Thursday, February 22, 2018

David's Cancer

It occurred to me early this morning when I couldn't sleep that I needed to write a post about David's cancer.  It was quite a shock when we were first told about it.  The story involves China, so I thought that including it here would be appropriate.

October 2015

In late October, 2015, we were asked if we would be interested in going back to China to take the place of a couple that was at our same university, because they had to go home for medical reasons.  We were thrilled and very excited because we had wanted to go back.  We started the paperwork and hurried to get our physicals done.  Then the news came, David wasn't going any where except to a urologist to get tested for prostate cancer.  His PSA number was over 25.  Not a good number.  The day before Thanksgiving, he had a biopsy done.  The results came back the next week, stage 3 cancer and it was aggressive.  We were NOT going back to China!

Dr. Targhee Morris was the first urologist we met with.  Because of the advanced cancer, he referred us to Dr. Brandon Barney for Radiation Oncology, and Dr. Jim Crowley for Urology.  We explored the options and almost decided that we would go with radiation for treatment, but then we met with Dr. Crowley.  After his explanation of the differences between radiation and surgery, we knew that surgery at this point was the best option.

February 2016

The surgery date was set for February 5, 2016, the day before David's 62nd birthday.  We got to the hospital early in the morning and after David was set up for the surgery, I went to wait in the surgery waiting area.  Dr. Crowley had said that the surgery usually takes about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.  After 4 1/2 hours, a nurse came out to me and said that David was still in surgery.  I waited and waited and waited.  After six hours, Dr. Crowley finally came out and explained that the cancer in the prostate was so large that it had started to effect the bladder.  He had to take part of the bladder and do some reconstruction of it.  He also took some lymph nodes and would send them to be analyzed. David should be able to go home in two to three days.

David was in terrible pain.  There was no way for him to get relief from the pain except by walking.  At first, he had to have a nurse and a CNA walking with him.  He would lay down for as long as possible and then have to get up to walk the pain off.  The staff was kind of amazed at what he was doing.

After five long days in the hospital, David was finally released.  He was in danger of infection and he numbers were not good, there was blood in his urine and they couldn't quite figure out why.  On the fifth day, David was in such agony, that he called Evan and Seth to come give him a blessing. They both worked fairly close to the hospital, so they came over on their lunch hour.  They stayed to talk for a little bit and after they left, David was able to relax a little.  We watch an old movie of the TV for a while and he fell asleep.  That was the first actual sleep he had experienced since the operation!  When he woke, he felt so refreshed.  The very next blood test came back that there was no more bloody urine and he could go home!

Life at home was a little better than at the hospital, but there was still a lot of pain and we had to deal with the catheter and all that it entailed.  We had to learn to deal with a life that now had no bladder control.  This was very hard for David to deal with.  How could he function without bladder control? What else would he lose because of this cancer?

Home from the hospital, there was little there that was comfortable.  He couldn't sit, still too painful after the operation.  Standing was hard because just standing was hard on his feet.  He could lay down, but only for so long.  Walking and Porter were his salvation at this point.  When the pain was at it's worst, David would walk.  He had a circuit around the kitchen island and the chairs in the living room.  At night, when the pain medicine wore off, and before he could take more, he would get up and walk for a little while.  He also would go to the Church building down the street and walk in the gymnasium because this was February and cold outside.  Sometimes his parents would accompany him, and sometimes, Alisa and I with Porter would go with.  He put on a lot of miles (he figured that it was about 11 miles in the first two weeks), which the doctor was astounded at and rather cautioned him to slow down and do some healing first.

The other position that as comfortable for David was laying down.  David hated just laying down on his bed unless it was to sleep, and he didn't care to be out in the living room in the recliner chair, partly because of the TV being on, and partly because the recliner was only comfortable for so long.  Porter liked to go into the other bedroom upstairs where we had a toy room and spare bed, however, he didn't like to go in there and play by himself for very long.  David would go in and lay on the bed, let Porter play either on the floor or on the bed and keep him entertained, as well as himself.  It was a rather win-win for the two of them.  David credits Porter for being a big part of his recovery.

May, 2016

The first blood test after the surgery was set for May.  David was discouraged that little or no bladder control seemed to be happening, but Dr. Crowley was encouraging him to give it some time.  He also suggested keeping a journal of how it was going.  The results of the first blood test were good, no trace of the cancer, so we were encouraged.  David tried to learn to deal with the loss of bladder control and tried to think of how life could be lived without it, but still hoping and praying for the control to come back.

August 2016

The second blood test was taken.  We had high hopes because of the first blood test that this one would also show no cancer.  Our hopes were dashed when Dr. Crowley told us the bad news.  The PSA was up AND because of the number, he said it was aggressive still.  We were sent back to Dr. Barney because this was the next option for treatment.  There was one thing that Dr. Crowley was able to do for us before the radiation that would take place, and that was to implant an artificial sphincter so that David would have bladder control.

The end our of insurance year is the last day of August.  Dr. Crowley was able to fit David into the surgery schedule on August 29, so that the surgery would be covered under the current year at no cost to us.  A big relief for us!

