Chemainus: the little town that did

What does a small town falling into wrack and ruin do when all of its resource jobs are rapidly disappearing? Pull out the paint and brushes! This little town understood the concept of “build it and they will come.” They did, into the millions, from around the world, since the early 1980s. Which is how I first heard about this out of the way little town.

Named for a local Cowichan First Nations band, “Tsa-mee’-nis” that had been living off the land and sea for thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived in 1791. By 1858 settlers were felling trees to clear the land, within four years the first sawmill was up and running and took advantage of the naturally deep port to move logs and board. Although iron ore was mined in the area and fishing was important, the forests provided the majority of jobs. Until everything fell apart with the downturn of the markets. As this was happening I was moving to Vancouver Island. By 1983 the last sawmill in Chemainus had shut down. Five murals had been painted in 1982 as part of a revitalization plan. With the closure of the mill plans were put in place to keep on painting. The theme was the history of the area – trains, logging, the working man, the immigrants, the festivals. Although the mill did re-open in 1985 the locals had discovered a new way to earn money. Tourism.

Street heading to the docks from the main park.

My first trip to Chemainus was probably some time between 1986 – 1989, the murals were so fresh it seemed that wet paint would be left on your hands if you dared to touch a wall. Wood walls, brick walls, rough and smooth walls, were painted with stunning, and not so great, murals. They were impressive, present and approachable. These were our people depicted in giant form. Over the years I would return a few times, my children encouraging me to hurry up and look. They were always interested – and each had a favourite. They also had an uncanny memory for where to find the best ice cream cones.

check out the upstairs windows! This is a candy shop. I wonder if my children could find the ice cream store now.

It has been probably 15+ years since my last visit. My mission was to drive to Nanaimo, north of Chemainus, to purchase some wedding centrepiece items – the store would not send to the either of the Victoria stores. That accomplished, two hours from home to store and back on the road, I felt we needed a little adventure. I chose Chemainus.

I cannot swear to this however I am quite sure this building was a new build in the ’80s

Today was out of season, many shops were still closed, or only open Tuesday to Saturday. This gave my daughter and I the freedom to just wander without jostling elbows, avoiding tour buses and cars. We checked out the Chemainus Theatre, I have heard their shows are high quality. I finally picked up a list and schedule of the plays for this coming year – with a goal to see one. I love trains, so was quite happy to find some murals of various trains. Of course there were others, 44 is the number I read. We did not make a full tour of them, perhaps when it is less chilly.

Mural showing iron ore being mined. I do not see the hardship in this one. Perhaps the artist did not want to upset tourists

One I liked, not of trains, was of float festival winners from 1939. This was a Japanese float, all I could think of was if any of the people who had been part of the float were forced to one of the Japanese interment camps in Canada during the Second World War. I looked it up. Despite being Canadian citizens, even second or third generation, perhaps 200 were displaced out of Chemainus. Many never returned, their homes, businesses, property had been seized.

where else but on the wall of the Post Office

I bought a rather yummy sausage roll, an apple turnover and a coffee (except I think it had a different name) at Utopia Bakery, hidden around a corner. The sausage rolls, including the meat, are house made, beef and pork with a little spice for a bite. Warmed just enough rather than piping hot like many places do. The coffee was bold, probably because we managed to get caught in the only rain during the five hours we were up Island! I ended up not eating the turnover until I was home, it was quite good. Not overly sweet, always a bonus, and flaky, yet sturdy, pastry. (I never appreciate having pastry crumbs flying about)

Many of the homes built over 100 years ago are still in use, or sadly, sitting empty and looking rather forlorn. I was rather intrigued by Castle B&B, so much so I suggested we might want to rent the small ‘castle’. The rent was reasonable, Chemainus perhaps not so much.

There are some problems with living in a tourist town, particularly one that operates seasonally- what to do when the tourists leave. Of course there are still some mills. Outdoor activities are thriving, still mainly during warmer weather. Which is a pretty decent window – usually March to October. However, I could not help but notice the once bright yellow footprints showing the way are fading, the paint is chipping on a few murals, several shops have closed permanently.

