Forgiveness

I was asked if I could intervene in a family issue that has been going on for the past year. So in a departure from my normal “fun” posts, I decided to pass along what I wrote. Maybe someone out there needs to hear this, as well.
Hi Susan,
  I don’t usually intervene in other’s affairs, but I feel I might be able to impart some of the wisdom I’ve learned in my 73 years.  You may not feel interested in reading on, but I hope you will.
  This email is not about what’s right or wrong with what is happening between you and your parents.It’s about being able to forgive; not to benefit them so much as you.  By not forgiving others for how they’ve disappointed us or hurt, we ultimately end up disappointing and hurting ourselves the most.  The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to forgive others for being human.
  We grow up feeling our parents should do everything right by us.  Their dreams and needs should be secondary to ours. We aren’t aware that as children, we don’t always fulfill our end of the bargain.  What bargain would that be? The one where we accept that once we become responsible adults, they can then pursue life as they’ve dreamed. Enjoy their remaining years living a life they’ve planned, dreamed and saved for.
  Some things we can control, some not.  As children we have to learn and understand that our parents are human.  Which means they make mistakes.  Some of those mistakes can be corrected, but unfortunately, some can not.  Some of these mistakes make us angry, some hurt.  But they are mistakes, nonetheless.  This is where the forgiveness needs to come in.
  When I was your age, I could make a list of things my parents did that hurt me to my core. Things that made me lose sleep night after night. My way of dealing with the hurt was to withdraw from them.  I didn’t cut off all communication like you, but I lessened it. It helped that I lived in another state.  I would speak on the phone with them … well my mom, mostly … about twice a year.  We, none of us, get lessons on parenting.  It’s a play by the ear kind of thing.  And so much of what we do as parents is reflective of what our parents did.  When my mom died, I wished with all my heart I could go back and undo all those years.  There were so many conversations I still wanted to have with her. And still do.
  The most we can hope for as parents is that we don’t screw our kids up too badly.  We want them to grow up to be caring, loving, responsible adults. I can see my successes and failures in my children.  If I could go back and do somethings differently, I would in a heartbeat. I’m lucky and grateful they are good loving people. I’m sure your parents feel the same way about you.  And you will feel the same way when your children are adults.
  I don’t know all the details of what occurred between you.  Your dad is a very private person.  One of the things he’s learned from his parents.  But I do know they’ve always loved you, your husband and your children.  And have only ever wanted what was best for all of you. It’s time to make peace with them.  For you.  Heal your heart. Life is too short to let this continue.  They deserve to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives. And your children need them to be around too.
  I’ve had so many friends who have passed away in their 50s and 60s.  To make it into the 70s is a gift.  We have no guarantees of a tomorrow. Once they are gone, we can never say “I’m sorry”. We can never decide to make it right.  It will be too late.
  You may feel right now that your feelings are correct.  You may feel they deserve this punishment. But, I’m convinced that one day you will regret this time lost.  And your children will too. Then it will be too late. You will live with regrets and guilt. Don’t do that to yourself. Give yourself the freedom of forgiveness.
  Don’t know how to begin to make your peace?  Just send them a note and say, “Let’s start over.”
Your Aunt.

*** Public Service Announcement ***

Ways we can Make America Great Again —  in case Trump forgets us.

Since I spend a lot of time driving between North Carolina and South Carolina, sometimes within days of a previous trip, I feel well qualified in putting forth my suggestions.

First — and this is for my Virginia friends — if you plan to leave your state, could you please just head north? If you must go south, one word –fly.  I understand there are some really good flight deals. By flying south, you eliminate that long boring drive down and back, thereby relieving the congestion on I-95. I know this because today most of the plates were from VA.  I saw a District of Columbia.  One from Maryland. Three from NY.  All the rest were VA and NC.  Now since I was in North Carolina, I understand the NC plates.  But really, I think VA outnumbered NC.

Now, I will be driving back down in a few days and I will see a lot of Quebec plates and some Ontario. These plates will be on a great many really large RVs. Many pulling a car behind them. Actually, three of my car would fit in the same road length. But, remember, these snowbirds are doing their part to Make America Great Again by spending their money here.  Plus — they don’t pay taxes to us, except for sales tax and those endless tolls on the northern  parts of I-95. So we need all the dollars we can get from them. Fill up our coffers! Thanks Canucks!

Which brings me to my next point — you can not drive faster than the vehicle in front of you. Now I know those of you who drive the big ol’ honkin’ white pickup trucks and SUVs sign an agreement when you purchase your vehicle that you will uphold the tradition of tailgating and  intimidating the vehicle in front of you no matter how fast they are driving; but all you do is piss us off. Get over yourself! We know you’re just being a bully and no-one likes a bully.

If you like using cruise control and you set it 15 -20 miles over the speed limit, you can tell the vehicle in front of you is not going that speed, so disengage it before you plow into or scare the hell out of the other driver. If that said driver has a heart attack from the fright of getting rear-ended by you, trust me — you’re going out with him and a few other innocent people.

