Health Update 28 June 2018

Again, we were on the 7:05 Seattle ferry for the scheduled Chemo session.  We arrived just in time for the 8 AM appointment and were escorted to Short Stay to access the Pic line for the CT Scan.  Blood was also drawn for test.

No other way to say it.  The test results were not good this time.  CT revealed multiple new lesions throughout the liver and belly, including new lesions in the subpleural area.  Dr. Picozzi and we were all obviously disappointed.  Current Chemo regiment has lost control.  Dr. Picozzi stopped the current treatment and entered me into a stage 2 clinical trial of which I am one of the first patients enrolled.  Recruitment is for 99 patients.

Before acceptance, I had to have an eye exam to document my cataract status.  I’ll get an EKG and more blood work, and I am scheduled for a PET scan Tuesday to document the extent for the metastasis.

Since Chemo has been suspended, the daily infusion of antibiotics have been terminated as well.  The visiting nurse removed my Pic line on Friday and today I enjoyed being able to shower for the first time in nearly seven months!

I apologize for feeling down; I have procrastinated in writing this report.  When my daughter Catherine in Boston heard this news, she immediately arranged for her family of five with 3 grandchildren to visit Mon-Thurs.  Son, David and family of four with two granddaughters came over and spent the night of July third.  We enjoyed each other immensely and had a grand time.  The 5 grandchildren, ages 1,2,4,10,11 could raise anyone’s spirits.  Now my step-son Matthew, Kattarina and 5-year-old Ariana are here for the week-end.  I feel well supported.

The doctor placed me on an anti-depressive, hoping to resolve some of my neuropathy as well as elevate my mood.  But it makes me sleepy all the time.  If I sit, I’ll close my eyes and sleep, sometimes for hours.

WE are hopeful that this clinical trial will do some good.  First report will be after four weeks.  I’ll update a report then.

Remedial Chinese at UW: Humble Pie

After her Junior in HS, my daughter Catherine was selected to attend Harvard University Summer School as a regular college student.  Unbeknownst to any of us, she chose to immerse herself in learning Chinese.  She had taken Japanese at Bainbridge High School but had no knowledge of any Chinese.  Because their mother didn’t speak Chinese, I didn’t share any of my language with my children.  (It was almost impolite).  Even when I spoke with my parents or to my cousins, we spoke English, so everyone could understand.  Besides, I was also trying to use these teaching opportunities to ‘force’ my newly immigrated cousins to learn English and not be so self-conscious or embarrassed.

Money spent for that summer school was well worth it.  Not only did Catherine learned to speak almost perfect pinyin conversational Chinese, she also learned enough characters to write a beautiful one-page letter to Grandpa!  Grandpa proudly carried and showed that letter to his friends whenever he had a chance.  All my cousins also agreed that if they could attend a similar program that taught English with such result, they’d all gladly pay the tuition and join the classes!

Well, after the summer, Catherine returned home and wished to continue studying Chinese, so she enrolled at the University of Washington evening school.  The classes were 7-9 pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It was problematic using public transportation, especially coming home really late, so I agreed to drive her.  At first, I was going to transport her and use the waiting time to do my patients’ charts.  Then it dawned on me that why don’t I sign up as well?  Though I have no problem speaking, I could learn to write more characters and improve my written knowledge base as well.  Catherine and I became classmates!!

Dilemma!!  How should I behave in class?  In my old school days, without much effort, I could out shine anyone in class.  Should I hold back a little to just keep up and let Catherine be the ‘star’?

Having researched the prerequisites, I noticed while driving to our first session that Catherine already had her text and her dictionary.  I did not prepare at all, thinking that the teacher would provide or suggest materials at the first gathering.  Wrong!!

At our first session, the teacher went down the rows and asked each one to try to speak ‘as best as possible’ in Chinese what their goal was for this class.  Each student struggled a little but verbalized his/her purposes very adequately.  Most indicated that they’d wanted to be more fluent in Chinese.  When it was my turn, I simply said that I can converse, but I’d like to read and write better.  After the teacher heard me talking, he asked if I spoke other dialects.  I started speaking Sichuan and Cantonese.  I also said I could get by with Henan and some ShanTou.  He then asked about my history.  It was clear from the uneasiness of the rest of the class that they felt I didn’t belong.  At last, the teacher said that since I was a doctor and didn’t need the credit, I should just audit the class and attend as I’d like.  It was a good suggestion.  He then went to the prescribed assigned text and had each one read in order.  I didn’t even have a book!   As it turned out, working full-time and being older, I was having great difficulty keeping up with memorizing about 40 new characters each session.  I would learn the new, but invariably forget half of the old.  My Mom became my tutor and she could not believe how ‘stupid’ I’d become.  Outshining Catherine was no longer an issue, I was fearful I was embarrassing her.  Young brains are certainly more pliable and retentive of new information better than mine now.

Definitely the ‘star’, Catherine finished the class with an A, .  Despite my efforts, if I were to give myself a grade, it would be at best a C-!!

A humbling experience!!

Emergency Drop Off

When our eldest son Matthew was to be deplored to Iraq in 2003; we planned a farewell dinner at Harbor Lights in Tacoma before he left.  Unfortunately, that week a dear cousin of mine passed away and subsequently my family scheduled a memorial service planning session for that same evening.  Since I was unable to attend, the least of my responsibility was that we get my parents there.  My father was to be the officiant for the service.   Linnea and I allowed plenty of time to drive around, pick Mom and Dad up in Federal Way and get them to north Seattle.  We would then meet Matthew, his girlfriend, his father/wife in Tacoma before he departed from Ft Lewis later that night.

But, on that particular November day, the Seattle traffic was incredibly heavy.  Having left with lots of time to do the pickup, we found ourselves barely creeping towards Seattle.  Finally, with less than an hour left to meet Matthew who was flying out that night, we were merely approaching China Town.  In desperation, I contacted one of the cousins who was already at the north end and have him come back and pick up my parents at the barber salon near Auntie Grace’s apartment.  This arrangement was done quickly and apparently without my parents (hard of hearing) knowing anything.  The salon was lit and warm, so we left them there saying that one of the cousins will be there soon.  (They were fighting traffic as well.)  Linnea and I left headed towards Tacoma.

Unbeknown to any of us, the salon closed at 7 pm and left my parents outside on the street waiting for over one hour!  It was dark, and they were cold.

To this day, my Mom still tells stories of me ‘dumping’ them on the street in the middle of nowhere in Seattle on a cold November night!!

Greek Fraternity

After graduation from The Ohio State University in 1966, I was attending the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins.  Everyone there was diligently ‘hitting the books.’  Studying 24/7 was a new and exhausting experience, yet I felt I was always behind.  There was so much to learn and so little time!

One day in October I got a phone call from Mom asking me if I had joined a fraternity while I was at The OSU.  I answered her “No.”  She said, we received a letter from some fraternity asking for $50.  I told her I didn’t owe anyone anything so go ahead and throw that letter in the garbage.

Later in mid-November Mom reported that another letter had arrived; but this one was certified, requiring a signature as receipt.  It again requested $50 for the price of a key to some Greek fraternity.  I told Mom that I’d come home for Thanksgiving and I’d get that straightened out.

The letter was from Phi Beta Kappa.  I was now placed in the class of 1967 since I had not remitted the required $50 for the ‘key’ in time for the 1966 class.  If I wish not to accept the membership, (though they’ve not had refusals before,) I should notify Phi Beta Kappa personally and my name could be removed.  If the $50 fee posed a hardship, they had scholarship to help and I can/should apply.

I explained to Mom that this was not a Greek fraternity at The OSU.  This was a national honored scholarship organization.  It was renowned and deemed a privilege to be selected.  For example, everyone in my Hopkins’s class was a member.

We remitted the $50 promptly.

p.s.  my step-son Marco Simons is Phi Beta Kappa 1997 from Harvard and my daughter Catherine Chu (Kramer) is Phi Beta Kappa 1998 from the University of Washington.

