Urumqi, China — the hospital visit

We take the over-night train from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Urumqi, China. It takes about about an hour to get through Kazakhstan customs, an hour, or more, to change the wheels on the train (the two counties use different gage track, so they have to change the wheels), and an hour, or more, to get through China customs. There were very complete searches on both sides of the border — they wanted to look through our packs. The Chinese customs officer wanted Karen to turn on her cell phone. In the end, we got out of Kazakhstan before our transit time limit and made our deadline before our Chinese entrance visa expired. We had some real deadlines.


We are in Urumqi, China. Karen shows her bruise, the result of her fall on the ice in Astana.

I am taking her to a hospital for an x-ray. It is a challebnge because almost no one speaks English here. I locate a hospital, using an on-line map. I copy the Chinese characters for “hospital” and show them to our hotel staff (no one speaks English). They agree with me that we can walk there.

We arrive at the hospital and go through the security checkpoint where they scan our handbags — the security checks are in many places, at the train station also — they have a terrorist problem due to minority groups – people who don’t want to be part of China.


I show the hospital desk clerk the characters for “x-ray” and “shoulder” and then point to Karen. It has been my experience that it is virtually impossible for me to get the the Mandarin tones correct when I speak. That is why I have developed the system of writing out words and phrases that I would like to say.


The girl at the desk understands and takes us to another office — they begin a long discussion and it turns out that we must go to another hospital — one that specializes on x-rays for adults (they said that their hospital only treats children — we need to go to a bone hospital). They write the name of the other hospital. Now I’m armed with Chinese characters to show to a taxi driver so we can get to the right hospital.

It works — here we are, entering the Emergency Room.


I show the front desk people my characters for “shoulder” and “x-ray”


She fills out forms and gives me an information pamphlet (in Chinese). I must pay 10 yuan to get a hospital card which allows me into their payment system. She also points us toward our next task — waiting in the hallway — where everyone clutches a hospital card and information paper.

There are many people waiting to be processed — more people than chairs — and we wait for over an hour until we are summoned by the nurse-in-charge. We talk to someone — maybe a doctor. I show the words “shoulder” and ‘x-ray.” They call a “resident” doctor to come help us. He speaks some English. He tells us that he graduated in 2011. He takes us to the payment station, where I show my card and they figure out the charges for an e-ray. I pay 158 yuan. The resident shows us where to wait for the x-ray.


Here is the hallway for x-ray patients.


I watch doctors look at x-ray film while interns look over their shoulders.


Karen gets x-rayed and we wait for the results.


We wait over an hour and there is confusion about what to do with the negatives when we finally get them. Someone directs us to a doctor’s office and, after a short wait, he looks at the nagatives. He does not speak English but he directs another guy to talk with us. The guy has an extremely limited vocabulary. We gain an understanding that Karen has a small fracture in her humerus (“That’s humorous,” she says.) The doctor wants her arm to be in a sling. We ask enough questions that the doctor and the other guy — maybe another doctor — summon back our resident. By now, we are friends. He is the only guy who can speak English (limited English is better than nothing).


He tells about medical school where they speak Mandarin Chinese — which he speaks — but he is actually a Uyghur, a minority group in China, he says. How are Uyghurs different? They are Muslim and have their own language and customs. About 30% of the people in Urumqi are Uyghur.

I ask him about past problems (there have been terrorist events — some want to be free from Chinese control (presently they are an “autonomous region,” like Tibet).

“We are a part of China,” he says. “We will always be part of China.”

Is he religious? Does he pray five times a day?

“No,” he says. “I am not religious.”

I ask him about buying a sling and also about pain medication. He talks to the doctors and gets the proper prescriptions. With my handy hospital card and the paperwork, I pay 46 yuan.

We are taken upstairs, where Karen gets time-release Ibuprofen and a confining sling.


They fit the sling on her.

She is good to go! In the end, the total hospital costs were the equivalent of about $50.00. Cab fare was about $4.50.

We bid everyone goodbye and hope that Karen is now on the road to recovery.

The experience was stressful and educational, but things seemed to go well.

[note: China has a powerful firewall system which prevents people within China from using Google and from hiding their identity. They don’t want average citizens to be fully exposed to outside thinking. For many days, I was unable to blog, check Facebook, or use the Internet normally. I just purchased a new VPN designed to overcome my problem and it seems to be working. Hopefully the Chinese government will not catch on and close me down!]

In each of my blogs, I wish to mention the inner journey of meditation. People often say, “I don’t have time. I’m under too much stress.”

When there is great stress, that is the time to meditate. You should practice when you are not under stress so that when you are under stress, you can still do it. It is not always easy to do. In fact, it can be hard to do.

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