Americas

cocktail hour in the laundry room (or maybe we’ll sit inside where it’s cool!) :-)

Sunday evening, wine o’clock: If you dropped by for cocktails this evening, I’d be so pleased to see you that I’d usher you right past my laundry room and into my icy air-conditioned living room.  It’s so hot, humid and miserable outdoors that your clothes and body would probably be drenched in sweat, so you’d breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not making you swelter in my laundry room.  Then I’d offer you either a cold Budweiser, as that’s all I have this week, or a glass of Chile Cabernet Sauvignon – Valle Central 2013.  I forgot to chill it though, as I can never get used to chilled red wine, so it might be a little warm.  We can always add an ice-cube or two, but I don’t know if you’d feel safe with it as we don’t drink water from the faucet in China.  You might get sick, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that.

lush lotus

lush lotus

Have a seat in my comfortable chair and tell me about your week.  It’s June, so summer is upon us. Hooray!  Do you have any travel plans over the summer?  Are you starting to visit farmer’s markets and getting some fresh produce?  Have you been to any outdoor concerts?  Do you have some time off from work?  How about family visits?  Do you have grandchildren or parents or children or friends coming to visit?  Will you go to the beach or a pool for a swim any time soon?  Will you be having a barbecue?  If so, what will you make?  Will you invite me? 🙂  I sure would like some grilled corn on the cob (hint-hint!).

perky lotus

perky lotus

I took a short walk around one of our lotus ponds on the campus this afternoon.  It’s nice to have fresh flowers for a cocktail hour, don’t you think?  I couldn’t stay out long because sweat kept dripping into my eyes, I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos, and my camera lens kept fogging over. I think I’m late in the game in photographing the flowers. I should have done it earlier when they were at their peak.  Now they seem to be fading a bit.  I guess their late stage goes hand in hand with my final days here in China.

Lotus pond at Guangxi University

Lotus pond at Guangxi University

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, so I’m sorry I’ve missed hosting a few cocktail hours.  Don’t worry; I didn’t have one and not invite you.  You’d always be invited, and very welcome.

Two weekends ago, I went with my friend Erica to Yangshuo.  She has never traveled anywhere during her year in Nanning, although she’s been in China for seven years and has traveled prior to this year. We had to squeeze in a lot during a short time, so it felt a little rushed, but we still managed to do shortened versions of three of the four things I did in Yangshuo during the 4-day National holiday in October.  It was a lot of fun, although we got rained on a few times.

Lotus flower

Lotus flower

It’s unbelievably damp in Nanning.  I’m so tired of feeling hot and wet all the time.  I know, that doesn’t sound good, but that’s how I feel.  I get all showered and blow-dry my hair and put on clean clothes in the morning, only to walk out my door and immediately become drenched in either sweat or rain.  I really hate this weather in the south of China; it’s one of the biggest reasons I look forward to my escape on July 15. I wish for once I could work abroad in a nice climate, such as somewhere in Europe on the Mediterranean. Or even a northern country, where I’d have to stay bundled up all the time.

Umbrellas in the hallway of the 9th floor of the Experimental Building - this is Nanning :-)

Umbrellas in the hallway of the 9th floor of the Experimental Building – this is Nanning 🙂

Escape is in the cards. It’s visible on the horizon.  I bought a ticket for July 15 from Nanning directly to Seoul on Korean Air and then on to L.A. where I will visit my sister in Reseda for about a week on my way home.  A week after I bought that ticket, Korean Air canceled that flight, so I had to search for a new flight. Now I will fly to Beijing, then to Vancouver, then to L.A.  The scary part is that I only have a 1 1/2 hour layover in Vancouver, and I already know I will probably miss the connection.  Planes are notoriously late taking off from airports in China, so I’m preparing myself already.  At least it will be Air Canada’s problem if I miss the connection, because both flights, from Beijing and from Vancouver, are with Air Canada.

Lotus blossoms

Lotus blossoms

Yes, my time in China is winding down.  Because my departure is imminent, I dropped out of my Chinese class.  This was long overdue.  Our teacher, Miss Hao, kept telling me I was very clever, because I was able to figure out sentences and vocabulary meanings in class.  The problem was that when I left the class, I never studied.  I could be a clever person if I actually applied myself. 🙂  Also, the other two people remaining in the class, Gavin and Reed, are very advanced, and frankly, I was holding them up.  So I made a quiet and uneventful departure.  However, Miss Hao was keen on inviting our class to her house for dinner, so we went on Wednesday night, June 3.