Lastly, if you feel you were elected to be the speed monitors, you weren’t.  If you are driving the speed limit or just under, get out of the left lane.You make people crazy. Then they do crazy shit to get around you, thereby endangering others. There aren’t any exits from the left lane on I-95 in NC. Get in the right lane and drive with all the other speed monitors. You don’t like the trucks in the right lane? Too bad.  Then your only choice is to step up your game and mash down the gas pedal.

So — if you are all willing to do your part to Make America Great Again, I would greatly appreciate it. I’ll do my part, as well.  When there are too many crazies around me, I get in the right lane behind that line of tractor trailers and know that no-one wants my spot. I’ll wave as you zoom by.

I Confess, I Just Don’t Get It…

It seems the thing now to share on social media is you will be saying Merry Christmas because you are putting Christ back in Christmas.  When was it ever determined that a person was not permitted to use that greeting at this time of the year?  And why is it deemed wrong to wish someone Happy Holidays?  Now before you get all ticked off at me, let me give you my feelings about this.

I was not brought up to believe Christmas started Thanksgiving afternoon.  Heck, there were radio stations playing all Christmas music right after Halloween this year!  In my family, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve was preparation time for the Christmas Holidays.  Baking — lots of it.  All the traditional cookies, etc.  Tons of them. All boxed and wrapped well and placed in the freezer. Crafts of one sort or another were made.

The Christmas tree was put up and decorated on Christmas Eve.  Christmas carols were played while we marveled and reminisced at our favorite ornaments, as we hung them on the tree.  The final touch was the silver tinsel my mother hung on the tree.  This was her job.  No-one could do it.  She took each piece of silver and hung it just right so that it hung down in the perfect icicle formation. No matter how misshapen the tree was to begin with, it always ended up beautiful.

We would get together with our relatives and then go to midnight mass. Or at least we did that when we were older.  Prior to being old enough, we willingly went to bed early because morning would come so much sooner.  This was the beginning of the Holidays.

Christmas morning was gift opening and families gathering in one house or another. All the abundant food was set out and eating went on throughout the day.  Neighbors and friends stopped by to have a drink and pass on their Merry Christmases. I don’t ever remember any one giving gifts. That was not what it was about.  It was celebrating the birth of Jesus.

And the celebration didn’t end on Christmas afternoon.  The tree wasn’t put out at the curb.  The carols didn’t stop playing on the radio. Christmas season went on.  More people would stop by for a drink and some Christmas goodies days after.

And the tree never came down before Epiphany — January 6. Why?  Because it was Twelfth Night.  The Three Kings had arrived to welcome Baby Jesus! Three Kings Day! And it was the Baptism Day of Jesus by John the Baptist

So when I wish you a Happy Holiday, I’m not taking Christ out of Christmas, I’m remembering the entire holiday season. I find it so depressing to look out in my neighborhood and see all the trees out at the curb late Christmas afternoon.  To me it shouldn’t be over.  Wait for the Wise Men!

I mourn for the real holiday.  The one that meant something other than shopping and gifts. Just because the retail shopping season is over doesn’t mean Christmas should be over, as well. Why are we in such a rush to start Christmas on Thanksgiving and end it Christmas day? Why can’t we start it Christmas week and end it after the New Year?  Why can’t we wait for the Wise Men to get there?

I’m going to continue to wish you Happy Holidays and you can wish me Merry Christmas, but don’t mistake my greeting as not putting Christ in Christmas because if I see your tree at the curb before the Wise Men get there, I’ll know you’ve confused the Christmas shopping season with the Christmas Holiday season. Think of the shopping part as the baking and creating part of my Holiday past.

They’re Wearing Me Out, Folks

My grandchildren go to year-round schools.  This means that they go for 10 weeks, then they are out for three.  This results in four 3 week vacations a year, called being tracked out. Next year my granddaughter (14) will go into high school and this will all change.  The high school in her area is a traditional calendar — summers off.  So my grandson (7) will transfer to a traditional elementary.  This is going to be a big change for us. I don’t know if I’m ready for this.

That being said, they tracked out last week, so I brought them down to my place in Murrells Inlet.  Since it’s no longer beach or pool weather, I had to find other ways to keep them busy and refrain from bugging each other until I’d lose my sanity.

First night, dinner at Nance’s Restaurant in Murrells Inlet.  My granddaughter loves this place for their oyster roasts. Well, we were in for a disappointment because they had no oysters. I hadn’t taken into account Hurricane Matthew and the damage that was inflicted here on the oysters.  But she happily chose the steampot.  My grandson chose his standard chicken strips, since they didn’t have mac ‘n cheese on the menu.

After cautioning her to not eat the potatoes and just concentrate on the “good stuff”, she surprised me by eating everything.  How does she fit all that food into that thin body? Then again, she is a teenager and all they do is eat.

My grandson, on the other hand, mostly consumes the french fries, ketchup, and hush puppies.  I oftentimes say that we should just order fries for him, but then I know no self-respecting grandmother would really do that.  Right?  You don’t do that, do you?

