7.09.2016

Pregnant 有喜

Pregnant with doubt
You figured out
Tricks of the trade to make a whisper a shout
- Cold War Kids



It was a Sunday. As usual, we had checked Great Leap Brewery’s Wechat account for its weekly beer special. That night the Chesty Puller was on special, meaning the normal price of 40 RMB is slashed to 25 RMB. Once again, the Chesty Puller pulled us in to one of our favorite Beijing haunts. Not only is GLB’s beer a welcome, hoppy, happy respite from Tsingdao’s lightly flavored beer water, but GLB’s double cheeseburger dripping with gooey cheese layered with dill pickles counteracts a week’s worth of noodle overload.

Earlier that afternoon, I told birdMAN I probably should take a pregnancy test before libations. Why? Well let’s just say the Big Aunt hadn’t come for a long time (Big Aunt 大姨妈 is slang for a lady’s monthly ya’ know). So we headed to a nearby pharmacy and forked over a whopping 15 RMB (~2 USD) for a home pregnancy kit. I was pretty sure I was imagining things and I would indeed drink a couple Chesty Pullers that night, but the pee testified positive-- there were two visible lines indicating, well, I was pretty sure anyway, the presence of the pregnancy hormone HCG.



2 lines = Pregnant
Can someone read this to me?

I called to birdMAN from the bathroom, “Well, I have some bad news!”

“It’s a no?” birdMAN has wanted to start a family for awhile but let’s just say nature hadn’t been super cooperative.

“I can’t have any beer tonight.”

“Really?” Yes, really, or at least I thought so. The test kit was entirely in Chinese so we spent a few minutes confirming that 阳性 meant positive. No Chesty Puller that night, but at least GLB makes a tasty cheeseburger.

That was about seven weeks ago. Since then, I have had three ultrasounds. The first was to confirm pregnancy and date it. I was only at six weeks. Normally, ultrasounds aren’t done this early, but I really had no idea how long I had been pregnant. The second was to confirm that the little stinker was sticking around. It was. The twelve week ultrasound showed everything normal and good to go. OK, now time to tell people.

Here are some answers to some questions you might want to ask:
  1. Was it planned? Sort of. We left matters to the whims of nature, and didn’t think about it much. A few years later, a positive preggo test leaves me on a strict no alcohol and sushi diet, and seriously reducing my coffee intake.
  2. How do you feel? No vomiting, but morning sickness is real! I was super tired from weeks 6 to 12, and couldn’t get anything done before noon. Around 10:30 or 11 am in the morning, I get struck with a gnawing hunger no matter how much I have consumed earlier. Morning sickness, however, now seems to be abating.
  3. When are you moving back to California? We aren’t. We found a great international hospital in Beijing with an international medical staff and plan to stick it out in China. Can you imagine? Our little 75% white baby will speak fluent Chinese!
  4. Are you having a boy or girl? I don’t know. It’s too early to know from an ultrasound. We, however, are going to stick with China’s policy of not finding out the gender until birth. It’s technically illegal for doctors to tell expectant parents their babies’ gender due to historical favoring boys over girls and the resulting prevalence of selective abortion.

So yes, it’s true. Great Leap lost one moderate beer drinker and China is about to a get a little more overpopulated.

Chinese word of the blog: 有喜 yǒuxǐ (literally, have joy)
English translation: pregnant or to be expecting
Chinese example sentence: 我有喜了!Wǒ yǒuxǐle!
English translation: I'm pregnant!

12 weeks. Am I showing?
 



6.08.2016

Policy of Truth 诚实

Hide what you have to hide
And tell what you have to tell
You'll see your problems multiplied
If you continually decide
To faithfully pursue
The policy of truth
-Depeche Mode




My landlord sent me a text about a month before our rental agreement was up. The text read something like this: "I have found new renters who want to rent for 6,500 RMB. You have lived there for three years, so I will only raise your rent to 6,000 RMB."

Yikes! That's an extra 1,000 RMB a month. An extra 12,000 RMB per year. That's a lot of beer and cheese.

