Sunday, April 13, 2014

Does Death Really Come in Threes?

I got word about two tragic deaths today.  I have always heard the saying that death comes in threes.  I hope not.  I don't know if I can handle hearing about a third death!

The first death was that of my cousin's husband.  This particular cousin had a fiancee when she was young that died before they could marry.  Then she married a man who turned out to be a horrible person, so she divorced him.  She is a wonderful person herself.  Then she married again, but that person appeared to have some psychiatric troubles, so they divorced.  In recent years she met up with her high school sweetheart and they married.  They were so happy together!  She referred to him as the love of her life.  This past week he has been in the hospital with severe pancreatitis.  I thought he might rally, but I got a message today that he died.  It's just so tragic!  On one hand, I am glad they had a few good years together, but on the other, I felt they both deserved a longer life together.  I guess when it's your time to go, nothing will stop death.  But it's just so tragic that this happened to her.

I got an email notifying me of the second death.  This was also a tragic death because this was a young man.  Some of you may remember "Vid" who often commented on my blog, as well as those of other blogging friends.  He was a young man who went to the Phillipines to do a study abroad.  He was a bright young man who was particularly well educated about politics.  He had a good head on his shoulders.  His life was only just beginning when he died this past November.  Such a tragedy, and my heart goes out to his family.

It's interesting because last night I was thinking about an old mission companion of mine who died 6 years ago.  She was climbing on Mount Olympus and fell down a 1000 foot snow chute.  She was only about 50 years old.  I remembered that there was an online memory book for her, so I went back to it to re-read the comments I had made, and read other comments.  I noted that there were several comments from mission friends.  It surprised me to see that the anniversary of her death is this week.  She was a beautiful woman, inside and out.

People leave such a hole when they die, don't they?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Chinese are Masters at Cutting in Line

The Chinese are masters at cutting in line.  I don't know how they do it, and I'm still trying to learn how to deal with it.  My American sensibilities always take over, and I automatically react to body language and body space.  I'm trying to learn how to use my body language to my advantage so that I won't continually have people cut in line in front of me.  I had to go back to the hospital today to pick up some tests results for my friend.  She works during lab hours, and as we learned the hard way, the lab closes exactly at 5:00.  So I rode the bus an hour each way to go pick up the tests for her.  This gave me plenty of "don't cut my line" experience.

I think I'm getting better about knowing how to keep my place in line when getting on a bus.  I think it helps if I have my grocery cart because it acts as a barrier when people try to rush in front of me.  I think part of my problem is that the Chinese are usually very slender and can just scoot in to the tiny little gap I leave as part of my own personal space.  When we lived in Beijing 20 years ago, things were much worse.  Back then, there was no sense at all of how to queue in a line.  It was always a mad free for all when going to McDonald's, or even the post office.   But now there is a little more order when waiting in line.  But "when push comes to shove" (I now have a better understanding of where that saying comes from) and we are at the point of actually boarding a bus, people start cutting in line.  The same happened when waiting to see the doctor today.

The doctor had told me to come directly to her before picking up the test results.  When I got to her office, the door was wide open, and there was a man being seen about a rash on his leg.  He was sitting in a chair next to her desk, and next to him was another chair.  In that chair was a man waiting to be seen.  In the West, people would be shocked at the lack of privacy in Chinese hospitals.  I felt really uncomfortable going in the room during his consultation, so I stood at the door.  As more people came to see the doctor, I tried to use my body language to send the message that they should get in line behind me.  It worked for a little while.  Eventually, I  could see that the second man was almost done with his exam, so I walked over and stood next to him, right by the doctor.  He got up to leave, so I told her why I was there.  She told me to go to the lab and pick up the test results (she had originally told me she would need to do this for me).  So I went out, and after being sent on a couple of wild goose chases was finally able to find the place to pick up the test results.  Westerners would also find it interesting that they handed me the results without asking to see any I.D.  Anyway, back I went to have the doctor examine the test results.

When I got back to the room, there was one person inside, but there were several people milling about outside the door.  This time I decided that I needed to be more assertive, so I went directly in and sat in the chair next to the patient who was talking to the doctor.  They were speaking in the Wuhan dialect which is difficult for me to understand, so I appeased my guilty conscience by telling myself that they still had privacy since I couldn't understand them.  I felt like I was in a pretty good position in line, but the Chinese behind  me showed me that they knew some tricks I didn't know.

