Try to Remember…

When was the last time you were in San Francisco in September with the temperature over 100 degrees?  With the advent of Labor Day and subsequent heat waves, San Francisco experienced record temperatures (over 106 degrees reported downtown??). The freak weather sparked a lot of unusual behavior–like packed parks with… what!?! people in them (See featured sketch above, at noon on 9/5/17 at the 100 First Street roof terrace).

Girls flung their normally conservative city modesty to the winds and were wearing skin-tight and flimsy almost see-through dresses. And surfers surfing at Ocean Beach without wetsuits!?! It must be an indication of the positive effect that weather has on our foggy Bay Area brains–and that we’re actually and finally capable of adaptation!

The Fall Semester has also descended. I finally consolidated my myriad choices for classes. As always, I pick more things from the buffet line than I can eat. San Francisco’s City College is free for residents starting this year, so I can gluttonize myself even more. I decided to forego the German classes this term. Instead, I opted for a purely hedonistic art and music program. I am continuing my figure drawing classes with the fantastic Ms. Diane Olivier. You may remember her from my incredible Moroccan sketching adventure in June. She continues to teach at the Fort Mason site where all the lifelong art students congregate.

As part of our class assignment in Art, we are expected to sketch daily. One of the better ways I accomplish this is joining Meet-ups for Sketchers. We draw in various parts of the city (Nob Hill, office buildings, events in the Park, etc). There seems to be a spontaneous combustion of happenings thanks to the internet. I can join several in one week if I choose to.  There are similar meet-ups worldwide, so I am really excited about these prospects in the future. Sketching outdoors has been great art therapy for me and a memorable way to view and record the city other than with a camera. Click on images below for captions.

Places

I’m making my ginger foray into Music in two directions. First, I toyed with both introductory piano and violin. Yes, I took lessons many years ago and only enough to allow me to play in solitary confinement. The incentive for the piano class was a fleet of brand-new digital Yamaha pianos.

I decided to forego the equipment upgrade and a cast of 20+ students for a beginning violin class of only 15 students (20-15=5x more attention from the instructor). My old violin that had been left unattended for decades was finally in the money again. You can imagine the delight from the poor violin’s standpoint.  It was dripping with sound from its inner belly and oozing through the curly-que slits to the world.  I could barely remember how to tighten the bow and prep it with rosin. Forget tuning and blowing up the rest pad–I had to rely on the instructor’s help for both.

Second, my next musical class is about music awareness.  We will learn more about opera using Elektra, Turandot, and La Traviata from the San Francisco Opera season. We have access to orchestra seats for $35! This is almost as good as being a Goethe Institute student in Berlin. I thought this class would be a pushover until I had to write two papers. I discovered that I had no music theory, background, or ability to explain anything in proper musical terms. Hopefully this class will improve my musical awareness!!

People

Last but not least…Emperor Norton found in the stacks of the Mechanics Library in Downtown San Francisco…during a treasure hunt. You can join the private library for a nominal fee with access to many up and coming books and their authors.

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In a couple of weeks, I plan to travel to Peru and Chile.  I’ll be visiting Macchu Picchu and Easter Island. Please join me for a bit of fun and adventure! As usual, my focus will be on art, architecture, anthropology, and food!  If you want to opt out of email notifications, you can change your settings in WordPress. Until then…

Sunset over the Southwest

I’ve heard that foreign visitors to the U.S. often yearn to see the wide open spaces that are unique to America, like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone. As Americans, we often overlook those magnificent expanses of space that we take for granted in our own back yard.

On a weekend visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, we caught some of the excitement over such vistas that seem to go on forever. We spent the first day exploring the mesas and pueblos of the Southwest. Located about an hour northeast of Santa Fe, the Puye Cliffs and area inhabited by the Santa Clara Tribe thrived here between 800 AD until the 16th Century.

The mesas were formed by tuff, or volcanic ash that covered this area (and made fossils out of alot of plants and animals), then eroded over time to form dramatic cliffs. The pueblos are Native American villages dotted throughout numerous reservations in New Mexico. The Santa Clara originally lived in these cliff dwellings and then later, in pueblos. (Click on Photos to see captions).

The kivas, or ceremonial roundhouses in each village, were used for male rites of passage, important decisions, and festivals. When the Spaniards arrived, they burned the kivas and built Catholic cathedrals over the sites.

