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In areas of China where coal is used for heating, cooking, and in industry, it is common to see people wearing an additional sleeve from their wrists to their elbows. The reason for this is to keep their clothes clean. There is a very fine black dust that gets on everything when coal is used in these various ways, so people want to protect their clothes. When I was teaching at a university in China, the students would wear these sleeves over the sleeve of their coats. Since they would spend so much time with their forearms on their desks, their sleeves would constantly get the coal dust on them if they didn’t do something to avoid the dust. Nobody wanted to wash their coat every day, so the external sleeves are a great option.

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As you can see in the picture above, taxi drivers use the sleeves during the summer. Actually, many people use the sleeves in the summer, because they don’t want to sun to darken the color of their skin. It is also common to see people walking around in the summer with an umbrella, even when it isn’t raining. Again, this is to protect their skin from the sun’s rays. Many people in China believe that lighter colored skin is preferable, which is ironic because there is no telling how much money and time is spent by Americans trying to get a better tan. You can also see how this driver is wearing a glove on his left hand to protect it from the sun.

As I mentioned in my book, Unseen Tears, on my first visit to the main orphanage in the book, I wasn’t told this was a special needs orphanage.  As you may imagine, I was slightly surprised when we entered the orphanage and I realized it was a special needs orphanage.  I was so impressed by the children and their abilities to not let a physical disorder impede their enjoyment.

mi2One of the children I wrote about in the book is a girl with dimples.  She truly has a smile that can ignite a room, but unfortunately, she also has spina bifada with a tethered spine syndrome.  What I have learned about this medical condition is that it means her spinal cord is frayed, so that messages to and from the brain aren’t transmitted correctly.  She has no feeling from her waist down, but she can walk a little.  Although when she walks, she has developed a large wound on her heel, so she is discouraged from walking.  Also, she has incontinence issues, so she has to wear a diaper, and that means she can’t go to school. For the public schools in China, if a child is in a diaper for any reason, they aren’t allowed to attend school.  This rule has impacted multiple children at this orphanage in a negative way.

Part of what Global Partners in Life does for the orphans is provide for their medical needs.  We have purchased medicine when she needs it for her foot, and we also provide for the checkups with her doctor.  She is an energetic girl, so we have also purchased crutches, as seen below, so she can be more mobile.  With her crutches, she can go outside and play with the other children, and that makes all of us very happy!  To learn more about Global Partners in Life, please visit www.globalpartnersinlife.org. 

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Crutches that were purchased for this girl.

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Playing with the other children.

 

As someone who considers himself a fisherman, I often enjoyed the views I had from the area around the campus where I was teaching.  There was a dirt road that ran along the east side of the campus, and the building where I lived was right beside the dirt road.  My apartment was high enough to look out and have a fantastic view of the best sights in the city.

On the other side of the dirt road was a river.  It wasn’t a large river or a deep river, but the fishermen must have had good luck fishing there, because they spent so much time there.  In fact, they set up fish camps and lived out of them.

These fish camps came in various shapes and sizes, and I found them very interesting.  Some looked like enhanced tents, some were just huts, and others appeared to be larger and have a more stable structure.  Here are some of the fish camps I saw frequently while living in China:
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As you can see, one camp had an area like a fisherman’s squatters neighborhood.  The people living here were also gardeners, as you can tell from the previous picture.  The large and old bulldozer in the photo never moved.  I imagine it helped grade the dirt road and just died there.

These homes may not have had all of the modern conveniences we enjoy, but they did have an amazing location.  They were right on the river, so their views were wonderful every day, and they had the peace and quiet of being away from center of the city!  I can easily understand why they chose to live in their fish camp beside the river!

Residential Wiring

September 29, 2015 — Leave a comment

There are several differences in the wiring of homes and apartments in China and the States.  The first one is that homes in China use 220V, and the states use 110V.  That isn’t something you can see, but you may need to know that when you plug in your appliances.  Don’t worry about your laptop, because the power cable probably can make the adjustment, so no problem with it.

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The lights would be another difference.  It is not uncommon at all to see a light in China that doesn’t have a glass globe around it.  That is not to say that nice light fixtures aren’t there, it is just to say that frequently you will see just the light socket to hold the light bulb.  In fact, sometimes you will see some electrical wire hanging from the ceiling with a socket at the end, and that is the light fixture for the room. RW5 

Another difference is with the unused cables.  Sometimes you will come across an electrical outlet or light switch that has some unused cables protruding from them.  You never know if they are hot or not, so be careful!RW4

 

I am not aware of anyone having a problem with being electrocuted by these exposed wires, and that obviously is a good thing.  So, if you are traveling in China, don’t be surprised if you encounter wiring like this.

My First Few Visits

September 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

As with any new environment, I had to learn through experiencing my new surroundings when I started visiting the special needs orphanage. Initially, it was hard to notice much more than all of the children requesting my attention, but once I got used to that and the children got used to me, I observed more and more within the orphanage.  

One of the first things I noticed was how the staff was always busy doing something.  It could be anything from changing a diaper, giving medicine, reading to a child, or feeding them, but there was always something to do.  Keep in mind that at one time there were 33 children living in this three bedroom apartment, which was actually a two bedroom apartment because one of the bedrooms was used as an office and storage area.  In a way, I felt sorry for the staff, because they never could get ahead of all of the needs of the children or laundry to fold, but they seemed to love the children and enjoyed helping them.

While walking around with a child or two in my arms, I would go to the large back bedroom and notice how many cribs were there.  Due to the number of children sleeping there, it was almost wall to wall cribs, as you can see in the pictures below.

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As you can see, some of the cribs were made of wood.  The wooden cribs were very heavy, solid, and well made, but I was concerned that the paint was lead based, since they were so old.  Many of the cribs were large enough to hold two or three babies at the same time!

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In future blogs, I will share with you some of my other observations from the special needs orphanage.  By this time, I was thinking the orphanage was called special needs, because it took so little time for the children to become special to me!  

The New Entrance

September 22, 2015 — Leave a comment

In the past when you wanted to go to the Great Wall of China at MuTainYu near Beijing, you would drive almost all the way to the entrance before the parking lots were in sight. From there you would walk through an area of huts and some permanent structures that had shops and restaurants. As you worked your way up the hill, you would come to an area where you could purchase your tickets, all 3 of them. You need one ticket to enter the park, one for the gondola ride up, and another one for the luge ride down. If you didn’t want to take the luge run down, you could take the gondola or the ski lift, which was an open air bench much like the gondola, but not enclosed.

Now the entrance has been moved a little further down the hill, and some of the charm of the mom and pop huts has been lost, in my opinion. At the new entrance there are nice new clean buildings where you can purchase your tickets for the entrance, gondola, park entrance, and van ride to the old entrance. As you can see from my list, you now need to get a ticket for the bus ride to the entrance and back to the parking area. You will also need to buy your luge ticket at the old location, because it is run by a separate company.
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At the new parking area you will find the mom and pop huts have been replaced by new buildings. You can still buy the delicious dried fruit there and get souvenirs, but there is definitely a different feel to this location compared to the old one.
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One challenge I see with the new system is with the buses. Nobody wants to wait for their bus, especially if you are about to see the Great Wall of China. I have never had to wait long for the bus going up, but on my last trip, I had to wait WAY too long for the ride down. Hopefully you won’t have to wait in the hot sun like my friends and I did to go back down the mountain.
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Enjoy your time on the Great Wall of China, and I highly recommend taking the luge run down the mountain!

The Wall

September 17, 2015 — Leave a comment

My last few blogs about the work of Global partners in Life have spoken about the orphans around the city where I taught at a university.  I am very thankful for many teaching opportunities in different cities in China, so now I am sharing with you about another city.

As I was telling some new friends, at a school where I was teaching during one of my many teaching opportunities in China, about the orphans we were helping from the fire in the fireworks factory, they told me that they also helped some orphans in town.  In fact, they said that a group goes every Wednesday morning, and I was invited to join them.  I said certainly, and I had no idea of where my simple answer was leading me.

