December 12, 2009
First here is Deb with her accounts of several activities.
Thanksgiving. Since the beginning of November we had been thinking and planning a Thanksgiving Dinner for all the many people who have been so kind to us here. About 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, Zoe offered to take me shopping and I jumped at the chance because I wanted to visit the two 5-star hotels near by that serve western food to see if they could cater a Thanksgiving Dinner for us. Both said yes and that they would get back to me with pricing and a menu. Having Zoe with me was a great help because she could act as translator. Within a few days the restaurant manager, Jason, at the Golden Bay Hotel called with pricing and had faxed a menu to the office. (Lulu and Yvonne were now in on the planning of this event.) We agreed on price and menu with Jason, and agreed to go to the hotel the following Friday to pay the deposit and have a dinner there. (We described that wonderful dinner in the last entry.) We saw the Western room where the Thanksgiving dinner was going to take place and Jason explained to us how the meal would progress. We were very pleased with the arrangements.
Thanksgiving arrived and even though I had asked the 25 invitees to get back to me by the Sunday before, there were still folks who did not get back to me until Thursday (apparently there is some sort of 12 hour rule here wherein if you respond within 12 hours of the event, everything is fine). But it actually worked out quite well because Jason had prepared enough food for more than the 20 I had told him were coming.
Zoe insisted on picking us up at the apartment, so we left at 5:30. The guests started coming at 6 and as it turned out we had just the right amount of place settings for everyone. The table looked lovely! And Jason had put several condiments on the table including ketchup and Tabasco sauce. Finnie was delighted with the Tabasco sauce. (We subsequently arranged with Jason to buy some Tabasco sauce from the restaurant) The service was a little slow in the beginning – western meals require a lot more individual attention than big Chinese meals with the food on a big Lazy Susan in the middle and everyone picking off what they want. The first courses were a salad and a wonderful pumpkin soup.
The food was prepared well and lots of conversation occurred – lots of laughter, some singing, and toasting. Finnie and I had prepared a few toasts each – nothing elaborate, but just things we wanted to say. This was really throwing the Chinese off quite a bit because the table was long and skinny (no primary, secondary, tertiary designated hosts, and no Chinese rules were being followed) and we had not placed people in any particular spot, so the table etiquette was something that was different for them. I must admit I screwed up my first toast. Finnie had prepared our toasts on slips of numbered paper. My first toast was #2. So I launched into the toast and realized that it was Finnie’s first toast and said, “Oh dear, this is Finnie’s not mine.” Everyone laughed heartily until I found my correct piece of paper.
So the meal was unusual for our guests, not to mention the forks and knives were different! I had not realized how indelicate forks appear! Think of it – a fork is used to stab the food and plop it into your mouth in big chunks. Chopsticks, on the other hand, pick up the food in little morsels and you eat little morsels at a time. The chunks of ham on their plates were unusual and created a dilemma I think – how do you eat this chunk of ham? Certainly not with chopsticks. During the subsequent courses some people reverted back to chopsticks I noticed, but some stuck with the fork and knife.
Along about the time that people were having a huge discussion about who should toast next and what they should say, the university president “dropped in”. We had invited him but he said that he could not come due to a previous commitment, but would drop by and offer a toast. He ended up staying the whole rest of the time and was able to enjoy the next course which was the turkey! I thought Jason had told me that he could only get chickens, but he found some small turkeys somewhere and we actually had turkey!! Jason had arranged for this to be a big too-do with Finnie cutting the first slice. Everyone hopped up with camera in hand and clicked away! We were served turkey, cranberry sauce, dressing (bread cubes, oysters, walnuts, apples), and gravy. There were seconds available and many folks took a second helping. What a treat to have the turkeys!!! Then the next course was dessert – apple and pumpkin pie. The bakery chef had done a great job with these! Everyone realized that this might be the end and so they started taking pictures – lots of loud chatter as to who would sit where for the group picture and how to take the many pictures with the many cameras – finally the wait staff took the pictures and everyone was happy with the group pictures.
Jason told me he had made a mistake and had not served the fruit plate, “no worries”, I said. After the picture taking, everyone sat down again at their places and enjoyed their melon, kumquat, and grape fruit plates (finally a recognized tradition of fruit to end the meal!). Then it was time to leave. Finnie paid the bill, and everyone left happy.
