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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bringing My Mother to China

When you come to China to teach, you are allowed one bag and one carry-on by the airlines.  We paid a whopping sum to bring an additional suitcase each--because, well, gee whizz.  This isn't a vacation, right?  Packing those bags required taking out some good stuff at the very very end because we had exceeded our 50 pound limit--my boots, a jacket, books...But what the airlines neglected to tell us is that departed spirits could travel free and weightless in our luggage!  I didn't become aware of this until last Monday when I was sitting with a large smelly pig feed bag in my lap, cutting off the seams.   Let me back up.  During our stay in Cambodia in February, I took the cultural opportunity with two other BYU teachers, Sandy and Kathleen, to attend a 3 hour cement bag tutorial in a local craft shop.

Our instructors were two ridiculously cute and tiny Cambodian women.  We were barely into the project before one of them disappeared momentarily and then returned bearing large green coconuts almost as big as she was with straws stuck in the top.  So we alternately sucked coconut milk and cranked away on these pre-Columbian (well, almost) sewing machines.  The cement dust flew, the machines chugged, and the 2 foot long rusty scissors/thread snippers were passed around among the three of us.  The bags took shape, we sweated, and our miniature teachers patiently rethreaded the machines.  I need only insert one word here for the reader (who has also sewed) to fully grasp (and probably begin twitching) the true terror of these machines---T-E-N-S-I-O-N. .. Now that you are THERE with us, you would also have appreciated the spontaneous belly laughs from our instructors when I discovered my writing was upside down on the back of the bag, so I slapped a big old pocket on it.  They thought that was just hysterically hilarious.  Incidentally, these cement bags are $39 on etsy thank-you-very-much.  I'm so rarely cutting edge.

(Madd, you're losing them.  Keep it moving!)

Sooo, now you know why last Saturday as we were touring the ancient village of Xinchang, it was completely serendipitous that I would chance upon a pile of abandoned bags tucked away in a dirty corner which just SCREAMED to be recycled into bags!  AND THAT'S HOW I DISCOVERED THAT MY MOTHER, MARTHA TAGGART, HAD STOWED AWAY IN MY LUGGAGE AND HAD BEEN IN CHINA ALL ALONG!  Making bags out of recycled cement and pig feed bags would have been as natural as sneezing for her.  She was the reigning QUEEN (am I overdoing the caps?) of turning unlikely materials (clay pigeons, baby food jars, drapery samples etc.) into candle holders, vases, and bell bottom pants etc.  She reached her zenith when my grandmother's nylon Sunday dresses (polka dots, flowers, paisleys) ended up as unmentionables in my underwear drawer!  I tell you, the woman was gifted.  Can I blame her for the pig feed sack smelling up our little laundry room?  I think that's appropriate.  Perhaps that whistler through the stone wall who has been the background music of life here for 7 months is also channeling my father.  Just one question--who else hopped into our bags at the last moment?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Something Old, Something New

Paco and I met in Beijing 18 years ago this coming July.  It's a mildly interesting story--most people would not take me for a mail-order girlfriend, nor would they ever be "guilty" of conclusively accusing Jerry of doing anything the least bit frivolous.  Internet dating and romance (on first glance) is usually followed by the following:  scandalous, risky, shallow, and skanky.  Our story hopefully shares more optimism and class than those words conjure.  Next August we will return to Beijing to teach in China for yet another year.  I hope to find that gate in the airport where I emerged--knees knocking--and saw a brown-haired, horn-rimmed glassed gentleman holding a hastily scribbled name tag bearing my name.  Perhaps we can petition the Chinese officials to allow us to put a small brass plaque nearby--inconspicuous unless you're looking for it.  My brief experience with Chinese officials leads me to believe a plaque will never happen.  The best we can hope for is most likely a brief inconspicuous re-enactment.  A few astute Chinese may look on but mostly that little moment will be very private.
(Here we are taking a tri-pod selfie at Mutianyu on the Great Wall--December 31, 1997.  This became the picture for our wedding announcement.  We had the entire wall to ourselves.  If you come and visit, we'll take you there!)

Let's all put our stubby little dimple-fingered hands together for Calvin Taggart Giles born a week ago in Roseville, CA!!  As you can see, an adoring cast of three stands at the ready to deal an extra hand to him, share a pool floatie, and call him "Brother."  Happy happy happy times.  What a blessing are children.  The one child policy was initiated in China in 1979--the very year the father of these 4 was born.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hong Kong!

 We passed on the "Mushroom Wagyu Burger".  I'm pretty picky when it comes to my "wagyu"--whatever the heck that is...Looks like they were limited anyway.  Red pockets are used to gift money to Chinese children.  Large amounts capable of buying small cars in some cases, so I hear.

 A very pleasant 90 minute walk around Victoria Peak.  I got zapped by a flu bug in Hong Kong and wimped my way through 5 of the 7 days we were there, but I did drag my bones out of bed for a mighty romp above Hong Kong.  Disneyland will have to wait.  I wanted to get my money's worth there.

We were flying past this trying to catch a ferry, but I just had to stop and document the Hong Kong Apple Store genius bar line.  Iphone 6 was in its barely-just-home-from-the-hospital-keeping-everybody-up infancy stage.

 My new Canon that I bought in Hong Kong takes amazing low light shots!!

I guess you could call this "Fortune Row" because each little space houses an honest-to-goodness fortune teller!  Dozens of them!

Take this gal, for instance.  She's waiting patiently for a customer, browsing the web as she ponders perhaps  her next brush with prognostication profundity.  As I suspected, even the most exotic of jobs eventually become somewhat routine..

Just plain cool.


I counted 12 bags of Chinese takeout!  I hope he gets tipped!

Paco--doing his best Happy Buddha imitation!

 A special shout out to the Myers!  We discovered this Turkish cafe tucked away and dined there twice.  When the management wasn't looking, I squirted those bottles of sauce on the tables straight into my purse--oh my goodness--they were magnificent.

THIS guy!!  Let me tell you about THIS guy!!  He was writing these Chinese characters using nothing but salt or sugar dribbled from one hand!!!!!  I know!!!!!  I should have taken a front shot, but once again we were racing to catch a ferry.

As if we need a reminder that we're a long way from home...Happy New Year to All.

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley