Tag Archives: street scenes

Day 41-42: The GF Line

Chinese Opera Museum, Foshan

Among the hidden treasures in Foshan where we are staying in China, is the Chinese Opera Museum. I was coming to Guangzhou to do some research on Chinese opera, so I was delighted to find an entire complex devoted to my research! Below are only a few of the highlights that I poured over.

On an evening walk to dinner, we found another treasure. A huge temple complex was on the other side of our development.

Zumiao Temple, Foshan (1796)

Outside, the temple was teeming with retirees playing cards, mahjong and go under the lush green trees that provide shade and shelter for the day’s activities. A large stone turtle with a snake on its back was accompanied by a host of live turtles stacked back to back on the wooden dock of the pond.

The GF Line stands for Guangzhou-Foshan, one of the new mass transit extensions within the massive Guangzhou Pearl River Delta. Guangzhou is now a city of 13 million. Including Foshan to the west and Zhongshan to the South, Guangzhou is one of the largest conurbations on the planet.

Ling Nan Tian Di District

We are staying in Ling Nan Tian Di, a brand new development in Foshan. Our good friend, professional musician and Chinese opera performer Sherlyn Chew invited us to stay at her apartment in this burgeoning new area. Foshan is known for its Shiwan pottery, but the new development is as sophisticated as Xin Tian Di in Shanghai. High rise residential development, office towers, and a major shopping district are combined into a lively mixed use development.

Here’s a gallery of the renovated traditional village development for tourists:

The Tian Di district in Foshan is developed by Shui On, a single, large Hong Kong developer. In comparison, the San Kai village development in Zhongshan (shown in previous post) is a much more small scale, ad-hoc enterprise. Renovations are left up to each business owner-developer. The area feels more like an artsy live-work district with cafes and bars like what you would find in Oakland or Berlin’s industrial districts.

Food

Below, a somewhat repeat-performance of the dishes from Zhongshan (by choice): Steamed crystal prawns, shaved bitter melon with pork slices and gingko nuts, and roasted goose. The bowed tofu strips topped the braised pork belly underneath. I love the delicate Cantonese style of flavors, that are clean and unadulterated. If it is too salty,  it isn’t true Cantonese cooking.

Day 26-28: It’s a Wrap!

In opera lingo, it’s a wrap! After a month, my German class came to a close this week. The intermediate level class was populated by a variety of students from France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Estonia, Mexico, Ukraine, Russia, and Argentina. There was only one other lonely student from the U.S., which suited me fine. I used probably more German this time as my vocabulary has improved.

In comparison to prior Goethe Institut classes in Dusseldorf, Berlin, Schwäbisch Hall, and Dresden, this class was better focused and productive. And Munich was a well endowed city, ready to accept newcomers and newly acquired German language speakers. It was fantastisch!

Hubby Gee Kin arrived on Thursday to help me complete my tour of Munich over the weekend. A festival carnival at the Marienkirche entertained us with local charm and what families would enjoy on a summer weekend.

 

A first and foremost visit to the Nationalistische Sozialismus Museum gave us an overall history of Munich since WWI and the setting that led to the rise and fall of the Nazi Party. We gained perspective on Munich and its complex history from the excellent audio tapes at each display.

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We had just enough time to meet our guide, Dr. Christoph Engels, who helped us to visualize the power of Hitler‘s propaganda. We ended up at the Haus fur Kunst, where Hitler promoted his knowledge of art and culture.

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I couldn’t resist another trip to the Isar River where the surfers mesmerized us with their talents. Everyone was taking advantage of the summer heat and made the time to dip their feet into the cool fast flowing waters of the river.

Here was a brave young woman attempting  the surf:

The next day, we visited the Schwabing and Maxvorstadt district, visited the Vctuals Market,and attended a performance of harp and flute in the Residenz.

We are on our way to Budapest by car with friends Miki and Alberto, so stay tuned for our next adventure.

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Day 9-10: You Are Faust

Being in Germany every year gives me a deeper understanding of one of Germany’s beloved authors, Goethe. I wrote about him in 2014 during our trip to Weimar, where Goethe and Schiller both lived. This exhibition in Munich gave me another opportunity to explore the work of this Romantic writer, biologist, philosopher and philanthropist.