We found out later that this dinner was talked about a lot! Two of my students, for instance, said that Pian had used her pictures from the dinner for one of her English lessons on Western foods and the American iconic holiday of Thanksgiving. Zoe later told us that her husband, Leo (a great cook, himself) had never had a western meal before and loved being there! So I think we made a memorable evening for our friends here and in a small way were able to thank them for all their kindnesses to us.
Trip to the doctor. As most of you know, I had surgery to correct a degenerated vertebra last March. My back is healing and I don’t experience any aches and pains with it at all – just tired muscles which will get stronger with time. To compensate for the spinal conditions, I had developed a significant limp in order to keep my left leg straight so that the nerves would not continuously get pinched by the expanded spine bone tissue. The limp created a hip problem and it has not resolved itself; in fact, it has worsened. It is hard for me to walk any distances, grocery shopping is as quick as I can make it while holding onto a grocery cart, and standing for 2 three hour classes is exhausting. So it has gotten bad enough now that last weekend I basically stayed in bed or on the couch to try and reduce inflammation and to rest the irritated hip joint. This state of affairs is very much ill-timed because it has limited our ability to walk, shop, travel, and tour places that we probably could have otherwise done. Finnie urged me to go see a doctor here in Weihai in hopes of getting some pain relief until we get home and I can see an orthopedic surgeon. I arranged with Sue, our Chinese teacher, to go with me in order to act as a translator on Tuesday to the hospital. On Tuesday I walked to the front of our apartment complex, hailed a cab, showed him my business card to let him know where I wanted to go and then with hand motions and my limited vocabulary we went to the foreign teacher’s building where we picked up Sue.
Sue told the cab driver where we needed to go and off we went . This is the hospital that Finnie went to for his skin problems about 2 months ago. It is the Navy hospital that serves the 404th Navy division that is stationed here in Weihai. The procedure is that you pay a fee to register – ￥5, get a booklet with your name on it, and are directed to the correct physician. Mine was on the third floor – no elevators. We walked into his office and there were people in the room. Sue said it was okay to be in there, but there was no place to sit, so I waited outside. When it was my turn, Sue explained the problems I was having and the doctor asked me to get on his examination table. The translation was “you need to crouch on the table” and “you need to lower your pants..” No problem – so I lowered my pants, and crouched on the table, thinking this is very odd to be on my hands and knees on top of the table with my pants around my knees. Hmmmm. So the doctor poked around the hip and then Sue said, “now lie on your back.” I did and he poked some more – he found the place that is the most painful — several times. The assessment was “you need to see another doctor”. He showed us the way down the hall to another doctor’s office. We walked in and there were 10 people in the room waiting. They directed me to a semi-short stool and we waited our turn. In the meantime, Sue scooted back to get our receipt for the ￥5 ($0.73) registration fee. We waited while the doctor saw 4 patients in the space of 10 minutes. One person had four family members with her and other patients had more family members and we were all in a 10×15 foot room. Sue said, “we just don’t listen to the patients when they are talking to the doctor”. Hmmm, okay I thought so why is everyone giggling when the patient said something just now? Soon it was my turn. Sue explained the problem, I got on the examination table and he poked around (no pants down and no crouching – just on my back with my legs straight down on the table – ouch. He moved my leg around which is really stiff – ouch – and pronounced that I needed an X ray before he could determine anything. There were three diagnosis possibilities: inflammation, arthritis, or degenerative bone disease of the hip.
So we went back down to the registration lobby to register for the X ray and pay the ￥60 ($8.78) for it. With receipt in hand and the prescription from the doctor ordering the X ray, we walked over to another building where the X ray and CAT scan departments are. Walking past 100 people Sue turns in my form at the X ray registration office and then we wait for my name to be called – by this time we had decided it was easier to use my Chinese name written in characters because Deborah is too hard to pronounce and it’s not written in characters. When I was called, we went into the X ray room waiting for the lady in front of me (one of the patients from the second doctor’s office) to get her purple fleece underwear and outside pants and shoes back on. When she ambled off, we walked in and Sue said that I had to get on the table on my back, pants around my knees and they would position me. Okay I said, but could you close the door? My reason was so that the 30 people starring at the big Meiguoren getting an X ray should be denied the horror of seeing me with my pants down. The X ray machine is like ones in the states. With Sue still in the X ray room, the X ray machine takes a picture (I urged Sue to leave the room but she said the doctor had told her to stay in the room with me), I got dressed and we were told to wait about 40 minutes for the film to be developed. It actually took about 20 minutes.
As we waited for the X ray to be developed, Sue and I were talking about this visit and using the translator to look up words like “cortisone,” “degenerative,” and “necrosis” so she could be able to translate better, the lady with the purple fleece underwear was sitting next to us and was waiting for her X rays to be developed, tapped Sue’s arm and said “what language are you speaking” and “who is this woman?” The people sitting behind us inched very close to get the information as well. Sue said, “She is my teacher and I am translating for her. She is American and we are speaking English.” It was much easier to tell a white lie than for Sue to say “I am her teacher”. The woman said I have never heard another language before and you can speak both languages; you must be very smart and very educated. I actually had to wait until later in the morning for this explanation because Sue was reluctant to translate immediately – she did not want to dishonor the older woman but she was also trying to figure out how to honor my wishes of wanting to know what was said – a dilemma. Sue and I discussed the meaning of several words with her translator – one was sea cucumber or sea slug. She asked me which name we used and I said sea cucumber because sea slug sounds awful. She said she agreed and actually she does not like the taste. I agreed and then she talked about how difficult the translation job had been when we had dinner with the 4 faculty who had visited UNK about 2 years ago. She did not recognize any of the characters used to name the foods on the menu and she was having a hard time translating for us with such a rapid fire conversation going on.
We soon got the X ray picture and Sue told me to stay put while she walked over to the doctor’s office which was on the third floor and no elevator present. She felt she knew enough information to be able to tell the doctor I just wanted pain relief until I got to the states and she was armed with the X ray. I waited with Mrs. Purple Underwear. Sue came back in about 15 minutes and said the doctor said that it was definitely degenerative bone disease in my hip and the only cure was surgery. There is no cortisone available in China because it is considered dangerous and not good for one’s health. The only relief he could offer was some pain medicines like the ones I have at home – ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc. So Sue and I decided that since there is no cortisone or other similar pain killer available, that we would end our hospital trip and go home. We walked to the front gate and hailed a taxi.
And, oh by the way, the translation of “crouch on the table” really meant for me to lie on my stomach on the table, but Sue could not remember how to say this correctly and the only word she could remember was crouch because she had seen a movie with lions and tigers who were crouching on their stomachs and that is the word she came up with in the doctor’s office. This morning was pretty stressful for Sue because it involved a lot of medically related terms that were, of course, new to her, but she did a wonderful job!
The end of this saga is that I am setting up appointments to see our family physician and an orthopedic surgeon as soon as we get back to the states. Our hope is that I can have the left hip replaced and be able to get on with life instead of having to deal with the pain until it gets really bad. Time is moving on and not being able to travel and visit the many places on our list is frustrating.
Second trip to doctor. Apparently Lulu was not satisfied with Tuesday’s visit to the doctor, so she insisted that she take me to a Chinese doctor (meaning non-Western trained doctor) on the following Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). Her mother was visiting her and also needed treatments for her injured knee. Lulu picked me up at 8:30 in the morning and after several trips back to the house to get the X ray from Tuesday and other forgotten items, we were on our way. Today’s visit cost ￥20 ($2.93) because the doctor was actually the retired Chief of Staff of the hospital and a well known and respected doctor. I sat on the little stool beside his desk and waited while Lulu and the doctor conversed about my aching hip. He determined that I did not need acupuncture, but would benefit from some herbal medicines. Before he let me go though he determined that my neck was out of alignment and cracked it back into place. What a relief that was! But not without the other patients who were waiting their turns – and not listening – giggling at the loud cracking sounds. Lulu’s mom was his next patient and he determined that she would benefit from injections into her knee of some lubricating medicines. We were both told to be patient while the medicines took effect – waiting 2-3 weeks is not uncommon to see if these herbal medicines will work. No fast fixes on this front! Lulu told both her mom and me to wait in the chairs outside the office while she dashed down, cash in hand, to the pharmacy to get the medicines. My medicine cost ￥400 ($58.57) for a month’s supply! I take 2 pills from the yellow and orange box at each meal and 2-3 pills from the blue box before bed. The taste in my mouth from these pills is unusual – Finnie discovered through translation that the main ingredient in the yellow-orange pills is “dragon’s blood”. Lulu insists that this is an herb. Is it helping? Maybe so – it’s been almost 3 weeks since the visit and my hip is feeling less achey and sore; however, it is also possible that it is not being stressed since I don’t walk much, try to stay warm, and use my bicycle to get around our neighborhood.
