Motorbike Nights

It’s a perfect night.
Air is aligned on wind
Wind aligned on trees
& a motorbike coasting on pure windy oxygen.

Lights-hazy-blurred-Hopeful.
Motorbike ride-nothing but a feeling-
Unbridled.
Calm. Bumpy.

-Hold tight-
Rooted on seat-
Seat rooted on life.

Hold tight.

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A Thai Jungle

We wanted to trek through the jungle.
‘Can I wear tevas,’ was my only concern.
‘Course you can.’

We wanted to see five waterfalls and hike with Raht the jungle man.

Raht’s five waterfall tour was sold out.

We settled on two mountaintops and one waterfall, an eight hour hike through Koh Chang’s jungle.

A narrow elephant path led us into the jungle.
Easy.

Straight, hardly any shrubbery blocking the way.

We wound our way up. Mosquitos lunged at me along with every insect the jungle has to offer.
‘Beware, the malaria!’
Peppermint oil lathered my skin, melting insects off.

Vines whipped around me while thorns tried their best to cut.

Our guide was king of the anthill and then,
he almost pulled a tarantula from its burrow.

Our first hilltop we rested. Bananas and pomelo wedges shoved into a sugary quench.
Onward.
This time was different.
We were going straight up.
Trees were handlebars.
Rocks were steps.
Narrow and straight.
One slip was death or a broken limb.

I was no longer concerned about mosquitos swirling.

A peak, we made it.
We sat atop stone lava.

We pulled our way down the stone lava hill using rope attached to a tree.

Downhill–Easy part, as I understood it.
Downhill was truly and utterly the Jungle.

It was brisk almost too fast.
Going down. Too far. Roots tugged you back as you lost footing.
Concentration-function, begins now.

Roots, enormous spiders, carpenter ants, flappy branches–
Brought me to my knees.
Somehow I never broke.

Creekside we had lunch, all the fried rice that would fill our jungle hungry tum.

Afterward we hiked to the ‘waterfall,’
‘Waterfall,’ puny excuse for running water.

I lost the group,
I stared into the abyss/noticed my presence and that I wasn’t dead yet.
&then I was found.

Creekside, my feet bled, slipped, slopped, every step was slip or slop.
I never broke/
I bled/I never broke.

Grand Finale: elephants having a swim with their human riders.
&then we were out, 8 hours later.

In eight hours,
My feet were proof there’s a jungle,
My heart-
Evidence.

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Ode to my Tevas

I found you on clearance at a shopping mall. A shopping mall whose glory rose in 1997 and blew tumbleweeds by 2006. 2006 when I found my dear sweet Tevas on clearance for $29.99.

I bought you in May of 2006. May of 2006 was my first ‘real trip’ abroad.
I was off to claim the Forbidden City, scale the Great Wall, and climb misty mountain tops to drink swirling green tea in a flimsy plastic cup. I was off to China, not without my Tevas.

You carried me through Beijing’s dusted roads. You didn’t carry me up the Great Wall, sorry to say.
The Forbidden City got trampled with Teva tracks.

On the last leg of the journey, you carried me over slippery mountains with rain pattering puddles, you never let me fall.

And then I put you away, barely acknowledged your presence until 2010.
2010, back to China. Back to the Forbidden City and a new city, Shenzhen, Longhua, to be exact with my Tevas strapped to my feet.

We waded through murky Longhua streets during Shenzhen’s rainy season. You never minded a good bleaching after.
You walked me all over Shenzhen and even walked my Mom all over Shenzhen.

You pedaled me around SE Asia in 2012.

And then in 2013, I introduced the Jungle to you.

I thought you would make it.
I thought we could pull through.

We made it
We pulled through.

But your lower flap breathed in air and twigs.
Blood was on the front strap between dirt cakes.
You let carpenter ants climb their way up and bite my jungled skin.

My bleeding blistered feet said, ‘good riddance’ on that bungalow floor on Koh Chang, Thailand to my beloved, $29.99 Tevas.

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Birds go Free

My cage–
I hop the wooden slats,
The others have gone.
My bars hug me, keep me safe–
Shire/Plato’s Cave.

‘Go free, free. Free. Go.’
I cannot.

Enough seed. Enough eat.
Enough house.
Enough & Satisfied.

I’m too terrified to fly.
I’m too excited not to look.

I cannot.
I’m too excited to look.
I’m too terrified not to fly.

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Christmas in China

In 2010 my parents landed themselves in Shenzhen for Christmas.
Just their presence was the best Christmas present.
On Christmas Day, I was sick.
Between the bed and the commode I was a nomad–wandering from each–day of Christmas.
My apartment was bitterly cold.
My Mom described this as the worst Christmas she’d ever experienced.
Most of China doesn’t celebrate Christmas, so it’s not exactly Christmas friendly.

Miserable Christmas.

