Thursday, November 30, 2006

Friends Micole and Cindy before lunch at "my" apartment.

Photo of my school friend Sue and me at a North Beach cafe called "Mario's Cigar Store Cafe".

Close-up of a flying parrot

Trees below "my" apartment in San Francisco where some wild parrots ("the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill") come to perch several times a day

Hilary in Tiburon facing Belvedere Island

My friend Sandra in Tiburon facing the City

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving Day lunch. Thank you Safeway!

breakfast at the apartment, Eric and Dad.

Eric just before we crossed the Golden Gate

Eric and me en route for Sausalito

Eric and me standing at foot of Coit Tower

Son Eric in front of the murals done in the 1930s inside Coit Tower

Mural in Chinatown. Notice the date

Seals at Pier 39, Fishermen's wharf

The Day after Thanksgiving,

Well, my Thanksgiving guests--my eldest son Eric and my father--have come and gone.

I'll be adding some photos soon, but just to let you know that while Eric was here, we bicyled across the Golden Gate Bridge and down to Sausalito. It was a beautiful, clear day, so doing the journey from Fishermen's Wharf, along the Marina, over the Bridge, and down the hill to the Sausalito wharf, plus the ferry ride at night back to the City, offered some gorgeous views and a lot of good, healthy exercise!

My father arrived on Wednesday afternoon, and the three of us had a nice turkey lunch yesterday to celebrate Thanksgiving. But don't think I slaved away in the kitchen! Safeway(grocery store) has a great, reasonably-priced deal--a 12 pound precooked turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, bread stuffing, buns and pumpkin pie--which comes in a big cardboard box, and all you have to do is heat up the contents. Since the meal was for 6-8 people, I now have a lot of turkey on my hands for the rest of the week.

While the "guys" went sightseeing at Fishermen's Wharf yesterday morning before lunch, I attended an interfaith religious service at Grace Cathedral. The service, which was conducted by religious representatives of many faiths-- Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc--was very beautiful and moving. Apparently, it's only the second year they've done this. Last year, it was at the initiative of the Unitarians and a reformed Jewish synagogue. I for one found attending a service of this sort a worthwhile way to give thanks for our blessings and to turn our thoughts to those less fortunate.

Eric left yesterday afternoon, so my father and I took a walk over to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill and then went "downtown" for drinks at the Cityscape bar and restaurant on the 46th floor of the Hilton Hotel. What a view we had! Actually, we'd set out for the "Top of the Mark" revolving bar(where my mother and father met in 1945 while my father was on leave from the war in the Pacific) at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill, but they were closing for a few hours in-between two restaurant services. As it turned out, we had a great time at the Hilton. It wasn't so "stuffy" as the Mark Hopkins, and the view, as I said, was wonderful.

Today--Friday--is a big shopping day here. No sooner is Thanksgiving over than the big Christmas "push" is on. I saw on the TV that some people sarted lining up at certain discount appliance stores at 3 this morning to buy the latest plasma TVs, computers and so forth. There are already Christmas trees and lights everywhere, and on the radio channels I listen to they're even playing Christmas carols!

I still love this city, but, as in many other big cities, there are big social differences and some rough "quartiers". I'm in a very safe, upscale neighborhood, but down on Market Street and in the Tenderloin, for example, there are lots of homeless, panhandlers, and sick "bag people". I was also witness the other night to a very ugly exchange on a trolley bus: a schizophrenic white woman, who was disturbing some of us passengers, was asked by the African-American bus driver to get off the bus. Her racist slurs upon leaving the bus were inexcusable, and several of us apologized to the bus driver for her.

Voila my thoughts for today...

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that the concert I attended last Saturday night with my friends Nell and Cynthia was wonderful. The charismatic Michael Tilson Thomas was conducting. They played a piece by Balakierev and Symphony No 5 in D minor by Shostakovich, as well as a modern piece called "Atlantic Crossing" by Volans with Marc-Andre Hamelin at the piano.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Please let me hear from you.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saturday, November 18

' I thought you'd be interested in these photos. I took the bus out to Lincoln Park. It was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon. After checking out the Palace of Legion of Honor, I discovered a wonderful walk down to a beach.

Hope you enjoy these lovely views as much as I enjoyed seeing them in person. San Francisco without fog makes the city one of the most beautiful in the world. I love being near the ocean again and hearing the waves beat against the rocks. Of course, the water is too cold to go into, but does it really matter? And after all, it IS the middle of November.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hello. It's Wednesday, November 15.

I added some more photos at Kinko's and am now posting some text while at the SF Main Library. It's a complicated affair!

