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2018 - Pictures, events, memories

Updated: Jan 4, 2019


Pernilla, Isa, Shumin, Lina in 2018


Hainan Island


We started 2018 in Hainan China. My brother Haimin and his wife Liu Rui who have a vacation home in Hainan invited my parents and four of us to spend our 2017-2018 Christmas - new year holidays with them in "Hawaii of China"







Enjoying local food and drinks. Lina and Isa enjoyed the English translations of shop signs and restaurant menus even more.



My father decided to live an active life after discovering gastric cancer in mid 2017. He continued his bicycle rides regularly. One morning in Hainan he and I climbed up high in the Wuzhi Mountain (五指山). Another tourist was so inspired by my father's vigor at age 83 he requested a photo.


Cycling


Grandpa gifted Lina a "Forever" bicycle while we were in China. We brought it back to California. Isa, Lina and did many weekend rides, often to my Google office

Work, colleagues, interns


Work at Google with great colleagues is fun and productive. We work on advanced features of Google's flagship products. We also do and publish quite a bit of exploratory research, often together with smart and hard working interns. Perks like healthy food and gyms at work are still appreciated after 8 years at Google.


Work trips, thesis examination & university visits, conferences

CHI 2018 Conference in Montreal ~ Doctoral thesis examination in Helsinki ~ University seminars in Waterloo (Canada), Helsinki, and Pisa ~ Eurohaptics 2018 and Smart Haptics 2018 conference keynotes in Pisa and San Diego ~ Lab visits at Tsinghua U and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing ~ Google Waterloo, Google Shanghai and Google Beijing offices. Also got to see the amazing John Senders in Toronto and Don Norman in San Diego during my trips.


Swimming


Synchro, a.k.a. artistic swimming, is a big part of Lina and Isa's lives, and ours. Both Lina and Isa are members of the Santa Clara Aquamaids, a leading synchronized swimming club in the US. Pernilla spent a huge amount of time helping Lina, Isa and their teammates (being a "team mom" on trips), designing and developing the club's complex website, and serving on SCA's Board of Directors.



Lina and Isa train six days a week, many hours each day after school and often late into the evening. Swim meets and competition trips to Buffalo, Portland, Oxford Ohio and more during the year. Lina's Junior Olympic Championship was particularly tense. They beat their sister rival team from Walnut Creek Aquanuts in the Regional but lost the national gold metal to WCA's surprise new routine in the final round.


Home and Garden


New in 2018 - building a fish pond, changing part of the lawn into more eco-friendly plants, Tesla Model 3 (we are now all electric as Lina first suggested after the Paris Agreement).

Budgies




Lina and Isa's school events, birthdays, music practice and recitals, friends and parties


Isa is a 5th grader in Meyerholz Elementary School, Lina 7th in Miller Middle. Both are in bilingual CLIP (Chinese Language Immersion Program).



Family and friend visits


Grandama Siv came to visit from Sweden in April. We went to Berkeley to celebrate Isabel's graduation. Youyou and Jiang Tao came to visit from China as part of their honeymoon.



Isa, Lina, and Pernilla's summer trip to Sweden


Isa, Lina and Pernila went to Sweden for their summer vacation - fishing, berry picking, seeing grandparents.


My July trip to China


While Pernilla, Lina and Isa were in Sweden, I went to Tianshui, China to see my parents. My father's cancer began to show more symptom. He could no longer ride his bicycle vigorously.


Tianshui is an ancient city but very underdeveloped when I grew up there from age 8 to 16. The landscape changed dramatically since then. Even the hills had turned green due to successful environmental programs. The city now even has a "Red Bridge" that looks like a copy of the Golden Gate bridge!



While in Tianshui, my high school classmates invited me to a 40-year reunion since their graduation in 1978. I went to university a half year before graduating from high school when Deng Xiaoping reopened universities to everyone who could pass the national entrance examination after ten years of closure during Mao's Cultural Revolution. I had not seen many of classmates since 1977.



Trip to Beijing


While in Tianshui, my father's condition got more critical. He vomited badly. His stomach tumor had grown to block food passage. The local doctors could not think of any further treatment (he had been taking some of the most advanced targeted cancer drugs). I called Prof. Yang Aiming, a friend and a leading doctor of micro-endoscopic surgery at the famed Peking Union Medical College Hospital. He suggested a stent placement operation to open the blockage. My father agreed. This meant we need to get to Beijing as soon as possible.


