A Travellerspoint blog

The Neighborhood

sunny 79 °F

We went for an extended walk around the neighborhood on Saturday, and I took a few pictures to help describe our area. You can follow along by looking closely at our Google Map or using Google Earth.

Yeye and nainai's apartment is part of a large development called Changqing (=LongGreen, or "Evergreen") Garden. This large residential development has been built in stages, called "villages", over the past ~15 years. Some new villages are still under construction, and there is still some land that hasn't been started yet. There will be 27 when all are built. In the center and part of the development is a fairly large park. However, when going for a walk or morning exercise we don't usually go this far, because a smaller park (also part of the development) is directly adjacent to our village, along its southern border.

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On the Map you can see the development is roughly a large semi-circle shape, with its flat edge oriented northeast - southwest. That edge was historically (for about 50 years) the edge of Hankou, but the city has more recently grown to include the area of Changqing Garden and beyond. That historical border was defined in dirt by a sizable embankment built in the late 50s. This embankment encircles the entirety of Hankou, including along both the Han River and the Changjiang, and was intended to protect the city from damaging flooding of the Changjiang, which occurred regularly through the centuries. The levee, if I may call it such, did in fact protect the city from half a dozen or so floods which occurred in the last 50 years. One of the main purposes of the Three Gorges Dam, completed mid-2006, was to control flooding of the Changjiang below it, so now Wuhan is free to expand beyond Hankou's protective levee.

The linear space occupied by the embankment also lends itself well to roads. A local access road runs along the north side of the embankment, parallel to it. Our village #27 (they were not built in numerical order) is just north of this road. South of the road, at the foot of the levee, is a long narrow strip of greenery. At our location, being part of Changqing Garden, this strip has been developed into a park, with walkways, manicured trees, flowers, lawn, bamboo stands and other plants, metal exercise equipment, a couple of metal table-tennis tables, and a round plaza with slightly elevated stage and some stone tables and with stone stools. Every non-rainy morning, this park is filled with (mostly older) folks doing various kinds of exercise, from tai chi, swordplay, dance, and other interesting toys, and after dinner the park again fills with walkers encouraging their digestion with a dinner constitutional.

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At some locations, squeezed into the quite small area between the manicured park and the embankment, enterprising residents have planted vegetable gardens. With no one to tell them no, and probably little vandalism, they get enjoyment, exercise, and fresh veggies all in one activity.

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On top of the embankment is 1.5 lanes of concrete, often used by bicyclists and walkers, and also used by people practicing driving. Access is limited to stairs (or climbing the incline), except for a couple spots allowing larger vehicles up. Along our stretch there is also a large pillbox embedded in the embankment, maybe built during WW2 for defense against the Japanese, and preceding the construction of the levee.

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On the south side of the embankment in our neighborhood is the outer ring of Wuhan, a major traffic road. This ring isn't complete yet, but it has heavy traffic here. At the west end of our neighborhood, the ring road is elevated high onto bridges to fly over a traffic artery passing through a cut in the embankment and into the city. Even the space below the overpasses is not wasted, but contains park structures and manicured plants.

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At the center of Changqing Garden is a moderately large semi-circular central park, with large water features, tennis courts, a larger plaza with stadium seating, permanent exercise equipment, and a children's center and retiree center (both under construction). When we walked through late afternoon on Saturday, it was not nearly as crowded as I might have expected considering the size of this development, but numerous smaller parks (like ours, most of the villages are near a green space that is part of the development) surely easy the burden on this central one. A man was playing with his radio-controlled boat in the water, some folks were feeding fish, 6 or 8 kites were in the air (a few astonishingly high for this densely populated area).

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Within the broad outline of Changqing Garden, however, some land is not owned by the development. One significant area is occupied by Wuhan Polytechnic University, with four gates from surrounding streets into the campus. We are very close to the southern gate, and walk frequently into and through the campus to exit at other gates (usually towards the western gate).

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Further north, just south of the large semi-circular central park, a subway station is currently under construction. The subway will allow much quicker access to the central city for those living near it, for the same fare as a good quality bus. We're sort of a hike from the station -- not so convenient with a big load of groceries; but there will surely continue to be local (non-automobile) taxis in the neighborhood. Four subway lines are under construction in addition to the one which is already open, but I imagine buses will still blanket the city.

