Sunday, June 27, 2010

China: Traditional Chinese Medicine

Blog Assignment - Week 4:

I was excited to visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor. Typically I would not be thrilled to perform an interview for a school project, but I was eager to learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine. With my major in the medical sciences and my experience being vegan, I have grown interested in alternative medicines. My enthusiasm for whole and organic food has also made me a believer in the impact of diet on overall health and effectiveness of natural remedies.

The moment we walked into the Traditional Chinese Medicine building, my nose was in bliss. A warm aroma of different herbs was drifting through the halls, reminding me of the small co-op I used to go to with my mom when I was little. It was even more delightful because I believe this was the very first time since coming to China that I have actually thought how good the air smelled.

We walked further down the hall to a small room where the doctor saw his patients. I was surprised to find about 10 people in the room, even though the doctor was currently diagnosing a patient. There was definitely no worry about any doctor-patient confidentially or privacy. The waiting patients surrounded the periphery of the small room while the current patient sat at the desk with the doctor. The doctor would ask the patient questions, take his/her pulse, and observe his/her general appearance. He would then write a prescription before moving on to the next patient.

While waiting for our turn to ask the doctor questions, we had time to talk to the patients. One of the topics we discussed that I found most interesting is the choice between using Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine. For complex diseases such as cancer, Western medicine was used. However, major Western procedures, such as chemotherapy for cancer, damage the body while curing the disease. That is where Chinese medicine can come in - to heal the damage caused by the Western treatment.

We finally got our turn to speak to the doctor, with Wang Kai and Anne as our translators. The whole ordeal was somewhat confusing; we would tell Wang Kai our question, he would ask the doctor, and then Anne would tell us the doctors responds. There were times where there were four people talking at once!

The experience was very educational and interesting. I learned that Chinese medicine is meant to look at the body as a whole while Western medicine typically just looks at the disease. When you really think about it, a lot of aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine make sense. A large percentage of medications are based off medicinal plants, so why not go back to nature when you can? I believe that Western medicine could benefit if used in conjunction with alternative medicines such as Traditional Chinese medicine, especially in aspects such as herbal therapies and diet modification. I have personal experiences of the power of whole and organic food that can be connected to natural remedies such as those found in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and fully support them in the correct context.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

China: Food

Good things i've been eating in china:

1. Spicy Eggplant - I'm not sure what the actual name of the dish is, but it's really good. It's chinese eggplant, which is a lot more narrower and long that eggplants in the US (and more tasty). I'm pretty sure it's stir fried - sometimes it's too oily but there is a place near campus who makes it wonderfully.

2. Pineapple on a stick - There are a ton of little fruit stands and you can buy a quarter of a pineapple that's cut in a spiral on a stick. It's REALLY good pineapple too.

3. Vegetable Fried Rice - I've never really been a fan of fried rice, but the stuff here is pretty good. They add a lot more veggies - I especially like the green peppers they use. They are the best peppers ever! They are a little spicey but a little sweet and add wonderful flavor. They also make fresh "single" servings of fried rice right in front of you - I say "single" because I never can finish mine and could really be 2-3 meals.

4. Fried Noodles - Again, never was a HUGE fan of things like low mein, greasy things get old really fast, but these are pretty good. There is a noodle place on campus that makes their own noodles - and you can see them pulling them out and cutting them while you order! I've only tried one thing from them though because most of their noodle dishes have meat.

Things I miss/Plan on eating the week I get back

1. A good breakfast - I've been eating peanut butter bread for breakfast every day and it's starting to drive me insane. Perhaps waffles, yum. Even some soy yogurt and fruit would do.

2. Fruit salad - Packed with blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. Even though there is a lot of fruit stands i find myself not eating as much fruit as i do in the states

3. Fresh Veggies - They seem to not exist here, all of their veggies are cooked in loads of oil!

4. Burrito - Preferable something like Qdoba... with avocado of course. I've been finding myself wanting to put avocado on everything here.

