Saturday, June 30, 2012


Last week, my wife and I drove to Montreal to meet our son who had just finished teaching for one year in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec, a small Inuit town of 600 people located at the mouth of the George river on Ungava bay. After spending the night in Montreal the three of us drove to Quebec City to see my cousin and his wife. We had a great time together.

One of the most interesting things that happened on the weekend was spending Saturday evening on the Plains of Abraham where the Saint Jean Baptiste celebrations were held. After having dinner with my cousin and his wife in a restaurant called Le Conchon Dingue, (the Crazy Pig), we walked to the Plains of Abraham. It was a beautiful evening so the walk was very refreshing. 

The festivities started at 9:00 PM after a long dissertation about Quebec. While we were listening to all the political and nationalistic speeches we noticed that the cameras had suddenly changed direction and were aimed directly at us. A group of people appeared in front of us. Suddenly, my cousin's wife became very animated and called the women by name, Madame Maurois. A woman and a man came up to my wife, my son and I and shook our hand, in turn, and wished us, "bonne fete" (happy holiday). We thought that they were just people that my my cousin and his wife knew. As it turned out, they were high ranking politicians in the provincial Parti Quebecois, Pauline Maurois who is the leader of the Parti Quebecois and Daniel Paille, the leader of the Le Bloc Quebecois. It was an interesting experience. We listened to the music for about an hour or so then we returned to my cousin's apartment for a while then went back to our hotel; we were leaving early the next morning.

It was a great weekend. It gave me a great sense of who I am and my ethnic roots. I feel that it is important to keep in touch with your roots. In the end, it is ultimately what defines us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stained Glass - My Other Passion

As passionate as I am about wood, there is another material that I also love;glass. I have always loved and admired stained glass. It must have all the hours that I spent sitting in a church pew admiring the figures and patterns in the stained glass windows. I was always fascinated by the way the glass would glow and light up when light would shine through a stained glass window. The window would literally come to life which I guess what the intent of the stained glass maker or designer.

However, it never occurred to me to make a stained glass window or that I could even make a stained glass window. That is until we moved into our current home which has two small windows on either side of the fireplace which is now part of our bedroom. The two windows are placed in such a way that they have the early morning sun shining through them.

One day, my wife and I were standing in the room admiring the sunlight streaming through the windows and said that it would be nice if we had stained glass panels in the two windows. I agreed but then asked, "Stained glass is expensive, isn't it?"
"Not if you make it yourself," said my wife.
"You're going to make stained glass windows?", I asked.
"No," she said. "You are."
"Me, I don't know how to make stained glass windows."
" You can learn," said my wife. "There is a stained glass studio not far from here and they have classes in the evening. You can learn there."

That was the beginning of my passion with stained glass.

Here is the first stained glass piece that I ever made. It is an angel that I made during the course that I took in stained glass. The angel was fairly basic. It measured about 6 inches by 6 inches.

Here is the second project that I did, two stained glass windows that now hang in the windows beside the fireplace in our bedroom. each window measures approximately 2 feet by 2 feet. I guess you can say that I took a leap of faith and plunged right into stained glass. The fleurs-de-lis is the center piece of the window. I surrounded the the fleurs-de-lis with clear float glass that was reclaimed from a greenhouse that was replacing its old glass.  The float glass is surrounded by red glass with white squares in the corners.

There is a huge difference between making a small angel and designing and creating a window that measure two feet by two feet. I learned a lot from that project and I realized that I really like the process of making things out of glass.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Early Moring Walk on the Yong Jiang River, Nanning

On the last two trips to Nanning China I stayed at the Yong Jiang hotel. It is an older hotel and it certainly does not have the amenities of many of the more modern hotels. What it lacks in convenience it makes up in ambiance and old world charm. When I say old world charm I am actually referring to old world European charm. The hotel was build some time before the Revolution. It was built in the style of a refined European spa. After seventy years the hotel is looking old and dated but I guess that is part of the charm.

Since the hotel is literally across the street from the Yong Jiang river, thus its name, I thought it would be interesting to walk along the river early in the morning just after sunrise. Since I always eat early in the morning I was out walking around 6:30 AM. I was quite surprised at what I saw so early in the morning.

I saw people fishing which is reasonable enough early in the morning.

A little further up the bank there is a terrace where i found a group of people playing badminton early in the morning.

As I continued my walk along the river I saw many interesting things.

This elderly woman was practicing walking backwards. I understand that walking backwards is good for balance and overall co-ordination. She was actually walking at a fairly reasonable speed. Obviously, she had been at this for some time.

A little further down the river I saw a group of people practicing Tai Qi. There was someone who led and the group followed their movements. They seemed to move as one graceful unit. It was very nice to watch.

The thing that I found to be most fascinating was that there were a number of people who were actually swimming in the Yong Jiang river. I saw clusters of people along the shore of the river near the bridge. 

As I walked along the river I also saw individual swimmers swimming in the middle of the river. They were either very brave individuals or extremely experienced swimmers who knew what they were capable of doing. At any rate, I was very impressed with what I saw on those days that I walked along the Yong Jiang river.

I want to finish this post with something a little different. I was inspired by my walk along the Yong Jiang river so I wrote a short poem. Here is it is.

