Across Continents on a Winter’s Morning

Yesterday I finished writing Last Train to Kingston, the first in a series of  murder mysteries set in my home town. I’m taking a brief respite before I do the initial edit and add in photos. I thought you might like a sneak preview at some of the settings in the book.

So, this is my first post in a few weeks and I decided to write once more about my friends in China.  https://aroundzuzusbarn.com/2015/06/27/skyping-with-milanda/

I met Shengdong at our church one Sunday. He was with his five-year old daughter, Milanda. He was on a year sabbatical from his university in Xiamen and would be studying at our own University of Rhode Island in Kingston. Although his wife Mary had to return to China to work, they decided that Milanda would remain here  with her dad.

We became close friends and Milanda spent many days with me, learning how to bake and to garden; reading and practicing English. She was a joy and when it came time for them to return to Xiamen, it was difficult for all of us. But we promised to keep in touch and through emails and Skype, we have kept this promise during the past three years.

Every Saturday morning (Saturday night in China), we bring each other up-to date on our week’s activities. Upon hearing Milanda’s voice, Roxie usually makes an appearance. She sits in front  of the computer  waiting for Milanda to come  from behind the screen to give her treats and brush her as she did so often all those years ago.

IMG_2874Since early February, the Chinese New Year, the family has been enjoying their holidays together. They sent me photos of their trip to Wi Mountain. We share pictures of all our trips.

Milanda also wanted to show me the intricate movements performed in her recent  dance recital.  We agreed that if I tried any of the complicated moves, I would probably break something. She explained all about the makeup  application and  hair styling involved.  I would have loved to have been there to see her first performance, even though she has been showing me the steps every Saturday morning for the past few months.

Today they went to a party and she made sweet dumplings dyed yellow and green with vegetable juices. Placing the container in front of the computer screen, she took each dumpling out to show the colors. The picture quality has been very tiled during our last few skype sessions, and the audio often breaks up, but we make the best of it. She and her dad had crafted paper lanterns at the party.  His was a cow on a blue background and hers a rooster in bright pink. She’s a promising young  artist and sends me her special  drawings and paintings for gifts which I cherish.

She proudly showed her prizes from the party: two red toy monkeys named Roxie and ZuZu in honor of her old friends here in RI.  She has a teddy bear I sent her one Christmas. It wears a straw hat and is holding garden tools. She calls it Clare.

This morning we were able to visit for a while in spite of the static and the tiling and when we had to say goodbye, I promised to send her an e-card this week until we could talk again next Saturday.

Fragile connections from one continent to another. Simple conversations among friends. Smiles, laughter, and sharing  the week’s experiences and the past’s memories. What a beautiful way to begin a winter’s day.

 

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103 thoughts on “Across Continents on a Winter’s Morning

  1. What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing news and pictures of your far away friends. Technology can be wonderful for helping us stay in touch.
    Good lukc with the edits and i look forward to hearing more about Last Train to Kingston.

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    1. Thank you, Mary. Please know that No More Mulberries as at the top of my reading list. Although I’ve read a few, I’ve been terribly remiss with reading many of my other blogger friends’ works because of the demands of writing and day-to-day functioning. I need to spend some quality time with my friends’ books in my hands. You’ve been so encouraging and I’ve really appreciated it. Clare

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      1. The topic is one that totally has my interest and I love your writing style from your blog posts, so I know it will be wonderful. Your book is actually at the very top of my list. I never read anything while I am in the process of writing a book (except for keeping up with blog posts). I hope to get back to reading in a few weeks after the major edits.

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    1. Yes, but you don’t want to be in the room when she is trying to teach me Chinese. She is very patient and my brain is made of gauze! Everything seeps through. I’ve been saved lately because the video has been too poor for me to see the flash cards!

