Sunday, August 31, 2014

Attention Deficit Disorder

I think if I had been born in the U.S., I would be considered being a kid with ADD - Attention Deficit Disorder.

I get bored fairly easily. My brain is often "whirling" - my thoughts run faster than my speeches or my writings. I forge ahead - headstrong. I have always been willful and obstinate, except in the early days of my marriage - that is another story, being the submissive "little wife." 

My doggedness, sometimes pays off, sometimes not.

I don't think I have ADD.

If and when I found something that really speaks to me, I can be utterly passionate about it, and try to do the job well - single-mindedly - until I succeeded. 
Get the job done or Bust. No. I don't take Busting very well.

I did that somewhat with my Real Estate career. When I started selling Real Estate, I was about forty-eight years old. Being -
      a near senior,
      a woman,
to survive in a Sea of White Male Domination in this small Southwestern town was not easy. I made it - by sheer doggedness, I believe.
I retired at the age of seventy-five. 

Then I pursued my passion of painting. 
I am still at it - may be not as doggedly as before, but I still paint often. I have done over seventy 6x6 small paintings in the last couple of months - not too bad, right?
I have a boxful of ribbons - blue ones, red ones, green ones, and Best of Shows, I have collected throughout these last few years. 

                                         6x7                  Flowers

                                  7x5                           Tomatoes

                                  8x6                           Breakfast?

                                  6x6                  Charlotte's place
I learned a lot by 'doing.'

In doing all this, I found some Truth.
The Truth is -
     Find something that you are passionate about.
     Put 100% (may be 110%) of your energy into it - body and soul.
     Learn the rules.
     Learn the techniques.
     Learn to Study and Think.
     Then Practice what you have learned, 
     Then Practice,
             And Practice.

You can make it.

 I guarantee you.

Sure, you have to make some sacrifices.
But nothing in Life is free.
So find your passion.
Learn all about it.
Then follow suit - forge ahead until you achieve you aim.
When you achieved your aim, reward yourself.
Take a cruise.
Buy a Diamond.
Or Whatever you fancy.
Best of all -
Take Pride in yourself!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Unemployed And Unmarried One

So I returned to Hong Kong.

My parents possibly had very mixed feelings about me being home, and Not Spoken For. But if they did, They did not express them. They happily took me back. They showed me that they were glad to have me home and acted like not much had happened. Of course, they knew that I went to Texas, since they paid for my traveling.

Since I was not officially engaged, I was fast becoming an Old Maid in every one's eye.

Mother soon started trying to marry me off. 
She did not have trust in anyone - she did not think that I should be waiting for S.C. 

There were arranged meetings for a possible Son-in-law for her. There were probably some match-makers involved. But nothing was said to me. 
I remember, one time, I was told to go to a luncheon. Mother told me not to wear my high heels. 
It turned out that the M.D. mother had her eye on as a possible candidate, was not very tall. I would have towered over him had I worn my 3- inch heels. 
Nothing was said between my mother and me on those similar occasions.
I went to luncheons or whatever when my mother told me to. But I did not like any of mother's candidates. Besides, I had promised S.C. that I was to see him after he got his Master's Degree. 

Remember, I am a Dragon? My words are Good!

I applied for a Library Assistant position at the U.S. Cultural Center, under U.S. Intelligence Agency, under U.S. Consulate. I was the most qualified candidate and I was sure that I was going to get the position. However, because in order for me to work for the U.S. Government, my background had to be thoroughly checked. I was finally cleared - but, it took a long time.

In the meantime, I had paid a visit to the Librarian at HKU. Remember, I was her pet years ago? Knowing that I did not have a job yet, she offered me a temporary job at the Library. I gladly took it. So I worked at the University Library.

I finally got clearance from the U.S. Government and got the job at the Library of the U.S. Cultural Center. And in time, I became an Assistant Librarian.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The What Ifs In Life

Do we dare ask all the What Ifs In life?

Suppose we do - - -

What if I did not get to Hong Kong in 1949? 
I most probably would not have survived under Communism. 
I would be long gone.

What if I did not meet Prof. Mary who encouraged me to overcome my problem at HKU?
What if I did not wish to start over at HKU after my failure in History?
What If Number Three Grand Uncle did not encourage my father to let me go back to HKU? 
I would not have met B.J. 
Then, I certainly would not have gone to Edinburgh. 

"It is better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all."

What if I did not go to Edinburgh, and What if I went to Paris with David when he asked me to?
Would we fall in love in the City of Lovers? 
Would we end up being married? 
I liked David, but not enough.

What if I had agreed to stay in Paris, when the attache asked me to? (He sent me two dozens red roses from Paris after I returned to London.) 
Would I become a diplomat's wife? 
Living in Paris?

What if Dum did not send her brother a picture with me in it?
S.C. would not have known that I existed.
What if Dum did not tell her brother to contact me?
S.C. would not have sent me the info on Rice University.
I would not have written him a thank you note.
We would not become pen-pals.

What if he had not persisted in writing me?
I would not be on my way to Houston to see him. Right?

Life works in mysterious ways, doesn't it?

So, I went to Houston - to check him out, so to speak.
I am sure both of us were nervous.
He passed the test.
He was good to me.
He introduced me to his many friends, including his buddy C.C.
He demonstrated his cooking skills to me (Show off!).
He took me to Austin to visit his Alma Mater.
We visited New Orleans . . .

We decided that I would return to HK.
He would go back to UT to finish his Master's Degree which he had started sometime ago. 

Then, he would return to HK. If we still feel that we both wanted to, we would get married.

I know, I know. You think that I was not romantic enough. Right?
I want to tell you that I was using my head as well as my heart on this. So you have it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On Being Eighty-Five

I want to share with you something I wrote last December:

0n Being Eighty-five


I'm turning eighty-five next month.

I'm so glad. I have lived long enough to say these words and celebrate their meaning.

I'm alive. I'm healthy.

I no longer have to be concerned with what anyone thinks of me. I'm turning eighty-five and I've earned the right to be ME.

I'm amazed at the way my journey here on earth continues to unfold.

I grew up during some tumultuous political times, but had always had “love and care” from my parents. They sheltered me from the cold and cruel “outside world”, and made my life wonderful. In spite of the terror of war, the awful killings around us, and the cruelties of the enemies, of living in constant fear . . .
I learned to entertain myself with rented block-printed story books – the adventures of the good-against-evil, taught me my life-long lessons.
I learned to listen to a few precious 78- long playing records on hand-cranked gramophone – the emotion filled Chinese Classic opera sung in poetry . . . they gave me my life-long love of music. 

My long journey from my birth in Manchuria (the very northern part of China), to Shanghai (the Pearl of the Orient), to Hong Kong (the safe-haven for refugees from China – Hong Kong was part of Great Britain at that time), and then to the democratic United States of America . . .

From a girl in old China to a wife and mother in the U.S., I remained adventurous, and always optimistic.

I marvel at the forces of nature, offering us life in abundance. 

Yes, they are there if you can see them.

You learn, you grow, you work hard and you find yourself; and you live the life being you.

I'm glad that I'll be 85.

I hope that you feel about Life as I do.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

S.C. The Scientist

Before landing in Houston, I need to fill you in on a bit of S.C.'s background.

You already know that he was born and raised in Hong Kong. He was born in 1922, which made him six and half years older than I.

The only son of Mr. and Mrs. I.S. Wan (that is the Cantonese pronunciation of Yin). Beside him, there are two girls in the family, one a couple years older than he, Mona, and one ten years younger, Dum, my schoolmate. 

His father had a degree in Chemistry, from London, I think. (I do know that three of his brothers had all been educated in London - two of them were M.D.s, and one was a dentist.) He was a Chemist, a Teacher, and an Educator, employed by HK Government. Apparently what he did for Education in HK earned him the honor of being awarded an Order of the British Empire.

Grandfather Wan was one of the first Chinese physicians in HK, as I mentioned before. There were eight children, six were living when I married into the family.
My father-in-law was the oldest one. Number Two Aunt, a spinster, was a private English Teacher, very smart and very kind. (She certainly would have been an University Graduate had she been born later.) Number Three Uncle, a medical doctor, divorced. (There may be a daughter.) He worked on cruise ships. A lady's man - very charming. Number Five Uncle was also a medical doctor, married at that time, I believe. Number Seven Uncle was a dentist, married with one son. Number Eight Aunt, the baby of the family, was a spinster? I was told later, that she was married once. But she soon went home and refused to go back to the husband's family. No one dared say much about it. (Number Four and Number Six had passed away. I don't know any of the details.)

When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong, S.C.'s family had to flee. S.C. was a first year student at HKU. He had to quit school, of course. At the age of 18, he fled to the interior of China. I believe he went to the War Time Capital of Chungking. Mona was in the interior of China for a while, too. The family was separated and lost touch with one another.

His parents and Dum were in the countryside in HK. I was told that his father had to bury money and some other valuables in the fields. They lost their home, went through near starvation, and suffered quite a bit.

S.C. tried to study at the University in Chungking and had a tough time, since he could not understand much of the dialect people used in Chungking. 

Food was scarce.
Living conditions were very poor.
He lost contact with the family.
Communication was impossible.
So, at 18, he was on his own and had to fend for himself.

When he had the chance to sign up to become an Interpreter for training Chinese pilots, working for the U.S. and the Chinese Government, he jumped at the chance.
He was with the U.S. Air Force.
Later, he and the other interpreters were flown in those Military Planes to the U.S. - flying over the Himalaya Hump was not a good experience. He was terribly air sick.
He and the others did make it to Bakersfield (?), California.

Among the Interpreters, there was a young man from Macao (a Portuguese Port not far from Hong Kong.), C.C. Huang.
C.C. and S.C. became friends, that friendship lasted a lifetime.
C.C. was our sponsor when we applied for immigration to the U.S. We stayed with C.C. and his wife Elsie, when we came to the U.S. In Houston, to be exact.

Elsie is what we call an ABC - American Born Chinese.

Anyway, I think that I mentioned that WWII ended not too, too long  after S.C. came to the States. And he opted to stay in the U.S. and go to School. So, he went to the University of Texas in Austin.

By then, he did reconnect with his family. His father had returned to HK and tried to rebuild his life with the family in HK.

As for S.C., unfortunately, during that first year at UT, he contracted T.B., and had to drop out of school - once again.
For months, he was hospitalized. Recuperating in a sanitarium, he met two spinster sisters, the Seymours. The Seymours, both school teachers, I believe, took a liking to him, and practically adopted him.

With their moral support, and loving letters from his parents in HK, and good medical care, he got back on his feet, and later resumed his studies at UT. 
Eventually, he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Microbiology.

When I met him, he was working  at Baylor University, Houston, TX, doing research on Rabies.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New York, New York

As I said before, I took the long way home to HK from London - via U.S. instead of Europe.

I flew to New York that summer. 

My first impression of New York, was the many criss-crossed highways and the many colorful cars. 

In London, most of the cars were black. But here in New York, There were - 
         red cars,
         green cars,
         blue cars,
         yellow cars, 
         turquoise cars,
         orange cars,
         purple cars, - cars of all colors, and very few in black.  

I was fascinated by them.

Also, the cars were big and long - that was the time when cars were super large and with a lot of chrome, some with airplane tails. They are collector's items now.

The difference of the Young (New York) and the Old (London).

Stella took me to a Car Show and we saw some Cars of the Future. That was interesting! (I did not know that I was interested in cars.)

