Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Cheap China Anomaly

As we prepared to leave for China, the couple we replaced told us, “While everything is made it China, that doesn’t me you can  actually buy it in China.” At least as an easy, inexpensive retail purchase. Take clocks for example.

We wanted an inexpensive wall clock for our apartment. We looked and looked. The best we could find was a $20 model. One day it broke. We bought its replacement in America and brought it back with us. Wal-Mart in America had exactly what we wanted – the clock in the photo. Made in China, of course, and shipped to America. Sold at Wal-Mart for $3.99. $4 in America & $20 in China. Who would have thought?

Our American $4 clock

Nike shoes are another example. If a pair are made in China and sold in America for $100, they are likely sold in China for $200. Most luxury goods are priced that way. All electronics made in China and sold in America are sold in China for more than their American price. People think the new higher than America iPhone prices are crazy. Starbucks is way more expensive than America. And on it goes.

Two final thoughts. Counterfeits are a totally different story and quite the story they are. And second, middle class Chinese living is very affordable IF you can survive without prestigious brand names. Only problem is, Chinese culture dictates if others will see it, you want the best. So very interesting living in the midst of this. One of our students visiting an uncle in America this summer said what she liked best about America was, “how inexpensive everything was.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Flowers, Shrubs, and Trees

The flowers, shrubs, and trees in Xi'an, actually everywhere we have been in China, are beautiful. Landscaping is obviously a high priority in Chinese culture.  One of the most eye-catching parts of the construction here is that new areas seem instantly landscaped with beautiful, plentiful, mature plantings. Sometimes the landscaping is begun before the construction is completed. No need to wait a few years to do it or a few decades for it to mature. Many of the older buildings are beautifully landscaped as well. We love all the tree arched roads of our campus. We have lots of lovely parks and plazas nearby which are artfully landscaped.

Another interesting technique used here is the placing of small potted plants (still in their pot) on a cement sidewalk or courtyard in a fancy design creating an instant and beautiful arrangement. Just arrange the potted plants in a plain or intricate design. Later replace them with new ones. Great time saving--no digging holes. It is fast, impressive and can be replaced quickly and several times during the season.

None of these photos are particularly remarkable but they show a variety of foliage and flowers as we encounter and enjoy them in China - most just around where we live and Xi'an in general. Most we encounter in walking several miles in all directions around our campus. If you surmised that purple is a favorite Chinese color, we would tend to agree:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

East meet West - 30 IVs

Eastern medicine has an ancient and esteemed history, yet Western medicine is what is largely practiced in Chinese urban areas. Western "with Chinese characteristics." So many things in all aspects of Chinese society are described as "___________ with Chinese characteristics."

I can't tell what this is. Doctor? Podiatrist? Pedicure? Whatever you want is available on the street. Whether you should get it or not is a totally different story.

A Cold

Last winter I had a cold that I worried had become bronchitis or pneumonia. Finally went to the school clinic (“hospital”; it seems all medical facilities are called hospital) with the help of a university assigned translator. Interesting process. Check in and pre-pay 36 cents to see the doctor (we had a Chinese plastic surgeon in our branch; she makes about $130 a month so 36 cents works; not much). Have a bit of an interview with the doctor and am given orders for a couple of tests. Go to the payment counter and pay $1 for the tests. Go upstairs to the lab and have a blood test and a urine test.

First time for a urine test and blood test for a cold. Get the results and go back to the doctor. She looks at results and writes a prescription for cough syrup, a decongestant, and a tea. Go back to the counter and pay $2 for the medicine. Go to the “Western Medicine” counter and get the cough medicine and the decongestant. Go to the “Eastern Medicine” counter and get the tea. I head home. In a couple of weeks I am as good as new.

Oh, did I mention, no one ever did listen to my lungs – the only thing I went to the doctor about.
An Inflamed Cyst

Just before we returned to China I had an inflamed cyst. My American doctor said, "Can't remove or drain it; that would spread the infection. Take these pills and it will go away." It worked.

One of our BYU teachers here just got an inflamed cyst. His Chinese doctor said, "Lets cut it open." They did. Then they gave him a 3 hour IV of antibiotics that he repeated every other day for a few weeks. He worried about the filth of the hospital. He worried about the needles. He worried about the IV infiltration that swelled his hand up like a softball. He worried about the continued discomfort and the slow healing. But it finally seemed to clear up.

Oops. His cyst just came back. 

“I am getting an IV”

In class this week I am told one of the students went to the "hospital" to get an IV. We have observed that IVs are a very popular Chinese treatment. I stopped class to talk about this a bit. Long story short: our students from urban areas have each had about 30 IVs in their lifetimes as the primary Chinese treatment for everything. In the villages the shaman or "healer" does it differently. Totally eastern; no IVs. (Its interesting to hear how each village's secret sauce only works when combined with the local water [full of its specific local minerals]. Next village over has a different curing formula.)

#2 - We are doing it again

When we considered the situation of our 90+ year old parents, balanced by the continual encouragement and expressions of need by the general authorities of the church, we were led to begin our season of missionary service by sending in our papers to serve for a year in the Brigham Young University Kennedy Center China Teachers' Program. In a country that was not yet open to missionary work, the timing and service seemed ideal for us.

Are we coming or going? Either way, living
on the 5th floor with no elevator makes      
the luggage "wonderful."     

Leave Plymouth in August 2012, return home in July 2013, then figure out where/when to go for mission #2. That was our specific plan. We also put together and shared with our children what we thought might be a general plan for the next decade of our service. It absolutely did not include going back to China a 2nd time. But things change, the Lord has other plans, and yes indeed, we signed up for a 2nd time.

Sunny days are full of colorful umbrellas. A sun tan is a sign of poverty

BYU was more than happy to have us go again. It is like all senior missionary activities. A huge need and not a lot of available seniors. Our university was also happy to have us back. So we have returned to Xi'an, China for a 2nd year to the exact same situation.

The big watermelon are too heavy to carry back to our apartment and up the stairs. But is the knife clean enough to trust cutting the watermelon in half? We don't think so. No watermelon for us.

We have made some interesting discoveries. Preparing lessons for the exact same classes where we are beginning with what we taught last year is wonderful. Instead of trying to figure out what to do, we are spending about the same amount of time making lessons better - and feeling more positive and confident about it.

"Fresh" meat out in the sun and bugs for hours.

Correcting a mountain of essays takes the same hours. But there is an improved focus on what correcting is of greatest help to the students. Students are the same great people. And in fact about half the students we are currently teaching are ones we had last year in different classes. We love that.

So many green vegetables we have not see before but have come to enjoy. We will pay closer attention to the Asian booths at the farmers' markets when we get home.

Gospel related experiences are also happening more frequently and on a higher level since we seem to better understand how to impact on situations.

Eggs are never refrigerated. So colorful. So many sizes and varieties.

"Oh it's China," events still happen with the same (too often :)) frequency, but many are duplicates of last year so they are not so unsettlingly foreign. In general we interact with the culture, society, and daily living on a much more effective and comfortable basis.

Choosing mushrooms. How do they all squat like that? It kills my knees just watching.

We loved our experience last year. We love this year even more and know very clearly why the Lord wants us here. We are grateful to be able to serve him in this way.

Hair cut anyone? Conveniently located....everywhere! Only 50 cents.

What was I thinking? Where have we been?

How is it possible our last blog posting was June 9th? That was over 4 months ago. Certainly not for lack of activity. Here is the short version of our explanation.

I (Paul) ended out needing to create/publish a collection of essays of my sophomore writing students. It was early June when I finally realized it would be almost impossible for me to get it done in time to return to America in late July. The days got really long. Thanks to amazing help from Ann, I finally pulled it off, but just barely.

Here it is:
"Advised" is a very large under/mis-statement

The partial Table of Contents lists some of the essays. I have read much about the lives of individuals in China during its last 50 years. This is my contribution to it and it is both amazing and precious to me. And it really tied up my time.

It was particularly interesting to assign the students to interview their grandparents and write about their lives at the same age as these college sophomores. Most of them had never heard of the Great Leap Forward nor the Cultural Revolution. They were moved, troubled, and changed by what they learned. It is nice to have it documented for them and their posterity. And for me.

In the meantime, in March, our daughter Laura got us using the app Instagram. We have loved it. While a blog posting feels like it needs enough going on to develop a theme, Instagram is for what is happening right now. As a result, when we see something or are involved in something very interesting, we have joined those who pull out a phone, shoot, and instantly put it on Instagram. We are amazed at how much closer we feel to everyone. In the 6 months we have been doing this, we have each posted perhaps 2 photos a week - none of which have made it to the blog in the last 4 months. Yet we are still committed to the blog. Just slow.

If you want to see our Chinese photos from Instagram, add grammaann and pwilson75 to your following list. You might enjoy it. As Laura said to me, "Dad, please just try it for a few weeks." We got hooked much sooner than that.

Instagram and Share the World's Moments. Instagram is a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your life with friends and family. Take a picture or video, choose a ...