Tokyo Blond Is Not Porn

Tokyo Blond is not a porn blog, about hair or even, as one pithy friend remarked, a micro beer or late 1980s glam metal band ("Dude, I just saw Skid Row and Tokyo Blond opened and played a killer set").

The purpose of this blog is to chronicle my experiences in Tokyo - poignantly, visually, irreverently - for fun.

Anybody can tag along...that is if I like you. This blog will endeavor to be entertaining and honest and frequent enough to keep those following interested including me.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Everyone Knows Americans Carry Diseases

So Russell informs me I am required to have a National Health Screening in order to be issued a resident Visa.

The health screening consists of eight different stations or testing areas.  The testing facility is an hour out of Beijing near the Summer Palace.

I ask him if anyone in is office has been through this, assuming naturally they all have as most of them are in fact not Chinese.  I am specifically interested in knowing if a woman in his office has been through the screening.  I want to know what to expect. Like, for example, does one of these tests include an, um, "female examination?"  I am not relishing this idea at all.

He says he'll ask around.  Of course when he had his test, it didn't include stirrups and lubricant.

He asks around and discovers that, apparently, not everybody has to have a National Health Screening. What do you mean? I say wonderingly.  There are Germans, English, South African and Australians in his office.  None of them had a screening.  In fact it appears only Americans have to be screened. What the?  Oh, that's right, us Americans are notorious for carrying diseases, especially STDs.

Nice.  They want to make sure we don't have an STD or Aids or Stupidity?  Foreigners are not allowed to work in China unless they have a minimum of a bachelors degree and two years work experience.  Or maybe that's just Americans.  I didn't ask specifically.

On the morning of the test my driver, Hiro, who looks like an Asian Baby Huey in an orange and brown striped Charlie Brown polo shirt and shorts, waits for me anxiously.  The only English word he knows is "Ok".  He smiles enthusiastically when he sees me. He rushes around the car to open my door for me, all the while, saying "Ok.  Ok, Ok, Ok."  I feel like I'm being driven around by Joe Pesci.

We drive the hour in heavy traffic in silence.  For some reason he doesn't like to have the radio on when he's driving, although I know he listens to it really loud while he's waiting. Perhaps it has to do with concentrating. The first time the driver picked me up from the airport Russell implored me NOT to watch him drive.  He was right.  Driving, that is being driven in China, is harrowing.

The Chinese drive their cars like they drive their bicycles: e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.  Lanes and traffic signals are merely a suggestion.  Extra points are awarded for hitting people.  There is no safety proximity bubble; cars travel within an Angstrom of each other. 1,500 new drivers are added to Beijing roads everyday.  90% of the drivers are newbies.  It's like being on the 405 with newly minted teenage drivers high on Mountain Dew and violent video games.  HELP.  I've learned not to watch.  If you do, you have nightmares, high blood pressure and persistent white knuckles.  Instead, I daydream about Triscuits and Sees Candies.

When we arrive my driver consorts with the parking attendant.  Somehow he arranges to park the car in a no-parking area close to the front entrance. It's about 100 degrees out here.  Some road workers on break under a scanty tree comment enthusiastically when I get out of the car.  There's that universal gesture for "Big American Breasts," I've begun to recognize where ever I go.

Hiro rushes me to the check-in desk where the attendant takes my information without any human emotion, in spite of my dimpled smile and cleavage, and brusquely points in the direction of the stairs to the first testing area.  Hiro grabs my purse and my paperwork and rushes me upstairs.  When he gets upstairs he barks out to an attendant.  It always sounds like they're arguing.  He rushes me towards a curtain.

Behind the curtain they make me step on a scale and record the retched number into the computer.  Thankfully it's in Chinese so I can't read it.  Same with my height.  A man in a white coat listens to my chest.  Apparently my heart is beating so I am passed on to the next station.

Next I am asked to lay on a table in a dimly lit room.  The woman gestures for me to pull up my shirt and then freezes me, while she does an ultrasound on my abdomen.  She informs me, in a loose translation of English, that she is checking my kidney and gall bladder.  She seems genuinely surprised when she grunts out "good" at the conclusion.   What was she expecting - aliens?

Next I am escorted into another room where an attendant who looks like he's 15 hangs a heavy lead poncho over me, points at the machine and runs into the other room. He's laughing with another guy behind the glass.  I look around confusedly.  I guess I'm supposed to stand here?  A buzzer sounds.  He's impatient with me.  Apparently that was the cue to take off the lead.  He practically pushes me out the door.

The next room I am asked to read an eye chart.  It's the kind where you have to point to the direction the letters are facing.  The man behind the chair looks kind until I don't understand his next question.  My driver erupts at my side and gestures wildly at some piece of paper taped to the desk.  After a minute of blond confusion I realize I'm supposed to read the piece of paper that has two squares with an odd design.  One design is red; one is green.  Oh, I get it - it's a depth perception/color blind test.  I blush, blurt out my answers and I guess I pass because we run down the stairs to the last test stations.

My driver, still carrying around my purse and my paperwork, thrusts me into the next room, almost interrupting the previous test in progress.  His urgency to protect me and get me through the exam is endearing, if not comical.  He takes his duties very seriously.

So far no stirrups.  Good.

A young woman gestures for me to lay back and pull up my shirt and soundlessly and efficiently attaches electrodes to my chest and other vital areas for an EKG.   Thirty seconds later she hands me a paper towel and gestures towards the door.

The next attendant takes my temperature, pulse and blood pressure.

The last room takes my blood. Another vial gone.  I wonder what it will reveal.  It looks the same color as the others collected from patients before me.

I am relieved.

We rush to the check out counter.  Why are we running I wonder?  She intimates we are finished and asks if we want to come back in four hours for the results or pay to have them delivered.  Pay for delivery; I'm not coming back here. She grunts out something to my driver who takes my arm and pulls me to a stand in the middle of the room where a good looking twenty something year old man stands smiling pleasantly.

He speaks good English and takes my address and money for the delivery.  And we're done.

The whole process took 30 minutes, literally.  Two hours of driving time for 30 minutes of exams that would have taken a minimum five appointments at different doctor's offices and hours of insurance forms in the U.S.

Well, at least they're efficient I muse as Hiro hands me my purse, opens my door, and says "Ok?"

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