Archive for the ‘2013’ Category

Best Place to be

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Video for this blog at http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk

Where we are always seems to be not as interesting as where someone else is though why we say that I am not quite sure when wherever we are is where we are because that is the totality of all we have done so far in life and the final destination at this moment. One turn anywhere in life and most likely we would be somewhere else more or less interesting than where we are now.
Think I will come back to that thought in a bit.

Two weekends ago we where in Hong Kong or was it the weekend before two weekends ago? I stop and think for a moment what did we do yesterday – or even worse – what did we do earlier in the day. Not because at 66 I am slowing down in memory – I did that back in the year 1966 – go figure – what I did in 1966 and of course those interesting years later – effects the way I think now on the eighth of December is how long since we were tromping around Hong Kong. I went to see my doctor – who I think is quite kool though why a doctor is kool I have no idea but he just seems kool. Dr. King. I believe his name is TIAN LUNG but thankfully for me he goes by Dr. Peter King; Chief of Cardiology, who speaks English, Mandarin, Shanghainese, and Cantonese. I know I have been in China for three years and this may sound quite stupid but saying one speaks Mandarin, Shanghainese and Cantonese to me sounds like me saying I speak New Zealand, British, Canadian, Australian and American. Nevertheless Dr. King speaks great English. They did their slew of tests on me from lots of tins of blood to scans of various sorts. After a couple of days meeting again with Dr. King he said I may need to have some laser treatment on my heart. A month earlier he slipped four stents into my arteries. I could use some laser treatment to get rid of some wrinkles here and there but shooting at my heart?

DSC_2095To celebrate something – most moments of a day should be celebrating something though what we were celebrating at the time I do not currently recall; anything from we did not have to get to morning meeting at 7.30 AM at school or stay after school for meetings until five PM or that even though we just spent two-thousand dollars for three days of Hong Kong – it is as expensive as Australia, or it could even have been something to do with my stents still being in place though I am still not sure if I needed them anyway… for whatever reason, as it should be, we felt like celebrating a bit. We only had one day when it was not full of hospital tests and doctors visits as the other two days takes us most of the day to get to and fro. We leave home at ten in the morning to get a one PM flights to get to Hong Kong at 4.30 then an hour train into Hong Kong and another half hour to our hotel. Coming back we leave our hotel at noon and get home at midnight then back to work Wednesday morning. Not really a fun way two spend two-thousand dollars (that is US not Hong Kong dollars) but nevertheless we did have a day and making the best of any day is good.

We took the fast ferry over to Macau. I wanted to see the old Portuguese section.

The Ruins of St. Paul's (Portuguese: Ruínas de São Paulo, Chinese: 大三巴牌坊; pinyin: Dàsānbā Páifāng)
The Ruins of St. Paul’s (Portuguese: Ruínas de São Paulo, Chinese: 大三巴牌坊; pinyin: Dàsānbā Páifāng)

And since this is China there were a few people out for the day. In fact there were moments when we could not move forward or backward and this was just the foot traffic. Getting a taxi around Macau is even more fun and more up close. We watched the movie ‘World War Z’ last night – believe me not worth watching except for the graphics and being a film teacher ‘but I am watching this for my film class to teach about stuff’‘ I use chroma screening with my kids though we are not quite to the level of ‘Games of Thrones’ or ‘World War Z’. Whilst watching ‘World War Z’ which is about a virus attacking the world and everyone becoming zombies as Brad Pitt runs around looking like your typical everyday hero I could not help but associate the crowds we get stuck in here in China with the crowds going nuts and everyone biting each other and becoming zombies. In a way that has already happened. There are always crowds of zillions of people all in a shopping frenzied madding way. ‘the shopping zombie-virus’

DSC_1968Someone else wanted to see the casinos. We spent about two hours being historical tourists seeing old shit then we were off to the casino across the causeway. We took the Macau-Taipa Bridge over to Taipa (Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge) to the Cotai casinos. See my youtube video – http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk

Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge to the Cotai casinos, Macau-Taipa Bridge
Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge to the Cotai casinos, Macau-Taipa Bridge

We took the fast ferry over to Macau. I wanted to see the old Portuguese section someone else wanted to see the casinos. We spent about two hours being historical tourists seeing old shit then we were off to the casino across the causeway. We took the Macau-Taipa Bridge over to Taipa (Governor Nobre de Carvalho Bridge) to the Cotai casinos. See my youtube video – http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk

These are supposed to be some of the great casinos of the world. Not sure. Firstly, they are quite a distance apart but there are buses going to the next casino at each one. Unlike Las Vegas where a lot are within walking distance or that groovy monorail, Macau is like being in individual cities for each place. But of course China has to overdo everything.

As soon as we got to Macau Narda got a lot of text messages as one does when they arrive in a new town – at least that is what happens here in China. We figured they were advertisements to casinos, especially the first one which said ‘City of Dreams’ with lots of foreign stuff following. So after being dutiful tourists and seeing a bunch of old shit for a couple of hours we got into a taxi and Narda showed the first text message on her phone, without us having a clue what it said. That is when we got on to the Macau-Taipa Bridge. After awhile we began doubting our choice of communication but then we saw The Venetian (the largest casino in the world ~ the sixth-largest building in the world by floor area) followed by the ‘City of Dreams’ a huge hotel-casino complex which looks bigger than The Venetian. We spent almost twenty minutes in there. I tried taking video and photos but every time I took out the camera I was stopped. But I did get a shot of their ceiling.

DSC_2012And a shot of Narda kissing a gold bear so that we could have heaps of good luck whilst playing in the casino. It didn’t work we invested $20 Honk Kong dollars = a couple of bucks US, and lost it all. So we decided from that to just tour several casinos and keep our money for useful stuff like a fridge magnet.DSC_2027We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe which would be an easy place to give a miss to. We waited for more than two hours to be served. I don’t think it was because we are old and ugly but they were understaffed and everyone seemed upset. The food was good but for people in a hurry to tour every casino in Macau in a few hours it was a time waster.

The Venetian Casino, being the biggest casino in the world, though not having been to every casino in the world I can not verify that – just read this fact in several places including their own propaganda. Casinos really are all the same. Huge noise making flashing lights places to give people the illusion they are having fun and that of course giving their money away to strangers who own the casino is really a worthwhile thing to do. I lost my interest in all forms of slot machines back in the 1980s. About mid-1980. I was a single parent living in South Australia. Up until about 1985 the pubs in Adelaide were a good place to go to hear live music and pick up chicks (did I really say that?). Then in came the pokies. All the good pubs took out their areas of dance and frivolity.  There were no live bands on weekends just stupid sounding machines with people hunched over them. It was difficult if not impossible to meet people and my life of a would-be wild single parent transitioned to a stay home parent writing children stories hunched over a computer. Of course back then we did not have the Internet and my computer had a green screen and I could do little else than type but I suppose staying home and being on a computer heaps was just as non-social as going to a pub and sitting in front of a slot machine. Hey I still sit at home hunched over a computer so my evolutionary path has not really evolved a whole lot. I never got money for my stories except for once I got a story published by Scholastic Magazine; ‘Vegy Fighters’ http://neuage.indiko.com/vegi_fighters.htm which I got two hundred dollars for. ‘Vegy Fighters’ was about a kid who would not eat his veggies because he thought there were flying saucers and etc. in them. I just looked at it – a couple of decades later – a bit of a lame story but I made more off of it than I have in all my casino gambling triads of my life which probably amount to an expenditure of less than fifty dollars if I add up my world-wide gambling investments. I realised back in my twenties that I was not lucky. With a Saturn conjunct my Venus I could see I would never do well economically and with Saturn squaring my Jupiter in fixed signs and in cardinal houses it is obvious that I will never be lucky. I am really happy that I do not believe in astrology or I would be really really spooked by my chart. Especially these months with transit Saturn squaring my Venus, Saturn, Pluto and Sun whilst sitting exactly on my Jupiter and bloody Uranus stirring up my heart by being in Aries trine my Venus in Leo home of the heart. This is such a bad astrological period for me that if I believed in any of this I would go hide under the bed.

The Venetian of course has that Italian look to with its gondola ride. We did not do the gondola ride because of the time factor and in fact we spent less than half an hour at The Venetian which was spent walking quickly through it to find the bus stop to get back to the ferry to get back to Hong Kong. This photo below I took after dark (this being winter that was about six pm) but they do quite well with the illusion that it is day.

"Gondoliers will serenade you as you take a leisurely ride through, the San Luca, Marco Polo or Grand Canals, aboard our beautifully crafted Venetian gondolas.'
“Gondoliers will serenade you as you take a leisurely ride through, the San Luca, Marco Polo or Grand Canals, aboard our beautifully crafted Venetian gondolas.’

We went to The Galaxy and a few other casinos but after awhile they all blend and blur and we had more fun hopping buses from casino to casino. From the last casino we got a bus back to the ferry port. Here is a tip; plan on going on a ferry hours after you plan on going on one. Those zillion shopping-zombies we saw back in the Portuguese section of Macau as well as the zillion slot-playing-casino zombies were all back at the ferry ten seconds before us. How did they do that? We had planned to take a seven o’clock ferry back to Hong Kong but discovered that the next one with any seats was going to be at 10.45. Our bed time is nine pm so of course this troubled our aging brain. There was a ferry to Kowloon at 8.30 so we grabbed that and got a subway close to home and home, Happy Valley, by eleven, well past our bed time. As is the way in China, everyone surges forward. The concept of a line is as foreign in China as it is to a Dutch person (they are not good at forming lines either – go to the Netherlands and get in a line and you will know what I mean. Or watch a group of Dutch people at an airport or train station – easy to spot they do not get in line). At the ferry terminal everyone, like they do at the train station – especially in Dalian, when the doors open everyone just pushes forward. We were actually in a line that had been started more than an hour earlier and when the doors opened people all came running in from the side. Narda scolded a lady for trying to push in front and when she got teary eye Narda put her arm around her and let her in front but told her that she was a naughty girl which was translated to her by others around us. The woman was our age but clearly had not been taught about social lines. The people from Hong Kong were worse. They went on about how the Chinese from the mainland have no class and do not know how to act. It all got quite political whilst being pushed through two doors with hundreds behind us all trying to get through the same door. We had assigned seats on the ferry so I am not sure why they panic.It is always good though because Narda and I are usually bigger than everyone else. But little ladies can be quite aggressive. I suppose they have had a lot of decades of trying to get anything in the midst of so many people.

The next day, Tuesday, we flew back to Dalian in the afternoon but before that we did another loop of downtown somewhere. All of Hong Kong seems like downtown but I think we were near Victoria Square. I was fascinated, as always, by the bamboo scaffolding that builders construct even on the tallest buildings. out of the videos and multiple photos I think these two show the jest of the work…

DSC_2121DSC_2132DSC_2127Hans, my relative through Narda, in Holland, wrote to my image in Facebook that no doubt they will be growing buildings out of bamboo like this and not just using bamboo for scaffolding. I did take a ten-week Chinese painting course recently, every Wednesday after school, and learned how to paint bamboo but in reality that is not related and I am fortunate that I could find a way to say I did a Chinese painting course. Of course I was the worse in the class and never did get the hang of painting bamboo though my ambition at the start of the class was to paint those galloping horses one sees in Chinese paintings. Again it is no doubt that I have Saturn sitting on top of my Venus in Leo that my artist talents are held back. And having that conjunction in my tenth house makes it obvious to the public.

A friend from awhile back; maybe 40 years since I saw him last, was saying he was stuck in Maryland about 20 miles NW of DC. I remember that area from the 1970s. It is easy to see someone else as being in a more interesting location. I look around where we are now and think I would much rather be 20 miles from DC. I liked that area but of course the me of the 1970s found interesting what I probably would not. I liked Hong Kong but that was just a passing just as everywhere I have lived has been. Sometimes I think it would be great just to stay in one place, though not here. Here is difficult do interesting stuff. The good part about living at Campus Village is that there is a medical clinic two floors down, so as far as assisted living type of life goes that is easy and there is a restaurant on the first floor though the food is crap and there is nothing I can eat that they serve but they have good fresh bread. And the gym is a two minute walk away and of course work is three minutes walk which is better than years I sat in traffic getting to work in various cities of the past. But that is it. To go shopping is such an ordeal. We have to get a driver into Dalian an hour away or Kaifqu half an hour away. We can ride our bike to a real local shopping and that only takes ten minutes and is good for fruit and vegetables but that is about it. I use to have a rule that I would never live more than half an hour from an airport but our airport is an hour away. So much for rules.

Where everyone else has lived sounds more interesting to us. We hear stories from other teachers that have taught in Somalia, Libya (they escaped with their daughter as bombs dropped around them), Syria, and heaps of other places. Then of course there is Lawrence who was going to help me become a great film person but just moved up to Moscow last month after meeting a woman and marrying her and his travels and adventures and I listen to everyone and feel my life has been a bit slow and boring. But still we are in the best place to be because that is where we have gotten to.

I liked this sculpture – construction – hopefully not art that was in downtown. It was two days before the American Thanksgiving holiday. When we got back to school there was the Thanksgiving lunch and dinner in the evening. Thanksgiving is not big in Narda and my world. Narda because she is not American and me because the thought of eating turkey does not fit into my vegetarian world. When we lived in New York we use to drive up to Canada to avoid Thanksgiving and the invitations from people who would invited us to their home feeling sorry for us because we had no one to spend Thanksgiving with.

turkey-plastic-This weekend we went to the Winter Charity Ball at the Shangri-La in Dalian. It was Friday night so we stayed overnight. I am not big into dress-up balls but it is one of those things one should do once. It was a yearly fund raiser for helping local schools and the tickets (given to us or we would have had a quiet week at home) were 500 RMB ($81 US) each and for that we got a meal. I mentioned that I was a vegetarian from the start and it worked out OK. I got some veggies that were not fully cooked. Narda being a meat eater was a bit looking forward to the Australian Rib-Eye Steak that was on her menu. She got four very small thin pieces primarily fat. OK so we didn’t pay and the entertainment was interesting.
DSC_2372My fellow tech teacher played guitar and sang too so that made the evening almost personable. I got credit on his latest youtube video for video creator so there is my claim to fame if he ever gets any. That is not him in the image above she just seemed more attractive.

Dalian is just another dirty Asian city but after three years we are use to it. Here is a new moon night photo – actually after our charity ball we didn’t get back to our room until midnight – we are getting young like again.

DSC_2343And so here we are in the Best Place to be which is where we are at and everything we have done in life has gotten us to here.

Transit Jupiter is exactly conjunct my Jupiter today and trine transit Saturn so I can be thankful for that though I am not thrilled about Saturn giving me all these stupid life lessons I could do without and I will feel better I hope in a month when Saturn moves on a few degrees. Also, I am really really relieved that I no longer believe in astrology or I would be freaked about my upcoming aspects.

In two weeks we will be in Thailand for a month holiday (hey Thailand stop all your in-fighting and get along we will be there in two weeks) then back to work for a week then to Burma for a week to visit Frank and Kay who write that there are cobras falling from the trees where they live. Oh boy.

