Archive for April, 2009

Coming soon.. sooner than everywhere else!

I walked by our streetside DVD vendor two days ago and saw a new X-men movie for sale. Strange, I thought, I hadn’t heard about a new Wolverine movie having been released. Liking the X-Men series, I brought a copy home.

Taking a closer look at the cover description, it stated the movie was to be released in UK and Australia April 28th and 29th, and in USA May 1st. Wow, I thought- my first chance at a movie pre-screening.

The DVD was excellent quality; this wasn’t a movie theater recording on a camcorder. In fact, this must have been leaked directly from the movie studio, because the product was still unfinished! Some scenes were simple computer-graphics silhouettes which were obviously intended to be replaced with fancier special effects, like airplane flights and complicated fight sequences. And we chuckled at the wires still visibly pulling the actors through the air, giving us a glimpse at how some of the effects were staged.

It still amazes me that this kind of pirating continues so openly here. Selling this kind of a DVD in America would probably land you in jail. But laws regulating copyright in the US simply are ignored here, despite some talk in official circles about cracking down on the practice more heavily.

In case you’re wondering about the movie, I thought it was a good one despite the poor official reviews. It’s entertaining, which is about all one could ask for from a comic book movie. But the stakes for my screening were much lower: $0.75 to own a new release is a lot less of a gamble than forking over $18 for two movie theater tickets!

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What are you smoking?

I just finished up my second appointment at the Jiangsu Provincial Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, and now I know why so many people love Chinese Medicine. It’s because all you do apparently is smoke marijuana and you subsequently feel much better about whatever is ailing you :).

Seriously though, as I entered the hospital, I was overwhelmed by the powerful smell of pot everywhere. I turned to my friend, a Syrian woman who is studying Chinese and Western medicine here, and asked her if I was smelling what I thought I was smelling. She laughed and said, “NO!” but agreed that the place does reek of pot. She explained that TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) uses many herbs to induce healing in the body, and they are often burned over certain parts of the body to promote healing. Ahhhh, that makes sense. I was relieved and amused all at once.

The hospital itself is gorgeous, a stark contrast to the Children’s Hospital we visited a few months ago. And the treatment is incredibly cheap and efficient. Many people here prefer TCM to Western Medicine, and I can appreciate this. Thus far, it seems very holistic and concerned with getting at the root cause of an ailment and treating the entire system affected rather than simply prescribing medicine to treat a symptom. I’ll be going back for more, and am really interested in learning more about it, so I’ll be sure to update you all about any new findings.

Surprise!

This morning, after working all day yesterday – I slept in until a glorious 7:30! Our nanny arrives to work at 8 o’clock, so I had just enough time to get Leo up and dressed and was puttering around the house in my pajamas when Cheng Ayi arrived with… her twin sister in tow. Surprise!

Notice I still have bedhead and a squished up sleep face - but Leo looks great!

Notice I still have bedhead and a squished up sleep face - but Leo looks great!

We’ve heard a lot about her and were delighted to meet her, but having no advance warning of her visit was something of a shock to the system at 8 o’clock. And anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that mornings and I aren’t best friends. But, this is the way things are in China; we really never know quite what to expect. Not much is absolutely certain until it actually happens, and anything really goes. This has its advantages, as one can change one’s mind at the last minute with no penalties or problems. However, it also has the drawback of not really being able to plan for a darn thing, and needing to be ready for anything, anytime. I’m glad I was at least remotely presentable.
This kind of thing happens all the time. The other day, without notice or warning, a security gate was installed in our apartment building and we were locked out without keys the next day. No big deal, because one of the Nainai’s (Leo has two adopted grandmas in the building) was waiting with keys and felt no need to explain anything to us other than that we owed them money for the gate and access; giving us advanced notice was unnecessary. Our landlord calls (at least he calls!) about 15 minutes before he arrives to make a repair or look at something. We’ve gotten used to this over time. Our class schedules are bound to change at any time, which makes arranging childcare a bit tricky, but so far so good. It all seems to work out in the end, but not without stressing us unaccustomed Americans out a little bit. We’re trying our best to adjust and go with the flow, but I’m afraid I’ll just never be able to roll with it like a Chinese would! One of the most important things for us to remember in the midst of this is that in no way is this lack of advanced notice rude here, and we’ve had to check our own reactions and sensitivities at the door more than once.
Cheng Ayi and her sister are now outside with Leo playing and all is back to normal (for now). We’ll see what other surprises are in store; you just never know what’s going to happen!

