And in the scenic sub-tropical Hokianga NZ, it was a full moon followed by summer color sunrise:
Macau to New Zealand to Colorado
It is said that the Inuit Eskimos have dozens of different words to describe snow, while the English language has only one word for snow.
That is because the Inuits live surrounded by snow for most of the year.
The truth is that we mountain dwellers and avid skiers, also have many words to describe snow.
There is no written lexicon, but we all know what the words mean.
So when you talk to your dentist or your plumber or a friend, and they tell you that they went skiing yesterday, you inevitably ask: “Cool, how was it on the mountain yesterday?”
They might use one of the following terms to describe the experience, and you would know exactly what they mean, because you know how it feels to ski in each of those conditions.
They might say:
It was all “Fluffy Powder,” which means a fresh snow had fallen recently, which has not yet been packed down.
“Packed Powder,” which is powder snow that has been packed down daily.
“Crust on ice,” which is snow that has crusted over the surface of icy snow, which is slippery and scary to ski on because it is hard to stop; It’s also easy to skid sideways should you try to slow down.
“Slush,” which is wet snow that you usually get in early spring or on very warm winter days.
“White Corduroy,” which means that the snow is well groomed and not yet skied on by many people.
“Old snow” is snow that has melted and refrozen and sometimes has mud particles in it.
“Crust on dust” is snow that is crusted on the top but is soft underneath.
And there is “Pow Pow,” which is fresh powder snow that is fine, dry, fluffy and lightweight, and is favored by snowboarders.
It is nearly Christmas and whatever word you choose to describe snow, we simply ain’t got it yet…
Yes, we are back in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado now, and despite the cold weather, we have had almost no snowfall so far this season, and only a few ski runs are open.
There are a few visitors who booked their Christmas vacations far ahead, and were not able to change their plans, or get a refund.
In the Eagle-Vail Airport, while waiting for our flight to Florida to celebrate Christmas with my mother, I overheard an executive of Vail Resorts talk to her friend on the phone.
Apparently her friend had asked her how the snow conditions were in Vail and how was the skiing.
She answered: “Do you want the Vail Resorts’ marketing department answer, or the truth, Fred?”
Apparently Fred wanted the truth, because she bluntly said:
“Do you have an old pair of skis you don’t care if you ruin, Fred?
Well, make sure to bring them, because it is crusty and muddy and gravelly out there.
Don’t bring anything good, Fred.”
I am skipping ahead in time, since I have not updated my blog since we took the ferry from Hong Kong to Macau.
So much has been happening in my life, and so I will try to briefly catch up a little here.
The high speed ferry from Hong Kong to Macau was packed with large groups of people wearing the same T-shirts and identical hats.
There were predominantly two kinds of groups visiting Macau.
One group was Chinese people who came to gamble in the casinos, shop, eat, and buy dried Jerky meat and almond cookies, as well as whatever else they could stuff into their suitcases that was not readily available in Mainland China.
The second group included Portuguese people who came to see the old colony their country once occupied.
They came to walk the old streets, see the church ruins and the basilica, visit the old villas now turned into open air museums, and gamble in the casinos. They can do all this while still holding on to the familiarities of home, dining in one of the many traditional Portuguese restaurants that dot the island.
The guides of each kind of group held sticks with a bunny or a teddy bear toy attached to them, so people would know to which group they belonged.
We arrived at the busy Macau Ferry terminal and hailed a taxi to take us to our hotel.
Our taxi driver spoke no English and did not recognize the hotel’s name.
He handed me his cellphone so I could tell his dispatcher where we wanted to go.
I pronounced the name of the hotel very clearly and slowly.
“OK, OK, I know this!,” he declared with confidence, and proceeded to drive us through heavy traffic to the entrance of the wrong hotel.
He was a bit surprised and miffed when we refused to get out of his taxi, saying it was not the hotel we were staying at.
Two porters at the door recognized our hotel’s name and gave him directions in Chinese.
“Solly, Solly, yes, I know, I know now!” He declared with confidence, and this time he took us to the correct hotel.
Our hotel was fairly new and located right on the bay, but the crowded island is blanketed in smog and the bay looks muddy and offers no respite.
Our Bayview room was large and comfortable, but with signs of being a bit rundown, despite the hotel’s being barely open for one year.
The friendly concierge insisted that we should save our energy and take a taxi to downtown, and then start walking from there to visit all the historic sights.
We told him we always prefer to walk.
It is not a matter of the ten dollar taxi fare, but of fitness and exercise.
He admitted that we do look fit and that his doctor told him that he needed to walk more, so now he is trying to add walking to his daily routine.
We took a long walk around Macau, stopping to eat at a dumpling factory, and then we visited all the historic Portuguese churches and the Basilica, and all of the famous shopping streets.
This is our second time visiting Macau, and we were surprised to see how busy and packed with tourists the place had become.
The shopping streets were lined with identical shops selling cookies made from crushed almonds, and large sheets of dried pork jerky sold by the kilo.
Everywhere there were samples to try, and with the exception of the dried meat, we tasted so many kinds of cookies that I couldn’t eat dinner.