Posted by myrrhlin 05:50 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Cough

Living in the Middle Breath in the Middle Kingdom

sunny

My River Nose peaked at flood stage on Saturday, 5/10. The next day, it dried up almost completely, but I woke up with my lungs in bad shape. They sounded like the vents in a 1979 Datsun, full of dried leaves. And the coughing became worse, as well. Inhaling too much or exhaling too much brings on a cough, so one learns to live on the Middle Breath, with this virus here in the middle kingdom. The coughs produce a little phlegm and, over time, a dull headache, which is most bothersome and painful during a cough.

I learned to budget a portion of my attention to repressing the physical itch to cough, all the time, which is an interesting state. I read once somewhere that one strategy to confound lie detector testing is to clinch your sphincter and hold it while conducting the interview. The concentration required to maintain this clinching distracts you enough from the conversation that you do not dwell on your answers enough to have a physiological response to them, but not so much that you simply can't carry a conversation. Try it! Suppressing a needed cough is sort of like that, I guess. And if you ever get picked up by jack-booted security services, you may thank me when you get out.

After two days of coughing, Monday night 5/12 after Skyler had gone to sleep, Z and I walked to a pharmacy by the University's west gate. They remain open until 10.30p. Two women wearing lab coats (perhaps the extent of their professional training) asked what we needed, whether we wanted traditional or western medicine, and proceeded to present choices of products. The first one presented was a german made capsule, then two bottles of cough syrup, one western and one traditional. The western one (for dry - no phlegm cough) contained codeine (OTC!). After reading the inserts on these, I opted for an herbal medicine in pill form which suppressed cough and some other symptoms, and started taking them right away.

They seemed to help a little bit, but are really geared towards cold-type symptoms. My nose got very dry, for example, even though it wasn't really running at this point. The sharp headache after each cough was really getting to me (and Zhewei) so on Tuesday 5/13, before lunch, we went to the local hospital just outside the west gate of the university. I was pretty sure I had caught the virus from Skyler, even though my symptoms were somewhat different from his. I just wanted something to ease the coughing, the cause of my headache, and continue to let my body fight the infection.

A female doctor with gravelly voice was consulting patients. Everyone just sits in one room, the consulting patient sits on a stool next to the doctor's desk. What happens if a patient wants some privacy? When my turn came, Zhewei described the symptoms, the doctor listened to my breathing, checked my throat. She said my throat was irritated, and she could definitely hear their was phlegm or fluid in my lungs. She sent me for a blood test. Across the hall, I held my arm through a small window as a phlebotomist found a vein at my elbow and removed a sample. He put it in the machine and I waited 10 minutes, holding a cotton swab (that's right -- not a cotton ball!) against my skin.

We returned to the doctor. The blood test did not show a bacterial infection (in fact, all 18 quantities were in normal range). She recommended an intravenous prescription. I asked what was in it. She tried to answer, but then got up and went out to retrieve an insert that comes with the drug. She gave us the insert to read and went ahead consulting with other patients. Most of the insert was in chinese, but the name of the drug (Enoxacin Gluconate Injection) ended with -acin, so I guessed it was an antibiotic. Finally she was done with other patients and I asked why she was recommending an antibiotic when the blood test showed it wasn't bacteriological? Man, why am I always such a pain in the ass?

A male doctor came in and sat down, I guess it was near their lunch break, and listened and made a suggestion or two. I wanted oral drugs, not an IV. I just wanted something for the cough, basically, I repeated. She asked if I was allergic to <something like penicillin that Zhewei couldn't precisely translate>. Well, how can I answer that? I don't know! She sent me upstairs to get a skin test. A needle under the skin, and wait 20 minutes.

