Jan 31, 2012

Should you have to choose between eyeglasses or food??


Needed...computer eyeglasses.
Really, didn't you have to choose between a months worth of groceries or seeing the last time you went to purchase eyeglasses?  I know I did.  

After I went through cataract surgery last summer I still needed glasses.  The cost of that one pair of bifocals blew me away.  I did not feel I could afford the progressive lenses even though I had insurance. The idea of getting sunglasses and reading glasses were simply out of the question. There had to be a better way.

Then I began thinking about purchasing another pair of glasses online.  I remembered visiting a website called GlassesUSA so I visited their website again. They offered:



  •  Cheap eyeglasses
  • A website application that allow me to see how the glasses would look before I bought.
  • Specific instructions on how to find the right fit.  
  • Coupons and discount codes.
  • A guarantee that I was getting the lowest price.
But I wanted even more.  I wanted good customer service. To test the service I sent GlassesUSA.com customer service this question:
"If I were to order glasses requesting that they be for computer use only would you be able to calculate this.  I use a desk top computer most of the time and the distance to the screen does not work with my reading glasses."
The answer was very clear and specific:

Thank you for your interest in GlassesUSA! When ordering glasses specifically for computer work, you may specify in the comments box, that you would like the glasses to focus at a certain focal length. After submitting that information, our professionals in the lab will make your glasses as quickly as possible. 

Thank you! 

In my world it is all about beauty. Being able to see is very important. But I am also just a little vain so I don't want to look old or out of date. Shopping for glasses is one of the most important things I do. Unlike my spring shoes, my glasses need to last a long time. Wish me luck. I need a pair of computer glasses really bad.

Coupon codes:

  • Take 20% off your entire order of $80 or more and get FREE US shipping with the code: FS20 
  • Take 10% off any order of prescription glasses. Code: Blog10  
Be well   
b

Jan 29, 2012

Games...a few choices for you.

HOW MANY DIFFERENT GAMES DO YOU KNOW HOW TO PLAY?  Why?  Well retirement is all about playing...life becomes a game. 

I, for example, I play with words.  The blog is my game board and words are the game tiles.  Still other love a game of golf or a game of bocce.  Card games, including Texas Hold em, are great favorites around here.  My friend played in a bocce tournament with us this morning and left immediately to play Bridge.

I am just pointing this out to you because I believe that games and puzzles are a wonderful way to keep our minds alive and allow us to socialize with others. 

Here in Rincon East RV Resort you will need to be fearless...this is your opportunity to learn new things in the company of people just like you. You can take that first yoga class with other people that are taking their first class.  You can play your first bocce game with beginners like you.  Age is not a factor...the leaders in our bocce ball tournament include people in their eighties and people much, much younger! 

So if you are an expert, here is your chance to teach.  If you are beginner, here is your chance to learn.  

Texas Hold Em Rules On Monday night a group of people gather in the card room to play poker...the longer a player stays in the game the more he/she wins.  I hear it is a great lot of fun and, if you are lucky, you may even win a little petty change.

Euchre  (rules here) is played in the afternoon almost everyday.  For those of you from the mid west this is good news.  There are even a hardy few that play every day.  I don't know how to play this game but it does sound fun.  

Cribbage (rules here)  I learned this game as a child. Although the rules look complicated, it is really very easy and lots of fun. 

Bocce (rules here) is that game you see being played in parks using concrete balls along with a smaller ball called a Pallino.  According to Life Script, healthy living for women! bocce has been around for thousands of years and is still a favorite of the young and the old.
Throwing balls toward a target has always been a favorite sport of the common man. The Egyptians were the first to play bocce around 5000 B.C., using polished rocks. The Egyptians passed the game to the Greeks around 800 B.C., who then taught the Romans to play it using coconuts! Emperor Augustus was supposedly a great bocce sportsman. The Roman influence in the game is seen clearly in its name; the word bocce derives from the Latin bottia, meaning boss.
Horse Shoes is a favorite here in this resort.  Men show up in the morning and games go on all day.  Alph Horse (rules here) says "Horseshoes is a game that is extremely easy to learn, yet difficult to master. While no article can hope to help your mastery of the game (sorry – it takes time and practice to get the knack for pitching a horseshoe), by the time you are finished with this article you will have a full understanding of how horseshoes is played and scored.

Pickle Ball  We have just added a Pickle Ball (rules here) court here in our resort within the last year.  This court is used hard everyday that it does not rain or blow.  Players often practice on the court for competition at the city parks and recreation facilities.  It is a fast game with rules that are similar to volley but played with a paddle and a light weight ball. 

