Mm-hmm, sho nuff
Interspersed with this was the little things of life: checking the emails, laundry, walking down to the market, all that shebang. One of the big little things: lotus was served at lunch! It’s thick and flat, crunchy, holey, and a pretty cool vegetable to eat.
Today was also Dr. Goodwin’s birthday (we have an awful lot of July-August birthdays in the class), so Mark, Lauren, and I went down to a bakery at the market with Master Sun to get a cake for him. It was a two-tier cake with a frosting dragon on it, very cute; also, it came with a lotus blossom slash fireworks topper, very cute: first it put out a 6″ flame, then the leaves opened up, and finally it played “Happy Birthday” like a gift card.
Poke — but not on Facebook!
Our treat for today was an accupuncture demonstration. A professor of accupuncture and her assistant, who spoke English, came from the same school of traditional Chinese medicine that we visited two or three days ago. The professor was a bright-eyed, older women, sporting white hair but an ageless face (as I’d hope from someone who works daily with TCM). Her assistant discussed the concepts of yin and yang with us, the two opposing and balancing forces in the universe, and then put it in terms of accupuncture.
Yin-yang is a concept from daoism, the Eastern philosophy of the universe. They are two opposing forces and each thing can be characterized as one or the other (or a mixture of both). Yin consumes yang; yang consumes yin; through balance of the two is harmony. Yin is cool, closed, dormant, female, the lower portion of the body, and found in cool fruits like grapes. Yang is warm, active, male, the upper portion of the body, and found in “warmer” fruits like bananas.
Accupuncture works on the basis that the human body, which has 365 pressure points across it, also has various channels connecting these points; and that these channels should be opened to allow circulation of blood and energy through them. Specific points are pierced with the needle to open the channel; certain points and channels are chosen depending upon your malady: earache, backache, and so on. To demonstrate, the professor used Amanda, who had some lower back pain, and pushed about a dozen needles into her abdomen. Then, Amanda laid down on a portable cot that was brought in for the demo for a period while other people were given accupuncture treatments: in the head, in the arms, in the legs, in the knees. Everyone felt better after getting poked!
If we we were interested, we could each get a one- or two-pin sample poke, since the women wanted to go home after a long day’s work. I took a pin to the shin, which opened a channel going down to the muscles in the in-step of my foot. As soon as I was poked, I felt a tingling and a warm sensation travelling down my shin to the instep. Curious, groovy, and rather nice.
On the Town
After accupuncture, a handful of people went down to the billiards hall to play some pool and cards, then down to the market. I learned Vegas-style blackjack, where you can’t look at your face-down card, but the dealer has all his cards out. Curious. Good to know, though.
Down at the market, we hung out and played Up the River, Down the River. Also, a few girls were eating at the next table over and they ended up chatting with Rich, my roommate. I ended up sitting with them for a while and chatting; two of the three spoke pretty good English. They both work for a Dutch company which has been in China for nine of its last thirty years, teaching “soft skills” — interpersonal relationship skills, instead of the typical hard skills, like craft and technical skills. Their training pretty much boiled down to three things: be cognizant of other person’s needs; be cognizant of your own; and assertively (firmly but politely) find a middle ground that works for everyone. Definitely a Dutch concept, not a traditional Chinese one, where you bend over backwards to get the job down, even if it’s to your detriment. I was impressed that such a company was working in Beijing; I’d hope to see such training in the U.S. as well!
In addition to chatting about the girls’ work, they also fed me some chicken feet (where you eat the skin, since that’s nutritious but there’s no meat to speak of) and grape tomatoes (which I tried despite warnings against street food). Apparently the water and street food is clean enough around here, since I’m writing this a while after eating those and I feel perfectly fine. Hooray! The girls liked this particular part of town where we were because it wasn’t too slummy, but it was casual enough that you could just throw chicken bones on the ground and nobody would bat an eye. Anyway, my roommate got their business card, so we may call them up to go hang out sometime or we might run into them again at the market. Good times in the city.
Bad times, though: I took my camera out to photo some little kids playing around on the pool table and dropped it on the pavement! Now the darn thing won’t turn on, which is a shame since it’s served me well for a year, year and a half maybe. (It’s just as well, though — it had a few faults and was starting to get kinda buggy, so now I have a good excuse to get a nice, shiny, new one.)