Monday, June 30

Hangzhou Bay Wetlands

While in China recently I stayed overnight with a friend at a city called Cixi (with a population of over 2 million).  My host was a student at the University where I taught and has come to Australia twice to visit.  Her family run a coat factory in Cixi - and I was fortunate to see both the city and the factory.

Their home is midst one of their factories though I didn't venture too far into the factory.  They have oevr 100 staff (60 of them live within the factory grounds).  It was quite interesting.

I was taken to the city in the evening to see a Stone Market - stalls of people selling all manner of stones - many stone carvings, jewelry and various items made from stone.  On stone that really fascinated me was "bacon stone".  I don't recall every having heard of it before.  There's not much about it on the internet but there is probably another name that I don't know.

The stone looks just like it has been carved from a pig!!!  And clever stone artists make things that resemble parts of a pig too.

The next day I was taken to the bome of my friend's boyfriend, and we left her car there and ventured to the Hangzhou Bay Wetlands in his car.

The wetlands are pretty new - a few years old probably..  Don't be confused between the Xixi Wetlands in Hangzhou, and the Cixi Wetlands of Hangzhou Bay which is near Cixi.  Cixi was named after Empress Dowager Cixi and is south of Shanghai in  Zhejiang Province - not far from Shaoxing where I stay.

There was an impressive path with bamboo railings on entrance to the wetlands - and water, water everywhere.  The building towards the centre of the photo above was part of the set of a movie made there.  See photos below.  

My firned asked me about the relevance of a bed in a romance movie.  Mmm...   I did explain, to her horror, that it might have been used by the lovers!!!  Did I have to tell her about sex?   No!!! Thank goodness.

It is a huge park with acreas of water filled with all sorts of lotus flowers.  The little girl above wanted a photo with a foriegner - and I agreed, as long as I could take one of her!!!

The park is extensive - and really worthy of more than one visit as there is a lot of walking and a lot to see.  There are boat rides also on the waterways, bicycles to hire and a grand Discovery Centre as well.

There are 20 Elk - an endangered species being cared for here.

In the Discovery Centre.
It certainly is well worth a visit!

A Detour

When I returned to "normal life" at Beachmere a few weeks ago, I remembered that Jumpers and Jazz was on in Warwick, so I hastily booked some accommodation - vaguely thinking that I could fit in the Jumpers and Jazz on the Saturday, and on the Sunday visit the Scenic Rim, and on Sunday afternoon attend friend Linda's Birthday.

I booked into a little motel in Aratula - thinking that it would all work.  I had a weird feeling as I booked it, and afterwards checked to find that I was a month too early for Jumpers and Jazz!!! Still, there was Linda's birthday, and I could look around the Scenic Rim.  So on Saturday morning I set off - first calling in at the Heritage Bank at Springwood.  My lovely daughter now works for Heritage Bank, so I wanted to open an account and see her.  One of the other staff had to open the account for me (fair enough, privacy, rules etc.) and it turned out to be a busy morning in the bank so I saw little of her.   After all the documents etc were completed I returned to my car, and headed for Ikea.  I wanted some more photo frams - but unlucky for me they were out of all the ones I wanted.  Due in on July 1.  Darn I will have to go again.  :)

Next it was on to Carrara to see son Gav and his two children.  Gavin had been in Finland for a month, so I wanted to "catch up" with him and the children and give them the Chinese lollies they had requested from my visit to China recently.   Then it was off to Aratula.

I arrived just before dark, and put my things into Room 2, before walking to the BP service station for something to eat. As I set off a few drops of rain fell, so I returned for my umbrella, which was great as on the return journey the rain was quite heavy.  There's not much at Aratula - great fruit and vegie marked, craft shop and a couple of cafes, a butcher shop and hair dresser and a few empty shops.  There is a pub and another servo at the other end of town.  Had a lovely fish and chip meal and tried to walk it off as I returned to the motel.

Not long after an amazing storm hit - I received the warning messages on my phone about bad weather in Brisbane and around the Moreton Bay area, so knew it was possible.  It was short, but rather dramatic with heavy rain and wind, thunder and lightening, and the wind blew all night.

When I woke in the morning the air was really cold, and the chill exaggerated with the wind, which was to  give me trouble all morning.  I walked to the BP station again for the Courier Mail and exercise, and after packing up I set off.  I had been told about a little town out of Aratula called Terome.  I set off - with instructions to do a u-turn at the end of the bitumen, which I did.  But wonderful scenery but hard to get out of the car.  The wind was amazing.

Then back into Aratula and out onto the Lake Moogera Road.  The wind was blowing down small branches and leaves everywhere.  It was a bit weird - just hoped that BIG branches didn't choose to fall on me!

I think you could have surfed on the Lake - the waves were amazing.  It probably wasn't the weather for water skiing, but I understand the lake is normally popular for this.  I parked near the dam wall and went for a walk along the top of the wall.

It was at Lake Moogera that I put on my "Rita" coat - complete with dog fur around the hood. I have worn the coat only a few times, but never had to wear the hood!   It was so windy it blew the fur and my hair, and I suspect it blew my ear ring out - as I discovered later that I was wearing only one!!!  It was freezing cold and blowing a gale!!!  So back in the car and on my way to Boonah, or Mount Alford actually.

I had been to Koorooma Lavendar Farm and Winery many years ago - and wanted to see it again. I was disappointed that there wasn't much lavendar growing - only 10,000 plants these days as the owners found growing it challenging and reduced their crop.  It was wonderful to see though, and I took a few photos of the fantastic view from the property!!

I made my way back past Lake Wyaralong, then through Beaudesert and on to Regents Park for the Birthday Party - where I caught up with a few friends from long ago.  A big weekend, but certainly fantastic scenery!!!

I will get to visit Jumpers and Jazz in Warwick in a couple of week's time.

Wednesday, June 25


 It is hard to describe the many garden displays that I saw in China this time, as I have done in past trips.  The streets are lined on both sides with amazing plant displays - different shrubs, trees and annuals line the streets and highways often a long way from the city or housing areas.  I have many photos, but they do not do justice to the wonderful displays.  Often I was in a bus or taxi passing some awesome gardening display, so not able to get the photos.  In May/June the Magnolias are in flower.  I was to learn that the flower lasts probably less than a day - certainly in some of the trees that I saw.

I like the way it is done, with the shorter/small plants in the front, and behind them something a little taller and the tall/larger ones behind.

Mass plantings of colour are in many places - impatiens, petunias, easy growing.

This statue in the main street of Shaoxing (Jiefung Lu) always has a wonderful display - as you can see - in pots.

Beside a walking path, and canal/river.  Beautifully manicured shrubs.

I lament that in Australia for the most part we have been conditioned to see much more greenery and native plants, which means that our landscape is made up of green and brown, with little bright colour.

The motorways that I travelled between Shanghai, Shaoxing, Cixi, Shangyu, and Hangzhou are wonderful displays of a wide variety of plants - and I can only guess that many of them are native to Asia, though of course Petunias are native to South America, and Oleander which is sporadically and untidily grown along the M1 is native to north Africa.

I look at the main roads and motorways - especially here in Queensland where there are more weeds and gardening disasters than anything that we can be proud of along the centre of our motorways.  Between Brisbane and the Gold Coast - especially at the southern end of the motorway there are better looking plants in the centre, but I am sure we could do better.  I know there is a cost - but I wonder if working on such a project could be what our Centrelink beneficiaries could be doing?  

Previously, I have seen the trucks pull up with trays and trays of seedlings (petunias and others) in pots, and the team of gardeners, often senior women, scurry around and under supervision either plant the seedling into the garden plot or create the display of potted plants.  They are watered frequently usually by a sole senior person with a wheel barrow contraption which holds water and a long pole with a bucket like thing on the end.

I look at the soil the seedlings/plants grow in, and it is hardly quality medium, but somehow it works for them.

I am in awe - am  so impressed!

Monday, June 23

Dancing in the Streets

One of the great joys I experience when I visit China is the local people dancing and playing music in public.  I guess in part it is because there is a big population and probably not enough halls/venues to go around, but I think it is more than that.  I often wonder why it is that here in Australia we seem to want to only have our activities indoors - when it is so much healther to be outside.

I was pleased to learn that in Beachmere on Fridays (weather permitting) line dancing will be held in one of the parks in the morning.  Nice idea.

I can recall on previous visits to China that there were many places I visited where dancing was taking place, and while my visit this time was much shorter I still managed to see public (for fun) dancing.