The consensus for the next day was a trip to the Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach.  The last time we went was during summer and it was crowded!  Can you picture a mob scene?  And how funny was it that we ran into my niece from Raleigh and her child?  Anyway, this time there was no crowd.  We practically ran through the exhibits. Because it was so pricey, I wanted them to go through two or three more times.  Okay, I got them to go through one more time. I wanted my money’s worth.

My grandson loved the people mover, the sharks and the interactive displays.  I loved the regular walkways, being afraid I’d hurt myself stepping on and off those darn moving things. So okay, I’m getting old and feeble. And insecure about my ability to stay upright.

Since I couldn’t get anymore of my money’s worth out of this place, we headed out to an early dinner.  We chose Margaritaville.  The only other time I tried to eat there it was a – wait.  No one should be eating dinner at 10:00 at night, in my opinion, so we passed.  This time we walked right in.

They loved the decor!  Next time we’ll try to get a table in one of the sailboats. The music wasn’t bad either. Hey. Hey. Hey. Mac ‘n cheese on the menu.  And Pyramid Nachos!  And cheese curds. It was a cheesy kind of dinner. And the nachos really were a pyramid! We all shared.

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Next day on to Charleston, SC, one of our favorites.  No matter how many times we go there, we always enjoy it. As we were passing through McClellanville, SC., we decided to stop and see the 1000 year old tree.

After a little swinging and climbing, we got back in the car for the rest of our journey. I have to admit, I did have to insist that no one was to touch anyone!  Everyone had to keep their hands on their own bodies! And I said that in my outdoor voice. That lasted for a little while, at least.

Arriving in Charleston, it was well after lunch and we were hungry.  We finally found a place to park the car, which wasn’t easy. We very quickly came upon a place with a menu posted outside.  Something had goat cheese!  Let’s eat here. And we were glad we did.  I had the best hamburger I believe I’ve ever eaten.  Lila had a grilled cheese with homemade potato salad which looked really good.  Shane had the pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese. Jim had breakfast.  We will definitely go back to Eli’s Table at 129 Meeting Street again.  We all highly recommend it.  Even though Shane ate every bit of macaroni in his bowl, on the way home he announced he didn’t like it.  Haha!  I did tell him one time that he was a picky eater.  His response?  “I’m not picky, my tongue is picky.”

Now that we all had full bellies, it was time to hit the town.  We shopped and we walked and then went to another favorite spot, the playground down by the Battery. So, while they got to run around and work of some energy, Jim and I took the opportunity to take a rest. There was a little boy, about 3, who was getting a tennis lesson.  Wow!  That little boy was good. How did his parent’s know he had that talent?

On our way back to the car, Lila mentioned that she wouldn’t want to live there.  Why?  “Well, there’d be too many people like us walking around all the time.”  She had a point!

As we came to Washington Park, it was time for another rest.  That park is so peaceful and serene.  I always feel the need to stop there for a bit.1025161712

The next day, it was time to take them back home.  I hope they had some fun stories to tell.  I know I needed a rest. How will I ever survive a whole summer?

Last Stop, Beijing — the final installment

Beijing used to be Peking.  Now the only things called Peking are Peking Duck and Peking Airport. On October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao (as our guide always called him) seized control of the city, announced the creation of the People’s Republic of China and changed the name back to Beijing.

This was our most anticipated stop.  Here we would visit the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Jim was excited beyond belief to see these places.  In 1976, the Cultural Revolution came to an end.  Remember the picture of the student standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square?  My mother kept a copy of it hanging on the wall in her bedroom. I got my political leanings from her, as did my brother (well, his leans in the other direction) and sister.  Just an FYI for all my Facebook friends!

First stop, check in at the Ritz Carlton. Wow!  Very nice! Since we didn’t make it a habit of staying in really nice hotels, I found the bathroom amenities of special interest … the shampoo, lotions, etc.  This one had a drawer with complimentary shaving kits, toothbrush kits, comb kits, among all the other things. I made sure to remove those everyday so I’d get refills. I’ve got a great supply in my bathroom at home if one of my house guests ever forgets something.

Our first venture out the next day was a drive to see the Great Wall.

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There are several places you can go to climb it.  We went to one of them, Badaling Hills. Once again, we were among the one million Chinese tourists also visiting. We had to stay in a group as we entered the gate, so we were pushing and shoving, as instructed by our guide. He had the exact number of tickets for us to enter and didn’t want anyone to get in the middle of our group and screw things up. Push. Shove. We’re here!

Oh my! This place was amazing. From the parking lot up to the wall was a huge, long hill.

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So we hired a wheel chair for Jim and I to share.  Why walk when you can ride? Jim rode up and I walked. The Wall is 3100 miles long, (or 4000, depending on the expert) built between the 5th century BC and 16th century AD. No, we didn’t walk the whole thing. Once on the wall, we decided we didn’t need to make a contest of it. We went halfway up the first segment, looked around and decided we’d just tell everyone we climbed the whole segment or the whole thing depending on who we were talking to. Steps in China never have handrails.  We were a little concerned with the crowds around us that we’d get bumped and go tumbling down.  The views were amazing … the valleys … the hills … other segments of the wall. Yep. It looked just like the postcards. Seriously, it was amazing.