The plan is that I will go back to see this doctor at the end of December to have him reassess my hip. Lulu is hoping that this will be my cure. Me too, but I fear that the true fix will be a new hip joint. I am tired of not being able to go places and just staying home is getting old. There are too many people, places and things to visit and absorb here, and staying home is not conducive to absorbing.
Underwear. We are not the brightest candles in the box. The cold weather came about a month ago. Wind gusts of 30-40 mph and straight from the eastern part of Russia, picking up moisture as it zooms over the Bohai, straight into Weihai – bitingly cold, especially on bikes trying to pedal up-wind. Putting on our jackets, mittens, scarves, nose covers, and backpacks when we are getting ready to leave in the morning is something like the kid in “Christmas Story” who looked like a brown tick by the time he was completely bundled in his brown snow suit. (remember the picture of Finnie in his cold weather gear) My gear looks similar to Finnie’s except I have added a bicycle helmet – I am the one and only person in Weihai who wears one. So after we get our gear on, we clump downstairs, unlock our bikes which are stored at the bottom of the stairs, wheel them out to the drive and hop on. Some days are blustery and damp and cold and the wind sails down from the north straight into our faces as we push against the it heading to campus; some days are just cold; some days like this past week are almost comfortable. Back to being dimly flickering candles – we saw the long underwear in the store many times as we shopped in our favorite store – a big counter of them. And we have noticed that most people wear long underwear, but it did not occur to us (i.e., me – Deb; Finnie had been lobbying for them for several weeks!) that it may help combat the cold for us as well. One night we went into the store, shivering, and noticed the underwear table and decided to see if they came in extra big Meiguo ren sizes – yep they do; the largest sizes for men and women fit us! – How could we tell, you ask. There in the front of the store as people are coming into and going from the store we stood with the underwear stretched out as far as it would go to see if their circumferences matched ours – we decided yes. So we each bought a pair. We have lived in the underwear for the past week – they got a bath today because I bought 2 new pair yesterday at the store – of course sales clerks remembered me and helped me find the right sizes. There is a mighty unattractive picture of me in my underwear that I am banning from display– so I will leave that image to your imaginations!
New Responsibilities. About a month ago Dean Xu met with Finnie about his duties and responsibilities here. As they were meeting in Finnie’s office, he noticed that the furniture was pretty scratched and dented from many years of use. We thought it was great – since this is probably the biggest, most well furnished office Finnie has ever had. But Dean Xu was not happy that the room did not have a heat pump (for cooling and heating). By the end of the meeting he had decided that 1) since there were a few students in Finnie’s class and probably no more than that next term that Finnie’s teaching was not the best use of his time, so Finnie will not be teaching next semester; 2) since the furniture was in less than good shape, Lulu and I were recruited to buy new furniture because Finnie refused to do so; 3) since the room did not have a heat pump, Finnie’s office was moved next door to a room with one; 4) since being in his private office away from the office staff was not conducive for Finnie to interact with the office staff and students looking for assistance, Finnie has a second “office” in the room with the other staff (this used to be the dean’s office). These arrangements have worked out wonderfully so far – Finnie is seeing more student “clients”; the private office looks great; and even though Finnie would have loved to be teaching, it is a relief not to have to prepare lectures for only a few students. Finnie will use the open office most of the time, but the private office for private meetings with students and faculty, and for our English conversations with students.
