August 1 2019
For anyone who may be reading my page I apologize for not keeping up to date. The blahg page mechanics have been too cumbersome for a person who does not appreciate hours of image and lettering adjustments. Facebook has been far easier but has an unintentional “bragging” quality I dislike and is a nasty corporation.
My last post from Vietnam seems multiple lifetimes ago and now I face the task of recalling all the dreams since then to catch up to where we are now sitting in a canal boat in Glasgow. It was in Vietnam we decided to go with itinerary #2, Central Europe to England instead of itinerary #1 which was Spain and Portugal to England. Unfortunately this blahg entry is going to be quick with brief descriptions of the countries we visited.
January 2019, after landing in Milan (5 degrees c) in t-shirts we were happy to see all the clothes 50-70% off even in the thrift stores. Needless to say, we had a blast updating our clothes in Milan and could have filled two or three suit cases but alas I only have one case and its half full of books and hats. Milan in winter was great no stinky noisy scooters and very few tourists.
After Milan was Verona, Venice and the best one…Vittoria Venito where we stayed a full week in a beautiful 12th century castle with 1930 deco interiors set on a high spot at the mouth of a valley pass, our views controlled the pass between Italy and Austria. There was a large garden with two dogs to play with under the persimmons rotting on the trees and the herb gardens.
Venice is a city of no cars, in winter the streets were clear of dog shit and there were no tourist lines for the attractions. I was here in 1984 in the summer and it was a mob scene, I can only imaging with horror the crowds today in summer. Watching the high tide bubble up through St Marks square was interesting and a reminder of our rising oceans at the edge of civilization.
The Italian dream kicked in big time when we headed north into the Alps or more precisely the Dolomites- Sud Tyrols. The entire Alp region had just seen a massive snow storm that shut the place down including our train but we were fortunate and able to get a regional train into beautiful Bolzano the gateway town. After a few days we made it up to Monguelfo, an absolutely sleepy little Tyrolian town covered in snow in a valley with hundreds of miles of x-c ski trails and numerous downhill slopes all accessible by local train and bus. The Val Casies Valley was truly the most scenic, dramatic, sublime skiing I have ever done and accessible all by public transport. We extended our stay here to two weeks because of the beauty but also the conditions were perfect, deep snow and crystal-clear sunny skies. This was not a posh Alps valley but a farming valley where they love to ski.
Sud Tyrol pic
On to Austria which was beautiful then Hungary then Czechia and Germany. Mostly I want to say I have always had a curiosity to see central Europe in winter and I was not disappointed. Bleak, grey, gloomy, vast farm fields surrounding hill towns, cold snow blowing over farm fields, potatoes and meat, cold castles with giant fire places, room temp beer, too many churches, oppressive governments, horrifying history, glorious tales of war resistance, head strong unsmiling people maintaining quiet hope, skulls in the basements, ghost stories, alchemy and witches kitchens, breath taking ornate architecture, long walks to stay warm, Bizarrely laid out decorated old Air BnB places and their owners, old art and insane artifacts, Synagogues and Jewish history, hot springs and roman baths, deciduous forests and the smell of rotting leaves, mine shafts and catacombs, puppets and inventions, really old grave yards, protests and street performers, Prague is amazing but go in the off season or suffer high tourist density. Berlin is the wildest city we went to with the queerest markets, wildest graffiti and Sunday morning dance clubs. I’d go back to the surrounding small towns of all those countries.
Then there was Amsterdam and Brother Matt which could not have been more fun. Amsterdam is a splendid place and Matt fit right into the agenda of pot shops cafes art and excellent wanderings. We all did a tour by bike of the local Urban Farms, from immigrant inspired to squat style farming to art café hydroponics. So much more to say but arg blagh.
Blah blah blah I can’t write any more but then we took the overnight ferry from Amsterdam to New Castle UK. Made our way south to Lythe and Whitby to walk the coast trails and look for Jet, fossilized Monkey Tree sap, old Abbys and an unappetizing amount of fish and chips.
The off to York and Oxford….ehhh whatever.
London on the other hand was brilliant! The Johnny and Karen experienced rocked with a needed upgrade of food, drink and entertainment. The day we arrived and were trying to get into our ABB, there they were walking down the street, well that was a good sign which proved to be correct for the entire week thanks in part to Johnny’s special mints and our choice to visit all the diverse and colorful neighborhoods of London.
