Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Camp

Andrew sent these pictures this morning.  They are at another camp, this time in a country compound of some sort, with about a hundred and fifty children of "family."  It was supposed to be teens only; however, it ended up being children of all ages, so they have quite a mixture this week.  Andrew has done some teaching; however, the nighttime teaching has been done by one particular leader of the family in the area.  Andrew says keeping all those kids busy, of all different ages, has been quite a challenge.

There is no commentary on the pictures because they are all I have.  They tell plenty of stories by themselves.  They look like classic pictures of kids at camp!  I do think the last two pics are the cutest.  :-)











Sunday, July 27, 2014

Meniscus Repair

Well this has been an interesting three days, after outpatient meniscus repair surgery on Thursday morning.

It's about 4:45 a.m. on Sunday morning right now.  Mike has left for work, and I figure - it may be early, but the orthopedic surgeon said it's OK to take the Ace bandage off on Sunday.  So off it has come.

My right knee is very swollen.

Everything was fine, after the meniscus repair on Thursday, until Friday night, when I got hit with excruciating pain.  It may have been from a couple of unsuccessful attempts to get out of the recliner (the angle and grip have to be just right to keep from putting weight on the right leg); or, it might have been from too much exertion on the leg during the day.  It took a series of Lortabs and several hours to get the entire area settled down.  It felt like there was swelling under the Ace bandage, and with the pressure that exerted, there was nowhere for the swelling to go except down, into the surgery area.  Pain.

So yesterday I was very good.  Stayed in the recliner all day.  Kept the knee on ice.  Used a walker!!  (Now that was a real humiliation.)  Did what Mike said.  And it has been better.  I can tell, though, that it still is going to need a lot of gentle care.

Mike has been a trouper.  He has taken care of everything I need, and the kitchen looks better than it does when I clean it up.  I am very grateful for all he has done to help me.  And when all this is over, I hope to be grateful for a repaired meniscus also.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday's Fave Five - 7/25/14


Link to Friday's Fave Five host blog

1. Thankful for a fine Christian orthopedist, with whom we used to go to church, who operated on my knee yesterday and did an arthroscopic meniscus repair.  Hopefully that will take care of the problems.  I would not have made it through the China trip without a good brace.

2. Thankful for a good recliner, a nice fancy ice pack my husband went to get yesterday, and lots of good help from family and friends.  Oh, and Lortabs.

3. I have gotten many favorable remarks on the China posts, especially the last wrap-up one.  The trip was really special, and knowing that people were following it and interested in it made the trip even better.

4. We noticed that our natural gas bill was higher than it should be this month, as during the summer we only make the base payment.  (We only use gas for supplemental heat.)  Turns out we have a pinhole leak in some aluminum piping under the house.  The gas man who came to check it said we probably had a lightning strike at some point, and that kind of piping is never used any more due to such problems.  We will get the piping replaced, but there is no rush to do so (the gas has been sealed off), and the gas man said the hole was so small that there had been very minimal risk of explosion.

5. Just got word from my son in China that he is being moved to a brand new apartment that is right on his university campus!  Right now he and two fellow teachers are living in a building on a university that is about four to five miles away from where they teach.  I am so glad for that.  His current apartment leaves much to be desired and it sounds like this will be much better.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Some Final Thoughts About China

Here are my final thoughts about China.  Granted, two weeks in a country are not enough to make a person even semi-informed, much less an expert.  But it is time enough to make some observations - nothing new or profound, but still what I saw and thought.  I'll share these final musings here, and then try to think and write about some topic other than China for awhile.

Typical apartment building in the city
1. I observed evidence that China's people and way of life are truly emergent, in the sense that they are both modern and backward.  They want to be a first-world country, and they are coming along, but there is much of the third world that is dragging behind their first-world ambitions.

