Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Health Inspection

To make things easier on themselves, the company my wife works for asked us to get tourists Visas in order to enter China. Then once we were in China they would help us to change those short term Visas into long term ones. Yesterday we embarked on part of that process – health inspections.

As there is a fairly large group of new teachers, we took a bus full to the medical center. I live in what they call the Pudong area of Shanghai, which is a relatively newly developed area of the city, across the river from the main part of Shanghai. For this trip we were crossing the river and getting into the heart of the big city.

It was a long bus ride.

Even before we really got going.

We loaded the bus around noon, but things weren’t so organized. Two ladies with lists of names were going around the bus making sure everyone was on board. They were petit ladies, and not very loud. Where what we needed was someone with a loud voice, shouting out names and counting “heres” what we had was little ladies whispering voices and hoping someone near knew where that person was.

This was a twenty-minute exercise. Even though all the paperwork makes statements like ‘we will not wait for you if you are late’ and ‘we will leave promptly’ it seems they were very concerned with making sure everyone was on board.

Once we got going we drove about three blocks before the bus pulled over to the side of the road and waited. Waited on what we were unsure. No one seemed to be getting up or doing anything but sitting there.

We were parked across the street from the police station where Amy and I registered a few days before and we began to wonder if perhaps this is where we were going to be given our check-up.

Maybe we were waiting for the center to be ready for us, or for a cop to waive us on. Who knows? But there we sat.

After another thirty minutes of this, the bus doors opened. At first I thought we were getting off, but no, on came a young looking Caucasian. With a big grin on his face he said “sorry guys” took his seat and the bus roared on.

Pissed is the word.

Seriously, you just made us sit in this bus for half an hour waiting on your sorry behind? What the crap?!? Sorry stupid guy. We should have left him behind.

Questions go forth to this cat about lunch and whether he ate it. Yes he said. He ate pizza. Sorry. Stinking. Son of a gun. Did I mention that we were not allowed to eat anything but a light breakfast because of the exams? No? Well that was the rule
Amy and I actually broke it a little by having some animal crackers, but still our hungry bellies grumbled and here was this guy making us wait half an hour on him so he could have pizza.

Dirty rotten so and so.

The bus moved us onward across the bridge and into the heart of the city. Whoa mama! Shanghai is huge. Living in Pudong we don’t see how insanely gigantic this place is. Huge 20 story apartment buildings rise out of the ground like Thor as far as the eye can see. Huge corporations jettison alongside them like bright steel mountains.

And on we go. It was a good hours drive, which when you add in all the waiting put us at about two hours travel.

Somewhere down a narrow street we stop at a little convenient store and buy junk food to eat when we are done with the exam.

We arrive at the hospital, which isn’t a hospital at all, but more like a medical center for Internationals. Inside they begin picking through passports and calling off names. Of course Amy and I are next to last. We shuffle into a room where we are given forms. And wait. We wait so long that some of the other guys are completely done with their exams before we get out of the waiting room.

Finally we are called and two ladies ask us some questions and give us a form to take to another room. There we take off our shirts and put on little robes and little baggies to cover our shoes.

Another room is entered and a nice lady takes our blood. Then we all start to divide up, going from room to room in no order other than whichever one is available. I hit the eye exam room first. Eyes exams are never a good experience for me as I am a bit colorblind.

Sure enough as I sit down I am presented with those little color tests. You know the ones I’m talking about, the little cards with a whole bunch of colored dots on them. Supposedly there is a hidden number buried somewhere inside, but much like those magic 3-D puzzles I usually can’t see a darn thing.

Doctor: What do you see here?
Me: Um, 99?
Doctor pointing to next card.
Me: Six?
Doctor: (emphatically) No!
Me? Nine? Ninety nine?
Doctor: No!
Next card is presented.
Me: I don’t see anything.
Doctor clearly angry circles a section of the card.
Me: Nine again?
A few more passes and the doctor tells me I have trouble seeing green. No kidding doc, I’ve known that since I was like five. But thanks for the humiliation.

I then do the eye chart which doesn’t consist of letters or numbers, but these little lines that kind of look like an “e” or a “w” or a “3” depending on which way they are turned. You are supposed to say which way the little figure is turning, but I only know this because I listened to the girl before me, not because of instructions from the doctor.

The weird part is I don’t look directly at the chart, but look at it in a mirror so everything is backwards. I have to shut that part of my mind off or I’ll wind up trying to reverse process the figure in my brain. Who knows if I get it right because I am shuffled into another room.

This is the ultra sound room. Now I’ve seen these on TV for pregnant women, and on House for all kinds of other things, but it is still weird. I lie down, undo my robe and the doctor gets busy with the cold, slimy stuff. She then rubs the camera thingy on my belly and my sides, pushing just a little too hard on my ribs, but I’m tough so I don’t say anything, just kind of silently grunt.

There is a full body x-ray, blood pressure taking, some touchy-feely to my belly and back, and a few other things I don’t remember. We’re then shuffled out where I find everyone stuffing junk food down their bellies.

We load the bus again and head home. For some reason, though it is the same bus and the same driver, the air conditioning isn’t really rolling. On the ride there it was on full blast and felt great. Now it is a slow, warmish trickle. But who the heck knows how to complain? Either nobody else was hot, or we were all in the same culture shocking mode of not knowing how to move forward and complain.

The ride was much faster this time and we made it home in about 50 minutes.

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