Category Archives: teaching abroad

Quarantine


I arrived in Tulsa on Friday, February 14, Valentine’s Day.  Not a valentine in sight!  But that’s ok, I wouldn’t expect a kiss on this Valentine’s Day anyway. I have to wear a mask so it would be awkward.

The CDC said they would contact me immediately if there was a problem.  By Sunday, the Health Department contacted my daughter as I listed her as my emergency contact.  I don’t have a working phone in the USA. 

The Tulsa Health Department needed to reach me.  They needed to interview, ask me questions, and monitor my temperature readings.   Ok!  This doesn’t sound like too  much of an emergency. I had expected this. My friends who are from Mississippi and who left Beijing a week before me said the Health Department is monitoring them, as well. I’ve had a couple more friends return to the USA and the procedure appears to be the same. 

It sounds routine. Ok, That’s fine.  

I told my daughter, Amy to call them and tell them they could come anytime. I wasn’t going anywhere!  

I feel a bit like ET and think of the famous line, “I’ll be right here.” However, I don’t have the long glowing finger. I consider that a good thing!

The Health Department officials arranged to meet me on Sunday after 10am in my home.

I notified my neighbors and told them not to become alarmed if they see a vehicle from the Health Department arrive in my driveway. 

Luckily, they arrived in an unmarked vehicle. They asked questions at the door, asked to see my temperature readings, then proceeded to come inside.  I of course, kept my mask on the whole time.  They gave me a few more masks to have for later.

I answered their questions:

Where have you been?

Why were you there?

How long have you been there?

Have you had a fever?

Have you been in contact with anyone from Wuhan?

What flight were you on?

What seat were you in?

There were others, but I don’t remember them.

They monitored my temperature reading and it was normal.  They explained they would expect a temperature reading twice a day, once by email and the other would be monitored in my home.

They asked if I had questions.  I asked how many people do they see a day in relation to the coronavirus?  They could not answer that question as it was confidential.

I asked if there had been quite a few people return to Oklahoma from China.  They could not answer that question as it was confidential.

I asked why they didn’t wear a mask when they entered my home?  They said they knew from my temperature recordings over the past two days and how cautious I appear that they weren’t in danger.  I kept my mask on my face. 

I told them I was impressed that they didn’t arrive in a marked car. They said they arrive in unmarked vehicles so as not to cause alarm.   Makes sense.  How many houses do these people visit?  And, it’s not just for CoronaVirus.  They visit all homes of people who the CDC tag as a “potential threat to the public.”  What a job to have, eh?

So if you are feeling scared of being infected by this virus or any other, consider how these people must feel. They are the first to be in contact with them,   er …uh…us, I mean. 

Wow, that’s crazy! I guess we never know when we might become one of “them.” Whoever “them” are.  I just feel we need to be more kind and less judgmental toward everyone, you just never know what lurks around the next bend.

They were very considerate and offered to help in anyway they could if I needed anything. 

I was left with a hand out about the Virus. 

“What you need to know about 2019 Novel Coronavirus” 

What are the symptoms of 2019-nCoV?

fever, cough, shortness of breath.

I have not had any of these nor do I know anyone who has had these symptoms.

 I had a few papers to complete and sign. There is a “Symptom Monitoring Form for Returning Travelers” which includes two weeks of recording the following:

check of temperature twice daily 

documenting the presence or absence of the following:

 muscle aches, headache, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea. 

So far, the answer is no to all of these questions.

As far as the temperature readings, I email my temperature each day at the same time to the Health Department.  The second temperature reading is monitored.

One of the Health Department employees came for two days afterward to monitor me taking my temperature.

Now, the second temperature reading is a Skype monitoring.  They are very considerate of my time and always call before my online classes begin at 5:30pm.

There were actually three ways I could have been monitored:

  1. I take my on temperature and watch for symptoms on my own and just report to them by telephone
  2. Take temperature and record absence or presence of symptoms on my own and once by health department officials
  3. A Tulsa Health Department official will conduct TWO in person visits each day and document all recordings.

I was #2 simply because I had been in China within the past 14 days, not because I had any symptoms. Had I arrived from another country besides China, I would have been a #1. Glad I’m not #3!

During my quarantine period I have to exclude myself from travel outside Tulsa County unless I have permission, but it could only be in my personal vehicle.

I must exclude myself from public places; shopping centers, movie theaters, and group gatherings.

Exclude myself from workplaces 🙂

The best one was I could go jog outside, walk a pet, ride a bike as long as a maintain a 3-6 feet distance from others.

I have no intention of going outside for a jog or bike ride until after the 29th.  Then it will only be limited for a while.  I am being considerate of the feelings of others during this trying time. 

If I have a medical emergency and must contact 911, (if I can dial it from my China carrier) I must identify myself as a recent traveler from a novel coronavirus outbreak country.  After 14 days, I am good to go!

I must say being quarantined in my own home isn’t that bad!  I have the most wonderful friends who keep me supplied with groceries, lunches and dinners!  Some are running my errands and cleaning my yard. Others stand out in the cold and visit with me while I am inside where it is warm.   I am just amazed at the incredible “homecoming.” 

I may just extend my quarantine if I can keep receiving all of these wonderful treats and visitors at my door everyday!  : )

Not knowing what to expect when I decided to leave China, I decided it was best if very few people knew I was coming home. It was a rush job to get internet, transportation and some groceries in my house before I arrived. I didn’t know if I would get through the screenings at the airport, or quarantined somewhere besides my home since I stayed a considerably longer time in China. We (teachers) had no idea what was really going on due to so many conflicting news reports. I didn’t know what the reception would be like.  But the man at the airport was my first realization that “It was ok that I came home.” Thank you man at DFW airport!

 Since I was able to pass all the screenings and health checks,  I chose to announce my arrival since people kept asking when I was coming home and I was already here.  I couldn’t lie and say I wasn’t home.  

Plus when I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be #4 on the list of “People under investigation for Coronavirus” and becoming “Breaking News”  on the local tv stations, I thought it would be ok to share my whereabouts. I just wanted to be as transparent as possible as I sensed the concern over the spread of the virus. Understandably. But, I also began to realize there was a genuine concern for my health and safety. I am absolutely in awe of all of the well wishing and friendship I’ve encountered over the past week. 

This experience is far from over.  We (teachers at our school) received an interesting email, just yesterday, from our school principal.

How will this end?


Dark Circles Go Away


 My friend Buster is teaching a class on the “Legal Aspects of Terrorism and Disaster Response” and looking at the legal issues that may arise relating to the Coronavirus outbreak. He has asked me to write about my feelings related to being right in the middle of this viral outbreak while living in Beijing.

I should begin with the first received  advisory from the US Embassy by email ,alerting US citizens of a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan China,

I didn’t really think much about it. Pneumonia didn’t sound so intimidating. After all, this advisory was about Wuhan.  I’m nearly 1000 miles from Wuhan.

Bold dates below reflect an email message from the Embassy.

 

January 7

Health Alert Update – Novel Coronavirus in China

Location: Wuhan, Hankou area

Event: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Watch Level 1 Alert (be aware and practice usual precautions) for an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan, China, preliminarily identified to be caused by a novel (new) coronavirus.

 

January 15

Health Alert Update: Level 1 Watch regarding pneumonia

Location: Wuhan,  Hankou area

 

January 17 

Health Alert Update: Level 1 Watch regarding pneumonia

Location: Wuhan,  Hankou area

 

I wasn’t traveling to Wuhan, so I didn’t think so much about it.

Our last day of school before Chinese New Year was January 17.

Many teachers were headed away and out of China for the holiday.  I chose to stay in China to save money this holiday due to some unforeseen expenses that occurred at home.  Hindsight reveals not the best holiday to stay in place.

We (remaining teachers) didn’t really do too much outdoors, really.  We had gone to see Chairman Mao’s body, (not sure why) went bike skating on the frozen lake and ate at a very delicious dumpling place for lunch.  I went twice for lunch because it was so good.

As the days went on over the holiday, we were starting to hear word about this pneumonia.  People were now dying.

Each day, more dead. Many infected. But what was causing it?

Bats and snakes.  People are eating bats and snakes?  Now, pangolins have been linked to the  spread of the virus. Some Chinese people believe the scales of the pangolins have healing powers.

We are starting to stay inside our apartments more.  We do however, walk the park that is across the street.  There are very few people there. After the walk, we retreat back to our apartments.

The death count is over 100.  WOW!  

Repeat. 

Eat, Sleep. Take a walk.

200 dead

Eat. Sleep. Take a walk

214 dead  

We see an ambulance driving down the street with its sirens on and lights flashing.  This is unusual. We never see an ambulance here.  

Eat. Sleep. Take a walk.

230 dead, thousands infected.

We now wear masks while we are outside.

I don’t remember the exact date, but our school said teachers didn’t have to return from holiday until later in February. So, the teachers who were on vacation, just got an extended stay.  The rest of us were left wondering if we should join them.

Nah, let’s save the money and stay here, we will be safe inside and “We have each other” was our mantra.

January 22 

Health Alert Update: Level 2 – referring to travelers to Wuhan

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Watch Level 2 Alert (Practice Enhanced Precautions) for an ongoing outbreak of pneumonia first identified in Wuhan, China, caused by a novel (new) coronavirus.In an effort to contain the novel coronavirus, the Chinese authorities have suspended air and rail travel in Wuhan.Be aware that planned travel within China may be disrupted.

 

 

Ok, still not going go travel to Wuhan.  I’m ok!

 

January 23

Health Alert Update:

Same as January 22-see above

 

January 24

Level 4: Do not travel to Hubei province, China due to novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China:

There is an ongoing outbreak of pneumonia first identified in Wuhan, China, caused by a novel (new) coronavirus.In an effort to contain the novel coronavirus, the Chinese authorities have suspended air and rail travel in the area around Wuhan.On January 23, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Hubei province.

Chinese authorities have imposed strict travel restrictions in the area around Wuhan.Travelers should be aware that the Chinese government could prevent them from entering or exiting parts of Hubei province.Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Warning Level 3 Alert (Avoid Nonessential Travel) due to an ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that can be spread from person to person.

 

Still doesn’t concern me. I’m not traveling to Wuhan and I am avoiding non-essential travel.

 

January 26

 Relocating Personnel from Wuhan:

The Department of State is making arrangements to relocate its personnel stationed at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan to the United States.  We anticipate that there will be limited capacity to transport private U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis on a single flight leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on January 28, 2020 and proceeding directly to San Francisco.  Interested U.S. citizens in possession of valid passports should contact BeijingACS@state.gov with the information listed below.  This capacity is extremely limited and if there is insufficient ability to transport everyone who expresses interest, priority will be given to individuals at greater risk from coronavirus.

 

The Department of State is evacuating their people from the Coronavirus epicenter. Interested US citizens can jump on but you have to travel to Wuhan to get to that airport.  Travel has been restricted. Couldn’t go if I wanted!

 

January 27

Reconsider travel to China due to novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

 

 

Well, I’m not traveling TO China, I’m already here and I’m staying inside. I’m limiting non-essential travel as they advised. 

 

January 29 

 Level 3 traveling to China

Level 4 traveling to Wuhan

 

January 30

Event: On January 29, 2020, the Department allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government employees.

January 30 issued a Level 3 Watch to travel to China.

 

February  2 

Level 4

Do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of travel restrictions with little or no advance notice. Most commercial air carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.

 

Travel restrictions?  I’m not going anywhere.

February 3rd comes and goes. Teachers did not return but we began teaching online from numerous time zones around the world.  This means for us who stayed, we are inside all day. Focusing on our work but still taking breaks to read about the virus.

