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


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

Farewell to China


Some of the final images of our lives in China before we set upon our next set of adventures.
Tai chi in the main entrance of the hospital
Tai chi
Our girls love a party!
Party girls
Such great artists!
Emily and Madeline having their daily ‘tea party’ with Lutz and Martina from Berlin. We look forward to visiting them in January.
Tea party
Simon watched interestedly as this person’s house got closer and closer to being buried by roadside construction…was it saved or not? We may never know.
A garden at a lovely dim sum restaurant in Guangzhou, our last stop in China.
Dim sum
Guangzhou night scenes:
Tree lanterns
Guangzhou night
Good bye China from the Guangzhou airport with the mascots of the Asian games 2010 which were happening while we were there.
Airport goodbye
Next stop, tropical paradise…?
Island paradise

It’s all about the food


Our friend Dana and I had a chance to have an afternoon and evening to ourselves. Now that we have a cell phone the hospital staff feel a bit better about letting us wander freely in the city without them. I’m not sure if this is about our safety or if they think we are defenceless due to our lack of Chinese language skills. Regardless, I’m sure the proverbial S&*$ would hit the fan if anything ever happened to us.
We began the day with a new hair colour for me (back to my regular colour), which was done very professionally at a new salon. We then both got a great foot massage which included some arm and head massage too.
Afterwards we wandered around the markets looking for fun souvenirs for Dana to take home to Germany. We were getting a bit peckish so some chicken fit the bill.
Hot oil chicken
Here are a few of the sights along the streets:
Tired of walking, we took a ride on the wild side, on a motorcycle taxi! It was a short ride and lots of fun.
We arrived at the central ‘night market’, which is where many people gather to eat and do a little shopping after nightfall. The culinary options are great, you can have squid…
or meat, fish or veggies on a stick…
but we decided on this delicious chicken, mmmm mmm!
Eating at the night market
We are getting pretty good at our bargaining skills with taxi drivers for our trip back home, it is a comparatively long fare, some do not even really know where they are going, but we manage to whittle them down to 40 yuan ($5) for this 20 minute drive and no more!

A Happy Anniversary!


Seven years ago Simon and I tied the knot. It has been bliss ever since… (choke, choke, gag, sputter, cough, cough) OK, bliss is not a word that should be used to describe daily life, but we are a fantastic duo and our lives are richer for having met.
Our wedding day
We started our afternoon off with a trip to a REAL coffee shop, and had a coffee, tea and lemonade for the girls.
After lunch with the girls, we left them in the capable hands of one of our translators, Candy. They were happy to go back to our room at the hospital and watch movies galore! Simon organized the rest of the day, keeping it a secret until this point. Up to now, we have been with the girls 24-7, this was our first time alone. So we giddily skipped down the street to the hair salon, Simon got a haircut and after we both had full massages together. The Chinese use the ‘tui-na’ style of massage, which is kind of different. You are clothed, for one, and there is more manipulation of the joints and pressure on Chinese acu-points, as well as some slapping movements. At one point I was on my back, feet and legs pulled up above my ears and my coccyx was being slapped. An interesting position! In the end, it feels pretty good. Gotta love the wallpaper in our massage room:
Apres massage
Our next stop, hours later; was dinner at a fancy place called Vivian’s. They serve both Chinese and Western fare at this restaurant. We were very cozy as our table was in a little room surrounded by curtains and we sat on comfy couches.
After waiting for a while for a menu and a server, we tried pressing the button on the little table display. Lo and behold we got service! We were in business!
Some of the fare on the menu was less than appetizing…
Interesting fare
Originally we had cashew and bacon salad, lobster and a New Zealand rib-eye steak in mind. The bartender had stepped in to help our shell-shocked server, and he relayed our requests directly to the kitchen by walkie talkie. We were denied all of these wonderful things, not available. Vaguely in my memory came up something someone at our hospital had related similarly in the past, so we did not make a fuss. We both settled on the only available Western dish, a peppercorn t-bone. For the bottle of wine, Simon had to follow the bartender to the storage area and was told to pick it out from the boxes. Of course they were all written in Chinese so he told them that he had to actually SEE the bottles to be able to choose from them. We ended up with a half decent Chinese Cabernet. Haven’t seen an imported wine on our travels yet.
Everytime we needed the help of our server, we pressed the button on the table display. Coincidentally, we both had been hitting the same button in the middle, and I finally realised that meant we wanted more water! So we had a bit of a water stockpile…
Water button
So, being a bit devilish, and a bit tipsy, we thought it would be rather funny to hit ALL the buttons at once and see what happened.
Press them all!
Ok, we didn’t actually do it, but it would have been funny.
Our steaks were very good. Cooked a nice medium-rare, and the peppercorn sauce which they poured on the steaks was very tasty. You should have seen the look of horror on our servers face as Simon motioned for her to put some of the sauce on the ‘mashed potatoes’ on the side plate. I now understand why she gave her friend the look, it was, in fact, a sweet coconut bun!
Steak dinner
We ended up a lovely meal with a mango sorbet, which looked an awful lot like a mango milkshake but at that point, we thought, who cares?
Mango sorbet
We had to have our photo taken under the funky lights as we left.
Nice restaurant
Another funny experience in China, but as we said in our vows,”‘Every day is an adventure!”

