Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Beijing

Leave it to Beijing to make my Christmas experience the most surreal for me on record.

It all started last night. I was doing homework and review for my finals by myself in my room on Christmas Eve. I talked to my friend Megan, who is serving in Baghdad this Christmas, online for a while, and caught with her a bit. We discussed what it's like being out of the states for this holiday. As I was talking to her, I noticed a distinct feeling in my throat that normally comes around two or three times a year. Figuring that a throat infection was on its way, I decided to go to bed early to see if I could persuade it to go away.

I woke up this Christmas morning with swollen glands, a sore throat, and a bunch of difficulty breathing. There was no chance that I was going to go to a Chinese hospital today, though. I took Donny once, and I decided then that I would never go if I fell ill. I didn't write about that experience because it was pretty awful, and I didn't want to portray China in an extremely negative light. So, I searched my gmail today for the listserve from the US Embassy that had recommended medical services. I found Beijing United (BJU), and thought that they sounded pretty good. They came highly recommended from the embassy. Donny came with me to the hospital.

If I have something to be thankful for this Christmas, it is joint venture hospitals. BJU was just amazing. The hospital was started by an American company, and is staffed by expats and Chinese who speak amazing English. The facilities were just as clean as hospitals in the states, and the process from registration were very streamlined. I was in and out of the emergency ward in - get this - less than an hour. I had a Canadian doctor, and received the normal antibiotic I get for this infection. I was very impressed, and somewhat confused, by my experience in this hospital. I really couldn't believe that I was in China.

Donny and I thought this hospital was pretty close to an Indian restaurant we like, so we hopped in a cab to get there. It turned out that it was much further away than we thought. That was okay, though, because we had a very entertaining cab driver. This man couldn't find a station on the radio that he wanted to listen to, so he just started singing. This wasn't singing to himself kind of singing, either. He was gesturing like a pop star. It was insane. He kept this show up all the way to the restaurant.

So then Donny and I went into the restaurant to have our Christmas meal. I found it kind of comical that I was eating Indian food in Beijing while hearing little children singing Christmas songs through speakers. There were Santa heads hanging from elephants. All I need to see now is guards walking around with Santa hats, and I think my weird day will be complete.


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