RSS Become a Fan

Delivered by FeedBurner

Recent Posts

The Rejection
Every Penny
100 Days
The Girl at the Cashier


July 2020
June 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
February 2014
November 2013
July 2013
June 2013

powered by

The "Wu Word" Blog

May 2014

The Beijing Toilet Challenge: Kidney Transplant & Hip Replacement Survival

It was a hot and humid day when my cousin, aunt, and I boarded “China Airlines” to leave from Hong Kong and arrive in Beijing.  It was only a three hour flight from Hong Kong to Beijing.  In that short amount of time, I was still looking forward to the free beverage and snack. 

I was slurping up my orange juice when my cousin and aunt said to me:

“Make sure that you do not eat or drink so much here or when you get there, otherwise you will have to go to the toilet in Beijing.”

I stopped drinking and asked: “What’s wrong with the toilets in Beijing?”

My aunt and cousin stared at me, and then slowly glanced towards the airplane lavatory.  That is when I noticed the line of people waiting for the lavatory was going down the tight aisle of the plane.  Why were there so many people on line?

“The toilets are in the ground in the public areas and tourist attractions in Beijing.  They are better than years ago when they were just a hole in the ground.  Everyone now is trying to go to the bathroom here in the plane because they are cleaner and can sit on the toilet,” my cousin explained.

Rather than cringe in despair or fear this grounded toilet, I enthusiastically said: “Wow!  Cool!  I can’t wait to take pictures of the toilets in Beijing!”

My cousin and aunt did not say anything. 

It can’t be that bad, I thought to myself.  Guess again. 

The first time I saw the toilet in the ground was Day 1 in Beijing at “The Summer Palace.”

Just before I pranced in the restroom to see my very first toilet in the ground, my aunt stopped me and gave me a handful of tissues and said: “Not sure if they have toilet paper.  Take with you.”

After beautiful and glorious views of willow trees, lapping water, and intricate architecture at the Summer Palace, I was stunned when I walked into the women’s restroom and waves of nausea overcame me from the strong uric acidic stench of urine.  I wished I had a nose plug.  I held my breath and then stepped on up in the tight bathroom stall and locked the door.  There was the porcelain toilet in the ground staring back at me.  There were areas to put your feet to squat into the toilet bowl in the ground and then press a foot pedal to flush the toilet.  I searched for the toilet paper dispenser.  There was none.  I clenched on to the tissues that my aunt had so wisely given to me. 

I tried to squat and my left operated hip began to throb and ache.  I tried other tactics that were somewhat like contorted yoga poses.  My entire body began to hurt.  Now, I was beginning to regret the bottle of water that I drank.  But, as a kidney transplant recipient (and even for ALL people who have not even received a transplant) who had a history of dehydration, anemia, and low blood pressure, I was told by doctors to drink enough water to flush out the wastes for my kidneys to process into urine and then for me to go to the bathroom.

I heard my aunt outside calling me: “Mary, are you OK?” 

I finally heard the sound of me urinating, but not without a trickle of urine going down my left leg. 

I let out a breath and thought to myself, “How does anyone go to the bathroom here without their entire body feeling like it is going to break???”   

Curiosity and excitement over the grounded toilet turned into exhaustion and a drastic change in my eating and drinking habits by the end of the second day in Beijing.  I began to refrain what I ate and how much I drank out of concern that my pre-owned kidney beans would be overworked and that I would not have access to a toilet OR, if I did have access to a toilet, it would be one with a hole in the ground and my whole body would ache again.  The toilet in the hotel was the only one that was sitting, so I quickly made certain to drink as much as I could while I was in the hotel and then go to the restroom.  I never left the hotel we stayed at in Beijing without going to the restroom. 

Each experience to a public bathroom in Beijing became a memorable challenge to my aching hip joint and to my beloved kidney beans that were doing their usual work of creating urine and prompting me to go to the bathroom.  With one experience, I nearly urinated all over myself because my hip just could not take any more squatting.  That night, my aunt helped me scrub my jeans.  While she was scrubbing with the meager bar of soap that the hotel had for us, she said: “Now, you know that when you are in Mainland China that you bring tissues, an extra pair of jeans, moist toilettes, a mask, and maybe anti-hand sanitizer.” 

With more than one experience, the toilet paper dispensers were in the public areas where the sinks were and you took whatever you could—this was considered a luxury, considering that almost all public bathrooms I went to had no toilet paper at all. 

The most memorable experience was when a girl shamelessly left the door open and showed her squatting skills with squatting all the way down to the grounded toilet.  I was so shocked at this that I told my aunt what I saw. 

My aunt explained to me, “Mainland Chinese are toilet trained this way.”

Then my cousin said, “They don’t care.  No shame.  And, understand that they actually see these toilets as sanitary because they do not have to touch anything while the sitting toilet does require you to touch to a certain degree.  Believe me, these toilets are luxury compared to 10 years ago.” 

