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.
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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.