A Sunday Walk along the Edmonds Waterfront

The Edmonds waterfront is a five-minute drive from my house, so I walk here often. Last Sunday I parked a little north of Anthony’s Beachfront Cafe, somewhere in the middle of the waterfront walk.

Anthony’s serves seafood and surrounds itself with flowers.

It also provide a sand pit for restless children.

That morning a bit of marine air sifted in, so even at high noon the temperature (69 degrees) was still cool enough for a very pleasant walk. My one complaint: Canadian wildfires. They’ve stolen our blue skies. Who knows when they’ll be brought under control. Rain would help, but here in Washington State, we haven’t had any rain for more than fifty days. I suppose it’s the same in British Columbia.

The kayakers above don’t seem to mind. As long as they have a few crabs in their traps, they’re happy.

A beach design

Low tide expands the dog park far beyond its boring fenced-in area.

Summer “Sea Jazz”. I sat down for a few minutes to listen to these excellent young musicians. What a delight to hear old jazz favorites brought back to life! (Edmonds Woodway High School has an award-winning jazz program.)

Heading back north, I started paying attention to the names on boats. The owners of this sailboat must be looking forward to some good cheer on the water. Clink.

Pity! The swordsman and poet has such a big nose. Is this boat owner a poet? Does he have a big nose? Does he pine for Roxane?

A small boat with big ideas of escape.

There’s something about sailing away that evokes feelings of freedom and rule breaking.

Moonbeams and a constellation.

Sanitarium: “an establishment for the medical treatment of people who are convalescing or have a chronic illness.”

What better way to recover one’s health than to sail away on your own sailboat.

What would you name a boat if you had one? Or maybe you do have a boat.

The Port of Edmonds provides planters all along the waterfront walk. These yellow flowers are quite big, but they remind me of the little buttercups that grow in the grass.

A crab trap on the fishing dock. All except one of these crabs were keepers.

Washington State ferry seen from the fishing dock.

That concludes my walk for today.

 

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Identity: Digging Deep & Expanding Horizons.

 

photo courtesy D. Guillaime & wikimedia

Deep diving into the identity I inherited.

It was a sunny afternoon. I was sitting on the grass at the University of Washington after a writing class and feeling insecure about my ability to write. What, I wondered, ever made me think I was cut out to be a writer?

I leaned on my elbow and ran my fingers through the grass. Then, out of the blue, my Grandma Nora’s name sprang from my subconscious. I say “out of the blue” because I’ve never met Grandma Nora. To this day, I’ve never even seen a picture of her. But I knew she was Irish, which meant I was one-quarter Irish. And aren’t the Irish known for their literary skills?

The next morning, with a spring in my step, I went shopping for a green dress. It was a plain green dress, and I wore it until it was out of style and looking shabby.

My sister and cousin are more diligent than I am about digging deep into the part of our identity that’s related to our shared ancestry. They’ve spent hours searching through ancestry.com and various dusty archives. My sister even traveled to Ireland and to the Orkneys in Scotland where our grandfather was born.

Expanding horizons.

There’s the identity we’re born with; and then there’s the part of our identity we pick up along the way.

When I married my Chinese husband, Eugene, that didn’t make me Chinese. But proximity to him and my own expanding interests did change me. I read books about Chinese history, I studied Chinese brush painting, I cooked Chinese dishes, and I learned to like kung fu movies and Bruce Lee.

Despite all my northern European ancestors, I haven’t spent any more than a few weeks in Europe. On the other hand, I lived in Asia for almost twenty years.

My blogroll and expanding horizons.

I’ve included in the “Asian Connections” section of my blogroll several bloggers whose connections to Asia have more to do with marriage and interest than with blood.

     West Dates East.

Autumn Ashbough from the blog, West Dates East, isn’t Asian, but she is married to a Chinese guy. Andy is second generation, so his main connection to China is food, cooking, and bargain hunting … and his parents. If you like humor, you’ll love reading Autumn’s blog. She writes about the escapades of her Chinese in-laws, her dogs, and her seven siblings, as well as the humorous aspects of daily life for her and Andy. Take a look at a recent post, The Boyfriend Thieves. I think you’ll like it.

     iLook China.

