French Food in Shanghai

One of the best places for French food, in terms of quality and value, is an unusual restaurant that is also a school for French chefs. The Restaurant-Ecole Institute Paul Bocuse is affiliated with the famous French restaurant in France, the Restaurant Paul Bocuse. In France, that is one of the few places to gain 3 stars from Michelin. Paul Bocuse’s school in France takes a team of its students who are ready to graduate and sends them to Shanghai to run this restaurant and to train Chinese students wishing to learn French cuisine.

You can read about the school and the restaurant on the Paul Bocuse site. The website for the restaurant itself provides a menu and a link to make reservations electronically, or just call them. They are open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Reservations are definitely recommended. It’s a loving setting near the foot of the Nanpu Bridge in Puxi, close to the Xizang South Road subway stop on lines 4 and 8. Address is 379 BaoTun Road, very close to Zhongshan South Road, the big road that runs along the Bund.

There are some set meals or plate meals on the back of the menu that are great for lunch, ranging from 110 to 270 RMB, depending on how many items you want. You won’t walk away feeling overloaded with food because portions are not gargantuan, but you are likely to be inspired and delighted with what can be done with food.

Other places we’ve tried include Cuivre across from the Shanghai Library, near the Shanghai Library Station on Line 10. A popular and expensive place. We didn’t try much there, but the crepes were fun, though I felt they were a little “wimpy.” A French place with truly superior crepes, though, is La Creperie in the French Concession area. They are at 1 TaoJiang Lu / YueYang Lu in XuHui District,
+86 21 5465 9055. I felt the prices were quite reasonable, service was good, and food was fun. Quiet, pleasant setting.

By |February 21st, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants|Tags: , , |Comments Off on French Food in Shanghai

The Quest for Italian Food in Shanghai: Two More Tries

There is new Italian place on the Bund, almost next door to Lost Heaven Yunnan on YanAn Road is a classy little place that is easy to miss: Goodfellas at 7 YanAn East Road. Elegant modern interior with lots of black and white photos, possibly from various Italian gangster movies. The lunch menu offers two set meals, one for 68 RMB and one for 98 RMB. I tried the more expensive one to get a better taste of what the restaurant can do. I’ve heard a good report for the food here, but personally I was disappointed. First, the bread was cold and not especially good, just one small roll. The balsamic vinegar was the thick, not very tart variety that I think is made by boiling down vinegar. Not the best, IMHO. First course was mushroom soup, which was OK except the mushrooms had the smooth, rubbery feel of canned or overcooked sliced mushrooms. OK, but not delicious. Then came a generous portion of pan-fried sea bass and mashed potatoes. The sea bass was tender but not flavorful, possibly too low on salt (I prefer low salt cuisine normally, so it must have been really low). The mashed potatoes were OK but had the flavor and texture I get sometimes when dried potato flakes have been used instead of real potatoes. That makes no sense, though, because potatoes are so cheap and abundant here, so it must have just been a little too dry or something. Everything was OK, but nothing was really pleasing. That’s too bad. For 98 RMB, there are a lot of exciting lunch options in this town.

Another place I tried recently and liked is Luccio’s on DanShui Road, a little north of FuXing Road and almost next door to La Creme Milano. Luccio’s also has a classy, comfortable decor and excellent service. They have a good menu with pizza, pasta, steak, and other items. We tried a couple of pasta dishes and were generally pleased. The bread was quite good and included several different kinds, including a black roll that we learned is colored with squid ink. Delicious and creative. The pasta is fresh and homemade with a good consistency. Nothing to complain about. It was good, though not necessarily outstanding. But we’ll go back and try more of their menu. The proprietor is from Italy and adds charm to the place.

By |February 19th, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: |Comments Off on The Quest for Italian Food in Shanghai: Two More Tries

Great Lunch Deal on the Bund in Shanghai: Union Restaurant Buffet, 30 RMB

After nearly 3 years working in downtown Shanghai on the beautiful Bund, having explored dozens of restaurants on my daily lunch break, I finally discovered a supreme value tucked away on the second floor of a building almost next door. The Union Cafeteria is clean, bright self-serve cafeteria where you can eat well for just 30 RMB. It’s buffet style with healthy, tasty food including a meat dish or two and great vegetable dishes. It’s on the second floor of the Union Building at 100 YanAn East Road, adjacent to Sichuan Road. It’s on the east side of YanAn, next to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and right above the Construction Bank on the ground floor. I think it’s designed for the many employees working in the financial industry and other companies in the area.

