Monday, November 28, 2011

Baby Hospital Visits - Part 2

Thinking that I was teaching college at the time, Doctor Vicky recommended that I ask a student for help. Knowing that 8-10 yr. old Chinese kids wouldn’t be the best case scenario (though they obviously knew some darn good English), I instead decided my coworker 'Kelly' would be the best one to ask to come along. She was the one who had been working closest with Brad and me at the time and her BRILLIANT daughter had been sitting in on a some of our IELTS classes we had been teaching to Russian high school students. She happily agreed to assist me and was excited to hear the baby news.

Kelly led me around the hospital, up and down staircases, for my different tests. In China there are different places in the hospital for different needs and tests. (For example, everyone regardless of their ailment or injury go to the same place to have their blood drawn.) I had to go to different locations to have my blood taken, to give a urine sample, to have an EKG, an ultrasound, etc. It was quite hectic and we avoided the busy elevators. Upon arriving at each place I had to wait behind those who were in front of me or who successfully pushed or maneuvered their way in front of me.

The room for the EKG was divided between men and women by a pulled curtain. The women had to walk around the men’s table to find their allotted space behind a curtain that was drawn about 3/4th of the way across the room. There were about 6 chairs that lined the back of the women’s space. The nurse with the paperwork called ladies up one at a time and instructed them to pull up their shirts and braziers to their chin for her to apply the sticky tabs in the right places. My self-conscious-self hoped that there would be no one waiting when it was my turn. NO such luck. Not only no such luck, but it was quite obvious when the nurse stumbled over the weird English name that I was the next one to go. Each lady stopped her casual conversation, looked up, and watched me find my place on the patient table. Privacy is obviously w.a.y. overrated.

The next major culture shock was the urine test. Kelly and I had started our morning off at the obstetrics office where she was handed basically a test tube and sent on her way. She said this long, slender, cylinder medical holder was for my urine sample; I was to pee into it. I looked at it and then back at her. “Really,” I said as I took it into my fingers, “Are you sure it goes in here?” She assured me that was what she was told, although she also chuckled a little herself out of disbelief. She later helped me find a restroom (I assure they were not up to McDonald’s sanitary standards) and I squatted and tried my hardest to reach my 2 cm target.

I exited the restroom with somewhat of pride in the success my urine sample. Kelly led me to the room where it had to be turned in. (She waited in the hall, not that I blame her. Who would want to be in a room where people were lined up to deliver their pee?) As I waited in line I noticed I was the ONLY one with the test tube. All others in front and behind me had a rounder and wider holder, which the nurse behind the window then took from each patient with a device like a pair of pliers, and dumped it into a test tube. Nice, I knew I should have gotten something different!

The man in front of me in line drove me crazy, but at least he was in front on me. People in China hate to wait in line. They do whatever they can to position themselves as close to the front as possible. This old man, hating waiting, instead of carrying his sample in his hand like most of the others, placed his little cup on the nurses’ counter and kept sliding it forward. He pushed his sample totally ahead of him and up close to the guy before him. Then as the line moved forward he would push it up again. Seriously dude, pick up your pee and just be patient.

After my tests, Kelly used my credit card looking thing to slide it through an ATM looking thing to get my results. Unfortunately, they weren’t ready yet and I had to return to the hospital one more time.

The third and last trip I made to the hospital was equally as hilarious. Dr. Vicky thought she was going to be able to meet me, but at the last minute was busy and sent two interns instead. I’m pretty sure they were 12. Dr. Vicky hadn’t given them information about what I needed, or if she had they had forgotten. Their English was limited but they were able to finally understand that I just needed to get my results. They took my card, turned around, and quickly walked away expecting that I would be close behind. I had to jog a little to keep up. They found their way to an ‘ATM’ machine on a different floor and tried to get my results. Too bad they didn’t know how to use the machine. They had to ask a patient in the room for help. Once it was explained, they put their heads close together and figured out the procedure. A guy to the left of me and between the two of them and me, looked at me, then looked at them, then looked at me. Feeling a bit interested in what my deal was, he walked closer and peeked in his head to have a look. Yo, I'm preggo, okay? Mind your business.

Dr. Vicky wanted my results to then give to the OBGYN to have a look. Through a series of unexpected events, I never did get them back. I did talk to her on the phone. The baby and I seemed to be fine.

