May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

England, Jolly Friends, Old Friends, New Friends

Toilet good enough for a Queen

On the way from China to Europe

Les and Hans, our host
Great view out Han's Window
Tower Bridge by Night

A walk in the 'hood

Bread, Butter, Jam, Coffee and HANS
Hans and Les
Whoa!  Paella!

Markets in the 'hood
June 6—After getting “Oyster Cards” to cover our transport around London, we made our way to our new couch in London.  Hans gave us wonderful directions, and so we got there minutes before he did and welcomed him home.  His building was finished 6 months ago, so it was spanking clean and white and had a spectacular view of some of the most iconic new architecture in central London.  We went out to a nice Indian restaurant and then took a stroll along the Thames by the famous bridges and past the Jubilee Market until jet lag took a toll on me.  I was shaking with cold; no doubt my body clock had quieted for sleep, and I had been so used to the Chinese heat!  Hans’ (our couch-surfing host) bed was a welcome sight. He lives in an amazing place with a perfect view of some of the most iconic buildings of central London, including "the Shard" taking shape in the center.
June 7—Les and I went down the street for some fish-n-chips, and ended up ordering doners and eating them in the backspace for the kitchen folks to eat.  It was cool to watch the man at the counter teach boys, who came in for a sausage, arithmetic skills.  Strange though, Les bit his tongue pretty badly and within 10 seconds, I dislocated and popped back in my jaw.  We both finished the meal in pain.  Weird!  That’s never happened to me before
June 8—Hans gave us a walking tour of his neighborhood ending near to the markets to this fantastic coffee spot with a bowl of bread in the middle of the table and butter and jam available.  Strangers gathered around this table in the tiny venue and broke bread together. 
 Hans took us to his favorite cheese spot and I bought some fruit that looked like tangerines in the market.  The crowded stalls had everything from meats to veggies to full meals including the biggest wok of paella I’ve ever seen. 

Sue, Melvyn, Ben
Melvyn Sue
I enjoyed this sentiment
 The rest of the day, we worked on blogs and computing until it was time to travel to meet our second couch host.  We met Melvyn at a pub in Soho with another surfer named Ben.  I hadn’t had much to eat, so I was starting to slur my words after one pint.  We made our way to High Barnet (the last stop on the Northern Line) and walked about 20 minutes to Melvyn’s place.  It was still decorated from a block party they had in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee: flags flying, banners, posters and symbols of the matriarchy.  Apparently it was a huge gathering.  We met Melvin’s black cat Charlie, whose presence is known all through the house with fur and odor.  Towels still wet from the last surfers hung in the nice bathroom attached to the room; downstairs in the back was a quaint garden with bamboo and roses planted.  Famished, we dropped off our things and went to a local pub/restaurant for some excellent food. 
Poo-Flinger Reunion

Missing Laura and Michael and Craig and Rebecca

Jessica "The Saucy Blonde"

Windy Wonky Bridge

Les at the Globe: End of the Shakespeare Festival Schedule
June 9—It was the day for the “Poo Flingers Reunion” that Les has been planning since we left France at Namua’s farm.  We scoped out the area for somewhere to eat, bought a bright orange flower for each Jessica and Laura who were our comrades at the farm near Perpignan last August and September, and posted ourselves at the London Bridge tube entrance.  Dear Jessica showed up, but Laura never got the specific message as to where to come, so it was a trio instead of a quartet for this day.  Sorely missed was Michael, who remains in Australia.  We ate and caught up and rekindled our friendships.  We lingered in a plaza, took photos near the Globe Theater, bought supermarket sandwiches and sale fruit for dinner, and strolled across the “wonky” bridge (a pedestrian bridge across the Thames that used to wobble too much before it was reinforced).  I loved hearing about Jessica’s passion for reading and her desire to write—maybe in the music genre.
Jess and Less
Pina Bausch's "Nur Du" Scene

Barbican Theater to see Wuppertal Dance Theatre!
Pina Bausch's Wuppertal Dance Theatre Set
Late night home, changed by Tanztheater

