Making your own fun

Sometimes living overseas can be exhausting. You’re away from familiar friends and family, food is different, customs are different, entertainment is different, sometimes even going to the bathroom is different. Every once in awhile an expat needs to get together with some other expat friends and revel in the ‘normal.’ I put normal in quotation marks because there is no such thing, really (except as a setting on the dryer). But it’s a convenient word to use to describe the traditions, customs, and foods that one gets homesick for while living abroad.

These past few weekends (technically they’re weekdays, but they come at the end of my work week), I’ve indulged with some fellow expats in some bouts of ‘normalcy.’

To make our own fun we decided to have a sleepover at a friend’s house that included people playing mancala on my back, watching Bambi until 3 AM, and lots of hair braiding. Hilarity and hijinks ensued and we all gained a little of our sanity back.


The following weekend my friends and I held another sleepover, this time with a theme! It’s Christmas in July! We even brought gifts for a Yankee Christmas exchange. (I shamelessly used this as an opportunity to get rid of some junk I don’t need to take with me to Egypt.)

This second sleepover included much less shenanigans and we utilized our time the next day to visit Houhai, a popular area of Beijing among tourists.

Activities in the 100+ degree heat included a walk around HouHai Lake, a pedal-boat ride, lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, and general revelry in the beauty that is the Beijing we live in.

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Bizarre Beijing

I have spent more than a year in Beijing, and every day I discover something new. It really is an amazing place full of rich history and tradition, magically melding with modern technology.

However, some things about Beijing I will never get used to. In fact, I’ve started a list. In no particular order here are some things that I find Bizarre in Beijing:

  • Beijing Bikini – when a man rolls his shirt up over his belly to cool himself off. Especially attractive when he’s got a huge beer gut and is wearing dress pants.

A Beijing Bikini spotted in the wild.

  • Bicycle Seats – Almost all bicycles in Beijing come equipped with a rear seat. It’s common to see a young woman riding sidesaddle on the back of her boyfriend’s bicycle. There are also bicycles that have seats for children. Car licenses are expensive and difficult to acquire, so many families just have a bicycle or two. Mom, Dad, or even Grandma and Grandpa, will take Junior to school by bicycle. The bicycles also come with a weather cover. Gotta keep Jr. warm in the winter, shady in the summer, and dry in the rain!
Keeping kids temperature controlled on bicycles is of the utmost importance!

Keeping kids temperature controlled on bicycles is of the utmost importance!

  • Scooter Safety – Seeing a whole family on a scooter. Dad’s in control driving, Mom’s sitting behind him, sometimes with an infant squeezed between the parents. Often there’s a toddler standing between Dad’s knees who can barely see over the handlebars. No one is wearing a helmet.
  • Split Pants – Most infants don’t wear diapers in China, and to avoid accidents they wear pants that have no crotch. This allows parents to easily hold Junior over a toilet to relieve him or herself. However, it means that Junior’s crotch is on display for the rest of the world to see. I’ve seen more baby penises in China than I’d care to count. (Girls are potty trained earlier and/or wear dresses that cover a lot more.)
Split pants at their finest.

Split pants at their finest.

While these kids don't have the split pants, the little boy is sporting one of the oddest haircuts I've ever seen.

While these kids don’t have the split pants, the little boy is sporting one of the oddest haircuts I’ve ever seen.

  • Public Urination/Defecation – it’s usually infants, but I’ve seen children as old as 10 pull up a dress or drop trou’ in the middle of a busy block and just let go. Sure there’s a lack of public restrooms in Beijing, but still! I’ve also heard tales of grandmothers holding infants over trash cans in shopping malls to allow their charges to relieve themselves; often when there’s a public restroom within sight!
  • Traffic – It feels like taking my life in my hands just to be a pedestrian. Cars head straight for each other only to swerve at the last minute. Cars, buses, and scooters all fight for supremacy, though in Beijing it’s all about size. The bigger the vehicle (or group of pedestrians) the more likely they are to get the right-of-way.
  • Parasols – I thought sun umbrellas went out in the 1800s, but they are alive and well in Beijing. Paler skin is thought to be beautiful here, so women are always carrying around a parasol. Not an umbrella, no, though they carry those too. Parasols are special, pretty, and lacy around the edges.
This woman still has her parasol up, despite being indoors in a subway station.

This woman still has her parasol up, despite being indoors in a subway station.


