Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Things have settled down around here. I’m back in the teaching groove, back to being gainfully employed and not just a lady of leisure, and indolent idler, a spendthrift of time. By no means am I saying that, like traditional 9 to 5’ers I’m living a rushed, hurried and stressful life. I’m about as stressed as I want to get for the little I do.

A few posts back, in The Proverbial Nail I said that I’ve eschewed all human contact. To the extent that that is possible while addressing 6 classrooms full of students, that still holds true. On my time I am not seeking any activity partners. I’m avoiding shopping at the more personal local markets in favor of the impersonal, big box retail experience. Even eggs and produce, which I can get for pennies – fen, over here - I buy washed and wrapped from a store rather than face the colloquialism of the farmers’ market.

Not only because of being cared to death, as related in the last few posts but also because I have some adjusting to do. Let’s talk about that.

Pretty much since I moved here I’ve had to adjust to feeling progressively worse, to the point that I was thinking of walking with a cane for fear of falling. Breathing was a chore. Vital energy was lacking. Leaving my apartment at times seemed an insurmountable task. Some days, even facing the day was a cruelty visited upon me. Methodically minimizing my sphere of living became my focus.

All that has changed, thanks to a wonderful discovery. Two of them, actually.

Let me first write this disclaimer: I am writing about my health again. I’m getting as tired of writing about the state of my health is as you are no doubt tired of hearing about it. But because it is central to this post’s theme, I have to delve into that topic one more time. With any luck it will be the last time. I’m hoping not to be just on the mend but to have permanently vanquished my ills. 

Now, for those discoveries.

Since my arrival here I’ve known there are two Metro stores in Wuhan. Everyone I talked with insisted there was but one. Even Foodie Janie, who owns the Aloha restaurant maintained there was only one such concern. At the time I thought: “Well… if Janie, a restaurant owner and longtime Wuhan resident only knows of the one, who am I to argue?”

Turns out I was right and she was wrong. The second Metro store is located in a district not usually frequented by foreigners, as attested to by the stares I got and the lack of perceivable foreigners at the time I went. Also, that store is even better situated: I only have to board 2 buses. Both lines start at or near my campus so I am guaranteed a seat by virtue of boarding at its first stop. The best part: it is a much bigger, much better and more diversely stocked store than the one I’ve been going to.

I took about an hour to stroll through every aisle, acquainting myself with all it had to offer. Food items such as ground beef and… BROWNIE MIX!!! (YAY!!), things not found at the other store offered themselves for purchase at this location. Small appliances like drip coffee makers and warming plates for hot beverage carafes abound. I can already see myself spending and spending…

But not on the day of my recon mission. I just went to see what was what. I did take a small shopping bag, ‘cause… you just never know what will beg to be bought.

That day my life turned around. While browsing I found a small air purifier/negative ion machine. Only 188Yuan! By this time doubtful that anything but 4 doses of Benadryl per day would relieve my breathing woes, I decided to take a chance on the air machine. Couldn’t hurt.

Didn’t hurt! From the first night, with it plugged right by my headboard I noticed a difference. The full lung expansion and waking up without wheezing was well worth the tradeoff of the mild headache from the ozone the machine produces as a side effect. And even those went away once I moved the machine to the other side of the room.

Now I’m suffering a strange phenomenon: a progressive reversal of all symptoms. I continuously remark (to myself) how great it feels to feel great. What is strange is that I EXPECT to feel lousy. I EXPECT to feel dizzy. I continue to anticipate falling and I’m very careful walking. That information – akin to a muscle memory perhaps, does not jibe with what my brain is currently processing: all systems go, no need to be careful.

This renaissance, the return to myself – energetic, seeing limitless possibilities and wanting to embrace every single one is now diametrically opposite to my current position.

From being seduced into sedentary life because of my fear of injury over the past 2 years I have all kinds of funds available to me for travel. The flipside is that I now have no time to travel or do much of anything else.

I now teach 5 days a week. Not all day I grant you but enough so that getting away is impossible. With only Wednesday and Sunday not committed, going for more than a day trip is pretty much off the table. The weather is a contributing factor. It is still yucky and chilly; the lingering end of winter. On the rare days of sunshine and warmer temps I do have the urge to frolic. Sometimes I actually do go out. Most often though, I choose to just stay home.

After two weeks of sleeping in my ‘clean air’ room, I’ve tackled the rest of the house. Now certain that the micro particle fine dust has been what caused my breathing problems all along, I’ve endeavored to rid my home of any such substance. To that end I found flannel to be the most effective.

My friends, I am now short one pair of pajama pants. One day, just sitting around I mused on how to best rid myself of this malignant dust. It just so happens I was wearing a pair of ‘house pants’ that I don’t usually wear. Having no less than 3 such garments but preferring the other two, I only wear that pair if, for some reason the ones I like are indisposed (as in: they are both in the laundry and I’ve been too lazy to wash my clothes – as was, in fact, the case). A few days later, clad in favored pants, I conducted an experiment.

A highly successful one, I might add. You should see my living room! Completely dust free! I actually moved all my furniture to get to dust that might linger beneath the couch or behind the bookshelf. While the furniture was in an uproar I positioned it in such a way that I now have a comfortable reading spot where I can prop myself up and enjoy a good book or watching a movie.

Till now the only comfortable place in the house to recline and enjoy was my bed. Nowhere else in the house offered a place to lounge around. While I am not averse to lazing the day in bed with a good book, especially a cold, drizzly day like today, I’d kind of like to make use of the rest of my apartment. Especially now that it is clean.

You’d think that, with all the dust flying around from my fit of cleaning and floor waxing I’d be back under the weather, breathing-wise, right? WRONG! Another ‘New Metro’ miracle: HEPA quality dust masks. They are pricey: 5.50Yuan for one individually packaged mask. But OH! So worth it! I did have some eye swelling the next day but no breathing symptoms at all.

Nearly this entire post is about my state of being and Metro, which brought about my reentry to living – as opposed to just existing. And I’m not done with that phase just yet. I’m still turning off the phone on my two days off. I’m still pursuing solitude, even at the cost of damaging friendships. I am now sure this is just a passing phase. Soon I will get motivated and embrace the full experience of living in China again.

As a vagabond, I’m pathetic. At least, I was. I’ll stop being pathetic once I retrain my brain to not caution my body to care when stepping out.

With the few words I have left for this post I give you: the offer of a renewed contract. Sam approached me about it last week. Cringing, afraid I would say ‘No, I’ve had enough of being here’, he popped the question. It should have been academic being as I’m overjoyed at having already attained tenure. Nevertheless, he still has to ask and I am still only here on a year to year basis. It appears I’m on for another year.  

Beyond that: the anticipation of travel, especially this summer when my schedule is less burdened. The excitement of discovery: not only planning where to go and what to do this summer (Gary is in on this, long distance because he’s back in Shanghai) but licking my chops for eagerness of pioneering the French curriculum this fall.

These are the odds and ends tidbits that I report on for lack of anything of substance to write about. That is what I get for hiding out. More later, when I actually have something not so self serving to say.   

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