Posted by: David | May 20, 2012

Dalian Half-Marathon

A friend of mine and I recently ran the Dalian Half-Marathon together.  He went with his whole family, and I went with one of my daughters (age 10).  It was the first half-marathon for both of us, and we had a great time.  Despite underestimating the time it would take to get to the starting line by train, we arrived about 5 minutes before the start.  We had RFID tags laced into our shoes that monitored when we crossed the start, halfway, and finish.  The course was well laid out, and there were more than enough water stations.  There were a number of gentle, long hills – despite what I thought I knew about physics, the course seemed to have more uphills than downhills.  The view of the crowd of runners ahead of us at the first hill was amazing! I don’t know how many runners there were, but it was certainly in the thousands.

There were a surprising number of people who turned out just to cheer everyone.  As foreigners, my friend and I had lots of adoring fans.  Lesson learned: giving “high fives” to the crowd generates loud cheers, but can start to block the course as people move forward to reach the runners…

About 3/4 of the way, we were passed by the first wheelchair racer – who was doing the full marathon!  He had traveled more than twice as far as I had, using only his arms.  He had a 10-minute head start, though.  Yeah, that was it.

My final time was 1 hour, 48 minutes.  My only complaint about the race was the amount of time it took to get a certificate and medal at the end of the race.  I plan to go back next year, maybe for the full marathon!

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Posted by: Heather | October 5, 2010

Countryside Wedding

On October 1st, which happens to be China’s National day, we all set out at 6:30am for a wedding out in the countryside.  The groom is a doctor working with LIGHT and a precious friend.  We were excited to be able to spend the day celebrating with him out in his home village, two hours outside the city.   Our friend is a member of the Manchu people group and his hometown is in a Manchu minority Autonomous County of our province.

Here is the church in the Benxi Manchu town of Nandian where the wedding was held

our friends' daughters being the flower girls

We were surprised that the ceremony ended with a kiss!!

Love this picture of the bride throwing her bouquet

Ok, so this doesn't really have to do with the wedding, but here is the church bathroom.

Our city is in a flat plain, so it was really nice to be in an area with some hills and low mountains.

After the ceremony, we all piled into the bus and were taken a short distance to the groom’s home down a small village road.  We were really surprised that the reception was at his home; usually these celebratory meals are held at large restaurants or hotels.

Here is the foreigner contingent gingerly crossing the street (which was also a small stream) while the other wedding guests enjoy the show

The people cooking the wedding meal

The groom’s family home had a large courtyard crowded with guests.  They had a tent set up where they served the guests in shifts, about 50 at a time.  There was also a stage set up on one side of the courtyard where a woman was singing loud Chinese rock songs.  When all the foreign guests arrived, we were quite a spectacle!  They lead us into the home where we prepared our hongbao, the red envelope for our monetary wedding gift, and signed a guestbook with well wishes for the new couple.  Then we were directed to sit under the tent at the tables which were promptly filled with dish after dish of Chinese food.

We had a big day of learning about Chinese culture as we celebrated with our friends!  The kids were a bit overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds and smells – we definitely took them out of their cultural comfort zone.  But they handled it like troopers, as they always do.

The scene of the courtyard - there were so many people helping serve the food and drink

These men are making a careful record of the money given to the bride and groom. They were sitting inside the house on the kang, the traditional heated platform used for sleeping at night.

The bride changed into a red dress for the reception

Walking out of the courtyard past the pile of wood for winter heating and heading for the huge inflated wedding arch

Here is the tent where the meal was served. The seats were small stools set on the uneven dirt ground.

The kids across the street (stream) from the wedding - notice the red debris from the wedding firecrackers

Here are the dish-washers just outside the courtyard

Posted by: Heather | October 5, 2010

Summer Highlights

We’d been in China 18 months almost exactly to the day when we flew home to CT and MA on May 25th.  Our three months in the US were packed with reunions with old friends, precious family time, reconnecting with many who make it possible for us to be here, and fun!  There were challenges too – living out of suitcases, health issues, reverse culture-shock, family issues (and a broken computer!).  But with our Father’s grace and faithfulness and the love of our friends and family, we had a blessed summer.

Posted by: David | May 9, 2010

Bicycle Repair Man

The bad news: bicycles in China break down.  Often.  We once had a new (cheap) bike which lost a pedal in the first two weeks we owned it.