1950 Chevy

After Uncle David completed his divinity studies at Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, he was ordained and received his first Call at Adams Lutheran Church in Batesville, IN, and served from 1961-1963.  Prior, as a student, he drove a 1950 Chevy and kept it running in relatively good shape.  Now that he had contracted a full-time call, he offered to sell his car to William and me for $50.  We accepted his offer and took over ownership.  Since William was of and had the engineering mind-set and already worked the previous summer at a ‘body shop’, we thought that we’d be able to spiff this car up ourselves and learn some auto mechanics in the process.  First, we ‘gapped’ and replaced all the spark plugs.  Finding that a few wires appeared too worn, we went to a junk yard and towed home an identical car model to use as replacement parts.  That worked well because we could choose and use the better parts from either car.  Next, we borrowed Uncle David’s timing gun and adjusted the engine fly wheel to specification.  Then we cleaned the carburetor.  During the summer, we fixed all the dents and spray-painted the car from olive green to a light sky blue.  We also exchanged the front driver’s seat but kept the passenger and back bench seat because David’s car seats felt more comfortable.  We always noticed that the ‘plastic’ steering wheel of the car was cracked, and the junk car had a leather lined one.  We loosened all the nuts and bolts visible on the steering column but simply could not ‘budge’ the steering wheel more than ¼ inch.  (Of course, we had no manual to follow).  Cocky Smart as I was, I suggested that we use the tire jack and position that to ‘jack’ the wheel out.  Accordingly, we tried.  But the wheel moved slightly and only ‘crookedly’ not symmetrically as expected.  Both William and I pushed the jack handle together once more, but the jagged tip of the jack suddenly popped out and glanced past William’ arm and hit me squarely on the right side of my nose, tearing off a flap of tissue ½” by ¾ inches, along my nose just under my right eye.  Of course, this was accompanied with much bleeding and pain.  We ran into the house and had Mom wash the wound.  After the bleeding stopped, l noted that the torn tissue seated very well back in its original position.  Mom wanted to take me to the ER.  I argued that they cannot sew me better than if I kept it clean and protected it with a band aid.  If it got worse, we’ll go later.  Self-care healed it in 7 days.  We put all the nuts and bolts back and kept driving the car with the even more cracked and disfigured steering wheel.

My Mom’s older sister by 16 years, Auntie from New York, came for a visit.  We proudly showed her our car.  She was gracious and gave us some money to buy new seat coverings to make the car look even better.

The car serviced us well from high school through two years of college.  And we learned a lot about car repair and maintenance; very useful lessons.

Family Life after 1972

My more astute readers might have observed that I have not included any stories about my family life once I became a young husband and father. Interracial marriages in 1972 were not common nor well accepted in many circles. Societal stresses, professional pressures and cultural differences in child-rearing created a lot of disharmony, divisiveness and ultimately a divorce in 1994. Like many parents, there are things that I wish that I had done differently, but I am immensely proud of my three children, all well-educated, accomplished adults now. They and my equally accomplished two step-sons are beautiful human beings, making significant contributions, not the least of which is providing Linnea and me eight amazing grandchildren ranging in age from nearly one year old to twelve years old. I have told all our children that their childhood is their story to tell; obviously, each will have his/her own unique perspective. Stand by!

While I’ve touched on some travels that our family did after we came to America since my dad wanted to introduce us to all the national parks, the travels that I did with my own children tended to focus on locations that provided summer water sports and winter snow sports. For many reasons, we didn’t engage in a lot of sight-seeing. After Linnea and I married in 1995, we were fortunate to have excuses to travel for family weddings and graduations all around the USA, including Alaska and Hawaii and then off to Europe when our oldest embarked on a career as an Army officer and provided a home base for us overseas. Spending lots of time in Germany gave me an opportunity to practice my high school German which tended to create more problems than solve them! On our last trip to Europe we had a harrowing experience with the Budapest transit gendarmes who, because we couldn’t read the instructions, told us we failed to get our train ticket stamped and therefore seized our passports until we basically had to pay them a generous bribe. It was a very distressing late-night scene and discouraged us from using any public transportation while visiting Hungary. A gotcha trap! Attending a batch of plays in London and a series of operas in Vienna were also real treats. Besides our trips to China, where luckily language was not an issue, our most memorable adventures were exploring Machu Picchu and the Galapagos. That was a very special tour.

The Color of Water

After nearly a year in America, in the summer of 1956 we visited Uncle Kwong and Auntie Sheila who was my Dad’s oldest sister sibling. The two of them came to America as medical residents earlier in 1948 and were in Springfield, OH when my Dad arrived to attend seminary at Wittenberg College, Hama Divinity School in the fall.

After training, Uncle Kwong when he started his career, he contracted a position near Birmingham, AL. He served two hospitals as their sole practicing pathologist. and they lived in Anniston, AL.