Miss Hao lives on the 18th floor of a new building on the university campus; during many of our Chinese classes, she was busy on her phone talking to contractors and decorators about fixing up her house.  It’s a lovely sprawling apartment with great views over the university campus.  However, she doesn’t have air conditioning.  It wasn’t that she hadn’t turned it on; she decided not to have it built into the house at all.  I can’t imagine no air-conditioning in Nanning’s heat and humidity, but I did have the (ahem) pleasure of enjoying (i.e. suffering through) the heat for this one evening.

She had originally promised us we would get to help her make dumplings, which none of us were thrilled about because we’re all pathetic at making them and don’t enjoy the process at all.  But we prepared ourselves, only to find, voila (!), she’d already made them when we arrived.  The lack of air-conditioning was something I was prepared for however, simply because I know the Chinese mentality.  I predicted she wouldn’t have it and I was right.

Left to right: Reed, Gavin, unknown Chinese friend of Miss Hao, Miss Hao

Left to right: Reed, Gavin, unknown Chinese friend of Miss Hao, Miss Hao

We did have a lovely evening there nonetheless, and I loved the dumplings.  Dumplings are one of my favorite things to eat in China, and these were especially good. Gavin and I brought our own beer, and I’m glad we did because Miss Hao didn’t have any.  She did bring out a refrigerated bottle of red wine partway through the dinner, however, so we could make toasts to each other.

Clockwise from bottom left: spicy cucumbers, watermelon, dumplings

Clockwise from bottom left: spicy cucumbers, watermelon, dumplings

Besides that little outing, I met fellow-novelist Paul for dinner one night to exchange our novels. He’s given me the next 50 pages of his, which I’ll read this week, and he’s said he’ll finish mine.  He’s leaving in a week and a half, so we’ll see if we get through them.

lotus leaves

lotus leaves

I had a couple of lunches with Gavin, but now he’s mad at me because I didn’t leap at the chance to help him make the listening final exam over the weekend.  He knows my strong feelings about preserving my weekends for myself, and so the fact that he didn’t plan ahead enough so I could help him before this weekend showed a bit of disregard for my beliefs.  As a teacher, it’s all too easy to let your planning and marking, which must be done outside the classroom, spill over into your personal time. I like to have a clean line between work and pleasure, so I keep the line very rigid.  Only in an emergency will I let work encroach on my personal life.

Oh well, if he doesn’t get over it, I’ll be leaving soon anyway.

dropping petals

dropping petals

Last weekend, I went to Beihai, the only coastal city in Guangxi province, to visit Mari.  Mari is a Finnish lady who lives and works in Beihai for a Finnish company, Stora Enso, known for publication and fine paper, packaging board and wood products.  She’s in charge of supply chain management for container board used in milk cartons.  I met her when we went on a tour of the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an.  She kindly invited me to visit her in Beihai, sending her personal driver to Nanning on Friday afternoon to pick me up and drive me the three hours to Beihai.  He then drove 3 hours each way Sunday night to return me home. Besides that, she invited me to stay in her apartment, which was beautifully decked out IKEA style.  She was the perfect hostess; and we had a great time and lots of laughs.

lotus flowers in the pond

lotus flowers in the pond

In addition to those two weekends away, my students turned in 73 outlines and brainstorms/clusters that I had to grade in the first of three staggered deadlines.  They’re writing their final research papers for my class and there are three stages in the process.  I thought I’d be able to go through them quickly, but it was very time-consuming mostly because they were a total mess and many of them were off topic.  Oh dear.  If we get through this process it will be a miracle.

lotus pond on the university campus

lotus pond on the university campus

Since our last cocktail hour on May 25, I’ve mailed one big box home by ground; I sure hope it makes it back to Virginia.  I should mail another this week.  I went out for a “drink” with one of my students, which turned out in fact to be a “mango mountain.”