I really appreciate all that Dr. Vicky and Kelly did for me last summer. I assure you I have not found a Chinese doctor as wonderful as Dr. Vicky in Hubei province. She spoke English well and took time to attend to me, talk to me, and answer any questions I may have had. In honor of her, thank you to doctors and nurses in the U.S. who give your patients your extra time and precious minutes. Your attention makes us feel so much better. :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baby Hospital Visits - Part 1

My baby hospital visits have been quite interesting to say the least. To say more than the least, they have made me laugh, feel angry and on the verge of tears, and most recently almost encouraged me to get in a fight with an old man. I must start from the beginning.

My first hospital visit was at 2 months. At that time I was eating saltine crackers, Kraft block cheddar cheese (preferably in small pieces - Brad wondered why I just couldn't bite into a big chunk.. i just couldn't. sorry hub), fruit, and peanut butter. I was only drinking Sprite – and a lot of it. Thank goodness I lived in a big city so that I could easily find these things. Living in Daye at that time would have been a nightmare.

Our good American teacher friends at Qingdao University had been tutoring a group of Chinese doctors for a few months. This group of 10 or so came to their dorm room a couple times every week. A few of those times Brad and I joined the class for one reason or another. One of these doctors, a neurologist, had been kind enough to assist our friends when they had to later make a trip to the hospital, so I got her number from them and asked for her help as well.

She met me at the hospital one morning I didn’t have class and stayed with me for the entire visit. I was able to skip the general sign-in / reception line, but I did still have to register and receive a card (looked just like a credit card). This card was used to keep track of all of my tests, procedures, and payments at The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University Medical College. I was given an entire form to fill out, but ended up only have to write four letters: d.a.n.a. At least no one would be stealing my identity.

The next step was to visit the OBGYN on duty. Vicky (..but more like ‘Wicky’… the chosen English name of the neurologist) led me to their office where we found one doctor and four nurses. (All nurses in Chinese hospitals where the traditional uniform, including the old-fashioned nursing hats with their hair usually pulled back into a bun.) All five were sitting in the middle of a huge circular table.

Fortunately and crazy enough, at that moment I was the only patient in the office. The OBGYN asked a ton of background questions to Vicky who then asked me and in turn translated my answers back to the doctor. The doctor recoded my info into a booklet that I was then given to keep and continue to use for future visits. (Obviously all information was written in Chinese, so it will do my English speaking doctors exactly no good.) She then had me move to the one, high and flat patient’s table in the room where I was instructed to lift my shirt as she felt around my stomach for a bit. A curtain was pulled a little to half-way block someone else’s view.

I was then sent on my way with direction given for all the tests that I would need. We went to pay for them first. (In China, medical services have to be paid for BEFORE you have them.) Thinking I was being overly ‘safe’ I had brought with me 1400 Yuan. I needed most of it. The visit and tests cost about $200. Unfortunately, the time was quickly approaching 11:30 AM which meant everything in the hospital would be shutting down until 2:00 PM. I would either have to wait out everyone’s lunch break or come back a different day. I decided to return a different day. I was instructed to save ALL of my receipts and especially the card. The card was VERY important.

I got a taxi and tried to survive the 1/2 hour ride back to our dorm. Vicky would be too busy to help me later on in the week so I realized I would have to break the baby news to some other Chinese native speaker. I wasn't sure who that would be...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Amazing Grace - DaYe Church, part 2

So the story doesn’t end there.

At the end of the service we were asked to come to the stage to say a few words. The pastor asked us to do this during our initial conversation with him, but I neglected to mention that in the previous post for purely blog purposes.

Both Brad and I knew that really meant HE would say a few words for the both of us as that would be what China would expect. Remembering my father doing the same type of thing when we visited churches in Ghana, I gave him a brief run-down of ideas and left the specific words up to him.

Contrary to our hope, the pastor did not forget he had made a request. Upon conclusion of his sermon (around an hour) he invited us up. We walked to the front, up the stairs and to center stage. We were both handed a microphone and Brad started saying a few words, “We’re teachers here from America. We’re excited to worship with you… We’re looking forward to also worshiping the Lord with some fellow friends in Huangshi and Wuhan…” (The pastor for some reason didn’t translate that last part for the congregation.) My two cents were when I pointed to my belly and mentioned that we were also expecting our first baby. Everyone clapped.

