I was walking home one evening when my attention was grabbed by a man hanging, in one of the shops at the entrance of my complex. The contrast between the twilight outside and the fluorescent light indoors allowed me to sharply witness an arresting scene. His head was wrapped in a bandage style, egg-shaped cocoon, leaving only his ears, nose and mouth and a small part of the back of his head to protrude from the aged fabric and the whole thing was tightly attached to a hook 2 feet above his head, obviously pulling it upwards while his body was obediently sitting on a vinyl green chair, with a rudimentary white wheel on each side of it, replacing the ordinary arms that a chair like this would usually have. His hands were sitting lifelessly in his lap... This was a sorrow sight!
man, in his late 20s-early 30s, handsome for the looks of it, was busying
himself in the shop, unaware of the one-strong audience they had outside the
shop. This sad state of affairs filled me with hope and anticipation within a
few seconds of watching. I acted on impulse: I entered the shop, knowing damn
well that I couldn’t express my burning question in Chinese. All I could come up
with was to point with one index to the man and with the other one to my own
neck and ask, eyes wide-open ‘Is this good?’. A pair of eyes faced me instantly
while the other pair could only corner me from their immobilised hanging
position and they both said ‘Yes!’, confirming my inner intuition. Luckily, the
hanging man didn’t need to move his lips much to utter the sounds, out of his
squashed face, cheeks pushed forward toward the tip of his nose and lips forced
into a permanent kiss-shape, giving him the face of a pig and rabbit combined. It
sounded something like short ‘shoo’, which I understood.
This device was a more advanced version of something I wished to do with myself for the past 2 years or so, in my house in Spain, but never found a proper way to achieve it so far. I wanted to install a mechanism on my ceiling that would hold my feet securely and allow me to hang upside down above my bed, for the purpose of extending my column and airing my brains as a result. The nearest vision I came to something that could achieve this was to have my feet tightly locked into a pair of skiing boots which I could then slide upwards by means of a remote control device or something, then lower again at the end of my improvised stretching session.
The second ‘Yes!’ that the ‘free’ young man uttered within seconds was in English! An invisible collective switch activated the communication part of the three brains in that room, as we managed to establish, by use of scattered expressions in English, hand gestures and other parts of our bodies that this was a device used to de-contract the neck vertebras in people suffering of neck ache or otherwise predisposed to bad postures during their daily life. Just what I thought outside, on the street! I also thought that I wanted to go hanging as well, if he would kindly subject me to the treatment at some point. Another ‘Yes!’ came out and from then onwards we started to chat freely about ourselves, his chiropractic business, this one and other devices he was using in his practice to help people out of their misery and so on. When the doctor's English wouldn’t support his thoughts sufficiently, his patient, under a cupping treatment by now, followed by an acupuncture with electric shocks session, would lend him the necessary expressions and he would eventually finish his communication with a liberal victorious smile.
Being the only Westerner in town and having had my photo generously promoted both on leaflets and in the local paper, in aid for recruiting more students for Aston English School where I work, the locals know of my existence in Donghai and are not shy to exhibit a feeling of pride for having been visited by what they perceive as a superior presence. I spent many occasions explaining to those who could understand me that they are inflating the importance of my company, that we are all the same and that it’s inappropriate to make such distinctions, but eventually I concluded that it would probably take more than a generation of foreign visitors in Donghai, before they could be treated as equals and I learned to waste less time on this matter, in spite of it being a source of emotional discomfort for me every time they glorify me.
So now, on this occasion, a fleeting visit for the purpose of asking what they were doing and if he could help my back professionally and how much it would cost me, turned into a couple of hours of very friendly conversations about his practice, his family including two great children aged 4 and 2, English and England, Chinese and China, my work and my feelings about ‘Donghai country’ as they call their town, a long list of likes and dislikes and everything else we could fit in that time. Finally, when it was time for me to go home, we came to briefly look at the state of my spine. I mentioned that I would return in the morning with my colleague Linda, for us to check what was wrong with me and discuss about a course of treatment.
That night I did my meditation thinking of how ‘together’ some
people can be, as if we're always expecting encounters like this to come
forth and then we would share everything we could from our inner worlds, in a
practical ode to friendship and collective joy. A beautiful end to a beautiful
day! ... One of many of this kind so far.