest.org/. I was lucky to spend lots of time with him; Breen O’Reilly and Joshua Sternlicht at this conference which I hopefully will be able to work with in the future to kick start our film courses in Dalian American International School.

My synchronous moment of Saturday, the last day of the conference was sitting at a table with two others at a film workshop. One is from Albany NY – wife to David Gran and the other, Joshua Sternlicht, from Schenectady NY, the filmmaker now at the International School of Manila – two towns next to where I grew up – we all went to neighbouring schools – and we are all doing film at our schools; one teaching in Manila, one in Shanghai and me up north where it is still cold and we are going back to in a couple of hours. Maybe I should make a film of this… or is it just four planets in Aries now and Saturn in 13 Scorpio exactly square my Pluto/Saturn conjunction; a waxing square. And true enough projects I started on at my Saturn return seven years ago are changing now just like it is said in astrology. Yesterday I walked into a class door and almost knocked myself out – luckily I don’t believe in astrology or I would say there was linkage. Speaking of which, I was an astrologer for 40 years and even met my first wife on an astrological trip to New Zealand and Australia in 1980 – I was living in Baltimore at the time. I stopped astrology in 2003 due to events in my life (Leigh) but for whatever reason I downloaded the app ‘Celeste’ onto my iphone. It does a complete chart. This is something I wish I had back in the 1960s – 2000. I use to do charts all the time for everything but always using an ephemeris and by hand. This is so instant I can always know where everything is. Not that I care anymore but the planets positions for when I walked into a glass window really did explain it –every planets relationship to my natal chart said ‘you will walk into a glass window’ – damn. No wonder I don’t want to see this – especially after the fact.

a once were astrologer
a once were astrologer

Shenzhen for a weekend

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Shenzhen, China. iPad workshop at Shekou International School stayed at Fraser Place Apartments Beijing  visit to International School of Beijing (ISB); Dalian American International School

A few weeks past which is what happens when life is full to live and there is no time to pause and reflect – maybe today I can get back on track…

February 22 – 24

Shenzhen for a weekend a few weekends ago; other cities always look so great; Shenzhen is best. We had a two-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment for two nights with a balcony opening from each bedroom and the living room on the 15th floor with view of Hong Kong Harbour and Hong Kong.

Fraser Place Apartments Shekou. Shenzhen
Fraser Place Apartments Shekou. Shenzhen

In China it is not being where you have gone to but getting there that is the amazing experience. I am more surprised by the fact that we arrived at our destination in one-piece than anything else. Our taxi driver from the Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (深圳宝安国际机场; formerly named Shenzhen Huangtian Airport) not only drove at the highest speed his wobbly rusty cab could go, weaving in and out of traffic, beeping his horn the whole way – ‘out of my path got Westerners on board’ but he blinked his high-beam lights all the way.  We would get really close to someone’s bumper and he would flash his high-beam on and off and beep then swerve around them. Luckily for all of us it was only a 45 minute ride of terror. I suppose in my younger years instead of going to a theme park and riding a terrifying ride I would have just gone to China and grabbed a taxi for a death-defying thrill. We have only had one close accident – well every time getting in to a car in China is close to an accident – we had the bonnet or hood (depending which country you associate the front of the car with) come up and break the window but that one time the driver was actually going close to the speed limit and there was no one in front of us to smash into. We had our bit of a scrape last July on the interstate in Mississippi in the US of A when at 70 mph a truck sideswiped us sending us across a four lane busy highway see http://neuage.me/2013/02/01/a-piggly-wiggly-story/ but in China it is always like this driver is going to kill us. But as one would have suspected by now – he didn’t.

Traveling with Narda one realizes comfort is number one. Most places we seem to change rooms. In Hoain, Viet Nam we changed after one night, too close to the road, OK so the new apartment was a good place for a week. In Hanoi a couple of months ago we lasted one hour before Narda was at the front desk getting us a room change – forget why now.

Ming Hua ship in Shekou, Shenzhen
Ming Hua ship in Shekou, Shenzhen;

(In 1962 France launched a ship named Ancerville, which was purchased by the People’s Republic of China in 1973 and renamed Minghua. 10 years later the ship was permanently berthed at Shekou, Shenzhen, where she was refurbished and rebranded – this time as the hotel and entertainment complex, “Shekou Sea World. The Minghua was berthed at Sea World Plaza, the water which originally surrounded her has been reclaimed to allow construction of a golf course. The land reclamation continued southward, and today the coastline has been moved several hundred metres, leaving the Minghua completely landlocked.)

We arrived at the Frazier Centre at midnight and took a strong sleeping pill so nothing would disturb us, went to bed and damn it was a Chinese bed – might as well as sleep on the floor.  Once; on a weekend rafting trip, we took a pillow top mattress with us, rolled tightly and stored in the bus cargo area.  That was a worthwhile decision as the typical Chinese bed was rock hard.

I was tired enough to sleep on the floor if not the bed but Narda was already half out the door saying we needed to get a different room. Not to argue I opened the door and watched her rush off to the elevator.

Ten minutes later she returned; bellboy in tow carrying a large pillow top mattress; we did have a king size bed. Together they made up the bed which was a bit funny as Narda and I were feeling the effect of our sleeping pill, and we no surely most have appeared rather drunk. Nevertheless we woke the next morning, a good six hours later, with some I disturbed sleep behind us. As usual, Narda was right getting us more comfortable.

We got to Campus Village a couple of years ago at two AM where we still live, though of course we have moved apartments since then only to discover our bed was hard. Fortunately Nard saw a pillow top mattress in a storage room the very next day and soon the security guards were lugging it to our apartment. Since then we have purchased another mattress to add to it sows have a pretty good bed by now. Not that I Am suggesting a pattern here but that first week Narda moved her classroom too; understandable as the room assigned her was not really suitable. If only others would realize what I did years ago; she is often right and the best judge of what we should have so do it right from the get go and let the good times roll.

We had our weekend workshop at Shekhou International School in the Shekhou area of Shenzhen, a five minute walk from the Frazier Apartments with now a rather soft bed.

We were at an ipad work shop which is good in itself but we are a PC school and I was told not only would our school never have macs installed but that we would never have ipad support but here there are four of us keeping up with integrating technology in education despite administration. Because the most important basis to education is to provide tools for 21st century learning and at the present time the ipad is the best resource available to students. Many of our students use macs and iPads and instead of trying to hide from this fact I want to have the knowledge to support their learning which is why the other three teachers from our school were there.