We came across this and a similar one in the garden of a house. Look closely to see the white orchid

Once a shop filled with a variety of items to entice tourists. Now it sits unloved, draperies pulled tight.

Spectacular mountain, ocean and forest views

We left home at 7:30AM and were home by 12:30PM. A five hour trip up island and return with a wonderful little break in ‘the little town that did’ where we were refreshed, walked and enjoyed the art. It is suggested visitors stay a little longer. Perhaps I will when the place comes out of hibernation, to be drawn into the full magic of Chemainus just as my children were over twenty years ago.


The Tale of Three Cities: Chapter 3 – Kitchener

Thirteen days in Ontario should have been easy for me; after all I spent nearly six months of winter there one year, as well as four other winters for a month each time. Then there were the two early summers. Surely I could manage less than to weeks. Let me just say that I did try. I even had fun, as noted in earlier posts. It was just so darn difficult this time. A dragged out cold left me wilted, and I am still not fully over it despite being home for six days. However, time, rest, the gym, glimpses of the sun and the west coast air will soon find me back in full swing. I am feeling well enough to finish up the tale of three cities.

I talk about Kingston a lot so writing about Toronto was fun and I was looking forward to visiting the Kitchener-Waterloo area where daughter 3 is studying. It is an interesting area, a lot of cross connections, including Waterloo University and Sir Wilfred Laurier University. My daughter goes to Waterloo. They have a Starbucks on campus – which was a huge issue and seems to be all on its own in what I believe is the Engineering Department. Waterloo has many Starbucks. It appears Kitchener has none. I like to keep track of such things for orienting where I am.

I did not find too much to enamour me with Kitchener-Waterloo. Perhaps it was just due to it being winter, cold, my being sick, and my daughter being robbed a week earlier. There is a definite factory town feel to the area. Not a lot was happening. The Tannery District, (as far as I could tell this is just one building rather than a true district – it was too cold to explore) as the name implies, was once an early 20th century mill that has been refurbished and now holds a number of businesses, eateries and, from I read, an event venue. The only place open was Balzac’s Coffee Roaster. For which I was grateful.

The day I decided I should just stay at the house, early 1900s, was only broken up when I finally ventured outside long enough to get the kinks out and to find a store. I came across one house, apparently into offices, and one austere Lutheran church worthy of photographing. Unfortunately I did not cross the street to be across from the Sun Life Financial head office property that appears to include a building dating back to 1912. It was not until the next day, when on a bus, that I saw there is a provincial plaque of its history – next time I visit I will check it out. However, further research seems to indicate the building was always in the hands of Sun Life, until 2014. (Now leased back to them)

Not my photo – no snow here!

Lutheran Church on King St.

I loved the brickwork and the tri-corner style is lovely. The area it is in not so much.

It was not until the day before I left for home that I would go on an adventure. This is when I ventured to the university with my daughter, had coffee at Starbucks and hid from the elements,while waiting for her to attend a class, for a couple of hours before we headed to the Mennonite village of St. Jacob’s. I was feeling a bit better and looking forward to something different. The village dates back the 1850s, with Mennonites settling in the the region in the 1840s. The population of St. Jacobs is around 2000 and swells during tourism season with visitors arriving on bus tours, heading to the market and checking out the many, many shops along the Main Street. As often happens in small places that depends on tourism, many stores were closed. However, we did manage to have some fun poking about what was open, discovering some treasures – a pity my phone battery died – enjoying lunch, then coffee, and a sense of a time warp. Interesting bit of history, St. Jacobs is the home office for Home Hardware

A real fire in the fireplace at Stone Crock Restaurant !

Former Anglican Church is now a pretty neat toy store. I had to force myself to not leave with a few fun items.

Talk about a time warp! I could not have caught a better sandwich photo of past, present and cold.

