Today I joined not one but two exclusive clubs. I have hopes to join a third soon. (I wonder how you tell people that you’re kind of a big deal in Chinese…) The first was The Hangzhou Spitters, and membership to the second actually came with its own certificate. The third I learned about only today, so I’m going to give myself a week or two to break in. Let me talk about The Spitters first.
There is an elite group in this city, comprised mostly- but not totally- of older men who have perfected the art of the Giant Loogey. They show off all over town: a big, loud, almost guttural gathering of phlegm in the back of the throat, then a launch whose precision and speed astound the passersby. And today, I became one of them.
I went for my first run since I’ve been here. And actually, I haven’t run at all since sometime in mid-January. (Hard to believe I ran the Philly marathon just 3 months ago, isn’t it?!) I’ve avoided running here for a couple of reasons: first, I was nervous about my recovering plantar fasciitis; second and more importantly, there are obstacles everywhere. Obstacles like people, for one, and impossibly long traffic lights, and sidewalks that disappear into 30 feet of bus stop before reappearing on the other side, and dogs in little outfits, etc. With the unpredictable traffic, it also seemed like I would have to avoid getting into a groove in favor of just staying alive in the crosswalks.
But in Hainan, I saw my first and only jogger since I’ve been in China, and I was inspired. I’ve also had a lot of milk teas lately and I don’t want to buy new jeans. So I suited up this morning and hit the pavement. I picked a loop with longer blocks and relatively few lights. After 5 minutes, I felt pretty good. Light legs. Easy stride. After 10, I had a good sweat going and my sunglasses fogged up a little. And then, without even thinking about it, I flicked my head over my shoulder and hocked…a Giant Loogey. It was perfect. I spit pretty regularly when I run and it hadn’t even occurred to me until today that running in Hangzhou would mean I’d get to join The Spitters. I felt reborn. I felt like…kind of a bad ass. Suddenly, instead of me moving to the curb, showing deference to other pedestrians, they were moving out of my way. Spit.
I mentioned that I have not seen other runners in this city- true. Literally, not one runner. There must be some because there’s a Hangzhou marathon in November, but maybe running is like wearing sunglasses: an activity for spring/summer/fall, not winter. Anyway, since I max out at a speedy 10-minute mile, I get passed a lot when running the lakes back home, as you can imagine. But since no one runs here, today I got to pass everyone. It was like my dream race. Spit!
As for the bus stops and bikes and sidewalk planters, I was suddenly engaged in my own game of Frogger. And I was very good. (I’m sure there will be a day when I trip and totally bite it, but that day was not today.) Dodging left and right on the quick feet I forgot I had. It felt amazing. I also discovered that I’m getting over my discomfort with people staring at me. I mean, froggering down the sidewalks dressed in sunglasses and running tights is certainly not the way to blend in, but I naturally fell into this proud, borderline confrontational attitude about it: “Yeah, I’m running. What’s up now? I’m out here doing something athletic. What about it, homes?!” Or at least that’s what I was saying in my head. Could have been the endorphins talking. But anyway, I just felt totally in my element. A real runner’s high. Spit, spit, spit!
So that was my morning. The run just made my whole day better. Even my shower was more satisfying, like I was actually gross enough to have earned one. I can’t wait until I work my way up to running around the whole lake, which from my apartment is a 14ish mile route. I’m going to try to do this before May because then it gets h-o-t here, but we’ll see where my “training” is at.
Now for my afternoon and the second elite group I joined. Bao, Trisha, and this man named Sandy (I’ll get to Sandy later) picked me up so Trisha and I could get our Foreign Expert Certificates and apply for a residence visa. Check it out: