My Shanghai Experience

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The next morning (Sunday) the house resumed the usual frenetic pace so that we could make our 8.30am appointment with the Driver who would be transporting us to, and around, Shanghai for the day until it was time to put me on the plane home that night. A very generous gift from Mary and Russell to ensure that my experience of China was as packed with excitement as possible.

We arrived in Shanghai mid-morning. It was wet and smoggy but quite warm. Our first stop was the popular marketplace beside the beautiful Yuyuan Gardens in the Old City of Shanghai.

Yun Yuan Marketplace

Yuyuan Gardens Marketplace Carp Pond

Jo and Mary YuYuan Market

Jo and Mary Yuyuan Marketplace

Russ and the boys browsed the market stalls with us for a while then bailed and got the Driver to take them to the ‘Hacker Space’ elsewhere in town where technology abounded and imaginations (and electric lounge chairs) ran wild.

Hacker Space Edward

Edward and David Deep in Hacker Space

Hacker Space DavidMary and I continued on and had a ball sampling the street food and dipping in and out of market stalls. Mary talked me into trying the ‘stinky tofu’ but I drew the line at budgies on a stick and fried whole crab.

Stinky Tofu

‘Stinky Tofu’

Chicks on Sticks

Chicks on Sticks

Fried Crab

Fried Whole Crabs

Of the 101 ways with tofu, my favourite was tofu soaked in a beef broth with chilli sauce. Yum!

Tofu Stew

Way With Tofu No: 87 (Tofu in Beef Broth with Chilli)

Mary took me to a Chinese food hall where we took a tray and scanned all the delicacies on offer.

Squid

Poached Squid

Steamed Surprises

Steamed and Fried Surprises

Fried SurpriseBeyond the ever present deep fried choices, the traditional food was largely very healthy and nutritious and, all around us, people were tucking in enthusiastically.

Diners

Nom Nom Nom

Much of the food was fried or unrecognisable, but we managed to pull out a reasonable sample. Lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice, steamed broccoli stems with soy sauce and a doughy dumpling filled with soup broth and a pinch of crab meat which required a straw to extract.

Lotus Root

Lotus Root

Broccoli and Soy

Broccoli and Soy

Mary Soup Dumpling

Mary and the Soup Dumpling

The drinks were interesting but my stomach was already doing somersaults so I declined the passing trolley.Crazy Drinks The thronging crowd was a cosmopolitan melting pot of accents and ethnicity from all over the world.Jo Yu Yan Markets

Snack on the Run

Snack on the Run

We took a welcome break from the market chaos by stepping into Tea Scene, a reputable merchant where the atmosphere was serene and professional. We took tea in genuine Chinese style for an extended time and sampled a variety of tasty blends until we were fit to burst. We hurriedly purchased a selection of gifts and merchandise and scrambled off to find a loo!

Tea Scene 1

Mary and Jo Getting in on the Tea Scene

Tea Scene 2We connected with the boys and vehicle again and headed to The Bund, a popular waterfront area of Shanghai on the west bank of the Huangpu River. Russ and I had a walk along the promenade with Edward and David while Mary warmed our seats (and rested her foot) at the famous Peace Fairmont Hotel.

The Bund

The Bund

Out the front of the hotel I spied some newlyweds in a photo session. What was significant is that the bride was wearing white which is a western affectation. Later we spotted a newlywed couple in traditional wedding dress as a comparison.White Wedding Wide White Wedding CU Red Wedding Wide Red Wedding CU

My attempt to get a nice Auntie/Nephews photo was thwarted by a frisky David, but the result was nevertheless amusing.Jo and Nephews 1

Jo and Nephews 2Jo and Nephews 3Jo and Nephews 4A last wander down the strip to sample the usual suspects that made up the snack food landscape and then we all retired to a delicious high tea at the spectacular Peace Hotel (Fairmont).Subway

Haagen DazWe enjoyed yummy sandwiches and cakes and copious amounts of tea as a live, old time (average age 85) jazz band dutifully played on.Fairmont High Tea 1Fairmont High Tea 2

As we emerged from the Fairmont Hotel bloated and singing ‘Moon River’ in perfect harmony (thanks Mary!) our Driver pulled up and shuffled us off to the ferry terminal for a quick trip across the river to the Pudong area on the east bank.