Buying the office furniture. As I said, Lulu and I were recruited as interior decorators for Finnie’s new office. Right – like either one of us are expert decorators. We sat down with paper in hand and decided what to buy and the sizes needed – 2 sturdy American sized office desk chairs, a new desk, tea table (coffee table), bookcase, and small conference table with chairs. I asked Lulu if we had a budget and she said “no – let’s find what we want and see if the dean agrees.” Well, okay. Lulu arranged for her and me to be driven to the furniture stores by one of the university drivers one Friday. Stores with like wares are usually clustered together, so many shops small and large selling almost the same items can be visited within a short walking distance of each other. So similar items from shop to shop can be compared and bargained for easily. We went to the stores that surround Weihai’s outdoor arena – another cluster of furniture stores. The furniture in this cluster appeared to be of higher quality. We walked around the stadium hallway past sofas, beds, and chairs, and finally found a store that sold some really nice looking, sturdy office furniture. We liked the conference table and chairs and found that we could buy desk, bookcase and desk chairs to match. They could even make the desk with an added inch or two of height! This find resulted in going to the main store of this particular company in the basement of a large locally owned grocery store. There we found the big desk chairs we were looking for. Lulu took the information back to Dean Xu, who said for us to go for it! Next step was to get Finnie to try out the chairs, so we arranged to go back the following Tuesday morning with Sue, our Chinese teacher, to try out the chairs. Finnie chose a different chair than we had originally picked out, but it was perfect for him and for the other furniture. (Side note: do you remember Lily Tomlin who had a skit of the little girl in the big rocking chair? That is what Sue looked like as she tried out Finnie’s new chair.) We waited a week and the furniture arrived, except for the taller office desk and second desk chair. Lulu had some students re-arrange the rooms and put the new furniture into the new office and the new chair into his office in the large room with the other staff. What a wonderful chair that is – in fact, all the staff have luxuriated in this chair and are highly coveting the chair. The private office is nice looking with the original sofa and new tea/coffee table with Prof. Frank’s tea set gift on the lower shelf of the table waiting to be used.
Hot Pot Dinner. During Finnie’s Saturday night presentation about studying abroad last October, several students who had returned from year-long study at UNK were present. One was Jenna, a young vivacious outspoken woman (i.e., girl). She arranged for us to go to the porridge shop with Mandy and herself one Sunday evening about a month ago, which we have already discribed. Then about 3 weeks ago she wrote Finnie an email and suggested that she’d bring the hot pot and hot pot food if we would open up our kitchen to her and her friends fixing the dinner. Of course, we said, “yes!” So finally the day arrives for the hot pot dinner – Jenna, Mandy, Sue (our teacher) and Lexie, another of their friends, (all seniors) come in at 5 with hot pot equipment, and all the fixing’s. They took over the kitchen and we ended up with a feast in about an hour! A hot pot is a big cauldron of bubbling water spiced with a blend of soy sauce, spices, mushrooms and other things. Into the cauldron goes very thinly sliced mutton, fish cakes, sliced vegetables, tofu, and lettuce. Each person at the table picks out of the cauldron whatever you want to eat and as the cauldron empties, new food is added. It took us 2 hours to consume everything! And it was really, really good! I hope we do it again soon. Conversation topics ranged from famous Chinese tales to the intellectual prowess of Sue to boyfriends (or lack thereof) to funny stories. It was fun just to listen. After dinner we looked at photos Finnie had on his computer of the Chinese New Year at UNK last year (Jenna was there and happily picked herself out), pictures of our daughter’s, Kathy, trip to Turkey (“she did skydiving???”). Then it was time for them to go – they were by this time in a giggling frenzy and so as they left our house and clumped down the stairs, we could hear them giggle all the way down the street – ahhhhh, to be young and giggly again! We gratefully collapsed in quiet solitude.
This is Finnie, and I’m back, so here is my part of the news:
The Ting Yuen. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, our friend, Professor Sonny, a sociologist in the Marxism Department, took us to see the full-scale replica of the Battleship, Tingyuen (Dingyuan). Every SDUW student is required to visit the ship, so it was a great opportunity for Sue, a senior, to fill her obligation of visiting the ship. It is permanently anchored in the harbor in the city. It was very interesting for many reasons. For one thing, 1) it was one of the most advanced battleships in the world, and the Chinese had two built – the Ting Yuen and the Chen Yuen. 2) However, Qing Emperor Guangxu, who ordered them built (in Germany), did not have enough money to build the navy he wished for, so the two battleships were by far the most powerful features of the navy. 3) The Chinese fleet was defeated while defending the hugely important harbor of Weihaiwei because of an nexpected attack by the Japanese navy. Take a look at photo of the ship after reading the information from Wikipedia.
