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The Man in China Archives
January 1 through April 30, 2010

August 30, 2010 The Beginning is Over, The Marriage Begins

picture: Cruise ships set out from Victoria harbour into the sunset.  Victoria, B.C.

Chinese Word of the Day: 感谢
(gǎn xiè) v./n. thank; be grateful

End of the Honeymoon Trail for the Little Blue Car

picture:  The little blue car is back where it started.  It's been a great machine.  We're sad to say goodbye.   picture:  Ruth, Carrie and Sadie on the B.C. Ferry to the mainland.

We left the little blue car parked in front of Sadie and Malcolm's, where it was when I took possession.  Sadie, my former sister-in-law and her mother, Carrie, my former mother-in-law, gave us a lift back to Maple Ridge, 

Aunty Jolly, former beauty queen and very nice person.  Whiterock, B.C., Canada

with a stop to visit Aunt Jolly in Whiterock, before picking up my guitar on route.

The Guitar Setup Results

Nicole handed me my newly set up and strung Martin D28 this afternoon.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  Not only does it sound wonderful, it is infinitely easier to play.

picture:  Nicole Alosinac tests out my Martin D28, which she has significantly improved.  Vancouver, B.C.

I want to thank Nicole Alosinac for making my guitar a priority, and getting this done in time for me to pick up the guitar on my way through Vancouver.  Great work.  Great service.

Last Day in on Vancouver Island

And what a day it was,  starting with a visit with my old friend Tim Johnson and his family, then proceeding to  Victoria to visit Ruth's cousin Denise, husband Andy and three of her children,

picture:  Ruth's relatives in Victoria

pressing on from there to see my artist friend Godfrey Stephens,

picture:Godfrew Stephens, artist.  Victoria, B.C.

who coincidentally moors his boat on the same dock as our friend

picture:  Godfrey's amazing hand made boat.  Victoria, B.C.  picture:  Godfrey's amazing hand made boat.  Victoria, B.C.

  and former Lambton teacher (which means we met her on OUR campus) Lynne Kailan has her floating home,

picture: former Lambton teather and all round great person,  Lynne Kailan. On the seawalk, Victoria, B.C.  Canada

and winding up the day with a visit to Doug Dodd to return the guitar he lent us for the party. 
None of this would have been possible without the little blue car that Sadie and Malcolm bought for our summer use.  Once again we're feeling gratitude.

The Nanaimo Wedding Party

This was the conclusion of our Canadian wedding tour.  Now all that remains is our party when we get back to China. 

picture: Clint and Linda, the best friends anybody could ever ask for.  Nanaimo, B.C.
Clint's been my friend since grade seven.  He and his wife, Linda,  have been my summer hosts since I went to China.  Not too shabby.

It was another wonderful party.  A delight to see my Nanaimo friends again.  Special thanks to John Kenchentan for video taping the highlights and burning six DVD discs for us to give out.

Chinese Word of the Day: 野地
(yě dì literally "wild earth") = wilderness

August 27, 2010 Waking up in Pristine Wilderness

It's twenty after eight in the morning.  Clouds hang low on the mountains and the ocean is glassy calm.  The air is so sweet I feel like I'm drinking it rather than breathing it.  The day before yesterday I discovered that we had time and opportunity to spend a night at a floating lodge managed by my old friend Joëlle Rabu.  An opportunity not to be missed.  Clint and Linda, our hosts in Nanaimo, decided to come along, and provided the transportation to Moutcha Bay, between Gold River and Tahsis here on Vancouver Island, a three hour drive, the last of which was over a well maintained logging road.

picture:  Waiting out a bit of rain in Moutcha Bay, a resort that is under construction in Nootka Sound, B.C. where we embarked for the Nootka Sound Resort.

The Nootka Sound Lodge sent a boat to fetch us from Moutcha Bay, and here we are, sitting in the lap of luxury in the West Coast Canadian wilderness. 

picture:  Clint, Linda, Joelle (our host) and Ruth on the balcony outside our room.  Nootka Sound Resort, B.C.  picture:  This is the appetizer plate before our gourmet dinner at Nootka Sound Resort.  Roughing it in the bush was never like this.
Joëlle welcomed us to the resort she manages so brilliantly,  where the appetizer tray looked too good to destroy in a feeding frenzy.

picture:  Happy fishermen with their catch.  This is what they come here for.  Nootka Sound Resort, Nootka Sound, B.C., Canada

picture:  Joelle, besides being a great resort manager and old friend, is also a famous singer.  She was one of the first performers to be invited to China, singing at the Grand Theatre in Beijing in 1986  picture:  a bottle of bubbly and a note written in chocolate were waiting by our bedside.  Kimberly, the chef at Nootka Sound Resort, is an artist.
Joëlle, besides being a great resort manager and old friend, is also a famous singer. She was one of the first performers to be invited to China after the opening up, singing at the Grand Theatre in Beijing in 1986.

A night of playing music and singing with Joëlle and her brilliant musician son, Nico, was a delight beyond description.  My heart wells with gratitude and love for my friends. 

picture:  David Scott in a rowboat in front of Nootka Sound Lodge, Nootka Sound, B.C., Canada

picture:  Nootka Sound Resort with Ruth in the foreground enjoying a kayak.

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The Guitar Hospital

There's nothing much wrong with my Martin D28, but I've known since I bought it that the action is heavier than it needs to be.  So I brought it back to Canada with me hoping to find somebody who can set it up. I was toying with the idea of just lowering the bridge saddle, which I'd be willing to attempt myself if I had a duplicate to replace it with if I messed up the job.  But the process of finding a bridge saddle lead me to Nicole Alosinac, Luthier, in Vancouver and one look at her website was enough to sell me on her services.  The $45 she charges for a set up makes doing it myself a fools choice.

picture:  Nicol Alosinac, luthier, inspects my guitar.  Vancouver, B.C.

What a pleasure it is to meet an articulate and competent technician.  Nicole gave me a quick education into how to look at a guitar, and the condition of mine.  Her first observation was that it is dehydrated (probably a result of its first owner living in Arizona) and she showed me how to tell this by the ridges in the finish.  She checked the alignment of the neck and fingerboard, recommended a new set of strings, explained that a light dressing of the frets might be necessary, and promised to have the guitar ready for my by Monday when we'll again pass through Vancouver on our way back to Maple Ridge.  I'm really looking forward to playing my guitar once it's been set up.  I'm expecting a big difference.

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picture:  the wedding continues with a big family party in Ruskin, B.C..  Thanks for the cake, Cath.

Chinese Word of the Day: 恭喜
(gōng xǐ) = congratulations

August 23, 2010 Kids, Dogs, Friends and Family

What a great party my family threw to celebrate our wedding.  Just perfect.  Great food.  Wonderful atmosphere.

picture:  Isabelle made a big splash at our wedding celebration in Ruskin, B.C.
Isabelle is about to make a big splash at our wedding celebration.

 picture: the wedding party in Ruskin, B.C.  High overcast but no rain. Perfect.   picture: the wedding party in Ruskin, B.C.  High overcast but no rain. My mother and Cousin Reta get a chance to chat, while one of several dogs hopes for a treat.  Ruskin, B.C.
High overcast but no rain, which means comfortable weather for a party in the yard.

All topped off with an extensive sing along. Life is good indeed.

picture:  jam session at our wedding party, Ruskin, B.C..  picture: Martin and Chloe at our jam session.  Ruskin, B.C.
                                                                                                                                                                                     Ruth Anderson pictures

   Thanks everybody, especially Alice and Steve, our hosts, my sister Catherine, the chief organizer, all those who contributed food, those who made the long drive from Vancouver, Surrey, or Kamloops, my fabulous sisters and assorted cousins, and the kids and dogs who added so much to the festival atmosphere.  Uh... I guess this just means thanks everybody.  It was all good.

picture: Amanda Sublett, my niece, displays her silver medal from the Canadian Games.  I bask in reflected glory.

Congratulations are also in order for my niece, Amanda Sublett.  She won a silver medal in canoeing at the Canadian Summer Games.

Congratulations, Amanda.  Way to go.

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picture: My former home, Marina House in Gibsons Landing, as seen through the water taxi windshield.

Chinese Word of the Day 巧事
(qiǎo shì literally "coincidental event") = coincidence

August 19, 2010 Death by Nostalgia

picture: the mermaid above Ya Ya's Oyster Bar in Horseshoe Bay was carved in my yard in Gibson's by my friend Godfrey Stephens who was living in a dugout canoe after losing his sailboat on the coast of Mexico.
The mermaid above Ya Ya's Oyster Bar in Horseshoe Bay was carved in my front yard in
Gibson's Landing by my friend Godfrey Stephens who was living in a dugout canoe after
losing his sailboat on the coast of Mexico.

Our summer continues to be magical. Yesterday I took Ruth for a ferry ride to the town of Gibson's Landing, where I owned a large house on the ocean many years ago. Julie and Frank, the couple who now own that house, welcomed our visit very warmly, and I was able to show Ruth some of the renovation and improvements I made when I owned the place.  I also showed Ruth my daughter Reba's tiny hand print in the concrete of the sidewalk.  Reba was born in Marina House.

picture: Marina House, my former residence in Gibsons Landing.  Three stories of elegance on the ocean.  picture:  Ruth is standing in what was once my front yard in Gibson's Landing, B.C.

picture:  Frank and Julie, present owners of Marina House in Gibson's Landing, B.C. and delightful people.  My house is in good hands.

Here's where the coincidence (see the Chinese Word of the Day) comes in.  Julie and Frank married on July 28, just four days after Ruth and I were married.  They met over the Internet, and lived together for ten years before tying the knot.  Apparently a period of living together before marriage is becoming much more socially acceptable, which makes a lot of sense.  It never seemed like a good idea to me for virtual strangers to make a lifelong commitment to each other.  That's asking too much of luck.

History Lost

This is all that remains of Coles Machine Shop and Marine Ways.  My memories of this building go back to the sixties, when my uncle's commercial fish collector, the Advise, was hauled out here to change the propeller after he hit a log going under the Lions Gate Bridge.

  picture: All that remains of Cole's Machine Shop and Marine Ways after the fire.  Gibson's Landing, B.C.   picture: The wall of Cole's Machine Shop and Marine Ways, covered with the names of boats that were hauled out here over the decades, after the fire.  Gibson's Landing, B.C.

Decades of boat owners added their boat name to the wall, making it a pastiche of history.  When I lived in Gibson's, Dave Coles, the owner of this shop, lost his life while kayaking in Chaster Creek.  The current swept him under a log jam, then sent his body out into the ocean.

picture:  Ruth picks blackberries on the seawalk.  Gibson's Landing, B.C.

Don's Water Taxi

After a pause to feast on blackberries, and a brief stop to swap tunes with a young fiddle player, we made our way to the marina where I bumped into my old friend Don Scagel, owner operator of Don's Water Taxi.

picture:  Don's water taxi, a Russian hydrofoil based out of Gibson's Landing, B.C.

The Back Story on the Russian Hydrofoil

Everything about this day brought back such memories for me.  When I lived here, I owned a Russian hydrofoil, identical to the picture above, built for taxi work on the Volga river.  The boat had a Czechoslovakian made Volvo AQD32 diesel motor that put out a hundred and five horsepower and would scoot my boat along at twenty knots on less than a gallon an hour.  It was a fun boat, and we had some good times running into Horseshoe Bay for an ice cream with the kids, a trip that would barely get the motor warmed up. But Dasvadania, as I called her, was only good for relatively smooth water, a heavy chop at most, and so not ideal for commuting to Vancouver, which is what I bought it to do.  I decided to sell it.  With my son, Casey, age about six, in the passenger seat we set off for a marina in North Vancouver to put Dasvadania up for sale. 
     Once up on the foils, Dasvadania cut the tops off the chop and gave a very smooth ride. Unfortunately it couldn't handle more than a three foot swell without turning into a submarine, and off the foils it wallowed along at only three or four knots, giving a most uncomfortable ride.  Leaving the Gibsons gap, the entrance to Georgia Straight, we had three foot swells hitting us broadside.  We were rolling along cautiously, and I was thinking the trip would take the whole day. But then we turned the corner toward Vancouver, giving us a following sea, and I began to give more and more throttle.  Finally we were up on the foils, flying out of each wave and sending up a glorious sunlit spray as we smashed into the next.  Then we hit a wave a foot higher than the previous ones.  Suddenly green water was rolling down the bow.  It slapped the windshield down, smashing it.  For a moment I was under water.  I couldn't see anything.  When my vision cleared, Casey was not in his seat.  I thought he'd been washed overboard, and was frantically searching the seas for his red life jacket.  Then I realized that he'd been swept down to sprawl under the dash at my feet.  I pulled him back onto the seat and tried to calm him down while I inspected him for damage.  There was blood everywhere I touched.  I was trying to find the source of the blood on Casey when I realized it was all mine.  The knuckles of my hand holding the steering wheel had been lacerated by the shattered windshield.
     We limped on to our destination with me peering through a four inch hole in the broken windshield.  The man at the marina gave me a lift up to the hospital to get some stitches on my knuckles.  I arranged to have the windshield repaired, and left the boat in hopes of finding a buyer. But when no buyer came forward, I gave the boat to Don on the "never never" payment plan.  Don eventually sold it to a drug dealer from Lasquiti Island, and handed me a brown paper bag containing ten thousand dollars in very used bills.

picture: Don at the wheel of his water taxi, Gibson's Landing, B.C.  picture: The crab pot comes up with some nice crabs.  Gibson's Landing, B.c..

