Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween in Hohhot

A Spooky Halloween from Samuel and Grace--these are the kids' pumpkins, lit up and in the darkened hallway.

By the time most of you read this post, you will still have Halloween ahead of you. Here in Hohhot, trick-or-treating for 2007 is now a memory, chocolate and Skittles line little bellies, and both kids are crashed out. Halloween has been our first major stumbling block in the fight against homesickness and luckily, it's the first battle won in that fight, for the kids had a great day. They ran out at nine this morning to the meat and vegetable lady behind our building (as opposed to the tofu, fresh noodles, and vegetable lady, next door to the meat and veggie lady) and bought their pumpkins. After lessons, lunch, and playtime at the IMNU track, we carved the pumpkins, I baked cocoa fudge cookies (because of course, knowing all the sugar was coming, I had to add just a little bit more), and then we met with Carter and his parents and trick-or-treated all the foreign teachers. The kids got way too much candy--as is normal--and they have stashed it all away, to dip into now for many days to come. Here are photos to document the day:

This is actually the first time the kids haven't been totally grossed out by pumpkin innards. I still got to wield the knife. Mom's privilege.

It is hard to argue with gendered costume choices when your kids absolutely love their costumes. Samuel is a Chinese military policeman and Grace is dressed in traditional ceremonial Mongolian clothing. Dave and I long ago gave up trying to suppress Samuel's love of guns, swords, and all things martial. Ditto for Grace's love of "princess" paraphernalia.

Trick-or-treating with Abby, baby Caleb, Carter (in pumpkin costume), and Tad (aka Zorro).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oh, The Irony of It All!

Lately I have been completely immersed in reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. She has always been one of my favorite authors, and now she has written a book documenting the results of her family’s decision to live an entire year solely on foods they have either raised themselves, or purchased locally. It’s an incredible feat, one that I doubt I will ever be able to emulate in its entirety, but I do aspire to many of the ideals put forth in her book: local produce as much as possible (goodbye bananas, which Kingsolver terms “the Humvee of fruit” ), homemade whole grain bread, locally raised and grass-fed animals, etc. She has even inspired me to try my hand at cheese making—once we’re home, of course. The size of my kitchen is challenging enough just to make a batch of tortillas or peel vegetables while cooking rice (no counter space!). Nevertheless, visions of jars of home-canned fruits and spaghetti sauces have definitely warmed up my evenings lately.

And so where did my kids, who have been raised on whole wheat everything, homemade sweets and never—well, hardly ever—pop, where did they go for lunch today with Vanetta?

How surreal is this?

Yup, the Golden Arches. They had never been to McDonald’s back home and this was never really a problem, since none of their friends frequent fast food restaurants very often, no peer pressure. Sure, we do take out—pizza and burritos are favorites—but Dave and I decided long ago, even before Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me came on the scene, to stay away from fast food in general, and to be picky about where we ate when we did go out. When the aforementioned book and movie came out, our concerns over what we put in our bodies, and what fast food practices in general do to animals, vegetables, and labor, were validated. We were on the right track, moving towards whole foods, looking for more local produce and meats. A big hearty pat on the back, oh aren’t we so clever, seeing the fast food world for what it is, and only putting the best we can into our growing children’s bodies.

Of course, once we came to China we had to loosen our standards considerably—not because the Chinese eat horrible food, because they don’t. In fact, I see more people, young and old, eating fruits and vegetables than anyone I know back home. Certainly, these things are cheap, fast food is not, and the Chinese have a traditional cuisine that is just the tops. No, we loosened our standards because we were bewildered, jetlagged, and dealing with kids who were not happy to have left home. So the floodgates opened and in flowed Sprite, ice cream bars everyday, Gatorade, candy bars. Sure, it’s comfort food, and when you’re not able to eat anything else (at least the kids weren’t), it’s calories.

