Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Walk to Cure Diabetes

Well, here I am in Longview, TX at my brother Billy's house. And my sister-in-law Stacey's. She reminded me earlier that I'm here to visit her too, not just Billy. I've been painting and peeling wallpaper the past two days. Tomorrow I'm looking forward to more wallpaper peeling and probably more painting, too. I know I promised a lot of pictures and other info, but for now you'll have to settle for some information on diabetes. Why diabetes? This past weekend was the 2nd anniversary of my niece being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She's only 6. Here's a blog post by her mom, if you're interested in some details. There's a second link in that post that will lead you to yet another post with even more information.

My brother and his wife have joined an event called Walk to Cure Diabetes, which is being held all over the country on various dates throughout the next few months. For this event, people will walk (or run) 5 kilometers in order to raise awareness and money for help in finding a cure for juvenile diabetes. Until this event (September 27 in Dallas for us), you can easily donate money to our team (Team Suzy Q) by clicking on the logo at the top of my blog. You can also donate through Stacey's blog (see link above). So far Team Suzy Q has set a goal of raising $16,000. Too much, you say? Well it's the first day and Billy's already raised $1000. With your help we can meet our goal and be that much closer to finding a cure. Donations of $1 are welcome, right alongside donations of $1000. If you feel inspired to join our team, you can click on the logo and you'll find a button to join up. Don't worry about your location. The event is in Dallas but I'll probably be running down the sidewalk in Nashville. If I earn a t-shirt, I'm sure they'll mail it to me. For more information about juvenile diabetes research, feel free to visit the JDRF website.

Free cookie

You know you must be handsome when the girl gives you a free cookie at the bakery. Because "the first cookie was a little dark." Except they both look exactly the same.

Friday, July 11, 2008


How's it feel to be back in the greatest country on the planet? I'm not sure, but it feels good to be back in America at any rate. Ha! Just kidding. That's an old joke that some of you may understand. Anyhoo, I'm in the Nashville area for a few days. I arrived yesterday (Thursday?) morning around 9:30 and so far I'm tired tired tired but not quite as cranky as usual. Just a little cranky. I think part of it is that people learned not to ask me so many questions on my first day back, which is awesome. I'll be going to Mississippi on Sunday. I'll post more trip details later, but for now I hope this will suffice.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Our naivety exposed - expectinging things to go well in China

Well, it's 7am CST on July 9th. My flight from Chicago to Nashville will leave soon and should land around 9:20. You may be wondering how I'm able to blog while on an airplane. Has American Airlines suddenly become the coolest airline ever? Hardly. I'm able to blog right now because I'm sitting in the Hong Kong airport, enjoying their free WiFi internet connection. I just finished enjoying their overpriced bacon cheeseburger. Now I suppose I should tell you WHY I'm in Hong Kong when I should be practically home. It all started with a dream.

Angelyn and I always dreamed of being treated well by our school. So to pursue this dream, we pestered them until they agreed to drive us from Shiyan to the Xi'an airport. This was a big deal for us because this meant we wouldn't have to bother with buses, trains, or taxis, which would be a big deal with our luggage. China has been changing quickly. Just last year a car ride to Xi'an would have taken 12 hours. Now there's a highway scheduled to open in December that will cut that down to 3 hours (thanks to about 100 bazillion tunnels they dug straight through 350km of mountains). Now the drive is expected to take 6 to 8 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. To make a long story short, we took the opened portion of the highway for almost an hour, off-roaded on a dirt/gravel road for two hours or so, and spent the rest of the time mostly on two-lane paved roads winding through the mountains of Shaanxi province. While the view was breathtaking and our driver was fun and friendly, the drive ended in disaster. We got to the Xi'an area around 5 (about 3 hours later than expected), and got on the expressway to head to the airport. Somehow (I still don't know how because I saw with my own eyes the signs we were following toward the airport) we ended up on the wrong side of Xi'an. By the time I figured it out and showed the driver where we were on the map (ironic that I used a Chinese map better than the Chinese driver could), we were 70 miles away from where we wanted to be. So we turned back and sped towards the airport. The driver didn't seem too concerned when we saw a sign saying we had another 30 minutes, even though our flight was scheduled to leave in 60 minutes. Plenty of time, he said. Well, we pulled off the highway at 7, found the right terminal and pulled up to the door at 7:10, jumped out, barely said thanks to the driver before running inside, and arrived just in time to get totally lost inside the Xi'an airport. We were flying to Hong Kong, so we had to go into the international terminal, which was set off from the rest of the terminal by a frosted glass wall. We couldn't figure out how to get in. People in there had us running back and forth down the terminal for 30 minutes, handing us off from one person to the next, all of whom had no idea where the international terminal was. Finally, at 7:40 (the exact time our flight was taking off) someone let me through into a roped off area so I could ask his boss. It seems he couldn't ask himself. Turns out, the guy was guarding the rope blocking us from where we needed to go to check in. And he didn't even know it. Even though I said "where is counter 52?" (because that's where we needed to check in) and it was ten feet around the corner where he could SEE IT. Airport employees are smart sometimes. So we missed the flight to Hong Kong, which means we missed the 3 flights after that.

All in all, we arrived at the airport 5 hours later than we were told we would arrive. We spent 400 yuan on phone calls, expensive airport hotel rooms, and expensive airport hotel ramen noodles because we had to rebook tickets and stay the night. I really don't know what to say except that it's a lot easier to enjoy speaking with airport employees when you're NOT running around with over 100 pounds of luggage flopping around you. On the upside, it seems we would have missed our other flights even if we had made it to Hong Kong because American Airlines and Dragon Air are dumb. But I'll have to blog about that another time. There's so much more to this story, you should expect at least one more installment. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Last Day

Well, today's my last full day here in Shiyan. I've spent most of the past two days packing, repacking, and sitting around thinking about how if I would get out of the chair then I could finish packing in about 20 minutes and be done with it. I'm just about done packing now. I think I might have about 20 minutes left.

I've had such a long time to think about leaving and it's been such a long process saying goodbye to people over the weeks, I'm not quite sure how I feel about it anymore. Angelyn and I originally stayed longer to attend a friend's wedding, but the friend's visa to America didn't come through so the wedding was postponed. (it's a Chinese girl marrying an American guy and they were trying to time the wedding so she could go back to the States with him) Now that the wedding is postponed, I find myself wishing this whole leaving process had been taken care of three weeks ago, when I finished teaching. But I've been able to enjoy some good summer weather here with my remaining friends, so it hasn't been a loss.

Today I walked up the hill behind our apartment building and took a few pictures. The sun's out today and the sky is really blue, so it's a great way to end my time here. I don't feel like wrestling with the internet to load pictures right now, but I'll do it when I'm in Nashville or Cleveland with a better connection. I'll even post those pictures from Michael's trip that I was supposed to post 2 months ago. If you're keeping track of me, I'm leaving here at 6 in the morning tomorrow (that's 5pm CST Monday night), I'll get on my first plane in Xi'an at 7:40pm Tuesday (6:40am Tuesday morning), and eventually reach Nashville at 9:40am Wednesday (9:40am Wednesday). Drop me a line if you're in the area!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day

Happy 4th of July everybody! This is actually my first 4th in China, I'm usually home by this time. Americans like to celebrate by grilling out, eating watermelon and homemade ice cream, and shooting fireworks, but I had to put a slight Chinese twist on it this year. Since Angelyn and I weren't invited to the 4th of July grilling party downstairs at a certain other American's apartment (we're not bitter) we celebrated by going down the street to a Chinese restaurant that serves grilled things. So we had the spicy grilled fish! Not quite a hamburger or hotdog, but it sure was good. We also had a watermelon as appetizer/dessert and ice cream on the way home. Oddly enough (since we're in China) we didn't have any fireworks to shoot off. But that's okay because we see fireworks shooting every other day of the year. We ended our evening by trying to pick out an "American" movie to watch. We couldn't really decide on one from our massive collection, so we decided to use a trusty Chinese website to watch Independence Day. I'm sure it breaks every copyright law there is, but there are numerous Chinese websites where you can click and watch just about any movie ever made instantly. I mean, what better way to celebrate America's independence than to illegally watch a movie on the internet in a communist country? Well, we didn't even get to anything exciting because the internet wasn't being cooperative. We settled for watching an episode of Monk and going to bed.

I'll be home in a few days! That's weird. Our school agreed to drive us to the Xi'an airport Tuesday morning, which means we won't have to wrestle any bags onto trains or buses. That's an incredible blessing! They were very reluctant to do it at first, but Angelyn is awesome and gave them a good guilt trip about fulfilling their obligations and 15 minutes later everything was approved by the proper authorities. We'll leave Xi'an Tuesday night (Tuesday morning in America) and I'll arrive in Nashville after four flights. If you happen to be at the Nashville airport around 9:20 on Wednesday morning, make sure to say hello to me. I'm sure I'll be a little too tired to notice you unless you initiate contact. Big banners help. So do brass bands. And ham sandwiches with mustard, a slice of American cheese, and a crispy piece of lettuce. And a cold root beer. Or just waving and yelling my name.