The good news: there are skilled bicycle technicians on call at almost any streetcorner, and they work for cheap.  A new brake cable is 3 kuai (45 US cents) installed, and patching an innertube is 2 kuai.

Here are two of five (!) bike repair shops within one large block of our house:

My usual repairman did not want his picture taken, but I think he’s a super guy:

Posted by: Heather | May 5, 2010


Three weeks ago,on April 14th, a 7.2 magnitude quake shook a remote area of Western China, high on the Tibetan Plateau.  While the poor, mountainous area is not heavily populated, the few cities affected were essentially destroyed.  The latest death toll is 2220, and many people are still missing.

As we watched coverage of the terrible destruction and loss of life on Chinese TV, David and several other doctors prepared to go.   In the end, a few of our colleagues did go to help in the relief effort, but David did not.  A week after the earthquake the government essentially shut down the area to any outside help due to political and logistical issues.

Our friend and colleague, K, wrote several short blog entries about the earthquake and the uncertainty we faced as we prepared for their possible trip out to the earthquake site.    She and David were supposed to travel together on April 21st to help with the relief effort.  K did such a great job summarizing what was going on that I got permission to link you to her blog.

Just a Walk

Please take a look at all her April entries; the ones posted April 17, 19, 20 and 22 are especially interesting.  They give an excellent report of what was happening.  Maybe you can get a feel for how emotionally draining those several days were for us.

Here is a website done by the NGO David would have been working with.  This website has lots of photos of the affected area.

Yushu Earthquake Relief

Though David was very willing to go and serve, in the end we were relieved that he didn’t go.  Our two friends who did go returned a week ago.  It was not an easy trip.  Here is what our co-worker’s wife wrote after their return:

So here’s the way it went.  P left on Monday, April 19, to fly to Xining on the eastern side of the Tibetan plateau.  Tuesday was spent buying supplies to take over the mountains and to the base camp.  They hoped to leave Wednesday morning, but it took a day of negotiations, government entanglements, closed roads, etc. before they could finally leave at 7 p.m. that night.  Normally it takes 12 hours on a good day to drive over the pass.  When P left, the word was that it was snowing heavily, hailing and that there were numerous vehicles having wrecks and sliding all over the road, so my pryrs were directed toward those things.  However, when P called Thursday morning around 10, he said the roads were clear.  After 15 hours on the road though, they had not yet reached the halfway point.  He was not able to talk long, because his cell battery was about dead with no chance to recharge until they reached the generator at their destination.  I only learned what the problem was after he returned home this week.

Evidently the truck they were privileged to ride in was a sad piece of work.  I wish with all my heart that I could send you a sound bite of P’s imitation of what the truck sounded like as it struggled to get over the mountains.  It ground, moaned and screamed its way with all its might only to top out at 20 mph at best.  The first night the stars came out on the Tibetan plateau and dazzled them.  After time, they saw the sunrise…the sunset…and again the stars on the Tibetan plateau. (They were not as dazzling the second time around.  Well maybe they were just as dazzling, but perhaps their eyes were too blurry to see them as clearly.)

Finally after resisting the urge to get out and push the truck along, they did arrive in the middle of that night, and after a few hours of sleep got up to begin seeing patients.  There was a steady flow all day until late into the night.  They saw about 130 patients that day, with about a fourth being earthquake trauma, half chronic illnesses with no medical facilities to go to, and the rest a mixture of emotional needs.  The next day was the same.  One of our doctors was Chinese and therefore served in a different area.  They saw a different set of 200-300 each day.

P said the culture in our city of Shenyang was very different from that in Xining, but that it was that much different again comparing Xining (on the eastern side of the platueau) to Yushu (the western side).  Knowing how to reach out medically and in even more important ways was baffling at times.  When trying to pr with patients, there was a definite disconnect.  Then while attempting to at least say “DAD blss you,” the Tibetan translators, coming from a very different background, would translate it as “Llsa blss you.”  That wasn’t a message we wanted to send.  I asked P what good it did then to be there, beyond the obvious physical help that was given.  He said it was really more like we were the short term workers there, giving help to those who work in that area on a long term basis.  This assistance will allow them to continue the relationships and make inroads into the people groups in that area.

