Who Can Turn the World on With Her Smile?

The great actress and comedienne Mary Tyler Moore died on Wednesday. She got her start on television playing Laura on The Dick Van Dyke Show, and later starred in her own show, simply named, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

When my family moved to the Twin Cities in 1973 from Pakistan, the show was already a hit. Having lived outside of the US nearly all of my life, I knew little about life and culture here. Sitting down to watch the show with my family every weekend was an important piece of my “re-enculturation.” It was especially exciting to see my new hometown featured in the opening credits. It remains one of my favorite shows to catch on DVD.

Because the show was set in Minneapolis, it has always had a special place in the hearts of Minnesotans. Here’s what the Minneapolis StarTribune notes had to say:

In the process of creating a pop-culture icon, Moore and the show sold the Twin Cities as a progressive metropolis.

To this day, tourists cruise through the Kenwood neighborhood to catch a glimpse of the Victorian house where Richards resided during the show’s early seasons. In 2002, the city of Minneapolis and TV Land teamed up to erect a statue on the Nicollet Mall, commemorating the moment in the opening credits in which Richards hurls her tam in the air after a satisfying day of shopping.

In 1999, Entertainment Weekly named the shot as the second-greatest moment in TV history, behind only John Kennedy’s assassination and funeral.

StarTribune columnist James Lileks produced a short video on the impact the show had on our city. You can see it here.

Minnesota Public Radio also did a nice story yesterday on how Mary Tyler Moore made Minneapolis a star.

And just for memories, here is a clip of a scene that is often ranked as one of the greatest TV scenes of all time, from “Chuckles the Clown’s Funeral.” (email readers, go here to see the video)

Farewell, Mary! Thanks for the laughs, and for helping me adjust to live in America!

Chinese New Year Nagging — In Song

Do you think your parents nag? Try being a young person going home for Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). The questions come fast and furious, and no matter what you are doing or achieving it seems never to be enough.

Singles have it particularly rough. “What? STILL no boyfriend (or girlfriend)??”

This is a big enough problem that some young women “rent” boyfriends to take home with them for the holidays so that their parents will think they are attached. Here’s how the China Daily reports on this phenomenon:

The price of renting a boyfriend to take home with you is surging to as high as 1,500 yuan ($219) a day as Spring Festival approaches, chinanews.com reported on Wednesday.

Some single women, who are pressured by their parents to marry, choose to rent a boyfriend for home to soften or dispel parents’ dissatisfaction with their singledom. Catering to the market, men are advertising their availability at higher prices on social networking platforms.

In a 1,000-people group chat on Tencent’s QQ, many advertisements give personal data about the “boyfriends” for rent, including height, weight and educational background, as well as services the “boyfriends’ can provide, such as “coping with questions concerning marriage from parents and relatives”.

The starting price to rent a “boyfriend” is 1,000 yuan. The manager of the chat group said that the daily price ranges from 1,000 yuan to 1,500 yuan during Spring Festival season, compared to a regular fee of 600 yuan to 1,000 yuan.

Besides the rental fee, the woman renting a boyfriend has to pay for his round-trip tickets if travel is involved and other costs, such as dining out and outings.

A choral group in Shanghai called the Shanghai Rainbow Chamber Singers has come up with a song about the travails of going home for the holidays. It’s called “What Did I Do is For Your Own Good.” The video of their performance of the song has gone viral in China.

(email readers, please go here to view)

Very funny and very impressive!!

Happy New Year!

Recommended: “The Dust of Kandahar”

On a mid-April day in 2013, I heard a news report about an attack on US State Department personnel in Afghanistan in which 5 Americans were killed. I held my breath and said a prayer because a friend of mine from childhood, Jonathan Addleton, was at the time a diplomat in Afghanistan. In due time details of the attack emerged and I learned that, although he had been in the group that was attacked, he was unhurt. Unfortunately, however, his interpreter, a fellow diplomat, and 3 soldiers were killed. I was relieved that he was OK, but grieved for those who had lost their lives.

Jonathan has written about his year in Afghanistan in a book titled,  The Dust of Kandahar: A Diplomat Among Warriors in Afghanistan.

The Dust of Kandahar: A Diplomat Among Warriors in Afghanistan

Here’s the description:

The Dust of Kandahar provides a personal account of one diplomat’s year of service in America’s longest war. Ambassador Addleton movingly describes the everyday human drama of the American soldiers, local tribal dignitaries, government officials and religious leaders he interacted and worked with in southern Afghanistan.

