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A few days ago, I developed a knee muscle injury that had been getting progressively worse until today. On Tuesday evening, I could hardly walk from my bed to my bathroom, which is a total of six steps. My kneecap had disappeared under the swelling and the aching was merciless! I visited the school nurse and got a few Chinese herbal medicines. One was a “liquor” as they call it that you rub into the affected area until it makes your skin burn. Sounds great, right? It wasn’t too bad actually. It smelled just like Tiger Balm so I figured it was the same thing only more authentic.

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The second medicine was basically the same stuff only soaked into an adhesive pad that you wear overnight after you’ve rubbed the liquor in.

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The pad burned even worse than the liquor did. My friend Rachel offered to help me apply the medicines, which I happily accepted. She told me that her mom often gets achy muscles and favors the liquor medicine, so she (Rachel) is very practiced at using it to massage out pain. She did a number on me and I am ever so grateful! After she left, I took my aunt’s professional advice and gave myself a sequence of additional massages. I even attempted to stretch. Finally, I meditated for a bit and requested the help of the healing powers of the universe to help me recover ASAP.  I texted my bosses to tell them I was taking the next day off from work, put my sleeping mask on, and slept for 12 hours straight. It was wonderful.

When I woke up this morning, I was very relieved to discover that the pain in my knee had decreased to a manageable level. My co-workers brought me lunch in bed so that I wouldn’t have to take four flights of stairs to get to the canteen. At 2PM I was summoned to go to the hospital to see a doctor about my injury. It’s amazing that after only a month in China, I’ve had reason to go to the hospital twice–and to two different hospitals. The one I went to today was a general hospital of traditional Chinese medicine. My experience in this hospital was comparable to my experience in the women’s and children’s hospital. Lots of people, many lines, an abundance of paperwork for official record keeping, and no privacy. Again, none of the staff cared whether I used a nickname or my official name, or that I could only remember the majority of the numbers in my passport ID. (I would have brought it, but the staff at the school is still using it to get a work visa for me.) Besides my incomplete passport ID number and a nickname, no other identification was required of me. This lack of attention to detail seems to undermine the purpose for requiring the paperwork in the first place…or maybe I just don’t get it.

The doctor I saw spoke a considerable amount of English, which was helpful, of course. I had practiced some new vocabulary earlier this morning for the purpose of communicating with the doctor, but I ended up only needing to say the word for “acupuncture” in Chinese. The doctor spent a minute, maybe two looking at me and slapping my knee around before he prescribed nine packages of medicine…NINE PACKAGES OF MEDICINE.

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Interestingly, the doctor told me that acupuncture would not help! He wrote a bunch of chicken scratch in my medical booklet to show to the nurse behind the medicine counter. I thought it looked kinda crazy, even for sloppy Chinese characters. I asked one of my Chinese friends to translate it for me and they said they couldn’t read it. After I made a comment about how doctors in America also have illegible handwriting, they clarified that although the writing was sloppy, the primary reason they couldn’t read it was because it wasn’t Chinese! It wasn’t pinyin either. Doctors in China have a special language that no layperson can read. How useful.

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After my friend got the prescriptions for me, we saw another nurse down the hall to get my knee wrapped up.

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Before the nurse wrapped it, she put a giant pad on the top where the muscles ache. I stuck my fingers under the bandage this evening because it was starting to itch under there. Not only was it slimy, but it also smelled like chicken soup. Just like chicken soup. Woof.

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