We drove to see them as our first summer vacation. They had two sons, Henry, two years younger than William and I, and Cecil, a little younger than Dan. Elizabeth was just one year old at that time.

Since we lived in Springfield and were the only Chinese family at the time, it appears we were all treated as benign curiosities, ‘people of interest.’ Dad was the only Chinese pastor serving an all-white Lutheran Church, (mostly German.) We truly cannot recall that we were subject to any significant discrimination. Perhaps those who had such feelings avoided us.

Our trip to Alabama was an eye opener. When we arrived at the Kwong house, we went to their grocery store. We kids were running around, and I noted that there were separate drinking fountains, side by side. One was labeled White, and the other Colored. By now, my mastery of one year of English allowed me to read. I ran to Mom excitedly and proclaimed, ‘America is truly great; they even serve soda water at the drinking fountain.’ I quickly ran over and pushed the button. To my disbelief the water was simply clear! Mom quickly came behind me and pulled me away. Scolding me not to fool around but pay more attention, that fountain was meant for the black people. The Kwongs didn’t use fountains when they shopped but waited to drink when they were home. We learned that they avoided situations where things were obviously segregated, not knowing how white people would react.

Anniston had a recreational area in the hills, I remembered it as Cheaha Public Park. There was a median size lake where people swam. The Kwong boys were obviously experience swimmers. Immediately they dove off a large rock into the water and were on the other side. while we were just getting into our suits. Dan went into the water first and was slowly walking towards the Kwongs and I was behind him. Suddenly he disappeared under the water because the ledge suddenly sloped away. I was still standing on the ledge and thinking that I could grab him and pull him back. I reach as far as I could and could not reach him. Without hesitation, I took a deep breath and dove into the water and pull Dan’s hair and brought him up to breathe. But now I was in deep water and I don’t swim either. But out of nowhere, William came and pulled both of us out to the ledge. The Kwong boys thought we were hilarious and thought everyone could swim!! We played in shallow water for the rest of the time and had fun because it was ghastly hot and humid.

Before we left, My Dad wanted to take everyone to a restaurant and asked Uncle Kwong for a recommendation. To our surprise he said they only ate at home because they don’t know which restaurant may not serve them and he never wanted to create a scene. Dad insisted that we’d eat somewhere and said before we would go in, we ‘d ask. We were very cordially served at a country buffet diner.

That was Alabama in the 1950’s.

Mexico Excursion:
Best of Times; Worst of Times

Shortly after I retired from active practice of ophthalmology, one of my best friends, Allen, and his fiancé were planning a pre-honeymoon celebration to visit one of his co-workers’ extended family in San Felipe, Mexico. The two men had worked together in Allen’s local construction company. Together they had tackled all sorts of small jobs, created larger renovation projects and even built several complete houses in Kitsap County. They had also done multiple renovations for me over long periods of time.
For about 3 years, Antonio’s wife and their four children lived in my three bedroom rental next to my clinic. I had met his parents when they visited on Bainbridge and had treated Linnea and me and several others to an amazing Mexican feast of the largest and most delicious shrimp I’ve ever seen or eaten.
Prior to Allen’s planned wedding in September, Antonio indicated to me that his expression of a ‘thank you’ and wedding gift to our mutual friends was to have them visit his home and meet other family members in San Felipe. He wanted me to help him drive so that Allen and his fiancé may have more time together. Though summer had begun and school was out of session already, Linnea was still working, completing her Guidance Counselor’s duties with the school district. I agreed to go along with great anticipation to serve as a co-driver. I had already met many of the Antonio’s large family and was looking forward to reconnecting with his Papa and Mama in their environment as well as meeting his other siblings whom I had heard much about. This Mexican family reminded me of cultural similarities to my own family and our background.

