Posts Tagged 'Nanjing'

Nanjing page update

We’ve been in Nanjing over two years! Time flies. It was high time to make a few adjustments to our Nanjing page at the top of this blog. Have a click, take a look, and see a few more pictures of our Chinese city!


What are you smoking?

I just finished up my second appointment at the Jiangsu Provincial Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, and now I know why so many people love Chinese Medicine. It’s because all you do apparently is smoke marijuana and you subsequently feel much better about whatever is ailing you :).

Seriously though, as I entered the hospital, I was overwhelmed by the powerful smell of pot everywhere. I turned to my friend, a Syrian woman who is studying Chinese and Western medicine here, and asked her if I was smelling what I thought I was smelling. She laughed and said, “NO!” but agreed that the place does reek of pot. She explained that TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) uses many herbs to induce healing in the body, and they are often burned over certain parts of the body to promote healing. Ahhhh, that makes sense. I was relieved and amused all at once.

The hospital itself is gorgeous, a stark contrast to the Children’s Hospital we visited a few months ago. And the treatment is incredibly cheap and efficient. Many people here prefer TCM to Western Medicine, and I can appreciate this. Thus far, it seems very holistic and concerned with getting at the root cause of an ailment and treating the entire system affected rather than simply prescribing medicine to treat a symptom. I’ll be going back for more, and am really interested in learning more about it, so I’ll be sure to update you all about any new findings.

The Neighborhood Watch

In the past two months, our Ayi has begun to take Leo outside to play during her shifts. Before that, we were a little too worried about him being outside without one of us. But now that he’s a big bad 18 month old 🙂 – we figure he can handle it and our nanny has proven herself capable of caring for him mostly according to our liking. She still puts multiple layers of clothing on him (sometimes he’s a little too warm when I get home, and I have to strip a layer or two off), and every once in a while she sneaks in a few contraband crackers/sweets, but for the most part, she honors our standards. We joke that she is like his Chinese grandma, and she feels that way too. After 10 months of caring for him, the two of them are peas in a pod in some ways.

A few days after I agreed to let her take Leo out during her shifts, I was doing some shopping at the vegetable market down our street. As usual, the neighbors were all gathered on the street, chatting and joking around. Two ladies and a security guard began playing with Leo, and soon another little boy about his age was in on the action. As they were all having a good time laughing at the little ones trying to climb onto a few stools they had set out, I began chatting with a couple of neighborhood ladies. They instantly began to tell me how things were going with Leo and our nanny. The ladies gave me a full report on their activities outside – how long they were out, what they did, where they went, and who they talked to and played with. I gladly received this information, because although I knew that it was good for Leo to get out of the house with Ayi, it still makes me nervous, even now. I had reiterated a list of rules for her (don’t let other people kiss him, take him out of your sight, or feed him anything, and watch him like a hawk, because he moves fast and the streets are narrow), but all rules aside, it was new territory for me as a mother to have Leo outside in China without a parent. I apparently had nothing to worry about though, because everyone in our neighborhood knows Leo and they were keeping an eye on him just as our ayi was. The report was mostly positive; the ladies’ only exception was that they felt Leo was out a bit too long for his own good.

One of the ladies then asked me, “Does your ayi have culture?” This took me a few seconds to digest, and I truly wasn’t sure how to respond. I sort of knew the answer was no, but I didn’t have any intention of belittling our ayi. I wasn’t sure if I said yes, was I going to look silly? If I said no, was I going to be speaking unkindly? This is one of the challenges of language, the uncertainty of the nuances and meanings of certain words in certain circumstances. I didn’t have to worry about how to answer for long though, because the other lady piped in, “Certainly she does not have culture; she’s from the countryside.” So I surmised that culture meant being from the city and having some education. They didn’t approve of this either, but I assured them that she was very warm and loved Leo very much, and it didn’t matter to us that she was from the countryside. They seemed to accept this. In some ways, being a foreigner is easier than being a local because we can get away with not conforming to certain social standards because we are outsiders. So if I think it’s okay to have an uncultured nanny for my son, then people are for the most part accepting of that and chalk it up to me being a foreigner, even if they think it’s wrong.