Size Matters


In Canada, most of you would consider Simon to be somewhat small in stature (but not in fabulousness!). In China, Simon has been pleased to find out that he is of average to above-average height. The same goes for clothes, where he might buy a size small in Canada, a medium or large would do here.
So, it was Valentines Day a while back here in China. I happened to be ‘at the mall’ that day, so I spotted some cool looking underwear that would make a good gift for him. I looked around at the display and only found sizes from Large to XX-Large. There were no smalls and no mediums, at all; in any style or colour.
size matters
Do Chinese men feel a little ‘inadequate’ about their underwear size so that the industry has completely changed the sizing so that the average man will feel good about buying himself a pair of XXL undies? Another one of the mysteries of China…

Hunt Adventures in China


For those of you who have not heard, Simon has finished the first of his films documenting our Chinese exploits. Make sure you plug in your headphones or TURN UP the speakers, because it’s rockin!!!
Click here to watch it!
Coolest tunnel ever

Chinese caste differences?


Now that we’ve been here in China, we are not so much gawking at everything in amazement or incredulousness (is this a word??), but we are relaxed with the daily routines and occurences of a Chinese city. We are beginning to see and understand some of the nuances of life here. Women carry umbrellas wherever they go. You can buy quite fancy ones, with beautiful beads and organza and lace on them. Obviously not suited to a monsoon-like downpour. The reason they carry them is that they use them for the sun. Ok, I thought, that’s good, a little personal shade, after all, it is over 35 degrees most days. However the REAL reason is that Chinese women do not like to get a suntan. It is considered unfashionable since the labourers, farmers and ‘peasants’ that work in the fields all day are deeply tanned. Chinese women spend a fortune on ‘whitening creams’, probably as effective as those that promise to erase wrinkles. The funny thing is that, in our culture, it is the opposite. A tan is a sign of opulence, for those who spend their days in leisure; golfing, playing tennis or other outdoor pursuits, instead of in an office cubicle. I am speaking about urban North Americans in particular, and making broad generalizations, of course.
So what to do if a genteel Chinese lady has left her umbrella at home, and is suddenly inundated by the bright sun? She has to find something to cover with, and quickly. How one forgets their umbrella at home but manages to remember to bring a plastic washbowl is beyond me…
Umbrella alternate
Another thing that I have noticed is that Chinese men have long nails. Not the labourers who are building this hospital, but the doctors do. I have not had a chance to inspect too many men’s nails, but the hair salon was an obvious spot to see men’s nails up close. Mostly it is the index and the pinky fingers.
I am thinking this is partly fashion and perhaps a little bit of a class difference as well. I am not sure, but it is a custom that I do not find particularly attractive. Maybe that’s because I’m a short-ish length nail person myself, but Simon does not have to worry about requests for longer nails!

HCT bike team


We have found a local bike shop that sells high-end mountain bikes.
Inside the bike shop
The kinda funny thing is that, even though we are in the mountains, these riders have barely been on a dirt trail, and certainly nothing steep or technical. They get together and do a two hour ride every night and a long road ride on Saturdays.
Translated from their website, the purpose of the bike team is for “Unity, fitness, environmental protection, progress, participation”, the official name is the “Locomotive Cycling Team”. The cycling team actively promotes the “bicycle fitness movement”, advocating “green healthy fashion,” in a “new life”. Unity, mutual help, and seeking common ground while reserving differences between teammates; sincerely into nature. Basically, the owner wants to advocate cycling as a green alternative to other transportation and the bike team serves to advertise this.
Locomotive Cycling Team
Simon went on two of these rides so far. Unfortunately the last one was cut short by a cyclist who hit some uneven pavement and crashed onto her face. She was not in the bike group, she just happened to be near them when it all happened. Simon did a quick assessment of her, just some ‘road rash’ on her face, no major injuries, and the ambulance showed up very quickly; there are many hospitals in this city. Here is a photo of the attendant and the cyclist, what do you see that is ‘odd’ in this photo?
Crash victim
The ambulance attendant is wearing stilletto heels!!!!

The exodus


We have been here at the hospital for about 5 weeks. In that time frame we have already seen quite a few people come and go. The latest, and greatest, exodus happened yesterday. Three families left, totalling 10 people, so it seems a lot quieter around here now. Most people leave when their visa expires, a few leave for other reasons. Some positive and some negative. We try not to dwell on the negative thoughts of some of the patients. Some of them have not seen the cure they came here for. Some of them were not comfortable in this environment. Simon reminds me that we have each other, a happy family of four and that no matter where we are or what it is like where we are living we will always be surrounded by the positive energy that envelops each of us. Life is what you make of it, and we are experiencing it on a daily basis, no matter what our outcome may be. And we have you, our friends and family to keep us strong in our hearts, and we thank you for this.

The new hospital


We went for a group trip out to the site of the new hospital that is being built. It is the pride and joy of Dr. Ming and he is eager to get it finished and all of us in there. Unfortunately it looks to me that it is not that close to being finished, despite rumours of us moving anywhere from 3-10 days from now.
new hospital
The hospital is in the newly built suburb of Huaihua called Zhongfang, and is set in a fairly idyllic setting in the countryside…
rooftop countryside
We have learned that, in China, everything has a yin and a yang. Yes, we will be near the beautiful mountains with a grove of orange trees right beside us; away from the constant honking and diesel fumes of the traffic in the city. However, this is the view from the other side of the hospital:
Hopefully the predominant wind direction stays away from us!

« Older Entries