Bath and then Bristol, loved Bristol. Banksy and Stone Henge. Then on to Wales and a week of volunteering on a farm called Brithdir Mawr, what a lovely experience that was being off the grid and deep in the lush country. Wales continued in glory when Seanjohn and Narcissa met us in Swansea. We rented a van and headed north to Aberystwyth on the mid coast for some beautiful walks. Then up into Snowdonia where we rented an old Mill House and spent the rainy days exploring either the castles or the clouds. From there on to the end of the world and the last hold outs of the Druids in Anglesey, we found them.
Scotland May 31st. In Glasgow we rented a campervan, one a little larger than the Australian one so that we would all like each other after the 40 days we were about to spend in it. This was a highlight for me even though I had to drive the skinny tight roads on the left in a large van, my knuckles are still white. We looped Scotland camping heading north from Glasgow to the Isle of Skye on into the Highlands of Glencoe, across the peat bogs of the north to Ullapool and into Scrabster to take the ferry to the Orkneys. Orkney islands are rich in prehistoric sites, tombs, standing stones. We were in heaven camping in our warm van in wild places while the wind howled all night. Another overnight ferry to the Shetland Islands where it got even more wild and windy. The distance to the Shetlands sets the place apart from the Orkneys and all of Scotland. It’s a more dramatic landscape, the wildlife is denser and richer and the people are fewer and when the wind isn’t howling it is really really quiet. We saw birds and nature like you would see in National Geographic, colonies in the millions on dramatic cliffs.
Returned the van in Glasgow 40 days and 40 nights later and took a train to meet my father and his friend Mary Helen in Edinburgh. We had a lovely time with them heading east along the coast in Northumberland eventually staying a week in Bamburgh a tiny town with a huge castle on a lovely beach. After my Dad left we spent another week in Edinburgh. Then back to Glasgow for a week living on a canal boat and it is here we end our journey exactly one year later.
I have many thoughts in conclusion concerning; modern nomadic living, family travel, trip planning, world population, beer around the world, tourism in the countries we traveled but I’m afraid no time to write it out here. If you are at interested in hearing more on these topics please ask and if you use the code words…”glorious world” I’ll pour my heart out to you.
Vietnam – Dec 5- Jan 9
Arrived in Ho Chi Minh City via Melbourne Wednesday Dec 5th 2018. HCM City is insane! I have never feared more for our lives in just crossing a street than here. It takes blind faith to cross a street when it looks solid with motor scooters but one just starts to walk and traffic folds and flows around you. Millions of motor scooters flow like a river dense and slow enough to avoid all collision, however collisions happen regularly. On another note the food we had in HCMC was worth every bit of death defying road crossing we made.
Staying at the Saigon Shack was a good place for home base with a beautiful café full of herbal tinctures in glass jars lining the walls. The young men who run the place and sleep in the kitchen introduced us to “Grab” like Uber which gave us uncomplicated and cheap means to move all about the city without hassle or haggling. My favorite tourist spot was the Reunification Palace where the North Vietnamese tanks broke through the gates on that fateful day and raised the flag to end the god- awful American war. In the near future we would visit several sites of the Vietcong and hear their side of the story but I must say we never experienced any animosity or hate but instead a warm welcome from the people. Matter of fact the people of Vietnam were the best part of the trip. Apart from being keen business people they were always quick to smile and help, all you had to do was smile and they lit up. If you didn’t smile they looked to relieve you of your money.
Within a few days we left hot Ho Chi Minh on a flight to Phu Quoc Island in the Gulf of Thailand just south of the Cambodia border. Here we planned to rest, eat and plan our European part of the trip. Despite the massive development going on Phu Quoc was a low key easy island of green and beach. Since we couldn’t fit 3 people on a scooter, although the VN people put four on, and Denise was hesitant to drive one we pretty much just used the bikes and stayed within a few Kilometers area or just in our very nice Pomelo Garden pool. We did do several tours one to snorkel around several islands and another to explore the north part of the island but mostly we treated Phu Quoc as a rest from traveling, we needed it. We spent 3 weeks on the island.
After Phu Quoc we flew back to HCM City where our friend Wolfgang met us and we all grabbed a van for the 2 hour ride to Vung Tau where he lives. He put us up in his nice 16th floor apt and we explored by scooters his favorite areas along with Tweet his Vietnamese friend. She fed us a wonderful lunch at her house after the monkey temple. Vung Tau has some interesting ex-pat characters but also some great ocean views and foods. Seeing and hanging with Wolfgang for New Years was great, caught up on stories and retold some past ones.
