After a week in the hospital I couldn’t take it any more. The doctor told me I needed to be here for at least three weeks before I would recover. I was feeling better but still in a lot of pain and just wanted to go home. I hate hospitals and they are not a good place to be even when you are ill. I also hate being a patient and not being able to move which is frustrating. All I could do was lay in bed and then you start to think too much and get depressed. After some discussion the doctors agreed to let me go home on several conditions. Namely that I continued the rehabilitation therapy process at home and kept up with the medication. I also had to come back to hospital every three days to change the dressing and check the wounds. The doctors and nurses had done a great job of looking after me, but I just couldn’t stand being in the hospital anymore. Thankfully I would be going home tomorrow
As part of the therapy I had to try and walk up and down the corridor a few times each day. Any kind of moving was slow and painful and walking was in reality a very slow shuffle. During the day the corridor was often full of other patients doing the same thing so you got to meet alot of other people in similar anguish. I think this sharing of a common agony was one reason people were so friendly. The common greeting on the corridor was not “ni hao” (how are you?) but “teng ma” (does it hurt?). To which the answer most often was a grimacing reply “terbie teng!” (really hurts) and a shaking of the head.
With an operation of this type you cannot sit up as the pain in unbearable. All you can do it lie on your front or back and stare up at the ceiling. With no internet, radio or television the experiences is even more dull. Because the pain was so bad the nurses gave me an injection and some pain killing pills. These kept me feeling very drowsy, so I could sleep through the pain most of the day and night. Staring at the bare fluorescent tube and drifting in and out of consciousness it felt like I was in a scene from some prison movie.
After the nurses stopped the morphine yesterday the real pain began. The operation had been a painless affair but the post operation was an agonising affair. On top of that the rehabilitation process was particularly uncomfortable to say the least. I wont go into the gruesome details but it was the worst experiences of my life. I asked the nurses if they could put me back on the morphine drip but they told me it was too dangerous. Firstly, it would damage my brain and secondly, it was too easy to get addicted too. I can understand why so many famous people and movie stars get addicted to pain killers, as it not only kills the pain but keeps you feeling a little high. This was the fire box in the corridor, which you dial 119 in an emergency. I wish there was a number I could call in this emergency, but I guess I will have to get through this cold turkey.
In the hospital I became patient 66, which is the number on my wall. I guess it’s an easier way for the nurses to identify who you are without confusing names. The number also identifies where you are on the ward so a quick way to know which bed you are in. However as I was the only ‘waiguo ren’ (foreigner) in the hospital you couldn’t really mistake me for someone else. I estimated about 70 people on my mixed ward, with separate rooms for male and female. As the only foreigner I became something of an oddity and would continually hear people saying ‘hey look, there is a foreigner here’. Despite being an outsider, I found the other patients very friendly and kind towards me. They would often stop me to talk and ask me questions about myself, all in Chinese of course. It was good language practice and most were surprised I could speak any Chinese. I also met a couple of younger Chinese patients, who worked for multi national companies so it was good to be able to talk some English as well.
Following the operation the doctors put me on drips for the next few days. I think I had to have five bottles a day or various fluids. There were only one or two nurses who had any basic English, so most of their communication to me was in Chinese. It’s funny how much your language improves when you have to speak Chinese and you have no option. The nurses kept telling me how good my Chinese was, but sometimes it was a mixture of guesswork, facial reading and body language to understand what they were saying to me. I also had a great Chinese/English visual dictionary that came in very handy. I would highly recommend this book to anyone learning Chinese as the pictures make it easier to associate words to the actual object.