When you enter the front doors on YanAn Road, go to the left side to see a staircase ascending to the second floor. An elevator may also be used, I think. As you follow the crowd to the cafeteria entrance, there’s a little room on the right with a sign in Chinese only. In that room is a desk and a woman selling coupons for the cafeteria. You need to go in there an buy your coupon (or many coupons if you wish). You hand over the yellow coupon as you enter the cafeteria. Then you will be given a tray with chopsticks, a yogurt and a piece of fruit (tangerines right now). You pick up a plate or two at the same time and then head over to one of the food lines to load up your plate with good food. There is also rice and soup.

30 RMB is the lowest price I’ve seen for a buffet in Shanghai. The selection is much smaller than you will get at other buffets like the one at Latina (138 RMB or over 300 more if you want all the meat), the Cook ($$$), or Shangri-La’s 2nd floor spread (almost 400 RMB per person). But for a fast and healthy business lunch, this is great.

Due east (toward the Bund) from the Union Building is another financial tower with another secret little restaurant on it’s second floor, a placed called Tanko. There you pay 15 RMB and can get a healthy meal also with several good selections, though I think the Union Cafeteria is the better choice if you’re hungry. It also suffers from a low ceiling so watch your head there if you’re tall!

By |February 16th, 2014|Categories: China, Restaurants|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Great Lunch Deal on the Bund in Shanghai: Union Restaurant Buffet, 30 RMB

Origin Disappoints

Looking for a special place for dinner with healthy food, I took a friend and my wife to dinner at Origin in the Tianzifang area on Monday. Reviews from others have been good, but we were disappointed. Food was OK, but lacked the seasonings and attention needed to make it great. The vegetarian mustafa was good but was mostly mashed potato and lacked adequate eggplant and flavor. Was also not very warm. Our friend had a set meal for 248 RMB that was pretty ordinary looking. A little tuna salad, a piece of plain cod, and a dull looking side of grilled veggies, for which they carved an extra 15 RMB on the bill for grilling. Huh? The fruit juices were OK and the grilled baby tomatoes I ordered as a side dish were delicious, but overall it was one of the more expensive meals I’ve had in a while and we left hungry and unimpressed.

I also ordered a Mediterranean sandwich that should have been warm and flavorful but was cold, with hard, flat, dry chicken, and a mysterious absence of sauce or flavor. Disappointing.

Finally, when I asked for the “fapiao,” the official receipt, the waitress made some excuse and just gave me an unofficial bill, not the one that shows taxes have been paid. That means patrons can’t get reimbursed if it’s a business expense. Not good. Sigh.

By |February 12th, 2014|Categories: China, Restaurants|Tags: , |Comments Off on Origin Disappoints

Scams in China (and Beyond): Some Tips

There are many scams that newcomers here must learn to avoid. The classic scam involves English speakers inviting Westerners to come to a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. After a cup or two, there’s a bill for a huge amount, with some hefty bouncers there to enforce payment. Ouch.

Online shopping in China or with Chinese companies can be a big risk. Here is a list of Chinese retail websites that are reported to be fraudulent. One friend of mine bought a computer on one of these sites and lost his money. One of the warning signs that he should have known about: they told him they don’t accept credit cards but needed the money sent via Western Union. That’s the same as handing someone cash. No recourse. No protection. Don’t ever buy anything via Western Union payments! Ever.

If you are coming here for a job, there a plenty of crooks that will sign up foreigners for jobs here that turn out to be closer to slave labor. They promise to get a visa faster than should be possible, and some smuggle people into the country illegally or bribe an official at a “diplomatic desk” to get the victim into the country. They then keep the person’s passport, making the person completely vulnerable and at risk of imprisonment or deportation if they don’t cooperate, etc. It’s human trafficking. Don’t fall for these scams. They are aimed largely at people from less developed countries.

Remember, there are people looking for ways to exploit you. Be suspicious. Be nervous. Don’t give your passport to people you don’t trust. Don’t pay people in advance with cash. Don’t let a charming smile lure you into an out-of-the-way place where you’ll have to pay a lot for your tee, or pay even more to replace your teeth. China is a great place abounding in kind, honest people, but the few crooks here and everywhere else force us to stay on our guard at all times. Be careful.

By |February 11th, 2014|Categories: China, Scams, Shopping, Travel tips|Tags: , , |Comments Off on Scams in China (and Beyond): Some Tips

Good Gelato in Shanghai? Yes, It’s Possible!

After a vacation to Italy, I was anxious to see if somewhere in Shanghai there might
be gelato approaching the incredible quality that abounds in Italy. Gelato is
different from ice cream. It has less fat and more flavor, generally prepared with
simple, natural ingredients, and is served at a warmer temperature (around -14 C vs.
-18 C for ice cream) so it is less icy and melts in your mouth easier. It has a
smoother, silkier texture. Some of the “gelato” sold in Shanghai is pretty much just
ice cream or sherbet, but real gelato does exist with surprisingly good quality.

