Thursday, March 31

Death and Dying

Oh, what a difficult topic to discuss!!

Actually, I don't have an issue with discussing it - though attempts to speak with family members has not always been easy.  My parents were not keen to talk about it - though they did make appropriate (for the most part) arrangements for their demise.  They certainly were not happy talking with me about it.

I was a nurse, so have faced death on more than one occasion, and luckily have not had to face the death of a spouse or child.  People do think I am weird when I saw that I am comfortable being at the death of someone.  In fact, I have always regarded it as an honour, I suspect similar to being at a birth.  One is the beginning of a life and the other is at the end.

I have made plans for my own demise, but speaking with my family members is not met with much "enthusiasm" for discussion, but I soldier on.

There are always challenges, though.  I do find it difficult sometimes to write to someone when a death has occurred, and I was pleased to find this post on Hub Pages.  Click here.

It is an excellent article and I am sure I will be referring to it from time to time.

I do go to "Death Cafe" events - and do like the idea of writing obituaries too.

Tuesday, March 29

Lantern Festival at Yuyao

I had not been to Yuyao previously, but was taken there in February 2016, by my friends who wanted to attend the Yuyao Lantern Festival.  And so it was, that one night we set off from Cixi to attend.  It was very crowded - getting a park was a challenge, but eventually we parked on a garden.  Then we set off to walk.

I only had my mobile phone with me - as I had not taken my Olympus camera.  The "lanterns" were not what I had expected.  However, it was a great collection of "lanterns" - at night a very colourful display.

There were several areas of these colourful displays, but it was so crowded, that our stay was very short, before we headed back to Cixi.

(I recall visiting a Lantern Festival in Shaoxing in 2008, which was in some ways similar to this one.  However, I do recall that around 9 pm hundreds of people set off their own paper lanterns, with small candles inside to help them rise high into the sky.  I asked my friends about this practice, and was told that it proved a fire risk - something that we had thought about way back in 2008 - and they don't do it any more.)

Wednesday, March 23

My Photos

I never go anywhere without a camera.  I have several.  A little point and shoot Samsung lives permanently in my handbag, and of course, I have my mobile phone, though I don't usually like to use it.  I feel I have more power with my other cameras.

I love my Canon, but hate that it is so big and heavy, so I don't like to take it if I am flying anywhere.  It will go on my car travels, but these days I like to take my Olympus EM-10.  

So, when I travelled to China recently, it was the Olympus that was my travel companion.  I am putting together a PowerPoint presentation of some of my best photos, and the story of my two visits, but I wanted to add some to the collection of photos on my wall.  I had 13 framed photos, a couple of which I would like to replace.  I'm a little bored with them and have other good ones to replace them.

I usually go to Officeworks to print them.  Usually easy.  I went a couple of days ago to the Caboolture store, and sat before a machine, as one does, to organise the printing of the chosen photos. I started the machine, inserted my USB stick as requested, chose my photos and it went through the routine of offering me things I didn't want, and I got to the end, and it said it was processing my order.  I thought it was odd that it didn't ask for my name and phone number but.....

It didn't print out the little slip of paper that one takes to the counter either, so I lined up t the counter to find out what was wrong. Now, I had spent some 5 - 10 minutes at the machine, in good view of those behind the counter.   When I got my chance to speak with a staff member, she flips "Oh, that machine isn't working.  It is supposed to have a sign on it".  She pointed me to another machine, so I started the process all over again.
This time, it did ask for my name, and printed out the slip of paper, (oddly enough about $1.50 cheaper than the other machine quoted), and they were printed out for me in quick time.
As I left, I noticed a couple working on the machine that had failed me before.  No one had bothered to (a) put up the sign, or (b) let them know it was not working.  Pretty rude really.
Anyway, I did get my photos.  Two are now hanging on my wall.
(Ooops, one has just fallen, so I need to put it back with more sticky tape!)

Photo One

Photo 2

I stayed with a family in Shaoxing and on my second day at their home,  they took me to lunch at a family member's home on the outskirts of the city.
As we drove along, I realised that I was familiar with the area.  I was quite adventurous in China and had a couple of bikes.  One was an "ordinary" bike, which I pedalled around, and the second one was an electric bike, and I was able to go further - with my camera in the basket.

I rode along the roads stopping frequently, and photo 1 is one that I took on this trip, of a road that I had travelled a few years earlier, but from a different direction.  This time I was in the old village that ran along the side of the road I had previously travelled.  It was quite an emotional visit.