Here is what Wikipedia says about this ship:
“The Dingyuan was an "armoured turret ship" design. She was recognized as one of the most advanced battleships of her time, as good as or better than any ship in the fleets of Great Britain and Germany when she was built. She measured 94.5 metres long (298ft, 5in) and 18.4 metres wide (60ft, 4in) and drew 5.94 metres (19 ft, 6 in) of water. She was protected by an armoured belt 30-centimetre (1ft) thick. Experts say that the ship was resistant to the firepower available at the time.
Dingyuan , 7670 tons when loaded, had 6,000 hp (4,500 kW) and a speed of 14.5 nautical miles (27 km) per hour, and a range of around 4,500 nautical miles (8,330 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h).”
“The main armament was four 305 mm calibre Krupp guns in two barbettes one each to the port and starboard forward of amidships. These guns had a range of 7.8 kilometres, firing with a muzzle velocity of 500 metres per second. Another two 150 mm calibre Krupp guns were installed in turrets at the extreme bow and stern. These had a range of 11,000 metres. The armament also included six 37 mm guns and three above waterline torpedo tubes. The complete crew was around 363 officers and men.
Two torpedo boats were also carried on board, enlarging the Dingyuan’s striking distance and battle effectiveness. To meet the demands on ship, 20 desalinators were installed which could serve 300 people fresh water daily.”
“After negotiations with both British and German governments, the Qing Dynasty in 1881 awarded the contract to build the advanced warship to Germany‘s Stettiner Maschinenbau AG Vulcan shipyard, at a cost of 1.7 million taels of silver (6.2 million German Goldmark). The hull was laid down on 31 March 1881 and she was launched on 28 December 1881 and sea trials commenced on 2 May 1883.
The delivery of the Dingyuan, sailed by a German crew, started in 1884, but was stopped following a request from the French who were in the middle of a conflict with China which culminated with the Sino-French War (1884-1885). The Dingyuan was a very powerful ship and vastly superior to any of the French ships of the French China Squadron, and should have been able to participate advantageously in the conflict, especially during the Battle of Foochow .
In 1885, the Dingyuan finally set sail for China, arriving the following year. Also in 1885, the Beiyang Fleet was founded in Weihai, and based at Liugongdao Island, marking the establishment of Qing Dynasty’s first modern fleet.
By the middle of the 1890s, the waning Qing Dynasty lost its desire to keep ahead in the naval race, in contrast to the strengthening Japanese navy. Because of internal corruption, lack of funding and incompetence, by the time of the First Sino-Japanese War the Imperial Japanese Navy was able to outmaneuver the Beiyang Navy. Dingyuan served as Admiral Ding Ruchang‘s flagship at the Battle of the Yalu River on September 17, 1894. In that battle, due to a construction defect of the ship, the Chinese admiral Ting Ju ch’ang (Ding Ruchang) and several of his officers became casualties by their first shot, standing in the flybridge. After this, the Beiyang Fleet was based at Liugongdao Island. In early 1895, the Japanese surrounded the Beiyang Fleet both on land and from the sea. On February 5, 1895, the Dingyuan was seriously damaged after being hit by a Japanese torpedo and later cannon fire. Captain Liu Buchan ordered the ship scuttled.”
Although it was cold on board, it was a very educational experience for us, and we enjoyed the company of Sun and his son, as well as Sue. Naturally, we had to go the Big Fish (not its actual name) restaurant, that we have enjoyed several times, for lunch, and the hot fish soup was awfully good and helped warm us up.