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Flies buzzed lazily in the afternoon warmth of the room. A few patients quietly sat around with IVs in their arms, reading papers or watching the low murmur of the TV. We came back down and the doctor was not in the room. We figured she'd gone to lunch (which usually includes a nap -- it can be a two hour break!). I said we should just leave a note, and go back to the pharmacy to try another cough medicine -- that's all I wanted, really. Even the codeine was pretty cheap, I'd buy that if I had to.
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After a couple minutes of indecision, the doctor showed up, a bowl of food in her hand, munching away. She wrote a list of three drugs, pills. Two were chinese medicine, for cough and expectorating, the third, Amoxicillin. She told us to go get them and return for instructions. We went to the hospital pharmacy and bought them, three boxes each), and went back. She then told us how many of each to take, and how often. Zhewei wrote it on the boxes as she talked. She said I could return on Thursday evening if I didn't feel better, she would be working then and was already familiar with my case. We headed home for lunch.

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I started taking all these at lunch, even though I really doubted the antibiotic was going to be helpful. A couple days of these, and I really didn't notice a lot of difference, except, again, my nose seemed dry. Maybe I was coughing less, it was hard to say. Each morning I felt better, because I mostly hadn't been coughing while sleeping. But the cough continued. Some days I'd cough up a little phlegm, and other days it was a dry cough all day. Those were usually worse. For a while, my nose was also producing clear snot regularly, and I had occasional sneezing, but I think these may be stimulated in part by pollen allergies. The cottonwood trees (or something similar) have been filling the air with floating white puffballs -- a couple of the window screens on the windward side of the apartment are covered with them.

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Zhexiong recommended a particular cough syrup, Chinese herbal medicine, and Z picked up a bottle. I started using this in addition to the pills, but then basically switched to it entirely. It was quite sweet (it is a syrup, after all, and it includes Honey, Maltose, and Syrup as ingredients) and thick, and has lots of herbal extracts in it. You can smell the menthol.

I didn't return to see the doctor on Thursday night. For one, Skyler was sick again and we were dealing with that. Zhewei also was convinced the doctor would just recommend the IV antibiotic again. I wanted to give my body more time to fight it.

From day to day, it was hard to notice any improvements. But by the next weekend, I did seem better. I'd stopped taking the medicine except for the cough syrup, and was coughing less. The syrup helped the coughs I did have to be more productive, I think.

Even today, about two weeks after I started feeling sick, I am still coughing occasionally, and can feel the itch to cough if I breathe too deeply or exhale too much. But I am now avoiding the cough syrup, and am much improved. I had refrained from alcohol while sick, despite yeye's almost daily exhortations, but last night I indulged and had beer with dinner.

Posted by myrrhlin 16:51 Archived in China Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

A Marked Map

Wuhan

semi-overcast

Thought you might like a few locations so I'll try to pinpoint them. Google maps has NO street information for Wuhan, and very few cities marked either... so I'll have to make do with satellite images, but fortunately for Wuhan they're pretty clear. I've created a custom map and will update it as time goes on. This is my first time sharing the map so I hope this works:

Google Personal Map

You can see Wuhan straddles the Changjiang river (Yangtze river), where the Han river flows into it. This divides the city into three parts (which were actually three cities before bridges and administrative authority united them first in 1927). Hankou (kou = mouth) is the part identified on the Google map as Wuhan, northwest of the Changjiang and north of the Han river. The southeast third of the city is called Wuchang, and is home to the education and government centers. The southwest third is called Hanyang is more industrial than the others.

I'll be adding more to the map as time goes on, and events transpire.

Posted by myrrhlin 07:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Carrefour

a supermarket shopping trip

rain

It rained a lot last night, I came fully awake sometime during and couldn't sleep for an hour or more until the storms passed. I had taken about 10ml of the children's cough syrup to dry up my nose and ease the cough for sleeping, but somehow I still felt it unpleasant, the breathing i mean. My nose is running like a faucet today, with occasional sneezing. If i have the same virus Skyler does, which seems likely, then it's manifested itself quite differently for me. No fever or sore throat. Deep hacking cough with a little phlegm, scratchy throat, and now the extreme runny nose and occasional sudden hard sneezes. I haven't been able to find my handkerchief since we arrived in Wuhan, so I've rubbed my nose raw with toilet paper.

