Chinese Medical Exam: Part 1

China requires that you have a full medical check in order to get your residence permit to move into the country. Or maybe it’s the visa. I’m really not sure. To be perfectly honest, I still haven’t figured out the difference in all of these different types of documents you have to have to move here. I do know there are a lot of them. And they take many, many stamps and signatures and passport photos and weeks of time to get it all sorted out. I’m so glad that the company takes care of this sort of thing for us. I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to sort it all out ourselves.

Anyway, back to the medical check. We were told up front that in order to move to China the government requires you to get a full physical, including bloodwork, EKG, chest x-ray… the works. We’d already heard stories from another family who’d been for their look & see visit a couple of months before and had to get their medical check in Beijing… let’s just say we were sure we wanted to avoid getting the physical in China if at all possible. Walking around a hospital from treatment room to treatment room wearing one of those sexy hospital gowns in a place where everyone stares no matter what you’re wearing, was NOT our idea of fun.

Keep in mind… we’re the guinea pigs. Our company has never sent anyone from the US to Shenyang before. We get to be the practice run, work out all the details for future expats moving to China. (p.s. I just learned that the term “expat” is a term that a lot of people aren’t familiar with… actually before this experience, I didn’t know what it meant either. “Expat” stands for expatriate… a person who is living outside of their native country. A foreigner. An outsider in a lot of ways. A “laowai” is the term in Chinese.)

Then we found out that if we print out the medical check forms and take them to our doctor, we can have the physical done in the US. Woo hoo!

Oh wait…

We don’t have a family doctor.

Yes, I know. Everyone should have a doctor. What if you get sick? What if there is an emergency?… blah, blah, blah. Bottom line is, we’ve never needed one, thankfully. And with moving every couple of years, changing jobs and insurance companies multiple times it just never happened.

So I’m scrambling around trying to find one that will get us in for a physical. Who knew that would be such a difficult task?! I mean, we’re not even sick, you’d think that would be the easiest patient to see. Apparently, doctors aren’t really in a hurry to see healthy people.

(Although, to see a doctor when you’re sick, you have to have first seen them when you were healthy. But if you can’t get in to see them when you’re healthy because you’re aren’t sick yet, how do you ever get to see a doctor? It’s quite a quandary. Things that make you go “hmmm”.)

Finally we got in at Doctor’s Care in Greenville and they performed our physicals and filled out the necessary paperwork (which took hours by the way. Hours we didn’t really have to spare, but we made time so we wouldn’t have to get the physicals in China). We were pretty nervous waiting on the bloodwork. It normally takes a couple of days and we almost didn’t get it back in time.

Just it time, we got the paperwork in order, packed it in with several passport photos and got ready for our look-see visit.

Then, several days before our flight out, we got an email with our itinerary on it.

But wait.

There’s got to be a mistake. First thing Sunday morning has someone from the visa office picking us up for our medical exams. No problem, we send off the email explaining that we’ve already got the paperwork filled out here in the States and we’re bringing it along.

Then we get the reply from China.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I do not think you can have the paperwork filled out correctly. It must be notarized by the Chinese Embassy in New York to be accepted. That takes many months. It will be better if you get the medical check here in China.”

ummm…. yeah.

That sucks.

So here we are, having just gotten physicals in the US, ridiculously long physicals including x-rays, EKGs, and bloodwork… just to get them done AGAIN in China.

Great.

And as it turns out, the medical check in China is just as interesting as I expected it would be.

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Shipping air freight to China: Part 2

This is the rest of the story from LB’s exciting trip to Customs. If you haven’t read the first part, start there: Shipping air freight from China: Part 1

At this point, we’re sitting in the car in the middle of the street. Some guy has just ran off with my passport, and now a Customs lady has just let me know she needs me to answer a few questions. ok…

Even though the office is closed, Customs Lady says that they can still have me sign some forms and answer a few questions. She should be able to finish the rest without me coming back down. Great, at least I won’t have to repeat this experience again. Hopefully. I’m still not holding my breath to be honest. Apparently, they didn’t provide enough detail on the list of our items. Customs Lady hands me a list (entirely in Chinese) and our conversation goes something like this:

Customs Lady: “How big was this computer thing?”

Me: “What computer thing?”

Customs Lady: “What you see with.” *Making hand motions*

Me: “Huh?”

Customs Lady: *More hand motions*

Me: “You mean the monitor?”

Customs Lady: “Oh yes! Monitor!”

Me: “Um, we have two monitors.”

Customs Lady: “Oh. I see two here. How big is this one?” *Pointing at the Chinese list*

Me: “Sorry, I can’t really read Chinese.”