I was to see Mr. Kaiser, another one of my father's connections, in New York. Mr. Kaiser promptly turned me over to his secretary Stella.
Stella came from China some years ago. We hit it off at once. When she found out that I had not made any arrangements for any hotels, she said to me, 
"You are Not going to stay in a New York hotel by yourself. You are coming home with me." 
And she took me in to her home.
Stella and her husband, George, took very good care of me during my stay in New York. 
During the day, I would go into the City, and explore.
In the evenings and on the weekend, Stella and George took me around New York.

I love New York!
I like MOMA.
I like China Town. 
I like Broadway.
I like Rockefeller Center. (I saw the Rockettes.)
I like Time Square.
I like Fifth Avenue . . .

Then, I was introduced to TV Shows in the U.S. - So different from the ones in London!

Boy, was I hooked on the Shows - the Game Shows particularly!
I watched a lot of TV in Stella's apartment. (TV was pretty new then.)

Stella and George became my life-long friends. Later, their daughter, Grace, and my daughter, Cynthia, became good friends. Sadly, George passed away a few years ago and Stella is in a Home. However, we are still in touch with our dear Grace in California. 

After my brief stay in New York, I headed to Texas.


Monday, August 25, 2014


After the week in Paris, Syd and Fung went back to London while Dorcas and I went to Switzerland for a week.

The minute our train crossed the French/Swiss border, the train stopped. An army of workers with their buckets and mops appeared. They washed the exterior of the train thoroughly before the train was allowed to enter this super Clean country - my first taste of How the Swiss were. 

Out first stop was Zurich. An affluent City. 

There were indeed a lot of Banks - on almost every street corner.

And there were lots of Clocks, little ones, big ones, many on the outside of buildings, in clock towers. Some of them with interesting life-size moveable figures that performed on the hour every hour. A marvel of Swiss engineering.
As luck would have it, we had a hotel room not too far from one of those clocks. But then, really, you could hear the clocks almost anywhere in town. I guess the Swiss were used to hearing the clocks striking and were deaf to it. It kept Dorcas and me awake though.

Dorcas and I went to a Super Market - remember this was in 1956, London did not have the kind of super markets that they have now, except at Harrods. In Zurich, we were impressed how the displays were. No butchered half carcasses hanging on the outside of the shops like in London - in London, if you are not careful, you bump into them. 
Everything was in glass-cases, well-organized and Clean, Clean, Clean. 
Clean and Orderly.

We made some purchases of food, but we did not really know what we were buying since we did not speak the language and could not read the labels - we certainly made some mistakes. We bought buttermilk instead of regular milk, for drinking?
The chocolates were delicious though.

By now you do know that my father was always very protective of me. He alwys made sure that where-ever I went he would have someone he knew to keep an eye on me. (He missed on Paris though.) 
Well, it was no different in Switzerland, he had one of his Swiss associates to take Dorcas and me around.
I have forgotten his name now. But I was sure that the gentleman was really doing my father a big favor, taking the two girls around. He was not such a great tour guide either, if I remember correctly.  I guess that he expected us to have done some homework on the places we were visiting - but of course we did not.
I do remember, when we were traveling in the car, the weather changed suddenly. In no time at all, the ground and the car were covered by snow. We drove in the snow - not really being able to see much. Bless him!

Lucerne was much more scenic. It is on the lake, with the view of mountains around. I enjoyed it more. Dorcas wanted us to ride the Paddle- Boats, I was too prissy to do so. Now I wished that I did.  

Switzerland was so very different from Paris. Everything was proper and orderly, like the well-run Swiss watch. A good place to be pampered. but a bit too boring for me when I was young.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Music Hall In Paris

Before leaving London, I wanted the opportunity to visit Paris, France - the most fascinating city in the world.

March in Paris was just as wonderful as 'April in Paris' - You are probably too young to remember the Song "April In Paris." 

So, in 1956, March found us in Paris.

At that time, Paris was not overran by tourists.

It was a bit cold, but it did not deter the group of us -  Syd, Fung, Dorcas, and I. We made arrangements to stay at the Cite Internationale Universitaire de Paris for the week. We wanted to experience life in Paris as students, besides it was Cheap (may be I should say, more affordable).

We stayed in the dorms and had our meals in the cafeteria, where they served wine instead of milk with your food, even at lunchtime. Wine was included in the meal, but you had to pay Extra if you wanted milk. What do you think of that?

We met some Chinese students and an attache from the Chinese Consulate, Mr. Lon. Since they all spoke French, they offered to act as our guides. We jumped at the chance. It couldn't have been a better arrangement for us.

We learned to travel on the metro,
   wandered around the River Seine,  
   walked on the many bridges over the Seine, 
   explored the intriguing back streets,
   tasted delicious French food,
   rode the buses,  
   did a lot of window shopping,
And, a little actual shopping.

The thing I remembered most was the fact that at a lot of places, I would turn a corner and there would be some absolutely lovely sculptures and/or fountains by unknown artists. 
They took my breath away.

We even made a trip out to Versailles - Louis XIV's court. What a magnificent Gate! And the famous Mirrored Hall where they held Dances. Can you imagine, when all the giant chandeliers were lit, the orchestra was playing, the bejeweled ladies in their shimmering silk gowns whirling . . . all this reflected from the many wall-to-ceiling mirrors in this huge Hall? What a Sight!

Our new found friends took us to many of the famous sites:
 - The Bibliotheque Nationale de France, since Syd and Dorcas were studying Library Science.

Then,they took us to:
 - The Eiffel Tower,
 - Norte Dame Cathedral,
 - Napoleon's tomb,
 - Arc de Triomphe.
 - Place de la Concorde,
 - Tuileries Garden,
 - Champs Ellysees,
 - Pantheon,
 - The Louvre,
 - The Basilique de Sacre Coeur in Montmatre,
and, to
- a MUSIC HALL in Montparnasse.

