Friday, November 14, 2008

When Chinese Root Canals Crash

I have no doubt that every one of you has experienced the challenge of returning to your “real life” after a long and exquisite vacation. Well, I recently returned to my life that is not exactly real at the moment because I live in China. There was nothing fictional about the amazing month I had just spent traveling in Southeast Asia with my boyfriend, but as all good things must end, he boarded a plane and left me here to plow forward with my life in Suzhou, China.

I made the unfortunate decision the day after he left to try a new and interesting fruit that somewhat resembled a mango. Much to my dismay, I discovered that it was in fact a tiny mango, which I am reluctantly allergic to. Maybe I subconsciously hoped I had grown out of my allergy, or perhaps in missing my boyfriend I absentmindedly consumed it. Either way, I awoke the next day with swollen, itchy, and bumpy lips. The allergy hung on for quite a few days, but as the swelling lessened I noticed my right eye feeling irritated and swollen…yep, somehow the allergy spread. I waited patiently for the allergic reaction to subside. Eventually my lips felt pretty much back to normal and my eye stopped itching.

This all happened just in time for my teeth to start surging in pain all night and sometimes into the day. The right side of my mouth had started waking me with pain when my boyfriend and I were in Laos, but I decided not to explore my dental options in such an underdeveloped country. I toughed out the screaming throb in my mouth by taking painkillers, listening to headphones at night, and simply getting too drunk to notice (ah, the beauty of being on vacation). Now back in China and with my first week of teaching under my belt my teeth thought it was time to torture me until I succumbed to a Chinese dental visit. I saw Jane for the first time, and she quickly determined that a root canal was in order. Not interested in another sleepless night I quickly grabbed an appointment for the following day at 5:00 when I finished teaching. The next day as I was standing before thirty Chinese students lecturing about business trade agreements, “ROOT CANAL” kept flashing across my mind. Yes, I was a bit nervous. Regardless of my good friend Miriam’s rave reviews of Jane’s work, I am never excited to have dental work done abroad.

Despite my fears, I bravely rode my electric bike to her office at 4:30 and settled in for a big shot of novocain…that never came. She was very informative about what was going to happen, and explained that 80% of the nerve had died, so I would not feel a thing. I only felt a few yanks and that was it! Overwhelmingly pleased I happily handed her the 380RMB ($48USD) and went on my way.

As I was poking along on my bike thinking about how great my evening yoga class was going to feel after a stressful day, I noticed a car pulling out a few yards ahead of me. As the gap for me to pass became smaller and smaller I began to blow my very loud horn. The closer I got the more I realize that I was not going to fit in the shrinking space between the car and the curb. I crashed rather hard into the old black Toyota. As I lay on the ground, my body jackknifed across the cement curb, the driver came hesitantly over. When I turned to look up at him, shock exploded across his face when he realized that I was a foreigner. I spewed a few words of anger at the driver and upon his lack of reaction I realized that he didn’t know any English. Someone fetched a waiter from the nearby restaurant that knew some English. The waiter informed me that the driver knew he was wrong and he wanted to give me some money and that the police were on their way. As a non-Chinese speaking foreigner, I knew that once the police got there I was going to get screwed, laughed at, and taken advantage of. So I called my Chinese friend, Mary, who frequently saves me when I get into a pickle. No answer. Next I phoned my surrogate father here in China, Ed. Ed and his wife Amy had moved to China from my hometown in Ohio just a few months before I did. Lucky for me, he was only two minutes away and offered to come and help. He arrived with Lu, his Chinese driver, and Lu took matters into his own hands.

As foreigners standing around with multiple Chinese people and the police, we attracted quite an audience. The most amusing onlookers were the group of about eight street cleaners that decided to stop and surround us, poking their little noses into our affair. I felt like a nucleus surrounded by them in their matching yellow and orange cleaning suits. By this time the sun had gone down and we were all freezing. I was shaking from stress and the onslaught of shock this day has brought me. We offered to settle for 100RMB ($12USD), and a phone number in case my bike started acting up from damages.

Eventually the police left, after accomplishing next to nothing, and we were left in the cold to wait for the driver’s insurance people. Ed and I waited in the heated car while Lu stayed and chatted with the driver. Finally the insurance man showed up, and after taking far too many pictures of my bike and the car, we settled on 450RMB ($57USD). Then Lu took the 450RMB ($57USD) from the driver and handed me 400RMB ($50USD), keeping 50RMB ($7USD) for cigarettes and some governmental thing. I knew better then to ask questions. After about two hours of standing in the cold surrounded by ranting Chinese people I was ready to just go home. My courage wrestled my fear to the ground and I mounted my valiant steed once again. As I rode home dreaming about a long hot shower, I burst out laughing when I realized that the driver had just paid for my root canal and left me with some change!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Now I am Spoiled

Jury duty is the hugest load of North American hooey I have ever experienced! The whole thing is totally disorganized, and incredibly inefficient. I suppose I am spoiled after working on the largest and most organized political campaign in history. President-elect Barack Obama raised record amounts of funds using the internet, and mobilized millions of people worldwide. Somehow he still managed to be so connected that he was on the phone with an assaulted canvasser less then an hour after the attack. Every second of my time on the campaign was utilized to its fullest by knocking on doors, calling people, training future canvassers, organizing literature, or researching the candidates. Now I am stuck in the dark ages surrounded by my fellow citizens twiddling our thumbs waiting for a case that will probably never come.

The thing that irritates me the most about jury duty is how you are summoned. When voters told me they did not want to vote because they didn’t want to get dragged into jury duty I laughed, thought they were superstitious, or lazy. Well the past three days have proven me wrong. This heinous process drags me out of bed in the dark, and I stumble through the cold onto the bus to arrive just in time to sit in a room for seven hours doing nothing to assist the legal system. I suppose I actually responded to my summons out of some subconscious guilt for abandoning my country for the past three years. I also wanted to get a sneak peek into my sister’s future life as a lawyer. However, I have been here for three days, and 21 hours and never even seen the inside of a courtroom.

The closest I came to actually experiencing our genius judicial system was seeing a real live judge. On my second day in ‘The Room’ they informed us that our names were chosen at random to be on a panel, so I sat back and waited for fate to choose me. It did! About twenty minutes later they announced my name mashed among seventeen others. We gathered, they took us up in the special blue elevators with an escort, and they put us in another room with a big long dark wooden table. The table demanded importance, and decisiveness, and for the first time I felt like I was in a lawyer movie. One of those movies where the naive jury sits around one of those tables and unknowingly decides the fate of the planet. All eighteen of us were in good spirits and the loudmouth woman with a cane took it upon herself to make a big pot of coffee. After almost an hour the judge came in wearing her long black robe and told us the lawyers were on their way. Apparently they were waiting in line for the elevator! Really, they had to wait an hour to take an elevator…that was the best this courthouse could do? The judge returned about twenty minutes later to let us know they lawyers had just stepped off the elevator. The judge’s final visit was to inform us that they were going to throw the case out, “sorry for wasting your time” she said. With that I was thrown back into the waiting pool to drown. I am marinating with a bunch of strangers right now.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From The Horse's Mouth: Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008

Rosa sat so Martin could walk, Martin walked so Barack could run, and Barack is president so ALL our children can fly.
Thank you for joining me on this historic journey.
There will be more adventures soon...

Monday, November 3, 2008

From The Horse's Mouth: Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008

"Obama wants to kill our unborn children! He wants to give abortions out like candy! Jesus does not want us killing babies! And what would happen to our population? There would be no people left! I am voting for McCain!"

I explained a few fundamental facts about the global population, and the difference between being pro-choice and pro-abortion. Then we chatted about the escalating price of gas, a gallon of milk, and our everyday needs. After I had screwed her head on straight I asked, "So do you still plan to vote for John McCain?"

"No because I can't afford a gallon of milk, gas, bread, or health care these days."

- Jade - 46 -