Bridge is a great favorite with players both in this park but in parks near by.  If  you  love a challenging game you will find wonderful playing partners and couples to spend time with.

Golfers with out partners will find a list of people looking for a game in the recreation director's office.  I noticed recently that they was a very long list of people that had signed up.

Bingo players have one evening a week to play and win.  If you love this game of chance, you will have lots of competition.  Our auditorium fills on this evening for a game.  You can win prizes at this event.

We also have a tennis court, pool tables and, for the card players, several rooms with the appropriate tables.

The choice is yours.  There is no reason for anyone to be bored here.


b    

10 Things I Cannot Live Without...all available online!

Somethings cannot be purchased online
...family, friends, sunshine! :)
I am inviting you to think about this...10 things that you could not live without.  I am retired, 69 and live in a small space.  If you were wanting to shop for my favorite things this is what you would look for:
  1. My microroplane zester...I yearned for one of these for years but just could not make myself buy one.  I even used a rasp from my husband's shop for a while.
  2. The exfoliating gloves I use in my shower.  
  3. My Kindle reader...this device has made it possible for me to read again.
  4. My Apple iPad 2.
  5. Girly shoes.  I love shoes.
  6. The Pendleton blanket that belonged to my parents.
  7. My NeckPillow by Tempur-Pedic 
  8. Apple iMac 7-Inch Desktop 
  9. Dyson Vacuum Cleaner  Really, I will never own another brand.  It is the best.
  10. My iphone (4s is coming next)...I even take most of my pictures for this blog with it.
There you have it.  If I were to go shopping for all your favorite things was would you suggest?

b

Related articles

Jan 27, 2012

What If You Get Sick-Travel Preparedness


Travel has its risks...take precautions before you leave home.
Sapa, Vietnam (photo by E.)
Here is a problem that I have never talked about: How to be prepared when you are on the road and get a cold or worse yet the flu? Yikes! Now this does happen boys and girls.  As optimistic as I am you would think I would just not worry about this but I do.  It can be a big problem. While I don't have all the answers I do have a few steps you should take before you board a plane, set out on the road in a car or a motor home. Be prepared!  (PLEASE leave a comment if you have more or better ideas.  I will link to a blog post if you have written about this too.) 

We are going to make the assumption that you have insurance or are on Medicare.
  1. Before you drive pack your bags be sure to contact your doctor and let them know what you are up to. I suggest that you go to the office and get a quick going over just to make sure you are good to go.  
  2. Get a flu shot far enough in advance that it is effective If you are leaving the country be sure to ask your doctor about any other needed immunizations. Hepititus seems to be a major problem.
  3. Ask the doctor for prescriptions for illnesses that can crop up.Urinary track infections, asthma can be examples of a easy fix if you are prepared. If you are traveling overseas fill the prescription before you leave home.
  4. Take all the usual cold medications, inhalers, tummy ache stuff (Imodium) and head ache pills. It will give you peace of mind.
  5. Check with your insurance company to see what they are going to do if you are hospitalized or need to visit  a doctor while traveling. Our insurance company covers us when we travel but if yours doesn't, there are companies that do. Go over what you are suppose to do in the worse case scenario. Visualize what you will do if this happens.
  6. Always travel with both your supplemental insurance card and your Medicare card. In my case I never use the Medicare card at home but when we are not at home they do not know my insurance company and are very suspicious. (I have had this happen.) 
  7. Carry any medical records, prescription lists and personal contacts (children and doctor's number?). Also carry your living will or anything else that might be needed.
  8. Talk this over with your spouse/partner. Miscommunication can be a huge problem. Always know where the other's wallet or purse is and how to find their cards, etc. If you are in a relationship where your are hiding medical conditions from each other, make an exception and come clean with each other.  
  9. If one of you should become ill, remember that the partner standing needs to rest and eat. Nothing can be worse that the well person getting ill because they tried to do too much.
  10. Let your family know what you plan it. If you don't they can even be a problem.b
  1. Wash your hands...a lot. Drink a lot of water. Stay well. I don't want you to need this list...ever!This is important so don't blow me off.  I know what I am talking about!
Wash your hand...a lot. Drink more water than you think you need. Stay well. I don't want you to need this list...ever! This is important so don't blow me off. I know what I am talking about.

b
Note:  I need your comments.  Please let me know if you have more information or personal experiences you would like to share.

Jan 24, 2012

Stylish Simple Living...what should you keep!

Bob Lowry wrote a post the other day about living simply but not having a simple life. He spoke of people going over board with the "simple living" principal stripping their life of all those things that are not needed. I began to think about that idea.