Of the places I’ve sampled so far, Le Creme Milano may be the best, or might be tied with Ice Season. At both places, I have tried several flavors and found none to be bad and several to be really excellent. I thought Le Creme’s chocolate was too rich, but felt that the coconut, strawberry, pumpkin, and Creme de Milano (a special house flavor similar to flan) were excellent. The person in charge when I went to Le Creme Milano spoke excellent English and was interested in chatting, which made our visit extra fun. The shop were tried was at 262 Danshui Road near Xintiandi, just a few yards north of Fuxing Road and a few hundred meters from the Xintiandi subway station on Line 10.

Ice Season is a larger chain, I think. I’ve tried it at East Nanjing Road in the Henderson Metropolitan mall that has the Apple store. They are on the 2nd floor near an escalator above the main entrance on East Nanjing Road. I’ve also tried then in Jinqiao and People’s Square. Great flavors and quality.

Origin at Tianzefang was highly rated by some other foodies in town, but when we
were there they only had four or five flavors and of those, the coconut was
definitely impaired by the presence of added food starch that made the base gelato
grainy instead of smooth and creamy. The chocolate, though, was excellent, as was
the strawberry.

Mr. Eggie’s at the large Dapuqiao food court (an underground area adjacent to the
Dapuqiao station on Line 9) has pretty good gelato also with some Asian flavors like
black sesame and green tea. The chocolate was smooth and flavorful, though its
texture seemed a little more like ice cream.

I will keep reporting as new finds come along. Any suggestions? I’ve heard the
Freshary at the IFC Mall in Lujiazui is excellent, so it’s on my list now.

Related resources:

By |February 9th, 2014|Categories: China, Products, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , |Comments Off on Good Gelato in Shanghai? Yes, It’s Possible!

Outstanding Buffets in Shanghai: Latina, Azur, Shangri-La, The Cook

Shanghai offers a variety of great buffets for wonderful meals when you’re hungry or need a lot of options for hard-to-please guests. When someone else is paying, my favorite is the expensive and overwhelming buffet at 2nd-floor cafe in the Shangri-La Hotel in PuDong. Exotic seafood, sushi, various Asian and European foods, and stunning desserts. I took a friend there for lunch and it was something he’ll never forget. But I won’t forget the 900 RMB bill, either (included 2 fruit juice drinks that added 160 or so to the bill). Too expensive for me. A similar offering is available at The Cook at the Kerry Hotel in PuDong, where I was truly delighted with the fresh seafood, the many other cuisines, and the great gelato and desserts. I was also delighted that someone else was paying.

When I’m paying, my favorite place to go now is the buffet at Latina in Xintiandi. Perhaps Shanghai’s best value. The buffet alone is 128 RMB plus a 15% service fee. The choices include several great meat dishes, some sushi and smoked salmon, and a big mix of vegetables, deserts, salads, and other foods including a favorite from Brazil, feijoada. Healthy, filling, delicious. For 398 a person you can have all the fresh roasted and barbecued meat that is brought to your table by waiters. I skipped that and stuck with the buffet. A remarkable value. Good service, efficient, clean, and very fun.

For salad bars at lunchtime, the Azur at the Renaissance at Zhongshan Park is remarkable and has one of Shanghai’s best views. 160 RMB per person, but often half price on Mondays for lunch. The dinner menu is different. I only go there for lunches. Organic greens, many good options, and ice cream. Fun.

By |December 7th, 2013|Categories: China|Comments Off on Outstanding Buffets in Shanghai: Latina, Azur, Shangri-La, The Cook

Update on the Farmer’s Son, Recovering from Surgery #1

I’d like to introduce you to the most self-reliant people I have ever met. Noble people who have a message to some of my readers and friends: “Thank you for helping our son!” This is the family we met in Shanghai, where destiny and, in my opinion, the hand of the Lord brought us together. It is the family I previously discussed whose son has long been in need of surgery to correct a serious deformation of his leg (see the story here). We came to visit and see how their son is recuperating from a first flawed surgery. He is recovering well and is now able to stand, with the help of his friends. With a future surgery, we hope he will be able to walk more normally.

We left our comfortable, convenient city of Shanghai Friday night and flew out to Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, a smaller city with just 5 million people. From there we took a train to a much smaller town that many people here have never heard of, though it is about the same size as my hometown of Salt Lake City.  From there we took a car into farm territory and arrived at a tiny little farming village of just 180 people, with a handful of cement and brick buildings clustered together.