American Society. At lunch, Professor Sonny asked me to come to talk to his classes and fellow faculty about American society and about our experiences in China. At the time, (I was thinking about all the interesting things we have experienced here) it seemed an easy task to do. Well, as usual, I was wrong. I spent all of last Saturday thinking and making false start after false start. I really wanted to get into the cool experiences we have had in China, but I also kept remembering that Sonny wanted me to talk about “American society.” Eventually as I was running out of time, I decided to talk about the American society from its origins through its evolution into what I perceive it to be today. I basically took the position that the icons normally used to talk about America (White House, Capital, NYC skyline, Statue of Liberty, and things like Disneyland) do not really capture American society as much as do more ordinary things like scenes captured by Norman Rockwell paintings, stories of hog heaven and hen parties, the family farm, that sort of thing. I capped off the portion on American society with what Americans expect in their lives (clean water, good safe schools, freedom of religion, great health care, nice safe house, car, convenient and safe shopping, good internet access, and so on) even though we don’t always get what we expect in any of these cases. Then there were questions and discussion, which was quite interesting! Naturally, we had to go for lunch and have an enormous lunch – too many dishes to describe. Sonny gave us a green sheet! That is, a very pretty and nice bed covering (see photos) made of bamboo! So, it is green in the ecological sense. We have found it to be very warm. I wonder if it is also somehow magically cool in the summer!
Dinner with Vice President Han. Just as I was getting the presentation to the Marxism group in mind, we were invited to a dinner by Vice President Han. Vice President Han visited us in Kearney in 2006, and then in 2007, he took Jerry Fox and me to a foot massage – a torture treatment I will not willingly go through again, if I can avoid it. Yvonne every once and a while threatens to bring out her photos of us being tortured. Both of us were biting on towels, as you are supposed to do when someone is digging out a bullet or something without anesthesia. The masseuses were betting on the size of my feet, how much I weighed, how old I was, the usual stuff! Anyway, back to V.P. Han. We have been friends for at least 4 years, and he was not able to join us at Thanksgiving or any other meals, so he has been trying to find a time to go out. That time as last Wednesday evening — the night before my talk on American society.
It was a great dinner in restaurant he picked near our house (so we can go back on our own whenever we wish). I liked the fish soup best, but Deb and Han liked the beef stew best. We were joined at dinner by Dean Xu, Joy and Jewel (who stayed with us in February 2008 when they visited Kearney), and Yvonne. Han, Joy, and Jewel speak very little English so Yvonne and Xifeng had to do the translating. It was a short dinner in time due to my commitments on Thursday morning, but delightful. Han gave us a nicely packaged root of ginseng – from his hometown in the north of China near Harbin.
Purchasing the second printer. The printer-scanner that we bought when we first arrived has been causing a lot of problems and likes to make us buy more ink. It also periodically decides that something is seriously wrong (it keeps secrets well, because we never get a clue as to what is the sabot in the gearworks) and freezes up the computer entirely. Since it is an all-in-one machine, I can still use it as a scanner, but not a printer. So Lulu, agreed to take us printer shopping again on Friday. As Deb has mentioned, here, many stores that sell similar things occupy shops in the same building – apparently so customers can more easily do comparative shopping. Anyway, that is how it works. So we got there and looked at many printers. I had decided to only consider real laser printers that use toner instead of ink. We found a big assortment at prices around three times what you expect to pay in the US. So, we found set of printers that we wanted to consider, and one or two seemed better options than others, so we finally decided on what to do, and would you know it? We were passing a shoe store, and it was vital to our interests to check out the boots there. (I forgot to mention, this was a woman’s shoe store.) They had a super sale on everything. Lulu seized the moment and said she would go ask a couple of questions of the saleslady at the stores we thought was where we would buy the printer. Deb has been looking (at my request) for some high-top boots to wear in bad weather, and she has some difficult requirements – they must have no heal higher that 1 or 2 cm, and they must fit her feet! Well, she hit paydirt, and saw what she wanted in four different colors. They were leather, and had non-skid soles with a regular shoe heal. And they were on sale for ￥300 off! So, after trying them on, etc. she bought a pair (see photo). Lulu came back with the news that she had talked the saleslady into selling us the best printer we were considering for half her asking price (which is only about $40 more than it would have cost in the US!) That was great because the shoe store wouldn’t take a check card, and I needed all the yuan I had to buy the boots and the printer and the obviously desperately needed lunch, etc. So, who would have thought, that we would be able to do all that? Lulu then saw them on the shelf: Way cool stylish brogans – in four fashionable colors, black, brown, yellow, or red. Saleswomen pitched the red ones, but Lulu wanted the yellow. I pointed out that at the price, she could get red and yellow since with the ￥200 discount they were half price, and if she bought two, she would really be saving ￥400! It was a great thought, but Lulu decided it was to be yellow. Now both Deb and Lulu are styling and profiling, and we head back to buy the printer. I paid ￥100 down and the delivery guy/technician would have it at our house by 3:00 PM.