We drove back to Beijing and went to the Sacred Way.  This was a tree-lined avenue bordered with massive sculptures of animals. As I remember, it was 1.5 miles long. They really were trying to kill us! And remember, it was in the high 90s to low 100s.

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This avenue led to the Ming tombs. By the time we got to the tombs, after having done the Great Wall, most of us just wanted to know where were the buses.  Remember, we were all old.

The buses then took us to a hutong. Many of Beijing’s ancient hutongs still stand, and a number of them have been designated protected areas. The older neighborhoods survive today, offering a glimpse of life in the capital city as it has been for generations. These are narrow alleys with residences and businesses along each side.

We took pedicab rides around the area and spent some time in one of the residences. Our driver had to work really hard to get Jim and I around.  We are not skinny minnies.  When it came time to pay, I paid him for 3 people! Maybe I should have paid for 4. He was a really skinny man.

Back to the hotel to clean up and go to dinner.  Once back from dinner, Jim and I enjoyed hanging in the cocktail lounge … our favorite end of the day activity.

Next day, up and about to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square was one of my most memorable places.

It was enormous and imposing. It can hold one million people. This is where Mao Zedong lies in state in the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall.

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Another huge building is the Gate of Heavenly Peace with a gigantic picture of Mao on the outside of it facing the square. He’s watching us!

From there we walked into the Forbidden City. This was the Imperial Palace from the Ming to Qing dynasties, 1420-1912. There were 999 rooms. Who knows why they didn’t add one more.  Our guide told us why, but I didn’t quite understand it.  Something about religion or superstition.  Since it was the palace of the Emperor, no one could enter or leave the palace without the emperor’s permission.

Now here’s where it gets interesting!  Remember when I mentioned the name tags in my earlier post?  This is where they come into play. We were to wear these tags at all times.  Our guide had put his cell number on the back, in case we got lost. We were instructed to find someone with a cell phone and call him. Once again, we were in mobs of people. At one point, we stopped at a gate and Jonathon told us to go into this one particular square, look around for 45 minutes and then come back to this same spot. Off we went to take our pictures, etc.  The crowds got to be too much and I told Jim I was heading back to our meeting place. He proceeded on.

Back at the meeting place, Jonathon began counting heads.  I could tell he was coming up short.  After his second count, I was able to get his attention to tell him Jim wasn’t there. We had rented a wheel chair here, so Jonathon and our wheel chair guy went in to look for him.  They couldn’t find him.  They went back in a second time.  No dice. After waiting another 15 minutes or so, we made our way to the gardens, hoping he was there.  He wasn’t.  So Jonathan and the wheel chair guy went back in to look for him.  Still no Jim. We were due at the lunch place and Jonathan was not sure what he should do. One of his group was lost! Finally, he made the decision to leave. When we got on the bus, he came to me to talk.  That’s when he found out Jim wasn’t wearing his name tag. Then I had to tell him Jim didn’t have his room key. And then I had to admit he didn’t have the card with the name and address of the hotel. Now he really got concerned.

Finally I told him, “Jonathon, this is not his first rodeo.  He’ll just have to get a cab back to the Ritz Carlton.” Kinda cold hearted, I know.  But, there was a bus load of people just waiting around getting hungrier and hungrier.  Herein was the problem. There were two Ritz Carltons in Beijing, on opposite sides of town. There was a good chance he would end up at the wrong one. Off we went to lunch.  Jonathon was so quiet.  Usually, he was talking while we were riding.  Then, his phone rang.  Jim managed to call the other guide to contact Jonathon that he was getting a cab back to the hotel. Jonathon was so relieved.  Now he was the guide we knew and loved … talking, laughing.  He told us that this was the first time he ever lost anyone in 20 years of being a guide. Jim loves being first!

This is Jim’s account of his wonderful adventure:

The morning we were leaving the hotel to go to the Forbidden City, my name tag fell behind the end table. My name had long been smudged off, so I left it there. The Forbidden City was so much bigger than I expected. And there were thousands of Chinese tourists. Our guide told us where to meet and at what time.  I, of course, was not listening leaving it all up to Irene. 

I went into the garden and took some pictures then left to go back. I could not find Irene anywhere nor could I find anyone from our tour group. I walked all the way back to the entrance gate and saw a shack with a sign that said tour guides.  They told me I had the go all the way back to the garden. I had just had total knee replacement in March and again in June, I wasn’t sure I could make it. I started walking and soon saw a couple walking toward me with Viking River Cruise name tags. They were from the other bus and had told their guide they would be going on there own. I got the phone number of the other guide but I could not call from their phone or mine. We had been told to just ask anyone and they would let you use their phone. But very few spoke English. I did see a couple that looked non Asian, I asked to use their phone and I was able to call Jimmy (the other guide) and asked him to call Jonathan. I was not worried about me, I knew I was going to be able to get back to the hotel. I was concerned about Irene and the rest of the group. I walked out of the Forbidden City and started looking for a taxi. None of the drivers understood what I was saying when I asked to go to the Ritz Carlton. Finally one held up two fingers and said two hundred. At this point I didn’t care what it was going to cost. I got into the taxi and we started. Soon the driver turned to me with his cell phone and pointed to the screen. He was listing all the hotels in Beijing and he did have the Ritz Carlton in the center. I said, ” Yes, that’s it.”  About five miles later he let me off at the hotel …  it was the wrong one. There were two Ritz Carltons in Beijing. Each was about five miles in opposite directions from the Forbidden City. Luckily Jonathan had called the hotel in case I would be brought to the wrong one. They put me in a taxi and I was soon at the correct hotel. Shortly after the bus came and Jonathan gave me a big hug. When I told him my story he laughed and said, ” Those cab drivers couldn’t even pronounce Witz Cawton.”

