(click here for 2019) (click here for 2017)
Dec 31, 2018
On Dec 21 we arrived at the HK airport as the morning sun hit a row a real Christmas trees out front. (“Everything” is imported in HK, and hence it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world.) The pine smell took me back to a childhood of “real” trees, and the decorations reminded me of countless Christmas parties in our home in China, surrounded by students interested in learning more about this remarkable, historical story. [You can see some old photos at <http://www.krigline.com/xmxmas13.htm>.] We left the Chicago airport after nightfall, and arrived in Columbia SC, 28 hours after leaving our HK apartment, tired but ready to enjoy the joyous holiday.
On Sunday, after church, we gathered with our extended SC family, enjoyed a feast of Chinese take-out, watched the kids open gifts, decorated cookies, and went to see “the Lights Before Christmas” at the Columbia zoo. In the week that followed, we also greeted friends and enjoyed meals with the family. The photos below show our daughter Beth and her family on Christmas morning. “Family” certainly must be one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity!
On Dec 31 we flew to Ohio to be with Michael’s Mom, and soon our son and his wife…. But that trip will have to wait until “next year’s blog”! We return to Hong Kong around Jan 22.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!
Dec 12, 2018
As I wrap up this year’s blog, let me wish you and yours a Merry Christmas!! In spite of all the other demands on my time, I’ve edited several of my old Christmas-related pages, and added them to either this website or EFLsuccess.com. If you’ve never put the whole “Christmas story” in chronological order, I encourage you to look at the first linked post:
the traditional Christmas story, who is Santa (圣诞老人)?, candy canes, the pre-Christmas Advent season; and some great holiday films: A Snoopy/Charlie Brown Christmas, Last Holiday, White Christmas (other holiday resources are on our older website)
That’s all I have time to write for now! We will be in the US for Christmas and January with family and friends (plus a little work!).
Nov 11, 2018
We’ve been back in HK for a month now—how time flies when you are busy! The temperature outside is finally cool enough so that you can walk a bit without sweating, so Vivian and I have ventured out a few times (see below). I’ve also found a way to get exercise while at work. While in the US, I saw workers with desks that raised/lowered (so you can work sitting or standing), and my office agreed that this would be better than the make-shift table I’ve been using for the past 7 years. I like it! (Maybe I’ll get a picture next month.) I even got the “hand-crank” version from Ikea instead of the “motorized” version. According to their ad, just by cranking it up and down once a day, you burn enough calories to eat another pastry!
Another highlight can be seen in the split photo below; I was invited to lead worship for two groups within the past week. Music has long played a positive role in my life (especially emotionally), and when I was a teacher I always enjoyed the chance to share songs during holidays and end-of-term celebrations. I know lots of people who do this better than I do, so such opportunities are rare in HK, but I’m grateful when they come. (If you’ve never heard my songs, you can listen here.)
My hope to add “old pages” to this website every week has certainly not happened often, but I recently spent the time to add photos and narrative about our 2001 trip to Turkey. I hope to “move” some Christmas pages next month.
Oct 14, 2018
We are back in Hong Kong after three weeks in the US (for me; after a week in China) and two months (for Vivian). While in the US, we did things we needed to do, had to do, and got to do. In turn, I’ll write about a daughter’s loving duty, difficulties we dealt with, and things that delight us as members of an earthly and heavenly “family”.
“Needed to do”
There’s a deep need in the human heart to care for one’s parents. In the east, they call this filial piety; in the middle east (i.e., in Jewish and Christian circles) this is the subject of the fifth of God’s “ten commandments”: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exod 20:12 ESV. This “need” is so closely mixed with “love” that it’s difficult to separate the motives for our actions, but it was this necessity that sent Vivian to her mother’s bedside on Aug 9. She was blessed with the chance to spend ten more days with her mother, Esther, before she peacefully slipped from the troubles of this life into the next. Living so far from the family and friends we love, Vivian was very grateful for the chance to be there at this special time, as Michael was last Easter when his Dad slipped from this life.
Esther—as a Christian who for most of her life has loved and served Jesus (two more things that are hard to distinguish from each other)—did not fear death; and those of us who were left behind have Jesus’ own promise that those who have faith in the redemptive act of His crucifixion will be united in Him forever—and thus we will see Esther again. This truth is of great comfort when a loved-one comes to the end of his/her earthly life. The Bible says that we humans were created to live forever, and that the choices we make in our short lives will determine where and how we will spend eternity. The wisdom penned by some of my favorite authors talks about this far better than I can, so let me share a few insightful quotations.
