Monday, April 30, 2007

Highland Park

I just love the little town that I live in for part of my life--Highland Park, NJ. Here is the new entrance to the town just after you cross over the Raritan River from New Brunswick.

Here I am going for an early evening walk to take pictures with my new camera of some of the places that I love in HP. There is the quaint Corner Confectionary where you can buy the best coconut icecream. A couple of weeks ago dear Celeste and Daniel came for a visit and Celeste let me have some of hers. That is definitely what I will order next time I go to the Corner Confectionary. There is my dear friend John, the Taiwanese baker, who makes such wonderful sweet red bean cakes. Wendy works in the bakery and made me a Taro bubble tea.

PJs coffee house where they have live jazz on Sunday afternoons and which somehow I always manage to miss by just a few minutes. One of these days when I am home on the weekend I will manage to make it there.

There is the colorful and cozy hair salon called "A Garden Party" where Gabriella from Rumania did my hair. I think I may have finally found my hairdresser. I have been hunting for several years. And there are the wonderful tulips that the town planted everywhere. I have never seen tulips like these.

And the sweet little old houses with spring gardens.
All of this and more that I pass on my ten minute walk from my apartment to the Stop and Shop to buy a carton of milk. Not to mention that some of the most precious people to ever have come into my life: Joa, Sham and Arian live also just five minutes walk away, on Saturday night I was invited by one of my students to have barbecued lamb kebabs just three houses away up the little hill an on the little winding road, and I sometimes go running by the river in the early mornings with a colleague who lives just a few streets away.
I am also in easy walking distance from the train station to catch a train into NYC or down to Philadelphia. I can even walk to work if I like. It is just 20 min walk away over the river, along the wide treelined walkway next to the headquarters of Johnson and Johnson, up past the train station, past the wonderful buildings of Old Queens, past the university art museum and I have arrived.
And so I do love Highland Park.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Pale Blue Dot

Found on the Bahai's of Central Jersey website

"The Pale Blue Dot"--Pictures of our planet from outer space as Carl Sagan reads from his own work

"That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.
The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark... To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." Carl Sagan

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Magical lives

Chen Gang is getting married on May 4th. And guess what! I will be able to attend his wedding in Linfen, Shanxi--my Chinese hometown. What a special event it will be.

At some point I must scan some precious old photographs from my time in Shanxi from 1993-1996 into the computer. I would like to have the picture of Chen Gang and "Lao Er" as young 16 year old boys holding a huge birthday cake that they had bought with the very little money that they had as students from families of very modest means. The birthday cake was for me and Qu Mei, who I call "the mother of Shanxi" for it is around her that a growing community of friends emerged. My birthday is on January 21 and Qu Mei's is on January 22 and these two young boys who were students at the nearby teachers' school (a vocational high school that prepared elementary school teachers) wanted to celebrate it with us. Here is a picture of Cheng Gang (on right) and Lao Er (on left) in 2004 ten years later when they were both grown into powerful young men.

In those magical Shanxi days, Chen Gang recruited me and a student from the teachers' university, "Jessie" to help him teach the students in his school English. English was not offered at his school at that time. He charged the students for the classes and shared his profits equally between me, himself and Jessie. Chen Gang's schoolmates were delighted to have this opportunity to study and there were almost too many interested and eager students for us to handle. I earned almost as much from Chen Gang as I did from my regular job teaching at the university but that was not why I did it. Chen Gang at such a young age inspired your trust and admiration. You wanted to work with him because you felt he was so GOOD, so trustworthy, so noble in his aspirations and so capable. That was 1994. Now 13 years later he is the president of an educational empire. He was an early innovator in the private English education industry that has since exploded in the Chinese private education market. Because he started out early and was able to recruit some of his foreign friends as teachers and paid attention to advertising and because he inspires people's trust and allegiance, his school grew, branches around Shanxi and even around the country sprang up. With his profits he opened a primary school in Linfen. He works with the Badi Foundation and with other projects in other educational and socioeconomic projects such as the Breezes of Confirmation project.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

China Prepares for the Olympics

Apart from bringing fond memories of my time spent in China I also love the determined and united effort that is elicited in campaigns such as that described in the NYTimes article that is linked to above. There is not a doubt in my mind that they will be successful.

Serving Africa and Asia

Looking for someone to help you do some volunteer work and service around the Africa for example? Why not contact Ann McLaughlin at NGOAbroad .

Want to do something to help rural children in China? Why not buy something from Bamboo Village Press?

Here is a poster that I just bought. The first for my children around the world poster collection for my office.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Baba Mama

my parents in law have become a very important part of my life and a cause for its great enrichment. Here is "mama" (be sure to say it in Chinese using the first tone for each ma).
They are extremely resourceful people and have filled their empty days and empty apartment with all manner of discovered treasures and entertainments. During the winter when rivers, lakes and ponds were frozen over they discovered a hole in the ice that was teeming with goldfish. "Baba" (fourth tone fourth tone) supposes that someone not wanting their goldfish any longer put them in the pond and they multiplied. whatever the reason for their presence in such large numbers baba mama decided to fish for goldfish.

and take some home.

there is a high turnover in the apartment building complex where we live and this results in a large quanity of rather high quality trash. baba mama are quite perplexed and dismayed at this evidence of consumer culture and wastage. "Don't American's know how to fix things? How is it that they can just throw things out like this?" they query incredulously. They now have a collection of 7 vacuum cleaners and couple of sets of dresser drawers, bookshelves, lamps, tables, piano stool, pottery and potted plants... the list is really quite extensive indeed.
Mama washes and disinfects the treasures they find with great care and diligence and Baba repairs wobbly furniture items and vacuum cleaners. They have their tales of astonishment to tell at the end of a day of treasure collecting--"they threw this vacuum cleaner out when all that was wrong with it was that a sock had gotten stuck inside...just open it up, take the sock out and the vacuum cleaner is as good as new!" One of these days I suppose we will hold a garage sale or something and see if we can sell those treasures that Baba Mama are willing to part with.
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In memory of winter 2007

View from my bedroom window in NJ

just a few steps outside of our apartment in CT the golf course turns into a winter wonderland...

Canadian geese still! are they coming or going?

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