Hopefully over the next two years I'll be sharing some amazing stories and photos, from what I know is going to be a life-changing experience.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Why is everything so complicated?!

I'm beginning to realize that my adventures in China are not really of the adventureous kind, but more of the every day problems that arise from being in China and not speaking Mandarin.

Some advice for anyone coming here for a lengthy period of time - bring a full supply of any medications that are important to your well-being! Even if people tell you that you can get it here, and it seems like the cheaper option because the BC pharmacare plan won't pay for more than 3 months worth of anything. Because that's the advice I followed, which turned out to be a very bad idea. I brought my 3 months supply, a prescription from a Canadian doctor, and I thought all I would have to do is get a Chinese doctor to write the same Rx, and off to the pharmacy I would go.

Warning!  Epic babbling to follow!  Feel free to skim read :)
It all started last Monday....
First problem of the day - the hospital was NOT where google maps said this particular address could be found. I thought I was so prepared, having looked up which hospitals do direct-billing for my health plan, and then finding the one closest to my house. Luckily I was paying attention and realized that the address numbers were going in the wrong direction, so turned around and went the other way. Eventually found the hospital, which is a block away from school. Once there, though, I couldn't find the Foreigner's Wing on the first floor (even with the signs in English) so I went over to the school because I knew some of our Chinese speaking admin staff would be there. I had one call for me, to get directions on how to get to the wing from the main entrance. They wouldn't see me because "nothing was wrong" and because I didn't speak Mandarin or have a translator to come with me. So much for English service at the Foreigner's Wing!
Looked up the list of hospital options and started calling...found one with someone who ACTUALLY spoke English, who even personally met me in the main entrance.
Second problem of the day - the hospital doesn't carry the medication I'm on. So the lady took me to see the 'neurologist' who prescribed me something different. I had a friend do some research for me about switching, because my internet was being slow.
Third problem of the day - the new medication is definitely not a replacement for what I'm on, and withdrawal symptoms include minor things like headache and loss of appetite, all the way to experiencing "brain shocks" which apparently feel like lightning striking behind the eyes. So glad that I (well, Sarah) could find this info, but the neurologist had no idea.

I realized that I should have gone earlier to avoid this possible running out, then decided not to beat myself up too much, because I would have had to go at Christmas time, since the english service centres have pretty much the exact same hours as my school day.

Where it's at now - I found an online international pharmacy where I can get what I need, for a reasonable price. I emailed the health plan office to find out if it's covered. They wanted me to use a pharmacy in Shanghai, however, since the one I found is half the price, they're considering accepting the one I found. Now I just need to get a copy of my Rx. to the pharmacy, and a copy of my diagnosis to the health plan people for their approval process.

Fourth problem - the pharmacy has a toll-free number, which is so kind, except faxes from my school doesn't seem to go to toll-free numbers. So I'm trying to get my doctor to fax it (which I'm not sure if it will work because they don't have any proof that I haven't filled the one they gave me) while still waiting for the pharmacy to email me back with a non-toll-free number to use myself.

Moral of the story - don't count on China having what you need or it being easy to get.

So that's my latest adventure. I'm a bit sad that it's not a real, out in the jungle, do something you've never done before kind of adventure. But I guess it will be if I ever start having those brain shocks.

Other things that are annoying me right now:
-Buying a birthday card only to find out that it didn't come with an envelope (it's in plastic wrap so I thought it was all together) - now to figure out enough Chinese words to communicate that to the store clerk!
(Sorry Sarah, you will get a 22 years plus x days card)

-being unable to find blank cards and postcards...anywhere...what kind of tourist town is this?

-forgetting my user name for online banking and the retrieval page refusing to show me the verification code thingy (although that's completely my fault)

-doing laundry by hand because the hose connecting the faucet to the washer is frozen solid (especially after asking about this specifically before I signed the lease!)

-everything being closed for almost 3 weeks, including the place that makes some of the best pizza ever (Ok, ok, so they deserve to go on vacation too)  I'm also assuming this includes the post office.  Why oh why did my box from Canada have to arrive just in time for Spring Festival!

And to end on a positive note - it seems to be actually turning into spring!


  1. Wow, Sara. I love how you included a positive thought at the end - one line, but still! I can completely understand. Sometimes I find it so hard to think of a positive thought about my situation when I get really overwhelmed. But after reading all that, the Yukon isn't seeming so bad. Still Canada, afterall. I was thinking how funny it would be if we swapped places - you living in a busy foreign city and me living in the middle of the woods and traveling out to towns of 500 people. Now that would be a shock! Anyways, you can do it! Think of how strong of a person this experience is making you. That's what I always tell myself anyways :)

  2. I miss you girls!! Hang in there, you're both having epic adventures even if it might not seem like it! :)