Narda’s fellow music teacher uses his ipad in all his classes and so did our previous music teacher who left to teach at a progressive international school in the Middle East. Narda was reluctant to get an ipad but by the end of the weekend she loves it and will be making good use of it. I personally do not have a great desire for it as I make webpages, program with Flash and create videos and newscast which I use my laptop for and will for some time. At the moment I am writing this on my iPhone using Pages which Narda downloaded yesterday onto her ipad which downloaded to my phone as we share our apps account whilst flying.

Not sure why they have statues coming out of buildings but in Shenzhen they do.
Not sure why they have statues coming out of buildings but in Shenzhen they do.

OK a couple of weeks later and the iPad is in the drawer. We have given up trying to get Ted Talks with the Internet speed here; even leaving it on overnight does not produce results. But we will re-visit it soon.

March 01 – 02 Beijing visit to International School of Beijing (ISB)

The International School of Beijing (ISB) like  Shekou International School is a beautiful school. SIS has three campuses and we were at the elementary one whereas ISB is one large campus with 1700 or so students K – 12. I went to see the video/film program as I am putting together one at our school. Not much to say except it would be a great place to work. Beijing as always was quite polluted. I got the app for my iPhone ‘China Air Quality’ which was probably a bad idea as I am a bit obsessed with it keeping track of my local town of Dalian. Today Dalian is ‘slightly polluted’ at 106 and at the moment Beijing is 398 (‘very unhealthy, protection recommended). When I was there it was about 450 – choke choke, and there was a time last month when it was off the chart at close to a thousand. Shanghai, where we are spending next week is either 133 or 68. On this app there are two readings for most cities. One is from the US Consulate – 133 for Shanghai the other, 68, from the Chinese, so one can follow which ever. I tend to believe the Yanks – not sure why.

Shenzhen-sunset
Shenzhen-sunset

ISB is outside of downtown but the pollution is still evident. When I was there a soccer tournament was underway and I couldn’t help wonder why people would pay so much money to have their kids at a top school but where the air is so unhealthy and with them running around gasping for air and kicking balls.

I collected information on their film/video program but with them having about ten times the budget I have, even with a recent healthy grant to get some equipment, I will not be competing well in any film shows these next few years. They had a wall of trophies and plaques for competitions they have won in the Asia arena.

And that is it. Two great schools in two weeks and now when we go to Shanghai we will be at the EARCOS Conference at Concordia International School Shanghai.

Spent today planning trips for school break mid-June – first days of August; New York, Atlanta, maybe a week in Florida and three weeks in Australia. Just some more stuff to add to my travel pages; http://neuage.us/2013/

Encounter @ Encounter Bay ~ Victor @ Victor Harbor

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

There were always evolutionary steps, there always will be. Whether it is the biggies in evolution when sea-stuff such as fish clambered out of the sea, breathed some air, got a leg up, developed then lost enough intelligence to become reflective-questioning humans millions of years later or this current crop of folks tossing about within the evolution of love, parenting, making a stab at understanding the moment; there will be change. Every moment is the big-bang – with the unforeseeable consequences of not only enfoldment of that moment but the resultant climax of it, or the big crunch.

Encounter and Victor, what descriptive terms of not only life in general but of a particular patch of my own life; 1984 – 1995 I lived down south in the Fleurieu Peninsula in Victor Harbor also known as Victor which is part of the Encounter Coast. I even helped start a community radio station in 1991 call E-FM – Encounter FM. Look up why it is called the Encounter Coast – I am not getting Internet reception where I am writing this now because the motel I am staying at outside of Melbourne has large hills surrounding it and there is not a phone tower nearby to pick up through my phone. So what I remember about the Encounter Coast is that some white folks encountered some aboriginals in the area then I suppose killed them all as white people do with any native culture they first encounter. Maybe there is no point looking it up, it would just be depressing.

This is an unusual week; I could not have choreographed such synchronicity no matter how much I wanted to or past experiences I wanted to integrate. It is pointless to see how tomorrow can be anything more than a composite of today meshed with yesterday and spiced with times before.

I look for a perfect moment like a chef does with dessert or a programmer is able to smoothly watch a binary code dissolve imperfection in order to release a sensual video clip or smoothly disrupt someone’s cherished production. Evolution is hacking at its finest. We will hack the genetic code, we will hack the false concepts of God and her sticky dolls: Jesus, Mohammad. Zarathustra, Janis Joplin, Krishna, Buddha, Microsoft, Honda, Paris and all the other cream poofs that have tricked so many into believing, killing, and drooling in their name. Everything is sensual; everything except religion, spirituality and other mind-numbing fantasies. Breathing is the sexiest thing we can do; breathe in, exhale – unification, growth, immersion, the vital humour of a passionate organismic evolution.

It wasn’t always so. After waking one morning as a single parent with children aged less than one year old and two and a half living in Mt. Compass I was not sure if I would continue to inhale the prana of the south of South Australia. I was too far away from home, which I had lost track of where exactly it was though four years earlier I had been living in Hawaii and before that in New York, Maryland, New Orleans (here I am in the south coast of South Australia and it is February 12, 2013, Mardi Gras Day but I am 40 years too far away from there to reach and touch it even with my mind), and there was California, Kansas, Wyoming, Florida and many states that I was in many states in before waking one morning with two children here in the south of the south.

We are here now. Last week we were in northern China and the afternoon we left it was -15C. It is in the 30s here – 30+ Centigrade not Fahrenheit like I use to think in. Nothing is like the way I use to think. That is the thing with ageing, our thinking changes; perhaps evolution is really a change in our thinking and when people don’t change then we don’t evolve; lessons aren’t learnt, innovations stagnate and business is unable to put us all into debt buying new electronic devices all the time.

Besides the point…

It is Chinese New Year week – something to do with a full lunar moon. Whatever it is we got here through a Chinese-Miracle – see the previous blog http://neuage.us/BLOGS/35-A-Chinese-miracle.html.

We: Narda + 3 sons (one here from Hanoi, another from Atlanta, Georgia , one from Adelaide), a granddaughter, couple of wives and me or seeing it as another format: seven adults and a bit are spending four days, three nights at a large house we rented in Pt. Elliot. 4 Stock Street and what a good place it is; four bedroom, three bathe with a large yard and view to the sea.