In 2011 I woke up and exchanged gifts with David. It was nice and relaxing.
We had plans to meet friends for home-cooked meal. Our friends were late, we didn’t eat until almost 10PM. The food was cold and we were so far from our apartment.

Miserable Christmas.

This past semester has worn my skin to its core brittle bone.
I teach 22 classes a week, which is a lot considering last semester I had fifteen.

I also adopted a cat, Jenny, who needed medical attention.
I gave up. I wanted to be a scrooge this Christmas.
& then … I sang some Christmas carols with coworkers for a school performance and it brought me back to Christmas ‘spirit.’

I decided to bring joy to my coworkers and get little gifts. I also made a new friend, Sava.
Sava is from Romania about 85% of the population in Romania is Orthodox. Sava is Orthodox. She attends the Catholic church here in China though. I’ve never attended a Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service, I have always wanted to, so I asked Sava.
She welcomed me with the biggest open arms.

I met her on Christmas Eve at her apartment. She’s lived in China over ten years and is married to a Chinese man. They have a four year old daughter. We had dinner together. It finally felt like home and Christmas. Being around a child, a Christmas tree set up and a heated apartment. We played around and ate and finally it came time for Mass. We all piled into Sava’s VW and picked up another friend, from India. The church glistened on a hill and people flocked to it. This felt incredible to be experiencing, especially being in China.

The church was filled. Many Chinese, both believers and non were in attendance. It was a beautiful service, the music was gorgeous and they ended with ‘O Holy Night.’

Our other friend from Africa also joined us. We all drove home, the baby fell asleep and Sava carried her upstairs, such a sweet Mother. Sava, her daughter and I shared a King bed. I slept so sweet on Christmas Eve. We woke up shared some coffee, breakfast and chats. Her husband has been teaching himself Sanskrit, they have over 5000 books in their library. They are fascinating to talk to. Needless to say, I am so happy I made new friends. I am so thankful for my international friends and colleagues they teach me so much.

I came home to David, whom had found two more cats.
One was discovered by David’s friend in the local dump on Christmas Eve. He is an orphan. David has taken the role of Momma cat. His name is Paul ..
The other cat was found the day before, Kasey.
I was angry, I didn’t think we should be taking more cats.

David reminded me, imagine being alone on the streets, cold, hungry, not sure who you can trust. In China many people will catch cats, fatten them up, only to eat them later.
& so the attachment has grown, I love these cats.
Our Christmas feast was Indian food.

Marvelous Christmas!

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Chinese Traditional Medicine

I bumped my knee during my 24 hours in Hong Kong. Heart monitor still strapped to my body.
As I settled into a chair to take a sip of Starbucks, ‘gingerbread latte,’ my knee cap slammed into the metal leg of my table. It ached for a splitting moment.

Usually I move around 16 or 17 times before I fall asleep. With the heart monitor, I had to control. This was the most difficult part. The following day I woke up with knee pain. I figured it would go just as quickly as it came.

A usual day, a Chinese Grandma invited Sarah and I over to stuff dumplings. She asked if we wanted coffee. In China coffee is a treat so we obliged. She served us durian coffee. Durian is the fruit which I have only had the pleasure of eating once. In Southeast Asia and China, many people love durian. In Singapore it is forbidden to open a durian, in public, without facing serious fines.
Durian coffee was easier to stomach hot, than cold. We drank a few sips and then inconspicuously drained our cup and filled it with water. My knee throbbed in and out.

I noticed a Buddha in glass casing, incense, and fruit surrounding. I asked Grandma if she were Buddhist? She said yes and we talked about studing Buddhism. David then called and said, ‘the Master was having a party that evening and would we like to go,’ and I said, ‘of course and can we invite this sweet Chinese Grandma?’

After a dumpling eating contest we all piled onto a bus and trekked up the mountain to see the Master.

During the Master’s party, I sat in lotus position for two and a half hours. My knee was not happy.

A week went by and my knee got progressively worse.
At this point I was tired of Chinese hospitals.

So David took me to a Chinese traditional doctor.

We walked through a garden, someone played a traditional Chinese instrument and birds danced around. I almost forgot I was in the city. To get to the front door we had to jump over a freshly dug trench separating the front stoop from the walk way. My knee was not happy.

We entered and a group of men were sharing tea and cigarettes. Looked me up and down. The biggest Chinese man I’ve ever encountered greeted us, the doctor. He touched my knee and found where the pain was, said it was the knee cap. He offered his services to fix it for $30.00. He said if I went to the hospital it would be $500.00. He sent david to get gauze wrap and went to work. He crushed powder in a crucible and presented an inflammable fresh pad. He sprinkled the crucible’s concoction on to the bottom of the pad, brown tar looking something and proceeded to fire the top part of the pad with a flame. He melted the whole thing down swirled it around and slapped it on to my knee cap. ‘Keep it there for four days.’

Afterwards, we told him about my heart.

‘Let’s go.’

He took me to his back room and gave me a brutal five minute massage. He massaged my back ribs five inches below my armpit. I cried into the face hole. I felt like someone was gnawing on raw bone. I told him, ‘too much pain.’ He would reply, ‘I know, I know,’ and would massage harder. Finally it was over, I wiped my eyes. He showed me how to do stretches in a doorway. He then showed me a yoga pose–tree pose, said I should do that daily. He said I need to massage more, knots are causing my arrhythmia.

While showing me how to do the tree pose, the men drinking tea and smoking, observed this entire exchange & were snickering to themselves.

Meanwhile my toe has also been numb for a month so we asked Doctor about that. he showed me how to put my leg into lotus position and push down.

The tar on my knee made it through the four days. It was difficult. It itched, stung, and got everywhere, ruined some pants. After four days I removed it with vaseline.

The knee pain lingers.

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Fear &Loathing in Shenzhen’s Sun Yat-sen Cardiovascular Hospital

Last year I noticed my ‘ticker’ seemed off.
& after a US doctor made it sound like, life or death, she wrote a referral for an EKG.
To which a lady in a clinic said, ‘you think you can just walk in off the street and demand an EKG? No, you need to establish a relationship with a doctor first.’ With less than two months before returning to China…I realized in China, I can do that.

I had two days off, David and I embarked.

At first glance, Sun Yat-sen Cardiovascular Hospital looked like a train station. Huge lines, windows open, and people waiting for their number to be called. I assumed we’d be here all day.

First I had to pay money to see a doctor, .16 cents.
Then I had to pay for a medical record booklet, .16 cents.
Then I had to go to a little room, plaster peeling, coming off, and wait in line to ‘talk to the doctor.’

She scribbled some things in my book, stamped here stamped there, asked me what the problem was, and sent us for an EKG.
First I had to pay .16 cents, insurance covered the rest of the $4.00, get a stamp and then have an EKG.
We walked clear across the hospital, found a nurse, and asked her to administer EKG.

EKG took less than a moment to complete.
We walked clear across the hospital to go talk to the doctor once again.
‘Arrhythmia,’ she said in beautiful English.
Now you need a 24/hour heart monitor.
Doctor wrote down her findings, stamped here, there, patted our bum and off we went.
First, I had to pay $10.00 for the 24 hour heart monitor, insurance covered the other $60.00.
Upstairs– to a room where black mold was claiming every wall.
‘Come back tomorrow.’

Tomorrow I was going to Hong Kong.

24 Hours with a heart monitor.

I received the heart monitor the following day at 9AM. The most uncomfortable sticky octopus ever. I would have to keep this on until 9AM the following day. So I had all these wires strapped to my torso and a little purse to carry the device. David called this a child’s ‘candy bag.’

With wires coming out of my shirt.. and going through customs to get into Hong Kong, I was worried.
For the entire day nobody noticed! I had no problems going through customs either.
Not sure how comfortable that makes me..

The following day I removed the octopus.
I had to wait three days for results.

Three days later,
‘Arrhythmia,’ The nurse said again, in perfect English and then spoke Chinese with David, barely acknowledging my presence until I said, ‘well problem arrhythmia, or no problem!?’
Chuckling and irritated the nurse replied, ‘YES PROBLEM! You need a thyroid function test and a cardiac ultrasound.’

The following week, David and I came back to the hospital. Paid our .16 cents to see the doctor, requested we have the tests after showing a different woman doctor all my records. She stamped here, there, patted our bum and sent us to the cashier. Insurance picked up $100.00, I paid $9.00.

Cardiac Ultrasound

We entered into a waiting room for the ultrasound. We could hear other peoples’ heart’s thumping on monitors, behind closed curtains. An old Chinese woman hobbled in, took a seat and began retching, coughing up guts and eventually spat on the floor. David and I could barely contain our laughter it was too ridiculous for words. We decided to go get my blood test taken care of. As I clutched David for dear life and looked where the needle was being placed, just above my tattoo, ‘the horror,’ I realized, David gave me tattoos with needles, why am I being squeamish? ‘Come back for the results in two hours,’ harked the nurse.

Meanwhile back at the ultrasound waiting place, we were taken into our own curtained room. ‘Is it convenient,’ the male practitioner asked David, as he lifted my shirt. As if to say, is it okay I lift your girlfriend’s shirt? The ultrasound was a little difficult to watch, I could see my heart struggling. My heart looked like an ant being stuck –something having tremendous difficulty. It was strange, I didn’t feel myself. Ultrasound was over as soon as it felt odd.

David and I took the results to the woman doctor. She said everything seems normal.
Afterward we went wandering for two hours awaiting thyroid results.

5:30PM, We returned, my results were waiting with the guard. The same guard who watches people come in and out of the hospital, was holding my results. They gave it to him because everyone was going home, the workday was over. He didn’t have my results though. Our phlebotomist forgot to send my blood to the lab. ‘Come back tomorrow.’

Today, David called me. Your blood is fine.

I told Sarah,
‘This is my ‘get out of jail free card.’

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Pig Bones & Huge Wisdom

Dedicated to– everyone who is averse to our furry friends.

After dinner, Anjing, David’s son, led me to the windowsill. He had been keeping pig bones for a dog he found this past week. David and Anjing named him 广慧 [Guang Hui] or Huge Wisdom.

So Pig Bones in hand, we made our way to Guang Hui’s home. I imagined a back alley with kids playing in it and Guang Hui behind a fence watching them.

I imagined wrong.

We made our way down a hill and while walking beside barbed wire, Anjng got up on his slippered tippy-toes and sweetly begged Guang Hui to reveal himself. Emerging on a sewer top in chains was Huge Wisdom. We couldn’t climb over the barbed wire fence so we walked around–a large skyscraper office building to the back where the King of the Dump lives.

Peering up at Guang Hui from the bottom was a hill of broken glass. We stepped over thick coils of wire, broken glass, broken tiles, a broken windshield, take out boxes, chopsticks, plastic bags and balanced ourselves against a papaya tree. Guang Hui eyed us expectantly, ‘What took you so long? I’ve been expecting you.’ Even though Anjing met him just this week Guang Hui already responds to the name. David gingerly passed him the pig bones while Anjing and I called out to his Majesty, Huge Wisdom.

Guang Hui sits atop a sewer and has about 4 feet by 4 feet to run around while chained. Who knows how often he is fed or walked. He’s a small German Shepard mix. We called out to him as we walked back up the hill adjacent to the barbed wire fence. He cocked his head exerting Huge Wisdom.

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Slop vs. 40%

Slop:

My first encounter with ‘slop,’ happened in the first school I taught at, two years ago, Longhua Middle School. Lunch consisted of sifting through vegetables and bits of meat avoiding as much bone as possible. Once during lunch, a coworker offered, ‘you know they feed leftovers to the pigs.’ ‘What!?’ ‘Yeah, nothing’s wasted here.’

Lunch here is like anywhere else, when finished eating, you are shuffled to a ‘trashcan,’ containing only food waste. I used to assume this was a general trashcan and would throw my tissue in as well. Now, I fully understand just what this container entails. Slop.

One Saturday morning I went downstairs to do my laundry. Rounded the backside of the school canteen and found my washing machine. Threw in my articles and rounded the corner yet again, this time I was confronted with a cart full of blue tubs and a man. The man’s hands were inside the tub searching for contents unsuitable for pig-feed, so I assumed. Of all the jobs I’ve seen people do, in China, this makes top five. He had a total of five buckets to comb through and a getaway cart to deliver slop.

I now understand the importance of not letting utensils drop in with the waste. Once I dropped my chopsticks, one coworker, said, ‘no, there’s no hope.’ I quickly plucked the sticks out with very little harm.

Slop comes in other forms too. Sometimes I see big dumps of food lay drying on sidewalks. I am not sure if people will later consume this or not.

Saturday mornings and some evenings I often see slop delivery men making the rounds. Both the smell & blue buckets residing on the cart give these men away.

No food left behind.

I have found out why Chinese people treasure meat so much, back during food shortages [Cultural Revolution] nobody had any meat. David told me one of his happiest memories involves meat. One night, David’s dad brought home some noodles with little bits of meat for the family to share. David was eight. During this time tofu became a staple.

I also found out why birthdays are so overlooked. The only thing a child got for his or her birthday was one egg.

40%:

I’ve read numerous reports saying, ‘in the US, we waste 40% of food.’ According to CNN, ‘$165 billion a year in waste.’ Many grocery stores and restaurants lock their trashcans so vagrants can’t make use of wasted food.

I respect, I understand, and I salute slop.

http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/22/40-of-u-s-food-wasted-report-says/

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Emily Post’s, ‘Etiquette’

Inside a park, not so crowded, David and I had a hike.
Considering the amount of people in China, this park was fairly secluded.
At different points David and I were lone climbers.

We rested at a pagoda, us being the only ones inside, &began a conversation about manners–
David told me it’s unnatural for Chinese to say, ‘thank you, excuse me, etc,’ people will think it odd/too formal.
I told him, my father read a book of manners when he was about eleven or twelve to further educate himself regarding etiquette. David was surprised and remarked at the maturity my father possessed.

As we delved deeper into certain manners, apparent in both western and eastern culture, Grandparents stomped over, directly next to us.
Tugging their granddaughter’s pants down –proceeded to make swishing water sounds for granddaughter to relieve her, two years old, bladder.

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