During the summer adventure with Matthew, in 2009, one of the places we traveled to was Hong Kong, Asia’s world city. With a population of over seven million people, Hong Kong still has a high quality of life, when compared to other Asian cities. I had many impressions of Hong Kong; it’s a city of incredible wealth and high prices, and paradoxically a city of bargains. It’s a city that although it was officially handed over to China on July 1, 1997, it still is not really a part of China. Hong Kong is a country, a city, a place that is a frustrating upsetting city, and a fabulous destination. Well, I’m getting ahead of my story. It all started when we landed in Guangzhou.
Matt and I needed to find a place to stay close to Hong Kong, so we looked in our booklet showing the locations of the Jin Jiang Hotels near the ‘New Territories’ as Hong Kong was called. While at the airport, I chose a location in Shenzhen. We took a taxi directly to the main Guangzhou train station, and traveled to south for about an hour to Shenzhen. I knew nothing about the city, on the map it looked like a small town, but what we found was a huge sprawling city of approximately ten million. At the train station in Shenzhen sidewalk vendors were selling knock off iPhones and iPods, as well as fruit, clothes, and toys. It seemed that everything was for sale. The hot humid August afternoon carried the strong smells sweat and fruit as we walked through the corridors leaving the station to look for a cab.
The cab ride was an adventure. Matt kept trying to talk to the driver using the little Mandarin you knew, but the driver only spoke Cantonese. After twenty minutes of driving and watching the taxi driver get more and more frustrated, we needed to get another taxi. A really nice thing about China is that there are usually taxis everywhere, and this day was no exception. After paying twice as much as we should have (because we needed two taxis), we found the hotel, but unfortunately it was further from the train station than we wanted to be. I was hot and tired and really didn’t care, after traveling in two non air-conditioned taxis for about an hour where we stayed. Later, I considered a possibly reason why you may not always get the same positive experience with taxi drivers. People move into big cities like Shenzhen, at an exponential rate, and taxi drivers can come from all over the interior of China often looking for work. These Chinese can speak different dialects and generally are not familiar with the new location that they find themselves.
It was getting late but we wanted to see Hong Kong. After a taxi ride back to the train station we went trough custom to enter Hong Kong. It was like going through an international border, with soldiers and checkpoints. My passport was checked and I thought nothing of the checkpoint because Hong Kong awaited! Matt and I went to Hong Kong harbor and the first thing I notice was the high prices. I was just like being in Europe, where a cup of coffee costs around 5.00 US dollars, way too much for my traveling budget. The city was breath taking as we traveled across the harbor on the Star Ferry, which much to my surprise was really inexpensive. Traveling across Victoria Harbor was a transformational delight! I marveled at this new world, the New Territory of Hong Kong. The harbor reflected the buildings opulence, as lights danced on the water reflecting images of metal giant skyscrapers dressed in lights.
But it was late, and I wanted to return to our room for a good night’s sleep, before reentering Hong Kong in the morning. We went back through the border checkpoint, and this time the guards stamped my passport. I attributed the border checkpoint to need to keep Mainland Chinese nationals from flooding into Hong Kong and a way of monitoring other foreigners from entering the mainland.
The next day we spent the day enjoying Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor area and taking a trolley up to the peck for spectacular views of Hong Kong. The day was really fun, and I was just getting a feel for the city. Unfortunately, it was getting and our trip to Hong Kong would be coming to an end, so we heading back to the border crossing.
It was about eleven in the evening as we began to walk through the typical checkpoints. First we walked through a machine that checked our temperature, we were fine. Then I walked to the guard who stamps passports, problem. The guard would not let me continue back to Shenzhen. Why? He kept pointing to my passport and shaking his head. Finally he called over a solider that spoke English.
Your passport will not allow more than two entries into China, he explained in a sympatric voice. Continue reading
China, a land of Friendly, Friendly, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy people. In many ways Chinese culture is a mixture of paradoxes, repeating familiar patterns in unfamiliar ways. Repeating words would not be the common vernacular for an American, but in China speech, words are used differently. China, a land that shifts your paradigms, as you are enveloped in its culture. Continue reading
I was in an unfamiliar world, of smoky skies and stifling heat and humidity. Shanghai-the sky looked like a heavy thick fog that had blocked out the sun, but not the sunlight. After landing in Shanghai, and meeting Matthew in the morning, we first found a place to stay, at a hotel called the Jin Jiang, located somewhere in an impossible place to locate on my own, and then my son immediately looked for places to take me. Even though I slept on a plane for quite awhile during the flight, jet lag had a grip on me. I felt like I weighted 400 pounds traveling through a climate that struck to me like steam from a hot shower. It was the end of July, and though I am used to the dry heat of Southern California, China’s summer weather was more than I expected. Was it humidity that filled my lungs or something else? The sky looked like a heavy thick fog that had blocked out the sun, but not the sunlight. Every so often, I had to stop, as my son’s stride was faster than my body would let me go. Continue reading
My first trip to China was in the summer of 2010. I traveled without my wife, Kay, which was the first time I went on a vacation without her. There were logical reasons why this trip would best be traveled without, but still I knew it wouldn’t be quite the same without her insights and smile. First there was the issue of money, China would be the farthest trip taken and the issue of family finances was a concern. Another reason was that I was meeting my son Matthew, who had been in China teaching and Kay felt that it would be a great father son time. the final reason was that Kay really was not interested in traveling China, since it was well beyond her comfort zone. China was so different from anything she had ever experienced, and I was soon understand her concerns.
Flying is an experience that I’ve always enjoyed. Of course the discomforts along the way are stressful, but it the connection with the different sights and sounds have always held my interests. The fight began close to midnight and was to stop in Beijing en route to Shanghai. During the fight, I sat next to an attractive Chinese woman, about thirty-five years old, who had a husband teaching at a university in Beijing. We struck up a conversation about life in Beijing. She was seemed relaxed, as she told me about how she enjoyed her visit to Los Angeles seeing relatives. I asked her about china and she replied, There is much smog and air pollution in Beijing.” and then continued, “I am very happy to be coming home my husband.” We continued talking while, but as the time to land came closer, we both stopped in guess in anticipating our arrival. I had to smile to myself, as I noticed a smile growing slowly near the corners of her mouth.
Do you think of yourself as a linear or a circular person? Is your life moving along in a linear line, or is your life traveling in, a circle only to end up where you started. Linear people think of the life as an adventure that we travel though. While circle people move in circular patterns. The circle can be of any length, with a circumference of hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades or a lifetime.
In my life, I was moving toward an open door, through the door, would I be moving in a linear or circle direction? Would I just continue as it was, a life that was helplessly moving in small circular patterns, like a leaf in a stream unconsciously being pulled toward an unknown destination? I felt I was being moved about on the current that would alter my life forever. One way or another, I needed to find the exit, and into a life in a more linear pattern.
I became a new teacher, beginning a new life in my late thirties to be closer with my children, and though I was unaware at the time, I was just starting a metamorphosis. My new life in teaching had become my sanctuary, as it began spinning out of control, and sending me on a lifelong journey to new worlds. I was learning to teach day by day, and discovering the how challenging teaching really was. As a teacher I’ve always felt that I have been evolving on a daily basis, always experiencing and learning something new, about teaching, about people and most important about myself.
I could never work in a position where I needed to sit; it simply wasn’t apart of my personality makeup. As a kid, unless I was physically moving or extremely mentally challenged, I would become bored very quickly, and move into a fantasy world of my own creation, playing for hours creating new worlds and challenges that only my imagination could explore. Teaching incorporated all the important personal work elements that made my work life challenging, rewarding and creative. My new world allowed me to stretch beyond myself and reach out to others in service to others. My heart ached to contribute good, to give a little more than I took, and to do no harm. On the surface that what seem like an easy mandate for all of humanity, but for me it was and still is a daily struggle. Continue reading