Monday, April 23, 2018

AHR, SDA English Club, Weifang Kite Festival

Weifang International Kite Festival. A day of flying 10,000 kites at the same time!

David and I are still suffering from the cold/illness that sent him to the hospital.  Yes, I caught it also.  Just not as bad as he did.  David has had a problem with his throat closing off and not being able to breath.  The first time was April 10.  The air pollution was over 500 and we went to KFC for supper.  He took a bite of his chicken wrap and between the spice and the pollution, his throat closed off and he couldn't breath.   That night, he woke up gasping.  Scared us pretty bad.  He went back to Dr. Trisha and Dr. Hu, and they checked his lungs and other things. In the end, it was decided that he has AHR (airway hyper responsiveness).  The cough has triggered an asthma like response in his throat, and it starts to shut down. 

The best way to treat it would have been to go to the hospital two times a day, and get a breathing treatment like when he first went in. That just wasn't going to be possible, so the next best possible treatment was some pills that help to relax the muscles so that he can get his breathing back. We have had some scary times since then, but it seems to be working, slowly.  If you have some extra prayers, we could use them.

Monday, David went back after he was done with class because he had another scary episode that night.  They checked him over again and basically said to give it more time.  He went back again on Friday because they had said for him to take the pills for only one week. but told him to go ahead and take the pills as needed.  It is very scary when he is in the middle of an episode of not being able to breath, but it is what we have to deal with now. 

Shandong Airlines has decided to start an "English Club."  It is a club where the employees of the airline can get together and practice speaking English.  They invited David and I, and also Kayce.  Lily came with us to show us where to go.  Kayce was invited by her student, Sophia, that works at the airline.  Her mother is the director of the Institute for the Elderly, where Kayce takes a Tai Chi class, and I have my painting class. 

During the first part, they had three people give speeches on the topic of family.  David had been asked to prepare a talk a few days ahead, and when Kayce got there, she was found out she would be giving a speech also!  One of the Chinese men (Walter) had been an English teacher in the 1980's, but is now the Communist Party official over the airline, also gave a good speech.
The Airline's gift to us, model airplanes.
This is what it looks like.

The second hour of the party, we played a game.  We set up in teams of two people, and had to guess the word that our partner was trying to describe.  David was teamed up with Walter, Kayce was teamed with a Chinese man, a Chinese girl named Jasmine (she went to college for four years in the US) teamed with a Chinese man, and then Lily and I. 

David and Walter scored nine points, Kayce's team scored nine points, Jasmine's team scored eight points and Lily and I scored nine points.  We would have scored ten points except Lily did not know the word "vowel."  She had no concept of the word.  So it came down to a three-way tie.  They decided to settle it by playing "Paper, Rock, Scissors."  First, Kayce and I beat out David, then I beat out Kayce!  Lily and I won!!  It was such a fun night.  They gave gifts to David, Kayce and I for coming.  It was a model of a Shandong Airlines plane, and then they gave us prizes for the game, travel mugs.  They ordered a taxi for us to take home. 

Our group from the English Corner.  

The university gave us an opportunity to go to Weifang, the home of the International Kite Festival.  We were pretty excited about it because it was one of the cities on our "China bucket list."  We had heard a lot about the festival, so we were pretty excited to be able to go.

We met the other foreign teachers that were going with us at the South Gate of the campus.  They had a guide hired, and a coach bus for us to travel in.  At first we thought we were going to be able to take the high speed train there, but it ended up being the bus.  It was an almost four hour trip to get there with the traffic.  The foreign teachers from our university were from Korea, Japan, Scotland, England, and South Aftrica. 

We checked in to a nice hotel, and after a few minutes of rest, we went down to a conference room where they had dinner set up for us.  This was like a joint university trip with Peking University in Beijing.  There were two BYU couples in that group that we had met on our other trips with BYU teachers, so we had some friends in the group.  I think the hotel was trying to show us how wonderful of a meal they could feed us because the food just kept on coming! 

About halfway through the meal, David had another AHR episode, so he quickly went out of the room.  I didn't follow, thinking that he would be able to get it back under control soon and be back in.  However, someone from the hotel staff observed him leaving and grew concerned about him.  He called over the leader of our group and talked to her.  She came over to me and wanted to know if he was okay.  I went up to the room to check on him.  He had finally gotten his breathing under control, but was almost embarrassed to come back.  It turned out okay, but I did explain to our group leader what was happening.

