Category Archives: Jiaxing Living

These blogs describe our daily life in Jiaxing.

Tales From the Madhouse

(Ed. note: FYI Since writing the last blog, Terry and I had some interesting news. George was at the first hospital we went to on Saturday last night for another reason and talked to one of the nurses who had been there. From what she told George it was far worse than we have thought even up to now. Apparently the blockage was in an artery which is at the back of the heart and much more difficult to get at. She agreed that we had made the right decision not to go to Shanghai since I wouldn’t have made it. Every time I think that this couldn’t be any more surreal, it gets more surreal.)

Well, the serious stuff has come and gone (Ed. note: With the minor exception of that 40% blockage still in the other artery) so lets have some merriment and joy – at the expense of the people who I have nothing but gratitude for. None of the following are in any particular order – just random memories and observations from the last 4 days.

The Blockage

According to Dr. Hu (see below), this is my heart. When I suggested that it was really a plastic model of a heart, she looked at me as if I had three heads. I do hope it IS a model, otherwise somewhere in my body there is a large piece of duct tape floating around inside me.

According to Dr. Hu (see below), this is my heart. When I suggested that it was really a plastic model of a heart, she looked at me as if I had three heads. I do hope it IS a model, otherwise there is a large piece of duct tape holding part of me together. My blockage was in the blue circle which is at the back of the heart.


Now I know China is a busy and populated place but the scene at the ultrasound lab was something. First I am taken down in a wheelchair for my 8:00 appointment and roll into a room of 20-25 Jiaxingers waiting to get theirs done. I am pushed past all of them and stop at room 2 (of 10 which do them) where there are 6 people waiting. As the door opens I can see the patient – an older woman in her underwear, just coming out of the machine. Doesn’t bother the man in front of me – he marches in before she is even off the machine. Then it is my turn, but I waited until he was off.

Christmas Party and The Twins

I know that Terry has written about the noise in the hospital but the other night around 9pm (Ed. note: There are no official visiting hours – just drop in and bring your friends) there was a “Christmas party” going on – think of 45 – 50 of your closest friends and the noise they made in that one bedroom apartment you started out in. Now add in your favourite Uncle Joe who thinks it is fun to chase one of the squealing three year old twins around and around while the other twin screams because someone took her only toy. That was the decibel level. (Ed. note: And when it finally quietens down inside, you can always count on 2-3 car alarms an hour going off in the parking lot below our window.)

Ms Wong’s Night from Hell

Monday evening we are all sitting around looking at each other, waiting for the night shift teacher to come in when I hear the “click, click, click, click” of heels coming down the hall and in strolls this very attractive woman in heels and skintight jeans – Ms Wong. Apparently, she is 38ish, but she doesn’t look it. Terry’s thought was “You’re sleeping in THOSE?” Turns out she wasn’t. Ms Wong spent most of the night sitting on a 12” x 18” wooden stool out in the hall reading her phone. Why did she leave? Perhaps it was the snoring patients and family members (and servants), perhaps it was the hawking in the bathroom, perhaps it was the 90º heat in the room, perhaps it was loud and “fragrant” room-piercing belching from one of the Chinese patients – or perhaps it was the same patient getting up in his briefs to wander off to the bathroom. Who knows. I do know that she came into the room around 3:30 and slept all the way until 5 when Nurse Efficiency came barreling in to do Blood Pressure. I also know that she looked pretty much the same at 5:15am as she had at 7pm, so perhaps she doesn’t deserve too much sympathy.

Up all night and still looks good.

Ms Wong – Up all night and still looks good.


You may be wondering at the cost of all of this. Well, in their effort to get you well in a hurry the hospital provides you with a daily bill, with amount to date owing and what you spent the day before. There’s motivation to get the hell out of here. Our insurance company owes (as of Wednesday night) 34802RMB o4 $6389.64 with two days of drugs to go. (Ed. note: Final total is 37375rmb or $6855.00)

Hygenic has a Different Meaning

Today one of my roommates left. They had thought he had a blockage similar to mine, but after a week of being in here they discovered that no, it was a spot on his lung so he was sent off to a hospital in Hangzhou. Awhile after he left the cleaning crew came in. The first woman had a little whisk broom that she used to move around the dust that had accumulated between the 3 inch mattress and the bed frame. 10 minutes later it was time to strip the bed and put on a clean sheet, coverlet and pillow. Three hours later it was time for my nurses’ aide/servant to roll down the cover and have a nap in his street clothes. But hey, he took his shoes off. (Ed. note: Since no patient came in last night, that became Mr. Wang’s bed for the night – why not.)