Next day, we were heading home.  Tired, but ready to sleep in our own beds and sit in our own chairs.

Can you say Xian?

I didn’t think so.  Neither can I … I think I learned how to say it when I was there, but it escapes me … as does a lot of things nowadays.

After driving to Chongqing, we went to the zoo to see the Pandas. Having lived in San Diego, CA for nine years, I had seen the pandas many times at the San Diego Zoo, so I wasn’t really interested. 0817162111b

We had lunch and then flew to Xian. This city dates back 3000 years. Here, in the U.S., we think  our 150 year old buildings are old. We’re very impressed with things dating from the 1800s, hence the popularity of Antiques Road Show. Xian was the capital of China for 12 imperial dynasties. It sits at the terminus of the old Silk Road. There was a wall with a moat around the city which I would have liked to have seen, but we didn’t have the energy to walk any segment of it, nor did we feel inclined to bicycle around it. Actually, I don’t bicycle anywhere.  Lord, I might break a hip or something.

We boarded our buses for the ride to our hotels.  We stayed at the Hilton.  Actually, all the hotels we stayed at were top-notch; more top-notch than we ever choose ourselves. We never thought about the fact that we were, in fact, paying for them. So we were just very impressed and felt very wealthy …  hobnobbing and all that. I had forgotten my hair gel when I packed and there was no shop on our boat, so I asked at the front desk if they had a gift shop where I could get some. There was not. After a little confusion as to what I was asking, one of the managers told one of the other managers, (an assistant, I assume, and he was really cute) to take me out to a salon where I could get some. Having seen the traffic on the big divided street as we came in, I was a little fearful. Scary, crazy drivers.0818160719a-640x480So Jim and I and this manager ventured out into traffic “hell”.  We crossed it without losing life or limb and entered a barber shop.  All the men turned and watched us.  Really.  All activity stopped. After gesturing and head shaking, I managed to get this one man to understand I wanted gel.  I got some in a really pretty pink bottle.  I don’t know what kind it is because I can’t read Chinese.  And I think it cost a lot of money.pink-mousseAnd I would have liked to have stayed around that shop longer because one man was getting pin curls in his hair. You older ladies will know what those are.  I wonder what he looked like in his “finished state”?  Then, you guessed it, we had to cross the street from “hell”, again. We made it!  Life was all good after that. I might have looked really dorky with those black braces on my feet and ankles, but my hair looked good. And it smelled really good, as well.  I had been using a hairspray that I found in my cupboard at home and once I had to use it, I remembered why I had it in the cupboard.  I hated the smell!  Well, now my hair smelled good, in case anyone wanted to smell it.

We ate dinner at the hotel that night and just did our own thing.  Some people went out and shopped;  others did the city wall thing.  We did the drinking in the cocktail lounge thing.

Xian is the sight of the Terracotta Warriors. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what they are, don’t feel bad.  I’ve found many people since we got back that never heard of them. The Tang Dynasty ruled over China from 618 to 907.  One of the greatest emperors, Qin, (pronounced Chin) wanted to be sure he was protected even after he died, so he had an army of warriors sculpted to protect his flanks in his afterlife.  These were all formed from terracotta and were life-size. Their faces were all different to resemble actual men in his army.  They’re dressed in the kind of uniform they would have worn based on their station on life. And their hats are different.

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In 1974, a farmer digging for a well unearthed part of these figures. A young archaeologist heard about it and the excavation began.  There are now 7000 figures that have been unearthed. There are many more, but they need to find a way to unearth those until they can find a way to do so without the painted surfaces getting destroyed.  There are even horses and chariots! And they haven’t opened Qin’s tomb because he was buried on a layer of mercury. They don’t know how to deal with that either.

As with every other “touristy” spot, about a million Chinese were vacationing and visiting here too.  This time, though, they didn’t have their umbrellas as this was indoors. I didn’t have to worry about getting stabbed in the eye.  We learned here as well, that Chinese have no “personal space”. To a Westerner, this was disconcerting to say the least. I still chuckle when I think about a very nice, quiet, proper, lady from Scotland elbowing people out-of-the-way while trying to move back from an exhibit. I guess you could say our tempers were being tested.  And we weren’t winning. My own confession?  I was near the front of one exhibit and was in the process of taking a picture when a lady squeezed in front of me, blocking my view. So what did I do?  Every time she raised her camera, I leaned into her so her camera jostled. She never even noticed or looked around. Kinda spoiled my fun. Okay, so now you know … I have a mean streak in a “get back atcha” kind of way.

