标题: My University Classmate – Xia
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发表于 2013-2-1 10:39 PM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
My University Classmate – Xia

Prologue

The article has both Chinese and English versions. In order to pay respect to Xia and ensure that I have stayed with the truth, the contents of this article have been reviewed by her family, and they have given me permission to publish it here.

1. How I Remember her
  
We were going to Europe for holidays soon, to fulfil a dream at the top of my bucket list; I was so excited and couldn’t wait any longer.

Suddenly, a thought sneaked into my head - I heard that my university classmate Xia is living in the Netherlands. We have lost contact with each other for over 30 years - she used to share a desk with me for four years while we were studying in Xinjiang University in China, and she was my best friend. So why don’t I try Google to search for her, maybe I will have an opportunity to meet her when I am touring around Europe?

Thus, I entered few keywords into Google and started searching. To my surprise, with no longer than 5 minutes effort, I found her husband’s diary blog.

By looking at her photo on her page, my head felt like a DVD player where the fast rewind button had been pressed, bringing me instantly back to 30 years ago….

In 1978 on a day in spring, the classes started in Xinjiang University for the ‘77 intake of freshmen students. This group of students was special as they were the first to be admitted to the re-opened university after the Cultural Revolution. The students had up to 15 or more years age difference, and many of the students had worked as soldiers, peasants, workers and even teachers. We were gathered into one classroom and were assigned to a fixed seat, two people per desk. This seat assignment was fixed throughout the four years of our studies.

After I sat down into my assigned seat, I quietly turned around and looked at my desk mate. She had a bright shining pair of eyes, two big dimples on each side of her dark skinned cheeks, and to my great admiration, her long thick black braids, so long that they reached down below her knees. A yellow military style jacket wrapped her very fit muscular upper body, and made her look compact, agile, smart and confident. She looked just like a gorgeous and beautiful sunrise, reflecting me in such sunshine and happiness. “Gosh, she is a beauty!” I gasped. She was Xia. The girls in our classroom called her “Black Rose”.

It was by incredibly good fortune or coincidence that we were assigned to sit together. For instance; our student numbers one followed another, mine was 10405 and she was 10406; we both kept a pair of long braids, but mine were a bit shorter than hers; we even shared a same bundle bed in our dormitory.

After we graduated from university, we were the only girls in our classroom who were married to Western husbands. Even though we lived in separate countries alone, we had more or less similar experiences in many aspects of our career, marriage, family and life...….

“It’s her!” I exclaimed firmly after I scanned her old photos on her page. Even though her surname had been changed, her face was still the same as before, particularly when I saw a photo of her old house at Xinjiang Geological Bureau Head Office Family Villa. Those grey walls and maroon windows and doors brought me back to 30 years ago again….


In our classroom, she always treated me and the other girls warmly and generously, but not to boys. When she faced boys, she was always very serious and hardly smiled to them. She made boys feel scared of her. When she was elected as team leader, one of her tasks was to collect the homework. She would ask the boys sternly “hand in your homework!” No matter how naughty or how old the boys were, they all quickly complied. The boys called her a “Cold Face Beauty”.

We became best friends immediately. Even though she looked so small, she was two years older than me, and also much more mature than me. She always had so many secrets that piqued my curiosity. She never tried to keep those secrets from me. She even told me her boyfriend’s name. In those days, we normally liked to exchange our photos to show our friendship. She gave me two enlarged white and black photos of hers, which I have kept until today.



Xia in 1978

At that time, as her parents were working in the Xinjiang Geological Bureau Head Office located in the same city, she often went home to stay overnight instead of sleep in the campus. She quietly told me the reason was because of her boyfriend. They met and started dating when she was working previously in the Geological Bureau of the ninth brigade. Since she enrolled in University, their social status had changed so differently, and her blue collar boyfriend started feeling low self-esteem and was unsure that their relationship could last much longer. So he often became suspicious when she stayed in the university for a couple of days. He demanded that she must go home every weekend, which made her very uneasy.

At that time, I was too naïve to understand what a love relationship actually means, but I was very curious.

Every time when I was invited to visit her house on the weekend, I always wished I could bump into her boyfriend, but it never happened. However, the image of her old house is still like a vivid picture imprinted in my head even today.

I heard of that, after we graduated, due to various concerns, she eventually married the boyfriend. After a few years they started arguing over the priority of having a child or studying further academic degree, and they eventually ended up being divorced.

I wasn’t sure whether the boys in our classroom knew that she wasn’t available, but there were still suitors who were fearless of the “Black Rose” thorn and dared to give it a try.

One day, when we were in the fourth year of study, she pulled me aside and asked me for a favour. There was a boy who used the excuse of returning her school canteen meal voucher he owed her, quickly passing the voucher into her hands, and then left. On the back of the meal voucher, he wrote an invitation to date her with a time and place. She told me that she had to go home now, and she wouldn’t have a chance to meet that guy. She asked me to help her to give the voucher back to him.

I hesitatingly took the voucher like I was taking a hot potato; I didn’t know what to do with it. If I remember correctly, I had to sneakily insert the voucher into his drawer when no one noticed me in the classroom. After had I done that I had to admire that boy’s guts, which is probably why I still remember him from those days.

In 1982, we all graduated from university and were assigned to various places. We have since lost contact with each other, and hadn’t seen each other either until...….


[ 本帖最后由 含羞草 于 2013-2-6 11:23 AM 编辑 ]





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发表于 2013-2-1 10:44 PM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
My University Classmate – Xia (2)


2. What I Read About Her

2.1) Xia

Well, how has she been after graduation?

Why did her husband write about her instead of writing it herself?

Why didn’t she open her own blog?

With all of those questions, I immediately started reading the content on her page:

“She was born under the name Xia in Urumqi, Xinjiang, P.R. of China. She belonged to the first students that were admitted to the university after the Cultural Revolution. She got her Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics in 1982 from Xinjiang University in Urumqi.”