A man walked up and laid his medical papers on the desk in front of me, thereby putting himself ahead of me in the queue.  Then another man walked up and laid his papers directly behind that man's papers.  When the patient was finished talking to the doctor, that first man jumped in and sat in his chair.  When he finished, the other man started to jump in as well, but I handed the test results over him to the doctor and she took me  next.  MWHAHAAHAA!   See, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I have to add that I don't want to learn how to cut in line.  I just want to learn how to keep other people from doing it!  I don't want to verbally cause a situation, I just want to learn the nonverbal way of handling it.  I think I'm getting it, slowly but surely.  Then when I go home to the U.S., I'll have to unlearn it all.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Feminist Activiism in the Church

Recently the group "Ordain Women" asked permission from our church authorities to attend the general Priesthood meeting.  They were denied admittance, and were reminded that this meeting is particularly arranged for Priesthood holders.   They showed up to the meeting anyway, but were once again told that they would not be allowed to attend.  The church leaders hoped to save the room for the male Priesthood holders who wanted to attend.  They were reminded that a similar meeting would be held for the women of the church, and they were invited to attend that.

In fact, our "Relief Society" is probably the largest women's organization in the world.  We have women leaders, who, under the direction of the Priesthood, run our organization and teach our classes.  Instruction given during our Relief Society meetings is specifically focused on the needs of the women of the church.  Similarly, the instruction given to the men during the Priesthood meeting is designed to address the needs of the men.  This group of feminist women were told they would be allowed to attend the women's meeting, but not the men's, but that if they disagreed, there is a location that is set aside for protesters, and they were invited to use that area if they wished to protest the decision.

I was reading online about the group, and was interested to learn that it is an interdenominational group that is trying to get women ordained in every religion, not just ours. While some of it's members are members of our church, many of them are not.  This is very telling to me, and should be a red flag to members of our church that their motives are more political than religious.

This group of women chose to not only protest the church's decision, but to do so right in front of the building wherein the men would meet.  To me this is the height of disrespect.  It was bringing discord and anger to a sacred place.  It was an irreverent action in a sacred location.  They were asked to leave, but refused.

Here are my complaints about their actions:
--They have said they want a dialogue with the church.  In fact, they have had a dialogue with the church, but they don't like the answers they have been given.  One person on facebook likened it to a child that keeps asking it's parent for something they want, only to be told repeatedly that they can't have it.  The tantrum increases, thinking that if they just continue to ask, the parent will give it to them.  But a loving parent won't give in to something that isn't right for the child.  I should mention that in our religion we believe that such a decision would come from God by revelation.  So in my mind, I feel they should take this up directly with God, and not continually burden church leaders with their complaints.

--I hear people continually say that there should be a separation between church and state.  They don't want any church influence creeping in to their civic affairs.  But they see nothing wrong with  bringing their own "politics" to the church.  In my opinion, church is not the location to have any kind of protest.  It disrupts the peace of those who are there to truly worship.  Doing such activities is a disruption of peaceful worship.  At one point these women wore pants to church to "protest" the decision to not allow them to have the Priesthood.  (Note:  In our church, most women wear dresses to church)  My comment to some of them at the time was that this kind of thinking could escalate.  Perhaps men favoring same sex marriage would wear dresses to church.  Or some other group would all sit backwards in church.  I'm sure there are a myriad of ways people could protest in church, but at what cost?  My first thought is of those who came there to privately worship, who would be disturbed by the actions of these people.  Then my second thought was about what kind of message this sends to children.  Please, if you want to protest, do so in a place where those who have come to pay their devotions to God will not be disrupted.  

