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Friday, January 17, 2020

Home From A Six Month Experience In China

Nancy and Harry at the Temple of Heaven -
it is a beautiful wooden building over 500 years old. 

Nancy is a professor at Florida State University. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Beijing China. We lived there from August to January. She taught graduate courses in library science at Beijing Normal University - the 9th ranked university in the country. During that time - we lived in a high rise apartment just off campus. FSU encourages professor to seek out scholarship - it was funded by FSU - the federal government - and the China government. It is sponsored by the USA Embassy in Beijing. 

Nancy was accompanied by me - Harry - her husband. I am a retired public school teacher and a trailing spouse. We flew over to China in August - and just returned on Jan 15th. While in residence - Nancy also did presentations in Nanjing - Shanghai - Vietnam - and Japan. She did presentations at the USA Embassy in Beijing. Over the Christmas Break - she celebrated with her family in Paris-France and Malaga-Spain. 

While in China - Melissa Johnston - JP Brown - Wanda Brown - and Jan Davis visited and stayed in the Beijing apartment. They visited several attractions - The Great Wall - The Terracotta Warriors - Shanghai Disney - The Forbidden City - The Red Theatre - Olympic Birdsnest Stadium - Tianianmen  Square.

In the coming days - we will present more detailed stories comparing and contrasting China to the USA. We returned with a love and respect of the Chinese people - the problems they have - and their form of government. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Flying To China

We are in our Boeing 777 flying from Paris to Beijing China. We are coming home the wrong way - flying over Russia. Our flight is 9 hours - 1.5 hours have past. I checked my phone and it says I have WiFi. So I can send and receive messages.

Lulu's Fulbright Scholarship ends on Jan 15th. So we will be home in Florida on Wednesday at 9 pm. Our China visitor's residency visa expires Jan 15th.

We are looking forward to being home with friends and family. We look forward to attending FSU basketball games.

My thanks to JP and George for caring for our house. Also John and Sandy for watching over our place.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

I Am Touring Paris In My Christmas Present - A Citroen 2CV

Citroen 2CV on the Boulevard de la Bourdonnais

The tomb of Napoleon with real gold dome

Come along on our ride

Nothing says Paris quite like touring along the Seine River in a Citroen 2CV with the top down on a sunny day in January.  For years I have coveted one of these cute little French cars.

After World War II - Europe was a mess. The roads were tattered. So car companies were building sturdy - cheap cars that could navigate without without roads. The Germans built the VW Beetle. The British built the Mini. The Italians built the Fiat 500. But the strangest one was the Citroen 2CV.

2CV stood for deux chaveau - two horses. The engine was a little 2 cylinder engine that drove the front wheels. Today we have a lot of front wheel drive cars - but back then they were rare. This provided excellent traction both on and off the road.

The Citroen 2CV was very light - weighing in at about half a ton. The engine had 16 HP -but it got excellent gasoline mileage over 50 MPG. It had longitudinal springs springs which made for a very bump free ride. Farmers would haul their eggs to the market with hardly a break.

They came in just one version - with a rolling back canvas top. The windows flipped open - the doors were too thin for rolling windows.

Today - the cars are collector items. They certainly draw attention rolling through the narrow streets and passage ways of the West Bank. We even went down along the banks of the Seine River.

No - my Christmas present was not a car to take home - simply a one hour tour of the city in a Citroen. And that is just about as good as it gets. Lulu rode in the back seat and took the video.

Front wheel drive

2 cylinder - 4 door

Our driver Pierre

The Pantheon through our roof

We buzzed down narrow streets

Buseye chrome headlights 

Tiny engine

Easy to work on

Air cooled - electric fan

In front of our apartment 

Soft seats - they had it rigged for digital start

Rear seat with blanket for Lulu

Older than 25 years - can be imported to USA

Friday, January 10, 2020

Camino Del Rey - The Most Dangerous Path In the World

We hiked Camino Del Rey

After spending 6 days in Malaga Spain - Lulu and I wanted to get out of the city and see the countryside. I wanted to take a docile train to Gibraltar and revisit that British Enclave. Lulu had her sights set on something a little more challenging. She had read about Camino Del Rey - the pathway of the king. I read it and I cringed. 10 people had died hiking it in the last 20 years! I told her that I survived to 71 by not taking many real chances. I have not been that brave since marrying a young girl almost 50 years ago.

Then she showed me the fine print. About 5 years ago - the government spent 9 million euros - completely rebuilding all the walkways - making it very safe.

Lulu found a web site that offered a guided tour for 108 euros total. This was Wednesday night at 9 PM. I had to commit and possibly lose my money if I back out. I said no - and we planned something more docile because - we let the old man in :-(

All night long I dreamed of failing Lulu. We were within 40 miles of this sensational walk - and I was a coward. I woke up in fits all night. In the morning - I said - I will not let fear rule my destiny! Lulu said - too late. I said - we will do it ourselves.