“Du Bist Faust”, or “You are Faust” is a multi-media collection of paintings, artifacts and operatic stage sets at the Kunsthalle. An excellent guided tour inspired most of us to explore, learn and read and more about Goethe.

Goethe introduced Mephistopheles (Mephisto) as a devil who cuts a deal with Faust. The first volume attempted to define pure love and beauty. Faust was set to die when he found the perfection of love. Other artists portrayed the idealized woman drawn from the Goethe’s story. In the painting of the couple below, they are determining that awkward moment in life with the daisy and “…he loves me…he loves me not…”

The next area in the exhibition dealt with the “Fallen Maiden” or the realization that love is flawed and broken. The heroine gets pregnant out of wedlock, her mother dies from the potion she was given during her daughter’s fling, and the baby dies. Tragedies strike from all sides. The male who drank the Viagra-induced love potion and messed up in the first place now has to pay for everything big-time with his guilt.

The second volume of Faust was alot more philosophical and difficult for the average, non-German reader. The exhibition chose to focus instead on the operatic versions of Faust. I was delighted to see a section of the New York Metopera stage set for the opera with music by Gounod. A cool hologram of one of the actresses who performed Faust stood at our side and gave us a quick introduction to her role. Goethe’s dramatic ability was yet another dimension of his many-faceted career.

The point of the exhibition was to challenge you to the moral dilemmas that Goethe tried to address. If you could make a deal with the devil, what would you do?!?

If you want to read my previous post about Goethe, you can read it here:

https://travelswithmyselfandothers.com/2014/08/12/day-22-goetting-goethe/

Now that the World Cup fever has ended, I chose to reorganize my life and capture a few quiet moments in nearby Rosenheimer Platz.

Day 1: Folk and Opera Festivals, München and World Cup 2018

Munich turned out in flying colors for the launch of my World Trip 2018! I’m here for a month to study German, and then travel with hubby and friends at the end of the month before heading to Asia in August.

A quick subway ride two stops from where I am staying brought me to the city’s center. Nearby Marienhof provided locals and tourists with musical accompaniment for Germany’s national pride and specialties—beer and a donor kebab.

The main attraction was a Greek Cultural Day, featuring a dance group:

There was literally “Dancing in the Streets” among the crowds:

A more staid but dedicated group around the corner at Maximilianplatz in front of the National Theater waited patiently for the five-hour free, outdoor live screen production of Wagner’s last opera, Parsifal:

This opera, about the search for the Holy Grail,  featured top international opera stars Jonas Kaufmann as Parsifal, Nina Stemme (from recent NY Metopera Tristan and Isolde); Rene Pape (also from Wagnerian opera fame and many others); and Wolfgang Koch (from Bayreuth fame). You will be hearing more about these stars when I see my second Ring cycle later this month in Munich. This was a great introduction to the operatic skills of these artists in what was touted as the “Opera of the Century” for its blindingly glitzy star lineup.

News Flash: for those interested, you can see the full 5 hour opera live stream for 24 hours from 12:00 pm Monday 7/9 til 12:00 pm Tuesday 7/10 (Munich time, less 9 hours) at:

http://www.operlive.de

Despite my excitement in making it here for this major public event, my jet lag started to take effect by the early evening.  I returned home to slog through the rest of the opera by live stream.

At the airport earlier, the quarter final soccer game was televised at the United Lounge. Croatia won in a shootout after a nail-biter with Russia. A Bosnian woman and I became instant friends by watching together. She lived in New Mexico and was flying to meet her family in Frankfurt. I am officially a World Cup soccer fan now after binging this year on nearly every game that was aired on Fox TV.  Here’s one of the exciting moments when Croatia succeeded during one of their kicks:

Hopefully you have become World Cup soccer fans by now too. You only have to invest your time once very four years, so it’s a very efficient and effective form of addiction. Long-time friends Larry and Corene, who were visiting the Bay Area earlier this week, are also avid World Cup soccer fans. I was impressed that Larry could name all the star players and knew the back stories to the coaches in the various leagues.

