St. Francisville – Rosedown Plantation

So, on Thursday, I went up to St. Francisville in West Feliciana to look for some marriage certificates at the courthouse. While there, I decided to visit a plantation house in the area. Like many others, I don’t often act as a tourist when I am at home. This is something I have been trying to change

It is a fascinating place. Built in 1835 by Daniel & Martha Barrow Turnbull for little over $13,000, it is now a state museum and is run by LSU after the last relative passed in 1950. Martha Turnbull was a noted horticulturalist and her diary has been a great source of information on the subject. Originally the plantation contained 3,455 acres, of which only over 300 still belong to the property. Around 145 slaves worked the property. This plantation, along with several other plantations Turnbull owned, meant that he was one of the richest men in not only Louisiana, but the United States.

Daniel Turnbull passed away in 1861 and his wife Martha in 1896. They had three children, of which 2 sons passed before Daniel. Their daughter and son-in-law (from another prominent family in the area) moved the plantation and raised 10 children. Many of the slaves became sharecroppers after the war.

Genealogy note – Although I am not related to the Turnbulls, I do have a connection to them in my family history. Sherwood Bonner Raby (1st cousin of my 3rd great-grandfather, Dawson B. Kinchen) was an overseer at the Bayou Grosse Tete plantation for James P. Bowman, Turnbull’s son-in-law. In LSU’s special collections at Hill Memorial Library, there is correspondence between the two over S.B. Raby’s protestation over his 1856 termination as overseer and Bowman’s complaint of Raby’s treatment of slaves.

Leaving Taiwan

Leaving Taiwan was in some ways a great thing, yet in others terrible. I made many great friends at the Taipei Ward – Bishop Weddle and his family, Bros. Frost, Sevey, Linton, Pendleton & their families. the ladies and gentlemen of the single adults. Jean-Francois & Vivian Morin and the Sheffers in particular. Love those guys. Except when Jamison Sheffer brings up football…dude doesn’t know what he is talking about. I will also miss the senior missionary couples who took me under their wing, in particular the Funks and the Browns. All great people, far too many to name here. <3 I also got to spend more time with my meimei (little sister), Masako, as she arrived in Taiwan in February for work. I loved spending time with her.

I met a lot of wonderful people and yet it feels like a great waste as well. I spent so much time being ill that I was not able to accomplish the purpose of my time in that beautiful country. I was too sick to study or work, so I saw my savings draining away to the point that I knew I had to go back to work. I did not get to spend time visiting the island and getting to know the people as I wanted. I spent most of my time lying in bed, hoping that my illness would pass. I have weak lungs and Taipei’s combination of wet & cold winters conspired to bring me low. I became ill around the beginning of December, with what I thought was the flu, something that should have dissipated after a week or two. Unfortunately, it proved more tenacious and stayed with me for over five months. Like a idiot, I avoided going to the doctor (medical care is cheaper in Asia) because I don’t like going to the doctor. It flared up repeatedly and still to this day lays me low.

Yes, leaving Taiwan has caused me to fill emotionally split. I have not felt such homesickness before, except for my first time abroad. Without my work or studies to occupy my time, I came near to climbing the walls of my tiny bedroom. Yet, I enjoyed the little moments spent with friends or teaching a class at church. I am split, true, but am really happy to go home.

Trip to Thailand

On April 25th, I had to again leave Taiwan because I did not procure a visa. This time I elected to go to Thailand and visit a friend of mine. When I told friends in Taipei about the visit, they were pretty jealous but they don’t understand how much I detest the beach. Nope, I went to play with my friend’s 5 children, ranging from 8 years old down. Unfortunately, my friend Mike (he works for the State Department) had to work most of the weekend, so it was me and the children. Sure, his wife Nora was there too but one can only divert their attention so much. :-)

That Friday, I worked on an article for the Livingston Parish Genealogical & Historical Society, of which I am a member. On Saturday, I went to a cub scout meeting where they made rockets (constructed with bottles and launched with compressed air & water) and I helped two of the children make rockets. It was a cool event. On Sunday, I went to church and had a great lesson on Numbers. I enjoyed going to a Sunday school where I was not the teacher, which allowed me a different perspective. Although out the weekend, I enjoyed home-cooked food and only ate out once with the family and one of Mike’s friends from Virginia. I did enjoy a tall fruity drink as well, since any visit to Thailand would not be complete with out it.