Addleton’s writing is at its most vivid in his firsthand account of the April 2013 suicide bombing attack outside a Zabul school that killed his translator, a fellow Foreign Service officer and three American soldiers.  The memory of this tragedy lingers over Addleton’s journal entries, his prose offering poignant glimpses into the interior life of a U.S. diplomat stationed in harm’s way.

This book is not about the policy or politics of the war in Afghanistan; rather it is a an account of the people who all play their own role in the unfolding events.

We often imagine that the life of a diplomat is glamorous, but what comes through in this book is a certain ordinariness of duty. His days are filled with meetings, briefings, and trips on Blackhawk helicopters. The duty brings sadness as well; most days end with ramp ceremonies to honor those who have been killed in action.

For a fascinating glimpse into the life of a diplomat, I highly recommend this book.

Thanks, Jonathan, for your service to our nation!

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One More Photo

Yibin: Then and Now

The first bell that I found in China was in the city of Yibin, in Sichuan Province. The American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society began work there in the late 1800’s and in the early 1900s they built a church and hung a bell that had been brought over from the United States!

Here’s what the city looked like in 1940:

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Here’s what it looks like today:

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The bell I write about would have been present for both photos! You can read about it in The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China.

Image source: clickme.net

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Friday Photo: Xishiku Catholic Church

Published: The Bells Are Not Silent

 

A Tribute to My Father, 2017

Sixteen years ago I watched the inauguration of President George W. Bush on an old TV in a hotel room on a beach in Thailand. The next morning, my mom called to tell me that my father had suffered a sudden heart attack and died. Within 24 hours I was on a plane bound for Minnesota. Below are the words that I spoke in farewell and tribute to my dad at his memorial service on January 25, 2001 in Roseville, MN. Standing before a crowd of 600 people to deliver these remarks was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  The first part was written at 30,000 feet above the North Pacific Ocean as I flew back to Minnesota from Thailand.

Posting this on my blog is my annual tribute to him.

Sharing a bowl of ice cream with my mom

Sharing a bowl of ice cream with my mom

The call you dread and fear and never expect comes. It’s mom. “Joann, your father died this morning. Please come home as soon as you can. I need you.”

Like an arrow out of no-where, somewhere, it hits first the head, then the heart, and slowly the pain sinks into your bones.

One day you’re relaxing on the beach, washing off the stress of a difficult term, and 24 hours later you’re wandering in a daze around international airports—Phuket, Bangkok, Narita—all jammed with people, and yet feeling so incredibly alone.

The words keep shouting in your soul. “Joann, your father has died,” slamming against your bones and your organs and your skin like a bullet ricocheting around a steel cavern. You try to drive them away with polite conversation, with reading, with hymn-singing, hoping against hope that driving the words away will drive the reality away as well.

But then the words and reality force their way back and the pain starts again.

“Joann, your precious father stepped into glory this morning.”

“Joann, your wonderful father went home to be with his Savior.”

With every fiber of my being I believe these words, but don’t want to believe them at the same time. He was a precious father, but now he is lost in wonder, love and grace in the presence of Jesus.

Yet here at 30,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, I feel just plain lost.

Lost in sadness.

Lost in pain.

I know he’s with his Savior, but I want him here with us.

How will I get through the next ten hours on this plane? How will I bear to see my mom and sister and her family at the end of this long journey?

One hour at a time, one grace at a time.

“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater; He giveth more strength as the labors increase. To added affliction, He addeth more more mercy; to multiplied sorrows, He multiplies peace.”

Then it hits me.

Despite the pain, I too am lost in love and grace. Sustaining grace.

John Piper describes it like this: “Not grace to bar what is not bliss, nor flight from all distress, but this—the grace that orders our trouble and pain, and then in the darkness is there to sustain.”

Will the sadness and the tears and the pain ever go away?

Probably not. But then again, neither will the grace.

So, my beloved dad is gone. What to say?

The words that scream loudest from my soul are simply, “please come back.” I know he’s in a better placee, but I still want him back here. There are too many words and no words. But following are a few—just a few of the special things I remember about my dad.

He had a sense of humor. He loved to laugh and make others laugh, and he was never in danger of taking himself too seriously.

He was a servant. He would do anything for anybody anytime anyplace, from bringing coffee to my waking mom every morning to fixing church roofs to shoveling neighbor’s driveways.

He was humble. In a stuffy academic world, he was just himself.

He was generous. If there was a financial need, he gave. His giving to us seemed limitless and it gave him great joy.

