As I wrote earlier I found something in my eye that looked like a parasite. (Oh the joys that brought.) So I let I-Ju know that maybe, just maybe, I got shit living in my body that isn’t the usual “I’ll help you be human, and you let me live for 120 years rent free” type organism that I’ve come to know, love, and depend on. I-Ju reacts as you would expect, with mirth and entertainment at the prospect of watching this shit unfold. I ask her to make a doctor appointment, and she agrees. Cool, so when do we go? Monday…..
Wait, like I got to wait the entire weekend with little Mrs. “I’m going to hitchhike in your eye and have lots o’ little babies until you’re blind and your eye pops open and all my little babies gonna go flying out” (OK, you know what? Maybe I watch a bit too much horror for my own good.) So I’m like, um…. how about, oh, I don’t know… today!? Turns out the doctor that I-Ju goes to rotates around hospitals. She know’s he’s in Chuang Hua on Mondays. I’m like “What about Friday’s?” And I get back an “I don’t know.” Are you kidding? I got shit swimming in my eye like I’m it’s own personal lap pool, and I just know it’s having some friends over for a little Jacuzzi loven and we aren’t sure if the doc is available on Fridays? “Can we maybe find out? It might be nice to take care of this, I don’t know, today, instead of waiting three days.”
So she investigates, finds out the doc ain’t in on Fridays, but there is another doc, that no one in the family knows but is available. So this is where we get into the joys of socialized medicine. Anytime I’ve been over here and needed medical attention we’ve gone to a family friend type doctor as opposed to a doc in the box. Now I’m good with this because in Taiwan I’m that retarded fat white dude that bumbles around and can’t say anything at all except “I don’t understand what you are saying” (Which I can say perfectly.) This garners the same admiration, respect and surprise that a trained monkey or parrot saying it would. Needless to say everyone is very impressed I-Ju has chosen to live her life with the Foreign idiot. So, I can go to someone that doesn’t know the family, and will probably not be so patient with the idiot foreign devil or I can wait. There is also this strange grey area about my being allowed to get medical help at all. It seems that my being married to I-Ju doesn’t exactly mean I can just go to the doctor. In fact it seems that maybe I’m supposed to pay American type prices for any medical care over here? This isn’t very clear at all to me, I-Ju, or even the doctors we’ve seen. So in general they just consider me I-Ju’s dependent and we call it a day. This…. may not work for other doctors, and they may just refuse to see me since no one here knows what is supposed to happen. Does Taiwan have policies for foreign visitors? Probably, yes. For Foreign spouses? Probably, yes. Does anyone in Chaung Hua or Yuan Lin know the procedures and policies… yeah probably not. I’m still the only non-asian within like fifty square miles.
So, Monday huh? Sounds good. The weekend was nice, but I very much kept seeing the stupid thing in my eye, and very much had to keep telling myself, “No, it’s not bigger. It’s the same size.”, “No you can’t say for sure that was movement and not just your eye adjusting to try and focus on it.”, “Stop being a big baby about this.” I was successful for the most part, only a few vivid imaginings of parasites roaming my body and taking over; and all dismissed as wild speculation and flights of fancy almost instantly.
So, Monday arrives. We are #8 to see the doctor. But we need to leave early in order to fill out paperwork, and check in, etc.
“OK, cool, when do we leave?”
“Well he starts seeing people at 9:00, and we are number 8, so we should leave here around 9:30.”
“Ummmmm, I thought you said we need to be there early.”
“But we are leaving 30 minutes after he opens, and we are number 8?”
“OK, you’re the experts, but this seems like that time your dad decided to take a nap five minutes after the wedding was supposed to start.”
“Don’t worry about it, we do this all the time” Yeah, we haven’t said that before and had everything blow up, but hey history rarely repeats itself here in Taiwan…. Yeah we’re screwed.
So I do school stuff with the girls and try not to worry about what’s going on. Around 8:45 I decide, maaaaaybe we need to leave at 9… just in case. I-Ju just rolls her eyes, but agrees. Peggy of course thinks I’m being ridiculous, but fine. So, I get the girls to get socks, grab their kindle, tablet and headphones, and we are ready to go.
