Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Smiles & Treasure Chests, Jun Lin's 1st Dance Lesson, & Pulses & Pregnancy

Greetings Friends!

Wow! Yesterday I had the joy of meeting 2 beautiful grade school girls - who then walked with me all the way back to my hotel! I walk by a school ground everyday on my way to clinic and on my way home. So far I've been the 'yang wa wa' - 'western barbie doll' that no one thought could speak Chinese. I've exchanged several big smiles and warm "hellos!" with several people (many Chinese are excited to interact with a foreigner and are often shy too -- both to use their English and to use their Chinese in case I or another foreigner doesn't understand -- but one word they are rather bold with, especially if they have a group of friends around them is..."Hello!" usually followed by several giggles :)). But no one has really talked to me in this daily 10-minute walk stretch. And since I'm usually on a 'schedule' to get to clinic or get back to the hotel before dinner is over, I haven't engaged in conversations.

Power of Smiles
Yet, even though I haven't engaged in many conversations on this walk, I just Love the power of Smiles! And I enjoy making eye contact with people and truly connecting with them -- even if it be for just a brief moment. Eyes can convey sooo much information, so much energy -- just one glance can convey fear, anger, shyness, joy, and/or Great Love. Often I look at people I pass in the eye and if they meet me, I often smile. And smiles, as I mentioned, are so powerful. Several times, when I've made eye-to-eye contact with people on my daily walk and then add a smile, what has started as a distant, hesitant and quizzical look from them can, in a brief moment, turn into a most warm, delighted, loving gaze/eye twinkle and beautiful smile! Oh, I love this!! It's as if all of a sudden their inner Light and pure Love bursts forth and floods the space between and around us. What can be such an ordinary moment can also turn so quickly into a most sacred one.

So on this daily walk of mine, I've passed many, many children who often look up at me with wide curious eyes as I'm one of, if not the first 'live' foreigner they've seen. Many times as I pass little girls, who are often walking usually in pairs, if one of them sees me before the other, that one often pokes their friend and points discreetly and sometimes not-so-discreetly at me saying "Ni kan! Wai guo ren!" --"Look! There's a foreigner!" (One time I even received the big compliment of a 2 year old who saw me at a big veggie market and yelled out in a loud voice, "Da meinu!" and everyone around including me began to laugh. ("da mei nu" means 'big or tall beautiful woman")

Well yesterday on my way back from clinic, there happened to be a couple of teenage boys who were a bit more daring than the rest of the folks and they drove up in their cart (they were hauling some sort of supplies) and said "hello!" :) I said hello back and then they asked in English what my English name is. After I told them, they got more bold and asked in Chinese if I spoke Chinese. In replying yes they got excited and many people watching our conversation were also surprised and started to gather around. These boys then proceeded to ask the common questions (what's my age, am I married, etc. -- This aside brings up one other benefit of being in China-- I've found that b/c many people don't see a lot of foreigners, for some reason that has the effect of making me appear younger than I am! --Gosh, people are soooo friendly here - they give me the benefit of the doubt with my language - always complimenting me on my Chinese even if I've just said hello, telling me I'm smart even when a package of herbs I'm wrapping for them unravels yet again as they and Jun Lin-- patiently wait and "vote my victory" saying "meiguanxi, man man lai" - "that's okay-no worries - just take it slow" :), and now with my age they say "oh you look like you're in your twenties - I thought you were in college!" One woman today said she thought I was in my late teens!! Now that's stretching it a wee bit! - Gosh, coming to China can easily be a great self-image booster!!! The next 'staying young' promo in the States can just be a trip to China!! :))

Anyways, after a few questions from these teenage boys, this gave other people around me the chance to hear and realize that 'oh she does speak Mandarin'....and hence come forth to have a conversation. Well these 2 beautiful little girls, Su Mengwei and Tai Mengyu, came up beside me at precisely this time and said "Aiyi nihao! Ni shi cong nage guojia?" "Hello Auntie, what country are you from?" Oh I was sooo touched by these girls - they are precious. I proceeded to tell them I'm from the U.S, and found out I'm the first American they've met. They were so excited and so was I! :)

Su Mengwei also quickly exclaimed as we started talking, "Wow! Look-- her eyes are Blue!!" This was also a first for both of them to see 'in person' as most Chinese have various beautiful shades and hues of brown. We proceeded to walk together the 3 of us as we were headed in the same direction, and they asked me many questions. "What is America like? Do you have as many fun things to do there as here? Do you have old historic sites too? Are you very rich? What kind of work do you do? Are you married? Will you marry a Chinese man?" I told them about our wilderness parks and about my love of dancing and the ecstatic dances and family dance we have -- they both got excited and asked if I could teach them to dance! :) One girl already dances a special type of Chinese dancing. They then asked if I could please stay in China longer and if I come back, can I please stay here for many more months? Our conversation also drew lots of attention from passersby, some of who also stopped and talked with us (see pictures above and below-- one is of me with these 2 girls and the other is with the baby of another mother and her grandmother).

Gosh, I love talking with little kids! Just to be able to understand them and feel their curiosity and get a glimpse into their world and be able to offer my love through my sharing and laughing and communicating with them. Language is so powerful and in being in another culture, I particularly feel and am acutely aware of the doorways speaking a common language opens. For example, Gaogao, (I've been reminded now is Dr. Zhao's grandson :)) was shy when he first met me, but now we like to joke around and play together. In the car ride back from Kaifeng the other week, he was testing my English :) -- by saying the Chinese word for something and seeing if I could name the correct thing in English! :)

Jun Lin's First Dance Lesson
Coming back to the subject of dancing, yesterday I gave Jun Lin her first dance lesson as well. :) Dr. Zhao and I had lunch again with Jun Lin and her family and afterward, Jun Lin and I went to their upstairs room which is on the roof of their family's home to play pingpong :) (and we found we're actually most compatible pingpong players - we played and giggled as she, her son, and her dad also badgered back and forth in a playful way about certain topics I didn't understand as they were speaking in 'henan hua' - their local dialect) -- This room is a most comfortable bright space with windows all around and many plants that her mother is growing (she loves to garden and since there is no open soil around, she has many potted plants here -- and it is so refreshing to be amongst green plants! :)) After playing we ate some pineapple and I brought out my little ipod touch. I don't have speakers to project the sound better but I've been using this anyways to dance with. I've told Jun Lin about my love for dancing and how I do it in my room at night and how we all dance together in Seattle and the ecstatic dance communities around the country. (BTW the reporters are coming tomorrow again to do some final filming at my hotel room to take pics of me writing to You :) and of me dancing --as they'd like to capture all of my daily events.) She is curious and asked me to show her. So I took out my ipod and started dancing. Her mom came up too and Jun Lin was so delighted. She started moving too and then her mom joined in as well :). Jun Lin felt a bit awkward so I did some simple steps and encouraged her to feel the beat and first relax and let the beat come into her body and move her. She still felt self conscious and is planning to video tape me dancing to 2 songs that I'll give to here so she can watch and practice :) YAY! I'm excited to see the love of dancing spread! The joy dance brings is contagious!

Opening the Gates
Gosh, I feel so much is just starting to open up now and am acutely aware of the short time I have remaining. Today in one of our clinic lull's, Dr. Zhao started teaching me about something I remember him mentioning last summer in Seattle (the 6 different types/characteristics that each of the 14 meridians have), and again I really had no idea of what he was talking about! I felt frustrated at the time b/c I knew he had so much to share and I wasn't understanding at the time what it was! Well, today he began talking about the same subject and I'm understanding!! Oh this is so exciting!! I feel a sense of doors opening to understand easily (or at least with more ease!) Dr. Zhao is such a good and patient teacher and I am seeing the value of learning in this experiential environment. For example, in working with Jun Lin with the herbs, she'll often tell me about some of the herbs I'm gathering for the prescriptions, saying - "oh this one is good for women - just like dang gui," or "this is good for colds," etc. I find this way of learning easier for me - as I'm more of a kinesthetic learner. So he taught me of the 6 characteristics of each meridian "Jing, xing, shu, jing, he, yuan" -- basically, the first "jing" (it's a different character than the 2nd one listed) is the 'well' where the energy of a meridian starts; its beginning movement is 'xing'; it flows into and fills points which is 'shu'; it continues to flow like water which is 'jing'; the energy flows and gathers together which is 'he'; and the energy then reaches it's source point -- the end of the meridian channel which is 'yuan'.

