78. Beijing – China

78.  Beijing – China

When the Chinese government would not let Sunders come to the United States for the annual International convention, Oi Lin Chen said, “If they cannot come here, we will go to them.”

Betty and I did our rest stop in Hawaii again, where we connected with the Hawaii Sunriders.  Being part of the Hawaii group later proved to be a serendipitous bonus!  Then on to Beijing, a city of eleven million people and eight million bicycles!

We stayed at the CHINA WORLD HOTEL, a new luxury hotel with a touch of old world elegance.  The checkin desk in the lobby was up a flight a stairs, which I could not navigate with my walker.  So the porter led us through a service entrance and through a maze of storage areas and the kitchen to an elevator.

We arrived in the lobby while a full symphony orchestra was playing Viennese waltzes in the lounging area.  We discovered we could get to a balcony overlooking the lounging area to enjoy the string quintet that played in the lobby weekday afternoons before dinner.  The food at the hotel was fantastic!   The food was served family style on a turntable in seven courses.  I never knew there were so many different kinds of mushrooms!

Betty and I luxuriated in the huge spa, heated pool, and exercise room.  In the exercise room, an attendant came up and struck up a conversation in her limited English.  “You must be very wealthy,” she said. Hmmmm — I felt rich, but I told her I was just “average” in the United States.

Doing a bit of exploring, we found an escalator at the end of the lobby that gave access to a huge underground shopping mall.  I thought I’d give it a try, but at the top of the escalator, I let go of the walker, and it went bouncing down by itself. Fortunately, no one was on the escalator or at the bottom, so no one got hurt.  A passerby helped me down the stairs to reunite with my walker.

Traveling with Sunrider gave us the opportunity to experience a taste of luxury!

77. Hong Kong

77.  Hong Kong

In Hong Kong — Kowloon actually, we stayed at the luxurious Shanga La Hotel overlooking Hong Kong harbor.  There was a huge gold tapestry at the end of the lobby, and huge floral displays.

Hong Kong is actually an island, across the harbor.  There was a choice of crossing by ferry boat, underneath in a tunnel, or by bridge.  Somehow, we managed to go all three.  One trip was to see the smiling Budda, a huge statue of a sitting Budda where Buddhists come to burn incense.

Jan took us on a walk from the hotel to shop in the shops in Kowloon.  I was a little intimidated by the crowded narrow streets with tiny alleyways branching off between buildings.  I walked near the curb to be as far as possible from the alleyways so no one could grab me and pull me into the dark ally.  It was incredible to see the bamboo scaffolding up the sides of high-rise buildings.

Lunch at the restaurant at the top of Victoria Peak was fantastic.  The view of Hong
Kong harbor and Kowloon was stunning.  The salads and desserts were on buffet tables, and I discovered they had milk custard like my mother used to make.  I ate a lot of milk custard!

The man in the rooster suit “flew” above the stage as below him the dragon twisted and weaved, and two “monkeys” tumbled onstage.  It was the Year of the Monkey in China!   The crowd of 6,000 + Sunders from all over the world roared its approval!   The air at the Hong Kong Convention Center was charged with excitement as Sunrider Directors from the United States & Canada, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Tailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Holland, etc. listened to inspiring speakers, and watched elaborately staged presentations.

The audience itself was a rainbow of colorful jackets.  Distributors from each country were seated together in their section – America and Canada in red, Australia in green, Japan in purple, Europe in yellow, etc.

Each speaker was translated into English or Chinese, and simultaneously in five other languages through headsets.

The high point of the evening, was the heartfelt talks by OI Lin and Tei Fu Chen, owners of Sunrider.  Oi Lin, born and raised in Hong Kong, whose parents were street peddlers; was full of emotion at her home-coming.

We were touched to tears by Tei Fu when he spoke words I will never forget!  “You have seen the roots of Sunrider (the gardens in the mountains of Taiwan.)  but without America there would be no Sunrider.  The free enterprise system has allowed Sunrider to prosper.  Free enterprise is the hope of the world!”  There was a pause of silence as his words were translated into the many languages.  Then the whole place erupted in a roar of applause and wild cheerIng as they stood to their feet to “honor” the US & Canada Distributors seated together on the main floor.

