Raderstorf World Wide Adventure

Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year 2005

Happy New Year from Bangkok! Somehow I feel a pull in my chest wondering if that is the right thing to say when so very many people are suffering from incredible loss and some still not knowing the whereabouts of family members. We went to the hospital yesterday to visit our friend Roger who is doing great. Scott and I accompanied his wife Carrie in bringing chocolate bars (universal comfort in all cultures) to the other Tsunami survivors on the floor while our kids met with the hospital pscyhologist for a check in. It was comforting for us to meet other people who had survived and to hear their story. We met a man who is still missing his wife and perhaps most poignant, we met a mother and 12 year old son who were just reunited the day before. They have yet to locate the woman's husband and daughter. She felt lucky to be alive and with her son. Enormous joy and sorrow really do live in the same house.

Last night Scotty went out with our gracious host Larry to experience a little joy at the Irish Pub owned by his friend. Too many shots of Bailey's but good fun to be out and about. The kids are laughing hysterically as I type watching Mr. Bean. They've played ping pong, darts, and pool (it's a bigger table and is called Snookers in Thailand). There's plenty of room to run around at Larry's house and besides being tired from staying up until midnight they are doing well. By the way the psychologist said they are all great kids and in incredible shape. Apparently they saw only a fraction of what other children have seen. Whew, a relief on two fronts, no apparent scars from the Tsunami OR our parenting.

For the next few days our WWA will turn to more functional tasks. Replacing passports, getting plane tickets replaced, and acquiring some belongings. We own only five pairs of underwear amongst us all at the moment and our luggage consists of a variety of brightly colored plastic bags.

Thanks again to all of you for your prayers and outpouring of love. Feeling the love and support truly makes a difference. No need to worry about us as we are well taken care of, but if you have some extra resources please consider giving them to the relief effort. There are many places to give, but thought we'd give you a couple of suggestions connected to our experience:

Save the Children www.savethechildren.org is working in most of the communities affected and is a long-time, well-respected NGO. In addition, our friend Roger works for Save the Children in Nepal and we think the world of him. You can make your contribution on behalf of Roger Hodgson if you like because he was in large part responsible for our survival.

There is also a relief fund for the people of Bak Jok village (near the Golden Buddha) which was completely destroyed. Find out more at www.goldenbuddhabeach.com. On Christmas night, about 30 really precious girls (ages 5 to 15?) came from all of the villages on the island to perform Thai dance for the GBB. Hold them in your prayers too if you have room.

I would be remiss if I did not offer up this suggestion. Please consider sending a letter to your senators, US rep, and to the President, sharing any part of your personal experience with this disaster and ask that the US be generous in our giving and humble in our words. From where I stand, the US is not needed to lead the effort of relief and reconstruction. Quite frankly, we were embarrassed by our President's words on CNN when he used the same language to address this disaster as he has terrorism without acknowledging the amazing work of regional governments or the UN. The leadership of the Thai government has been incredible and it would be a great time for the US to acknowledge this and to show a bit of humility. As a side point, Scott had to fill out a five page document to loan $100 from our government while the Thai government gave us anything we needed in terms of food, transport and accommodation with no questions asked, no repayment required. This is a great time for us Americans to be open to learning from the rest of the world. Please take no offense to these words, I'm proud as I can be of my fellow Americans, unfortunately I cannot extend this feeling to my government.

Last but not least, with the outpouring of love we have not been able to respond to everyone individually, but know that you are all in our hearts and minds.

Sending you buckets of love!!!!
Joellen and the guys

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A Quick Update....

I now have a cell phone - 07-0256437. Feel free to call if you have/need urgent info. (from the US - 66 70256437, I think or maybe 66 07 256437).

We are taking this day to celebrate the life of our now 11 year old Maxwell. Tomorrow we plan to move to a local Bangkok house that been given to us by a family that is vacationing in New Zealand. In the coming days I will hopefully have the time and energy to complete the rest of the story.

Thank you everyone for all the good wishes, prayers and assitance.... We are so blessed to have you all in our lives...

All our love to you and yours,

Scott, Jo, Ben, Max & Q

Life goes on... Happy Birthday Max!!!

We just finished the Raderstorf Family Birthday Ritial of breakfast in bed, where Max was crowned King for the Day (I hope the King of Thailand does not feel slighted in anyway...). His royal subjects offered presents and sang his praises. (check photo album for pics!!)

During which this was Proclamed :


#11 - He has great hair
#10 - All little kids LOVE him
#9 - He is a protector of the planet and ALL Animals
#8 - He can eat the most candy
#7 - He is a really good climber
#6 - He can make a fiddle sing
#5 - He tell great stories
#4 - He knows how to work hard
#3 - He never eats meat
#2 - He really is Elvis (the KING)

And the #1 reason We LOVE OUR MAXIE-BEAR IS!!!!
#1 - He can out run any Tsunami!!!

Any birthday wishes can be sent to Max Via : max@raderstorf.com .