We saw quite a few people buying large quantities of regular pharmacy store-branded bottles of shampoo, body soaps, lotions and Colgate toothpaste, and then in the middle of the crowded pedestrian street, they attempted to repack their luggage to accommodate their purchases, sitting on their overly stuffed suitcases, trying to close the latches.
On our second day, we took a taxi to the island of Taipa, just south of Macau.
Taipa is connected to Macau by a long bridge.
Taipa is where you find some of the historic Portuguese villas, and narrow streets filled with ice cream shops and little eateries, as well as some of the more upscale shopping malls and casinos.
We entered the “Venetian,” which is a huge casino built to look like a commercialized Venice, set on a canal with luxury balcony shops, full size gondolas complete with rowing men who serenade in Italian and play their guitars.
The Venetian casino and sprawling shopping mall is connected to the Parisian mall and casino, which comes complete with a large replica of the Eiffel Tower and whole streets that sort of look like famous Parisian streets.
The Parisian mall is connected to the Four Seasons mall and casino, also full of upscale shopping and eateries.
The whole thing was reminiscent of Las Vegas, but somewhat cleaner and with better Asian food.
We walked for hours in the interconnecting malls before we headed out to explore the actual old streets of Taipa.
We did not gamble, because Jules loses his color and becomes pale at the mere thought of feeding our hard earned money into a preprogrammed slot machine, or leaving it on the roulette or the blackjack tables.
His parents loved gambling and playing cards, but I guess the gambling gene must have skipped a generation, and he looked definitely ill when I inserted a twenty Macau dollar bill into the slot machine.
It was only $2.50 USD, but for him I was wasting a crisp twenty dollar bill.
He didn’t need to worry, because the machine spit out my twenty and informed me that despite the fact that we were in Macau, the machine only accepted Hong Kong dollars.
We had no more Hong Kong dollars, because we had booked a return ferry from Macau not to Hong Kong, but directly to the Hong Kong International airport, as our trip was at an end.
It was a wonderfully convenient service, which would drop us off behind the long lines and straight at the passenger check-in point of the airport.
I knew I could go to the cashier and change the Macau money I had, but there is no fun in gambling while your husband turns white and yellow, or worse, asks you to read all the instructions of the game on the slot machine, BEFORE you insert the money and pull the lever to see if all the red apples line up for your win.
Despite the crowds, I really enjoyed our time in Macau and Taipa.
I loved walking around trying all sorts of delicacies, photographing the old churches and seeing the black and white historical photos of the charming old streets, exhibited in the old Portuguese villas.
There are two ways to walk around a busy island full of casinos and artificial lights, with countless expensive shops that sell branded illusions of beauty and youth and charge a fortune for ordinary items wrapped in a well formulated marketing plan.
One way is to criticize everything and see it as brainwashing and mindless consumerism, and the other is to walk in joy in this soup of particles and bright molecules, loving everyone and everything, enjoying ALL aspects of creation.
I chose the second option, and we walked around, tasting things, admiring the designs, the ingenuity, the clever marketing, the people.
And so we truly enjoyed our time in this gambling Mecca of Macau, which sells you on the idea of winning easy money, and then proceeding to spend it in many of the nearby fancy malls..
From Macau, we flew back to New Zealand.
We stayed only for a short time in our lovely retreat in front of the Hokianga Harbour that opens to the Tasman Sea.
Surrounded by the fertile garden full of flowers and fruit trees, we enjoyed the warm early summer.
During our brief stay, we had many prospective buyers coming to see the house and property, which are for sale.
Some seemed to adore the property so much, and some even said that this is probably the most unique and special place they’ve ever seen all over NZ.
They said they feel like there is no other place like it.
We always made sure to leave the property alone with our realtor, so that the potential buyers can enjoy roaming the property in privacy without our being there.
Some of the feedback we got about the house was simply amazing.
I cannot divulge much yet, but let’s just say there is a lovely family that would be a very good fit for the property.
From NZ we flew back to Colorado, where, as I’ve mentioned before, it is very, very cold, but with no snow.
We had to clean our house and go through piles and piles of mail.
The most exciting package in our mail was a big box sent to us from friends living in Taiwan.
I opened the box with much excitement, since I knew it contained everything I would need to plan our next walking pilgrimage in Japan, the Nakasendo.
Our friends, who walked the Nakasendo pilgrimage last year, had offered to send us their books and maps, and offered advice and many tips about the long walk.
I am SO excited to be walking the Nakasendo this spring.
But for now, we are heading to sunny and warm South Florida, to celebrate Christmas in tropical weather.
Wishing you enjoy a most wonderful Holiday Season.
As the song performed by Rihana which I saw projected on the ceiling of a casino in Macau which urges you to:
“Shine bright like a diamond, like a diamond in the sky….”
May you remember and see your own design beauty….
May the bright lights of our beautiful galaxy shine on you and remind you of your own Eternal and Everlasting Light…
Always with love and light,
And to the gods of the weather, I know I speak for all of us skiers when I sincerely pray:
Let it snow!
Let it snow!
Let it snow….”