The departure date was set; we were to leave Antonio’s house around 10 am. He was also planning to tow a trailer of building materials and window supplies to complete his house in San Felipe. Linnea dropped me off on her way to work around 8:30 so that I might help with the loading; we found Antonio’s yard to be in total disarray: car tires and trailer hitch parts scattered about and luggage and clothing spread everywhere. I asked, ‘are we not to leave at 10?’ The response was, ‘We’ll leave when we leave! Cool it!’ I was totally astonished and inquired ‘how can I help?’ Antonio ordered me to move this and that and to pack the luggage while he was changed the tires and welded the hitch to the truck. Later, Allen and his fiancé also arrived to help. By noon, I contacted Linnea and asked if she’d get some lunch for all of us. Having seen what she had in the morning, she was not at all surprised that we had not departed. We took a short lunch break and continued working. After work, Linnea brought us dinner and was sent on a last minute run to Ace Hardware (6:59 pm right before they closed) for an essential tool. Ultimately, we left Bainbridge around 10 pm. Linnea suggested that we wait to leave the following morning but Antonio insisted that we leave then and that he preferred night driving. I slept in the back of the truck while the other two men drove. Apparently the truck was not in the best of shape because the oil pressure and the transmission lights kept coming on and it was making ‘serious mechanical noises.’ They drove fast and slow erratically. I just tried sleeping intermittently, expecting my turn later. When I awoke, it was during the middle of the night and we were near/at Junction City, OR, at Antonio’s sister, Nora’s, house. We awakened and surprised all of them, but they very graciously welcomed us and allowed us to spread ourselves about so we could rest.

The next day, Antonio announced that the truck’s transmission was burned out and needed rebuilding. He was referred to a man who ‘promised’ that he could rebuild it in about 20 hours and that the job would be completed in just one day. The car was handed over to him. To me, that man appeared to have been high on Methamphetamine.

The following day, when we went to pick up the vehicle, auto pieces were everywhere and the condition of the truck was a total mess, obviously useless. We wasted another whole day. We spent the night again at Nora’s house. The next day Antonio decided we simply had to acquire another vehicle, a used Ford 150 truck with a hitch. He found one at a car dealer and asked me to do his negotiation. The truck was listed for $3050. He said that if we could get it for $2200, it’d be good. I used all my Chinese bartering skills and got the dealer to agree to our price only to learn that Antonio didn’t have the money. If we were to continue our road trip, I realized later that I was going to have to lend Antonio the money to purchase another vehicle. An additional night was spent at Junction City.

The following day Antonio drove all around the neighborhood in his sister’s car while I enjoyed myself conversing with Nora and her family. I was having a good time. Suddenly, Antonio showed up saying that he found the ‘perfect’ truck, for sale by owner, and wanted me to go and negotiate once more. I phoned Linnea to transfer funds from our savings to my checking and came up with a $2050 as the balance in our account. The sign on the truck window said ‘Price $2500!!! NO Negotiation.’ We went to that house and I discovered that this truck was a very dear possession of the man who lovingly took care of it for years; he especially enjoyed taking his grandson hunting in the fall each season. But unfortunately his Diabetes had now disabled him so that he could no longer climb up and down into the vehicle. Furthermore, he needed money for continued medications, thus his reluctance but necessity to sell the truck. I shared my medical knowledge and advised him re: diabetes and offered him pointers in diet, neuropathy and pain control. But I also told him that I only had $2000 to spend right then and that I’d send him the remainder after I returned home from my trip. He provided the ownership paper, gave me the keys and said that the only defect he knew of was that radiator may need to be replaced very soon. We drove away with his prized procession.

After arriving back at his sister’s place, Antonio immediately ordered all of us to pack up and get ready to leave in 15 minutes. He hooked the trailer to the truck with all its contents and we drove away having said a short ‘good bye.’ Nora had already planned supper for all of us but that idea was totally disregarded much to my dismay.

We took turns driving at varying speeds and monitoring the water temperature gauge intently. I noted that the heat gauge acted erratically. I drove through the Oregon Siskiyou Pass into northern California. Expectedly, the heat gauge indicator went up very quickly while climbing uphill and rapidly cooled while cruising down hill. Antonio was very concerned about the truck overheating; he literally yelled and screamed at me whenever the water gauge wavered merely a quarter from his demanded range, even if there were large trucks hazardously rushing too close behind us! While I’ve often had unpleasant times with back seat drivers giving me criticisms, no one had ever shouted at, belittled or dictated my driving as I experienced that night! Moreover, I was afraid to give up the driving to him for I was quite certain that he was inebriated. If it weren’t for a desire to please my ‘honeymoon friends’ and as well as my highly anticipated joy of meeting the extended Mexican family, I was seriously thinking of stopping at the next airport and flying back home.

