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Bystanders to a Revolution–with photos

Finally, I’ve added photos to show our experience in Oaxaca of brave people seeking justice and opportunity. This piece is long, but much happened.  Aloha, Renée

"Where in the world are Barry and Renee?"

Updated 2/25/13)

Bystanders to a Revolution

You probably don’t know about the months of mainly peaceful protests starting in May 2006 against the Oaxacan government, the murder of N.Y. independent photojournalist Brad Will as he filmed Mexican government officials shooting at unarmed citizen protesters in Oaxaca, Mexico, or the torture and disappearance of countless Mexican citizens.  Mainstream U.S. media barely mentioned what began as another teachers’ strike in May 2006.  My family and I, however, were in Oaxaca, the beautiful colonial city and capital of the Mexican state of Oaxaca in the south of the country and saw what happened.

In August 2006 as my husband and I were about to leave for  Mexico, the U.S. State Department issued a warning against travel to Oaxaca, Mexico— home to 16 indigenous peoples where we’d arranged to live,  study Spanish, and learn about the culture.   With leaves from our jobs, a good…

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Questions about Shanghai: the Bund, SNU, Students, and More

We’ve gotten several questions about how Barry and I are doing in Shanghai.  So on the assumption that many of you are like quiet students and want to know too, here are the questions–and answers.

What are the temperatures? 

In February and now the beginning of March, the temperatures are in the 30’s and sometimes in the 40’s; it is also wet.  I do wonder sometimes what am I doing here — like Tuesday morning when I got up in the dark to catch the 7 am bus for my classes.  But the experience is fun and challenging.  We’ve read the best time to be in Shanghai is between March and May.  The trees are already budding.

Lots to do in a big city, I presume. Can you find movie theaters in English or at least Eng subtitles? 

A Shanghai Theater

Movie theaters do play many films in English, but Barry and I think they are too expensive when we can get Netflix  🙂 and stay home and be warm.  My students watch lots of movies in English.

 Do the students ever ask about Democracy or is that a no-no?

You would be shocked about how free the Chinese people are in most ways as far as we can see.  They are constrained by fierce competition of the billion more people here than in the U.S.   So far, we haven’t found a topic that we can’t talk about here.

What have you been doing?

The first weekend, we went to Lin’an to see everyone and to collect our long underwear, winter coats, and boots, which we needed desperately. It was wonderful to see everyone–many of my favorite students, the other teachers, including the new Israeli couple Ruth and Danny, who are in Barry’s and my old apartment and let us stay with them; they seem like old friends.

Great ZAFU students & friends

With more great students

Bill, the source of much of our information about the Chinese economy, & Barry: good friends

Danny, Ruth, me, & Barry in front of the ZAFU Library

At the East Lake tea house with Ruth. We sat in the sun and chatted with Ruth and Danny for a couple of hours: lovely.

From the tea house, we watched kids and their families

Lots of cute kids

A motorized boat flying the Chinese flag on East Lake

Some families flew colorful kites

We feel we are living in parallel universes: one on Maui, one in China, and one on the U.S. Mainland.  Oh yes, Oaxaca too . . .All have people we love.

Patrick, the birthday boy, Ruth, Danny, Mark, Diana, & Barry in our old apartment. Danny was our enthusiastic cook. Ruth made a tasty soup too.

What’s your apartment in Shanghai like?

Surprisingly, our apartment is quiet.  Although we’re in the middle of 21 million people, occasionally we hear birds chirping, classical music coming from the corner apartment that also has window plants growing even now in the winter, and sometimes  a neighbor  singing Chinese opera.

Barry melting into our living room couch

Our bedroom

A comfortable corner of our solarium

Do you have an office on campus?

My office is in this building, just inside the main gate of the Shanghai Normal University Xuhui campus

The hallways are painted trendy yellow and peach

My SNU office. I share the space with a Chinese American man, Don, who has returned to China

How long will you be staying in China this time?   

We’ll  here until May 13.  I will be teaching only nine weeks.  Then we will travel in China before flying out  to St. Louis where much of my family lives.

I hope that the 70 papers to be graded didn’t need to be graded before the next days classes. 

Although I’m grumbling about the 70 papers, I teach only two days a week, so getting the assignments back quickly won’t be a problem.  This week, I had the Thursday assignments marked and graded by Saturday, and I don’t meet the students again until Tuesday morning.  Being here is a wonderful opportunity.  It’s much less grading than I did at UHMC!

 I can only imagine that you and Barry are picking up some basic Chinese as well so that you can communicate in both your classroom and in your day-to-day interactions with the Chinese.

Thank you for having such great faith in our language abilities.  Although I went to Chinese classes for much of last year where we were to learn vocabulary, writing in pinyin and by the end of the year characters, reading, and speaking, I was always behind.  The other Mandarin learners, full-time students, were in class six-hours a day.  I was able to get to class six hours a week, and I didn’t study much.  My excuse was I was teaching.   This week in class, a new student spoke to me in Mandarin; I had no clue what he said.  So in my classes, the students must speak English.  Barry and I can say a few things,  but Ruth and Danny, the Israeli couple who are now at ZAFU,   have a tutor and focus on useful oral phrases.  They have been here only five months but can say things I can’t.  However another teacher, Becky has been going to the ZAFU Mandarin classes for two and a half years; she was always behind because of teaching, but struggled on and studied; she  can now read, write, and speak enough to travel in China on her own!  Although we would like to come back, Barry and I don’t plan on being here for long stretches (and I’m a bit lazy), but I would like to be functional.

Do many speak any English at all?

At ZAFU last year and SNU this year, all the students, not just the English majors,   needed to pass an English test to get in to the university.   Can you imagine if all our UHMC students had to pass a foreign language test to get in?  We would not have overcrowded classrooms nor a need for lecturers :).

What are the age groups of those you are teaching?

Students take important tests at the end of their high school years that determine which colleges and what majors they may pursue.  I’m teaching sophomores, so they are 19 & 20.  Last year, I had one man, Tom, who remembers as a child catching little fish that helped his family survive during the years of much want in China.  Tom is 65, teaches English, and audited one of my Oral English classes.  Every other student was between 19 and 21.

