Mixing Leisure with Work
I touched down in Fuzhou Airport at roughly 3am and was relieved to have finally made it. It had been a very long trip from Prague, Czech Republic, to my final destination and I felt slightly disorientated. Thankfully one of the Academic Co-ordinators, Tom, had stayed up most of the night to make sure that I arrived safely and he met me outside the Apollo Hotel at around 3.45am. We went to my flat, struggled to find the fuse box for ten minutes and I was home.
The following day I woke up as early as possible to fix my jet-lag and met Cody, the Director of Studies, and Tom again for lunch. They showed me around the city a little bit, took me shopping and fed me coffee to keep me present. Without realizing beforehand they told me about a welcome dinner that evening which would have some or most of the other teachers there to meet and greet. Having been a huge fan of Chinese takeaway back in the U.K, even taking in to consideration it’s a Western friendly version, I was looking forward to my first real dinner immensely.
This introduction in to life in Fuzhou was very relaxed and helped me confirm that I had made the right decision in accepting York’s offer of employment. The meal was delicious and everyone made me feel extremely welcome and although I was still on central European time the cheery atmosphere and jovial vibe helped carry me from restaurant, to bar, to street food and back to another drinking establishment. A great first night and after calling a couple of people after I forgot where I lived I went to bed at a respectable 1am.
Pulled from Pillar to Post
As mentioned in a previous article I spent my first two weeks observing classes of existing teachers to allow the school and myself to be eased in. I received orientation packages and was given advice left, right and centre. The real experience of my first week however was the medical part of my ‘Z’ visa. As Cody had already explained this part of the process to me I wasn’t shocked or worried about having to take part in one. And besides this I didn’t really expect it to be any different from a health check back home. I was mostly right although I would find out how big of a margin I was wrong.
Kimi, the head administrator, took me to the hospital on Thursday morning, three days after my arrival at 9.30am. It was a hot day and the school driver dropped us off promptly from the XiHu branch of York. We went straight to the front desk and gained the necessary forms for me to fill out to be given the medical. This roughly translates to me standing completely mute for ten minutes whilst Kimi and the nurse had a conversation about me. I signed my name and went to the first medical check point a few floors up. The hospital was clean and although perhaps not up to the standards of English practitioners it was very modern.
The first check? An eye sight exam to make sure I wasn’t blind. I went in and the doctor asked in staggered English “Do you wear glasses?”. I shook my head negatively, the doctor stamped my form thusly and that was that. First stage completed; all in the space of three minutes. This is where Western bureaucracy flew out of the window and Chinese pragmatism came to the fore. Check after check was completed quickly and without fuss. If I was lying on a table with no shirt as my heartbeat was checked no one batted an eyelid despite the door to the corridor being wide open.
Shall I Go Back to Work or to the Asylum?
I was sent round the medical centre extremely quickly and the last two examinations were definitely the most bizarre. Penultimately I had an ultrasound on my abdomen, presumably to check that I wasn’t female and pregnant and that I had all my organs intact. Another pass mark was added to my form.
The final room on my journey was definitely the funniest. A “Personality” check had recently been added to the medical and consisted of one hundred questions. The doctor was extremely enthusiastic about this new section of the check up and told me how it would tell him exactly what kind of person I am. Going on personality tests I had done in the past nothing really prompted me for what was to follow. Sample questions such as –
- “Do you ever have evil thoughts?”
- “Have you ever found it hard to talk to the opposite sex?”
- “Have you ever felt like your thoughts were stolen?”
- “Do you ever hear voices in your head?”
- “Do you like to rebel against society or follow the rules?”
- “Do you ever have the feeling to hurt someone for no reason?”
- “Have you ever hit someone for no reason?”
I had my reservations about the validity of this test around the 87th question but I think I must have hit the ‘No’ key on roughly 99% of them. The verdict? “Clinically Sane”. The relief washed over me in floods.
Thankfully this was the last stage and both Kimi and I had a good giggle about the whole thing. It is definitely something I will not forget in a hurry and another key welcome for my stay in Fuzhou.
Read more articles on living and teaching English in China here.
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