Friday, September 11, 2009

Jabs, millipedes and grainy nylon sheets.

I have now had a jab for hepatitis A in one arm and a booster for diptheria and tetanus in the other. The anticipation was definitely worse than the jabs - they hardly hurt at all - and the anticipated 'stiffness' is negligible.

Looking at the map the nurse and I decided that where I am going is too low risk to warrant anti-malaria treatment (side-effects can be unpleasant, apparently), but have been told to keep myself well-covered with thick clothing and tuck my socks into my trousers if I go into the countryside. I shall also apply a thick layer of a strong insect repellent, and the face net I bought for Greenland might come in handy. Another tip, apparently, is to inspect myself for ticks and bites when I'm back inside the hotel. It's not only malaria, but Lyme disease that might be a problem.

Rabies, apparently, is endemic - so I have been warned to keep clear of animals, and if I am bitten or scratched, or if some animal spit somehow enters my eyes, to go to a large clinic for treatment. I have also been told where to buy needles and syringes 'just in case'.

Apart from that I was warned to avoid stall-sold food, and only eat food that I can see is freshly cooked. I am thinking that some antiseptic wipes might be an excellent idea so that I can maybe give my plates and chopsticks a sly wipe. It is best to stick to fizzy drinks, and no ice-cubes and salad. Usually I like to experience the authentic local food, but I think in China I might have to be a little more cautious.

In 'Where Underpants Come From - From Checkout to Cotton Field- Travels Through the New China', which I am reading at the moment, Joe Bennett entertainingly describes eating shrimps and millipedes that he has to kill himself by dunking into a vat of boiling water at his table in Quanzhou. He says he can find little of the animal to actually ingest.

Hodmandod and I were discussing this eating-of-whole-animal business last night, and he said that something people rarely seem to consider is that the intestinal tract of, say, a millipede might be full, and therefore the 'whole animal' is likely to consist of excreta too. I pointed out that if thoroughly boiled this wouldn't really matter, but he seemed unconvinced.

Apart from the food Joe Bennett describes finding himself in a hotel in a place which doesn't cater for tourists - which sounds much like the description of Yizhou (my destination on 'Day 12'). The sheets, he says, are nylon and 'grainy', and the services of escort girls are advertised on the walls. That, for me, would be worse than the live millipedes - but it would only be for a night, and anyway I've done that already in a certain establishment in Bremerhaven: the towels were navy-blue and stiff, the bed sheets orange brushed nylon, the breakfast cups chipped and, at 1.30 in the morning, I was woken from a doze to hear hammering on the front door of the isolated building - and then the drunken voice of what I presumed was a client of one of the other guests as he stomped up the stairs banging on each hardboard door in turn.

Thinking about it, after Bremerhaven - or even Chester on a Saturday night - China might seem quite civilised.

10 Comments:

Blogger Kay said...

you are SO brave! But what a treasure awaits you - rich treasure for writing and for your soul I warrant. So exciting for you. (Joe Bennett lives here in NZ and is considered a very funny Pom!)

Sat Sep 12, 11:16:00 am  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

You're not brave. You're mad. To go through all of that to write a ruddy book. Why don't you set the next one in some place relatively safe like Scotland or Ireland? My last book is set in a fictitious Ireland. I went there but all I came back with was a pile of books to read - the pace was full of foreigners. And the one before that I set in the flat I was living and the park at the end of the street - adventurous I am not.

Sat Sep 12, 11:31:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I think if I tried to write about the flat I was living in then that would send me mad, Jim! Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

I think travel is beneficial to a writer in many ways. I don't really agree with the idea of writing about what you know, but more in trying to see things in an an unusual way.

Yes, Kay - that's it exactly! A treasure house of experiences - good and bad.

Sat Sep 12, 01:20:00 pm  
Blogger pierre l said...

Apart from this post being a fascinating read, all I can say is that I'm glad I'm not in Hodmandod's place -- I'd be sick with worry for you. You could write about Ancient Rome or Ancient Greece, but that's not you.
In the meantime, good luck and I shall look forward to reading the various tales and eventually the book.

Sat Sep 12, 09:09:00 pm  
Blogger Susan said...

My daughter was tortured by mosquitoes while living in Hawaii. It seems to me that she said ingesting brewer's yeast makes one taste disgusting to the critters. As for chopstick cleansing, I've seen 'travelling' Asians swishing their chopsticks discreetly in boiling tea - cup of tea poured, chopsticks swished, tea discarded out door of establishment. Or you could consider carrying your own chopsticks...

I think the trip will be wonderful. You'll get along very well with the Chinese. They're gracious, civilized people - just like you!

Sun Sep 13, 05:17:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Pierre, and yes, I like the out of the way, and I prefer the cold and isolated - that is why I'm disappointed I'm not going to Urumqi.

Hodmandod S. will worry but still he lets me go. It is a great selflessness on his part which I appreciate greatly...(also he gets a little peace:-))

Aha, excellent tips, Susan, thank you! And yes, Joe Bennett certainly seems to regard the Chinese people he meets very fondly - except maybe when they filch his translator's laptop.

Sun Sep 13, 11:33:00 am  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

I'm the Hodmandod Sr.
My husband always roars off on wild trips (like the last horseback escapade in the Yukon), and I do the worrying.

Mon Sep 14, 03:33:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

And I'm sure that's the short straw, Marly!

Mon Sep 14, 07:56:00 am  
Anonymous ojimenez said...

I just finished watching Ted Koppel's four part documentary on "The People's Republic of Capitalism" .."Koppel examines China's new status as an economic superpower and its complex relationship with the United states"

Boy what an eye opening documentary! China's development of its infrastructure (road building at a breakneck pace to make room for 9 million cars!) is swallowing up its country side, along with its farming population, who are being dislocated and used as cheap labor to achieve its goals.

Chongqing, a city in western China, the focus of the documentary, is "exploding with growth...the economic boom there has shaken traditional values and culture, with far-reaching effects on religion and politics..."

China is a waking, hungry giant, devouring everything in its path to becoming an economic superpower.

I think you are about to witness a moment in China's history that will "become" history in the next couple of decades. Perfect timing on your part!

Cheers!

Tue Sep 15, 02:05:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

That sounds really exciting Ojimenez. Thanks for telling me. I think I might try and get it. I can see it is on DVD and I think I can play the American version on my computer...Sounds really interesting!

Tue Sep 15, 09:48:00 pm  

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