Archive for the ‘Helen’ Category



May 14, 2008

Tom –

The past five months have provided incredible professional and personal experiences.  We were in Sri Lanka for four months working, touring and immersing ourselves in the culture.   In addition, we have been able to fulfill some lifetime goals, travel to Egypt (e.g. pyramids), India (e.g. Taj Mahal), China (e.g. Great Wall), and fly around the world!


Homeward Bound!

May 13, 2008

Tom – Joe drove us to the Beijing airport dropping us off at Terminal 3.  Unfortunately, our flight left from Terminal 2.  Fortunately, we had time to take the shuttle bus and left on a Continental Boeing 777 at 5pm.  The plane took the polar route flying over Mongolia, Siberia, Arctic Ocean (near the North Pole – I thought I saw Santa Claus!), NE Canada (Hudson Bay, etc.) and into Newark arriving at 5pm the same day!  We crossed the international dateline, so, despite the 12 hour flight, we arrived the same time we left!  


The flight to Dayton arrived at 10pm.  Ann & Ron were there to meet us with the 4Runner so we could haul our 5 suitcases, two backpacks, computer bag and oversized box containing two pictures bought at a flea market in Beijing – home.  Yes HOME – it is good to be back in the US of A!


Helen – I can hardly believe that today has finally arrived and we are homeward bound!!!!  China has been great, gained several pounds from the food (will write about the menus when I get home), have seen wonderful sights, and really enjoyed being with family (Tom’s brother, Joe. and wife, Linda).  Even though we have had a fantastic time abroad, we are ready to come home to family and friends and Springfield!!!


Mothers Day

May 11, 2008

Mothers Day!  Tom – After attending non-denominational services with Joe and Linda, we walked to a restaurant called Beijing Duck for lunch. 

We ordered the national treat – Peking roast duck! 

We then went to the Lufthansa Hotel for coffee and dessert.  On the way home we stopped by Joe’s office to pick up his mail and I took some pictures out of his 23rd story windows.

Note the new buildings

and the impressive elevated roads


Helen – I began repacking our things for the trip home this afternoon…yes, it is only a few days away and I have been dreaming of it nightly…waking up in my own bed, sitting  in my kitchen, and finally being able to cook up a storm…


Panjiayuan Flea Market, White Cloud Temple, Olympic Venues

May 10, 2008

Helen – Today was my day!!!! Tom and Joe took me to the largest flea market in China!!! 

We couldn’t even begin to see it all but I did enough damage in the three hours of shopping. 

The vendors thought I was very good at bargaining and kept giving me the cut throat sign as we had a price war and then gave me the thumb’s up at the end. 

It was a lot of fun! 

One of my prized purchases was a painting of a girl carrying a baby followed by a goat for $45.  

 Our next stop was the White Cloud Temple….Taoist…which was sort of the first national religion,
Lots of statues and incense and bowing….
Note the Ying-Yang symbol
it went on forever even though it looked relatively small from the entrance. 
There was a wishing bell near the entrance….it was enclosed in a large Chinese like coin that was hanging down in a pit.  You bought 50 throwing coins for $1.50 and then threw them at the little bell.  If you hit the bell, then your wish should be granted.  Tom and Joe shared the 50 coins.  Joe hit the bell once and Tom hit it three times. 

Twelve Chinese Zodiac birth signs/years – Helen’s (1945) is a rooster and Joe’s (1950) is a dog, though he has his hand on a monkey.  They were both born under the Aquarius sign according to their birthdates and the Western monthly astrological signs.
Beijing Tower – Central TV Tower
On the way home we stopped to see some of the Olympic structures.  The “Birds Nest,”
the large stadium (110,000) for the opening and closing ceremonies as well as for track and field
Administrative building
and the “Water Cube” (shaped like bubbles) for the swimming events. 
They are unbelievable! 
They are not open to the public yet but we drove pretty close to get a good look.  The facilities are impressive, however, we think people going to the Olympics are going to be surprised and upset with the air pollution, traffic and costs, let alone the difficulty in communicating.  There are relatively few people who can speak English and foreigners are not going to be able to read or pronounce Chinese figures.      





