Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C: Oh, the places you'll go!

C is for Chengdu, Chester, and Cambridge

Chengdu, China (December/January 1986-87)
Nadine, me, and Charlie
Just one week after I left the United States to spend a year in Japan, my brave parents said goodbye to my younger sister, who flew off to spend a year studying in Chengdu, China. She was in the first group at our alma mater, Pacific Lutheran University, to live and study in China through a partnership with the Chengdu University of Science and Technology. I traveled solo by ferry from Kobe to Shanghai, where I spent a few nights before I flew via China Air (scary!) to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province and the gateway to Tibet.

Fresh sweet potato--yum!
When I saw my sister for the first time at the airport, I burst into tears. I had missed her so terribly! I spent over two weeks, including Christmas and New Year's, in Chengdu and got to know many of the other members in Nadine's group (some of whom I'm still in touch with). One of the guys I spent a great deal of time with and who visited me in Japan later that year, Darrell, tragically died from a rare form of cancer (in his arm) in his 30s...and I remember having long conversations with him about his fear of dying young (his dad also died young of cancer).
Eating dinner at the university
So nice to have a tour guide who could speak Chinese!
I remember riding a bicycle that had no brakes into the city--in the dark (and no helmet or lights, of course!), going to the disco in the Jin Jiang Hotel (at the time, the only fancy hotel there), being accosted by the money changers on every corner, making cinnamon rolls and pseudo-cream cheese out of yogurt so we could make cheesecake for Christmas, spending hours chatting and bonding with Nadine and her friends, eating duck and rabbit for the first time, singing in a church on Christmas Eve and...
Celebrating Christmas with PLU friends
(Darrell is in the yellow shirt, with a moustache)

listening to many child prodigies perform that same evening, playing Pictionary and other games, buying sweet potatoes and paintings on the street, watching the workers outside of Nadine's window assemble, tear down, and reassemble a brick wall over and over again (job security?), getting into a frank discussion with some Chinese students about Ronald Reagan, eating spicy noodles at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where they never wash the bowls or chopsticks, riding in a rickshaw, getting into an argument with one of Nadine's friends who said that he thought the power in a marriage should be 51% to the male and 49% to the female (he was shocked at my reaction, for he thought he was being liberated), and watching spectacular Chinese fireworks on New Year's Eve.
Singing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve
Most important was spending time with my sister while we were both experiencing the adventure of our lives. I will never forget my time with her in China or when she came to visit me a few months later in Japan. As I left Chengdu, I wrote "I just said one of the most difficult goodbyes I've ever said in my life. She will always be my best friend and confidante. I know her love is unconditional--one of the few people in my life whose is. I could never have asked for a better sister." 
Chester, England (1997)

Chester is a beautiful city, close to Wales, that is known for its distinctive architecture. We visited a friend from Japan (Karyn) and her family there in the 1990s. Chester was one of the last towns in England to fall to the Normans. The town has a number of medieval buildings, but the famous black-and-white buildings in the city center are actually Victorian restorations. Chester is one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain--most of its ancient walls are almost completely intact.
Mike with his mum and Chris in Chester

Cambridge, England (first in 1992 and several times after that)
Punting down the river Cambs
Mike's sister Kath moved to Cambridge after she got married, and several years ago my mother-in-law joined her there. When we go to the UK now, Cambridge is where we spend most of our time. It is a beautiful university city. We first visited there in the early 1990s. Looking back over my photos, since they are not labeled, I sometimes struggle to distinguish between Oxford and Cambridge. My apologies to the alums. I love both cities, but I think that Cambridge is actually a little prettier.
With my parents and mother-in-law in the early 1990s
The last time we visited the UK was Christmas 2007. Mike's brother Ed and his family came all the way from Australia so we could all be there for Christmas together. It's the only time that all of the cousins (including Nicholas) have been in one place at the same time.
Visiting my sister-in-law's house in Cambridge in 2004
(Mike is in the baseball cap, with his mum, sister, and brother)
Visiting again in December 2007
 Stay tuned for tomorrow's D adventures in England and back to India!


  1. I love reading about people's travels and "seeing" all the places I've never been to.

    Carol's Notebook

    1. Thanks, Carol--glad you are enjoying my posts!

  2. You have had some great adventures! I'm broke so I like traveling vicariously through other people. Go Lutes! :)

    1. Thanks, JoJo! At this stage in my life, I am not equipped to travel overseas like I used to because I now have three kids--so much more expensive to travel that way!

  3. I have been to Cambridge and loved wandering around. As you say its a beautiful university town !
    loving reading through your adventures !

  4. What fantastic memories and excellent photos to go with them. It's amazing to me that you and your sister were both so adventurous at such a young age.