DSC_2145

unchain my heart

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Video for this Hong kong trip is at http://youtu.be/aUYG8gn72MQ

I was having a quiet  Friday evening watching thoughts drift by of what to do on the upcoming weekend. Sort of a quiet day. We arrived home at noon from a week in Xi’am seeing Terracotta Warriors, a Great Wild Goose Pagoda (go figure), peddling a bike around on top of a wall going around the city and merging with so many Chinese on holiday during 国庆节 (Chinese National Day) in a very polluted city of less than a trillion people though it seemed as if there were more than a trillion people in Xi’am frantically searching for a clean air-molecule or two. I personally had not found any and for the most part had held my breath for five days to avoid clogging up my airways. See a previous blog at http://wp.me/scHIf-xian

Though I do not think that holding my breath for five days had anything to do with what would happen next.

We had finished dinner and being a bit hungry I was in the kitchen looking for more. As we had been away for a week there was not much but I had found something which at the moment I forget what but as I took a step I passed out and came to on the floor a few seconds later. Narda was standing next to me and thought I had slipped and fell. When I came to I was quite disorientated or more disoriented than usual may be more accurate. And confused to add. Having never had passed out, or at least not in a self-propelled way as I may have on occasion done when I was past my youth but not quite to maturity – some time in a seemingly very distant past, this was all new territory.

I had a sore knee from twisting my leg on the way done and not being conscious to stop myself I had not grabbed anything to slow my descent – OK so it is not like parachuting from a great distance in the stratosphere but it is still a long ways to the floor when the microwave is at eye level one second and the floor the next. I pulled the dishwasher out of its place so I did go down with a thud. It was not a near-death experience because there was no tunnel with angels and whats-his-name at the end shoving me quickly back into the physical so I could constantly work off whatever karmic dept to the universe I seem to be laboring at.

Narda was concerned. I was confused. I assured her that obviously I just slipped on some butter that was on the floor but for whatever reason there was no apparent sign of butter when I went to show her. I said not to worry to her running for her phone to ring the Beijing SOS clinic so they could ring our doctor who actually lives here in Campus Village but we are not to go banging on the doctor’s door but have to go through protocol. Narda has in large print on our door the SOS clinic telephone number because, yes, we have used it before – see http://wp.me/pcHIf-eS when for some reason I seemed to have become unstuck after eating something and within fifteen minutes of her calling Beijing I was in the emergency room of our clinic (two floors below us) and with a drip into my arm. This seems to be my year for medical stuff I think.

To keep Narda happy, which as a useful husband type of tip I can offer, by saying it is always a good thing to keep one’s wife a bit on the happy side if at all possible. Of course that has to be balanced in a sensible and creative way though the sensible part I must admit I have yet to master but the creative part I have down really well. I just say ‘yes dear’. Nevertheless Saturday morning we took the elevator from our third floor apartment to the first floor and walked past the lobby to the clinic. We call life here ‘assisted living’ and any teacher living at Campus Village would agree. Doctors rotate every eight weeks and on this eight week rotation we had our really great doctor, Wilhelm. Steve our other rotating doctor, and the one who looked after me when I had my bit of food poisoning episode is fantastic too. Wilhelm did lots of tests on me from blood letting to EKG and the like and was so concerned he thought maybe I should stay in the clinic for the weekend or at the least to take it easy. I chose the latter and played softball with our school team against the local Taiwan mob as we do each Sunday. I did a bit lighter weights for the next couple of days and no free weights of rather heavy; heavy for me as I am 66, just 60 kilos (132 pounds) that I have been building up from, but taking Wilhelm’s, I thought overly-cautious, approach, I only did the attached weights. I did not swim either as he was concerned I would pass out in the pool and that could pose a problem. I went to work as usual because I love work, I love creating and teaching film and just having a great time with technology. I surely had no intentions of staying home and being old.

Wednesday I was sent into Dalian to the Vitup Hospital and had an ultrasound and a halter-cardiac monitor attached to wear for 24-hours. I felt light headed and a bit wobbly and a bit spacy but that is pretty much how I feel most of the time anyway and have since the 1960s so I am quite use to it except the degree for normal behavior that I have enjoyed or not enjoyed at times for the past 40 years was increased though not enhanced. So of course being the verbal person I am I told my doctor I was not quite the same in the head as I was and he seemed a bit more concerned and started talking about maybe going to Seoul or Hong Kong for a bit of a more thorough check-up. I thought I could do the same in Beijing but he was not so confident. Over the next few days the talk became more of you need to go to Seoul or Hong Kong with Hong Kong being the doctor’s choice. I was in favor of Seoul because it is one hour away and a cheaper flight whereas Hong Kong is 3.5 hours direct flight and twice the airfare. I was still doing my weights and Friday morning we rode bikes to our local shopping area before school and on the weekend I played softball and went to the dentist.

Another week went by and another and by the 23rd of October, almost three weeks since kissing the floor of the kitchen we were on a flight to Hong Kong.

We were booked into the Adventist Hospital 40 Stubbs Rd, Hong Kong and staying at The Emperor Hotel in Happy Valley. On the way in from the airport the taxi dude said this was a very busy night to drive to our hotel as the races were on and it was Oktoberfest. Our hotel was like a five minute walk to the The Hong Kong Jockey Club. Yes this is an actual photo of our walk-in and somehow we managed to get up the stairs and into the stands.

Hong Kong Jockey Club
Hong Kong Jockey Club

The cost to get in was 10 Honk Kong dollars ($1.29 US). I was mixed up with feelings; I was getting tested 9 AM the next morning and possible surgery as a result of it, I just wanted to be back at work. Who wants to be at work? Here we were in Hong Kong at the races, except if things went a certain direction I could be cactus in a few days. I listened closely to my heart – not in a romantic way where I am all goo goo because I am spending a night with this kool chick from Australia – oh wait that is my wife, and of course that is romantic an all but what I was listening to was whether my heart was physically doing the correct thing and thumping away like a normal heart should – and it sort of was but not completely. I wanted to relax and enjoy the moment. I had only ever been to horse races twice in my life. Once Narda and I went to the races in Saratoga, New York. (you know that song by Carly Simon “You are so Vain”?

“Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won…”

Of course we own houses in Round Lake just a fifteen minute drive from Saratoga Springs and I grew up a short distance from there too but I only ever went to the races the one time with Narda. Another time Narda and I went to a race in Adelaide, South Australia and that is it. We made a couple of bets when at the Saratoga track but I do not recall whether we won. This time Narda said “let’s place a bet‘.

First of all we had no idea what to do, secondly we could not get the folks at the betting counter to understand what we wanted. They did not speak English and we did not speak whatever they spoke. We watched for awhile and by race three we decided it was time to jump in. Narda picked by numbers – the number 23 because it was October 23, we were on the 23 floor of our hotel, we sat in row 23 on the plane and there was some other times the number came up so she picked a horse with a 23 to one odds. I looked out in the paddock or whatever they call the area they warm in and one horse was just not in sync. It would rear its head, go the opposite direction of the other horses and just was generally ready to take off. I thought that if I were a horse that is exactly how I would act, a bit of all over the shop type of animal, so I picked horse number five. Feeling not lucky, how could I? I was off for heart inspection in a day I was conservative and put 10 Hong Kong dollars on horse number five, the same amount Narda put on the horse with a 23 to one odds. Horse number five, King Derby, was behind all the other horses most of the race. Coming around, I think they call it the clubhouse turn – or at least where all the stands are, I could see horse number five go to the outside of all the horses and just pass them right to the crossing line when it drew level then passed the lead horse, to win. The odds were like four to one so we ended up with 44 Hong Kong dollars which paid for our two bets, the entrance fee for both of us and with a bit of a top up there was enough left for me to purchase a small carton of soy milk. I did not want to bet on another horse because I did not want to leave as a loser which could have happened.

King Derby wins giving us a 4.4 times our betting winning sending us home winners.
King Derby wins giving us a 4.4 times our betting winning sending us home winners.

Being Oktoberfest the crowds were probably larger and more rowdy than usual but never having been there before I am not sure. There was a time when we were trying to get out, with me holding on tight to my winnings, and Narda holding tight on to me that we did not move in any direction. I was of course thinking about my heart when I should have been thinking about my luck. Narda had said “just think if we had put down our houses and any cash we had anywhere in the world and then maybe even had borrowed some. We could retire.” Retire? I was wondering if I was going to get out of the racecourse. What if my heart played silly buggers and took me out right here? I was so pinned in if I died I would have died upright (“he was an upright citizen”) and no one would know. There would be no sound of my winnings hitting the ground, no last words heard amongst the blasting music from someone announcing a winner in a drawing, not even Narda would know for a few moments as she was pinned in too. We were all frozen together on a warm Hong Kong night.

Yes of course eventually we got back to our hotel, I am writing this a couple of weeks later and I think I am still alive. As a matter of fact next week today we will be back in Hong Kong and I will be getting a bunch of tests to continue on with what I will say befell me whilst in Hong Kong back at the end of September. So yes, I believe I am alive. Still! Still as in quiet compared to my pre-Hong Kong self.

The next morning, Thursday, I was off to Adventist Hospital to get tests. I met Dr. King the cardiologist who was going to sort me out and I was sent off for eight tests. In Australia when I go to the heart centre and see my cardiologist each year the visit lasts about ten minutes, this has been going on for about a decade. He takes my pulse, does a couple of readings and sends me on my way with a sentence or two of advice. I thought this would be the same, just pop in – OK spending a couple of thousand of dollars to go and get that advice wasn’t what I wanted but Dr. Wilhelm thought it was important. I liked Dr. King. He had a sense of humour, was good at explaining and said he would arrange for a few tests. Then and there. All day Thursday. Seven or eight tests. A stress test on a treadmill with lots of monitors and beeping machines as the endurance speed and difficulty were increased to a point where the machines made more frequent noises and I felt worse. Then on to blood tests, a PET thingy (Positron Emission Tomography). In this test, I had a radioactive dye injected so that my heart showed on the scan. Laying down I was shoved into a doughnut-shaped machine to have images taken of my heart. When the dye went through there was a hot sensation going through my body which was not good. Being claustrophobic from an incident in my adolescence I spent about an hour in semi-panic. But the worse was yest to come; the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Laying down on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produced a magnetic field and again feeling quite claustrophobic with large banging sounds each time the magnets did whatever they did. I had a heavy plastic mask put over my face either because I was too ugly for the nurses to look at or to protect me from I know not what. It was like a helmet players of American Gridiron games wear. When I lived in the States we called it football but in Australia they say gridiron as footy is what Australians play and football is soccer some places but no matter what the sport having one on and being inside a tube fastened down was not fun. What was worse than the banging noses was some weird background music. Someone playing the same piano piece over and over. This went on for an hour. There is a button to push if one gets too stress and at some point I did and they took me out of the tunnel. I sat up said it was all a bit too much and being sympathetic nurses they smiled, took my helmet face mask off for about ten minutes put it back and and shoved me back for more noise and said this time it would be only for another fifteen minutes which somehow I endured. There was another test which I do not remember the name of where I was hooked up to several monitors and laying down they wanted to shove me into yet another machine. There was some problem with it because I have a very irregular heart beat and on their monitor it showed my pulse in such a low range – low in the teens – that the technician in charge got a bit worried. I told her it was her machine that was malfunctioning and not me. She said she had never had a problem with the machine and that maybe something was drastically wrong with me. She called in several other people and they all looked at me then the machine and they all looked a bit worried. I said it was their machine that sucked. Fortunately one technician had enough sense to physically take my pulse and she was relieved and I commented that it was their machine. They hooked me up to another machine and that seemed to work better. Actually this test was before the PET thingy because they had already put the dye into me and they had to have their monitors working before shoving me into the PET thingy. They said the new PET thingy could work with people with irregular hear beats like mine but there was only one of the newest machines and that was at Sanatorium Hospital, which incidentally was across the street from where we were staying and had a view of the horse racecourse. I of course volunteered to be tested there as being surrounded by 5 or 6 concerned, worried, semi-confused technicians, nurses and doctors was giving me the heebie jeebies. Someone rang Dr. King and someone said OK, probably the same person and it was all back on with me being put into the Pet thingy. There was the CT scan and the Ultrasound and a 24-hour wearing a halter-cardiac device all to find out what was in (too much calcium?) and what was out with what could be wrong with me if indeed anything was wrong.

We had spent about eight hours in hospital with me poked and prodded and early evening we finally got to go back to our hotel. Being told to take it easy and with my 24 hour halter-cardiac device with plugs stuck to various parts of my body firmly in place we took double decker buses around town. Being situated in Happy Valley which is a hub or the start of several double decker buses gave us a lot to choose from.

Happy Valley Trolly
Happy Valley Trolley

We just rode, got off; everything looked too Chinese for us – it was like being in China – oh wait maybe we still were – and got back on another one. The evening was so warm. We sat on the top deck and took lots of video which at some point will show up on my youtube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/neuage09 or my previous one http://www.youtube.com/tneuage

stay curious - trolly

Friday we were back to the hospital in the morning to hear the good news; that I was fine, the tests showed that I had had a bit of indigestion and we could go back home Sunday on our booked flight and be back to work on Monday with a bit of an expensive three day break from school. We figured since we were in Hong Kong we would make the best of it and spend the rest of the day Friday and Saturday wandering around Hong Kong. Maybe try to squeeze in a boat trip to one of the islands.

Well that didn’t work out did it?

Dr. King said that I had a few narrow arteries filled with calcium and that I would need surgery. He said until he put a catheter into my arteries he would not be sure but I would need at least three stents. He went over what the procedure was about and that Sunday would be good to do it. Being a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital they were not in full swing on a Saturday. I think Saturday is their Sunday. Go figure. Nevertheless with this not so groovy news we set up for Sunday to be a day of no-fun. I was to check in Saturday night – OK so they let people check-in Saturday but operations get put off until Sunday. I was listening to Janis Joplin sing ‘Another piece of my heart’ in my head and wondering whether I should make this my phone’s ring-tone.

Take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now…

Of course like everyone I have my brush with fame story; Janis Joplin. Back in 1969 I was almost run over by her in her Porsche. I knew it was her. We all knew that car as she sped around San Francisco. I use to go and listen to her at the Fillmore and in Golden Gate Park and I still listen to her when I am lifting weights at Campus Village at Dalian American International School 44 years later. Strange how things stick in one’s mind but I always remember that moment and how close I almost came to my end then but didn’t and she did not long after and here I am writing about her instead of her writing about me. Not that she would but perhaps if she had lived and I had been knocked over I could have featured in one of her songs and she could be tweeting about how even now 44 years later she remembers that moment. But of course that is all silly to think of now when I am writing about something totally different. My heart.

Janis Joplin's psychedelic painted 1965 Porsche 356c Cabriolet
Janis Joplin’s psychedelic painted 1965 Porsche 356c Cabriolet

Picture from http://dedeporsche.com/2011/04/03/porsche-project-recreation-of-janis-joplins-psychedelic-painted-1965-porsche-356c-cabriolet/

We went off to the billing department and they said we would need to get in touch with our insurance company to get pre-approval and that of course there should not be a problem with that. Having had problems with our insurance company for the past three-years we were not that confident. Someday I will put into writing the name of our insurance company but as we need them now and in the near future we will just say ‘our insurance company’. We rang the insurance company from the hospital and they said to send them a bill for the pre-approval. We took a peek at the future bill (the tests were only in the $3000 plus range) and sort of gasped. Seventy-thousand plus (not Hong Kong dollars but USA dollars) for a night in the hospital plus a few stents tossed in. I was thinking the insurance company would be better off paying off my fifty-thousand dollar death coverage than to pay this but over and over we have been told that we have a really good insurance company. Yeah right! So we went back to our hotel and wrote Dalian American International School to say we will not be back until Wednesday as I am having a bit of surgery on Sunday and I need to rest for two days so we will fly back Tuesday night and I would be back at work on Wednesday. Narda and I wrote and sent lesson plans for the extra two days.

Friday night we made multiple phone calls to both the China and the USA departments of our insurance company. This spilled into Saturday when we were told over and over that it would all be cleared up in a couple of hours and we would get the go ahead. By late Saturday afternoon we had to cancel the Sunday surgery as we had still not gotten the OK. All day Saturday we rang speaking to one person after another each saying it would be a matter of a couple of hours because anything over fifty-thousand dollars had to go to an underwriter. We went to Stanley Market and did a bit of shopping and then we discovered we had to move out of our hotel because Sunday night was booked out. We had planned to fly back to Dalian Sunday. Happy Valley was getting to feel like home and of course just a couple of days earlier we had our big win at the local track so moving was not going to be fun especially when our insurance company was being mean to us. One person, she was a supervisor, suggested we go to Florida because I could have the same operation done for about 45-thousand. We could not believe someone, especially a supervisor, suggesting we fly from Hong Kong to Florida to save the insurance company money. We did find a hotel; L’Hotel Island South http://www.lhotelislandsouth.com/eng/front/ and it was really a good four-star place. We got a room with the mountain view on the 32nd floor and thought OK if this is where we have to bunker down for a long time this will be it. We moved in Sunday afternoon still getting phone calls saying it would just be another couple of hours.

Narda was emailing everyone she could find in the insurance company and still at mid-night Saturday she was ringing and emailing. Finally someone said that the underwriters don’t work on weekends and that we should know within a couple of days when they got back to work on Monday. It was looking more and more like we were going to be stuck in Hong Kong for awhile. Sunday we went to Aberdeen and found a great little restaurant on Old Main Street, Myanmar Thai Palace We are going to Myanmar for Chinese New Year in January to see our ex-workmates; Frank and Kay and we are going over with Jean and Sean so it will be quite the crazy week. There in Myanmar. Going back to L’Hotel Island South we took a nap in the afternoon and at 5 pm we got a phone call that the insurance company had approved it. One of the many people Narda had phoned had pushed the whole thing through. Actually it was the head of customer service, a man in India that Narda has contacted many times to sort out situations from the past. Nothing major just some basic tests we get done every year to be sure we are functioning well, stuff like that. The amount of work the insurance company goes through to get out of paying anything is always remarkable. But this one dude on a Sunday morning had gotten through where no one else was able to and got us moving forward.

Arrangements were made for me to check into the hospital on Monday morning and have surgery late in the afternoon. We went back to the Myanmar Thai Palace for dinner, sat along the river and wondered what would happen next. I was a tad bit nervous about the whole thing. Having been an astrologer for forty-years and having stopped looking at planetary positions a decade ago I thought I would have a peek for old times sake. Nothing looked too good and if I were to believe in astrology again I could easily have made some linkage. Uranus was in 9 degrees and 34 minutes Aries which is fine as it was trine my Venus at 10 degrees Leo meaning quick and successful surgery. But the real indicator of all the fuss was and still is Saturn at 13 degrees and eight minutes Scorpio so exactly square my Saturn conjunct Pluto at 13 degrees Leo an eight minutes. And yes you saw it too; square my Venus.

Hello! Wow is this so possible?

Saturn takes 28 years to get to this position and to have Uranus in trine to my Leo planets (Venus, Saturn Pluto, Sun, Mid Haven, Part of Fortune) is statistically almost impossible – maybe the planets get in this position every few thousand years. Lucky me. Jupiter was still in trine with my Jupiter – separating two degrees so that was helpful. Pluto (is that still being used as a planet now that it has been kicked out as a planet?) was inconjunct or quincunx to my Venus and of course square by nature of the qunicunx to Uranus at the time. If I were to believe in this stuff I would have been alarmed that transit Saturn was conjunct Mercury (was there some bad advice being given?) meaning that both planets were squaring exactly my Saturn Pluto conjunction (I used to give presentations and wrote some articles on the Saturn Pluto conjunction in Leo being the symbol of the baby boomers. All that free-love (Leo – heart) with Pluto overthrowing Saturn. I had really lengthy examples and proofs sort of back in the day. Now I just ramble on and no one has a clue what I am talking about. Narda just popped in, she watches all these medical shows; 13 years without fail she watched ‘ER’ and now she is going through season after season of Grey’s Anatomy. She loves all this medical and I don’t. I have never watched any of them.

So Narda asks what I am writing about and I am sitting here with the astrology chart for 28 October on her iPad and I am saying I don’t believe any of this anymore and she says if you did what would that chart say?

See this is what I mean. I tell her and basically all I can say is that it means what actually happened. I did not need the symbolism of astrology to know something was going wrong. OK one more thing; the Moon was in Leo. Holy Cow! There is the moon sitting on top of my Sun dragging all those influences into being. Saturn as Saturn does, delayed and made us go crazy and of course having calcium in my arteries is well explained by Saturn squaring my Saturn in Leo – ruler of the heart. For a couple of decades I was really into medical astrology even to the point of making magic potions and elixirs for people based on their rising sign and the position and aspects to their ruling planet. I was sort of known for this in New Orleans when I was a street artists. I use to drink a lot of lemon grass tea as that was suppose to be a Venus ruled herb and Venus rules my astrology chart (Libra rising with Venus being strongest by being in the 10th house and having so many aspects). Another interesting point is that at the time of surgery for Hong Kong at 4 pm there was Aries rising with Uranus in the first house and the fifth house – the house of the heart – being ruled by the heart sign, Leo, so all my Leo points and planets were in the fifth house during the surgery. I use to love astrology but it got in my way and there was a time I could not just live my life but had to do astrology charts on everything. It was when Leigh killed himself (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) that I just could no longer use astrology. I was not seeing reality but was off following symbols that were based on interpretation and I got caught interpreting life through my eyes and wants and I missed what was really going on.

The Adventist Hospital being a vegetarian hospital seemed so natural. It went along with what was roughly my life-long life: hippie communes in the 1960s, eating vegetarian foods for the past 45 years, being in a new age cult group for a decade, various religious and philosophical beliefs embraced then discarded over the decades each pushing the vegetarian life style, being a tofu manufacture for eight years in South Australia – see my slowly evolving e-book http://neuage.us/tofu/ There was even a time when I was going to build a big tofu factory – compared to the small tofu factory I had for eight years – and sell to the Seventh Day Adventists in Australia. It is all quite remarkable and now here I was lying in a bed with needles in my arm and an oxygen thing in my nose and eating wonderful vegetarian food. The food was so good I kept ordering more off of the menu. The staff there must have thought that I had not eaten for days.

Every few minutes nurses would come in and take my blood pressure, give me some medication, take pulses and I would ask to see the menu again. At four pm I got rolled down the hall all neatly snug in my bed with my lame looking gown on and things hanging out of me and over me. Not that I see many hospital movies but times that I have passed through the lounge and Narda has one on there is always some poor joker on a bed being wheeled into surgery. Now I was one of them. I looked around for the camera crew and the make up artist but I was put into the operation theatre with little fan fare. Narda could not even come in. To make matters worse I was not given some really nice powerful mind altering drug. All they did was put some local numbing agent on my arm where they were shoving a needle up my vain and into arteries around my heart. I could see what was going on with three big screens in front of me and none of it looked to comfortable. Actually I was very uncomfortable and kept hearing ‘you have to lay still’. I never sit still and never lay still but I was trying. All the time my chest was feeling like a heart of elephants were doing a ballad on top of it. It was all so uncomfortable and there were so many people with jobs. I counted 9 at one time. But this is China. There are always a mingling mob for each job. I think it is called full employment. Everyone looked quite concerned and busy with their tasks at hand. Of course they all spoke in some language that I was not familiar with. If only I had taken those Chinese language courses offered at our school. Narda and I did one and we sort of never got back and here we are three years later not knowing anything.

I tried to take my mind off of what was going on by thinking about useful stuff. Like my lesson unit – that put me to sleep and they said I had to stay away so I thought of places I had lived, things I had done. Most of all I wondered if these people had a clue of what they were doing. I thought about various stuff I had believed in during my time on this planet and wondered if everyone changes their beliefs as often as I do. I suppose it is a times like this when someone is shoving rods into the heart that the question and importance of life become forthcoming. Unfortunately I did not get any insights. I no longer do. I think it has to do with our school taking on Standards. It makes people stupid; both teachers and students alike. We are losing the creative aspect and teaching sameness and in-fusing it into bland world of massive robotic proportions. I use to believe in reincarnation, astrology, evolution and all that kind of stuff.

Now I believe we are just the fodder, unripe food for the next wave of people/machines which of course will be combined and already has its start with Google Glass and other wearable tech things. My son Sacha said if I could wait a few years they would just send in an army of nanobots to clean stuff up and stitch the veins. I could have main vain veins with a search engine embedded that would scour the world’s medical knowledge and new procedures and not only find but implement the procedure and create the fixings by combining DNA strands various cellular molecules and have nanobots fly out of my ears and go off to factories in distant places maybe on another planet or asteroid get what was needed and arrive back to my body and go to the factory somewhere in my body and fly off to the part of my body that needed fixing and life would be beaut. I could have a whole nano-factory built somewhere in my body and a constant movement of things fixing and improving throughout my body as I lifted weights at the gym and listened to Janis Joplin.

These are the kind of things I think about when laying on a bed in a operating room with masked people speaking in a language I did not understand and hopefully they shared as they at times spoke in hurried phrases then a few of them would come running over and my wrist where they had the injection point would sting and then my chest would feel like a herd of elephants were doing the Watusi on my chest.

There’s a dance called the Watusi it’s out of sight,
First you slide to the left then to the right.
The Watusi is out of sight,
You slide to the left, then to the right.
Take two steps up and keep it tight.
And do the Watusi, it sure is a sight.”

There were three large monitors that I could watch what was going on on. I looked up once or twice and it sort of freaked me out so I went back to thinking. This all went on for more than two hours and I just could not find a good range of thoughts to centre on. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s I use to believe in all the mind control of your body stuff. For years I carried around “The Science of Mind”, by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes [1926] believing all that crap. He was on about how our thinking creates diseases in our body. For example negative thoughts created negativity which manifested as dis-ease, not at ease, in our body. I furthered this thinking for a decade in the Holy Order of Mans when I was a brother in their centres in Hawaii, San Francisco, Cheyenne Wyoming, Wichita Kansas, Detroit, Syracuse New York and finally Baltimore Maryland. They had all this material about the higher Self and how our body was just a vehicle we traveled about in and if things went wrong it was karmic from some other lifetime or the miss use of energy now. I managed to go through their initiations of Self-illumination and Self-Realization before leaving for good and learning to re-live my life without the muddled illusions of superstitious belief systems. I must admit though whilst having stuff shoved into my arteries next to my heart and a herd of elephants doing the Watusi on my chest I tried to rise above my body or at least try to do something more metaphysical than just lay there hurting but I did not have any luck. My mind has ground down into the physical so strongly that I wonder how did I ever get into believing all the hocus-pocus stuff I once believed in.

At some point I got wheeled out of the operating room and there was Narda on the other side of the door. I know this happens all the times in her medical shows she watches but I had never been in an operating room before. Even when my two sons were born, I helped deliver both, it was just a simple room. Especially the one in Kahuku Hawaii where Sacha was born on the North-shore of Oahu. There was just Dr. Branch, the alleged mother and me. Leigh was born in Ashford Hospital Adelaide and I was there and at that birth so was Sacha, age two and a half.

Narda is always there making the continuity of life good. All I felt was hunger and of course a sore chest and sore arm and sore wrist. Dr. King (who has a Chinese name in brackets between the Peter and the King) said it went better than he had thought. Good grief what had he thought? He did put in a fourth stent after he was deep into my chest and found another artery that looked suspect. He kept saying to lay still which for me is very difficulty. I struggle to sit still for ten minutes and to sit still for two hours is gruesome. First I was cold so they put some horse blankets on me then I was hot so they took them off. I think I am a bad patient. Even my dentist is constantly telling me to relax when she has her head half way down my throat. I just am not the ideal ER patient.

The menu is great. I ordered half the stuff on the menu then ordered some more. Narda stayed in the hospital overnight. Lucky for you my photos are on my phone which is over in my classroom at school or I would show a photo of the room, probably one with me all hooked up to oxygen and drips and monitors but smiling because the food was good. It was like staying in a hotel with lots of room service. I had to stay in bed until the next day which was making me go funny in the head but we made it through the night and by the next evening, Tuesday we checked out and went back to L’Hotel South.

It is strange to go back only a day later to someplace when so much has changed. Now for the rest of my life or at least until they crank up the nanobots I have to wear material inside my body up near my heart.

day 3 (10)

Wednesday, two days after surgery – that is me in front of the sign the day following stents shoved in, not feeling great but at least a bit mobile. I liked this sign because I thought it said Old Man Street. I even made it my Facebook profile photo. A week later I realised it said Old Main Street. I felt like a real goose but I have kept the photo for now. No wonder I get so confused I misinterpret everything I see. That was always my problem with astrology. I am sure it is all there but I misinterpret it all.

Lamma Island

We took a boat over to Lamma Island for the afternoon. Lamma Island does not have cars on it. Like Prince Islands in the Bosphorus Sea outside of Istanbul. We like quiet islands with no cars. Wish they would take them off of that island we call home, Australia. I wasn’t feeling to flash, a bit dizzy, light headed and weak. I guess when they poke around a heart it leaves one not feeling their best. We did not make it very far but found a nice quiet beach to sit at and later in the day took the ferry back to Aberdeen and went home.

Thursday afternoon we went home getting back to Dalian at 11 PM. Friday we were back at work. The people at Dalian American International School are the best. Lots of welcome backs and hugs (even though I am a product of the 60’s and lived in communes in California and did all that new age crap – hey my name is Neuage – I am not a touchy touchy person and don’t like hugging but I put up with it this time). The middle school choir, under Tyler, put together a song, Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life and sent it to me. Of course they left out a line or two which would not be appropriate for middle school children to sing – even to an old goat like me. In my middle school class a sixth grader ran across the room and threw her arms around me and said she was so happy I was now OK.

My students were so good whilst I was away. I had written up my lesson plans and one day even partially taught my high school film class via Skype. The students all did their assignments and emailed their work to me and my high school students put their work in their Google Sites pages for me to review.

