Posts from the ‘Programs’ Category

Red Altar Project: Immigratitude? Yes!

The Red Altar Project: Stories of Immigration, Migrations and Journeys – is a visual and performance art celebration of our stories towards a diverse society. This project welcomes not only Americans who are from an immigrant status, not just People of Color, but all peoples who have taken challenging journeys and risks against racism, hatred and ignorance. Through the triumph of their survival and the endeavors of their communities they have woven a stronger social fabric for us all. We believe that art created from this context will transform and enlighten all!
Red Altar is a live doc-drama, multi-media storytelling performance from Nancy Wang and Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo of Eth-Noh-Tec. It is about 6 teens that crossed the ocean from China, crashed in the Carmel Bay of California and starting the fishing industry in the Monterey Bay area in 1850.

With courage, perseverance and ingenuity, they put down roots despite the anti-Chinese legislation and violence that spanned over 1/2 a century in America.

Played to standing ovations, this piece has garnered the following responses:

“Last night the RED ALTAR was magnificent, provocative and important storytelling. Eth-Noh-Tec’s dramatization of a very personal Asian history becomes as relevant, universal, painful and vital as todays headlines.

Masterful performances by Nancy Wang and Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo and brilliant sound and visual projections combine with unyielding historic fact to create an evening that is as remarkable as it is significant.” – Ron Coulter, performing artist

“T’was truly extraordinary performance… redefining the term, “political theater”, and definitely moving the needle on the immigration issue and my understanding of some of the disgraceful aspects of our nation’s history.

…amazing combination of lighting, movement, narrative, personal and cultural history, imagery, expression, and musicianship…” – Fred Klein, poet and architect

RED ALTAR: MULTI-MEDIA STORYTELLING THEATER (Sat. MAY 23 9:00 pm & Sun. May 24 2:30 pm)

Red Altar Postcard FRONT
1850.  A Chinese junk boat crashes into the Carmel Bay. Six teenagers are flung overboard and are rescued by Rumsean-Esselen natives. 

With today’s rallying cries against immigrants, Red Altar, written and performed by award-winning storytellers Nancy Wang and Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo, demonstrates and celebrates the contributions of three generations and three fishing villages of Chinese immigrants who start the fishing industry in the Monterey Bay area despite anti-Chinese violence, both legal and illegal.  

With cries of ‘Chinese must go!’ , media propaganda with racist caricatures, legal discrimination laws, and “ethnic cleansing”, these courageous ancestors persevered until seven generations later, their story is being told.

Bringing those times alive through the exciting art of Eth-Noh-Tec’s storytelling movement and music theater, it is augmented by multi-media designed by video/ image artists Olivia Ting and Don Nguyen.

GALLERY OF IMMIGRATITUDE (Sat. MAY 23 8:30 pm & Sun. May 24 2:00 pm)
The Gallery of Immigratitude, a photo exhibit in the lobby and a panel discussion of issues and challenges surrounding immigration will round out this important production that helps to elucidate that America has always been and still is a diverse immigrant country of rich heritages.

JIAO LEI! LET’S GO!:ARTMAKING & STORYTELLING HONORING IMMIGRATION and MIGRATIONS (Saturday, APR 25, 2-6pm): Bring along a copy of an ancestral family photo if you’d like for cutting up and creative collage work! We’ll supply the rest. Also be thinking about the “gratitude” for the captions and quotes in the portrait photo stations. And of course… bring a SMILE!

Jiao Lei Event JPG

Once you’ve paid thru the “donation” button here (below), your name will be at the door.


Filed as: At the Moment, Programs  

Asian American StoryFest

Our world’s first Asian American StoryFest was an amazing festival! It was everything and more than we wanted it to be! The tellers were stellar, and our Young Performers Ensemble was a hit! We heard so many delightful, deep, and funny stories that brought tears, laughter and heart warmth.

ETH-NOH-TEC’s told a version of China’s The Three Laughing Monks that got the audience laughing, even as they sat in their cars hours later; another night the darker side of the dynamic duo: shape shifting Tiger Woman!

MOTOKO’s STORY: of a new Japanese housewife who held in her ‘gas’ to be polite – with ‘explosive’ consequences!

ALTON TAKIYAMA CHUNG tells of Hawaii’s goddess Pele’s toboggan race with mere mortals; and the compelling tale of Japanese diplomat Sugihara who saved thousands of Jews single-handedly during the holocaust;

ARIF CHOUDHURY tells of a Muslim’s dilemma with eating all the foods common at a friend’s raucous football party (pepperoni pizza, sausage pizza…);

ANNE SHIMOJIMA Weaves a Japanese folk tale of how the headless Samurai got his head reattached;

ETH-NOH-TEC ENSEMBLE told a Korean bilingual story of Konji, their own Cinderella, as well as a Tale from India (“Cleverness”)and one from China (“Nu Wa Mends the Sky”)

BRENDA WONG AOKI recounts sitting beside a homeless person on SF’s Fulton 5 bus and experiencing fear and distain, but ending with grace and gratitude

Two days of stories! A fantastic festival! and of course… a standing ovation.

The panel on ‘Why Storytelling? Why me?’ was very provocative, enlightening, inspiring and powerful. Adding our Asian voices to the storytelling community at large and the storytelling genre was heard!

HELPING HANDS MAKE IT ALL HAPPEN!Our 21 volunteers made it all work! Who could ever do anything without volunteers, board, tech and the greater circle of support: our donors!

Still, if you have a bit of extra loose change about, or know someone who forgot to donate but wanted to, please let us know who that is so we can send him/her a letter or make a phone call. All loose change accepted!! We want to continue training our young performers and that is our next fundraising project!! For those who saw their world premiere, weren’t they lovely? Weren’t they an exciting addition? You can make checks out to Eth-Noh-Tec and send to Eth-Noh-Tec, 977 S. Van Ness, SF CA 94110. Or CLICK HERE:

In Closing:
We are so proud of what we created. It was a tremendous amount of work for us, but in the end, what an outcome!

Following this report are some pictures from the festival! We think you’ll see how wonderful it was just by looking at the photos. Enjoy!

Thank you again for your participation in our festival – a festival always to be remembered!


“Once upon a time…” and still true to this day, sojourners and immigrants from the Asian world have transformed the American world since the 1700’s bringing with them their rich heritages of myth and folk tales as well as weaving their new stories spun from their experiences in the American world.

Now, 300 years later, imagine a stage filled with other nationally recognized, professional Asian American storytellers, weaving traditional and contemporary stories that celebrate Asian culture through their stories!

Come the FIRST, an Asian American Storyfest happening in the SF Bay Area!  We’re always making history!


Witness the humor and pathos of Arif Choudhury; the heroic WWII Japanese American soldier stories, and tales from Hawaii from Alton Takiyama Chung; pan Asian tales and myths through movement, music and the spoken word from Nancy Wang and Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo of Eth-Noh-Tec; tales of humor and delicacy told with Motoko’s words and mime movements; the various Asian tales impeccably told by Anne Shimojima; and the fantastical Asian world tales of Brenda Wong-Aoki.

PLUS! The debut performance of Eth-Noh-Tec’s newly formed ENSEMBLE: featuring NEXT Generation Asian American movement theatrer storytellers: Tatiana Chaterji, Radhika Rao, Julia Ajin Choi.


GENERAL AUDIENCE CONCERTS FRI. MAY 9 & SAT. MAY 10: : Come hear the stories from within barb-wire concentration camps, to beyond the lofty Himalayan mountains, from myths that echoed in palaces of ancient India and China, to the tales from the streets of urban Asian America.  These storytellers will conjure many worlds… stories of insight and imagination, both real and unreal, a listening journey with a panoramic view sweeping from Asia to Asian America. (appropriate for adults and mature youth) NOTE (3 different shows, All Different Stories! See below for locations/ times)

FAMILY MATINEE “An Asian Occasion” – This fun-filled afternoon of delightful Asian folk tales and myths is set in the world of your imagination where all things are possible! A world where there are Wise Fools and Foolish Kings, Clever Tricksters and wistful forest spirits! Come here the stories of laughter and caution, wisdom and wit through traditional stories from cultures of China, Japan, Korea, and more.  Great for families of all ages (age approrpiate for K-5 grades and families; one show only at OACC). Featured tellers: Motoko, Anne Shimojima, Eth-Noh-Tec & The Ensemble SAT. MAY 10, 1:30 pm (Oakland Asian Cultural Ctr. 388 9th Street #290)

FISHBOWL CONVERSATION: “Why me? Why Storytelling?” (only at OACC). A school librarian? a social worker, a dancer, oceanographer, … how did these ordinary people enter the extraordinary world of professional storytelling.  Like the reluctant hero and heroine in Joseph Campbell’s “Power of Myth”, each of these artists set out on a journey, unbeknownst to them they would find along the way a sense of Asian American identity, a sense belonging to community, a gift of service, and a place called home, where the Art of the narrative joins compassion. Come hear the many voices…and these stories. Location: SAT. MAY 10: 7:00 pm FREE! (Oakland Asian Cultural Ctr, 388 9th Street #290)


MAY 9: FRI. “Pan Asia Fantasia” GENERAL AUDIENCE CONCERT – One night only with all the storytellers (8:00 pm- 10:00 pm; Mission Cultural Center; 2868 Mission Street, SF)

MAY 10: SAT. “An Asian Occasion” FAMILY MATINEE, Featured tellers: Motoko, Anne Shimojima, Eth-Noh-Tec & The Ensemble (1:30 pm- 3:00 pm; Oakland Asian Cultural Ctr. 388 9th Street #290)

MAY 10: SAT “From the Voice of the Heart” GENERAL AUDIENCE CONCERT, Featured National Tellers:  Alton Takiyama Chung, Arif Choudhury, Brenda Wong Aoki, & Eth-Noh-Tec (3:30 pm- 5:00 pm; Oakland Asian Cultural Ctr. 388 9th Street #290)

MAY 10: SAT. “Why Me? Why Storytelling?” PANEL DISCUSSION All Featured National Tellers (7:00 pm; Oakland Asian Cultural Ctr. 388 9th Street #290)

MAY 10: SAT. “Mythos, Message and Mirth”GENERAL AUDIENCE CONCERT, All Tellers (8:00pm; ; Oakland Asian Cultural Ctr. 388 9th Street #290)


Single Show Cost – $15 Adult (door $20); $10 Child under 12 (door: $15)

Full Festival/ All Shows: $50 Adult (door $100); $40 Child under 12 (door: $75)

Special/ All shows: “Tribe of Ten”: $13 per person *

*(“Tribe of Ten”: minimum 10 people; adults only)

Besides attending our festival, how about contributing to the Festival Production Campaign? Your donation will aide us in offsetting the cost of production and guarantee a marvelous experience for both the visiting artists and the community.

And, you can also become a volunteer at the festival.  Just contact us:

Filed as: At the Moment, Performances, Programs  

Salon! We’re OFF!

Filed as: At the Moment, Salon! You're On!  

Nu Wa Storytelling Journey September 12-26, 2014


Welcome to the Nu Wa Blog as you follow Eth-Noh-Tec and the storytelling delegation on their adventure to CHINA!  We launched this week on Sept 11 and arrived the following day on Sept 12 (with all our luggage! YAY!).  Please copy this link and share it with friends to hear more about our storytelling adventure:

DAY #1, , ,4: Sept 12, 13, 14, 15


We arrived in Beijing in one piece!!  It was a pretty good flight with Air Canada’s wide seats and . meals, unlike last time when we went on United with one meal at the beginning of the flight and none for the next 12 hours!

Beijing is sooo filled with people and cars and tricycle bed trucks and scooters and busses and bicycles and pedestrians, all weaving, seemingly haphazardly, through each other to cross the wide boulevards and streets.  With the people finally getting some living wages, there are many more obvious signs of, not necessarily wealth, but enough to buy beyond food and shelter.


Our Nu Wa delegates are (seen in pix above left-to-right): th timer Elaine Stanley, newbies Doris Feyling and daughter Kirsten Feyling, and sisters Luanda Wesley and Melinda Kanios.  This is our th time.