After living two years in one of the world’s largest cities, spending some time in a tiny farming village was a completely different experience, and probably our most magical time in China so far. Along with some gifts, we brought them some cash that some of you donated to help them pay the debt they have for the surgery their teenage son had in Shanghai. And now we are preparing for the next surgery that he going to need, this time the most important surgery, the operation to rebuild his knee that has been grossly deformed ever since a severe infection when he was a toddler.This family may be poor in monetary wealth but they are rich in the the things that matter most like love, integrity, and, as we also discovered, good food. Lots of good food that they planted and prepared themselves. The rice, the peanuts, the bitter melon, the various greens, the two kinds of herbal tea we tried, the beans, the chicken, the eggs, etc. I didn’t ask where they got the water snakes that turned out to be one of the especially delicious parts of our second meal in their home (I’m serious–I was really surprised), but I suppose they captured them out in their rice paddy. A small fraction of our feast had been purchased or traded with neighbors, but the vast majority was the work of their toil.

This rugged, self-sufficient family was impressed us with their love, goodness, and their competence in what they do. When we spent time with them in Shanghai, they seemed lost and confused, truly in need of someone to help look out for them, but on the farm, in their environment, they stood as masters, savvy, wise, competent, and fascinating. They were not the ones helping and lifting us.

They took us around to the various parts of their territory to show us the many crops they raised. We met relatives and friends with whom they share and cooperate, a wonderful example of what a community based on solid family values and love for one another can be. This was a happy place with the elderly and children spending time together, passing on values and principles. I saw no televisions. Water came from a well requiring a rope and a bucket. Luxuries were scarce. Chickens were abundant and roamed freely in some of the homes.

They were poor by our standards and by Shanghai standards, but they had everything they needed, with the obvious exception of competent health care for serious issues. Another child there was in need of surgery for a foot problem (I think it is clubfoot). With some additional help (use the PayPal button at the right if you wish), we can assist our family in getting the surgery they need for their son. If by chance we get more than is needed, I think this village will be a worthy target for ongoing external support. And perhaps some of you can join me one day in a future visit to this little piece of heaven on earth, hidden in the middle of China.

The foreign friends they wish to thank include some of you from the States and also some friends from Taiwan living here in China who have been wonderfully generous. Thank you!

A few photos follow. Note the fireworks exploding in the second picture: we got the fireworks treatment when we arrived and when we left. I think fireworks help drive away evil spirits. Did it work? You’ll have to be the judge. Maybe it takes two applications to be effective.

I should also mention the sweet woman in blue. She was so curious to meet us and so warm. After she met us, she went home and wrote a letter that she brought to us later in the day expressing her happiness to have us as new friends. It was such a kind letter. Really one of the sweetest, most gracious people I’ve met. She apologized that she only had two or three years of education and wasn’t cultured, but I wish everyone had that much culture.
















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By |June 26th, 2013|Categories: China, Health, Photography|Comments Off on Update on the Farmer’s Son, Recovering from Surgery #1

A Jewish Deli with Montreal-Style Smoked Meats Comes to Shanghai

Tock’s, a Montreal deli, is a new sensation in the heart of Shanghai, our first Jewish deli with authentic Montreal-style smoked meats. Delicious! They import their beef from Australia (soon to be Calgary, Canada) and cure and smoke it on site. Turkey is also imported. Their duck comes from a certified organic, superior-quality site in Guangzhou. I’ve met some of the North American team behind this ambitious operation and they impress me, as does the food. Such great smoked meat, available in low fat, medium, and high fat versions.

The smoked meat sandwich is very popular at 75 RMB (95 for the giant size). I’ve enjoyed the smoked meat platter with beef and turkey (75 RMB, with other combinations possible) and their delicious chef salad for 55 RMB. Good service and a fun, bustling operation. Great for lunch. Not open for dinner at the moment, but will be in a few weeks.

231 Henan Zhong Road, just a little north of the Bund Center and not far from Nanjing Street.


By |April 24th, 2013|Categories: China, Food|Comments Off on A Jewish Deli with Montreal-Style Smoked Meats Comes to Shanghai

Dining in in the Laoximen and Xintiandi Area of Shanghai

We live in Laoximen where the old west city gate of Shanghai was. This puts us walking distance from Yu Garden, one of Shanghai’s most popular attractions, and walking distance from Xintiandi, a favorite hangout for foreigners. But what I love most about where we live is the combination modern convenience with the picturesque old city around us with its chaotic but efficient markets and bustling street life. And I love the many places to eat that are walking distance from our apartment.Here are some recommendations for this region.

