Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 185 – Cookies and Bread

David had to leave early for his class to meet a woman who wants him to review and edit a scholarly paper she has written.  It is a pretty in depth article and we had to look up several words to understand what she was saying.

Classes went well for both of us today.  My lessons went well with my students.  Nothing really unusual happened, we just had fun teaching.

We had planned to go to the Hanlin Hotel for a dinner with the others tonight to celebrate the Purnell’s coming back from Canada and also Sue Schauerhamer’s birthday, but the Purnell’s didn’t get back from the airport as early as they had hoped, so we had to put it off.  I had started making rolls for our dinner, so I had to finish them.  They were sure yummy, but we had more than we could eat, so I guess we will eat them over the next few days.  They were a little doughy because the glass pans don’t cook well in the toaster oven.  I’ll have to try a different pan next time. 

David had his student monitors come over for a meeting at four, and I made cookies for them.  They came in to watch me make them, and then I baked them while they had their meeting and then they had a treat for coming. 

Since we didn’t have anywhere to go this evening since the party was cancelled, we had dinner and then went for a walk to Uni-mart to get eggs and milk.  Exciting, I know!

Day 184 – Lunch? Nope.

David went to teach his Thursday morning class.  He only has one-two hour class today, so he got home by ten.  I did a video chat with Caleb, Bethany and Aleeyah.  She wanted to talk with Grandpa, too, but he was gone.  Then I worked on Primary.  I hope it gets easier soon; it is taking a lot of time to make these videos and power points for it.  I finally finished it tonight.  I’m sending it off early to make sure that it works.  We have had problems with the internet all day, Astrill, our VPN provider has been off most of the day.  I hope it all works, I am so tired!

We had planned to meet Eva for lunch at the canteen and see if the credits were there on our cards, but she had to go get her car fixed and wasn’t able to make it.  (She explained that the things that wipe the rain off of the window on the car weren’t working, so she couldn’t drive in the rain – windshield wipers.  Funny!)  We decided to go to the canteen anyway.  Our lunch credits have not been put on yet, so we had to pay 15 Yuan (about $2.25) each to eat at the buffet.  If you get there early enough, most of the food is still warm.

On the way back to the apartment, we met “John,” another teacher in the English department that we had lunch with before.  As we were chatting, he learned that I have to travel to the Baotuquan Campus on Monday’s, and he was going to see if there was some way to change that, since they stopped running the shuttle buses to that campus.  He was able to get the university to pay me for the bus fare that I have to use while riding the city buses back and forth.  It’s something…

This bush is on our way out the South Gate of campus.  The flowers have such an intoxicating smell!  We stop and breathe it in every time we go by it!  

The flowers are really small and they aren't much to look at, but the smell is wonderful!

We had to go to the Technology Center to go buy new ink cartridges for the printer.  Then it was dinner here and more work on Primary music.  Now that it is done, I can do some planning for my classes at the university.

Day 183 – Teaching, Videoing, Walking

David and I both had classes to teach this morning.  They all went well.  During the break in my first class, the monitor and two of the young men came up to me with some suggestions of things they would like me to do this term.  They want me to show an American movie, play American music during the break and have more American culture.  They also told me they like one of the games we have played and they want me to do it again.  I’m wondering which movie to show, not that I’m opposed, but what movies aren’t they able to get here that would be worth showing?  What American music can’t they get here that would be worth playing?  I’ll have to put some more thought into those, but the culture, they are going to get.

We spent the afternoon working on stuff for classes and I did a lot on my Primary Music video for next Sunday.  Evan really helped a lot and I plan to send it out to him before I send it to the Primary and make sure that it works well.  It really takes a lot of time getting the videos right!

After dinner, we went for a walk around the campus.  Saw several of David’s students as we went around.  It was such a nice evening for walk.  They expect rain here tonight.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day 182 – Tuesday Teaching

Today, I had classes, but David didn’t.  These were two of my freshman classes and I am so happy to be back working with them.  They are all such great kids!  The students are the same, but the rooms have been changed.  I don’t have to climb up to the 5th floor any more.  They are all on the 1st or 2nd floor.  It makes a difference when there is no elevator, even though the exercise is good for me. 

