Monday, September 15, 2003

Faithful readers may recall one of my summer students, Linda. Her father died three years ago and during the camp she had asked me to be her "new father" and we later settled on "godfather." We had exchanged some emails and Sunday I met her, her mother and - surprise - her stepfather. She had never mentioned having one. He is an industrial designer and college prof who has the slightly long haired, tousled look of someone Central Casting might decide to send over to play the part of a hip Chinese artist. He is also obviously dotes on Linda, which I was glad to see. They took me to lunch where the menu descriptions included the likes of: "The greasepaint will be plentiful" and "The ordinary soup is redone with routine."
Linda's mother was also kind enough to take me to a local dept. store so I could find some sheets and a blanket for my future bed.
Unlike US dept. stores, where clerks are as scarce as good taste in Vegas, there is an overabundance of help here. One does not simply pick out merchancdise and pay for it. One clerk "helps" you select the product. A second one writes an invoice. You take the invoice to a separate counter where a third clerk takes your money and stamps the invoice. You return to the original destinaion where a fourth clerk hands you the purchase after scrutinizing the invoice. In my case, a fifth clerk was needed to clear the aisles of curious shoppers entranced and amused with the sight of a long nosed, hairy legged barbarian choosing bed linens.
Monday morning was my first day at work, but I have yet to do any. Instead I was told that I would be taking a physical. After securing a company driver, Mr. Tan - who, like many Chinese, does not drive - and I went to large clinic/hospital where I discovered that the concept of medical privacy is an abstract concept. Mr. Tan was needed, of course, to shepherd me from station to station but also took it upon himself to avidly monitor the results as we went. One does not sit in an exam room, nude in a backwards hospital gown. One troops fully clothed from line to line, room to room where one sometimes gives blood, sometimes is examined for among other things ear wax and color blindness. (I have known all my life that I am red/green color blind and what that has to do with my overall health, I still do not know. Mr. Tan was fascinated with the analysis, though, and assured me that it was not a "serious" defect)
I was also given an instant X-ray by a machine that resembled something from a Balkan sci-fi movie circa 1966. I wondered how many extra rads I received, though the machine spit out a card saying that I had "No abnormalities in my chest and lungs."
It was revealed that I have slightly elevated blood pressure and slightly swollen ankles. Mr. Tan and the doctors conferred and the diagnosis was to take the afternoon off. They blamed both conditions on my recent long flight and the stress of being in a new environment. But tonight (it's Monday afternoon as I write this) I have to sign a contract on my stunning flat, presuming the fridge, microwave and hot water heaters problems have been corrected. If not, my blood pressure may skyrocket.
I did run into another westerner here who teaches English and asked me what my job was. I told him. He laughed and said cryptically. "Oh, they finally found someone to take THAT job." I didn't want to know the details and didn't press him for details.

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