Life is hard but it is also colorful, enjoyable only when you know how to enjoy it. Again I had a lovely trip to Florida, where I got to see the lovely St. Petersburg Beach, the Universal Studios, the Holocaust Museum, the Tampa Museum of Fine Arts, and to experience and enjoy the celebration of traditional American holiday---Christmas.
1. An Exciting Flight It was a fine day on the 24th of December, Christmas Eve. My host family and I arrived at the Logan Airport in Boston much earlier than we had scheduled. We all longed for this trip for a long time and finally it came. The plane took off just on time. On the way, Edward, Shirley and I sat together and it was very convenient to chat. We talked a lot about our families, our past and our present; we also told a lot of jokes, which made all of us burst into frequent laughter.
The plane landed at around 9:30 p.m. We waited for our luggage, rented a car and had another half-hour drive and finally arrived at their house in St Petersburg, Tampa, Florida. My host's eldest daughter and her partner, Ivy and Stannis, were already there and were waiting anxiously for us then. We greeted each other and had several American hugs (I should say now I love American hugs). The flight was exciting and full of interests. We were all exhausted by the long flight. I can guess that we all had a wonderful and deep sleep by the loud snores at night.
2. Christmas Dinner When I was young, I dreamed that some day I could have enough food. It is fantastic that life has been changing so rapidly. Now we have more than enough food, besides I can even travel to the United States to have a wonderful Christmas Dinner with American people. We had a bit of sightseeing and then came back early on Christmas day. Then Ed began to prepare dinner while Shirley, their kids and I were in the swimming pool having fun. When I came back to the house, Ed was cooking shrimp. "Marlin, come and see the lobsters!" Ed said to me when he saw me. I went up, opened the big paper box we brought along from Boston, thinking that there should have been a lot of lobsters because the box was very big. But when I opened it, I found the big box filled with only two huge lobsters, at least 2 kg each. At first I thought I could easily get them in my hands but when I tried, I found they were too heavy, so I had to take a deep breath and try again. Finally I got hold of them and Ed got the right opportunity to take two pictures of me. When the shrimp and lobsters were ready, the kids and Shirley came back. They made some preparations and dressed themselves beautifully for the Christmas dinner. When everything was ready, we walked together to their friend's house where some of their friends gather on the same day every year to have Christmas dinner with Ed carrying all the cooked shrimp and I carrying two big cooked lobsters. Their friends were already there when we got there. It was another lovely family with the husband a black and the wife a Korean. We went in, hugged each other and then sat down and talked. Finally came the traditional Christmas dinner. We sat down, prayed and then began to eat. There was a huge amount of food and all tasted very delicious. I drank some wine and didn't stop eating until I felt I was stuffed with the food almost up to my neck. Then we did a game called "To be a judge", which can be played by many people together who need to listen carefully to different cases and then try to make a correct decision with appropriate reasons to support the decision. I was surprised and excited that I made some of the decisions correctly. It was fun, wasn't it?
3. Universal Studios The trip to Universal Studios was quite thrilling and breathtaking. Before we headed to Orlando, Ed asked me to make a choice between Disney World and Universal Studios. Both were new to me but the former is a bit childish while the latter is a bit mature. I chose the latter because I wanted to be mature rather than childish. Shirley woke us up while we were still deep in sleep. I opened my eyes, took a glimpse of my watch and I found it was 8:00 a.m. We should have got up at 7:30. We quickly got dressed, washed up and walked downstairs. Ed and Shirley were also very tired but they got up very early that day, cooking breakfast, packing food for us and making some other preparations for us. The five of us started to Orlando at 8:00. It took us around one and a half hours to get there.
We had a wonderful and unforgettable time in the Universal Studios. We had altogether 10 rides. Terminator was our first ride, where we watched a very scaring movie named Battle Across Time. It was so vivid, so real and so scary and it made you think that you were really in the war with exploding bombs and danger of being killed everywhere you went and tried to hide. With the special glasses on, we experienced the nail-biting fighting with heavy smoke sweeping and pieces of broken stones flying directly toward you which made all of the audience keep making some quick responses to avoid being hurt or killed. Next we went to E.T.Adventure to help E.T. (Extra Terrestrial) save his dying planet, then Back to the Future, climbing, diving, flying in the past for an Ice-Age with avalanches, dinosaurs and a molten volcano and then rocketing into Hill Valley 2015. My feelings were mixed then. I wanted to close my eyes to stop myself from being too scared but I also wanted to see how scary it was. So I forced myself to keep my eyes open and screamed like a child all the way through the ride. Next in the Kongfrontation we found King Kong was still on the rampage and it was just after us. In the Jaws, the monsters seemed to be hidden anywhere and always wanted to swallow us. In the Earthquake, we enjoyed a wonderful and frightening disaster at a subway station. In the Twisters, the scene brought the great excitement of the blockbuster hit "Twister" to life.