Finally Antonio made a remark that really ticked me off. He said, ‘Oh, that’s right, unlike us, you are a well to do doctor who has always driven new vehicles. You never had to drive old trucks; spoiled people like you never had to pay any attention or monitor how old used cars perform.’ Obviously he wasn’t aware of my background of being an immigrant pastor’s kid that definitely had familiarity with older cars; however, I never drove them on a 2500 mile trip. I didn’t respond to his statement, but remained silent and concentrated on the heat gauge. Three hours later, after having crossed the pass and eventually reached sufficient distance into California, I relinquished the driver’s seat and went to the back of the truck camper to sleep. I never drove that truck again even though I was listed as the owner.

Allen and Antonio drove non-stop and we arrived in San Diego mid morning. I had moved into the cab of the truck and was asleep again. My three friends went shopping choosing not to disturb me while I slept soundly. They locked the truck, closed the windows and left, unaware of the southern California weather. I was awakened by the heat, sweating like a dog, and noted the temperature gauge at the nearby bank was already reading 97 degrees. In the car it must have been 115+. It still puzzles me as to why I was unable to open any of the doors or windows and just had to wait for them to return. I contemplated breaking a window, but was fearful of Antonio’s temper. Luckily it was not too long before they returned. Truly, I had fears of dying of heat exhaustion!

Antonio went shopping in the little town and acquired sufficient quantities of his favorite beverage, tomato juice to be mixed with Mexican beer. He also got some Mexican Coke for me. By mid afternoon we set out fishing. The catch was abundant. The yellow tuna were all about 2 feet long and took the bait as quickly as we could put our lines into the water. Fishing was fun. After we filled our two coolers with fish we headed back to camp for the night.

The next day we returned to San Felipe. The sea was much calmer, but still bumpy, even sitting on cushions my bottom hurt the entire trip back. It was quite hot and large quantities of Cerveza Bienvenido a Corona with tomato juice were consumed; I drank my 6 pack of Coke. We all felt very free, having fun, telling jokes and laughing loudly. At times, Antonio was partying hard and carelessly fell into the water on several occasions. The water was warm and he was a swimmer. I was the only one scared even with a life jacket on. Eventually we returned to Antonio’s parents’ house and again Papa filleted our fresh catch and cooked them to perfection; we were well fed.

The following day, Sunday, was confirmation for one of Antonio’s nieces. He declared that we’d celebrate and have a big party that evening at 7 pm. The women cleaned the patio, the men scrubbed the grills, and the children decorated the venue with balloons and handmade signs. Mexican steak and fish were all prepared. Since Antonio was the leader of the pack, we all had to wait for him before we could eat. He finally showed up at 10; that was disappointing. I discovered that there was a Chinese restaurant in San Felipe. As my thank you, I invited the entire extended family of about 24 people and arranged a dinner to be served by that restaurant. The Chinese food was served very fresh but had no resemblance to any real Chinese food I’ve ever encountered. Nonetheless, the family enjoyed the meal and thanked me profusely. I invited them to visit me on Bainbridge Island and I’d serve them some genuine Chinese food.

By comparison, the trip back home was uneventful. Technically, I was still the owner of the truck but had no desire to keep it. Antonio needed it for transportation so we agreed on a project that he could do for me to work off the debt. Regrettably, that fell through and my friend Allen stepped in to finish the job, bringing closure to this memorable road trip. I have always remembered this journey as one of the best adventures I’ve ever had, and as well as one of my worst experiences of any road trips I’ve taken.

Karsten Solheim

Karsten Solheim (September 15, 1911 – February 16, 2000,) a Norwegian-born American was a golf club designer and businessman.  He was the founder of Karsten Manufacturing, a leading golf club maker better known by its brand name of PING, and the Solheim Cup, the premier International Team Competition in Women’s Golf.  He resided and grew up in Seattle in the Ballard neighborhood.  His father, Herman, was a shoe maker.  Later, Karsten became a mechanical engineer with a degree from the University of Washington.

Apparently, the family had property here near Suquamish and they spent many happy summer days here on this side of the water.  Karsten’s idea was to want to contribute this community in some way.  (At that time, before Clear Water Casino, the Suquamish tribe was struggling economically.  Thus, he constructed a small shopping area along Suquamish Way and opened a ‘fancy’ restaurant named Karsten’s, featuring local and specialty sea foods.  I often went there for lunch for their freshly concocted daily seafood and/or other kinds of chowders.  Often I’d sit and visit with Karsten since he was one of my regular patients.  His restaurant would feature week-end seafood specials as ‘all you can eat’ buffet at a ‘price loser’ cost of $16.95 for the public.  Customers formed long lines.  As it was by far the best eating establishment on this side of the water.

