Do not take my Vegemite

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

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?

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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,

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Blue Sky

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

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.

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our Pommie GPS

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

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_DSC0024

Lama Temple and beyond

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

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

Skip to my loo

June 2nd, 2013

It is so fundamental but the loo can so govern the day, especially in China. (Loo being Australian/British and etc. for toilet: (From Wikipedia:  “When people flung their potty waste out of the window, they would shout “Gardez l’eau” [gar-day low]. That’s French for “watch out for the water”. We probably get the word “loo” from this expression, although some people think it comes from “Room 100” which is what European people used to call the bathroom.”  The word appears to originate no earlier than James Joyce’s usage in Ulysses in 1922 — “O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. water closet.” — perhaps Joyce came up with it.”)

The loo at the Vutup Dentist Clinic at the Shangri-La Hotel Dalian My favorite is at the Shangrali in Shanghai with a remote control for many functions; spray water, various forms of heat and many buttons that I did not try. The loo at the Vutup Dentist Clinic at the Shangrali Hotel Dalian is a treat. As soon as the door is open the seat pops up, it is warm and it too has buttons. I have yet to be game to push them but Narda tried one and it gave her a bit of a spray wash – she did not try the other buttons.  OK the picture does not give much of the pleasure of use but compared to the usual toilets in China, even at the ultra- modern new Dalian North Railroad station, it is a real find. I hate squat toilets and in my two years here have not used one except to pee. Anything else waits until I get home or find a western hotel. Last week a woman’s baby got flushed down one (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/chinese-baby-flushed-down-toilet-1923771) and survived. I always thought that someday I should have therapy about the fact I was put in an orphanage and taken out three times then finally adopted by some mad-cap Christians in 1950 but this person is going to really need therapy. Narda has the technique down – the squatting part and does not mind too much. She

Chinese squat toilet
Chinese squat toilet

has demonstrated to whomever is interested – not in real-action, but showing us a good squat position to make things move along. The worst toilets are in the Jinshitan Market where, if one can get past the smells, even the women just squat along a wall with an open trough. Narda, a user of said trough, could not understand the gestures of a woman squatting next to her one time. She kept point a finger in the air – not the finger but a finger – this is China where people are not as rude as us Westerners. Then Narda realised the woman was telling her to put her bag on a hook on the wall so it would not touch the foul floor.

Toilets in Holland I find difficult too, and though they are proper sit-down toilets the drain is placed in the front so everything sits not in water but on the base, stinking up the room until flushed.

dutch-toilet
dutch-toilet

I suppose if one watched heaps of ER shows, or Grey’s Anatomy and had an interest in what their deposits in the loo looked like they could easily observe it in a Dutch toilet.

Not sure how I got onto this topic when there was so much other I wanted to note to remember the past two weeks, but at one am I was so wide awake and it being
Saturday night well actually Sunday morning I thought I would write a bit then go back to bed. It is now three AM and my concern is that I will be sleepy for Sunday which I suppose is fine as all we will do is shop at the local Longshawn Village for veggies and tofu for the week. Couple with the fact that I have taken photos of loos for some odd reason – maybe just to appreciate what a proper one with heat, spray and the what-not incorporated within. I think adding music would be good – something classical – though hip-hop could be OK. Even country and western would be fine – they are always talking about loss. Then there are the blues, surely we could have some really good B King tunes play when we sat and shat. The one at the Vutup Clinic is adequate though. As soon as the door is open the seat cover pops up and when you leave it goes back down. It does not differentiate between male or female so the seat ring thing is still down and needs to be lifted for the male release thing.

It is three am so I will try once again to go to sleep. I had already lain awake for an hour before getting up at one am. My mind is so active. Not sure why. School is full-on, we leave for the summer in two and a half weeks for the States a couple of weeks then Australia for four weeks and a side trip to Malaysia so it is all pretty chilled and no reason not to sleep. I tried to contact the inner Self and find peace and solace using techniques I learned back in the 1970s when I was a brother in the Holy Order of Mans but they did not work and I question these past few years whether all what I once believed in whilst in my decade long metaphysical stupor was real or are we just caught up in evolution’s game being nothing more than the ones who prepare the next generation who will do the same and within all that the species evolves toward something or the other?