He also spoke of the "luo xue" - which I'm now again understanding what it is! YAY! These are points that connect certain meridians/organs that directly influence each other. If any of you have seen a meridian circle chart you'll notice that of the 12 meridians listed (with Ren Mai and Du Mai - the Central and Governing Vessels listed in the middle), 6 are yang in character and 6 are yin. The organs are ordered as to what is their 'strong' time of the day and alternate between yin and yang organs. The "luo xue" - or luo points - are points connecting subsidiary channels that run between paired organs that are listed next to each other on the chart. For example, our stomach and spleen meridians have a channel where energy runs directly between the 2 organs from these meridians -- on the stomach meridian, this point is "feng long" or ST40. On the spleen meridian, this point is "gong sun" or SP4. Another cool thing is that this whole system makes more sense as it's coming more alive for me in the Chinese language. These "luo points" -- "luo", as I understand it, is short for "lian luo" which is a commonly used phrase for 'connecting' -- you can say, for example, "wo chang change gen ta lian luo." "I often connect (or am in touch) with her." In this way, the names of these point categories make sense as, through these points, our organs communicate with and support one another :). Dr. Zhao also mentioned that while these points help share and balance energies of the paired organs when we are well, they also help "tiao li" or bring another organ back into health if it's out of harmony. (A disclaimer note-- those of you who are already practicing Chinese medicine, please let me know if my understandings anywhere along the line here are misinformed, as I'm relaying what I've learned through my other-than- perfect Mandarin comprehension :).)

Pulses and Pregnancy
Another neat thing I've experienced in the past couple days is....feeling the pulse of a woman who is pregnant! Wow! It truly is different and has the sense of being a bit slippery or 'hua' and feels almost like water flowing over slippery beads or pearls. :) Pulse-taking is something Dr. Zhao is just starting to introduce me to. Sometimes he has me sit with him and feel the patients' pulses after he does. He's introducing me to this technique by telling me the very basics of the most simplified differentiation of 4 pulses and then having me feel this with clients. These 4 kinds of pulses are: Fu - meaning a floating pulse which is very much on the surface of the skin - you can feel it right away and often represents a sickness caused from an external force/agent; Chen - meaning a sinking pulse which is felt only by pressing into the patient's wrist more -- and it often represents disharmony coming from inside the body; Chi - meaning slow; and Shuo- meaning fast. In the one-page paper on pulse diagnosis that Dr, Zhao gave to me to read, the author described how various schools have taught doctors to discriminate a wide range of pulses - many averaging 26-28 different kinds! This doctor/writer, however, favored not teaching so many as he felt that too many different kinds sometimes led people to mistake normal healthy variation in pulses as being a disharmony of some sort. Right now, I am grateful to start simple!! :)

So much to learn in a short time! If I could just find a pair of ruby slippers like Dorothy's in the Wizard of Oz, I could easily make weekly trips over here to visit Dr. Zhao and his clients while back in the States :)

Treasure Chest
Another surprise today was a visit from my 2 newest friends-- the little girls, Su Mengwei and Tai Mengyu!! They found Dr. Zhao's clinic and came by right as I was leaving with a surprise "xiao chu xiang"-- "treasure box" for me!!! Oh they are so adorable!! They wrote their names on the box and wrote "Kailun Ayi song gei ni!!!" "Auntie Karen, here's a gift for you!!" And inside....oh my!! All sorts of wonderful treasurers!!! (see picture below) There's 2 little dolls which they told me represent them so I can think of them when I'm back home in the States; a picture of a farm house and birds and a stream they drew on a piece of cloth with their names on it; a picture of Su Mengwei, a journal Su Mengwei wrote in saying I can write down both my happy and sad feelings in; a beautiful shell necklace; fun colored pens/pencils; and bows! Oh my!! They are sooo sweet! One of Dr. Zhao's clients helped us take the picture above and I've also include one of the 'treasure box" which is this blog's title graphic (first pic) :)

Also included are few pics of a wedding I went to today with Dr. Zhao and Jun Lin. That whole experience could easily be another story in and of itself!! What a mixture of Chinese and Western traditions, also decorated with flashing and glittery lights, and, as many Chinese love 'renao' -- lively and loud' - the club/disco-like music in combination with the loud game-show host-like MC for the wedding ceremony and flying film cameras filming the whole thing on big screens was quite a scene! It was also beyond LOUD and while I desired to "be polite", I also desired to plug my ears the whole time! So I compromised by turning my head to the side and 'discretely plugging the ear facing the speaker while pretending to scratch a persistent itch and readjust my hairdo :).

Congrats to all of you who make it to the end of my long updates! :) I love sharing!! And as Dr. Zhao postponed our night study session, I thought I'd write again tonight before those sessions start up. For those of you who know Richard Ward (our dear friend in Z Y Qigong who is currently living in Guangzhou, China), he is flying up to Zhengzhou this Saturday to visit me and Dr. Zhao and his family :) We'll be hiking together on Sunday, and Monday is a national holiday for visiting the burial sites and temples for ones ancestors. We'll be doing this yearly outing with the Zhaos too :)

Much Great Love to you ALL!!! Thank you so much for your emails. Your messages mean a lot to me.

Much, Much Love,

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

'Anquan Angels', Chinese Cooking, & Surprise Questions

Greetings Friends!

Yesterday I had my first biking adventure in China - for this visit! :) My last time in China in 2005 some of you may remember I was so excited about biking again when I lived in Beijing for 1 month that I bought the very first bike I found -- without inspecting it! It was only $10 in US currency and I was so eager to hop on a bike (as many of you know I LOVE to bike) that I delightfully handed over the money and off I....teetered and squeaked! Well it had turned out I bought a bike in very bad shape that made a most horrible squeaking raquet every time I peddled -- it sounded like a very cranky cat and my friends who laughed with me when I brought it home that day, helped me name it 'xiao mao' -- little kitten. I had even taken it to a bike repair man (there's people that set up road side shops with their small truck-carts, park them on the side of the big boulevards with their numerous tools and wait for customers to peddle by with some bike repair requests). When I brought mine by, the man proceeded to inspect my bike, sigh, look around some more and sign and then with another rather bewildered sigh (like why in the world did you just buy this bike?!!) said there was nothing he could do -- just ride it until it breaks!

So yesterday, I had my first bike adventure in Zhengzhou with Jun Lin. We both had the day off and Dr. Zhao was busy attending other we first got together to go to the market, buy lots of fresh yummy veggies, and I had my first cooking lesson with Jun Lin and learned to make several YUMMY dishes that we then enjoyed with her husband, son, and dad

and then....we hopped on 2 of her family's bikes and went ....Shopping! We rode to one of Zhengzhou's shopping districts -- which really in China, can pretty much be anywhere (if you're in a city) as there are people out selling products, noodles, fresh cut pineapples, baozi-- steamed bread with meat and or veggie fillings, yummy red bean and green bean paste shakes, steamed peanuts, shoes (of which are almost ALL too small! - except one friend suggested I try men's sizes -- that may work --but their shoes aren't nearly as pretty! :)), plastic bins to wash clothes, and well the list is infinite...But there are also places in the cities that are specifically for shopping and they are most enormous!! With floor after floor of shops and each floor is a gigantic maze of stands with any type of clothes---well I guess probably about 3/4 is for women with the rest for men and kids. I'm so glad Jun Lin was with me (and she often held onto my arm for fear 'wo diu le' -- I would 'disappear.' (as we also both forgot our cell phones).sooo I've gotten ahead of myself as I have yet to rely our bike adventure to get to this gigantic shopping maze.