Once I introduced Mr. Solheim to my father and showed Dad all the photos Karsten had on display with the famous golfers, such as Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, and even Presidents’ Nixon and Kennedy.  Karsten asked if Dad and I played.  I answered that I was too busy and my Dad was too old.  Karsten  gave us his personal card and insisted that if ever we should take a trip south and visit his facilities in Phoenix that he’d have his staff fit each of us a custom set of his best clubs free!  I have always remembered fondly of this kind and friendly gentleman.  I appreciated that he respected me to treating his vision issues.

In the late 1997’s, his health began to fail and I lost track of him.  In 1999 his company was restructured and must have felt a fiduciary responsibility to not operate the restaurant at a loss.  They sold the establishment to Leo and Lena Ward who ran the place for only one year and closed what they had renamed ‘Doc Marlins’.  The place later was transformed into a school and now has become a part of the Suquamish Tribe property.

On our island, we have had for years held the biggest ‘garage/yard’ sale in the USA (if not the world) sponsored by the Rotary Club of Bainbridge.  As I was thinking more about retiring and picking up the sport of golf,  I couldn’t help but regret not heeding Mr. Karsten Solheim’s advice of getting a set of his clubs.  A few years later, at one of the Rotary auctions,  Linnea who was volunteering there called me at to say that there was a silent auction item of what she deemed a complete and almost new Ping Golf Clubs.

I hurried over, examined the clubs, and found them to be almost new and barely used.  For Karsten’s sake, this was my fate; as a tribute to him I have to get these clubs for whatever the price, besides, the contribution was for a good cause that we strongly supported.  The starting bid was $400.  I put my name down and called my brother Dan, who is a good golfer.  I asked how did the quality of Ping Clubs compare with others and what should be a reasonable price.  He told me that they are considered semi-fitted to individuals and run at that time about $1000 for the irons and extra for the ‘Woods’ which could cost over $500 more.  With this information I checked my bid frequently.  There was another man, about 6’ 3’’ also eyeing this set.  He kept on raising me by $5.  And I kept playing the game by raising his bid by $25.  Finally when the bid reached $700, frustratingly he asked me ‘do you know what these clubs are and how high will you go?’  I answered; I’ll be always going $25 more than you.  Out of exasperation, he walked away.  I bought the entire grouping for $700.

Excitedly, after coming home, I called my son David, and announced that I bought a set of Pings and would like him to start me off with some pointers.  David is a very good athletic and quite a decent golfer.  He said, great Dad, when can we play and what color are they?  Make sure that they are all the colored the same.  I asked what?  They are irons and are all silver metal color.  David said go see; there are markers on the clubs, Pings are semi-customized a golfer’s height.  For my size, I should be using RED or ORANGE.

I quickly ran to the garage and checked.  Surely enough, the clubs were all marked, with a green indentation.  I told this to David; he said greens are designed for people 6’ 2-3’’ and that I needed Reds because I was only 5’ 4’’.

That competitor probably did not know either, or if he’d explained that to me I would not have been so stubborn and stupid.  No wonder he was fuming, irritated and angry at me!!!  The clubs went back to the Rotary auction the next year!

Totally Unintentional Humanized Differences

Words we use and gestures we project at times come across with absolute and totally different intentions.

I returned and visited my first apprentice, Dr. Hwang, in Huili, a third time on one of my other trips to China.  I found him to have become a well respected eye specialist/expert in his local community.  ‘One MSI Mission accomplished.’  But a subtle meanings/translation of an ordinary comment struck me like a dagger in the heart.  I simply invited him to contact me if ever he came to USA for a visit that I’d love to show him and his family around.  He started weeping.  I asked ‘what did I say?’  He answered, that I should have known that more than anything, he’d love to visit me but that simply was an impossible delusion, knowing the meager salaries he and his wife made just getting by and putting aside a little for their daughter’s education.  (Doctors made less than $1000 US per month, and his wife, a head nurse took home a little more because her duties are more valued!)  He said that I should never have teased him like that!  How does one apologize?

