Healthcare Headace.

I am back in the United States. While hiding from most of the world till I become re-acclimated to this fusion of cultures on demand, before I get back to all the blogs I need to write because I was blocked from blogger in China, I want to write something about the issue on the top of every paper and political magazine around here... Healthcare.

So currently I have no health insurance, or dental. I am looking forward to getting both of those things, because I want to get a checkup on both. I had an individual health care plan from around July to February of this past year. It wasn't too bad I payed $85.34 a month and had more coverage than I did previously with my employer. I think I was paying about the same amount out of my own pocket too, just after taxes in this case. Now I have to go through the fun process of looking for health insurance on these overwhelming websites again. It got me thinking that every member of congress who is considering these bills should go through this process. They should be reminded of how many questions patients are asked, and find out how much they would have to pay to support themselves or their families and what types of policies a family they represent could reasonably afford.

Most of this information is very personal so unfortunately I can't manage to fill one out for a senator on my own, but here is what I can find about how much South Carolina's senators might pay for individual plans.

Website used ehealthinusrance.com

Lindsey Graham:
Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO- $5,000 deductible, 30% copay, no office visits covered
You want to go to the doctor sometimes before things go terribly wrong? Ok.
Aetna PPO- $2,500 deductible, 30% copay, 1-2 office visits $30 copay waived

Jim DeMint (I assumed his wife is two years younger as they are "childhood sweethearts":
Humana One PPO- $10,400 deductible, 0% copay, office visits 0% after deductible
I can't find a plan that pays for office visits before the deductible has been covered. So let's go with a lower deductible health plan.
Aetna PPO- $3,000 deductible, 0% copay, office visits 0% after deductible


Personal Responsibility - Part One, Pass the Buck

So I haven't posted for quite a while because currently I am blocked from blogspot in China. My fiance offered to post my blog for me, which is great as I have an awful lot to write about. This blog is sort of serving as my personal forum for my ethnographic field notes this trip, because I have no paper to write this time.

Either my parents did a really good job, or a really bad job with me, because I have a very strong sense that I need to do everything I can to not inconvenience other people. Maybe it was Girl Scouts and believing that you should always leave a place better than when you found it. In college I realized that a lot of people really lack this sense of personal responsibility for the welfare of yourself and others, and environmental conditions. I was the person who when our communal kitchen sink was stacked with dishes, before our RA would throw them out I would spend Saturday morning cleaning them all. I remember thinking... if I wash them, so they don't get thrown out, then that kinda makes them mine, and I get to use them. Not like I put them in my room or anything. So what in about a month or two there was the stack or anonymous dishes again. I would also walk on the sidewalk and pick up every torn poster, or posters where the event had already occurred.

I think what would often run through peoples minds when they walk over posters, or neglect to clean the dishes is : "These are not mine, they do not belong to me, so they are not my problem to take care of." There are even some people who have no sense of responsibility to clean up a problem they personally created.

During my later years in college I was introduced to another reason people might not feel responsible for their messes, or those of others. Economics. I had a conversation with a friend (classical economist, people think wrong and an open economy will fix all of our problems and make everything fair type) about hiring someone to clean your house. He was reasoning that there was nothing wrong with hiring someone to do this type of work for you. The professor who sat briefly at the table agreed, and said the only reason you would logically choose not to do this, is to teach your children to do these things for themselves.

Perhaps that is why my friend walked over those posters for all four years of his college career, because he was completely aware that the school paid people to clean up for him, and that to him his time is more valuable than that of the people who are paid to do this. A person who didn't understand economics could even argue that I was taking someones paying job away from them, by picking up those posters on my own free time. But that would be untrue, it simply opens up time for the people who would be pulling posters of the sidewalk to work on something else, or if it did eliminate a job, it would open up money for the college to employ someone else who's job was needed. To me this is one of the best economic arguments for not hiring someone, the money can be used more resourcefully. One alternate use would be to donate the money saved to improve living conditions of people who you might be hiring to take care of your dirty work.

To me in China many people see messes that others made, or that they made as being someone else's responsibility. There are street sweepers in every city in China, ever school has staff that clean, and many people hire A-yi's to clean their homes. This handing of money to someone else passes the responsibility for these messes from one person to another. While I think that if I ever need to I would like to be able to hire someone to help me clean my house, or a gardener, I would only do so if I were incapable of doing the job myself because of working, or because of difficulty with mobility. I feel a sense of responsibility towards not only talking care of myself and the messes that I make, or the things that I choose to do. I feel that even in paying someone to assist me, in the end, these things are still my personal responsibility not theirs.