The surgery went fairly well, but David does not have good reactions to anesthesia.  The surgery was performed kind of late in the day, but they still expected David to go home by night time.  After trying several times to get up and be able to move around by himself, the decision was made to have him stay the night in the hospital.  He was able to go home the next day.

After a few days recovery at home, David's scrotum was extremely black and blue and he wasn't sure that it was right.  We went back in to Dr. Crowley, who said that it was normal for what he had just been through, but was glad that we had come in because, David was showing some redness in his abdomen.  That concerned him because is meant that there was probably infection from the lack of lymph nodes in the abdomen.  They had been removed during the first surgery because of the possibility of cancer in them.  Dr. Crowley put David on some heavy antibiotics and within a week things were a lot better.

Four weeks later, Dr. Crowley showed David how to use the artificial sphincter.  It was painful and took some getting used to, but it gave David back a sense of "normalcy" so that he could plan on some future. 

November 2016

David and I had planned a trip to South Carolina to see Caleb, Bethany and Aleeyah.  Dr. Barney encouraged us to go and they would start the radiation after we got back.  A week or two one way or the other wasn't going to change things that much.  We enjoyed the trip and the fun that we had with them, then came home to face what was next.

We didn't know how much I was going to be needed during this time, but I had quit work because I wanted to be available for what David needed.  This unknown territory that we were charting through had so many questions.   The radiation therapy was a targeted radiation on the abdomen because that is where there were some enlarged lymph nodes still and where the prostate had been and the contact with the bladder.  I went with David the first few times, just to make sure of the after effects of the radiation, but after three or four days, he felt like he could handle going over by himself and back.  The radiation was four or five days a week for six weeks.  With the breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas in there, it ended on January 3, 2017.  Once again, we had high hopes that this was going to remove the cancer from him.

May 2017

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Jen and the Brownies, Cooking with Catherine, Packing and Flying

On Monday, David had work to do on his presentation for the engineers class that night. I needed to go to the store and get some things, so I took off by myself.  When I got on the bus, someone gave up their seat for me.  That is a common occurrence here, to show respect for elders and those with young children. The man I was sitting by wanted to talk to me.  I used up most of the Chinese I knew with him, telling him where I was from and what I was doing in China.  I know he would have loved to talk more but that language barrier was too high.

I was able to run my errands pretty quickly.  While I was on my way to catch the bus home, a man had stopped on the side of the walkway.  He was carrying filled water jugs after his trip to get the day's water at the Black Tiger Springs that were close to the bus stop.  It is cheaper for them to go to the springs and get their water, but it does make a heavy load to carry back to their apartments.  As I passed, he smiled and said in Engish, "Good morning!"  I was quite surprised.  Then he asked how I was, so I stopped to talk to him.  Since he had better English skills than the first man, I was able to tell him a lot more.  I was getting a little nervous that the bus I needed to ride back was going to come by, and since I was in a hurry to get back, I kept glancing at the bus stop, so he let me go.

Jen came over for her tutoring lesson after lunch.  David worked on Science terms with her and then when he needed to take a break, I made brownies with her.  We started by melting the butter in a pan.  I let her stir it.  Jen seemed fascinated by the melting butter.  Since she had just finished Science terms with David, I mentioned that it was a physical reaction and how even in cooking, we use science.  After all the ingredients were in and the batter was poured into the pan for baking, I told Jen she could lick the spoon.  She was confused by the word lick, so I demonstrated it for her.  She tried the first lick and the let out a noise that expressed extreme delight!  The look on her face was a delight to see!  David heard me laughing and came in.  He got the spatula to lick.  Then we got the picture.
Jen stirring the brownies.

Hard to fit two people in this tiny kitchen. 
Jen's first time licking a spoon! 

Jen and me, just before she left.

After David had covered the last of the math terms with Jen, the brownies were done baking, and we still had about fifteen minutes of time left.  We decided to play some card games with her while we ate our brownies.  Then we sang a song for her, and it was time to go.  We are going to miss her.  It has been fun working with Jen, a delightful girl.  After giving her a bag with several brownies in it and a hug, we said good bye and good luck to her.  I sure hope it goes well for her.  Jen is a bright, intelligent girl.

 David worked with the engineers each night.  Monday, they were supposed to do some reader's theaters.  After two of the plays, he decided that he needed to back off of doing all four in one night, so he went on to other activities.

Catherine is a Chinese girl who is working on her Doctorate in Education.  She became familiar with some of the women at church, and they invited her to eat lunch with us.  She has become a regular for lunch now.  A few weeks ago, I brought a pumpkin roll for dessert.  Catherine fell in love with it and wanted to learn how to make it.  I invited her to come on Tuesday so that I could teach her how.  We had a fun time working together.

Kayce had planned to come with her, but ended up having to teach an emergency class for about an hour, so she came later.  While we waited for the pumpkin roll to set up in the fridge, we played some card games.  Catherine had never played before, so we explained the game to her and had fun playing.  She was the one who won the second game!  We all enjoyed a slice of pumpkin roll and then they left, each happily fed with pumpkin roll.

