Monday, November 28, 2011

Baby Hospital Visits - Part 2

Thinking that I was teaching college at the time, Doctor Vicky recommended that I ask a student for help. Knowing that 8-10 yr. old Chinese kids wouldn’t be the best case scenario (though they obviously knew some darn good English), I instead decided my coworker 'Kelly' would be the best one to ask to come along. She was the one who had been working closest with Brad and me at the time and her BRILLIANT daughter had been sitting in on a some of our IELTS classes we had been teaching to Russian high school students. She happily agreed to assist me and was excited to hear the baby news.

Kelly led me around the hospital, up and down staircases, for my different tests. In China there are different places in the hospital for different needs and tests. (For example, everyone regardless of their ailment or injury go to the same place to have their blood drawn.) I had to go to different locations to have my blood taken, to give a urine sample, to have an EKG, an ultrasound, etc. It was quite hectic and we avoided the busy elevators. Upon arriving at each place I had to wait behind those who were in front of me or who successfully pushed or maneuvered their way in front of me.

The room for the EKG was divided between men and women by a pulled curtain. The women had to walk around the men’s table to find their allotted space behind a curtain that was drawn about 3/4th of the way across the room. There were about 6 chairs that lined the back of the women’s space. The nurse with the paperwork called ladies up one at a time and instructed them to pull up their shirts and braziers to their chin for her to apply the sticky tabs in the right places. My self-conscious-self hoped that there would be no one waiting when it was my turn. NO such luck. Not only no such luck, but it was quite obvious when the nurse stumbled over the weird English name that I was the next one to go. Each lady stopped her casual conversation, looked up, and watched me find my place on the patient table. Privacy is obviously w.a.y. overrated.

The next major culture shock was the urine test. Kelly and I had started our morning off at the obstetrics office where she was handed basically a test tube and sent on her way. She said this long, slender, cylinder medical holder was for my urine sample; I was to pee into it. I looked at it and then back at her. “Really,” I said as I took it into my fingers, “Are you sure it goes in here?” She assured me that was what she was told, although she also chuckled a little herself out of disbelief. She later helped me find a restroom (I assure they were not up to McDonald’s sanitary standards) and I squatted and tried my hardest to reach my 2 cm target.

I exited the restroom with somewhat of pride in the success my urine sample. Kelly led me to the room where it had to be turned in. (She waited in the hall, not that I blame her. Who would want to be in a room where people were lined up to deliver their pee?) As I waited in line I noticed I was the ONLY one with the test tube. All others in front and behind me had a rounder and wider holder, which the nurse behind the window then took from each patient with a device like a pair of pliers, and dumped it into a test tube. Nice, I knew I should have gotten something different!

The man in front of me in line drove me crazy, but at least he was in front on me. People in China hate to wait in line. They do whatever they can to position themselves as close to the front as possible. This old man, hating waiting, instead of carrying his sample in his hand like most of the others, placed his little cup on the nurses’ counter and kept sliding it forward. He pushed his sample totally ahead of him and up close to the guy before him. Then as the line moved forward he would push it up again. Seriously dude, pick up your pee and just be patient.

After my tests, Kelly used my credit card looking thing to slide it through an ATM looking thing to get my results. Unfortunately, they weren’t ready yet and I had to return to the hospital one more time.

The third and last trip I made to the hospital was equally as hilarious. Dr. Vicky thought she was going to be able to meet me, but at the last minute was busy and sent two interns instead. I’m pretty sure they were 12. Dr. Vicky hadn’t given them information about what I needed, or if she had they had forgotten. Their English was limited but they were able to finally understand that I just needed to get my results. They took my card, turned around, and quickly walked away expecting that I would be close behind. I had to jog a little to keep up. They found their way to an ‘ATM’ machine on a different floor and tried to get my results. Too bad they didn’t know how to use the machine. They had to ask a patient in the room for help. Once it was explained, they put their heads close together and figured out the procedure. A guy to the left of me and between the two of them and me, looked at me, then looked at them, then looked at me. Feeling a bit interested in what my deal was, he walked closer and peeked in his head to have a look. Yo, I'm preggo, okay? Mind your business.

Dr. Vicky wanted my results to then give to the OBGYN to have a look. Through a series of unexpected events, I never did get them back. I did talk to her on the phone. The baby and I seemed to be fine.

I really appreciate all that Dr. Vicky and Kelly did for me last summer. I assure you I have not found a Chinese doctor as wonderful as Dr. Vicky in Hubei province. She spoke English well and took time to attend to me, talk to me, and answer any questions I may have had. In honor of her, thank you to doctors and nurses in the U.S. who give your patients your extra time and precious minutes. Your attention makes us feel so much better. :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baby Hospital Visits - Part 1

My baby hospital visits have been quite interesting to say the least. To say more than the least, they have made me laugh, feel angry and on the verge of tears, and most recently almost encouraged me to get in a fight with an old man. I must start from the beginning.

My first hospital visit was at 2 months. At that time I was eating saltine crackers, Kraft block cheddar cheese (preferably in small pieces - Brad wondered why I just couldn't bite into a big chunk.. i just couldn't. sorry hub), fruit, and peanut butter. I was only drinking Sprite – and a lot of it. Thank goodness I lived in a big city so that I could easily find these things. Living in Daye at that time would have been a nightmare.

Our good American teacher friends at Qingdao University had been tutoring a group of Chinese doctors for a few months. This group of 10 or so came to their dorm room a couple times every week. A few of those times Brad and I joined the class for one reason or another. One of these doctors, a neurologist, had been kind enough to assist our friends when they had to later make a trip to the hospital, so I got her number from them and asked for her help as well.

She met me at the hospital one morning I didn’t have class and stayed with me for the entire visit. I was able to skip the general sign-in / reception line, but I did still have to register and receive a card (looked just like a credit card). This card was used to keep track of all of my tests, procedures, and payments at The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University Medical College. I was given an entire form to fill out, but ended up only have to write four letters: d.a.n.a. At least no one would be stealing my identity.

The next step was to visit the OBGYN on duty. Vicky (..but more like ‘Wicky’… the chosen English name of the neurologist) led me to their office where we found one doctor and four nurses. (All nurses in Chinese hospitals where the traditional uniform, including the old-fashioned nursing hats with their hair usually pulled back into a bun.) All five were sitting in the middle of a huge circular table.

Fortunately and crazy enough, at that moment I was the only patient in the office. The OBGYN asked a ton of background questions to Vicky who then asked me and in turn translated my answers back to the doctor. The doctor recoded my info into a booklet that I was then given to keep and continue to use for future visits. (Obviously all information was written in Chinese, so it will do my English speaking doctors exactly no good.) She then had me move to the one, high and flat patient’s table in the room where I was instructed to lift my shirt as she felt around my stomach for a bit. A curtain was pulled a little to half-way block someone else’s view.

I was then sent on my way with direction given for all the tests that I would need. We went to pay for them first. (In China, medical services have to be paid for BEFORE you have them.) Thinking I was being overly ‘safe’ I had brought with me 1400 Yuan. I needed most of it. The visit and tests cost about $200. Unfortunately, the time was quickly approaching 11:30 AM which meant everything in the hospital would be shutting down until 2:00 PM. I would either have to wait out everyone’s lunch break or come back a different day. I decided to return a different day. I was instructed to save ALL of my receipts and especially the card. The card was VERY important.

I got a taxi and tried to survive the 1/2 hour ride back to our dorm. Vicky would be too busy to help me later on in the week so I realized I would have to break the baby news to some other Chinese native speaker. I wasn't sure who that would be...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Amazing Grace - DaYe Church, part 2

So the story doesn’t end there.

At the end of the service we were asked to come to the stage to say a few words. The pastor asked us to do this during our initial conversation with him, but I neglected to mention that in the previous post for purely blog purposes.

Both Brad and I knew that really meant HE would say a few words for the both of us as that would be what China would expect. Remembering my father doing the same type of thing when we visited churches in Ghana, I gave him a brief run-down of ideas and left the specific words up to him.

Contrary to our hope, the pastor did not forget he had made a request. Upon conclusion of his sermon (around an hour) he invited us up. We walked to the front, up the stairs and to center stage. We were both handed a microphone and Brad started saying a few words, “We’re teachers here from America. We’re excited to worship with you… We’re looking forward to also worshiping the Lord with some fellow friends in Huangshi and Wuhan…” (The pastor for some reason didn’t translate that last part for the congregation.) My two cents were when I pointed to my belly and mentioned that we were also expecting our first baby. Everyone clapped.

We thought we were done but we weren’t. There was one last request. Jenny, who had come to the stage with us, asked us to sing a hymn, “maybe As a Deer” she whispered. Brad was NOT going to do it so I boldly knew this was up to me. Immediately concerned with not remembering the words to “As a Deer,” I turned around and sang the first verse of the hymn I did, Amazing Grace. I was off pitch and suddenly sounding a lot more country than I ever would want to admit to, but I got through it …. and then immediately tried to forget it happened. Not my best display of talent. Guess that was the point though, it wasn’t for my display, but for God’s goodness of bringing people together.

Brad was given a call a few days later and we were asked to join what he thought was the youth group meeting that next Saturday night at 7:00PM. Brad, I could tell, was super excited and wondered if we should get some little fun choruses together (and by ‘we’ did he mean ‘me’???) that students in the U.S. sing. I asked him if he really thought we would be asked to sing and he replied a big-eyed and confident, “YES!”

We went there straight from work at 7:00 as that is when my last class of the day ends. My feet were hurting and I was exhausted, but I knew it was important. We got there around 7:20/30 and walked to the building behind the sanctuary where we heard singing. We walked in the rear door and found a seat in the back row. Jenny, who was leading the music, allowed the group gathered to sing a bit on their own as she walked back to meet us, and then promptly separate us. We had not noticed there was a girls’ side and a boys’ side. She also moved me from the back to the front where she had reserved a seat for me next to an English speaking young 20-something and had left her English NIV Student Devotional Bible opened to the text of the talk that evening. (She later told me that everyone in her seminary was given this Bible.)

On that note, it was easy to see that this was not a youth group as we thought we had been told. Basically, if you were older than 16 and younger than 70 you were among peers. (If you were between the ages of three and seven you were to run around outside unsupervised and come in as needed to peek in on your mom or dad and make sure they were listening and behaving themselves.) I would say there were close to 80 people there, more women than men.

Jenny sat herself in the front row and led us through the same chorus a number of times, and when I say “a number of” – I mean like 100 (shout out to We are Schuberts blog). After that the speaker (who we found out the next day was her husband) got up to start his talk. He was speaking out of Isaiah. After he got started and Lillian (my translator) got her Bible opened and found her place, she pointed in my Bible to the verse where everyone else was. The first verses I read along with the group were Isaiah 6:9+10, “ ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.” I had to stop there and chuckle to myself as I continued to listen to the pastor speaking Chinese and glancing at the Chinese characters posted as notes on the LCD.

God’s funny.

At the end of that sermon, as the case with the previous Sunday, Brad and I were each asked to come to the front and briefly explain how we came to know the Lord. Brad, going second, also then took questions from the audience about Christianity in America. The biggest question posed was how Brad most gave to God, through time or money. We’re teachers – he chose money… haha… I mean time. He was also asked about how Christians in America tolerate other religions. He said that even though we may disagree, Jesus calls us to love everyone. I guess the room agreed because they gave him a round of applause.

Before we left, we were graciously driven home by a ‘brother’, we were given two more bags of goodies, one full of a Chinese fruit, the other full of crispy goodness something. Think of the little crunchy pieces of french fries that get stuck at the bottom of the McDonald’s bag. Now, transfer that thought to doughnuts. That’s what the crispy goodness was. What is it about fried, crispy things that make me unable to STOP eating them? Once I got the bag home and had my binge, I had to walk away…never to return. I never did try the fruit. I think people just eat the whole thing. I didn't feel up to too many new things all at once so we brought that bag to work.

The next night (Sunday before last) at church Jenny’s husband extended an invitation to dinner with some other ‘brothers and sisters’ for Tuesday night. We gladly accepted. We were picked up at our school (it’s difficult to explain where our apartment building is) and brought to the restaurant where everyone else already was. What a spectacle we made when we walked in! The restaurant was pretty crowded and workers and patrons alike looked up to stare us down. I just nodded, said, “Ni Hao” and kept walking.

We were led up the stairs and into a back room. One thing that’s really cool about Chinese restaurants and coffee shops is that most offer a privacy option. Many restaurants have private rooms and many coffee shops have curtains that you can pull around your table if you wish. Very cool. If Brad and I ever open a coffee shop feel free to come in and enjoy your privacy. :)

The same English-speaking girl that I sat next to on Saturday night was there again to help translate for everyone. There were about 4 or 5 different couples, each with their kids. Everyone sat around the table, again divided by gender (interesting) and the kids sat on the couch behind the table and ate off the coffee table. (A few glasses were broken by the end of the night as the kiddos started getting a little restless.) Jenny’s husband introduced us to each couple by name. The last man we were introduced to was simply called ‘The Boss’. I don’t know if he’s “kind of a big deal” (he has THREE kids) or nicknamed in honor of Bruce Springstein (he happens to be able to carry a tune quite nicely and sings in the choir.)

Dinner commenced by singing a chorus. I smiled as I wondered how much my mother would have LOVED that. The next step was grace. Jenny’s husband led the blessing. All through the prayer others around the table kept saying, “Amen.” It was the only word that I understood. I didn’t know quite when to open my eyes and start eating. Unfortunately I got a little distracted from grace and chuckled at myself.

Dinner was wonderful. I think I counted 16 dishes placed around a lazy susan. Last year when we went to dinners like these, people moved the table on their own, allowing each person ample time to grab a piece of meat or vegetable with their two sticks and successfully transfer it to their plate. This time the lazy susan in the middle of the table ran on its own motor. Thank goodness we already had practice using chopsticks! If you didn’t time yourself appropriately, your chopstick coordination was doomed and you were bound to make a mess on the big table. A few times Lillian, who was sitting next to me, held the table steady so I would have enough time to get my piece of meat or noodle. I tried to act like I didn’t need her help. She was on to me.

We sat around and talked for a while after dinner. Jenny’s husband was next to Brad, who was next to me, who was next to Lillian, who was next to Jenny. We were the only ones speaking English as the others talked freely in Chinese. No one seemed to mind. We learned that many people are becoming Christians in China. Brad asked why. We were told that people want to copy much of what is done in the West, including Christianity. Isn’t that interesting? At a time when many people in the US are becoming more and more interested in Buddhism and other ancient eastern things, Asians are becoming more and more interested in Christ. We learned last year that the largest Christian church in the WORLD is in Seoul, Korea. Amazing.

The kids were running in and out of our room and starting to do a good job at bothering their parents. It was time to get going. In order to end dinner officially, we were all asked to sing again. This time we all could. Jenny asked if we would sing Amazing Grace so that Brad and I could also sing along in English. Everyone agreed. The Boss put it upon himself to lead us in a slow but steady, Chinese dominated yet English supported, first verse of Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound it was.

Heaven is going to be such a wonderful place.