We texted back and forth a few times. She made it abundantly clear she would not bargain and she already found renters willing to pay 6,500 RMB. So--being the gullible person I am-- I believed her. People--especially Chinese landlords-- are always honest. Right?

birdMAN and I spent the next three days evaluating our options. Current available rentals were scarce. Apartments were dumpy, expensive and filthy. Cleanliness, I should add, is not a requirement. In China, finding a clean rental is like finding genuine leather in Forever 21.

Just as we were about to accept the rent increase, the real estate agency called. Qingqing, our very excitable real estate agent, was frantic. There was an apartment in our same complex, the same size, and cheaper than 6000 RMB. Within five hours, we had seen the apartment, looked past its filth, saw potential, and paid the first month's rent as a deposit. In the current rental market, apartments get snatched up quick. We had to move fast.

Then the landlord texted me: How about 5,800?

Ok, now she was ready to negotiate? But it was too late. We had sealed the deal. We were moving. Goodbye twelfth floor view of the garden and Olympic Park towers. Hello third floor view of parking lot and gray cement buildings. Goodbye peach and baby blue wall paper (not terribly devastated about that). Hello cigarette smoke stained walls, ceilings, and doors.

Before we knew it, a parade of real estate agents and potential renters came knocking on our door, sometimes unannounced, calling me, texting me: can they come now and look at the apartment? Uh? Didn't the landlord clearly state that she had found renters willing to pay 6,500 RMB?

The landlord had not found renters at all. Furthermore, she posted the apartment rent for 6,000 RMB, not 6,500 RMB. Ohhh what tangled webs...

She straight up, blatantly, unapologetically lied. And I was miffed, not only because she lied, but because I didn't understand the point of the lie. Why didn't she just say that the rent is higher and leave it that? Didn't she know I would find out the truth eventually?

Here we had a collision of cultures. She interacted with me as though I were Chinese. She expected me to know that what she said is not what she meant, and that I should know what she meant. I expected her to be straightforward. You know, I expect her to say what she meant.

After we had packed up and moved out, we met with the landlord one last time to return the keys and get our deposit. I told her we really liked living there and we were sad to go. She said I should have called her. She said (as I understand it), "Chinese people are like that. We like to discuss things. If you called me, we could have talked about it. I really liked renting to the two of you."

So I should have called her instead of communicating through texts. Then maybe we would have negotiated an acceptable rent. Maybe we'd still have our awesome 12th story view and peach and baby blue wall paper.

Chinese word of the blog: 诚实 chéngshí
English translation:  honest

12th story view of clouds and Olympic Towers. Nice day!
12th story view of Super Moon
12th story view of pollution
12 story view of sunrise
12th story good times. Bye wallpaper.
Third story view of parking lot. At least there's a nice tree.

5.18.2016

Eat It 鸭肠

Don't want to argue, I don't want to debate
Don't want to hear about what kind of food you hate
You won't get no dessert 'till you clean off your plate
So eat it
- Weird Al Yankovic



It’s good to have a couple of authentic Asian friends eager to take you out for “real” Asian food. Otherwise, you may just stick to eating pizza and cheeseburgers and miss opportunities to try real delicacies like, oh I don’t know...duck intestines or almost alive octopus.

My taste buds are very open-minded. As such, I have had an array of culinary experiences that left me feeling from hey-I’m-surprised-that-was-actually-tasty, to ehhhh-that-wasn’t-good-but-edible, to that-was-so-gross-this-taste-will-be-in-my-mouth-forever. The surprisingly good include cow stomach with a tasty sesame sauce (牛肚). The edible but not good include spongy and sweet meatballs of mysterious origins, fish-flavored tofu, smoked pork fat, fermented soybeans (known as natto in Japanese) topped with raw egg, and salty dried plums. The gross include a big, black scorpion, salty egg moon cake, and pig intestines (no matter how long it’s cooked or smothered with sauce, pig intestines still tastes like an outhouse).

Yum! Cow stomach

One Saturday, I found myself sitting across from my young friend, Yanyan. Between me and Yanyan’s effulgent smile was a giant pot of boiling broth and an array of assorted raw edibles soon to be boiled and consumed: mushrooms, cabbage, spinach, frozen tofu, quail eggs, shrimp cake, sliced beef, noodles, and duck intestines.

The pot was divided in half: one side bubbling with Sichuan style broth, a devilishly spicy concoction of pepper oil, peppercorns and tiny red peppers, and the other a simple, light broth fragrant with mushrooms and ginger. I recommend that Sichuan hot pot broth be coupled with a non-spicy partner. Those fiery peppercorns increase in spice intensity over the course of a meal. A non-spicy broth gives your mouth much-need breaks from the peppercorn burn.

The duck intestines, long, thin, pink as cotton candy but shining slick and smooth, were neatly laid out on a bed of cabbage. I wondered if that plate of intestines came from one duck or several.



Yanyan carefully dipped the duck intestines in and out of the spicy Sichuan broth. After a few minutes, the duck intestines cooked and soaked through with those deadly peppercorns, I dipped the duck guts into a bowl of sesame sauce and garlic and took my first bite ever of duck intestines. I chewed, masticated, gnawed, then chewed some more on the rubbery viscera. The verdict? If you don’t mind the tire-like texture and you have strong teeth and jaws, duck intestines is eatable. Unlike pig intestines, the duck variety has no strong feces flavor.

My jaw needs the workout

A few weeks later, my Korean friends asked me if I liked seafood. Of course I do! So one drizzly Wednesday, a group of us convened for Korean style hot pot. The restaurant walls were lined with tanks full of-- you guessed it-- fresh seafood. The mollusks imprisoned in glass tanks contrasted with the splashy cartoons of jovial octopuses, squid and clams emblazoning the restaurants’ walls-- a grim reminder of a former carefree life at sea.

Apparently, Koreans prefer their seafood really, really, really fresh, so fresh that the seafood comes to the table alive and writhing. Then the poor creatures either get cut into pieces with scissors to be consumed raw (and writhing) or suffer a slow death as they are brought to a boil before the diners’ eyes.

The verdict on the raw (and still writhing) octopus: very fresh, like fresh sushi. The octopus was chewy with not much of a “sea” flavor. Now I wasn’t just giddy with the novelty of eating the still moving, but I actually thought that the hacked cephalopod  (with sauce) was just plain good.

So, what’s next in my food adventures? Who knows? I never imagined that saying yes to hum-drum lunch invitations would result in a duck gut or live octopus feast.

My motto remains as is: Eat it. Don’t say no to food.

Chinese word of the blog: 鸭肠 yācháng
English translation: duck intestines


Say yes to fresh seafood
Say yes to this loaded cheeseburger

Watch this 3 minute video to see how we eat and roll








4.10.2016

Cold Girl Fever 生病

Bottle eyes, glassy blue
I watch the rain come out of you
Sky is white with the flu

-- The National



This blog contains content that may not sit well with sensitive readers. That includes those who believe flatulence, expunging human waste from the human body, and such are taboo topics. That means: stop here if you can’t handle toilet talk. The rest of you (you know who you are)...read on.

Food poisoning and the resulting bathroom visits -- I dare say-- is pretty common here in China. Some public bathrooms lack sinks altogether and hand soap is unreliably limited to uppity restaurants, hotels, and American chains like KFC and Starbucks. Fecal bacteria thus has plenty of opportunity to spread around and get people a little loose in the gut. Suffering the thunder down under is so common that people freely tell each other, “I’ve got diarrhea! (我有拉肚子!)” Diarrhea is as humdrum as having the sniffles or allergies.

Westerners upon arrival and for months thereafter often suffer stomach problems for weeks at a time-- their digestion is no match for the microbes proliferating everywhere. As one Chinese saying goes, westerners are “not accustomed to the water and dirt” (水土不服). Fortunately, birdMAN and I have been relatively healthy the last three and half years. Our bouts of food poisoning, in general, haven’t slowed us down.

So while my iron-clad digestion may keep food microbes at bay, my immunity proved to be no match for norovirus.

After spending three weeks in the USA rejuvenated with a diet of avocados, gourmet cheese and wine-- the kind of food found at bourgeois grocers like Whole Foods-- I came back to Beijing pumped to jump back into my Beijing ways. My Beijing ways include creating western style meals from found-in-China ingredients, leading early morning boot camp exercise at a nearby sports field, leading group Pilates classes in my house, cleaning our apartment (still working on scrubbing off the grime left from the previous insanely filthy tenant), and of course meeting up with my Chinese friends. Despite not having a paying job, I manage to pack a full schedule.

Early one Sunday morning, I lay prone on my bed and slowly came to the realization I did not feel right. My stomach resonated with nausea that crept up my esophagus and into my throat. The unmistakable feeling of sick. Ughh no. Food poisoning. Today was shot. Hopefully, this would be a quick illness and I will be bright as a light tomorrow.

I don't feel good. The cleaning will have to wait...

What did I eat yesterday? Chinese food at a nearby newly opened restaurant for lunch and made-by-me Korean tacos for dinner. birdMAN and I ate the exact same meals and he suffered not even a whimper of nausea. Maybe it's not food poisoning.

As the morning wore on, my nausea intensified and my head pounded with pressure . Ok, tomorrow was shot too. I would have to cancel boot camp, Pilates, a coffee date, and my English student. I could barely muster the energy to send out the texts canceling all my plans.

Late in the morning the puking began. It was a terrible cycle. A few sips of Pocari Sweat to avoid dehydration followed by a swoon of nausea and an agonizing longing for the inevitable vomit. After the retching, I would fall into a fitful sleep for an hour or so. Then a few sips of Pocari Sweat. Vomit. Sleep. Drink. Vomit. Sleep. Time crawled like a car crossing the Bay Bridge in rush hour traffic during a torrential rain storm. When would the agony end?

As I languished alternating between feverish sweats and feverish chills, I got several texts. Are you OK? Did you take medicine? Are you going to the hospital? I will take you take the hospital.

In my sickish misery, I didn’t wonder what many of you Western readers should be wondering: Why would a healthy adult go the hospital for the commonplace stomach flu?

That’s China for you. Feeling the sniffles? Feverish? Headache? Toothache? Go to the hospital. Get an infusion of penicillin.

This widespread practice is ALARMING. Not only are antibiotics like penicillin ineffectual (and completely unnecessary) for treating viral infections, but the more antibiotics that are in the environment, the more opportunities bacteria have to develop antibiotic resistance. (Want to get freaked out? Watch this Frontline on nightmare bacteria.) The average Chinese person consumes 138 grams of antibiotics per year - 10 times the rate of the average American. Seventy percent of patients in Chinese hospitals receive antibiotics. In contrast, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum of 30 percent [1]. Recently a super-resistant strain of bacteria that can transfer resistance to other bacteria has been found in a number of meat samples and hospital patients in China. So all the bacteria proliferating everywhere may be untreatable with some of the strongest antibiotics available [2]. Mmmmhh, maybe I should stay away from the street food and avoid getting open wounds.

I mustered the energy to reply, I’m fine. I just need to rest. At the time, I wasn’t concerned about contributing to the rise of super-resistant bacteria. Rather, the thought of standing up and walking farther than the distance from my bed to the bathroom seemed about as fun as riding the Gravitron after competing in a hot-dog eating contest. I reminded myself, I will survive.

The next day was equally as terrible, except the liquids went the other way. Now remember, I hadn’t eaten for two days and I had basically puked up everything in my stomach. So what was with the diarrhea? It seemed like everything in my digestive tract- including stomach and intestines lining-- liquefied ...OK, you get the picture. In between the hourly episodes of uh-hum, I longed for sleep. But an angry Andre the Giant’s enormous hands were squeezing my head from all sides making sleep elusive, fitful, and cheerless. I reminded myself, I will survive.

