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Visit from Ernest
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Travel Tales: A Visit from Ernest

by Heather

I'm Heather. I'm seven, I have a mommy, a daddy, a big sister, and lots of uncles. The uncle who's really related to me lives far away in Thailand so I don't see him very often but I have lots of special uncles who are actually my daddy's friends from long ago at college.

There's Uncle George. He's a doctor but daddy says he's a physicist, not a physician. That means he's not the kind of doctor who helps people. He makes bombs instead.

Uncle Chuck is a vice president of something but he's really a classical actor. When he was acting in "The Taming of the Shrew" my sister and I were in it too. We got to shout and make noises at just the right times.

Uncle Bob rescuing Lightning from the tree
Uncle Bob rescuing Lightning from the tree
My favorite uncle is Uncle Bob. He teaches computers and mathematics to my sister and me and rescues cats from trees. Daddy says Uncle Bob just likes to climb trees and that the cat is simply an excuse. I don't know why anyone would need an excuse to climb trees but Uncle Bob is an old professor and I suppose professors need excuses to do things that are fun.

There's Uncle Doug who's an accountant. I think that means that he is supposed to be boring. He isn't that boring really. I wonder if that makes him a bad accountant.

This summer I discovered I had another Uncle I had never met before. Uncle Ling lives in Taiwan where he teaches physics at the university. He is staying here for a while this summer with his son Yuankeng who is seven years old just like me. Yuankeng also has an English name, Ernest, and that's what I call him.

Ernest is here to learn some English and I am helping to teach him. I'm also learning a little Chinese. Taiwan is an island near the coast of China. They speak some kinds of Chinese in Taiwan but it is not part of China. China thinks that Taiwan should be a part of China but the Taiwanese don't. They're not very friendly to each other.

Ernest likes to play in the mud. I like mud too, but not that much. Uncle Ling says that they don't have much room for mud in the city of Taipei where their home is. They have no backyard and the front yard is just big enough to park the car. Here we have lots and lots of mud in our front yard mainly because Ernest and I can turn the hose on but can't turn it off, the shut-off is too stiff for us to turn.

Ernest's favorite food is Submarine sandwiches. They have Subway sandwich shops in Taiwan. They also have Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds but Uncle Ling says that they don't like fried foods very much in Taiwan. One day Uncle Ling started to teach Daddy to cook authentic healthy Taiwanese food. We all went to a special Taiwanese market where we could buy lots of different kinds of fish, noodles, and strange vegetables.

Uncle Ling cooking
Uncle Ling cooking
Chinese food is often very hot, salty, and spicy but Taiwanese food is not. Uncle Ling cooked mostly noodles, rice, spinach, and broccoli. I like the salty "soy sauce" they use in Chinese food, but Uncle Ling said that he hardly ever uses it. Uncle Ling's food was good but it really didn't taste very much. The next time we went to the Chinese market we found a spice made of seaweed, sesame seeds, and rice cake that tasted wonderful and made Uncle Ling's cooking much better.

Uncle George and me planing Ping Pong
Uncle George and me planing Ping Pong
One day, everyone was playing Ping Pong, even Uncle George. Ernest and Uncle Ling hold the paddle in a funny way, more like you hold a pencil than the way you hold a racket. This is the Chinese style. Daddy holds it that way too but he says that that's because Uncle Ling taught him how to play back in the middle ages when they were young. (I don't think it was really that long ago, my daddy says things like that.)

Then suddenly when we were playing, Ernest tripped over my foot, hit his head on the edge of the Ping Pong table, and got a big cut over his left eye. I quickly called everyone and ran to get a Band-Aid. Mommy stopped the bleeding. Then Uncle George looked at it and, even though he's not the kind of doctor who helps anybody, he knows lots of things and said that a Band-Aid wouldn't work, that Ernest would have to go to the hospital.

Earnest's Wound
Ernest's Wound
Daddy and Uncle Ling took Ernest to the Emergency room at the hospital. It took a long long time and they said they had to wait in one room, then another, and another. Finally the doctor stitched up Ernest's cut with two deep stitches and eight stitches on top. Mommy let me stay up late because I really wanted to see that Ernest was alright. They got back after one o'clock in the morning and Ernest was fine but had a big bandage above his left eye.

Next day, Ernest showed me the stitches. They looked like little black threads tied all the way across the cut. Next week Ernest got them taken out but he still couldn't go swimming for another week because the water might make his cut open up again. He's fine again now and you can barely see the scar.

Earnest and me
Ernest and me
Ernest and I had a lot of fun this summer. Sometimes we had fights but it was sad when he and Uncle Ling got on the airport shuttle and went away. The next week we discovered that we could still play even though we were thousands of miles away when Daddy set up an internet video conference. We could talk to each other, see each other, and even play computer games with each other. We'll be able to stay friends from anywhere.


Note: Earnest's wound ended up costing over $1000 after all fees were paid. A minor incident like this can ruin a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. A major incident, such as major injury or illness in a coubtry with no access to reasonable English-speaking medical assistance could be life threatening as well as financially disasterous.

International SOS exists specifically for this purpose, providing 24/7 emergency care, emergency evacuation, and many other services. Their international staff of medical and security personnel, aviation specialists and trained operations coordinators provide the care needed for any problem you may encounter while traveling. Since 1974, International SOS has performed thousands of emergency evacuations and helped millions of members.
Play it safe. Feel secure.

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