Yesterday we went into Dalian on the 轻轨, qing gui (light rail), thinking by leaving at 8:30 we would get a seat in but no luck it is always so crowded. Out of boredom I wrote down all the stations on line 3 – speaking of threes – most of the stations are broken into three words on the signs though in reality, my reality, they are really one word: Jin Shi Tan, Xiao Yao Wan (the stop for the future city, Wolong Bay, that is being built – see my youtube video from last year at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-drgVo45WWs) DD Port, Bao Shu Qui,

stations on line 3
stations on line 3

Kai Fai Qu (5 colur city see my clip of Kaifaiqu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAz3eqFzfRg), Jim Ma Li, Da Lian Wan (in the Ganjingzi District of Dalian City), Hou Yan, Auan Shui (markets), Jin Jai Jie, Xiang Lu Jiao (Metro, Sams Club, Decathlon sports store – 迪卡侬(香炉礁店, Ikea) and finally stopping at the last stop –  Dalian Station. The school’s shopping bus stops at Metro where we fill boxes and suitcases of what we need for a month then put it on the bus and go off for the day. The bus driver unloads our crap back at Campus Village and we collect it whenever we drag our sorry asses back home.

, about a 45 minute ride, Narda managed to rush onto the train at the Dalian Station

On the qing gui home
On the qing gui home

and get a seat. I was fast but when a hundred Chinese are going for a couple of dozen seats it is the really quick who get a seat and I was left standing to analyze my poor strategy for getting a seat. Never the one to shy away from strangers I saw Narda and the girl next to her passing the girl’s cell phone back and forth. They did this all the way to the Kai Fai Qu station where suddenly Narda moved over giving me a space to sit. They were using the phone to carry on a conversation with both translating back and forth and the topic of discussion was that when the girl got off I would have a seat. At the start of their ‘conversation’ the girl wrote that Narda could help her with learning English. This is what is so enjoyable about living here; people will find a way to communicate whether they share a common language or not.

Last weekend Narda’s sister, Carolin and her husband Michael stopped in for a couple of days. They are celebrating being fifty and are on the way to Holland, England, France and places like that. On Saturday evening we went into Dalian on the light rail – kuai-gui to stay overnight at the Harbour View Hotel and we went to see the Beijing Beatles on the rooftop at the Lenbach German Restaurant ( Xinghai Square). They

the Beijing Beatles live in Dalian
the Beijing Beatles live in Dalian

were sponsored by the International Club of Dalian. I have a short video clip at http://youtu.be/WzsnK6uUQx8 without watching the clip let it suffice to say they were quite terrible sounding. Narda had just done a Beatles concert a few days earlier with her elementary children and they were much better. A couple of Narda’s fourth/fifth graders were at the gig and they went on stage and told the Beijing Beatles who by the way are from Australian and great Britain – that they sang the wrong words for Yellow Submarine. The children would know that one as they sand it for weeks before their concert. I heard them daily as my video-film studio at Dalian American International School is next door to Narda’s music room. A lot of my little video shows I do twice weekly with my students for the school to play has her children singing off in the background because of our thin walls. There were a lot of expats at the show – many from our school and it was enjoyable no matter the fact that they were not in harmony, missed lyrics, and were just generally horrible. They have a website which make them sound good http://thebeijingbeatles.com/ but in reality – think of a college piss-up where everyone knows the lyrics because it is the Beatles and there is a lot of drinking going on and no one really cares how bad the band sounds because it is so easy to sing along.

We have two weeks left of work then we are off to the States (NYC, upstate New York, and Atlanta), Malaysia, and Australia then back at the start of August. As usual life is hectic at school with so many things to deal with. In my little world things are great with my film class and our setting up a film program and studio. We have been going nuts with blue screens and having lots of interesting backgrounds. I am still looking for a proper professional camera for next school year with little luck. I will probably have to wait until Australia to get one. It has been an amazing year for me both as technology integration coordinator as we move toward a one-to-one device program. It is a challenge with so many devices and operating systems. Back at Albany Academy when I was the Director of Technology it was straight forward, we all used macs and that was it. In my video production class thanks to an Intel grant we are getting set up well and coming with good products, looking forward to next school year.