We are having a great time eating, sightseeing, in the parks participating with dancers and game players of all kinds.  And, we have become the Nu Wa shopping tour as well!

Our delegates are all women!  So shopping is indeed a draw.  Both Robert and our all time favorite guide Peter Liu, who is with us for the 4th time, are ever so patient!

Sunday Sept 14: HEAVENLY!

This is our third day and we have been to the Temple of Heaven, Panjiayuan flea market, the Silk & Pearl factories, the Summer Palace, on boat rides filled with people because, once again, many more Chinese are finally above survival and can travel to see their own country.  So one has to imagine what it was like to be one of the concubines, or handmaidens being the only ones walking the beautiful landscapes surrounded by mountains, lakes and gorgeous architecture in these temples and palaces.  Or if one dares, to imagine oneself the Empress Dowager… and for Robert, the Emperor or … a Eunuch!

DAY #, : Monday Sept 15 &  Tuesday 16 


Today we are off to the Great Wall. What is new at the Great Wall for us is a new area opened that has a tram and a chair lift going up and down, or if one wants, individually driven toboggans to maneuver on the way down.  Of course walking up and down those hundreds and hundreds of uneven stairs is definitely the way to go so one can say they’ve “… climbed the Great Wall!”

Breakfast time, so see you in the next blog!

– – – – – – – –

Yesterday, the Great Wall was amazing as usual, but very special was that there were not many people.  We have been to the Badaling area of the Great Wall many times. In 2002, it was sparse with visitors.  But every time after, it was so crowded it was difficult to maneuver.  Again, the Chinese nationals are able to visit places in their own country.

STONES & BONES: Day #4 Monday Sept 15

In this new place, however, it was not crowded, perhaps also because it was Monday. Thus the walk was pleasant and the views were magnificent. We had time and space to ponder the unfathomable amount of hard labor, freezing winters, hot summers – impossible conditions of the steep mountains upon which the conscripted laborers had to work.  Countless lives were enslaved and lost building the great wall over the 600 years of constant construction.  We were walking on the skeletons of these laborers buried under the wall.  We were winded just walking up and down the many stairs let alone carrying up heavy bricks and cement blocks to build walls, stairs, towers. With reverence, we gave thanks to those ancestors who were sacrificed to build a wall that the common people didn’t care about.  It is unbelievably mind-boggling.

Still, for us contemporary humans, we not only appreciated the wall, but enjoyed it. The gondola, chair lifts and toboggans were fabulous.  The weather was perfect: blue skies, sunny, about 75 degrees and a lovely breeze.  Our energy was well spent climbing hundreds of stairs, and so were we!  Still, we stayed awake for the astonishing feats of the Chinese acrobats that night.  We even had enough energy to roam the alley outside of our hotel afterwards to eat at a downhome eatery.  We then slept well despite the hard beds!

 DAY # Tuesday Sept. 16:


The next day, at the Lama monastery, we lit many sticks of incense to give thanks to our ancestors and to make requests for our troubled world.  We next roamed the grounds of the Confucian Temple, then off we went to have lunch and pick up ONE MORE Gem, Xiao-Juan Shu who will be joining our adventure as a part of the translation team.

Now on to the real heart of our Nu Wa Cultural Exchange in Gengcun.  We arrived in the city of Gaocheng where we stay.  Rainy, cool and dark.  The first thing is we tested our beds!  Pads on the box springs!!  We ate the specially delicious food of this hotel and then sorted out all the gifts we were bringing for the classrooms and for the tellers, chiefs and heads of the associations.



DAY # Wednesday Sept 17:


Then, the magic began the next morning!  Our shuttle got closer and closer to the village’s red gate. We passed under and soon we could see a small group of villagers standing near the school.

We pulled up.  We heard music.  We looked out the windows and saw a group of 12 dancers dressed in red under the roofed entrance of the school to welcome us. They were dancing, not a traditional dance with Chinese drums as before, but disco music!!  Dancing in two lines to disco music!  It was fabulous!!  We cried when we saw our old storytelling friends.  The people are so warm and open hearted.  We hugged and ‘Ni hao’ed’ everyone!!  Smiles smiles smiles!

Welcome speeches in the new Hall of Stories, smaller in size but the same set up with tables making an rectangular shape, chairs all around with the center empty.  They gave us gifts of tea and tea caddies.  We came empty handed.  Drat our lack of knowledge about the proper rituals, even after all these times! (YIKES! our “Bad!”)  We DID have gifts however, but we were waiting for the following days to give.  And we didn’t know how many officials would be there to give gifts to. Oh, for me – to be Chinese American!  It is right when the elder Chinese who immigrate to America meet Chinese Americans and call us ‘jook sing’.  It means ‘like bamboo: looks like something on the outside, but empty on the inside’.  We don’t know our culture at all.  But, why would we?


We ended the day with sharing stories both in the Story Hall and with the children in the school.  There are only classes left: 1st, 2nd and 3rdgraders about 8-15 in each class, and what a rowdy group – the boys of course!  We were happy to unload all our school supply gifts to the “oohs and ahhs” of the children! The following day we returned to the classrooms to an arts activity.

A very satisfying, and quite exhausting day #6 (and part of day #7).

Day #7 Wed. thru Sat Sept 17-20


Story sharing in Gengcun is the highlight of this trip.  We went into the village, into their homes to share stories.

A typical home is one large room with a couch, a dresser and a large very hard bed.  There is now often one extra room on each side: another bedroom, a room used as a kitchen.  In our western world, these are not rooms we think of like in our own homes.  Each of these 3 rooms are concrete squares or rectangles.  Then they are filled with what the function is.  Kitchens will have a concrete sink and a wide concrete ledge for portable propane burners.  A small very used wooden table sits in the middle.  We rarely saw a refrigerator and if we did, it was in the large middle room where one gathers with the family or friends, and in our case, storytellers.  We sit on the bed, the couch and the tellers share these spaces with us.  If there are not enough spaces, the tellers sit on small, low little benches for a single butt.  At ages 70’s and 80’s they can still ‘squat’ so these tiny benches are nothing for them to sit on and get up quickly.  We, on the other hand, would mince going down and groan coming back up!


