Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thursday November 13 Last Day in Macau

First of all, I want to thank all of you who have taken time to read my posts and follow this trip. It has definately been an experience I will keep in my heart for ever.

The past two days I have been trying not only to finish up my work at the Center, but also take in the "Must sees" of Macau. Yesterday morning another teacher and I went to the lighthouse on the top of the mountain. We rode the gondola to the top and walked all around the lighthouse and park. It was very cool, and what a magnificent view of Macau!!! Macau is really not very big, but because it is built in circles, you need to know where you are going or you may end up walking a long ways out of your way. From the lighthouse, we could see how close together many of the places really are that seem like they are quite a hike apart. We hiked down, which was more challenging than I thought it would be. We came out right next to my little park where I read the paper in the morning. It was fun to come upon some place where I was 100% familiar and could tell the other teacher exactly which way we needed to go to get to the center without looking at the city map.

In the late afternoon I went by myself by bus down to Macau tower. The observation deck is on the 57th floor, and many of you know I am not big on heights. I got a cup of coffee and determined that I would stay and look at least as long as my coffee lasted. I never braved the outside rim of the observation deck (even though it was enclosed) and when the officer asked if I wanted to go the 61st floor to the outside deck and bungie jump I said, "Noooooo, I don't think so. Does the elevator go down?" Across the street from the Macau Tower there is a food festival going on, so I went over and walked around and finally decided on some food from India. I had a Mango thing and some Indian bread that had pork and rice and curry in it. It was extremely good!

Today I hauled my big suitcase to the Center so that I wouldn't have to bring everything at one time tomorrow, I have 5 flights of stairs to go down if I go out the back door at my apartment, and even though it is neavier now than when I came, I managed to wrestle it to the ground floor, get it up the hill, down the ramp and down the steps to the street. When I got near the center I remembered that I had to cross a very busy street which can only be crossed by taking an escalator 3 flights up, walking across a bridge, and stairs down. I did it!! I am very glad that I am in good health. It lugging that suitcase down all those steps didn't kill me, I am probably in pretty good shape!

I met my friend Sunny at 10:00 this morning at the bus stop and we went to Coloane. That is the first island of Macau. I had planned to go there two weeks ago on a Monday but it rained. It was just as well because going with Sunny was great fun. She was able to tell me what lots of things meant, and I explained to her what a garage sale is. We had a wonderful time. We went to the Ama statue which is really a tourist attraction. It was built in 1998. It is quite impressive as statues go. Sunny is a Christian and she said there are few Chinese who actually see Ama as a goddess these days, but more as a person of cultural significance. Then we went to the South China sea to the beach. We ate lunch at a famous Portugese restaurant called Fernandos which was excellent. We walked on the beach but it didn't look like water I wanted to take a swim in. Sunny said it is pretty polluted. Then it was time for me to come back to the center and for Sunny to get ready for work. I don't know what I will do tonight, but it will be something Macau-ish.

Check out the Macau Grand Prix on Google. It is going on right now. Can you hear the engines? It is louder than the dragstrip ever could be.

I will be leaving for Hong Kong tomorrow and then getting on a plane for Chicago. I leave Hong Kong at 11:40 a.m. and get to Chicago at 11:48. Quick trip, huh? Norma said I would get to live those 14 hours over, and I said that was fine because i would be home.

Signing off.....I will be in touch when I get home.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday November 11

Ahhhh....I missed my friend Hoke's birthday. That's the first time in many years. Happy Birthday my dear friend. Remember the year we had the bet that the city of Moline wouldn't finish that area by Whitey's on 23rd by your birthday? Were we young then?

I am getting ready to come home. Tomorrow one of the other teachers and I will go to the lighthouse, one of the local sites. I haven't had a lot of time to sightsee, so tomorrow and Thursday I will see a few things.

We had Bible study tonight. It is now 10:00 and I am tired abnd ready to go home. I will see you all soon.


Monday, November 10, 2008

MOnday November 10 Back from the Mainland

It seems like it's been a week since I have been at a computer. One must be very careful in Mainland about what is posted so to prevent any of my collegues from having to worry about anything, I didn't use their computers. I can't adequately describe what this past weekend was like. The city I visited is 5 million people, and I believe they were concentrated in about a 12 city block square. Not really, but it was very very crowded. During rush hour on Michigan Ave in Chicago is nothing like this city. The English Center and Church are on a "downtown" street where there are tons of shops. The merchants hire teenagers to stand on short stools in the doorways of the shops and clap and yell "Come in, come in and buy". Of course it is in Chinese and they use a special sort of squawky voice and yell this over very loud music. All of the shops have their own, so it is a cacophony of noise. In the side street are street vendors selling clothing, and randomly scattered are vendors of raisins, nuts, currents, etc. whose goods are in a wooden crate attached to a bicycle. It is all very different from anything I have ever experienced. When you go down a different street, you find the vendors of fresh goods, called the wet market. There you find rabbits and side pieces of pork, fresh vegetables and fruits, medicines, tea, and almost anything else you can mention. There are people selling live chickens from a crate on the front of a bicycle. On another street there are vendors selling candy, paper products, ice cream or whatever. The scooters and motorcycles were much bigger and faster than Macau, and there were so many. In Macau there are very definate cross walks. But here there were none, and one just took a chance to cross the street.

The English Center and the church were wonderful. So many students hungry for the word and for English. The church service on Sunday was about 2 hours, all in Chinese. There were about 350 in Church. There are almost no Westerners there. I can't say the city name because of the restrictions on the people there, and I don't want to jeporadize their visas. I am not exagerating about that. The young people on the street say "Hello, welcome to China", and will come up and ask if you will speak English with them. The older people stare. One student who is a reporter for the newspaper was so excited about our election. He came to class with an English newspaper all about Obama, with 3 US flags, and wanted to talk about the election. After the Bible class we had "free talk" time for about 1/2 hour or 45 minutes, and students could ask about anything or talk about anything. Some stayed, most left after the lesson, and those who stayed asked spiritual questions, and it was an amazing experience. One student wanted to know how I can tell when something is God's will. There's a loaded question. I answered the best I could and I think he was satisfied with my answer.

On Saturday, 6 of the English Center staff and I went for a massage together. It was an hour long, and we had our shoulders and neck, feet and legs massaged. It was really amazing as well. I had gotten a very stiff neck from the bed on Friday night. The matteresses there are as hard as a board, and that is not an exageration at all. All of the toilets in China are called "Squatty Potties" and are exactly as you would envision. We found the same thing in Russia. I asked why and the reason was obvious....they take much less material to build and have fewer parts to be repaired. And if that is waht you grow up using, you are perfectly comfortable with them. In Macau my bed is more comfortable, and we have Western toilets. However, even with the more open society and freedom of religion in Macau, there is not the same sort of enthusiasm for the church as I experienced this weekend. I used my flip video to record some of the singing (thank you again John Deere staff) and I want to share it with you. Even though you can't understand the words, you will understnad the feeling. When the congregation sang "What a Friend we Have in Jesus", I had tears in my eyes.

This morning I came back to Macau. And you will not believe it but I got my hair cut. I think Steven Andrews came back to life and moved to Macau, because I asked the stylist to cut about 4 inches and it is about to my ears. Steven always cut twice as much as I asked, too. But here you also get a 30 minute head and neck massage with a shampoo. A shampoo is about 4 US dollars, haircut and shampoo: 8 US dollars. It feels great, and it will grow back.

Today it is finally not so hot. It has been in the upper 80's lower 90's since I got here. The rest of the week will go fast. I have some projects to finish up this week and on Friday I head to Hong Kong where I will stay in one of the churches' guest house (I think Baptist) and on Saturday I will take a tour called "The Land Between". Sunday the 16th I come home. I am ready to come home, but I know I have more work to do here first.

