Ancient Chinese Custom: The Ghost Bride

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Temple in Taiwan. Lana Rodlie photo

To celebrate Chinese New Year – why not read a really great tale involving Chinese customs?

While in Taiwan last year, we were intrigued by the Chinese ritual of burning “money” as an offering for long dead ancestors.

Imagine. How your spirit fares in the afterworld depends entirely on how those in the living world pay homage to you. Are they bringing you enough food to eat (chicken, rice, fruits); or are they providing cash (paper ‘money’) so you can buy what you need? Such is an ancient Chinese custom. Continue reading

Seeing the forest for the trees – books by Darcee O’Hearn

This was originally published in the Trail Times in 2009. See update at bottom.

By Lana Rodlie

Her books have been six years in the making; rejected by publishers; but Darcee O’Hearn is trudging along, undaunted.

The 39-year-old Rossland mother of three has been through trials and tribulations before, and her latest venture is just another in a growing list of challenges.

O’Hearn created a series of children’s books that will help children gain a better understanding of the forest. Continue reading

The Hitchhiker – A Kootenay Christmas Story

Angels are sent into our lives in all sorts of forms and figures and we never recognize them at the time. But after they’ve delivered their message and disappeared, the message will eventually sink in and you’ll wake up one morning and realize God has spoken.

By Lana Rodlie

 We were heading to Alberta to spend the holidays with our youngest daughter and stopped for gas in a small Kootenay town. As we pulled back onto the highway, there was a young man standing by the road with a lot of boxes and bags and his thumb stuck out. We don`t normally pick up hitchhikers, but something told me we HAD to pick up this one. Continue reading

Postcard from Austria/Italian border: beware of Route 110

Austrian Alps tram

Austria offers the most beautiful scenery. We stopped and took a tram up the mountain for a great view. Lana Rodlie photo

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Little farms dot the hillsides. Lana Rodlie photo

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A scene right out of Sound of Music. Lana Rodlie photo

Italy mountains

Route 110 may look like a regular road on the map; but don’t go there unless you are really accustomed to driving in Europe. Lana Rodlie photo

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The scenery was breath-taking, if you could take your eyes off the road. Lana Rodlie photo

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This was likely the last car we saw as we ventured on towards Tolmezzo. Lana Rodlie photo

This really should be titled: If you’re not going to take my advice, don’t ask.

By Lana Rodlie

“You’ll want to take the road to Villach,” the Tyrolean attendant at the gas station told me when we stopped to fill up at Lienz near the Austrian-Italian border. The GPS in the Ford Fiasco we rented in Frankfurt was no help – it only spoke German.

“But what about this road down here through Tolmezzo?” I asked, pointing at Route 110 through Kotschach-Mauthen. It seemed shorter and closer to the place in the Province of Udine, where my cousins lived.

 “You’ll want to take the road to Villach,” the Tyrolean repeated. “My English no good and so no explain why. Just take road to Villach.”

Since we’d been through Villach on our last visit, we wanted to take a different route – different scenery.

“Oh, what the hell,” my husband said. “Let’s take this Route 110. The map says the road is paved. So how bad could it be?”

I should stop right here and point out that it was ME who insisted on asking for directions. And it was my husband’s decision not to follow the Tyrolean’s advice.

As we ventured onward and upward into the Italian Alps, the lack of other vehicles on the road should have been our first clue that the Tyrolean may have known what he was talking about. But the road seemed fine, at first. My husband had learned to drive on Norwegian roads and we’d driven over Trollstigen a number of times. Trollstigen is a treacherous piece of highway in Norway’s fjord district that hasn’t improved much since the Vikings. Continue reading

Winter World: book review

For a good read about the Second World War, you cannot beat Ken Follett. this is the second in his century trilogy. Someone please tell me when the third book is out.

Title: Winter World
Author: Ken Follett
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: not sure
Spoiler Alert: Not really 

 

The second book in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy is as much a page-turner as the first. Winter World continues the story where Fall of Giants left off, following four families as they live through one disaster (the First World War) to the next (the Second World War).

Follett personalizes the wars by bringing them up close and personal with those who had to live them. The British and Welsh family, the Germans, the Russians and the Americans – all intertwined in relationships, political intrigues and events that seem to spiral out of control.

I think one of the reasons we like to (need to) read historical fiction is to try and understand our past – how our ancestors lived, what formed their characters and what led to the way we are today. And though Follett’s stories are classed as fiction, one can easily read between the lines, knowing truth is stranger –and maybe even harsher – than fiction; hence what happens to Follett’s characters can easily be imagined as happening to people who lived through the wars.

Another reason to study history is to understand the political system that shaped us. And when you look back at the brutal Fascist and Soviet regimes, you wonder how anyone survived. It has certainly given me a brief look into the “genetics” if you will of people I know who came out of Russia or Nazi Germany or the rigid British stiff upper lips. Even the Amercians – although Follett tends to paint them in a tenderer light than the others.

In Follett’s Century Trilogy (the third book is to come), the British are archaic, the Germans brutal and the Russians, barbaric. The Americans come across as the nice-guys out to save the world; which they do, practically single-handedly without anybody else’s help. But isn’t that the way the U.S. media has recorded the past century?

In some ways, Follett really gets it right, describing situations and events that likely happened to thousands of people. He has a way of writing from within each character’s mind. It’s unique, as you get to see the thought processes behind their actions. And though not always pretty, one can almost be sympathetic.

