My Photo
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

This blog is a record of events in the life of Joseph Taggart and his family since his spinal cord injury while body surfing in Guatemala in January 2006.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Winding Things Up in Qingdao

This is Joseph's latest update from Qingdao he has invited Matt to add portions as well. Here is a preface and the update:

I have been able to upload plenty of photos to Facebook. Feel free to check them out if you're interested. This last album is entirely filled with photos taken from the market we found the other day. Lots of interesting things to look at.-- Joe

Friday, June 6
Joe --

Friday morning we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the Qingdao LDS branch president. He and his wife both came to discuss with the three of us the needs the branch has here in Qingdao. Of course dad was anxious to discuss how audiovisual media could help. We were able to leave a few DVDs for the branch here, as well as for a small group of members (a twig?) meeting in a city about six hours away. Most of our discussion is inappropriate for the blog, given the current political situations here in China. Once I've returned to the United States if anyone has any questions, I'll be free to answer them. Its enough to say that the stone is rolling forth, and it is filling the Earth.

Matthew --
Friday evening – there was a nice pot luck dinner here at the hospital with all the other patients and staff. The food was good and the company even better. Peter, (our Korean friend from the local branch) had been wanting to take Tim and I to a spa for some time, so while Joseph enjoyed the party, Peter took Tim and I for a guys night out. We arrived at the spa looking forward to good massage and entered the locker room with Peter and his son. He took us to the lockers and said, “ok, take off everything.” Tim and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders and said, ok. We didn’t know we were going to be treated to a public bath as well. We were led into a very large, quite nice, tiled rectangular room. Two of the walls were lined with showers and the other two were lined with a couple of very large bath/hot tub pools and a sauna. So we took a shower, complete with disposable toothbrushes and all, and then relaxed and chatted with Peter in the hot pool. After we got out of the sauna we showered again. It was after this long cleaning process we were then given spa clothing, which consisted of boxer like shorts and a mini robe like top. We entered a large room upstairs where there were several mats on the floor for anyone wanting to take a nap on one side and large lazy boys in front of a large TV on the other side. We were then taken into another separate dark room of just rows and rows of large lazy boy chairs that pretty much reclined into a bed. Two girls promptly came over and began giving Tim and I a full body massage. We thought it was interesting that amongst incorporating several different body parts in the massage (hands, elbows, knees and feet) the massage therapists also did many stretches and adjustments one might experience at a chiropractors office back home. Overall the massage was incredible and relaxing. Its probably a good thing we don’t have a spa like this and at this price back home or else I would pretty much just live there.

Saturday, June 7
Matthew --
Saturday was kind of a lazy day. Tim caught up on a lot of paperwork that needed to be done for work as well as updating the blog, as Joe and I napped in the room and went browsing through a street market we’d recently come across. We found a few good items and got some good pictures as well, the prize of the shopping trip was a beautifully roasted cat. It actually looked quite appetizing (photo above left). Joe and I had seen them before, and after a few days of contemplating, decided we needed to buy one and try it out. It concluded our bizarre cooked animal phase (note the delicious croc).

Last week when we went to the club, the manager had spoken with us and invited us to his restaurant, which was going to open June 6th. So we’d decided to invite some patients and try out this brand new “western” restaurant. Joe was not feeling to well so he decided he’d stay back while the rest of us went. There were nine of us from the hospital that went and the only ones in the restaurant. Apparently it was not officially opened yet, they were going to have a trial week first followed by the advertised grand opening. It was a beautiful restaurant and very nice atmosphere with a jazz theme. Eventually there will even be a live jazz band. The manager was thrilled to see us. The food was, well a noble attempt at “western” food. The salads and soups were fantastic. I thought I’d try the sirloin steak, and sadly enough, even though it tasted like hamburger it was still really good to me. I think the highlight of the night though, was when the three cheeseburgers that were ordered arrived. The servers set them down in front of our friends, and we all looked at each other and looked at the “burgers” and back at each other. Sure enough, the “Cheeseburgers” had no meat on them. It was just a bun, cheese and lettuce. We asked the server where the meat was and he just smiled and pointed at the buns as if to say, “yes, this is your food,” we kept trying to explain through sign language that an important part of the meal was missing and he kept smiling and pointing at the food. The manager came over to see what was wrong and quickly said something in Chinese and the plates were gone. A short time later the buns came back with what we assume and hope was hamburger patties on them. We couldn’t decide what we thought was more entertaining, the fact that they actually brought us hamburgers with no hamburger, or the fact that they didn’t think anything was wrong with that.