A few screen shots capture the emotional roller coaster for fans and players, and the elation at the bitter end:

Austin, State Capitol of Texas

Originally part of Mexico and known as “Tejas”, Texas had a colorful and complicated history. A fourth-grader on my hour-long tour of the state capitol could answer nearly every question posed by the guide about Texas perfectly.

Texas was part of Spain, France and Mexico. The territories were disputed for some time, then Texas broke free and was its own republic for a short time. In 1845, it became a state. (That’s only six years before California, so the US was busy building statehoods!) There was a temporary lapse of judgment when Texas joined the Confederate States.

The State Capitol was not too different from ours in Sacramento, but it did feel like Austin was a much more accessible city in which to conduct state business. The color of the building comes from the red granite quarried nearby. The Senate and Assembly chambers and architectural elements were more impressive compared with California’s, perhaps due to the state’s size and slightly longer history.

Obviously there are many more details on the colorful history of Texas beyond the student’s recollection and the perspective offered by the official guide. You can read more about the history of the state of Texas here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas

The LBJ Library was just a short ride on the bus from the center of town, where the University of Texas is located.

I discovered that LBJ’s goals, while lofty and lengthy, were noble and reassuring (see video below). His achievements for education, civil rights, health care, the environment, and space exploration were also promoted.

I was impressed with how important civil rights meant to the library. It not only devoted a large amount of space to immigrants and their contribution to the country, but also showed a “Know Your Rights” T-shirt from Colin Kaepernick as an expression of civil rights championed by LBJ.

Despite his big disaster in Vietnam, LBJ was just one man, who had alot of dreams to be fulfilled or crushed. In the end, he knew he couldn’t win anymore and decided not to seek reelection. He felt that he had cajoled and asked favors from every Senator and Representative in Congress, and he could no longer squeeze another favor from anyone.

All of LBJ’s papers, photographs of all the presidents and their wives who preceded him and Lady Bird, copies of his oval office and the First Lady’s, and displays documenting his life were housed in a monumental Seventies-style modernist, travertine-clad building.

I didn’t expect to like this president’s history, but the presentation was very informative regardless of one’s opinions about his policies. In addition to the more well-known JFK Library in Boston, MA, there are many other presidential libraries throughout the country including one underway for Obama. Interestingly, Texas has the most: one in Dallas, one in College Station, and the LBJ Library here. You can find the others here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidential_library

To wrap up our 48 hours in Austin, we couldn’t resist one more permanent “pop-up” that specializes in Tex-Mex BBQ, along with dessert at a “real” restaurant:

And a loving look at the trendy So-Co neighborhood where we stayed. New houses amidst existing and converted cottages are still (compared to San Francisco) affordable, friendly, and intimate, with easy walking access to shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars:

Reminder: Watch for my posts from Munich Germany during the month of July–coming up!

48 Hours Deep in the Heart of Texas

I never imagined coming to Austin, Texas, but so far it has been refreshingly inspirational. Whiffs of religious fervor permeate the air. A Peace, Love, & God concrete block chapel lies around the corner from us. There are plenty of cutesy cool/hot bars, ice cream takeouts, and even a made-to-order Texas boot outlet down the street.

Pastry chef & daughter Melissa invited me to join her here for a couple of days. I learned alot about Texas in 48 hours. Texas fought and won over Mexico, after Spain had a shot at owning it. It was once its own Republic, became part of the U.S., and even was a Confederate state.

Texas is so vast that no one within ever contemplates traveling across it. We thought our flight was just a hop across borders like going to Idaho or Colorado, only to discover that we landed literally halfway across the country!

Food was on our minds as soon as we touched the tarmac. Thankfully we had eaten a scantilly clad salad for lunch, only to blast our bellies with an array of Tex-Mex BBQ at dinner.

Valentina’s roadway smokers are considered among the best in the country for smoked meat and we found out why. I seldom indulge words on food, but this one deserves mention. See the huge beef brisket “sandwich” (where does the bread go when you hold it up to eat it?!?). The meat was the moistest, most succulent reward that carnivores could ever want to hunt and kill animals for.