For example, I was in several buildings that, due to the level of dirt and poor quality, appeared to be twenty-plus years old, or more.  It was a surprise to find out that the buildings were only 4-5 years old.  The philosophy in China is "Build it, let it run down, tear it down, and build it again."  (There is construction going on everywhere.)  Andrew's boss is one of the first ground-breaking thinkers to actively work on this problem, and to try to instill the concept into the national psyche of building maintenance.  A country simply can't put as much energy into improving its state of being, when the current state is constantly having to be rebuilt.

Street sweeper outside my son's apartment building
There are basic services in China that need work if the people are going to completely dig themselves out of third-world status.  They don't seem to know what to do with their mountains of trash.  Their sewer systems are inadequate.  All the agriculture is done by hand.  Many streets are swept by hand, with old-fashioned corn brooms.  I didn't see many, but did see a few donkey-driven carts, as well as many bicycle-pedaled trash carts.  The Chinese have come a long way (train systems, modern architecture, etc.), but they have a long way to go.

Some things are being done well.  I thought that the Air China employees had a higher level of professionalism, both in appearance and actions, than the United Airlines employees I dealt with.  And Beijing (probably because of the Olympics) is much more modern, and somewhat westernized, than where we were.  It was not hard to find a hamburger, or a Starbucks, or many familiar names, in Beijing.  Except for a few KFCs and McDonalds, there were not recognizable names in our city.

2. This is a no-brainer, but I still observed that eastern culture is very different from western.  The visitor is simply not in the same world.

There are few similarities in the food, to what Westerners are familiar with.  Those who go to China had better learn to like sesame oil, soy sauce, noodles, and dumplings.  And they'd better not look too closely at the conditions of the kitchens where food is prepared.  Health department regulations do not appear to be a source of stress for purveyors of food in this country.

I saw people in this eastern culture nation burning money to appease the spirits, and saw people stuffing Buddha statues with money for good luck, and heard fireworks being discharged to keep evil spirits away from new businesses.   

Babies in China are held over shrubbery, or over the sidewalks, to relieve themselves.  Children tend to rule the roost, more so than in the west.  I was told that the main role of a grandmother in Chinese society is to care for the grandchild (usually singular) so that the mother can work.

One day we noticed that lines had been painted on the street we walked on often.  My son commented wryly, "That will be a nice decoration."  It made absolutely no difference in the crazy way people drove.  That is typical of eastern nations.

One college girl, introduced to me, did not want to lift her eyes to me as we conversed - a throwback, according to the Chinese adult who was with us, to the era when girls were supposed to look down at all times.  The acrobat show we went to in Beijing had an act with native Chinese costumes, and the girls' shoes were designed to give the appearance of the old bound feet of centuries ago. 

3. China's people reveal the effects of growing up in a completely secular state.  The main goal of the young people, and the educational system, is to look out for themselves, get ahead, and be successful.  I heard that philosophy stated, but observed it also.  In Wal-Mart, a young man spotted me as a foreigner and introduced himself, and we had a nice discussion right in the school supplies department.  I told him my son was running a world-view camp in a couple of weeks, thinking that if he had any interest at all I might try to link him up to it.  His only comment was "Oh, that's good, he can make more money by running that camp."  (Little did he know!!)

There is a very high level of expectation in the educational system.  The pressure is immense.  (One man at the English Corner, when we were discussing education due to the fact that the American guest was a teacher, made this statement:  "Chinese schools are prisons.") However, partly due to the huge social pressure placed on these students, cheating is rampant.  If there is little to no moral training, other than to make parents proud, it is understandable that any means to the end of being successful would be acceptable.

Most people look out only for themselves.  They think nothing of crowding others on subway or train platforms or squeezing ahead in any way.  They get unhappy if you take too long bagging your groceries ahead of them in a store line.  The rule of the road is - whichever driver can get there first, around the others, gets the advantage.  It's all about self.

