27 January 2008
Subject: Seasons Creepings?!

Happy Western New Year!

I get to celebrate again on February 7th for the New Lunar Year, Year of the Golden Rat. Since I've been seeing "Beijing 2008" everywhere, it feels like I've been in 2008 for a while now. Also fomenting this notion is the understanding that I am "in the future" for you left in Western times zones and I am "from the future" from the standpoint of innocent fashion victims and musically-challenged trendy girls. Maybe 90's famous girly pop would be better with more cow bell... and bacon. (Voreshadowing!)


"Seasons Creepings" has been a fashionable Chinglish approximation of a western sentiment posted on hotel fronts, but it's starting to creep me out now that the reference season has rather already crept by.

A decorated general swaggering down the street, upon closer inspection, is a robust stocky grandmother giving a piggy-back ride to a child, whose small hands on her shoulders compose her epaulets.

While Mitch might be a Poster Boy for our secondary undisclosed employers, I am a Calendar Girl for our rightful primary employers, cheerfully gracing November.

They are "redecorating" the road near our house. For those familiar with the Chinese understanding of "redecorating," you will know that means tearing the whole damn thing out and putting it somewhere else. At first I was confused because they planted a hundred trees in giant holes they made all along the sidewalk, ostensibly in time for the Xiamen marathon. Then the next day, all the trees were gone, leaving the gaping holes every fifteen feet. Now it all makes sense when they tear the whole road up. Or DOES it?!

We had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner; Mitch and I took his girlfriend, our boss, and a teacher friend out to a fancy restaurant with a shark tank in it. Never before have we gotten to patronize a fancy meal in China, and it felt rather proper.

Our Christmas evening was in the house of friends, a lot of laowai, with a potluck dinner. I almost poisoned everyone with what I thought were onion flowers I saw for sale on the street. Well, I mean, she was selling them next to the bananas, so I started to barter. Luckily I thought to ask hau chi ma? and she GASPED and said NO, NOT for eating! And then laughed her fool head off.

I've met some new fruits! This time, they were made of actual fruit! For example: A giant nubbly greenish yellowish thing, rough to the touch and assailing to the nose, heavy in the hand and light in the heart of the flavour, a robust pungent sweetness that speaks of erotic cabin fever, has a heady nose ripe for the biting, continuing into an acrid meta-taste which admits its latex origins, into a broad palate of prehensile colour-hooks that cause a clouding of the vision via involuntary eyelash lowering, with a slightly salty uplifting and puckering pineapply finish without too many tannins or a clinging need to cuddle. Though /you will/ want to cuddle. Jackfruit, some call it. Here it is bo1lou2mi4. I cleaved unto the fruit and thrust my fingers, in cadence of iambic pentameter, between fibrous triadic chords connecting the hull to the center, invading the alien fruit-craft, and extracted the sweet yellow fleshy globules surrounding thumb-joint-sized pale seeds. After an hour of coaxing out the comestible portion with ticklish hand-sonnets, I went at it full-bore with a pair of scissors, snipping away at the sinusoidal jungle of fiber-form cavern-ettes, and gnawing out the latent flavours in the resulting pompom-like organic soft sculpture.

Another fruit I've met is the jidangua, or chicken egg fruit. It is a stymieing combination of many cousins, though I can't ascertain the family. It has the belly button of a palm fruit, the seed of a zapote, and the leaves of the Eugenia clan. The thin leathery yellow skin covers a dense dryish canary yellow flesh that has the consistency and colour of boiled egg yolk, a touch of brimstone or sulfur, and a hint of salt over the sweetness. The first two times I wrestled specimens into captivity, I was unable to photograph them. They were reduced to a pile of skin and seeds before I was able to get the out camera. Wiley things! (Poking the internet vigourously with a stick resulted in elucidation; a common name is "canistel").

Lichi had her baby! A lovely baby girl, named Ke Han, and proudly presented to me as my god-daughter. We shall learn English together when the time seems more auspicious for her. Right now she's pretty focused on getting her cheek muscles into tip-top shape with some suction exercises.

But probably the most important thing to report is that I got a scarf. How have I lived without a scarf? I was teasing Mitch one day for his boy-fashion woes and not being able to find his particular pretty scarf. "You have more than one scarf?" "You don't? You seem like, more than anyone, the type of person who would have scarves." And so I went out and got one, and all of a sudden, I'm five degrees warmer. The End.

IN LONG BRIEFS (at length)

For a long while now, I've been having difficulties keeping my body happy. Recently, my pain issues have flared up again, to the point where it was becoming excruciating to even walk, and I was hesitant to tell anyone state-side about it for fear that they'd impotently maintain worry for me. But since I've finally come out to my own mother about it (who took it quite well and didn't try and harangue me home), I thought I'd share with you. Mostly because many of the stories relating to my medical misadventures are horrifically hilarious, and I really want to recount them. And also because being bedridden for a while has taken up a lot of my time, and I have no other plausible way to explain why most of my recent photographs were taken of things around the house.

While I sorely wanted to see a TCM doctor, I had no idea where to go or who to trust. Also, when I walked in someone's office, what was I going to say? Point generally at my back and leg, make swooping hand motions and declare, "PAIN! Much pain!"? Though I figured out how to express some arcane western medical terminology in characters.

At last I got a lead for a trustworthy TCM doctor, and, for help translating, went with the quick-witted teacher who is the best student in my English class. We arrived at the local bone hospital and waited to see the doctor. No one had appointments, so we all just sort of stared each other down in the waiting room, and occasionally, people would walk in and rearrange the order of our visitation papers on the desk. Nurses applied pungent sweet-sharp-smelling thick brown paste to people's ankles and feet and then wrapped them up in gauze. There seemed to be different pots of brown pastes, but they all looked and smelled the same, and we the patients would watch each slathering and raveling with unveiled interest.