Fairmont High Tea 3

Singing at The Fairmont

The Pudong precinct has been developed much more recently than the west bank and is full of fanciful buildings and thriving retail barns.

Jo and Russ

Jo and Russ

Edward and Russ

Edward and Russ

The Pendang

The Pudong Precinct

Pearl Tower

The Pearl Tower

Evening was beginning to fall so a quick repack of the suitcase to accommodate new merchandise and we were on our way to the bullet train station to roll me out before the family headed back to Suzhou. It was a sad farewell to Russ, Mary, Edward and David, but something was telling me I would be back.

I bought a ticket for the famous Shanghai Mag Lev Train to the airport that slides along at high speed – levitated above the track by a magnetic field. We took off calmly enough but within seconds the speedo was reading 150km per hour. Within 2 minutes we had reached 300km per hour and the countryside was ripping past while all was calm inside the cabin. Just before we were due to reach the airport, the train took a significant turn to the right, banking like an aircraft, and for the first time I got a hint of the ridiculous speed we were travelling. We travelled 30kms in under 8 minutes.

I was super early for my flight to Kuala Lumpur so I gathered the wagons (suitcases and bags) and had a 40 minute hobo sleep. Lovely. Then I ventured in amongst the 13 banks of (40) check in desks to try and identify where I needed to line up when the time came. Always on a grand scale here in China.

The trip to Malaysia was uneventful and I slept most of the way. It was fun to wander around Kuala Lumpur airport and see what was available for the hungry traveller.Dunkin Donuts

MB Eater 1

Kids on PhonesCarboard CutoutChick a PopsMB Group EatingHaving bookended my China trip with USA/Canada at one end and Malaysia/Perth at the other, it occurred to me that I had not actually seen any significantly overweight people during my time in China. In fact the general population seemed to be in very good shape indeed which doesn’t seem to bear out the horrific data coming out of China with regards to obesity and lifestyle related disease.

I have since learned that, in China, carrying a little extra weight denotes prosperity, while obesity is seen as ‘being ill’. People who are ill are encouraged to stay at home until they are well. Hmmmmm  Obesity is a very public declaration of ill health and a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes will only serve to worsen the isolation for affected individuals.

 

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Saturday in Suzhou

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The pace was significantly slower at the Giles residence on the Saturday morning so I took the opportunity to repack my chaotic suitcase. My only mission for the day was to find a place that could wrangle my wayward hair! Edward emerged and kindly played the Energy In Energy Out card game with me and gave me some great feedback and suggestions for improvement. Smart cookie! (no pun intended)

Eventually we ventured out into the damp streets of Suzhou. Russ took me on the e-bike to a super dooper supermarket. It was like hunting and gathering as we worked up a sweat traversing endless aisles and dodging other shoppers to find the food and grocery items we needed. The place must have been half a kilometre across!

Super Dooper Market Wide

Shoppers Hunting and Gathering

Super Dooper Market Wide2Super Fish Market

Super Russ at Peking Stand

Russ at the Peking Duck Counter

Noodles

Oodles of Noodles

Chicken Feet

Chicken Feet – Yummy!

Detergent AisleGrains and LegumesOnce we had everything we needed, we fronted up to one of the 110 check outs to pay for our goods. The sheer scale was incredible!

Super 110 Checkouts

110 Checkouts!

We headed back to the hood to connect back up with Mary and the boys who had made their way over to a favourite local Japanese restaurant. Mary ordered up a storm which gave me a chance to sample all sorts of Chinese style Japanese food. Very tasty and wholesome.Family JapaneseOver lunch, the idea of a massage came up, so we waved David and Edward off to their Mandarin class and Russ drove the e-bike while Mary and I both hobbled around the corner to the local massage salon. Russ went in for a foot massage and, after a great deal of effort and stair climbing, Mary and I were installed, side by side and face down in a quiet dark room awaiting our punishment. The door opened and two lovely male voices asked permission to begin. Mary confirmed and it was on. I opted for the strong version and the thumbs went in hard. It was heavenly!

Next stop the swanky Mentor Hair Salon where Mary introduced me to her hair care team. Mary left me to it so I had to describe the hair style I wanted to the lovely ‘Harry’ using only smiles, hand gestures and thumbs up signs. A new experience and a great outcome. I found my way back to the apartment (an old hand now) and we sat on the balcony watching the sun go down and the neon come up on all the high rise buildings around the park.