The operation went well and was over after 30 minutes. After they had injected my spine and given me gas I was knocked out for the whole operation. Canthy stayed with me during the whole process as she was worried incase something went wrong, as the doctors didn’t speak much English. She told me the operation for hemorrhoids was pretty horrible to watch and one day she might tell me about it. However, I have a vivid enough imagination so not sure I need to know the gory details. Afterwards, I was still high on the morphine so was feeling very positive and upbeat. I was also quite woozy and a little delirious so I was saying all kinds of stupid things. But I had no idea once the drugs wore off how much pain I would be in…
I checked into hospital this morning for an operation for prolapsed hemorrhoids. A slightly embarrassing topic to write about, but a common problem and sadly this is real life. I have been suffering for several weeks but unfortunately the condition became very severe so I needed this emergency operation. I wont go into details but I think the condition got aggravated by my diet, the cold weather and cycling to work everyday. Anyway Canthy managed to get me the best room in the hospital and one of the only double rooms. In local Chinese hospitals private rooms don’t exist and most rooms have around eight people per room. The hospital is the best in Beijing for treating colonic disorders and has a good reputation for its surgeons. However, conditions as you can see are slightly run down, but this is not unusual for local Chinese hospital. I tried not to compare it to a western hospital, as I was just glad they could take me in and operate on me. People often laugh and make fun of hemorrhoids, but I can assure you when it gets this severe it is no laughing matter.
Sundays are lazy days in our house. We often cook, make a mess and try to use every plate, cup and utensil in the house. Not because were slobs but because our Ayi (cleaning lady) comes on Monday so we can make a mess and not have to worry about cleaning up. As our Ayi comes three times a week we try and cook on Sundays, Tuesday and Thursdays and then pile the plates up and see how high we can get them without the stack falling down. Having an Ayi that does all the cleaning, washing and housework is common in China as labour is cheap. But would be a luxury in the UK or USA due to the higher cost of wages. My Mum thinks it makes me lazy but secretly would like one of her own. For us, it means we have more time to focus on the important things in life–and not the washing up.
Canthy was feeling sick again so another day spent on the sofa. She had downloaded a number of Chinese soap operas so spent most of the day watching them. I think there were 35 episodes in total and I watched a couple with her to practice my Mandarin. However without subtitles it was hard to follow as they were also talking local Beijing dialect. It would be like a Chinese person watching UK’s EastEnders on TV and not understanding why no one spoke text book English. What was interesting is that most soap operas has a similar story regardless of what country they are set in. Its normally something like boy meets girl, boy meets another girl, love triangle, break up, parents don’t understand, etc etc. So really just another version of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet set in a modern Chinese landscape.
Canthy has been craving hot spicy food but with my condition and upcoming surgery I have to avoid this type of food. She ordered Mao Xue Wang, which is a spicy dish of noodles, vegetables and dried cubes of duck blood. This is one of Canthy’s favourite but something I can live without. I would describe Canthy’s palette as more Guangzhou in taste as she loves chicken feet, soups and all kinds of animal organs in spice. Unfortunately I am a very visual eater so I like my food to look good as well as taste good. Whereas Canthy doesn’t care what it looks like as long as the taste is good. Hence her love of duck blood, duck heads, and other animal internal organs. Like most westerners I find the ingredients strange but the taste is good if you don’t think what you’re actually eating.
I’ve been suffering for weeks with a minor illness that has suddenly got violent worse. I was in so much pain that Canthy took me to an emergency hospital to see a doctor. The hospital specialises in colon disorders and is the best in Beijing. However being a local hospital conditions are not exactly what you would expect from a western perspective. The inspection bed was not exactly what I was expecting and nothing like you see on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. This one was more grim anatomy but I was just glad to see a doctor and get some help for the pain so I didn’t really care about anything else. Unfortunately I needed to get emergency surgery, but it’s not a life threatening condition. Just embarrassing and painful so they booked me in for next Monday. I just hope I can last till then.
I’ve only had my passport for a couple of years but I’ve already run out of pages so needed to renew it. The UK consul is at the Kerry Centre, which is just down the street from my apartment. Inside the consul it looks likes a generic government office you find in the UK and it even has a picture of the Queen and Prince Philip on the wall. The picture is pretty old and looks like her coronation picture from 1952. Amazing to think she has been in power for over 50 years and still going strong. Looking at the picture I did feel a little home sick as it’s not often you see a picture of Queen in China. It makes me want to watch the movie The Queen again, starring Helen Mirren who really looks the part.
Canthy had another craving for chicken feet, so we went to Lee Garden again to eat the speciality dish. Not my favourite infact I hate the taste but I had one webby foot just to give her face. You use your chopsticks to pick it up at the ankle and then just bite off one claw at a time. Then in your mouth you suck or bite off the skin where most of the flavour is and then spit out the bones and cartilage. You continue this until you get the thicker foot area, which is supposed to be the tastiest part. If you ever come to China you have eat chicken feet just to say you tried it. It’s an acquired taste, but who knows you might even like it.
Living in CBD we have some news views of the area from our apartment. Well that’s if you like looking at buildings, which funnily enough I do. Our south windows face Guo Mao Three, the tallest building in Beijing and our north windows face the new Chaowai Soho complex. It’s a typical retail/office complex but with an unusual design inspired by the Tulou Mud houses of Fujian province. It also incorporates a number of other traditional Chinese architectural elements to make a very modern statement. It’s developed by Soho, which is Beijing leading property developer known for its innovative design and modernist approach to architecture. It looks good in the day, but really sparkles at night
We decided to go for a walk today as we had spent the whole weekend at home doing nothing. Living in the Central Business District (CBD) has many advantages especially that everything is quite close and walkable. The CBD area, (often called downtown in the US) is set for a huge expansion as the Beijing government plans to double its size. Skidmore Owings Merrill, the famous US architects have just won an international competition to create three new areas linked by parks and green areas to make it more environmental. We passed by the CCTV Tower, which is due to open soon. However, the hotel that caught fire is still there and has yet to be repaired. I heard the internal structure is OK, but not sure if people will have confidence in it without pulling the whole thing down.
Canthy was feeling sick again, so it was my time to look after her and play Florence Nightingale. Maybe I make it sound like a lot of work but it is really very easy. I just need to put her on the sofa with duvets and blankets to make her feel warm. Then she can spend the whole day watching DVDs while I work at the dining room table. That way she feels she connects with me even though she is too engrossed in her TV series to talk to me. Today she only wanted to eat watermelon and chocolate ice cream, so it feels like I am looking after a sick child sometimes. Well it keeps her happy (and quiet) and in our house that’s the most important thing.
My local Starbucks in Jinbao Tower has started putting up decorations so I guess it must be official that Christmas is coming. Christmas is not a big holiday in China and we only get one day off (Christmas Day) but it’s becoming increasing part of the local culture. Most shopping centres and hotels in the city will start to put up their decorations to get into the spirit of Christmas. Hoping to increase consumer spending during the festive time. I have yet to see my first Christmas tree but I am sure it wont be long now. Starbucks is the biggest coffee chain in China, with over 350 stores in 26 cities. It’s the most important market outside the US, so this number will rapidly expand and spread its Christmas spirit across China.
It has been snowing on and off all week but nothing as heavy as last weekend. Although the main roads were clear many parts of the old city were still covered in snow. The hutong area outside my office building still had snow-covered roofs so it reminded me of a Christmas card scene. I don’t think the heating is very good in the old buildings so it can’t melt the snow on the roofs. We are expecting more snow this weekend so will have to see how heavy it will fall. It does make the city look pretty when everything is covered in white, so hopefully it could be a white Christmas this year.
My boss was coming up this week and we had a corporate event, which included a company luncheon on Thursday. I had been trying to think of where to go when our secretary Mandy suggested Da Dong across the road from our office. Da Dong is one of the most famous restaurants in Beijing, which specialises in roast duck. I have been there many times but not this new one, which was supposed to be a very modern design. Well the restaurant was pretty cool with the centrepiece being the open kitchen duck roasting station. This was surrounded by a shallow pond, which was filled with goldfish. The restaurant was pretty big which many private rooms so an idea location for our lunch. We booked a table and planned the menu so was looking forward to coming back here on Thursday.
Flew back late from Shanghai and arrived in Beijing to a snowstorm. Shanghai had been very hot but Beijing was –3C when I landed. The weather was bad and the taxi ride back to my home was pretty scary. The snow was so bad you couldn’t see much out the window and at times we were hardy moving at all. As in many taxis there were no seat belts in the back so I just kept my fingers crossed we wouldn’t crash or skid. On the way back I saw a taxi that had spun out of control and was now facing the wrong way on the motorway. Luckily no one seemed to be harmed as it could of easily turned into a multi car pile up. I was glad to get home but I knew the taxi driver would be heading back again as the airport seemed unusually busy probably due to the weather.
