1/4/2021

SYKESVILLE AND LIBERTY Dam

MARYLAND, US

Location: Sykesville and Liberty Dam, Carroll County, MD.

Sykesville: a small, quiet, and elegant town. It is located about half hour west from Baltimore and two hours north to Washington DC. One magazine lists it as ‘America coolest town in 2016’ 

There are slightly more than four thousands residence. Farming and hunting are the main activities in town. The majority immigrants are from German and Scotland.

Liberty dam is the drinking water reservoir for that area.

7/1/2022

Coming to America (4)

The King of Rat Killer

By Chester Hwang

Bao was original from Taiwan, has been in the United States for more than 30 years and lived in Maryland. He is tall and strong. He was fired five years ago from computer job and his wife left him. He had no children and lived on the only savings.

He was a little older and had troubles in finding jobs. Last year, he finally found a temporary job in an American fast food restaurant to manage takeout (drive thru). He was enthusiastic about his work, and was willing to do extra work such as cleaning dirty cooking pans, etc

Due to cold weather and the smell of the restaurant food, it had attracted many nearby rats. There were stories about the rats, everyone treated it as a joke, not a serious matter. Until one day, when everyone was preparing food in the kitchen , suddenly his colleague Ellen screamed loudly. There was a rat happily nibbling on the bread. Bao picked up the stick and used the method of fighting rat in his hometown in Taipei when he was a child. The rat was killed, and there was a chorus of applause, and colleagues called him “rat killer”.

One morning, many customers came to have breakfast, the three counter staff were very busy, and the five people in the kitchen were also working quickly; suddenly Even, who was in charge of the barbecue, began to issue an alarm: “Fuck, he is here!”. Everyone went to Even, a  little rat  fleeing in panic, first bypassing the clumps of bread, and then about to escape from the kitchen and gallop to the front desk; Bao was already prepared, and then it was fast, one step, one slam, killed the rat on the spot.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, hugged each other and rejoiced, Bao was upgraded to “The King of rat killer”. Good news spread to the upper management, because Bao usually treated people kindly, worked diligently, liked to help people, and had done well in fighting rats, he was promoted from temporary worker to full-time job with health insurance.

A beautiful coastal city, St. Michael, in Maryland.

9/9/2022

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – China Travel (3) 

By Chester Hwang 

Almost every young person likes to make a lot of money, and one of the ways to make a lot of money is in business. During 2000, in his spare time beside the day job, Xiao Li set up a company, and together with Xiao Zhong, an alumnus who just retired from the Merck pharmaceutical company in the United States, produced the equipments for the laboratory automation. So what was the relationship between Xiao Li’s company and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and why Xiao Li and Xiao Zhong traveled to Beijing instead of working on the business over there, please allow me to explain below. 

Because of the work in the pharmaceutical company, Zhong was the automation specialist. When researching new drugs, it was necessary to analyze the drug content in the serum of tens of thousands of volunteers or patients; the traditional method was to use a test tube to store the serum of each patient, but later it was changed to 96 samples, which were stored in a 96-well micro-plate , so that 96 patient samples can be analyzed at one time, and the analytical job became very productive. Li’s company had developed a new and novel set of instrument that could dispense various chemical solutions into a 96-well micro-plate at one time. Although more than a dozen large companies in the same industry also had more complex and multi-functional instrument, the cost ranged from $30,000 to 100,000. Li’s instrument cost only $2,000, and the operation was simple and easy to use, so the business was booming in the first three years, and it made $100,000 a year with a profit of 50%.

In the middle of the night, Li received an inquiry email from General Manager Mr. Liu of a trading company in Xi’an, China. He wanted to spend one million dollar to purchase Li’s instrument. This should be a great opportunity for Li, so Li was excited but scared due to the money involved in the deal was large and the risk of international trade was high. After several e-mails, it was discovered that the PLA had entrusted the Liu’s Corporation to purchase the instruments on behalf of PLA. In 2000, the Internet had just developed, and information was scarce. It wasn’t easy to find out exactly what’s Mr. Liu’s company. The data only showed it imported and exported clothings and tools. The address of that company was correct, but every time Li called, he couldn’t get in touch with Mr. Liu. After discussing with Zhong, both of them were quite hesitant, because the purchasing was too large and the risks were high, and it was not an easy task to produce 500 sets of instruments within three months. 