Lloyd Lofthouse is a white American author living in California. He’s married to a Chinese woman, also an author, who was born in China. Lloyd’s knowledge about China is wide and deep. On his blog, iLook China, he writes about everything from the Empress Dowager to bullet trains to romance Chinese style.

My blogroll and digging deep.

     Jennifer J. Chow.

Jennifer is a Chinese-American writer and blogger. She blogs a lot about writing, but she sets aside Fridays to dig deep into her heritage and write about food. She has introduced her readers to Matcha Crisps, Green Tea Oreos, and Eight Treasure Dessert. She says she’s “like a fortune cookie … twisted into dual selves,” Asian and American. Her blog serves up her words and culture in a written delicacy.

     Mabel Kwong.

Mabel is an Asian Australian who writes about what it means to be Asian in Australia. She was born in Australia to Chinese-Malaysian parents. She lives in Melbourne now, but much of her childhood was spent in Malaysia and Singapore. “Today in countless situations,” she says, “I always find myself transitioning between adopting a persona favouring the Chinese values that I’ve been brought up with and a persona that takes on the Australian / Western mindset.”

A sample post from Mabel: Why Are We Afraid Of Standing Up Against Racism?

     Traveler on Foot.

Through his photo essays and travel narratives, Glenn Martinez (the Traveler on Foot) digs deep into his own country and culture, the Philippines. His main interests: “Philippine history, Filipino art, architecture, food, culture, folk and tribal art, late 19th century and early 20th century furniture and objects.” His is not a travel blog for the casual traveler with a few days to see the country. It’s a gift of love to his country, its people, and its history.

Glenn usually takes his son on his travels. The boy shows up in many of Glenn’s excellent photos. So, where to begin? How about a trip to Mount Samat to see monuments, a shrine, and a museum in remembrance of the Bataan Death March?  Or accompany Glenn and his son on a visit to Baliuag to see antique furniture, a church from the Spanish period, a museum and library housed in a robin-egg blue building from the nineteenth century, and an artisan who does carabao bone inlays.

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blogging, cultural identity. Asian Americans, identity, writing , , , , , , , , ,

Expatriates. Why Do They Do It?

at the airport–leaving home, heading for Manila

Expatriates. Why Do They Do It?

Why do they leave family and friends and a country they love to live in a place that’s foreign to them? A place where they in turn will be considered foreign?

The answer is seldom simple, even in a single person or family. It may be a job opportunity, a transfer, the search for adventure and challenge, curiosity about the world, or the desire to be on the outside looking in.

In our case, it all started when my husband’s company closed during the great economic downturn of 1971 for engineers in Seattle. Eugene went months without work. Even then, he probably wouldn’t have considered a job with the Asian Development Bank in Manila if he hadn’t been Asian and if I hadn’t had a sense of adventure and an interest in Asia. Besides, we thought we could always move back home in four or five years. We never dreamed we’d be expats for the next twenty-two years

In Hong Kong to meet my father-in-law on the way to Manila … Tired

Expatriate bloggers

In my blogroll (to your right), you will find quite a few expatriates in the “Asian Connection” section. You’d have to visit their blogs to get a true sense of their motivation. But I’d like to introduce you to a few of them.

     Jasmine Tea & Jiaotze

The author of Jasmine Tea & Jiaotze, is a “trailing spouse.” In other words, she’s someone who moved abroad for the the sake of her husband’s work. (In my day, we were just “expat wives.”) An ex-magistrate, Herschelian is from South Africa. She spent her 30s, 40s, and 50s in London, and now she and her husband live in Beijing. A smart observer with an obvious fondness for Chinese culture, her posts are always full of fascinating insights and details.