Now for the surprise.  While I had a bad time with that boat, Don fell in love with it.  He's since tracked down and owned five of them, sequentially, and has made his water taxi from the latest, removing the big old diesel motor and replacing it with a 250 horse power outboard, modifying the windshield to handle water over the bow, and installing a top that let's him play submarine with impunity.  So this is the boat he took us out on.  What a machine.  After a spin in the harbour, he took us out the gap to pull up a crab pot and present us with two very large Dungeness crabs.

picture:  Ruth mugs in  front of Molly's Reach, famous as the set for the Canadian TV series, "Beachcombers".
Ruth mugs in front of Molly's Reach, famous as the set for the Canadian TV series, "Beachcombers".

After a brief visit with Don and his lovely wife, Nancy, we bought some ice, collected our crabs in our cooler, and went in search of Paula and Dennis. 

Dennis and Paula O'brien

picture:  Dennis and Paula with David.  Delightful old friends.  Gibson's Landing, B.C.

Paula is an amazing artist, founder of Pavelka Designs.  Dennis is a scoundrel and adventurer with an amazing knack for making money.  He regaled us with tales of sailing single handed from Cape Town to Brazil with a boat load of whiskey and a bucket of Krugerrands. To tell you about this couple in detail would take a whole book.  Suffice it to say that they are incredible.  They now have Canada's largest company making toys and games for restaurants to give to children when families come for dinner.

picture: Ruth reads her SF in the car while waiting for the ferry back to the mainland. bpicture:  Ruth enjoys a bag of Miss Vickie's Salt and Vinegar potato chips on the ferry back to Horseshoe Bay, B.C.
Ruth reads her SF anthology in the car while waiting for the ferry back to the mainland.

We caught the last ferry home, and got back in time to cook up the crabs and have a great crab feast. So all in all it was a perfect day.

pictture:  two large Dungeness crabs, steamed, cleaned and ready to eat.  Thanks Don.
Steamed, cleaned and ready to eat. 
Two large Dungeness crabs on a very large platter. Thanks Don.

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picture:  the Little Blue Car was a joy to drive and gave us not a lick of trouble.  Thanks again Sadie and Malcolm.

Chinese Word of the Day 蜜月
(mì yuè literally "honey month") = honeymoon (it's still happening for us)

August 17, 2010 Full Circle

I'm back in Maple Ridge, B.C. with my bride.  We've had a wonderful tour of the west that included five American national parks - Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde, The Painted Desert, The Petrified Forest, The Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone, plus at least one state park, the Garden of the Gods in Colorado.  All were impressive.  Most were unforgettable.
     Once we hit the Canadian border, we went up to Kelowna to visit my former brother in law, Tom, and then on to Williams Lake to visit my cousin Colleen and her husband Jerry.  We completed the circle with not a hint of a car problem, inconvenience, or grumpy word.  The impression I'm left with is that this world is beautiful beyond belief, and filled with friendly, loving people.  What a contrast to the impression we get from the media.

pictire: Karen, owner of Karen's Restaurant in Williams Lake, stopped by our table.  We lavished praise on the food.  pictire: Ruth with Cousin Colleen and her husband Jerry,  Williams Lake
In Williams Lake, Colleen and Jerry took us to Karen's Cafe.  Great food, and I would say this even if Karen hadn't given us a complementary piece of pie.

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Meeting People is Most of the Fun

I'm just not a disciplined enough person to keep track of the names of the people we meet. 

Picture: A family from... Louisiana?  Yellowstone trail to observation point.

I remember this family we met in Yellowstone, and how much we enjoyed talking to them.  But unless they send me an email, their names are lost.
     Occasionally we would meet a family from China, and would enjoy shocking them by tossing off a few words of Chinese.  That was always fun.

A Yellowstone visitor from Calgary, B.C., but a Chinese speaker.  I hope she sends me an email.

This visitor to Yellowstone spoke Chinese, but she's now living in Calgary, Canada.  I'm hoping she sends me an email eventually.

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And now I'm going to throw in some pictures, without comment.  The pictures speak for themselves.

picture: It looked like a big boulder, and nobody was seeing it until Ruth spotted the bison.  Yellowstone park.  picture: One obvious observation - bison are big.  Yellowstone Park.

picture: Is it a bee, or a fly.  Whatever it is, it likes this flower.  Yellowstone Park.   picture:  somehow the dew drops make the flower looke magical, or contrived.  Yellowstone park.

picture: This is a marmot.  He seemed quite used to visitors.  Yellowstone Park.

picture:  warning sign saying that one risks death by wandering from the path.  Yellowstone Park   picture:  this geothermal area is cluttered with beautiful hot pools.  Yellowstone Park.

picture:  a misty morning on the trail to the observation point above Old Faithful.  Yellowstone Park.

picture:  Ruth with a hot pool behind her.  Yellowstone Park  picture:  Ruth with a hot pool behind her.  Yellowstone Park

picture:  Old Faithful between eruptions.  Yellowstone Park  picture: a huge crowd gathers to watch Old Faithful blow water into the air.  Yellowstone Park.

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picture: The honeymoon tour.  Threatening weather, but we mostly kept out of it.

Chinese Word of the Week:  美国
(měi guó literally "beautiful country") the United States of America

August 11, 2010 Dragon's Keep, Provo, Utah

As luck would have it, our route to Yellowstone took us right past Dragon's Keep in Provo, Utah. I mean right past.  On the route. We know of this place because it's the working base for our favourite web cartoonist, Howard Tayler, author of Schlock Mercenary.  We didn't expect to catch Howard at work (his blog said he's off at a convention), but we did get to do the fan thing of seeing his drafting table, and picking up a couple of his more recent signed books.

picture: Dragon's Keep, Provo, Utah.  Home of Schlock Mercenary.  picture: Dragon's Keep, Provo, Utah.  Home of Schlock Mercenary.  We bought two signed books.

We also got to take a good look at Dragon's Keep, and meet Jeremy the manager. Ruth has been a gamer for years.  I haven't.  So some of the excitement goes over my head.  But I could see, and Ruth confirms, that Dragon's Keep is a deluxe place for gamers to hang out.  I just enjoyed seeing where Howard gets writer's cramp signing his books.

picture: poster for rule 35 of most effective pirates.  That which does not kill me has made a tactical error. picture: Dragon's Keep, Provo, Utah.  Home of Schlock Mercenary.

     I have great admiration for Mr. Tayler.  His site is good hearted and innocent, yet occasionally sexy and scatological, good clean fun. He's built himself a job based on the Internet and a business model that he claims to love.  His work ethic is impressive, and I expect him to become very famous in the near future.  He's got a good start already.  So all in all he seems to be living life the way it should be lived.
     My Chinese students should understand that many words that Howard uses in his web comic are made up to suit his vision of a science fiction future.  This is part of the fun, but if you expect to find "teraport" in a dictionary, you'll have to wait a few years.

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The Honeymoon Tour - on to the Grand Canyon

Pouring rain in Flagstaff, no weather for viewing the Grand Canyon.  We decided to cut the day short and take a motel.  Unfortunately, all were full up or otherwise unacceptable.  So we pushed on.  By the time we reached the Grand Canyon we had clear blue skies.  The sunset was incredible.  We managed to find a motel room, then went out to dinner in a cowboy steak house, sharing a table with a nice girl from Paris and a clothing designer from Switzerland.
Pictures as soon as I have time to organize and post them.

  Next morning the canyon was fogged in and there was very little to see.  We left for Yellowstone Park. 

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The Honeymoon Tour - on to Yellowstone

Storms and rain chased us all the way to Yellowstone Park, but kept behind us.  We arrived late at night, and all rooms were booked and all the campsites full - it's the high season.  We slept in the car, making use of the Old Faithful Lodge washroom.  Breakfast in the lodge cafeteria at six in the morning, and we had a perfect day for exploring the park.  Rain clouds were rolling in as we left the park.  Our timing has been... miraculous so far.
Pictures as soon as I have time to organize and post them.

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My wife, Ruth Anderson, and the little blue car someplace in Colorado, U.S.A.

August 08, 2010 The Honeymoon Tour

First stop was a visit to Donna and Terry.  Donna was Ruth's eighth grade teacher, and is now a lifelong friend living south and east of Winnipeg, just north of the American border in a serene country home they call "the ReTreat". 

picture: Donna made a pillow case out of some silk I bought in Winnipeg, a surprise for my sister.  Thanks, Donna.

Their yard was full of dragon flies, snapping up the mosquitoes, and regularly visited by deer.

After a slightly tense border crossing (The American border seems to have turned ugly since 9/11 and visitors are no longer greeted with smiles.) it was on to the wedding recreation at Nancy's place in Minneapolis.

picture: Nancy rides her recumbent bike to her job with the city water department.  So she was off to work, and we were off to Colorado.

After saying goodbye to Nancy in Minneapolis, we were off on the tour.  First stop, a visit with Thomas and Marina in Longmont, Colorado.

Picture: Thomas and Marina on their apartment balcony, Longmont,  Colorado.

We met Thomas during our first teaching job at the Shandong Electric Power Company International School (SEPIS) in Tai'an, Shandong, China, just before he trekked off to Russia to marry Marina.  They now live in Longmont, Colorado.

picture: the view from Thomas and Marina's front door.  Suburban landscape in Longmont, Colorado.  picture: the open space in Longmont, Colorado.  We're off to see the prairie dog colony.

picture:  Thomas and Marina on our mountain outing.  Near Longmont, Colorado   picture: Savah the Chinese dog, now a U.S. resident in Longmont, Colorado

After two days in Longmont, with trips into the mountains, a soak at a hotsprings resort, and a visit to Boulder to check out their pedestrian mall, we were on our own, following Thomas's suggestions for places to stop -  Garden of the Gods, then on to Mesa Verde ancient Anasazi ruins, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, the Grand Canyon, and the Little Colorado Canyon.  Details and pictures as soon as I get time to sort them out and post them.  For now let me just say that America is living up to its Chinese name - měi guó, "beautiful country".

Picture: The Grand Canyon living up to its name.

Tonight we're in Manti, Utah.  It's been a great day.  Tomorrow we should make Yellowstone National Park.

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Replacing the window visor that was stolen in Winnipeg.

August 1, 2010 The Wedding Tour Hits Minneapolis

Another city, another party.  What can I say?  Food.  Smiling happy people.  Music.  We recreated the ceremony with Nancy playing the part of Norma for Ruth's Minneapolis friends.  Most of you won't know the people in these pictures, but the people in these pictures will know who they are.



There are more pictures to come, and tags to put on these ones.  But we're on the road again at 6:30am heading for Longmont, Colorado.  So refinements can wait.  My thanks to all of you for sharing in our celebration, and for bringing such good feelings to our lives.

Theft - an International Industry

As we were loading up to leave Winnipeg we noticed that the side window visors were missing from our little blue traveling machine.  Since both sides were missing, it's obvious that they were stolen by somebody who has a 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier.  We didn't think that the CSI people would be very interested, and hanging around Winnipeg looking for a car like ours with (identifiably our) side vents seemed futile, so we got underway, trying to not let this bring us down.

Cleaning off the old tape and glue was the toughest part of hte job. finding the replacement visors was a lot easier than I feared.

In Minneapolis I tracked down an auto supply that could get new visors in for us.  $44 U.S., which is a lot less than I feared they would cost.  Installation was simple.  The toughest part was removing the old glue, and washing off the glue remover.

And installation was a snap.

The little blue car has been running like a top, and using very little fuel.  We are constantly reminded of the kindness of my former in-laws, Sadie and Malcolm.

