Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Music Programs at the University School

There were other musical programs which we were involved with during the time when our children were at the University School. In their early days, there were no special music teachers provided by the school. There was an arts teacher, but the school did not hire a full time music teacher for many years. Sometimes a student's parent played for the children during a special program. Much later the University School did hire a full time music teacher and he started a singing group and some instrumental programs. Although the singing group had some success, those who were in an instrumental program had to provide their own instrument, which was not very easy to accomplish. Clearly, it was very difficult to have a worthwhile music program at this small school of about 6 hundred students spread over all 12 grades. By contrast, in Taiwan, when I was growing up, although we were very poor we always had a music teacher for our class in school. I have a couple of pictures of a performance at University School which did involve our children:


Monday, August 22, 2016

A "bear" scare on the Blue Ridge Parkway

In the early summer of 1980, Janice and I decided to take a weekend off to go camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As we drove into the Pisgah Mountain campground near Ashville, there was a sign saying "Bear Alert" posted. The ranger told us that they generally do not bother people much, and we were very happy to set up our tent and we quickly forgot all about it. In the middle of that night, I heard a big noise outside. Both Janice and I woke up quickly, in time to watch a big black bear banging our cooler on the picnic table, trying to get everything out of it. He then ate the entire contents as quickly as he could put them into his mouth. We witnessed him eating eggs, bacon, bread, sandwich meat, etc. He also drank a half gallon jar of milk, and - like the coca cola commercials - he would bite a hole on the top of a soft drink can  and then drink it with his head up toward the sky. While this was going on, Janice was making a plan of what we would do if he decided to come into the tent looking for more food.  I would have to use the ax in my hand to fight him off while Janice would cut a hole on the back of the tent and get the kids to our station wagon! Fortunately, he left without coming into our tent so we did not have to carry out our plan. Believe it or not, a few minutes later he came back to finish the last cold drink from our cooler and left us for good! The next morning, our kids were very upset with us because we had not woken them up to witness the visit by the bear! The picture below was taken in front of our tent the day before, and I do not think we used that tent ever again!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Our Savoir Lutheran Church Choir

I started the Our Savoir Lutheran Church Choir sometime after 1973. It was quite small, but was supported by very faithful members. Besides singing at one of the Sunday morning services every week, we generally tried to have at least two concerts a year, just before Christmas and Easter. Since we needed extra time to prepare for these concerts, the weekly practices were very crucial for every member in the choir. We became close friends. For those special concerts, we generally sang a cantata, as I could choose music that fitted the singers we had at the time.   I have posted below a couple of pictures which were taken in the early 1980's.  Unfortunately I do not have one in which every member is depicted. Over the years, we had quite a number of changes. One picture was taken after rehearsal and another one was after a Sunday service!


Friday, August 19, 2016

Music has always been an essential part of my life!

In 1980, I was singing in the Civic Chorale and directing the adult choir of Our Savior Lutheran Church. You could say that I was busy enough with all these musical activities. However, the truth is that I felt that I knew very little about music and that I needed to learn more. So I started voice lessons. First I studied with Betty Fleming who was teaching voice in the Music Department. Later, I switched to working with Bob LaPella who was, at the time, the Director of the Chorale, as well as teaching in the Music Department. While once a week was not much time to devote to lessons, I was certainly involved with music as much as I was to my professional life in Chemistry. Furthermore, Janice was involved in hosting parties after many concerts or choir picnics. I will show you some pictures of these activities. First let me show you today one of our parties after a Chorale concert. We certainly had a great time together!









Thursday, August 4, 2016

Electronic Reports

It was quite a big thing in 1980 to return to China to teach. Not only my parents and my friends were very interested, many strangers were also curious about China. The US government, including the FBI, were interested to know more about the trip. I was interviewed by one of their agents for quite some hours and was asked to summarize all the activities I had attended there, to identify all the people I had encountered there, and to describe the organizations I had come across during the period when I was in China. In 1980, there were no blog or webpages I could use to report my activities electronically. It was not until 2001 that I could report my activities in African on a weekly schedule using the internet. As you can see, what we take for granted today was only developed in the last sixteen to twenty years. I did post my 1980 China trip and many later ones, which took place over more than fifteen years and gave me opportunity to see the whole of China, on our webpage as part of our whole collection of memories to be found at jat.esmartweb.com. The jat stands for "Janice and Tom's" world. It became our way of recording many things and includes all the activities of our grandchildren and all our travels after our retirement.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A very unusual event!

The iron curtain was referenced in the western world during the period of the Cold War, from 1945 to 1991. However, China had the so-called "bamboo curtain" during the period between 1949 to about 1978, at which time Nixon went to China and opened China in a dramatic way. My trip to China was actually as a result of this "opening". With the help of the United Nations, some funds were shifted to China to help with those opening steps. Technical people were invited to China for a variety of reasons, and apparently I was somewhere among those steps. It was, of course, a big event in the East Tennessee Area. Almost every newspaper carried some story of my trip and every TV station  reported my visit to my homeland. I am posting below a local newspaper report with a picture of my visit to the Great Wall of China.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Quilin(桂林), China

One of the perks included with the invitation to lecture in China was the offer of a trip to a place of my choice. The choice I made was Quilin, as it was the place which I had heard had the most beautiful Chinese scenery. There is an old Chinese saying, " 桂林山水甲天下", which translated means that "Quilin has the best scenery under the sky". After Wuhan, I took a train to Quilin. It was a very strange trip. First of all, I found out that I was the only passenger in that section of the train and during meals time, then later in the hotel, I was also the only person eating my meals in the foreign section. There were just no other foreign guests during the time! Although I was assigned a personal guide who accompanied me at all times, I had a good time anyway. The pictures below were taken then. After the trip, I flew to Hong Kong and then back home having completed my first China trip!