Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Shanghai Tower


Some friends I know from east Texas were in China last week, and they flew in and out of Shanghai on the way to their destination further west. So at the end of their trip, I traveled to Shanghai to meet them and spent three days with them. They wanted to see Shanghai Tower, the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the building with the highest observation deck in the world (you can't even go that high in the Burj Khalifa). We rode the elevator the the 119th floor observation deck. Unfortunately, the rain clouds had trapped the air pollution, and the photos turned out dark and dreary. Someday when a day off, a trip to Shanghai, a clear day and thirty extra dollars are sitting around, I may go up again and get a good photo. I do not like heights, but it only took 54 seconds for that elevator to get us up to the 119th floor. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Plodding along

I can't believe it's been sooooo long since I've checked in here on the blog. 

Sometimes, though, I just feel tired at the end of the day -- or even in the middle of the day -- and I can't do a single thing more. I still don't have my old energy back.

And on the days I don't feel tired, the internet is too slow. It took about ten minutes to sign in to this blog, and then another five or ten to upload a single photo. I grow weary of slow internet. I mean, I'm glad to have it, but I know it works so much faster in other countries than it does here. Maybe you can't relate to this frustration. 

Since I last posted, I have been on a trip to Thailand for two weeks. I shot this elephant's backside while I was there. I actually took some other photos too and maybe I'll post a few of them here someday before long.

I also had my quarterly oncology check-up. Looks like everything is fine.

The weather is turning cool and rainy, and I am so thankful. I love autumn.

Hope to check in again soon!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Waiting for the train to come

I went on a short train trip yesterday to a nearby city to visit friends. Trains and train stations here kind of fascinate me. They are comfortable and clean nowadays too. Who would have thought the day would come when even small train stations had Starbucks in them?

My blog post title, "Waiting for the train to come" reminds me of a song Russ Taff sings. I wonder if anyone else remembers that song besides me? It's called The River Unbroken. Here is the YouTube version of the song and here are the lyrics. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Two years ago today

Two years ago today I got on a plane and flew back to America. I knew I had cancer but I didn't know what kind or how severe it was. I didn't know if I'd ever see China or my Chinese friends again. I left my dog behind in China on that day and hoped I would be successfully reunited with her. I remember wondering if I'd make it until Christmas, and now it has been two years. It feels a little surreal. Of course I am very thankful for all that God has done for me. Everything in life seems different now though. There is nothing good about cancer.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Cultural event

The business that invited me to this country (you need an inviter for visa purposes) asked me to attend a charity event today. I was asked to prepare an English poem to read at the event. I had no idea what this event was all about, but of course I would cooperate!

I somehow expected it to be a fundraiser. Don't charities always need money? If you need money, you ask as many people as you can to attend. So I expected 100 people or so. Fifty minimum.

When only 11 people showed up and some of them didn't look old enough to be making much money, I worried. Would I be viewed as a rich foreigner who would donate all I own to make their charity a success? Awkward!

A couple of young ladies were sent to be with me at the event. I wanted to ask them about the purpose of the event, but if I asked, then they might think I was complaining, and they would be embarrassed. So I just sat back quietly and played along.

We all sat at a long table with Chinese tea cups and nuts for snacks. We were inside an exquisitely decorated traditional Chinese tea and furniture shop. 

As it turns out, charity is a bad translation for what this group is all about. The group exists to help preserve Chinese culture through sharing poems, playing traditional Chinese musical instruments, sharing photography, and engaging in other arts. Obviously my English poem is not preserving Chinese culture, but hey, they asked for it, not me!

In attendance were teachers, musicians, photographers, and a TV producer. Three of four of those present read Chinese poems. Three played musical instruments. One guy showed his photographs on a flat-screen TV.

The only man present read a long poem. It must have lasted 6 or 7 minutes. He was speaking dramatically as he read the poem. He was halfway through the poem when his phone rang.

He reached over to turn it off.

Except he didn't turn it off, he answered it and had a conversation in front of all us in the middle of his poem! It would be like if you were at church and in the middle of the sermon the pastor's phone rang, he answered it and had a conversation in front of the entire church. 

The organizer lady looked mortified, not so much for herself, but for fear that their foreign guest (me) would think them crude. I just smiled sweetly as if I hadn't noticed. It makes no difference to me really, except it is a little humorous. It's not her fault. People just do things and you never know what's going to happen. 

I had an enjoyable afternoon, and no one asked me for money. I consider that an overall win!

When it was over, we could stay and talk or we could leave. I asked the two young women with me if it was okay to leave. One of them, age 24, did everything but roll her eyes. She said she was not middle aged and she just wasn't "getting the feeling." Chinese culture means nothing to her. I suppose that's why the group feels the need to exist, to preserve what many care nothing about anymore.
Traditional Chinese paint brushes on a stand
Beautiful Chinese chess set
Part of the group; I love the lights
Traditional Chinese music instrument
The organizer
More of the group

Smarty pants dog

She knows I'm taking her picture. She's acting like she's ignoring me, but she is completely engaged in the situation. She plays the game better than anyone I know. She is one smart doggy. This photo was taken at my parents' house, and I ran across it the other day. I love it because -- even though you probably can't see them like I can -- I can see the wheels turning in her brain and it makes me laugh out loud. Ah, she's so hilarious and I love her. Here's to YOU, Mimi!