What began as a hunt for the grounded toilet out of fascination quickly turned into a hunt for a handicapped toilet, because the handicapped toilets at least had the toilet above ground with bars to grip on to, but without the actual toilet seat.  

I asked my aunt: “How does anyone who is wheelchair-bound go to the bathroom on the handicapped toilet when they can’t even get from their wheelchair on to the toilet to grip the bars?” My aunt paused and said, “I’m not sure what China is like with disabled and wheelchair-bounded people.” 

I shook my head.  I never would have been able to survive in China.  If I has been born in China, I probably would have been dead by now without any kidney transplants that had saved my life twice or I would have been house-bound and hidden from the pain that my joints had caused throughout my childhood that had actually required crutches and then a wheelchair when I was 10-years-old.  I was suddenly humbled by my father who had left Hong Kong so many years ago for a ‘new normal’ and ‘new life’ for himself that has only trickled down to all I have been blessed with.  

I had always been so eternally grateful for my second chance at life with my second kidney transplant and now a chance to walk around China with my new hip, but now I was even more grateful that my functioning pre-owned kidneys were still managing to do their job and that my new hipper was holding on in the most challenging of circumstances of the no-sitting toilet that I was simply and culturally not accustomed to. 

More than that, I was incredibly thankful for my aunt and cousin who had prepared me as best as they could with the “equipment” (i.e. tissues) needed to live up to the toilet challenge, and for patiently explaining that something as simple as a toilet was actually one of the greatest examples o cultural differences. 

In only 4 days in Beijing, I learned to never, ever take these bodily functions of my transplants kidneys and my body relatively free from pain because of my hip replacement for granted.   It is a simple truth that we never, ever know what we have until it is gone.  And, it is one thing to really know.  It is another thing to really understand.  I was just beginning to understand and have a greater appreciation for a simple sitting toilet and a family and father who made this trip and my life all the better and worthwhile. 

Signing off for now.  I’m pretty sure my pre-owned kidneys are working their magic with me having to go to the bathroom now—and my hip will only be happy that I will be able to sit on the toilet ;-)

Keep smilin’,

Mary ;-)

A Better Life

I’ve been trying to find the words that capture my two-week stay in China and divided between Beijing and Hong Kong. 
And, for once in my life, I am at a loss for words.
How could I possibly capture the beauty and majesty I discovered and saw in historic monuments as the Forbidden City, Great Wall of China, and Summer Palace that were created dynasties ago?  How could I express the succulent flavors that coated my mouth when I ate Peking duck, original Hong Kong milk tea, candied cherries in the narrow alleys of Beijing, crisp green vegetables, and the Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) that I slurped up with wide eyes of happiness?  How could I possibly put all of these into words that do not do justices to the experiences I had gallivanting around in China?
People ask me what I loved most about my trip.  The places I saw took my breath away, but it was the people I met and reunited with that brought my breath back to life to savor.  It was the people I loved most about my trip.  I treasured the night sky that twinkled with neon lights from tottering toys when I was with my cousin, talking about Chinese history and world politics.  I valued eating spicy-flavored Chinese chips  with my aunt as we chatted about our daily observations and philosophies of Beijing.  But, most of all, I basked in the hilarious struggle of trying to communicate my broken Mandarin Chinese with my 92-year-old paternal grandmother’s who had her own language of Mandarin, Cantonese, and Shanghainese rolled in to one.   For the first time, I met with my great aunt (known as “Gu-Paw”) in Chinese who is 93-years-old and is fragile as a feather with the brightest light of life in her eyes. Her gnarled hands danced and her eyes shined when my aunt, cousin, and I visited her.   No one in our family speaks openly of her daughter being mentally challenged from lack of medical care and services during the Communist-era and how Gu-Paw spent her life caring for her daughter.   From “Gu-Paw,” I was slowly grasping the concept that sometimes there are no need for words to be spoken when action and doing what needs to be done to survive come first and foremost—especially when it comes to family.    
After all my time spent with all these people on my trip, I have a greater appreciation and understanding for the sacrifices my father made to come to the U.S.  His move from China to the U.S.A. came down to these three words: A Better Life.  A better life for him.  A better life for my sister and me. 
From this trip, I have taken away the feelings we feel come to and from the foundation of our family.   In the end, family and especially parents just crave and do whatever is necessary for the best for their children and what is believed to be “A Better Life.”  The prices of “better” are astronomical.  To have a better life requires risks, fearlessness, and, above all else, survival.   I am honored and humbled to be in a family of true survivors who have created the better to the best of their abilities. 
Cheers to China for giving me a glimpse of understanding that the love and hate, happiness and sadness, and laughter and tears comes from our family who always just want “A Better Life” for themselves and for future generations. 
Website Builder provided by  Vistaprint