Sunday, March 28, 2010

Back to the food...

The various dishes are chosen by the host....sometimes we play a part in the choices. The server starts bringing the bowls, platters and baskets filled with food. There is often a whole fish, several kinds of vegetables, pork, chicken, beef and occasionally frog. It is good when someone can identify what it is that you are eating! Some dishes are very spicy..made with red/green peppers. You NEVER eat the peppers, although someone usually does and is sorry for it!
At one very formal dinner we were served a chicken dish with the chicken's comb and feet.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Just a short funny story here...We five women had been dropped off at a huge supermarket by Ethan. Shopping for water, crackers etc...with the idea we would take a taxi back to our hotel.
There was a book display set up in the entrance and we began looking at all these books written in Chinese, of course....Found a nice children's book written in Chinese and English. I wanted three and the others wanted some but there were only five. The young man behind the table did not understand English .....all of a sudden was this nicely dressed (suit/wool coat/scarf) standing there helping us...I thought he was another customer..turns out he is the owner and a university professor ...he said he would have more books in the next couple of days.
We inquired on calling a taxi and he said he would take us to our hotel..that he had a van!
We said OK....and thought this was a grand gesture! Another Chinese experience...When we got out to the parking was a big van but just had seating for 2 in the back and the passenger seat was filled with stacks of books as was the back....he worked hard rearranging to empty the seats..showing good humor all the time and of course we were getting a kick out of it also....we took pictures.
Three of us got seats and Diane and Bonnie P sat on piles of books!

His name is Mark and he is so nice..married with a nine year old son. My nine year old grandson, Jack has expressed an interest in a Chinese pen pal so I may try to bring them together....
Another adventure in China!
After the presentation of Heidi's, we passed out bags of personal care products and visited with the women and admired the children which was not hard to do. Some of them we remembered from last year....Mothers are the same throughout the world...the pride on their faces when we say pretty or want to take a photo shines like the sun~
We sang songs to them and with them...sometimes if the melody was familiar to them they sang back to us. It was beautiful. These trips are not all about doing things for them or giving them things. It is forming relationships and memories that go beyond what our political leaders can do. When I am smiling and singing - I wonder...will that child watching me someday be in a leadership position and remember the friendly and kind Americans that visited his school? One never knows.
Then came one of the highlights of my travels......The political leaders of this area stepped forward with much formality and spoke in Chinese to Heidi and began a ceremony presenting us with beautiful handmade scrolls for our service to them over the past few years. The scrolls will become heirlooms in our families, I am sure.
I so wish I had the capability of posting photos. We were all so touched by this gift. This village is so poor that there are not words and here they did this for us. There were many tears.
Over the years our group has done a lot of fundraising plus personal contributions to give the school playground equipment, teacher desks, books, keyboards, student tables/desks/ basketball courts, schoolbags, school supplies and more.

After much picture taking, we were taken to a local place to eat....I just gulped when I saw the place and realized I needed to make nice and not offend them by not eating. There was a girl in the corner of a room washing chopsticks in one of those pails on wheels that you see janitors using when mopping floors. The water was filthy and sure enough when she came to our tables a few minutes later she placed a set by each of our plates, still wet. My little plate was soiled.

I need to explain here.....In China the meals are served family style with the various dishes placed on a large lazy susan in the center of a large round table. There is room around the edges for your small tea cup, water glass and small plate-saucer sized. The servers bring out huge platters of food...huge bowls, earthen bowls, is very interesting to see the various presentations.
There are no serving utensils...people use their chopsticks to take what they want ...they eat off their chopsticks and place it right back in the would be like us eating off our fork and using it to take more food out of the serving dish...more later
Hi, Thanks for writing. We sure had a full week-end here at this pretty nice hotel with the 10 homeless was hard to say good by to them. There was one boy named Steve....a dear boy...possibly autistic...also physically handicapped..he just won my artistic...his ears looked terrible...scabby, sores...kind of mishappen...his teacher told me they had been frozen...most of these kids were thrown away and found on the streets...beaten...
Tomorrow morning we check out of here and go back to the first hotel we were at in downtown Beijing. We will be shopping tomorrow and going to the Chinese Acrobats in the evening.
Tuesday we will visit two migrant workers children's schools..around 750 children

Yes, I am looking forward to being home. I miss everyone.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The train ride here was just as I thought it would be...long and uncomforatble ..13 hours. Your seat consists of a small cot...six very narrow cots three high with no room for luggage except under the lower bunk ...the floor is very dirty. There is a small table that will hold a small amount...perhaps a few snack items. this room is shared with anyone that has that ticket. Luckily, no one else came this time...

I will just say the bathroom is such that most of us cut off drinking the evening before!

The hotel here is quite decent and on a major street. My room looks out over the street and I have large windows that draw me...The scene below is awesome...hundreds of people on bicycles moving swiftly and silently. I look out over an intersection and to see dozens of riders turning the corner is beautiful!
As the day goes on there are many cars, cabs...honking away. There is music played in the streets.
In this province when we go somewhere the government men provide us with transportation. The various cars or vans are not in the best of condition. Sometimes the driver has a seatbelt but none of the passengers.
We are taken over an hour away to a community hall where the women of the area are gathered to hear Heidi give a lesson on handwashing to prevent spreading of disease and also to cough or blow your nose into piece of fabric....there are not tissues for these people because of the cost.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hi, Just a short note....I am so exhausted and just need to get to bed. It is 10 30...last night was our night on the train and very little/poor sleep....we arrived back in Beijing around 8 30 this am and rushed to this hotel about an hour from Beijing...we are doing work here with 10 orphan/homeless kids...8 boys, two girls ages 12-15. If I had $$$ I would be bringing them home with me....each one is sweeter than the next and what stories their lives have been....they live in a place where often there is no money for food - so they are told this is a fasting is horrible. You should see how they scarfed up the food and water tonight. We will be together until Sunday night and by that time I will really be in a pile of mush. They are very polite...2 cannot see well but no money for glasses. One is somewhat crippled and his name is Steve.
I will write more in the morning....these beds are literally boards with a sheet...I don't know what the others are going to do as they have all had a rough time with the hard mattresses but it hasn't bothered me...I think tonight it will.

This computer has been working grand...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hi, Got here after midnight from the train ride...Not much fun on that train...and it was during the day...going back Thursday night will be worse as you need to try and sleep.
Today was a meeting about all that is happening the next two days here...packing up the care bags, etc.
Also some jewelry shopping at the nice market here. I bought a few very nice pieces of jewelry.

Ethan and Heidi's friend took all of us out to a nice restaurant and again, I tried nearly everything that was put before me..and even took seconds of some items!

The computer is working wonderful...I cannot imagine not having it~It really helps...a couple of the others have been using it every day and the others once in a while. I am happy to share it with them.

It is midnight...I need to get ready for sleep. The government workers are picking us up at 8:30 and we have a full day...a very full day~

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It is 6 am Monday morning and I finished packing up my room to check out by 7 am. We are leaving on a train to ride 13 hours to Dong Hi. I consider the train primitive...sleeper cars...four to a "room"..narrow mattresses, BAD bathrooms...We took two train trips last year and I did not care for the overnight trips but the day trips are so interesting as you see the countryside and all the places we stop. Our group also has fun being together...going back and forth to each other's rooms! Everyone brings snacks and we share. There is a dining car but I WON'T eat there.

Yesterday, it snowed many inches here in Beijing. Beautiful huge flakes. They have no snow removal machinery. Men are out with shovels clearing parking lots and sides of streets.

We started the day with church and fellowship in Heidi & Ethan's home with around 30 people including beautiful young children. This group meets every week in this home. They cannot have anymore than this because it would call attention to the government. They usually have potluck after this..but when we are here they take us to a restaurant.
I can't really figure it out but this year I am trying just about everything and enjoying it. There are many positive comments as last year I could not do this!

I may have more to say about this later but am sort of rushed right now.

Please check in on my blog as I am able to send this to Jerry and he cuts and pastes this to the blog.

Am not sure how good of internet I will have from Dong do not be concerned if you hear nothing for a few days!

All is well and good here~

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sorry for the delay. I am finding it difficult to find the time and/or the energy to write. Everything is so overwhelming and I want to share it all!
First of all, everyone's health is great although many comments on hips, knees, dry skin ect. Beth fell on ice in December at her workplace and broke her leg and yet she is with us!
We all enjoy being together and in the morning there is much laughter and joking. As the day goes on there becomes less and less as we are lost in our thoughts of what we have seen...there is a physical tiredness too because sleeping conditions are not the best with very hard, boardlike beds and the jet lag.
Going to the Bird's Nest was much more interesting than I thought! Kind of neat to be there. The field was filled with snow and they had a massive mchine pushing it around. It cost about $7 but there was no guided tour of any sort. One just walked around and did their own thing. Very cold except in the gift shop and bathrooms~

My friend, Lina met us. We had hired a driver for the day. We called him Rocky and were fortunate that he spoke good English. We met him the day before as we were leaving the Silk Market. He drives a van that seats seven squashed.....He is what they call a black market driver. Has no meter and you negoiate your price ahead of time. He made the day pleasant. He picked us up at the hotel, took us to a bank to exchange money, to the Bird's Nest where Lina joined us, a market and to Lina's home. For this we paid him $50 in American money. He was very happy and it was so worth it to us. We had a meal at a Pizza Hut which was not like our Pizza Huts. This was a lovely restaurant on the second floor...pretty marble stairway and nice bathrooms. A large menu with many dishes besides pizza. Everyone ordered something different from noodle dishes to pizza to mashed potatoes. All of it was good. It was more like a fine dining place with such pretty music to boot~

It was good to see Lina, such a pretty young woman. She had on the cutest robin's egg blue fitted much detailing...Lina is from Inner Mongolia...her aunt is an important tailor there and makes Lina's clothing.