Ready to go….. Yeap, that means Peggy and I-Ju are talking upstairs with their mom, and generally doing all the things you would expect of a person planning on never leaving the house all day. With much cajoling I get I-Ju and her mom down to the basement, while Peggy decides she needs to lecture the maid on some stuff that just can’t wait till we get back. Around 9:30, everyone has shoes and socks and is mostly out the door. I go to the car, I-Ju and Peggy put on helmets. Wait, what?
Parking your scooter is free, parking a car costs money, so it’s scooter time. Oh joy. Now those keeping track at home have added the number of people mentioned that are going and come up with five people, but only two that can drive in Taiwan. (Cause I-Ju’s mom is too sick to go with us, and we only have two scooters anyway) So, how is this going to work? Well it turns out. Mina is kneeling on the floor of the scooter, I-Ju is sitting on the scooter, and Liz is behind her holding on.
I’m with Peggy. Since getting here I’ve been on the scooter once, it was also with Peggy. Peggy is of the firm opinion she is the preincarnation of Mario Andretti, if in fact Mario regretted not going fast enough in his former career. Thankfully I had the great misfortune to ride a motorcycle with a friend years ago. That was a harrowing ride through Dallas fraught with danger and screaming. Turns out, your body should be straight with the motorcycle not perpendicular with the road, and if you try and stay perpendicular to the road, you are REALLY testing the driving skills of the driver. (To those giving rides to people on a motorcycle, mention this shit before you get to your destination, preferably before their dumb ass gets on the bike.) All that being said, it means I at least know how to ride. Second fun fact, I weigh as much as a scooter, probably more, so it’s kind of hard to steer at low speeds with me riding. So Peggy backs out the scooter, the girls all get on I-Ju’s scooter, and I plop my fat ass on the back seat of Peggy’s. Peggy is all “Ai yo!, The tire is flat now.” Ha ha, let’s go, it’s already 9:40.
Peggy guns it, and off we go. I’m stiff arming the handle on the backseat and the wind is already blowing through my hair and we aren’t even out of the underground parking our garage the house is connected to. Wind? Hair? It’s at this point I-Ju’s scooter can be heard straining to catch up to us, and I-Ju yelling. Guess who forgot their helmet? If you guessed retarded fat boy, you would be correct. Liz volunteers to run back and get my helmet, and takes off like a rocket back down the underground garage. I Pepé Le Pew my way back in that direction. Liz covers the 50 or so yards grabs my helmet and is back to me about the time I reach the T intersection. I stroll back and don my helmet on the way back. OK, NOW we can leave. Peggy hits the ramp at something like 25 mph even though it was like only 20 feet in front of us. I wave to the guard on the way out and almost get thrown off as she takes the turn out of there. No fat man go splat today! Thank God for years of practicing my grip strength.
So we are quickly loosing I-Ju since Liz has to get back on and situated, we make it a whole thirty yards or so before Peggy spots Willson in the school playground and we need to stop to say hi. Cause hey, we are #8 today and it’s only like 20 minutes after we originally wanted to leave (thanks mainly to me pushing the time table up by 30 minutes), silly Americans and their anxiety over being late. So we’re parked in the Alley on the scooter, Peggy’s yelling Willson’s name, and the kids are all looking around trying to find who’s calling him. The teacher looks over, and this look of exasperation and tired resignation crosses her face right as her perfect line breaks all to hell and the entire class comes running over to the fence. It’s about this time I-Ju comes barreling around the corner and almost rides right past us. Instead she pulls in, and she too has this tired resignation on her face, while Peggy, Liz, and Mina call Willson’s name. This goes on…. far too long. The teacher I can tell is like. “You planning on doing this all day? I got shit to do….” Finally I-Ju is like “Pei-pei” in her best older sister, “no really, shit’s getting old” voice. Peggy says good bye, the teacher gives I-Ju her best “If you ever ditch the retard I’m available” look, now that she’s not staring into the endless void of a messed up schedule, and we drive off again.
The hospital is further than I expected, but really it’s not a terrible drive. I have to give it too Peggy, she really is good at coasting passed all the parked cars and timing getting to the red light just in time for it to be green. We hit almost every red light just in time for us to take off like it’s drag race night, and she’s looking to make mad bank by winning any race she’s in. One poor guy was neck and neck with us at the start line, and he started strong I’ll give him that, but we shot passed him, and I could see the surprise register on his face of “Fuuuuck she’s carrying that fat ass and still passed me?” Sucks too be you dude, learn your gear switching if you wanna win the drags.
We park the scooters, put away the helmets, and meet up with I-Ju and the girls. No big deal. We cross the street and walk into the hospital. Now it’s a nice looking hospital. It’s got two big seating areas to either side of the main entrance. I later learn it’s check-in and the pharmacy. We head to the check-in, to these little kiosks to the side of the larger seating area. I-Ju grabs two clip boards and fills out some paper work. I direct the girls to two empty seats, and have them listen to their books peacefully. This nice lady manning the kiosk area comes by and helps I-Ju with her paperwork. So it gets done fairly quickly. Cool. So, once it’s all done they print a number for the check-in line. #1143. Highest number on the screens above the check out counters is 1109, and I’m like. “Hmmmmm, #8 huh?”
So I go stand by the girls, and wait for our number. Movement outside catches my eye and I see I-Ju running full tilt outside the building like she was just told the house is burning down. WTF? Just as I loose sight of her, Peggy saunters up and is all “She left her medical card at home. She’s got to go back and get it before we can check-in.” Are you freaking serious? “OK, no problem, they’re only on 1109, and there’s just one line is open, so she should have time. At least I know why she ran out the building. Nice thing is the girls got no clue, they’re just reading and listening. Hahaha. I could walk away right now and they probably wouldn’t wonder where we were for like an hour.
Insert Jeopardy music here while we wait. Huh, hold up, there’s two lines open now, and we are up to 1115, these guys are nothing if not efficient. Remember that nice lady helping I-Ju fill out the forms? She walks up to Peggy with a bunch of paper slips in her hand. Peggy and her talk for a second, and she hands Peggy a piece of paper and then takes one from Peggy. We’re… 1127 now; and they are on 1120. OK, things got real, looks like we are in a race, and I-Ju doesn’t know about these “minor” changes in the rules…. like, Oh look they are opening a third line and we are on number 1126. This is going to end well I can just feel it. …and 1127 comes up.
Peggy goes up to talk to the lady waiting on 1127, and I stand around wondering just how long it’ll take I-Ju to get back. Peggy’s up at the line for like three times the normal length other people are up there. When she comes back the numbers reach 1137, and the line she was just at changes to 1138. Guess we missed our number, I wonder what happens now.
Peggy comes back with new papers, and informs me the lady was nice enough to check us in since I-Ju will need her card to check-in at the actual doctor’s. Wait…. So there’s a second check-in? The hell? and now we have to wait for I-Ju.
1143 comes and goes… 1153 comes and goes, 1163….. What the hell happened? She better not have gone back and taken a nap like her dad would have. I-Ju jogs back in when we reach 1182. Oh yeah, she lost that race, hands down worst showing. Peggy explains what happened. I-Ju just smiles at me and is all “Lucky”, turns and walk towards the escalator. Number 8, huh? Well let’s see how well a showing we do on that since we got 1182 when we were trying for 1143.
I gather the girls. Tell Liz she needs to pause her book, and take off the headphones whenever we are on the move. I get an eye roll that makes me think maybe she should be the one seeing the eye doctor. Optic nerves weren’t made to inspect the inside of your brain kid. We get to the area we’re supposed to be and it’s filled with people. It’s also got a bunch of doors, but the door I see first says they are on #6. Well, shit, guess I-Ju and Peggy called it, we are even here early. Guess they know best after all. I point out to I-Ju she was right. She points out we are seeing the doctor who’s door says 27, not the one that says 6… Being right sucks.
OK, we missed our number, now what happens? I-Ju goes up to this little kiosk under the monitor with the numbers on it. Sticks in her medical id, and it prints out a new number 48. Great, so we’re at the back of the line since we missed our appointment. Figures. I-Ju just laughs at me and tells me that no, before we see the doctor, we have to get our eyes checked. 48, is for the third door. Everyone has to go through that door before they get to see the doctor.
So, lets just recap here. To see the eye doctor about the parasite, we need to check into the hospital. Then go to the eye doctor area, check-in there to get a new number, so we can get our eyes checked in order to see the doctor. We’re supposed to be number 8 to see the doctor; and knowing that we saunter in over an hour late to start this process? I will never get used to Asian-time. Which means I’m in for a lot of stress while here, cause both Peggy and I-Ju are all “don’t worry about it.”
