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On the high speed train (300 km per hour) in China … passing landscape divided into small plots for agriculture… in the cities everywhere cranes and high rise cement apartment buildings going up and highway construction.. no visible sky or clouds just grey overhead – combination of pollution and mist.

High speed train equipped with stewardesses, fold down trays as on airplanes, large windows, toilets, hot water (boiled for tea, instant noodles), stewardesses with carts of snacks and drinks for sale (non alcoholic), dining cars with pre-prepared meals to microwave.

High Speed Train 70512

So many changes so fast in 5-10 years from dingy ordinary trains filled with people smoking and spitting, sunflower seed shells lining the floor. Trains leaving from dingy, rundown stations… to super high speed trains in purpose-built shiny clean train stations with huge signs advertising all kinds of goods to buy..

High Speed train station 70521

How does this feel for the ordinary person in China to have so many changes so fast in just 10 years or even less? Everywhere development which means high speed technology, wifi, smart phones, fancy cars, more pollution, traffic jams, bright lights so that even shabby buildings look like fantasies at night

Zheng Zhou: fancy railroad station with many many tracks, thousands of new cars lined up but no factory in sight. Everywhere cranes, the entire sky line, cranes upon cranes (not birds) hanging over high rise apartment buildings under construction

What is like to live in a society with so many physical changes? What does it mean for families, culture, ethics? Just get more goods, more high speed trains, more shiny stations? and more and more grey grey no sky days?

People now have money to visit all the tourist attractions, stay in hotels, go on tours, eat in restaurants. Thousands of middle class Chinese tourists at all the sights, taking selfies. Chinese tourists laugh, take photos, hike on sacred mountains – signs of enjoyment. They’re pushy at railroad stations, on the subway, etc, but usually friendly and helpful. People stare at us in the villages, but then break into a big smile when I say nihao (hello).

Grey is the colour – of the sky, of the apartment buildings, of the cement highway overpasses.

Black is the colour of the brand new mostly luxury cars: BMW, Audi, Mercedes: large sedans, wood like interior, total electronics, GPS, backing up rear view cameras, sunroofs very popular despite lack of sun. In Beijing, people in traffic jams, stand up in their cars looking out through their sun roofs

Previously life in China constricted by poverty, illiteracy, lack of access to internet… now life constricted by technology, consumerism, grey skies


Stories about Shoes


Shoe Liberation


Why do women,

especially young women

wear such stupid shoes?



Platform Shoe 1




can trip


twist an ankle

Bad for their calves



Achilles tendons


Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 15.17.58


Cannot walk properly

nor run

nor skip

nor hop

nor jump

Just take teeny tiny

hobbled steps


Comparable to foot binding

of the Chinese upper class

“Lotus foot”

Male foot fetish

My mother in law ran away

when they tried to bind her feet

Her mother pushed her feet

into shoes too small

Her mother illiterate

married into a wealthy landowning family

assumed small feet were necessary

to get married.


Walking through Kibera slum

in Nairobi Kenya

in front of me

A young woman in high heels

carefully lifting each foot

slowly putting each foot down

trying to make her way

through rocks


uneven unpaved paths


stepping over sewer water

Politely spoke to her

suggested that it would be better

to wear sensible shoes

walking through the slum

Bring other shoes if needed for her job.

Next day I saw her

wearing flat shoes.


When young

my mother tried to

feminize me

with girdles



high heels

Always the tomboy

I preferred playing

basketball or

baseball with the boys.


In later years

my mother introduced

me to super shoes




Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 16.13.44

Me and my super shoes

Bounded up and down

the hills of Kibera slum

in Nairobi,Kenya




slippery slopes

sewer water



dodgy youth

who followed me

one day.

No one could stop me

in my super shoes.


Under the overpass, Kibera

Under the overpass, Kibera


I would like to give a

Stupid Shoe Sticker

to every woman I see crippling herself.

This is why we fought for women’s liberation..

NOT to wear high heels

NOT to be objectified by the male gaze

And NOW??

Stupid Shoe Sticker


I am mystified as to why young women would spend their money on instruments of torture for their feet and their bodies.



My mom Bette Hutchison Silver (name before her first marriage was Snidow) often told me that she grew up in an art gallery – the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri.

Her family was struggling to maintain themselves in the working class. Her stepfather was a butcher. Bette was an only child.

Every Saturday morning her mother, Irene Higginbotham, gave Bette Jo a quarter (25 cents) for the day. Bette Jo would ride the bus to the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery (5 cents each way) and would have 15 cents for lunch. Bette Jo would spend the entire day wandering around the gallery.

According to her, my mom barely made it through high school. She attended almost every high school in Kansas City Missouri because the family moved frequently. Every time the rent came due and they could not pay, they moved again. Bette Jo was born in 1922, so she was growing up during the Great Depression in the USA.

As far as I know, my mom had no formal art training yet she became an artist. She was a greeting card illustrator for Hallmark Cards

Painting by Bette Silver

Painting by Bette Silver

Pansies by Bette Silver

Pansies by Bette Silver

in the early days when cards were drawn and painted by hand. Most of the illustrators were young women.  J. C. Hall the founder of Hallmark Cards watched over the young women and often visited and chatted with them.

