I knew that Kandace would have a few stories for me… And she didn’t let me down… Her heart has been in Asia for years and she has spent a lot of time there… I remember hearing she had an injury while in China but had never heard the actual version… (Kandace has mastered all kinds of food during her stay there- she made sushi and sticky rice and all sorts of deliciousness for us last summer) This is her story:
[Before you begin, please note: I was in a very small countryside village in western China. Please don’t let this story speak for China or SE Asia, as a whole. In bigger cities, such as Shanghai or Beijing, healthcare is exceptional!]
In December 2012, I had the opportunity to visit dear friends of mine, AJ & Sarah, in China. AJ teaches English at a local university and Sarah is learning the language. Keep in mind that this was my first experience traveling outside of the US. While I visited, the head of the Foreign Language Department at the school where we were wanted to take all the language teachers on a weekend getaway… exploring ancient cities, general relaxation, and the highlight: snowboarding!
The teacher said it wasn’t far (maybe 5 or 6 hours) but we knew that we’d have to travel a ways to find snow-because in this area there was no danger of snow days. (When in a foreign land, one learns to keep their expectations at a minimum.) We got on a bus, and were seated right next to a child who casually offered us a snack of chicken feet. We traveled 10 hours to our weekend get-away. From there we traveled another hour by bus and then another half hour by cable car until finally we arrived at our destination: a snowy mountain resort with 3 trails- equivalent to bunny slopes.
We quickly donned our apparel and trudged the ¼ mile to the top of the slope. I made it down the first time without incident. But round 2… Something went wrong. As I gracefully glided down the hill, I hit a patch of ice and rocks and, in keeping with my gracefulness, landed in a huge heap at the foot of the slope. As I tried to stand, I realized something had happened to my little finger. I took my glove off and stared at my hand as my poor finger defiantly stood up while the rest of my fingers laid down. I hollered at AJ “Hey I think I broke my finger.” He kept snowboarding. “No, seriously, MY FINGER!” Recognizing my panic, he came over to assess the situation. Yep, broken. He called out to our interpreter “We have a problem, Kandi broke her finger.” “Oh, no worries,” she smiled and continued to make her way towards the ski escalator (that’s a real thing, apparently) to make the trek back up the mountain.
Finally we were able to impress on them the fact that we needed help… So they took us to a small room in the lodge where I was surrounded by 5 older soldiers wearing the Communist armband. I was sure I was about to be murdered. (Yay for American media and the teaching that all Communists are bad people.) They were all amazed by this injured white girl and kept trying to touch my finger. They had no pain killers anywhere except a little vile with sugar water to keep my blood sugar up … So I drank that. It didn’t help.
Half an hour later, Sarah and I were loaded in a truck and started our descent back towards the city… The trip went rapidly and I was certain we were going to die as we sailed around curves, blowing the horn as we went (that’s how you drive- forget traffic regulations- just use your horn). We almost hit a biker. A bus almost hit us. I told God it was okay if I would die, because I was sure that would hurt less.
We made it to the ER. There two doctors greeted us and started my registration; however, they wouldn’t accept me because I didn’t have a Chinese name. We made one up and proceeded with book work. They had two options for me: 1) Go back to my own city, which lacked proper healthcare* or 2) Come back on Wednesday for surgery. It was a Sunday.
*Quick insert: the hospital I was at, was considered the best in the surrounding area. Similar to RMH, perhaps. The healthcare in my city was sketchy, at best. Example: the dentist was a chair sitting in a sidewalk, with a variety of small saws, pliers, and other instruments hanging from the nearby shop window.
Thankfully, Sarah is a nurse. She made it known quickly that we would not be going anywhere and that they would be fixing my finger that very day. Apparently the two angry American women scared the doctors, as we were quickly sent on our way to get X-rays.
We trudged across the hospital campus to the X-ray location. The technician was sure she needed to move my injured finger … Ugh… More waiting. After 2 hours, we were sent to the top story of the hospital to see a doctor.
I kept asking for pain killer, but my nurse totally disappeared. We shut the door to my room, but we kept having visitors. People– even patients– felt it very important to come in and stare at us and take my picture. We would shut the door, but here they’d come again. I was annoyed, but after being told that these people will probably never see a foreigner again, I relented. (In the city of 500,000 where we were living, there were 8 foreigners and everybody knew about us. They’d talk to us on the street… Shout hello; try to take stealth pics…the rumor mill works well in these parts).
Eventually the doctor came and, by this point, I was feeling rather frantic, which makes me rather emotional. The doctor is trying to grab my injured finger and shouting in Chinese and I’m trying to keep him from yanking it and shouting in English… And he’s laughing. And I’m crying… My nurse finally returns. She’d ran to the pharmacy to find some pain meds. The hospital only carried morphine for cancer patients. Anyhow, the doctor determined that my finger was only dislocated instead of broken so he only needed to reset it. Literally as soon as I had swallowed the pain pills – he was ready to set it. He said that most 80 year olds were tougher than me. I tried to fight for more time, but gave in and let him yank away…all 10 people in my room at that point tried to distract me by telling jokes, singing, and crying with me when I screamed. They bandaged it up then and we left.
Several weeks later I went to the hospital in my city for a check-up… the doctor was busy seeing a patient… A dog. I hope he sterilizes and sterilizes the equipment between patients. The checkup cost me only 1 USD.
Honestly, this experience is the most dramatic thing I’ve ever been through. However, the Chinese people are very friendly and hospitable…it just took me a bit to see it. I would go through it all again in a heartbeat if it meant going back to China. I am absolutely in love with it. I learned that just because people do things differently, doesn’t mean it is wrong. We can all learn from each other.
Many places in Asia have a different view of “offensiveness” compared to Americans. The head is considered sacred. So touching a person’s head is awful. The feet are bad/dirty so don’t point your feet at people… this is particularly true in Buddhist populations, since the feet are the lowest point of the body and the head is the highest. I learned this the hard way. We were traveling on a train- and since the seats were arranged in groups of 4, I wasn’t able to sit with our group. I knelt on my seat, talking with them over the back of my seat, the bottoms of my feet facing the man across from me. Finally the interpreter said “Ummm Kandi, the man across from you is really getting offended..” As soon as I learned why, I apologized through the interpreter. He replied, as he spit the empty shells from his sunflower seed snack in and all over my shoes, “It’s ok this time since you are an ignorant American.”
I love the Asian culture and the relaxed, friendly manner and look forward to visiting again. – Kandace Glenn