I saw my First Strip-tease's Show!

Being unfamiliar with Paris, we did not know what a Music Hall was. And, when our Paris friends asked if we would like to go to a Music Hall. We said, "Yes." The Music Hall was close to Moulin Rouge.
I happened to be sitting next to Mr. Lon. (He probably did that on purpose.)
It was definitely awkward.

Actually, it was a kind of Vaudeville Show. There were short acts of song and dance and slapstick turns. The strip shows were very well done. The costumes were stunning. And the girls were gorgeous! 

So much for us Country Bumpkins from HK. And we thought we were sophisticated?
                                                                    Versailles - Gate

                                                                Versailles - interior

                                                                  Paris - side street

                                                             Basilique de Sacre Coeur

                                                                  Arc de Triomphe

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Yin? Or, Wan?

                                         Dr. and Mrs. M.K.Wan
My late husband's grandfather's name was Dr. M.K.Wan.

His father's name was Mr. I.S.Wan, O.B.E., Esq. (Esquire - because he was given the Order of The British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.) He was also a Justice of Peace.

My late husband's name was Yin Shao-Chang, or Shao Chang Yin in the U.S. Most people called him either S.C. or Yin, since no-one around here could pronounce Shao-Chang correctly.

We have Romanization. We have Pin-yin. Now, the communist government has changed the spellings of many of the Chinese surnames. 
Never mind.
If this confuses you too much, ignore this!

The other thing is: the Chinese name has the family name first and the given names follow. So you call Sun Yet-San, Sun Yet-San, and not Yet-San Sun. And you call Mao Tse-tung, Mao Tse-tung, not Tse-tung Mao. Only we unimportant people had to reverse our names to conform. WHEN IN ROME . . .

No and No, he was Not adopted!

The reason for the different last name in spelling is because of the different ways of how one pronounces his last name; depending on    ---
Are You Ready for This?
Which Dialect you are speaking.
The Chinese character (word) is the same. We thank the Emperor, the one who was buried with all those terra-cotta soldiers, for unifying the Chinese Language - making the written language ONE. But alas, he could not do anything to unify the different dialects.

How many dialects do we have?
In speaking, how you pronounce the words depending on which part of China you are from.

Then, there is Mandarin - Mandarin is not a dialect. It is the Official language of China, by Law.

So here goes -
the name YIN -
My mother, being form Shanghai, would say, Ying,
The Wans, being Cantonese, would say,Wan,
In Mandarin, it is Yin.

So my late husband used the Mandarin pronunciation for his Papers when he was an Interpreter for the U.S. Armed Forces and the Chinese government in WWII.

Talk about being confused, wait until you try to prove that S.C. Yin is the son of I.S. Wan.

Now, I cannot tell you how many people's last names changed when they went through Ellis Island and Angel Island.

So, here you have it.

Friday, August 22, 2014


People often ask me, "Where did you meet your husband?"

It is a long story, in a way.
Remember, when I was trying to decide where I should go for my post-graduate work after HKU?
Remember, my then school-mate Dum the matchmaker, telling her older brother, S.C., who was in Houston, TX, that he should contact me? (Read The Young Prof. from Wales, if you haven't already.)

He did.

When I was in Edinburgh, I wrote him a letter thanking him for sending me info on Rice University. We started corresponding every now and then, at that time. We were "some-time" pen-pals.

Dum and I lived in the same Hall - Lady HoTung Hall, at HKU. We were friends. A group of us ran around together for several years.
Dum's family lived in the New Territories, some distance out of the city. It would take me nearly an hour, sometimes, driving to her home. And I don't think it was really that far out. However, once you got out of the city, at some point, you went through these winding and super narrow two lane mountain roads. On one side, it was rocky mountains with occasional Falling Rocks, and the other side sheer Cliffs. Below the cliffs, ocean! It always scared me to death if there was a big car or truck coming towards me - you had to be Very careful! I would not go over thirty-five or so miles an hour. Sometimes, twenty or twenty-five!
When I was in southern Ireland a few years ago, some friends and I drove through the coastal mountains there. It reminded me of New Territorials. In HK, we drive on the left side of the road, too. 

Oh, those winding narrow two lanes! HONK when you come to some hairpin-bends!

Dum's folks had two houses on some ten acres. Her folks were very hospitable. Oftentimes, Dum would asked a group of us girls to spend weekends at her home. We city girls thought that was a real treat and we gladly accepted the invitations. Dum's father had gardens for flowers and vegetables. They were novelties for us. The air was cleaner and we had more room to roam. We did that for years. So, I really knew the family.

My father-in-law, Mr. I.S. Wan, Esq., was a retired educator. He loved gardening. He loved dogs. He loved people.
My mother-in-law, was the sweetest lady, without a mean bone in her body..
I often wondered if I married S.C. for his folks?

S.C. was working in Houston, TX., as a research scientist. 
He had come to the U.S. during WWII as an interpreter for the U.S. Army and the Chinese government, helping train Chinese pilots. 
While he was in the U.S., the war ended. He was given the opportunity to stay and go to school, or go home. He took the opportunity to stay and went to University of Texas in Austin, TX.

So, we wrote to each other for a while. By the way, he was a good letter writer. For those of you who knew him later you might doubt my words. He was slow in speaking. Always very deliberate in choosing his words. You see, he was the ultimate perfectionist. 
He spoke English without any foreign accents (and I do) - well, he was born and bred in HK, British Crown Colony. His grandfather went to HK before 1911. His grandfather, Dr. Wan (I will explain the family name later.), a medical doctor, was classmate and friend of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Father of the Republic of China. Dr. Sun was a revoluntionist at that time. Grandfather Wan fled to HK to avoid being captured by the Ch'iang Dynasty, for being associated with Dr. Sun Yat-sen. He was one of the first few Chinese medical doctors practicing in HK in early 20th century. S.C.'s father was the oldest son. 
I will tell you more about the family later.