Thank you Everyone!!!

The out pouring for good wishes from everyone has been overwhelming......

I don't have much time to write, but wanted everyone to know I was able to get some pics uploaded so you can see the aftermath... Take a look at the photo album.

We will respond to each of your good wishes in time. Thank you for everything.....

Scott, Jo, Ben, Birthday-Boy Max, & Q

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Alive and Well in Bangkok!!!

Thank you everyone for your well wishes, prayers and assitance over the past 48 hours. We are all safe and sound.

I (Scott) am currently at the Dusit Thani Hotel in downtown Bangkok. The Thai government (god love them) arranged for two rooms for us and a driver to take me directly here late last night. Their parting words were, "Anything else you need, just charge to the room...". A small indication of the generosity of these beautiful people. Since I was penniless, with only the dirty beach shirt on my back and a mis-matched pair of beat up sandals on my feet that I had fished out of the ocean, you can only imagine how good those words sounded to me....

I am afraid Joellen and the boys were not so lucky. They had left on an earlier helicopter and were directed to a small town where the closest hospital was. The details are a bit sketchy since I have not talk with her directly since I kissed her as they flew off yesterday AM. From what I hear via family who have had short, staticy conversations with her, they spent a somewhat comfortable night, eating snack food in this small, remote town that was a 2 hour drive from Phuket. I believe they were driven by bus this AM (Dec 28th) to Phuket to catch a plane to Bangkok to reunite with me here. (I hope... This is all an assumtion as of now, still waiting)

But I guess I should go back to the beginning....

We arrived to the Golden Buddha Beach Christmas Eve just at sunset (6:30PM). After meeting Bert, our charming host, and being shown to our cabin, the kids ran down to the Indian Ocean to dip our toes in it's water for the first time. It was a beautiful sunset, the resort was all we imagined it would be and more. It was to be a magical stay for sure.

The first magical event happened straight away. As we watched the sun slip away, a couple with their two children came walking past us in the dusk. I struck up a conversation with him and after a few pleasentries he asked where we were from. I said Boulder, CO. He said "that's funny, my wife (who was walking up at this point) is from Colorado. Also, we have friends who live Boulder.... Francis and Elliott Higgins" I said "Wow, that's funny, they are our next door neighbors". At that point he shouted "Scott!!! It's me, Roger!!!" and opened his arms to give me a bear hug. Four years ago to the that day, He and his wife Carrie had taken over the Higgin's house for the holiday season so Carrie could get a hip replaced. We became fast friends then (as they are lovely people), had them over for Christmas dinner and spent quite a bit more time with them until they fly back home to Katmandu. Now here we were 4 years later (to the day) running into each other on a beach half way around the world from our first meeting. After being away from home for 6 weeks it was a wonderful feeling to run into some friends.

Christmas day was wonderful. Santa somehow found us so far from home and also observed our tight space and weight requirements for the rest of the trip. Three great meals... Many new friends met... Since the power goes off at 11:00 PM, most everyone is in bed before then.

At 8:00 AM the next morning (Dec 26th, 6PM Dec 25th Boulder time) I awoke to a strange feeling. An ever so slight shake... At first I thought a rodent might we chewing on our bedpost, since our cabin was an open air grass hut, not that far out of the question. I thought, "Did I just experience my first earthquake? No big deal..." It probably last 60 seconds, on and off.

I got up and almost awoke Max to go on a Kayak safari in the Mangrove swamp like we had talk about the night before. But I decided to let him sleep... Good thing I did...

I strolled down the beach to the big grass hut where the meals are served. I made myself a press pot of coffee and practiced a few very new Thai words on some of the staff for their amusement. The rest of the family showed up in staggered arrivals, enjoying Golden Buddha's delicious breakfasts. By 10:00 the boys wanted to go play on the beach. I wanted to go make some Christmas calls back to the states over my laptop. To do that I had to go to GBB's equivalent to an internet cafe, a grass hut behind the dining pavilion with a Sat dish on the side. I had already talked with several relatives when I called Lauren and Leonard Weed, to thank them for turning us on to this paradise. I had barely said "Merry Christmas" when I heard a huge boom in the direction of the ocean, just 75 yards in front of me. I could see the tops of white froth spilling over the crest of the beach. I thought "Wow, the surf is really picking up". Then I remembered the vibrations that had woke me up 3 hours before. I got a sick feeling in my stomach that was then multiplied by the knowledge that the boys said they were heading to the beach 30 minutes ago. I quickly said "Not sure what's going on guys, got to go... I'll call you back... Bye".