     Life, the Universe and Lani

Lani is an American from Hawaii. She moved to Thailand in 2009. Before  that, she lived in Ecuador. Now she and her boyfriend live in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Lani is one of the most thoughtful people I know. She obviously doesn’t believe in living the “unexamined life.”

Why is Lani an expatriate? According to her she’s “looking for adventure, answers and an alternative lifestyle.”

     My Hong Kong Husband

Lina is a lively Polish woman married to a Hongkonger. She and Sing live in Ireland now, but they’re preparing to move back to Hong Kong, a place she seems to love every bit as much as her husband does.

Lina, who is only 26 years old, is wise for her age. See her post on rules of arguing and also her post on when your uterus becomes family business. She always leavens her wisdom with some humor.

     Susan Blumberg-Kason

Susan isn’t actually an expatriate. She lives in Chicago with her second husband and children. But she has the mentality of an expatriate. She spent her childhood “dreaming of the neon street signs and double-decker buses of Hong Kong.” When she was old enough, she moved there to study. Her first husband was a good looking young Chinese from the mainland.

In her memoir, Good Chinese Wife, Susan describes the five years she spent trying to adjust to Chinese family life and to an emotionally abusive husband. You can read my review of the book here.

Despite a problematic marriage, Susan hasn’t lost her love for Hong Kong and China, and her blog reflects that love and interest.

     Other expatriates

In last week’s post, Are Online Friends Really Friends?, I wrote about some other expat bloggers:

Jocelyn Eikenburg of Speaking of China,

Marta of Marta lives in China, and

Constance of Foreign Sanctuary.

If you visit any of the blogs I’ve mentioned, let me know what you think.

 

 

 

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blogging, book reviews, China, expatriate life , , , ,

Are Online Friends Really Friends?

 

batik on silk by Nicki Chen

Most of the bloggers listed in the blogroll on your right are people I’ve never met in the flesh. We’ve never hugged or shared a cup of coffee. And yet, through our blogs, we know each other pretty well. And we care about each other, I think.

So yes, I’m going to say that my blogger friends are real friends.

That’s why I have to make a confession. Until a few weeks ago, I’ve neglected to put together a blogroll, one of the basic ways bloggers support each other. I should have done it a long time ago.

Today in an attempt to make up for past negligence, I’d like to tell you a little bit about some of my blogging friends, beginning with the “Asian Connections.”

In 2013 when I started my blog, I was looking forward to the publication of my novel Tiger Tail Soup the following year. And since the novel’s story takes place in China, I wanted to get acquainted with other bloggers with a China connection. By a stroke of luck, the first person I found was Jocelyn Eikenburg, who writes Speaking of China.

photo courtesy of Jocelyn Eikenburg and Jun

Jocelyn is at the center of a large group of Western women with Asian connections. Many of them live in China and are dating or married to Chinese men. She calls them AMWF (Asian men white female) couples.

Rose in Xiamen

Finding and following those AMWF bloggers was real eye opener for me. My Chinese husband and I did know other interracial couples during our thirty-year marriage. But in most case I can think of, the man had left his home country before he found his Western bride. The idea of single women moving to China and finding Chinese husbands there was inconceivable because for many years, China was locked away behind the Bamboo Curtain.

Times definitely have changed. One example of the change is Marta (Marta lives in China). Marta moved to China from Spain in 2006 thinking she wouldn’t stay very long. Eleven years later, she’s still there, working as a translator and tester for a mobile games publisher. She and her Chinese husband live in Suzhou with their “chubby” golden retriever. Marta and C got married this past May. In this post, she shares wedding pictures and tells all about their Chinese wedding.

Timo (Crazy Chinese Family) is one of only three men on my Asian Connections list. He and his beautiful Chinese wife live in Germany, but they met when they were living in Finland. One of Timo’s favorite subjects is the antics of his in-laws, especially his mother-in-law. (I assume she doesn’t read his blog. At least I hope she doesn’t.) Since the birth of his son and, more recently, his daughter, the in-law’s antics have to share space with news about the kids.