Suzhou View left

View from the Balcony

Suzhou View rightFootnote: I was surprised to find that most public and shopping precinct toilets were of the squat variety which was a challenge with a bung knee – to say nothing of the non-provision of toilet paper. Phew! Glad I stashed that wad of tissues in my coat pocket. Be warned Ladies!

Squat Toilet

The Dreaded Grotty Squatty!

As night set in, Russ made us all a delicious stir fry dinner and then David, Edward and I got stuck into a rousing game of the Calibrate card game. I drew a Chance card that had me doing push ups and star jumps to the great amusement of the boys, while Edward bravely dealt with a handful of junk food with no exercise cards in sight. We were all laughing and calculating madly and, once again, the suggestions for improvement were very constructive. Thanks boys! We finished the game and Russ ushered the boys off to bed. Mary was long asleep as Russ and I solved the problems of the world well into the night.

Serendipity at Dulwich College

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On the Friday, I accompanied Mary to Dulwich College Suzhou where she heads up the Junior School Music Department. It was an exciting day to be at Dulwich as they were hosting their Official Senior School Opening Ceremony.  Their fabulous new facility and the Senior School Student’s activities were all on display to the world.

Opening Ceremony

Official Opening Ceremony

First up, as promised, Mary set me up with her Grade 5 class and introduced me to the Teaching Assistant Eva, and to Ian, the covering Teacher. As luck would have it, Ian was a Physical Education Teacher and was able to immediately grasp the objectives of the program. The kids arrived and we jumped straight into explaining the Metabolic Symphony Program and teaching them the basic principles of energy exchange in the body. I told them the story of the Aboriginal children at Bayulu Community School in the Kimberley of Western Australia who also did a trial of the program and recorded a song which was broadcast on local radio.

IMG_0500

Lindsay, Jo and Stef with Kids from Bayulu Community School (Nov 2013)

We used that recording to teach the Dulwich children the Energy In Energy Out song and then followed up with the Energy Drill marching song which had them stamping enthusiastically around the room. Ian and Eva assisted and by the end of the lesson we were all exhausted. We finished off with a quick game of ‘Where is My Pancreas?’ and the children went off laughing and singing. I was elated!

We all attended the opening ceremony which began with a bang…. on a Japanese drums! My nephew David was amongst the band of tightly synchronised drummers. Mary’s choir and the accompanying orchestra also did an amazing job and together they brought great warmth and celebration to the occasion.

Drumming 2

Dulwich Drumming Troupe

David at DrumI was very privileged to enjoy a meal and a glass of champagne at the VIP reception that followed, and Mary tirelessly worked the room on my behalf to try and put me in front of as many relevant people as possible. The interest in the program was high and I made some solid connections for the future.

I joined Mary and her colleagues as they ate lunch, with the children, in the fabulous Junior School canteen. The nutritional landscape was impressive and it was very clear that a great deal of care and attention had been paid to the development and ongoing management of the facility.

Junior School Canteen

Dulwich Junior School Canteen

Hand Washing FacilitiesThere was a cabinet in the entrance hall showcasing the daily meal choices and a full menu for the week so everyone could see what was coming up. They even had a ‘Waste-o-Meter’ that informed Students and Teachers about the level of food wastage from week to week. Amazing!Canteen choiceWeekly MenuWaste-o-MeterI took a tour of the school and found David playing trumpet in the orchestra in one room and my other nephew Edward making unique Dulwich College key rings in another.

David on Trumpet

David Playing Trumpet

Edward Key rings

Edward Making Dulwich Key Rings

They also had a very impressive performance theatre, art room and science laboratories – all great environments for the Metabolic Symphony Program!

Dulwich Senior School Theatre

Performance Theatre

IMG_1433

Art Room

Later in the afternoon, my video production experience came to light and Duncan Grice, Head of Junior School, and Miranda Norris, Deputy Head of Junior School, invited me to be the International Celebrity Judge for their upcoming D’Oscars (Dulwich Oscars) – the Junior School’s animated film festival. The films were a hoot and a pleasure to view – what a great opportunity!

Soon the day was over and Mary and I were rushing to try and catch the last Teacher’s bus back home. We just made it and found a few more people from the Dulwich teaching community on board who were interested in hearing about the program. All in all an exciting and serendipitous day. My sincere thanks to Mary for her tireless and guileless promotion of my cause.

