In twenty-fourteen, I: Got waylaid in Denver after snow and de-icing delays on a flight from Washington to Burbank, California.  Shared Sunset Rolls and Fire Dragon Rolls, Sapporo and warm saké, with my little sister Stephanie, and then met The Invisible Woman in LA.  On foggy Venice Beach, wandered past muscle men, tattoo parlors, surfboards and funnel cakes, and contemplated the medical marijuana advertised for sale.  Caught glimpses of adorable houses, with secret patios and lazy cats, on a stroll through the Venice Walk-Streets.  Went window shopping on Abbott Kinney Boulevard.  Drove six hours to San Francisco from LA through a parched California landscape to meet my friend Jayne. Laughed at the antics of harbor seals at Fisherman’s Wharf and met Monarch butterflies that looked like clusters of densely packed brown leaves at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Monterey. Drove 17-Mile-Drive at Pebble Beach.  Sampled some wine on the Silverado Trail.  Saw the iconic cloud-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco from the deck of the Sausalito Ferry. Laughed at the antics of sea lions at Pier 39.  On the way back to LA, vicariously lived the high life at Hearst Castle in San Simeon.  Dropped by Old Mission Santa Barbara, walked through fan palms and California chaparral at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and ate fish tacos on Stearns Wharf.  Visited the garden at Mission Buenaventura in Ventura.  Met Rosie of wandering rose and listened to the reverberations of classic rock at Bob’s Big Boy‘s classic car show.  Was inspired by a Poets & Writers LIVE! event in Los Angeles, where I embarrassed myself in front of Chinese writer Da Chen (My Last Empress) when he asked me the for the title of my book and a business card (I had neither).  Had cocktails at the Brig and ate dinner out of a food truck on Abbott Kinney.  Took a hike with Rosie around Corral Canyon in Malibu and ate more fish tacos at Malibu Seafood.  Left behind sunny California to head back to icy Virginia (nomad, interrupted).

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.

Saw tundra swans and parchment-like leaves dangling like wind-chimes on American beeches at Mason Neck State Park. Was inspired by National Geographic’s 2013 Travelers of the Year.  Saw seagulls walking on water at ice-encased Annapolis Harbor.  Learned 20 things about Storytelling Photography from National Geographic photographers Ami Vitale and Melissa Farlow.  Chased freight trains and photos along the CSX Main Line at Henryton, Maryland.  Suffered through snowstorm after snowstorm in Northern Virginia, and then searched for spring at Green Spring Gardens.  Heard the thundering roar of Great Falls while strolling with Alex, Bailey and Mike along the Patowmack Canal.  Took a photowalk through the hardscrabble part of Baltimore.  Found the gravesite of the patentee of the Ouija Board at Green Mount Cemetery.  Walked Richmond’s Monument Avenue 10k in the rain with my daughter Sarah.  Drifted with cherry blossoms on the Tidal Basin in D.C.  Said “ahoy, matey!” to pirates at the Privateer Festival in Baltimore.  crisscrossed flowing streams & waterfalls at White Oak Canyon.  Stayed overnight at a sleep clinic to test for sleep apnea. Wandered through flowering trees at the Virginia Arboretum.  Was charmed by wisteria at Dumbarton Oaks.  Finally found spring, after a long and grueling winter, at Meadowlark Gardens.  Celebrated Sarah’s 30th birthday in Richmond by sipping wine with the whole family amidst Chihuly’s Red Reeds at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, topped off by a feast at Bacchus.  Cloistered myself at the Franciscan Monastery. Sampled wine and cheese with the family at Doukenie Winery.  Won prizes in photography competitions through Vienna Photographic Society and had my Hot air balloons over Cappadocia photo featured by National Geographic on Instagram.  Finished the third draft of my novel, Scattering Dreams of Stars, but never got around to sending out query letters.  Applied for 40 jobs stateside and didn’t get anything.  Applied for jobs in China and got an offer from Sino-Canadian International College of Guangxi University in Nanning.  Went on safari with sculptures of metal animals in the “American Metal” exhibit at the Corcoran in its last days.  Was awed by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Opened my heart to water lilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.  Worked on joining hearts with Mike at Eastern Market in D.C. Saw “Words & Letters” made into art at the Athenaeum.  Felt general malaise at a Civil War Encampment at Sully Plantation. (nomad, interrupted).