Most of the people I saw on the streets did not have joy or happiness on their faces.  If you try to engage someone with a smile and a look, if that person returns the look, it will be with a startled expression.  A few will smile back, but most quickly look away.  I was told that any attempt at friendliness is usually interpreted as "What do you want from me?"  Everyone is out for himself.  Most people work long, backbreaking hours, many at menial jobs, and they are jaded.

Sunday is a day completely like other days.  There is little evidence of it being in any way a day of rest.  We in the west may have taken much out of our day of rest, but there is at least some attempt to keep it as a day set apart - not so in the east.  Also, in my two weeks of traveling many places in this city of seven million, I saw exactly one (state-run) church building.

All these observations, to me, reflected the results of secularism.

Observed in the apartment of a Christian couple
4. And finally, I observed that those who do identify with the Father are serious about their decision.  There is absolutely no advantage, socially, to doing so.  Therefore, most are genuine about their desire to follow the Father.   They are firm in their direction and they are also firm in their desire to help others in the same path.  They are creative in their ways of meeting.  They know that an Assembly is not a building.  And those of us in the West, who are of the same mindset concerning the Father, can learn much from their example.

In conclusion:  It was an overwhelming, exciting, awful, great, tiring, inspiring, and wonderful trip, all at the same time.  Seeing my son, and what he and his teammates are doing, was alone worth the expense and time.  Spending time with my son was sweet to this mother's heart.  And it was a joy to meet brothers and sisters in that setting.  Learning about another culture was great, but it was secondary to the experience of seeing the Family.  (There was no escaping the culture - it was forced on the newcomer in every breath, sight, and sound.)  It was worth the fatigue and the jet lag and the digestive difficulties.  I would happily go again.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pics and Videos - Last Group!

One last post of photos and videos.  Just have a lot to show.

This is crazy short, because it was supposed to be a photo.  I went ahead and posted it because it so perfectly shows a very dressed up lady, next to a woman in jean shorts, and a man with his shirt rolled up.  Very typical sight.

video

This (below) was also pretty typical, of the street up to the grocery store where I walked several times.  There was so much more I wanted to capture, but usually didn't have a camera, or couldn't get to it, when the best sights presented themselves.  (You learn fast NEVER to set your bag or packages on the ground, for any reason.  And benches are non-existent.)  I would have loved to have gotten a picture, for example, of the man I saw who had been "fire-cupped"--big brown circles on his back where a ritual of ancient medicine had been performed on him.  I don't know if the circles are current burns or are scars.  I would also have loved to get a picture of the men on bicycles with large carts behind them, taking trash to who knows where.  Or the man who was burning money on a street corner; according to Andrew, to appease his ancestors.  Or the man in the Beijing train station wearing what we would consider to be a little boy's summer pajamas, screen printed with birds.  Or the people who stared.  :-)
video

This photo is of the same general area as the video above.  I wanted a picture to show how, wherever you see an arable spot of land, someone has planted a garden on it.  This was no exception.


Two examples of Chinglish.  The first one was at the back room of a restaurant where the group met on a Sunday morning; the second one was on the side of an escalator.

I took this because it was a typical sight.  This is the back door of the restaurant that is located near Andrew's apartment building on the college campus.  The lady squatting (a little hard to see) is doing some kind of prep work of vegetables or meat.  I saw this in many places - the preparation of food takes place outside of restaurants or even homes if possible.  Seeing people squatting doing this kind of work is very common.


Andrew's washing machine.  It holds about five pieces at a time, all of which have to be hung to dry.  He just got a drying rack from a friend who came back to the States; before that, everything had to be hung in the wet bath - which meant it took about 24 hours to dry.

Waiting for English Corner to start.  This young couple is coming to the States this fall to continue their eduation.  They just graduated from a very intense, Ivy-league style school in the city.





