Elizabeth and I travelled together from Beijing through several cities in SW China. We spent time in  Kunming, then Dali, and finally, for Christmas, her friend’s wonderful teak-and-marble guesthouse in Lijiang. Along the way, instead of comprehending China, I became increasingly puzzled. The first couple photos reflect this, and nearly all the others are moments when I could, how shall I put it…Relate?

And the photo at the end? The enamel cup was a gift from Elizabeth. In this fast-moving, wealthy (yes, for some that is true) , avowedly atheist country, well — note the title! — this attitude prevails, or seems to, anyhow. 

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of things, I wemt to breakfast and looked around for utensils. Nothing. Then, this —

Sanitizing chopsticks (breakfast, Kunming)

Sanitizing chopsticks (breakfast, Kunming)

i have no comment…

Above the airport toilet (Kunming)

Above the airport toilet (Kunming)

Everywhere in the Southwest..

...soon to become Pomegranate Juice!

…soon to become Pomegranate Juice!

Lijiang’s warren of streets held linen, silk, antiques, and —

Ubiquitous in Lijiang

Red Tea, Lake Erdai


Elizabeth and I had some great meals in Dali; Cafe de Jack gave us the best view – yes, cherry blossoms in mid-December!

Dinner in Dali

Dinner in Dali

Christmas Eve dinner, Lijiang

Chef's wife offering me yet another piece of Buche de Noel

Chef’s wife offering me yet another piece of Buche de Noe

And finally, a gift from Elizabeth…




Hello, from this town of a little over 20 million (I’m told it’s officially several million less than that), where today’s AQIndex suggests it’s better to wear the carbon-filter mask outside,  than to risk trying to breathe freely.

This week’s flight from MSP was wonderful, as was being met at the airport by Elizabeth, and coming back to the flat a few moments before Roy arrived on his Hybrid. The pedal-powered and electrically-powered bikes he and E. ride to work offer the workout they seem to relish. Their place is an oasis.

I’ve not been to a hutong, though I’ve eyed those mazes  of alleyways from a cab.

I have, however, paid my respects to the Chairman at Tiananmen Square and the 24 emperors who lived in various parts, over various centuries, of The Forbidden City.

No photos. Maybe the ones I’ve taken will show up in a couple weeks, but not in this country which so despises Google and all social media that they’re   inaccessible except by Virtual Personal Network, which I [stupidly] didn’t bother to arrange before landing in Beijing!

Will this post “send”?  It’s a great game!

[Only] Mad Dogs and Englishmen

My wonderful English son-in-law mentioned Noel Coward’s song the first day we started work. Yes, the sun is warm, the work (for Roy and Elizabeth; much, much less so for me) is long and hard. And, yes, currently, much of the interior work is still in process.

A process

A Vision…in process

Yet, it’s amazing to be in this Sicilian hill-town again, this time with Roy and Elizabeth, and working on – not living in – the studio.

I’ve done some painting in my day. Whitewash is NOT paint. Ask me sometime about using the calce Elizabeth mixes up in one, often two, buckets for the day’s work. Also, in my day, I’ve seen bricks delivered — but tufa? Who builds things with volcanic conglomerate? As it turns out, the Romans did. Speaking of bricks, I will state the obvious: Ordering bricks – whether tufa or terra cotta – or getting cement or piping delivered here, is not like placing the order with Home Depot.

So, yes, I’ve done some water-spraying and whitewashing, and I’ve done it in the sun. However, when it got to be too much…? I mean after two hours? Three? I’d walk away from the job, heading for the nearest bar or gelateria.

And more than once, the end of the day meant the wonderful Ristorante-Pizzeria Halykos, just up the next street.

Pizzeria Holykos, Via Siracusa

Pizzeria Holykos, Via Siracusa

Escaping the Mid-day SunE

Americans Escaping the Mid-day Sun

Day 2.5

Elizabeth and Roy are very patient with me. Today I  content myself with just a morning spritz over the 2 layers of whitewash which have been laid on over the past 2 days.  In the late afternoon – the sane time to work – instead of helping out, I’ll represent us at the funeral of il padre di  Giuseppe, the lovely MyHouse Joe, who has been so patient with me – answering every question (about Mass times, about shop openings); storing my cane, when I forgot it in the rush to leap on the Palermo bus in April ’13.