Morning on the Yong Jiang River

Once Chairman Mao swam across the Yong Jiang River,
Or so they say,
His persona is greater than the chairman ever was in life.

Today, ordinary people in Nanning swim in the Yong Jiang River,
Early in the morning when the air is cool and
the mist hangs in the air 
giving the river a romantic, wistful look.
From where I stand on the boardwalk
Looking down at the swimmers in the water
And on the rocky beach,
They look heroic as they swim 
Purposefully, parallel to the shore of the river.
Are they thinking of Chairman Mao
Swimming in the Yong Jiang River 
Those many years ago,
Or, are their thoughts 
On more current matters,
How well are they doing in their work,
Will they be able to buy a car,
When will they be able to afford to buy a home,
Will China's economy continue to grow at a record pace?

Once chairman Mao swam across the Yong Jiang River,
Or so they say,
To demonstrate his leadership,
To show the people that he was strong and virile,
To show the people that the party was in charge 
And was willing to face difficult challenges.

Today, ordinary people swim in the Yong Jiang River.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hong Kong - 1881 Heritage

For the next number of blogs I will be jumping around in space and time so the normal linearity of travel will be a bit jumbled. Having said that, I am trying to write my impressions and experiences down as they come back to me. as much as I vow to write these things down when I am traveling there never seems to be the time nor the inclination.

Going back to March when I was stranded in Hong Kong for a few days I discovered this facility called 1881 Heritage. What caught my eye was the groups of wedding parties that were using this picturesque site to take their wedding pictures. The wedding parties themselves were quite interesting, they ranged from very traditional Chinese wedding Cheong Sams to Ultra modern western tuxedos and strapless western wedding gowns. I did not take any pictures of the wedding parties because I wanted to respect their privacy.

Later in the day I went back to 1881 and toured the historical aspects of the site. Apparently, it had been the site of the marine police of Hong Kong and there were still many historical artifacts and buildings on the site.

Front view of 1881 Heritage

Lighted carousels

close up of carousels

Signal Tower

period carriage

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chalau - Dim Sum

I have to admit, I have been somewhat remise in blogging this past month. With my heavy travel schedule and everything happening in my life, I have not had much time to sit down and write about what is going on so I must back track a bit and start at the beginning of May.

At the end of April, beginning of May, my wife and I went to Alexandria, Virginia to visit with our oldest daughter and her husband. Our vacation actually began by staying in Toronto at the Chelsea Inn Hotel on Friday night which was convenient because we were going to fly to Washington D.C. Dulles airport on the following Saturday. The most memorable thing about Friday was that we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant called Chalau. My wife saw a tiny article about Chalau in the Metro newspaper that is distributed on the GO trains going to and from Toronto. It sounded good so we decided to give it a try.

Chalau is located at 476 Yonge St. which was only a few blocks north of the Delta Chelsea hotel where we were staying. The restaurant is relatively small but the decor is very nice, very stylish and trendy. We ordered six items; bean Curd Sheet and Shanghai vegetable dumplings(3 pcs), Pork Siu Mau (4 pcs.), Soup dumpling with Shrimp Scallop and sea cucumber (1 pc.), Crispy fried eggplant and lotus root (4 pcs), Fried chicken taro dumpling - Wu Kook (4 pcs.), and Baked egg tart (2 pcs.).

The food was beautifully and imaginatively presented and interesting dishes. Taken altogether it was a great dining experience. The cost is about twice as much as the usual dim sum restaurant but the quality of the experience is well worth the expense. I would highly recommend a visit to Chalau when you are in Toronto.

Wu Kook

XiaoLeung Bao (soup dumpling)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Being stranded in Hong Kong for a few days was not all that bad. I got to do and see a lot of interesting things. After I left Hong Kong the opportunities to see interesting things continued. Because my original flight home on Saturday was canceled. Air Canada put me on a flight to Toronto that had a connection in Japan at the Tokyo (Narita) airport. This was exciting for me, I had not been to Narita for at least 17 years so it was interesting to see the differences.

Overall, the Narita airport looked newer and cleaner. I think the airport and been overhauled since my last visit some 17 years ago. One of my first things to do was to find a decent coffee shop which as it turned out was not all that difficult. It was interesting that I could order 'weak' coffee, 'medium strength' coffee and 'strong' coffee. Of course I ordered strong coffee. With coffee in hand I wandered the terminal because I had at least two and a half hours to kill.

One thing caught my eye. At the hub adjoining several terminals there was a post that told you what was in each terminal. I saw something about an origami museum. What could be more Japanese than an origami museum! I decided to check it out. It only took about five minutes to find the origami museum. It was amazing. There were so many examples of this intricate art and craft that it was overwhelming. Now, I can struggle through folding a crane which probably most people could but some of the constructions that I saw were absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, the pictures that I show here do not even begin to do justice to what I saw with my own eyes at the origami museum in Narita airport.

A green dragon

A variety of interesting pieces

More interesting pieces

Christmas in origami!

Hark the herald angels...


This was amazing! Smaller and smaller cranes until...

the last one was made with and can only be viewed with a magnifying glass!