I had on my table the DVDs of my heart operation. I had not looked at them and just figured in between classes I would have a look-see. Of course my middle school kids wanted to know what was on those disks and I said nothing that you would want to see – it is my heart operation and of course they then wanted to see it. I was quite unsure, Narda, whose music room is next door, was looking through my door shaking her head no. Can you imagine having a film studio next to the music room? I produce two shows for school a week called DAISlive with stories and events and the like about what is going on around school. In most interviews, stories and what not there is a first grade flute class or fifth grade singing rehearsal for the upcoming Christmas musical or worse, third grade drum class in the background.

I said to the children that it would probably gross them out which of course makes an adolescent want to see it all the more so we watched. Actually there was nothing gruesome to view. On the one DVD we looked at there were 36 video clips – in black and white – showing like a string with a lasso on the end going through the vein to position the stents. One 8th grader who wants to be a doctor after watching for a minute said that I had an irregular heart beat. Well I hadn’t even noticed that.

So here I am three weeks after surgery and we are going back next weekend, hopefully just for three days this time, to be sure everything is in place. I was told not to lift weights for the first two weeks and that this week it was OK to go lightly so I have done that. I said to a nurse “what about my six-pack I am trying to develop” (at 66 years old) and she said “why?” because I was married. I said that matrimonial status had nothing to do with vanity but she did not get that. We have gone for walks which is OK though I feel pretty crappy after about 20 minutes. Of course I am wondering whether ever having anything done was the correct thing to do.

To freak myself out even more I read a story in the New York Times Health blog section this morning,

“Heart Stents Still Overused, Experts Say” By ANAHAD O’CONNOR August 15, 2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/heart-stents-continue-to-be-overused/?_r=0
which says one out of ten don’t need them and that doctors and hospitals make good money doing these procedures. Damn!

Xi’an

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Life is good.

  1. youtube clips at http://youtu.be/8CFyFFGaNio (first day – flight and Warriors Apartments): second day (Muslim Quarters) http://youtu.be/8Qbn9fvAusUhttp://youtu.be/GT2uYOwkS0s Terracotta Warriors, Drum Tower – City Wall = http://goo.gl/bSY4io and Giant Wild Goose Pagoda @ http://youtu.be/iu342lr_KFY
  2. photos for this trip at http://goo.gl/0JquHn

When the television is off for a week and there is nothing to do but nothing to do the world is really an OK place. It was not really our own choice but the choice was good. A few things this past week have not been our choice but then again we have been making do with ‘outside’ and ‘others’ choices for a lot this year. The first few days we stayed at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. In the Bajiaxian Xihuanmen hood to be specific. There were no television stations in any of the many languages that we speak/understand: Australian English, American English (Narda questions whether that is really English – ‘just a dialectic of the Queen’s English badly butchered’), New Zealand English, Canadian and of course Narda speaks the language of her birthplace up there in Utrecht (The Netherlands) but anything else we have to turn the telly off for and anything else was all there was on the television in the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. The rest of the week in the apartment we were in we were not ever able to sort out how to turn the television on. We tried every button and every combination of every button and just saw characters on the screen that seemed to be laughing at us in our ignorance of how to put meaning to them. I have a Ph.D in communication (constructed all in Australian English – 155,000 words, 550 pages with diagrams and images – http://neuage.org/ODAM) which is all about the construction of meaning – see image below – but in that whole seven years of research and of course the masters and other degrees leading to that, I never learned how to put meaning to the images we were seeing on the telly so we could figure how to get the bloody thing to go to an actual television station. Of course we no doubt would not have found a station in any language that we understood if we did so we would not have known what was going on in the world after all, especially the first few days of our stay at the Warriors Apartment in Xi’an where we did not get Internet either.

my way of meaning  http://neuage.org/ODAM
my way of meaning
http://neuage.org/ODAM

I will attempt to stay on task of our trip to Xi’an; though, as I have not written since returning from summer break and our little journey to the States, Australia and Malaysia and we have had a very busy month since returning to work and the weekend before going to Xi’an we were on the North Korea border staying in Dandong I probably will have moments of drifting to other thoughts/insights/visions/illuminations/realizations/memories and the like.

Speaking of drifting – I write for myself – if no one reads anything I write ever that is fine. I have had comments that my spelling infuriates some (I switch from Australian to whatever it is the Yanks speak – being a duel citizen and all) so my excuse is color is colour and sometimes a ‘z’ is an ‘a’ and some words are slang and some no doubt I have made up and that is my writing that I do for myself because I enjoy writing and I do it for myself and I do a lot of writing to remember what we have done. I wrote a 170,000 word book called ‘Leaving Australia’ and made two bound copies of it; one for my son and one sits on my shelf and I like to read it sometimes as it helps me remember stuff. I don’t even have portions of it on-line. Anymore. I did for awhile but some characters that I have met along the way who were in my narrative were really upset to find their portrayals on-line; true that it was but of course we all have those sections of life we pretend never happened and hope that no one will ever divulge either. But my story is also the story of interactions with people in specific situations at a certain time and space that we shared and to change or even delete those moments makes the continuum of my story choppy and invested with deep holes – so that is why I only printed two books.

On the way to Xi’an the funnest of funnies… because of the upcoming national holiday the stewardess gave everyone China flags to wave – which they did. Following that people went up to the front and sang stuff. A stewardess came and asked me to sing. I said Narda was not only a professional singer but also a music teacher of course Narda did not hear all of this and the next thing she knew I was pushing her up the aisle. And even though I could not get a video of her singing because of all the people standing in front of me I did listen as everyone on the plane did. She of course could not sing a Chinese patriotic song but she did make up a song using happy birthday. Some words about ‘I wish you well China and on and on…’ we all cheered and my only disappointment is that I did not get it recorded.

Narda singing something about we wish you well China to the tune of happy birthday. She is somewhere behind the crew and flag wavers.
Narda singing something about we wish you well China to the tune of happy birthday. She is somewhere behind the crew and flag wavers.

Warriors Apartment in Xi’an. I will start with that. Because the place had a top listing for places to stay in Xi’an (Ranked #1 of 86 Xi’an B&B and Inns by Trip Advisory) and it looked as funky as could be we booked it some six weeks ago, August 24th to be precise, it was the place for us. We spent a lot of time trying to find the owner of the place. All the web searches for it lead to Expedia, Agoda, travelpod, booking.com and all the rest are just to rent the place. We did find the actual telephone number eventually and rang the owner who had his wife meet us at the airport bus stop. It was fortunate that we did as the place is almost impossible to find. It is located down an alley after a few other side streets. It is not a building dedicated to the Warriors Apartment but in actual fact three apartments, one located on the 7th floor where there is no Internet and two on the second floor. The building is about 25 stories high and is amongst many other tall buildings all several decades old. We booked a one-bedroom apartment for a week and were happy to be given a two-bedroom apartment. Inside is so much our style. Who would not want to have a home with warriors all over the place? In every room including the kitchen and about 40 holding up the bed (no comments please)

warriors under the bed
warriors under the bed

as well as four holding up the sink in the bathroom.

Warriors-Apartment
Warriors-Apartment
warriors apartment  behind the bed
warriors apartment behind the bed

 We were only about five minutes walk to Beiyuanmen Muslim Street which is the in place to hang out. Because we went during the Chinese National Day holiday week (celebrating the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, in 1949) the place was so packed that there were times we could not move in any direction. lots-of-people-1

See http://goo.gl/S2dh8L or click on the QR code. tiny_cc_f7mg4w

We got out to see the Terracotta Warriors in the morning. Bus lines were enormous with a couple of hours wait for the tourist bus that is mentioned in Lonely Planet. We gave up and found a more of a local bus on the other side of the car park – bus 615, which got us there in an hour and we waited only about 20 minutes. We came back on bus 614 which took two hours but that was because of traffic. The pits were will worth seeing once in a life time. (lines were much longer than appears here – they wrap around and go out past the train station and through a large car park out to the main bus station across the road.)

bus-lines In pit one, the largest of the diggings, they have gotten the furthest since starting back in 1974.

warriors-rows

I could never have been one of the people digging these things up. It is all quite painstaking and required endless amounts of time using small brushes and files to scrape off thousands of years of muck. In pit two and one which are smaller – there is still digging and crap going on to expose all this. We have a book written by the owner of the Warriors Apartments which is quite good and of course there is heaps on the Internet.

I wanted to go to the top of the mountains across the road but we did not have the time. We were an hour from Xi’an and still the pollution was so thick that even at noon the mountains looked too hazy to get a good glimpse of.

mountains

To divert a bit. We got home yesterday afternoon and as always had a Jack-driver meet us at the airport and we did our shopping for the month on the way home. In the afternoon we were just chilling and after dinner I was in the kitchen and without warning I blacked out and ended on the floor. I only say this now as I will probably forget somewhere in the future – like next week – and I want to record what happened. As a person who has never fainted or passed out before it was a unique experience. One minute I was putting something in the microwave and the next I was gaining consciousness on the floor. I did not feel light headed or any signs of anything even a second before. I did not even recall going down. Narda said I looked in shock when I came to. The whole event lasted seconds but I did get some aches and pains such as a twisted knee from crashing to the floor. What is slightly interesting in all of this is that things just happen maybe even for no reason. I felt fine after and we went and used the large massage chair on the second floor, coming home feeling great. So today I went to the S.O.S clinic on the first floor and Dr. Wilhelm looked after me. He took some blood, did an EKG which he sent to Hong Kong for a specialist to look at (oh boy maybe we get to fly to Hong Kong next week) and spent more than an hour doing all kinds of tests and at this point we do not know why I kissed the floor. Being a holiday week and the staff mostly out of town I pretty much had the clinic to myself. I only mention all this because nothing like this has ever happened before. In Xi’an the traffic was brutal. Cars, buses, scooters, trucks and people all going in all directions often in total disregard of any laws that would be in place if anyone was around to enforce them. (Travel operators in China have a huge new set of rules to follow now that the country’s first tourism law is in place. The 112-article law came into effect October 1 But I do not think it applies to people trying to get through an intersection) All manner of vehicles go through red lights so they are not a deterrent from disaster. Narda and I surely mingled with the masses and crossed in-between buses and carts and all the rest. Our tactic is usually to use others as a human shield and cross in the midst hoping others will protect us. Luckily for any reason I did not have a black out – my one and only of my life – in one of those crossing the street situations. And luckily we were not riding bikes in our dangerous fashion alongside main roads and darting across roads in front of traffic that would not be aware of a red light or anything else that could possibly slow down their forward motion.

smomggy Xi'an on a good day
smomggy Xi’an

We did ride bikes in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province on the wall that surrounds the city. It is one of the oldest cities in China and the largest city in the world in 582 according to people in the know. There is all kind of historical crap to look at. We rode up on the wall that surround the city. It is some 14 kilometers and we rode three-fourths of it. Because we rented bikes for only 100 minutes and we are old and slow and take way too many photos and videos and there are four bike rental areas at the four main turns of the wall: yes, the North and the South and the West and the East gates we only got to the third gate by the time we peeled our sorry asses off of the bike seat.

on-wall

After the first days in the Warriors Apartment we had a bit of a shock. At the door was standing three people and the owner’s wife. She said they too were booked into our apartment. It did not register at first and when I saw it was three teachers from our school – that we live on the same floor as – I welcomed them in thinking they were in the second floor apartment. We knew they were staying at the same place so this was not a totally unreasonable thought to have. It was not like waking up on the kitchen floor wondering how I suddenly passed out. Low and behold they had their bags with them and were told they could stay in our second bedroom. Now we realise that there is a difference in customs and how people interact. Perhaps in the local Chinese world having three people in a bedroom and another couple in the other is not uncommon. But these three women had already paid for the apartment we were in and not only that but more than Narda and I had. So of course everyone, except the owner, was upset. I just sort of drifted out of the picture knowing that four pissed off middle age women would figure stuff out a lot more efficiently than a 66 year old ex-hippie. The owners blamed Agoda saying they stuffed up the booking. The women called Agoda and Agoda rang the owner who said everything was fine and that he was taking care of it. What a balls-up – never seen such a situation. Right up there with fainting for the first time in my life. I suppose that is why life is mildly interesting to me it is so incredibly unpredictable.

We were told to wait until six pm, but it was about 7.30 when Clarence showed up to sort out the dilemma. In the meantime everyone was a bit agro. His initial ‘idea’ was for us all to stay together and he would refund some money. Well that was a stupid idea so he said he would go off and look for something to move someone into. As we had booked a single room apartment it was obvious that we were going to get the boot and we did. Clarence, his wife and son all showed up and with Narda and I were taken out of the old quarter that we were really getting to like and into some crappy new city area quite the distance. The apartment we were given was terrible. Clarence said that it would be very difficult to find a place because of the holiday. The apartment was dirty, there was left over food in the small kitchen and the bathroom was just dirty. We were quite upset but that is where we were left. Whose fault it was, whether it was Agoda not passing on the booking or Clarence’s it was handled very badly. He had no problem with taking the money – which incidentally was on the same day – we independently rented the same apartment in the same city on the same day – 24th of August. Clarence saw them as the same booking but of course anyone would see that there were two lots of money. We were exhausted by the time we got to the apartment and did not put up enough of a fight.

As always is the case we made the best of our new surroundings. We found our way to the subway and took Line 1 which began operation on September 15, 2013, like a couple of weeks ago. I love subways and always ride one in a city comparing them to New York City and Paris which not as old as London are great subway lines. I have never been on a subway line that is less than a month old. OK there was nothing special and it was so crowded because of the holiday that we barely could get on. But it did get us back into the old quarters. We were also near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayan Pagoda) which was begun in 652 and though another pagoda is not so exciting we did go to the fountain light show in the evening. I have some good footage in youtube but my still photos of the fountain light show are a bit average as you can see but I did get this fairly OK shot of the pagoda thingy.

Tang Paradise Water Show = big Goose Pagoda Fountain show
Tang Paradise Water Show = big Goose Pagoda Fountain show
Xian Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Da Ci'en Temple
Xian Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Da Ci’en Temple

Again there were so many people it was difficult getting around. Outside of spending a couple of more days tromping around Xi’an, riding the metro and looking at huge shopping malls that were fancy from the outside but just like every other shopping mall inside were the same old we just looked around at another polluted over crowded city.

However in one mall was this huge screen on the ceiling,

Qin Han Tang Emporium
Qin Han Tang Emporium

This ceiling LED display of more than 3000 square meters (168 meters long and 17.92 meters wide) located in Qin Han Tang Emporium which is next to the Goose Pagoda was impressive. I will have a clip on my youtube site at http://youtube.com/neuage09 any moment now. At the same time as writing this I am editing clips in Adobe Premier Pro Creative Cloud – my new favourite subscription software in a suite of lots of groovy creative projects. I am loving After Effects and Photoshop along with some 20 plus other programs but Premier definitely does for me at the moment. Having hundreds of video clips and a thousand photos I will have enough to do, along with an actual job, and being a caring/listening/nurturing husband (will there be time for that?) to keep me off the streets for awhile or hopefully off of the kitchen floor.

