Mantrums in China

Sometimes I really don’t get this place. I’ve seen a foreigner’s snide remark result in him getting hospitalized by a group of Chinese guys, and the nastiest fights I’ve witnessed here have been over the most trivial shit, like who would get a taxi, a fender bender that didn’t even result in a scuff, or an extra item on a restaurant bill that couldn’t possibly have been more than 40RMB (about 5 dollars). Taking these into account, you’d think wiping a counter clean in a bank and Shouting in Mandarin would’ve left me unable to write this.

Let me preface this by saying I’m not usually a dick, I’d just had a really rough week. I guess I should also add that the majority of my mantrums have taken place in banks while trying to change money, so maybe I need to reevaluate the way I do my finances. After waiting over 30 minutes to change money for an early morning flight back to America the next day, sitting in that lobby past 5 o’clock when financial institutions close and any chance of going somewhere else had expired, I was informed that foreigners couldn’t change RMB to a foreign currency anymore. I tried to reason with them, explaining the urgency, telling them how I’d done it before at this exact bank, and offering my passport to show them my residency permit in order to prove that I was legally employed. I’d even told the customer service girl what I’d wanted to do when I’d arrived in order to register into the correct que, but apparently that had been completely ignored. None of it mattered; foreigners could no longer change RMB to a foreign currency at this bank. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I lost my shit.

“Does anybody else here a white guy yelling?” Photo Credit:

To lose your cool or show anger, as well as throw a full-on mantrum, is one of most shameful ways you can conduct yourself in Chinese culture due to Confucian values, and well, I lost some face that evening. The people around me froze to watch, and the several security guards, each equipped with batons and mace, meandered my way hesitantly. Maybe I got lucky with the “foreigner card,” or maybe I was just angry enough and big enough to deter serious action, but instead of getting clubbed and pepper sprayed or having the police called on me, the middle aged bank manager calmly came up to me in the midst of verbally throwing down with the women behind the glass barrier, put his hand on my back, and said “calm down, Dad is going to help you.” Translated directly, that’s not actually as creepy as it sounds; Chinese people often refer to each other by age, calling each other big brother or little sister depending on who’s helping who, with children and young adults referring to their elders as uncle or auntie. I guess in this situation, I was the kid; I’d definitely been acting like one.

Same facial expression, and pants

Same facial expression, and pants

I sheepishly watched as Dad called over one of the secretaries and told her to change my money for me using her own ID, and within several minutes, I had the stack of US dollars that I’d come for. I of course had been apologizing the whole time, but my excuses and sorry’s weren’t necessary, the manager just waved them off and said it’s nothing, apologizing to me as well for the inconvenience. Modesty and deference, those are virtues here for the same reason flipping your shit in a bank is shameful, and this guy had just helped me despite how big of an asshole I’d been, even going so far as to break the rules of his job and the laws of his country. When I left, several of the onlookers and employees even smiled at me and waved goodbye, wishing me a good a day. Anywhere else… 3.5 years later and China still baffles me. I should’ve gotten my ass kicked.

IV Errthing

Hangnails and dirty streets don’t mix, and I’d just happened to be working in one of Shenzhen’s oldest and poorest village areas, colloquially referred to as a Cunzi or cun. Looking back on it, it should’ve been a no-brainer that biting my cuticles and petting Cun dogs would eventually catch up with me.


A typical Cun, where the ground is always wet regardless of the weather..


Don’t even risk picking your nose in these parts of town

Small clinics are scattered all over Shenzhen with at least a couple in every neighborhood, and conveniently enough there had been one just down the block from my primary school. I had figured this would be pretty simple to get taken care of… Just a couple pills and some gunk drained out, then I’d be back to playing with lockjaw in no time.


“I aint done shit”


Who would’ve believed the amount of hassle I was going to go through just to be able to point at people when I yell

The only issue with that theory was that it turned out to be 100% wrong. Pretty much the opposite of quick and simple, the doctor there informed me that I’d need to be put on a regiment of IV treatments for at least 3 days, and in addition to coming to get hooked up twice each day, I’d also need to drink mashed up roots mixed only in hot water several times throughout each day. The IV treatments made it sound much more serious than I’d expected, and I started to get a little nervous about coming out of this with all of my digits as I’d watched the doctor prepare the IV bag. Only after being led into a large seating room as varied as an inner-city ER waiting room, sans stabbings, did I realize that the severity of my treatment was due more so to cultural differences than it was MRSA. After getting seated in front of multiple TVs all playing soap operas, they hooked in my IV and told me that the bag would take roughly 45 minutes to drain fully. The nurse then gave me a clip board of take-out menus and walked away, leaving me with plenty of time for people watching.


Although MRSA is never outside the realm of possibilities in a place like this


In the time that I’d been sitting there, I’d watched quite a few people finish or start IVs, and I couldn’t help but notice how many were there for simple colds. I guess I’d known this already just from working alongside Chinese teachers for years and witnessing them leave during a free period to get an IV rather than call out sick, but damn… there must’ve been ten people with the sniffles there at any one time, coughing openly as they got fluids pumped into them. Anchored by my IV nearby one woman who was hacking away in my direction, I remember hoping to leave the clinic healthier than when I’d arrived.


My photo had died at the perfect time to play candy crush, and I was unable to get a picture of the waiting room. The clinic I’d been at hadn’t been this busy, but this photo is exactly what you should be imagining. Photo credit: QQ news

Besides the people with common colds, there was a woman had to have been a prostitute, which are prevalent in the cun’s and gnarlier than their dogs, and I’m not above guessing fingers aren’t the only infected area an IV can treat. What had really floored me though was when a younger guy was brought in by his friend, who’d fireman-carried him to a seat as a he groaned and clutched his face. Had he been hit by a car? Did he have a ravaging fever? Nope. He’d gotten drunk last night, and merely had a bad hangover. I mean, I’m not gonna say it doesn’t make sense to knock off a hangover with some saline and glucose, but whatever happened to just closing the curtains and sipping Gatorade all afternoon?

It wasn’t long before my IV had finished, along with the curry chicken I’d had delivered in, and it was my time to go. The other appointments went about the same, and by the second day my finger was more or less back to normal. All in all, the culture shock had been worse than the infection.