In the morning of July 16, my brother Haimin drove my father and I for two hours to the newly opened Longnan airport which had a direct flight to Beijing at noon. The weather forecast in Beijing was not good, part of the city had already been flooded, but we were able to take off after two hours of delay. The worsening storm in the afternoon forced our destination airport in Beijing to close. The plane landed in Taiyuan and waited till Beijing Nanyuan re-opened. Only half hour after our second take-off, Beijing Nanyuan was closed once again so we had to land in Shijiazhuang this time. We could either wait in the plane to hope the airport to open in the next few hours, or switch to the railway to take a 10 PM train, neither a pleasant choice. We did the latter as a more sure bet. Eventually, we arrived in Beijing and checked in a hotel by midnight.


The pouring rain in Beijing was on again and off again the next morning around the Union Hospital but I managed to wheelchair my father into the busy and crowded hospital main lobby. We learned we did not bring enough cash for the 50,000 RMB in-patient admission deposit required. All my US credit cards declined the charge. Prof. Yang had been checking on us out of his very busy schedule since the early morning. Once learned we were stuck at the admission he miraculously brought a bag of cash to us waiting at the admission lobby. At the same time my cousin Xiaowan drove through Beijing's busy traffic with another bag of cash.


Pouring rain at the entrance of the Union Hospital


Many extended family members (an aunt, three cousins, a sister-in-law, two nieces) came to Beijing to help and to visit. A few days later the operation went successfully. Prof. Yang did it himself in his lunch time. My father was able to eat soft food again. Prof. Yang and his wife invited me and my cousin to a wonderful dinner on my way back to California via Beijing.

On July 24, my father, my very helpful aunt and I took the high-speed rail back to Tianshui. My father had got some energy back and was in a good spirit. He explained the historical and geographical significance of various sights out the train window to me, just like when he took me and my brother to a trip to his home town in Jiangsui province when we were in elementary school. "That is the highest point of the Qinling mountain ridge" "This is where that ancient battle was fought"...


I spent another week in Tianshui with my parents. My two brothers and I agreed to take monthly shift to look after my parents in the next few months. Brother Yimin volunteered to take my next shift. I hired a nanny who had hospital care experience from Beijing but she did not like Tianshui. Haimin eventually managed to hire a local nanny who is much more able. I returned to California on July 31.



Sadly ...


My father's digestion went up and down in the ensuing months. He maintained a good spirit and frequent interactions with his relatives and friends, particularly his bicycle club friends. Lina, Isa and I video-chatted with him every week. He wanted to visit his home town in Jiangsui. I promised to accompany him to do that once the busy October "Golden Week" was over. In early October, however, he began to suffer from pain. The pain medication initially worked well. In the evening of Oct 8th China time (My Oct 7th morning) the pain medication did not seem to work. I talked with him and with my brother on the phone. My brother said it was getting better and hoped he would sleep through the night without much pain. Sadly late afternoon in California I received a call from my brother. He had passed away.


I manged to get on a flight on the same day to Guangzhou, then two more flights to arrive at Tianshui on Oct 10, just in time to prepare (mostly writing the eulogy - Haimin and his friends prepared all the rest) for father's funeral the next day. Among many others, the funeral was attended by friends from the first cycling club in the city he founded.


I spent some time in Tianshui with my mom, brothers Haimin and Yimin, dealing with paper work (banking etc) aftermath etc. Two weeks my brother Haimin, sister-in-law Liu Rui, and I drove father's ashes across the country to Jiangsu to fulfill his last wishes - to visit his ancestral home, where many relatives welcomed us and held a home coming memorial service, to visit his parents' tome, and to spray his ashes in the Yangzi river at Nanjing Yanziji, a scenic spot he frequented when studying engineering in his youth.



Back in California, Isa, Lina, Pernilla and I did another memorial across the Pacific on the 49th day (seven weeks) of his passing.

Thanksgiving in Hawaii




Christmas and new year holidays



© 2018 by Shumin Zhai

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