It is great to hear from you in your comments.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thursday November 6, 2008

It seems impossible that this trip is half over already. I will not be able to post anything over the weekend however because I am taking that jaunt to Mainland China. I need to pick up my Visa today. When the office manager and I were walking to the Consulate the other day, I caught my right foot in a construction dip, and went sailing. I fell particularly hard on my left knee, and scraped it up pretty good. So I am hobbling around a little. I just hope it doesn't heal completely before I get home because I don't want to miss out on the sympathy I expect to get, particularly from Bill :) When I came to Macau, my two toes on my right foot were still healing from being burned when I spilled boiling water on them. It's good to pick up a new injury now that my toes are all healed. Keeps me feeling normal.

The newspapers here today all full of Obama's win. Had I brought Obama buttons, I could have sold them for a pretty penny. I am amazed at how enthusiastic the people in Macau are about our election. Having been involved during the 60's and 70's for the civil rights movement, I feel particularly proud when I read comments by Roger Wilkins and other civil rights leaders from that time. I also feel particularly proud of my generation, those "hippies", who truely did change the face of the United States. It was our generation, the generation of Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement who said emphatically "no more Jim Crow". We now have the responsibility of passing on that legacy. I have told students here how when I was in high school in Waterloo, Iowa in 1966 there were no students of color in my high school, although the city was 25% non white, and how when we compare that to today, our students at John Deere couldn't even imagine schools being segregated. We are on the right path. I do so wish that two of my heroes, Jackie Robinson and Edgar Mevers would have lived to see this day.

Yesterday one of our students brought lunch to me. It was Curry chicken and rice. Yum. I want to know why, with all of the steps I climg and hills I trudge up, that I amnot a size 3 by now. I guess it has to do with the Curry and rice, huh?

Thank you for reading my posts. This is quite the adventure.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wednesday November 5

Hello all
I had a hard time dragging myself away from the tv this morning to come into the center. We get the CBS news live and I was having a great time watching the election returns come in. We've been watching the updates on line, too and by now it looks pretty certain that the US will have its very first black president. I am proud of that fact. The coverage in Asia, particulary China, has been that for the United Statese to elect a black president is proof that anyone in America can achieve a dream. The students here are also excited about it, and although they don't know a lot about Democrat Vs Republican, they have been following the campaign closely. I have been surprised at the amount of interest there is among regular folks in Macau and China.

Part of my jobis to spend from 12 - 2:00 at lunch with the students. Today we tried to explain the song"Time in a bottle" and the restaurant "Thyme in a bottle" to one of the advanced English students. It was a lot of fun to see the light bulb come on when we finally made it clear. One of the Chinese teachers who teaches Cantonese to Mandarin speakers, and takes English classes came in wanting to know what chicken stock was. He knew about soup, but didn't know the term stock. He is actually quite fluent. I know that at Deere there were many times when I assumed students knew the meaning of a word because it seemed common to me, but they had no clue. Always something to learn, I guess.

We had about 30 people at Bible class last night, and we had Chinese watermelon as a snack afterward. It was so good. We should learn how to grow them in the US.

It is always good to l hear from home. If you want to post a comment, just click on where the number of comments is given. That will take you to the comment page.

My time here is half over already. I will be ready to come home in another 10 days.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Tuesday morning

It is election day in the US! Or at least it will be when you sleepyheads get up. I saw the CBS evening news from last night this morning. I am anxious to see the tallies in the morning.

Monday is a day off at the center. I came in a did a little work, but mostly I spent the day walking around Macau. I went back to some of the places where we had shopped on Sunday. In the afternoon one of the teachers from the center in mainland China came to Macau to get her work VISA, and she spent the night with me in Mo Pa (the name of my apartment). She was in Macau for about a month during the summer and had become very familiar with the city. She and I went to the post office and then stopped at a couple of stores that I wasn't aware of. We also visited a very old Catholic Church which was beautiful and very peaceful.