The next day, we left the hotel, and drove for about an hour.  We were driven to a place that was described as the Temple of the Dragon God.  We were given a tour of the buildings that they had built to house the God of the Dragon and also the Gods of the East, North, West, and South Seas. 
At each side of the courtyard area of the Dragon King Temple, there was a tower like the smaller building.  Inside one is a huge drum and inside the other is a huge bell.  You ring the bell at first light of day and bang the drum at dawn.

Three of the gods of the seas.  I was looking for the symbols for north, east, west, and south to see who was who, but didn't get it figured out by the time we had to leave.  I do know some of the Chinese Characters. 
We were then driven to the place where we had reserved seats for the opening ceremonies of the International Kite Festival.  The seats were pretty good, and we were able to see most of the activities well.  The forecast had been for rain that day, but there was only a moist breeze and warmth from the sun.  It felt good.
The sky was filled with all sorts of kites.  I didn't get a picture of it, but one was a long green snake and it was so cool to see it "snaking" around in the sky.

Part of the opening ceremony was a program that included this dragon dance and then dances from four different countries.  There was a speech from an official that was also read in English.  Nice to be included. 
Another cool kite that I saw.  They said that for one this big, you would need to have it attached to a bus to keep it from flying away.  Some of the smaller ones had to have about eight people to hold them down.  
After we left the kite festival we were driven to a hotel in the economic enrichment zone of Binhai.  This area of China is being developed as the future economic zone with the salt industry, and the seafood harvesting industry.  They have a huge area all planned out that will be the future of the area.  A high speed railway is being planned to make it a major hub between Shanghai and Beijing.  It all sounds so wonderful to have planned out.  It may take away the farming industry that is also big in that area, but the other two industries think they are more important.  I wonder if it will work.
I didn't get a picture of this ferris wheel when we saw it, not knowing the significance of it, but it is the largest ferris wheel in the world without a center spoke.  It is built in the middle of a bridge, so I wondered if people actually used it.

This cool aquarium was in the lobby of the hotel where we had lunch.  Where you see the person standing is actually just a computer screen image. The other is a real aquarium.  

They have a large art and culture museum that we toured.  Then they took us into the conference room and talked about our great universities and how we could help spread the word about what they are doing and maybe come join them as they help develop and grow this area.  David was asked to give a short speech representing Shandong University, and one of the BYU teachers from Peking University gave a speech for their university.  We found it rather interesting that of all we had there, they were the two that they wanted to have speak.
David speaking at the end of the tour, thanking them for the opportunity to come.

Our last tour stop of the day was the Kite Museum of Weifang.  It was interesting to see all the kites they had there.  Kites are an invention of China.  Kites have been used in wars as well as in peace.  It was a pleasurable pastime that didn't cost much to build, so it could be enjoyed by poor and rich alike.
Kites are a family activity, as this sculpture depicts.

These are dragon kites.  They are long with the big head.

Some old traditional kites.

The story hear tells of a battle that was going to be fought and the one side didn't think they really had a chance.  They put a man on a kite that was a really good singer, and floated him above the camp of the enemy.  While he was up there, he sang songs and ballads of home and longing for home.   The men in the camp  below him became so homesick, that they packed up their things and went home, ending the need for a battle.  I liked that story!

Before we headed back to Jinan, they bought some bananas, boxed milk, and a baked fruit bread for our supper to eat on the way back.  We arrived in Jinan about 8 p.m.  Bucket list item checked!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sacred Mount Tai and Qufu

We decided to do another trip last weekend.  It was to visit Mount Tai and Qufu.  We had been to both places before, but we wanted to go again with a different tour.

Saturday morning, we caught a bus at 9 a.m. that would take us to the train station.  We made it with an hour or so to spare before our train left.  It took us a few minutes to figure out the chart for when the trains leave, we hadn't ridden on one yet this year.  It is a nice way to travel in China.  It was a little over a half hour to travel about 100 miles.

We were met at the train station in Tai'an by the tour guide and two of the other BYU teachers that were going on this trip.  The others were to arrive about 45 minutes later, so we had a little wait.  Kevin, the guide, took us out to the bus so we could sit down.  After the others arrived, we were taken to a local restaurant for a late lunch.
Mount Tai, one of four sacred mountains in China.  Lots of stories about the emperors of China coming here for inspiration.

There was a marathon going on that weekend at Mount Tai, so it was hard to get very close to the place we needed to be.  The bus dropped us off and we had a little walk to get to the visitor center.  Mount Tai is one of the four sacred mountains in China and has a long history as a place for emperors and wise men to visit for inspiration.  There is a Daoist temple near the top.
One way to take supplies up and down the mountain.

We were driven by a shuttle bus to the place where we could get a gondola ride to the top.  It's rather a fun ride.  Can be a little nerve wracking for those that don't trust gondolas or like the heights.

We passed a long, long line of people waiting in line for the gondola ride back down to the shuttle bus.  When we got to where we could go up to see the Daoist temple, the guide pulled us all together and explained that the line for the gondolas was extra long because one of the two gondola lines was down, and that was the one that we had planned to take down.  It was going to be a 4-5 hour wait!  He explained our options as being wait in the line for that long time, or go down by the stairs.  Going down the stairs would take about two hours, but is was very steep with no hand rails or anything to hang onto.  In some places, you would have to turn around and go down backwards because it was so steep!  There were two people that just turned around and got back into the line right away.  There were four of us that decided we would start on the stairs right away and then when the rest of the group that had decided to take the stairs down caught up with us, we could join them.

One of the women had been wearing open toed shoes and her feet were freezing.  It was quite a cold day up on the mountain with the wind chill making it even colder.   She has a skin condition that makes if torture for her to wear closed toed shoes from a fungus or something she picked up in Japan twenty years ago.  She lives in Texas, so going without shoes isn't much of a problem for her there.  Is was a problem at Mount Tai where it is cold and windy.  I also began thinking about what going down over 7000 steps would do to my knee and we decided that we better go stand in line for the four or so hours it would take.
The alternative way down if the gondolas stop working.  And, this was just the 3,000 steps to the shuttle area.  There are over 9,000 steps from bottom to top.  Some people  do it as a right of passage.  

The guide suggested that we talk to the guards and explain about my knee and the woman's feet and see if they could get us through the line faster.  We decided to try that, but the guide left to be with the rest of the group while we tried to make the guards understand what we were asking.  As we were trying to explain to the guards, two Chinese girls that spoke English fairly well, stopped to see how they could help us.  We explained the situation to them and they started talking to the guards.  At first, it didn't seem like the guards were going to give in to us, but the girls kept talking and they eventually took pity on us.  We were so grateful for the small gift of those two girls!

We by-passed all those people who had been standing in line for many hours, keeping our heads down the whole time, and feeling bad that they still had to stand there while we were being escorted to the gondola.

Once we were down to the place where we caught the shuttle buses, we had to wait for all the others.  We found some rocks by the side of the path that we could sit on to wait.  We spent the time getting to know each other  better and talking to people that passed us by.  There were two different couples that came and sat down to talk for some time.  One was a man who was raised in Shanghai, went to the US and married his wife that was from Taiwan.  They currently live in Calgary, Canada, and have for many years.   The other man was also from Shanghai, but his wife was from Hong Kong.  They had both gone separately  to the US for school, met there and lived in the San Francisco area.  It was a pleasant talk with both.  Lots of others that only had a little bit of English asked for have photos taken with us.

The two people that had turned around right away were about an hour behind us.  Then it was another hour or so before the rest of them got down.  They had decided to try and take the gondola after all and the line was starting to move fast then.  The original plan had been to finish on Mount Tai about 5, and then travel to Qufu where our hotel was and have supper there.  Then we would have time to watch a local entertainment show that they put on at the hotel at 8 p.m.  That didn't happen.  Instead, we arrived at the hotel at 9 p.m., had a late supper and  went to our rooms.

David and I got to our room and it was freezing inside!!  China turns off the heat by March 15, whether you need it still or not.  As I went to close the curtains to see if it would make it any warmer, David was talking to the guide to see if we could get the heat turned on in the room.  As  I got to the curtain, I noticed that a wind was blowing the curtain.  I looked for a heat vent, but instead I found the window wide open!  I tried to close the window, but it was stuck and would not close all the way.

After several attempts, David came over and was finally able to get it to close, but now we had an extra cold room and we were cold from our trip on the mountain.  We left our coats, clothes and shoes on until just before we hopped into bed.  When the hotel person came to check on the heat and told us there was no heat in the room, she showed him where an extra comforter was on the shelf that we could use if we weren't warm enough.  Not helpful...

After breakfast the next morning, we hurried out the door to the opening of the gate to Confucius home complex.  They do a ceremony every morning.

Opening the gates ceremony.  This isn't all of it, just two parts of it.

After the ceremony, we quickly went to the area that we needed to go to for tickets.  We were pretty close to the first ones in line. As we were sitting waiting for the guide, an old gentleman with about four teeth left came up to sit near a group of us.  He had an old passport that he carried with him.  He had traveled to many  places and was very proud of the fact.  Sometimes you get beggars that just want money, but he wanted to talk.  Some of them showed him their passports.  Then someone decided that it would be a nice gesture to give him an American dollar bill, so they did.

Confucius scholars waiting to go through the compound gates to go to the graduation type ceremony.
Gates into the compound. I believe they said there were five gates to go through, and each one was for different levels.
As we made our way through the compound, which has a lot of buildings and ancient trees in it, there were a lot of groups of children, elementary and junior high age, touring also.  These groups were so thrilled to see all of these Americans there.  We had lots of pictures taken of us and with us.  They gathered around us in groups and tried to speak the little English some of them knew.  Their chaperones were having a hard time dealing with keeping them all moving along.

The sign says to not touch the tree, but of course everyone touches it. Maybe it only says that in English...

On the roofs of the houses, they have animals that depict the rank of the person who lives in that house.  This is the house of a very important person because they have eight animals.  I have seen as many as twelve, but that was in Beijing.
This juniper tree in the Confucius Compound is 2,500 years old.  They have plaques hanging on each of the trees stating how old they are.  Most are between 200 and 500 years old.  They try preserve them by  putting the metal bands around them and filling in parts that are starting to split.  

This was the family well in that served the Confucius Family.  The plaque was partially destroyed during the cultural revolution.  Confucius family was particularly persecuted during that time because they were teachers.  The last direct line son of Confucius left China to live in Taiwan when Chiang Kai-shek left the country.

The only remaining wall of the house the Confucius grew up in.

This is called the roofline of "frenemies." Keep your friends close and our enemies closer.  They wanted to keep an eye on the people that were their enemies, so they lived close to them to keep an eye on them.  It helped keep balance in the government.   

Just a cute picture of a cute couple in love!

Pomegranate flower.  It is the flower planted for the sons of the family.

Pomegranate tree.  The trunk is so thin and spindly.  

When we finished with Confucius' Compound, we were taken by horse-drawn wagons to make the trip to the cemetery.  Ten of us were put in a closed carriage with one horse pulling us.  By the time that horse got to the cemetery (a distance of about three km), he was pretty tired.

Our wagon going through the gates between the walls to the city.

He was pretty tired by the time we got there.
While we were waiting for the other wagon of our group to get there, we started talking with some junior high age kids.  They were so excited and we had lots of picture taking.  We didn't even know when the rest of the group arrived.  The kids all had to leave and we looked around and we were by ourselves. No group!

David and I started walking in the direction that we were sure they had gone, but we didn't see them.  Fortunately, David had the guide's phone number and called him.  We hurried and caught up.

They had shuttle buses that take you around the cemetery.  You can only be buried there if you are a descendant of Confucius.  They don't allow head stones to be placed there anymore because even though it is a large cemetery,  they will run out of room.  They stopped putting up head stones in 1947.
The guide said these were orchid flowers, but on closer look, they didn't look like orchids.  Sometimes the way the names of things translate, doesn't work very well.

The mounds are the graves.  Each year, the family members will come back on Tomb Sweeping day and add more dirt to the mound to show their respect for their ancestors.  If you see a small mound with fresh dirt, it is where a new grave has been started.

Some of the tombstones that are still left.  Since 1949, you can't put anymore gravestones up.  They are afraid of running out of room to bury all of the ancestors there.  The graveyard is 28 hectares in size.  Pretty big, but when you are talking about over 500 years of ancestors...

We went back to the hotel, checked out of our rooms and had a late lunch.  Then we were taken to the train station to wait for over an hour for our high speed train trip back to Jinan.  It was a very exhausting two days.  Glad to be home.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Hospital Visits for David... All Week...

As I posted a little bit about David being in the hospital last Sunday, I will fill you in on what has been happening with that.  David got sick on our Yangtze River trip and after we got home on Saturday, he decided that he better see Dr. Tricia and get some help.

They treated him with an IV of antibiotics and antiviral medicines and gave him breathing treatments to help relax the airways.  They also did a blood test, and a CT Scan of his lungs.  They did the treatment twice on Sunday and wanted him to come back again on Monday morning to get another treatment.  She also wanted him to get an ultrasound of the abdominal organs to see if there were any problems there.  His lungs were free of pneumonia and no problems in the organs, so they decided that he had a bronchial infection and after another IV antibiotic treatment on Monday morning, they released him from the hospital. 

I taught David's class on Monday morning and then mine while he went to the hospital.  I contacted my class monitor and instructed her to have my class meet me in the classroom where David teaches, because I didn't think I would have time to close up his classroom and then get over to the building where I teach, and have time to get set up.  Everything went well.

David and I went back to the hospital Tuesday afternoon to get the results of his blood test.  Dr. Tricia seemed to want to talk a lot, so we were too late to get supper at the canteen and decided to buy KFC because it is on our way home and close.  The air quality that day was 500 AQI!  You could taste the pollution in the air! We ordered our meal and sat down to eat.  David tried to swallow his first bite and his throat wouldn't work!

He started coughing and gagging.  I was afraid of him passing out right there in the restaurant.  He eventually got the gagging under control and went into the restroom and get the coughing under control.  David came back rather pale and he was afraid to eat or drink.  We talked about whether to pack up our food and go home to finish, or to try and finish eating there.

We stayed there and he was able to finish his meal, but it really wasn't a pleasant feeling.  Several times that evening, he would start coughing and have the same sensation of his throat closing off.  He was able to get through the night.  The next day, we had lunch with Eva, and after I left for my painting class, David was still talking with Eva when he started coughing and couldn't stop.  It had him scared to even talk anymore!  (If you know David, you know that it was pretty bad if he stopped talking!)

David was back at the hospital on Thursday afternoon getting checked out by Dr. Tricia and Dr. Hu.  They decided that what he had was AHR - Airway Hyper Responsiveness.  This is a hallmark of asthma and it has to be treated similar to it.  David has some pills to take that reduce inflammation, and we have a humidifier (a gift from one of the Chinese teachers that we have lunch with) for sleeping with at night.  He still has some episodes of waking up with his throat closing off because we haven't been able to start the humidifier until tonight.  We hope it helps.

We went on a short trip this weekend to Mt. Tai and Qufu, Confucius birth place.  I'll write about that tomorrow because I'm too tired to do it tonight.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Qing Ming Day 4. Dam Pictures and Going Back to Jinan.

This morning we were up even earlier and had to be done with breakfast, check out, and be waiting for our group to go to on the Three Gorges Dam tour.  It was a mad house trying to get off the boat.  We had to go through another boat to reach the dock and once on the dock, we looked at the long stairway we would have to climb (no elevator this time) and decided to try and get on the trolley car to take us to the top. 

We went over to the trolley car and found out that it was only 2 Yuan to ride it, but the problem was the crush of people trying to ride it.  There were three of us, David, Helen, and I that tried it.  We had to push our way in and stay close together, because if we didn't, others would push in front of us.  No nice little queue to get on.  Fortunately, with our larger size, we were able to for a barricade and get on right after an old gentleman with a cane that was being put helped on by his daughter.

They took us on buses to the security center.  We had to get off the bus, go through scanning machines, walk through the building, and get back on the bus.  I think the best part of the tour is riding the escalators up and up and up and up to the top where you can have a bird's eye view of the area.  David and I got separated from each other and I couldn't find him, so I decided to walk up to the very top of the look out.  While I was up there, a woman just had to have her picture taken with this American!

David finally called me so I made my way down.  As we started our trek back to the bus, another woman stopped me to get a picture with me.  It is rather fun, complete strangers asking for pictures with you. 
The Bird's Eye view of the dam.

Boats and barges waiting to go through the locks.

Some of the people in our group had to get to the train station so they could get the high speed train back to their cities.  We were taken to the airport and had to hurry to get our tickets and get to the gate.  They were almost a half hour late loading our plane.  We made it home okay.  Happy Qing Ming!

Qing Ming Festival - Day 3. White Emperor City, Shennong River

How good of a vacation is it if you don't get to sleep in?  We were up early again today to have breakfast and get ready to meet our group that was going to the White Emperor City.  I looked at the stairs that we would have to climb from the boat up and my heart dropped to my shoes, but after looking at the stairs, I realized that there were escalators that would take you up most of the way!  What a relief! 
The way up!  The white covered parts are the escalators.  Whew!

This was the original gate to the city. They wanted to preserve it and not let it get covered in the water, so they took it apart piece by piece, labeled each piece and then reconstructed it here at the site of the new city.

We were loaded onto buses for a short ride to the site where we could go across a bridge to the island where White Emperor City is located.  Then the guide told us that we would be climbing 350 stairs today!  Yikes!  I didn't know what I had signed up for!  Nothing to do but set my mind to it and take it a step at a time!  It was a beautiful climb, with trees covering the stairs.  We could have hired a porter to take us up to the top, but one look at those little men who chain smoked cigarettes, the fragile looking chairs we would be sitting in, and the long stairs snaking their way up the mountainside, we decided that the exercise was going to be good for us!  
White Emperor City was built high on this spot because is was a strategic place to guard the river from.  They didn't have to move any of the buildings when the dam was built because it was already so high up.

I took this after we had climbed about the first 50 steps.

The heroes monument at the top.  It was a monument to a great general in the army of early China.
 The Dragon represents the male leader (king) and the Phoenix represents the female leader (queen).
 A Phoenix.  Looks like he's ready to pick this guy up.

The dragon.  He's ready to push this guy over.

The White Emperor City is known as the "Land of Poetry in China." Many famous poets have come here to be inspired and write.  One poet claimed that he always wrote better poetry when he was drunk.  I don't know about that, but that was his claim.  
Some of the famous poets of China that had come to this area to write.

This scene is on the back of the 10 yuan bill.

We think these are orchids that were growing along the walk back to the bus.  Too beautiful to pass by and not get a picture.

White Emperor City also has legends and stories about the Three Kingdoms in China.  They held China together and helped unite them.  There were three kings that reigned one after another and this takes place about 1700 years ago.  We were also able to see one of the 'hanging" coffins that they have taken down to study and is now on display.  
Painted glass figures of the White Emperor.

Painted glass figures of the White Emperors advisers and helpers.

This is the hanging coffin that they brought down so they could study it.  There is a female skeleton inside the slit.  People put money in the glass display.  

We were late getting back to the boat for lunch, but it wasn't our fault.  The guide was a little long-winded, so we had to  really book-it to get back to the bus for the drive back to the boat dock and then down the stairs.  One section was a down escalator, but the rest were stairs.

A waterfall along the gorge.
We traveled through two gorges that afternoon, Outang Gorge and the Wu Gorge.  One of our group had paid an extra 600 RMB to get a "Presidentail Suite." It gave  him a private deck on the front of the boat.  He invited all of us to come enjoy the gorges that afternoon.  It was great riding out front and enjoying the scenery and the company.

A bridge spanning the Yangtze River.

Later that afternoon, when we arrived at the mouth of the Shennong River, we were boarded on a scenic tour boat for the trip up the Shennong River.  They drive you down this beautiful river and stop at a dock where you get out and board some large sampan boats.  They have benches on them and they paddle you down the the river and tell you about the history of the area and people. 
These guys decided to go fishing.

These are the sampans that we traveled on to hear the history.  The benches were not that comfortable.

Going home after a days work.

After the trip on the Shennong River, we were taken back to the ship.  They had to hold dinner back about an hour because we were really late getting back.