Still, we reasoned, even as we took the kids to Pizza Hut once in a while, that at least they’d never been to KFC or McDonald’s, all three of which are within spitting distance of each other on one of the biggest shopping streets in Hohhot. KFC quickly popped that bubble, followed today by McDonald’s. Grace got all nervous beforehand because she knows that we don’t eat there for a reason, though we’ve never gone into more details than that the food is very bad for you. Obviously, this isn’t always the best way to get a kid not to do something—or me, really, knowing about those hazelnut Ritter Sport candy bars in the freezer that every night I seriously contemplate eating, then manage to resist the temptation, mostly because I fall asleep thinking about them. [I bet you just caught me in a bit of a contradiction: visions of homemade bread and home-canned spaghetti sauce alongside candy bars? I never said I was perfect, just striving for an ideal.] Her stomach “started hurting” as she worried about the implications of eating at McDonald’s. Despite our better judgment, we found ourselves encouraging her to eat there: “Hey, the french fries there are great!” (We didn’t tell her about the injected flavoring.) Sometimes you gotta get a kid to just do what frightens them so they can see it’s nothing to fret about. Kind of like shots, but that’s another story. Everything in moderation, even ideology, right?


Anyway, you can see by the pictures that they both suffered terribly. Does this mean that I will let them regularly eat fast food now? Fat chance. But if one of their friends here wants to take them out once in a while, I think the experience of being with others, and away from us, will outweigh the occasional dip into horrid-, chemical laden-, unfair labor practicing-, animal mistreating-, diabetes and obesity causing-fast food. :)

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Day in the Life of the Arnolds

Our recent adventures into the world of medicine have, like all times of stress, allowed us to appreciate even more what we have. No time is better to look around and appreciate life than in the fall, my favorite season. Not to trot out all the usual platitudes about the seasonal circularity of life—birth, death, and rebirth—there is still something really exciting about this time when plants go into dormancy, when we can look back on a year of change, assess events in the recent past and look forward to weather, cozy days inside, soup, and all the usual things I said I wasn’t going to go into. Fall has been spectacular here so far. Not many leaves have started changing yet, but those that have are in reds and yellows, the sky has been blindingly blue and the air is crisp and scented with “change,” if that makes sense. Our heat has been turned on so we no longer have to experience first hand the great dips in temperature at night; everyone is healthy and we had a great week of balance—lessons, outdoor time, good food, great visiting with friends. And so in my excitement at having returned to our “boring, mundane life,” I thought I’d share with you one of our typical days: yesterday, October 19.

Like all mornings, the first thing I did was two loads of laundry, getting them up on the line as soon as possible in order to take full advantage of the “greenhouse” effect of our balcony. Being on the fourth floor, facing south, has been a terrific asset—with the windows closed, the sun beats onto my little balcony and warms it up wonderfully, drying my laundry before mid-afternoon and providing me with a great afternoon reading spot (think cat in a windowsill, that’s me whenever I can get out there for a little quiet time).

It's not pretty, but there it is: all my laundry.

The kids ate breakfast: croissants, jam, and nutella (the latter is German-made, the jam comes from Spain, and the croissants are made in Hohhot, so at least one item isn’t off the charts in carbon imprint) and Dave and I had our usual yogurt and tea.

Nutella lips and pajamas.

Dave then went off to teach two classes. This week he has had to sit through cooking demonstrations, an exercise in which the students are supposed to describe in English what they are making. This has been a little rough, since the students are generally not very fluent in English, and most of them don’t cook, so they must do two hard things at once. At least he was done with class by lunch.

After a lot of wrangling to get the kids showered, dressed, and teeth brushed (it is amazing that they still contest teeth-brushing; since when was it ever an option?), we settled down to lessons.


...and math.

Shortly after the photo with Samuel and his math book, he had his usual morning meltdown, this time because he realized it was October 19, getting closer to Halloween, and he isn’t going to get to have a homemade costume and go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. He is also not sleeping very much lately, so these meltdowns are usually helped along by fatigue—he took an hour nap soon after, with his shuffle plugged in his ears, listening yet again to the Beatles. He did eventually finish his lessons, as did Grace, an event that never ceases to make them jubilant.

We are trying to get into a routine of going out after lunch for exercise and fresh air. This is a great time of the day for us because most people are eating and then having a rest at home so there are fewer people out on the streets and in the stores. On this day we all went across the street to Inner Mongolia Normal University (IMNU), the kids and Dave on bikes, me on foot. While I went around and around the track, walking as quickly as I could, they rode around campus a bit, then the kids ran the track, practiced long-jumping, and generally wore themselves out.

The smaller of the two tracks, just right for walking.

Samuel in the "forest" part of IMNU.

We went back home just as the school kids returned to school (i.e. big traffic jam and lots of honking horns), workers returned to work, and students flooded back out of dorms and cafeterias. We had arranged to make our second ever visit to the import warehouse, which I posted about back in August, I think. Dave had never been and we were eager to stock up on some things. We went with Vanetta from upstairs and Abby, a new arrival with her husband Tim and 2 month old son Caleb—these two didn’t go with us, though. Because we were so many, we took two taxis, which made for an interesting time trying to get back, as the warehouse is way out on the fringes of town, not a place of great taxi traffic. Anyway, we did a huge shop for Western goods where among other things we picked up: a gigantic block of mozzarella to split three ways, a big block of white cheddar, pancake syrup, jam, tea, canned beans, mustard, butter, tortillas, cereal, Tabasco sauce, pasta, Vietnamese chili garlic sauce, olive oil, and more nutella. (As I write this I think about Laura and Mary Ingalls, going to town with Pa—obviously we are in a much more modern situation, but going to the warehouse certainly affords us great wonder and delight.)

Vanetta, Grace, me, Samuel, and Abby, going shopping.

Coal for winter heating, in the alleyway at the warehouse--this is a common sight nowadays, with winter cold fast approaching.

Pondering my purchases so far, while waiting for the cheese. Yes, those are tortilla chips, not organic, baked, or salt-free.

And even though the computers were working this time, it still took at least an hour to “check out”, which put us at a three-hour shopping trip and slightly stressed out Abby, whose son back home wasn’t easily taking the bottle she’d pumped, thereby giving Tim a bit of a hard time. It all worked out in the end, though by the time we got home it was well after five and everyone was hungry.

The lady on the left, the man with the hat, and the lady with the orange hat are all helping us look for a taxi. Not much luck at this point.

One thing that I know we will all miss here (I know, it’s too early to talk about missing things, we still have a little more than four months left) is the easy ability to go out to eat cheaply and well, and the company we easily find with whom to share our meal. We went down to the little street by our apartment for dinner with Tad and Marsha and nearly one-year old Carter, and Vanetta, and had a terrific meal, stuffed ourselves, and spent about $9 total on dinner. It was only last night and I’m already starting to salivate, thinking about the food we ate.

Carter's head, Marsha, Tad, and Samuel at one table.

I'm closing my eyes in a fit of food bliss.

We finished out our day with movie night, though without the popcorn as everyone was way too stuffed to fit anything else in.

If you have actually managed to stay with me through this whole day, and haven’t fallen asleep over your keyboard, I hope I have been able to convey the fullness of our days here, the joy we take from friends, the city, the food, and finally and most importantly, the fact that despite small quarters and initially reluctant children, we are thriving in Hohhot and glad for the opportunity to be here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dave's Blog

I apologize for the shameful advertising but Dave just posted a really funny bit on "Becoming a Bourgeois Materialist in Buddhist Communist China". Check it out if you want a good laugh at

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Golden Week in Datong

Dave’s mom came to visit us during Golden Week, a week of vacation (although despite the great crowds everywhere we went, it seemed like all the shopkeepers, peddlers, transportation workers, and all other service workers, didn’t have the week off—who exactly does get vacation?) established to encourage domestic tourism. There is more than one Golden Week during the year: this one was dedicated to celebrating National Day, October 1st. Anyway, because lots of people do travel and visit national tourist sights during Golden Week, the Chinese infrastructure is severely taxed, making something as simple as purchasing train tickets or using a public bathroom an adventure in itself. We had already heard about the various problems associated with Golden Week while we were in the States, so we were hesitant to do much travel during Pat’s visit. Of course, this put us in a bit of a predicament, since she was only going to be in China for two weeks and naturally we wanted her to be able to see more than Hohhot. After a lot of research, standing in line at the train station, and negotiations with different “helpers” (Dave will undoubtedly go into detail about this, so I won’t), Dave finally managed to arrange soft sleeper tickets on a train to Datong—a four hour train ride southeast of Hohhot—three nights stay at a four-star Chinese hotel, and once in Datong, a one-day CITS tour of the Caves of Yungang and the Hanging Temple. I have wanted to see both since leafing through our Lonely Planet last winter but didn’t know if we would ever make it there, so this was a great way to combine some sightseeing for Pat and those long-ago daydreams.

First, two things about setting off on the trip: with the help of our friend Emi, Dave was able to get tickets to Datong, but wasn’t able to get return tickets (we were assured that we could do it from Datong, and Mr. Wong put us in touch with his travel agent friend in Datong, who ended up helping us); and we never could figure out how to pronounce Datong, which made for some funny moments, as we would tell Chinese friends where we were going and we’d get a blank look. After a number of attempts at tones and variations on vowels, a light bulb would finally go on and our friends would say the name, to all intents and purposes exactly as we thought we had said it. Oh well. This inability to pronounce the name, and the lack of return tickets, didn’t dampen our excitement.

Travel to Datong was uneventful and a nice opportunity to see the countryside since the last time we had traveled that route—which is the same that leads to Beijing—it was dark and we were sleeping. I won’t say much about the hotel. Four-star Chinese seems to be different than four-star European (at least in our pitifully small experience—we have Novotel only to compare to the Datong Hotel) but we were nonetheless comfortably situated and the first day in Datong we wandered around a touristy part of Datong.

I think we are spoiled by Hohhot, the provincial capital of Inner Mongolia. Hohhot is remarkably clean, filled with tree-lined orderly boulevards (I never thought I would say that but it is true), and the air is not too bad. Datong, on the other hand, which is a coal-mining town, didn’t smell too good when we were there, was dirty, horribly crowded—probably because of Golden Week—and had very few trees. Naturally we didn’t see all of Datong, so I don’t pretend to speak for all of it and I am sure that many people really enjoy it. How’s that for being diplomatic?

Eating was eventful, to say the least. We are so used to having our places to eat right around our apartment that we don’t even think anymore about the great difficulties we had in the beginning, trying to order, trying to find plain old Chinese food (remember the beef gyoza and Dave’s bull horns?). Naturally we confronted the same problem in Datong. We had had such luck in Beijing using the Lonely Planet suggestions for restaurants, we again relied on it in Datong. Not such a good idea this time, it turned out. Unfortunately, 2 out of the 3 restaurants it lists are in four star locations and after the first one we tried (which had unspeakably strange dishes to our Western palates, and was quite expensive to boot) we shied away from the other choices. Just to hop ahead a bit, I will say that the next two nights we ate dinner in the hotel restaurant, being too tired and disoriented to brave finding a hole-in-the-wall restaurant of the sort we enjoy in Hohhot. We managed to find some things to eat. Among the dishes we didn’t sample (I kid you not): “F**k to Fry the Cow River,” “The Hot Monosodium Glutamate Vegetables Fries the Idea Powder,” “F**k Flavor Smoke Bamboo Shoot,” “The New Year Pudding Burns the Hair,” “Stab the Body Platter,” and “Bittern Bean Fetid Smell.” Yes, I do hear you all protesting that we just aren’t adventurous enough, but somehow something was lost in the translation and we didn’t feel up to it. We did have a great laugh in the restaurant however, with tears streaming down our faces, and then we ate our strange pizza and steamed rice.

Mr. Wong’s friend Mr. An and his interpreter William (a kindly man who works in the CITS—China International Travel Service—office in the Datong train station) arranged for us to take a CITS tour the second day of our stay to visit both the Caves of Yungang and the Hanging Temple. This was very kind of him and we were grateful, although he then dropped the bomb that we should just go to the train station on our last day and buy bus tickets back home. We had originally has the impression that he had already found us train tickets. Again, something was undoubtedly lost in translation. A little down hearted about this last turn of events, we nevertheless happily set off the next day in the little CITS bus, accompanied by two Chinese couples, three French girls (20-somethings, 2 of whom live and work in China), and two American guys (also mid-20s) who live and work in China, the driver of the bus and the tour guide, a nice young woman. I will not narrate the whole day because this is long enough as it is, and the pictures surely will speak better for the sights.

