Mom is not feeling well. She has a headache, maybe high blood pressure too. I never know how she can self diagnose like that, but I am used to it by now. When I was little she used to tell me long stories of how her mother died, and her father, with what cause and in great detail. As of seven or eight I know the proper medical terms of all my relatives' ailments, including my own. Only occasionally do I add a tinge of imagination into it, but I digress.
We are on a mixed bag trip to China. Visiting families, school reunions, sight seeing, a touch of work, it's all encompassing. Changsha (Hunan) is a new city for all of us, so we ask around and stumble onto this hospital the same way four blind men would find their way to an elephants trunk. It is large enough, the hospital that is, with impressive marble facades and stairs that led up to the front hall. But instead of sliding doors we push through some clear wide strips of plastics hang over the door frames to keep out the bugs and keep in air-conditioned coolness. Years of sun and stains has tie dyed them yellow so they are blending in with the yellowish marble steps. The color is however where the similarity stops.
A nurse tells us to divide an concur and instructs me to register and mom to the triage table. I lose track of the long list of rapid fire instructions almost as soon as she started talking, the long suffering chronic list-phobia that I am. I decide mom must have caught it as she moves towards the triage table where a nurse sat, so I submit her to it and myself to the mercy of the registration man sitting behind a tiny moon shaped window. Only he was busy with something so I wait. A second later a man walks up to the window and pushes his arm through it with a stack of paper. Suddenly I can smell the sour taste of his lunch and the damp armpit he threatens to expose any second as he muscled his way towards the window and therefore, me. His spits miss me narrowly as he shouts out his requests.
"Prescriptions - and a ticket!" he said.
The registration man examines the orders and shoves a stack of paper his way without looking up. Too stunned to speak I try clearing my throat to get ready to shout, only to find a rather substantial lady has again beat me to it, stepping up out of nowhere (I'm the only one in front of the window I swear) and demands her ticket.
"I need to register!" I shout at them both. The registration man consoles me with a glance and a smirk. "Why did you let them get ahead of me?" I shouted again unable to dial back the volume just yet.
"You didn't look ready. She would be really quick." with that the man behind the window processed the woman and then looked my way.
* * *
Within minutes I get used to people cutting in front of me while I huff and puff. In the treatment room those who wait crowd around my mom's diagnosis over the tiny doctor's shoulders while she examine her lab report. The doctor sees and hears no evil but discusses my mother's diagnosis and treatment with a zen like calm. It occurs to me then I'm not in the country containing Kansas anymore, not even close.
That impression got particularly strong when my son get to carry my mom's blood sample by hand to the lab, a fairly long walk across the hospital from the nurse desk where her blood was drawn. I bend over from laughing, as he walked gingerly, holding the blood at a full arm's length. The drop off window sat next to the men's room, so dank odors of disinfectant and piss waft across as we walk closer. Pots of yellow liquid sit on the window uncollected, crying out for a better label and a better resting place. We attempt to ring the bell but couldn't locate it. So we wait until someone pop her head and ask: "what?" before we drop off mom's blood sample, properly labelled.