—”If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” —C.S Lewis
—“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” —Fyodor Dostoyevsky
—”[My accident taught me] that when you are strapped to a body board after a serious accident, that concentrates the mind. During those seven hours… all that mattered boiled down to a few basic questions: Who do I love? Who will I miss? What have I done with my life? And am I ready for what is next?” —Philip Yancey
—“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and in the life to come.” —Henri Nouwen
—GK Chesterton says that one of the primary elements of life is “the primary and overpowering yet impalpable impression that the universe after-all has one origin and one aim, and because it has an aim it must have an author.” “Atheism is abnormality. It is not merely the denial of a dogma, it is the reversal of a subconscious assumption in the soul: the sense that there is a meaning and a direction in the world it sees.”—GK Chesterton
—CS Lewis says (like Isaiah) that we are all “rebels” and that one reason why we must surrender from the rebellion is because we were designed to live forever. If we constantly get a bit worse (bad temper, jealousy, etc), it might be manageable during your lifetime… “But it might be absolute hell in a million years. In fact, if Christianity is true, Hell is the precisely correct technical term for what it would be.”
—“There is not and cannot be in the whole world such a sin that the Lord will not forgive one who truly repents of it. A man even cannot commit so great a sin as would exhaust God’s boundless love. How could there be a sin that exceeds God’s love?” —Fyodor Dostoyevsky—“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” —Martin Luther
—“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure. Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.”—David (Ps 39:4-7)
And finally, Esther had a plaque in her kitchen, hand-written by her mother in the 1960s, and bearing another of my favorite quotes (from a man, incidentally, who had served in China in the late 19th century):
—”Only one life ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” —CT Studd
“Had to do”
Whereas my comments about things we “needed to do” flowed from love, we also spent a lot of time doing things that simply “had to be done,” unrelated to positive emotions like love, fun or joy. These included dealing with the legalities of Esther’s passing, discussions with those who tend the graveyard, and of course seemingly countless hours spent in transport: planes, trains, subways, rental or borrowed cars, taxis, airports, hotels, and so forth. Much of life (at least for us) is made up of things we “have to do.” Some people think that the hassles of travel are good reason to never venture far from home, but Vivian and I believe just the opposite! We would miss being with many valuable friends, seeing awesome places, and doing unusual things, if we were unwilling to do what is necessary to get around.
“Got to do” (that is, deeply wanted to do)
The phrase “I got to do it” can be confusing to English-learners, because it can also sound like “necessity” (compare: “I’ve got to do my homework tonight!”). But we “get to” do the things we enjoy, and the verb sometimes even implies an unexpected or usual delight. This is really why we travel! On this trip, we got to attend a beautiful wedding, see cherished relatives, be with our children and grandchildren, and spend time with friends. We even “got to” make new friends in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and had the unexpected joy of talking about our work at three universities (I always love being around students!). We also got to see the beautiful mural in Philadelphia (shown above), visit an awesome new museum in DC, speak with a movie director for an hour in LA, and take our grandkids to Legoland! We are very grateful for all of these blessings!
We’ve been back in the Hong Kong for over a week now, and I’m typing this at 2:30 am, which shows that getting over “jet lag” has been particularly difficult this time! Maybe our advancing age has something to do with that!
Aug 15, 2018
When I was a teacher, I looked forward to the summer. Sometimes we got to visit the US; normally I didn’t have a lot of classes to teach, and thus summers were more relaxed for the whole family. Life is certainly different as the director of a charity. Not only do we have HOT Hong Kong to deal with, but this job doesn’t have natural “seasons” to rest, so if you are not careful it is easy to overwork all the time. At the beginning of the summer, I managed to balance work with the rest of life, but July and Aug have been challenging. We’ve dealt with (among other things) unexpected family situations in the US, orientation for new workers, staff reviews, changes at the office, key projects to plan, and a new computer (faster speed, but making old software obsolete, which means investing hours to get used to replacements!). Another big factor was the decision for Vivian to return to the US again, helping to care for her mother for a while. So, I carry on in HK without the strong “right arm” of my wife! And while I’ve not been able to keep my “goal” of weekly work on my websites, I did update the “Cancer Survivor Report” about our friend Gabe, Vivian added uplifting thoughts (see caption under her photo), and I added an EFL Movie Study Guide for Finding Nemo.