Rooftops of Sapa (edited with Snapseed on ipad)
We have just returned from a trip to Viet Nam where we visited a community in north Vietnam called Sapa. Here children played without shoes or even pants on days when I was wearing a coats and scarves. The people that lived in the countryside lived on the bare minimum. But, they still gathered things of beauty around them.  Native costumes with lively colors adorned the women and they spent their days weaving and embroidering things that they sold in markets. In fact, beauty surrounded them. On some level it was as though the difficulties of their life was made more bearable because of the colors that they embraced. I think that we can take a lesson from this. Not all the things in our life are disposable. There are things we should never get rid of; beauty, cleanliness, friendship, learning and family.


Native Women bartering!
Bob talked about the person that rid themselves of all but 15 things.  He thought it was a bit "silly". I think that if you are going to take away all but 15 things, the 5 things I listed above had be the things that stay. So of all your personal possessions that you can live without, those things that make your heart sing because they are beautiful should not be let go.  Hang on to what you can because, even when things get bad, they will make your life better.

I invite you to read Bob's article and see what he has done. Simple Living Can Become Silly is one of the best I have seen recently.

Jan 23, 2012

I live with a cat....sigh!

RV the CAT!
Living with a cat has got to be one of the most frustrating experiences one will ever have.  I live with a cat and a husband.  The husband loves the cat.  As a result I do not have any control in my world at all.

We traveled with the cat in a cage this fall...well for a while.  Then the cat demanded to be let out so we did.  There was no choice.  The cat can be a little whiny and besides that he will scratch me if I don't obey his every command.  Not when I displease him but later in the day...in the dark.  I don't like that at all.

Now he lives with us in our park model.  This cat was wild when we found him and still does not like to be in a small space.  We, however, live in a part of our RV park that does not allow pets outdoors...RV the Cat doesn't understand and escapes as often as possible.  I don't suppose he can help himself.  I don't think he knows that there are places in the RV resort where he could be on a lease outdoors yet. When he runs away, I will call and call but he doesn't come.  Then when I am not looking he will sneak in and hide where I cannot find him.  He doesn't care if we get in trouble and we do get in trouble right along in this place.  I know that can happen.  If the residents didn't like it when we danced in the street a 8 pm, imagine what they will say when my big black very spooky looking cat is seen wandering around.

I am a little worried that the cat will find out about Cat/Dog Street.  Please don't tell.  I told my husband that I have put my foot down. I am not moving to a new location and I'm not letting my husband move either...the cat on the other hand....!

b

Jan 22, 2012

Frugal Travel....Vietnam might be the place!

I was reading the Frugal Traveler this morning.  Author of the column, Seth Kugel, writes for the New York Times and is the "guru" of cheap travel.  You remember him...he was the one that blasted this blog out of the water last spring.  The article today is about Portugal.  Now that really is a place I would like to visit. But.....

In my world the Far East (excluding China) is by far the best buy for the frugal traveler right now.  We just returned from a trip to China and Vietnam. We visited Sapa, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the island of Phú Quốc in Viet Nam and Shanghai in China. If I were looking for the most frugal of all adventures, Vietnam would be my choice right now...that is what I know so indulge me.

  • Flight: $1450 (from Tucson AZ)
  • Rooms:  $20+ Sapa Boutique Hotel, $140 Grand Hotel Ho Chi Minh City, $20-$100 Hanoi, $150 Cassia Cottages Phú Quốc (included breakfast).  This is a resort so the price is higher but in this case I think it is probably a very good choice.
  • Trekking:  We booked our day hikes in the hotel we staying at.  We booked the guide after we had arrived. There are websites for treks with overnight stays in villages.  2 days 3 nights will cost around $170.  
  • Overnight train fare from Hanoi to Lao Cai $25-$78.  Connecting Bus (1 1/2 hr.) $2 one way.
  • Note:  A trip to Halong Bay could be another place you should put on your list.  
Sapa Rooms Boutique Hotel Lobby/Restaurant 

Night Train to Sapa from Hanoi

Valley below Sapa on the slope of the Hoang Lien Son range of mountains 
at the eastern extremity of the Himalayas.
Trek to Cat Cat Village
Cassia Cottages, Phú Quốc

I don't know when you last stayed in a $25 hotel room but it had been a very long time for me.  We stayed in a very small hotel in Hanoi called Hanoi Gecko.  The rooms were clean and the hotel was extremely small.  The hotel owner was there to greet us personally and the breakfast we were served in the morning was in a dining room off the lobby.  It was all just fine!  On the other end of the spectrum, we found the resort on Phú Quốco be very luxurious in Vietnam's terms and within a few years the price will probably be beyond our reach.  Our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City was indeed very nice but was not a 5* hotel.   All in all the trade off we made for the cheap rooms allowed us to upgrade in other locations.