We discovered the maple syrup museum along with a small model train set up. We had hoped to visit the larger model train display across the street – it was closed. We did however walk through the old silo mill where there are a few stores. The only one actually open was the pottery store. Here they sell products made locally, or made in Canada. There is a Wedding store that uses an old freight car as a place to store dresses and a section of the silos as a boutique. It was probably just as well it too was closed. With so much closed for the season, including the huge market, I already know I will be returning in the summer when I visit. I will most likely be with 2-3 of my daughters, maybe even one SIL so it will be attended unattendedgrandma.

We made this discovery on a side street when searching for the old school house. Unable to discover if it was open until after we finally tore ourselves away, I was happy to just take pictures and marvel at the collection. Such fun!

look at what we found at the mini train model display! My daughter graciously took then shared this with me after my phone died. I am looking into taking both trains. The table settings and menus belonged to other trains. Too bad!

One Night In Toronto

My thirteen day trip, including travel time, to Ontario was planned in Sep. This, of course meant I was reluctant to make any changes after all the back and forth emails, phone calls and building excitement. What I had not factored in was my being ill, and needing some minor surgery at my doctor’s office. However, come Hell or high water, I was determined to make the rendezvous with my daughters.

I started to feel unwell on Christmas Day. This was fine as I ended up staying home with yet another daughter where we had a very quiet day. I did manage to enjoy a turkey dinner – I even made the gravy. However, by evening I knew I was not at all well and left the cleaning up for my daughter to take care of while I went to bed. I had come down with the flu. I had twelve days to get well. No problem. Except for the small marble sized growth on the back of neck that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. The growth that definitely felt like it might be infected. Getting sick, and needing to see your doctor over the holidays is never good planning. Fortunately I was able to get in on Jan 2nd, having made sure to call at 9:00am on the dot. There were also two doctors in that day.

I had never met my GP’s student until that day. My first impression was just young she is – I later found out she is the same age as my youngest daughter, 26. She took one look, then did a more thorough assessment, then called in my GP for further consultation before the next step – basically lancing what turned out to be a sebaceous cyst. My GP never shows a lot of emotion, so his quiet exclamation of, ‘Oh my, that will need taking care of’ did rather worry me. Three absolutely horrid needles later, to freeze the area, and a lot of tugging and pushing meant the cyst had been emptied although it was not certain the actual cyst was fully removed. It was time to discuss after care.

Even before all that was done it was suggested I might want to rethink my travel plans in case of infection or complications. My response was absolutely not. I had sound reasoning for this, first I was not leaving the country. Second, I would be spending the first weekend of my trip that included two nurses, the second week with one. I felt I was well prepared and the doctors agreed so long as I went back the following day. Armed with instructions for care I assured everyone I would be fine. Which I basically was although there were a few days that had us a little worried. I went to a walk-in clinic while in Kingston for another assessment and was given the good news that everything was healing nicely. Canadian medical is absolutely fantastic!

It is now time to go back to the beginning of my actual trip. I like to think I am always well prepared for when I travel. I tend to arrive early to my departure point, carry as little baggage as possible, have all my necessary documents, and even empty personal water bottle. What I had not factored in was just how insane security would be on this last weekend of the holiday period. Despite arriving at the airport over an hour ahead of my flight, and having only carry on bags, I nearly missed my flight. The saving grace was the 50+ passengers still behind me who were also stuck at security. Once seated my first flight, to Calgary, was fairly uneventful.

Deicing in Calgary – it looks like so much fun!

I did have to nearly run from the Calgary international gate (rather random in my opinion for a domestic flight) to my next plane at the farthest domestic gate. While flying to Calgary it suddenly dawned on me that WestJet no longer provides meals – I was looking at about another four hours flying without a meal. (I had packed four healthy cookies and a couple of ‘emergency’ granola bars) Never a good idea when on certain medication. As I neared the gate I saw that the passengers were lined up next to a Starbucks. In my head I was calculating if I had enough time to grab something to eat and make it to the plane before the doors shut. Of course I had one lady hemming and hawing over her selection of food, and then her coffee. Fortunately I was able to have my yogurt scanned, tapped my bank card and dash off. I forgot I had Starbucks money on my phone. There were still passengers behind me when I had my boarding pass swiped. Phew! I made a mental note to prepare a proper lunch for my flight home.