'Anquan' Angels
First I must say that the 'anquan angels' -- or 'safety' angels in China are VERY busy!! Especially for cyclists and pedestrians! Also, I've notice that no one else around me seems to notice this fact as most people seem quite calm, relaxed and happy navigating within and weaving through the bustling 'no-rules-anything-goes' traffic -- I seem to be the only one who is nervous -- and not just for me but the people around me - while witnessing several almost but not quite accidents! So we started on our bikes (and most bikes are very old and dusty and have seen a lot of years -- mine was also quite old (but no squeaks!) and very short! -so my peddling was short and fast with my knees coming up to the handle bars BUT luckily Zhengzhou is flat and I was just happy to be biking again :). So we started down the little side alleyways by JunLin's home weaving through the strolling crowds and merchants and tottering toddlers and then...we went onto the highway! Yikes! BUT there is a bike lane with a curb that separated us cyclists from the bigger motorized vehicles (which, however, as I relayed in an earlier message isn't much of a deterrent for motorists). In any case, Jun Lin peddled a little ahead of me and to my left-hand side and I followed and relaxed some seeing how relaxed she was peddling along.

That is until I looked up and saw another bike coming right towards me! Yet, it wasn't just a bike -- this fellow was also carrying a load of bags and bags of rice and other grains piled so high and wide he was as wide as a big truck! (this is actually quite a usual scene in China --it's amazing the massive and odd-sized loads people can carry on their bikes!) Oh dear! So I managed to swerve and miss being side-swiped by a bag of rice...only to look up and see my next obstacle. A woman had found that this bicycle lane (full of cyclists, motor scooters, an occasional horse and cart, I've alluded to some 'sneaky' cars or 'mian bao che's - 'loaf-of-bread' vans :)) to be the perfect spot to set up her street cart stand of fresh steamed dumplings and 'zhongzi' -yummy sticky rice triangles wrapped and steamed in big leaves! Again, in observing those around me, no one else seemed to be surprised by this 'obstacle' - just me.

So we carried on our way, got off the highway, crossed some big boulevards and back onto some side bustling streets. We still encountered plenty of obstacles - some as small as an older man right in front of me suddenly stopping and standing by his bike with no warning. With the bike lanes as crowded as they are, this could easily be a catastrophe...but again miraculously it isn't! YAY for the 'anquan' angels (safety angels!) They certainly work overtime here!! :)

Chinese Cooking with Jun Lin!
I had just skimmed over the cooking lesson part of yesterday, but really I am so impressed with the art of Chinese cooking! If there was a book with 500+ recipes for 'Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking' -- like Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' -- that would be an inspiring project to take on! So much knowledge about what foods to eat in which season, how to cook each item in each dish so that it preserves, magnifies the flavors and the nutrients, and even selecting items/veggies to make the whole color, texture, flavor and smell a delightful, full, savory and satisfying experience! And have everyone feel full and easily digest their food! :) For example, Jun Lin taught me how to make "jia chang dou fu" -- which a tofu dish you can find in almost any Chinese restaurant -- though most don't taste as good as what we had :). In this dish, we had firm tofu

(I also included a pic of Jun Lin and I at the market by one of the tables where they were just selling tofu! -- all different kinds of tofu - tofu 'mian' - noodles, dried smoked tofu, firm tofu blocks, silky tofu for 'dou hua' - makes the most yummy sweet or savor soups! and many more kinds I'm wondering how to translate into English!....this market was sooo fun to visit and there are many, many everywhere every day --where does all this fresh produce come from?! It surprises me as China's land is fast being developed with so many high sky-scrapper buildings -- Dr. Zhao's neighborhood has no trees now - there used to be trees everywhere and places to grow veggies -- now it's all mostly cement). The dish also had 'mu-er' - wood ears -- its a fungus that grows on trees and is soo delicious! Jun Lin said when she was little her sisters and her used to go gather this after it rained. It also had green peppers, tomatoes and garlic. All these items are specially picked to have a full range of color and flavor and nutrition. (I'll save writing the recipes for after I double-check them -- meaning I test them out on myself first to see if I've learned it right! :) -- and include it in my book)

She also taught me how to prepare and steam a fish, stir-fry eggplant, make a most delcious 'zhou' -- rice/millet porridge with red beans, 'lian ou', hong zao - red dates, and many other yummy ingredients that I don't know the English names for yet. Jun Lin had said she would go to the market with me to buy all the ingredients and then have me cook it up so I'd remember and learn the techniques....yet she did most of the work (chopping and preparing) while I took pictures, asked questions and wrote in my notebook...and then she just had me hold the spatula to stir fry the veggies for a few minutes while taking a few pics of me

and then declared to her son, husband and father, that this meal was made by Karen! Well that was a very generous stretch of reality for her to make! -- in any case, we all enjoyed our meal and I am excited to learn more and treat you to some good food when I'm home :). (Note: I also include a pic of Jun Lin and I making 'jiaozi' - steamed dumplings today :) -- Dr. Zhao and I had lunch with Jun Lin and her family as Ayi is out of town helping her son and daughter-in-law for a few days.)

Daily Surprises in Speaking a Foreign Language (when others don't know it!!)
Those of you who speak another language and have traveled to other countries know the fun experience of hearing other people talking about you without knowing you are understanding everything they're saying! :) This happens quite a lot to me here. Sometimes if I'm in more of a hurry (like in the morning to get to clinic), I'll smile to myself and not say much, and other times I start talking -- which creates a big surprise and often a crowd of people then start to gather to speak to a 'wai guo ren' -foreigner. At breakfast in the hotel, often I hear people whispering about me - as I'm the only foreigner here and they often wonder amongst themselves why I'm here, if I'm studying, if I'm married, what country I'm from, etc. If I say 'nihao' or hello to someone, I often hear people say "oh her Chinese is very good!" (The Chinese are sooo generous with their compliments to foreigners! I wish we in the states would learn from them! When I just say one word in their language, they are so pleased!! Whereas I often witness English-speaking people in the states being frustrated and impatient with people who don't speak English fluently. What if we started the same practice with people who are learningEnglish and being delighted by even a 'hello' or 'good morning' and complimenting and encouraging them on their English skills! :))

I've also noticed that many Chinese seem to be shy in talking with me directly at first (maybe for fear I won't understand). This morning, however, one business man did talk with me, yet it was the most odd question I've been asked yet! :) First he explained the types of 'zhou' they were serving. And I responded with how the millet zhou was my favorite. He was surprised in my Chinese and then asked with great curiosity, "so are you here to buy a car?" -- What?!! Wow- I have yet to know what made him think that! :) Anyways, I laughed and said no, I'm here studying.

So yes, lots of surprised everyday! Jun lin surprised me after lunch today with a big smile on her face -- she brought this little device, pressed some buttons, held it to my ear and giggled -- It was a famous dance song from a different province. She laughed and said we could listen to it later as she'd like me to teach her how to dance :)

More about my studies with Dr. Zhao are to come in my upcoming updates...the clinic has been very busy lately and I've been working a lot in the herbal dispensary with Jun Lin as Ayi is away. I'm realizing that 2 months is actually quite a short time and I have soooooooo much to learn. Jun Lin said - 'oh if you come for 1 year, I can teach you all about Chinese cooking too and the different foods for different seasons.' Our world is really so fascinating -- so much to learn and experience! I am often one who loves to see as much as I possibly can! And this trip has been/is more about depth in where I am and who I'm with than in the quantity of things and people I see. I'm learning more about focus too and will continue in the next few weeks as Dr. Zhao is also realizing my time is short. We're going to set up evening study sessions starting later this week (as clinic time has been too busy), so my updates may be a bit shorter in the coming days.

Thank you again for all your emails and love and support! I just love hearing from you and am so grateful to share my experiences with you. And thank you to Rick for creating and updating my blog! YAY! If any of you have connections, ideas, contacts for creating a book - I desire to share my experiences of and with Dr. Zhao with many - please let me know your thoughts.

Much Love and Joy,


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Heat in Zhengzhou!

Greetings Friends!

Well it's not quite the heat I was hoping for BUT I've experienced a lot through it these past 2 days. "Wo gan mao le - you fa shao" -- I caught a cold and had a fever yesterday at the clinic -- which is fortunately something that rarely happens to me - actually I think the last time was when I was in China 5 years ago - I had forgotten what a stressor plucking myself out of one time zone and part of the Earth and then plopping me down in a completely different time zone, climate, food (even though I LOVE it!! :)) can be on my body. Also today, because as I mentioned 2 reporters were coming to the clinic to take pictures and follow me and Dr. Zhao around, I naturally desired to dress "piao liang yidian" -- more beautifully :) So I put on my spring skirt but still had 2 layers of tights and 2 layers of shirts and my new pretty purple jacket -- yet, as I discovered later, I didn't dress quite warm enough. So I came to the clinic and everything was fine until I started to feel aches all over my body and feel cold -- to my bones. Hmmm...I actually felt a bit embarrassed because "ganmao" or, 'catching a cold' is something the Chinese adamantly avoid and they have numerous ways to ensure they stay healthy and are constantly checking in with one another to see if they're warm and if they've dressed warm enough. Well, with me being a foreigner, both Ayi and Jun Lin have taken on the daily task of reminding me to dress warm and inspecting the clothes I'm wearing, how thick they are, and then evaluating how I've done with today's outfit.

