Category Archives: Health and wellness

The dubious pleasures of nasal congestion

Of which there are none.

Last night was even less fun than the night before as this pesky, but not especially bad cold blocked my nose up and laughed at my attempts to use a nasal spray to unblock it. At best, my nose was half blocked and progressively got worse. Eventually, I woke up some time early this morning with a dry mouth. When I did sleep, I had peculiar dreams. The only one I can remember is going up some stairs. Each time I hit the next flight up, I’d encounter a large, long-legged koala coming down which, I knew somehow, was expecting to be fed. It also left large, dry turds behind it. The koala was obviously the cat which is owned by one of the local shopkeepers. The turds? No idea.

Today was the first day of the speaking exams. Not a bunch of fun to deal with when you’re tired and you have a slight but nagging headache. Bah!


When you first examine the patient…

Gauge the size of their wallet.

Another piece in The Guardian from Jonathan Watts about China, this time the medical system. This is the heart of the problem

China’s healthcare system – once almost free – is now one of the most market-oriented in the world. Since market reforms in 1979 the govern­ment’s share of healthcare costs has declined from 54% to 17%. According to the World Health Organisation China ranks 188 out of 191 nations in terms of the equality of financial access to health.

The article goes on to say

With little support from state coffers, medical institutions have to find new ways to generate income. Drug sales account for half of hospital incomes, which has led to widespread accusations of overprescribing.

I needed to see a doctor on one occasion which meant, because I don’t think there are an GPs in China, a trip to the local hospital. (This was when I was in Beijing.) My translator asked the hospital staff not to over­charge me because I was foreign (’cos foreigners are rich, right?). I think they did give me at least one unnecessary test, though, which merely con­firmed that I wasn’t pregnant.

That particular hospital was a shabby affair. When one of the teachers who was at the school the year after I left broke her ribs trying to climb over the gate at 2am one Sunday, she had to spend the night there before being moved to an international hospital in Chaoyang. Moreover, the school co-ordinator who was “in charge” of us at the time had to stay with her be­cause there weren’t a sufficient number of nurses on duty. (Probably none.) International hospitals are the best, but they are, of course, also the most expensive. The recommendation that we got when I first came to China was to head for Hong Kong or Japan if you needed treatment for some­thing serious.

Given the state of the medical system in China, it’s little wonder that the mob might target hospitals for failing to provide health care. I wonder if Chinese doctors swear the Hippocratic Oath or something like it. There are obviously occasions when you’d hope humanity would prevail over economics, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

[20.08.13. I note (cynically, of course) that like lawyers in China, doctors are more likely to swear allegiance to the Party than they are to upholding the standards of their profession. In addition, GSK has recently been at the centre of a scandal that is probably common to all pharmaceuticals companies operating in China. 14.08.14. That came to a head just recently with the conviction of a British investigator and his (American-)Chinese wife who, it seems, trod on the toes of someone rather important.]

Double irony

Pole position.

Danwei’s top story this morning is Pole dancing: for fitness, not about sex. Pole dancing has come to China as a means of exercise. Danwei is re­port­ing on an article from China Daily which was pinched from Reuters.

Oddly enough, I was browsing through the lists on Britblog a couple of days ago, when I stumbled across a blog by a woman who teaches pole dancing in London (The Pole Affair). As she said, it’s an excellent way to keep fit.

Since you’ve all been so good, here’s an extra few doses of irony for you: in China, pole dancing will definitely be about sex as well. I’m sure when the “attractive young female teachers” (the words of a pupil) at my old school in Beijing did a sexy dance routine at a school concert, it was actually a display of synchronised callisthenics. The following year (I think) we had a solo performance along similar lines from an attractive young female teach­er. At the recent concert here, a PE teacher led a group of girls in yet an­other sexy dance, and I observed some of the senior (male) members of the school hierarchy having a good perv through the hall doors at traditional ethnic dance by some of the female pupils.

Such displays are, I’d aver, another manifestation of the deep vein sexual self-repression in this country. Among girls, it seems to manifest itself as a form of display (short shorts and all that). Among boys, it manifests itself as behaviour which, in Western eyes, is homosexual, even although most of the boys won’t actually be gay. Neither sex is really aware of any of this, but what would arouse comment in the West passes unnoticed here.

