How the Cookie Crumbles

An irreverant view of life after SIXTY-FIVE


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100-word Challenge for Grown-ups – Week #145

You should check this out and join

http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week145/

100wcgu-72

This Week’s Prompt

Each bench has a small explanation of why it was chosen. The prompt this week is for you to think of your favourite book and write that explanation. As always, you only have 100 words and you have to make it a creative piece of writing.

wpid-photo-20140818101027

The Crimson Petal and the White

by Michel Faber

 In 1870’s London, Sugar was nineteen and a prostitute. She refused to live the rest of her life as one, but how to change her life?

She almost accomplished the impossible. A rich man desired her because she attended to him with upmost care. She became indispensable and gave him her love. It became apparent she was only a paid servant and he excused her like he did his sick wife. He didn’t love anyone, not even his daughter. Sugar knew she deserved more as did his little girl.

This plaque is in memory of her resourcefulness and ultimate victory.


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Luoyang, Day 6, Part 2: Longmen Caves

We were supposed to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors, but our schedule  had been switched.  Our new guide, Lisa, met us at the airport in red sweats and a quilted  jacket. It was warm (forecast 25° Celsius). I don’t believe we went straight to the hotel but loaded the luggage on the bus and headed for the mysterious Longmen Caves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QdYUkvT19g  (length 4.37 min)

OR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf_ZzgwxrmI  (length 30.12 min)

For an in-depth history, you may like to check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longmen_Grottoes

We walked a long way from the bus to the grottoes. The day was humid with a hint of rain. I wore flip-flops until we got off the plane. Yes, those cheap dollar store kind to wear in the hotels, proof of how little I’ve travelled. We had slippers at every hotel. Duh. Had I known I’d be wearing them out, I’d have packed my fashionable pair. I switched to my runners on the bus. Soon my blistered and bandaged toes, although wrapped in three bandages each, growled and complained.

Bridge at Long Corridor © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Bridge at Long Corridor
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

The area we walked was a long and wide to accommodate hoards of people. It was a well-maintained park setting with flowers, trees and was surprisingly pristine, alongside the River Yi. Again we saw no wrappers or garbage anywhere. No empty water bottles lay around either. Recycle containers were everywhere and well-used.

River Yi at Longmen Caves © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

River Yi at Longmen Caves
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

So much destruction had occurred over time: vandalism, smashed faces, missing heads and time. Stolen pieces had been mysteriously secreted to museums in various parts of the world, but are slowly being returned.

Our tickets to Longmen Caves allowed a choice between a postcard and a pack of peony seeds. I chose the latter as a souvenir because peonies are the city flower. There is a natural rock in this area that looks like it’s covered in peonies.

Peony Stone © by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Peony Stone
© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

I hadn’t planned to climb to the top as my feet balked at the hundreds of stairs (thousands?), but curiosity changed my mind. When would I have the opportunity to see for myself what I’d traveled so far to see? Going up wasn’t too bad. I don’t think anyone noticed how I gripped the railing with both hands. Coming down was another matter. Heights and I are not on friendly terms.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles A few caves

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles
A few caves

Would you guess the biggest Buddha is 17 metres tall?

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

This is a close-up of the largest Buddha, Losana, or Mona Lisa so-called by the locals because of the smile.

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

© by permission of RJ, a member of English 8

Below the many stairs are shops with tourist trinkets, postcards etc. of all kinds.

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

© Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

 

By the time I’d walked and photographed and snooped in the shops and sat to rest my feet, my tummy began to remind me it was starving. The humidity continued and the rain stayed away. Soon everyone gathered together. There was no more to see. Dinner awaited somewhere. I hoped we didn’t have far or long to go.

Next on August 22, Day 6, Part 3 – Dinner and Stories

For more related posts, click on China tab at the top of the page.


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100-Word Challenge for Grownups – Week #144

To join the fun, checkout

http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week144/

This week’s prompt is …the black dog walks alongside me… + 100 words

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WHO GOES THERE?