I ran out of the open air hut to the beach. I could see a couple people being sucked out into the open ocean as the tide drew back. This was just the small one. I recalled a lesson my brother Ross had taught me years ago while I tried surfing (in vain) for the first time, waves usually come in 3's - The 3rd is always the biggest. I looked down the beach to our cabin about 200 yards down, but the boys were nowhere insight!! I started running as fast as I could yelling their names. I got close enough to see the soggy remains of their sand castle that they were building, but no boys. I was scanning the white water that was being sucked out to sea along with the from front edge of the water when Joellen came running up for the path behind our cabin. She pointed to Roger and Carrie's cabin, two doors further down, and started running in that direction. Her mother's intuition was right... The boys had snuck away to play with the Gameboy that Nathan (their 8 year old son) had gotten for Christmas (even thought they we not suppose to). I thank God they had...

The boys came running out and joined us at the top of the beach. The water was racing away from us now and we could see the wave forming, probably a 1/2 mile out to sea. The beach now streached 400-500 yard out to sea. I could see a few fish flopping in the sand as the receding water left them behind. Then we saw it, the white crest of a massive wave breaking to the south of us moving in our direction. Roger said "I think we need to get out of here, NOW!" and started motioning for the boys to run down the path away from the ocean. Carrie and I stood there mesmerized but the unique beauty of what we were witnessing. Then the beauty turned to shear terror as my brain subconsciously calculated that this wave as going to be 20 ft high when it reach the spot I was standing on and traveling at a speed that would put it there in a matter of 10-20 seconds. Joellen and the kids (ours and theirs) had about a 100 yards head start when I turned to Carrie and said 'RUN!!'. I am positive that the next 10 secs was the fastest I had ever run in my life.... I could see Joellen and the kids at the base of steps to a home on the 'back row' of houses. I yelled "GET AS HIGH AS YOU CAN!!!" I then heard a cry from behind me that is still echoing in my mind "HELP ME!!". I look over my shoulder only to see the white foam wall closing in on me, no Carrie. I still had another 20 yards to go to reach the steps to the raised house. I gave it all I had to give. I could hear the ROAR of the cutting edge of the wave and palm trees snapping right behind me. My right foot jumped right to the 3rd or 4th step with my first bound as I heard the water crash over into the front yard of the house. Two more leaps and I was up on the front porch. I turned to look for Carrie. All I could see was a sea of grayish, green water with suitcases, lumber, tree trumps, chairs, pillows splashing about. I yelled "Carrie!!! Carrie!!!". No response. "Carrie!!!!!!!!! CARRIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!". Nothing. "Ohh my God... PLEEAASE help me....", I murmured to myself as I paced the front deck. What do I do, Jump in???? Where could she be??? Then I heard "Over here!" coming from a grove of palm trees to the left of the Cabin. THANK YOU GOD, I thought, she is not trapped under water.

This is where my memory get fuzzing... I think Carrie then yelled "ROGER!!!!". I then realized we had their kids huddled in the bedroom with ours, but Roger was nowhere to be found. I started yelling "ROGER, ROGER!!!" at the top of my lungs, scanning the top of the water that was now just a few feet below the 12 ft high deck. Joellen was running back and forth, helping with the search, calming the kids, checking the 2 other huts that the deck connected to trying to identify the safest place. I then caught sight of Carrie swimming with the current that was still rushing past the Cabin. All the while the other Cabins were being blown apart with sickening CRACKS and BANGS!! The impulse to vomit eased as I ran over to the steps to help Carrie up. As I gave her a hug, we heard Roger's voice coming from the right of us. I am not sure how he did it, but before I knew it he had made his way to the steps. I then noticed that he was it great pain, one of this fingers was hanging on only by a thread.

We all ran into the bedroom where Joellen and the kids where. Roger laid on the bed and Carrie, a RN, went to work on him. I gave Jojo and the boys hugs and whispered over and over "It's going to be OK...", I am not sure if I was trying to convince them or me....

Then we heard a deep male voice outside, "CAN YOU HELP ME??". I ran outside as saw a man wading shoulder deep in the muck carrying his young daughter. The sea was now flowing back to the sea. Atleast it had dropped several feet. He told me his wife and 12 year old daughter where pretty badly injuried and he need help to get to the cabin. I ran down the steps and waded into the water with my digital camera in my hand. Not the smartest move, but no time to restart - I stopped and with what I thought was a gentle toss launched the camera up onto the deck. I heard a shattering crash as it hit the ceramic covering on the deck... Oh well....

He told me his name with Michael and pointed in the direction we need to go. He left his daughter on the steps and we waded about 50 yards to the left and found his daughter, Grace, clinging to a tree. I realized I had met both of them the night before at the bar during the Christmas dinner party. She was 12 years old. I could see she was badly hurt and already drifting into shock. I thought Mike and I could make a seat with our interlocked hands and carry her to the deck, but then I realized that Michael was hurt as well - he had a broken ankle. He hid it well, but I knew he couldn't stand the extra weight. With Mike's help, I picked her up and waded back to the bedroom. Carrie took one look and said "We need more bandages, pain killers, anything...". I was going to go looking for some when Mike said "We need to get my wife!" I was embarassed that I had already forgotten what he had told me. We ran down the steps and found his wife, Mona, also clinging to a tree a another 50 yards beyond. The water as receeding now. I can't imaging what it was like for her to be there as the water was rising, not knowing how deep it would get. She was more alert than Grace, but I could see she was in great pain. I pulled her onto my back and pulling her legs forward around me I could see that most of the skin had been torn off her left foot. We got her back to the Cabin and laid her next to her daughter, who was now white as a ghost. Good thing we had Carrie's medical knowledge, I was clueless.

