Day 73

May 26


Body slam. The stress and rigor of the adventure finally caught up with me. I have loved, if not every minute, most every minute. My body has not. Body wins. “Level II Meltdown”. Time out.

So I am writing this blog on Tuesday from my bed in our quaint, boutique hotel in the old section of Beijing, the hutong or alley district. My collapse happened on Saturday.

The first two days in Beijing we were with the group in a five star business and tourist hotel, which was luxurious and elegant, but this 15 or 20 unit, ancient former residence is really special. Only three stories high it is tucked away on a quite alley and has a peaceful courtyard with an elaborate fountain and plenty of shaded tables used for outdoor dining—and the food is the best we have had in China. If you are going to get nailed and need a place to recuperate for a few days, this is it.


Embry has brought you up to date on many of the activities which unfortunately I have missed though on Saturday evening I did make a heroic effort and joined our group for a goodbye dinner of Peking duck and farewell toasts and speeches. I also went with the group for a tour on Friday of the Temple of Heaven, which frankly was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and now that Embry and I are on our own (which started Sunday) have visited with her and our private guide the largest Buddhist temple and monastery in China and a Temple and University related somehow to Confucius. Last night I managed to pull myself out of bed to join Embry for the Chinese opera. So given the circumstances (total exhaustion and horrible cold-like symptoms), I am doing pretty well. Today we went out for lunch and took a rickshaw ride through the hutong. No need to feel sorry for me.

In fact you should be proud of me because I single-handedly was able to obtain the one last essential document we need in order to be able to board the container ship, which departs in less than three weeks: an official health form executed by a certified Chinese physician that you are in perfect health. Furthermore, we had only a small window of opportunity to do this since it cannot be dated more than a month before you leave or less than two weeks. It dawned on us that Sunday was the only day that we could accomplish this without major inconvenience since our schedule was pretty much booked for the rest of the time in Beijing and who knows what would be available in the tiny villages we would be headed to next (one of which has a population of 35 million, but you get the point). And as luck would have it, there was a health clinic next door to the hotel.

There were two challenges: first finding a doctor that would agree to do the check up and second passing the exam. On Sunday I already had one foot in the grave. Any competent physician would take one look at me and order me to the hospital. This challenge would take all the ingenuity I could muster.

The strategy was for me to go first and check out the situation. I used all my strength to stagger over to the adjacent building, located the clinic, and tried to pull myself together. As I approached the receptionist, I was tempted to throw my myself at her feet and plead for a cure, any cure—herbs, acupuncture, drugs—to get me past the Level II Meltdown. But, alas, that would mean no papers for the container ship. So I took a deep breath, told the nurse what I needed and showed her the form (which had stuff on it like, have you ever had tuberculosis). In fact I explained it to her about six times before she gave up, asked me to sit down in the waiting room where a dozen or so Chinese were patiently waiting in this sparkling, modern office, and said she would talk to the doctor. In less than five minutes she motioned for me to come forward. There was the doctor—a 30-something, serious looking man with a puzzled look on his face.

Show time: I explained that my wife and I needed this stupid form filled out in order to cross the Pacific, that we were both in perfect health (that comment got a second look) and that all I needed was his signature at the bottom of the page for both forms. Then I produced two completed forms filled out by our Kaiser physician just before we left. Was this a brilliant idea or what? He looked over the Kaiser forms carefully, gave me another puzzled look, mumbled something like, ”Kaiser, know Kaiser,” shrugged his shoulders and then signed the forms—both of them. I wanted to hug him on the spot. I said “thank you” for as many times as I could before the nurse pointed me to the door, smiling.

“Charge?” I asked.

No charge, just best wishes for a nice trip.

Now is China a great country or what?

Or what? That will be the subject of subsequent blogs when I get my health back.

7 thoughts on “Day 73

  1. If you see Matthew, Emma and Edith in Shanghai don’t forget to give them our love from Strasbourg.


  2. Ugh! Pollen in DC is terrible this spring (which is otherwise glorious) and everyone is hacking, but I’m sure it’s nothing like Beijing. Probably the air quality in your hotel room is the best you’re going to find (from what we hear from Leslie’s exchange students). You’re the only person I know who could be physically miserable and manage to tell a funny story about it. Hang in there! Listen to your body and rest as much as you can. We’re thinking of you. I hope you get out to some green countryside soon.


  3. Dear Joe,

    I wish I could give you as much love and support as you gave me when you were here. It was so brave of you to take this long and strenuous trip. Keep on resting as often as you can. But I also see that your sense of humour has not deserted you, it should be a big help.
    Hugs and kisses


  4. wonderful. I am out of superlatives. but wonderful

    would slowing down help? take care of him precious cargo

    wow to all the splendors
    the world is getting bigger for us the farther you go into it

    so keep going but slow down when appropriate please

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