Answering the big question…Was it worth it???

December1

Our stay in China has come to an end after 5 months. It has been an interesting and valuable experience. Medically speaking, I feel that the treatments have had some benefits. I did not get the miracle cure that I once may have hoped for, but I found other things. I found out how to better manage my condition; what makes it better and what makes it worse. I found out that I get results when I stick to my regular strengthening exercises, and that when I slack off it shows. I have learned that daily meditation is my greatest ally and that my brain needs to be ‘turned off’ for a while every day. Most importantly, though, is something that I already knew was confirmed; a positive mindset goes a long way to healing and feeling better. When doubt or anger or impatience clouded my mind, I did not show any progressive results. When my thoughts were positive I did. So I am happy to be at more or less a similar state as I was 5 months ago, which in my opinion is a positive when all I have been promised in the West is a steady decline of health. I am continuing my daily herbal tea (or capsules) and hope to continue on this path of positive progression.
Also, it is always worth it. The things that my family and I have experienced, seen, tasted, touched and lived were like no other in our lives. As always, life is an adventure…!
There is beauty in life

Climbing to new heights

October13

Our next adventure was a 46 hour train ride from Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet. We travelled in relative comfort, in a self-contained cabin with 4 beds. They are called the ‘soft sleepers’ but soft is NOT how I would describe the beds. The train ran along the recently completed world’s highest railway line, at a cost of 4.1 billion USD. The Chinese government certainly has some cash to spend. During the last 24 hours the train elevation averaged about 3800m, topping out at 5070m. During this section the train has supplemental oxygen piped into the cars, but not enough to prevent the usual headache. There were several interesting travellers in our train car, and we spent some time chatting with them in the dining car. We were the only foreigners who had any sort of ability to speak Chinese, so we were asked to help with meal ordering by many of the others. Amazing how even a 30-50-word vocabulary can be immensely valuable.
Breakfast in the dining car
The landscape that we passed through was breathtaking. It began as desert-like peaks, similar to Kamloops, BC but larger, then we climbed up to the wide-open plateau with short grasses and turquoise lakes.
Desert mountainscape
Lake Qinghai
Climbing even higher brought us through a rugged, forbidding landscape; high winds, ever-present snow and little vegetation. Throughout the train ride were tiny settlements, where people eke out a living with their cattle, yaks and sheep.
Barren landscape
Descending down towards Lhasa we arrived back in the treeline. The settlements turned into small villages and agriculture supplemented the livestock.
Mountain village
Arriving in Lhasa, we were warmly greeted by our Tibetan guide, Pema, and our driver, Loksam and our shiny new Mercedes van. Looks like our overland tour is going to be pretty comfy!

PANDAS!

October11

The big day that the girls have been eagerly awaiting for 6 months since we first mentioned the idea of a trip to China has arrived! A visit to the panda bears!
Cute panda
Walking panda
The panda sanctuary is a great facility, very large with beautiful gardens and ‘tunnels’ of overhanging bamboo over the trails. There are many outdoor enclosures for the pandas but they have wooden ‘decks’ where they are fed so they are quite close to the spectators. They put on a great show. Eating about 40kg of bamboo a day, they munch away happily, first stripping off the outer bark then chomping away on the yummy insides, section by section. They like to lounge around on their back while doing this or rolling from side to side. They spend the rest of the day sleeping.
Lounging pandas
Happily eating
Snoozing panda
They are soooo fuzzy you just want to reach out and squeeze them.
We went to the ‘panda nursery’ where we saw 7 babies that were about 3 months old. Very, very cute, sorry, no photos allowed there. Then our timing was perfect and the girls were allowed to sit with a young panda, about 14 months old. They had to wear gloves and coverings over their shoes, to protect the panda, but Maddie gave him some rubs on the shoulders.
Madeline and the panda
Emily was a little scared off because he scratched her as he reached over to the trainers for more bamboo. She got right back in there like a trooper for some more photos though. The ‘donation’ we were obliged to give of 1000 yuan for the chance to sit with the young panda goes back to the facility and the research centre, so we didn’t mind too much.
One panda, two happy girls!
We had a leisurely lunch, then went to see the red pandas, which look like a cross between a fluffy cat and a raccoon. Very cute but the giant pandas are definitely the main attraction.
Red panda
Lunchtime gang
What a great place this is to help keep one of the most adorable species on earth alive and well.
Happy family

Polar Ocean World

October10

Ok, we did it. We went to Chengdu’s brand new Polar Ocean World. It was pretty fun. We saw seals, walrus’, many kinds of dolphins, beluga whales, polar bears, penguins, sharks, sea turtles and various tropical fish.
Dolphin view
We watched a seal show and a dolphin show. The girls liked it best when the dolphins jumped up and hit the balls suspended in the ceiling.
Dolphin show
A fun day had by all. Now to find some ‘Thanksgiving’ dinner…

Train travels part I

October10

Our first big train ride was a success. David spoiled us rotten and brought us a brand new iPad. The girls have been iPad junkies ever since, it is great for the train.
Train cabin
We got the whole soft sleeper cabin together. The girls slept together on a top bunk and we occupied the other three bunks. I was awakened 4 times by the ipad and various items falling off the table onto my head, otherwise it was a good sleep. We are now in Chengdu, at a gorgeous hotel called the Buddha Zen, they even upgraded us to a suite.
Buddha Zen hotel
We are comfy and ready for the next adventures that await us…

A moral dilemma??

September29

We’ve had a busy week or two planning for our big upcoming trip. We are taking 3 weeks ‘off’ of my treatment here to journey westwards.
Our first stop will be Chengdu in the Sichuan province. We promised the girls, waaaay back when we were at home, that we would take them to see the Giant Pandas. Not only see them but you can hold one as well at this place. You can imagine how excited the girls are about this, and it has been fodder for some good ‘motivation’ to be good girls.
soooo cute
Here is the website for this panda breeding sanctuary, who’s goal is to increase the numbers of Giant Pandas:
http://www.panda.org.cn/english/
We will also have another day in Chengdu so we may visit the newly opened Polar Ocean World. It seems a bit crazy to open a ‘polar’ ocean world in the middle of a semi-tropical area, but the Chinese have spent 2 billion yuan (2.8 million dollars) in building this place. They have installed man-made snow and ice making as well as man-made salt water so that the polar bears, penguins, beluga whales, seals and walrus’ are comfortable in their ‘environment’. I am at odds for supporting this absolutely non-sustainable venture, but the kids would absolutely love it! Oh the dilemma!

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