After lunch, I was able to connect with Evan and he helped me understand what I need to do to make my videos for Primary work.  Then, we had naps and then went to RT Mart for some groceries.  We seem to be going through the milk faster, so we have to go to the store more often.  They only sell it one liter at a time.

After dinner, I had a Primary Presidency meeting.  That’s all for today.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Day 181 – Shuttle Bus to West Campus… Or NOT!! An Angel to the Rescue!

We were up bright and early so that I could be in the place that I needed to be to catch the shuttle bus that was supposed to take me to the Baotuquan (aka the West) Campus.  I made it to the spot that I had seen teachers waiting at last term.  I decided to try and ask some of the people waiting there, but the question was, who to ask?  The two men who look like teachers that would be more likely to know but may not speak English, or the students who might speak English but may not know about the shuttle bus?

I opted for the male teachers and showed them my trusty card with the Chinese characters on it.  They were indicating that I would have to take the city bus #75.  I was confused, so I asked a girl student next to me and she asked the men.  She said there was no bus to the West Campus and that they said to take bus 75.  Now what do I do?  Bus 75 is about a twelve minute walk from the campus.  I know that bus #K55 will also take me to that campus and is a three minute walk from the campus.  I still don’t know why there isn’t a shuttle bus from this campus to the West campus.  I start to walk out the gate and try to talk to the guard, again showing my card and indicating  a bus and he points that it should be where the others were standing to catch the shuttle bus to the far away “Software” Campus. 

I start to walk back to where all the people are standing and there was a gray-haired woman standing there and looks at me and asks if she can help me.  She spoke very good English!  I know my confusion is showing all over my face, so I tell her.  She then explains that the administration decided to stop the shuttle buses to the campuses that were in the city and just run shuttle buses to the out-lying campuses.  I thank her and hurry on to try and catch bus K55 and hope that I can make it to the West campus somewhere in the first hour of my class.  Where this woman came from and why she was just standing on that corner, I don’t know, but I get a very strong feeling that she was sent there for my benefit this morning. 

I had to wait for about fifteen minutes before a K55 bus came and then it had so go through some very heavy traffic.  I don’t know if the bus 75 would have gotten me there any faster, but I will try them next Monday.  Eva had called me because I was supposed to text her when I got on the bus (she is a mother hen to us!), and when I hadn’t texted her yet, she called.  I told her what had happened, so she called to the other campus and they sent someone into my class to tell them that I was coming.

I like both of these classes that I met today.  The two new classes that I have are sophomores and they still have this strong desire to learn.  We had a fun time in the activities we did and I think we are going to have a great time!

I took bus #75 home because of two reasons.  One, I only had one Yuan left, the rest were all larger bills and the buses don’t give change, and, two, I wanted to see if it might really be quicker on Monday morning.  It might…

David met me at the bus stop and we walked home, had lunch and then took naps.  We worked on stuff for classes this afternoon.  David had met two of his new classes this morning, also, so we had lots to do.  I was too tired still to make dinner, so we went to Yon Ho for a quick supper and then came back to finish up for tomorrow.  Long day!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Day 179 & 180 – Primary Movie… and It Doesn’t Work…

Saturday I spent that majority of the day working on the music for Primary.  I learned how to make the movie, put the sound in and then add the words in for the children to follow on the screen!  I was so proud of myself!  But, I was mentally exhausted when it was done.  Then I put it all on Dropbox so that those that do Primary in their homes could access it.  I was totally exhausted mentally by the time I was done! 

We decided we needed to get out of the apartment.  David had been kicking his heals all day trying to think of things to do, so I sent him on a few errands, but there was still a lot of time sitting bored for him.  We decided to make a trip to the bakery store and get some more whole wheat flour.  We weren’t out, but we would need some in the next week, so we decided that was as good an excuse to get out as any. 

After the bakery store, we decided to see if there wasn’t a better way to get to and from there on the bus, because it really is quite a walk after we get off the bus that we have been taking.  When we got back to the big road, we went left instead of right and pretty soon discovered a much closer stop and it has the bus that stops at the south gate of campus!  We were so proud of ourselves!!

