Our Summer Trip — Part II

Before Terry went home, he recommended that I take Sonny to other parts of China, don’t just stay with my sisters, talking and cooking every day.

Li used to own a travel agency, has been to so many places. I wanted to take Sonny to Lijiang and Shangri-la, asked Li where we should stay. I told him what I wanted to see and how many days we had. He arranged everything for us on line and paid for it, he can get better discounts, from air tickets to guest houses, even booked a car to pick us up from airport or to airport. I paid him back with cash.

We flew to Lijiang directly, it took 1 hour. It’s in the northwest part of Yunnan, much cooler weather. It rained a little bit, temperatures were around 17 degree centigrade.

The guesthouse We stayed is located right in the Lijiang old town. This old town has over 800 years history, big cobble stone streets, connected old quadrangle dwellings, Naxi ancient music. I’ve been there once 20 years ago on my vacation trip. I spent two days there, but I got a fever on the first night. I remember that I felt miserable being sick in the guesthouse room, told myself that I wouldn’t travel alone again. It was not a fun trip, I didn’t see much there, but remember it was a quite town, business owners are locals. One of the backpack travelers’ favorite places.

The guest house we stayed
The room has tea set.

We walked around the town at night, it was packed with Chinese tourists, most of business owners are not locals. No matter what kind of food they are selling on the street, they can sell a lot with that amount of customers.

There are many music bars, restaurants with someone soliciting customers by the door. It was very strange scene to me, music bars with glass wall on the both sides of street, playing loud music and dancers on the stages can see each other across the street. It seems out the place in this ancient old town with cultural deposits.

Night scene at Lijiang old town

Next morning we walked around the town again, most shops are still closed, not many people on the street, very peaceful and comfortable.

Day time in Lijiang old town

In the old town of Shuhe, the water is very clean.
Shuhe

Then we took a four hours bus ride to Shangri-La, which is the prefecture capital of Diqing Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Yunnan province. Li booked a car to pick us up at the bus station, to the guest house. The owner is a 27 years old young man, very friendly. After we checked in, we sat with him at lobby, he made hot tea for us, roasted sunflower seeds, plum and Yak jerkey as snacks. We were hungry without lunch that day, at his recommendation, we went to a Tibetan restaurant for supper.

The old town of Shangri-La

Tibetan Restaurant

This dish is called Ma li ga, used Yak meat.
Hot pot with Yak meat, vegetables and noodles.

I didn’t know how big portion of the dishes would be when I ordered the food, so I was going to order more. The waiter said that these two dishes were plenty for two of us, it was a good hot meal for 20 dollars. Later we wondered around the old town, drew to the square by the music. Locals were dancing, some tourists joined them too.

The square of the old town

Highland barley cake and butter tea for breakfast

Next day we went the temple in the old town, bought some Yak jerky for my sisters family, T-shirts and jacket for Sonny and Terry. In the evening, we visited a Tibetan home and had supper there. It turned out to be a place for tourist groups. A dozen young men and women were waiters and waitresses, and performers as well. None of the women had make up, they seems very casual, bold and unconstrained. The food didn’t have much taste, luckily we already knew what the good Tibetan hot pot taste like.

Next day evening we back to Jinghong again, spent more time with them. It had been four years since I visited China last time. I read news about cashless business model in big city, like Shanghai and Beijing. This time I experienced it, it works everywhere in China, even in Thailand too.

I bought a cell phone there, so I could communicate with my sister and friends; paid for anythings I purchased with my phone; used the map app when we were in Lijiang and Shangri-La; used the translate app in Thailand. I went to the bank of China once, only two staff working behind the counter, two staff assisting customers in the lobby, 4, 5 machines in the lobby can take care of withdrawals and deposits. There were only two customers, quite and empty.

There is another thing I noticed on this trip. More and more people have changed their attitude towards life, from their different living and working style, its own characteristic decoration for restaurant, guest house or stores. People with better economic conditions can choose their lifestyles, much colorful and meaningful; enjoying the life became an important thing besides making money. Through social medias, everybody are sharing part of their lives, finding people and friends have same interests in the cyber world. The new technology really opens everybody’s eyes and mind, changing their lives more and more. Most people I know are happier and optimistic, I’m happy for them.

Balcony view at Li’s guest house.
Lobby at Li’s guest house
Li’s neighbor on left side is a family from other part of China, has a tea shop. Lotus pond in front of their house.
Li’s neighbor on right side is a guest house too. A swimming pool on second floor.
Owner designed the rooms with different scene.

Mi suo is Li’s friend, an Aka woman. She has a cafe, sells her family grown tea at next door, sells Zen dresses on second floor.

Mi suo’s cafe
Mi suo’s cafe

Our Summer Trip— Part I

We went to China visiting my families between June and July.

Two days after we arrived there, my sister called our relatives, they came to visit. Ever since my mom past away, I don’t speak Aka language any more, my sister and I speak Chinese when we chat on line. So when I saw my cousins, I hugged them, but couldn’t respond to their greetings with my native tongue. It took me a little while to be able to chat with them with my pigeon Aka(mix with some Chinese).

It was very good to see them. they grow tea and rubber tree as their main income resource. Since Pu er tea made its’ name in Chinese market, Aka people live on the mountain are the tea growers in the origin, tea changed their life rapidly. One of my cousin who has four kids, had to work extra hard to raise his kids. Now his kids are grow up, his eldest daughter leads the family running a tea business, has their own brand name.

One of my cousin who has two daughters, he is the one close to my family, he and his wife always lent a hand when my family needed extra labor. He and his wife can’t read or write very much, he is not the clever one in the village, but he is definitely the honest one. I remember there were many times he came to borrow money, my mom always helped him as much as she could. He was the one getting most scolds from my mom for his foolish action, their life seems like always in a struggle condition. Now his elder daughter married to an Aka man and has a little girl, this young couple help to run his family’s tea farm. They has their own brand name, processing, packaging and sale the product themselves. At the picking season, they need to hire about 50 people to pick tea. They have a good set up operation for a family business. His younger daughter is very smart, just started high school, accepted by the best high school in the town. From our conversations, I notice that my cousin became a wiser person than before as he gets older.

I’m so happy to see they are doing so well financially, way ahead of my sisters’ families. There is a common saying, Feng shui table turns. A person won’t always has a bad or good luck, when the good luck come to you, don’t lose the opportunity. China is developing so fast, I believe the good luck will knock on my sisters’ family doors, lift their finance condition in the near future.

After we spent a few days with my family, we went to town for two days. There were so many changes every time I went back to visit. Year by year, there will be less and less of buildings and streets stay in the same way as I remember.

We visited our friend Maggie, she owns a cafe in town. It was the first cafe in town, backpack travelers must visit place for traveling information. It has about 30 years of its glorious, was listed in Lonely Planet. It changed location 4 times caused by the construction of rebuilding. Maggie and her sister are the 4th owners. Their customers changed from 90% of westerns to 99% of locals. Maggie had to be there 7 days a week before, now there is a manager runs the cafe, she doesn’t have to be there. She travels more often. Her passion is baking, so she goes to cafe in the morning to bake and put baking goods on line for sale. She told me that she went to Japan for 3 months, to learn how to make one type of bread from a master.

It was early evening when we visited her, not many customers in her cafe. that street was very quite, it used to be a busy street. I asked her why it’s so quite. She explained, the local government developed another two areas in the city, draw most of tourists to one place, and more locals to another; it take some pressure of over packed business off from the center of the city. So instead of one business center, there are three business center now, the city is expanded. And her cafe usually is busy on weekend with local customers, only see a few westerns in a year. She said that it’s easier to do business with locals than westerns.

It was still very hot and humidity at that time. At my family’s resident area, power company were fixing the line, so some days we don’t have power, couldn’t use fan at night. It’s not very comfortable, especial to Terry. After we had been there for a week, it reached to a point that Terry wanted going home alone. I went to Thailand with him, changed his return air ticket to next early morning, I flew back to China. Sonny spent two days with my family alone, he had my nephew’s phone, it has a translating app and helped them to communicate.

Li is a friend of mine, younger than me, we were not very close, but he helped me many times unconditionally when I asked him, he is a very enthusiast person. We stayed in the guesthouse he used to own, he has a different guesthouse at the tourism center area. When I talked to him on the phone, he invited us to stay in his guesthouse free. I told him that I’ll have my nephew and nieces with me, need two rooms. He said no problem. When our big group arrived his place, he said that we need more than two rooms. I said, “OK, we take one more room”.

That afternoon, Li told my sister and I that, the rent was too high, he’s going to close the guesthouse if the owner won’t lower the rent. He was not accepting any guest, we were the only people staying there. Ten people owe that building, and he’s waiting to meet one of their representative to negotiate the rent price that afternoon. Li is the only child of his family, his father had a stroke, nobody can back him up. The woman he was going to meet is a middle aged bossy person. We heard their conversation through his phone. Li is too nice person, not a match to that woman. My sister insisted to stay with Li and support him.

