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.


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


How to take a hot bath in China

1. Find the largest pot you have. If you have 2 or 3 large pots it works even better.
2. Fill the pots with water and place them on the stove.
3. Turn the burner on high.
4. Heat the water until you start to see bubbles.
5. Using potholders (or folded up dishrags if like me you still don’t have potholders), carry the pots of water one by one into the bathroom.
6. Dump the hot water into the tub.
7. Repeat steps 1-6 until you have enough water in the tub to bathe with. Turn on the faucet to add cool water if the water is too hot.


Send an email to the realtor to get it fixed: (see below)

Hi. Just wanted to let you know we are having a problem with the hot water in the showers. Neither get hotter than luke warm. Definitely not hot enough to take a comfortable shower. The water in the kitchen sink gets quite hot, just not the bathrooms. Can we get this fixed soon?

Thank you.

The Response:

I just contacted with the management company and the staff told me the problem has existed about year.
After the management company transformed the pipe system in Wulihe Plaza.
And the problem extensively exist in the Wulihe Plaza.

Before the management company transform the pipe system again the problem can’t be solved completely.
But there is a temporary solution is before you do the shower please call the management company 2388****, they will send a worker to make the water warmer.

Hope that will help you.

Smack forehead with palm.

Really? You just want me to call you before I want to take a shower? Every day?

And wait? This is the solution for the WHOLE building? 24 floors of apartments.
Is there a guy whose sole job is to come heat up the water every time anyone wants to take a hot shower? There has to be. And how does he do it?

(LB is convinced that they send someone up with a blowtorch to heat up the pipes. I think we’re going to call them up, just to see how they do it. )

And when that doesn’t work: Refer to steps 1-7 above.

If you want to take a hot shower…

well, tough luck.


McDonalds in China

McDonalds in China…
is crowded on a Sunday at lunchtime.
They greet you, seat you, and take your order.
A waitress takes your order.

And they have a big creepy painting of Ronald on the wall…

And if you try and fail miserably at ordering a double cheeseburger with no pickles, onions, ketchup, mustard, or mayo with your horrific Mandarin. And they bring it to the table with ketchup and onions, having only omitted the pickles, mustard and mayo. If you stick your finger in the ketchup and say “Bu yao”, pronounced “boo yow,” rising then falling tone. They’ll take them back and bring the correct thing right away. Even if it was your fault because you stink at speaking their language.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure they just give those other sandwiches to someone else who did want ketchup and onions. I have no proof. I’m just guessing. I’m also guessing, even if that person knew, they wouldn’t care. Waste is a bad thing here.


Be careful of the taxi you pick after breakfast.

Warning: You should also be careful of the blog you read after breakfast.

This is where I normally insert a photo. You’re going to thank me for leaving it off today…

So this morning I checked us out of our hotel and we now are officially living in our apartment. In reality, we have been staying here most of the time for the last week but kept the hotel a couple of extra days because they have been working on the hot water here. Anyway, I had to get a cab back to Riverside and it was rush hour (around 9 am). At this time of day, you are just happy if there is a cab that will stop and let you get in. Sometimes they won’t let you get in when they find out where you are going. It is very interesting to me. I’m going to pay either way so I don’t really understand why they won’t drive me. Sometimes they just don’t want to drive that direction. It’s odd.

Anyway, this morning, a taxi stopped for me. Now it wasn’t the nicest taxi I’ve ridden in. Let’s just say it was a little rough around the edges… driver included. But he stopped. And was willing to drive me. So I tossed my bags in the back and got in the front.

People ride in the front of the taxis here. It took us a while to figure this out. But now, I really like it. It’s much easier to point, explain where you’re going, and I like to see the city as we’re driving.

Anyway, I got in this taxi, and he asked (in Chinese) if I was German… or American. I replied, “Mei gua ren” meaning American. He seemed very excited about this, smiled really big, and gave me a big thumbs up. I was pleased. Not really sure why that’s so great, but they really like Americans here. So I explained where I wanted to go (in Chinese… and he understood the first time, without the taxi book. I was very proud of myself.) and we headed off.

It’s actually a pretty quick little ride, usually only 5 minutes or so except it takes a little longer at rush hour. I was also pleased because this particular driver didn’t attempt to stare at me while driving. They usually do. Which I tend to ignore (what else are you going to do?) although it can be a bit stressful if the traffic is bad. I almost died yesterday because the driver was staring at me instead of the road and all the cars in front of us were stopped. Luckily, instead of dying, I only had to eat dashboard. On second thought, maybe the back seat is better. Then they just use the mirror but at least their eyes are forward.
But I digress… (ha. I’ve been hanging out with some British folks around here. Can you tell?)

We get about halfway down the road, and he starts to cough and clear his throat. I tried not to listen because I knew what was coming next…

For those of you who don’t know, spitting and “ridding your body of phlegm” is something that happens very often here. Apparently, the Chinese believe that any kind of mucus that collects in your body is a bad thing. So it’s expected you’ll get it out. And spit it on the ground, wherever you are. “Watch out, they spit.” (Quick. Name that movie!) I’ve heard the “farmer’s blow” is also popular, (you can click that link if you aren’t familiar with the term. However, I wouldn’t advise it.) although thankfully I haven’t witnessed this one.