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    1. Thank you Maniparna. Adding photos to a mystery is unusual, but there are so many interesting places here in Kingston where the story is set, I have decided to break the mold. The photos of Milanda here in RI are mine,but her Dad sends me the ones from China, now. She is very photogenic. Clare

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    1. Thank you! I have not touched the draft at all today. I needed to get away from it before I actually start the first major edits. So, I was actually able to get a post done and now I can “chat” with friends who’ve come to visit. I think it will take another few months before it’s in final draft stage, though. I’ll think about that tomorrow! Clare Bear🐻

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      1. I think it was pure fate that we met. He was new at church and didn’t seem to know anyone, so I started a conversation at our coffee hour after service and we became friends. Milanda was only 5 and hardly spoke any English. It was fun to watch her grow into a little chatterbox.

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  2. Those pictures are really amazing, look like a perfect murder mystery setup!
    Reading about your friendship and seeing those pictures really expressed how feelings can remain intact however far we live. The girl is so pretty and she must love you so much to name all her things after you! Stay blessed and happy dear! 🙂

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  3. Roxie has good taste! Milanda is gorgeous! Is tiling when the picture looks like a bunch of squares? I didn’t know what that was called.
    How wonderful to have friends who are so far away, yet still close in heart!
    Are those pix of the real town? I’m sure it’s an exciting book!! You’re a great author, Ethel.
    Love, Lucy

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    1. We seem to connect on Skype and start off OK, but then the picture freezes and blurs and turns into those little squares. So we hang up and start again until the same thing happens, eventually. Supposedly, there was a cyclone (Winston) over the Pacific Ocean around Figi this morning and that could have been part of the problem.
      Yes, those are photos I’ve taken here in South Kingstown of some of the actual settings in the book. I take the photos, edit them, put them through an App to get more of a drawing effect and then turn them into black & white pictures to be inserted in the book. I’m just really glad the first draft is done, but now I have to start seriously editing it and that is tons of work. Thanks, Lucy! Love, Ethel

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      1. I’ve never tried to Skype, but my TV does that, cuz I only have a free antennae, no cable! So frustrating!
        I love the b/w effect of the pix.
        Oh, the editing! Good luck with that! Do you do it yourself??
        You’re welcome, Ethel.
        Love, Lucy

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      2. Lucy, Yes, I’m a bit obsessive compulsive and do pretty much everything myself except for the set-up and printing. I need to find an agent to do some of the footwork for me now that there are other books involved besides A Berkshire Tale. And I’d love to find a good illustrator to take on the ZuZu Series. Love, Ethel PS How’s that new hairstyle?

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      3. Well, certainly better quality control when you do it all! lol
        Sorry, I can’t help ya find one. I’m clueless!
        Rocking! A bit like sleeping on a bristly brush right now, but it will soften up in a week or so!
        Love, Lucy

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    1. Yvette, you know of what you speak! I’m already re-working one of the characters! I’ve decided I want to use him in the second book of the series, so major changes must be made. And after all of the editing, I must decide either to submit to a publisher and that means getting an agent or self-publish? Any advice? Clare

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    1. When I have had extra time during the past 3 weeks, I’ve spent it reading blogs. It felt a bit strange not conversing on my own site, too. Kind of like going to lots of coffee hours and teas hosted by friends and not reciprocating. Although it is exciting having actually finished the book, I think it could be compared to the last day of NaNoWrite, where you have these 50,000 words and now you need to start from the beginning of the work and make sure it’s done right. So much to edit, and all I want to do is start on the next book in the series! Thanks!

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  4. I loved reading this Clare! You are such a special and dear person! It is so lovely that you have kept this connection and friendship going for three years! The pictures are priceless and everything else about this post! thank you for sharing this and letting us into your world. Love, Lynnxx

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      1. I edit but I could have someone else do it. They charge by the page, I think. If it is accepted by a regular publishing company, they take care of everything. That would truly be a relief. But the edits I’m doing right now involve rewriting and no one can do that except the author. My problem is that no matter how many times I edit, I always feel there is more I could do. It can be never ending. At one point after editing the final draft of A Berkshire Tale at least 30 times, Charley stated, “That book has to get out of this house!”
        Oh, Roxie has a message for you, “Dearest Lynn, I am always in charge of this place. It’s why things have not fallen to pieces already.Your friend, Roxie D”

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  5. Glad your friends in China had a good holiday. Its all heads down and back to business over here now. Boooo Boooo! LOL. Great news on your new book and looking forward to more news on it. Thanks Clare and have a fab week 🙂

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      1. It’s taken a little while in truth but I am loving it. Writing is just beginning to come back … So much to adjust to when I arrived I went very dry. I met an oncologist yesterday who said she has so much respect for writers …. It’s not the sit around, naval gaze, spit out some well formed words and hey presto bongo a book appears that people imagine. Yours will be worth every ounce of blood spilled and I send you strength for the next bit – all that formatting, editing, protecting, defending and ultimately letting it go to print. No wonder, as a creative you would rather move on to making the next story 🙂 Tell Roxie that The Bean had an adventure this weekend and will be hijacking the blog very soon 😉

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      2. That’s what I mean – filthy weather in England is just wet. Not so much snow. I love snow. However, I think it was a little too much the last two years for you here. I know it drove my husband nuts. The Bean and I have not heard of Snowbirds – please elucidate 🙂

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      3. In Rhode Island, they are they old people who move down to Florida for the winter and return when the warmer weather arrives. We know quite a few because many times they are golfers. PS Last year at this time we were surrounded by filthy snow (in mounds). Not a very pretty sight to wake up to in the morning.

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      4. Haha – I thought they must be white fluffy loons! Perhaps they are ….. when it snows in southern England (which is not far from the rest of England in reality) not the west or the east or the north people get extremely excited and then quickly irritated because it turns to meuh brown slush and the trains can’t run because its the wrong sort of snow (I kid you not) … it is an English passtime to moan about the weather probably because we get a teeny bit of everything but the truth is that we don’t and couldn’t cope with epic anything. We are far too polite and far too passive. Filthy mounds of anything are never pretty and if they are frozen and the sky is grey it is plain depressing

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      5. Bean’s a smart little girl. It would take Roxie at least 10 of those incidents to figure out she should stay in the house when it snows. I think it’s separation anxiety that causes her to want to run outside where she sees us disappear too often for her liking.

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      6. The Bean is quite a smartypants …. it fascinates me that such a small head can house a brain that puts many humans to shame! That said, my anxiety is always when she is outside with me and hubby drives off – she is car obsessed and very attached to him too and I worry she will make chase …

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      7. Yes, that’s how it is with Roxie when Charley goes out to the car. I’ve found her locked in the garage on occasion. It’s good she follows me around the house, because I always know if she’s not underfoot, she’s gotten herself into a closet or place she can’t get out of!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by. I live in a small village in a small town in a small state, but there is much history in the buildings and places. I love starting off with a setting and so, those settings here in Kingston are a big part of creating a sense of place. I hope to make it into a series featuring the local university and the other villages of Wakefield and Peace Dale.I have another follower from Greece, Fia Essen. Reading about life in your part of the world is fascinating for me.I’ll visit you again soon.

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  6. A finished draft for a book, dear friends in China, and lots of blogger friends to share it all with…wow! Don’t you just love those moments when it hits you that you could have never predicted things would turn out like this…and don’t want it any other way! Congrats on the first big hurdle with the book and happy editing! And skyping! and blogging! 🙂

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    1. Yes, I never would have thought this time last year I would be sharing my life with friends from all over the world. But here we are chatting, both rejoicing in the amazing closeness within our blogging community.And I do appreciate those moments, like right now. Thank you , Nancy.