Wednesday was our last day in China for five weeks.  We spent the morning getting things ready to go, laundry, cleaning, etc. We had made an appointment with a young man for some tutoring that afternoon, but we had forgotten that we were going to visit Dr. Tricia that afternoon, so we had to try and arrange a different time for him to come.

A man that David had met with before named, Samuel, wanted to take us out to lunch.  Samuel is a man that is connected with the Rain Education group.  The goal of their company involvement with Rain Education is to have better understanding between China and the US and the world.  They think that because David was in the Legislature, he has political connections that would help them.  Samuel was there with his "big boss," and we had a pleasant lunch and some interesting conversations.  They wanted to know more specifically how the Americans felt about North and South Korea working together to create a good Olympics experience.  When we were finished with lunch, they drove us up to Qianfushan Hospital so we could have our visit with Dr. Tricia.
Some of the lunch that we had with Samuel and his boss.  Lots of seafood!  

Dr. Tricia has had a rough week.  She realized on Sunday that it was the one month anniversary of her father's death and she was struggling.  She still feels guilty that she didn't get her father treatment earlier, and that it may have provided him with a few more years of live.  We talked for about an hour and she seemed to be a little more calm when we left.  She also had a gift for us to take home to our family.  It is a special type of chicken prepared in a special Shandong way.  We are excited to share it with our family!

We met Eva at the Yon Ho restaurant for supper.  She wanted to spend time with us before we left.  She had some gifts for us also.  More than 50% of our luggage is gifts!  Some we have bought and some we have been given.

David finished his class with the engineers.  He hopes that he gave them some skills to help get them through and be able to do their work. 

While David was working with the engineers, I was helping the young man that we had rescheduled from earlier Wednesday. He is auditioning to go to Columbia University in New York.  He is nervous about what to say and how to introduce himself in the interview.  We went over some strategies that I hope will help him.  He seems like a bright young man.  His goal in life is to become a film and play director.

Lily sent this tie for David and the scarf for me.  It is beautiful hand woven brocade silk.
We arrived at the airport in time for our flight and everything worked well for getting back to the US.  It is a long, long time of flying and waiting at airports.  It was hard to sleep before the flight, hard to sleep on the flight, and then hard to stay awake until time for bed in America.  These next five weeks will be late Christmas, family parties, a trip to see my dad, and hopefully, a LOT of (busy) rest!
Shanghai airport. Waiting to leave China.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Exams are Done!

David with the class of Engineers that he is teaching this week.
We finished up the Oral Final Exams this week.  Once again, I felt like a pre-marriage counselor.  So many questions, trying to give them some good advice that they will be able to understand and also be able to use in their lives when the time does come for them to take that step in their lives.  The next step for us, will be getting the grades that we have assigned in the right place on the SDU website…. that is all in Chinese…  Eva will be helping us.

I did have one girl that got the question card that said, “Tell an experience that you had with your grandparents.”  She immediately started to tear up and had a hard time telling me.  As are most Chinese children, she was raised by their grandparents while her parents worked.  She was very close to her grandparents and had many fond memories.  The reason for the tears?  Her grandmother now has Alzheimer’s.  She doesn’t remember her or the memories that they shared.  It is very hard for her to visit her grandparents now.  Her grandmother does remember the pet name that she had for her granddaughter, but going through this is so hard. Needless to say, I took a little extra time with her.
Monday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons, we tutored Jen.  Thursday, I taught her to make banana bread.  She really gets into the cooking.  We alternate working on words and having an activity with her. We have played several card games with her, and talked about the family that she has chosen to be her host when she goes to Canada for school.

Two BYU China Teacher couples that teach in Qingdao wanted to take a quick little trip to see what Jinan was like. They spent the day hiking and exploring the city.  Some of the teachers at SDNU were able to go with them.  Then we decided to have dinner at the hotel as a group that evening.  At first, we were going to have dinner at a "hot  pot" restaurant, but they were all so tired that they decided to just have it at the hotel.  David and I were already on our way.  We could have finished going on the bus we had started on, but we would have had a fifteen minute walk on a very cold evening, to get to the hotel.  The traffic was nightmarish, but we finally got to a stop where we could easily change to the bus that would take us closest to the hotel.  We had a fun dinner with them all.

Tuesday, we had supper with Anna and Bob.  The canteen has started to sell American style hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches and bacon sandwiches (the bacon is a little more like ham, but still tastes good).  They are a big hit and Bob and Anna wanted to introduce us to them.  It was a fun way to have dinner.  Anna and Bob had to go study for the tests that will be happening in the next three weeks, so we made a short night of it.

Kayce and Deniece wanted to go to the little shop that David and I had gone to last Saturday evening with Eva.  We decided to go there on Wednesday afternoon.  Deniece and Kayce met us at the bus stop just south of our campus and we rode over together, since they weren’t quite sure where to get off the bus.  The ladies that run the shop were SO happy to see us again… and that we had brought more foreigners with us!  It was so funny.  They let us browse to our hearts content and were more than happy to take our money when we decided on what we wanted to buy.  They know a little bit of English at that store, and that makes working with them even more fun. 

Last week, as David and I were coming back from the baking store, a guy with a girl on the back of his scooter, hit into our little grocery cart.  We almost didn’t make it home with our heavy load of groceries that we had bought because the wheel kept falling off.  It was a long, slow trip home.  We had the choice of trying to buy a new wheel for the cart or buying a whole new cart.  We asked Andrew, who has helped us so many times, to look into it.  We didn’t know how to find the brand of cart that it was, so he looked up what a new cart would be.  It turned out to only be 45 RMB ($7!), so we opted for the new one.  It also has a cool wheel design that makes it easier to take up and down stairs.  David always had to pick up the cart and haul it, groceries and all, up the three flights of stairs to our apartment.  Life just got easier!

We invited Lily to come have dinner with us on Friday, as she was going to be in Jinan for a seminar.  Andrew brought the cart over because it had come earlier in the day.  It was a good thing that Lily was here as we tried to put it together… the directions were all in Chinese!  We are now excited to take it to the store on our next shopping trip.
Our new shopping cart.  The wheel design makes it so that you can walk it up or down the stairs easily.  So excited to have this as it makes our life here a little easier.

Saturday, David went to the initial meeting of the class for the engineers that he will be helping improve their English skills before they go to the rest of the world and build on projects that the China State Construction Company.  He showed them a power point presentation and then after all the introductions of who the important people were, they had pictures. David called me about 11:15 to ask about going to lunch with the head man and the other people that were helping with the English learning project.  Lunch was just at the hotel that we live by, so I walked over and waited for them to come.  It was an okay lunch, but a small taste of several of the dishes was all I wanted.

Sunday night was the first night of the Engineers class.  David felt that it went well.  Their English skills are really poor and it is going to take some effort to get them to where they need to be, but they also need to work on it themselves.  Oh, well, we do what we can. 

David is with Rose, she was interpreter for the evening.

Doing his introductory PPT for the engineers.

The class of engineers.

More of David's PPT.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

New Year's Day, New Washer, New Baking Student.

We just thought that these "Minion" bikes were hilarious!  
 We started out the new year with a loud bang at midnight and then some students rejoicing and then after about ten minutes, it was quiet so we could go to sleep.  Kayce came over about 9:30 so we could go over some information about Visiting Teaching.  Aaron came about 10:15 and we played lots of fun card games until about noon.  We had decided that we wanted to take them to the little cafe on our campus to try the food (especially the strawberry yogurt smoothies!), so we went there for lunch.

When we were finished, we decided to go and get some Korean sushi across the street, since we were so close, but as soon as we got to the crosswalk, Aaron pointed out that they were closed, so we didn't go and just decided to go back to our apartment and play some more.  After a few more games, we paused for a little bit while Aaron hooked up the DVD player so we could watch a movie.  The DVD player is broken, but Aaron saw a cord that could be used to hook up my computer to the TV, so we did that and watched a movie.

Aaron had to leave about 3 p.m. and Kayce needed to leave about 4, so that left me to finish watching the movie by myself until David came out to watch the last half.  It has been a fun day.

Tuesday began final exams for my students.  David did his first day on Christmas Day because we had New Year's Day off.  It is such a great experience to talk with these young people one-on-one.  I wish we had more than five minutes per interview to talk.  Some are still struggling to get the words out, but most have a lot more confidence to do so than at the beginning of the semester.  It is so rewarding to see and hear of their progress.

During the exam, we let the students ask us a question.  Most are: "Why did you come to China?"  "What city to you like the most?" "Do you like Chinese food?"  That type of question.  One of the students asked me, "Are you Christian?" "What is your religion?"  "What religious experience have you had that means the most to you?"  I was nearly floored by that direct of a question.  I was happy that I felt I knew how to answer these questions without violating the letter I had signed from the Chinese government about not preaching religion to Chinese Nationals.

I have also been asked a lot of premarital advice.  They all think I have a perfect marriage, and they want the same for themselves.  They ask things about finding a boyfriend, how do you know you are in love, and what do you do to make a happy marriage.  I felt more like a family and marriage councilor!  One more title to add to my list...

There was also one other question that really threw me for a loop.  I have sung a few times for my students: a snow song, and some Christmas songs.  This student wanted to hear me sing one more time, so that was her question to me, would I sing for her.  I fumbled around for a few seconds looking through the songs on my phone and finally decided on, "Happy Together" by the Turtles (1970's)  I sang a little bit of it and that made her very happy.  Then the time was up and I had to move on to the next student.

We were invited out to dinner Tuesday evening by a former student of David's from four years ago.  He is working in earnest to try and pass the IELTS test so that he can go to Canada to study there.  We had a nice meal at a restaurant that we haven't been to before.  I think I saw a few jaws drop by workers in the restaurant when we first walked in.  We had a good visit but it was a cold walk to and from the restaurant.

On Friday, Kayce, Deniece and I went to the big market.  Kayce had bought a cool sword there to send home to her son that collects them and wanted to get another one.  We couldn't find it the last time we were there, so we went back to look and shop a bit.  Deniece hadn't been there before, so she came along.  We had lunch at the KFC near my campus and caught the bus we needed to get to the market.

