Being ill has had its moments. I'm still not feeling very well... but a little better every day. (Or a regression, but overall an improvement.) The last time I went in to the Tibetan Medicine Hospital, the doctor who's been treating me was sitting around a space heater together with some women doctors. He asked:
"Are you a little better?"
"Yes, a little better. But I still get tired very easily when I do activities."
"What sort of activities have you been doing???" ---and at this they all burst into laughter.
"Oh...walking, and biking a little. Not other
kinds of activities!"
Oh, to be a foreign-language speaker and bumble along, not ever fully understanding language or culture. Later that session, after the cupping, the doctor asked me if I had some time. "I have a treatment I want to give you. It takes some time but isn't expensive. It's 电脑 (dian4-nao3, computers)."
"Um, what?" ==> the doctor mimed squeezing his head.
"电疗！" (dian4-liao4, electro-therapy)
This "electrotherapy" turned out to be a machine-induced massage meant to stimulate muscles and blood in the afflicted areas. Before we began, as the doctor pulled out the paddles to strap to my shoulders and to a small metal volt-o-meter-type machine, I nervously asked him if it would be dangersous. "Nah! Don't be nervous!"
During the acupuncture and cupping phase there had been a few other people who came in while I was already sitting in the room with needles in my neck and shoulders. (I know: ick.) A few women with arthritis (maybe), and then an old nai-nai
grandmother accompanied by her 20-something y.o. granddaughter. The grandmother was getting acupuncture and cupping on her knees, lower legs, and feet. It looked very painful. The granddaughter and I got to talking, and it turns out she runs a cafe in the Old Town that I've walked past many times but never been in to. "Come in sometime and I'll give you a cup of coffee," she offered.
Maybe people make alliances at hospitals anywhere, but in China too there are less senses of interpersonal boundaries than in the US, to the point that people of the same sex feel comfortable walking arm-in-arm with you (even if you're not very close), putting their arm around your shoulders, etc. Sometimes this becomes trying as a foreigner who's used to even a pretense of personal space. But at the hospital this translated into this girl feeling comfortable helping adjust a pillow in front of me and helping to tie up my hair. Very nice. I'm not sure such a comfort level would have been reached that quickly in the US.
I also may have stretched my guanxi
with a different barrista + a hostel owner, whilst inadvertandly stumbling into a potential Pyramid Selling Scheme in a company called Ceragem
. The barrista has back problems and recommended a massage place to me. But when I couldn't find the massage place ("near Chibuka Street, and with a blue sign"), a hostel owner with whom I'm friendly brought me there, since he also knew the place. It turned out to be up a narrow crumbling stairwell whose railing was hanging jaggedly off into the stairwell's abyss as though something very large and heavy had collided with it, repeatedly, until it gave up being upright. Strangest damn massage parlor I have ever seen.
(A certain number of "massage parlors“ in China double as prostitution venues; this one wasn't that.) Walking into the large upstairs room, beds lined the walls while in the middle of the floor stood rows upon rows of chairs: all facing towards a white board, podium, and large- flat-screen TV that was on a constant loop about the company's glorious history, parternships, and accomplishments. I was asked to take off my outerwear and lie down on a bed--which turned out to be heated, and with a roller underneath that slowly went up and down the course of my body--and to put a warm glowing egg carton-looking device onto my stomach.
Then a young man came and squatted next to the bed, talking up Ceragem's accomplishments and how this treatment was superior to any other treatment out there. How previouly he'd never heard about this company but now he was a True Believer. And how, did I know?, origianally the company was from Korea! In fact I did know, because on large color poster covering the entire wall in front of me were pictures of the Chinese flag linked to the South Korean flag; of the Pope (!) next to someone Korean, and pictures of happy people across the world receiving Ceragem's miraculous treatment.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
"Well, I feel... warm. This bed is very comfortable."
"But do know it's therapeutic. You must come every single day, Monday to Saturday, and slowly you'll see the benefits."
"I'm not so sure about this being therapeutic."
"You must persist! This treatment is superior to any other." (etc.
After awhile I got creeped out by the constant exhortations and the strangeness of lying on a heated bed under a heated egg carton, and got up to leave. "But you can't leave yet, your time isn't up!" "Nope, I'm going home." At this point a middle-aged man grabbed the egg carton-looking contraption off of the next bed over and proceeded to tell me it was made of shenmeshenme. Um, what? Shenmeshenme! Plastic? No! Very special and effective shenmeshenme! At this point I was fed up and began guessing in English: Silicon?---which of course only got blank stares. "Sit down and rest a moment!" "No...I'm going to go rest at home."
On the way out the door I ran into the barrista girl who'd referred me to this place. She also began an exhortation about the treatment's benefits. I tried to extricate myself politely... hopefully we can still be friends.
And.... what's that lurking behind the chickens in a Kunming market....
a tiger! And why this picture??--because I have a newly-arrived kitten sleeping on my lap!! More about the cat, and pictures, in another post soon. :-)