In my little self-centred world I have been creating web pages since the early 1990s when the World Wide Web was first invented. I have created thousands of pages and have many domains as any self-serving Leo would: neuage.orghttp://neuage.meneuage.mobineuage.usneuage.info, to name just a few. Last week I put a tracker-cookie on 590 pages (about ten percent of my pages) so I could have a better idea of where people go so I could improve and change them to more mobile friendly and perhaps start creating neuage apps for my tofu pages or my picture poems, children stories, many blogs and etc. I thought it would give me a good idea of where the masses are flocking to. As a night-mare on Leo Street would have it after three days I had one hit to one page out of 590. I think I could be in a record book for having the fewest visits to the most created pages on the web. Narda does not understand why I would care if anyone visited any of my webpages but she is a Gemini so I understand her confusion. I have Mars conjunct Uranus in Gemini so I do have a little bit of non-Leo in my makeup and I know that part of me; Mars and Uranus confuse me often as well as those around me.

When Narda’s sister and brother-in-law were here last weekend we went to the

Jinshitan Markets
Jinshitan Markets
Jinshitan Markets
Jinshitan Markets
Jinshitan Markets
Jinshitan Markets
Jinshitan Markets
Jinshitan Markets

And in Dalian to the Korean Market

Narda at the Korean Market Dalian
Narda at the Korean Market Dalian

Just another weekend in China

June 2nd, 2013

Just another weekend in China though with a different set of events/thoughts/wanderings….

  • Chinese Visa Office
  • 11th Annual Dalian International Walking Festival
  • Soggy day
  • ‘Famous French and English Bands’ at the Chateau du Vin Bordeaux
  • Beatles concerts
  • And so much more

Actually this is more than a weekend memory of what-we-did as Thursday and Friday is just as much of this extended weekend at least in my memory as Saturday and Sunday is. Of course Thursday and Friday were work days. With my job as technology coordinator however I am always on the job as I read technology and educational blogs and updates whether I am at school or on the shopping bus, sitting on the loo or waiting in a dentist’s office. Saturday whilst Narda was in the dentist chair for more than an hour I took enough notes from what I had found to be potentially useful stuff for possible integration or to-try at school that I will be spending days engaging with it. There are so many blogging-filming apps now that I am looking forward to what I can do with my classes next year that are specializing in multimedia, and film specifically. This is an exciting time to be developing a film program in a school. Helping students to become always-journalist will be one of the most important lessons for them. Journalism has not changed but the delivery and sharing has. When I was doing my journalism degree at the start of the 1990s I concentrated on radio-broadcasting, helping to start the community radio station E-FM (Encounter FM) in Victor Harbor, South Australia. My part of the radio station needless to say was news and children’s radio (CAR = Children’s Australian Radio – my little contribution to Australian community radio) where my children managed to star on.

I am teaching broadcast journalism along with filming.  Merging these with social sites and story development and sharing more than ‘we had pizza last night’ will greatly assist students. I am having them blogging using their phones as well as filming and bringing it into the classroom for editing. Next year I will collaborate with the English department (write the story), music department for backing tracks as well as my classes for filming and editing.

The next big shift in schools is from integrating technology to integrating film in every department. Students are already doing this in their life outside of school putting clips onto whatever site is their favorite at the moment. Students are self-branding all the time and assisting as well as providing time and space to do this will improve their self-image i.e. self-brand. We have been putting a lot of emphasis on student portfolios lately but social sites are there real portfolios and I feel that is the area we need to develop. Employers are looking at social sites as part of their investigations of potential new hires and if the social site has wonderfully crafted video-blogs and short films this becomes a living-portfolio. This area has not been very well addressed and it is an area I will be working on next year so students will have their shared-online-lives crafted to look like mini-film-festival. ‘The Festival of Me’ – it sounds so Leo and having five planets in Leo I feel qualified for such a category of instruction or for at least me. In my middle school publication class I have students making a magazine in InDesign titled ‘About Me’ where they create a whole newsletter/e-zine about themselves. Their initial reaction is that writing more than fifty words about themselves is impossible becomes more engaging when they write about their favorite video game or movie and get to insert photos (Creative Commons only of course) and interview each other and write up a commercial and on and on.

