Technically, the vaccine was only available for children, but they got the special adult serum just for me. A booster shot that I’d originally planned on getting after I came back to America, assuming that the shot would be hard to find in China. But, well, plans change, and so I found myself waiting for a Chinese English teacher named Mary to meet me at the bus station and take me to the hospital.
I really thought that I’d have to make a trip to Shanghai to get this shot. Professionals were dubious that there would be enough western-friendly medicine, and so I’d assured them that I wasn’t too far from big cities. I was even warned by other travelers to stock up on preferred medicines, since there was no guarantee that China would have the things that I needed, and I took this to heart.
In the past year, I’ve learned a few things. 1) Hangzhou is a big city. 2) China actually has a lot of things that America also has (and many things that America doesn’t!) 3) Life in China does not need to be an Impossible Situation.
And yet, despite all of these things, I still thought I’d have to go to Shanghai.
Once Mary came to collect me at the bus stop, she led me down the street. It’s a street I’m very familiar with—the one leading past the fruit stand I usually visit, past the park near my apartment, and perpendicular with another street where the best vegetable selection is (aside from the vegetable market).
“Your apartment must not be far from here,” Mary said.
“No, it’s just back a ways,” I said.
And then we rounded the corner to the public bike racks across the street from my apartment complex, where every morning I’d take a bike and go to school. Behind it, as it turns out, is a community hospital.
Mary had already called ahead so that we wouldn’t have to wait in line, the serum was ready, and after the paperwork and paying, the whole procedure took little more than a couple of inhales and exhales.
“That’s it?” I asked when it was done. The doctor nodded telling me to drink lots of water. And then Mary helped me get other medicine—pills that my mother had been mailing to me for the past year.
All of this contorting I’d been doing to stay healthy…resolved in less than an hour.
Up until this summer, I went on autopilot when it came to what China did and didn’t have. (Usually assuming China didn’t have something and then just making do without.) In the year that I’ve been here, I’ve learned to ask for help and admit defeat without seeing it as chinks in my armor. But that still doesn’t mean that I’ve figured it all out, or that I’ve at last ceased being stubborn in my preconceptions and world-views. I mean, who knew that, had I simply asked for help eight months ago (when I was supposed to!) about this shot, I would have found it.
Right across the street, this whole time.