Power off Life on

May 5th, 2013

Power off Life on

We have had these notices before… “The school is informed by the Electrical Company that there will be a power outage on Friday, May 3 from 7am to 4pm. If you bring your own lunch, please make sure that it does not need heating up as the microwave will not work. Not to worry, I teach technology, how could having no electricity affect me? I have two teaching areas; one is in the basement with no windows and that is our video/film studio/area, the other is my fishbowl; so anyone strolling the halls sees everything and anyone from the library can wave to my kids as they do.

Not to worry, lots of glass plus the windows to outside overlooking just another China construction site with a dozen cranes and lots of people scurrying about to keep us entertained when I have lost the plot. But with no electricity one realizes how dark it still is even surrounded by glass. Computer class was no problem; we just used the new Intel Zen Ultrabooks from the computer carts which had been charged up. They were not able to save to their folders on the intranet but we had a good session with Adobe Fireworks, InDesign and Photoshop and hopefully they will remember what we did by next class. Of course middle school students at the start of spring… maybe not. My basement area was not useable. It reminded me of when photography was more fun when film processing was done in the darkroom. My video area surely is dark enough but I doubt the equipment is even available to develop film anymore.

I went to for a semester in 1969 and took courses in photography. It was such a disjointed time in my life; living with Carol Ann and her one year old daughter, Desiree (who now is 45), a friend on Facebook living in Colorado now. Back in 1969 we barely knew the day of the week but I did get to my photography classes.

Along the Oregon Coast 1969
Along the Oregon Coast 1969

Then before the end of the year we ended up in Hawaii in a cult religious order

Brother Arthur Adsit in the Holy Order of Mans; Wichita Kansas - 1984
Brother Arthur Adsit (they changed my first name and I changed my last name in 1980) in the Holy Order of Mans; Wichita Kansas – 1974

and I somehow got myself a job in a photography studio in Honolulu. I got back into photography and darkroom development toward the end of the 1970s in  and used my work as part of my picture poem art which I exhibited in various art shows 1977 – 1979. Part of teaching photography should involve developing film in a darkroom but I doubt that will ever happen again.

So we were told that at four pm we would have electricity. Last year this happened too and it did go back on. At four pm the electricity did not come on and when it became too dark to see and there was nothing much to eat and all we have is an electric stove and appliances we asked others, now flushed out into the hall, what their dinner situation was. Folks over at the other apartment complex have gas stoves which lead us to Jean and Sean’s. With candlelight and a gas stove. The electricity did come on for ten minutes and that was it. I made a large pot of spaghetti then Narda and I found our way home in the dark. At about 4 AM the electricity was back on which lacks in excitement when sleep seems to be the only option, however, it was short lived and went off until 7.

Below is the guard station to Dalian American International School from our balcony with no electricity

no-etsa1

Looking from our balcony toward our neighbours who obviously had more candles than we did with a the electricity over and out.

no-etsa2

There were a couple of flickers of off and on but Narda had time to Google+ chat her sons and granddaughter between Australia and Atlanta Georgia. The one in India must have been in between online moments so he did not make it to the ‘hangout’.

We missed the shopping bus and took the light rail into Kaifaqu ( 开发区 ) eating some good Western tucker at Tarsa in Five Colour City (our video of it last year). Expats, especially the young ones like

Five Colour City but we find it run down, seedy, past its whatever-it-was-meant to be heyday, though it is where we buy Western food stuff at Harbour View and purchase stuff for our non-Chinese brains. I read this review of the place recently which sums it up quite well: “There is nothing quite like Five Color City. It’s as if a group of first grade students designed the buildings in crayon for a classroom art project”. [http://www.whatsondalian.com/guide-74-rise-and-fall-of-five-color-city-in-dalian.html].

At the teacher’s get together pot-luck meals tonight – with a day of electricity under our belts the talk was that someone got the wires crossed. OK where did they get their electrician degree from? It was a highly inconvenient stuff-up but as always we enjoyed the moments. I made tofu burger balls, what I usually bring as my contribution and they all got eaten so that is good. I just cooked up a couple cups of black rice, added couple of cups of peanuts, carrots, onions, tofu, spices, flour and deep fried small balls in olive oil. I bring them to each hall party/apartment pot-luck/ and wherever else we end up eating in groups. I used to make them in my tofu factory thirty years ago and took them to barbeques in Australia so my life really does not change in so many ways.

