January 10, 2010
Dinner with Wendy and her parents. When we had dinner with Wendy and Zoe before Christmas, we agreed that Deb and I would take Wendy and her parents to dinner after Christmas, so on December 30, we went to the Big Fish Restaurant. Wendy’s mom is a cardiologist who works at the large city hospital (We thought the Navy Hospital was huge, but it isn’t the big one!) Her dad has just retired from the Army where he was the officer in charge a Corps of Engineers (equivalent), so he is getting used to retirement. We had a wonderful time getting to know each other, with Wendy translating. Her mom, as soon as she heard that I have had heart issues jumped up and came over to my side of the table to check out my heart and pulse, etc.! So, I have a friend in cardiology at Weihai Municipal Hospital! Anyway, it was a nice visit and typical huge meal with at least ten main courses! Well, you guessed it. After dinner, Col. (I really don’t know the name of the equivalent rank) Lee paid for dinner, and we have a pledge that we can treat next time.
Paying the water and gas bill during a blizzard. On December 31, I went to the bank where I have to pay for the water we use and to the Town Gas Company. They are in the same part of the city, so, even though there was a blizzard ripping that afternoon, I rode my trusty bike out to get the job done right after mid-day rest period. The streets were very slick and icy — and it takes a good deal of courage (or stupidity) to get on a bike and ride through the snow and slip-slide your way to your destination. The reason I am mentioning this little insignificant story is that the bank where I pay the water bill was gone! I can read enough Chinese to tell that the bank will reopen on February 28 — but I can’t read it well enough to know where to go to pay the water bill (and I wasn’t in the mood to go further exploring in the weather.) So, having struck out at the water bank, I peddled on over to the gas company. I shivered my way in and asked what my balance is. The lady said something in Chinese, studied her computer, consulted her office mate and then wrote me a note in Chinese, of course. I noticed that the only numerals on note were 208.80 — which is the same amount as the balance when I made my deposit back in August. So, I went back over to the International Office and asked Lulu and Yvonne to tell me what the note said. They started laughing pretty hard and when I inquired as to what was so funny, they said that my balance is ￥208.8, and the reason is that they haven’t read my gas meter since I moved in! I guess they will leave our gas on until we get back to Weihai.
Deb: As the fall semester wound down and we were preparing to leave Weihai to live in the United States for two months (or in my case, three months), we were treated to several very special dinners by our new families in Weihai.
On New Year’s Eve we rang in the new calendar year of 2010 at Leo and Zoe’s house with another spectacular dinner prepared by Leo. Leo’s homemade jiaozi’s are my favorite food, I think! Many of the neighbors and friends of Leo and Zoe came to visit and wish everyone a Happy New Year. Finnie and the biologist who drove me to the grape farm had a long discussion about his research passion: the cultivation methods of abalone for food and shells. We learned the rudiments of majiang (Mahjong in English), a domino like game that requires a high level of concentration and strategy to win. We still need many lessons to even be beginners in this game. We watched TV and waited while the TV hosts sang and the fireworks signaled the beginning of 2010.
Finnie: Sunday, January 3, 2010, dinners. Our Canadian friends, the O’brians, invited us to a mid-afternoon Mexican meal on Sunday after New Year, so we went over and enjoyed some great food — soft shell tacos and chicken curry. The tacos were really good with TexMex flavor and Tabasco sauce to heat up the salsa. The Curry was good, too, but I don’t know why we were having Indian-Texan-Mexican food! They had invited a young woman, whom they had met through the LDS network of China. She is a teacher and administrator of a English language school in Weihai for primary through High school kids.
After dinner., we rode over to see Amy and Frank. Amy has been sick for a couple of weeks and is unable to go out very much. So, Deb and I had a gift for her and Frank, so we dropped in to see them. They were, as always, very gracious and of course had a tea ceremony all set up when we arrived. After several rounds of tea, we were invited to go to dinner with them (since Amy was too sick to cook) at a restaurant near our house for hot pot! Remember, two hours before, we had consumed a big TexMex – Curry dinner. Now we are going to have hotpot! It was delicious, of course, and we somehow managed to consume vast quantities! Understandably, Amy didn’t eat very much, unfortunately, but she seemed to be very happy that we had gone.
On Monday, January 4, it dawned on me that I should see a dentist. I thought that I had broken a filling or cracked a tooth about a month earlier, and I was thinking that I would just wait and see a dentist when we got to Texas. However, now with 48 hours before our departure for Texas, it dawned on me that I don’t have a dentist in Texas and even if I did, it would be doubtful if I could see my dentist within the (only) six weeks we would have in Texas — and now that I realized that I don’t even have a dentist in Texas, I realized that I have no chance of having anything done with my tooth while I am in Texas. So, I asked Lulu and Yvonne if they could help me find a dentist. Richard had mentioned that he has had a great deal of dental work done in Weihai because the dentist he found is really, really good, so I thought maybe Lulu and Yvonne could help me make an appointment with him maybe that afternoon or the next day. Yvonne said she uses a dentist near campus, and she would take me to see him. So, we immediately headed out. The snow was pretty deep, so we hiked over to the South gate to catch a taxi. We had a short ride to the dentist office, and when we arrived, they had me come in and wait a couple of minutes. Then the dentist put me in his chair and checked me out. He determined that I had not problems with fillings or broken teeth. When I described the symptoms, he indicated that I had probably bruised the area under the tooth, so I should not chew on that side for a while to allow it to heal. After his examination, he charged me ￥5 — $0.73! This was the first dentist visit I have EVER had when I didn’t desperately need one or more cavities filled or something more serious, but this time I had nothing wrong and I had to pay almost 75 cents! He was correct. I haven’t had any more pain from the sore tooth.