Thankfully, this was all indoors so it wasn’t quite so hot. Not cold, mind you. They don’t seem to have cold air-conditioning over there. But, it wasn’t hot until we walked outside into the high 90s, once again.

Believe it or not, when we got back to the hotel, we decided to go out and find some of the shops people had told us they found the night before. We never found them, but we did manage to get lost.  After some mini arguments, we made it back to the hotel.  I was right, of course.  I have a great sense of direction.  Really great. Great sense of direction. Believe me. (mimicking Donald Trump, here).

That night we went to the Tang Dynasty dinner and show.  On the way, we saw a telephone lineman’s nightmare. 1471516747137-320x240I really enjoyed the  beautiful costumes and the dances, which were ballet-type dancing with a little acrobatic during some of the stories.  All in all, it was a good, but exhausting day. Again. Time to pack up to get ready to leave the next day for Beijing. This will our final city before we fly home.  Bring on the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  We are ready!

 

 

 

 

Three Gorges Dam … and then some

Goodbye Wuhan……Hello Three Gorges. As we were departing Wuhan and heading down the Yangtze, we happened to look out and see … what else?  A Walmart!0814162253 (640x623)

That’s some kind of cruise ship that we are passing.  We saw a number of them in different areas. Notice the high rises.  It’s quite common to see these all over the place.  The cities seem to build up, not out.

But, we did find little towns along the river that just appeared.  0815160137a (640x480)

We were told that a building boom occurred via corrupt officials and contractors that resulted in many buildings never being utilized.  Ghost towns.  I don’t know if this was one of them, but it sure looked ghostly to me.  And yes, the water color is accurate.  It was brown, for sure.

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I don’t have anything to say about this.  I just liked it.

Eventually, we arrived at the dam.  You couldn’t go on or into the dam.  You had to view it from above. To get up there, you had to climb a 1,000,000 stairs.  Well, there were landings after every 100,000. Okay, so I exaggerated — there were only 900,000. Here’s what it looked like from the top.0815160405 (640x480)

I know my civil engineer brother John will be very chagrined with me if he reads this, but it didn’t impress me much.  I know it’s an engineering marvel, but when’s lunch? I don’t know what I expected, but this wasn’t it. It was really big, though.0815160411 (640x480)

The worse part, our trusty guide, Jonathon told us it would be an easy 5 minute walk down to the buses.  A walk in the park he said. Well, we did walk through a park. It was a walk from hell. We all learned then that he lied.  We never believed him after that when he would tell us about short walks, etc. It was hot, we were sweaty and we all just plodded along, putting one foot in front of the other. Did I mention the Chinese all had these pretty little umbrellas to protect them from the sun?  You had to be really careful around them or you’d lose an eye. I wanted one, but never had an opportunity to get one. Not the pretty ones they walked around with. And they all had Chinese fans.  I brought one back for my granddaughter, but I don’t think it was much of a hit. Remember when we had those growing up?

The next day, we had an excursion to go on sampan boats into the Lesser Three Gorges below this dam. Some of the most beautiful scenery occurred here.  The Ba people used to hang their coffins on the hills a thousand years ago.   The villages and farms along here were abandoned and the people relocated when they built the dam.  I must confess at this point, I didn’t go on this excursion.  Boats aren’t my favorite thing.  AND — Jonathon said we would not have the ability to go to the bathroom for the hour and a half trip.  That did it for me.  Count me out! I didn’t want to get motion sick and have to pee all at the same time. No sirree, Bob. Jim went but he didn’t see any of the hanging coffins. And he said the boat would not have made me sick. I still would have had to pee.

The bus took us back to the ship and off we went on our way to Shibaozhai where we would see  and visit the Shibaozhai Temple.  It was built in 1819, without the use of nails, I was told.

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When we arrived those steps were filled with people washing their clothing in the river.  I’m not sure how clean they could get them in that brown water, but they were washing, nonetheless. We had to walk off the wharf, up 50 or so steps, up a hill, through a village and then cross a suspension bridge to get to the temple. Confession time again … I didn’t go. I stayed on the boat and talked to the other wimps, of which there were four. Jim walked up and through the village but didn’t go all the way to the bridge. It was really hot and his legs were bothering him. My feet yelled “uncle” days before. I looked at all those steps and that hill and it was all she wrote.  Not to mention suspension bridges.  Aren’t those the things that sway and you can see through them?  Yep, that was the case!

Jim got pretty done in by his day and ended up falling asleep kinda early.  I was sitting on the balcony reading in my pjs while we sailed along.  I could see something blue off in the distance. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but it looked like it might be interesting so I kept my eye on it.  As we got closer, I realized it might pass by on the other side of the boat and I might miss it.  So, I decided to head up to the observation deck where I could see better.  Most nights it was pretty quiet up in the lounge so I just kept my pjs on.  Who would see me, really?  Well, it was our last night onboard and I forgot its always a big deal.  I walked into the lounge to get out on the deck and the place was packed, what with people doing the Macarena and such.  I pretended like I was invisible and went out on the deck.  What a marvelous sight!

