low blood sugar

[This happened last spring 2014–scariest moment in China aside from this pickpocket experience.]

Last night I had a choco McFlurry and a small snickers for dinner.
I woke up this morning debating school breakfast or an Americano from Starbucks. I ate two bananas before leaving and took the rest of my medicine. I got on the metro and within 10 minutes I felt worse and worse.

Black dots began appearing and I thought back to being eight—in the shower experiencing the same sensation only surrounded by brightly colored animated fish swimming on the new shower curtain. China doesn’t have shower curtains and people were tucked under my armpits on this metro. I thought, I could walk—squeeze my way out and find a bao’an [metro rent-guard]. Wrong.

My legs were liquid. I tried to whisper ‘jiuming/救命, help’ and no sound could vibrate off my clammed up tongue. Black was closing in—I thought this is how we die—fade to black. I bent my head down, holding tight to the pole and said Green Tara’s mantra. Finally at Dongmen I took a seat and bent my head. When I dis-embarked I called my mom and started crying—it was low blood sugar, she said.

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The Chesapeake Bay and the Milky Way

The Chesapeake Bay, an arm of the ocean,
A highway encircling the earth,
Where a man with a skiff may sail to far lands,
Then return to the place of his birth.

Overhead glows the Milky Way,
Like grains of sand giving light,
A speckled path to the infinite
Visible each clear night.

Thus from a chair on the lawn,
One may think of the sea or the universe,
The speed of light, the magic of heat,
Or wonder why beings are so perverse.

–Margaret C. Gilbert, 11 February 1966
(Thinking of nature’s wonders and man’s wars)


(Written by my Grandma in 1966)

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“Behold! Human beings living in an underground cave…”

[This is a followup to the previous post regarding Tiananmen Square massacre.]

The ‘Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China’ opened the ‘June 4th Museum’ in late April of this year.

Back in the 1980s, DengXiaoPing illustrated the ‘one country, two systems,’ “constitutional principle,” in order to keep the people of Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, and the PRC seemingly united. Thanks to this, Hong Kong still maintains free speech. The 6/4 museum is legal and educates those who seek truth about the events in 1989.

My friends and I were able to visit the ‘June 4th Museum’ over the weekend.

The museum itself is all in traditional Chinese. There are volunteers who roam, answer any questions and dispel any rumors. One such guide happened to be Chinese who was born in Hong Kong but went to college in Maryland and divided his time between Maryland and Hong Kong. He was incredibly informative and nice to talk to. He explained the layout. The museum is dark. It is a labyrinth as many people refer to the PRC as maze-like. To me it is very Democratic because there is a timeline going through and at the top is the Chinese government’s account of what happened at the bottom is the students’ account of what happened and as you follow along in the middle there’s a chalkboard to participate in and add your thoughts to.

Our guide explained that about half the visitors are from Mainland China and they hope to properly educate these Mainlanders about this history.

Souvenirs you could purchase were postcards, t-shirts, and USB-flash drives containing 8 GB of every video, document, every bit of truth pertaining to this event. I purchased one for David because he offered how much he wanted to see this museum..

After David viewed some of the USB he told me he realized just how wrong the Chinese government had been. He didn’t know that the Chinese government used bullets on the students that obliterated their bodies it wasn’t a simple sniper shot it was dozens he said. David’s disposition was completely resigned. Akin to the turtles in Dongmen, I told him, ‘now you know the truth.’

It’s my hope that these USB’s will make their way to the mainland and like everything else in China, get pirated and distributed like fake DVD’s or ‘beats by dre.’

This brief rush with Democracy China may or may not have had in 1989 is one of the only historical dates we study in USA’s secondary school. Not much about dynasties, emperors, Mao–the Cultural Revolution. 5,000 years of civilization summed up right there in Tiananmen.

Much like Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave,’ the Chinese government has kept smoke in its citizens eyes. Stamping out our butterfly and pouring more smoke in. Now that smoke is money. ‘To get rich is glorious,’ coined by DengXiaoPing, made popular by Chinese migrants, the reason I’m in China, and why China is the world’s second richest economy.

Visit the Museum in Hong Kong:
5/F Foo Hoo Centre,
3 Austin Avenue,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Closest MTR station is:
East Tsim Sha Tsui
Admission is 10HKD

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“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.”

It’s an interesting practice to reduce things to their most poignant role in history by use of a simple adjective or verb.
For example the events that took place 25 years ago in Tiananmen Square happened simply because of love and hope–a love for one’s country and a hope for something better.

I keep coming back to this 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen ‘massacre’ though I’d rather call it ‘a fear induced slaughter.’

David loves to use the phrase, ‘at that moment,’ referring to something in the past.
He’s told me the story of how he learned of what transpired in June 1989.
He was around my age [27] when he learned from a friend twelve years ago, thirteen years after the event. I probably learned about thirteen-fifteen years ago in school.

David’s friend was training to be a soldier and part of their training they were educated about 1989 and why the government acted as it did. The government educating its soldiers on its terms [as all governments do].

To me:
At that moment 25 years ago it was akin to stepping on the butterfly in ‘A Sound of Thunder’ by Ray Bradbury.

What David said:
‘At that moment DengXiaoPing made a choice. He chose order rather than let Beijing fall into ‘student run chaos.’ He pulled the power on the city grid so no news could break or could barely get out.’
After-all it was students who became ruthless Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution educated on Mao’s terms.

To me China is a series of paradoxes. A country pretty much ruled, scammed, capitalized, and dictated by education. A country who keeps its ‘face.’ Remembers the past it wants to remember, like Japan’s slaughter of Chinese during WWII and Japan’s inability to make an acceptable genuine apology thus resulting in almost all Chinese students proclaiming their anti-Japan stance from grade 1 on. Yet China keeps its own citizens ignorant out of fear of its people. Even if ‘political power grows from the barrel of the gun,’ I suppose fear is power and love doesn’t conquer, it bleeds.

So 25 years after our butterfly got stomped, what’s China?
Had our butterfly planted itself lightly on Tiananmen’s steps fluttered about and off it went.
Would I have been urinated on in the metro two months ago?
Would various Chinese be uttering slurs when they saw foreign faces?
Would ‘foreign face’ be such a thing?
Would I cringe at the word, ‘backwards,’ and feel like it’s a slur towards China?
Would cheating be so prevalent?
Would we stand on the left or the right?

Choices are choices are choices.

[Disclaimer: This is all my point of view and I apologize for any over-stated/generalized statements I have made regarding China and or Chinese people. What I have written is from my own observations and or conversations I’ve had.]

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Mature Vinegar &Dumplings

I live in Dafen ‘Oil Painting Village.’

I often remark to David what fun it is to live here because we’re ‘surrounded’ by art–supplies, paint, brushes, finished art, trashed art, defaced art, copy art, art.

To which David scoffs because it’s all ‘copy art.’

It’s rumored that Dafen is responsible for 80% of the world’s copy art! Speaking of counterfeit I remember reading another story about a woman in New York who was selling ‘original’ works to clients, only to find out they were all fake and her artist was Chinese who fled back to China. Had he been born in the 80s he probably would have come from Dafen.

David is one of three original artists in this village.

Three years ago I started to visit pretty often and a few months after that, stayed here regularly. One of the only Chinese foods I would crave [still do] were dumplings and we’d wander everywhere in search.

Finally about two blocks from our flat a little ‘northern dishes’ restaurant opened, with a focus on dumplings.
This restaurant changed my life.

We started going three or four times a week (even now not a week goes by where we don’t make it out there at least once). Dumplings back then were just 8 kuai (~1.25$) for a plate of 20 freshly boiled dumplings. Not to mention from the moment you walk in and request your dumplings they begin stuffing away. Everything is fresh and made to order.

I’ve also lived and visited plenty of other districts throughout Shenzhen. I’ve never found a more perfect house of dumplings than this one, two blocks from me.

minced pork &scallion, minced pork &corn, minced lamb &mushroom, zucchini &egg, scallion &egg. We usually stuck with the vegetarian.

Doufu si:
My other favorite dish from the north. Tofu noodles with carrots, cucumber, cilantro, cabbage, leeks, sesame oil, hunan spice, and a dash of salt.


Did I mention House of Dumplings rolls out dough from scratch and makes noodles from the dumpling dough as well? The noodles are also yummy. At about 1.25$ for a bowl full of noodles, boiled egg, cilantro, fresh peanuts, and cabbage, this is another frequent Chinese food craving.

Every table has an assorted tray of condiments to create your very own dumpling sauce.
Each tray has ‘mature vinegar,’ soy sauce, minced garlic, freshly cut cilantro, and two kinds of Hunan chili sauce. Everyone would get a tiny condiment holder to create your own favorite.

Most Chinese restaurants will have vinegar, soy sauce, and Hunan spice on the table. ‘Mature’ vinegar isn’t as rich as balsamic, i’ve grown to love it and put it on EVERYTHING.

Everything being:
Noodles, eggs, peanuts, minced pork, soup, cabbage, potatoes, tofu, feet, everything.