A huge buddha inside one of the caves--note the carvings all the way up the wall and on the ceiling.

There is still paint on many of the carvings on the walls and ceilings--some caves are so decorated with intricate designs that they feel like the inside of a cathedral in their scope and detail.

Samuel with the most famous of the over 50,000 buddhas carved into the Yungang Caves.

The Hanging Temple

The kids goofing with Jeremy, one of the Americans, at a traffic jam on the way back to Datong.

We thoroughly enjoyed the trip, even though it lasted until late dinner time, and the kids held up remarkably well. The drive was punctuated by phone calls from William (the tour guide and bus driver’s boss) to the tour guide and unfolded in the following way: first William said he found soft sleeper seats for 6 a.m. Thursday morning (we were supposed to leave Friday, and were booked through then at the hotel). So the tour guide kindly called the hotel for us, cancelled our third night and arranged for a 4:30 wake-up call. A couple hours later, William called back and said that he was mistaken, the tickets were for Friday morning at 6 a.m. The tour guide called the hotel back for us, re-instated our third night, cancelled the Thursday morning wake-up and scheduled a Friday morning wake-up call. Sheesh. We went from being disappointed that we had to leave a day early, to being glad for the early departure, since there wasn’t anything else we wanted to do, to being disappointed once again, as we now had to stay an extra day as originally planned. The coup de grace, though, was when we met William that night to pay for our train tickets. Oh my, says William, these are actually hard sleeper tickets and you are all separated.

We made it through the last day, Thursday, as best we could. It rained cats and dogs the whole day, so I stayed cozy in the hotel room and the kids ran around a bit with Grandma, napped, read, who knows what. We ate another thrilling meal in the hotel restaurant, packed, and were out the door really early Friday morning. I think I already mentioned in an earlier post the excitement with Grandma’s food poisoning on the trip back, so I won’t go into that here. All in all, did we enjoy our trip? Hmm… Since coming home from Datong we have had a very sick Grandma and then a very sick Grace. Datong seems miles away but what sticks with us is the wonder of the two sights and our general dislike of the city. Sorry to say, but I’m afraid it’s true. We arrived back in Hohhot Friday morning to a crystal blue sky and a sharp autumn crispness in the air—it felt like really coming home.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Wholly Different Visit to the Doctor

Grace has stopped throwing up, but just hasn't regained her strength or her usual cheery disposition and as of last night, was still flirting with the runs (I know she'll be mortified when she is about 14 and re-reads these posts--sorry Grace!), and generally kept complaining about her stomach. So after another fruitless visit to a second hospital this morning, this time with Athena, we decided to take Grace to visit Athena's uncle this afternoon. This is the kindly gentleman who invited us, along with Athena and her mother, to the Inner Mongolia Museum in August and who also treated us to a seafood lunch.

I regret to say I went alone with Grace and Athena, leaving Dave at home with Samuel, and so I don't have any pictures. Athena's uncle has a little shop front clinic near the Muslim quarter, just two rooms, one with a desk, the other with three beds. We showed the doctor the various reports generated by the two hospital visits and after a little consultation, he concluded that if Grace had had better treatment the very first day, she wouldn't have had this long miserable week. No kidding. Anyway, I was happy that he felt the same as me. He prescribed a "nutrition infusion" (I.V.) first, since she hasn't been able to eat very well this week. Grace lay down on a bed with an infrared light directed at her tummy, a hot water bottle under the hand that had the I.V. needle, and a blanket over her legs. Ah, I thought, this is much better than a freezing hospital room. It was a cozy little room and shortly after Grace started her nutrition infusion an absolutely lovely grandma came for treatment for her ankle. She lay down on the bed next to ours and the doctor proceeded to stick acupuncture needles into her ankle. (See why I wish I had had a camera? I kick myself as I write this, I assure you.) Our friend Helen (He Qing) came along with us because she needed to see the doctor for her lower back, which she injured doing sports. She went to a bed behind a curtain and the doctor put 18 bulb needles on her back. That is, there were 18 bulbs on her back and under them were little needles. By this time, the nurse switched out Grace's nutrition bottle for a medicine bottle, something that he said would definitely kill the bad bacteria but that was gentle enough for her little body. A third woman came in and lay down on the bed at the foot of Grace's. On this woman, the doctor used a little mallet, sort of like a meat tenderizer, but very small and with about 6 needles imbedded in it, to hit on her side. He hit a couple of times, then put a bell-shaped glass over the spot, attached a "plunger" to it, pumped a couple of times, and sucked her skin up into the glass. He did this in three different spots and I noticed that after a little while with the suction, blood seeped up through the mallet marks. Once the three glasses were in place, the doctor placed the infrared light over them and left them to do their work. By this time the grandma with the needles in her ankle was ready to have them taken out. The doctor did this, then put some alcohol in a shallow dish, lit it on fire, put his hand in the fiery alcohol and rubbed her ankle all over with it. Really, it was all very amazing and wonderful to see. The grandma was terrifically sweet, too--she gave Grace a lot of pretty wrapped candies while she was on her back with the needles. His four patients taken care of, the doctor proceeded to have an I.V. himself, saying that his stomach was upset and that he needed something for it. So there were three ladies (Helen was done by this point) and the doctor, all sitting around taking their various treatments. It was truly a funny sight, and everyone (including Grace in her own tentative way) was very jovial and chatty.

