Short travel post number one — China, the Great Wall — and some bonus photos.

Several of you asked for more pics of my trip to China and I’m happy to oblige. Today I’m starting with a few outtakes from travel articles I’ve written since returning home. I’ll start my first ‘proper’ China post back at the Great Wall after a little detour.

TRAVEL ‘FIRSTS’

Travellers the world over share the heady anticipation of ‘firsts’—the first time they see Rocamadour, (the town of the Black Madonna and foie gras) built into the cliff face not far from Bordeaux in France, the first time they make it to Everest Main Camp, the first time they make a pilgrimage to Machu Picchu.

 
Glorious Rocamadour didn’t disappoint!

Yet some ‘firsts’ can be disappointing. Think about this…As I entered the hallowed halls of the Vatican to gaze upon Michelangelo’s painted ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, a much-anticipated ‘first’, it was not the ceiling but the floor that dominated the scene—wall to wall tourists lying on their backs pointing cameras with lenses as long as their arms to the ceiling while nattily-dressed security guards danced over the inert bodies screaming, ‘No photo! No photo!’

But my last ‘first’ exploded every expectation I’d held since I saw newspaper photos of President Nixon and Mao Zedong on the Great Wall of China in the ’70s—my own ‘first’ visit to the Great Wall, the foremost example of ancient architecture on the planet.

 
What I dubbed Base Camp at the Juyong Pass Great Wall section.
After climbing the wall, it was good to mosey around here while the thighs tried to stop wobbling.




Getting ready to rock! That mountain top looks a long way away!
Heading for the watchtower at the top of the mountain. Those stairs were full-on killers. We’re all giddily happy to be climbing the wall. Some tell me it was a long-cherished dream, impossible to fulfill when China was closed to foreigners, (wàiguó rén, or ‘big noses’).


This wall is mighty steep and goes forever. It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ‘n’ roll!!

 


The top of the section. Sadly, I didn’t make it this far, but the hubs is far more competitive than I am…of course he had to take photos for me!

  • How about you? Do you have any travel ‘firsts’ that never leave your mind?

Thanks for coming by.

I hope you enjoyed travelling with me.

Next post will be on Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City.

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Guilie Castillo Oriard’s The Miracle of small Things blog tour. Let’s learn about Curaçao…

 THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS

A Novel in 13 Stories

Mexican tax lawyer Luis Villalobos is lured to the tiny island of Curaçao anticipating a fast track to the cusp of an already stellar career. But the paradise we expect is so rarely the paradise we find.

I’ve invited Guilie to my blog today, to share with us something of her life in Curaçao, a jewel in the Caribbean. Since I found Guilie’s blog through WEP, I’ve read her posts about her everyday life in this exotic locale. I’ve been reading her book and it’s a quirky collection of tales, unique. So, being the traveller that I am, I asked her, as part of her blog tour, and since her ‘miracle’ book is set in Curaçao, to share how she was inspired by her setting.

Denise, thank you so much for having me over today. It’s such an honor to be part of your community, and to get the opportunity to introduce you to Curaçao. This island, both the setting for The Miracle of Small Things my home for the last decade, is a place very few people have heard of, let alone visited. I had no clue even where it was, when I volunteered for a six-month transfer back in 2003. And, boy, did it take me by storm.

This island has the potential to change people. It changed me, twice. First it lured me into postponing the flight back to Mexico, and then into staying. A decade later, it engineered the epiphany that drove me to leave a great job and write full-time.

But change is something we resist, isn’t it?

It takes time to train your eye to see past the large, past the spectacular, to the tiny bursts of color, the ethereal fragility. To the miracle of it all, teeming, just below the surface.

(fragment of Interlude #3, from The Miracle of Small Things)

Curaçao is not for everybody. I’ve lived here long enough to see people arrive, fresh and hopeful, and it’s always a coin toss: will they last?

Curacao’s is a prickly kind of beauty.

Rough around the edges, camouflaged in the humdrum, the unremarkable, even the unappealing. It’s a rare beauty, sudden and abrupt; the beauty of a cactus flowering in the wild, blooms of impossible grace hidden in thorns and the tromp l’oeil of shadow in the blazing sun.

It’s the kind of beauty that, like the cactus flower, lives in total ignorance of ostentation.

The kind that the traveler seeking glamour or sycophantic perfection will never be able to see.

(Interlude #1, The Miracle of Small Things)

The Caribbean is the world’s original melting pot of culture, and Curaçao is a prime (and unique) example. It’s an island rich in history, and in historical exchange: from the European discovery of the Americas to the ongoing conflict with Venezuela; from slave trade to modern global finance; from the war between the Netherlands and Spain to World War II. Curaçao, tiny as it is—171 sq. miles, population 150K—is home to fifty nationalities. Diversity is the rule here, not the exception. Tolerance is a way of life.

But it’s a special island, choosy in whom it reveals its charms to.

Curaçao is contrast. Clear blue ocean; stark land of cacti and rock. Water and fruit are expensive; gas and cigarettes cheap. Ten political parties; two bookstores. The tragedy of slavery; the joy of Carnaval. Jew and Muslim having a soda at the snék. The black-and-white couples and their beautiful children of corkscrew curls and eyes of jade. Europe’s open mind, Latin America’s open heart—both wrapped in Caribbean laid-back.

Dutch houses in Caribbean colors (and refinery smokestacks in the background). Dutch vocabulary at Latin volume with Caribbean cadence. Merengue and tumba and André Hazes. On New Year’s Eve, people hug and say cheers at 7:00m—midnight in Holland—and a Caribbean steel band plays.

To speak two languages is a handicap; to speak only one is a freak show. It’s cosmopolitan and provincial, sophisticated and naïve. It’s a diorama of the world.

And, for a certain kind of person, it’s paradise.

(Interlude #13, The Miracle of Small Things)

On behalf of the gang at Truth Serum Press, responsible for getting this book in top shape and then sending it out into the world, and an armload of gratitude to you, Denise, for being part of the Miracle Tour. I hope you and your audience enjoy these Curaçao soundbites (wordbites?), and I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this place I’ve adopted—and which has adopted me.

Thank you so much Guilie, for evoking the landscape of Curaçao in your post today.

Available as paperback, and in Kindle, epub, iBook, and Kobo formats. Find it on Goodreads and Facebook.

The book was released in paperback this past August, and has received enthusiastic feedback:

“The combination of money and sex always creates an irresistible dynamic. Add more than a few dogs to the mix, and Guilie Castillo Oriard has created a tale as beguiling as the seductive ambiance of Curaçao itself.” ~ Peggy Vincent, author of Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife

“Curaçao is lovingly rendered, past and present, as a character itself — post-colonial, starkly beautiful, and captivating. You cannot read this book without checking airfares to Curaçao.” ~ John Wentworth Chapin, author of Alexandrite and founder of 52|250 A Year of Flash

“A richly enchanting story of lives and loves unfolding against the backdrop of the Caribbean.” ~ Silvia Villalobos, author of Stranger or Friend

Read more feedback at the publisher’s website, or read a full-length review by Lynne Hinkey at the Internet Review of Books.

To celebrate the e-book release (Kindle, epub, iBook, and Kobo formats, Nook to follow shortly), THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS is going on (virtual) tour. Several blogs will be hosting author Guilie Castillo Oriard during the month of November to talk about writing, about the book, its island setting and its characters — including a 100-lb. monster dog rescued from the streets — and to discuss some of the issues MIRACLE touches on, such as the role of large and small things in the realignment of our values, and the power of place in our definition of self.

Come join us. Come meet Curaçao.

But come as Luis Villalobos should have come to the island:

prepared for a drastic readjustment of the things you value most.

Guilie Castillo Oriard is a Mexican export; she transferred to Curaçao “for six months” — and, twelve years later, has yet to find a reason to leave. Her work has been published online and in print anthologies, such as Pure Slush’s 2014 A Year In Stories and gorge. THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS is her first book. Find Guilie on Facebook and Twitter, at Quiet Laughter where she blogs about life and writing, and at Life in Dogs where she blogs about… well, dogs…

Thanks for coming by. Please take a moment to leave Guilie a comment.

  •  Have you been to Curaçao? I’d love to hear your impressions if you have. Or were you like me, totally clueless as to the existence of this island? Do you think you’d be the type to love it, or hate it? Where would you go for the vacation of your dreams?

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