Thursday, October 25, 2007

China 4--around Hangzhou

So a bit of what I have been doing around Hangzhou.

There are blind massage guys here in China, one below, and for $5/hour... I've gone for a few. Although not as often as some Brits who I was living near--who got 2 a day!

I got foot massage today, divine. They lay you out in this ultra cozy reclining chair, soak your feet in hot water, wrap one foot in a towel like a mummy to keep it warm while they go at it on the other. With King Britt- "Deep and Sexy" set flowing through my head, i was in heaven. afterwards, i noticed they had glass suction cups and a gua sha blade, so i asked for some of both. After scraping my entire back, he slid a large fire cup up and down my paraspinal muscles--my favorite. and to top it off, he put on 10 stationary fire cups all the way up my back, so strong i thought my skin was going to be sucked off my back! Apparently he thought the same as he kept saying "oh my god! oh my god!" Good thing i knew what was going on. Strongest cupping I've ever had. The kid didn't really know what he was doing; it was too much.

I moved into a youth hostel a couple days ago, not because the YHA was cheaper ($7 vs 12) but because I didn't like the luxury of what was like a hotel room I was given by the hospital. Besides, there are more people here, mostly Chinese, to hang out with after the hospital. It's a bit out of the city, in a more quiet woodsy section of town with a little farm next door. Kinda cool.

It's funny, in China they spit (and i mean really hok loogies) everywhere (inside and out) like it's there civic duty. And the only thing cleaning up the streets are these trucks that drive around all day, everyday spraying two streams of water out the back and plyaing ad noseum an ever-lasting loop this 15 second long hyper-patriotic tune--the kind that really gets stuck in your head.

Went up to an ancient Buddhist temple in the mountains, called the Lingyin temple. It was really cool. In the surrounding mountains there are heaps of caves/rock faces in which hundreds/thousands of years ago people carved out Bhuddhist images. Both kinda spooky and really interesting.

The original temple dates back to 326AD, since updated of course. It was a really special place, I reckon--in a lush mountain side with sculptures, large statues, and pools around. I happened to have rocked up when the resident monks were chanting/drumming in the main temple. Not that we haven't all heard it before, but in person, in their element, it is something special.

I also went for a walk around Hangzhou's West Lake--what really distinguishes Hangzhou in China--with some Chinese friends I've made. It is quite beautiful.

Much of what would otherwise be the natural attractions of China are often helped out with man made additions. Around the Westlake are stone walkways, gardens, bridges and speakers playing relaxing music. In Wushan park just near me there are caged brids hanging from the trees/on the walls to ensure the forest is filled with the sound of birds.

On the West lake they also have a colored fountain like that of Barcelona. While it doesn't quite stack up to the "Magic fountain of Montjuc" in Barcelona, the one here is still pretty damn neat. The water jets are in sync with the music they play, moving in different patterns and pulsating so that each jet of water splashes down on itself in time with the beat... Pretty nifty. I reckon we should build one in Boston; on the Charles somewhere...I think I'll have word with Menino when I get back.

Like other third world coutries I've been too (although Hanghzhou looks far from 3rd world), I have been getting the celebrity treatment by the public, especially at tourist sites (where throngs of Chinese tourists go), where everyone says hello to me, takes a picture of me and occasionaly wants a photo with me. Kind of annoying at first, but if you just play along it can be kinda fun.

Some other memorable sights include parents squating down facing the street while they hold their babies/young chidlren's knees to chest so it can piss/s#*t into the street. Baby clothes have built in evacuation slits/holes in the crotch so that parents don't need to take any clothes off, just spread the legs and point. Better still, at the Hangzhou train station, there were no doors to the bathrooms and some of the stalls didn't have doors or people just didn't even bother to close them so that one could see right in from the hallway people's asses as they squated over the holes in the ground and did their business....sorry no pics these. :)

On a brighter note, I was walking with a chick through a park at night and we came across a little plaza/circle in the park in which there was a stereo playing hokie music to which about 60 people in their 40-60's were dancing. Neither of us could really ballroom dance, but we gave it a whirl anyway; one (older, single) lady was nice enough remind us, though, that "you guys stink".

China 3--food

On this crowded pedestrian way you can get all sorts of food, in all sorts of forms.

Most of which comes dried

or cooked...

but all of which smelled pretty heinous.

All around town are restaurants like this, my local. There all pretty much the same. $1-3/meal.

As I've said before, ordering food is no easy task. The places without pictures on the wall often have these sorta menus, where, as an illiterate foreigner, it's pick your price!

These are something of my staples...

And the 30 cent 1/2 liter beers are nice too...

At this place, where by now i've made friends, i tried to order a dish of tofu, vegetables and rice. which i know as "dofu, shutsei, er mee fan". the frist time i said it, i got the above. not bad, but i didn't get any vegetables nor was it prepared as a dish as i had hoped. the next time i got all three, still prepared seperatly. so i tried to ask for 'shutsei, shutsei, shutsei, dofu, meefan' rolling my hands over eachother trying to demonstrate that i wanted them made together. i resorted to going into the kitchen and pointing to few vegetables to prove my point, but ended up with 5 dishes--tofu, rice, and three differente vegies in different plates.... I threw i tall together and showed them that's how i wanted it--as one dish.
Not willing to put up another fight where I was basically trying to tell them what and how to cook--which I did not want to do--the last time I showed up willing to eat whatever they would give me for 10RMB. They threw all the ingredients I had the last time into a dysjointed concoction of the ingredients preperad differently and slopped together into a big bowl. It was edible, but a sign that I should try another approach...
So when I returned to the same place a couple nights later (I liked the deaf/mute guy there) I tried pointing to the food of other people eating there. I pointed to what I thought was a tofu dish, a chicken dish, and a bok choy dish. What I got was a dish of bok choy, pork (with bones of course) and a dish of intestines (not tofu skin, as i thought it was)...blah!

I love how they roll out the noodles right in front of you, stringing 'em up into small strands by hand and throwing them right through the window, outside into an awaiting boiling pot.

A little restaurant near the hospital where you choose your own soup contents... Yes those are brains on the bottom left corner. I don't think I'd dare. This is an easier option to get what I want, except that they dunk everyone's stuff in the same big pot of broth, mixin all the juices...

I rode my bike and crossed over the Qiantangjiang bridge to the other side of the Hangzhou. Saw some of the barges moving the hoards of materials they use to carry out the immense amount of construction going on here. The barges were so full of materials they were submerged so that water was almost pouring in. I would have taken a photo, but, on a bike, I had to ride on the side walk part of the bridge where there were crowds of people on bikes and scooters, so I couldn't stop lest I have everyone behind crash into me. On the otherside, where new buildings are growing like flowers in spring, I visited a translator/friend of mine at the Zhejiang University. Here in the cafteria,

I had a hard time getting down my first taste of prawns. They don't exactly clean up 'em for ya like I've seen in the west. Head, legs, tail and all, creepy little things.

The local fruit shop.

Notice that all the bulbs are long life flourscents. They are the norm, as is energy efficiency everywhere. All the glitzy lights on buildings and pagodas are turned off after 10 or so. While there are many people and they certainly do consume a lot of energy, I think they are more conscious of their consumption than we in the states.

A fruit whose name I don't know and which I wouldn't care to try again--more looks than taste, this one.

This is the big shopping place nearby-- the Walmartization of China.

With everything from eletronics to sporting goods to food, it looks a lot like a store you'd see in America--but a bit different:
Fish and other meats in some petrified form.

Thankfully I haven't yet gotten sick. The food is pretty good. Hard to get anything without meat in it--one reason I have conceded my vegetarianism for the trip. Vegetable and even tofu dishes come with meat. Especially because I've eaten little meat in my life, I often don't know what meat I'm eating--often pork, I think, hopefully no non-farm animals....

p.s.- I've finally been able to get the video i wanted of a guy playing the 'hong' in barcelona, check out that blog to have a look/listen.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

China 2

My first week in Hangzhou went quite well.
In the hospital,

we do 2 rotations a day, observing in one of the departments around the hospital: e.g. the outpatient acupuncture clinic, the inpatient acupuncture clinic, and herbal clinics in which doctors see people under specialties--Bi syndrome, respiratory, diabetes, endocrine, etc.
The treatment conditions here are very different to say the least. The outpatient clinic makes a joke of OSHA and the privacy many take for granted in our medical system. People line up at the door before it opens and then flood in looking to get one of the beds.

Acupuncture is no big deal. People sit around in chairs with needles in, moxa rolls going, heat lamps ablaize, talking to each other or reading the paper. People listen in on and observe others' treatment all the time.

It is so nonchalant that one time an older guy who was obviously a regular walks over to a doc doing a treatment and says something to the effect of--'come on treat me now', to which the dr. replies 'OH go sit down, I'll get to you soon enough!', as though no big deal.
Treatments can be real fast. I shadowed the head of the dept. who saw easily 20 people in 30 minutes, then did 2 more rounds of that before the shift was through. They do a lot of what they call abdominal acupuncture or turtle acupuncture here. What is said to be a microsystem on the abdomen that can treat diseases of the whole body. They say they get great results with it.
So far paralysis is quite common--maybe %50. To confirm what we hear in the states, they do quite aggressive needling, all free hand, mostly tolerated well by patients--although they definitely do wince at times. (pics to come later)
For herbal clinic, I've been following who is supposed to be a famous, national level herbal Dr. He specializes in rheumatic diseases, although people come to him for other stuff too. During the 8-12pm shift, there is pretty much constantly a crowd of people pushed up next to his desk, waiting in line, listening in and watching what's going on. They are so very much there that one time when the doc was repeating to a patient that he must take his insulin, an onlooker yells something to the effect of "listen to the Dr, take your insulin, let's go!".

A translator I had for Bi syndrome/rhuematology herbal clinic took a few of us to the mountains of Hangzhou. quite nice. They do real well to keep things up here in Hangzhou--one of the more tourist friendly places in china.
West lake tea terraces

A sculpture depicting the story of the two tigers who brought the monk to the spring. Now a site for sacred water called the 'tiger spring'.

Went to the TCM Museum here in Hangzhou. Was mostly herbal focused, with a room of a thousand samples, recounting the origin and development of herbal medicine in china. Interesting, but I was hoping for something on acupuncture.
In the herbal dispensary/shop at the front of the museum was this 200,000RMB (apx 23,000$US) ginseng. Far more expensive than any potential therapeutic value I reckon.

Be forewarned!

Some grinders for making powder. Looks like they could have doubled as a prostration device.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Hangzhou is great. Loving the city, the people, the culture, the streets! The hospital where I am observing is great as well. Acupuncturists command a lot more respect here than in the US. THe acupuncture outpatient clinic is bursting with people. And doing rounds in the inpatient side, we are afforded much more recognition than I ever got at Boston Medical. ALthough, i don't know what it is about china, but about %50 of the cases ive seen so far have been facial paralysis. We're guessing its either a difference in their anatomy or the MSG in their diet (which i always try to request to leave out). seeing some really interesting things; coming here is definitly worthwhile, i reckon. will gets some pics up soon of the hospital.
SO nice to have cheap access to food. which i order by either pointing to a picture on the wall, pointing to the food of people near me, or pointing merely to a price on the wall hoping for the best! The point and prey technique as i've dubbed it.
i got a bike and riding it is so much fun. the streets here are mayhem. road rules are mere suggestions, but things usually seem to work out somehow.
now with cheaper computer access, i can update my blog easier. more soon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cyprus--Take 2

Escaping the hustle and bustle of Nicosia, we caught a bus up to the Troodos mountains, hiked up and then hitched down to little town called Platres--a quiet and scenic mountain-side town. Where we shared a reasonable priced little hotel,

It was great to find a town without the fracas of a city--the first in a while for me. Marcin taught me 1000, a popular card game in the Middle East.
Went on a little hike up to a waterfall,

and, thanks to Marcin's ability to speak 5 languages (English, Polish, Russian, German and Chinese--so jealous), we were able to hitchhike down to Lamissol, a beach town on the south coast.
We went over to what are supposed to be some of the oldest ruins in Europe, dating back as far as Neolithic 4000BCish--predating continental Europe. Although the ruins we saw dated back as far as 300BC. Apollo was a hit here.

In Limassol, spent some quality time diggin into 'Atlas Shrugged', which I've really enjoyed despite the fact that I disagree with Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism--which argues the inherent morality of selfishness and free market capitalism.

Jumped off the pier into the crystal clear water of the easter Mediterranean that is so salty even I float and after you get out and dry off, a thin film of salt covers most of your body.

Cyprus is littered with cats who were originally introduced to control the indigenous snake population and now, of course, run rampant.

Went up to a town called Aiya Napa where I knew my weak US $ (.4 Cyprus pounds) would disallow me to stay at any of the Hotels (no cheap options here). I did find a cheap little 4 hour boat cruise where we went around the coast and jumped in the water.

After which I scouted out a secluded piece of beach to stay for the night.

Despite it being very warm during the day, though, by 4-5 in the AM it was so cold I could no longer pretend to sleep that I got up and walked around till the sun came up. I knew it would suck, but thought it a chance to experience some suffering; get some of the perspective one needs in order to appreciate what we so easily take for granted. (Evidently I'd forgotten that lesson since I did it in Bali a few years ago, where I ran out of $ the day before my flight.) Anyway, after the sun came up, the beautiful Mediterranean beach quickly erased the cold night...
After returning to Larnaca, where there was an affordable place to stay, I took the long way to the airport and walked a few hours around a salt lake to find the beautiful Hala Sultan Tekese mosque on my way to the airport by foot--a first.

My departing days were much nicer than my arriving...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cyprus--Take 1

egats...had the sorta transit you never look forward to...

So a few days before leaving Rome for Cyprus, my friend Josh (who is living in Cyprus working on a peace project between the Turks and Greeks) was exiled from the country for some Visa problem. So I knew I would not be staying with him...
Oct 3- (My birthday) First, I didn't wake up to my watch alarm clock but did to the door of my dorm room closing about 40 minutes after my watch went off. So I quickly threw my things together to catch the next (20minute, $16) train to the airport in Rome. Got there 1.20 before the flight, so turned out fine, just a bit of stress. Flew to Milan, then to Beirut, and then to Larnaca Cyprus, arriving at 9pm--1 hour after all the buses stop running into the city. So instead of catching a $60 taxi to the hostel at night, I resigned to staying in the airport until the next bus @ 6am.
---We'll have to make up for this less than stellar birthday next year, eh.

Oct 4- I caught the bus and found my way to the hostel. This was by far the most seedy, illegitimate place i've ever stayed.

There was no one there when i showed up at 8am, so I put my hand through the hole in the door,

went to the bathroom,

found myself an empty bed,

and went to sleep.

Couple hours later some kid wakes me up asking how many nights I was to stay and to pay 5 Cyprus pounds/US$12 a night. So, half in a daze, I payed him the money. I awoke later and checked out the empty place--dirty, falling apart, no security, no policies, very dodgy...
Later I spoke with another guy who had been staying there a few weeks and he said he'd never seen a young kid who worked there. That it might have just been some kid off the street who knew how the place worked and scammed me....
Anyway, after this psychotic greek chick-- who seemed to be angry with everyone-- got into a fight with the manager (who made her put more cloths on, as her gigantic bush was bursting out of her skimpy, see through undies) over the presence of another greek guy who had apparently OD'd on depression meds the night before (I saw the bag of meds the next day, more drugs than I've ever seen) and who had gone through the fridge eating people's food and throwing up on the floor, the manager, fed up with both the Greeks, closed the hostel. As it should have been anyway. Minutes later he told the 3 others of us who were there that we could come back later that day, he just wanted to get rid of the two crazy Greeks. But I had already planned to leave with a polish guy I met there, Marcin. So after looking around a bit more of old town Nicosia-the last divided capital (so they say)--between the Turks and Greeks,

we caught a bus west, towards the mountains.