Speaking of the language, Leo is starting to sound more and more Chinese as the days pass. We are starting to be more intentional about speaking English with him, as his Chinese is arguably better than his English at the moment. I come home from work to find Leo saying, “Dui!” (Yes or Correct) and “Diaole!” (It fell!) and “Baobao” (Pick me up!). His language is a bit behind his peers, but his comprehension is not. Which, from all reports we’ve heard of children raised in bilingual settings, this language lag is pretty normal and he should catch up as the Chinese and English sort themselves out in his mind. The funniest part is that recently, I’ve had people begin to ask me (when just the two of us are out together) if his Dad is Chinese. People even debate about which of his facial characteristics come from his father (who must be Chinese). Last time I checked, JM was most certainly European American, and I do explain this to dubious strangers on busses and in stores. I really think that the people of China just want to claim Leo as their own, and who can blame them? He’s a pretty cute kid!

A Trip to Nanjing Children’s Hospital

Where to begin? Leo got sick about a week ago, and after a few days of fever, throwing up, and other such symptoms, we were concerned over the weekend that he might really need to see a doctor in person. All along, we’d been receiving excellent advice from Liz’s father, who is a retired doctor. However, on Saturday afternoon we couldn’t call home and wanted to make sure he was okay. So we headed to the Nanjing Children’s Hospital.

Upon arrival, we made the mistake of entering via the emergency department, and our first impression was that of a war zone. Gurneys, IVs, sick and bloody children were everywhere, in the midst of a dirty, smoke-filled atmosphere. Right next to the emergency room, a loud open construction zone completed the picture. Luckily, this was not our department, but it did foreshadow the rest of our experience.

The nurse at the registration desk told us that no one could see us because it was Saturday, and all the specialists were on break. We would have to come back tomorrow. We left, incredulous, and began to walk toward the University Hospital to see if we could get care there. On the way, we thankfully ran into our good friend Robin, who dropped her plans to accompany us. We finally made our way back to the Children’s Hospital, knowing that the original nurse must have been wrong. China must have pediatricians at the Children’s Hospital over the weekend to see sick children, right? We never did find out why we were turned away the first time.

It would take a novel to truly describe our experience, but we’ll give you highlights. After paying the registration fee (all fees are paid upfront, before care is received), we walked up to our assigned doctor’s office. We had paid an extra few kuai to see the head doctor, thinking he’d be great. He was almost indifferent to us, barely allowing us to tell him our son’s symptoms. He demanded that we lie our son down on the examining table, and without further ado, took off his diaper and did a rectal exam with no lubricant. We were horrified (as was Leo, poor little guy) and had no idea why that was his first move. At least he wore a glove. How about looking at his throat, his ears, feeling his tummy? No, he said, we’d have to see a different doctor for that. He ordered blood tests, and a stomach ultrasound, and we were on our way without much conversation.

China is not a country that places a great deal of value on privacy, and nowhere was this fact more apparent to us than at the hospital. It is also a place where people must intensely compete for resources, so mothers and fathers were extremely aggressive at the hospital to see the doctor first or get into a testing area first to get care for their child. For us, this translated into a lot of very pushy people (all holding sick, contagious children way too close for our comfort). Of course, there were people who still, in spite of all the germs flying around the hospital, wanted to touch and fawn over Leo, the cute foreign baby. We always try to be gracious and open because people are friendly and generally well meaning, but on Saturday, Liz acted as a defensive lineman and threw lots of elbows to keep everyone’s hands off of her son. JM acted as quarterback and coach, keeping Liz calm and directing our moves through the maze of testing areas. Thank goodness for Robin, who helped us communicate quickly. We’re not so sure we could have navigated such a crazy place by ourselves – Robin was truly a lifesaver that day.

