Towards the end of September, on one particularly nice Friday afternoon, I suddenly came with a fever. I went home to get some more sleep.
Photo by DooogwoooD on Flickr
My wife got home and proceeded to freak out. To the Chinese, a fever is serious, much more so than a cold. Somewhere in the Chinese psyche there’s a line about “fevers kill people” and modern medicine has yet to edit that line. My wife wanted to take me to the hospital that night.
I didn’t see what the big deal was. Our honeymoon to Turkey was coming up the following week, but I felt confident I would quickly get over whatever little bug I had caught. I didn’t remember ever going to the hospital for a fever growing up, and I had a few fevers back in the day. My mom also never seemed overly concerned when it happened. To me, fevers just meant temporary discomfort. I even thought they were kind of cool, the human body’s rather “creative” way of trying to burn its invaders.
> Theoretically, fever has been conserved during evolution because of its advantage for host defense. There are certainly some important immunological reactions that are sped up by temperature, and some pathogens with strict temperature preferences could be hindered. The overall conclusion seems to be that both aggressive treatment of fever and too little fever control can be detrimental. This depends on the clinical situation, so careful assessment is needed.
> Fevers may be useful to some extent since they allow the body to reach high temperatures. This causes an unbearable environment for some pathogens. White blood cells also rapidly proliferate due to the suitable environment and can also help fight off the harmful pathogens and microbes that invaded the body.
Photo by Tinn Tian on Flickr
But when my fever didn’t go down, my wife called her mom and they started group worrying. I was afraid my mother-in-law might even come over. So to spare the womenfolk their worrying, I agreed to go to the hospital that night. Unsurprisingly, I was given an antibiotic IV, and also a shot in the butt (just below the waist, really) to make the fever go down. Over the weekend I started feeling better. I went back to work on Monday feeling like I had a normal cold.
Then Tuesday I woke up with another fever. I called in sick. My fever went back down by that evening. I felt OK Wednesday.
Thursday was the day we left for Turkey. Over the night I came down with a fever again, and had horrible fever nightmares all night. They were horrible not because they were scary, but because they were maddening, like a kind of unsolvable logic puzzle that nevertheless had to be solved. It was something about building an ever-changing machine out of steel and fur that contained all the functions necessary to allow me to get to Turkey. Every time I thought I had my furry device complete, it would change, thwarting my departure to Turkey over and over and over again.
When my wife found out I had a fever of 39.2°C/103°F (again), she flipped out. She was upset not because she was afraid we couldn’t go to Turkey that night, but because I had a fever for the third time, and it was so “high.” She thought I was dying of some mysterious disease.
I explained to her that I actually felt OK, that I had had higher fevers before and never even went to the hospital, but she wasn’t having it. Secretly, I was wondering if those heat detectors at the airport set up during the SARS scare would detect my fever. Reason told me I had better not try to get on an international flight with a fever. Curiosity wanted to just try it (yeah, curiosity can be kind of dumb sometimes).
So that afternoon I was back at the hospital, luggage in tow and plane tickets in hand, for another IV and another shot in the butt. My wife had the hilarious idea of getting my IV “to go” and doing the drip in a taxi on the way to the airport, then ditching the bag at the terminal. Unsurprisingly, the doctor didn’t go for that scheme.
My first five days in Turkey involved dutifully taking my medicine three times a day and my wife frequently feeling my skin for signs of a fever (that got interesting after I got a sunburn in Cappadocia). Still, it was an amazing trip to Turkey.
> You can teach your Chinese wife to skank to old Less Than Jake tunes, but you can’t make her really enjoy it.
OK, I’ll admit, I don’t enjoy Less Than Jake now nearly as much as I did at the Gainesville shows back in the day. Despite the somewhat disappointing outcome, it was more than worth it to see my wife skanking. (Has anyone ever been to a ska or ska-punk show in China where the whole crowd was skanking?)