Most of the storytellers are now the women.  Many of the male tellers have passed since the first time we came in 2002.  Other mid-level tellers between 40-50 seem to be out of town, possible working jobs in bigger cities and sending money home.  It is so very sad. Another 7 have passed away since Robert and I came by ourselves in 2011:  5 more men and 2 women storytellers we adored.  Nine altogether have passed from our circle of Gengcun storytelling friends since we started 12 years ago.


Still we are enamored, we are in love, we are thrilled to be in the warm smiles, embraces and stories of our friends.  We tell after they tell; they then tell after we tell.  We laugh together, we watch as they often go back and forth about a story.  We can only gather from their patter and laughter that they have different versions of the story being told and they all have opinions about it!

Their Chinese dialect is different than standard Mandarin, so our wonderful interpreters Peter Liu and Xiao Juan often have to go back and forth as well trying to understand what they are saying.  A chorus of the women will pipe in to try to explain what a word or phrase means.  It’s quite a spectacle to behold, all in feverish dialect skirting across from one person to another at a very rapid pace, all in good humor.

Day 9: (Sept 20) & 10 (Sept 21)- PLAYIN’ WITH THE PEEPS

Now on the weekend, we are privy to all the other children who go to the school in the next village or a boarding school.  So the village is fuller with young people waving, curious and very friendly.  They stand at the cross paths or gather wherever we are going. They are on foot and many on their bikes.  And, they practice their English with us.  And, stare!


More story sharing, and a bonus – we got to make pot stickers with one of the tellers! And they were more delicious than any we have tasted here in restaurants as well as those restaurants in the states.  We made many, and ate more!  Bowl after bowl, boiled but not eaten in soup.  And so many pomegranates off their trees plopped in our arms!  Another teller made us a treat called ‘eight treasure’ biscuits made from eight ingredients including many kinds of rice and some beans and yams.  Very hearty! Could eat one and it would last in your stomach for a week! Good for winter!

Speaking of which, the weather has been perfect!  Not too cool and not too warm.  Blue skies over the Great Wall and blue with clouds over the Forbidden City, a bit grey over all the other temples.  One day of rain, so what did we do? An art museum instead and… Shopping!!

But back to Gengcun.


We have fallen in love again with the storytellers, the children and the village.  The village is changing.  Behind several of the simple concrete homes we see 2-3 story mansions.  We were not privy to enter any, as the storytellers do not have those mansions.  We have worried about how the young adults all go to the big cities to find a job that pays well.  This  breaks the continuity of the transmission of storytelling to the next generation.  At first they did not take their children with them, so the children still heard stories from grandparents either at home or in the school.  But, now years later, they have begun to take their one child with them (which is why the school population is so small and those left behind are placed in other schools).  Now these young adults are doing very well, send money back to their parents and build them these mansions.  We find that the walls depicting story scenes however, are still not renovated and continue to fade and chip. And there are still very poor villagers living in very poor circumstances.  Ahh, this is progress…


There are two associations in the village: the village association and newly formed – the storytelling association.  A man named Jin Chun Li has taken upon himself to represent the storytellers who have not personally been rewarded for being the attraction of the village.  I personally don’t think the village officials care.  But for the first time, we were charged for each person per day to go into their homes and share stories.  Mind you, American storytelling delegations (Jimmy Neil Smith lead 1997, and 5 Nu Wa Delegations 2002-2011) have donated many thousands of dollars to the village. We have helped build their school, paved the first road into the village, renovated their Story Hall, connected their homes to the new water well, and because of our visits, we have brought fame to the village.  They are recognized by the country as a treasured storytelling village, the tellers have gained more respect from the other villagers and the young, and the young are proud to let others know they are from the famous Gengcun.

We always hoped that the village would develop cultural tourism and a micro-economy of storytelling could evolve.  This is progress! We would not mind being charged if the monies somehow went to the storytellers, who knew nothing about the charge, and who were just told by Mr. Jin.  They were very shocked.


Now with the new Storytelling Association, we also have a direct way to give funding to the tellers themselves.  We just need to research how this money is to be used, what do they need and how we can help this happen.


On the final afternoon, we had a lovely village celebration of drumming and dancing together.  We passed out goodies from large bags of Costco healthy treats – nuts, dried fruit and nut crisps, i.e. fancy delicious trail mix brought by Elaine Stanley and Melinda Kanios. Photos of each school child are handed out by Kirsten Feyling through her special project.


The storytellers and hosts have all gotten reading glasses from Doris Feyling and Luanda Wesley.  Oh how grateful the elders were!


It was so special to dance to disco music with the younger adult dancers and the children! The kids were pretty amazing following the fixed dance steps of those dancers. Spotted some potential Eth-Noh-Tec tellers for waaayyyy in the future! We wish!

We also wanted to dance Gengcun’s folk dances, so I made the request. The drumming started!  Now the elders joined us. It was lovely!


Of course we then taught them the ‘famous US’ dances – the Hokey Pokey and the Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes.  And the Limbo!

A surprise visit from some Railway University English teachers and students, who wanted to meet us, arrived.  It turns out one of them is translating some of the village stories into English! We have been searching for such a person! We were gifted several times with volumes of their stories, all of course in Chinese.  Now we have a connection and Eth-Noh-Tec will partner with them in this endeavor! We’ll see if we can get them published. Surprises are welcomed! Below is pictured: Zaizhao “David” Zhang (head of English Dept), Wei Yi &  her husband Zhou “Joe” Jiang and two other students


Too soon the end comes: Speeches, gifts to the village Secretary General and Mr. Jin, and a loooonnnngggg goodbye, as usual.

It is always so difficult to leave them. For Robert and I, and for them, there are always years in between.  We have been to their village six times and hugged hello and goodbye six times. We all hug and say ‘Zai Jian’ – goodbye. They tell us we are welcomed back again next time.  We all say ‘Xia ci zai jian’ – see you again, though we never know when (or if) we’ll ever see them again!