4 Stock Street, Pt. Elliot, South Australia
4 Stock Street, Pt. Elliot, South Australia

When we lived in the area: Pt. Elliot for six months, Middleton for a year, both houses along the coast and after that we; the boys and me, lived in Victor Harbor a block from the sea for several years and then in another area in Victor, our lot in life was not that good; nine homes in ten years and too many schools; 1985 – 1995. A couple of years at Mt. Compass Area School, a couple at Pt. Elliot Primary, a couple at Victor Harbor Primary and even awhile at Meadows because my tofu factory (http://tofu.neuage.us) was there, all before middles school. I may have been the stereotypical single parent, male-single-parent at that. I even moved my tofu factory four times in seven years. Maybe it is me that is so unsettled. Since I left my home in upstate New York in 1965 I have had more than fifty homes in multiple countries and states and provinces.

I look at where we are staying now and it is so far from when I lived here twenty years ago.

1988-middleton

There were a couple of years we did not have a car, which is difficult when living an hour from Adelaide. I walked a lot and would send my children on a bus to Adelaide the weekends that their mother would take them. I lost my tofu business in 1988 which was devastating after seven years of hard work but tofu was not a real goer in the 1980s. Now, in China, I buy a large block of firm tofu for about four-RMB which is like 70 cents. I use to sell the same size block of tofu for a buck back in the early 1980s. So I lost my tofu business and car and we lived pretty much in poverty along a beautiful coast.

Below, 1989 – the arrow points to our house on the seashore; Sacha and Leigh ages eight and six and Puppy walking to the main road to catch a bus to school at Pt. Elliot Primary.

1990Middleton_schoolbus

In 1990, realizing my life was shit; I started university through distance education at Deakin University in Melbourne. It is the only thing in my life that I became constant at; 15 years non-stop: BA in journalism, honours in children literature, Masters in literature then seven years doing my PhD at the University of South Australia, proving that even a drop-kick can re-invent their life at 44 and get their act together, together, according to Western evolutionary standards. Now I even have fifteen years of teaching accomplished including teaching at four universities in two countries and teaching in every grade K-12 in six schools in three countries. But when I lived in Pt. Elliot my life looked quite hopeless.

Leigh (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) started baseball in Pt. Elliot in 1988, he was five and we had a baseball, a bat and a glove. My oldest, Sacha, was not quite so interested in baseball, he was seven and a half. We had moved to Victor Harbor by the time Leigh played his first organized baseball – tee-ball. Sacha played too. Leigh was seven or maybe eight. He started little league when he was about ten – we were still in Victor. By the time he got into serious baseball we moved closer to the city; Hackham then Christies Beach. He kept getting better. We had spent hours a day on his baseball since he was five. He started representing South Australia then Australia. He played in World Series, firstly at age 14 in the Under 14 World Series in the States, and under 16s in South Africa and under 18s in Canada and in the World Cup in Taiwan. He was in so many teams and was even South Australia junior sports person of the year when the, at the time, world’s number one tennis player, Lleyton Hewitt, was the senior sports person of the year. We did fund raisers and even went to the welfare group, The Smith Family, for funds to pay for trips. I studied and kept getting degrees, Sacha worked on his hip hop, and graffiti – with lots of court appearances at the Victor Harbor court to verify his emerging skills and life seemed it was going well. I had met Narda in 2001 and we got married and moved to New York where I started to teach at the State University of New York and Narda at the Albany Academy for Girls and I was completing my PhD. Sacha was in Melbourne actually making money doing spray art murals for the council and working in a youth centre running drop-in hip hop workshops for street kids. He is still doing that now in 2013; along with working with asylum seekers.

At age 17, in the year 2000, Leigh signed with the LA Dodgers, and went off to Dodgertown, in Vero Beach, Florida. In 2003 Narda and I were in Adelaide for a summer (winter in Australia). The last I knew about Leigh was that he was doing well; I had his rookie card, something amazing considering our difficult life in Pt. Elliot and in South Australia in general, he had played a year for the Georgia Waves in the minor leagues and there was talk from the Dodgers that he was going to get moved up.

Leigh-Advertiser_memorialI saw in the Adelaide Advertiser today that only six Australians had ever made it to the major leagues in baseball in the States. Ten years ago Leigh was on track to be another Australian in the majors.

August 16, 2003, I was in my office at the University of South Australia, well a temporary office that I used for July and August to put the finishing touches on my PhD thesis. We were due to leave for the States the next day in order to get ourselves back to work. Narda came in and put her arms around me and said “Leigh is dead”. Ten years later I still hear those words. He was having difficulty with his girlfriend who was in Sydney in the finals of one of those Australian pop idols things and Leigh left the Dodgers, flew to Sydney and went off his 15 story hotel balcony. I wrote this all extensively long ago in a book I wrote for my children; “Leaving Australia” and have no intentions of ever writing it all up again.

I am not sure why the mother’s name got into the newspaper as she had almost nothing to do with Leigh’s life and surely nothing to do with Leigh’s baseball except fight me in court every time he wanted to go overseas to play. I had to get a court order every single time he left Australia or even South Australia when he was 14 and 15.

00~news

I do not feel bad that where I am staying now I could never do with my children, I was just unable to provide luxury or extras for them. We had a really rough time in South Australia, but there were times of real happiness here in Pt. Elliot and in Victor. We even got to get out of Australia a couple of times though I had to get court orders to take them both times. My parents paid for us to come to New York in 1985; traveling with a two year old and a five year old is a challenge but we made it there and back and I have wonderful memories though my children would have been too young. In 1992 we did the trip again, they were 11 and nine and we had a hoot; stayed with a friend from my 1960s hippie days in Hawaii, visited my father in New York, met my blood sister who I had just found a few years earlier, visited friends in Los Angeles and Baltimore and stayed with my brother in New York City and hung out with him which was good as he died from AIDS a few months after our visit.

Sacha and Leigh at Jim Morrison’s grave Pere-Lachaise Cemetery Paris 1992
Driving around Queensland and Australia in our happy home on wheels

We went to London and Paris and travelled through Germany, went back to New York and on to Australia. Poverty is fine when someone else is footing the bills for traveling experiences. My father came to visit us at the age of 87; my adopted father who went on to live until 102, my mother died long before. Actually two mothers; the first died when she was 40 in the early 1970s but I never knew her and my adopted mother in 1990 or so – I forget the exact date. So many people around me die I forget when they do it. When my father came to visit we collected him at the Sydney Airport, rented a large camper van and my father two sons and me drove up to the Gold Coast, Brisbane, on over to Broken Hill and down to Victor Harbor – took us a couple of weeks. Overall it is still a great memory though at times the three of them pissed me off. They would all complain over something or the other; an 87 year old and a nine and eleven year old. I of course did all the driving, cooking and trying to keep everyone happy. My father paid the cash for the experience and that was good.