My wife and I would like to go to Turkey soon. However, over the past few weeks I’ve been discovering that it’s kind of difficult for Chinese people to go to Turkey. Difficult… but not impossible.
Now that we’re sure we can both actually get in, we just need to buy plane tickets, but we want to go during–you guessed it–the October National Day holiday. Somehow we kind of forgot that there are a freaking bazillion* people in this country, and a good number of them also plan to leave the country during the same time period. Demand drives plane ticket prices up. Good old capitalism.
Anyway, if anyone has some suggestions for travel agencies or other good ways to get to Turkey from Shanghai, please let me know, either by e-mail or comment. Thanks!
You may have heard foreigners complaining about sanitation in China once or twice. It happens. What those foreigners don’t know is that behind their backs, the Chinese are also talking about westerners’ dirty habits. Dirty bedroom habits.
Now, before I lead your imagination even further into the gutter, let me elucidate: it’s about showering and sleeping.
photo by Heidi McKay on Flickr
I believe it was in college sometime that I started showering in the morning. I considered myself a hero of hygiene for going to the effort of showering daily, and I did it in the morning to help wake myself up. I started each day clean and bright-eyed. Nothing wrong with that, right? Wrong.
Shortly before we were married, my wife laid down the law. She told me that I walk around all day, working up a good smelly white boy sweat, and it was not cool for me to get into the bed every night without cleansing myself first. The Chinese shower nightly, and that was the way it had to be.
Naturally, I had to object. My system was flawless. True, I may get sweaty during the day, but I’m clean again to face the world every morning. So maybe my sheets get a little grungy… so what? I emerge from my cocoon of filth and go right into the shower every day, no harm done.
Well, obviously, that didn’t fly. My bachelor ways were fine as long as I was single, but in our new married life I was going to be sharing a bed with her every night, and my “cocoon of filth for two” plan was not an option.
You have to choose your battles. I don’t always give in to my wife, and I have the scars to prove it. Honestly, though, the Chinese way makes more sense. Your sheets do stay cleaner longer when you shower before bed every night.
However, if you still think that showering in the morning makes more sense, well… I guess you’re just a filthy foreigner.
The whole Shanghai vs. Beijing debate is somewhat tired, I know, so I’m not interested in rehashing it. I’m not going to bash or gush over either city. Rather, I’ve had sort of a change of heart about Beijing, and I’d like to tell why. To be honest, the more time I spend in Beijing, the more I like it. But I doubt I’d ever voluntarily relocate to Beijing.
Still, if I found myself in any of the following scenarios, I’d definitely choose Beijing:
– If I were a student of Chinese enamored with the Beijing accent or couldn’t stand hearing other dialects (there are many such students, I know)
– If I were a student of Chinese that insisted on only the very best in Chinese pedagogy that the mainland can offer
– If I were a student of Chinese enamored with xiangsheng
– If I were really interested in Chinese politics
– If I were really into the Olympics (this one has a shelf life of only a little over a year, though)
– If I were an artist or musician of any kind
– If I were really into Beijing’s hutong and siheyuan culture
– If I had a love of baijiu, that vile white rice wine
– If I liked big cities but couldn’t stand the pressure of living in a very fast-paced city
– If I were rabidly anti-corporate (I’ve noticed that international chains like McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut are much more widespread in Shanghai than in Beijing)
The only one that comes close to describing me is the last one. I’m not real happy that the restaurants which surround my apartment near Zhongshan Park are nearly all chains; it’s hard to find a good, privately-owned restaurant around here. I noticed about Beijing this last visit that there are so many little cafes and bars still. (One of the things Dave misses about Beijing most, it seems.) The only bar in Shanghai I’ve ever really felt comfortable in is the old Tanghui, and it’s long gone. None of the others have that vibe, and most aim for a bigger, “higher class” crowd.
Another thing that does make a difference to me is the fast pace of Shanghai. I don’t like it. It gets under my skin and in my bloodstream. I can feel it happening, but I can’t seem to prevent it. Hanghzou was totally relaxing, and Beijing is a lot closer to Hangzhou in that respect. And yet, in that easy, relaxed atmosphere I feel like I could float along forever and never do anything with my life. One of the main reasons I choose Shanghai is closely related to the fast pace, I think: Shanghai is a better place to get into business. And because I’m in China for the long haul, I’m very interested in where work prospects are best.
I’m not the kind of person that makes a huge deal about where I live. I feel that I could be happy in most environments, if I’m there to do something I want to do. The bottom line is that I choose Shanghai because my wife is here and my work is here. I’m happy here. But every time I go to Beijing I see more reasons to love it, and I think that in another life I could easily see myself in the Beijing camp*.
*Worth mentioning: I’ve never been in Beijing in the winter or during a dust storm.
> When stripped of all its historical and social baggage, however, ‘eugenics‘ can be used to describe two general philosophical tendencies: 1) the notion that human hereditary stock can and should be improved, and 2) that such changes should be enforced by the state (or other influential social groups such as cults or religions).
> These two concepts are not married to one another. Transhumanists tend to subscribe to the first point but not the second, leading to the charge that they are liberal eugenicists. China, on the other hand, engages in a form of eugenics that draws from both agendas; the state is actively involved in the ongoing biological re-engineering of its citizens for ideological ends.
As usual, the article was a good read. In case you’re unclear of what the author meant by China’s engagement in eugenics, here’s a summary:
> [In 1995], China adopted a new law on maternal and infant health care. The law mandates that all persons have a premarital medical examination to detect serious genetic diseases, some infectious diseases, and “relevant” mental disorders. If a detected disorder is deemed serious, the couple is not permitted to marry without committing to contraception or tubal ligation. Prenatal testing is enforced, and pregnancy is terminated if the fetus has a serious genetic or somatic abnormality. [China’s Eugenics Law on Maternal and Infant Health Care]
The thing is, since 2003 the Chinese government no longer requires premarital medical exams. That leads to this kind of situation:
> The abolition of the national system of compulsory premarital medical checkups one year ago has led to a rapid increase in the rate of birth defects in China, and if the government fails to take measures, it could lead to a still more serious pubic health problem within three to five years, medical experts warned. [ChinaDaily]
So where does the Chinese government now stand with regards to eugenics?
> Most believed that partners should know each other’s genetic status before marriage (92%), that carriers of the same defective gene should not mate with each other (91%), and that women should have a prenatal diagnosis if medically indicated (91%). The majority said that in China decisions about family planning were shared by the couple (82%).
You might be surprised that I’m writing about such a “political” topic. Actually, I’m not. I’m writing about a question of ethics, which is also related to a lot of the futurism discussions I’ve been reading a lot about lately.
Also, according to the prominent Chinese view, it would appear that if my Chinese wife and I have children, we’ll be engaging in a form of “personal eugenics,” since around here everyone knows that 混血儿 (“mixed blood children”) are “better looking” and “smarter” than most people. Hmmm.
My wife and I had a nice time in Chongqing, even though we saw only a sliver of what the city had to offer. We took Matt Scranton‘s excellent advice and checked out 瓷器口. There were so many cool snacks to try that we couldn’t even eat lunch, and a little later we wound up lost in a maze of twisting old alleyways up on the mountain. We also went to 洪崖洞, which was nothing special.
We spent a lot of the afternoon and evening with my wife’s relatives, where I got a good earful of the Chongqing dialect. I was amused that her uncle’s pronunciation of 美国 (the USA) sounded a lot like 玫瑰 (a rose).
There was so much we didn’t do (we didn’t even have hot pot there!), but we didn’t want to pack too much into the little time we had. We had a nice time, and I wouldn’t mind going back for more. Here are a few pictures.
(Click through to the Flickr pages for explanations of the photos.)
My wife is going to Chongqing on business, and she’ll be free the whole day on Friday, February 23rd. She was able to get me a ticket to accompany her, so that means we have one day to check out what Chongqing has to offer. It’s probably not the best time of year to go, but oh well. (And yes, we both like spicy food!)
