The shot

It may be difficult to get an inoculation against the H1N1 flu in the USA, but here, deep in the bosom of China Inc., I get one whether I want it or not. Earlier this week a translator at my school hands me a paper, tells me to fill it out, and then informs me that on Friday I, along with other teachers, will be taken on a bus to a hospital to get the shot. Oh, well. I haven't the will to resist, and in any event, figure that since I'm getting on in years having a "flu jab" as one of my Brit aunties calls it, is probably a good idea.

So I show up as required at 1:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon (right in the middle of my naptime) to await the bus to take me/us to the hospital. No bus, and Linda the office manager is getting increasingly worried and then finally announces that we'll take public transit to the hospital. I go along with it and after a boring bus ride through the least interesting parts of Luoyang (industrial parks) we arrive at a shabby looking facility that I normally would never enter, certainly not for medical care.

But following obediently--who needs a long life, anyhow?--I walk with my colleagues through a dimly lit hall with the stink of feces emanating from its crumbling walls. Thankfully, we emerge into the light and then back into a fresher smelling but badly lit facility, where we wait and we wait and we wait.

After various administrative formalities we're lined up for the shot. I note that one of the medical attendants has touched her hair and the wastebasket before processing us with hands that have been neither washed nor gloved. I mutter to the woman who's interpreting for me, Candy, that if I'm not inoculated by someone who's washed her hands, who's wearing fresh gloves, using a new syringe and taking the vaccine from a new vial, I'm not gonna do it. She tells me that she won't get the injection either unless there's a new syringe. I scowl but wait.

The shot is given by two women who are not gloved but aren't touching the needle of new syringes, and they are using individual vials. I scrutinize them and figure that I'll be OK. In any event, it's just the flu. So why not?

It's my turn and Candy, who's already had her shot, waits patiently by while I yank down my shirt, exposing my shoulder and upper arm, wince and take the shot. I smile and her and say, "It's okay."

Then I stand, clutch my throat and scream.

Candy reacts most satisfactorily, and I howl with laughter. Those who know me are aware that I have a huge bellowing laugh when I'm truly amused. And I'm truly amused. I nailed her perfectly. I stagger out of the shot room giggling, with Candy following, sputtering in Chinese about what I did.

The jokes continue...when Teddy is picked up later that day, Selina (a.k.a. Ms. Lei)  asks Leona for his homework paper and Leona hands it to her along with a rubber snake. Selina is perfect, bless her heart, great gasp-and-shriek routine. I high-five Leona and hope that the practical jokes continue.

Life Among the Braindead

My purse and camera were stolen last night. Good news: hadn't been carrying credit cards, and not much cash. Bad news: US cellphone with hundreds of irreplaceable photos gone. 

So here's the story: was in a restaurant ordering dinner and went to  wash my hands. I left my purse and camera on the table with the dude I hung out with yesterday. As I'm finishing up he comes into the washroom. I'm like, sh*t, and dash back to the table but both purse and camera are gone.

I rush to the front door of the restaurant, look around, go outside and look out. Nada.

Staff are alerted and they reluctantly call the police. They don't want trouble, and here's why: the place emptied out when the cops showed up.

And here's the real good news: a woman at a nearby table saw the theft. Didn't bother stopping it but told a waitress. She later said the thief was "a short man," a description of half the adult population of China.

The waitress did…nothing.

The witness actually wanted to leave before the police came and I stopped her. I doubted that she'd really help but dammit, she caused me a lot of trouble and I wanted her to go through the wringer too J

So we all went down to the police station, as dingy as everything else around here. We waited for nearly an hour for a translator to show up. I had told them by whom I was employed, so although it seemed that nothing was happening, my employer and his translator shortly came along, so I began to feel a lot better.

Actually, I was really calm about the whole thing. After all, these are just objects. Moreover, I hadn't screwed up. If I had I would have been angry with myself. The guy I was with did that for me.

Anyhoo…the police report is painstakingly filled out by hand several times before the cop gets it right. I write a statement in English which is translated into Chinese.  I sign it hoping it's accurate.

My passport is gone also, but my employer, who takes quite good care of me, will help me get another. I'm a tad bummed—that passport was a record of an exciting nine years of travel, including three trips to Europe and two to various places in Asia L

I don't think that anything else was stolen that makes a difference. I had recently downloaded photos off my camera into my computer, so the only photos gone were of the Longmen Grottoes, a cliffside area with a bunch of Buddhas carved into the rock in varying sizes from thimble to monumental. Nice, but not earth shattering if you've been to Angkor. Pretty area by the river with some quite scenic boats and so on.

Another adventure! I guess it was inevitable. I've traveled quite a bit but nothing's ever been stolen from me. Like they say there's a first time for everything!

Taxi drivers in Luoyang

  That there are many female taxi drivers here shows that it's a safe city, but the cabbies, men and women alike, are occasionally strange. OK, one expects the occasional numbwit who pretends he knows where he's going, but the frequency of this irritant is far less than in, say, Thailand. Or the rip off artists who drive all over town because they think that because I have white skin and blue eyes, I don't know where I'm going—by now, I do.

No, one encounters phenomena such as the gal who picked me up the other night. She then stopped and picked up another passenger. I was like, whoa, this is weird, but went along with it. The night was cold and snowy; taxis were hard to come by. So I was OK with it. I figured I'd pay half the fare, so when I get to my destination, I handed her my share and got out.

She freaked out, got out of the taxi and started screaming at me. I yelled back and pointed at the back seat, where the other passenger still sat, "Hey, I didn't give you permission to pick up someone else—he can pay the rest!" and stalked off.

I mean, what did she expect? That I was going to pay the fare for some guy I didn't know? That she'd get paid twice? Ha.

Another time this cabbie waved a paper at me repeatedly while talking Mandarin. I showed him the page in my dictionary that states "I don't speak Chinese," but he kept talking anyhow. Then he turned a corner and stopped, with the meter still running.

 I shrugged, got out and walked off. More yelling ensues but only from the cabbie—I guess that he wanted me to pay for him to run his errand. Ha.

Airport taxis are the biggest rip off in creation. The service at the Shanghai airport charged me 200 RMB—about $25—to take me on a ride that would have normally cost maybe 20. The Luoyang driver charged me 70 RMB for a ride that should have cost maybe 15.

Well, another day, another yuan...