February 3-8

These days all conversations are based on what are you going to do?  Are you going to stay?  Are you going to go?

We are going to stay.  Too much money to leave. The virus will be gone soon. School will open. Let’s just stay. We’ve got each other, we will be ok.

February 4

Travel Alert from the US Embassy:

Do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of travel restrictions with little or no advance notice. Most commercial air carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.

Those currently in China should attempt to depart by commercial means. U.S. citizens remaining in China should follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Chinese health authorities’ guidance for prevention, signs and symptoms, and treatment. We strongly urge U.S. citizens remaining in China to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others, including large gatherings. Consider stocking up on food and other supplies to limit movement outside the home. In the event that¿the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates¿to provide assistance to U.S. nationals within China may be limited.

 

By now, I’m following the advice of staying home, limiting contact with others and stocking up on what food remained at the time. Several teachers have decided it might be safer to stay here rather than board a plane with everyone leaving right now. Who would we sit next to? Would they cough on us? Are they infected and don’t know it?  People were leaving as fast as they could. Too much of a risk!

“Limit contact with others.”  

Feb 9-10 

More than 900 dead. Many are infected on cruise ships, people have been evacuated from China and quarantined. The virus is spreading to many more countries.

Now what? Major cities are on lockdown. Travel is restricted. Flights are limited leaving from China to the USA.

February 11

So how do I feel?

Frustrated. Frustration manifests itself into so many more emotions such as sadness, anxiety, fear, exhaustion and so many more emotions. I looked in the mirror today and saw a very tired looking person, dark circles, tired eyes. It is mentally exhausting. I don’t like to wear my glasses but now I keep them on to cover the dark circles.

Frustrated with whom? Frustrated at what?

Frustrated with myself for not leaving? Frustrated with the messages and the advice to restrict travel to Wuhan? Frustrated that I (and others) were trying to do the safest thing? limit contact with others

Each day is a bad game of tennis in our heads with the back and forth of should we stay or should we go.  One of us decides we are leaving and the other says, now just wait a minute. It is going to be costly to get out of here and as long as we stay we still have each other. Plus it seems safer to stay in our apartments than it does to board a plane. The Embassy advised us to limit contact with others. Being on a plane does not follow that directive. Plus several of the other teachers were traveling with children and an infant. I don’t know how the infant would have or will keep a mask on his face during a flight. 

Recently, after weeks in the apartment, I noticed I was pacing back and forth. I must have looked like a caged lion walking back and forth looking for a way to get out. I sat down and looked at flights out of China. One Way!

Again, the next day we talked ourselves out of leaving.  Is it really worth spending the money and subjecting ourselves to what MIGHT happen on the flight? We would spend that money and might get sick, spending even more money, plus our insurance plan is good everywhere in the world EXCEPT the USA. If I get sick, THEN WHAT? I will be bankrupt! I will have spent the last two years in Beijing for nothing. I was trying to get ahead as I don’t see that ever happening as a teacher in Oklahoma, getting ahead that is.

Feb 12

This has been the worst day so far.  

Why?

Dark circles are worse!

I woke to many messages from home. What is happening? What do they know that I don’t? 

Three people have been investigated by the health department in Oklahoma due to the coronavirus.  This may be why people are contacting me since I am from Oklahoma. “Investigation” sounds kind of harsh and somewhat scary. But it is required now.

The author of the book, The Coming Plague, has stated the virus is out of control and is bigger than SARS and the HIV outbreak.

I probably shouldn’t have read that.

It is really difficult to know what to say or what to do. I tried to be safe by staying inside, not traveling and exposing myself to others on a plane, train, or vehicle. Should I have followed the first part of the directive of Feb 4 “leave by means of commercial flight” or the second part “limit contact with others?”

Wuhan was far away and I didn’t travel there. Did anyone on the flight I may have taken travel to Wuhan?  I guess they had to “sign a paper” stating they didn’t travel to Wuhan but anyone can lie. I’ve certainly learned that lesson in life. 

Will I die like so many others?  Will I not die? Either way, I have children in both places, Heaven and Earth. So I will get to see them wherever I end up.

I honestly don’t feel as though that is even remotely possible considering the precautions I have taken. These are just some of the thoughts that enter my head while being caged up inside day after day. I just wanted to share what it is like to feel so many emotions throughout a day when the unknown surrounds me.

If I fly home now, I would imagine there will be fewer people on the flights. (limit contact with others)

Friends who have left from Beijing Airport have described it as a “ghost town.” So maybe now is the time.

Did I make the right decision? 

 

(We recently received a message from our school stating that if we contract the illness and need to be treated, it would be covered under the plan.  I immediately replied, “Even in America?”  The response, “YES!”  )

Dark circles can start to go away now.


Expats Surviving the China Virus


Being on self imposed quarantine/lockdown is quite boring but several of us who remained here for the holiday are making the best of it!

IMG_9856

The air quality has been in the “very unhealthy” zone, I guess due to the factories firing back up to mass produce much needed masks, so in addition to the virus, that adds to the frustration and confusion of people (mostly westerners) living here. We are able to see internet reports of what’s going on in the rest of the world, and I can see Good Morning America on Hulu but it is two days behind.

I’m on the 15th floor of building 36, my friend Heather is on the 18th floor.  We spend

91580218045_.pic

locals stocking up on vegetables

 a lot of time going up and down in the elevator, some times in our pajamas.  She has a one year old little boy and I get to watch and play with him while she goes and walks her dogs.  I know they are on their way to my apartment when I hear loud music in the hallway because he likes to push the buttons on his little red riding truck.  Often we will go down to the lower level and push him back and forth on his little red truck until he becomes bored and lays his head on the steering wheel. Even one year olds are bored here.

empty shelves at the market

Beyond that, I have been baking and cooking, both of which have been disastrous.  It is  difficult to convert ounces to milliliters , teaspoons to grams, etc. not having the proper measuring utensils and trying to bake in the little toaster oven makes it a challenge.

Other than that, I’ve walked to the grocery store(s) mostly out of curiosity. I have picked up a few things (to stock up) just in case.  Fresh produce is flying off the shelves quickly.  I could not find chicken today but beef was plentiful.  I must be careful of refrigerated items, as my fridge is a tiny little thing and I can not buy too much, or it won’t fit inside.

I had considered purchasing some veggies but didn’t want to wait in the line that was snaking around the produce department and was getting longer by the moment. (see video below)

The fruit line wasn’t as long so I got bananas and blueberries.  I filled my bag with other items as well.  Again, being careful because whatever I buy, I have to carry home and it is about a mile walk.

I ran into other friends who were scoping the area and trying to escape the boredom of being cooped up inside.  Our faces were covered with our masks which looked like it could be a memorable “kodak moment.”  I gave my phone to Steve for a selfie. 

expat selfie at the market

A nice Chinese couple walked by and gestured if we would like them to take the photo.  Steve started to hand the phone over and the rest of us were waving our hands back and forth saying, “NO, NO, NO, NO.” 

They stood there staring at us for a bit and said, “Ok, ok, ”  and walked off.  Normally, I would have wanted someone to take the photo. But not with the virus.

Who knows when they washed their hands last? What if they sneezed on my phone?  Anyway, we got the photo without their help but it was a nice offer.

Getting back into our compound is becoming more of a challenge as only two entrances are unlocked now. They are limiting access to delivery people and are taking the body temperature  of everybody who comes to the building. My temperature registered 24.8’c as opposed to the normal 37’c so I wonder if the thermometers are even working?

Once inside, I immediately wash my hands and put all of my clothes, including my coat into the wash.  Shoes stay out in the hall. Then I settle into some Netflix or Hulu and just wait until I hear the little red truck outside my door.  Until next time, be healthy and happy, life sucks if you let it, so don’t let it!  If you have any updates on the virus, please feel free to share with me.

 


Great Wall Marathon


The 5,000 plus steps of the Great Wall Marathon will certainly test your athletic abilities, endurance, and tenacity and when combining this unusual marathon with the beautiful scenery, it becomes one of the most amazing experiences of a lifetime.

More Wall to Go

A group of teacher friends from Yew Chung International School headed to Beijing in May, 2012 to take on the challenge of the Great Wall Marathon/Half/10K.  The full marathon had over 5,000 steps to climb, some steps only a few inches in height, but other steps were almost knee high.

Climbing these knee high stairs tends to slow down even the best runners. I chose to only do half of those steps and registered for the Half Marathon.  There were some pretty great ascents and descents no matter which course was chosen, but either way, we all headed straight uphill right out of the gate. Thank goodness I had visited Tulsa Runner when I was in Tulsa, because they had fitted me with the best shoes for gripping and traversing along this multi-terrained (if that is a word) marathon.

After we made it to the top, we began our route along the wall.  It was an amazing sight. At first, I really wanted to have a decent time, considering I beat my 20 year old son the previous year when we ran the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  However, when I reached my finish time from the Route 66 Marathon, and realized I had only gone about 6 miles, It became more of a social event and photography session instead.

steep, rocky climb

Many times, lines were so long with people, we could not pass since the pathways were narrow and near the very steep edge of the wall. Many participants held onto the rope along side the wall in order to keep themselves steady as they went down the stairs of the Great Wall.

As we came to the end of our time on the wall, I found the decent of several hundred steps to be really tough on the knees, but the decent led to flat roads, which we hadn’t experienced yet, so it seemed like it must be leading to a good thing!

Along the flat, paved road is where we were able to pick up speed again, when we weren’t dodging in and out of traffic and obstacles on the road, but then we headed down a long dirt road where dust and dirt was flying off the shoes of the runners ahead of us, but before long we came to a water stop and a bucket of wet rags.

The challenge continued through Chinese farmlands and villages. There were some spectators along they way.  The Chinese children would recognize the westerners and yell, “Hello”  and then duck their heads and hide as we ran by, which was cute since that seemed to be the only English word they knew.

The village area was kind of tough. It was rocky, big rocks, little rocks, had some hills, and often times we were running on loose dirt, sticks and twigs. This was about 7 miles into the run and it is the area where my knee went one way, and my upper body went the other when I twisted on a down hill ramp.

I was in so much pain and I had at least 6 miles left.  I must say, time didn’t matter now, except that I wished time would hurry up, because I wanted to be done!  I did a lot of walking to the finish line. I wished along the way that I had a knee brace, or IT band or something to wrap around my leg to ease the pain.

gathering water for the water stops! HA!

I was able to find some “caution tape” along the route, so I tore some of that off to wrap around my leg hoping that would help get me

across the finish line.  Later I found some rope and used that to tighten it up.  It seemed to help a bit and I was able to run across the finish line. The Great Wall Marathon was an amazing and breathtaking (in more ways than one) experience.

Several of us are already considering trying again next year.  I know that I will need to visit Tulsa Runner at 97th and Riverside to get a new pair of running shoes and begin training by running up the stairs of the World Financial Center and Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai. Though, that is another story in itself.  In the meantime, I need to get running!


An Amazing Bike Tour!


Where does rubber come from? How do you know which coconut is a good one?  And most importantly, always remember to park your TREK mountain bike far enough away from the water so it does not fall into the sea! These were just a few questions that were answers and things we learned when we cycled through and around jungles, rubber tree farms, rice paddies, and fishing villages of Koh Yao Noi Island with Amazing Bike Tours.

With our eight bicycles attached to the top of the boat, we piled into a long wooden boat with some of the locals and headed to the island.  After about an hour we made our way off the boat, paid 5 baht to go to the bathroom (toilet paper not included) and we were off on our adventure.

