The students spent a day with ‘host families’ today. This meant that the staff had a free day.
I walked for an hour from 6.30am, through food markets that were already busy. Chickens and ducks being slaughtered, pork laid out on wooden boards in the sun. Bamboo steamers piled high full of dumplings. Fish and eel languishing in big plastic dishes. Sun shining. A near silent peak-hour of bicycles and electric scooters was building.
One of the staff had booked in for a massage at ten. The masseur was able to accommodate a ring-in, so I tagged along. This staff member is a celebrity in this joint. A poster sized picture of him, resplendent in his College Gaoyou uniform, alongside the masseur, adorns the front room of the establishment. No English was spoken. A forceful, and at times painful, probing of muscle groups was briefly interrupted by some cupping, some hot incense, a head massage. Much disconcerting cracking down the left side of my cervical spine under the masseur’s strong thumbs. At the end of the session thumbs were raised to the other staff member. This gesture was presumed to affirm excellent spinal alignment and general muscle relaxation. They were, sadly, not raised to me.
To comfort myself in the face of this confirmation of my frailty, and for the first time since our Salmonella/Shigella tour of Indonesia in the early 1990s, I ate street food in an Asian country. Delicious, really delicious, dumplings and steamed pork buns – which we call Pows in our family. These were amazingly flavoursome, and I’m sure had nothing to do with the increasingly frequent rumbling of my tummy through the afternoon.
My daughter, Maddy, was worried about her host-family visit. She was going with her good friend Bridie, but for some reason felt that she would have liked for them to have a boy in their group.
These two are wonderful girls, and I’m pleased they were paired up and went without a male student. They can hold their own. They’re the last group back tonight, still not in as I write this at 8.30pm. I hope they’ve had a great time. The others seem to be buzzing with conversations about what they’ve done, and mainly about what they’ve eaten. Everyone seems in reasonably good shape, although the need for repeated doses of Aquium hand sanitizer is bringing out some contact dermatitis in a couple of the kids.