Between vinegar and dumplings, China’s done a number on my pallet and expectations. From the food being extremely fresh to must having Hunan spice and vinegar–to give things just the right kick, I’ve been spoiled.

House of Dumplings owners know us and we’ve watched their son grow up right there surrounded by dumplings and art.

Three years ago he was a toddler strapped to his grandma’s back as she both stuffed, boiled dumplings, and took money from customers. She’s since retired and our little Host has grown up. He wanders in and out, climbing on stools, opening things he’s not supposed to–resulting in a ‘chopstick whack,’ from his father.

I wonder what he’ll grow up to be as he sits in this restaurant twelve hours a day-seven days a week, four years old, and trying to understand where he fits, where he can play, and how to get the right kind of attention.

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House of Steamed Buns & the best Guard Ever

This past January I decided to rent a room with one of my students’ families.

I approached an agent, said, ‘I want the cheapest, smallest flat,’ they could offer.

We strode through a village, a bridge away from my school. Patches of green grass filled in cracks of cement and was so silent ‘cept for some chirping birds. To the left of a building against a fence we followed concrete slabs lined with potted cabbages to a first floor apartment where, at first, entry, I thought the maid was cooking lunch. My agent lead me through the house to a bolted shut door and into a tiny hallway with a pink bedroom to the right and a boxed in squat toilet bathroom with shower hose straight ahead. ‘No,’ was my immediate answer.

‘But, but,’

As we went back into the yard, I broke down in tears because I’d fought with David and needed a place to stay that night. Most Chinese people don’t know what to do when they see you crying so, they do what they do best, awkwardly stare–expressionless.

The ‘maid,’ came out and started whispering with my agent, finally I said okay let’s look once more.

In we went and in my broken Chinese listening skills they both said they could add all these things (hot water heater for my own shower above the squat toilet, and a heater/AC unit) additionally I’d have free reign of the rest of the apartment. I could also sign a six month lease.


Later I found out my student lived there as well.
When I came back to sign the lease and Sean, student, was there, my heart dropped.

Of all my eight hundred students it had to be THIS one?!
The only one who would answer my redundant ‘boring,’ English questions in class, the only one who would ask every question possible, invade my personal space every moment he could, follow me to my classes and office, THIS kid?!


I always thought Sean came from wealth because he spoke English so well and with such confidence.

Later, I realized, the ‘maid,’ was Sean’s mom. Sean’s father is basically bed-ridden because of an accident he suffered when Sean was a year old. The doctors made a devastating medical error thus resulting to a life in bed.

Sean’s family relies on his Mama to literally make the dough. They sell ‘baozi’ for a living. Baozi are steamed buns filled with all sorts of goodies, minced pork, green onion-egg-shrimp, black sesame with sugar, peanuts and sugar, red beans, the list goes on. Everything is fresh and cooked up in the morning/early afternoon. When Sean comes home from school at lunchtime the family gather in the bedroom where the father lays and everyone takes a turn kneading the dough laid out on a wooden slab over top an unsteady short desk. Later Mama leaves by 5PM, peddles a barrow to where ever it is she sells the steamed buns.

On more than one occasion Mama’s offered me huge bags full of her delicious baozi. Between bites of minced pork, fat still smothered inside with ginger and garlic, egg and green onion, or a sweet peanut, I taste much more than the thick dough and filling–thick-love-filling.

Mama’s face has seen her share of triumph and tragedy–when I really saw her, she is radiant, weathered skin–wrinkled from smiling/worn from sadness. Soft eyes and a genuine–caring voice. She is the pillar of the family and a symbol of pure loving kindness. If I could ever be as strong and as loving as she, I would know success.
So, I moved buckets and bedding into my new room, established home.

First things were first, I introduced myself to the village ‘bao`an,’ guard. ‘Hey so I’m the new foreign teacher living here in this village.’

& Ever since I introduced myself he never lets me pass without a strong, ‘HEY!’

Finally one day I yelled ‘HEY,’ at him while he was busy. He looked up and I shouted, ‘Chifanlema?’ ‘have you eaten,’ basically a common greeting for how are you in China. He looked extremely pleased. Every day we have a huge smiling toothy exchange. Today I asked him for a selfie together, he didn’t smile but he still showed his happy face.


so it continues.

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Turtle City

David and I met in Dongmen for Valentine’s Day, to wander and enjoy fifty degree weather.
[Dongmen is a shopping street in Shenzhen, you can probably find anything in this area. People will say, ‘if you haven’t been to Dongmen you haven’t been to Shenzhen.’]
While finishing up our stroll he asked if I wanted to see the turtles. I love turtles as does he so I said, ‘ok.’

We entered a market alley.

To the right were chickens, geese, ducks, rabbits, and others all awaiting slaughter for consumption. Pig carcasses hung in the background.
To the left were cages and bowls filled with tiny turtles, medium turtles and pretty jumbo turtles considering this was just a market alley and not the Galapagos.

We stopped at one market whose cages were layered with turtles climbing on top of turtles while a picture of Chairman Mao looked on from the back. Later David did tell me he spotted a Buddha and hoped this store-owner was more compassionate than others.

Turtle City

We noticed a few turtles’ phalanges were bloody and mangled. We chose one, ‘Stallone,’ and rescued him from the bunch, who had one of these gimpy paws. He wasn’t shy or afraid of us. We made our purchase and continued on.


While making our way back to the entrance of the alley we kept awing at the the turtle sites. Turtles were everywhere lined in these cages.

Almost to the entrance we finally saw why these turtles are kept.

A store owner was holding a cleaver cutting a turtle into fourths, shell and all. We listened to the cracking of the shell while turtle guts were spewed.
The store owner had removed some of the innards, we noticed that the turtle who was being dismembered wasn’t dead as his head was still struggling to move and look around. Two girls and a guy sat above watching this process with a bored expression.

It was the most heartbreaking bloody experience to see.

I started crying to which David said, ‘at least you know the truth.’

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A few times a week David and I go to his parents for dinner.
We leave Dafen and cross two footbridges, a plaza, a government center, a metro station, and walk up a steep hill to arrive at his parents flat.

Between the time walking, there are miniaturized vans aligning the sidewalks.
I say miniature because in the US a van is much bigger than this work van.
Even though the van is much smaller than what we would consider a van, these vans are utilitarian, they contain everything a person needs for getting by, day-to-day. In the front seat they even watch a teevee.

Walking to David’s parents these plumbers will be cooking dinner.
By the time we’re walking home from David’s parents these plumbers will have finished showering and be sitting around talking.

The people inhabiting the vans are plumbers with their wives. They park alongside the sidewalks in the evening and cook their meal, have a shower, wash their clothes, listen to the radio, and then sit around remarking about the day.

Dinner: They take out a little gas burner attached to a propane tank and begin heating the dinner.

Water: They open the nearby fire hydrant for water or bring their own, water for cooking and for bathing. Walking home we’ll see the women with towels wrapped around their heads.

These plumbers park near palm trees so they can attach a line to hang wet clothes they’ve just washed.

Usually in front of the vans are little altars with three or more incense burning. David tells me it’s to thank the village Gods and to keep them safe in the area.

Very few children are present.

David says this is just a way for the plumbers to save money and they do in fact have a home to return to.

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If I’m lucky, zombies won’t strike just yet.


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A Mother’s Blood-curdling cries in a Silent Village

Today began like every Wednesday.
I woke up early —
so I could lay around and read the news, snuggle a little longer–
before a day met.

Washed my face/tidied the hair.
Did a full-length mirror check.

Below me is the village. Dafen ‘painting village.’
Below me is Dafen’s main drag.
Cars are constantly driving too fast steering pedestrians to trip off the ‘road.’
Bars are my divider between me and below/my protection.
I’ve seen so much through those bars:
brawls, fireworks, recyclers, police, gamblers, lovers, people going to school/people coming back from school/typhoons/lovely days/smoggy days.

I’ve seen so much but nothing could have prepared me for today.

First came the wail. A constant sore wail from somewhere inside only a mother must make. I felt like someone was digging into an open wound/rubbing deeper–prodding more guts and from this person’s abdomen came a shrill shrieking moan throughout this silent village at 7AM. 7AM… Dafen doesn’t awaken ’til quarter past–this was no drunken brawl leftover from poker the night before. Something was wrong.

I retreated to my window, my passive bystander safety net, my bars separating me from below.
I crept to my window and saw a stopped van in the middle of the road.
Sobbing continued.
‘An accident,’ I thought.
And then I leaned into the bars–closer and noticed legs which looked lifeless under the back of the van.
Wails continued.
Something inside of me stopped, I couldn’t breathe and I ran to David, who already noticed something was wrong and jumped up to come check.
We slowly approached the window and saw a blood stricken student’s face being cradled in the driver’s arms. A boy, looked less than ten years old appeared to have no wind left inside.
Blood-curdling sobs never ended and then mine began.

I no longer watched, I prayed, David said mantras and watched.
Later the boy came to, and was whisked to the hospital.
I dragged myself out the door to walk below.
Hideous van still in the middle of the road and a pool of blood gathered underneath.

Time no longer exists/no amount of rushing is ever worth one time.

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