My two big achievements for that day were cleaning the toilet bowl and showering. The toilet and me both needed to be washed clean.

The third day, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Although I still felt terrible, I had enough energy set up my laptop to catch up with Jimmy Fallon’s Wheel of Musical Impressions on YouTube. While the headache sojourned, the nausea flitted away. Now that my body had been cleansed from both ends, puking and diarrhea ceased.

I ate a piece of toast with avocado for dinner, and triumphantly thought: Tomorrow I will leave this apartment.

The fourth day, I emerged from my cavern of sick and greeted the polluted sky with exhilaration. I had survived.

Chinese Word of the Blog: 生病 Shēngbìng
English Translation: sick

Example Sentence: 我生病了!Wǒ shēngbìngle!
English Translation: I'm sick!

[1] When Penicillin Pays: Why China Loves Antibiotics a Little Too Much
[2] New Superbug in China Threatens to Defeat Last-Resort Antibiotics

Post-illness simple soup -- so good to eat again
Chinese food is not for dinner! Homemade pita bread, hummus, Greek salad, and Shakshuka (Eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce)

Raviolis made with found-in-China ingredients: dumpling skin, homemade ricotta (made from fresh milk), spinach, garlic, and eggs
When I am not puking, you can find me here

1.24.2016

Hazy Shade of Winter 大风

But look around, leaves are brown now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Look around, leaves are brown
There's a patch of snow on the ground...
-The Bangles


Winter has come to with a vengeance this year. 

Beijing’s first snow dusting came on November 6. The snow didn’t stick but the cold did. Then came of series of horrible pollution days. The second and third set of pollution days triggered red alert days. School and work were canceled, car restrictions enforced, and factories temporarily closed. We donned our face masks, invested in a home air filter, and complained with everyone else about Beijing’s severe pollution problem.

The last couple weeks, thanks to a strong icy wind, Beijing’s skies have been blue. No longer are we complaining about pollution. Now we are complaining about the heart-stopping, slap-you-in-the-face, nose-sniffle-inducing, lung-chilling air. Yesterday’s high was 30 year record breaking 11°F and low of 2°F. Strong winds plummeted the “feels like” temperature to the -20°Fs.

And what does -20°F wind chill feel like? It’s COLD. A brief foray into Beijing’s brutal ice winds leaves you winded and exhausted. No amount of clothes is enough. The wind pierces through the layers of down, fur, and fleece like daggers. Any exposed skin is red and chilled.

But the winds have died down. We are looking forward to a toasty high of 36°F tomorrow.

Chinese Word of the Blog: 大风 Dàfēng (literally “big wind”)
English translation: strong wind


November 6, 2015: Everyone loves the first snow!
Keep warm with your Movember Mo
November 22, 2015: When it's cold, go to the mall
November 23, 2015: Sorry fall, make room for winter
November 25, 2015: Snow can't stop us from moving
December 2, 2015: Winter at the Summer Palace
Summer Palace: Cold winds chased the pollution away
A furry hood is the way to go
Don't leave home without your certifiend PM2.5 air mask! Xialian forgot hers, but something is better than nothing
December 8, 2016: Beijing on red alert! Everyone stay at home
January 19, 2016: The kids are off from school! Go away cold! The kids want to play.
Her head will not get cold
January 22, 2016: Do what you want winter! We'll be inside a movie theater watching the Jedis arise again.
January 22, 2016: I AM C-O-L-D.


12.24.2015

Yellow 尴尬

I came along,
I wrote a song for you,
And all the things you do,
And it was called "Yellow".
-Coldplay

This following is brought to you by the Annals of Foreigners in China.