The cliff dwellers protected themselves from invaders in the caves. Later, they created pueblo dwellings that were two-story structures on open land. The dwellings had no doors, but they used ladders to lower levels of the dwellings from the rooftops. These entries protected residents from invaders.

At our neighbors’ recommendation, we made a special day trip the following day to Ghost Ranch. An hour’s drive north of Santa Fe just beyond the Puye cliff dwellings, Ghost Ranch is a retreat cum camp for writers and artists. The ranch offers weekly programs, seminars and workshops in the high desert.

Georgia O’Keefe’s home is near here, so there’s plenty of creative inspiration and history in this area. The landscape alone is breathtaking, with wide open views of mesas in the distance as far as the eye can see. The ranch is nestled in an oasis with a precious lake nearby.

There are archaeological excavations that date back to the Triassic Period on the ranch. You can even participate in digs. From having taken three Anthro classes in college, I became interested in Anthropology and even contemplated majoring in it.

I immediately fantasized about joining a dig until I saw real-time photos of volunteers in the program, posing on their shovels during a break. The exposed skin on their faces and arms looked as parched as old shoes and as cracked as the pottery shards they were digging up! I decided to relinquish the idea as I was reminded not to forget my nightly skin regimen.

The main purpose of our excursion to Santa Fe, however, was to attend a premiere performance of the opera, the (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. It’s the complicated, contemporary, and tragic story of Steve Jobs. While the place names were immediately discernible to those of us living in the Bay Area (Stanford, Cupertino, Los Altos), the story of this one-of-a-kind genius gives everyone a perspective on where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.

The Santa Fe Opera was an ideal venue for this premiere, with its dramatic open-air stage, setting, and architecture. Everything was perfect, including the weather, production, and food!

Here’s the final curtain call, with Edward Parks (an international Operalia Competition winner), who played Steve Jobs, the librettist Mark Campbell, and composer Mason Bates. (apologies for the overlighting).

This production was sponsored by the San Francisco, Seattle, and Santa Fe Operas. When you get a chance, see it, or check it out here:

https://www.santafeopera.org/operas-and-ticketing/the-revolution-of-steve-jobs

Back in Santa Fe, art is ubiquitous and a reminder that beauty can, and should be everywhere. There are art galleries galore and tourist shops selling turquoise, carpets and pottery to numb the mind, but if you look beyond those, there are many treasures outdoors to be found. Here are a few examples of fanciful sculpture and mindful landscaping that you will encounter on a walk through town. (BTW, you can see more artwork from the Day 77-78 stop in Santa Fe from my October 2015 Amtrak trip).

Turquoise and terra cotta are the trademarks that define the American Southwest. They even use this palette to paint the overpasses along freeways so you always know where you are. As our weekend wound down, I managed to capture the mood, signature colors, and the remains of the day at the Albuquerque Airport.

Happy Celebrations to Pam C., Pam C., Karen M., and Jens U-B!!

Sunrise over the Sunset

This month gave me time to pause, gather thoughts, and enjoy reuniting with friends and family.

In the past few months since I had been away from San Francisco, two high rise towers rose from the ashes downtown. The long-awaited Transbay towers are the tallest in The city’s short skyline, but minuscule compared to other cities I recently visited. The header shows the view of the towers in the distance, just below the sun. The view is taken from our house in the Sunset District.

This month I started a Brain Research study as a participant. Sponsored by Dr. Adam Gazzaley’s Neuroscape Program, the study looks at older adults and their ability to focus. In addition to an MRI, hooking up to electrodes on a skull cap, saliva swab and a blood draw, we do videogames to test our level of concentration or distraction. The study hopes to develop exercises to increase the ability for older adults to focus better.

You can join the study if you are in the Bay Area:
https://neuroscape.ucsf.edu/get-involved/participate/

The research clinic is located in the Neurosciences Building that I developed as Project Director at UCSF. Located smack in the middle of the Mission Bay campus, it was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, San Francisco. I love going there to see the building in its full glory and fulfilling its mission to find cures for neurodegenerative diseases.

After my Moroccan sketching trip and the inspiration from the culture and food there, I decided to try a few recipes from the cooking class I took in Marrakesh. It took a bit of research from Paula Woolfert’s cookbook and a few trials before organizing and gathering friends together to try out an entire meal.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the intriguing tomato base tagine, or casserole, tucked under a plate of fresh eggs for lunch after our drawing expedition to the market outside Marrakesh.

When it was presented to us at lunchtime, I stared at it for quite some time before I realized the trick to getting it into your stomach was with your right hand. The bread was scattered around the table, readily available to assist. After the awkward start, it became second nature. (You can see photos of the dish at the table in Day 54: Meet me in Mogadur)

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You can compare the homemade version in the featured photo above. It was a joint achievement, with friends helping to prepare side dishes. From the bottom center, counter-clockwise: chicken smothered in homemade tomato jam and topped with eggs and olives; seven-vegetable casserole (okra, cabbage, green beans, onions, potatos, and carrots) with home-made preserved lemon; thrice-steamed couscous; beet salad compliments of Carmen); carrot salad (compliments of Royee) hummus; home-made harissa; and lentils. not shown: zaalouk, an eggplant dish, compliments of Susanne); a dessert bastiya made with apricots and almonds; orange slices with orange blossom water; and fresh mint tea!!

Organizing friends to share in the production of a complex meal is a great way to engage and invest everyone in the process and the outcome. Especially for what might be less familiar, everyone is more interested in trying each other’s craft.

I could focus my attention on more challenging parts that I may not have tried on such an ambitious menu. And doing it this way serves as a great ice-breaker to boot! Try it with a menu you’ve never tried before! Think of it as a shared cultural adventure.

If you find cooking Moroccan food too challenging, you can try out the new Moroccan restaurant Khamsa at 15th and Mission in San Francisco. It just opened so we dashed down there last night to try it out. All the good dishes are represented, including a fish tagine, chicken bastiya, zalouk, Moroccan wine and even mint tea!

For other dining experiences in San Francisco, our family celebrated recently at the Progress (Workshop) Restaurant. It’s next door to its Michelin-star cousin State Bird and Provisions. We chose dishes from the prix-fixe menu consisting of chickpea and oregano dumplings, quail quarters and black cod.

Here’s a quick tip for our opera fans: you can follow performances at festivals this month (including the Salzburg International and Verbier Festivals) free for ten days on medici.tv.

Thanks to all for answering last month’s survey. You can view results posted in the previous “Day 72+3: Return to Sender” at the bottom of each question. A quick note on videos: I try to use them judiciously, to avoid frustration. According to WordPress (the blog platform), the ability to see videos is based on the device you are using and your service compatibility. The videos may not load properly if you are reading my posts directly from email notifications on a smartphone. In that case, you may need to use a computer to see the videos. My apologies for these technical glitches. While I’m getting a request to see more videos, I’m afraid that many of you are unable to access them. Let’s keep trying to pursue solutions to these problems in the future.

For those who have been asking: yes, I am planning my next trip. It will be shorter, and soon. Stay tuned.

Day 72+3: Return to Sender

Two packages were waiting for my return to San Francisco: one from Germany and one from Morocco. I cracked the system in two countries and successfully received goods that I sent from each. They were not that expensive and well worth the effort.  After organizing my personal effects, German books and class notes, I sent them via DHL from Dusseldorf. It turned out to be the same as paying the additional baggage charge or less without having to carry them through the rest of the trip.

The second package contained the coveted carpets I purchased in Marrakesh. Normally one would be hesitant to send large items in value and size. Having sent carpets once before from Cappodoccia, Turkey, I knew that I could save a lot of trouble. From both experiences, the mail systems in both countries, as expected, were very practical and reliable.

What’s it like to be back in San Francisco after two and a half months of travel? My first impression coming out of the BART station at Glen Park from the airport, was CLEAN AND SMOOTH. The air was fresh, the sky was an identifiable color, and everything worked. People spoke slower, and were friendlier. Perception is reality.

That doesn’t diminish the incredible learning experiences I encountered. I would not trade my memories of New York, DC, London, Germany, Hong Kong, or China for the ease of life. The differences in lives makes life interesting and worth living.

On the heels of my travels, two events led me back to San Francisco: a fun evening at La Boheme with two grand-nieces at the San Francisco Opera, and a tour of Angel Island.