Jan 1st 2019 Took a water taxi back up the Mekong Delta to HCM City to catch an over night train north to Da Nang. We’ve come to love the over-night trains, they are scenic and we all enjoy the down time with a view. In Da Nang we met up with Kristine and she very nicely showed us around to her favorite spots which included some very hip cafes and bazar eating spots. Da Nang is a bit mellower than HCM City but not much so here’s to Kristine for being able to live there for over a year!
After Da Nang we headed to Hoi An, a beautiful ancient city that somehow escaped destruction during the American war. It was a bit touristy but many streets were closed to motor scooters allowing for a much-needed sense of peace to wander the sites. At night all the streets and river front are lit up with lanterns.
We spent a month in Vietnam and we were absolutely ready to go. Writing this a few weeks after leaving VN I am relieved to say none of us contracted any illness, stomach parasite or worms during our visit which is absolutely amazing.
From Da Nang we flew to Hong Kong for a 12 hour layover then into Milan Italy. This concludes our 5 months in Australasia or western pacific.
Click on photos below to enlarge.
Omanawana Humble House Farm WWOOFing
Our second woofing spot was a farm near the South Australia-Victoria border in Bordertown SA. The farm is a small family run farm following organic/biodynamic practices producing all the family needs and excess to the market nearby. Rachel and Wade Neuman are from the area and Rachel’s family has been farming on a large scale in the area for several generations. They have three sons 13, 10, 3, Flynn, Tom and Mako. I picked this farm because of the kids ages hoping Timo would have some needed kid time and it worked out great.
Our tasks included: picking and packaging strawberries, general annual care and weeding, making biochar, planting and transplanting as well as communal duties like cooking and cleaning the communal areas.
Rachel runs the preservation side of the food as Humble House making jams, chutneys, salsas etc while Wade runs the food growing and has his own tool design business called Ugly Tool. They are both energetic smart people who happen to have a farm way too far outside good accessible markets for their goods but this has not stopped them from making a name for themselves locally.
Timo really enjoyed both of the older boys, Mako is slightly autistic and does not speak but a sweet kid and it was fun to check in with him when possible. In the evenings we attended both Flynn’s and Tom’s basketball games at the local gym. Both the boys took separate days off of school to hang with Timo.
Eating and cooking was number one priority on this farm and they really went far to see we ate local Australian dishes like “Coat of arms” tacos, a mixture of Emu and kangaroo meat, “floaters” a meat pie in pea soup, as well as using the wood fired pizza oven. Floaters was one of my favorites it’s a small meat pie upside down in a bowl of pea soup. Coffee is god and the espresso machine was very welcomed after a month of campervan instant coffee. As a result of all this eating I believe I did more dishes than actual farm work but that’s ok.
All in all it was a great experience living with a lovely South Australian family on a small farm deep in the big Ag country.
After this woof experience we drove the great ocean road on the south coast all the way back to Melbourne. There were many highlights along the way but I believe Kenneth River was one of my favorites. It was a general store and camper van park on the beach surrounded by park lands of giant eucalyptus trees loaded with wildlife like Koalas and many birds.Timo had a great time as the general store sold bird food and he could feed the King parrots and cockatoos. At night the Koalas would make their crazy ugly sounds that did not sound anything like what a cute cuddly creature would make.
Next post: Overnight ferry to Tasmania and the three weeks we spent van camping.
WWOOFing in the Bush with the Andyamarthanha People (Andya =rock, marthanha =people) at Iga Warta. The Andyamarthanha is a collective of tribes that have been in the Ikara Ranges for 60,000 years, we got there last Saturday by following a suggestion. The Coulthard Family owns and runs Iga Warta an educational center teaching indigenous culture, skills and land stewardship. If we weren’t doing ranch tasks which was most of the time we were going on plant foraging and culture tours deep into the beautiful surrounding Bush. Recently the Coulthards have purchased/inherited/reclaimed 123,000 acres of ancestral lands. This land once was taken and “owned” by colonialists in the late 1800’s who suppressed and murdered the native people, but now it’s back in Andyamarthanha hands many of whom would love to bring the dynamite to the old homestead but does one destroy the evidence at the site of a holocaust?
After attending the welcoming ceremony at Wilpena pound we continued conversation with Ringo who suggested we if we were looking to WWOOF go to his people’s area at Iga Warta and offer to help. Canceling our plans to head south out of the Flinders Ranges we decided to go deeper further north into the outback. This decision turned out to be a highlight for all of us as we had what we all considered an ultimate outback educational experience.
The road into Iga Warta was rough sharp stone gravel washer board which forced our 2wd van to slow to about 40kmh and even then hitting the bumps sounded like a bomb going off in our kitchen area. The further we drove the hotter and desert like it became with kangaroo casualties all over the shoulder. We must have gone through 10 dry river bed areas with large Gum trees meaning if it was to rain hard there would be a meter or two of flash flooding going through these rivers, hence every vehicle has snorkels for high air intake in deep water.
Eventually we made it to Iga Warta a camp ground/lodge/indigenous education center which offers tours of the surrounding area. To access these lands in the area it is law to be accompanied by an Andyamarthanha person. Immediately we were greeted by Terrance Coulthard who’s family has been in the area for thousands of years. There were also 3 other woofers who had been there a month or so, Rosa and Mel sisters from Melbourne, Jordan from France. We met Sharpy a local guide who lived in a camper on site with his old coughing dog spotty later in the communal kitchen. We were able to wander around a short while through the amazing museum building until Terrance took us all out in the 10 seater land cruiser to see the Mt Serle homestead property a massive 123,00 acre or 500 sq kilometers that was acquired by the Coulthards 2 years ago.
Mt Serle homestead is basically a ghost homestead at the base of Mt Serle that once was the main station for white colonials who raised sheep and distributed rations and work to the local people, undoubtedly white suppression of the local aboriginals. At the homestead were many buildings some built in the late 1800’s and some more recently all of which were in disrepair with kangaroo poop inside and all over. Terrance has been working on fixing the main house a big stone building with stone floors a wood fired kitchen stove and a wrap-around porch in true Australian colonial style, beautiful in many ways except the ghosts. For me this was dreamy ghost town material in red dirt scrub lands with dry mountains, true remote out back ruins but also the idea of the native people acquiring this back into their hands and what that should look like in process and result. The place is very unpopular with Terrance’s family and friends many whom will not go out there because of the memories and stories associated with the place. All on Terrance’s shoulders he proposes a live in work station/museum while returning the land to native habitat. This is a very unpopular idea with the local government who require Terrance to pay taxes as a grazing station which are high. The government is resisting Terrance’s request to restore the land as a nature conserve because they receive more fees and taxes as a grazing status.
For the four short days we wwoofed I worked with Terrance and Jordon at Mt Serle demolishing a few dangerous walls on some old buildings and cleaning up the site. Denise and Timo worked with Mel to clean out some garden beds for annual veggies. On the off time we made boomerangs and music sticks or went on plant tours and quondong fruit forages. Truly this place is old magic and the locals are the nicest people we’ve met in Australia.
We arrived in AU from China looking for a good breakfast, some easy English communication, wild animals and some beautiful nature…found it right away.
Sydney is a nice town but not much going on or much of a sub-culture, having said that off to Cairns and some warm tropical weather. We rented a nice AirBB in Holloway Beach a small beach community just north of Cairns. Sooo great to have our own place and yard with the beach two blocks away, bird songs all day and into the night. Many great walkabouts out the back door into crocodile territory with mangroves and fresh/salt water estuaries. Eventually rented a car in order to go north into the Daintree area of rich native culture habitat and ancient tropical forests (Fern Trees) as well as some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. We got lucky with one good weather day to take a boat out to the Great Barrier Reef for some really excellent snorkeling, it was expensive but the variety of fish and the coral was beautiful. We did see evidence of reef bleaching.
Driving culture here is quite different, drive on the left, steering wheel on the right and hardest of all the turn signal is on the right of the steering wheel, learn quick or die which is true of many plants and animals of Australia too! Having the car for a few days in Cairns help greatly when we got the Van out of Melbourne.
Flew to Melbourne and back into late winter early spring weather had to wear all our clothes. Melbourne Back Packers Hostel was great and sucked at the same time. The room was tiny and bland but the shared kitchen was a wild world of cooks and food from all cultures that changed everyday. Met people from all over and shared the crusty blackened gas hearth. Just so happened the Rugby finals with a Melbourne team (Magpies) and the western Australia team (Eagles) had their the “Footy Finals” that weekend, it’s a national holiday. Must admit the AFL league Rugby is really fun to watch its like chaotic kids fighting on their knees for a ball then getting up and kicking it through some posts, splendid to watch while drunk.
