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Archive for January, 2007

one item one should never find one’s self for want of when paying a visit to the docter in Zhengzhou

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

First I want to thank you guys for all your comments and emails.  It really really is cool to hear from you.  News from home seems to make me feel like I am not so far away. 

Keep the emails coming

The day after my bike ride I woke up at 4:00 am and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I was still so jazzed about the previous day I put on my wang puppy slippers and wrote the last blog.  I had to be up early that morning anyways, May was driving me all the way back to Zhongzhou where I had landed to go to the foriegners hospital for yet another physical.  I have no idea why they want another one, the one I got in the states should have been plenty but now they want the chinese medical community to put in their two cents.  I ask about this a few times and don’t really get a clear response, I guess I’ll live. 

So after writting my blog I got showered and dressed and finally was picked up by the driver and in the van.  It was still dark and we picked up an older couple waiting outside the gate of the school compound.  They got in without introduction and off we went.  On the other side of town we picked up May who had a large clear plastic bag of dumplings for everyone in the car but me, I wasn’t to eat anything before the doctor visit.  I was very hungry, I later lied to May but the truth was I had fallen asleep early the night before and missed dinner, and the micro minivan wafted of sweet sweet steamed dumplings.  For a time we went in silence, punctuated by breif conversations held by the other passengers, I can’t guess about what.  After a while May and I got into a long and facinating discussion about the state of our countries.  She asked about our gun problem, and was wide eyed to learn that you could shoot a person for entering your home and get away with it.  They don’t have guns around here so that was a big shock for her to hear.  We discussed politics for a while, very very interesting conversation.  She seemed surprised also to hear me speak ill of our president, I suppose you don’t get much of that around here either.

As the ride continued the other passengers started trying to give me friendly chinese leasons.

I learned the character for male and female, very useful for untranslated toilet signs.

I learned these phenetically so they may be misspelled, but I rekon if you are still here with me at this point you know that I don’t spell in english so great either and can’t work the spellcheck on this crazy computer.


have you eaten?  -This doesn’t literally mean I want to take you for food, but is more of a common greeting.


youre welcome

We dropped the old couple off, not before the old lady said something which caused our driver to fly into a crazy rage.  He was not a happy man, I still don’t know what they could have done or said to set him off but off he went.  One of those times I wish I knew Chinese.

So we went to the foriegners hospital in Zhongzhou.  Very small building as the name may imply.  May lead me around the first floor of this place from office to office like a mother hen.  We walk into a room and she points to the chair.

“you sit now”

So I sit.  someone sticks me with a needle and draws blood.  (I do watch the needle come out of the package so I feel safe.)  In another room they make me take off my shirt and apply leach like plastic sucktion balloons with wires attatched all over my chest.  height, weight, the x ray took under 10 seconds.  They put me against a wall and had me put my hands on my hips then pressed my elbows hard against the natural motion of my shouldiers and barked “still”.  I got dragged all over the place, and the wierd thing was that each room seemed to have a line of people who had already been waiting.  May would holler Chinese at the docter and everyone would stare at me (everyone always does regardless of where I find myself anyhow) and the doctoer would see me first.  The hospital had no heat and the front doors of the place stood open just to insure minimum comfort for the shirtless examinees.  I dropped pee into a cup which dangled over a hole in the floor.  I knew it was the room with the appropirate hole based on the character May had taught me on the way there.  After ten whirlwind minutes it was all over.  I had been poked proded and frowned at by simply everyone who was anyone at the Zhongzhou forigners hospital.  Now I had a long boring drive to look forward to, or so I thought.

May and the driver were so pleased that the exam had been quick they decieded we might as well swing by Kaifeng as it was just about smack dab on the way home.  Ok, I said, whatever, nomaddame.

So here is the deal with Kaifeng.  Built above the ruins of the destroyed northern Song dynasty capital city, Kaifeng was the capital of several of the early dynasties.  Sadly, most locals agree, the city of Kaifeng just hasn’t been the same since the Manchurian Jin Tartars sacked the place in 1127.  It is also said to have lost much of it’s quant charm when it was deliberatly flooded by Ming loyalists (hell bent on stopping the deadly Manchu killers) in 1644*.  I found the place to be lovely.  The whole city is surrounded by a huge ancient fortified wall with four gates under which traffic moves freely.  The city is built right up to and all around the wall, and your driving down the street and all of the sudden your going under this huge two story arch with ornate pretty crap all over it.  Here is the part where I first kick myself a little on the inside.  Who brings a camera to go to the docter?  From now on take it from Will Sanders.  Take your fucking camera to the docter.  You really just never know. 

We got lost for a while, this is a town that looks similar in many ways to Shangqiu.  Same guys on bikes and scooters, same people selling food on the sidewalk with mobil ovens so they can bake or fry or steam your food while you wait.  One difference is that the city planners forbid the construction of sky scrappers or tall buildings of any kind. 

After several missteps and wrong turns and traffic jams we came upon a through street with shops and city everywhere and all the sudden bammm!  As if out of a puff of smoke apeared the Xiangguo Temple.  It stood tall, though out of place amoung loud flashy urban sprall here was an ediface which absolutly demanded totall awe and respect from the peddlers, passersby, and shops which huddled in its shadow. Standing at the foot of the Temple seemed to drown out all the hustle and bustle of the city around, at least momentarily.

This is a very old thing, too.  As it happens, it could be argued that it is a replica built to replace the one that was flooded in 1644, although this replica has been there since the Qing dynasty*.

Meanwhile, stupid me without my camera.  I can see it still shining in my minds eye though.

We wait for the driver to park (which takes forever) and in the meantime I take in the outside of the Temple which is amazing.  See if you can’t find pictures of it on google, I bet you could if so inclined.  It is the Xiangguo Temple in Kaifeng. 

May said we had to buy incence to pray, which we did. 

Finally the driver showed up, found out it cost 35 RMB (a little over $4 here) and became irrate with the price and left.  So May and I went in. 

The Temple was a series of pogodas, The entrace was gaurded by a fifteen foot tall Buddha on either side, hin and ho.  Hin looks totally pissed off and is trying to blow air through tightly shut lips, Hince the sound hin.  Ho looks totally pissed off but has his mouth open.

The whole place was a series of breathtaking courtyard gardens and bridges over ponds between pagoda temples housing various statues of the Buddha.  At each Buddha May would have me light incence and kneel at the alter.  This for me was sort of like the few occasions when I have found myself at Catholic masses for funerals and Weddings of friends from Catholic families.  I always feel like the only one without the playbook so I mimic what the other Catholics are doing, usually the old ones who seem to have everything right.  My eyes closed tight, knees on the pillow bowing to the Buddha per Mays example, peeking out of the corner of my eye to see just how many bows was good. 

One of the Halls is an Octogan with a gigantic Buddha in the middle with 1000 hands and eyes spread behind either side of it like wings and four bodies in four directions.  The statue is surrounded by a hallway with maybe a hundred webster sized Buddhas in varing degrees of seriousness.  My favorite was grimacing while picking his ear with a stick.

There were so many halls with so many Buddhas, I will never be able to do any sort of justice to the enormity or the beauty of the place.  It really would make you want to cry it is so quiet and peaceful.

Next stop was to the magnificent dragon pavillion.  This was the seat of the emporer in the song dynasty but was, alas, flooded in 1644.  The building we saw was recreated in the Qing dynasty and was sort of a mini version of the forbidden city*.  A long bridge over two lakes which raises and lowers lead us right up the formidable palace.  The walk ways on all the inclines have stairs on the sides and a walkway in the middle intended just for the emporer.  The building itself was 72 steps straight up in the sky, I was so out of breath when I got to the top.  The middle walkway here is roped off and has dragons and cranes and stuff carved into the rock the whole way up for the emporer to walk on.  The entire building was one open room with gold ornate crutains and wood skulpters around an alter and thrown to the king.  So much art in that room that I stood there for a good ten minutes with my jaw hanging.  Oh, and man, the view from the top was emense.  This was the tallest bouiding in Keifeng, (aside from an ancient tower that we did not do that day) and you could see an ocean of Chinese rooftops that would be perfect for ninjas.

Cooler still was out in the back. The emperors garden was a vast and endless winding forest of twisting trees and crazy looking birds.  One portion was shrubs grown to look like animals, another enclosed garden was supposed to feature may flowers, which my companion had taken her English name after. She often explains that this flower grows in the winter, a medaphore for her love of freezing cold shangqiu.  It was very off season though, I bet if you came in just around spring it would be hard to take in all the sights and smells in the air at once.  It was deserted though, which was nice.

I met a sales man of top rank.  He draged May and I into a room with a 12 foot long scroll painting, which he described inch by inch as May translated.  It represented the rural China, a fishing villiage, and a big city, the larger meaning of which was the evolution of China.  After all that I gave the guy 1 RMB for a replica of the painting, mainly out of sheer admiration of his sales skill, plus it will no doubt be the Christmas gift of someone reading this blog.

There are aparantly several other things to do in Kaifeng which we didn’t get to, at some point I hope to spend the weekend there, its close enough to make a perfect trip.  The last time I cursed myself for not having a camera that day came when I saw a guy on a motercycle with half a pig on the rear helmet rack trucking around town like it wasn’t no thing.  I think it was the left half split clear down the middle drapped over the rack above the back tire of the bike with the guts up and the back leg and the snout inches from making street pork rindes on either side.  The whole thing was held on with bungee cords.  Everyone in the van was looking at me and May asked why I was laughing. 

So then We had a very long ride home.  We picked up the old couple we had dropped off that morning, they had been visiting her sister.  We seemed to go home a way off the highway which took twice as long and took us through some of the worst poverty I have ever seen. Nobody talked much, everyone was beat I think.  From the mini van window I watched the sunset in a Chinese sky. Through Chinese trees came a brilliant orange glow which gave way to somber purple and slipped into Chinese night under Chinese stars. I was getting tired and I thought about everything I had done that day and about how far I was from home.

*footnote: come with me on my China adventure and I promise to fill you in on all the related local history my Lonely Planet guide book has to offer.  That is a Will Sanders curtesy.

Day four

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

email I sent after not having slept.

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

Coming soon, China adventure

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007