(This Is China-44) March 3, 2019 – Chapter 45 from THIS IS CHINA


PERSONAL NOTE: I decided to share my book with friends and students in mainland China because it costs too much to order a copy from USA. Enjoy it and share it with people you care and love. Peace, Steve, USA March 3, 2019   stephenehling@hotmail.com     blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com 


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Chapter 45

After living and working in China, many experiences will remain with me for a long time, like the indelible tattoos on your back, the biggest mundane lesson I learned is that nothing is permanent. I am not talking about the abstract concept of impermanence in Hindu and Buddhist teachings. I am talking about the ordinary things of life. From friendships to the things I bought and used in my apartment. The simple square dining table which I would also use to play mahjong with my favorite students almost killed me one day when I tried to stand on it to change a light bulb. That taught me to invest later in an aluminum ladder. The wooden table collapsed on me but I landed skillfully and safely on the floor, like a cat falling from a tall tree. The first set of four plastic chairs could not stand the weight of my student guests, most of them were of average weight. The legs of the chairs would bend or spread under the weight of students. Chairs with mental frames solve the problem. Within seven years I had bought and used at least four sturdy mops for the bathroom and the same is true of the big plastic buckets which could not hold any water after a short period of use because of sudden cracks at the side or the bottom. I used it only once a week when cleaning the bathroom. A simple desk with a drawer in my bedroom was about to collapse—slowly disintegrating—used by an adult, with a light TV on it. One morning in winter my coffee cup broke up in my hand while drinking my favorite Vietnamese coffee. The best kitchen trash bags were too fragile or flimsy to hold any substantial waste, without the elasticity and firmness of American trash bags. In desperation, I had to buy alarm clocks in America, ironically made in China for the American markets because the Chinese alarm clocks in China would literally stop functioning after a few months. And the list could go on.

This is China.

One day I had to see a dentist in a hospital connected to Xiamen University, and that means I had to travel from my campus, first on a bus, then a boat, then another bus to the hospital, not far from Xiamen University campus. In this particular hospital, mostly the patients or clients are people working for the university or students, and a few local people who live in that neighborhood. In China, you do not wait in a waiting room and go in to see a doctor when called. In America, you wait for your turn to see your doctor in a clinic full of people seeing different doctors. I was surprised my first visit to see a dentist because people simply walked by the cubicles where the dentists were doing their jobs. And you chose the dentist you wanted. So strange to me. I was privileged to see a female dentist whose English was almost flawless and when asked, “Did you study in England or America?” She shook her head. I was impressed with

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her spoken English. I thought I found the right dentist to work with me. It was a good visit and she told me to return to her office another day. I informed her because I was living far away, I needed to know the best time to see her. She signed some papers and I took them to the cashier and paid for the service.

The second visit was a little unsettling to me. I had to travel a long distance and all she did was use a tool and touch a tooth or two without really performing any work on my tooth. She signed the papers and I went to the window and paid for the service. I was so annoyed, having traveled the long distance, and I decided to share the story with a professor and some of my students. It was quite a revelation to me to learn that in China most doctors working for the government are not paid well, and so the more visits I made, the more money she could get from me. And that made sense to me, because she wanted me to come back again and again and each time she would charge me so much. The third time I chose not to see her after I discovered the truth of how she got “paid” for her job in the hospital, I waited patiently for her boss, an older gentleman, probably a teaching professor at the university. He did not question who did my dental work previously but took care of my dental problem efficiently enough that I did not have to return to see him.

It made sense why many ordinary citizens, not long ago, were physically attacking workers—doctors and nurses—in some hospitals in China for one simple reason: they felt these medical professionals were not taking care of their loved ones, resulting in some unnecessary deaths. So to secure a peace of mind, you are expected to give them money under the table so they would pay more attention to your loves ones.

So you will understand why many parents would shower gifts on teachers for the same reason: gifts will definitely guarantee your children attention from the teachers and, maybe, their success in the school. One student told me once, “You should see how many gifts my mom received from her students. So many she could open a store to sell them.”

This is China.

At the beginning of every academic year when I return to teach in China, for health insurance and the government, I have to obtain a CERTIFICATE OF HEALTH EXAMINATION FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELLER required by the ENTRY-EXIT INSPECTTION AND QUARANTINE, THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA. and that means going for a thorough physical checkup—covering the critical functions and parts of your body, like your lung, heart, liver, kidney, stomach, blood, urine, etc., going from station to station, seeing different medical professionals—at

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a Physical Examination Record of Xiamen International Healthcare Travel Center, much more than the annual physical I would do when I return to America demanding only my blood and urine.

In America, I would be required to put on a simple hospital gown even in a private clinic for the medical checkup. In China you were not required to change into a hospital gown, you are required only to remove your shoes.

As a Chinese I believe in TCM, traditional Chinese medicine. I tried a famous brand cough syrup, a few times, recommended to me by my Chinese students and I stopped coughing within a short time. Bitter taste but it worked. My students said, “I grew up using this famous cough syrup.” Who am I to question the usefulness or efficacy of this cough syrup? One time I developed a terrible itch near my anus and was about to see a Western doctor in a hospital (I doubt foreigners know that we have some top Chinese doctors trained in some top medical schools in America or in England, attracting medical tourists to China from different parts of the world), when I decided to see my Chinese doctor first before going to the hospital. He examined the spot and gave me some simple ointment and the itch was over in no time, saving me time to travel to see a Western-trained doctor in a hospital.

TCM wasn’t born yesterday because it has more than 5,000 years history. TCM and acupuncture are becoming very popular in many parts of Europe; some American doctors are slowly catching up despite their many visits to study and observe the practices of Chinese medicine in mainland China. In the West, we have doctors who specialize in anesthetics, literally putting you to sleep for a major surgical operation. Western doctors have watched how in China doctors would use nothing but acupuncture on a patient to perform a major operation like a heart surgery. Nobody, witnessing it, could doubt the efficacy of the Chinese traditional practice of acupuncture. Today, TCM continues to offer Chinese medicine to those who want it the traditional way, brewing and drinking the bitter Chinese herbal medicine or in the pill forms like the ones in the West.

I would like to try the Chinese medicine to maintain and improve my health but the young Chinese doctor near my campus was not convinced I would need it because, looking rather casually at the lengthy results on paper of my medical health checkup, he would say, “You are very healthy. You do not need any help from me. You are ok.” He tried my blood pressure, he said, “You are ok. Nothing wrong with you.” And he would repeat, like a refrain to a song, “You are looking good and healthy.” I wish my American doctor would say the same after my annual physical checkup. Because after the urine and blood tests each year, he would be disappointed with me, telling me I

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need this and that medicine to improve my health…he is not happy with my health.

Just the other day, the young secretary in the International Office said something, almost meaningless or ridiculous, to me, “Steve, you need to get sick, so you can use your health insurance. You are not using it!”


This is China.


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