We were keeping our eyes fixed on the ocean, waiting for the next wave. I had thought this was the 2nd wave, and with as high as it was I knew the house we were in was not going to withstand a 3rd wave. I knew we had to get everyone up to the hill 100 yards away as soon as possible. As luck woud have it, I was wrong, That was the 3rd wave. Maybe the one that got our attention was the 2nd.

This is about all I can write now... Stay tuned for the rest of the story (along with some corrections after Jo and Ben read this)... I just got word that Jojo and the kids will be here soon, safe and sound!!!

Thanks again for all the emails, phone calls and prayers.... Please keep the many who were less fortunate than us in your prayers as well....


Friday, December 24, 2004

Happly Holidays Everyone!!!!

Blessings to you family and friends,

We are in sunny, quaint, old town Lijiang and it’s 3 days until Christmas. Decorations are scattered about and you hear an occasional merry tune. This past week in Yunnan Province has been a wonderful respite in a heavenly spot: lush farm land, fruits and vegetables galore, sun all the time, friendly folks, bicycle riding and time to play. We find ourselves especially grateful to our wonderful hosts Junyi and Waters and their friends who have welcomed us into their homes, restaurants and lives. Our three week visit to China has given us but a taste of this vast and wonderfully diverse land. We will leave with so many fond memories and a strong desire to return, especially to Yunnan.

Although we are far away, we think of you all especially in the moments that seem most appropriate. Uncle Ross and Lauren, we needed you to find the hidden treasures at the Shaping Market (a huge bazaar of handicrafts, everyday items, fruits and vegetables, chickens, raw meat and more). We thought of Uncle Mark and Timmy when we went to see the fishing birds (birds with a piece of reed tied around their neck who swim and fish while the fisherman makes noises that resemble a sheep herder). Every time I see a baby on the back of a mother or grandmother farming on the sculptured green farmland, I think of Juliana and all of my activist momma friends. Aunties Rosie, Mary and Carla would love the shops lining the maze of cobblestone streets here in old town Lijiang. We think of the Higgins and their baby dog Stella with every cute small dog we pet (there only seems to be small dogs, Mmmm). Grandma, we think of you when we see the pick blossoms on the Camellia trees that resemble dogwoods or when we see the women shop keepers knitting with 5 thin needles. The fish head soup among other culinary delicacies makes us think of Uncle Drake (only one of us was brave enough to try it and no one would touch the head). Keith and Steph, spending time in little cafes makes us think of Duo. Uncle Dick, we’d love you to see the farms of Yunnan. Can’t think of anyone who would enjoy the squatty potties, but we have discussed who might or might not be able to handle them. Grandpa Jerry and Bob would love the bargains, almost all prices are negotiable. Leonard, Cam and Rex would enjoy traveling around each province to sample the local beers, 50 cents for the bomber size. And of course we think of the Lacy family when we choose physical activity over lounging in a coffee shop. And wow Jessie, there’s plenty of work for you and Gary here in China. Katherine, the Naxi (pronounced Na-she) traditional dancers with their wonderful costumes reminded us of you. The rest of you have appeared in our quest for candy, taste-testing pizza, card games, lack of central heating, loud families, crazy drivers (Marty, you would never survive a taxi ride in China), and the list goes on and on.

We are also reminded of you by some of the treasures you sent along or helped us purchase: the Chicken Soup for Travelers book is great for read aloud, the journals are filling up, my facial scrub from Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary reminds me of home, the hackey sack knows no language barriers, the green mushy pillow, this tiny laptop, the postcards of Boulder, and music (tears filled our eyes as we listened to Bob Wiz’s poetry & piano compilation on the train to Chongqing). And yes, it is possible to survive with only what you can carry on your back (although I must admit bringing the lime green sweater was a big mistake as it is now gray and all of our socks and perhaps the t-shirts too will need to be fumigated or discarded once we reach the warm beaches of Thailand).

Most of all, we are especially grateful to have the time with each other as we explore new territory (and yes there are trying times like tonight at dinner sitting with Dragon Breath, BO Monster and Mr. Mexican Jumping Bean). Even if they are smelly and loud, traveling around China with three sons earns us pseudo celebrity status. People ask all the time to have their pictures taken with the boys and so many mothers and fathers have complemented us on our good fortune. And perhaps that is the greatest gift of all, having the time to recognize so completely just how fortunate we are to be on this rotating wonder of a planet with our boys, all of you, and the 6 billion other folks who cherish their babies, work really, really hard and give it all they’ve got. With two countries under our belts, it’s safe to say that stereotypes don’t hold true and what unites us is far greater than what divides us!

