Monday, May 26, 2008

Last Post from China

I only have a few minutes for one last post from China, so thought I'd leave you with a photo of me trying sheep eyeballs for the very first time! Yeah, they were delicious -- NOT! I also tried sheep testicles! Now I can say I've tried them and didn't like them!

I have more stories about eating strange things in China; hopefully, I will have time to post some of them when I get home. So much more to tell and just not enough time! We've got another travel adventure ahead of us, too, as we take a taxi to the train station, a sleeper train to Shanghai, then either a bus or another train to the Shanghai airport. It's truly exhausting. Then I've got a 14 hour, overnight flight ahead of me as well. Hm, somehow it's just not sounding so bad when HOME is at the end of it all!

That's it for now; thanks for coming along with me on this incredible journey! Next stop -- The United States of America!!!

Animal Rights in China...

...can be summed up in three words. There aren't any.
Cats and dogs roam the streets. Sometimes they are shooed away with brooms or feet, sometimes they find a handout, once in a great while someone will take partial responsibility for them and bring a meal every few days. Mostly we saw them scavenging, finding scraps of food in the garbage and drinking water from puddles formed when someone threw out the day's wash water.
There is a small trade in animals for pets. In Luoyang there is a row of shops where they sell cats, dogs, mice, hamsters, fish and birds. The conditions in the stores would never be allowed in the U.S. Many of the animals are in cages that are too small, too crowded, open to handling by anyone who comes along, often sitting outside in the hot sun, and with no food or water.

We'd like to have bought every animal and taken it home!

Even these pet shop animals could be considered better off than the cat in the following two photos. She is kept chained to a tree in front of a row of stores where there is heavy foot and bicycle traffic and dogs roaming free. Michael often brings food to feed her. I asked him if the owners minded him doing that and he said, "I don't care if they do or not."

In Zhouzhuang we came across this tiny orange kitten seemingly roaming free outside a small shop. Turned out she kinda belonged to the owner of the shop who said, "she attracts all the foreigners!" Poor little thing barely big enough to walk. We bought some sausage and she attacked it like she'd not eaten in days. We also brought water.
Most of the Chinese walking by looked at us like we were crazy to be so interested in this kitten.
SO tiny!
In that same city we came across a couple who had these strange-looking birds tied to a boat, on display, and they were offering to take photos of people with the birds for money. The poor things were out in the hot sun, panting, tied by the legs to the boat, and not even water to drink.
I snapped a quick photo but the "owners" didn't like that and came rushing over to stop me.
Here is the man coming over to make sure Michael puts his camera away. It's all about making money in China.

In Michael's university classes the students are amazed at the photos of my cats, Jack and Scout, living in my house, fat and healthy, because most have never seen an animal treated as a "pet," let alone as part of a family. Animals are expendable here, and that won't change until China becomes more developed. It's true that portions of the country are seeing amazing growth and prosperity, as anyone who has visited Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong knows. But the rest of China, the major portion of the country for the most part, still live under very harsh conditions.

People can't care about animals until they have enough to eat themselves.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Attending Class in China

Michael took me to his classes as a special guest. He has over 220 students! I think I went to class 4 0r 5 times before I met everyone. Each time when I walked in the door at the beginning of class the students applauded and were all smiles. Everyone wanted to meet "Michael's mom."

In each class we showed pictures of Michael as a little boy, his family and friends, and places in America. I had also scanned a lot of Michael's elementary schoolwork and the class enjoyed seeing the mistakes he made when he was learning to read and write. After the picture show we opened up the session to any questions the students had that they wanted to ask either me or Michael. I can't tell you how often, over the course of all the classes, I was asked whether Michael had been naughty as a little boy! Everyone wanted to know what he was like when he was small.

They were also very interested in my impressions of China, the Chinese people, and life in China. I also got questions about, of all things, women's liberation, and which presidential candidate I favored.
At the end of the classes we passed out the hand-made cards I had brought, and which had been made and donated by a lot of my scrapbooking friends. Beaded bracelets made by California girl scouts, and crisp new dollar bills, were given to the students brave enough to ask me a question. Suddenly I got TONS of questions!
A room full of very attentive students.
At the end of class the students posed with their cards and bracelets. I'm in this photo, too, but you probably can't see me. Let's just say I'm up to my nose in Chinese students!

More of my Birthday in China

As mentioned in a previous post, Michael threw a big birthday party for me at his regular Wednesday night dinner. Many of his friends and colleagues came, there was a fantastic meal, I got presents, and we had a huge cake.Here we are having dinner cooked by Michael and his friends. I met a lot of new people that evening, as well as got to see many that I already knew from my previous trip here, or from attending Michael's classes.
My cake. That's Xiao Rui (Michael's girlfriend) to my left. Not only did I have a big dinner and cake, but I also got treated by Dr. Lee and another doctor, Faye, to a splint for my wrist.They arrived with the splint and sling and, when they realized they didn't have anything to tie the splint on with, they used the laces from a pair of Michael's shoes! Behind us you can see Dr. Lee showing off his new watch -- it takes photographs!
Michael with Faye, Aggie (from Portugal), and Mike from Spain. Faye is Chinese and a doctor here in Luoyang, and Aggie and Mike (also known as Spanish Mike) are also teachers.
Dr. Lee in front. In back is Aggie, Xiao Rui (right next to me), and Faye on the far right. I can't remember the names of the two Chinese girls.That day, Wed'day, was the third day of a three-day mourning period in all of China, in memory of the earthquake victims (which are now numbering over 55,000). One of Michael's friends brought white candles, placed them in a heart shape on the table, and lit them so that we could offer a few moments of silence.
Another birthday cake, this time at a nightclub called "The Image" where many of the foreigners living in Luoyang gather for dinner each Friday evening. This was my "real" birthday so I was treated again to dinner, friends, and a cake. Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me and I blew out the tall, skinny chinese candles. The cakes are not as sweet as in the U.S. but they are very good and have a cream & and fruit filling. And they are huge!
One of the new people I got to meet that evening was Jim Medsea, the original drummer for the 70's rock band "Boston!" That was great fun and I got to sit and talk with him and another friend, Allen, about their experiences living in China. Jim still plays the drums and is going on a revival tour with Boston this summer, but most of the time he lives here in China teaching English to kindergartners! He absolutely loves it here and has no plans to go back to the U.S. on a permanent basis anytime soon.

Hard to believe my visit is winding down soon. I have much more to blog about, though, so stay tuned for photos and description of my "appearances" as a special guest in Michael's classroom, and Animal Rights in China, to name a couple of the upcoming subjects!

Take care, all!

Friday, May 23, 2008

How I Spent my Birthday in China

Natasha and I at the outpatient clinic of the Luoyang Orthopedic Hospital. I think I mentioned in a previous post that she also took a tumble off her bike a couple of weeks ago and hurt her right wrist. Michael's friend, Dr. Lee, is on staff at this hospital so he took both Natasha and I to "his" hospital for x-rays.
Being examined by the "Number One" doctor at the hospital. Before we came in he and another doctor and the nurses were all sitting around reading the newspaper.
Being x-rayed. On the screen you can see the bones in my hand. The doctor is pointing to a crack in one of the bones or, as he called it a "small trouble." So I do have a fracture but it's extremely minor. Natasha's turned out to be a separation of the two bones in her arm, where they meet the wrist.

I was really surprised when Natasha was not given any further treatment, not even a splint??? We couldn't really figure out what the point was to the x-rays when, after a problem was found, nothing was done for her. I didn't need anything; in fact, my wrist had barely bothered me at all, whereas hers is still swollen and painful two weeks after her fall.

Dr. Lee took us on a short tour of the first floor where some of his patients are. There were various broken bones as well as patients recovering from surgery. Not a single hard cast did we see. Seems they don't do that here. For very serious problems, they devise a contraption with sticks, string, strips of cloth, or whatever material is available. Check out the poor guy in this next photo!
For a serious injury, I think I would just have to fly back to the United States! Although, on the other hand, I might be able to afford the medical care here. My x-ray cost $13 yuan, or about $2.00!
Patient rooms are sparse; no frills here, not even curtains between the beds. I suspect that food is provided by the patient's family. And you don't get medical care at all if you can't pay cash up front.
After we were done at the hospital Dr Lee, three of his colleagues, Natasha, Michael, and I went to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Lunch took about two hours and consisted of approximately 20 different dishes, tea, and beer. Literally mounds of food coming out in a steady procession. Soup finally arrived, signalling the end was in sight. By that time I could barely eat a bite more!
Here is what the table looked like as we were on our way out. So much food wasted! It is a sign of wealth to be able to order far more food than is needed, and to leave so much behind. It's a custom I don't care for when there are so many people here without enough to eat.

China is an incredibly interesting country. So many problems yet the government's propaganda machine is very efficient in keeping the people under control.

So that was my birthDAY. That evening we went to a nightclub called "The Image," where a lot of foreigners hang out on Friday nights. There was cake for me with candles and everyone sang to me. Now, we had already had a party for me at Michael's apartment on Wednesday evening where I also had a cake and received lots of gifts and stayed up way too late. It seems I've been celebrating my birthday for a week!

Photos of the celebrations are still on our cameras. Hopefully, I'll get them loaded onto the computer today and then I can post some of them.

This morning Michael got up and said "Happy American Birthday!" since it is now my birthday in America so I guess I'd better continue the celebrating!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

If you don't get hurt you aren't playing hard enough!

On Tuesday we decided to ride bikes into town and make a few small purchases; the university is on the outskirts of Louyang so it's a few miles. We started out with Xiao Rui on the back of Michael's bike, but soon decided that wasn't going to cut it for the distance we were going to go.
It's very typical to see girls riding this way on the back of a bicycle!
It looks decidedly uncomfortable to me!
So we went to a nearby bike rental shack and rented Xiao Rui a bicycle. The rental fee is 1 yuan per hour, which is less than 20 cents.
We met this little boy there who was helping mind the store. He was very friendly and gave Michael a high-five.
The bike rental place was right next to a pool hall where some of the university students were avoiding homework by shooting a little pool. (Seems this pool hall doesn't have a minimum age limit.)
And right across the dirt road from bike rental shop was the bike repair shop where, for a yuan, Michael used the storekeeper's tools to tighten some screws and top off the air in the tires. That's the storekeeper in the background, sitting on the little chair.
At the repair shop we also met this little guy who was having his lunch of rice and vegetables at a small wooden table.
I was riding the blue bicycle pictured above, first in the row. It's a typical Chinese bicycle; half (or more) of the population of Louyang has one just like it. It's old, rusty, loose-jointed, and wobbly, but it gets you where you want to go and is not at all tempting to thieves.

Well, we were cycling merrily along when I got distracted by something, rode up too close behind Michael, and somehow tangled his back tire with my front tire. My front wheel spun to the left and the bike tossed me over handlebars and on to the hard concrete sidewalk. I did a bit of skidding along the right side of my body with my right wrist, ankle and knee taking most of the beating.
We went to a small neighborhood medical clinic to get my knee looked at and hopefully bandaged. The fall took pretty much all the skin off. The man in the blue is the doctor.
I got to endure the swabbing application of several solutions, not one of which I recognized. I THINK one may have been a betadine solution, but I wouldn't swear to it. Hopefully, there was some antiseptic in the mix!
I'd swear that what he's pouring out of this little packet is none other than granulated white sugar! Guess I'll never know for sure. After this he placed a large square gauze on my knee and taped it on with 4 or 5 short strips of adhesive tape. I should have asked him to wrap the tape all the way around my leg because 5 minutes after we got back on our bikes and started riding again the bandage flew off and landed in the gutter! I decided to just do without a bandage and spent the rest of the day swabbing up streams of blood whenever the newly forming scab broke - which was often!

Michael rented another bike for me, so I was a lot more stable, which turned out to be a very good move once we got into town with all the traffic; busses, taxis, cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, and pedestrians going every which way, obeying or ignoring traffic signals as they pleased. Believe me, it's every man for himself on the roads here! I've seen taxi drivers just about mow down old women and babies in strollers. Their blaring horn means "get OUT of the WAY!"

Well, as my title says, if you don't get hurt you aren't playing hard enough. I haven't wanted to miss a thing on this trip and if that means a skinned knee and ankle, and a sprained wrist, so be it!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Friendship Cards in Luoyang, China

This post is especially for my friends at, the WestCoastScrap yahoo group, and for ErinW.'s Girl Scout troop, for their talent and generosity in making and donating gorgeous friendship cards and beaded bracelets:
Michael held a special combined class session for his students at which I was a special guest. At the end he and I passed out the beautiful hand-made friendship cards, then we asked them to pose for a photo. They were more than enthusiastic to do so and held their cards high in the air. They LOVED the cards! They kept saying "made by hand?" "Made in America?" "Thank you, thank you!" "I love it!"

During the class we gave out some of the bracelets, too, as a reward for any student brave enough to stand up and ask me a question - in English, of course. So many are so shy! We had crisp one dollar bills for the guys in the class. After the first few students had asked questions and received a bracelet, more and more students were suddenly much braver! Everyone wanted a bracelet (one girl asked if she could have two but we had to say no since so many girls wanted one) and the guys were eager for the dollar bills. We ran out of time before they ran out of questions so we promised we would have another question/answer session at their next class meeting. Erin, please tell your girl scout troop that the girls here are wearing their bracelets all over campus and showing them off to their friends!

So, my friends, your handmade gifts were extremely popular, happily received, and will be treasured for a long, long time to come!

Among the students' vocabulary words for the day: scrapbook, and Girl Scouts.

Oh, and, believe it or not, I'm in the photo, too, but am so thoroughly surrounded by students that I'm all but invisible!

Monday, May 19, 2008


A city over 900 years old; I could spend days here just photographing the buildings, river, bridges and people. Fascinating! Here are just a few of the photos I took.