Something scraped against the window. Winston bolted upright, thick Einstein-like hair askew. “Who’s there?” Heart thrashing, he gasped for breath. As crusted eye-lids unglued, he scanned the bedroom. Shadows lurked like black tombstones, details indistinct, even of his virginal bed.

Depressed for months, he’d lost interest in life and slept the indifference of the dead. He grabbed the covers with shaky hands and tossed them. The black dog walks alongside me no more.

 

In the semi-darkness Winston made his bed, showered and dressed. No need to write a note. Peaceful at last, he progressed down the hallway with purpose. The basement door sighed shut behind him.


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Luoyang, Day 6, Part 1 – (local flight)

I’ll have lots of pictures next time.

~ ~ ~

So far, our English 8 have traveled from Toronto to Chicago to Beijing, approximately 7,041 miles. This does not include the bus trips in the three days since our arrival in Beijing to Tiananmen Square; Forbidden City; Temple of Heaven; The Great Wall; Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, and old Beijing Hutong.

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The night before we scrambled to assemble our suitcases and sort out what we’d need for the morning and left our bags in the hallway for pickup as instructed. It seemed odd the next morning when the bags were in the lobby–sitting there looking abandoned and crammed together for protection. We could have brought them down when we met in the lobby after breakfast. What a headache for nothing. No tour was planned for the morning.

Bikes galore

Bikes galore

We were off for the first of our domestic flights to Luoyang. Robert, our guide, came with us to the luggage drop-off and as far as Security, which made it easier to find our way through the airport.

Someone brought up tipping at dinner the night before, but no conclusion had been reached. Before Robert said goodbye, there was a scramble to cross his palm with Chinese money.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luoyang_Beijiao_Airport

I stood behind Sue at the Security Check and was yelled at to step back behind the yellow line. Scared me silly. When my turn came, the (young) clerk looked so stern, I was nervous but I also felt she was milking it—you know—a power trip. I waited while she took her time before returning my passport and boarding pass. Once through, the body scanning wand went off. What’s going on? Deep breath. The problem:  my bought-in-Canada made-in-China earrings.

Russ waited in line behind his wife who cleared in no time. We waited and waited for him in consternation. Finally, we watched him being escorted to another Security desk. When his carry-on had been x-rayed, they couldn’t figure out what set off the alarm. He had a camera charger which wasn’t labeled with voltage information (there is a maximum allowed) and it had to be turned in. The security guard, who escorted him, laughed silently. I saw his animated face and shaking shoulders. Even the fellow at the desk, taking possession of the charger, was apologetic, but rules were rules.

Our arrival at the airport was 10:00 a.m., too early for 12:30 boarding. Take-off was 1:00. Would you believe we were given a meal on such a short flight (about an hour and a half)? Then again, it was time for a mid-day meal. The boxed lunch consisted of rice with scrambled egg mixed in and a piece of chopped ham; a dried fruit bun; coffee; water, and cookies. A lot of Chinese were on our flight. One guy I watched across the aisle wolfed down his food as if he were starving.

We arrived around 2:30 p.m. I estimated we’d flown 420 miles on a ticket worth about $143.00 USD. We did not pay this. Our trip was all inclusive.

Another new home

Another new home

 

Next up August 15, Day 6, Part 2 – Luoyang (Longmen Caves)

For additional related information, click on China tab at the top of the page.


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100-Word Challenge for Grownups – Week #143

To join the fun, check out

http://jfb57.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week143/

This week’s prompt:  …the parched ground crumbled…+ 100 words

100wcgu-72

HOME AT LAST

Ivy wrenched the wheel as hard as she could; the car swerved. Angry gravel scattered and pelted the hubcaps. She panted and wheezed, and coasted to a stop. The old red house of her youth had endured. Home at last. Relieved tears obscured her view.

Hands shaking, she heaved her age-worn bones out of the car, grasped her cane and hobbled to the backyard. The parched ground crumbled beneath her feet. Ancient and useless as me, I see.

Cr-r-ruck. A raven carped. Ugly birds endured too.

I’d much rather die here alone than in that stinking nursing home. No-one will think to look here.


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Beijing Day 5, Part 4: Special Peking Dinner

When the bus dropped us off, we walked to the restaurant down an alley and a weird sidewalk, up-heaved and not finished, or maybe under construction. We entered a shopping mall and took the escalator to the second floor. The women wanted to look around and shop. We hadn’t been in a Chinese mall yet. Again, no time. I didn’t care about actual shopping, but I wanted to compare a mall in the east to what we knew at home. From our rushed escort, I’d say they are comparable.

Fancy caving of Peking Duck

Fancy caving of Peking Duck. Check out the wind glass on the table.

Our heads swiveled as if at a tennis match, but Robert whisked the English 8 into the most upscale restaurant we’d been to so far. All the restaurants thus far wouldn’t be mistaken for anything by Chinese. Excepting the staff, we might have been anywhere in the world. Our table, tucked in a quiet corner with no other patrons around, put the idea into my head that we’d been bad. (small joke)

Asked for our preference, our glasses were blessed with a splash—my guess—an ounce of wine. (Proof positive: Don’t do this at home, kids. Today I ran a test. I measured an ounce of water and poured it into a similar glass. I was right. Sometimes I amaze me.)

Appetizers

  • thin beef slices
  • radish
  • salad (didn’t write what kind)
  • vegetables

As expert as a surgeon

As expert as a surgeon

The opened bottle waited on the sideboard. What a group we are. No-one jumped to order. All meals and tips were inclusive but not the extra wine. At least when you buy a bottle of wine in a grocery store or liquor outlet, you can haggle over the price. You don’t ask the price of wine in a restaurant and then decide not to order. Right? Was it good? It wasn’t memorable.

The duck was presented and carved. An expert carver, every cut precise. Yes, we all tasted it, but no-one liked it and what an embarrassment to leave so much uneaten. Okay, I’ll tell you why: it was dry and tough. My apologies to the chef.

  • Rice
  • Beef and onion + red and green peppers for color
  • Sweet and Sour chicken (familiar, almost like home)
  • French fries and shrimp (yes, together)
  • Chinese cucumbers (the tiny ones)
  • Chicken and tomatoes
  • Soup (made no notation re kind)
  • Pulled duck meat and onions
  • Something like a tortilla for the duck meat

 IMG_0325

Wouldn’t you know, the one night we had an early evening, we ended up in a traffic jam, but not for long. My feet were killing me but felt better than the previous day. These new shoes I bought for mega bucks were comfortable but my feet perspired like fish in a steamer.

I needed bandages for the blisters. Couldn’t find the ones I KNOW I packed. Lucky for me we had a drugstore next to the small variety store on one side of the hotel. What an experience. Neither the druggist nor the cashier spoke English. Pantomime, hand signals and short of removing my shoes, we finally found regular bandages. I shook my head a lot and the druggist showed me a roll of gauze suitable for a bullet wound to the chest.

On my way back to the hotel I slipped into the variety store and for $3:00 U.S. bought a large can of Chinese beer. You know, to celebrate the bandages and yes, it hit the spot.

CCTV station in the background. Looks like a pair of pants.

CCTV station in the background. Looks like a pair of pants.

 

Some Quick FACTS about WORK:

  • Average salary $1,000 per month in major cities / less in smaller ones
  • White collar workers $1,700 per month
  • Working for government, same salary but allows discounts for detergents, soap, condos,
  • Working for government has good healthcare and other benefits even if salary low
  • Late to work once, maybe twice, 3rd time you’re fired
  • Unemployment rate 4 – 5%
  • 70% of companies are privately owned
  • Big imbalance between the rich and poor
  • Lots of floating population from rural areas and outside the city try to move to Beijing
  • Both parents must work
  • Grandparents live close by and look after child while parents at work

Family:

NO matter how many young children we came across—not hordes—not once did any one of them flip out, scream, cry, cause any kind of fuss. How does that work here? As well, lots of grandfathers and young fathers interact with the young child. By far, most of the children have been boys.

