This Cultural Adventures blog is evidence of my love of travel; it’s about me going places or reading about going places. This time I want to tell you about Alex Johnson’s new book: “Improbable Libraries: unusual places to bury your head in a book…” Improbable places like on the back of a camel, and in vehicles like buses or van, or on a boat. His ideas remind me of those tiny boxes on posts some folk place at the edge of their driveway where people may take book or leave books as they wish.
Some of the things challenging libraries now are sociological, or economic (think poverty), some are architectural, and some are technological (think digital books and apps). Your best bet right now is to go to the Guardian website and read the excerpt posted there from Johnson’s book of fascinating challenges about getting books to people!!! It very encouraging, and fun, and may get you thinking about sharing books in your community!
The Year of the Goat (or Sheep or Ram) begins February 19, 2015.
This impressive figure is a Chinese door god posted especially during the Lunar New Year, to avoid bad luck and as a prayer for luck and peace. This single individual facing forward is likely designed for a single inside door. The door god decorations typically come in pairs, with the gods facing one another. It is thought bad luck may come if the figures are mounted back-to-back.
Preparing for Chinese New Year in the Philippines a friend and I went to a predominately Chinese section of Manila and purchased this particular door god. At that time (1980) it was estimated that about 600,000 Chinese lived among the 13,000,000 citizens of Metro Manila. Seen as shrewd business persons, sometimes resented and still valued, the first Chinese were relegated to operating their businesses outside the original walled city of Manila.
Goat, Sheep or Ram — this New Year the animal is a ruminate which can be translated into any of these critters. The date for Chinese/Lunar New Year is based on a solar/lunar calendar which legend says was created by Emperor Huangdi and began in the calendar year 2637; the holiday is celebrated by many Asian communities. This is the 4712th Chinese year. The holiday reflects an ancient myth about villagers setting out red lanterns and food to scare away Nian, a beast that otherwise would terrify children and ruin crops.
Celebrations begin New Year’s Eve and the festivities often continue a full week. Lion dances, drumming, food, and flowers will be included in many celebrations. Millions of people travel long distances to attend family reunions. Homes are decorated with intricate and colorful paper cutouts, as seen in the New Year’s Card above (http://www.zazzle.com/2015). Children are usually given red envelopes with ‘lucky money’.
Appropriate gifts include: teas, fruits, home supplies (alcohol, tobacco if he family uses them). (http://www.chinahighlights.com) And, it’s very important to know the gifts not to give: sharp objects (signifying cutting off your relationship), anything signifying a funeral or death (such as flowers or handkerchiefs), anything black or white (funeral colors), clocks (running out of time), mirrors (believed to attract malicious ghosts), or umbrellas (the Chinese word sounds like ‘breaking up’ and could signify an end to your relationship).
Long noodles signify long life and the family staying together and are often included in meals during Lunar New Year’s celebrations. We can thank Marco Polo who discovered the noodles in China in 1295, took them to Italy and named them pasta. Be sure to wear RED! This time of year many Chinese stores feature red underwear for men embroidered, this year with a sheep, goat or ram. For an excellent overview of the the Chinese Horoscope and the elements of the stem-branch system see: http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/2015ChineseHoroscope.htm
I’ve decided I will usis the Lunar New Year to re-make my 2015 New Year’s Day resolutions: First and Second: exercising on my much disliked rowing machine while I watch TED Talks once or twice a day, every day. Third: posting a Cultural Adventure at least twice a month.
“We want our children to be raised in a book store.” The parents wishing for that, Eli Barrett and Brooklynd Johnson, now own Pelican Bay Books in Anacortes. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, the books well displayed, and the personnel personable and knowledgeable. And there’s a great section of Travel Books! All of this is located in a delightful old home where the cookbooks are, of course, displayed in the kitchen beside the teapot and a table and chairs. If you can’t find what you want, they will order it for you. Books are such a personal pleasure; books open the world to us. No one has the right to limit what we learn; however, many have tried.