In Xintiandi, my number one recommendation for quality and value is Bellagio Cafe, a bright, clean, and delicious Taiwanese restaurant that has nothing to do with Italian food in spite of its Italian name. While Xintiandi tends to be very expensive, this place is not. Numerous delicious dishes are available for 30 to 50 RMB. Like many Chinese places, you will enjoy it most fully with a group so you can try lots of dishes. I took five people there two weeks ago, reserving a private room, and we ordered more than we could eat for a total of 570 RMB. Last night  we managed to squeeze 13 people into the same private room that really should only seat 8, maybe 10, and we ordered many dishes, plus watermelon juice and their famous shaved ice desserts including mango ice, peanut ice, and strawberry ice (best!). Bill for the group of 13 was 1170 RMB. That’s less than $15 a person, and they were full and happy.

Bellagio is at 68 Taicang Road. A map and further details is available at SmartShanghai. There is also a Bellagio Cafe in the Hongqiao area that I’ve tried also. Very good.

Things to avoid: the shrimp with fried bread (youtiao) is a little disappointing. Favorites to try: The fish covered in red sauce. I think it’s yellow croaker, a favorite fish. It’s been deboned and is so tender and flavorful. The hakka soup and the bitter melon soup are both really good. Many Westerners are not used to bitter melon, but it’s a taste worth cultivating. The “three cup” chicken is also very flavorful. Their kong pao shrimp is also superb. Service is outstanding.

In the heart of Xintiandi, where things get really expensive, the 1930 Shanghai restaurant offers surprisingly inexpensive basic Chinese food and live entertainment at night. Food is simple but good.  Small menu but very fun place.

Paulauners is a German restaurant almost next to 1930 that has relatively inexpensive dishes. Cost without drinks will be around 150 RMB or so per person. Fast service and good quality.

Back in the Laoximen area, Da Ma Tou Restaurant on the corner of Fuxing and Xizang South Road is a bustling, inexpensive, high-quality Chinese place with great desserts (mango ice, etc.) and many inexpensive items. They do have a dimsum menu if you can read Chinese, and a picture menu as I recall. Many inexpensive items.

Our favorite new discovery is on Fangxie Road, where there are several restaurants largely undiscovered by Westerners. Yunse Restaurant just opened and is delightful and very inexpensive. You can have a really delicious plate of wild mushrooms for 20 RMB. Many items are in the 20-35 RMB range. The mango ice is 25 RMB and the best I’ve tasted, I think. Big enough for two or three people. We’ll be trying more dishes shortly.


By |April 16th, 2013|Categories: China, Food|Comments Off on Dining in in the Laoximen and Xintiandi Area of Shanghai

Apparent Disaster: Heartbreak at Xinhua Hospital

I’m in shock after my visit to Xinhua Hospital tonight. Disaster. Heart break.

As I explained earlier in my posts on the case of the poor Chinese family who came to the big city of Shanghai to finally get surgery for their son’s deformed leg, I felt that my primary mission in being involved was to help them get the second and third opinions that were needed to dissuade them from unnecessary hip surgery and instead focus on the knee surgery that they boy really needed. So I was relieved when I got the text message saying that they had decided to get the knee surgery only. Whew, I thought, I made a difference. I was sad to see that they were going with the first hospital they had gone to instead of the high-quality one I had taken them to for their second opinion, but I couldn’t make all the decisions for them and didn’t want to challenge the father on everything. Maybe I should have. Why? Because my mission looks like a complete failure. I should have been a little more aggressive, a little more paranoid, a little more helpful in guiding the family toward different options.

Surgery was last Friday night. It took several hours and was more complicated than expected, but I was relieved that it seemed to have gone well. But what I didn’t understand until tonight is that the surgeon didn’t touch the knee at all. He operated on the hip. A hip operation–the unnecessary, costly thing that was my mission to prevent. The hip, not the knee. Contrary to what he told the father, contrary to what three difference doctors had recommended, it appears he decided that the hip was where he needed to operate. It makes no sense. I’m in shock. Maybe there were good reasons for that, and I’ll give him a chance to explain it to me tomorrow morning when I see him at last (I’ve seen almost no trace of doctors or nurses in the crowded room with 6 beds and a couple dozen people where the boy is recuperating). For now, though, I’m thinking it’s a huge mistake. Perhaps the knee surgery suddenly seemed way out of the surgeon’s league. I don’t know. The father was as surprised as I was to learn that it was hip surgery, not knee surgery given to his son.

Actually, the hip surgery didn’t go well, the doctor has told the family, and the son will need another operation next week, and another 40,000 or 50,000 RMB to pay for that one, and it still won’t address the real problem, in my opinion. And if they don’t want to pay up front for that surgery now, then it’s time to pack up and leave this weekend because other patients need the hospital bed being occupied by the boy. The family, out of money and hope, is planning to pack up and leave. The son’s knee is the same disaster, and I fear that the leg will be in worse shape because of the incomplete hip surgery which may take a long time to recover, just to get him back to his normal painful, partially crippled state of abnormality.

