Visit from a student

July 28, 2014
1 Comment

My student, Nancy, came to visit me.  She rode her electric bicycle all the way to Tunxi from her home in a rural part of Xiuning.  The day before, we’d had a big dinner party with all LJL’s best friends and their wives.  We’d been too tired to clean up afterwards, so in our living room, the makeshift table (a wooden board propped up on my two big suitcases, with a yoga mat on either side) was still covered in dirty dishes.

Just before Nancy arrived, I had opened a very exciting email (scholarship!), so when she got here, I needed to make some phone calls and fill out some paperwork.  As I did this, she washed all the dishes.  Then, she scrubbed the kitchen.  And the “table.”  Of course I told her several times not to do this, but she was very insistent, and I was too preoccupied to physically stop her.

At lunch, we went to eat hotpot with LJL.  “What did you guys do this morning?”  Well, I made some phone calls, read details about the scholarship, filled out forms, etc., and she cleaned our house.

He was kind of embarrassed, but when he got home later that night and saw how sparkling clean everything was, and I explained to him what the student had said when I’d been trying to stop her (“when I go to other people’s houses I always make myself at home and start touching things and cleaning them.  I know it’s rude, but it’s just my personality.  So I never let myself go to anyone’s house unless it’s a really good friend”) he said I should invite her over any time I want, and to tell her 不客气, no need to be polite, clean anything you want!

In exchange for all of her labor, I taught her how to bake cake, and let her take home a big red velvet cake (but no icing) and a batch of cupcakes.  She said she’s pretty bored at home and was very happy to come out to Tunxi to see me.

I guess she was pretty happy, because the next day she came knocking at our door just to say hi again!


Posted in Uncategorized

Market in the rain

July 22, 2014
1 Comment

Although it was raining, LJL’s mom was intent on making us dumplings. So, the three of us walked to the market together to get supplies. In the morning, the 菜市场 is a bustling place, but by noon and after, only the three biggest vegetable stalls are still even open. And you have to wake the boss up to weigh your vegetables.


On a rainy day, the sleepy feeling is exaggerated, but so to are the bright colors of the vegetables and grocery bags under the old, patched tent.


Posted in Uncategorized

World Cup

July 22, 2014
1 Comment

I know I’m late on this one. I kept putting it off because I thought I would actually go to a World Cup viewing, and then I’d have something more specific to write. But on the last day of the World Cup, I started having that ominous pre-cold feeling, and yesterday was the first day I was fully recovered. But enough excuses, here’s the deal:

Although it is widely known in China that basketball is the best sport, The World Cup is still a pretty big deal. At least three different places in Tunxi had huge screens set up outside to project the games live. Given the time difference,  games were at midnight, 2, and 4 am. In the evening, various food and beer vendors would start setting up their booths, and then they’d be out there till morning, selling beer and meat kabobs.

In addition to the giant screens, there were advertisements all over, and multinational strings of flags along streets in the walking and shopping districts.

world cup flags in Tunxi

It’s too bad I didn’t make it to a World Cup viewing, but then again, last World Cup I was in Paris, things were way crazier, and I did absolutely nothing about it then, too.  I think it’s kind of becoming a tradition.

Posted in Uncategorized

Recipe for a cold remedy

July 17, 2014

So, I’ve come down with a cold.  Luckily, I rather like the local summer cold remedy:

In a saucepan, boil water.  Add some slices of ginger, chunks of 冰糖 (rock candy) and sliced, 雪梨 (pears).  After removing from heat, add a ladle of 枇杷膏 (loquat paste).

Stir, and enjoy.

Posted in Uncategorized

A trip to a Chinese hospital

July 16, 2014
Leave a Comment

Today, I accompanied someone to get a consultation at the 黄山市人民医院 (Huangshan City People’s Hospital).  I’ve spent a lot of time in small hospitals and clinics here, between shadowing at the 万安 village clinic and the fifty women I recruited to interview at the 屯溪区人民医院 (Tunxi District People’s Hospital).  But let me tell you, the 黄山市人民医院 is a whole different animal.

As soon as you walk in the door, the lobby is just flooded with people, all pushing up to the information desk.  There, nurses (at least that’s how they’re dressed–they might just be receptionists) ask you what you’re here for, and then they give you a little slip of paper with the location you should go to and a number.  We got there just at opening and were given number 16 for 普通外科.

“What did they give us?”

“General surgery.”

“If we use that, this is gonna be slow and expensive.  Come on, let’s go find my doctor.”

And off we went into the hospital, number 16 slip stuffed into my pocket where it would remain, unused, for the rest of the visit.  We wandered around until we found X主任, apparently a pretty high-up guy in general surgery.  He was sitting on a wooden bench in the back of an office room, smoking.