Shopping Viet Nam is still very affordable and Hanoi Old City is very much like it has always been I think.  The charm of the way of life that reflects how the Vietnamese really live is still alive here as it is in Sapa.  The farther you go south the costs seem to go up.  

Market Place, HCMC

HCMC from the air.
A young frugal traveler that is willing to stay in less than *****hotels will find this to be a winner.  At least that is what we found.  Save up all your credit card points, keep a look out for cheap airline tickets or special...this could be the trekker adventurer's trip of a life time.

b

Jan 21, 2012

Stein Mart Coupons and ME!

Link Here
Stein Mart here in Tucson (and maybe nationwide) is having a sale today (1/21/12).  Valentines day is coming.  We are going dancing next week end.  Did I mention...I love Stein Mart!  This is the store designed for women that like classic, beautiful, stylish, and inexpensive clothes.  It is a wonderful stop even if they are not having a sale.  Doesn't that describe you?  Really, this store is just perfect.  In fact, walking in the door will have your heart pumping.  At least that is what it does for me.

I love a good sale and I LOVE STEIN MART!  That is all I have today.

b

Jan 20, 2012

How Old is Your Retirement Financial Advisor?

If I were a financial advisor I would really want to be near the age of the person I was advising or have dealt personally with the problems of a family member or friend that was retired!  The internet is filled with ads for people that want to tell others who are retiring how to invest their money and how much retirement income they will need.  But, unless they have been personally and emotionally involved in the finances of a senior, they probably know zip!

I was reading an article put out by a leading financial group the other day saying the same thing.  According to the person writing this article, the thing most advisors are forgetting is the emotional and financial cost of maintaining our bodies (health care).  The money figures they quoted were staggering.

  • According to the estimates in Figure 2, a man age 55 in 2009 would need between $144,000 and $290,000 by the time he reached age 65 in 2019 (depending upon his use of prescription drugs in retirement) to have a 50 percent chance of having enough money to cover premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for Medigap and Medicare Part D
  • Women age 55 would be able to save the same $46,200 as 55-year-old men if interest rates were 1 percent, but would need between $210,000–$406,000 by the time they reach age 65 in 2019 to have a 50 percent chance of having enough savings to cover premiums and out-of-pocket expenses in retirement.
    These figure released in 2010 by the Employee Benefits Research Institute are the latest I can find and probably don't take into account new benefits or loss of benefits that have been instituted over the last 2 years.

    Living for six month of the year in a 55+ community has giving we some insight to the good and bad of health care choices.   For example, we see people that do not have the benefit of physical therapy after surgery.  Recovery takes so much longer and is not complete.  In other cases we witness the effects of poor dental care and all the problems it brings.  Many people are dependent on the Veteran's Administrations for care and it has been a disaster.  In some cases all of these come together to create the perfect storm.  On the other hand, those with good health care benefits can live a very long and healthy life.

    Living by the seat of our pants is not a good thing. Find a good retirement advisor be sure he/she is good because they truly understand the emotional side of living with the spektor of poor health care for the rest of your life.

    Just a thought.

    b

    Note:  Be sure of the cost before you enter into an agreement. In 2006 Kiplinger said:
    A commission only advisor can offer you the advice you need and the cost will be amazingly low. this is because they are still early on in the "learning process". Dont let that scare you - if you go with a big firm, they will likely have a strict review process to ensure you are getting excellent advice (and doing nothing stupid).

    Read more: http://forums.kiplinger.com/showthread.php?6561-Financial-advisor-costs&s=4f5052f5c810348950a19683e2c0c1db#ixzz1k28Ib3B5
    Become a Fan of Kiplinger's on Facebook

    Jan 16, 2012

    You Don't need to be Bored in Retirement! Hobbies

    Note:  I welcome you to become a follower, comment or even click the twitter button to share with your followers.  Thank you for stopping by.
    Learning to draw on my ipad!
    I heard from a Keith of Keith's Ramblings the other day.  He has just retired and commented on his own blog that he was already bored!  Being the helpful person I am, I suggested he become a clown.  He could join the circus!

    Even though I was only joking, in some small way I was serious.  Have you ever dreamed of being a clown...or a writer or a pro-golfer?  Retirement is the time when you can pursue those dreams. The fact that you do not need the income frees you to do what you want without fear of starving!  All you have to do is start.  But being bored really should not be a choice.  You may have a little let down when you retire but before long you will begin thinking about what you will do next.  Retirement will last a long time so "next" is the key word here.