July 31, 2010 Minneapolis

A virus has messed with my camera card, so I can't download any pictures until I figure out how to clear it.  We're in Minneapolis today, visiting Ruth's friend Nancy Hansen.  There's another big party planned for tomorrow.  In the meantime, here's a message from one of our very favorite students, Spacefish (His English name is a direct translation of his Chinese name, Zhu Si Yu).

Subject: Congratulations & Best wishes for our beloved  
              teachers David&Ruth


Dear David& Ruth:


This is Spacefish, a student of both of you. I can still remember the time when we first met. Four years' time has gone and past, we graduated and you finally get married. It is a pity not having the chance to present on the scene to witness your wedding, it was definitely moving and marvelous!

A wedding card from our student, Spacefish.  We're going to miss our graduating students.

I made a small card for you. The color of red represents joy in chinese culture. The red pattern in the center of the card is traditional chinese pattern for wedding. You may found that there is decorative character "囍" in the middle, which express the idea of shared happiness of two families; phoenix and dragon on each side represents the bride and the bridegroom. We often believe that the dragon and the phoenix will bring happiness and prosperity. I hope your have a marriage with a lifetime of togetherness and happiness!
I'd like to end this letter with some tradtional chinese expressions for you:
心心相印(xīn xīn xiāng yìn Have mutual affinity)!
百年好合( bǎi nián hǎo hé Love for all seasons)!
天长地久(tiān cháng dì jiǔ Everlasting and unchanging love)!
白头偕老(bái tóu xié lǎo Live to old age in conjugal bliss)!

Yours Sincerely
from English 0601

I suppose the downside of really liking our students is seeing them graduate and move on.  We're really going to miss the students of Spacefish's year. I do hope they keep in touch.  Keeping in touch is a lot easier now than it used to be, before websites and the Internet.

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Nieces get a front row seat at our wedding.  Winnipeg, Canada

July 25, 2010  Married

It was a perfect day, and a perfect wedding. 

  Sam Baardman,  Susan Israel and Dave Clement provided music for our wedding.  Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
                                                             - wedding photos by Jerry Corwin unless otherwise identified.

Sam Baardman,  Susan Israel and Dave Clement provided music while the guests took their seats.  The event proper began with the sounding of a Chinese gong.  Then Dave Clement set the mood for the ceremony with a Kate Wolf song, "Give Yourself to Love".

Guests at our wedding.  Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Ruth, Norma (our officiant) and David about to have a marriage ceremony.  Winnipeg, Canada

Our wonderful officiant was Norma Drosdowech.  She positively radiates warmth and good cheer, and she kept the program moving along, handing scripts to Ruth and David in turn.

What I Expected to Find in China

David explains himself.  Our wedding.  Winnipeg, Canada

I didn’t expect to find a woman from Winnipeg when I went to China.  I was expecting an exotic romance with a beautiful Chinese woman.  Probably a short Chinese woman.  Ruth didn’t fit my expectations, and I have to admit that it took me almost a whole month to revise my agenda.

We were instant friends, and I found an ease and comfort with Ruth that I have never found with anybody. 

And then we became lovers, but still with no commitment.  I kept saying to myself:  This woman is perfect.  What is the matter with you?

Economists call this an opportunity cost.  Accepting one relationship shuts out the potential of all other relationships. 

Sometimes it’s not easy to give up the fantasies, and to see what is in front of my eyes.  This woman is perfect.  This woman is perfect.

And then finally I listened. 

So we became more than just lovers.  We became partners. 

There’s a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson called  “Metaphors We Live By”  We have to use metaphors when we talk about anything intangible. 

 And of course there are many metaphors for love. 

 Love is a journey – Our relationship has progressed beyond friendship.

 Love is mental illness – I’m crazy about her.

 Love is a battle – she completely conquered my heart.

But the metaphor I really like is: Love is a collaborative work of art.

Love is work
Love is active
Love requires cooperation
Love requires dedication
Love requires compromise
Love requires discipline
Love involves sharing responsibility
Love requires patience
Love requires shared values and goals
Love demands sacrifice
Love regularly brings frustration
Love requires instinctive communication
Love is an aesthetic experience
Love is primarily valued for its own sake
Love involves creativity
Love requires a shared aesthetic
Love cannot be achieved by formula
Love is unique in each instance
Love is an expression of who you are
Love creates a reality
Love reflects how you see the world
Love requires the greatest honesty
Love may be transient or permanent
Love needs funding
Love yields a shared aesthetic satisfaction from your joint efforts.

All of these attributes of love I find with Ruth.  She’s perfect.

Our wedding ceremony.  Winnipeg, Canada

How We Met  (David’s Dramatic Entrance)

Ruth amuses the audience with the story of how we met.  Our wedding.  Winnipeg, Canada

I did not go to China expecting to meet someone. As a matter of fact I expected to be single for my entire time overseas.

When I was offered a job by SEPIS, a school in the Chinese city, Tai’an, I asked for the email addresses of current and former teachers. David was one of several teachers at SEPIS that wrote back to me, and one of two teachers there who wrote extensively about what I could expect (both good and bad) if I took the job there. I did sign on with the school and several weeks later was winging my way towards a new life.

I was supposed to arrive in the late evening, but very heavy fog delayed flights and more than doubled the normal hour drive from the airport. I didn’t end up reaching my new apartment until well after 3 in the morning. After saying good night to the administrators who had gotten me safely from airport to room I wasn’t tired despite the long day of travel. I was in China!! Though I hadn’t seen much of it yet through the fog and the dark, it was still rather exciting. Not being sleepy I started unpacking, setting about getting myself settled in my new home.

About fifteen minutes into my unpacking there was a knock at my door. I was startled. Who could it be? It’s 4:00 in the morning. I’m in China. I don’t know anyone in China.

I opened the door, and there was David, scrubbed and spiffed and cutting a fine figure in my doorway. He smiled and said “Welcome to China!”

He had had the young women who looked after our apartment blocks wake him when the administrators arrived with me. He had gotten cleaned up (even shaved – no small feat when the water is turned off at midnight) and dressed up to come and greet me, to make me feel welcome.

He made a good first impression and has continued impressing me ever since. That was early November in 2004. By Christmas that year we were dating. And the rest as they say…

Nat and Kat fall all over themselves at the romance of it all.  Our wedding.  Winnipeg, Canada

Why I Want to Marry Ruth 

David explains why he wants to marry Ruth.  Winnipeg, Canada

Why do I want to marry Ruth?  Aside from the fact that I love her, love being with her, and don't ever want to live without her?  I have all of this without the formality and legality of being married to her. What is it about marriage that makes it something I want to do? Actually, this breaks down into two questions:  Why do I want to marry? And why do I want to marry Ruth?

I'll tackle the first, and more difficult question first.  For me, marriage is a public declaration of relationship.  It is not a list of promises, which most mortals may or may not be able to keep depending on their brain functions.  Marriage says to the whole world "This person is central to my life.  This is not a casual paring.  This is not a one night, or one month or one year stand.  This relationship is IMPORTANT.  I want to announce it to the world.  I want everybody to know that I value this person above all others."  While I don't believe that a marriage should contain unrealistic promises – who knows what life will bring us - I do believe that it sets out some property rights.  What's mine is hers.  If I prosper and become wealthy, she will prosper too.  If I fall upon hard times, I have no doubts that she will give me whatever support she can, just as I would for her.  We are a team.  We are a couple.  We are equal partners in life and we make decisions as a couple, with discussion and honesty. Being married is more than just living together, as we have for the past six years.  Being married is living together publicly, making a public statement of our commitment to each other.

I know Ruth agrees with me that neither one of us should be the "boss" in this marriage.  She has a right to her own thoughts, emotions, and decisions.  I have a right to mine.  Where our actions affect the other, we will discuss our choices and come to an agreement.  We may not always be totally happy with this agreement, but we will respect the individuality of our partner. I also know that Ruth agrees with me that we have ownership of our own past, and our own feelings for others.  Marriage is not something that narrows our emotional life.  On the contrary, it welcomes in those whom our partner loves.  We both have the confidence in ourselves to accept whatever "baggage" the other brings to this marriage. So, there is no downside to marriage for me.  There's no risk. Marriage feels like an obvious evolution of a relationship that started with intellectual attraction, developed into a close friendship, and resulted in intimacy.  We already are married.  We have been married for some time.  Isn't it time to admit it?

The second question, why do I want to marry Ruth, is much easier to answer.  Ruth is simply one of the best people I have ever met.  She's caring.  She's honest.  She's very very intelligent. I can be with her for months on end without ever running out of conversation or becoming bored.  We share many attitudes towards life, people, society, and ideology.

Somebody once described us as one person in two bodies. This is not quite accurate, but sometimes it feels perfectly descriptive. I've never met anybody I could be as comfortable with as Ruth.  Most of all, she's a "good" person. If there's anything mean or nasty about Ruth, I haven't been able to discover it. In this regard she's much better than me, and she makes me want to be a better person.

Just one recent example.  We were in Australia for our winter holiday.  I'd been wanting to see an echidna.  But when we found one at the side of the road, it buried it's head in the bushes and braced it's feet. All I could see was its backside.  I took a stick and was going to force the animal out of this position, so I could take a good look at it.  Ruth objected.  And of course she was right and I was wrong.  The poor terrified creature did not want anything more than its prickly spines expose.  I won't go so far as to say I feel ashamed of my impulse to terrify this creature.  But I do recognize that Ruth has instincts that are less... primitive than mine.  Her very name says it.  Ruth, the opposite of ruthless, a word seldom used now that means "compassion".  Her empathy level is always high, for everybody and every creature.  In this, and in many other ways, I learn from her.

I've told Ruth that I think she's perfect.  She laughs at this, and says she hopes I will remain deluded.  But really she is perfect,  or at least perfect for me.  I'm very happy that she has decided that I qualify as a life partner.  I'm very happy to be able to stand before you today and declare that Ruth is my wife.

Wedding of Ruth Anderson and David Scott,  Winnipeg, Canada

Why I Want to Marry David

Ruth explains to David why she wants to marry him.  Winnipeg, Canada

I love you.

You love me.

You express that love every day in many ways and I feel it.

I feel very comfortable when I am with you.

I feel incredibly supported by you.

I have fun living and travelling with you.

You know more about me than anyone else in the world and you still say I am perfect.

You laugh when I say you’re delusional.

You are smart and you challenge me intellectually.

You have a wild, spontaneous edge that is good for me to be around.

You love dogs.

You love to learn and so do I. We share what we learn and we both grow by it.

My life is better for having you in it.

We talk through our problems and strive to be honest (and compassionate) with each other.

You can (and have) said I’m sorry.

You point out when I stumble in living up to who I want to be, when I am bitchy or hurtful or cutting.

You don’t hold grudges after a heartfelt apology.

You help me to be a better person.

You are a good roommate and take the responsibilities of sharing a household seriously.

After 5 and half years of almost daily contact for hours a day (except in the summers) I still enjoy being with you and we don’t seem to run out of interesting things to say to each other.

I don’t foresee that changing.

You are a good cook.

You introduce me to new things.

You let me prod you into going places you may not be inspired to go to on your own,

and you tell me when you enjoyed them.

I like who I am when I am with you.

You are a fine musician and I love to perform with you.

You are comfortable with me having center stage at times.

You say your life is all about you, but many times you make me feel it is all about you and me, and sometimes even just all about me.

You don’t try to dominate me and you don’t want me to dominate you.

I have never felt this compatible with anyone before in my life.

You appreciate me.

So that says why I want to be with you, but why do I want to marry you?

Marriage is a public statement of intent. There is power in a public statement. To make one requires a stronger level of conviction than a statement made behind closed doors. When I made the decision to be a vegetarian 11 years ago I didn’t tell anyone else for a few weeks because I knew the power of a public statement. I knew I would feel more bound to follow through on being a vegetarian once I had announced it publicly. I wanted to be sure it was something I really wanted, and could do, before I invoked that power. That public statement, which had not been made as a lifelong commitment, helped maintain my vegetarian convictions for five years.

The fact that I did not stay a vegetarian should be no reason for concern. Vegetarianism hadn’t make a reciprocal commitment to me, and it didn’t add even a fraction of the things to my life that you do.

When I say my vows to you, you will know, and feel, that stronger conviction. I will be telling you that I am not just taking it day by day to see how it goes, but that I am planning my life with you as a central part of it. And when you say your vows to me I will know and feel the same. I think that this mutual knowing and feeling will deepen the bond that we feel with each other, that it will move us to a deeper level of connection.

Do I expect our relationship to change after we get married?

Right now I don’t think so. I think our feelings may intensify and I may feel a greater sense of emotional certainty, but the day to day arrangements of our living I expect to continue much as they have. We will work out new things as they come up. I don’t think I have ideas of what a husband should be or do lurking in the back corners of my mind. But I do know that if you start to notice behaviours on my part that show that I actually do, that you’ll be quick to point them out to me, and we’ll work through any bumps.

David reads his wedding vows to Ruth.  Winnipeg, Canada

Our Wedding Vows (each in turn)

Ruth takes her turn to read the wedding vows.  Winnipeg, Canada

I  vow to you that I will be the best partner, friend and husband/wife I can imagine being.

I will do my best to always have my words come from a place of love, seeking to support and encourage the wonderful person that you are.

I will do my best to give you space to be yourself, and I will be your number one fan when you express yourself as you are.

I will do my best to make the collaborative work of art that is our love continue to grow in beauty, intricacy, complexity, and expressive power.

I will do my best to be considerate, and to remember that you live your own dream, a dream that I am privileged to witness, but not to own.

Most of all I will be here for you to the best of my ability. I will give you my very best, and keep you in the central position in my life for as long as you want to share yourself with me.

I appreciate you. You bring comfort and joy to my life. You impress me and inspire me. I commit myself to our partnership without doubts, qualms, or fears. There is simply nothing I want more than to be with you.

Not a dry eye in the house.

Scott Anderson, professional sound engineer, generously donated his services to our wedding.

Scott, brother of the bride, provided the PA system and sound engineering services. 

 Norma signs our marriage into law.
Then it was time for the official paperwork to be signed.

During the signing, Dave Clement entertained with a song he wrote for his daughter's wedding - "Husband and Wife".

David signs the marriage form. David Rivers witnesses our marriage. Ruth signs the marriage form. Ruth's sister, Deborah, witnesses Ruth's signature.

And that's it.  It's official.  We're married.

After the official signing, we sang the song that has become "our song".  "You Belong to Me" by Peewee King.

First performance as husband and wife.  "You Belong to Me"  First performance as husband and wife.  "You Belong to Me"

The tradiional wedding kiss.

To wind up the ceremony, Ruth led the audience in a three part song she wrote for my sixtieth birthday.  Half the audience sang "Being gentle showing loving kindness." while the other half sang "Be aware, have self acceptance."  and Ruth and David sang the third part: "I am grateful, for everything I have in my life - with you."  The three parts fit together like a Gregorian chant.  Simply brilliant.

The wedding concluded with an open mic session.  Guests were invited to come up and sing a song, read a poem, present a dance or say a few words. 

Guests participate in our wedding celebration.  Winnipeg, Canada

Guests participate in our wedding celebration.  Winnipeg, Canada

Guests participate in our wedding celebration.  Winnipeg, Canada  Guests participate in our wedding celebration.  Winnipeg, Canada 

Pat welcomes a new son in law.  Thanks, Thump.    Nancy entertains with a Morris dance.
                        - Blair Mahaffy photo

Guests participate in our wedding celebration.  Winnipeg, Canada  Guests participate in our wedding celebration.  Winnipeg, Canada  Guests participate in our wedding celebration.  Winnipeg, Canada

Guests participate in our wedding celebration.  Winnipeg, Canada  Guests participate in our wedding celebration.  Winnipeg, Canada

Linda and Clark perform at our wedding celebration.  Winnipeg, Canada

Peggy performs at the open mic.  What an incredible voice!  Paul explains why the Bhigg house is special.  Winnipeg, Canada
                                                                   - Blair Mahaffy photo                                                                          - Blair Mahaffy photo

This was followed by a pot luck feast in a Canadian/Chinese style - perogies and cabbage rolls eaten with souvenir chopsticks, and a music circle that continued into the late evening.

I can't say too much about the kindness and generosity of Ruth's family and friends.  Special thanks to Elizabeth Clement for all her hard work accommodating guests and arranging food.  Also, special thanks to all those who contributed so generously to our travel funds.  You have all made our wedding day special beyond words.

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Summer vacation at home with Ruth's mother, Pat, and some of her family.  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

July 17, 2010 Summer Vacation Continues

After leaving Sheila and Sadie in Kelowna I did an all nighter to Saskatoon, to the home of Ruth's mother.  It was a beautiful drive through the badlands of Alberta.  I should have taken more pictures.

Ruth's mom checks out the engagement ring. Okay, the magnifying glass was my idea.

I had a great day of hanging out with Ruth's mom before Ruth arrived by bus from Winnipeg, to take the curse of the last leg of the drive.

Ruth's sister Deborah in her cancer research lab.  A real live scientist.

Ruth's sister, Deborah, runs a cancer research lab in Saskatoon.  She treated us to a tour and running commentary on her work.  Fascinating stuff. 

Deborah shows us around her lab.  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

They recently had a breakthrough and verified a molecular switch that was previously not understood.

Ruth gets a look at cancer cells.  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada   Actual cancer cells, as seen under the microscope in Deborah's lab.  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada   Ruth's mom gets a look at some cancer cells.  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
We all got a chance to look at cancer cells through the microscope. 
Not that we could tell what we were looking at.

Ruth and I enjoyed a pleasant and uneventful drive from Saskatoon to Ruth's house in Winnipeg.  Now we're renovating a bathroom in the days before our wedding.

Ruth at work renovating her bathroom in the Bhigg House.  Winnipeg, Manitoba

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Dangerous Toys

Our friend David (Yes, another David.  This house is full of them.)  is working with us.  He was very impressed with my new bullwhip (scroll way down if you follow this link), which I've been showing off wherever I visit.  But below is the result when he tried to crack it.  Ouch.

Welts raised by my new bullwhip in the hands of a man who doesn't know how to crack one.  He was lucky.  The thing is capable of cutting to the bone.

I thought it would be easy to teach people how to crack a bullwhip. Apparently I was wrong.  So far I've managed to teach the skill to nobody, and have only succeeded in inflicting pain on two of my friends.  Fortunately David came back for more, and I had to convince him to stop trying when I couldn't stand to watch anymore.  He says he wants a bullwhip of his own.

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A bit of repair work on the road between Bangkok and Winnipeg.  Tandem bikers on a major adventure that will take them to South America.

July 13,2010 Not much about China (It's all about me.)

Travels, friends and family - I'm back in Canada visiting all the people I love back home.  It's been an incredible vacation so far, and it promises to get even better. 

  Check out that sky.  Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada  My mother, Thea Scott, in the assisted living home.  A good place for her.
This hill is steeper than it looks in this picture.  My morning exercise was to walk up it to visit my mother.

Cousins thrice removed.  Beautiful children.  Ruskin, B.C.  Cousins thrice removed.  Beautiful children.  Ruskin, B.C.
Cousins thrice removed.  It's a growing family with great kids.

My daughter, Reba.  Nanaimo, B.C.   David and Marjorie, my violin teacher.

 My son Casey on his sailboat.    Casey came to the government dock to get me and take me out to his boat.
My son Casey took me out to his sailboat for a night of spiced rum and conversation.

Ah, the simple joys of life.  Kiri on my shoulders.  Saltspring Island, B.C.  A visit with the grand kids.  Kiri and Via.  Saltspring Island, B.C.
A great visit with the grand kids.

Saorsa with pi xiu, ninth son of the dragon.
My grandson Saorsa with his present from China - pi xiu, ninth son of the dragon.

Breakfast with grand kids.  Nanaimo, B.C.    How else can you get it in your mouth?  Breakfast with grand kids.  Nanaimo, B.C.
Nothing like a good plate of lingini.

I don't know who they are, but I know the feeling.  On the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay, B.C., Canada

Right now I'm writing this in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, at Ruth's mother's home, after driving all night in the car that Sadie and Malcolm bought for me to use this summer. 

I made it.  All the way to Ruth's mother's home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada   Ruth's mother, Pat Anderson, and  I have been having a great time.
The little blue car that Sadie and Malcolm bought so they could lend it to me for the summer has been running smoothly.  All I had to do was wash the bugs off it, and it's all sparkly again.

Along the way I visited my nephew Ean in Kelowna, and taught him how to play Chinese chess.  We've got a game going online right now. I also stopped in on Sheila, my ex-wife's sister, and went hiking with her and her boyfriend, Les.

Les and Sheila and Buster the affection sponge dog.  On a hike near Peachland, B.C.

Next morning I met Sheila and her sister Sadie for coffee.  Sadie had been traveling with Laara and Zel on their big honking motorcycles, but she was heading back to the coast, and I was on my way to Saskatoon.

After coffee with Sheila, Westbank, B.C.  Sister Sadie on her Yamaha.  A traveling machine.

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The People You Meet on the Road !!

It's not often you see a couple on a tandem bike working their way up the highway in the Rockie Mountains.  Shortly after I pulled off the road to put my lunch together, the biking pair pulled in too.  They stopped a fair distance ahead of me, either not wanting to impose on my space or not wanting any company.  But I was curious and walked up to introduce myself.  And that's how I met Emanuel and Nawal, who started their bike ride in Bangkok.  Bangkok?  You mean Bangkok, Thailand?  That's right, with a ride all the way through China.  Now they are heading for Jasper on their way to Winnipeg and ultimately Venezuela in South America.  Inspiring couple.

They began their trip in Bangkok, and rode the tandem bike through China.  Here they are heading for Jasper,B.C.  They began their trip in Bangkok, and rode the tandem bike through China.  Here they are heading for Jasper,B.C.

You can check out their adventure on their blog. It's in French but the pictures tell the story.

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June 25, 2010 I'm Back in Canada

But just for the summer.  My updates may be a bit spotty, even more so than usual, for the summer months.  We return to China at the end of August.

Stupidity Tax

I got nailed for a stupidity tax at the Shanghai airport. Two reasons - I wanted to take my guitar back to Canada with me, and I wanted to take back my new bullwhip so I can compare it to the whip I bought back in the seventies.
     I thought I remembered taking my guitar on an airplane with no extra charge, but those days seem to be over.  The guitar counts as another piece of luggage, and since they only allow two pieces the nice girl at the checkout told me there would be a... gasp....$220 Canadian charge for the additional case.  I whined and whinged and she suggested that I check the guitar, but hold back my smaller suitcase and take it on as carry on.  Whew.  Problem solved.  Except... I had forgotten that I put the bullwhip in the smaller suitcase.  Naturally one can't take a bullwhip onto an airplane.  Why, I could... wave it at somebody and make threatening noises?  What?  There's no room on a plane to swing or crack a twelve foot bullwhip.  What could I do with it?  But there you go.  Security theater demands that nothing that could be in any way threatening be allowed on the plane.  So they sent me back to check in the bag, and pay the extra baggage charge.
     Gotta hate those stupidity taxes.

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George, Panda, Ruth, David, and Winkle at our first pre-wedding dinner.  I'm so lucky to have such wonderful friends.  They'll be scattered to different cities and jobs when we return to China.

Chinese word of the day: 驾照
(jià zhào literally "drive + license; permit) = n. driver's license

June 18, 2010  I Can Drive in China

It took four tries, but I finally managed to pass the written part of the Chinese driver's test, with a little translation help from my friend Winkle.  The test is far more difficult than I would have expected.  I have to thanks all my Chinese friends who helped me get through this - Chen, George, Wang Yijing, and Winkle.  Oh yes, and Shirley in the administration office who helped get the paperwork together.  It took a collaborative effort.

I don't need a driver's license, but I've had one since the day I turned sixteen.  I feel insecure without one.

So that's done.  I can now legally drive in China.  Not that I think I'm going to any time soon.  I really like having Chen drive me around and he always seems to be available.  It's like having our own limo standing by.  Also, I want to be more fluent with the language before I do any driving.  But I do like having the license.

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Flowers for the Hospital Staff

Panda translated my letter to the hospital administration into Chinese, and helped me pick out flower to thank the nurses, doctors and staff. 

Panda helped me pick a flower arrangement to give to the hospital staff.  Wuxi, China

What would I do without this girl.  I'd better figure this out because in the Fall she'll be doing her internship as a nurse in Changzhou.  We're sure going to miss her in Wuxi.

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So Many People to Thanks

Once again the administration treated us to a farewell lunch.  Gourmet food in a Five Star restaurant.  And after six years in China, they can still serve me something I've never seen before.

End of term lunch hosted by the Foreign Affairs Department administration of Jiangnan University.  Wuxi, China   No, I've seen prawns before.  These just took the most impressive picture.

We have contracts signed, and will be back at the end of August for another two terms.  So happy to be returning yet again, in a large part because this is the best administration I could ever ask for.

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In Praise of the Proletariat Chariot

I love my bike.   It's a beater now, after four years of daily use and being left out in the weather all the time, and it never was one of your fancy multi-gear mountain bike numbers - one speed, total simplicity, just like my bike when I was a kid.  The back wheel has a woggle in it so it won't take the weight of a Chinese student riding double any more.  But my bike gives me joy. 
     This campus is very flat.  There's a bit of effort needed to get over the big bridge, but that is repaid by the  release of potential energy that zoom me down the other side.  I never have to peddle hard.  Often I find myself gliding into the parking lot with no effort.  It's magic.  There are several open air bike repair places scattered around the campus and they work amazingly cheap, so maintenance is never a problem.  Also, the Chinese have great bicycle ponchos for rainy weather.  These are long in the front and go right over the basket, so my knees stay dry as does anything I'm carrying.

Typical low overhead bike repair on campus.  Great service.  Very low prices.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China   Ruth doubles Panda while giving GouGou a run.

Electric scooters and electric bikes are popular with some students and foreigners.  I can't see the point.  They don't go that much faster, and they give you no exercise at all.  Cars are status symbols.  Car owners seem to turn into arrogant pseudo-nobility, racing down the campus streets in a great hurry, honking for bikes to get out of their way.  And there are more cars every semester.  I love my bike.

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Don't let the beard fool you.  That's Michael, not me.  The road to the nearby village turns into a street market every evening.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese word of the day: 牙医
(yá yī literally "tooth doctor") = dentist

June 15, 2010 Tooth Care Before We Fly Home

My dentist is one professional I want to know and trust.  I've had the same dentist in Canada for twenty years or more, and was seeing him every summer.  But I'm now paid Chinese wages, perfectly adequate for life in China but not for uninsured Canadian dental bills. It took me a couple of years here before I found a dentist.  Now, before leaving for each summer vacation, I get my teeth cleaned and any dental maintenance done.

One third of one of four floors in the hospital dental wing, Wuxi, China

Everything in China happens on a different scale from what we are used to.  This is just one third of one of four dental floors in the downtown hospital.  Less privacy than we are used to having, but an economy of space and workers.
About a month ago, one of my gum line front fillings just fell out.  No warning.  It just got tired of hanging in there, so suddenly I had this lump of porcelain in my mouth.  Today I had it replaced.  The good news is that it cost 35 RMB ($5.28 Canadian) and I was given the usual express service that seems to be accorded to foreigners. 

Serviceable, but not exactly a color match.  My first Chinese filling, Wuxi, China The bad new: This is what it looks like.  Not much attempt to colour match. Fortunately the new filling is hidden behind my lip no matter how broadly I smile.

I know that with minimal research, more discrimination in my choice of dental services, and a little more money there is dental work here that is aesthetically as good as anything I can get in Canada.  For now, this is all I need and at $5.28 Canadian you can't beat the price.

The cleaning was a little more expensive than the filling, 140 RMB  ($21 Canadian), but very high tech and thorough.  Besides the ultrasonic de-scaling, the treatment includes something that feels like being sandblasted with flavoured baking soda.  Whatever it was, my mouth now fees incredibly fresh and clean.

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The Bachelor Stag Party that Wasn't

My friend Robert, a movie producer from Canada who is setting up production here in China, first offered a traditional pre-wedding stag party in Nantong.  Then we realized that such events really aren't our style, and we'd much rather just get together with our girlfriends for a good dinner.  So that's what we did.  Another feast at the Shanghai Teppanyaki Restaurant.  Great Japanese sushi, sashimi, and grill cooked right at the table.

Our grill chef at the Shanghai Teppanyaki Restaurant, Wuxi, China  My old friend Robert with his lovely girlfriend.  Thanks for the dinner and visit, Rob.  Wuxi, China

Beats a drunken evening of acting like idiots any day of the week.  Life is good.  Thanks Rob.

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That Time of Year Again - Graduation Day

This year's graduating class has special significance for us, because they were freshmen the year we started a Jiangnan University and we've come to know and love many of them.

Students gather for grad photos, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

All around the campus at the scenic spots we see groups of black cloaked students getting ready to have their picture taken.  Apparently there is no actual grad ceremony.  Students get their robes and pasteboards, have their pictures taken with their class, and pick up their diplomas at the office.

Students gather for grad photos in front of the library fountain, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Some graduations are especially poignant for me.  We happened upon my wonderful young friend, Winkle, who has often appeared on this site, usually bringing food from her home town or teaching me to rollerblade.  But this is her last year here.  I'm really going to miss her. 

Breaks my heart to see her go.  My friend Winkle graduates this year.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China     Breaks my heart to see her go.  Our friend Winkle graduates this year.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Hopefully, in this age of email and instant communication, we'll keep in touch.  If she ever has a problem with English, I'll be as close as her computer.

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Spring has come to the campus of Jiangnan University,  Wuxi, China.

Chinese word of the day: 雾化吸入
(wù huà xī rù literally "fog change inhale enter") = atomizer inhaler (for putting a fog into my lungs)

June 07, 2010 Hospital for a Week

I'm out, but just for the evening and so I can catch my classes tomorrow morning for their final assessment.  I feel fine.

Wuxi number one hospital, Wuxi, China  My home for the past week.

I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for my administration, especially Shirley and Ms. Liu, for the many students who have visited me in hospital for the past week,  for Wang Yijing and his parents who came all the way from Suzhou to bring me a huge bunch of bananas, to Jenny and Sand (great Chinese chess games) and Tire, bearing purple roses the students from English 0902, Vincent (the friend who found the bees wax for me) and Fabiola from Costa Rica, and the Tibetan students, Ramu, Drolma, Helen, Reta, and yes, even Ci Ren JieBu, Hilary and Oael and Jim and Lin Ting and Harry and Lily. And of course Panda, who visited every day until she had to leave for her internship in Changzhou. You have all made me feel loved and cared for, and I'm grateful. 

Some of my favourite students visit.  Wuxi Number One Hospital, Wuxi, China  Our Tibetan friends visit.  Wuxi Number One Hospital, Wuxi, China
Student visitors bearing bears and lots of fruit. 

I'm home tonight because I couldn't stand being in that room any longer when I'm feeling quite well, and I have my final assessment to do for two of my oral English classes tomorrow morning.  But I've promised to go back at noon tomorrow, and to stay until the doctors say I can go home. 

Ms. Liu, the Head of the Foreign Affairs Department,  brings me some personal attention.  This administration takes care of us.

I also want to express my appreciation for the nurses, doctors, and staff at the Wuxi Renmin Yi Yuan, the Wuxi Number One Hospital.  I've been treated with great care and have enjoyed the bright airy room which I share with Mr. Shen Xue Hong, a most amicable room mate.

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Is it Time to Go to the Hospital?

The man is obviously dead.  Nevertheless, a machine is administering forceful timed compressions to his chest in what could be immediately recognized as external heart massage.  Thump, and his chest compressed at least three inches.  Release.  Thump. Release. Thump. Release. Thump. Release. And then a ten second pause before the sequences started again.  The monitor displays a flat line, and adds its own regular beep, widely spaced, to the science fiction horror sound track of the scene.  But unlike in science fiction, this guy is not coming back.
Two hours earlier I had crawled out of the steam tent that Ruth improvised from our dining room table covered with blankets.  I’d been soaking up the steam from the pot of water on our hotplate, sitting on the floor beside my head.  In the old days this would have been a kettle, but modern kettles turn off as soon as the water boils, so now you have to use a pot.  It was Saturday evening. 

I'm in the steam tent, soaking up moisture in an attempt to get my lungs working again.

Almost exactly a week before this, on Friday evening, I had started to feel the sore throat that indicated a cold coming on.  It was our regular Chinese Corner evening, the two hours each week when students and friends come to party and help us learn to speak Chinese. 

Students at our Chinese corner, helping us learn their language.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Usually guest linger, but this evening we said goodnight to our visitors promptly at nine. Already I felt bad.  I needed to get to bed.
Bed is pretty much where I stayed for that entire week.  Saturday, all day in bed.  Sunday I did manage to get out and do the grocery shopping with Ruth, because that is such a chore to do alone.  Monday I had no classes, so it was bed the entire day.  Tuesday morning I managed to scrape myself together for my eight o’clock class, and even managed to get something interesting happening with the students.  (We explored nursery rhymes, and I was excited to discover how useful they can be to help students with English pronunciation.)  But that topic was burned through by twenty minutes into the second period, so I let the students practice free talk and relaxed with a book.  My second class of the morning, at 9:55 was just a replay of the first.  It also ended twenty minutes into the next period, but this time, after extracting a promise that they would only speak English for the next twenty-five minutes,   I announced xia ke, class dismissed, and made for home and bed.
Wednesday, nothing had changed.  I crawled out for my 9:55am class, but by then it was obvious that this bug was getting the best of me.  After class I stopped by the campus clinic, conveniently located on my way home.  Our campus clinic is actually a small hospital.  It is well equipped for most medical situations, and includes a very impressive x-ray department.  I was directed to see a doctor, a kindly middle aged lady, and we managed to communicate well enough to get me started on a battery of tests, including a chest x-ray, and penicillin allergy test, after which I was hooked up to an IV drip.  I was asked if I wanted to rest or watch TV.  I chose rest, so I could read my book, and soon found myself relaxing in a large room with six beds, none of them occupied.  An IV drip takes two to three hours, so it’s a nice block of time out for reading.  Ruth came by after her afternoon class to keep me company.  I’ve told her that there are two kinds of sick people.  One kind just wants to be left alone to suffer through it.  The other kind wants to be fussed over.  I’m the other kind. 
You can imagine what happens when these two kinds of sick people partner with their opposite.   If you just want to be left alone, your partner fussing over you can be very annoying.  “Honey, I love you but please leave me a lone. Can’t you see I’m sick?”  On the other hand, if you like to be fussed over, and your partner likes to be left alone, then you can expect to feel ignored, neglected and unloved unless you make your needs very clear.  Your partner hates to be fussed over, and wouldn’t think of fussing over you.  Fortunately, Ruth also likes to be fussed over when she’s sick, and she’s a great fusser.

     After the first day of IV drip, I was feeling a bit better, but had no confidence that the bug was being clobbered by the drug.  Perhaps a minor, opportunistic infection was being knocked off.  But the main problem was probably viral, and penicillin wasn’t going to touch it.  Still, once you start on an antibiotic course, you must see it through, unless you really want to stock your body with drug resistant organisms.  So I was back at the campus clinic on Thursday and Friday for the IV. 
Friday afternoon was scheduled to be my second attempt to pass the Chinese drivers license written test, this time with the translation help of my friend George (Zhu Kaining.)  Everything was starting to happening at once.  A rush narration job had come to us, and I was struggling to complete the recording before we would have to leave for the test.  I got through the reading, but as I was uploading the files I had a major respiratory attack.  I felt horrible, couldn’t get any air, couldn’t get any oxygen out of whatever air I got. Naturally this was the time for computer problems and delays with uploading, just as time to complete the tasks at hand was slipping away.  It was a struggle to stay calm, while feeling suffocated.  Beginning and mid-exhale, my lungs were making the noise you get at the bottom of a milkshake when you drink it with a straw.  At the bottom of an exhale the sound changed to a good imitation of a football crowd cheering.  Neither sound was comforting.  I looked and sounded terrible.
George and Ruth and Wang Yijing were all for postponing the drivers test, but I really wanted to get it done, and had imposed on George’s time to have him join me.  Chen, our driver, was already honking his horn to indicate that he was waiting for us outside the apartment.  I tried to project confidence and headed for the door, hoping George would follow.  Of course he did.
By the time we got to the driver’s license bureau, I was feeling minimally better.  We presented our paperwork and I sat down in the computer room to wait for the cop to unlock the system and set up my test.  This time here I was alone in the room The new Motor Vehicle Bureau  is a new facility, with new equipment.  I was admiring the chair in which I sat.  Very comfortable.  Perfect angle to the back, with nice lower back support.  I leaned back a bit, and slowly sank backwards until I was lying on my back on the floor.  The chair had collapsed.  There are times when China likes to mess with my head.
I’d managed to disentangle myself from the wreckage of the chair by the time George and Chen returned with the cop.  We got the test started, and for the next hour George translated questions while I did my best to provide the answers.  I failed the test for the second time.  My first attempt, the English version of the test, I got 70 out of a hundred, but needed 90 to pass.  This time I got 82.  Still no cigar.  George said they have updated the test and information, and there were questions he’d never seen before.  After his final exam he’s going to give me a day of preparation, and then we’ll try again.

     By the time I got home from the Motor Vehicle Bureau, I was breathing a lot more comfortably, but still felt bad enough to go straight back to bed.  On Saturday morning, Ruth suggested the steam tent, like her mother had made for her when she was a child, and… after a significant pause during which I did not suggest I should put one together… she asked if I’d like her to set one up.  “Oh would you.  That would be wonderful.” I said, giving her a blast of appreciation that would have sounded like sarcasm to anyone who didn’t know how much I wanted not to get out of bed and mess with a complicated furniture arrangement problem.
I heard Ruth moving the table around and getting things set up.  “Do you think you should empty everything off the ledge before we start filling it with steam?” I asked.  Our table has a middle layer, four inches below and the full size of the top.  It’s filled with an eclectic collection of Chinese games, flash cards, books, scissors, stapler, office supplies, and notebooks.  “Probably would be a good idea,” Ruth answered.  A fortunate response.
I was lying in the steam under the table when Panda arrived for her weekend visit. She would have arrived the day before, but had been knocked off her bike by a motorcycle and injured her leg and head.  She told me this last information ruefully because I’ve been pushing her to wear a helmet but she doesn’t want to stand out from the crowd.  This was Saturday morning.  I gave Panda a helmet to wear and we went off for lunch, with me doubling Panda on the back of Ruth’s bike because mine has a woggly back wheel that won’t take the extra weight, to the row of the tiny restaurants near the East gate. 
The first restaurant we entered had people smoking near the door, so we walked out again and went next door.  No smokers, and a very cute puppy.  It pays to be discriminating sometimes. 

     After lunch we peddled back home and I spent the rest of the day alternating between the steam tent and bed.
“I really should get a sloth to keep me company in here.” I called out from the dripping fog of the steam tent.  “You’d have to install hooks for it to hang from” Ruth called back. 
“I was thinking miniature sloths.  You know, like toy poodles.”
“Genetically modified sloths.  There could be a market for those.”
“At least initially, before people find out about their toilet habits.”

At ten o’clock I crawled out of the steam tent to watch an episode of “Big Bang Theory” with Panda and Ruth.  I was feeling pretty rocky, but sipped on a Compare and soda that made a nice contrast to the steam tent.
“Do you think that could be contributing to your feeling bad?” Ruth asked, pointing to my drink.
“It’s possible, but I just started it so it hasn’t contributed yet and I think I’ll feel worse without it.”

     But worse was definitely what I was feeling by the end of the episode.  I went back to my office to shut down the computer for the day, and my body was going nuts on me.  I couldn’t get air.  My heart rate was up to an alarming speed.  My head was throbbing and I could hear my pulse in my ears.  I tried to concentrate on slowing my breathing, breathing deeply, relaxing.  It wasn’t helping.  I had a move to make in a Chinese chess game against Chemist in England.  He asked me how I was feeling.  I replied that I couldn’t remember feeling worse, then submitted the move and shut down the machine.  Time for bed. 
Panda was also ready for bed and wanted her hug.  She went off to sleep on our couch.  Ruth was finishing up something on her computer in her office.
Lying in bed, I tried again to relax, lower my heart rate, breath.  The thought occurred to me that this could easily get out of my control.  When a storm is coming, a sailor needs to shorten down his sails and tighten everything up. This is called reefing the sails, and there’s a rule about reefing. The first time you ask yourself if its time to reef, it’s time to reef.  A sailor learns the reason for this rule the first time he disobeys it, finding himself tap dancing around on a slippery bouncing deck, hanging on by his eye lashes, struggling with thunderously flogging sails while various pieces of tackle try to brain him and the boom does its best to knock him overboard. Reefing sails is a lot easier before the storm hits than after.  It occurred to me that there should be an equivalent rule for my current situation.  If you're wondering whether you should go to the hospital, you should go to the hospital. So I got out of bed and started pulling on minimal clothes.  Just sweat pants, a T-shirt, and slippers.  I also started shouting at Panda.
“Panda.  Get up.  Get dressed.  Get on Ruth’s bike and go to the hospital.  Tell them that I’m coming and I’m going to need oxygen.”  I was aware of snapping orders at Panda like I had some authority over her, and not using courtesy words like “please”.  I was imitating the man in the CPR video.  There’s a time for courtesy, and a time for snapping orders. I knew Panda didn’t need to be asked nicely.

     I was ahead of Panda at the bikes, but she passed me on the way out of the courtyard.  I was trying to stay calm, move slowly, not put too much energy into peddling.  I realized that I had neglected to wear my helmet.  What irony it would be if the helmet campaigner fell off his bike and did in his brain when he wasn’t wearing a helmet.  It’s an irony I don’t need.  The night air was damp and cool.  Refreshing and, I hoped, rich with oxygen.  Foggy air has more oxygen than clear air, which is why car engines run better in fog. (Hmmn.  Is this true?  I must investigate.  It’s been common wisdom since I was a teenager, but the improvement might be due to the water vapor somehow causing a richer gas mixture or some other factor as yet unknown.) Funny the things I think about when wondering how close I am to dying.  And how close was I to dying?  Probably still plenty of glide space left, but who knows.  I don’t think I’d be the first to be caught by surprise.  I remember Laara, my ex-wife and a nurse, telling me about one of the nurses she worked with.  The woman returned home to find her husband stone cold dead on the sofa.  He had a muscle stimulator hooked to his left arm, and was obviously trying to relieve muscle pain, when the heart attack took him away.  Caught by surprise.  I have lots of confidence in my heart, but my lungs and brain, at least the autonomic systems part, seemed to be in a difficult relationship.

Instant relief as they get me some oxygen at the campus clinic.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China  I'm not usually that bright a red.  Examination at the campus clinic.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

     Panda had alerted the hospital night staff, and they had a tank of oxygen waiting for me.  They also had an asthma puffer.  The relief was immediate.  Not that I felt good, but at least I didn’t feel like I was going to die.
They told me that they’d been waiting for me that morning for my fourth IV.  This was so strange, because they had told me they wanted to see me Monday morning, which seemed strange enough to me to make me check several times to make sure I had the name of the week correct.  I distinctly remember saying “Bu ming tian ma?” which means “Not tomorrow?” and being told “Bu ming tian.”
"Xing qi yi jian, dui?"  Monday see you, right?
"Dui.  Xing qi yi."  Right.  Monday.
So I have no idea how this confusion arose, but they were adamant.  I should have been there that morning.
No matter at this point.  They thought my condition was too serious for them to handle, and recommended I should go to the big number one hospital downtown.  Panda called Chen, who said he was drunk and couldn’t drive.  Chen called his colleague, who was too far away.  The doctor suggested an ambulance.  Great.  An ambulance.  A big shiny ambulance with lights and a siren and a nice bed with clean white linen and all kinds of medical gear in cupboards and strapped to corners.  Alas, not to be.  What arrived was a big van.  It had seats.  The campus hospital produced a big bladder which they filled with oxygen from the tank.  My nose tube was transferred to it, and we all, Ruth, Panda and I transferred to the van seats.
“This isn’t an ambulance.  This is a van.” I complained  “I really wanted a helicopter.”
“You should always ask for what you really want,” Ruth said.

Call this an ambulance?  I wanted a helicopter.

     From here on, Panda was in charge.  She lead the way into the hospital, found the appropriate desk, filled in the paperwork, guided us to the washrooms, and lead us into the room where the chest thumping machine was working mindlessly on the dead guy.  Thump release thump release for five thumps, then the ten second pause before the sequence started again.  I settled onto the narrow gurney in the next curtained examination area.  A fresh oxygen nose tube was hooked up. (These, by the way, are not as scary as they look.  I’ve always thought they went down into the patient but they don’t.  They sit barely inside the nostrils, and it’s an optical illusion that they enter the body.  Sometimes experience brings comfort.) An antibiotic IV drip was started.
Doctors came to examine me.  The doctors wanted an x-ray, so I started to climb off the gurney but was told to relax.  My IV was switched from the ceiling pole to a pole on the gurney, my oxygen was again switched to a bladder, and I was wheeled out to the x-ray room.
“ I have a brother and cousin living in Toronto.” Said the doctor as we left the room.  I asked him if he had been to see them.  He laughed, no.  Impossible.

On route to the x-ray room.  Note the bladder of oxygen.  Wuxi Number One Hospital, Wuxi, China  X-ray of my suffering lungs.  Wuxi Number One Hospital, Wuxi, China

     The x-ray was fast and efficient.  The result was scary, even to a person who never looks at x-rays.   I was expecting subtlety, the kinds of things a doctor would have to  bring to my attention before they made any sense.  What I got was more like a bomb report photograph.  Nothing subtle about this picture. My left lung was three quarters full of fluid.  The right one is better, but still not clear.  Pneumonia.  “The old man’s friend”, so called because, before modern antibiotics, it brought an end to the suffering of the elderly.  Except, please, I’m not that old and I have enough friends already. 
By now the sounds from the heart massage machine were combined with occasional wails and laments from relatives.  Panda told us that the young man, only twenty years old, had hanged himself.  The heart massage machine had been trying to reverse his decision for a couple of hours by this time, and I sincerely hoped it would fail.  If they brought him back now he’d be severely brain damaged, probably a vegetable.  Let him go.
A young man had arrived with severe head injuries.  He looked like he needed the attention I was getting, and I was very aware of the way foreigners are treated here.  We get attention.  They treat us with incredible kindness and respect.  The man with the head injuries sat up, and his friend held a plastic bag for him to vomit into.  Uh oh.  Vomiting blood.  He has internal injuries too.  How serious are they?
Suddenly everything is changed.  What’s changed?  What’s happened?  Oh, it’s the heart massage machine.  I’d become so use to hearing it that the sound became just part of the wallpaper pattern.  The silence was shocking.  Then a keening wail began from the other side of the curtain.  The boys mother.  It was like a song, was in fact a song.  Heart breaking.  Instantly understandable in any language. It could have been coming from the throat of a native Indian woman at Wounded Knee.  My baby.  Why?  How will your poor mother live without you?  My baby.  I don’t think the words are written down anywhere.  This song isn’t learned.  It doesn’t need to be learned.  It comes straight from the heart to the throat and in its essence is selfish, or at least self centered.  It isn’t really about the person who is dead.  It’s the pain of the person left alive.  Pain, guilt, fear, anger, sorrow, questions without answers, all the negative emotions, all rolled out in an endless stream of consciousness.  This isn’t a love song.  Women in my culture do not sing it.  Or they don’t sing it out loud.  The pain in the mothers lament made me wish they had managed to revive her son, brain damage or no.
Two attractive young women arrived.  They fussed over the young man with the head injuries.  Touched him gently.  Stroked his face.  Wonderful.  Somebody is here for him.  Somebody  loves him.
The night rolled on.  Ruth claims that at about four o’clock time slowed down.  It became an endless series of nodding off for a minute, waking up, washroom breaks, new arrivals.  A man is brought in who looks like something exploded in front of his face.  Maybe he fell off a motorcycle.  His hand is also badly injured.  A friend helps him hold his hand up, and holds an IV drip for him.  An elderly woman arrives, not in obvious distress but I’m guessing heart attack.  Her grand daughter supports her, helps her settle.  A very noisy family move into the area on the other side of the curtain to my right.  The lament from the curtain on the left continues, as it has for hours without stopping.  I wonder if anybody would ever have the heart to stop it.  Let it run its course.  But I know it has to stop sometime.  Young policemen (hey if you had seniority, would you get this assignment) have been standing around for an hour now.  I know that sooner or later they will step in.  The body will be removed, the mother quieted.  But not yet.  There’s no rush.

I think about the movie “Love Actually…” which begins in Heathrow Airport Arrivals to illustrate the fact that, while the news is full of hatred and pain and suffering, love is actually all around us.  Emergency at the Number One Hospital in Wuxi gives me the same message, though not as joyfully.  Heathrow Arrivals is about greeting those we love.  This place is about saying goodbye to them.  But it’s still love I see all around me.
Certainly it’s love I feel from Ruth and Panda.  One of the strongest images remaining from that night is of waking from a doze to find Ruth head down on the edge of the gurney dozing on my left, and Panda the same on my right.  My angels. I’m not worthy.

