I’ve recently had to go to the Gyno’s here in China for a good-ole-fashioned-feel-up, and prior to going I had asked some of my expat friends if they had any recommendations, and what I could expect in terms of cost as well as overall cultural differences. My favorite response I received was:
“I know a place! I haven’t been but my friends have gone before, some of the doctors there even speak English! The only thing is that you’ll be in a room with at least five other woman, all with legs up and vajayjays out. No curtain either! But it’s clean at least. Best you can hope for in China!”
I thanked my friend, and then told her I’d see if my Chinese manager had any other ideas. She’d had a baby after-all. And I got quite lucky!
Here’s a confusing tidbit about a confusing visit to the Gyno’s.
“I hope it doesn’t take long,” Tracy said as we power-walked our way through sweating bodies in the odd bazaar that was happening outside the hospital. There were carts selling sliced watermelon, orange juice being squeezed, toys being tempted to crying children, and balloons being bought by visitors looking for some cheer against the White Walled castle of waiting and not knowing.
“Sunny came here last week, and had to wait two hours for the Professor, then two hours for the results,” Tracy said as we walked into the air condition. A lady who resembled a nurse-customer-service-rep had directed us to another person sitting behind a counter, who had then directed us to a machine that resembled an ATM, but, alas, was not indeed an ATM. Back to the cashier person who had, of course, closed his window within the ten minutes that we had been away.
“How much money do you think I should take out?” I asked Tracy when we found an ATM.
“Maybe…. two hundred or three hundred?” She said.
“What about five hundred?”
“No, no, no. Surely it won’t be five hundred,” she said, shaking her head and looking around for the next station. I shrugged and took out three hundred. Tracy waved me back over to the first machine we had stood at. She started clicking on things, getting lost in what to call my visit, and then asking requesting the help of a woman that could have been her mother. I watched as they gibbered on about my lady bits, deciding on what to call my predicament, and trying not to embarrass me all at the same time. I stood back, watched, and fumbled with the money, my bank card, and my fancy new “Chloe Does Chinese Hospitals” booklet along with my fancy new frequent flier card the clerk had given me.
“Do you want to see the doctor or professor?” Tracy asked in between mutterings with the elderly woman who was attempting to assist my manager.
“Whatever you think,” I said.
“I think regular doctor will be fine,” she said. She tapped away at the screen for a few more moments, and then we were off to sixth floor on a packed escalator that seemed to go slower from the sheer amount of people standing on its frame.
“Who do you love more?” Tracy turned to me mid-escalator ride. “Your mother or your father?”
The sincerity of the question surprised me.
“Umm… I love them both the same… I am most like my mother which is why my dad is good for me when I need balance. They are a good mix of parents.”
“Oh… Because I think my daughter. She loves me more. I love my mother more.” I laughed at genuine honesty and simplicity.
“Well that makes sense. She spends more time with you,” I said.
“Yes. My father. He was all about work. Never home. And my mother, she is a very strong woman. She can do all the house chores by herself even now, and she is very old.”
“That’s impressive,” I agreed.
“So that is why I ask you if you love your mother or father more.”
“I love them both in very different but equal ways,” I said after some thought.
“Yes. I understand that,” Tracy said. We talk about family for the remaining escalator ride. Discussing divorce rates in China, marriage rates in the country, and how things feel different across borders, but really everyone is the same in different ways.
“Oh my,” Tracy said when she saw the crowd inside our waiting room. There were at least one hundred people crammed inside a room that should have held at most fifty. We weaved our way through sad and frustrated faces up to the next counter where we were informed that the doctors were still finishing up their lunch break. About thirty minutes passed, and a lone nurse stepped up to the stage. Fancy little booklets flew in her face, and cards were swiped, and numbers were given.
“129?” I asked, looking at the ticket. “Does that mean I am 129th in line?”
“Let me see.” Tracy took hold and looked at the ticket. “Yes. I think so.”
“Maybe if they see that you are a foreigner you will get in sooner. And you only asked for a doctor, not a professor. I think it won’t be long.”
And so the waiting began. And time passed. And chatter rose and fell. And then names started flashing on the screen underneath large numbers of people waiting for their chance for movement.
Tracy taught me some Chinese. We talked about her husband. We talked about her child. A name flashed, and we waited.
Chinese games. Children crying. People staring at the foreigner in the hospital. What could her ailment be? A name flashed, and we waited.
“Oh! Your name! Let’s go!” Tracy jumped up as if she was about to hurdle over me, and six other people who were sitting in our row.
“Go, go, go,” she shooed me as I scrambled to hold on to my belongings while also stepping over annoyed waiting people. We stumbled through the knees and elbows and mothers and babies, and as we were squeezing through, I looked up at my flashing red name, spread out over two feet of bulbs, and blinking bare in the middle of various Chinese characters.
“Ha!” The laugh fell out of me like a surprised hiccup. “My name. In lights.” I shook my head, smiled, and tried not to giggle too much at the bad joke that only I understood.
We pulled ourselves into a smaller room with desks, bodies, a few computers, and some stalls. The stalls were reserved for the “private” conversations with a Professor, and whoever else had squeezed themselves into the stall with you. The naked desks sitting in the battlefield were for the doctors.
“What’s the difference between a doctor and a professor?” I asked Tracy as we hovered over one of the desks.
“Well, a Professor, he write things. In the journals and things. He is published. The doctor, he doesn’t have to do that. Professors are more expensive because they…” she stopped to find the right word and started muttering in Chinese.
“They are more famous?” I asked.
“Ya, ya, ya. Basically.”
“But I think, that some people, they aren’t good at writing. And the doctor is maybe, maybe he has more patients, and this doctor, he has grey hair. So you know he is wise. He has probably seen many many people so his opinion is probably very good.”
“Makes sense,” I replied.
After our talk with the wise doctor, we were sent back out to the ATM six floors down, and six floors back up, because, I was correct— It was going to be about 500 yuan for the visit. Back down, back up on the escalator without the ability to escalate with any sense of urgency because, after all, this is China. Wait for your turn. Your turn to wait will come soon enough.
The new room that we entered was about the size of a closet, and had a screaming toddler waddling around waving around his finger that had an infected something growing on the tip, a something in desperate need of of being drained.
“Sit, sit down,” Tracy said to me as I tried to close my ears from the screaming that was building an innate panic inside of me caused by the sounds of a child in distress. I sat and tried to close my ears away from the high screeches of his helpless confusion as people crowded around him to watch.
“Chloe, come, come,” Tracy said as a male doctor walked in and started prepping some q-tips. “Oh, it might be a man. Is that okay?”
“Doesn’t matter,” I said despite the knot in my stomach that had developed from the overwhelming amount of people standing in the room where I was about to receive my Gyno exam.
“Oh, okay,” Tracy said, giving me one of those half smiles mixed with motherly concern, and friendly pity.
Here goes, I thought to myself. You can do this. It’s just a vagina. People have seen them before. Obviously it’s not a big deal for people to see your vajayjay in this hospital, cause if it were, they’d put a curtain up. It’s procedure. It’s normal. Chill. Chill. It’ll all be over soon.
I prepped myself for flashing China with my beaver as I mounted the lovely table with the harnesses. Tracy started pacing between me and watching the child get his finger poked, and I thought about how I could keep myself covered.
And then a lady doctor walked in and swung shut a curtain.
“Oh! Yes, a lady doctor!” Tracy cheered.
“A curtain!” I sighed.
The doctor started to direct Tracy to tell me what to do, and between barks from the doctor and the nervous exclamations from Tracy, my exam got done, and the only people who had to see my hooha was the doctor, and possibly a few accidental glimpses from Tracy.