Thankfully I was not hanging onto the side of a tuk tuk as it found its way through traffic. These things are off-putting to me but as Narda likes them we do ride them in various countries.

tuk-tuk

I started a new series here at Dalian American International School – the DAIS Cooking Show. Well, I have had one show which was with meat eating Patrick. He showed how to make meat burgers – good grief, and in front of me too; I showed my tofu burger making skills refining one of my recipes from http://neuage.us/tofu/ where I showcase experiences/recipes/stories garnished from seven years as a tofu manufacturer in Adelaide, South Australia. We filmed it all with two cameras; a Nike and our new school semi-professional JVC. I now have several hours of banter, silliness, cooking, eating and live audience (Narda, Sean, Jean, JoeFred – not a big audience) to edit. I have several other shows getting lined up and soon the next in the series will be up and hopefully by the end of the school year some mega China television broadcasting networking system will offer me a huge contract to show what to do with tofu on live television… oh wait! This is China – home of tofu. Well I am giving it a shot that is for sure.

I did like the street we were on, it had art all along it much like we saw in Mexico City.

Here are just a couple of the pieces – there were probably a hundred:

 art-street (1)  art-street (2)

At the end of it all after walking 8 – 10 hours a day for five days in a very polluted Chinese city I think we would have been better off on one of the other holidays teachers took this week such as to Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, inner Mongolia and lots of better holidays than we took. Not to worry we are off to Thailand for three weeks at Christmas and lots of other great destinations for the next holidays.

The weekend before we left on our Warrior-less Apartment we went the three hour drive up to Dandong with about 55 people from our school. Dandong is across a narrow river divide of North Korea.

Walking out on Friendship bridge we could see the fake amusement park on the North Korea side. The Ferris wheel is just a cut-out thingy. We did hear children playing and actually saw them playing along the river. Online stories say this part of North Korea has been tarted up for tourist to look across and see that everything is quite normal. ferriswheel

The boat trip is well worth it and I even got up close to some North Korean soldiers,

soldiers

Maybe I could get them interested in my tofu cooking class.

At the Museum Commemorating the War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea there is lots of anti-Western stuff to look at. I photographed several of their write-ups but not having been in this part of the world and only having an American view I can not comment on what the beef was all about.

propganda

But Dandong is not just about North Koreans and their possibly tainted view of us – I mean Kim Jong Un is friends with Dennis Rodman, they are BFFs, how could they be anything but sympathetic toward others?

The best thing to do is go along the wall where it starts. Of course this was before I blacked out in my kitchen and twisted my knee (there goes my softball career – every Sunday we play against a team from Taiwan here at school and this was going to be the game that I actually hit the ball far enough to get on base – saying all that, everyone is much younger than me) so I was able to climb and climb and climb. We were a bit worse for wear when we got to the top but the view was fantastic. We could see straight into North Korea but I did not see Kim Jong Un though he may have seen me.

narda-wall

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.

Reason to believe

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

July 12-13 2013: Friday/Saturday

Home – I think – after decades where home is becomes questionable I think we are home. If we go by where the majority of our crap is that would be China but if we go by where we own our home then that is either one of two houses in upstate New York but nether of them feels like home anymore and our house in New Jersey we saw our furniture in there last week but that no longer feels like home. So perhaps Adelaide is home but this is not quite what I remember. I lived in various places in South Australia from 1981 – 2002 so this I suppose is home. My children and I lived in ten houses in ten years during 1984 – 1995, a bit of an unstable time.

Australia as visiting-home; from 2002 until February 2013 we would visit for four or five weeks a year as we lived in New York then China. We even built a house in Adelaide, in Lochiel Park, that we have never lived in and our tenant has now had it for three years and we wish he would buy it. When we would visit here for the past eleven years we stayed in an apartment upstairs from Narda’s parents but they moved a couple of months ago and for the first time in Adelaide we are homeless. Narda lived here every since getting off of a boat from Holland when she was four up until teaming up with me. Now we are both homeless where we should be at home.

Not to worry we loved Malaysia and even managed to see a lot considering we lost one day after Malaysian Airlines canceled our flight and put us up for an extra day and night in Beijing.

It was the easiest airport we have gone through anywhere in the world. Just a stamp in the passport. No stupid questions both when we arrived and when we left. Malaysia is courting old folks so perhaps that is what they think we are. They want Westerners to retire there as long as they have three-thousand dollars a month to live on. I think that is per couple. The people are very friendly though I do admit I am at a loss to understand their belief system. I have always wondered why people believe what they do and why they are so adamant that their beliefs are the way it is. I have tried many belief systems even spent years toward becoming a priest and decades being an astrologer and basically I think they all have something to offer but none of them are really the complete system. I have taken bits and pieces from different belief systems and believe-in what makes sense to me which I suppose is what the majority of people do. Every religion is based on a leader who at the end of the day if you take away what the reality at the start of their trip was and then morph it over the centuries it is never like what everyone claims that person did or was or even still is. Perhaps humans believe in and follow someone because they are afraid to live their life without the crutch of an outside force/person/being/etc. It is easier to believe in someone who no longer or never did exist and describe it in terms of faith than to take on the responsibility for one’s own life. I blunder through life I know but I surely am not going to ask an outside non-existing being or ‘invisible’ deity for guidance. I am going to make a rational stab at going in a direction that makes sense and do what I think is best, and depend on my own past mistakes/short comings/walking-into-walls and random experiences that may or may not have been beneficial/correct/moral (as per someone else belief system). I mean do we want to believe David Icke’s trip about how reptilian people are waiting to take over the planet? I must admit I have looked at his stuff for the past couple of decades for entertainment purposes and he is a hoot, one of the world’s great comedians and even funnier are those who believe him or take him seriously. Many people are just ‘trying-it-on’ and I am sure they are just as amused that anyone takes them as true blue as I am.

I have always loved monorails – every since seeing one in the movie Fahrenheit 451 in the mid-1960’s and riding one at the Montreal World’s Fair in 1967 and of course the one in Sydney I have thought a city should have lots of them and not just as a tourist attraction. Kuala Lumpur has a functioning good monorail and we rode it end to end. They do not have subways but elevated trains and the train to the Islamic Arts Museum stops at Pasar Seni which is one of the main places to go to. The other really different experience in KL is raised pedestrian walkways. Instead of footpaths (they have them too) alongside the road they have footpaths in the air (I have video clips but not photographs though if I were not so lazy I would use Adobe Premier and take a photo out of the video. I love the Adobe Creative Cloud and have a year’s subscription and have downloaded all their programs. Want to just stay at home and use the Creative Cloud but I hear there are other things one needs to do when coming to visit family, like visit family)

Below is me hanging out with Narda’s daughter-in-law. The last time we were here, six-months ago in February, Maggie would start crying every time she saw me, which I thought was just a normal female reaction to me, but this time we got along and collaborated over some technology. She was showing me stuff on my iPhone and I was going to show her how to make her own webpage using Creative Cloud Dreamweaver but she was not that interested which I understand a bit as she is only about 18 months old. She was even less interested in my new computer which has 16 gig-memory and all the latest bells and whistles and did I mention the whole new Adobe Suite – why would I leave the house?

_DSC0016

This was our first visit to a Muslim (65 per cent they say) country. I do like the getup folks wear and if it is not irreverent to say it is like being at a costume party with us being the ones who forgot to bring any kool looking gear. We went to the Islamic Arts Museum which was really interesting. Their art is great but after reading lots of stuff from their beliefs and looking at exhibits I really do not understand what they are on about or why they do what they do. I did come away with the feeling that they are really really pissed of at the Jews and Israel. Again, I am not a politician or know much stuff, probably really don’t know anything about anything but if their exhibits are true then Israel really did do the dirty on the Palestinians. I see there is a book to buy called ‘A brief history of Palestine for dummies‘ that I can download, perhaps that will clear up my confusion. I read one book in the museum – it was really thin – about how the Christian’s Paul was really a bad dude – I never realised how much someone disliked him. I read it because on the back cover it said that the author had studied religion and that this book described the differences between the early Christians, Paul (which the book said was pretty much a bad Jew) and the Muslim religion. After skimming through it I realised it was quite the pro-Muslim read and was not really a thesis on comparing religions.

Besides the rhetoric and propaganda we did like their art. I would love to have our home – if we actually knew where our home existed – with tiles like they do. Of course they embed their verses from that book they like to read and I am not sure if I want some of those lines on the wall of my home.

It is 12 RM ($3.78 US) per person to get into the museum but they only charged us 10. I thought they were being kind to us until I looked at our tickets more closely after we left and saw the word ‘senior citizen’ 10 RM at the bottom of the ticket. What? Are we that obviously old?

Narda in front of the museum – I have lots from inside even though there were signs which I saw after – that said no photos,

_DSC0071

Our hotel was really good. At the bottom was a large shopping centre and of course having Narda come through the door of any shopping centre is a cause of celebration and welcoming for the locals,

door

We were on the 26th floor of the Premiera Hotel with a great view, below is watching the reflection of traffic on a building,

night view

Of course the big thing to do is visit the Petronas Towers. I think I found a new thing for 911 conspirators to think about – you know how they come up with all these theories and why the New York City towers came down – well I saw tee-shirts that said ‘Petronas Towers – currently the tallest twin towers in the world’. Maybe it was not one of those many conspiracies that folks on the Internet want us to believe but in actual fact the sellers of these tee-shirts who had family members do the deed just so they could sell more tee-shirts that said they were the tallest twin towers in the world.

towers

We did make one sort of a blunder. We got lost as we do wherever we go and Narda suggested we pop into a hotel we saw right where we were lost. The Majestic Hotel – OK so it looked a bit old, later we learned that it was built in 1932 and I love the movie ‘The Majestic’ with Jim Carey so we went into the very fancy lobby sat down and asked for a cup of coffee.

_DSC0070

Well we were surprised at how small the cup of coffee was. It was served in fancy ornate small tea cups with a pretty little bowl with sugar. We relaxed and stopped at the bar to pay – holy cow – 45 RM which is $14.17 or to put the two cups together which still would not equal a full cup. We paid twenty-eight dollars for a cuppa. Blimey. To put that in perspective we had a full breakfast of eggs, toast, two cups of coffee and two cups of orange juice each at a our favourite Indian restaurant earlier in the day for nine dollars for the two of us. Not to worry, we just are not the classy folks that we thought/think/wish/perceive ourselves as. I suppose we should have just booked in a couple of days and eaten our meals there and forgotten about affording the rest of our trip.

After that little expense we walked to Central Market and along the Historic Walk all about twenty minutes away. We got another bag of clothes with the illusion that we needed more and the hope that we could squeeze just a few more garments into our bag and once again ate our meals in Indian places at most eatery places were closed due to Ramadan fasting.

Below is a curve in the tracks in Kuala Lumpur.

_DSC0087

So here we are, Adelaide, sort of home for more than 20 years plus a visit place for another 12 years, in the midst of winter which compared to where we live in Northern China not cold at all.

After the start of our mishaps with Delta Airlines (who just wrote to say they would reimburse us for the $400 we spent on ‘necessities’ due to lost luggage, – see earlier reports – so we sort of like Delta a bit and almost apologize for what I said last week how they were a crap organisation) then having Malaysian Airlines cancel our flight to KL (and their putting us up at a good hotel and paying for three meals) we did get ourselves here and it is up to us to have an enjoyable time.

This will probably be my last blog until going back to China in three weeks because what would I write about? I will spend lots of time, if I have any free time, sorting out the previous couple of week’s video clips and putting them on YouTube and of course having a grand old time with Adobe Creative Cloud. I know there has been a lot of complaining about taking away purchasing programs and giving us subscriptions. I would rather have the subscription because every month Adobe updates various bits and pieces in the 26 programs I have – some I have never used before.

cc

Blue Sky

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

July 09 Tuesday 2013

Blue sky

After a couple of choking days in Beijing – it was much worse than times before – what a relief to see blue sky again.

Surely we would not have two flights canceled in the same trip. Surely it is only Delta that is unable to get us from place-to-place with our luggage happily going elsewhere. But no it is the nature of travel period. We use to fly around-the-world every year, did so for 12 years plus lots of flights between New York and Australia and we did not get any canceled flights. A couple of times luggage arrived at a different time than us but we got our compensations and life move forward, sometimes better dressed than when we left thanks to misplaced luggage and insurance. But this year is quite different. It started in February when our flight Dalian, China to Adelaide was canceled – I rabbited on about that in a previous blog-tale, ‘A Chinese Miracle’. That was important because Narda’s first grand-daughter was being Christened, not something that would happen in my family as I did not quite do all the society-rituals that most humans do as I blundered through life raising my sons, but it was important to Narda plus her son was turning 30 so being told our flight was canceled to Australia did not go well with her and we found ourselves on a different airline later that day and all went well.

In Atlanta last week at least we were at the end of the runway before being told our flight was not going to take us to Nirvana or any other such similar sunny summer spot. Stuff them! They took us back to the terminal and said perhaps the next day we could go but we thwarted them and got a flight that night to Albany, New York and left the other passengers floundering about to get hotel vouchers and a hope that the next day they would get to NYC. Not us we are too impatient, got-to-travel, it does not matter where, just take us some place. It is like when we are home in China (did I say home? Actually I suppose it is because 67 percent of our crap is there, the rest being scattered around New York, New Jersey and Adelaide, Australia – I always say Australia after Adelaide because no one has ever heard of it – check your wine bottle mate – that is if you drink good wine – it will be from near Adelaide); when we are in China, Golden Pebble Beach where 67 percent of our crap is – we take random buses, of course we do that wherever we go just to be on the move. Our only criteria is that there are two empty seats on the bus. Where it goes does not matter.

Jersey-window-closeupJersey City industry

clouds-in-window

Not over Beijing

Yesterday we checked in, went through security, customs, immigration and then were told our flight was canceled. They gave us breakfast – in a restaurant that advertised cowboy bones,

cowboy-bones-smallI suppose they were just making fun of vegetarians. We had a somewhat decent breakfast on the expense account of Malaysia.

Then we had to go back through immigration, where they stamped ‘delete’ on our entry stamp, back through customs, and back on the airport train to the baggage area to collect our stuff that thought it would go somewhere but instead came back to us. I know my suitcase has been flying about the place on its own lately and it looked at me with dismay as it did not get to go anywhere this time. I took firm possession of my wanderlust suitcase – written with photo included in a previous blog-tale ‘my wanderlust suitcase’ and we were clumped together into a bus headed for downtown. I took photos of Narda with my cell-phone but they did not come out very good and I was reluctant to drag out my Nikon to shoot; the shots being of Narda in the midst of a posse of Muslim women half her size and overdressed for the warm weather if you know what I mean. We have, or to be precise, she has, a word-warning for when I am being inappropriate – I can’t say what it is for some reason, but it is the name of a city, and she is going ‘Melbourne’, ‘Melbourne’ as I am making, what I think are funny, comments. I seem to hear that word a lot when we are out amongst people so if I am talking to you and Narda is saying ‘Melbourne’, ‘Melbourne’ it is either we are landing at Melbourne airport or we are off to visit my son, Sacha who lives in Melbourne or it is because I am saying stuff I should not be saying. Honestly I never think I am saying inappropriate stuff but I hear ‘Melbourne’, ‘Melbourne’ and stop saying whatever it is I am on about.

