Everything started on Friday when I asked Elina, our coordinator, how I could make appointments for the dentist and the eye doctor; she said she could help me with that. Minutes later she texted me she had made an appointment for me to see the dentist the next day at 11 am and to meet downstairs at 10. It is not that I had made previous plans or anything, but it would have been nice of her to ask if I was available at that time.
On Saturday I was standing there. She came down at 10:16 with her husband and daughter, she didn’t apologize, we all entered her car and she started to drive. Suddenly she said, “And you’re going to the eye doctor, too!” I wear contact lenses and just the night before I was trying to order Progent online to be able to clean them, but I couldn’t because they don’t deliver to China. I asked her to please return so I could bring my contacts with the solutions for the eye doctor to recommend something similar. Tim, her husband, mumbled something about asking my Mommy in the United States to send me those things because doctors here don’t prescribe “Western” medicine. I was going to refute, but Elina intercepted my words and said, “Yes! That’s what Tim does! He asks his mother to send him his medicine, and all the foreign teachers do the same! Just ask your Mommy!” I told them, “I can’t because my mother is dead and I live alone.” We left, I was still telling them that I needed a special liquid for my contact lenses… Words went to the air.
I was seated on the back seat trying to see the city but couldn’t because Elina hasn’t removed the transparent film from the back windows (apparently, that’s how they sell the cars here) and since it’s been so hot this summer the film is full of amorphous bubbles, therefore all the way to the dentist I was trying to see the landscape through the windshield. Tania and Tim also had appointments with the dentist, so Elina came with me. I was only alone for a couple of minutes in the X-Rays room where they signaled that I should stand behind a phallic instrument they had covered with latex, put it in my mouth, and wait until they took the X-Rays. They told me not to move, but I couldn’t help it, I giggled during the whole process.
Elina served as my interpreter, but I felt she left a lot of information out. Like, I was asking the dentist about a crown that had been bothering me but I never heard anything back. They made molds of my upper and lower teeth and Elina told me they were going to have a meeting with a “Western” dentist and call me back, though this was about my teeth alignment, not my crown.
Elina seems to always be running, so when we left the dentist building the three of us were following her to the hospital to see our respective specialists. I asked why the hurry and what time my appointment was, but Elina said there wasn’t an appointment, you just have to show up!
We arrived, joined the line, paid, and were given hospital books, that’s where your medical history is written; but Tim forgot to write his information in the book and had to go to the line again while Elina was screaming at him, only leaving him alone to take me to see the eye doctor, whom at the time was seeing a patient. Elina entered the doctor’s office and told me to come in too. I felt embarrassed with the person who was there first, but the doctor didn’t seem to care and asked me to sit on the empty chair. Elina started talking to the doctor whom at the same time was giving instructions to the other patient. Then the doctor asked me to sit in front of her. She folded out my eyelids and told Elina that I had a spot of black sand inside the muscle of my left eyelid. I said, “No, my doctor in the United States told me that it is a mole.” Elina interjected that Chinese doctors are better and that this one particularly was very good. So the doctor looked at me and said in slow English that she was going to take it out, so she gave a receipt to Elina, we went downstairs, paid a few yuan, and came back. Other people had started to come into her office, but she didn’t seem to be bothered, just told me through Elina that she was going to give me a numbing injection, then she was going to remove the sand. Elina was reassuring, telling me that this doctor was the best, and I trusted that being in a hospital they’d take care of me if anything bad happened.
The doctor numbed the eyelid with the injection, saw another patient for a couple of minutes, gave him a receipt, he left, then it was my turn again. Since she was going to perform a minor surgery I thought everybody else would leave including Elina, but the doctor kept the door opened oblivious to the other three people. Elina was head to head with the doctor and both were telling me to keep looking down and to breath as if I was in the delivery room! I felt violated. The doctor, Elina, other patients, everybody staring at the foreigner getting a spot of black sand removed. When the doctor finished she handled the bloody Q-Tip with the spot of black sand to Elina, who was over excited saying that “Western” doctors weren’t as good. I had to tell her to let me see it, and she showed the Q-tip to me for only one second, then to the other patients who nodded in approval. Elina then told me that the doctor said I’d “recover in the next 24 hours so you can work tomorrow.”