As the hospital came to life, a specialist from the skin department came by to see me.  Panda had told them about the strange spots that were breaking out on my arms and shoulders.  We thought they might be connected to the chest problem.  The specialist examined them, using a tiny but wonderfully bright flashlight that emitted white light.  His verdict – mosquito bites.  Not impossible, but they must be very sneaky mosquitoes.
At eight o’clock the day shift starts.  We’ve been told all night that I should stay in the hospital, but there is no bed for me.  Now the staff will arrive who can tell us whether they will have a bed.  We wander a maze of corridors until we find the admissions registrations department.  It never ceases to amaze me that so much of China’s signage is bilingual.  A very cheerful and friendly middle aged woman takes Panda’s cell phone number and says she will call as soon as she knows of a room becoming available.  We head for home.

 Gougou is very happy to see us.  She’s also disturbed by the change in routine.  When Ruth invites her to come for her leash, she rushes into the bedroom to join me on the bed.  She leaves a spot of submissive pee when Ruth picks her up.  They go out together to get some eggs.  Ruth is going to make an omelet like her mother used to make, a scrambled omelet.  I’m going to relax and think about what I’m taking to the hospital with me.  A phone call comes in to Panda, who tells me that a room is available.  She wants to know when we will go back.  I say twelve.  She says we should better go back in the morning.  So I suggest eleven thirty.  That puts a rush on the omelet, and the student Ruth is expecting is a bit late.  Time is moving again, and too fast now.

Ruth gets the ingredients for her omelet ready – eggs, garlic, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese.  Her student arrives, and she take time out to give instructions on a catch up assignment.  Then she’s into the kitchen.  I start gathering my laptop, charger, books, papers to mark, and clothes.  What to take?  What to leave at home?  Panda suggests I take a towel and a cup.  I take my stainless travel mug.  I get everything together just as the omelet is on the table.  We divide it up and sit down to eat.
“You should have seen this table.  The top and middle glass were just covered in drops of water.  It looked beautiful.  I wish I’d taken a picture but I’d already started to wipe it." Ruth said.
Good thing I took everything off the ledge.”

     The scrambled omelet was predictably tasty.  Panda and I went back for seconds, finishing just as Chen arrived.
Chen has shaved his hair, which makes him look  like a movie thug.  It’s a look he can’t maintain when I rub his head for luck.  He breaks out a huge grin.  We stop at the bank on the way by so I can take out some money.  I pay Chen when he drops us at the hospital. (20 yuan ($3.00 Canadian) for the twenty minute ride, about ten cheaper than a taxi.  Chen is such a bargain.)  He asks if he should wait, and I say no.  We have no idea how long it’s going to be before Ruth and Panda will want to go home, and there are lots of taxis.
Back at the admissions desk, Panda does all the paperwork and then leads us to the clerk where we must pay.  We’ve been asking how much, but have been getting vague answers.  Sometimes it’s a hundred a day, sometimes two.  Suddenly it’s a thousand a day and I’m having second thoughts about a ten day hospital stay. 
Ruth is annoyed. “Why can’t they tell us this when we ask?  Why were we given so many different estimates?”
I phone Michael Bian, our administrator, to ask if the university health insurance will cover costs that are incurred off campus.  He says we should just keep our receipts.  This is a relief.  I go back to the clerk and hand over my bank card to make an initial 5000 RMB payment.  I also purchase a food card and charge a hundred RMB to that.  Then we’re off to find the 17th floor and my room for the next week.

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What you’ll need if you go to a hospital in Wuxi. 

Think about going to the hospital in China like you’re going camping, only with good medical services.  A Chinese hospital is not like a hotel with medicine added.  It’s like a medical facility, and you should be prepared to take care of yourself.  This goes far beyond what a Westerner would expect.  For example, if you want food you should bring something to eat it out of.  You’ll be able to buy food, but plates and bowls will not be supplied.  Neither will towels, face clothes, dish washing liquid, soap, and toilet paper.

Food will be brought to your bed, if you are too sick to go out to the hall to get it.  But you do need your own dishes.  Wuxi Number One Hospital, Wuxi, China
                                                                    Ruth Anderson photo

This is not a complaint.  Once you know what to expect, there's no problem, and why should a hospital act like a hotel?  I have nothing but gratitude and praise for the medical treatment I've been receiving.
I woke up this morning to the little nurse, I call her my "xiao wenzi", little mosquito, because she’s always taking my blood.  She turns on the overhead lights, twists a surgical tube around my arm, and has a needle in the big vein in my elbow painlessly before I'm fully awake.  Yesterday she made off with three vials of blood.  Today she just takes one, turning off the lights on her way out, and I go back to sleep.

One of my nurses shows her computer, and her posing style.  Wu Xi Ren Min Yi Yuan (Wuxi Number One Hospital), Wuxi, China

Nurses in the Wuxi Number One Hospital do not carry clip boards and look at charts anymore.  They all have a small computer on their arm.  It can read the patient's wrist tag bar code and call up ALL necessary information, drugs required and when they should be administered, including whether there is any money left in the account. 
The nurses in my family tell me that this system has not been adopted back home.  There are concerns about sterility, and the information on the computer is only as good as the data input.  I'm surprised at this. The computers have to be better than trying to read a doctor's hand hand writing, and will surely cut down on mistakes with medication. 

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The Value of Nursery Rhymes

They are familiar to everybody in Western culture, and most people would give you the second line if you said “Peter Peter pumpkin eater,” or certainly “Ba ba black sheep have you any wool.”  Or “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.”  But why did we learn these things, this nonsense. 

Nursery rhymes on the black board, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

I think the best way to learn a language is the way children learn theirs, starting with sounds and words then building to phrases and finally reading and writing.  Of course as adults we have the advantage of using reading and writing to help our memories for the first part, the learning words and phrases part.  But we shouldn’t neglect the other tools we use with children.
So when we teach children nursery rhymes, are we just teaching them to babble nonsense that even we don’t understand? Or is something more important going on here?  I decided to see what would happen with my students if I taught them some of our familiar nursery rhymes.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

 As I wrote this verse on the blackboard, I noted the many things it contained that my students needed.  The Chinese have a hard time with words that end in “ll” because there’s no word in their language that end with that sound.  So words like "pull", "full", "wall", "fall", and "call" give most Chinese problems.  So that’s the first thing I noticed about Humpty Dumpty.  My students would get practice with the “all” sound.
     There’s also the rhyme, which verifies the pronunciation.  And then there’s the rhythm.  Demonstrating that the rhythm is like riding a horse gave my students a smile. The rhythm is vitally important because it
teaches which words take emphasis and which words, mostly the connecting words, are neglected.  The rhythm also makes it all but impossible to add the additional “a” that Chinese speakers are so fond of putting at the end of our words. Again, this is a problem stemming from their language.  There is no word in Chinese that ends in a hard consonant, no equivalent to “cat” or “bag”, so the natural tendency with these words is to make them “catta” or “bagga”.  But in “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall” the middle three words essentially become one word, “satona” and adding an “a” after “sat” becomes all but impossible.

Diddle diddle dumpling my son John.
Went to bed with his trousers on.
One shoe off and one shoe on
Diddle diddle dumpling my son John.

Besides the pure fun of saying "diddle diddle dumpling", think of all the words that end in the schwa, words like "pencil" and "riddle" and "paddle" and "swaddle".

Peter Peter pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her.
Put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

Note that rhyming “eater” with “keep her” gives the clue that the initial “h” in “her” is not very important.  “keep her” contracts quite nicely to “keep’er”.  It’s not film narration pronunciation, but it is normal English.
so note that this verse teaches an irregular verb.  The past tense of “keep” is not “keeped” but “kept”. Putting this in a nursery rhyme helps to lock it into the learner's brain.
     I found that getting the students to recite nursery rhymes really pointed up any pronunciation  difficulties they were having, and helped them overcome some of the more obvious problems.  This seems to be worth investigating further.

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The canal through Venice Gardens, the expensive place to live in Wuxi. China.

Chinese word of the day: 屎
(shǐ composed of 尸 shī 'body' above 米 mǐ 'rice') = shit, excrement. One of those all too rare instances when the components in a Chinese character are easy to understand - rice that has gone through the body becomes excrement.  Now, if I tell you that 水 (shuǐ) means water, you should be able to guess what 尿 (niào) means.

May 23, 2010 Finding Stuff in China

Back home I'd just go to one of those fluffy boutiques and buy some real beeswax candles. Here it's not so simple.  My student friend Vincent admitted defeat, saying he couldn't find beeswax anywhere.  I suggested to him that there must be somebody in the area who raises bees, and they must have beeswax.  And of course, with the help of the Internet, he found somebody for me.

Roadside meeting with the fengla man to buy beeswax.  Wuxi, China   Fengla, or beeswax as we know it.  Not available in stores in Wuxi, China
Why do I want beeswax?  It's one of the ingredients of leather dressing, which I want for my new bullwhip,
and subsequent whips.

It was a strange meeting.  The man with the  蜂蜡 (fēng là - beeswax) set up a time for us to visit, then cancelled, then called us again to set a second time.  While we were on our way to meet him, he kept calling to ask how much longer we were going to be.  The reason became clear when we arrived.  He'd been waiting for us at the side of the road with his wife in the car.  The trouble people go to on my behalf here in China.  Thanks Fengla Man, and thanks Vincent.  I do appreciate the way you accommodate this crazy foreigner.

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Venice Gardens

The expensive gated community near this campus houses many foreigners in protected and isolated splendor, but they have to live with pseudo-Grecian statuary like the example below. 

That deer seems very relaxed around a woman who uses that bow to kill his kind. Shouldn't she be leaning on a wolf or a lion or something?  Venice Gardens, Wuxi, China

Actually, I find the statuary in Venice Gardens charming.  It's so very Chinese.

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Chinese word of the day:  清真教
(Qīng zhēn jiào literally "clear true teach") Islamism

A  fisherman has found a peaceful spot along one of the canals that border the campus.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

May 20, 2010 International Draw a Picture of Muhammad Day

This was supposed to be the day when everybody in the world who disagreed with the idea that cartoonists should be threatened or killed if they make fun of religion, specifically Islam, would protest by drawing a picture of the prophet.  The idea was suggested by an artist in America, but she has backed away from it  and removed the idea from her blog saying, "I wanted to counter fear and then I got scared".  It seems that death threats are very effective.  Especially when people have been killed.

This is not a protest against Islam or Muslims, it's a protest against thuggery and death threats to creative artists who offend religious beliefs.

It looks like this protest, if it happens at all, will be sporadic, often anonymous, and carried forward by isolated individuals.  Above is my entry.  Not a great cartoon, but it says something I think needs to be said. 
     If I were Islamic, I would still be supporting this protest.  Their religion has been hijacked by violent extremists, and is now associated in the minds of the rest of the world with fatwa, jihad, suicide bombers and murderThe Islamic people who are non-violent need to say so, and take back their religion from the lunatics.

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Wuxi Landscape and Culture Festival, Wuxi, China

Chinese word of the day: 减速带
( jiǎn sù dài literally "reduce speed belt") = speed bump

May 17, 2010 Chinese is a scary language. 


老师 lǎoshī n. teacher,

捞尸 lāoshī recover the body of a drowned person.

老实 lǎoshi s.v. honest; frank

老是 lǎoshi adv. always

老式 lǎoshì attr. old-fashioned; outdated

落事 làoshì v.o. 〈coll.〉 suffer a mishap

老 屎 lǎo shǐ  old shit

Note that except for the tones, these all have the same pronunciation.  I haven't even started to talk about the close variations, like 老鼠 lǎoshǔ, which means "mouse".

我是一个英语老师  I am an English teacher.  我是一个英语老屎?  I am an English old shit?  我是一个英语老鼠? I'm an English mouse?  Like I said, scary language.

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May 17, 2010 关系 guānxi - Relationship in China

This morning I got a letter from a young student friend, lamenting the fact that he has no 关系 guānxi, and explaining that Chinese society works on relationship.  He wrote: "One of my friend's uncle is a high ranking official in the army, so my friend joins the army after junior high school. Now he has been promoted to high official. Lots of my friends have been working in factory by his connections. I know it is unfair but i have to accept it. I have no guanxi so i have to work hard on my own."

Here's my response to his letter:

Dear _______

Guān xi is not limited to China.  In the West we have "the old boys club", meaning that if you went to the right university, joined the right fraternity, or became famous in the right way you will be welcomed into the social elite and your life becomes very easy.  This is why men who went to Harvard want their sons to go to Harvard, so that they can join the club.

There are different attitudes toward this.  My culture, the Protestant work ethic culture, despises the old boys club.  We don't respect a person who got their position through influence.
     Many people think that using their position to help a son or daughter will only make them weak, and will make them lose motivation and ability.  Many business people in my culture will refuse to use influence to help a relative get ahead, even if helping would be easy and painless for all involved.  They want a society that is a meritocracy, a society where a person gets a promotion because he or she deserves it.
     Usually this does not mean that a rich person won't help a relative get a loan, or solve a financial problem.  (My ex-wife and I helped our son buy his first house, for example.) But using influence to get a relative a promotion, or a job, is considered immoral.  It's called nepotism, and we don't like it.