  • Kitchen Size – Back when I was looking for an apartment I couldn’t get over just how teeny-tiny all of the apartment kitchens are. There’s no counter space! It’s almost like kitchens were added as an afterthought, converted from what used to be a bathroom. I can’t imagine cooking for more than one person at a time in any of the kitchens I’ve encountered.
  • Spitting/Hacking – I’ve always hated the sound of someone hocking up a loogie, but here it’s impossible to escape. Everyone does it, from kids up to (and especially) old men. I’ve had students do hock up loogies in the trash can in my class only to have the whole class dissolve into giggles at my reaction (horrified skeeving).
  • Pollution – It’s hard to see very far in the winter the smog is so thick. One prays for rain, wind, snow…anything to blow away the smog so that Beijingers can enjoy a day or two of clear skies.
  • Personal Space – There isn’t any. I once read that Chinese people think that “Americans treat family like strangers and strangers like family.” If I keep this in mind, I can usually understand the lack of courtesy (how hard is it to hold the door for the next person?), but personal space is a little harder. On the bus and subway, particularly during rush hour, there is no personal space. People are packed in like sardines. It’s awful in the summer. I’ve gotten off the bus to find that my back is sodden with someone else’s sweat. Gross.
  • Dressing Alike – Couples wear coordinating outfits all the time. Sometimes it’s cute, most of the time it’s just weird.
Matchy matchy is all the rage for couples!

Matchy-matchy is all the rage for couples.

That’s all that I can think of right now, but I’m sure there’s more. If you think of something bizarre in Beijing that I’ve missed let me know in the comments!

See the original inspiration for this post here: 19 Crazy Things That Only Happen in China by Mamta Badkar on Business Insider.

Categories: China, Life Abroad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bungee Jumping in Beijing, Again!

Birthdays are a great time to get together with friends, and my friend Sara’s 26th was no different. Not being one for getting all dressed up for a fancy-pants dinner, Sara invited all five of her friends in Beijing to join her in a day trip to LongQingXia for some bungee jumping fun. All based on my blog post, no less!

Breakfast at Lush was early and included the usual exchange of gifts, and a surprise or two.

The metro ride was uneventful, but the two drivers we hired to take us to Longqing Gorge were confused. They ended up taking us to a section of the Great Wall. I think it was called QingQing, which is where some of the confusion started. (That and none of us speak Chinese.) Thankfully some local Chinese students helped us negotiate a (relatively) fair price for the trip further afield.

The enthusiasm of the day was contagious, and the gorge was, well…GORGE-ous. (I couldn’t resist.)

Jumping again was awesome. Especially since we had some extra friends along who agreed to take pictures of us all jumping. I knew what to expect from the whole experience, and there was decidedly less anxiety in the buildup.

Sara went first, and had her flip-flops scotch-taped to her feet. Hilarious. Check out that serious concentration.

I went next, and boy was it an adrenaline rush! I kept my eyes open this time, and there was a lot less screaming. There was a little more fear, since one of my shoes started to slip a little, and I panicked about what might happen if I lost a shoe. (My harness might slip off my ankle, I might dangle by one foot, I might drop… shudder.) I remember shouting as I stopped bouncing, “Where the f*%$ is the boat?”

The boat eventually arrived, with two workers and a young boy, learning the ropes I wonder. Being pulled into the boat with a bamboo pole is no less disconcerting the second time around.

Kerri jumped next, looking very graceful. Sara and I watched from down on the docks and cheered her on as she leapt. A tour boat happened to pass by just as Kerri was about to jump, and her cheerleading section increased ten-fold.

Last of the jumpers was Tom, highly visible in his neon pink polo shirt. Tom, unfortunately did not dive of the platform. As the last to jump, he didn’t really have a cheerleading squad with him on the platform. Also, he looked down. NEVER look down before you jump!

Slowly Sara, Kerri, and I made our way back up the hill to go and console Tom and check out the pictures and videos that Laura and Tonja had graciously taken for us.

Bungee jumping isn’t the only draw, there is also a zip line, which Laura took advantage of. At a quarter of the cost zip lining looked like fun, but it also seemed to me to be a bit less safe than bungee jumping. Maybe that’s just my own personal fear of heights getting to me.

So our day ended with a long drive back to NanShuo, and dinner at Grandma’s Kitchen in WuDaoKou. A fabulous birthday celebration for a fabulous friend!