We spent a whole special and exciting day. When we got home, it was already 9:00 p.m. Ed and Shirley were waiting for us and were happy to see us back. We were all exhausted by the all the excitement the whole day.
4.The pool and the beach During the seven days of our stay in Tampa, we spent quite some time in the swimming pool, which was just beside Ed's house. The weather was fine and the water was warm. We swam, had races once in a while (I always lost the races), read books, chatted, ate and drank, enjoyed music-When I went to work again in Boston, my colleagues said to me in surprise: "Marlin, you've got some suntan in Florida! I love it."
"Marlin, we will go swimming this afternoon in the sea." Ed said one morning to me. I was afraid that the seawater would be very cold. But I still went. On the way, Ed introduced a lot of things in Tampa to me, the Piers, the Don Cesar Hotel, the beach, the people, restaurants, etc. We parked our car, took out our chairs and towels and walked toward the beach. It was a very lovely day and beach was wonderful with people here and there walking, lying on their towels, reading, talking and jogging. We can see seagulls everywhere, some flying up and down over the sea or higher in the blue sky while some lingering on the sands trying to find some food. I tried the water. Oh, it was cold. Ed asked me whether I would make some dives and I said that I just wanted to wet my feet. But Ed was very brave and walked into the water inch-by-inch and suddenly made a dive and went up quickly. Wahhh, it must be cool! "Want another try." I asked. "Sure!" he said and he did try twice more. I watched him swimming and couldn't help shivering by the cold I sensed from him. Later we had a walk along the beach. When Ed was dried up, we drove back home.
5. Christmas gifts Friends told me that it is the custom for family members to exchange gifts on Christmas. Family members in China exchange gifts sometimes but not as crazy as here in the States. I saw mountains of gifts here in my host family including the one I gave them-a pair of Chinese cloisonné. I made some decorations on the box and my host family loved it. I got four American treasures from Santa Claus:
|A one-day pass to Universal Studios. Santa Claus said to me: The pass is for you to experience some wonderlands." I went to Universal Studios and I did experience a lot.|
|A sweater. Santa Claus said to me: "The sweater is for you to keep warm." I put on the sweater. I was really warm, warm in body and warm in heart.|
|A book named "Angels" written by Billy Graham. Santa Claus said to me: "The book is for you to enrich your knowledge." I opened the book and read a few lines. It was interesting with a lot of wonderful explanations of the angels and interesting stories.|
|A scarf. The scarf is a very beautiful one with strips of red and white colors. Santa Claus said to me: "The scarf is to add some colors on you." I put it on and didn't want to take it off and I wore it to work after the holiday and my colleagues all raised their thumbs.|
6. Holocaust Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts Holocaust comes from the Greek word meaning a sacrificial offering consumed by fire. The Holocaust was the state sponsored persecution and methodical elimination of European Jewry by the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Ed told me later that there are several Holocaust Museums in the world, the biggest one in Israel, second one in New York City, the third one in Washington D.C. and the one in St. Petersburg the fourth biggest one. It was raining and a bit chilly on Dec. 28. In the morning after breakfast, Ed and I went to the Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. It was still raining when we got there. Ed introduced me to the people working there. They were delighted to see me. Ed bought the ticket for me and one of the workers showed me into a video room where I watched a movie about how the Jews were oppressed and discriminated and persecuted before and during World War Two.
After the movie, I went into the exhibition rooms, reading detailed materials of Jewish history, what the Jewish life was like before the Nazis rules, how it was like before and in World War Two, how Hitler came into power, how World War Two was started and how the Nazi Germany was defeated. Upstairs I read some of Anne Frank's diaries and some of materials about the victims. Can you imagine that eleven million innocent people were victims of Nazi tyranny, six million Jews along with five million others including children, gypsies, homosexuals, mentally and physically disabled and others? Ed sat there in the hall waiting for me for two hours. We went out of the museum together. It was still raining as if the whole world was weeping. How valuable the freedom is and how valuable the peace is today! Can't we learn some lessons from this museum? On Dec. 31, just before we left for the airport, Ed and Shirley took me to the Museum of Fine Arts in Tampa where I saw a collection of art works. The narrator said it would take her half an hour to tour us in the museum. One hour passed but we had just finished half of the museum. There is so much to see and she had so much to tell us. "Marlin, come and see what it is." Ed said to me in front of an oil painting. "A city." "Let's stand at a distance and see what it is." "Oh. It is a city by a river." "Yes. It is London and the river is the Thames. This is called "Impressionism." Ahh, now I learned what was called Impressionist paintings. We relaxed a lot and were ready to go back to Boston on the 31. What did I learn? As I put it to Ed, I learned how to relax and I learned that all people should cherish the peace and fight against any discrimination. What did I regret? Well, I almost regretted nothing. The only thing I regretted was that my wife Margaret and my daughter Willow were not here to experience together with me.