(Photo below: chicken hearts on a steak) After we had all finished our meals the manager came over and spoke with me a short while. He asked what we thought of the restaurant and if it was comparable to western restaurants since his was the first in the ChenYang district. I told him it was a very nice restaurant and the food was very good. The hamburger meat was extremely rare and I mentioned that it might be a little too rare for American taste but that overall the food and service was up to par and that I was sure he would find great success. He was very pleased and he motioned to the server who quickly brought over a bottle of wine. He told me he was greatly honored to have me come to his establishment and that he would be honored if I would accept this wine as a token of such. The server had already opened it and poured my glass. Everyone at the table was snickering and laughing because they knew that I was the only one there that did not drink, yet I was the one that he brought the wine to. He watched with great enthusiasm as I smelt the wine and brought it up to my lips and pretended to take a large gulp. I put down the glass, smiled and said “shi shi, hen hao hen hao.” The manager smiled with approval, bowed and left. I then turned and said to the rest of the table, “y’all better drink this wine!” They laughed and were happy to oblige. We paid for our meal and then hopped across the path for another evening of dancing and entertainment at the paradise club.

Sunday, June 8
Matthew --

Sunday was another day of physical therapy in the morning, then acupuncture and electrical stimulation in the afternoon. That afternoon Wendy and Amanda (two good friends of ours who are staff members here at the hospital) came in and invited us to their home to eat dinner and celebrate the Dragon Boat festival with them. Joe was very sad that he could not go seeing as how they live in a second story apartment. Wendy and Amanda were also sad; they had hoped that we could carry him up to their home. I felt really bad leaving Joe yet again for the third night in a row, but yet again Joe told me that it would be ridiculous to pass up this cultural experience and that I should go take pictures so he could see what their home was like.

That evening I went with a few other patients to the Home of Wendy, Amanda (translators) Fiona (one of our favorite nurses) and Martin (one of our favorite Therapists). They have a very nice, cozy apartment. We sat on stools and the one couch that surrounded the coffee table in front of their TV and partook of a fantastic meal. They are all very good cooks. The food consisted of preserved eggs, which were black in color, chicken and potatoes, beef and gourd, and green beans. The Chinese for the most part have bowls, but seem to rarely use them. Mostly you just eat off the main dish with everyone else. It’s kind of funny to see so many chopsticks all diving in a dish and fighting for food. One could almost say if a Chinese man is skinny it is because he never mastered the chopsticks.

After dinner we all just hung out and talked, they put on a movie as I wandered into Martins room and discovered a very small dusty out of tune warped guitar in the corner. Needless to say I was thrilled and Martin was happy to have his guitar tuned. I was very content as I hung out with Martin and Amanda in Amanda’s room just talking and singing and having a good time. Though it was nice to get a small fix, it made me miss Isabel (my guitar) even more. Their movie ended, we said our thanks and goodbyes and walked back to the hospital. It was a rather enjoyable evening and a lot of fun to see some of the staff, our good friends, just relaxed and at home in their own element.

Monday, June 9
Joe --

Today is officially Dragon Boat Day, although it is been celebrated all weekend long today is the official holiday. This meant that things hear the hospital were pretty slow. Not very many staff are on duty, and all physical therapy and acupuncture was canceled. Matt and I took full advantage by sleeping in, doing a little bit of grocery shopping, and sleeping some more. I'd have to say it's probably one of the most relaxing Dragon Boat Days I have ever had :)

Unfortunately a good friend of mine left the hospital today. His name is Zho Ja Ping, but we all just call them George. He was hired on privately by another patient (Michael) here in the hospital who needed some assistance taking care of himself. Basically, George's day consisted of following Michael around helping wherever needed. This meant he had a lot of spare time. During that time he and I would do our best to communicate with each other. From what I could gather, he is originally from Qingdao, he has a daughter who is probably a teenager by now, and he loves his job. We wish you luck in your endeavors George!

Tuesday, June 10
Joe --
A few weeks ago when our good friend Jim Ely(photo left) found out that I was unable to visit city center Qingdao because we did not have access to a wheelchair accessible van, he went to work to remedy the situation. After writing a letter to his good friend, Xia Gang
(photo on right), who also happens to be the mayor of Qingdao city, he called us with the good news. Through his contacts he had arranged for the city to make available to us a wheelchair accessible van and a driver for a day. At 10 o'clock the van arrived at the hospital, with our good friend Andy on board to translate for us.

[note from Dad: Getting the van is one of the great accomplishments of the 21st Century so far! Jim worked with the Qingdao University and the Qingdao Mayor’s office and connected up a van which is for the Para-Olympic Games in summer all for Joseph and Matt’s spectacular adventure in Qingdao. UNBELIEVABLE! Sino-US relations at their best. This merits a line in Joseph's International Relations Major notations].

Joe --
Our goal was to go and see the main tourist attractions in Qingdao. Our first stop was the pier (photo on right) on the coast, which was one of Qingdao's most recognizable landmarks. At the end of the pier is a very traditional looking Chinese building, the Chinese built it after the Germans left Qingdao just before World War I broke out. Inside is quite a nice little gift shop selling pearls and some Chinese antiquities. Matthew and I bought a few small handmade pieces of jewelry from the street vendors for our nieces and nephews back home.

Our second stop was a beautiful European style building called Badaguan Castle (photo below right). It was located just a couple miles up the beach from the pier. The castle is surrounded by a large, and by large I mean about 12 city blocks, park with playgrounds and walking trails everywhere. The castle, made of granite, was built in 1930 by a Russian aristocrat who later sold it to a British businessman. After the cultural Revolution the building was possessed and used as a reception facility and has been ever since. When we were there they were probably 40 to 50 brides they're having their pictures taken at the castle, and down on the beach. It felt quite odd stepping inside a European castle on the eastern coast of China, I kind of felt like I was back in Europe again.

After visiting the castle, we made a quick stop at May 4 Square. It's the Central Park in city center Qingdao, and is surrounded by tall commercial and residential buildings. The Square overlooks the sea and the docks were the Olympic sailing competition will begin later this summer in August. Qingdao city has been decorated head to toe in preparation for the Olympics. Even the neighborhood the hospital is, which is about a 40 minute taxi ride away, has Olympic banners and decorations in every part and on every lamppost. The Chinese are extremely proud to be hosting the Olympics, they see it is a great honor to host the world.

We ended up becoming pretty good friends with Mr. Wang the driver, and we invited him to go to lunch with us. We went to a shopping center nearby that we knew would be wheelchair accessible. Andy said he was in the mood for some Western food, so we ate at the closest Western restaurant. The food was delicious! Matt ordered an Italian pasta dish with shrimp, sausage, and beef in the sauce. I went for the traditional steak and potatoes. Mr. Wang decided to try a steak as well, and he absolutely loved it! After dinner he told us (through Andy translating) that it was the first time he'd ever even Western food, and that it was so good he was anxious to come back with his wife and daughter. Of course he also ordered a small bowl of rice and vegetables on the side so he still felt like he was having an actual "lunch" :)

After lunch we made a quick stop by Qingdao University. This is of course where Andy studies English and Jim Ely teaches with a handful of other teachers brought there through BYU. While we were there we had a chance to thank in person Fang Fang (in Photo on right with Andy and Joseph) who helped coordinate the wheelchair accessible van for us. Andy also gave us a quick walking tour of the entire campus. The first thing we came across was a group of students who were having their graduation photos taken on the steps of the main library. Andy said there is no formal ceremony or speeches or anything of the sorts during a Chinese college graduation. Each class simply gathers on the steps of the library, has their picture taken, and then they are handed their certificate of graduation. Dressing in a cap and gown is a fairly recent trend brought over from the West.

Another interesting part of campus for me was the large domed gymnasium. Inside, large tournaments of ping-pong, badminton and basketball were held. It was also the home arena for the Qingdao Hawks, the local CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) basketball team. I had heard that some American players who were not able to get good contracts in Europe were now heading to China to play in their leagues. Judging by the poster we found, the Qingdao Hawks main star is definitely not Chinese.

I want to express my gratitude for Jim Ely and the Mayor of Qingdao for making this day possible. I have been extremely anxious to get into Qingdao city and see many of its wonderful sites. I've been overwhelmed by the way the Chinese people have treated me ever since my arrival, they have been extremely accommodating given my situation. Matthew and I have gained a strong love and respect for the Chinese people, and certainly enough friendships to last a lifetime.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, guess what I'm the most interested in --the massage! I'm going to have to take a class in Thai massage and get Matt over here! LOL! It has been fantastic reading the adventures of everyone!!!


Jun 14, 2008, 5:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Charie said...

Joseph, you don't know me. My name is Charie and I am going to be moving down to the Shandong province within the coming month. I have been trying to find some way of getting ahold of the branch president in Qingdao to ask if there are any members that meet in the city I will be teaching in which is Weihai. Is there a way that you could email me his contact information or the contact information of someone down there who could answer my question? I would appreciate any help that you could give me because it is so hard to find any contact information online for areas like China.

Jul 20, 2009, 6:48:00 PM  
Blogger Charieb said...

My email is

Jul 20, 2009, 6:49:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Locations of visitors to this page