This week is Banned Books Week, created in 1968 to emphasis the right to read whatever one chooses. Often the celebration is in the first week of September coinciding with the first week of school for many communities. I know a librarian who quietly challenged her administration’s ban on fiction and fairy tales and animals that talk, by creating a “Folklore” section in her library. These books could help children understand other cultures and ways of thinking, she said. Shel Silverstein’s children’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends has frequently been challenged, I’m not sure why.
There are many ways to celebrate Banned Books Week: I’ve worn a red-t-shirt with a list in black of some wonderful books which had been banned at one time or another while teaching my sociology class, hopefully broadening the minds of my students not just to read, but to protest things about which they feel strongly. Included on my t-shirt were: The Dairy of Anne Frank, Catcher in the Rye, Beloved, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.
This particular week—and at other times–I wear a brightly colored bracelet, the links made up of photos of the front covers of previously banned books which I purchased it at the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. One day I’ll host a Reading Party asking folk to read from previously banned books. My contribution to that party will be reading from Ray Bradbury’s fabulous Farenheit 451 about a community where firemen were hired and trained to burn book.
Village Books, the wonderful independent bookstore in Bellingham, scheduled many events during this week. A dramatic example of limiting what can be read is illustrated by a bookmark they created: it show broad black felt pen marks covering entire words and phrases of a document. Village Books has author events, open mic, classes, discussion and writing groups. And many book stores now include used book sections alongside their new books and writing implements: check out Wind & Tide Books on Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor.
I believe the closest Half-Price Books is in Everett. I love those stores and first enjoyed many of the more than a dozen in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. And, remember that book treasures can be found in most Thrift Stores—I especially appreciate Island Thrift in Oak Harbor, WAIF in Coupeville and Oak Harbor, Soroptimists shops in Oak Harbor and Anacortes, and the Kiwanis Thrift Store in Anacortes.
The Campaign for America’s Libraries sponsors a wonderful site at www.atyourlibrary.org There, under ‘culture’, you can find Steve Zalusky’s informative article “Defending the Freedom to Read: The History of Banned Books Week” with links to many other fascinating places including a virtual Read-Out and the Banned Books Week website: www.bannedbooksweek.org. Libraries often have “Banned Books” displays during this week, and events may be offered by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Association of American Publishers. Your local library may have a branch of the Friends of the Library, in some towns they have a used book shop in the library and they often sponsor used book sales. Reading is a privilege. Read.
Note: Book store photos are from their websites.
Alice Steinbach, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, has written about “The Travels of an Independent Woman” in her book, Without Reservations, Random House, 2000. She took a one-year leave of absence from her position at the Baltimore Sun and explored Paris, London, Oxford and parts of Italy. Her descriptions of places are informative; her accounts of people she met are fascinating. She shares many place I intend to visit when I’m in those wonderful places.
As a journalist, Steinbach was experienced at meeting people and learning about them. She found an interesting difference in travel encounters: she had to reveal a bit of herself if she was to really connect, even for a short time, with other travelers. I like this particular insight about her experience: “I knew that the kinship of strangers, particularly those met while traveling, is often a temporary kinship. But who’s to say length is the yardstick by which to measure such encounters?” (p. 108).
I appreciate the “Suggested Reading” pages in the back of the book; and I plan to find books of one particular author she loves to read. She describes Freya Stark as a “British wanderer who left her comfortable life in Italy to traverse the Middle East, alone” and wrote about it in “landmark travelogues”.
This book is illustrated with beautiful postcards from her journeys which she wrote and mailed to her own home address while on her journeys. I recommend this book, without reservations.
You’ll find Hong Kong filled with Asian beauty, history and intrigue. You’ll enjoy the huge mix of old and new. After the First Opium War (1839-42), HK was ceded to the British Empire; later Kowloon and the New Territories were added. In 1997 it became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The population of seven million is about 64% ethnic Chinese. The deep natural harbor is beautiful and there are outlying islands to visit. This post will focus on Lantau Island, twice the size of Hong Kong Island itself.
