Traditionally Untold

I sit here and realize…I haven’t been completely honest with you.

I’m not actually living in China…

Haha just kidding! I am, but I was cracking myself up thinking about how crazy it would be if that were true. Somedays my only goal is to make myself laugh…so I get to tick that box today.

Honestly, there are some things that I haven’t mentioned about living here primarily because I wasn’t sure how to address them. When I first got here they were a little startling, but not enough to make me freak out and leave. I don’t want to write about them in such a way that it causes anyone to have an aversion to China, but at the same time they are a real part of life here.

  1. People spit. Everywhere. Men and women alike, especially older people can be found (and more importantly heard) spitting just about anywhere. After speaking to some of the students here at the university I have been told that they are trying to enforce “No Spitting” laws in some areas of the country, especially the bigger cities. However, I think it will be a while before it hits. They don’t really “enforce” laws like that here, just take a look at traffic.
  2. The potty is where you make it…if you’re under the age of 2. Actually I’m not sure if they are two, but they are definitely toddler-aged. You see, children actually wear pants that have a large hole in the crotch-area. This is specifically for the purpose of making it easier for them to go to the bathroom in the great outdoors…or city streets. I think this is during the potty training stage, but I have seen more than one mother drop the drawers of their child near a tree or over the sewage drain to allow them to do their business. Unfortunately, I think there are some kids who don’t realize that the whole world is not for them to pee on because I have also seen a few boys drop their own drawers in public. This usually results in mothers flapping around their child telling them they shouldn’t…but they usually let them finish their business. I find this all very contradictory. Oh, well.
  3. Don’t mind the dogs, they have their own agenda. I actually find the dogs here to be creepy, especially the stray ones. They walk very purposefully, like they have business to take care of. Once, while running I heard something behind me only to turn around and find it was a dog. At first I thought it might be following me, but then it passed me and turned a corner. Only after passing the corner myself did I see there were other dogs. Maybe I’m crazy, but it looked like they were meeting up there.Also, seldom do I ever hear them bark.  Oftentimes, with those who have owners it looks like they are walking their person rather than vice-versa. In short, the dogs here freak me out.
  4. Traditional Chinese medicine works. Well…at least I think it does. On a more positive note, but one equally unusual to Western audiences is the ancient practice of bá guàn (拔罐). Traditionally, they would put fire inside of cups to remove the oxygen and then place them in two parallel lines along a patient’s back. The lack of oxygen then causes the skin to be sucked up into the cup, which draws the toxins in your body to the surface and leaves circles in various shades of red. The darker the red, the more ill you are. The modern version does it without the fire. Supposedly, it measures your levels of ying. I am pleased to say that my ying levels were quite low…meaning that I’m in decent health. So thank you Chinese medicine for proving that breathing the air here is not the reason for my various minor ailments.
  5. The amount of seemingly pointless jobs. I write about this one last because I think it is the one that has successfully baffled me the most. When I first got here I saw women sweeping leaves out of the street every day, seemingly all day. When it rained they would sweep the water into the drains along the streets. Now, I need to take a moment to clarify something. When I say “sweeping” just forget what you know about brooms. These brooms look like they have been made the same way for…well, a long time. IMG_3322They are sticks bound together (their width the length of an arm), often attached to a bamboo pole and they make me remember that old-world, rural China is much closer than it would seem. Now that that’s out of the way, there is one other job that I do not understand. If my language skills were better I would ask them myself, but alas they are not. A few days ago on my campus I saw a group of men brushing the trunks of the trees…like they were giving them a bath. It just leaves me thinking: 不知道 (I don’t know).

China can be a strange place, but I suppose that’s ideal when you’re on a quest to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.

Until next time!

~A

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