Customs Lady: “Oh. Can you guess?”

Me: “Um…are you sure that’s a good idea?”

Customs Lady: “Yes, it’s ok.”

Me: “So, it doesn’t really matter if I’m right? Then why am I here? Couldn’t you just make up a number?”

Customs Lady: “No, you must say.”

Me: “OK, fine. 19 inches.”

Customs Lady: “19?”

Customs Me: “Yes, 19.”

Lady: “Oh. Are you sure?”

Customs Me: “Not really, but one is 19 and one is 24. You can list them however you like because I have no idea which monitor is which.”

Customs Lady: “19?”

Me: *Wanting to smack myself* “Yes, it’s 19.”

Customs Lady: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Yes, I’m sure.” *Note that I still have no idea which monitor it is – or even that she’s talking about a computer monitor for sure*

Customs Lady: “OK. And how big is the other one?”

Me: “24.”

Customs Lady: “Oh, are you sure? This one says it is 19.”

Me: *Wanting to smack her* “Then it is 19. And the other one is 24.”

Customs Lady: “Oh, ok. I’ll have to change the other one.” *Glares at me*

Me: *Rolling my eyes* “OK.”

This type of conversation was repeated for about 4 or 5 different items. Then, she smiles and tells me that was all they needed from me. I don’t have to worry because she’ll make sure that when our things arrive in Shenyang, they call us and bring them to our apartment. She takes me back outside. Random Guy is out there talking with Broker and Driver. Broker hands me back my passport. Random Guy and Customs Lady leave.

I’m really not sure what my passport was used for, I’m just hoping that there aren’t any other copies of my passport running around. Oh yeah, and I’m hoping that we actually get our shipment… with 2 monitors in it.

Welcome to China…

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Shipping air freight to China

Our air freight is late.

Like 2-3 weeks longer than many of our expat friends. They told us it might take 4-6 weeks. I figured they were probably estimating on the safe side. You know how they do in the States. Tell you 4-6 weeks just to CYA just in case something happens, but normally it would only take 2-3 weeks. Yeah, they don’t really do that here in China. Apparently 4-6 weeks REALLY means… “if you’re lucky, you might see your stuff in 6 weeks.” At this point, I’m kind of over it… I mean, the stuff shipped 2 weeks before we left. I’ve been living without it for 2 months now. Heck, I don’t even remember what’s in there.

oh crap… WAIT!

I have DUNKIN DONUTS COFFEE in there!!

Dunkin' Donuts Coffee
Photo by QFamily. flickr

Where the heck are those boxes?!

LB has been calling and emailing every 2-3 days for weeks to check up on it… Nothing.

Finally, I get a call on Monday afternoon while I was getting a mani-pedi. (wow. I just said “mani-pedi”. If you know me, you know how strange that is. China must really be affecting my brain or something.) At 4:00 in the afternoon. In case you weren’t sure, the working hours are about the same in China as they are in the US.

*******

Phone rings and I don’t know the number. Always a tricky one…

Ni hao?

This is Irene. From the shipment. I email your husband earlier today, but he has not replied back with me. Shenyang has a new policy and he must go personally to the airport to sign for the shipment.

ok… I think he’s in a meeting.

He told me he doesn’t have a cell phone so I call you.

That’s correct.

Can you call him please and tell him that we will pick him up at 9 a.m. at the plant tomorrow morning?

(umm… you just answered your own question. He doesn’t have a PHONE. If you can’t call him, I can’t call him.)

umm. In the morning? At 9 a.m.? (thinking… it’s already 4 in the afternoon.) I’m not sure if that will work or not. He’s had a lot of meetings lately.

Ok. Can you just talk with him and call me back today…

uh. ok. I’ll see what I can do.

I was able to pass on the word to LB right at 5. Luckily, he happened to be home early that day. He worked things out somehow. I just left it up to him to deal with it. I’m not allowed to receive a shipment like that anyway since I don’t have a work visa.

********

LB here to finish the story…

So they want to pick me up at 9 AM Tuesday. And it’s already the end of the day on Monday. I’ve been here almost 7 weeks, I figured out this is how things operate around here. I ask if they can delay until 11 or so for a few meetings but apparently the customs office closes early. Like 11 AM early. OK, whatever.

So I meet Broker at 9. She’s late but I call around and eventually find her and get into the car.