People from another culture might look at such a person and wonder how they could be so heartless.  Don't they love their family?

I must say that I much prefer to live in a meritocracy, and think that nepotism and racism are wrong.  But this is wired into our DNA, and we're not going to get rid of it.  So this means that a person without guanxi must work harder and smarter than those who think they were born lucky.

____________, I know in my heart that lacking guānxi is actually a great advantage.  When you have a success, you will know that it is yours, and that you don't really owe it to anybody.  Imagine how you would feel if you had to credit every success to a relative, and feel that you didn't really deserve anything you got.  Would that make you happy?

And success is still possible, even without guan xi.  Your talents and abilities will be recognized by those who value people for what they are, not for who they have in their family.  So take heart.  Don't be bitter.  Pity the poor kid who thinks he has it made because his father has influence.  Someday he'll be a bloated and burned out alcoholic, and you will be a man who is proud of all his achievements.

Warmest regards


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Performance Time Again

This past Sunday, Ruth and I were invited to perform one of our Chinese songs at the Wuxi Landscape and Culture Festival. 

Adjusting the mike was effort wasted.  They forgot to turn it on.  Wuxi Landscape and Culture Festival, Wuxi, China

Aside from the fact that they forgot to turn on my microphone, it seemed to go over well. 

Reminds me of those sixties soul groups.  Smooth.  Wuxi Landscape and Culture Festival, Wuxi, China

I didn't even notice that we had a whole line of foreign students clapping along behind us.  And then, just to make things exciting, the pyrotechnics added to the show...

You can tell we've hit the big time by the fireworks.  Wuxi Landscape and Culture Festival, Wuxi, China

 Colorful costumes.  Wuxi Landscape and Culture Festival, Wuxi, China   Nice to see a policeman who takes pride in his appearance.  Wuxi Landscape and Culture Festival, Wuxi, China

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Amazing Erhu, Dizi (flute) and Guzheng Performance

The girl on stage with the erhu looks to be about eight years old, though she might be a university student.  I'm envious of her technique. 

Double click the picture to hear the erhu, guizhong and flute performance. Wuxi Landscape and Culture Festival, Wuxi, China

Please pardon the shaky hand held video, and it's a big file (302MB) so it will take some time to download, but you really should hear this performance.  Just double click on the picture.

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Getting a Chinese Driver's License

I've decided to get a Chinese driver's license.  Not that I really want to drive anything in China, but I've had a valid driver's license since the day after I turned sixteen, and it seems strange not to have one here.  Seeing my new friend Barry and his wife Cory with their little van inspired me to investigate, and before I knew what I was doing I'd been to the office to get my Canadian license translated into Chinese..

Getting a Chinese driver's license, first step.  Translation of Canadian license.  Wuxi, China  Getting a Chinese driver's license, second step, the information desk. What papers do I need? Wuxi, China
The license translation office, followed by the information desk at the Motor Vehicles License office.

...then to yet another office to get my picture taken and then yet another office to find out what paperwork I needed . That sent me back to my university administration office to get my official residence permit, which the helpful staff quickly procured for me.  Then, the following week, back to the motor vehicles license office to be sent to yet another office to get pictures taken, and a third office for medical tests that included vision, reaction time, and strength. 

Okay, where next? Getting a Chinese driver's license, the paperwork lady.  Wuxi, China

Getting a Chinese driver's license, the color blindness test.  Wuxi, China Getting a Chinese driver's license, the night vision test.  Wuxi, China Getting a Chinese driver's license, the hearing test.  Wuxi, China

Getting a Chinese driver's license, the reaction time test.  Wuxi, China  Getting a Chinese driver's license, the necessary red stamps all over the paperwork.  Wuxi, China

All that's left is for me to pass the written test.  Apparently having a valid Canadian license means I won't need to take a road test.

The shiny new Motor Vehicle Licensing office, Wuxi, China
The Motor Vehicle license bureau in Wuxi.  Sparkling new building just opened.

But that's where the problem came in.  It's a timed test, sixty minutes for a hundred questions, with questions along the lines of how many centimeters should you be from the curb when you park. 

View from the second floor on Ruth reading her book while she waits for me in the Wuxi Motor Vehcle License office, Wuxi, China  I had lots of help from my friends to get the paperwork together.
Ruth waits patiently reading her book while Wang Yijing and Xiao Chen get me paperwork together.

Halfway through the test, the electricians wiring up the office next door blew a breaker and shut down my computer.  I was hoping the computer would lose my test, so that I could claim I had just passed it when the power went off, but no such luck.  The auto save brought it back up when the power came on.

Here I am, about to fail the written portion of the test.  Tricky questions.  A team effort, but they failed too.  License test, Wuxi, China

I needed 90 points out of a hundred.  I got 70.  It was small comfort that the three other people taking the test also failed it.  Now I have some studying to do, and I'll be back the Friday after next.

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Students participate in another informal poll, Jiangnan Univeristy, Wuxi, China

Chinese word of the day: 无神论者
(wú shén lùn zhě literally "without god theory" + nominalizer meaning "one who") = n. atheist

May 6, 2010 Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware

I bought this flash drive from a street vendor in Shanghai on the way into the subway.  I can't remember what I paid for it.  Not much, I'm sure.  But whatever I paid was too much. 

In China, appearance is everything.  This appeared to be a flash drive until I opened the package.

Last night I opened the bubble pack and popped off the cap.  That's when I discovered that there was nothing at all inside the drive cover.  Hollow.  Just the cover.  So if you think you're getting a good deal on a flash drive, check it out before you walk away.  In China, as anywhere else, if the price seems too low it's probably too high.

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Asking the Wrong Question - Do the Chinese Believe in God

China is an officially atheist country. It's in my contract that I'm not supposed to promote religion. In truth I have no interest in getting my students to adopt any ideology, other than an enthusiasm for lifelong learning.  And as a recently out of the closet atheist, religion is the last thing I would wish to promote.  But I am curious about this culture, and my students are a window into China.  I thought I'd investigate how many Chinese actually ARE atheists.  So I asked my students what proportion of Chinese people believe in god.  I made it clear that I wasn't interested in their personal beliefs.  I wanted their estimate, based on friends, relatives and family. 
     What they told me is on the board below - some people believe in god but most don't.

This seems to allign with the officla  political position, but that's only because I was asking the wrong question.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

By my second oral class of the week I was getting suspicious of this result. It seems a very low proportion of believers, given the number of temples, mosques, and churches around here.  So I asked the question again, only this time replaced God with Buddha.  (Yes, I realize I spelled Buddha wrong on this blackboard.  Spelling has always been my bete noire.)  Perhaps not surprisingly the results were very different.  My students had been assuming that by god I meant the Christian God,  Yahweh or Jehovah, not god in general.

Ah, it's not that the Chinese aren't religious.  They just don't believe in the Christian story.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

For the next class I clarified the question and  told the students that I wasn't asking about the Christian god, but about any god - Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, Zeus, Thor, or Muhammad.  Do people in China believe in some supernatural being who created everything. takes an interest in human behavior, responds to prayer and intervenes in their affairs?  Once I cleared that up, a different picture emerged. My students felt that the Chinese are as religious as anybody else.

This is obviously not a rigorous sampling, and I still think the number of religious believers in China is underestimated here.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
This is obviously not a rigorous sampling, and I think the proportion of believers in China is underestimated here.

You might notice the words "atheist" and "amoral" in close proximity on this board.  This was an accidental result of explaining how the prefix "a-" in English can make a word neutral or negative.  It was decidedly NOT in any attempt to associate atheism with amorality.  I'll leave that to the religious.  As social scientists are now discovering, religion is not a source of morality, or at least not the only source.  Morality seems to be a universal human characteristic that evolved with our social character for very obvious practical reasons.  Our genes survive better if we're nice to each other.

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Further Opinion Polls with University Students - G.M. Foods

I asked my News Reading class what they felt about genetically modified foods.  My students in this class are non-English majors, with many of them in sciences and at least one majoring in Food Science.

Informal opinion poll on GM foods with Jiangnan University students, Wuxi, China

Again these results were surprising, given that they had all just read an article (GM Food Protesters Have Got it Wrong” By Mark Henderson, From The Times, September 2003) claiming that there is virtually no danger at all, though there might be some concerns for environmental and economic reasons.
     Perhaps my students were anticipating that I would harshly criticize the article, and voting as they expected their teacher to approve.  (Or perhaps I overestimate my influence on them, and their desire for my approval.) I didn't do that because I do agree that G.M. foods are safe to eat, which doesn't mean they are a good idea.  I did introduce the students to Canada's own David Suzuki expressing concerns from the perspective of a Ph.D. in genetics, and I explained that the article makes one major misstatement. 
     The Times article claims that genetic modification is simply a more precise way of doing what humans have done for centuries - introducing new genes into food.  But of course, as Dr. Suzuki explains, this isn't true.  We might have bred a carrot that was resistant to frost with a carrot that produced a large root, but the genes all came from carrots.  We didn't introduce genes from a mouse, or a bacteria, into the carrot gene pool.  That is something that we've never done before, and maybe it deserves some special caution.  Especially when we get a food plant to produce a drug or vaccine.

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Bike repair across the road from our classrooms.  Low overhead.  Low cost.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese word of the day: 暴躁
(bào zào literally violent impetuous) = high maintenance

May 4, 2010 Schrödinger's Cat Made Politically Correct

A relative of mine, tender soul, gave me a blast when I told her about Schrödinger's cat, the classic thought experiment that highlighted the strange nature of quantum superpositions.  She was offended and angry that anybody would think of doing that to a cat, and refused to calm down about it even after I explained that this is a famous "thought experiment" and that nobody has EVER proposed actually doing it.  Now, to anybody who grew up with a science education, this is very funny.  But I've been thinking about it.  That IS a terrible thing to do to a cat. 

Schrödinger's "diabolical mechanism", no longer politially correct.  No real cats were harmed in the making of this illustration. 
Schrödinger's Cat

 An answer to Schrödinger for cat lovers everywhere.  No cat.
David's Card

So I propose revising the thought experiment, and replacing the cat with a white card.  If the radioactive particle is generated by the tiny amount of radioactive substance, it releases a spray can of paint that colours the card black.   Until one looks in the box, we must consider the card to be BOTH white AND black. 
Let's call this revision David's Card.  Somehow I don't think it will gain the fame of Schrödinger's Cat, but it does have the advantage of being totally PC.

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The World's Most Convenient Bike Repair

On my way to class this morning I noticed that my front tire was going bump with each revolution.  Bump bump bump.  At first I thought I had something stuck to the tire, but when I stopped to look I realized that my tire had an aneurism and was threatening to burst. 

An alarmingly sick tire on my front wheel. Bike repair in the parking lot across from Teaching Building 2, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

The tire in question.

Our busy repairman.

  Spare parts storage for the bike repair guy, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China  The tool room for the bike repair guy.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
It's a low overhead operation, with spare parts stored in the van across the street and a funky toolbox
discretely out of the way in the parking lot.

I dropped the bike in to the repair guy who has set up shop in the parking lot across from Teaching Building 2, wherein are my classrooms, and by the time my morning classes were finished I had a new tire.  Total cost including labor: 45 RMB ($6.70 Canadian).  What a service.

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Visitors from Indiana via Nantong

We had surprise visitors yesterday.  Barry and Cory and their two year old daughter Rosi were directed to our campus by a mutual friend.  Barry is a great Spanish guitarist.  What a joy to have an accompaniment for a tango on my fiddle.  My playing is pretty ragged, because I haven't practiced much since I hurt my left shoulder falling off my rollerblades just before Spring holiday, but a guitar sure improves the sound.

New friends in China.  Cory, Barry, and two year old Rosi.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
Surprise visitors and new friends.

Barry and Cory are teaching in Nantong.  They bought a van last week and are using it to explore the area, including Wuxi.  They inspire me to get a Chinese driver's license.  I've been putting it off until I get better at the language, but if I wasn't afraid to drive in Paris, Amsterdam, or Mexico City, why should I be worried about driving in China?

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Two pianos in recital, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Time to archive again:  So soon.  So much has happened in the past few months.  The really good stuff is in the archives,  folks.  I hate to bury it back there,  because I fear that nobody will ever click on the links.  But you should.  Really.  I promise.       

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