We rode through a rubber tree farm and learned where rubber comes from.  It appears to be a lot of hard work for rubber tree farmers.  Our tour guide, Manup, explained that it is harvested at night when it is cooler so that the rubber flows easier. Each night, the farmers cut the bark again on all their trees which takes a few hours. Then they collect all the liquid rubber from the cups that are attached to the trees. After riding through the rubber tree farms, we headed to the rice paddies.  It is interesting to see how rice is planted and the hard work that goes into seeing that it is planted properly, and then harvested. Riding through the rice fields landed us on a little farm where we took a break and had some coconut water. The farmer picked just the right ones with plenty of coconut water inside for each of us.  Normally, a monkey can easily choose the right coconut, but since there were none available, we had to rely on the farmer’s expertise. I tried cutting the coconut, but it was not as easy as the farmer’s son made it look!

After our break, we rode to the pier noticing all the floating homes along the way. This is where we learned a valuable lesson!  DO NOT park your bike close to the water’s edge because when the wind blows your bike WILL fall in, consequently, the location of your pre-determined dive trip scheduled for the next day will be relocated, and you will be searching for a bike at the bottom of the sea instead of inspecting beautiful coral and fish!

Luckily, someone was close enough to grab the TREK mountain bike before it plunged to the depths of the Andaman sea. So the dive trip was saved!! After the bicycle rescue, we were treated to some tasty little sticky rice with fruit wrapped in bamboo leaves.  Well, this is my best description of what we were given.  Anyway, they were very good!

The bike ride continued along the coast where the scenery was breathtaking. We stopped for lunch at an outdoor hut where we lounged in hammocks and went for a swim after dining on some fabulous Thai food.

When the ride came to an end we met the boat, our bikes were loaded onto the top and we headed off to pick up some more of the locals before heading back to the main island.  Along the way, we stopped and picked up bags and bags of coconuts and live lobster, which needed transport to the main island. The coconut and lobster farmers paid the boat guy to take their goods to the island, and we were off once again.

With just a short ride back, we made it to the van just before it started raining. The ride was pretty easy so it is recommended for anybody who is up for an exciting, fun filled ride with good people. Our guide was very professional and James, the managing director of Amazing Bike Tours is extremely nice and works well with the public.

Though, I do wonder what would have happened had the bike gone into the sea!!!

Give Amazing Bike Tours a try, not only do they assist with booking  bike tours, they can arrange dive trips and elephant safaris as well. We did them all and loved each one.


Flight TG245


As I sit here watching JUST PLANE CRAZY, I reflect on a recent flight to Thailand and the excitement, for lack of a better word that unfolded during the flight.

Flight TG245 headed to Krabi, Thailand from Bangkok was on time and ready to land, despite how we got a late start due to the need to “get spare parts for the plane” as the pilot announced. (GET OFF THE PLANE)  Oh well, you can’t go wrong having spare parts if needed.  So I decided to stay put.

After a decent flight, the pilot announced we would be landing at Krabi Airport in about 10 minutes.  We began the descent, and then a turn, and then we were no longer descending! We could see on the monitor that things were not going according to plan. We were definitely not  descending, landing, or  flying toward Krabi anymore.

Hmmmmmm?  Hijacked? Nooooo.

Storm?  Maybe.

Needed MORE spare parts?  Good possibility!

Picked up the WRONG spare parts?

Maybe the pilot was going to come running from the cockpit telling passengers they were going to crash, or perhaps the underpaid flight attendants were going to pour beer on the passengers, then jump out of the emergency exit. Perhaps the air traffic-controllers in the tower had fallen asleep and the pilot couldn’t make contact, not that any of these things could possibly happen!  Many thoughts were rushing through my head as to why we were not receiving a message from the pilot or flight attendants. But whatever the reason, we had turned around.

I could see the “Let’s take action” momentum building among the passengers.

The tension and anxiety was building in the faces and posture of the passengers. People began to get up, while others were looking up and over their seats wondering what was going happening. As we continued our journey in the wrong direction anxious passengers wanted an explanation!  But none came.

A flight attendant ran down the aisle toward the cockpit, not a good sign, I thought to myself, but at least no beer in hand and he didn’t attempt to jump from the exit door. Minutes later, he came back down the aisle, while anxious passengers were stopping him to enquire about what was happening. The other attendants began visiting with the passengers seated at the exit doors. Not a good sign either! (SHOULD HAVE GOT OFF THE PLANE WHEN THEY TALKED ABOUT NEEDING SPARE PARTS!) Next, they began taking things down from the overhead bin.  Blankets?  Why do they need blankets? Curious.

Finally an announcement came from the pilot in a foreign language, of course.  I am not really sure there were any Thai people on the plane so speaking in English would have been more appropriate. We waited for him to translate. Finally in very broken English the long awaited announcement came. We were looking around at each other asking,”What did he say?” We gathered we were going to an airport with a longer runway because we didn’t have brakes for a safe landing at Krabi!

YIKES!

The lady in the center aisle across from us was having a nervous breakdown, and the lady on the other side of her was watching her with a careful eye, tears running down her face as well. The center aisle lady buried her face in a wet wash cloth provided by the flight attendant.  I guess if I had had children on the plane I would have been upset too, especially since we didn’t really know what was going on.

As the flight attendant made his way down the aisle, I stopped him for clarification.  I thought he said something was wrong with the wing, but not to worry. OH OK!  We don’t need that extra wing, I thought.  Besides, we had picked up spare parts before we left.  Maybe that was one of them.

Still not much clarification.

Somebody else said it was the hydraulic system, but regardless of what the diagnosis was, we needed a long runway to land.

Was it too much to wish for  “Captain Sully” to be flying our plane right then? After all, he had been deemed a hero for a successful crash landing into the river.

be familiar with your emergency landing instructions

doesn’t hurt to read the emergency landing instructions

I decided to pull the emergency landing directions out of the pocket of the seat in front of me and get a refresher course on how to get the life jacket to work, just in case! Then a funny smell appeared, somewhat like that of when your radiator overheats. It smelled hot. Oh, I forgot to mention the air condition was not operable during this flight.  I guess they forgot that spare part.