We were riding along, and as we were getting closer to the market, we were looking for familiar signs to show us where to get off.  The bus kept going and going and finally, it pulled into a bus garage and everyone had to get off.  We were NOT at the market!  Now what?!  We saw where a bus stand was, so we walked to it to see what buses stopped there that we might know. Not a ONE of the fifteen numbers of the buses that stopped there even looked familiar!  Now what?!

I called David, and he suggested that I call Eva.  I told her our predicament.  She said to get a taxi, and she would text me the address of the market for us to show to the taxi driver.  It's all well and good when you are Chinese and can easily hail a taxi, but try three Anglo women trying to get a taxi!  The bus stop happened to be right next to a Children's hospital (the sign was in Chinese and English!), and there were taxi drivers and other cars lined up in a special lane to drop people off.  We walked to that lane and stood there looking at the taxis.  One driver rolled down his window and said something to us.  Didn't understand him, but I showed him the text on my phone.  He nodded his head and then the people that were in the taxi got out (they were headed to the hospital) and we got in.  What a relief!  He drove us right to the market area that we were familiar with and let us off.  So grateful for small miracles!

Since we had been there a short time ago, and didn't have success finding the little shop that Kayce wanted the sword at, we were really wondering what to do.  There are two different escalators in the building that you can take down.  One of them goes down one flight, another one goes down two flights.  We had taken the one that goes down two flights before, not realizing what a difference an escalator can make, and didn't find the shop.  This time, we took the escalator that only goes down, one flight then turned to our left, and there was the shop right before us!  We just amazed ourselves with the marvelous things we had done that afternoon.  We made it home without any more problems.

We tutored Jen, the fourteen year old that is going to Canada on Thursday, and then they asked if we could do another lesson on Saturday.  We didn't have any other plans for Saturday, so we said, "Yes." We decided that one thing to do with her would be to make some cookies.  When we told Jen that is what we planned to do, she was very excited.  I showed her how to mix the cookies, and then she took over. She stayed with it and did most of it.  She hasn't even stepped inside a kitchen that I know of except to get some food to eat.  We had so much fun!  Getting her to talk is quite a hard problem.  Chinese students are not taught to ask questions, so we are trying to teach her that.  I assume that Canadian students are taught a lot like U.S. students in that they are allowed and encouraged to ask questions.  So we asked questions and kept trying to get her to ask some questions. At the end of the time, I was in the kitchen taking the last batch out of the oven and started to bag some cookies.  She came in the kitchen then and asked if she could take some cookies home.  When I told her that I was getting some for her Jen was pleased and excited.  A post that she put out on WeChat later for her friends said, "Well, now I'm a person who makes cookies... and I'm really good at it!"

The clothes washer had totally broken down and the manager of our apartment complex had said that they would get us a new washer in February and that they would send someone to repair this one until that came. We had to wring out the clothes by hand last time, so I kept putting off washing clothes until they repaired it.  When no one came by Wednesday, I emailed them to ask when someone would be coming to repair it.  No answer.  Finally on Thursday afternoon, when no one had come again, I emailed again and told them that I was not capable of washing and wringing out the clothes without a washer because of the arthritis in my wrist and hands, would they please send someone to repair it.

My new clothes washer!  Something to get excited about, right?!  The guy who installed it spoke no English, and we wouldn't have understood his Chinese, so he showed me how to do it and then left.  When I went to try to start it later, I kept getting an error message.  I was asking a friend that reads some Chinese to help me, but then I put the lid down, and it worked!
The next day, I got an email from the manager that they were sending someone out to buy a new washer and that it would be here on Monday.  Well, it came on Saturday!!  I was so excited!!  Clean clothes again!!  We did a batch of laundry that evening.

Earlier we had made a plan to go to a fun mall area of Jinan that Eva has told us about several times.  We met her there after the washer was in.  We stopped at a few shops and got some snacks.  Some were better than others, especially a little cheese tart.  We stopped in to a little Chinese craft store and had fun looking at all the things there.  We bought several things and had fun looking at it all.  Later we stopped at a restaurant and had some supper.  In the restaurant, you are given a metal bowl and you have lots of veggies and meats to choose from to put in the bowl.  I really wasn't feeling that hungry so I put what I thought David and I would eat in a bowl and then went to weigh it.  The guy at the counter said I didn't have enough, so I had to go back and put some more in.  Then they cook what was in the bowl, make a crepe-like pancake, roll it up with the veggies and meat inside, cut it in half, and then serve it to you on a tray.  I was sure glad that David and I were sharing this.  Eva made him eat half of her sandwich, so we had some to take home, because there was no way to finish eating all of that!  It was a fun evening.
These cute little bunny seats and tables were scattered through the mall area.

Looking over the Chinese crafts.

The guy wanted David to buy his BBQ, but David only wanted to warm his hands.

David the shark!  Eva refers to us as American Sharks, so it was funny to find this in the mall area, and of course David had to have his picture taken in it!

They tried to pattern this area to look like an old Chinese market would have looked like.  It has a lot of places to eat and some places to shop.

The sign at the entrance of the mall says something about toleration for neighbors.  Eva told us of the story of two neighbors that were squabbling over some land.  One man had a relative that was a high man in the government.  He wrote to his relative, and the relative wrote back that what was more important were good feelings between neighbors.  Sharing the land, even just a few inches would do more to bring peace and harmony.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas, Seafood, Tutoring, Washing Machine and DaMing Lake

The lights at DaMing Lake.

David had to teach on Monday.  Actually, he wasn't teaching, he was conducting final oral exams for his students.  Because next Monday is New Year's Day and an official holiday in China, his students won't be there on Monday for him to test, so he had to start today.  It really tears at his heart strings to hear them praise how they appreciate what he has done for them and how they want us to come back again.

In the afternoon, Kayce and Arron came to meet us at our campus.  We went to the noodle restaurant that Bob and Anna had taken us to and had a good lunch.  Then we caught the bus to the big market that we have enjoyed before to look around.  Kayce was particularly looking for the same small store that she had bought a sword from when we went there last time, but we couldn't find it and eventually gave up and went home.  David wasn't feeling that great and I wish I had told him to stay home.  He really needed another nap.

David's students, Elsie and  Conner, had planned to have Christmas dinner with us, so we reserved a room at the canteen (because our apartment is so small) and invited Bob, Anna, Andrew, and Eva to come eat with us.  Eva had to go to her brother's home somewhere far away and so she couldn't make it.  Bob and Anna sent a message in the afternoon that they had to go to an interview that evening, so they couldn't make it.  Since Kayce and Arron were with us, we decided to invite them to come eat with us and they accepted.

Andrew, Elsie and Conner taking pictures of the food.
Elsie and Conner had ordered a roast chicken from the local KFC and brought that, plus, with the reservation of the room at the canteen, we also got some dishes that come with the room.  We had a LOT of food and took a lot home.  We also had a lot of fun!  The laughter was abundant and made Christmas Day more joyful for us.

Conner, Arron, and Kayce.  She is such a tease with these kids that we were all laughing a lot.
Meat and bread dish.  The meat was good, but the bread didn't have much flavor.
Eggplant with shrimp and cheese baked in.  This was really good!
Tuesday afternoon, we made our way to the Hongialou campus.  Kong Ming had invited us over to pick up the Christmas/New Year gifts that the university was giving to us.  They gave us each a blue tooth!  Nice!  We sat and talked for a while and then made our way home.

Wednesday, the Ding family had invited us out to dinner.  Alan, their son, was home from the University of Texas at Austin,  so they wanted to take us out to eat so we could see him and to celebrate.  David had tutored Alan when we were here four years ago because he wanted to go to high school in the US.  They took us to a seafood restaurant and fed us a royal meal.  So much food and lots of it!
Shrimp, a fish dumpling and the long big one was a type of prawn.  It was hard to peal because there are prickly spines along the shell that hurt.  I only had one, that was enough for me.

Alan, cross from David with the seafood cooking in the middle with the lid on it.  They got the water hot, put a plate in, dumped the live seafood onto the plate, then covered it with the lid to steam it.  The dish in front is pigs ear, crunchy, but okay to eat.

Ding Rongui and his wife.  They are always so kind to us.  She doesn't speak much English, but understands quite a bit.  Ding travels internationally quite a lot, so he speaks quite well.

I am actually eating starfish!  They steamed it with the other seafood. You pull off a leg of the starfish and eat the little tiny bit of black meat that is in the middle of the leg.  Kind of salty tasting, but not too fishy tasting.

We accepted the job to tutor a fourteen year old girl that wants to go to Canada for school.  Jen is a bright girl and already speaks quite well.  She will have about two months of tutoring and then she leaves for Toronto, Canada in February.

David had a meeting with his class monitors on Friday afternoon so that he could thank them for helping him this semester.  I met him there so we could go to a new restaurant the we have discovered on Campus.  It was a really great meal and we had a strawberry yogurt smoothie, something similar to chicken cordon bleu, and waffles with ice cream.  It was delicious!  We almost felt like we were back in the States, because the food was quite American.  Then a slow walk home because the temperature wasn't that cold.
Our waffles and smoothie for dinner.

On Saturday, we did some work in the morning, made a quick trip to get some vegetables and then headed out to meet Kayce and Arron for some fun and sight-seeing.  We had just started down the lane from our apartment building when along comes a small truck with a new chair on it for David.  His office chair had broken, so he informed the building manager that he needed a new one.  The building manager was waving at us as soon as they rounded the corner, so we headed back to the apartment.

The timing was perfect, because the clothes washer had broken that morning and would not spin dry the clothes anymore and I was able to tell the manager, Liu, about it right then.  They will order a new machine, which with all the red tape they have to go through will take about a month to get, but they will also send someone to try to repair this old one.  If they don't have it repaired by Wednesday, I'm going to have to find someplace else to do laundry and I don't know where.  I don't see laundromats in China.
A wall of old sewing machines that we found in one of the malls.

We stopped in a pet store and walked around.  Loved the aquariums.