In the meantime… 


The Way In

Via Catania: The Way In



Hat, gloves – prepping for the day’s WHITEWASHING


Lovely to turn around and find this Vista







from  the '13 visit!

In the kitchen: Palms remain, from my  ’13 visit!

Happy Fourth of… WHAT?

No holiday in Cianciana. With all of us arrived, unpacked, and in place, today was our first official Work Day. Elizabeth sat outside to do some business – the chiavetta works best outside – before we headed to the studio.

Our Personal Internet Cafe

Our Personal Internet Cafe

Roy and I, dressed for work —


Once at the jobsite (Studio Sicilia,where I stayed Spring ’13, and where she currently has renters, upstairs), Elizabeth could begin unpacking some of the items she’s been sending from Asia to Sicily for the past 2 years.

Here, she just found the Thai elephant cups.

Unfurling “Painters’ Silk.” The picture doesn’t to justice to this pure, light Chinese piece,which she’ll use inside Studio Sicilia

Elizabeth and Roy inspecting, discussing possibilities for this new project (a new room!).

E&R planning




In Sicily: lovely start to the day… and finish, too (pizza al limone!)

A lovely start to the day...


al limone pizza

From “Busiest Railway Station in India” to a Rajasthani Oasis

Three hundred  trains come and go every day at the New Delhi station. Fortunately, I hadn’t  read any of these comments before I left for the station  this morning.   Equally fortunate, I imagine,  is the fact that  I hadn’t read the India Times piece on the latest incident involving a woman tourist.

So when traffic stalled (as in Dead. Stop.) at 5 this morning, and  I realized people were emerging from cars carrying their luggage, I wondered how far the station was,and  how long we’d be stalled. When I queried the driver, he said, “The problem, Madame, is that we have no police.”   A shrug (from him), and I was gone, climbing unceremoniously  out of the taxi with my bags.

I  know a little about street condition here (wide cracks, missing chunks of cement), and about street hygiene, and I know that stall owners sleep on the sidewalks at their work stations. I was prepared for the walk to the station. What I’d forgotten were the stories I’d heard about the touts at the station: “What train are you taking? It is foggy, so your train is late, Madame.  It is cancelled, maybe, Madame. I will drive you where you want to go.” and “Madame, I will take your bags, they are very heavy for you.”  At one point I stopped for a nanosecond, looked towards the young man, and shrieked, “LOOK, I know what I’m doing. I don’t need you.” He backed off, and I kept going, laughing at my  stupidity and  mendacity.

No photos, because a.) it was dark; b.) I was lugging 2 small suitcases & a large purse; c.) I was late.

I put my luggage through “Security,” a slow-moving,  conveyor belt, and I ignored the “40rps/large bag” and “20rps/sm bag” signs and saw  everybody else ignoring them, too.   I’m not sure what Delhi’s new anti-corruption leader, Avind Kejriwal, would say, but We are in this together, everybody at the conveyor belt seemed to be saying.

Platform 2 was two  flights up and two flights down. Ahead  of me was an older man carrying 2 large pieces of luggage for a young couple who appeared oblivious, both of him, and of the fact that he carried their bags – on his head – until he asked for money, at which point they began to haggle.

Six hours and 3 breakfasts later, I arrived!  My driver was there holding  a sign I recognized as ME, and we drove through what appears, at first glance another world from the cities I’ve already visited  on the subcontinent. It bustles just as much, but there is also the muezzin‘s Call to Prayer, and the architecture’s minarets, reminding me of the large Muslim Rajasthani population, at least it seems it here in Jaipur, the capital city. We’ll see.

It’s pretty amazing that I am here, because last night when I called to confirm my reservation, I learned that I had the right hotel, but in the wrong city (don’t ask). A trip to my New Delhi hotel’s booking office (don’t ask), an arm, a leg (you definitely don’t want to ask), and I am here – chilly, but not even close to the Polar Vortex described last week in The Hindu. For now,  it’s a matter of switching from my  flip-flops to my Tom’s, a diaphanous  dupatta to a thin wool pashmina.

I had lunch outside here at the hotel, a haveli, which as far as I can tell means enclosed and full of verandas. Tonight I ate indoors, but found this fire when I walked out into the courtyard:

Home for 3 nights --

Home for 3 nights —

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