No mistake - she is the person that I am looking for! So I eagerly continued my reading by picking up keywords ……

After graduation, she worked on a project to build the `ZYP-1 automatic translate spectrometry system', which was employed as the first micro-computer (a Cromemco CS3A with 8PIO) in Xinjiang. The project had won the third price in the Xinjiang Science and Technology Award of 1985. She also was selected to attend the Xinjiang Fuzzy Logic conference in 1984.

In 1988, she received her Master of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Science and Technology China in Hefei, Anhui, P.R. China.

“Wow, well done!” I praised her silently.

Afterwards she worked at different universities in Beijing and Hong Kong, and also went to the USA to study for a short while. In 1990, while she was working at the University of Hong Kong, she met a professor who was a Christian. With her influence, she eventually became a Christian as well. One year later, she got a job at the University of T in the Netherlands. Over there in church, she met a Dutch man, Frans, who acted as her translator from Dutch to English.

One day she prepared a meal for Frans to thank him for all the translating work that he did, and then the romance between them started to bloom. They ended up getting married in October 1993, and had a daughter and a son afterwards.

Suddenly, my eyes were locked on the last two paragraphs, I almost froze:

“On December 7, 2006, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

On February 14, 2011, she was admitted to B, a nursing home in E. “

What?! I read it, and re-read it again; I couldn’t believe what I read! It wasn’t true, was it? No, no, I couldn’t believe it!

I frantically clicked the mouse and opened all of links on her page; I madly read through all of them, till my heart started to break, tears streaming down my face……

2.2) Xia and Her Family

In October 1997, her son Andy was born. Shortly after his birth, Andy began to show development delays and had problems with eating and gaining weight. He went through many medical examinations, but no diagnosis could be made.

When he was one year old, people suggested that he might have Kabuki Syndrome. In the summer of 1999, when Andy was almost 2 years old, an expert who was one of the professors to first recognize this syndrome in Europe after it was discovered in Japan, officially confirmed that he was suffering from Kabuki Syndrome. (In October 2010, this was affirmed by the discovery of a new mutation in the DNA of his MLL2 gen.) Ever since then, Xia’s world began to turn upside down.

Kabuki syndrome, also previously known as Kabuki makeup syndrome, KMS or Niikawa–Kuroki Syndrome, is a paediatric congenital disorder of suspected genetic origin with multiple congenital anomalies and intellectual disabilities. Some of the common problems are heart defects (30%), urinary tract anomalies, hearing loss (50%), hypotonia, and postnatal growth deficiency (83%). Other characteristics include skeletal abnormality, joint laxity, short stature, and unusual dermatoglyphic patterns. They often suffer from recurrent ear infections in infancy. In terms of development, mild to moderate intellectual disability (92%) is a common feature. A few have normal intelligence, most of whom have learning difficulties such as struggling with fine motor, speech skills, and memory. (From Wikipedia)

Just like described above, for several years, Andy had to use a tube to be fed, and couldn’t walk by himself freely. He had to frequently visit a hospital/clinic.

Around that period, Xia had enrolled herself into T University to study a Masters degree in telematics to update her knowledge. Unfortunately, the combination of studying and taking care of her son became too much for her, causing her to suffer a nervous breakdown in 2000. (Most remarkably was that she had a hard time understanding some basic statistics.) After this she suffered from chronic tiredness for a long time, thus she was unable to work since then. Therefore, her handicapped son became her major focus and attracted all her attention.

While she had her hands taking care of her son full time, she almost forgot everyone around, including herself, and her daughter Annabel.

No matter that her daughter was normal and healthy, the need for a mother’s care and love were the same as for her son. Unfortunately she didn’t realise it or treat it as being that important at that time, which had made Annabel felt totally left out. Gradually the gap of estrangement between mother and daughter began growing bigger and further apart; then suddenly, the ill feeling that had been developing below the surface erupted into confrontation.

Around this time Xia started with fitness on a regular basis, and the chronic tiredness seems to disappear, giving her much more energy. But she started having some other minor health issues.

In 2004, Xia started experiencing blurred vision, and she felt her eyes, particularly her left one, like it was covered by a brown-yellow fog, which meant that she could not see sharply anymore. After a number of checkups, her ophthalmologist came to the conclusion that she suffered from a partial central retinal vein occlusion. There was also some swelling and oedema in the back of her eye. Her left eye has since lost sight.



Xia in 2005 (Taken by Frans)

While she was suffering sight problem, she also started getting very moody. Often she would behave in a very egocentric way, and also she had a great problem to control her short temper. She seemed to be having trouble in understanding the behaviour of her daughter Annabel, and she also lacked empathy when Annabel was upset. She was constantly comparing her own behaviour as a child with the behaviour of Annabel, not realising that they were living in completely different times and cultures. Eventually, they had to ask social welfare for consultations to solve the tension between mother and daughter. After social welfare talked with Xia, it seemed to help a little bit.

Unfortunately, no one aware at that time, her odd behaviour was related to Alzheimer's disease.

She had also been suffering from dejection and forgetfulness for some time. She found that her memory had declined, too.

In early 2006, she started to complain about her memory. To be certain, she performed some related tests by someone who came to the house. She was shocked to receive poor scores on some simple memory tests and on the Visual Association Test. She then underwent a psychological examination, a neurologist performed a lumbar puncture and had her cerebrospinal fluid tested, and then a MRI scan for her brain in December 2006. Sadly, all results pointed in the direction of Alzheimer's disease.

For the most, Xia felt relieved that finally the cause of all her troubles in the past years had been found and that she had not been a poser. She started receiving treatment by taking Reminyl, a medicine which elevates the symptoms of AD, but does not delay the further development of the disease. She also started to use curcumin, the yellow ingredient of the Indian spice turmeric, after Frans read something about it on the internet.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. There is no cure for the disease, which worsens as it progresses… In the early stages, the most common symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events. When AD is suspected, the diagnosis is usually confirmed with tests that evaluate behaviour and thinking abilities, often followed by a brain scan if available. As the disease advances, symptoms can include confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, trouble with language, and long-term memory loss. As the sufferer declines they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Since the disease is different for each individual, predicting how it will affect the person is difficult. It can progress undiagnosed for years. On average, the life expectancy following diagnosis is approximately seven years. (From Wikipedia)

As described above, after the diagnosis, her symptoms of AD became gradually worse ever since. In 2007 she also started to attend a special group for people with early onset dementia at B, a nursing home specialized in people with dementia (including AD). Frans also received some counselling from B and once every six weeks met with other partners of people with early onset dementia, which was a great support to him.

In the spring of 2009, Annabel had great difficulties dealing with her odd behaviour and the continuing conflicts. At the end, Annabel couldn’t no longer put up with the problems anymore; she gave up and decided to move out the house. Annabel arranged alone for herself to stay with friends for up to 18 months.

By the end of 2009, she could no longer brush her teeth by herself; she also started to make more and more errors in her normal home chores. She had almost completely lost the ability to write both with Chinese characters and Roman letters. She also suffered from apraxia, meaning that she had problems with performing daily routines. It also meant that she could not be allowed to go out by herself.

In the spring of 2010, people working at B had a series of talks with Frans about her being admitted in a nursing home. In the summer, just before she made her last trip to Urumqi to visit her family in China, Frans made the very difficult decision that it was in the interest of everybody that she would be admitted in B. By this time she was already going there for four days per week for daycares and she also got support at home. Frans reduced his working hours from 40 to 24 days per week to help taking care for her and doing most of the cooking and housework.

After Xia was admitted into a nursing home, Annabel was then able to reunite with the rest of her family.

When Xia lived in the nursing home, initially she started to speak Chinese predominantly, occasionally using some Dutch words. Not very long, she had almost lost the ability to speak any language. A psychologist working in the nursing home suspected she also was having some front temporal dementia flavour in her Alzheimer's disease.

“Poor her!” I groaned sadly, wiping off tears from my face, after I finished reading.


[ 本帖最后由 含羞草 于 2013-2-3 05:06 PM 编辑 ]





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发表于 2013-2-1 10:50 PM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
My University Classmate – Xia (2)


2.3) Our Classmates and Teacher

I blankly stared at my laptop’s screen, steeped in the depths of grief, wordless and confused. I didn’t know what to do next?

Suddenly, a thought came into my mind - normally there should be contact details on the blog, why don’t I look around to find out her husband’s email address first?

Thus, I immediately started looking around her husband home page. Without spend very long, I found her husband’s email address at the bottom paragraph on the page. I started writing to him, and soon we built our two-way communication channel.

From her husband’s reply, I heard that Xia’s condition was getting even worse. She could no longer eat by herself, but was required to be fed. She was starting to wander around more and more, losing contact with reality, suffering from angry moods probably in combination with delusions. Also her memory and comprehension ability have been decreasing. She almost became impossible to communicate with people.

“It’s hardly believable!” I refused to accept the truth.

Therefore, I made my decision - no matter what happens on this Europe tour, I must find a way to visit the nursing home. I wanted to see her with my own eyes.

It was 23rd August, five days after our classmates’ reunion celebrating the 30th anniversary of graduation from Xinjiang University.

Around the 8.18 reunion date (18th August), we were asked to contribute articles and old photos so each classmate’s 30 years summary would be published in our yearbook, which is called “Spring and live”. Our class common email box was very busy and active. Thus, I sent an announcement into the inbox to tell everyone that I’d found Lin Xia. I briefly told everyone about Xia’s current condition, and my visit plan.

Soon, there were lots of replies from our classmates coming into my inbox, including one of our professors, Lai. Everyone was happy to know that I had found Xia, but felt very sad about her sickness. They all sent their regards to her and asked me to pass them on. With such overwhelming responsibility, I was more determined to see her.

However, to put a wish into a plan, and a plan into an action, that is another story……


2.4) Me

On 18th August, while our classmates of Xinjiang University Reunion were celebrating our 30 years graduation in China, I was unfortunately bitten by a poisonous spider while hanging out the washing on the clothes line. As I acted quickly and treated the wound in time, I could be able to be discharged from the Emergency Department of the hospital on the same afternoon. However, due to the fact that I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) at the beginning of this year, and my energy level has been getting very low, the recovery period from the poisoning took a longer time than normal. By that time, I could only barely deal with my daily full time job. After I finished work and arrived home, all I wanted to do was to hit the bed and sleep to regain my energy back for another day. I knew, in order to make this new travel plan to visit Xia, I must need somebody’s help.

Since I had been diagnosed as a CLL patient, I was put into a group of people who were there today, but weren’t sure if they would be there tomorrow. I had realised every hour and minute in my life was precious. I learnt to make them more productive and efficient. I realised that if I could meet Xia while I was touring around the Netherlands that it could be the last chance for me and for her. So I must grasp it tightly.

I told my thoughts to my husband, and I explained to him that we might have to drop out from our tour group that he had arranged on the day when we were at Netherlands, and to make a special detour, across Netherlands and Germany by ourselves to visit Xia. To my relief, my husband understood me, totally supported my idea, and was willing to help with planning this trip.

After discussion with Xia’s husband, we decided to choose the train as our major transportation. From where we dropped off from our tour group, to the nursing home where Xia stayed, and then to arrive at destination of our tour group by the end of day, the whole trip would need five different trains, approximately 700 kilometres in distance, and over nine hours travelling time. With my net pals’ help, who were living at Germany, we finally successfully made our reservations to cover the whole of the trip over Germany on the day.

During that time, I wrote a Chinese letter to Xia, attaching our classmate Star Fish’s article “The Spring part 14: Our Team Leader Lin Xia” and a PDF of the 30th anniversary yearbook called “Spring and Live”, and emailed all of them to Xia’s husband, Frans. I wished those old memories and photos could help her recall her long-time memory. To my disappointment, when Frans brought a laptop to show her those things at his weekend visit, she could hardly see anything.

Frans then remembered there was a Chinese Student Association at T University. Why don’t I ask them to read those Chinese characters to Xia, he thought? So he contacted the Chinese Student Association, and received their response immediately - “Yes, they were happy to help.”

On the following weekend, three students from the university went to the nursing home with Xia’s husband. They brought flowers to see her, read those Chinese articles to her, which had made her smile all the time, even though she did not say much and mumbled more than she talked. When I heard it from her husband, I was so happy. I asked him if it was possible to arrange a meeting with them when I was there.

While we were busy with all of these matters, time was fast approaching toward our departure day. Unfortunately, I still had lots of uncertain issues to solve.

Will we be allowed to drop off from our tour group to do our own activity on the planned day?

After we go on our own tour, will we be allowed to leave our luggage to the coach driver of our tour group, so he can bring our luggage to the destination in the evening?

We have not booked our train tickets in the Netherlands yet. Will we be able to buy the train tickets on the day?

We will change five trains during the day. We were not local and couldn’t speak Dutch or German, how to be sure that we could know when and where to get off each train?

When we change trains, we won’t know which platform to change to, and how close or far the platforms are to each other? How can we be sure to get on the right platform and onto the right train?

On that morning, how can we get transportation from our hotel to the correct train station?

On that afternoon, how can we find the correct hotel from the destination train station in Germany, to meet our tour group?

Will this trip go smoothly? What if something unexpected happen? What will we do then?

So on and so on……

I had to uneasily bring those questions, packed up along with colour printed version the yearbook “Spring and Live” posted from our classmates in China, into my luggage. The book arrived one day before my departure day; it was my copy, but I had decided to give it to Xia. I boarded the airplane, and started my exciting European trip…….


[ 本帖最后由 含羞草 于 2013-2-3 05:05 PM 编辑 ]





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发表于 2013-2-1 10:55 PM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
My University Classmate – Xia (3)


3. When I Met Her

3.1The Netherlands

The Netherlands is an interesting and very liberal country. Since it’s my first visit to this country, you have to excuse me for changing the subject, to allow me to briefly talk to you about my first impressions of the Netherlands. Well, before I say anything, I have to warn you: some of the content below is Adult-Only in nature, so children and young teenagers should skip this section.

The Netherlands can be summarised as: One word, two items and three odd things.

First of all, we’ll talk about the one word: HIGH (in Chinese, high and tall are the same word – Gao). The Netherlands, opposite to its geographical low land, is a very HIGH country.

As you may know, the Dutch are the tallest people in the world, and they are one of the most highly educated people in the world as well.

We were told that most Dutch people can speak at least two languages: Dutch and English, but there are some that can speak even more such as German and French.

Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The buildings are tall, thin and crowd together, overlooking the tree lined canals. Residents’ living areas in the city are small and crowded. There are also a lot of people who are living in houseboats along the canal’s banks. However, since the government of the Netherlands provides their people with very good social welfare, free education and medical care, their people generally live happily and peacefully. In 2010, Amsterdam was ranked 13th globally on quality of living by Mercer, and previously ranked 3rd in innovation by 2thinknow in the Innovation Cities Index 2009.

Therefore, the Netherlands is either HIGH or TALL, that is its main character – Dutch people are the tallest, education the highest, buildings are tall and thin, and their living standard is high, too.

Also, there is the other matter about their liberal marijuana laws – for a discussion of that type of “HIGH”, please read on.

Next, I’d like to talk about two items. The Dutch treat “water” and “wood” as the two most important things in their lives.

Talking about the usage of the “wood”, their world-famous wood products, such as, a wide range of exquisite hand-made wooden clocks, wooden boats and their traditional hand-made beautiful clog shoes, can be seen everywhere in the Netherlands. Not to mention the beautiful and huge wooden windmills, unique wood houses, etc.

As for usage of the “water”, when you are in Amsterdam, needless to say, you will be surrounded by “water”.

The Netherlands is a flat low land country. Amsterdam's name is derived from Amstelredamme, indicative of the city's origin: a dam in the river Amstel. The city is but little above sea level, but many areas that the Dutch reclaimed from the sea, are below sea level, sometimes up to 6.7 meters. After so many years the city and the area around it are still sinking, meaning that the Dutch have to watch the many dikes and occasionally make them higher and wider. The region where Amsterdam is located is called Holland; it means "low land".

Let’s clear up a few common misunderstandings. First, the Netherlands is the correct name for the country. Holland is the name of the low lying region that includes the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, but is often incorrectly used to refer to the whole country. “Dutch” is how English speakers refer to the people or the language, but the Dutch refer to themselves as “Nederlanders” and their language as “Nederlands”. Clear now? Good. Let’s move on.

Amsterdam has been called the "Venice of the North" for its more than one hundred kilometres of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The canals of Amsterdam were created in the 17th Century, just like a gigantic spider web, and starts from heart of the city as its centre, spreading evenly outwards. Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age in the17th Century, a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading centre for finance and diamonds. As the Netherlands' commercial capital and one of the top financial centres in Europe, Amsterdam is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group. Therefore, year after year, “Water”has brought into this city a booming market, alive trading, economical prosperity and an affluent life.

So there are three well-known odd things in the Netherlands: bicycles, coffeeshops (in Dutch written as one word) and the Red Light District.