Hygiene was definitely not up to our hyper-clean American standards. They do not change the paper on the examining tables here after each patient – in fact, there’s no paper. So after a hacking 2-month old was done with her ultrasound, the technician asked us to lay Leo down on her pile of germs. We used our baby blanket as a buffer, and got our hand sanitizer out to use afterward. They did use a new needle for the blood test, but the techs and doctors didn’t wear gloves or wash their hands between patients.

We finally saw the second doctor. After looking at his throat without a light, he confidently stated, “He has a cold.” We marveled at this, since all along he’s had no cough, runny nose, or congestion. Now, mind you, we do not think Chinese doctors are stupid, but this is something we continue to try to understand. How on earth did the doctor think Leo had a cold? We may never know.

At the end of our visit, the original doctor stopped by the new doctor’s office, took one look at his blood test results, and proclaimed that Leo ought to stay in the hospital overnight for observation. Of course, this prompted our alarm and we asked why. He said since Leo’s white blood cell count was low, and since he had a fever and was throwing up, (which he no longer had those symptoms, and we’d already told the doctor as much) he was in some danger. We told him that we did not plan to allow him to stay overnight, and would observe him closely at home. He disinterestedly said ok, and left. We were glad he was gone! The second doctor was about ten times more cordial and communicative, and just told us to come back at the first sign of regression.

We were so happy to get out of there! After all that, Leo made great progress all by himself over the next couple of days, and now seems back to normal. Liz’s Dad was interested to hear of our experience, and gave us some good advice over the phone that night. It makes us extremely grateful for the system in place in America, and we hope we never have to go to the hospital here again!

Interestingly, we asked our friend Robin if she thought that was a crazy experience, and she said it wasn’t and seemed pretty standard to her. She also thought the first doctor was pretty normal as well, not really all that friendly perhaps, but not bad. Perspective, it seems, is everything!

A walk down our street

Please take a look over at our picture blog to take a little walking tour of our street here in Nanjing.

Rain rain go away

Ok, so it’s not quite monsoons we’re dealing with here, but we had heard about the periodic rainy season hitting Nanjing every June.  It’s true.  Nanjing has entered a period of 3-plus weeks of cloudy skies and off and on rain showers, making daily life a little wet at times.  Sometimes we’ll come home from a jog having been drenched along the way, and will have to air out soggy sneakers for the next few days.

Nanjing is supposed to be one of China’s ‘oven cities.’  So far so good- it feels pretty muggy during these rainy days, but it’s not a sauna.  Come July and August we’re expecting the 100+ degrees days.  JM thinks it should be no problem compared to years spent in Texas.  Time will tell..

Leo is continuing to grow up fast!  We’re amazed at all the new things he brings himself to do.  But why does he seem to find electrical outlets, garbage cans and the toilet to be the most interesting things to play with?  Maybe those are the basic necessities in a man’s life, and Leo has already clued in.  🙂

His name is Neo

Last Friday, Cheng Ayi’s 5th full day working with us, the three of us (Leo, Cheng Ayi, and I) were sitting around our dining room table. Cheng Ayi and I were trying to coax Leo to eat a few more bites of lunch, and I was telling Leo in Chinese to open his mouth. Cheng Ayi looked at me, hearing me call Leo by name, and asked me, “What’s his name?” It seems it’s just as hard for Chinese people to remember Western names as it is for us to remember Chinese names!

I responded, “His name is Leo.” I said, “It sounds just like the number 6.” Which it does – six in Chinese is “liu” – which sounds roughly the same as Leo. Her eyes widened in recognition and she exclaimed, “Neo!”

I had forgotten one important thing – Nanjing people switch their L sounds for N sounds!

I had to bite my tongue from laughing as images of Keanu Reeves from The Matrix began to run through my head.

So, according to Cheng Ayi, his name is Neo. She’s been walking around the house with him, singing songs to “Neo, Neo, Neo!”

Both JM and I have Chinese names, which really are necessary here. Most people will not remember our English names. Even on our formal documents, like cell phone contracts, leases, etc – we sign our Chinese names. It seems it is now a good time to pick a Chinese name for Leo.

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