On my bike ride this morning I took photos of a sign that points visitors, hopefully not angry government officials from our neighbours up the road (North Korea – 200 kilometer highway hike or a boat ride away) to where we live and work. Not sure where they got their info from but I found two glaring things for those Chinese Government officials who are readers of my blog to think about the next time they take an English writing course then proceed to put up a sign: Dalian Amerircan Lnternational School – OK OK it is just point to a school – no need to do a spell check and they even have a map showing how to get to who they think we are,

the local sign pointing to our school with another China spelling idea of the way it is
the local sign pointing to our school with another China spelling idea of the way it is

Actually we are not the United States of America School – come on mate that is making us into a big target. We are all from many different countries; actually I am from a country called Terrell so surely I am not one to reckon with.

sign-map-usa-school-resized

Not to be picky but Bondeaux Wine Manor? Really this is not a wine growing area, of course it is another miss-spelt word the signs on the “manor” is “Chateau De Bourdeux” (our video of this development last year which has gone heaps further now) which is just a strange housing sale office.  See http://bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk/blog/2012/09/moving-bordeaux-to-china/ We have done the tour and found it quite enjoyable in a humorous way. This strange structure is across the street from us and they are building 800 homes like it. What is most fascinating is the workers who are from various parts of China and are itinerant workers who find us Western living in their midst quite amusing too. We pass them on our morning walks to the beach and we all have the giggle toward one another.  Below is a photo from our balcony.

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And yes it is not blue burry valley as it says on the sign above. It is Blueberry Valley with a lovely restaurant at the top of the hill where we use to go last year on Friday’s after school. This school year we have not gone there though I am not sure why. The mix of teachers who come and leave changes a lot each year and the previous mix as well as a lot of us first year here teachers clumped together heaps. This school year we all seem to go to place on our own and the social setting is quite different.

I found one of my dozens of domains information a few hours ago. I suppose when someone makes a webpage they hope not to be in last place and I guess I am not with billions of webpages out there but as a Leo (Sun, Mercury, Venus and that awful Saturn and Pluto exact conjunction in Leo all in my 10th house – what the hell happend?) I was hoping for a higher ranking than 6,298,119, meaning six million and two hundred ninety eight plus sites are in better position than mine. Maybe it is my colour scheme or lack of sense, a flair for a random artistic flavor that I have always championed going through life. Being popular when there are 7 or 8 billion people is difficult though I think I am ahead of a few billion but I do not know if that is very good.

Neuage.org created in 24/04/2003 (what is not noted is that my first neuage.org site was made ten years earlier in 1992 – two years after the WWW was invented and at that time I was ahead of the curve) and owned by Terrell Neuage. Neuage.org takes 6298119th position in global internet… with 159 estimated visits per day.

I even have a QR reader on their page leading to my site – try it. qr code for neuage.org

We had one of our evening together dinners last night, a celebration of warmer times, at least from a weather perspective. Yesterday was the first time since last October – seven months ago, that we were out and about without jumpers, a tee-shirt day. Today it is 23 (centigrade) so it is bike-riding long-distance time again. I want to go where they are building the new city about half an hour away [Newly Buried Villages of China] .

Here is a photo from my balcony looking at where we had dinner last night; I asked about it and the story is that our librarian came across this and others like it in a field went and got the school van and driver and took them to her house. We live near an art school so I would assume it was probably an installation from artists and they probably wonder who stole their art. I use to do art installations – hanging pictures amongst trees as a show and would have been shocked to find them missing. I did a series of clothing that I dipped in plaster of paris and when dried I sprayed painted and wrote poems on them and hung them in a park in the centre of Adelaide and no one took them. I did this once with a dress from a girlfriend and hung in a tree in front of the art school in Adelaide and it lasted a couple of weeks before disappearing. Now that the librarian is leaving she gave these paper machete figures away with this one landing on the porch of our neighbor across the way. I call it ‘caged thievery’.

caged thievery’
caged thievery’

An evening without electricity and candles make any mood just so good.

narda-no-etsa      qr-code-neuage-org

Breathing-in in Facebook

April 28th, 2013

Sunday morning, wanting to write up what is a bit of a big thing in my small world and definitely may bring some closure but of course never full closure as it shouldn’t to my meandering through this life or at least one significant aspect to it but after one paragraph we were off to Long Shan Village which consists really of only a couple of streets with commerce and is a ten minute bike ride away.

