In 1983, Linda and I were hired by the nascent International School of Beijing. We were half of the first overseas teachers brought in, the other half were Angus and Carol. It was, and continues to be a great friendship. Together with our other friends, John (head of the school) and Susan, we would often travel to the Ming Tombs for a picnic lunch, followed by a late afternoon on the Great Wall.
The tour buses followed the opposite itinerary, and in the late afternoon we had the Wall to ourselves. It was also the trip we would take our visitors.
|Brothers John and Bill|
Some we would take them up to the far un-refurbished parts of the wall.
Even if they were suffering from jetlag like my brother below. Here, being told a story by Angus:
We both chose the fish and chips.
We took dessert home with us.
Then across the driveway to our favorite coffee shop….
We typically enjoy one of Linda’s fine casseroles, or perhaps pesto salmon encrusted with fine slivers of almonds. On rarer occasions I make a spagetti with spicy Italian sausage.
However there are those days when we’ve been busy in the early evening and fast food beckons. Tonight was such a time as we had our first moving company visit to do a survey of our goods and it went longer than expected. By the time it was finished we were ready to eat.
Our building is between the American fast food staples Burger King and KFC, two very busy establishments. However in our twenty years in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and the UAE), we’ve become fond of the local fast food, the shwarma.
The skewer of meat is prepared by stacking slices of seasoned meat and fat. The meat in the picture is chicken and beef. The meat is slow roasted and the well done pieces are cut off and mixed with the veggies in the pan. Very hot work. The cooks can often be seen outside cooling off. The meat and veggies (tomatoes under the beef and fries under the chicken) are mixed with sauces and green veggies and wrapped in bread. In addition to these delicious sandwiches, we also order fattoush, a green salad mixed with toasted pieces of pita bread.
There is little wonder that a major part of our shipments to either the US or Nepal this June will be books. Not only do we have the accumulation of 17 years of books collected here, but I still have my copy of “Borror and Delong’s Introduction to the Study of Insects” from my university days. A handy reference when I get those requests “can you identify this?”
“Yes, that’s a bed bug.”
A lot of sifting and sorting coming up: What to toss, what to read, what can’t we give up.
The books we can’t give up tell a story. When I enter the home of a new acquaintance, their bookshelf tells volumes. With us, our collection of guide books define our life experiences: jungles, mountains, England, New Zealand and everything in-between either chronicle our journeys or our desired destinations. As our children sped into adulthood, their authors became ours, a shared family experience going through JK Rowling and George RR Martin. It was fun to see it go the other way too as they too discovered my favorites “A Canticle for Liebowiez”, Asimov and the works of Ray Bradbury. Which of those books will grace our shelves in either California or Nepal? What story will our bookshelf tell our new neighbors and colleagues?
All of this bookshelf nostalgia is being redefined. My digital bookshelf on my iPad is not shared with casual strangers who cross my threshold though I’m sure there’s an app for that. However this book rambling was inspired by the online discovery of a bookstore in Kathmandu called the Quixote’s Cove. Here’s a description from the site:
“The building, in which Quixote’s Cove is located was built in the early 1930s and has a rich history. During the 1930s and 40s, it was used as a catholic church by the Jesuits and was a central but secret convening ground for the Praja Parishad, the first pro-democracy and anti-Rana regime revolutionary party. As a secret gathering ground, the building has witnessed clandestine meetings between some of Nepal’s most prominent political leaders and poets including Ganesh Man Singh and B.P. Koirala along with Martyrs Shukra Raj Shastri and Ganga lal Shrestha. The walls still reverberate with their spirit of freedom and the words of the poet Lekhnath Paudel, who used to recite his poem there regularly, still float in the air. The bookstore shall seek to revive its past in a more public manner and become the convening ground for today’s thinkers and doers.”
No doubt, some new (or old) books from the Quixote’s Cove will grace our bookshelves in the future. Another story to tell.
This morning the weather was wonderful, so I was inspired to take a walk to school. I’ll let the reader judge the interest value of the pictures. Hopefully next year’s photos will be far more exotic.
Moving from Germany to China, we scoured Foyle’s bookstore in London and found the classic guidebook Nagel’s Encyclopedia Guide of China. We found some National Geographic back issues in California that eventually led us down the Yangtze and to the sky burial rock in Lhasa. There were no traveler’s guides to China back in 1983.
When we left Malaysia we found lots of guide books in Hong Kong, but most memorable were the books of Paul Therox: The Consul’s File and The Great Railway Bazaar.
Again guide books were hard to find for Saudi Arabia, but the book “Princess” had just come out. Scary stuff. Living there for four years didn’t change that impression of what we called “the magic kingdom.”
We interview in the UAE for our jobs here. At that time we picked up the book “From Rags to Riches” which chronicled the early growth of Abu Dhabi, but also foreshadowed the growth we have witnessed.
Moving to Kathmandu
Everest and the Toenail – Like us, empty nesters living abroad. The post about the flight from the US, leaving the kids, hit home.