That woman showed up with one of her lady friend. Of course she didn’t want to lower the rent. If Li closed the business, she would pay 90,000 yuan for all rooms’ furniture. ( Li spent over a million yuan for the fitting-out works.) If Li won’t sell the business to her, she wanted him turned all of the rooms back to roughcast rooms. She wanted him to change the metal staircase to second floor back to wood. Li explained that the wood rotten away, he didn’t changed it, the property management company changed it. There were other issues she was going to complain to property management company. My sister responded to her, it was her right to complain, but it’s up the company how they are going to deal with it, she had no say. She was pissed off, spoke louder, my sister raised her voices too. They sat next to each other, talked over each other about 15 minutes. She realized that she met her match, she called her other friends to come. She told Li that he would give in when he faces her friends. About half hour later, three middle aged men showed up, they are much more reasoning than the woman. Li went to up stair with them, we didn’t go, but we could hear four people talked over him, he didn’t give in.

Next morning Li told us that the woman called him the night before, she lowered the rent from 200,000 yuan a year to 180,000 yuan. Next door neighbors pay around 140,000 yuan a year, Li has paid the highest rent for last 9 years. My sister told him to wait until that woman lower the rent to 150,000 yuan. At noon, that woman lowered the rent, she spoke very friendly to Li on the phone, a totally different person. Le accepted walk-in guests that afternoon.

I went to daily market with my sister, bought cooking materials and she cooked lunch at Li’s. It was so good, Li invited some friends for dinner at his place. My sister went home with her kids before dinner. I went to the market with Li, bought some food, he cooked the dinner. It was the high light of the whole trip to me, I saw some of my old friend, who I haven’t seen for over 10 years. Li joked that his business closing dinner became business reopening dinner.

Lunch my sister cooked

Sonny with his cousins

Night market near Li’s guesthouse

At the night market, there are souvenir shops selling goods from Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodian and China, located in six different areas. The whole shopping center are built above water. A view from one of the bridges.

Houge, Baiyan and Xiao Qin

Li cooked the main courses, everybody helped to prepare.

This year’s coffee season

We finished our third round picking of this year. First round picking started on August 10th, Terry and Sonny picked one day, I picked 3 more days to finish the small farm. Terry pulped all of the coffee.

Second round was a big round of picking, even Sonny picked 261 lb on this round. Kathy came to help me again, it took us 6 and half days to finish it. It rained a lot, put raincoats on, we kept on picking. At the end, we were still soaking well from rain and sweat. Because I wore wet gloves all day, my palms became itch and my skin just peeled off slowly.

A not good thing happened at the end of that round picking. September 7th was Saturday, the 7th day of picking, I hoped we can finish that day, so we can go to beach next day. Kathy had to go home around noon, I kept picking until the sun set. I was very tired and realized I couldn’t finish it. I left my picking basket and half bag of coffee in the field, covered them up with my raincoat. It’s the bottom of our property, near the road, but nobody can see it from the road. Next morning, we found someone stole my basket and coffee. I was so upset, had hard time to believe someone would steal coffee bag from the field. After I said many times about it, Terry said to me,”Don’t let the negative energy grab your attention. It happened and over, you learn your lesson, just let it go.” Ooh, I’m so glad that Terry pulled me out from that hole, which my mind just went around it again and again, drove me crazy. It was a wake up call, the break through was a distinguish relieve from nonproductive thoughts. At the end of the day, I told myself that I worked to earn it, even I lost it now, it will go around and come back to me in different form. I like to think about other people positively, help me to be nice and friendly to others. But there are still plenty of people making wrong decision and doing bad things. They don’t realize that cheating and stealing won’t help them gain anything, only put them into worse and worse condition. Honesty is a basic and very important quality a person should have, your mind and spirit are free if you have the quality.

Second round picking
Some cherries are big.

One good thing happened to us is, we found some good pickers. they started picking our old farm from first round. We’ve been struggling with it every year, finally we get relieve from the pressure. Kathy is 70 years old now, I’m afraid she might trip and fall, hurt herself. Only picking the small farm, we both enjoyed it a lot.

We had the smallest crop ever last year. This year’s crop looks OK, at least we’ll have our average amount for this season. At the beginning of the year, we had a couple rounds of big beautiful coffee blossom.

2016 May Day Celebration

Last Saturday was the May Day Celebration at Honaunau school, a very special event for Sonny’s class, he and his friends are going to graduate from this elementary school. On this day, the ceremony was held for graduating students. It was even a super special event for Sonny and Jenna, they were elected to be May Day King and Queen.

May Day King and Queen’s families are in charge of decorating the stage the day before. Friday morning Terry and I went to a friend’s flower farm (on our road) to pick some flowers, and delivered to school. We found some flowers already there, waiting to be used.