Public transportation is usually our choice when traveling in new places. On this one-day trip we used six modes of transport: our feet, of course, bus, escalator, train, taxi and ferry. The day begain outside our lodging on Stubbs Road, part way up Victoria Peak. We walked down the hill to a bus stop, boarded a double-decker bus and chose the front seats on the upper level. We had a great view of traffic, the streets and shops and enjoyed a most exciting ride down that steep and winding road to the bus terminal! Across the street from the terminal we entered the train system’s sparkling clean, white MTR/Central Station, rode escalators down three levels and boarded a slick railway car. Inside we felt like we’d entered a giant caterpillar—there were no divisions between cars, just bendable accordian-like ‘joints’. Fascinating! On this route you can also go to Disneyland and it’s a 24 minute ride to Hong Kong International Airport.
Emerging from the train onto Lantau Island, we boarded a bus and enjoyed the scenery on the 20-minute ride to the site of the Tian Tan Buddha on the grounds of Po Lin (Precious Lotus) Monastery. The Buddha is popularly called The Giant Buddha; reaching 111 feet (34 meters) high and seated on a three-story pedestal . It is said to be the world’s largest outdoor bronze seated Buddha. Climbing the 268 steps is invigorating and the view from the top truly stunning. Lovely Bodhisattva sculptures are perched at the edge of the walk around the Buddha at the top; inside is a three-story exhibition hall and museum. Begun in 1976 and completed in 1993 it has been named one of the “Ten Engineering Wonders in Hong Kong”. The lovely Po Lin Monastery was established in 1906. Our vegetarian meal there was colorful and tasty; and their orchid gardens were spectacular.
After enjoying the lovely gardens and grounds of the monastery, we took a taxi to Tai O, once a garrison, now a fishing village with simple traditional homes set on stilts, colorful boats with modern motors lined the waterways. I prize the fresh-water pearl necklace I bartered for there. Tai O is one of 47 villages on the island. Note the gravesites on the far hill in the large photo. A bus took us to the ferry landing and we rounded out our day using our sixth mode of transportation.
Hong Kong is especially comfortable for English-speaking tourists as its citizens study English through at least Primary School. Many folk speak excellent English; and many are conversant mostly in their own area of business. English is one of the official languages and is used widely in government, academics, business and the courts. Government signs and road signs are bilingual. Still, it’s very helpful for visitors to know a few basic phrases in Cantonese: Hello (do je), Thank You (M Goy), Yes (hai), No (M hai).
We’ve learned to purchase an Octopus Card, “one of the earliest and most successful electronic currencies in the world” according to Travel China Guide. T he cost is HK$50 (about $6.45 US), and is good for three consecutive days of unlimited travel via bus, tram, train, some stores and restaurants, parking lots, etc. We love to visit Hong Kong; we’ve been there four times, once while celebrating our 20th anniversary. Very likely there is another visit in our future, especially as it’s a good stopover on our jaunts to and from visiting our daughter and her family in Perth, Australia.
Suggested reading: I find Leo Buscaglia’s description of meeting his meeting a young man named Wong at Star Ferry; their friendship began when Wong said, “You teacher. You teach English me. I teach Hong Kong.” In Buscaglia’s book: The Way of the Bull.
Traveling Chuckanut Drive is always a truly fabulous adventure. The scenery is breathtaking, dramatically high above the water, and there are several delightful restaurants, fascinating oyster beds, parks, and trails to hike. The road was built partly with prison labor and is at the north end of old US 1, labeled #11 from Burlington to Bellingham, Washington. You can even take the train from Mt. Vernon and travel north across miles of beautiful and productive farmland, then you will be on tracks running below the road along the waters of Puget Sound. I plan to write in more detail about that trip and wonderful Bellingham. My excitement now is that, very recently, Chuckanut Drive took me on a Cultural Adventure further into the Culture of Books.
I attended the 4th annual Chuckanut Writers’ Conference June 27 and 28, 2014; Lucky Me, I’ve attended the last three. Imagine the joy of being with over 200 participants–writers, literary agents, editors, marketing personnel, students, community leaders, educators–sharing the love of poetry, non-fiction, fiction, and screenwriting with 17 faculty members who shared their knowledge in plenary sessions and led out in workshops. One of the most fun plenary sessions was hearing each of the authors, including Bruce Barcott, Brian Doyle, Thor Hanson, Kristina Kahakauwila, David Laskin and Jim Lynch, read from their own works. Several of the faculty are especially known for their writing about the Pacific Northwest.