Long Shan Village
Long Shan Village
This is our favourite shopping area as it is so local and of course cheap, much cheaper than going to nearby Jinshitan or taking the shopping bus from Campus Village as we did yesterday into Kaifaqu, the centre of the DDA (Dalian Development Area) where our veggies at the green door (our name for it as we have no idea what the lettering in front says and of course we would not be able to say it if we did know) cost twice as much as at Long Shan – see Narda below buying the week’s fruit…
 Long Shan Village
Long Shan Village
The destination was our local stationary store to get bits of pieces we both needed for school. Narda got three pairs of Crocs for 20 RMB a bit over three US dollars, not needed for school but cheap shoes and a woman… Imitations? Who cares? What strikes me as a fun shop that would not be in Australia or the States is that at this shop one could buy pens, paper, computer bits and pieces; I got a laser pointer light for my classroom and a bag to put camera equipment in. Narda got some more notebooks with some strange English-like sentences, three pairs of Crocs, shoelaces; and one could also buy strong alcohol which sits on the same shelf as plastic toys but the best of all is on the way out one could buy an ice cream and fireworks. We stopped and looked at the firework rockets and the shop keeper waved her arms and said ‘booom’ and laughed but we gave it a miss this time – see below…
IMG_1822
I first heard of Facebook when I was teaching a speech class at the State University of New York in Albany. Students were presenting speeches about something that was new and interesting in their lives and one student had just been invited to join Facebook which at that time no one else in the class had heard of it. This was about 2005 and so we all became her friends. It seems so long ago when there were only a few college students in Facebook – joining other students in Boston. I still have that account but as I no longer have my university email I do not use it. A year later I made a Facebook page for my son who had decided to leave his life behind; he was a pitcher for the LA Dodgers living in the States when he left the Dodgers in Florida, not telling anyone (they looked all over for him as they were concerned about his mental well-being that week – they said) on August 13th due to a quarrel with his girlfriend who was appearing in the Australian Idol series in Sydney.
When Leigh was 16 he was clocked at 91 mph by an Atlanta scout; more scouts followed. He was courted by Atlanta, Minnesota, and Arizona as well as the Dodgers. I wanted him to go to Arizona as I liked their youth program but at 17 he signed with LA and that was it.
He arrived in Sydney after the 20 hour trip from Florida (I still have his return ticket) spent a day with his girlfriend and booked the highest floor and went off the 15th story balcony of the Novotel Sydney Olympic Park Hotel. He was facing the baseball stadium where he had practiced with the Australian Olympic team for the upcoming Athens game. I went there for the first eight years after and left flowers where he died but I have not gotten to Sydney the past two years though for the tenth anniversary I plan to go this year.
I made a Facebook page for Leigh and a lot of his friends have written over the years, especially on his birthday – he has hundreds of friends.
In 1998, Leigh, playing for the Australian U 16 (he was 15) squad in a series inJohannesburg, South Africa, stayed with a family, as all the team did. In his belongings several years ago I found the address of the people he stayed with and wrote them. At some point when I was reading letters people had written in his Facebook Timeline I saw one from a girl who said she knew him from his stay in Johannesburg. I do not go to his page much these past few years but I thought I would check it a few days ago. It is difficult to see his friends living their life, most with children and know he should be there too – and be pitching in the major leagues. He worked so hard at it. When he was ten he use to tell people he would pitch for the New York Yankees one day and of course being the non-baseball country of Australia people would tell him he should play cricket or footy. We use to go out every morning before school and he would do a hundred pitches and again every day after school. Sacha use to join us for years but then he became more interested in basketball, then graffiti then rap and hip hop and now he is the alive and successful one living in Australia and Leigh is just a memory.
So back to Facebook; I saw this person from Johannesburg had written in Leigh’s Timeline that she had 6 letters each about nine pages long and if I wanted them I could send an address where to send them to. She had moved to Perth a few years ago and recently had these letters sent to her. Now she will be sending them to my in-laws in Adelaide and I will have them in August. I am so excited about this – to have something that my son wrote in the time before his death. All I have is a very long goodbye letter to his girlfriend and why he was going to leave his life. It is the saddest thing I have ever read. I may find these letters waiting for me just as sad but I hope not.
Years ago I even had a lot of Leigh’s Facebook friends playing Farmville with me. It started off with me playing Farmville and not having friends enough to give me gifts and Narda thought it was just silly so I created a bunch of accounts; dead people: Leigh, my brothermy father, mothers (being adopted I had two mothers, both dead, both Farmville friends), a couple of ex-girlfriends (being dead I suppose they are ex), a dog and a series of me (Farmer Terrell, Saint Terrell, Another Instance of Terrell, and etc.).
Farmville on Facebook
Farmville on Facebook
http://neuage.co/LeighFarmvilleMarch2011.html is a short video of my farm ‘growing’. I quit after a couple of years and the past two years I have been too busy or too sane to continue with my farms.
A couple of years ago I started an online project on with a professor from Singapore who was teaching in London and was looking at how people deal with death on-line. I lost contact with her in my past move to China and will just continue with my own research and project on dealing with death on-line.
Coffee stop in Long Shan Village.
Coffee stop in Long Shan Village.
Coffee stop in Long Shan Village.

