Day at the Doctor's
This isn’t possible! I think, my mind numb with shock. My eyes are glued to the pregnancy test that balances on the edge of the wash basin. In the center of the little stick, two red lines are clearly visible. Oh no. I’m pregnant! Although my husband and I have been trying to have a baby for years, reality now dawns on me. Bile rises in the back of my throat. I’ll have to visit a Chinese doctor.
As is custom in China, there are no GP’s with a private practice in Yangshuo. For medical care I must turn to one of the local hospitals and pray for a competent physician. Communication between different departments is non-existent and the only patient records doctors can access are the, usually semi-decomposed, booklets each patient brings to a consult. Treatment rooms are decorated with bloodstains. Beds are filthy and full of rat holes. The air inside the building reminds me of rotten meat and makes every molecule in my body scream. “Veerle, turn around! You’ll never make it out of here alive!”
In spite of my fear, I head for the hospital the next day. It’s Monday morning. I’m alone. My friends are all at work and my husband is leading an expedition in Tibet. As expected, I’m greeted by a serenade of crying toddlers who have I.V. needles stuck in their foreheads. The little faces, drenched in tears, look so terrified that I almost turn around and run back outside. I redirect my gaze to the obstetric department. The pink walls radiate warmth and are remarkably clean compared to the rest of the building. A façade, I think. Women keep disappearing into the small rooms down the hall. The real horror hides in those small torture chambers.
It takes me all of my willpower but I manage to drag myself into the doctor’s office. Surrounded by pregnant ladies of all shapes and sizes, I try to convey to the obstetrician that I just discovered that I’m expecting. She mutters something inaudible then shoves a piece of paper in my face.
“You pay first,” she snarls. Her harsh tone doesn’t surprise me. After eight years in China, I’m used to being treated like I’m a nuisance. But my hormones are raging. Tears start spilling over. In attempt to stop myself from going on a crying jag I focus on the faces around me. The people in the room all stare at me as if I’m from a different planet, which only upsets me more. My eyes red, my fingers barely able to hold on to my purse, I pay the bill of 7 Renminbi (0.70 GBP). Next, a nurse presses a miniscule cup made of Saran Wrap into my hands. I know what to do with it and am grateful that I can leave the room.
It isn’t hard to find the toilet. I just follow the thickening scent of urine. I pick the cleanest booth and squat down. It takes quite some balancing skills to urinate in the tiny jar without touching anything. Once finished, I return the cup, chock-full of yellow fluid, to the doctor. She asks me to sit down and wait. My hands are covered in pee and there isn’t a wash basin in sight. I feel dirty and incredibly sorry for myself.
“Yes, you have baby!” the obstetrician yells five minutes later. “Come back in six weeks.”
I don’t know if I’m supposed to laugh or cry now that I am officially pregnant. But one thing I know for sure. If I wish to get through the next eight months, I’ll need a lot more courage.
A friend just sent me this piece of information. Highly disturbing, but unfortunately a truth me and my family need to deal with on a daily basis. I can only hope that one day the Chinese government will step up to secure the safety of its people. I just want to be able to eat a freaking apple or dumpling without the fear of getting cancer.
Don't buy Kiwi Fruit from China!
Please circulate as far as possible, everyone must be informed and they can make their own choices.
When this is being foisted on to the public without their knowledge, it is tantamount to criminal activity.
You will have noticed some unusually large Kiwi fruit on the shelves and these look very attractive too!!!
No wonder we have so many sick people when they eat products like this, and there are many of both.
Don't buy Kiwi Fruit from China!
The Kiwi Fruit are soaked with chemicals whilst growing on trees so they will grow larger and weigh heavier.
They are using some kind of chemical growth hormones that can have bad effects upon human nervous systems including metabolic disorders, birth defects, and retarded learning abilities of children. The same effect as the fluoride put in water!
The Kiwi fruits, after soaking in the Chemical Hormone will grow larger and are more preferred by the merchants because they are more profitable! Most of the fruit are from the Sichuan area.
Just avoid Kiwi fruit from China if you care for your family's safety!
I feel like I’m living inside a dream; awake and yet lost in a mirage-like haze that feels so amazing that I’m ninety-nine percent convinced that it can’t be real.
Last week I had to overcome my biggest fear and had my wisdom tooth extracted by a scary Chinese dentist－and survived against all odds. But even more unbelievable, I reached my ultimate high when the reviews of The Fire of Dawn came streaming in. Not only are sales records reaching into the thousands, but there are also people among those curious readers who actually like my book－something I never deemed possible until now. It’s a strange phenomenon.
When I started working on this novel, it was purely out of frustration for the lack of available storybooks here in China. My kids, both wolves famished for fresh plots and adventures, finally drove me to pick up my pen and create Leah Koopmans and the host of characters that dwell inside The Fire of Dawn. But not once while I was writing did I imagine that one day other people besides my kids and direct family would enjoy my scribbling.
I hope one day you will share this feeling. Anyway, thank you all for believing in me. I feel truly blessed.
Hell in Paradise
Guangzhou, Guangzhou. International city of smog and taxi gangs, traffic jams and crammed subway cars, yet it possesses an allure strong enough to overcome its smelly stigma, and I have to admit that I actually love it here. It is my retreat. Strange perhaps, since I live in paradise. But even heaven has its downsides. At times, I yearn for a whiff of exhaust fumes and a chance to blend in with the masses. Always being the only one to stand out in a crowd wears on me some time. And although running a loving family and launching a book sounds like fun, it can all be terribly exhausting. Darkness creeps into my brain until, slowly, it consumes every ounce of light. Okay, I admit, this all sounds overly dramatic, probably because I am miserable. I’m never ill, but right now my body feels like a hellish cage. The only way to feel better is slay
one of my biggest fears and willingly set foot inside a Chinese hospital. The fact that I’m even considering this is a good indication of how crappy I feel.