Later in the day, the families went to a historic area just outside Shaoxing, where there was a reservoir - which is in photo 2.
I like reflections - and have quite a collection from my China expeditions.

Sunday, March 20

Milk in China

I first went to China in 2008 - February, (first semester) and enjoyed the experience so much that I returned for the second semester and it was in the July of that year that news of the scandalous milk contamination broke.

It seems that some unscrupulous Chinese businessmen worked out that if they added melamine (plastic) powder to milk powder their profits would increase.  They may have done for a short period, but eventually the damage to many babies was identified.  6 babies died and 54,000 were hospitalised and some 300,000 were affected. There is information here about it.

It was quite a horrifying story.  From that day on, I didn't drink milk in China (until 2016).  I often cooked porridge (often oats from Australia) in my microwave oven, and instead of adding milk, I added honey.  A habit that contiues to this day.  While I don't often have porridge, I did this morning, with my usual honey. Capilano Honey to be precise.

The coffee I drank was Nescafe packet coffee - I trusted Nescafe to put "real milk" in the little capsules which had coffee, milk and sugar in them.  It was the way I trusted to drink coffee in China.

As one can imagine it caused a lot of problems.  To this day, some nearly 8 years later, the Chinese people do not trust Chinese milk.  

I remember at the time that in 2008 there were few milk products in the supermarket shelves.  There was little cheese, I don't recall seeing any/much yoghurt and I didn't buy it if it was there, and we all longed for an Aussie supermarket.  We could travel a little further to the Carrefour supermarket near the Shaoxing railway station (the latter is now a foot massage place!) and as Carrefour is a major French supermarket chain, we could access more European foods including a wider variety of cheese etc.

In recent years we have read about the problems that Australian mothers are experiencing as Chinese buy up the baby milk products here - leaving our shelves empty for the local mothers.  There have been rules put in place to safeguard our supplies here, but still baby milk products end up in China.  I think the supply issue is diminished somewhat at this point.

When my Chinese friends came back to Australia with me, they bought an empty suitcase.  In fact it would have been empty but for the wedding gift I had to bring back to Australia - a huge fluffy rug, which fitted in the suitcase well.  She had bought the suitcase to fill with items to take back to China.  This included baby milk supplies.
As well, there was a raft of vitamins and minerals on her list too.

And so it was that I was at Chemist Warehouse with the young lady on two occasions (the suitcase still had room for more after the first shopping expedition).

It was a hilarious adventure, as I, assisted my a young staff member, tried to find all that was on the shopping list.  There were strange things I had never heard of.  There are restrictions on the milk products - no more than 3 of any one product can be bought at a time, but one can go back the next day and buy 3 more, which we did.

And so it was that a suitcase full of baby milk products and an assortment of other products was taken back to China.  I was amused that the young lady bought quite a few bottles of Liver Detox for her uncles who have drinking problems.

Saturday, March 19

Ancient Towns

I am often very emotional and overwhelmed when I visit "ancient" villages and towns in China.  In fact I choke up with anything older than about 220 years - you see, Australia only has a short 220 years of European history.  I have seen some historical sites of the Australian Aboriginals too - and I also get emotional with them as well.  But it is the very old places that get to me.  Like the Minghe Ancient town near Cixi, which I visited in February 2016.

We went at night - and it clearly is popular at that time, but I would love to have seen it during daylight hours too.

In the photo below two men with huge "hammers" take turns hammering a mixture of sugar, water and peanuts into a flat mass which is cut into little rectangles.  Quite tasty too.

The Village was all lit up, and the lights reflected in the canals that ran through the town.

Sadly I didn't get my wish to return.

Later during my stay, a young man and his father took me to Ningbo.  I had been to Ningbo several times previously but not to this ancient town.

It is called Cicheng, and despite the fact that it is not really an ancient town, as all of the buildings have been created in recent times, around 2012,  it is very interesting.  There is one building that is built over a pathway/road, as much to preserve the road as it is probably the only genuine part of the ancient town.

However, the history and stories are well documented, and very well displayed.

My Tour Guide, Edward


There were great displays in every building - lots of colour and quality garments.

There are many old towns in China, and it is impressive to see the way government entities encourage and support these great tourist attractions, and it is amazing to see how many people visit them.

You can read about the other Ningbo ancient towns here.

One could spend many months exploring the amazing Chinese history.  I love the old buildings, the narrow lanes, and the fact that in some of the ancient towns, people actually live there.  Mainly older folk though, but they seem to have a great community to take care of their fabulous history.

Tuesday, March 15

Clever Chinese

As my readers are aware, I have been to China on several occasions and taught English at a university.  I have been chastised by some folk in Australia, as they appear to have a strange idea of what life in China is like.  I understand that there are issues with having all/most of our manufacturing is done in China, I understand that there is concern about the purchasing by Chinese conglomerations and people of property and businesses in Australia, especially as they understand that we cannot purchase property in China (although recently a small change has been made to that regulation in Beijing).

 There are so many negatives pointed out to me - and I tend to laugh.  If they haven't been to China or seen what I have, they can have an opinion, but based on what I see in China, I often consider their information to be wrong.  I do know of course that China is such a huge country that there is a wide variety of things that differ from one area to another.

I often refer to my "love/hate" attitude to China and have written about it on this blog.  I love Chinese people, for the most part, I love the way they preserve much of their history and that they have such a huge history. I see them as amazingly clever - you only have to research the discoveries made by Chinese over the years.  I could go on and on. 

I hate the way they pollute their amazing country, I dislike the corruption that is often quite evident there, I hate the way they discard their rubbish with little apparent plan how to deal with so much rubbish from such a huge population.    Again, I could go on and on, about things that offend me, (spitting, lack of courtesy as I know it).  Oh, my.

Recently I have learned a few things that have impressed me.

Personal hygiene - well, I don't know a lot about the Chinese way, but I do know they think we Aussies are weird having a shower every day.  I find it weird how they use their plastic bowls.  One for washing the face and one for washing feet.  They do wash themselves every day, but with far less water than we use in our long showers. They have a shower every week.  There's a lot written about how showering/bathing every day is not good for the skin.  In a country that has a shortage of water perhaps there are several reasons to use less water and have less showers.

Roads - I am so impressed with roads in China.  Of course, with such a huge population they have to have quality road systems.  The apartment where I stayed was right beside a ten lane highway.  
There were three main lanes in each direction, and on both sides two lanes of what we could call a service road, and there was walking paths at least on one side of the road.  One thing that also impressed was that from within the apartment I hardly heard any traffic noise, which is surprising considering how often Chinese drivers use their car horns!

Rivers - I was amazed when I saw how big rivers were in China. How wide they were!  Have they always been that wide?  I suspect perhaps not.  I know that thousands of years ago, Yu The Great, supposedly tamed the rivers and reduced the flooding  You can read some of the story here.  It is something that I would like to study further, and perhaps get some Australian governments to look at the way the Chinese do it, so that we can tame the flooding here, and help save a lot of water from going back to the sea, and perhaps making it more useful for our farmers.

There is also an impressive list of inventions by Chinese over the years.  Read here for more info.  And they are still inventing things. 

I am hoping to share in Australia, the invention of how to open the Australian native Macadamia Nut, easily.

Very clever people, the Chinese.

Monday, March 14

Marching and Radetsky

I am not having a good day today. Well, it hasn't been all that bad, but I did feel better when I watched the video below.  I love marching - love watching it and love the music, and shhh if you don't tell anyone I will admit that I put military music on high and march back and forth along my long passageway.  Good exercise?

I love the high stepping marching.  How hard is it to do for any length of time.  I guess I am not fit enough!!

Why not good?  I set off this morning early to "assist" for half an our at the local JP service (Justice of the Peace )- where these qualified people volunteer to witness documents at the local shopping centre. 

I was neat and clean and ready to go on to my shopping expedition when I spilled my coffee down my front.  So back home to change. 

Then off to the shops, and in Target I set about finding some clothes.  I have promised myself some new clothes for winter.  It must be coming soon.  Easter is in a few weeks and our weather usually changes almost overnight.  I know we are theoretically in autumn, but with temperatures around the 38 degree mark, you'd hardly know it.

I put three items in the trolley and then set out to buy a coffee making machine.   When I got to the department with all the kitchen machinery, I was a bit overwhelmed.  But there was a guy, filling shelves and I asked him a question about the coffee making machines.  Turns out that he was the manager for the day, and as he was from another story I suspect that he was keeping out of all the action.  He was very helpful.  I lied and said I was a secret shopper to a girl who was nearby, and meeting her was a blessing as she was doing a promotion for the coffee machine company and offered my some guidance and free coffee.  How good is that?  Not only one to drink, but two packets of "pods" to take home!!

Then the manager helped me with the "gorilla"  - you have to make them laugh sometimes, as they often look very serious.  He had a sense of humour and we had a laugh.  Luckily he knew I was joking, and found the George Foreman Grill.  

I was on a roll - and headed for the checkout only to discover that despite my great shopping for the day, when I was hoping to gain great points with my loyalty card, I can't find it.  All those points lost????  I hope not.  I spent a fortune.  Phone them the girl said, but I have to wait until 8 am on Monday to do that.

So, I am back at home.  I couldn't get the coffee machine to work, but I am after, 2 hours, siping on the brew that came out of the Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine I bought.  Apparently it is a De Longhi Gusto - whatever..... as long as it works. 

I enjoyed watching the video which I shared above. And maybe I will eventually get used to quality coffee.

Thursday, March 10

From Little Things Big Things Grow

I guess sometimes I can be called a "cranky old person".  I confess I can get angry at some things - that seem to be minor issues with others.

I believe that children need to learn the "rules" of living, as they apply to them.  That doesn't sound right.  Let me explain.

I am one that does not like to break any rules.  I am one that also believes that if children are allowed to "break laws" when they are young and get no "consequences" from their actions, they tend to believe that it is ok to break any laws.  So, if it is a law that everyone wears helmets when riding a bicycle, and that their parents do not insist they wear a helmet when riding, they think the laws are rubbish.  If no police/government officer stops and explains the law, or even punishes them in some way, and they get away with their bad behaviour, I think these people are likely to be future law breakers of more serious laws.  They tend to feel confident that they will not be punished.

I know there is any issue with enough law enforcers - and being enough to at least chastise those who break the law.  I remember being on the Gold Coast last year when young people were ignoring the RED (Do NOT WALK) lights at a pedestrian crossing and walked right across, in front of up to 7 police officers who were chatting to each other.  Mmm.

Around here, Beachmere, children and adults are often seen riding without helmets.  And no one seems to bother.  Parents clearly are not enforcing the safely rule with their children!

There are notices on trains that passengers are not allowed to put their feet on seats.  I travelled on a train earlier this week and was surprised how many young people ignore the law.  It was also a quiet train, and a woman boarded the train with two children.  The woman was an angry piece of work and shouted abuse at her children.  The younger one certainly was causing some problems for her.  But the abuse she shouted in the "Quiet Carriage" was astounding.  How could a mother use that foul language to a small child!!!

I don't know what future these two children have with such a grub as a mother, who clearly had no concern about the other passengers, and kept shouting at the child.  

Makes me shudder.

Monday, March 7

Clean Up Australia

I don't recall how many years I have participated in this event. When I am in the country I get involved, though I suspect that in 2012 (study) and 2013 (travelling around Australia) I didn't.  However, in 2013, I did clean up heaps of rubbish along the highway south of Geraldton, so I feel that I did "my bit" that year.

The last few years I have done so at Beachmere, and the last two years I have been the site co ordinator too.  This year we arranged for 3 more groups - doing other parts of Beachmere.

I wish I could start the program in China.  Clean Up China!!!  What a challenge.  I wrote about some of the problems in China here.

Today I tidied my car.  I still have to remove the Clean Up extra bags etc. from the boot of my car, but the interior is much tidier than it was yesterday.  I was looking under the drivers seat for my lens cap, which I know fell there, and guess what I found.  Two empty discarded bottles of Pepsi Max.  

I confess to getting a little angry about the bottles, as they were left there by the groom.  He and the bride stayed with me for 4 nights and I took them on great tours around the area.  I gave them water bottles each day, and I remember that I chided them about leaving them in my car each day.  Tossed on the floor.  Just like they throw rubbish around in China. Each day I had to remind them.  Like children!!

One day I saw water coming from the bathroom - seeping, creeping along the floor.  I have tiled floors and they get very slipper when wet.  I grabbed the mop and rushed in to find the bathroom floor covered with water.  I mopped and squeezed the water into a bucket, as I asked what had happened.

"I washed my hair." replied the bride.  I have no idea how she did it or how she could just walk out of the bathroom leaving it in the condition she did!  As I was mopping, I noticed the handbasin. Around it was a weird collection of rubbish - empty packets, tissues, etc.  I politely (which was hard to do as I was getting a bit cranky by then) asked the bride to take the rubbish out to the bin. Then I saw the rolled up piles of towels I had given them. Wet/damp, but just rolled up in a pile on the floor.  I, politely as I could, requested that if they needed washing to give them to me, or if not to hang them on the towel rail.  They ended up on the towel rail.  These are no "kids" I was dealing with.  Both were over 30 years of age!!!