I’ll give you a glimpse into the rest of our month through the following photos and captions, for those who enjoy reading about our lives.
Jul 12, 2018
While I don’t have photos to show for it, I’ve been busy with work (I worked 85 hours last week, mainly helping two new families bring their expertise to China) and also busy tweaking my websites–trying to keep the “goal” I wrote about in June. I’ve added photos to the slider on the home page, and recategorized my “writings”. I added a bit to my “hospital adventures” page. You’ll find an article on How to Pray (plus a worksheet), as well as a Beijing photo page and poem called Reminiscence. On EFLsuccess.com, you’ll find an updated Movie Guide for Steel Magnolias.
Jun 13, 2018
The stitches are now gone, and my experiences at the out-patient clinic continued to impress me. I had a nurse change the dressing twice, and then remove the stitches. Each time, three “student nurses” were present to watch and learn — and since I love being around students, I actually enjoyed having them there. Some spoke to me in Mandarin, others in English. God bless them as they enter this noble profession!
Today and last Wednesday I’ve actually “accomplished” something on my websites. I’d read recently that people in the service industry (like Vivian and me, since moving to HK) know in our heads that we are making a difference, but we have little to show for the hours we spend on a computer or preparing for meetings. Thus, the author said, we need to find “other things” to do that have more tangible results. I guess that’s why my brother loves fixing-up houses. Well, I’m trying to update or move a page from my old website to this one (or EFLsuccess.com) each week. Last week, I moved and updated my movie guide for “Jungle Book“; this week I updated my “Half-the-world” page and added the article spawned by that visit to the Soviet Union, published in a US magazine in 1990. If you are interested, take a look!
May 29, 2018
I was very happy with how everything went this morning at the Queen Elizabeth hospital, as they removed a carcinoma from my face “with wide margin.” I arrived as scheduled at 9am, obviously before the throngs begin to come (see May 22 photo of the same room). Actually, that’s on the same floor, but it is a different ward. The first window I waited at was the wrong window. (The hospital signs could be clearer, and there was no one around to “ask” who spoke English or Mandarin — the people I tried just pointed and grunted.) Once I found the right ward, there were normal allergy/etc questions, blood-pressure test, talk to the operating doctor, etc. I wasn’t surprised this time when they told me to take off “everything” (my wedding ring gave me no little difficulty, as it hasn’t left my finger since my 2014 neck surgery in HK). Unlike western outpatient clinics, which (in my limited experience) do such face-surgery procedures in their office, with you wearing your normal clothes, today was “full surgery” in the “theatre”. While I waited with a handful of others, all wearing (ONLY) the hospital’s flannel pajamas, I was grateful that I was allowed to listen to a book on my phone. I was also grateful for the blanket they provided (in HK, you rarely need a jacket outside, but need one inside about half the year because of very cold AC). Around 10:45 they called and briskly walked me to the “operating theatre”. From here, things are a blur–in part because I wasn’t wearing glasses! I guess there were six or eight in the room (including the young doctor), all acting very professional. I asked if people spoke English and offered to use Mandarin instead; Dr Ivan said they all spoke English, and said their English was better than their Mandarin. Next came numbing shots, a heated blanket, lots of dabbing to sterilize, covering my left eye with some sort of special tape (to prevent infection), drops in my right eye (which I couldn’t open to help the nurse), and some sort of covering for my entire face–which then was “opened” so the affected area alone was exposed. I suppose the surgery itself took about 15 minutes. The only (slight) discomfort was an itch in my left ear, which of course I had to ignore. I silently sang hymns and recited Bible verses, trying to stay as calm as possible. (Next time, I need to prepare by practicing hymns with a cadence similar to my heartbeat–for I could hear the monitor beeping throughout.) When it was over, they asked me to relax for half an hour in the original waiting room; then I could put my clothes back on, and after another blood-pressure test went to find the cashier. It cost a total of 195HKD ($25US), only slightly more expensive than the visit at which this appointment was set up. Yes, there are private clinics, which charge “American” prices (I remember that the deposit for a similar procedure at Evangel Hospital in 2014 was 15,000HKD), but as a full-time employee and resident in HK, I’m entitled to use the public medical system, so I did. The stitches are supposed to be removed at a local outpatient clinic on June 5 (for about 20HKD). I’m sure that working in a busy hospital like this, with so many patients in a place like HK, is not easy. But I was very impressed by the whole affair — and I’m grateful for the efficient, professional, kind way I was treated.