As if my day had not already been riddled with inconveniences, upon arriving in Toronto, the plane ended up sitting on the tarmac for 1 1/4 hours plus another 15 minutes just metres from the gate. So many flights had been cancelled due to the frigid weather and snow storms on the East Coast that the gate had another plane where we were to deboard. (Later in the evening I heard about the planes at the same airport that were clipped resulting in an emergency evacuation due to fire – my problems became minuscule) While waiting to taxi in I sent some messages to my daughter who was to meet me at the train station – no response. I sent messages to her sister – strange responses. Seems the latter had already started to party with her friends and one of them was responding for her. I was not amused. While typing a message to my missing daughter’s husband her sister called me while I was still on the tarmac – technology is grand – to let me know her sister had been robbed! That explained why I could not reach her. I was beginning to worry about this trip.

The view from the condo. We could also see the CBC building, and I gather there is a baseball field next to the CN Tower that I had a vague memory of seeing in 2014.

Eventually it was agreed the three already in Toronto would meet me at Union Station (trains) with coffee and food. I was greeted with lots of cheers, they may have been only three but they made up for that with their somewhat inebriated enthusiasm. It was bloody freezing outside at -25c. (Chill factor made it a frostbite -32c) I was convinced I had temporarily lost my sanity. A quick update about my other daughter, she would not join us that evening although she did seriously consider it, but would in the morning. (Her phone had been snatched right out of her hand at the bus station. She did the one thing police say not to do, she ran after the guy yelling at the top of her lungs.) We made run to an Uber car ( fantastic idea) and we were off to the condo we had booked for the weekend before going out for a night on the town. I was ready to sleep. This was only day one! I was feeling a little like it was One Night In Bangkok.

My daughter on the right and her friends out of the cold.

We did go out dancing. One place had a 90s theme – not really anything I could really rock to. We then went to a club called the Rocking Horse (I think that is correct) which had me worried it would be too country. The saddles and cowboy hat decorations, plus several people wearing cowboy boots, jeans and plaid shirts did not convince me otherwise. The music proved to be a good mix though, I danced up a storm – some young women seemed quite taken that I was on the dance floor keeping pace – until my foot turned but my knee did not. My daughter even tried out the bucking bull and made it over 40 seconds! She beat out every other person we saw over the course of about 20 minutes. I have that on video.

It is difficult to catch a bucking bull in a still shot! This was from the video I took – just under 5 seconds

We were all ready to call it a night, arriving back at the condo around 1:00am. Plans were made to go dress shopping the next day once my daughter arrived from Kitchener. Did I mention the weather had not been that cold since 1959?

COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN, COMPLAIN: and yes, it did rain

Or, Why I have not posted anything lately

I rarely get ill. When I have been sick it was usually fairly significant – bronchitis being high on my body’s favoured illnesses. So, I am usually knocked down flat when that occurs, as well as thrown on a heavy course of some form of penicillin. I was also always working – with young children. Need I say more. So when I first managed to get the flu, most likely directly from my daughter, I blamed it in part, as previously mentioned, on not having the flu shot. I was just happy it was over with and the cyst I had drained was finally on it’s way to healing. So I was rather alarmed when I came down with a nasty head cold. The type of cold that sneaks up on you. A slight scratchiness in the throat, a little cough, perhaps some sneezing. All fairly easy to laugh off as a sign of being tired, staying up too late, travel weary – in my case all reasonable assumptions. I did not have time to be sick let alone bothered with a cold.

Crave fireside seating. Always lovely to visit here.

Crave fireside seating, always a lovely spot for sipping coffee or tea and settling in for a visit or reading.

Except there I was, the end of day five (which also happened to be what would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday) of my visit and fading fast. By this time I had already seen the doctor, had coffee at Crave (my favourite cafe in Kingston) and checked out three more stores for dresses and I still had a couple of hours before I was to meet my daughter. Where does one go when staying a 30 minute drive away and your ride will not be available for two plus hours? For me the library is always an excellent choice. Except the Kingston Library was still closed while undergoing major renovations that started in April 2017. It is slated to re-open spring 2018 – I will visit when back. Meanwhile, I needed a place to hang out away from the burgeoning crowds on the streets of Kingston. Plus 5c. and sun seemed to have beckoned people outdoors.

