I'm Still Alive... I Think

It’s been a while… I got (really) sick, found out my school center was closing, found out it actually wasn’t, and I went hiking a bunch.

April 30, 2017

The Great Wall of China

I’ve been up to quite a lot since I wrote last. I thought that my life would gradually settle down, but it’s been a wild month. On April 1st of this month, I went hiking with all my colleagues on the Great Wall of China (at 慕田峪). Karl Pilkington called it “The Okay Wall of China.” It’s not bad. It’s a bunch of stairs up a mountainside.

The Great Wall.

Two days after I climbed the Great Wall, I started getting chills at night—the kind of chills you get when you have a fever. The chills went away in the morning, but by the evening, they returned. This carried on for about a week and a half, at which point I finally decided to go to the hospital.

The hospital is not a fun experience for a foreigner with a fever. Seeing a doctor is not quite the same as in America. In America, you call your doctor and make an appointment, then you go to the hospital at the time you arranged—or, you go to the ER and see a doctor right away.

Randy is very tired.

The Chinese way is much more bureaucratic: imagine a DMV ten stories tall. First, you go to the ground floor to purchase a ticket to see the doctor, which, for a foreigner, involves standing in (usually a long) line to speak with a clerk behind a glass window.

Once you’ve purchased a ticket, you must go to the waiting room of the department the clerk sent you to, where you wait for at least half an hour to see a doctor. In my case, she did not speak English. She asked me what was wrong, and I told her I had a fever. She asked what my temperature was, and I told her that I didn’t know, but that I had been having chills like I always get when I get a fever. After a bit of miscommunication and irritation, she finished filling out a form on her computer before printing out some papers telling me where to go next. She did not even examine me or take my temperature, which is certainly what I would have expected back home.

I walked back down to the ground floor to pay for the blood test she had ordered for me, and afterwards went back up to find that the department which does the tests had closed early for the day. I was feeling like dying at that moment, because my fever had started to rise again after walking around so much. I wandered around the ground floor, trying to decide what to do, and eventually decided that the ER was the best course of action.

a dilapidated ER in Beijing, China

After seeing what the ER looked like, however… I decided that I could wait one more day. I came back the next day, this time with a proficient translator/friend, and although my wait was still pretty long, the experience was overall much smoother, especially since the second doctor I saw there spoke some English. He prescribed me some antibiotics for my throat, and home I went.

The next day, I still felt pretty terrible, so I decided not to go to work, and that was when I found out about the joys of the doctor’s note requirement. My day of rest turned into yet another day at the hospital as I went through the process again to see a doctor so he could write on a piece of paper to convince my work to let me stay home. He looked at my blood test results and told me my infection was viral, so naturally, the antibiotics would not help me get any better. To be on the safe side, he told me to continue taking them.

Anyway, I guess I should stop bitching so much. I guess the lesson I learned is, “don’t get sick whilst living in China.” I’ll stitch that on a pillow so I don’t forget.

Now that I don’t feel like I’m going to die, I can start writing again. Life’s otherwise very good in Beijing, now that the weather has gotten better. This morning is the day before China’s labor day, and many of my colleagues’ classes are zero-bookings, so the scrabble board has come out in the teacher’s office. As I write this, the temperature is a quite warm 26°C outside. The air pollution is never too severe during the spring and summer months, and the past few days have been very good.

Based on what my Chinese students have told me, the air conditioning and heating are apparently controlled by the government in Beijing, and the air conditioning in the small classrooms is controlled by the management of the mall that my center is located in—and they couldn’t seem to be bothered to turn it on. When I teach a class in those classrooms, the temperature regularly reaches up to 32°C.

That’s all for now—I’ve got to actually go do my job. I’ve started reading some books in Chinese, so I will write about those in a bit.