Sacha and Leigh at Jim Morrison’s grave Pere-Lachaise Cemetery Paris 1992
Sacha and Leigh at Jim Morrison’s grave Pere-Lachaise Cemetery Paris 1992

Today I saw two of my friends, and considering I have about five friends worldwide, to see two in one day is quite the odds. Sandy and his wife visited this morning. Sandy was a single parent in Victor too. We started a radio station; Encounter FM, in 1991 and that went well for a while until the local Christians took over and booted us out. And Don Cannon my photography friend took me to a photography meeting in Goowla which is down the road a bit from here.

I have lived in a lot of places since the Encounter Coast days twenty years ago. Driving between Pt. Elliot and Victor today I felt at home. I do not feel at home anywhere; New Orleans was a great re-visit last summer after having had such a good life there 40 years ago but it did not feel like home, neither has Adelaide, upstate New York where I grew up or even our living in New York City for five years before moving to China even though I lived there quite often in the 1960s and 1970s. I have two passports so I am not even a one country person but I did feel at home driving along the Encounter Coast. I could not live there again, too many memories, but for a few days I just chose the best of those memories and enjoyed my encounter and feeling like a victor over my Victor Harbor past.

Now, February 15, two days after being on the Encounter Coast living in the past I am with Sacha in Melbourne; holy cow he is 32; how did that happen? I drove around in his BMW sports car, what a yuppie. Where did I fail? But he is happy with his hip hop stuff, piecing (legally) and getting paid for it, working with asylum seekers, telling me about his next set of tattoos he is getting. I really do not like tattoos but I am not saying anything.

Evolution! Take me back when I was living along the Encounter Coast dreaming of a great future with my children. Tomorrow I am back to freezing northern China. I love the warm days here in Australia but in reality I cannot keep up with Sacha’s fast paced life style. I keep thinking about taking a nap and then we are off again. He said last night he and his girlfriend were going to bed early so we could leave early to go out to the country. At 12:30 – thirty minutes past midnight, three hours past my normal bed time they went off to bed saying we had to get up early which turned out to be ten am. Evolution? Not for me – I am going to regress and get caught up on sleep. Oh wait I can’t. Tomorrow we return to China and the next morning we are at work. Damn.

Below, Horseshow Bay at Pt. Elliot and below that The Bluff at Victor Harbor.

Horseshoe Bay, Middleton
Horseshoe Bay, Middleton

Victor Harbor.

Below, Leigh age 9 and Sacha age 11 at our E-FM (Encounter FM) radio station in a small caravan in

Leigh and Sacha on Encounter FM - a community radio station I helped start in Victor Harbor in 1971
Leigh and Sacha on Encounter FM – a community radio station I helped start in Victor Harbor in 1971

Victor Harbor, 1992.

the Bluff, Victor Harbor
the Bluff, Victor Harbor

The railroad station at Victor Harbor
The railroad station at Victor Harbor

Australia's first railroad station was in Pt. Elliot
Australia’s first railroad station was in Pt. Elliot

A Chinese miracle

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

A Chinese miracle

airport

Just to prove that miracles are not the sole (soul) domain of the Western religious-philosophers-‘we-are-the-chosen’ we discovered that even in China miracles do occur. I am defining miracle as that which is outside the ‘normal’ realm of our flitterings through life; those events that happen with some possible intervention beyond some dim bats occasional form of self-interpreted helpfulness. I grew up (really I did) with the notion that according to the Methodists anyway that China’s communist darkness would never allow in a sliver of light that would guide a couple of lost Westerns who were not lost until the Chinese directed them toward a path that could have led directly to disaster – disaster in the sense of experience deprivation of wanted experience, not a disaster of impending doom.

OK! The story.

We left Campus Village all excited about getting our sorry asses to Adelaide in time for Narda’s sons and one of their 30th birthday parties; one son flying in from Atlanta, Georgia, one from Hanoi and birthday boy at home in the Adelaide Hills with granddaughter in tow; and us popping in from China just for a party. We booked our flight six months in advance knowing that everything would be booked for Chinese New Years. We got to Dalian Airport three hours in advanced knowing how they have a tendency to stuff things up. We had gotten an email the night before saying our flight was on-time and wishing us a great journey or ever what they say, in Chinese. At the China Southern counter, ‘flight canceled’! After recovering from the shock of that news we were informed that another flight to Guangzhou was leaving in a few hours, which of course would be too late to hop onto our flight to Melbourne.

These are the same people, I am sure, at least it is the same airline, who lost our Piggly Wiggly umbrella – see the previous post http://neuage.me/2013/02/01/a-piggly-wiggly-story/ after it made the journey from Atlanta, Georgia to NYC to Melbourne > Adelaide > back to Melbourne to Guangzhou – then somewhere between Guangzhou and Dalian China Southern managed to lose it – the umbrella.

After finding someone with some English to understand that we could not miss our flight to Melbourne they said they could fly us to Shanghai then put us on another airline, China Eastern – which we hate, but we had to get to Melbourne by the next afternoon to continue our flight on to Adelaide to get to Narda’s son’s birthday party in the Adelaide Hills. We had even taken two days off from work without pay to do this. Plus Narda surely wanted to be at her granddaughter’s christening – which a fellow worker wondered how we got two days leave to attend a pagan festival – which is Sunday. We had to get to Australia.

We got ourselves OK to Shanghai and ran through the airport dragging too much crap as we do, getting into line – body blocking aggressive Chinese passengers trying to pass us in the queue and collapsed in front of the ticket counter as we tossed out suitcases of too much crap onto the weighing machine. ‘Flight full – no seats, take your bags off’. Holy guacamole – did they really say that? We told them about China Southern saying we could switch airlines – we had our vouchers but they said to go and wait at the standby counter. Narda was fighting back tears, I was trying to keep us from annihilation, and the crowding people around us all looked like enemy foo fighters – whatever that is.

At the standby counter they said the flight was overbooked and already full. Narda said we had to get on the flight to get to Adelaide for her son’s wedding. Me, never being good as a spy or secretive person said whose wedding, which of course upset Narda all the more because I am a bit of an idiot in these situations.