Also to my horror, I learned tonight that the father has already paid in full for the surgery by going heavily into debt with relatives who had put money on a card for him to borrow, if needed. The cousin who translated told me that only 10,000 had been paid as a down payment, and I expected to still have some bargaining power with the hospital. I’m not sure when that changed–maybe today? Instead of waiting to make sure the hospital has done their part, he apparently had to pay already. The money I’ve been collecting for him will reduce his debt, but it’s gone for the wrong operation. A disaster, I’m afraid. I’ll try to see if he has any legal recourse, but recourse for the peasants from distant provinces is often a challenge here. I fear he’s been taken advantage of. Maybe unintentionally, maybe in good faith, but the result looks ugly and unfair. But I need to give the surgeon and the hospital a chance. Maybe there’s a good reason for the change in plans and the apparent complete waste of a poor farmer’s money and the slicing up of a young boy’s hip for nothing, it seems.

I’m offering refunds to everyone who donated because I don’t want people paying for disaster, and I can’t ask for more because it’s such a lost cause right now. Is this the right approach? Your feedback is welcome. They still need help–they just took on hopeless debt to help their son and have used all their funds. But it seems like it’s a cause that loses its appeal given what has happened. We’ll try to understand their options and their needs and figure out what to do, but ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

What is the future for this boy? I don’t want to give up, though part of me does when I hit these kind of frustrations, these ugly surprises that this beautiful country sometimes offers. Eventually, I’d like to help the family come back to a good surgeon in a good hospital and reconstruct the knee. It’s not happening this week, though. Wish it were. Your advice is welcome. They are determined to leave this weekend. I think we’re going to have to take the long trip to Jiangxi Province and help prepare them to come back later and do things the right way. We may need your donations and prayers even more then. Please keep Zhiwei and his family in your prayers now as well.

By |March 28th, 2013|Categories: China, Health|1 Comment

Raising Money for Surgery for an Impoverished Chinese Teenager

Update, March 28 and 30, 2013: This effort has turned into heartbreak, but there’s still hope. The surgeon did things his way and didn’t operate on the knee at all. It was the wrong surgery, according to other experts who had insisted that knee surgery, not hip surgery was needed now. The family is out a ton of money and a load of time with the possibility that there son will be worse off than before. I was despondent initially, but am now moving forward. We still need to help the man pay off some of the debt he has for this surgery, while building funds to bring them back to a better hospital for the knee surgery that is needed. More details in the update section below. Also see my update on this blog or at Mormanity.

Part of the magic of China is expressed in the phrase yuan fen (缘分) which refers to seemingly accidental encounters that have destiny behind them. So many of the miracles I have experienced in China are tied to this concept. So many of the rich friendships I now enjoy here began as chance encounters.

One of these chance encounters happened a few weeks ago in Shanghai, leading me to become friends with a poor family of Chinese farmers from a distant province that I many never see. But on my way back to the office after lunch at a good Chinese restaurant, my eyes were drawn to a father and his little son whose leg was badly deformed. The boy could walk, but the way his leg curved outward to the side instead of going straight up and down made it look like it would snap under the weight of his thin body. Every time he stepped with his bad leg he had to stoop halfway to the ground in a difficult motion.

What a burden this must be, I thought, and wondered if they had seen a doctor. I couldn’t let that thought go, and spent several minutes trying to argue myself out of doing anything. But I ended up following them for about 100 yards. Do I dare approach them? They looked like they were from the countryside, and I worried that they wouldn’t speak Chinese that I could understand. Won’t I just embarrass them and make things work? I struggled to know if I really should step forward, and in fear and uncertainty wished not to, but try as I might to just turn around and go back to work, I felt I had to do something. So I finally approached them, and, as if it were somehow my business, asked the father about the boy’s leg. The father spoke too quickly and with what seemed like a difficult accent to me, and my Chinese is still often inadequate when people speak even it’s pronounced clearly in standard dialect, but to my delight, another person with them, a college student, the cousin of the young boy, spoke excellent English and was able to fill in the gaps.

It’s a long story, but the father and the boy were here in Shanghai to finally get medical help. The boy had a terrible infection as a baby that made his knee swell terribly, and after that, his leg was bent horribly. He had some kind of surgery at age 3 but it didn’t help much. Now the father was determined to get his son some help at a much better hospital than the countryside offered. He was acting on pure faith, in my opinion, determined to help his son, but had just gotten the bad news from the hospital that surgery would cost well over 100,000 RMB, but he was going to have it done and find some way to pay.

