Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Happy 81 Padre!

Happy birthday to my father! Hope he thinks this 2-year-old photo is okay to use, because I'm working from my iPad now and I don't have many photos of family on the iPad. Happy day and lots of love to you!!!!!! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Taste of Thai

I'm sitting in a rustic, open air restaurant in an old alleyway in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had spicy Tom Yum soup for dinner. "Close to You" is playing on the loudspeakers (not the Carpenters, but someone else is singing it). Just my Monday in Thailand!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mimi lovers rejoice!

My mom thought Mimi looked old and sickly in the last photo I posted of her, so I decided I better post some "healthy" Mimi photos. You know, photos of her on the trampoline (my bed) playing with her toys (my shoes).
 That's not a blurry photo, that's a dog tearing around on her trampoline.
She just had a bath, so she's sporting the unkempt wet hair look. It's hard to keep her hair trimmed. She's taking a breather.
Looking innocent … looking away from the camera (like my mom does when SHE sees a camera).
 Look at sweet Mimi, all innocent and elegant.
Ah, the terror has returned to her eyes. Time for round two!

Sorry I've been off the blog for a week. Life just gets busy. I'm at the airport in Shanghai waiting to fly to Thailand. We've had a three-hour delay so far. Take care!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mid-summer's eve

Lencrafters called and said my new glasses were ready. After living most of my life with perfect vision, age has caught up with me. My arms are no longer long enough to read ANYTHING. So at 4 p.m., when the sun was not too hot, I took off on my e-bike to get my new glasses.

The thick humidity and the buzzing cicadas were proof that summer is here. The heat index is only around 100°F; last year the heat index was 20 degrees hotter than that, every day, for two months. This year's temperatures are so much more bearable!

Lenscrafters did an excellent job. I can see everything perfectly now. What a great thing that Lenscrafters is in my city!

Since I was in that part of town anyways, I decided to get a pedicure. I went all last summer without a pedicure -- I just wore socks and tennis shoes to keep my feet soft and clean -- but I have to go back to Thailand next week and my toes may be exposed to the outside world by sandals. So I felt inclined to spruce them up a bit. 

Before I got the pedicure, I exchanged some DVD's at the DVD store, and bought a big cup of steaming black coffee at Starbucks to take with me to the pedicure place. I went to Dragonfly, the most relaxing spot on earth, for my pedicure. The zen-like ambience, beautiful decor and the smell of sandalwood wafting in the air at Dragonfly make the outing a special one.

After the pedicure, I went around the corner to the local Tex-Mex restaurant. I love that place. It reminds me more of America than any place in this whole country. It is spacious, well-decorated, and has mariachi music. The food is awesome, and the waitresses are friendly and efficient, even without the incentive of a tip. That's another thing I like about eating out here -- no tax and no tipping added on to your bill.

Then it was dark, and I had half an hour ride to get back to my place. The city was lit up beautifully against the night sky. The ancient-looking city wall along the moat looked regal and enchanting. Hundreds of people crowded the parks for line dancing/exercise, kite-flying (the kites were lit up, don't ask me how), shopping and strolling. 

It was just lovely. I love the summer evenings here, and hope to enjoy them more in the days to come.

Where I lived in Hong Kong

When I lived in Hong Kong (1995-1996), I lived in Mei Foo. Mei Foo is the Chinese name for Mobile Oil Company … I presume they built this area at some point, but they were not really anywhere to be found when I lived there. In the photo above, I lived on the 16th floor. The top balcony is the 20th floor, so if you count down to the 16th floor, you'll see my balcony had a white roof. That balcony petrified me, so I seldom stood out there.
Down below is a shopping area … and a McDonalds. Now there is a McCafe there too, but there was no specialty coffee when I lived there, just the regular McDonalds brew.
Between my building and McDonalds is a subway entrance. So perfectly convenient for all my roaming around Hong Kong! And trust me, I did a lot of roaming.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fun with the kiddos

I had an exceedingly great time this summer with some little kids who learned English and other stuff. Fun times … this is one event I certainly hope to remember forever!

(BTW, that adult leg in the top photo is not mine.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


He practically snarled at me when I got off the bus in his part of town. Not the dog, but the man. What was I, a foreign woman, doing in his part of town? I did not "belong" in his village area on the outskirts of the city. 

I had arrived there early (or, rather, those I was to meet arrived quite late). I stood around awkwardly in the hot sun with nothing to do while waiting for my friends to arrive, drawing unwanted attention. I finally found a seat inside a pharmacy and waited there for half an hour. In exchange for the seat I bought some aspirin … for the headache that had come upon me. My friends finally arrived; together we left the bus stop area and went elsewhere.