 

Suzhou on a Scooter

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The 12 hour flight from Vancouver to Shanghai was a breeze. A half full plane with lots of empty rows of seats for sleeping. That took care of about 8 hours and a couple of movies later we were preparing to land.

When I emerged from the arrivals gate, Mr Chen from Dulwich College Suzhou (pronounced su-cho) was waiting for me with my first ever chauffeur-with-personal-name-sign so I made him suffer through a full photo shoot for the record.

Mr Chen

My Driver, Mr Chen

After a few hand signals and lots of smiling we were on our way for the two-hour drive to Suzhou. I took a couple of snaps of Shanghai as we sailed by. The smog was relentless and cast an eerie orange glow across the city.

Shanghai Wires

Shanghai at Dusk

Shanghai Sunset

Darkness had fallen as we arrived outside my brother Russell’s apartment compound. There was a frenzy of traffic and people and, through the chaos, I saw a familiar face – my gorgeous nephew Edward! He negotiated with the driver and got my luggage together and we made our way up to the high rise apartment where Russell and Mary live with their two boys, Edward and David. Unfortunately, Mary had broken her foot a couple of weeks prior and was in a cast. But that didn’t seem to slow her down one bit. It was actually kind of funny that we were both hobbling about for one reason or another but not missing out on any opportunities.

The next day Russ took me on a tour of the immediate environs on the back of his cool and quiet electric bike (e-bike). The traffic/pedestrian system is ‘interesting’ to say the least, but everyone is travelling so slowly and knows the ‘code’ so it all seems to work quite well.

eBike Lane with Russ

Russ takes on the e-bike lane

here are still a few rickshaws around in the tourist areas, but the e-bike seems to be the preferred mode of transport.

Jo RikshawStreetscape with eBikesWe visited the Jinji Lake area and drove across the Ligongdi Rd causeway for a view back across the lake to the gargantuan new arch that straddles Suhua Road, the main arterial of Suzhou.

Ligongdi Rd Causeway

Ligongdi Rd Causeway

Jinji LakeIMG_1327The subway is clean and efficient. So strange to be the only Caucasian faces as far as the eye could see – at least Russ was easy to find in a crowd!

Russ and Jo on Subway

Russ and Jo on the Suzhou Subway

We visited one of the temples in the inner city area where they have a pyre for the Chinese people to burn money to send it to their ancestors.

Jo Money to Burn

Money to Burn at Xuan Miao Taoist Temple

I was pleased to see the street vendors offering a healthy range of snacks and lunches – although KFC and McDonalds are ever present.

Street Food Salad wide

Healthy Street Snacks

Mac D at Temple

No Comment

The emerging middle class trappings were quite evident including the ubiquitous Apple Store.Handbag ShopApple StoreIn the afternoon, I accompanied Russ to the Suzhou International Foreign Language School where he is teaching Year 11 and 12 Physics through a collaborative arrangement with the Queensland Education Department. I videotaped his lively Year 11 Physics Lab class for a while then ventured out to the shopping precinct near the school. I’ve never seen so many tiny stalls packed into one building, but each one had something unique to offer. I pulled into a tiny nail salon and requested a manicure with shellac. I thought the lady said the price would be 50 RMB ($10 AUD) – ridiculously cheap, but when it was done she politely extracted 15 RMB from my pile of notes and smiled sweetly ($3 AUD). Crazy! I tipped her another 10 RMB and she strongly protested! Such generous and honest people. I connected back with Russ at the school and we headed home.

A nice evening in with a fabulous meal a la Russ as we surveyed the fabulous view from the balcony. The smog is ever present in Suzhou, but the pollution meter readings are quite mild compared to Shanghai.

Suzhou Panorama

Panorama View from the Balcony

I took the opportunity to take Russ and Mary through the Metabolic Symphony Program teaching materials to get some feedback. Mary was highly impressed and insistent that I try out some of the music activities with her Grade 5 class at Dulwich College the next day. I was thrilled!

Good Times in Banff

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Saturday in Banff is pretty crazy as the tourists descend in their droves, but Sam and I woke late and picked our way through the crowd to a cute breakfast place just off the strip for a Banff-style Eggs Benny (with Hash Browns of course).