When it finally came to be my turn to see the doctor, we went into the back room to have a private consultation since he would be taking down my pants. Some people tried to follow me in, and though the nurses shooed them out, one obnoxiously meddling old woman was too cantankerous to leave. So I showed the doctor my carefully scritched-out characters, and had my friend speak a little more about it in Chinese while I made swooping hand motions generally towards my back and leg and said, "Pain, much pain! My back, leg, too much pain. Here is a pain. This is also a pain. Leg pain is fast. Back pain is slow." ...actually, this might best be told in the style of Minnan traditional opera, but in Mandarin.

Ahem: [Dramatic sleeves pose, center stage]
(ad nauseum)
[Bonging instrument] BONG BONG BONG BongBONGbongBONGGG! Heh. True story.

So anyway, there I was with my pants down, performing said opera while the doctor prodded me with his thumbs. The consultation portion of the show lasted almost an entire minute, and then I was laid out on the table for more thumbing. It was expert thumbing, I must admit, but then I realized what I had coming. Yes, the turtle poop. Well, no, not real turtle poop. But maybe! They never tell what is in it, but yes, the smelly brown paste. The nurses helped slather it on while the cantankerous old lady jabbered helpful suggestions. I tried to pretend she was good luck and ignore her, though I was laughing about it and the term "turtle poop" and each stifled guffaw caused untold spasmodic pain. Finally, they wrapped my up tightly with gauze, pulled up my pants, told me to keep the plaster on for at least 24 hours and come back in two days for the next installment of the turtle poop opera. They also hooked me up with two kinds of Mystery Pills, which, in my pain, I took unquestioningly.

Strangely, my pains worsened and worsened, and aside from making me smell strongly of elderberries, muddled mint, and fermenting ginger, the turtle poop plaster was also good for staining my clothes and sheets. At that point, it became excruciating to walk and I began bonding with my bedding something inappropriate for healthy human-blanket relationships. And the second time I went in for the turtle poop pasteage, I whimpered in the office for about twenty minutes before I was able to make it shambling geriatrically out the door. I didn't go back.

Instead, I thought it prudent to get some acupuncture, as that had helped me in the States. Again, not sure where to go, I asked around and serendipitously made my way to 174 Hospital, ascending to the sixth floor on my intuition alone. There I was met by cheerful young professionals who took the time to find out what my problem was. Not only was I able to describe, sans opera, my seasoned spiel in Chinese, but also there was an intern who spoke English. And not only were they going to give me acupuncture, but also they were going to start me on traction. And LO there were two traction apparatii in the next room, and it was good.

One of the doctors was tall, cute, boyish, sheepishly grinny, and mentioned in different ways that I was pretty. I chatted amiably with him and he followed me back to the acupuncture bed, where they voodooed me up with pins and an electrical apparatus that made my muscles twitch like an unfortunate dissection frog's. While we were talking in stilted syllables, he got out his cell phone and starte fiddling with it for a while before I realized he was taking my picture. He deleted it immediately when I asked, and then proceeded to advance upon me. He took out all my pins and then lit a torch and used glass globes to cup me. After the half hour of Fun With Air Pressures (try it at home, kids) he helped me over to the chiropractic table. Traction, acupuncture, electrical stimulus, cupping, chiropractic adjustment, physical therapy, and some TCM patches to wear when it got bad: less than 14 dollars. I love Chinese health facilities! And when the flirtatious doctor came back to bid me au revoir, he had taken off his white coat to reveal... his army uniform *gasp, swoon*. I was in an army hospital and surrounded by soldiers, and they lead me off to meet the director of the hospital. She sat me down in her office and suggested strongly that I meet her daughter, and well, we rather hit it off. Also, my pain was magically alleviated. I brought them a bucket of strawberries the next day. And I've been back pretty much every day for the last month, to receive treatments and compliments and give impromptu waltz or tango lessons and pleasant chats in English. The End!

I'll mention one thing that came as boon and blessing around the Holidays and just in time for me to supine-away for the fjords... we got internet at home. Huzzah for Mitch's Chinese girlfriend, Tina. She's totally hooked us up! To the interwebs! Well, most of them, anyway, less lj, wikipedia and the usual suspects. Now the trick is to *not* be on the internet all the time, as tempting as it is with my body in retrograde. But I'm strong enough to walk hours at a time and hopefully hike next week.

I've leaving for Hong Kong tomorrow, and shall meat-meet the lustrous Trevorberry in a hirsute hug of furry fury! Tis detailed in our pact-- we shall "meet in Kowloon before noon, five days after the full moon!" So mote it be. And after some dim sum din-din, we'll train up north into Hunan in search of what we shall find climbing a sacred mountain, then south to Guangxi for the incredible karst of my dreams, and then hop over to Yunnan for dessert. Tiger Leaping Gorge and Chinese New Years in the countryside, Tigers and Dragons and a Golden Rat, Oh My! Also, it will be good to just enjoy all the meted punishment from Trevor :P Good thing most people here don't grok enough subtlety of English or Anguish Languish, but I pity the fools once he starts picking up enough Chinese.

We'll be back in Xiamen within the month, whereupon we'll continue our trevols and molventures, seeking, finding, and stabbing each other with painful puns all night long, sweet Suzie.

With a hearty mappetite for travel!
(The plateau set before us on our mesa, river forks poised,
bud-valise with compass rose gracing our tableau).
I bid you,
Bonny Voyeurage!

P.S. I have invented a title for my career and life's work. I shall be... a.... Humanographer!

P.P.S. There are two new photo sets on http://mollybee.org/china.html (I never leave you pic-less!)

P.^3.S. I can guar-an-tee the next news from me shall be less pain-full.