**CF here… In the meantime, I get a call from Irene again.
“Broker is trying to pick up your husband, but she can’t find him. I don’t have his number. Can you call him to see where he is?”
umm. No. He still doesn’t have a phone. I can’t call him either.
“Oh. ok…”
*hangs up**

The shipping company has their own driver that is going to take us both to the airport. Of course, neither Broker nor the driver speak English. Through some various hand signals, she explains to me that she wants my passport (Note that acting out passport in charades is harder than you might think). I’m thinking this is going pretty smoothly for the first 30 minutes or so as we’re driving to the airport. That is, all the way up until Driver stops the car in the middle of the street and gets out.

This isn’t quite as uncommon as you might think here. However, he begins speaking to, what appears to me to be some random guy. They talk for a minute and he gets back in. Turns out it was some random guy. He’s lost.

Now, the airport is really only 45 minutes or so from my company. I’m thinking we’re pretty close because I recognize a few landmarks as we’re driving (I’ve been to and from the airport a couple of times already). So we drive for 5 more minutes and then it happens again. He pulls over to ask someone else directions. They point him down the street. 15 minutes of driving this time. We’re now outside of the city. We pass a herd of goats. Broker is arguing with him. They make a phone call (I’m thinking back to the office so that we can get someone that knows where we’re going). Driver turns around. Drives 10 more minutes. Stops again and asks another random guy. He points back the way we just came from.

We turn around again, drive another 10 minutes. They’re making phone calls constantly at this point. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, we see a taxi. Thank goodness! We pull up. The taxi driver is standing next to his taxi… relieving his bladder on the side of the road. Driver decides it isn’t awkward enough for us to wait in the car. He gets out and walks over to guy and starts talking with him. Gets back in the car a minute later.

We turn around again. Past the herd of goats in the other direction. A total of 7 stops and 6 phone calls later and we arrive at the general area of the airport. As we’re driving through some back roads Broker is talking furiously on the phone. All of a sudden she yells at Driver and he slams on the brakes. Some Random Guy runs out from some bushes and sticks his head in the window. Broker gives him my passport and he runs off the way he came from.

Now, I’ve been fairly calm up until this point. Worried we might miss this 11 AM deadline, but calm.

This is not the case after Random Guy runs off with my passport.

Driver pulls around to a back road and just puts the car in park. Then, we just sit there. For 10 minutes. It’s now a few minutes after 11. Broker makes another call. We pull around to a back gate that surprisingly enough has English on it. We’re at some random special gate for Customs. The gate is closed. We wait for a few minutes. Then some guard comes running out, yelling at us. Apparently, they’re not happy with where the driver decided to park (in the middle of the road). So we pull down another side street. Ten minutes later, a Customs Lady walks out of a building nearby.

She says that they have to ask me some questions about my shipment. However, we have a problem, because the Customs office is now closed because we’re too late.

Now, I really just want to scream.

The story continues… I’ll finish up the rest of our conversation tomorrow.

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Got our one way tickets…

On a westbound plane… headed Far East. So weird. Fly west to get east.
Moving to China

Our first big hurdle on our journey happened before we even entered the Greenville airport.  We unloaded all of our luggage onto the sidewalk by the Delta entrance.  We had 6 large bags of luggage, 2 carry-ons, plus 2 laptop bags. The Baggage Check desk couldn’t have been more than 30 yards away.  It was right through the front doors.  It may as well have been a mile.

How do you carry 10 pieces of luggage with only 4 arms (between the two of us)?  Well, being the smart person I am, I thought ahead enough to buy a luggage strap for each of us.  I know, I’m genius.

So I get started right away strapping my luggage together.  I had 3 checked bags plus my carry-on, but they all had wheels, so I’m good. Right?  Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m good.

I might also add that we pulled up right by two maintenance men who were diligently blowing away all the leaves on the sidewalk.  It was very important that they clear away the WHOLE sidewalk. There was, of course, no way they could move on to the rest of the 100 yards of sidewalk until they were able blow the few feet under our suitcases and make certain it was also cleared of all debris.  Yes, it was very important that they stand and stare until all the luggage was moved and that 6 feet sidewalk was also clean.  No, they couldn’t move on until it was done. Apparently.

I ignored them.  It’s what I do.  I’m very good at it.  Besides, I was way too busy trying to strap my suitcases together.

I had just gotten them all lined up in descending order when “someone” felt the need to interrupt my thought process.

My husband. aka. “the left brain”:  “That isn’t going to work.”
Me:  “You just don’t worry about my stuff… get your own stuff!”

About 4 seconds later…
Left Brain: “That isn’t going to work.”
Me: “Seriously?? Just leave me alone.”

Another 2.5 seconds goes by…
Left Brain: “That isn’t going to work.”
Me:  “What are you doing over there?  Don’t you have 3 bags of your own to worry about?!?”

