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Monday, May 2, 2016

Gray Matters: World Travel II

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Today I want to conclude the story I started last week in which we were privileged to vicariously visit Shanghai, China with Jim Hoefling and Leone Sand. The two of them assured me that the Great Wall was among the most awe-inspiring things they saw. Little wonder, for it is the world's longest human-made structure, stretching 4160 miles in an arc delineating the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. Begun in 220 BC, it was added to over many centuries, all of it involving the hand labor of millions. It has been estimated that somewhere between two and three million of those laborers lost their lives in the effort. Countless travelers from the very ends of the earth visit there, and our friends saw an impressive sampling.

Accelerated by the upcoming Olympics, many Asian nations are awakening to the potential of tourism. Jim was impressed by the unlikely combination of high-tech mini-museums against the backdrop of ancient wonders. For example they visited a very "hands-on" exhibition of silk production, complete with worms which his young grandsons could easily pick up and use to terrorize their female siblings. There was an equally specific display of the various shades and grades of jade, which, in case you didn't know, isn't always green. Here, they saw masterful demonstrations of the art of carving it into everything from precious intricate jewelry to massive statues.

Their trip home was a bit more leisurely. By taking a two-hour flight to Beijing, they were able to make connections to Seoul, Korea, where Jim's grandson, Kory Hoefling, is stationed at Camp Casey, the US Army Base that lies nearest the DMZ. There they made the acquaintance of 5-month-old, Donna Denise, Jim's first great-grandchild.

Their next stop was in Hawaii where they visited Pearl Harbor, the USS Missouri and the National Cemetery of the South Pacific, all poignant reminders of the tragedies and triumphs of an earlier time.

From Honolulu they returned to Los Angeles where Leone joined her sister, Joyce Keffler and three cousins who live in California for a brief reunion. Jim spent the time with his sister, Polly Bright, and her family. All in all, a delightful conclusion to an interesting trip that we "stay-at-homes" have enjoyed sharing.

Oh, there is one thing more I must tell you about. Most of us with young family members have encountered the popular children's books about the character, Flat Stanley. Well, Leone's grandson, Nate, who lives in Michigan has an innovative social studies teacher who is using that concept to broaden her students' knowledge of the world. So he sent his grandma a delightful little laminated figure, "Flat Nate," which they took with them and photographed in locations all along the way. They often saw other grandparents doing the same thing with their own Flat Family members. In fact, two Americans they met at the Great Wall had their grandchild's Flat Nolan with them for the same purpose, so they combined forces. What fun to see the album Leone is compiling for Nate, complete with the two little Flat Guys from the US together atop that incredible structure.

PS ---- If this last paragraph makes no sense to you, stop at the Children's Section of your local library for a quick explanation