I did not spend much time with her. I wish I had. I wanted to tell her about my granddaughters back in the states and ask about her life in China. She looks as if she is about my age, which means that she probably lived through the Cultural Revolution. I wanted to find out what she was doing when I was capturing fireflies in the Mason jar and sitting on the crank ice-cream maker … the burlap bag covering the cold…ever so cold ice…while we awaited the sweet most delicious treat in all the world…….. Did she have that? Was there a time when she sat with her grandfather in eager anticipation of that fabulous reward? In those few moments, we shared an unspoken joy…a love of our grandchildren. IMG_9284

Old Door in Shanghai

It seems that this tattered door with peeling paint leads into people’s lives. Do you see the mail boxes? Someone must be living here. Who?

Are they as worn as the door? As broken as the door knob?

Does the door hide a lonely woman who is waiting for her son to call? Does an old man check the rusted mailbox each day, hoping for a letter from his daughter? Does it lead to an apartment filled with a happy, noisy family? Does it open to an artist pouring his soul into his music? 

Does the door open to lives of despair…or hope?

I wonder.

Shanghai, China

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.


I am intrigued by this building that I passed several times in my solo wanderings around Shanghai. Do people still live there? It appears that they do because of the open windows and laundry. On the other hand, is it vacant — or nearly vacant, waiting for the demolition crew? On the ground floor, the shops appear to be boarded up. Across the street is an upscale apartment complex and, as you can see, behind it is a sea of high-rise apartment buildings. (Click on an image to enlarge it.)

Travel Theme: Leading Lines

I’ve recently returned home from my travels and work in China and when I saw this week’s theme of “leading lines” from Where’s My Backpack, I immediately thought of the Yuyuan Gardens in Old Shanghai. These beautiful gardens were first established in 1559 as a private garden created by Pan Yunduan to please his father Pan En, a high-ranking official in the Ming Dynasty. They had fallen into disrepair and were almost completely destroyed by the British during the Opium Wars; fortunately, they have been restored and provide a quiet respite from the chaos and noise of the tourist marketplace of Old Shanghai.

Pan was a master of using the “leading lines” to beckon the visitor into the gardens. I imagine Pan Yunduan’s visitors as they were drawn further in, wandering through the harmony of water, wood, and stone, and I can picture them sitting on one of the many benches, meditating or gossiping.

Initially, I was dismayed to share this peaceful place with throngs of tourists; yet, in their lines, I found comfort as I listened to myriad languages and watched them enjoy the gardens and one another.

Visitors to the gardens follow the lines, stopping here and there to look, to take pictures ….

Take the steps…follow the lines into the ancient gardens.

The stone wall appears to present a barrier, yet the beautiful woodwork invites me to enter.

Lines in the garden are not straight. They meander, inviting the visitor to slow down.

Peaceful lines

Lines leading toward rest …..


A Story in a Picture

Sometimes a picture might tell a story. Perhaps this one tells a little about life in Shanghai. Perhaps it tells a larger story.

The two men in the foreground: I wonder what they are thinking.  One appears to be anxiously looking for something. A taxi maybe? The other, casually crouching on the curb. Is he waiting for a ride? Just passing the time?

Look closely inside the gate.  A young couple (perhaps students because they are both wearing backpacks) pass by rows of doors that lead into the lives inside the apartments.  Laundry hangs from the windows and across the narrow street. Most of the apartments have window air-conditioning units. It looks as if this was once a modern and upscale apartment complex.

More people are deeper inside, heading toward us. There must be another entrance into the complex because there are a few cars, and of course, the ubiquitous bike, both motorized and foot-powered, and it doesn’t look as if a car would fit through this iron gate.

I frequently go about my life, concerned about only that which directly affects me. I don’t consider that there are countless numbers of people all over the world who have their daily problems, concerns, joys, and loves. I believe that it is important to stop and think for a moment that we all share the same desires, not just for food, shelter, and clothing, but for companionship, safety, and peace. Sometimes, if we are lucky, we find a way to fulfill these desires, and, if we are very fortunate, we might find a little love along the way.