I've been in SF for 10 days and have only had one day of rain. All the other days have been sunny, cool and with blue skies. It's so nice to see the sun and feel the wind, esp. as I know in Paris the skies can be grey and it rains alot.

'Continue to love being back here. Have seen lots of old friends (I went to a girls' school when I was young and we all have kept up over the years), who've been very kind in inviting me out and so forth. Piper and her husband took me to a lovely sushi restaurant. Candy and Brenda treated me to dinner in a lovely Italian restaurant on Clay Street and a movie. We saw "The Queen", which is all about Queen Elizabeth's reactions after Diana died. It's excellent--so well acted. Today, I'm off to see a quilt exhibit at the DeYoung Museum with my friend Angele. Tomorrow lunch with Cathy at the Metropolitan Club. And Saturday a symphony concert with Nell and Cynthia. Last night I attended on my own a book reading at Books, Inc. by Claire Messud, who spoke about her new book "The Emperor's Children". why don't we do it next year at one of our meetings, my book club friends, okay?

Next week, my son Eric, who recently moved to Portland, Oregon, is coming to visit me for a few days; and my father is coming up from L.A. to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with us. I'm looking forward to seeing both of them.

Will sign off here. Sorry my days aren't as exciting to relate as the ones I had in Vietnam and China, but I'm enjoying this part of my journey, too.


These are some of the Victorian homes across from the public library on Green Street where I often go to use the computer

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sunday in San Francisco

I hope you enjoyed the SF photos, which I posted from a friend's computer yesterday. I've got a lot more which I'll try to put up sometime when I have access to a computer that can upload them.

Here are just some impressions of my first weekend in San Francisco.

My friend Nell and I walked to the Ferry Building Market yesterday morning and bought fresh vegetables and fruit--mostly organic--at the different upscale stalls that are both inside and outside. It was a cool, sunny morning following a light rain during the night, and it was great fun being so close to the bay and out in the open air.

I spent the afternoon playing around with the computer Nell has lent me. I can't seem to connect to the Internet, but I can TYPE and that's what I want to do. The translation (French to English) of my book "Des Amours des GIs" is due, and I intend to finish it while I'm here. I'm also in a writing mood and have an idea, possibly for a book, so this will also be a good time. I've got about a month more in the lovely apartment I've in. Seeing friends, walking, etc. but will also work and come to the library for email messages and Internet searching.

One good thing about US TV--perhaps the only one, as it's pretty bad, on the whole--is the possibility of watching old film classics on AMC or Bravo. Last night I watched one on the bombing of Pearl Harbor called "Tora, Tora, Tora". It was interesting because it showed the Japanese viewpoint as well, and the Japanese characters actually spoke in Japanese with English subtitles. Then this morning I watched a real tear-jerker: "A Many Splendored Thing" with William Holden and Jennifer Jones. Since it takes places in Hong Kong, Chonguing, etc.--all places in China I've now been--I really enjoyed watching it. There are also some interesting bi-cultural difficulties involved, which makes it even more appealing.

San Francisco, like Paris, is a walking city. I must have walked close to 75 miles since I've been here! The walking, plus the swimming (have discovered the great North Bech public pool), plus being sick in Shanghai--they've all meant that I've lost a couple of superfluous kilos in the last few weeks.

This morning I attended the Unitarian Universalist church service, preceded by an interesting discussion about the election results. As some of you know, I'm a member of the UU Fellowship in Paris, so it's nice to find a "sister" organization here with (on the zhole) like-minded people. They're having a joint Thanksgiving Day service on November 23rd with a Jewish temple, an Episcopal church and other denominations which I hope to attend.

Finally, one last observation: There seem to be an incredible number of "nail salons" (manicure and pedicure places) here. I saw a lot in China, too, and I've been told that's what a lot of Asian women do here to make a living. By the way, the Chinese in Chinatown here are mostly Cantonese.

"Talk" to you again soon...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Coit Tower close-up

partial view from my apartment

Hello on Friday

Thanks for everyone's comments. I'm now at a cybercafe and, as at the library, their "functions" are locked so that I can't upload photos, but I promise to, perhaps from Kinko's, if I can get down there.

The weather in San Francisco continues to be good, and, as I've said, I've been walking up and down hills all over the downtown part of the city. Russian Hill is the perfect location for exploring San Francisco on foot. I'm so tired afterwards, though, I'm asleep by 10 PM.

