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. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Grocery shopping

I shop for American style groceries at this Euro-Mart.
Euro-Mart is inside the block, away from the street. Cars can't drive up to it, but most people don't have cars anyway, so it doesn't matter. I can park my e-bike next to the building. 
Grocery shopping in the Middle Kingdom is not easy, but it easier than it used to be.

I remember when I first moved to this country, I made a wild guess that grocery stores would arrive in this country by 2050. Fortunately for me, I was 50 years off. They arrived in the year 2000. Before that, you had to buy your groceries at the open market, stand in line as butcher carved pieces off a dead pig, or did bad things to a chicken.

Large grocery stores on the scale of Super Wal-Mart exist now. You can't get canned goods, and you can't get most packaged goods that you can get in the U.S. (no cake mixes, for example).

These large stores, RT-Mart, Carrefour, Tesco, etc. sell fresh fruits and veggies, packaged meat, ramen noodles, soy sauce, vinegar, mayonnaise, rice, frozen dumplings, milk, eggs, row after row of sugary drinks, cleaning supplies and cheap household goods (the quality is very low; makes Super Wal-Mart look like Neiman Marcus in comparison).

In my city, we used to have quite a selection of import grocery stores. Some have closed down and we have very few now.

We can get American goods but can't afford them in large quantities due to prices that are up to 4-5 times the price you pay in America. Who really wants a small can of Campbell tomato soup that costs over $5?

But sometimes a can of green beans, a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, and a bag of tortilla chips makes you feel like a human being. I can buy paper towels, Betty Crocker cake mix, salsa, refried beans, and lettuce.

Euro-Mart, an import grocery store, is 30 minutes away from where I live, by e-bike, through the worst traffic in town. I can't go unless I am calm and alert enough to handle the traffic. I can make there about once every two weeks.

Euro-Mart has a bakery, but I don't eat bread. It has a dining area both indoors and outdoors. It is two-stories high, so I start upstairs with an empty basket and carry it downstairs to finish shopping before checking out. They take my American credit card so I don't have to carry cash there.

Euro-Mart has another location in town that is further away from me, and it is larger and only has one floor.

At Euro-Mart, I buy enough to fill four re-usable shopping bags and carry them back on my bike. Two stack on top of each other on my floorboard, then one each hangs over the sides of the two handlebars.

When I get home, I drop the bags by my front door, temporarily park my e-bike near the door, then scoot them over to the elevator so I can get them up to the 8th floor where I live. I'm so very thankful for my elevator.

I'm also very grateful that I didn't have to wait until 2050 to see the arrival of grocery stores here.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

I can't watch

These men, hanging from the rooftop by a thick cable, are laying bricks on the side of a building where it seems the previous ones have fallen. This took place inside my apartment complex. Mimi and I decided to take a different route for a few days. If something bad happens, I don't it seared in my memory for the rest of my life. I can't change it, so I just don't watch. I've talked to guys with these dangerous jobs before, and they don't like them. They just have to make a living and put food on the table. Lord, please bless them and keep them safe!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Pixie does Sudoku

My parents got two new dogs in 2017. The got Bella in January and Pixie in March. I was home mid-February through mid-April, so I got to know the little doggies pretty well. I even taught them both to use the doggy door, and helped house-train Pixie (she was still in the learning curve when I left). I took this photo of Pixie sitting in my dad's lap while he works on a Sudoku puzzle. Some say Pixie's so ugly she's cute. I just think she is cute. She has a perfectly charming personality, bounds with energy, and loves to be held. Pixie is only 7 months old in this pic, and four-year-old Bella enjoys her company some of the time. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It's been awhile

I'm sitting on my balcony with Mimi, watching the rush hour traffic below on this cool, overcast spring day in the Middle Kingdom. I know it's been way too long since I updated this blog. I don't even know if anyone bothers to check it for updates anymore. 

Since I finished cancer treatment in January 2016 and had surgery later that same month, I've been on the mend. But just when I thought I should be feeling better, I felt worse. I returned overseas according to schedule, but endurance to make it through the day without napping eluded me. I would do my work during the day, then crash before I could make it through the evening hours (when I would normally update this blog). Furthermore, I couldn't catch my breath, huffing and puffing when it didn't seem reasonable that I should be doing so. Doctors checked me out, and even tested me for heart failure due to the gasping for breath. No one could find anything wrong.

