Home Again

I left off last time when we were leaving Los Angeles, which was more than a month ago, with hopes that my laptop would work more diligently in Toronto. It did in a way, but not much more. I was able to upload an issue of Kingspark News on the Website, but for reasons I have yet to find out, I could only receive but not send out emails from my laptop. And, by the way, I saw Shrek the movie in our cabin while on River Danube.

Toronto was rather cold and windy. It rained hard when we touched down and it rained again when we left. We had plenty of rest in between meeting and having meals with friends. Interestingly, we could even find time to brush up our mahjong skills.

Time flied. Before we could comfortably name the cities and townships we visited along the River Cruise, we found ourselves happily rooted on Hong Kong soil once more. We have been to Hungary, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Singapore, not counting Heathrow which we passed twice; we have visited many famous cities, cities that one would love to stay for weeks and would go back again as soon as one can, but in which we could only stay a day; we have visited cities with only 400 residents, but which claimed to be a big township compared with the one across the river with only 88, both being very famous and unique in their own way; we have covered the Danube, Main-Danube Canal, Main and the Rhine; we have passed through the 68 locks in between and watched how they operated; we have visited many cathedrals and castles and taken pictures of even more we could not reach; we have done things that tourists normally do, but not many, and we have made some friends.

Our tour manager said that we had seen much more of Europe and learned more European heritage than many Europeans. Many of these cities are not easily accessible by tour buses. Durnstein in Austria, for example, is rather out of the road network, but sits on the bank of the beautiful Danube. One can only explore the city on foot. The little baroque town has its own flag with its coat of arm and is famous for having the castle in which Richard I of England, the Lion-Heart King, was held in captive in the 12th century. It was unseasonably cold the morning we arrived. It actually snowed the night before, first in 63 years, the guide told us. The workmen could be busy picking the snow-covered grapes for next year’s ice wine. Durnstein has 400 inhabitants.

We have learnt for example that ship owners in the past would not hire any sailor who could swim, lest they would swim ashore at night for various calls or jump ship when times were bad. In a bad accident, therefore, many sailors drowned. Then of course, in the very early days, there were no sailors as such, for boats were driven by horsepower, literally. The boats were harnessed to horses standing on the banks and the captain could be giving orders to the horsemen on land.

I would go no further here, for I have no intention to turning this into a travelogue. It could bore you to tears and besides I am not known to be good at details. Indeed, I have been known to mix up names of places, events, people and faces, which may be why I was rather good at Mad Libs.

For the benefit of the younger folks, Mad Libs claimed some years back, possibly in the Fifties and Sixties, to be the No. 1 party game, in America, of course, particularly for people who don’t like games. It can be played between two to 40 people. It starts with someone with a short story which he would not show to the other players. Let us call him the leader. He would read a few words and call a player to give him a word in a given part of speech, notably an adjective, a noun, an exclamation or an adverb, or a number or some specific items notably a liquid, a solid, food or a country or city name. He would then read on, pause, call for another player for a word and so on, keeping his composure as far as possible and ad-libbing as he goes on, watching the other players break out in spontaneous laughter. At the end, the leader reads out the entire story, poker-faced, with appropriate facial expression and body languages at the key words supplied by the group, to a final round of applause, as someone is being ridiculed or praised for his or her contribution. Try this at your next fireside meeting. As for the story, you can either make it up or pick a paragraph from Harry Potter, leaving out the nouns, adjectives and so on.

Still on our holidays, Rosita and I have enjoyed the 5-week break. She was in good health all the time and everybody we met, new friends or old, would say otherwise. We had only wished that we had done this earlier and more frequently. It was the longest time we were away from home for a long time and we are looking forward to repeating the model, i.e., going abroad to meet friends before or after joining a cruise, preferably on rivers or close to the shore. The best part about a cruise is that you don’t need to pack or unpack during the time in between.

Before we left, Rosita had booked an appointment for a CT scan. It was a few days after we came back and we went to see the doctor the week following. The bad news is that the two most prominent tumors in the liver have both grown in size and there appears to be more growths. The good news is that they have not been growing at an alarmingly fast rate. In preparation for treatment, she underwent some tests which indicate that she is fit enough for further chemotherapy, except that the success rate would be even lower than before.

Meanwhile, the qigong master had gone overseas for a month. We saw him before he left and he reassured us that Rosita’s condition had stabilized and that there was nothing to worry about. That was before Rosita went for the CT scan.

The question now is whether we should subject her to a fourth round of drugs with no more than 20% success rate, on a weekly basis for six months, with the promised side effects, or whether we should continue with the regime prescribed by the qigong master, based on traditional Chinese medicine which has apparently helped her regain her strength and enabled her to enjoy a 5-week break away from home, but which has not been subject to rigorous scientific proofs. We have told the doctor that we would deliberate on the matter for at least another fortnight. He is not pushing, though he warns that if we wait too long, the treatment would be less effective and the success rate, even lower. The decision would not be easy. It seems the best way forward is to pray to God and to leave the matter in His capable hands.

Until then, we would keep our hopes high. Already, we are planning for a cruise for next summer after attending our son’s Commencement. Your prayers have been effective before; please continue to pray for her.

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