They said we would be moved to the top two if any seats were opened which would only happen if there were two no-shows, the chances we none to slim. We looked at the options which would be to try and get to Guangzhou the next day and hope we could get onto the next night’s flight which too was booked full and we would miss Narda’s party which was the whole idea of this trip we had planned for months.

At 7:30 the flight was closed and at 7:32 we got the call to the desk with a simple ‘passports’ and that was it. We quickly got our suitcase onto the conveyor belt and got our boarding pass plus a sticker to put on our clothes that indicated that we were to rush through lines like customs and passport control and all those other things the Chinese like to check us out with. These things always tax me – running through airports with camera bag, computer bag, things falling out of my pocket – it is easier for Narda – she is organized with stuff in one bag, and she is seven and a half years younger than me and I get out of breath trying to keep up with her but of course what man could keep up with such a vibrant chick on a very focused mission of seeing her sons within 24 hours? Puffing and panting, waving off potential heart-attacks, leg cramps, a very real stomach ache, and head ache I followed her through the VIP lines and somehow we got to the gate panting and puffing to find the flight was delayed by an hour.

We use to fly through Shanghai on China Eastern as part of round-the-world fares with Star Alliance and every time, this would be at least four if not five times, the flight from Shanghai to Melbourne was hours late. Now our concern was the flight Melbourne to Adelaide which Narda said left Melbourne at 11:30 AM and we were due to arrive at 11 AM the next day. Thirty minutes to get through baggage, customs and get our boarding pass at Qantas domestic which is a long hike from the international terminal

Bottom line was that we were on a plane finally though 20 rows apart but at least on the same plane. I told the first hostess that I saw about our changed flights and that I had to have vegetarian. Two reasons for that is that one I am a vegetarian two even Narda orders vegetarian because the meat meals on Asian airlines are shockingly horrible and taste worse – so I am informed. I was told there were no vegetarian meals but she would check first class and lucky there was. I asked to trade my economy seat for a first class meal to a first class seat but her English was not good enough to understand my request, or else she thought I was not funny, or possibly just stupid, nevertheless, I did get a good meal for din din and again for brekky.

We got to Melbourne at 11ish and the impossible task of getting the next flight loomed. We discovered the best thing about being the last onto the plane meant our luggage was the first down the chute at the end of the trip. ‘The last shall be first’ of my Methodist upbringing was actually realistic. Now I wish I had listened to more of their fairy stories. Whilst waiting for the baggage we changed over some 26,000 RMB that we had stored away and got about $3700 Australian for it, a bad deal by hundreds but we were not fretting now. It was good to have some real currency again. The passport line was long as several flights arrived in Melbourne at the same time. For the first time ever we tried using the kiosk for checking in with our passports because we had the new ones with electronic chips in them and it worked saving us another long line. At baggage inspection the line was incredibly long and Narda pleaded with some official type and we got sent through a very short line and no one checked our bags which is very unusual coming into Australia we had saved about 45 minutes so far but we only had 15 minutes to get to the gate so again we ran through the airport panting and puffing and collapsing at the counter pleading to get onto the plane leaving at 11:30, it was now 11:15. The counter person said there was no 11:30 flight that in fact our flight left at 12:10 so for the first time since leaving Campus Village 24 non-sleeping hours earlier we actually had enough time to walk to the gate and sit and wait.

So that is our miracle.

Arriving in Adelaide Narda’s three sons, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter were all waiting… of course Maggie burst in to tears – probably not of joy – of seeing us. Ooops

_DSC0539

But she made good a few moments later for a good family photo

_DSC0517

And we got to Stu’s birthday party, worse for wear, and even stayed until about 11 PM last night. Now, the next day, Saturday, we are booking my flight to Melbourne next Thursday for me to see my son, Sacha and his partner, Georgia, for a couple of days before going back next Saturday to arrive Sunday night in time to be at work Monday morning. And tomorrow Narda and sons are all excited about baby Maggie’s christening.

A fun week we will have next week. We have rented a sea side place for Narda’s three sons and a couple of wives, granddaughter and us for four days; Pt. Elliot, which is where I use to live with my two sons back in the 1980s when I was a single parent wondering what would become of my life. And now I know thirty years later, married, living in China with one son left to share it with and my new great family.

In general I must say life is good.

china again

Friday, January 4th, 2013

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?
_DSC4726
_DSC4145

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.

_DSC4741

china again

Friday, January 4th, 2013

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?
_DSC4726
_DSC4145

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.

_DSC4741

rambling weekends

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012  More at http://dalian.neuage.us/videos/Boee_Brilliant_Villas_.Hill.html

photo album for this is at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/photos/

Last Sunday we changed our day around – I suppose if it was my classroom we could say it was the flipped classroom model but I am not going to equate a day of leisure with an academic day. Not that every day is anything but learning; life the classroom and all that crap, but a flipped something is not the same as a non-flipped something.

Now that we got that out of the way and yes I do sometimes do the flipped classroom approach when it is suitable which in China is not always possible because students cannot use youtube or participate in western social sites due to the great firewall of China.

Instead of going out in the afternoon; we tend to spend the morning on the Internet doing books, keeping up with family, and Facebook, and other schools – are they offering a better package for next year, is it more interesting than living in the part of China that is more Ikea than historic China; for example, Myanmar (Burma) really has our eye at the moment and of course who would not want to live in and teach in India?

I had my first Skype session with Canyon H.S. School in Bhopal, India doing an ISA (British Council  International School Awards) project “Festivals and Aborigines”  with my Broadcast Publication class last week. It took a bit of effort and time to understand each other, us their accent and them ours (I have Korean, Chinese, Trinidad, and American students), our Skype connection went down as well as the whole Internet a few times but overall it was really successful and students from both schools were really excited. I am starting a unit I am calling “Foreign Correspondent” with the longer term plan of having our students do a collaborative documentary which will really test our technology as well as my planning and implementation skills.

Damn! Talking about work again…

So we headed out on our bikes at 9 AM last Saturday; we were going to do the same today but already it is eleven AM, we are still in our pajamas, on-line, and I want to ride our bikes to the Jinshitan Port – which we have never been to and no doubt is just a small fishing port or kelp port, but I want to go nevertheless. But it is cold and windy outside so no doubt we will take the # 1 bus from the light rail station, if how I am reading the map is correct. Then again we may spend the day indoors which is not my ideal. Yesterday, Saturday, Narda went to an orphanage in Dalian City – all babies and the oldest I think was in the two year old range. She went with a group of teachers. Apparently it was all heart-wrenching. These are children that are left for whatever reason; the one baby policy of China or because they are deformed and etc. Teachers volunteer to go just to hold the babies and have a bit of play because they are stuck in their cribs all the time otherwise. We brought up the ideas of students visiting in our middle school assembly last week asking if any students would want to spend a Saturday morning at the orphanage – and I was extremely surprised when every single student in grades 6 – 8 stood up. My day yesterday was not so altruistic as I spent nine hours at school working on standard based lessons – something everyone at school is so opposed to, but again I am not talking about work now.

