Respect for Elders

I understand that, based on the teachings of Confucius, respect for elders has been the foundation of Chinese culture and morality for more than a thousand years. 
Last summer, when the teachers in my workshop learned my age (only 60) they referred to me as a “senior citizen” and were astounded that I would still be working; they said that their moms (who are my age) live with them, are taken care of, and do very little work other than play with the little one (their words). I must admit that there have been a few times when I’ve longed to retire in China at 60 rather than continue working in the US until 70 or so. My 81-year-old mother, by the way, just recently quit working. 
While wandering around the streets of Shanghai this past week, I’ve frequently seen an elderly person on the arm of a younger person — I assume a daughter or son. I compared this sweet relationship to our seemingly barbaric practice of putting our elderly in nursing homes.

But I googled it tonight, initially searching for Confucius’ teachings on the relationship between parent and child and on showing respect to the elderly. My search eventually led me to disturbing information that challenges my previous conception that those over 60 live out their golden years in ease.
The traditional social security system in China has been the family. But, according to the  sources I read tonight, that support is dwindling. See  “ELDERLY PEOPLE, RETIREMENT AND GRAYING OF CHINA.” In addition, it seems that there is a shortage of nursing homes and retirement centers.
With China’s one child per family policy, there are fewer children to take care of mom when she can no longer support herself. In many rural areas, with the flight of young people to the cities, dad’s situation is precarious. A Time article dated August 31, 2011, “100 Million Elderly: China’s Demographic Time Bomb,” indicates that many of China’s growing population of old people live alone and many in hardship. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

This quote by Billy Crystal says it all:

My granddaughter’s birth has made me want to create things she will love.

I hope that through my teaching, I can help to create a world in which she is safe. I hope that through the pictures I take, I can create memories for her.

I find it interesting that when I’m at home, I might go two weeks without seeing my son, daughter-in-law, and my GRANDDAUGHTER. However, here I am on the other side of the world with an ocean dividing us, and I am missing them horribly after only one week; I ache a bit to realize that I won’t see them for a little more than a month. It must be horribly painful for those in our military to leave their families for a year or so.

I took this shot last Saturday night, just a few hours before leaving the country.

Exploring Shanghai with Flamidwyfe.

When I started blogging in January, I viewed it as an isolated endeavor, a forum in which to practice writing and photography and to record events in my travels and daily life.  It did not occur to me that I would develop friendships online. There are several people whose blogs I follow closely and I have begun to get a sense of the person behind the blog.

Although I do not share intimate aspects of my life on my blog, I do share enough that those who follow it know quite a bit about me. Because I’ve written about my travels and job in China last summer, I’ve “talked with” quite a few English speaking bloggers who live in this vast country.

One such person is Sandi, an American who lives and works in Hangzhou, about an hour from Shanghai. She writes an inspirational blog about her profession as a midwife and about her incredible weight loss journey. Check it out: Flamidwyfe’s Blog.

What a treat today when Sandi met me in Shanghai! As we explored the city via foot, subway, bus, and taxi, I found that I like this strong, intelligent, and funny woman who grew up just a stone’s throw from where I lived and taught in Florida (we both miss the South Florida beaches).

Meet my friend Sandi

It’s rare for me to be on this side of the camera lens.

Sandi is more outgoing than I am; I like to hide behind the camera or at the edge of the crowd. She asserts her way across the chaotic intersection and with shopkeepers, but she also reaches out and talks to people.

And then, Sandi took me to a hamburger place; I had a big, juicy HAMBURGER! The Blue Frog .. What a treat!

I don’t know if I’ll see Sandi in person again, but I’m sure that we will continue to relate through our blogs and email. (I love the Internet!)

Reason, Season, or Lifetime

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

— Unknown

Traffic Model

I find that a lot of people shy away from my camera; however, as I was waiting to cross the street, this traffic assistant continued to stare at it. Initially, being the paranoid woman that I am, I thought I’d done something wrong, that I should not be taking pictures in public.

Then I asked him (words & pointing) if he wanted me to take his picture. He gave a big grin and nodded yes. As I focused the lens on him, he took on this official pose. Cool guy!

Crossing Guard

Friday Alone in Shanghai

As I find my way around this fabulous city by myself, I wish more and more that I could communicate; I make feeble attempts with my Chinese/English Dictionary. Sometimes I use Google Translate. Both strategies have left me and my victim confused and frustrated. Occasionally, however, I find someone who is willing to laugh with me; today, they were all far too serious.

I needed to exchange a $100 for Chinese currency (RNB). To begin with, it took at least five stops and numerous confused inquires before I found the bank that would perform this service for me. Next, I had to get past the guard who instructed me to fill out a form in triplicate and to sign a paper written exclusively in Chinese. (I had no idea what I was agreeing to.) As I sat in the chairs waiting for my number to come up, I was reminded of the interminable waits at the DMV before it was possible to renew car registration online.

Eventually, my number was called. I had to produce my passport and present my information (filled out in triplicate). But wait! I had crossed off a minor mistake which is not acceptable and once again, I was instructed to write all of my personal information on the form in triplicate.

Then, something about my passport raised some flags (or so it seemed). The young woman behind the glass enclosure typed in my critical data, compared my passport to the information on the computer screen, called two other women over for consultation, fiddled with my passport, bent it, curved it, turned if over and over. I envisioned myself being taken into some back room. Did I have the number of the US state department with me? No, it was back at the hotel. Would my sons know how to find me? What on earth had I done to merit such scrutiny? These and at least 17 other questions and concerns raced through my mind during the seemingly endless wait.