Another view from the Great Wall.  It was beautiful.  I would have loved to have taken a video on the chair-lift ride up, but the potential risk of dropping phone or iPad was just a little too great.  Had I realized how beautiful the ride up would be, and gotten it out of my pocketbook beforehand, I would have done so.  But Mrs. Klutz herself wasn't about to risk it while on the chair-lift hanging who knows how high above the jungle.


Beijing on the day I left.  It was not a cloudy day; the fuzzy appearance is smog.  On this day, the smog level was FIVE times the maximum allowable levels of smog in the U.S.

I wanted to post a video showing the church group singing, but the only one I have that doesn't show people, is also too long to put on here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Videos from China

Here are some videos taken on the trip.  This first one is walking down a busy city street.  This is a big shopping area in the downtown area.  Right before filming this, we walked past a terrible stench - and discovered it was an open sewer pipe flushing into a drain.  A little different than we would expect in the States. . .
video

This is a Wal-Mart deli counter in China. . .
video

. . .and Carolyn, a teammate and friend of Andrew's who took me with her to Wal-Mart on the other side of town, trying to communicate with the lady at the deli about some of the food choices.  She is using a translation app on her phone to help.
video

This is a good example of some of the chaos on the streets and also of how women wear anything from shorts to what we would consider more formal clothing, even on weekdays.  On my last day we noticed that lines had been painted on this street.  "Nice decoration," Andrew said. "Won't make any difference at all."  He was right.
video

At the train station in Beijing.  People everywhere, but it was actually a very light day!  If you can see the ground in front of you, the constant traffic of people is considered to be normal and not busy.
video

I have more to load, and may edit this and add more later (or do it in another post).  Ready to go to bed.  Right now I do not know when to sleep and when to be awake.  Was told it would probably take a week to feel normal, and I believe it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Food pics

Most of these photos were taken at either Metro (the import store) or Wal-Mart.  I thought the
 various things were just too interesting not to remember.  Hope you enjoy a 
"taste" of a few of the food items I saw.
Who knows what "dried meat floss" is?  It was a powder.  None of those I asked seemed to know--

Ah, yes, there was bacon!  Until I looked at the actual product. . . 

Interesting department label--

This is just two of four complete shelving units in Wal-Mart stocking soy sauce and flavored vinegars.

Not sure what this was, but it wasn't anything like any Great Value product we would find here.

These are steamed breads.  To me the ones on the lower right look like they ought to be popped into an oven and browned, but they are cooked and ready for eating just like this.  They have no taste.

Eggs, anyone?  Chicken feet, anyone?
Chinese Oreos
Chinese version of a frozen pizza.  Not real appetizing-- 

Note the item that is labeled "green beans."
So would you add this product to your next grilling party?
Goji Berries and Dried Sliced Kelp.
Wal-Mart Deli Bar
The pink fruit on the left is dragon fruit; in the middle are coconuts; and on the right is a large fruit called Durian that has a TERRIBLE smell.  Many Asians love to eat it in spite of the smell.  I'd heard of it, so had to take a big whiff.  It really is awful. 
I thought it was funny that these were labeled "Clean Vegetable."








Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Rest of the Trip

Well--if there are any readers left of this blog, they've probably departed due to the lack of updates.  Internet was spotty my last few days in Andrew's city; my sister is on vacation and was unavailable to post updates; we were too busy in Beijing to take time to write; and by the time I got on the airplane, I was too exhausted and too sick to even think about writing.  Yesterday was more of the same; I did not leave the house.  (Thanks to my parents for bringing supper!)  Today - I feel much better but the fatigue still comes in waves.  I'll be up for awhile, then want to climb back in the bed and sleep for hours.

Anyway, here is the conclusion to the trip.  Thoughts and insights will have to wait until my brain is in less of a fog.

DAY 13
Last day in Andrew's city.  I mended several articles of his clothing, re-packed the suitcase, finished up several things I had been doing around his house.  I also walked to the commercial area off campus to take videos of the streets, markets, and shops, and also go to the ATM one more time.