    I always wanted to be a writer.  I woke up every morning for years with the first line of the next great American novel on my lips.  My regret now is that I didn't keep a list of those "first" lines.  Peanut's Snoopy and I could have compared notes.  When my husband and I retired, my son suggested that I begin blogging.  We were traveling at the time so I just began talking to my grandchildren by way of the internet.  That dream blog evolved into stories, poetry and eventually this blog about all that retirement holds.

    Would you believe that the thing that bothered me the most in the beginning was my keyboarding skills? I wanted to publish what I wrote immediately but being my own editor was harder than I ever dreamed.  Those first few years of writing look so shabby to me now.  I am sure that what I write today will look that way to me in a few years too.

    What I have learned is that I am happier when I am busy.  I can still learn with practice so new things don't frighten me anymore.  If for no other reason than happiness, starting a new thing that you can become passionate and even a little obsessed is a good thing.  Being involved will keep you off the streets. Last of all, practice will make you better, stronger and more confident.

    Don't tell me you are bored!  Didn't you always want to be a clown?  Today is the day!

    b

    Jan 15, 2012

    How much do your children love you?

    How much do your children love you?
    In an article written for the New York Times on their Sunday Review Opinions page, Hendrik Hartog, professor of history at Princeton wrote our current financial picture in relationship to the care elderly people are receiving now in comparison to the time before Social Security.  The article called Bargaining for a Child's Love is part of 10 years of research that Hartog did on the role families played in the caring for family members.


    This story takes place sometime at the turn of the century.  As was common at that time a daughter had remained in the family home to care for the parents even after she married.  According to court records from New Jersey, in 1904 this daughter was finding it impossible to be the devoted daughter and a wife and mother.  She left the family home with her husband and daughter and moved into a house nearby.  It turned out the father suffered from syphilis and the mother was "crazy".  The father first ordered her to return and then tried to buy her love with the promise of his Civil War Pension and the property he owned.  All he asked was that she move back home.  She did not move back permanently but continued to return home frequently to clean.  In the end the daughter did get the house after returning to care for the parents for a short period of time but was then sued by her brothers for a share.

    The image painted in this story is one that does not agree with that "it was better back in the old days" we hear about so often. Hartog talks about the romantic notion that things were better back when touted by those that are proposing that we abandon Social Security and Medicare in favor of privatized care.
    Once upon a time, the story line goes, family members cared for one another naturally within households, in an organic and unplanned process. But this portrait is too rosy. If we confront what old-age support once looked like — what actually happened when care was almost fully privatized, when the old depended on their families, without the bureaucratic structures and the (under)paid caregivers we take for granted — a different picture emerges.
    I recall stories told in my family about how the old felt about living in the same house with their children. My great-grandmother on my mother's side believed strongly that there was not the house big enough to let a blended family live together in peace. She lived alone until her death.  My mother cared for my grandmother on my father side until that grandmother became so untrustworthy and mean they placed her in a nursing facilities...far away! This grandmother lived on welfare paid for indirectly by my parents.  I think that Grandmother did not want to be in the same house with her son and daughter-in-law.  The house was not big enough and maybe no house would have been.  It is not a pretty picture. I know that.  But, it is in fact the way things were.

    Hartog ends his article with the statement "We may not love the bureaucracies and the institutions that shape our lives today. But would many of us really want to live in a world without them?" Financial speaking it is a valid question.

    So the question here is what bargain would you make with one of your children so that they would care for you?  Would you share that information with the whole family before making a final decision?  In many cases the final question would be how much do your children love you?  If our politicians have their way, we may just get to find out.  It is a little frightening isn't it!

    Just a thought!

    b

    Jan 13, 2012

    A Day in the Life of a Senior: Death


    To live in hearts we leave behind

    Is not to die.
    ~Thomas Campbell, "Hallowed Ground"


    I just want you to know that not all of our days are wonderful.  But then isn't that true all of our lives? It is not whether or not something bad happens.  It is how we live with the bad.

    Grieving
    My dear friend Phyllis's youngest son was killed in a snowmobile accident yesterday.  He was 44 years old and the youngest of 6 children.  I don't even know what to do about this but give her all my love.  She is very deeply religious and it is carrying her through for the time.  The loss will come later I suppose.