Near us is yet another huge apartment development, Boee Brilliant Villas Hill. We tromped in with cameras in hand and viewed the first smaller apartment that they were selling for 7 and a half million RMB, about one and a quarter million dollars US. See our video of this exploration at http://youtu.be/gQ0Noz1pF_c  Or other related blogs at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/

The outside is quite nice –


Boee Brilliant Villas Hill six months from an empty lot to this


The child’s loo – upstairs – spa bath, stone garden – part of what one gets for 20-million RMB


The child’s bedroom – no wonder they have only one child who could afford more?

We saw two apartments the one above on the right was 20 million RMB or about three-million US. Going along with the one child stuff of China it had a spa bath and little glass garden in the child’s room as well as two walk in closets and a study.The picture on the left above is the kid’s bath with spa and stone garden and on the right is the parent’s room – through the window they can see how us lowly teachers live in campus Village off next to the hills straight through the window.

We wandered on to the new city being built down the road – Xiaoyaowan (an earlier video I made of this is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-drgVo45WWs&feature=share&list=UUzGrI_yggI56Gpp2ZyNQAXw) and drove along the three and four lane empty roads leading to huge holes which I suppose will be for a river they are putting in and bridges and skyscrapers. I made a clip of the day and put it on youtube at http://youtu.be/NyME0iqSMhs.

In the distance is the end of the bridge which is not built that will go over the new river.

Narda at the first part of a large bridge to be built over a river that will be put in soon?

The infrastructure is in place – large highways to large holes in the ground.

This is what is happening to the old village to make room for Xiaoyaowan.

The future mega city or a part of Dalian – who knows?


What it will look like they think, in a few years – now just empty holes.Well here it is 8 pm – we ended up going into Dalian and eating at Tapas Spanish restaurant which is a couple of blocks past the Korean Market  which is great – I had ‘berenjenas gratin adas’ (grilled eggplant), and ‘cremade espinacasy esparragos’ (spinach and asparagus cream).

We had a driver – one of Jack’s mates takes us in and wait for us to eat and go to the Korean Market to get a winter coat that Narda wanted me to get – one of those hundreds of dollars coats that one gets cheap. Narda had the coat go from 450 RMB down to 250 meaning about $35 US.  All in all as a last minute thought it was a five hour round-trip including dinner and getting my coat when all I really wanted to do was write some blogs for the day.

A lot more to say but I will ramble on next time…

Yantai days 2 – 4

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Tuesday, October 02, 2012 Yantai, China

We woke with the notion that Yantai is a doable town and booked another night at the Golden Gulf Hotel , here in the Yantaishan Scenic Area; went to the Yantai Port Huanhai Lu Passenger Transport Station, which is called the Bohai Train Ferry and got our selves a soft-sleeper, first class which we are told is eight people in a room for the six hour trip back to Dalian on Friday. Not sure what eight people, bunk beds we are told, will be like to hang with when six of the people will be speaking in tongues or something that we will not understand. The ferry – see below – leaves at nine am and rocks up in Dalian at three pm. The headlines for today’s paper were that 37 died in a ferry accident yesterday in Hong Kong, so we are excited.  Of course we hope we get on the correct ferry as one of them goes to Korea, a 22 hour trip.


After another big buffet breakfast at the Golden Gulf Hotel we grabbed the # 17 goes along the Binhai Road that follows the shore,  see our youtube video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyTNEHI6XVg&feature=plcp   Our hotel is right on the gulf with this great view

The bus took an hour from when we got on until it came to a place of six other parked double decker buses like itself. We were fortunate to get a seat upstairs in the front, at least to the end, so I could get some video from a good spot. When we got to where it parked, which I think was a university we could not find anyone that could communicate in any of the languages that we spoke (Australian, American, British, and Dutch for Narda) so we stood in front of the buses for what seemed to us a very long time until suddenly a guy started an engine and we tried to be the first on as we had waited the longest but some kid beat us with her parents and we did not get the seat in front on the top level, but never the less we had a good seat until I wanted to get off to some overly lit building at the end of a pier. Narda wanted to keep going but I had not had my way for more than an hour so we went to the end of the pier and it turned out to be a large shell house full of shells. Shells are the biggest tourist selling thing here. Every shop sells shells and they are as tacky looking as a bunch of shells stuck together can be.

The next # 17 bus was so incredibly crowded as most transports devices in China are. We ended up standing in the middle of the downstairs of the bus and amazed as we could be the bus would stop at each stop and another group would squeeze on. In China people rarely get aggro about pushing and shoving – huge traffic jams or over crowded buses and trains – everyone just goes along with it.

We found two places with decent meals that we could eat; one I forgot to write down the name of and the other is behind our hotel in the Hutton area; Druid’s Irish Pub which is a bit pricey but the food is Western. They have special nights with Wednesday being two-for-one night which we did not do because all the mains were meaty and I only eat stuff that is not dead meat. I had a tasty cauliflower soup and vegetarian spring rolls which were very good and some mushroom dish. Narda had something with dead meat in it. Thursday night was half price pizza night which is always good as cheese is not used in Chinese cookery and we needed to clog up our arteries again.

Our local hood – another Hutton – most of these one story areas have been knocked down for new high rise buildings as China, not satisfied with their destruction during the glorious Mao Cultural Revolution days is hell bent on destroying every bit of culture that remains to put up huge buildings – most of which are empty – look on Google to see the many sites for China’s Ghost Cities.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Taking the number six bus and exploring a winery…

Yantai Hill top

We toured some writer chick’s house, Lin Bingxiu – famous for writing in Chinese, and one photo that took my fancy was this of her as a child with her grandfather and his concubine.


Before going on the number 6 bus we went to the Changyu Wine Museum where Narda made new friends. Actually we sort of crashed a group’s drinking parky. We were wandering about the cellar of the winery and saw lots of people laughing and having a good time so Narda being Narda sat right in the middle of them and soon they were passing her glasses of wine and everyone was getting in a photo with her. At first they looked a bit upset but it was not long before they accepted this Western Wine Drinking Crasher.This shows in the youtube video clip.

