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,

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