So anyway, this taxi driver proceeded to cough up the biggest phlegm wad I’ve ever heard. I mean, it had to come up from his stomach or something. I don’t think your throat goes that far down. It was obvious he’d had some practice at this.

At this point, I’m trying not to gag.


he started chewing on it. I swear to you. He was smacking on it like it was gum.

Now, I’m just debating on whether I need to roll MY window down so I have somewhere for my breakfast to go in case the contents of my stomach decided to join his. On the outside of my body. I gave up trying not to gag. There was no use. I was definitely gagging.

I wonder if he saw me. I’m very glad this driver wasn’t one who stares at white people.
I wish you could close your ears like you can your eyes, without something so obvious as sticking your fingers in them. I think he would have noticed that.

At some point, he rolled down his window and finally spit it out. I’m not sure when, I was too busy trying to think of something else… ANYTHING else.

On a happy note… I did make it back to my apartment with my breakfast still in my stomach. It was quite an accomplishment I thought.

And now you know why Chinese people don’t wear shoes in the house.

And see, I told you. Aren’t you glad I didn’t post a photo?


China Culture Shock: Conversations with a local

Two conversations I had with a local Chinese.

Yesterday our agent came to pick up our passports for registering us with the police department. I still hadn’t gotten a local cell phone yet, so she offered to take me and translate. woo hoo!
I grabbed shoes, and a jacket. It’s cold here already…

As I’m walking out the door.

(E is looking at me with this blank look.) “It’s raining.”

“oh, ok” (I grab an umbrella.)

“We’ll walk. It’s not far.”

(Oh, good. Not far is good. It looks cold out.)

We walk outside… it’s pouring down rain and freezing cold for my SC bones!
“Don’t worry. It is not far. Maybe only a 20 or 25 minute walk.”

“oh ok…. “
…WAIT. how far???
A 20 minute walk does NOT equal “not far” in my book. That’s like… how far you walk for “exercise”. In America, walking from a parking spot in the end row at Wal-Mart is considered a far walk. Not 3 km in the RAIN!

A rainy day in Shenyang

Conversation #2: As we’re walking in the freezing cold rain…

“This big city stuff is very different for me. So many cars and people everywhere.
My home town has maybe 2,000 people.”

(Shenyang is about the same size as NY City. It’s not even in the top 10 in China.)

“Oh, you lived in “toan”

(staring blankly) “huh?”

Toan… A “TOAN”

(still staring blankly)

“T… O… W… N…”

(another 5 second pause while I figure out what that spells.)
“oooohhhh, a T-oowww-n.” (Drawn out in my best Southern accent.)

“Yes… I am from small town too. Has maybe 100,000 people. ”

(ummm. yeah. 2,000. 100,000. That’s almost the same.)


China Life: Things you don’t see in America

As you can imagine, there are a lot of things around here that are just different than we’re used to. We got here expecting things to be different. I think it’s important when you move to a foreign country to not expect it be like home. They are going to do things differently. And rather than let it bother me, I try to enjoy noticing the differences. Most of them, I find very amusing anyway.

Like this, for example.

Lost in translation

Our apartment was unfurnished when we moved in, but the owner had left behind a few things. Most are useful and we appreciated not having to buy them. Things such as the appliances, iron, and mops and brooms, etc. However, this was left behind also.

Now I’m not sure whether this was purposely left here for us to use, or rather falls into the category of something the previous renters just didn’t want to pack. I’m guessing its the latter. At least, I would hope so.


Now, obviously it’s a trashcan. At least I’m guessing. But what is it really used for? It’s only 6 inches tall! Seriously, you can only fit like two tissues in this thing. You’d have to go empty it every other time you put something in. And if you’re going to do that, why not just walk to the bigger trashcan in the first place?

(And don’t get me started on the “bigger” trashcan. The biggest one you can find around here is the size that we normally use in a bathroom. Apparently they don’t produce much trash here, or else they take it out every day. Haven’t quite figure out how to “do as the Romans do” in this case.)

And did you notice the text? …it’s in English! (When you are surrounded by characters you can’t read, this is very exciting.) At first I thought “Great! They’re going to explain how I’m supposed to use this thing.” But wait… when you get a little closer…

It is refinement life

What IN THE WORLD does that MEAN?

Is that supposed to be English? That is not the English I speak. I mean I can read the words individually, but put them all together and… huh? Around here, we like to call it Chinglish. It’s when someone takes text in Chinese, and just directly translates it into English words without paying much attention to meaning.

Can you figure out what this is supposed to mean? If you do, PLEASE let me know. I’ve been racking my brain since we got here. Still have no idea.

This will forever be what comes to mind when I hear someone say “lost in translation”.


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.