I’m not sure what’s wrong with me but sometimes when I’m put in front of anything to do with official government processes I tend to cramp up.
This week in Shanghai, while we were mostly here for house hunting, we were also required to open an account at a local Chinese bank and get a government required “Healthy Checkup” in order to complete our visa application.
I cramped up yesterday at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Allow me to set the scene. It was not in a typical branch setting. This process took place in a small, crowded, unorganized office on the 29th floor of a high rise. There were 4 total employees but only one working with accounts and he was not happy. He sat in a cube with paperwork stacked all around and did not appear to enjoy his job. As I sat in front of him with a form that had to be interpreted by our NIKE provided guide, Jessie. Jessie is a Chinese national. Most Chinese nationals who work with American companies, pick an American name to use when working. As Jessie helped read the Chinese characters on the form I could feel a bit of sweat forming on my brow and running down the small of my back.
The bank clerk never looked at me once as he began to input my completed document into the computer. He suddenly stopped, made a phone call, checked my passport again and handed me a new form stating “passport number wrong.” I had transposed two numbers. He crumpled up the old form and threw it under his desk. I wanted to ask about shredding or confidential recycling but it just didn’t feel like the timing was right. Now sweat is forming on my shins. Yes, my shins, I was nervous. I completed the new form and handed it back. This time, I had put my passport number in the box where birthdate was supposed to go. He handed my another form and stared into his computer screen waiting for me to get it right. When he finally got through the 3rd form, he aggressively added an “A” to my “U.S.” I had put down under citizenship and stamped it with some sort of red ink. He handed me my new ICBC debit card and waved me away.
I crawled out of that office and have familiarized myself with a nearby ATM machine for future use.
I recovered okay from the bank just in time to go to the Government Medical Offices of Shanghai. This is a compound with several buildings placed behind a cinderblock wall, where no civilian vehicles are allowed beyond the guarded gates. All foreigners coming into China on a work visa and any Chinese national planning to leave China for an extended amount of time are required to get a “healthy check” as part of the application process. This is the only processing facility in all of Shanghai so it’s busy and crowded.
Greg and I were led into the first building where crowds of people were filling out forms and waiting for their number to be called. Again, Jessie took control. We found out that only Greg was registered in that building so we would need to split up. Sweat began to form on my brow. Jessie helped Greg through the form, registered him for his “exam.” As Greg was led off into a back room, Jessie took me to another building.
We stood in line in building 3 for 15 mins only to be told we needed to go to the next floor. On the 2nd floor as we waited inline again Jessie and I made small talk. I shared with her that in the U.S. this was much like the DMV. I also shared that some Americans would lose it if told to go to a 3rd line after waiting and being told to move to different buildings and different floors. After I explained to Jessie what “lose it” meant she very nicely said “Don’t do that in China.”
Once your number is called the “healthy check” begins. You are told to go into room 104 where you are handed a robe and a key, sent into a room to change and lock your belongings into a locker.
Your height and weight are recorded and you’re sent on your way being told to follow the yellow arrows placed on the floor to room 105.
Room 105 is where you will have an X-ray taken of your chest. An X-ray from a machine that was most likely invented sometime in the ’40s. After the radiation room, you are sent to room 106 where you are asked to lay down on a table. A clamp is attached to both wrists and one to your right ankle. Before the patches were attached to my chest, I asked “what are we doing here?” to which I was given the answer “EKG.” Okay.
A older women with thick glasses that had darken lenses demanded I come into room 107 and sit down. She was going to give me my eye exam. She pointed to four pictures that were taped to the table – a test for color blindness. I was asked to read the numbers that were somewhat hidden within pictures. When I state “668” she strongly stated “NO.” So I tried again. “868?” I guess it was correct because she just waved me on and said “next”.
Room 108 was the ultrasound. When I asked “what are we looking for?” The very young nurse stated, liver and kidney. I guess I have both because I was quickly sent on to room 109.
Room 109 was with a very bossy, older nurse who motioned me to sit and hooked me up to a blood pressure sleeve. I had crossed my legs when I sat down. She swatted my leg to get me to uncross them and told me to stare straight ahead and relax. I giggled out loud at the irony of her actions and request. When she finished she said “normal.” I stated “Excellent.” She had no time for my commentary.
I was then sent to room 111 – not sure what happens in room 110 but I wasn’t looking for any additional testing. Room 111 was where they drew blood. At this point, I’m chanting “square melons, square melons, square melons” in my head and imagining I was at the Portland Clinic for a simple physical.
When I finished, Greg was waiting for me in what look liked the Cedar Hills DMV, design inspired waiting room of building 3. He looked at me with the “remind me why you wanted to take a job in China” look.
That was a lot of “touching” for you today! You need a drink!
When did you leave???!!!!
Janett – I’m back on Saturday. Home for a week and move over September 4, just after Labor Day.
OK, now I am sweating. It’s a good thing you have a guide. I hope the rest is easier for you!
This is hysterical. Having been in China (with small children) I sympathize with you. Fortunately, I did not have to go through the “physical”. Not sure if I could have passed with my attitude.
Thank goodness you had Jessie with you!! I can totally relate to the sweating. I am loving your stories. You mentioned that you were in Shanghai for house hunting. Does that mean you will be back in the States (US…A) for a while? Just how does this work> I am so curious! Lani
Thanks, Rosemary, for keeping us updated this way. Love your writing and wit! -Debbi
Rosemary, your writing rocks! Really. Am enjoying every post. By the time you leave China, this will be a new book…or screenplay. I can just see the Chinese physicals scene…
See you soon!
Yikes, I guess you guys are getting a real birds eye view of a new environment! Take care.
hahaha! I couldn’t get an appointment in Shanghai in time for the VISA, and so I had to go in Beijing while at an offsite (Solo trip, except the Hotel car driver). He got lost somewhere on the outer 4th ring of the City, but managed to get me there on time where I followed “the herd” of young Chinese people carrying similar looking paperwork. A young woman who spoke English saw me staring at the directions in Chinese and kindly offered to guide me to through the process to the counter.
I instagrammed the entire health check visit……distracting myself by how terrified I might’ve actually been by coming up with hilarious #hashtags.