Yesterday, while they understood why I desired to wear my pretty skirt, they immediately sensed I was wearing too little - "chuan de tai bao"-- my clothes were too light - they mutually concluded. Again they proceeded to show me just how many layers they were each wearing --a thick pair of long underwear - while raising their pant legs-, a long underwear top, then a long-sleeved shirt over that, then a vest and then a wool jacket. Even so, yesterday I protested saying I was warm and that everything was fine....until, that is, I started feeling ill. So despite my feeling a bit embarrassed, I finally whispered to Jun Lin that I wasn't feeling well -- that I had some aches and was going to ask her if she knew of some herb to take. Well before I finished my sentence, she said in a loud voice, "Aiyo! Ni shibu shi ganmao le?" --"Aiyo -- Did you catch a cold?" And then that caught Dr. Zhao's attention and caused some commotion in the clinic. He quickly came over and had me sit on one of the treatment stools and gave me some of his Chinese acupressure massage...and amazingly I felt better!....for about 1 hour and then the cold and aches came back. Again, I tentatively asked Jun Lin if there were some herbs to take...and again -- "Aiyo! Kailun, ni shibushi fa shaole?" "Oh, Karen, do you have a fever?" -- Well this again caused a 'halt' in the clinic business as now Dr Zhao came over to inspect again and yes, after taking my temp. I had a significant fever. Dr. Zhao wrote up a prescription and Ayi quickly went to go cook up the herbs while Jun Lin went inside to get a big puffy comforter to put on one of the clinic tables.

They had me lay down to rest while the tea cooked -- yet it was probably one of the oddest 'naps' or rests I've taken as the 2 reporters (who had been following us throughout the day taking pictures of me measuring herbs (a side note that I am very glad they came this week instead of my first week when I was just learning how to use these scales!!! Now I actually look like I know what I'm doing :) -- one women came in yesterday morning who had come my first week and she also exclaimed with glee as she watched me successful wrap a package of herbs -- "oh ni hui le" -"oh, you can do this now!!" -- Ayi, Jun Lin and I all laughed), giving some acupressure to clients, attempting to write some Chinese calligraphy again, listening to Dr. Zhao teach me more about pulses, and even cooking my first Chinese style of 'chao ji dan gen xihongshi" stir-fried eggs and tomatoes) continued to take pictures of me while I tried to rest :) They naturally saw this 'ganmao' - 'catching cold' event as another news-worthy experience to capture :)

Also, the patients that continued to arrive as the afternoon went on, were all curious and gathered around to see what this 'foreigner' was doing laying down with a big fluffy blanket on one of the treatment tables. And despite closing my eyes, I couldn't help but listen to all the conversations tidbits of "who's this? From what country? Oh U.S. -- aiyo! she caught a cold?" And then Ayi explaining how I seem to always wear too little and I really should best "chuan hou yidian" -- wear thicker clothes, as she would come over and check my forehead again to test if my fever was going away.

Actually I feel very lucky. For getting sick, it's definitely convenient to do it when there's a doctor around and a very good Chinese medicine doctor at that! :) I was so surprised that after drinking one bowl of Chinese herbal tea (see picture below),

within 10 minutes my body heated up and was warm from the inside out. Also, my aches went away and I felt I could sleep. Ayi made a bed upstairs for me to sleep in while they finished work and had dinner and she also made me a wonderful bowl of 'zhou' - rice porridge and a bowl of steamed eggs with green onion and a sprinkle of sesame oil! Yum! And it all looked so beautiful too!

I know I have mentioned this before, and I am so touched with how well taken care of I feel here! And everyday I have more surprises -- I guess some of this comes with not always understanding all that's being said around me. :) For example, today when I came back to the clinic for our afternoon session, I was waiting outside for Dr. Zhao. When he came, he told his cousin who also works at the clinic to take me inside to first have a treat of watermelon. Well I didn't quite understand what he had said to her as it was in the Henan 'dialect' and thought he was having her take me inside to wash my hands - which seemed strange as they looked quite clean to me and he hadn't ever seemed to make a special note that I wash my hands before! Well, of course I had a pleasant surprise when we walked inside and I saw many pink juicy pieces of watermelon awaiting us to enjoy :).

Below are some pictures of the patient I had mentioned in an earlier update who had severe depression for 8 years and after 6 months of treatment with Dr. Zhao, he is off western meds and his spirit is back behind his eyes and in his body. These are the first 2 pics -- and that's his wife with him. She's so amazing -- after all the struggle they've been through she never gave up either and she eventually found Dr. Zhao who was able to help her husband so much.

Then there's a pic of me and Dr. Zhao -- this was taken the day the reporters came - hence my wearing the white 'doctor' coat :). I also included a pic of one of the reporters getting a sample treatment from Dr. Zhao -- they were great! The news story will come out within a week and I'll email you all the link -- it will be mostly pictures so you'll be able to follow along :) -- As having my mid-day meal with Dr. Zhao and Ayi is part of my daily life here, they too enjoyed lunch with us -- I love how meals are soo easily and openly shared amongst friends and family and newly met guests, such as these reporters, here.

And then I include some pictures of the loving care I received from Jun Lin, Dr. Zhao and Ayi in the clinic.-- one of me bundled up in the puffy quilt, one drinking down the bitter tasting herbs (Dr. Zhao even took a sip first to show me - 'see it's okay to drink - even I drank a little' -- he said he used to do this with his daughter when she was little), and one of me having succeeded drinking it all down. And then the reporters wanted to take another pic of Dr. Zhao checking me for fever to send to my Mom as a way to show just how well I'm being taken care of :)

I also included 1 pic of a most delicious lunch Dr. Zhao made for me today (as I was still recovering some this morning and skipped clinic -- and Ayi was at the hospital with their daughter-in-law who is giving birth today!) -- Millet porridge (not yet in the picture - it was still cooking), eggs, cabbage, sweet potato and a bread made out of black beans that Jun Lin's Mom made special for me - as they ALL know about my allergy to wheat flour. In Henan, noodles, bread, dumplings, steamed bread with yummy veggies, fried 'bing' pastries with eggs or sweet treats are all the area's specialties. Me having a wheat allergy is often unheard of here and seen as almost tragic and even the thought of only being able to eat rice or millet is beyond imaginable for most people. Ayi has made a big adjustment to accommodate my diet by serving rice each lunch time instead of noodles or dumplings or steamed bread. For the first 2 weeks, when people would come into the clinic and start asking about me, Ayi would often mention the tragic fact that I don't eat 'mianshi' - flour products - and each time it produced exclamations of "Oh dear! What?! It can't be - what does she eat? Only rice?"

While to some I may be 'missing out' on so many treats, the variety and yumminess and abundance of the options of Chinese treats, meals, snacks, specialties are really quite astounding so I feel no lack with not eating 'mianshi' products -- I am just sooooooooo happy to be eating this delicious food 3 meals a day! :)

Gosh, time for bed again! I'm going to dance a bit first in my room though -- I miss dancing!! I've been telling my new friends here about our ecstatic dancing in the states and have told the reporters about it. Right now I just have some music on my little ipod with tiny speakers -- but it works and I like to turn up the music and dance around my room! Whee!

Much Great Love to you all!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Park Stunts, Lessons on Diligence, & a Visit from Dr. Zhao's Gege - Older Brother

Greetings Friends!

I just returned from an evening stroll with Dr. Zhao to the neighboring park....Though our way of strolling and others' way of strolling are a bit different. As I've inherited my Dad's long legs, I tend to walk with a brisk pace and long strides...and Dr. Zhao, who is no ordinary 'stroller' also walks with quick pace - short quick strides, firmly grounded in the earth and a walk with purpose and speed. Together we are good pacers for each other.