On the night before I was to depart China I was in Nanjing Road, the famous mall or Walking Street that leads from the People's Square to the Bund and there in the midst of the upmarket shops a couple were dancing.  I recall on a previous visit a building near the People's Square had a band on a platform above the street and groups of people were dancing.  Now you may be able to guess from the photo - but it was not traditional Chinese dancing - it is ball room dancing.

Another popular place for dancing is under bridges - many bridges have wide walkways and these are the venues for many a dancing - line dancing, ball room dancing or whatever.  The Chinese are also good walkers and will walk around their parks until late at night.  

A Chinese friend said they are never afraid as there are so many people doing the same thing - it is not like here in Australia where you might be the only one walking in a park at night - easy for predators.

I had asked friends about dancing in parks like this, but was told that the copyright laws relating to use of music in public places make it a little hard to do this in Australia, which is a shame.  We have the climate, and I am sure many folk would love an informal dance in a park sometime.  Can anyone organise something like this?

Sunday, June 22

Life is Returning to Normal - I hope!!!

After the travel and dramas of the last few weeks, I feel if I am coming out at the other end of the tunnel.  I have a few things to do around the house - am still putting things away after I unpacked, and I have had some additional challenges - ants eating the grout  between the tiles near the front door and at the ensuite door.  The tiny ants are a curse and my neighbours have problems with them and spiders that seem to have taken over my unit while I was away.  The "daddy long legs" spiders had made themselves at home (without my to spray, swipe them on a regular basis) and I am told there is an infestation of red backs - even probably behind my bed.

Tomorrow morning the pest man is due to spray the evil unwelcome visitors, and during the week Tim the Maintenance Man will arrive to replace the grout and with any luck the brick that I have been asking to be replace for the last year!!!

But I am over the cold - though still coughing madly at times, especially when I have been talking, and this week have a couple of things to do that will get me out of the house.

Still I did manage to do some things last week, despite my misery and cough, and one of thos was to visit the other side of the Caboolture River.  It's funny - I am often down at the boat ramp on the Beachmere side of the river, and I can see another boat ramp across the water, and my curiosity got to me in the end and as I was headed south one day last week, I chose to veer left and explore.

It is quite a pretty place - the tide was out, pelicans were there hoping for a feed and there were cars and trailers in the park so I guess a few blokes were out fishing.  There's no picnicing area to speak of - it is truly just a boat ramp, with some birds hoping for a feed.

Looking towards Deception Bay
The road to ramp would be great to live on - acreage lots, though close to a Gun Club, so probably best for those who don't mind gunshots on club days.  I hear them from my place across the river.

Friday, June 20

A Photographic Display

When I visited the Caboolture Historical Village on Wednesday, I picked up a card promoting an exhibition at the Pine Rivers Heritage Museum - an exhibition called "A Legacy of Light" - Five generations of photographers 1863 - 2012.

Being an enthusiastic "camera addict" I was keen to see it, so set off yesterday (June 19th).

It is many years since I have been to the Pine Rivers/Old Petrie Town area - some 20 or so I believe and had little recognition.  Being a Thursday it was pretty quiet - at weekends it is (I am told) a hive of activity with their weekend market) but there was one school group visiting.

The exhibitiion was in the Heritage Museum - they have a rather large exhibition area, and I entered the room to be a little overwhelmed at first, but soon found my way around.

On one wall the family tree from the year 1863 to 2012, showing those members of the family who had become photographers, and on another piece on the wall were the time lines for the family members and photography.

There was a glass cabinet with old cameras and details of the development of the camera which was very interesting.  Around the walls were the photos taken over this 150 year period - many in black and white (for originally there was no colour in photos) and the more modern ones were in colour.

It is a great exhibition and finishes at the Pine Rivers Museum on June 29th, 2014.

Tuesday, June 17

Xinran and the fight for justice.

I've been a fan of Xue Xinran since I discovered one of her books at Hong Kong Airport in 2010 and cried almost non-stop as I read it.  It was Message from and Unknown Chinese Mother - and I subsequently read all of her books.

I am surprised that few of my friends who have been to China or are family with the country do not know of her books.   Within their pages are remarkable stories - as Xinran has interviewed so many people for her stories and they are often extremely heart renching.

While I was in China recently I came across this article on the Internet which reminded me of the works of Xinran.  I did some research and found that there is little/no information about her writings since 2010 - though I know she has committed herself to the Mother's Bridge of Love.

It is hard to comprehend - for the reasons are quite complex - how many children were separated from their real parents.  I know some of my students would tell - almost in a whisper that their brother or sister was not really a brother or sister, but a "cousin" - but even that seemed to be untrue.  Some couples took on the extra responsibility of another child - perhaps born outside the one child policy, or born to someone whose circumstances made it impossible for them to "own up" to having a child, or being unable to care for them in other ways.  Complex.

I was with families who had two children - often the older child was a girl, and the family paid officials to enable them to have a second (or third as it was in one case I knew) as they sought to produce a son and heir.  One of my students was an only child - and as a girl she was treated badly by her father who wanted a son.  There are many stories and reading any of Xinran's books will give one an idea of the complexity of the situation.

The Great Cultural Revolution separated families, and the One Child Policy made for difficult family decisions.

The article that took my interest explained that many people do not have birth certificates - for their births were not registered, and so as adults they are restricted in many things.  The article explains much of it - and how difficult it is for these "forgotten" children whose lives are amazingly difficult because they are not registered.  One would hope that action soon might change this for them - for they do exist and they should now be accepted and given documents that will enable them to be properly employed, properly education, and able to travel.

If you haven't read any of Xinran's books - they are well worth reading.  It will also give you a better understanding of some aspects of the complex culture of the Chinese.

It's Been Hectic for Two Weeks

It probably has been one of the hardest two week periods of my life - not having much sleep after I learned of my mother's stroke, and getting back to Australia, first to Brisbane and then a day or so later to Adelaide.

How I wish my parents hadn't chosen to die during the cold winter of Adelaide.  It never fails to cause me some health problem - I love the place of my birth but I am never prepared for the cold - especially as this time I came from the hot humid spring of China to the freezing cold of Adelaide and with limited sleep  - it all was too much for me, and I succumbed to a dreaded cold.

We laid Mum to rest at a lovely service in the same chapel at Centenial Park as Dad's service was just nearly three years ago.   Mum was in her 99th year and Dad only two days short of his 92 birthday, so they had had a good innings, and for the most part had been in good health.  I am not sure that I want to last that long on this earth - especially if it means spending time in a nursing home.

Some twenty or so people came back to my sister's home after the service - mostly cousins and some with their spouses - so it was a good catch up for me.

The following day some of the family had lunch at  In Thai Restaurant in Jetty Road, Brighton, and that evening at 6 pm my daughter Janet and I flew out to Brisbane, but I knew I was headed for trouble when my ears were so painful as we descended into Brisbane Airport.  The pain was so bad - and I noted that a fellow passenger sitting opposite also had painful ears too!!!

Her husband and daughter were there to meet us and we went back to their home, where I loaded my suitcase into my car, and immediately drove north to Beachmere.  There was little traffic and in less than 45 minutes I was home.

Within half an hour I was in my own bed - snuggled up but snuffling as the cold freshened.  I have spent nearly two days in bed and though I am not fully recovered, I am feeling better.

Now for some work.......  I have the house to clean and tidy, though I am waiting for a pest inspector as there are some weird ants that are eating the grout from between some floor tiles, and I have yet to put away things from my trip.

Lots to do.....

Wednesday, June 11

Stress and Travel causes Chaos in the Brain.

I made it safely to Adelaide - and found my sister waiting for me at the airport.  We headed to her place and enjoyed a cup of coffee and shared some tears as we talked about Mum and her last days.

Her car boot was full of plastic bags of the last goods and chattels of one Joyce Watson - it was a weird sensation going through her stuff.  The nursing home had filled the bags with her things and we went through them and decided that all must be given to the Salvo's.  They were all clean and there were some wearable items so we hope that someone who needs them will get them.  We drove down to the Salvo's on Brighton Road, Brighton and pushed them into the big bins before driving to the seafront and sitting and talking for a while.

The sun was out, though it was pretty cold, but it was warm in the car and we watched those fol with dogs walk them along the beachfront, and watched the seagulls and sparrows flitting about.

It was nearly lunch time so we walked to Jetty Road and bought some pastries from the popular baker there, and went back to the car and ate while continuing to watch the scenery.  There were many people there - and the sea was so calm.  It is quite beautiful there - high tide, but plenty of sand for walkers, and dogs to run on.

We talked about the funeral, and made plans for the following day when the Funeral Celebrant was to visit.

I remember feeling like I had orgnaised a few things in advance but I brought the wrong USB stick with me in all the stress, but managed to find  a few good photos for the service.

Yesterday the Funeral Celebrant came and we organised the service.  When Dad died just under four years ago there were many at the service, but sadly Mum's service is not going to have such a big attendance.  Some family members just can't get to Adelaide, and all of Mum's siblings have passed, and she's outlived most of her friends.  When you make it to nearly 99 there are not many left!!!

Still, we will do our best to give her a good send off.

My sister and I are still trying to recover from our travels to China - although she came back earlier than me, she has had the stress of dealing with Mum's demise, and other family events.  As well she went straight back to work.  We spoke last night of our "discombobulation" - how we look forward to live returning to "normal" at some stage.

That's life!!!

Sunday, June 8

Update on my China Visit

Dear Readers, may I apologise for my neglect of the blog.  Several issues occurred that made it difficult to post.  The key one is that I did not take my "good" laptop to China with me.  It is heavy, and I liked to think it was secure at home.  I had my little laptop, which is good for travelling, but very irritating with its small keyboard and it is not as fast as this one.  In the end I gave up on it.  I did of course post on FB, as much as I could behind the Great Chinese Firewall, and on the 25th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre we all had issues with Google and our computers.

As well, in the last week I was unable to forget that my mother, in her 99th year, had had a massive stroke and was clearly dying.  By the time I knew this, it was too late to re arrange my return - in fact IF I could have changed my plans, it would have only have returned me one day earlier than planned.  Even so, she died before then.

My return journey from China was difficult.  Not only because of all the travelling, and waiting, and lack of sleep, but I could not get my mother and her demise out of my mind.

The return journey was interesting - I caught the fast train from Shaoxing to Hongqiao - it is a fast train and I am thrilled that I could travel on it - but I might have been quicker on the bus from Shaoxing.  It takes nearly an hour to get to the new (amazing) train station which is closer to Keqaio than Shaoxing, and it too ages to walk to the ticket issue centre and waiting room, and a wait of 1 1/2 hours, before the train departed.

As the rail line is elevated, one gets and amazing view of the scenery below and beyond the rail line. The leg room was ample and I have no complains about the train. It was great.  It just takes a looooong time to save time on the train.  The reality is that the bus would have been suitable for me.  Still, no complaints, other than the time.  Also it was a bit challenging as the English is in short supply and I am so glad that Allen Ren from the FAD in the university drove me to the station and helped me get my ticket.  He is a great young man, and I hope I can return the favour to him in Australia at some time.

I had left Shaoxing on the Thursday morning, and arrived in Shanghai in the afternoon, time for me to rush to Nanjing Road to buy something special for someone, and get back to the hotel.  I chose to dine in the restaurant - the only diner as it turned out.  Then up to my room to prepare for my early departure the following morning.

Leaving the city of Shanghai is always a challenge - except at 5 am - there are few cars on the roads, so it was a quick drive (45 minutes) to Pudong Airport, and again another wait before the plane to Singapore departed at 8.15 am.  The flight was uneventful, and on arriving in Singapore Changi, I set out to connect via the Internet to family in Australia.  There was no update from them.  I had asked to be advised as soon as Mum passed away, but the family chose NOT to let me know.  I would rather they wished that they did so, as I had maintained high hopes that I would see her again.

It was a long 7 hours plus in the airport at Changi, but plenty to do, and the time went fairly quickly, before we boarded again for the flight to Brisbane.  That plane was full with no room to stretch and I had very little sleep.

Arriving in Brisbane at 6 am and quickly through Customs and Border Protection, I soon greeted my daughter who had come to pick me up - and to tell me the news that Mum had passed away the day before.

It was a hard day - I was tired, had just learned that I would never see my mother again, and I had to drive direct to Beachmere as I had urgent mail waiting for me, and the post office closed at midday.  Tired, emotional I set off.  At the Bribie Island turn off, I lost attention and hit the car in front of me.  There was little damage.  The other car had a tow bar which mangled my number plate.  No other damage and that was quickly repaired in the afternoon by my neighbour.

I am still tired though I have had good sleep overnight, and am now packing to go to Adelaide. Mum's funeral will be on Friday.