Miscommunication HK Style

27 Jun

Apparently, I burned the shit out of my arm in the kitchen last week. I was taking the lid off of a pan and the handle slipped in my fingers. The top of the very hot metal lid rested against my inner wrist, meanwhile my brain had the “Be right back” sign in the window. I had time to compile complete thoughts:

1. That’s not how the handle goes.

2. That is probably really hot since it just came off the stove top.

3. Yep. Hot.

4. I should remove it.

5. Not with that hand. It is hot, remember?

6. Just put it back on top of the pan from whence it came.

7. Ahhhh. That’s better.

8. Stupid. 

OK, all of that probably took 4 seconds – but a lot can run through your mind in 4 seconds. It looked really superficial so I ran some cold water on it and kept moving. By the time dinner was over, it was red and had tiny blistery spots on it. Neosporin. Band-aid. Done. Fast forward two days and it had swollen into a full-blown blister the size of an almond. A little Hibicleanse wash, more Neosporin, and another band-aid…  and then I scratched it. Not on purpose, mind you, I was asleep and I guess it itched. I shot awake, confused and with searing pain. It hasn’t quite been the same since – in fact it seemed to be getting worse, with obvious infection setting in. So, before I needed an emergency “hand-ectomy” I decided to go to the doctor.

The conversation with the nurse went something like this:

Me: (probably speaking too fast, as I do) Hi. I burned my arm and it seems to be infected.

Nurse: (looking concerned, and in a think accent) Boil?

Me: (confused) No. A lid.

Nurse: (more confused) A lid or a boil?

Me: (completely confounded) No. I wasn’t boiling the lid. It was dry.

Nurse: (dumbfounded and speechless) Mmmmm.

Me: (attempting to ramble my way out, and in full pantomime) I was cooking with oil, not boiling, and the top of the lid, which was dry, flipped and burned my arm.

Nurse: (enlightened) Ahhh. You burned. It is not a boil.

Me: (feeling like an idiot and finally up to speed) Yes. It is a burn. Not a boil.

Maybe they see a lot of boils over here. Maybe it really does look like  boil. (I have spared you the photos.) I don’t know. I do know that I felt like an idiot, and I keep running through my mind what she must have been thinking, “This crazy Westerner came in today with what looked like a nasty boil and kept telling me it was a lid…” I remind myself regularly that I am the one on the wrong side of the language barrier.

In short, going to the doctor was an amazingly pleasant and streamlined experience. My first surprise was that my preferred physician was just downstairs in the MTR station. (MTR = Hong Kong subway). It takes fewer than 5 minutes to walk there. Unbelievable. The doctor was Chinese, but trained in Australia, so her English was fantastic. She decided that a tetanus shot and antibiotics were in order, and I was directed into another room to wait. I received my shot, the nurse handed me the antibiotics (yes, right there in the office!) and I was on my way. No co-pay. No prescription cost. Done. Amazing. Perhaps it would have been even easier if it had been a boil.

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2 Responses to “Miscommunication HK Style”

  1. ash1409 June 28, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    Hey, just too funny. The boil lid part. I landed here 10 days ago and trying to settle down with my daughter. You can imagine the trouble I had trying to explain I needed frozen peas at the grocery store. Just seemed easier to check the entire food section with a 3.5 year tugging at me continously.

    • window2chaos June 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

      Welcome – I hope you love it as much as I do! I totally had the same experience when I first got here looking for canned green beans. Nearly impossible – and my stroller was too wide for the aisles so I was having to leave the kids at one end and speed-walk the aisle while trying to scan for what I needed. Everything is an adventure… enjoy the ride!

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