Night time we walked to a nearby park where the possums lived in the trees and everyone fed them leftovers. Timo had a ball feeding and petting them. The Lawn Bowling club in the park was a party every night. Daytime we wandered the city or took the trams to different spots like Luna park on the beach, especially liked Smith street area with its funky old business district awesome hat and gelato store and general hipster culture. We all decide we could very well live in Melbourne no problem.
October 1st we got the Camper Van, here is where the wild trip began for me and I can safely say the family too. Just a bit bigger than a VW van it’s a Toyota 4/birth, sleeps 2 adults 2 kids, 2wd unfortunately, kitchen and lounge couch but only 30k kilometers on it and we got the full package which included full insurance, bedding -pillows, kitchen hardware, folding chairs and table. Best of all safe seats with belts for all. We are living a dream we have wanted for many years, I’ve never had a Van like this and Timo was and still is elated with the joy having his own sleeping loft it didn’t matter where we went or ended up we are loving our home on wheels. The Van is one thing but OMG the places we have already been have been more glorious than we expected. Being lovers of the dessert we have found home and this country has some fucked up awesome dessert arid regions of only a small bit we will see…on this trip.
The Bush before the Outback. We quickly came to love the Bush but only because we have the equipment to buffer it’s harshness. I’ve powered through several books on Native knowledge and white knowledge in prep for this and its all true… its very easy to get stuck, bitten, burnt and lost in this type of environment. Unfortunately, but probably for the best we only have 2wd which limits our access to many vast regions but you do not have to go far to be in the wild and even with 2wd you can go far enough to disappear especially with GPS.
Hattah Kulkuyne was our first destination, several hundred kilometers north through Melbourne’s beautiful wine country and up along the Murray River, Australia’s longest river. The Murray is an ancient Native cultural hot spot, considered the Mississippi of AU by the whites its thick with 500-700 year old giant Red, Black and Blue Gum Trees (Eucalyptus) as well as many other plants that provided an abundance of forage for the native people (contrary to white talk) it’s a life blood, water, line of wild country. Hattah K. is a flood zone of the Murray with lakes and water ways winding quietly through Bush supplying life to vast variety of wildlife, Emus, Kangaroos, Possums , Dingos, Birds of wild color, snakes, giant Goannas and lizards, tons of Ants, spiders as well as a whole host of nocturnal sounds. We camped on a lake with wind and pelicans under huge trees and white sand, everything is sand there are very few rocks in this place is too old for rocks. We wandered everywhere on and off trail saw all sorts of magical creatures or their foot prints or their scat and we marveled at the collapsed tree structures and how Eucalyptus are basically hollow which provides mass amount of animal shelter.
From Hattah we headed west along the Murray through agricultural towns and weird but strange wonderful beautiful one night camp sites. Experienced frog, bird and marsupial choruses with fragrant camp fires and lots of cool night creature sounds. All the nature around us is completely different to our home nature which makes everything a new discovery and a research project, love it!.
We blazed roads that were mostly paved single lane both ways at 110 kmph praying no kangaroo would jump out or no giant double trailer train truck would verge into the lane. Crazy but that’s how its done here, the roads are paved in Kangaroo blood, along the Goyter Track there was a dead animal, usually a Roo, every 50 meters, super sad. Never drive in the morning evening or at night. True Blessings on all those who couldn’t get across.
Eventually the Bush faded into the Outback, less trees and more low shrubs as well as more heat. Heading north we spent a few nights in Quorn a desolate small town with a caravan park that has been gardened by two permaculture people. All rain water is caught (as it is most places outback) and it being more desirable water than the very base flavored ground water was divvied out at 2 liters per person per day. Unfortunately, South Australia is the driest state in the driest country in the world, fact, and it hasn’t rained hard in two years. This fact will come back to us hard when we see the toll it has taken on everything but very evident is the Kangaroo and Wallaby population, we will see their mummified carcasses everywhere.
