Today’s Birthday: Peter Matthiessen

Environmental activist, writer, wilderness traveler, Zen Buddhist student and teacher, Peter Matthiessen was born May 22, 1927 in New York City, New York. He was a CIA officer in his early 20s, one of the few acts of his life that he regretted. He co-founded The Paris Review, one of English language’s most important literary journals. His book Shadow Country won the National Book Award for fiction, and he won again in nonfiction for The Snow Leopard. He remains the only writer to have won in both categories.

A friend gave me The Snow Leopard when it first came out, and I’ve reread it over and over in the decades since then. Matthiessen movingly tells how, after his wife Deborah Love died of cancer, he accompanied the naturalist George Schaller in search of the elusive leopard on the Tibetan Plateau. The book is travelogue, natural world description, and a meditation on life and death.

In his honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting a site with 10,000 Buddhas…. – Jadi

Pam on the path

My sister Pam and her family lived in the New Territories. This part of China is on the mainland north of Hong Kong. While Hong Kong is the most densely and vertically populated city on the planet, the New Territories were still relatively quiet. The landscape consists of steep, lush jungle peaks that end in bays and inlets.

Hong Kong Island
The vertical density of Hong Kong
The view from my sister's apartment in China's New Territories
The view from their apartment near Sai Kung

The region is growing, and changing fast. The bus from the apartment passes villages on hillsides or tucked into hamlets and harbors. Floating villages of traditional houseboats are minutes away. And then the high rises suddenly appear, row after row after row.

There are lots more that look just like these
There are lots more that look just like these
It’s not far to Man Fat Tsz, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin. The monastery was founded by the devout layman Venerable Yuexi (the Chinese月溪法師; pinyin: yuè xī). Building began in 1949 as Yuexi and his disciples carried everything up from the foot of the mountain. For eighteen years they constructed the buildings – along with 12,800 Buddha statues.

IMG_6471

You head up through a bamboo forest where statues line both sides of the path to the monastery.

IMG_6442

There are roughly 500 Arhan [1] statues in plastic, painted gold. Each one is unique.

IMG_6462

IMG_6445IMG_6464IMG_6465

IMG_6461

Their expressions represent the experience of enlightenment. Other statues await once you reach the summit. I felt like I was in a tacky Buddhist Disneyland.

IMG_6446
So did you hear the one where the Buddhist monk, the Catholic priest, and the Jewish rabbi enter a temple…

 

Then I got to the top and entered the main temple. Before the altar is a glass case; it contains Venerable Yuexi’s preserved body! His body (still perfectly intact) was exhumed eight months after his April 24, 1965 death. Yuexi was next embalmed with Chinese lacquer, his head and face covered in gold leaf. [2] The Diamond Indestructible Body of Yuexi’s robed corpse sits in the lotus position. I was oddly moved by his preserved body: with the sight, I had a glimpse of religious truth.

IMG_6492

IMG_6546

IMG_6545

IMG_6551

That feeling became surreal as we headed back to the bus stop.

This pagoda appears on the HK$100 banknote
This pagoda appeared on Hong Kong’s $100 banknotes

IMG_6516

IMG_6504

We climbed down a different set of steps past my least favorite creatures: wild monkeys.

IMG_6574

And from the meditative hillside of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we neared and then entered the shopping mall complex at Sha Tin.

Sha Tin shopping mall
Sha Tin shopping mall

As I say, the New Territories has both the traditional and the modern. They all line the same path.

IMG_6583

NOTES: [1] To quote Wikipedia, “…in Theravada Buddhism, an Arhat is a “perfected person” who has attained nirvana. In other Buddhist traditions the term has also been used for people far advanced along the path of Enlightenment.” [2] Taking pictures inside the temple is not allowed.

