Saturday, April 17, 2010

The dreaded visit

I made it nearly 3 years before I finally caved. Millions of speeches to concerned Chinese friends or coworkers, countless explanations and feelings of superiority have passed...until this past month.

I went to the hospital.

Every time that I've had just a cold, or a stomach bug, or even been feeling just a little "down", I've been told that I should go. And I've refused. I've spent many cell phone minutes explaining that "sometimes we just get sick" and that all we need is rest and maybe some OTC wonder. I've even called a doctor friend in the U.S. to confirm that I was correct in my home remedies (thanks Dr. Watson!). And I've been fine!

I've been through food poisoning, parasites, a kidney stone, countless colds, allergies, a huge allergic reaction to some shrimp hidden in my food, and whatever else with nothing more than my bag full of meds that I brought from America, sometimes picking up some prescriptions from a pharmacy (you don't need written prescriptions from doctors to pick up what you need, and since many have the english (is it english?) name, you can find out what you need and pick it up on your own), and lots of water.

But yes, our friends and coworkers over here are usually quite insistent that what we should really be doing is going post-haste to the hospital. And after a recent spat of bad health, I finally gave in.

The "hospital" here is also what we would call "the doctor's office." I'm not sure, but from what I can tell...there aren't really "doctor's offices" over here....the hospital is the only option.

Two weeks ago I came down with a cold and an intestinal bug simultaneously. After 2 days of whatnot, I realized that no amount of drinking water was keeping me from dehydration, and no amount of pepto was fixing the problem. With the cold and cough I was worried that the flu had got me, so I finally shrugged my shoulders and followed a Chinese friend to the hospital.

Then again yesterday, I came down with the same stomach bug and was worried that it was a recurring thing. After a day of vomiting, I again called up a friend and made my way back.

The first thing you notice about the Wuhan hospital is the level of you-it-yourself efficiency. This cuts the wait time in half, but if you're shaky and nauseous, it's also a chore. First you register and get what looks like a credit card with your patient number on it, and a little booklet for the doctor to write you diagnosis in. They don't keep records themselves and the only patient files are the booklets that you carry yourself.

Then you see the doctor--in both cases I was sent to the emergency room, though I'm assuming that might be because I'm a foreigner? I was seen immediately in an informal setting...a small room with about 5 other patients waiting. The doctor heard my symptoms and sent me for blood work (and a chest xray the first time). The doctor prints out a list of the procedures that you need, then you walk to the cashier and pay for them. They swipe your card and you walk to the blood station, or the x ray room or whatever.

When your results are ready, you go to a little electronic station and swipe your card, and the station prints out your results. I was given my xray to keep--it's now decorating my refridgerator. Then you walk back to the doctor and let him/her read the results and write in your booklet the diagnosis.

From there, it's back to the cashiers to pay for your prescription, then to the prescription station to swipe your card, which is like placing an order because they immediately pull it together from behind the desk. You pick up your prescription and then head to the dreaded transfusion room for your treatment.

This was why I've avoided hospital visits since I began living here. In China, the doctors all prefer to put patients on IV drips over prescribing pills. From what I've heard, the Chinese (generalization) don't like taking pills, and often stop taking them as soon as they begin to feel better, instead of completing the full round of medication. This can lead to the creation of superviruses or superbacteria or other horrible things. So they get IV treatments here instead. Sometimes the procedure can be completed in one day, but sometimes the patient must return for 3-7 days in a row for an IV treatment every day. Ugg.

So yeah...I get a little squeamish about IVs. It's just weird having a needle stuck into your arm. My first trip, I begged the doctor for pills instead. My translator just kept saying "IV is better. Doctor say IV is better." The second trip, I didn't even bother.

After walking all around the hospital, swiping cards and picking up test results, you get your prescription and take it to the transfusion room, which is a large room filled with about 100 chairs with metal poles mounted to the sides of them. The dead and dying sink into the chairs languidly and stare into nothingness (dramatization). You wait your turn while they mix your meds into an IV bag and sit at the counter while they inject you, then follow a nurse through the maze of bodies, filled with terror that someone will trip and rip the cord out of your arm. You are placed in a chair and your bag is hung from the metal pole above you, while an old man gapes open mouthed at you, the foreigner across the aisle. And then you sit, for an hour or longer (two and a half today), while a nearby tv showcases an American Idol style show with girls in glittery too-toos singing Beijing opera.

When your drip is done you press a little button next to your chair, the nurse comes and removes your needle, and you go home. I will say that the drip did work wonders with whatever intestinal bug I've been getting. And that the whole thing is AMAZINGLY cheap...I think I spent the equivalent of $40USD for a chest xray, blood test, and IV drip the first time, and about $20USD for the blood test and IV drip this time. It was also fast...from entry to transfusion room, I never had to wait in line for longer than 5-10 minutes.

So I'm a little over my fear of the hospital, but am also hoping that those two experiences will be the only ones I have. And despite the fast service, I will say that I miss being assigned a room and being able to sit and wait while the doctors and nurses gather my test results for me and bustle in and out. It was pretty difficult having to stand and walk all around from here to there....but I can see how it speeds things up.

