Tag Archives: Chinese language

Let’s not beat about the bush: Ovarian Massage

5 Nov

It’s a well-known fact that moving to a new place, eating new food and breathing new pollution will get your emotions going up and down like a hyperactive yo-yo if a way that can be somewhat disruptive to the old bodily functions. This is multiplied by about a thousand if you happen to be born without a Y chromosome.

Despite dutifully popping the pill and developing a slight OCD centred around adaquate spinach and red meat consumption, I hadn’t exactly been – well – regular.

During one moment of hysteria I convinced myself that I had fallen into that dreaded one-to-three percent hole described on the information leaflet in the microgynon package. For future reference, the Chinese for “pregnancy test” is rèn shēn shì yàn (妊娠试验).

It was a false alarm – but one which involved an unnecessary amount of stress desperately comparing the lines on my little white strip to as many pictures as I could find online (Chinese gynocological aids do not come with multilingual instructions). My chances of convincing my mother that this was an immaculate conception were too laughable to even contemplate.

So when I spotted “Ovarian Rest Course” near the end of the price booklet at my favourite massage locale, I leapt at the chance to sort out my failing femininity.

Everyone in Beijing should go to the Tai Dian massage parlour at some point. It may be up a flight of side-stairs in the middle of a business concourse in Guomao, and so hidden away that you nearly gave up trying to find it the first time you go. But inside is a little haven of luxury. Piped music plays, incence burns, everything is made of carved wood and looks like a glitzy Thai hotel.

On entry you are given a soft pair of slippers and ushered into curtained rooms filled with the comfiest massage beds and the softest white towels. Even the toilet seats are heated.

To top it all, there’s a free slap-up meal at the end. We’re talking dumplings and machine-brewed coffee – not exactly gourmet – but when you consider that an hour-long basic Chinese massage is 100 yuan (10 quid), it seems fairly reasonable.

The smiling woman ascertained that I wouldn’t mind a male masseur for my ovary rub. Then I was ushered into a room that looked worryingly surgical. A contraption resembling the Monty Python “machine that goes ping” occupied one corner. A set of hot cups was stacked on a table. With horror, it dawned on me that they might have misheard me, and that I would be leaving in an hour’s time with red welts all over my back and thighs.

Still, I stripped down to bra and pants and faffed about with the strange garment I had been handed – something between a very small sarong and a towel, which clipped around me to leave a gaping slit that left nothing to the imagination. I experimented briefly with hoiking it over my boobs into a kind of shift, then plumped for the hula-skirt look. Then it was time to lie down.

The masseur got straight down to it. Smearing his hands with warm vaseline, he set about kneading my stomach like a handful of play-doh. Straight away I regretted the large slab of cheesecake I had eaten “to take the edge off my hunger” when I had left work; my stomach responded to his every rub with a loud gurgle.

However, this did have an odd ice-breaking effect. Once he had established that I wasn’t hungry and yes, I had eaten, the masseur launched into a conversation that pushed my limited Chinese to the edge.

He discovered that I had been here since August, I was spending Christmas in China. Yes, I missed my mother. No, I hadn’t been to his hometown in Xian. Yes, I like Chinese food.

And all the while, his hands inched further and further below the pant level. Then all of a sudden, the knickers were down. It wasn’t quite full exposure – but  it was further than most guys would get without a couple of dates and several cocktails.

Next came the hot water bottle across womb area. My God was it hot. I squealed.

The masseur  spun me round and began started on my back. He did the obligatory tutting at the state of my spine and my transparently abominable posture. Then down went the pants again – this time completely. We’re talking complete hand-to-cheek here. It hurt. A lot.

Thankfully the bum probing didn’t go on too long. Once he moved onto my lower back, we were back into more familiar waters.

But 45 minutes had clearly been long enough to ascertain that I could do with a language teacher as well as a chiropractor. My masseur launched into an exploration of the correct Chinese terms for every muscle he  jabbed and bit of flab he wobbled.

And yet, by the time it was all over, I felt genuinely envigorated. I wasn’t aching all over as I have been after some Chinese massages (counter-productive, some might say). The aftertaste, if you can call it that, of the ovarian rest course was a bit like that cosy feeling of drinking hot chocolate after coming in from a freezing cold hike in the Scottish highlands in October. Someone must know what I mean.

According to my calendar, it’ll be a couple of weeks before I find out whether spending 150 yuan on having my muff rubbed can really reset the mechanism of my creaking ovaries. Even if it doesn’t, however, for that comfy-tum feeling, it might almost be worth it.

I had given my masseur unfettered access to my privates for an hour, and so in the last moments, he felt we had got to the stage where he could ask me about my private life. Was I engaged? Did I have a boyfriend? And I responded likewise – do you have a girlfriend?

I didn’t understand his response entirely. All I know is he laughed. And said something…

A wave of embarassment hit me – what had he said? Married? Gay? A masseur in another sense? And then he left me to get dressed.

I chucked my clothes back on and wolfed down my complimentary spaghetti, wishing I could understand his rapid conversation and laughing remarks to his friend in the restaurant.

Why is it always the language barrier that causes the most embarrassment – even when you are exposing both buttcheeks and a considerable amount of fanny to a complete stranger?

WordPress.com falls to China’s Internet Wall – Chicken’s Feet seek new roost

10 Oct

The censor has gone quite literally chicken oriental. The Chicken’s Feet King has been attacked. The dreaded firewall of doom that prevents you from getting onto Facebook, Twitter, and a certain Wikipedia page about a certain massacre on a certain square in 1989 has now taken offence at WordPress.com. Yes folks -we’ve been blocked.

Personally, I’m not sure whether waffling on about eating scorpions and regurgitating China Daily articles about pervy men caught on CCTV cameras can really be called “subversive”.

However, considering now that I am stuck behind the stupid Wall, I might as well give you folks in the non-blocked world a quick intro to how Chinese people do in fact “fan qiang” – literally, climb over the Wall. The Internet Wall. Because, as you can see, that is exactly what I am doing now.

It’s not hard, either. Everyone in China knows that if you want to go on Facey B or sneakily look at anti-Government sites, it’s pretty darn easy to do so.

The simplest method is via a proxy blocker website, such as www.vtunnel.com. Simply stick your blocked site into the little type input box, and Bob’s your uncle. Admittedly he’s a somewhat temperamental uncle – you have to treat him very gently, and the odds are that the whole thing will cut out when you’re halfway through watching a cat jump over a pig on YouTube. Still, on its day, it can be very reliable.

The same goes for the great Facebook block-dodging web address, www.f3.proxymice.com. Again, can be temperamental, but I have actually managed to use it in the unlikliest of places, including (don’t judge me) at work.

Then of course, there is the VPN or Virtual Private Network. Lucky people will already have access to one from their university, work outside China or similar. Others can pay for a subscription to a service like Surfbouncer. You download VPN software onto your computer, log in every time you load the computer, and there you have it. Websites work. Absolute gem. Plus the added bonus of a British VPN is that you can also watch iPlayer et al. However,  a lot of VPNs have already been nabbed by the censor and no longer work, so it’s worth asking around for the names of reliable ones (Surfbouncer is one).

These are the standard ex-pat options. The Chinese, however, are far more inventive and exciting in their wall-jumping techniques.

Take those who want to criticise censorship itself. Chinese Internet users first developed a euphamism for it – 和谐 or “héxié”, “to harmonise”, an ironic stab at the Government’s own “harmonious society” policy.

The censors cottoned on to that one pretty fast. This was when the Chinese language, with its tones and near-identical words, came into play.

Now people blog about river crabs – 河蟹, “héxiè”. As an offshoot of that, dodgy articles can now be “aquatic-producted” (被水产, “shuǐchǎn”).

There are countless other nifty little homophones like this, along with the Wall-jumping opportunities that can be opened by using Pinyin, the Western transliteration of Chinese characters.

However, the only option for the King of the Chicken’s Feet is to find a new roost that will allow him to squawk on the legal side of the wall. After all, having to wait to get home and access my VPN in my flat five seconds away from work is simply unthinkable. When an idea strikes, there’s no stopping it – the hunt for a new coop is on.

Watch this space.

No river crabs here – Chicken’s Feet only allowed.

Weather not good – but I have eaten

30 Sep

Rain: the start of an excellent British conversation

My Chinese is getting better. I can tell the lift lady that “I am late” or the waiter “I don’t care what kind of dumpling I eat”.

But I have hit against one barrier which is seriously impeding my ability to progress  to fully-fledged small talk. Chinese people do not talk about the weather.

Now, I know it’s a cliché, but British people need to be able to talk about the weather, and no more so than in the past couple of days. Any journalist who knows his salt will have published a story on this Indian summer you chaps are having over there (bastards). In fact, one of my own big breaks (joint byline and everything!) was a hard-hitting Easter exposé  for the Independent entitled “The weather’s great (but getting anywhere will be a nightmare”. Nick Davies, eat your heart out.

However, when I asked my Chinese teacher how to say “how’s the weather?”, he genuinely refused to tell me. “tiānqì (weather) is a very technical word,” he said. “Only scientists and the weather forecasters on the TV use it.”

The same was true of “cloudy”, “overcast”, and any type of rain that isn’t just “rain”. In China, weather is either good or not good. Period. Although one thing you can say is “it’s very polluted today” (jīntiān hěn wūrǎn) – pretty blindingly obvious in Beijing

So what do Chinese people use as their replacement vacuous conversation filler?

Food: the basis of Chinese conversation and culture

“Nǐ chī le ma?” – “Have you eaten?” – is essentially the Chinese equivalent of the British greeting, “Lovely/awful weather, isn’t it?” i.e. it actually means “how are you?”.

It’s appropriate too, because if British people talk constantly about the weather, it is nothing compared to how much Chinese people talk about food.

They talk about food all the time. And I mean ALL THE TIME.

Every issue of China Daily has some item about food or restaurants. Every festival is based around some sort of cake, bun, or strange appendage of animal you never thought edible until it appeared on your plate.

In fact, one of the only time Chinese people do not talk about food is when they are eating – something they do in a BIG way.

A smart work lunch, for example, is not just a ploughman’s or a bowl of bolognaise. We’re talking at least three dishes per person (and rice, and noodles, and potato), served on a table with a sort of metal turnstile in the middle, so you can spin the vast array of savoury, spicy and sweet delights to get as much as you can. Whatever isn’t finished is of course packed away to take home for when the indigestion subsides.

If you lose your watch in Beijing, don’t panic. You could literally time your life by the types of food served up from cookshop porches. Rice porridge and sweet buns in the morning; steamed buns and corn on the cob at lunch; meaty pancakes at dinner; and meat, meat, meat, all hours of the day and night, served ten at a time in the form of skewers – chwar.

Nosh in this city is as ubiquitous as – well, as the weather. Considering this, it hopefully won’t be too hard to accustom myself to a new kind of chitter-chatter – once I’ve got used to the linguistic lack of weather. And once that damn heatwave has stopped in the UK.

In any case – as anyone who knows me or has read this blog will testify – I’m perfectly capable of wittering on about “whether I have eaten” for hours on end. As well as what I have eaten, how I ate it, and how I felt post cibum.

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