I think a big part of why I needed to get involved was to help them recognize the need for a second opinion. I helped them see an excellent and experienced physician at a leading hospital who explained what was wrong with the recommendation of the first doctor he had seen. The first doctor wanted to operate on the hip and the knee at the same time, but the hip surgery, including an artificial hip, should wait until the boy’s bones had quit growing. Doing that surgery now could greatly complicate recovery and make things worse.

The father wasn’t entirely convinced, but then I arranged for two very kind LDS doctors in the States to look at the x-rays and photos and offer their comments, and they gave further clarity into the problems with hip surgery now. Perhaps a result, the father made what I think and hope is the better decision. That may be the main purpose for my involvement in this case. But it may not be the only reason.

As I write, the boy is about to wake up from a several hours of complex surgery. This surgery costs 50,000 RMB, about $8,000. The father has been able to come up with 20% of that cost as a down payment. When the boy leaves in a couple of weeks, if all goes well, his father will need to make the rest of the payment. He isn’t sure how he will do that, but I admire his faith. I’m hoping, with the help of some of you, perhaps, to raise some funds to make that goal reality. If you are interested in helping this brave family get their son back on his feet, let me know at jeff at jefflindsay.com. Think of it as your chance to make a difference in China and help a boy with vast potential live a better life.

Here are some related photos, shared with permission.


Zhiwei awaiting surgery, sitting on the bed in a crowded room of six beds at Shanghai hospital where he will spend the next two or three weeks recuperating, if all goes well. (Not the Children’s Medical Center.)


The boy’s bad leg, photographed at Shanghai Children’s Medical Hospital, where the family got a second opinion on the originally recommended surgery.

A recent x-ray taken at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center.



Zhiwei walking before surgery.


Walking before surgery. I’m praying that there will be a significant improvement after surgery!

Update, Sunday, March 24, 2013, 8 pm: Tonight my wife and I just visited Zhiwei and his father tonight at the hospital. The boy is in a lot of pain and has no desire to eat. The father is worried for him. The mom will be coming tomorrow and that should help. I think she’s never been to Shanghai and is worried about how to get to the hospital. The father didn’t know how to tell her to get hear and was planning on just using a taxi, I’m afraid, which would be too expensive for them. We showed the father how to use the subway system nearby so he could tell her exactly what to do, how to but a ticket and how to get to the station and what exit to take, etc. This must have looked really strange to the locals as they watched two foreigners using Chinese to explain to a native Chinese man how to get around town. We’re always providing entertainment here in China–perhaps that’s our real purpose here.

The father said that Zhiwei’s resistance was low, but didn’t have a bad fever. Not quite sure what he meant by resistance. The skin isn’t doing well either around the wound. That good man is worried for his son. He hasn’t slept since coming here on Thursday, having watched over his son constantly and now he says he needs to massage his son’s leg or something every little while. Saw no doctor or nurse while we were there, and got the feeling that the man was feeling pretty alone, in spite of a crowd in the same room.

Update, March 26, 2013: The boy’s mother came into town yesterday. I went by the hospital briefly on my lunch break and she saw me for the first time as I stood at the door of the little room with 6 hospital beds packed together. She instantly knew I must be the strange foreigner she had heard about and broke into a huge smile. It seemed like we had already been friends when we met. What a warm and sweet woman she is. Even more gladdening, little Zhiwei was smiling, too. He’s eating and smiling and making progress. What a difference a mother makes!

Thank you for the donations! We still need more, but are so grateful for the kindness we’ve seen from people close and far away recognizing the need to help.

Update, March 30, 2013: Disaster! When I finally looked at the leg under the blankets, to my horror I saw that the surgery was on the hip, not the knee. WHAT? I was outraged. The doctor was supposed to be in the next day at 6 pm, so I came then, but he didn’t show up. During all my visits, I’ve never seen a doctor come in and do anything with the patients and their families in the crowded little room, and only once saw a nurse come in to drain a catheter or something on another teenage boy, a procedure that involved exposing his genitals to everybody in the room and the hallway. No sense of privacy at all. Ugh. Anyway, the father called the hospital staff and arranged for us to see the surgeon the next morning when he came in at 7:45. I was there, with a translator to help, and the doctor came in and just walked by us, radiating wealth and importance, with no time to discuss his work with peons like us. We were told he needed to change and would be with us in a minute. Then he escaped out of his office and went into another office down the hall, and then we were told he’d be just a few minutes and we’d have to wait until 8:00 a.m. That time came and went. It was clear he wasn’t interested in meeting or talking. What was he worried about?