Little whiteskin

Leo attracts the funniest remarks while out and about town. His skin is so pale in comparison with the deep tan of the Chinese. A common remark we hear in passing is “So cute! Such white skin!”

The other day while he was playing he attracted a small crowd of grandmas. One came right up to him and said to the rest in Chinese: “Look! Little whiteskin!”

Thoughts of old cowboy films flashed across my mind: “Me Redman. You take um horses and go.” The similarity to the old theatrical language was just too close to pass up a comparison!

Life without insurance

A couple of weeks ago, to make a long story short, my naughty little boy stole my house key off of the kitchen table, and hid it in his clothes dresser without either me or his nanny seeing him do it. Thus, later that day, after returning from a run outside, I found our nanny, Cheng Ayi and Leo waiting for me to get into the house (because she thought I had taken the key off the table). At this point, we thought the key must just still be on the table, and with JM gone to school, we had a predicament on our hands. Leo was hungry and in need of lunch and a nap, I was sweaty and in need of lunch and a shower, and all of us had no intention of sitting outside of our apartment for any longer than we had to. Ayi’s sensible first thought was simply to call JM and have him come home to let us in.

Of course, being as impatient as I am, I could not think of waiting that long, and quickly brainstormed a way to break into our house. We have an outdoor patio attached to our top-floor apartment and so I ran up to the roof and looked down to see how far I would have to jump. One story down suddenly looked somewhat daunting. But, if I could successfully make the jump, I would save loads of time and I would be able to get into our house via the patio door (the patio door key is kept outside on the patio in case the door slams locked from the outside while we’re out there).

Usually, I am a pretty sensible person, but my willingness to take physical risks is, for the average person – perhaps a bit higher than normal. I grew up in the country, so as a kid I skittered along high rafters, ran across patches of ice, swung on barn ropes, climbed tall trees, rode our horse as fast as he could go, amongst other things… so I figured I could take this one story jump. However, I now had to contemplate the reality that if something were to happen, I would have to go to a Chinese hospital to get treatment. This was a VERY scary prospect, and certainly made me take much more pause than normal before making the jump. Not having insurance or access to a Western clinic here has made me a more careful person in general, as I really don’t want to step foot in a Chinese hospital unless absolutely necessary. It makes me think that having insurance (while admittedly this industry saves many people from financial disaster) may in fact cause people to be more risky as a result. I wonder if anyone’s ever studied the impact of having insurance on risk taking behavior…

The risk of having to go to a Chinese hospital was outweighed by my desire to keep my son on his normal nap schedule and by my own desire for a hot shower after a long run, and so I made the jump. I lowered myself off the roof and onto the overhang (which I was praying the entire time would hold my weight). After that, I sat for a few minutes figuring out my strategy. I figured I needed to get myself as close to the ground as possible, and so with Jason Bourne as my role model, I flipped my legs over the ledge and used my arms to lower myself another few feet close to the patio floor. I made the jump, and got away with just a couple of scratches. I think Cheng Ayi thought I was a bit insane, but everyone stayed on schedule. Later on, we found the key and realized that our little imp Leo was the cause of all the trouble.

So, the moral of the story is, don’t leave your keys on the table anymore, and proceed carefully if you need to jump off your roof. Life without insurance made me pause, but didn’t stop me. I’m not sure if that makes me brave or stupid, but I’m glad it all worked out.