Jo Banff Avenue

Banff Avenue

We took a leisurely stroll up Banff Avenue to the Bow (River) Falls where snow covered the pebbles that transform into a picturesque river ‘beach’ in the summer time. Yet another exquisite view!

Jo Sitting on Bow River

Bow River Beach

Sam with rocks

Sammy at Bow River Falls

Then we walked up the hill, past the Banff Golf Course (you’ll need those psychedelic golf balls here), to the world famous Banff Springs Hotel (Fairmont Hotel) for a self-tour and a posh hot chocolate.

Banff Golf Course

Banff Golf Course

Jo at Fairmont

Cone of Silence (so they can’t hear you suck your breath in when you get the bill)

Ridiculous opulence, but impressive nonetheless. The view was extraordinary and it was so cool to be hanging with dear Sammy in such beautiful surroundings.Fairmont Hotel Entrance Fairmont Hotel Wide Jo and Sammy FairmontSam had to work later in the afternoon so we got her to The Keg and I headed back to the hotel for a well earned nap. My knee is very cranky but the walking around town is feeling good and it is healing fast.

I woke refreshed and went back into town and installed myself at The Keg to wave at Sam as she flew back and forth on her hostessing duties. Had a yummy French Onion Soup and Chopped Vegetable Salad at the bar. Sammy gave me a Staff pass to Wild Bill’s western bar so I headed over there solo to take in the band. Pretty much a drinking barn but, I can imagine, a great place to party with a group. The bar Staff wore themed T-shirts – one of which said ‘A woman once drove me to drink and I forgot to thank her’. You get the picture.

On Sunday I decided I HAD to have some hot chicken wings so we made a beeline for Boston Pizza. I was not disappointed. Yum and scorching! An afternoon of shopping for Sammy gear and our day was done. We met up with Sammy’s roommate Astrid for a Sushi dinner, then Sam and I hit a couple of bars to round off my Banff experience.

Wings at Boston Pizza

Hot Wings at Boston Pizza

At the Magpie and Stump (bar) I experienced the intriguing ‘Bulldog’ drink, which is a Margarita in a big jar with a bottle of Corona upturned in it that you lift every so often to let out the contents. What a concept! They also had buckets of peanuts all around that you could peel and drop the shells right on the floor. I pity the cleaners.

Bulldog at Magpie

‘Bulldog’ drink at The Magpie

Peanut Shells

Peanut Shell Carpet

Next was the Rose and Crown where we chugged too many Screwdrivers (Sam) and Heinekens (Jo) and a random stranger bought us a ‘Burt Reynolds’ shooter each for no reason. I love this town! We stumbled back to the Red Carpet Inn and crashed happy. Our first Mother and Daughter night on the town complete.

The next day was departure day for me. Boo hoo! Sammy and I got a rush of blood to the head and hiked 3kms to the Banff Hot Springs for a swim. The walk was awesome and the water was 40 degrees Celsius – heavenly! We felt a million bucks afterwards and SUPER hungry. It had to be hot wings again so it was back to Boston Pizza to feed Mum’s renewed addiction.

Tom picked us up at the hotel and we traveled the long stretch back to Calgary for a last supper at the Red Lobster and a sad farewell at the airport. But not for so long this time…..Tom and Sam

Mother and Child Reunion

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The train trip from Portland up to Vancouver on the Amtrak Cascades was serene and beautiful. We skirted the Puget Sound, which was full of little islands and span bridges, and absolutely mirror flat.

Puget Sound BridgeJPG

Puget Sound Span Bridge

There was a small hiccup in Seattle due to a mudslide that had happened a few days earlier, so they piled us onto buses and shipped us north to Everett where we re-boarded the train. The mudslide had been 15 metres deep and 200 metres wide and claimed about 30 lives. Very sad indeed and a reminder of the fragility of life and landscape.

Puget Sound Ferry

Puget Sound Ferry

Got into Vancouver around 11.30pm and checked into the quirky (but cheap) Hotel Patricia. I thought I had walked back into the 1950’s. Basic but adorable. A precious 5 hours sleep then up again to get to the airport for a flight to Calgary where Samantha and her friend Tom were picking me up. As I waited in the baggage claim area my tummy was squirming – I was SO looking forward to seeing my daughter Sam. She appeared, grinning widely, and we had one of those cliched running-towards-each-other-in-a-field-of-daisies kinds of airport reunions. Too funny!