Park Stunts
I left my camera in the hotel room and next time will bring it to show you some more "tricks" Dr. Zhao has up his sleeves.:) I'll also video tape it to show you when I get back (we can have a Dr. Zhao movie night!) When we got to the park the first thing he had me do was hold his jacket and then he went for the highest 'chin-up' bar (what are they called?) and shwoosh! He was up and over the bars like a gymnist! Wow! Other younger men stood by in awe and one (who looked like he was in his forties) came up to ask how old Dr. Zhao was, as he was mightily impressed! -- Dr. Zhao is 62 this year and is in top shape with great stamina and skill.

He also went over to the 2 parallel bars, put his forearms on the bars parallel to the ground, picked up his legs and with a swift and graceful kick, he brought his legs and belly almost parallel to the ground and then...voop! he lifted his body up and now supported himself vertically with his 2 hands on the bars. Then he swung back and forth and back and forth kicking his legs and core up high above the bars and after a few swings, ....again...whoosh! - he leaped over the bar on his left and landed on both feet! Yay! -- there was a round of applause by the now gathered small group of spectators :) Things I had learned to do as a 5 and 6 year old in gymnastics class, Dr. Zhao is doing now :)

Lessons on Living Life with Honor and the Power of Love
Gosh, I am feeling so grateful to know this man, to know my dear friend and teacher, Dr. Zhao. The more I learn about him and with him, the more I observe and participate in his way of life, the more conversations we have either sitting in his little car navigating traffic pockets, walking to the park on the busy city streets, sitting at his desk discussing articles he's copied from old library books for me to read, or stretching and doing qigong and stunts (well really him doing stunts and me watching or filming or taking pictures in delight!) in our 'lull' time, the deeper my respect and love grows. In our car ride on the way back from visiting his artist friend on Monday night, he said, "Karen, for some people it's enough to have others like them -- some people like them and some don't. For others, they desire others to love them. For me, I live my life in a way that earns deep respect, the deepest respect." In anything Dr. Zhao does, as I have mentioned, he does with a sense of great care, dignity, thoroughness, steadfastness, honor and love. His word is powerful because he does as he says and says as he does. And he doesn't judge others who live differently. He is quiet and humble in this way. Even his clinic, as you've all seen pictures, at first glance seems/appears very humble and modest. Yet on the wall, quietly hanging are many, many, many "jinqi" (these are the burgundy flag-like tapestries hanging on the walls). Each one of these was given to Dr. Zhao by a patient who has healed from a very serious illness or condition through their care with Dr. Zhao.

He has sooooooo many examples!! (For example, I'm putting together his curriculum vitae in English now and he's shown me some certificates and awards he has for being guest speakers at numerous national and provincial conferences, and for numerous papers he's published (see pic below).

One such paper is a discussion on his herbal treatment for arthritis (inflammation of the joints) with 186 case studies! Another is for high blood pressure with 310 case studies!) Yet how is it that the world doesn't all know of him yet? I feel almost embarrassed for our country that I'm helping Dr. Zhao with the preliminary paperwork requirements for a green card application when, if our government only knew of the valuable, valuable skill and knowledge Dr. Zhao and a handful of other master doctors have, they would be sending numerous green cards to them and their family members inviting them to please come to the U.S. to teach and share their knowledge to our schools and upcoming generation of doctors and health care leaders! I feel so lucky for myself and our country that Dr. Zhao even has the desire to come! He is quite successful here and has a whole large community of patients nationwide and not to mention his large family which I'm still learning how everyone relates to each other! (that in and of itself could be a semester project!!) -- all of these people are definitely voting for him to stay!

Lessons on Diligence and Another Surprise Visit
Also, I often feel in awe as to why Dr. Zhao is so patiently teaching me -- there are so many others who at least have gone through the basics of 3 years of acupuncture school, know all the points and the basic theory, have gone through some clinical practice and know the basics of the herbs, their nature, what they're used for and basic formulas. And while I've had much personal experience with Chinese medicine and have devoted much time and practice and study to qigong. as for the fundamentals of practicing Chinese medicine, I am a beginner! I remember last summer when interpreting for him at the clinic in Seattle -- he soooo LOVES to teach, and as I was the only one who would understand what he was saying (and we were together each day, almost every day of his time there), he would often start telling me about different points and what they're used for and would sometimes recite various meridian "gejues" -- what I mentioned are song/poems for remembering all the points and locations. At that time I really had no idea what he was saying! But he quietly and persistently continued....and now I'm finally understanding!! :) (This is exciting for me and may be more like a "it's about time!!" for him! But he doesn't show that -- he is just quiet and persistent).

Now at his clinic, he is also showing immeasurable patience and persistence with me, as again I've mentioned my other-than-fast and graceful learning curve with measuring and wrapping herbal packages, not to mention my slow reading of the Chinese medical papers he gives me and a basic Chinese medical massage book. (For example, today he gave me a paper on the basics of observation diagnosis for women's health conditions. In seeing how many words I looked up in my handy i-pod dictionary (this is really life-saver for me! Thanks to my friend Matt McNeil for suggesting I get one!! :)) just to read the first 2 paragraphs, he took a deep breath and suggested I first start with the 1-page paper on pulse diagnosis. :))

Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Zhao's 2nd eldest brother ("Er Ge"-- meaning 2nd older brother). He came by the clinic to greet me, and Wow! What an amazing man! Dr. Zhao was doing more calligraphy painting (and mentioned that he also looks forward to the day when he's done with his service of being a doctor and he can live up in the mountains and drink tea and practice his Chinese calligraphy and said I could join him and practice mine too - that's generous of him as I can definitely use a LOT of practice! --As Jun Lin can attest to, though she probably wouldn't :) - as she kindly writes out the herbs I'm learning in big characters -so I can see all the strokes - and then looks over my shoulder as I write them in my notebook to make sure I get it right :)), when his "Er Ge" came. Dr. Zhao's eyes lit up upon seeing his brother and he quickly introduced him to me and me to him and said, "My brother is a master calligrapher. Let him paint for you" as he handed him the brush. He proceeded to paint/write my Chinese name and welcomed me to China as his American friend in his calligraphy words.

We then proceeded to have a long conversation. He held my hands, shaking them fervently while saying, "Ni hen liaobuqi. Ni hen liaobuqi. Hen bu rongyi dao Zhong Guo lai -- yao guo women de da hai cai dao. Ni cong xi fang pao dao zheli lai zhen de bu rongyi!" "What you have done is amazing...This is not easy to come all the way to China from the west, all the way across our big oceans to come here. This is not easy!" Dr. Zhao's brother is a bit slighter in stature than Dr. Zhao, and his eyes have a depth that show volumes of the hardships, joys, struggles, changes, challenges, victories, steadfastness, and persistence he has lived through. He told me of his and his brother's (Dr. Zhao) past - 7 kids growing up in a one room home. Their mother, he said was also "hen liaobuqi" (amazing, extraordinary). She had no one to help her and all her tasks - tasks that were "Mama's tasks" - cooking, sewing clothes, socks, shoes, getting water, making fires, buying, planting, harvesting food -- were left for her to do alone. Yet she did her best and loved her children and they knew that in their bones -- even when they had to run to school amidst high snow banks in bare feet (as they had no socks -- and this way their cloth shoes would at least be dry when they got to school). He said they all learned a lot about persistence and diligence from their mom and love her deeply for all she did -- "even though we were very naughty as little boys," he said with a twinkle in his eyes :).

Dr. Zhao's brother also obviously holds very high respect for his "didi" - younger brother. He said, looking over at Dr. Zhao while he was now helping another patient, "Ta hen qinfen! Ta hen hui xia gongfu!" "He is very hardworking and diligent! And he knows how and is willing to focus and be persist in his determined efforts." "We weren't from a family of money or high educational background," he said, " yet, he created his life, profession, success through his sheer determination and diligence." Dr, Zhao had told me that he and his artist friend used to be "gong ren" together - workmen in their youth. Yet at the early age of 17, he chose to follow in his grandfather's steps (he was a highly respected and recognized Chinese medicine doctor) and study and pursue Chinese medicine. Since then he has studied fervently and persistently. Even in the cultural revolution, when any such studies or practice of medicine was outlawed (and doctors were being jailed or sent to the country side for "education"--meaning basically hard labor), Dr. Zhao would wake up before the rest of the village to study his books. He says his field is a life-long dedication to learning and service.