From Quin: I wish you were here. There are really cute puppies just as cute as Stella (our next door neighbor’s dog) here in China. I wish you all a great, great time around the world. I’ll be in Thailand and I won’t see any snow. Luckies, you get snow. I haven’t ran into any trash cans or elevators or fallen into any ponds lately. There are lots of streams in Lijiang and really good desserts. Love, Quin

From Ben: Ni hao from Lijiang! All is going quite smoothly as we approach the holidays. Most of the shopping is done and we won’t have anything to do in Thailand. The old city of Lijiang is very cool even though it’s streets are dominated by jewelry and dried yak meat stores. The streets are very thin and are paved with cobblestones. No wheeled vehicles are allowed in the old city aside from garbage, fire and mail trucks. The fire trucks are a good thing because all of the buildings are very old and made of wood. Unlike Quin, I’m glad we will be sitting on a beach in Thailand as opposed to freezing our butts off in Boulder (ha ha ha). Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night (okay, I guess it’s morning there, sue me). Ben

From Max: Hola! (oh I guess that’s he wrong language, o well). It’s now the eve of Christmas Eve and there isn’t much Christmas cheer in the air. The fact is that no one seems to celebrate Christmas here. Most of the Christmas trees are plastic and the decorations are for tourists. But it’s still pretty great here. It’s hard to leave China. The cool thing here in China is that I only spent $25 dollars (200 Yuan) on all my Christmas gifts. I am sad that I’m not going to see any snow this year, but I am happy because I will be able to be on a beach. Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a HAPPY NEWWWWWW YEARRRRRRR!!!!! Max

From Scott: We have just arrived in Bangkok on the night of Dec 23rd. It looks as though Thailand may have a bit more Christmas cheer than China, but I still find myself missing the caroling, the gathering with loved ones, the feasting, the last minute frenzy and the frigid weather (as long as you have a warm house to return to unlike our last three nights in Lijiang). I miss all of you very much, especially during this week, and being on the other side on the world from you makes me miss you that much more. This journey is teaching me many things. The most significant is how fortunate I am to be apart of a loving and supportive family, to have a beautiful place called Boulder to come home to and having such wonderful friends to look forward to seeing again. I wish you all the Happiest of Holidays!! I hope that you think of us sometime during your merry making this week and know that we are think and toasting to you as well. Cheers!!! Scott

As we begin the next leg of our world adventure and celebrate the birth of one of the greatest peace-loving guys ever to walk on this planet, WE SEND YOU BLESSINGS AND LOVE!

Happy Holidays to All!!!!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Journey Recap by Max

*** This entry is a copy of a letter Max sent to his 5th Grade Class. ***

Hey every body,

I’m sorry I haven’t e-mailed you yet. But this e-mail’s extra long because I have two weeks to write about. Some very interesting things have happened to me. Here are some of them.

Week 1, Thanksgiving in Japan:
I arrived in Japan on Wednesday November 24. When I got there we waited in a short line for customs. To get to are friend’s house, where we staying, we took 2 trains. The first was an air port express to Shinjuku station. Shinjuku is the busiest subway station in the whole world!!!!!!!!!!! When we got of the train we met the mom of the family that we were staying with. She told us that we were in the busiest station in the world at the busiest time of day. So it was very busy. From there we got on a different train that took us to our friend’s station. But before we got there the train stopped at at least 8 or 9 other stations. When we got to the station we had to get in a taxi and ride for at least 20 minutes. When we finally got to their house it was 7:00 P.M. the day after we left L.A. All of that I described is the average amount of travel you do to get from place to place in Tokyo.

We had a great time in Tokyo. Probably the worst thing that happened to us was I got huge cavity and had to have a partial root canal. But other than that every thing went fine. Tokyo was a great city but I was happy to leave. On the other hand Quin was not. He threw a tantrum and cried the whole taxi ride and screamed “I don’t want to leave Sophie and Sam’s” (those were the kid’s of the people we stayed with). Eventually it got really annoying. He didn’t stop till we got to the bullet train station.
If you ever get to ride on a bullet train don’t get too excited. It’s really fast and that’s good, but all it does is make the ride shorter. But during that two and a half hour tip there is nothing to do. One thing is that there is no entertainment like movies or anything. Another thing was that there wasn’t any sort of refreshment car for food or drink. The only things there were, were an occasional drink vending machine with about six choices and a refreshments cart that sold coca-cola and coffee. The only good thing about it was the view. But if you don’t arrange early you will not get a window seat. (The bullet train is always full.)
After a short bullet train ride we got to Kyoto. We stayed there for a few days going to temples and plays, and some very good restaurants. One of the things I remember was the most boring play about ancient Japanese customs. The worst part of it was probably the Emperor’s orchestra. The way we described the instruments were a duck strangling devise, a bagpipe with God knows what stuck inside of it, a tin can beaten with a log and various other unpleasant sounds. The whole orchestra was lead buy a dancing guy with a mask that looked like a mutated goat. The one word that described the show was SNORE!!!! (This was what we did through most of it.) But eventually we were back at the train station and headed towards the peace central of the world, Hiroshima.

