Saturday, May 15, 2004

NEW PHOTOS! Well new photos are coming soon. I intend tomorrow to post more photos in the galleries already there from the Qinghai trip. That said, my own intentions are easily and often overruled by dictate or circumstance while I am here.

I apologize in the gaps between blogs, but everyday life has been quite uneventful. I have spent some time reading some texts I have had for some time, were it not for the distractions at home, ine I cluding working. Here I am in "communist" (they are more capitalists than the US is!) China, enjoying every word I am reading from Lysander Spooner, thanks for that recommendation Mac!

But some interesting things have happened. Last night I enjoyed the best sashimi I have eaten. The tuna, salmon, and well, I do not know the other fish, simply melted the moment you put it into your mouth. The octopus was delicious and not the least bit rubbery or chewy. The clam too was like butter. Some of the rest I did not recognize, but it was all worth the "expensive" price tag, which was maybe a fifth of what we pay in Austin for sashimi that is good, but not quite on par with this. Sorry folks.. :)

Where we were eating is a Japanese restaurant here, with full regalia, customs, and atmosphere. And the sashimi was but one of many, perhaps too many dishes that we enjoyed. If I have not mentioned it before, the Chinese eat far more than I at least am accustomed to eating. So back to dinner.. we also enjoyed sushi, tandori, squid (served cut but with everything in place as if it just swam onto your plate) and as I said a host of other dishes. It is difficult to keep up with everything one manages to try here when you have a native ordering for you. Also, it is not uncommon to simply not recognize the dishes they serve to you. So you just eat them, enjoy them, and try to survive the pressure to always eat more.

This morning began with an early trip to the traditional medicine hospital for accupuncture. While this was ostensibly for my father's hip (accident involving a cattle pen, boots, and haste..) as this is his regular visit, I too went under the needles. And many of you, if not all know that despite my size I am not the best person in the world with needles... however I considered it almost a necessity to try while here, and besides my feet have been bothering me for months, and though I am not inclined to believe it, they claim (and I know some people who have gotten results) that accuncture can help you lose weight. So.. I did it. Naturally I did not watch them going in, and while I have had worse pain, neither is it true that it is entirely painless. The feeling is probably more peculiar than painful however. So I got a half dozen needles in each foot (the tops even though the bottom is what was hurting.. go figure) and oh fifteen or so in my stomach.

The doc makes sure that the needle has reached what he wants by moving it about some after it is in. This is again peculiar and somewhat disconcerning, but any pain is minimal. However one thing I have not mentioned yet is that this is a teaching hospital, so there are a half dozen students or so watching and helping Doctor Wang (pronounced "wong"). So after the doc is satisfied, he has each of the students tap then move each needle so that they can get a feel for it as well. This fun just goes on and on.. :) Dr Wang also checked my heart and had them do this as well. The place is probably not like what you have in mind, it is in many ways much like a western hospital in that it is very professional. However it differs in many ways as well. The doctors treat you with respect, listen to you (even when you do not speak the language) spend time with you, and they do not take every dime you have for providing that service.

The treatment lasts about an hour before they remove the needles. I figured I could handle watching them remove some of the needles, but then regretted it (yeah so I do not like needles.. ) when I saw just how far in these needles had been. Believe me, they do not just sit on the surface. The television shows and movies just have it wrong! These suckers are in several inches. Oh and if they hit a nerve it is amazing how much reaction one of those little needles can cause. The doc nearly got kicked putting on in my ankle when he hit some spot that causes a reflexive action.

After they pulled the needles, I was a bit slow to get up again (you are laying down for the treatment) but this was normal from what I observed of other patients. Once up again, Summer (who was there to translate for us.. she has been very kind and helpful) took me into the lobby to show me the Guiness Record accupuncture needle, which comes in just a hair (literally) under 2 meters long.

Returning to the treatment room I watched as they applied "cups" (glass globe like jars" to my father to help bring blood to the injured area. What they do is put a torch into the "cup" to heat it a little, then quickly place the cup onto the skin. As the globe cools it holds itself to the body through suction which also accounts for the drawing of blood into the region. Do not worry, they are not hot enough to burn the skin.

Once we left there, we did a little scouting for furniture for Dad's home to be built in the states, (Bryan, your couch would run maybe $1000 here.. maybe) and then off to lunch: fish (fried by not like we are used to.. very crispy skin, moist meat, and done whole.. the heads are considered the best part) some sort of young bean plants (older than sprouts, but still young) shrimp (fried maybe with rice flour and wonderful spices) a seafood and beef dish served with what we might call baby bok choy or some relative of that plant, 7 mushroom soup, and as always even more that I cannot now recall. This was for three people, when any one of the plates of food would be considered enough for one back home. And these people are THIN! Summer weighs maybe 45 kilos.. She is always telling me to eat like her to lose weight, but I tell you I could not afford to eat like her, or any of the Chinese we have shared a meal with. Not only that, but I would make myself ill from eating too much. I just do not see how they do it.

After this feast, that they call a simple lunch, we went to the wholesale district to check on fabrics for some shirts for me. I am hoping that for once in my life I might own some clothing that actually fits properly. I ordered two shirts made to a custom design of my own, taking inspiration from the shirts of warm climates such as Cuba and south America, made from a linen/silk blend. One is to be white with a pattern in the cloth, and the other maroon again with a pattern in the cloth. If these turn out as I hope, then I will have more made, perhaps of a different style also. I also intend to have some slacks made, and if I can get a good description I hope also have some casual pants made to fit as well.

As you all know I am not a clothes horse, but I figure that this is a rare opportunity that few people can truly appreciate since almost everyone I know can simply buy clothes off the rack to fit. I do not have the luxury. I usually cannot even find clothes in the speciality stores, so custome tailored clothing is one of the few options I have. That said, I am both too cheap and too poor to have this done in the states, so I am taking advantage of it here. The cost looks to be what most people pay for off the rack clothing, once I pay for the material (sucks to by material by the meter when you are tall!) and the labor. However since labor makes up about one third of the cost, it is easy to see why I would take advantage of the opportunity, even with my scottish nature.

By this time much of the day was gone, so we returned home watched a movie, and skipped dinner, which would be a problem if we did not eat like the Chinese do! Jeez!

Tomorrow we are going to be planning out at least a portion of the remainder of my visit, including the trip to Mt Taishan which is of special importance to me.

From Tianjin, All my best to the folks back home, no matter where that home may be.


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