Wednesday, July 17, 2013

First: Do No Harm

It's a national pastime in America to think about our weight in a self-detrimental, non-constructive manner.We've made weight synonymous with both health and beauty and, by in large, have agreed to these definitions either via active participation in stereotyping or by complacency. Perhaps at no place have we accepted this more than at the doctor's office. At the doctor's office, a cure for any ailment a fat person has is diet, exercise, and subsequent weight loss. Broken leg? Lose some weight. Trouble sleeping? Lose some weight. High blood pressure? Lose some weight. AIDs? Lose some weight. Or my shining moment: Getting enough exercise and cutting chemicals? Lose some weight just for the funsies. This might seem extreme or funny, but if you've ever been to into the doctor's office and experienced tis, you know what I'm talking about. And you should know that prescribing weight loss for all medical conditions is unfair and unsafe. If a thin person entered a doctor's office with any of the aforementioned ailments, she would be given adequate and proper medical treatment. If she had high blood pressure, her doctor would start her on a regimen designed to lower it, and that progress -- the "progress" of weight loss -- would be monitored. In the end, either her blood pressure would lower or her doctor would work on a different regimen. She would not be made to feel like she was the failure, nor would she be told that there was anything wrong with her outside of having high blood pressure (unless, of course, she suffered from another medical condition). Her doctor would, most likely, be positive and supportive throughout the process and sympathetic if it failed.

So what do you do when your doctor only sees you as a number on a scale that needs to be lowered before you can be medically assessed as a member of the human race? Ragen Chastiain, tremendous fat activist and fellow blogger, suggests that you demand your doctor show you evidence that what he is prescribing has been proven effective in the majority of people to cure your ailment. If your doctors prescribes weight loss, demand to see evidence that long-term weight loss (weight loss lasting 5+ years) is possible in the majority of cases. He will not be able to show you this evidence, because it has "worked" for only about 5% of people. Now, if your doctor is like my doctor, he will still insist that weight loss is necessary. This is when you've got to strap on your biggest pair and self-advocate. Demand to be given the same advice and expertise he would give to his thin patients. Demand shame-free health care. Remind your doctors that obesity and stress correlate with pretty much exactly the same illnesses and diseases. Point out that he is causing undue stress. In the end, it's your healthcare and ultimately your health. If your doctor refuses to handle it with care and dignity, find a doctor who will. Here is a site to find doctors that practice Health at Every Size and will see past the weight loss to the actual medicine.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Most Horrible Thing Yet

In case you were under any delusions about living abroad, it really, truly isn't easy. Here are some lows to keep all the great things I post about in perspective.

1. Me, Myself, and You Until we met up with a couple from Albany who happen to work with a handful of other westerners, Jake and I were pretty much like the children from Flowers in the Attic, only less extreme. Namely, we only associated with each other, which can get tiresome and difficult.

2. Rain Stinks Literally. After it rains the sewers actually fester with excess liquid and the city smells like literal shit.

3. Ça va? The guy who stands at the sometimes-open, sometimes-closed gate to our building is very friendly. I thought he said "Ça va?" yesterday, and I got so excited that he spoke French because maybe I could have a conversation with him. He didn't say ça va. He said something in Chinese.

4. Bacon Everything, friggin everything here is made out of pork than wrapped in bacon.

5. Grease Beware the restaurants because 10% of fried food in QHD is fried in "gutter oil." Gutter oil is pretty much like it sounds. It's recycled oil that's been dumped out, picked up, and quasi-filtered to be reused again. Unfortunately, you can't tell by looking at it. You can only sometimes tell be the taste or if you end up with some pretty awful stomach pain.

6. Tiny Zoo World The sheer amount of animals in cages being sold by street side vendors is horrific. Dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, guinea pigs, monkeys, and various rodents are packed into tiny cages where they don't have enough space to differentiate between their eating area and their bathroom area.

7. Landfill There is sooooooo much trash here. Just piled on the sides of the roads. Sometimes it gets picked up. Sometimes it doesn't. Consequently there are some ROUSes (rodents of unusual sizes) and, needless to say, an epic stench.

8. Mr. Brown Can Poo, Can You? Squatters are difficult. And squatters are smelly. Because most of the piping is very old, it doesn't accommodate toilet paper. Ergo, people put their toilet paper in waste baskets next to the squatters. You can imagine the smell.

9. Loogies It's just a thing here. People hock the up and spit them out all over the place. One guy, an employee at the office where we got our resident permit, just held his trash bin up to his face so he didn't have to lean over.