The following day I returned. I stepped off the bus and there, once again, was the man and his dog. I had a surprised look on my face, to see them again two days in a row like that. When the man realized that the foreign woman actually RECOGNIZED him from the day before, he couldn't contain the smile on his face or the enthusiasm in his demeanor. We were suddenly like best friends, and he wanted me to take photos of him and his dog together. (I'm not sure if he thinks I am going to return with a photo to give him or if he just wanted to create a lasting token of his presence on this earth for me to enjoy. I get this "take my picture" request from strangers all the time.)

I can't help but think that people just want to be regarded as significant, in any small way as they can achieve it. They want to be memorable, to have an impact in the hearts and minds of others. 
And now that these two are on my blog, I suppose I will, indeed, remember them forever.

(So glad I don't have to pay for whatever feeds that monster dog, aren't you?! My little Mimi costs an arm and a leg to feed, and this one is WAY bigger.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Don't be messing with my dog

Enemy, I get it. You busted my electricity, flooded my house, destroyed my hot water heaters, crashed my computer and gave me sneezing fits. All in the same week! These, I do not like, but will survive. But in the name of God who provides my protection, do not be messing with my dog!

I came home from day one of an important event last week to find that my dog had lost control of her back legs. She was dragging them behind her and couldn't support her weight. The legs were having some kind of seizure and/or cramps. It was very scary and continued for four days. I have taken her to the vet by taxi before, but it is not always easy (drivers think they are going to die of rabies by breathing the same air as a dog), so I took her this time by e-bike. It was about 15 miles roundtrip to the vet and back. Mimi laid on a pillow on the floor board, stuck her head out to see what was ahead of us, and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Thankfully, it was a cloudy day, so the heat was not unbearable. I drove more slowly than ever before, making sure I didn't get close enough to the curb to take her head off, while staying close enough to the curb that no one would try to drive between us and the curb. It was a weekday morning, so traffic was light (most everyone was at work). The vet gave her medicine, not that I can get her to take the stuff very easily. And now she has gone several days without any repeat problems. Thank you God! I was so worried that this was something she would not recover from. She's only 9.
Here she is sitting up to look out the front. On the way home, she laid down and rested the whole way back. 

I got a new hot water heater in my bathroom. I still don't have hot water in the kitchen, so I'm washing dishes with cold water. It will take time to get heaters, computers, etc. all fixed.

But I think this battle round is mostly over. Heaven wins. But you already knew that.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A new little joy

Her life began late in the fall of 2012, and her introduction to the world was a bitter one. Her parents, not knowing how to raise a child with a cleft lip and a cleft palate, placed her in a popular park not far from a police station, where she would surely be found by someone before exposure to the elements could take her life. It was a gamble, but they were right. She was found and taken to an orphanage when, it is estimated, she was only about one month old.

It seems that God had his hand on her life from early on. She was taken to a government orphanage, in her central China city, in which all the workers wore cross necklaces around their necks and played Christian praise music in the background. The little girl didn't get held -- or fed -- as much as most young children who are raised in families. She was, however, protected from the elements, given the basic necessities of life and was prayed for. The government paid for her to have surgery to fix her lip, and later another one to fix her palate. But what she really needed was a mom, and a dad, and a home.

Meet my little friend A. She was adopted by my American friends who live here in the same city as me. In the above photo, A had been with her new family less than one week. But she already knew who here daddy was, and fell asleep in his arms while we all visited together. She now has two parents and two slightly older siblings who are crazy about her.

The family has now returned to the U.S. for a few months to get her citizenship paperwork done and to let surgeons check out her lip/palate condition.

On the day we met, she smiled at me a lot, so of course I love her! I'm looking forward to them coming back this fall so I can spend more time with her, erasing any lingering trace in her mind of a life without love.

Monday, July 07, 2014


My computer broke. I haven't gotten the hot water heaters or the lights fixed, and now this. What is going on?!!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Comic relief

Five-year-old Miss Fancy Pants and her mom came over today. MFP speaks pretty good English, her mom speaks almost none. MFP sent me into shock when she told me she knows a boy who ate dog sh**. I wasn't sure I heard right so I asked her what she meant. She said the boy ate "ice-cream-mint." Took me a minute to figure out she meant excrement. I don't think I knew that word when I was 5-years-old. I think she learned most of her English from her dad, which in her case turned out to be a dangerous thing. She has no clue that the first vocabulary word is a crude one.

Not five minutes earlier, I had received a message from a young Christian man who said "D*** it, I can't make it to the study tonight due to work responsibilities!" I don't think he knows that it is not really all that appropriate to use that phrase, especially in the context of the event he was discussing. He probably heard it on some American movie and thinks it is as pure and innocent as saying "doggone it."