76. Taiwan

76.   Taiwan

We arrived at the Taipei,Taiwan airport late at night, and were surprised to be met by a few Sunrider leaders and  Tei Fu and Oi Lin Chen, owners of Sunrider.   They informed us that we would stay in Taipei that night, and our luggage would be sent on ahead for tomorrow night, and to take out only what we needed for the night.

Next day, for three hours, our tour bus crept up narrow hairpin curves into the mountains of Taiwan.  We passed through a tiny village with waving shouting people, and fireworks exploding.  We later learned that it was Dr. Chen’s home town.  (Local boy makes good, huh!)  At the top, we walked down a long “avenue” of flags to the Sunrider pavilion where we were treated to displays by the villagers of crafts and games and tea making.  While the Chens led the group on a walking tour of the gardens, I watched two men in the pavilion processing mountain tea by hand.

The view of the valley below was magnificent, with a focus point of the elaborate village Buddhist temple standing grand against the sky.  Someone asked Dr. Chen what they would do if bugs got on the plants.  His response, “I guess we’d pick ‘em off.  Healthy plants do not attract bugs, just as healthy bodies do not attract disease.”

That night, back in Taipei, we had the first conference meeting at the huge Taipei multiple “gymnasium” — 5:00 to 10:30 PM.  It was February 22, the same day we left Hawaii on the trip.  We had crossed the International Date Line.

The biggest impression of our time in Taiwan, was the people we met and shared food with.  Everyone had a different story, but overlapping, because Sunrider whole food botanicals had changed their lives!  Some stories were heart warming, some were miraculous!  And, we certainly got a chance to “check out” the Chens up close, and see where they came from.

I think the tour packager forgot to schedule much sleep time, because we were up early and off to Hong Kong for the second part of the conference.  All I knew about Hong Kong was that it was a British Protectorate, on the edge of China, and was a global shopping destination.

75. Discovering “Why” Florida

75 Discovering “Why” Florida

Betty and I were looking for help for her mother, and went to a health food store named “Scriptural Nutrition” for a free consultation with the nutritionist.  We were impressed enough to go back for a consult ourselves.  The nutritionist was Dale Boyll, who ran the store with his wife Deb.  Dale introduced us to whole food, and specifically, whole food concentrates from Sunrider International.  Dale also taught what the Bible had to say about food and being healthy.

It was the whole foods that turned me around.  I was going “down hill,” but the new nutrition got us off “chemical cuisine,” and I noticed new energy and mental acuity.  We signed up to be distributors of Sunrider, a network marketing company, to buy the products at wholesale.

In the Sunrider magazine, there was an announcement of a trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong for Directors and above in February.  I put the page on our dream board.

My sister Jan was impressed by my improvement, and started eating Sunrider foods.  We shared with our families and some friends, and to our surprise, two months later, we made Director rank and qualified for the trip.  Our Amway business in Hawaii had dried up, so we decided to take the trip to Taiwan to meet the Chens, owners of Sunrider, and check out the company before committing to Sunrider, and giving up Amway.

We were delighted that Jan, and a friend of hers, would go along on their own to share the experience!  We left early to stop and rest and visit friends in Hawaii, and Jan would meet us in Taiwan, when the Sunrider groups were to arrive.

Being “home” in Hawaii again after three years was fantastic!  We stayed with friends, and visited as many as possible in the ten busy days there.  Sunday service at Kalihi Union church was special.  The pastor called attention to our being there.  Attending a Christian Vision meeting with the Hongos was nostalgic.

Then, it was time to go on to Taiwan.  The Chens had given everyone going to the conference a beautiful red jacket, with the message to wear them for the trip so we would be recognized at the Taipei airport, and assisted through customs.

On the way to the Honolulu airport, Betty expressed our feeling of apprehension.  Here we were, going alone to a foreign county; we did not speak the language, and the flight arrived late at night.  Would there be anyone to meet us?