At 2:30pm, we back to school to decorate the stage. At beginning I was worry a little bit since I had never done before.  There were a couple of moms who did this before, with their little guide, the whole process went very easy and smooth, only took two hours to finish the project.

Next to the field are some Monstera plants, Jenna’s parents and I clipped off some leaves, Sonny’s whole class helped to move the plants to the stage. With their help, the beginning of the project went very well, I was so glad to see they all were be part of this.

 

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We had foggy and rainy week, wished to have a good sunny morning on May Day, we were blessed with good weather.

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To be May Day King, the student has to write a speech to compete with other candidates, then 4th and 5th grade cast their votes. Not everyone want to be May Day King, Sonny didn’t want to try at beginning. I said:” You are a good student, why don’t you  try? It’s not about the compete, it’s about the participate. If no boy in your class apply for this role, how embarrass it is. ” Later I told him that I would award him $5.00 if he tried, $10.00 if he won this role. He needed money for his new computer, I wanted to help him but he had to earn it. So he wrote his speech, it came out not bad at all when he made up his mind. He was happy for days after the election, some kids told him they voted for him because he is the nicest boy. We were happy for him too, it helped his confident to grow inside of him.

In April, there was a talent show in our local community, we saw the sign past few years, but never asked Sonny to sign up. He has been taking piano lessons for 6 years, he can play some nice pieces. I asked him to try it this year, he refused and told me that I couldn’t force him to do it. I said :” I want you to try this time, because you are pretty good now. I wish you have an experience of playing music in front of more audiences, just this once, never again, unless you want to do it on your own. ” At the end we reached the agreement, we award him with $20.00 if he sign up the talent show and play two songs, one has to be “River Flows In You”. That evening, he got many complements after his performance. I believe he was very happy and proud of himself, that was what I wish he feels in his heart.

Right now I still can use my power as mom to give him a little push when it’s necessary, but I will giving up this power little by little as he grows. All I wish is that he will try many things as he grow up, to find out what he is good at, and choose the path that is right for himself, and the confidence and is comfortable to be himself in the future.

 

 

May Day Celebration 2014

Last Saturday was Honaunau School’s May Day Celebration, it was a beautiful sunny day. It’s a big day for the school, students and families, an event we don’t want to miss.

 

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Below was the dance Sonny’s class performed.

 

After students’ performance, Terry and I bought some yummy food from Mexican food booth. Then we both helped Miss Q ( Sonny’s teacher ) with her game booths, Terry and Miss Q took care one booth, Kana and I took care another. We were so busy, didn’t get a chance to check out other activities.

A busy day, a good day, a happy day.

 

 

Miss Kona Coffee 2014

40 years ago, Terry just arrived at the island, Wilma is his friend who lived on Oahu; she took Terry to a party, and Terry met Tod and Babara, Babara was very pregnant with Keahi. Ever since then, they’ve been very close friends.

Later on, Keahi has her first child, Jeanne; Terry is honored to be her godfather. He visited them more often, when Jeanne was little older, she could spend sometimes with Terry on the farm.

At coffee season, if Jeanna stayed on the farm, a fun game was jumping on the coffee pile. Found some old pictures, some good moments of Jeanne had on the farm.

 

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 Look at these old pictures, all we can see is that she is a happy little girl. Nobody knew, one day this little girl would become Miss Kona Coffee.

Jeanne started her dancing lessons from very young age, grandma drove her to  lessons, practice every week. She’s very talented dancer, she does ballet, hula and contemporary dance. She was May Day Queen last year when she graduated from high school, that means she need to perform a hula dance.

When we found out, Jeanne is one of nine contestants for Miss Kona Coffee Scholarship Pageant for 2014, we are so happy for her. We joined her family to cheer her up at the event.  What a privilege we had, to watch this beautiful young girl with tears on her face, crowned to be Miss Kona Coffee. We are so proud of her, she was rewarded after all these years practice.

 

 

When Terry’s coffee won the first place at cupping contest, Jeanne was 3 years old; 16 years later, she become Miss Kona Coffee. What a life, spinning and weaving with a thread named Kona Coffee. From our deep hearts wish that Jeanne will have good time in this yearlong journey with new life experiences.

 

 

May Day Celebration

 

Honaunau Elementary School had a May Day Celebration last weekend. Biggest day for students and families, it’s the only fund riser event for the school year.

The background of graduation ceremony is beautiful, on the wall was every student’s art work, every child. ( I asked Sonny to point out his drawing. )

It started with children’s performance for parents and community, then,there was a country shop store with local products, rummage sale, food booths and game booths. It’s fun day for every one.