Anyway, S.C. and I wrote to each other for a while. Then, when I went to London, I did not write him much. Boy, he got upset. Later, I found a letter his father had written him, pacifying him . . .
I did not realize that he was in love with me. (or with my letters?)
He wrote again. I wrote him back. So we were pen-pals, while I was in London and he was in Houston, TX.

The next year, I took a long way back home to HK - Via the U.S. - via Houston, Tx.

Long story short - he went back to UT, got his Master's Degree, and went back to HK. We got married.

                                                              me                   S.C.

                                                                  with my parents

                                                                 with S.C.'s parents

Thursday, August 21, 2014

At The Crossroad Of Life

Life is making choices.
We make choices constantly whether we want to or not.
Indecision is a choice - you decide NOT to act.
Choices bring consequences.

After Edinburgh, I had to decide what to do next.

I was not ready to go back to Hong Kong yet. 

In my time, many of the girls would have a B.A. in Liberal Arts or English, then learn the necessary skills to become an Executive Secretary to some CEOs or some high government officials.
So I became a student at Mrs. Hester's Secretarial School For Girls in London. 
Very Victorian, don't you think? 
I was to learn Pitman shorthand, business-letter writing, typing, and bookkeeping (and how to Behave as an executive secretary - we were even taught how to sit while we were typing or taking shorthand and so on). I never used my skills in Pitman, though I received a story book in Pittman shorthand for winning some sort of contest. My typing has "gone to pots." Is that the expression? Bookkeeping did help me when I was running a Real Estate business in later years.

Now, instead of Mr. Cairns, I had Mr. Marden from whom I would receive fifty pounds a month to live on in London. Mr. Marden headed several big companies, some of them in Hong Kong that my father was associated with.. His company was on the NY Exchange. A much bigger Fish than Mr. Cairns in the business world . . . Every month, I would go to Bank Station of the London tube and walk to Mr. Marden's office for my allowance. I want to tell you, it was so confusing to me after getting out of Bank Station and try to find the right office building to go to . . .  it was like Wall Street and worse. 
Mr. Marden would say to me, "Now, Loretta, make B.L. (my father) proud." And I would say, "Yes, sir." Mr. Marden never invited me to his home. He was far too busy for this girl from HK - even if we had had dinners together in HK.

 I rented a bed-sit at Knightsbridge, not too far from Harrods, the world's most famous department store.

I shared my flat with Dorcas, my schoolmate from HK.
Joyce had left London and went back to HK then. But my other friends from HK were still there. We reconnected - Syd, Fung, Lachu, Jiji . . . How happy I was to see all of them!  
Syd and Fung later got married in London that year.
Lachu, what could I say? You always did know how to pick the most interesting restaurants for us to go to. I remember the Spanish one with the Flamingo dancers, in the basement somewhere. 
Let me tell you, some of the best restaurants are in basements.
And Jiji, it was a wonder that we didn't all get killed. Remember, we all piled into your car and made you drive in that most awful and dense London fog one evening. Were we looking for another restaurant? Or, just driving around? We were pretty close to river Thames too. You are a good driver, Jiji!

Fifty pounds each month was not a lot of money to live on. Seven and half went for rent. It was enough to live on though  And, I certainly made the best of it. I even bought the occasional flowers for my flat, from the street corner vendor. How could you resist a little sunshine in your drab bed-sit and London could be quite gray?  It, sometimes, got dark around three thirty in the winter.

I was on student visa and was not allowed to work.

I would go to school, study, and explore London;  going to see the many sights, to operas, to ballets, and to plays (I saw Julie Andrews in The Boy Friend on stage, before she became famous). I usually would buy tickets for the cheapest and highest seats, way up in the balcony, it gave me vertigo up there. Sometimes, I would buy a standing ticket - which meant you stand and not sit through the show. Like I said before, when you are young, you can do a lot of things without spending a lot of money. Rough it!

I took some pottery classes. I even sat for one of my schoolmates who painted. She wanted to paint me! My first portrait (clothed) - wish I had the painting. But alas, my pay was merely banana and peanut butter sandwiches!

It was the first time I was being exposed to so much Fine Art - I haunted the museums. I loved Turner and Constable, Reynolds and Gainsborough. Like a sponge, I was absorbing all the sights, the sounds, the people, and the Arts . . .
Feeding the pigeons

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A LIfe Cut Short Too Soon

The comedian Robin Williams passed away. He took his life.
I don't know why, but his death touched me deeply. "It is always sad to see the end of something that could never happen again." In this case the man himself, too young.

I want to share with you some thoughts - 

Touch that which is most important the least, and touch that is least important the most. 
Let it be.                
Think about this.

Perfection is not a reality.

Be unique - there is only one you, so make it a good one.

Don't take yourself too seriously.

Do what you love.

De-clutter your belongings.

Read a book.

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Be spontaneous.

Stop worrying.

The Joy of a simple life - take responsibility and prioritize.

To get maximum value of your property - things to do-
    Fix it up,
    Paint it,
    Get rid of junk and clutter.
(This is my Realtor voice speaking. For those who do not know me well, I was in the Real Estate business for around 27 years. And you know what? This applies to your LIFE as well as to your property. For your life, you make it look good, you will feel good.)

We all need to have The Urge to Purge - purge your possessions, that is -
   Sell it.
   Give it away.
   Barter it.
Have only what works for you.

Every Home must have a cozy room.

Listen to good music - music is the soul of life.
Sounds have many mysterious properties. Sometimes, they positively change the brain and the body.