When we arrived at the gate at the Honolulu airport, Betty gave a big sigh of relief.  The waiting area was full of people wearing red jackets!  We had connected with the Hawaii Sunrider group!  We were greeted like part of the family.  We settled in for the 5000 mile, fourteen hour flight to Taiwan.

Join us next for our Taiwan adventure.


74. Wildlife by the Pond

74.  Wildlife by the Pond

Wildlife viewing exceeded our expectations!  A big blue heron tried to claim the territory by standing on the fence by the pond for days.  But he wearied of chasing the many egrets, large and small, which came to “fish” in the shallow water.  In the top of a tree behind the pond, I spotted the white head of a Bald Eagle.  It was drizzling rain, and he was sitting with wings spread wide; probably soaked up too much water.

An otter came through several days.  The “warty” toads outside the house had little ones, if you can imagine toads the size of your little finger nail.  A green toad, the size of a quarter, camped on the doorbell a few days, but I guess he got tired of the ringing in his ears, and moved to the door jam above.

Betty’s mother put up a bird feeder and bath.  These conveniences attracted cardinals, and grackles, redwing blackbirds, a great flock of doves, and assorted others.  The flock of baby cattle egrets with their golden plumes were a delight.  They dashed about the yard, especially after a mowing, to see who could catch the grasshoppers and bugs.  One trio swooped low in over the pond, then flared up to land gracefully on the bank.  The third one mis-judged his “fare” and nose-dived into the bank — embarrassing, I’m sure!

We were delighted when a pair of cardinals showed up on the sill of our one-way window in the bathroom.  We were not so delighted when the female stayed, day after day, to peck at her reflection — starting at dawn!   Tap, tap tapity tap…groan.  I finally covered the outside of the window with cardboard so we could sleep.  After a week, the rain took the cardboard off and the cardInal did not return.

One day I discovered a giant four foot lizard in the planter in the corner of the pool.  How it got in the pool enclosure I do not know.  The animal rescue guy who came to get it told us it was not native to Florida, and was an illegal pet.

We arrived home one day to see the big turtle that had moved into our pond, crossing the street in front of the house.  Betty ran to the rescue!  She lifted his rear end, hoping to speed him out of the street.  Oops.  He disappeared into his shell.  Several cars stopped, blocking the street, but Betty poked at the turtle’s rear, and finally got him to our yard.  Once he saw the pond, he made a fast dash for the water.

Most nights during the summer we enjoyed our evening swim serenaded by the magnificent harmony of the 500,000 mixed voice frog chorus in the miles of swamp north of us.  At their best on rainy nights, the chorus was joined by three guest operatic bull frog bass soloists stationed near our bedroom window.  The deep bass bull frogs were a counterpoint for the special echo arias across the swamp!  Beautiful!

A few nights, between 3:00 & 4:00 AM, the choir was joined, (or startled silent) by the punctuation of a “night-caller.”  It sounded like a 300 lb. Flamingo frightened from sleep by a bad dream, or the dying scream of the Creature from the Black Lagoon!  Someone suggested a screech owl — It was either a very LARGE screech owl, or one close to our window with a megaphone!  The only bird we have learned about with such a call, is the Sand Hill Crane, which can be four feet tall.  But why they would be flying at 3:00 AM, we’ll never know.

One moonlit night as I shuffled to a mid-night raid on the refrigerator, I noticed a shadowy figure in the backyard!  A huge masked bandit rousting the bird feeder!  A large raccoon ambled over to check the offerings.  After failing to reach above the squirrel “discourager” shield, Mr. Coon sat down and shook the feeder pole so the seeds fell down.  Why climb?   Round 1 — Mr. Coon.

Next morning, we discovered the top was off our garbage can and trash scattered over the yard as our stuff was “searched.” — Round 2 — Mr. Coon again.

We tied the top on the garbage can.  Next morning we found the can tipped over with the top worked open just far enough for Mr. Coon to pull stuff out – Round 3 — Mr. Coon, still ahead.

