Archive for November, 2007

Moxige Fan


Ah ……. the joy of Mexican food. Our relationship building via ethnic food series continued this month with chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice, chips and salsa, and coconut macaroons. Our Chinese language teacher and his family joined us for a very fun night of sharing some of the finest Moxige (pronounced Mo Shee Ge – a transliteration of the English word ‘Mexico’) food (in Chinese, ‘fan’) that the ingredients in our city can combine to make.



As you can see below, Zach especially delighted the Liu family, by listening and speaking in Chinese for about 10 minutes!


We are so thankful for this family, our teacher’s long-suffering patience with our slow progress and the joy he brings to our lessons!


I got an X-ray in China

A bit of explanation on this riveting blog series. One of our goals for this blog is to provide you a window into a largely unknown world. Over the last year and a half we have covered everything from vegetables to traditions to light switches. We have been quite fortunate that we have yet to need any serious medical care. So I thought this would provide a look into another aspect of life in China.

I will also state that it is important to us to be honest yet always courteous of our host country. Every country has positives and negatives. This is also true of the medical care in China.
I will also state that I not complaining. Please let me know if it every comes across as such.

Let’s continue.

This is how it went down (again all this was done with the aid of my Chinese friend/translator):

  • Front desk check-in/registration
  • Payment for registration (different place than above, cost = $0.53, no insurance involved)
  • X-ray office check-in/registration
  • Payment for X-ray (back to place above, cost = $12.09, no insurance involved)
  • X-ray taken
  • Wait for 30 minutes for them to develop (or whatever its called)
  • Met with MRI doctor for him to review and make diagnosis
  • Met with orthopedic doctor for him to review and make diagnosis

So tonight I share commonly used Chinese word to describe a situation like this. The word is mafan (pronounced MAH-FAN). It means hassle, or bureaucracy (I personally think its funny to call it red tape here…). Often used to describe a long frustrating situation. By no means does Chinese medical care have the market on mafan. Mafan certainly exists in US medical care (pronounced H-M-O…). But all of this is intensified ten fold when you understand so little of the language. People in the same room are talking about you, but you have no clue as to what they are saying (I picked out the words “hand”, “finger”, “problem” and little else). Every sign, each registration slip and each written report were completely unintelligible to me. I felt like a 3 year old.

Net, they had no idea what is wrong with my hand. So the next step is a visit to a huge international hospital in Beijing. Stay tuned…


IMG_5969.JPG IMG_6030.JPG

These pictures have nothing to do with getting an X-ray in China, but there are a load of kid pictures coming from our Thanksgiving holiday, and I didn’t want you to forget what we looked like. That’s me, Dan on the left. Sara, my beautiful beloved, is on the right (for new readers 🙂 ).


I got an MRI in China

So last April I smashed my left index finger playing basketball. It swelled. I iced it and assumed it would heal as any minor injury. When August came and it still hurt, I had it X-rayed in the States on our visit. It showed nothing, but the pain persisted. Recently the pain has worsened. So with a recommendation from a foreigner friend for a Chinese orthopedic surgeon and a local friend to translate, I paid a visit. I will choose to summarize the time as “interesting” and “enlightening” but will omit the specifics. I will say that I was treated like royalty (one of the doctors personally walked us through the registration process and escorted us to the MRI lab – not sure what the HMO would say about that…).
Here is my experience, by the numbers:

  • Hospital registration = $0.53 (no insurance involved)
  • MRI cost = $120 (no insurance involved)
  • # of doctors who looked at my hand = 4
  • Years since they apparently had a foreigner as a patient = 2 (I am pretty sure it was my referring friend)
  • # of foreigners in entire hospital = 1 (that would be me)
  • # of Chinese who stared at the foreigner = All of them

For those asking: what’s the story with my hand? (read: my mother), they are still not quite sure. I am slated for more X-rays next week. The think it is either a pocket of fluid of some sort or bone chips (not detected in the States). I am not yet sure what my options will be for treatment. Your Thoughts are appreciated.

PS to Americans: Happy Thanksgiving!


Made in China

Much has been reported this year about the Made in China label. Unsafe food, tainted pharmaceuticals, dangerous toys, infected pony tail holders, slave labor … the list goes on and on. Every day seems to bring a fresh charge against goods manufactured in China. As consumers of products Made in China for the Chinese (which meet a different/lower quality standard than those made for export to the US or Europe), its hard to know how to digest all this bad news. We do not have the option to choose items not made in China, there is no FDA to mandate food labeling (and we couldn’t read it anyway), copy-cat products are quite literally everywhere and include everything, from clothes to electronics to DVDs to medicine. It is impossible for anyone to know what is real and what is fake.
Having said all that, we’ve lived in a major, polluted industrial area in Northern China for 1.5 years without incident. Of course we take precautions – boiling water, washing fruits and veggies in food safe bleach, avoiding medicines, but for the most part, we have thoroughly enjoyed the variety and low cost of the products available. When you consider the sheer quantity of goods manufactured and exported from China, it really is a minuscule percent that has been found to be unsafe (this is not to minimize in any way the damage done when products do go awry).

The manufacturing industries that seem to spring up like weeds in our host city are directly feeding the desire of global (especially western) economies for cheap, attractive goods. If the same goods were produced in the US, under US regulations, they would undoubtedly be safer and more durable. They would also cost 10 times the amount. Until consumers decide they are ready to exchange significantly lower price tags for the protection of regulatory policies and a protected workforce (via unions, insurance, product liability, etc), this issue is not going to go away.