We have been corresponding with a school in India to do a collaborative on-line real-time film project and we have the assistance of a film producer in Los Angeles who recently had her film accepted into the Sundance film festival in Utah. Our class has been Skypping her and we have been discussing their individual projects for this quarter as she ‘looks over our shoulders’. My neighbor, Frank, and his wife are moving to Yangon, Myanmar to teach at an international school next year. We have been putting together a plan to do a collaborative film project which in my little world is quite exciting. I am thinking of his and my students writing a script together – back and forth then having our individual classes create and edit the script and have them playing side by side as one film with two interpretations of the same story. His students are mostly Myanmar citizens and mine are a collection from around the planet which would make this a very global endeavor.

To emphasize my integration of film in the student’s life where most of their daily short clips are posted to social sites from their smartphones..

An Australian filmmaker has won first prize at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival with a short film shot entirely on a Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone. The film explores the influence of hip hop, which started in the Bronx, on the indigenous communities in regional Australia and how it helped youth reconnect with tribal elders and tell stories using this style of music.

http://www.techguide.com.au/menu-news-by-categories/mobiles/1817-aussie-wins-film-festival-with-movie-shot-on-nokia-lumia-920-smartphone

see it on youtube at http://youtu.be/W8Lewbdm8lg

Last Thursday it was Narda’s elementary student concert, ‘All you need is love’ that put us into a Beatles mood. She has been doing a lot of work on this for the past months and I have been filming little segments as commercials for our school’s video-news show, DAISlive. As Narda’s biggest fan the past twelve years I would say this was up there with her best work. Of course it is not the same as when she did a Beatles tribute at Albany Academy in upstate New York a decade ago but that was with high school and there was dance involved as Albany Academy for Girls has a strong dance program. Being in a Beatles mood we are off to see the Beijing Beatles next weekend who are playing in Dalian. Carolyn, Narda’s sister and her husband are visiting from Australia then so they can too see what China has to offer to the musical past. One of the Beijing Beatles is from Australia so they couldn’t be that bad. The name of the show is We do like to be beside the seaside – tour to Dalian.

Friday we needed to collect our passports so we could go to the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang this coming Tuesday. Narda has to sort out some stuff with the Yanks and I have to go along being the Yank of a sponsor. As always these things are so complicated; whether to keep a Green Card – problem is being out of the States for the past two years, surrendering it is an issue and becoming a citizen is another kettle of fish. We just hope to be able to sort it out in one trip. With less than four weeks before we leave for the States she is now in no-man’s land. They won’t give her a visitor’s visa without tossing the Green Card and she may not be unable to renew the Green Card and now with the recent Boston problems the Yanks are all the more tighter about stuff. When we first went to the States in 2002, shortly after 9-11, we had a terrible time. According to many phone calls we had everything in order. When we arrived in Sydney – with our flight booked for the next day to New York, not only were they very rude to us but they said in the photos of Narda her ear was not showing enough and we would have to re-do the photo and come back in a week. At the time we were homeless, having sold Narda’s home in Adelaide, and storing away all our belongings we were left to cancel our flight with no idea when we would be able to get Narda with a visia. We were not going for a usual visit, we were moving there. I had been out of the country for 20-years so they said something about not having domicile and as a sponsor of Narda who, like me, had jobs in the States; she was at Albany Academy for Girls and me at the State University of New York at Albany, and my father was 97 years old waiting to see me before he left the planet. After three days of abuse by the wankers at the US consulate in Sydney I contacted my cousin Fredrick Miller who knew Congressman Sweeney and Sweeney sent a congressional letter to the consulate in Sydney. All of a sudden they were nice to me, and said I could come in right away and we could fly out in the evening. There was a period we thought we would never get in to the States. Now after living there for more than a decade, owning three homes and Narda having a son living in the States married to a Yank (I started the trend in her family of marrying non-Dutch people). Before I came bopping along Narda and her three sisters and all their relatives had only ever married Dutch people, having migrated to Australia from the Netherlands in the 1950s. Since me one son has married a Yank and lives in Atlanta, Georgia and another son has married a POM – prisoner of Mother England, and her third son now in India, has a pommie girlfriend too so I changed their directions. They had all been staying in the Dutch genetic pool for five-hundred plus years; so they must be thankful to me. To make a too long story short about going to New York my father hung around for another five years and we were happy that Sweeney was able to get us in. Fortunately for us this was before Sweeney got into a bit of trouble: In September 2006, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its ‘The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress’ and Sweeney was one of the 20.