We then tied the secured can to the house by the pool enclosure so it couldn’t be tipped over.  Next morning.  Round 4 — We win! — can still intact!

So, that night we put the can out by the street for the next day garbage pick up. (We’re smart, but a little slow.)  You guessed it!  Next morning the trash was spread a little too thin along the street for the men to pick it up.
Round 5 — and winner again— Mr. Coon!  From then on we took the trash out in the morning.  Game over.

The vision isn’t always the result.  The “sit tub” was so deep, I couldn’t see out the one-way window, which incidentally was one-way out during the day, and one-way in at night when one is bathing.  The water in the solar roof over the pool heated nicely on warm, sunny summer days, so I swam at night in bath-tub warm water, but in summer, Florida also has many grey days, and the water was like any other pool — too cold for me.

The “dream home” was fun while it lasted.  My sister Jan moved to Tampa to live with her daughter, and Betty’s mother moved to an assisted living facility.  The house was too big for the two of us, so it was time to move on.


73. Dream Home

73. Dream Home

When we got acquainted with the young couple upstairs at our Twin Lakes apartment, we learned that his father was a small contractor building houses in the county north of us.  Real estate was cheaper, and taxes lower, and his father was a custom quality builder.  My retirement money had kicked in, so we decided to build our dream home.

Betty and I had great fun workIng with the contractor to design our dream home which we built on a choice end lot in the Cyprus Lakes subdivision in Pasco County.

The house had three bedrooms with private baths.  One was a mother-in-law apartment for Betty’s mother, and one bedroom for my sister Jan, who joined us during winters.  The house ended up being twenty-two hundred square feet, with a great room that had double sliding glass doors out to the pool.  There was a large Pullman kitchen with a serving counter at the end.  A dining room with a wall separating it from the great room, we used as our office.

There was a thirty foot screened in exercise pool, three feet deep at the ends, and four feet in the middle.  We made a deal with a contractor who was getting started with a new solar roof imported from Australia.  For a steep discount, we agreed that he could send referrals to see the pool roof, and hear our testimony.  Tiny tubes ran through the roof panels where water was heated for the pool.  The panels were designed to reflect the sun in summer, and transmit sun in winter to moderate the enclosure temperature.    

Betty tested our custom “sit-tub” Jacuzzi in the large master bath, while the workers were finishing it. With panoramic one-way windows over the tub, I gazed out on my domain.  One view was in to the woods, the other over the pool toward the pond.  With the water jets massaging my back, this was luxury!

The house was next to a cyprus woods, so we were expecting to see wildlife.  With the pond in back attracting the big herons and egrets, we were not disappointed.  You’ll meet our visitors next time.

72. Billboards & Pelicans

72.  Billboards & Pelicans

People asked us if there was much difference between Florida and Hawaii.  There are palm trees, beaches, and ocean views, and this is “The Sunshine State.”  An immediate distraction and difference that we had to adapt to was the proliferation of billboards and signs.  Hawaii has no billboards or big store front signs distracting from the beauty of the islands.

Another difference was the temperature range.  We arrived in October, and two months later it got cold — real cold!  The temperature went down below freezing, and there was ice on oranges just north of Tampa, which is about midway down the west coast of the state.

July 25, 1990!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!   A red-letter once-in-a-life-time birthday!  I was 55, and officially retired from my first major career as Instructor at the University of Hawaii for twenty-four years.  We could also officially close the sale of our house — and officially get my retirement income started — yahoooo!  To celebrate, we went out for dinner at a beachfront restaurant at Clearwater Beach.  My sister Jan was there from Miami to share in our dinner party.  Incidentally, our dinner was compliments of Barbara Pratt, our real estate agent, benefactor, former student, and super-friend in Hawaii.

The sun was still fairly high on the horizon when we sat down at the window table in the empty restaurant — just us early birds, the waiter, the manager, and a super chef somewhere.  We were entertained by a bevy of seagulls and a pelican trio outside.  The pelicans flew in line above the shallow water along the beach, and dive-bombed the minnows.

The beach curved away into the distance, a golden highway to memories of our Hawaiian honeymoon, and to dreams of our future “second time” and place.