International Day @ Dalian American International School

April 14th, 2013

International Day @ Dalian American International School

youtube clips for this are at http://youtu.be/fdkrxDDErXk (overview); http://youtu.be/Y7Vpt3vXI7M (druming); http://youtu.be/sVxYglz5xfI (choral piece written for this event)

neuage webpage for this is at http://neuage.us/BLOGS/42-internatiotional-day.htm

Every day is international day at our school, after all we have about 25 countries and 15 different languages but once a year we call it International Day. The difference is that we can dress up and be a country – usually one we are from. I chose to be Australia because I sort of am an Australian – a duel citizen, being born in the States and only living in Australia for 22 years a bit less than a third of my time on this planet but enough Australian and with no one else representing it I tossed myself into the nationality pool for a day. Narda could have been the real Australian but she joined the Dutch having been born there. We are both Australian by next-after-birth spot; though she was a boat person having arrived with assisted passage during those days Australia was flirting with that part of Europe to come and be them back in the 1950s. Now days a boat person is frowned upon and the unhappy lot get tossed into detention centres. I was a plane person arriving in 1981 and Narda was a boat person so really I too am an Australian though I am told I sound more like I am from New York.

me at Dalian American International School on International Day
me at Dalian American International School on International Day

I wore my son’s clothes as one does on these types of days. Leigh played for Australia before signing with the LA Dodgers and this was his shirt he wore on the U-18’s World Series in Canada in 1998.

Last year we had the , Drum Club come out from Dalian and they did not fail to entertain and get us all moving again this year. I made a bit of a clip and put it on youtube drums http://youtu.be/Y7Vpt3vXI7M – though only three minutes of about half an hour I recorded. Like last year this was the first warm – sort of warm day, of the year it got up to 16 centigrade which I think is 61 ferinheight only because Narda says that 16 turned about is 61 – and as she has reminded me in the past she comes from the clever country as Australians say – but I too am sort of from the clever country and I never know stuff like that.

What these countries do have in common is that they are meat eaters which means where am I from? Some distant galaxy? Speaking of such things at least North Korea did not get too silly. I noticed that there were five planets in Aries this week and with the moon transiting there too I thought that would be a trigger to give us an interesting week.

Well as one of those people who worked on this event and was at it at again at 6:30 this morning and now it is 11:06 pm I will make this a short blog and toddle off to bed. At least I was not as sick as Narda who was running this event and has spent the two past two days really sick – some of us get to watch life from the sidelines and that is sort of what I did and now I am just sleepy though it could be the healthy does of sleeping pills that are making it almost impossible to hit one key after another……but I feel good so that is beaut.

