Travels with Penelope

Travel, Food, Wine, Spirituality and Everything Else

Category: Travel: Boots on the Ground (page 1 of 5)

July 31, 2017 Bikes and Tea in Hangzhou (China Journal)

As I was sitting on the deck of our home in Davis and about to open the notes in my China journal I was distracted by a play of light on the wall behind the pond. The sun peaking through disciplined spaces along the overhang created an ephemeral piece of art that rivaled much of what I had seen during my years as an art critic. Abstract expressionism at its best! A fleeting frame of light walling off transient flickers led my mind into unbounded space. It felt so good to be back.




After slowly working my way through my journal notes from the last trip to China, I realized that I had better conclude soon as the next trip is beginning to rise on the horizon. So, back to the journey through Hangzhou with Jing, our guide.

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July 22, 2017 Hangzhou (China Journal)



The problem with having an itinerary with reserved guides and hotels is just that. An itinerary has to be honored. Just when I had begun to feel at home in Xi’an and wanted to hang a bit longer, a plan to visit Hangzhou another ancient capitol, city of silk and hand fans, lay waiting. Sadly, I paid my goodbyes to Lily and our guide Liu Li. I felt like I was leaving close friends.

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June 30, 2017 Jade Valley Winery – Zhonnguo (China Journal)

I have not posted on my trip to Zhongguo for awhile, but I think of it almost daily. When I do not, I am reminded by the news articles and reports on China that seem to make their way across my desktop with remarkable regularity.

Today, our day trip from Xi’an to the Jade Valley Wine Resort in Lantian County came to mind.


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June 7, 2017 Terracotta Warriors – Zhongguo (China Journal)




Dear Friends,

Back from a wonderful trip to Japan I am finally able to resume sharing the wonderful pilgrimage I had to China last month.

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May 7, 2017 Xi’an, Zhongguo (China Journal)


Dear Friends,

FYI:  One of my readers told me that she did not know that words in color are links to an explanation or information on the term or site. In the former post, clicking on the blue-green Wuhan in the first sentence will provide more information on yes, the city of Wuhan.

Only two days in Wuhan and it felt as though I had lived in China from a beginning. I did not know the exact timing of that beginning, in a past life perhaps, I only knew that I felt at home and safe. And, home rescinded to the backyards, no that is too close, home retracted to a distant horizon deep in my mind.

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April 30, 2017 Wuhan, Zhongguo (China Journal)


It was Saturday, my second and last day in Wuhan. We decided to forgo the breakfast buffet at the hotel and head for Starbucks, but first I took advantage of what was an unusually clear and sunny day,  to snap a shot from our hotel window. When done, we left the room and headed out for a morning walk.



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4-20-2017 In China


Dear Friends,

The post below is a continuation from my last post on the journey to China. After I arrived in China, I had  minor internet issues to deal with. With that and a very full schedule, my plan to post every other day proved to be impossible. Long story short, I can now begin to share what was an enlightening trip to Zhongguo. Continue reading

4-14-2017 On my way to China…


Dear Friends,

As I began to make my initial preparations to go to China, three things were clear: I would avoid the pollution of Bejiing, I would go to see the terra cotta warriors in Xian and the trip would begin in central China in Wuhan. Otherwise, with my limited knowledge of China, I felt like I was dropping into a yellow sea of the unknown. A friend suggested that I get a guide, but first I had to determine where I wanted to go.

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April 5, 2017 Enroute to Zhongguo (Middle Kingdom)



Dear Friends,

A year ago the thought of going to China was one of the last trips I would have entertained. Yet here I am sitting in an American Airlines gate waiting for a plane to Shanghai. A fourteen hour flight! From Shanghai I will transfer to China Eastern Airlines and make another two hours to Wuhan, a city of 10,000,000 in central China.

When a second opportunity to go to China came up in less than a year, I decided to take a deeper look at my misgivings about going. Most of them boiled down to human rights issues. I thought about how badly I feel when some of the people I meet abroad tell me about the same feelings they have for American (not about human rights, but other issues) and refuse to visit our country.  The more I thought about China and got beyond the initial thoughts I began to sense a deep feeling, almost a calling to go to Zhongguo. After all, I had been intensely interested in Taoism for decades. One of the readings at my wedding had been taken from Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu. There was a time when I threw the I Ching daily. As soon as I decided to join my partner in China, after he completed the annual course he teaches at the University of Technology in Wuhan, everything began to fall into place. Guides to sites I wanted to see, important information about sites walked in the door. It was time to explore the roots of two spiritual traditions that had been a deep part of my path.

One thing in particular let me know that I was supposed to take this pilgrimage. China does not allow Google. So coming from the States, one must find a way to connect with the internet. VPN is the way to go. At the Genius Bar at my local Apple store I asked my assistant to download. Turns out that Apple cannot do that: its another company, stupid! I was pretty down in the mouth. How would I survive in China without the internet. Well, I was having tea with a friend when her friend Brent passed by. He reminded me that we had met a year earlier. When my friend told me that Brent goes to China four times a year, I bemoaned my internet problem. He said, “Oh, don’t worry, you can download VEP. I’ll do it for you right now. Additionally, he downloaded it on my phone as well as Google translation!

It’s time to board. Wish me Bon Voyage.


March 24, 2016 Squatty Potty

Usually, I do not get so personal on my blog site, although one could argue that a blog post is always personal, so kindly bear with me.  This past weekend my son and daughter-in-law decided that the time had come to focus on potty training their two –year-old daughter.

After all, if she was ready to drive, she was surely capable of handling a potty.


It would be a concentrated three-day process during which the family would remain at home and in the house for the most part. I was given the assignment of creating artwork with my precious granddaughter between movements.

At the beginning of her transition  from the familiar diaper to the potty-chair and underwear, a momentous process for any two year old, Fed Ex delivered a large box to the front door. My son informed me that the box contained the squatty potty that he had ordered a few days earlier, not a potty for his daughter, but one for the adults in the family.

The weekend turned into a double whammy. Not only would we go through the traditional training with the two-year old, we adults would also be examining our own process and looking at a way to improve on it.

Having traveled to Egypt, lived in Asia, with over a year in India alone, I was very familiar with traditional forms of the squatty potty. We know that our ancestors squatted for thousands of years before the modern toilet was invented. In much of the east squatting over a ground level receptacle still prevails.

Opening the big box revealed a raised bench for the feet that looked like anything but a potty. I doubted the ability of the stepping stool contraption that stood before me to further my bodies ability to eliminate.

Still, I was open to trying it out.  The attached directions instructed me to place the bench-squatty potty in front of the ceramic toilet bowl, sit on the bowl seat,  and bring my feet up on to the bench. The bench was nine inches tall, but I am told a seven inch is also available thereby allowing adjustments for toilet height. After my first go-round I became not only a fan, but as this post attests, an advocate of the squatty potty.

Check out the video for more info. If you remain unconvinced, google your way around the web and research the benefits of squatting. As you will observe, many experts claim that squatting is the one exercise that should never be eliminated. No pun intended.

Along with my granddaughter, I, too, made an adjustment. And, we had a wonderful weekend in which the family gathered to make art,


cook food and learn of a new-old way to experience the human condition.

Happy squatting!

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