I was very excited about going to see the Wuppertal Dance Theater  (Pina Bausch’s–RIP—Company) who is putting on 10 pieces, each one reflecting on a different city in the world.  We stood in line to see if Jessica could get a seat from a no-show, and she got in!  We saw “Nur Du (only you)”, a reflection on Los Angeles and California.  The stage was filled with enormous Sequoia trees.  As reviewer Liz Hoggard said, “All her favourite tropes are here — frocks, fire, screaming, breasts, curtains of hair…. Once again Bausch mines the nature of human sexual desire. Lovers flirt and fight, preen and wail. The women are drop-dead glamorous but never objectified. Because in Bausch , men are just as emotional and self-obsessed.  The soundtrack (everything from Duke Ellington to Indian flute music) drives the narrative. At times the company is a giant chorus line, ironing, shining shoes, braiding hair. A delicate girl climbs along a bridge of hands; a man scales a giant tree; a woman pours water into a plastic bag over her lover’s head. It’s brutally funny. But then there will be a moment of pure dance, where a soloist swops and flops across the stage, limbs like india-rubber.”  I’ve always wanted to see her work live, and to see the performers who have worked years with her was a real treat!  The long show kept us out until 1AM including the ~1-hour commute back home. 

Poo-Flingers Three
Oxford Laura with Her Majesty and Les
We love London in a small way
June 10—Through the magic of electronics and social media, we were able to contact Laura and meet for a short while in London.  Poo Flingers Association Reunion part 2!  We had another great day reminiscing about our farm life and learning about each other’s aspirations and journeys.  I loved how she was connecting maths with food web science.  We ended up at a little tearoom where we enjoyed clotted cream and jam on our scones.  I had a nice chamomile tea with red berries in it.  We took pictures of us with London tourist stuff.  Silly.  Departing sadly, we went north to meet Melvyn for a bite and a beer.  We ate good falafel at a place that had the greasiest floor; I could dance like James Brown!  We went down the street to a lively pub with a footie game on, a rock band in the back room and plenty of draughts to choose.  I think Melvyn wanted to drink more, but I was bushed, so we made our way home.

Waiting for toast at breakfast
Bridges made into apartment patios

June 11—We were packed and ready by 8AM.  We walked ½ way to the metro and stopped for a bite to eat where lots of old women with their grocery carts serving as walkers came in for tea.  Onwards in the rain to our new hostel, situated nicely in downtown London.  There, we met my old dear friend from my days in Logan, Utah Charlie.  It has been 18 years since I saw him, and he seems the same gentle soul I used to know.  London truly has been a city for reuniting and meeting anew.
June 12—Les and I imagined the “Toast-Making Olympic Event” at breakfast that was set up on the pool table in the bar below the hostel.  We gave points for testing how done was the toast, how they plucked it from the toaster, the way they put it on the plate, and the best was how they waited.  It was hilarious.  I guess you had to be there….

Sleeping Venus by Paul Delvaux
Calder!  Doesn't it look like the one at school?
These were posts.  The artist carved away the tree shape underneath
Salvador Dali's work at the Tate
 The day was full of art.  We had some of the best coffee ever at a place by the Tate Modern Museum NEXT to Starbucks.  She said they were Italian and they just opened; then she gave us a free cannoli.  Then perused the artwork in the Tate.  We saw mostly surreal and abstract art.  We saw work by Dali, Kandinsky, Klee, and others.  One of my favorites was looking at some tree trunks and short branches, then reading that the artist carved them based on where the knots and such were out of a large beam of wood.  When sculptures talk about letting the material tell them where to cut, this is really an obvious example!  We sat and watched strange documentaries of small bottom-of-the-sea life: seahorse life cycle, the sex life of an octopus, “witch dance” of mollusks and how special clams mate.  There were vast rooms with minimalist art in them, and smaller spaces with very famous surrealist pieces.  It was great to see close up and personal.  One very exciting thing was a huge time line of modern art!  I enjoyed seeing the whole evolution in one place—I love it when I can see the whole picture and the details at once.
Star Struck at the Globe Theater

Warm up act before Henry V
Unusual Water Fountain
The Globe Audience
The Globe calling us to attention
After this was the most anticipated event of London: Henry V at the Globe
Les at the Globe Theatre
Typical Alleyway
Theatre.  Wow.  Les and I had a little brie and cranberry sandwich and found our perfect seats!  Les glowed while the warm-up band played and our narrator began the play.  We loved the evening in the model of the historical site, and wandered the streets on the way back to our centrally located Dover Castle Hotel. 
June 13—We spent the day on a nice bus to Edinburgh….

