Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Highlights of my trip ....... make me smile

Safest place

Most everywhere I went was safe. Going to the elevator of the subway in NYC at 3 am dragging 2 suitcases, wearing a backpack and carrying a purse? No problem. In Valdez, finding out few people lock their doors and noting a lot of people leave their cars running with keys in the ignition? Commonplace. Seeing a sleeping man with his packages in the train station in Osaka Japan? Even a policeman was gently moving his possessions so they wouldn't get stepped on while trying not to disturb
China can be dangerous for the trusting and naive. But don't worry. They only want your money. If you come here and buy multiple items from one store, do NOT trust their figures. Add everything up yourself. Even when they used calculators I found a lot of "errors" being made.

Friendliest place

Valdez Alaska. No contest.


Most beautiful place

Alaska followed by Japanese gardens in Nara and gardens around Temple of Heaven. Just my opinion since beauty is so subjective. Keystone Canyon was eye-melting The single engine flight over the glacier was unforgettable.

Biggest fear

Nagoya train station. I arrived alone at rush hour and started looking for someone who could tell me where the silver clock was where I was to meet my kids. No one understood what I was asking. One lady thought she understood and showed me her watch.

When my kids found me, i was cowering at the wall. Nagoya station is bigger than even Tokyo station as it is centrally located and there are several large stations in Tokyo.

Moment when I realized this was a soul searching trip as well as a pleasure vacation.

Meeting Carolyn in NYC it was special to meet someone I'd not met before but felt I knew through the Internet. How many more people would I get to know and care about before I headed back to south America?

I don't take friendships lightly as i had so few when i was working due to time constraints. Being virtual friends is one thing. Being real friends is so much more.


Happiest moments

Seeing my daughter's face in Anchorage and my son and daughter-in- law's faces in Nagoya


Biggest delight

The two Japanese children on the Shanghai Ferry

Biggest annoyance

The two Japanese children on the Shanghai Ferry


Biggest surprise

Finding out how western friendly and inexpensive Beijing and especially Shanghai were. My observations concluded that many westerners have made the same type of move to China that I made to Ecuador. I came close to skipping China because I thought it would be harder than Japan.


Best food

Other than some amazing food cooked at home by my kids (pineapple soup!!!) that would be China.


Worst food

China. I can go the rest of my life without seeing duck head, intestines and cooked chicken feet on my menu


Most embarrassing moment

Realizing I had been sitting on my daughter's boyfriend's mother's glasses at the beauty shop when she couldn't find them

Craziest moment

Too many

The moment when i realized the friendly couple in Beijing only wanted my money

The lady in Osaka who would not allow me to ride the subway because she thought I was making a mistake.

A night of drinking Jack Daniels straight up singing karaoke as the only English speaker amongst some Japanese and Chinese co-conspirators.

Most boring moment (days)

This would be the days spent at immigration in Quito


Most solemn and poignant moment

Telling my new German friend how horrible I feel being an American and viewing such horrific pictures of the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima
and her answer of "I'm German" We can only go forward from here All we can do with the past is learn from it. As my German friend said, it is counter-productive to feel shame for something that can't be changed.

As much fun as I've had, I want to go home to Ecuador. I miss my dogs. I hope they remember me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nearly getting Shanghai'd in Beijing......made me smile

Let me make it perfectly clear that I do not believe these things happen to me because the "blog gods" want to give me something to write about. I believe I have a lethal combination of naivety and friendly nature that can get me in serious trouble. It nearly did today. I have no clue how I have managed to live as many years as I have.

I was watching the crowd at Tien'am Square today when I was approached by a male and female chinese couple. The woman did most of the talking and behaved in a very business like manner. The man was a bit tentative and shy and the lady said he was learning English and wanted to practice on a foreigner (me). After chatting for a few minutes, the lady wanted to know if I'd like to go get some coffee or tea as I seemed cold (I was). Why of course i did!!! New Chinese friends!!! (exactly my thoughts...)

As we headed off in the direction of the teahouse, the man engaged me in conversation. I thought it odd he wanted to talk about and actually knew about politics in America. He even knew about Rick Perry, the Tea Party and the religious right. When I said I was from Texas, he said "Southwest US, correct?" Maybe he's an avid news junkie, I thought. And very smart. I like smart men.

We arrived at the teahouse, even passing some enroute. Maybe they know the owner? I was delighted with the arrangement as it was a small room with the tea ceremony I had become familiar with in Xi'an and the visit to the teahouse yesterday with the tour.

The man and woman wanted me to sit between them and the girl employed at the establishment came in to pour the first cup for all. At that time there was very little from the man since the woman was doing all the talking. After about 40 minutes the girl came in with the bill and like a real idiot I said I'd pay for the tea since I had such a good time.

The bill was over 1000 yuan. That's about $175 in US dollars. I looked at the girl, then the woman and finally the man. I could see the slightest smile coming from the man. I finally told them I couldn't pay and I didn't know why the bill was so large. I had only had a few cups. I drank tea all afternoon at the Xi'an teahouse and they wouldn't allow me to pay anything. The woman said "You asked for a different kind of tea and she prepared an entire pot". By this time I knew that they use the same tea leaves 3 times so I knew there was a problem with that statement.

They told me if I didn't have the cash, I could always pay with a credit card. It started dawning on me that these people only wanted to be friends with my money. Not me. I pulled out 70 yuan (about $11 US) and held it out to the girl and told her that was all I had and I did not bring any credit cards with me (a lie). There were glances among the three of me as I stood up to leave. When they again insisted I had to pay the bill I started yelling and called them thieves at which time they backed off and I was out the door.

I didn't stop to turn around until I was at least two blocks away when I stopped and looked back to see if they were following. I was clear and had lived another day to do something else completely stupid. When I returned to my hotel and told the manager, he was horrified I even went with them and that I was lucky they didn't put anything in my tea.

Tonight I went to the Peking Opera. It was amazing and I enjoyed it even more than I expected because it was so funny. Afterwards, as I walked to the street to flag down a taxi, there was a hail of flim flam artists yelling "Rolex watches" "Designer purses!". After them came the rickshaws. I have learned that the rickshaws are good for short little rides but if you need serious transportation, it is best to get a taxi. Taxis are regulated and the rickshaws are not.

As I was leaning into the window of the taxi, not only was the taxi driver trying to wave my card off indicating he couldn't read it but a rickshaw driver I had waved off 3 times was tapping me on the shoulder once more trying to tell me I had a bad cab. I turned to the rickshaw guy and started yelling at him that I was going to call the police and jumped in the taxi and emphatically pointed to the bottom of the card where the address was clearly written in Chinese. He drove me to the hotel without a problem.

I have had an epiphany today. I am sorry if I disturb the sensibilities of my more religious friends and relatives of which I have many but the meek will not inherit the world. Old, crazy, bitchy, pissed off American women will.