We were only in Hiroshima for1 night, but we got to see a lot. The day we got there we went to the peace park and wandered around there a little bit. Although all Quin wanted to do was play catch with a football. The next day we went to the PEACE MUSEUM. They had a good exhibit on the a-bomb dropping. It really made you think it was a really bad idea. But eventually we had to leave Hiroshima too. Soon we were back in Tokyo airport again and were boarding a 777 to Beijing.

The best candy of Japan is HIGH CHEWS!!!!!! You will find out what they are when I get back. (Only 5 more months.)

Week 2, Cheap ol’ China:
As I’m writing this e-mail, I’m on a train headed for Chongquing, China. (Our third stop in China.) So far we have gone to Beijing and Xi’an (Shi-an). We arrived in China on Dec. 3. When we left the terminal in Beijing airport my dad’s workmate’s husband’s college roommate was right there. (He was going to be our guide and translator for part of China.) After buying tickets we got on a bus that stopped near our hotel. From our stop, we got in a cab that took us to our hotel, THE DOWN TOWN BACKPAKERS INN. We were lucky enough to land a bunk room with four sets of bunk beds that cost 5 dollars a bed!!!!!! That was about 40 dollars a night for eight beds!!!!!! You have to admit that that’s cheap!!! That night we didn’t do any thing but the next morning we went to the FORBIDDEN PALACE.

We went though just a fraction and it took almost the whole day!!! It was really a city not just a palace. There were at least 20 buildings (probably more). We started at the back door and worked our way up to the front and Tiananmen Square. While in the palace Quin managed to run straight into a garbage can and get my mom to buy us all snacks. After walking through the square, we hailed a cab and went back to the hotel. The next day we woke up at 6:30 A.M. and hopped on a bus. After a boring three hour drive we arrived at THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. On the Great Wall, I hiked the length of the Boulder Boulder. Yes ten kilometers. The Great Wall was amazing and I wish I could have had more time. But we were going to miss our bus, so we had to leave. (See pictures on www.raderstorf.com.)

Soon we got on a night train to Xi’an. The trip was twelve hours long!! Surprisingly I found that I enjoyed it so much I wanted to do it again and again and again and again. We arrived in Xi'an at 7:00 in the morning and headed to our hotel. Almost as soon as we got there, we headed out again to go to the eighth wonder of the world, THE TERRA-COTTA WARRIORS.
The Terra-cotta Wariors were thuosands of clay wariors buried underground in one of Emperor Qin’s tomb. A few farmers uncovered it in 1974 while digging a well. (I guess they didn’t have to dig anymore wells.) After spending a day there we headed back to the hotel.
The next day was Dec. 8 (my dad’s birthday). That day we went to a panda reserve with lots of pandas, monkeys, birds and various other endangered species. One of the non-endangered animals was the KILLER COW!!!!!!!!!!!(Dun dun dun) It had actually gotten into someone’s house and killed 4 people!!!!! After spending a few hours there, we went back to the hotel to prepare for my dad’s surprise birthday dinner. After walking a few blocks, we arrived at the famous dumpling house; Du Feng. They had all sorts of dumplings of all shapes and sizes. They even had dumplings in the shape of a Chinese dragon. Sadly we didn’t get that in our 10 course meal of chicken, duck and normal shaped dumplings. There was even a pot of soup with dumplings in it. After a big meal, we were all ready for bed. But on the walk back, we stopped at a few street venders to buy dried fruits, paintings and roses. Sadly the next morning after a bike ride on the city wall and shopping for 6 sent candy boxes (little candy boxes about the size of a normal deck of playing cards cost about 6 cents) and little ceramic figures. We got on a train that Waters didn’t get on. He was going back to Shanghai. After a very uncomfortable night we hopped of the train and met our new guide Junyi (Junnie). After spending the day in Chongqing, we boarded a river cruise boat going down the Yangtze, to THREE GORDGES DAM.

That’s all that’s happened so far. Try to e-mail me back soon

Sincerely, Max

P.S. Catarina, what is the name of your grandparent’s restaurant in Tucson?

P.S.S. I wrote this e-mail from various different places so it might say that I’m writing from this place then say I am writing from a different place. (Sorry major run on sentence.)

P.P.S.S. Notice Ms. Burianek, I wrote a lot like “a lot” instead of “alot”. (Ha ha ha)

P.P.S.S.S. I have been keeping up to date with my reading.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The City of Peace and Okanami-Yaki

Hiroshima is, by far, the most enjoyable city I have explored. Although it is most famous for the 1945 nuclear tragedy and the Peace Park, travelers also enjoy lively nightlife, picture-perfect temples, and some really tasty Yaki-tora.

