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Somerset Christmas

January 2, 2017

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

cathedral sanctuary with vaulted ceiling and scissor shaped arch

Wells Cathedral

We had a very pleasant Christmas week in Somerset. It wasn’t snowy, but we did get a couple of frozen days with fog and frost. Rupert took us to Bruton and Wells.

coastline and wooden pier

Clevedon Pier

We roamed around Clevedon on Christmas day.

poster for theater performance

Pantomime

Boxing Day involved going to Weston-super-Mare to see the pantomime. The cast was talented, but a pantomime is an acquired taste. I think you have to grow up watching them to find them enjoyable. Per Wikipedia: “Modern pantomime includes songs, gags, slapstick comedy and dancing, employs gender-crossing actors, and combines topical humour with a story loosely based on a well-known fairy tale, fable or folk tale. It is a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers.” It also involves popular songs with rewritten lyrics and a baking skit involving pie in the face.

TIntern Abbey medieval stone ruin

Tintern Abbey

We went up through the Wye River valley stopping to see the Tintern Abbey. It was a very cold day and everything was beautifully frosted.

medieval cathedral on a foggy day

Hereford Cathedral

We stayed overnight in Hereford meeting with more friends. The next day we were off to Ledbury and caught a train to Oxford. One night in Oxford was too short, but we tried to make the most of it.

medieval church

St Michael at the North Gate, 11th century

Photos:

Somerset – part one – 109 photos

Somerset – part two – 76 photos

Somerset – part three – 14 photos

Tintern – Hereford – Ledbury -Oxford – 328 photos

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The Culture of Windows

December 25, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest (USA), Central Oregon to be specific. This is a region where curtains are not only used to keep out too much sun, but also used to keep people from seeing into your home. While living in the Oregon High Desert where summer temperatures can reach and exceed 100F, at 10 am my mother would go around the house closing all the windows and drawing all the curtains to keep the house from heating up. Once the sun went down, the windows would be reopened to let in the cool night air. The curtains would remain closed, however, to allow us to sit in the comfort of our living room without being on view to anyone passing by.

At one point, I spent 15 months living in the faraway land called Ohio. Window culture differed there. As a single woman I continued pulling the curtains in the evening against any prying eyes. When I left on vacation, I put lights on timers to simulate someone being home as a deterrent to burglars, but the curtains would also be drawn to maintain the same evening pattern as when I was home and to keep it from being obvious that there was no one in the home. My landlady complained about this because it did not fit with her window culture and she thought it made the house look like it was vacant. She thought I should leave the curtains open.

There was another Ohio window culture that I found strange. They put candles in their windows, electric, of course. Sometimes there were candles in every window of the house. No one did this where I came from, except maybe as Christmas decorations. Seeing the candles in the Ohio windows made me think of the old custom of putting a light in the window for family members who left home, e.g. off to war. This made Ohio seem like the most depressing place on Earth.

Now, I’m in rural England and am informed that the curtains should be opened before sitting down to breakfast. If curtains remain closed during the day, it implies that someone has died.

view out of a window, several flowering plants on the windowsill

No one has died today.

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Wandering East London

December 24, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

four story brick building

Spitalfields Market

If you have followed our travels previously, you should know that we tend to wander around neighborhoods just to see what we can see, instead of following a typical tourist itinerary filled with museums and touristic sights. We stayed in Whitechapel, but did not bother with the Jack the Ripper tour.

This trip was heavily influenced by the fact that Daddybird has been following the Spitalfields Life blog, so many of the buildings and places we sought out are historical places mentioned in that blog.

neoclassical church colonnade and spire

St Leonard’s Anglican Church, Shoreditch 1740

We wandered into the Shoreditch neighborhood and happened upon St. Leonard’s Church which had a sign announcing a carol service that evening at 6 pm, so we made a point of coming back in time for a bit of Christmas music.

red stone building with arched windows

The Jamaica Wine House – used to be the first coffee house in England ca 1652

Daddybird’s itinerary included buildings like the one above which was the first coffee shop back when coffee was the new, exotic drink.

root beer float

What have we been eating? (surely you wonder about this) Our breakfasts have been English, but all other meals have ranged from Turkish to Pakistani to American. I generally don’t drink soda/pop/cola (whatever you call it), so having a root beer float was a pretty fantastic blast from the past.

fried chicken and waffles

I had not had fried chicken and waffles before, but now I understand. I understand.

See Day 1 pictures here. (129 photos)

See Day 2 pictures here. (89 photos, 3 videos)

See Day 3-5 pictures here. (131 photos)

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Shanghai Sacred Places

December 16, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

December is time for the Historic Shanghai Sacred Places tour. We enjoyed seeing a variety of religious buildings – some still in use, some turned into museums, and some repurposed to something completely different. To see all the pictures, click here.

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So Rude!

December 11, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Rudeness is a topic that has been ruminating in the back of my mind for a while. Having lived outside my home country for 8 years now, I endeavor to avoid using the word “rude.” Unfortunately, it is a frequently used complaint by expats and vacationers.

I recently watched a Youtube video by a young Irish woman who had a terrible vacation experience in China. I’m a little surprised that I was able to watch the whole thing because she was painting all Chinese people and the whole country with a broad brush based on her bad experience. I think her accent helped make the story palatable. That, and watching her wretch in reaction to the habit of spitting. As the story (rant) went on, it became more and more humorous. I am not posting a link here because I don’t think she really deserves more views.

She did have a truly unpleasant vacation experience and the company that arranged her travel and hotel ripped her off and she did not get her money’s worth. However, that doesn’t mean it is okay to say all Chinese people are rude, cheating, etc.

Rudeness is a culturally defined concept. What is rude to one culture is expected or overlooked in another. Expecting your cultural standards in another country is both stupid and, let’s face it, rude.

The unwritten rule in China (urban China) seems to be “keep moving.” For example, cars rarely stop, slow down, or wait. If the car in front of them stops or slows down, they drive around it. If there is a pedestrian in the cross walk, they drive around the person rather than stop and wait. Scooters, motorcycles, and bicycles do not stop for red lights. They just blow through the intersection, pedestrians and oncoming traffic be damned. In terms of pedestrians, the keep moving rule applies there, too. A crowd funneling into an escalator just keeps taking little steps and pressing forward and eventually everyone gets on. People getting onto a train or into an elevator don’t wait for people to get off. Keep moving!

I was waiting for an elevator once with a mother who had a stroller and a middle aged Chinese man. When the elevator came, I moved forward based on my American culture of “ladies and old people first” and the Chinese man moved forward based on his cultural rule. We squeezed in simultaneously. We exited the same way. The mother with stroller could probably call us both rude.

I could gripe constantly about the “keep moving” practice, especially the scooters, but that just wears at the soul. (If I do go off the deep end, it will probably be because of the scooters.) The “that’s so rude!” attitude isn’t constructive. On the bright side, when we return to California (famous for bad driving) we get to look around, pleasantly surprised, and say “the driving here is so considerate!” It’s all relative.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fkangayayaroo%2Fvideos%2Fvb.186200120%2F552899724223%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=0&width=560

Update:

front loader tractor on city street

I see your rural tractor and raise you an urban front loader.

 

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Playing Catch Up

November 5, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

I have been terribly remiss in posting to the blog. Procrastination is my forté. So, having looked through my photos to see what we’ve been up to since summer, I find:

  • Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
  • Yuyuan Garden
  • Quixia Garden
  • Soong Ching Ling home
  • A weekend in Tokyo

large jellyfish

In early August, we went to the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. We got there in the early afternoon and found that there was a very long ticket line. It is open until 9 pm, so we decided to come back later to see if the line would be shorter. Unfortunately, we decided to go to the nearby shopping mall and see a movie in the cinema there. We ended up seeing Time Raiders in 3D on the IMAX screen. The movie itself was horrifically bad. The sound was brain bruisingly loud. 3D always gives me a headache. I was so glad to get out of there alive.

