Sunday, May 20, 2018

David Teaches the Engineers, Dinner with Elsie and Conner, New Tutoring Students

For the most part, this week was rather calm, but busy.  David had to make a special trip over to see Kang Ming at the International Office.  She needed our documents so she could take them over to get the process started on extending our work permits in China for the next year.

David spent his evenings teaching the engineers class from the China construction company that he did just before we left for home in January.  They had an opening ceremony on Sunday afternoon, and then he taught from 6:30 to 8:30 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and then for one hour on Friday afternoon.  Some days were better than other for teaching.  This was a smaller group than the group in January.
Over last weekend, there was some competition or activity on campus where students could paint the manhole covers around the canteen and main library areas.  This was one of the cutest ones.  A lot of them were cartoon or superhero characters.  It was a little strange to see because most of the campus is so plain.  
I had my painting class on Wednesday.  It was a pretty rainy day, and Eva didn't meet us in the canteen for our usual lunch time.  The rain did let up by the time I went to my class.  It is still fun to do and the others in the class always try to come and talk to me.  I show them pictures of my family.  They look up my profile on WeChat and see the few pictures that I have on there.
The engineers that will be going to Thailand and one will be going to Nigeria.  One of the women is an engineer, one was an interpreter and the other one works for the construction company.

After class, I went to a store that carries foreign products.  I have used almost all of the decongestant/expectorant that I brought with me trying to control this cough that we still have, so I was hoping that they would carry it there.  They don't.  They also don't carry it in the pharmacy store near the campus.  We will be meeting with Dr. Tricia on Monday, and she said that she could get us something.  We are feeling mostly better, but the lingering cough still bothers us at times.

When we were going to lunch the other day, we met one of David's students from last semester that we had over to our apartment a few times with her boyfriend, Conner.  She had a bandage on her head.  It looked like it was terrible, but insisted it was nothing.  We decided to invite them over for dinner on Saturday.  Elsie likes to cook and so gave her the choice between learning to make banana bread or brownies. She said she wanted to learn to make brownies.

Dinner was fun.  Elsie ordered several dishes from some local restaurants that deliver.  As we were sitting around talking afterward, Elsie told David that the students from his class missed him a lot.    They all miss him and don't like the Chinese teacher because the class is boring and uninspiring for learning English.  The students in Elsie's major decided to formed a study group on WeChat. They called it, "Miss Professor David Every Day."  Talk about a tribute to a great teacher!

Sunday, we had to hurry home from Church after lunch so I could attend Branch Council Meeting.  None of the buses were cooperating, for me to make it on time.  We just barely missed the bus that we had to take from the Hanlin Hotel.  It was pulling away from the stop as we were walking up to it.  It was almost a 15 minute wait for the next bus.

Practicing trumpet flowers.
Practicing grapes and vines.
When we got off the stop for the next bus home, we had a long wait there, too.  David had gone over to look at the electronic board to see how many stops away the bus was (it was three stops away).  When he started to come back over to sit by me , a lady started talking to him in Chinese and indicating his watch.  She wanted him to take it off, and it seemed like she wanted to have him put it on her wrist.  He wrapped it around her wrist to be kind, but didn't let her keep it.  David just kept walking toward me and sat down.

Then she came over to me.  I wear an amber bracelet.  She kept pointing to my bracelet, wanting me to take it off, even trying to take it off by herself.  I refused.  Then she started pointing to my bracelet and her wrist, started counting on her fingers, and then indicated she would pay me shi kwai (10 Yuan) for my bracelet.  I said no.  She then said er shi kwai (20 Yuan).  I again told her no and then started hiding my wrist.  She looked at the wedding band on my hand and started to take it off!  At that point, I received a WeChat message on my phone, so I looked at that.  She finally got tired of bothering us and went to find someone else to bother.  She got on the same bus that we did, but thankfully got off of the bus at the next stop.  We really didn't want to have her following us to our apartment.  That was kind of creepy.  We haven't had that kind of person approach us before.  Just have to be careful wherever you go.

We have started tutoring two fourteen year old students.  William's and Helen's mothers are friends and they want them to learn English well.  They are nice kids.  We played a math game (Krypto) with them and I think William would have loved playing past the tutoring time.  He caught on quickly and he was fast.  Helen took a little more time to get it, but she enjoyed it also.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Jinan Botanical Park, Hundred Flower Park, DaMing Lake at Night

On Saturday, May 5, David and I had planned to go to the Jinan Botanical Park to see the peonies and what other flowers were there.  When we started talking in the morning, it looked like it was going to be a nice day.  By the time we got out to the bus stop, it was already starting to sprinkle pretty steadily.  We got off at the right bus stop and met Eva at the entrance.
Peonies in the botanical garden.
The rain was continuing and even starting to get worse.  At first we could avoid a lot of the rain because the trees were keeping us covered.  As we searched for the peony section of the gardens, the rain got even more aggressive. Eva had brought an umbrella, but that wasn't going to take care of all three of us.  There are always people that sit at the gates of the parks and tourist areas with things to sell.  So Eva and I took the one umbrella, while David tarried under a sheltered area, and made our way to the entrance where we could buy some umbrellas.

The woman standing there was more than happy to see us.  She shoved aside the stack of kids character umbrellas (although I was eyeing a princess one for David, he he!), and showed me what I could buy and the prices.  I picked out two, and because I was buying two, she gave me 10 Yuan off.  I was happy with that.  We made our way back to where David was, and he was busy having a conversation with some kids and mothers that were also standing there to get out of the rain.
A class of young saxophonists.  Some were still a little squeaky, but that's okay for now.

Close to the end of peony blooming time.  Happy we were able to find some still in good shape though.

We stopped at a small arcade/fast food place for some lunch and to get out of the rain for a little bit.  It started to clear up some while we were there, so we started out again in search of our peony patch.  It didn't take us too long, because we got on a sky walk bridge and found it from there.  There were still some good peonies to see, but if we had waited another week, they would have been all gone.

After we found the peonies, we stopped at a pavilion where a bunch of people were trying to wait out the rain. They had some musical instruments with them and had planned on playing and doing some dances, but the rain stopped them.  They decided to leave about the same time that we did.  I needed to get home and do some things for Sunday, so we left and when home.
Entrance to the botanical garden.

Pretty little pink roses.

The rest of our week was filled up with classes, correcting assignments, David planning for teaching one week of classes to some engineers, and other activities.

On Friday evening, David and I went to see the Hundred Flower Park.  It is the closest park to us, but we don't get there as often as we should.  It was so much cooler in temperature the minute that we walked through the gates.  It was really pleasant.  Different musicians were playing, lots of people walking, flowers blooming, and kids playing.
Trees in Hundred Flower Park.

One of the springs in the park.

We think we could take a different path each time we went to the park and not travel the same one twice.

These peonies were in better shape than the ones at the botanical garden, but still close to the end of flower time.

David with his ice cream.  The ladies running the little booth that had an ice cream display were thrilled to have him come and stop.  There is danger in being able to speak well the little tiny bit of Chinese that we know... they think you know a lot more than you really do...

Pomegranate blossoms.  Very pretty!

Part of a rose garden.

No one hardly ever walks on the grass areas.  They plant their grass like they do their rice, in clumps.

When we left the park to go to the bus stop, there was a precocious seven-year-old waiting there with his grandmother.  He wanted David to "high five" him.  Then he kept talking to us - in Chinese.  The grandmother offered us seats on the bench next to them.  It turns out that they were waiting for the same bus we were.  I think at one point, they were asking us what bus we were taking, and when they came back saying that bus 70 (qishi) was coming in two more stops, and they came back to the bench.  We tried out David's translation app, but the bus came, and we all got on.  It seemed to have made their day meeting us.

One thing that has been taking up a lot of my time has been the discovery of a member of our Church who is living in a smaller city, not far from Jinan.  "J" is from Lithuania and married a Chinese man.  She had been pregnant with her first baby and had preeclampsia and later HELLP Syndrome.  The family had to make the decision to save either her or her baby.  They chose to save her.  The baby was born by C-section, but because the family is a poor farm family, they didn't have the money to keep the baby on the respirator, so the baby died.  This lady was heartbroken and still struggling with the high blood pressure. 

"J" reached out to her friends and family in Lithuania and lamented that she didn't have people in the Church here to support her like there was in her old home.  It just so happened, that a young man who had lived in China, was a missionary there in Lithuania.  When the family told the missionary about J's problems, he told them that there was a Church presence in China with our ex-pat Branch!  Our Branch President was contacted, and he contacted me (as Relief Society President, this comes under my responsibilities to help with).

After contacting J through email and by phone (she reads English better than she can talk and understand), I decided that it was going to be best to go out to visit her in her city.  The problem was how?  J lives about 50 miles away from Jinan.  I don't drive in China (if you lived here, you would totally understand why!), and taking the bus would make this an all day long activity, for which I didn't have time to do.  One of the Priesthood men and a Chinese friend of ours, Simon, could go on Wednesday, but we couldn't get a car to drive us on that day.  We asked Simon to see if it were possible to "rent" a driver and a car for Saturday.  Simon was able to put us in contact with a driver who was willing to do it for 600 RMB.  I felt like that was worth it.  The train doesn't go there and the bus would have been three hours out and three hours back, at a minimum. 

Simon couldn't go with us on Saturday, but fortunately Aaron, our Vietnamese member who speaks Chinese, could go.  We met the driver and his sister at the South Gate of our campus.  I sat in back with the sister of the driver and Aaron.  It wasn't a very roomy back seat.  The driver had lived four years in New Zealand, so he spoke English quite well.  He was able to drive us there in a little less than one and a half hours.  He waited for us for the hour that we spend with J and her husband, and then drove us back to Jinan.  I was so glad that we could go out and help J for that time.  She needed a Priesthood blessing with the oil and also the comfort of a female, mother-type member.

After we had a rest on Saturday afternoon, we waited for a call from Eva.  Her parents had come to visit her and we were going to meet at DaMing Lake and walk around.  When she finally had time to call us, it was already time for supper, so we decided to go to McDonald's and then just meet them at DaMing Lake.

The bus ride there is always a crowded one, it seems.  It is made even worse right now because they are doing construction of a subway system, so several important roads are blocked off, and crowded down to just two lanes each way.  If you can imagine the traffic of several thousand people all trying to get to the lake, so they can walk around and get cooler, than you can imagine how bad the traffic was.
DaMing Lake at night.

We finally made it, and then had to wait for Eva and her parents.  We found a nice low wall near the entrance where we could sit and wait.  While we waited, we were once again, the attention of a lot of people.  Two kids were about nine years old and they seemed to keep coming closer and closer.  Finally, the parents got involved and wanted them to come have their picture taken with us.  We sat the kids between us and got the photo.  There was a guard standing around that seemed curious about us also.  I think if he had known ANY English, he would have come over and talked with us.  One mother sat with her three to four-year old next to us and the little girl was rather shy.  David pulled out his phone and started showing her pictures of our grandchildren, and she was interested.  The guard was interested too, but he couldn't show too much interest it seemed.  Later, David was reading a text message from Eva and the guard came by once more.  I really think he wanted to see some pictures.
A lighted pavilion on a romantic island.

The monument tower to a famous Chinese poet who lived there.

The Jade bridge that goes out to the romantic island.

We had a nice time walking around the lake.  At one pavilion, there were several saxophone players playing.  One of them had some nice track music playing, and he was playing the melody along with it.  It turns out that he was the master and all the other saxophonists were just practicing.  The master played a good dancing song, so David and I started dancing out on the grassy area behind the pavilion.  When that song ended, we had been noticed, so they invited us to come and dance inside the little covered area that the master was playing in.  We did one dance, where we were recorded by more than just Eva, and then sat and listened to him play a few more songs.
This is the master that was so good!
Dancing together, making a spectacle of ourselves.
Everyone insisted that we have a picture with the saxophonist master.
We continued our walk along the edge of the lake until it was time to find a bus to take us home.  We said good-bye to Eva and her parents.  Just as we were about to exit the park, we see Yi Bing (Bob's mom of Bob and Anna fame) and her husband (who we had not met before) walking by.  Yi Bing was so excited to see us!  After we told them that we were trying to catch a bus home, they insisted on walking us across the busy street and down to the bus stop.  Then when the right bus came, Yi Bing jumped in the bus first, paid for our fare, hopped back off the bus, and then waved good-bye as the bus left.  She wants to thank us for helping Bob and Anna with their English so that they could be accepted by Duke University in the US and go to school there.

We made it home safely, and today we went to Church.  We had to leave early because David is teaching the class for the engineers again and their opening ceremony was today.  David has to go introduce himself to this new group of engineers, and then he starts teaching them tomorrow.  I stayed here and helped tutor two fourteen-year-olds, William and Helen.  I think they will be some fun kids to get to know.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Tianjin, China with Gilbert and Family.

The biggest reason we are glad that I'm out of the hospital is that we had planned to spend the Chinese Labor Day holiday (April 29-May 1) with Gilbert and his family in Tianjin.  Tianjin was where we had originally been assigned to go when we signed up with the BYU China Teachers Program.  For some reason, the university in Tianjin turned us down, and all BYU teachers that year, so we were then assigned to Shandong University in Jinan.  We were excited to see this city, but didn't really know what to expect there that would be different from other Chinese cities.  We were in for a pleasant surprise.