In the evening, his neighbors James and Joanna from upstairs, and also his friend Carolyn, came for supper.  We still had plenty of spaghetti fixings so made another pot of it, and also another pineapple casserole.  Joanna brought salad and some cookies, and Carolyn brought bread.  Nice last dinner.

DAY 14
Up at 5:15 to meet Andrew's friend Jim at the back gate of campus by 6:15.  He had kindly texted Andrew the day before, and offered to take us to the train station.  Jim is a brilliant hydrologist in his forties who is working on major dam projects in the area; he and Andrew have become friends.  Andrew helps him with translation work and Jim does kind things like this for Andrew.  And as Jim said while I was there, "We do not keep lists."

The trip to the train station was another great tour of the city - I saw parts that we'd not been to yet.  I also saw my first and only church building in the city (7 million people according to Wikipedia) - a Three-Self church near the downtown.

Jim dropped us off around 7:00 and we made our way inside, past the beggars playing instruments and the people hurrying to work.  We went through security, waited about twenty minutes, and boarded a D-train to Beijing.  Those are the nicer (not the nicest but still very good) trains - we had assigned seats and a pleasant car. I took the window seat to get the best view.  Saw fields, cities, towns, polluted rivers (every river appears to be polluted), rice paddies, and more.  In six hours' worth of viewing fields of corn, beans, orchards, and rice, I did not see a single mechanical implement.  I did see that paper bags are placed over all the fruit on trees to prevent birds from eating the fruit.  That would be a huge amount of manual labor.

Arrived Beijing at 2:15 and immediately headed for the subway.  Now we had another experience of crowds, security, and moving as quickly as possible.  This subway trip included two changes to other lines, so we were in transit for well over an hour.  It was very nice to see our friend Sam in his van waiting for us at the end of all this.

Four boys who couldn't quit grinning at me on the subway.  They don't see many middle-aged white women!
Sam, his wife Penny-Sue, and their family, were glad to see us.  Andrew has stayed with them one time before, and they have urged him to come any time he needs a break.  He will do so.  They could not have been any more hospitable or helpful to us.  That evening some other people supported by Oakwood, John and Debbie, and their boys, came over for a Fourth of July supper.  We had a great meal of chicken, potato salad, and all the fixings.  Very non-Chinese!  Then the songbooks came out, as well as the guitar and two violins.  We had a beautiful time of singing together around the piano.  We also walked to another location several blocks away to see the new location where John and Debbie are headquartering their educational consulting business as well as their group meeting.  They are so pleased to get it and have worked very hard to make it nice.  It was a pleasure to see and hear about what they are doing.  I was completely spent by the time we returned, and was grateful for a son who was willing to take my place in cleaning up the kitchen so that I could go straight to bed - where I slept for 10 straight hours.

DAY 15
Saturday morning we left for Starbucks and then - the Great Wall!!  Penny-Sue kindly gave a day to drive us there.  The trip there should have been only a little over an hour, but due to a wreck it took three.  Their three girls (one is their summer guest) went up to the wall with us.  We went up on a chairlift; I came down on the same chairlift but the girls and Andrew took the toboggan down.  Being on the wall is surreal.  There really isn't anything up there except the wall itself, but just knowing you are standing on such a piece of history makes it quite an event.  We got several pictures, including one reading WORLD magazine and one reading the ELECTRIC CITY NEWS.  Hopefully both can be published.

In the afternoon, our hosts had to leave for a Book study and some work obligations, and two of the girls had a class to teach.  But the third took Andrew and me to the Pearl Market.  Due to the lateness of the Wall trip, I only had about thirty minutes to shop. Amazing all I can accomplish in that short amount of time.  In the evening we met the other girls and went to a performance of the Chinese Acrobatic Troupe.  Unbelievable contortions, acts, and immersion in Chinese culture.
Our trip to the Chinese Acrobats
So that was my main day of being a Chinese tourist!