The "Wonky Bridge"

Monday, June 11, 2012

Friends in Shenzhen and Hong Kong

A pretty flower

Emma Willard supervising her gals
Proper Chopstick Technique
Fruit Sculpture
National Children's Day: Les and Elaine
May 31-June 1—Still in Shenzhen, we taught our last class sessions, said our good byes, and made our way to the bus station.   A guy gave me a plastic bag at the bus door.  I didn’t understand.  He put his foot in the bag, so I started wrapping my shod foot in the bag.  No.  He took off his shoe and put it in the bag.  Ahhh, OK. So goes communication in China.   So, as it turns out, the “seat” number didn’t relate to anything; there were three rows of beds lined up head to foot.  Soon we were over capacity and people were sleeping next to me in the isle too.  I couldn’t fall asleep all night, so I listened to podcasts until about 2:30AM.  I awoke at sunrise.  The conductor yelled various stops and we arrived in Shenzhen to see our wonderful friend Elaine.  Our driver, Mr. Li, took us to a series of skyscrapers where the family business had offices, storage, apartments and a lovely apartment they called a dormitory for employees or guests.  They had flowers on the table, fruit in the frig, fresh water and Les’s favorite breakfast—oatmeal—on the table.  They are so thoughtful to remember so much about our preferences in the US when they visited us one year ago.
It was “children’s day,” so an employee’s son (Louis) joined a group of us for a delicious lunch.  The food kept coming; new scrumptious tidbits that we did not know how to eat arrived every few minutes.  We tried eating a chicken foot for the first time; it tasted very oily.  My advisee Christina was not there, but her mom and dad, Grace and Wames (our hosts), treated us to a wonderful meal.
Grace and Elaine


Wedding Boat
From here we went to the Splendid China Folk CultureVillages.  We saw homes, traditions, dances, songs, temples, top spinning and horses running, along with water spraying games for kids and decorated boats with dressed up wedding couples in them. 
Special Banyan Tree
The park was beautifully landscaped, with plants of all sorts, huge water wheels, banyan trees filled with ribbons and artwork, water falls, suspension bridge, and bamboo sticks that would fill with water, empty and strike a note (depending on its size) when hitting the rock, thus creating a water chime instead of a wind chime.   

Les had fun with the life-sized figures of animals; he pretended that they (like the live camel in Jordan) wanted to take his hat for the photo op.  We went into homes made to demonstrate the lifestyle of Chinese people in various provinces.  One home had the main socialization area the same space as the mother-in-law's bedroom.  Another showed a nuptial bed. 
Les and I under Chinese prayers
The hat schtick

 Most had garden space all around and on top of it.  They made use of the land for growing useful things—not that grass isn’t useful….  We saw performances by young acrobats who didn’t have much joy in their work, and folk singers/dancers from the Tibetan traditions. 

For luck, grab a foreigner and get your picture taken with them! (Notice performance in the background)
Chinese Boy's Stylish Cut
  There, we had a strange experience.  It is good luck to get your picture taken with a foreigner in China.  People have gathered around me before, but this time it was after we did a group dance with the Tibetan performers and while they were trying to finish their show! 
A woman grabbed me and someone took our picture.  As I tried to wrestle free of her grasp (STILL as the performers were wrapping things up, facing the audience with a man speaking into a microphone), a half dozen people enveloped us for photos.  
As Les calls it, "Chinese Georgia O'Keefe"
 I was embarrassed that I was the center of these people’s attention instead of the performers.   

We had ice cream; Louis had coconut water, went to see the 1000 Eyed and Armed Buddha, and skipped the miniatures of the great sites of China including a miniature of the great wall, Tibetan palace, and more.  We were weary from the bus ride, so after a yummy dinner, we slept like babies. 

