Tag Archives: travel in china

Squatty Potties

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Since I spent class tonight demonstrating why certain digestive ailments are called “the runs”, I thought this was as good a night as any to do the potty post.

Westerners make a big deal about squatty potties.  Especially women.  I don’t know why.  We all know that every public toilet in America is technically a squatty potty- only requiring far more strength and balance to maneuver than the ones here.  As one of the faculty said tonight at dinner, “If I’m in a public bathroom that’s gonna be grimy anyway, I’d take a squatty potty over a western restroom ANY day.” We all nodded in knowing agreement.  You don’t have to worry about coming in to contact with anything.  I know one of my pet peeves is how small the stalls are in the states.  Too often, I have to lean against the toilet just to shut the door.   Not so in a squatty.  There’s nothing to have to move around.  And you don’t have to have ninja moves and amazing balance to be able to flush without touching anything- the flushing mechanism is usually a foot pedal.  Additionally, squatty potties are much MUCH better for your pelvic floor than a sitting toilet is.  Ask any Physical Therapist.

squatty potty

I’ve been to several places with squatty potties.  My first was Japan.  Theirs were cool- often on a sort of step-up thing where you could put a seat down and sit if you wanted to, or put your feet into the little feet grooves and squat.  Turkey also has squatties.  Like all Muslim countries, there are water spigot/hoses in every bathroom to clean yourself off with.  Loved those.   I also ran into them in a few Eastern European countries.  I want to say Romania had them.  I think Hungary did in some places too…  So the idea of squatties didn’t bother me- until I started hearing horror stories about some of the public girls’ toilets on campus.

Just so you know- the Chinese think sitting toilets are disgusting- and their logic isn’t something I can argue with.  The idea that we would sit down naked on a place where other people sit down naked –even people we know– grosses them out completely.   I get it.  I’m used to it- but I get how that’s foul, foul, foul.  Used to totally freak me out in the Czech Republic that the girls would wear such short skirts with thongs – so their bare butts are sitting on the chairs.  Didn’t know how anyone could wear shorts—let alone thong underwear—when you know the seat you’re sitting on has had bare butts on it all day long.  One of the things I’ve learned travelling is that we’re ALL gross, really.  Which is probably why foreign faculty is totally comfortable having potty-talk at the dinner table.  It all started with talking about the toilet-training toddlers with their split pants that will just squat and go wherever.  I saw a little girl squat and pee in the middle of European Square the afternoon before.  It’s shocking to the Western eye, but in watching some of my friends struggle with potty training, I recognize it’s a brilliant tactic to raise awareness for the child.  There’s no lying when asked “Do you need to potty?” when the kid’s got pee (or worse) going down their leg.

But all that said, I’ve been amazed at my body’s ability to hold on and get me back to my room most times.  I’ve got all kinds of issues and am one of those people that can easily go every 30 minutes.  It’s annoying.  It was one of my many many fears about coming here… and all the horror stories I’d heard about how dirty the toilets are didn’t help.  I’ve been amazed and grateful for my body’s sudden ability to hold on.   Tonight was one of the nights when I had to run in the middle of class, though.  My stomach is just NOT okay here. I don’t know what the deal is.  I’ve even had upsets with the food I’ve personally cooked.  Is there wheat in the ground fennel? The ground cumin?  Because everything else I’m using is totally fresh veg and herbs.  It’s got me living in fear, I tell you.  Living in fear.

The bathrooms do smell horrific.  The odor will knock you over.  But its not because they’re dirty.  Its because the plumbing can’t handle tissue, so you have to put your tissue in the bin there in the stall.  You know how people are.   If it was covered, it’d be all over the floor—which really is gross.   So in public bathrooms, the bins are open.  It doesn’t take long for it to smell like a diaper pail.  I don’t know how often they empty the bins, but I don’t know that it would make that much difference.  The one in my room has a foot-pedal lid.  I empty it often, but it is a daily battle with the smell. I keep a spritzer bottle with doTERRA Purify there on the bathroom counter.

Once I realized the smell is coming from the tissue bins and not because of filth, I was fine.  Glad I had this awareness early on.  It’s made life easier.   And spared me the humiliation of being that obnoxious American shrieking and freaking out in the bathroom (which I have run into a few times).  Just make sure you keep a package of face tissue in your bag at all times, and don’t forget your hand sanitizer—Not all places have soap and water…

Pins and Needles

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The flight, as detailed here, was brutal.  My sciatic was flaring up by the time I got to campus.  Within a day or two, I was directed to a massage parlor near campus.  There is a cosmetic store on the ground level, and you go up a flight of narrow stairs to get to the massage place.  I took a picture of the front so that I could find it again.  I’ve since shown this picture to many foreign faculty on campus so they could find their way to some hurt-so-good sweet relief.

outside

When I walked in and saw the acupuncture charts all over the walls, I knew this was exactly what I needed.

acupoints

“It’s not like what we think of as massage” Kristine had warned when I told her I was going to go. Understatement of the year.  There are 3 narrow tables in the main room.  The window to the street is open, and the music from the shop next door blares through.  People are walking in and out of the room, and the masseuses are carrying on conversation with them and each other.  You don’t take your clothes off, but they still drape you- so they can dig down without actually pulling off your skin is my guess.

The woman that works there started on me while I was face-up.  She dug down my thighs with her thumb along the meridians.  I sounded like I was in a Lamaze class I was breathing so deeply.  When she got to my knee, it felt like she was trying to shake my patella off and loosen whatever was under there.  I don’t know what inhuman noise I made, but it got her to giggling.

She was to giggle often in the time we spent together.

I flipped over on to my stomach, and when I heard talking over me, it was a man’s voice.  I could see the shoes moving around the table.  Sometimes the socked-slippered feet of the older guy I’d seen would appear.

There was this move he did with my calf at the end that hurt like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.  It was as if my entire calf muscle was some zit or blister and he was working to pop it.  The breathing I had to do through that to not jump off the table was enough to give me a bit of a rush.

I came back 5 or 6 days later and had another massage.  This time, I got the older guy that always wears a tank-tee and the socked-slippered feet.  He does these chiropractic moves where he bends you up like a pretzel, the leans in on you like he’s trying to rip you back apart again.  Then nimbly runs his fingers up your spine to make sure everything’s back where it ought to be.  He also had me sit up on a stool at the end and he worked more on my shoulders and did a few more chiropractic moves.

The next time I returned, the trace amounts of soy sauce and MSG in the food in the dining hall had caught up with me and I was feeling absolutely miserable. Monday had felt like a Friday, and the following morning it was all I could do to get myself out of bed even though I’d slept more than 9 hours.  Monday took me there so she could translate.  My joints were inflamed and killing me, and I had absolutely no energy.  I was hoping they could help—I was going to try acupuncture.

She explained what was going on and he asked where I had the most pain.  I showed him and told him that I wanted acupuncture and a foot massage.

He did the acupuncture on my sciatic, so I had to take off my britches so he could get to it.  It was morning, and they’re very slow—I was the only one there. The look on Monday’s face when I told her I’d never done acupuncture before made me even more scared than I already was.

So there I was, braced for this wretched pain… that never came.  I would feel a pinch.  I would feel sensation along the sciatic nerve.  That was about it.

In contrast to the foot massage.  Which was sheer freakin torture. He started out by running his thumb up my calf in a move that felt like he was trying to filet my leg.  I don’t think there was more than 3 minutes of the hour massage that I wasn’t off the chair huffing like a woman minutes away from giving birth.  It was absolutely excruciating.

But it worked.  I was able to go upstairs using both legs afterwards.  I hadn’t been able to do that since I got here.

So I went back the next morning to get some more acupuncture to work on my left knee a little more.

kneedles

The knee was a bit more uncomfortable than my sciatic.  There were 2 pins in particular that hurt going in.  The way they seem to do everything here is to keep at it until it doesn’t hurt anymore… then they release you.  There is no soft relaxing movement.  If the body is tense and tender, that’s where they apply the pressure.  Once the tenderness is eased, they move on.  I know that’s because the purpose of this is to make you feel Good, not just make you feel good… but still….

He also did acupuncture on my left ankle.  That was quite painful.  Whereas most of the needles just caused the tiniest prick when they went in, the ones on my ankle felt like big huge long needles being jabbed against very tender tendons.  Then he would jiggle them.  He would be watching me very carefully—concerned that the first treatment hadn’t gotten rid of everything.  I don’t think he’s used to not having his touch heal instantly.  My pain was an indicator we were getting right in to where we needed to, so he’d smile.  “You like this!” I’d joke.  By this time, there were several people in the room all looking at me like I was insane for allowing myself to be used as a pin cushion.  That all the Chinese people were looking at me like I was nuts for doing a traditional Chinese treatment amused me enough to make the pain a little more bearable.

“How can you do that?” they would ask me through Grace.

“Trust me, it hurts way less than the massage!” I answered.

I’m doing much better now- able to climb 4 of the 5 flights of stairs to my evening class before I have to resort to only climbing with my right leg.  I’m still having a little pain behind the knee, though.  When we’d talked about it yesterday, the woman said if the pain is directly behind the knee, acupuncture may not be the best treatment.  She described the treatment, but Grace said she didn’t really understand it.  As I told others what they were suggesting- I realized they meant cupping.

Don’t know if I’m brave enough to try that just yet… though I know a student that had it done at the beginning of the week.  We’ll see…