We thought we were done but we weren’t. There was one last request. Jenny, who had come to the stage with us, asked us to sing a hymn, “maybe As a Deer” she whispered. Brad was NOT going to do it so I boldly knew this was up to me. Immediately concerned with not remembering the words to “As a Deer,” I turned around and sang the first verse of the hymn I did, Amazing Grace. I was off pitch and suddenly sounding a lot more country than I ever would want to admit to, but I got through it …. and then immediately tried to forget it happened. Not my best display of talent. Guess that was the point though, it wasn’t for my display, but for God’s goodness of bringing people together.

Brad was given a call a few days later and we were asked to join what he thought was the youth group meeting that next Saturday night at 7:00PM. Brad, I could tell, was super excited and wondered if we should get some little fun choruses together (and by ‘we’ did he mean ‘me’???) that students in the U.S. sing. I asked him if he really thought we would be asked to sing and he replied a big-eyed and confident, “YES!”

We went there straight from work at 7:00 as that is when my last class of the day ends. My feet were hurting and I was exhausted, but I knew it was important. We got there around 7:20/30 and walked to the building behind the sanctuary where we heard singing. We walked in the rear door and found a seat in the back row. Jenny, who was leading the music, allowed the group gathered to sing a bit on their own as she walked back to meet us, and then promptly separate us. We had not noticed there was a girls’ side and a boys’ side. She also moved me from the back to the front where she had reserved a seat for me next to an English speaking young 20-something and had left her English NIV Student Devotional Bible opened to the text of the talk that evening. (She later told me that everyone in her seminary was given this Bible.)

On that note, it was easy to see that this was not a youth group as we thought we had been told. Basically, if you were older than 16 and younger than 70 you were among peers. (If you were between the ages of three and seven you were to run around outside unsupervised and come in as needed to peek in on your mom or dad and make sure they were listening and behaving themselves.) I would say there were close to 80 people there, more women than men.

Jenny sat herself in the front row and led us through the same chorus a number of times, and when I say “a number of” – I mean like 100 (shout out to We are Schuberts blog). After that the speaker (who we found out the next day was her husband) got up to start his talk. He was speaking out of Isaiah. After he got started and Lillian (my translator) got her Bible opened and found her place, she pointed in my Bible to the verse where everyone else was. The first verses I read along with the group were Isaiah 6:9+10, “ ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.” I had to stop there and chuckle to myself as I continued to listen to the pastor speaking Chinese and glancing at the Chinese characters posted as notes on the LCD.

God’s funny.

At the end of that sermon, as the case with the previous Sunday, Brad and I were each asked to come to the front and briefly explain how we came to know the Lord. Brad, going second, also then took questions from the audience about Christianity in America. The biggest question posed was how Brad most gave to God, through time or money. We’re teachers – he chose money… haha… I mean time. He was also asked about how Christians in America tolerate other religions. He said that even though we may disagree, Jesus calls us to love everyone. I guess the room agreed because they gave him a round of applause.

Before we left, we were graciously driven home by a ‘brother’, we were given two more bags of goodies, one full of a Chinese fruit, the other full of crispy goodness something. Think of the little crunchy pieces of french fries that get stuck at the bottom of the McDonald’s bag. Now, transfer that thought to doughnuts. That’s what the crispy goodness was. What is it about fried, crispy things that make me unable to STOP eating them? Once I got the bag home and had my binge, I had to walk away…never to return. I never did try the fruit. I think people just eat the whole thing. I didn't feel up to too many new things all at once so we brought that bag to work.

The next night (Sunday before last) at church Jenny’s husband extended an invitation to dinner with some other ‘brothers and sisters’ for Tuesday night. We gladly accepted. We were picked up at our school (it’s difficult to explain where our apartment building is) and brought to the restaurant where everyone else already was. What a spectacle we made when we walked in! The restaurant was pretty crowded and workers and patrons alike looked up to stare us down. I just nodded, said, “Ni Hao” and kept walking.

We were led up the stairs and into a back room. One thing that’s really cool about Chinese restaurants and coffee shops is that most offer a privacy option. Many restaurants have private rooms and many coffee shops have curtains that you can pull around your table if you wish. Very cool. If Brad and I ever open a coffee shop feel free to come in and enjoy your privacy. :)

The same English-speaking girl that I sat next to on Saturday night was there again to help translate for everyone. There were about 4 or 5 different couples, each with their kids. Everyone sat around the table, again divided by gender (interesting) and the kids sat on the couch behind the table and ate off the coffee table. (A few glasses were broken by the end of the night as the kiddos started getting a little restless.) Jenny’s husband introduced us to each couple by name. The last man we were introduced to was simply called ‘The Boss’. I don’t know if he’s “kind of a big deal” (he has THREE kids) or nicknamed in honor of Bruce Springstein (he happens to be able to carry a tune quite nicely and sings in the choir.)