(Let me interject here that he isn’t in any way trying to get his own bags. They are still sitting on the sidewalk in a pile while he is standing there with his hands on his hips staring at me, just like the 2 dudes with leaf blowers.)

I finally got the 3 bags strapped together and was feeling mighty proud of myself.  I made it a whole 6.5 inches toward the door before 2 of the 3 bags fell over.  Seriously, what in the world are those stupid luggage straps for anyway??  Why didn’t someone tell me those things don’t work?!  At all.

LB: “Just wait here while I take these inside.”
Me: “Yeah, I didn’t think this dumb thing was gonna work.”

So we managed to caravan our 10 bags to the luggage desk, while leaving my sis who dropped us off, along with the 2 leaf blowers, to watch over the bags on the curb.  It really only took a couple minutes.  Way faster than trying to strap it all together and carry it all at once.  Don’t you dare tell him I said that.  I’ll deny it completely. Forever.

Once we got the bags checked, the flight was very thankfully very uneventful.  Or maybe it was, I wouldn’t know.  I slept the whole way.  From before take-off to after landing.  Except for about 5 hours on the flight from Detroit to Seoul.  I watched 2 movies.  The new Karate Kid included.  I wanted to know what I was getting myself into.  =)  So far I haven’t met anyone who has tried to Kung Fu me.  Thankfully.  Maybe that only happens in Beijing.

Bags bound for China

The only other funny thing that happened was AFTER we picked up the 10 pieces luggage in Shenyang.  The company had sent a driver to pick us from the airport and drop us off at the hotel.  You should have seen his face when he took a look at the 2 full luggage carts.  When we got to the car, we understood why he laughed so nervously.  That much luggage doesn’t fit well into a BMW328, but we managed. Somehow. Mostly because I folded up into half of 1 seat in the back.

I still can’t believe we have MOVED to China.  Completely surreal.

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Our journey begins…

3:45 AM

WAY TOO EARLY!

This is what the car clock read when we left the house on our first trip to China.  And notice that temperature?  I mean, really, 85 degrees at 3:25 in the morning?  That is just wrong.  This SC heat is really getting old.  I’m almost looking forward to the frigid weather of  northern China, at least until I have to experience it, of course.  -8.5° C is really a foreign concept right now (besides the fact that I’m horrible with conversions and have no idea what that translates to in Fahrenheit except that it’s less than 32° and COLD). But still, when it is 85° in the middle of the night and so humid you can hardly breath, cold weather is sounding good right now.

Too Early for airport staff
We met a shuttle driver in the company parking lot at 3:45 a.m. When we arrived at the airport we didn’t see a single soul.  Apparently 4 a.m. is too early for airport staff also.  (Can you tell I’m a little bitter about the time?)  There was no one at the baggage counter but we had already printed our boarding passes at home and didn’t have any luggage to check. (Yeah, I’m low maintenance. I can travel to China with just a carry-on.  I won’t mention that it must have weighed 50 pounds.)  So we headed on up toward the terminal and when we got to the security area it was also empty.  So at this point, I’m really bitter.  We ended up sitting in this lounge area until almost 5 before the security and airport staff arrived to work and all the while I’m fantasizing about the extra hour I could have had in my own bed, and all the dreams I could have dreamed but never will.

But the good news is…

the flight is on time, even if that time is way too early. (Did I mention I was bitter about the time?)

And we’re off!  Heading to our first stop… Detroit.

Detroit Airport:
So I didn’t expect the interesting stuff to begin while we were still in the States but apparently, when you’re from Iva even Detroit can feel like a foreign country.

The first bit of oddness is what I like to call “Willy Wonka’s Psychedelic Tunnel of Doom“.

Seriously, this place was freaking weird.

You travel down this long tunnel on a moving sidewalk.  The walls and ceiling were mirrored and the whole time the lights were constantly changing colors and every now and then they’d blink on and off like lightning.  I thought I was going to pass out. It was an epileptic’s nightmare. I don’t know how they haven’t been sued over this place.  Luckily, Willy Wonka’s face never appeared like I kept expecting it to.  I really would have passed out.  I always hated that part.

Finally, we made it to our gate and got settled in for the 3 hour wait…  Oh, and I finally got some coffee at this point and things started getting better by the minute.

To be continued…

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Hello world!

This is where we will chronicle all of our fun, adventures and mishaps as we make the journey from good ol’ South Carolina to Shenyang, China!  Check back soon as we start our first adventure bright and early (well, actually not so bright since there is no sun at 3:45 a.m.) in the morning!

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