January 10 – March 29, 2010
Visit home in Texas and North Carolina. On January 7, Deb and I returned to the USA to visit family and to allow Deb to see her doctors about her hip and leg problems. Her stepfather died just as we got back to the U.S. and although we were aware that he was progressively experiencing more and more health problems, it was sad to come home to that outcome.
Deb began a long series of doctor visits and checkups. And in a few weeks, her mother, Vel, and my sister, Helen, visited us for the purpose of looking at possible places where Vel might want to live. She found a place she liked very much that isn’t too far from our home. I went back to North Carolina to help Vel pack for the move and to drive her car to her new home. Meanwhile Deb continued to receive medical attention. I also visited my sons and their families in North Carolina and my sisters and their family. Granddaughters Bergen and Athena are growing quickly, so I treasure every moment I have with them! This process of packing and visiting took three weeks, and by the time I got back to our home, it was almost time for me to return to Weihai. Deb planned to stay in the U.S. for an extra month to have physical therapy. I got back to Weihai on February 27, in order to begin work on Monday, March 1. My trip was uneventful, and flights were on-time and no luggage was lost!
Ebike purchase. One of the things that Deb’s orthopedic surgeon told her was that a lot of her pain was due to bursitis of her hip and that riding a bicycle and walking are very bad for bursitis, so he told her to try to stay off her feet and not to ride her bike any more. This was quite a surprise to us because Deb always feels better after riding her bicycle. But, bottom line, I was shopping for an electric motor scooter for her soon after I got back to Weihai. Fortunately there are many options for electric bikes here. One expedition in this quest resulted in Lulu taking me to RT Mart (Darunfa), which not only has ebikes, but a great selection of western foods. So, I was able to buy coffee, cheddar cheese, good butter, yoghurt, and other items difficult to find nearer home. Yes, indeed, they also had a great selection of electric scooters, but they weren’t for sale. The store is apparently changing from one ebike brand to another. So, it was a mixed trip — some needed and desired food items, but no ebike. We did take advantage of the visit at RT Mart to visit KFC. So the world’s foremost KFC fan and I had lunch there! We made three or four other stops to see various brands of ebikes, but we thought we should look further before buying. On a subsequent trip, we found a dealer pretty near our house with a great price and a nice looking bike that is made here in Shandong near Weihai, so I decided we needed to look no further. This one had everything I was looking for and at a more favorable price! Anyway, we asked the dealer to deliver it to the International Education Office, and he did so that very afternoon, March 15. Naturally, I needed to try it out thoroughly before Deb got back, and gleefully did so!
Dinner with my fall Biology class. On Tuesday, March 2, I received a call from one of the members of my fall class, Gade, who Invited me to dinner with he, some other class members, and their academic advisor, Dr. Li. We agreed that Sunday evening would be a good time for all, and so we met at the Marine Science Building and departed from there. They took me to the “King of Dumplings” restaurant down near the beach. The name is very appropriate. The dumplings and everything else was wonderful. (Have I mentioned the good food here in Weihai? ). We had a great time talking about the class, research projects and just visiting!
Eye Candy stars in Performance Celebrating International Women’s Day. On Monday, March 8, in the afternoon, there was a celebration of International Women’s Day, and many performances by faculty and staff were given, so it was very enjoyable event. Our own Eye Candy, and three other faculty, gave a very funny “Three and a Half Sentences” performances. It this format, someone makes a statement, then the next person makes a statement, then the third does so. Finally the half sentence (in this case always given by the woman), provides the comedy. So, the three sentences in each of about 15 sets were in praise of the women who work in various capacities on campus. In each case the half-sentence was delivered by the woman, and I gather it was truly funny because everyone who understood Chinese seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. It was great to see our friend, Joy – in the center of the photo, receiving an award during the ceremony!
