Monday, June 23, 2014

expat woes: tmi


Today I walked up to one of my Taiwanese coworkers and casually asked her to write it burns when I pee in Chinese on the yellow post it note I was holding.
And without blinking, she did.

Because that's kind of how things go around here.
Most of the time, I have no idea how to do anything the proper Taiwanese way from buying groceries, getting gas, paying bills and so on.
The language barrier is still huge.
Mostly, we just fumble around until we kinda, sorta figure some things out and really friendly locals help us along the way.

Like my coworker, who definitely does not get paid enough to translate my medical woes on a post it note.

Through trial and error, though, I've learned better than to go to a medical clinic assuming someone will speak English or we can kinda, sorta figure it out.
We learned that lesson when we walked into the local hospital needing my husband's last rabies shot after a monkey bit him in Bali. We had all of the paperwork from the clinic in Ubud but it didn't do us any good because it was all in English.
In the end, I played monkey charades, inclusive of sound effects and gestures, and then took my husband's arm and bit it.
That they understood.
And that they found really funny.
But the whole process of trying to explain the problem and then sort out his medical history and previous rabies treatment and what shot he needed took eight hours.

I wasn't too sure how the whole charades thing would work for my current problem so I figured humiliating myself by asking a coworker [who I definitely owe a beer] for help was the best choice.

And lo and behold, I get to the clinic and no one, and I mean not one of the 20 workers who came to try and help, understood what I needed until I whipped out that last resort: my little yellow post it note. And that too they found hilarious because we all knew I sure did not write it.

I am sure everyone wondered: who on earth did this lady con into writing such an embarrassing note?!

Such is the life of an expat.
And such is the life of kind locals surrounded by expats.




16 comments

  1. Oh man, this is such a funny story! I used to live in Korea so I can 100% relate to what you're saying. At least you feel close enough to ask your coworker to do that for you because UTIs ain't no joke. I used google translate and copied out whatever it said in Korean Hanguel (their alphabet) when I visited my doc.

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    1. I wouldn't trust myself to copy things down right! And I am very lucky to have such gracious coworkers!

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  2. Oh, the trials of living in a country where you don't speak the language. I had to go for an HIV test in Russia in order to renew my visa and the nurse who took my blood spoke no English, and my Russian stretched as far as ordering food. She was amused by my fear of needles and the fact that I then fainted, but I couldn't apologise or explain.

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    1. Ha! Yeah, I have gone out of my way to avoid anything medical like going to the dentist or gynecologist here because there are just certain times you need to be able to communicate.

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  3. Haha! I love this story. I had to read it to my boyfriend... I'm sorry. This is why you need local friends when you're abroad!

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    1. I frequently exploit others' embarrassing stories so I totally understand having to share this :)

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  4. Oh i hope you feel better! It is the worse to get sick somewhere when you can't explain the problem.

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    1. I do. They just handed over the pills. It was so easy (and cheap)!

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  5. The beauty of charades, glad we have that kind of game haha! seriously though, your story is really funny but the great thing is that you now have a kind of best friend in the office to translate your needs in exchange of a good beer? and friendship. ;)

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    1. Yes. We bonded over my UTI. That sounds like an unbreakable bond.

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  6. oh poor you! hoping things get better before your travels and thank goodness for helpful co-workers!

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  7. This is fantastic! Although, to be fair, I'm not sure those first few months when I arrived in London were much better. I was blown away by how small minded they are medically and how I couldn't get anything from ear drops to decent cold remedies. Seven years later and the tables have turned. I no longer have any idea what to buy back home.

    Thank you for your comment on my post about "that phone call". I'm sorry it took me so long to reciprocate your visit but that's what I get for scheduling posts while I'm travelling!!

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    1. In Taiwan, it's the opposite. I think they like to over medicate. It does make it easy to get what you need though!

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  8. Hahaha too funny! At least you had the note to rely on just in case. An all too familiar situation for me. Definitely had to do things like this when I was in Hungary. I sometimes even had friends waiting near a phone in case I just needed them to translate when someone is talking to me in rapid fire Hungarian.

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    1. Yes, the note was a huge lifesaver!!!

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