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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Strube


Don’t hate me, all you naturopaths out there. I know antibiotics are bad for you. 

But when the 8 Treasure Tribute Chrysanthemum Tea did little to abate my sweaty fever and whooping cough, it was time for the real doctor. After all, I had a temperature of 38.1, which I could translate for you if I spoke Celsius. I should have paid attention in math class. 9×5 plus 32…

This was my second trip to the physician. My first visit was last week, when, upon entry to China, my teaching job whisked me off to the all-inclusive medical spa. For the entry fee of a passport swipe, I got to bask in the glow of high-tech medical machinery under the sun-kissed shimmer of operation lights. Any ER specialtist possible worked in this one-stop shop, with medical rooms lined in a chronological flow. From blood pressure to EKG to ultrasound machines, there each doctor was, waiting to adorn me with their Hippocratic presence. It was almost like Cancun, minus the mai-tai in hand. And the sun. And all you can eat buffets.

Ok, it was nothing like Cancun.

(not Cancun)

But the all-inclusive medical spa did provide me with every kind of bodily examination possible. I was expecting the check-up to run like other physicals do at home — where my doctor comes in, asks me how I’m feeling and reminds me that in my 30’s, I should be taking Calcium.

Oh, and that it’s not too late to harvest my eggs. Here, medicine is much more systematic. The only missing device was a conveyer belt on the floor, ushering me from to room in timed increments. For that, I had my Chinese translator. She led me by the arm into each medical cubicle, sat me down on each stainless steel bed and then gave me instructions: “Blue robe. Lay down.”

Not wanting to disrupt the system, I decorated myself in baby blue cotton and relaxed on the wax paper. In came a doctor with a mask on. He bowed at me and then pulled out a long tube of gel, which he proceeded to rub all over my stomach and chest. I tried to re-imagine Cancun, as though this was my very own sunscreen lotion applier, but the arctic temperature of the ultrasound gel made the comparison tricky. He then began to listen. He coughed. I coughed back. He coughed louder, this time with a hacking sound in the back of his throat. I repeated. I must have passed his chest and gel examination as I was handed a wet wipe and the arm of my Chinese translator, who nodded me to the next room.

Each room had the same white walls, except room three, which was decorated with stick drawing of fat woman crossed out in red. I think the message was, Don’t get pregnant in this room. No worries there. After all, there wasn’t much room for any kind of hanky panky while smooshed between two plastic pieces of body flatteners for the full figure x-ray. Bones fully formed and unbroken? Next room please.

Cue dental chair and local DDS, who made an appearance to spread my lips and tickle my gums. Gloves on, he unwrapped the tiniest mirror I’ve ever seen, hand-made for lab rats, and peered around for gingivitis. Out came the stamp of approval on my medical report, as well as my translator’s arm ushering me into the next room.

All in all, I saw seven private doctors, who inspected everything from my pupil color to my future children. From the sonogram to the EKG, nothing was as collaborative as the blood rendering. This room operated like a baseball field, where each batter got up to bat, swung their arm at the nurse, as she pitched them the high speed needle. A homerun produced four viles of blood, while the others in line watched in awe. Altogether, I had five Chinese men watching my blood try to be athletic, as the nurse slapped my arm multiple times to locate my vein. Eventually, I was a successful player and was handed half a cotton ball. The nurse pointed to the sign behind her:

Release hand and push pressure on needleprick with tampon. If you nausea, tell nurse. 

 I placed my cotton tampon ball on my arm as the translator led me to the front desk. A medical success, the secretary gave me the consolation prize first aid kid, complete with antibiotics for all possible pending diseases.

Except headache, cough, and fever.

I know this because each of the antibiotics had an English cheat sheet labeled “Cozy hints.” There was a cozy hint for dysentery. A cozy hint for jet lag. A cozy hint for back pain. Even a cozy hint for vertigo.

But no cozy hints for the headache, fever, cough (see yesterday’s charade game).

Hence the doctor’s visit. This was informative. Upon payment, I learned that Tylenol is more expensive than a full dose of Z-pack drugs. That’s right. News flash everyone: Pharmaceutical companies are overcharging you. I knew I’d come to China for a reason, to discover the obvious fact of prescription meds actually cost 50 cents. Just when I was ready to write to Pfizer and start a Constant Gardner Revolution, my doorbell rang.

I opened to find my Indian neighbor, who had come to ensure my debilitation had not spread rampantly throughout our wallpapered concrete walls. Dawning a grey fedora and tweed jacket, he kindly offered to shop for me, while taking this unique opportunity to explain my ignorance of breakfast foods.

“I hear you are sick. Would you like me to buy you some juice?” he kindly offered.

“That be great. I’d love some juice.”

“That shows you are American. I bet you drink orange juice. Studies from Cambridge University show that orange juice is the worst item you can drink, especially after the natural fast that occurs every morning during the period of sleep duration. It shocks the system, unbalances your blood sugar, and the acidity level has been shown to contribute to ulcers.”

“Ok, well what juice do you drink?”

“We do not drink juice in China. So what juice would you like me to buy?”

After the Americans 101 class, I gave up on juice but was gifted more Eight Treasure Tribute Chrysanthemum Tea upon his return. Fabulous. I love herb packets full solidified sugar cubes. Perhaps the great secret to natural medicine is block fructose.

And lots of cozy hints. 

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