Weihai Weather. The weather in Weihai was very cold through the first three weeks of March – actually colder than back in December and early January. So, it seemed quite brutal to be out riding on bicycle – pedal or electric most of the time, and I stayed at home to keep as warm as possible when I wasn’t at work. I was glad that Deb didn’t have to deal with the raw cold weather here during that time. It has been warmer since she returned, although she doesn’t fully appreciate that fact. She thinks it is still cold! Well, the fact is that Euless, Texas is quite a bit warmer than Weihai China. Not surprisingly, people here assure us that this is a very unusual winter for weather!
English Story Telling Contest. On Friday, March 19, I had been asked to assist in judging the campus final English Story Telling and Hosting competition. This is a competition for non-English majors, and it is the first phase of a national contest. Winners here at SDUW will compete at the provincial level, and winners there will compete at the national level. So, Zoe, who was organizing the local competition asked for a foreigner to help judge. I was the available foreigner for that night. The competition had actually begun earlier with about 180 contestants and in a series of preliminary sessions, the number of contestants was down to 20 for this evening. Similarly, the hosting competition — which is a contest for people with the English fluency, stage presence, and grace to be effective and entertaining hosts at such performances – had been narrowed down to 4 contestants. I was totally amazed by the hosts and the story-tellers. The stories were so interesting and in many cases, so very moving that it was a real pleasure to listen to them. Fortunately, there was a scoring strategy that forced one to rate about 6 aspects of each story as it was told and 7-8 elements of the hosting as it occurred, so rating the contestants was an objective process, not requiring weighing one performance against the others directly. Since there were around eight judges, the overall scores were averages of all judges’ ratings. I was so very impressed. Not only did the contestants tell very interesting stories that were not in their native language with elements and perspectives that were not necessarily native to them, but they were incredibly effective in expressing the appropriate emotions and expressions throughout their stories. Some stories were classic tales from Aesop’s Fables to The Princess and the Pea, or more contemporary subjects, like something from Harry Potter or traditional Chinese stories told with western perspectives and English expression! The host and hostesses were equally impressive, so the evening went by quickly in spite of a very cold auditorium.
I made a big hit on stage, myself, that evening! To my surprise, I was invited to present the overall winner award on stage. So, I got up and went to the stage. As I climbed the step to the stage, I bumped my toe against the top step and stumbled, and that caused my first step onto the stage floor to be an effort to regain my balance. My leather-soled shoes found no traction, so I slipped and fell – hard and loudly. Thanks to God, there are no photos! It was a very embarrassing event. I wasn’t hurt physically, and when I got up, I presented the award to the (now) unfortunate and embarrassed winner!
My diet in Deb’s Absence. I have been eating pretty well, I have to admit. Oatmeal for breakfast with a cup of coffee is a great way to start a day alone or with a glass of plain of yoghurt. For lunch, I go and get a bunch of the most delicious meat pies you can imagine: Shengui beef and pork pies. I eat what I want and freeze the remainder for later meals. Also, I have found delicious pineapple halves — peeled and with a stick to hold them — are wonderful and very inexpensive. Strawberries, grown in greenhouses here in this part of Shandong are on the grocery shelves, and they are both delicious and inexpensive. Also, mangoes are in huge supply in all the groceries, and they are wonderful! Of course, no week would be complete without several meals with roujiamo. Alternatively, I have delicious beef noodles, either a large bowl alone or a small bowl with a chicken leg or something similar. (When it is really cold, these are unbeatable to warm you right up!) For dinner, every few days, I make toast with melted cheddar cheese and put a fried egg or two on the slices to make a great tasting meal. I also eat a lot of fruit and use stored sandwiches (Shengui pies and/or roujiamo). I drink a lot of tieguanyin tea, Coke Zero, milk.
The blog. I started the blog in early March. The objectives are to share our experiences with everyone (so I reedited my diary to post entries for last semester. This took a while, but now, the amount of material posted may look intimidating due to its volume.), provide advice to students interested in studying in America or to come to China to study, and to provide information about Shandong University at Weihai. SDUW students have asked that I write a separate blog about American life – especially what we do for holidays and family life. So, I have plenty of topics to cover, I think.