Three years ago one particularly cold winter, my Aussie friend’s lingering cold turned into pneumonia. An ambulance ride later, she found herself laid up in a hospital bed hooked up to breathing machines. After a while nature was calling--she simply had to go. The nurses told her she could not. There were too many tubes and she needed to rest. Finally, one nurse grew weary of the pleading and begging and told my friend’s husband to buy a bedpan. He did and gave it back to the nurse. After my friend gratefully emptied her bladder, the nurse put the excreta in a clear glass jar and brought it out her husband in the waiting room. Perhaps nurses aren't paid enough to flush people's uh hum down the toilet? As if peeing into a bedpan in front of nurses weren’t humiliating enough, the waiting room was full of concerned friends who got to see the color of my friend’s tinkle.

Thankfully, my friend recovered fully from both the pneumonia and her embarrassment.

Chinese Word of the blog: 尴尬Gāngà
English translation: Embarrassing

Example sentence: 大家都看到我的尿尿。我很尴尬!
Dàjiā dōu kàn dào wǒ de niào niào. Wǒ hěn gāngà!
English translation: Everyone saw my pee. I'm so embarrassed!

12.22.2015

Finger Back 锤状指

Bend my finger back (snap)
Wrap it in a paper towel
Break a twig in half and set it straight
- Vampire Weekend

One Friday some three weeks ago, I had spent the entire morning busy preparing for a lunch party of eight guests. In my usual fashion, I was overly ambitious about what I could make in four hours. Yes, it takes four hours to make vegetable soup, deviled eggs, pumpkin pie, and roasted sweet potatoes. My kitchen lacks time-saving conveniences like a microwave (for now), dishwasher, multiple stove burners, multiple pots, and canned pumpkin. Let’s just say...cooking (like a westerner) ends up taking a long time.

So the clock was ticking and I hadn’t showered or changed out of my pj’s. I decided to skip the shower and make-up and go straight into wearing my skinny jeans. After zipping up and buttoning the fly, I thought, I really don’t want to wear these jeans. I will go with boot-cut flares. I had about fifteen minutes until people were to show up and I still hadn't finished peeling the eggs. Those pants had to come off like NOW. 

But those dang jeans resisted. They hugged my larger than average calves (I blame my Cantonese genes) like caramel on an apple. Irritated, I jammed my hands in between the jeans and my calves. Jeans stubbornly clung on for dear life, but something was strange with my left hand middle finger. The top most joint was stuck in a strange bent position. Not painful, just a little sore.

This injury did not seem to be a dire emergency so I carried on with a very enjoyable lunch with my friends. Soup was good and I had made the best pumpkin pie ever. I mean, good grief, I was only taking off my pants.

All my lunch guests were likewise dumbfounded at my injury. We had recently moved to an insanely filthy apartment, and they speculated that I had over zealously scrubbed the filmy cigarette smoke off every nook and cranny thus weakening my poor middle finger. Maybe I should soak it in hot water--no, maybe ice water? Maybe acupuncture? Nobody had a good answer.

My Chinese friend, Heqing, offered to take me to a nearby clinic that specializes in Chinese medicine (中医). After lunch and everyone but me finished cleaning the dishes, off Heqing and I went. In a typical Chinese fashion in an overcrowded place typical of China, Heqing entered the clinic running from uniformed person to uniformed person, to reception window to reception window, yelling in Chinese until she got an acceptable answer. All right, go to this little room with a doctor. The doctor took one look at my finger and told me, “Go to the hospital emergency room (急诊).” Will I need surgery? He wouldn’t say.

Well, this dreaded day was bound to come sooner or later: the day I would have to go to a Chinese hospital. The place where cheap medical care means sacrificing your dignity and sanity. Where patients are treated more like sick cattle rather than sick people. What can I do? My finger needed help.

Emergency rooms are different in China than the US. In the US, you fill out a form and wait patiently in a waiting room until your name is called. Then you see a nurse who assesses your condition and directs you to an appropriate doctor. Then you get your own room and you stay there until your treatment is over. You might have to leave the room to get an x-ray or something, but you always go back to your room. The doctor and nurses speak to you at soothing volumes and respect your privacy. If you aren't suffering a trauma, I dare say ER visits can be a somewhat peaceful experience.