As the train was pulling into the station, I expected Hiroshima to be more or less, the same as Kyoto and Tokyo. I was very soon proven wrong. There are three major things that make Hiroshima special: The roads are much wider, and everything isn’t so crowded together. I guess that’s because everything has been rebuilt since the bomb was dropped. Also transportation is much easier. In addition to subway and bus lines, there is a streetcar system much like San Francisco. The best part is that most of the signs, and other assorted things, such as menus, are in English. This is extremely helpful when you can speak about 10 words in Japanese and can read two (even though it is kind of fun trying to order dinner when the waitress has absolutely no clue what you are saying).

When we got to the station, Dad was sent off to the information booth with the mission of finding a suitable hotel for the night. From past experience, we knew this was a bad idea, but he was the only one willing to risk getting the blame. When he came back and exclaimed “what a good deal he had gotten”, we all slapped our foreheads and asked each other why we had let him go. But the room had already been booked, so we had no choice.

The half-an-hour tram ride was easy and painless. Better yet, it only cost 520 yen, roughly equal to five dollars, for all of us. When we reached the hotel, all four of us were pleasantly surprised (sorry I doubted you, Dad). It was a fairly new building with five floors. The room was nice, a little small, but would do the job. It had a private bathroom and coin laundry right next door. It also had a shower and a Japanese bath.

As soon as we settled in, it was off to the peace park while we still had daylight. It’s amazing, and quite sad that anyone could do this kind of thing. The bomb was dropped during morning rush-hour without any warning at all. Over 140,000 people, almost half of Hiroshima’s population, perished. It wouldn’t feel quite so bad if it wasn’t our country that had committed this horrible act. It must be how a German feels going to the holocaust museum in Washington D.C.

The worst, is the A-bomb dome, originally an industrial architecture center, it had been reduced to a skeleton of brick and iron half the original size. It had stood only 160 M away from the hypocenter. It’s amazing it survived, because almost all buildings within 2 km of the blast were destroyed. The entire city was leveled in less than two seconds.

We were finally able to drag ourselves away from the park with a promise we would be back first thing in the morning. We soon found ourselves strolling down the Hondori St. in search of the best Okanami-Yaki (a savory pancake made with cabbage, soba, egg meat, and various other sauces and spices), Hiroshima had to offer. Because Hiroshima is famous for its Yaki-Tori, it was not hard to find what we were looking for. It was, on the other hand, very hard to decide. The streets were lined with yaki-tori restaurants. We decided on a four story complex full of restaurants. With Yaki-tora, not only is the food good, but it’s quite a lot of fun also. You sit at a bar and the food is cooked directly in front of you on hot surfaces. Yaki-tori is a name for all food of his type, and includes Yaki-soba (fried soba noodles), okanami-yaki (fried pancake), and other items.

We all slept quite nicely, even though the pillows were as hard as rocks. We had breakfast as a place called Choco Cro, a coffee shop chain specializing in chocolate croissants. The Japanese really know how to make pastries.

Holding true to our word, we returned to the peace museum and the remembrance hall. It is so full of information I could spend all day there, and even longer writing about it. The museum displays many interesting, but depressing facts about our government. The atomic bomb took many years to develop and cost over two billion dollars. At that time, that was enough to completely eradicate poverty from the earth. The project was started by Roosevelt and the initial order was given by Truman. It was carried out even though Japan was attempting to negotiate a cease fire through the Soviets. It seemed that the purpose off dropping the bomb was to gain the upper hand over the Soviet Union by making Japan surrender and to justify the huge cost of manufacturing it.

The atomic bomb was about three meters long and weighed four tons. It contained 50 kilos of uranium 235, but only one kilo actually split and provided the force of the explosion. Only one kilo provided the energy equal to 15,000 tons of high-performance explosive. The bomb, nicknamed “little boy” was dropped by the air force bomber Enola Gay. It exploded 580 m above the ground approximately 200m south-east of its target. I have seen “Enola Gay” many times in the past at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson AZ, but I never knew what kind of damage it had caused.

The museum had many very interesting artifacts from survivors and victims. There was some of the well over 1,000 paper cranes that were folded by Sadako Sasaki while she was hospitalized by radiation inflicted Leukemia. There is an old Japanese belief that says “if you fold a thousand paper cranes, your wish will come true. Even though Sadako folded well over a thousand cranes, each one possessing the wish to live, she passed away after an eight month struggle.
Another story is that of a large step of stone belonging to the bank of Hiroshima, about 260m away from the Hypocenter. The step was whitened by the heat, except for the place where a person had been sitting, waiting for the bank to open. Now a dark area exists like a permanent human shadow.

I am now writing this from the bullet train bound for Tokyo. The one thing I have learned about bullet trains is that you are not allowed to take pictures out the windows. It isn’t a rule, but a law of physics. Even if you do get your target, it’s so blurry, it is impossible to recognize.

Tomorrow we are off to Beijing and it’s a farewell to Japan, land of funky toilets, tiny cars, overcrowded cities, and last, but not least, very good food.

