Archive for June 2013


It was a day of fun in Dalian, starting with a tour which took us to the farmer’s market and other places. As I’ve pointed out before, it was interesting to watch the progression of markets. This one was tidy and tempting, but I noted especially the following offering, one we wouldn’t find in the U.S. — at least I don’t think so. It did remind me that the one food I would not accept from my butcher father-in-law was pigs feet. Any other part of the body was worth a try, but pigs feet look like pigs feet. (For obvious reasons, of course.)

Dalian Farmer's Market


One thing that stood out was the activity in the public squares — people dancing, for example.

Dancing in Labour Park


As we drove past another square, we were told that people came out after dinner to exercise.

And then there were the kites. Part of our tour was the chance to fly our own and take it home with us. The kites were beautiful, but the wind was not cooperative. OK. If you haven’t already laughed at the header, let me tell you I forgot I’m not six years old and ran, as instructed by the girls who offered help at the park. Of course, as I probably did when I was six — spending my whole life as I did being physically clumsy –I fell down. No damage done, and I especially appreciated the reaction of the girls who simply offered help in getting up and assumed I would continue (as I did). No tut-tutting, “Are you alright.” Believe me, once one reaches my age, being hovered over like you’re fragile is not appreciated.

The fact is, no one — except for Doug — got a kite in the air. That orange flying object above the man’s head is Doug’s kite.

Doug's kite - Version 2


But there’s more to the story in Labour square. While I was assisted by girls who just happened to be in the park, there were also  young people who had shown up specifically to help us, hoping to practice their English — American English. They were students planning to become teachers. We met many such young people in China, eager to practice their linguistic skill with us. We also learned that children, when they start school, are given American names. The name of the young man in the next photo, conversing with Doug, is Kevin.

Doug talking with Kevin

Notice the man to the right, recording the entire encounter. No, he wasn’t a government spy. He was doing what people all through China seemed anxious to do — photographing Americans. Unfortunately our tour guides hadn’t told us that to have a conversation was the hope of the young folks who met us to help at the park, so we didn’t chat as much as we would have had we known.

Before I left the park, I gave my kite to the helper girls. It was indeed beautiful, but there wan’t much likelihood I’d use it, or display it, at home.

Speaking of conversing leads me to the next, and last, stop, for our day in Dalian. A totally delightful visit to the apartment of a retired couple. The entrance hall to their place was dark enough that I strained to see my way to the steps. Once in their place at the top of the stairs, we were escorted to their everything room. Six of us from the tour, plus Victoria – our student translator – met with an eager and happy-to-see-us Mr. and Mrs. Wong. Three mats were set on the bed and four chairs were arranged around the small table almost within touching distance of the bed. These were for us tourist guests. Mr. and Mrs. Wong then pulled up folding stools.

On the table was a plate of delicious small tomatoes and oranges that I would call Clementines. Although we had passed an outdoor food market on the way to their home, we were told that our treats had been purchased at a nearby super market.

I also discovered that the Wong’s were like my mother-in-law. With Mama, if you admired something, she insisted you must have it. (I learned early on not to admire things too often — unless it was food, of course.) At any rate, when I raised the question whether the food had been purchased at the nearby farmer’s market, everything was passed for a second time, with the insistence that we must take more than one.

But, back to our initial reception. The first question was, as you might expect, “Where are you from?” The couple from Canada were greeted warmly, as were the two from the Philippines, but when Mr. Wong heard Doug and I were from America, he leapt to his feet and took off his hat to show us it was from the states. He was clearly excited to meet us, as had been so many other folks we encountered in China.

With Victoria’s help we had a conversation of some 20 to 30 minutes. We learned that Mr. Wong had worked for the railroad, retiring at (uh-uh, I think it was 60) as required by law. Mrs. Wong had worked as a nurse at the RR station, retiring, as mandated, at 55. They had also raised a family there.

Upon leaving, we did, of course, take photos with our hosts. Mrs. Wong reminded me of my mother-in-law when she lovingly and enthusiastically caressed my face — and Doug’s — in saying an affectionate goodbye. All in all, it was a highlight of my trip.

Having paid that visit, I noted a bit of social psychology in action. I realized the reason for the communal activity in the parks. There one could engage in physical and group activity not even possible within the confines of a small apartment. The very size of the home directed folks to a life of community.

There is one very sad note, though. If anyone out there can help me, I’d be deeply grateful. I intended to send them a thank you note, including a copy of the photo. To that end, Victoria gave us a template of their address. The sad thing is, we somehow lost the template, so I haven’t been able to let them know how much I appreciated the visit. As a matter of fact, I even called the excursion folks at the Holland America Line to see if they could help. Declaring that this was a first ever request, the woman I spoke to didn’t offer much hope, but did say she would try. Sadly I have heard nothing from her.