But when I went to MD Anderson for my annual check up in February 2017, they did a chest x-ray. They checked my previous x-rays against the new one and realized that the phrenic nerve in my neck had been severed in one of my neck surgeries, and it had paralyzed my right diaphragm. 

(Radiation can also sever phrenic nerves, but two doctors told me they believed it to be a result of surgery.)

A paralyzed right diaphragm buckles, pushing up against the right lung so that it can't fill up with air. There is no medical solution for a paralyzed diaphragm. One just learns to live with it, making sure not to do things that cause shortness of breath, like climbing stairs, jogging to the mail box, or visiting Lhasa. The pulmonologist said I can't run (because I can't breathe), and I can't lift weights (because my right arm can't be raised more than 45 degrees). He suggested walking for exercise and keeping to light housework and office work. Another doctor suggested I take up yoga, but what yoga pose doesn't require the use of your arms to hold you up off the floor? I tried yoga before cancer came my way, and it was painful even then.

So my new normal is to take it easy. I've had a spurt of energy the past week that has kept me awake in the evenings, like normal people, and I hope it stays around for a long time. I'll make every effort to post more bloggy stuff soon, so I hope you'll check back from time to time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Never give up

The following is excerpted from a Gospel Coalition internet article by Sarah Eekholf Zylstra.
Pastor John Piper gave a sermon on May 20, 2000. Five minutes in, he laid out a comparison nobody forgot:
Three weeks ago, we got news at our church that Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards were killed in Cameroon. Ruby Eliason—over 80, single all her life, a nurse. Poured her life out for one thing: to make Jesus Christ known among the sick and the poor in the hardest and most unreached places.
Laura Edwards, a medical doctor in the Twin Cities, and in her retirement, partnering up with Ruby. [She was] also pushing 80, and going from village to village in Cameroon. The brakes give way, over a cliff they go, and they’re dead instantly. And I asked my people, “Is this a tragedy?”
Two women, in their 80s almost, a whole life devoted to one idea—Jesus Christ magnified among the poor and the sick in the hardest places. And 20 years after most of their American counterparts had begun to throw their lives away on trivialities in Florida and New Mexico, [they] fly into eternity with a death in moment. “Is this a tragedy?” I asked.
The crowd knew the answer, calling out, “No!”
“It is not a tragedy,” Piper affirmed. “I’ll read you what a tragedy is.”
He pulled out a page from Reader’s Digest.
(“I don’t know where I got it, because I didn’t subscribe,” Piper remembers now. “I must have found it in a doctor’s office somewhere.”)
He read it to them:
‘Bob and Penny . . . took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball, and collect shells.’
“That’s a tragedy,” he told the crowd.
And there are people in this country that are spending billions of dollars to get you to buy it. And I get 40 minutes to plead with you—don’t buy it. With all my heart I plead with you—don’t buy that dream. . . . As the last chapter before you stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account with what you did: “Here it is, Lord—my shell collection. And I’ve got a good swing. And look at my boat.”
“Don’t waste your life,” he said, the words quietly tucked in before he barreled into another memorable anecdote, this one about a plaque in his home featuring C. T. Studd’s poem, “Only one life, twill soon be past / Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Note: Piper later goes on to say that he is not talking about those who are not physically able, he's talking about those who are able-bodied.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Surgery in Texas

I flew to Texas on Friday, February 10th. It's a strange thing to leave China at 5:30 p.m. and arrive in Texas around 3 p.m. the same day. I arrived before I left. Or something like that.

The following Tuesday, in Houston, I had cancer screenings, checking the places where cancer reared its ugly head in 2014. It's still all gone!

Then on Wednesday, I had surgery to correct some things from the last surgery. Now I'm back at my parents' house recuperating from that surgery. I have pain. But the surgery went well. I may have to have another surgery another time (another year) to finish up the necessary corrections.

I'll return overseas in early April.

Mimi's in good hands back in the Middle Kingdom, and my parents' new dog is trying to keep me company in the meantime.

My parents are both ill right now with bronchitis. Here's a sample conversation from this morning:

      Mom: Are you feeling better?
      Me: Better than who?

Hopefully we'll all be on the road to health very soon.