5. Pasta - You can get things like fried noodles and some place even sell italian style pasta - but they all are meat or cream sauces. The only non-cream/meat pastas I've seen is "spaghetti with ketchup"... but that doesnt sound very good

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

China: Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)

I've been bad at updating because how busy classes have kept me. I had an exam yesterday (Monday) and next week I have a crazy amount of things due: 1 paper, 1 exam, 2 presentations and 2 problem sets!

Anyways - on to talking about what i did LAST weekend at Huangshan!

So they day before hiking up 7000+ steps to the top of Huangshan, we went to 9 Dragon Waterfall. It was a good hour walk, and very beautiful. The air was really refreshing after being in the city for three weeks.

The next day, we walked up the steps! It took me ~3 hours. I believe some people made it in 2.5 but they were going pretty fast at the start. I decided to take it nice and steady so I wouldn't be dead at the top. It was raining on and off the whole walk up - but it ended up feeling nice caused I never got extremely hot (except at the start when I still had my raincoat on). Only bad thing about the rain is I was soaking at the top, so the moment I stopped moving the shivering began.

Here are some pictures from the hike up:

Once we got to the top, we ate lunch at a hotel. I think I ate the largest serving of rice that I've ever had in my life. We then finally made it to the hostel...

And that is where that lovely picture I posted in the previous entry comes in. I wont post it again - I'll keep the pictures in this post following my usual guideline of only posting pretty ones.

The room the girls was supposed to stay in was COVERED in black mold. If you know me at all, I'm a super mold detector - I can tell if there is mold in the room when you can't see it, mostly because it makes me feel really uncomfortable... and there I was standing in a room where the mold visibly covered the walls. I got a sore throat from only being in there for a maximum of two minutes!

The guys room was on the 3rd floor, and still had a musty smell but the walls were actually white(ish) and not moldy. I refused to sleep in the moldy room of death and despair, so I asked the guys if they'd make room for me somewhere so i wouldnt die in my sleep from mold. I ended up sleeping in the middle of two twin bunks pushed together between two guys. It was a long uncomfortable night (by "bunks" I mean plywood), but it was definitely better than if i stayed in the other room

I would never think I'd find a room of 14 guys to be more comfortable than a room of girls!

Here is my blog assignment entry about Huangshan


Stairs have always been my weakness. I love hiking and exploring outside, but point out some stairs in my path and I know I will be out of breath after only 30 of them – I’ll blame my short legs so I don’t sound like such a wimp. When I heard that the hike up Huangshan was entirely stairs, my heart dropped a little. I was excited to be hiking up a mountain, but how could I make it up 7000 stairs when I hate even walking up four flights of stairs to get to class?

The day before the 7000-stair “hike”, we went to Nine Dragon Waterfall. Everything about the hike to the waterfall was amazing – the smell of the air, the rocks, and the trees – it all was extremely refreshing after being in the busy streets of Hangzhou for three weeks. Near the end of the hike, however, there was a long progression of extremely steep stairs. I climbed them slowly, legs burning and gasping for air. I eventually made it to the top to take in the beautiful view, but I couldn’t help thinking about how doomed I was if the stairs up Huangshan were that steep.

The morning of the 7000 stairs final came – I was geared up with my raincoat on and some snacks, a change of clothes and water in my backpack. It was raining as we started our hike up, but I didn’t mind because after 15 minutes I was roasting in my raincoat. I decided to tie my coat to my backpack so it’d stay dry, even though it meant I’d get wet.

Emily, Ben, Tou and I all ended up walking up together, eventually joined by Will and Jack closer to the top. We took it at a nice steady pace, taking our time to look at the foggy mountain peaks around us and resting to catch our breath when we needed to.

Throughout the entire hike, walking up beside us were porters caring insane loads up the mountain on their backs. To illustrate their effort – I saw one of them carrying two full propane tanks up the mountain, in addition to two full bags! Watching them carry up these huge loads made me wonder why they didn’t use the cable cars that went up the mountain. The only reasoning I could come up with is that the price of the porters labor was less expensive than using the cable cars – something you definitely wouldn’t see in the US.

We finally made it to the top, after three hours of climbing stairs. I definitely felt like the stair master and was impressed that I still had energy – though that energy quickly went into shivering. The climb definitely wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be. I was very surprise, however, on the amount people actually making the hike up. There were massive crowds – so big that going down the mountain was very difficult because you’d hit human traffic jams. You would never see so many people on the top of a mountain like that in the US.

