September 10, 2012 by bethanjthomas
I’ve been rather quiet on the blog front of late, as I’ve moved to China on a year long mission to learn as much about Chinese tea as possible, whilst working as a tea consultant. It’s not where either I nor my parents thought I’d be in the last year of my 20s, but it is frankly, pretty sweet.
I find myself in the small city of Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province. This lush and mountainous part of China is home to more cultivars of the tea bush than anywhere else in the world, and the tea farmers here produce more varieties of tea than anywhere else too. In short, it is heaven for lovers of tea.
Now, I’ve lived in China before but my initiation into becoming a Chinese resident was unlike any other I’ve had in the past. Two days after landing, I took an hour long bus journey past hundreds of small tea shops and tea houses, to have a medical test as part of my residency application.
At the international medical centre, I was inconspicuously the only 老外 laowai (foreigner) in attendance. As they took my blood to test for numerous highly contagious diseases, my photo was taken by several local men who thought that both I and my blood, was pretty interesting. It’s hard to get annoyed when a needle is in your arm, so I just smiled and made the best of it.
Next I was ushered into a room by a lady of miniture stature who, presuming that I couldn’t speak Chinese, screamed at me in broken English – ‘YOU……DOWN…..BRA UP….BRA….YOU DOWN….BRA UP’. I took this to mean that I should lie down on the bed and lift up my top, but as I went to do so at a reasonable pace, her patience wore thin and I was abruptly shoved onto the bed and my bra pulled up to my chin with remarkable speed.
I lay slightly shell shocked with my underwire pressing against my chin, wondering why exactly I wasn’t allowed to take the damn bra off. And then I felt it….the cold press of something rubbery on my ribs…
What I can only describe as ‘eight bright blue sucky things’, were pressed against my ribs, stomach and breasts with a slightly inconsiderate amount of pressure. As the suckers failed to take hold and the angry wee woman pushed with increasing force against my torso, muttering in Chinese that if I was ‘fat like the other Americans this wouldn’t be a problem’. It took all my concentration not to burst into hysterical laughter. Biting down my underwire, I did all I could to hold still, stare at the ceiling and think of the Queen.
It was at this point that I started to wonder what on earth this test was for (its alarming how long this took me to think of). WIth seven suction thingys attached, the last sucker was left to dangle from a nipple as at the fifth attempt, the nurse gave up and marched to bash some kind of data into her computer.
Ribs shaking with hidden laughter, I eagerly awaited her return. She didn’t fail to entertain me, whipping the suckers from my skin whilst screaming at a man who had wandered into the examination room, clearly deciding that he wanted in on some of this action.
‘BRA DOWN’ she demanded before handing me a card with a tick in a box.
Apparently I’d just had an ECG.
Welcome to China.