Dinner commenced by singing a chorus. I smiled as I wondered how much my mother would have LOVED that. The next step was grace. Jenny’s husband led the blessing. All through the prayer others around the table kept saying, “Amen.” It was the only word that I understood. I didn’t know quite when to open my eyes and start eating. Unfortunately I got a little distracted from grace and chuckled at myself.

Dinner was wonderful. I think I counted 16 dishes placed around a lazy susan. Last year when we went to dinners like these, people moved the table on their own, allowing each person ample time to grab a piece of meat or vegetable with their two sticks and successfully transfer it to their plate. This time the lazy susan in the middle of the table ran on its own motor. Thank goodness we already had practice using chopsticks! If you didn’t time yourself appropriately, your chopstick coordination was doomed and you were bound to make a mess on the big table. A few times Lillian, who was sitting next to me, held the table steady so I would have enough time to get my piece of meat or noodle. I tried to act like I didn’t need her help. She was on to me.

We sat around and talked for a while after dinner. Jenny’s husband was next to Brad, who was next to me, who was next to Lillian, who was next to Jenny. We were the only ones speaking English as the others talked freely in Chinese. No one seemed to mind. We learned that many people are becoming Christians in China. Brad asked why. We were told that people want to copy much of what is done in the West, including Christianity. Isn’t that interesting? At a time when many people in the US are becoming more and more interested in Buddhism and other ancient eastern things, Asians are becoming more and more interested in Christ. We learned last year that the largest Christian church in the WORLD is in Seoul, Korea. Amazing.

The kids were running in and out of our room and starting to do a good job at bothering their parents. It was time to get going. In order to end dinner officially, we were all asked to sing again. This time we all could. Jenny asked if we would sing Amazing Grace so that Brad and I could also sing along in English. Everyone agreed. The Boss put it upon himself to lead us in a slow but steady, Chinese dominated yet English supported, first verse of Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound it was.

Heaven is going to be such a wonderful place.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Love.Hope.Believe. DaYe Church, part 1

Last year Brad and I both worked on Sundays and couldn’t take part in the great Christian ex-pat fellowship in Qingdao. (In bigger cities foreigners and nationals cannot worship together, unless at a government sponsored Chinese church.) We were able to go occasionally and from there were able to join a small group of couples, but it just wasn’t the same as being able to go to church every week. I missed more weekend church last year than I probably had my entire life previous. Church became a luxury, a sought after event. I hated it – but I realized that was probably a good lesson to experience. Having only ever experienced life on an American public school system calendar, I have never had to sacrifice going to church before.

Being able to participate in church services was a must as Brad and I considered our options for this year. When we voiced that concern last spring to Mei and Mr. Embree they assured us Sundays off. We were thankful and excited about getting back into worshiping with other believers, especially English ones. (It's tough for me to stay focused when I sit through a whole service in a different language.)

Then we got here and realized we WERE the English speaking believers in Daye. Our little school was actually still hoping that we would be able to teach on Sundays since that is one of their busy days. Should we have made Sundays off such a big deal?

We were told there was a church in the city. Brad tried to ask around the office for directions but it was hard for the others to explain them (if they knew at all) so it was up to us to find it on our own. We’ve averaged one good, long walk a week since being here. Two weekends ago we walked in the direction of where Brad thought the church to be. Since he has superhero super directional abilities, of course we found it.

It was about 1:20 on Sunday afternoon. The gate was open a bit at the front of the grounds so we walked through and peeked in the windows and through the smidgen of space between the doors of the sanctuary. A lady walked up behind us and started talking. Even though we can recognize the “Where are you from,” and “what do you do” questions, what she was saying had us at a total loss. She motioned for us to follow her.

She led us to the building behind the sanctuary where she knocked on a couple doors and said something which encouraged people to peek their heads out to look. The man who must be entitled Bearer Of The Keys (in Chinese of course) quickly slipped out of his inside slippers and into his outside shoes and led us back towards the sanctuary where he opened the side door. A few others followed and sat with us inside. They knew enough key words in English and we knew enough key words in Chinese to figure out that the church had three services: 7:00AM, 2:30PM (the lady who initially spoke to us was here for that service) and 8:00PM. Since I was sporting Nike shorts and sweat, I preferred to come back to the later service. They seemed excited to have us back and told us to get there by 7 because it would get crowded (…we think…).

