I am thankful…..

My future daughter-in-law with #2 son.

We had a party because she said “YES”!

I’ve been away … Well, I’ve actually been right here in this bizarre southwestern city that clings tenaciously to the heat. I’m wearing a sweatshirt tonight just because I miss the change of seasons, thinking that possibly, if I wear winter clothes, we might experience a chill in the air for longer than the 15 minutes before the sun rises.

But I’ve been away from my blog in order to catch up on reports, lesson plans, grades, and sleep. Another reason I haven’t posted is that I had not had the camera in my hand for a while, and when I did, the images I produced were either boring or totally awful.  I think exhaustion saps creativity and crumples knowledge and skill.

Last week, with a few days away from school, I got some good shots when my little family of six gathered for Thanksgiving.

My #2 son with his fiancee and his brother, my #1 son

My #2 son with his fiancee and his brother, my #1 son

I had handed my camera to someone else for the first shot above; that’s me on the left, toasting my son & his fiancee, who combined their engagement party with my sons’ dad’s Night-Before-Thanksgiving-Casino Night. (How’s that for a mouthful?)

My beautiful daughter-in-law asked that I not post any pictures of her on FaceBook (does that include this blog?) because she is expecting my 2nd grandchild in February. She has no idea how beautiful she looks. Respecting her wishes, I have not included any pictures of her.

What am I thankful for? I am thankful for my family: Two handsome, intelligent, and successful sons; two beautiful, intelligent, and talented daughters-in-law (soon); one incredible granddaughter; and one baby on the way. I am blessed!

All Soul’s Day and Social Security

When I was a girl in small town Indiana, we placed flowers from my mother’s garden on my grandparent’s graves on All Soul’s Day, which is also my birthday. This time of year, the stores abound with fall flowers which bring floods of memories of simpler and happier times of childhood.

It’s midnight in my time zone and I am now officially eligible for social security. I am 62 years old today, born November 2, 1950. My future is uncertain; it is a little frightening to go into these years alone. But it’s not impossible. Just as the seagulls who can stand calm, unruffled by the heavy winds and crashing surf, I too can weather the storm.

 

Our Paths Crossed Again

In June, I spent a fascinating day wandering around Shanghai with a incredible woman I’d met through this blog  (Exploring Shanghai With Flamidwyfe).

I spent another day with Sandi, this time in Florida, USA. Last week, I participated in a workshop in on Miami Beach,  learning IB teaching methodology; Sandi, who had recently returned to the states after finishing her gig in China, joined me at the very comfortable (luxurious) resort. You must understand, however, that while Sandi was toasting her toes poolside, I was holed up in the nether regions below ground. Check out her blog entry. 

Sandi (not to be confused with the hurricane, although she exudes strength and power that could stand up to any storm) and I spent the evening sharing a bottle of wine and years of stories.

While Hurricane Sandy was gathering energy to cause devestation further north, we were gifted with a glorious pastel sunset as a result of her passage near South Florida.

Sunset, Miami Beach, October 27, 2012

Next post: Sunrise

Ancient Homes Amidst Progress

When we were walking after dinner one evening, we came upon this small street that seems out of place amidst the new construction in Feicheng. The street reminds me, in part, of the Hutong Area in Beijing.

At first I thought that many of the apartments were empty, but I’m not so sure. An old woman who came out of one of the doors eyed us suspiciously and returned to her home behind the wall. Oh I wanted her picture, yet felt as if I would be imposing.

I wonder if these homes will remain or if they will fall in the path of progress and high-rise apartment buildings. Why allow 20 families to live in a space that could house 200 or more?

Click on an image to see it full size.

A Woman Alone in Shanghai

Old Shanghai is a Disney-esque maze of shops with Ancient Chinese architectural facades. It’s a cacophony of bright colors, exotic and familiar tastes, enticing aromas, glaring sounds, inexpensive (cheap) gifts for the family back home, and high quality merchandise.

The sales people work hard to lure the tourist into their shops with tantalizing promises of bargains and beauty and to insure that she doesn’t leave empty-handed. 

I was looking for black pearl earrings to match the necklace I’d bought at the Summer Palace in Beijing last summer. I soon learned that the casual perusal of the jewelry counters was anything but casual. The pretty young women were ready with their calculators, offering one gem after another.

I gave up my quest for the black pearls when I realized that I could not determine if the pearls were authentic or if I were about to pay a fair price or an absurdly high price for fake pearls.

I decided that the one gift I wanted for myself would be wind chimes.

I looked in every likely shop. I asked in many shops … that was sometimes quite humorous as I attempted to mime the movement of the chimes and mimic the light airy melodies.

Thanks to a group of tourists from Germany, I found help from a nice woman who volunteers as a sort of guide in Old Shanghai. I breathed a deep sigh to find someone who understood me and could communicate with me.

She directed me across the street, into the gritty markets.

I admit that I was just a bit apprehensive because I was alone and obviously a tourist…my appearance screaming white senior citizen.

I kept my bag and camera close to my side as I pretended to know what I was doing. (Possibly my concerns were unnecessary.)

I walked up and down several streets, asking in one shop after another. A few shops sold wind chimes, but they were huge and absurdly expensive…the kind you’d hang in a Buddhist Temple, I thought.

Finally, just as the light mist turned to serious rain, I found my wind chimes deep inside the maze of shops. Of course, my casual inquiries about price produced a flurry of activity as this gentleman brought down one chime after another.

After at least 20 minutes of negotiating, I purchased the wind chimes. He tried hard to sell me more merchandise, telling me that this bell would bring good luck or that statue would attract money into my life. He seemed flattered when I asked to take his picture and posed for my camera.

A perfect ending to my afternoon alone in Old Shanghai.

As I sit at my computer back at home, this all seems surreal. Was I really there? Did I actually walk these streets by myself? Did I communicate with people even though neither of us spoke the other’s language. I must have. The pictures are stored on my computer and the wind chimes now hang on my patio, gifting me with light tinkling music when the breeze gently wafts across my patio and delighting me with a symphony during a storm.

Waiting

These bikes belong to the people who work in one of the parks in Feicheng. They seem alive to me … like animals waiting for their masters to return.

The Community of Games

I surreptitiously watched card games and Mahjong games being played on make-shift tables on sidewalks all over Shanghai and Feicheng. The players, seated on small collapsible stools, spent hours at their games.

I was disappointed that I was never able to get a picture.

At the end of my stay in Feicheng, I had a few hours to wander in the park across from our hotel, and finally got my shot, not of cards or Mahjong, but something equally absorbing. The haze of cigarette smoke drifted amidst the men who were so focused on the game that they took no notice of me or my camera.

Not a single man glanced my way, which allowed me to watch their game without feeling as if I were intruding.

They play with discs that are similar to checkers; yet the moves seemed more like chess.

I learned later that the game is called Chinese chess.

What they drive in China….

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.

~H.G. Wells

I had always wondered how people in other parts of the world get around, and, I must admit, I had rather chauvinistic attitudes, believing that only in my Western world would automobiles be modern and advanced. I was humbled and surprised to find the same cars on the streets of China that I see here in the United States: Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes, as well as Honda, Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, Ford, VW, and Nissan.

So, the cars and vans didn’t interest me enough to photograph them. What caught my attention were the other modes of transportation, especially those vehicles that I do not see at home. While the automobiles dominate the streets, bikes of every shape, size, condition and age share the space. I never got comfortable with the practice of carrying children and babies on the scooters and bikes … and without helmets! However, I did not see a child injured in spite of the frighteningly unsafe drivers.

I am a bit frustrated that I was not able to convey the intensely crowded streets or the aggressiveness displayed by all of the drivers. I was terrified to cross the street and remember the relief and pride I felt when I finally learned how to maneuver amidst the heavy machinery and pedestrians.  (Click on any image to see it full size.)