Although I got rained on for two days,  had to sleep in a room of 14 guys to avoid a moldy room of death and despair, and my legs are still sore from the hike down, I am still glad I made the hike. In the end, I still have a unique experience, good and bad, to tell people about. I might as well make the most of it!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

China: Quick Summary of my Weekend

I am extremely tired right now and do not have the energy to put a full post right now. I will sum up my weekend trip to Huangshan (Yellow Mountain):

1. Stairs. Lots and lots of stair. So many freaking stairs! km after km of stairs!
2. Foggy mountains, creating an white abyss. I'm not sure what's scarier, not being able to see how far down you'd go if you fell, or actually seeing how high you are

3. A sleepless night in the hostel of death and despair.

That is the room I was expected to sleep in. If you know me, I die around mold so there was no way i was allowing that to happen.

I will explain more tomorrow when I am awake enough to actually post something decent!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

China: Week Two

Another long week of classes done!

Last weekend a group of us went to Thousand Island Lakes - sadly, I do not have any pictures. We were rather rushed because we only had 4 hours to explore (it's a two hour bus ride so we had a bus home to catch) and we went "white water rafting".  Though really, it was a little tame to be called white water rafting. If I had brought my camera rafting it would have died - I got super soaking wet. I wrote about it for my blog entry for my technical communications class. Not as good as last week's entry, but here it is...


Last Saturday, a group of us decided to check out Thousand Island Lake. We spoke to some of the Chinese students previously and were told it is a very clean and beautiful area. Wang Kai even said that not only is it good for swimming, but the water is so clean you can take a glass, scoop up some lake water, and drink it! I wasn’t about to go start sipping lake water, but I was excited to explore the area.

When we arrived at West Station, we found that the next bus available wasn’t leaving until 11:30 AM, meaning we had a 1.5 hour wait. We decided it would be worth the wait and stuck it out at the bus station, playing cards to make the time pass. Some of the locals at the bus station would walk over and quietly watch us play every once and a while – an event that has happened elsewhere around Hangzhou as well. If I actually knew how to say more than “nĭ hăo!” [hello] and “wŏ bù chī ròu” [I don't eat meat], I would have asked them to join us! They seemed extremely interested in what we were playing.

At 11:30 we boarded the bus, where I nearly immediately fell asleep. Napping while driving Chinese roads, however, is extremely difficult because of the non-stop honking. People here do not just honk their car horns when they are angry at someone’s driving abilities – they honk when they are passing you, they honk when to tell you they are going through intersections too fast, and sometimes they honk to just say hello.

Once we arrived at the Thousand Island Lake area, we were quickly surrounded by some of the locals. There were a lot of confused expressions until Kevin and Ji (both speak Mandarin) took over and cleared things up. We discovered that the boats that take you to different islands were already closed because of a triathlon, or some kind of race going on in town, in addition to the cloudy weather. Since we were not able to explore the islands, we decided to go white water rafting instead!

We took a hotel tour guide van up the zigzagging roads to the mountains surrounding the city. The drive was an adventure in itself. The drivers here are insane enough in city traffic, and it only gets more exciting going up curvy mountain roads. A few times I honestly felt that I would go flying out the open window beside me.

After making it to the top, we all got helmets and life jackets and were put into little rafts in pairs. I was wearing jeans at the time, so I sat down carefully attempting not to get them wet, knowing that they would remain cold and soaking the remainder of the day if they did. My attempts were futile. Nearly the moment I was settled in my raft, a water fight began and I was drenched before starting the ride down.

The river was really more like a shallow man-made gully, but it was still a blast. Every so often, a dam would slow the water down, leading to a cement/rock water slide. Will, who I was paired with in the raft, had the paddle so I almost always ended up going down these nearly vertical drops backwards, making it more scary and therefore more fun! I was soaked when we got to the bottom, my jeans extremely heavy with water, my lips nearly blue from being so cold, but ecstatic from the thrill. It is definitely one of the highlights of this trip so far.


