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CHINA AND PANCAKES
5 April 2011
And no, I don't mean moo goo gai pan or even egg foo yung.
Today was our first class in the study of China, which we are taking through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at a UC Berkeley building. The OLLI program is designed for old farts like us who want to keep learning stuff. A college course without exams, where you aren't the oldest one in the class and where your butt fits in the seats -- what could be better?
I've heard raves about the program from lots of people (primarily Char, who has taken several courses at Berkeley), but sadly, each campus has its own OLLI program (if you join one, it's not transferrable to another), which means my OLII Berkeley membership is not transferrable to UC Davis, and so far I have not found any courses here in Davis that even begin to sound interesting. But Char was planning to take a course called "From the Silk Road to Shanghai: Modern China." She asked if I was interested.
The course meets at 10 a.m., in Berkeley, every Monday but I decided what the heck--might as well get a little knowledge about China before our trip. As I talked about it, Walt decided he would take the course too, so this morning was our first class, which is why we had to rush home from Santa Barbara on Sunday, instead of staying over one more day to have another day with Brianna (and her parents, of course).
We got home from Santa Barbara around 8 or so and got the car unloaded and the dogs fed and sat down to watch Desperate Housewives at 9. I never saw the end of it. It was like coming home from Bri's party exhausted, though I had done no work whatsoever. I was exhausted after our long drive, even though Walt did all the driving home. I was zonked before 10 p.m. This means, of course, that I did not post a journal entry until morning. I woke up sometime around 1 a.m. and got up just long enough to set the timer on the stove, because I knew if I didn't get the journal entry written between 5 and 6, I wouldn't have time to do it at all.
That's a very long, boring way of saying that we went to Berkeley and met Char at the class, which should give us some background about China, which may make our trip more interesting and meaningful.
Our teacher, Gloria Neumeier, says she's 80.
I did some googling and found that she is a 1952 graduate of Barnard College, with an MA from Dominican college in San Rafael. She is a professor at SF State and Sonoma State and in February of this year was in Hong Kong doing research for course that she is teaching on "The New China." She has spent much of the past 20 years teaching in foreign settings, from Kenya and China to Vietnam and Kosovo. These experiences with ordinary people have shaped her ideas about how societies and government policy interact. She has taught at Dominican College, College of Marin and OLLI at SFSU. The last few years she has spent time visiting NGO projects in Cambodia and Laos . A few years ago she re-visited both Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as traveling from Phnom Penh to Vietnam by boat along the Mekong River. Gloria taught for two years in the Peoples Republic of China and visited Shanghai in 2010 as delegate with the San Francisco/Shanghai Sister City Commission to the World Expo.
She reminds me some of Walt's mother, a tiny woman, but a dynamo, who certainly does not look her age, though they really should keep laser pointers away from old people with shaky hands!
Today's lecture dwelt on the various regions of China, its ethnic and cultural differences and the problem of trying to unify a country larger than the United States with so many tribal regions so far removed from the central government. There was a slide show, which I loved, because it showed some "caves," which had featured prominently in the mystery I read about the building of the Three Gorges Dam. I have a mental image of a "cave" in this country, but in China, there are whole cities built in the walls of cliffs. They look for all the world as ornate as a hotel you might find elsewhere, but that's only the facade...inside it is built into the side of the cliff. It was nice to have that frame of reference.
I don't know how much I retained of this first lecture (Char and Walt took notes), but I look forward to next week's class. We will miss the last class because we will be on our field trip--in China.
When the class was over, we went to our respective garages to get our respective cars and then I suggested to Walt that he and I have lunch at Bette's Ocean View diner, where I had eaten some months ago, on suggestion from the local PBS program Check Please, Bay Area, a program where a group of 3 submit their favorite restaurants, all eat at each other's choice, and then everyone sits around and discusses/critiques it. Everything from fancy schmancy expensive places, to little hole in the walls like Bette's.
Bette's Ocean View Diner is a misnomer. It's in Berkeley and the only view is of the shops across the street. But even if you removed the buildings you'd still have to go a few more blocks west, cross the freeway, cross a few more blocks, cross the San Francisco Bay and duck under the Golden Gate Bridge before you'd actually be at ocean. But apparently a very long time ago, before there was a freeway, there was a housing development called (optimistically) "Ocean View" and Bette's is a remnant of that development.
It's a great place and it is famous for its pancakes, so the wall art features a buttermilk pancake.
This is a real diner, with the black and white linoleum on the floor, a juke box in the corner, plush booths plus a counter where you can watch the cooks cook and if you sat in front, you sat under a huge piece of cherry pie.
Though it was lunch time, we both opted for breakfast. I had the pancakes because it's their specialty (they even sell pancake mix and a book of pancake recipes) and I love pancakes anyway. Walt had a Philadelphia breakfast, so he could find out what scrapple is.
After lunch, we walked around a little bit on the street where the diner is located. I always say I hate shopping, but if I lived in a neighborhood like this with all the cute, unusual shops, I'd be in debt by the end of the first week.
Walt drove home while I finished my James Patterson book, and now I'm trying to get caught up on all the little things that I either need to do or wanted to do when we got home again after our trip (mostly involving things to write or transcribe). So nice that I will be HOME most of this week and can get caught up.
PHOTO OF THE DAY