After about an hour the pilot announced that we would be beginning our descent into the Bangkok airport. We had returned from where we started. The plane began to descend.  There were some nervous people on flight TG245.  The landing gear came down with a thud, then we did too!

We found that long runway and skidded to a cockeyed stop somewhere in the middle of it.  Applause broke out among the passengers and the lady in the center aisle began to breathe again. My co passenger was disappointed that we didn’t even get to at least go down the slide.

We were met by some red trucks and I am hesitant to say fire engines, as they were just trucks with a small fire extinguisher in the back.  After a short time, we were escorted to the terminal by several more trucks.

escort to the terminal

The flight attendant announced that we would be on our way back to Krabi if they could locate a plane for us.  They would keep us posted.

Meanwhile, we take our belongings and head to the waiting area.  They offered us soda and water along with cheese and butter sandwiches while we waited. It wasn’t a long wait, thank goodness because cheese an butter sandwiches are disgusting! We got out our boarding passes and boarded the next Thai Airlines flight to Krabi, same seat, same flight attendants, and the same pilot, (don’t now about any spare parts). It was kind of like a déjà vu.

This time however, the flight attendants had to give the safety demonstration in person, as the pre recorded safety demo previously shown on the monitor was………. broken!  (GET OFF THE PLANE)

Oh Thai Airlines!!  Hire some maintenance people.  As the flight was finally coming to an end, the pilot announced we would be landing in just a few minutes. The landing gear came down with an even louder THUD than last time.  Startled, everyone looked around, but this time the pilot was quick to respond with, “The loud sound is normal, worry less.”

And we landed.

In the end, there was no compensation, and no double air miles, only cheese and butter sandwiches. But I guess we had a pilot with enough common sense to know there were hundreds of people on board for which he was responsible and decided the safest thing to do was turn around and find a long runway.


Spa, Spa…..Everywhere a Spa!


In less than 5 minutes I took pictures of at least eight spas as I walked down the streets of Shanghai.  They are everywhere, so if you are ever in need of a massage, facial, manicure or pedicure you are just minutes from them no matter where you are.  It is always an adventure when entering a spa.  They all serve fruit and a drink, some use elbows and knees, while others have tried to pick me up and roll me on their backs.  One even used a “cigar” to hold near my pressure points as a form of therapy.

It is hard to get a bad massage here, but getting your nails done is a bit of a different story.  Though several of the spas I have visited have done an OK job with my manicures and pedicures, none of them quite equal the Asian nail salons in America, or my friends Shelly and Shawna in Tulsa who both give terrific manicures, and both of whom my nails and I miss greatly!  Shellac nails here just don’t hold up to shellac nails in the states.

A simple foot massage in China doesn’t mean just a foot massage.  It includes your legs, neck, shoulders, head and back.  Often times the masseuse will be behind me in my chair digging her knees or elbows into my back.  There are many types of foot massages available such as chocolate or peppermint, perhaps even lemon.  Sometimes even Chinese medicine may be added to the water.

Add Chinese Medicine to your pedicure??

A full body massage can be up to 90 minutes or more and only cost 250RMB.  That is about $37.00.  There are many types of massages too, like massages to promote weight loss, athletic/sports massages, relaxing aromatic massages and I would imagine other types of massages are available too, where girls in short skirts stand in front of the “spa” to lure in men who may wander by.  A guy friend of mine did wander in one of those, (by accident, he said)  but that is a different story.

With the language barrier, it is sometimes difficult to convey just what type of massage I want.  A friend and I wandered in a massage spa after a long days walk around Changdu and asked for foot massages.  Before we knew it, they were escorting us to a pool and asking us to get in.  We said we didn’t want a swim, only a foot massage. We played Charades to demonstrate what we wanted.  They said, “Ok, Ok.”  They proceeded to give us pajamas and a locker for our clothes.  We didn’t know why we needed pajamas for a foot massage so I decided it was time to call for backup, a/k/a Chinese Translation.

I phoned a friend and asked him to tell them we only wanted a foot massage.  After a short discussion between the two of them on my phone, my friend asked, “Where are you?  Why does some man want you to spend the night there? You need to get out of there!”

I asked him again to speak with them and tell them we did not want to spend the night, only a foot massage.  Translation:  Successful.  They lead us downstairs to a really nice massage area with really nice big chairs each having their own TV for viewing.  We noticed there were people in pajamas down there, so I guess they were there for the night.  They all had hot tea and fruit at the little tables beside them.  Soon they brought fruit to our table along with a cold Coca Cola.  How is that for stereotyping?  I didn’t complain,  I much preferred a cold Coke to hot tea anyway.

Enjoying a chocolate foot massage without pajamas!

An hour and a half later, we were done and left wondering what it would have been like to spend the night there.  It was cheaper than the hotel.  Next time?  Definitely!!

Today’s massage was equally an experience.  I only went in for a full 60 minute body massage, but left with that and acrylic nails, French pedicure, an additional  30 minute foot massage, and a 70 minute facial that included Wellbox.  All for less than $100.00 US dollars.

Wellbox apparently is used in the states by many of the Hollywood Stars, or so they say. It is designed to stimulate the skin’s surface, generating deep biological responses.  The treatment consists of micro pulsations that boost the fibroblasts activity smoothing away lines and wrinkles, while toning and firming the face.  There is no pain, or heat just an odd feeling as the wand sucks on your neck and face.  It left me wondering whether I would have to wear turtlenecks and scarves this week to cover up any marks on my neck.  I guess I will know tomorrow!

I must say, after using Wellbox on ½ of my face I was handed a mirror and I was impressed.  It was amazing the difference I saw in the two sides of my face.  One side was definitely lifted and smoother.  If you haven’t experienced Wellbox, I would recommend giving it a go.  I will be back for four more sessions!  I wonder how long each treatment lasts before the sags and wrinkles re-develop? I wonder how many I have to do before any one else notices?  I wonder…..if I should buy a Wellbox unit for myself?  Stop by No. 7 Beauty Studio on Meihua Rd in Shanghai for your Wellbox experience and see what you think!  They even give you a “surprise” on your birthday!