Those were exciting days!

71. Aloha Hawaii – Aloha Florida

71.  Aloha Hawaii – Aloha Florida

After two days reminiscing at the Hawaiian Regent, we were winging our way to San Francisco — so we thought.  Just past the midpoint, the pilot announced an earthquake had damaged the airport in San Francisco and we were diverted to Sacramento.

After being stranded at the airport overnight, we flew a small United Express to San Jose the next day to spend a few days with Betty’s Aunt Ella and house friend, Mary.  Things were tense at their house.  After the second time the big sledge hammer hit the house, I could see why.  The earthquake aftershocks got one’s attention!

We finally flew into Tampa, and made it to Dunedin, where we rented an apartment at “Twin Lakes.”  Betty’s mother had an apartment across the street.

We enjoyed being with “Mother,” Betty’s mother, who was our local guide and recreation director.  Mother treated us to “THE ICECAPADES” at the St. Pete Convention Center.  There was a day trip to Cypress Gardens to enjoy the waterski show and the flowers.  When we asked Mother what she liked best about Cypress Gardens, she said she liked driving the golf cart we rented for her.

We had dinner together most days, and went out for dinner after church on Sundays.  Saturday night rapidly became “family movie time” when we watched a video together.

I sat on the edge of the inlet and watched a big sailboat furling down to come to mooring.  I eyed the pelican camped on the end of a pole soaking up the sun, and savored the sight of a few sea gulls skimming around looking for minnows.  A huge white Egret, probably three feet tall, stalked up the grass two yards down from me.  I inhaled the salty pungent smell of waterfront — this is Florida!  The pelican winked, the gull squawked, “Welcome Kanaka! ( Hawaii native) Welcome new Cracker.” (Native Floridian)

70. Memories – Last Days in Hawaii

70.  Memories – Last Days in Hawaii

Our last two nights in Hawaii we moved to the Hawaiian Regent Hotel with a beautiful room overlooking Waikiki Beach. (thanks to some Amway friends for arranging that!)   Twenty-four years ago, on our wedding night, I surprised Betty with champagne and a portable record player playing Hawaiian music.  This time, with Aileen’s help, there was a bottle of sparkling apple juice in a bucket of ice waiting in our hotel room, and the radio supplied Hawaiian music — awww shucks — I’m a romantic, OK?

I sat on the lanai of our hotel room and looked down the sweep of Waikiki Beach, I could see the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel where we dined at beachfront, the  Halekulani, where twenty-four years ago our Ionia friend Mel Haney, took us to the beachfront lanai to listen to a Hawaiian trio.  It seemed fitting that our last time “out” in Hawaii was the Halekulani.

I watched the beach catamarans sailing in with conch shells sounding the alert to swimmers.  We had sailed on one of those the first day of our first honeymoon.  And of course, there were the times we sailed our own boat along the shore off Waikiki to anchor and snorkel, while we snickered at the tourists paying a fortune to enjoy what we had all the time.

It was right out there we had sailed with a school of porpoise dancing around the boat, crossing under the bow close enough to touch.  It was right out there we saw the whales blowing spray.  It was right out there we saw simultaneous rainbows over Kalihi, Nuuanu, and Manoa Valleys — a beautiful sight on a beautiful day!  It was right out there we “popped the spinnaker” and “flew” a mile offshore while Betty was bouncing in a high powered speed boat to photograph the sight!

There, just past the Royal Hawaiian, I could see the top floor of the Sheraton Waikiki.  Was it our 14th wedding anniversary we danced to the music of Trummy Young in the Hano Hano room?  I surprised Betty with a cake for dessert — and got surprised myself when the waiter brought THE WRONG CAKE!  Betty blew out the candles, and we got our anniversary cake.

Moonlight over Waikiki after dinner at the historic Moana Hotel. Waikiki! —a magic place!  Just up the street from the Halekulani, is the Reef Tower, our first honeymoon hotel twenty-four years ago!  How many times have I seen the sun set behind the Waianae Mountains!  There are a lot of memories, but, the “Hawaiian Honeymoon” was over.

