Smog head

As winter approaches, Beijing has seemingly disappeared (yet again) under a thick layer of smog. Nothing new, though we had been pretty lucky for most of the summer. With the smog brings the familiar aches and pains in my chest, shoulders and body, sleeplessness (at night), not wanting to leave the house (or even look out the window), and the desire to sleep forever (aka. all day long). I wanted to call in sick today with ‘smog head’ because that’s truly how I feel. When the pollution pours in, your brain cells seem to pour out. I don’t feel completely with it, and I definitely don’t feel in a controlled state of mind. It’s almost like a really bad hangover that won’t quit. The routine of riding my bike to work turns into an impossible task simply avoided due to the hazards involved (and I’m not talking about the craziness that is Beijing’s streets).

Every few months, when the pollution rolls in for a couple days (or weeks) at a time, I’m usually moodier than normal, find myself crying for no particular reason, and a super recluse. Yesterday I found myself in the moodiest of moods, fuming angry for no real reason at all. After some inner reflection (and a bottle of Shiraz), I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s this mother fucking pollution getting me down.

All I wanna do is be able to see the sun and take in gulps of the fresh air.

Is that too much to ask China?

Today’s AQI (Air Quality Index:) Hazardous
(301-500)

Serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly; serious risk of respiratory effects in general population. Everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors; people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low.
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Oh, China

I feel like a lot has changed. Though, it probably took a bit of time for the sudden changes to sink in.  The past 9 months or so have been a really transitional period for me. December 2014 was the last time that I was home to visit family, and it was also around that month that my 4 closest friends here, left the Country for good. Each bound for exciting new destinations; some heading home, some moving on. Upon returning to China, I felt as though it was to a rather empty nest.

My boyfriend Song has been the one thing that has remained constant throughout my past year and a half in Beijing. And his friends are really great too, though, mostly boys, and definitely non English speakers. This past year has brought new levels to Song and my relationship, sometimes high and sometimes low. I’ve definitely put a lot of pressure on him to keep me entertained and included in his daily social life. Considering mine went from a 10 to a 2 overnight, he has most definitely felt the pressure in dealing with my constant whines and complaints about my lack of solid friendships and people around me I actually give a fuck about. He has not only been my best friend, but really, one of my only friends, and the only one who’s truly stood beside me through thick and thin. He motivates me, inspires me, calls me out, and picks me up when I’m out of my mind about something. This is the first time in my life that I’ve had someone so special to me. I’m never bored with him. He keeps my wandering soul grounded and helps me to see the beauty of the future.

When we met, I only knew 20 or so words in Mandarin. He knew even less that 10 in English. I approached the relationship head on with wide eyes and a happy heart. From the moment we met, I just knew.  It was a pure rush of adrenaline, excitement laced with translation apps and sign language. Late night charades using body language to convey a story of a time forever before. Seemingly talking forever, without really saying a word. Since the moment I met him, I have never felt like I could see my life without him in it. We love we fight we make up and we love some more. We have had some dark days, and even broke up for a short period in August, but have completely bounced back, and everyday we are continuing to grow and mature as a couple. I have learned to admit when I am wrong, and know that I need to take it easy on him as well. He has grown up so much over the past year and a half that we’ve been together, thinking back to the boy that I met and the man that he’s become. I don’t think I give him enough credit. I know I’m really really hard on him a lot of the time. He’s shown me a kind of love that I have never seen before. It’s stronger than any drug.

He is always there for me, and has amazing patience. When we traveled Thailand this past Summer, he didn’t even expect me to carry my own luggage. He was like a human mule with two enormous backpackers backpacks and a carry on. He’s always been very chivalrous in that way. Our relationship is so refreshing that I have yet to feel trapped or like I’m settling or even like I’m having to put in an effort at all. It’s all smooth sailing in the choppiest of seas, yet never fully capsizing. For that I am grateful.