Gosh, I still have more to say! (I guess that's probably not a surprise any more, huh? as I often say this! :)) It's probably a good thing that I write these updates at night and slowly get sleepy as I'm typing and then am surprised when I realize its already time for bed yet again! -- otherwise these updates may be infinitely long! Thank you for those who have made it to the end of my updates -- I am so honored and grateful to share about my dear friend and teacher. I have this desire in my heart for our world to know and see him -- to have the gift of knowing and loving him as a dear friend and teacher as I do. And through writing, I feel I can share this with you. So thank you -- and thank you to all for your emails and letters. I so enjoy hearing from you!!

Reporters Coming to the Clinic Again Tomorrow
Tomorrow 2 reporters from Henan Province newspaper are coming to follow me around in the clinic :). They came today as somehow they heard an American came to study one-on-one with a Chinese doctor. This is very unusual as most foreign students who do come, study in a hospital through one of the schools. Rarely does a Chinese student (although this is slowly starting to change again), let alone a "wai guo ren" - a foreigner, come to study one-on-one with a doctor. It was fun watching both of the reporters' eyes open increasingly wider and glow with more curiosity as they started to realized who Dr. Zhao is and why I've chosen to come here. They asked themselves out loud --"how did we not hear about you (Dr. Zhao) before?!" Again, Dr. Zhao is humble and persistent -- he has never put out any advertisements for his clinic -- people just come from word of mouth. Both reporters are going to get some treatment tomorrow too. One already had his pulses taken and will start taking herbs :).

Time for bed for me -- and more pictures in my next update -- this one has the pics of some of Dr. Zhao's awards and one of me dressed in one of Dr. Zhao's "doctor" coats :) I don't usually wear this, but when the reporters called to say they were coming, Dr. Zhao had me put it on to look more professional :). As you can see (as I'm wearing a winter coat underneath) warm, spring weather has yet to arrive here in Zhengzhou :)

Much great Love to you all!!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Pop Quiz, Shoe Sizes, Relatives, and...Giggles!

Greetings Friends!

Well I'm getting more brave with my street crossing tactics. This weekend I even found myself stepping out to cross the street on my own with no 'scurry group' of bikes or motor scooters with me. I guess it was early on a Saturday morning and there were fewer cars...BUT fewer people out on the streets in China is still quite a LOT! :) Also I had the bizarre experience of making it to the other side of the street, thinking "phew. I'm safely on the sidewalk again" only to turn and see a car impatiently tooting its horn at me because it wanted to come drive up onto the sidewalk where I was! Yikes! I guess I still have more to learn about the rules of the non-rule traffic game here!

Also today when a big truck (carrying what looked like cement blocks except there was some gray smoke-like steam rising off all of them--not sure I really desire to know what it was!) was backing up and managing to cut across all lanes of traffic, cars, mini vans (called "mian bao che" -- literally meaning loaf-of-bread car - b/c they actually do look like little loaves of bread! :) Ha! I love the Chinese language) bikes, and mopeds alike all naturally drove up onto the sidewalk along with us pesky pedestrians to drive around the truck. And then, 'bloop' they all (except us pedestrians) went back over the curb onto the street to continue on their busy way... well, I must say nothing is boring here! If ever I were to even entertain the thought of being bored I can just go outside and observe the traffic spectacle -- as it is, as you may now also conclude, very unpredictable!

I even just got back from a visit with Dr. Zhao to his dear friend who is an exquisite Chinese painter and together we braved Chinese rush-hour traffic in his little car. Being in a little car in severe traffic jams has many advantages as we can easily (and sometimes not so easily, sneak, squeak and nudge our way through the little moving pockets of spaces down the packed highway lanes!

Pop Quiz
Today I'm happy to say I successfully passed my 2nd herbal pop quiz, given spontaneously by Ayi and Jun Lin -- my dear and infinitely patient comrades in Dr. Zhao's herbal dispensary. Sometimes when I'm working with them and we've just finished filling orders for several patients, we have a 'lull' in our duties. (These "lull times" are times when Dr. Zhao continues his studies of reading various old Chinese medicine essays and books, takes out his calligraphy brush and starts painting the characters in the various meridian "gejue's" - these again are all the acupuncture points put to rhyme/rhythm like a poem :), has me practice my acupressure techniques on him or he shows me some techniques, or -- as you see in the picture below, sometimes we'll do some exercises, stretches, qigong and...well, Dr. Zhao does this, not me -- does a hand stand upside down on a chair! -- I also have his on video! :))

Well today in one of these lulls both Ayi and Jun Lin started calling out random names of herbs I've helped measure and had me show them where they are. Again, this sounds pretty simple, right? Well it is until, when feeling some pressure, all the many little drawers of herbs with the small Chinese characters written on the outside begin to look the same! But! I have been practicing and reviewing the herbs in my "lull" time and am starting to get to know them and where they are! Each time I remembered one, both Ayi and Jun Li gleefully exclaimed "oh hen hao!" -- Oh great - that's great!" They are really great teachers :).

And Jun Lin is just wonderful. She and I are the same age (though she already has a 12 year old son! - BTW, my being 1) a 'waiguo ren' - a foreigner, 2) 34 and not yet married, and 3) 34 with no kids can sometimes stir up quite a bit of conversation among the female patients at the clinic! I often get the advice to "gan kuai zhao yige lao gong" -- quickly find myself a husband...and preferably, they say, a Chinese husband!!)... I love working with Jun Lin. She shows me infinite patience and good humor too! She often reviews the herbs with me, making sure I write the characters for the herbs correctly in my little notebook (by the way - I think this notebook can only be deciphered by me as it is a mishmash of Chinese characters, pinyin and English scribble! :)), and she then tells me about the herbs, what they're used for, which ones I can nibble on (and we nibble on them together -- some are sweet, and another one I like tastes like roasted rice grains).

She's also lent me a coat of hers and a thick pair of long underwear (as both Ayi and she have concluded I don't dress warm enough for the cold weather -- and I quickly came to the same conclusion after seeing my lips were blue at the end of my first day in the clinic! -- It is slowly getting warmer now but there's no heat in these cement buildings - just a little coal-burning stove that is constantly heating a kettle of hot water for us to sip through out the day and to use to wash our hands when we stop for lunch and at the end of the day). And both she and Ayi often come up to me and button my coat all the way up (if I've left the top buttons undone) or zip up my sweat shirt all the way - saying "ni leng bu leng?" "are you cold?"

Shoe Sizes
Jun Lin is also helping me find a good new pair of shoes - which is turning out to be more of a challenge than either of us thought. My boots I came to China with are quickly falling apart. Dr. Zhao came up to me with a shoe-scuff brush one day when we were closing the clinic for lunch -- as my boots were a bit dusty-- and vigorously brushed them off. That was nice of him...until I heard him exclaim "Aiyo!" I looked down to see there was a hole in my boots! The leather had worn away so much that now it was a well defined hole! Well, Dr. Zhao (he really treats me as his own daughter) that day skipped his nap and took me to a shoe store after lunch to buy a new pair of boots....Well this is where I discovered that I have some of the largest female feet in the country! :) I wear a size 9 -- which is at least a 40 or 41 in Chinese sizes. Most stores don't have size 40 and even the size 40 shoes they do have are often still a bit tight....All this to say, Dr. Zhao and I actually did find some boots that sort of fit (but not hindsight) so I bought them (partly b/c i noticed that basically all the women here wear boots and I like the way they look and, well, I desired to have boots like they do!)...So yes I bought these boots, wore them for 2 days...and then promptly switched back to my old boots with the hole b/c these ones really are not very comfortable as they...alas are too small. So now Jun Lin has taken on the task to help me find some new shoes...we have yet to be successful but she assures me we'll find some before I leave :).

Jun Lin also took me out to enjoy some food at a nearby night market last week with her husband and son and I have some pictures included below.

