So it’s been one of those weeks in deep dark China, where our family needed a visit to the local GP….
Winter lurgies and all are upon us… and after a 20 hour journey from the sunny skies Down Under, to the rather chilly (make that freaking freezing) minus temps of Xi’an — we’re a bit under the weather (literally)!
Of course a local GP is not something we’ve managed to acquire just yet in our short sojourn, so desperate for some TLC, we hesitantly put the call out for an English speaking doctor in town. (I’m told they are few and far between.)
Thankfully Little Miss Hotelier’s school gave us the lowdown and the next morning we were whisked off to a hospital on the other side of town for a general consultation.
Turns out general doctor’s clinics as we know in the West are not so common here – got a minor ailment like a cold, the flu, a bug, it’s off to hospital, pronto!
Most local Chinese people (children included) will immediately opt for the “injection” which is not as lethal as it sounds. Sources tell me it’s a drip containing antibiotics. One hit and you’re done, no take-home tablets….no medicine! Talk about hardcore.
Sounds quite tempting if you ask me, but has left me wondering why the western world hasn’t taken up this ‘super injection’ in the fight against ill health?‘ Is there a method in their madness? Stay tuned. Or if you know, please let me know!
So into the hospital we go (picture ‘old fashioned, 1950’s grandeur’) we are registered at reception and escorted by rather glamorous ladies in uniform (looking more like chic flight attendants) to our doctor’s room. A rather sparse but cosy retro style abode….looking anything but clinical (not a stethoscope in sight)!
I hold my breath….as we begin to explain why we are there.
With our trusty ‘ever patient personal translator’ in tow for the event, it was a little easier to communicate with our doctor whose English, to be fair… was pretty good! But if you want to go into any sort of detail about your aches and pains, be prepared to launch into a quick game of charades.
I must be getting good at waving my arms around frantically in some sort of translatable gestures, because he soon got the gist and got down to business giving my girl the once over.
Then with a click of his heels, he was off, leaving us to wait in his room for.. about 20 minutes while he “collected” the drugs.
I began to wonder if he was ever coming back or I missed something in translation and we were meant to see ourselves out. But finally he comes back medicine in hand… (a well known global brand of antibiotics, for the record). Having been able to purchase Amoxicillian antibiotics over the road at the local chemist without a prescription, the jury is out on their authenticity and thus, their effectiveness, so I was relieved to have these babies in my clutches.
Excitedly, the doctor tells us how good it is to practice his English with his bevy of international patients and does us the courtesy of walking us all the way to the check out, three floors down, all the while chatting incessantly in Mandarin and English,while I frantically try to keep up!
His spirits buoyed even more when I tell him my husband works at the Westin hotel, he promises to invite us to many “events”….
What’s a new girl in town to do? “Count me in!” I hear myself saying! Fanciful (and most probably farcical) thoughts cross my mind of mingling with Xi’an’s rich and famous at future medical soirees!
Then he practically walks us to our car.….. this is certainly a new kind of medical experience, with some very personal patient service going on. (In Australia, GP’s are so flat out, you’re lucky if they open the door for you on the way out!)
A couple of days later my ‘lurgy’ is not budging, so I want to get some better medicine…. did I mention this doctor has text me each day to see how my small person is? It seems I have a direct line to Doctor Who so I easily make an appointment via a text message to him.
Now that’s service huh! (As long as I don’t get stuck in the Tardis!)
This time I brave it without a translator, confident we can get through a simple consultation. (There’s always charades right?)
And we do….then he tells me in his broken English he thinks I am very ‘charming’ (must be the charades)! I grimace not sure how he’s reached this conclusion given I am not really saying too much apart from my throat hurts!! and ‘elegant’ (again, I wonder about this observation, given I am in puffer jacket with flat boots and dirty hair – don’t get me started on the one. single. pair of boots I have been wearing while I wait for our belongings to arrive!) Never thought I’d be desperate for some high heels! (Ok, slight exaggeration… given heels are my achilles heel, ‘desperate’ about now, is probably an understatement!)
So I smile and give a ‘xie xie’ (thank you) as he asks if he can have a photo. I smile meekly again thinking he will forget soon enough…..brushing it off with a vague nod.
But once we’ve paid and swapped language tips, we are suddenly standing in the middle of the rather large, lavish (hospital need I remind you) foyer and the camera is whipped out as one of the staff members is beckoned over to take our picture. Mr Doctor in his white coat, me in my rather daggy, early morning school drop off jeans and jumper. (FYI “daggy” is Australian for “uncool!”)
Out of the corner of my eye, I spy another staff member slyly moving in with her phone for a happy snap of me and my new friend.
(A hospital foyer it may be, I think — but better than the underground subway on a Sunday, bursting at the seams with people and having a woman run up through the crowds yelling “Welcome to China” “Can I have your photo!?!”) Oh to be the foreign species.
Again, I’m escorted to the car park by Mr Doctor, telling me to ‘please come again.’ For the record I’m hoping a doctor’s visit is not a regular occurrence but I smile and nod. He adds, if I’ve got time, pop in and we can practice our English and Chinese (I’m guessing I don’t need to be under the weather for this event)! Would I make an appointment?
He stands at the hospital entrance, waving me off like a long lost friend, who’s just been to his house for Sunday lunch!
I giggle to myself as we drive off from the doctors….. service with a smile!
This is China.
Ps, Very happy to send this crazy post over to Seychelles Mama for her series on My Expat Family. Just click the picture.