Constance, who writes Foreign Sanctuary, is from a small town in Canada. In 1999 she moved to Taiwan, where she now lives with her Chinese husband and their toddler. Constance is writing a memoir. And she’s a fantastic photographer. Here’s a small sample.

I’d like to tell you more about the blogs I follow, but that will have to wait for a future post. In the meantime, feel free to click on anything in my blogroll that strikes you as interesting and follow the link.

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blogging, China, expatriate life, interracial marriage, Tiger Tail Soup , , , , , , , , ,

My Husband’s Hometown Named a World Heritage Site.

 

Eugene in Kulangsu, 1983

Kulangsu is known for its beaches, its mild climate, and its longstanding prohibition on the use of wheeled vehicles. They don’t allow cars or even bikes on the lanes of Kulangsu (also known as Gulangyu).

But UNESCO had something else in mind when they named Kulangsu a World Cultural Heritage Site. They were thinking of its history as an International Settlement.

Amoy Harbor, 19th century

For centuries, Kulangsu and nearby Xiamen (a.k.a. Amoy) were centers of shipping, sometimes piracy. During the Nineteenth Century, Amoy was China’s main port for exporting tea.

At about the same time, British merchants began trafficking in opium. When the Chinese emperor tried to stop them, the British insisted that their reputation, honor, and commitment to free trade were at stake.

The Battle of Amoy, 26 August, 1841

The resulting Opium War lasted three years and ended with the British victors taking control of Hong Kong and gaining access to several treaty ports including Amoy (Xiamen).

The merchants, missionaries, and diplomats who came to Amoy, chose to build their homes on the scenic little island of Kulangsu, a short boat ride from Amoy. In 1903, when Kulangsu was officially recognized as an International Settlement, there were thirteen consulates on the island.

All this history sets the stage for what interested UNESCO: Kulangsu’s role as China’s major gateway in early-stage globalization. They call the island “an important window for Sino-foreign exchanges (and) an exceptional example of the cultural fusion that emerged from these exchanges.”

UNESCO specifically cites the architectural styles that can be seen on Kulangsu, including “Traditional Southern Fujian Style, Western Classical Revival Style, Veranda Colonial Style … and Amoy Deco Style, which is a synthesis of the Modernist style of the early 20th century and Art Deco.” Today, 931 historical buildings and gardens in various styles remain.

European-inspired Gulangyu mansion, 1983

When we visited in 1983, I didn’t take many pictures, but you can see dozens of fantastic photos of Kulangsu here. The island was in disrepair when we visited in 1983. I understand it has changed a lot since then.

I’ve written quite a few posts about Kulangsu (Gulangyu). Among them are:

Gulangyu, an Island with a Storied Past

A Chinese Island Retains Its Old World Charm

Pearl Harbor Wasn’t the Only Target on Dec. 7, 1941

All the Tea in China

Remembering … Being Remembered

You Can’t Go Home Again

The Fall of the Bamboo Curtain

No Cars Allowed

A Mother’s Ashes and a Chinese Soldier

Kulangsu is the setting for my novel, Tiger Tail Soup. The action in the novel takes place during the Japanese invasion and occupation of World War II. Tiger Tail Soup is available on Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, and Apple iBooks.

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China, Kulangsu, Visiting Gulangyu, Xiamen , , , ,

The Hundredth Anniversary of the Ballard Locks

 My sister lives nearby, so I’ve been to the Ballard Locks dozens of times. Usually we walk through her neighborhood and down the hill. Then we join the crowd of gawkers standing around, watching boats arrange themselves inside one of the locks.

At some point, a buzzer goes off, a gate closes, and water either flows into the lock or drains out. When the desired water level has been reached, another buzzer rings, the other gate opens, and the boats go on their way, either into the lakes or out to the salt water.

heading west toward Puget Sound

The experience has always been fascinating enough that I haven’t given much thought to the entire engineering project of which the Ballard Locks is only one portion. I’ve been content to scurry from one lock to the other, watching the yachts and sailboats, fishing boats, tug boats, and kayaks, waving at friendly boaters, and then moving on to check out the salmon ladders.

