The Continuing Saga of the Broken Arm

imageOn the last Friday of my summer holiday in Vermont, my friend Dawn and I went hiking on Camel’s Hump, the iconic mountain just a few miles from our homes which we’ve hiked together several times in the past few years.  We planned to hike a new-to-me section of the mountain because I had never taken the trail that leads to an airplane wing left from a devastating plane crash in the 1940s.

imageWe had just started down that
part of the Long Trail when I slipped on a moss-covered rock and fell. I tried to catch myself, but as I had once broken my right arm in a fall doing the same thing, I immediately tried to release my left arm and let it extend straight out behind me. I felt a sharp pain in my wrist that hurt like the dickens and just sat there on the offending rock for a few minutes holding my arm and assessing the damage. After a few minutes, the pain eased up a bit, so we decided to hike back up to the main trail to call my mom, a nurse at a family practice doctors office, for help. I felt very Girl Scout-esque as we tried to put a splint on my arm and then tried to wrap my arm in my jacket as a sling, but those methods of support actually caused more pain. When we got to the clearing at the juncture of the trails, another hiker let us use his phone and we called my mom. At this point, it was hard to tell if I’d sprained my arm, broken it, or just hurt it from falling on it. So mom said we might as well finish the hike to the summit, since we were only .3 miles from the top, and then call her at the base if my arm felt worse and I needed to see a doctor.

So I learned that it is in fact possible to hike Camel’s Hump with only one hand. It’s a bit tricky, but possible.





By the time we got to the base of the mountain, my arm felt stiff but it wasn’t particularly painful. So I didn’t call my mom–my first mistake.

imageDawn and I went into Richmond and bought ice cream at a new restaurant–they serve maple ice cream with real bacon sprinkles! (For the record, my parents and I ate at Hatchet the next night, and it was fantastic.)

I started to realize that something more was wrong with my arm than I had thought when I dropped some of the sprinkles and tried to catch them with my left hand (my second mistake) and realized that I couldn’t turn or twist my arm. By the time I got home just a little later, there was an odd circular bump on my hand, my wrist was swollen and misshapened, and I couldn’t pull or grip anything. I also noticed a nasty bruise forming on the underside of my arm. (I didn’t take any pictures of the swelling, for some reason).image

When Mom got home she measured my wrist and it was 1 inch bigger than my right wrist. She said, “Why didn’t you call me?” She thought my arm was broken. Later when I couldn’t cut my meat at dinner, she said, “You really are in denial that something is wrong with your arm.”

Because  I was leaving for China on Sunday, I somehow managed to pack two suitcases that night while only using my right arm.

In the morning we went to Evergreen Family Health and saw the very kind Dr. Johnson. He felt up and down my arm and immediately knew that it was broken. Because I needed x-rays and don’t have insurance, he said “Let’s think outside of the box,” and he recommended that I go to an urgent care clinic that could do x-rays for a very inexpensive price ($50 as it turned out), while they would cost hundreds of dollars at the hospital. He gave me a splint, and my mom and I went to the clinic.

I found out at check-in that the visit would only cost a maximum of $250. I couldn’t believe it! I had to wait a while to see the doctor, but once I did everything went very quickly. The nurse did the x-rays for me, and I could tell by her expression that something was wrong. She said, “Yep, it’s fractured.” After taking the second x-ray she said, “You really did a number on that one.” They also x-rayed my elbow, because of how I fell and some lingering achiness, but it turned out there was nothing wrong with my elbow. The doctor said that I needed to wait 3 to 5 days to have my arm put in a cast because it was so swollen, and said that I was okay to fly back to China. He gave me copies of the x-rays to show the doctor in China and a prescription for pain medication.

imageI’m going to save the story about flying with a broken arm for a separate post, but for now here’s a picture of me packing while wearing a splint and headlamp, because as if it wasn’t hard enough to pack with one arm, the power went out during a thunderstorm, so I had to use the headlamp for light.

Other parts of the story coming soon: finding an orthopedic doctor to cast my arm, getting ready for school with a broken arm, and finding a doctor to take the cast off.




