China Observations (#3)

I’m slightly behind on my aunt’s Chinese Observations. #2 talks about how they hired her husband/her to teach. The selling point was a “FAB LAB” (with all stuff that a normal STEM school would have…. Chemistry stuff, electricity, computers, text books, you know… normal stuff.)

They get there- and there is no FAB LAB. None of the stuff has been ordered yet. Or, rather, it hasn’t come in yet. “It’ll be here in May” they say….
(The semester ends in June)……

Anyway, here is her experience in dealing with getting a mandatory physical.

Every foreigner who wants to reside in China needs to jump through a lot of hoops, nearly literally. They want to make sure you are in tip-top physical condition and you have a limited number of days to prove that you are. Their mandatory physical exam is unlike any other I’ve ever had. I truly felt like a lab rat!

As soon as you arrive at the hospital testing center, you pay for the privilege of having them read your paperwork. It wasn’t too much money, about $4 US, but that was just the beginning.

You then needed to pay for the photos required.   They take your photo, reproduce it six times on a card, cut them out, use four of them, and hand you the two extras.   What I will ever do with those two undersized photos, I don’t know. This cost an additional $5 US.

Once you have your photos, it’s off to the large waiting room where you will need your secretary/ interpreter to help you fill out the forms. Yes, multiple. Am I the only one who gets confused about whether to put your answer above or below the line? Even with an interpreter’s help my answers were often in the wrong spot. It’s a wonder they didn’t ask me to start again, and send me to the back of the line.

I remember reading that the engineers who designed Disneyland spent months and months and months figuring out how to move crowds: quickly, efficiently, safely, and pleasantly. Well, I don’t know if the Chinese learned it from Walt, or Walt learned it from the Chinese, but the Chinese had the quickly, efficiently, and safely thing down pat. The pleasantly thing? Not so much.

First, of course, I had to pay: approximately $100 US, which was not bad considering the barrage of tests that would soon take place. After paying I was sent across the hall where they measured my height and weight. I was told to strip from the waist up and remove my jewelry. I was handed a robe and a key on a plastic bracelet. I shoved my belongings into locker #11, closed the door, and locked it. I actually questioned the wisdom of all the lockers having the same key. (I hadn’t noticed that the key on my wrist was for locker #19. Why it locked #11 tighter than a drum, is beyond me.)

The next step was back across the hall for a full physical from the waist up. Judging from the nurse’s face, she hadn’t encountered many women who have had a double mastectomy. She insisted on knowing if I’d had breast cancer, and how many years ago my operation took place. I held up five fingers. She nodded, as if to say that was an acceptable length of time. (As if I could transmit breast cancer to some innocent soul?)

Zig-zagging across the hall I was off for a chest x-ray, which took about sixty seconds, and then I was back across the hall once again.

I have never been pregnant, but I assume my next test was similar to an ultra-sound. Cold goo was squirted onto my stomach and sides and for many minutes, something strange rolled repetitiously all over me. Finally, the nurse declared, in broken English, that she was done. She wiped me down with paper towels, balled them up, and threw them up (Michael Jordon-like) into the air. I squealed with delight when they swooshed easily into the trashcan clear across the room, and she squealed at my squealing. It was the only wonderfully human interaction of the day.

Back across the hall I laid down for an EKG, and then back across again where they took two vials of my blood. My only moment of horror was realizing that the key that had easily locked #11 wasn’t about to re-open it. I’m sure my blood pressure was suddenly off the charts.

I won’t find out the test results until they arrive (another $6 US for express mail service) on September 8th. After eight full days of coping with a different culture, language, and temperament, I’m delighted they hadn’t bothered to measure my sanity.

More to come…

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