Sunday we met for District Conference at the Kinghorn's apartment in the Hanlin Hotel where we hold our church meetings.  After a nice lunch with them we took a bus to the train station, and rode a high speed train to Tianjin.  We really like the ease of the high speed trains.  China runs them efficiently and conveniently.  The ride to Tianjin was pleasant.

We got in line for the taxis and there were only three people ahead of us.  The guard at the gate looked at the message that Gilbert had sent to David with the information of how to get to our hotel, walked over to the next taxi in line, showed it to him.  The taxi driver nodded his head, so we hopped  in for the ride.  The ride to the hotel was a little less than an hour and the taxi ride cost us 230 RMB!
Lulu, Zina, Marcel and Gilbert.  Our first night in Tianjin, China.

David, Zina, Lulu, Marcel, Gilbert.
Gilbert came out to get us when we didn't know where to  go after we were dropped off.  They  had a room reserved for us in a nice place.  His wife, Lulu, gets discount prices for travel from her work, so we had some nice accommodations.  We had a few minutes to refresh ourselves, and then we were out the door again to go to dinner.  Every time we needed to go someplace, a transportation company company they hired, provided us with a nice seven passenger vehicle to get there.

The restaurant was a nice place that specialized in seafood.  Tianjin is the coastal seaport to Beijing, so seafood is fresh and plentiful.  They ordered lots of food, but we had to be careful to not eat too much and disturb our sleep.

Eels.  First time I've ever eaten them.  Probably  the last time, at least, knowingly...
Very delicious beef and quail's eggs.
Octopus tentacles, with peppers.  Chewy.
I guess this fish tasted okay, but I didn't enjoy the fried scales on the outside, nor the bones from the inside.

We went to a park that was close to where out rooms were.  Gilbert and Lulu talked me into riding a bike.  They have rental bikes all over the place.  You scan the QR code, and it unlocks the bike.  When you are finished using the bike, you close up the lock, and then the app takes the fee from your account.  Pretty handy.  The problem for us using them in Jinan, is that most of the seats on the bikes won't go up high enough for us to ride them comfortably.   The size is great for most Chinese, not for taller, long-legged Americans.

I was a little wobbly at first, the tires are smaller size and at the chain mechanism is different.  All things you have to get used to.  After getting used to it, I felt like I was doing okay, not really, totally comfortable, but I felt okay.  Gilbert had rented a bike so that  he could take their son, Marcel, on a ride, too.  We rode around the park and then we headed back to the hotel area, on the bikes.  David and Lulu were on foot, so we went rather slow for them to keep up.

One thing that I had said to David a few days earlier, was that I didn't want to ride a bike on the streets in China, it's just too scary!  Well, there I was riding a bike on the streets of China!  We got back to the hotel and decided that we were going to park the bikes and walk down by the water.  Gilbert and I headed to the area where we could park the bikes, and as I was negotiating through two small pillars to get to the area, I didn't steer very well and ended up on the ground as the bike's pedal caught on the pillar.

Gilbert was first to get over to me.  I had landed on my right elbow and scraped it up.  I was sure that I was going to be bruised on my left leg, and my right hip, where I hit the pedal and the ground.  My hand was also hit with the handle bars and I have a large bruise forming on it.  It didn't do any wonders for my low back either.  I was pretty sore when I went to bed.  Gilbert and Lulu felt so bad.  We had to not go walk by the water, so that we could go up to their apartment and clean up my boo-boos.

After all of that was taken care of, we sat around in their apartment, exchanged the gifts that we had brought for them, and that they had brought for us, and talked for a long time.  Gilbert loves soaking up knowledge. While David went back to our room to get the gifts for them, he was asking me some questions about English, and he wants to know the reasons behind some words and expressions we use.  Marcel was happy with the toy truck and 4-wheeler we gave him.  After playing happily with it for about 20 minutes, he asked his dad if he could keep them.  When Gilbert told him that they were a gift to him, he was so happy!  His "xie xie

I rested better than I thought I would that night.  Gilbert had gone out and bought "street food,"  traditional foods that the Chinese like for breakfast, so we went down to their apartment to eat.  Frankly, I don't see much difference between some of their breakfast foods and the foods they eat the rest of the day.  It was good tasting and we had plenty of it.

Our plan for Monday was to go a theme park that they have built around an old retired Ukrainian aircraft carrier. They employ Russians to come perform and help entertain at the park.  One tall, blonde Russian woman was posing with some Chinese in pictures.  They had traditional music being played and the buildings were meant to look like old Russian buildings.
Squid on a stick!