Then the doctor told me that my glasses seemed to have an old prescription, I took the opportunity to tell her about my contact lenses when she said that I shouldn’t be wearing them because my eyes were “weak and old”, and Elina repeated exactly the same, adding, “Yeah, don’t wear contacts.” Then the doctor asked me to stand across from the office to check how well I could see. In China they don’t have letters for the eye test, but the letter E rotated up, down, right, or left. I stood where she told me to and other patients joined, even popping their heads in front of me to look at the test board. I yelled at one of them, “Hey! Move!” I felt claustrophobic with so many people staring at me, invading my space and interrupting my eye test. The doctor gave me some eye drops to take home, then told me to follow her assistant to choose the frame for my new glasses.
We left the hospital and Elina told me to take a taxi back to school. Oh, wow! What a nice way to tell me I wasn’t going to get a ride back after a minor surgery. She said she had an appointment so, “See you later.”
The next day was Sunday, and we had to work. I was feeling dizzy, and my stomach kept rumbling. Completely unexpectedly during my first class I felt a leak. I couldn’t believe I had just defecated in my pants, but I tightened my gluts and continued the lesson until the end. When the bell rang I rushed to my apartment toilet to release a diarrhea attack. I had to come back to the toilet before 2:00 pm, and about an hour later I was feeling shaky and dizzier than I had felt in the morning. At 4:45 I texted Elina that I couldn’t go back to the office because I had fallen sick. She texted back, “Yeah, the doctor said you’ll need one or two days to recover.” Then the chills started, and more diarrhea attacks came even though I hadn’t eaten anything except for a small breakfast.
I texted Elina all my symptoms and asked her if the eye doctor had disinfected the needle. “Yes! I was there! She disinfected it!” Then she said that Tim and Talia had exactly my same symptoms. I was outraged, I told her we had to report this to the health department, but she said it was normal that those things happened after visiting a hospital. I asked her where I could go in case of an emergency and she said to call her if I needed anything. Later I texted that I was feeling extremely sick with fever, but she didn’t respond. So I became paranoid and took pictures of the conversation to send to a friend in the US. Then the thermometer showed my temperature was over 100. I asked my Egyptian friend (he lives in my building) for help and he came to my apartment with a Chinese ointment that I could rub on my temples and behind my ears. I checked in my medicine cabinet and took two Alka Seltzer Cold medicine tablets to try to lower my temperature. I had the chills all night, all my body was hurting and I was super dizzy in the morning. I could only text Elina that I wouldn’t come to school and passed out in my bed. I woke up at 11 am to a bunch of messages from Elina, being the last one, “Do you want me to take you to the school clinic to get medicine?” Are you freaking kidding me? “I don’t understand why you didn’t offer to take me to the school clinic yesterday when I was feeling the worst!” She just said, “Excuse me, but the clinic is closed at night.” I had to refrain from answering something very offensive because the first time I had referred to my symptoms was before 5:00 o’clock ! “Yes, when can you take me?” “See you at the office at 12.”
She saw me and started walking very fast… I could barely follow her with my sight and my heavy slow sick pace. We went to a small office across from ours. Elina talked to the nurse, who gave me a packet of brown smelly pills to take 3 times a day, and that was it. Elina told me to eat rice and vegetables, and a lady that was lying down on a bed told something else to Elina then smiled at me as she finished her sentence… It was happening again, other patients were intruding my appointment and I didn’t have a say on it.
It took me about 3 days to recover. Elina asked me at the office in front of everybody if Chinese medicine was very good, huh? She’s so proud of her Chinese medicine that I just said, “yes”… Unfortunately, I haven’t had a bowel movement in 4 days!
That wasn’t it. I had contacted the plumber from school to ask him to unclog my kitchen sink. They told me they’d come on Monday, but they came on Thursday while I was at work. When I came back I found a mess on the kitchen floor. Trash, putrid little pieces of food, water, and a fork! The odor stunk the whole apartment. I texted those people to explain the mess. I couldn’t believe they had left the kitchen in that condition. They said they were sorry, but I shouldn’t put anything inside the sink (What??). I tried to let go and cleaned the mess by myself, but later that day when I tried to take the trash bag out of the trash can it was full of water that spilled on the floor… so I had to clean again. When I complained they said it was because they didn’t have a bucket.
I was angry then I tried to tell Elina about it, and before I finished she screamed, “It’s normal! Look!” She pointed at a spilled in our building. “They always do that. You should see the 2nd and 3rd floors!” I contained all my fury and walked back to my desk… to implode. But then I thought, “Thank God I didn’t need them to unclog my toilet or who knows what they’d have left on the floor!”
My cousin, who lived in China for 5 years, calls this a “China day” I call it a “Freaking crazy China week.”
Today there is no water in the apartment. On the brighter side, I don’t have diarrhea. And the adventure continues…