Mr. Wang - He puts on the long coat so that he looks like a doctor. Very loyal to his charge though.

Mr. Wang – He puts on the long coat so that he looks like a doctor. Very loyal to his charge though.

Today was also a big day for my bed. The director of the cardio unit me came in and asked how I slept. I replied not well since the bed had a bad squeak and everytime I moved it made a lot of noise waking up the patients (Ed. note: But not the care givers strangely enough). Ten minutes after that I had a new, quieter, larger bed – complete with clean bedding – my first since arriving on Saturday at 11. (Remember, it is now Wednesday).

Dr. Hu (Who)

My cardiologist is a delightful woman. She struggles with English, but makes a diligent effort to be sure I understand what she is talking about. It is difficult however. Today for example I asked when I should start exercising and she said not for 2 months and then very very gradually. My next question was if I could get out of bed today and sit in a chair for a few minutes. She said that would be fine and then added that when I was standing by the bed I could do some exercise. ?? It is also a little difficult to get an answer as to when I can go home. On Sunday it was 7 – 10 days, Monday maybe 5 days, Tuesday it was next Monday and today – well today, if everything works out with the monitor I have to wear tomorrow for 24 hours, I will be home on Friday. It is now time for Terry to shave 30% of the hair on my chest off (Ed. note: This equates to 100% of a normal white male and 3000% of a Chinese male) in anticipation of Dr. Hu’s machine being attached to my body in the morning. Finally, I present Dr. Hu – really.

Dr. Hu runs 90% of the places she goes - but then maybe that is why she "looks" so young

Dr. Hu runs 90% of the places she goes – but then maybe that is why she “looks” so young

The Shoe Blog

So here are the shoes. Choose one of the two reasons why these make the cut:

1. Like I was out and about with a multitude of opportunities  or

2. Like there could be anything other than nurses’ shoes.

Director Xu's Shoes (Pronounced as Director Shoes' Shoes)

Director Xu’s Shoes
(Pronounced as Director Shoes’ Shoes)

I Return Home – From the Hospital and the Dead

(Ed. note: Here’s my problem. When one has a near death experience, which, according to Terry and the doctor I did, do I become irreverent and glib about it or do I take a long look about how I write these blogs.)

As you know by now, Saturday October 18 wasn’t exactly how I had planned it. Let me tell you about the morning from my perspective.

I didn’t sleep all night – for about the third night in a row, In the last few months I have become quite proficient at perspiring all night and Friday was no different. I got up about 6:30 and showered, thinking that might stop some of it. No dice. By about 7:15 I was experiencing huge pain in my chest and I took a Zantac, thinking it would stop the indigestion. After lying down with Terry on the bed and realizing that the pain had spread down both arms I began to think that this might be a little more serious. Terry has accurately described the events over the next little while from her perspective so I will just give you my “highlights.”

When they got me into the ambulance and we left our apartment I immediately felt an incredibly cold and strong wind and wondered why the EMTs had left the back doors open. Apparently, this was not the case. The doors were closed and the ambulance was warm. Go figure.

When we got to the first hospital I could hear the frustration in Terry’s voice as she wanted something to be done, but I didn’t have the strength to say anything myself. I was aware of what was happening but didn’t really feel part of it – but no, I didn’t float away and look down on the assembled group. The entire time we were there, my sense was that there was a 3 inch long, 8 sided piece of onyx in the middle of my chest and this was what was preventing me from speaking or breathing. Finally, aware of a discussion about either Shanghai or #1 Hospital in Jiaxing was best. I worked up all the energy I could to scream (I think) that I wanted to go to #1 Hospital. This wasn’t because I had any kind of sense of doom, although Terry is probably right – I wouldn’t have made it. I just wanted the damn pain stopped.

So off we went. Rick asked Terry is I saw a white light. Honestly I don’t know. The entire time in the two ambulances and the first hospital, I know that here was a panel of white light about four feet by four feet above my head – but those could just have been panel lights. According to Terry, it was during the second ride when I flatlined, but I have no recollection of it. I remember two things –a) Terry constantly telling me to keep my eyes open and b) watching the paramedic and Terry change places. It was as if I was watching on TV with the camera filming from behind my head and the top of my head just in the bottom of the picture. I watched him compressing my chest and then all of a sudden we were at the hospital.

