We got up at 5 on Friday morning to begin our trip to Nanjing. It’s an hour bus ride (usually) and Shujie needed time to wash her hair and we wanted be there by 8. We caught the 6:40AM bus and it took 90 minutes of honking to get there. These bus drivers should have their hands amputated. If I was “King of the World” that would be near the top of my list. The ride was on schedule until we hit Nanjing. In China it seems that everyone and their brother has a car and those that don’t have a car have motorcycles and electric bicycles. The roads are jam-packed. I’m told that Chinese salaries are terrible so I wonder where they get the money to buy cars.
Just judging by the cars I see on the road I’d say more than half cost about 160,000RMB or more. That’s about $25,000. I earn 6,000RMB and I’m doing well. I probably make more than a lot of teachers here. I can’t figure it out. There are a lot of rich Chinese since the country opened up, but not that many. And as far as I’m concerned this is not a Communist country. This is the most capitalist country I’ve ever seen. Everything is money, money, money. I have trouble adjusting to doctor’s costing money and having to pay cash for my blood tests. It’s weird. So the next time someone tells you China is a Communist country you can tell them that Martin said, “they are not”!
Once we got to Nanjing we took the subway to the hospital where all the doctors speak English. Ha, ha, and double ha. Don’t believe anything anyone tells you here. They may mean well and they’re not trying to mislead you (at least most of them) but they know from nothing. It’s more like they heard something from their mother’s friends’s brother-in-law’s son so it must be true. It’s ridiculous.
We checked in and were sent to the 4th floor to see an English-speaking doctor. He didn’t speak any English. None. Not a word. And he ignored me as he asked Shujie questions. Shujie is in a bad position since she wants to help but she doesn’t know everything about me. She gives him a list of my medications that she had translated and he didn’t look them up himself. He took her word for everything. That’s not very professional.
I was getting quite furious at being ignored but I guess the thing that tipped it was that I take 1mg of some medication and they don’t make them in 1mg size here. He told me (through Shujie) that the 2 ½ mg that you get in China was the same as the 1 mg I get in Canada. Now I’m not a math wizard but where I went to school they taught us that 1 does not equal 2 ½. Ever. Under any circumstances. This guy obviously got a PHD at the University of Idiots.
When we got out of his office my mood wasn’t the best. I told Shujie we were going downstairs to get an English-speaking doctor and she wasn’t to stand with me or say anything. They see I’m with a Chinese person so they think they can ignore me and talk to her. I want them to deal with me.
I went to the front desk and told them I wanted to see an English-speaking doctor, which of course they couldn’t understand. However, they knew I was speaking English so they could figure it out. They looked around and saw Shujie and someone went to talk to her. She was good. She told them that they had to deal with me.
So I wait while they work the phones. While waiting this man starts to shove me because there are no lines in China. Everything is chaos. So I gave him a hip-check and he looks at me. The nurse catches his eye and warns him to stay away from me. I’m happy to be the “crazy foreigner” if it gets me what I want.
Finally we are sent to see the English-speaking doctor. They were in the “nice” area of the hospital. Instead of being in a filthy war zone, we were in modern offices that were spotless. This was the area for those patients who have money. I was told I would have to pay about $70 for a consult. I told them that after the consult I would decide whether I was going to pay them. Not that I don’t trust them, it’s just that I don’t trust them.
A young lady who is a doctor came in. Her English was fair at best. She spoke some Chinese to Shujie and I told her that no, you talk to me. She looked up all my medications (using the English) on the computer, which was a good sign. But she was only seeing if their pharmacy had them. I thought she was doing research. She did agree with me that 1 mg did not equal 2 ½ mg. I told her that the doctor who told me that was an idiot and should be fired. I can be blunt.
After a while a second doctor came in. Her English was a little better and I got some further information. They asked me about one of the medications I take which is an anti-depressant. They asked me why I took it and I told them it was because I was crazy. They bought that. However, their hospital’s pharmacy didn’t have carry it but they directed me to the hospital next door which dealt with crazy people.
Another medication is a new one that was just released in China in July. I did my homework before coming here to be sure I could get everything. They told me that they didn’t carry it yet but that their boss had 2 samples that were given to him by the drug company. I asked if I could have them and they said they would check. It might cost me something to get something that they got for free.
Their boss came and gave me a price of about $140 for one. That’s not bad for him since he would pocket the money and was much more than you pay in Canada. He told me that I could have as many as I wanted by 3PM that day. I told them it was too expensive and I’ll be reporting that corrupt criminal on Monday. Shujie says it’s quite common for doctor’s to get a kickback on the prescriptions they give. They’re not all criminals, but one is one too many.
Because Asians and Westerners are different (in case you didn’t know) many of the meds I take have very different doses than those you can get her. For example one of them is a pill that is 80 mg that I take. Here the largest size is 20 mg but 10 mg is the common dosage. So I would have to take 8 of these pills a day to equal the 1 pill I take. It makes the price much more expensive than I paid in Canada. I told them that the price was silly and I couldn’t believe some of the drugs were more expensive in China than in Canada. It doesn’t compute. If we make more money in Canada then things should cost more.
We finished up with the 2 doctors and I agreed to pay them. I told them that we were told that “all” doctors at this hospital spoke English. They laughed. In fact I was the only foreigner in the hospital. Shujie told me later (and I wish she would have told me when we were in with them) that one of the doctors kept saying I shouldn’t be there since I didn’t have a lot of money. If I knew that I wouldn’t have paid. So like school here isn’t about the children, medicine isn’t about the sick people. It’s all about the money.
