Sunday, March 13, 2005

Poked, Smoked, and Cupped

I have been having a lot of back-aches, and decided to try the ultimate Chinese remedy - acupuncture. (Do you know how long those needles are?!) Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of our "minder" here to help us find someone, and translate for us to them. They took me to the "Number 2 Affiliated Hospital of Henan University of Chinese Medicine." The presence of the word "university" in that title only became apparent later!

After we had paid the receptionist for the right to see a doctor (that's how they do it here!), we went to his room, and found it full of people (about 20) lounging around. Some, we gradually came to realize, were other patients, some were their friends and relatives, and lots of them were students. (ah! It’s a university!) When the doctor arrived, he gabbled on to me in Chinese, and my minder told him stuff, explaining especially how I had fallen at New Year and maybe that was the cause of my problem. (She doesn't listen - I told her the problem started before that.) He diagnosed me by taking my pulse (both wrists), looking at my tongue, and poking my back and legs with his fingers to find where it hurt (yoW!) Then he sent me off for x-rays ... another whole new experience.

I came back with the x-rays still dripping wet and with a little piece of paper with Chinese writing from the 15-yr old (it seemed) who was the radiologist, saying that I have ... something that is normal for my age (my minder couldn't translate it).

So then I had my first of 6 treatments.

First they stuck me full of needles in my back, buttocks, legs and ankles. I particularly don't like the behind-the-knee ones! Then they attach electrodes to the ones in my legs - ankle, knee and buttock - and run a current through them so the muscles are jumping. Then they put a big wooden box on my back, with some sort of smoking thing in it, and a metal cage over all, and a thick blanket. That stays there for forty minutes or so ... oh, the pleasure when the electrodes suddenly beep and go off!! And they take it all off, and remove all the needles ... another pleasurable moment! Then the doctor gets some glass jars, dips a burning wad momentarily into each one and slaps them onto my back and legs - 10 of them. The jar fiercely sucks my flesh up into its vacuum - at first it feels quite bitey, but after a couple of moments it actually feels quite good. After ten or fifteen minutes they remove the jars, each one with a loud sucking noise, and then give me a fairly strong massage all over my back and legs.

And all this happens in a roomful of people! It’s the funniest thing. Most of them, of course, are the university students - it is, after all, a university. Some of them are patients, and patients’ friends and relations. But it all has a remarkable sociable family feel. And they are all fascinated with the presence of a "waigoren" (foreigner). The little doctor man was very proud when he learnt to say my name (well, as best he could!), proudly repeating "Loosha, Loosha!" Then he learnt to say "Geta uppa!" And everyone had a go at saying that too. That triggered a rush of everyone having a go at any other English words they knew. Our college driver/handyman (who was looking on, of course) knows how to say "tomorrow" and "money". Peter said "Here comes the hot box", and they all started saying "boxa, boxa". I said to Peter, "at least you can look", and they all started "Looka! Looka!"

It is a series of 6 treatments, I have had three. Today I went in by myself – it’s a 2 hour bus ride (on three buses) each way, quite an ordeal in itself. But, I have to admit, I feel a lot better. One of the trainees, who has a few more words of English than the others, usually says "Do a you a feel a well?"

Lots more I could tell, but I have a washing machine full of smoky clothes and more waiting to go in. They tell me not to wash the smoke off after the treatment as its part of the deal, and I have been good for the last few days... but today I can't handle any more and I'm washing everything! Tomorrow the hospital is closed so I get a break, and I don't want to smell that stuff again until Monday.