However, the contract with dozens of pages had been faxed over. It was formal and detailed. The most important things in the contract were the specifications, unit price and delivery time. There was no bargaining, which was quite surprising. If there was fraud, but the payment was clearly stated. It was the payment terms that made Li dare to sign. FOB (Freight on Board) was adopted, which means that sooner the goods are delivered to the ship and the other party’s bank pays immediately. In this way, it was guaranteed that Li would definitely get the payment. The only downside was that if the order was fully completed and the other party breached and canceled the contract, 500 sets of instrument would become Li’s inventory, but in two weeks, Li and Zhong would also visit Mr. Liu’s corporation to understand the sincerity of the other party, so they felt relieved.

Zhong finally agreed to give it a try. The two were busy applying for visas and buying airline tickets. They were planning to stop by Beijing on September 1 and go to Xi’an to visit Mr. Liu’s corporation. Although the opportunity to make money from this deal was great, however both of them had a bit of worry.

In the middle of the night on August 31st, Li suddenly received an email from Mr. Liu. Li instinctively felt that something was wrong. Just a few words, the funds were not in place, so Mr. Liu would like to cancel the deal. Li was stunned. In order to complete this deal, he had been busy for two months. Now he was in vain, but also relieved. Besides, it was not easy to sue the other party for breaching contract at that time.

The two had no choice but to travel to Beijing. It was the first time to visit the Great Wall. It was really spectacular! When visiting the Forbidden City, Li really wanted to sit in the emperor’s seat, even just for a minute. While stayed in a hotel at Wangfujing in Beijing, they ate Peking duck, BBQ lamb, wanton soup, and meat buns, those foods were delicious and cheap! In addition, it only cost US$15 for an hour of the ride by taxi inside Beijing.

In recent decades, China has often cooperated with European and American companies in technology. Even now Li still remembers that he, Mr. Liu, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army almost cooperated.

Forbiden City, Beijing, China

Forbidden City, Beijing

Great Wall, Northern China

Great Wall,  Norther China

8/10/2022

Coming to America (2)

Grab Free Sushi

By Chester Hwang

After graduating from school, leaving Worcester, MA, driving to St. Louis, Missouri, I headed for another mileage in life. 

St. Louis is located in the center of the United States. It is a big city that expanded westward in the United States. The city has a lot of living space and is hardly traffic jam, just like those in the midwestern America, but is not as densely populated as those in the east coast. The housing and living expenses are also much cheaper. It was very hot and humid in the summer and hardly snowed in the winter. At one time, there was a couple inches of snow and caused traffic paralysis because of lacking enough snow plowers. The folk customs in the Midwest are simple and people are friendly. 

The first job was to do research for two professors at Washington University at St. Louis. The school is a rich and famous private university, and its medical school ranks among the top five in the United States. The big boss is the first author to use the ‘MRI’ instrument (early MRI) to study diabetes (metabolism) in mice, Jewish-American, tall, straightforward, confident and generous; the little boss is of French descent American specializing in the maintenance of instruments and operations , he is about the same height as me, and he is more cautious and careful in his work. The two bosses were about forty years old, paid attention to teamwork, and attached great importance to my research projects. There were about ten researchers including post-doctors and graduate students in the laboratory, half of which were white and half of foreign nationality, and the foreign nationality were from Asia.

The story went like this, the two bosses and I attended the annual global ‘Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) & MRI’ instrumentation conference in Monterey, California, where manufacturers like GE (General Electric) and Simon from Germany also participated. Please note the instrument used in studying Chemistry/materials is NMR and used in human body is MRI. The basic principle of these two machines is the same.

Monterey is located in an elegant town south of San Francisco by the sea, with good climate and beautiful scenery. The scenery of the nearby ‘seventeen miles’ is very famous. The world-famous PGA golf tournament is also held there annually. Of course, many famous movie stars’ mansions are also located there.

Beside speeches during the day and many parties at night, many companies did their best to entertain thousands of conference attendees, such as music, wine, drinks, food, small gifts and so on. When I heard that GE was serving Sushi for free next to a large outdoor pool from 6-8pm on Saturday night, many people immediately went to line up. Sushi is very popular in the United States, and although it is slightly more expensive, it is acceptable. 

The line bent for 300 meters, and everyone waited patiently including me and the two bosses. When I heard that there might not be enough Sushi (the company didn’t expect so many people), the scene was a bit chaotic, suddenly, I saw a person rushing into the swimming pool from a distance, quickly crossed a distance of 30 meters in the water, and ran to the front to cut in line (of course, his pants were also soaked wet). After a closer look, we were all startled and couldn’t believe it was a foreign graduate student in our lab! OMG! We were totally shocked and silent for a few minutes.