Spend your time only on things and people who deserve it.

You can choose to be right, or you can choose to be happy.

Take time out to Play. 
Play- time spent without purpose. Go play. - doing things just because they are fun and not because they will help achieve a goal. It s vital to human development. Play is at the core of creativity and innovation.

Create "positive events".

Life is chaotic, noisy, and haphazard, so learn to be relaxed and flexible.

Be patient.

Ponder your life with sense of perspective. 


Joan Miro said, " You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life." 

Discovery is part of the joy of life.

Help yourself by helping others.

Life is too short. So make the best of it.

Age is simply a number.

Live with what you love.

Happiness is a feeling. So Be happy!

Have I given you enough ideas to occupy yourself for a long while?
And to think that people complain about having nothing to do in retirement!

A footnote: Some twenty or so years ago, my sister-in-law, Dum told me that B.J. passed away. She didn't have details. He was in his sixties, like Robin Williams.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Cup Runneth Over

Like I said, my year in Edinburgh was super Full.

Of course, studying occupied the greater part of my time. However, I managed to do a bit of traveling among other things: 

 - I visited Glasgow and Robert Burns country.

 - I went to the Highlands - saw the heather covered mountains, shepherds herding sheep, pristine Lochs.

 - I went to Lochs. No, I did not see the Monster.

 - I explored Castles and Ruins with David and Amy- Amy was from HK. We even saw the infamous Bottle Dungeon, where they kept political prisoners in years past.
The Dungeon was in the shape of a bottle. Prisoners were lowered down by ropes. There was no way you could climb out. And, the prisoner had hardly enough flat surface to stand. The sound of the pounding waves echoed in the dungeon. You would be driven crazy in no time at all. Only once, one prisoner escaped. Story was, the sister of the prisoner went to visit. She was lowered into the dungeon by ropes. She and her brother exchanged clothing. So, the brother was the one who came out when the visit was over. Clever, right?

I wished I had climbed Arthur's Seat - the impressive cliff-like mountain, which I saw almost everyday.


 - I went to operas with Fiona.

 - I spent a week in Stratford-upon-Avon on another one of the British Council programs; had lectures on Shakespeare and attended Shakespearean plays - I studied Hamlet twice in HK, you know.

 - I was even invited to the Queen' s Annual Garden Party, but got rained out. (All the overseas students had that honor - not just me.) Some people went, regardless, just to sign the Register.

- I might have been to the cafe where J. K. Rowling wrote her book, across from Edinburgh Castle on Main Street.

- I kept in touch with my HK friends in London, including Joyce, of course.

- I did write home every week.

- I became pen-pals with S.C. in the U.S.

Yes, I did finish my Paper on Coleridge on time and graduate.

My cup runneth over.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Edinburgh vs. Dowry

So much happened during the year I was in Edinburgh. It was like living more than one life at a time. And I was healing.

My father and I made a Pact. He would foot the bill for me to go to Edinburgh for my post-graduate work and I gave up my Dowry.

Are you Surprised?

You see, my father did not really think that further education for me was necessary, but he did want me to get away from Hong Kong for a period of time. "To forget your Folly," he said. He thought going away for a long period was not necessary and too expensive. I insisted. Therefore, The Pact.
He said, "If you go to Edinburgh,  I will not be able to give you a dowry when you get married."
I said, "Fine, I don't need a dowry."

Edinburgh vs. Dowry. Edinburgh won.

In the end, I stayed more than one year in the British Isles - I spent the next year in London. From there, I had the opportunity to visit Europe. I didn't regret one bit of my decision. 

It may seem like that I was spending a lot money for - for What?
But no education is ever wasted. Although it did not provide me with instant benefits, it helped me throughout of my life. My Liberal education taught me How to Learn. 'How To Learn' stays with you all your life. And Travels taught me more than I could ever learn from books.

You can be shown how to do something a hundred times, but doing it once (for, me, may be five times) by yourself you really learn.
You can read about people and places in a hundred books, but being at that place once (even for a few days) will really make you understand the place and the people better.

So, parents and grandparents, the best gift you can give your children or grandchildren is to give them a Gift of Traveling (after they graduate from college, preferably). When the children are young, it may not cost as much for them to travel as you think - there is youth-hosteling, there is back-packing. When you are young you can sleep in a sleeping bag, on the floor, and rough it. 

You don't need cruises. 

You don't need "twelve countries in ten days" deals. 

You don't want them to be merely tourists. You want them to be travelers. Being tourists are for "Oldies" only.

In my days, many of my friends went hitch-hiking in Europe. I don't recommend it now. These days, it may not be a good idea to go hitch-hiking. But there are still many youth hostels around.
Sometimes, young people can work his or her way around while traveling. It can be done. 

My grand-daughter spent six weeks in Bali, after she graduated from Northeastern University. True, it was part of her study. Then, she and a friend, went youth-hosteling in what I call Indochina for five weeks. Before that, she had traveled to China twice and to several parts of South America. I did not even foot any of the bills. It certainly broadened her horizon.

So I did trade in my Dowry for Going Abroad. And I will do it again in a heartbeat.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Week At Oxford

The British government was very supportive and helpful to overseas students. The British Council had a program that offered week-long stays at either an University or a famous location for education and pleasure. You could even request aid for tuition, room, and board. All you needed would be your pocket money and a return fare for your travels.The events were designed for the Overseas students who needed to find something meaningful to do and some place to stay during the breaks in the school Year. Very well organized.

During the week, there would be lectures by experts on your chosen topics, excursions, and other activities. You would learn a lot about the Subject you wished to study and the Place you would be visiting - an intensive learning experience, a wonderful opportunity for us to know more about the country as well.

I had chosen to go to Oxford for a week's Study on Modern  Literature - T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Orwell, Huxley, and others. I would be living at one of the Colleges at Oxford - on campus, so to speak..