We went to the Malaga Train Station - tickets to the little town were only 5 euros each way. The train would take less than an hour to cover the 40 miles. We were on our way with no reservations - flying by the seat of our pants. If there were no tickets for the hike - we could continue on the train to Cordoba and Seville.

A shuttle bus took us to the trail head about 7 miles away. It cost 1.50 euros. Luckily you can only hike the trail in one direction - downhill - back toward town.

Camino (Caminito) Del Rey was a path constructed between two giant hydroelectric dams. The trail was constructed to service an ancient aqueduct that carried water from dam to dam - and to the city. It slowly deteriorated into a death trap. Many movies were shot along the trail. The king did actually walk the trail once - thus its name.

At the trail head - be bought passes for 10 euros each. We were set. Lulu was happy - now all I had to do was show up - and not punk out. At first the trail was gentle through beautiful valleys and on firm ground. I was feeling both smug and ashamed. We had about 7 miles to go - with a mild grade south. The sun came out - and burned off all the clouds. It was about 62 degrees - but walking into the sun made my face red.

Lulu packed a very nice lunch from things she scrounged from our hotel breakfast - ham - cheese - rolls - fruit - nuts - candy. Our picnic was really good about half way down the line.  (Note from Lulu:  I always say traveling with Harry is like traveling with a toddler - I must pack snacks, drinks, wet wipes, tissues, etc. and all were needed/used on this hike.)

Soon the trail was hugging the cliffs. You could see the parts of the old trail that fell into the river - well over 300 feet straight down. But above the old trail was a new walkway - about 4 feet wide - a board walk - with stainless steel rails and cables. The wooden boards were all fresh - new and stained. It was like walking on a wooden porch except it was a big fall to the bottom.

I felt very good - all the way to the suspension bridge. By then we were way high up. if I gave up then - I had an uphill walk home of about 5 miles. There were others on the trail - it was not crowded - like they say in the summer. We could stop and take pictures.

They require you to be 9 years old to take the trail. After I was done - I was really happy I did it - and did not let Lulu down. My balance was fine - but there were many places I was holding on with two hands. I can imagine it would be much worse with wind or rain. We had neither. Lulu was like a dancing bear in her down jacket. Our feet were covered with the light tan dust from all the travertine rock.

We walked all the way back to the train station. It is a pretty 100 year old station - high in the mountains - with a tunnel each side of it. The train parallels the path for a short bit. At the station - we were hungry. Lulu got us two liters of beer - two hot sandwiches - and a giant plate of the best French fries. Total cost was 15 euros. The train arrived on time - only three units. We got to our reserved seats - and enjoyed our short trip back to Malaga.

Total cost - train up and back 20 euros - shuttle bus 3 euros - trail admission 20 euros - and finally supper 15 euros. 58 euros including supper. I redeemed myself with my lady - and saved 50 euros - throw in a free dinner.

If you ever get to Malaga - be sure to hike the Camino Del Rey. It is no longer the most dangerous pathway in the world - but you can still pretend that it is.

Notes from Lulu:  See Harry with a required helmet on for the hike. I thought he would balk but he didn't. We met a Chinese family and took some family photos for them.  I feel like a dual resident now after my Fulbright stay.  I think this hike was the best part of our stay in Malaga along with the 3 Kings Celebration.  I don't think we will ever be back be we enjoyed it while there.

The train station between tunnels

Helmets and hairnets required

Old hydro electric plant in back

The upper dam where we started

We hike thru the cut

Travertine limeston rock

we started in a group but they dispersed

Side area for pictures

Lulu did not mention snakes once

Wooden boardwalk

I liked it with the mountain on my right -
the good eye

Excellent safety rails

River was 300 to 500 feet down

Lulu led the way

stainless steel rails and cables

It was 58 to 62 degrees

old and new trail

security cameras watch you

in the shade

Lulu dwelled on the bridge.
She shook it as I crossed.

suspension bridge

workers repair

I did not go over the edge

Having like a bat

Trail workers repairing 

Old aqueduct carried water
to city

The river from one dam to other

Early trail parts

Beautiful scenes

The main water gap thru the mountain

Climbers camping up above us

All new rails and wood

Train tunnel

Sun starting to set around 4 PM

The old walk underneath

Not real crowded

The train came by when we were up there.
Train goes to Cordoba and Seville

Very safe railing the whole way

Lulu had dancers legs up there

Glass lookout 500 feet down

Helmet and hair net - I do not
get the hair net

Crossing over - very humbling

Lulu and her China friends

Lulu looks 500 feet down

See the holes in the old path

The old dangerous path below the new one

Note the old concrete bridge

The suspension bridge crosses between the two cliffs

This was the end by the railroad station