The father then showed me the x-rays. Major hip surgery, with pins and rods. Will it help? I don’t know. The surgeon, the head of the department here, told the family that the hip was where the real problem was and now it will let the knee heal naturally. I’m not sure about that. A US doctor who has seen the x-rays before and after has raised serious questions about this procedure. There have been many red flags, including the fact that the surgeon told the family that something was wrong with the placement of things in the hip and that a second expensive surgery was needed next week. When the family said they didn’t have the money for that, the doctor said it was time to back up and leave because the bed was needed for the next patient. And now he’s saying no problem, it will heal naturally. Wait, if there’s a problem in what he did with the hip that required expensive surgery, how can he send them away and say he can heal naturally? How can he send them away at all? China leaves many questions unanswered.

Plan B: I want to raise $13,000 to pay for the next surgery and help them pay down a major part of the debt they have from this apparently failed surgery. Thank you to all who have donated, and I hope you can keep the donations coming. All the donations I’ve received so far and then some have gone to the family to help them with their expenses here, and now I want to build a reserve to help for another surgery in a few months, if that is the right timing.

Update, March 31, 2013: Yesterday we visited the family at Xinhua hospital and learned that they still did not have their medical records, but Kendra my wife was able to go there today while I was in Hangzhou and get the records and see them before they took the train out of Shanghai. Mom, Dad, and a cousin will carry Zhiwei into a taxi and from there onto the train. Jolts and bumps are inevitable, and the risk of damage and pain over the long trip home terrifies me. It’s over a 10-hour train ride to get close to home, and then I guess they’ll take taxis again. Then Zhiwei is supposed to lie on a bed for 3 months while the hip heals. Can that work? Will he walk any better after all this suffering? Probably not until he gets knee surgery. I’m praying that he will be able to walk at all.

Several kind donations came in today to help us toward the goal of raising enough for the real surgery that will be needed. We’ve resolved to go out to Jiangxi provinces ourselves, at the invitation of the family, to meet them there and see how they are doing. I think it will be a humbling trip. Much about China is humbling.

Why wouldn’t the surgeon talk with us? Why did he do the hip surgery instead of the needed surgery on the knee? Some of the answers might become clear in the medical records I’ve just received from my wife. Stay tuned.

Update, April 1, 2013: Farewell for Now
My new friends from Jiangxi Province in China have left the hospital and gone home. The surgery that was provided to the surprise of the family and me, possibly an unnecessary surgery, requires the boy to remain lying down for the next 3 months, according to the surgeon. But to get home, he had to be moved in and out of taxis, through a train station, and onto a train, where the best the family could find was a “hard sleeper” seat where the boy can lie down, but it’s an elevated seat about 5 feet above the ground that people normally climb to reach. The parents were were hoping to lift up and place him there. I guess it worked out somehow. I’d probably cringe if I knew the details. He is home now, and from the father’s text message appears to be OK, but I’m sure there were some ugly jolts and terrible pain along the way. I hope nothing was damaged.

I saw the family last on Saturday, March 30th, the day before they took the long train (11 hours) back to their town in Jiangxi Province. Kendra, my wife, saw them the next day when I had to be in Hangzhou, and she brought them some pillows, another blanket, and some food that I purchased Saturday evening for them for the long journey home. It was be a painful ride, I’m afraid, for our little young man, Zhiwei, whose upper thigh bone was cut and bolted together in a surgery that may only delay the work needed on the knee. But perhaps it’s just what he needed most, I can only hope. There is a chance that the decision to operate that way was actually brilliant and perfect for him. Well, I’m hoping for a miracle. But I’m pretty sure he’s going to need to get that knee rebuilt. And that’s why I’m working to raise more money to be able to bring them back here and get things done right, if possible.

Here are some photos of our visit on Saturday, March 30. They have invited us to come visit them soon in Jiangxi, and we plan to do it. I think we’ll fly into Nanchang (very inexpensive!) and then take a train or taxi from there.

So strange, this chance encounter on the streets of Shanghai, and how it has changed me. It’s been quite an experience, this escalating drama and the process of learning to know, love, and mourn with a poor family family whose parents have a total of 3 years of education between them. Day after day, visiting, talking, experiencing the various cycles of relief and outrage, happiness and anger, resignation and resolve, well, I can feel that it’s changing me a little, changing the way I look at people, money, and society. Somehow, this random encounter has mattered deeply to me. It’s yuanfen, a touch of destiny I think. But perhaps much that actually is chance offers the opportunity to grow and learn and love in ways that will seem like destiny. Random or not, destiny or not, I feel my life is linked to some distant souls now that are part of who I am, and I must return and maintain this friendship and this responsibility. They are somehow like family how.







By |March 24th, 2013|Categories: China, Health, Photography|Comments Off on Raising Money for Surgery for an Impoverished Chinese Teenager