Some of the first things I noticed when we entered the orphanage were the wave of children rushing toward us when we entered the orphanage with their hands in the air wanting us to pick them up.  Also, I noticed that my friends neglected to tell me that this was a special needs orphanage, but that didn’t seem to slow the children down at all.

As I walked around the orphanage holding a child, I was drawn to many sights, sounds, children, and pictures on the wall.  We were in a large room, and one wall was lined with pictures of the most darling children I had ever seen.  I asked about the story behind the pictures, and I was told that the pictures were of some of the children that had been served by the special needs orphanage.

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I couldn’t imagine how horrible those children lives had been before being rescued by this special needs orphanage.  They had physical challenges, were abandoned, and truly dependent on the love and support of others.  I have been going to this orphanage for at least 9 years, and I still like to look at these pictures, because it makes me so happy that there are people who have opened their homes, wallets, and arms for these children.  Global Partners in Life is focused on orphans in China, and hopefully all of the orphans around the world will receive the assistance they need by all of us who can contribute in so many ways!

Scooters

September 15, 2015 — Leave a comment

Scooters come in many shapes and sizes in China, and during my last trip to China, a couple of them caught my eye. The first one seemed like it was beefed up and tricked out a little for most scooters. It also looks strong and durable, but I wouldn’t want to ride it without lessons and a helmet!
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The next scooter is the same as far as being black, but I don’t think it is quite as substantial as the one pictured above. Again, a helmet would be a must for ridding on the streets of China (or anywhere else for that matter)!
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Once during this trip, I saw a scooter with 2 wheels. The wheels were side by side, not one in front of the other, so I wouldn’t think it was road worthy.
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I have one more picture to show you related to this subject. This motorcycle with a side car is black like the previous two scooters, and it also has an Oakland Raiders decal on it! Judging from the dents, I am sure the driver and passenger both needed a helmet!
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Keep your eyes open, because you never know what you will see in China!

The Greeting

September 10, 2015 — Leave a comment

As I describe in my book, Unseen Tears, the greetings I have received when visiting my friends at the special needs orphanage supported by Global Partners in Life, is amazing! The energy level increases to a frenzy, and the children rush to the door to great the people they assume are coming to entertain them. The children will hold their arms up in the air and want to be picked up and held, and some will come to see if you have anything for them in the bags or backpack you are carrying.

I think I have been to seven countries in my life, and at no place in my travels have I been greeted with the same enthusiasm as the children at the special needs orphanage have for guests. Sometimes they will jump up and down, and often there are some screams of anticipation and happiness. Sometimes they are so excited that they will just start hugging each other if they can’t get to their guests!

As you can see in the pictures below, the children will come running to the door with whatever they are doing still in their hands. There is so much joy and excitement, it is hard to explain, but I do know it is always one of the best parts of my trip! It takes so little effort on our part to provide a moment of joy for these children, so that motivates me to want to do more and more for them!

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If you read my blogs with any regularity, you will know that I frequently encourage people to keep their eyes open if they are in China, because you never know what you might see.  Well, here are some examples of that from a trip I took in May.

This first picture is from a restaurant that had a structure built around some of their tables.  The theme was to have you feel like you were in a wicker basket.  The food was OK, but I wouldn’t brag about it!

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The next picture has always made me chuckle a little to myself.  I completely understand the idea of helping the trees get the water and essentials needed, but I can’t get used to seeing a tree receiving an IV!

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Another photo which was somewhat unique to me was the people dancing in the park.  This was taken in, by China’s standards, what would be considered a small city.  I have been to this city many times before, so I knew that on the main central square there will be dancing on Saturday night, but this was a small square during the week.  The people in the red uniforms on the left are on a dance team, and the other people on the right are local citizens coming out to dance.  I am so thankful I have seen so many aspects of this wonderful Chinese culture!

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Walking away from the small park, I saw a lovely wall.  Someone with great skills took it upon themselves to paint the wall around their small neighborhood.

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Keep your eyes open while in China, because you never know what you might see!