China living is extremely difficult, and it’s never been an easy road for me. Filled with obstacles in daily life, not to mention the language barriers, but the culture difference is huge. I have yet to go a week since moving to Asia, without having some sort of food poisoning. I’m constantly stared at and pointed at in public places, and have my picture taken on the regular (not one of the major downsides, though, it definitely get’s annoying on an early morning commute). In Chinese culture, it’s very natural and common to ‘call it as it is’, no matter the offence it may cause. With that being said, I have been called “fat”, to my face, by practically every Mother and child I’ve met. This regular occurance used to bring me to tears, but now, I barely flinch. China has definitely thickened my skin (no pun intended!) yeah, but I have also realized something. They do it to each other too. It’s not only me. My Chinese girl friends  barely over 100 pounds tell me they feel ostracized by society. They tell me they can not find a boyfriend due to their body types. These girls have had this constant pressure by their own family, friends, and culture throughout their entire lives, to naturally be tiny. They have grown up thinking that this was the norm. Considering the culture is so consumed with eating, it really ends up contradicting itself. With every social outing involving food, large meals, and the biggest serving sizes I’ve ever seen, there really is no moment when food is not a part of the day. When Chinese people great one another, they do not say “how are you”, instead they say “have you eaten?”  With this knowledge alone, you can begin to grasp their way of thinking and how it truly gravitates around the warmth of a family meal.

My body has definitely suffered because of this new adopted way of thinking. I have gained weight over my time here, and am only now realizing that it’s been this new way of thinking that has really been the true culprit. Late night dining on crowded street corners with 20 of your colleagues and unlimited plates of delicious foods arriving simiutaniously after the next, it’s a wonder I have only gained the amount that I have. I have had to stop eating Chinese food, and have began cooking all my own meals, with a few exceptions. My coworkers and other Chinese friends look at me with their heads cocked sideways, exclaiming “oh, wow.. what’s that?” “salad!” I proudly announce. “oh….” with a look of confusion and distaste in their eyes.

Chinese culture also believes that cold foods, and ice cold beverages, should only be consumed in the Summer time, if at all. It’s considered bizarre to consume an entire meal made from “cold” vegetables. Since some vegetables here can not be consumed raw, they believe it can make you sick. To be fair, I experienced the worst food poisoning of my life due to undercooked green beans, so I understand where they are coming from. The vegetables should be prepared fully cooked in order to strip them of there added pesticides and chemicals. Due to the amount of people in China, things must be produced extremely fast. With that being said, a lot of scary shit can go wrong with food production and food safety (or lack there of). In China, hot water is the cure for anything and everything. Headache? Drink more hot water. Polluted day got you in a funk? Drink more hot water. Mad at your boyfriend? Make sure you’re drinking more hot water. If I don’t hear this phrase at least 3 times a day, I know I haven’t left the house. Hot water has become my own personal choice for soothing upset tummies and helping me to chill out. Don’t knock it til you try it.

On that note, I’m going to go boil myself a cup. I have a voice recording stint tomorrow afternoon for Toyota China (they need someone with an American accent to record for some in-company testing), and I’m their girl. Not a bad gig considering it’ll be $100 Canadian for 2 hours of my time. After that I’m off to the International Vet Clinic to pick up Song and my new little fur baby. We are welcoming a little rescue kitten into our lives. I couldn’t be more thrilled! He’s such a little babe. It’s National Day in China so I have a week off of work. Just in time for the arrival of Moon. Excited!

Until next time,

Justine

xx

119 vs 911

I’ve decided to get  back into my blogging routine. It’s definitely been awhile since I’ve felt the need to. China life is going pretty alright, nothing too wild. Actually, life has been pretty low key lately. I haven’t been going out or drinking really, and I’ve turned into quite the lone wolf.

Just got home from the hospital, actually. Seems I’ve come down with tonsillitis, yet again. Had the best and most hassle free visit to the Emergency Room tonight, at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, in Beijing. Every time I visit this place I am continually blown away by the customer care and V.I.P treatment for Foreign patients, in their International Wing. In and out of the hospital within 10 minutes, including an immediate consult with an English speaking doctor. Feeling very lucky and grateful that I’ve finally found a reliable hospital in China. I’ve had some pretty bad experiences in the past with them. I have been turned away while running a fever of 103 by a doctor who claimed he didn’t know how to “treat me” because I wasn’t Chinese. I’ve had doctors refuse to even look at me. I have been stick poked through a “take out” style window, by gloveless nurses and had my fingers jabbed with a needle and straw to suck the blood out for tests. I have had not 1 but 3 examinations in a room of 15 or so other patients all lined up, gathered round to hear what could be wrong with the Foreign girl. I’ve been put in isolation under a suspected H1N1 strain..(thankfully that was negative). And I’ve had some pretty gnarly tests and x-rays. They even do a brain scan, eye tests, ultrasounds, spine test, strength test, bone density, and a number of other strange exams in order to receive a working Visa here.

Definitely feeling stoked that I’ve finally found an awesome Chinese hospital. Not regretting those past visits though. They’ve all made up this wonderfully weird experience that is my China life.

Until next time,

Justine.

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xx