Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We’re Snow-birding

Like any sane bird, we are flying away from the cold. When the north turns wet and gray it’s time to change venues to the south, where it’s supposed to be dry and sunny. We have “flown” away in an effort to find dry and sunny. So far it’s iffy. The drive down here was dry and gray. I hope we’ll find sunshine. In the meantime, we’re in the RV, our 3rd house, and that’s always fun. The RV is our freedom machine! And we are now escaping the cold winter of north with the warmer winter of the south.

As you can see there are blossoms blooming and there is a bit of spring in the air.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Early Spring

In Northern CA we get 2 Spring seasons. The Early Spring is just ending. The almond trees are in bloom and a few flowers are testing the air. I even have a dozen daffodils brave enough to show their pretty heads. Because we've had a lot of rain, the fields are green. This part of the state is looking pretty right now.

A set of storms is predicted for the next several days and the flowers will fade. ... then in about a month we'll have Spring at the normal time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chinese New Year

It's the Year of the Tiger. According to Wikipedia, Tiger People are "Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. Can be cold, restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, ruthless, selfish, aggressive, unpredictable, moody." 

The Chinese Zodiac has 12 signs, much like the Western Zodiac...but the Chinese Zodiac is based on a solar calendar. So instead of monthly horoscopes with names like Gemini or Taurus, there is a yearly horoscope with names like Rabbit and Boar..and this is the Year of the Tiger. For folks who are experts in both Zodiacs, please forgive my oversimplification.

Recently, we were treated to several Chinese New Year Celebrations from Hong Kong to Singapore to Vietnam and Japan. The streets in Singapore's China Town were decked out with beautiful cherry blossoms which were quite impressive. We tried to figure out how they got all those trees to blossom at exactly the same time...and upon careful inspection, we discovered that all the blooms were silk.

At Harbour City in Hong Kong we were treated to these Tiger Babies, perhaps the cutest display of all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

More Pix

I've been remiss at putting together a gallery of selected pictures, but I have put up the PowerPoint presentation that I gave on the ship. If you are interested in more pictures from Bangkok to Shanghai, click here. I hope to have a Gallery of selected pictures soon as the jet-lag is gone. It's been bad this time around. Both of us are still groggy and living in some sort of limbo time zone.

As a hand holder, here are 2 pictures of pretty bugs. For some reason, I like to take pictures of pretty bugs. The bee above was captured at the Chaing Kai-Shek Memorial at Taipei. The jeweled spider below, was taken at the Orchid Gardens in Singapore. The spider had a 2 inch or more leg span. It's pretty, but something I don't like to encounter in my day to day life!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Random Pictures from the Last Month

This is the warning you get when you enter Singapore...
they are not lenient when it comes to drugs.

The Opera House and the Merlion, in Singapore
Fish splashing in the Chao Prahya River in Bangkok
A Rubber Plantation in Ko Samui, Thailand
The ships outside of Singapore
The Honor Guard at the National Memorial in Taiwan
The Chaing Kai-Shek Memorial in Taipei

Hong Kong at Night
Traditional Fishing Boat in Vietnam
Meeting Nan and her Family in Narita
Meeting Alan in Shanghai

Jet Lag

I’m not sure, but I think it’s a disease…especially if you divide the word  into syllables: dis-ease. We are not at ease! Both of us are suffering from a good case of jet lag. Getting up at normal hours is difficult. Going to bed at normal hours is difficult. We have no idea what time our bodies are on, but we do know they are not on “local time.” Come to think of it…what is local time? (I won’t go there.)

There’s a ton of stuff to do and it’s getting done one small step at a time. I finally put the suitcases away this morning, 2 days after arriving home. The laundry is in the laundry room—it’s started, but who knows when we’ll have the energy to finish it. Like I say, jet lag is a dis-ease!

So while the rest of the world is rooting for either the Colts or the Saints in the SuperBowl, we’re rooting for staying awake long enough to see the game. If we are awake to see the end of it, we’ll be lucky!

Jet lag is one of the prices of travel. It’s not going to stop me from traveling; I just need to be more aware to put a few days of “down time” in my schedule after returning from such a long trip. To that end I have a 9:30 appointment tomorrow. I will make it! I will! I will!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In Japan for 3 hours

The cruise has ended. We are now in the Red Carpet Lounge at Narita Airport. Next stop is San Francisco where we will land 3 hours after we departed. It gets confusing when you cross the dateline!