See, I am normal

But that’s what the Chinese say.

We went to the Entry and Exit Section of the PSB yesterday to deal with our foreign residents permits. I was expecting to have to go to Hong Kong for a couple of days to get a new Z-visa for the Mainland, but it appears that here in Fujian Province that’s not necessary. (Watch this space perhaps.)

Just as we were leaving the building, June gave us our Foreign Expert Certificates and our Certificate of Health Examination. I’ve never had one of the latter before. I don’t know whether it’s new or simply something they do in this part of the country. The results of the health check are that I’m the poster boy for normal. Yes, that’s right – I’m normal. [That’s a different kind of normal. –ed.]

Oddly enough the booklet informs me that my external genital organs are normal, although as far as I recall, there was no sighting of these by anyone during the whole time I was having the medical check. Certainly no one tried to cop a feel.

I’ve also allegedly shrunk. According to the results, I’ve lost 3cm. I don’t think there’s been any… Not that sort of shrinking. I’m talking about my height. See, an innocent comment and all you perverts are all, er, innuendinous. Actually, I’ve just checked, and it appears to be true. I probably haven’t shrunk at all, but I’m puzzled about how I came to think I’m 3cm taller than I am.

A spoonful of sugar

You know I’m good for it.

The name of the, er, medicine is 脑灵通 nǎo língtōng which seems to mean some­thing like “brain boost”. The safety signs are up at the entrances to the bike park; there’s a poster with a series of safety suggestions, including 注意安全; and then there are other posters on some of the columns. But I’m sure the manufacturers are sponsoring the posters out of concern for student safety.

25.06.13. The medicine in question was advertised in the bike park at the school. Outwardly it was a safety notice, but this stuff was almost certainly aimed at the Senior 3s. I can imagine the outrage at home if such stuff was advertised on school property.

In the building to the east of our entrance, another shop has just opened. But just to be different, this one’s selling sporting goods. All we need is a clothes shop, a branch of China Mobile, and an off licence, and we’ll have a complete set. Actually, on second thoughts, a complete set would also include a chemist’s shop (药店 yào diàn) of which there seem to be an excessive number in this town. And there the students can buy their brain boost medicine.

Meanwhile, from the Land of Literary Amusements, comes this site (via Language Log) where you can analyse the titles of books to see how likely they are to be best sellers. I threw in Perfect Blue (Satoshi Kon’s anime thriller) and got a 69.0% of the title being a best seller. OK, it’s not a novel, but half the fun of these sorts of programs is seeing what happens when you experiment.

Varney the Vampyre [sic], a 19th century penny dreadful, got a 45.6% rating. Sillier still, I entered a random string of letters, made up the rest, and ended up with a 59.4% chance of a best seller. You have to enter a title, but I don’t think it matters what you actually put.

As the background discussion notes, titles of best sellers don’t always score well. A Dream of Red Mansions got a mere 10.2%, but the Chinese title (Hong Lou Meng) got 69.0%. The settings you choose can have a major effect on the outcome since my first analysis of Hong Lou Meng only got a 31.7% chance of success.

One problem I have with the program is the grammatical categories. It appears that “grammatically complete phrase” really means a grammatically complete clause.

Anyway, my best seller isn’t writing itself.


What’s the point?

Over the weekend I had a rather sore throat. It’d kind of gone by this morning and I had a minor cold which became less minor this afternoon and is currently rated a nuisance.

I’m wondering (because I have nothing better to do now that I’ve finished marking last week’s tests) what the point of a cold is and why there’s no cure. Let’s face it; the same thing happens every time. How is that not curable? I’m not talking about absolute immunity, but the moment I get a sore throat why isn’t there something I can take which obliterates the germs? No germs; no cold; time to party.

What is the evolutionary point of a cold, apart from being exceptionally irritating? Is it an immunity thing? No colds would weaken our immune system and leave us vulnerable???? “Clutch”, “I”, and “straw” – you make up the rest of the sentence.