In memory of Peter Matthiessen, 22 May 1927 – 5 April 2014

Photos and Text © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Adventures in China’s New Territories 1: Ten Thousand Buddhas. Uwe’s photos of our earlier trips to Hong Kong and mainland China and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

Grandpa + His Thumbs of Death

Just two years after Great Britain handed the island back to mainland China, we went to Hong Kong. We were heading to Indonesia for a month and bracketed the long flights to get there with a stop in Hong Kong at both ends. Those seven days would cost us as much as the four weeks on Java and Lombok and Bali, but man, were they worth it….

I’ve gone back a half-dozen times since. One of my sisters taught at international schools in Hong Kong and the New Territories.* My nephew Nikolai ran two restaurants in Sai Kung and just opened a new bar-bistro named Graceland in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district.** Graceland opened the first week of November 2021.

 But let’s go back in time a few decades and return to that first trip to Hong Kong. Uwe and I ate great meals of dim sum and quickly found ourselves dining in spots where we simply pointed at photos of menu dishes that looked familiar (and we hoped didn’t consist of canine or rodent). Hong Kong is and was a fascinating world city, and we explored knowing we’d definitely return.

Along with stocking up on traditional Chinese salves and medicinal oils to use in my own massage practice, I made an appointment for Chinese foot reflexology. This was easily done as soon as we found a street lined with neon lights of foot soles.

I booked a time slot for a few hours later, happy that I was going to get a massage. Long flights are hard on me, and I’d felt pretzled ever since the plane landed in Hong Kong. When I arrived at the clinic my feet were bathed and cleaned, and I was led over to my therapist. He was a delicate looking older gentleman in glasses. He looks like someone’s honorable and slightly fragile grandfather, I thought to myself.

 The therapist and I didn’t speak each other’s languages. The clinic manager handed me a sheet of paper with a diagram of a foot and points on it highlighted in Chinese characters, numbers, and the names of the body’s organs in English. I rolled up my jeans, my therapist rolled up his sleeves, and we sat facing one another. He placed my foot on a towel on his knees. He slathered some lotion on my leg. I studied the diagram, wondering how to use it.

Then he went to work on the sole of my foot and the first jolt of pain hit.

I jumped in my chair. “Ouch!” I exclaimed.

“#32,” he commented.

#32 on the information sheet corresponded to kidneys or liver. Now along with the pain, I was horrified that major organs were being bruised.

He moved his hands down my foot looking for the next tender points and immediately found them. He drove his thumbs into the new spots.

 “OUCH!!” I repeated. You know that jolt you get if you jab your elbow against a hard surface and your nerves shoot pain all the way up and down your arm? Magnify that pain about 100 times and imagine it blasting up from your foot which is being tortured by an evil sorcerer…

Uwe moved to the side of my chair with his camera out and a fat smile on his face.

“Having a good time? Are you enjoying documenting suffering?” The questions were caustic but I’d turned into a sniveling bundle of inflamed nerve endings. I felt pitiful.

“Like you always say… Relax, Jadi. Plus, don’t you want me to take photos so you can remember this later?”

I wanted to make the perfect sarcastic retort, something like, “Why would I want to relive pain like hot needles being pushed under my nails?” But I was too busy flinching. Every time Grandpa probed a point, I jumped in my chair.

Breathe! I reminded myself over and over.

“#17.” “#23.” He kept calling out numbers and I read along as Grandpa punished my internal organs. Diaphragm. Lungs. Sciatic nerve. Forget a sore back from a long flight; clearly, I was one hot mess.

The gracious grandfather who I now referred to as He-With-the-Steely-Thumbs-of-Death went on inflicting pain and suffering on my left foot.

He inflicted the exact, same, unbelievable pain on my right foot. I twitched in my chair as he calmly called out numbers.

As soon as the torture session was finished I tottered off to the bathroom to pee (funny how torture really clears out all your systems!). But when I came back to the main room where the manager, Uwe, and my therapist waited, I felt surprisingly okay.

Back out on the street I had the strangest impression that I was about to levitate. I felt that good. I slept like a log that night and my back pains vanished. I bet my inner organs benefited from the workover he gave them, too.

Take a look at the third photograph. I am glowing. It had to be from increased blood flow due to shock to the various parts of my body (like, all of them). Or it was the vast tide of the endorphins that followed the experience.

But I’ve never looked at gentle old grandfatherly types again in the same way. Gracious Ancestor? Hah! He-With-the-Steely-Thumbs-of-Death!

 

NOTES: *See my blog thread Adventures in the New Territories for more pictures and stories. **Graceland’s instagram page is @gracelandmk

© Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and named a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

Paul Klee + Blue Tunisia

Artist Paul Klee was born on December 18, 1879 in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland. He was a part of the Bauhaus movement and wrote about color theory. Klee traveled to Tunis in April of 1914 for twelve days. The colors and light of North Africa strongly influenced his paintings and those of his companions August Macke and Louis Moilliet. In his honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after we visited Tunisia. – Jadi

We flew down to Tunisia for a week in September that year. I’d planned to write about Hammamet’s lovely laid back tourist vibe, the gorgeous beaches and how much fun it was viewing the Mediterranean from the Africa coast for the first time.

I didn’t want to obsess on the fact that a few weeks later terrorists shot tourists in a museum down the road from the souk we visited. I definitely don’t want to think about the beach where tourists from around the world were murdered in cold blood that summer. It’s less than 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the hotel we stayed in.

D32_3141_DxO10

Those cowardly acts have nothing to do with what Uwe and I experienced. I took notes as I sat on our sweet balcony, and here is what I wrote:

“The tourists are international. Every body size and shape, every age is represented. We see groups of Italians, French, Egyptians, Algerians, Germans and Brits. Women in black leggings, head scarves, and long sleeved tunics sit by the pool. Two men (young Arab males) hold hands and spring into the pool at a running jump. Kids run and play everywhere I look. Old folks in wheel chairs are pushed by family members.

The French and Italian tourists live up to their reputations with their rule of remaining poolside until 6 p.m. Then they go to change for dinner at 7:00.

D32_3144_DxO10
View from our balcony. Taken early evening, when guests had headed to their rooms to change their clothes and think about dinner

Lots of Middle East tourists are traditionally dressed in modest clothing. [1] They swim in the ocean fully dressed! But there are also single Arab women in bikinis, or young couples on holiday.”

D32_3138_DxO10
I sat and revised Tsunami Cowboys under one of these umbrellas…

“Paragliders are pulled by boats, a yacht and sailboat or two glide by, an endless panorama of ocean spreads from left to right. Without talking about it we head past the pool to go down to the lounge chairs under sun umbrellas on the beach. Uwe reads and I edit the manuscript for my second book Tsunami Cowboys. I’m beyond happy: I’m in an exotic locale with fun stuff to notice all around me and I’m doing good writing work. Each afternoon around 4 I stop and swim in the ocean.”

Our hotel was about twenty minutes from the center of Hammamet. Sometimes we strolled into town for dinner; some nights we had a drink at the hotel and picked one of the restaurants there. We did a couple of tours, to Tunis, Sidi Bou Saïd

D32_3321_DxO10
Sidi Bou Saïd is justifiably famous for its vivid blue architecture

D32_3339_DxO10

D32_3319_DxO10

D32_3335_DxO10

D32_3306_DxO10
Sidi Bou Saïd is popular with artists too

and the ancient city of Carthage. [2]

D32_3296_DxO10

I bargained for sandals at Tunis’ souk [3],

D32_3225_DxO10

D32_3224_DxO10

D32_3223_DxO10

and harissa and couscous spices at an outdoor market.

Touristy? Sure. But here are more of my notes from that week: “Everyone smiles and says hello in the hotel. We’re all here to relax and co-mingle. I have the lovely experience of being welcomed as an American – and when was the last time that’s happened lately – the locals intrigued to learn where I’m from, and even more intrigued to hear that I live in Europe.

I think that’s partly because not many Americans make it to the area, or maybe our hotel books more Europeans and Arabs. Certainly on our charter flight from Germany I’m the only Ami on board! Tunisians are delighted when I assure them that yes, I am enjoying my first visit to their country.”

We learn that Tunisia’s population of 8 million swelled by an additional 2 million people displaced by wars. Tunisia is a struggling democracy in an unstable part of the world. The Tunisians on the coast are hospitable, curious, worldly. And I want to go back.

I want Tunisia without terrorism.

In memory of Paul Klee, 18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940

NOTES: [1] A sign by the pool read “Clothes clog the drains! Bathing suits only, please!” [2] Carthage made the fatal mistake of challenging Rome. The Romans burned it to the ground, killed all the men and sold the women and children into slavery. Then, to make sure everyone got the message that it was a really bad idea to go against Rome, they sowed the area with salt so that nothing would ever grow again…. [3] The shopkeeper held a lighter to the bottom to prove that they were made of camel and not plastic.  ©2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Tunisia Without Terrorism. Photos © 2015 Uwe Hartmann. More of Uwe’s images from our trips to North Africa and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

https://jadicampbell.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/d32_3302_dxo10.jpg?resize=600%2C398&w=840

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and is now a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Annie Edson Taylor Over a Barrel

Annie Edson Taylor  was born on October 24, 1838 in Auburn, New York. On October 24, 1901, her 63rd birthday, she became the first person in history to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive. Ms. Taylor hoped to secure her financial future with the stunt, but aside from some initial speaking engagements and a memoir she didn’t make much money. Her manager stole the barrel, and she had to use up her savings to hire private detectives to track him and the barrel down again. Annie died in Niagara County and her body is interred in the ‘Stunter’s Rest’ section of the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls on the New York side of the waters. In her honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting the waterfalls of southern Laos. – Jadi

On our last trip to Laos we headed south to the quiet little city of Pakse in the Chapasak province. We wanted to see old ruins – and really spectacular waterfalls!

For the latter we booked a guide to reach the Bolaven Plateau. Hiking in to some of the waterfalls was a gloriously steep, wet walk.

Later, with the same guide (and boats) we were carried to 4,000 Islands (Si Phan Don). I was beyond amused to notice the signs on some of the guesthouses in  4,000 Islands, announcing that special, magical pancakes were available for breakfast…. My German husband missed the inference and asked why I was laughing. “Guests can get their pancakes laced with the noble herb,” I informed him. [1] Sure enough, plenty of tourists in the 4,000 Islands region spent all their time literally hanging out in hammocks. They were all way too relaxed – or something – to be ambitious. They were in no hurry to explore.

Or move.

The Mekong River splits into branches at this end of Laos and tumbles over  boulders and channels cut through rock.

When the French colonized Laos they came up with a bold (and ultimately quixotic) plan to build a railway through the region. They  wanted to go around the waterfalls and create a faster, easier way to travel and ship goods either to the north, or to the southern Vietnam port of Saigon. The result is what a CNN article wryly refered to as “Laos’ first railway: 14 km of rust” [2].

The Mekong defeated the engineers, and 4,000 Islands is a beautiful sleepy area.

But oh, those waterfalls on the Bolaven Plateau: we hiked in to as many as our young guide was willing to take us to. And we didn’t even need a barrel.

In memory of Annie Taylor,   24 October, 1838 – 29 April, 1921

NOTES: [1] I turned 16 the year that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was released. If you know me, you know this fact explains everything, including what makes me laugh. [2] CNN travel. ©Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as The Waterfalls of Laos: South 2. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies for American Book Fest. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the 2020 International Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

 

 

Robert Porter McKimson Senior, Foghorn Leghorn + The Year of the Rooster

To my readers: Welcome to the first post in my new blog thread: A Person + Place/Time/Thing

Robert McKimson was born October 13, 1910 in Denver, Colorado. He worked for Disney for a while, but is best known for animating and directing Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Bros. Cartoons. He was a contemporary of Chuck Jones.

According to his son in the wonderful short documentary Drawn to Life: The Art of Robert McKimson, McKimson suffered a concussion in an accident. When he recovered, the concussion had improved his powers of visualization, and he became an even faster and better animator.

Robert McKimson created and/or  directed shorts with a stellar list of cartoon stars: Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and Bugs Bunny. He also created the Tasmanian Devil. He also created Speedy Gonzales. And, if they weren’t enough, he also created the indomitable Foghorn Leghorn, an oversized rooster with an oversized voice and accent.

As a kid I got such a kick out of Foghorn Leghorn. He was loud, blustering, and incredibly funny (I admit that I still think all these things as an adult, too!).

A few years ago I went to check out the Wong Tai Sin Temple in China’s New Territories. It’s dedicated to the gods of medicine, but upon entering the temple grounds I was met by statues that were oversized animals of the Chinese zodiac including – you guessed it – Foghorn Leghorn’s Asian brother.

In honor of Robert McKimson and his larger-than-life rooster, (“Well I say there, boy! I say!”) I am reprinting the post I wrote describing the statues. – Jadi

I spent a few weeks north of Hong Kong in the New Territories. The transportation system is easy and each day I went exploring. I’d read up, select yet another fascinating place to discover, and off I’d go.

Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin
Entering the temple at Wong Tai Sin

As a massage therapist I went to pay my respects to Sun Si-miao Zhen Ren, Perfected Master and god of Chinese Medicine. Taoists honor him as a god of healing. Even today, the ill and infirm (or people wishing to stay healthy) visit his temple to make offerings.

IMG_6910

IMG_6922

So I headed to Wong Tai Sin Temple. Inside, I was met by wonderful bronze statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac!

IMG_6907

IMG_6908

I managed to photograph all but the ox and dog.

Horse
Horse
Rat
Rat
Rabbit
Rabbit
Snake
Snake
Goat
Goat
Monkey
Monkey
IMG_6888
Tiger
Pig
Pig
Dragon
Dragon
And there he was: Foghorn Leghorn!!

IMG_6939

The temple is just outside a metro stop, smack dab in an urban area. Who would have suspected that Foghorn Leghorn resides there?

IMG_6994

In memory of Robert McKimson, 13 October 1910 – 29 September 1977

Foghorn Leghorn.png
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

NOTES: © 2015 & 2021 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Adventures in China’s New Territories 4: The Gods of Medicine. Photos © Jadi Campbell or Uwe Hartmann. More of Uwe’s images from our earlier trips to China and Hong Kong and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies for American Book Fest. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

My Imaginary Friends: #7 An Insect

When my nephew Niko was quite young, I took him to the Woodlands Park Zoo. Late that afternoon I watched a young man standing at a building; he kept peeping into the box he was holding.

I couldn’t contain my curiosity. “Excuse me,” I said, “but can I ask you, what’s in the box? You keep checking on it.”

He answered me with a solumn look. “I work in a grocery store. One of the stockboys was opening a box of fruit and got bitten by this.” He opened the box and we gazed down at a very large, very irridescent insect with huge pincers. “It was in the box hiding underneath the fruit,” he said. “The store manager’s worried it might be poisonous. I called and made an appointment to come in to the zoo and talk to their entomologists. We don’t know if we should send the guy who got bitten to the hospital.”

A decade later I used that memory to write a scene of Jeremy, a character in my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories. The insect has morphed into a Thai giant centipede, and Jeremy is bitten. – Jadi

Jeremy unpacked the two crates of baby pineapples and stacked them on their sides in the bin. The sweet smell of the fruit put him in a good mood. Jeremy was humming ever so slightly under his breath as he broke the next exotic produce crate open and began to unpack its contents.

“F**k!” he screamed. The front of the store suddenly went silent and his coworkers came running.

Jeremy knelt on the floor cradling his right forearm and breathing in and out heavily. “Something just bit me,” he said in a strangled voice. He began to hyperventilate.

The day manager Lynnie Wendels pushed through the others wielding a metal stool. “Sit!” she commanded. She somehow got Jeremy onto the stool with his back bent over and his head down between his knees.

The others made a ring and offered suggestions. “Keep your head down, Jeremy! Just try to breathe, long slow deep breaths. That’s it, guy; you’re gonna be okay.”

“What was it?” Lynnie was still trying to ascertain what had happened. Jeremy raised his head and his face was damp from pain and shock. He held out his arm. “What in the -?” Lynnie didn’t finish the sentence. On the inside of Jeremy’s forearm, just above his wrist, two puncture marks stood out against the skin. The wounds were swelling and their red pulsated in angry color.

-from my chapter Punctured in Broken In: A Novel in Stories

Thai giant centipede, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand
Thai giant centipede, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

NOTES: Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts. 

 Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Xi’an’s Boulevard

This is a real road in Xi’an

This week’s post is about one of the more remarkable roads I’ve ever strolled. The street is in Xi’an, home of one of the world’s best preserved, still-intact, walled cities. We’re big fans of places listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Xi’an is on Chinese and international lists as a cultural treasure.

This however is not a city street. This ‘boulevard’ is actually on top of Xi’an’s city walls
From atop the wall with a bird’s eye view

It’s an old capital city located at the end of the Silk Road. The rampart walls were built in the 14th century by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang as part of his military defenses and enclose 8.7 square miles, or roughly 14 square kilometers. [1]

The walls were made first with tamped earth (and, according to Travel China Guide, ‘with the base layer including also lime and glutinous rice extract’). [2] A century later they were reinforced with blue bricks. The original walls used to include a moat and drawbridges. These walls are so thick that in WWII, Xi’an’s residents built a thousand bunkers inside the base to protect them from the bombs of Japanese air raids!

They are a breathtaking 12 meters or 39 feet high. It takes four hours to walk them. Actually, it takes longer than that if you’re Uwe and Jadi, because you never know what’s down the road. On our visit (foolishly booked during China’s Golden Week when all 1.3 billion Chinese citizens were also on vacation) we discovered a festival performance taking place inside one of the courtyards.

We heard it before we saw it. Drums, lots of drums…

And men in costume. Enter, Stage Left.

Or was that Enter, Stage Right?

What tickles me most about the walls is that once you’re on them, you could be on a wide boulevard anywhere in the world. Except that this is China, and this isn’t a boulevard…. It’s a wide street located on top of Xi’an’s city walls. Travel doesn’t get any better than this.

NOTES: [1] The current fortified city walls were constructed on an earlier, Tang dynasty palace wall. [2] www.travelchinaguide.com ©Jadi Campbell 2018. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

UNESCO World Heritage Tentative Lists

 

What? I Can’t Hear You

You gotta know when to fold ‘em…*

Every time Uwe and I went on a long trip, my mother-in-law’s last words were always, “The main thing is, you come back healthy!” She also said those words any time Uwe and I went on a short trip. Actually, she said this anytime either of us went anywhere.

“Cripes Uwe,” I would complain, “why the hell can’t she just tell us to have a good time?”

And then I got older and we did an extended trip and I did not come back healthy. I developed a herniated disk when we returned home.

Take it from me… Mothers are always, always right.

I should be on the other side of the world right now, meeting up with my sisters and their husbands to help celebrate a birthday. But I had a sinus infection since New Year’s Eve, and the space between my ears felt like it was stuffed with wet cotton. For weeks, I weighed the three plane flights needed for a trip of twenty hours against the likely reality of popped eardrums.

And suddenly, through the dampers in my eustachian tubes, I heard Mama Hartmann’s voice speaking that cautionary phrase with a new twist: “The main thing is, you leave healthy.”

I listened to my mother-in-law. I cancelled the flights at the last minute, and made a third appointment with a second ENT doc, an ear nose throat specialist. (Otolaryngologist. My new word for the day. Yippee for me.)

Like Kenny sang, ya gotta know when to fold ‘em.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2019. *Apologies to Kenny Rogers. Photos courtesy of Dreamstime.com. Go to my earlier posts The Great Wall of Pain: Part One  The Great Wall of Pain: Part Two for details on how that little mistake ended. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

 

 

The Waterfalls of Laos: South 2

We’re enchanted with bodies of water. Yes, the Amazon River is definitely on our wish list…. We love them all, from the impossibly old cultures and antiquities found along the banks of the Nile River in Egypt to the remote beauty and haunting calls of loons on the back trails of lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks, to the ever changing scenery along the Mekong.

The Mekong River defines Laos in many ways. Laos is a landlocked country, but visitors forget this fact because the river runs the length of the land. When it reaches the southernmost border to Cambodia, the Mekong River divides up into a landscape of fast-running parallel streams.

It’s a quiet region, frequented mostly by nature lovers and stoners (see the first half of this post for some details on that aspect of travel).

Locals still go fishing in what looked like awkward and probably highly dangerous but effective fashion.

The Mekong River is wide and sleepy in places up north. Here, though, the river definitely rolls and tumbles. This method of fishing is surely the smartest way to work with the force of the waters and guarantee a good catch.

Here are some reasons why you should visit Southern Laos: the sweetness of a part of the world that isn’t in a hurry and has spectacular scenery.

The chance to get into areas that are still relatively untouched by mass tourism.

Footbridge on the Bolaven Plateau

The natural world: biologists and botanists continue to discover new species. And the flora and fauna that Laos contains are beautiful.

Plus you never know when you’ll sail into the middle of a local festival. We literally did just that as we headed down river from Pakse to reach 4,000 Islands. A long boat race was going on, and Uwe and I didn’t need to be asked twice if we wanted to stay for a while and watch.

We tied up alongside these other boats that were watching the races
Religious offerings make any boat even more beautiful
Joyous. Wet, but joyous….
All takes place under the watchful tender eye of the Buddha

We booked our trip with a gentle young guide and a variety of boats. The infrastructure is simple compared to Germany or Hong Kong, but with cell phones and patience it all went smoothly. When you’re in a place as lovely as Laos is, it’s all good.

One last waterfalls photo, Bolaven Plateau

NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2018. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. For more about Laos’s waterfalls in the north, go to my earlier post The Waterfalls of Laos: North.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

The Waterfalls of Laos: South 1

On our last trip to Laos we headed south to the quiet little city of Pakse in the Chapasak province. We wanted to see old ruins – and really spectacular waterfalls!

For the latter we booked a guide to reach the Bolaven Plateau. Hiking in to some of the waterfalls was a gloriously steep, wet walk.

Later, with the same guide (and boats) we were carried to 4,000 Islands (Si Phan Don). I was beyond amused to notice the signs on some of the guesthouses in  4,000 Islands, announcing that special, magical pancakes were available for breakfast…. My German husband missed the inference and asked why I was laughing. “Guests can get their pancakes laced with the noble herb,” I informed him. [1] Sure enough, plenty of tourists in the 4,000 Islands region spent all their time literally hanging out in hammocks. They were all way too relaxed – or something – to be ambitious. They were in no hurry to explore.

Or move.

The Mekong River splits into branches at this end of Laos and tumbles over  boulders and channels cut through rock.

When the French colonized Laos they came up with a bold (and ultimately quixotic) plan to build a railway through the region. They  wanted to go around the waterfalls and create a faster, easier way to travel and ship goods either to the north, or to the southern Vietnam port of Saigon. The result is what a CNN article wryly refered to as “Laos’ first railway: 14 km of rust” [2].

The Mekong defeated the engineers, and 4,000 Islands is a beautiful sleepy area.

But the waterfalls on the Bolaven Plateau. We hiked in to as many as our young guide was willing to take us to.

Part Two to follow.

NOTES: [1] I turned 16 the year that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was released. If you know me, you know this fact explains everything, including what makes me laugh. [2] travel.cnn.com ©Jadi Campbell 2018. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. For more about Laos’s waterfalls in the north, go to my earlier post The Waterfalls of Laos: North.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.