Posts Tagged ‘Life


Tackling the statistics head-on

In one way or another, I managed to survive my entire childhood and adolescence without the need for a single stitch or injection, somehow managing to sidestep, dodge and duck the many possible mishaps that a girl with tomboy tendencies could encounter. No broken limbs, no after-hour trips to the emergency ward, no, nothing more than a twisted ankle and a regular selection of bruises.

In China, the opportunities for injury abound – if you’ve read some of my other posts, you will know that the statistical probability of traffic accidents is relatively high – by motor vehicle or bicycle or even fellow-pedestrian. Anything can and will happen. There have been reports of falling panes of glass from high-rise buildings; elevators going into reverse; balconies falling off buildings – the list is endless.

Up until Saturday I had defied the negative statistics and complemented myself on being remarkably unscathed and immune to the chaos that surrounds us. [Correction: Except for stepping into a hole in a construction site in Guilin in 2008 and walking into an eye-level overhead cable soon after we arrived in Shanghai in early 2009.]

On Saturday my immunity expired – I had a close encounter with a Chinese pathway and patch of grass – not just any patch of grass, as it turns out, but a patch of grass inlaid with spiky plastic mats.

I still cannot describe the precise order of events. It just happened. One minute I was setting out for a run, checking my running app on my phone, and the next minute, I was lying in a heap, bleeding from multiple gashes in my face. It appears that I was making up for all those times when I DIDN’T get into trouble – so I really made a good job of it this time.

M rushed me back upstairs, using his handkerchief to mop up the blood, looked at me in horror and dashed me off to the medical centre (as much as one can dash in a Shanghai taxi in early Saturday morning traffic with 3 minute cycles on the traffic lights at every intersection from here to Nanjing Road)

We camped outside the clinic door until they opened at 9.00, encountering the first of many stares – poor M – I’m sure he is getting his fair share of stares too – glaring accusations of wife abuser and so on. The clinic staff immediately placed a call to the plastic surgeon, who had to travel 1 and 1/2 hours to reach us.

To cut a long story short – my face is an interesting blend of yellow and purple and dark red seemingly random squiggles, betadyne make-up and stitching, and Chinese elastoplast. I had to have my chin, lip, nose, cheek and forehead stitched up. I am ashamed to admit I whimpered like a woes during each injection – there were at least 10 or 12, and it did nothing to improve my dislike of anyone in the medical profession. It is a well-known fact that I avidly avoid dentists, ophthalmologists and doctors as far as possible – they always bring pain into my life. And this Chinese doctor, a professor, trained in Shanghai and Germany, very skilled and competent in in his chosen field – well, he might be good, but he hurt me and even if  I could have laughed at his jokes, I didn’t find them at all funny.

M says my face is looking much better – he has sat through many a stitching up procedure with his children and reckons this guy is a skilled craftsman and knows his stuff – my facial wounds are currently down to a grade 3 war zone instead of the trench warfare scenario they initially resembled. I will give you my verdict once the stitches are out in a week’s time; after my black eye has mellowed to a lighter shade of purple; and as soon as the intricate dried blood textured patterns caused by those spiky grass mats have dissipated. My lip hurts – it really doesn’t appreciate being hemmed; eating and drinking is problematic; and it doesn’t look like I will need Botox for a while (as if I would ever CHOOSE to let anyone inject anything into me!)

So that’s my week – no photographic evidence – cameras are banned from our household for at least a month.

I am actually fine, just feeling very sorry for myself and highly irritated that something so absolutely ridiculous happened. I can’t wind back the clock, so I guess I shall just have to grin – smiling and laughing is still too painful – and bear it. Actually grumble, mutter, sigh and spit are more likely responses than grinning at the moment.

So what started off as your average, uneventful, common old garden Saturday morning jog around the park turned into a VERY expensive non-running session, providing a very profitable sewing opportunity for the plastic surgeon. Not my favourite way to spend a Saturday morning.


Pharmacies and Ping-pong

I had forgotten how much fun it is to play in Chinese pharmacy. You get to bounce from counter to counter like the ping-pong computer virus of a few years ago.

When I visited the ophthalmologist, I was given a “prescription” for eye-drops – you don’t actually need a prescription for them, but the doctor thought it would be helpful to assist me in asking the pharmacist for what I needed. Wise man!

[For the record: I had just had my pupils dilated for the retina exam and my eyesight was seriously blurry, affected by bright lights etc, so I walked around with a sort of scrunched up, squinty outlook on the world… I trust that no adults, elderly citizens, children or animals were harmed during events that followed.]

Stage 1: Enter the pharmacy and head for the nearest counter. Benignly smiling elderly male pharmacist looks at my brandished script and waves in a vague friendly way to direct me to the next counter. I manage to avoid the glare of sunlight coming through the window and notice a long counter with ladies in white coats scattered along at regular intervals.

Stage 2: My next attempt at seeking assistance meets with an equally friendly smile and wave further along the counter. [Thinking….this could go on for a while.]

Bounce 3: Jackpot! I must be at the right place: pharmacist No.3 is ready to assist. She checks the script, scribbles a product code and a quantity on a scratchpad, tears off the page and tells me I need to go somewhere else to pay and then I can come back to collect the eye-drops.

Bounce 4: Not thinking (or seeing straight) I head back to the elderly male pharmacist, who gleefully waves me away in the opposite direction. Struck out, again!

Bounce 5: Duh! There is a sign saying “Cashier” (in English!) I hand over the scrappy piece of paper and my cash (foreign credit cards are not welcome here). I get my change and a till slip indicating that I have paid.

Bounce 6: Back to Pharmacist No. 3 who pounces on the till slip and digs the eye-drops out of the counter and hands it over. But not until I have signed my name on her list of products issued for that day. I am also instructed to sign the till slip in order to continue with my mission. She manages to convey to me that if I need a fāpiào 发票- the generally accepted document as proof of payment  for tax purposes – I need to head over in THAT direction. I don’t really need one, but I feel that if I bail out now, I won’t get full credit for completing Level 1 in my pharmaceutical ping-pong endeavour.

Stage 7: Head towards the door, bypassing the bemused elderly male pharmacist (who doesn’t seem to do anything except traffic control), I spy someone with a computer and terminal near the exit. I hand over the duly signed till slip. A look of horror crosses the fāpiào lady’s face as she struggles to read my signature. I then comprehend that I should have printed my name, not signed this piece of paper. As she starts struggling to spell it out verbally, I help her out by rewriting it in capital letters. Luckily her computer can handle Chinese and English. After one failed attempt, I retrieve the “chopped” (stamped) fāpiào (with a sort-of Russian version of my surname) and….

Home-straight: I am ready to exit stage left.

Level 1 – Game Over!


As an aside…I just have to make reference to the wonderfully appropriate Chinese characters that are used for the game of pīngpāng! Don’t you think they depict the game perfectly?



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July 2018
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