So, we sit our butts down and wait. At some point the lady calls I-Ju over and they tell her that my eyes need to be dilated so they can see inside them. Yeah, OK that’s really not a surprise. So they’ll dilate my eyes after the eye exam. Not ideal cause it’ll make work more difficult today, but not a huge surprise and I’ve programmed with my eyes dilated before.
So we sit and wait. As our number approaches I tell I-Ju it’s probably best if Peggy stays with the girls when we go in, cause I-Ju is doing her eye exam too, and we have numbers next to each other. Nope, Peggy wants to come in and watch the eye exam. Why? I mean really, why? It’s an eye exam. I will sit in front of a little machine and it’ll measure my eye sight. Then, they will puff air into my eyes and I’ll cry like a little girl cause air in the eye sucks, and then that will be it. Why not sit out here with the girls? Seriously?
Nope, Peggy’s coming too, so the girls need to come as well. Are you freaking kidding me with this? So our number comes up and the five of us go in for I-Ju’s eye exam. I’m going cause my number is next and she’s going to be translating, to the eye nurses? examiners? technicians? whatever. They seem OK with this translation arrangement; but they are obviously annoyed by Peggy and the girls. I have the girls go sit in a corner and read, which makes the technicians a little more at ease, but they still aren’t sure what to do with Peggy hovering around.
Now, these guys are efficient as hell. There are three tests to do, and they have a patient on a test at all times. Even with I-Ju and I coming in at the same time, no problem, they have me do the eye pressure test while I-Ju does the lens measurement and then we switch. The third test is apparently the slowest. It’s where you cover an eye and then tell which way the “E” is pointing, then you do the other eye. By the time I-Ju is doing that test they’ve let in someone else.
Now, that is how it’s supposed to work. Here’s what we did to fuck it all up. So Peggy is hovering. The means patients now don’t have as much room to move around, which slows traffic down. I apparently have high eye pressure. (Jee, could that have to do with the shit living in my eye like it’s own personal one bedroom?) So they do the eye puff test five times in each eye. Like suddenly my eye pressure is going to drop or something. Dagnabit, that hurts. The eye pressure guys is all “Your eye pressure is high, we can’t dilate your eyes today, you’ll need to come back. “Wait, my eye pressure is high, probably because I have an unpaid renter, but we can’t check on the unpaid renter because my eye pressure is high? The hell kind of logic is that?”
So, I-Ju and I dosey-doe around Peggy, but now they can’t get a good read on my lens because my eye is watering. *Sigh*, we are slowing down the trains in Italy here folks, at some point people get shot for this shit. At least that was the reaction the technicians were giving us as their perfect machine of getting eye exams done slowly broke down because of us. I swear a door was going to open up and one of the tech’s kids held at gunpoint was going to be marched out any minute.
So, now we get to the slowest test. Up, down, left, right, a, a, b, b. I know this drill. But I can’t say any of that in Chinese, and they sure as shit aren’t going to wait for I-Ju to coach my happy ass. So, I just point up, down, left, and right. It seems to work out. I figure out on my own the left lens of my glasses is WAY off. Even the technician is giggling at my answers, so I know it’s bad. I wonder if that’s the parasite or just the lens is off for my prescription…
We tromp back out into the waiting room, and await our turn, it’s STILL on number 27. What the hell’s going on? I-Ju tells me that he’s getting eye laser surgery done. I comment that must be why he was such a high number. No, the doctor just decided to do it this morning. Um…. Wait, whuuuuut? Apparently eye surgery is kind of a snap decision here in Taiwan: “Oh, you seem to be having some trouble seeing, lets cart you off and surgeryize your eyes.
So, funny story, the hospital is NOT set up to handle non-Chinese patients. Man did that non-sequitur give you whiplash too? Each patient is listed with their number, but they have the person’s name with an “O” for the last character of their name. My name on the board was “ronaOOO” Like someone had their foot stomped on in the middle of calling my name. I’m like what the hell is that? It really stands out amongst all the Chinese characters. So we are laughing about my name, when patient 27 finishes having surgery, and they call number 8. Well, isn’t that nice?