A truly helpful and exciting feature of the conference was the opportunity to hear from marketing and publishing experts. Conference participants were encouraged to sign up for appointments with Marketing Representative Alice Acheson; Felicia Eth, Felicia Eth Literary Representation; Gary Luke of Sasquatch Books; and Elizabeth Wales of Wales Literary Agency. I took it all in and even found the nerve to read an excerpt from my book These Precious Moments at the Nonfiction Open Mic on Saturday night. Ara Taylor, representing Red Wheelbarrow Writers, was the emcee, and the event was hosted by the folk at the delightful Magdalena’s Creperie, 1200 10th Street in the Ferndale area of Bellingham.
All this is possible because of Co-sponsors Whatcom Community College and Village Books, one of the best independent book stores I’ve ever experienced. Located at 1200 11th Street, it features three floors of new, used and bargain books, writing implements, gift items and the Calaphon Cafe. They also can help folk self-publish. Outside the store there is a large, lovely community area, well used by residents, strolling, sitting, talking, playing music, attending outdoor events, perhaps seeing a film on the huge screen painted on one of the adjacent walls; ‘Dirty Dan” is there, too.
Whatcom Community College (WCC), 237 W. Kellogg Road east of I-5, offers many workshops and classes for the community. I’ve attended workshops on blogging, marketing and publishing, and others, learned a lot and have been greatly encouraged in my thinking and writing. Also, annually, the “Whatcom Reads” authors are featured in events at both Village Books and WCC.
The Chuckanut Radio Hour was a precursor to the conference on Thursday evening, and featured musician Sarah Goodin, truly delightful, and non-fiction author Brian Doyle. His work beautifully features Oregon in Mink River and Plover. I love the descriptive terms he uses to broaden our thinking about the wonders of Oregon: “Atmosphoregon”, the four-hundred mile high part; and “Subterroregon”, the four-hundred mile deep part, and the 400-hundred mile “impacific “part.
Village Books owners Chuck and Dee Robinson have won praise and appreciation, including the Mayor’s Art Award, for the The Chuckanut Radio Hour, a monthly feast of music, essays, The Chuckanut Players, and interviews with interesting people: writers, historians, community leaders and other interesting folk. Check the Village Books website for the Radio Hour schedule and location, and for Author Events are scheduled regularly at Village Books.
Three culinary experiences brightened our day in Seattle last Friday–Yum! Waiting for my favorite Seattle buffet to open, my hubby and I parked in a premier spot in front of Roti’s Indian Cuisine Restaurant, 530 Queen Anne (1 block off Mercer) and walked north one block to Caffe Ladro, Espresso Bar & Bakery. There’s also one on15th; other locations on their website. It’s a delightful place–we ordered our coffees & chose a sweet potato w/sage scone; Delicate, moist, toasty on top–Yum! aND there were many other tempting pastry choices. The baristas were helpful and friendly. Great photography on the walls, too, by Conor Musgrave
We were back at Roti’s Indian Cuisine Restaurant by 11:30 for their fabulous lunch buffet at the unbelieveable price of $9.95. And, individual dishes are very moderately priced. They do Take-away, typical Indian meat entrees, with vegetarian and vegan choices. When you go there, you will be treated royally. The service is excellent, the decor elegant and the food wonderful. Again, the address: 530 Queen Anne (1 block off Mercer). Many other ethnic restaurants are nearby.
Cafe Flora is always a good choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The eating spaces vary from their garden room, to an upscale pub, to a cafe area and you can choose to eat at tables in the garden. Honored to be voted the Best Vegetarian Restaurant by Seattle Magazine in 2014 and Best Vegetarian Restaurant in the US by Travel & Leisure. My favorite entree is the Portobello Mushroom Wellington. They have a great wine list, too. Open 9a-10p daily, except between 2 & 5p Sat/Sun. Find it at the corner of E. Madison and 29th; a few blocks away on Madison you can enjoy the Central Co-op & Trader Joe’s and other tempting reastaurants nearby.
Great day? Really good food! Enjoyable art. Ah, yes, and we visited Volunteer Park.