Charleston SC

I was really glad that we decided to take it easy and camp two nights at the county park on Saint James Island because it gave us time to relax and enjoy ourselves some more without having to move. Finally got a chance to have the awning up and park long enough to put up the party lights I bought for the MoHo with the tricolored chili pepper lights as well. Very festive, but not nearly as festive as some of the big motorhomes in the park were. It was fun, and I finally got my cute lights, although I did refrain from buying flamingo lights.

Wednesday morning we left around 9 so we wouldn’t get caught in too much traffic going into Charleston. It’s actually not that big a city, with maybe 80,000 population in the city itself with some communities around on the other islands that run in the 30’s. There are lots of bridges and water and Charleston was every big as magical as I thought it would be. We went first to the Visitor Center where they even had garage parking especially for RV’s, which worked out great since the boats were too high to fit under the poles in the regular garage parking. The visitor center was another digital wonder of the state of South Carolina and helped us a lot in understanding what to see and do on foot in Charleston.

Spent half the day walking the city following a city walking map with the history and story of many of the homes and buildings. The port of Charleston was the only place that wasn’t blockaded completely during the Civil War where the southerners were able to bring in supplies. Fort Sumter is a tiny island out in the harbor, and the history of the Civil War is a big part of Charleston. What I didn’t realize, however, is that Charleston history goes back to pre-revolutionary days and that many of the homes and buildings were from the early 1700’s long before the Revolutionary War. Of course, SC was one of the original 13 states and it shows in the city of Charleston. We saw several homes of signers of the Declaration of Independence,

Thanks to a SC magazine we got at on of the centers, we knew about Justine’s Kitchen, so when we passed it on our walk we recognized the name.

Justine was the daughter of a slave who worked for a woman in Charleston and took care of her children. Justine lived to be 112 years old and her cooking was legendary. One of the daughters opened the restaurant and it has been written up in Southern Living, the New York Times, Conde Nast, and many other publications as one of the best southern restaurants that exist.

Lunch at Justine’s was a highlight. Actually sitting next to us was a reporter from some food show on Sirius radio who was recording his gastronomic experience and talking to the owner while we ate. The best part is that it was so comfortable, homey, and warm. I had an awful time choosing from a menu of southern wonders, and finally settled on a pork chop, baked macaroni and cheese, and fried okra, with pecan pie for desert, and of course a big glass of sweet tea. It was a meal made in heaven for my inner southern soul and the addition of some kind of sweetened vinegar fresh cucumbers and the hush puppies we had given to us on the street made it all the more magical.

After exploring as much as our feet would allow, we went back to our park to give Abby time to swim in the great dog park and play with all the other dogs. She is finally beginning to understand that she is a dog but still isn’t quite into all the friendly puppy play and keeps looking back at her mom for approval. But she does love to swim and loves to play ball. Lots of other dogs there playing ball and swimming, and even a dog washing area as you leave the park to get all the sand and mud off the doggie paws.

After our little respite, we drove back into Charleston to explore the Pleasure Island part of town east of the river and to drive over the Ravenel Bridge, the longest span in this part of the world, white, dramatic, and gorgeous. Checked out the beaches at Mt Pleasant, then found our way back home through the light show to settle in for the evening and rest our weary feet.

Family Home Visit

Families. In Thailand it was such an eye opener to see how close families remained. No one moved across the country, they didn’t even move across the town. They lived in big family compounds. We visited one such family, and the rest of our group visited several others, in small groups of 6 or 7 people. The story was all the same. Mother was a public relations specialist for a big company, Father brokered coffee beans.

Their home was spotless, lighted with flourescent bulbs that are bright and dim at the same time. Two children, 20 months and three. Little girls that were the apple of their eye. Mother’s mother had a pumpkin farm nearby but stayed with the kids while mom worked and Fathers mother stayed when grandma one was away at the farm. Auntie and Nephew were there for dinner as well, and lived upstairs. Various grandparents lived in the houses next door, and other assorted relatives.

All sharing common values and common lives, picking the papayas and bananas from their compound trees, eating fresh vegetables, taking food to the monks at 6am.We sat on her floor and made pyramid cakes, special food that the monks loved. Father had been a monk for several years. It is expected in Thailand that men will serve as monks for at least some time in the lives, from months to years. As monks, they learn the proper way to live. They learn the 8 precepts of Buddhism, and how to live in peace and equanimity. We asked how the women learn these values since they can’t be monks, and were told that all people are taught from childhood the peaceful, calm, gentle way of the middle path.
The pyramid cakes are made from a paste that is kind of grayish purple, a bit like poi, but made from sticky rice flour and palm sugar, about half as sweet as american sugar. You brush oil on a perfectly cut banana leaf, form a patty of the paste, put in a spoonful of shredded deep fried coconut that has some kind of other stuff in it, and then wrap it perfectly with specific folds that end up in a perfectly folded little package. Amazing. They are then steamed for 15 minutes and served up warm for dessert or saved for the next mornings offerings to the monks.
I thought about my family, and how scattered we are, and this very different way of living and how good it felt, how close they are, how strongly they support their families. If I were Thai, I would have taken my grandmother and dorothy into my home, I would have cared for them no matter what it took. I couldn’t do that, and I don’t expect my kids to do that. And yet I wondered at what we have given up with all our independence. That kind of family and community.
The back side of the lack of conflict is the lack of self expression. It is considered uncouth and totally unacceptable to speak poorly of your family, or to raise your voice. Conflict is avoided at all costs. What is lost in this is really having any idea what anyone really thinks. Can these people be any different than all the rest of us, with anger and frustration, and grupmy thoughts about all the expectations? Probably not, but you would never know it.
Sitting in a huge gridlock traffic jam that Bangkok is well known for, I saw that calm and peaceful demeanor of the Thai people. Bikes and trucks and even a cement truck pushing in for space, people not exactly getting cut off, but gently pushed as the gridlock got tighter and tighter. No horns honking, except that little toot to let someone know you may be a quarter inch from their bumper