Mr: & Mrs: Wong


Mr. Wong, Mona, Mrs. Wong, and (my son) Doug

Mr. & Mrs. Wong & Victoria

Mr. Wong (and his American cap), Victoria, and Mrs. Wong

The journey is almost over. Nagasaki is coming up. (Remember, you can increase the size of every photo by clicking on it.)


I can’t describe the vastness of tian’anmen square.  It’s a little like the photos I couldn’t get of the wildness of the ocean back in 1955 when the SS Kungsholm went into the North Atlantic in a hurricane to rescue nine men off a sinking Greek freighter. I guess that’s why we go to see these places – the only way to get the real impact.

Even the header photo I have of people lined up to see the Mao Zadong Mausoleum is inadequate, but that’s because we were there during the long Chinese New Year’s celebration, so people were off doing their holiday thing. I did find a link to Mao’s story which includes, toward the end, a photo of the long lines. If you scan all the way down to it, you will get a sense of the vastness.Mao Zedong

Tian'anmen Square

The guides and other folks who talked to us about Mao were enthusiastic about all he had done for the country. Well, if you read the article referred to above, you’ll find that his supporters hold him in high regard for modernizing China, making it a world power, promoting the status of women, making health care and education available, providing universal housing, and raising life expectancy for the population. One guide explained that before Mao, the people really believed they didn’t have it so bad compared to the rest of the world where, they had been told, everyone lived in poverty, to the point of dying in the streets. They credited Mao with opening China up to the world. Those one would assume are the supporters who stand in that long line to see his mausoleum.

Then, of course, there’s the Mao with whom we in the West are more familiar, the Cummunist dictator who ran roughshod over human rights.

It was in Tien’anmen Square, I think, where people came up to Doug and me, wanting us to pose for a photo with their family members. I will say, they seemed very happy to see Americans. Young people especially seemed excited by our presence.  But then, you may get a different idea looking at the photo of me all wrapped up for the cold.

Mona in the cold

And, if you look to the lower right in the photo of Tien’amen Square above you’ll see a rear view photo of Doug with Cambodia hat.  Maybe they just wanted a picture with a couple of really weird looking Americans. Or maybe they thought we were celebrities there in disguise. Anyway, we did feel very welcomed.

This day, and especially the next, we became aware of the enthusiasm many of the young people had for learning English – American English. We met several who were hoping to be teachers of English. By the way, we also learned that when they first start school, the children are given American names. I guess Emily and Tia from Cambodia probably had Cambodian names that we’d have trouble with, and probably wouldn’t work so well for entrepreneurs.

And so on to The Forbidden City. I confess, I didn’t know until I was there that the forbiddance applied to the Emperor as well as to the common people outside the walls. They weren’t allowed in, and the emperor wasn’t allowed out.

We were told that the people approved of the portrayal of the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty in the film “The Last Emperor of China.” When we returned home, Doug and I made a point of seeing it. My conclusion – being an emperor was no great shakes, maybe especially before he was deposed.  But there is so much more. On the recommendation of one of the people in our tour group, I read “Empress Orchid.” Yes, that too was well worth the read.

Forbidden City

Forbidden City 3

I’m in no position to go into detail on the emperor, but I am providing a link in case you’re interested.

Our final stop that day was at the beautiful Tau Temple of Heaven. Mostly we just looked at it from outside, but it was well worth the look.

Tau Temple

OK. That’s it for today. For tomorrow’s entry you will have my permission to laugh.

Beijing and the Great Wall   9 comments

Sorry. This trip is dragging out, but the report will soon be over. Not that I was happy for the trip to end. I am really enjoying this opportunity to relive it.

In the meantime, I have excuses for being slow to get back to you. Last weekend I spent taking a course on the use of hypnosis in therapy. I learned a lot by making a lot of mistakes. The best way to learn. I came away inspired to advertise my practice, because I do want to see clients. I think I have something good to offer. But I still won’t affiliate with a managed care group, nor will I do electronic billing. So, people who come to me have to be willing to submit their own statements for insurance reimbursement. Or sometimes we can work out a fee arrangement more attractive to clients.

BUT THEN I got back to working on the fictionalized biography of my father. What fun it is to make discoveries about things that affected his life, like the drafting of his best man who was subsequently killed in action in WW1. First of all, I managed to track him down based on clues from my father’s graduation information from Upsala college. Then I found details of where he lived in Connecticut. It turns out he would probably have registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, a day before my parent’s wedding. Good — and very sad –stuff for fleshing out the story.

