Maria Holland

Insomnia, Self-Loathing, And A Brush With Death

In Uncategorized on March 6, 2010 at 12:11 am

Last night was truly miserable.  I had a hacking, painful cough and couldn’t sleep.  I know lots of people have trouble sleeping, but I am Maria Holland and I am not troubled by your petty insomnia!  I sleep like a champion.  Except for last night . . . I wasted time on the internet until 3 a.m., at which my exhaustion overcame my uncomfortable throat. 

I still dragged myself, crusty and hoarse, to my 8 a.m. class.  Class starting times here at XiaDa are an example of what happens in the absence of discipline.  A few people are late one day so the teacher delays the start of class; when they get there and see that they didn’t miss anything, they realize they have no need to come on time; other students who had come on time see the same thing and adjust accordingly.  The ‘new’ start time is established briefly, perhaps 5 or 10 minutes later, until the entire cycle repeats itself.  One week into class, it took 15 minutes before we had a quorum and could start.

I went straight back to bed after class and woke up feeling much better around 1.  I had to head over to the hospital because Lester had called saying the doctor was looking for me.  I was somewhat flattered that they knew my name and were asking for my assistance, but figured they were probably needed me to watch his IV or something.

Um, no.  They needed me to translate for him, asking his permission to do a specialized CT scan to get a better view of his problem organs.  The catch is, they had to inject him with some medicine that can, in rare cases, cause allergic reactions that can lead to shock and death. 

Gulp.  After two repetitions, I was pretty sure that I understood what they were saying, so I went back and relayed it to Lester.  He’s a little overwhelmed (more on that in a moment) but he pretty quickly said that if it will help them understand what’s going on, that he was okay with it.  When I went  back to the doctor’s office with his answer only a few minutes later, they were surprised that he had agreed so quickly.  It was about this time that I wondered if, while I had transmitted the correct words, perhaps some connotation weren’t lost by having an intermediary do the talking. 

It was really nerve-wracking, being partially responsible for this potentially very important issue.  I actually had to sign a paper – on the line marked “Family member”, which apparently I have become?  It was about this time I realized how devastatingly alone we overseas students are; yes, we’re surrounded by friends but there is a complete lack of authority figures who take responsibility for us.  The people at the OEC office know that one of their students is sick and will be in the hospital for at least two weeks, and have shown no interest in assisting in any way besides handling receipts once he gets out.  If I were to get sick, who would I trust?  Who would my doctor consult with?  Who would sign off on necessary procedures?  There is no one; there is only Skype. 

Then I sat in the viewing room while he was getting injected with the risky medicine, and prayed.  He survived.  He’s been expressing gratitude for my help this past week, but today I was grateful that he didn’t die on my watch. 

As I said, I think he’s been feeling overwhelmed by this whole experience.  Honestly, who wouldn’t?  He has now spent 7 days in the hospital – many of them in pain, most without eating or drinking, almost continually hooked up to an IV, and almost constantly bored.  He has watched his hospital bills come in each day – up to 3,500 yuan ($500) yesterday – which he must pay in cash before getting reimbursed at some unknown date.  He got sick in this limbo period between semesters, so he’s having to deal with insurance, residence permits, and classes by proxy.  He has struggled to communicate his most basic needs and has been unable to understand the answers to any of his most important questions. 

Especially after today, I’ve also been a little overwhelmed with the experience.  Before now, it had mainly been an issue of the quantity of things to do – I had errands to run for him, but also wanted to spend time with him in the hospital to help alleviate the boredom.  Today it was a matter of quality.  I had only one task, but it was an important one – to facilitate an informed decision on this test.  At what point in my life did I become qualified for that? 

After I left the hospital, I went pants shopping.  I was really hoping to avoid it during my time in China, but my favorite pair of jeans is literally falling apart.  There are runs around my knees and I’m afraid that one day I’ll pull the wrong thread and end up naked.  I resigned myself to spending ‘real money’ (as in, spending the equivalent amount of money that I would probably spend in America on the same thing) to get a suitable replacement pair.

This is easier said than done.  The largest pants size sold by Meters/Bonwe, my favorite shop here, is a 30 that I can’t get in to.  This is not to say that I haven’t tried . . . repeatedly.  I have come to dread the feeling of the pants feeling too tight around the first thigh as I put them on, knowing that there’s no way I’ll be able to fasten them (or, to be realistic, get them over my hips).  But I always try.

There is nothing like pants shopping in China to bring out some self-loathing in me.  I’m pretty okay with my body but after a few minutes in a store here, I feel ready to surgically remove some of my stomach with the nearest sharp object.  (Same with shoes, but I already hate my feet.)  It’s so humiliating to enter a store and ask for “the largest size” and then, after they ask you which size you wear, to repeat that you “definitely want the largest size they have”.  And it’s even worse to emerge from the dressing room, having failed to squeeze into the largest pair of pants in their entire store.  Everything’s so cheap and a lot of it’s cute, but it’s like being in a museum where you can look but you can’t touch or take anything home with you.  Just for reference, I wear somewhere between a 10 and 14 in pants in America (and my feet are around size 10 1/2).

I ended up finding a decent pair of pants at store in the McDonald’s building.  They were also size 30, but the saleslady kindly told me that they were a “big” 30.  At least the experience ended well.  And, even more important – it’s over!

Back in my room, I finished up some necessary reorganizing I’ve been doing the last few days.  Part of that entailed throwing some things away, which I hate.  It’s not that I didn’t want to part with the things, it’s that I hate throwing things away.  I use a lot of paper (because we don’t do engineering e-homework or Chinese character e-practice), but back home I recycle like a fiend.  I also keep bags of unwanted clothing and take it to Goodwill after it piles up.  Here, the correct place for all those things is the trash.  Apparently, people go through the trash later and remove the useful bits from it, but knowing this half reassures me and half makes me sad.  Maybe a manual sorting is more efficient than a voluntary recycling program, but doesn’t the quality go down when things are removed from a pile of used toilet paper and rotted food?  I put the leggings I didn’t want into a bag and made a wish that they, like Moses in his little basket, will be found and loved by someone.  Same with the paper . .  .

Random note of the day – While renewing my National Merit Scholarship for my return to TU next year, I happened upon a list of National Merit Scholars you may know.  From Bill Gates, Chief Justice John Roberts, Ben Bernake, the CEO of Amazon, our ambassador to the UN, M. Night Shyamalan, and Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s . . . to Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series.  Who knew?  I found it especially humorous because I just read this (which is slightly inappropriate but really hilarious).

  1. Sounds horrible the being partily responsible for Lester getting some dubious Chinese injection. It doesn’t really suprise me that the oec shows so little concern, although it would have been nice from them if they at least took a look in the hospital. Does he have access to internet btw?

    Good luck!

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