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1 Billion Brothers: My 1987 China Odyssey

December 6, 2009

Foreword

I will always be grateful for the opportunity — and for the readiness I had to take up the opportunity — to visit China for a month in 1987. I kept a journal while I was there. I scrawled quickly by hand wherever I was, and when I returned home, I typed it as it was without editing for dignified style. I placed all the typed pages in plastic sleeves in a binder amid my photographs and postcards from China, and the book has lived on a bookshelf with other photo albums ever since.

In November 2009, I met a young woman from China in a Seattle tea shop. At the time of my visit to China, she would have been a young child on her family’s tea plantation in a part of China I never saw. As our conversation progressed, I was motivated to review my journal and decided to preserve it in space on my blog.

Rereading my journal, I discovered that I remembered very little, and my chronicles jogged very fragmentary memories. I remembered very little of the other people on the tour, had no recollection of many things I recorded, and realized that I am a very different person in very many ways than the 30-something Bozeman, Montana sports massage therapist I was at that time.

I became a sports massage therapist when the state workers’ compensation people found me to have a permanent partial disability due to fibromyalgia, and I had to retire from a desk job. I was able to work as a therapist for six years before I was grounded by arthritis, but those were the best six working years of my life. I was physically active and I controlled my own time, and that made all the difference.

I became interested in traditional Chinese medicine because massage therapy in China was a primary treatment modality for all sorts of illnesses, and was routinely used by doctors in hospitals. When I read in the Journal of the American Massage Therapy Association that the Nanjing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine was offering an international program in tuina, a system of Chinese manual therapeutics, I called the study-tour director, and signed on for the two-week program. I wound up signing on for a two-week extension as well.

I look back with some regret and think how easily I complained about things in China, mostly trivial inconveniences. On the other hand, the reality was that the food was alien to my system and I often could not digest it; I lost six pounds in the month, a fairly significant loss on a barely 100-pound frame.

I edited my journal only for typos for my blog. I included photos I thought most thematic. Many of my thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs have changed since 1987. Where I considered the difference to be important, I clarified this in a blockquote. I have supplied a few other clarifications in blockquotes as well. The material in blockquotes is not part of my original journal.

I believe this journal is of some historical value. I was in Hong Kong ten years before it was ceded back to China. I was in parts of China that received very few American visitors; even in the large city of Nanjing, foreigners were an uncommon sight. It isn’t always pleasant and convenient to be an uncommon sight. But for the very most part, the Chinese blessed me with the warmest, most gracious, and most sacrificial hospitality I have ever received, anywhere in the world. To recall this to mind is only just.

When my body crashed and ended my career as a massage therapist, I went to law school, like so many others who can’t do anything else. I hated it. I practiced law for two years. I have been a happy homekeeper for many years, married to a very wonderful lawyer who can do many things besides being a very good lawyer.

And I am very glad that a conversation over many cups of tea with the delightful young woman in Seattle prompted me to undertake this project. Thank you, Becky!

Click here to enter 1 Billion Brothers, My 1987 China Journal.

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3 Comments
  1. December 10, 2009 11:00 pm

    Hi Lauren,

    Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m sorry you lost weight in China. In fact, Hong Kong has lots of very yummy food. Have you ever tried dim sum? That would be another tea experience for you (the most popular dim sum teas in HK are Tie Guanyin & Puerh).

    I’m very impressed at how you managed to adjust as your situation changed. It helps me to consider my own situation and how many gifts I still have.

    I’ll write again when I read the journal itself. Of course, it’s very interesting to me to see how China looks through the eyes of a visitor.

    warm wishes

    Becky

  2. December 11, 2009 7:41 am

    Becky,

    After reading about teahouses in the mountains and tea stands in the streets that I never saw when I was there, I wish I could return to today’s China with the energy I had 22 years ago!

  3. December 21, 2009 12:00 am

    Lauren,

    Yes, you do have energy you had 22 years ago. Actually, it is even stronger than before, the energy is from inside of your heart. Your inner energy drives other people to fly and your brightness shire on others’ life.

    Keep in mind that if you do have a chance to visit China again, I will hep you to arrange your trip or be your guilder if I am in China. :)

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