This morning I’ve been googling information about the platform and actions of the Democratic and Republican parties to tie my father’s preference for the Republicans to the experiences he had in Sweden and in America. By the way, he wouldn’t have been drafted, because he wasn’t naturalized until 1918.

There’s more. And I look forward to its going into the outline for now and then being written into the story.

So, why the big “BUT THEN” above? To tell the truth, I’m feeling the pressure of time. I’m no longer in my forties, so I can’t just hang out talking about what I want to do. I need to do it. And I want — and plan — to continue traveling. So, must there be a fork in my road? Must I choose the one less traveled? or the busier one? Or can there be lots of stops along the road I’m on? Stay tuned if you wonder along with me.

And now to Beijing and the Great Wall of China.

There are many sites where one can see, enjoy, and climb the Great Wall. Our stop was at Juyongguan. (No, I can’t spell that from memory.). And guess what! We were there in a snowstorm. Do you remember back to when I was practically on the equator in Singapore? Temperature-wise we traveled a long way. Still, the snow was a surprise. Couple the snow with my acrophobia and you won’t be surprised to know that I didn’t climb very far. I did go up this flight of stairs, and even a smidge higher.

Great Wall of China

From there I managed to get this photo of the view from the wall.

View from great wall

See? Snow.

Anything else was beyond me.

Beyond me

So I hung around below, satisfying myself with a photo of where I didn’t climb.

Steps I didn't climb

In fact, I wasn’t alone taking refuge in one of the shops for warmth. Those who did climb higher had a bit of a struggle getting down. The steps are, of course, old, narrow, and uneven, and as the snow accumulated it turned them into a downward slope instead of steps. But all in our group survived to move on to the next stop, which was a jade showroom beneath the restaurant where we’d be having lunch.

We were given a really interesting lecture on the nature and variants of jade, and after lunch we got to roam the showroom. They did have a section of relatively affordable stuff for tourists. I bought a necklace. (Sorry, no photo). Most everything else was extremely costly — and beautiful — as you can see in this photo.

Jade Showroom

Then it was on to lunch above the showroom. The header is a section of the photo of drapes in the window there, just to give a sense of the decor. Our special treat was Peking Duck, preceded by lots of appetizers. I’ve included a photo of the table and the carousel in the middle to demonstrate the Chinese style of service.

As I understand it, all food is served fresh from its preparation, so items are brought out as they are ready. I may have said this before. If so, please excuse me. Anyway, we were told not to take the food off the carousel and pass it. Rather, we were to use the serving utensils — chopsticks and spoons — not one for every dish, but to be shared.

As for the food, I really enjoyed it.

Before Peking Duck

The big attraction was Peking Duck. I have to confess, I found it to be no big deal, perhaps because we had already had so much good food. It’s something every tourist should see, I guess, and I did get a photo of the chef carving the duck into very thin slices to be rolled into a very thin round of bread.

Slicing Peking Duck

The day had been very full already, but there was still one more stop to go. In the area there are 13 tombs from the Ming Dynasty. This is one of them.

Ming Tomb

This day we didn’t head back to the ship, staying overnight instead at the Sheraton Hotel. I didn’t get photos of it, though I wish I had. It was magnificent. The bathroom was extremely luxurious, though lacking somewhat in privacy. On entering the room, and placing our key card in the slot to turn the lights on, the first thing we noticed was a huge section with glass walls. Not exactly very private. We did, however, discover that there was a button to push that lowered the blinds on the outside walls. Built into a corner, it had two entrance doors. Inside there was a glass-walled section for the toilet, another for the shower, and a tub in between the two sections, along with the vanity table. Why all this fuss about the bathroom? Oh my, it was the talk of the elevator on the way down to breakfast in the morning.

There was also a magnificent swimming pool, monitored by a couple of very attractive women at a very stylish desk. We didn’t get to use it, though, because a bathing cap was required. Yes, they did have them on sale, but we decided to forego it.

And so ended our first day in Beijing. I’ll try to get back soon with the next installment.

Remember, you can enlarge any photo by clicking on it.

Shanghai Day Two   8 comments

The trip is almost over. I’ll try to make our way through the rest of it with a little more speed. In between I’ve been working on something called “My Father’s House: Torsas, Kalmar, Sweden 1907” I hope someday it will be the first chapter in the fictionalized memoir of my father– oops, biography, I guess, since I wasn’t around yet in 1907.