Deb: We had invited everyone in the International Office to a dinner at the Big Fish restaurant and we insisted on being the hosts – but asked Yvonne and Lulu to order the food for us. Unfortunately, the weather was close to a blizzard that day and the wind was really brutal, so we cancelled our dinner because we were afraid that we would all be stuck at the restaurant without any cabs running in the bad weather. But immediately after we cancelled our dinner plans, Yvonne, Lulu, and Bruce insisted on trudging to KFC and then trudging to our house with a KFC meal for the 5 of us. So we had a great KFC feast together in our house. What a treat that dinner was – a fun meal with fun people! Next semester we plan to take everyone to dinner when the weather is not so unpredictable.
We were scheduled to leave Weihai early in the morning of January 7. The day before, Vice President Chen invited us to lunch at a fabulous hot pot restaurant which as it turns out is not very far from where we live. The hot pot lunch was wonderful with lots of thinly sliced meats, vegetables, tofu, and seafood. We each had our own hot pot and we could put into it whatever combinations we wanted. I love the sesame sauce to dip the cooked food into. In fact, hot pots are my favorite meal. Finnie says, “Hey, I thought you said that jiaozi’s are your favorites!”
The next morning the university driver picked us up at the agreed upon time of 4 AM. We were surprised and delighted to see Sue there too. Lulu had assigned her the job of accompanying us to the airport to make sure we did not have any communication problems. The driver does not speak English and our Chinese is rudimentary at best, so Lulu thought it the best policy to have Sue accompany us. We love having Sue with us; she is very helpful and very kind to us. But other than the driver having to get us to the airport through a howling blizzard, we had no problems. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, got through security without a problem and waited for our plane to be prepared for take-off. Because of the blizzard there were a large number of workers scraping snow off the tarmac and off the airplane by hand with large brooms. The snow was at least a feet deep on everything, and it took quite a while to de-snow the tarmac and the airplane. Finally we were allowed to get into the plane using the pathway that had been swept off and after everyone was aboard, the de-icing machine sprayed the plane.
We arrived in Beijing, found an office to temporarily store our 2 huge suitcases overnight, and found a taxi to take us to our hotel in Beijing. Lulu had arranged for us to stay in a very nice, small hotel near the Ministry of Education, and we would be able to visit, our friend, Charles, who works at the Ministry this year. The taxi driver really did not know the hotel, so after talking to Lulu on the phone, he was able to get us there. It is actually a long ride from the airport to the middle of Beijing. It was quite cold, and there was snow on the ground. Our mission for our day in Beijing was to do some shopping for gifts.
After checking into our room and resting a bit, we hailed a taxi and asked to go to the silk market. I had been there 2 years before and knew that there were plenty of the things we were looking for there. After searching the 5th floor a couple of times, we finally found the pearl shop I was looking for. And we spent lots of time there and lots of money there. The pearls in this shop are very nice ones and more expensive than the ones on the 4th floor, but since we wanted good quality pearls we wanted to locate this shop. After buying our pearls, we located the handicraft section of the silk market and enjoyed seeing the crafts there.
We returned to the hotel and enjoyed one of the few western meals in a long time – a pizza at Pizza hut – tasted good but really filling. We rested several hours and then met Charles downstairs for dinner. He took us to a beautifully decorated Szechuan restaurant. The three of us had our own little gazebo to eat in inside the restaurant. As I have already stated, Charles is on temporary assignment for one year at the Ministry of Education. He works in the International office of SDUW, but, like Lulu did 2 years ago, he is spending a year at the ministry to develop relationships with the employees there and to learn how the ministry works. Charles was one of the five visitors to Kearney in 2008 and so we enjoyed catching up with him.
The next morning we got another taxi to take us back to the airport; we retrieved our stored luggage and checked into our flight to go back home. We arrived in Fort Worth many hours later with only a slight hiccup at San Francisco. Since the flight was a little late taking off from Beijing and the connection was very tight in San Francisco (and due to the fact that the baggage actually took an hour to get from the plane to the baggage carousel), we missed our flight to DFW and had to wait for the next one. So we arrived home 4 hours later than planned. We have come to expect these delays, so this one was not a big deal. It just makes the whole trip very long and tiring.
The semester abroad was an amazing experience for us! I have never lived abroad before and so for me I gained a completely different perspective about China, about the United States, and about my capabilities of living as a minority in another country. I am so thrilled to have had this experience and I look forward to repeating the experience again in the spring.