According to the doctor, my first visit was a stomach virus and my second one was food poisoning. All in all, I'm thankful that I haven't had any more serious troubles and that I've had Chinese friends to join me and help translate for me. I feel like a pro at living in China now--the thing I was most hoping to avoid has come and gone and come again...and I'm still ok! And now able to share with all of you the experience! I wish I could post pics because I took a couple today...maybe when I return to the US I'll have a couple a picture posts to finish out my Chinablog existence!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

That'll show 'em!

So I was reading China Daily, the main english language newspaper published over here and had to laugh at this story.

One feature of fast food in China that I'll miss is that both KFC and McDonalds offer home delivery. You call and within 30 minutes, a guy on a little electric bike with a heated box on his back appears with your food. It takes laziness and gluttony to new levels.

So apparently last week, KFC had an online promotion where customers could go online at 10 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. (or something like that) and print off coupons to bring in for what must have been a pretty good discount. But after the 10 a.m. promotion time, the stores began seeing the coupons for the other two times showing up in the stores, despite the fact that they hadn't yet released those coupons online. Since they were unable to discern between authentic coupons and the counterfeit coupons, the main KFC office told all stores to discontinue the promotion and stop accepting any coupons. The KFC stores posted signs on the doors saying that they wouldn't take any coupons for the day but didn't explain the reason behind the change in plans.

Customers in one city were apparently pretty peeved that their coupons were rejected and found what I consider to be a pretty clever way of showing their displeasure. After not finding a satisfactory response for the rejection, about 18 customers took seats inside the KFC and waited...

for McDonalds delivery!

That's right, they called McD's for their meal, had it delivered to the KFC down the street, and sat there eating in protest. It's just so catty and shows such gumption that I wish I were there. As Katera put it, it was a KFC Sit-In!

If only we could direct the righteous indignation towards more worthy causes...but for now, it was a story that made me smile.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The little quirks of language

Some of my students at one of our school picnics (Tomorrow, West, Alice and Anita)

Wendy, Alice are two of my favorite students

Josh and I hanging out at a company function

I do a great deal of co-teaching with my new company, which is a nice feature that combines a native speaker with a Chinese teacher for the class. At its best, it's a really helpful combo--if I can't explain an idea, the Chinese teacher can translate for me, if they need added cultural references, the native speaker provides it. The operation reminds me of the adage, "A natural baseball genius shouldn't coach." There are some tweaks of language that are really difficult for a native speaker to explain...because we just DO it, or SAY it...and we don't know why. A Chinese teacher who has studied and mastered the language can explain why to students who are going through what they went through to grasp English.

However, at its worst, sometimes co-teaching involves the teacher delivering the whole class without making any use of the native speaker. (Or visa versa, I'm sure) As part of the idea of "saving face," the native speaker is NEVER to correct a Chinese teacher in front of the class. This means that if you are co-teaching with a teacher who doesn't see the need for a native speaker in their class, you must sit back as countless little errors make their way into the English speaking world. Ultimately, it doesn't matter much--the kids will improve anyway and it's not helpful to nitpick. But the other day, I was bored sitting in a class and not I started making note of some of the errors. Some are not actually errors, just over-thought explanations for usage. Here are some of the things my students were taught:

AGAIN, let me say that this is not a big deal AND that many of these teachings stem from the fact that we native speakers have the innate ability to choose one word over another...while the ESL teachers are forced to come up with some REASON or METHOD to explain WHY. And OBVIOUSLY from a quick scan of this blog, my respect for the sanctity of English grammar and vocabulary is somewhat lackluster. This isn't to make fun of the Chinese teachers, it's just to laugh at how hard it is to teach a foreign language:

-Do not EVER say "you choose"...instead say "it's up to you"

-softball is baseball played with a cushy ball

-when a "love triangle" includes more than 3 people, you must call it a "love rectangle," "love pentagon" etc

-when describing a "3rd wheel", you can also have a "5th wheel" or "7th wheel"

-say "I need some minutes" when you need a break

-If referring to 50% of people, do not use the word "some," instead choose the word "many."

-Americans never eat vegetables, and when they do, there are only 5 that they eat, and they are always boiled

-say "office worker" instead of "business person"

-you must always open a conversation with a British person with a comment on the weather.

-pronounce "hurricane" as "hurri-cun" and "volcano" as "voe-can-a"

-calling someone "skinny" or "thin" is always an insult

-it's okay to describe someone as "fat," but you should probably say "obese" instead...which is pronounced "obase"

-explaining a body-type as "pear shaped" or "apple shaped" can extend to whatever vegetable/fruit you happen to think that person resembles..."potato shaped," "carrot shaped," "cucumber shaped," were some examples

-Finally (and this falls more under "ESL Students say the darndest things), students gave a presentation on marriage customs and throughout the presentation referred to "firecrappers" without being corrected by the teacher. I mentioned to them after class dismissed that it was "firecrackers" instead. The 4th grader in me was giggling though.