March 09, 2009

The Perennial Student Rides Again

Greetings from the Mainland!  (Sounds like a good catch phrase... something along the lines of "Goooooood morning Vietnam!!!)
This morning we went to a clinic on the far side of the city.  Not because we were sick (thankfully), but because Jessica and I needed to have our "body check".  We have enrolled in Chinese courses, and one of the requirements when applying for a student visa is a physical.
We weren't sure what to expect.  A squeeze of the jugular and a glance at the watch?  A swab of the throat?  A full wash and shammy?  It turned out to be regular assembly line, with 5 different 'stations'.  People from all corners of the globe were there, queuing up to satisfy the local and insatiable desire for due bureaucratic process.
First stop: veinous withdrawal.  A smartly dressed woman inserted a needle into the crook of my elbow and siphoned off a cc or two.
Second stop: X-rays.  Here I nearly committed a faux pas in the extreme.  I was holding some papers in my hand, and as I would need both hands free for the x-ray, the lady in the room motioned that I should put the papers into my pocket.  I, however, thought that she was indicating that I should drop my trousers.  Thankfully, I hesitated (who wouldn't?), and the shadow of embarrassment passed.
Third stop: ears-nose-throat.  We identified a few E's, M's, and W's, said "Ah!" and moved on.
Fourth Stop: the "surgery" room.  Now this one sounded rather intimidating.  What were they planning on 'ectomizing'?  But the whitecoat in this room merely asked me to stand on a scale.  He then recorded this number in a notebook and entered it into a computer.  (Incidentally, it turns out that Chinese doctors have just as poor handwriting as their Canadian counterparts.)  So much for surgery.
Fifth stop: electro-cardiogram!  This room may have been the strangest of all.  A woman asked me to lie upon a bed, then proceeded to brush water upon a set of electrodes attached to long wires.  Was I in for a bit of a 'truth telling' session?  She snapped one onto my left ankle and one onto each wrist.  Then, the clincher, she popped five or so onto my bare chest, where they remained by virtue of suction.
I braced myself for the voltage.  Wait for it!  Wait for it!
"Hao! All finish!"  She smiled and handed me a printout.  Heart rate good, I guess.
Later, Kathi accompanied me on a bus ride to the school.  A test run, so to speak.  Thankfully, it's just one bus there and one back, no connections.  Even better, the bus runs right past the gate to the apartment complex, and lets off less than a block away from the school.  Easy street.
The bus system here is really something remarkable.  First of all, there are squadrons of buses all over the place.  They come about every ten minutes (something Winnipeggers can only dream about).  But here's the kicker: it costs about 7.5 cents a ride.  So I really splurged today and spent 15 cents on a roundtrip.  You put money on a card (magnetized, I assume), which you swipe upon entering and exiting the bus.
The stop just outside our place is called Hua Jia Di Xi Li.  Here we hop on the 682.  Don't forget to swipe your card!  About 20 minutes later, we hop off at the An Jia Lou stop.
A short jaunt across a crosswalk puts us in front of the 21st Century Hotel.  The Taipei Language Institute is housed in this rather massive courtyard, dangling in a suspended hallway like a log across a concrete river.  We have had an opportunity to meet with the director and several other staff members, and the program promises to be a good one.
It's funny that we so recently finished years and years of schooling, only to begin another regimen.  But learning has become part of who we are.  I'm trying to take a different perspective to learning Mandarin.  Instead of learning a "new" language, I'm trying to think of it as "another" language.  One that expresses the same ideas as I already do in English.  I'm just learning new ways to express the same ideas.  I know this is just a psychological trick, but I hope it helps.
Ok, let's head back to the An Jia Lou stop.  This time, instead of taking the 682 again, let's take the 677.  That way, we don't have to cross the street.  Essentially, we'll be making a giant loop, coming right back around to Hua Jia Di Xi Li.
Don't forget to swipe your card on the way out, or you'll get charged full fare!
One final picture: this one is located just outside the entrance to the school courtyard.  One doesn't often need to post signs in Winnipeg warning people not to light strings of firecrackers.  (The area was some sort of gas depot or something.)

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