C-Q-T Drum Club from Dalian China
C-Q-T Drum Club from Dalian China

I took hundreds of pictures but I got smitten by pictures of shoes which is unusual as I am not into footwear a whole lot except for the practical purposes of not stepping in dog shit and stuff like that. Maybe it was because I had on my son’s baseball shoes that he pitched in when he played for the LA Dodgers. I have had them in my closet for a decade – well lots of closets as I have moved about a dozen times since getting them in 2003 and I had never put them on. They fit well and being baseball shoes they have cleats on the bottom and being in that shoe frame of mind I took these photos amongst hundreds – not of feet but of people too.

shoes2-resized\\\\\\\\\\\

shoes-resized

A highlight to the whole day for many was the world premiere of a song written in several languages by Lana Mountford in the state of Washington for Dalian American International School and Directed by Tyler Smith. The work was done through emails and Skype and though the performance in our gym is not as good as in a concert hall this gives a bit of a sample of it. My film class Skyped Lana at the start of her work last October and again last week. She is part of a group who write choral pieces for schools. I am not the go to person on this so I am writing from a very limited perspective which is that she was given a poem and had to compose her music using several languages. She said was fine with the English and Spanish and I think German parts but writing sections in Chinese and Korean was her biggest challenge. I put it on youtube but it does not do the piece justice. My video suite is two rooms away and I have been listening to them practice for many weeks. Having it played in a gym with people milling around and speaking themselves in many different languages made it more difficult. Nevertheless here is my clip of it on youtube, http://youtu.be/sVxYglz5xfI Our music teacher Tyler Smith

Had them right on target…

Tyler Smith music teacher
Tyler Smith music teacher

There were lots of other

Dalian American International School chorus
Dalian American International School chorus
teachers chose some place where they were from - this is tim - our tech teacher - he has been teaching at international schools for 30 years
teachers chose some place where they were from – this is tim – our tech teacher – he has been teaching at international schools for 30 years

performances as well as parade of nations at then end – I carried the Australian flag as mentiontyler2ed earlier and there were dozens of countries set up throughout the schoolchinesegirl

winnershungryportgasesecolumbia

the Dutch booth
the Dutch booth
what is life without a good dragon dance?
what is life without a good dragon dance?
Joe Fred has taught at lots of different international schools too but he is from south america and so is clothing
Joe Fred has taught at lots of different international schools too but he is from south america and so is clothing

lanore

Tomb Sweeping Fun

April 5th, 2013

Ah Tomb Sweeping Day, Qingming Festival;; the day that one tends the graves of their once-were-mates. One of those great non-Western holidays that we celebrate by not working, well working but not usual working, working in the plan-our-holidays way. The thing is about two and a half thousand years old and for the most part from what I see they do a few extra fireworks – a few extra – considering most mornings I hear fireworks from some local cemetery – a few extra gets to be a bit annoying when one wants to sleep in a bit. And they burn paper money though I am not sure what that is for. Nevertheless we jumped full throttle into the day; firstly, by changing our ticket back to Australia in July. Originally we had a six hour stop in Kuala Lumpur,  on our ticket from Beijing to Adelaide after two weeks in the States. Today we changed that to four days in KL. The reason being that Narda has been looking for places we may retire to.

Somehow my mind disappears when I hear about retirement as my life I am doing sort of backward. I started my university career as a student at the age of 44 and continued it for 14 more years in the midst of being a single parent in the middle of a foreign country trying not to be foreign to myself but I may have failed and just ended up re-inventing myself as an old person. I started to teach at uni in 1998 whilst doing my seven year trek through the brain-numbing, though at times, interesting, world of a PhD, at the University of South Australia – age 51 – when some start thinking of retirement I started thinking what I would do when I grew up and finished my bloody thesis http://neuage.org/ODAM. I liked my world – the kids would go to  Wirreanda High School in Morphett Vale for the day and I would take the train into Adelaide and spend the day in my office. It was an escape back when the Internet and making webpages was fun before the world was swamped with so much instant changes and so much information. I went slower in those days; fifteen years ago when I was only 51 I went at a much slower pace than now, probably enjoyed life much more, and definitely accomplished more in a day. I could teach classes, work on my thesis, and have time to be a parent, write children stories, do my picture poems, be on a basketball and a baseball team with my children and oh so much more.