Jo and Sam on Banff Bridge

Jo and Sammy on the Banff Bridge

Lots of catching up on the drive to Banff followed by lunch at Nourish Bistro where I had my first ‘Caesar’ which is basically a Bloody Mary made with Clamato (yes, clam + tomato) juice and a garnish of pickled olives, chorizo sausage and asparagus. Whoa! This was followed up with a share Nachos made from 24 different ingredients (we counted them). I was then installed into the swanky Fox Lodge that Sam had scored as her ‘comp’ room through a cool Staff reward scheme. Nice one Sammy!

Jo and Sam at The Fox

Jo and Sam at The Fox

We toured Sam’s digs at the staff accommodation share house and visited a friend of Sam’s. Then it was time to eat again – and EAT we did! Sam, Sarah and I emerged from the Balkan Greek restaurant absolutely stuffed with delicious food and wine and staggered back to Sam’s house. Here we found her roommate Astrid in situ and we made a plan to visit the hot tub at The Fox, which was fashioned into a cave – very cool concept, very hot tub! Eventually, tired and wrinkled, Sam and I retired to our room for a well earned sleep.We had a lazy start the next day, but managed to get organized for a day of skiing (thanks to Astrid who supplied boots, skis and ski outfit). We took the bus to Sunshine Village and the gondola to the top of the mountain. I haven’t skied for 29 years – I hoped it was just like riding a bike.

Jo on Chairlift

Chairlift to Sunshine Village

Sam on ChairliftAnd it was! After practicing my snow plough turns for a bit I was off and racing, going way too fast for my own good but staying upright and making lots of happy noises. We did the ‘Strawberry’ run a couple of times, then headed up to ‘Wawa’ chairlift where I worked my way up from the blue run to the black run and took on a few jumps. Sammy did some stunning GoPro style stunt filming of me in action (available on request).Jo on Run CUIt was great to finally see Sam snowboarding. She was very relaxed and confident and thrilled to be in a position to snowboard everyday for the entire season.

Sam on Snowboard 2

Sammy Snowboarder

Towards the end of the day we decided to go up a notch to the Green run off the ‘Angel’ chairlift. It was super icy and it wasn’t long before I took a tumble and whacked my knee. The compression tights I was wearing kept the swelling at bay for the last thrilling run down the mountain to the village but later on, the bruising made its presence felt. Ouch! Hobble to the hotel ice machine. Ahhhhhgh

We checked into a new hotel – The Red Carpet Inn – where a fabulous double suite awaited us, and then darling Sammy took me out for dinner at ‘The Maple Leaf’ restaurant where she had her beloved Crab Legs and Caesar, and I had some delicious Wild BC Salmon (British Columbia) with prawns. So nice to be offered some wholesome and creative food that was outside the standard North American fair. Absolutely delicious!

Wild BC Salmon

Wild BC Salmon and Prawns

Crab and Caesar

Caesar and Crab Legs

Portland or Bust

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So I guess those H&SCA folk wore me out because I put my head down at 10pm and didn’t wake up until 10.45am the next morning! Oh boy, 15 minutes till checkout time – not an optimum start to a long day of driving.

No breakfast for me as I hurtled out onto Route 299 in the knowledge that I would now have no hope of making Portland before dark. The road meandered exquisitely through the Redwoods and past a half dozen cute-as-hell hamlets and, at times, rivers cascaded off in two or more directions. Despite a spitting rain, I stopped often at the vista points to take it all in.

Redwoods and Rivers

Redwoods and Rivers

My congratulations to the gas station at ‘Happy Camp’ who stocked a good supply of fresh fruit and an eclectic range of trail mix combos. That took care of my (very late) breakfast, lunch and snacks for the long trip to Portland. For five hours, Route 99 wound its way east back to Route I-5 where I turned left and hammered it for another four hours.

Courtesy of ‘Lulu’ my GPS guide, I pulled up exhausted and late, but without a scratch, out front of my cousin Emma’s place in Portland where the warmest of welcomes awaited me. Hugs all round with Em and Jude and I poked my head into the big boys room, had a giggle with Zahn and planted a kiss on a slumbering Xavier. Yves was curled up in his cot but it wasn’t hard to see that he had grown a tonne since I saw him last. Fed and watered I hit the hay feeling very safe and sound with family.