He wasn’t the only one.  In this office, at least three of the other ten or so doctors were also already well into their cigarettes. (When I told this to LJL, he laughed and said that when he was there yesterday, everyone single doctor in the room was smoking. “I was glad you weren’t there to see it.”  “Well, I really wanted to scold them today, but unfortunately we needed their medical opinion”)

The doctor, unruffled at being approached in his office with neither appointment nor warning, looked over some test results for us (“基本上正常, 基本上正常”: basically normal).

“But don’t these values indicate xxxxx?” Said I, reading a long and complicated Chinese name (granted it’s no more complicated than the English equivalent, just less familiar) of a medical condition that I’d written in my notebook.

“They do.  But it’s not dangerous.”

“Well the patient’s having xy symptoms.  Couldn’t that be caused by this condition?”

“Well then, you can try this medicine and see if it gets better.”

And he got up to see us to the door.

“Don’t you need to write a prescription?”

“I could do that, but then you’d have to pay for it.  They’ll have the medicine in the pharmacy across the street.  Just ask for it.”

So that’s what we did, and they did have it and sold it to us no questions asked.  And although it’s not an addictive substance and has no recreational uses, there is no way this is over the counter in the US.

At first, I was horrified.  But, but, but, anyone could just come and get this and use it unnecessarily or improperly!  But then I realized that those who live in a country with over the counter guns are in no position to argue that antibiotics or arthritis meds should be treated any differently.

Posted in Uncategorized


July 16, 2014
Leave a Comment

Walking back from the bus stop, though the housing complex, I noticed that one of the houses on the third floor had two giant bamboo rods, with all the little bamboo twigs still attached, propped up in their 阳台 (balcony area where you hang clothes to dry).  The ends of the two bamboo poles were hanging over the edge pretty far–enough that I wouldn’t walk anywhere near there on a windy day.

Now, I’ve seen bamboo used for just about everything, definitely including hanging clothes on a 阳台, but I’d never seen bamboo with all the little twigs still on it like this, and the orientation of the poles was not at all conducive to hanging clothing.

So, I pointed it out to LJL’s mom, “look at how those people have two trees hanging on their balcony!” (I wasn’t wearing my glasses and didn’t even recognize it as bamboo with all the twigs) “What do you think they’re using them for?”

“They’re just trying to drive away ghosts.”

When she said they were trying to 赶鬼, I heard perfectly clearly but asked a few more questions to make sure I that there wasn’t some other, more mundane (to me, at least) homophone I was mistaking for “drive away ghosts.”


“Maybe things aren’t going smoothly in the family.”

“How so?” (I was very curious about what kind of problems Chinese ghosts are known to cause.)

“People in the family are probably having some kinds of problems, like maybe someone’s sick, or lost a job.”

“So, a bad ghost is giving them trouble, and they put the bamboo there to make it go away?”


“Oh, okay.”

Posted in Uncategorized


July 15, 2014

I discovered a Chinese TV drama that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone but myself. It’s called Male OB, and is about these two young men who are obstetricians and all the flack that they get about it. Although it doesn’t seem to be particularly medically accurate, it’s a good way to practice Chinese listening skills. Especially for a Chinese learner with a disproportionately large OB vocabulary.

Posted in Uncategorized

Two more foods

July 15, 2014
Leave a Comment

I didn’t want this to become too food-blog-ish, so I took a break from logging my cooking.  I do want to share these two photos of creations from the past two weeks.

Beer battered onion rings.


And biscuits and gravy.IMG_1039

Posted in Uncategorized

Butter is back

July 13, 2014
Leave a Comment

Over the years, butter comes and butter goes.  As it turns out, butter has a very long shelf life, so the strategy of the local supermarket 大润法 seems to be to get a stock of thirty or so sticks of butter once year.  That wouldn’t last long in any busy supermarket in America, but in China, it lasts a good number of months.  And when it’s gone, you’ve just got to wait until the next time (maybe a year later) when they decide to order again.

If I were more enterprising, perhaps I’d have started a baking class, teaching people the gospel of ovens and butter, in an effort to increase demand and secure a reliable butter source for myself and future 外教.  But I’ve never been much of the missionary type.

Posted in Uncategorized

Typing homophones

July 11, 2014
1 Comment

The pinyin input program on my computer is mildly intelligent.  It knows common character combinations, and which characters are more common and which are rare, so it tends to make pretty good suggestions about what characters I have in mind as I type the sounds.  It has figured out that I write a lot about obstetrics.

When I first started transcription, I kept having to go back and correct sentences like this:


(This is my second too.  The doctor said the excited was wrapped around the neck twice.)

The transliteration of “excited/looking forward” and “umbilical cord” are identical.  As are “fetus” and “so/too.”

Now, my computer is very well adapted to typing obstetrical terms, which is great, as long as I don’t want to send any personal emails.  If I’m not careful, this is what happens to my emails nowadays:


(I’m very umbilical cord bake cookies tonight! It will be fetus delicious!)


Posted in Uncategorized
Next Page »