Big walking day, 4/28/14

We have our fingers crossed that Judy’s cough stays subdued today.  She had a decent night of sleeping, but still has the occasional convulsive attack.  Monday is now her heaviest day, and she doesn’t have time for a coughing fit. 

I stayed really busy.  Leaving the apt. at 11:00 am, I walked to the police station (1 mile) to register my return to China from my US trip.  There was no line, and I was in and out with my new Temporary Residence Permit in 3 minutes.  Then I walked to the nearby subway station, and traveled to Sanlitun.  I was looking for printer ink, and swim goggles (I’ve lost mine since Saturday?).  Didn’t find any goggles.  I end up having to buy some over-priced ones at the pool.  I ate lunch at Cantina Agave (beef burrito), and then walked back to the train.  Next, I traveled to the Marriott for my swim session, and then walked down Tianze Lu (the street with all the embassies) to the shop where I get my hair cut.

I was worried about this haircut.  When I called to schedule an appointment with Suky, my regular stylist, they indicated he no longer worked there.  They scheduled me with another stylist.  Since language is an issue, and I was really satisfied with the haircuts I had been getting with Suky, it’s scary switching to someone else.  The techniques he used to cut my hair were different (different scissors, etc.).  He seemed to be cutting it a too short.  When he finished, it was definitely shorter, but the look was basically the same, and I like it.  We’ll see what happens when I try to “tame” it tomorrow. 

I walked to the train afterwards, heading home.  Back at the apartment, I decide to go out looking for lemons for Judy’s cough treatment (honey & lemon).  I’ve seen some neighborhood “wet markets”.  Time to check them out.  I find a small indoor market, and purchased the needed lemons.  It’s in the same building as the neighborhood spa, and after all today’s walking, I stopped in for a foot massage.  I’m posting links to a couple of dimly lit videos demonstrating cupping, and then the use of rubber mallets on my legs.  If I start posting many of these videos or photos of my feet, I’m going to have to get a pedicure.

A relaxing weekend, 4/26-27/14

We end up spending most of Saturday and Sunday around the apartment. Judy is trying to rest and get over her cold. The coughing gets convulsive at times, and she’s ready to be done with it. Jet lag is wearing me down. I’m still waking up in the middle of the night, and can’t get back to sleep. Then I find myself sleep-walking in the middle of the day. I figure it’ll resolve itself around Wednesday or Thursday.

A "Beijing Buggy".  It's the perfect vehicle in a city where parking is at a premium.

A “Beijing Buggy”. It’s the perfect vehicle in a city where parking is at a premium. It’s also electric!

Judy had a haircut on Saturday, so I swam, and then we met at Fatburger. It’s not a good habit to get into, but it’s so much fun. After lunch, we stop in at Dragonfly Spa (same building as Fatburger) to check out their deal on a prepaid discount card. Like many of the Beijing businesses, you can purchase a prepaid card, and receive a discount on services, depending on the size of the card you purchase. They had a special promotion where an additional 1000rmb was added to the card, so we are now set-up for massages for while.

Friday, recovery from the week begins, 4/25/14

Judy has two groups performing at assembly today at BISS.   She’s a busy girl. The cough isn’t any better. She makes it through the day. Her recovery begins after school at Lily Nails. A foot massage, a shoulder and head massage, and a nails touch-up with the girls helps. Anna, the art teacher from New Zealand joins the group. She is newly pregnant, so there’s a lot to discuss.

I begin my jet lag recovery. It usually takes 7-8 days. Today isn’t too bad. I even made it to the swimming pool and began to work back into my routine. Judy calls after Lily Nails, and we’re headed to Flamme for dinner. The steaks are really good. Dom (Shannon’s husband) and I travel together. It’s beginning to rain as we exit the taxi. Fortunately, it’s not too bad after dinner, just bad enough that there are no taxis. After 20 minutes of aggressive searching, we get a cab for the three “girls”. Dom and I aren’t far behind.


Need some fruits or vegetables as you head home.


A little fresh orange juice for the walk home.


Street Vendors. This one crushes sugar cane into a drink, and has added “juicing” to his product line.

Back to work, sorta, 4/24/14

Back to BHSFIC for me today. I received an email from my principal asking if I could teach the school song to the students. No problem, if I can get a copy of it. She found it for me when I asked her today. I posted a copy of it below.  Check it out!  It’s called simple notation.

BHSF School Song

I began to decipher it when my class of 10th grade music students came in. I asked a few questions, and one of the kids agreed to write it out for me (at least the music). No one seemed too eager to translate the words. Maybe next class?   I may try to have the 11th grade classes write lyrics (in English) for a new version. Apparently the original version is very specific to the BHSF main campus, describing buildings and landmarks. We’ll need to come up with a version for our campus.

As it has worked out, my classes don’t meet tomorrow. Next week, Thursday and Friday are a holiday, so no classes next week. I’m not sure when I’m having classes again, maybe not until May 15th.

Judy’s cold and cough is back. The coughing fits come in waves. Here’s hoping it goes away. She has a busy two weeks ahead of her.

A U.S. recap, 4/23/14

I’m back in Beijing.  The trip back to China was uneventful, but long.  The first leg to Washington, DC, Dulles Airport was slightly less than 3 hours.  I was worried about a short layover.  On paper it was going to be 50 minutes.  Sometimes, negotiating a big airport and the occasional extra trip through security can make the time between gates really long.  I was lucky today.  I walked out of the gate, across the hall, and into the gate for my next flight.  That was the easiest transition I can remember.

The trip from Dulles to Beijing is 13 hours.  Whew!  They serve two full meals, and a snack (small sandwich) in the middle.  This was a newer plane, so I had the chance to watch 4 movies and two NCIS episodes on my own individual screen on the headrest in front of me.  I’ve also learned to pay a little more for “Economy Plus”, with an added 5 inches between seats for your legs.  I had no one else in the seats with me, so I was able to stretch out and sleep when I felt like it.


I took this as we flew over Japan to the US on Monday, 4/14. I haven’t seen too many snow covered volcanos in Texas & New Mexico.

My trip to the US was productive.  I was able to help with my parent’s move to Baton Rouge.  It was tough for them to figure out how to downsize from their home of 50 years.  Lots of memories had to be left behind, for now.  Even with as much stuff as they left in Fort Worth, they probably have even more “cutting” to do.  Sometimes it’s less about what you think you need, and more about the size of the closets.  The “crew” from the church was exactly what we needed.  They were efficient, quick, and strong.  Even with Brad & Courtney helping, it would have been a daunting task.

Robert (my brother), his wife Susan, my sister Kathryn, and my parents, pulled out Friday afternoon in a 3-vehicle caravan, including a stuffed trailer, headed to Houston.  After spending the night at Kathryn’s house,  they make the drive to Baton Rouge, arriving Saturday afternoon.  Robert and Susan were joined by sons Geoffrey and Nicholas, and moved mom & dad into their new residence.  I think Robert’s body was reminding him the next day about his age.

After the caravan left Fort Worth, I dealt with a few loose ends to close the house.  Lots of decisions still need to be made on the home, but not this trip.  The remainder of my trip included several meals with Courtney and Brad, and a visit to Granbury to see Judy’s dad with the kids.  I visited Martin HS and saw some familiar faces.  I had breakfast with Ken Valliant, lunch with Michael Knipe, and “afternoon tea” with Bill & Margaret Huff.  As always, the biggest regret on traveling back to DFW is there is never enough time to see everyone I want to visit.

Monday, it’s a really long day, 4/14/14

Because of  time zone adjustments, Monday is a really long day.  The flight arrives in San Francisco at 8:00 am (11 hr flight.)  The Global Express kiosks are really fast.  The luggage, however takes 45 minutes to arrive.  I follow the signs through customs then to the transfer desk to re-check the luggage.  I have to go through security again to get to the new gate, and it’s really slow.  Lots of people are waiting, and not many scanners are open.  Airports are really fun!

The plane loads on-time and we’re off to DFW, arriving as schedule at 4:30. While I’m waiting on luggage, I “Facetime” Judy in Beijing.  She had worked out the apartment issues.  Electricity and water are not going to be cut off until Thursday, and it’s scheduled to take place while she’s at school.  Whew, what a relief.  Courtney picks me up really quickly, and we head into Dallas.  At her apartment, we eat dinner, and then she heads back to Lewisville to attend a school board meeting.  I get my car and drive to Fort Worth to surprise my parents.

When mom opened the front door, peering around to see who it was, she had a really confused look.  I could see she recognized me, but it took her a few seconds to process why I was standing at the front door?  Dad was in the back of the house, and had an equally confused reaction when he walked in and spotted me sitting on the couch.   Brad arrives about 15 minutes later, and we have a nice visit (kind of “the calm before the storm”.)  We leave around 8:00 pm.   I check-in to my hotel and unpack.  Work begins tomorrow morning.  Here’s hoping I get some sleep, since morning in Beijing is just beginning.  When we visited at Christmas, it took me 6-7 days before my body began to feel right.

For anyone who might be reading this, I’m going to shutdown the writing until I start back to Beijing.  Judy has full days at school all-week.  A couple of the Australians are celebrating a birthday this weekend, so she’s not going to be bored.  I feel sure my days are going to be filled with organizing and eventually packing.  The trailer loading and caravan departure is planned for Friday.  I left Monday (21st) open to tie up loose ends if needed.  C’mon sleep!

Monday, 4/14/14

Travel Day!  As Judy heads out, we’re comparing notes on details I’ve probably forgotten.  We haven’t been separated since we came to China.  I’m a little uncomfortable about leaving.  I know she’s a big girl, and everything, but it’s been a team effort over here for 8 months.

I grab a taxi and get to the airport in record time (1/2 hour).  Check-in is smooth, and I roll easily through security and immigration.  I’ve had a lot of recent practice working through this airport.  Just as the plane begins to load, I get a text from Lisa, our real estate agent.  She’s telling me the electricity and water will be turned off tomorrow (Tuesday) in our apartment building.  This is definitely a complication.

I hurriedly try to find out when, exactly, this will happen, and give her Judy’s phone number.  I also try to get the info to Judy so the two of them can communicate.  I’m about to be incommunicado (?) for 11-12 hours, till I get to San Francisco, and by then, Judy should be asleep.  I can’t believe this is happening the first time I leave.

Judy’s in class, so my texting skills are put to a major test, and not that successfully.  I’m just too slow.  I finally finish my texts on the plane with flight attendants glaring at my phone.  I can’t wait to find out how all this works out.  At least I received the information before I left.  If not, Judy wouldn’t have had any idea what was about to happen.  The text from Lisa wouldn’t have arrived to me in the US.  What a nice surprise for Judy the first morning I’m gone.

Sunday, 4/13/14

I woke up today, and decided to act on an idea that’s been rolling around in my head since Thursday.  I’m flying to DFW tomorrow.  My parents are moving from their home of 51 years in Fort Worth, this coming Friday.  It has become increasingly difficult for them to take care of their large home and lot (1 acre).  Since my brother, Robert, and his wife Susan, are both doctors, they have connections in the medical community where they work in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  My parents are moving to an apartment in an adult community in Baton Rouge, where they’ll have more convenient access to medical care and facilities.

Moving is never easy, but to pull up roots after that length of time is a major chore.  Since my classes at BHSFIC were not meeting due to mid-term tests.  It seemed like the appropriate time for a quick trip (not exactly quick) home to help.  I was able to get an airline ticket for the 17½ hr. flight to DFW.  Now comes the fun of preparing and packing for the trip. 

Judy still has classes, so she’s staying in Beijing.  I head for the grocery store, hoping to leave her set-up with enough food to last till I get back.  My own packing isn’t that tough since our ayi keeps our laundry and ironing caught up.  I just have to leave enough room in the suitcase for stuff to bring back from the US. 