China may be a Communist country in name and politics, but it is a shining example of Capitalism in practice. If there is a market for dollar store toys, $3 t-shirts at Walmart, must-have $9.99 home decor at Target, $50 snow tires and even low-cost pharmaceuticals to meet the requirements of budget-crunched HMOs, Chinese manufacturers will find a way to meet the demand. It is a perfect storm of Capitalist ambition when buyers demand products for $1 that simply cannot be made well for $1. The manufacturer, not willing to lose the buyer’s business must “find a way” to still make a profit despite production and personnel costs – and so we end up with lead paint on Thomas, the date rape drug on plastic beads and pesticide in dog food.
I’ll step down from my soap box with this last thought … millions and millions of extremely hard working Chinese people work long hours in tough conditions to produce all that stuff on store shelves. They are not sitting at home trying to figure out how to slip poison into cough syrup. Granted, a few phenomenally crazy things have happened in the production and supply chains lately, but overall, lower and middle class consumers around the world have been enfranchised in ways they could never dream possible because of China’s massive and largely safe manufacturing industry.

So, please go ahead and buy those wonderful Made in China toys for your kids this Christmas. Just be sure they don’t eat the parts.

A note to my politically and economically minded friends … this is not a call for abandoning hope in terms of the US/EU/China trade relationship. Just a local perspective on the doomsday reports so lately in the news.


Part II: More Tianjin/Guangzhou/Hong Kong Pix

Just got a few more pictures from my friend Brian who recently visited. Check out

Next visitors: Mom/Grandma & Dad/Grandpa Kennedy, landing December 19th!


(L) Brian, Dan and the kids eating Korean BBQ (you cook your own meat ‘in’ the table) and (R) Brian and Dan at The Peak on Hong Kong Island.

1 comment

Come with me to… Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We love experiencing and learning about Chinese culture, people and history. As my job takes me all across China to visit our nine different cities (schools and offices) I have been so fortunate to see a lot of China. What I did not expect is that it would take me to other parts of South East Asia.

A big part of my role is to help develop branding and marketing plans for our company’s six Christian international schools. I love it. These schools are developing global leaders with a solid world view. But finding professional peers in this category with marketing experience is not easy. This was a big motivation for me when I accepted an offer to present a workshop on marketing at the annual East Asian Regional Conference of Schools (EARCOS) conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ( Although I was given the envious spot of the last session on the last day of the conference, the room was packed. The session went fantastic and I was able to meet several others with whom I will be able share ideas.

Here are just a few shots of Kuala Lumpur:


(L) Petronas Towers (the second tower is blocked by the first) – two of the tallest buildings in the world and (R) a woman selling food by the side of the road – Malaysia is a heavily Muslim country and wearing head coverings is quite common.

(L) Downtown Kuala Lumpur – being quite close to the equator it was refreshingly tropical. Note cars drive on the left side of the road and (R) the front of the International School of Kuala Lumpur – a massive international school of about 1500 students – we got to tour their campus as a part of the conference.


Dan’s Haiku [or not*]

Okay,so haikus are Japanese and we live in China. But they are wonderfully short. I ‘wrote’ this on the way from work tonight.

Night falls. Biking fast.
Headlights from oncoming trucks
Reveal the way home.

[* So after I wrote this I asked Zachary to read it. Apparently this week in school his class wrote haikus. He has just informed me that this is in fact NOT a haiku because “it is not about nature”. So this is just a poem. Sorry to have gotten your hopes up.]

We post a lot pictures of the kids – mostly because they are exponentially cuter than we are. But we have feelings too. This is Sara and I at the Chinese wedding we attended recently.


100 Words

Today we feature fellow Tianjin resident and guest blogger, Melva Whaley. Melva is our dear friend from our home fellowship in Grand Rapids. If ever there was a story about stepping out of one’s comfort zone, it is Melva’s. She is from a small town in Michigan called Cadillac (population like 30 – half of which was her family). After never living far from Cadillac and being on two international flights in her life (and one was to visit us last Christmas!), she moved here last summer. She is making a massive difference at our international school with her expertise in special education and learning styles. Transitioning to life in China is never easy, but she has been a champ.

I thought you might like the extract from a recent email of hers about language acquisition and a recent English corner. She is pictured below on the right with roommate and another dear GR friend, Rachel Meyer.


“My Lao shi (teacher) pointed out to me this week that I now know 100 Chinese words. What this means in daily life that I can tell a taxi driver to go straight, turn left, turn right, and stop. I can call for a waiter at a restaurant. I can order chicken, beef, and pork. I can ask if it spicy or not. I can ask for my bill and say whether the food was delicious or not so good. I can tell a merchant I don’t want something. Ask how much it cost and say it is too expensive. This pretty much gives me enough language to get in trouble because people then think I understand them. So then I am back to “ting bo dong” (I don’t understand) or “bo chi doa” (I don’t know)

Tonight at my English corner a girl pulled a children’s BOOK from the shelf. The brought up a lot of questions as to what American believe about this BOOK. Also why is it divided into two parts? Are all American taught this from childhood? Do people live like they believe it? Do I live like I believe it? Very interesting and tough questions I don’t feel as I answered well. Please think about those young people.” ~ MLW