As stated, they have five children, the 4 oldest which are boys. I enjoyed all of them and was especially happy to be able to play with this cutie, Adela:

She looks so much like her momma!

Museum Tour with Masako

This week was Qingming Jie, or Tomb Sweeping Day, in Taiwan, which is a National Holiday. For this day (April 4th), Masako was able to get off work, so we decided to visit the Palace Museum. When the Guomindang retreated to Taiwan in 1949, they evacuated with them around 80% of the artifacts in the Forbidden City. This is one reason why when you visit the Forbidden City, there is not much left inside the buildings. Anyway, it was a beautiful day and I was happy to spend time with one of my favorite people (the last picture is of her in the park next to the museum).


Masako and I both love old stuff, so we really loved the Shang & Zhou dynasty bronzes. I love pots and she loves calligraphy, so there was something for everyone. They had several memorials to the Qing emperors there and their responses to their administrators were at times hilarious. One of our favorites was the response of a simple 不, or “no” to a really long memorial.

Two days later (April 6th), we visited the National Museum of Taiwan. This museum was really interesting as well. It had exhibits of the native flora and fauna of Taiwan. We skipped the insect exhibit because of my phobia. I liked the displays about Taiwan’s indigenous population. First referred to in Qing histories as Eastern Barbarians, they are a hardy people forced into the interior by successive attempts to ‘civilize’ them by first the Qing government, then the Japanese and finally the Guomindang. Taiwan aborigines are one of the Austronesian peoples, like Malaysia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. There are about ½ a million still around.

Next door and after lunch, we visited the Museum of Banking and Dinosaurs, which was next to the National Museum and administered by them. The Banking Museum was really interesting, seeing the development of banking in Taiwan. Walking around a wall and seeing the dinosaurs was really a wow moment for both of us. While the majority of the bones are replicas, the atmosphere with the displays and the kids running around excited helped us capture a little bit of that old fashioned feelings of awe. Sometimes I feel too cynical and old. Not then.

Hawaii Trip – February 13-20th

If we are friends on Facebook, you can see my pictures here.

Last year my brother Jason and I decided that we would take a trip out to Hawaii to visit my niece, Morgan. Jason had discussed visiting her several times, so it was not difficult to talk him into this trip. He wanted to come before she graduated from BYU-Hawaii and left the islands for graduate school. I had not seen her in over two years as she served a mission in Utah.

The flight over there was long. I first went from Taipei to Hong Kong, then Manila, and finally a 9 hour flight to Honolulu. My back killed me, which was made worse waiting for Jason’s flight to land in 6 hours. Luckily, I came prepared with reading material. I always have that on hand. :-P We drove up to the North Shore, as we were staying at an Airbnb in Laie.

The next day we went down to Ft. DeRussy, an old coastal artillery fortification, near Waikiki. There is an interesting museum there, holding artifacts from the length of US military’s interactions in Hawaii. The museum was free, but the parking bit us in the rear. After this, we planned to visit Pearl Harbor. When we arrived, we found that the ferry to the Arizona was closed due to choppy weather, the USS Bowfin was closed because it was hit by lightning and that Aviation Museum flooded. It rained about 70 percent of our time there, which I did not mind that much. So, we decided to visit another day when Morgan was available.

The next day, we went out early to see what we were not able to see the day before. The Arizona was an amazing, solemn experience. The Bowfin and the Aviation museum were wonderful and mentally stimulating, as I knew them to be. Unfortunately, we did not see the USS Missouri, the “Mighty Mo,” because of time and expense. If anything, this would be the only thing I really regret. Saved for another time, perhaps.

We did a lot of driving around, looking at scenic sites. It is definitely paradisiacal in many regards. Not the tourists though. They were annoying, as they kept getting in the way. Jason is a nature lover and I am, to put it mildly, rather indifferent. Still, I enjoyed visiting the beaches and mountains. We did not go swimming, as neither of us were inclined and the weather was mostly abysmal. We were even almost trapped by a flash flood, only saved by my superior navigating and Jason’s steady hand at the wheel.