  • Babysitter for newborn good paying / competitive job = $1,500 / month
  • Rather hire grandma / grandparents who live close to help with childcare
  • Maternity leave is 6 months with pay
  • Second child penalty 60,000 Yuan ($10,000)
  • Twins or triplets are considered one pregnancy and not penalized

Next on August 7, Luoyang, Day 1, Part 1: Domestic Flight

To read more related information, click the China tab at the top of this page


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What’s a Hero?

“Hey.”

“Hey, yourself. Where’s everybody?” Robbie rubbed his sunburned scalp.

Toe kicking dirt, pale-everywhere Jimmy heaved a skinny shoulder, then slumped. “I’m bored.”

“Let’s go swimming.”

“I hate cottage country. Can’t use my iPad.”

“Come on. We’ll round up some of the kids.”

A cement truck lumbered down the street, clouds of dust in tow. The boys sprang off the kerb and stared with mouths agape as it bounced off the kerb a foot too close. Jimmy cleared his throat first. “You see that? He almost hit us.”

“But he didn’t. Whoa. There he goes again. Something ain’t right.” Robbie looked up and down the country road. Not a soul in sight. “Come on. Let’s follow him.”

“Too hot.”

“Something’s wrong.” The bigger boy grabbed Jimmy by the wrist dragging him along, forefinger pointed forward.”

The truck ground to a halt with a screech and a lurch on the opposite side of the road, the drum still spinning.

“Come on.” Robbie let go of his friend and raced ahead. He grabbed the handrail and hauled himself onto the running board. He couldn’t reach to open the door. The driver’s face plastered the closed passenger window.

Jimmy wrung his hands. “Is he dead?”

“Shut up and let me think.” He pounded his eleven-year-old fist into his palm until his eyes protruded. A smile bloomed on his face.

“Where are you going? Don’t leave me…”

“Run to the nearest cottage and tell ‘em what’s going on. I’ll try to get inside and see if he has a cell.  Crap, no cell service here.”

“How ‘bout the CB radio?”

“Don’t know what he’s got. Go. Hurry. The other way.” He watched Jimmy change direction and ran around to the passenger side. As much as he strained, the handle was still too high. The engine growled and the drum clanged round and round. The truck cab shimmied like a nervous bride. Robbie jumped down scanning the ground. He raced to the other side and peered up. The driver’s face still decorated the window.

Sweat poured down his young face. “Aha. This’ll do fine.” He tugged and tugged. Nothing. It wouldn’t budge. “Are you kidding me?” The boy danced from one foot to the other combing the ground. He settled on two smaller rocks, which fit one in each hand. Palms down, holding them like bowling balls, he shuffled to the passenger side again. The rocks lined up side by side, Robbie sprang onto the running board, hung onto the handrail and tested his footing.

“Yes!” Chubby cheeks on fire, sweat dripped down his shirt. Nothing. “It’s locked. Are you kidding me?” He yanked and wrenched. “Open!” The door creaked and the boy scrambled to keep his balance. Using both hands and an elbow, he coaxed the rusted door wide enough to clamber up into the seat. Someone on the radio twanged a forlorn country song. He picked up the handset but it didn’t even crackle. He leaned forward and switched off the engine key. The cab stopped doing the shimmy. The cement drum creaked on.

Short of climbing into the unconscious man’s lap, Robbie braced both hands on the horn. It made a terrible noise but someone would have to hear.

A siren screamed somewhere. He peered in the side mirror. A police car and an ambulance grew larger in its reflection. Robbie scooted outside.

Jimmy jumped out of the police car. He wrung his hands like a girl. “Is he dead?”

“I don’t know, but his lips are an awful blue.”

“Step aside.” The paramedics rushed forward with a gurney.

“You did good, boys.” A policeman patted Robbie’s shoulder.

Jimmy beamed; Robbie slipped into a sitting position on the straw-like grass and stared into a void.

The policeman returned. “It appears you saved and captured a bank robber.”

“What?”

“Who steals a cement truck for a getaway car?” Robbie’s mouth dropped.” You still bored, squirt?”

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