Firstly, bicycles. Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world and is a centre of bicycle culture with good facilities for cyclists such as bike paths and bike racks, and several guarded bike storage garages. We were told that there are ten per cent of bicycles of the world in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, you can find parked bicycles on the streets, along the banks of canals, next to bridges, on fences, in fact, everywhere! In particular, when we passed the six level Bicycle Park at Amsterdam Central train station, and looking at the thousands bicycles parked in there, with the sunshine reflecting off all these bikes attempting to blind your eyes, the scene just makes you drop your jaw in amazement. Even when comparing it to the bicycle usage in big cities in China, there is nowhere even close!

So, when you are walking on a street in Amsterdam, you will never feel that you’ve got enough eyes to avoid bike riders. Very often, a bike rider will come out of nowhere, and suddenly run right towards you, catching you with no time to react or avoid it. I was nearly knocked down once. All of sudden, I heard a boy shouting at me “pay attention!” and instantly I felt the rush of the bicycle wheels brush past the back of my heels. When I turned around to look for him, the rider was already long gone, lost in the mass of the other bike riders.

Therefore, in the Netherlands, pedestrians are scared of bike riders, but the bike riders are scared of cars…

In 1992, when Xia had just arrived in the Netherlands, she was knocked unconscious by a car while riding a bicycle. She was taken by an ambulance to a hospital overnight suffering an ankle injury. After she came out of hospital, Xia stayed in bed for several days and suffered from mild concussion ever since. As we know that early-onset Alzheimer's disease is often related to family history, but this does not seem to be the case for her. Therefore, whether Xia’s Alzheimer's disease is related to this incident or not, is still open to question.

Actually, the most popular tourist attractions in the Netherlands are the two odd things: Coffeeshops and the red light district.

There is distinct difference between a coffee house, a café and a coffeeshop in the Netherlands.

The coffee house sells different kinds of coffee to customers, a café is similar to a bar, and the coffeeshop sells neither coffee nor alcohol.

You must wonder then, so what does the coffeeshop sell? It sells cannabis and soft drugs, such as hashish.

Interestingly enough, the drug use in the Netherlands is relatively low when compared to other European countries, and the number of problem drug users is among the lowest in Europe. It is believed that this is related to the liberal conduct of allowing relatively harmless drugs, such as cannabis and magic mushrooms, to be sold in a legal way, thus avoiding people coming into contact with dealers offering more dangerous drugs as well. More people die in the Netherlands because of alcohol abuse than because of all kinds of drugs (both legal and illegal). Dutch people think that alcohol as a drug is more dangerous than cannabis. Hence, Coffeeshops of the Netherlands are no longer allowed to sell alcohol, but they are legally licensed to provide non-contaminated cannabis products to adult customers. Well, I’ve got to confess here - if our tour guide hadn’t walked so fast with our tour group, and I wasn’t afraid of losing my way, I may have given in to my curiosity and walked into a coffeeshop, and enjoyed to get a HIGH. Got you! Just kidding. Haha.

The red light district in Amsterdam is even more thriving.

In there, not only there are many adult-only sex toy stores, strip dancing clubs, sex clubs, gay bars, adult movie cinemas and homosexual streets, but also windows where prostitutes display themselves to prospective clients, all of which added up to an eye-popping experience. All of those businesses are legal in Netherlands. Even more, as a legal profession, the government ensures that all prostitutes are able to access medical care and work in better conditions by regulating and monitoring working practices and standards.

On that day when we followed our tour guide walking through those back streets, we saw a man was doing push ups in the middle of street. Prostitutes were watching him through windows and laughing at him; endless tourists also looked at him while walking along the side of the street to give him room and quickly passed him… Well, what a strange guy!

Now, the Amsterdam red-light district and its many cannabis coffeeshops have become a worldwide well known tourist hot spot, which draw more than 3.66 million international visitors annually.

Well, it was a long day for us on 19th September. We followed our travel agent’s instruction, got up at 4am, and caught a taxi from our hotel to Waterloo train station at London, to meet our tour group. From there, we got on our tour coach, crossed the English Channel by ferry, travelled four countries of England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and arrived at Amsterdam around 2pm. Then, we got disoriented following our tour guide, walking several back streets, past many cannabis coffeeshops and the red-light district, robotically got on a big glass roof machine boat, cruised past countless big or small bridge arches, and then drank different kinds of typical Dutch alcohol (forgotten the names), enjoyed several courses of traditional Dutch dishes (again forgotten the names), until nearly midnight, when we then half-sleeping half-dreaming got back to our hotel. We had already told the group’s tour guide that we would break from the group tomorrow for the day. Before we hit the bed, the guide told us that the canteen in the hotel is near the airport. To service pilots, it opens 24 hours per day, so we can have an early breakfast before our departure.

We had another long day the next day. At 5am in the morning, sudden noises of the alarm and a wakeup call from our tour guide greeted us at almost the same time, which definitely did a very good job to make us wide awake. We got out the bed instantly, quickly packed up our luggage and put them to the required spot where our coach driver would collect them and bring them down for us to our next destination; we then put our backpacks on our shoulders and went downstairs to the canteen to have a quick breakfast. After breakfast, we got on the hotel shuttle bus to the airport, once off the bus we then walked directly to the train station ticket office and bought 6:50am departure train tickets as per our plan. As soon as we boarded the train and found vacant seats to sit down, the train started moving. I instantly sent out a SMS to Frans to tell him that we were on the train according to our schedule. Now we could relax, or so we thought…



[ 本帖最后由 含羞草 于 2013-2-3 05:07 PM 编辑 ]





何故爱含羞,近身叶便收。细刺花姹紫,为谁暗香幽?
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发表于 2013-2-1 10:59 PM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
My University Classmate – Xia (3)


3.2)At the Nursing Home


Even though the Netherlands and Germany are neighbours, the Dutch haven’t learnt the German’s serious and strict character.

I wasn’t sure if it just was an incident on that day, or it happened all the time, but our long distance train was running ten minutes later than the scheduled time (according to the English announcement on the train, it was due to signal failure). So when we got off the train at Almelo to change to a local train, we missed the scheduled connection and caught an even later train to our destination, E. When we eventually arrived at our destination, it was about 20 minutes later than our expected time.