We get to Metro Park a rather OK place and we quickly get to the counter to get our room. With probably more than 200 passengers we have been moving through the masses with considerable ease. It was lunch time and the airline had given us vouchers for smorgasbord lunch as well as smorgasbord dinner. We were up at 4 am and by afternoon were ready for a day off. After a frantic visiting and travel difficulties in the States a day down was a good idea and for someone else to pay the bill always means we have more money to use on the important things of life, shopping.

What was difficult was that we were sort of left at the hotel, all a couple of hundred of us. None of the hotel staff knew if we were flying out the next morning or even how to get in touch with the airline. We were told by five pm a note would be slipped under our door. Well that did not happen and we expected it won’t so we were on the phone to Malaysian Airline in Malaysia as no one would pick up the phone in their offices in Beijing. The hotel was not keen on us making long distance phone calls but they were not familiar with the Narda verb (see earlier posts) and we were on the phone until we got a half- hearted nod (we could not see the nod but it felt like someone down there in Malaysia was nodding) that possibly we could be on the next morning flight which was already full and that possibly we could take the four PM flight which of course Narda let it be known was not possible.

At five AM, this morning, Tuesday, July 9, we got a room-service phone-call informing us to get our sorry asses down to the lobby in preparation for a six AM bus departure for the airport. Some time during the night they had slipped a note under the door informing us that we all had to go to the airport whether we were on the next flight or not.

Not to worry – they at least had box lunches for us with some bread like substance an egg which smelt strange so we tossed them and Narda went off to get us coffee which they said we had to pay for and Narda informed them we wanted coffee and that we were not going to pay for it and sure enough she returned with our coffee, free, of course, then she went back to get milk when I noticed there was none in the coffee. It is not that I am lazy, I do heaps in our relationship, but at the moment I was reading sports scores in the newspaper and as a male that is one of my roles in life.

To make this first part which is just getting to KL short, suffice it to say we got onto the bloody nine AM flight and we will be landing in half an hour so we will have a couple of days of either rest or adventure before going to Australia where Narda will busy herself with grandmother duties and I will have a play on my new computer; 16 gig RAM and all the latest stuff and the whole Adobe Creative Cloud software to explore.

Not that it matters but in a city the size of Beijing we were surprised to be staying at a hotel (we have stayed at Metro Park in Shanghai, a good chain of hotels for sure, but the hotel we had booked in the night before was onlyt a block away so in our couple of days in Beijing we did not go far. I suppose most people visiting Beijing would be somewhat more exploitative but we could not breathe the air and we have wandered about Beijing enough and it is not really our city, not like New York City is.

Overall we are happy with Malaysian Airlines, they did the right thing. We discovered they did a bit of a lie. They told everyone that the flight was canceled due to weather in Hong Kong but when we researched it the weather in Hong Kong was fine. A bloke we were speaking to at the Malaysian Airline desk in Malaysia said that there was mechanical problems with the craft and it was not flying. This was right after the crash in San Francisco with the same type of plane and we think that was related – they did an extra check on our plane and probably a few bolts were missing. Whatever the cause airlines tend to say weather related because then they get out of being responsible as it is an ‘Act-of-God’ .

Our first impression of Malaysia is really good. I probably should not say this but at the airport it was like being at a costume party – I have never been in a city that had so many different clothing styles. Going through customs and immigration was so quick. We have been so busy lately we did not check to see even if we needed a visa but they just asked what we were doing here and we said holiday and they said have a good time and we were on the way. Nothing like all the check points in China. The airport is good the people are friendly and we got a taxi to our hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur and we got a room with a view on the 26th floor of a new modern place. See the Petronas Twin Towers in the distance – that will probably be our first visit today but as always we are up at five AM and no one else is. The second image is a view from our window at night. Wake up KL we have room in our shit case for more stuff.

It is Ramdim fasting time so it is limiting to where we can eat.

We have to use a VPN to use Facebook and Twitter and all the rest so must be social Western sites are blocked but the Internet is very fast probably faster than in the States and surely faster than China. Yesterday in Beijing to insert a photo into my blog took about an hour for each here it is just seconds.

view from 26th floor room at the Premiera Hotel Kuala Lumpur
view from 26th floor room at the Premiera Hotel Kuala Lumpur
view from 26th floor room at the Premiera Hotel Kuala Lumpur
view from 26th floor room at the Premiera Hotel Kuala Lumpur

suitcase wanderlust

Friday, July 5th, 2013

This has been a fantastic visit with friends, family, business people and just being in the States. However, this is because we have learned through decades of travel to get only just so crazy with the actual travel part of our travel. Getting to the destination and getting to the destination with our belongings has often put in the mindset of why did we ever walk out the door of our home to begin with. As I dribbled on about in the two previous blogs getting from Dalian to Beijing to Vancouver to Newark then to Atlanta was all as normal as travel in the electronic age can be. Getting from Atlanta to wherever it was we were headed for but finally ended up at and four days later still wondering where parts of our extended selves – e.g. our luggage are.

Those companies that are upsetting our peaceful blissful zen-like traveling selves:

  • Delta – a big middle finger to you
  • Almos Car Rental – we left your stupid bloody car at a different car rental at the airport because we could never find, if in fact it exists, the drop-off place. We were going to leave it along side the freeway but feeling kind we actually left it in the car park at the airport.

Delta – who is running your show? Are you really a business that gets people and things to places they pay for? Delta you make China Southern almost look like a real airline and they just lost our luggage for good last year though it was only my Piggly Wiggly umbrella and a specialized curtain rod Narda had found in one of those southern states few tourists ever go to – she said it would be good for our window in China. We had them so well marked and you lost them somewhere between Melbourne Australia and Guangzhou China and spent weeks stringing together enough words in English before we realised they were gone forever and the compensation we received did not match the emotional attachment that I had formed with my Piggly Wiggly umbrella – but not to worry, we know China Southern struggles to act like a proper airline; we know this how? Because we have traveled for the past few years with them and are constantly amazed how we ever get anywhere, not to mention our precious luggage. And we have learned to bring our own food because no one in their right-mind could eat that crap China Southern serves.

Delta! You are the queen of shit.

So we have our flight from Atlanta. What a restful time we had in Atlanta; three days in the mountains at a large lovely house deep in a mountain forest a few days with Narda’s son and his wife and all was good until we got to the airport. We checked in our luggage and got on the plane and even to the end of the runway. After a few moments the pilot went on about some traffic delays in Newark and we would be delayed a few minutes. The next announcement was that we would be leaving in 45 minutes. An hour later we were told the plane was headed back to the terminal but not to worry it would be just a slight delay but we did need to get off of the plane and take our stuff with us. “Just stay in the waiting area and we will have you on your way soon…” another hour – “the flight has been canceled”. OK these things happen so we are told we would not get a flight out Sunday night – we were suppose to leave at 2 PM Sunday. Turns out there is no way to get to Newark but we are able to get to Albany on a ten pm flight. Albany is where we are headed anyway. We were going to Newark to collect a rental car and drive upstate stopping overnight at Marta’s house in the Catskill then going on up the next morning to do our many errands.

We were very clear that our luggage was to get sent to Albany and we were told that all along the way; at the counter where we got our tickets and at the check-in counter at the gate we were told our luggage was definitely on the flight. When we arrived at Albany our luggage was not there and after much checking we were told it would be on the next flight which would have been seven AM Monday morning if that had not been canceled but not-to-worry there was a flight arriving at 2 in the afternoon and they would deliver out stuff to our hotel. In the meantime we could purchase what we needed for the night and for clothing for the next day but keep it under $50 or they will look at it more closely.

Who knows this?

It is not what airlines will tell you but it is true. Once our luggage went for a walk-about when we got to Scotland. We told them we were off for a week and could not wait until the next day for our stuff and we were told to purchase what we needed which to keep this short and not to reveal my dim-memory we needed to purchase a suitcase to carry all our new stuff in. When we got back to Edinburgh a week later we collected our luggage and nicely added our new suitcase of clothes and ‘necessities’ and went on our way and they paid for all we purchased.

At midnight we went to the only place open, Walmart, in Clifton Park; which by the way is close to where I grew up and lived more than 50-years earlier, and bought a few things. The next morning, Monday, still without our luggage we bought some more. And we did keep our purchases below $500.

Tuesday we needed to drive on to New York City and still our stuff was in Newark. We rang three times telling them not to send our belongings to Albany as we were driving to Newark Airport to collect our things. They assured us everything would be held for us.

This is just the baggage and car-rental part of my story. The family, friends, good news, houses and what a trip really is about I will say next so I will not forget which is the only reason to write anything down because I forget stuff the next day and to remember all the good stuff is easy but to put it into context or even in some sort of chronological sequence of it-was-three-years-ago, no, actually it was last month is useful for various reasons though I can not recall why at the moment.

So rentals have been a pain this trip. This was our third rental. The first was with Advantage Car Rental and we dealt with the biggest wanker in New Jersey with our first rental of a couple of days. The final bill was more than three times what was offered on Expedia which is more than usual. We always allow for twice the quote but by the time so many various taxes and stupid stuff was added the bill was more than three times the original quote. We rented from Advantage again in Atlanta for a few days and that was OK. This time we rented from Alamos Car Rental from Albany Airport for two days to deliver to Newark Airport. Our quote from Expedia was about a hundred bucks with taking it to a different location but our final bill was $275 and that is with us bringing back a full tank of petrol. So we have a lovely time visiting upstate – which I will get to – and midway to NYC – which I will get to and we get to Newark and there is no such location to return it to that is on our paperwork. We are a bit nervous by now as our phone has almost no charge left because the charger is in our suitcase at Newark Airport. We ring Alamos to find out where to take the car as the address does not exist they gave us. A rude cranky person gives us another address and we go there but there is no Alamos Car Rental there. With but a few seconds left we pull over and get Alamos Car Rental on the phone and say it is an emergency, come get us then our phone dies. We do not like sitting alongside the runway with no Alamos Car Rental or any place of business near where we are sitting which is where we were told Alamos Car Rental was. We decide to be more pro-active and to leave it at the first car-rental place at the airport we see. As we are driving toward the airport on this side-road we see a tow truck rushing past us – no doubt to our emergency. The first car-rental we come to at the airport is National and we drive in, get out, and say to the woman checking in cars that we are leaving this car and that it is an Alamos Car Rental and she says fine and gives us a receipt and off we toddled to Delta Baggage to liberate our suitcases. So aside of the huge price change Alamos Car Rental was OK they just have terrible service and have no idea where their cars belong. Obviously this happens heaps as it was easier to abandon our rental than we thought it would be.

At Delta, to our surprise, though I am not sure why, there was Narda’s bag but not mine. Holy-cow, they sent mine to Albany a couple of hours earlier. They said it could not come back until the next day, Wednesday, and to get on the first flight it would have to go with United then if we waited for 6 – 8 hours after its arrival we probably would have it delivered to our address. As we are not staying at a hotel but renting an Air B & B place for this week and we had an appointment with our finance adviser in The City Wednesday afternoon we rang and told them we were coming to collect it. This little communication with a company that would be unable to organize a screw in a brothel took more than an hour. The first person I believe was speaking English as some of the words sounded like English but most did not seemed to convey that perhaps the plane with my luggage did leave Albany and had arrived in Newark at 5.40 this morning but as it was a United flight and my bag had a Delta number on it she could not fine it in the system. At eleven AM without our first cup of coffee we got our sorry asses to the PATH train and to Newark. Now at Newark one can take a bus to the airport which we usually do for a couple of bucks but it takes awhile and stops heaps and we were agitated, without coffee, and in a hurry so we took Amtrak, at $16.50 for the two of us, the one stop to Newark Airport. Of course it takes people to the AirTrain at Newark only before going on its merry way. Unknown to us there is another fee of $5.50 on the AirTrain to go the couple of minutes to the terminal. We had already paid too much so following Narda which one tends to do especially when she is acting taller than her five-foot eleven tallness and she is agitated, without coffee, and in a hurry I quickly went through the gate which was open due to the person in front of Narda opening it to get her bags through and walking fast so as to not hear if someone was calling back to pay some unfair fee we discovered that the AirTrain was not running and we all got herded onto a bus to the terminal.

We had tea (dinner) last night with Narda’s art teacher friend (from five years working together at St. Luke’s School in the West Village) and Nancy use to say back in those years that she was going to have a bracelet made that would say, “what would Narda do” because Narda had a reputation for doing what Narda does and she is a great role model (though at times, frightening) for getting done what needs to be done. Nancy reminded us of that last night. Of course Narda said Nancy was true blue which is a great compliment to another human. According to the Australian Urban Dictionary “true blue = The real thing, no bullshit”.

Today having lunch with a few of Narda’s ex-work mates they were saying how “Narda” is a verb at work. “I will Narda it” or “I Narda-ized it” which is doing what is needed then telling someone. Or doing something then asking permission. I know we do this, not just us but most people at our current workplace because to ask first means getting a no but doing what needs to be done or should be done or want to have done then telling about it gets far better results.

Of course my suitcase was not at Delta’s baggage when we got there at 11:30 and Narda in her scary way walked straight into the back area where baggage is stored as three people were yelling at her not to go into the back area. Eventually a woman was on the phone calling United telling them it was an emergency that my bag had to be at the Delta area within the next ten minutes. I was left at the counter as Narda headed upstairs to get a taxi voucher to get us to our appointment on Lexington Avenue – a couple of blocks from Grand Central.

Did you know this? The airlines will give you a taxi voucher to where you are staying if you go to collect luggage that was not on your flight. We got a voucher to where we are staying this week in Jersey City the night before including paying extra to have the person stop at a super market so we could get some groceries. Airlines will never tell you these things about getting supplies if your luggage does not arrive or getting taxi vouchers you have to confront and get this done.

My suitcase did arrive at the Delta Baggage Area and now it was 12:30 – almost seven hours after the plane landed and three days after it never made it on the same flight to Albany this past Sunday evening.

The Delta paid-for taxi, the driver driving like he was in China; no seat belt and going very quickly and weaving in and out of traffic got us to Lex Ave. within an hour which was really good considering the traffic. We got to our appointment on time – our Australian money advice person – and all was good.

We are quite happy that the Aussie dollar is dropping like a stone the past couple of weeks going from $1.05 to 91 cents making our Yankee dollars worth more than ten% more than a few weeks ago. Part of the reason is because of the slow down in China – go China.

Narda says I use to many words to say what I have to say. She use to tell me by mid-day that I had used up my word-count for the day. What? I suppose part of taking on a wife is dealing with their ideas, concepts, stuff-in-general. She does not say that anymore either because I use less words in a day or because she is being kind or she has given up and accepts my dribbling on. However, saying that, I doubt I could have said this all about Delta in any fewer words.