In addition, I included a few pictures from the trip to the neighboring town of Kaifeng I took yesterday with Dr. Zhao, his niece's 7 year old boy GaoGao (that's his nickname :) -- and there's a picture of him below :)),

and another relative of his, Yan Li Zhun. Just mentioning these relatives brings up another point to share...that the Chinese language has a most marvelous way of helping you know how each person is related in a family. For example, an uncle on my mom's side of the family would be called "JiuJiu" whereas an uncle on my dad's side of the family would be called "Bobo". But it gets more complicated, because the names will change depending on whether this uncle is my dad's older brother or younger brother, etc. And then there are specific names for spouses or aunts and whether they're in-laws or out-laws or if aunts are older or younger than their sibling...Anyways, the fact that I did once upon a time learn these various names in college has not helped me much now as I quickly forgot them long ago.

When Dr, Zhao showed up with GaoGao and Yan Li Zhun to all go to Kaifeng together, I promptly and politely asked how they were all related. Dr. Zhao seemed a bit frustrated - like -"well I've already told you" (which he most likely did but seeing that I forgot the Chinese names for the relations, when he told me, the words probably just went in one ear and out the other while I smiled and said "great! I look forward to meeting them" --as I didn't really understand who I would be meeting and how exactly they related to Dr. Zhao -- as he has a very big family!!) So I asked if Dr. Zhao could explain to me again how they were all related, and he quickly said (in Chinese of course) - "Yan Li Zhun is my older brother's youngest son's wife. Or, you can say Jun Lin's husband's younger brother's wife is Li Zhun." And Gao Gao, oh dear, I've already forgotten! :( Well anyway, I think you get the picture how, yes, these terms, if one knows them, can really help make family relations clear. But...if one doesn't know them, like moi, it can get confusing quite fast! (Actually today at clinic, I asked Ayi and Jun Lin if they could help again understand exactly how Gao Gao, Yan Li Zhun and Dr. Zhao and them are all related and our conversation quickly turned into a pile of giggles and guffaws!)

Speaking of giggles, I just love playing with the little kids here! They are soooo cute! (Like the picture of the mom and dad with their 2-year old son they brought to the clinic today - see below).

Also, I think they like seeing me too. For example, yesterday on our way back from visiting the old Henan University in Kaifeng, we stopped by a farming village to give some dumplings to some other relatives of Dr. Zhao's (and I have not dared to ask yet how they are all related! :)). Being a farming village, people in general were even more curious to see a "wai guo ren" a foreigner walking in their streets. When we got to their home, the father was just pulling up in his little open-back truck with 3 little smiling boys in the back. As soon as they saw me they started giggling and squirming. I asked if I could take their picture and their giggles then escalated to another octave as they then jumped out of the truck and hid on the other side. I ran up to pretend I was going to catch them and again they squealed and ran around the courtyard door. I tip-toed to the doorway and peaked my head around just as they were peaking to see if I was still there -- and again more giggles and squeals at yet ever escalating octaves! I got a few fun pictures of them and included one below :)

Oh so many stories!! And I didn't even speak about our clients much in this update...nor did I share about my clothes-washing lesson with Ayi, or the type of rain ponchos I've seen here where parents can buy extra big sizes to cover their handle bars (and keep their legs dry)...and cover the heads of their children straddling on the back of the bike behind them! :)

Much Love and Joy and Giggles to you all. Thank you again for sharing in my journeys and thank you so much for your emails!!! (And thank you again to Rick for creating and updating my travel blog!! :)

Much LOVE,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Surprise Visit, Lessons on Focus & more Street-Crossing Tactics

Greetings Friends!

Wow! I just had a most sweet visit with Dr. Zhao and his wife (I call her Ayi - meaning "Auntie" :))

A Surprise Visit
I was back in my room after dinner in the hotel (and I was again delightfully surprised with another beautifully arranged plate of fruit from the servers in the kitchen! I gobbled it up too quick before I thought of taking another picture to share with you though - this plate was sliced Asian pears with a little peeled "lizi" pear - crunchy and sweet (I learned how to say this in Mandarin -- "cui he tian") and sliced yummy little oranges arranged like butterfly wings on the side)...and I was checking my email to see if I had any letters from you :) when I heard a knock on my door. I opened it only to see two sweet smiling faces - Dr. Zhao and Ayi! After being with them in clinic all day, I didn't expect to see them and was so delighted -- I felt just the same excitement as when seeing a good friend that I haven't seen in a long time. They are both so wonderful to be with. Ayi hadn't seen my room yet and she wanted to make sure it was "anquan he ganjing" - safe and clean. That way she could "fangxin" --or relax and not worry. Gosh, moms seem to share this same characteristic regardless of what country we're in :).

She was happy to see how beautiful my room is and wanted to see where I do my "writing work" (this is the work I do with the California Health Advocates), to make sure my bathroom and shower were suitable for me, to ask how I was sleeping in my bed, and to make sure I had enough snacks (reminding me she had milk. peanuts, fruit and more snacks at home she could give me and also making sure I wasn't eating the pre-packaged, more junk food-like snacks that the hotel has for sale - she also gave me a bag of 6 apples, 6 mangos from Jun Lin, almonds and...chocolate! She is doing her best to keep me well fed! :)). She is sooo sweet!

Really, I feel so pampered with the room Dr. Zhao's friend found for me. It's really like my own apartment and it's been a great place for me to rest and get some well-enjoyed long, deep sleeps after recovering from jetlag. (I included a couple pictures below) For those of you who haven't been to China or are more unfamiliar with Chinese culture, "guanxi", or relations, are very important here and who and how good and strong your relations are with others can get you far -- that's really the way things get done in this culture -- in the U.S. too certainly to a degree, and in China, your "guanxi" means everything. Well Dr. Zhao's "guanxi" with one of the head policeman in town is the reason I am enjoying my room so much. He's a friend of Dr. Zhao's - and one of his family members with a serious illness was successfully treated by Dr. Zhao-- and Dr. Zhao's friend knows the owner oft his hotel and was able to negotiate a good, reasonable rate for me (not to mention I'm feed a most delicious Chinese breakfast and dinner here too!)

More on Food

By the way, on the subject of food and snacks again, I am eating VERY well here :) and am managing to gain some weight -which is a good thing. Today, when Dr. Zhao and I were giving each other treatments as a way for me to learn these techniques, he said "oh, ni bian pang yidian" -- "oh you're fattening up a bit" -- while that doesn't sound very flattering in our culture, it's still meant as a compliment in China :) -- Also, with all the good food Ayi is making for me each day at lunch and then continuously encouraging me to eat more while putting generous additional helpings of each dish into my bowl while Dr. Zhao is smiling and shaking his head at the same time, how could I not start to add a few more pounds of me to my body? :)

Even today, after eating a very delicious and filling lunch, when I was back in the clinic with Dr. Zhao, Ayi came by outside calling my name. It sounded a bit urgent so I rushed out only to find she had bought and cut up big slices of pineapple for me and Jun Lin to eat as a mid afternoon snack :) - later she also came in the clinic with a large bag of sweet potatoes and a big smile on her face (I had mentioned to her the other day that I love sweet potatoes :)). She promptly put 3 in the coal burning stove that keeps our clinic warm for Dr. Zhao and I to enjoy for another mid-afternoon snack! (It was funny - Ayi happened to come in to take the sweet potatoes out of the stove right when I was in the middle of video-taping Dr. Zhao reciting on of the Meridian "Ge Jue" -- Poem/songs -- these are so beautiful -- they recite all the names of the points in a specific meridian and also tell each point's location. He was giving a mini lesson when Ayi came in -- and she has a very full, strong, and loud voice....and didn't realize this was all on video-tape :) - (I tried to attach this as a compressed file but it didn't load -- if any of you reading this know of a way I can post this online (not youtube b/c that's blocked here), let me know :)) Also, in this video, unfortunately I held my camera screen lengthwise so it comes out sideways -- I have another video of it but it doesn't have Ayi in it so I'd rather show you this one -- I may be able to have my friend put it on my blog too -- see below)

More on Chinese Medicine and Health Care with Dr. Zhao
Dr. Zhao, Ayi and I had a good chat tonight and I even showed them the emails I'm writing to all of you - even though they couldn't read the English, they were happy to see pictures of themselves being shared and were surprised that I had so much to say! I just told them how grateful I am to be with them and to witness another powerful, simple, effective, loving, accessible, affordable and enjoyable way of health care and loved sharing about this with all of you! We fantasized about the possibility of them both coming to the States to open a clinic where Americans (all classes, colors, shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds) could come and receive excellent and loving health care (and Ayi also said she could cook for everyone too :) - maybe start a restaurant). It could be a new model and a doorway for accessing, recognizing and embracing the treasures of what Chinese medicine has to offer.