Back in humongous Beijing.  What a difference from the small rural village and the ‘small only 2 million’ populated city of Gao Cheng where we stay when we visit the village.


Back to sightseeing, back to shopping, shopping, shopping!  Back to crowds! We have been to a Chinese tea ceremony, the Face/mask changing art form, the Kung Fu show, Chinese acrobatic show, squished with millions of other sightseers at the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, the Olympic stadiums. And a wonder: a beautiful Beijing blue sky with floating wispy clouds. Yesterday’s rain cleaned the air and today a lovely breeze and about 72 degrees.

We celebrated Robert’s birthday with these lovely activities and a cake from Peter, our wonderful guide.  Happy Birthday Robert!


Day #12: Tues Sept 23- “SO CALLED” SILK

Yesterday’s rainy day produced some excellent purchases shopping at the ‘silk market’ also known as the ‘fake market’ where you can buy name brands that are not real!  It is now inside rather than on the street, and directly connected to a subway station.  Floors and floors of little stores.  We see so many tourists buying new luggage to take home all their many purchases! It is quite hilariously similar to ourselves because, oh yeah, we’re tourists, too!

Day #13: Wed. Sept 24 – MORE FAREWELLS

We bid our wonderful-each-time-we-come guide Peter Liu farewell.  We also say farewell to our friend Xiao who joined us in Gengcun village as another interpreter.  She journeys on to her hometown here in China to visit her family for a month, as this is a national holiday time (but we get to see her again as she lives in the Bay Area!)


The next three days are optional days that don’t require Peter’s services, or a driver, and we will all soon disburse to other places – some within China, others back home.


We will take the bus or subway or taxi, and without anyone speaking ‘putonghua’ – Chinese!  Wish us luck!

Day #15, #16, #17


Day #15: Fri. Sept 26

Luanda Wesley and Melinda Kanios have left us for Shanghai after we all scurried to shopping areas, the Ethnic Minority Park and a farewell dinner and drinks.


That leaves Doris Feyling, Elaine Stanley, Kirsten Feyling and us.  The day after the sisters left, our Kirsten departed back to Washington.DC and the rest of us to Guilin where those amazing karst mountains jut astonishingly and suddenly up from river banks and fields in peaks and sheared shapes, and often seen in Chinese paintings and written about in poems.

Day #16: Sat. Sept 27 – SOFT BEDS AND “BING CHILING”

Our first night in Guilin was on soft beds, meaning actual mattresses, not box springs.  We all didn’t want to leave our beds for any reason! It was heaven after sleeping on a week+ of box springs in Beijing. (Say, that sounds like the beginning of a song – “…slept on box springs for a week in Beijing, licked ice cream also known as bingchiling!” … It’s the heat folks!))


It’s a hot 96 degrees and humid! Fog, not smog.  Climate change, as it’s suppose to be in the 70’s this time of the year.  Oy and ah ya!

In the evening we decided to take the expensive tourist boat to see the city lights at night and some fake dancing of the minority groups in this area.  We also got to see the tourist paid fisherman show us how their cormorants catch fish for them. The birds have a thin rope around their necks so that the birds can’t swallow the fish – just catch them for their masters.  They train these birds from a very young age. Alas, the whole thing was “staged”.  However, on the way back, we stopped by a Lijiang Waterfall Hotel that nightly at 8:30pm has a waterfall and a water show on the back of their building.  From the roof each night at the exact hour, about 20 floors up, tens of thousands of gallons of water cascades down it’s slopes while a long color lit water fountain spurts water in patterns.  It was lovely, and we all felt like climbing into the water to cool off!



We took a 4.5 hour cruise to Yangshou down the Li River along miles of curves nestled between the remarkable mountains of Guilin! Even tho it was 100 degrees out, the breeze on the decks of the boat made it tolerable. These extraordinary mountains are a sight to behold – Almost unbelievable.

There are some fishing villages along the river, small villages, some villages building bigger homes with the boon of tourists bringing in lots of money.  There are tents under which one can stop and eat, workers building embankments of round rocks. This funnels some water along the shore while allowing the majority of water to flow in the middle of the river so as to deepen the river for the tourist boats.  There are small raft boats, some motorized, others that move across the waters using long poles to push the raft forward which we will take tomorrow on a branch of the Li River and called the Dragon River.

We were picked up and driven to Mushan, a suburb of Yanshou.  And now, exhausted from the heat nonetheless, we rest in our rooms with soft enough beds and views of some mountains at the Snow Lion Resort.  Robert immediately into the pool to cool off, the rest of us into cold showers!

Dinner time and the resort has a huge selection and a very good chef! All is lovely. This 3rd week option is for R&R and it looks as if it will happen!
Day 18, 19, 20

Ah. The pole pushing bamboo raft on the Dragon River was wonderful and fun. Tho I wanted to try the pole pushing, unfortunately I was told no. So we got to enjoy being gently pushed along the Dragon River under an umbrella. To maneuver the small water steps, to go up, the rafts got pulled up by motorized wenches. Going down, we got to bump down with just a tiny bit of a splash.

And then what else but to eat and then shop and eat again and then to bed! We have met expats from Ohio here who will be working in Shanghai for 2 years. Also we have traded cards with a teacher from an International school in Guangzhou! She wants to bring us there! Whoopee!

This morning we took a cooking class! With a group from Holland and a couple from England who have been teaching in China for the last 12 years (in Ningbo where my dad was born no less!), we chose from a menu what we wanted to make and then went to the market. Oh what a sight it was!

Every kind of vegetable and then some. Every kind of meat except donkey. We’re talking dogs and cats, rabbits, ducks, chickens and pigeon. There are fish, river snails, and rice field snails. The head of a young goat sits on a table. These animals are live in cages while their compadres are dead hanging on hooks.

Yet, there are many people all over China with darling, beloved pet dogs and cats, as well. In the U.S., the 4-H kids raise their beloved cows and pigs and then bring them to the county fair to win a ribbon and sell to the highest bidder for slaughter.

