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I traveled to the Northeast quadrant of China to be an English teacher for the Peace Corps. I was there on a two year contract and wanted to get the full experience while I was there. I used my days off and holiday as an opportunity to explore and learn more about the country, the people and the culture. However, I found that there were a few things that were not worth the money to see or experience while I was on my trip to China. (no matter how appealing they made it sound).
(Picture Credit: Pixabay)
I lived in a “small town” of 1.4 million people called Songyuan. It was thrilling for the city when there was an announcement that the circus would be coming through. I envisioned that it would be full of Chinese acrobats with the spinning plates and aerial artists. My Chinese friends were very excited to see tigers and monkeys so, I joined them at the event. It was a huge mistake.
In a makeshift circus tent with dilapidated bleachers, I watched tigers be whipped on top of years of healed scars, bears be pulled on stage by a ring through their nose and a seemingly sedated leopard be poked at by children. The monkeys were on leashes and looked terrified whenever approached. As an animal lover, I was completely appalled with how the animals were treated and it broke my heart. It was impossible for me to stay, and I quickly excused myself vowing to never visit another circus in my life.
There appears to be reflexology (acupressure foot massages) parlors on every corner in China. I urge you to take advantage of the inexpensive relaxation offering, a treat when traveling on a teacher’s budget. I would warn you that although it may seem appealing to try out some of the traditional Chinese medicinal practices there is one to be wary of. The Chinese practice is a technique that they call guasha and translates into “scrape away fever”.
I had fallen victim to a terrible cold. My teaching assistant recommended two things to help me to feel better: hot ginger tea and guasha. With my minimal Chinese, I headed over to my local bath house and gave the attendant a small piece of paper with my request for the service that my assistant had recommended. From there I was taken into a room and told to remove my shirt and lie facedown on a massage table. I was very relieved when it began as a massage on my sore, sick muscles.
The masseuse then took a flat tool that resembled a tongue scraper and began to run it up and down my back and over my shoulders. She was literally scraping my back, and it was incredibly uncomfortable. I braced myself before each down stroke and could feel all of my massaged muscles seize up and begin to knot again. The technique is said to promote blood flow and allow the crystalline acid in your muscles to break down to release fatigue and illness. After the torture was over, I looked at my back in the mirror to discover that I looked like I had been beaten. I had bright red and purple streaks running up and down my entire backside.
My skin was sensitive to the touch for the next week. If you are looking to receive some traditional Chinese treatment, opt for cupping or some reflexology instead of paying for a torture treatment.
(Picture credit: Pixabay)
One of my favorite things about traveling is trying new and bizarre foods while abroad. I loved going to the night market and visiting the steaming food carts and trying just about anything on a stick covered in chili sauce. I ate crickets, meal worms, turtle and a number of different spiny fruits while I was there. The menu choice mistake that I made was taking a dare from a friend while at a higher end restaurant one evening.
I allowed them to do the ordering and didn’t understand one of the items being ordered. My Chinese is subpar, at best, so I didn’t think much of it. My meal came in a sizzling clay pot full of rice with pickled vegetables, a sunny side up egg and some unidentifiable red meat. I couldn’t put my finger on the type of meat I was eating and asked my friend. I couldn’t understand what they said so when I asked him to repeat it he replied with a smile and “woof.” Later that evening I didn’t feel well, but it wasn’t due to the large amounts of MSG that the region was known for. Ask before you eat in China unless you feel that ignorance is bliss.
W.M. Chandler | April 13, 2017
W.M. Chandler is a Colorado native and works best with her head in the clouds. She is an avid researcher and enjoys writing about unfamiliar subjects. She writes passionately about nature and the outdoors, human connections and relationships, nutrition and politics.