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We went shopping this morning to a one of the big supermarkets (there are a number of them) in Wuhan: a Carrefour. Carrefour is a french supermarket chain that is big in china. Walmart is trying to compete with them now, and there are several chinese chains as well. although I heard rumors about nationalists boycotting carrefour (after the embarrassments of interfering with the olympic torch relay in france), there seemed to be a lot of customers.
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These supermarkets are quite similar to american style, except that they are much more "big boxes" than american ones: because land is so dear, they build upwards, and the supermarket is on 2 or 3 separate floors. In this carrefour, the ground floor was like a tiny indoor mall, and you have to walk through half of it to get upstairs to the carrefour, and the other half on your way out. Devious marketers. The several floors are connected by moving walkways inclined at an angle. A clever design of the treads allows you to roll your shopping cart right onto the walkway and the wheels will lock in place, carrying it up or down the incline.
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Like most chinese stores and restaurants, "help" (by which I mean labor, or employees) is plentiful. Kind of disconcerting to an american shopper, being eyed by employees wherever you go, but not surprising. Skyler charmed a number of people of course despite being overly tired (no morning nap).
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We spent about $61, but $27 of it was a pack of imported diapers. The disposables which wick away the moisture allow Skyler to sleep through the night. We could have saved some $6-7 and bought Chinese brand, but we had some bad luck with diapers we bought in a little market in Guangzhou the night we arrived. Although they _said_ pampers on the side, they were most certainly not... :) Oh, I never told you: our luggage was delayed a day in Guangzhou by TSA inspection, so our first day after 24 hours travel we had to wear borrowed clothes. Everything arrived safely though.

The Carrefour and Walmart both have chartered buses which go from various areas of the city direct to their stores. we caught one just a few minutes before it left on the way home, which made getting the goods home a little easier and saved a few yuan on public bus fare (1.2 - 2.0Y / person, depending on comfort).

We had a great late lunch, including a fish we picked up at the Carrefour, and some home-made sausage (yeye and nainai made it before new year, sort of traditional). Then Zhewei finally got skyler to nap, and everyone slept (except me, today). It rained for a couple hours which cooled the air a lot, but there's not much breeze. The rain cleans the air up nicely, but of course it's also cloudy. It's amazing how fast the dust builds up. If I get industrious I'll do a little photographic demonstration later.

I had a dose of chinese herbal medicine to help with my symptoms -- a couple tiny bottles sealed with wax containing a bitter brown fluid. It comes with tiny straws to allow you to drink the stuff like a juice-box. The label says "bitter and slightly sweet", but the sweet part is really a stretch, even by chinese standards. (Chinese cookies and cakes generally go much lighter on sugar than american or european ones, but some interesting confections use a lot of oil.) not sure whether this stuff works.

I'd been hoping to post my thoughts to a blog, along with photos, but the great firewall blocks blogspot, where I'd created a blog before I left. Seems most chinese blog using home-grown software and sites, which of course are all in chinese. Will keep looking for an alternative. In the process of searching, I ran across several interesting Chinese expat blogs, and promptly wasted many hours reading. Some of it is pretty fascinating though.
http://www.chinaexpat.com/ or http://www.pandapassport.com/ or
http://www.lostlaowai.com/
The Firewall also blocks blogs on lots of newspaper sites (WaPo, LATimes, NYT), and RSS feeds. I've resorted to logging in to WaPo and NYT so I can read stories from front pages. Took several days to read and catch up on politics (jeez Hillary, c'mon already, Rocky got beat too).

Zhewei has been watching television in the last few evenings, after Skyler sleeps. A lot of silliness there. The non-business news shows are about 90% Olympics stories, although there have been several pieces talking about a corruption scandal in Taiwan ($30m gone missing, apparently, and two people have resigned). the chinese govt must love having the Olympics, though, to distract citizens from real issues for the better part of a year. One hour-long interview and audience Q&A (surely staged) with a Chinese student studying in Paris, talking about -- you guessed it -- the French interfering with the torch relay. There's an evening show something like "guinness book of records" style, where people with unusual skills are challenged, and given an award if they succeed. Most definitely not Guinness records, though: putting basketballs through a hoop using a forklift, a sculptor making the Olympic logo with mascots in clay in under 3 minutes, a guy balancing a column of 8 stools held with one hand for two minutes, and some which are just too hard to describe.

Posted by myrrhlin 03:05 Archived in China Tagged shopping Comments (0)

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