Saturday, August 4, 2018

Day Ten: Sleepy

Sleep. I remember a time when I had so much energy that I wasn’t physically able to sleep. Waking up at the earliest parts of the morning to enjoy a quick walk around the neighborhood (the country) was part of my daily ritual with my dad and little sister, Brooke. I never wanted to go to bed at bedtime and I had restless nights often.
picture via Flickr by Alyssa L. Miller

I didn’t know it then, but I was dealing with insomnia. From my earliest moments, I rocked myself to sleep in a fetal position with my legs pushed up around my rib cage and my arms under one of my pillows. For nearly an hour-in-a-half each night, I rocked myself to sleep. I did this all the way until I reached the age of seventeen. By that point, I had been trying to stop this routine for years because it was ruining my knees and my legs were starting to bow outwards.

I was lucky. One day, without even trying, I was able to stop and haven’t looked back since. I don’t feel the urge to rock and I rarely had issues with sleeping, but not for the reason most would think. I still have insomnia. I was diagnosed at sixteen, a year before I successfully ended my rocking routine. But now, I must take sleeping medication to sleep and even though I’m taking a non-addictive sleeping additive, I will not sleep without taking the pill. I’m addicted to a non-addictive medication.

You may be asking WHY I am writing about this. Again, this blog is meant to inform people about my trip to China and to help break cultural stereotypes. So, what does my sleeping disorder have to do with China?

A lot.

I’ve mentioned before that I found an easier time sleeping when I first arrived in Beijing. I was sleepy long before I decided to take my medication and I found myself successfully sleeping through the night. I hadn’t had this since I started taking the sleeping medication.

Even though I used to rock myself to sleep, once I fell asleep I wasn’t waking up. My parents had concerns when I was a child because I didn’t even flinch when a fire alarm went off one night. I didn’t wake up when a severe storm came through or when sirens went off. Yet, now that I take medication to sleep, I wake up to everything.
Beijing, China

On the tenth day of my trip, I woke up exhausted after having one of my first restless nights while I was in China. Because of this, I was sluggish most of the day and could only describe my day as “different”.

My daily task of cooking a meal with my host mom and host sister was harder than it should’ve been as I struggled to keep my mind focused. I even forgot that I wasn’t going to be allowed to clean the dishes. I tried when they weren’t looking, but the dishwasher and my host dad were adamant that I wasn’t going to be cleaning up after them.

With a smile on her face, Dora presented me with a gift. My host mom, Vera or Verade, had bought me some cheating chopsticks. The chopsticks are made for children, as the small openings on the sides were for small fingers that I apparently had. I easily got my long, piano fingers in the clenchers. And after practicing with Teacher Dora, I was successful in eating with chopsticks.

Halfway through the meal, I decided to try regular chopsticks and found myself able to grab, cut, section, and share food with my host family without dropping anything. I was proud of myself.

After my initial win with the chopsticks, I slept most of my day away. I was dizzy, and my concentration was limited. The one-hundred-degree heat and humidity and dew point were past anything I was used in Northeast Wisconsin. Waking up every half-hour was also usual but infuriating. I was having my first bad day on my trip. The lack of sleep was getting to me and the heat was making it worse.

Dora returned from school and I was able to spend more time with her because her mother canceled her extra-curricular activity. I finally returned to the market around the corner and surveyed what the market had to offer with its three floors. Running up and down the escalators was the shining moment of my day. The escalators were flat and not a steep as I’m used to in America, making it easy to race with my host sister and carry her on my back pretending to be running from zombies.

Dora and I utilized this moment to buy “trash food” and treats for her dog, Lu Lu. On the way out, Dora suddenly saw a “beautiful” headband that she had to have. I bought it for her and she showed off her new look at her friend’s house. Debra, Dora’s friend from school, lived within the same gated community and was only a short walk through the courtyard.

Dora and I were fed by Debra’s maid and I had a long talk with Debra’s parents and another friend of the family while waiting for my host parents to arrive. It was a special day. My host family and their friends were all gathering in one place this day and it was a cause for celebration. I got to try Japanese chocolate (melted in my mouth), try two exotic fruits only found in China, and learned about the difference between non-traditional and traditional Chinese families. I was warned by my host mom, that Debra’s parent’s friend was a traditional Chinese citizen and she would be gossiping about everything we talked about.

The gathering reminded me of block parties and family reunions back home. I was still exhausted and not feeling the greatest, but I was enjoying meeting new people. This was the start to me exploring outside of the apartment I had barricaded myself in.

Debra and her parents had just returned from Japan. They visited Disney World and brought back souvenirs for Dora and her parents. The photos of Dora are some of the gifts she got from Debra’s parents. She loved the sunglasses so much, that on Children’s Day, she wore them hanging half off her face while looking over top them when speaking to others. Dora was getting her “cool” on.

Children’s Day happened the next day. I was concerned because the temperature was supposed to hotter and we were going to be outside for most of the trip. My biggest fear was heatstroke. I had been wondering if that was contributing to my sudden sickness and tiredness.

Regardless of my fears, I had an amazing time meeting new people. I was treated the same, given food—more food I could ever imagine eating—given gits, was asked those same four questions and made friends. I would be visiting Debra and her parents many times in the next three weeks.

This concluded my tenth day in Beijing, China. Even though the heat was getting to me and I had my first bad day, I was becoming comfortable in my surroundings as I continued to meet new and kind people. Even with the language barrier, I was welcomed and treated well. Have you ever had a bad day on a vacation? Leave your comments below and share this blog post with friends and family. 

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