Categories: China, Life Abroad | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Vacation: ShaoLin and Xi’An

Happy Dragon Boat Festival! It’s a Chinese National Holiday and instead of sitting around in Beijing relaxing I decided to get out of the city and do something. So I asked around, and the roommate of a coworker, Carmen, was taking a trip to ShaoLin and Xi’An and was happy to have someone tag along.

First a little background: Dragon Boat Festival is a national holiday in China that celebrates the spring ritual of racing boats that are decorated like Chinese dragons.The festival occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunisolar Chinese calendar and entitles Chinese across the nation to three days vacation, sending flocks of locals traveling. In typical Chinese fashion the work week schedule is rearranged to give people lots of time off. This year the festival fell on Wednesday June 13, so everyone had to work or attend school on Saturday and Sunday in order to take Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off. A three-day weekend after a seven-day work week doesn’t really make sense to me, but it’s China. This strange rescheduling affects the Disney English teaching schedule as well. We got Saturday and Sunday off, a rare treat. It was a simple matter to have someone cover my weekday classes, and voila! I had Tuesday June 5 through Sunday June 9 all to myself.

Coordinating with Carmen was fairly simple. The woman is a force of nature when it comes to organizing cheap travel. Carmen did it all: bought my train tickets for me for a total of 850 RMB ($140) and organized hostel stays for less than 250 RMB ($40).

Day 0: 4 June 2013 – Beijing

I spent my day packing and repacking (I still managed to overpack) and obsessing over what to bring. We met at Beijing West Railway Station and caught the 10:30 overnight train from Beijing to ZhengZhou in Henan province, arriving around 6 in the morning. We both had hard sleepers and did our best to sleep as much as possible. My five bunk mates were the loudest snorers I think I have ever encountered. When one would fade out, another would join in. It would have been funny if I wasn’t trying so hard to sleep!

Day 1: 5 June 2013 – ZhengZhou and DengFeng

From the ZhengZhou bus station we took a two-hour bus to the town of DengFeng. After settling in at our hostel, the Deng Feng Shaolin Temple Traveler Hostel, Carmen and I set out to explore the town and its sights. DengFeng is a small town nestled at the foot of the sacred Daoist peak Song Shan and is close to the famous ShaoLin Temple. The Shaolin Temple was founded in the 5th century AD and is famous for being the birth place of Chinese martial arts. In 527 AD, an Indian monk by the name of Bhodidharma or Batuo devised a system of exercises that eventually became shaolin quan, or Shaolin Boxing.

We spent close to five hours exploring the Temple grounds, the Pagoda Forest, taking in a martial arts show, and enjoying the peace of the area. Now most temples in China are very similar, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Shaolin was nice because it is still an active monastery and there are monks and young novices wandering about the grounds going about their business. The Pagoda Forest, essentially a large graveyard, is pretty and makes for nice photos. The martial arts show was to be expected; audience participation, displays of strength, flexibility, and skill by serious-faced young men. We even got a chance to take an hour-long Kung Fu class from a bona fide Shaolin Martial Arts master. Carmen and I were sore for at least three days after that, but how many can say that they took Kung Fu lessons in the temple where it was invented?! As we were leaving the temple we got to see thousands of school-age boys marching and running towards the academy/school for their evening workouts and meal.

Day 2: 6 June 2013 – DengFeng

Our second day in DengFeng was a little bit of a let down. The weather was not cooperating, everything was surrounded in a heavy mist/fog/haze. If we didn’t already know, it might have been impossible to tell that we were in a mountainous area. There’s not really much about the town besides the temple and a few other sights. We set out to view the Academy and the Songyue Pagoda at the center of heaven and earth. (Such a nice name, isn’t it?) The Academy turned out to not be worth it, so we caught a ride on a rickety pickup-tricycle to the Pagoda near the top of Song Shan mountain.

The Pagoda is nice, supposedly one of the few remaining solid brick pagodas in existence. But after a few pictures you realize that it’s just a tall octagonal building in the middle of nowhere. On our way down the steps we encountered a group of Chinese tourists. Several men and women in their mid-40s to mid-50s were very interested in Carmen and I, but spoke little English. The local tour guides seemed very interested in making sure this particular group (who were being filmed by a woman with a very professional-looking video camera) had all the information they could ever want about the Pagoda. Carmen and I were asked to pose for photos, as happens quite a lot when you’re one of only a few foreigners in an area. Carmen and I left the experience wondering if that group of tourists were more than just a group of old friends. Perhaps they were government officials? Retired movie stars? Who knows…

Carmen found a shortcut hike up the mountain that took us to the next sight, the FaWang Temple. This was my favorite sight of our time in DengFeng. The temple is an active monastery where students may study various forms of martial arts. While there we saw dozens of orange-clad students training with a variety of weapons. There were even a handful of foreigners (and a woman or two) practicing their kung fu as we tourists intruded on their peace and quiet.

After the temple and lunch in DengFeng Carmen wanted to hike around the mountain and see a waterfall that was advertised on a tourism map we’d acquired in the hostel. I’d already had my fill of hiking for a while, so I headed back to the hostel to nap and to secretly practice some of the kung fu we’d learned the day before.

An early night watching a movie in the Hostel reception room (there’s really no night life to speak of in DengFeng) completed our time in DengFeng.

Day 3: 7 June 2013 DengFeng to Xi’An

We got a very early start on Friday due to our need to catch the 11:45 high-speed train from ZhengZhou to Xi’An. A bus from DengFeng to ZhengZhou at 8:10 am, and then two hours later we caught a local bus to the ZhengZhou high-speed train station. Turns out that our timing was a little off though, and we had to hop off the bus and into a cab. We told the driver to step on it, and ran all the way through the train station to our platform. We were devastated when we saw that the platform was empty on one side, and the doors of the train on the other were already closed. It took us a moment to realize that the train on the right wasn’t our train, and that the reason that the platform on the left was empty was because the train hadn’t arrived yet. We had arrived with mere moments to spare! Carmen and I were elated; missing our connecting train would be a huge hassle, and tickets for the next one could be quite expensive. The high speed train looks and feels a lot like an airplane on the inside, I highly recommend it as a way to travel in China.

Xi’An is beautiful! The whole city, particularly inside the ancient city walls looks like what I imagined China and Beijing would be like. The marriage of old and new architecture is artfully done, incorporating glass-and-steel with peaked roofs and red lanterns. Those who go to the city just for the Terracotta Warriors are missing out on so much more that the city has to offer. We checked in at the Han Tang Inn Hostel located near the Bell Tower in the center of Xi’An and met up with a few locals to go exploring.

The bell and drum towers of Xi’An are very similar to the ones in Beijing and at night are beautifully lit. The Muslim Quarter, behind the Drum Tower is particularly intriguing. Cherie and her friend Dharma lead Carmen and I through the area, and we essentially ate our way around, stopping to try delicacies and treats that caught our fancy.

Cherie and Dharma took us to see the Great Wild Goose Pagoda south of the city walls and the fountain water show. I wasn’t really interested in the Pagoda, having seen one the day before, but the area was nice. The fountain is humongous and set in a large public park that encourages locals and tourists alike to relax and enjoy a beautiful summer evening. We stopped to take some pictures, and got waylaid into taking pictures with at least a dozen other Chinese tourists. It’s funny how many people try to sneak photos. I honestly don’t mind posing for photos with strangers, it makes me feel like I’m famous, just please ask. At the Wild Goose Pagoda however, it got a little ridiculous. We posed for what felt like twenty minutes, occasionally pausing to say “Didn’t you already get a picture?” The response was always something along the lines of “Just one more with this camera/this angle/this hat/both of us…” After a while I got bored and my cheeks hurt from smiling so I started to make silly faces. People will have some interesting photos to share. Which begs the question, what exactly do these people do with these photos of strangers?

The 9 o’clock water show was nice, but our position made it impossible to hear the music. Ten minutes was just as good as thirty, so we caught a cab back to the hostel. At the hostel we met all sorts of interesting people. Some were English teachers like us from smaller cities in China, others were taking a break between high school and university, one or two were doing a tour of Asia on a shoestring budget.

Day 4: 8 June 2013 – Xi’An

Carmen and I booked seats for the hostel’s advertised tour of the Terracotta Warriors for about 268 RMB ($44). 21 people set out from at least three hostels to explore one of the great wonders of the world. I highly recommend going with an organized tour, or at least booking a tour guide. China is famous for their blunt, simple descriptions of things in museums that don’t really give much information to the viewer. A tour guide will be able to tell you the things you want to know. For example, I learned that a few of the terracotta warriors have names carved onto the backs of their legs, done by one of the thousands of workers that created them.

If you’re going to tour the terracotta warriors, do it backwards. Start with Emperor Qin Xi’s tomb, which is still closed due to high levels of poisonous mercury. It’s essentially a manmade hill covered in trees and brush; not at all exciting. Then head to Pit 2 where you can the rows of broken pottery and evidence of fires and earthquakes that destroyed the statues to begin with. Pit 3 was never completed due to the emperor’s untimely death, and contains unfinished warriors and horses. Pit 1 is the most impressive and famous of the three, and it’s a great idea to start in the back and work your way forward. The pit includes 2,000 reassembled warriors with an estimated 6,000 more to go.

I brought along a copy of a National Geographic magazine (June 2012) with an article on the original colors of the Terracotta Warriors. It’s what inspired me to go to Xi’An in the first place, and so I posed for pictures holding the magazine. Cheesy, huh? Totally worth it!

While we were there we discovered that the peasant who had discovered the tomb (he had been digging a well in 1974) was at the gift shop and signing books. The man is famous in China, and very happy despite the fact that he only got 10 RMB for his discovery. It was quite a lot of money in 1974, but still! The whole town was relocated a few kilometers away and excavation began.

On the way back to town it started to rain, and it didn’t stop for the rest of the trip. But I’m from Seattle; I love the rain!

That evening we stayed in at the hostel enjoying drinking games (my team came in third in the tabasco-laced beer challenge) and good conversation. After a while one of the bartenders invited us to come with him to see the night life in some of the other hostels of Xi’An. We tromped out in the rain and had a fabulous evening.

Day 5: 9 June 2013 – Xi’An

Our last day was clogged with rain, and I struggled with the desire to do so much with not enough time. Eventually I decided to take a tour of Emperor Jingdi’s tomb, while Carmen went to the Shaanxi History Museum.

Emperor Jingdi’s tomb was discovered in 1996 and is being slowly excavated in a very careful manner. Honestly, I thought the terracotta warriors would be more like Jingdi’s tomb. [The terracotta warriors are enclosed in huge concrete buildings, yes; but they are very accessible to anyone with 150 RMB ($25) for a ticket. One could toss trash into any of the pits with ease. Thankfully no one seems inclined to do so.] The tomb of Emperor Jingdi’s is enclosed in glass, and very poorly lit, so as not to damage the artifacts. Included in his tomb are thousands of small terracotta figurines standing a few feet tall. They are now mostly naked, armless figures their clothes and wooden arms having rotted away centuries ago and include warriors, musicians, concubines, and eunuchs. The pits also have thousands of clay pots, and even terracotta animals; food for the afterlife? The museum attached to the tomb is nice to see, though it’s descriptions of artifacts are typically brief and blunt.

After the tour I had only a few minutes for lunch before Carmen and I were due to leave for the train station. Since it was Sunday night, the night before a national three-day holiday, the train station was mobbed with people. That didn’t stop me from meeting a young man from Tacoma on his way to study Kung Fu at the Shaolin temple. It’s a small world after all…

When Carmen booked our seats on the train home there weren’t enough hard sleepers (6 to a ‘cabin’) for me, so I splurged for a soft sleeper (4 to a cabin). Best decision ever. The beds aren’t any softer, but there is a lot more privacy. There’s a door to shut out the noise of the hallway, and only three other people to argue with about the amount of light/noise in the cabin.

Day 6: 10 June 2013 – Beijing

The 12 hour train ride back was pleasant enough, but navigating Beijing at 6 in the morning is not a fun way to end a vacation. I made it home in one piece, grabbed a quick shower and a nap then headed to work to teach for the rest of the day.

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If I could do it all again I would spend one night in DengFeng and three in Xi’An. Both sights are lovely, but more time is needed in Xi’An than at the Shaolin Temple area. I am extremely grateful to Carmen, who not only let me tag along, but went to lots of trouble to get my train tickets. She took care of all navigation and accommodation letting me know what bus, train, or taxi to take and what hostel to rest my head in. Most of all, Carmen showed me that traveling solo in China really wouldn’t be that difficult, and could really be quite fun!

Until the next adventure!

Categories: China, Life Abroad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hospitals and Hospitality

Thankfully, I have not needed to go to a hospital in China due to any illness. I think living in Mongolia as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) strengthened my constitution. When the nearest Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) is a 14-hour bus ride away, you really start to reconsider the true meaning of ’emergency.’

This does not mean that I have not had the opportunity to visit a hospital, unfortunately. In fact, on Christmas Day I got a crackly phone call from my very good friend asking me to please meet them and go with them to the hospital. That was an experience, but I won’t share it here to protect my friend’s privacy.