May Day Celebration

 

Sonny with his friends

Terry sales scrips on May Day

Terry volunteered to sell scrips on that day.

Next day was Sonny’s birthday, we had a party for him at beach. Before the party, I discussed with Sonny about only inviting his friends, make a small party. But he insisted inviting Daddy’s friends, if they don’t come, it’s OK. Small or big, he had fun with his friends.

He loves airplanes so much, it’s the decoration on his birthday cake. He selected 4 toy soldiers and washed them to put on the cake later.

Birthday cake

Birthday presents

He wanted bombers for his birthday, and Terry helped him find these toys on line and bought for him. He showed me, which is super fortress, which is flying fortress and Mitchell bomber. Before we got the box, he reminded us every day to check our mail box. I’m glad, he likes his new toys very much and plays with them every day.

He is 8 years old now, Terry and I agree that he can start learning to do few things. We showed him how to make food when he is hungry, there are few easy one he does. He likes macaroni and cheese, and willing to learn how to cook it; now he can do it, just need us to pour the cooked macaroni out. I showed him how to cook oatmeal; another good one is, cut 1 or 2 ripe banana into bite size, pour some granola on top, then add some yogurt. Granola with juice or milk is the easiest one, he makes that quite often.

The more he can do to take care himself, the better I sure feel.

 

 

 

 

Kona coffee bloosom

 

When we prune coffee trees, usually we keep 2 to 4 young branches each tree; in that way, these branches have space to grow and plenty food to get healthy and strong.

There was a whole cloudy week and then the rain came, the first round of coffee blossom followed right after the rain. I took these photos two weeks ago, it was in the morning, when the sun just climbed over Mauna Loa  mountain, gentle warm sun rays shone on the farm. Coffee flowers look so fresh, tender and pure, I tried to capture their beauty with my camera. I was totally lost in their world, didn’t see a neighbor just walking by me.

We see the flower bloom every year, but I won’t get tired of taking their pictures. Seeing their beauty brings a good feeling to my heart, I love to share a few pictures with everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terry and I threw the first round of fertilizer when the ground was still wet, farm looks very good, coffee trees looks pretty healthy. We did our job, now we can relax, sit back, and watch coffee trees growing.

We had 2 inches rain last weekend, the trees looks even happier than before.

 

 

 

 

May day celebration at Honaunau school

May day celebration is a big event at Honaunau school. All of the kids worked hard to practice dancing and singing, teachers and parents worked together to prepare for this day, since it’s fund raiser event for the school too.

One week ago, I went to school to help making mango pickles. It’s a very big job, need many hands to do it. Picking mango, peeling, cutting into 2 pieces, digging the seed out, slicing into small pieces, salting, adding warm sugar water with food dye, one week later we can buy yummy mango pickle on May day. It brings good money to our school.

On mango pickling day, there were teachers, parents and community O’hana volunteers. Peeling and digging seed are easy but take time, cutting and slicing are harder, need good tool and strength.

I volunteered for this project last year too, I got two blisters in 2 minutes after I sliced mango with small knife. I learned my lesson, good tool can do better and faster. So I had my big cleaver with me this time, I sliced lots of mango; got one blister at the end. I wasn’t feeling well that time, could feel the cold was approaching to me. After I did it for 8 hours, my hand and fingers were so sore; my cleaver didn’t listen to my mind, cut my finger instead of the mango I was holding. I knew that’s the time for me to quit.

Last Friday evening, I volunteered making sushi. There were 4 ladies making musubi, they made 200. We had 5 ladies rolling sushi, and we made 150.

They always had someone making lunch and supper for all of volunteers.

Most volunteers were local, same faces showed up last year too. Worked with them, I experienced truly aloha, working together and get thing done. While we were working, their conversation seems always involved family, friend or community member; once a while, someone threw in a joke or comment, made everyone laugh. Even at quite moments, the atmosphere was light and loose; I don’t know most of them and had very little to say, but I felt comfortable with them. How should I describe my feeling? Through those community working party, my participation helped me entering the door of community O’hana; they saw me and acknowledged me as a new member of O’hana. They are easy, big heart, not complicated people, I love them; to understand them, I have to see things from their view.

On May day celebration, I took lots of pictures, share some with everyone. All of the kids are so sweet, they look so lovely after dressed up. Be a young child is a wonderful thing, and I’m glad to be able to see their pure beauty, cherish those moments, my eyes filled up with their sweet faces.

When I was a little girl, we celebrated May day too. But I don’t have any pictures to remind me how my friends and I look like, except my memory can tell some stories. Think about it, it’s kind of sad.

Well, let’s see those happy faces, and appreciate their presence, be the beautiful ones around us.