Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Survival of the Sickest...

My apologies to those who have been faithfully reading my blog, but with a house full of sicklings I've felt less than energized the past 3 weeks. Thankfully, the women in the house are now much better and the male is on the mend.

I thought I'd share my doctor experience with you. It was my first hospital trip in China. Honestly, I'd be fine if it was also my last.

When my 3 year old woke up with a 102 fever after being sick for over a week, I knew it was time to do that which I had been dreading - figure out how in the world to go to the doctor. There is a small clinic in our city where they speak English, but it's almost an hour away by taxi and I didn't want to have my little ones out in the cold and feeling miserable. So, I called my Chinese friend who has good English, has children, and lives just around the corner. She said she would gladly take us to the hospital she takes her kids to and that it was very near.

I got us ready to go, and tried to psych myself up for what was about to happen, but nothing I was putting in my diaper bag could have classified me as prepared.

In the taxi on the way, my friend called one of her Chinese friends and asked if foreigners can take Chinese medicine. I started to wonder myself. Could there be some physiological difference I was unaware of? Maybe Chinese antibiotics only worked on Chinese people!

My nerves are on high alert when my kids are sick, and both my 3 year old and my 3 month old were not feeling well. Needless to say, when we arrived at the hospital and I saw there was a mob formed around the check-in window, I felt that piece of me that screams for a single file line well up within me. Luckily, my friend is pretty pushy - apparently you have to be to survive in this country. I handed her some cash to pay and retreated to some seats against the wall, ready to wait until they called our name...

There was no name calling. My friend waved for me to follow her down the hall that was only big enough to fit one and a half persons across, and we were meant to go into exam room 1, where there were currently twenty plus people, standing room only. There were two doctors behind a table, and from my estimation, they examined whoever was the pushiest, or whoever coughed the most on everyone else in the room.

I backed out into the hallway for some air, only to look into the room across the hall where there were 20 more children all with IV's. I had heard that China was IV happy, and now I know it firsthand.

My 3 year old whimpered she wanted to go home. I choked back my own whimpers and tried to sound encouraging, but I was ready to break the door down and set off a lysol bomb.

My friend shoved her way forward and sat down in one of the chairs in front of the doctor. She motioned for us to come. We sat and the doctor did the quickest exam I had ever beheld. There was no chit-chat. No reassuring bed-side manners. It was get in, get out. She asked her symptoms, listened to heart, looked at throat, checked for fever, and whisked us out of the chair with a rip of her prescription pad. Back to mob window to pick up the prescribed drugs, and we were on our way.

My little girl was more of a trooper than I was. All in all, we were in the hospital for about thirty minutes. One time in the states, my daughter was sick with the flu and we were in the doctor's office for four hours. Yet something in me feels like it wants that one at a time, take-your-time-diagnosing-me method over the expedient, over-crowded and slightly more disturbing method. I find I crave the familiar, no matter how inefficient, costly, or inconvenient, especially when faced with uncontrollable circumstances. But I'm learning to loosen my grip.

Once home, (and once my friend finished translating all the directions for taking the Chinese medicines into English), my daughter beamed with pride, "I was brave, wasn't I Mama?" I smiled and kissed her and said she was. And my husband smiled and kissed me and said we both were.

Today I am thankful for really fast check-ups, for health, and for friends who will brave mobs of sick people to take me and my kids to the doctor.

Oh, and turns out foreigners can take Chinese medicines just fine.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Six Pieces of Candy

Being in a country that doesn't celebrate your holidays can be a bummer. It's funny the things you miss - fall decor, giant pumpkins, Cracker Barrel's three-months-in-advance display of whichever holiday is next (which, I should add, formerly irked me).

Halloween is one of our more obscure holidays, so many of our Chinese friends aren't really sure when or what it is. When we describe it to them, they shake their head knowingly and chime in with "Trick or Treat."

Of course there are no signs that Halloween, or even fall, is here. So we are learning how to make things special around our house for those holidays we still want to celebrate. I loved Halloween growing up. I never cared about my costume that much, but I loved getting candy (or toothbrushes from the dentist in the neighborhood). It was thrilling to be out in the dark, knocking on all the neighbors' houses (and getting to peak into all those houses you had never been in before), running around the neighborhood screaming with your friends. The older we got the more serious the candy procurement became. Roller blades were added to expedite the process. And then we would head home to analyze and trade our spoils. Thinking back on those fond memories made me want to give my daughter something similar.

So, our Halloween this year consisted of carving two small pumpkins our friend found on her side of town and brought to us, dressing up with some things we had around the house, calling our downstairs foreign friends and letting our three-year-old "trick-or-treat" at their two apartments. And you know, it was fun. It wasn't tiring; we weren't out all night battling mosquitoes, traffic, and youngsters on a sugar high; and we didn't get enough candy to last until the next Halloween. She loved it, and consequently, so did we.

We came home and tried all six pieces of candy, lit our jack-o-lanterns, and just had fun watching our mix-matched butterfly, fairy princess enjoy life.

There is another perk I should mention. Living in a foreign country actually means you get a whole new set of holidays to incorporate into your life. We've essentially doubled our holiday celebrations. Of course, the new ones don't feel as important to us as the old, but maybe to our daughters they will be of equal value - good times with Mom, Dad, and friends.

Today I'm grateful for the opportunity to create a holiday for my girls - one that wouldn't usually happen on our side of the world. It makes an old tradition feel really special. And I'm also grateful for the new holidays that life abroad affords.