I have seen many examples of people here in China not feeling this way at all. When I first started learning the language, I had a lot of difficulty using the word 服务员 fu2wu4yuan2 meaning attendant/waitress. I have no idea of how I knew in the seventh grade how it was often used, maybe there were examples in the book, or maybe I had heard people use the term when I was younger. Maybe it was just the same distinction in English. I don't usually say "Waitress!" I will say "Excuse me... excuse me... excuse me..." Until I get someone's attention. But the term is used here in a tone of impatience, and sometimes hostility. This seems to be changing, younger people do not speak to service workers in this way as often. I see most younger people put their trash into trash cans or into their bag. Although some people's behavior certainly hasn't changed. I thoroughly enjoyed watching a driver (who clearly owned a nice car so driving was not likely his job,) pitch a half bottle of soda out his window while waiting to pick someone up outside of a school. I decided to teach him a lesson. There are maybe around ten foreigners in this small city, so I stand out quite a bit. I walked up grabbed the bottle and put it in the nearby recycling trash can. I hope it made an impression on the driver.

Also many more privileged people here are not aware of how to do simple tasks for themselves. I am often greeted by surprise when I tell someone I moved my furniture, fixed my toilet, put up my mosquito net, or did one of many other simple tasks by myself. Often hired help will come in and assist someone, or if someone is younger their parents do these tasks for them. Unfortunately I found that often the people hired have no sense of responsibility towards these tasks either. Often things I asked be fixed are jerry rigged in place, or cleaning I see done with water and no bleach. I think this is not uncommon. Unfortunately this passing the buck results in no one seeming to taking ownership and responsibility, and it seems to effect living conditions quite a bit. But that's a whole nother topic, for another day :)


Making room for the Millions

Nature is rather controlled in China. I can somewhat understand why. It seems that people are rather afraid of anything they don't know much about. They may allow the stray dogs to exist, but most people are afraid to touch a pet dog. I have been told not to go onto the small hill next to my school because there are snakes (never seen a snake, only a few run over, but I have heard plenty of birds in there.) Parks seem to be very strategic and planned down to the last shrub. Sure they get a little overgrown sometimes, but really, that's a rarity here. Hiking in the woods doesn't happen. A hike is always on a paved road or stairs. I may have mentioned to some people how it is that this city has changed so much in the past 10 years. How mountains were bigger, there were more woods, and their was more natural environment and areas for people to plant crops. Here are some photos, showing what I mean.

The first is my students in front of the school, maybe a month and a half ago. The second is the hill across from the hill a few days ago, which they have made more progression on by now. I bet they are making way for more updated housing. The last photo is the types of gardens that people plant in these open spaces. I know there were some at the base of this hill, and I am sure there were others on top of the hill too.


An island in a sea of millions.

The class that I teach here in China is a speaking English class. I often have my students interact to practice dialogues with each other, or come up with role plays. I think in large part for cultural reasons quite a few of my students will sit and read out loud to themselves. In one of my first classes where I did this type of exercise there were only a few students who were reading to themselves. I can recall thinking that I should tell them that they are not an island, and needed to interact with other students. Then I though... I should give myself this same advice.

I think being brought up in America makes a person very independent. I think that in part the fact that we as a culture also value self reliance makes many people unlikely to ask for help. By this I don't mean asking questions or for directions. What I mean really is, when you can do something yourself as an American usually you will do it, you don't want someone else to help you, and take it on as being your responsibility. So getting to my school there were a lot of things I am use to being able to do myself that I was having some difficulty with just because I didn't know where anything was. Even when I was in Shanghai I was completely capable of doing these types of things on my own, for example going to the store to buy supplies, going to the post office, printing something off my computer. Well I was very reluctant to ask for help, and thought for around a day perhaps this concept that I am not an island would make me more likely to actually seek help from others.

Around a day later thinking more about the concept and I realized that I was wrong. I am an island, just in a sea of a million people. I stand out here. Every time I go walking in the town people stare, or smile or just generally act differently toward me. Many people here have not seen many if any foreigners, and very few have ever talked with one. And pretty much no one thinks I can actually understand them. I get people who come up to me just because they want to try talking to the foreigner, and some who follow me just because they are interested. I just had a trip to Shanghai and Hong Kong, so let me say that not all of China is like this. Many of the larger cities have many foreigners living there. I think I stared at the foreigners more than the Chinese people did, because I was so accustomed to Ezhou, and only seeing Chinese faces. There were far more foreign faces in Shanghai this trip than in 2004 also. In 2004 you would see some tourists in the center of town, but this trip the center and south end of Shanghai had lots of foregingers that all lived in the city.

I really don't mind catching all this extra intrested (except when I have to sing songs at every party, or KTV Kareoke event) and completely understand it. I mean, not only am I a foreigner I have bright blonde hair and blue eyes and look very different from anyone else. Sometimes in America (especially after spending a lot of time in a city like Columbia with little diversity) I am very tempted to walk up to anyone I hear speaking Chinese and introduce myself, so I can understand where they are coming from.

Being an island has its benifits too. I get lots of free food, free cooking lessons, lots of help when I decide to ask for it, and this evening I am going to go to a wedding for one of the English teachers. I can't help but take advange of it, because I know that for many of them it is also fun to get to spend more time getting to know this crazy foreigner who can speak Chinese.


You want a health certficate? Turn around and drop your pants.

So I've been in China for about a month and a half. I've had a rather interesting experience, that is somewhat out of the norm. So I ended up contracted through one of those agencies that they warn you about, because I was stupid and trusted the non-profit organization that I went with.