Normally, I refrain from pictures of friends and family and the “social page”. Because we made a point to reconnect with so many this year, I couldn’t resist posting a gallery for those who might recognize each other. Hopefully I haven’t missed anyone we visited (I may have failed to take photos of you in our excitement over seeing each other!). I am still glowing from the many warm encounters, so check to see if you are among them!

London, Bath and Dusseldorf:

Morocco:

China, HK, and SF:

I’ll keep you posted about any upcoming travels, but until then will be reducing posts to a monthly basis. Don’t forget to stay in touch, even if I’m not traveling! You can always reach me on this website or by email.

Thanks again for all the comments and for following along! I have enjoyed my travels and sharing them with you.

Featured Photo: my first watercolor imitation of a Chinese Camellia, HK Art Studio

As previously mentioned, the teeny weeny survey attached would greatly help me to improve future posts. If you have read Travels with Myself and Others, I would appreciate your feedback. Please let me know if you have any additional thoughts or suggestions!

A note about the poll: the format may appear differently if you are reading from a smart phone or from a computer. If you are having trouble responding on a phone, please use the survey on your computer. Thank you!

Day 71-72: End of the Rainbow

Alas, I am at the end of my fourth world trip. After 11 flights, 11 train trips, and numerous bus, taxi and private car transfers, I will have successfully completed my world travel goal for this year. We met old friends and made new ones. We gained much deeper understanding and appreciation of our roots. And as mentioned previously, I overcame my fear of drawing!! Like any phobia, it is easy to avoid what you fear most. I grabbed the bull by the horn and grappled with it. It was so easy it wasn’t even a contest. I just simply had to do it!

Granted, the circumstances were perfect, and for that, I must give credit to an incredible teacher and artist extraordinaire, Diane Olivier. Don’t miss my tribute to her in the video posted on Day 58, Moroccan Magic.

Our last day in Hong Kong included a visit to the Man Mo Temple near our Air BNB and a walk along Bowen Path. It is one of the best kept secrets of Hong Kong. It winds for three miles along the Mid-Levels in a horizontal stretch. The torrential rains that day drenched us with plenty of waterfall activity along the route. (See also Day 66, 2014, tagged below.)

We stopped for lunch at Lin Heung, an old Hong Kong mainstay. You rinse your dishes in discarded hot tea that is brewed and poured at the table.

So, until next time, Farewell! Please send me any comments you wish to share about what you liked or didn’t –I heard that there were too many opera posts so cut back (of course only after leaving Germany!!). Do write, and I definitely will write back!

Thanks to all for following travelswithmyselfandothers.  As you know, this is a personal pursuit of my favorite activities and being able to share it with you gives me the greatest pleasure.  I hope to see each and every one of you (whom I can recognize by name) in the next year–let’s make a date!

Auf Wiedersehen, 在见,  وداعا!!

VickieVictoria

P.S. In an effort to sketch every day, here are a few sketches of people eating at breakfast and still lifes of dishes that didn’t get posted.

P.S.S. Last of series of daily sketches:

Addendum: Apologies to the last few comments that didn’t get answered: I have just returned home and am in a state of recovering to bright blue skies and 72 degree weather…will write back soon!!

Days 69-70: The Sweet Spot, Cantonese Food

You may have noticed a considerable shift in cultural emphasis from museums and concerts in Europe to other topics in Asia. These are developing and of growing interest here, as exemplified by Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House and the vacuous Guangzhou Modern Art Museum.  I didn’t go there this time, but if you are interested you can see them in the September 2014 archives from my very first world trip.

We did find one exception this week, however. A spontaneous decision to visit the Overseas Chinese Museum proved to be an interesting discovery of Sun Yet Sen and the Uprising around 1910:

The museum contained many historical relics of first overseas Chinese emigrants. They are still considered Chinese compatriots and their contributions are honored here. Bruce Lee was among the notables. Unfortunately, the exhibits are not translated into English, so you need to bring a Chinese friend who speaks English with you to make it worthwhile.

It would be unconscionable to visit Guangdong and not highlight the food. Famous throughout the world, Cantonese food can never be ignored for its freshness, simplicity and sheer elegance. While these are the trademarks of excellent Cantonese cooking, many foreigners and even Chinese Americans miss one of the key factors.

When I think about traditional Chinese cooking, I think of the glommy sauce added to the quick stir-fry dishes. A tablespoon of corn start in a cup of water, some soy sauce splashed on top, and you have the finishing touch for any dish. We seldom used this method and opted out for watery vegetables and meat instead.

However, what the sauce does do for me, is to provide the “slime factor” or glutinous means used to make eating food more pleasurable. The food is intentionally slippery, so it slides down and lubricates your throat.

The word “wat” in Cantonese describes smoothness in a dish. This characteristic is often a criteria for the quality of the dish. I have seldom heard this description in Western cooking as anything perceptible, desirable or necessary. It is a sensual experience for Chinese. That’s my two cents worth about Chinese cuisine and my “China’s Test Kitchen” analysis.

We were invited to the 80th birthday of the wife of my mother’s first cousin in Zhongshan, China. The festive dishes demonstrate what I attempted to describe about Chinese food above. The dishes were straightforward, with minimal additive flavorings or spices, but promote the freshness of ingredients and the natural sweetness of meat, fish, seafood, eel (not shown), fruit and vegetables. By the way, no rice at banquets, but long life noodles at the end for major birthdays like this celebration.

The traditional dessert of steamed bread stuffed with melon paste and a salted egg is just the opposite of Western desserts:  sugar is used as little as possible. The Western-style cake can blow it all, but it too, had only a modest amount of sugar in it. A dab of red wine at each place was used for toasting only. In addition to tea, plenty of fruit juices including coconut milk was served.

A more typical meal on the street consisted of meat and veggies over rice. These fast food joints are everywhere, unfranchised, and gives any Chinese a person to be his own boss. Not bad, considering you can make or break your own fate, your way.

This is close to the end of my fourth world travels with myself and others! It has been a fascinating experience for me, and I hope it has been for you as well!! Thanks to all of you who have traveled aling and sent comments. They were particularly appreciated during my month in Germany.

Of course the highlight was going to Morocco. I experienced Islamic culture, met a great group of people, made some new friends, and overcame my fear of drawing!! It was a life-changing event!

Please write and let me know which parts you found the most interesting. I’ll be sending a teeny weeny survey to get your feedback, so please reply!!

中 国 的 朋友们, 谢谢 你们的 客气,我们 很 高兴 有机会 看到 你们!快 来 美国 见 我们!

Days 65-68 Lives of Others in Guangzhou, China

Like in Hong Kong, searching for old remains in Guangzhou has been puzzling. Many of the vestiges of the arcaded colonial city have been erased and replaced by newer, taller buildings. We headed to the area where Gee Kin’s relatives live, and what used to be the West Gate. It has been subsumed by modern development and is now considered part of the inner city.

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Yet activity in the area carries on like it did a hundred years ago or before. You see both men and women pushing or pulling hand carts along the road, scurrying and balancing the goods adeptly and efficiently at a pace more like a gallop than a prance. I watched for awhile in fascination, as social consciousness doesn’t seem to inhibit delivering goods this way and better, faster, cheaper.

The neighborhood shops may seem mundane to tourists, but the local market economy appeared to fully support the array (mixed used at its fullest: nuts and bolts fabricators next door to pastry shops, electrical repair next to fast food–you get the drift) of products and services offered.

Each shop relies on street for light and ventilation. That gave me plenty opportunity to poke my curious and annoying head inside. For some reason this reminded me of  Amsterdam’s red light district. The curtainless windows of the Dutch tidy “shops” openly invited customers to have a peak just like these shops in West Gate (Ximen Kou) did.

Shop assistants check their WeChat accounts frequently in between serving customers. You get a distinct impression that it’s not a bad system for the full employment act, even if the shopkeepers are bored and inattentive at times. The use of cell phones to combat boredom is nothing new throughout the world, but it’s remarkable if you look at the regularity and density of shopkeepers with cell phones staked in this area.

Earlier in the week, we visited one of my star architecture students who now lives and works in his home town of Guangzhou. Lam is a talented designer who is a partner in his own firm. It has been furiously designing shopping malls and theme parks all over China.

Lam’s “industrial chic” office could outdo any firm in the States as a showcase for innovative design. The office contains an experimental kitchen and full pig roaster. Rest and eating areas, conference rooms, and a library are all available to staff. The work areas are divided into manageable rooms or suites and therefore do not follow the pattern of open office design of most architectural firms. Large murals depicting the rebellion against the Qing Dynasty is provided by one of the partners.