DAY 16
Sunday - last day in China.  All were up early as we had to leave for the meeting by a little after 9:00.  We drove about 45 minutes to another part of the city, picking up three Chinese along the way.  (12 of us in a van - Chinese rules are a little more lax.)  We met in two believers' apartment - 12 Chinese plus our group.  Sitting in a circle, singing from a Chinese hymnbook with the girls' accompaniment on the violins - very touching.  The room was warm because the air conditioner did not reach in there, and of course the windows could not be opened.  There is another group that meets on Saturday nights; the groups cannot be merged because they would get too large and attract too much attention.  Sam spoke in Chinese and his daughter translated for me.  Being a part of this small nucleus of Chinese family, just for one Sunday, was an honor.

Mao's tomb in the middle of Tiananmen Square
On the way to eat, we drove past Tiananmen Square, right past the Forbidden City, up the street where the tankers rolled, and past the building with Mao's tomb.  Just seeing it was enough - I didn't need to get out and walk.  Being in downtown Beijing, with the government buildings all around, was somewhat intimidating.  The presence of their authority was felt.

After eating, we returned to their apartment (which is comfortable and relatively roomy), I repacked my suitcase, and then they got back into their van to take me to the airport.  (I said that they were wonderful hosts.  Not once did they suggest that I take the subway or bus or taxi.)  I said goodbye to them after checking in my baggage, and then Andrew walked with me to the security checkpoint.  Needless to say, it was difficult to say goodbye to him.  He and the others are being light in a dark place; I am so proud of him and of them all.

After a 14-hour flight to Washington-Dulles, and another short flight home, I retrieved my luggage and saw Mike waiting outside.  Wonderful to see him.  He should have been in the bed at home, as both Sunday and Monday were stressful work days, but he was determined to come pick me up even at 11:30 p.m.

So, after some recuperation days (yesterday I never left the house) I will post comments and more pictures!

Thank you to those who have kept up with the progress of this trip.  I appreciated it.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Day 12

In Beijing for two nights with the Laterza family.  They have been wonderful hosts--Great Wall today!! Along with the Pearl Market and Chinese Acrobats.  And tomorrow--flying home after the day's activities.  I still can't upload pictures, but have plenty to put up after getting home!

I'm so glad we are doing the tourist things in Beijing after being in Changchun.  Beijing is still China, of course, but it's much different than Changchun, which is not a tourist center at all.  Changchun is completely an interior Chinese city.

Will probably not post again until I get home, and then have a lot of catch-up to do.

I did get Day 12 written and will go ahead and get it up here:

Day 12

Wednesday--At 10:00 Andrew took me on his motorbike to meet Carolyn at the bus stop. In order to get there from her school, she must cross a busy road on an overhead bridge, then walk back across the busy road. There is no gate from her campus to the bus stop even though the two are only a few hundred yards apart. China!

She and I took the city bus several stops in, then got off at the light rail, or Chingway, the subway/elevated system. We took this much further to the other side of town, to--Wal-Mart!!!  My dad will be so happy. It was both similar to and yet very different from an American Wal-Mart. Who would think you could get Great Value brand dried seaweed?  I did find some imported Ocean Spray juice, which tasted great.  I got Andrew some shelving for his kitchen and some other things for his house.  We took a taxi home because of our many packages. 

Andrew was busy today with preparations for the camp he is in charge of, so I just stayed in his apartment and worked on mending some things that needed it. We went to Carolyn's for supper. She and Andrew are friends, and she had a nice supper for us using Turkish spices she got while traveling.  I enjoyed being at her little studio apartment very much.

Sent from my iPad

Friday, July 4, 2014

In Beijing

In Beijing.  Just now have Wifi for the first time in 36 hours.  Going to the Great Wall today.  My iPad won't let me put up pictures, so that will have to wait since Rhoda is on her trip and can't do it for me.  So there will be a big update later!!