Frans had warned us earlier that there could be a problem to find a car park spot at E train station. He said that he might have to drive around to meet us coming out the station, and then stop the car to pick us up.

Even though I already sent a SMS to Frans and told him that the train was running late, and we had never met each other before, so it made me very worried that Frans and we wouldn’t be able to find each other. Well, to our surprise, as soon as we stepped out the train, we found Frans inside the station; and standing next to Frans was a Chinese girl. Frans introduced her to us that she was one of students from Chinese Student Association at T University, who visited Xia previously. Her name is Xiao-Yue. After we greeted each other briefly, we walked out the train station and got in Frans’ car. He drove us directly to the nursing home where Xia stayed. About fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the front building of the nursing home.

E is a municipality and the largest city in the eastern Netherlands in the province of Overijssel and in the T region.

On May 13, 2000, a fireworks storage warehouse in E exploded, destroying an entire neighbourhood and killing 23 people, including 4 firemen. This catastrophe is known in the Netherlands as the Vuurwerkramp, Dutch for fireworks disaster. Since this event, the city has undergone a major reconstruction process. The city is a former centre of textile production. After the fall of the textile industry, E strives to become a centre of business, innovation and technology through the Business & Science Park, located just next to the University of T. The nursing home is located out of town and towards the German border.

The building of the nursing home, called B, was built in 2006. This nursing home specialises in caring for people with different types of dementia, it has been running such a business for over 60 years. The new building consists of six residential blocks and a central building where all the facilities are housed. There are 34 small houses in total; each house accommodates six separate bedrooms. The building is located on the outskirts of the city and is surrounded by several green and beautiful parks.

We followed Frans as he walked in the big glass front door. Frans waited and told us that had to wait for the second door to open until the outer door closed fully. After we walked into the building, Frans greeted the person at the front desk in Dutch, and we followed him into the lift to see Xia on the second floor. The nursing home has named the six residential blocks after well known street names in E. It helps local dementia patients feel like they are living in their own home, and it also helps them remember their house numbers more easily by using familiar street names.

We stepped out the lift, walked directly to the front door of 1 Marktstraat (Market Street). Frans opened the door. We then faced a long corridor. Along the right hand side of the corridor were six bedrooms. There was a resident’s photo and name plate hanging on the side wall of each bedroom door. Xia’s bedroom was the 6th, and directly besides the lounge room at the end of the corridor.

Unfortunately, Xia wasn’t in her bedroom. The nurse told us that she went out for a walk. Frans then went outside to look for her and left us behind in the house.

To control my eagerness in wanting to see Xia, I used this opportunity to take a few photographs of her bedroom.

Not very long after, I heard the nurse exclaiming that Xia was back.

I immediately looked to the front door. From a distance, I saw Frans taking off her coat and then holding her hand, together walking slowly towards us. Even though I thought I was already mentally prepared to see the worst, however, by seeing her motionless facial expression and slow walking movement like she was a senior, I was totally shocked. She was a totally different person to whom I used to know!

To cover up my shock, I quickly walked towards Xia and gave her a big hug.

“Hello! I’m RR. Do you remember me? I represent our classmates by coming to see you.” I declared to her.

Still those familiar long thick black beautiful braids were down to her waist, I could hardly see any grey coloured hairs on her head. Perhaps because the disease progression made her less active, her body had unusually put on a few kilos, but I could still recognise a lot of the familiar figure from my memory. The only thing that made my heart break was seeing her unchangeable smiling facial expression as a result of her dementia. That wasn’t how I remembered her.

There were too much to say and too much to update with her. I couldn’t wait for her response, and started pouring my words out excitedly. I passed our teacher Lai and each classmate’s greetings to her firstly.

While I was talking, I held her arm and walked with her to her room. Once we both sat down, I instantly got out our students’ yearbook “Spring and Live”, and told her that this was her copy. I opened the book, showing it to her, and started reading from one of the pages...

“Let us walking into this picture album, looking at you and looking at me…” I was reading chapter one – “Testimonials” written by our classmate Wang Gong-Da.

“It was 30 years ago, we met in spring, and we departed in spring, too.

“How long is 30 years? Do the wrinkles on your forehead recall your journey up and down life’s path? 30 years can be short, as we were always living in a hurry; never realising time has been flying away. Now, let us pause for a while, let this picture album take us back to our memories, and lead us into our deepest recesses in our heart…”

I looked at Xia, she was listening quietly with her unchangeable smiling face. Did she understand it? Perhaps it’s too literary and too complicated for her? I doubted silently.

So, I turned the page to the next. I explained to her about our 30th anniversary reunion as held on the18th August at our university in this year, and I read the “Invitation Letter” to her as well. “…The classmates mean care, the friendships mean sisterhood, and the reunion means warm gathering…”

She was still quietly listening and still showing me with her unchangeable smiling face. What should I do next to get her reaction? Maybe I should show our old photos taking from university campus to her?

So, I then turned the page to a chapter called “Memorable 1977”, showing her each of our teachers’ photos page by page.

While I was showing those teachers’ photos, I kept asking her questions like…

“Do you remember our teacher Fang who used to teach us ‘Advanced Algebra’ and ‘Group Theory’?

“Do you remember our teacher Lai who used to teach us ‘Analytic Geometry’ and ‘Graph Theory’? He asked me to pass his special greeting to you when he heard that I would come to see you.

“And also teacher Huang who used to teach us ‘Ordinary Differential Equations’, teacher Wang who used to teach us ‘Calculation Methods’, and so on… Particularly, you must remember our class consultant teacher Li Jing-Hua, don’t you?”

“I can’t remember her.” she said, suddenly breaking her silence, looking at me in the eye, answering my question with a very heavy southern Chinese accent. (Actually, this was the only sentence that consisted of more than a single word that she spoke that day. Since I had had a similar experience when taking anti-depression medicine, I could understand that she had made a special effort to speak out a whole sentence.)

Aha, a sign of improvement! It encouraged me to continue. So I turned the book to the next chapter called “Mixed Life”, and started showing her each of our classmates’ pages, one by one, to tell her about what happened to them in those 30 years after we graduated from university. I was trying my best to bring her old memories back…

Xia was still listening quietly, till I turned to Cui Xou-Xing’s album and mentioned her name, she suddenly laughed out as she recalled something funny about Cui, but she quickly changed back to how she was before.

I turned the page. I was still trying to get her to recall more memories…

Then I turned the page to Li Wen-Ping’s album. I told her that Li had passed away with lung cancer in 2010. “Ah!” she showed her surprise. After that, she did not have any spontaneous responses like that. Even though I showed her our old group photos when we were at the university campus in the chapter “Mottled Figures”, she showed no sign of memory.


[ 本帖最后由 含羞草 于 2013-12-20 04:17 PM 编辑 ]





何故爱含羞,近身叶便收。细刺花姹紫,为谁暗香幽?
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发表于 2013-2-1 11:00 PM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
My University Classmate – Xia (3)


After a while, I could feel that she started to be unsettled, and she seemed to want to say something, but couldn’t manage to say anything. I tried to guide her by asking her “are you tired?”

“Yes.” She responded instantly. It seemed she echoed my question rather than answered it, but it might be true as I have had the similar experience when I was very sick in this year, I couldn’t even have any energy to read or think at all.

I closed the book instantly, put it on her lap, and told her that this yearbook was presented by all of our classmates’ care and love to her, as they asked me specially to bring it to her. So I put it in her room, to allow Xiao-Yue and other Chinese visitors to read it to her in future. But she looked at the book on her lap, and her fingers did not react to try to hold it.

Oh, I didn’t notice until now that I hadn’t seen her arms and her fingers lift or move in reflex as a normal person would. It seemed her upper limb muscles had lost their reflex function. A wave of sadness sank in my heart. I quickly held back my tears coming out my eyes, picked up the book from her lap and gave it to Frans, and asked him to keep it in her room.

I held her arm to help her get up from the sofa, and told Frans that she told me that she was tired. But Xia was watching Frans expectantly instead.

Frans suggested in Dutch to her, “Do you want me to take them for a walk around the building?”

“Hai”, she nodded happily.

“She seemed liking to walk with someone a lot. But has she recognised me now?” I wondered. In fact, I only purposely practiced a half hour walk on every morning and regained my energy one month ago. Therefore, her energy level seemed better than I was. I was happy for her. As long as I’ve met her, and completed the mission that our classmates’ regards to her, whether she recognised me or not, it didn’t matter to me anymore.

I was still holding her arm as we walked out of the room into the corridor. When we were about to open the door, she stopped. “Is she changing her mind?” I wondered.

Frans knew what she wanted. He took off her coat from a hanger on wall where her name tag was, and started to put the coat on her.

“Let me, please!” I reacted quickly and took the coat from Frans.

To be honest, I couldn’t get used to the smart and active person whom I used to know had suddenly changed to someone who was unable to do anything without a caregiver. I tried very hard to hold back my tears again, and hung by head low as I was putting on her coat to avoid others seeing my emotion……

We took the lift and went down to the foyer. Frans told the lady in Dutch at the front desk that we were going for a short walk. We then stepped outside of the nursing home.

It was early autumn. By breathing the fresh cool air and enjoying the soft sunshine and beautiful garden, it was really nice to be outdoors. However, my heart was feeling rather heavy, and I felt rather out to breath and couldn’t really appreciate the natural beauty of the environment…

We were arm by arm and walked slowly. I ignored the others and poured everything out that had happened in my life in past 30 years to Xia, my studies, my career, my marriage, my children, my family and my CLL status, etc. She was listening and responded a few times with a single word, which made me feel much better.

We also met another group of walkers, they greeted Xia in Dutch, and Xia just smiled back.

We walked two loops around the building, Frans then guided us back to Xia’s house, 1 Market Street, Xia walked ahead of us directly to the end of corridor.

It was a lounge combined with a kitchen. There were several patients watching TV in it. Frans introduced us to a nurse. The nurse then said to Xia in English, “your friends have come to see you. You look so happy today.”

Xia smiled and nodded.

“It is a nice place”, I complimented.

Xia heard it and smiled with satisfaction, and then took us back to her room.

I looked around her room again, and noticed there was a Christian prayer with words printed in Chinese. I then told Xia that I was a Christian, too - Russian Orthodox. “Wow.” Xia responded.

Without noticing it, time was fast approaching our scheduled departure time, and we had to leave soon, whether we liked to or not.

We asked Xiao-Yue to take a few group photos. I held Xia’ arm all of the time, and reluctantly led her to the door. When we approached the lift, Frans opened the lift and stepped inside while using one arm to hold the door open for us. Xia was following us about to step into the lift as well. “No, no”, Frans stopped her.

Suddenly I realised that we had to say our final goodbye now. I was thinking that, as we are both suffering different incurable diseases, this moment could be our last chance to see each other; I couldn’t control my sadness anymore. I hugged Xia’s stiff body tightly and cried out…

When I had to leave her, I quickly stepped inside the lift. As I couldn’t stand to see that lift door shut in front of Xia, I turned my head away from her. I heard the door shut, and my heart sank at the same time.

When we were down in the foyer, we looked up and could see through the glass balcony that Xia was walking towards a nurse. Frans told us that she would be fine. The nurse will take care of her.

Following our plan, we were driven by Frans across the German border, to catch our train from Gronau. On our way to the train station, Xiao-Yue and I exchanged our email address to keep contact in the future. We only briefly chatted for less than ten minutes, and we arrived at the train station in Germany.