After we came back home, two bosses talked about this in private, and they all said that there are many strange things (or interesting things) in the world, and this is one of them.

St. Louis, MO, US
St. Louis downtown city skyline at twilight.

Picture of St. Louis, MO, US

PS: St. Louis, the famous Arch, 200 meters high, has an elevator to go up, symbolizing the landmark of the city’s expansion of the western territory in the 19th century

8/6/2022

Coming to America (1)

Falling from the sky   

written by Chester Hwang

In the summer of 1980 in Worcester, Massachusetts, it was a little hot; relying on the warm hospitality of the American family, before the school started, I rented a room and shared the first floor with Lonnie, my new black roommate. The Greek-American landlord and his sister lived upstairs, because the two were over weight, weighing more than 350 lbs each, and they often made noises when they walked.

Lonnie was studying for a master’s program at the department of Psychology. He was 6’2, weighed 160 lbs, and had a strong appearance. He usually got up late and stayed up late, so our schedules were different. Of course, Lonnie was an intellectual, and straight to the point, he said that the cultures of China and the United States were different, and he implied that the concept about sex and dating is also different; Maybe this dude specialized in psychilogy, he went to the night club every weekend, and he would often invite a woman to home. His room was often very lively in the middle of that night, plus the sound of footsteps upstairs makes it hard to sleep well.

I was studying at school one morning when Lonnie called and said that the ceiling above the toilet thumped down and hit him, I never heard of such a thing, luckily he was fine; ‘Was it serious?’, I asked him and if he told the landlord. He said with a laugh, the landlord, who also went to the toilet, and the landlord’s toilet was just above us. Over the years, the entire ceiling and toilet couldn’t stand it, and they fell together. The landlord just pressed the big hole in the ceiling and couldn’t move. I was shocked and could imagine the sudden impact and masses with the big noises fell into our bathroom. Luckily, both Lonnie and our landlord didn’t have serious injuries.

Now I know quite a few of Americans are over weight, and it was my first encounter in my first year in America.

In retrospect, the people in Worcester were nice to me. The city owned high academic standards, and exquisite culture and art.

Citi Hall, Worcester, MA, US
Citi Hall, Worcester, MA, US

8/4/2022

The Sun Is Rising – Taiwan travel (1)

By Chester Hwang

Xiao Li’s father passed away early. Every summer vacation, he would go back to Taiwan to visit his mother, sing KTV with her, walk around the suburbs, eat delicious food, and watch Taiwan’s 8 o’clock popular Hokkien (Taiwanese dialect) TV dramas together at night.

On one weekend, Li took the Kamalan bus in Taipei and went to Jiaoxi, the home of hot springs, with two friends. Jiaoxi is located in the northeastern part of Taiwan. Xiao Bao is Li’s friend in the United States. The name of Xiao Bao means little treasure in Mandarine. This time, she came to Taiwan with him. She had heard about the beauty of Taiwanese scenery and food for a long time, and of course she was excited all the way.

We stayed at the Evergreen Phoenix Hotel for swimming, hot springs and massage. It was so much fun while walked in the ancient horse trail, visited Buddhist Foguang University, went to the night market, paid and soaked your feet in the small fish ponds with countless small fish. Food were great such as the famous duck meat, stinky tofu, fruits on crushed ice etc. Li would definitely come here when he returned to Taiwan. Xiao Bao had a jet lag, and at this time she was already too exciting. However, it must be stated here that although she was just over 50 years old, her mind was very clear. Also her eyesight was still super strong, so she does not need to wear eyeglasses.

The next day the sun was shining brightly, and we went to play in the water at Toucheng Beach. Toucheng is located in the northeastern part of Taiwan, close to the Pacific Ocean. There was a large white spherical building about one kilometer to the left. Xiao Bao shouted “Nuclear Power Plant!”.  That maybe make sense because most of nuclear power plants are near the ocean or river. Although Li  had been away from his hometown for a long time, but he hadn’t heard such a power plant there. After being explained by another accompany friend from Taiwan, Zhang, it turned out to be a rich man’s mansion, and the building was rather peculiar.

When people go to Toucheng, they go to the beach to watch the sunrise, which is as famous as to watch sunrise in Alishan Mountains (a beautiful national park in central Taiwan). The three got up early this morning and rushed to the land bridge all the way. At this time, the clouds were dense in the early morning. Everyone concentrated on the far east, looking towards the Guishan Island in the Pacific Ocean and sure the SUNRISE. All of a sudden, Xiao Bao exclaimed “ The sun is rising! The sun is rising!”. 

In the mean time, Li tried to look forward and couldn’t see it. He tried very hard and still there is “No Sun“. In a hurry, he asked Zhang. Zhang also said no; Li thought there was something wrong with his eyes, so he blinked his eyes many times and finally confirmed that it was actually not far ahead, there was a traffic light on the road, and the red light was on. Sooner or later, Zhang also agreed it with Li. Because the clouds were too heavy, the sun could not be seen on that day. Sun wasn’t rising, but the red light was rising.

Li and Zhang couldn’t help but chuckle. After all, all the beautiful things in Taiwan are too attractive. This is true for Li, who has been away from home for a long time, let alone a foreigner who comes to visit just for the first time!

A Park in Jiaoxi, Yinan, Taiwan
A Park in Jiaoxi, Yinan, Taiwan
Guishan Island, which is in the Pacific Ocean, located off the northeast coast of Taiwan. is shaped like a turtle.
Guishan Island, which is in the Pacific Ocean, located off the northeast coast of Taiwan. is shaped like a turtle. 

5/15-6/1/2024

Visit Nine National Canyon Parks in the American West

Along with two of my sisters from Taiwan and four friends from Cary, NC. US.

5/17-19/2024

Lake Tahoe, an alpine lake in northeastern California, is a place for yachting and boating in the summer and a skiing resort in the winter; Reno (a small gambling town) is 30 minutes north of

Zion Canyon National Park, in the state of Judea, is located three hours northeast of Las Vegas. On both sides of the canyon are tall brown-yellow boulders. The brown-yellow color is due to the oxidation of iron ore.

Bryce Canyon National Park is also located in Utah, a three-hour drive northeast of Zion Canyon. The rocks have become more weathered, forming various pillar shapes.

Lake Tahoe, California
Lake Tahoe, California
Zion Canyon National Park, Utah, US

5/19-20/2024

The scenic spot of Lake Powell (also has a reservoir and power plant) in Arizona Page is Horseshoe Bend (Horseshoe Bend). Tthe Colorado River, the largest river in the western United States, flows through it and also creates many beautiful grand canyons!

One of the beautiful attractions in Arizona Page is Upper Antelope Canyon (the canyon is very narrow and can only allow a few people to pass). After two million years of erosion by the Colorado River, the great western river, many beautiful wavy boulders were formed!

The Colorado River, the largest river in the western United States, flows through Page Arizona and arrives at he Grand Canyon. There are many boulders and the quiet water sound, It feels like reliving the scene in the old movie “The Great River”

The second most beautiful scenic spot in Arizona Page: Lower Antelope Canyon (Lower Antelope Canyon), only ten miles away from Upper Antelope Canyon. The canyon is very narrow and can only allow one person to pass). After two million years of erosion by the Colorado River, the great western river, many Beautiful wavy boulders!

Upper Antelope Canyon. Page, Arizona, US
Upper Antelope Canyon
Horsebend in Colorado River, Page, Arizona, US
Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona, US
Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona, US

5/21/2024 Grand Canyon National Park

Magnificent of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, US
On the top of the world at Grand Canyon National Park

5/22/2024 Monument Valley National Park

The next day, we came to another Indian tribal reserve (there are many reserves across the United States): Monument Valley National Park. The tour guide was a tall Indian, Chandler.
He was very professional, kind and good at taking photos for us. From the conversation, he belongs to the Navajo tribe, a total of 350,000 people, located in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada
Their tribe has its own government and police, and elects a president and vice president every four years. There are 14 high schools, each with 3,000 students. Chandler went to college in Phenox, the capital of Arizona, to learn to repair cars. They ride horses or rides from their homes in the desert to the bus stop to catch the school bus to school. They used their own herbs to treat illnesses. There was a female doctor and nurse in his small village who had just passed away and lived to be 104 years old! The birth was also delivered using traditional methods. They live in “yurts” made of mud and sand. There are many wooden slats inside to support the roof. When it is too hot in summer, water is sprinkled on the ground to cool down. In winter, there is a stove to burn wood for heating. Raise cattle, sheep, and horses, mainly eating mutton; plant corn, cucumbers, etc.
In short, they still retain their own culture and way of life