Sunday, we went to the Hanlin Hotel for Church.  Lulu was able to meet with us and also a German/American man, who is here in Jinan on business.  His company runs a crane making business and they send him over every two months or so, and today he didn’t have work, so he came to meet with us.  He also stayed for our potluck dinner afterward.  I made Lemon Bars for dessert today.  The rest of the food was really good, too.

The movie that I had worked so hard on yesterday, evidently doesn't work.  Now I have to figure out whether I saved it wrong, or what I did wrong...  Not happy....

We have just been two dull ducks here in the apartment this afternoon and evening.  Trying to catch up on all the things that we missed during the week with the other things we were doing.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 177 & 178 – Walking, Walking, Working… Ice Cream!

 I was working late on my class lists that I had just received and on power points for class that I forgot to write until I was already in bed.  Just a little excited for classes to start in again, I guess.

We seemed to spend most of the day walking yesterday.  We walked to a pharmacy to get some vitamins and throat lozenges for David.  Then we walked to RT Mart for groceries.  We walked home.  Wayne Clarke walked here to home teach us.  We walked to the bus stop and took the bus to the Baotuquan Campus where I will be teaching two classes on Monday’s next term.  Wayne and Libby showed us where my classes will be since they live on that campus and know where things are.  Then we walked back to the bus stop and walked home from the bus stop.  We were a little tired, but the weather was nice and it is starting to feel like spring may be coming!

Alan came after dinner so that David could tutor him.  The evening was spent working on stuff for our classes and then we had a quick chat with Seth and family before they all left for school.  I think it was the quick chat with the grandkids and all of Grandpa’s silly faces to them that made me forget to write the blog…  ;)

Friday, we spent the morning and most of the afternoon working on school stuff.  David doesn’t have his class lists and probably won’t have them for two weeks, but still has to teach on Monday.  He does know about how many students he has in each class though. 

Two girls came over to give us some decorations for the Lantern Festival and the Chinese New Year, even though it is late.  They had both gone home, but wanted to give us something, even though it was late. They were two of the girls that had come over with the group of students that made us dinner and I made them cookies.  It was so sweet of them to think of us.  
We decided that the best place for our new Chinese lanterns was on each side of this silk wall hanging.  They were having trouble getting the tape to stick to the wall, so we just put the strings under the clips.  It works!

Since we had been in the house most of the day, we decided to go out to eat at Hon Yo.  We decided to go to Carrefour after that and get some milk and ice cream.  We couldn’t find any ice cream there, so we got the milk and some yogurt.  There is an ice cream stand near the exit of the store, so we each got some ice cream from that.  They make a taro flavored ice cream that tastes pretty good.   There were some other interesting flavors also.  Not the best ice cream but it was good enough. 

We decided to find a bus stop for the K55 bus that stops at the south end of our campus, so we walked a little way and found it.  Then we had to wait about 10-15 minutes before it came.  We need to get out and explore more to find other stops of buses that we use. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 176 – Visiting Teaching and Dinner

 Nancy Pace was here at 9 a.m. so that we could go to the Hanlin Hotel and visit teach Sue Schauerhamer and Kathy Guo.  We made it a little before 10 a.m. and had a nice visit.  We were showing Kathy some of the resources that are available on the Church website for her and Hansen to use.  She is pretty excited about all that is there, especially that some of it is in Chinese. 

We stopped at Pam Carter’s room for a little bit and saw her kitten.  She had a young man come over that is doing some interpreting for her and she said that he is looking for a job in the US.  I told him about the teaching jobs that are available in Alpine School District and he sounded excited about teaching.  We gave him the information so that he can look it up and fill out the application if he wants.

As I was getting off the bus at my stop, an older woman was getting off the front of the bus.  I was in the perfect position to lend her an arm as she tried to get off the last step, so I put my hand out and helped her down.  She thanked me (in Chinese, of course) and I went on my way.  I notice some chatter behind me, but it was in Chinese, so I didn't turn around until a hand touched my arm.  It was the woman I had helped off the bus!  She wanted to talk to me, but the language barrier is a real stumbling block.  I was able to tell her that I teach at Shandong University and she seemed concerned as to where I was going (since there are seven different campuses across the city, I can understand her concern).  She wanted to walk with me to the corner and when I got there, I had a green light, so we quickly parted ways.   