It seems that to cross different countries in Europe is just like when you cross states within a country, so our car didn’t stop for a customs check or anything. We didn’t even see any sign saying “Welcome to Germany” in German nor in English (I was disappointed about that!), then we were there.

Frans and Xiao-Yue walked with us to the station. They saw us get on board, then waved goodbye to us and left.

This was a short distance train. Inside the train, there was no digital train stop indicator, and no train stop announcements in English, only in Dutch and German. However, there was a train timetable in the back pocket of each seat for us to use as reference. Therefore, during the one hour trip, we had no intention to enjoy the scenery outside the window, nor had time to think anything else, but just nervously searched each station name when the train stopped, and counted how many stops before we should get off. Until we finally got off the train and changed to the long distance train which had catered a digital indicator showing each train stop and offered train stop announcement in English, German and Dutch, as it was four hours trip before the next change, we were then relieved.

When we finally had a break, Xia’s face instantly popped back into my head. I really felt that it wasn’t just the Alzheimer's disease that caused to her act like that, there was something more. She must be taking some kind of nerve control medicine to help her relax and stop her restlessness as well.

As I had a bad experience taking anti-depression medicine, I knew what those kinds of medicine do to you.

It makes you unable to express your feelings freely, and made you feel that you were always in a dream and couldn’t wake up. During the time when I was taking the medicine, other people only saw my calm face and I slept all of time, but they didn’t know that underneath my skin there was a volcano trying to erupt. I tried very hard to say words that I wanted to say, but it seemed my emotion was being remotely controlled by somebody else rather than by myself. The thing that annoyed me the most during that time wasn’t because I couldn’t laugh when I wanted to, but it was because I couldn’t cry when I wanted to. I recalled that time as being my darkest period.

By recalling what I had been through this year, and then recalling Xia now, I was suddenly hit by a strong wave of sadness, and I quickly used a train timetable sheet to cover up my face, closed my eyes, silently letting out my long held-back tears pour out from me like from an opening dam, streaming down my face, and onto my clothes…

I shouted from my heart quietly: “farewell, my friend. God bless you! “


[ 本帖最后由 含羞草 于 2013-2-3 05:08 PM 编辑 ]





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发表于 2013-2-1 11:10 PM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
My University Classmate – Xia (3)




The Nursing Home where Xia is staying



This is a street sign. On Dutch’s wooden shoe it wrote: Marktstraat (Market Street) 1. On left hand, there is intercom; and a list of residents of the house number 1 is showing on right land. There are six residents in total on the list, two Mr. (dhr) and four Mrs. (mevr.).





A single bed in each room, it’s fully adjustable like a hospital bed. How nice.



[ 本帖最后由 含羞草 于 2013-2-3 05:09 PM 编辑 ]





何故爱含羞,近身叶便收。细刺花姹紫,为谁暗香幽?
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发表于 2013-2-1 11:16 PM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
My University Classmate – Xia (3)



There was a small washing up sink at corner



There was a small TV and two single sofas opposite the bed



There are a lot of family photos hanging on walls in her room.

Wedding Photo – In church, God as our witness, we wowed to each other: “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.” Yes, Mr. Frans Faase has achieved that. I salute you!




There was a village model displayed in the nursing home – A typical Dutch village.



[ 本帖最后由 含羞草 于 2013-2-3 05:10 PM 编辑 ]





何故爱含羞,近身叶便收。细刺花姹紫,为谁暗香幽?
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发表于 2013-2-1 11:19 PM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
My University Classmate – Xia


Epilogue

After I visited Xia and returned to home, I had been suffering with great grief for months. There were so many times I woke up in a middle of night with nightmares and lay on a tear-stained soaking wet pillow, my mind was like a movie repeatedly reviewing that day. Those emotional feelings made me so sad that I couldn’t help myself but to grieve.

Later on, Frans and I wrote to each other, and from his emails I had discovered that I could do something for Xia, which cheered me up. I made enquiries on Frans’ behalf to my net friend, a specialist about the Alzheimer's disease to see if there was any hope of cure. I also helped Frans to contact Xia’s family in China to inform them about Xia’s current situation. When Xia’s sister and nephew decided to go to visit her in Netherlands, I contacted Xiao-Yue for them and passed contact information for the Chinese Student Association at T University to them as well. By doing those things, I tasted the joy of helping others, it helped me appreciate more of the value of life, and found the meaning of life, and it also helps me eventually walked out from the shadow of grief.

So, I want to thank Mr Frans Faase sincerely for placing his trust in me! I also want to thank Xia’s family for offering me the opportunity to help them! I wanted to thank Dr Lexus making his valuable time to provide professional medical advice about Alzheimer's disease research. I also want to thank my net friends Yuren and UN for providing information about travelling in Germany. Of course, I can’t forget to thank my family, my dear hubby and my sweet daughter. I thank them for their lifelong support and for editing this article in English for me. I won’t ever forget to thank those readers on CND who cared about me, encouraged me when I was low, blessed me when I was sick. Thank you sincerely!

In addition, I heard Xia’s latest news recently from Frans that she had lost a lot of weight and had difficult to eat solid food. Frans has decided to go to see Xia about three times per week to help her with eating, in the hope that she would eat more and maybe gain some weigh. Although, Frans wasn’t sure if Xia knew who he was, or if himself fed Xia would make any difference than staff at the nursing home, however, by doing so, he wished that Xia would be able to live longer enough to see her sister and her nephew arrived in the Netherlands. This news was very worrying…

So, let us remember her smile! My friend, please hold on till the day when you saw your sister and your nephew arrived in the Netherlands. I will pray for you!





(End)


[ 本帖最后由 含羞草 于 2013-2-3 05:10 PM 编辑 ]





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发表于 2013-2-1 11:23 PM  资料  个人空间  短消息  加为好友 
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Put this English version of the article in here for my second backup. Hopefully the Admin won't mind.  





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