Chloe’s First Gymnastics Try-Out: F-

See following.

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Chinese Hospitals: A

So the thing is, Chloe, being two years old, likes to run everywhere without much looking where she’s going. And our apartment, like most apartments, has walls, and where two walls meet there is a corner. Concave corners are not a problem. Chloe chose one of the convex ones instead, and neatly opened her left eyebrow, and now we have two walls that are more sort of burgundy-sprayed than the handsome beige they used to be.

The other thing is, it’s not like we can just carry her out the door and jump in a cab and yell, “The nearest hospital, stat!”, though there are plenty of cabs — very cheap ones, I should add — and plenty of hospitals, and of course the cabbies know where they are. But we can’t just go to any hospital. We have to go to a hospital for foreigners, and not just any hospital for foreigners, but one that has an agreement with the Peruvian embassy and its insurance company.

Thus, with Chloe screaming and my wife screaming and Thomas screaming and me screaming at everyone to stop screaming, we try to figure out which hospitals we can go to, and how to get there. First we call one of Analu’s colleagues — this is at seven o’clock on a Sunday morning, and, while gracious, he is Not All That Happy To Hear From Us — and he tells us the name of the closest hospital we can go to. I copy down the name, and the phone number, and ask if they speak English, and Enrique promises that, yes, they do. But he doesn’t know the address, so next I call the hospital itself, and they do speak English, and they tell me the address, and I write it down. Just as I hang up, though, I realize that this still isn’t enough, because I can’t just show the address to a cabbie, because it’s in English, which he won’t be able to read.

(Quick Beijing Taxi Primer: to get anywhere at all here, you have to have the address written in Chinese, preferably on a business card. Then you hand that to the taxi driver, and 70% of them will nod and hand the card back to you and take you wherever you want to go after first taking a few discreet extra turns to work the fare up just a little; the other 30% will peer at the card for a moment, then hand it back and shake their head, meaning either that they don’t know where it is {22%} or that they don’t know how to read {8%} and in either case you just thank them and go find another cab.)

So I call the hospital back and ask if they’re located near any sort of big famous landmark or something whose name a cabby might recognize in English. And they say yes, the Beijing Hotel. So, we still don’t have anything in Chinese, and as it’s Sunday there’s no one in the Beijing International Friendship Garden administrative office who can write it down in Chinese, but by now there’s blood all over me and all over my wife and all over the floor, though, strangely, not that much on Chloe herself, so we decide to risk it, and sure enough, after several attempts, each with different pronunciation and tonal inflection, the cabbie appears to understand where we want to go, though he obviously finds it a little odd that we want to go to a big hotel when obviously what our daughter needs is to go to a hospital.

So, after apologizing to Adela for ruining her day off by sticking her with Thomas for god knows how many hours, we get loaded in, and take the longish drive into downtown Beijing, and by now it’s clear that Chloe’s not going to bleed out, though her modeling career is pretty much doomed, so we’ve all calmed down a little, and I’m actually enjoying the taxi ride — the peaceful empty streets, the clean air, the sense of well-being that always follows an emergency successfully negotiated. Then we pull up to the hotel, and I run in and find an English-speaking concierge who knows where the hospital is, and bring him out to tell the cabbie, who it turns out has already split the scene, (but not before recognizing Analu, in her current state of hurry and worry, as the ideal victim for a counterfeit-50-yuan-bill-in-the-change scam, though of course we didn’t figure this out until later,) so we flag down another, and the concierge gives him the directions, and three minutes later we’re pulling into the emergency bay at the hospital.

Everything’s calm there too, this huge sort of dank-smelling and poorly-lit but very clean hospital totally empty, or at least the Foreigner Wing is empty, and the nurses speak good English and are kind and funny, and locate a doctor, and he takes us all up to his office, and while waiting for the elevator we see a few other patients, mainly Chinese, including one very pregnant woman and one man with an eye-patch, but these people, too, are calm. We ride up, and wait while the doctor finds the right key, and it turns out Chloe doesn’t even need stitches (which makes me a little embarrassed — all that mess, and she doesn’t even really need a doctor…), just orange disinfectant and a couple of butterfly bandages and gauze and tape and a lollipop.

And we pay, and it’s cheap, and then, what the hell, we’re in the center of Beijing at ten on a Sunday morning, so we take a walk around, and Chloe, with her huge bulge of eyebrow gauze, is a big hit with everyone — several people who appear to be tourists from other parts of China actually ask if they can have their picture taken with her as she stands with her feet in this sort of sidewalk sculpture that consists of huge bronze shoes, and, well, sure, be our guest.

Then we go to a big department store and find high-chairs that can be converted into little regular chairs with their own little desks, and buy two of them, plus some cosmetics or something — I’m not exactly clear on what happened, but as Lu and I were walking by, her wrist got snagged by a tall, thin, pretty, extremely insistent cosmetics salesperson, and we ended up a few hundred yuan in the hole — and then we go to McDonald’s, but it’s too crowded so we take another cab home, and relieve Adela of Thomas, and make some lunch, and eat it, and get the kids down for their naps, and take a nap of our own.