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  7. What a lovely, heartwarming post, Clare. How wonderful that you’ve all kept in touch over the years. Milanda looks a delightful little girl, and very talented, too. As for your photos – they’re just gorgeous.
    Congratulations on finishing your book. I hope the editing and ‘photo adding’ go well. The settings certainly look intriguing, especially in b/w. You’ve reached an exciting stage now, Clare, and publication is just around the corner. Once it is, you deserve a nice holiday.

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    1. I wish you were right, Millie, but I am a crazy editor and have barely begun that process, yet. I’m taking a few days break from the mystery to clear my mind a bit. I take the photos in color and then use an App to edit them and then turn them to black and white. When I was 28 I enlisted in the US Army Reserves and my MOS (Military Occupational Skill) was as a combat photographer (back and white prints ).I still have some of the skills left over from that long ago time.

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      1. Thanks, Millie. You have to look st things with a different eye when taking black and white photos. (Lines and shadows) For instance: Faces are harsher and stocker in black and white, therefore, women need color to soften. Men like the harsher, more masculine look, so are usually pleased with a B&W photo.

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      2. How interesting. Not being a photographer, I hadn’t thought about the different techniques before. Thanks for explaining, Clare. Thinking about what you say, I’m not at all photogenic, and b/w does make me look even worse. My passport photo is terrible.

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    1. I love murder mysteries and have always wanted to write one. Many are formulaic. Writing an original mystery has proven to be really challenging. Now that I’m in the editing stage, I’m catching flaws and it seems I just get one thing fixed and another pops up. So, I’ve put it aside and am spending more time reading blogs for enjoyment.
      Weren’t those lovely little girls in their pink tutus marvelous? I skyped with Milanda this morning (night in China) and she informs me she is taking Tibetan Dance Classes. I told her dad to video the recital the next time. I’m sure those wonderful memories of those classes and recitals will always be with you. Thanks for stopping by. Clare

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      1. The friendship between you, the daughter and her father really is precious. I am sure having you for a good adult woman will motivate Milanda to become a professional in an area of work where she may travel and see you, as well as other areas of the world. Having international and personal connections warms my heart. Thank you so much for your kind words about my dancing daughter. I have an artist daughter and a cook or chef son. Have a great week’s beginning, Claire. 🙂

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      2. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! I truly hope Milanda does well in life and becomes a happy adult. And I want her to remember her time here in the US as a joyful one, no matter what the politics of the day brings upon us all. There is definitely an artistic bent in your family. I’m thinking they take after their mom??? Thanks for visiting today. Clare

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    1. Our Skype connections have been awful lately and she has decided that I should just go to China and forget about Skyping. Her dad is visiting Seattle for a conference this week and she wants him to bring back cheese and maple syrup. She was a master grilled cheese sandwich chef when she was here. Yes, it puts an entirely different perspective on everything to do with other countries. cultures and religions.

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  8. Clare, This was so lovely! What a wonderful relationship…It sounds like you and Milanda (and Roxie), at least, are family! The pictures of the dance costumes and make-up remind me of my relationship with our son’s youngest daughter, Catherine, who is also a ballerina. What a lovely way to come to know a culture and customs. So much deeper and richer through the eyes of friends and family. I am terrible with names, but Milanda’s will stick. It reminds me of my mother’s real name, Melanya (I know, I Know, but He Who Shall Not be Named’s wife is Yugoslavian and it is spelled Melania…but let’s not go there!) Milanda is such a lovely child!

    Enjoyed this visit and chance to learn more about my Rhody friend!
    Jo

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    1. Jo, Saturday we skyped but we were not able to get a screen picture, so we just talked for an hour.This is really good practice for Milanda, as she has to describe her latest art works for me. She is very good at this.Last week was Memorial Days in China when the families return to their ancestors’ graves to clean, weed and bring flowers. This was Milanda’s first time and she was very proud of the part she was allowed to play. They sent me a photo of her and her father’s family at the grave (which is on the side of a mountain. I really do love sharing these experiences and know that she will some day return to RI. I love hearing more about your adventures, too and Melanya is a beautiful name. Clare

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