Eventually we have made it north up past many historic ruins of white settlement to the Ikara- Flinders Ranges National Park. This is a fabulous place if you like spectacular mountain features, treed deserts, lots of Native People’s culture and current guidance and absolute quiet with large creatures wandering nearby. We’ve had close encounters with large and small creatures that either made us scream in fear or gasp in awe. The Red River Gum trees are hundreds of years old along the dry river beds which make wonderful wandering paths for miles. We ended up spending several days in one lonely barely 2wd accessible campsite on a dirt road specifically built to travel through geologic time. From one end to the other it travels back through 650 million years of rock exposure strata so needless to say Timo’s geology lessons are going well. The weather here at the Brachina East camp has been wild from strong winds hot sun, cold drops of rain and crazy lightning storms. Our meteorology department has been busy and happy. Its still spring here 10/16/18.
This area encompassing the Ikara -Flinders Ranges has been occupied by the Adnyamathanha People since forever so there are many sites of historic petrogylphs but they are still here and have purchased back land as well as the resort at Wilpena Pound the visitor center. Its great to see them regain control and put limits on access to sacred areas as well as signage explaining the connection and respect for their land. Tonight, I hope to hear a talk by one of their guides.
Wilpena Pound is a huge mountain feature like an uplifted bowl 10-15 kilometers in radius with only a few gorges that enter the bowl. Its like a serpent head at the end of a long chain of mountains. Its full of Red Gum and Wattle with large meadows, sacred spots and settlement ruins. We hiked to a peak for an over view, maybe there is a pic attached. They are trying to vote it in as one of the seven wonders of Australia which may be hard to do considering all the strange features of this country.
After traveling to China in 1987 on a three week tour with my Grandmother, Mother Uncle and his wife I never wanted to return. Yes it was a fascinating tour, China’s vast history seems to make Europe’s look like a puppy but unfortunately I came away with little respect for the people due to their total disregard for living beings, also the food sucked, air was all coal smoke and finding water to drink was nearly impossible as your choices were bad green tea, orange or grape soda and beer needless to say I was mildly drunk and dehydrated the entire trip.
1987 was less than 10 years after China opened up in 1979 for tourism. On our tour we had a man with us the entire time who worked for the central communist government, his job was to keep an eye on us and explain any questions we saw in pleasant terms according to the government’s opinion. My uncle and I drove him nuts with questions like why isn’t there clean drinking water, why can’t the people speak critically of their government? He had vague answers and would claim not understanding English when the issue was too difficult. He did not like us going out of his sight but we did many times sometimes by the back door. I remember one time we stopped at a restaurant in a very rural town and both my Uncle and I wanted to look around and take some pictures so we sat down ordered our lunch got up to go use the bathroom and went out through the kitchen back door while the staff looked on in panic but said nothing. Outside this door it was a depressed China, very impoverished and the people looked depressed and oppressed which they were. One family had a small washing machine out on the street and all the women were there looking and admiring it, we got great pictures of that scene which was likely the firsat village washing machine. Mr Wong finally realized we were gone only when we walked back in through the bathroom hall to sit for a lunch already finished, he was not happy.
One aspect I loved of 1987 china was all the bicycles, hundreds and thousands of bicycles navigating the streets and themselves no fucking cars can you imagine that? It was kind of utopian, quiet fluid flowing cycles in droves stopping at intersections or not and weaving harmlessly around each other. They had rain ponchos that fit over the handle bars and person for riding in the rain and when it did rain it was a rainbow of plastic colors gliding through the streets .The actual bikes cost several months income for these people and they were solid steel horses with racks on the back were almost always another person usually a woman was riding side saddle in a nice dress. All the bikes were the same make, China made. Things have completely changed, all those bikes are gone in several ways, they don’t make those kinds of models and there are very few bikes being used on the road. Its motor scooters, motorcycles, cars and trucks now.
In 1987 the Chinese people had seen very few western white or black foreigners, they would stop dead in their tracks to turn and stare even laugh as the sight being so strange. They are still doing this in parts of china but not at all in the urban areas. In western Sichuan when we were in the Tibetan mountain towns the nomads who came town only once in a while would stop and stare especially at Timo a western child which is very rare. When they did stop and stare I found it a great opportunity to say hello or nihao because when I/we did they just lit up with a smile and they give great big smiles especially the Tibetans. Matter of fact “hello” is now excepted as a Tibetan greeting when you ask a Tibetan how to say hello in Tibetan he will say ”hello”.