When my mom got married in 1944, my father Lon Hutchison insisted she stop working at Hallmark Cards. As a true patriarch, he insisted that no wife of his would be working outside the home. They were struggling to survive on my father’s earnings as a paper carrier for the Kansas City Star newspaper, but he would not allow my mom to work.

All of her life, my mom enjoyed the William Rockhill Nelson Art Gallery, attended all most every special exhibition, and often visited the collections on display. She also supported the Kansas City Art Institute. She worked tirelessly for several years on the annual Fireside Auction, which was a major fundraiser for the Kansas City Art Institute.

Memories of Bette as artist continue in our house in Canberra. We have some of her work on display on our walls. Check out the photos in this blog.

Painting of a baby by Bette Silver

Painting of a baby by Bette Silver

I miss you Mom!

Mazatlan Seascape sketches by Bette Silver

Mazatlan Seascape sketches by Bette Silver


Mazatlan Landscape Sketches by Bette Silver

Mazatlan Landscape Sketches by Bette Silver


Painted rocks by Bette Silver

Painted rocks by Bette Silver

Where to begin?

Coming back to Mazatlan, Mexico, but not, as in every other visit, to enjoy, to go to the beach, to relax.

This time to try to make sense of a senseless event – the death of my younger brother Lon Hutchison.

Lon had been living in Mazatlan for about 15 years. His wife Olivia died 5 years ago. He was very close to his stepdaughter, Josefina and to her grandmother Lupita.

One evening, 5th of May 2014, Lon got on his bicycle to run an errand. Lupita and Josefina were in the house. They waited and waited but he didn’t return. Josefina got a phone call that there had been an accident. Lon had been hit by a city bus and killed.

Even though I am here, even though I have spent the past week with Josefina and Lupita trying to do the paperwork related to Lon’s death, I still cannot believe it. I go through each day as if I were living someone else’s life. Here I am – listening to Lupita and Josefina and sharing stories about Lon. But Lon is not here.

We miss you Lon.

Informal altar to Lon, Olivia and Bette Hutchison Silver, July 2014, Mazatlan Mexico

Informal altar to Lon, Olivia and Bette Hutchison Silver, July 2014, Mazatlan Mexico


Our Street 10947

What is happening in Nairobi, Kenya and other very fast growing expanding cities in East Africa and beyond?

The place where I stay, Langata, provides some clues… What was an urban forest, Ngong Forest, not so long ago, has been taken over by apartment buildings and large houses, filling up the land with cement, leaving no space for trees, gardens, parks, or children’s playgrounds.

Behind the apartment where I stay there is an undeveloped open space. No one is allowed to build there because of a natural gas pipeline underground.

The open space is used for parking cars, hanging clothes, raising chickens and sakuma wiki, a local staple, a green leafy vegetable.

Children play in the rubble, the dirt and grassy areas. I sometimes drag a folding chair outside, sit with a book and a glass of wine – just to be outside and watch the clouds.

Home Made church near our apartment building, Langata

Homemade church near our apartment building, Langata

Not far from our building is a homemade church, made of corrugated iron. On Sundays it fills up with people singing and praying, amplified by a generator.

Further down the road, at the end of the paved section is yet another homemade church – also of corrugated iron sheets but painted.

Church near the end of our street, Langata

Church near the end of our street, Langata

At the end of the road are two Maasai manyattas where people live traditionally, driving their cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys into the forest and the grassy areas next to the cemetery daily then bringing them back home to their enclosures for the night.

Sheep and goats coming back to the Maasai manyatta

Sheep and goats coming back to the Maasai manyatta

When I am bored and tired of computer-based life, I walk to the manyatta and play with the children. Yesterday we played Skip to My Lou… skipping together in a long line, singing the song slowly, pausing, then speeding up. Everyone laughed. One tiny boy started crying because he couldn’t keep up with us. So I took his hand and we went at his pace.

Manyatta next to Cherryville apartments, Langata

Manyatta next to Cherryville apartments, Langata

Sketch of the Manyatta from balcony of the apartment building

Sketch of the manyatta from balcony of the apartment building, Langata


Last week, dirt and rubble were brought in by huge trucks, then graded to make a road through the area that is still not developed.

Yesterday a team was surveying the road. Soon houses and apartment buildings will fill up all empty space.

And the remnants of Ngong Forest?

Women carrying wood, trees chopped down in Ngong Forest

Women carrying wood, trees chopped down in Ngong Forest

Disappearing daily as people from Kibera, the nearby urban slum, cut down trees to sell for firewood, hollowing out the forest from the inside out.

Ngong Forest going...going..

Ngong Forest going…going..

Soon Ngong Forest will be no more.

Pile of cut trees Ngong Forest

gone…. trees cut down in Ngong Forest

Soon the Maasai manyattas will be no more.

All will be large houses, apartment buildings, concrete and cement.