More recently, yesterday in fact, I had the opportunity to travel with my friend back to Japan-China Friendship Hospital, though this trip was much less emergent. Patient X’s digestive tract is waging war against their body causing them to rush to the rest room moments after having eaten anything. A full week of this had finally been enough and Patient X and I went to the hospital yesterday afternoon.

The whole process this time went much smoother, but was a bit funnier. Having to explain to everyone that you have the shits is no fun. Patient X had no compunctions, but I felt myself go red in the face each time we had to explain what the issue was. Once the purpose of the visit was made apparent, tests had to be run; blood and stool samples needed to be taken. Blood was not a major issue, if you don’t count a band-aid that had been bled-through. Stool was a little harder to come by. Patient X purposely hadn’t eaten because it means they can’t be far from a toilet. Also, Patient X wasn’t exactly clear on how to give and collect the necessary sample. My personal shyness when talking about sensitive subjects led to some misunderstandings, made funnier by presence of Susy, the interpreter so thoughtfully provided by our insurance company. Lots of vague gesturing, meaningful looks, and awkward pauses in the conversation got us nowhere. Eventually I gave up on trying to be overly polite and said something along the lines of: “Shit into the squatter, reach in with the stick to collect a sample and then place the sample in the little container provided. Wash and sanitize hands thoroughly.”

The public restroom was a squatter: no toilet, just a porcelain hole in the floor. Patient X did their best, but after five minutes returned to Susy and I saying: “I just couldn’t go.” The combination of no food for several hours and the unfamiliar facilities led to digestive system shyness. Luckily, I found some chocolate in my purse for Patient X to eat and we waited for their digestive virus to kick in.

While we waited for my friend’s stomach to revolt I told stories of similar experiences I had in the Peace Corps:

When you leave the country you must have a medical checkup to make sure you haven’t contracted any diseases. One of these tests involves stool samples taken two days apart. Some diseased take a few weeks for symptoms to develop, and by taking the samples in country the Peace Corps can determine whether you contracted the disease or virus in country. This is important, because if you did contract something, anything in country, the Peace Corps and the United States government will pay for any and all medical care required. When a large group of PCVs is scheduled to leave, lots of samples must be taken and given to the PCMO, who then mails them to the United States for testing. Our poop travels in first class mail, and we have to fly home coach. Typical.

The sample collection kits that are provided come in a cardboard tube about 8-10 inches long and a few inches in diameter. The kits inside rattle around in the tube and make noise like a frickin’ maraca. So when you take your kit with you into the bathroom of the teeny-tiny hostel that you share with a dozen other people, everyone knows exactly what you’re up to. Oh joy. The logistics of collecting the sample are an oft-discussed legend among PCVs as they prepare to leave the country. Some don’t bother to get two samples two days apart as instructed; instead opting to just get the whole duty over with in one go. The embarrassment doesn’t end there though. After the samples have been collected and are stowed in your backpack or purse (yes, you get to carry shit around in your bag!), then you must turn them into the PCMO. Paul, the world’s coolest PCMO, thought it was funny to ask you all about your samples when you turned them in. He seemed genuinely interested in the consistency, color, texture, and odor of your stool sample… Paul was an odd dude…

Back to Beijing, once Patient X’s virus made it’s presences known we had to move quickly; Susy found a proper toilet for Patient X to use, and we waited. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it was for Patient X to try and shit and then collect a sample of it. Particularly knowing that two people were outside chatting, trying not to think too hard about what Patient X was doing on the other side of the door.

While waiting for my friend, Susy and I chatted a bit uncomfortably, eventually finding common ground. Turns out Susy is from Inner Mongolia and lives around the corner from me in Beijing. In a conversation much like dozens I had in Mongolia, Susy asked for my phone number, invited me to her house to cook traditional foods, and implored me to help her with her English. An age later Patient X emerged from the bathroom with their sample and we trooped over to the laboratory area of the hospital. After that things moved quickly, the tests performed on Patient X’s samples took less than five minutes each, the prescriptions were written, doled out, and paid for within ten minutes. Our whole hospital visit took less than two hours! Like most Chinese medicines, Patient X was instructed to take three pills three times a day to relieve symptoms. Wouldn’t it just be easier to make the pills bigger or with a higher concentration?

Susy was also off duty and offered to go home with us. Great. One uncomfortable cab ride later we were back in our neighborhood and ready to tackle the world. Patient X’s digestive system is back on track, thankfully, and I hope that I never need to attend a Chinese hospital for an issue of my own. Also, I’m asking Patient X to go with me (they owe me!).

Categories: China, Life Abroad, Peace Corps | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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