Searched in vain for a happy 4th of July, as both my mother-in-law and my father were admitted to the hospital; my father’s problem was corrected without complications, but my 88-year-old mother-in-law’s health went into decline and she went into hospice care in early July.  Went with Alex on a road trip to New Hampshire, where we stayed in a cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee, seeking a reprieve from Shirley’s illness and our sadness.  Drove the Kancamagus Highway through New Hampshire’s White Mountains, topped by a hike at the Flume Gorge. Stopped to buy a bird nest ornament in a garden shop in charming Woodstock, Vermont, where I was mistaken for Alex’s girlfriend (ha!). Admired painted “meeses” and mountain lions in Bennington, and scrambled over rocks at Kaaterskill Falls in New York.  Returned home to watch helplessly as my mother-in-law continued to decline; she passed away on July 17.  Went in search of light-crazed sunflowers in memory of Shirley, who loved gardening.  Visited the George Washington Masonic National Memorial as we waited for Shirley’s memorial service, which was on Thursday, July 25.   Took our 12 1/2-year-old border collie, Bailey, to the vet when he got sick the day after Shirley’s memorial service; he died the next day, sadly, at the human age of 88.  Searched for summer, and solace, at Solomons, Maryland, where empty boats conversed in a language of their own, groaning, clanking, lamenting and whining.  Hiked at Calvert Cliffs State Park where a kid told me: “My dad says your name is Stranger.”  Dropped off my passport at the Chinese embassy to get my work visa, and while in D.C., stopped in unannounced at Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral for a brief tour in darkness. Came full circle and revisited summer at Meadowlark Gardens, as I did when I first arrived back in Virginia from Oman (nomad, interrupted).

Shirley and Bailey: both left us in July

Shirley and Bailey: both left us in July

Sampled rum & grapefruit juice with Mike at Mango’s upon our arrival in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Was coated like a sugar cookie by a maelstrom of sand at Ocean Park.  Savored every bite of mofongo — mashed plantains — at Raices in Old San Juan.  Had a close encounter with the Baño Nazi on Paseo de la Princessa.  Took a self-guided walking tour through colorful Old San Juan, admiring views of Bahia de San Juan along the periphery of El Morro.  Came face-to-face with an iguana at Castillo de San Cristobal and together we enjoyed views of the Atlantic.  Climbed into a cloud forest on the Mt. Britton Trail at El Yunque rain forest.  Ate fabulous Caribbean Benedicts at El Convento.  Sought shelter from the rain at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.  Visited the “ghost town” of Aguirre in the south of the island.  Was disappointed at Hacienda Buena Vista to see only the historical buildings and not any actual coffee plants.  Got roared at by painted lions at Ponce and took pictures of the historic firehouse and famous landmark, Parque de Bombas.  Looked in vain for 007 (“Bond, James Bond”) and Jodi Foster at the Arecibo Observatory, the setting for Goldeneye & Contact.  Enjoyed a day at the Ocean Park Beach and gorgeous sunset at El Morro before returning home to Washington. Continued to work with Mike on our reconciliation after our seven-year separation and felt good enough about it to go abroad again.  Spent the next two weeks getting ready to move to China.  Left the U.S. on August 30 (notes from north america).

Arrived in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on September 1 and was installed in a gritty apartment with a view over a lotus pond.  Spent the first couple of weeks in Nanning getting a phone, internet, a medical exam, and the visa.  Took a walk with another new teacher, Caleb, on Qing Xiu Shan in dreadful heat & humidity, where we saw koi in Sky Pond and a 1350-year-old Cycas King in the Cycad Garden.  Climbed to the top of Longing Tower where we saw views of Nanning and the Yongjiang River.  Encountered communication problems when haggling in a Chinese market.  Experienced the fringes of Typhoon Kalmaegi as it brushed past Nanning. Spent a frustrating day trying to figure out how to buy train tickets to Guilin.  Finally acquired a bicycle after much rigmarole and rode to Nanning Zoo, where I watched Chinese visitors feeding junk food to the animals.  Began fall semester on September 22.  Encountered students with funny English names: Maleah, Kitty, Yuki, Albert, Hebe, Lancy, Shally, Amber, Azura, Nyako, Spring, and best of all: Yoyo, Echo, Coco, Smoothies and Evita.  Heard tell of other teachers’ students: Biscuit, Yogurt and Potato.  Was flummoxed when trying to find simple household products such as shampoo, conditioner and floor cleaner at Nan Bai Supermarket.  Learned how to say Xièxiè (thank you), Ní hǎo (hello), and Wǒ yào yīgè daizi (I want one bag).