 



Continuing with our random bus rides we took the number 6 from near our hotel and when we got quite hungry we got off found a place to eat had some pancake with veggies type of caper then Narda decided she wanted a haircut and that turned out well for a couple of dollars US and of course she had been wanted a foot massage for the past couple of days so we went into a place next to the haircutting place somewhere on the random number six bus ride – because buses in China are 1 yuan which is about 15 cents US we often hop on and hop off – we got a good hour of foot and neck massage. We even got cupping on our feet which is a first. I had a sore back for the next day so I think the young girl was not fully qualified to crack my back – ouch… but the foot massage was great and all for 45 yuan – a bit over seven dollars. The picture below is not a Chinese abortion on a male. It is preparing my feet for the cupping process. Needles to say I was concerned with this scantly dressed female going toward me with a flaming torch.

Narda’s feet with the cups –


Thursday, October 04, 2012

We did the number 43 bus today – taking it from the starting point which is next to our hotel. We read that there was a shopping area and we wanted to find something traditional. I wanted to find fridge magnets; I have been collecting them from each city we stay in over the past ten years and the side of our fridge is fully covered with about a hundred of them. I had no luck but we did have the bus driver drop us off at the Zhenhua Shopping Centre. It was just a regular lots of oversize stores with Western goods but on the side where we got off the bus down the first alley to the right we came across a five story more local shopping area but it was just mainly shoes.  There are a huge number of shoe stores in China but I suppose with more than one-billion people and two-billion feet, shoes are something that are needed. As there was nothing different than any other Chinese local shopping mall we snooped then left. However, I found some good ideas for shirts and took photos and will give them to our clothes maker back at the school. He has made me six vests as well as a couple of suit coats all for very good prices and well done.

Prices of clothes in China are quite high. I have no idea how the locals shop. The last few shirts I bought in the States on sale for like between five and ten dollars and the same ones here are 40 – 60 dollars.

As usual we had people stop and stare at us. This is something I never understand. We are just a couple of old-Western people, me with overgrown tangled hair and Narda looking like Narda. Maybe she is tall being five foot eleven and I am an average six foot two both of us a bit taller than others. Maybe we are the pink devils they heard about in their childhood. Whatever the case people stop and stare; sometimes laugh and sometimes asking to have a photo taken with us. Today I felt particularly self-conscious when I was standing in the middle of a department store and Narda had gone off to find the loo – I looked up and from every direction there were people looking at me, some laughing, and some just staring like I was an alien. Yantai is the most Chinese city we have been in and we saw one Westerner this week at our hotel, a large five (more like a Western 3.5 star) star hotel in a prime location. Prime Minister Bob Hawke has stayed here as well as many other leaders so we are not sure why people stop and stare. I reckon if anyone finds enough words to ask me in English – or Narda in Dutch, who we are I will say I am a famous singer from New York; Terrell from the Terrells, “will you still love me tomorrow?” Blimey, I get confused.

The below shot is typical of what happens; people stop and want to be in a photo with us. This one time we asked the people who were all taking photos of being with us to take a photo on our camera too. This was on the six-hour ferry back to Dalian – see the next blog – Dalian Ferry, also, a youtube ferry – “Yantai to Dalian Ferry”. We probably end up in someone’s Chinese equivalent to Facebook. This has happened almost in every place we have been. I am going to get a tee-shirt made that says “Terrell of the Terrells”. Really look at this photo; how incredibly boring and normal we look.


But what we did find was the best spot since we have been here and one of the better ones in china. If you go over the overpass (there is only one) through the main store or up the side street toward Yantai Yuhuangding Hospital 20 Yuhuangdingdong Road, Zhifu District keep going up the hill. A side note about this hospital – there have been, according to the website; http://en.minghui.org, “Numerous Kidney Transplants in Yuhuangding Hospital, Yantai City, Live Donors Found within Days”…  (Clearwisdom.net) After the CCP’s practice of organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners and cremating their bodies to destroy the evidence was exposed, the Falun Dafa Association and the Minghui/Clearwisdom website formed the “Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG)” on April 4, 2006 and began comprehensively collecting information and clues… showed that there were between one hundred and sixty and one hundred and seventy kidney transplant surgeries performed over a one-year period.”   This has been in the news since the mayor of Dalian’s wife was busted for killing off the Brit dude that was in the news lately and he is reported to be the one who set up prison camps to get these meditators and to use their bodies – many, which according to much on the Internet were used in those body exhibitions touring the world. But I am not political and this is not the aim of my blogs.

So when you get to the Chefoo district and past this glorious hospital going up Yuhuangdingdong Road – up the hill was an amazing little find. We were tired from walking so much and shopping – not that we bought anything – that we were looking for a place to sit down and have our ice coffee and we saw some trees at the top of the hill and headed for there which turned out to be an incredibly beautiful park, YuhuangdingPark, named after Yuhuang Temple, with lots of Buddhist re-built type of buildings. It is also behind Walmart if you end up in such a place.

According to the signs the Yuhuang Temple was first built in the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368) and expanded and renovated in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The layout of the temple is quite formal, of course that is until Mao and his Culture Revolution knocked everything down. Thankfully they are rebuilding this place and it is well worth the visit. We took the number 43 bus because that bus starts at our hotel but you can take bus No. 7, 3, and 41 from other parts of Yantai.

Note in the sign below the destruction years – good on ya Mao and your 1966 stuff… “The movement paralyzed China politically and significantly affected the country economically and socially. The Revolution was launched in May 1966.”

I like the statues of the various years of animals – me being born in the year of the pig – and of course I am not going to eat meat. Narda is the horse. Sacha is the monkey. Not quite sure why people think praying to an animal is going to get them anything. Leaving fruit in front of statues always seems strange too – who eats it at the end? Then again all religious beliefs mystify me and why people believe in anything that does not exist but it is what humans do- good on them.



I was most interested in Passion Square and though I am not sure whether I found it I think I have philosophically and that is what counts.


Ferry from Yantai to Dalian

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Ferry from Yantai to Dalian

Youtube clip at http://youtu.be/gcx5Ll4V0iY

Yantai is a coastal city on the Bohai Sea in Shandong province. It’s located in the northeast of China near Qingdao and Dalian. Total population is about 6.5 million people. Yantai port is located in Zhifu Bay overlooking Liaodong Peninsula across the sea. The Yantai Port Passenger Transport Station is at No.155 Beima Road.

