Visiting a Chinese Medical Center… – written 10/12/09

Cultural relativism is a very novel idea. I have studied enough philosophy to know that its not true in a literal way. Something isn’t right just because a culture decides to do it. But as a functional survival mechanism it works wonders.

Squat toilets are more dirty and harder to use: well, that’s just their culture. Okay. So, they have class 5 days a week, and sometimes on weekends: well, that’s just their culture. They smoke everywhere they go; restaurants, subways, busses, public lobbies, sports tracks (see last entry): well, that’s just their culture. Don’t mind the minor sarcasm. Most of this stuff I genuinely overlook. I am quite adaptable when it comes to strange situations, but no matter how flexible I am I have my limits.

I went to the medical center today, because of all things I had to go and catch the flu. I had a soar throat, headache, and achy muscles; Basic stuff. I’ve had it since yesterday, and thought it would go away. In my hope of not (involuntarily) missing more class, I figured I would get myself checked out at the student medical center. If I could I wanted to get this flushed out of my system ASAP.

I walk into the lobby and the first thing I witness is a lot of hustle and bustle; Lines and official paperwork everywhere. I was dumbfounded, so the first thing I do is go up to a nurse who looks like she’s in charge of information, and in my best Chinese I say, “”


I listed my symptoms and then she says something which I don’t understand. I look confused and she asks if I have a fever. I tell her I don’t and she holds out a thermometer. I open my mouth and she shakes her head. She starts pointing to her shoulder and I realize…she wants me to put it in my armpit… I’m not a doctor, I could be wrong, but I don’t think skin temperature is a good indicator of core body heat. I think that they just use the same thermometer on everyone and it’s a little more sanitary that way if they don’t put it in your mouth.

After I wait five minutes and find out that I’m “normal”, she points me to a line where they make me fill out some forms and then pretty much fling them in my face and shoo me away. Having no idea where I’m supposed to go, I start asking people until a man come up to me and tells me the exact room I need to go to in English. Mind you, my Chinese isn’t fantastic, but it said nothing about this room in the form they gave me.

In the room, with one dirty hospital bed and a couple of office desks, the doctor looked at my throat, without any instruments, and told me I needed to get blood work. At this point I was so tired and so weirded out that I just walked out, and didn’t say anything else. Why would they need blood work to test for the flu? I usually get the flu at least twice a year back home and they just look at my symptoms and can tell from that.

Worry not, however. I am not endangering my safety in any way. I just decided to take another root. I am downing tea and resting up back in my room. I would say that at this point I feel pretty good. My sore throat is almost completely gone and I have no aches at this point. Later tonight I am even teaching a Capoeira class. Lesson of the day: Chinese medical centers are scary, avoid them where possible.

Hey, everybody! My names Liam, and right now I'm living a dream that I didn't think would come true. I am living in China, studying at Nanjing University for a full ten months. Don't ask me why I wanted it so badly, I've just always been drawn to the culture. Europe sounded too comfortable to me, and there are so many chances for growth and adventure in this country. As for me I like finding a good adventure outside of the mainstream, having a challenge, and reading a few books (at once) when I get the free time.

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