Have you discovered great things to do in Shanghai?

Look up <> for what to do and where to go here.   We know YoYo Ma and Divo are coming to Shanghai, but the cheapest tickets that Barry could find were $140 each, and we wouldn’t get to select our seats, just the area.  Do you think we can be volunteer ushers at the Shanghai Opera?  We may just have to wander through the parks and listen to the public music, which is a lovely option.

Jane and Barry at People's Park

Jane and I on Nanjing Road. Note my Michelin-man look from having on many, many layers.

From the Bund

Have you been going to the Old City? That’s my favorite place in Shanghai, that tea house on the crooked bridge. Dont’ know what it’s like there any more.

We were in the Old City in June, and we will be back.  It was crowded though, but next time, we will look for the tea-house on the crooked bridge.

 Have you been going down to Nanjing Road just to be a part of the human sea? 

We were there about four hours Saturday night with my ZAFU student, Jane, who is from Shanghai and doing a four-month internship here as part of her program.  We took the clean, efficient Metro that has signs in both Mandarin and English to met Jane in People’s Park, where some groups waltzed to stately music, some argued (perhaps politics or my students say they are talking about stocks!), and some lovers sat and kissed on isolated benches.  One older Chinese guy said in perfect English, “Haven’t I met you somewhere?” Then he laughed, “Just kidding.”  We floated with the stream of thousands it seemed from People’s Park down Nanjing Road to the Bund.  Vendors tried to get us to buy everything from Gucci bags and Rolex watches to glowing wheels that clamp on your shoes to make them into skates.  Almost everyone we saw was young and Chinese.  Many carried fancy bags of their latest purchases.  Even in their winter wear, we could see they were fashionable and had cool haircuts; everyone had a cell phone, probably an iPhone.  The shops and restaurants were packed–even the Apple Store.  Barry moaned about not buying Apple when the shares were $20 each, not the $500 +  for each share today!

Barry in front of the Nanjing Road Apple store

We’ve also wandered the French Concession, an area of European architecture  from the 1920’s and 30’s, and now a place of up-scale  shops, restaurants, and  night spots.

Designer shop in the French Concession. Notice in the window, even the dogs have on stylish outfits.

The streets of the French Concession have local vendors too. If the crowd around him is an indication, this guy selling cups and bowls must be offering good prices

Brands we know are here

At the Fuxing Park in the French Consession, we found

Guys enjoying the afternoon on park benches

Marx and Engles are here - but conspicuous consumption is now the focus

Where in Shanghai is your school? How far is it from the Bund?

The main campus of Shanghai Normal University is in SW Shanghai near the South Bus Station and the Shanghai South Train Station.   We can catch a bus or walk about 15 minutes to the Shanghai Metro Line 1 –red line—subway.  For a little more than a dollar round-trip, we are a quick seven stops from People’s Park.

How’s the air? Is it smoky with people trying to stay warm?

We’ve heard the pollution is terrible here, but so far, that is not our experience.  When we came to teach last year, we arrived in time for the 2010 Shanghai Expo.  The sky was a bright blue the four days we were here.  Then we came again in June, 2011; it was rainy, but our eyes didn’t hurt or our lungs burn in any way.  Now it is cold and often rainy, so the sky is gray and foggy more than polluted at least where we are.  Further outside Shanghai where the factories are is likely to be polluted.    As for the smoking, in fact  the restaurants now are no-smoking, and the people seem to be respecting the ban here although they weren’t when we left Lin’an last July.

What courses are you teaching?

I’m teaching two classes of English Writing for Tourism Management.  I have 35 students in each class,  and each class meets with me twice a week.  And for that, I get a round-trip ticket from the U.S., a nice furnished apartment with utilities, and a salary!  Besides, we get to be in one of the most vibrant cities in the world!

Do you live on campus?  What neighborhood is your apartment in?   Who is the owner?

We live about a 15 minute walk from the entrance of the main SNU campus on Guilin Road, in SW Shanghai.  We are in a six-floor flat on the ground floor.  We have a two bedroom, one bath nicely furnished apartment with a kitchen, and a solarium/laundry room.  We haven’t met the owner.

Why don’t you hang out with your students after class (like you did at Lin’an)?

The SNU freshmen and sophomores live and have classes at the new Fengxian campus.  It’s a 40-minute school bus ride from the in-town Xuhui campus.  Many Chinese universities now, we are told, have campuses outside the cities; there the land isn’t expensive and the new students are less distracted by all the night-life of the city.  In Lin’an, we lived in faculty housing right on campus, so we saw students whenever we walked out the door.  But for SNU after my Thursday afternoon/evening classes, I have 10 minutes to walk across campus to catch the last teacher’s bus of the night back to near our apartment.  However, I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to see those students who would like to meet with me.  Barry met with one student for three hours last Thursday!     We loved doing the movie night almost every Saturday last year for the ZAFU students who wanted to come.  We won’t be able to do that here, but we will find other things to do.

What is the level of most of your students?

Not that I’m an expert in ESL now, but the students here and in Lin’an have been studying English in school for 10 years or so.    They watch many movies in English and listen to English-speaking songs, T.V. shows,  play video games in English, and read books written in English.  They have writing problems similar to our English 22 or even English 100 students at UHMC: occasional irregular verb errors, faulty parallelism, much/many confusion—and not enough supporting detail!  Often I forget they are second language learners.  Someone may say, “I’ve been eating too many snakes lately,” and mean “snacks,” not “snakes.”  One of my students just wrote, “I feel really thermal” in describing how her mom knits her warm sweaters for the winter.  Students use British words: mum, brilliant, and maths, but those words are only “wrong” if you are American.   Especially since I’m so challenged by Mandarin, I’m really impressed by their competence.   I do include cultural concepts that I think could be useful for their business work or for their own lives.  For instance because I feel it isn’t fair that the Chinese males are now responsible for all the material wealth of the family, last week I told about how in the U.S. it is almost essential for a family to have two wage earners and how couples now need to be a team rather than just relying on the male.  The students listened politely, but I don’t think anyone changed his or her mind.

What materials are available to you?

Several times before I came, I asked what English Writing for Tourism Management should cover.  I knew the title of my courses, and Liping sent me an example of what she does for another Tourism Management course, but I’ve been able to design the class myself.  I assume that what would be useful for them would be a business writing class, so we are covering memos, electronic messages, bad news and persuasive letters, resume and cover letters for English speaking foreign companies, press releases, brochures, and focusing on cultural differences and how to minimize cultural misunderstanding.   Derek Snyder pointed me to two good business writing books on the share shelves in our UHMC office; they are helpful.   The Shanghai  interns at the Makena Resort gathered a few pieces of writing that I can use as examples too.  I hope the class will be useful for the students and improve their English writing skills too.

So we are doing well here.  We’re looking forward to getting to know the students and Shanghai better and enjoying spring and  travel in China.

What is Johnny doing?

Johnny and Barry at the airport

At the end of January, Johnny flew out with Captain Rob.  Johnny is now the crew on Captain Rob’s 45′ sailboat.  A couple of days ago, they were on Lola Island in the Solomon Islands, know as the site where JFK’s PT boat  was hit by a Japanese destroyer.  The islands   previously were also known for cannibalism.  Now the Solomons are known for beautiful coral reefs, great surfing, and friendly people.

Go to <>  to find out what they are doing.  John has long wanted to learn to sail, and he now has an incredible chance to learn with Rob.

Captain Rob and Johnny

Thanks to Sue, Joy, Kate, and San for the questions.  What  would you like to know?  Greetings from Barry.

Aloha and zaì jiàn, Renée

Flat Stanley is on Maui!

Flat Stanley - the book

Flat Stanley, according to the book, is a resourceful boy.  After a bulletin board hung over his bed falls and unfortunately flattens him, Stanley started traveling the world (since he can easily fit  in an envelop, which saves a lot on air fare).  He makes the best of his difficult situation.

My great-nephew, Bryce, who is in 4th grade, mailed Flat Stanley to me, and I have been showing him Maui.

Here is  Flat Stanley’s  report to Bryce and his class.

One of the first places Flat Stanley saw was Tasty Crust.

Locals on Maui love Tasty Crust especially for breakfast

Uncle Barry, Flat Stanley, and tasty pancakes

Not too far away from Tasty Crust is Iao Valley.  Locals go to Iao to swim in the cold water; tourists go to see the waterfalls and replica houses of  the many ethnic groups who live here on Maui: Hawaiian, Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and Western missionary.

Flat Stanley in one of the many huge banyan trees in Iao Valley

Flat Stanley with a stone lion in Iao Valley Heritage Park

Flat Stanley and cousin John: The Iao streams are not only great for cooling off on a hot day but also a source of clean water

Hiking is great on Maui.

At Iao Needle, hiking with John and Nalu.

John let Flat Stanley ride piggy back for the Iao Valley hike

Flat Stanley at the Iao Tablelands

Flat Stanley and a rainbow. We did get a little wet. It's a good thing that Bryce laminated Flat Stanley

Of course, you probably know that Maui is famous for its beaches.  Maui has been voted  “Best Island in the World” by Conte Nash Traveler  readers for 17 years, so of course, Flat Stanley wanted to see the Pacific Ocean.  Maui is about 3,000 miles from any continent, so there is a lot of ocean around it.  Look on a map to see how far Hawaii is from the rest of the U.S. mainland and from Asia too.


Do you see Maui? (map from The Lonely Planet)

Map from:   <;

Many people love to come to Maui especially in the winter. The sand is soft, the ocean warm. Many couples come for their honeymoons.

Justin, Jade, and a little friend blowing bubbles on the Kam III Maui beach

Of course, Flat Stanley wanted to see a Maui sunset.

Maui sunset

On another day, we rode upcountry (up the side of Haleakala, the volcano) and saw ranches and farms.

Flat Stanley on the pumpkin wagon at Kula Farms

Flat Stanley spotted a very creative mailbox.

Upcountry mailbox

Flat Stanley has come with us, of course,  to celebrate a few holidays.  As usual, for instance, we went to the beach for our Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

Thanksgiving at Kam III

Another day, we hiked the Maui Coastal Land Trust preserve.

The Maui Coastal Land Trust manager, Flat Stanley, Aunt Renée & good friend Pat

When we drove upcountry one Sunday to join our Quaker Friends in Eve’s Sacred Garden,  Flat Stanley came too.

Flowers, birds chirping, a bubbling stream: a peaceful setting for meditation. Flat Stanley with Buddha

Flat Stanley comes to gatherings with friends.

Good friend Denise at her birthday party

Although 90% of our food and energy are imported  from at least 3,000 miles away–so we really need to work on sustainability–we do have good locally grown fresh food.

Tasty greens from our garden--with a heart-shaped grilled potato slice. Flat Stanley doesn't eat much, but he knows to eat fruits and vegetables.

Because the temperatures are very moderate on Maui,  we feel it is winter when it rains–especially in Kihei where we live.

At sea level where we live, the temperature doesn't usually get below 60 degrees even in the winter.

Sometimes we can see even double rainbows--see the one forming on the right?

Since you go to a Catholic school, you might be interested in the churches here on Maui.    The missionaries had a big impact on the culture and religion of the Hawaiians.

Keanae Congregational Church--Built of lava rocks, this one was established in 1857

The church  was the only Keanae building to survive the devastating tsunami of April 1, 1946.

Another interesting church is the octagon-sided Holy Ghost Catholic Church upcountry in  Kula; it was built in 1875 by Portuguese immigrants who had come to work on the Maui sugar cane plantations.

Holy Ghost Catholic Church & cemetery

photo by,_Hawaii)

Stanley wanted to see more of Maui, so we drove to Hana with friends.  The road crosses 52 one-lane bridges through rain forests.  The area is one of the wettest places on Earth.

Shanghai interns Elaine, Jasmine, Stacey, & Yvonne with Flat Stanley near a roadside waterfall

Hana town

Many tourists rush to get to Hana, but as with life, it is the journey that is important.  We stopped to eat lunch and hike at Waikamoi Ridge, saw Keanae, took breaks to see waterfalls, and had a good time on our trip.  We stayed in cabins at Wainapanapa State Park.

Tom and Denise came and joined us

Although it rained a bit (we were in a rain forest), we got to hike, talk–and eat well.  John was our excellent cook  🙂

Yvonne, Elaine, Jasmine, Deanna, & John - getting ready to leave after our weekend at Wainapanapa

Flat Stanley, Barry, and I got to spend another night.   The next day we went to Hamoa Bay.

Flat Stanley and Uncle Barry checking out the waves at Hamoa

Playing on the beach at Hamoa

Playing in the waves at Hamoa

There’s windsurfing at Ho’okipa.

Doesn't this look fun?

Photo by

There’s much more to do on Maui.  Hiking in Haleakala, paddling outrigger canoe, watching whales, going zip-lining . . .  What do you like to do?   Come do it here on Maui.

Flat Stanley at a Maui pool

Come visit us.

Aloha, Flat Stanley and Aunt Renée

More of the Story: St. Louis, Chicago, Madison, Fountain City, Breckenridge, and Beyond–Traveling the U.S.

From August until the beginning of October last summer, Barry and I drove 7,000+ miles across the U.S.    If you’ve been reading this blog, you know much of what we did. However, I’ve left out important experiences.  Now you can know more of our story.

Our Mercury Grand Marque in the Badlands. Hanging in the back passenger window is the Chinese ornament made by Monica, a ZAFU student, to give us good luck.  It worked; we had a safe and wonderful journey.

We saw loved family members, wonderful friends, and beautiful places.

Our first stop was St. Louis to see family.  My sister, Trish, and her husband, Chuck, let Johnny, Barry, and me stay with them for over two weeks while we visited everyone and searched for a car.

Part of my wonderful family: Barry, Trish, me, Wendy, Paul, Johnny, Jennie, Piper Lynn, Elle, Bryce, and Cole

Great kids: Piper Lynn, Elle, Bryce, & Cole

The visit  included celebrating several birthdays.

Piper Lynn now has a double digit age: 10

Mark's age is also a double digit. We celebrated his birthday at his and Jennie's house.

Celebrating Mark's birthday: Lori, Jennie, & Trish

John turned 21: a champagne breakfast at Aunt Trish & Uncle Chuck's house

For the afternoon, John requested his favorite museum: the St. Louis City Museum, a great interactive place created from recycled materials.   Check it out when you are in St. Louis:

St. Louis City Museum--it is great fun for everyone

The City Museum celebration. Front row: Bella, Leigha, Brianna, Dale; Back row: John, me, Al, & Lori

Bella and Leigha in a St. Louis City Museum tunnel too tight for most adults

Later, John’s celebration with his older cousin’s began.

May I see your I.D.?

Late at night along the St. Charles waterfront: Barry (designated driver), Chris, Val, & John

On another day, music and dancing along St. Charles’ Front Street with family.

Uncle Al & John

Lori & Brianna

Chuck, Trish, John, Coleen, Elaine, Lori, Bri, & Al

Besides having cute kids, our family also has cute dogs.

Rocky & John

From St. Louis,  we traveled  north.

In Springfield, Il. at a great Chinese restaurant with Howard, cousin Elaine, Barry, & John

We also visited friends, old and new.  We spent a couple of weeks in Chicago, one of my favorite places, first with Jeany in her house with wonderful garden on the north edge of the city, and then with Chris in her magnificent loft near Navy Pier.  It’s fantastic to spend time with good friends.

At the Chicago Millennium Park for the symphony with great long-time friends: Marsha, Chris, Jeany, & Jeany's son, Anthony

A walk through Millennium Park

John & Sam at Chicago Navy Pier

Marilyn (and John) on Chicago's Michigan Avenue

The Botanical Garden near Chicago with Jeany

With John and Sam, we experienced a Renaissance Fair in Wisconsin.

Renaissance Fair--fun

Then John flew to Vancouver to see friends and sail.  Barry and I went on to Madison, Wisconsin, to visit friends Patty and Tom.

Barry, Tom, & Patty

Tom served as our guide. We toured the University of Wisconsin campus, rode bikes along the lake, and went to the capital building

And we couldn’t be in Madison without being involved in a protest.

We joined the solidarity singalong -- "We shall overcome someday..."

Inside the capital building, Wisconsin

Next we were off to visit Servas hosts Joan and Jeff in Fountain City, Wisconsin.  The town is small, picturesque, and right on the Mississippi River.  Our hosts were Joan, a retired doctor now rescues injured raptors and is restoring a meadow and Jeff, a teacher who resisted the Vietnam draft.

Their lovely home has a view of the Mississippi River

Red tail hawk with Barry

The hawk had been hit by a car and can’t fly.  Joan trains the hawk, so she can take the him to schools to educate children. Joan and Jeff have built separate muses for their two rescued birds.

Owl with only one eye

Joan and the red tail hawk

Besides getting to learn about the raptors, we got to go kayaking with Joan and Jeff on the Mississippi River!  Ever since I first read about Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, I’ve wanted to paddle down the Mississippi.  I’m used to an out-rigger canoe, so for every stroke that Joan took and went straight, I took about four and zig-zagged.  Mainly we were in the backwaters of the Mississippi, but when we got out into the channel, it felt choppy and much like the ocean can be.  The whole experience was great!

Jeff and Joan in their cabin on the meadow


I got to help Joan weed the meadow that she is working to return to native flowers.

Joan working at the meadow

As is often the case with Servas visits, we met interesting people and got to have interesting experiences.

Next after visiting a few more Servas hosts along the way, we stayed with our long-time  friends Pam and Warren in Evergreen, Colorado.

Warren & Pam

Among other things, Pam is very involved in a no-kill animal shelter.

Take me home, please.

Cats in abundant supply: a new friend and me

Pam and another volunteer

Of course, we hiked.

Pam--& a natural mountain high

Bold mountain goat

Barry and I caught up with other  friends.

Richard and Kearin in Colorado

We stayed with Roy and Fran in Breckenridge; they treated us to yummy vegan food and great hikes.  Elevation does make a difference.

Barry and Fran

Roy and Breck

Then further west, we met our next Servas family in Grand Junction.  Everyone in the family is a scientist, so the house is filled with interesting collections.  Felicie, a mom, geologist, and potter, is rewriting with her sister their mom’s 1990 edition of Geology of Utah.  Amber just graduated with a degree in entomology; her favorite insect is a velvety ant.  Among their many scientific books and magazines, they have a collection of National Geographic magazines dating from the 1940’s!   A recent article on the collective society of weaver ants notes at if an ant dies of old age, it hasn’t been doing its job.  We send our young people to war; they send their old ladies.  Now that’s an idea we should consider.

Cool fossil

Felicie--We sat under huge cottonwood trees to watch the sunset and then talked until long after dark

Our drives through the Rockies were wonderful.

Besides mountains, we saw incredible land formations

Fantastic sights

From the natural splendor of mountains and healthy living, our next unreported stop was  Las Vegas–to visit family.

Cousins Barbara, Gerard, and their lively grandson Jacob

We couldn’t be in Las Vegas and not  enjoy the show–

Music and dance on Fremont Street

Yes, Elvis is alive

There's Michael!

It's a carnival on the street

We survived buffets and poker, had fun, and then headed back east.

Our next previously unreported stop was to visit friends in Sedona.  Kanela was John’s Hawaiian immersion teacher, Tim a writer for The Maui News.  They now own  Sedona Art Supply:  Their two sons are growing.

We stayed there a couple of nights and wondered if, as in A Night in the Museum,  the displays would come alive at night.  However, the paint brushes remained quiet, and everything seemed in its correct place each morning.  Good art pieces and wise sayings decorate the walls.

Kanela, older son Bailey, and his Jackson

At Crescent Moon Ranch, Noah and Bailey keeping cool on a hot Arizona summer day

Barry and Tim tramping about

Then onward to Santa Fe, New Mexico,  another stop with a Servas host.  We arrived at Ken’s 20-year-old intentional community just as the local Sierra Club was meeting to hear guest speaker Ray Powell, Planning Commissioner, speak.

The group impressed us with their activism and involvement.

Strolling through the local farmers’ market, we found treasures of color and smells.

Tasty organic local tomatoes

Roasted & fresh chilies

We took our collections from the market back to Ken’s and had a feast.

Ken & Barry with our farmers' market meal. We have roasted chili in our spaghetti primavera: delicious!

Santa Fe also has a vibrant music scene.  One night we went to the symphony.

Good music in a beautiful setting

The next night we saw Blues great Buddy Guy.

Buddy Guy

While we were in Santa Fe, we realized that we needed to get back to Maui soon.  However, I still wanted to visit Mike and Erika, my brother and his wife, in Florida, so we zipped through Texas (very, very dry), Louisiana,  (cotton growing), Mississippi (a blur), and on to Gainesville, Florida.

Mike, Barry, & Erika looking for alligators

Seeing the beginning of fall colors along the way,  we headed north.  For the first time since he left  Morehead University in 1966 to come to UH Manoa, Barry was back in Kentucky.

Barry back in Kentucky

Although we had seen them in St. Louis, we spent a night during a busy week  in Loveland, Ohio, with my nephew Paul and his great family, Wendy, Piper Lynn, and Cole.  We had a great feast, and then in the morning after the others had left for school or work, Wendy gave us a tour of Loveland before she needed to get to school.

Then it was on to see our cousin Vanessa and her growing family in Bloomington, Indiana, with its great university and love of basketball.

Enthusiastic fans

Ryan, Vanessa, and Carsyn gave us a tour of the campus, where Vanessa works.

University of Indiana campus: Vanessa, Carsyn, Ryan, & Barry

We visited Ashlyn at her school.

Similar to her mother, Elaine, Vanessa is a terrific cook. Vanessa shared family recipes. (I plan to  pass some on to you  in a future  blog).

Vanessa doing what she does so well

We zipped back through Springfield to see Elaine and Howard again and back to St. Louis where we saw all our family there and visited Elle and Bryce’s school to share some of our experiences in China.  Then we  were on the plane to Maui where we have many responsibilities and friends.

In our drive across the U.S., we saw beautiful places and met incredible people, but we saw that something must be done about our roads.

Trucks pack the highways--This was our view all too often

Why don’t we have a well-developed train system that would save gas and free our highways?  These goods could and should be transported other ways.   That was my only complaint.

We hope you too will travel to see family, friends, old and new, and wonderful places.

Bon voyage and  Aloha, Renée

Harmony, Minnesota: Niagara Cave, Hiroshima/Nagasaki Memorial, Tea Party Members, Amish, Peace Activists, and Corn

Harvey and Barry at the peace bell, which Harvey made from an old oxygen canister. The bell has a lovely tone.

We traveled on to Harmony, Minnesota, and found Harvey, our Servas host [], and his great friend Benita.  Harvey  as well as his  mom  were born in this very farm house.

Harvey's farm home

Harvey--bottom row, second from left, with his 1949 high school graduating class

After graduating from high school, Harvey left Minnesota for decades.

Our hosts, Harvey and Benita

We discovered surprises above and below ground in Harmony:

Niagara Cave - voted "Best Family Destination" in 2009, 2010, and 2011


Above ground, we saw –

Near Harmony are  great places for biking, boating, and even theater

Harvey and Benita took us to see Sylvia, a wonderful, thought-provoking play (a main character is a talking dog).  Although Harmony is  very conservative politically,  we had much in common with Harvey, who is a Quaker, and Benita, who introduced us to very nutritional chia seeds.   Barry and I  met our first Amish family.  We also talked with a Tea Party neighbor.