--Many of these women say that they want to be equal with men.  Well, I'm sorry to tell them that unless they can change their chromosomal makeup, we will never be exactly like men.  That isn't to say that we aren't equal.  In my experience, women in the church are equal to men, but our roles are different.  I have just as important of responsibilities.  By saying that because I don't have the Priesthood then I am valued less, is to devalue the importance of my womanhood.  In fact, many of my roles, such as that of mother, are MORE important than the responsibilities found in the Priesthood.  And frankly, I have always felt greatly honored and respected as a woman in the church.  I have been invited to sit in the Priesthood councils of our church because they wanted my input on matters related to the welfare of church members, and especially the women.  When I entered the room, the men would stand to show their respect for me.  They asked my opinion, and valued my opinion.  My experience is that other women who hold positions in the church have received the same respect.   Those who say that women in our church are oppressed are either seriously misguided, or have been duped.

--A couple of our church leaders gave talks, independent of each other, in the last general conference, and both of them independently used the same phrase "intellectual slavery".  I do believe that people who get sucked in to worldly thinking can become intellectual slaves.  They feel their way of thinking is superior, and that the rest of the church just hasn't risen to their level of thinking or education.  In fact, they do not understand that having the Priesthood does not make you a better person, or a more important person.  In fact, it is a huge responsibility that men, by nature, are suited to perform.  Could women perform that duty?  Absolutely, but we have other duties that we, by nature are more suited to perform.  Could a man take on a mothering role?  Yes, but he will do it in a fatherly way.  He cannot do more, because he is male.  His brain is not wired like that of a woman.  He would probably do a good job, but there would be something lacking that only a woman can give.  Likewise, women could do the duties of the Priesthood, but because of our nature, we would do it in a "womanly way", and the church would miss out on an aspect that men are particularly suited to do.  It doesn't make them better because they are doing it, and it doesn't make us less because we aren't.  But if we aren't not careful, we will be sucked in to the intellectual traps that the world offers that tell us that if we aren't the same as men, then we are less.  The very actions of this group are in a sense shouting to me that what I am is not enough.  Their actions are telling me that unless I have the Priesthood, I am not good enough.  They are creating the very paradigm they wish to destroy.

--One woman commented that in some ways, this is an act of covetousness.  I think she makes a valid point.  When we set our hearts on something that someone else has that we don't, we are coveting that thing.  In this case, they believe it is a matter of fairness.  But honestly, I have so much responsibility in the church already, that to me, it wouldn't be fair for me to have to take on the duties of the Priesthood as well.

--Part of me feels that the leaders of this group are just relishing their 15 minutes of fame.  It's more about their political motive of feminism than about the actual religiosity of the action.

--Some have suggested that they should be excommunicated.  This is something the church does not take lightly.  It's far easier to keep a person in the church, and try to help them, than to excommunicate them and run the risk of turning them away all together, and thereby losing any chance to have influence for good on them.  But from my perspective, people who go to these measures are already on the road to apostasy, and it won't be long before they will voluntarily leave the church.  But I would hope that none of them would lose their membership over this.  And I would hope that if given the choice, they would hang on to the covenants they have already made and stay in the church.

The interesting thing is that in the most recent women's conference, the overall message was that we as women of the church should be united.  We not only should be united with each other, but should unite with the Priesthood leaders.  God's church should not be one of disunity.  So although I may disagree with their actions, I still want to try to reach out and be unified in areas that are common ground.  The difficult part for me is that it angers me to see them intrude on sacred moments of church worship.  I have to learn to forgive and just try to help them to see what an important role in the church they already have.

But the world should know that this is a very small percentage of the membership of the church.  Most of us truly understand the role of women, and the great importance of our responsibilities in the church.  All of the blessings of the Priesthood are available to us.  Although we may not personally hold the Priesthood, none of the blessings that come from it are denied us.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Blasted Links

Does anyone know how to get rid of all of these automatic blue links?  They are driving me crazy because I can't read them very well.  I hope some of you have some ideas!

Girls Will Be Girls

A week or so ago I asked the girls what they would like to do during our "English class".  I use that term very loosely because I don't actually teach them English, I just give them an opportunity to practice speaking and listening.  Anyway, they gave me a list of three things they wanted to do:
1.  Go outside and take pictures with the flowering trees
2.  Learn how to put on makeup
3.  Learn about life in America

As you can see from my last post, we did number one.  It wasn't on our regularly scheduled day, but I think it was enough.  So on Tuesday I taught them how to put on makeup.  I kept it very simple for them, and explained that it needed to look natural.  It was funny to see their reaction to this.  They had never used any makeup before, and had never seen their mothers wear makeup.  One of the girls, while trying to put on some makeup said, "This is hard!"  I should have taken some pictures, but to me they didn't quite look finished because I didn't have them put on mascara.  You can spread eye infections by sharing mascara, and I couldn't find any to buy for them.