Our visit to the Chinese visa issuing place was much different than the one to Sydney. We had one of those Chinese moments where everything takes longer and goes slow compared to what us Westerns want but after a couple of hours, chatting about stuff like the price of wine in Australia and how many children we had and lots of smiles and interpretations we got our passports with our official work-visa to July 31st 2014. Being past 65 this is a big deal for me as in most provinces the work-visa limit is 60. I believe from our conversation at the visa office that Chinese retirement is 60 then I think they get a pension which puts away the thought that china does not look after their people.

What we are finding is that a lot of stuff we have been told in the Western media is quite different than the China we see on a day-to-day basis. People; whether authorities or folks in the street are really quite friendly. They stop and stare like we are from another galaxy but with five planets in Leo it does not bother me. They are generally a very curious lot and want to know about Westerns.  We are curious too; and of course I am very curious about their fascination with all things French as I will show in a moment.

Saturday was the big 11th Annual Dalian International Walking Festival. We signed up before realizing we had a dentist appointment at 11 AM. We figured we would walk for an hour then catch a cab into town. As things would have it, in a town that does not see much rain fall, all day Saturday it rained. I put on my waterproof ‘Tommy Hilfiger’ trendy coat (even old people like to look stylish) and we took the school van in a dozen or so other ‘walkers’ from school.

Tommy Hilfiger’ rain coat
Tommy Hilfiger’ rain coat

There were a lot of people, like many thousands, all with their umbrellas up headed out on the 5 – 30 kilometer walk going along the Coastal Road, “Bin Hai Road”. We had intended to do just the first five. Actually we did the first few blocks then disappeared up a side street and caught a cab to the dentist.

_DSC1600

At the start of the race is Dalian Castle Hotel, a 6-star hotel (300 rooms) due to open December 1, 2013.

Dalian Castle Hotel
Dalian Castle Hotel

It overlooks Xinghai Bay, 星海广场 and of course a million or so walkers in May, rain or shine.

_DSC1618

Of course it is the statue in front that I find even more interesting than a walled castle being constructed in the midst of a city;

_DSC1622

Definitely my kind of hotel if I could afford a six-star hotel, I did not even know they had such a ranking.

After the dentist we took the light rail (轻轨, qing gui) to Kaifaqu. Normally we take the shopping bus and get our groceries but we missed the bus. Harbor Deli is one of our stops as it is near the Kaifaqu qing gui station which is the Five Colour City stop and they have Western crap; cheese, cereal and that which we cannot otherwise find. Of course the rain was ever present as we took a bus (for one RMB = 15 cents US) instead of walking to the green-door – not the name of the place but we have no idea what the sign says – and loaded ourselves down for the week.

We figured we would take a cab home but after a couple of cabbies said no and another said two-hundred RMB (30 bucks) we realized the only way home for us was to call Jack – our regular driver who came and collected us and took us for 70 RMB – about 1/3 the cost of a taxi. Of course it was not Jack himself but one of his mates – we call them all Jack. If this was Australia we would just add an o to the end as Australian’s do and call him Jacko but we don’t and we won’t.

We were so exhausted by the time Jack came as will as wet we were ready to go to sleep on the sidewalk. This is one of the most difficult things with living at Campus Village; the transportation is almost too difficult.  This is the second time we spent an exhausting Saturday and got ourselves stuck. If there is a lesson we are not learning it except that we should stop shopping anywhere but our local Long Shan Village.