Communist Oppression took a big toll on the Chinese people. In 1987 people were not happy or if they were they didn’t show it. The cultural revolution was hard and oppressive. 5 years after Mao took control students who joined the Red Army were literally killing their teachers who refused to conform. Many people were forced to migrate to the country to manage a living on the land with no experience. Re-education programs were forced on parents by insistence of their children. Some of this political mentality is still around in the nationalist party but the China Spring is well into summer and the young have clearly rejected the old ideas for new world possibilities but at the same time they are being given these freedoms as trickery to never want to speak against the current political party, kind of a Putin tactic, give them some freedom but underhandedly limit their say in the way government runs, hence President Xi’s getting rid of term limits with no argument.
2018 in China was a completely different experience. We traveled on our own without a tour but we did have Timo who has been immersed in Mandarin since Kindergarten and he did amazingly well when the mandarin dialect was similar to the Taiwanese he was familiar with. The food was excellent this time with many choices of dishes styles and spices, in 1987 all you got everywhere was plain rice with chopped cabbage and if you were fortunate a few pieces of meat on top. Not so now we loved the food even though some items were mysteries and a lot of the food was burning spicy but when in Chengdu you got to love the hot pot.
Biggest change between my two times in China was the mostly the people however the landscape has been massively built up, tunneled and raised up 70 floors.. Granted our trip went to limited areas and China is massive but what we saw was a dramatic change in the level of happiness, life outlook and fortune. In Xian while walking around at night with all the temples lit up and hordes of young people walking together wearing ugly new western looking clothing we noticed that they were all smiling or laughing, it was crazy like they were all on good drugs. Chinese are now able to chase their dreams and explore the world while before they were confined and suppressed in their own town with little hope of acquiring material possessions or education for self-benefit. “Money can move the Gods” Chinese now have money lots of it, Beijing now looks like it has surpassed New York City as the place to get anything anytime all the time and it is a shit load of fun for it. In 1987 people were desperate for a sale and hawking-hard selling was similar to India. But now the people are relaxed, not in your face and at ease with you casually looking through the store or market, this made traveling here far more enjoyable.
According to the China Daily Newspaper philosophically the Chinese are now shifting from a quantitative to a qualitative growth pattern. This shift in the paradigm will be good for fairness and justice as well as a more inclusive way of thinking. This year August of 2018, Beijing held the World Conference of philosophy and unlike other conferences the government kept a hands-off position and let the mostly student participants speak freely of the future and what it means to be a modern Chinese person. Bold were those who spoke freely but at least they were encouraged to do so. China wants it all and unfortunately, they need it due to their massive population. Oh yea that’s another big change I saw in the people there is fucking 200 million times more of them. Personal space was nil, cities were insane with crowds especially during Chinese summer time or a national holiday, don’t even think of going anywhere on a holiday weekend in China when they are at max capacity to move their population.
Allowing Chinese students to study and work abroad is far more potent method for integration than forced military occupation but unlike a few years back when the students who left never returned the students are all returning because there is far more economic market/ jobs potential in China than anywhere else in the world right now. Entrepreneurial potential is exploding, start-ups are massively funded and money is flowing everywhere. Concerning the Chinese manufacturing of the last few years, none of that shit we see in America is available in China it’s all American businesses ordering the shit for American markets and we’re lucky the Chinese are willing to take the brunt of the pollution made manufacturing that bullshit. Don’t blame the Chinese.
China is a great trip if you like traveling far from Euro-mutt western comforts, culture and philosophy. Yes there are more intense places on a string budget but China now allows you the absolute cultural alienation with a few comforts. The rewards of traveling here are immense as the Chinese history, culture and ingenuity are grand and to experience the hive mentality potential of China is incredible makes America feel like kittens in cultural evolution.
August 5th 2018 Seattle to Taipei
I love my family. They are brave, unafraid of the unknown and for the most part disciplined enough to work together, stick to the plan and make this trip happen. 12 years ago when Timo was born we said we would take a year off at 7th grade to travel as a family and started saving money, three years ago we dedicated our lives to making it happen.
Traveling for a year with a family requires a very large amount of preparations; from saving enough money to quitting your job to renting the old house to gathering curriculum for a year of school to making sure your life can be monitored digitally to trimming your daily possessions down to a backpack. It took us years to get out the door and when that day arrived we literally put down the mops put on our packs and got on the train to the airport.
As a family we have traveled internationally before but never for more than a month. Preparing to travel for a year is a whole new game especially the mental preparations. I know all to well what it takes to manage 3 agendas and their wellbeing in a home where its all familiar but out on the road I am unsure we can all agree and meld our agendas to one. Hoping for the strength to collaborate and we’ll see.