We went to get lunch and check in to the hotel before visiting the crazy hospital. I remembered where we had seen a Subway sandwich shop last time and we were both quite excited to be going there. It was in a subway station. Really. It wasn’t quite identical to Canada but I thought it was damn good. Shujie was disappointed because she was expecting identical. If you want identical, then stick to McDonalds. For desert there was an Italian ice cream place across the hall and it was delicious. I was much happier.
We checked in to the hotel (which was clean and fine) and then went to the crazy hospital. We checked in and went upstairs where we went into a room and Shujie told the doctor that we came from Jurong and showed him a list of my medications. He didn’t speak any English but he did quite well for me. He just gave me the prescriptions I needed (only for the different anti-depressants I take). No questions asked. No examination. This doctor sits there typing in prescriptions. It’s kind of weird.
I thought that I should ask for some Tylenol #3 while I was there since it never hurts to have some around in case something painful pops up. I explained with my dictionary and he understood and happily wrote out a prescription for 50 of them. I could have asked for 500 and I’m sure I could have got them.
One of the prescriptions had a limit of how many he could write up but he wrote a bunch of them for different patients (their names that were sitting on his desk) and gave them all to me. He was very nice but I don’t get it. Is this the special foreigner treatment or no one gives a damn. After we went downstairs I was sorry I didn’t ask for morphine and oxycontin. It’s not that I really wanted them, I just wanted to know if I could get them with no questions asked.
So I have some of my prescriptions filled and a list of others. I can go to the pharmacy and see what they have and maybe they can exchange one brand for another. I was told I could get up to 1 month’s supply at a time but the doctor at the crazy hospital wrote me for 3 months. Don’t ask. And at the pharmacy you can ask for as much as you want.
We went back to the hotel and had a nap. It had been a long day. After we got up Shujie thought we should hit the Walmart first. I thought we should wait until we were ready to leave on Saturday but she said we wouldn’t be able to get in with the suitcase and she was right. So off we went to Walmart where I’m hoping I can find some Western goodies.
What a joke! It was worse than the supermarket here in Jurong. They had nothing special and in fact, didn’t even have American cheddar cheese. All we bought was Chinese dates for Shujie since she said they were cheaper and a better quality than here in Jurong. I was happy since I could leave and know that I wasn’t missing anything by not going to Walmart. I hate Walmart. Shujie commented on how dirty it was and I told her that all Walmart’s (in any country) are dirty. I’m surprised she didn’t remember that from Toronto.
And it was packed with people. I don’t know what they wanted or why they were there. I didn’t examine the prices but stuck to what they carried. I think they were there because of the American name.
When we left we started to walk and saw a pharmacy. It’s a big chain in Nanjing so a good one to check out. We are looking at the drugs and finding out what we can switch so it could be cheaper and also figuring out how many I would need to make the dosages match. I asked Shujie if we could negotiate a price and she said, “no”. She had told me you can negotiate anywhere except the supermarket. You can negotiate in a restaurant after you get the bill.
I was also told that you needed a prescription to get certain drugs such as Insulin. We got what I needed that I was willing to pay for. There was no Insulin on my prescription paper but I had her ask what they charged for my Insulin. I was curious. They gave a price and I didn’t think it was so great. Then they gave a better price but I still didn’t bite. I made an offer but it was too low for them.
The other strange thing is that they don’t keep the prescription paper. The patient keeps it. So after it’s filled you can go across the street to another pharmacy and buy more. Strange.
After we paid for the meds the lady helping us came up with a new price for the Insulin that I didn’t have a prescription for. I decided that was the winning price so I bought it. I’m always making fun of Shujie since she thinks she knows everything about China because she’s Chinese. I asked her after “what did you learn tonight”? She said she learned that you don’t need a prescription to get drugs and that you can negotiate in the pharmacy. Good for her!
So it was about 9:30 at night and we had done all our Nanjing things. We grabbed a quick bite and went back to the hotel. I had a lousy sleep waking at 4:30 and not falling back asleep. This country is messing with my sleep patterns and is starting to play with my stomach. That isn’t fun.
When we got up we checked out and went to Starbucks for breakfast. Shujie had coffee and a croissant, which was a mistake for her since when she drinks coffee she can’t sleep for a long time afterwards. She couldn’t sleep on the bus or nap this afternoon. I had 2 double espressos and a Frappuccino and a blueberry muffin. It didn’t stop me from sleeping.
So here we are back in Jurong. We’re going out for show-cow (bbq) in a few minutes. I’m psyched. I love this stuff. What’s your favourite food? Street meat I answer.
Okay, the title of the post. I knew the rooms had Internet in the hotel and I had my Ipad. I couldn’t get wireless so I phoned the desk and asked if they had wireless Internet. I didn’t think the front desk person understood me when she said she would send the housekeeper. But what do I know? In China when you have Internet connection questions, call the housekeeper.
She came and explained there was no wireless and it was only a hard-wired connection. So I guess she was the expert. We got a good laugh out of that.
This is a weird country to my eye. There is corruption, greed, no concept of lining up, little care for your neighbor and other things. I have to adjust since I’m the visitor but some things I can’t adjust too. The problem is that the majority of people are nice (I believe) but when you have 1.3 billion people even if a small majority are scum that’s still a lot scum to go through. I try to adjust and work with it but sometimes it’s just so hard. I do take pleasure in little things such as a young girl (about 10) giving me the eye yesterday and smiling at me. I guess she doesn’t see many foreigners. I love things like that and they always have given me a warm feeling inside and I hope that never changes. Of course, doctors who are trying to sell you something they got for nothing is not something I can accept. This country could be so much better if they looked carefully at cleaning things up and they did away with a lot of useless paperwork and learning how to work efficiently. But I can’t change it no matter how much I wish I could.