We received the invite; ‘Famous French and English Bands’ at the Chateau du Vin Bordeaux in our school email. Chateau du Vin Bordeaux, which was called, last year, Chateau De Bourdeux, across the street from us – I can see it from my balcony. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTioCA7Ct44&feature=share&list=UUzGrI_yggI56Gpp2ZyNQAXw, a year ago) has been another castle dreaming of France but this one you can live at as they are  The Dalian Haichang Group is building 400 luxury villas in this style. We toured the place last year and when we asked why they had not sold any we were told because they were too expensive, like a million dollars plus. The Haichang Group have been purchasing lots of chateauxs in France – see The Chinese Chateaux In Bordeaux for the down-and-dirty. Of course we are hoping this will mean cheap French wine locally.

Some of my images for this afternoon visit to almost France – China style.

The first one is a view of our apartment from the local million dollars plus flat.

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 Chateau De Bourdeux
Chateau De Bourdeux

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 Chateau De Bourdeux
Chateau De Bourdeux
china likes putting these kinds of ships around the place - this is a view from Chateau De Bourdeux
china likes putting these kinds of ships around the place – this is a view from Chateau De Bourdeux

SOS China

May 11th, 2013

SOS China

Dinner seemed fine, just scrambled eggs with a bit of cheese and hash brown potatoes. But a few minutes later I was sicker than ever in my life. Narda was OK so we ruled out food poisoning but after getting rid of dinner and all else before and getting worse by the minute Narda insisted on calling for help. This is not calling a hospital in the States or Australia which would have had Narda driving me to a hospital then me sitting in a waiting room for a long period as the world continued to swim around me and I did not know if I would survive another moment. Living here is what some would call a third-world spot; though China would not agree. I know we always say we do not want to end up in a Chinese hospital. But we had no worry of that.

I managed to say a few times that I would be OK – surely one more vomit and one more laying on the bathroom floor as I held on from blacking out then I would be fine. After the nagging wife said for too many times she should be calling for help I mumbled just call to see what they would say. Of course telling a wife such a thing is a green-light, open-door, the horse-has-bolted, thing to agree to.

We have the number for the SOS International medical emergency on our door. Narda rang telling my symptoms and some other medical stuff about me and a few minutes later our doctor said to meet him at the clinic in ten-minutes. Our doctor lives in our building though I do not know which apartment and the emergency routing service is through Beijing – off in the distance.

Again this is not the States or Australia where we are from. This is in a foreign country where only people around us speak English.

What is so unique is that we live in a community that has everything. The Dalian American International School with a large fence, gates, and guards 24-hours a day has more than a school within the compound. It has Campus Village, where we live, students live, and families working for Intel, Goodyear and the likes live. It also has a restaurant and most importantly a medical clinic. Last year we went to the clinic a few times for flu shots, occasional blood tests for some ongoing stuff and general checkups. It was only a few months ago that we saw there was more than the waiting room and a couple other rooms where doctors talked about their life in other countries in between prescribing medication. There were several other rooms for overnight patients and a whole little emergency room.

What is unique about this job is how our lives are so communal. At most schools people work together, sometimes go for a drink; when Narda was chair of the performing arts at Albany Academy in New York she would have her staff meetings at a local pub but aside of that most schools do not have such a community environment. Here I see the doctor at the gym or bike riding; I see kids at school, then at the Campus Café or on the shopping bus that trolls the highway between our compound and the nearest shopping areas half an hour away and on Saturday all the way into Dalian – more than an hour – where we go to Ikea, Metro or Sams Club to load up on crap. Parents are at the school, and then at the gym or swimming pool, at the café, doctor’s, chasing after their children on the school oval. Our actual living is a bit separated but in the same compound. We have the teachers wing – three stories of us, each with a different story to tell; the Chinese boarding students are in the same building but in a different wing with the boys on the third floor and girls on second; and administration, families and ‘important people’ living in larger flats in the next building and over and beyond that, yet still within the walls of our school area, are the townhouses that the expat employees live in. They are of course on a different pay scale than us and their children go to our school and they have drivers on call whenever they want to go someplace. We have drivers too but we have to pay them. Of course we are mere teachers and not movers and shakers at international companies.

And what is most interesting is our doctor who lives in the same wing as us; I think on the second floor – I have never been to his place. Doctors are on 24-hour duty and I think it is six weeks on and six weeks off duty. Our current doctor is from Ohio (I think) our other usual doctor is from South Africa. They belong to Doctors without Borders. They work in all sorts of environments and seem to have to know about everything as they are all we have to look after anything that can go wrong.

