Finnie: May 23. On the way back from Jinan, in addition to the speed at which we were traveling and bouncing, I noticed the awesome agriculture we were passing through. It was almost completely rural countryside with vistas the size of those in Nebraska, but instead of monocultures of crops with a typical field size of at least a quarter section, these vast fields were minicultures of a wide range of crops, with a typical field size of maybe 2,500 square meters. One got the impression that each plant receives individual care. I think maybe I was the only person who noticed and enjoyed this beautiful scenery, but I am glad I noticed.
May 24. Flower day! Yvonne passed her Masters’ thesis defense with flying colors on Saturday while we were in or on the way to Qufu! So, Deb and I thought that she deserved a little bouquet of flowers. (Later, we learned that Lulu expressed a little envy about the flowers, but the flowers were to congratulate Yvonne on her excellent performance in defending her thesis, after all. And it was not much — just a little bouquet.) Well, … you’ll never guess… The day started out with Lulu and Yvonne’s favorite breakfast – Chinese doughnuts and sweetened soy milk!
The story continues: in mid-afternoon, a mighty commotion broke out over by the tea table! Lulu, in the middle, Yvonne and Zheng on each side, ecstatically reading a card and looking at a bouquet of red flowers. So, naturally, I strolled over to check out the excitement. Lulu had received a bouquet of 21 red roses from a gentleman whom she had met recently at a bank! I asked Yvonne, "why 21?" She said, "21 red roses means ‘true love!’" So, certainly not doubting Yvonne’s answer, but out of pure academic interest in the concept of 21 red roses, I Googled it. Here is what I found: " What’s the meaning of 21 Roses? Truth Love. When in doubt, send roses, because roses are always right. And each rose color means something different: red roses (love), yellow roses (friendship), white roses (respect), and so on." http://www.yeflowers.com/21-Roses/, and I learned that there are other combinations with special meanings, too. If interested, follow the link.
Now, Zheng was feeling left out, so Yvonne graciously shared!
May 25. Welcome to James Madison University students here for a summer session abroad. About 25 students from James Madison University arrived during the weekend and on Monday to begin a summer session of study in Weihai. In this type of program, students take courses offered by James Madison faculty and SDUW faculty over a 5-6 week academic session. So, we had a small welcome banquet for them. They were excited to begin their study and adventure in Weihai, and it was a lot of fun to meet them and share the meal! They are studying (with maybe a smidge of partying) during the week and touring during weekends!
May 28. Murray State University (my personal university — "Murray," get it??) friends and everyone from the office were invited to visit Jing and Zheng’s house during rest period on Friday. They have a brand-new apartment on the 7th floor of a residential complex only a few blocks from our house. The 7th floor has the advantage of a "free" second floor! It was beautiful, and we all had a great time — until I poured a glass of orange juice into my sandal — and on their sofa and floor. So sorry, Zheng!
After the visit, I had to take my regular Chinese lesson, and Sue and I began to hear gales of laughter from the conference room across the hall. So, after the class, we went to check it out, and found that the "Murrays" were learning Chinese paper cutting. I was amazed that they had actually (under guidance of an expert) produced really pretty paper cuttings. Their teacher, an art student, had done a painting for Murray State and she brought some of her own paper cuttings as well. I wish there was some teeny little bit of talent and/or artistic ability somewhere in my genetic makeup so I could produce something even slightly appealing!
Deb: May 30. Finnie’s Birthday and Tea Party: We woke up late to a rainy morning. We started working on our various projects – Finnie on Chinese and this blog, and me on preparing for the next week’s class lecture. About 9:30 just as we were settled at our computers, Amy called and invited us to lunch and tea. Of course, we said. We would love to have lunch with you! So Amy, along with Lucy, picked us up at our apartment. Lucy, a faculty member of the translation and interpretation department here at SDUW, has just returned for the summer from her first year of teaching Chinese at UNK. Lucy is energetic, inquisitive, and a good friend of Amy and Frank’s. (By the way, since Finnie used Frank as a name for Amy’s husband in this blog, Amy and others refer to him as Frank now!) We arrived at Amy and Frank’s other house. We did not know they had two houses. This house is not a university house and is one they owned before moving into their faculty house. They have turned the living room into a tea room with a large table, tea tray, a huge assortment of teas and light refreshments to eat with the tea. It is a bright room with the feel of a peaceful garden. We arrived and learned that Zoe was there as well and one of Frank’s best students and her parents were there. Everyone brought something to share at lunch – wish I had known to bring something. Next time I will know! We had a wonderful potato salad with shrimp, dried fish, jiaozi’s, homemade bread, turnip salad, a fungus salad, fresh corn drink, fresh apple drink, and several other dishes I am embarrassed to not remember. And there was not one dish that did not taste wonderful! The women at this lunch are mighty fine cooks!