As part of continuing research on my family’s history, I asked our friend Susan to accompany us to various institutions throughout the city. The new Guangzhou Book Store is one of the largest in the country. It was filled with floors of books and periodicals scattered between boutiques for Chinese calligraphy brushes and inkstands, tea ware, and books for sale.

Our second stop at the also new Guangzhou Library was another fascinating glimpse into the future of Guangzhou. With such excellent facilities, the hearts and minds of the students and researchers are captured. The north west reference room at the top where we were directed contained scholar’s rosewood furniture and fretwork screens. It was a noble nod to China’s classical examination system and its history and dedication to education.

Everywhere throughout China, you feel that it is a country on the move. There isn’t much time to stop and reflect on the speed and delivery of everything, from data to food to train tickets (they arrived at our hotel as promised). It’s exciting to witness, explore, and engage in the collective spirit.

Day 62-64: Hunkering Down in Hong Kong

Returning to Hong Kong has a romantic flair to it, as this is the city where Gee Kin and I met. I was a young architect starting in the profession, and Gee Kin was reinitiating his career as a structural engineer. There’s no doubt we were impressed with each other, particularly with our mutual sense of humor. While our relationship developed slowly by today’s standards, it gave us sufficient time to think about who we were and whether we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together or not. It must have worked, because we are still together over 35 years later.

Shortly after arrival in Hong Kong we encountered a typhoon. Known as Merbok, it was the first of the year. Everyone scurried to get groceries and head home at the end of the day. It was quiet and the streets were dead empty by early evening. It felt like Chinese New Year’s but without the festive atmosphere where shops are closed and everyone is at home with family celebrating.

After a couple of days of torrential rain, I was able to head outdoors. My first exploration was to the art studio downstairs, where I learned how to copy a Chinese flower pattern and paint with watercolors for the first time ever. It reminded me of second daughter Julianne’s brush painting from her high school days. I felt a bit awkward at painting in water colors, but the instructor was very kind and explained everything very clearly in Cantonese. It gave me a chance to reuse the lively language I learned while living in Hong Kong.

We decided to visit Fulham Garden in Pokfulam, where I lived when I worked for Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway. It wasn’t far from Central, but I had trouble remembering where the bus stop was located. The buildings are taller and there are more of them. Fortunately, there are still pockets that reflect and preserve old Hong Kong. After a quick look, we walked back to Central.

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There are public parks such as Blake Garden tucked into the hillside, as well as many of Hong Kong’s prestigious private and parochial schools. The narrow roads provide relief for old banyan trees that have lived there for centuries. They cling to sides of walls like stubborn old centurions and continue to gasp for air and suck water.

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Many new trendy boutiques and cafes line the pockets above Sai Ying Pun and Sheung Wan. These shops are dotted throughout the area where we are staying and are immersed between many staircases such as Ladder Street and the escalators that ascend from Central to Midlevels. The manual stairs are not as nice as our tiled steps in Golden Gate Heights, but purposeful. Finally, we scaled our Air BNB in the five-level walk-up after plenty of exercise on the hilly side streets.

Days 59-61: Magic Carpet from Menara to Chek Lap Kok

Arrival in the big Kahuna was a bit anticlimactic, after five flights and stopping over in five cities. A bit crazy, but that’s the routing life of free travel. From Marrakesh Airport, a lovely new facility, I flew back to Frankfurt via Geneva and Zurich. I managed to buy a stock of Sprungli Truffes du Jour for Gee Kin. Unfortunately, in a moment of weakness, I bought a gigantic bottle of Argan Oil before leaving Marrakesh that was confiscated because it exceeded the 2 oz. liquid limitation.

Marrakesh Airport:

After an overnight stay at the Frankfurt Airport, I flew to Hong Kong via Beijing. A combination of mishaps made the journey less than ideal. My tax-free refund was denied at the Frankfurt Airport due to insufficient documentation. Then Beijing Security delayed me due to the same stupid portable charger that got me into trouble at the US Embassy last month. I ran like the dickens to catch the flight to Hong Kong with only an hour between flights. That included going through Security in Beijing twice–once out, once in again. It was enough drama to remind me that my heart beats within me.