Macau actually isn't in a very big area. It is built on a small mountain however, so all of the streets go around the mountain and to get from point A to point B one has to walk around the mountain. So you are always making a circle. There are lots and lots of steps throughout the city, where you climb up one side or the other. My apartment is located more toward the bottom of the moutain, and on the side of the hill. If I come in the back door, I save 3 flights of stairs, but I have to walk up a steep incline to get to the back door. Since it is closer to the bay it is in the old part of town where the street vendors sell fruit and flowers mostly and not clothing. I may have mentioned that the streets in the old part are very very narrow and there are tons of scooters. I have now had a chance to visit some of the newer parts of Macau where the apartment buildings have elevators. The streets are much wider, some 4 lane. And there are many more new stores. Yesterday I walked past Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, McDonald's and Starbucks.

When I walked back to Senado Square by myself yesterday, I know I walked twice as far as I needed to. When Bryn came and we walked back together, she showed me some shortcuts. By the time I leave here, I may know how to get around. LOL

Today I am applying for my Visa to go to Mainland China as well. I am hoping to go on Saturday morning. I have given up on going to Bejing. Too expensive, and I don't have enough time.

Phone books are arranged according to the number of strokes in the name. However, most everyone here uses cell phones these days. As in the US there are very few public phone booths anymore. I saw Superman the other day, and he was stressing out!!!! No place to change! I also wondered about computers. What I learned is that Chinese is typed one of two ways on a computer. Either the person uses a regular English keyboard and types the word phonetically
or uses a Chinese keyboard that has the radicals on it. The radicals are the main strokes When the person wants a particular character, he types in part of it, either phonetically or with radicals, and then choices of characters pop up and can be selected. If the person typing can type English, he can also type in the English text and use a translating program. But as with every translating program, it must be gone through very carefully to make sure it says what it is supposed to say. In any case, it is much easier to use a computer if you are using a language with an alphabet.

Well time to go to work. Hoke and Teresa.....are you out there? I miss you.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday evening Novenber 2, 2008

This has been a very interesting day. We had church this morning, and I caught parts of it on my Flip video (thank you John Deere staff). The service is done in English and Chinese. The sermon is translated into English by one of the members as it is given. The woman who translated is a student at the Center, and her English is quite good. She gets a copy of the sermon ahead of time, and the pastor stops every few minutes for her to translate. The litergy is done in Chinese, but the foreigners (that's what they call us) say it in English at the same time. Same with the hymns. They are sung in English and Chinese simultaniously. The hymn books and the Bibles are are in both English and Chinese: Chinese verses first, English verses below.

One thing I didn't know about the Chinese language is that although there are two different dialects, Mandarin and Cantonese, there is only one written language. So if the televsion, for example, is on there are always written Chinese subtitles. So both Mandarin and Cantonese speakers can watch the same program.

The church here is small, but the members are very dedicated. It is easier to be a Christian in Macau than it is in Mainland China. Macau has 50 years from 1999 to become a full member of the People's Republic, so they still have most of their own government.

A couple of the other teachers and I went shopping this afternoon. I see very little of the stuff they ship to Wal Mart. The clothes here are pretty much western style, and while you would expect to see lots of souvenier shops, there really aren't that many. There are a lot of street vendors, but they sell things that the locals need to buy. I expected to see more Europeans and more western tourists. The tourists that we see are from Mainland China and most of them are in the Casino areas. The casinos are everywhere here, and they are as big and glitzy as Las Vegas. The students I have talked to say what most people say when gambling comes to their area: It has brought about as many problems as it has solutions. The casino jobs pay better, so that's a good thing, but it has also changed the complexion of the city.

Tomorrow is the teachers' day off. I am planning to meet with the team leader and then go to
the beach. It is between 85 - 90 degrees every day here.

I appreciate your comments. It's good to know someone is reading this. :)