The rest is kind of a blur with odd flashes of memory – the faces of the people from Nanhu, Mr. Zhou and Mr. Chen running through the hall pulling the gurney I was on, being manhandled onto the operating table, frequently being ill while the surgeon was inserting the stent and he and the nurse imploring me to stay still; the pain continuing despite having morphine injected and finally the surgeon saying “OK – you don’t have any more pain” which I guess was when the stent took effect and the blood started to flow again – and after about 10 seconds he was right the pain was all gone. Then it was up to the room at 11:00 – just 4 hours after it all started.

So what great life lessons have I learned? These sound trite when I reread them, but they are spoken from my heart. Don’t each so much fat, get more exercise and appreciate every day I have with Terry because if it hadn’t been for her I would have closed my eyes.


Things You Won’t See in Canada

I have written about characteristics of Chinese culture that can be a little hard to live with at times, but today I want to extol some Chinese virtues. True, patients have to provide a lot of services that we take for granted in hospitals but consider the following:

  1. From the moment George heard our predicament, he came to our aid and alerted Principal Xu, who in turn alerted Nanhu International and our BC owner, Harvey Su. As you know, they all came to the hospital and made sure that everything possible was done for us. I am not sure how many board office staff or members of local government would show up to lend a hand. (I do believe most principals and vice-principals would be there, though).
  1. The school insisted that they provide 24-hour care at the hospital for translation purposes. Teachers, imagine your principal asking you to work a 12-hour shift, which entails either sleeping overnight or spending an entire day in the hospital, looking out for a man you might not have met. Not one of these teachers have complained and they all express happiness that they could be of some service. I shared a cab home with one of them yesterday morning and gave her money to pay the fare when I was dropped off first. She didn’t want to take it but I insisted. Later that evening, George came to visit and gave me the money back. She insisted. Pretty awesome. Beyond care, they have lifted Geoff’s spirits by succumbing to his teasing and giving it right back to him. They have made him smile.
  1. On the first night, George and the school driver arrived at the hospital with two deluxe camp cots for both the teachers and me. They were quite comfortable, far more so than Geoff’s bed, which I tried one night but could only last 5 minutes, it was so hard. When I told George I wasn’t going to stay at the hospital at night after Sunday, he offered the cot to the servant to use. Pretty terrific.
  1. The school staff continues to offer support to me. On the first day, Principal Xu gave me a red envelope filled with coupons for the noodle house downstairs so I wouldn’t be hungry. On the second, he arrived with a huge bouquet of flowers. George has taken me back and forth to the hospital many times, bringing flowers also. The education minister visited on Sunday and has promised to return on Thursday. Her English is good and she is fun to be around.

In short, the Chinese administration team has gone beyond the call of duty in making sure we are well taken care of. They have helped make this scary event less frightening for us and done everything to make us as comfortable as possible. We will not forget their kindness.

Additionally, Becky and Dani, my vice-principal and staff members, made dinners for both of us the first two days and brought them to the hospital, along with a care package of teas and snacks. I am so thankful to have these lovely women on staff!

Today is Tuesday. Geoff had some tests this morning and everything seems to be okay. We are not sure when he can come home but he is now willing to stay for as long as they say is necessary—a good sign. We are reminded how thin is the distance between life and death and are glad that we have done our best to live lives to the fullest. Thanks to everyone here and at home for sending their good wishes and prayers. They make a big difference to the patient and No. 1 care-giver.

Morning Has Broken

Remember those Disney cartoons where lovely lilting notes with birdies chirping play just before all hell breaks lose?

BAM! The ward door bursts open and Florence Nightingale marches over to the farthest bed, blood pressure monitor in hand. WT…? I tear one eye open from the cozy confines of my camp cot to check the time. It’s 5:00am! Time for the day to begin? Mercifully, no. I drift off to sleep, then…

BAM! The same nurse barges into the room and approaches the first bed to take her blood pressure. The room’s residents nearest the window take this as the cue to start the day and fling open the curtains to reveal dawn softly breaking. The patient’s wife who has been sleeping on a hospital-issue hard green folding chair (that’s the padded one) immediately begins to fold it up, with a great screeching scratching carry-on. Above my head, a loud conversation breaks out. What time is it? 5: 40. I peel one eye open again to eyeball the servant and teacher from our school engaged in a fun and lively conversation, which immediately stops at the sight of me. Oh for a private room! But perhaps I am just spoiled. I wouldn’t argue the point.