It was about 8:30 when Narda rang SOS-International in Beijing and they in turn rang our doctor who rang us and said to be at the clinic in ten-minutes. Our clinic is open 8 – 6 Monday to Friday and a bit on Saturday but of course in an emergency it is always open. Our current doctor, Steve, did lots of tests on me including an EKG (electrocardiogram) in between my staggering to the loo to vomit whatever was left which at this point was not much. Before long I was lying in bed in a room next to the emergency/operating room with an IV line in my arm and as the world spun a bit out of control I drifted off due to a combination of some heavy sleep inducing stuff and whatever other medication was being pumped in. As the clinic was closed Doctor Steve rang one of the nurses to come in and watch me throughout the night. When I was still conscious I felt bad about someone having to come in for the night when she was the day time nurse that day. Narda told me the next day that Doctor Steve slept in the room next to me with the door open instead of going back to his flat. During the night I was aware of the nurse checking me, taking blood pressure and checking the IV drip.

Narda came in a six in the morning and left a bowl of cereal and my soy milk. When I awoke at 8 I gave Narda the instructions to where my lesson plans for my classes were on the school drive so they could be passed on to whoever was taking my class.

At 8:30 the nurse took off the IV as I was feeling better and I wanted to go home – which in this case is taking the elevator up three floors. A nurse wanted to go with me in case I got dizzy but I insisted I was OK. I slept most of the day and today, Friday, I was back at school, though tired and weak it was good to know that I probably had some of the best care I could have had anywhere in the world.

Sometimes I think life was easier back in the States or in Australia (well not always; as a single parent for 20 years in Australia that was difficult) but I have never been in a place where a medical emergency was so quickly attended to.

Last summer Narda and I got hit from behind by a large truck on a four-lane highway in Mississippi at 70 mph and if it was not for the concrete blocks separating us from the oncoming traffic we would have been in a bit of a pickle but we just totaled the car and had shock but otherwise not injured. We waited for more than an hour that time in a very hot sun on a major freeway before the police arrived. If we had been injured we surely would not have been in an emergency room within fifteen minutes like here.

Of course if I had listened to Narda I would have been downstairs a couple of hours earlier and perhaps not have gotten myself into such an emergency state to begin with. Then again if I had not listened to her and decided to tough it out which was my notion then most likely I would not be writing this now.

To make a short story a tad bit longer; another amazing aspect of our close living together is everyone knows everything. Everyone I saw at school the next day, today, wanted to know how I was doing. The teacher next door heard me gagging and exploding in the bathroom so of course she wanted to know how I was.

And what happened? The doctor reckons it was a case of severe food poisoning. I ate the same as Narda for tea but for lunch we did not have the same thing. We usually come home and make a sandwich then go back to school unless I have lunch duty which I have twice every eight-day cycle. Lunch duty means eating with the kids downstairs in the café. But yesterday Narda stayed at school as she is doing heaps of extra work for the elementary concert; “All you need is love” a tribute to the Beatles, for next week. I went home and decided to have some pasta and to make a white sauce for it and as there was an open pack of milk in the fridge I used that instead of my usual soy milk. What we have sort of determined was that the long life milk was the culprit. Last Friday we had no electricity for about fifteen hours as I wrote about in the previous blog and stuff thawed out then re-froze; our long life milk packs we keep in the freezer. Then it could have been transit Mars in Taurus opposite Saturn in Scorpio making a T-square to my four planet conjunction in Leo (Venus, Saturn, Pluto and Sun and my Part of Fortune too all in my 10th house). Whatever it was life in China is good. We often say it is safer here than living in the States or Australia mostly because folks don’t walk around with guns.

Walking home from school Narda and I pass the clinic and there is our doctor leaning out the window asking how I am feeling. Where else does that happen?

I use to live in communes in the San Francisco area in the 1960s and this is not far removed from that where everyone works and lives and plays together. I would like to have a large communal garden but as we all go away for the summer it won’t work.

Quoting Jean, “We can’t lose you – you are our mascot”. Good golly what does one do with that piece of knowledge?

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