Another problem one of the girls in particular had was that any time I, or she tried to put on eye makeup, her eyes would start watering.  This is a natural reaction that most people are able to overcome with practice.  But we kept having to reapply her makeup because she kept smudging it all off when she dabbed her watering eyes.

I learned something new about Chinese eyes.  First of all, I wasn't quite sure how to use makeup on Chinese eyes, but it was easy to figure out as we went along.  But then one of the girls said a term in Chinese that means "double skin".  I asked her what that meant, and she pointed out how her own eyes don't have an eyelid like most caucasians, but it goes straight from the eyebrow down to the eyelashes without curving in.   She was quite miffed  when she asked if  caucasians  have eyes like that and I told her no.   I had never noticed this trait before, although I have seen her style of eyes many times.  I just assumed that everyone's eyes have the indent on the eyelid.   You learn something new every day.   The girls were happy to play with the makeup though; just like any other teenagers.

Yesterday I did a sort of  slide show and told them about life in America.  I had thrown in pictures of my son's prom.  They were VERY interested in the prom, and asked a lot of questions about it.  They don't have proms here in China, and most kids don't date until they are in their college years.  They have school romances, but they don't actually go out on dates together.  So the girls were interested to learn about dating in America.

When it was time for them to go home, I asked them what else they would like to do for our activities.  They were kind of embarrassed, but asked if I could teach them how to dance.  They said they had never learned how to dance and knew nothing about it.  Of course, I would be the embarrassed one if I taught them normal dance for rock music.  So I decided that a good foundation for dance is to learn some of the standard ballroom dancing.  That I can teach without looking stupid.  lol  Everyone needs to know how to waltz, and I thought I would teach a little swing dancing too.  They will have to figure out the "free form" dancing on their own.  lol  But they were adamant that my husband shouldn't be home while I teach them.  :)  I said, "Well, maybe he could help me teach you!"  They were so embarrassed at the thought!  lol

I've had them doing every imaginable craft (crochet, embroidery, sewing, salt dough, etc.) as well as have taught them cooking, showed movies in English, played games etc.  I will be interested to see what other kinds of girly things they will come up with.

Ha, I made them pose for this shot, but it was so sunny they couldn't open their eyes.  And they were apalled that I wanted them to lay on the ground.  lol

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturday's Pictures

The girls wanted me to go with them to take pictures of the cherry trees in bloom.  Sadly, the blossoms were already mostly spent, but we did still find some flowering trees and bushes.  Here are pictures of the girls, followed by some random pics of my neighborhood.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Another China Healthcare Adventure

A friend here asked me to go with her to the hospital to help translate for her.  She had a spot on her hand that she worried might be pre-cancerous.  She met with the best doctor in the dermatology department who told her that it was nothing to worry about.  But she had investigated the subject online, and was convinced that the doctor didn't know what she was talking about.  (As you can tell, I believe the doctor knew what she was talking about)  So the doctor turned to her assistant and said in Chinese, "Well, who knows how much she has read on the internet, so because she is worried, we can just take it off."  She told us that she gets off work at 5:00.  But that day, it was actually about 5:30 when we met with her, so we got the impression that she would wait for us if we came late.

My friend doesn't get off work until 3:45, and it takes at least an hour to get to the hospital.  On Fridays traffic is worse, so it actually took us a little longer to get there.  We decided to call the doctor and tell her we were on our way.

So here is what I think happened.  My Chinese isn't perfect, but I think on the phone she thought I was Chinese.  She was VERY curt with me, and yelled and told me that the hospital closes at 5:00, and that if we came, there would be no one there to help us.  Suddenly the phone went dead.  So I called back and said, "I think we got disconnected, but I wanted to ask if you will still be there if we come a little late."  She again was very ornery with me and told me that they close at 5:00.  Then the phone was disconnected.  I said, "Uh, she just hung up on me."  My friend has a very pushy personality, so she called her back.  This time, the doctor talked to me a little longer, but chewed me out.  She said, "I told your friend she didn't need to worry about this skin problem, but she insisted to have it taken off anyway.  We close at 5:00, and if you come later, no one will be here."  I asked her what she suggested, and she said that we should come next week during office hours.  I had already explained to her before that my friend works in the day.  Anyway, so I said goodbye and hung up.  But my pushy friend called her back and started ranting in English about how we had gotten the impression that she would wait for us.  I know that the doctor probably only really understood probably 5% of what she said to her.  I was really embarassed that she had called the doctor back.  Suddenly she handed the phone to me and said, "Tell her..."  I stopped her and said, "I"m not talking to her again."  She was surprised and asked my husband, who was driving, if he would talk to her.  He refused too.  She handed the phone to me again, so I just hung it up.

She had been referred by a doctor that speaks English, and works in a special "VIP" part of the hospital that treats foreigners.  She called him up and told him the doctor was refusing to wait for us.  He kept answering her and telling her what she should have done.  She kept arguing with him, and finally hung up when another call came through.  It was her doctor calling back.  I answered and she said, "Where are you?"  So after all her yelling at me, she was still waiting for us!

Actually, honestly I think she thought I was just some Chinese person (with bad chinese) so was ornery with me.  Then when she realized I was the American she had met, she called back and was nicer.  So there you have it America, this is what a non-profit driven healthcare will give you.  If the doctor doesn't get paid according to the number of clients they have, but is just paid by the number of hours spent, they don't care about you.  They keep their job whether you like them or not.  They keep their job whether they treat you disrespectfully or not.

I could write a whole other post about how I had to go up and down 4 flights of stairs to get my friend registered and get her bill paid.  At one point, I had to go all the way up 4 flights to give her a paper to fill out, and to get her passport.  I went all the way back downstairs only to notice she had forgotten to sign on one line.   I didn't say a word, I just asked the nurse for a pen, and when she was busy doing something else, I signed it for my friend.  I figured they probably couldn't tell it wasn't her signature.  It was worth the transgression to not have to walk back up 4 flights of stairs.

I should mention that the doctor was right.  Everyone in the hospital, except the emergency room on the first floor, left at 5:00.  The lights turned off.  The escalator turned off.  That's why I had to walk the 4 flights.  So when I was walking up and down, I was doing it in the partial darkness.  The doctor worked with us until about 6:30....1 1/2 hours after her quitting time.  So I don't blame her for not wanting to stay, but I do still blame her for being rude about it.

I still have to go back this week to pick up the biopsy results for my friends.  The lab closes at 5:00 too, and they won't wait.  My friend doesn't get off work in time, so they said I could pick it up for her.  I'll probably ride the bus this time, so this is going to be another really long day.  And it's sad to think that this is how health care is for ALL Chinese.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Seeing Asian

I've had this thing happen to me many times over the past year, that sometimes I see someone on the street, and for a minute or two I can't tell if they are Chinese or foreign.  I know that may sound hard to believe, but I think living here that long has really changed my vision. 

Today I went to Walmart and actually did see a few foreigners.  It was kind of shocking because I don't see too many in my city.  But then after I left the store, I kept thinking I was seeing more foreigners.  I would see a person walking down the street and think they were a foreigner.  But when they got closer up, I could see that they were Chinese.  What intensifies this is if the person has their hair tinted a lighter color, or if they are wearing an American style of clothing.  It's weird....

I do remember that 30 years ago, when I came home from serving a mission in Taiwan, I had a strange view of Americans.  When I got to the Dallas airport, I was shocked at how tall and fat all of the men were.  They also all looked red haired and pasty white to me.  Now I know they couldn't have all been red haired, but that was how it looked after living for 18 months among shorter, more slender, black haired people. 

It made me happy one day when I asked my son if he now believes the saying that "all China men look alike", only to have him reply with a "That's ridiculous" answer.  I also asked him if Chinese teenagers are different from American teenagers.  He didn't think they were any different.  That made me happy. 

I'll be interested to see what he thinks after returning home this summer.  I wonder if he will have the experience like I did of seeing Americans with new eyes.