Before long, the parade to the washroom begins, followed by the arrival of the food wagon, announced by someone bellowing from the nurses’ station. People line up with their bowls to get congee and pickles. Why not? It certainly satisfies the required hospital bland. (pics to follow, once Geoff is home)

We wait until 7:30 for the store to open on the first floor so I can buy yogurt for Geoff. I know this regime can’t last very long and I’ve started to worry that he isn’t eating enough. We’ve worked out a bit of a plan that should be do-able, now that I won’t be staying overnight. I wish he could come home but know he has to stay; he is prepared to do so. A round of tests is scheduled for Thursday so perhaps he can leave after that. Then he can begin to rest properly. After he eats, I head home to shower and go to the school for awhile before I come back. He has made me promise to be home by 7:00pm each night, which will allow me to bring him some dinner, then leave him to rest.

A group of kids from the school visited Geoff today, which was nice. Unfortunately, they brought copious quantities of potato chips with them, a strict no-no on a low salt diet. I may be forced to eat them or pass them along (Tim?).   Fruit, Perrier, muesii, milk and a Starbuck’s latte were also included. They thought of everything! Sadly, Geoff couldn’t drink the latte so passed it over to the teacher who was on day shift. Too bad I wasn’t there, she told us honestly that she didn’t enjoy it.

It’s closing in on 4:00pm and the numbers of people arriving is growing. I thought 20 was the maximum these elevators would hold but I guess I was wrong. I really wish I could tape this scene–the noises are unbelievable. I guess it is rather cavernous in here and sounds carry but people are SO loud! I could reach out and touch the guy sitting next to me whose wife just came up in full volume, talking so loudly I inadvertently hushed her. Why the need to yell at the person right next to you? Don’t even ask about the people on cell phones. I could use a recorder right now. Sigh. TIC.

Another comment on China’s culture: They do adhere to scientific research in some areas. For example, in every classroom, water dispensers are available to kids for hot or cold drinks because some science suggests that lots of water helps brain function. They also hold to the understanding of SADS syndrome and make sure virtually every new apartment block is build narrowly, so that the maximum sunlight enters each apartment.   I can look down onto the lower hospital buildings and see that they are built with open areas in the middle to allow natural light in.  They also have green roofs.  No hot water, soap or paper towels but green roofs.  Go figure.

But I digress. Time to check on the patient. (Ed. note: And about bloody time too!)

Nothing Says Adventure…

…like navigating an emergency situation in a foreign country. On Saturday, we set an alarm to Skype a number of friends and planned to head out to Metro to pick up some great beef for a BBQ. Geoff woke my up at 7:30. Five minutes later, he was back in the room, obviously disoriented and in pain. Our Saturday plans took a dramatic turn.

As I tried to figure out was happening, Geoff went from room to room, rambling, not really sure what was happening. “Does your arm hurt? How about your heart?” Yes and yes. Okay, we need to get an ambulance. I soon discovered that when I brought my phone from Canada in the summer, I failed to transfer any emergency contact numbers to it. I had trouble with Geoff’s cell phone then discovered he had no numbers either. What now? “Next door!” he yelled at me. I banged on Tina and Klose’ door at 7:30am. That in itself must have been startling for them as they rarely stir before 9:00, even on a work day. Kloss’ mother answered the door, nodded, smiled, then began to close the door on me. “NO! Tina! Help! We need help! Call an ambulance. I think Geoff is having a heart attack.”

Geoff, in the meantime, had moved to the floor of the bathroom after a round of heaves. He was hyperventilating so I managed to even out his breathing and calm him down a bit by getting him to breathe into a paper bag. Tina and Kloss came in, fully clothed and ready for action, then the ambulance workers arrived They took one look at Geoff and another at their stretcher and realized he would not fit. After some discussion, they grabbed a chair from the dining room, strapped Geoff into it and managed (just barely) to carry him to the elevator. At the bottom floor, another 20 steps or so got them outside (needless to say, the second of the two entrance doors would not open, which would have allowed a gurney to come in). We boarded the ambulance, with Tina and Kloss following as our translators.

The scene at the hospital was crazy. This was the same hospital that I blogged about before, the one with the exposed brick in the bathroom where one was to go to provide a sample. Its only redeeming feature apparently is that it is close to our house! We were there in no time and directed into a large room with few beds and low-tech machines. I explained the symptoms, then out came the suction cup ECG machine. “It won’t work, he’s too hairy,” I said but Tina couldn’t translate that one. Eventually the worker produced a razor and they shaved his chest. He was in so much pain, he was begging for relief. A few nurses (I think) tried for awhile to put in an IV line but couldn’t get it in, then resorted to pills.

Even I knew pills were a waste of time. When your whole body is in spasm, they are not going to stay down, and I was right. About this time, a doctor (I think) had written ‘acute cardio syndrome’ on a piece of paper and managed to tell me, “I think this is what he has.” Me, too! Now let’s do something!!!!!! Mostly they just seemed to watch the monitor as his heart rate dropped. Tina whispered that we should get him to Shanghai. Ideal, I thought, but he won’t make it. Maybe when he stabilizes. Then the same doctor returned to me and said, “It IS acute cardiac syndrome!”

Soon George–our emergency contact, neighbour, friend and co-worker–arrived and I asked about Shanghai so he made the enquiry. Yes, they could provide an ambulance and 2 doctors would go, and it will cost money BUT first we must go to Hospital No. 1. Okay, let’s go! So out we go again, into the ambulance, passing by several complete strangers who were gawking at us from the doorway. Principal Xu had also arrived by this time and stood by looking concerned as we left.

The second ambulance trip was right up there with toad’s wild ride. We were jostled to and fro in the back while the drivers did their best to get there in record time. My job was to keep Geoff awake, breathing and alive. The monitor dropped precariously low and at one point, flat-lined. The doctor traded places with me and pumped his heart with his hands. Thankfully, Geoff came around and did his best to stay with me. When we arrived, we discovered that they actually had a cardiology department and a team waiting for us as the first hospital called and teed them up.

The first stage of emergency protocol seems to be getting all the appropriate information, although they almost immediately got a morphine drip going. I had remembered to grab Geoff’s passport and handed it to Mrs. Chen, the head of Nanhu International, the business group that owns our BC school. As well, the local Minister of Education, whose daughter went to our school, also lent her support, as did the second in command from Nanhu, Mr. Shen. I am sure they pulled some strings because they seemed to take over the sign-in identification process and then told me that the Dean of Cardiology would be performing whatever procedure was necessary and he was not in the least interested in anything less than complete recovery. Okay! Great, now let’s do something!

The doctors told George that the first four hours after a heart attack are the most important to prevent serious repercussions and we were getting perilously close. If I was still considering Shanghai, Geoff had already decided he wasn’t going for another ride.  First, I had to sign numerous pages, all written in Chinese, to say I understood (“write ‘I understand’ here”) and I agree (write ‘agree’ here) to what ever was going to happen. Then they wheeled him away and I sat down to wait.

Hospitals operate quite differently in China; I know you will be surprised to hear it. Before long, I spot George and the head of Nanhu Intl pushing a gurney up to the operating room. Geoff would be moved to this bed at the end of the procedure. “What’s with the bed, George? You move it yourself?” Of course.

Meanwhile, the doctors had been looking at Geoff’s heart and soon invited me in to a room adjacent to the operating room to look at live pictures and explain what would happen. I could clearly see the blockage, which seemed massive to me. He explained that they would put in a stent to create a passageway for the blood to flow again. Fortunately, I knew about stents from our friend Scott who has been through this before. I relaxed a wee bit when I knew it was a relatively easy fix. But let’s get going, please!

From there, things moved very quickly and soon George and Mr. Shen collected the gurney to take him to the ward for recovery.  Some observations follow.

The omnipresent features of China, particularly glaring in a hospital:

  1. crowds of curious people—a white person, never mind a large hairy white person, is indeed an oddity in a hospital in Jiaxing. Adults and children alike gaped at us every step of the way.
  1. Crowds pushing to the front of the line—always the same, whether boarding a bus, the subway, train or elevator. We turned into the “Medical Personnel Only” hallway and moved Geoff on a gurney onto a lift: another 8 non-medical personnel crowded in around us, all of them gaping at the white people. (I’ve taken to climbing the 13 flights of stairs rather than wait for long periods of time for slow elevators that are going to be crammed with people who may or may not feel the need to have a loud extended conversation on the phone or with someone in the elevator).
  1. Chinglish—I smiled as I passed a bulletin board with the heading, “Propogate the Official Notice Fence.” Gotta love it, don’t you?
  1. Utter lack of privacy—In Canada, medical issues and procedures are discussed and performed with a doctor behind closed doors. In China, most discussions are in the open. Anyone who wants to listen can. Geoff was moved to a room with three beds, with him in the middle. A curtain closed off the first bed and another closed off Geoff’s bed on one side but not on the other. On the open side, a man reclined on the bed and his wife sat in a chair, watching us. It was better than TV for them. I felt like ordering popcorn. They never took their eyes off the proceedings, fascinated by everything.

Another aspect of this feature of Chinese culture is that people, especially elders, feel completely free to visit perfect strangers in their rooms, hang out indefinitely and discuss in detail the nature of their ailments. Miss Dai explained this to me the first night when I was getting creeped-out by a man who just wouldn’t go. Apparently he comes from the same village as the old woman in Bed 1 but wouldn’t dream of talking to her in their village. Why? Because they are strangers. The hospital breaks down all barriers. Plus, most of them never have a chance to get this close to foreigners and so are making the best of it. I give them no encouragement whatsoever. On the other hand, the patient in Bed 2 has done his best to be amusing and friendly, hence the crowd of on-lookers.

  1. DIY—In a BC hospital, nurses provide around-the-clock care. They wash and toilet patients, monitor food and medications, etc. One price includes all (most of the tine). In China, you get your bed, bedding and the required attention and meds. After that, you are on your own. Daisy showed up with an armload of things we (WE!) would need: a washbasin, two small towels, a bedpan and a pee-pot, for lack of a better word, toilet tissue, water. Hmmm. It looked like a clue so I asked, “In China, do the nurses provide around-the-clock care? Will they use this equipment to care for Geoff?” No, that’s the responsibility of family and friends, ie, me. Yikes! We asked if we could hire a nurse. Maybe, said George, but it would be expensive. Do we care? No, especially Terry, she doesn’t care. What about food? You buy your own, either in the hospital noodle house or order from the food service, or bring it in from home. I could see an interesting week ahead of me.

After some thought, George said we might be able to hire a ‘servant.’ What might that be? About an hour later, he arrived with the leader of a company who hires people to be ‘servants.’ Think nurses’ aid. I did, because it stopped me from thinking ‘slave’ or channeling Downton Abbey.

Shortly thereafter, a 60-year-old man arrived to be the servant. He has been absolutely delightful! He checks on Geoff regularly, makes sure his equipment is attached and does all the tasks listed above.   Besides that, he is charming and happy and even takes care of me, offers me hot water to wash and even tucked me in to my cot in the morning. Guess what he gets paid: a staggering 140 RMB per 24 hours.   That’s about $26. He sleeps and eats in the room and does it all. Amazing! I am going to buy some coupons for him from Walmart because I know he will never take cash. Mr. Wang Shi-fa deserves more!

  1. Nasty habits—the same nasty things happen in the hospital as in the rest of China. No need to elaborate on the smoking, dropping of butts in windowsills, the hawking, talking in full volume, kids running and screaming, etc ( both Geoff and I were sure there was a ping pong game in the hallway of his ward last evening). I can’t even talk about the morning rituals.
  1. The absolute lack of personal space—in Canada, as a rule, we concern ourselves with others to the degree that we refrain from loud conversations or arguments in a crowd. When sharing a ward with someone, we would, of course, speak in hushed tones and do our best not to disturb others. It is a hospital, after all. Not so in China. So what if one person is sleeping? The others will talk loudly and animatedly across his bed. Sigh. TIC.

I wander around the hospital a bit to keep from going mad and to write blogs while recharging the technology. I came across a ‘Laundry and Boiling Water Room.’ This is where one or one’s servant can collect the boiling hot water to make tea or for washing, and also use the sinks and drying area to wash and hang clothes and towels. Who knew? We’re only in day two. Who knows what else we will discover? I no sooner write this sentence than the dinner service arrives, a whole group of them pushing food carts onto the elevator.  The pics are on Geoff’s phone so he post them once he is home.

Variations on Themes

Thursday Terry and Geoff take the big hot, humid walk over to China Mobile so that Terry can get a SIM card for her Telus phone and use it in China. After 15 minutes of gesturing, speaking slowly etc. we are told that yes this can be done, but they need her passport to do it. Now, they already know the number and the account but who cares. Still need the passport.

So Friday, Geoff is back with the passports – luckily he had both since it turned out that somehow her China account is under his name and having Terry’s passport would have been useless. Then it was off to get train tickets for our trip to Shanghai for the weekend. Then it was off to RTMart to pick up two bottles of wine and two big jugs of orange juice and back home. Sadly, when getting off the elevator Geoff realizes that he has lost his house key. (Luckily our neighbours have a key so he was able to drop off the heavy package). After retracing all his steps – no key. So off to school, get Terry’s and then to get a duplicate – one that doesn’t work when he gets home. Discovers his original key in a different pocket.

Friday  night we were off to two of the new teachers for dinner. Now all week Geoff was unsuccessful in getting Terry a bottle of white wine which was palatable. So one of those two bottles he packed home was a delectable $35.00 sauvignon blanc. When we went to Dani and Becky’s for dinner the bottle managed to make the bottom of the Starbucks’ bag wet enough from condensation that it fell through the bag and shattered. Aaaahhhhh… So looking forward to Saturday.

