French & Global and International Studies major
Beijing Language and Culture University
Beijing, China, Academic Year 2016-2017
Hello, neurotypicals! I said I would do this every day, so here I am again. Inwardly, you cringe. Aspergers girl is back with her…assburgers.
Recently, I believe I told you I would tell you about the medical exam I had to take here in China. So, tonight…or today, for you…I am goingto tell you The Story of the medical exam I had to take in China.
It won’t be every single detail…I wish I didn’t have to nip and tuck in places…my brain just wants to lay every single thing out and nail it down. But I will try to be concise, because this is important, or at least amusing, and while it won’t help you much with the specifics, it will give you a picture of what to expect if you are planning to go to China (without medical paperwork).
So, preface: I was lead to believe that this medial exam directly affected the extention of my 30 day visa, which is the visa you arrive in the country with. It did not…spoiler alert…effect the extension of my visa in anyway.
Let me first summarize, really fast. When I met Dr. Wang in the lobby of BLCU’s international dorm, on the first day I was here, he handed me a huge bottle of water…half a gallon, I think it was… greeted me, and proceeded to take care of my paperwork, change my money, get me a phone, put airtime on the phone, and all the other various simple little things that have to happen when you travel to a foreign university and move into their dorms. In essence, he held my hand, did it for me, made it easy. Which is exactly what he was supposed to do. I am not giving him grief; I’m just making a point. Everything was absolutly peachy for my first week here, because Dr. Wang speaks Chinese. I’m sure this comes as a huge suprise to everyone. There were then some banquets, the first of which I attended dressed in monochrom black and red, looking like a fricking star trek character because I thought banquets were formal and I should wear bright colors (or, in my wardrob, a bright color).
I tried several dozen different types of food that I can’t show photographs of because I later lost that phone. There were some beautifully cut pieces of jellyfish in this one weird dish of which I really regret loosing pictures. It was a white phone. It was the phone Dr. Wang spoke the Chinese to get for me. I miss it dearly.
My new one is black. In mourning and after the banquets, Dr. Wang saw to the departures of the Two Week Students, with some of whom I socialized, and while he was seeing to their departures, I made the mistake of attempting to get through registration day (what a joke misnomer) by myself, without the help of either him or my language partner, Cao Nan. I ended up having to call both of them, and they got me through paying more random fees for extra medical insurance, getting the orientation packet, etc. Then someone told me I was done…registration day, by the way, actually happens every day for four or five days, and all the foregin students basically flock to these orange tents, fill things out, present their paperwork, pay tuition, or, in my case, try to explain that they’re exchange students and already paid tuition…it’s an insane mess. And while the guids outside can speak English, the officials inside don’t. And they were the people I missed talking to before leaving. I was supposed to go to room 911, and complete some final series of steps. But I didn’t. I just paid for the extra medical insurance, got my packet, bounced between a bunch of other lines and tables, found the room with an armed guard where everyone was paying the 23000 tuition fee in CASH, got the hell out of there, and then left.
I went back to my dorm room, thinking I was done, and that I would automatically somehow be signed up for classes. I believed this deliusion for two days.
Then Dr. Wang left. And things became hard. Because I wasn’t really registered. And I…here is another huge shock…I don’t speak Chinese. I (i)study Chinese, but I do not speak it. I have spent four whole years smiling tightly when people give me praise for my apparently impressive mastery of this impressively foregin language because I always knew my Chinese was shitty, but I didn’t KNOW it in my gut ’til I arrived here.
So things got hard. When Dr. Wang left I was only about a fourth of the way through all the hoops I had to jump through in order to start classes. So let’s take a sentence to reflect. Would my life have been noticably easier if I had studied my Chinese harder, memorized more vocab, paid attention to more grammar, back in the states?
The short answer is yes. Of course it would have. However, nothing really prepairs you for the speed. Things just go fast. And people talk fast. They like to talk fast because talking fast makes them look smart. I do the same thing. I talk fast because I know what I’m talking about and I know three different ways to express it when I speak my native language. And I’m insecure. So no. Ultimantly, if I’d tortured myself more in the states, I would only be a few chapters behind on my novel, and my overall mood a few notches less overall sanguine, than it is now. That was more than a sentence. Damn it.
But anyway. The medical exam. After figuring out I wasn’t registered, there were so many pieces of paper I had to retrieve and fill out and make copies of and show to the right people before I could actually go get the medical exam…honestly I should sit down and remember the whole sequence, for future student’s sake….I don’t really feel like doing that right now. The medical exam was right at the end of that proces; I’d finally managed to get that blue sheet…or was it before the blue sheet…Christ. Well, I scanned some QR code off a wall and joined a group chat on Wechat, which is China’s absolute favorite app, and the group chat told all of us foreigners to get on some bus at 9:30 in the morning at the east gate on a certain day, and I hadn’t even memorized the layout of campus yet, and whichever day this was, I had to go find this bus the next day. So of course I ended up at the wrong gate, ten minutes to, and fast-walked a quarter of the campus perimeter, found the bus right before it left and ran. Then I had to pay to get on, because apparently everyone else had paid through Wechat…or QR codes…or something; the Chinese like to pay with their phones, and I have no idea when or where those of us foreigners who like paying with cash paid the day before. QR codes are a thing here, too. Like, really a thing. They’re posted on every wall, in speech bubbles, they have little pictures in the middle, etc. … I knew what they were but I didn’t know people actually used them, or how to use them, until I was (i)required to join group chats in order to get information on where to go next. And when I tried to present medical paperwork to extend my visa the first time (not knowing i didn’t have any), they used Wechat in order to call people in groups because that line was so long. I guess the only good thing about being so slow to register was that eventually the group of people who knew what was going on outpaced me, and I stopped having to wait in any lines. And I remember I nearly had a crying fit right in front of the driver and that admin guy, because they needed my student number, which was on my green student ID card, and I couldn’t find my damn wallet. Needless to say, though, I did end up on that bus. And I met an American girl named Skylar with whom I still have not managed to reconnect after loosing my phone.
The medical exam took place at an International Clinic that, on the inside, just kind of looked halfhearted. As an American, I know I’m used to huge facilities like Bronson and Borgess hospital, and even the dentist’s offices are always filled with mindboggling apparatus and impressive computers and potted plants, so I’m biased. But lack of decore aside, there was just white washed walls and a long line of people filling out medical forms.
It didn’t look like a place where trustworthy doctors did trustworthy medical things to people who knew what was wrong with them and needed things done. Which is generally what most clinics I’ve been to look like.
I filled out my form, and went through the line, with all the other students and everyone else who was flowing into the clinic at the time.
When we’d paid for the tests that we needed–and I needed everything they had, because I had no papers what so ever–we then just sort of walked around this big room along the sides of which there were doors, going to all these different stations like some kind of depressing adult scavanger hunt. The American girl…her name was Skylar…and I got our blood drawn first, with HUGE needles and old fashioned rubber tourquinnets. No fancy IVs or butterfly needles or even little foam squeeze balls. Just you, the nurse, the neeeeeeedle, and the line behind you. And she says something in Chinese that apparently meant, clench your fist. Then she makes a fist with your fingers because you don’t speak fuckin Chinese and you didn’t understand what she said.
I swear that needle went halfway up my arm. When it’s done you put pressure on the pinhole wound, and some people were walking around with tons of blood on their fingers because they picked up their backpacks first; it looked rediculosly gorey and some of them were giggling about it. I did not pick up my backpack first, and my arm didn’t bleed at all.
Then we got shitty vision tests…the Chinese doctor just pointed to the medium sized letter M, for everyone…and vertigo tests, and height and weight measurments, and then there was an ECG test…I didn’t know what that was, and the Chinese characters representing that have to do with electricity and heart, if that doesn’t scare you. The test itself involved taking off your shirt and getting electrodes stuck all over your chest so that could print this sheet covered with red lines that described your heartbeat. It was, to say the least, interesting and creepy. The nurse who oversaw it wasn’t mean or indecent about it of course…very professional… but it escaped me, and most people I asked, why this test was necessary.