Speaking a foreign language can be a tricky thing! I approach it with much fear and trembling myself.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Third world week continues

I can't make this stuff up. This morning my bathroom hot water heater and my kitchen hot water heater both busted open simultaneously, spewing hot water over opposites sides of my house. (Another bathroom in between the two had no problems.) Each of these rooms has its own hot water heater.

The guy who fixed my electricity yesterday came to check on the plumbing. He said I won't have water in my house until both are replaced. But he's an electrician, so does he really know?

Ugh. I don't think the next few days are going to be fun.

UPDATE - Later in the day

The guy who took apart my water drain pipes today left them laying around on the floor and left. He was done. Was he crazy? I had someone call him to come back a few hours later and put it back together so I could at least use cold water.

His co-worker told me not to worry about having two broken hot water heaters. He said I wouldn't need hot water in my house again until winter. UNTIL WINTER!!!!!!!!!

See what I have to deal with around here?

Good grief. I don't know how I will get them repaired, but until then I will have to boil water on the stove just to wash dishes, like I used to do in Bedrock all the time.

All I can say is that I'm glad my trials and tribulations are not great tragedies. They are little annoyances. I'll survive this.


[Two useful things you need to know about Chinese people: (1) Most of them only take a bath once a week; they don't have underarm odor like the rest of the world has, so they don't get very smelly. Some Chinese I know who are more modern take daily showers just to feel good, but the traditional type of Chinese person still doesn't. Be grateful, because if 1.3 billion Chinese people took daily baths, there would be a severe water shortage. (2) Chinese people don't use much electricity. The greatest use of electricity in a Chinese home is probably the TV (nationwide) and refrigerator (for city folks). So to heat up a water heater for a bath you need once a week isn't worth the trouble to them. They wash dishes in cold water too.]

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Third-world problems

After two weeks away, I'm back from my travels to Thailand and Hong Kong. Mimi was unashamedly happy to see me return.

Since I've been back, I've been going through an extended time of third-world weirdness. This post runs kind of long, but if you want to hear what life is like in the Middle Kingdom, this post pretty much catches you up.

Varmint #1

Last Saturday I rode my e-bike down a dark alleyway and parked it, going in to eat at a restaurant by myself. I thought about how in America I wouldn't even go out alone at night, much less go down a dark alleyway on a motorbike by myself, but here there is nothing much to fear. In fact, the scariest thing in the alley was likely me. Chinese people tend to freeze in their tracks when they see a foreigner during the daytime, so naturally it is alarming when they see a blonde middle-age woman on an e-bike in a dark alley at night. Yeah, I'm scary like that.

I also thought about how in my 20s I use to be mortified about the thought of eating in a restaurant alone, but now I quite like it. Anyway, I sat in a corner of the hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant, sat my bag down in the empty chair beside me, and had dinner in the small, nearly-empty restaurant. I made friends with the servers, paid, grabbed my bag, returned home, and threw my bag on the bed.

A couple of hours later it was bedtime. I was getting ready for bed when I saw something I had never seen in 19 years in China -- a cockroach! I have NEVER seen one here, much less one in my bedroom. I might expect to see this type of varmint in a Texas kitchen or near dog food sitting out, but in my Chinese bedroom that has no food in it?! Of course I screamed, loudly enough the neighbors might have heard me. I remember hearing how if you see one roach, there are dozens of others you don't see. I was in panic mode. The roach met its death at the the heel of a shoe wielded by my cockroach-hating hand. I hoped it hadn't had a litter of baby roaches in my house. I finally reasoned that the roach had traveled home with me in my bag from the restaurant. I haven't seen any other roaches since then.

I have not even seen roaches at restaurants before, but now I know they are truly there. Big ones. Yuck.

Varmint #2 and 3

The next morning, I took Mimi out for a stroll before I headed off to church. She charged at something in the bushes, an action that I am used to since there are so many wild cats in the neighborhood. I almost didn't even look, but then I did. Mimi had locked eyes with a SQUIRREL. We don't have squirrels here. I mean, we didn't before. I don't recall ever seeing one in China before, but in case my memory was failing me, I asked my friends at church and they were just as shocked as I was that I had seen a squirrel. Where in the WORLD did that squirrel come from?

During the Great Leap Forward (late 1950s, early 1960s), a famine occurred in China. Millions died. Very few wild animals survived that famine because they became the food of necessity; once the famine ended, they didn't repopulate very well. Add to that the massive human population of this country, crowded cities, etc. and you'll see that there is no place for wildlife here. Not in the eastern portion of the country anyway. We have lots of wild (but nice) cats, but that's it.

No one believes me, but I saw a porcupine on the loose one night, at my apartment complex, a year or so ago. I live smack dab in the middle of a major big city with millions of people in it. How, I want to know, did a porcupine find its way here?

