Monday, June 7, 2010


On Saturday, I loaded the dog into the van and headed down to the Guanshang Animal Hospital in downtown Beijing. It’s the only place in all of Beijing that does entrance and exit inspections for pets. How convenient!

Also convenient: they don’t speak any English. Okay, I know: I’m in China, and I need to speak Chinese rather than expecting them to speak English. Agreed, and so on. But – these are the only people in town dealing with foreign dogs. Throw us a bone, people, and find a vet who knows a few rudimentary words in English, or let us take our puppies to the vet near us who does speak English.

The last time I was at this hospital was three years ago, when we first arrived. I spoke not a word of Chinese at the time, and I didn’t have a car yet, so I hired a guy to drive me and Casey there. Did I mention this was three years ago? So I’m not sure what made me think I could find the place by myself three years later, but hope springs eternal.

I knew it was on the north side of the Third Ring Road. I thought it might be #7, but I wasn’t really sure, and it hardly mattered since none of the buildings are visibly numbered anyway.

Well, I found it. I did! It took three trips back and forth on the Ring, and a teensy bit of cursing, but eventually, there it was. With a parking space out front and everything!

In the three years since I was there last, they haven’t found an English-speaking vet. And my Chinese, while much improved, is still dreadful. So I can’t tell you exactly what happened there. But Casey did get some sort of inspection. “He’s scared,” they said, noting his shaking legs. Fear, arthritis, whatever. “Is he blah-blah-blah?” they asked. It was like a real life Mad Lib, where “blah-blah” is either a noun or an adjective related to animals. Sick? Neutered? Old? Healthy? Friendly? When they saw they were getting nowhere with me, they pointed to the form, where it said, in English “generative organs?” Excellent: I knew the answer to that question, though how they would’ve thought I’d know the Chinese word for “generative organs,” when I can’t consistently remember the word for mozzarella cheese, which I buy every week, well…. Next question: “What is his blah-blah?” Temperature? Temperament? Food of choice? Age? Nope – this time they found a form that said “microchip” in English, and I was able to answer at last. He doesn’t have a microchip… not as far as I know, anyway, but we are in China, so anything’s possible.

It went on and on like that, with them asking questions and me attempting to answer. I had written, in English, that he was tan and black. They wanted to know what “tan” means. How do you explain tan? You know: brown, coffee-colored, lighter-than-black? They showed me that the official form lists him in Chinese as “yellow and black.” Not tan. So okay. I agreed that he could be yellow instead of tan, and on we went.

They sent me to the pharmacy, where a kind lady handed over two prescriptions and explained in great detail what to do with them. I smiled and thanked her. Of course, I can’t give them to my dog! I have no idea what they’re for or why he should even need them.

Next they sent me to the lab, where they took samples from his front and back ends (good times!) and drew blood from his leg. Then they sent me to wait in the hallway, where some guy with a telephoto lens was surreptitiously trying to take my picture while I pretended not to see him and held a book in front of my face, blocking his shot, just because I was annoyed with the attention.

Eventually, they sent me to the cashier, where I forked over almost $100. They handed me a slip of paper – in English! – telling me to return to their hospital in three days for my “healthy inspection form.”

Hopefully, when I go back today, it’ll be for the last time.

I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that I am basically an illiterate idiot here. Can’t wait to start all over in Arabic.


Shannon said... [Reply]

That sounds like an awful day. The language thing is the worst part of living overseas. I am tired of feeling like and idiot all the time. SIgh. Good luck in three days. And maybe Arabic is easier than Chinese? I don;t see how it could possibly be harder.

The Johnsons said... [Reply]

Love, love, love the "Mad Lib" analogy! What a perfect description of understanding just enough Chinese.

Hope all goes well for the pooch. We're bringing our collie over from the States this summer.... should prove interesting!

globalgal said... [Reply]

I had a serious illiterate idiot moment this afternoon as I attempted to recharge my mobile phone with a China Mobile recharge card. You have to dial a number and enter a bunch of numbers, but the English menu didn't actually have an option for recharging. Trying to navigate the Chinese menu was a waste of time and I finally swallowed my pride and asked some random friendly looking person to help me. Doh! It's like I'm three years old. Personally I much prefer Arabic. At least the alphabet is a lot easier than characters! Enshallah you'll have less illiterate idiot moments!

Connie said... [Reply]

There is so much English here... no worries! :) and you'll LOVE the Dr at the Vet Zone!

Please. Write your own stuff.