Being in upstate New York was so good. I grew up or made a bloody good attempt at it until I had a gut full of the place and at age 16 headed out on my own to become a writer and artist and 50 years later realising this did not come about but being more accepting of life’s muddy and murky path or at least the ones I have usually gotten on to I am not stressed about the fact I never became the artist-writer celebrity that as one with so many planets and points in Leo should have realised I move forward in a semi-blissful way.

We firstly checked on our houses in Round Lake, http://neuage.org/house/. Beautiful Victorians with good tenants. In our large house the couple have had four children since moving in six years ago and in our smaller house the couple had a child their first year there. These are very fertile houses. We have a great painting couple who paint a side of the house every year; this is the downside of Victorians – absolute money-pits. And we had lots of stories to swap between upstate New York where the new Global Foundry is only a ten minute drive or half an hour bike ride away. (“Fab 8 in Saratoga County, New York is currently the largest commercial capital expansion project in the USA”) and our adventures in China. They are building a college there as well as some other chip company and lots of tech companies are moving in all close to our little retirement investment places.

our Round Lake houses with the first one being 15 Second Street and the one after it 13 Second Street Round Lake.  see http://neuage.org/house
our Round Lake houses with the first one being 15 Second Street and the one after it 13 Second Street Round Lake.
see http://neuage.org/house
13 second street - our first house in Round Lake
13 second street – our first house in Round Lake
15 Second Street Round Lake  from the side side
15 Second Street Round Lake from the side

We had lunch with my first girl-friend, Kathy, from more than fifty years ago. Kathy is now our real-estate chick and is looking after our houses if anyone wants to purchase a couple of beautiful Victorians so we can retire she is the one to speak with. My father use to be upset that I was dating her because she was a Catholic and in Clifton Park, a 99.9% WASP area then – not anymore, that was really outside the box. My father use to give me those Bible tracks that had a heading “what happens if I marry a Catholic?” well years later I did find out as my first wife (the witch) was a Catholic and true enough my life turned to shit.

Two days ago, Tuesday, we visited my sister and her family. It was the third time in my life that I had seen my sister. A long story that I will not tell now but I was adopted and spent decades trying to find my family and I did and I have a blood brother in Hilo who I have seen once and my sister Sue that I have seen twice before. In other words I have little sense of family. I was a single parent raising my two children and for the most part before meeting Narda and being adopted by her wonderful family twelve years ago I have been on my own.

_DSC0099This was by far my best visit with Sue and her sons and a daughter and her grandchildren. I feel like at age 65, a few weeks from 66, I may end up being a part of my original family yet. Susan’s son, Justin, is so similar to my son Sacha that one would have thought they had grown up together to have such similar traits. Maybe there is something to bloodline.

On the way to Newark – to collect our luggage – I believe I mentioned that above – we stopped in to have lunch with Marta – http://martawaterman.com . Marta is one of my role-models in life. She is a few years older than me – living life to the fullest and on her terms. She is a musician, professor, actor, author and heaps of other stuff. She was a girl-friend of my adopted brother back in the mid-1960s. Marta and Marc Seifer http://www.marcseifer.com/ a professor who was a friend of my brother and writer of many books are writing a book on my brother who was an artist, writer and musician in NYC up until dying in 1992.

and that is the past couple of days

Here is a picture of my wander-lust of a suitcase – how could they miss it?

suitcase

Lunch Alert at the Butler's
Lunch Alert at the Butler’s

What a great day in NYC and having lunch with the Butlers was great with Narda catching up with her old – well not old as in we are old but former – workmates in their wonderful home built in the 1700’s – the only wooden house still standing in the West Village from the 1700’s.

_DSC0001 and Narda found a sign for her classroom door…

_DSC0006and we spent a couple of hours sitting in Washington Square – my old hangout place from the 1960’s

_DSC0010and what is the Village without its shops?

_DSC0002Or without their beer?

IMG_1903and 4th of July Fireworks – viewed from the Jersey side.

_DSC0069

our Pommie GPS

Friday, July 5th, 2013

POME = Prisoner of Mother England; our British speaking GPS

Monday, June 24 2013

Following on from yesterday’s blog; http://neuage.me/2013/06/26/lama-temple-and-beyond/ – flying Beijing to Vancouver and on to New York City, arriving at one AM and sleeping a few hours we collected our car rental and plugged in the GPS that Randy Dandurand gave us some five years ago. Great how these things keep working. It had slept in its little padded cell for a year. We used it a year earlier to get lost around in several Southern States.

Isn’t it something how humans can attach human traits to items? When we plugged it in, our British speaking male voice started right off with the directions we needed to get to where we wanted to go. Of course we should know without a GPS, having lived in Jersey City for three years, how to get to our home to see the condition our renters have kept it in but Jersey City is a very confusing place to drive about in, especially in the airport area.

We expected our GPS to be a bit more personal, like ‘how ya doin? Good to see you again. My you have lost weight’ (that was Narda’s thinking wondering why it was not more personal). I want a GPS that talks, not just give instructions in a dry humourless British voice. How about some jokes? Even some sarcasm like ‘I cannot believe you two will not follow what I say and even with my step-by-step instructions you stuff up’.  Maybe some jokes or a little bit of a tour guide of wherever we are. A GPS that sings and hums and whistles, one in which we can put in your name; ‘my my Terrell aren’t we a bit precious today, not enough sleep? You are sounding so cranky if only you would have turned right instead of left – this is not Australia surely you know which side of the ride you should be on….’

I have often wondered why humans personalize stuff. When I lived with Lynn back in the late 1970’s in Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland she had a Volvo named ‘Harvey’. “i am going to take Harvey out for a wash”, “I need to fill up Harvey”, “it looks as if will snow tonight so I will put Harvey inside”.  She named lots of things but I only remember the car. I would ask her about her life with inanimate objects but she committed suicide in 1982.

Narda has exchanges with objects too. I have heard her talk to her computer and tell it she is sorry but it will be replaced, maybe it was a practice line for me. “Sorry you are a bit fragile and slow I will have to put you down…” I bought a new computer yesterday; a Lenovo, 16 gig RAM, 1 terabyte HD – lots of great features – top of the gaming computers reviews say. Great red back-light under the keys and I have a year’s Adobe Creative Cloud membership – every product they have now on my desktop so I can edit more of my boring YouTube clips and my thousands of webpages and soon too many apps that no-one will want. I am hoping I can continue with my subscription in China using my VPN but I am concerned I will not be able to as Adobe just gives the finger to China. But to get back to speaking to objects. When I get back to China I am just going to flat-out tell my three-year-old laptop that it has been replaced by something younger, faster and better looking and that I am in love with my new computer and it is going off to an orphanage where some kid will change the English keyboard to Chinese then probably drop it. Why beat around the bush? Of course some people would apologize to the  bush before beating around it.

To change the objects topic for a moment – our first stop was the outlet malls and no amount of jet lag can stop such meaningful events. When my son Sacha and his girlfriend, Georgia, visited us a few years ago I collected them from JFK – they had flown Melbourne – Bangkok – NYC with no sleep and lots of free alcohol but before we went to our home in Jersey City we went to this outlet mall just like Narda and I did last night. We have the rest of our life to sleep but a sale only lasts for so long.

Jersey Gardens, Outlet Mall
Jersey Gardens, Outlet Mall

Our rental car was great and fancier than our previous old Honda we had three-years ago when we lived in the States. No we did not talk to it; well I didn’t – Narda a bit of a conversation with it. The car did not start with a key but with a button which was fine and even though we were jet lagged we decided to go out past the Newark Airport to the docks so I could get some photos and video as the sun set. I drove the first long ways where we stopped to take photos:

_DSC0012

_DSC0013Narda had the second shot at driving and the car would not start. She kept pushing the button and nothing happened. Of course we got into some kind of laughing fit that two old people naturally would when they discovered the car they were driving would not start and there was no one anywhere near as it was Sunday evening on the Jersey City docks. Narda pleaded with the car to start – I am not so polite when it comes to objects not working and I would just well have dropped a match into the petrol tank and proclaimed that the bloody car was a piece of junk and no longer worked. After many long moments of discussion with the car – Narda in her best elementary-teacher voice trying to get the stupid thing to function – she realized that when she put her foot on the brake then pushed the button it started. I am only telling this story so that we can look it up on my blog the next time we get a car without a key that will not work. Then Narda got us hopelessly lost in some dangerous-looking hood in Newark which recently was labeled the murder capital of the States. For some reason the GPS got left back at our hotel – probably for acting so prissy in telling us how to get to places; and no it was not me that took it out of the car and put it back in a suitcase – but as I am not one to lay blame I will not.

What I love about Jersey City is its competitive manner she takes to out-pollute the world more than Beijing. Here is one of their picturesque evening sketches:

_DSC0040There are so many smells in this area from sicking sulphate odors to various food smells – a lot of imitation foods and flavours are created in Jersey City – really, we looked it up on the Internet. If you want your pork to taste like apples or your perfume to smell like muskrats this is the place to find it.

We were excited about eating at ihop where breakfast is a lot more than rice and more rice covered with MSG and other stuff, maybe even from Jersey City, that is served for breakfast in restaurants in China.

_DSC0051

We visited our tenant who has been renting for the past year our three story row house in Jersey City, who happily is taking another year, saving us the realtor fee of finding someone new. Nothing ironic about it but our tenant is from China; he and his wife and two year old have made quite the messy house for us. Their kid has taken over the house and the place was an absolute pig stye. It wasn’t just the wall-to-wall toys but just the general mess. And that was just the lounge, he was not keen on showing us upstairs or downstairs though as the landlords we should have asked to see. There is no escaping China for us. We even had a couple from China looking at purchasing our house in Australia but we have taken it off the market so there was no further dealings. Maybe it is my tofu diet of the past 40 years that links me with Asia; see http://tofu.neuage.us but whatever it is there is no escape. I am sure our large Victorian in upstate New York will be just as messy; the couple there have three children, all three born since they have been renting. Our little Victorian next to it is rented by a couple who just had a child so whatever it is about us renters like to pump out the children in our homes. http://neuage.org/house

_DSC0026

When we left NYC two years ago the new World-Centre building was about half of what it is now. In China they would have built the whole thing in six months. We will stomp around NYC for a few days next week before continuing with jet-lag games in Australia. I love NYC having done my hippie internship there between 1964 – 1969 before going west: California, Oregon, Hawaii then Australia for 22 years and back to New York 2002 – 2011 and now China 2011 – 2014. We have not been in the States for Fourth-of-July as we went to Australia every summer for our ten years in New York and with the 4th a week away we will try to be like other east-coast folks and train it to a beach on the Jersey Shore.

Next stop, Atlanta, Georgia

_DSC0022

_DSC0024

Lama Temple and beyond

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013  YouTube video clip

Again.
Again?
Again!

Never kept track of flights. Life is a flight. In-flight again. I don’t think I have done Air Canada before. Up here listening to Janis Joplin, OK I have done that before. She is my flight attendant. As one who rarely listens to music except when I travel I stick to what I know to hedge against the approaching unknown. I listen to Dylan, Joplin, Cream… Stuff like that. I almost got knocked over by Janis once in San Francisco in 1969, she was speeding along in her Porsche and I was crossing the street in one of those altered-alternative states people in the 1960’s got into. My one almost claim to fame so now when I fly I listen to her because she can no longer can run me down.

It is a bit of a different trip. Narda and I left Beijing at the same time, almost. Fifteen minutes apart – meeting in Vancouver fifteen minutes apart, racing through the night for eleven hours.   We made a slight error when booking  – damn we got on different airlines. We do connect in Vancouver and fly on the same plane on to New York City. We thought we were both doing United tickets – not that I was paying attention I was probably listening to Janis Joplin or trying to keep from getting run over by her to double check our flights.

We had a nice overnight in Beijing. We stayed in a Hutongs – one of those remaining bits of China that have not been knocked over to create another luxury apartment building that no one can afford to live in.

Photo from the roof of Candy Inn/Classic Courtyard
Photo from the roof of Candy Inn/Classic Courtyard

I think it was called Candy Inn; that was the user and password for Internet usage so little else matters. The hotel, more of almost a youth hostel, was in a very small lane. Everyone was friendly, though young. We usually stay at four or five star places which are comfortable but boring. This place was about a half a star with a small room with enough room for the bed but meals were good.

Before we knew that Candy Inn served good meals we went out in search of something ‘western’. After walking too many blocks past dozens if not hundreds of Chinese eateries and growing excessively exhausted and not even thinking of the “look we’re lost” but we are constantly lost so we did what we do best when we are lost we took the first bus that came along, a double decker bus where we quickly grabbed seats upstairs. Our policy is always that a bus with a seat is the bus we will take no matter where it is headed. Being seven pm and still very much on the right sight of light I captured fleeting moments with my zoom lens as pedestrian’s privacy found their ways into my next YouTube videos.  At some point we felt we had gone far enough and not that there is a downtown but it looked like some city centre so off we went looking for a western restaurant. Seeing a TGIF we entered one of those huge empty modern malls that get built then left all over China. Thank-God-it’s-Friday was on the top floor of the mall and as we rushed toward the entrance we were told it was not open yet and to come back on the 12th, probably the 12th of never.

baloons-cut

After more blocks of malls and empty buildings Narda spotted a Hooters restaurant – about the last place a feminist wife would want to go to but she said that if I could get past the tits we could at least get western food. “Past the tits?” “Pass the tits” I’m a guy.

Then she said if there is a Hooters there would be other western places nearby and just when I was wondering what a Chinese Hooters would be like low and behold she saw The Den, a very western looking spot. The food was good, I got my vegetarian meal, a salad – good grief, what one puts up with, Narda ate some dead meat and we watched Hawthorn vs. West Coast on the Friday night ABC footy game of the week. (Well almost all of it we left just when Hawthorn drew within a kick of West End; to non-Australians footy is football, though not grid iron as played in the States, or football that is soccer elsewhere and West End is Perth and Hawthorn is in footy-mad Victoria; and still for those not knowing much about Australia, Melbourne is the big city in the state of Victoria. Ballarat and Geelong are other cities in Victoria).

We were so lost and far afield from Candy Inn’ (Narda has corrected me claiming it is ‘Classic Courtyard’- 31 Beixin Hutong Yonghegong Street, Dongcheng District, Dongcheng, 100007 Beijing, China) that we grabbed a cab back. Not sure why the sign in front says ‘Candy Inn’ – maybe it was a brothel during Chairman Mao’s time; giving the peasantry something to escape their cultural ruinations with.

There were so many people on the street. I suppose after a long brutal winter everyone is please for the warm air.  But the air! It was so polluted that we could barely breathe and I had a sore throat and could taste the grit. What will ever become of Beijing and so many other cities in China?

This morning we discovered the good food of where we stayed; Narda getting the European Breakfast and me the American “hold the meat” meal. I was taken by the nearby food shop and the ‘Magical Dumplings of the Immortal Emperor’ – I think I had something like that back in the 1960’s in San Francisco but it was closed.

the ‘Magical Dumplings of the Immortal Emperor’
the ‘Magical Dumplings of the Immortal Emperor’

We went to the Lama  Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery” and not really joining in but at least being sympathetic to whatever it was they were burning incense and asking various gods for we grabbed some photos to prove their devotion.

