Friday, May 6, 2011

International Clinic

If you ever come to China, bring as many medications as you can squeeze into your bag. You will get sick. Before I left the states, people gave me all kinds of advice on how to stay away from foreign illness. But in the debriefings they acted like these illnesses could be avoided. They can’t.

Almost every one of us has been sick during our stay in China. My roommate, Florian, has developed a bad case of asthma, my friend has been vomiting everyday for the last two months (she also fainted this weekend; that’s new), and I just got over a bladder infection. We’re just not used to China’s germs, smog, and unique standards of health.

So today we are getting ready to make our fifth trip to the international clinic. And we aren’t really sure what the experience will bring. Hospitals in the states are much different than they are here. One of the biggest variations is probably the doctor’s paycheck. I found out that a high paying doctor here only makes about $1500 a month. It makes since when most patients only pay $3.00 a visit. Even in a place where the cost of living is cheaper though, $1500 is not much. So as a result, a lot of the doctors that come into the hospital are under-qualified and rash. Also, many of them still practice forms of Eastern medicine that probably wouldn’t be considered safe in the West. We’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about students hurting the nerves in their hands after a doctor botched up a simple stitching. And my friend Judith was given the wrong medication last week. The doctor just got confused and gave her something for migraines.

Fortunately though, after a little searching, we have found an American doctor. Her name is Juliana. She came to Qingdao when her husband was transferred for his work. And I can’t tell you how grateful we are. Especially after I went to a testing room and saw a Chinese doctor hacking his patient’s ear with something that resembled a hammer and pick. So finding Juliana was like discovering jade. She’s been able to keep us patched up for the majority of our trip.

Don’t get me wrong, I love most parts of China. Just not the whole disease-ridden element. The Chinese don’t seem to mind it too much, but I’m used to waking up in the morning not worrying about breathing, vomiting, death, or death-like symptoms.

Just call me old fashioned.

Wu gui

I missed my dog this week so I bought some turtles (Wu gui). Their names are Phelps, because he’s a talented swimmer and awkward on land, and Han Solo, first because the Han dynasty had turtles as their national animal and second because Star Wars is cool.

Driving in China

Today, as we were riding in a taxi, we got so close to another car that I could not only see the whites of the driver’s eyes next to us but also my reflection in those eyes. And I had one of those “holy smokes, I’m going to die,” looks on my face.

I feel like Chinese people have the bad stereotype of being terrible drivers. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Instead, they’re some of the best drivers in the world. They have the ability to get within inches of other cars and move in and out of traffic without harming themselves or anyone else.

In the small city of Qingdao, roughly nine million people, I have only seen one car wreck. And yet, when the light turns green at four-way stops and all four groups of cars seem to be going at each other, no one gets into a wreck. And all the while pedestrians are dodging in synchronized movements across the street. It’s like watching blood cells run through the body.

More Animals

I found out today that my turtles are girls. Oh well, I always thought Han Solo was a gender neutral name anyways.

When I decided to get pets I didn’t realize the effect it would have on the rest of the dorm community. My turtles attracted too much attention. Soon other people started getting animals as well. A British guy and a Dutch girl bought some water snakes, several people are getting fish, both my neighbor and two of the American girls bought rabbits (Easter fever), and I think I saw bird cages hanging off the balcony of a Korean girl’s room. Also, some of the Middle Easterners were playing with a yorkie on the basketball court the other day. This may be getting out of hand.

I wish I could have started a helpful trend in the dorm like exercising more, reading the Bible, or staying away from Snicker Bars, but all I’ve accomplished is the mass purchase of pets.


Extreme Roller Skating

For Amy’s half birthday,(we’re still celebrating those), we went to the city roller rink. In my hometown we have a Skate Land. It’s a great place for children and their families to play and have an afternoon of socialization and exercise.

But In China it’s serious.

These kids have been skating their entire lives. They spend about half of their time going backwards and the other half doing tricks that look like a mix between figure skating and martial arts. About ten foreigners walked in with me, big dopey faces etched across our faces. We were not prepared.

At home you stop going to the skating rink about your tenth birthday. Then you move on to bigger and better things like bon fires, movie theatres, and camping.

But in China it’s serious.

As we reached the main floor, the Chinese people were forced to play a healthy game of dodge the foreigners. They rolled their eyes as we stumbled onto the floor and gracelessly ruined their in sync motions. I am going to stay off the wheels from now on.

If you can’t beat them, feed them

I have a new tutoring job on Fridays where I teach four Chinese boys to speak English. Their names are Jerry, Oliver, Mike, and Fat Tom.

Now let me start by saying that I like children. I even plan to have some in the future. But these four kids are some of the worst human beings I have ever had the opportunity to meet. They fight each other, cry, steal my shoes, break expensive pieces of artwork, and constantly throw toys at me. They’re part of the spoiled generation of Chinese single children.

At first though, I thought I could fix them. I was sure that with a little hard work they would learn to have a deep appreciation for English and in the end turn away from their wicked ways. So I spent hours preparing games, lessons, and songs for them to do.

But it didn’t work. So after a month of being bitten, punched, and kicked in the crotch I decided to use a different teaching method. Bribery.

Now during each tutoring session I start by pulling out a package of Mentos. The boys see the food and immediately sit down. Fat Tom drools a little bit and Oliver’s crying fits turn into a series of weak sniffles. My monsters slowly turn back into children. Then I bring out a chart. It has each of their names on it with a five circles underneath. The circles stand for candy. If they do so much as look like they’re about to start punching me in the crotch I put a big mark on those circles and they lose a piece of candy.

We have learned verbs, adjectives, proper nouns, and basic grammar. Fat Tom has not missed a single question. I may be creating a future problem for the kid but at the moment he is learning English. That’s enough for me.

Kites, Motorcycles, and baby butts (oh my)

May first was Labor Day in China and we received a day off school. So we locked our books up, cancelled our English tutoring sessions, and headed out on a daytrip. We all wanted to visit Weifang, the kite capital of China. We heard it was an amazing place and couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves.

To get there we had to travel by train. I had never done this before, and once again, I expected something out of Harry Potter to pick us up at the station. But instead it was a slow-moving, stuffy train with tightly packed Asians and six Americans. I don’t think we ever went faster than twenty-five miles per hour. There was a little lady who sold refreshments though. But instead of Bertie Botts and chocolate frogs she sold chicken feet and processed ham balls. It was a good cultural experience though and a great way to see some of the country side.

Once we got to Weifang we first started looking for some food to eat (Chicken feet just don’t tide you over like they should). All the places on our tourism sheet didn’t seem to actually exist but we found a hole in the wall restaurant and waited for our chance to enter. It was here that I was first approached by a baby.

In Qingdao, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of Westerners. They are in town for school, work, retirement, long term vacations, finding wives, etcetera. So most of the Chinese are accustomed to seeing Wai gou ren (white people) out on the streets. They still point and stare, but more in the way that we would if we see a deer or a groundhog in Joplin, Mo. It’s only a little rare, and therefore only deserves a slight passing look.

Now in Weifang, seeing a Wai gou ren is like seeing a Polar bear walking down the streets of Carl Junction while he simultaneously composes his own symphony.

Sorry for the ridiculous comparison (no one writes symphonies in Carl Junction), but you need to understand how few white people actually come to Weifang. The second we stepped off the train we immediately became part of the tourism industry. People were taking pictures of us, running up to look at us, and even stopping in traffic to point out to the rest of the town that Wai gou ren were here.

So while we waited for food I turned to see a baby being shoved into my face by his mother. He was a cute thing, fat like the rest of the Chinese babies, and it was clear that I was expected to hold him. So I did. His mother and the rest of the street stopped what they were doing and took pictures as the kid drooled on my neck and reached out for his mother. I tried to calm him down by letting him sit in my hand and cradle him back and forth. That’s when one of the American girls pointed out the rip in the baby’s pants.

In China it’s acceptable to have your children poop on the ground. In fact, I’d go as far to say that it’s accepted and expected. They sell the baby clothes with big rips in the butts that they can use whenever and wherever they want. If you ever come to China please watch your step.

So it was then that I realized that I was holding this literally butt naked baby while his parents were turning this into a photo shoot. Someone tried to hand another baby butt kid to Judith but she found him too dirty to risk the chance. As I continued to hold my own baby butt kid in my hand, I couldn’t really blame her.

After we were called in to eat, I quickly gave the kid back to his parents, waved one last time like I was on a parade float, and slid into the restaurant. Then I took Daniela’s bottle of hand sanitizer and bathed in it.

Once we saw the restaurant though, I realized that cleanliness didn’t matter too much. The place was pretty disgusting. And the waitresses had an accent unlike Qingdao’s that I couldn’t understand. Fortunately, Hunter, a boy who came to China several years before the rest of us, was there to translate. He told us that we had wandered into a burrito bar. A burrito bar that actually served donkey. So for the first time in my life I ate a burro burrito. Not too bad, tasted like brisket.

After lunch we went to the kite museum. It was a beautiful place that displayed the history and design of the kites. Did you know that a battle was actually won with a kite once? The Chinese military put a man in a giant kite and flew him over the enemy’s encampment. And, as the story goes, the man sang songs from the enemy’s own culture. They all became homesick and demoralized. Then the Chinese attacked and destroyed them all. So parents, next time you give your children a kite, seriously consider the repercussions it might have.

When we were done looking at kites, we decided to go buy some of our own. We went out to the square to see hundreds of kites being flown above us of all shapes and sizes. It was an amazing sight. And there were kite salesmen everywhere. Unfortunately, it was quickly ruined by several Chinese police officers who wanted to chase the kite sellers off. I ran with a saleswoman as the police followed, trying to get a good deal for a kite. After she realized that the police were gaining she told me to go.

So the six of us walked around the square without kites. We started to think that we would leave the Kite city without so much as a trash bag held up with two sticks. Shortly after though, the same woman who was running from the cops drove up to us on a motorcycle and told us to get on. It felt like a getaway scene of a movie until we realized that four people couldn’t fit on a motorcycle at the same time. So she motioned to Daniela to join her.

A few weeks ago, Daniela and I realized that neither of us had ever ridden a motorcycle. We made it our challenge to get on one before the trip was over. So I quickly encouraged Daniela to jump on the bike of a stranger and go find kites with the illegal Chinese saleswoman. And as she left into the distance and turned the corner out of sight, I recognized how bad of an idea that actually was. I chased after her with the rest of the group and tried calling on my cell phone. Thank goodness she answered. She told us to walk around the corner and jump into the bushes.

Sure enough, two hundred meters away, we went around some underbrush and found an outdoor kite shop. Daniela was safe (and she’d ridden a motorcycle). So we got right down to business. I quickly found the kite I was looking for. A three dimensional hawk kite that, when all unfolded, had a nine foot wing span. As custom, the Chinese saleswoman over-priced it and we had to barter. She started out wanting me to pay 80 RMB (12ish dollars), but I got her to come down a bit. In the end I told her I would only pay 70 RMB if she gave me a spool of string and lessons on her motorcycle. She agreed and after the giant hawk was packed up, her husband took me out to the sidewalk.

I only fell into the bushes once. It was much better than the other option of hitting my friends. But after that, I made a few trips up and down the sidewalk. The salesman wasn’t too happy with my progress. But hey, it’s difficult to learn to do anything when your teacher screams in a language that you barely know.

It was a very successful trip altogether. I ended up purchasing six kites. I’ll try and send you some pictures of them.

I hope you all are well and I’ll see you in a few months.


No comments:

Post a Comment