So after my visit to my friend Mary's home, I went to Oxford for my week-long stay. I was excited. Not everyone had the chance of experiencing the life of a student at Oxford - the oldest university in England..

So on a gray day, I checked into a room at "Wadham".

The next morning, I was awaken by a knock on the door and a male voice, telling me it was time for me to get up. I was alarmed. I did not realize that it was the custom at the School, that the Houseman or whatever he was called, who took care of the students, would wake them up every morning. That was an experience!

We had a group of about thirty, from all over the world, of varied ages. A third of us women. It was great to meet people from different parts of the word. Almost all of them were very well-educated and highly intelligent. Many of them were working on their Ph.Ds.. I felt a bit inadequate. Among them, there was a young man from Canada, David. It turned out that David was doing graduate work at Edinburgh. We felt like we were almost kins. 

There were a couple of Dons who guided us during the week. They made our lives so much easier since almost all the us were still new to the British Isles.

Throughout the week, we had most of our meals in the Great Dining Hall, (the kind like in the movie of Harry Potter) - with high vaulted ceilings, huge heavy dining tables of dark wood, wooden long benches, stained glassed windows, different flags flying around the wall (family crests) - almost like a church. We had our lectures in the classrooms and they were marvelous. We took guided tours in and around Oxford. We learned many aspects about Modern writers and a lot more about the place Oxford and the different Colleges.The town was charming with the many medieval buildings. The architecture was intriguing. I felt good.

The week went by far too fast. I had to return to Edinburgh. So did David.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Taste of English Country Life

Winter break came, I was to go to Oxford for a week in January. But, before going to Oxford, I had a few days off. I had to decide what I was going to do and where was I going to spend the time, since the Hall would be closed.

One Irish schoolmate invited me to Ireland, which would be a wonderful opportunity. However, I did not wish to spend money for the fare and I would be rushed for time. Another schoolmate, Mary, invited me to her home in England for Christmas. I accepted her invitation with great joy..

So, Christmas found me on a real English estate, as a guest. 
Ah, the beautiful English countryside! Even in the wintertime, it had charm.The gently rolling land with its stone walls, stilts, criss-crossed hedges of hawthorns and hops; and the pastures - like a handmade quilt! 
Mary's home was grand, but very warm and comfortable.
Mary's father owned land for as far as your eye could see and beyond. He would be what we call a gentleman farmer - I called him Lord of the Manor.
Mary showed me around the dairy barns. They had machines for milking the cows. It was an impressive operation and I found it interesting. It was the first time that I was being so near to the cows. When I was in Shanghai, I never had the chance to see any beasts. As a matter of fact, the first time that I ever saw a cow, I was in Hong Kong, when I went to the New Territories - where there were some farmers. I was born and raised a City girl.

Mary's father had other live-stocks. Besides the cows for the Dairy, they bred cattle and sheep. It was an experience for me to see the animals.

The big three-story stone house was decorated brightly for the holidays, with garlands of holly and ivy, and other evergreens, interspersed with bright ribbons and colorful balls. And of course, a giant Christmas tree, all decked out with tinsels and balls, and most probably hand-crafted heirlooms.
Mary's mother, a sweet and gentle lady, welcomed me and put me up in a lovely guest room, bright and airy, complete with a comfortable large bed, a chintz covered easy chair, a writing desk, delicate side chair, reading lamp and the works. My window overlooked the meadow. From there I could see the hills and dales. A pleasing and  serene landscape.

Mary and her family took me to one of their friends' party, in a true Gothic building with century old Jacobean furniture. The architecture, with its pointed arches, rib vaulting, and flying buttresses, was simply awesome. The elegant host and hostess were most gracious. I had a lovely time. I marveled particularly at the gorgeous setting! It was almost unreal, being in a Gothic home.

The next morning, there was a Hunt - complete with the many colorfully attired hunters and huntresses on imposing looking horses and the yelping Hounds. At the sounding of the Trumpet, the Hunting Party took off. Mary, her mother, and I stood on the side with some others to see the hunters off. We waved to her father who looked wonderful in his splendid riding habit, riding high on his chestnut horse.
I also remember, after the Hunt, he came back to the house, warming his back in front of the big roaring fire, cutting quite a figure. A proper English squire. An English country gentlemen.

I felt like I was in a setting of an English novel. I was glad to have had the opportunity of having a gleam of English Country Life. At Christmas time, no less.

Why Coleridge?

Being at Edinburgh was quite different from being at HKU. I had a lot to learn and a lot to adjust to.
I kept really busy for the first few weeks  - finding my way, studying, adapting, trying to forget B.J.
I tried desperately to concentrate on studying - trying, trying, trying . . . I told myself not to dwell on the past year.

You may wonder why I decided to work on Coleridge. 
I felt a connection to him. His writing on Kubla Khan fascinated me. Kubla Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, founder of Mongol Dynasty in China. China. My connection. Opium or no opium.

     In Xanadu, did Kubla Khan
           A stately pleasure-dome decree:
     Where Alpha, the sacred river, ran
     Through caverns measureless to man
           Down to a sunless sea.
     So twice five miles of fertile ground
     With walls and towers were girdled round . . .

 Vision in a Dream.

I did not fancy Reading 
     Either Wordsworth or Keats,
     Nor Browning, nor Yeats. 
     T. S. Eliot, you came a bit later, 
     Or, I would have liked to know you better.

I guess I did not do too badly, because years later, my sister-in-law, Dum, actually borrowed my Paper on Coleridge for her teaching.