But during the Fourth of July holiday this year, the locks (more formally known as the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks) and the Lake Washington Ship Canal were celebrating their hundredth anniversary. There were fly-overs, band concerts, and boat parades. Information about the construction of the Locks was everywhere.

The Age of Great Engineering Marvels

The late Nineteenth Century and the early Twentieth were a time of big, ambitious civil engineering projects.

1869 – The Suez Canal

1883 – The Brooklyn Bridge

1913 – The Elwha Dam

1914 – The Panama Canal

1917 – The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and the Lake Washington Ship Canal

1931 – The Empire State Building

1936 – Hoover Dam

1937 – The Golden Gate Bridge

1942 – Grand Coulee Dam

After the fact, it’s easy to take these projects for granted. But before anything exists, tell me, would you have the imagination and chutzpah to propose one of these huge projects and push it through? I don’t think I would.

The Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Ballard Locks Project

In the early Twentieth Century, Seattleites with big ideas dreamed of connecting Lake Washington with Puget Sound. They wanted to transport logs to sawmills and coal to waiting ships and to build a freshwater harbor for the Navy. The trouble was, Lake Washington was eight miles from Puget Sound and on an average day, the lake was 29 feet higher.

To make a long story involving politics and money short, the project began in 1911. Six year later, on July 4, 1917, the city celebrated the grand opening of the canal.

The Ship Canal as it looks today

Today you can sail, paddle, or cruise from Lake Washington through the Montlake Cut, across Lake Union, through the Freemont Cut, over Salmon Bay, through the Ballard Locks, and out into the saltwater of Puget Sound. And, thanks to the engineers and workers of the past, when you’re ready to come back, you can do the very same thing in reverse.

As with all big projects, this one caused harm as well as providing opportunities. Wetlands were lost, salmon runs were harmed, Native Americans were displaced, and a beautiful little river disappeared. It’s all to the good that in the Twenty-first Century, we’ve become more aware of the larger impact of big projects.

But the Ballard Locks was built a hundred years ago. So, on the occasion of its Centennial, let’s celebrate the audacity of people who undertake big, bold projects and see those projects through.

On the lawns overlooking the locks, my sister and I enjoyed the music of an excellent jazz quintet …

… and the beauty of delicate flowers in an adjacent garden.Then we ran off to the theater in downtown Ballard to catch the next showing of Wonder Woman.

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holidays, photography, Washington State , , , , , ,

Summer Spotlight

Today I’m a guest on Jill Weatherholt’s “Summer Spotlight.” Jill is a real inspiration. Despite the fact that she has a full-time job, she’s found time, working only in the evening and on the weekend, to write and publish a novel. She writes modern stories about love, friendship, and forgiveness. Her first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, was published by Harlequin Love Inspired.

Jill is also a generous supporter of other writers. A case in point is her sponsorship of a “Summer Spotlight” series. Click on over, and you can see how she does it.

SUMMER SPOTLIGHT: NICKI CHEN

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blogging, books, China, historical fiction, Tiger Tail Soup, writing , , ,

Iris varieties. Which Is Your Favorite?

#1

During my trip back East to celebrate my granddaughter’s college graduation, I stayed with her other grandparents for a few days. Ever since my daughter and their son became engaged, we’ve been friends, so it was nice to spend some time with them.

The afternoon before graduation the other grandma and I toured the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Essex County. It was late in the iris season, but most of the varieties were still blooming.

#2

Being an artist more than a gardener, I didn’t take note of the various irises’ names. Instead, I contented myself with enjoying their beauty.

#3

Irises remind me of Japanese flower arrangements …

… and one of my tea pots.

Here are some more of my favorites from the garden.

#4

I know they’re all beautiful, but can you choose a favorite? How about the party-pink ruffles of #5?

