Wednesday, October 01, 2008

How was your trip to China?

When you return from a trip, friends naturally ask how it went. If you traveled somewhere unusual, they prepare to hear you rave about the fabulous sights, the food and the people you met.

They aren’t prepared to hear that your 91-year-old mother slipped in the shower, broke her pelvis and had to be medically evacuated from the city of Xi’an in the interior of China.

What followed was a series of sometimes downright weird events. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about Chinese hospitals (they provide neither food nor drinking water. You have to go outside and buy those from a vendor), not to mention the difficulty of getting permission to fly a medical jet through Chinese air space in the middle of a three-day weekend – the Full Moon Festival.

On the plus side, we met a lot of very helpful people of many nationalities. And let me state right here that my mother has now returned safely to Nashville, Tennessee, and is in the hospital, recovering from surgery.

Let’s go back to the beginning. My mother, ceramic sculptor Sylvia Hyman, and I traveled with our friend Cathy Moberg, Sylvia’s neighbor and studio assistant, to Shanghai for several days of sightseeing. We then took a two-hour flight to Xi’an, home of the terra cotta warriors, to attend a conference of the International Academy of Ceramics. Our Shanghai adventure went great. Chinese-American ceramist, author and tour organizer Guangzhen Zhou, known to his friends as Po, arranged that part of the trip and shepherded us around with great care.

He flew with us to Xi’an, where Sylvia celebrated her 91st birthday with longtime friends from the IAC. We prepared to enjoy local sights, visit an international pottery village and attend presentations by artists from around the world about their cutting-edge work.

The next morning, Sylvia fell while showering. Cathy, who thank heaven has some medical training, and I accompanied her to the hospital for X-rays, where we got the bad news.

I don’t have space to go into the events of the next few days, but let me tell you, they were hairier than a yeti. Even though Sylvia had bought insurance for a medical jet, it took the efforts of the medical jet company, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Cathy and me to get permission for it to land.

Since the Learjet only had room for Sylvia and Cathy, I had to return alone. Po (whom I now rank among my best friends in the world) changed his own travel plans to fly back with me to Shanghai to make sure I made my connection to the U.S. Luckily, all went smoothly.

During the visit, I did manage to see some impressive sights, including those famous warriors and another ancient tomb in Xi’an. Mostly, my head is stuffed with impressions of a culture involved in a dramatic transition unlike anything I’ve seen. Since I went behind the Iron Curtain in the mid-70s, I’m not a complete novice on the subject.

Two weeks later, I’m thankful to be home and gradually recovering from the 15-hour time difference. So how was my trip? Let’s put it this way: It’s something I’ll never forget.


Ellen said...

Sending my best wishes for a complete recovery to your mother and my sympathies to both of you for the ordeal you had to go through. I am glad you got to see some of the things you wanted to see before disaster struck.

Sara said...

Sending good wishes for you and your mother. Hope you both recover from the trip...I can imagine how scary it must have been!

Thankfully, you had insurance to cover the emergency!!

Jina Bacarr said...


Sooo glad to hear your mom is okay! She's such a fabulous artist--I'll never forget the beautiful ceramic she made using your book. She's a lovely and talented lady--just like her daugther.

Take care,

Estella said...

Glad your mom is recovering in the US!

Ann Roth said...

Jackie- I had no idea! I'm glad you're all home safe and sound. Thank goodness for Po and the other friendly, helpful people along the way.

Jacqueline Diamond said...

Thanks to all of you for posting. My mother is doing well after surgery and has been moved out of the hospital to a rehab facility. She should be home in a few weeks, although it'll be longer than that before she can walk.

Still, she's recovering strength and her spirits are good, thanks to a lot of support from family and friends.

Thanks again!

squiresj said...

Whow what a trial and test. I am so glad you made it home safely. God Bless and keep you.
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