The Polynesian Cultural Center was awesome. I know that it is culture packaged for a tourist audience, but I still enjoyed learning more about the different islands and their peoples. We had a luau and the food was phenomenal. I was happy to spend time with my brother and niece, even if we did get rained on. Morgan described the North Shore as the armpit of O’ahu, because the rains come from elsewhere and just settle in the north. We definitely experienced that as we crossed over from dry, sunny Honolulu into somewhat torrential downpours.

All in, I loved my trip. I saw mostly what I wanted and was dragged to appreciate what I usually happily overlook. I would recommend a visit by others. My only criticism is the number of tourists (I do not, of course, include myself among this number). It did not feel like a romantic place, no doubt because I did not have someone of significance in that department with me. If I were to go on a honeymoon or something, I think I would prefer to go to Kauaʻi or Maui. Still, a lovely place.

On my return trip, it was brutal. I backtracked the same way, except with a 23 hour layover in Hong Kong. Idiotic me. I slept for 5 dismal hours and died the rest. I had planned to go into the city and visit a friend but I was so exhausted I could barely stand. In the future, I will not do long layovers. Definitely not.

Manila, Philippines – November 17th

In the middle of November, I had to leave Taiwan for a short period. This is my fault, as I should have had one from the beginning. So, every 90 days, as a US citizen, I am allowed to stay without a visa. Since my 90 days were coming up, I decided to take a quick trip to the Philippines. I have a good friend from Taiwan, 黃婞瑜, who works there and generously allowed me the use of her place. It was really hot, so I didn’t go out and do much. The traffic was also horrible.

On the third day, we went to the old part of Manila. I wanted to see the Museum of Anthropology. We also visited the Planetarium and Ft. Santiago, which is the oldest part of the city. Here on Facebook are some pictures.

My thanks go to my friend, Caroline, who was more gracious and considerate than I deserve. One of my regrets is that I was not there long enough to see more. I really would liked to have seen Corregidor as well as other places in the country. I need to go there for over a week to experience more. 

July Road Trip

My brother Jason and I were able to go on an epic road trip throughout the eastern part of the United States. We first went to Lookout Mtn., Georgia, looking over the battlefield there. Sadly, it rained and we were not able to see the battlefields for Chattanooga or Chickamauga. We then drove up through the Great Smokey Mountains Park Way and looked at the mountains and the trees. This was more for Jason’s benefit since he is a hiker and I don’t really care for nature. We did go to Cades Cove, though, which was a first for me.

We stopped off in Saltville, Virginia before making out way to the Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields. Jason has always had a deep love of Civil War history, which I also share in. Seeing these sites and talking about the events that took place there were great.

From there, we went up to Palmyra, New York to see some early LDS church history sites. Jason had never been up there, but I went on a trip with my parents to Maine and we stopped there when I was about 14 or so. We went to the Hill Cumorah, where Joseph was led by an angel to find the plates. We visited his home, where some of the translation was done. We were also able to visit the Sacred Grove, which essentially was first step on his path in re-establishing Christ’s church. We also visited the Peter Whitmer Farm, where the church was organized in 1830.

We then moved on to the Saratoga battlefield, just north of Albany. I am a long time student of this period in the US, perhaps even more so than the Civil War. We also went to Valley Forge and Philadelphia. A major goal of my trip was to see the brand new Museum of the American Revolution, in Philly. I have to say that I was disappointed. I expected deeper knowledge than what was provided. I have to give it a C- on effort.

From there, we went to Mt. Vernon, where I almost passed out from the heat, and the battlefield at Yorktown. Unfortunately, it was too hot to do more, so we left and drove home. While most of the trip was awesome, someone needs to cure my brother’s obsession with 80’s rock. Way too much. :-o

Facebook friends can see pictures here.

Xi’an Excursion – June 2017

I was finally able to get to Xi’an after many, many years of wanting to go. When I first went to China, I met one of my closest friends by coincident. He was working out in front of the foreign languages building at Beijing Normal University and I walked by on one of my extremely unusual late night walks. We discovered our mutual love of history and that is how one of my closes friends was added to a very short list. I promised him that if I ever went to Xi’an, he would accompany me. However, life keeps getting in the way. First, he got married, then divorced. Then he had a wonderful son named Bruce. Now he is finishing writing his dissertation in International Studies. The man is always busy, so I decided to go by myself.