Ben – 12/01/2004

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Okonomiyaki, Squatty Potties and Potty Slippers

Konnichiwa from Three Sisters Inn Main in Kyoto Japan, the sweet place we landed when we left the Krauth house in Tokyo. We have been in this beautiful and bustling city since Sunday exploring temples, shrines, gardens, a castle, restaurants and the mother load of sweetshops.

I sit here typing, fighting against a food induced coma, watching the boys clad in kimono (actually called a yukata-cotton kimono) robes playing poker (kimono poker). We discovered that our favorite kind of cuisine in Japan is Yaki-tori, especially the Okonomiyaki (a pancake made of cabbage, noodles, meat, egg and spices). We were fortunate enough to stumble upon the wonderful food experience our second night in Kyoto. We popped into a tiny sheik-looking place with the chefs cooking at the table. The menu was in Japanese which posed little problem for us, as we had been pointing and gesturing for twenty-four hours by this time. We watched the food being prepared, pointed and held one or two fingers up. Fortunately the words beer and vegetarian are widely known by all!

OUR 1st Full Day in Kyoto

Our 1st full day in Kyoto was truly wonderful. We awoke in our cozy Japanese style room– a 3 sectioned room suite layered with tatamis (new grass mats that really smelled like grass) and futons. Each section was divided by paper screens donning Japanese paintings. The bathroom was next door and the showers down stairs.

This might be the time for a small departure describing Japanese bathroom culture. First off the toilet is usually in a room by itself. It is customary to wear potty slippers while in the toilet area and only there. Well, it goes without saying that this takes some getting used to. While at the Inn, we kept exclaiming, “Ah, you have the potty slippers on,” always pointing and laughing at the perpetrator. Potty slippers are not to be confused with squatty potties – the toilets on the ground that are usually found in public restrooms. As a woman, you straddle the little toilet and whish. The hard part is keeping the whish in the potty. We have had a few laughs thinking of a little old grandma (of which there are many) sliding into the squatty potty after me. As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect.

Back to our first day, we enjoyed a communal continental breakfast with the other guests downstairs (I was the only one brave enough to show up in my yukata.) The breakfast consisted of a very thick slice of bread with butter and jam, orange juice and coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Max and I were pretty excited to share stories with other Americans. Once we left the Inn, we would be back to pointing and gesturing.

After getting our bearings and purchasing all day bus passes, we set off on foot to find the Colorado Coffee Café (a place we had seen the night before on our taxi ride from the train to the inn). I had secretly hoped to find a friend from home. Instead we discovered that ICC is a big chain and no one really cared that we were from Colorado. Language makes our experiences at times more challenging and at times more fun. We have decided that the Japanese people we have met are most friendly when they see someone in need. As I imagine in most cultures, people are most forgiving when you are willing to make a fool of yourself.

From there we hopped on the bus to Kiyomizu Temple. This was my most favorite place in all of Kyoto. We walked through the grandest and most picturesque mausoleum surrounded by hillsides bursting with red, orange and gold. As Ben astutely pointed out, “Canada move over because the Japanese maple is the most beautiful tree of the fall.” The temple area is spectacularly beautiful. We had a lunch of soba, udon and tofu next to the Sound of Feathers waterfall (some of the most holy water in Japan). A Japanese couple seated at the table next to ours made the tiniest peace cranes for each of the boys and then showed them some magic tricks. With hand gestures the man told us that his wife’s brother was from Texas and was now in Iraq (at least that is how we interpreted firing guns, saluting, and his words “you know Texas, boom).

After touring the grounds, we winded down the hillside past more sweetshops that you can imagine. There were machines that made little cakes, machines that made these ravioli-looking sweets with chocolate, plum or hazelnut inside, machines that made soya milk donuts, and we tried them all. I kept saying, “Look, we are the only ones eating and it was true. Thousands of people on the street and we were the only ones eating. You can take the American out of America, but you can’t take the America out of the American.

With the setting sun as our companion, we all enjoyed our picturesque walk back to the Inn. That evening we discovered our favorite food and took in a little of Kyoto’s nightlife.

(excerpt from Ben’s journal)

The Worst Show in the History of the World by Ben Raderstorf

Gion corner, Kyoto (a Geisha show with hardly any geishas)

I knew something was wrong when there were barely any people there for the closing show. It was all boring, but the worst was the Imperial court music, the so called “elegant music.” Even though it was horrible, it’s very easy to describe. A bunch of old guys playing the worst instruments I have ever heard. A copper pot, a wind instrument that sounded like a duck strangulation device, an old bagpipe with god knows what stuck inside of it, and various others that sounded like they were as far out of tune as possible. As if the music wasn’t bad enough, it was all accompanied by a conductor/dancer. He looked like a mutated goat with snot hanging out of his nose. To make things worse, he danced like a chicken. If I was the emperor, all six of them would be executed without a thought.