Probably, everything was quite routine, but it unnerved me. When the young woman behind the glass wall finally started counting out the money, and filling out no less than four receipts, and passing to me the copy of my information written in triplicate, and the money, and then my passport, I breathed.

Now, I know why I was told that it’s easier to use the debit card at the ATM.

Functional currency safely stowed away, I was at liberty to do some people watching. This young woman fascinated me. What catches her eye as she speeds down the street, pulling her load? What is she thinking? (Click on any image to see it full size.)

Dumplings, Blue Sky, and Massage

What a delightful day! My friends took me to Yang’s Fried-Dumplings, the Bund, and …. drum roll please …. the massage place! After my 3-hour meandering yesterday, I was slightly embarrassed when they guided me this afternoon. It seems that I had turned right when I should have turned left. However, the massage was well worth the wait.

That chicken was still pecking away on the sidewalk along Wuding Lu.

All in all, a wonderful day in Shanghai, Thursday, June 21.


Ni Hao Shanghai

I arrived in this beautiful city last night and have enjoyed walking in the streets around my hotel. The skies are cloudy, hinting of rain; however, I have not yet seen a drop. I am savoring the food as I had not found a single restaurant in Phoenix that serves authentic Chinese food and I have missed the delicious flavors and textures of the dishes here.

The shot below is from my stay here last summer. I am looking forward to roaming the city with my camera in hand again.

Shanghai Street

The Blessings of Good-bye

I’ve wanted to write about the experience, but each time I sit with my red leather journal or at the computer, words fail. Yet …. I need to write about it. Perhaps someday it will come out. I had written a little bit about my father’s battle with Alzheimer’s previously (Hope).

Daddy’s Hands in Prayer: He truly possessed the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Last week was intense. Daddy went into the hospital Tuesday night and was released Wednesday night to go home to die, at his request. My mother, all of my brothers and sisters (I am the oldest of 10), and most of his 21 grandchildren were with him in his last days. We kept vigil, sometimes praying, sometimes telling stories, sometimes laughing, sometimes sleeping, from Wednesday evening until Friday morning.

We were all standing around his bedside as he took his last breath on Friday morning, June 8. His death was dignified and peaceful. Although we are enormously sad, we are thankful that his struggles and pain are over and that he and my family, especially my mother, are spared further ravages of that horrid disease Alzheimer’s.

I am blessed that I was able to be with him. Had this happened just two weeks later, I would have been on the other side of the world.

I am blessed that I had the opportunity to stand by his head, with my older son beside me, during his last moments.

I am blessed that he was where he wanted to be, at home. There were no tubes, lights, monitors, machines, strange sounds and scents … only the peaceful sounds of prayer and soft tears.

I am blessed to have spent five days with my large family; by Monday, both of my sons were with me. Because we are spread across the country, it is rare that all of us are in one place at the same time. Our father brought us together in a very special reunion.

One of Daddy’s favorite Bible verses is from 2 Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day —and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:7-8 NIV)

He has finished his race, he has kept the faith, and he now has his crown of righteousness.

Alzheimer’s had stolen bits and pieces of my father over the last several years so that he was only a shell of the great man he once was. He suffered with breathing problems and heart problems, and throughout his life he lived in constant pain in his feet and his back.

He had only an 8th grade education, but he was as intelligent as people with triple the amount of education. His mind was sharp and clear; he could calculate any problem, design (and build) a kitchen or a house. I rarely saw him just sit and rest; he was always working on something, whether hoeing in the garden or building a piece of furniture (after putting in 8 – 10 hours in the factory).

I am blessed to be his daughter, and I am doubly blessed to be able to spend his last hours on this earth with him.

I don’t have a picture to share; I took some, but they are private. However, as I left the church after the reception, I glimpsed a bee hard at work. Because my father worked so very hard all of his life, I thought it appropriate that this bee would be there for me.

taken with Canon G12

As we watch…

I am in Indiana. My father’s journey is about to end. His wife, his ten children, many of his grandchildren,  and numerous friends have gathered to say goodbye.

He is truly the kindest, most generous, most Godly man I know.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Today

Today, June 1, 2012: An exhausting, challenging, troublesome day with its moments of brilliance and moments of drudge. I’ve described the day lived by most of us, haven’t I?

After 14 hours of more move-in tasks, (will it ever end?) I experimented with my camera this evening, trying techniques hitherto foreign to me (I’ve always thought that word, hitherto, to be remarkably silly and pretentious and I just wanted to slip it in here, just for fun).

This first one is an exercise in using two flashes. For many of you, this may be something you do without thinking (when I watched son — the pro — do this the other evening it seem so terribly easy –Well it’s NOT!)  I used the “master-slave” flash with a Willow Tree figurine of a father & son. (I don’t even know if I’m using the right terminology.)

Later, the moon called me to my back patio.

When I saw these images on the computer I was surprised by the position of the moon in the two shots, taken four minutes apart. Can you see the shift? Look at the bottom of each shot (what I think of as the navel).

Taken at 10:40 PM

Taken at 10:44 PM

The last shot is simply Artie who is keeping me company this weekend while his people (my son & his family) are out of town. And that’s the end of my day, June 1, 2012. Good night, all.

Artie is tiny but fierce. He’s old, he coughs and wheezes, he can’t see or hear very well, but he is a super-cool little dog who told me he wants to stay with me.