Let me tell you, Xi’an is hot in June. Plenty of people told me this, but there was nothing to do about it. I got to the city and was told my hostel had no rooms. They refunded my money and kinda, sorta helped me find another place. Sorta. The new place was sufficient though. The first full day I went to the Shaanxi provincial museum, considered one of the best in China. It was excellent. There were so many artifacts on display. The great thing about the place was they have a limited number of free tickets and I was able to receive one. The bad thing was all of China was in there with me. There were several times that I was almost crushed to death by groups of tourists. I could have been a new display there. I left there and went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

The next day I got really early to go see the Terracotta Warriors (兵马俑). I met a Chinese-Australian family who were also visiting the site. I was able to play tour guide a little for one of their daughters (don’t think that way – I’m a nerd and was just showing off my love of history). Seeing the soldiers was a highlight of my accumulated adventures. You could see the individualism of the face and heads, as well of some paint residue on them in the museum. That was the only place you could get really close to one.

After the soldiers, I went to his funerary mound and walked all over it. It is a mountain. His tomb has never been opened, but when technology has evolved to be able open the tomb safely (the artifacts are damaged by oxidation), there will be such a find to surpass that of Tutankhamun.

The next day I had a solo trip to another museum in the city, called Banpo.  To me, this was equally interesting. The village that was discovered existed about 2000 or more years before the Qin. The grave goods discovered there are fascinating in a different way. The Terracotta Soldiers and the tomb are about excess –  Imperial, individual, megalomaniacal. The ones at the village museum are personal as well, only the possessions of an every man (or woman)  for everyday use. They were much more real in that way, in that they were used. A silent cry of history rather than a huge shout from a single man, even if he was the most powerful man in the world at that time.

The final day, I rested. Hey, I mentioned it was hot. No…not descriptive enough. Hell is hot. Xi’an in June could give it a run for its money. Here are some pictures.

A Trip of a Lifetime

From January 26th to February 15th, I had an opportunity to travel during the winter vacation. I was able to go to Turkey, Greece, and Israel. I joined two friends in Beijing, Kevin Earl and Aaron Stevens, for the first leg of the trip and then ventured out on my own. I had intended to go with them to India last year, but it did not work out with me because of my job situation. This was a once in a life experience, to be honest, and I can only hope that I have another chance for a trip this awesome in the future. I posted a great many photographs on Facebook, in the Albums: Part I: Istanbul, Gallipoli, and Troy, Part II – Pargamum, Ephesus, Hierapolis, and Cappadocia, Part III – Greece – Athens and Delphi, & Part IV – Israel (you have to Facebook friends with me to see them). This entry is not to go over in detail of what I saw, but to give my broad impressions of each country.

Turkey was an absolute marvel. I could definitely see myself living in Istanbul. I also consider the Hagia Sophia to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, if not the most. The people were fantastic and the food was as well. In particular, I enjoyed the bread. I went to the market in Istanbul and nearly wept on my first day because I had not had such wonderful bread in months. The Chinese steamed bread has it its own charm but nothing beats freshly baked bread, in this case with olive oil mixed with spices. Several people hinted at safety concerns with ISIS attacks in a couple places, but I felt safe the entire trip. The police and gendarmes were out and armed, looking for any suspicious people, which is why I wonder I got pulled over a couple of times. The history of Turkey was phenomenal in both the sites available and the museums there. I went into the trip with a rather negative view of the country – by this I meant I did not think it would be that interesting – and was astonished at how wrong I turned out to be.

Greece was a different experience. Greeks feel a great deal of pride of their ancient culture and history, but the current state of affairs tends to weigh more heavily in my opinion. We stayed in the self-described “anarchist’s district”, but it seemed the entire city is covered in graffiti. Most of it anti-EU, anti-German, ant-Soros, etc. etc. I loved the historical sites, as the Parthenon was worth the trip in itself. The food was good, just not as delicious as in Turkey (nothing compares to the Cappadocian clay kebab). Please, Greek nationalists, give me another chance at your fine nation before you consign me to the depths. I was only there for 2 & ½ days and sincerely, that was not near enough. I still want to go to Sparta, Mycenae, and Mt. Olympus. There were many things even in Athens I was not able to experience. I truly wish to rectify this problem with another visit.