I loved being a single parent and would recommend it to anyone if not everyone. We roamed the world; doing a couple of round-the-world trips, we dreamt of incredible futures – which almost eventuated and life was good. Life is still good but I felt I was more retired when I was in my 40s being a single parent, dreaming impossible dreams and just chilling. Now I have embraced adulthood – even must say it is quite enjoyable – I am just getting going and retirement? Nay, it’s not for me. But Narda, she is looking at the beaches, and grandchildren, and travel as if three trips to Australia and a trip to the States as well as other local spots: Viet Nam, various Chinese cities, in a year is not enough. One of the places that Narda has been reading about is Penang, Malaysia so we are looking for places to stay in George Town, an hour flight away from Kuala Lumpur. Four days in Penang and no doubt I will be shown the merits of retirement.

Actually I equate Tomb Sweeping Day with retirement. What I did get done on this glorious holiday was putting together my vast number of video clips from last week’s pop into Shanghai and distilling them down to two three minute clips. They are now youtube videos: http://youtu.be/KzbtUqU7Qcs = Shanghai, and http://youtu.be/FgWA_yne1VI = Zhujiajiao, as well I have made them additions to my blog for those two events: http://neuage.us/BLOGS/39-Shanghai2013.htm for my two blog readers in all of China and whom may not be able to get on to youtube due to not having a VPN. What we should have done today was ride out bikes but it is still cold and windy and well we tried a mini-retirement day. I even stayed in my jammies for most of the day and took a fifteen minute nap and now I will toddle off to the gym and work on body sculpturing or keeping the fat bits away anyway. I suppose if retirement was like today it was OK though I am really looking forward to tomorrow to go back to work.

I have my film class first block; 8:45 in the morning and we are finishing up quarter number three. We are Skyping with people in India and a person in the State of Washington who has written an orchestra piece that our school is performing. As well we are preparing our Skype work with a co-producer in LA who has recently had her film in the Sundance Festival and she is working with my class to do a film online. So retirement? Not this week mate. I love my job – I have so many projects going at once and rush from thing to thing, reminding me of decades ago when I lived a project-based life and in the midst had time to laugh with my children and dream incredible futures. That is what I love about my job; I not only can accomplish stuff I need as well as want to do but I have lots of flexibility to try new things and get involved in new directions. And now at 65 when others think of retirement I have started a new career as a film dude as I am getting involved in a kool global niche of creative possibilities I had not dreamt of even last semester.

Oh Narda has just found a caravan for us to purchase – another retirement plan of hers. We will have a caravan in Australia and live in it when we visit family when we are not cruising the Nile or trekking Nepal or whatever it is old people do that have money – well that is not us, too ugly and too poor maybe but not ones with money so maybe we will just buy an old caravan – tie it up to our old car that sits in storage in Australia – and become trailer trash and get fat and live along the coast of Australia. Every day will then be Tomb Sweeping Day.

walking into glass @ EARCOS

March 31st, 2013

EARCOS TeachersConference 2013 Shanghai

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

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

doubloonsresized

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

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

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

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

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

a once were astrologer
a once were astrologer

Shenzhen for a weekend

March 18th, 2013

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

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

February 22 – 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shenzhen-sunset
Shenzhen-sunset

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

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

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

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

Somewhere over ancient China

February 19th, 2013

Somewhere over ancient China

Skyline
Skylights
Sky
so much of it
Sunsets
Darkness
sun rises
Islands ~ continents
Pools of wetness
People dreaming
Below
Next to me too
Different dreams than me
I dream of the future
that is the past
long ago past
prehistoric me
when decades I have known
I had not known yet
but you were with me
even during that phase of me
that you were still
far into the future
(future dreams)
How is that?
This is why I like
Dreaming in flight
Skies Stretch Silently So Sensually
Symmetrically
Clouds are sections of life
->-> I blow out the window
dissolving clouds
POOF
GONE
to land – maybe I won’t again
Skyline
Skylights
keep your distance
I am staying in the sky
where I belong.

flight between Melbourne and Dalian

“Sunset over Aboriginal Dreaming Northern Territory before white man came and killed those dreams and those who dreamt them then renamed it Australia” 2/14/2013
“Sunset over Aboriginal Dreaming Northern Territory before white man came and killed those dreams and those who dreamt them then renamed it Australia” 2/14/2013

Encounter @ Encounter Bay ~ Victor @ Victor Harbor

February 19th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Besides the point…

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

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

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

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

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

1988-middleton

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

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

1990Middleton_schoolbus

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

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

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

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

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

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

00~news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horseshoe Bay, Middleton
Horseshoe Bay, Middleton

Victor Harbor.

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

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

Victor Harbor, 1992.

the Bluff, Victor Harbor
the Bluff, Victor Harbor

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

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

A Chinese miracle

February 19th, 2013

A Chinese miracle

airport

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

OK! The story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that is our miracle.

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

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

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

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

In general I must say life is good.

A Piggly Wiggly story

February 3rd, 2013

A Piggly Wiggly story

I do not recall having heard of the Piggly Wiggly chain of stores before last summer. Not sure why that is as I lived in the States for about 42 of my 65 years on this planet and I surely have wandered through the south where they have 600 stores in 17 states. And it is not because they just started popping up around the place. In fact their website says they have been “bringing home the bacon for millions of American families since 1916”. Perhaps it is because my vegetarian life has created a subliminal blind spot for sellers who are such whole-hearted braggers, sporting the bringing home the bacon rhetoric – though it could just as easily have been my birth in the year of the pig that placed them over with other things I have avoided as much as possible in life: restrictive humans, haircuts, Pisces and most water-signed-people (having only Jupiter in Scorpio I did have some strange fixed fascinations in my youth with aspects of that sign – I use to find women with Venus and Mars in Scorpio a bit of a fascinating matrix to get involved in, as long as there was an escape clause – having five planets in Leo I am not afraid of the Scorpion sting but of the threat of water to put out my fire, I still avoid water sign people because of that; how they put the damper on us fire people is appalling… I am drifting here), and the clinging to material possessions such as umbrellas which this blog is actually about.

I horde stuff; a shed full in South Australia, a house full of stuff here in Northern China, stuff in an attic in our upstate New York house, and the shed next door to it, and our furniture in our house in Jersey City but that is not really an indicator of clinging to material possessions. It is really art artifacts that someday I hope to assemble in various arrays of sculpture and do gallery shows. That was a dream of mine during the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and then I got married (again) and the idea of gallery shows was replaced by stored artifacts around the world that no doubt will end in the rubbish tip before I get to collect them all into one non-disposable spot.

On with the umbrella story…

Last summer we were driving around the south. We left Atlanta with Narda’s son’s car headed to my old stomping grounds of New Orleans. I had wanted to take Narda there for the whole decade we were living in New York but we ended up making little trips to Europe, Asia and the yearly hops over to Australia, leaving no time or money to explore the States. Somewhere in the south: Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas or maybe we were in Alabama or Louisiana but somewhere down there we were in a small town lost on a country road and there was this big Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Narda saw it as quite funny, the born-in-the-year-of-the-pig part of my over active reptilian brain was offended but with no other shops in site and the last temperature reading we saw being 102 Fahrenheit ( Celsius = 38.88) the thought of something from a fridge was becoming overpowering. But getting a cold drink was not enough. At the checkout were umbrellas with the Piggly Wiggly emblem on them so of course I had to have one.

The umbrella got buried for a couple of weeks in the boot of the car as we drove around and we wondered how we would get it back to China. And not just back to China, but to Australia too as we were going there for a few weeks first. Narda wanted to bring back a curtain rod too because she could not find one in Dalian that was long enough to span two large windows in our lounge so she could hang some over-priced hand-sewed laced curtains we had bought in Belgium – yes Belgium lace, a few years ago. She found the curtain rod she wanted in one of those southern states and she taped it together with the umbrella that somehow magically would find its way back to Campus Village here in Northern China via Australia – and of course flying out of Atlanta, NYC, and all the stops between like Melbourne and Adelaide and Guangzhou in China.