Lama  Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery”)
Lama Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery”)

The Chinese are not really a law-abiding group of folks as below shows with their putting  incense where they were told not to.

Lama  Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery”)
Lama Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery”)

It was raining most of the day but umbrellas have been a theme in the past of mine and I found some interesting reflections of folks reflecting on whatever it is, is they were reflecting on whilst burning their incense.

Lama  Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery”)
Lama Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery”)

Narda as always stands out here she is the only one who forgot to bring any incense.

Lama  Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery”)
Lama Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery”)

And that was China…

So here on another moment to Vancouver, I do what I can to be annoying – and I really did pre-order the vegetarian meal and there was none for me. So every few minutes they brought me food – starting with an apple and a pear, then cookies – well I don’t eat sugar do I? Then came a salad, then a big bag of great tasting mixed nuts and a bag of cranberries… I am doing well though neighboring passengers are looking at me as if I am just an attention seeking wanker. I was going to take a sleeping pill but they are in a bag I cannot get to. This is when my traveling companion of the past twelve years is so missed, she would have had all the crap I believe and some of which I actually do need all sorted out, probably in alphabetical harmony, too, and travel we do. We have been going to Australia about twice a year for more than a dozen years, usually from the States though these past couple of years from the States and China, and this year we may be going to Australia three times.

So not having sleeping pills I am watching movies and iPodding (perhaps I should say blogging on the iPod; I just looked up iPodding to see if there is one p or two and got this response from the Urban Dictionary; 1. “The act of illuminating the genitals with the use of ipod backlight during a 69.” 2. “Rubbing your nipple in a circular motion like you have an ipod in your shirt pocket”, good golly I am old and not up to-date) this blog and watching the movie ‘Stoker’ with Nicole Kidman. I would recommend the movie to anyone who is flying for close to a dozen hours without sleeping pills with a plane full of Canadians (vs. iPodding as the Urban Dictionary sees it). I do enjoy their accent, after Asia, it is a holiday to hear some form of a language that I sort of understand. Canadians sound quaint. I think the flight-attendants (except, of course, Janis Joplin) are from the same area in Canada as they all have that slow-long-drawn-out way of saying stuff.

Breakfast was good, lots of fruit, more food than the people around me. I wish I could show more appreciation but my only knowledge about Canadians is from South Park, which of course is the only show the Yanks put together that is informative. I have tried their other news shows: ‘Jersey Shores’, ‘desperate housewives’, Fox News…. They just do not give a feeling of investigative journalism that South Park provides. Unfortunately we do not get it at Campus Village @ Dalian American International School, though why I am not sure. Maybe China blocks it or maybe our TV provider does not provide it, giving us the third rate Fox News instead.

Twenty minutes then we land in Vancouver and either Narda will be waiting for me or I will be waiting for her then on to New York City. With five percent left on this iPod I doubt I will finish this tale before getting to NYC. After about one hour sleep no doubt I will pass out anyway.

So I get to Vancouver and in my stupor I get sent to the interrogation area. Something about having two pieces of fruit in my possession. I explained that the airline did not get my vegetarian order and plied me with fruit for a dozen hours and that it was Air Canada so no doubt the fruit was from Canada to start with. She was a hard-nosed Yank, not one of those slow talking Cannucks that I had been getting used to hearing since freeing myself of Chinatown over there in China. She had one of those ‘I have heard it all before’ tones. In fear that I could be smuggling a backpack and camera bag full of apples and pears she had her lackey, clad in anal-probing gloves, take everything out of my bags. Obviously, finally, to her I really was innocently in possession of possible Chinese-toxin-bearing fruit and I was sent on my merry way.

Narda was waiting for me and she too had not slept. Now on our flight to… well that is the next blog.

Lama  Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery”)
Lama Temple (Yonghe Lamasery “Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery”)
driving lessons in Beijing - if the pollution does not get you the driving will.
driving lessons in Beijing – if the pollution does not get you the driving will.

DragonBoat Festivals, DiscoveryLand, B’days

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

China surely is the champion of what is and what is not and perceptions mashed together to morph into possibly acceptable perceptions, but not really. Reality is a mistaken illusion – it always has been; look at religion, personal-relationships and politics and education…. Maybe it is best not to look to see but to look to enjoy – surely not to look to ponder or philosophize, that would be akin to giving accreditation to what is really all just for fun. Do not take what you perceive to be real as truth, just enjoy. This is China – I tell myself that often – just as I would tell myself that in those psychedelic moments of the 1960s, or in my Tarot Card readings and mystical belief system of the 1970s and astrological interpretations of events/thoughts/life for some 40 years before waking up one day and saying ‘this is bullshit’. Perception is just how we colour reality in front of us. To me China and the 1960s have similarity in their un-realness. The moment is just about fun, to enjoy, to build memories for future moments when life returns to boring, which from my experience it always does.

A week from today school is over and we are preparing to travel to New York, Atlanta, Malaysia, Australia but today is a holiday; Dragon Boat Festival. Duān wǔ jié happens on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar and believe it or not I did not get a pop up message on my phone, ipad, computer; not from Google Calendar – which boldly proclaimed ‘you have no new events’ – surely it could have said ‘go back to bed it is a holiday’ but no – no reminders or messages to tell me of this glorious event. And to contribute to all those bloody fives I was wide awake at five AM demanding of my unwilling mind to go back to sleep because this is a holiday.

According to Chinese custom folks race boats, eat Zongzi, and drink wine – pretty much like an Aussie Barbie celebration for anything.

Then last night we were watching that most stupid of series (that everyone else is ranting and raving about how it is the best series of all time; what??!!!) ‘Game of Thrones’ and that idiotic Southern California blonde chick started season two or is it three – it is so mindless that I am always updating my web-pages during it and forget where in the story we are – she goes and gives birth to dragons. Good golly how could anyone like this? Narda says we should just watch it for a while because everyone is ranting and raving that it is the best series of all time and maybe at some point we may like it or at least understand what is going on. She said that about Dexter too. All that blood. We watched the whole bloody thing – to give realism to that Australian/Pommie saying – but of course I was updating my web-pages during all of that but at least it was easy to follow – just find a baddie and kill him.

From an email to staff at our school about today from our Mandarin teacher:

This Festival is to commemorate an upright minister called Qu Yuan. He was an excellent poet and literati as well in 300BC, the end of the Spring and Autumn Dynasty. To protect the country, Qu Yuan advised many suggestions to his emperor. While the emperor was irritated and Qu Yuan was put into a river and drowned. People were sad and took boats to save Qu Yuan, and meanwhile they wrapped zong zi and throwed into river, avoidding fishes eating Qu Yuan’s body.

Until today Chinese people retain the traditions. First zong zi was made by sticky rice only, and gradually zong zi has different types like meat inside, peanut inside. I like the very first type– with rice only–and dip some sugar on it.’

When we were asked to sign up for a celebration of all of this last Sunday we were informed that only 20 could go and a bus would take us to the Tong li Gong Palace in Kaifaqu.  Of course I was excited being the academic tourist that I am. I quickly sent an email to reserve seats for Narda and I. I could barely restrain myself from running down to her room to share this wonderful news that not only had I registered for us to go but we were accepted on the bus that would only take 20 of us most chosen to this glorious event. Well she was a bit less than thrilled and wanted to know why I would want to go and hear some children singing songs. Now perhaps I had a misconception as normally I do of the reality of the event. Dragon Boat Festival? Well it sounded really great to me. I had no idea it could be anything else. Narda said that the Tong li Gong Palace was not a palace but was the women and children’s centre of Jinzhouixinqu. Damn! She had taken a first grade class there to sing earlier in the year and it is where the owner of Dalian American International School has a language school which many of our teachers work at in their spare time – though being a teacher at this school I am not sure when there is spare time.

At another time in my life I would have been disappointed but at my age everything tends to be so unlike I thought it would be at the start that I have become immune to concepts of disappointment. I suppose I would be surprised if anything in my life turned out to be how I imagined it to be at the start of the process of adventure that I had hurdled myself at before crashing into a wall of reality.

The big day arrived – last Sunday, and dragging a complaining Narda to the lobby to mingle with the assumed 20 teachers who were quick enough to sign up before the bus was full we were greeted by the other three teachers who signed up to go. We ended up going in two cars instead of a bus load of chirping, happy, Dragon Festival celebrating mates. I like the entrance to Tong li Gong Palace which of course by now I had realized was not a palace but as all things in China are – just a misconstrued notion of what a palace would be if it was a four floor office building. And yes that is a huge construct of a mother and child on top of the building – giving away any illusion that it could be anything else. Not sure when angels arrived on the Chinese mindset but there they are, western looking cherubs up there with a not very Chinese looking mother. Welcome to China where we are not quite sure of our icons or what we should believe in.

Entrance to the 'Tong li Gong Palace' in Kaifaqu, Dalian Development Area, China
Entrance to the ‘Tong li Gong Palace’ in Kaifaqu, Dalian Development Area, China

And as luck would have it – there is a YouTube clip of this wonderful event at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ  – another one of those ‘gone- viral’ extremely-sought-after video clips; wait that is my illusion – now three days later – there has been one hit to it. I think that was me looking at it on another computer.  But to save my two or three readers who no doubt have had a gut-full and have stopped reading by now, the thrill or agony of watching yet another one of my five-hundred plus video clips I will simply say yes some children sang, a grop danced; but that is not all. We made zong zi – a sticky rice, bean paste, red date in banana wrap thingy. However, I was a total failure and after being tutored by a patient local gal with great wrapping skills who patiently showed me over and over how to fold the stupid things quit – or I quit – here is a photo of me trying this – of course the YouTube video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ shows this even better.

making zong zi
making zong zi

The other highlight – other being second to me making zong zi, was this traditional paint dude who we were told is famous. OK I have thousands of web pages and more than five-hundred  videos on line – I bet he has not done that – anyway, all those pesky planets I have in Leo constantly get in my story-line; this painter dude made a great ink drawing. I think we are taking a course with him in the fall so that will be groovy. He did this calligraphy & Chinese zither in about ten minutes.  You can see this in the video at http://youtu.be/KO8GHLMuKFQ.

To quote some stuff from the program list of what we saw:

  • Children poetry chanting: “the new san zi jing” – always a thrill to watch
  • Children game: ”ding ji dan” (hitting eggs with others – in this game children bash each other’s boiled duck egg and the first egg to crack is the loser – good grief)
  • Children folk dance: “Xiao a’ ge” (little brother)
  • Children folk game: Shooting “five poisonous animals” (actually throwing darts at a dart board)
  • Prize-awarding ceremonies – this is where the Zongzi making ladies were awarded for their making of Zongzi and unfortunately my instructor was in the third place category which could give credence to my belief that it was not really my fault for being such a dismal failure at making Zongzi but that I lacked proper instruction.

It is two days ago, Monday that I started off talking about but having woken at five AM – it is now after 8 and Narda is still happily sleeping the holiday away and I am fading I drifted off about what today’s holiday actually was for – a dragon boat festival but as we are on the sea and not on a proper lake or river there are no races.

calligraphy & Chinese zither
calligraphy & Chinese zither

Monday, we, well Narda did not go as elementary stayed at school and sang or rolled about or whatever elementary children do, took the middle school and high school children to Discoveryland (连发现王). Discoveryland is our province’s concept of what Disneyland would be if created by Chinese. Yes I have a YouTube video at http://youtu.be/lOoeM46fwl0, and yes I do a lot of work not only at school but at home for school – I just fit in my own personal crap early in the morning or while watching riveting TV shit-shows like Game of Thrones. This is my early morning holiday last posting probably before flying off to New York next week.

entrance to Discoveryland
entrance to Discoveryland

We were doing one of those amazing race races. I do not agree with children doing a learning project for hours before having time to play on their own. They pay their own fee in to the amusement park, 100 RMB (about $15 US) – which is cheap compared to the States and to have to do work for hours is nuts. This year we teachers each had a station with an exercise for the students to do – my event was to take a photo of a one-perspective and a two-perspective line up of the children. We all have an advise group and I have 10 middle school children in mine. So my advise group started off at my station which was an OK place as it was beneath a building providing some shade. After my event they draw a card to see where the next exercise is and go off to that. The important part is that they work together and stay together and do the exercise. Well after ten minutes two of my girls come back and want to rent a scooter to go around from event to event. Of course I said no as one of the rules is not to run to the next event or lost ten-points. We did not make a rule that children could not rent a scooter to go from event to event because who would allow such a thing? So the girls run off to the principal and ask and he says yes they can so they do. That was the end of my advise group’s cohesion and after a couple of hours the other children in my group came back and said they could not do the events because they could not find the girls roaring around on their scooter so I dismissed them and said go have fun.

Frank had it more difficult as his station was on a bridge with no shade and there he stood for hours in the hot sun.Discoveryland

Discoveryland

As it is Dragon Boat festival week holiday the place was crowded – not sure why we would go on a holiday and not a week earlier but such is life. Lines to rides were four hours long instead of the usual two. Only a few children went on a ride – for the most part they wandered around in the afternoon and the ones I saw did not seem that happy. I took lots of photos of our students as I do to put on the TV screen in the window of my computer lab and to have footage for my twice weekly in-house TV show that I do with my film class so I was entertained. My favourite part is their Discoveryland Parade. As tacky as any such thing would be this is especially strange as they have mostly non-Chinese in the parade. Most of the participants are youthful Russians. The Egyptian group consisted of very camp males in their twenties dressed in gold skirts and gold plastic to look like metal tops dancing as if they were the Village People doing WMCA. On top of the floats were youthful females with few clothes on wiggling about.

I got a lot of short clips that I can use as backgrounds as my film class has gone blue-screen crazy.

Last Saturday was Narda’s birthday – see the wonderful clip of this most timely of events at http://youtu.be/ik8Ms09Q-NY

Narda said she just wanted to gig for her birthday so here at Campus village cafe at Dalian American International School that is what she did

The best of living in Campus Village, assisted living, as we call it is that our little community tags along together. Last night we went out to the Discoveryland Hotel for beer and food – the people are great – the ones we work with – the beer was what it is in China but the food was crap. I struggled to find a vegetarian dish and that ended up being tofu with fish – so that concept got lost in the translation. For Narda’s birthday a dozen or so old people came to our flat for din din – we made up a good vegetarian lasagna and some other stuff. Everyone seemed happy – a few murmurs about ‘oh no no meat’ but that is the way it is in my kitchen. We went the three-floors down to Campus Café and Narda with the others were happy, sounding great and entertained us and the other twenty – thirty folks. It was by far her best birthday in the past 13 years since we left Australia. Being early June – the problem with Gemini – we have not been around her family in so long. But with our community and with a microphone and good musicianship her birthday came to life.

the Black Pebbles live at Campus Cafe at Dalian American International School
the Black Pebbles live at Campus Cafe at Dalian American International School
The Black Pebbles live at Campus Cafa Dalian American International School
The Black Pebbles live at Campus Cafa Dalian American International School