You may ask me what I intended to do after graduation
I would have told you that I did not know. 
In my days, girls were not expected to have careers. My three choices were; teaching, nursing, or being a secretary. Nursing was out of the question - first, I was not good in science; also I could not stand blood or sickness. Besides, my father certainly would not approve. Girls from my family did not become nurses. (I know it is an old-fashioned way of thinking, but you have to remember that I was born a long time ago.) That left teaching or becoming a secretary. I couldn't imagine myself being a teacher, but I thought I could be an executive secretary. Actually one of my fellow students did. She worked for Prince Phillip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II. 

Truth be told, most of us girls majored in MRS - finding a husband. I am not kidding you!

Really and truly, I had wanted to be a Fashion Designer. I loved making clothes that no body else had. However, they did not offer those courses at the university, and my father said, "NO!"
(Later, I did realize that there were a few other choices that I could have made. I did not know then.)

So, here I was with Coleridge. 

A footnote: I do like Wordsworth, Yeats, Browning, Keats, and many others.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Curry Chicken And Rabbit Stew

No, we did not have Haggis!

At the Hall, our breakfasts and dinners on weekdays were provided for. Breakfasts were usually satisfying and filling. Dinners were hearty. We were on our own for lunches, or, sometimes we could ask for a sandwich. 
On weekends, it was a different story. We had to sign up for meals for Saturdays. That was not a problem. Sunday morning, we could have cold cereal. BUT -
No meals provided on Sundays! It was the cook's day off. 
So, the few of us who had no families to go to on weekends had to fend for ourselves. (I could not sponge on the Cairns every weekend, could I?) There were not any restaurants nearby. Besides, the buses or the trams did not run regularly on Sundays. 

Cooking was not allowed in our rooms. We could make a cup of tea or open a can. 
So what should we do?  What could we do?

Actually - my friend Emel from Turkey taught me how to make curry chicken -  don't tell our House Mother.  It was one of the best curries I ever had! I still use her recipe.
                                                                        with Emel

Now, Friday dinners were supposed to be a big deal - a lot of the times rabbit stew was the main course. 
Rabbit meat was supposed to be a treat!
Good grief! Help! Rabbit meat was not for me!
So when we had rabbit stew on Friday evenings - I longed for Emel's curry chicken and, sometimes, I did get some on Sundays in her room. Thank you, Emel.

If someone had invented Cup-of-noodles then, we could have lived on them on Sundays. Then of course, Emel would not have made Curry Chicken. I miss you, Emel. Are you in Istanbal?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Gas Heater

I cannot remember the name of the Hall where I spent the next nine months of my life. It was a building more like a Manor House to me - a great big impressive three story stone structure on a large piece of land, not too far form the coast, I believe. Because I remember the seagulls. There were always a number of seagulls flying around, squawking. I loved watching them.
I liked the tall windows with leaded glass, the cozy window seats, the beautiful hand-crafted brass fittings, the carved stone cornices, the wide-planked floors, the high ceilings with wood beams . .  . Dark paneling and chintz . . .  It all gave one a sense of comfort and ease.
                                      on the front lawn of the Hall

On the ground floor, there were the Common Room, the dining room, rooms for our Hall Mother, her assistant, some offices, rooms for the helpers, and the kitchen. It seemed like everything was massive, especially in the common areas.
The upper two floors had rooms for us girls. On each floor, there was the big bathroom with compartments. There was a separate room for the bathtubs. I remember that the bathtubs were huge cast iron affairs. However, I did not think anyone of us ever entertain the idea of "Soaking in the tub". It would have taken way too much water. Besides, it would be way too Cold!  

By the way, I should tell you that the Cairns' bathroom was NOT heated at all. That was not unusual in Scotland at the time. 

At the Hall, I had a single room to myself - a fair sized one, with a gas heater that you had to constantly feed with shillings or you freeze. The common areas were heated - but the temperature was low, probably around 60 degree or so. We girls would try to save money by gathering in the Common Room, around the big stone fireplace. On a sunny day, a window seat was a great place to curl up with a book. The sun really warmed you. But we did not have too many good sunny days.

There was a story about a student with the gas heater. 
Well, as I said before, you had to feed the heaters with shillings or they would not function - you put in the shilling, you then turned on the gas, and then you lit the fire. When the allotted amount of gas was used up, the fire would go out. You had to put in another shilling and so on. 
This young student was renting a room from an old man. When the landlord came to empty the money box the first week, there were no shillings in it. So he thought may be the student did not have money to feed the gas meter for the week. The next week, the meter box was again empty. And the next week - same thing happened, no money in the Box! The landlord wondered how the student could survive the extreme cold weather without heating for so long. It turned out that the young student found a way to make ice cubes in the shape of the shilling and he managed to trigger the meter to supply him with gas. Of course the ice cube melted after a short time. And the meter box stayed empty. He had heating all the time!  
I was not smart enough to do that.

There were probably 50 or 60 girls at the Hall, undergraduates as well as post-graduates, from different parts of the British Isles and   different parts of the world. Most of the girl were very friendly and helpful. Soon, I made friends with a number of them. One of them is an English girl from the northern part of England, Fiona. I remember Fiona and I went to the operas every night for a whole week when the Opera House from London went to Edinburgh. She and I are still in touch with each other. Fiona is a retired Spanish teacher. The last time I was in Paris, a few years ago, she went from Kent to Paris to meet up with me. We spent a wonderful day together - visiting the Museum and eating wonderful French food.
                                                                      Amy and me                           

                                  making snowman with my schoolmates

Edinburgh University was much bigger than HKU. The Psy class had over two hundred students in it. The lectures were held in a big auditorium. The professor spoke with a heavy Scottish Bruu - I needed to learn how to adapt. My main work was English Studies - My Paper was to be on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the opium-smoking romantic 19th century English poet. I was assigned to be under a very nice English-speaking professor. Besides attending different lectures on English Studies, I also had weekly meetings with my prof. The work was intensive. My studies began.

My trunk finally arrived in October.