Tomorrow we head to Huangshan, where i have to walk up 7000 steps. Sounds extremely tiring to me, but it's supposed to be extremely pretty.

Other than that, i've been pretty busy with school. Since it's a semester of class bunched into 6 weeks we have an exam every 1.5 weeks or so. Our bigger writing assignments seem to always fall when we have a mechanics exam too! I'll have a little more free time from now on though because I no longer have a 1.5 hour Mandarin class in the afternoon.

Tomorrow (Sunday, June 13) until Wednesday is the Dragon Boat festival! I will be gone for most of it at Huangshan, but will be around Wednesday to see the celebrations. I've been told it's cool, but I'm not really sure what they do! They are supposed to have some pretty cool boats on West Lake though

That's all for now

Friday, June 4, 2010

China: One week done, Five weeks to go

One week of classes are over with already! Five more to go!

I've already had two Mechanics of Materials problem sets (which are finished now) and two writting assignments.  My first exam is already next Tuesday - YIKES!

One of the writing assignments is a memo for my team project (not started yet, eek) and the other is a "blog" entry of my observations for each week I'm here.  I thought I'd post my blog entries for class here as well, even though i talked about some of it already:


Blog Entry - Week 1
The Troubles of Being Vegan in China

When I first became vegan for the sake of my health and well-being, there was a long period of discovery.  I slowly found restaurants that had tasty vegan options, I discovered stores that have a wider variety of non-processed foods and relied more on my own cooking skills.  However, in this carnivorous world, when I leave my safety circle of vegan-goodness and end up in a tiny dorm with no kitchen in the middle of China, I am blind on where to find good food.  Adding a foreign language in the mix doesn't make it any easier!

Being able to find (good) food was one of my main concerns about this trip to China.  This anxiety was reinforced during the first few days of my travels.  On the 14-hour plane ride to Shanghai, I had the opportunity to put the airplane barf bags in use - I had gotten food poisoning before touching down in China!

After landing safely in Shanghai, with the majority of my GI track intact, I crashed the moment I walked into my hotel room.  My insides were no longer angry, but I found that I had no appetite.  I made sure to eat to keep my energy, but was not pleased to find that most of the food was greasy and salty.  By the time we were on our way to Hangzhou, my concern about finding good things to eat was increasing exponentially.

The second night in my little dorm here in Hangzhou, I still didn't have an appetite.  Not only was the greasy food not agreeing with my stomach, but I was also worried about being vegan will affect me socially on this trip.  I wanted to go do things with people, but whenever it involved food I ended up being ore of an observer.  I realized there was only one thing to do - start building up a new circle of vegan-goodness.  It may take a while, but there is bound to be good foor for a vegan somewhere around here.

The next day we got to explore Hangzhou and West Lake for the first time.  I had a blast - the lake and surrounding scenery were breathtaking.  Lunchtime rolled around and five of us decided to try a noodle place that was next to the cafeteria on campus.  I wasn't expecting to be able to eat anything, having no way to ask for noodles without eggs or meal, but Will jumped in to help.

Honestly Will, if you ever read this, trumpets sounded. You are awesome.

After speaking to one of the men there for at least five minutes, he successfully ordered me fried noodles with just veggies - no meat or eggs.  Even though I still did not have much of an appetite, it was delicious.  These noodles, and Will's help, ended up being the turning point of my vegan worries.

From then on, I have been able to get a wider variety of foods, thanks to continuous help from Will.  I also found some whole wheat bread, peanut butter and banas, which I have been eating for breakfast.  This breakfast has built my appetite back up, allowing me to explore more of the local foods for lunch and dinner.

Although I am still eating a lot of greasy vegetables with rice, prospects are high.  Carol, one of the Chinese students here, suggested I try to Muslim cafeteria because they may have more vegetarian options.  I even found a vegetarian restaurant in the More Hangzhou magazine that I am excited to try in the near future.  Slowly but surely, I am building up a new vegan food repertoire here in Hangzhou.


I am currently doing my laundry, and after that I plan on going out with others to the silk area of Hangzhou.  We are then planning on going to Thousand Island Lake tomorrow - so after this weekend I might have more exciting things to share!