10. The Most Horrible Thing Yet (not for the faint of heart) Yesterday, I saw a white, homeless cat with no back legs being chased onto a busy street by at least three dogs. I don't know if the dogs were homeless. I could tell that the cat was dirty and clearly not cared for. They bit at its neck and the cat hissed and tried to fight back. I wanted to go get the cat but then I realized this terrible truth: there are no animal shelters here. I would have had nowhere to bring the cat. I couldn't stay because I was so overwrought with myriad emotions. I don't know what happened to the cat, but I have a pretty good guess.

The White Man Cometh

Here's the thing abut being a privileged minority in a city full of people who realize your privilege and your minority status: you stick out like a sore thumb while simultaneously remaining damn near invisible. I was sitting on the front porch of Holiland, enjoying my raising bread, yogurt, and coffee, agonizing over how the myriad passersby would interpret my lunch. The fat American eating at Western-oriented establishment: was I their living stereotype? Was I eating too fast? Were crumbs gathering on the top of my too-big-for-China chest? Then I looked around. Of course I was their living stereotype. I was the only western-looking person there. So, they didn't care if I was patronizing a more Western establishment because they were, too. And further more, the relative anonymity of my pseudo-celebrity status made me more of an amorphous blob than anything else. Fat, thin, tall, short: these were all trivial details when compared to my white skin an the freckles that mark it with endless connect-the-dots.

I was sitting at my table during lunch time, semi-reclined, my feet resting, comfortably crosses, on the seat of the chair in front of me, just waiting for someone to confront me or sneer. Lazy entitled American drinking coffee and eating sweat breads at a Western café with her feet up on the furniture: Stop being such a cliché.

I was peering out from under my big sunglasses at the two people sitting at the table across from mine trying to assess if they were a couple -- he was leaning back in his chair and she was talking angrily to someone on the other end of the line. I was waiting for a stare, a point, a shared whisper in Mandarin, but I cared more about them than they cared about me. I was just the faceless white person, cloaked behind the sunglasses and the coffee. I was a spectacle. I am a spectacle. A walking, talking pale face who elicits reactions as dynamic as a shout of "Hello!" and the inevitable accompanying giggle to reactions as inane as seeing a black ant on the ground. Their ant hill, my mountain.

I was walking with four other westerners -- a group, a hoard -- down a city street at night carrying boxes from Pizza Hut. The power implicit when walking with others was undeniable, but maybe that power was more than just the camaraderie experienced when walking with people who have the shared experience of being white. Maybe that power came from somewhere deeper, somewhere more historically animalistic where my kind normally ends up on top. "We must be quite the spectacle," I said aloud. I didn't feel feared nor did I feel on display. But I did feel that, with our small mob, we were cohesive, strong, and authoritative.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Google Translator Needs a Translator

I think I solved the mystery of who translated the incomprehensible signs at the ocean Jake and I found a couple weeks ago: Google Translator. I was searching for restaurants in QHD and some of the Google translations were so terrible that I felt the need to share the amusement with you, the people I love.

"Local dishes like a museum, not a flagship seafood flavor but better." Better than the flagship flavor?

"Spanish mackerel dumplings like to eat here."I shall keep an eye out for them next time. 

"Business is a very good place and we had almost or full twelve passengers. That is a little heavy oil." Sounds it.

"Very affordable amount of foot, travelling by car this time to eat a meal, is the ordinary mushrooms are delicious and Sam Sun. And clean after eating stomach without any uncomfortable situation." I was unaware one could, in fact, eat stomach comfortably. 

"Fewer people really go to the point of things too much, really eat ah dumpling pattern particularly, seafood stuffing a lot of options, but the water is not good to eat saucer head, but not so much more tired or more people to value." Who you calling saucer head?

This got me thinking, what else to Google Translator butcher?

A hotel review: "Room, a bit of old hardware, services quite intimate." Some nails for getting nailed.

A hotel review: "Beach is sandy, still okay." I mean, yeah, generally. I would be more considered if the beach WEREN'T sandy...

A hotel review: "Although we most always choose the free exercise, but confined to economic conditions, or will try to save costs, so that was good value for money with every penny." Glad you put that bit in about the exercise. Also glad that this was the first sentence and that you started with such a clear point.

A hotel review: "So far, end of the trip, recalling stay experience, people may feel reluctant to really have some dismay."  I, too, am also generally reluctant to have dismay.

A hotel review: "The hotel is to fall back on in Dongshan beach side balcony in the room will be able to gaze into the distance in front of the sea, Zhenshaotaosheng sleep at night, do not have some fun." It probably won't be fun if the hotel falls beach side.

A hotel review: "Overall, the hotel was quite satisfied with the level of service. Although the city is not, do not count on the original by the cold on the line, but after all, the hotel is in the tourist city, through the world, also see trained." Good to be confident, hotel! You'll get there, city!

