Back in Dalian....

Well, we're back and into another year in Dalian. After a long exhausting flight from Vancouver, we landed late in Beijing. Fortunately our flight to Dalian was also late, so arrived that night. Welcomed by a very grumpy taxi driver who swore a blue streak at us (according to Sam!) for having so much luggage (we even took 2 cabs), and then drove like a race car driver. I prayed non-stop, not wanting to die our first night back.

I started teaching on Monday at 8am.
On arriving we learned that our School had accepted 200 new students but hadn't hired new teachers - so we were being strongly pressured to teach extra classes. Fortunately, some stalling by us worked - they found other teachers and we don't have to teach extra classes. Although.... I do have a lot more students in my Environment and Business class this year.

We've had some of the usual blues in arriving back. Its hard to adjust to the crowded streets where cars have the right of way, the crazy bureaucratic rules, and most difficult for me, not being able to speak Chinese. ;-(

We've almost got our new home on the 9th floor unpacked and organized. Of course our dear Teng Shu Li had prepared a lot of it for us! Its quite comfy and has an extra room for visitors. It also has new things to learn about - like a hot water tank that has a timer (in Chinese) and a bathroom that really begins to smell at night. Sigh. And there are the early morning marching sounds at 6am of the local college, and at night, sometimes the Chinese music for the outdoors dance class wafts through. I really should join a class - that would certainly be a way to get to know our 'neighbours'!

Within the first few days the "Angel of (building) 32" came around to check in and make sure we knew that we would now need a new electronic key to get in the complex. (The sign is only up in Chinese!). She's also helped me cope with my allergies, which have been Really awful this month. A few days i haven't wanted to get out of bed, and I'm just feeling miserable. Between her and my other TCM doctor, I've now tried just about every type of immune-enhancing Chinese remedy there is. Acupuncture, acupressure, cupping, scrapping, blood-letting, massage, sauna, drinking astragalus tea, tea from corn silk, forgoing coffee (!) in addition to the various western drugs (which also also only work sometimes). And last night one of our student friends helped me order an air filter on taobao. Desperation. She happens to be doing her paper on air filters, so was very useful!

View from our living room on a rare clear day.

view from our kitchen.

Will say good night for now, as the allergies are exhausting me, and I need to go soak my feet in hot water!

Spring and May in Dalian

May 22nd in Dalian. The weather has been nice, although pretty dry which must be worrying for the farmers, and the city water guys. I have read that one area of China is experiencing the most severe drought in 200 years, which is explaining the high cost of fruit. Sam's teacher bought local blueberries today - apparently she ordered them! Are they from greenhouses??
Sam also got 100% in his math quiz at school - the only student in his class to do so! Whoo hoo!
Here are a few pics from a wander we had around town, and a few days we spent with our Ottawa visitors.

A Hospital Experience

I sometimes have bumps grow on my head which are sebaceous cysts. Although harmless, they start to look annoying, so I've had them removed in Canada. As its not a medical necessity, it cost about $200 a few years ago. So I decided I would brave up, and get the same thing done in China - if nothing else, it would give me something to write about! I also have a lovely friend here who has access to a driver and van (husband has a well paying job!) so she was able to accompany me to the hospital and the recommended surgeon. Well....

Difference number one: We got to the hospital and found the surgeon's office (conveniently signed "Waist Leg Sore Department" on one side and the other sign saying "Anus Intestines Room".... of course that's where the surgeon would be!). Opened the door, and Dr. Wang was reading a newspaper and drinking tea. No line up or other patients!! Took a look at my "bump" and said he could do it. So I went down to the cashier with the nurse and paid my 702rmb in cash. (It was definitely more expensive than I expected.) We then received a clean needle and the local anaesthetic from the pharmacy and trotted back to the office. Other items, such as disinfectants, are in glass bottles which line the old wooden desk.

I must say I was a little hesitant about all this as the cleanliness standards in hospitals here are much below what we're used to. Bathrooms are pretty dirty (and no hot running water or soap) and even the doctor's gown was dirty. However, I haven't heard of anyone dying from a small operation.... and my friend was there to make sure things were OK.....In fact, I changed my mind about the antibiotics. In Canada I don't think I took any, but decided to take them here post op, as a precautionary step....

Dr. Wang cut the bump open (after using a large pair of scissors to cut a bit of hair) and then pinned things back. The anaesthetic stopped the pain, although I could feel the scrapping and then the the stitches being sewn up. ug.
Difference number two: He used thread rather than dissolving stitches so I'll have to get them taken out. (Maybe Jay can try his hand!) Afterwards they secured a patch on with paper clips!! (Didn't get a patch in Canada). I'm supposed to keep it on for 6 days and not wash my hair, but think that may be too extreme!

My friend took me home in the van and fed me delicious cheese sandwiches, homemade biscotti and tea, and then tucked me into bed with a few painkillers. Difficult sleeping last night, but think I'll be OK... will just have to wear a hat for a few days!