After lunch we sat down at the tea table and whiled away the afternoon drinking tea, telling stories, talking about life in Weihai and Kearney, and listening to Frank’s music student play two pieces exquisitely on the piano. Soon Zoe had to leave to meet some students for a private English lesson, the music student and her parents left to attend to some other business. Frank called an acquaintance sometime during this time to invite her over for tea. We were unaware of this arrangement and suggested that we really needed to go home. But no, you can not because this lady (Ms. Song) is coming over for tea and to take us to get a foot massage. It is these times we worry whether we are wearing out our welcome. We opted this time to risk wearing out our welcome because of the temptation of a foot massage for me.
Finnie’s attitude toward foot massages was pretty low – the last one he had was painful and unpleasant but interesting. Anyway, we soon arrived at the “best foot massage store” in town. It is actually a chain of stores throughout China that has a good reputation. Two huge chairs were moved into the room so that six of us could sit together in one room. We each had a massage expert assigned to us and soon the 90 minute process began. Carefully massaging hands and wrists, the massagers worked on eliminating tension in the wrist and forearms. Then moving to the feet that had been soaking in warm tea water for 15 minutes, they carefully and with strong hand and arm muscles massaged every muscle, tendon, and joint in each foot. There are pressure points in each foot that are associated, they say, with ailments in other parts of your body. My massager found many points that hurt – a lot! The points related to my sore right shoulder and neck, other points related to my sore hip. Additionally, the pressure points related to my headaches on the right side of my head were all identified by this massager. He asked me about them and through body language and translation provided by Lucy, we understood each other. Getting back to Finnie – as his massager was working her strong fingers over his feet, Finnie happily remarked, “We have to come back here – this is great!” So I gathered his apprehension had disappeared! He has since told me that the massage of his right hand has made his right wrist feel less painful than it has in years! Whatever she found that was out of alignment , she apparently was able to offer some relief to his wrist!
Meanwhile, as the massaging was continuing, there was much chatter among the 6 of us – actually 5 of us because Amy took a nap while her feet were being massaged. Frank was having a grand time and telling all his favorite stories to Ms. Song, the woman who arrived later in the afternoon.
The final step in the massage process is to get a back and shoulder rub. Heavenly! My back has been knotted up for weeks because I hunch over a computer so much. My massager and Finnie’s (which he told me about later) helped make our backs feel so much better than they had in weeks. 90 minutes ended and we put our shoes on, found a bathroom (all that tea had to go somewhere!) and after collecting business cards (so we can get ourselves back there), we headed out again. During the massage we had been talked into going to dinner with Ms. Song. She insisted on it! So we headed to a restaurant way downtown that serves really good seafood, dumplings, steamed bread and other goodies. Even though we were very full from all the lunch, tea, and snacks from the afternoon, this dinner was wonderful! Fortunately not too many dishes were ordered – pumpkin soup, dumplings, steamed bread that was made by winding noodle shaped dough into large bread loaves, pickled bamboo salad, beef and vegetables, and scallion pancakes. Yummy! After it appeared that the toasting had been done, I asked if I could offer a toast – of course!!! So I said, I would like to thank our hosts today for a grand day of friendship, food, and drink and I want to wish Finnie a happy birthday!! At which point, our host hops up and goes out to order two bowls of longevity noodles for us, because Finnie told everyone it was my birthday on June 1. Many toasts and wishes for good luck and happiness followed. The bowls of noodles arrived. Longevity noodles are one continuous noodle that is boiled and placed in a bowl on your birthday for you to consume. If you eat the noodle, then you will have a long and happy life. We consumed our noodles!
We headed home. It was late, we were tired, but what a grand day with our family of friends! Thank you all for a fabulous 67th birthday for Finnie! [and thank YOU, Deb, for repeatedly mentioning it…. you, too advanced another year two days later, as I recall.]
May 31. KTV: Finnie had alerted me and reminded me several times during the week before that we were going to the Mei-Le-Di (Pronounced “melody”) KTV (karaoke) club near our house with the International Ed office group on Monday, May 31 after work. And of course I did not put the invitation together with the fact that that is the day in-between our birthdays (I am known for my inclination toward non-sentimentality). I arrived in the office in plenty of time and waited while everyone got ready to go. Number one question was, “Where do you want to go for supper?” This was from Lulu and the obvious answer was “KFC”. So that is where we went – Yvonne, Lulu, Eye Candy, Sue, Isaac, Zheng, Finnie and me. What a group that made ranging in ages from 21 to the newly minted 67 year old. [Thanks again, Deb!] We arrived at the KTV place and Yvonne rushed over to the desk and paid our entrance fee and said “Room 306”. So we climbed the stairs to find our room. It turned out to be a large living room with a large comfortable sofa, huge tea table, large flat screen TV, super sound system with microphones, and a computer console to select the songs to play. The songs began to play and Isaac started joyfully singing to a Carpenters song. Pretty soon we all joined in while the attendants of that section of the KTV brought in bottled water for everyone. Yvonne and Lulu selected a bunch of songs and we sang and giggled our way through several of them. The songs all had videos with them – some videos with the singers singing the songs, some videos were just landscape scenes. But all the videos had the song lyrics on the screen making it easier to sing along – like singing along with Mitch Miller, if you recall that popular 1950’s TV show. The console allowed you to just show the video and lyrics and you had to sing in tune to the song, or in some cases you could choose to have the instrumental part of the song playing, or you could choose to have the singer singing, the instruments playing, and the words on the TV so that there would be more of a chance of singing in tune.
It turns out that Eye Candy and Lulu have wonderful singing voices and Isaac enthusiastically sings romantic ballads with great stage presence! The songs were in several languages – Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese and English. As I sat there listening to the practiced singers and the video, I realized that this is a great way to learn Chinese – sing along in Chinese to songs you already know! It was gratifying to actually recognize more than a few characters!
Then several of the group left the room – and pretty soon arrived back with a birthday cake and flaming candles, a prettily wrapped gift and a fruit tray. The KTV console was programmed to play “happy Birthday” and soon we had a great birthday party!!!! Finnie and I blew out the candles together after making a wish and then opened our gift. This is the sweetest gift ever! It turns out that Lulu took a picture of us the day we arrived back in September while having lunch at the noodle shop we go to a lot now. Our picture had been copied onto a block of glass that was heart shaped and the saying that is on the image says in Chinese: “Dear Fen ni and Dai-bo-la, Happy Birthday from the Kids in the International education Office”. It was overwhelmingly sweet and it was hard to hold back the tears (Finnie: … and she didn’t hold them back! Thanks for making us cry!.).
We cut the cake – a prettily decorated heart shaped cake with huge pink roses and fruit decoration on top. Everyone had a piece along with some red wine and we continued the song-fest until nearly 10 PM! There are at least 100 pictures from the evening and ten 1-3 minute videos, but below is only a quick sampling of this incredible evening with our family of friends!
Finnie: So, this brings us to the first of June! Deb and I have decided to stop having so many fun experiences! They just take so much time to write (and for anyone who reads them, too!)
OK, if you believe that,, I have a clean, cream puff Yugo in excellent mechanical condition! If you are interested let me know. I think I can part with it just a little shy of 2,000,000 RMB!
Oops! I forgot, we are off to Xi’an and Guilin on Friday for 6 days, so we may need to wait until after that to start the “experience deprivation diet." Oh! but wait again. Kathy and Micheal are getting married on July 17 – so after that…