The doctor gave Grace some berberine tablets that she is to take tonight and tomorrow, then he said she should be completely better within 2 or 3 days. In any case, she is definitely much much better tonight, she is up and walking around, taking an interest in everything and we are all very much relieved. The most crazy thing is that the doctor refused payment. I have never been so touched by such kindness. We couldn't have had two more radically different medical experiences in the past week and in the end I am glad for both of them--even as miserable as the visit on Monday was, it still saved Grace from dehydration, and this last visit has totally restored my opinion of the medical profession in Hohhot.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Some of you have been kind enough to notice that I haven’t posted since the end of September, even going so far as to email us to make sure we are still alive. I really appreciate your concern and now I can finally give a full accounting of my “absence” from the blogosphere (is that a word? Seems like it should be…).

Dave’s mom arrived right around the end of September, as you can see from the post on the Five-Pagoda Temple. Last Tuesday, October 2, we went by train to Datong, about a four and a half hour trip from Hohhot. I will post separately about the trip (yes, I have been promising this for too long now, but recent circumstances made it seem kind of unimportant) but for now the important thing to know about it is our return from Datong. Dave’s mom contracted some kind of bug—food related, we are all certain—the night before we left on a 6 a.m. train ride back home. I won’t go into great details in the interest of preserving her dignity, but I will say that it hit with full force about an hour into the train trip. Luckily, we were pretty close to the bathroom; unluckily, we had to share it (the hole in the floor variety) with about 100 other passengers in our car, and the door to it had an uncanny ability to lock itself when no one was in it. We were able to get her back to her hotel room—in the same Education Hotel next door to us, where we stayed upon our arrival in China—by 10:30, where she stayed for 2 days, sicker than the proverbial dog. We finally figured out it was bacterial (guesswork mostly, but hey, we lucked out this time. Actually, our Lonely Planet guide gave us a very detailed description of all the symptoms of traveller’s diarrhea, including the type of antibiotics used to treat it, one of which we actually had in our possession! How’s that for luck?), got her started on antibiotics, and she made a brilliant recovery. Fortunately for her, we had done most of our touristing and eating out, so she was content (or rather, she didn’t have any choice) to stay close to home and eat in.

Let’s see, it was Friday that we came back from Datong, so Pat was ill Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday. Just as she came out from under her personal plague, Grace contracted her own. Monday morning Grace woke up with a stomach ache. Much to my chagrin, I did not take it very seriously at first, as Grace was unduly affected by her grandmother’s illness, to the extent that she was sure she would throw up, even though we explained that we didn’t think she could catch it from Pat. Dave left for work at 7:55 a.m. and at 8:00 Grace threw up for the first time. I won’t go into all the gory details, but she threw up every 15-20 minutes for the rest of the day. By about 1:00 I was starting to wonder how soon one becomes dehydrated. She couldn’t keep any liquid down, not even ¼ teaspoon. Shortly after 3:00 p.m. I took great liberties on Kadlec Hospital and called the emergency room. The kind nurse I spoke with confirmed my fears about dehydration which induced a great flurry of activity on our end. Phone calls, a class to be cancelled, and Clyde (Mr. Song) to be found, Dave, Grace and I headed to a hospital with Clyde, in hopes of finding something to make our little baby better. I have to tell you, the onset of dehydration isn’t pretty. I’m sure Grace could have gone longer, but she was definitely getting awfully lethargic and not even concerned about constantly throwing up. If my doctor is reading this, my apologies for not having caught on to the situation sooner. I always think that somehow things are going to turn around for the better. This time I was wrong.

Grace threw up in the taxi (always prepared, I had my handy-dandy homemade barf bag—a towel in a plastic bag), threw up while waiting to see a doctor, and threw up while waiting to get an IV. Like I said, every 15 minutes. We didn’t really know what to expect from the hospital, although I certainly had hoped that I would never have the opportunity to see one from the inside. What can I say? It wasn’t nice and bright and shiny with smiling nurses and doctors. It was disorienting, not particularly up to our standards of hygiene, but passable, and entirely conducted in Chinese.

Waiting to see the doctor (we've actually already been to the doctor at this point).

In the "Involves the Operating Room"

Just before seeing the doctor (barf bag in the foreground).

Thank goodness yet again for Clyde, who really helped us out. The doctor was kind but didn’t leave much room for questioning by us. She listened to Grace’s heart but didn’t take her temperature. She asked questions about various things, which we told her through Clyde, and she wrote a lot of stuff down in a booklet. Originally she was just going to have Grace receive a shot to stop the vomiting, and then send us home with some probiotic medicine (good bacteria). Dave insisted that we get an IV, which we got. Or rather, Grace did, but you knew that. Little did we know that it would take 2 hours for 500 ml of sugar and salt solution to drip drip drip its way into Grace.

It seemed to help her though. The shot beforehand, the one to stop the vomiting, took us all by surprise, though. The needle looked about the size one would use on an elephant (only slight exaggeration) and it went into the side of her itty bottom. After that, she refused to look at the more appropriately-sized needle for the IV, and never once looked at her hand. So Dave, Clyde, and I sat in an unheated room with Grace prone on a bed (with temps dropping down rapidly—it got below freezing that night) and chatted about cell phones, compared health insurance and hospitals in China and America (I won’t touch this discussion, as I am sure Dave will talk about it on his blog), and generally tried to stay warm and keep Grace’s spirits up.

The doctor's notes on Grace, receipts for services rendered (total about $10), medicine.

After standing for too long on the street in teeth-chattering cold, we finally got a taxi and headed home, confidant that all would now be well. And then Grace threw up again in the taxi. This time I wasn’t so prepared, as I had tied up the now soggy towel in the bag. I ripped it open with one hand while Grace took care of her business all over Dave and me. That night was a rough one, because we couldn’t get her to eat (the doctor suggested millet porridge, baked steamed bun chips, and pickled vegetables—the Chinese version of the BRAT diet, I guess) and couldn’t get her to hold the medicine down. She threw-up twice before bed and again in the middle of the night.

The next day, yesterday, she cried all day because of course her tummy hurt like crazy, she had a weird dry cough, her throat hurt from all the stomach acids, and she didn’t want to touch any food or drink. I was a mean mama, though, and forced some millet porridge and rice down her, along with some Gatorade. She hasn’t thrown up since, and today has been much better. She still has the cough, go figure, and her poor little heart is just racing all the time, trying to get better, I guess (Dave clocked it at 140 bpm last night). But she has eaten millet again, half a banana, some crackers, and drank quite a bit of fluids. Which of course is why I can finally write a post—I am no longer completely panicked and freaked out, Dave is no longer trying to figure out the quickest way to fly her back to the States, and we are all tentatively confident that we can make it through the rest of our time here in a reasonably healthy state. I just really really hope that Grace is done with it all. She has had a horrible last 4 weeks (eye nearly all better, ringworm trying to stay on but losing the battle, rash gone and only a few spots on her torso left to remind us of that episode) and she deserves to be healthy and happy the rest of the time.