Archive for the ‘China’ Tag

PERMISSION TO LAUGH AT FUN IN DALIAN, CHINA   11 comments

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.

SO, IF SOMEONE OUT THERE SHOULD HAPPEN TO RECOGNIZE THE FOLKS IN THE FOLLOWING PHOTOS, PLEASE LEAVE ME THE INFORMATION HERE ON THE BLOG.

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.)

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.

Sanpan

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

ZhuzjaiJaio

Watertown

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.

Silk

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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