Thursday, March 8, 2007

Women & Children Hospital and Wal-Mart

We took the bus to the Women & Children’s Hospital – bus 71. (I’m collecting bus numbers in case we have to go back – bus 21 is Wal-mart!). This was a modern urban bus, and not at all crowded. There’s an area right outside the gate closest to our apartment that tons of buses come to. The ride was short, and then a short walk took us to the hospital.

The girls played in the waiting area while Tracy tried to figure out where to go, and I tagged along as the keeper of money and documents! We eventually paid 54 yuan for each girl, and were directed to the clinic on the 5th floor. There were tons of kids there, all waiting for their exams to enter kindergarten. The first room was weighing and measuring – the room was too crowded for me to get close enough to see how much the girls weigh and how tall they are in the metric system. (There were lots of kids there, all getting their health checks to enter kindergarten!). The next room was the physical exam room. The girls were laid in turn on a table and the doctor looked in their mouths, probed their bellies, felt their legs, and – ahem, checked to see that they were girls! All in all, a much more cursory exam than the cursory medical exam adopted kids get in Guangzhou to get their American visas.

Then Tracy sprang it on us – the girls needed to have a finger stick to check for Hepatitis B. I said absolutely not. Hence ensued much negotiation between Tracy, the doctors, and the director of the kindergarten (via cell phone). The upshot was that they absolutely could not be enrolled in kindergarten without the test. I can certainly understand that, since I sure want all the other kids at the kindergarten to be Hep-B-free. But I was still concerned about safety. They brought in a doctor who spoke very good English, and we agreed that I could open all the sterile packages, that I could open the new bottle of alcohol, that I could use Germ-ex on the girls’ hands before and after the finger-stick, that I could watch the doctor wash her hands before she stuck the girls. OK, so maybe it was all very insulting and I created an international incident, but I would rather that than risk the girls’ health. I’m sure I over-reacted, since Xiamen is a modern city with modern hospital care, but again, why risk it? If we were talking about emergency care, then cost-benefit analysis certainly calls for trusting Chinese medical care. But when it’s not an emergency, additional precautions seem warranted.

So, after all that, the girls were stuck. Maya did just fine, and Zoe screamed and hollered and had to be bear-hugged to keep her still! I’m sure she understood just enough of my arguments with the doctors to think the whole process would be horrible, poor thing. But of course it was over in a minute, and the girls were fine. Tracy will go back to the hospital tomorrow to pick up the girls’ health certificates so we can get them enrolled in school.

We took the bus back to Xiada, and went to the waiban’s office to see about internet in our apartment (again!). We were taken to the bowels of the administration building to arrange it, and it will be 50 yuan a month -- $6! That is, if it will work! The technician was scheduled to come to our apartment at 3:30 to configure everything.

With time on our hands, we decided to go to Wal-Mart to see about raincoats and rainboots for the girls (no luck), since I’m told March and April are the rainy season in Xiamen, and we have a bit of a hike to school each morning. I also wanted to buy towels, a small lamp for the living room (with the 1000-watt bulbs in our high-ceilinged living room, it is awfully cold and bright), and a few other homey things. We took a taxi, armed with a note in Chinese from the waiban – “Please take us to Wal-Mart,” and “Please take us to Xiada Nanputou Gate (that means the gate nearest the Nanputou Buddhist Temple and Monastery, which is near the university).” (I meant to mention earlier that when we went to the Bank of China to change money, I saw a Buddhist monk, in saffron robes, using the ATM machine!).

If you’ve been to one Wal-Mart (in China) you’ve been to all Wal-Marts (in China)!. It doesn’t bear very much resemblance to a U.S. Wal-Mart, but we found all the household goods we wanted – lamp, laundry basket and clothes pins, hangers, rug for the bathroom, towels, hooks to stick on the girls’ door so they have somewhere to hang their coats, small pitcher to keep pure water in the fridge, a stepstool so Maya can reach the bathroom sink to wash her hands, sweatshirts for the girls, some foodstuffs, all under $75! (I know I keep talking about how much things cost, but it is really amazing to me how cheap everything is! Of course, the quality isn’t great. Tian, our waiban, says that is a perpetual problem for the Chinese. They have to shop very carefully to find things that will last.

My favorite part of Chinese Wal-marts is the moving walkway that goes between floors. Since space is at a premium in China, Wal-mart can’t spread out over several city blocks, so they build up instead of out. And how do you get people AND THEIR SHOPPING CARTS from floor to floor? Elevators are too slow, escalators won’t accommodate the shopping carts, so we have the sloping walkway that the cart wheels fit into so the carts won’t roll back. Very clever.

We took a cab back, and I don’t think our driver could read our note – he got us back to the university, but tried to drop us at a gate near the law school, which would have been a LOOONNNNGGGGG hike with all our booty. I was pleased that I could get him to understand where to take us, and even got him to drive us to our door!

The internet technician came, and it turns out that the only internet outlet is in the girls’ bedroom! Oh, well, I guess it is better than nothing. But connectivity is slow and keeps cutting out. I guess we’ll see how it works this week, and call to complain next week if it doesn’t get any better! My connection at work seems more reliable, so at least I can post on days I go into the office.

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