Helen Lost on Great Wall

April 29, 2008

Helen – First day in China and we go to the WALL….it is a long drive and the pollution is heavy.  Tom’s brothers, Joe (American Embassy China) and Pat (who just visited us in Sri Lanka), Tom and I are off for the first adventure.  We pack a lunch and will be walking part of the Great Wall at Simatai.  Joe partially tore his Achilles tendon about five months ago and still isn’t ready for any long, strenuous hikes, so we decide to take the cable cars and mini train as high as we can before we begin our hiking.  It is truly amazing that we are exploring another of the “seven wonders of the world.” 

The route in stone

Cable cars

View on the way up

This is amazing

Built east to west across the historical northern border of China

Comrade protector of the Great Wall

After lunch, we turn around to retrace our path to the rides down the mountain. 


Tom, having a great time

It is estimated that the wall (all parts east to west) is about 5,500 miles long!

Returning to our drop down point

As I understand it, we are going to walk some distance in the opposite direction before going down.  Pat walks ahead of us, and then Tom and Joe begin talking to someone, so I begin walking, following Pat.  Relatively soon, I pass Pat and continue slowing, waiting for the others to catch up.  As I hang out in one of the outposts, Pat passes me and I say, “I’m behind you now!”  Slowly, I continue walking; now alone, thinking I am behind one brother and in front of the other two.  I never see any of them again for quite some time.


I keep walking; pass the walk to the train and cable cars. I am walking slowly and constantly turning around looking for the other two, knowing that Pat has to pass me when he returns.  I finally see Tom and Joe on the top of a watch tower and begin waving and calling them.  They are pretty far away, but I recognize Tom’s orange shirt and Joe’s hat.  They don’t see me for quite a while, but finally they wave.  I don’t see how they can miss me with my bright red jacket!!  Now that I made contact, I assume that they will follow me, so I begin walking again. I pass the walking path back to the parking lot, then continue and am deciding if I should continue to the swinging bridge which crosses the river.  I decide to wait, and can’t understand why they haven’t caught up with me…either set of brothers.  After a good half hour, I am getting upset and decide to return to see if can make contact with Tom and Joe and hope that Pat catches up with us later.


Still without contact, I am getting upset now and decide that I am not climbing up to the watch towers and decide to descend to the parking lot and hope that they figure out my plan.  I hate being by myself and not knowing what they are doing.  As I get off the cable car and begin walking I hear over the loud speaker “HEY HELEN, THIS IS JOE.  WE ALL THREE ARE AT THE PARKING LOT. PLEASE LET SOMEONE KNOW WHERE YOU ARE!!” Am I ticked????  YES!!!!  As I come to where they are, they are totally upset and ready to send out the search and rescue to look for me…I just walk pass them all and go to the car and don’t talk to any of them for at least two hours.


It all comes down to communication!!!!  Of course, we need some help in this area. 


I am sure that there will be more detail in the blog…but this is just a head’s up that our lives continue to be challenging.


Tom – Now, Helen wanted to leave our lunch site before everyone else.  On the way up we had stated that we would return by the same route that we had scaled the wall because of Joe’s Achilles’ tendon problem.  Why did she pass the appropriate descent trail?   We may never know.  I know that I was ready to go up and search the route and then if unsuccessful call Search and Rescue!


Last Day Sri Lanka

April 27, 2008

Tom – We went to 8:30 mass at St Theresa.  Look at the pictures and note how the figures look Sri Lankan. 

Nativity scene

I then went to the car rental company to close out my account, but on the way, dropped Ruki and Helen off at House of Fashion for one last shopping spree.  They allowed me to keep the car for today and then a driver will come to our guesthouse at 10:30pm to drive us, in our car, to the airport.  They have treated us very well.


