In December of 2011, my Father suffered a debilitating stroke which left him with acute aphasia and paralysis on his right side. As part of his road to recovery, my Mother has brought him to The First Teaching Hospital of Tianjin University where he, at the time of this writing, is undergoing extensive stroke recovery treatments. This is her journal...

September 3

Ok, I'm tired of being stared at. Tianjin is not a tourist town so they don't see many of us. There are some expats living here and a few students on a study abroad program but in a city of 12 million or so we're kinda sparse. The city is densely populated with most people living in small apartments. There are no single houses that I have seen. It's a lot like New York that way. Crowds everywhere. The staring, though, is unabashed. Sometimes, in close quarters like the elevator, they will quickly look away if I catch their eye but I know they've been staring. I can feel them.

Sometimes the staring is just curiosity and sometimes they're really pleased to see us.

Other times, not so much.

(note the Amway bag)

September 4

Peter is making huge strides now. Wong had him walking up the stairs in the hospital lobby. His leg is getting so much stronger. We will have him do that every day till we go home. It's wonderful exercise.

Had lunch with Hensley's mother today. I wasn't sure she could speak English. HA! She speaks five languages. She's originally from CuraƧao but moved to Holland forty years ago. Hensley was born there and till now had never lived anywhere else. His mother, Yvette, speaks Papiamento, (the native language of the Caribbean), English, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish. She's an incredibly interesting person and I enjoyed being with her. She came up to say hello to Peter too.

September 5

We skyped with Arthur this morning and Arthur encouraged him to continue with the hyperbaric chamber. He said he should be pleased because he has come such a long way. Michelle also said that she notices an increase in his speech after a session. I agree. He took it all in and will finish the six or so he has left. Hurrah.

Michelle is still holding her speech class for Ashley and Peter every day. He goes to her room and I don't go in because he doesn't always do as well with me around.

Peter is famous. I got to the hospital early this morning and went to the physical therapy room. There is a television right outside of it. I glanced up at it and did a double take cause there was Peter going through his exercises. At first I thought it was a closed circuit, but it showed different angles and shots. Wow, he really is on there. He had actually already gone upstairs. I guess they're proud of their western clients.

September 6

Another rainy day. I hope it's nice on Sunday this week because the trip to the Great Wall is supposed to happen. We're close to the sea so anything can happen. The forecast changes daily.

Went shopping with Yvette, Hensley's mother today. Finally found a jacket to wear. Got one for Peter weeks ago, but haven't found one for me I liked. Now watch the weather get hot again.

This may be a communist country but you'd never know it. First, everybody has an iPhone. Stores are everywhere, most playing American rock and roll. Almost all signs have English under the Chinese characters. There are countless commercials on every channel. There is even an MTV type music channel that shows Michael Jackson inspired music videos with Chinese singers, though they still sound like birds. Apple products are particularly prized and every block has a suspicious "authorisrd" Apple Store. Check out the sign.

September 7

Can't believe so much time has gone already. Exactly two weeks from today we will be home. Ken and Sue are not going to be happy because we've had a lot of fun and Esther and Ashley are not interested in going out. There is a rumor that some more Americans are coming so maybe they will pick up the slack. I'm sorry to leave as Peter has made such great progress. He's able to walk on his own now and climbs the stairs every day. Refused the hyperbolic chamber again though. Shoot. I cajoled as I've been told only I can, but no luck. I'm sure that image he has of me grew a few more warts.

September 8

Went to the water park again today. It's Saturday so no treatments in the afternoon. It a gorgeous day, too. The zoo is connected to this park so we decided to go in. Peter and Ken shared some humor over the star attraction but a little girl found no humor in what was for her the strangest thing she had ever seen. A weird looking man in a stroller.

September 9

Well, today was the Great Wall day. We left at 7:00 this morning and what do you know! Esther and Ashley came out of their hole. Maybe they'll be a little more adventurous now. We were 12 in the bus. Peter and me, Ken and Sue, Esther and Ashley, our three helpers, Ruth, Liu and her husband. They're the ones who's daughter is getting married next weekend.

We were on the bus for four hours getting there because of a fog delay on the main road. We were diverted to the secondary roads. It was interesting to go through all the little towns. You never know what you might see.

When we got there there was a steep rocky hill that led to further stairs up to the wall. Peter (with a rest along the way) and the others made it up that first hill but there was no way they could go any further. I told Wong that we had been on the Great Wall before anyway, so why didn't he go up instead. He jumped at the chance and went up with Chau, Kens helper. I don't think they had ever been on it before because they both bought a T-shirt that said "I Climbed the Great Wall of China (in English). We got them for Peter and Ken too and they'll all wear them out to dinner tomorrow.

The best part was lunch. Ruth chose a beautiful spot on a lake. Across the clear water were rolling hills with the Great Wall running along the crest of it. How charming. Then we saw the building. At first we thought it was someone's house because it was surrounded by fruit trees and dense foliage. We saw an open (torn) screened building with a young woman bending over a bowl in front of it. When we looked closer, we saw that she was PLUCKING A CHICKEN! The head was hanging to the side. Wait, it gets better. There was squawking in the lower driveway and there was a guy with a cleaver chasing another chicken. I'm not kidding. I couldn't watch but I think we had that chicken for lunch about a half hour later. The cooking apparatus was all outside in the yard. A sort of makeshift grill with a big wok in it and something that looked like a smoker. That's it. The open pavilion and the cooking stuff outside. When we sat down, they went into the yard and came back with a big pear for everyone, hard as a rock. That was our starter. Then dish after dish came out. Egg dishes, mushroom dishes, a big fish that was in the wok when we arrived and a big platter of tiny little fish LOOKING AT US. You're supposed to eat the whole thing but, no way Jose. We didn't. Then, the chickens were served in a big bowl. A disgusting foot with a big toenail sticking right out of it. Are they serious? Glad we had eaten a lot of the noodle and egg dishes. They weren't gross. I know they were doing their best, and the food certainly was fresh but killing it in front of you? Really?