Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Here I am, sitting on the window-sills in the sun. (Chinese bedrooms often have a wide window-sills that let one sit, put things or gather dust.) My leg is still fastened onto a plaster splint. I say I've got a cast on but the front of my leg is not covered in plaster. It makes sense to do it this way: you can still put pants on if you only have plaster on one side; and besides, is it necessary to cover the whole leg? Anyway, life has been rather laid-back in my weeks of home-ridden sick leave. 

I may have broken my knee but the most discomfort came from my back, my thighs and my shoulders. At one point I was waking up at 5:00am in the morning with muscle spasms in my quadriceps. Now with two days before the cast may come off and it comes as a little bit of a disappointment. I really want the cast off but the time with it on has been beneficial. I feel healthier, less stressed, better prepared and perhaps even smarter.

Smarter? Perhaps I'm just saying that because I'm at the beginning of my iPhone life. But it's worth mentioning: I now have a smartphone. Sick leave has been quite beneficial for mastering my apps. My favourites are: Podcasts; Radio NZ; Radiolive; New Zealand radio; wechat; Air quality; BBC; Night Sky 2; Chinese audiobooks and Cricinfo. It's been good to be able to listen to, say, bfm for background music. 

Chinese audiobooks might be the next step for me. In the last few weeks I've finished reading the first Chinese kungfu novel in a series of three books during this sick leave. I'm going to try and listen to the second book of the series with the written word in support. Actually I can listen to it in both Mandarin and Cantonese. These are both easily accessible via my phone. It might sounds weird but my proficiency in reading is way out of balance with my listening and speaking and most definitely my writing of Chinese. Reading is king. This is despite being in China where you'd expect me to be speaking and hearing lots of Chinese. My bent towards reading is so strong that it's twice as good. Hopefully this is a good step to level me out.

Podcasts are something I tried hard to get into at one stage but now have a lot of power to use. Probably the most valuable to me is historical podcasts that keep knowledge alive. My previous kungfu novel had a character who grew up in Genghis Khan's Mongolia. The author though tried to keep quite historical despite the non-existence of the key character. Listening to a podcast though shortly after I could listen and patch the historical background, before and after, of Genghis Khan's conquests, while eating my lunch. 

There is a good argument to say that smarter phones can make you dumber. But right now I think I've got myself well geared to use my smartphone smartly.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

My break

"Were you drunk?" No. I have been asked that a few times.
"Were you texting with your new phone?" No. Surprisingly I'm yet to be asked that. And to be honest, with the rate that people do use their cellphones and walk I'm surprised there aren't more falls.
I was walking on the footpath, which to be honest wasn't an outrageously potholed stretch, when somehow the rubber on one shoe caught; I lost my balance; I mainly landed on my hands; but one knee also connected with the point of a step and thus I broke my kneecap. I didn't realise it at the time: I've only had soft tissue injuries in my life till now and hadn't heard a crack. I thought at worst it was bruised So we kept walking for about 10 minutes more to "walk it out". Near a subway entrance I found that I couldn't even contemplate going down the stairs to give our clothes to the drycleaners. So I waited near the top. And as soon as I tried to move again, it'd become very stiff and hard to move. I thought it was at least soft tissue damage. 

I went home and performed R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation). At that stage I thought rest was the key. I didn't want to damage it any more by walking to the hospital. In the evening though, I realised that it was probably inevitable that I had to go to the doctors, and the earlier the better. We went out at about 8pm. Came back at 1am. The easy diagnosis, one that even a layman could see from an x-ray, was a broken patella. A cast was put on (although it's not the casts that I'd always seen; they just put the plaster at the back of the leg, and then bandaged it around the front of the leg; makes sense!) and I was sent on my way back home.

Life with a broken knee? It's not all that bad and I have enjoyed many of the advantages: Little stress, lots of mental energy, lots of time to dedicate to the pursuits of reading, writing, watching and thinking. Also with my new smartphone, I'm reconnecting with a lot of people that I hadn't contacted much. It is slightly badly timed though as two friends are visiting Guangzhou and there is a wedding, all within the month that the cast is definitely on.  

One problem that I'll have to deal with is muscle pain because of the bad posture I constantly have (a straight leg is hard to handle in most arrangements); the over-exertion of my compensating limbs; and the eventual rehabilitation of my steadily weakening broken limb. I've tried to make some time for exercise every day, specifically back stretching and abdominal strengthening a part of my day. Standing up is a little bit of a hassle and any exercise must take care not to move the muscles in my left leg. I often try to use the bed: bedcercises, perhaps.

Anyway, I've got good spirits and I'm glad for the change. For the rest of you, be careful out there! Keep your hands as free as possible when you walk, your eyes aware of the ground. I wish you all good health.