I chucked my Lonely Planet long ago, but in looking for info on Chongqing, I was thinking that there should be an online version of Lonely Planet. Something less commercial, in wiki format, that could offer the most up-to-date info on hot travel spots. That’s when I found WikiTravel.org. The site’s a little… visually boring, but it seems very functional. It has a page on Chongqing, but it doesn’t seem to offer much. Are the Dazu Rock Carvings (大足石刻) worth checking out?
To anyone who has been to Chongqing or lives in Chongqing, I would love to hear some suggestions of fun or interesting things to do. Thanks in advance!
Tonight my “wife” and I will attend part three of an 8-week marriage preparation course. The Catholic Church requires all couples that wish to be married with the blessing of the Church to undergo this course. The purpose is not really to educate couples about Catholicism, but rather to ensure that the couples have closely examined the big questions before they officially tie the knot (and by “officially” I mean “in the Church”). One unexpected thing about the course is that it’s jointly conducted by a mainland priest and a Taiwanese nun, using Taiwanese materials*.
Last week’s session was rather enlightening. Altogether, there were nine couples in attendance. The theme was “this is how I grew up.” It was all about understanding how each person’s family background differed, and how that would affect the couple’s life together.
Obviously, there’s a million things that could come up in this discussion. The one that came to mind for us was the difference between being raised as an only child in modern China and being raised in a family of five in the States. (Without going into too much detail, I’m just going to say that there’s no way in hell that any future child of mine is going to glide through childhood without doing any chores, regardless of what culture he grows up in.)
So that’s a serious issue, but it’s one that is largely due to the intercultural nature of our marriage. Still, you can imagine that plenty of equally serious domestic issues would be raised… Money management, in-laws, work issues, bad habits, anything related to child-rearing, etc. So which topic was raised and repeatedly stressed by every single couple except us? You guessed it. Food.
The following are some of the crucial issues raised by the other couples:
1. His family likes bland food, but I’m used to strong seasoning.
2. I like spicy food, but his family can’t eat it.
3. I have to have soup with every meal, but his family never eats soup.
4. My family always makes lots of dishes, but his only makes 3 or 4 per meal and never wastes any food.
5. Her family takes a really long time to eat.
Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean to judge these people. But you would think that after all this time I would have at least learned one thing: the paramount importance of food to the Chinese. I really hope I’ll get it one of these days and stop being astonished.
* This is interesting because the Catholic Church in Taiwan is currently in direct communion with Rome, while the mainland Catholic Church in the mainland is still the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which is not officially in communion with Rome.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m sort of married. I see it as a year-long process beginning with a legal marriage and ending with a religious and social ceremony. Between point A and point B, however, is the acquisition of a new residence. Perhaps more significant is the subsequent decoration of said residence. This has been keeping us quite busy for the past month.
In China if you buy a new apartment (OK, I know it’s not really an “apartment” if you “buy” it, but this is what I say), it comes as an empty concrete shell. No drywall, no internal wiring or plumbing, no nothing. This condition is known as 毛坯. Starting from such a husk is a lot of work, because you have to design everything (or hire a designer), and you have to hire a contractor to get all the labor done. It also brings a lot of freedom, though, because you’re literally free to do anything with your apartment, short of knocking down key structural walls or tearing out the building’s shared plumbing or wiring.
So my wife has a pretty cool vision for our new apartment. It’s sort of an adapted “Mediterranean” design. That means it incorporates arches in some places. There are many things my Chinese is not yet good enough for, and architecture is certainly pushing it.
