Duyun Diary, part 2

Day 4

  • I was accompanying Lanxin to the local traditional medicine hospital nearly daily, and the doctors wanted some of her medical records from my phone so they gave me the hospital wifi password. Having a Chinese hospital’s wifi password has to count for bragging rights I think.
  • There was a small baozi (similar to dumplings) store next to the hospital and we (mostly I) ate an ungodly amount of the little suckers. While we were eating an older lady came in and complained that the price for a batch recently rose from 5 to 7 rmb (approximately 73 cents to $1.02 at the time).
  • We went to a tea shop where I learned tea attendants taste the tea before pouring you a cup, to confirm it’s properly made before serving it to guests. I wonder what happens if they didn’t prepare it well–– would they still pretend it’s fine to save face? (mianzi, usually translated as “face,” is one of the driving forces of many Chinese social interactions).
  • There’s a brand new, very grandiose park just outside the city with a natural spring, a lake, some pagodas, and more under construction. The infrastructure around it is all exclusively built in ancient style, which made me wonder how much of the actually ancient architecture was merely adopting prior traditional designs.
dumplings at the fore, baozi in the back
  • I became an international mango thief. We were at a noodle shop and they had some mangoes on display, which I naturally assumed were for sale, so while Lanxin was placing our order I held up a mango and told the cashier in poor Mandarin that I would have it in addition to my noodles. The attendant didn’t understand me and thought I was just being a cute happy foreigner excited at seeing a mango, so she didn’t charge us for it. Immediately afterward Lanxin saw me eating it (with the skin on!) and told me they’re not for customers, rather they’re for use in desserts. All the staff were very nice and let it slide, but from what I understand if I weren’t a foreigner there would have been stern words and harsh looks.
  • While walking by the river we passed an old couple (probably 75 years old or more) who completely stopped in their tracks and stared at me. The man in particular was astounded to see me, his mouth even slightly agape. When we approached them I stopped for a second to turn toward them and smiled with a perfunctory bow; his face lit up in sheepish joy, I completely made his day. It was great. (ed. Possibly my favorite few seconds of the whole trip.) It’s incredible how much China has progressed in the past few decades where the older generations essentially grew up in a different historical time period.
  • Another man at the hospital stared at me so long that he crashed into someone else a decent distance after passing us.
  • At the national park: two older ladies (50ish years old) were taking ridiculous photos:
    • They posed in high-heeled boots as they walked down a set of stairs, placed their scarves alluringly(?) around their necks, and tried to feign distinguished refinement in their expressions.
    • My favorite was when they used a selfie stick to take non-selfie photos. They weren’t even using it for added reach to achieve a particular perspective–– it was just a standard photo but they took it using the stick, losing a lot of stability. Very silly.
    • They also took photos making Chinese opera poses (which I admit were pretty cool but in the aggregate along with everything else it just added to my amusement).
  • Most taxis and to a lesser extent Didi cars (Chinese Uber) had seat pads that covered the seatbelts completely. I imagine the purpose was to keep the seats clean but it just goes to show how low of a priority seatbelts are that they can’t even leave some slits to pass the buckles through. (Ed. I looked up some statistics, according to the World Health Organization, China has approximately twice as many road traffic deaths as the US, adjusted for population difference).
  • At another park: old ladies who dance in public spaces (“dancing grannies”) came to fisticuffs a few years ago over who gets to dance where. Sadly I did not witness any such glorious events personally.


Lanxin demonstrates how much clothing is appropriate for 57 °F

Day 5

  • It’s so hard to eat protein here. (Ed. I elaborate on this later on, but in a nutshell, rice and vegetables make up the bulk of the Chinese diet. This is undoubtedly healthier, but difficult to keep up with macronutrient requirements if you’re working out).
  • I ended up spending most of the day alone in a cafe to escape family: they gave me a free muffin for being a foreigner.
  • Regarding Lanxin’s family: it’s absurd to have people on the other side of the world being so nice to me and treating me as their own. It was slightly unreal to be treated that way by people I had only just met and with whom I could barely even communicate.
  • Apparently there’s no concept of privacy within a home: Er jiu (“second uncle on mother’s side”) came into my room without knocking even though the door was closed to offer me a sweet potato (he’s really cute). Despite barging in, the shock was ultimately his because I was hanging out shirtless and in shorts. I’m pretty used to being around people while shirtless so I was fairly relaxed about it, but he stammered out a quick apology and gave me the sweet potato. Later I found out that he told everyone about my extreme cold tolerance, he was impressed that I had left the window open even though it was about 60 degrees and everyone else was wearing jackets indoors. “So strong!”
  • Dinner conversations:
    • They had a fairly extended debate about what food they should make me without asking me a single time what I would like even though I was in their presence. I think they were trying to be hospitable, but I’m not really sure why they didn’t ask. Pretty amusing though.
    • They were surprisingly direct in talking openly about some acne I developed overnight. Apparently they were worried that my body wasn’t used to the amount of oil in Chinese food and were giving me recommendations about what sort of herbal remedies to take. They gave me a pill and some sort of root or vegetable. They may have worked, but I also stopped eating as much of the very oily dishes, so it’s hard to say for sure.


Author Nicholas Andonie