Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What's That? Wednesday: Acupuncture and TCM

The circles are from the cupping.
Jamie recently had his first TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) experience.  I threatened him with the prospect of writing a guest blog post, but we compromised and I interviewed him instead!

What made you seek out acupuncture (a form of TCM)?

I had a very sore back and neck for over two weeks and if I had been in the US, I would have gone to a chiropractor.

Before you went, what your expectations?

I didn’t know if it would be like a spa, a small room, or a big room full of people.  Because it was a Sunday and the doctor’s day off, I did know that I would be the only patient there.  And, I was grateful the doctor came in on his day off to treat me!  I was expecting needles and maybe cycle through some movements.  Instead, I showed the doctor where the pain was and he used his thumb, like a needle, to dig into the sore spots.

Tell me about the facility.

It was like a medical clinic.  There was a seating area, a check-in room and I took the elevator to the second floor to the TCM room.  The therapy room was an older, white room with windows that opened up to the busy street below.  There were mats or beds, almost like massage tables, lined up.  On the wall there were really cool, old acupuncture anatomical charts.  The desk had equipment lined up on it.

What kind of treatment did you receive?

The doctor and our friend that had arranged the treatment, had already talked about what pain I had been experiencing.  I took my shirt off and pointed to the spot.  The doctor draped a sheet over me and poked around until he found the spots where it hurt.  He mapped out the points along my neck, shoulder, and hand.  The doctor then put pressure along those points, let go, and tapped in a needle and then twisted.  He put 5 or 6 in my back and a couple in my arm.  The doctor, who only spoke Chinese, wanted to talk to my friend who had arranged the treatment, to see if I was okay with the needles being hooked up to electrodes.  Because I was lying on my side with needles sticking out of me, my driver laid the cell phone on my ear so I could talk to my friend.  I told the doctor it was okay, so he hooked up electrodes to the needles and turned up the current until it was really uncomfortable and ran the current for about 25-30 minutes.

I have visions of the experiments we did in high school with the frog legs and an electrical current! What did the current feel like and did it hurt?  

It forced my muscle to excite and then eventually it was exhausted and relaxed.  It hurt to a certain degree; it was uncomfortable.  (Interviewer’s note: at this point Jamie flicked my arm to make his point...thanks so much honey!)

Was there blood?

Yes, when the needles were pulled out and the doctor used alcohol swabs to clean them.

Did you receive any other treatment?

The doctor also took bamboo cups, held them over a flame to heat them up, and then covered the areas that had had the needles.  He left those on for 20-25 minutes.

Was it immediate relief?

Yes, it was.  I wasn’t as tense and knotted up.  About a week after the last treatment I felt considerably better.

Were you sore afterwards?

Yes, like a good workout.

How many times did you go?

Four times for the whole treatment.

Did anything shock or surprise you?

The doctor smoked during the treatment!

Would you recommend TCM?  

Yes, I would recommend this specific doctor or the recommendation from a reputable source.

What was the cost for all 4 treatments?

200 RMB (about $32 USD)

What were the doctor’s follow-up instructions?


Thanks to Jamie for being a good sport and letting me interview him on the high speed train to Beijing when he would have rather been doing something else!

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to Spot a China Day and other Useful Information

Most of my blog posts tend to be on the informational side, as in “we saw this, ate here, went there.”  But, this post is pure emotion.  As I’ve mentioned before in some of my previous posts, we learned in our cultural training that living overseas brings “higher highs and lower lows”.  Sometimes those lows include a “China Day.”

Everyone’s definition of a China Day is different.  Mine can include one or more of the following:

Tears (my personal favorite and spiritual gift)
Frustration with the language/local customs/performing day-to-day tasks
Homesickness or loneliness
Lack of patience when an easy task suddenly turns into a major ordeal
Experiencing changes, new people moving in and old friends repatriating to their home countries
Lack of sleep, it just makes everything a little more dramatic

China has a lot of people...waiting to go to
the top of the Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

Most of my China Days seem to sneak up on me.  For example, I was trying to book our hotel for Hong Kong Disney last fall and couldn’t get our credit card to work.  Disney is supposed to be one of the happiest places on earth and the poor woman at the hotel thought I was having an emotional breakdown on the phone (oh wait, I really was) because they couldn’t take my credit card and blamed it on the credit card company and vice-versa.  Or, the time I was walking through the Japanese supermarket alone before Christmas and heard Christmas carols and just about lost it by the Nutella aisle.

We did make it to Disney!

That said, I have not cried about China in a very long time, but I think I feel one on the horizon.  How do I know?  

I have been a little teary-eyed (but no full-on bawling…yet).
I have not been back to mainland US in about 10 months (enough said).
I really, really want to see my grandparents (sometimes Skype just doesn’t cut it).
Friends have moved, are getting ready to move or new friends have arrived and it just means lots and lots of changes.
I don’t know if we’ll be able to go home at Christmas as a family.
I suddenly have an urge to run, a lot.  I got on the treadmill yesterday and my personal best after starting to run again 3 weeks ago was 2 twelve-minute runs.  I just went full-on and ran 21 minutes straight and could have kept on going.I also may or may not have a strong desire to raid my secret stash of dark chocolate.

It's always good to have a secret stash!  Click here to
read about the start of my chocolate stash.

What has kept me from coming totally unglued is my foundational beliefs which are built on solid ground and not shifting sand (catch my drift?).  I also completely understand that even if we were in the US, I would have crummy days.  Life would catch up with me and there would be days where I would feel stressed, tired, emotional, and changes would continue to happen all around me.

My friends back home have asked if it possible for them to have a China Day, too.  The answer is yes! Claim it, own it, and move on.

P.S. I wrote this post about 2 1/2 weeks ago and to cure the impending China Day, I got to go back to the US!  More about that visit to come in a future post.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Another Shopping Adventure, the Wuxi Flea Market

The words “flea market,” in my mind, conjure up images of roadside tables or open-air markets where people sell their knick-knacks, rare finds, and cast-offs.  In China though,  flea markets are taken to a whole new level.

I'm not sure exactly what is on Floor 2, but I'm sure that
"Small articles of daily" and "Horological glasses" are
what I have been missing from my China journey.

A walkway between the huge buildings.

Now I know where to find the
largest stockpile of reusable bags.
Try to imagine a mall, dollar store and a few buildings that look like they belong at the state fair, and I think you have a pretty good idea what the Wuxi flea market looks like.  There are 4 or 5 massive buildings with several floors housing any and everything you might or might not need   Clothes, luggage, pottery and ceramics, cleaning supplies, pantyhose, artificial flowers, jewelry, hair accessories, clocks and electronics and many other things. It is one of the most overwhelming places I have ever been.

Pottery shop

So pretty!

Looking down one of the long, long hallways.

Just a few pots and pans to choose from.

Office supplies

Artificial flowers

A few Chinese essentials: wedding envelopes,
door hangers, and all things red.

Although the goods are grouped together (and there are signs in both English and Chinese), I really have no idea how people figure out where to shop for things.  Thankfully, a few of the women I went with had been there before!

Anyone catch what these signs say?

We were all looking for different things, one mother wanted jewelry, nail polish and trinkets for her daughter’s birthday party goodie bags.  Another mom wanted stickers and supplies for her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.  Another woman in our group was looking for Chinese ceramics, and I needed a wig (for my sister-in-law’s Halloween costume) and an iPad cover. 

A whole wing of this building was devoted to wigs.

After a few hours of looking, searching, and discovering, we left feeling pretty proud of ourselves. To reward ourselves, we even picked up a few extra items we didn’t know we needed!