Helen – Ranjan brought me another small painting of two Sri Lankan women which I had admired in his store.  About 1pm when we were ready to drive to the warehouse, we called to be sure someone would be there, and guess what???   They were closed on Sundays…there is always a snag!!!   We will have to call Chandra (the man from the antique store) to pick up two more small boxes of our things and take them to the warehouse on Monday, which he said he would do.


So now we are packed, and have 8 hours before leaving for the airport.  I think that we are going to the Galle Face Hotel for ice café and to use their internet.  Afterwards we will be back at the guesthouse where Ruki will make us a farewell dinner.


It’s really hard to believe this will be our last entry from Sri Lanka.  We have loved our time here and had a few adventures.  China should have a few highlights with the wall and terracotta soldiers (another planned tour trip – to Xian) but home is looking pretty good.   I can’t wait to see and smother the kids with hugs and kisses.  I have really missed them and am looking forward to talking to all my friends as well.  As they say “THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME!”



Loose Ends and Shipping Day

April 26, 2008

Tom – Tried a new fruit this morning, it is called a mango steen.  The white part, surrounding the seed, is what you eat.  It is sweet and delicious.  The outer fruit and seed are bitter. 

Wrote the diary for the blog this morning and then took Helen to exchange our Fibretec picture for some Fibretec shell serving dishes.  We then went to the bookstore to pick up the Sri Lankan cookbook that I had ordered for her.  Ranjan took us out to an Indian restaurant in the Taj Sumara Hotel for a farewell dinner and also presented Helen with a silver ring and two pendants.


Helen – Is it REALLY worth the effort??  Tom makes the day sound calm, when in reality it was nerve wracking!!!  The furniture logistics were a nightmare!!  On Friday, Chandra the son of the Antique store owner, called and said that he was not able to get the bookcase into his van (only the two chests and the bottom and doors of the bookcase) so the bookcase would be going to the shipper tomorrow.  They couldn’t use a truck (lorry) for everything because trucks are not allowed to go through the city due to security (another bus was bombed Friday – 24 killed).  He said he would be at the house to show me the pieces he had and also to pick up the extra weight we wanted to ship back home.  As expected, he came late and therefore I was not able to go to the shippers with him to check on things there and get our paperwork done.  He told me not to worry that he was going to take the bookcase to the shipping warehouse on Saturday, call us when he was outside of Colombo, and we could follow him to the warehouse.  We paid him with our Visa so if anything happened, we could stop payment.  The next day we waited for his call, knowing that the warehouse closed at 3 and it would take from 1-1.5 hrs to get to the warehouse, we thought that he would be here at the latest by noon. 


About 1 o’clock, we began calling his cell phone and it said that the phone was turned off.  Then we tried the store and that phone was also turned off.  Panic set in, Ruki raised the anxiety level with talk about how we should not have paid him until we were at the shippers, he probably took all our stuff and we would never see it again.  I kept calling for at least two hours and nothing.  About then I called the tourist police to ask someone to go to the store to have them call us (the store is almost two hours away!!).  I had some problems talking with the police on the phone and they said that they would call us back.  Meanwhile I found Chandra’s residence number and finally contacted him at home.  He became upset with me for asking why he didn’t contact me and said that the truck was on its way and they would call me around 2:30.  


Feeling better about his honesty, we ran our errands to Fibertec, bookstore, and  had lunch at the Commons.  We returned early and waited for his call.  At 3:30, I called again, now he was upset with me for doubting him, said that we could cancel the transaction and he would return our belongings on Sunday.  I put Ruki on the phone and she got the information about the shipping company, people and phone numbers, she was informed that we could still go to the warehouse because they were waiting for the truck and would remain open until it got there.  Ruki then called the warehouse and spoke to a man who reassured her that our belongings were there and he named most of the things there.  Since it was late, we decided to go the next day, Sunday. This would give us a chance to repack our suitcases again to get them into the weight requirements for our flight to China.