    My only thought was, of all the people on the face of this earth that are ready to die, a great many live within earshot of my park model.  It seems so unfair.   What I pray for her is that she be given the strength to accept what she cannot change.

    b

    Jan 11, 2012

    10 Small Gifts for Her ...Tuesday Gifts!

    A picture of a special occasion is perfect!
    Let me explain...a Tuesday gift is one you give for no reason at all and in my world it is a "small gift for her".  It can be a chocolate or a piece of silver.  The gift is not what matters.  The thought that someone thinks of you for no reason but that they like you does.  Here is a list of my favorite Tuesday gifts:

    • Packet of certificates for a car washes.  I received this as a gift.  I actually keep them in my glove compartment and when one of my older grandchildren stop by I give them one.  They really like that.  It is the gift that keeps giving.
    • Book Marks.  I have magnetic book marks, ones that have been given to me as gifts by merchants, ones I have made or even bought.  I include them in a thank you card or a book I am lending for the person to keep.
    • Packets of blank cards.  These are so handy.  If a stamp is on the envelop so much the better.
    • Seeds.  All my friends garden in pots or small beds.  It is so fun to pop them into the ground and have the gift show up weeks later.
    • A single chocolate.  All girls love these and one is the right amount!
    • A recipe in your own handwriting.  
    • A printed picture of a special occasion you have shared with the person. (Our computers can be our best friend.)
    • A book that you have read and want to share.  I love a used book better than anything.  Be sure to write a note in the front and encourage the person to do the same when they pass it along.
    • A loaf of homemade bread or anything that is special from the kitchen.
    • And one of my favorites; a rock I use as a paper weight...a friend brought it to me from a famous golf course.
    I was given a Tuesday gift several years ago.  The idea is one I have embraces with enthusiasm.  The idea was probably the best gift of all.

    b

    Jan 9, 2012

    Seniors: How do your choices affect others?

    I think one of the universal truths is that "it is never all about me".  In this world every decision we make plays out not only in our own life but in the lives of those around us.  This applies to all that we do everyday.

    Yes, that is the bottom in the distance!

    Cat Cat Village at the bottom of the canyon
    This bird came home to rest when we were in Sapa, Vietnam.  My husband and I were invited to walk with our family and a tour guide down the mountain to Cat Cat Village.  The walk began with a descent  into the valley below first on a rocky road that soon turned into a long secession of steps...it felt like 2 kilometers down and as many back.  The information we were given said it was an "easy" walk of only 2 kilometers.  I learned a very good lesson. Be sure what you are doing before you begin.  I could have fallen and did stumble several times.  I could have been unable to complete the walk.  Neither happened but I did slow the group down considerable.  I really did want to go on that walk so I made a childish decision.  My pride did not allow me to face the truth.  For a short few minutes I forgot that universal truth...it is not all about me!

    So this is the lesson we should all take away from this.  When we choose to ignore doctors orders we will not be the only one to suffer, the people around us will suffer too.  When we choose to be irresponsible financially, others will pay the price for our selfishness.  When we choose to travel when we are not able, those people around us will suffer the consequences of our actions.  Ripples on the water will rock all the boats in the pond...your boat will not be the only one that sinks.

    It is just a thought.

    b

    Related articles

    Jan 6, 2012

    Saying Goodbye to China!


    Aging has not changed me that much.  I have always loved to come home after a vacation.  My own bed, bathroom, soap and night lite give me comfort after living away.  For me it has always been so.  But this time away was different somehow.  For the first time in this lifetime of travel I have seen beneath the surface and it has left me grateful for what I have.

    We returned to Tucson last night around midnight after 17 hours between Shanghai and Arizona.  Seventeen hours is not that long but time really has no meaning when we are talking about two cultures born of different history.  I have a hard time making my mind jump the gap.

    I love China and all it has to offer.  I love the juxtaposition of old with the new.  They are in so many ways ahead of the United States and centuries behind at the same time.  The lack of freedom to communicate with the outside world for most Chinese is screaming to be remedied while their ability to construct freeways, buildings and in fact whole communities of people is amazing.

    The Old

    The New

    American Roller Skates come to China!
    Today I switched on my computer here in Tucson after a month of using a laptop that belongs to my husband and my family's personal computer in their home in China.  I was astounded at the speed that my internet came up on the screen and the selection of websites I could simply click on without a message appearing telling me that the site was not available.  Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and so many more are blocked in China so we were not able to have that instant communication with family that we have become accustomed to.  I am waiting for Four Square to be blocked or it may already be.  The fact that, in our family at least, we have quit using email and instant message or post on Facebook was a problem for me as we traveled.
    Henry (in the vest) living the dream!

    Business with no Name....Henry's Dream come true!
    I had my hair cut yesterday by a young man that has been learning computer skills and English from my daughter-in-law.  I told him that I wanted to bring him home with me because he did such a good job.  The words that came out of his mouth did not surprise me..."I want to come to America" he said, "but visas are very hard to get."  I could only think that he did not realize that he was living the dream.  He had managed to climb up by hard work and seeking knowledge and was now a business owner.  In America when we can be successful on that stage, we are living the dream.  It turns out that dreams are coming true in China too.  Beneath the surface we are not all that much different on many levels.  Now if freedom of speech was not such a threat to the Chinese way of life their world would be almost perfect.

    Just a thought.

    b
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    Jan 3, 2012

    Life in Shanghai...I wish I had a paper map! 2012

    Shanghai 2011
    Here is just a thought...why don't I have a paper map of Shanghai, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City?  Really, I know I am a technology geek and like to to get my gadgets out but this is just silly.

    Yesterday we went into the city to buy pearls at a market located in Pu Xi.  I would love to tell you where that is but I really do not know.  Back in the day I would have had my nose in a map located us and even telling the person that live here year around how to get where we are going.  But now?  My goodness do you think I threw out the baby with the bath water?

    We wondered what we were doing out yesterday at all really.  The girls asthma is acting up and the air quality was so bad you could have cut it with a knife.  After a drive across the city, lunch at Blue Frog and a walk to the market to buy a scarf ($12 today) I commented that it was the perfect day.  Lunch, shopping and fresh air.  My daughter-in-law was hysterical at the "fresh air" part.  Really, when you looked out the windows of the car, you wanted to hold your breath.

    Rural China
    I wonder about Shanghai, maybe even worry a little.  They say the China is experiencing the largest migration on the planet right now as the Chinese migrate from rural communities to their cities.  When I look out across the landscape, I wonder if one day it will all fold in upon itself and sink into the muddy ooze that lies beneath this city surrounded by water.  It seems like a Sim City built with Legos on a paper raft!

    We drove by the small cove nearby my son's home.  Boats dock here at night.  The people's road was being used by fishermen to repair nets and scooters drove on both sides of the road.  We had seen rice being dried on the road earlier in December.  The road had been recently paved so it was much improved in the time we were in Vietnam.  At least the pot holes were gone.  This small community is near the airport and Chinese hotels line the way.  When we were here before I saw a dog being slaughtered either for it's meat or fur.  I have not seen that this time.


    Online map of Hanoi
    We do not drive through the migrant village just outside the gates of this private community anymore but my son took that route one day when we first got here.  He commented about the improvement on that road but it was not evident because the village is growing everyday and people filled that people's road from curb to curb. Some sewage problems have been taken care of but it is still the most basic of lives for those people.  Small gardens line the canal that borders the road.

    The Outer Ring Roads that circle the city were constructed the year before the Expo was held here in the city. If I had a big paper map I would be very certain about how it looked. The Chinese completed it in less than two years we were told.  It is a miracle for traveling from this location near the Pu Dong airport into the center of the city.  This freeway proves that all things are possible when you have such a large labor pool and a communist government with a goal in mind.

    Watch China very carefully in the coming years.  The inflation we see here is bound to seep down into the market that produces goods we buy in the United States.  I cannot imagine that the cost for labor is not going to explode one day soon!

    In fact if I had a paper map, I would want it to include a path not only geographically but economically as well!  Just a thought!

    b


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    Jan 2, 2012

    A Month in China...China then and Now!

    Barbara on New Year Eve in Pu Dong China
    I am always telling you that I am not an expert on financial matters.  What I know is what I see and read in the papers.  Believe me this is not a accurate way of accessing the situations.  Especially in China.

    My husband and I have been here in the Far East for a month now.  We have driven up and down country roads, used the subway,  ridden on small planes and marginal trains to remote areas in Vietnam.  I have shopped in Hanoi, Saigon and Shanghai.  What I see leaves me wondering what is really going on.

    Vietnam is at the place where China was when we were here 5 years ago.  Shopping is fun and goods are affordable for tourists.  The people in the cities live much like they did in the villages they came from.  Vendors show up on the street very early in the morning as businesses begin to open and disappear as quickly as they appeared.

    When we visited Chinese in 2007, the Chinese people were doing fine but the evidence of extreme wealth was not evident.  Expats hung out at classy hotels and in the upscale alleys that dot downtown Shanghai.  Shops filled with beautiful good were not expensive and a dollar went a long way.  Pashmina cashmere scarves could be purchased for a few dollars and antiques were easily found at a price that made shopping fun. In all cases the market for the luxury goods was aimed at foreigners.

    Flash forward to 2012.  We visited Taikang Lu yesterday to grab a bite to eat and do a little shopping in a labyrinth of alleys that connect main thoroughfares.  This time, beautifully dressed Chinese citizens filled shops and restaurants.  It is the New Years holiday here so this neighborhood was very busy.  Good were so expensive that I could not even consider bargaining for a Pashmina...$100+ each was just so much I wondered about wrapping it around my middle class neck.   Young people were dressed fashionably and very much in the public eye.  Young men wore funky hair cuts and swaggered better than any rock star.  Times are changing at the speed of light.

    It seems that the more the people know the less they are allowed to communicate with the world on the Internet.  Here in Shanghai I am writing online with the use of a computer equipped with a VPN service. I am not a revolutionary nor do I see a need for political changes.  The Chinese people will work things out in their own way.  Yet the firewall around this country has gotten to thick and high it is almost impenetrable. While they are keeping the bad out they are also keeping all that is wonderful about the world out too.  It is very sad.

    I asked my son about the Chinese people that I have been seeing everywhere we go.  Were they first generation educated rich?  Where were they 5 years ago?  His thinking was that they are repatriated Chinese working in the country after living in Canada or even the US.  Maybe.  I did not ask questions on the street.

    On the other hand when we drive down the elevated Outer Ring Rd from Pu Dong to reach the west side of Shanghai we can see every piece of land that is not built on planted with winter vegetables.  People are stilling hanging on to small ponds and shacks where they dwell so they can grow vegetables and stay alive.  Small villages have street lined with shops that hold not only what the people are selling but also the mattress they sleep on.  They are going about living life out in China where the "real" citizens live.

    I could only wonder which of these two worlds is the real China?  It is the Lego block city that clings to the massive core of this city or is it the rural world that lives so near and yet so far away?

    What is the point here? The ancient culture of people is slipping away, at least in Shanghai!  We still see evidence that the citizenry views the land as theirs.  They dry rice and repair fishing nets on busy streets.  I can only thing that it will be all gone before we return next time.  Prosperity has come to The People Republic of China but the price they are paying is huge in terms of the loss of their culture and it's tapestry.  At least in their cities.  It will be increasingly difficult for westerners to find what we found only 5 years ago.

    Just an added thought...when we look at our world now we are finding it to be flatter than ever.  Our comfort is a perfect barometer of the loss of diversity we are finding and we are very much at home here in China!  It is really sad!

    b

    Jan 1, 2012

    A Letter from China!

    Happy 2012!
    Hi everyone.  It is New Years Day in China.  Believe it or not we are sitting around watching football. 
     

    We celebrating New Years Eve at a place called "The Brew" last night with a Chinese rock band singing Justin Beiber songs.  Earl was giving a special brew master's tour of the facilities  and we ate risotto truffles, blue cheese and barbecued ribs.  I had a meringue with a strawberry filling.  Nothing primitive about the expat lifestyle.

    I cannot write online using Earl's computer because the Chinese have blocked Blogger.  It is very frustrating for me.  I did have a VPN but they have also blocked that service.  I will wait to use a computer somewhere else or back at home.  I guess there is no way for them to sort the good people out from the bad. 

    Air quality has been very bad but the wind is blowing off the China sea today so I guess the muck will be circulating the earth before long.  It has not rained since we arrived and every leaf on every plant has turned a dusty brown color. 

    After a drive yesterday it occurred to me that sewage may be a problem especially with so much standing water.  In this largest city in the world the millions of people do have a hard time disposing of their waste.  Andy tells me the largest sewage treatment plant in the world is located out here in Pu Dong close to their house.  As for the garbage, trucks are hauling huge loads out to use as fill for the new runways they are building out in the sea at the Pu Dong International Airport.  Amanda keeps saying garbage is making China bigger really fast!  It is so amazing to see.

    The trip to Vietnam was just as wonderful as we thought it would be.  We traveled from the far north very near the China border on the eastern slope of the Himalayan Mountains to the southern tip of the country where a fishing village was surrounded by house boats on the southern island.  The smell of Vietnamese fish sauce lingers in my nose and I feel that I smell like fish still.  The food was delicious and it made my life of dealing with celiac easy.  I lost several pounds just because there was nothing to snack on.

    We traveled on the night train to Sapa in the north as well as taxis, vans, planes both big and very small.  I saw silk sleeping bags in markets but could not understand what they were for until we saw trekkers beginning their journeys through the mountains to do home stays with H'mong families.  I wished I'd had one on the train.  In fact, when we arrived back at Andy's house the first thing we did was wash everything we owned.  Amanda just threw many things away.  We all were sick at one time or another but nothing serious.  My hands were raw from washing.

    We will be leaving on the fifth (Thursday) and arrive home on that same day.  That international date line still is hard for me to wrap my mind around! We miss you all.

    Love you,
    Barbara