We got there a couple minutes before 7:00 and were the first ones to arrive. We were quickly greeted with water by this sweet older lady who we realized later was the gatekeeper. She spoke no English. A few minutes later we were greeted by Jenny, who knew enough English to explain that she had been through seminary in Wuhan. The older lady left and came back a few minutes later with a bag of little green oranges. Jenny left a few minutes after and came back
with….um… something else. The older lady also gave us her Bible covered in dark pink felt. After showing her our own, she accepted hers back. There aren’t many times when China reminds me of Ghana, but this was one of the times it has. People in the church being so happy you’re there they bring you whatever they have as a gift.

By 7:10, 20 people had arrived. At 7:15 we
started singing out of the hymnal. The music leader sang a few notes and the congregation mimicked his notes. I tried to mimic. I thought I was so cool, learning to sing in Chinese.

That is until I realized I recognized the sounds a little too well - he was teaching the song using solf├Ęge syllables! My 9th grade chorus teacher would have been so proud. Also like my 9th grade chorus teacher, he was a stickler for making sure everything was right! If he thought the congregation wasn’t singing up to par, he shook his head from side to side, sang it again and made them repeat. “Ra-me-fa-so-sooo.” It wasn’t until much later when he trusted them enough to let them sing the words. He continued to correct as needed.

By 7:30 there were 80 people. We started to hear the choir practicing in the foyer. Their sound competed with the sound of the congregation singing the SAME SONG they had for the past 15 minutes. As Brad put it, "they're bringing it, aren't they!?"

At 7:45 (125 people?) the piano player started accompanying the congregation on their sole hymn, taking the music leader by surprise. He flipped around to see what was going on behind him. I guess he didn’t feel his people were ready. A few
minutes after that the choir had their processional down the middle aisle, sang a couple songs and then exited to the right to find their reserved seats.

Around this same time we met the evening’s preacher. Since he’s an English teacher at a nearby high school, he came to chat with us for a second. He’s been part of this church for 20 years (this specific building has been here for 13) and is a volunteer preacher on a monthly basis. He said he used to teach Chinese, but about 20 years ago he started to teach himself English, and has been teaching English to high schoolers ever since. His English was actually pretty good – impressive! He then excused himself and went up the stage to prepare for his 8:00 start.

I seized the opportunity of a minute sans Chinese/English conversation to snap a picture. The music leader started talking to the congregation. Apparently he was alerting everyone to our presence. As I lowered the camera after not finding a suitable scene, I noticed Brad waving. I wondered to whom he was waving and looked up to see everyone turned and staring at us. Nice. The congregation turned back around. A boy about 4 on his grandpa’s lap, in a row close to us, started blowing kisses to Brad. Brad blew kisses back. The boy returned the kisses again and then giggled. His grandpa laughed, squeezed him in a hug, and curled him up on his lap.

The minister started his sermon. The music leader came to the pew to the left and in front of us, smiled at me, and sat down. The minister acknowledged his two non-Chinese speakers by calling out in English the text of the sermon. We quickly flipped to Matthew 15. The orange giver - gatekeeper had been sitting all along one row behind us to our left. She leaned forward and peeked at my Bible. “Yingyu, English,” I replied. She repeated my words and smiled and then pointed in her Bible to the number 11. The music leader, sensing that something was going on behind him (that most likely needed his attention) turned to be involved in our conversation. I pointed to chapter 15 and said “she-woo (15).” The leader nodded and smiled. The woman waved her hand and went back to pointing at her Bible. She then leaned forward and turned my Bible pages back for me to find chapter 11. She pointed to chapter 11 and smiled. The music leader grimaced at her, waved his hand in front of her face, and helped my pages find their way back to chapter 15. She sat back and turned ahead a few pages in her Bible. Having figured everything out, we all leaned back in our separate seats and finally started to listen.

Jenny had situated herself directly in front of us. Every now and again she turned around and translated as best she could. “Faith is built on God’s Word which is good and right…’Lord help me’ is a beautiful prayer from your heart…Pray from the heart and spirit. Worship from the heart and spirit… Love, hope, believe.”

Love, hope, believe.

Here’s looking to many more Sabbaths off from work.

pictured above: bearer of the keys is the sole gentleman, next to him is the gatekeeper, me, jenny is in the front in the short-sleeved sweater over the black and white shirt, jenny's daughter (English name = Sophia) is next to her.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

DaYe = Big Smelter

Monday, October 1st was National Day. Last year we were given a week off from work for this holiday, which was when we went to visit our friends in Hangzhou and heard the awesome house band sing “Enter Sandman” as close to perfectly as China can get. This year we were scheduled two days off. It seems our little school only closes for Spring Festival / Chinese New Year in late January; otherwise different teachers have off different holidays. (What, am I a nurse now?)

When public schools are not in session (i.e. summers, weekends and holidays) is when training schools like ours have their busy season. The plan was to have an outside, ‘public’ class on both Saturday and Sunday, the weekend preceding National Day. Instead, the rain started on Friday and didn’t stop for 3 days. Our outside classes were canceled and in turn so was our school. We were all given 4 days off, Sat-Tues., instead of two. Our actual class schedules were rearranged and the public classes were postponed until the following Wednesday. (They ended up being fun and hilarious at the same time.)

After we were told on Friday that we would have the next FOUR DAYS off from school Brad and I hit the internet in search of the most convenient and CHEAPEST trip possible. Many flights to nearby cities were full and everything not booked was so incredibly expensive. We were told by our sweet new friend and coworker Silla that buses and train tickets would be hard to access as well, unless we wanted to stand on the train the whole time which most Chinese do. We didn’t.

We were asked by a girl in charge late Friday afternoon, “So where will you go?” We disappointingly told her our findings and she then informed us many people travel during this holiday and we should have bought our tickets a month ago. She recommended that for Spring Festival we buy our tickets earlier. Thanks. This conversation was repeated almost exactly first thing Wednesday morning. Thanks again.

Mei, the school’s Chinese headmaster, who was actually in Beijing, felt badly we had so many days off in such a small city (a mere 800,000), so she contacted her brother, also the school’s driver, and scheduled things for us to do on Sunday and Monday. This was SO nice of her.

We were told to be ready and outside at the road by 8:30 Sunday morning in order to be picked up for the Daye Copper Museum. We were. A bit past 9:00 we walked back inside and thought there was a mix-up in communication. (Brad had tried to call Mei, but her phone was turned off.) I was secretly okay with this as it was a rainy day and I had a book to start reading (this is no offense to any Chinese, I found out last year I’m an introvert so it’s totally cool). I put on my comfy clothes and settled in for the morning. Then the phone rang and they were here. hmmmmm

Mr. Embree has bought this little matchbox van (how I envision it) for the school. He told Mei it looks like a toy car. She finds this comment hilarious and has repeated it to us on more than one occasion. It has four regular car doors, but the back seat doors open up to two bench seats, the first being a two-person seat, the back being for three. A huge JUST ENGLISH logo is able to be EASILY read over the red paint... by anyone a good mile away. :)

We assumed we were going to be taxied there and home. When Brad opened the door and stepped in, the car was full except for the two-person seat for us. The driver and his wife were in the front and there were three teens and one 6 year-old smashed all in the back.

Brad: Oh my! Shen-ma-ye-se??? (What is this?)

Reaction: giggling

Brad: (to the kids in the back) Who are you?

One of them: I am fine, thank you, and you?

Dana: (thinking I was being polite, I posed Brad’s question my way, with a smile. My mom would have been so proud.) Hi, I’m Dana.

Girl teen: I know (sweet, alright... your name's top secret. i get it.)

Turned out Mei’s son (16) was with us as well as her niece and niece’s boyfriend (both 20) home from college for the week. The 6-yr-old was the driver’s son. We were dropped off for the museum tour with the kids, as the parents stayed behind in the car. It worked out well actually, because they knew their way around the grounds of the museum and knew enough English to help explain a few things.

I thought the museum was pretty cool. I was a dork and took down notes. The others must have been wondering what I was doing for I overheard Brad explain to them, “We’re history teachers in America… blah, blah blah,” but even he laughed at me and took a picture to prove my nerdiness. (No worries, I’m totally cool with my inner nerd as well.)

Did you know that there’s a special kind of plant nicknamed “copper grass” that grows over copper mines? That was one of three ways ancient Chinese knew there was copper underground. How cool is that? Something else that’s cool is that it turns out Daye was the “original site of the Chinese bronze culture.” The first copper mine in ancient China may have been this one in Daye! It seems that archeologists found the site in 1976 and excavated it which then “explained important historic puzzles about …copper in the Chinese bronze dynasty.” Who knew?

After the museum we were taken to Mei’s sister’s house for lunch. They made sure I ate veggies, fish, and tofu because it was good for the baby. Not too long after lunch they sent us home so the baby could rest. Nice – this baby thing’s not too shabby…and totally helps out my inner introvert!

The next day the same group (minus a son in exchange for a cousin) went climbing (as much climbing as one does walking up stairs) up the small mountain in the city.This of course was wonderful.
We climbed to the top of this tower looking thing. They forgot to install an elevator. On the way down I tried to count the stairs, I got distracted somewhere after 100 and lost count.

Highlight of the day was when we tried to get the lady selling snacks to eat one of our apples with peanut butter on it. She was very hesitant and had to think about it for a while. I looked away to give her some privacy for her tough decision. When I snuck a peak a few seconds later half the apple was gone.
Great Success.

Not too shabby of a vacay. Shout out to Mao, and a big thanks to Mei and her sweet family.

Monday, October 3, 2011


We were able to spend a few days in Shanghai on the way into Wuhan. The hotel where we stayed was conveniently located in the middle of the airport. We picked up our luggage, divided them onto two carts, and rolled them straight into our hotel room. Nice!

We got to our room between 2-3 PM and immediately crashed. I woke up somewhere between 1-3 AM (Brad of course continued sleeping peacefully) and read a little out of my What to Expect When You’re Expecting book. Unfortunately, I read a long excerpt on the importance of healthy eating as I snacked on a bag of candy corn. It wasn’t enough to make me part with the candy corn, as the Halloween sweet was my source of American comfort in a faraway place, but I at least started to take smaller itty-bitty bites and let each morsel hang out in my mouth just a tad bit longer.

The next two days we spent touring the city. A tram / subway stop was right at our hotel in the airport.

  • Shanghai was HOT.
  • There were SO.MANY.PEOPLE. everywhere.
  • There were a lot of foreigners walking around so no special attention was on us; we were still treated as being somewhat normal.
  • There were just as many Starbucks in Shanghai as any big US city. I rationed my preggo-daily caffeine intake to be a tall (small) coffee (light) frappachino. Oh how that was the very best part of both days…. I’m closing my eyes and remembering my last tastes of real coffee… please excuse for a minute…. Any ideas on how to send me a smokin’ hot Starbucks pumkin spice skim latte? I’ll be your best friend…. Can you wrap it up in a football game-day schedule?
  • Starbucks was our only refuge. It was still hard for us to find western-style food to eat the second day. We were told by one China door man that the city had no western food. I didn't 100% believe him, but I was tired, hungry and preggo. Hungry won out.

The days in Shanghai really were great, the first especially. We got on the tram and traveled close to an hour I would say to the center of the city, but at least we had a seat since we were an early stop. We walked down touristy streets, filled with Chinese and non-Chinese faces and strolled into whatever shop we wished. The streets were clean, there was a blue sky overhead (which amazed Brad the most), and the air was devoid of the overwhelming aromas that often plague a busy Chinese city or small town. I allowed my nose to breath at will.

We got back on the tram after dinner each night. OH.MY.LADY.GAGA. there were so many people. About 2/3rds of the way back to the hotel everyone (practically) on the tram had to get off, walk across and get on the opposite one to continue going in the right direction. If you ran fast enough and pushed your way around the crowd, you could hopefully find a seat on tram #2. Night #1, I waited patiently to get off the subway and board the next. Night #2, I knew better and my feet thanked me immensely. Brad finally found a seat next to me about 3/4ths of the way back home at which time I promptly fall asleep on his shoulder.

The airport was the last stop at which time our weary feet made the final trek up the subway stairs and toward the direction of our room. We crashed immediately by 8PM or so… and then I woke up somewhere between 1-3 AM.

Will someone please send me a new bag of candy corn? I promise to take super small bites.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Our New Home

Our new school is located at the top floor of the Daye City library. For those boys on my Summerville Soccer Club U-16 team in 9th grade - that's a bull in front of the building. (Not like any of them are reading this blog, but Becky if you ask Johnny he just might remember why I mentioned this.... Oh the suspense!)

June 9, 2011

Brad and I have really enjoyed our year in Qingdao, but we have tried to keep our options open for next school year. We have been praying about it and trying to see where God is leading us. We have received a few different invitations to go to other cities, and last weekend Brad and I visited one of these. Daye is a small city, less than a million people, in central China. This city does not have a McDonalds or KFC, both popular in many other cities in China. Moreover, if we move to this city next year, we will be the ONLY two foreigners there for most of the year.

The roughest part of our trip was the beginning. We had to fly from Qingdao to Wuhan, just under 2 hours, and then drive another 2 hours (or so) from there to Daye City. Unfortunately, as my family and mother especially know, I often get sick when traveling.

The plane ride wasn’t too bad, but the quick transition to the car was tough and I feared wouldn’t be good on my tummy. Our sweet host Mei in the front seat kept assuring us that it was okay to “take a rest” so I took her up on her offer and closed my eyes for a bit. I knew I needed to fall asleep in order to keep my belly from exploding all over the back seat of the car. That would have been quite an embarrassing first date.

I did fall asleep for a while, but was awoken by a rough patch of stop-and-go traffic. One time our driver even turned off his engine. YUCK.

The Chinese like to preserve energy when driving so the driver didn’t turn on any air inside the car. The problem with that was that it was raining so the windows could not be rolled down either. Well, they were from time to time, but after getting wet for a few minutes, they were quickly put back up. The air in the car was thick and heavy as the air outside the car was warm and wet. I prayed to God to keep my stomach at peace with the

food and coffee I had a few hours earlier on the plane.

About 2 ½ hours later, after the traffic, motion-sickness and rain, we were nearing our destination and I was beginning to feel better. The rain had stopped, the windows had come down, and the feeling of fresh air was making every new breath of mine a little bit easier and quite soothing. By this time we were off the main highway and were traveling on small town roads so the view from the windows was exciting and new as well.

It was also at this time, as my day was looking brighter and my health seemed as if it was under control, when Brad calmly called from next to me in the back seat, “Uh-oh, puddle.” I looked at him and then looked out the window where I found not just a puddle, but a place in the road that was flooded. Cars coming towards us were slowing down to make it through. Unfortunately, our driver didn’t speak Mandarin, no less English, and so Brad’s warning did nothing for him. He kept his speed though the puddle, with his window down. As he was venturing through the flood, a car drove past him and somehow splashed water through the narrow space between our driver's head and front window and HIT ME square in the face and chest. HA! NOT joking!

Brad burst into laughter. I wanted to laugh and cry and think I probably did a little of both. Somehow neither the driver nor Mei, in this small sedan of a car, knew that I had just gotten saturated by a dirty, Chinese, GIANT puddle. How in the world did the DRIVER not get wet? Brad continued laughing; I wiped my face and wondered if I had swallowed any of the puddle and thus contracted a new disease. Brad continued his supportive laughter. I joined him finally and tried to sit back and enjoy the rest of the ride. At least I had had a splash of cold water on my face.

The rest of the weekend was wonderful. We were taken immediately to an apartment where we would be staying and allowed to rest for a while. About an hour later we were picked up and taken to a huge, fancy lunch where the whole school’s faculty had joined together and I especially was warmly greeted with a H U G E bouquet of flowers. Everybody cheered when we walked into our little personal dining room. I'm sure if it hadn't been raining they also would have rolled out the red carpet. (kidding)

Over the next two days we walked around the city, small but quaint and friendly, and spent lots of time at the school and with the students and teachers. Brad and I were so impressed by what Mr. Embree (school’s U.S. founder), Mei, and the others teachers had been able to accomplish in just one year. Each classroom had a SmartBoard, student work on the walls, and happy students. This small city school was BETTER than the majority of English schools where I worked and visited in Qingdao, a city of 9 million!


Sept. 29, 2011

So...the good news is that I have no new disease, and I know that for sure because I have been to a few doctors in the last few months since I am 5 months pregnant. Looking back I realize now that the weekend we visited Daye was the first week that I was experiencing the beginnings of "morning sickness" (hate that name, by the way, so misleading). We met Mr. Embree a few weeks ago (he also lives in Charleston) prior to flying back to China and he commented, "I'm glad you're feeling okay. You look a lot better than you did before." ha! I didn't even know 'before' that I was preggo-sick yet! Oh, Mr. Embree, you have no idea...

We are getting ourselves adjusted in our new apartment and at our new school. We both have taught a couple of classes thus far so the stress and nervousness of starting something new is beginning to dissipate. We are still figuring out the safest and best place to have the baby, though as with anything else, you get what you are able to pay for. In China, that often means super-duper pricey. I'm not so sure I'm willing to pay that... so we'll continue to search and research. Keep baby Hedge in your prayers. :)