Overcame numerous communication problems and made it to Yangshuo for the National Holiday.  Took a motorized bamboo raft with hundreds of other Chinese tourists down the Li River to Xingping, the scene of the picture on China’s 20 yuan bill.  Strolled around Yangshuo and Green Lotus Hill, where I was surrounded by magical karst formations.  Met Audrey, the niece of an elementary school classmate of mine, at Demo Tiki Bar and then ate Thai food together, accompanied by lots of wine, at Rock-n-Grill.  Bicycled with Audrey through the Yangshuo countryside, where we took an almost-skinny-dip in the Yulong River.  Ate a late lunch at a Passion Fruit Leisure Farm.  Went on a motorbike tour through kumquat orchards to Xianggang Hill, where we saw karst formations with names like Nine Horse Fresco Hill, Lad Worships Goddess, and Grandpa Watching Apple.  Traipsed through the Seven Star Tea Plantation.  Took my own private bamboo boat ride down the Yulong River.  Returned to Nanning, where I began teaching an English Interest Course on Storytelling Photography.  Got hooked on Mad Men and watched all the seasons.  Walked through artistic trellises at the Guangxi Medicinal Plant Garden.  Encountered crazy communication problems on a trip to see Detian Waterfall on the Sino-Vietnamese border.  Straddled the border of China and Vietnam in a bamboo boat and was sprayed by the Ban Gioc-Detian Waterfall on my 59th birthday.  Received a cake for my birthday from the Student Union; I happily shared it with some of my colleagues, cherry tomato toppings and all.

Went to a student-teacher Halloween party on a sweltering night where everyone was sweating in their costumes.  Visited the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, where I saw excellent exhibits on Guangxi’s twelve indigenous ethnic groups.  Ventured to Nanning People’s Park where hordes of Chinese people were dancing, singing, and playing traditional instruments. Watched all 8 episodes of True Detective and began to watch Breaking Bad.  Took a trip to Ping’An, where a Zhuang guide led me on a hike to see Nine Dragons and Five Tigers and a Yao long-haired woman.  Posed in traditional costume at Seven Stars with Moon.  Took a 5-hour hike alone to the Longji Rice Terraces, where I got lost numerous times.  Spent an afternoon of disillusionment at Elephant Hill Park in Guilin.  Treated myself to a whole body massage, a foot massage and pedicure in Guilin to try to alleviate my four days of sickness while traveling.

Encountered a styrofoam lady on the way to Wal-Mart.  Watched a Chinese love story with English subtitles, Fleet of Time, that shed some light on the lives of my college students. Watched all 10 episodes of Fargo Survived another challenging Chinese bus ride to Yangmei Ancient Village. Spent Christmas day alone wandering downtown Nanning, sipping a Toffee Nut Latte at Starbucks, watching The Taking of Tiger Mountain at Wanda Cinema, and finally Skyping with my family in Virginia.  Went to a Christmas party arranged by my students, where I attempted to make proper dumplings, played and won a REAL game of Chinese checkers, and sang karaoke.  Went to a free acrobatics show in Nanning.

Happy New Year!  May all your dreams come true in twenty-fifteen. 🙂

Related posts:
weekly photo challenge: my 2012 in pictures

Categories: 2014, Abbott Kinney Boulevard, Aguirre, Alexandria, Americas, Annapolis, Arecibo Observatory, Asia, Burbank, California, Calvert Cliffs State Park, Cherry Blossom Festival, China, Colorado, D.C., Daxin, Denver, Detian Waterfall, Dumbarton Oaks, El Yunque National Forest, Expat life, Golden Gate Bridge, Great Falls Park, Guangxi Medicinal Plant Garden, Guangxi Museum of Nationalities, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Hearst Castle, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Longji Ancient Village, Longji Rice Terraces, Longsheng County, Los Angeles, Malibu, Maryland, Monterey, Nanning, New Hampshire, New Year's Day, New Year's Eve, New York, Old San Juan, Photography, Ping'An Village, Poets & Writers LIVE!, Ponce, Puerto Rico, Qing Xiu Shan, Reseda, Richmond, San Francisco, San Simeon, Santa Barbara, Sausalito, Seven Star Tea Plantation, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Sino-Vietnamese border, Solomons, Travel, United States of America, Venice, Venice Beach, Venice walk-streets, Ventura, Vermont, Vienna, Virginia, White Oak Canyon, Wine Country, Xianggong Hill, Xingping, Yangmei Ancient Town, Yangshuo, Yulong River | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on “twenty-fourteen

  1. Well…no grass grows under your feet! Such a marvelous year (other than the death in your family) for you. Great photos and I had to chuckle at the headstone of the person who patented the Ouija board!


    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Vivian, and for your comment. It was a busy year, and it looks like this one will be busy as well. I just hope everyone stays healthy and happy in our family this year. I was surprised to find the Ouija board patentee buried at the Baltimore cemetery myself. I have a lot of fun memories of the Ouija board. 🙂


  2. Wow! That’s a very comprehensive round-up of your year Cathy! What a lot you did! I bet you are missing your lovely family though – I bet you are looking forward to Mike coming out to visit you. Are any of your children coming over? And what are your plans for 2015? I wish you safe travels and happiness 🙂
    Jude xx


    • Thanks, Jude! It was fun to put that year-end round-up together. Sometimes I think, oh, I didn’t do much this year, but then when I sit down and go through it, I realize I really did do a lot. Right now we are wrapping up our semester here at the college; this is our last week of classes and next week are exams. Mike is coming on January 19 and we’ll be traveling around north Guangxi and western Hunan for two weeks. On February 2, when I drop Mike at the airport, I’ll pick up Alex, who will arrive around the same time Mike is departing. Alex and I will travel for nearly two weeks around Yunnan province. When I put him on the plane on Feb 15 to return home from Kunming, I will fly onward to Mandalay, Myanmar where I’ll stay for nearly two more weeks. Then it’s back to work for spring semester. 🙂


      • Wow that sounds like an amazing 6 weeks! Can’t wait for your posts about your adventures (though I suspect you may have to wait until you are back at college unless you are very lucky with wifi). You must be so happy to have Mike and Alex over there – someone who understands what you are saying and someone to get lost with 😀


      • Hi Jude, I will have to wait until I return from my holiday to post anything because I don’t plan to take my computer with me. I tried to blog on my trip through Spain and Portugal in 2013 and found it was very time-consuming and took away from my holiday. Doing it after is a great way to relive the memories. I’m really looking forward to Mike and Alex coming along as my travel companions. I feel much less daunted knowing I’ll have some fellow adventurers, although I’ve had to warn them that travel in China is a bit of a hardship. Hopefully they’ll rise to the challenge. 🙂


  3. You have had a very full year – may the next one be full of joy and enough!


  4. You had a GREAT year! Wow, did you ever experience life. I really enjoyed what you put together and am glad you took time to do it.

    Looking at your picture of the greenhouse at Ginter, I think we must have been there within a few days (or even the same day) as each other. My picture is very similar to that, down to the sky and the yellow bromeliads around the pond. No, I guess not. Mine had the crepe myrtles in bloom.

    I’d forgotten about the wonderful tribute you gave your mother-in-law. That was a good post.

    It’s hard to pick even several favorite photos from your post, although I think the one of you with your birthday cake is one of them. I just love the smile on your face!

    Happy New Year! I hope you enjoy the day and that 2015 continues to bring good things to you.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Nancy. I find it’s fun to go back and put together a story about my year. It helps me refresh my memory on the things I did, and it also lets me relive some of the experiences. It’s funny how much you can forget if you don’t work at preserving your memories.

      Your Lewis Ginter shots are beautiful, the original and the dreamy version. It’s good that you keep going back and trying to challenge yourself to expand your photographic abilities. You’re inspiring me too! 🙂

      Happy New Year to you too, and maybe we’ll meet in Richmond after I return to the States in late July. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s mostly been a good year, Cathy- don’t you think? I wonder what you’ll make of 2015 when you look back, and just where you’ll be settled at this time next year. Wherever it is, I hope you’ll be with your family. And I hope you managed to party a little this evening 🙂
    We went to Whitby for the day and had fish and chips. Settled in with a glass and some nibbles, waiting to watch the fireworks. Hugs, Cathy!