I finished watching the first season of Madam Secretary, Skyped several times with Mike, Skyped with Sarah, and finished watching Season 5 of Grey’s Anatomy. I also watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, one of the few DVDs I brought here with me, for about the 20th time.  I continued to plod away on the depressing Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian; it’s a hard-to-take book but I’m learning something about the Armenian genocide prior to WWI. It’s always good to learn something new about the horrible things we as humans are capable of.

lotus

lotus

I also had an interview with Teaching House in Washington, D.C. because I applied to take an intensive CELTA (Cambridge Certificate for English Language Teaching of Adults) course in September. I passed the interview and committed to the class.  So now I know what I’ll be doing this fall: taking the course and enjoying the holidays with my family.  I’d like to stay home for a while, but who knows how long it’ll be before I get itchy feet again.  Going back to work at NOVA is not something I can get excited about.

lotus blossoms under cover

lotus blossoms under cover

I’d love to hear all about your last couple of weeks, so feel free to stay awhile, and tell me what’s on your mind.  There’s no rush.  I have nothing to do tonight because I don’t work on weekends. 🙂

fern and leaf

fern and leaf

I do want to apologize for not visiting many of you as often as I’d like.  My internet is very slow here, and often I open the pages to your blog and wait and wait and wait for them to open.  By then I’ve gone on to something else, or I’ve gone to bed.  I hope to be better once I return home to the US of A, where the internet works smoothly and quickly and without issue. 🙂

Categories: Asia, California, China, Chinese language, Chinese language class, conversation, D.C., ESL Teacher, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Language barrier, laundry room cocktail hour, Los Angeles, Nanning, Nanning Wuxu International Airport, Reseda, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Teaching English as a Second Language, United States of America, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 28 Comments

an overnight at the guilinyi royal palace before heading back to nanning

Friday, January 30:  In the afternoon, after our drive through the kumquat orchards, tea plantations and karsts north of Yangshuo, we arrive in Guilin at our classy hotel, the Guilinyi Royal Palace.  We stayed here, if you remember, before we headed to Yangshuo, but at that time we arrived late and departed early, so we didn’t have time to enjoy it.  The hotel sits in the midst of Guilin Central Park, the city’s botanical garden, and I want to have time to explore a bit of that before heading back to Nanning.

Entrance to the Guilinyi Royal Palace

Entrance to the Guilinyi Royal Palace

Sadly it’s just as dreary and dark as the rest of our holiday has been.  Still, the grounds of the hotel are lovely with their ponds, bridges, rock sculptures, tropical plants, and traditional buildings with flying eaves.  There is a swimming pool on the grounds, which I have never seen in a Chinese hotel, and I tell Mike that one hot summer weekend, I’m going to come back to Guilin and pamper myself.

on the grounds of the Guilinyi Royal Palace

on the grounds of the Guilinyi Royal Palace

Guilinyi Royal Palace

Guilinyi Royal Palace

Guilinyi Royal Palace

Guilinyi Royal Palace

This is our room from the outside.  It’s the one on the left.

Our room at the Guilinyi Royal Palace

Our room at the Guilinyi Royal Palace

Guilinyi Royal Palace

Guilinyi Royal Palace (Photo by Mike)

We are hungry for lunch, but we decide first to take a walk through the botanical garden on our way to look for lunch outside of the garden.  We admire the koi ponds, the pavilions and the tropical plants.

Guilin Central Park

Guilin Central Park

Pond in Guilin Central Park

Pond in Guilin Central Park

koi pond in the botanical garden

koi pond in the botanical garden

Koi pond (Photo by Mike)

Koi pond (Photo by Mike)

road through the gardens

road through the gardens

tropical abundance

tropical abundance

tropical pavilions

tropical pavilions

pavilions in the sub-tropics

pavilions in the sub-tropics

botanical gardens

botanical gardens

succulents in the botanical garden

succulents in the botanical garden

We are feeling rather hungry, and I’m tired of being cold, so we leave the botanical garden and head to what looks like an outdoor shopping mall.  We can’t find anyplace to eat in this mall except a McDonald’s, so we stop to grab a bite.  Surprisingly, I  feel full after scarfing down a fish sandwich and some French fries, and I never even get hungry for any kind of dinner.

