A temporary glitch with my internet connection meant I was dark all of last weekend. I learned some new Chinese as a result: Zhoumo wode diannao bukeyi shangwang. 'I could not go online all weekend.' Youshihou wo zai qinqua shangban hen yumen. 'Sometimes it's frustrating working at Tsinghua.'
I have been carrying on with the massage. After the initial 2.5 hour marathon, my appointments are only 1 hour twice a week, for 180Y each or $27. And the masseur, anmoshi, is lighter in his touch. I suppose the first time is to soften you up and that step was the most rigorous. Now he goes in with surgical precision, delving into the deep pressure points. More than once he asked if my heart was ok, or if I was feeling pounding in my heart by making a heart shape with his fingers and holding it to his chest or making a pounding gesture there. He keenly watches my eyes for every response. More ear checking, at times running around the table to check my pulse and tongue. I wish I knew the science of this medicine. The organs get massaged also, not just muscles and pressure points.
Language here is going through a transformation as is the culture. How do I know this? I studied Mandarin only briefly at UCLA in the 70s, but a few phrases persisted. One was 'wo bu hui shuo Zhongguo hua' or 'I can't speak Chinese.' Now you say wo bu hui shuo hanyu. It's been shortened. Another example is 'bathroom.' I learned nu cesuo from the Mandarin immersian cds I studied in January. Well, that's like saying 'water closet!' No one uses the term anymore, and young people have never heard it. No wonder I got blank stares whenever I tried to find the bathroom. Now you say xi shuo jian 'hand washing room,' slightly shorter. Not just vocabulary is shortening, but sentence structure is changing, and the use of English terms is now ok. And that's how they are talking Mandarin in Beijing today.
On a practical level, now that it's hot in the afternoons, I like iced coffee-- kafei bing jia nai he tang-- with milk and sugar. It comes in a tall glass with ice and only 13Y or $2.00. Now I can order in Chinese I get fewer surprises, and I get what I want!
Walking down the hall, I heard odd sounds coming from the other office. Song had her 6-year-old son at the office, and he was amusing himself like little boys everywhere, playing a game with a few leggo pieces and a small transformer bot. I introduced myself, 'wo shi Cheryl. what's your name?' I asked in English. He piped up with 'Johnny.' So at 6 years he knew what I was asking, and he responded with the English name his teacher has given him. His mother says he's been studying English for 3 years, since he was 3.
After 10 years of drought, China is now having the worst rain and flooding in 20 years they say. Mostly in the Yangtse basin, but also where it empties into the China Sea at Shanghai. Finally we are getting a taste of it here in Bejing. I noticed people leaving the building early last Thursday. By 4pm the sky got dark as dusk, streetlights were on and car headlights could be seen through the pelting rain. The wind was blowing the rain sideways and gusting in the trees wildly thrashing. By 5pm there was a lull. I was ready. I jumped on my bicycle, grasping the umbrella in left hand, I maneuvered through the sparse traffic towards home. As I crossed the ancient canal I was surprised to see it had risen about six feet or 2m from puddle of a rivulet to a turbid and swift river. A worker was struggling with a big iron grate.
Riding slowly through the quad I tried to keep my feet dry through the giant puddles. I could see where the greens keepers had quit cutting the grass half way across the big lawn. The annoying peddlers had packed up their bazaar near the old gate, and water was running swiftly along the edge of the street under ice cream cases, covered tables and collapsed umbrellas. The closer I got to the hutong the more frequent were gushing drain pipes, creating giant puddles or diverting brick lined ditches. Near the Senior Center the whole street was full of water six inches deep. Hopeless to keep the shoes dry. My only thought was to get home before I got drenched like the other night.
At Qinqi massage the pain intensity has been reducing with each appointment-- only momentary bursts of of transcendental awareness through 'tang.' Liujun the 'anmoshi' masseur fetched a basket of bottles and packages. He selected a paper packet, tore it open and produced some long thin acupuncture needles and inserted them into my left wrist and right calf, behind the knee. These stayed in about a half an hour as he carried on with the treatment. I couldn't feel them at all. Odd, looking at them hanging out but no sensation there.
When the session was over, he wrote a prescription for me on the back of my language notes. But of course at the time I had no idea what it was. At the desk, setting the next appointment went smoother with my few little phrases, wo shenme shihou zailai 'when do I come again?' Nide anmo zende hen youyong 'your massage is really helpful.'
On Saturday I got a visit from Ms Feng from the housing department. She came with a workman to check the windows in my apartment where I got a minor flood during the big storm, came right through closed windows and made a big puddle on the floor. Figure that one out. A flood on the 5th floor. Over a cup of jasmine tea 'yige bei huacha' I showed her Luijun's prescription, and she was able to tell me I'm to drink the juice of a winter melon. ok, I think I can do that.
I went to the farmers market and showed them the characters for winter melon and brought it home, cut it up and simmered it until it melted into a soupy stew. I strained it and drank the juice-- not to bad 'bu tai huai'-- almost sweet with a light squash flavor. This is supposed to help with the foot.
My cabdriver friend James was robbed this week. Someone snuck into his room while he was hanging out his shirts and pants he washes by hand. Carelessly he had left his door ajar. Still, petty crime is almost non-existent as we know it in the west. The Chinese people are very honest and disinterested in taking what is not theirs. I happened meet James in the street the morning after the theft. His eyes were red and swollen and he was distracted and agitated. I urged him to report this to the police, but his landlord urged him not to. Well, obviously, the landlord knows something and may be protecting the thief, someone nearby who could spy on James' movements undetected in a tiny walled courtyard. It does no good to mention I had told him weeks ago to open a bank account and deposit his cash somewhere safe.
Hui tou jian