    • Hi Jo, yes, I think it was mostly a good year, except for the loss of my mother-in-law and Bailey. I hope at the end of 2015 to be settled in back home with my family, perhaps preparing to go to Japan for spring semester. Unless my job situation in the States improves, I imagine I’ll be looking abroad again eventually. I don’t really HAVE to work, but I get bored when I’m not working and don’t have any money of my own to spend on travel.

      Our New Year’s Eve game party was a bit of a flop; it was only Erica and me and Gene, and we didn’t end up playing any games. 😦 However, I did have quite a bit of wine to bring in the new year!

      Whitby and fish and chips must have been fun, as well as the wine, nibbles and fireworks. Doesn’t sound like a dull time at all.

      I am swamped with work right now and will be until the end of next week; then Mike will arrive and my travels will begin. I’m not sure when I’ll have a moment to catch up with regular life, and reading blogs!! Hugs and hope your new year is going well so far, Jo. 🙂 xxx


  6. Wow – you traveled more in one year than many people in a lifetime! Wishing you a wonderful 2015!


  7. My goodness, you’ve been busy! Happy New Year.


  8. I’m breathless! 😉


  9. Gosh what a year Cathy, I’m exhausted from reading about your life – and pretty envious too! Amazing lady 🙂


    • Thanks so much, Gilly! It was a busy year, although sometimes I think “oh nothing much happened this year;” however when I look back at it an organized fashion, I see I did quite a lot. 🙂 Happy New Year to you. 🙂


  10. That has to be the longest blog ever written in WordPress. You sure make the most of your life, Kat


    • Haha, Dai, that blog post took me forever to compile. I don’t know why I get it in my mind to do something like this; I guess you can say it’s my Type A personality trying to document my year in a detailed fashion for all posterity. Haha!

      I try my best to make the most out of life, although I fall short so many times. Oh well, it’s fun to try! 🙂 I hope you’re staying warm there in Kathmandu. 🙂 xxx


  11. Somehow I missed this post! It was fun reliving the past year with you through your posts! When you were in San Simeon, at Hearst Castle, you were only about 30 minutes from our beach house in Morro Bay! I wished I knew you were there, I would have loved to meet you there and visited with you on your tour. It would have been fun to invite you to stay at our beach house or to have made a meal for you and who ever was with you on that trip! One day if you get back out this way, I would love to meet up with you! I was hoping YHS was going to have a 40th High School Reunion so that I could have maybe seen you there, along with a lot of others we went to school with! One day when I get back to Virginia and you are back home, maybe we can meet up! Stay safe girlfriend and I love reading about your travels! Take care!


    • Hi Theresa, Thanks for coming along on my adventures. I’m so sorry I didn’t get to visit you when I was in California. I only had ten days and was going between San Francisco and LA by car, and visiting Stephanie, Jayne and Rosie. All of that completely filled my time. I should have given myself more time because a number of people were upset that I didn’t stop in to see them. I hope to get to California again, especially as my sister hates to fly so I rarely get to see her unless I make the visit myself. I was hoping for a 40th reunion too; I don’t know why no one ever planned one. I guess someone has to volunteer and no one stepped up to the plate (I know I sure didn’t!) I hope we can meet once I return to Virginia. Do you get to the East Coast much? Take care and thanks for being a faithful reader, Theresa. xxx


  12. Pingback: twenty-fourteen – nomad, interrupted

  13. Reblogged this on nomad, interrupted and commented:

    Here’s my recap of twenty-fourteen from my China Diaries blog. 🙂


  14. What a wonderful collage of images. Am particularly partial to the ones of San Francisco, one of my favorite cities of all times, anywhere in the world. And then all of those of China, as it is a place that I have not yet been and so has endless fascination for me.



    • Thanks so much, Peta. I try to do a round-up post of my year; this one is three years old but I was reposting it to one blog so they’d all be in one place. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos of San Francisco. I also love that city. China was a fascinating place to live for a year. 🙂


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