This lounge is primo! Lots of room, comfy chairs, free wifi, food, and quiet, relaxing surroundings. (Denver, take heed...this is the way RCLs are supposed to be!) I'm grading a few papers for my class and then I think I'll try to take a nap before we cross the Pacific. As I look around the lounge, there's a sea of computers in front of me...makes me wonder how folks travel without a computer?

My sister said to be ready for cold. When we left Bangkok at 6:35 this morning, it was already 75 degrees. It looks like it will be rainy and 50 in San Francisco.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Last Stop

Today we are stopped at KoSamui, Thailand. The Thai word Ko means “island” so we are off the coast of Thailand. We were here about 3 weeks ago and we rode an elephant. (The picture is from Hue, Vietnam, from the TuDuc Palace--it just seemed appropriate to add it here, since we are not riding the elephants today). Instead we are doing something far more mundane…the laundry. Yes, the laundry needs to get done too. We disembark tomorrow and it’s easier to pack clean clothes. Our next task is to pack. We’ve been in our cabin for a month, so we need to see where we’ve hidden stuff in the tiny nooks and crannies. We’ll say fond yet sad good-byes to our cabin steward, Octavio, and our two waiters, Larry and Romeo. Then we’ll have to get back to the real world where we make our own beds, cook our own food, and deal with the world. 

In the meantime, the trip has been excellent. After talking to friends onboard, we discovered a website that has the official “country list” for those of us who like to count countries. I thought we had been to 72 countries, but we’ve been to 82. The other DrC was excited by that information as my goal is to visit 100 countries and he thinks he only has 18 more to go. Should I tell him that 100 is the beginning?

Pagoda outside of Hue
Onboard life has included trivia. Our little group has been testing our wits with questions such as “Where are the Rainbow Islands?” and “How many countries do the Andes touch?” for the past 16 days. Some of the answers are slam-dunks, but when we were asked “How did ‘Robert, The Bruce’ die?” we had to think “who Robert, the Bruce was” before we tried to think about how the poor man died. We are not good trivia players, but we have won a few games. Trivia is a “serious” pursuit for some folks…they write the answers to each question, buy trivia books, go to trivia websites and “study” during the off hours. The winning team gets a prize like a Princess cap or a Princess passport cover, nothing big. But my goodness, are those prizes coveted. I need to remember it’s only a game, and a not very important one to boot. After all, it’s called “trivia.”

Incense for sale in Vietnam
Not many folks take the opportunity to sail on back to back cruises that go to the same locations. We’ve done it once before (to Hawaii) and it was ok…this one has been better because we’ve had more time between ports. The first leg was to learn the ports, the second one has been to enjoy the ports. It’s been good.

Some of the images I will never forget include the crazy driving in Vietnam! The traffic in HoChiMinh City is worse than Cairo or Lima and those are world class traffic jams. Riding an elephant in KoSamui was great fun. Meeting Alan in Shanghai and Nan and her family in Narita were wonderful. Seeing rice paddies where water buffalo are pulling plows and men are wading in knee deep mud changing the dikes; so different from the rice fields I see in California.

Talking to an old boat builder in DaNang about the length of time a woven bamboo boat lasts with or without a fiberglass coating (yes…he has the capability to line the bottom of his boats with a fiberglass mat). We saw a rubber tree plantation where rubber was being tapped. We also saw how silk is made starting with 3 day old worms to cocoons to thread to cloth.

We saw the famous “Merlion” (the symbol) of Singapore. Then there is the matter of electrifying all of these old towns and cities. The electrical grid is catch as catch can and a complete mess. The clash between old and new is evident with teenagers using cell phones and texting their friends on the back of a motor-scooter while their grandparents are riding oxcarts. I even saw a wedding procession in Hue, Vietnam, where the groom was texting on his iPhone before he walked down the aisle. I’m sure there is more, but I’ll end with the sight, sounds and smells of a Buddhist temple on a prayer day! The cacophony and the incense are over the top.

It’s been an amazing journey. It’s now time to close the suitcases and head for home.