So… once again the five of us troop in and I have the girls sit on the floor next to the waiting chairs and they sit quietly and listen to their books. Peggy and I-Ju go up to the doctor, and I sit patient in the back waiting my turn. Peggy is hovering again and gossiping with the nurses. I-Ju does her tests, and the doctor discovers she has eye stones…. yeah I got nothing. Apparently they’ll get bigger and just pop out of her eye at some point, so there is nothing to worry about…. Eye stuff in Taiwan is much different than the US. I’ve never heard of eye stones, and I’m pretty sure I would be more freaked out about stones popping out of my eyes then parasites living there. I-Ju says it’s no big deal. So, OK, I guess.
Then we get to the doctor is checking me. First thing he tells me is we are going to dilate my eyes. Finally, someone talking some sense here. Then he examines my eyes before they give me the medicine. He tells me there are no holes in my eye, which is good. But if there were any holes, he would just have me go next door and he would laser them closed. Yay! to no holes. Cause casual lasering on my eyes is probably something I would have an issue with. I get my eye drops to dilate my eyes, and we start to go to the waiting room. Peggy tells me the Doctor said that most of his foreign patients know Chinese so they don’t cause as many issues as I’m causing by needing people to translate for me. So I give my standard. “I’m sorry I can’t understand what you are saying.” Which…. garners some very confused looks from the doctor and the nurses in the room. Did I say that wrong? I mean I’m really good at that phrase, like REALLY good, but that’s not the typical reaction, so what the hell’s going on?
As an aside, cause I-Ju let me in on what that was all about after the visit. The doctor told both I-Ju and Peggy that it was nice to have a competent translator for a change, because anyone that isn’t native Taiwanese, can’t understand medical terms, and it makes it very difficult to help them. Apparently, Peggy was just telling me that to try and make me learn Chinese faster. (Cause I haven’t been trying and failing for 10+ years)
So we go out and sit in the waiting room, which is packed to bursting at this point. So we go out to the billing area, and wait there for a bit. We sit for the requisite 30 minutes and one of the nurses comes out and touches my elbow (since I was reading and she couldn’t get my attention). Yes, I was reading while my eyes were dilated, and yes, I upped the font size of my kindle as the 30 minutes passed. Like temporary blindness is a reason for not reading. I-Ju informed me the reason they came and got me personally instead of calling my name was they had no idea how to pronounce my name. Well, that makes me feel a little better about not being able to understand Chinese.
We all go back in. I’m like, look Peggy can stay out here with the girls, really. Nope. So all five of us once again come in. The nurses tell us the kids can’t come in this time. No kids. OK, Peggy and the girls can go wait outside, no problem. Peggy tells the girls to leave. And I see the meaningful looks between the nurses. I may not speak Chinese, but I was a stupid teen once upon a time, and I would know the “Shit that plan didn’t work, now what?” look exchanged between friends anywhere. So I tell Peggy, “No, the girls need to have someone there that speaks well enough in case a doctor, or someone needs them to move, or do something else they won’t understand.” Peggy leaves and the nurses visibly relax.
I’m guessing the doc wasn’t too happy with having more adults in the room than needed, and for some reason the nurses came up with this “cunning plan” to get Peggy out of the room. Whatever works. So I sit back down and he looks at my eye. No parasite. Fuck Yeah! That is awesome news. It’s vascular degradation brought about by high eye pressure. Which probably means I have Glaucoma….
Look, how about you put a worm in my eye, then take that shit out, and we all call it a day? You can even be all pew pew with the laser. Cool? Cool, let’s get this parasite thing outta my eye now.
Nope. Here’s some drops to put in your eye, we’ll see your happy ass back here in a week to test your visual field, to see what kind of permanent damage you have due to this. Oh Yippie Kie fuckin a! That’s not what I wanted to hear at ALL. So with that wonderful and happy news it’s time to pay for the visit.
“But wait”, you may be saying to yourself, “doesn’t Taiwan have socialized medicine?” Yeah OK, here’s the deal, what the propaganda around “socialized medicine” says, and what it is in every country I’ve been in around the world are two completely different things. So, yes we gots to pay for the visit; get visions of free healthcare and sugar plum fairies outta your brain, cause I’ve never been anywhere that has truly free healthcare. Cause honestly, socialized medicine isn’t free medicine, it just means healthcare is available to all citizens at the same rate. Unless you want to do privatized medicine, which costs more but is generally better/faster, but we won’t get into any of that. So, I’ll just take away this soapbox and we can get on with what happened.
Now, payment is awesome. You go to another kiosk, (I’m seeing a Kioskian theme going here)1, grab a number, and wait for your number to appear on one of the screens above each cashier. Now this is where the American in me has a brilliant idea, actually I have the idea I know will be an anathema to British queuing experts the world over. How about someone go to the pharmacy downstairs and get the medicine, while we wait to pay up here?
Ha! great idea right? Oh, I see you cringing Mr. British dude who found the blog somehow; you know its a good idea even if it’s socially unacceptable.
But….. turns out they won’t give you your meds if you haven’t paid. Clever little buggers. Yeah keep smiling and nodding British dude, it was still a good idea. So, we go and wait. Yay!
We sit around for while, cause apparently a lot of people need to pay up. It’s boring but the girls are distracted with reading. Peggy’s having fun with the idea I’m going blind, and I-Ju is just ready to go. I have to say, it’s a very effective system, though. Even though the waiting area is almost completely standing room only, they get to us in about fifteen minutes. Like I said, very efficient.
After that we head downstairs to the pharmacy. This has a similar set up: four lines, one line for set A (although it’s something different in Chinese obviously, I’m just trying to get an example here) odd numbers, and one for set A even numbers. Then the other two lines are for set B odd/even. You have this one person for each line with baskets of drugs behind them. In the center is a convener belt spitting out baskets of meds. Then you have this one girl grabbing baskets and putting the new meds in the proper basket.
The monitor above has a number that is basically something like “serving Set A odd numbers under this number: “1157”. So basically you get in line whenever you see a number above yours, and you watch the screen you know will have your number on it. Group + odd/even number. It turns out the number is assigned when the Dr. writes the prescription. Once your number shows up you walk up show them the prescription, show the receipt saying you paid, and they give you your meds. Easy-peesy.
It took more time to walk down the steps and get to the prescription area than it took to get the meds; and like that it’s time to leave. One look outside and it’s easy to tell it’s pouring down rain, primarily because of the force the cats and dogs are slamming into the pavement. Poor things.
Personally, I’ve never gotten upset about rain. I mean sure you are getting wet, but unless you are going to be out for a really long time, and not have access to dry clothes afterwards, then who cares? We’re heading home, so we will be wet for the length of the ride and the time it takes the elevator to pick us up and dump us on the 5th floor. So I grab my helmet from the scooter seat, Peggy puts her purse inside the seat, and I hop on. Peggy takes off without seeing if I-Ju and the girls are ready. Apparently Peggy is of the opinion rain water will make her melt.
We zoom through the streets. She runs at least one red light, which in Taiwan I think is mandatory. Hell you might get a ticket if you don’t run a red light. The whole trip she is screaming about how cold the rain is, while I get pelted in the face thanks to our speedy forward momentum turning the rain into a horizontal instead of vertical affair. By the time we get to the underground garage Peggy’s whole front is completely soaked and most of her back. Most of my front is spared due to her driving and blocking me from the front rain. But my shoulders, back, and pants are thoroughly soaked.
We get off, put up our helmets away and I go upstairs while she goes back to her house to change. I’m fully changed before I-Ju and the girls get back. They choose to take a shower over just changing. OK, I-Ju chooses they need to take a shower, the girls would have been fine just changing into dry clothes. That pretty much ended the trip. It was very interesting seeing how the hospital was run somewhere else. It was less interesting learning I have a life long disease that will need permanent management, but hey, life isn’t always sunshine and roses.
** According to I-Ju the kiosk thing is because people here were constantly trying to social engineer their way into the front of the line. “Oh, I’m old and infirm so I should see the doctor next.”, “I need my meds now, see how badly I’m shaking.”, “There was an old lady in a wheelchair riding down the middle of the road and I couldn’t get around her” (yes, that is actually a legit reason for delayed traffic.) With the kiosk there is no one to social engineer, you grab a number sit your happy ass down and wait to see a human on your damn turn. Problem solved.