#5

These are only a few of the 1500 iris varieties in the garden. I like the purple and white elegance of #6.

#6

Number seven makes me think of Hollywood in the 1930s. Does that make sense?

#7

The guileless simplicity of yellow and white calls to mind thoughts of sunshine and plain cold milk.

#8

What do you call the colors in #9? They’d look fine on a lady with a long, bustled dress I think.

#9

Number ten starts simple with plum and white and then bleeds in some red and pink.

#10

Velvet magenta, lilac-pink, and violet-red, #11 has beautiful depth of color.

#11

Number twelve is pure and simple. If you like sweetness and effortless sincerity, this one is for you.

#12

For me, #13 conjures up clouds and kittens.

#13

This last one wants to twirl and clap its hands to the sound of  a flamenco guitar.

#14

So … which one do you like best?

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family, Gardens, photography , , ,

Ring in Summer with an Arts Fair

Today is the Summer Solstice. In Seattle that means almost sixteen hours of daylight. This morning the sun came up at 5:11 am, and it won’t be setting until 9:10 pm tonight. This is our reward for having suffered through those long nights of winter when the sun sets at four-thirty in the afternoon.

This past weekend Edmonds welcomed summer with its annual arts festival, a celebration that’s been going on since 1957. Picasso Lane, shown above, is one of five long “streets” on the grass. There were more crafts and juried art inside the Frances Anderson Cultural Center and on the deck and patio of the library.

In the 240 artists booths, artists and craftsmen from all over the country display their wares. This woman sells beautiful pearl jewelry.

The lady from Art’Frica stole a spare moment to eat her lunch.

The festival had twenty food vendors. Here are a few.

Strawberry shortcake, ice cream cones, and a dogOyster Poor Boys and riding on daddy’s shoulders

Sitting on the grass at the corner of Dali and Rembrandt and eating ice cream.

Lots of good music at the outdoor amphitheater

A cool sax at the wine and beer garden

And kids having fun

The weather was a perfect seventy degrees. It made for a pleasant start to the summer.

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Art, seasons, summer, Washington ,

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

A swamp in New Jersey? I suppose you could call it a swamp. But if the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge had been named today instead of in the 1960s, we might be calling it a wetlands. In fact, the 35,000 acres also include grasslands, sandy knolls, ponds, brooks, marshes, woodlands, and ridges.

I saw the Great Swamp on the day before my granddaughter graduated from Princeton. Since I live on the far side of the country, the “other grandparents” kindly invited me to stay at their house in New Jersey for a few days on either side of the graduation. They had entertained me with a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art the previous day, so now it was time for some exercise and a dose of nature in all its green serenity.

The first thing we came upon after a quick restroom stop was this snapping turtle preparing to lay her eggs. When we first saw her, she was digging a hole with her back legs, pausing now and then to soften the ground with her urine. You won’t be surprised to hear that the whole process was very, very slow.

The turtle had a curious audience for her labors. We watched her for a long time. Finally we left her alone to finish the job.

Following the boardwalks and trails, we came upon some wild irises, also called flags,

crossed a little bridge with lily pads below,

and admired some fresh green ferns.

Can you see the frog and the two turtles?

Back in the 1950s and ’60s, nobody loved swamps and wetlands. They were just junk land, a place to be drained and filled in. The Port Authority of New York had what they thought was a good use for this part of New Jersey: turn it into a huge jetport with four 12,000-foot runways. (Jets were new and cool back then.) The Port Authority would bulldoze the hills, fill in the swamp, and in the process destroy 700 homes and other structures. Local residents were not happy.

Those were the days of paving over the wilderness, but a group of people pushed back against the Port Authority. Among them were enough determined, rich, influential, and environmentally conscious people to be successful in stopping the project. In less than a year, two organizations purchased, assembled, and donated to the federal government enough property in the core of the swamp to qualify for perpetual protection of it as a National Wildlife Refuge. Crucially, eminent domain does not apply to federal land.

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family, travel, walking , , , , , ,