CORRECTION:  Photo is of Lon Hutchison with friend Cathy Harris

This is the first in a series of posts about my younger brother Lon Hutchison, who was hit by a bus  and killed on 5 May 2014, while riding his bicycle in Mazatlan, Mexico where he had lived for many years. We miss you Lon!

By Paul Mohr, a childhood friend of Lon Hutchison in Kansas City Missouri                              First posted on facebook

I’m very saddened to hear about Lon’s death. I only knew of his fate because of the obituary that Pamela and Lonna placed in the Kansas City Star. Thank you for letting people know. I’m so sorry for your loss.

I knew Lon from 63rd Street in Kansas City – over 50 years ago. He was my first friend that I recall. He was crazy fun, even as a little kid, I’m telling you. Kids were told then (as I’m sure today) “don’t play with fire” – which was exactly the invitation Lon (and I) needed to play with fire.

He was so much fun. I miss you, pal. You had a wonderful laugh and were an original. The memories are rich.


Lon and friend Barb, March 2011

Lon and friend  Cathy Harris , March 2011




7 May 2014

The loneliness of the long distance family… separated by space and events.

My son Nathan woke me early this morning in Nairobi, Kenya… he was on his way to a film shoot and got a message on facebook from his cousin in Kansas City.

My brother Lon Hutchison died yesterday. He was hit by a bus while riding his bike in Mazatlan Mexico, where he has lived for many years.

Once again I have to write about death.

Two days ago I was thinking about life, Internet, the virtual and the real.

I had a discussion with an intern at Hot Sun Foundation in Nairobi Kenya who is from Germany. She is in her early 20’s. She said that her friends resist spending too much time on Facebook and prefer face-to-face relationships. She is concerned about the virtual taking over real life.

I agree. Yet my life is interdependent with Internet. Even the death of my younger brother Lon.

Last week, talking on SKYPE with my spouse, whom I am usually with less than six months in a year, I found myself talking about how much Internet means to me, here in Nairobi, volunteering and working with youth, mainly from urban slums, learning filmmaking at Hot Sun Film School.

Without Internet, including SKYPE, email, facebook, twitter, I am quite isolated. I spend most of my time working, writing, running errands, some teaching, and taking short walks in the neighborhood.

I am in daily contact with friends, family, ideas, events through SKYPE, facebook and twitter.

Today facebook intervened in my life as the way to find out about my brother Lon.

I miss you Lon. I always thought I could drop in some day to Mazatlan, find you there and share memories and favorite places. Somehow I still think I can. But the Internet told me you are no longer there.


My brother Lon Hutchison and me 2011

My brother Lon Hutchison and me 2011

Clothes on the line Nairobi april 2014

Clothes on the line Nairobi April 2014

Washing clothes by hand

Hanging them out

behind the apartment

in Nairobi.

One by one

Black pants

bought with my mom

at Macy’s

Prairie Village Kansas

Near her home

in Brookside

Kansas City


How much longer will

the pants last?

My mom died March 2011.

The yellow towel

most recent purchase


Prestige Plaza

Nairobi, Kenya.

Striped socks

also bought with my mom


Big W

Woden Plaza

Canberra Australia.

Reminded of people

and places

Clothes hanging on the line.

19 Feb 2014   Nairobi, Kenya

Celebrated my birthday in Nairobi with my son Nathan and his girl friend,

outdoor dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant.

You would have liked all my gifts,

Natural wood carving with small bird Hand made in Nairobi

Natural wood carving with small bird Hand made in Nairobi

Wooden bird carving, natural wood

Wooden bird carving, natural wood

Bag made out of recycled plastic bags

Bag made out of recycled plastic bags

Birthday card of recycled paper and cloth

Birthday card of recycled paper and cloth

Small zipper bag made of recycled plastic bags

Small zipper bag made of recycled plastic bags

Mom–local arts and crafts and

recycled bags.

Wish you could be here, Mom.

Miss you.

Bette Silver, Botanical Gardens, San Francisco, California

Bette Silver, Botanical Gardens, San Francisco, California

Pamela (left) on the ferry from Sydney to Manly, Australia

Pamela (left) on the ferry from Sydney to Manly, Australia


Took the ferry to Manly

Last time on

the ferry to Manly

was 20 years ago

with my mother

Thinking of her

Becoming harder

to tap into

my feelings

of grief

of loss

Am I sealing part of myself off?

Am I trying to protect myself?

To get on with life

yet not feeling anything deeply?

Am I going into slow motion?

Waking up in the morning

more of a chore

Have to motivate myself

Get up

Do some stretches

Ageing brings aches and pains

that don’t go away

Can remember when

I had unlimited energy

Now the stiffness takes work

Moving takes work

Keeping up my level of energy

takes work

More emotional energy required


Miss you mom

Did you have to struggle

with aches and pains

20 years ago

while we were traveling

around Australia?

Bette Silver's Hat with badges from her visit to Australia 1992

Bette Silver’s Hat with badges from her visit to Australia 1992

I don’t remember

you ever complaining

Miss you mom

Surely I can just

call you up

and you will be there

Bette Silver, Botanical Gardens, San Francisco, California

Bette Silver, Botanical Gardens, San Francisco, California

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