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Tuesday Update: 05/27/08

Well, I survived...after a long, crazy trip, I finally arrived in Tianjin around 6:45 last night. The flights were fairly uneventful, other than a few strong episodes of turbulance where a bunch of us actually spilled our drinks. There was a large group of students behind me who all let out a loud gasp in unison when it happened. All the flight attendents scurried about trying to get napkins to everyone, while trying not to fall over. That was pretty early on in the flight, and the rest was smooth sailing. (Random thought #1: You know how annoying it is to listen to the flight attendents do their little schpeel every time you get on an airplane? When you are on an international flight you get to hear it all in English and Chinese...for every announcement...much more annoying.) I arrived in Beijing around 3:00 in the afternoon...the muggy, sticky, HOT afternoon. It has been in the 90's here recently...which was quite a change from the 50's and 60's we've been having back home. After making my way through the terminal, through inspection, to baggage claim, and then through customs, I was finally outside looking for my driver at about 4:15. Thankfully, he wasn't hard to spot with the China Connection sign and we walked down to his car and took off. The traffic wasn't terrible...by Chinese standards anyway. Even though I had experienced it before, it was still QUITE eye-opening. All the people...the trucks...the scooters, cars, and bikes...it's just crazy. And yet, they somehow manage not to kill each other as they weave their way through the winding city streets. (Random Thought #2: A lot of you know that one of my pet peeves is talk radio...it's just not my thing. So much blah, blah, blah. (and yet I can ramble on and on on this here blog with no trouble...but I digress.) Another pet peeve is radio stations that just don't quite come in clear, fading in and out of radio static. So, as you can imagine...a talk radio station that doesn't quite come in would be pretty darn irritating to me. We listened to one all the way from Beijing to Tianjin...in Chinese! FUN!)
Yesterday I also got to experience Chinese road rage for the first time. I supposed it's bound to happen sooner or later, with the very INSANE way that they take to the streets...I just might have preferred it didn't happen while I was in the car!! We were just approaching the hospital and I was so excited and happy to finally be here...when we realized that the gate was closed and we couldn't turn in to the parking lot. So, naturally, the driver decided to do a u-turn in the middle of the road. U-turns are very big here...they pretty much do one where ever they want. Going the wrong way? Do a U-turn. Miss your exit? Do a U-turn. Don't want to wait for the green light? Do a U-turn. They're all the rage in the big city. Anyway, my driver decided to do one in the middle of 4 lanes of traffic, plus that other lane used for the bikes, scooters, and people milling about. Just as we were turning, a bus came along and stopped to pick up passengers...so we were stuck halfway around, in the middle of the road, blocking traffic in both directions. Of course everyone is honking at us and my driver is honking at the bus and a taxi driver who didn't move over enough for us to finish the turn. Eventually we got turned around and both my driver and the taxi driver were honking at each other and weaving back and forth in front of each other as we proceeded down the road. We turned left to go around the corner to another entrance (because I'm sure we wouldn't have been able to I don't know...GO AROUND THE BLOCK to reach the same destination instead of attempting the stupid U-turn), and the taxi driver wizzed by us (not from a left hand turn lane, mind you) and then pulled in front of us. As we went to turn left again into the parking lot, the taxi driver came around and cut us off...blocking us from the parking lot, and once again we were stuck in the middle of a four lane road blocking all the traffic. And THEN the taxi driver gets out of his car, yelling and gesturing at my driver...who also gets out of the car yelling at the other driver. I'm about ready to panic, thinking they're going to start throwing punches, when a bystander intervened and pulled them apart, pushing the taxi driver back into his car. Both drivers had just got back in their cars, when mine mouthed off again and provoked the other driver to get back out of his car...and then so did mine. There we were, in the middle of the street, blocking all the traffic, horns honking from all directions, people yelling and pointing, the two grown men getting in each other's faces, and me...sitting in the car, horrified, terrified, and slightly amused...wondering if I could manage to get my bag out of the trunk and make a run for it. Finally the bystander convinced the taxi driver to get back in his car and he drove off...both of them yelling at each other, and we were able to pull into the parking lot. He found a spot to park, and took me up to Matt's room like nothing ever happened. Thank you, good bye...that's all he said. PHEW...I was SO happy to be safe and to finally be at Matt's door!

I walked in and surprised Matt, as we made better time that he thought we would. (I'm sure this is because we were weaving in and out of traffic and doing 90 mph whenever possible...clever driver.) To my surprise, and PLEASURE, Matt had shaved off the foo-man-choo and greeted me with a big smile! We sat and talked, finally getting ready for bed around 9:00. I was so beat by then, after having been up for 26 hours, and crashed pretty hard. This morning it was a little difficult to sleep though, since it gets light around 4:30! Wow, I had no idea that daylight savings time could make such a difference. Really, who needs it to be light at 4:30 AM??? No one is up, it's practically wasteful daylight! So, we were both awake around 5:00 and decided to just get up and around shortly thereafter.

After breakfast we headed down to exercise in the 'new' gym. It's nice, but somehow I don't think it's that new...not sure what's new about it, I may have to ask. Matt rode the bike for 20 minutes, then laid on a mat while Dr. Lu (the tall younger doctor) worked on stretching out his arm, hand, and leg. This is the doctor who calls Matt superman...and the two of them had quite the little banter, both giving each other a hard time. Every once in a while Dr. Lu would say 'speak Chinese...I speak very little English'. I thought it was pretty funny to watch them go back and forth. Matt had a full day of treatments and before I knew it, the rush of the day was behind us. We settled back in the room after walking down the hallway together, and standing up in the room for about 20 minutes. Matt checked his messages and I took a little snooze. It's about 7:15 right now and I'm pretty much ready for bed! SAD!!! Today I met several of the other couples who joined Matt's group after I left. We had a little birthday party for Linda, whose room is next to Matt's and I had met the first day we were here in China. Mary had worked with a China Connection worker to get some cake ordered...and then we all went in and brought the party to Linda. It was bittersweet for her, I'm sure, celebrating her birthday without her family. She has two small children under the age of 5 and a husband waiting for her back home. I imagine it would be difficult to be away from family on your birthday, but she seemed to doing pretty well. I got to meet Devin and his brother Doug who is working on a documentary on Devin's treatment. It was neat to just be in the room with all these folks who have built their own little family of sorts, supporting and encouraging each other through this difficult time. Matt has definitely been touched by them, I can tell. It will be good to keep in touch with them over the coming months and years, and hear how things go for them all.

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