As you might imagine, there are many hoops to jump through to obtain official residency status in China. In Beijing, this means a mandatory check-up at a Chinese government health center.
While we were on our house hunting trip last month, we decided to get this checked off our list. Here’s what I heard from friends who had completed the process:
”They put these weird suction cups on your nipples for the EKG.”
”Well, let’s just say it’s over with quickly.”
”You must not eat or drink before, and it takes an hour and forty minutes in traffic. I’ve never felt so carsick in my life.”
Armed with this information, I strapped on my motion sickness-prevention wrist bands, stuffed an energy bar and water bottle in my purse and headed down to the lobby to meet our driver.
Thankfully the drive passed without incident and our relocation company had arranged a translator to meet us there. Mr. Jimmy took our passports and returned with our paperwork. The goal was to collect signatures from each doctor as we visited each of the required rooms.
In exchange for the signature, I handed the doctor a bar code sticker with my information. Vision screening, blood pressure, stomach ultra sound – I ticked off the tasks as quickly as possible, just like the Amazing Race. In this case, there would be no luxury vacations awarded to the top finisher, but the promise of a strong cup of coffee back at the hotel propelled me forward.
If the line was too long, Mr. Jimmy held my place while I went on to a different room. Security guards patrolled the hallway to keep order.
I stood in line at room 104 behind a group of beautiful Korean dancers- young ladies with matching yellow t-shirts, red sequined jackets and hair swept up in a bun. I heard flesh-smacking noises coming from inside, and one-by-one the petite teens came out almost in tears.
As I got closer I peered into the room to see a row of technicians whacking the young girls’ forearms to make their veins pop out. When my turn arrived, I proffered my forearm and averted my gaze from the needle, reading the sign requesting that I “kindly inform them if I have a history of fainting before blood draw.”
One more room to go. So close I can almost smell the coffee. How do those teams make it through the Amazing Race without coffee? I wait outside the x-ray room as a fellow American complains of a caffeine-deficit headache. I hand her two Tylenol, and glance at the sign warning that women of procreating age should not enter as the technician beckons me in for a chest x-ray.
Eight stops, a few pokes and 30 minutes later I feel a sense of accomplishment as I hand Mr. Jimmy my paperwork. Out of the three carloads of Americans that arrived at the same time as I did, I came in first!
I can’t say I’d want to do it again soon, but it wasn’t awful. In fact it was kind of fun once I started to think of it like a game. It’s just like anything else; the experience depends on your attitude.
And even though I didn’t win any prizes along the way, I collected experiences most people will never have. And the coffee back at the hotel tasted even better than ever.