So, we were walking to a fast food restaurant that Lulu said was a lot like KFC (what could be a higher recommendation than that? Nothing, from Lulu!). I asked if it were as good as KFC, knowing Lulu’s unwavering high regard and great enthusiasm regarding KFC, and she said that her mother likes it better! So, that settled it! We were walking up the street (i.e., not up the sidewalks) because the sidewalks were full of street vendors selling everything, especially lunch food at that time of day. Then at the end of the row of vendors, I spotted at nut and fruit vendor. This is important because some foreigners (rumored to be Meiguorenmen) have elevated the demand for shelled walnuts so the price keeps going up. Here were tons of them and when I asked the price it was ￥38 (per 500g). That is only a little more than half the price in HaiYue! Plus, we weren’t in Haiyue, and the salesladies who giggle at Deb for buying so many walnuts wouldn’t see us buying some. So, we bought a kg – and some dried apricots for ￥10 as well.
At the restaurant, it didn’t seem anything like KFC to me. In fact, instead of going up to the counter and ordering what you want, you go through a cafeteria line and select from what they have. Well, not knowing anything about it, I selected a dish of pork and onions, a dish of potatoes, and a bowl of bean and pea congee and a bowl of pumpkin congee. Lulu said that the pies were the very best. So, when we got to the pie section, I asked where are the pies? “Right there,” she said, pointing right in front of me at plates of round things that looked rather like roujiamo. She said, “this is pork, that is beef, and that is jirou (chicken).” So, I got a beef and a pork pie. Lulu got both. Deb was graciously holding a table for us, and when we arrived, we started to eat. It was alright, but nothing to write home about. Then Deb bit into her pork pie, and started doing the little dance in the seat that she does when something is really wonderful tasting. Lulu was doing the same. So, I bit into a pork pie, and it was delicious. Now that I could see inside the bun, it was a patty of pork sausage that tasted just like pork sausage in the US. Lulu and I shared a beef pie, and that was really good, too. It was a hamburger patty inside the bun. I don’t know how they get the sausage and hamburger inside, but it is great! Lulu says that the guy who started selling these sandwiches (which in Chinese are Shengui) (for ￥2.5 today) as a street vendor right back at the street mall where we bought the printer and had become a billionaire and was opening the restaurants all over Shandong and now beyond! So, Deb has another entrepreneur story to use in her classes! And, here is the great news! There is a Shengui restaurant near where we live! Does life get any better than that??
Yet, Deb and I are losing weight. Slowly.
Working with students who want to apply to US universities. One of my jobs that is a lot of fun is working with students who are applying to US universities. This past week, I worked with Wendy, a senior accounting major who wants to earn a MSA in a really top notch America University so that she can earned enough credits to be able to complete the CPA certification in the US. I did not know her, but she was at UNK last year. Anyway, she was one of the students (along with Jenna) who talked about their experiences at UNK when we had the information session last October. Anyway, Wendy called me last weekend and said she needed some help. So, I talked with her about the steps in applying to US graduate schools, and so forth. Turns out that even something like submitting an application is a cultural experience. I gather that Chinese school kids learn public speaking at an early age, because they all seem to be able to switch into the very dramatic “public speaker at a boxing match”, with tonal and dynamic qualities in their inflection that no American, other than the guys at boxing broadcasts who shout, “Now, let’s get ready to rumble!!!!” can do. With Chinese speakers, use of superlatives in introducing anyone or anything is way over the top for American tastes. So, I discussed this with her—as in, be careful, this sort of stuff doesn’t wear well with Americans. It is a learning experience for me as well as the students!