As I was heading up Princess St. looking for stores I came across this otherwise empty space – those are my daughters! The middle one and the one on the left. (The short ones) They had not seen the display. This was for a fundraiser held sometime in 2017.

I headed to the university library, grabbing a sandwich and coffee at the snack bar before hunkering down to read my book without interruption or internet for about two hours. I had one commitment, meet my daughter at her work then head to Princess St. (Basically the main shopping street in Kingston) to show her the dress I thought would be suitable for me to wear to her wedding. We said yes to the dress – a little pricier than I had expected. I claimed I could accept the cost if I wore it to one or two events every year for the next ten years.

I then committed the ill traveller’s sin and went out for dinner. (Nothing like spreading a few germs for all to share) Although still in denial I was pretty sure I would not be able to taste anything the next night.Then it rained. A lot. By the next day, the only day I had left in Kingston, I knew I would not be leaving the house. I barely managed to do my laundry and pack everything. Thank goodness I travel light. I slept. I finished my book (Stones to Schools by Greg Mortenson) I highly recommend it. I napped.

Union Station construction has been ongoing for some years now. By the time they finish it will be necessary to start at the beginning again!

The small station is Brampton – the pounding rain and hail made it difficult to capture any of the fine workmanship.

My train to Toronto, then onto Kitchener, the next day was for 7:32am. A freezing blast was forecast, basically ice rain with a severe drop in temperature (it had gone up to plus 9c after the deep chill) that would cause dangerous, icy roads. School buses were cancelled. I was not about to tempt fate by changing my tickets so I could rest. Leaving Kingston I could see outlines of fog enshrouded roads, farms and tracks from inside my snug seat by the window. And here I am, in Kitchener. Where it was hailing when I arrived, then snowing. By morning all was bright, chilly looking and windy. I was still coughing and ready to scrounge about my daughter’s house for cold medicine. I was quite sure I would staying in again. So far I only had photos taken while on the train.

Behind that curtain of ice rain, up on a hill, is a beautiful church. All I know is that it is somewhere between Brampton and Kitchener.

Q (avid Star Trek fans) thought I needed some help as I got ready for bed.


This portion of my trip was the first of a few very difficult ones to write about. I anguished over how to provide adequate words for why I was there and where I visited. To assist me I recorded snips to remind me of the immediate impact of the heartwrenching Museum of the Nanjing Massacre. Despite having a very firm grasp of the history of that era, particularly the horrid attacks by the Japanese on Nanjing, Shanghai and the surrounding areas, I was not prepared. Which brought me up short when I finally sat down to write.

I finally decided to keep my visit to Nanjing in chronological order, it made no sense to jump back and forth even though the museum is what stood out. My whole visit to Nanjing in one ugly lump. As with my visit to Suzhou, it was one of the reasons I decided to return to Nanjing. However, I shall begin with my departure from Suzhou and my arrival in Nanjing – another early morning and a hunt for my hostel. I was beginning to think this would plague me with each new city in China and Vietnam.

Despite all the problems with not knowing if I was legally staying at a now un-named Hostel in Suzhou I actually slept and was up by 5:30. Unfortunately, due to the nature of backpacking and the lack of hot water I did not have a shower. Coupled with wearing the same outerwear as the previous day I felt yucky from the start of my day. Bleh. Then as if that were not enough, for good measure, I bashed my head with my coffee press that I had finally managed to pack in its usual top pocket of my bag. So, there was no knowing if my feelings of further bleh were a result of the head bash, no shower, or carrying everything about to taxi, station and train, or all of the above. Wheels were beginning to look like an excellent alternative to a backpack by the time I was on the train.

