A back-up plan

Ok, so something really scary happened. I decided to make this piece of beef I bought a few weeks ago (Frozen). I was in need of some iron, and I really craved it. It looked pretty good when I bought it, but it turns out it was all gristle and chewy. I ate a few small bites and suddenly, I choked. I choke often, so I didn’t think that much of it, but I couldn’t get it back up and it was stuck –hard. I tried to drink my iced coffee to open my throat, but the coffee flew back out instead of going down. Then I started remembering how the nurses said I would have to be careful for the rest of my life and that choking is a real danger and my most probable cause of unnatural death. Now I’m freaking. I ran to the sink to try to make myself throw up, but it didn’t work. Rumi’s too small to do the Heimlich, even if I gave her a crash course. If I die, they don’t know how to call the police, I’d be laying there until the nanny came tomorrow afternoon, and then what? Does anyone even know who or how to contact someone in America? Suddenly, the lump went down. I still don’t know how, and it may be stuck somewhere else, but I can breathe.

I have to start figuring out some emergency plans and plan B’s. It’s been a couple of hours now, and I’m still freaked by this experience. Besides the fact that I may never eat beef again, I’m going to have to give some Chinese friends emergency information…I know I’m kind of thinking out loud, but really, I’m still freaked.

On to other news, we took the subway downtown for about an hour and half to find a pharmacy my friend told me about to get my thyroid medicine. At first they asked for my prescription, but I showed them my friend’s picture on we-chat (the Chinese version of Facebook) and they got so excited and asked me how many boxes I wanted. I only saw 2 available, so I said 2. That’s a year’s supply, so I’m good to go for a while.

Then on the way home we stopped at Toys R US for some window shopping. It’s crazy how decorated China gets for Christmas. We had dinner at Pizza Hut, and it was a nice adventurous day. We’ll have another day like this next week. I belong to a group called “Shanghai Mamas” and in the classified, a mother who’s moving is trying to get rid of 3 bikes –one with training wheels and Raine wants one SO bad! So, we’ll head over there –she lives at the end of another subway line on the exact opposite end of the city. It will take over 2 hours. I hope they let us bring it on the subway.

Ok, the last thing that has been on my mind is my failure to truly communicate what China is like. I say this, because I keep getting this repeated impression that many American equate China with North Korea or something, and they couldn’t be further from the truth. First of all, my impression is purely of Shanghai, but almost all of my students are NOT from Shanghai, they moved here for college or a job. Their parents are farmers or factory workers. And yet my students are wearing Jimmy Choo shoes and carrying Louis Vitton bags. It’s the New Rich. They have a lot of money and they don’t know what to do with it. They buy several houses and rent them out to foreigners like me. One is reserved for the child they will have one day.

They work hard, but they take their free-time seriously too. They vacation in Europe, Asia and America. They like shopping in America because everything is cheaper. They may only get 10 days of vacation, but they make them count.

Here’s the thing I feel a bit critical about though. They spend their childhood from age 7 to 18 studying at least 12 hours a day. There is no play, there is no free-time. (I think that’s why they take it so seriously when they are adults). It’s a constant competition to get the best grades, and get into the best schools. Getting into a university is really hard. Once you’re there, it’s a blow-off time, but the 11 years preceding that is intense and stressful. But it’s not learning.

My co-worker, John and I are often amazed at the lack of general knowledge. They have friends and family who live in Toronto or Vancouver, but they can’t point to Canada on a map, and they don’t know what language they speak. Covering your mouth when you sneeze is completely unheard of, and the concept on NOT spreading germs hasn’t been learned at all. General housekeeping and cooking are also not learned. They spent those years memorizing books, and they end up 24 year-old graduates with no life skills. They know more about Western history than I know about Chinese history. History is in the perspective of the culture and the “winners,” of course. They also don’t make decisions for themselves until after their first child. Their parents decided what they will major in, which job they will take, who they will marry and where they will live.

Ok, well, I’m going to go formulate an emergency plan now…


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