Friday, December 26, 2014

trip to the clinic

entrance to clinic which is part of apartment complex

William still hasn't full kicked his cold or, more likely, he caught another one. To help ease his cough and throat, he continues to use a nebulizer. Instead of going to the nearby hospital to use it, we decided to take him into our neighborhood clinic. As far as I know, every neighborhood (housing complex) in China has its own clinic. Ours is run by a husband and wife, who are a doctor and nurse (adorable!). They provide basic care such as administering IVs (probably their most popular service), taking blood pressure, and prescribing medicine.

Whenever I go to the clinic, there is a little old granny roaming around. She must be the mother of either the husband or wife. As a typical old Chinese lady, she loves to chat. Unfortunately, I usually don't feel much like talking when I am out with William, especially when we are alone. I feel worn down by the constant comments, criticisms, and advice strangers feel the need to dole upon us (me). While in America I often like talking with strangers and am somewhat outgoing, in China I often find myself avoiding eye contact, hoping to (please, just this once,) be left alone.

As the elderly woman approached, I sang to William. I hoped this would be a clear enough indicator that I was busy and not up for conversation. Of course, my silly western social cues were lost on her and it just fueled her desire to comment.

“Us grown-ups can't understand you, how can he understand you?” she pondered.

Sigh. While this is certainly flawed logic, I can somewhat understand it. When I first came to China I was momentarily confused when I heard people speaking to their dogs in Chinese. I didn't know what the owner was saying, so how could a puppy possibly understand? But a moment later I realized that obviously an animal learns commands in whatever language it's trained in. Babies are no different, but I didn't feel like explaining this to an old lady. She should have been able to figure it out on her own. So instead, I just smiled and continued singing.

Before long, William started to fuss. Nothing major, just a little squirming. The wife (nurse) rushed over to distract him. You'd think I'd be happy for the help, but I knew what was coming. Sure enough, before long she said to him gently, “Your mom can't handle you.”

I could feel the smoke coming out of my ears. I can't handle him? Was she trying to say I was inept? An unfit mother? Or my child was too unruly? What, exactly, was she insinuating?

“An eight-month-old fusses from having to sit still for 25 minutes doing a nebulizer and YOU have the AUDACITY to say I CAN'T HANDLE HIM,” I wanted to scream. But didn't. I don't know the Chinese word for audacity (but I do now know the word for nebulizer).

But it didn't end there. As I talked and sang to William, trying to get him to relax, the nurse cooed to him sweetly, “Aww, grandma's not here today. There's no one to talk to you.”

I was willing to excuse the 90-year-old woman for her similar comment, but a middle-aged lady should know better. Just because you don't understand the words I'm saying, doesn't mean I'm not talking. But at that moment, I let the wave of anger pass over me. They obviously weren't saying these ridiculous comments in an attempt to hurt me. I kept singing. One day William will be bilingual and he'll be able to speak for himself, in both English and Mandarin.

Have you ever had a frustrating experience due to language differences? How did you deal with it?

6 comments:

Constance - Foreign Sanctuary said...

I am sorry to hear that happened to you. I think the whole situation would have made me mad as well and I am not sure if I could have handle it as calmly as you did. Although I don't have any children (yet), some of my expat friends married to Taiwanese have. I know one of my good friend's daughters could speak three languages by the age of three (English, Mandarin, and Hakka). And even at that age, she could distinguish who to speak what language to. Hopefully in a year or two, your son will amaze them all with his English ability.

martalivesinchina said...

I also find it very annoying that strangers here feel entitled to criticize what you do or don't do... but well. I guess they won't change. I do hope younger generations won't be so nosy.

Sarah - Diariesofayangxifu said...

That must of taken a will of steel to let those comments pass by, I don't know how you do it, very impressive!

I hope William is better soon.

rosieinbj said...

Thanks for your comments guys.

I am not always able to let the comments roll off me but I've gotten better about it. Probaby the most frustrating thing is that my husband and mother-in-law dont always understand why I get annoyed or offended at such comments!

K.O. said...

Did those folks know you speak/understand Chinese?? I would be annoyed AND offended as well not only for the comments themselves, but also for the boldness to say such things knowing that I understand. Interesting. Then again, maybe just a cultural difference? Wonderful that William will learn English and Mandarin. Would be interesting to get his perspective!

rosieinbj said...

@KO Thanks for your comment. They know I understand and speak Chinese, though I'm not real chatty with them so they don't know to what extent. Maybe it's a cultural difference. I still don't know!!