I’ve lost track of which permits and visas we have and don’t have as part of our move. You’d have to be a bit crazy to assume it’d be paperwork-free, but let’s just say there’s a sizeable amount of admin – most of which needs to be completed before we receive our shipments . I can cope without all my suits and toiletries for a while longer, but the 80 RMB (about £9) kettle I bought to tide us over for a couple of weeks is really beginning to crack at the seams (Literally. Water comes out the gaps in the sides when it boils).
One permit requires us to undergo a medical… the experience of which was a bit of a microcosm of some of the things we’ve seen and heard, so I’m going to write about it in the same way we went through it.
Our appointment was at 13:30 and we were asked to bring with us a few forms, 4 passport photos and our passports. When we got there, we had to present our passports to the receptionist who asked for photocopies. I didn’t have these, but they had a copy room, so problem solved. Having proven who we were, we were asked to wait in room 101, a waiting room, to complete some paperwork and await our number being called. The paperwork needed details of our passport, residence and prior medical history. Once our numbers were called, we were invited to room 102 to have our forms and passports checked, and (i think) to decide which tests we were due as part of the medical.
You might be thinking “I feel like I’ve read the word ‘passport’ a lot in this post”. Well, yes, you have. But I have shown my passport to a lot of people in the past couple of weeks. This was very much in line with that theme.
From room 102 we went to 103 where we showed our passports to the attendant who in return measured our height, weight, BMI and gave us a locker for our stuff and a form of gown to wear. We made our way to 105, where following a passport check, we were laid on a bed and had clamps attached to ankles, wrists and our sides – apparently this was an EKG reading (which I always thought was the something from the movie Ghostbusters)
Anyway, then it was to #108 where our vision and passports were inspected, followed by #106 for an upper body X-ray. Oh and a passport check. Then…
#111 – where a masked man in a darkened room poked me in the belly with a rubber instrument and asked if i’d eaten any lunch. I told him I was in a long-term relationship but thanked him for his interest. Then I gave him my passport.
#104 for a blood pressure test, #107 for more belly poking in another room. Passport.
#113 blood test. I don’t know if they needed to see my passport in this test but it was now habit, so I showed it to the nurse who seemed to be expecting it.
That was it. Back to get our stuff from the locker in 103 and we were done.
During the process and shortly afterwards it was hard not to think: “What is going on with this? This is ridiculous. Why does everyone need to see my passport all the time? Is it just because there is so much available labour in China?”
Afterwards, on reflection, we realised that perhaps we shouldn’t be quick to judge… we still ploughed through a dozen or so tests in around an hour and I’d be amazed to get that kind of response from the NHS! The passport thing, we also discovered, is driven from people sending impostors to medical assessments so attempts to prevent it are fair enough in the circumstances. I’ve had similar moments in our first week here, but usually the learning is the same: ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’. Although, you literally do have to judge books by their covers here. If all the writing on the cover is in mandarin characters, it’s probably going to be difficult to read.