Harmony has –

Corn - for as far as we could see

Soybeans - as far as we could see in the other direction

But Harmony has more than two crops:


Sometimes sunflowers too

It’s an area of Amish, with their buggies and crafted furniture, and many farms with aging owners.

This elderly owner can no longer maintain the farm buildings.

Across the U.S., we were told, many of the young people don’t want to do the hard work and take the risks of staying on the farms.  The children typically seek the excitement and opportunities of cities.

Harvey too left Harmony and among other things taught English in Helsinki for 25 years.  He has traveled all over the world.  His house is filled with evidence of his adventures.

Not your typical farm house

Harvey and Benita also took us to Rochester for the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Remembrance.

Harvey and I join others to decorate our luminaries

Lanterns of all kinds

Peace not war

My lantern and me

Music and speakers


Fading light and floating lanterns


We went to Harmony, a small town in the middle of corn and soy fields, and found a wonderful couple and much more than we’d expected.  You should check out Harmony, Minnesota, too.

Aloha, Renee

2011 in review – You could be blogging too!

Hi Everyone:  WordPress sent the following report.  I’m astounded at the numbers. In fact, if it weren’t for the statistics, I would often suspect that what I post isn’t read.  So what I think the report means is that beyond my family and friends, there is a whole community wanting to get new perspectives and information.

You too could be sharing your interests, ideas, insights, and experiences throughout the Internet world.  So get started.  Contact  I’ll be watching for you.

Aloha, Renee


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,100 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

From Pluto, a Dwarf Planet: formally known as a planet in our Solar System

Recently on a hot afternoon, Barry and I were surprised to find ourselves near Pluto.

Barry and Renee near Pluto

Mike, my brother, was our guide

We made our way from the Sun to Mercury, Venus,  Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and finally Pluto.  (A mnemonic to help remember the planet order used to be: Mvery excellent mother just served unine pizzas.

However in 2006, scientists reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet, the second largest of over 40. Now the mnemonic can be-  Mvery excellent mother just served unoodles).

Our Solar System, as found in Gainesville

Yes, it’s true: litter is swirling around the Earth–and the other planets.

Pick up that litter!! Don't let it end up in space.

You might wonder if we found evidence of life out there in our Solar System.

We found plant life and a squashed armadillo

Our guide to our Solar System was Mike, my brother.  Usually, he can be found in Gainesville, Florida, at UFL.  Now he’s thinking of writing The Hitch-Hiker’s  Guide to Our Solar System; a similar book has done very well.

The sun

Traveling such places has kept us  far from computer access.  As we make our way from the rock and ice mass of Pluto to go  back home, we are thinking of you.

Making our way back home

We hope all is well with you on Earth.

Aloha, Renee and Barry

Final Experiences at Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University, Lin’an, China

We had a wonderful, eye-opening year at ZAFU, and the final months were no exception.  As the Fall 2011 school begins there for another term, Barry and I are still on our way home to Maui to see friends and take care of business there.  However, we were busy our last months in Lin’an.

Unlike the graduations in the U.S., the ZAFU students don’t have an official ceremony.  Instead, some present a variety program and get to be on stage in their caps and gowns.

ZAFU Graduation Celebration

The graduation performance included song and dance

A skit from the graduation program

Some seniors rented graduation gowns and took photos with their friends.  Many went out to eat with their friends and family.

We got invited to Amanda’s family party to see her off to Sydney, Australia.  Her mom is going with her to make sure she is well cared for as Amanda seeks a job.

Amanda's young cousins, aunt, and mom

Amanda’s uncle, a former university teacher, now a stock broker, picked us up in a new Mercedes Benz.   The uncle’s son was there too.  He has been in a boarding school since he was five-years  old with both Chinese and English teachers in order to prepare to go to university in England–Cambridge this fall.  The other younger cousins are all on track to go to good universities too.

The Mercedes Benz uncle and his son, the cousin going to England-- with Barry and me

Amanda's parents in the middle; her aunt and uncle on the outside--at the restaurant specializing in turtle

Besides the turtle selections 😦 ,    we were offered plenty of other tasty dishes.  Amanda and her family are loving, hard-working, ambitious people.  We’ve been happy to help Amanda improve her English skills.

We also got invited to Becky’s birthday party.  This turned out to be a big event.   Although Barry and I knew we were going to a barbecue, when we got to the ZAFU West Gate where we were to meet, we found we were to go by bus and many of Becky’s and Ryan’s students were coming too.  They have been teaching at ZAFU for two years and know many students.  Ryan had been cooking for much of the day.

Ryan and Vivid cooking for Becky's birthday celebration

The students were ready for a celebration; they wanted to be part of Becky’s birthday party and most had just finished their final exams.

Celebrating students

Becky and Ryan shared potato salad, hamburgers, and hot dogs.  Everyone had fun.

Jennifer and the birthday girl -- Becky

Barry and I said lots of goodbye and  attended several end-of-the-year events such as the final Crazy English club meeting for the year.

Barry playing a Crazy English game. He's trying to get the student to guess the word on the screen.

Crazy English party

Crazy English dinner with Maggie and Bruce Meyer -- and Barry

We had our final Saturday movie night.     After our movie discussion and cookies, we gave away our collected supply of movies including ones Patrick contributed, so everyone was able to take one home.  Barry and I have really enjoyed this regular Saturday event as a great way to share cultural insights.

Movie Night Selections

Other teachers invited us over to say goodbye.

Helen cooking her homemade noodles

ZAFU English teacher Helen with her thesis students and Barry

ZAFU English teachers Lillian and Julia making wontons at Ellen's apartment for the English Department end-of-the-year party

Sarah Jean and Chair of the English Department, Ellen at her dinner for all of us

Mark, the teacher from Pittsburgh, organized (and cooked like mad) for a goodbye party for the five of us foreign teachers leaving ZAFU.  Morton got a job in Hangzhou; Sarah is leaving to organize her wedding; Sarah Jean will probably teach in South Korea, and Drew will return to school in the U.S.  We all met at Cindy’s Pizza.

Mark--our cook extraordinaire--Cindy, and Diana

Barry, friendly Cindy, and me

Back: Ryan, me, Cindy, Morten, Sarah Jean, Mark, Patrick Front: Barry, Becky, Diana

I got to have special goodbyes with special students.

My student helpers -- Ben and Mabel

With Jessica-- we tried to get yoga started on campus for students and faculty

We said goodbye to special people including –

Barry, Wendy, Diana, and Mark

Ablikim, Bill, Patrick, Barry

We had a short, intense summer school session, so I got to say and extra goodbye to many of my wonderful students who I’ve taught during the year.  In the three-hour sessions, I got to share topics close to my heart:

Travel — how to do it cheaply.  Since many of these students will be able to travel the world, Barry and I wanted to give them hints.

Barry came in during in my final week of classes so that we could share our travel tips

Students sharing their travel dreams if money were not a problem

Topic two was health:

Sharing my health tip of how to floss

Of course, the students had time to talk in these oral English classes:

Paired talks about health


One of the 12 classes of summer school

The summer temperatures were high in these classrooms that have no air-conditioning. (One of the teachers said it got up to 113 degrees one afternoon).  However, Barry and I had fun and will miss these terrific students.

The day before we left Lin’an, we finally got to meet the dean and his family in whose apartment we lived from August to March.  They had been in Stockton, California, where Shane has been working on his Ph.D., his wife teaching Mandarin, and Zack going to a public elementary school.

Dean Shane and his lovely family

Spending the school year at ZAFU has been a wonderful experience.  You could do it too.  Think about it.    Zài Jiàn and Aloha, Renée

Breckenridge, Colorado — We’re in the U.S.

Snow-crusted Crystal Creek

Crystal Creek–cold, clean, and clear

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hi Everyone: You may or may not know, but at the end of the summer term at ZAFU, Barry and I flew from Shanghai to St. Louis on July 10. Since then, we have been having a wonderful time visiting family and friends, meeting great people through Servas, and traveling across the U.S. by car. Because I’ve wanted to finish the blogs I’d planned to do about our China experience (such as “The End of our ZAFU Year,” “Surprises We’ve Had by Living in China,” and “Let’s Get Cooking, China”), I’m getting further and further behind in sharing wonderful experiences we are having here in the U.S. So I’m going to jump to today, and as I have Internet connection and time, I’ll add other experiences, but they will not be in chronological order.

Going up: Roy, Tracy, Wendy, Dave, and Pat

Since Wednesday, August 17, we have been staying with Roy and Fran in Breckenridge, Colorado.  Barry and Roy knew each other from their swim team for Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is an investment broker; Fran, his wife of many years has been a vegan since high school. We love coming here to stay in their beautiful home, explore the wonderful mountains, and learn new tasty vegan recipes.

Today is a great example of why we love to be here. We were up about 7 with the sun streaming in our windows. At 8, Roy and I headed off for a special yoga and hiking morning. We jeeped to the base of Crystal Mountain with Wendy, a mom, an interesting brother and sister team, David and Pat, from Massachusetts out to meet their new niece, Tracy, our cheerful yoga teacher, Roy, and me.

My hiking boots still have the dust from the Harmony, Minnesota, roads

Where we parked the jeep after traveling over rutted roads with six of us in Roy’s jeep, the elevation was about 11,000 feet. We hiked up to the Lower Crystal Lake, an assent of about 1,000 feet, to 12,100 feet. The assent wasn’t too steep, but the altitude made me pant–we were higher than Haleakala!

These  gold and mineral-rich mined mountains near Breckenridge gave us magnificent views each direction we looked.

Meadow of wild flowers

Whereas many of the trees at lower levels have been killed by the pine beetles that have left the mountainsides dotted with brown patches of dead trees, we were above the beetle blight. The cool air, the pine scents, the many wild flowers, and rushing stream created a wonderful scene. Snow is still in the mountains and in fact, we climbed higher than some snow piles.  After a couple of hours slogging up hill, we came on a meadow and site of a now dilapidated miner’s log cabin.

Wild flowers

Tracy’s husband and son, Stu and Jeff, had driven to the spot and had their guitars ready. While Tracy led us in a yoga class after we spread our mats out over the meadow and white clouds swirled above us, the guys played their guitars for us during the yoga class.

Tracy, Stu, and Jeff -- Yoga and music in the mountains--Priceless

Each way we turned showed us magnificent views–magical.

Yoga near Lower Crystal Lake

Wendy, Roy, Pat, Dave, Tracy, and Stu at Crystal Lake

Abandoned miner's cabin - Pat and Dave

Going down was much faster than our upward climb..

Flowers, mountain peaks, fantastic cloud formations

Once we got to the trail parking spot, Roy again drove six of us back to the base parking lot and then the yoga studio in Breckenridge. After saying goodby to our interesting companions, Roy and I went in search of Fran and Barry, who had packed lunch for us and were at the Sunday Breckenridge Farmers’ Market.

Barry, Fran, Roy, and Breck listening to live music at the Breckenridge Farmers' Market

We met in front of the music stage where they were waiting with Breck, Roy and Fran’s 12-year-old golden retriever.

We sat by the Blue River that races through Breckenridge and had our lunch of tempeh salad on toasted bread with tomatoes, lettuce, avocado. I was hungry after our vigorous hike. Fran makes great meals of really healthy food.

Lunch on the Blue River in Breckenridge - Breck, Fran, and me

We explored the market, drank icy cold root beer locally made, Fran bought a purse, and I bought a hat at a fair trade booth.

Fair Trade - Fran and Barry

When a storm threatened, we hurried back to Fran and Roy’s just as the first raindrops fell.

That afternoon, Barry and I plotted out our next stop

For the evening, we all fixed another great — and healthy dinner together and ate and talked into the night.

Dinner at Fran and Roy's

Breck enjoyed dinner too

Barry and I had another wonderful day on our tour back to Maui.

My new thought is that I’ll give you current information, and then as I have more time, go back to share earlier information and adventures. “Hi” from Barry. We hope all of you are well.

Aloha, Renee

Shànghǎi, China — Vibrant, Global City

Barry and I headed next to Shànghǎi, a city of over 19,000,000 people.   Because of its great port location, Shànghǎi was opened to foreign trade by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking and became a center of business between the East and the West.  Now this  vibrant, cosmopolitan city has been growing in importance as a major shipping center as well as a world financial center.

Music on the Bund
Browsing in the Shànghǎi shops

Street food: we ate it and never got sick (although I don’t eat meat) –and what we chose was always just cooked and hot and tasty.

Some things we did not try: fish parts for sale

We saw beauty everywhere:

Koi pond
Elaborate old Shànghǎi buildings
Cute dog on what seems to be a dragon turtle
Elegant lunch with Shànghǎi Normal University hosts
Jan from UHMC with Tony and Laura from Shànghǎi Normal University
We enjoyed many feasts

One reason we love Shànghǎi is because of its architectural variety.  Shànghǎi’s tallest building –actually China’s tallest building at 1,614 feet–is the Shànghǎi World Financial Center.   Its trapezoidal hole at its peak makes it look–some people say– a lot like a giant bottle opener.

The Shànghǎi Financial Center, China's tallest building, behind the seemingly taller building in the foreground

Originally it had been designed with a circular opening at the peak;  however, in the planning stage, many people including the Shànghǎi mayor expressed dismay that the designed looked too much like the rising sun of the Japanese flag, and so the shape became what you see.

Another well-known structure is the Oriental Pearl Tower.

Oriental Pearl Tower on the left

At the time it was finished in 1994, the Oriental Pearl Tower, a TV tower, was the tallest structure in China – 1,535 feet high.  Its name is taken from  the Tang Dynasty poem “Pipa Song,” by Bai Juyi, which is about the sprinkling sound of a pipa instrument– like pearls falling on a jade plate — although what we heard from the base was traffic sounds.

Another of the most recognized places in Shànghǎi is the Bund, a fantastic walkway along the Huangpu River.  On one side, you can see the stately architecture of European design; on the other side the modern buildings of the changing China.

The Pudong side of the river--the new section of Shànghǎi

Pudong building

The word “bund” comes from an Anglo-Indian word that means “embankment along a muddy waterfront” which was a good description when the first British trading company established an office there in 1846.    However, it soon became the epitome of elegance for this city of trade and is now a wonderful walkway  for tourists and locals.

Oriental Pearl Tower view from the Bund
City lights reflecting on the Huangpu River

Tourist boats and working vessels navigate the Huangpu River.

We loved the Bund and watching people.

Cute girl on the Bund
Group relaxing on the Bund
Of course, the Bund is a great spot for wedding photos
Cute boys too
Seasoned couple
Great ice cream treats

Tony, Barry, Randall, Jan, and Cathy: relaxing on the Bund

Some ride on the Bund
Local drink stand: Eating and drinking as you are strolling is part of the Bund experience.  
The Bund can be overwhelming
Dad and child
Family enjoying the Bund

and at night–

European designed architecture on one side the Bund
The newly renovated Peace Hotel on the Bund
View on the Bund
Lights on the Shànghǎi Bund–new buildings across the Huangpu  River
View from the Bund of the Pudong–modern area
Walking on the Bund
Rain on a Shànghǎi street

Shanghai is a good place to eat.

Barry and Liping
Jan and Randall–We ate well in Shànghǎi

Shànghǎi girl reading in a coffee shop

Shanghai is known for its shopping opportunities.  At the South Bund Soft Spinning Market, you can buy tailor-made clothes, silks (real and not), and famous brands (also some real and some not).

Jacket for the dress that Cathy will wear to her daughter’s wedding
Cathy putting in her order for the dress and jacket

Cathy was able to order a beautiful outfit for her daughter’s wedding this fall.  The price was reasonable, the dress made to fit her, and the material, design, and workmanship beautiful.

South Bund Soft Spinning Market
Glitter in an upscale Shànghǎi shopping mall–from right: Randall, Jan, and me

Dior, Cartier, Louis Vuitton . . . You can buy it all here

Shànghǎi  has wonderful museums and many events:

Platers and bowls in the Shànghǎi Museum
Jingdeghen ware from the Kangxi Reign (A.D. 1662-1722)

Beautiful pieces in the Shànghǎi Museum

Some pieces in the Shànghǎi  Museum date back to 4,800 B.C. !!

Not only are the museums interesting, modern sports are available too.

Basketball in Shànghǎi

The Shànghǎi parks are beautiful and interesting.

Guilin Park entrance
People bring their birds to the park and hang the cages in the trees while the owners play cards
Guilin Park–originally the home of a Shànghǎi gangster

We’d had a great time in Shànghǎi.  Then we needed to make our way to Beijing.  The train seemed to be the best choice for us.

Tina, the newly graduated university student who befriended us in the Shànghǎi train station, with Barry and me 

Then Barry and I headed off to Beijing on an  over-night hard seat train that took 14-hours.  Our train covered about 665 miles to go from Shànghǎi to Beijing; the cost was $27 each in a clean if not exactly comfortable –especially after about 10 hours– train. Tickets sell out quickly.  We were lucky to have assigned seats; some people didn’t.

The Shànghǎi  Train Station–the waiting rooms were vast and crowded
The Shànghǎi Train Station seems in many ways like an airport with its many shops and new facilities
Waiting patiently for the train

Because we arrived at the train station two hours before departure, we were able to get seats in the waiting room.

The new trains of many, many cars stretch along the platform.
Barry and I had seats across the aisle from each other–six people on each side. Most of the passengers were students going home for the summer.  We made it to Beijing, but we can now recommend taking soft-seat, fast trains.  
We love Shànghǎi, and I’ve been offered a teaching job there in the spring, so we are likely to continue to explore this city.  Come visit.
Zài Jiàn and Aloha, Renée
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