Back to the aquarium, the line was very short by the time we returned, so we went in and found it very pleasant, since there were very few other people there and we could enjoy the exhibits at our leisure. If you want to see all the pictures, click here.

tree framed by a window

In September, we visited Yuyuan Garden for a second time. This time we were with Historic Shanghai and had a knowledgable guide (author of The Classical Gardens of Shanghai) to tell us about the history and symbolism of the garden. Despite the fact that the garden is surrounded by bustling city and crowded tourist shopping, it is amazingly peaceful. To see all the pictures, click here.

Chinese garden wall with vase shaped doorway

In October, we visited the Quixia Garden in Jaiding. We had seen it from the outside on our previous visit to Jaiding. It is a combination of a Daoist temple and three private gardens that were donated to the temple and united into one. It is quite beautiful and was very peaceful. Chinese gardens are not really about plants. They are an effort to bring the mountains (where the gods live) into man’s living space. Therefore, the garden design is more about the structures built and not the plants. Plants are an afterthought. However, this garden has far more foliage than most. To see all the pictures, click here.

framed picture of Soong Ching Ling

Also in October, we visited the museum in the former residence of Soong Ching Ling. If your knowledge of Chinese history is as sketchy as mine was before coming to the country, Soong Ching Ling was one of three sisters who were married to prominent and powerful men – Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai-shek, and H.H. Kung. Soon Ching Ling is called the mother of modern China. She was a highly educated and strong woman. To see all the pictures, click here.

Tokyo street

In mid-October, we made a quick weekend rip to Tokyo to crash the vacation of our dear friends Mali and Zarina. It’s hard to do or see much in two days, but here’s what I learned about Tokyo. It is very clean, although public garbage cans are few and far between. Drivers actually drive in the lanes and obey traffic rules. No one jay walks. No one runs red lights, so it is safe to cross the road. It is amazingly quiet, despite the large population.People are very polite. I had the best airport experience, ever. We had a great time being with M & Z. You can see the pictures here.

There. All caught up. I’ll be in Beijing for two days this week, but it is for work and not touristy pleasure, so I doubt there will be much of interest to share about that. Our next travel plan is to head to the U.K. for Christmas. Looking forward to the cold weather, shopping for sweaters (or jumpers, as they say), and visiting another dear friend.

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Parenting

September 25, 2016

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Witnessed this morning, Shanghai, China –

A little girl entered the restaurant, looked around, said “Momma!” and immediately began to cry and call out “Momma! Momma!” when she didn’t see Momma. The waitress tried to help her, but this just increased the volume of the crying. Daddy enters to save the day. He calms his daughter and picks her up. THEN he says, “would you like me to show you how to find Momma?” He takes her to the part of the restaurant where Momma and little brother are. It doesn’t end there, though. He carries his daughter back to the restaurant entrance pointing out things to her along the way. He takes her out the door. Then they re-enter and walk the path to Momma again. I am so impressed at the skills he is teaching her instead of just pacifying her and satisfying her need for Momma.

Travel back with me to 2014 on the beach of Fujairah, U.A.E. –

There is (was) a park along the beach in Fujairah where families go in the evening. I would say “to get away from the heat,” but there is no such thing as getting away from the heat. We were sitting in the park enjoying a cup of tea. There was a young family nearby. Father, mother and four young children. The mother spoke to her young daughter who did not immediately respond. The mother reached over, grabbed a handful of her daughter’s hair and pulled her close. I had to take a deep breath to keep my head from exploding. I wish I could have interceded for this little girl, but when you are in a country where a disagreement with a citizen can end in jail and deportation, it just is not an option. I did, however, think about my students. Maybe this was why they were so uncooperative and noncompliant. They might be used to being forced to comply instead of being taught to respect their parents or elders.

Big conclusions cannot be drawn from these two stories. It is not fair to paint entire cultures by two individual observations. But this morning I could say, “wow, what a good idea,” and two years ago I thought “wow, what bad family dynamics.”

I do not have a relevant picture to go with this, so here is a totally irrelevant one. The internet needs more cat pictures.

cat bathing in Chinese garden