For now, it belongs to Writer’s Digest because I entered it in a contest. Come October, when they announce the winners (one of whom I don’t expect to be) I’ll be free to begin submitting it to agents. along with the outline for the rest of it.

It’s a really fun project. I have a number of sources to work with. My sister has more recollections than I do, because she’s been around longer than I have, but I also remember some of my Dad’s stories, and I did take a trip back to Sweden with my parents in 1955, so I have pictures — some in my head, some more tangible — of where he came from. I also have my son-in-law’s discoveries in his work on genealogy and a paper my niece wrote when she interviewed her grandfather back in her high school years. There are also the recollections reported to me by a woman who was essentially adopted by my Swedish grandmother sometime after my father, the youngest, left to join his five siblings in America.

Probably the most fun is googling to fill in the details. It’s amazing, actually. Google “Swedish food in 1907” for example, and up comes a blog by someone with his/her great grandmother’s recipe book from 1907. Try to figure out how my father at age seventeen got from Torsas to Solvesborg and up comes information about the new railroad that reached Karlskrona in 1907 -about half-way between Torsas and Solvesborg. Google “Swedish musical instruments in 1907” and up come photos and descriptions. There’s lots more, but you get the idea.

In a way, it’s as if I’m visiting Sweden again as I get involved in the atmosphere. I giggled when I found a site telling business folk what to expect in dealing with Swedes. They are very punctual, it says, so much so that, if a party is scheduled for 6:00 p.m., they will stop up the street if they are early and move on to arrive just on the dot. I giggled, because that’s what my father and mother used to do when they came to visit me after my marriage.

It talked too about the large amount of personal space Swede’s expect. Imagine me — from that heritage — meeting my Italian family with a much smaller expectation of personal space.

Well anyway. That’s what I’ve been spending time on, keeping me away from finishing this trip with you.

So now, on to our second day in Shanghai.

Two tours filled our time that day. First there was the visit to ZhuzjaiJaio, translated “Watertown” for us language-limited Americans. At some point, the Chinese government realized that Chinese heritage was in danger of being lost as the country grew and modernized. Dare I say Westernized? So some communities were set aside for protection to continue functioning as they traditionally had.

No, they are not the Chinese equivalent of Colonial Williamsburg. They are families living as their predecessors had. In fact, we were told by the guide that it would be impolite to take photos of people who were going about their business, unless they indicated with a smile or gesture that it would be OK. In a sense, their hometown was being invaded by us tourists. Clearly it was not an unusual event for them. They did indeed just go about their business.

We rode sampans down the waterway. Oh my, how strong the men had to be to manipulate those boats with their one long pole.

So, here are some of the photos I took on that trip. I hope it may give some of the feel of our experience. A partial view of the sampan driver (I don’t know if that’s the right word) can be seen with his long pole at the rear of the vessel. Notice the red decorations for the Chinese New Year. I’m quite sure the guides told us the holiday lasts for three weeks.


And Here they are. Folks going about their daily business.



I found this bridge particularly beautiful

Watertown 2P1070226

The second part of that day’s tour was a visit to the silk shop. The Chinese were particularly anxious for us to see the beautiful things they make. And, of course, to sell us something. Believe me, if I had that kind of money, I would have bought something even though it wouldn’t fit into my minimalist home.

the initial “Oh My” experience was seeing this piece in the process of being created. Working from a pattern, the craftsperson manages to finish five rows a day, payment depending, I believe, on the number of rows completed.


Now you are about two see two completed rugs. The one in the center is about 12×24 inches (smaller than the one you see being created above.) Priced at $2400, it did seem worth the price. Think of what went into making it. the design, the long process of completing it.

Rugs from other side

Now, here comes the second “Oh My!” experience. Take a look at the banner heading today’s entry. There you find the same three rugs viewed from the other side. I don’t mean turned over. I mean, just walk around and view it from the other side (like where those two feet barely show about this photo).

Or just see them below from the other point of view. ‘Nuff said?

Nap viewed from opposite angle - Version 2

Some of the work they do is with silk and cotton mixed. Those rugs get sculpted, as seen below with a very experienced artist working on one of them.

Sculpted silk on cotton

I believe one or two of the tourists is our group did buy a full size carpet. There was also silk bedding available, but I failed to get good photos of that. I didn’t even get a good photo of the silk being extracted from the silk worms. Sorry.

And then we returned to the ship. During dinner I took a photo of the decorated dining room-still celebrating Chinese New Year.

(Remember, you can enlarge any photo by clicking on it.)

Rotterdam dining room

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