But, in general, we are so removed from where our food comes and what it takes to get it to market – starting from raising what will become our food to harvesting and killing what will become our food.

Made me think about whether the butchers are to be welcomed in heaven or hell, and whether we meat eaters will be welcomed in heaven or hell.

Still, we cooked sweet and sour pork (of course not our choice), beer fish, and an eggplant dish. All very hot spicy, except the sweet and sour. Hot is this region’s food style. I was told that I inherited the Ningbo gene to stay clear away from hot food. None of that there!

We learned some cooking techniques I must say… Like how to prepare the wok for cooking: turn on high fire until it begins to smoke, then turn it down and add the oil.

Cutting with the cleaver, slant it away from your knuckles, not cut on the vertical.

Smash the cucumber and then chop into pieces for cucumber salad, which the chef made for us.

Cut tomatoes, green peppers etc. in triangles. Smash the celery before slicing.

Always add the green onions after turning off the fire when the dish is finished cooking.

Then we ate our own cooked dishes. Too salty? Too tough? No one’s fault but our own!

After a nap, we ventured out again to experience the city of Yangshou at night.

What a pleasant surprise!

We were headed to the park about 5pm as we heard they do ballroom dancing, tai chi, and chi gung at around 7 or 8. Instead we were privy to some children’s dance classes rehearsing. Oh, so darling! And these children ranging from ages 6 to 9 were so precise in their movements. Feet straight up to their heads, and back bends from a kneeling position; darling hands and feet movements all in unison, telling the story of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Another was the story of a lone boat person pushing her pole along a river of children when river spirits try to bring her down… Of course without success.

Soon, it was dinner and at 8 we sauntered back into the park just in time for a huge performance of various adult fan dancers, a beautiful singer, and the children! This time they were in the cutest costumes! Oh my!

In addition, there was a comedy sketch with two young adults, one female, the other male. They pretend to be two hawkers competing to sell tours on the street. Along comes an older man on his cell phone and carrying a brief case. They go back and forth competing using words and stylized movement! Made me wonder if that’s what Robert and I look like! Oh if we could transport them to SF! Or any of those little girls!

It was a very satisfying evening.

Today, on the National Holiday Oct. 1st, we’ve elected to stay at the resort for a nice quiet day and avoid the crowds. And by the way, the temperature went down to 81 yesterday. Felt like spring! Who would have guessed 81 would feel like spring to us Bay Area cool weather cronies!

Today the weather remains even a bit cooler. Still humid, but ahhhh….

Elaine works on her story for Tellabration; Doris went hiking to parts unknown; Robert is working on selecting photos for the blog and taking more photos; I write the blog.

Unfortunately, I finished my library book a week ago and can’t get another one without China hackers saying I have to disable all my cookies first. I have gotten loads of spam from emailing people. When I go to unsubscribe, I get something written in Chinese!

FB and YouTube and Google are forbidden. Except Robert was able to get VPN on his computer to access those. My laptop somehow broke in Gao Cheng. Very sad and quite debilitating! I have my iPad tho!

Today we will also rehearse an excerpt from my immigration piece: Red Altar – here on this relaxed day at the Snow Lion Resort. Hmm. Red Altar at the Snow Lion Resort. Sounds rather romantic and cinematic, but it’s just a rehearsal!

Day 21, 22

Last night we and Elaine read our pieces to each other and before Doris for feedback. What a treat!

And now, this morning we are all walking in separate directions to explore the area and take photos. It is actually cool today! A lovely breeze, about 72 in the early morn, but still very humid. In the shade with a breeze it is lovely! In the sun, as the hours pass, it is broiling. My face is beet red and my clothes are soaked.

We have each walked in different directions and seen farmland, fish ponds, rice fields, old hutong courtyard homes in disrepair or incorporated with new Multi-level homes. We have seen water buffalo and farmers still using shoulder poles to carry things. The women here are so strong. The old people here are so strong. These farms are beautifully laid out, varied crops planted and growing next to each other. No pesticide equipment, and no pests. The plants are healthy.

The village of Mushan is old but doing well. There is new construction and all their roads throughout the small village are paved. Tourism is a boon for the villages along the river tributaries where they rent out and conduct the raft boats and even larger boats that cruise longer distances. The noise is constant and the views are interrupted by so many boats either on the river or parked along the banks.

Still, around here, one can once in a while see a patch of water without the colorful umbrellas on the rafts or new construction on the land being built. It is stunning how amazing these mountains are. It is easy to understand why so many artists have painted these mountains and why so many poets have been inspired by them.

The breeze is kicking up. Suppose to be a storm. It certainly feels like it, but the sun still shines through the foggy and blue sky, as light gray billowing clouds here and there show themselves. Robert has just left to walk about five miles to Yangshou to take photos along the way. That will be an adventure for sure! Hopefully, he won’t get too wet if the storm arrives. We will take the shuttle in and meet him later for our last dinner in town before we part tomorrow.

Well, no storm, just a wild scene In town! Oh my, the crowds! Massive wall to wall Chinese tourists walking shoulder to shoulder, back to front, hawkers trying to attract you to buy their products, racks of clothes and tables of trinkets in the middle of the numerous streets and alleys of the Pedestrian Way while stores line the sidewalks and sellers walk around with things to sell on trays hanging from their necks. The music blares from numerous directions clashing their tunes with one another. The talking is loud, the shouting to be heard, the rare scooter beeping horns – total sound pollution!

We are happy to be in this carnival-like atmosphere, marveling at humanity here! What a difference having been here before the national holiday and now in the midst of it.

After a few purchases of our own – hats for us women! – we settle on a restaurant – a humongous restaurant! The outdoor seating covers about half a square block while inside, the restaurant continues another half a block!

We order one of the specialties – roast chicken in five spice. So moist and delicious! It is served hanging upright on a metal pole. We have another specialty – sticky rice and pork inside a wrapped piece of bamboo. Besides vegetables, we get skewered mutton on a stick and a basket of fried small river shrimp that is like eating potato chips by the handful.

Satisfied, we leave and enter the masses again, find our way to the 7th Heaven Cafe where we order our shuttle from our Snow Lion Riverside Resort, sit and people watch! What an evening! Our last evening together.

Today, Doris leaves for Xi’an to see the magnificent full size terra-cotta soldiers, while Elaine and we return to Beijing for two days before boarding the plane to SF. Our adventure is almost over. We are ready and at the same time we will be sad to leave China.

The more I come here, the more I realize that China is a very special place with wonderful people. They are friendly, ready to help, are curious about foreigners in an open way, and there is such richness in the culture, such growth, and such beauty. Without being able to speak the language, one is much more able to feel and experience the hearts of the people. There is an innocence here that is so refreshing. We speak to each other in smiles, broken English and broken Chinese. We laugh as we try to understand each other, and we are left with our hearts in a joyous song.















Filed as: At the Moment, China 2014, Tours  

6th Orcas Storyfest 2015!!

Orcas Storyfest 2015 JPG6th ORCAS STORYFEST 2015 SCHEDULE
TUES. JULY 28: “PAJAMA TALES” Orcas Library 6:30 pm
TUES. JULY 28:”WORLD OF STORIES” Random Howse 8:00 pm
WED. JULY 29: “WISDOM & WIT” Senior Center 1:30 pm
WED. JULY 29: “IN THE SPIRIT OF STORIES” Emmanuel Hall 8:00 pm
THURS. JULY 30: “RED ALTAR” Sea View Theater 8:00 pm

The 2015 Orcas Storyfest was better than ever with not only an amazing line up of storytelling talent, new performance venues, but a fantastic show of support from attending audiences, community donations, and volunteers. Here’s recap in pictures of our Gem of a Festival on a Gem of an island!

5th ORCAS STORYFEST 2013 With the new Storyfest logo on Tee-shirts, images on sandwichboards and announcements in the local paper and blog the “buzz” was buzzing on the lips and ears of the local community on Orcas Island. Now in it’s fifth biennial cycle, the return of the festival brought delight to young and old.

It’s a welcome potluck meal in the forest for our tellers of the 2013 Orcas Storyfest: Crab spaghetti, barbecue roasted corn, baked beans, salads galore, and yummy desserts to die for! What a feast and a wonderful way to welcome our visiting tellers from near and far.The final delicious dish of the feast are our tellers spinning story samplers on our small deck in the forest to sate their sweet tooth for listening: Doug Banner (Bellingham WA), Heather Forest (Huntington NY), Ruth Halpern, and Kirk Waller (both from Oakland CA)… and of course your truly, Eth-Noh-Tec, (San Fran-Orcas, CA-WA). Judith Black (Marblehead MA) was still enroute – sadly ferries don’t come on our beck and call! We are so grateful all our visiting local and national artists for their participation in this 5th Storyfest on the island.

After the feast, Nancy and Robert led a quick jaunt down to the summer veggie garden exploding with ruby chard, collards, Russian kale, turnips, and plenty of different squashes. Tons of tomatoes still green, and lots of beans and peas, cabbage growing, and so many beautiful cosmos and sweet pea flowers, too. Many of our guests, both volunteers and artists, have their own “green thumb” with huge gardens back home. They lent us newbies a wealth of “green wisdom”.

WOW! We couldn’t have done this without the aide of three most amazing volunteers. They helped to set up, stir-fry, toss salads, clean-up, scrub down, and organize so much of the behind-the-scenes action in producing Storyfest. Super Les Katsura from Walnut Creek and ENT’s loyal and vivacious intern Nina Sakamoto-Bazan came up from the SF Bay Area who joined our long-time friend and super volunteer Melani Nagao from Seattle.

All three were such an essential muscle-and-brain power for Storyfest. We set up tents for them to sleep in our forest (Camp Storyfest) and they would rise and shine each morning to make sure the meals, coffee, and tea were set up for the artists. When they weren’t on site in k-p duty they were transporting the storytellers and setting up as stage crew: mics, chairs, ticket and product tables for each of the shows. We are SOOOO grateful for the commitment, up beat energy and long hours spent each day. BIG arigatoo- gozaimasu (thank you!) to Les, Melani, and Nina… a tremendous contribution to Storyfest. And as Melani expressed: how did you do it with just the two of you before?!! (Truth: storytellers helped some before, lending a hand – like family).

They came in their “jammies”, decorated images of teddy bears and toys, and ready to cozy up on blankets… for an early evening outdoor storytime. This year we tried something different: outdoors under the trees and in the shade before the Northwest setting sun. Normally this concert for younger kids is indoors, typically crowded into the small room of the library. Summer weather was behaving so we took to the lawn and set up our stage. Thank you Orcas Library!

As Nancy and I have been attending the Senior Center and several activities there on a weekly basis, we’ve gathered quite a connection with the elders of this vibrant community – or rather vibrant seniors in this community! Not at all the stereotypical, sedate and gloomy scene of many senior centers, this center is anything but lethargic… and when it comes to storytelling, they LOVE the festival drawing one of our largest crowds during the week. We are most grateful for Marla Johns, the center’s director who is new and an enthusiastic support of Storyfest.

The Funhouse became a Spooky House on that Tuesday evening with our storytellers haunting the stages with frightful tales of shapeshifting runaway slave from the South, a Japanese dancing skeleton, and more. One of our challenges is to choose stories that are scary enough for the older crowd but… not TOO frightening for the younger crowd. Nina, our volunteer donned the persona of a ghoulish vamp trying her hand at being the evening’s ‘deadish’ EmCee. Thank you Pete Moe and all the staff at the Fun House!

This festival marked a “first” and quite successful crowd turn out for our evening of Sacred stories. Typically, storytelling festivals have these kinds of concerts on Sunday mornings, but hey!.. we do things differently our West, and in the Northwest, in this most beautiful setting of Creation, the stories of personal transformation, the holy stories of myth, magic, and enlightenment were a perfect fit for the location: the Emmanuel Episcopal Parish Hall. Besides the tellers we brought to the island, Antoinette Botsford and Anji Ringzin joined us with beautiful sacred stories. And thank you Emmanuel Episcopal Parish Hall. –

Another “first” for our festival was the expansion and inclusion of more local musical groups. The Senior Center’s, “Songbirds” brought musical whimsy and harmony to the opening concert there. The Bhajans, is a devotional singing ensemble from Orcas Island inspiring a deep connection to the divine by sharing sacred songs from around the world in a contemporary offering infused with a soothing groove and an infectious dose of “whomp”. Finally, the harmonies and down-home country strumming of the Parking Angels filled the Oddsfellows Hall for the final Storyfest concert. We’re so proud of this local island talent, the variety, the beauty and the fun time they infuse the audience with. They were such a complimentary accent to the week of storytelling.

Our final performances were beautifully told to an appreciative audience – tales from home, tales from abroad. The emcee, Doug Banner, gave us a special treat with several 5 sentence stories that were superb! We were all superb, actually. Storytelling is such an amazing art form and the tellers we invite are topnotch – also known as ‘national tellers’ – all of whom are in much demand nationally and internationally, and who make their living from telling stories. The Oddfellows Hall has walls whispering our stories!

The other first for the festival was the Friday finale of the week: a “fishbowl” forum addressing the power of storytelling applied in communities. Each of the tellers, coming from their various communities, use storytelling far beyond the stage as a tool for social change and community empowerment. Doug Banner talked about the “Flow Project” that uses the power of narrative and power of Art to transform communities. Heather Forest shared how her telling of a story inspired her to do something about ending hunger in her community. With the local interfaith community she asked the direct question “What are we going to do about it? which resulted in the creation of acres of community gardens for a food bank. Ruth Halpern uses storytelling in business and corporate settings.

Kirk Waller shared his projects with Stagebridge which included an intergenerational storytelling component between elderly and youth. Judith Black told of her work with war and it’s impact on families that last forever on the psyche and emotional/psychological systems of soldiers and their communities. Nancy shared several anecdotes about how she incorporated storytelling with her work as a psychotherapist, working with clients on issues of healing, molestation, and forgiveness. Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo (SF CA) gave a powerpoint on some of Eth-Noh-Tec’s international, cultural bridge building and storytelling projects in Singapore, Philippines, India and China.

To cap off the evening, we opened up the grand piano and welcomed piano genius, Mary Meyers, to play from her vast repertoire of sing-along songs. We storytellers know how to have a good time! Once again, thank you Senior Center.

and IN for a TREAT! While most evenings were dedicated to storytelling shows, the daytimes were set aside for various Northwest activities. Captain Fred Franke launch his boat as the storytelling crew jumped on board for sea level sight seeing boasting the beauty of the San Juan marine life upfront and center: starfish below, bald eagles above and sea lions bobbing between the pristine aqua marine waves of the Puget Sound’s inland seas. Jack Becker lifted a few into the air for a different and still gorgeous view of the San Juans. Unfortunately the foggy weather prevented more air lifts by Jack and by Bev Franklet. But those days were perfect for Leo Lambiel’s art museum/showcase, and the Orcas Historical Museum.

As the storytellers have donated their performances for the all community events throughout the island, the community in turn has poured out to thank them in various ways: food vendors and restaurants Island Market, The Market, Mijitas, Sazio, Enzo’s Café, Portofino Pizza, The Kitchen, Roses Café, Senior Center, and Maple Rock Farm. In addition, Island Hoppin Brewery, Iron Skillet offered meals and gift certificates, while Coffelt Farm and Bullocks Farm offered donated vegetables, but alas, we ran out of time to collect. Our Grand Queen of Casseroles, Marj Franke did a TREMENDOUS job rallying the commanders of the kitchen as garnered casseroles and other main dishes, salads, and plenty of desserts found their way to our home to feed our hungry storytelling crew for the week.
Our salutations of gratitude to Marj for her organizational meal master-mind but also to: Joyce Greene, Betty Egan, Ellie Stewart, Bronwen Jones, Jean Wellington, Robbie Walker, Marj Franke, Barb Ehrmantraut, Dan & Carlene Kim, Eleanor Peterson, Patty Thompson, Lawrence Jackson, Judith Black, and Nancy and Robert’s veggie garden for the creation of those delicious donated meals! And finally, lodging hosts and hostesses: Maura O’Neill and Michael Harnett, Brian Erhmantraut and Moana Kutsche, and David and Geri Turnoy. Their space and their gracious hosting were so appreciated. Thanks for everyone’s generosity! We’re so proud to be part of this loving community! And, if any of you are passing through or visiting Orcas Island, please support these generous businesses with your patronage, or if you meet/see any of the above-named persons, thank them! They have all proved how wonderful this world can be!

After the intense performance and production schedule of Orcas Storyfest, storytellers and volunteers were able to take in a visit to regional points of destination. Here is the volunteer crew raising an imaginary champaign toast on the top deck of a ferry bound for a day of play on nearby Friday Harbor (town) on San Juan Island. Of course also enjoy several Northwest pleasures of the pallette: fried oysters, fish and chips, and ice cream. The next day, before the airplanes wisked people away, we visited the Anacortes Art Fair, then the historic Asian American community of Seattle’s International District.
A quick cup of Chai at the famous Panama Hotel. Upon the walls of this antiquated hotel, not only were the photographs of the once thriving Pre-War 2, Japanese American community, but also a close up, block-by-block map showing the names and locations of Japanese American family run businesses. This is the famous hotel where, in the basement, were the unclaimed family items, suitcases and luggage of several Japanese American families who, like over a hundred thousand Japanese American citizens were rounded up, evacuated, and relocated to remote dessert concentration camps. Their only crime: being Americans of Japanese Ancestry at the launch of the war against Japan. The unclaimed items are on display and can be seen still stored in the basement, frozen in time, through a plexi-glass panel on the main floor of the lobby.

Last, but not least, thank you to the Friends of the Orcas Library, to Mindplace and Carlene and Dan Kim for their sponsorship of Orcas Storyfest 2013 and for the ease of marketing and getting the word out through Chamber of Commerce eblast, the Sounder and Orcas Issues. See you in 2015? The next Orcas Storyfest!

Filed as: Articles, At the Moment, Orcas Storyfest