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.

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.

First Things: My New School

On my first Sunday afternoon here in China, I wandered around campus just before sunset and took some pictures. So, here’s a virtual tour of where I live and teach.

First, yet another view from my balcony. I’m sorry if you’re getting bored with this shot; I love how the view looks at various times of day and in different lighting.

The path that runs around our building. I had thought that I could run on this path, but the stones are slick, especially on misty mornings.

Dear Bob Jones University students (current and former), please notice that this school has barbed wire fences all the way around the campus. BJU is not the only school to do that, and BJU took down the barbed wire several years ago (from what I’ve been told .  .  . I haven’t done a walk-around inspection of the fences personally).

The canal looks prettier from a distance and at sunset. When you get too close, you can see bags of trash and other debris floating in it, and you start to wonder about the brown color of the water. . .

From this direction, the student dormitories are to the right. The students in our program live on the top floor, the 16th, of the tallest building. There’s no air conditioning or heat in the dorms, and you will usually see clothes drying on the balconies, because the students wash their clothes in the sink and hang them outside to dry.

The back of our building. Our offices are on the first floor. Our living quarters are on the third floor and our kitchen/dining room/living area/laundry room is on the extension that juts out of the main part of the building.

If you walk on the road beside the student dormitories, you will see the courtyard and our classroom buildings on the left. The American program nursing classes are taught in the building to the left, and the British and American English classes–as well as a variety of Chinese classes–are taught in the building to the right.

As you continue down the road, you’ll come to the track on the right and a classroom building is on the left.

The classroom building pictured above is gigantic and curves around a large courtyard.

From the arch in the center of the building, you can look back and see our building and then look toward the front of the campus and see the administration building.

As you walk back toward our building (Building 8), you’ll again see our classroom buildings on the left and the Chinese nursing program building on the right (which I apparently didn’t take a picture of on this tour around campus). I teach on the 4th floor of Building 6 (on the left).

If you walk into the atrium between the two classroom buildings, you’ll see a tribute to the international nursing program.

Here’s a picture of the hallway on the 4th floor where I teach.

The inside of one of the classrooms in Building 6.

The massive Chinese classroom building from center campus:

The front of our building from center campus:

The entrance to our building is on the right. There’s a good-sized lobby where we can meet with students and they can check in at the front desk. The hallway to our offices is to the left.

On the third floor, you can see our large meeting room/exercise room. The ceilings are vaulted and extend to the fourth floor; the acoustics are great, so our little group sounds great when singing in there. This picture makes the room and building look so warm and inviting.

First Things: The View from My Apartment

I love that my view faces the canal and farms. There are still, of course, many apartment buildings that block the view. The land is so flat that I could see for miles, if it weren’t for the cities that crop up on the horizon.

Here are my first pictures of the view from my balcony. I took these on my first full day here in China.

A new train station is under construction (in the center of this photo). It will be so nice when the line opens, because the gate to the station is right next to the gate to the school campus. If there were a way to walk straight across the canal, it would only take 5 minutes to get to the station, but we’ll have to walk to the front of the campus and then back around to the station. Either way, it will be easier than taking 2 buses to get to the nearest subway station.

(Yes, that’s a dump directly across the canal from my room. Unfortunately, we can smell it when the wind blows our direction or when they burn the trash.)

Here are some views from my balcony at night:


Construction continues late into the night.



The sky seems brighter than it actually was on the night that I took these photos, due to the long exposure time required for a decent night photo.

I took the following pics on Sunday, Sept. 30. The fireworks were in celebration of Moon Day/National Day. We’ve seen fireworks from nearby cities several nights this week.


First Things: Moving In

My life changed drastically on Monday, August 27th. Around 9 am, I boarded an airplane and began the long journey to Shanghai, China. This small-town, mountain-loving, Vermont girl has had to make many adjustments to life in the bustling, crowded, dirty, flat, humongous city of Shanghai.

I struggled through the goodbyes to my parents, but I managed to hold it together pretty well until I got to Detroit. While waiting in Detroit for the flight to Shanghai, I saw a tearful family on the tarmac waiting to be united with their fallen Marine’s body. A hush fell over the terminal as travelers lined up along the windows and watched the sad proceedings. The solemn ceremony was too much for me on an already sad day, and I ended up sobbing as I thought about my brothers (one a Marine Corps veteran and another a Marine Corps Officer Candidate) and saying goodbye to my family. Even though I’ve made this trip across the Pacific a dozen times, it’s not any easier to leave home or say goodbye to my family.

I met most of the team in the terminal of the Detroit Airport. I saw my friends Dave and Desiree Talbert for the first time in 6 years right before we boarded the plane. While on the long flight to Shanghai, we’d occasionally gather in the corridor between sections of the plane and talk and look at pictures from the summer.

The flight was unremarkable–I slept fitfully, watched a couple of movies, and read. As you can imagine, after a 15 hour flight, I was relieved to finally get off the plane in Shanghai.

I collected my luggage–100 pounds for 5 1/2 months:

The customs process went quickly (it was super easy), and before I knew it, we were loading up the school’s bus with our baggage and piling in for the 30 minute drive to the school campus.

(These pictures were taken on my iPod. Sorry for the poor quality.)

We all worked together to lug the bags up to our floor, and within a short amount of time, I was installed in my new room. Thankfully, the air conditioner had been turned on, but the room was dusty, so I spent the next two hours rearranging the furniture and cleaning the room.

A previous teacher left me a chair, ottoman, lamp, and bookshelf, and I am grateful for those additions to my room. In one of the spare rooms, the teachers store extra furnishings and decorations that they do not need anymore or that other teachers left, so I raided the stores and came back with some red-themed items which made my room look more homey and comfortable.

Here are some pictures of my room now:

This is the view as I walk into the room. There’s a bathroom on the right and a closet and cabinets on the left.

My bed and reading corner:

My desk, which I use all the time, and the TV, which collects dust:

We have the week off from school because the October Holiday and Mid-Autumn Festival fell on the same week this year (because the calendar is lunar based, many holidays occur at different times every year). Tomorrow Julie and I are going to IKEA, so I will hopefully be able to buy some plants, picture frames, pillows, and other decorative items to make the space more personal. My room is quite comfortable, and it is starting to feel like home.