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Daily life

A lady barber cuts hair on the side of the road in north central China. It's common to see sidewalk barbers in China.
The energy-sapping humidity of summer has finally relented and gone away. I couldn't be happier. Now I can get out on my e-bike and explore this beautiful city!

Most of my trips are across town. My physical therapist's office is roughly 12 miles away, and it takes 45-60 minutes to get there by e-bike, depending on whether traffic is bad or ridiculously bad. I have PT once or twice a week. It would be a beautiful drive if I wasn't always having to watch out for the other guy.

The part of town where the Brazilian PT works also is home to most expats in town, so there are American-style grocery stores and American-style restaurants there. (There are also German restaurants, Italian ones, etc.) After PT, I generally go to a grocery store and stock up on enough groceries to fill two reusable tote bags and I carry home groceries on my e-bike. All summer long I couldn't carry home butter, because it would melt, but now I can buy butter too. I don't buy a whole lot of American-style goods though. A can of Campbell's vegetable soup costs over $6. I sometimes buy tortilla chips, pickles, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and canned beans. The stores are not large.

I'm also attending an expat ladies' Bible study in that part of town on Tuesday mornings. It's held in an upstairs coffee shop of a ritzy hotel; the coffee shop is seldom used by others. The expat church is also on that side of town, but even further away. My e-bike can't make it as far as the church, so when I go there I have to go by taxi.

The Tex-Mex restaurant and my hair dresser are over there, as is my regular doctor. I suppose it would make sense to live over there since I go there so much, but I live in an interesting part of town too. My apartment, if in the expat part of town, would cost twice as much, and I would have to downsize and have poor quality living conditions. I get to know the entire city better than most by having to traverse it as I do. I live in the historic district, and it is beautiful.

I'm afraid that when the north winds start to blow, I may not be making as many trips to that part of town. But for now, I'll enjoy it as much as I can. If not for PT, I'd like to explore other directions in town.

Footnote: Pray that I'll be able to get more range of motion in my neck and right arm/shoulder. That's what I go to physical therapy for. My pain level will go down too if I can get these damaged neck and arm muscles stretched out. They were damaged during surgery a year and a half ago, and radiation "cooked" them so they are not normal anymore. Nothing is impossible with God, so I have great expectations for good. My PT is a believer! 

I love Jesus

Today I was on my e-bike, and I passed by an old tired-looking Chinese guy on the sidewalk wearing a white t-shirt that read, "I {heart} Jesus." It had a big red heart on it.

I thought about running over to talk to him, to tell him I love Jesus too.

Then I realized that he probably doesn't know what the English words on his t-shirt even mean. His wife probably found the shirt at a thrift shop, a discarded item left behind by some zealous foreign tourist who visited here.

I didn't go over to talk to him. Frankly, I would have caused a wreck in the e-bike lane if I had tried. But I was glad to see Jesus' name proclaimed even if no one knew what the shirt said but me.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Lunching with the ladies

Playing an ice-breaker game before we eat lunch.
I'm back overseas, but while I was away, some of my American friends had left. Returned home! Imagine that! 

Other American friends have been gone for the summer. So I decided I need to find some new expat friends. I love my Chinese friends, but it's helpful at times to be able to talk to people who relate to your background and upbringing. 

I went to the international church in town last week, and they announced a women's potluck luncheon the following week. So I went. It was held in the home of a couple who are here on an "expat package." I suppose that most foreigners here are on that type of support package. That means they generally have a huge, expensive multi-level house with a yard, a full-time maid, a chauffeur at their beck and call, and for those who have kids, tuition paid to attend the international school in town. All costs are covered by their employer.

For the luncheon, we met at a villa. It is unlike any other kind of housing in this country, so it really stands out.

It was a far cry from my usual life, but it was fun anyway. The lady of the house was humble and said it wasn't really her house, they were just tenants. One lady said she didn't like having a driver because she misses her independence and the ability to come and go as she liked. 

These particular ladies really seem to have no idea how the rest of this country lives, but it is their reality. It's certainly not their fault they have an easy life.

The pastor's wife, from South Africa, told me she was raised a Baptist, and they always had potlucks in South Africa. I laughed. Isn't it the same in the U.S.? She quickly realized that asking people to bring dishes of food in this country was rather inconvenient. A few had carried their dishes by subway, a few by foot. I brought mine across town by e-bike. The rest got their food there by chauffeur-driven vans. 

I met ladies from the Philippines, Brazil, South Africa, other parts of Africa, Germany, U.S.A., Malaysia, Taiwan, and I forgot where else. 

The Chinese government doesn't allow Chinese to attend the International Fellowship. Only foreign passport holders are allowed to attend. Many foreign Christians live in this city. Who knew?!