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Reception Room at the Doctor's

I noticed about 3 sofa-style benches along the wall on the left, between the main entrance and the entrance to the doctor’s cabinet, which had the door always open, so one could just peep in from the street, to see if he was in or not.

That’s why they didn’t have any receptionist as such – it’s all based on a ‘first-come-first-served basis’ and everybody respects that. In Spain you would reach to a queuing situation and, because the queue would usually be scattered around the place and you couldn’t assume that everybody in the queue was present (with some skipping out for a spot of quick shopping, a coffee in the local bar, or a chat with the neighbour who happened to be passing by) you’d always have to ask ‘who’s the last one’ and acknowledge receipt of that position. In China you don’t even need to do that – you wait along and step forward when you judge that it’s reasonably your turn. Well, you’d need to apply a little strategic positioning and a wee pushing and shoving and exchange some assertive glances with those around you, but there you have it – an exercise of naturally re-organising chaos. The good thing is that nothing takes unbearably long time like in Spain.

Another difference is that in Spain you’d have to entertain yourself by reading a book whilst waiting, watching the arm of the wall clock ticking your seconds away undisturbed, or even meditating, as not much else worth of your attention is happening in a queue, whereas in China you’d always have a vivid story unfolding in front of your eyes that would keep you busy people watching.

My first time in this reception room I marvelled at the sacks of herbs and plants bunched together, without much indication on them as to what exactly they were or what they were for. Buckets with bits of plants, seeds and liquid stuff placed in a corner by the entrance, waiting to be mixed into some potion or another. A thin partition of wood on the lower half and opaque glass on the upper half was dividing the reception room into the ‘us’ and ‘them’ parts – the ill and the pharmacists, busying themselves counting the good little sachets and spoonfuls of natural ingredients, weighing stuff on traditional as well as digital scales and handing the individual plastic bags through a sliding glass window the size of your face or mine.

I believe this window is the original opening through to this pharmacy. Not only did it look old, but it was at an uncomfortable height – you would need to bend your back a little, to look inside. Maybe this was there in times when the overall height of the Chinese folk was way lower than these days.

The second time I visited, there was the usual activity in the same room and more: there was a man lying down on one of the sofas, obviously suffering, his eyes closed and a transfusion stand with a bottle dripping into his veins. He was covered with an old coat, as the weather was still cold at that time and nobody would pay much attention to him whatsoever. I don’t think this drip was all natural, which indicated to me that this place is equipped for a health emergency, just like a hospital is.  In a hospital the first thing they do if you’re terribly ill is to put you on a drip, without any explanation as to what exactly you are getting. I’ve been there as well, believe me – that’s another story, for another day…

Yes, trust is a vital feeling when it comes to visiting a doctor. It’s almost like people think that doctors wouldn’t be there, doing their jobs, without having achieved competency, or being knowledgeable enough to assume that position. I felt treated similarly, as a teacher – I was made to understand that the students had unquestionable faith in what I taught them, because … well, I wouldn't be a teacher if I didn't know what's best for them, would I?

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