When we finally met Kayce and Arron at Wanda Plaza, we looked around in the malls and tried to see if we could go up the elevator of the "Bullet" building.  They won't let you go up because it is apartments and office buildings.  One mall had a contest going on for kids to tell stories.  Another had a dance competition going on.  We poked around in a store that sells a lot of foreign products and bought some granola cereal.  When we got hungry, we went to the Burger King in one of the malls and had supper.  We paid over 200 RMB to feed the four of us, which is quite expensive in China.
This little girl was telling the story of the country mouse and the city mouse.  Arron knows enough Chinese to help us get around and understand and get answers when we have questions.

Dance competition at the WanDa Mall.  All boys in this group.
We thought this was fun with the sampan hats on.

After we were done there, we caught a bus to go to DaMing Lake.  They have lights all around the lake and it looks beautiful.  Eva and her husband joined us there and as we walked around the lake and took pictures, Eva's husband would tell stories and information about some of the things by the lake and Eva would translate them for us.  It was a fun evening, but it was getting late and my feet had been walked on enough for the day.  Eva and husband walked us to the bus where we could catch a ride home from DaMing Lake.
The gate and pavilion at DaMing Lake

Some of the lights.

This rock is called the "Husband and Wife" rock.  They insisted that we go have a kiss at that rock.  We had a lot more photographers than just Eva and Kayce!  Of course, Kayce was egging them all on!

Sunday, after church, we had lunch and then sat around and talked until almost four.  David and I made our way home and had some supper.  We got a message from Anna that she had a gift for us for New Year's.  She came over with two of her roommates, Wendy and Jessica, and we had fun teaching them some card games and talking.  All three are bright, fun girls.  It helped to feel more like home to have them come over and play games like we would at home on New Year's Eve.  All we were missing was the eggnog and sparkling cider.

DaMing Lake.

It took about 15 minutes of waiting to get this picture of what we call, "The Bullet Building."  They had a bunch of ads come  up in between the photo I wanted.  It says, "I love Jinan!"

As we were leaving the lake, we crossed over the moat and had to get another pictures.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Twas the Week Before Christmas...

China has been building to a fever pitch for Christmas this week.  More and more people are learning about it and recognizing it as a time of family, joy, and giving.  It is nice to have our students giving us small gifts and wishing us a happy Christmas.  All the signs of Christmas are here: the music, the decorations and the parties.

David's cold was getting worse, so on Tuesday, he decided he better take the antibiotic that we had brought with us.  His cough had gotten really bad and he was starting to feel it in his lungs.  By Wednesday afternoon, when we went to visit with Dr. Tricia, he was already starting to feel better.  He still has some cough, but it isn't keeping him up at night.  He also tires easily and needs more sleep than before.

Our visit with Dr. Tricia was to help her after the passing of her father.  She had questions and we tried to give her answers that would give her comfort.  After our two hour visit, she seemed some better and seemed to be able to accept what we said.  We pray for her everyday and hope that she finds peace soon.  I'm wondering about becoming a grief counselor... (not really).

Purse and silk scarf from Dr. Tricia for my birthday.  I was so shocked that she had something for me.  Even in her grief, she was thinking of others.
Necklace that Yi Bing gave me.  It was carved by her father on a peach pit.

We were really  busy this week trying to get papers graded and get sign-up sheets ready for our students and the finals week that is coming soon.  My eyes were starting to go "bug-gy" after 3-4 hours a day reading interview summaries and grading them.  Put on top of that the need to correct the vocabulary quiz, too.  It seemed that between David's cold and the grading papers, we spent a lot of time in our apartment this week.  Thank goodness for the ease of ordering from Mike's Pizza and the delivery!  It's so nice to have Chinese that can speak English!
These were the gifts from some of my students.  The heart shaped box was full of candy (just what I don't need, but it was a sweet thought).  The apple was from another student.  They give you apples in the new year time.  The Chinese word for apple is "ping guo."  The "ping" is also close to the word for peace, so they give apples at this time of year and wish peace and safety for you.  Such a sweet gift.  We have been given several apples after this one.  

Friday afternoon, we were asked to judge a speech contest at Shandong Airlines Corporate Headquarters at the airport.  They picked us up from our apartment after lunch and drove us there in a nice vehicle, I imagine it was a company car.  Shandong Airline is trying to encourage their employees to learn better English so that they can help customers from foreign lands better.  Six employees had signed up for the contest.  They titled the contest, "The Glory and the Dream."  Their under ten minute speeches were supposed to reflect that theme.  We also had to judge on skill, fluency and pronunciation.  We were introduced to the regional manager for Shandong Airlines, who had a pretty good grasp of English himself.

We chose three winners and it was pretty obvious who had the better skills.  We commended them for trying and for the efforts of the company to try and build their skills.  We related experiences that we have had traveling in China and how we appreciate those who can speak English.  After the contest, we were driven back to our apartment.  They paid us 800 Yuan for doing it.