Walking back to the garden, Mike takes some photos of Guilin’s streets.  They capture the typical Chinese city outside of the touristy spots.  It’s nothing special, so I’m long past taking photos of such scenes, but I guess he still finds it interesting.

apartment buildings surrounding the botanical gardens (Photo by Mike)

apartment buildings surrounding the botanical gardens (Photo by Mike)

one of many unusual vehicles seen on the streets of China (Photo by Mike)

one of many unusual vehicles seen on the streets of China (Photo by Mike)

In the end, we go back to our hotel where I soak for a long time in a hot bath, and then snuggle up under the covers in my pajamas, trying desperately to keep warm.  I have been chilled for so many days now, I feel that I’ll never warm up again.  We never leave the hotel room for the rest of the night.  Both of us are really feeling sick with colds, sore throats and coughs, and we’re in misery.

Saturday, January 31:  In the morning, we take the 11:55 a.m. train to Nanning, arriving at Nanning Railway Station around 2:30.  By the time we get back to my apartment, it’s well after 3:30.  As I always do after a holiday, I immediately unpack and do laundry while Mike relaxes.  In the evening, Mike and I go out to one of my favorite pizza places, outside the west gate of the university.  I am wearing the gray wool hat you’ve seen in some of my photos, one I’ve had since I lived in Korea.  It isn’t until later, when I’m packing for my upcoming trip to Yunnan with Alex, my 23-year-old son, that I realize I must have left the hat in the restaurant.  At that time I don’t have time to go look for it. 😦

Sunday, February 1:  All day today, Mike and I stay hunkered down in my apartment, as it’s raining and cold in Nanning, just as it was in Guilin.  We’re both still sick, so it’s good to have another day of rest.  I’m busy packing for my trip to Yunnan, which luckily is forecast to be sunny and in the 60s and 70s (F), with nights dropping into the 50s.  This forecast is for the next 10 days at least. 🙂  It’s lucky that Alex’s experience should be an improvement over Mike’s.  I still feel sad that Mike had such bad luck with the weather on his holiday.

In the evening, to get us out of my cramped and depressing apartment, I take Mike to my favorite Korean restaurant close to the campus, where we have sizzling oven-proof casserole dishes of bibimbap and delicious potato pancakes.  We both find the place quite charming and lively.

Tomorrow morning, Monday, I will take Mike to the Nanning airport for his 11:40 a.m. return flight to Virginia by way of Beijing.  He has to check in two hours early, so we’ll arrive there by 9:40.  Alex is due to fly into Nanning at 10:55 a.m.   It’s so nice that I only have to make one trip to the airport to both drop off Mike and pick up Alex.  Mike wonders if they will cross paths, as Mike is getting on the same flight to Beijing that Alex is coming in on. 🙂

Categories: Americas, Asia, Beijing, China, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guilin, Guilinyi Royal Palace, Nanning, Nanning Wuxu International Airport, Sino-Canadian International College (SCIC), Travel, United States of America, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

RESOLVED 2015!!!

Thursday, January 1:  Happy New Year!! It’s that time of year again, time to give some thought to the year ahead.  I’m always enthusiastic about turning the calendar to an untarnished new year, and getting a fresh start on what I hope will be the life of my dreams. However, I know it’s a challenge to keep myself disciplined. Accomplishing my New Year’s Resolutions in past years has always been a mixed bag. I achieve some of what I set out to do, and other things I don’t even touch.

“If you have the capacity to be more than one thing, do everything that’s inside of you.” ~ Bishop T. D. Jakes

This is the problem. I want to do everything that’s inside of me. And because of that, I actually never get anything done!

the big dreamer :-)

the big dreamer 🙂

I like to think about what I want to accomplish in different areas of my life.  So here are my resolutions for 2015:

  1. Health:
    1. Try to walk 3 miles at least 5 days a week.  I was doing this regularly in Virginia, but ever since I arrived in China, my walking habit has fallen by the wayside.
    2. Eat healthier food, especially vegetables. I have had stomach problems almost constantly in China, and I need to remedy that situation as it really ruins my outlook on life when I don’t feel good.
    3. DRINK WATER!  This is something I never think to do.  I’m afraid my body is in a state of constant dehydration.
  2. Finances:
    1. After my six-week upcoming holiday, when I’m sure I will spend every little bit I’ve earned on travel, I should attempt save as much as possible to take back home with me in July.
  3. Writing:
    1. Send out at least 20 query letters to agents when I return home in July. I finished the third draft of my novel in May of 2014, but I haven’t yet sent out a single query letter.
  4. Photography:
    1. Be bold!  Practice using the manual settings on my camera and experiment with photos.
    2. Get a photo editing program and play around with photos.
    3. Take a photography class when I return to the USA in the fall.
    4. Rejoin Vienna Photographic Society when I return to Virginia.
  5. Travel:
    1. Travel with Mike up to Yangshuo and Guilin and into Hunan Province, specifically FengHuang and Zhangjiajie, in January. DONE!!
    2. Boats on the Yulong River near Dragon Bridge in Yangshuo

