I'm sure you're not interested in my health, but I've been troubled for the past couple of months by the remnants of a cold, remnants that consist of what I took to be a minor infection on my chest. My nights have been troubled by a cough, and my days by the unpleasantness of slightly congested sinuses. I don't like to use the word "phlegm" because it's disgusting. Anyway, a few days ago I eventually got fed up with it, and decided to go see a doctor. We have a clinic on campus, which is good for minor ailments, but my friend Zhang Yan told me she thought they weren't up to potentially life-threatening pulmonary diseases unless I wanted to get one (she has a sense of humour) and offered to accompany me to the big hospital downtown where, she said, a friend of hers is a doctor. Friends are very important here: they're often another way of saying "shortcut".
Zhong Da Wu Yuan, (No.5 Hospital), Zhuhai I should mention, in case you're wondering, that while Chinese hospitals and dentists can look more life-threatening than any disease or problem you might actually have, the opposite is the case, although I also have to say that the only photograph I've been able to find of this particular hospital does make it look pretty unappetizing. But I've had minor medical treatment in China and it's been fine, and I've also had extensive and highly effective (and painless) dental work at a fraction of the cost of similar treatment in England. I have no complaints at all, only praise. The dental adventures also came with the added amusement of people wandering in off the street to have a look around. One old guy came in and after taking a look inside my mouth sat down next to me and read his newspaper. He gave me the impression he thought I was in his chair. I don't have a photo of that particular dentist's, but the picture here gives you some idea: it's on the street, and very open to anyone who fancies wandering in. There's none of that hygiene nonsense…..
But back to the hospital. This being China, and the doctor being Zhang Yan's friend, there was no question of going to out-patients' and waiting around for hours. Oh no. We went straight into in-patients', up to the doctors' room where a dozen or so doctors were sat around chatting – it was their lounge, I think – and I was examined in there. From behind his surgical mask the doctor said I had no serious problem, but he sent me for an x-ray anyway, presumably to check everything was where it should be.
We were told we'd need to wait for an hour while the photos were developed. Waiting at the same time were three policemen keeping company with someone who I think it'd accurate to describe as a criminal prisoner. One could tell he was that because he was shackled hand and foot like those guys you see in the movies shuffling towards somewhere dismal. He was wearing just a t-shirt, shorts and sandals, this being August in the tropics, and the "quaint" part was that he had newspaper stuffed down inside the shackles that were around his ankles to stop them from chafing his bare skin. I was tempted to take a photo, but I reminded myself of where I was (China) and thought better of it. Thinking about it later, it occurred to me that this being China also meant that there was probably a quite good chance that if I'd asked to take a photo they'd have let me. We'd have probably had a group picture with everyone too, me and convict guy included, all smiling happily. But I think playing it safe was the best option; I don't like to push my luck too far.
The x-rays were delayed beyond the promised hour, and so we went back to doctor friend and told him we had somewhere we needed to be and it wasn't a hospital; he dropped everything and went to the radiology department in person and got the pictures. China mostly works on this system: unfairness, and cutting corners if you've got the power to do so. It turned out everything in my chest was where it should be, and we proceeded to jump another couple of queues to get my medication quickly and, thank you for asking, I seem to be a lot better. The photographs of my lungs are on public display in my bathroom. I suppose that's not that public, but you're welcome to drop in and inspect them, should you be passing by. if you're not in the area I'm including them here, and claim to be the only poet on this site to show you some of their inner workings.