I made it home by noon.  David was out getting copies made for his classes and we had lunch when he got back.  The Schauerhamer’s and the Clarke’s and Pam arrived here about 5:15 and we left for the restaurant about 20 minutes later.  This was a restaurant that serves things western style and had some really good steaks.  We went there last December with Eric, who I helped prepare for an interview he had with a college in the US.  We met Eva along the way and the Pace’s were there at the restaurant waiting for us.  It turned out to be a really good thing that Eva came with us so that she could interpret for us to get our ordering done. 

It was a good meal and we had a good time.  The Clarke’s walked back home with us because they had left a bag of food here.  We stopped at the Foreign Students building and got an ice cream for dessert.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 175 – Korean Cuisine and a Baby on the Way

 After we had breakfast, we did Facetime with the kids and grandkids at the February birthday party they were having.  We had a fun visit and it was nice to be in on the birthday party. 

David and Stan Pace were going to go home teaching after lunch, so we invited them over for lunch.  I made a ham and vegetable with cream sauce and some fresh biscuits.  Nancy stayed here and we worked on stuff for school.

David and Stan texted us when they were done and we met them at the outdoor market by the bus stop that we like to go to.  We were out of vegetables, so we bought a bunch.  Then we walked home and Stan and Nancy went back to their place.

Gilbert and his wife, Lulu, picked us up to do to dinner at 6:30.  They took us to a Korean restaurant that is close to the campus.  Lulu went to school in Korea for six months, so she knew just what to do with the food.  They brought a stone plate to the middle of the table and put the fire under it.  Then they put meat and vegetables on the place and cooked them up for us.  It was very much a “do it yourself” meal.  There were also some soups and it was all very tasty.

Lulu was especially excited to talk to me.  She speaks pretty good English, but not as much as Gilbert.  She is due to have their first baby in two to four weeks, and she is kind of nervous.  Where I have experience with having had seven children, she wanted to ask me some questions and also to hear about some of my birthing experiences.  I hope that I was able to say something that will help her relax.  The husband is not able to go there for the birth and you will have one doctor that will attend four or five women who are giving birth at the same time.  We talked about breathing and trying to relax.  What to expect (as much as can be said when each birth is a unique experience), and some of the relaxation techniques that I used when I was delivering my children.  I hope that if she has more questions and if there is any way that I can help, she will come and ask me.  They are a sweet couple.

They came up to the apartment after we were done eating and we showed them our pictures from our 24 days long trip to South China, Vietnam and Cambodia.  It was a nice evening.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Day 173 & 174 – Sunday, Frozen, Baotu Springs Lantern Festival

 Sunday was pretty typical.  We went to the Hanlin Hotel for Church.  Since the Purnell’s weren’t back yet, we had dinner in the Schauerhammer’s apartment afterward.  The food was good, too.  We went home and I did some indexing and we watch a little bit of a movie.

Monday, we did Facetime with Rachel, Alisa and Seth’s family.  They were all there together at Seth’s place.  Megan played her first songs on the piano that she is learning from her piano lessons.  So cute!

Eva had given us tickets to the movie theater in the Park 66 Mall, so we decided to go see Frozen today.  Here in China, they translate the name to, “Snow Romance.”  We enjoyed the movie.
As we were walking to Baotu Springs after the movie, there were lots of people flying kites in Quanchen Square.  This was an alligator or crocodile if you couldn't tell.  There were some really neat one.

After the movie, we decided to go to Baotu Springs and see what was there from the Lantern Festival.  Anything that they put lights to here is considered a “lantern.”  What we saw were a lot of scenes, some made with paper and some of fabric that depicted different things about China.  Some were flower themed and there was a large display about some of the great poets and writers of China, most of who were from ancient times.  Some depicted children at play and there was one that was the characters of a popular cartoon here in China.  We walked and walked until we decided we had seen everything and we were tired and cold.  We got the bus back home and had warm soup for supper.
This was one of the first displays in the Park.  It has the horses, but also the dragon.  They are even more wonderful when they are lit up at night, but we were too tired to stay for that to happen.

Lanterns up in the trees.

This display was all about the children and playing.

This one was  family activities. 