I had to get up at 5am this morning as I was on the early flight to Shanghai. I got to the airport with plenty of time so went to Burger King (BK) for breakfast. For some reason the airport is the only place I know in Beijing that has a Burger King, so I often try to go when I am travelling. Burger King is not as well known as McDonalds in China, but I think the food is healthier. The BK strategy appears to be to locate in airports in China, as I know there is also one in Shanghai. Anyway by the time I boarded the plane the weather had deteriorated at we were stuck on the runway for two hours. The pilot told us there was icing on the wings and so we couldn’t fly. After a while these funny looking cherry picker cranes arrived and started spraying what looked like hot jets of steam at the planes. I wondered if we would every get to leave and then fell asleep on the plane. The next thing I remember we were landing in Shanghai. A little late, but still in time to make the presentation in the afternoon.
Canthy’s friends were having a Mahjong evening so I said I would come along and stop by for a drink. I use to know how to play the game but that was many years ago and I was never any good. If you play with Chinese people they like the game to be fast and furious and I was just too slow having to study every tile. Mahjong is like a national sport and is played everywhere you go in China. It has a history that dates back thousands of years and some believe it was invented by the great teacher Confucious. Canthy loves the game and use to play it in alot in her shady past. I think she use to be very good and won alot of money but then had a bad experience. I never really ask too much but think I know what happened. Anyway she hasn’t played for a long time so she jumps at the chance to play it now. One of the most recognisable sounds of the games is the clackety-clack sound of the tiles being shuffled. When I first moved to Hong Kong in 1996 I lived in a local building in Wanchai. At evenings and especially at weekends the sounds of clackety-clack could be heard coming from my neighbours. The noise often went on until the small hours of the morning but it took me a while to know what the sound was. After a drink I left Canthy to play and hopefully win as gambling is a big part of the game. She eventually came home around 3am and had made a few hundred kuai in pocket money. She was pleased with her win, as it was just a fun game with friends. But nothing like her big winning days and nights in the past.
It’s been a long time since we have been to IKEA, but we needed to go and pick up some new cabinets. Canthy dreads going there as we also seem to get into a silly argument over nothing. However this time I promised I wouldn’t argue in the shop as Canthy hates making a scene in public. As we got up late we decided to head to the restaurant first for brunch. Unfortunately they had a new menu and the food quality had got a lot worse since we were last there. So we struggled to find something that looked good but we knew it would be hours before we would eat again. After brunch we headed off into the store, which was so packed you almost couldn’t see the product through the sea of people. Most customers were just hanging out, resting and sleeping on the room sets, as reported in a very funny story a few months back by the La Times. Anyway we decided to try and make this the shortest trip possible and then get the hell out of there. It only took us two and-a-half hours and one and-a –half arguments, so we did pretty well But next time Canthy has told me I have to go on my own, as she will definitely not ever go there again.
I got back late from work so there was no Thank God Its Friday feeling for me. Just another late night in the office and then cycled home in the freezing cold again. Got home took a shower, while Canthy prepared dinner and I turned on the TV to watch the news. Suddenly my face appeared on screen and I called on to Canthy, who came running from the kitchen. It was only a brief clip and a soundbite, but it made Canthy start screaming “wow your on TV!” I have been interviewed the week before by Emily Chang at CNN, who was doing a story called Life in the Fast Lane. It was about China’s super rich kids, that belong to the Super Car Club and race exotic cars for pleasure. You can see the whole CNN video on my other blog or click the link. The interview only took about 20 minutes as Jo Ling Kent, the CNN producer is only looking for a few insightful comments to add to her story. As an expert in branding and China, I have done a couple of these before and enjoy the experience. Though it can sometimes be a little nervous being infront of a camera. Afterwards, Canthy told me that my face looked fat but I explained that most people gained 10lbs on TV due to the camera. She laughed at my suggestion and maybe she is right. So maybe it is time to start my gym programme before I get another call from CNN.