Saturday Mr. Zhao offered to take us out to the country to see a traditional Chinese village. Apparently it is a model village – supported financially by the government to show how people can live harmoniously. There are 70 families who live there – and it is all residential, no stores or shops other than 1 restaurant. Just before we got there the restaurant had served 100 people on a tour. We had tea there before wandering around a rather nondescript but harmonious, village.

The restaurant kitchen with the traditional Chinese stove.

The restaurant kitchen with the traditional Chinese stove.

Prep and Clean-up Areas

Prep and Clean-up Areas

Momma works at the restaurant doing the dishes.

Momma works at the restaurant doing the dishes. She is likely around 73 – 75.

The stacks of wood throughout the village all enjoy thatched roofs.

The stacks of wood are located throughout the village, and are used for heating and cooking. They all enjoy protective thatched roofs.

Then it was off to Walmart to buy the necessary foodstuffs for a BBQ. Mr. Zhao had arranged for us to have a BBQ with one of our students and his parents. Turns out that Johnny’s Mom is a deputy of some sort in the government and has some influence in the district.When we get to Walmart:

  • Mr. Zhao – “What should we buy?”
  • Geoff  – “How about steaks?”
  • Mr. Zhao – “Okay – what else?”
  • Geoff – “Well, what do you think?”
  • Mr Zhao – “I don’t know – I have never done this before.”

OMG – we wind up buying 4 “filet mignons” (Ed. note: See photo”), half a dozen skewers of mystery meat, okra, purple potatoes, beer, water and away we go. Now Terry is wondering what is going to happen when we get to the BBQ place – are there plates? knives and forks? BBQ Tools? chairs? tables? After driving for 20 minutes we get to some kind of park or orchard or something with lots of trees, a lake to go fishing in and lots of overgrown, unkempt, tall grass. There is also some kind of restaurant there so they supply chopsicks, plates and glasses AND they will serve you additional food, plus they get the BBQ started for you – in the back – and then carry it around to the front so you can cook. (Ed. note: See photo). After a little discussion they managed to find a butcher knife with a 10″ blade so that we could slice up the meat once it was cooked as well as the okra and the potatoes so they wouldn’t take forever to cook on the BBQ. (Ed. note: See photo. Guess who did the cooking). The restaurant supplies us with some vegetables, some mushrooms and – get this – a beef and potato dish – go figurre. At Walmart, Johnny’s mom had bought 4 beer and I figured that wasn’t going to be enough so I threw in 2 more (Ed. note: All warm, of course). Guess what – Johnny’s dad is driving – no beer; Johnny’s mom doesn’t drink – no beer; George is driving – no beer; Johnny is only 16 – no beer;  Terry isn’t terribly hot – 1 beer; what was I to do? All in all, though, it was a very pleasant, if unusual evening – I mean we were the entertainment for all the other diners who came to eat at the restaurant.

We had a lovely view of the stagnant pond from our table. Geez, could this be where the millions of mosquitos came from?

We had a lovely view of the stagnant pond from our table. Geez, could this be where the millions of mosquitos came from?

4 Filet Mignon - 1/2" think and 5" in diameter. The BBQ is about 4 feet long and 8 inches wide. No way to regulate the heat, though.

4 Filet Mignon – Chinese style – 1/2″ thick and 5″ in diameter. The BBQ is a 4 foot long and 8 inch wide trough on a stand – large hibachi. No way to regulate the heat, though. They carried the trough and the stand separately. Martha the dog was hopeful.

The Shoe Blog

It is hard to get photos of t-shirts, so I don’t have photos but here are two sayings I have seen recently:

  1. We All Have to Work Together or We Will Make It (Ed. note: See #2)
  2. The Only Sin is Stupidity (Ed. note: See #1)

Strictly speaking this is not a shoe blog, but rather “This is What I Wear to Work to Unload 80 – 100 Cartons From a Truck” Blog

AND you can't even see the huge movie star sun glasses - maybe she didn't want to be recognized...

AND you can’t even see the huge movie star sun glasses – maybe she didn’t want to be recognized …


I’m in The Cloud Today

Quite literally, I’m in a cloud. The humidity has been super high since morning and now, approaching 1:30, (Ed.note: Hey, aren’t you supposed to be WORKING?!) we are in to a full-blown monsoon. It’s the rainy season in Jiaxing, an understatement if there ever was one.

