So for the last couple of weeks I've been kind of "phlegmy" but not coughy or feverish or really any kind of otherwise ill feeling. Then last Friday I woke up and something was wrong with my left ear. I could still hear out of it, but it was muffled, kind of like how it sounds when you've got water in your ear.
Anyways, I figured it'd go away, but as of Tuesday it had not, so I mentioned to Laura, my boss, that I'd like to go to the hospital to get it checked out.
For those of you thinking, "Why go to the hospital?", in China, they don't really have separate private doctors' offices, so if you're sick, even just for something minor, you go to the hospital.
So Laura arranged for a student whose English was not too bad to accompany me to the hospital. Luckily the wait wasn't very long. Including registration and then waiting for the patients in front of me in the otolaryngology deparement I waited probably a total of 20 minutes. (By the way, that's a new word for me, the English word for the "ear, nose, and throat" division of medecine. Also by the way, the literal Chinese translation of "otolaryncology" is, word-for-word, "ear nose and throat science")
The doctor had a look at my ear and literally 10 seconds later said (in Chinese of course) "You have a cold, and the mucus is just backed up. Once the cold goes away, so should the ear problem.
The doctor was an older man, perhaps 60, and after saying a few other things in Chinese to the student who was with me, he then looked at me and said "Parlez vous Francais?" At first I didn't understand him because A) I was expecting to hear Chinese and so wasn't listening for French, and 2) his accent was very heavy on the Chinese. After that he again spoke and said "Je peu parle un petit peu d'Francais" I then immediately tried to search my brain for "me too" in French, but the only thing my brain could find was "Wo ye shi", which is "me too" in Chinese. Only now as I am writing this blog entry have I just remembered that "me too" in French is "moi aussi." Learning Chinese has been a challenge and an adventure, but darn it if it hasn't pushed out just about all of the quick response expressions I have ever learned if any other language, including the Spanish I studied for three years in high school. I honestly believe that if a Spanish-speaking friend of mine asked me "Hey, como estas?" I would answer "hen hao" (very well).
The doctor then explained that he had worked for 4 years as a doctor in west Africa, in Mali, where they speak French. After that exchange he then directed the student and I to the testing room, where they just ran a couple of hearing tests (push the button when you can hear the sound), and then what seemed to be an automatic hearing test. For the automatic one he put the sensor into my ear and then the program ran played some tones at different frequencies and somehow automagically measured something about my auditory sensitivity. The doctor running the tests said that aside from the slight muting from the mucus, my hearing was fine.
After that, I was given a prescription of a couple kinds of pills and a nasal spray for my cold. We filled it there at the hospital, and that was that.
Just so you guys are aware, here in China, I have no health insurance. So, the doctor's visit, plus all the auditory tests, plus the medicine came to quite a total:
167 yuan, or about $24.50
Now the earnings in China are much lower than they are in the states. But even when you take this reduced earning power into account, this is still relatively cheap, even by Chinese standards. The way I get a "feel" for the cost of something is this: You take the price in yuan, let's call that "Y", and divide it by two, and let's call that "x". So now "Y" yuan to a Chinese would be "like" $x to an American. So in this case, 167 yuan to a Chinese person would be like $83 to an American. Certainly not something you'd like to drop everyday, but that's how much a doctor's visit PLUS medical tests PLUS medicine costs with NO insurance?
Anyhow, as an update, that was Tuesday, two days before I am now posting and my cold still hasn't gone away. Still not serious, but still not gone.