Sunday, November 4, 2012

Knowledge Litter

Ever have one of those days where your brain functions only slightly above "imbecile" level?  Lately, I fear I've been abusing that privilege.

Mostly I've been demonstrating this through loss of prior knowledge.  For instance, in my past few Chinese lessons, I keep forgetting characters that I learned ages ago, or suddenly going blank on how to use a particular grammar pattern that I previously drilled myself on.  I find myself forgetting other knowledge that I should know well, too, like how many electoral votes there are total, or the US presidents in order (I memorized this years ago and used to be able to whip through them in 28 seconds), or major features of various ancient empires.  Yes, I realize that for most people those things might not be the most common of common knowledge, but when you take into consideration that I majored in history for both degrees, teach history, and have been researching history for fun since I was seven years old, you come to see just what a frightening load of information is dropping out of my head lately.  I have a mental image of my brain actually strewing facts and thoughts across the streets as I walk, leaving a path of knowledge litter behind me wherever I go.

Knowledge acquired less than a week ago is particularly vulnerable lately - it slips through my mind like water pouring over my hand.  This would be why I nearly threw The Arabian Nights across the room in frustration - the intricate web of story within a story within a story tied my beleaguered brain into a series of successive, dizzy knots.  It got to the point where I couldn't figure out where the plot had gone.  Only the fact that the book is in electronic form on my iPad saved it from hurtling through the air!  That's another thing - I seem to frustrate easier lately, too (and no, it has nothing to do with merely being female).

I think the two flus in succession is what did me in.  I feel like my body finally recovered, but forgot to tell my brain.  Here's hoping that the two finally agree to synchronize once again - China is littered enough without the contents of my brain falling out!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Stomach Flu: We Shall Call It a Cultural Experience

Just two weeks had passed since my lengthy bout with flu, and I thought all was well.  Aaaaand then, the roommates both toppled over with stomach flu.  I knew my days were numbered.

The vomiting actually started on Tuesday evening, but I thought I could just forego eating and thus make it through school on Wednesday.  With many, many teachers down with this thing, I was concerned that we would not have enough subs to cover my classes.  However, the low blood sugar from not eating had me so dizzy on Wednesday that I finally gave in and ate a decent lunch . . . mistake.  After I vomited up my lunch, I agreed with the other teachers that it was best to head home, rather than help spread the disease further.

Heading home was not such a simple matter.  Our dreadful dirt road that leads up to the school building is at present being paved, which means one cannot walk down it to the main road.  Fortunately, the guards were helpful (and my Chinese is good enough now) so I was able to get directions to the main road via a very rustic, "scenic" route through the local village.  Nothing like getting raced at by a bedraggled chicken while holding your heaving stomach and attempting not to trip on VERY narrow alleyways!  A few locals chatted with me pleasantly as I wound my way through the never-ending maze of tiny ramshackle buildings in search of the main road that I was beginning to question ever being able to find.  I was quite delighted when my path finally deposited me on the correct road - albeit a bit further down than I had anticipated (I guess the chicken distracted me a bit).

I had initially planned to taxi home but, ditz that I've been lately, I forgot to put money in my wallet and only had a few kuai with me.  So, 104 bus it was for me - my least favorite bus, but the only one that goes from way out where the school is to my home.  The main trouble with the 104 is that it never comes!  I waited more than 30 minutes for that wretched contraption, while suffering the indignity of having THREE  301 buses arrive in succession, within less than five minutes.  I was, in my present nauseated and dizzy state, rather embittered against the 104 bus.

When the bus finally came, I breathed a sigh of relief - and after the second stop, realized that that breath might well be my last.  A man sat in the available seat next to me, hauling a basket full of very fresh, very fragrant fish.  It may have been the fever, but I am convinced that I saw some wiggling tails . . . and I also earnestly believe that one of those fish winked impishly at me.  The smell was pretty damaging to me in my state, but the other options were stand in the back or get off and wait forever for another 104.  It was only the beguiling image of my oh-so-merciful bed playing across my mind that kept me in my seat, holding my breath next to the fish-man.

As soon as I got off the bus, I began to heave and soon discovered, to my surprise, that there were indeed still some contents left in my stomach.  The gutter received them all.  I was relieved that, for once, there were very few people around to see the show, "Remains of the Lunch."  As I finally recovered myself enough to head home (the 104 doesn't go all that close to my home, so there was still a decent walk after disembarking), I became aware that the Korean business behind me was merrily blasting "Gangnam Style" on its loudspeakers . . . and I just happened to be vomiting right during the line "Hey, sexy ladies!"  I stifled a chuckle, then headed home, mentally composing my own version of the song, containing the memorable line "Upchuck Gangnam style!"

It was with considerable relief that I entered the front door, ghostwalked to the bedroom, and collapsed facedown in the welcoming embrace of my bed.
"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"