It has been a busy yet relaxing week. We’ve finished off our exams and had planned for 2 days of activities and study time for the remaining Chinese tests. Then a few things happened, both highly unusual.

First, Violet, the grade 10 class monitor, a lovely young lady with developing leadership skills, came to ask if it was okay if they invited their Chinese teachers in to give them additional lessons during the two days we had planned for fun and self-study. Hmmm. Let me think—Yes, of course! Go for it!

In one of the periods free, our teachers took the kids to the gym for a game of Dodge Ball. The kids had never played it before, so the rules were explained and the game began. Within minutes, 2 of the girls collided, shoulder to shoulder. One girl was hurt, quite badly, it seemed. Because the Chinese staff were otherwise engaged with meetings, I was enlisted, along with Violet, to accompany the girl to the hospital.

For some reason, the girl’s father, who was in Shanghai visiting his wife in the hospital (!), insisted that we take Shuyang to one particular hospital, located all the way in the south, Nanhu District. In the cab there, we passed some 4 or 5 hospitals but no stopping for us. When we arrived, it was pretty obvious that this was where many workers, hurt in industrial accidents, go. I guess all emergency rooms are the same but I saw way too many bleeding digits, wrapped hands and arms for my liking. The cleanliness factor was low, even by Chinese standards. Open 5-gallon pails, near full of bloody bandages, stood in the reception room. The furniture and equipment was quite grimy, as grimy looks in China—all corners of everything take on a nasty grey tinge.

Privacy was at a premium, meaning there wasn’t any. The reception room (which seemed to have been a regular ward at one point) still had a couple of beds but its purpose was now to have doctors first eye-ball the “condition” then send the patient to a particular station somewhere else in the hospital, then have a look at their X-rays, CT or MRI scans on a yellowing, cracked and dirty back-lit screen, then declare their recommendations. When we returned with the X-ray, there were at least 8 patients and their supporters looking on.

Shuyang’s clavicle was obviously broken, quite badly. (Ed. note: I was disappointed Terry didn’t get a photo of the x-ray – would have been cool to include it! Apparently the break was very distinct.) An operation was declared necessary. Just then—thankfully—her aunt, uncle and possibly their parent, arrived so Violet and I were free to leave. Not before the aunt insisted on giving me Y100, some Y30 more than I had actually paid out for different things. I argued but Violet carefully told me I should take it, then explained outside that this is how it is done in China, although she doesn’t know why. Just accept it.

The second unusual thing happened today, highly unusual that is, in BC but not so much in China: the kids thoroughly cleaned their classrooms. This means that all the desks came out and were emptied and washed inside and out, the floors were swept and mopped, and everything was put back together. This could NEVER happen at home—CUPE would go wild. It was quite a joy to see as the rooms really get into a sad state because the kids are responsible for cleaning them all the time! The caretaker, such as she is, mops the latrines, the foyers and teacher offices (all with the same gray mop). They never cross into the classrooms, all part of social training for the children. It would be a tad better if the school provided some cleaning products, buckets and rags but hey, you can’t have everything. Try this at home?   Life is too short, event though it probably is a great idea.

Couple of driving things the other day.

  1. Saw a public transit bus stopped at a light – with a scooter firmly trapped under its front bumper. Surprisingly, there did not appear to be any injuries although there were about 6 people looking on and about 6 more trying to free the scooter from under the bus. I have no idea how it got there without killing the driver.
  2. Sitting on the bus stopped at a light. The bus driver had left a full car length between the bus and the car in front. When what to my wondering eyes did appear to the left of the bus but a car which then proceeded, as you would (Ed. note: To quote the Irish), to make a right hand turn between the bus and the car in front and trundle off to the north.

We were out with Tim at the local Afghani restaurant. It is usually quite good – tonight it was just mediocre. Here are a few photos of our experience.

You can eat the leg of lamb with one eye open...

You can eat the leg of lamb with one eye open and one eye semi-closed…



...with both eyes closed...

…with both eyes closed…

...or down to the bone.

…or gnaw it down to the bone.

Despite Tim's assessment, it really tastes quite good.

Despite Tim’s assessment, it really tastes quite good.

You can also have spicy Rice Krispie “squares”, which, according to Tim, isn’t hardtack.

So, one more day to go, then we are off to Taiwan!

The Shoe Blog

This young woman was happy to have “her” photo taken – unfortunately I didn’t have my glasses on so it isn’t as clear as I would have hoped. Still, they are quite the shoes.

I think these might be birds eye maple soles.

I think these might be birdseye maple soles. Those are little “diamonds” on her toenails…