May 22, 2018
On April 23, Vivian flew to the US for a month, mainly because her mother had taken ill. But our daughter lives in the same city so Vivian also got to spend time with the family. She even drove Beth and her family north one weekend, where they could rendezvous with our son and his fiancee. Meanwhile in HK, a spot on my face was evaluated and determined to be skin cancer. The main surgery will be May 29, after Vivian returns to HK (she is flying as I type). Since I’ve been putting in too many long days, I took Mon-Wed off this week; I’m catching up on my blog in an environment very different than our downtown apartment!
Apr 22, 2018
After Dali, we made work-related trips to Chengdu and Wuhan, before returning to Hong Kong.
Here is a friend’s translation of the “tiger story”:
“Choke tiger to save father” ~ Yang Yi was a man living in the Jin Dynasty. One day when he was 14, he was harvesting rice in the field with his father. But suddenly a fierce tiger came. It threw his father to the ground and tried to drag him away (you can tell what the tiger was thinking about). Without any weapons, the boy forgot to consider his own safety and started to choke the tiger with all his strength to save his father. The tiger eventually gave up and ran away. (The traditional virtue being promoted is filial piety.)
–My Chinese translator’s comment: Now we can see many public displays like this. They are all about traditional Chinese culture and morality (that are advocated by modern values). They are efforts to cope with the current degeneration of morality, and they have all been produced after President Xi came into office. Before that, many things related to “Chinese tradition” were simply regarded as old or out-of-fashion, which is terribly wrong.
–Michael’s comment: I’m glad to see this effort to laud Chinese traditional culture and values. Any culture that refuses to learn from it’s past is doomed to repeat its mistakes, while a healthy mix of “old and new” can help the culture move forward.
Apr 20, 2018
I need to backtrack to start the trip in Kunming. Next we headed to Dali, and I made a solo trip to Xi’an and back. The agenda for the next few days was “rest” (with a little work).
Apr 13, 2018
After visiting five cities in two weeks, we fly back to Hong Kong in the morning. Here are a few photos of my quick overnight trip to Xi’an.
Mar 31, 2018
Tomorrow is Resurrection Day, so “Happy Easter!”
As March turns into April, we are enjoying Kunming, where we lived from 2005-2010. We came for meetings (here and in various cities), but we are always thrilled when we get to see old friends. Tomorrow we fly to Dali. We return to HK in mid-April.
Feb 28, 2018
We returned to Hong Kong from Thailand just minutes before February ran out. Our work-related conference went very well, and though it is exhausting it is always a highlight of our year. I’ll try to bring you up to date with some photos.
I’ll close with three more photos, without captions. But you can read my thoughts about these shells in a new article called “Some Thoughts from the Beach.”
Jan 29, 2018
Once again I’ve put off adding my first comments of the month until the last few days. So, how has 2018 started? I’m too busy to blog, but that goes without saying. Though I don’t like to say much about my HK job on my website, “work” has had it’s ups and downs; the best news is that we finally welcomed two new Directors to our Board, after searching for a year. We are grateful for this needed addition. Both men are old friends, so you can see one (a decade ago) on the photo-page I added during this month: the DaQin post shows photos of a Chinese pagoda and historical stone tablet that have been around for 1400 years. (The post’s content was mostly copied from my old website, but I’m grateful for every “bit” of www.krigline.com that moves to this WordPress replacement site.) Below, you’ll also see that our daughter sent cute photos of the grandchildren. Here in HK it has been cool and it has rained some, both inside and out (picture below). We are ten working days from our trip to Thailand to lead a work-related conference and orientation (hence the lack of time, right?). And finally, Chinese New Year will take place while we are abroad. In other words, in spite of my long hours, there hasn’t been much to blog about; nonetheless, I’ll post a few photos anyway to let you know we are still here, and we’re grateful for all who try to keep up with us online.
(click here for Jan-Dec 2017 blog)
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