The taco version got rid of the skimpy bun-to-meat ratio but nevertheless left the slow-cooked juices and barbeque sauce dripping down bare arms to elbows (no sleeves needed in this part of the country–it’s too hot!) After seeking and finding a second paradise in the ribs, we didn’t even finish the spicy sausages that would make currywurst in Germany look pathetic. We decided to wrap and take them home (self-service foil on tap) for breakfast. Wow. My prayers were answered.

The permanent pop-up “restaurant” has all the facilities one needs for deluxe dining (see captions).

A walk up Congress Avenue after dinner earned us a few digestive stars and a sighting of bats–millions of em. Everyone waits for dusk to strike (first video below), when the bats take off from their dorms under the bridge (second video below) and get their version of exercise in the evening sky (third video). Whoa. A bit too creepy for my wimpy soul, especially since we are staying in a signature accommodation called the “Bathouse”.

Last but not least, here are a few musings of music and food along the strip. You can finish off the sticky arms from the BBQ with instant melt ice cream before jumping into the shower for a tasty rinse.

 

24 Hours in Chicago

With occasion to be with a friend in the Chicago area, I dedicated one day to an urban walk on my own. I set a five-mile goal from my hotel through Lincoln Park, that could easily be accomplished over flat terrain.

I started off by studying the hotel map, then stripping off all the adds around the border to a basic 6×8″ image of the streets. My origami skills taught me how to develop this minimalist map. And yes, I find this low-tech method sometimes useful in lieu of fumbling for my Iphone, getting wifi access, and googling the destination. It depends on the circumstances and where the answer to the question is the most reliable.

Beginning from the south end of Lincoln Park, I first headed north through the park past the zoo and Botanical Garden. I smiled as I recognized Schiller and Shakespeare in the Park. I searched for Schiller’s pal Goethe, but he was no where in my line of vision to be found. I noted that the streets named after these venerable German writers show that they are appreciated in this part of the country. (Maybe the admired Midwest American work ethic and unpretentiousness come from the German heritage too?)

It didn’t take long to reach the conservatory near the north end, but only after I stopped to stare at the trees above me for quite some time. I heard some unfamiliar squawking above me, and then a flustered crow flew away. It was being chased by other similar sized, but different birds. I noticed a flock of nests above, housing a colony of fluffy white and grey-topped birds. They were protecting their young from the crow’s home invasion.

I discovered soon after my arrival at the Nature Museum that these birds are black Night Herons, and they are on the endangered species list. My discovery of the birds in the trees peaked my interest and curiosity. Timing for the teachable moment was perfect, so I immediately soaked up the wealth of information about birds in the museum. Like me, these birds like living in the city.

Jared Diamond, one of my favorite authors, studied the Birds of Paradise in New Guinea. These birds were featured in another display at the museum. They developed fancy plumes over millions of years to attract females. Here’s a cute, short, minute-long  cartoon clip explaining how the females were the determinants in the evolutionary process (You can turn the volume off and just read the subtitles to avoid background noise from the gallery):

The display of birds of paradise kept me spellbound. Here are a few explanations and examples:

And there was a mechanical version that demonstrated how the plumes are spread:

The flowers in the Botanical Garden were not quite as impressive as the ones I had just seen in San Diego a week ago, but they were in full bloom and nevertheless a feast for the eyes.
A quick bus ride took me back to the south end where the Chicago History Museum is located. I could barely get out of there alive, after getting mesmerized by the numerous exhibits that not only told the story about Chicago, but about America. I started to appreciate the uniquely good Midwestern values, creativity and ideals that advanced and developed our country. And a pinch of German forthrightness and earnestness didn’t hurt.

The many phases of Chicago history were represented, but for me I had to stop and study the Pritzker family tree. (Pritzker developed the Hyatt Hotels).  I traced the lineage of the Chicago merchant, real estate mogul, and philanthropist and identified a few Bay Area illuminaries. Can you find them?

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Next I learned about the Great Chicago fire of 1871, that killed 300 people and left 100,000 homeless at the edge of Lake Michigan in this stirring panorama:

The Native American Checagoans, the Stockyard and the Stock Exchange, the Railroad, the Automobile, and American Innovation and Creativity were informative and fascinating sections of the museum. Here are a couple of the text panels that include the Chicago Fire of 1871:

An elegant function space showcased stain glassed masterpieces that included those by Tiffany and Frank Lloyd Wright. And a room for Lincoln was beautifully decorated in period style. (see below).

I would be remiss if I didn’t include a few of the immensely beautiful, elegant modernist buildings that speak for Chicago:

Even the low rise ones are good. What distinguishes these from those in American cities like New York and San Francisco? As an architect, I find the classic proportions, clean lines and simplicity of intent so soothing to the eye. The high quality of craftsmanship, appreciation of detail in material, and RESTRAINT all add up. Coming to Chicago is like Mecca to an architect. Buildings are meant to be seen from all sides (thanks to alot of land and $$$) and we have the luxury of time and space to ponder each building’s magnificent presence.

And for those dying to know, I managed to eat some delicious, unadulterated, well-prepared food at Quartino, an Italian classic with an extensive, full page 1/4, half, and full bottle wine selection; and Tanta, a Peruvian ceviche bar (attached photo of tombo/quinoa/avocado salad, Pisco bloody Mary, and essential plantain chips, shown below.) Perfect for a Saturday brunch before heading to the airport!
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A Persian Perspective

You have been a captive audience. My reports on a short but intense nine-day visit to Iran may have solely influenced your thoughts and perceptions about present-day Iran, through my personal lens. To give you another perspective, and thus a 100% increase in view, here are various impressions in a guest post from Gee Kin (related travel partner):

My Iranian Visit, Four Takeaways

It’s OK to Go on the Go

This should not have been surprising. Both Zoroastrianism and Islam place a heavy emphasis on personal hygiene. In Iran, you benefit from the influence of both. Happily, in contrast to many other countries, public restrooms are not hazardous waste dumps.

Traffic Calming

You can walk out in front of a bus and live to write about the experience. At first glance, the traffic appears chaotic, with cars weaving around each other and jaywalking pedestrians. But after a while you realize it is chaos with rules and etiquette.  More importantly, the chaos is infused with concern for each other. This nurturing care is an Iranian quality we witnessed in many other settings. Everyone violates normal traffic codes, but no-one blames or hurts anyone. No honking, no road rage, no self-righteous indignation. Everyone participates in a harmonious dance of missing each other by inches. I was initially terrified to cross the roads. I quickly became comfortable walking out into oncoming traffic confident that drivers would not hit me. Not something I would try in the US, China, or anywhere else!

Cash in the Hand is Cash in the Hand

It’s not foolish to carry a large amount of cash in your wallet. Due to economic sanctions, foreign tourists cannot use traveler’s checks or plastic. Everything must be paid in cash. Every tourist is a cash cow, so to speak. I imagined herds of tourists with bulls-eyes on their backs and thieves waiting to pounce. In actuality, you are less likely to be a victim of theft or assault in Iran than in most other parts of the world. There was no obvious police presence in the streets. With assurances from our guide and other Iranians, we quickly became comfortable in the streets, even in predominantly male crowds.

Healthy Living

Stay calm, it’s good for healthThe sanctions and a drought that has lasted more than ten years have caused tremendous hardship for most Iranians. For the most part everyone is staying calm. Life centers on social gatherings with friends and family at each other’s homes.

There is less visible anger and stress than in the US. Iranians speak softer than Americans. You don’t have to shout in restaurants. Even their emergency vehicles weave through traffic silently! No sirens blaring –just flashing lights. Our hotel room in Tehran looked out on to a freeway, yet we could sleep soundly with the window open.

Victoria and I were jolted back to reality as soon as we arrived at JFK airport. We followed a sign directing us to where we needed to go at Immigration, and then an official was shouting at us from across the hall. He came running over, flapping his arms over his head, and turned the sign 180 degrees and told us we were in a prohibited area! Welcome to America.

BONUS VIDEO

Here’s an outtake of one of our favorite moments. It was taken late at night, around 10pm, outside one of the shops in Yasd. It sums up our experience in Iran.

Where We Haven’t Been

Our itinerary, in case you missed it on the map and on the World Travels 2018 page of https://travelswithmyselfandothers.com, started in Tehran, then south to Shiraz. We are plying our way north to Yasd, Isfahan, and back to Tehran.

Apparently the hottest place on earth is in Iran. Fortunately, it wasn’t on the menu. We got the details from our guide as he drove us from Yasd to Isfahan. A year ago, he took a couple of people out to see sand towers that appear like high rises. He reported to the police before entering the desert and notified them that he and a tourist couple were entering the zone. If you go missing after an hour, they come to get you.

They each brought a bottle of water to drink. On arrival he began to feel faint and told the travelers that he had to leave right away. He found out afterwards that you need to drink water every few minutes in order to stay hydrated. Food shrivels once it hits high temperatures of 76 degrees C. (equivalent to 167 degrees!!)

Driving through in the car reduces some of the effect until you get out. Abdullah had the AC on but the wife insisted on having full effect of windows open. He tried not to think what would happen if his car broke down as he seldom saw anyone on the road returning.

The second time, he accompanied two male travelers who wanted to get their thrills as extreme sportsmen. Once they got in, they encountered a sandstorm, that can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Fortunately, they were on the edge of it and after it blew past they were able to see what they wanted. They tried dripping water on the stones to watch how fast the water would be sucked dry. Others were frying eggs.

He has returned the second time to be ready to escort any of you for his third foray to a place that’s hot (literally) on the adventure trail. Sorry that this is only a second-hand story, but if you are interested in more, you can go to https://www.livescience.com/19700-hottest-place-earth.html for another great story about the Lut Desert in Iran.

Speaking of water and lack thereof, here’s a picture of the water bottle we recently purchased. Being a Muslim country, Iran does not allow liquor to be drunk or sold. This plastic bottle is shaped like a flask of liquor, or even worse, it makes me think of some toxic lighter fluid or cleaning alcohol. Its shape can’t be understood, but it seems to make sense for grasping (or gasping) purposes. Maybe drinking from cases of these will be part of the desert ritual as the Rime of the Ancient Mariner searches for those precious drops.

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Only 2 days left of blissful travel in a clean country with exceptionally kind and handsome people with a deep sense of their history and humanity.

Here’s a bonus video of delightful young, uninhibited girls playing in the evening. They capture the spirit of a safe and secure life. This was taken in a shopping area around 10pm at night. I feel far safer here than any country I have ever visited.

(This post was created on April 18, 2018 and edited April 22,2018.

Drawing Marathon

Last week’s challenge to draw 100 people in five days was exhausting but satisfying! It took a bit of planning, but I managed to stalk strangers at the following locations:

1. City College of San Francisco students;
2. UCSF Osher Mini-Medical School evening class;
3. Hollow Cafe on Irving Street, San Francisco with fellow artists Karen and Lorna (in sketches), and Farley’s Cafe on Potrero Hill, San Francisco
4. Sunset Library, Adult and Juvenile Divisions
5. BART late-nite transit passengers and SFO International Airport

100 People 1 Week Drawing Challenge

Budding sketch artists will tell you that stationary models are the best for sketching purposes. Subjects who move around are at free will to ruin your intentions! The worst were those at the airport, who were already crazed and erratic in behavior. The ones in classes were probably the easiest to draw. If you haven’t ever tried it, give it a shot! It keeps you focused and out of trouble.

In order to learn more about developing sketching techniques, I joined the San Francisco Sketchers. There are normally two to three meet-ups a week. The last three included drawing during the preparations for the Chinese New Year Parade, the Annual History Day at the U.S. Mint in San Francisco, and a portrait party.

Last week’s portrait party hosted by author Julia Kay required us to draw each other in small groups of 4-6 sketchers. We started with a 30 second blind gesture using our non-dominant hand, then with the dominant hand. Portrait sketches, as the one you see in the header, were 10-minute sketches. Totally fun, especially getting to see other interpretations of you, as well as of others in the group.

I will continue to draw, especially during future trips. It gives you an entirely different memory experience and way of looking at things.

By the way, take a look at my newly posted world trip 2018 page (on the menu at the top) for details of my upcoming travels!