Something we hadn't seen when we were at the park before was the seal in the springs.  I know you can hardly tell it from just the nose sticking out of the water, but that is what it is.

A lot of the walkways had lanterns lining them.

Some of the displays were on the water.  These are vases on the water.

I thought this one looked cool.  It has the dragon on the top.

Another beautiful lantern display on the water.  I would loved to have seen this one at night.  Maybe we'll get brave and do it again before they take them down.

This one is the water lilies.  On the far left side, that is supposed to be a child sliding into the water.

All the lotuses floating on the water will look wonderful in the lantern light because they look so wonderful during the day!

Isn't this one "Audrey II"?  "Feed me Seymore," 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Day 172 – Out For Ice Cream… Funny Signs

 That’s about all we did today.  We got tired of being in the apartment.  I was working on stuff for the Primary Music and David was done commenting on Facebook and the news articles, so we went out for ice cream. It was fairly warm today, in the 40’s, but a cold wind and the pollution was below 200 today, so we went to get ice cream at McDonald’s and then walked around the campus.  Then we were back at the apartment for more work for me and David took a nap. 

I promised myself that on a slow news day like today I would post some of the funny sign translations that we have found in our travels over the last four weeks.  
Just seemed odd here at the ocean in Sanya where you are surrounded by the sea...

I wonder what it is dreaming of?  Does it have nightmares of being mowed? 

It was a rather cold day for a swim...

We all got a kick out of this one.  We know it as, "You are here."

Yes, please drown carefully!

I didn't even WANT to know what they sell here!

Or here!!!

In other words, don't eat with your mouth open when you are eating organic foods... or something like that...

We loved all the, "Warm Tips" they were telling us.

Racy Clable, Racy Clable.....

Yes!  Make sure your fire has clothes on!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Day 171 – Boom! Bang! Happy Lantern Festival (and Valentine’s Day)!

This morning I spent a lot of time working on my new Primary Music calling.  How do you put together a video for children in many different locations that teaches them the music with a spiritual message and get it to all of them?  I don’t know how to record from my webcam and I can’t seem to find a video to tell me what to do.  Still working on that part, but I was able to do several Power points so I can at least send those out until I get the rest figured out. 

We left the apartment a little after 2 p.m. and made our way to the Clarke’s apartment.  Traffic was terrible and we were about 15 minutes later leaving than we wanted to be, so we were about 15 minutes late getting there.  We were telling Steve and Sue Schauerhamer about our travels and then we played a card game called, “Baseball.”  We were just getting to understand it and have some fun with it, when it became time for David and me to leave.  We had to get back to the campus so that we could meet the Ding family for our dinner appointment with them.

The bus was just as slow getting back to where we needed to be as it was getting to the Clarke’s.  The traffic is extra terrible for four reasons.  One, its Friday; two, it was drive time; three, it is Valentine’s Day and four, it is Lantern Festival; a day that is almost as big a day as Chinese New Year! 

We made it to the place where we had planned to meet the Ding’s (Alan and his parents) about 5 minutes late.  They drove us to a very nice restaurant where we had dinner with Alan’s aunt and uncle.  It was all very Chinese food, and really good.  They served us Peking Duck.  If you have had Peking Duck in Beijing, you have NOT had the best Peking Duck there is to be made!  It was originally made here in Shandong Province and it is so much better than the one we had in Beijing!  We even got to bring some of it home with us.  We had a nice meal and a good visit.  They were even kind enough to bring us a bottle of non-alcoholic sparking juice made in Michigan, so that we could be in on the toasts that they made, and they made a lot of them!  About every five minutes or so, there was something else that we were toasting.  It was actually kind of fun and it was all for good purposes.
Alan is refilling our "wine" glasses.  He also drank the same thing as we did.

From the left, Alan, me, David, empty chair for Alan's dad, Alan's uncle, Alan's Mom and Alan's aunt at the table in the private dining room.  Happy Lantern's Festival Day!