The talk yesterday evening by Dr. Nazir (name?), the author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran" was very inspiring. She's a real defender of the humanities and literature, is very articulate, and now teaches at John Hopkins University. My childhood friend, Francia Friendlich, joined me there, and it was really good catching up with her again. Today, I had lunch with another childhood friend, Carol Cravens, and that, too, brought back old times.

Tomorrow is "Veterans Day" and, unlike in Europe, where they talk about WWII, here in the U.S. at the moment the big topic is the veterans from, and the troops still in, Iraq. What a guagmire!

Hope to see about photos tomorrow -- I promise!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hello from yet another public library,

Still haven't been able to post photos yet (the library doesn't allow uploading or downloading), but when I do, I'll have some lovely ones to show you of SF Bay, cable cars, etc., as "my" apartment on Russian Hill is just a block away from SF's "Crooked Street" (Lombard St.) and the Hyde Street cable car. Of course, you've seen pictures of them or even know SF, but it'll still be fun to post them on my blog.

Well, the Democrats have taken back the House of Representatives and when I listened to the news this morning, they had probably gained 5 seats in the Senate to be on a par with the Republicans. In addition, Rumsfield has now resigned! This is great news and most San Franciscans would agree with me. Yesterday, I took a photo of a garage in "my" neighborhood where they were voting with new voting machines. Apparently, there were some glitches with them around the country.

Not much to report today. I'm winding down from my tiring trip to Asia and slowly getting acclimated to being in the U.S. again. As I said, the view from my place is so lovely and so inviting. For the past four hours, I've been walking up and down hills enjoying the scenery and fine weather. 'Had lunch in a French-style cafe on Union Street called "la Boulange" (no, it's not a typo. It's actually called that!).

While at this library, I discovered that at the main branch tomorrow evening there's a talk and booksigning by the Iranian-born woman who wrote "Reading Lolita in Tehran", so I plan to go. We read that book in Paris a few years ago in one of my book groups.

That's all for today, folks.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"I left my heart in San Francisco..."

Remember this song? Like Frank Sinatra (or whoever it was), I get goose bumps everytime I come back to this lovely city on the Bay. And the view from my friend Jane's apartment is extraordinary. I can see the Bay, the Bay Bridge, the ferry boats, and a bit of Alcatras. I'm going to be spending quite a lot of time here, I think, just sitting on the balcony and gazing out...It's lovely...

That shuttle bus from Los Angeles to San Francisco went very well. It's run by a Japanese-American who's got a very clever little business going there. I told him I'd write the Lonely Planet about it! As we drove, I took a few photos (the Central Valley and its almond trees, cotton fields, etc., which I hope to post, once I can get ahold of a computer that will upload my photos.

Yes, I'm now at a public library using a computer. One of my occupations today will be to try and find one to rent for the apartment. There's WIFI there so I'll be all set if I can find one. I didn't want to bring mine with me, as it would have been risky in Vietnam and China.

Thanks to you all for your comments. Sorry Gary, about the misnommer of your field of research and expertise.

Please do let me hear from you--especially those who can call for free via your DSL server. My phone number in San Francisco is (1) 415-563-5393

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I am staying in a motel in Studio City until noon on Monday. Rather than going up to San Francisco by plane, which meant getting back down to LAX and then going from the SF airport into town, I've decided to take a 6-hour "shuttle bus" from North Hollywood to downtown SF. From there, I'll take a taxi to the apartment on Russian Hill I've rented from my friend Jane.

This is a photo of me with my Dad, who is 86. He and his wife live in a place called Valley Village, and this is the local public park where he and I went for a walk this afternoon. My brother, who is three years younger than I am, recently moved to the Valley as well. He lives in a studio apartment not far from my Dad's. After a career in the corporate world, he decided to go back to school and get teaching credentials so as to be able to teach youngsters about personal investment.

These people were on the other side of the street. Like me, they think the woman across the street is crazed. People here are trying to get out the vote, since the mid-term elections are on Tuesday. I won't be going to the polls here, though, since I already cast my vote in California from France in late September, since I can vote by absentee ballot.

This woman, a supposed (she said) ex-GI, was on one corner. A definite Bush supporter, she asked where I was from. When I said I lived in Paris, she replied: "Oh, that's where all the Muslims are tearing up the streets. Don't you just hate those people? We've got to destroy them!" I'll let you imagine my reply to her...