Sneezing and expired food

Monday I had planned to work all day, but I woke up with a severe sneezing fit. I sneezed all day long, hundreds of times. My eyes were watering, my nose was watering, and I was miserable. It felt like the devil was camping inside my nasal cavities. Medication didn't help. I couldn't do my work. But I hated to waste the day, so I decided to be productive and cull expired food out of my pantry.

Having canned food in one's pantry is a China expat thing. You hoard the stuff because it's hard to find it in the first place, you never know when you might need it, and you don't know if or when you'll ever have a chance to replace it.

I kind of live in a civilized place now, so perhaps I can shed this survival habit I acquired from living in Bedrock for 12 years (no grocery stores when I moved there, remember?).

Monday, during my sneezing/food culling fit, I threw away 3 large garbage bags of expired food.

Whew. I feel better now.

You had to see it to believe it

Then came Tuesday. My sneezing fit had calmed down, and I was ready to make up for all the work I missed on Monday. However, I spent about five hours searching for three missing things: an envelope of money, an important receipt, and a work paper. It is so annoying to lose stuff. I looked through every piece of paper, drawer, etc. in the house several times. I finally found all three things, but lost another day's work in doing so. More on the lost stuff later.

Air-conditioner repairmen came on Tuesday morning too. I paid $15 extra for them to send an extra person; this is so that the man who crawled outside my 8th floor window to fix the a/c would have someone to anchor the rope tied around his waist during his death-defying skywalk. I do not ever again want to experience the trauma of holding a man's life in the balance by holding a rope while he's dancing on the side of my building; been there, done that, don't plan to ever do it again. These guys were told that if they showed up without safety gear, they would not be allowed in the door of my apartment.

They brought a big thick rope. One guy tied it around his waist and crawled out the window, and the other guy tied it around his waist and waited inside. Fortunately they are related (cousins maybe) and care about each other living to see another day. I held the rope lightly in the middle, just in case extra weight was needed on our end of the rope. But I couldn't look; I quite seriously turned my head the other direction and prayed without ceasing. I honestly have no idea how he did his work outside, because there is no ledge for him to stand on, and he had a metal canister of freon and a big briefcase-style bag of tools out the window with him. I told them to add so much freon that I would never have to call an a/c repairman for the rest of the time I live here. I can't bear this type of risk they take.

Now, back to the receipt. The reason that finding the receipt was so important is because I had purchased a standing electric fan last week, and you have one week to return it if anything is wrong with it. On day one of the purchase, I discovered it didn't work, but due to days on end of pouring rain, I couldn't take it back. Then when the rain stopped over the weekend, I was (a) busy and (b) I couldn't find the receipt. So when I found the receipt at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, I had to rush out immediately to the store to get it exchanged or repaired. I disassembled the fan and carried it in its box to the store, on my e-bike.

The guy was able to fix the fan, but to do so he had to assemble the fan in the store, and asked me to carry it home that way. The base of the fan was too big for the space on my e-bike, so it tilted at an awkward angle. And, oh! It was POURING rain on the way home. So I put the standing electric fan on the e-bike between my legs, with the round fan portion near my face, and my bright pink rain poncho went over all this as I rode a couple of miles home in a torrential downpour. Please just take a moment and picture what that looked like. Thank you.

I got home in time to make an evening appointment at my apartment. Not to worry. Wednesday will be a better day, and I will be able to catch up on all my work. Right?


I had forgotten, but apparently I live in a third-world country. They like to say "it's a developing country." Well, you know, it's the same thing.

I sat down at my computer with a cup of strong coffee, ready to do three days' worth of computer work in one. I'd done that before, I could do it again. :-)

Mimi and I both jumped when we heard the loud popping sound. Something had gone kaput, and that something was all the lighting in my house. It was daytime, but it was raining heavily outside and dark clouds filled the sky. I couldn't see to do my work without the lights.

Thankfully, the coffee maker, microwave, refrigerator and air-conditioners all still worked. I could eat, drink and not sweat profusely until such unknown time that this event was declared over and done with.

(Yes, I flipped all the breaker switches -- twice. Nothing helped.)

I imagined them drilling holes all through my cement ceiling, throughout the entire house, to replace burnt wires. I wondered where I could move while this went on … hotels won't accept dogs in this country. A headache ensued, prompting an extended midday nap in my dark bedroom.

Then the repairman showed up after lunch and replaced the broken breaker switches. It took him 5 minutes. If this happened 15 years ago, they would have sent a carpenter to fix my electricity and it would have taken him 3-4 days to even get there to look at it (they used to send the carpenter to fix my plumbing too; he wasn't very good at it). And they probably would have drilled holes in my cement ceiling to replace the wires, or else draped ugly, thick, new black electrical wires on the walls themselves. 'Cause that has really happened before. To me.

But not today.