Shanghai Taxi!!!


 

Well, you don’t really stand on the curb and yell, “taxi,” like on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, because if you did they wouldn’t understand what you were saying anyway.  You must throw your arm up into the air, wave one down and hope that it is empty, especially if it is raining!!

 

For the most part, it is pretty simple to get into a taxi.  They are usually lined up  5-6 deep, waiting for the next person who waves them down, and if they are not lined up and they see that you need a taxi, they will just fly across 4 lanes of traffic, drive over the median while honking at everybody to get out of their way.  Then I am standing there wondering if I want to get in a vehicle with that crazy of a driver anyway. But, so far I just jump in and hope for the best. I have learned that there are particular colors of taxis that you want to try and stay away from.  This particular color is WHITE!  Stay away from the WHITE taxis!

 

I hopped into a white taxi one morning about 6:20 am hoping to get to school early enough to use the printer before everybody else got there. Normally, I would have arrived at 6:30 am by taxi.  That particular day however, I did not get to school until 7:10 am.  TALK ABOUT MAD!

 

When he took off in the wrong direction, I kept pointing and trying to tell the taxi cab driver to go the other way.  I almost know the way to school now.  He would only say, “NO,” and throw his arms into the air pointing off into another direction.  Of course we did not understand each other’s language, but he did know I wanted to go the other way from my gesturing and pointing, and I knew he wasn’t going to turn around. My taxi ride was 22rmb and 40 minutes long.  Normally, in a turquoise, red, or blue taxi the fare would have been 14 rmb and I would have been there in 10 minutes.  UGH!

 

For not understanding English, I am pretty sure he knew I was irritated when he finally dropped me at the front gate of the school.  I arrived just as the rest of the teachers came in by bus!  Life sucks……if you let it!

 

Another time I jumped into a blue taxi heading to church only to realize I didn’t have any money on me!  I must say, I had to do some quick gesturing and use words that I hoped meant STOP and PLEASE WAIT WHILE I RUN UP TO THE ATM AND GET SOME MONEY!” Miraculously, it worked.  He waited for me to jump out at the next corner and get some money.  As I jumped back in, and he headed toward church a crazy motorcycle rider was weaving in and out of traffic in front of us. He almost hit the taxi and several other cars came close to hitting him.

The taxi driver was angry and was shouting at him.  He kept gesturing at me to look at how crazy he was driving.  I had already seen him and was trying to tell him that I understood he was a “BAD motorcycle driver.” I guess he thought I didn’t understand because then in order to show me what he meant, I guess, he started weaving back and forth like the motorcycle was doing.  OMG! Then the motorcycle driver took his hands off the handlebars and threw them up into the air.  OH NO!  Please tell me the taxi driver is not going to do the same.  CRAP!  His hands were in the air, and he was yelling at him. Oh how I wished I had known how to speak Chinese at that moment so I could have told him I understood his dilemma and could he please keep his hands on the steering wheel!  All I could do was shake my head, shake my finger and say BOO driver, which I had hoped meant BAD driver!

He finally put his hands back on the steering wheel and made a right turn  (from the far left hand lane, honking all the way, I might add) toward church.  I paid, thanked and jumped all in one motion as soon as he came to a stop.  I went and prayed for a red taxi on the way home!


Prada in Shanghai


I have had a busy week in Shanghai, moving into my apartment, grocery shopping, touring the school, opening bank accounts,  new teacher orientation, walking, walking, walking and walking some more, and having medical exams, YUK!

In between this stuff, there was some fun!  The school treated us to lunch a couple of times, which was really good and they took us on a riverboat cruise along The Bund.  It was really beautiful at night!

I know that I have made some lifelong friends in this first week in Shanghai! The 4th day I was here I received an e-mail at school from Amy that my mom may have had a stroke!  I didn’t have a phone yet to call home and I didn’t have my phone from home with me.  Tammy just took me under her wing and found a phone for me to call home.  It was about 3 in the morning in Oklahoma, but Amy answered the phone.  She told me that Grandma was fine, it wasn’t a stroke after all, it was her blood sugar that dropped too low and she passed out.  That was good news! I can’t thank my new friend enough for her kindness and compassion.

Later we went on a River Boat Cruise along The Bund, just like they did this season on The Bachelorette.  The food was good, the sights were beautiful and I couldn’t wait to go see more.  It was just like what I saw on TV.

I have walked 15-20 miles this week.  My apartment is ½ mile from the grocery store and internet service at Starbucks.  Whatever I buy at the grocery store has to be carried back to the apartment, in the heat.   It was hot in Oklahoma when I left, but that was nothing compared to over here!  The temperature is lower, but the humidity is so high!  I definitely can’t wear things more than once here! WHEW!

Anyway, I will skip to Saturday.  After our awful, but interesting medical exams I took my first taxi cab ride all by myself to meet a friend to go shopping!  I learned quickly to never leave without my phone, which I had, and don’t leave home without the handy Chinese phrase book, which I had left with my phone.    OH gosh, life sucks!  Now what?  I was really on my own here.  Well, thanks to my many years of independence and doing things by myself, I miraculously found the other teacher and we went shopping.  It was right near The Bund but I don’t recall the name of the area.  A person can shop over here for months and never see all the shops in this area!  Holy Smokes!  And the people??!!  They are EVERYWHERE! I mean everywhere!  But I guess there are 23 million people in Shanghai and they have to have somewhere to go!

Anyway, this was quite a shopping adventure.  I got my first Prada bag today.  Yes, I know it is a knockoff, but it looked nice and it was spelled correctly so I got it.  Now how I went about getting it was an adventure in itself.

