written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The sickness

After my relatively leisurely first few days, after being swept to elborate dinner after dinner, and on one occassion cajoled by 2 of my British collagues to drink ba jiu (Chinese "white whiskey") in a steamy and filthy little restaurant near the school as they filled me in on all of the outrageous gossip about the school directors, leaving me very sick to the point where I missed a kindergarden class the next morning (I was supposed to observe it, not teach it), well eventually I started teaching classes on Saturday. I teach 6 classes on Saturday and Sunday and 2 classes everyday during the week, except for Tuesday (today) my day off. The first few days of teaching went great. I have a class of 4/5 year olds who are adorable and constantly frightened by my big strange face in their face saying incomprehensible things. My other classes are 8-11 year olds, of decent english ability. I work with a Chinese teacher in the class, who
explains most of the activities and exercises, and meanings of words. Her name is Memory, odd no? Memory speaks english fairly well, but I think a lot of my meaning is lost on her. I am not sure she is telling the kids what I am really saying. Another of my Chinese teachers is Lily.

Apart from being extremely busy with these classes, I have been very sick with nausea and lethargy. I believe my stomach is over-whelmed with the food here. On Saturday night I was feeling great. I went jogging (my first jog around the neighborhood drew many doubletakes and stares), I played on the adult playground and had lots of energy. Then we ate dinner. Haiyan had made pork tongue and cauliflower dressed with slices of gelatinous pure pork fat that she brought back with her from her hometown (nearly 3 weeks ago!). I had begun to eat before I had asked her what it was. It didn't taste that bad, but when she told me, I knew I would feel the affects. The next morning I ate a small bit of walnuts and oatmeal, then almost immediately my stomach expanded so much that I could barely button my pants. Worried and dismayed by this condition, and with the whole day ahead of me, I set off for class. I started my 8 am class with tons of energy and fun, despite my turbulent stomach
(<---From one of the many student-teacher dinners this week: chicken stew topped with chunks of blood gelatin)

and being rather uncomfortable in my pants, and the students were happy and eager. Then by the last period I could not stand up without being hit with a wave of nausea. Despite the fact that I had told her I wasn't feeling well, Lily had not shown up to the last class opting to catch up on paper work, so I was left struggling to explain the activities in my sick, desperate state to children who probably found me incomprehensible. I had the kids read random things from the book for the last fifeteen minutes. I don't know if they knew the difference, but it was a very bad situation.
(something with chicken feet and beaks in it)
So I came home and slept from 5pm to 12 oclock the next afternoon. Woke up, vomited, felt a tad better, and went to teach another class. A day later, I am feeling better, my stomach is normal sized, but I have zero appetite, which is rather unusual. I took a stoll in a little shopping district last night. There was a food market with fruit and nut displays in the front. So tempted to find something I could tolerate, I headed in, but was soon struck by the putrid smell of blood (like a room of wet coins). Beyond the fruit stands was a huge hall of red glistening flesh and organs splayed out on tables being picked over by the locals. Blood and liquid was dripping from the tables to the concrete floor. I nearly vomited right there. If I had not already felt so sensitive, I think I could have taken a look around the meat room just for eccentricity of it, but I had to bolt out of the door. It will take me a while to get my stomach back where I can be adventurous with food again, but I will be nibbling dry baguettes for a while, unfortunately.

Its difficult to isolate oneself from smells in this town. Though I believe the air in ShiJingShan is rather clear of the *smell* of pollution, everywhere on the sidewalks food is being cooked in large barrels: sweet potatoes, sugar popcorn, sticky candy, corn on the cob. And though these smell really good to me usually, in my current state any food smell is offending. But there is one smell I truly despise, even when healthy. On a few occasions, smack in the middle of the sidewalk, I have come across a homeless and/or extremely poor person who has set up a little grill made out of a paint can. Right on top of these very industrial looking coals they have placed slices of "thousand year old" eggs and very very cheap and smelly weiners. Thousand year eggs are basically hard boiled eggs that have been injected with salt and pickled in a potent black vinegar for so long that the color of the yoke and flesh turn into a swirl of turqoise and dark grey. They are truly foul. The sight of these poor peddlars trying to sell these disgusting snacks is rather sad. No one buys them, and they sit there sizzling until the peddlars themselves eat them.

Well, today is my first day-off. My stomach is about 60%, but it is snowing outside, so I should make my way slowly to the subway and spend the afternoon padding around Beijing. Maybe (most likely) popping into the foreginer district near the embassies to perchance get a drink of pepto-bismal.

My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson