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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Traditional Chinese Medicine Part 2: Menstrating in Taiwan

Every ladies favorite topic of conversation (not really) but it does come up eventually (no pun intended). Ok there are no tampons here with applicators you have to buy the little "O-b's". The ladies here do not like to insert alien objects into their bodies no matter how convenient it is and this is not  a culture of swimmers (its the rare adult who knows how to swim well), so really there is no need for tampons. Thus there is only one kind of tampon to chose from. When I lived in Taipei I literally had to draw a diagram to show my co-workers how to insert a tampon (that was not the only diagram I drew for her, haha). When I went home for Chinese New Year, I brought back a hug ziplock bag stuffed with 'heavy' applicator tampons (who needs a tampon when its a 'light' day?) There are plenty of maxi pads to choose from, from all sizes, the night time ones are like adult diapers (Depends).

Better yet, when my co-worker (who just happens to be from Denver) went back to the Mile High City I had her pick up a bag of tricks from my folks. I had my folks go to Whole Foods or Vitamin Cottage and buy me a "Diva Cup". While my poor Dad was stuck buying it for me he ran into my friend who said she would give me a box of her "Instead" a disposable kind of Diva Cup. So I went through a box of "Instead" before I tried the "Diva Cup". The insertion still takes some getting used to. I have to roll it up and stuff it in and it seems to unroll in the process and its not pleasant, but better than inserting toxic cotton used with bleach purposely to induce more bleeding for corporate profit.  And then there is the whole business of taking it out. The vagina naturally suctions th cup into place as it collects the blood, so you have to pull and tug to get it our and when you do, its like a little BOOM of an explosion. With the "Instead" you just throw it away, but with the Diva Cup you dump it in the toilet, rinse it in the sink and reinsert, lessons my carbon footprint after years of maxi pads and tampons.

Taiwanese women during their period are more concerned with internal health, keeping the belly warm by eating warming foods.  Anything red, red beans, red dates (for the immune system), red jujube are added to stews or drunk in tea with warming ginger. Of course black sesame oil has a powerful heating effect and is added to foods. There is a sesame chicken soup, Doreen told me about that I made. Heat some ginger and garlic in alot of sesame oil, add half a bottle of rice wine, half water, add chicken, boil, simmer til all alcohol gone, add a dash of some dark brown sugar and salt to taste. Taiwanese women also add some fermented long grain sticky rice to their soup. Doreen likes a spoonful on a poached egg. I bought some made of the purple rice. Anything fermented is healthy for the immune system and intestinal flora. A Taiwanese women would defiantly not eat or drink anything cold during her period. Her period, like the time after a woman gives birth is an ample opportunity to assist the body in renewing herself. So when the period is finished it is time to eat '4 things soup.'

Here the young women refer to their period as "M.C." . The medical term is 月經 yue(4ht) jing(1st). More derogatory is  your "big aunt (mother's sister)"   da (4st) yi(2nd) ma(4th), speaking of which I am still amazed at how many Chinese words there are for aunt! Father sister, uncle's wife, wife of father's elder brother, wife of father's younger brother, about 8 different words for different kinds of aunts, everyone has their place in a Confucius society, and then English only has one word "aunt".

There are stories and I have seen it myself with my friend, who before giving birth were weak, not very strong, fragile or just average health and then after giving birth and having that month of having been (force) fed stews of meat with Chinese medicine, now they have radiant health, vibrant, looking better than before. I try to do a little of that every month.

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