English Conversations. We started the Sunday afternoon English conversations again in early March, and several new participants have joined us! We’ve discussed movies, hand gestures, and we have begun to discuss locations in the US that are of particular interest to participants. This may develop into a long project. Right now, many students are completing their applications for study in the U.S., so there has been a good deal of interest in improving their English listening and speaking abilities. Regular participants include Dai Yanan, Gu Mingxuan, Hu Yang, Zhang Conghui, Hou Zhenyong, Hu Guonan, Jia Hongfu, and Liu Chunli.
Deb’s back! Deb left on March 22 for a marathon set of flights from Dallas Ft. Worth to San Francisco, to Beijing, to Yantai, and then car the ride to Weihai. The total travel, including layovers, was 31.5 hours. She was tired when she got home! She actually arrived in Beijing right on time – 5:00 P.M. China time. However, her flight to Yantai was delayed, so she had to wait in Beijing for 6.5 hours, but during that time, our friend, Pian, who was returning from Beijing to Weihai saw her at the gate, so they visited and Pian offered to bring her to our house. That was very fortunate because Deb was very weary, so it was helpful to have a friend to talk with while they waited. Also, I was able to tell our driver that he did not have to drive over to Yantai at midnight! Downside: I wouldn’t see Deb until she and Pian got here, which they did at 2:30 A.M. on March 24. Thanks Pian!
We spent that Thursday resting and in the afternoon, Deb test drove her new ebike. She was very glad to have it and she was very excited about it, but she was also it little nervous about the new experience of riding an bike that requires no pedaling! Eventually, she felt confident enough to go to the Supermarket, so she rode her ebike and I my pbike (pedal bike) to HaiYue, and we got a lot of supplies. She has been getting better and more confident with the bike ever since.
Foreign Study Program. Friday evening, March 26, SICA (International Student Association here at Weihai) had a dinner to honor the foreign exchange students, who are Korean and Japanese. There are other nationalities here, of course, but I gather that only Japanese and Korean universities are actually sending students here in formal exchange programs. Anyway, the program and dinner were great fun, and the students performed both serious and humorous songs and skits. Afterward, it was time to go outside and light the hot-air (due to a burning lump of fuel) paper lanterns to watch them ascend into the night sky. Big problem: The wind was very strong and my lantern was destroyed by the wind before we could light the fuel. A few lanterns actually became air-borne and rose up and out over Golden Bay. In addition, it was chilly there in the wind, and not only did my Texas spouse think she was freezing, but so did Lulu and Yvonne! In addition, Deb was about to fall asleep sitting in the chair, so she was ready to go home! It was a great time, nonetheless.
Swan Lake. On Saturday, Zoe invited us to drive out to see the swans that stop off here on their way back to Siberia for the summer. Friends from Zoe’s hometown, who are both doctors in Municipal Hospital Number 2, provided the transportation, although the husband had to be back at work and was unable to go with us to the lake. Their son, George – a college student at Harbin Institute of Technology here in Weihai — was with us, so there were 5 altogether. Dr. Munn drove us out to the area with the wind turbines we had seen last fall, but we soon took a side road to a couple quaint towns that are in the Weihai prefecture, and stopped a one near a shipyard. The bay next to the town looked to be about a mile across and there were six huge swans merrily swimming around accepting grain from visitors and otherwise relaxing. Apparently the bulk of the swans has already departed to Siberia where it isn’t so hot — i.e., still frozen. It was really a cool place (and interesting, too)!
Dr. Munn took us to visit some hot spring water spas where Deb might be able to have hot water to continue her therapy. We visited several and Deb decided that one was just right — but unfortunately it was the farther away from our house than any others. (subsequently Lulu and Yvonne told us that they frequent a spa that is actually in our neighborhood, so Deb and they will try that one this evening and Deb and Zoe will go to the other one later this week.
Finally, Dr. Munn took out to dinner at a Yunnan rice noodle restaurant in the downtown area of Weihai. Delicious! We were stuffed and exhausted when we got home. By the way, Dr. Munn is an accomplished ophthalmologist, who does all kinds of procedures for vision, including LASIK surgery. Good to know!
Hopefully, Deb will be over the jet lag this week. She starts her classes tomorrow!