Adults just dropping their stuff in my house and in my car.  I can get cranky.  Do they think I have to clean up after them all the time. At no time while staying in China did I expect anyone to do such things for me!

OK, rant over.

Here I was yesterday as the Volunteers brought in their bags of rubbish that folk just throw away.  Snack and fast food packs, papers, cans, bottles, and a myriad of other stuff.  It does make me cross that people think it is ok to just drop their stuff for others to pick up.  

Tuesday, March 1

Pollution in China

I could write so much about this.  We all know that it is a major problem in that vast country.  Having just returned from China, I can make some comments on the situation. There are many aspects of pollution in that country which do not appear to be addressed by the various governments.  My Chinese friends comment on the problems in their country and also talk about what can be done.  Essentially my friends don't have any idea what can be done - because the Chinese people do not want to make any changes.

For this article, I will comment on Air Pollution and Rubbish Management in particular.

The guy who married my friend came to Australia for the first time.  He didn't want to leave.  He kept saying that Australia was so clean.  The roads, the parks - anywhere we went there was little or no rubbish. Even I was impressed!  One night I took my visitors down a quiet street, turned the car lights off and asked them to get out of the car and look up.   Mr. J held his arms up to the sky and walked around as if in a trance. It was the first time in his 32 years that he had seen stars.  It nearly made me cry.  He was so excited!

Not only is the sky full of pollution over there but the lighting from all the streets and buildings make it difficult to see the stars, even if there is a rare clear night.

It was Spring Festival/Lunar New Year/Year of the Monkey celebrations and fireworks were set off regularly.  I recall as the plane approached Hangzhou Airport on my arrival I could see below, the "puff" of light from the hundreds of fireworks being set off in celebration.  The fireworks and the accompanying smoke started at 4 am and would continue until 10 pm - almost every day.

At this time of year, it is also wedding season, and as I learned, fireworks are set off around ten times for the wedding ceremony. Not only is the sky filled with smoke from the fireworks, but the litter from the fireworks is scattered around the ground.  When walking I saw many cardboard discs - and initially, I was curious as to what they were, but later learned that it was all from the fireworks.  Large boxes, all filled with fireworks are used and must have about 12 rockets or similar in them, and each of these 12 leave the disc in the vicinity.

The fireworks are set off usually by a group of men - most smoking cigarettes.  Oh, the cigarettes.  And the smoke I have had to endure!

It appears that most men are addicted to cigarettes.  Need I say more?  What is it doing to the environment?  And their lungs and the lungs of those who are around them?

On many of the events, I attended, men smoked at the meal table, and the host would go around and generously give the men another packet of cigarettes.  They were offered to me too - but I refused of course.

Rubbish is a big issue.  There is so much and it is everywhere. While many of the main roads have people cleaning up all day, and the roads generally do look clean, but look in the bushes, look in the side street, the look around housing.  It is everywhere.  My friends shrug their shoulders and see it as hopeless as the Chinese do not like making changes.

Rubbish in waterway in Shaoxing
The rubbish in waterways is horrific.  Huge pieces of plastic and other items - plenty of food and other wrappings.  

Around homes, rubbish is everywhere.  It is dropped anywhere, any time.  
Rubbish in a waterway near a residential complex.

I stayed in a huge accommodation complex. The rooms were reasonably modern, and with great mod cons.  On the ground floor (the buildings were 32 stories high) rubbish was left.  I might add that the public areas of the complex were awful.  Peeling paints, damage everywhere, the elevator which worked well was dirty with holes in the floor etc.  Maintenance appears to be an issue.

My friends laugh about how I got my bearings.  My entry point was between the "abandoned lounge suite and the broken window". Which is MY points as it was not easy to find differences.   The rubbish on the ground around the "back" of the building was amazing.  It had clearly been there for some time.  I did plan to take a photo, but in some ways glad I didn't.  The piles of rubbish included furniture, broken windows (frames included) old toilets, cardboard, builders' rubbish and so on.  The piles would be around 4 feet high, and six to 10 feet wide.  Some buildings were not so bad, others were worse.  Also, near the gate was an old truck - clearly abandoned some time ago.  Months at least, maybe a year or so.  Clearly deteriorating and just sitting rotting.

In the village - rubbish piles up and spills out onto the paths - which cars drive through and people walk in.  Makes me sick.  And my Chinese friends would point to it and say "smelly" or something similar.

My friends tell me that no one wants to change.  

So along with the many factories that spill out continuous smoke, the power stations billowing smoke, the fireworks and fires, cigarettes, and piles of rubbish they have a long way to go to make China clean.