We don’t know when we will be able to get to sleep tonight.  The fireworks are still going off and we suspect that will continue for quite some time, as it did in Dali for Chinese New Year.  So, Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Lantern Festival!  We will get to the park in a few days when the crowds have died down over the lanterns that they have lit there. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day 170 – Hamburger Stew

 So you will know that these days are pretty slow when you find me blogging about the food I am making for dinner.  After being in the apartment all morning, we decided to go to RT Mart so that we could get some hamburger and I could make Hamburger Stew for supper.  We walked to the bus stop and rode the bus there.  We had wanted to go to Jingren Pie for lunch, but we found out the place has been closed and won’t be opening again.  We are sad because we really like their food, especially their fruit salad.  Instead, we went to KFC for lunch, a poor substitute when you had your taste buds set for Jingren Pie…

We got the groceries we needed at RT Mart.  They have some biscuits that we enjoy, so when I went there to get them in the bakery department, one of the workers who has helped me before was there and came out with a big, “Hello,” when she saw me.  It wasn’t the Chinese greeting, “Nee How,” but “Hello” and then she had a big grin on her face!  So fun!  We made a stop at the local outdoor fruit and vegetable market to get the veggies we needed for the stew before we went home.

Back at the apartment, I made the stew and then came back to work on the computer.  I have found time now to get back to indexing and it is very relaxing to do. 

Alan came over for a tutoring session tonight.  David showed him the pictures of our trip.  When time was up, Alan’s mother came up and gave us some dumplings that are tradition for the Lantern Festival, which starts tomorrow, on Valentine’s Day.  We are supposed to eat them for breakfast and she explained how to cook them, with Alan helping to translate words that she wasn’t sure of.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day 169 – Pay Day

We had a chance to talk with Seth and family and Kadie and family today.  That was nice.  Seth’s family was over at Kadie’s because they had their carpets cleaned today and Kadie made them dinner so that the carpets would have time to dry.  We also got to Facetime with Alisa. 

The two highlights of the day were going over to the Foreign Students Office and showing them our passports.  We have to report back in to them since we returned from our trip.  That took all of 15 minutes out the door and back…

The next was getting paid.  The trips we have been on have almost totally drained our Chinese bank account, so we were happy to have money back in there for groceries and necessities. 

Besides doing some indexing, mopping the floors, cooking dinner, washing the dishes and getting a nap, that was our day.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day 167 & 168 – Back to “Normal” Life

We heard the exciting news at breakfast that one of the BYU teaching couples were able to go to the Vietnamese Branch yesterday afternoon.  They had just gone around a corner when they saw the Humanitarian Service couple, Elder and Sister Perry, just saying good-bye to someone and they asked if the Bjorkman’s wanted to go along with them.  They immediately agreed and wished that there had been time to go get the rest of us and go, but the Perry’s had to leave right then in order to make it on time.  They got in a taxi and followed Elder Perry on his scooter to the place where they meet (It was a "follow that scooter" moment).  It would have been impossible for any of us to have gone to the park and tried to find our way from there they said.  They had a wonderful time at the meeting and were very impressed by the people that were there.  The Branch Presidency are all Vietnamese.  The majority of the members seemed to be young single men and there was just a wonderful Spirit there at the meeting, they said.  Once again, it was one of those chance meetings that brought a wonderful blessing!

We all met in the lobby at 10 a.m. and got on the bus for the ride to the airport.  Going through immigration was easy and we had our tickets for our second to the last flight of the last 23 days.  The flight landed in Guangzhou and after we went through immigration there, we got our tickets for our flight to Ji’nan. 

After landing in Ji’nan, we were met by Mr. Zhang that we had pre-arranged to pick us up from the airport with the Pace’s and made it home by midnight.  A very long day and we were so happy that Mr. Zhang drove us right up to the gate of the Foreign Teacher’s Complex so we didn’t have to lug our suitcases halfway across campus on a very cold night.  It had snowed and gotten very cold in Ji’nan while we were gone!

We had a hard time sleeping because of how cold the apartment was.  We have no control over the heat and I think they decided to turn it down with the majority of the teachers gone during the break.  David finally turned on the space heater and then we were warmed up enough to get up and get the day going.

After a short video chat with Caleb, Bethany and Aleeyah, we got our coats on and bundled up for the shopping we needed to do.  First we went to the Apple Store and got a new power cord for David’s computer.  Then we caught the bus to Carrefour and got some groceries.  Eva said she was coming to get us, so we waited for her there and after she took us to lunch, she brought us home. 

She was here for the next 3 hours looking at our pictures from the trip and just visiting.  We told her of our decision to not come back next year and the reasons why.  She understands the reasons, but I know she is sad about it.  It is going to be hard to leave her behind!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day 166 - Ho Chi MInh City and a Chance Meeting with Missionaries!

We started our tour day at 9 a.m. today and went to the Imperial Palace first.  This is where the President of Vietnam lived and it had some nice looking rooms.  It also included a 50-seat theater room and a bunker in the basement.  There was a lot of old equipment from the 60’s still down there, but it was mostly to show what they used.  The walls in the bunker were almost a meter wide.  The Palace had been attacked once in the 60’s when a bomber from North Vietnam got through and damaged the west wing of it.  They rebuilt it so that it looks more modern.  The original one had been built in the 1870’s. 
Imperial Palace.  

The Cabinet Meeting Room.

They put the tail with the head because in order to have a good ending, you have to have a good beginning, as the saying goes.

Old machines that were in the basement bunker.

While we were at the Imperial Palace, we noticed a man and his wife that were wearing white shirts and white tags, and he had a tie on.  Maybe that doesn’t sound so unusual to you, but he noticed that some of our group had BYU shirts on.  It turns out that they are Humanitarian Service missionaries for the Church and they are stationed here in Vietnam.  They invited us to their branch that was meeting at 2 p.m.  We tried to figure out how to make it but we had a lot of problems figuring out how we could work it out.  They didn’t have an exact address for us (they just go there and the people around here just know where the “Church” is located at, so they didn’t know the address).  We would have had to hire taxis to drive us to a park that is close by, and then call the missionaries to meet us and take us there.  None of us have cell phones that work in Vietnam.  It would have been great to have gone to their meeting.  They are a newly formed Branch, just a month ago, from the other Branch.  Elder and Sister Perry were at the Palace because they had family come in from out of town and they only had one day for a visit, so they were showing them the Palace.  What are the chances that we would all be there at the Imperial Palace at the same time and be able to meet out of all the thousands of people that were there at the same time as we were!  It was so interesting to learn about the growth of the Church in Vietnam!

After that, we moved on to the Vietnam War Museum.  This was a depressing place to go and it also had a “North Vietnam” slant to all the displays.  There was also a place where they showed what were called, “Tiger Cages,” places of torture and cruelty that just made you sick.  The Tiger Cages were not necessarily from the war in the 60’s, but from an earlier time in Vietnam history. 
Depicting the walls that were around the Tiger Cages.
There is a beautiful Catholic Church near the Post Office and that is where we went to next.  The church wasn’t open at the time, so we just took an outside picture.  Then we crossed the street to see the post office that had been built in the 1880’s.  This is an impressive building architecturally that is still in use today.  They had some shops to sell lots of souvenirs, so we walked through them and then left.
The Catholic Church.

Inside the Post Office.  It was magnificent.  Many comment that it looks like an old train station inside.

It was time for lunch, so we were driven to a hotel that had a buffet and was located next to our hotel.  There were some interesting foods there as it was traditional Vietnamese food again. 
This was the boiled clam shell salad that was part of my lunch.  Too spicy for my tastes though.

This was the boiled pigs ear.  It was just cartilage and didn't taste bad.

The afternoon was a free time, so we decided that since David had been given the authority to administer the Sacrament while we were on this trip, that this would be the perfect time to do that.  We invited the others to come to our room at 2:30 and we had nine of them come.  We sang a song and had the sacrament, then we talked about meeting the Church Service Missionaries and how we felt the Lord’s hand in how we met.  It was wonderful to have this experience today.

We decided to go to a show this evening in the opera house called, “A O Show.”  A talented troupe of acrobats has choreographed scenes that depict the life of the Vietnamese.  All the props they use are made from bamboo and it was just amazing to watch.  Some of it was also juggling, but juggling with 20-foot long bamboo poles!  The music and lights all added to the effect and we all loved it.  We stopped for ice cream on the way back to the hotel.

Day 165 – My Tho Town and Mekong Delta

We left the hotel at 8:30 a.m. and had an hour and a half bus ride to the Mekong Delta and the town of My Tho.  We arrived at the harbor and had a boat rented for our group.  They driver of this boat was older than the one on yesterday’s adventure and also, the boat was in better shape.
Boat along the Mekong River.

The palms along the river.

We went across the river to a farm where they make coconut candy and showed us the process of how they make it.  They also grow a lot of other fruits there and mix the flavors with the coconut candy.  I wasn’t that impressed with the samples they gave us, so we didn’t buy any.  We also had to wind our way through the shops of stuff for sale before we could get on the horse carts and ride to the other side of the piece of land that sticks out in the delta.  The horse that was pulling the cart I was in was a little lame in one foot and very skinny.  I wondered if the driver knew or even cared.  We had about six carts to take our entire group there. 
Rose apples on the tree.

Making the coconut candy.

Wrapping the candy.  It was a family business, they said.

The "horse" cart ride.

Not sure what this fruit is.

While we were there, we had a fruit tasting session with five different fruits.  Two of them were totally new to us.  They had us start with the least sweet fruit; something called “rose apple.”  It had the texture of an apple, but not as much flavor as a good apple, but it did remind you of an apple.  The next fruit was the dragon fruit and we have had that before.  It almost doesn’t have a flavor.  The third fruit was watermelon and the fourth was pineapple.  The last fruit to try was called, Jack Fruit, and was the sweetest of all of them.  It was almost too sweet and it was also hard to bite off because it was very fibrous.  You would think you would like a fruit that was that sweet, but not for what you have to go through to eat it.  They also fed us kumquat and honey tea, which was very good!  Then they did a little show of some local music, which was nice, passed the basket for a donation, and then we could go.
These are the five fruits that they gave us to taste.  The lower left corner is rose apple; moving to the right, dragon fruit; move up on the right, jack fruit.  You should know what watermelon and pineapple look like cause that's what the other two are.

Jack fruit.  Was sweet but weird.

Our entertainment.

We were put in sampan boats, four of us to a boat and they rowed us down the river.  We were told not to put our hands in the water because there were crocodiles that lived in the area.  We didn’t see any, but I don’t think I would have been tempted to put my hands in that water anyway!  David had bought a silk shirt at one of the booths and when we got out of the sampan, he forgot to get it out.  It was pretty sad, but I’m glad we didn’t pay more than the $19 we did.
Sampan boats that we rode on.

The sampan ride, complete with hat!

The sampan let us out at the spot where we got back on our motorized boat and he took us back across the river to the dock we started on.  We got back on the bus and drove about a half hour to a restaurant that is meant for tourists (trap in other words), but the food was good and interesting!
Lotus flower.

These are called dinosaur eggs.  When they bake, the puff up like this.  The waitress came along and started cutting it in half with a scissor.  Then she rolled it up and cut it into pieces.  It really didn't have much flavor, but it was really sticky!  Worse than marshmallows!

The part of the meal was brought to us just like this.  Then the waitress took a piece of rice paper, tore off some fish and wrapped it into the rice paper with some vegetables.  The fish was really pretty good by itself.

This lotus flower was so pretty.  

A lotus flower with the seed pods.

More beautiful flowers.

We had an hour back on the bus to get to our hotel, but first, we had to stop at a wholesale market in the Chinatown area of Ho Chi Minh City.  We quickly walked through the very crowded area.  I was wondering all the time why we were going through this place…

Back at the hotel, we got the information about a place to get a power cord for the computer and took a taxi ride to the store.  It would have been about $200 to replace the cord and we would have paid it, but the wall plug part can only be used here in Vietnam.  That would not work in China or the US, so we decided to just skip it and be careful on how much we used the computer. 

We were outside the store and trying to decide if we wanted to walk back to the hotel or get another cab.  We were trying to orient ourselves as to where we were and where to go, when a cab stopped and another man ran up to us and wanted to help us find our way.  We decided to take the cab and get back quicker than to wander the convoluted streets of this city. 

We then had to decide where to go for dinner, so we walked down the street from the hotel and found a restaurant named, “Jaspas.”  The menu looked good, so we got a pizza and a smoothie and a milkshake.  Then back to the hotel and be our old boring selves…

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