Each day, Dr. Zhao receives a newspaper all on the research and news of Chinese medicine. Today he was showing me so many articles concerning efforts to preserve, reclaim some of the "lost" elements of Chinese medicine. After the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zi Dong decided to fashion Chinese medicine more after the Western medicine model and much of the treasures and power of Chinese medicine was taken out of the books, schools and universities. While what is taught is still helpful and effective, it is only a basic foundation to the power and depth this ancient and evolving system of medicine, health and life has to offer. In recognizing that some of the last Chinese doctors who were trained before the revolution or the change in training styles are now in their 60s, 70s and 80s and over and that some are beginning to pass on, the government is taking steps to help bring back the missing elements.

Chinese medicine schools are starting to require students to do one-on-one study/apprenticeships with older, experienced doctors after they graduate. It's one step in returning to a way of teaching that has successfully passed down the medicine for 1,000s of years, generation by generation. Some articles in the newspaper also speak to a new idea of having other countries (such as the U.S.) invite and give visas to well-known Chinese doctors for them to come teach students and share this invaluable knowledge, skill and wisdom.

Speaking of wisdom, I am learning a lot just observing, participating (this is where my cultural anthropology training in participant observation techniques come in handy! :)) and being with Dr. Zhao, his family and patients each day. Having been in many spiritual communities, having read LOTS of spiritual teaching books,having gone to seminars, etc., I have so many times heard the wise advice to refrain from judgment -- not to judge things as good or bad, but to instead remain in a state of happy expectation; to live the "middle path"; and to, as St. Germain says, "see, feel, and be the perfection" I desire in my world. Well this is exactly what I see Dr. Zhao living in simple, yet profound ways. For example, if he were one to judge, I probably, for one, would not still be at his clinic (given my slow learning curve with the seemingly simple task of wrapping herbal packages!:)). Also, I remember when he came to the states last summer -- adjusting to being in the States and being so far from his family and community was not easy, yet everyday he greeted me with a big smile and I witnessed him over and over give his very best to each and every client who came to see him. Actually I witnessed him give his very best to each and every task he did -- whether it be writing an herbal prescription, cooking a meal, giving an acupressure treatment, washing and folding his small pieces of cloth he used in treatment, or washing rice bowls and chopsticks from our meal. Each task was done with the same similar steadiness, full presence, love, thoroughness and solidity. I see and witness that here too -- with Dr. Zhao and his whole family. It's really quite amazing and transformative to be in this kind of loving, steady, fully present energy all day.

For example, sometimes while at home I can easily get distracted with getting a snack, checking email, texting messages (which I haven't yet figured out how to do on my Chinese cell phone!! -- probably is a good thing for my studies in "focus" now :)), etc. Dr. Zhao on the other hand, focuses on what's important to him. In the clinic, people are free to just come in - no one ever calls ahead of time to make an appointment - people just come. With this way of seeing patients, sometimes we have a big line, and other times no one is there. In those times, Dr. Zhao will often read various old essays (from before 1980) written on Chinese medicine (he's shown me several books friends have helped him find from libraries with essays on Chinese medicine techniques -- few people ever read these and many of these books have been lost -- but Dr. Zhao says they contain many, many good "secrets" that most doctors if they knew would not openly share with one another in current times). Sometimes he'll start reciting poems that contain the names of all the acupuncture points as a way to review (I love listening to him recite these -- it is beautiful - and you can listen to one too in the attached video clip :)). Other times, like today, he'll take out his 'maobi' - Chinese calligraphy brush and start writing out these poems in beautiful Chinese characters (See pictures). (I took one class in Chinese calligraphy in college so Dr. Zhao had me show him how I write-- with Ayi looking over my shoulder. - Ha! "Buhaoyisi" -- meaning "how embarrassing" :)- well I wrote a few characters but they were obviously written by a foreigner :)) I love how his days are full of what's meaningful and most important to him, and how he gives the same loving kindness, presence and attention to each person he's with or task he is doing. And from this space, "perfection", happiness and the fullness and richness of life blossom forth.

I can easily give similar examples to the attention and love both Ayi and Jun Lin bring to their tasks with working with and filling herbal prescriptions, cooking meals, and keeping our clinic neat, tiddy and beautiful. The anxiety that I often sense is so prevalent in American society (and that I felt stuck in my gut for so many years) is gone here and has no place with Dr. Zhao and his family. I so love and recognize the power, ease and freedom in this way of being.

One small example is when Dr. Zhao had me go out to ask Jun Lin to come back into the clinic to help with filling herbs. I went outside to call for Jun Lin, and Ayi was standing out by the street enjoying our glorious sunshine (it's been pretty cloudy or smoggy or -- sometimes it's hard to tell the difference!) She said smiling, "lai shai taiyang ba" -- "come enjoy the sun with me." Instead of just rushing back into the clinic, we both enjoyed the brightness and warmth of our sun together.

Oh...I have so many stories!! And so many wonderful people/patients coming - above is a also a picture of 2 women in their 70s who both had very, very serious heart disease and were often hospitalized just 2 years ago. Now, after taking Dr. Zhao's heart formula herbs, they are healthy with much energy and vigor, their feet and hands are warm, the "yan dai" - literally meaning 'eye bags" -- puffiness under their eyes is gone and one of the woman's blood pressure, Dr. Zhao measured it with his stethoscope today, is 120/60. So many people come in each day for these herbs -- and they love sharing their stories with me :)

Street-Crossing Tactics
Okay, one last story for today - as I know this is a very long update--- (Mom, you may desire to save reading this paragraph for when I'm home :)) -- on my way home from the clinic today, I had one more accomplishment to make ahead of me....crossing the street. This time, while there was a cadre of bicycles at the cross walk ahead of me (which I would usually choose to cross with because of their sheer numbers), I chose to stay at the cross walk I was at which just had one bicycle for me to tag along beside. I chose this one because in the middle of the street (where one often has to stop to wait to cross the other side of oncoming traffic) actually had a flimsy cone barrier. While this isn't really much of a barrier in reality, I, for some reason, feel a bit safer just standing next to something if I get stuck in the middle of the street. So I started to cross with the bike on my right...and all went well until the bike made a bolt and went for it to the other side of the street....without me! yikes - now I was in the middle of the road with just the flimsy barrier and I found my feet still wanting to follow the bike and...consequently I found myself now standing in front of 2 buses coming right at me - Aiya!! I quickly came to my senses and went back to wait by the flimsy barrier for a safe passage moment, but what was funny (in hindsight after I finally made another 'crossing-the-road' accomplishment) is that while Chinese drivers seem pretty comfortable and in the flow with predicting the road-crossing behavior of other Chinese, they don't seem very comfortable with predicting such behavior of foreigners! I think the 2 bus drivers may have been more scared than me when I walked in front of them as they both started to swerve in ways I hadn't seen before, and then went back to their usually bumbling down the road when I went back to stand by my flimsy barrier. :)

Below are some pictures of my room, Dr. Zhao's calligraphy, a video of him reciting the poem for the Du Mai (Governing Vessel) acupuncture points (available at a later date), two cute kids who were at the clinic today (Dr. Zhao helped this young women be able to get pregnant - and now she has 2 beautiful little ones :)), and Jun Lin and I at a street market :)

Tomorrow I'll meet with two of Dr. Zhao's colleagues, one being Dr. Fu who went hiking with us and the other being another doctor from Hebei Province. He's coming in to share and discuss some medical techniques with Dr. Zhao and Dr. Fu. They like to meet periodically to share and learn from each other :) I'll include some pics in my next update. (I had thought I sent this one out last night but woke up to discover I only sent it to myself! :))

Travel Blog
Oh yes and my friend, Rick, has helped me start a blog too! (As blogs are blocked here, I'm unable to create one or update it while here) Rick will be posting these updates on the blog and you or others you know, can see my updates there too :) It's still under construction(Thank You Rick!!!).
Much much Love to you all! And Thank You again for your emails!! I soooooo love hearing from you!!!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxo
Love, KarenJoy