Our decision, and departure were sudden; three months to wrap up, close down, sell our place, notify everybody, sell everything we could, including the cars, pack for shipping, etc. etc.  Betty and I worked around the clock — thirty-four hours straight to prepare for the shipper.  I have never worked so long and so hard in my life!  Then we collapsed fully dressed and slept fourteen hours to catch up.

Our second car sold the night before we departed.  We left our place in the able hands of Barbara Pratt, our realtor, who took care of the sale and closing.  Two weekend “moving sales” cleaned out tons of stuff, including all furniture and bed.  We ate on a borrowed card table, and slept on borrowed futons.  As we closed the door of our home of the past ten years, I turned to Betty and said, “finished?”  She answered,”pau” — the end.

Aloha Hawaii.  Aloha means “hello,” and also “goodbye”.  Leaving Hawaii was painful!  Looking back, we are grateful that God pushed us along to save my life, and to open new doors of opportunity and new adventures for us, that we would not have experienced had we still been living there today!

69. 2nd Honeymoon?

69.  2nd Honeymoon?

The decision was made to leave Hawaii.  Now what?   We called Betty’s mother in Florida, and asked if she thought we could live together.  She told me she had been thinking this same thing because her house-partner had moved out, and she was alone in her mobile home in Dunedin, Florida.

“I can’t believe it! ”I don’t believe it! “Whaaaaaat?!….”Why?”…these are a few of the comments we received when we told our friends that the Hicks’. after “honeymooning” in Hawaii” for twenty-four years, were leaving for the mainland.  “What?  Back to the mainland?”  NO, no…FORWARD to the mainland.  Florida, on the West coast near Tampa, to be more accurate.

We left for the simple honest fact, that with my impending retirement from the University, we could not afford to live in Hawaii.  It was a hard, tear-provoking decision but home is where the heart is, and our hearts were weary from the struggle of the past few years, so logic prevailed.  It was not logical to live in paradise if we could not enjoy it… and the Lord seemed to be telling us that our hearts were needed elsewhere.

To put a positive spin on the move to Florida, I said our Divine Guide had called us to a second honeymoon.

Then it occurred to me, if we are going on a second  honeymoon, we should get married again!  I proposed, this time on my knee, and Betty said “Yes” again.  When we shared the idea with our friends Aileen, Dottie and Nadja, they formed a committee, and the thing snowballed!

We had the wedding ceremony and reception at Kalihi Union Church.  Our assistant pastor led us through re-commitment vows.  Randy and Gay Hongo and Mark and Diane Yasuhara (The Hawaiians) sang.  Betty’s mother sent her wedding dress, which fit perfectly after 24 years!  My bride was as beautiful as before.  Then we moved to the gym for an Aloha Potluck with program.

Our MC was Clayton Naluai, an Amway friend, Waikiki entertainer, and former MC for the Don Ho Show.  He sang a couple numbers.  Special friend Barbara Pratt spoke words of affirmation and inspiration.  Randy helped me realize a dream, to play my horn with him.  I did two numbers, I’ll Remember You”, for Hawaii and our friends, and “Amazing Grace”, for the Lord and me.  Randy and  Gay sang, and presented us with a beautiful plaque from Christian Vision.  The Hawaiians, Mark and Diane, climaxed the program with a tremendous inspirational song.

We had a fantastic cake which we cut ceremoniously with the same knife we used twenty-four years ago!

Betty shared our agony of deciding to leave, and our hope for the future.  I skimmed through memories of moments in Hawaii over twenty-four years, when the Lord touched us, and  led us, and loved us.  I felt so loved this night with so many of our friends, and  our Spirit.

When this exciting beautiful, exhausting evening climaxed, then gradually collapsed into clean-up and memories, we went down to Waikiki, to the lounge at the Halekulani with Aileen Leong (Chinen), and friends, to listen to Randy sing and play for us.  We needed to unwind and recall and celebrate life and love — as in Randy’s songs.  Thanks Aileen, for making such a memorable time for us!