In China, each medical procedure (x-ray, blood test, body scan, stitches, etc) has its own room or area requiring a separate prior payment and doctor approval. Suppose you go to the ER for an arm injury. The visit might go something like this:

1. Wait in line to register and pay fee.
2. Wait in line to see doctor.
3. See doctor. He sends you to x-ray.
4. Wait in line at register.
5. Pay for x-ray.
6. Go to x-ray room.
7. Wait in line.
8. Get x-rayed.
9. Wait for x-ray. Pick up your x-ray from desk.
10. Wait in line for the doctor.
11. Give the doctor your x-ray. He makes a diagnosis. This doctor may not be the original doctor you saw the first time.
12. You start over with the next step in medical treatment.

You get the picture. 

Thankfully, I had Heqing. A native Beijinger, she knew which hospital to go to and how to get there. Having spent several years living abroad, she knew enough English to translate medical speak to me so I was not completely in the dark. Thanks to her, my dreaded ER visit wasn't all that dreadful.

A thirty minute bike ride later, we entered the Peking University 3rd Hospital (北京大学第三医院) emergency room. And in typical Chinese fashion in a crowded place typical of China, Heqing skirted around the elderly laid up on gurneys or in wheelchairs, running from uniformed person to uniformed person, reception window to reception window, yelling questions in Chinese until she got a satisfactory answer. Then we did the registering, line waiting and x-ray procedure as laid out above.

After looking at the x-ray and asking my nationality, the young doctor assessed that my finger was obviously not broken. Yes, I had to explain what happened. I was changing my clothes when my finger suddenly went askew. If you think that sounds silly in English, imagine how silly it sounds in Chinese. What a crazy foreigner.

The doctor told us to go to another hospital that has a hand specialist. He scribbled some stuff on a piece of paper and sent us off, x-ray and scribbles in hand. Again Heqing was a lifesaver. She understood what the doctor said (I sort of phased out during that part) and she knew how to get there. We hopped in a taxi headed to the renowned Jishuitan Hospital (北京积水潭医院).

This hospital was less busy and more straightforward. Heqing didn't have to run around asking a bunch of questions to an array of people until she got a satisfactory answer. I was just hoping I wouldn't need surgery. I paid the registration fee and went directly to the hand specialist. We only had to wait ten minutes before entering the tall, handsome and gleaming white teethed Dr. Wu's office--who also spoke English. I immediately gave up on speaking Chinese. He promptly diagnosed my finger's condition as屈肌炎. Uh, what's that in English? Unfortunately, Dr. Wu's English wasn't that good, but I understood that my finger ligament was broken (韧带断了). Again, I explained how taking off my pants resulted in this injury. What a crazy foreigner.

Later, I made like Sherlock Holmes and put my internet sleuthing skills to use deducing I have mallet finger. Mallet finger is caused by blunt force trauma, damaging the upper tendon connecting the upper finger bones. I guess my pants and I are equally matched in strength.

Dr. Wu told me I would need to wear a splint continuously for six weeks. Don't take it off or get it wet. Eighty percent of patients with this kind of injury heal in six weeks. If not healed by then, surgery may be required. 

Six weeks of my finger not getting wet? I can't wash my finger? Won't my finger start to stink? How will I wash dishes? This is really going to be a damper in my upcoming Indonesia vacation. I guess surfing is off the board.

Dr. Wu sent me downstairs to the splint making room, where I paid a fee for a young technician to customfit a splint. An hour later, my finger straighted up and buttressed, Heqing and I hailed a taxi and sat in rush-hour traffic back to the first hospital.

In summary, we went to one clinic and two hospitals in about five hours. The total cost came to about 55 USD not including taxi costs (see cost table below).

So for now, I am donning my ever so fashionable splint and getting plenty of poor you looks. BirdMAN has to clean more dishes and I'm making simpler meals. But I'm still wearing my skinny jeans. I am just much more careful about taking them off. One finger injury is enough.

Here's a breakdown costs:












Chinese word of the Blog: 锤状指Chuí zhuàng zhǐ (hammer shape finger)
English Translation: Mallet finger

Mallet finger
Splint Finger