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It was a bridge!  And the suspension sections kept changing. I loved it! On the one bank was a city with skyscraper after skyscraper.  On the other, it appeared to be a hotel or resort complex.  As we passed under it, people on the bridge were yelling down, “Hello.”  We were yelling back.  By this time, everyone from inside the boat had come out.  I took that opportunity to slink back to my room. What the heck — I’ll never see these people again.

Tomorrow, we get off the ship at Chongqing (chongching is how it’s pronounced.)

 

On to Wuhan …

Right, I never heard of it either. It’s the gateway to the Yangtze River Gorges.  We flew out of Shanghai and were told that any flight within three hours of the scheduled flight time was considered on time.  I believe we waited an extra hour to board.  I guess pretty good by Chinese standards. Did I say, “I hate waiting?”  Well, I do.

We were given box lunches to eat while we were waiting to fly out.  We all started digging in when I discovered all my sandwich halves had mayo on them.  Did I mention I hate mayo?  I really didn’t know Chinese people ate mayo.  I thought it was an English thing. So I threw them away and made Jim promise if they gave us peanuts on the flight, he’d give me his.

It was a pleasant enough flight and they actually served lunch, so I arrived well fed. But, I was tired and cranky –mayo on sandwiches does that to me. We boarded our buses and were told it would be about 45 minutes into town.  Wow!  Such a lot of construction going on.  Since our boat wasn’t going to be ready, we were going to stop at a museum. I like museums. I really couldn’t tell you much about this museum because all-in-all, we saw so many museums they all ran together.

The one thing about this one was the entertainment.  They had a little ensemble of retired people who performed Chinese music for us.  Delightful!  There were three men who played something called a 2-string violin. This instrument sat between their legs like a cello and only had the 2 strings — hence the name. The man that sat in the very front — I guess he was the first chair — was very animated and clearly loved performing.  The man behind him and to his right never even smiled. I enjoyed the women who played things I can’t identify. They finished with Auld Lang Syne. We stood and cheered.  It was one of my favorite moments of the trip.  I wish I had taken a picture.

We boarded our ship and while dining, started our journey down the Yangtze River. The next day, we took an excursion to an elementary school in Yueyang. This was another of my favorite things. As we walked onto the school grounds, two lines of students were lined up saying, “Welcome to our school.”  They put on performances for us and then we went into individual classrooms for discussion with the teachers.  Since this was summer break, so only the students who lived nearby were the ones in attendance for us. Can you imagine this happening in the U.S?0813162137 (640x480)0813162143a

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This was a 6th grade math class.  There were 75 students in the class; 41 of them boys.

If you notice, some of the students had red ties.  These are the exemplary students.  They achieve high scores and are designated as good citizens.  There are four levels they need to achieve during their schooling years.  If they achieve the 4th level, they can become Party members, which affords them all the perks of being such. They get the best university opportunies, jobs, etc. Our guide was not a party member.  Most of China’s citizens aren’t.

Prior to making this trip, I knew we would be visiting a school, so I went to the dollar store and bought pencils and such to give out. All were made in China!  Of course. I gave them out anyway because so many of the students are poor at this school.  Viking River Crusies sponsors this school — actually they sponsor three of them in China.

Back on the ship and heading 150 miles to the Three Gorges Dam.  I’ll fill you in on the next post.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Good Morning, China!

Our first full day in China started by meeting our guide, Jonathan.  This is not his real name.  None of the guides used their real names.  They all had English names. This I noticed was true for the hotel staffs too. I guess they figured out we would never be able to pronounce or even figure out how to say their Chinese names. So –simplify!

We were all given name tags.  On the back, our guide had written his phone number in case we ever got separated from the group, we could call him or have some sympathetic bystander do so. We were instructed to always wear our name tag.  Remember this because it will come into play later in this blog.

Before I proceed any further, I must inform you that I hate hot weather. Many of you hibernate in the winter.  I hibernate in the summer. Sunshine, let’s get this show on the road!

First stop — Yuyuan Gardens. These five acres of gardens date back to the Ming Dynasty. These weren’t gardens in the sense of large rolling hills with patches of azaleas, various flowers and fish ponds like I’ve been used to in the U.S. These were a different kind of beautiful.  And old, really old.

And it was hot.  Really hot. Like 97 degrees hot. We learned that in stepping over a threshold, men stepped with their left foot first, women with their right.  Or maybe vice versa.  I guess I didn’t really learn it. I don’t remember why. I think it had something to do with fertility. I must have been talking when he was explaining.

We left the gardens and walked to a silk embroidery factory.  I think this was a 10K walk. Chinese people walk a lot and we soon learned when we were told it would be a short easy walk, we shouldn’t believe it. Between walking in the gardens and walking to the factory, someone who had a Fitbit on said we walked 5 miles.