Posted by: David | April 11, 2010

Shanxi Trip

I recently took a trip to Taiyuan, Shanxi province, to visit a place called Evergreen.  A doctor friend and I took the overnight train (actually, 2 overnights – 40 hours total!) and arrived in time for a lecture for community doctors.  We sat in the back so as not to offend anyone with our unshowered selves…

Evergreen is an NGO which exists to help the people of Shanxi develop and improve their lives, and a lot of their work involves healthcare.  They held a “see Evergreen day” for several of us doctors who had just finished with another medical conference in Xiamen.  We got to see how they had made many contacts with government officials and were working with a few community health centers.  I have an interest in community health, and was pleased to hear that the Chinese government has supported a big increase in community health centers over the past 2-3 years. Evergreen has trained many Chinese workers in the community health centers, and at one center which is responsible for 14,000 patients in a city district, they visited every single household and started a basic medical record for everyone.  In the process, they diagnosed several hundred people with high blood pressure and diabetes who did not know of their condition before.  Now the center can keep track of these people and make sure that they are taking care of themselves before they develop problems like strokes or heart attacks from these conditions.  The government pays the center 15 RMB (about $2) per person per year to manage their chronic health conditions – it’s amazing how much can be done with so little!  I hope that we in the US can learn from examples like this.  Medical care in China, like everything else, is changing rapidly, and I want to be part of positive change in the system.

A patient being seen at a community health center in Shanxi

Posted by: Heather | March 28, 2010

Missing February Files

(Here are a couple of posts that I wrote last month and didn’t publish until now.)

Guo Nian Hao!  (Happy New Year!)

February 28, 2010

It’s the year of the tiger in China! Fourth of July will never be the same for us.

Sure, we’ll enjoy the midsummer warmth, the picnics and the celebration of our nation. But the fireworks? Nah.

Today is Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the lunar calendar in China. The celebrations of the new year have been going on for two weeks, starting with massive fireworks all over the city on new year’s eve (Feb. 13th this year), and ending tonight with another big night of fireworks. Who’s putting on all these firework shows? Everyone! As I sit here writing this, I can look out the window in any direction and see the sky lit up with color and I hear the roar of explosions all around, echoing off the tall buildings. Rockets set off by the neighbors go whizzing by our windows. Huge, sparking flowers of fire that would impress residents of any town across America are being shot skyward from every street corner.

Grace holding a box of high explosives…

Winter Fun

The winter here in Northeast China can be long and frigid, but are learning the art of long underwear and layers to make it bearable. We are grateful for a warm apartment and for the occasional snowfall that hides the dingy gray of the cityscape, even for a little while. (There’s a lot less snow here than in New England, and when it does fall, it quickly becomes filthy with the city grit.) One of the biggest challenges is getting around with no car in the freezing cold – we end up being outside much more than we ever would be in a US winter, walking, riding our electric scooter and bikes. It’s toughened us up! What we’ve really been enjoying about winter (besides the fireworks!) is ice skating. There are outdoor rinks in parks all around, and we’ve enjoyed going several times. All of our kids can skate now!

Posted by: Heather | December 14, 2009

Today’s Notes

Sunday, December 13, 2009.

Notes to Self:

1) When buying ice cream, don’t be in a hurry.  If you aren’t careful, you might end up buying black sesame and cheese flavored ice cream bars instead of the chocolate and pineapple flavors you intended.

2) No need to make dinner on a Sunday evening.   Just call up the corner restaurant and have a full dinner for six delivered for $7.25.

3) Cheap China-made strings of Christmas lights are readily available in China.  But the lights mass-produced here for the Wal-Mart customers abroad are evidently the high quality ones.  You don’t think so?  Just try the ones available in the stores here.  Worthless.  I’m wishing we’d brought the “coals to Newcastle”.

4) I can make gingerbread for the holidays!  David found ONE  jar of molasses in a little import store today!  First time we’ve ever seen it for sale here.  Granted, it cost almost as much as the aforementioned dinner…

Posted by: Heather | December 13, 2009


I’m quite belated in posting these photos, but at least it’s not Christmas yet!   Here is a little taste of all the celebrating we’ve done in the last 2 months.

On October 13, Grace turned 10.