We met this man on the street and he shoved a paper toward us with all kinds of items on it such as shoes, jewelry, bags, clothes etc. and we were to follow him if we wanted anything.  I had gone there for a purse, so off we went.  We were led off the main shopping area and into dirty, small alleys.  The man we followed knocked on a tiny door, somebody peaked out and waved us in.  How legal is this I wondered?! We strolled around and of course their price was quite ridiculous but my new friend has lived in Shanghai for 4 years so there was some great bargaining going on.  I ended up with two purses and a wallet.  The price went from $3900 RMB to $350 RMB.  What a hoot!


Afterward, we had lunch.  I had the best food I have ever had in my life. The flavor of these foods is amazing.  We had Chinese cabbage, chicken, duck, lotus root, and eggplant.  The good news is that neither one of us was sick because you just eat off the same plates.  That is a little disturbing considering I am the one who picks up a salt shaker with a napkin and open doors with my elbows so I don’t have to touch anything.  It was so good, even with the chicken head staring me in the face!  The meal was only about $30US.

After lunch, I needed to head toward home, alone. But where was it?  I had no idea!  I was going to have to try the subway.  Did I mention, alone?? OMG!


Getting to Shanghai…


Getting to the airport early was a very good thing for me!  I had two huge suitcases,a carry on and a big purse.  Now can I mention the suitcases were REALLY heavy!  My carry-on was equally as heavy!

Eric put my bags on the scale and the very nice gentleman behind the counter said, “That’s $800.00.”  800.00????  OMG!  Why so much, I was thinking.  I had gone over the weight limit!! I had already transferred money around and left just enough in my account to cover automatic monthly withdrawals for two years.  YIKES!  Life sucks……if you let it!

I was 8 pounds over!!  If I could get rid of 8 pounds it would only be $400.00!  That was a better option for me.  I would have to deal with the automatic withdrawals later. He told me to start taking things out or pay the $800.00.  I started taking things out!

I unlocked the suitcases and started removing some of the heavier items, then Eric would run the bag over to the scale.  UGH, 6 pounds to go.  The good news about arriving so early was that nobody else was in line so we could keep running my bag back and forth to weigh it!!!

Jeans are really heavier than I thought.  Two pair were three pounds!  I took out a pre vacuum packed bag with jeans and other things packed tightly.  This bag was 8 pounds.  I unzipped it and started tossing!

Finally I got the two suitcases to about 150 pounds!  Ya!!! Only $400.00.  So a lot of things went back home and more things were stuffed into my carry on!

By now Amy, Brandon and Matt were there wondering why my stuff was all over the floor of the airport!  But I guess they weren’t really surprised, being me and all.  Anyway.  We headed up to the gate and sat for a while.  I chuckled as we all sat there playing Hangin’ With Friends/Words with Friends on our phones.

I decided to go ahead and get through security, I still had some time but my bag was heavy and I didn’t have help carrying it so I thought it might take a few more minutes.  After saying my goodbyes I headed toward the United Airways sign.  Little did I know, the gate was really THE OTHER WAY!  They are moving gates, but in the meantime, they didn’t move their sign.  Finally, I asked somebody where the gate was and I was told it was on the OTHER side!  Of course, I should have known!

So I started toward the gate that didn’t say United.  There was a lady behind me yelling you better hurry up, I saw them boarding already.  I lugged my 90 pound carry on bag down the stairs toward the lady standing in the corner.   She said, “You must be Cathy, we were just coming to look for you.”  Hmmmmm.  I thought that to be kind of odd, since I still had plenty of time according to my watch.  I walked OUTSIDE to board the plane and as I was walking a guy came running up from behind yelling, “Excuse me, Cathy, you dropped this.”  YIKES, I had a little trail behind me from not zipping my bag after stuffing more things in there.  How he knew my name, I will never know!

I walked up the stairs to the plane with my 90 pound bag in tow, down the aisle, hitting everybody along the way trying to get my huge bag through the small aisle.  I got some stares.  Not to mention, apparently I was late so I didn’t figure I would make many friends on this flight.

I found my seat and attempted to stuff my bag in the overhead compartment.  It wouldn’t fit.  It wouldn’t fit under the front of my seat either because there was a bar blocking it from going under.  So, I stuffed it in from behind my seat.  A few kicks and a couple of shoves later, my 90 pound bag was under the seat!!!

Off to Chicago!  I got my bag out from under the seat after a good 5 minutes or so and headed down the aisle only to walk down the stairs and wait outside.  What’s with all this outside stuff??  Finally, I got inside and headed through the very large airport with my 90 pound carry on and purse.  I must have walked 5 miles! I checked in with my VISA and Passport and sat and waited.  Wow, it was only Chicago and I couldn’t understand a word any of these people were saying.  I was tired and hoped for a good nap on the plane since I had a pretty good seat that I had booked a couple months earlier.  I was excited about that.

As I boarded, I drug my bag down the aisle looking for my seat.  WHAT????  I am in the middle??? How did that happen?  I didn’t choose the middle.  ARRGGHH.  I was kind of upset with that which was probably a good thing as it must have given me some adrenaline to hoist my bag over my head and into the compartment!  YES!  It fit!

We had a nice tailwind, (which I never seemed to have while riding my bike) so we arrived a little early.  I waited for most of the people to get off so I could get my bag down without hitting someone on the head and giving them a concussion.

Arriving at the baggage claim I wondered how I was going to get my luggage off the carousel.  They were so heavy I couldn’t just lift them up and onto the floor.  It was more like uprighting the luggage and walking around the carousel trying to lift them while they were in motion!  This one guy did feel sorry for me and helped me get my bags off the carousel.  Thank goodness.  Now to lug 200 + pounds through the airport!!

I found a sign with my name on it and headed that way with bags in tow.  The girls who  were there to pick us up were very friendly and helped me with the luggage.  The other teachers and I loaded our stuff onto the bus and off we went to begin our new life in Shanghai, China.


%d bloggers like this: