Chinese Stories in English
My wife Laopo and I arrived back in Liuzhou about a month ago after being away a year and a half. One of the first places I visited was a hospital.
Two months before leaving the U.S., I'd called my doctor's office to refill a prescription for blood pressure medication. The receptionist said the doctor wouldn't approve a refill unless I came in for a physical. "OK," I said, "schedule an appointment."
"The first available date is ten weeks from now," she said. That was two weeks after our scheduled departure for China.
I could have explained my situation and begged for an earlier date, I guess, but I decided to heck with it. I'd wait until we got to China and buy the meds here. So a few days after our arrival, Laopo and I walked over to the People's Hospital, just across the street from our condo.
The first thing I had to do was register as a patient at the hospital. That took about ten minutes and I was rewarded with a shiny new plastic membership card.
Then I was shown photos and bios of five doctors who specialized in heart-related issues, and was told to pick the one I wanted. Three of them were immediately available and the other two had patients waiting in line to see them. I chose the one with the longest line on the theory that popular might mean better. (I should mention that the people they called "doctors" were medical technicians who had attended some training classes after college.)
There were four people ahead of me and I got in to see the doctor after about 20 minutes. She checked my blood pressure and pulse, then said that while the numbers were borderline, she would not normally recommend any medication for me. Since I had come in expressly for a refill, though, she would go ahead and write a prescription.
I carried the prescription over to the pharmacy on the other side of the hospital. Another ten minute wait and I was able not only to get the meds there, but also to pay my bill.
The total time spent: around an hour. The total bill: 90 Yuan (≈$14.06), including ten Yuan to register, twenty Yuan to see the doctor, and sixty Yuan for a two-week supply of meds.
I understand that we in America have the world's best medical system. This I know, for the AMA tells me so. Still, I wonder….
Here's an addendum to my post about how Chinese speakers habitually use as few words as possible.
The hospital wasn't the very first place I went after getting back to Liuzhou. I had previously gone to see a street vendor who occupies a spot in a parking lot near my mother-in-law's home, across town from where Laopo and I live. She's a short, roly-poly lady with a joyous smile, and she sells (among other things) a type of pastry that I dream about while I'm in the U.S. She calls them "soo-bing", which sounds like it means "vegetarian cake" but almost certainly doesn't.
I didn't see any soo-bings as I walked up to the lady's cart, but I asked if she had any in the hope that a bag or two might be buried under the other stuff.
"No," she said.
I waited while she used one hand to sign for a delivery of steamed bread from a supplier and the other hand to sell a bag of pork buns to a customer. Then I asked when she expected to have some.
She flashed me that wondrous smile as she explained to me, as though I were a child who didn’t have a grasp on the way the world works, "Decorate!" From this, I believe was supposed to garner that the bakery which supplies her soo-bings was being remodeled and she didn't know (and probably didn't care) when she would have any again.
I don't know where the bakery is. I do know of one other vendor who sells soo-bings, but don't see the point in going there. Oh, well, I'm probably better off without the things.
Lots of construction around town. A new bridge (here and here) is inching across the river just north of the fish buildings on the east bank and the "Poly" development on the west. It's called the White Sands Bridge as a working title.
And at least four sleek new shopping malls have been finished, increasing the city's already astonishing number of dress shops.
In the short month I've been exploring around, I've already found: Three new Starbuck's (for a total of five); two new McDonalds (total three); two new KFCs (I've lost count); and two new Pizza Huts (total four). Better yet, a new Mom Pizza, a good local brand, has opened a new branch near our condo. And best of all, Mr. Chan, not satisfied with his growing empire of donut shops, has opened a sub shop he calls "Mr. Egg"). It's not quite Subway, but it'll do.
You know, I could spend the whole summer over here without ever once eating Chinese food! If I wanted to, that is.
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