I often pop into Nike at Wangfujing, not because I am so sporty but just to look around at all the new cool stuff. Infact I haven’t been to a gym in at least fours months despite joining a very expensive gym at my apartment complex. I have joined for two years so I still have time to use it as Canthy keeps reminded me of how much money I am losing every month. Anyway I keep hoping that I will be inspired to go by buying some new trainers that I know I don’t really need. The other reason I go there is to be inspired by the displays as they have some of the best window graphics of any retailer. The current design promotes its women and dynamic yoga which is a big campaign at stores and online. But what caught my eye was this cute little bigheaded doll doing a yoga pose. It reminded me of Melissa, my old Hong Kong flatmate who was a professional yoga teacher. When she left she Hong Kong she gave me her Nike yoga mat, which I still haven’t even unrolled. The yoga doll figure is used throughout the store in various poses and appears on posters and other point of sale. The doll makes this pose look so simple and effortless, but I know from experience how hard it is. However if I was a 3ft doll I might find it easier to do than being a 6ft tall guy.
I cycled to work this morning along Chang An Avenue, the main central street in Beijing. This is where the 60th Anniversary military parade was held, but obviously it looks very different on a normal day. No tanks today, but just two green suited military personal riding their bikes. What I did notice different was a new road sign that had recently appeared. It had a picture of the entrance to the Forbidden City and the words Tiananmen 2km. Not sure when it appeared or why. Tiananmen Square is not to difficult to find, as you just have to drive straight and you can hardly miss it. However it’s probably more useful for drivers stuck in the ever-worsening traffic jams. At least they can tell how far they have to go and how long they need to wait before they get pass the infamous Tiananmen traffic blackspot.
Went for lunch today with Canthy and Ozark but I got there late. By the time I got there they had already ordered but the food looked pretty good. It was a stir-fry hot pot restaurant where the food is wok fried as opposed to being boiled. Hot pot is very popular but it was the first time I had tried this style of cooking. As this was Canthy’s favourite, she and Ozark had almost finished by the time I got there. The concept is simple; you just order different ingredients, mainly vegetables but you can also add meat, chicken and shrimps, basically anything you can think of. It looked delicious and I didn’t find it hot at all until about 10 minutes later when my mouth went numb with the spice. I later found out that is a popular and famous chain of hot pot restaurants called Ma La Xiang Gou. The name translates into ‘Numb Spicy Tasty Pot’, which is very apt. As the food was tasty and my lips and mouth was numb for the rest of the day.
Cycling to work this morning it felt like the coldest day of the year. As usual I was cycling very fast and gasping in the icy cold air, which was burning inside my chest. I thought my lungs were going to explode so I slowed down so I wasn’t breathing so hard. There was still a lot of snow around from yesterday but the roads were clear so I stopped to take this photo. What I didn’t realise until this morning was that the snow was artificially induced. The Chinese authorities had fired silver iodine into the sky (as they often do) to induce the rain. However they had given no warning so it caught the general public off guard. The airports had closed, flights were delayed and the unusually heavy snow brought chaos to the traffic. There was an outcry in the news and Internet as no one had been prepared for such a downfall. It was the earliest snowfall in 22 years and one of the heaviest in recent years. I must admit I too was surprised at how heavy the snow was but now I know the reason why. I think the authorities will think twice before they do that again.
Woke up this morning to find it snowing! It had been quite heavy so the whole city was covered in a white blanket of snow. I then woke up Canthy who was even more excited than I was. As we were going out for brunch later we decided to go out early as it would be hard to get a taxi in this weather. The streets were deserted and we had to wait an hour or so to get a car. In the meantime we played snowball fight in the snow. Well, actually Canthy played snowballs and I played at getting hit and ended up looking like a snowman covered in snow. Luckily I was well protected wearing my fleecy parka coat so I didn’t get wet or cold. There were about a dozen kids playing snowballs but only one kidadult, who was having more fun than the real kids.