Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A hard week's work completed in three days!

This has been an unbelievable week and to think we are still alive and well! Sunday afternoon we went to the apartment of a Chinese brother for the afternoon family meeting. Afterwards, he took us to dinner and got us a taxi to the train station. We left Beijing at 7:30 p.m. and arrived in Changsha about 7 a.m. We had a very nice cabin and no one shared it with us so we enjoyed the privacy. It is amazing how well Ron and I sleep on the train but we actually get a good night's rest. Many of these cities cannot be reached by airplane so the night train is the best way to travel. Train stations are always packed with people and only the sleeper cars have any empty areas. It costs more, of course, but for an overnight sleeper, it is still l/3 what an airline ticket would be even if you could get a flight to a city near where you are going. We took a taxi to the bus station and had 3 more hours before we reached Longhui, the city where North Canton Christian Care Center is located.

As we were waiting for Abraham, our worker to show up, Ron had his shoes shined by a street person for 25 cents. I saw a young boy walking toward us and I told Ron I recognized him. He is #14 and sponsored by Carol Mitchell of Hendersonville, Tennessee. Shortly, Abraham appeared and got a taxi for us to go out to NCCC, about 10 minutes from the city.

When we arrived, the middle school students were there eating lunch. They all smiled at us but were shy. They left shortly to return to school. We made a tour of the facility with Abraham and Esther to give them a punch list of things that need to be done to improve the building and living standards. They had many questions and discussed the work freely with us.

We had not eaten since Sunday night so both of us were hungry. On the train, I had some symptoms of a stomach virus so I was afraid to eat earlier. The cooks prepared some eggs and tomatoes and rice for us. Ron also ate some tofu but I am avoiding all soy products since my breast cancer. Soy has natural estrogen and could increase my chances for a return of the cancer.

It was not long until the elementary school children started arriving from school and they all crowded around and wanted affection and attention. We got pictures made with those who were not too shy and ran away from us. We spent time with them until it got dark and they had to go in to do their homework. The middle school students ate dinner and returned to school again to complete their homework so we did not get to talk with many of them.

We spent the night in the guest room at NCCC. It was a warm day but down to freezing during the night. They have no heat so we rolled up in heavy comforters but the next morning we had no way to take a shower. They have only cold water in the director's living quarters and both the shower and commode leaks anyway. We left early and took a local bus into Longhui to get a bus to Shaoyang where we could take the train to Zhumadian.

The local bus is very dirty and filled with peasants who all smoke and stare at us. We were warned that pick-pockets are bad on these buses. It was a short ride into town and we caught the nicer bus for the 45 minute ride to Shaoyang. We bought a sack of fruit and some snacks and boarded a 12:30 p.m. all-night train to Zhumadian. We did not arrive until 3:30 a.m. a 15-hour train ride. We had the cabin to ourselves but it was a hard sleeper so there were no doors to the cabin and people walked up and down the aisles all the time and it was noisy. In spite of this, we still slept.

Ron asked the worker to reserve a hotel room at Zhumadian for us since we were arriving in the middle of the night and we really needed showers. Instead, he showed up at the train station at 3:30 and said he reserved a room for us in Biyang, the city where Mama Jo's is located. It was a 3-hour ride in his van to Biyang. We got our showers and changed clothes for the first time in almost three days. We went down for the free breakfast but it was not ready before the worker picked us up to go to Mama Jo's.

We spent the morning at Mama Jo's going over the facility, making a check list of what needs to be done there to improve the conditions. The children came home for lunch about 12:30 p.m. so we spent time taking pictures and talking with as many of them as were willing. After they went back to school, the two workers took us to eat at a restaurant in Biyang.
We were afraid of bacteria in the food at Mama Jo's because it is certainly unsanitary by our standards and Americans will get what Ron calls "Chairman Mao's Revenge." They drove the three hours back to Zhumadian for us to catch a 7:30 p.m. night train

A worker went into Biyang and bought our train tickets and got sleepers in different cabins for us. Ron and I intended to switch cabins depending on if there was a lady in one of the cabins so I would not be alone with men. At the train station, the train officials gave us first class treatment (because we are Americans and elderly) and let us go ahead of others in the car. They put Ron in the same cabin with me on the top bunk. I was very grateful since there was only a middle-aged man in this cabin. If it had been a hard sleeper section without a door, I would not have minded so much but there was no way I was staying in this cabin alone with a stranger.

We arrived in Beijing at 7:30 this morning. I don't think it matters what your originating city or destination is, the train is still going to take at least 12 hours. They stop at every station for passengers to embark and load and sometimes sit on the track a long time to allow other passenger trains to pass so they can switch tracks. It is a relatively smooth ride. I'm beginning to feel that the night ttain is my home but the apartment in Beijing really looked good to us this morning.

The weather was good at all of the cities this week with warm days above 50 degrees. But, there is a strong wind in Beijing today and it is 27 degrees this afternnon, which feels about 12 with the wind chill factor. Ron went to the bank to transfer funds to a worker and did a little grocery shopping for us. He came in so bundled up he looked like he had just arrived from Siberia.

We have a few days to catch up with our work and rest. Sunday night, we will take our over night train to Xi'an, the city where Ha Ha and Dan Dan live. Our workers, Paul and Jackie also live there. From Xi'an, we will travel to Dr. Joshua's hometown and spend one day with him before returning to Beijing later next week.

We are getting all of the nothern visits made before the heavier winter weather arrives.

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