Happy Birthday Grace!

A few days later, we hosted our very first sleepover party for her and her friends.


The girls with the string art they made

The Morning After

Hannah also had a birthday – She turned 8 on November 14th.  Again we had a houseful of girls, but not overnight this time!

The girls played lots of games, made paper snowflakes in honor of the first snowfall the day before, and enjoyed pink cake.

(My camera was acting up, so unfortunately the photos are not great – some taken with the video camera)

A rousing game of musical chairs

Hannah loves her heart shaped cake!

The day after her birthday, Hannah got to enjoy cake with some other friends who also had birthdays the same week!

We also had a really great  fellowship with friends over the Thanksgiving holidays.   We miss our families, but it is so wonderful to have “family” like this here in China!

There was no turkey because none of us has an oven big enough…but we had roasted chickens, heads, feet and all.  Oh – and we did have some turkey.  They were humongous smoked legs someone found in a market here.  Yummy, but tasted just like ham, not the turkey I’m used to.  I found a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce a while back in an import store, and horded it, along with some Jello from home, to make my mom’s famous Fruitful Cranberry Salad.  Yum!!

Our friend M who is fostering "Jerry", born without some of his arm bones

Our first Thanksgiving meal in China

Wonderful "after Thanksgiving" dinner with precious friends

Wonderful "after Thanksgiving" dinner with precious friends

The kids playing with their friends after a delicious Korean meal with our neighborhood friends

Pure goofiness!

Posted by: Heather | December 3, 2009


The other day, a precious Chinese friend opened up to me.

I’ve asked her before if she wants children.  She clearly loves children.  She would make a great mom.  Most Chinese families only can have one child, and I’ve wondered why she has none though she is in her mid-thirties and has been married for 10 years.  She had given me an answer then, but I didn’t believe it.  I could tell that there was more behind the reason she gave.

The other day we were talking about “girl stuff” and the subject came up again.  This time she opened up to me.  I gently asked if she can have children.  “Sure, I can,” she said.  “I’ve been pregnant three times.”

She went on to explain that as some people get morning sickness in pregnancy, she gets fevers.  All three times she had a fever during pregnancy.

So what happened?

The doctor told her that a fever can cause birth defects,  so the baby should be aborted.  All three times this happened.

With tears in her eyes she told me that the first time she was five months into the pregnancy, and when the baby was taken out, they told her it was a boy.

I was speechless.  (The whole conversation was in Chinese, so I’m easily made speechless for lack of vocabulary, but this time it was for real.)  My heart is broken for the sorrow and pain and loss this friend has endured.

She told me she doesn’t want a child anymore.  She’s too afraid.  I told her that if she did get pregnant, we would support her, help provide medical care for her through David’s clinic, and pray for her.   But her fear is too great.

I cannot and will not share my opinions about family planning measures or the flawed practice of medicine in our adopted country on a blog (ok, I did insert a little opinion in there).   I certainly can’t get into the topic of abortion.

It’s just that there’s such fear of having your one child be “flawed”.  Fear also seems to be a tool in the hands of physicians who will not honestly examine and explain the evidence-based reality of medical risk.  And fear certainly drives many countless women to abort their babies.

I do not judge my friend, I only have great sorrow for her.  I am angry at the brokenness and injustice of this world.

Please pray for my friend that her heart would be healed by the Great Physician and that she would know the joy of truly trusting in him.

P.S. Another Chinese friend also shared her story with us about a week ago.  She is a strong believer and home group leader.  But when she became pregnant the second time, she and her husband were faced with public criticism and the prospect of a huge fine (about a year’s wages).   They were under such pressure that they decided to go get an abortion.  However, they got to the clinic too close to closing time and were told to come back the next day.   That night they had God’s peace calming their fears and anxieties.  They decided to keep the baby and trust him with the consequences.

They walked a difficult road.  They had to find a hospital that would even let them birth a second child, then face the wrath of the authorities.  They decided to trust God step by step, and through a long series of amazing events, ended up only having to pay a third of what the fine was originally supposed to be.  Some precious old women pooled money saved for their own burial costs and loaned it to our friends.  The couple was able to pay it all back within a few years.  And now this miracle child is six years old an an incredible blessing to his parents and all who know him.

“I sought the Lord and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

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