Give Me Your Tired Passengers, Your Bored, Your Hungry

Aside from my luggage being delayed due to Customs inspection scheduled in Beijing rather than in Hong Kong (how was all that supposed to happen in an hour!?!) and a Typhoon Signal #8 in Hong Kong, everything here has been great! After husband Gee Kin joined me on the back end of my travels, we decided to slow live and let the weather dictate our actions. Not all goes smoothly all of the time, so this has been the R&R (Revise and Resubmit) weekend for me. OK, not exactly a MAGIC carpet, but it was a carpet.

Man Mo Temple

Despite the stiflingly oppressive heat and the onset of Tropical Storm Merbok, I did manage to keep up my daily drawing activity. Living in an Air BNB near the Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan, I drew the temple from a couple of different angles and Ladder Street. Like San Francisco, Hong Kong uses staircases up and down its hilly slopes, only more so.

This area is also part of a burgeoning art scene. The gallery downstairs offers drawing classes at $300HK for two hours, and I was tempted to participate.  Huge murals throughout Sheung Wan and on the side of the building where we are staying add to the street art in Hong Kong.

Sheung Wan

The ex-pat community is alive and well, and it looks like Lan Kwai Fong has spilled over into the Hollywood Road Antique area with a rash of foreign culture and food spots like Fusion Supermarkets, Classified Wine and Cheese, and Congee and Milk Tea sets.

It’s been a bit overwhelming to see the huge cultural shift to update the dining experiences in Hong Kong. In addition to infinite choices for traditional Chinese food that offer every Chinese provincial and regional cooking, you can frustrate yourself by deciding whether to sink into the bowels of Western food and desires. Life has always been a multitude of contradictions in Hong Kong, and food is no exception.

After coming down the hill from the Sun Yet Sen Museum, we re-discovered the series of free escalators half-way up a steep incline of Hong Kong Island. It serves as a clever conveyor belt and painless way to scale a mountain. It bustles at lunchtime, when we used it, to navigate a hillside with virtually zero calorie bust. It was even more impressive as we lived in the area it serves. It was more than just a superficial touristic attraction but a necessity. This system preceded the High Line in New York City, but certainly it has the same innovative spark and delight for residents and tourists alike.

To Build or Not to Build?

I’m reminded, after living in this city for seven years out of graduate school, that only 15% of the land is buildable. If you compare the high density living for 6-7 million people as positive space next to the negative or open space, the relative value of open area is immense. That creates some of the awe and beauty of Hong Kong that make a spectacular setting for human existence.

There are hiking trails that one would never expect from such a highly urban environment. Our daughter Melissa was pleasantly surprised when she visited here earlier this year. You can take excursions to the multitude of outlying islands, go to the Beach at Shek-o, or hike to the Peak. The New Territories offer even more camping and backpacking opportunities. Hong Kong is not just about shopping. However, foodwise, it’s just about FOOD…and rightly so. There ain’t nothing like it anywhere but here.

Fallout of Typhoon Merbok

A Camel_s Eyes Saved the World—a short fairy tale by Victoria Fong

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More adventures later about Hong Kong and after the typhoon signal is removed…and Guangzhou to come.

Addendum: speaking of magic carpets, here’s one of the two Berber carpets I bought in Essaouira:

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Day 58: Moroccan Magic

As our last night in Essaouira drew to a close, we didn’t have much time for nostalgia or glee. Between crazy over the top activities immersed with deep dives into the culture and grabbing tips and tools for sketching, each day was exhaustingly satisfying.

Diane, our instructor extraordinaire, exuded penultimate confidence in her craft. We agreed she was, indeed, a wonder woman. I would never admit that soneone knew more than me about traveling, but Diane is over the top savvy and knowledgeable.

She’s the only person I know who can smoke a cigar sitting on the ground in the middle of a major thoroughfare sketching locals who love it, AND manage a herd of cats who continually ask the same question after it’s just been answered.

Here’s the link to the video I made and shared with everyone on the last night of our sketching expedition in Essaouira, Morocco.

And, for Customer Service: a few final quickies before leaving to head back to Marrakesh:

(Note: I’m en route via Geneva, Zurich, Frankfurt, and Beijing to Hong Kong. The internet may be a bit spotty, so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a few days!)

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