Now to Israel. This trip was such a dream and yet, a disappointment. I saw things I waited my whole life to see. I was able to walk up to the Dome of the Rock (but not enter because they do not allow non-Muslims to enter). My culinary journey was rather limited to a single Palestinian restaurant, where I picked up a definite anti-Israeli vibe, but since I am not Jewish or Israeli, c’est la vie. The security was seemingly everywhere but the palpable tension that seems to settle over the place (in my mind) is not necessarily something I would want to subject myself to long term. I hated that I was sick and unable to see even a tenth of what I wanted. Despite this setback, it is definitely a place to go back to and visit again.

The Great Flood of 2016

During my trip home, two things rapidly became apparent to me – one personal and the other an observation of my people in the Florida parishes. My personal observation is that I lack stamina in doing any kind of physical work. I helped Jacob, my cousin, move from Myrtle Beach, S.C. to Hattiesburg, MS. He is a graphic design professor and just got a new job at Southern Miss. I was working with Jacob, his brother Mike and my brother Jason. All three of them outperformed me and I definitely felt all 380 lbs. of my weight that day. This became even more apparent in the cleanup after the Great Flood of 2016.

Speaking of the flood, it was an unusual period for me. Everywhere around me, the flood waters quickly rose, swamping people and forcing them out of their homes. Along my street, however, it was placid. I was staying at my brother John’s house, behind my dad’s. I was really proud of my father. My stepmother was a wreck of nerves, after having moving her parents, sister and brother-in-law from their flooded homes and having them staying with with Dad and Darlene. Dad was the voice of reason and calm, which still surprises me to this day. He only began to doubt himself, according to his words, when the water started to lap up against the back wall of the carport.

Rising waters as seen at my brother's house.     Same from my Dad's.
      *First picture is from my brother’s porch and the second is from my dad’s carport.

I spent the time at my brother’s house during the flood. I helped him move his equipment up higher and then watched as the flood water rose up coming from Dumpling Creek. His house was already elevated because it lies in a low lying area on the property. It got to about a foot from his house footings. Marianne (his wife) has noted that every time he tells the story, the water gets a little higher. Other than wading in slightly above the knee water going back and forth to dad’s house and the near constant coverage of local news, that was my only experience with the flooding. The aftermath, as it was for most people, was a little more involved.

On the Monday after the storm, Marianne was able to get to Carter’s Grocery in Walker and she bought cake mix because the bread was sold out. She made about 9-12 cakes and heard that they might be appreciated at North Park rec center off Lockhart and Eden Church Road. My cousin Randy Hooper was cooking and he asked us to stay and help out. John, Marianne, Tyler (their son), and myself worked about 5 hours. John and Randy cooked while Marianne and Tyler washed dishes. They also worked with me in distributing food to the refugees. It seems strange to think about people in your own hometown that way, but truly it was real refuge for most of them. After taking care of some business in Covington the next day, I returned to the shelter. Marianne seemed surprised about this. I worked for about 3.5-4 hours helping distribute food and materials, divided up food to be taken to other shelters and relay points, and generally aided the National Guardsmen in offloading donations. The generosity and sense of community from everyone was a joy to behold in such times. People were looking out for each other. We heard that the Red Cross would take over the shelter the next day, so I decided to go find work elsewhere. They bring their own volunteers and donations in, as everything up to then had been totally ad-hoc by people just pitching in and helping.

The next week and a half were spent helping other people. I helped my friend Nathan move a lot of damaged items to the road. He got over 5′ of water and his neighborhood in Denham was completely trashed. Jason came over one weekend and I went out to help him at his dad’s old house in Hammond. It was already in bad shape. His depression on seeing it in such a state depressed me. I also helped over at my step-mother’s parent’s house on two occasions. I helped move some refrigerators to the street and then helped shovel (with a snow shovel) blown cellulose insulation out of the house. Doing that in 95 degree heat (more indoors) with no fan just about killed me. I regret not helping more, but to be honest I repeatedly hit the bottom of my reserves. I was completely unprepared physically. Perhaps then that is the main regret I have, that I could not have done more.
My Dad working harder than I ever will.

*This picture is of my old man
working harder than I ever will.

In memory of this event, I have included two videos taken off Facebook to demonstrate its scope in my hometown, Walker, and its neighbor, Denham Springs.