On my first trip to Xichang Dr. Lee, the director of ophthalmology chose one of her best protégé to demonstrate to me how she’d been doing cataract surgeries.  They were all prepped and ready to go and escorted me into the operating room.  I immediately noticed that her gloves were most likely size 7+ and her hands were at most 5 or 6.  I blurted out that her gloves were much too big.  Dr. Lee immediately concurred and demanded her to change her gloves.  A second set was ordered and brought in.  She changed, but they were the same size as before.  I instantly realized that being so behind times that was all they had and ‘shut my mouth.’ with any further comment!

Linnea and I, together with other family members returned to China as visitors a few times.  Of course, she always stood out as an attractive Caucasian blond haired woman.  Many people, and not just kids, would hover around her and wanted photos taken.  On one visit, as we were boarding a tour bus, were waiting for others.  The bus driver said we had about 5 minutes before taking off.  I noticed a woman vender rushing over with a full bag of merchandise to peddle.  I asked to get off the bus mainly to pass time and have a chance to interact and practice my street Chinese.  She was negotiating $5.00 Chinese (about 80 cents $US) per faux silk table cloths.  In the tradition of bartering, 1 offered $3.00.  She went on and on explaining that she had a family to feed and how could I try to deny her.  She then asked how many would I buy?  We bantered for a while just for fun as others were returning to the bus.  Finally I also boarded the bus, not purchasing anything, and asked the driver to shut the door.  The woman held a pristine white table cloth high as her ultimate attempt to make a sale.  It got caught in the gears of the door and was totally greased.  Linnea looked at me and reprimanded me that I needed to reimburse the vendor and make it right.  I went down to pay her for the damage I caused.  She pulled out a bland new Sarah-wrapped duplicate and handed it to me.  I explained that I wanted to pay for the damaged one.  She retorted that her personal integrity would not allow her to sell me blemished goods.  I ended up getting 10 table cloth packages for $10 US dollars.

Let me relate another example of my bartering experience.  Linnea and I were meandering near the garden around our hotel in Quilin after breakfast one morning.  We noticed a woman peddling items among which were 3-4 inch decorative Love-balls that the Yi minority tribes used at their ceremonies.  I went and asked her how old she was?  She answered 96.  Then I asked how much she charged for the Love-ball?  She replied strictly US $1.50 each and 8 for $10, and unwaveringly warned me that she did no bartering for me or anyone else.  I then inquired, ‘how much do you have to make it for a worthwhile day?’  She answered $10 dollar a day made her content.  It was only around 9 am and the day was already 85 degrees with 85% humility.  I proposed to her that I’d take 2 balls and pay her $10 so she could return to her home and rest for the remainder of the hot day.  She retorted, ‘This is my competence, selling and interacting with people.  You just want me to go home and get ready to die?’  I gave her $10 and she insisted we take 8 Love-balls, and stuffed them in our already full luggage.

On another occasion, after visiting the Huili Gospel Church, we were often notified not to contribute any monetary fund via mission trips under the sponsorship of MSI, but having witnessed the massive crowd on Easter Sunday, I felt compelled to do something for that church.  I returned as a side trip on my own and told the people in charge that if they could set up a bank account with proper routing numbers, I was certain that I could spread the word and there’d be many American churches willing to help.  They all thought that this might have possibility and potential.  Wow, when MSI discovered my proposal, I found myself in real deep waters.  I never knew that that was such a BIG NO NO.

My final MSI mission trip to China was to Sichuan, HeQing.  It was definitely yet another different but totally memorable cultural experience.  The lead MSI long-term medical missionary was a German physician.  Though he diligently learned to speak Chinese and moved his family to live there, he had a difficult time to assimilate into the community.  And he seemed visibly to resent the acceptance and welcome I received as a stranger newcomer and ethnic Chinese.  Unfortunately there were multiple points of disagreements as I found myself more aligned with the local people and their concerns.  This created an awkward and untenable working relationship, especially with the hospital staff.  The locals seemed only outwardly tolerated them for their expertise, he was not promoting much of our Christian values.

I received many of requests to visit their institutions from the directors and doctors I interacted in Huili and Xichang, however, because I stopped paying my malpractice insurance premiums and thereby also gave up my hospital privileges, the Chinese government no longer allowed me to be issued visiting physician’s visa, rational being they don’t need 2nd class US doctors who cannot have a practice at home.

Racial and cultural differences are hard NUTS to comprehend understand and crack !!!