Saturday, 4/12/14

The morning starts slowly as we recover from our big night at the opera.  Judy has lots of essay grading to complete.  Then she has to write comments for all her students.

I have to begin entering comments for my students.  Student reports will be distributed soon after the mid-term exams.  BHSFIC just started a web=based grade reporting system, so there are quirks that need to be worked out.  One of the quirks is that each student has a “Western” name, but their online identity is Chinese.  We can only identify them by referencing their student id# which takes a long time.  An alphabetized list won’t work

We leave around 5:30 to travel to Lili’s American Diner (LAD).  It’s a “hole in the wall” restaurant specializing in burgers and other assorted western foods.  We’re meeting a group from BISS.  Nationalities at dinner include, England, Canada, Korea, Australia, Israel, and of course, the US.

I didn’t mention this in yesterday’s blog, but Arvis, Kyra’s Latvian husband talked at dinner last night about the Ukraine problem.  He grew up in the soviet system in Latvia, and has many Russian friends.  For me, it was really interesting hearing about the difficulties he has experienced talking to his friends of many years who still live in Russia and how polarized politically they have become.

Dani, the BISS secondary principal rode with us to dinner last night, and talked about her new job.  She will be an administrator at an international school in Prague, Czechoslovakia.  She had to get the original copies of her university diplomas verified with an Australian government stamp, and then shipped to her new school.  She previously thought a Chines visa was tough to get, but it’s nothing like the “red tape” she’s experienced in the Czech Republic. 

Back to “The Egg,” 4/11/14

We’re excited about today!  We’re going to the NCPA (National Center for the Performing Arts), or “The Egg”, for a performance of Verdi’s “La Traviata.”  It was organized by Judy’s principal at BISS, Kyra. There are six of us attending.  They’ve arranged two cars with drivers, and a fancy meal before the show, so it’s going to be fun.

I hurry home after my classes at BHSFIC, change clothes, and taxi to BISS.  We leave BISS at 4:00 pm, in our cars, travelling to the Raffles Hotel, one of the “Grand Hotels” in Beijing.  Traffic is heavy as we head into the center of Beijing.  The hotel is an experience unto itself.  The “High Tea” is still being served.  Check out the picture below.  I tried the pasta myself, but everyone else went with the tea.


“High Tea” at the Raffles Hotel in Beijing. L to R: Dani (secondary principal, Australian), Kyra (US), Arvis (Kyra’s husband, Latvian). not pictured: Antony (curriculum, Greece)


This dress was on display at the Raffles, along with several others as part of a display by the designer.

After dinner, the drivers picked us up and dropped us at “The Egg”.  Our seats are really on the 10th row, center section, and we can hear and see very well.  The orchestra is tremendous, much better than the orchestra for “Swan Lake” we attended in January.  The singers are really good.  They’re singing the Italian, and a translation is projected overhead in English, and on the sides in Chinese.

th th-2 th-1

The set was a technical wonder and had us talking during each intermission about how and why it was done.  There was a tilted scrim at the back of the stage.  The floor was covered with matte paintings that were pulled off the stage as the scene changed.  There was a camera above the floor, and the camera view of the floor was rear-projected onto the scrim from the back, to serve as the backdrop.  For me, it was confusing because as the stage filled with singers, we were viewing them from the front (as usual), and also a top view of them walking around was projected onto the back.  There’s probably no way this description make sense.  Even sitting in the hall, it took us some time to figure out how they were doing it.

The most serious problem occurred during the finale when the camera and scrim were tilted to include the pit orchestra, and then the audience.  It didn’t take long before people were waving at themselves and taking pictures, which were of course, flashing right back into all our eyes.  The musical moment at the end was lost because of all the visual distraction.   Even with that, it was a fun evening, and we came away visually and musically stimulated.


This is during the bows at the end of the show. Behind the performers you can see the scrim with the projection showing the back of the performers, the orchestra, and then the audience. The lights are from camera flashes.