She was so proud to have us visit her home. Said we were the first international guests in her home. A very modest apartment on the 8th floor of a 23 story building. She fed us bakery items from her hometown, sunflower seeds in the shell that had some sort of a seasoning, peanuts, a fruit and pepsi. It was nice and served with so much charm~ We got to meet her daughter...8 year old "Wensie", a sweet, shy child. We will see Lina again before we leave.

That evening, Larry & Jean from Vancouver, BC arrived. They are the directors of Will Go, the organization that we work under. Everyone told me how nice they were and it is true. They were farmers from Iowa and felt the call to do this work when their children graduated and left home. They left everything and lived in China for 8 years. They have since worked in Albania, Africa and more.

Yesterday we visited two nursing homes, a community center where women make beautiful items and sell them, greenhouses which are built partly underground,.. we did our skits, sang, gave health care kits, explained about hand washing.
The one nursing home was very depressing.....You have to wonder why/how people need to end their years in such sad conditions...our van was very quiet when we left.

The other nursing home deserves a page of it's own with the story of the wonderful director..Dr Ma....a wonderful woman .. her life should be made into a movie!

I am doing very well with the food. Everyone is quite impressed! Yesterday, at our lunch I think I ate more chinese food that all of last year....mainly vegetables!

I have been up since 4:30 am and now will get ready for the day. We are going to an underground church service in Ethan & Heidi's home, an art studio, market and back here to pack up our rooms for our long trip tomorrow.

We will each pack a small carry on to last us until Friday am when we come back to Beijing...our other luggage will go to Heidi's.

We are leaving early in the morning for the village (one million people) of Dong Hi, south of Shanghi. Those people see very few westerners so we attract much attention...More tonight!

Love, Kathleen

Monday, March 8, 2010

Giddy Giddy Giddy!

I am so happy! Been grinning all day!

Ran to Fargo for a few last minute things and to celebrate grandson Jack's 9th birthday! His chosen place - Texas Road House. Jack has great taste!

It is about 11 and I have a load of clothes to wash, last minute packing, some more Christmas/Valentine/Easter cards to send out....about 10 left!

My photo book to add the pics from yesterday, which was a wonderful day!

Last Friday I got cash at the bank and when I got home was reminded how our American money must be like new. Last year they would turn down any bills that had a slight tear, corner bent, creases showing when you exchanged our currency for theirs. Made us rather upset as their money was often filthy, didn't even want to touch it! Today, I went back to the bank and got all "new" money.

See you in China!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday Night - Just three more "sleeps" to go

Oh, my, I am getting excited...not just for the trip. Tomorrow morning my little grandson, Joseph Jerome Mehus is being dedicated during church services in Valley City, ND. He was born to our oldest son, Danny and Elizabeth December 7th.

In our family, we have a beautiful heirloom gown made in 1897 for my Grandmother Cora LaRose Weber. Grandma had two younger siblings, Grace & Joe that wore it also as a "Sunday Dress." My mom and her two siblings wore it for dress-up also. My mom, Esther Rose Weber Fust started using it as a christening gown for myself and my six younger brothers and sisters. My three sons wore it as have my other six Little Joe is the 23rd baby to wear it ~ and the second Joseph~ For 113 years old, the gown is in wonderful condition.

I hope I can post pictures but today when I tried pictures wouldn't load..I may need some think?

Anyway, tomorrow will be a grand day. My sis, Linda and husband Tom from Minneapolis are coming and my brother, Earl and wife, Susan sons David & Kristina and little Sophia, Steve,(Elizabeth is on call at the hospital) and Jack, Ben & Will. Dan & Liz, Sam, Max and Joe are hosting a nice party following the service. Liz's five siblings and spouses, nieces and nephews will be there also.

Will be a bittersweet day as this is the first time all of Liz's and our families will be together since the death of Liz's mom right before Christmas. Elvera will be so missed and thought about. She was a wonderful, wonderful woman.

Thanks for reading ~

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Our Group

There are five of us from the Fargo area : Bo & Bonnie (our leaders), Diane, Beth and myself. Bonnie from Minneapolis will join us in Chicago. We all were in the group last year and most of us have seen each other during the last year and share many memories. A very nice group of people.

These last few days before we leave are filled with last minute tasks. We are somewhat limited in what we can take as far as clothing because our luggage space is used in taking many supplies... medical & educational and some of us pack a lot of food as we don't eat much there.

China 2010

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to my first attempt at blogging. This will help me to keep an online journal of my 2nd trip to China and to keep in touch with family and friends.

I will be leaving Tuesday morning from Fargo at 6 am - flying to Chicago - leaving around noon on Korean Air. Arriving at Seoul and then to Beijing.