Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mimi says "hey"

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mimi, my beautiful Pekingese

Mimi is doing well. She has had an eye infection for two months. Once it was almost clear, but she rubbed it and it got messed up again. Now, it's almost better again. She's taken antibiotics and had eye gel applied -- not willingly though. She is 12-1/2 years old, and I guess it is taking her longer to heal than it would if she was younger. She's more moody and grouchy than she used to be, and I don't know if it can be attributed to age or illness or both. I love her and I know she feels the same about me, even when she's grouchy.

And for those smarty-pants among you who wonder exactly when it was that my dog was NOT grouchy, all I can do is wrinkle my nose and glare at you. Please leave my doggy alone. What you consider as aggressive behavior, I consider part of her job as my protective detail. She was merely protecting me. :-)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Brief updates: weather, friends, TV, movies, transport

WEATHER: June serves up pleasant weather where I live. July and August are unbearably hot and humid, but June's [usually] mild rains, known as the plum rain season, make for bearable temperatures. I'm trying to get out as much as I can before it becomes too hot. Today we had torrential rains instead of mild rains, but that's not common.

FOREIGN FRIENDS: Most of my foreign friends in town are leaving for the summer, but will be back in the fall. Chinese friends will still be around though, most of them anyway.

TV VIEWERSHIP: I get CNN International and Fox News on satellite TV, so for the most part, I hear the same news you do. I usually watch CNN in the morning (Anderson Cooper, et al) and Fox and Friends in the evening. (I'm in a different time zone, remember?) The toxic, argumentative political atmosphere bothers me though, so lately I've had have to turn off the TV often to maintain peace of heart and mind.

MOVIES: I don't watch movies much, but I watched the movie "Lion" on the airplane a few weeks ago, and I loved it. It is about an Indian boy who ends up being adopted by a family in Tasmania, where I once lived. The boy arrived in Tasmania the same year I did, in 1987. The movie is a tearjerker.

TRANSPORTATION: Bamboo Forest is opening more and more subway lines, and it makes life easier. When it rains and I have to get out, I stress out trying to plan the best way to get where I'm going and back. Taxis fill up with passengers during rainstorms and vacant ones can be hard to find; e-bike travel is not a great option; I'll get wet walking to and from the subway station, and sometimes at the other end, my destination is too far from the subway station. Buses seldom go where I want to go, so they are ruled out quickly. If you've always had a car, you've probably never had to think about this kind of thing.

Hope you've enjoyed these random updates!

Boating in the water town village

Sunday, June 04, 2017

African safari

Mongena Game Lodge at Dinokeng Game Reserve in northern South Africa, north of Pretoria
Zebras roamed freely at the lodge
The zebras are considered wild animals, and we were warned not to try to pet them, but it was not a problem to get near them to photograph them. 
The brush reminded me of central Texas. Dirt roads, dry brush, and medium-height trees were in the reserve. I was there in May, which is the first part of winter in South Africa. Mornings and evenings were quite chilly. 
That's a lion in the upper right quadrant of the photo. He's not in focus (sorry). He ate a warthog for dinner within a minute or two of me taking this photo. He was hungry. Lions like to eat anything with bones and blood. I'm thankful for a safari guide who is attuned to animal behavior and getaway techniques, and of course I'm thankful for the wart hog. RIP. 
The sun sets while on safari.
A wild ostrich. There were several, but the lighting was poor, so the photo isn't great.
Lots and lots of giraffes. 
Zebras and other deer-like animals at the game lodge.
Individual cabins at the lodge. 

Interestingly, the cost of lodging, food and safari was less than the cost of a daily stay at a typical hotel in the U.S. If you can afford an airline ticket to South Africa, then the rest is easy, relatively speaking. The grounds were gorgeous, and I am thankful I got to go. I pinched myself a few times to make sure it was real. I was in jet lag most of the week I was there though. Bummer for that. 

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Trip to Johannesburg, South Africa

At the end of May I had to go on a trip to South Africa. I had never been to Africa before, so I was a bit giddy. I had to take two flights. The first flight was 2.5 hours from Shanghai to Hong Kong. The second flight was 13 hours and was from Hong Kong to Johannesburg. Jo'burg looks very much like America. Above is a residential neighborhood in the big city. 
After arrival, they took us to a mall for lunch. On that day, the mall had a rooftop market going on, and I got a latte there.
Next to the mall was an "African market" that sells local handicrafts. I picked up a few souvenirs.
Later in the day, a bus took me and my group to a conference location a couple of hours away from Johannesburg. We passed by a black township, and I saw these people standing beside the road waiting for rides. A township is similar to a Chinese village (as I view it), although I'm no authority on life in Africa.

During my trip, I was able to go on two jeep safaris in a game reserve. I'll soon post photos from that, so come back soon! 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Garage Band

I went to the underground garage on Monday morning and discovered an underground garage band. The middle-age and elderly ladies were pounding drums and cymbals to the beat. It's not totally unusual to see older people practicing for performance arts like this (although I really don't get it), but in the garage? That's a first.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Flat tire

I had a flat tire on my e-bike the other evening. I had ridden it all the way across town and back and was within five minutes of reaching my place when I heard a flapping sound.

Thank God I knew of a nearby repair place, and they hadn't quite closed down for the evening when I pulled up and asked them if my tire was out of air or not. They saw the nail (a screw really), so I pulled up a lawn chair and waited for them to repair it for me.

The cost was 5 RMB, which is about 73 cents. Not a bad price.

I'm so thankful for the sidewalk repair shops around town. You can get your bike fixed, or your shoes, often by the same repairman. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Friends of mine

I had dinner with a few American friends at their place recently. These people are like my overseas family. I'm so thankful for them!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

English-language Church

The government allows foreigners to meet together for worship at an English-language fellowship. When I first moved to town, we met in an auditorium inside an office building. It was so convenient. We even had air-conditioning and heating in that building.

But then the government decided to build a church building in the new area of town that is far away from where everyone lives. If we want to meet, we have to meet there. The building is used by a local Chinese group in their own language earlier on Sunday mornings, and when they finish the English speakers can use it.

Only foreign passport holders are allowed to attend the English service. No Chinese can attend, by law. We can attend services led by Chinese, but they can't attend services led by foreigners.

It is a gorgeous building. It's just hard to get to. It is not near a bus stop or a subway station. Taxi drivers don't know how to get there, and if you do get there you'll have trouble finding a taxi to get out of there.

The English-language congregation charters buses to pick up people who live in certain neighborhoods. I don't live near those places where the chartered buses go.

One other problem: From where you get off of the taxi or bus, you have to walk for 15 minutes through a public park to get to the church. There are three pathways, and one requires stepping on rocks to cross a small lake. Wearing a nice outfit that requires heels is out of the question. Handicapped people might as well stay home.

It's a great fellowship, it is just really complicated to get to and from the meeting! By taxi, if I go each Sunday, in one month it will cost $100 roundtrip, because it is so far away.

That's the way it is. I'll show more photos another time.