November 5, 2004
Trip Start Aug 08, 2004
34Trip End Aug 2005
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On Tuesday, the other American teacher in Liuyang, Jeff, came to my school to sit in on my classes. Of course the presence of a white foreigner walking the halls of the school caused quite a stir. I fully expect to be answering questions for the next week about whether or not Jeff is my boyfriend, or "BF" as my students would say. I have no idea where they picked up this lingo. Some of them have also picked up the phrase "Oh my God" from some unknown source, and sometimes in class I'll hear a chorus of "Oh my God"s when I ask a question they don't understand.
On Wednesday, classes were cancelled for exams, so I spent the morning at the hospital visiting with Dr. Qiu. There is something deeply depressing about most hospitals, a lingering sadness and sense of fear. This is probably even more the case in a Chinese hospital, where the grey concrete walls remain bare and the somewhat dirty floors seem right in line with the slightly dingy bedsheets. I met several of Dr. Qiu's colleagues, many of whom were puffing away on their cigarettes as they made their rounds.
We stopped in to visit one of her patients, a young man in his twenties with diabetes. He sat propped up on his bed like a pudgy little king while his mother held a thermos of noodles up to his face. During the course of his conversation with the doctor, I watched him simultaneously shovel noodles into his mouth and suck in and spit out what appeared to be the bones of an entire chicken onto the floor beside his bed. I was feeling a little nauseous, so I stepped out into the hallway. Just in time to watch a hunchbacked elderly woman walk by, hack something up, lean over and spit into a small container on the floor. The hallway was lined with many such containers, placed there specifically for the purpose of collecting phlegm. This has only strengthened my resolve not to get sick during the coming year.
I received a tour of all 12 floors of the hospital, each one housing a different specialty. The floor with the burn victims was particularly gruesome. The bright spot during the day occurred when we visited the floor with the newborn babies. I got to see a brand new baby girl who had only been born a few hours prior, all bundled up and tied with a bow.
This week was a lot more emotional and difficult than I had anticipated. On Monday, I received notice from the school that from now on, if I travel anywhere outside of Liuyang, I must request permission first. I was even handed a stack of "travel application forms," which I spent the remainder of the week complaining about. It's bad enough that they already know my whereabouts at all time, but there's no way they're going to hold me hostage in this hellhole. I am looking forward to getting out of town this weekend.