“Did you unplug the iron?”
It’s always the big joke in my family to make sure the house was safe whenever we closed it up for a trip. The big discussion driving out of town was always if we’d unplugged the iron or not.
We’d be 15 minutes out of town, hustling down the road, before someone piped up, “Hey! Did someone unplug the iron?” Lots of discussion took place on who had last used it, if it were turned off, if it were unplugged and so forth.
No one remembered.
Finally, my dad would sigh, pull into a side road, turn the car around and hightail back to the house to make absolutely sure we wouldn’t burn the house down because someone left the iron plugged in. Of course, we didn’t, but better safe than sorry.
With this kind of history, before I departed with Mr. Ling in his van, I made sure everything in my apartment was unplugged that could be unplugged. It would be 3 months before I returned and I didn’t want any surprises upon my return, like a burnt-out apartment complex blamed on the foreigner for some electrical appliance she didn’t take care of before locking up for the summer.
“Oh, my gosh! The water heater!!”
Mr. Ling, the dog and I were well on the road to Nanning when my mental review of unplugging appliances suddenly jarred me: The water heater. I had forgotten to unplug and turn off the water heater tank!
This ceiling-mounted heater is in my bathroom and must be filled with water or it will burn up. There’s never a problem of this happening as long as the water is turned on. But, being so diligent about turning things off, I’d turned off the water as well, meaning no water would be pumping into the tank. After a few days, the water in the tank would most likely burn itself up before smoking up the apartment and, eventually, catching on fire.
Thank goodness for cellphones.
I immediately called Mr. Liu, my foreign affairs director, to explain to him about the problem. He supposedly had the keys to my apartment and could easily get in to turn off the water heater.
That was a great relief for me until Mr. Liu called back later that evening to say, “Where are the keys?”
After 2 years of never needing the spare keys to the foreigner’s home, Mr. Liu had misplaced them. He had not a clue where they’d be and neither did I.
More discussion about what to do had me mailing the keys to him from Nanning the next day. But even with express mail, it would take 2 days for them to get there. If I’d had any sense, I could easily have sent them back with Mr. Ling, the driver, but I assumed the spare was easily at hand.
Thus for 2 days, I worried and stewed that I’d burnt down the entire apartment building with my carelessness. I envisioned the water heater exploding, all my neighbors running for cover, the fire department arriving, the doors of my home being chain-sawed into and all the tisking and growling everyone on campus would have for the American who didn’t turn off her water heater but turned off the water, causing this huge disaster to occur.
Of course, that didn’t happen. The keys arrived and Mr. Liu texted me to say everything had been taken care of. Don’t worry and have a great summer.
One disaster averted; Another Worry to begin
With the water heater taken care of, you would think I could have relaxed. But yet another dilemma had hit. The dog.
LF suddenly developed this tiny limp on the day we were to fly to Chengdu to her sitter’s place. This tiny limp, which was nothing much and didn’t hurt her, developed during the day into a big limp. By 10 p.m. that evening, when we were ready to fly out of the airport, she couldn’t stand on her back leg. When we landed in Sichuan’s Chengdu at 11:30 p.m., her leg was swollen 3 times it’s normal size. By the morning, when I finally was able to get her to the vet’s, it was all doom and gloom.
After X-rays, blood tests and sonograms, Dr. Zhang proclaimed that the dog was in dire straights. She’d most likely lose the loss of her leg, it would cause her great pain and she’d have to be put to sleep. When I asked him the cause, he said “old age” but I really thought that was rather an odd diagnosis. He did say we could try to treat her but if she didn’t snap out of it in the next 5 days, we were looking at no more dog.
The treatment was that of a poisoned victim: antibiotic shots and vitamin K shots.
I took her back to the hotel that evening, thinking the next day she might be worse than before. I had my goodbyes all ready to go. I thought back on our times together, what a great blessing she had been to my life, what a good time we’d had together, that these things happen and I needed to be mentally prepared for no more Little Flower.
The next morning, LF was nestled into my clothes in the suitcase when I got up. I went over to check on her to find her humongously swollen leg a tad smaller than the night before! And she could actually manage to put some weight on it when we went out to use the toilet.
It was back to teh vet’s that morning for more treatment. Dr. Zhang looked very pleased with himself that his meds were working. The Doom and Gloom from the day before seemed to be dissipating. Another 7 days of shots along with more vitamin K tablets should do the trick, he said.
LF’s sitter, Mrs. He and her family, would have to take care of the rest of the vet visits but I felt I could leave knowing that the dog would live and a fully recovered Chihuahua would be awaiting me upon my return in September.
Sure enough, emails from China 2 weeks later announced LF was good to go. She had even received her yearly vaccinations now that her leg had been cured.
So what was the culprit behind LF’s sickness?
After researching on the Net, I found one possible reason why LF’s leg had blown up the way it had: An insect bite. But not just any insect bite.
According to my findings, there’s a very aggressive spider in my area of the country, near Vietnam, which is called the Chinese Wolf Spider. It’s of the tarantula family and has a wicked venom. It attacks small rodents, lives in tall grass and the bite is swift, but painless. That would explain why LF didn’t hurt and also why she had such extensive bleeding inside the leg. (That caused the huge swelling.) It was all due to the venom.
What luck I had that Dr. Zhang, despite his “old age” hypothesis, knew what to do and treated her accordingly or it would very well have been a doom-and-gloom scenario after all.
Blue Skies from Then On: Visits Galore
After my bad-luck-comes-in-threes finally ended, it’s been smooth sailing ever since. My time in the States is coming to a close in 3 weeks. I’ve already visited numerous churches, been warmly welcomed for presentations and services alike, had some fantastic overnights with so many lovely people and I’ve even had time to spend with my family.
Another highlight has been a visit from my best friend in Taiwan, Monica (Zhang Qiuhui) who came with her 2 buddies to visit me in my hometown. During my 3 years at Wesley Girls’ High School (1998 – 2001), Monica was the one who befriended me. She was a Chinese language teacher who had spent 9years in Scotland while her husband received his BA and MA in computer science. When they returned to Taiwan, she landed a job at Wesley Girls’ High School at the same time as I did. We quickly became good friends, going to Chinese opera performances, hanging out together, and touring the city every chance we could get. We formed a very special relationship so having her visit my small town, after we hadn’t seen each other in so long, was so much fun. Her two colleagues, Vanessa and Joan, tagged along as well. Their English was just as good as Monica’s, which truly surprised me.
You’re All Caught Up!
With all the visitors and then my travels around Illinois, I apologize for not keeping people more updated on happenings here. Hope that helps.
My next venture will be to place all the itineration photos for you to enjoy. There are so many! Be looking for those to appear soon.
Ping An (Peace) for your day!