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Monday, October 10, 2005

A strange phenomenon

[Before we return to our intrepid (and today, somewhat indisposed) correspondent, I draw your attention to a recent article in the NY Times on Shanghai cuisine. Regular readers will recognize some of the locales Alan visited.--ed.] The phenomenon referred to is not my uncanny knack for ending up with keyboards whose space bars need to be punched or whose enter keys stick. Rather, it is a phenomenon which occurred today, and changed what was looking to be one of the worst days of my travel life into a phenomenal day.

I woke up with difficulty, as I have the last few days. Being the good student that I am, though, I rallied myself and got to the cafe next door where I have eaten overpriced western breakfasts the last few days (but I really like pineapple pancakes...Natalia can we start making those in Argentina?) while I study my 10 characters per day. Today I changed things up a bit, having a fruit salad with a Spanish omelet (in anticipation of next year's focus on Spanish) and a Yunnan coffee. [Or for a more independent introduction, try here.--ed.] By the time I was finished I was already feeling a bit qi guai, a bit strange.

Despite the growing pain in my stomach, I headed out, determined to see the town of Yangshuo in daylight, on foot. Soon, though, it felt as if several coils of barbed wire were squeezing my stomach and I was not sure if vomit was in my future, or perhaps a change of plans whereby I would not go to Guilin, but instead spend the day in the squat toilet of my hotel.

The pain grew, and so did the hazy tiredness that wouldn't let my brain go. I stopped at a pharmacy and explained I had a stomach ache...not la duzi (spicy stomach, or diarhea) but duzi teng...stomach hurt. I bought a little jar of pills (and I don't have it with me so I cant tell you what it is, but I don't think it is something you would find in a pharmacy in Cincinnati) and I proceeded to swallow the suggested 4-6 little brown pills that had just a hint of a minty flavor (that according to the label).

The pain stayed, and it was made worse by the fact that every single person I asked to photo either said no, or "give me money," or said no and then changed their mind and asked for money. But then I got one, an old lady who lowered her head just a bit and somewhere, amidst all the wrinkles, there seemed to be a flirtation. I think she was just expecting me to pay her, though. For the next few minutes, I felt a bit better.

More rejection followed as I walked through a market full of sleeping men behind tables covered with bloody slabs of meat, and old women selling fruit, and the requisite people offering rides, and the people just sitting and not seeming to serve much of any purpose. The pains came again.

Then another change of fortunes. I changed tactics. First I got a picture of a little boy, hoping that would get his grandma into the spirit of things. Failure. Then I started taking pictures of people who don't live here. A guy from Guilin. A girl from Henan. And then some pictures of people from Yangshuo hanging out by the river, and a couple street and river scenes that thrilled me. Then a couple more portraits of people as I walked back, as well as some landscapes. By the time I reached my hotel at 1:30, I was fine. My stomach problems forgotten. I was able to eat some bread and an apple without fear. Wonderful.

And so the question, was it the strange Chinese medicine, or perhaps did that little burst of photographic luck (and I'm going to give myself a bit of credit here for an uncharacteristic amount of perserverance in the face of rejection) release something that relaxed my tummy and cured me?

So, the score. I am now in Guilin. Tomorrow I will write again, and then after that it may be five or six days before you hear from me again. I am heading to several minority villages and I don't even know if most of them have hotels, let alone internet cafes. It is kind of exciting, the idea that I have no idea what to expect...


Anonymous seadragon said...

I'm inclined to say it was the pills. But still, it could just be that your good fortune distracted you from your pain and towards the good stuff that was happening. :)

It reminds me of an afternoon that it snowed in Baltimore and I dragged my husband out with me to take pictures. After half an hour, he was complaining bitterly about the cold, while I was fine. Until I stopped taking pictures (because my battery died). And I realized how freezing it really was. I guess I hadn't noticed because I was too happy with all the pictures I was taking and my mind was elsewhere, so the physical sensations didn't get the attention they normally would.

Anyway, glad you're feeling better! :)

2:08 AM  
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