For someone who writes about bloodthirsty immortals and vampires I’m really not
that brave in real life. Yet, my fear isn’t completely irrational. After having spent nearly a decade in China, I have encountered my fare share of over-crowded consultation rooms where one has to talk about his or her entire medical history
in front of a dozen other anxious patients, dingy check-up spaces with beds
covered in blood-and-iodine stains－the kind of room you fear you’ll never leave again, not alive at least. And yet all this doesn’t terrify me as much as having to talk to a doctor whose top priority isn’t to restore my health, but to sell as much medicine as possible. The more prescriptions he writes, the higher his salary. Commission is
a powerful thing. There’s truly something deranged about this. Fortunately, my
Chinese these days allows me to say no against certain meds, like China’s all time favorite: Amoxicillin. Life for some, but not good for me. Ingesting it gives me light allergies, making me feel exactly like the average vampire when put in sunlight.
Luckily, I am in one of China’s largest cities, which means I will probably be able to find an international hospital. Here goes. If you don’t hear from me again in the next few days, you’ll know that I haven’t made it out.
Gosh, people often ask me what I miss most about my former life in Europe. I guess that having trustworthy medical care is a firm number one.
Today my son is nine. He is not a small boy anymore and in less than a decade he will be an adult, although I have a hard time imagining him as a grown man. Time is so sneaky. It crawls through the cracks unseen, slowly eroding the foundations of your life. But for my son it is bliss. He yearns to grow up, go on adventures, taste life in its purest form.
He reminds me of myself. I couldn’t wait to turn eighteen and explore the world. To the great detriment of my dear parents I fought throughout my adolescence as a trapped rat struggling for freedom. I nearly gnawed off my limbs. I can’t keep from praying that my son won’t become like I
was－an uncontrollable dragon set to self-destruct. I fear the laws of karma. When one has so thoroughly embarrassed herself and hurt the people she loves, karma is destined to kick her in the butt. Fortunately, I will still have a few more years to prepare myself for the worst. Abu is only nine. That means, if he’s anything like me, I can expect him to start raising hell in about four years time. This last thought encourages me to get out of bed.
Abu and his sister are already scurrying about. I hear their tiny footsteps on the stone tiles and their exited gasps when they open their bedroom door and see that all the walls are completely covered with balloons. They know that they aren’t supposed to wake me and I can sense their struggle to remain quiet. It won’t be long before their excitement turns into an endless, earsplitting record－‘Mommy, mommy, mommy. It’s my birthday! Mommy!’ I opt to preserve my eardrums and not to keep
As expected I find both my kids right outside my door, smiling from ear to ear. I give them both a big hug, and an extra kiss for Abu. That beautiful face. Suddenly, I can’t believe that he will ever grow up to be a teen monster like his mum. Who knows? Today, at least, I shall cherish.
I am lying in my bed with my nose below the covers. The electric blanket radiates a comfortable heat, which makes me want to stay in my cocoon forever. Luckily, I don’t have to get up. The kids are still quiet. Yesterday
was late. We watched as the sky lit up at midnight and bright flowers of flames blossomed against in dark, cloud-infested curtain. My throat still feels raw from the excited gasps and ‘wows’ that passed through my mouth as I admired the spectacle above our heads. This kind of dazzling display of fireworks can only
be found in China.
‘No, the kids will remain knocked out for at least two more hours,’ I tell
myself, purr a sigh of content, and snuggle deeper into my little nest.
BAM, BAM, BAM! I jolt upright, my heart slamming against the insides of my chest. The fresh morning breeze, streaming in through the tiny
openings between the window frame and wall, hits my face. I shiver out of reflex, but not because the tip of my nose instantly feels like a deep-frozen Popsicle. It takes me a minute to understand that the loud repetitious noise I’m hearing isn’t that of a person emptying a machine gun below my window. The landlord has begun his yearly ritual.
To ban evil spirits from entering his home on New Year’s morning
Mr. Zhang sets off a one-hundred-thousand celebration roll－which unfolds into an infinite string of firecrackers. However, this year he doesn’t seem sure that one coil of mini-bombs is sufficient to shun the ghosts that haunt him. Just when I am ready to retrieve my eardrums, a second serenade of gunfire comes my way, this time originating from the left side of the house. Carefully,
I push back the curtains. I can’t see anything, but the vast billowing plume of smoke that enwraps the entire house. Sulphury fumes filter inside. Five minutes pass before also this gigantic firecracker runs out of ammo. But I can’t relax yet. Something tells me that there is more to come. And I’m right. Mr. Zhang is relentless. Having covered the south and east sides of our building, he moves on to the north and finally concludes his reign of ear-splitting raucous in the west. I guess this year he’s desperate for good fortune and determined to keep out even the tiniest phantom who might stand in his way.
Suddenly the entire neighborhood explodes. Every house is torpedoed with red confetti as firecrackers ignite and paint the ground into a
I guess its time to get up after all.
V.V. Aku: writer, mother, rock-climber, kung fu addict. and explorer, lived in China on the border of Tibet with her Black Yi family for over a decade. She recently moved back to The Netherlands where she devotes her time to writing book and scripts for film and TV.