The silk embroidery was beautiful.  There was lady doing a demo and it was a real art.  A dying art, actually, because young people don’t want to sit quietly to do something like this.  For those of us who do needlework, we found this to be sad. All of the pictures for sale were quite expensive — $$$$.  Since I already spent $$$$ on this trip, my budget didn’t allow the expenditure on any of them.  😦

We went upstairs for lunch, the first of our Chinese meals.  We got beer!!  Can we say, “Hooray?” Boy, it sure went down good.  (I’m not a beer drinker, but I really liked all of the Chinese beer we drank.)  We ate an array of things; most of which we didn’t know.  Some good, some not so good.

We left and got on the bus to head to Shanghai Museum. This museum displayed 5,000 years of their history.  Boy, the United States is such a baby! I think the population of Shanghai is 25 million and 24 million were in the museum that day. Jim and I did a quick perusal of some of the exhibits and then found some benches to sit on.  We really should have trained for a marathon before we took this trip.

After freshening up at the hotel (a really nice Westin, btw), we went for dinner and then on to see the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. In China, when they start school. it’s determined what they are good at and that seems to be what they study.  So, this troupe was made up of those who studied at least 10 years.  What I saw was very good, but I have to confess, I fell asleep and woke up at the end when the motorcyclists were taking their bow. I understand they were the hit of the show.  But the long flight and busy day got the best of me.

Tomorrow we fly to Wuhan……………….

 

Time flies when you’re older, but this is ridiculous!

I have to say, I need to really concentrate to determine what I’ve done this year so far.  It’s just been jam-packed; not with all pleasant things, either.

January and February are a blur.  Did I have fun?  I can’t remember. But then, I can’t remember a lot of things.  Time to get more serious about Lumosity. It’s supposed to keep our minds young — or something.

March —  Jim got his first knee replacement. That required nursing and transporting on my part. He healed pretty quickly, but there were 3x a week physical therapy sessions that I had to take him to until he was able to drive himself.  Since it was his left knee, he was able to do this within a few weeks.

April — I had house guests and my son’s 50th birthday party to plan and host. All in all, it was a fun month, but busy.

May — Well it started off with a trip to New Bern, NC with my kids. That trip included a trip to Aurora, NC to dig for fossils and shark’s teeth.

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Well — some of us did!

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This little girl was not one of us, but she sure did know her stuff!

Back and forth between Raleigh and the beach.  The month ended with my family coming down to the beach for Memorial weekend.  I believe it rained a lot. But remember, my faulty memory.

June — The 1st to be exact. Jim got his right knee replaced. More surgery and therapy. This required more driving on my part because he needed his right leg to drive.  But all went well and before long, he was taking care of himself. We paid for a Viking River Cruise to China to take place in August and the emphasis was on Jim being well enough and in good enough shape to be able to walk without trouble.

July — And then it happened!  My kids came down to the beach for the 4th and we decided to go to Brookgreen Gardens.  It was so hot and humid, we decided to cut the day short and head to the zoo area.  Well, a lesson for all of us — don’t walk along reading a map or this will happen to you.0705160744_resized

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Two weeks later when I decided I really needed to see a doctor.

Walked right off the curb. I have to admit, I tell younger people I was playing Pokemon Go and wasn’t looking where I was walking.  It just sounds better than being a dope, doesn’t it? As a result of this, I wasn’t able to walk much for the rest of July.  Since time was of the essence, I elected to do physical therapy five days a week.  Three days a week just wasn’t going to work.

August. The progress on my feet and ankles was encouraging.  I’d be able to do it! Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus! Now, pay attention. Never minimize any physical ailment at the check-in counter at the airport! You get perks!  Like a wheel chair and early boarding. Don’t let pride get in the way! Accept it and rejoice. Well, this lasted until we got to China.  They didn’t care about this sort of thing. I was on my own.  They didn’t seem to care about people movers at the airport much, either.

The swelling in my feet and ankles had pretty much dissipated by the time we left Raleigh.  But, by the time we arrived in Shanghai, they were enormous and stayed that way the entire trip. Our first day, we were free to do what we wanted.  So we went to the Bund.0811160822 (640x480)0811160830a

While there, Jim’s camera on his phone wouldn’t work. Now after an 17 hour flight, I didn’t have much in the way of patience.  Not that I ever really have, truth be told. With that in mind, I saw a couple of young Chinese guys.  Who better to ask for help, right?  Don’t all young men know electronics?  I got up and walked over to them and asked if they spoke English, which they didn’t.  Through sign language and gestures, I didn’t exactly get my point across — did they have an iphone and could they figure out what was wrong.  They thought I wanted them to take our picture. So we had no choice but to stand there and let them take one, which of course we knew wouldn’t work. At that point, they fooled with it, got it fixed and took the picture.  I knew they could fix it! You go, Irene. At that point, a lady they were with came running over and wanted all of them to take a picture with us.  We found this to be the case throughout our trip.  They wanted pictures taken with Americans — some of whom were British, but who was going to tell them?  Or did they think we were Bristish and didn’t care that we were Americans? I regret I didn’t take the same picture. So here’s the one of Jim and I.

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I’ve bored you enough for this post.  The next post will give you more insight into the actual trip, our reflections and how I am convinced our tour guide tried to kill me with all the walking. I can tell you’ve had enough.  I can see your eyes rolling.