Chronicling Again

It’s been over a year since my last post and almost 4 years since I blogged regularly. You would have thought that I’d chronicle like crazy when I moved to China. And indeed, that was my plan. I just looked at my drafts folder and I have 37 posts started or planned–all from my first few months in China. image

So why didn’t I write?

Well, there are multiple reasons.

  1. Culture Shock: When I first moved to China, I was completely overwhelmed by everything that was happening to me. I didn’t realize how much I experienced culture shock until much later. And because everything was so new to me, I had a hard time processing it all in any sort of efficient or public manner. I was also overwhelmed by the sheer number of new things to write about. In a very short amount of time, I took hundreds of pictures and had so many new experiences, I got very far behind in writing and couldn’t keep up. And a closely related reason. . .
  2. Perfectionism: After I got so far behind in writing, I didn’t want to jump in with the current experiences. I was too much of a perfectionist. I should’ve just started writing about the things that I was experiencing at the time, but I kept thinking I should start at the beginning.
  3. Cultural Sensitivity: I didn’t want to say things that were culturally insensitive while dealing with culture shock. I  didn’t want to embarrass myself or others with what I wrote. I’ve read and heard–and probably said–horrendous things that foreigners say about China because of their culture shock. I want to be open-minded and accepting of the Chinese culture and people. As Chinese people often say, “China has a 5000 year history.” The American way is not the only way–or even the right way–to do things; while living in China, I want to learn more about the Chinese way of doing things. It’s extremely difficult to adapt to a new language, culture, job, and living situation; I don’t want to make it worse by approaching life in China from a proud, selfish, closed-minded, American-centric view point.  The whole reason I’m here in China is to show love and to help improve Chinese society, so I don’t want to set up barriers that will prevent me from having a good relationship with Chinese people.
  4. Un-originality: There are hundreds, if not thousands, of River Townblogs about moving to and teaching in China. I didn’t feel like I had anything new to add.  Indeed, when I read Peter Hessler’s River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze during my first year in China, I realized that many of my experiences as a new teacher in China were not unique.
  5.  Poor internet connections: In China, it is often difficult to access sites such as this. Internet speeds are slow, and many sites are blocked. Sometimes it is just impossible to access my blog.

So why am I going to start writing again now?

  1. Memories: I realized that by not writing down my experiences, I’m missing out on a valuable way of preserving memories. When I look back on my old posts, I’m reminded of the many places I’ve lived and visited, the people I’ve met, and the things I’ve learned. I’m afraid that I’ve already forgotten a lot of things that happened to me durging the first few years of living here in China, but as I look through pictures and write about things I experienced, I hope to recover and record some of those memories.
  2. Support: This summer, many friends and family members expressed an interest in hearing more about my life in China. I realized that my extremely infrequent status updates and pictures on Facebook and my completely non-existent blogs were keeping me from a valuable means of support. So because my friends are curious about China and want to know more about how to better support me, I’ve decided to write more frequently.
  3. Writing practice: Although I have written almost daily in my personal journals, I haven’t written anything for publication–even in such an informal venue as a blog–in a very long time. I want to become a better writer, and I know from my own experience and from a lot of research, that writing more will help me to improve my writing abilities.

So thank you for joining me as I begin chronicling my experiences in China.  I’ll focus on current events but I also plan on writing “flashbacks” of trips and experiences from my first four years here.

Is there something in particular you want to know about? Please leave a comment and I may write about that topic in the future.

Grace Upon Grace

Sometimes I am discouraged by how imperfect my offerings of service and worship are; I try my hardest and do my best and desperately want to offer something pure and faultless to God, but my work and worship are flawed with mistakes and often my motivations are suspect.

This week I was stunned by these verses: “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:5-6).

  • God has chosen me because of His grace.
  • God accepts me because of His grace.
  • God uses me in His work because of His grace.
  • God allows me to worship Him and use my talents for Him because of His grace.