A visit to the Dentist

Sam's tooth has been hurting for the last week, so we decided we should take him to the dentist. We had been told that a neighbourhood clinic had a dentist who spoke English so off we went last Monday. The clinic is open for business every day except Monday! So this afternoon (Friday) we showed up again. I don't think you can make appointments - you just show up. We paid 5rmb for a little tray of the instruments - packaged so I assumed they had been sterilized. I think this covered the check up also, as there seemed to be no other charge. The dentist was very friendly, and four other woman in nurse-type outfits also watched; at least one of whom was another dentist. (It was a slow day I guess!)
Two cavities. They don't freeze your mouth for fillings, but he promised it wouldn't hurt! Sam was pretty brave, and it didn't hurt much. Three others and myself watched. The office was clean and modern looking and they used the same "filling" goop that they do in America. And it cost 90rmb for each filling - about $15. Jay and I may head off there for a cleaning some day soon, as the price is definitely more in line with our Chinese salaries than a visit in Canada!

April in Dalian

April in Dalian means Tomb Sweeping Day, for which we had April 4 and 5 off, and then it was Sam's birthday. Sam had his party on the 5th with 9 other young boys. Jay tried to get a soccer game, but not all wanted to play, but they finally all played "Capture the flag". Lovely weather outside. Came back for pizza and a DQ frozen ice cream cake. boys were better behaved inside than they are in Canada (or maybe cause they didn't all know each other); but didn't play as well together outside. Birthdays are more low key here.

On the 6th we went out to our favourite restaurant, Cafe Copenhagen, for dinner with Sam's "big brother". I enjoyed really good lamb, and Sam loved his pasta. Zhang Cheng found it rather tiring to with a knife and fork, and the food an odd combination of items!

Sam's chinese continues to increase - and in fact he sometimes dreams in Chinese!!! He's not translating when he speaks, he's just communicating. And he had a BIG victory last week - raised his hand and answered a math question on the blackboard in math class!! The math tutoring has really helped....

Oh - kinda of cute... his best buddy at school is a very sweet Russian boy, Ilya. They speak chinese together. Chinese friends must find it very odd to see these two foreigners playing in Chinese!

February Holiday
We had a wonderful holiday in vietnam. Travelled to Hanoi where we stayed a few nights, then took the train to Hoi'An where we got to meet up with neighbourly friends from Ottawa (Hello Dan!) and discovered that his wife really exists; and also met up with friends from Australia. Enjoyed the food, biking and change of pace. Then took the train to Saigon for a few days. Then onto Hong kong for a really inspiring "family reunion" with friends from around china, before heading off for Pilgrimage.


Pics of Pilgrimage in mid February... a truly wonderful nine days spent reflecting, praying, and getting spiritually recharged. Here are some pics and comments.

Its the season for lots of good strawberries though, as well as mangoes, papayas and pineapples on the market so am enjoying lots of fruit!

(no subject)

The "Reunification Express" train that goes from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh

It’s a rainy grey morning. We’re headed south from Hanoi on the train to Danang where we’ll debarking and heading for Hoi’An. I’m on my second cup of coffee. Its so wonderful to be able to have good strong coffee! And I like how the Vietnamese have it – with a dollop of condensed milk.

We’re passing many many rice fields, sometimes with water buffalo walking by and sometimes we see the farmers in the water doing something with the rice. But there is so much water everywhere!

I’m loving the food. We had wonderful wraps the last few lunches. They serve some small noodles and tasty meat bits to put inside the thin rice paper and then you pile it up with lots of fresh green leaves, mint, slices of cucumber etc.. Its all so fresh and beautiful looking – and tasty! And, such a great change from Chinese food. And thank goodness the Vietnamese, after they threw the French colonialist rulers out, kept their pastry and cake cuisine. We’ve been really enjoying tangy lemon tarts – another flavour you can’t find in China – and buttery croissants.
We were in the “Old quarter” of Hanoi where there were lots of galleries with wonderful paintings, silk shops, lacquered bowls etc.. Although touristy, its wonderful to see so much artsy stuff. There seems to be a dearth of art in China. Dalian is a “second tier” city of 5 million, and yet there aren’t any dance or theatre companies, only a few movie theatres and very few art galleries. Thousands of small shops but I think the most beautiful things are the silks that you can find at the large fabric store – Er Qi. Perhaps that’s why I like going there. One dear friend, who was once a tailor, says that she goes to the fabric stores for her “retail therapy” when things feel challenging!

Hanoi is a collage of colour and houses all piled high in a higgledy piggle fashion, with thousands of motorbikes crossing all the streets. Our first day with a student guide (a really cool organization that provides student guiding services so students have practices speaking English) he taught us how to slowly cross the street letting the bikes go around you. Slow and steady … but it was rather unnerving!

More pics of Vietnam

Yes, there really are lots of people with the famous hat, and lots of motorbikes - and below that a delicious "pancake" we put in wraps.