But then, the really fun part. The last test I had to get was just an X-ray. But it was the longest line, which was why I went to it last. While I was standing in this line, an old guy came, approached about six of us who were at the end of the line, and started taking away our papers. Now, if you have never emigrated, immigrated, studied abroad, or otherwise had a reason to move to a foreign country, then you don’t know. If you have done one of these things, you do know how upsetting this was for us. Your papers…your passport, your letter of admission, the medical forms you have so far, your little tissue-thin rectangle of ricepaper that is your proof of residency…litterally one of the most important pieces of paper you’ll get when you arrive in country; you pay 600 yuan for it, and I could use it as a tissue…are the only thing that prove who you are and why you’re wandering around in The Middle Kingdom, looking dumb and lost.
If you loose your papers, you’re fucked. If you hand someone your passport, you always make sure they hand it back. You make coppies of things so that all the various officials can have your paperwork on file without you loosing the actual documents. Your papers are You. No one knows you and no one is going to vouch for you. Just your papers. So when he took our papers, we started freaking out. Then some other medical employee told us to follow him. I guessed then that, when you work in an international clinic, and you aren’t inclined to learn every single language on the face of the earth just to get better at a job you hate, you learn non-verbal communication pretty fast…and if you take their papers, they will follow you.
So we did. We were already basically following him, but after we were told, we made an orderly line. He lead us outside, to this bus where there was an armed guard. We thought we were being taken as political prisoners at this point; or that’s what I thought. The only person more upset than me was this black guy who only spoke French.
Then we were told that there was an X-ray machine on the bus, and we were just going to get our X-rays out here instead of in the facility. Because the line had been too long, and they wanted to keep the main walk way near the front doors clear.
We were told this buy a guy from either Canada or Sincinatie, I don’t remember which. He spoke native English, though, and he told us that, while it seemed awfully sketchy, he’d just done it and it was fine. This is the most reassuring thing we had all heard all day. Except for the black guy–he only spoke French. So when our papers got handed to the guy on the bus, he broke away from our group and tried to get his back, rambling about being in the airforce and showing everyone his ID, which did indeed announce that he was in some country in Africa’s airforce. I lost the phone I wrote my memos on, so I don’t remember what country in Africa it was. Ghana, maybe. No one could get him to calm down, and when they tried, he said “No English. French!” My heart lept. Because I speak French. And at this moment, about…two weeks ago?…I got to be the Hero. I ran up and started calling him monsiure, saying “cava, cava bien,” and he was all like, “Cava bien?” And I was like, “Ca va,” and then somebody wrote X-ray on their hand and showed it to him. He didn’t know the word X-ray, and went back to trying to get his papers back. I haltingly managed to start thinking French, and explained, “Il y a deux piece de l’equipement de medcine…” and it actually got through to him within three sentences. I wish I had the first memos I wrote. I remember how happy I was, standing out ther waiting to get on this bus and get an X-ray; having spoke French to this guy and gotten him to calm down and patiently wait like the rest of us. I was the heeeeero. I was really thrilled. Then I got an X-ray. After some Korean girl. And then we went home. And I talked to my new American friend, Skylar, the entier ride.
And that was the medical exam. Awful. But I got to use my French. And after that I was…mmm…maybe halfway through the registration process. right now I’m 98.8 percent done, because I still need this student card thing, which isn’t a card like my green student card, but a little red book that they stamp when you check out library books. Instead of stamping the actual books. I have no idea why. But once I get that, I’ll be completely official. And as far as I know there is nothing standing in the way of me getting that card except a late shipment right now.
By the way, have I mentioned I got an X-ray on a bus? I got an X-ray on a bus. It was just this little booth that got got into through a door behind the driver’s seat. It was an old looking bus, with big ram-horn mirrors. Bizzare. And then in the back, behind the booth with the radioactive X-ray making material (the stuff that necessitated the guard being there), there was an empty space with a little table and chair and the guy who had our paper work. They gave us back our paperwork by matching our faces to the photo’s we’d glued ourselves to our introductory documents. Pictures purchasable at the library for 30 yuan. It was really, truly bizzare.
My favorite drink in all of China: Aloe tea.