He was compassionate. His heart was tender and easily broken by the pain and suffering in the world. Last month in Beijing, we visited a clothing market that the government was ready to close down. The peddlers were selling their goods at rock-bottom prices. In a crowd frenzied over the best bargain, he kept asking, “what will happen to these poor people?”

He loved Jesus. Quietly and simply, he ordered his life grounded in that love.

He was a wonderful father and I miss him so very much.

Perhaps the greatest tribute I can give will be when I come to the end of my days and people say of me, simply, “she was just like her father.”

Goodbye Dad. I love you and miss you more than words can express.

Jo

 

Read more posts about my dad:

Pittman Hall

Pinch and a Punch

Happy Birthday, Dad

It was Chicken! It was Chicken! 

Evacuation

Evacuation, Part 2

One More Photo

Karachi Memories

Friday Photo: Xishiku Catholic Church

This is one of the churches that I write about in my book The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China. The Xishiku Catholic Church was founded in 1703 and was originally christened The Church of Our Savior.

Xishiku Catholic Church

My fellow bell-hunters and I somehow convinced the priest to let his assistant take us up into the towers to see the old bells. We climbed up the dusty stairs into the east steeple (on the right in the photo) to see the bell hanging there. But where was the second bell?

It was in the west tower, which meant in order to see it we would have to climb into the space between the sanctuary ceiling and the roof of the cathedral and crawl across some ancient dust-covered beams. Spring did her best to talk me out of it, fearing that I might fall through the ceiling and land on the parishioners praying in the sanctuary. But I was not to be thwarted; I was determined to see this bell, her pleadings notwithstanding. (p. 76)

You can read the whole story in the book!

The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China

 

The Great Wall by Drone

When I lived in Beijing, one of my favorite things to do was go to take visitors to the Great Wall in the mountains outside of the city. There are a few designated Great Wall tourist sites, but I also enjoyed exploring some of the unrestored and undeveloped sites as well.

But I never did what Great Wall historian William Lindesay did, namely hike the length of it. To celebrate 30 years of working in China, he and his family spent a year hiking from the easternmost part of the wall at Shanhaiguan to the western terminus at Jiayuguan.

As reported by the BBC:

British geographer, conservationist and author William Lindesay has had a lifelong obsession with the Great Wall of China. Three decades ago, he left his home on Merseyside to live near the wall so he might better be able to study it. In 2016 he and his family travelled 15,000km (9,320 miles) around the wall network, filming it from the air with a drone. Mr Lindesay and his sons, Jim and Thomas, spoke to the BBC about their epic journey and how they shot it.

A video clip of some of the best shots can be found here. (email readers, please click on the link to see the video.) These are shots and perspectives not seen before and they are amazing.

You can read a more detailed account of the journey here.

Another video that makes me homesick for China….

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The Great Wall — Fact or Fantasy?

Wham! Bam! The Great Wall!

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Winter Wall

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A Tale of Two Hikes

 

A Look at Chinese Students

The good folks at the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University recently published the results of a survey they conducted among Chinese university students.

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Here is part of their introductory description:

In this general report, we profile the social characteristics of Chinese students, summarize the key findings of their social, cultural, and spiritual life, and provide the methodological information and detailed tables of this survey. We recognize that there are many types of universities in different locations in this vast land. This study is only the first systematic data collection on Chinese students studying in one of the Big Ten universities. A more representative study would require surveying Chinese students in other types of universities selected from different regions of the country, such as Chinese students in Ivy League universities or in community colleges.

The survey was conducted among Chinese students on a Big Ten campus in the spring of 2016. There were 960 participants. Some key results of the survey include:

  • Most of the students are from well-off families; more than 80% have at least one college-educated parent.
  • Twenty-six percent indicated that their view of the United States became more positive, while 44% indicated their view of China had become more positive.
  • They drank less but smoked more than other students.
  • Fifteen percent responded that they have been treated unfairly due to their race.
  • The number of students who have believed in Protestant Christianity since coming to the US quadrupled.
  • A majority of the students believe in some supernatural power or being, even those who are members of the Chinese Communist Party or the Chinese Youth League.
  • Only 2.4% are here on a Chinese government sponsorship. 72.5% reported that their families are the major financial source for tuition and living expenses.
  • Eighty-two percent said they have been proselytized by Protestant Christians.

You can go here to download a PDF version of the entire report.

If you interact with Chinese students in the United States, it is a must-read.

Note: This post was originally published at ChinaSource.

Image source: Marat Amanzholov, via Flickr

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Chinese Students in the U.S.