My first stop once I arrived at the train station – as usual far too early – was to head for whichever fast food place I could find. This time it was KFC, where I ordered a large coffee and watched the day unfold below me. Like watching Geand Central Station in fast motion. (I have only seen this on film) Then it was my turn to join the madness, coffee unfinished. I never like this part of travelling by train in China. A mad dash for the gates, stuff your ticket in, yet another mad dash up, down, over (depending on which train) and find the right car. I still have not figured out how to tell where I am supposed to go despite the colour coding on the platform – the board inside is, of course, in Chinese so I never know the colour I should head for.  Once in my seat I relax. Until my arrival.

Another short train trip, another early morning, another bad taxi driver, and I was very hungry. (One day I need to tell the tale of the driver from hell in Shanghai.) It was easy to get a taxi, not so easy showing him the address – written in Chinese – with the phone number and GPS. When I discovered later that the area is a major spot for tourists all I could do was wonder why some people choose to be taxi drivers. Once he had figured out where I was going he kept muttering to himself – this seems to be something drivers must learn at taxi school – and asking me where the place was, or possibly he meant did I, the foreign visitor, recognize it or see it – this is another common query from drivers. Once we did arrive I was nearly thrown out the door after paying the 22.00CNY in exact change; a demand for extra money was made with all sorts of gestures as to why, along with the driver insisting I hurry up. The result was I dropped my money, which slowed down the process even more, all the while he was yelling st me. I hoped I had not lost 100CNY! If he had not been in such an angry rush our transaction would have gone more smoothly as well as much faster. It was not until the following day that I found out there is a 2.00CNY surcharge.

the hostel kitty – he did not seem too pleased to share his space with a dog and a rabbit.

I was so happy my hostel was just across the street from where I was dropped off – until I was informed there was no power, which also meant no internet, for the whole block. It was not expected to be on until mid afternoon. By this time I was more than a little shaky, and in dire need of food. Although I had not intended to break into my emergency granola bars I was happy I had taken the foresight to buy them before leaving Canada for moments like these. Fortunately my bags could be left in a secured room on the main floor. I was not favouring the idea of climbing to the 4th floor with them! I headed out in search of food and happily discovered a restaurant two doors down that serves food already prepared – breakfast often being a rushed meal – prior to the power being cut. I made my selections, grabbed a set of chopsticks, and headed back to the hostel where I could make coffee – thermoses of hot water are still a major item found in hotels and restaurants in China – to add to my picnic on the large deck. Coffee, breakfast and a book – I was happily unplugged for several hours.

Naturally, after I did finally have a bunk to call my own, I was also ready to explore. My first stop was to the Fuzimiao (Confucian Temple) down the street. I rather liked the apples and ribbons hung on trees by couples – either for good luck or progeny, probably the latter considering the importance of family according to Confucius. No clear explanation as to how Confucius (b. 551 BCE) would be where many Chinese choose to show their devotion. However, his philosophy on moral standards and filial piety were, and remain, the base of Chinese culture. I have always wondered why temples were built to venerate Confucius – temples were generally erected for religious reasons. Confucius never considered himself a god, not even a messenger of God. I spent some time making friends with the few Temple cats sunning themselves. I also had to don my sunglasses to hide my tears for Mozzy. (This would happen pretty well every time I visited a place that also had cats in residence)

I could not resist this very cranky looking kitty with his brush and stand – not that I was going to try to pet him!

After the truncated visit to the temple I visited Nanjing’s very busy, pedestrians only, Fuzimiao (Confucian Temple) Street and surrounding area where the hostel is handily located. In addition to the Confucian Temple and the Imperial Examination Hall there is a lot to see. I did not make it to the latter – too worn out. In hindsight I wondered just how much I missed of the Confucian Temple though, the time I was there, and what I saw, certainly did not cover what I have since read about it. (The Temple and site were undergoing extensive renovations which did explain why some areas were not accessible) Next time I visit a place I will have to be better prepared! I The various wares and food did not draw my attention nearly as much as what I consider a new trend – mainly with young men – tattoos. A cross on the throat of one young man, others with various neck tattoos. Young women seem to keep their inkings to shoulder blades or arms – perhaps easier to cover up or be discreet. I blame my lack of enthusiasm for trying out the many delectable selections to the morning head bash, no electricity and a cranky driver. My mantra at the end of each day was rapidly becoming – I was worn out! I was in my bunk by 8:00pm.