Now in North Hollywood. It's now Saturday, November 4, 5 PM (local time) in Los Angeles. I arrived at LAX yesterday and was greeted by my father and my brother, who very kindly drove me up to the town where they live in San Fernando Valley, north of the city. It took us two hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic to get there--all of which reminded me of China. But today there've been clear skies and you can see the sun, the palm trees, and the mountains all around. To think it's in the 80s F. in November! Obviously, it makes you understand why so many people come to "Lala" land from all over. Even though it's crowded, expensive, covered in neon lights and so forth, just seeing the sun and palm trees probably make living here the great attraction for many people. This place is also the center of the film and music industries, as I could tell last night at Kinko's, where I checked out my email. People there were talking on MSN to their friends, colleagues, etc. in all parts of the U.S. There were dark-skinned rappers calling to Brooklyn, blond, fledgling "starlets" calling to the Mid West, etc. An interesting social phenomenon, to say the least. Also interesting were the following (see photos) people I saw on the street corner where Ventura Blvd. and Laurel Canyon Drive meet.

I took this photo as I landed in Beijing from Shanghai, en route to Seoul and Los Angeles. Just wanted to show you what the pollution is like at 10 am in the morning on a typical day in the Chinese capital.

This is a view of the Confucius garden and temple in the gardens of Juding, that satellite town of Shanghai which I visited my last day there.

This is a view of one of the ponds in the Yuyuan Garden in the Old Town of Shanghai.

This is Shanghai --with the view of the Padong district taken from the walkway along the Bund riverfront.

In the same town near the Dam Project, I used the public toilet for women. This is one is typical of the ones in the country. As you can see, you have to squat in order to use it and bring your own paper. Low partitions separate each WC. In the cities, there'd be walls and doors between them. SOMETIMES, you'd find a Western-style WC as well. Of course, in airports and 4 and 5-star hotels, they'd all be Western-style.

I love this photo. These kids came up to me while I was walking in a town near the Three Gorges Great Dam Project. They just wanted to say hello. I took their photo and then showed it to them. They were delighted. In the town, I bought a small doll in costume for my foreign doll collection. I was told the doll was from the Miao ethnic group. I'm wondering if the kids are also from the same group.

The whole spitting issue will definitely be a memory of China. As you can see, the government is trying to stamp it out--I imagine mostly because of the Olympics but I read somewhere that they're also worried about T.B. , SARS and other diseases which can be transmitted through spit. At least when spitting was done in Europe, there were spittoons!

This lovely Chinese lady was my roommate during the Yangxi cruise.

These are some photos of China which I couldn't post before. This is a scene taken from the boat on the Yangxi River during the Three Gorges cruise. I just wanted to show you that while the scenery was beautiful, even there then skies were often overcast with a polluted haze.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Greetings from the Seoul Airport

This airport is so great --free Internet and coffee for everyone in the transfer lounge; comfortable chairs to sit on; helpful people who speak English. After spending a few hours here, you really have the impression Korea must be a country that "works"!

I'm not saying China doesn't "work"...It's just fatiguing. This morning at the Beijing Airport, for example. The lines were interminable and poorly formed to go through customs, immigration, etc. The personnel and vendors were quite disagreeable, and there weren't enough seats to sit down. Makes you wonder what they're going to do in 2008 when the hordes of tourists arrive for the Olympics...

Korean Airlines is also very good. As part of my free ticket with KLM/Air France, I have to use Skyteam partners, hence the reason for my stopover in Seoul. As it turns out, it's only for 3 and a half hours, not six as I previously wrote, so I've enjoyed using the Internet and catching up on things.

In fact, it's sort of nice being in an environment again that is systematically clean and hygenic--with Western style toilets! I was sick to my stomach again during the night. In fact, the food on the flight from Beijing was the first thing I've been able to eat in the last few days.

Well, I'm off to the gate for my flight to L.A.

Please keep in touch.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

last day in Shanghai.

Well, this will be my last posting from China, since I leave tomorrow for Beijing to catch my plane to L.A. via Seoul. Don't know how long the total trip will take, but as I have to get up tomorrow, Friday, at 5:30 am Chinese time, and later on will have a 6-hour stop-over in Seoul before boarding the trans-Pacific flight, which arrives at 1:30 PM L.A. time (all this on Friday), it promises to be a VERY long day.

I could tear up the page of the Lonely Planet China guide that suggested the outing I took today! I was going to go to the town of Tongli but missed the "excursion" bus , so I decided to do a "half-day trip" to Jiading since I was already at the Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Station near the Shanghai Stadium. Unfortunately, however, I misunderstood the time involved. I'd understood that "Sightseeing Bus No. 6A" took 30 minutes to get to Jiading. In fact, it took an HOUR and 30 minutes one way and made numerous stops over what turned out to be the most depressing bus-ride I have taken in a long time. I thought I was going on an excursion outside of town to see a picturesque place. In fact, the bus drove through dirty, polluted streets with overhead highways, pot-holes, lined with dingy looking buildings. I wanted to get off after 30 minutes but had no idea where I was, so decided to make the best of it and go on, but this half-day excursion turned out taking all day.

Jiading is, in fact, a satellite town of Shanghai with a Confucian temple, gardens, etc. and 800 years of history behind it. But visiting these sites in Jiading reminded me a bit of a similar experience I had while visiting Kyoto. The Japanese temples and shrines were indeed gorgeous , but you had to go through so much CITY in order to find them. Similarly, I had to hunt down the lovely gardens, etc. of Jiading. They certainly don't equal those of Kyoto and I wouldn't suggest making a detour to see them, but there was one nice thing about the day. I was the only tourist in the town and had all the sites to myself! Imagine, no postcard vendors, no hassling, no crowds (at least not within the historical sites).

I returned to central Shanghai completely exhausted after the return bus trip. I forgot to mention that vehicles here HONK all the time. Imagine the journey on a pot-holed road, merky polluted atmosphere, with buses, cars and trucks honking for an hour a half. It was a bit of a wasted day, but no matter.

'Can't believe I'll be in L.A. as of tomorrow! As the song goes, "What a difference a day makes" (or, in this case, "will make").

I'll be staying in the L.A. area for just a few days and then going up to San Francisco, where I've rented an apartment from a friend. I should be arriving there around November 8 and staying until December 15. I will have a land line phone there, so if any of you would like to call me, PLEASE DO! (Of course, I'll also have my French cell-phone with me, too.). You can also write me there. (It'll be nice to have a fixed address for awhile).

Here are the "coordinates", as we say in French:

Hilary Kaiser c/o Jane Zirpoli
1140 Greenwich St., Apt. 100
San Francisco, California 94109
Tel. + 1-415-563-5393

Promise to post some photos once I'm able to.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shanghai, continued.

Well, ' still can't post photos but promise to do so while I'm in California.

I started feeling a bit better this morning--after, over a 36-hour period-- only drinking coke and tea and just eating one bowl of rice --so was able to go out for awhile. I think I might have caught stomach flu from somebody--perhaps my roommate on the Chinese boat on the Yangtse, since she spent two days in our berth and seemed to complain of the same kind of headaches and gastric pains which I've been suffering from.

Shanghai is a huge, bustling city, as I'm sure you all know. The Bund, or a particular stretch of the river front, is just as fun to visit during the day as at night, especially as there's an elevated walkway you can take from one end of the Bund to the other, with views on the water and Padong across the river on one side, and the Art Deco buildings dating from the 1920s on the other. I also visited the French concession area, but was rather disappointed since I didn't see very much interesting architecture. Other than that, I also visited the Yunchen (sp?) gardens and markets in the Old Town. The gardens are in the Ming dynasty style and are quite lovely, with their rookeries, fish ponds and small buildings.

The overall impression you get of Shanghai, though, is of high- rise buildings, shopping streets and department stores.

Haven't got much else to report but would like to jot down a few random thoughts, words and experiences I've been storing up in my mind before I forget.

China is............ one big shopping mall...... one big factory...... a land of polluted skies, McDondald's, KFC's, Olay cosmetics, spitting "macho" men (who'll push you out of the way and take the seat you were eyeing on the metro), attractive smiling girls, and adorable (but spoilt, at least in the big cities, since they haven't got any siblings) children.

If I hear another street vendor say "Hello, Lady, watch? bag? Polo shirt?", or the phrase "Where are you from?"--I think I'll scream!

And what to make of the ship steward who wouldn't let me and two of my Canadian backpacker friends go up on the top deck of the boat we were taking through the Little Three Gorges until I threatened (using sign language and pronouncing the name of the capital) to write Beijing and then subsequently took his photo? He's obviously got a little racket going there, as I observed that some Chinese would slip him some Yen and they could go up! Anyway, the follow-up of the story is that, once I was on deck, he BEGGED me not to write Beijing. I, of course, told him ("No, Beijing. No Beijing.") I wouldn't and showed him I'd deleted the photo I'd taken of him. After that, we became the closest of "buddies", and everytime we'd pass some scenic sight, he'd point it out to me and put his arm around me.

It's a communist country, but as all over the world, money definitely "talks" here , and there are huge differences between the have's and have not's. Materialism, consumerism and the unpleasant sides of western culure are rampant. Indeed, I'm beginning to wonder whether in China there are any sort of "social service" or idealistic values left. It all seems so much about acquisition.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today.