Ferry from Yantai to Dalian is advertised as six but it took seven hours. It is quite basic. Not finding anything on Google or Youtube that would tell us about it we chose the 8 berth room – they also have six and state rooms. I was able to use the electricity to use my computer and the room full of Chinese was fine except for some loud snoring. Walking around the ferry is good. Well worth the ride taking the day trip. We left at 9 AM and got to Dalian at 4 PM. The 8 berth was 210 Yuan about $35 US. We got a taxi for 7 yuna – a bit more than a US buck from our hotel, The Golden Gulf Hotel. In Dalian it was chaos and impossible to get a taxi to figure out what we wanted so we hoped the first bus which eventually got us to the light rail which we took home.

The people were friendly and as usual there was always someone wanted to get into a photo with us;

We spent a lot of time on the upper deck – on a clear calm day in October.

The ferry terminal in Yantai.


Back in Dalian it was total chaos getting off the boat. We were herded onto a bus which ended at the Dalian International Passenger Terminal. We wanted to go to Metro to get groceries but no one could understand what we wanted so we got on the first city bus we saw. It wove around the city and we could not get a grip on where we were. We forget what a big city this is – only 6.5 million but it is so spread out and every time we go to Dalian we find new areas. Eventually we saw the train station and walked to that. After the quiet city of Yantai being packed amongst so many people was quite trying. We did get to the light rail and eventually got a seat and home by 6.30 pm. Campus Village is our home – we forget this. With the café open and we could just order a meal sent up to our apartment it all becomes so easy. I doubt we would do this ferry ride again. The toilets were shocking and the room was really crowded with four bunk beds. Narda did fall to sleep and I spent about five hours putting together photos and five videos to post on youtube.


Today is Saturday and believe it or not I am looking forward to getting back to school and the routines there.

Next trip is in ten weeks to Viet Nam for three weeks for winter break, then to Australia in February for Chinese New Years.

to Yantai China on OK Airlines

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Monday, October 01, 2012 Dalian Airport

I am not sure whether it is our airlines; OK Airlines, or the sign over the gate we are departing from that causes concern.  Not that I am concerned, this is China, what could possibly go wrong? I am sure these local flights are up to export standards. Like our shoes. We were just commenting before leaving home that we both have Rockport shoes that have really gone the distance, made in China. Narda got a pair she still wears from the Lake George, New York, outlet store ten-years ago and she has worn them in India, Viet Nam, Cambodia, tromping around France, Australia, Thailand, China and of course the USofA and they are still in good shape though she put a bit of superglue on them this morning but the leather is good. My Rockports I got at the same shop in Lake George about seven years ago and they are still good. We have bought shoes, bags and etc. here in China that fall apart quite quickly, so there must be an export quality that lasts. I am hoping the same is true of OK Airlines between here and Yantai where we are off to for the Fall/mooncake Festival holiday. The reason we are going there is because no other destination seems to be available. Narda looked at one place we had thought of going to and the tickets to there have gone from $200 US to more than a thousand dollars in the past week.


I did not know what to make of their airline magazine – did this say the airline was in ruin or that OK Air is groovy.

They are so polite about their air services at the Dalian International  Airport (think 1980s Albany, New York, or Adelaide Airport about 1985) they keep playing this loop “we regret to inform you that flight …. has changed gates…”. Usually the regret an airline would report is that ‘OK Airlines has run out of fuel and has landed on the freeway’. But that we are going from the gate for ‘Abnormal Flights’ seems something they should be regretting.

Not to worry, we are coming back on the ferry – about 6 – 8 hours. We looked it up, a huge boat, and there was a Google story about how a few years ago the same line had their ferry catch fire whilst between Yantai and Dalian and 22 people of the 300 on board survived. Now Narda is a bit nervous about the ferry.

We have been talking about disasters this whole holiday (well the first two days of it).  We decided to climb to the top of our local hill which has a great view of the sea, our school and valley.  This picture does not do our climb justice – it took us almost two hours to get to the top and we were so puffed out. In the distance is our school and behind the strange ship they built along the highway headed into our resort district.

Continuing with our disaster conversations we worried what to do if a poisonous snake crossed our path, then we worried about what to do if there was a forest fire and we got caught then we wondered if there were bear or other crazed creatures in the woods then we just worried. It took us another hour to get down and we ended up at the local spa but their prices were out of proportion to what we made as teachers so we walked home.

Here I am at the Five-Star Golden Pebble Tang Dynasty International Hot Spring Resort at the bottom of the hill – which was a mountain to us, with my mate, obviously a remnant of the Tang Dynasty. I told him I was a Leo but he didn’t seem impressed or to understand so we walked on in blissful ignorance of our un-importance. 

Another view of our school and where we live at Campus Village.

View of the sea from the top.

My concern re. the small plane we are taking to Yantai is that the wheels look to small and I am sitting right across from them and the propeller seems to be going a tad bit slow…

And what is with the writing on the side of the plane facing my seat of where to evacuate?  Evacuation Direction – damn… I never know what to do in those kind of situations. And there was no pre-flight speech about dropping down air masks and putting them onto the children last or is that first?

And that  we are on a “Modern Ark” is disturbing at some level… but I did get to like our little plane – which did get us safely to Yantai.

But those bloody Chinese cab drivers – ours give us the fright of our life all the way into town; weaving, and creating lanes where there was none and going way too fast and of course there were no seat belts in the back. I am always terrified driving in a cab in China but then again we did arrive OK.

We wanted to go five-star but not at a Western chain so we picked the only 5-star Chinese because we want soft beds and most hotels the beds are incredibly hard. We are staying at the Golden Gulf Hotel – an old hotel right on the shore. And what a great walk along the coast it is. We like this city – so far, the most of any we have been in. We even found the old area, a Hutong, right behind the hotel – kind of a Chinese New Orleans or old town in Barcelona.

not to worry – we got the buffet dinner and that was really quite good and now off to a soft bed and tomorrow is Tuesday and we do not have to go to school and write up bloody lesson plans or standards or whatever mind-numbing thing we are to do in the future. Why we can not be like the world’s best schools – Finland – where they start at age seven – that by the way is when I started at Shenendehowa Central School in Elnora New York in 1954 – the first year of that school – and look at me… well I left home at 16 – didn’t finish tenth grade – but at age 44 to 58 did every uni degree possible and now, like the Finnish schools I feel a academically OK – maybe I am an OK Air type of person after all.