What is clear is that human kind didn’t learn much from the First World War and didn’t improve on it much after the Second.

The third book in the trilogy isn’t out yet (at this writing). At least, I haven’t seen it. But I expect it will take us through the second half of the century and I’d half-bet Follett will begin it in the 60s, taking us through Women’s Liberation (it was a pretty major theme in both books) into the Vietnam War (Follett seems to like writing war scenes) and then maybe all the way up to Desert Storm. However, it will be interesting to see how he’d incorporate an Arab/Muslim family into the mix. But now I’m just speculating.

Anyway, the second book (according to my Kobo reader) took another 30 hours out of my life – added to the 29 hours for the first book. At $20 a pop, it was close to 60 hours of heart-stopping entertainment. Looking forward to Book 3.

 

The Haunted Shack

 By Lana Rodlie

(Names have not been changed to protect the innocent. Live with it.)

It was a dark wooden ivy-covered shack clinging to the banks of the Columbia River just off  Clark Street in East Trail – and every kid between Merry’s Flats and Sandy Island knew it was haunted.

You couldn’t see the shack from Columbia Avenue. It was kind of behind Bobby Alton’s house on the lower side of the 1600-block. And you couldn’t just walk up to it. It was tucked in behind. There was no easy access. To get to it, you had to go to the river bank and launch yourself onto this telephone pole that kind of dangled at a 30 degree angle over the fast-flowing river. (Remember, the Columbia River was quite high and thick back then – before the building of the Hugh Keenleyside Dam at Robson.) 

Once you got yourself safely to the pole, you’d have to throw yourself back onto the bank while grabbing for a rickety fence that served as a barrier to the old cabin. From there, you could make your way around to a little yard, tucked inside a two-storey L-shaped building.

The yard itself was scary enough – overgrown with creepy vines and one of those tangly black locust trees leaning against the shack. The windows were boarded up; but what was worse, because of the shack’s obscure location – no one could hear you scream and there was no quick way out.

I only went there one time – once was enough. But I’ll have to back up the story a bit to let you know how I got there. Continue reading

Viking search: A funny thing happened on the way to the penis

You have to keep in mind that this is northern Norway – land of the Vikings. And yes, there are still a lot of Viking relics around here (some are actually dead). And you haven’t seen Helgeland until you’ve seen the Viking penis (although the proper term for this monument is “the Phallus.”

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A Viking view. Lana Rodlie photo

 September 20, 2013  

The last few days have been a blur, punctuated with rough ferry rides, catamaran tours, gale-force winds, getting lost in the wilderness, and a bomb scare. It all began with the arrival of our friends Doug and Joyce from Nanaimo, B.C. or I should say their “expected” arrival. Continue reading

Viking search – A house at the North Pole

 

Our "cabin at the North Pole."

Our “cabin at the North Pole.”

Well, it isn’t exactly the North Pole but 66.33 degrees N. – the Arctic Circle. Actually, we are not right on the Arctic Circle but you can see it from here.

Why do we come here? For that you have to understand the Norwegian psyche – and I’ve been married to a Norsk for 35 years and I’m only beginning to get it. Dan is a  former cargo ship navigator who I stole from the sea, literally; but then we spent the next three-and-a-half decades jumping back and forth between Canada and Norway. Continue reading

Medieval Norway: Past and future collide at Alstahaug

Alstahaug church outside

Alstahaug Church dates back to 1200. Lana Rodlie photo

About 20 kilometres south of Sandnessjøen, resting under the shadows of the giant Seven Sisters Mountains is the Alstahaug church and Petter Dass Museum. Alstahaug is the name of the island on which sits the city and was the most powerful perish in Helgeland for hundreds of years. The Russian-inspired church is over 800 years old and one of only seven Medieval churches still standing in this part of Norway. The country’s famous poet-priest Petter Dass served here from 1689 until his death in 1707. The farm connected to the church is now part of the museum and displays artifacts depicting Dass’s life and family. Since we’ve visited this museum more than once,  I’ll include notes from my last visit. Continue reading

Land of Midnight Sun: Helgeland

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The Seven Sisters mountains are actually on an island. They rise about 1,072 meters and tower over the landscape all along the coast. Lana Rodlie photo

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Midnight sun. Lana Rodlie photo

Helgeland is that section of Northern Norway where the postcard pastures of green valleys give way to stark barren mountains of rock. These massive mountains stand frozen in time, like petrified remains of giant gods, once worshiped as harbingers of rain, fish or thunder. Millions of islands are sprinkled along the coast. As an old Norwegian saga goes – God molded the mountains out of clay and then shook his massive hands, leaving the clay bits – big, small, connected, alone, distant, close – all growing hard in the midnight sun and reshaped by millions of years of washing by the sea. At various points in time, ice glaciers carved through the granite like giant grindstones. Trees on these islands are small and spindly; branches knotted and gnarled, as if shivering from the cold wind. Low bushes sport various berries: tyttebaer (a smaller version of cranberries) and moltebaer (a kind of wild blonde raspberry). And then the mushy green moss which covers everything from walkways to roof-tops, like a warm blanket. It’s an unforgiveable landscape which accounts for the toughness of the Norwegians. I mean if they could eke out a living on these barren rocks, they could live just about anywhere. Continue reading