First hiccup…. We were driving on a four-lane freeway heading north. Narda was driving and I was playing with my new Nikon camera when there was a big bump and Narda said ‘he hit me’ and at about 70 miles an hour we were going across a couple of lanes of freeway sideways and fortunately for this story to be told there were concrete blocks dividing us from traffic going the other way and we smashed into them sideways. Another few feet and we would have rolled. Of course Narda being Narda managed to restart the car to chase this huge truck that had hit us thinking he would get away. The back end of the car was dragging and we had flat tires. I was as much in shock from Narda restarting the engine and us going forward as I was from spinning across a few lanes of freeway. The truck did stop which was good because so did our car. Narda said afterwards she was waiting for the pain to hit her when we started spinning and I was waiting to hear the crashing of glass. I had been in three major car crashes before and that memory stays. There was no crashing of glass, the air bags did not open, and we did not get hurt but the car was totaled. We stood alongside the road in 104 degree heat – that is the absolute truth – the truck driver rang for the police – he took full responsibility, saying he did not see us when he switched lanes. Narda often says people don’t see her because people don’t see women past 50, but this was a whole bloody car he didn’t see. As we stood alongside the concrete barriers traffic passed by with almost no space between cars at high speeds. It was quite amazing no one hit us as we crossed lanes; there was just this few seconds let up in traffic when we decided to go for a bit of a spin.

Here is a photo of Narda under our Piggly Wiggly umbrella with a state trooper.

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I wish I had had presence of mind to tell Narda to turn the umbrella so as to show the Piggly Wiggly figures but who thinks of these things at a moment like this?

We told Narda’s son we put a bit of a ding in his car – impossible to repair – was the verdict, rented a bright red car so we could be seen and I drove about ten hours straight back to Atlanta. Narda was still in shock, I did not want to stop for a day and besides we had about two days left before our flight to Australia. The truck company was really good and bought the car at a really good price and took care of our rental and on we went.

There was not any problem with the airlines; they just put the umbrella/curtain rod in with checked luggage. In Melbourne we took a domestic flight to Adelaide and again no problem.

Here I am in Adelaide with my Piggly Wiggly umbrella in Rundle Mall with my favourite sculptures – pigs of course.

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So we tape up the umbrella with the curtain rod to hold our Belgium laced curtains and checked them into the flight to Melbourne. In Melbourne I visit my son, Sacha, for a couple of days, and Narda and I check our umbrella with the curtain rod into baggage. There was our name in large letters as well as our Chinese address and phone number. No problems everyone is happy. We fly out at 10 pm as is normal and arrive in Guanzhou about 8 am the next morning, switch to the domestic to Dalian. Our baggage has been check through from Melbourne to Dalian so life is good.

We get to Dalian Airport late in the evening and wait for baggage. The suitcases come along just fine. Jack, our driver, is waiting for us as usual which is so great after a long flight. We wait and wait but no umbrella and curtain rod. Narda finds someone with a handful and a half of English. We show our baggage claim for our parcel. They ring Melbourne and sure enough it left there and it was even traced to Guanzhou but then it stopped. They said to ring the next day. We did. Day after day for a couple of weeks until finally they said they would give us money. I think we got about $50 US maybe less but it did not come close to paying for the umbrella. It only costs seven dollars or so in real terms at the Piggly Wiggly store but what we had gone through no money could have paid for it.

So that is my Piggly Wiggly story. If I ever get back to one of their stores I may get another one but it won’t be the same. It looks as if we will be in Atlanta in six months, so perhaps I will get another one and this time take it as carry-on luggage.

I am not sure if I fully understand the differences between hording, cherished possessions with attachments, and material things that are filling spaces of ours around the world. What looks like junk to others, i.e. my wife, has special meaning to me. And I am sure if the Piggly Wiggly umbrella had survived the trip and not been lost once it hit China we would use it on rainy days and remember standing in the very hot sun alongside a freeway after an accident that surely we should have come to grief in but didn’t.