Traders and Partners International Co. Inc.: Grace and Elaine
Candy storage for the family business
LED department of the family business
June 2— First, we got to see the offices and storage for Mr. Lin’s company.  He has businesses that make candies and LED lights, as well as organize and give out promotional gifts.  I loved seeing  some of the products from the family business.   
Promo gift "Flora" found a flamingo lover

Hats off.  Flip!



A time of rest

Paddling the Raft
Do-It-Yourself farm lunch

Curious Alisa and Angel
Later, we jumped into Mr. Li’s van with Elaine’s daughter Alisa, her niece Angel, her husband Wilson and Grace and rode about an hour to arrive at a tourist farm.  It is here where people gather in the countryside to have a natural experience.  There are several fireplaces to grill on, and a large sink and cutting area.  You can pick your own vegetables, catch, kill, pluck and clean your own chicken or fish (I declined the offer), and cook it to enjoy the freshest produce possible.  Grace asked that the staff do the preparation while we played with the potters wheels, rafts that you could pull or paddle across a pond, bows and arrows to shoot at a target, swings and hammocks to ride in, and a little pagoda where we can watch the polliwogs in the still water.  The little girls in their white dresses and bright leggings were adorable, curious, playful, energetic, and well mannered.  I loved spending family time with these guys; I felt at ease and part of something that families in China do from time to time.   
You-Pick tomato cheeks: Wilson, Grace, Elaine, Angel, Alisa
Off to pick tomatoes
 After a very fresh meal with luscious veggies, seasoned fish and fresh poultry, we went to a nearby you-pick tomato farm.  We snagged the tomatoes from the 6-foot tall vines attached to poles.  A nap in the car on the way home gave us energy for another amazing meal at the Joyful Restaurant.  

Wames on the Right and Friends
Beijing/Peking Duck
 Wames and Grace ordered Beijing (Peking) Duck among other delicious dishes.  We said our thanks, loaded the cars and off to Hong Kong we rode.  After security, we climbed into a bus for 20 minutes then we took our luggage across to the other side of the building where we were picked up.  Another bit of time and we were at the Tung Chung metro stop, by the airport and Disney where is their home.
"Our" apartment
View from the balcony
Christina, my advisee
June 3—Wow, this place was futuristic!  All these connected covered pathways with smooth curved lines, and clean surfaces, ubiquitous cameras and security guards, fountains and reflection pools, landscaped greenery with contrasting color, vehicles out of sight, skyscraper apartment buildings towering in an elegant curve and a racially diverse population make it seem like a happy utopia.  From our host’s second smaller apartment we see a beautiful mountain landscape out on the veranda.   
We were greeted by my old advisee, Christina, whom I haven’t seen since she graduated a year ago.  (She looks GREAT!)  Yummy dim sum for breakfast livened our taste buds.  One of my favorites was a sweet steamed bun with an egg in the middle.  

Les decided to stay home to blog as I headed to meet some old students/advisee from Emma Willard.
Jackie Chan.  Hai YA!

Hong Kong at Night from the "Peak"
 Christina dropped me off with Priscilla and Liana, and we walked the sunny “Avenue of the Stars” right in the middle of all the famous buildings of Hong Kong’s downtown.
Christina, Sue, Liana, Emma Willard and Priscilla

View of Hong Kong

Famous buildings from the ferry
Flamingo Dancing Girls

Beautiful Priscilla and Liana on the Peak
We talked and talked about everything under the sun—from how being a pedestrian hit in a severe car accident can give one a new perspective, the role of women in relationships and business, moral issues of the day, 
From the top of the world
the health of their alma mater, consumerism, taking risks and struggling with priorities, journeys that got them where they are, goals for the future to life as it is now.  I am so proud of them and hope their lives continue to grow brightly.  We took every kind of transportation: ferry, bus and trolley, to get to the high outlook at “the Peak.”  
Warm Milk Dessert
 It was a beautiful and clear evening and gazed below at the harbor and the ocean as the sky turned and the lights turned lit in and on the buildings. 
I had traditional Hong Kong “fish balls” for dinner and we went down to the middle of town for a traditional warm, sweet, thick milk dessert. 
Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre
 There was a group who had gathered in the center to bring awareness to the anniversary of Tiananmen Square: 6-4 (June 4).  Students camped out for 64 hours, brought in artists and speakers in effort to get China to admit they did something wrong and massacred people unjustly, and to bring the attention of the events to tourists (especially Chinese tourists) who were visiting Hong Kong.  This would be an illegal and dangerous demonstration in Mainland China.  
After a sad good-bye, I rode the immaculate subway back where Christina picked me up.  We shared a nice and late conversation on the way to the apartment.

Buddha from the bottom of the stairs
Buddha Face

From the Gondola, looking at the airport

Buddha on a Hill
"Off with his head!"       "What?"
June 4—Today was dedicated to going high into Lantau Island by gondola to visit the giant Tian Tan Buddha, then descending on the other side to Tai O, a fishing village.  The Buddha was impressive—perched on the top of a hill with a grand staircase and a monastery across its gaze.  To get to this serene Buddha, we had to go through an area that should have been called “Buddhaland!”:  too much to sell, too loud, too commercial.  Ugh.  The day was hot; the breeze felt great.   
Women and Dragon

HUMUNGOUS Incense Sticks
The people near the monastery prayed with incense—some of it was so big that it looked like cartoon incense the size of tree limbs.  I don’t know, is it the bigger the incense the more your prayer will be answered?  I enjoyed the sounds of the monks chanting and the feel of the place with ornate columns decorated with dragons.
Boat in Tai O

The Monastery
Tai O Fishing Village
 Down in Tai O, we went in a motorboat to look for dolphins—we saw several pink ones!  Then we walked the quaint town where Grace pointed out so many things being sold that I’d never seen before, from 50 gallon drums of shrimp paste to egg yolks drying in the open air.  Imagine going to a store and not recognizing 90% of what was being sold!   
Incredible Bonzai Man!

Ginger in the Garden
Christina with little egg
As we moseyed we stopped to admire quite a few old bonsai trees.  A man was working on one, and we befriended him enough for him to give us a tour of his backyard garden full of chives, lychee, ginger, salad leaves, corn, breadfruit, papaya, herbs and squash.  He was 78 years old and swam 40 minutes at 5 each morning.  He was very proud of his work and told us that his home and garden had been in the family for centuries.  We enjoyed a warm soybean dessert, and went home by bus down the windy roads.  Thai soup at the food court (the apartment complex has so many businesses under it: a ton of outlet shops, restaurants, groceries, real estate, doctor clinics, swimming pools and fitness clubs….) tasted good; afterward, we went up to share some wine and talk before we packed.

Dim Sum
June 5—We had our last dim sum and went to the airport to catch a van to the Shenzhen airport.  Except for a guy in our van who had to pay duty for a Gucci bag that took quite a while, the trip was easy.  

View from Apartment Left
View from Apartment Right
One Trio
Another trio

Cleaning Crew Announcements at the Airport
 Our plane was delayed, and after a while a crowd developed around the airline staff.  The crowd heated up and turned into a mob of yelling people.  
Everyone wants Les's Hat
Even Dragons
"C'mon Man, Gimme the Hat!"
One guy was particularly strong in voice and gesture and didn’t calm down for over an hour.  The plane was canceled and we were brought to the ticket desk where some lined up and others continued to circle the attendant and carry on angrily.  Eventually the people broke into the ticket agents’ office, leaned over their computers and started insisting they get helped now with their situation while I fought to keep my place in line.  They gave us tickets for a plane that was loading in 10 minutes, hurriedly gave us help getting our checked bags to the new conveyer belt.  One of the yellers saw that our bags got on the belt and went crazy.  His screaming started shaking him, spit flew from his mouth and veins bulged from his face.  Les yelled back at him, “OK!  That’s enough!”  The man caught on fire and told Les to “F()#& Off,” pointing his quivering finger.  Security guards gathered calmly.  The airline people indicated we should go to another line, while they misplaced my ticket.  The new plane was delayed too, so we made it.  Whew.  In Beijing, we slept on a hard bench in the airport.  Yee, I may be too old for that now; my hips were sore.
June 6—was a day in the air.  I watched tons of movies and looked out at the snowy mountains around Lake Baikal in Siberia.  The sun was always shining as we followed it around to London.