Saturday was the Christmas Dinner with the other foreign teachers.  We had Mormons, Protestants, a Muslim and some "don't know".  We made it easier on ourselves this time and went to a local restaurant where we could have a private room and order some dishes.  They just so happened to have a roast goose on the menu, so we ordered that and several other dishes.  There was plenty of food.  We also had a "White Elephant" gift exchange.  I'm not sure that Mustafa or the Chinese student, Yang Xu, or even Mr. Hiroshi understood what it was about.  Most of the gifts were okay.  I wish we could have had a gift exchange that showed love and care in the gifts we chose, like the gifts they brought, but I wasn't in charge.  It turned out okay though.
Cuddle fish dumpling.  Tasted good.

This was a lotus root sandwich.  There was a little slab of meat in between the two slices of lotus root.  Normally, I don't care that much for lotus root, but I would eat this again in a heartbeat!  

Our half of a roast goose.  We were all surprised that it was on the menu and since there was not turkey, we choose the goose.  Of course they leave the head on and then chop it up, bones and all before serving it.  I discovered the reason that the Chinese chop up all their poultry like this; so you can pick it up with chopsticks.  They don't think it is right to use your hands to pick up food to eat and they think a fork and knife are too cumbersome to use.

From the left, Yang Xu, Lynn, Mark and Kyle.

From the left, Zina, Pam Holt, Mustafa and Mr. Hiroshi.  All good dinner companions.

Saturday evening, we were invited to a presentation that was all about pomegranates.  We are lightly associated with a group called "Rain Education."  They are trying to build educational opportunities and bridges between cultures.  I'm not sure who the host was for the evening, but he was from a province that grows pomegranates big time and wanted to share his love of his home with everyone.

We met our contact from Rain Education at their office and then we walked to the building where we were invited to have dinner.  It was a pretty fancy affair.  We were served fresh pomegranate as we walked in the door and then seated at a table.  They served us banana pizza (which was really delicious!)  Cooked bananas and a sauce under it (I'm still trying to figure out what the sauce was made from) and then a rich custard that was served in little tiny bottles (they held about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of custard.  There were also some little loaf things that had custard baked inside of it.  I sure wish I had gotten pictures of them!

A little four or five year old little boy was there and his father came and introduced him to us.  The boy spoke about 3 words of English and he wanted to have him speak those words with us.  The boy made David a little Chinese origami boat.  The whole time we were there, we had cameras in our faces and off to the side.  The dad wanted his little boy in some pictures with us, so we had those taken also.

After eating, we were invited to a tea table, the kind where you are basically sitting on the floor.  After we told our contact we didn't drink tea, she said, "I will just tell you about it and then after the pictures are taken, we can go to the other room."  She was true to her word, so if you see us in some pictures drinking some tea, just know that there wasn't even water in the cup.

The next room was where they showed us a video of the place where they grow all the pomegranates and the beauty of that area.  Then the guy who was hosting it, (he took turns speaking in English and Chinese) turned it over to the guy who makes the pomegranate juice into wine, so we had to sit through a presentation on the wine making.  We had been told earlier that afternoon that there was a presentation going on in the concert hall on campus about American music and we wanted to go see what that was, so we had to leave the event we were at.  I was a little disappointed because they were also going to do a demonstration of Chinese writing that I wanted to see, but we had to excuse ourselves and go.

Our beautiful pomegranate gift.
As we left the building, the parents and the little boy caught up with us and gave us each a huge pomegranate in a nice box.  We hurried over to the concert hall and when we got there, a woman was speaking in Chinese with a piano on stage.  She had a power point presentation and on the screen were a picture of Stephen Foster and then another American female composer that I didn't know.  We stayed for about 20 minutes thinking that any minute she would get on to some singing, but she didn't, so we just left and went home.

Sunday, we went to Church and had lunch at the Hanlin with the others.  We came home to rest and then left in what we thought was plenty of time to get to the Jing Si Lu Church.  The bus was pretty crowded but when we got to a place on the bus where we could stand, two nice young ladies stood up and offered their seats to us.  That was good because we had a LONG ride ahead of us!  It took us an hour and a half to get to the church.  The traffic was insane and the buses were super crowded.  A lot of things were going on at the malls that we had to pass, so people were out celebrating Christmas Eve.
BYU teachers and Arron, our Vietnamese member.

One of the choirs.  It was so fun to watch the director.  He really gets into it!  

I wish I had better video of this group.  The kids were so cute!  You can't see it, but the little girl on the front row, third from the right, was the kind of kid that was so fun to watch.  She really put the BIG into her actions!
These lovely ladies were doing a dance and then David leans over to me and whispers, "One Grecian Urn."  I lost it!  Then I told Kayce sitting next to me and she lost it!  It took all three of us a while to stop the giggling. 

The performance at the church went well.  When we got up and sang, Angels We Have Heard On High, the audience was clapping along and I truly believe that EVERY camera in the building was filming us!  We also sang, Joy to the World, but for some reason that didn't get the same response as "Angels" did.  David and I thought it was strange because that one had gotten a big response four years ago.

We left after the choir that sang when we were done.  We were starting to get nervous about getting a bus home if we waited much longer.  Taxis don't like to take Anglo's that might not be able to tell them where to take them.  The ride home wasn't as long as the ride there, but it was still crowded on the streets and in the buses.  We did make it home okay.  Merry Christmas!