This funny fellow seemed to belong to a wax museum.

My plan for the following day was to visit the Museum to the Massacre of Nanjing. Even two months on I remain unable to adequately put into words what I felt and saw. This became palpable throughout my trip each time I visited a recent (20th Century) historic site of conflict.

I did not take any photos from inside. However, the monuments and statues outside tell the story far better than I can.

What I first saw once inside, formally called The Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invader, was a mass grave, with many of the skeletons laid out relatively straight. It was an eerie sight; who took the time? It is important to know that the anthropologists, the forensic scientists, anyone involved with the discovery of this mass grave, pulled no punches when describing the atrocities against these victims – they were all brutally murdered. I wish I had known the importance of the flags the majority of the visitors were carrying, and just how much the tragedy of the massacres (as with earlier and, sadly, later mass ‘war losses’, worldwide, I doubt there is no knowing how many more mass graves remain undiscovered) to this day has an affect on the citizens of Nanjing as well as the whole country. As we solemnly passed by, and around the grave site, then – in mute harmony – matched numbers to photographs, visitors left a flag next to a name, a picture, a story, a memory.

A question came to mind while a few visitors were taking photos of the bared bones. (As visitors came closer to the exit they appeared to lose the shroud of quiet respect with a need for the air of modernity – death, particularly of such magnitude – is easier to leave behind from behind a lens). I should remark here that 10,000 bodies are not under scrutiny at the memorial, I did not make a note of how many – one being too many when considering why they are there – skeletons are displayed at the memorial, although I think fewer than 150 based on the numbers laid beside each remains. The question was were we, who are visiting, collectively guilty of ghoulishness, or was it an attempt to keep the memory, or a reminder to never let it happen again? Not that it has not happened since.


It seems nearly an insult to write of the more pleasant visit I made to the city wall of Nanjing. Similar to the Great Wall outside of Beijing, and across the country, the ancient cities of China had fortifications built to keep enemies out. Nanjing, as well as Xi’an, had built a wall to surround the city. For a fee, senior discount for me, it is possible to climb the stairs to the top of the wall and go for a very pleasant walk. The sections that are open to the public stretch to six kilometres – I walked only 3. It is also much easier than the often arduous climbing of the sections of the Great Wall. I spent a couple of hours walking, taking in the view of the city on one side and a park on the other. Birds chirping, a slight breeze, and trees shimmering below were a balm after the museum. As this was a Sunday there were people cycling, walking, classical singing, tai chi, playing instruments were only some of what I heard and saw A photo shoot was happening on the wall – how the woman managed to climb the stairs in the long, flowing gown, was beyond me. I have noticed that women often carry, or have them carried, a pair of heels when heading to have photos done. Once again I was not sure if this was an wedding party or a fashion shoot. This time the dress was red – making it even more difficult to figure out. Unfortunately, by the time the Japanese attacked Nanjing on Dec. 13, 1937, the wall was useless against the bombings. It made me wonder if the Japanese were laughing at the ancient fortifications once considered strong enough to push back any invading army.

the inscriptions in the bricks are many, many centuries old, with some dating back to when the wall was first built. Although some histories say it was the builders who wrote them that seems unlikely as they were labourers and unlikely to have had any formal education.

After walking down from the wall I walked about 100metres before encountering the strangest sight – people had crossed over the low fence across from the lake and were kicking the trees before stooping down to gather up whatever had fallen to the ground. There were gingko trees and some trees I did not recognize which seemed to indicate this was a rather nifty, relieve your stress at the same time, way to harvest the fruit that would otherwise just fall and rot. It was quite funny to first hear the whack, whack of foot against trunk and more so when I saw it! Life carries on.

This lovely tearoom was built within the Nanjing Wall during extensive renovations during which time some internal modifications were necessary in order to keep the exterior as close to its original look as possible. I chose a less expensive repast.