      Boats on the Yulong River near Dragon Bridge in Yangshuo

    3. Travel with Alex into Yunnan Province, especially to Lijiang, Shaxi, Dali and the Stone Forest. DONE!  
    4. I’ll fly solo to Myanmar and stay there for about 2-3 weeks during February, visiting Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake, Yangon, and anyplace else we can squeeze in. DONE!
    5. Continue exploring more of Guangxi province during the spring semester, specifically Bama, Mingshi Tianyuan, Zuo River Scenic Area near Chongzuo City, Weizhou Island and Beihei, Sanjiang, Daming Mountain, Longhu Mountain, Huangtao Ancient Town, and Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge.
    6. Go to Hong Kong for a long weekend.
    7. In Nanning, go to the Liangfengjiang National Forest Park, Guangxi Ethnic Relics Center and the Museum of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and the Guangxi Science and Technology Museum.
    8. Return to Ping’An and the Longji Rice Terraces in early summer.

      Nine Dragons & Fiver Tigers rice terraces in Ping'An

      Nine Dragons & Fiver Tigers rice terraces in Ping’An

    9. Visit Bali or Sri Lanka or Malaysia when I leave China, on my way back to Virginia in July.
    10. Go with Mike to Iceland as we intended to do last year but weren’t able to because of his mother’s passing away.
  6. Profession:
    1. I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.  I teach English abroad as a means to an end: to travel.  After countless futile job applications, I no longer have any hope that I will ever break into the field in which I got my Master’s, International Commerce & Policy, mainly because of the age discrimination that runs rampant in America.  Thus, I may attempt to simply return to Northern Virginia Community College in the fall; after that I might attempt to go to Japan to work for one semester in Spring of 2016.  That’s my thought at this moment, anyway.
  7. Language and knowledge goals:
    1. Study Chinese at least 10-15 minutes every day.
    2. Try to learn one new phrase a day.  Make it mine!!
  8. Social:
    1. Try to be more proactive about making friends.  I tend to sit by and wait for people to forge friendships with me, but I need to be bolder and braver about making overtures.
    2. Try to invite someone new to do something once each month.
  9. Spirituality:
    1. Begin a meditation practice, starting with at least 10 minutes a day.
    2. Read books about Buddhism, pilgrimage, spirituality, along with my other reading.  
  10. Reading:
    1. Read 25 books. Here are some books on my reading list for this year:
      1. China Dog by Judy Fong Bates (January 17)
      2. My Last Empress by Da Chen
      3. The Crazed by Ha Jin (March 1)
      4. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler
      5. Colors of the Mountain by Da Chen
      6. The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
      7. Equal Love by Peter Ho Davies
      8. Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman (January 31)
      9. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
      10. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
      11. The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
      12. The House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre
      13. The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico  by Sarah McCoy
      14. When I was Puerto Rican: A Memoir by Esmeralda Santiago
      15. The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau
      16. Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlan
      17. Fresh Air Fiend by Paul Theroux (finish)
      18. Video Night in Kathmandu by Pico Iyer
      19. American Romantic by Ward Just

NOTE TO SELF: You have the day ahead at your disposal. Don’t think in terms too great. Think about only what you can accomplish in a day. 🙂

At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then inevitable.

~ Christopher Reeve

 ***********************

Ultimately, my dream is to combine writing and travel somehow, either by planning and offering writing retreats in far-flung parts of the globe, or by going abroad for several months at a time and writing like my life depended on it. Writing retreats would combine my natural teaching ability, my wanderlust, and my writing dreams. However, I feel the first step is to get published, so I can establish some credentials, and some credibility. One step at time….. I would love to hear some of your resolutions for 2015.  Please share! 🙂

Categories: Americas, Asia, China, Expat life, Guilin, Holidays, Longji Rice Terraces, Nanning, New Year's Day, New Year's Resolutions, Qing Xiu Shan, Travel, Virginia, Yangshuo | Tags: , , , , , | 54 Comments

twenty-fourteen

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:
twenty-thirteen
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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

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