Up early the next morning (courtesy of a bouncy Zahn Vittorio), I went with Jude to drop Zahn and Xav at school. What a cool place! Just like it is in the movies – plus I learned that the school and the environs of Portland were the inspiration for Matt Groening when he penned The Simpsons.

Jude and Yves Cafe

Jude and Yves at the local cafe

Jude, Em and I (and Yves) had a little time together doing hire car drop and a quirky Portland café before Jude headed off for a trip away in Korea. And then there were five….

Yves and Em

Yves and Emma at home

In between baby sleeps/feeds, school pick ups, dinners, breakfasts, homework, near miss migraines and bed times, Em and I managed to catch up on recent and ancient history (as you do) and to solve some problems of the world. We had a rousing game of Energy In Energy Out and Emma, Zahn and Xav provided some very valuable feedback.

R&D Energy IN Game

The Portland R&D Department (aka Zahn and Xavier Celedin)

It was a brief visit, but I saw enough of Portland to work out that it is cool as hell and that Em and Jude and the boys are well set up to have a very enjoyable time in this town.

Hugs and kisses for the boys as they set off for school on the final morning. Sniff! Em and Yves and I did a walking tour of the immediate neighbourhood and picked up a coffee at The Clearing café. We could have been in Melbourne. Yay! The lovely Kara at Karna hair salon down the road gave me a cool blow wave and we were on our way to Union Station to get me aboard the 516 Cascades train to Vancouver. Hugs and selfies at the station and I bid a sad farewell to my dear cousin and the gorgeous Yves.Yves and Jo

Yves Jo and Em Union StnOne more sleep before I see my beautiful daughter Samantha, who I have not seen in over a year! So excited!

What a Day!

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After a bittersweet final breaky with the H&SCA team at the famous ‘Sears’ in San Francisco, Carol and I bumped out of Hotel Monaco with a blur of happy memories on board.

Sears in SF

Sears in San Francisco

Carol was going north to see her brother so she kindly drove me out of the city, across the extraordinary Golden Gate Bridge, to San Rafael where I had a hire car waiting. I was shaking in my boots a little about driving on the wrong side of the road without Coach Carol by my side – it’s been a while.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

We messed with the maps and my GPS for a bit then had a big hug and were on our way. I lasted precisely 5 minutes before taking a wrong turn (mishearing the GPS) and cursed loudly as I watched Carol sail up the Highway 101 on ramp with a distressed look on her face. Hilarious! I rectified the error and, within a couple of minutes, I was on her tail again. We parted company at Sonoma and I continued to Route 128 West towards Mendocino. I was in for a super treat!

It’s six hours later and I’ve just pulled into the funky seaside town of Eureka after many exquisite hours winding through the giant Redwoods and along the wild Northern Californian coast. My hire car is small and nippy, and took the corners really well. Bernard Fanning, The Paper Kites and The Pre Sets (among others) provided the soundtrack.

It was a shame not to have someone else there to enjoy it with me, but I don’t think it would have been a comfortable ride for a passenger.

On the Road to H&SCA

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Carol and I decided to break up our trip north by spending Wednesday night in Santa Barbara. We took off from LA later than planned and also found a super cool Mexican place along the way, so we were fit to drop when we finally checked into our hotel at midnight. This was to be the trend for the next three nights…

On Thursday morning, we rose late, I got an hour’s walk in through downtown while Carol luxuriated.

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California

On our way out of Santa Barbara, we dropped into Whole Foods Market for some picnic lunch – I thought I had died and gone to heaven! It’s such a shame that all this beautiful food is out of reach of the people who need it most.

Whole Foods Market

Whole Food Market

Wholefoods Market 5

Salad Heaven

We had a relaxed drive up the coast to San Francisco. I have wanted to drive Big Sur forever, so I was rally excited to finally tick that off my bucket list. It was absolutely gorgeous and Carol and I laughed and sang all the way (when we weren’t on the edge of our seat listening to Carol’s audio book thriller!).

Jo Big Sur 2

Big Sur

We got into San Francisco too late for happy hour (and dinner) but we found our beloved H&SCA buddies well underway in the bar and there was a rousing round of reunions. Roger, Chuck, Jim, Arlyn, Lynn, Keven and Debi, Bill, Mark, Cliff, Ray, Arthur, Laurie and many other familiar faces. I was so thrilled to see everyone again.