I realized afresh that God doesn’t accept me because of the “perfect” work I offer up to Him as a sacrifice. God accepts me because of Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice on my behalf. My work will be flawed and my motivations suspect, but God accepts me anyway. 

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus ChristThrough him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore,we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:1-11).

Today I read these paragraphs from Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed, and they captured beautifully some of the spiritual lessons I’ve learned this week:

Some are loath to do good because they feel their hearts rebelling, and duties turn out badly. We should not avoid good actions because of the infirmities attending them. Christ looks more at the good in them which he means to cherish than the ill in them which he means to abolish. . . . So, though sin cleaves to what we do, yet let us do it, since we have to deal with so good a Lord, and the more strife we meet with, the more acceptance we shall have. Christ loves to taste of the good fruits that come from us, even though they will always savor of our old nature. . . .

God accepts our prayers, though weak, because we are his own children, and they come from his own Spirit; because they are according to his own will; and because they are offered in Christ’s mediation, and he takes them, and mingles them with his own incense (Rev. 8:3).

There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost. And as every grace increases by exercise of itself, so does the grace of prayer. By prayer we learn to pray. So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit of discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have so gracious a Saviour. Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ will cast a gracious eye upon that which is his own.

Would Paul do nothing because he could not do the good that he would? No, he “pressed on toward the goal”.

Let us not be cruel to ourselves when Christ is thus gracious. There is a certain meekness of spirit whereby we yield thanks to God for any ability at all, and rest quiet with the measure of grace received, seeing it is God’s good pleasure it should be so, who gives the will and the deed, yet not so as to rest from further endeavors. But when, with faithful endeavor, we come short of what we would be, and short of what others are, then know for our comfort, Christ will not quench the smoking flax, and that sincerity and truth, with endeavor of growth, is our perfection.

A Prayer for the New Year

“Resting On God” from Valley of Vision

O God Most High, Most Glorious,
The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me,
For I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed,
but thou art for ever at perfect peace.
Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment,
they stand fast as the eternal hills.
Thy power knows no bond,
thy goodness no stint.
Thou bringest order out of confusion,
and my defeats are thy victories:
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
I come to thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows,
to leave every concern entirely to thee,
every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood;
Revive deep spirituality in my heart;
Let me live near to the great shepherd,
hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.
Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth,
from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.
Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities,
burning into me by experience the things I know;
Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel,
that I may bear its reproach,
vindicate it,
see Jesus as its essence,
know in it the power of the Spirit.
Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill;
unbelief mars my confidence,
sin makes me forget thee.
Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots;
Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee,
that all else is trifling.
Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.
Abide in me, gracious God.

Update #2 on my 40 before 40 list

On my 30th birthday I created this list of 40 things to do before I turn 40.

Some of these things seem like an impossibility, especially since I’m no longer living in the United States, but you never know what cool things you’ll be able to do that you didn’t plan on doing (moving to China, for example) or what things God will allow you to do that you didn’t really think would ever happen (like touring England). I’m learning to make plans, but to hold on to those plans loosely, as God may have different plans. And His are always better (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

I don’t think I’ve looked at this list since last year at this time, so I’d forgotten about some of these goals. Maybe if I set some smaller goals for myself this year or printed this list out as a reminder to myself, I’d be able to accomplish more of these things by next year at this time.

  1. Write a non-fiction book
  2. Write a book of poetry
  3. Write a hymn
  4. Read through my list of “books I should read”
  5. Get another master’s degree or a Ph.d.
  6. Get out of debt and stay out of debt (with the exception of a mortgage—see below)
  7. Buy my own place to live
  8. Volunteer at a shelter for women and children or a rescue mission
  9. Visit missionary friends and work in an orphanage in Africa
  10. Support an orphan
  11. Support a missionary
  12. Become a mentor and/or foster parent
  13. Learn how to play the guitar [note: I started this, but I haven’t found a guitar that is small enough for my fingers. I might
  14. Learn to speak a language fluently
  15. Run a 1/2 marathon [Completed in 2011: I ran two 1/2 marathons–the Hafa Marathon on Guam and the Lake Placid 1/2 Marathon!]
  16. Run a 5k in less than 28 minutes [Note from 2011: I ran a 5k in 28 minutes and some-odd seconds, but I didn’t get under 28 minutes. Note from 2012: I focused on long-distance running during the first part of this year. I have unofficially run a 5k in this time, but not during a race.]
  17. Run a marathon [Completed in 2012: I ran the Vermont City Marathon in May.]
  18. Visit the empty tomb, the Temple Mount, and see the Dead Sea Scrolls
  19. Visit Petra and Amman, Jordan
  20. Ride the Eurail across Europe (a 21 day pass is $900–anyone want to donate?)
  21. Visit my friend Jodi when she’s a missionary in Spain
  22. Visit Andorra (with Jodi) and Luxembourg
  23. Climb one of the Swiss Alps
  24. Visit the Sistine Chapel and ride a gondola in Venice
  25. Visit England with a literary-minded friend and visit Stratford-Upon-Avon, the Globe Theater (and see a play), the Brontes’ home, Oxford, Cambridge, and  a host of other sites [Note: partially completed in 2012. I was asked to chaperone the TBS senior trip and we visited missionaries in Darwen and visited some places in the Lake District and London that are not on this list. However, we did visit Stratford-Upon-Avon. I walked to the Globe Theater, but wasn’t able to see a play there.]
  26. See the Mona Lisa at the Louvre
  27. Drive on the autobahn
  28. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  29. Go on a safari in Africa
  30. Run across the Golden Gate Bridge and run up a hill in San Francisco [side note from 2011: I walked across part of the Golden Gate Bridge but my fear of heights got to me, so I didn’t make it very far.]
  31. Hike a 10,000+ foot mountain near Lake Tahoe (if I visit in the summer) or ski at a resort there (if I visit in the winter) [side note from 2011: I went to Lake Tahoe this year, but didn’t hike any mountains (it was still cold and snowy and since I visited mid-week, both my brother and sister-in-law had to work, so I guess I’ll have to visit again!]
  32. Take my mom to Colonial Williamsburg
  33. Visit the Grand Canyon
  34. Go on an Alaskan cruise
  35. See a Broadway musical
  36. See an opera at the Met (preferably one by Puccini)
  37. See Placido Domingo perform live (I hope he doesn’t completely retire before I get a chance to hear him!)
  38. See Evgeny Kissin perform live
  39. Skate in Rockefeller Park at Christmas time
  40. Learn how to use the manual settings on a nice camera (should do this before all the traveling) [Completed in 2012: I haven’t mastered them all yet, but I bought a Nikon D3100 and have been learning the manual settings.]

A Month of Weird Weeks

After spending the month of September getting into a good routine, I spent the month of October adjusting to all the changes to my schedule. It seemed like I got to the end of every week and declared, “That was a weird week.”

The first week of October was the October Holiday (a.k.a. Mid-Autumn Festival), so we did not have school. I made five trips to downtown Shanghai and visited the water town Zhoujialou; three of these trips were with other teachers, and three were with groups of students. I spent only one day at home resting, so by the end of the holiday, I was quite tired.

The second week of October was filled with appointments with students. Before the October Holiday, we started an English speaking project with the second-year students that requires them to speak to an English teacher for twelve 30-minute segments. I spent many hours this week with students going to meals, walking around the track, answering questions about homework, and traveling to Zhoupu for dinner and shopping.

By the third week of October, I was worn out and got a bad cold and then a stomach bug, so I spent much of the week trying to get better. We also started choir practice for the Christmas play this week, so that is now part of my Monday schedule.

During the fourth week of October, I had to catch up on the grading that accumulated while I was sick. I stayed up late several nights in a row grading essays and then a test. However, the students had several tests this week, so most of my appointments ended up being canceled, and I had more time to grade.

Despite the craziness in my schedule this month, I am very thankful for the many opportunities I had to spend time with my students. Each appointment or “interruption” to my routine represented a chance to love my students and share Christ. And that is worth the sacrifice of a few hours of sleep and the occasional cold.