A hotel review: "Just before the trip to the hotel, was under the car, the bellboy to help us Lakaichemen long agile, deftly write down the license plate number of the taxi and put the cards left us a note, and enthusiasm to help us carry luggage. We can observe that Porter was not the kind of utilitarian overly enthusiastic." Well, you said no fun.

A hotel review: "People look at some of the hotel group with such grace, firmly entangle my other hotel control ah." Get a room.

A hotel review: "Hair carefully placed in the black velvet bag, then placed in the wash basin below." What?

Tourist attraction review: "Others went to dinner once, because it went to Beidaihe beginning thought it a go. After it was fond to be a more suitable cultivation Nandai place, the whole is a bathing beach, where the sean can wash bath, massage and a great seaside entertainment is hotel accommodation in general." Couldn't agree more.

Tourist attraction review: "Existing neighborhoods chaotic, dirty, poor and beautiful beaches formed no small contrast, good mood impact is not small." It's absolutely ENORMOUS!

Tourist attraction review: "Wash seaweed, sand will play with the waves, the sun will be the sun." Good to have a plan.

Tourist attraction review: "Good like that submarine lying on the glass corridor seems that the people are integrated into the underwater world of mermaids performing a specific time as well as if there are fish feeding show white whale performances but occupying a seat in advance Oh" Good like that submarine? No, no, no. GREAT like that submarine!


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Juicy: We Owe Yourself

The tee shirts here are really priceless. I'd like to send a message to all Chinese people that English-speaking people don't normally wear shirts that say any of the following:

Juicy: We Owe Yourself
Deeply Loves the Live
I Blow a Long Time
Sunshine Sun Girl
                                                         or anything with made up French words

But here's my segue, because this blog is actually about work: My students don't wear these ridiculous
tee shirts. Excepting for a very small handful of students who make me feel like I'm back in special education, in that I'm constantly prompting, pulling, and otherwise prying for information, most of my students are really energetic, motivated people who make the three hours I have them in class wiz by. Most of them are anxious to tell me things about Qinhuangdao, to offer advice, or to tell me what I should eat. When I told Louise that I don't eat pork and that's been a challenge because the streets in QHD are practically paved in it, she looked really confused and said, "You have a special diet," like it was an anomaly. Then, just like in My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding she said, "You eat lamb?"

Next week I have a new boy who as of yet does not have an English name. My schedule in fact reads "New Boy." I asked Helen jokingly if that was his name and she sort of frowned. She might think I'm a bit daft. She informed me that he didn't have an English name and that we would have to give him one. The names at Ao Jia run the gamut from totally normal - Lucy, Louise, Martin, Mark, Cindy, Diana - to  kind of out there - Lambert, Ran, Romy - to downright weird - Victory. (Victory is Jake's student, which I regret because I don't get to shout, "Victory is mine!" whenever he has class.) Here are my current top choices:


I'm accepting both feedback and votes. Voting is open on the home page.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's All About Who You Know

Our friend Liz lent us a book about understanding Chinese culture and in it the author mentions that nepotism is a common occurrence in China. Say what you will, it not only got Jake, myself, one of our students, Louise, and her cousin into Nandaihe Amusement Center for free, we also got to skip all the lines, and use a golf cart for free to get around the expansive park. Evidently Louise's cousins mom was high school friends with the park manager, so instead of paying the normal park entrance - rather a lot - we just walked right in. Let me tell you, amusement parks are significantly more amusing when you don't have to pay for them.

Nandaihe is pretty much your typical amusement park, except that, instead of a water park there's an ocean and instead of a water slide there's a sand slide. Cascading down a steep hill of sand in eighty degree heat may not sound that great, but I assure you: it's damn fun. Just make sure you have your sturdy sand toboggan.

Another first for Jake and myself today was the lovechild of bungee-jumping and parasailing. Dawning gear that looks like it has double usage at potato sack races, Chinese workers tightened strings, hooked caribiners,  and soon we were watching our shadows on the ground get smaller and smaller as a machine hoisted us towards the sky. Jake pulled the cord, doing his best Aladdin impression. "Do you trust me? Do you trust me?" Then woosh! A smooth cut through the air and we were flying.

But it was the ride home that was really the highlight of my day. My clothes soaked with sweat, I piled in the backseat of Louise's cousin's parent's car with Louise, her cousin, and her cousin's mom, who perched her small frame on her son's lap. A teacher herself, she was anxious to practice her English, and eager to insist she show us more of the city. "Beidahe by night," Louise translated, "is very beautiful. We will go someday."