On Friday morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast courtesy of H&SCA and got underway with the program, which was a brief presentation from each member (30 attendees) about their fondest memories of their time with the association and current status/future plans etc.

I had my moment in the H&SCA sun to introduce the crew to the Metabolic Symphony Program. The reception was very positive and I was grateful for the many offers of support. I was also really pleased to hear about projects that other members were involved in that were making a contribution towards reducing obesity and the growing incidence of Type 2 Diabetes.

After the meeting concluded for the day, a few of us went for stroll through Chinatown and up and down the steep streets of San Francisco – the only place in the US with stairs for footpaths!

Jo Bill Carol SF Chinatown

San Francisco, Chinatown

When we got back, we had a few moments in the room to patch ourselves up and then out again in a convoy of cabs to the De Young Museum to take in the live jazz and have a few drinks. The cab convoy then took us to the North Beach Restaurant where we embarked on an intimate (and expensive) dinner for 16.Kev Jo CarolKev, Lynn, Roger and Elfrieda, Chuck and I kicked on a bit at a bar around the corner. Another late (1am) finish.

Crew Downtown

The Crew downtown

Up and at ‘em at 8am the next morning in time for a disappointing breakfast at Hotel Monaco. We had the second round of H&SCA presentations – Carol’s energizing mediation/dancing workshop was a highlight. We enjoyed a hot H&SCA lunch and worked our way through final announcements to officially close down the association. Sniff! The President’s decorative gavel was presented to Roger and Jim and Arlyn gave us the last financial report. The end was nigh.

The mood was lightened by a game of ‘President’s Gift Kringle’ where each member was given an opportunity to choose (or trade) an item from the H&SCA Board’s eclectic collection of items contributed by past Presidents. I managed to relieve Ray Aldrete of the very cool Star Trek ‘communicator’ pin he had chosen from the collection. Woot!

After a micro nap in the room, we were summoned to the lobby again to continue H&SCA Member activities down at Pier 39. A wine and cheese river cruise around the harbor taking in the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the AT&T Baseball stadium followed by a sumptuous (and hilarious) meal at the famous Boudin Sourdough Bread Museum.

The diehards gathered in Jim’s Presidential suite to watch old H&SCA home movies and reminisce. As the clock struck 2.30am, those still standing (or sitting) bid a final farewell and slunk off into the night…. H&SCA is dead, long live the H&SCAns.

H&SCAs Last Stand

H&SCA’s Last Stand

Thanks for the good times! See you all again soon.

Thank you Universe!

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Another super early start this morning as we joined the minion heading north west.  My friend Carol is an absolute saint!

Today we have a small window of opportunity to meet with Dr Anna Pawlikowska-Haddal, Pediatric Endocrinologist at UCLA Children’s Health Center who was curious to see the Metabolic Symphony Program resource and games and provide clinical feedback.

We spent a good deal of our brief time working through the mechanics of the Calibrate and Energy In Energy Out card games and I was totally thrilled when Dr Haddal very generously offered to check our Recommended Daily Intake (RDI or RDA) and Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) data against the outcomes of some research she had done.  This is absolute gold for us and a strong indication of the perceived value of the resource as a potential teaching tool for clinicians.

Our encounter with Dr Haddal has also alerted us to the fact that the application of the resource and games in clinic, with children who have already been identified as being at high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, will be a little different to the delivery of general prevention education in schools.

Carol and I debriefed the meeting over an omelette in the sunshine on Wiltshire Blvd. A quick pic and we were back on the road to Long Beach.

Jo and Carol at UCLA

Jo Giles and Carol Beckerman at UCLA

Once home I discovered with horror that I had left my laptop in Dr Haddal’s office!!  Noooooooo.  I am heading out of town tonight and not coming back!  But the Universe, in its quirky way, stepped up and, as we breathlessly explained our dilemma to Gina (Dr Haddal’s admin assistant) on the phone she picked up that we were based in Long Beach and her words ‘Oh, I live in Long Beach, perhaps I can drop it to you this evening’  brought a collective sigh.  Three cheers for Gina!

Carol and I are getting out of LA tonight – stopping for the night in Santa Barbara. We can’t wait to re-connect with all our dear HeSCA buddies in San Francisco tomorrow evening.  Good times ahead.