Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Going Chinese"

One of the Chinese staff at school remarked to me the other day that I'm "becoming very Chinese".  I agreed and told her that I'm basically an "egg" -- I'm white on the outside but yellow on the inside (and no, that is not a racist comment; it's a joke made between friends of different races, and both of of us found it funny)!  The same thing happened to me in Korea; for me, Asia is just a really good fit and I find it comfortable to assimilate into the culture in various ways.

The particular form of cultural assimilation that inspired my friend's comment was that I went out last Friday for a massage with other coworkers and decided to try cupping while I was at it.  Cupping is an expensive trendy thing on the US West Coast; in China, it's pretty normal and very inexpensive (about $3 for ten minutes).  Several of our Chinese staff swear by the health benefits of it.  In fact, one of them, Shine, was talking just recently about how her mother-in-law does cupping on her entire family any time one of them starts to feel sick, and it apparently makes them much better.

Personally, I have very high respect for Asian medicine and Asian health ideas.  In Korea, I personally witnessed the way spicy food and kimchi cured colds in a fraction of the time, and I saw the way that acupuncture cured my boss, Cate, after she had spent a miserable week dealing with horrible indigestion (it was so bad that she could barely get up).  I have had Korean, Thai, and Chinese massages, and have personally experienced remarkable health benefits from each.  The holistic way that they view the body makes sense and has positive results.  So, when Chinese friends/coworkers were telling me that cupping worked, it seemed to me worth giving it a try, even if my American brain had no idea how it could possibly be any good.

For those who don't know what cupping is, here's a description of my experience:  Following my two-hour massage (at which point I was ready to melt onto the floor), the masseuse took a torch and lit it.  Then, holding it mere inches from my bared back (a bit intimidating, yes), he used it to burn the oxygen out of glasses, which he then stuck to my back.  The lack of oxygen created a vacuum, which sucked an impressive amount of my skin up into each of the glasses.  Although this process may sound painful, it actually only hurt on my lower back, and not badly at that.  When the guy pulled the glasses off of me, the "SPLOCKing" noise could be heard in the next room, much to the delight of my coworkers.

So how was my experience?  To be honest, I think there might be something to cupping.  I definitely had a spring in my step that hasn't been there in a while, I had a noticeable lack of muscle pain (yes, I know, the massage definitely helped with that, too), I slept better than ever the next two nights, and I really felt invigorated.  I've decided to try cupping once a month for the next six months, just to see if it makes a difference.

Below, see the results of cupping -- and no, those bruises really didn't hurt!  (The lighting and the webcam washed out some of the bruises -- I had a total of seventeen of them.)

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"