Part of our snack before lunch was watermelon and seasoned, fried, fillet of squid.  Don't knock it until you've tried it!
Marcel had fallen asleep in the van on the way to the park, so Lulu stayed with him, while Gilbert went with us to tour the ship.  It was interesting, but with all the thousands of Chinese in this poorly ventilated and closed in space, it was hot and stuffy. After we had seen our fill, we headed out to meet up with Lulu and Marcel so that we could have a little snack before we went to lunch.
The theme park where the Ukrainian aircraft carrier was.  Built to look like a Russian village.

Missiles on the aircraft carrier.

One of the shops in the Russian village of the TEDA theme park.
This aircraft carrier could land a plane or take-off, but it was more for helicopters to land.

Inside it was hot and stuffy.  I found if rather endearing that Gilbert would go around to all the things that had a switch or a button to touch and he would try to turn it to see if it would work.  

Old aircraft that are parked on the deck of the carrier.

We stopped at the Astor Hotel in Tianjin, where we had hotel rooms for the night.  While Lulu was getting us checked in, we were greeted by a hostess who gave us a refreshing drink that tasted almost like ginger ale, without the bubbles.  A grandfather that was holding his granddaughter sat near us and we started playing with her.

One of the historic buildings in Tianjin.  
This hotel is a historic site.  It was built in 1863, and they have kept traditions that they have had for all this time.  A lot of the city was build by Europeans ,and a lot of those building still stand.  Driving and walking around, you just got a different feeling about the city.  In the hotel, you almost feel like you walked into it in the 1890's.  Our room was really nice with one of those huge over-sized tubs.  Of course we used it!  David has missed his bathtub.
The grand staircase in the lobby of the Astor Hotel.

Afternoon tea was held in this beautiful atrium just off the lobby.

They keep this old turn style door in the area where the lobby used to be.

This is the old lobby,  now a reading room.

Outside of the hotel from the back. 

Our room wasn't quite ready yet, and Gilbert and Lulu had made plans for our meals and to see a Chinese Comedy show.  Cross-talk is a traditional Chinese form of entertainment.  If you have ever seen the old "Smother's Brother's" routines, it is similar to that, except it is in Chinese, and they wear a traditional Chinese smock.  They perform impromptu routines for the audience.
A traditional snack of Tianjin, twisted and then fried bread.  They were so excited to give this to us as a gift.  Tastes okay.

First, we went to find a restaurant that was recommended to them as being the best baozi (pronounced "bow-tza").  Baozi is a steamed bun that has meat or vegetables cooked inside.  We are not sure that any other Americans have ever eaten in the place because they kept looking at us.  The woman in charge asked through Gilbert, if we like them.  I gave her a thumbs up, and she was very pleased.  Yes, they were good baozi, some of the best we've had.
Said to be the best baozi restaurant in Tianjin.

The staff getting baozi ready for the evening dinner crowd.  

After eating baozi, we were picked up by another van and driven to a street where we could buy the tickets for the cross talk show.  They found out that the show didn't start until 7:30, so Gilbert and Lulu wanted to take us to an old-style street market.  They were particularly interested in buying some "snacks" that are available there.  They wanted us to go explore the area, but they were starting to close it down and the guard kindly showed us with his hand coming together that they were closing down, so we left.  We had to wait for Gilbert to find Lulu and Marcel, and when he did, we got another van to take us back to the Cross Talk Show.

The first performer greeted us in English after bowing to the crowd.  Several times after he started his routine, he would turn to us and say something in English.  He was funny and amazing that he would have the whole crowd with him and then throw something in there in English.  It was fun, but it was getting late and Marcel was tired of trying to be good.  Five-year-old boys need to move around.  Another van picked us up and took us back to the Astor Hotel.  Gilbert and Lulu wanted to walk along the river, but we were tired, so we just went up to our room and enjoyed it.

I kept looking at this sign as we were driving around Tianjin.  When I asked Lulu what it said, she said it is, "Don't drink and drive."  The cleverest part about it for me was when she said that the characters that are in the driver's seat of the car in the broken wine glass was the character for alcohol.  Please, don't drink and drive!
We had to be up and get breakfast before we left, which was served in the hotel dining room.  Very good food, attentive servers, and an elegant atmosphere.  When we finished, we got our bags and met Gilbert in the lobby to say good-bye.  He had ordered a taxi for us that would take us back to the train station.  It only took us an hour to get back to Jinan with a high speed train that travels 300 km/h (about 186 mph).  We found our bus that would get us to where we could catch the bus that would take us home.  We both took naps that afternoon.  It was a fun time with Gilbert, Lulu, and Marcel.

A sign inside the stall of the bathroom in the train station.  I couldn't resist snapping a picture.