So the way that I got here is I went though a non-profit organization in the states, who contracted with a company in Jinan, Shandong China. The people who work at this company are kind, but clueless. The visas everyone came in on were student visas, with 90 days on them. The state department specifically advises against teaching with any type of visa, other than a work visa. So we spent about a week in a hotel in Jinan and were slowly sent out to schools through out the country.

So long story (filled with headaches, and most of the other teachers leaving the country) short, I was taken the other day to get my health certificate in order to get the proper visa. This was a trial to begin with. I was suppose to go the day before, and was likely only taken on this particular day because I told them I would be leaving if it wasn't done in the next week. So the next day I am driven with another teacher into Wuhan (the capitol of the province I am in) and he drives us up to the building to get health certificates. I don't see any English anywhere when walking into this building, then we get to the desk to fill out the appropriate forms, and they never ask for my passport only my photos. Then they can't put my English name in the name slot. So I am immediately thinking we are clearly in the wrong place, and say so several times out loud.

We walk out with our form to go to another office to pay or something, and this woman comes out of exam room with a lab coat and mask on. She explains that she can do one portion of the exam now. She asks the teacher if I can speak Mandarin, then asks me to enter the adjacent exam room (all in Mandarin). So there is a small desk, with plastic long q-tip like sample sticks. Next to that are one or two test tubes with the top of these sample sticks broken off in them. Somehow I already know what's coming. The woman tells me to take off my pants. I put my bag on the desk, and take my coat off. She tells me I need to face away from her and drop my pants. Damnit, so I do what she said, alarmed but quickly. I figure this can't be any worse than the army exam (that was a humiliting experience, but gave you a good idea of how you would be treated if you joined.) She says "underwear too, now grab your buttcheeks and pull them apart." I'm thinking, I knew it! She gives a swift poke with the sample stick where things are designed to come out, but never go in. I exclaim "ai you!" and put my pants back on very quickly. She put the top of the sample tip in a vial, and tells me I speak Chinese very well. I agree considering I gave that exclamation without even thinking about it.

Then teacher comes up to me clearly flustered and explains we are in the wrong place. I tell her I know (not that she ever listens to me). And we leave for the correct location, where I got blood drawn, a chest x-ray, height and weight, BP, EKG (all the things I was expecting), and an eye test. China lesson one- if you let people push you around it can be easier than pushing back, but you'll have to be patient and deal with the ocassional completely unnessary stick.


Lots of New Plans

So a lot of things have changed with me lately. Part of the reason I have stopped posting about veterinary care (other than being lazy) is because I quit that job in November. I have been just substitute teaching since then. However I am going to be teaching in China in February for a year. I am looking forward to it, but don't have a contract yet. So we will see.

In addition to all of the career stuff that has been going on I got engaged. Twice!

I am a non-traditional person and so is my fiance. At some point back in 2007 we had a conversation about what happens if I have a proposal plan, would that be a problem? He said no, and we talked about it more, and both agreed that we should both continue our own plans regardless of who asked first.

So back in 2004 on election night we had an informal party to watch the results come in. The entire night my fiance sat on the arm of the chair I was in. He had been flirtatious before (he got the nickname fraternizer in college, and is known as a flirt) but this was the first time I really got the idea that he was actually interested in me. So on election day 2008 I proposed. We voted in a small park, and after voting I went running for the swings. I asked him to guess what I had learned in the past four years. After some guessing things that were all based on the past election I told him "there is one big thing that I have learned in the past four years, and that is that I love you. I want to be with you for every election, and every other day of the year for the rest of my life. Will you marry me?" I gave him a ring, (not down on one knee I was too nervous without doing that) and he said of course.

He asked me first thing New Years morning. He said "I want the first thing that I do in the New Year to be to ask you to marry me."

Now a big reason for me writing this blog is because when I was looking for information on the internet for information on how other women had proposed (had they used a ring gotten down on one knee etc), and there was very little out there. Until now. I am a big fan of the website Offbeat Bride, and in the tribe there are many women who have proposed. The author of the website recently wrote two different posts on women proposing marriage. There a hundreds of replies to her posts of other women who have proposed also, and I wanted to do my part in letting future women searching for this subject know of a great resource.

Part 1
Women Proposing

Part 2
How to Propose to Your Man


What this Inauguration means to me.

It's amazing that someone can come from my neighborhood and get the support of millions of people across the nation (which I would not expect coming from a "freak state") and around the world. That even today with all the information we - the American people - constantly have coming at us, with all the different opinions about what needs to be done to make things better; if you can get the message through to people, that you will fight for them because you know who they are and what they are going through, they will work with you to achieve your goals. They will help you to push through you're obstacles, in hopes that in the end you will improve everyone's situation, and make everyone's lives a little bit easier.
Before this election I thought this type of grassroots idealism was next to impossible to accomplish in national politics. This inauguration proves that it isn't; it has been proven by a politician who played fair, who has fought to have his ideas heard, and who is going to be appointed to the highest and most sought after position in the country. Barack Obama brings hope to millions, before even making a single decision in the oval office, by being inaugurated January 20th.