It appears that in Chinese, an arch shape is usually referred to as a gongxing, a word that, until recently, I was unfamiliar with. When I hear a new Chinese word, lots of things happen in my mind:
1. My brain checks it against all the vocabulary I know or might have once known
2. My brain factors in the possibility of southern-accented Mandarin distorting a word I know in proper Mandarin
3. I analyze and note the tones
4. Given the context and my understanding of the meaning of the word, I try to mentally match the syllables with appropriate Chinese characters I know
In this case, checks #1 and #2 were not helpful. When I got to step #3 I focused on the fact that xing was definitely second tone, so must be 形, meaning “shape.” It just made too much sense to be wrong. Without paying much attention to the tone of the gong syllable, I moved on to step #4. I decided that what made the most sense was the character 弓, meaning “bow.” In this way I concluded that the word we were using for “arch shape” was 弓形 (tones: 1-2).
It was a reasonable guess. 弓形 is, in fact, a word. According to Wenlin, it has the (very logical) meaning of “bow-shape” and “curve.” In math it can also mean “segment of a circle.”
I got away with saying gōngxíng (tones: 1-2) for a while, and somehow remained blithely unaware that everyone around me was saying it slightly differently. My wife is not my Chinese teacher and really never has been, so she rarely corrects me. She corrects me when my mistake is so blatant that it pisses her off, or if it’s a chronic error that eventually gets under her skin. Such was the case with my “gōngxíng.”
“It’s gǒngxíng,” she told me finally. “Gǒngxíng!” (tones: 3-2).
I looked it up later. The dictionary showed me 弓形. And it showed me 拱形, meaning “arch.” An architectural term.
It’s little incidents like this which firmly cement a word in one’s memory.
I watched the much “celebrated” Snakes on a Plane with John B and our wives last night. I picked up the DVD on the way over to his place. The DVD guy outside of the 好得 (AKA “All Days”) convenience store had it. Here’s what the cover looks like:
A very evil-looking Jackson on the pirated Snakes on a Plane DVD
Thanks to Matt at No-Sword I knew what to expect in terms of the movie’s Chinese title, but I certainly didn’t expect the French title, or this camcorder edition’s laughtrack (yes, a French laughtrack). Really, though, when you’re expecting ridiculous, I guess it only adds to the experience.
The main and secondary titles on this cover confirm two of the mainland Chinese titles that Matt dug up:
– 空中蛇灾 — “Midair snake disaster”
– 航班蛇患 — “Snake woes on a flight”
I haven’t mentioned my “girlfriend” in a long time. This is not only because I don’t like to talk about certain aspects of my private life here; it’s also because I’m not sure what to call her anymore. This is all due to the peculiar features of getting married in China.
You see, we are already legally married, but we have not yet had a “proper wedding.” To her and her family, that means a proper Chinese wedding banquet. To me and my family, that means a proper wedding in a Catholic church. All that will happen next year.
Furthermore, we are not living together. She still lives with her parents as before, and I live with my roommate Lenny. Our lives after becoming legally married remain almost exactly as they were when we were just “engaged.”
(So why did we get legally married so early? It’s largely to simplify the breaucratic headaches that arise from my nationality and her employer, and to save me from having to make another trip back to the States right before the wedding next year.)
I can call her my 老婆 in Chinese and this isn’t strange at all… Many Chinese couples here call each other 老婆 and 老公 long before they’re married (which really kind of annoys me for some reason). But calling her my wife–in English–feels wrong to me, because my whole life my idea of my “wife” has been the woman I spend the rest of my life with after we go through that sacred ceremony in church. And we haven’t done that yet.
In China, the wedding banquet has tremendous social significance for both families, but no legal standing. I know a Chinese couple who waited for years for the wedding banquet because they wanted to be legally married but couldn’t yet afford a nice reception. I also heard of a couple that had the wedding banquet but then split up and were never legally married in the first place. In the US, saying “I do” in a ceremony in front of a priest and other witnesses is a part of the legal process (in addition to the marriage registration).
So basically the feeling I get is that we’re taking that minute or so when the man and woman each say “I do” and the priest pronounces them husband and wife, and stretching it out to about a year. It’s a little strange, but I don’t think it’s all bad. Marriage is, after all, a big adjustment.