An unaffordable Lesson

We were visiting LA this October and my daughter was suffering from earache and fever. As foreigners, we fell into a panic because we were out of town. We called her doctor, who suggested us to take her to a walk-in urgent center since she might need antibiotics for the infection.

We didn’t worry much about the fee, given that we pay  every month a big amount of money for the medical insurance. It was later that we realized that we had committed a huge mistake by going to the children’s hospital emergency room. But it was a mistake that we could not avoid. Who would have time to google the difference between an urgent care center and the emergency center?

We were not happy in the waiting room but surprised by the three hours that passed by before being checked up. Claire had ear infection and needed antibiotics. 5 minutes later, we were ready to go.

Then, the story began. At the door, we were asked to pay 150 dollars for the co-pay. I paid although the fee did surprise me. Then, one week later, we got another bill which said that the treatment cost 166 dollars and that besides the insurance, we still should pay 114 dollars by ourselves. I accepted and paid.  Another week later, we got a second bill which listed 695 dollars for the hospital charges. It is said that our insurance covered 184 and we still owe 360 dollars to the hospital. I was shocked.

I never expected to pay in total 861 dollars for an ear infection treatment which lasted 5 minutes. Even with a good insurance coverage, we still should pay 624 dollars by ourselves. That was crazy.

So I asked my friends for advice. All I got was the same anger against the medical service and the suggestion to avoid any contact with hospitals and doctors. They told me that I mad a huge mistake to go to the emergency room, that gave me the only reason to accept the situation.

I don’t know how people can handle such situation if they are not familiar with the system and have no courage to fight back. An individual will never win the battle against a huge and complicated system. It’s all-consuming.

I want to play football

I met a woman who is in a dilemma.

His son is now studying in a private high school in California. He went through 8 years in a very competitive public school in China, where sports time was always occupied by the study of other subjects. The situation hasn’t  been changed from my generation to today’s teenagers. Sports in school mean the morning broadcast physical exercise, which lasts ten minutes with more than ten minutes for lining up to go to the playground and to go back to the classroom. In the written curriculum agenda for every week, there is place for sports. However, the math teacher or the literacy teacher will always tell you that we are late for the main courses and the exams are coming, which result in the cancellation of the sports time. Children are supposed to dedicate their free time to exercise, which is never realistic because they are overwhelmed with homework and additional trainings.

So this son, like many others, wanted to leave such a school setting. This mom, like many others, tried all to ensure a better future for her child. Money is not the problem, neither time and energy. She was a wonderful woman, diligent, smart and determined.

Now his son is very happy because he can play football! He enjoys it in school and after school. He made efforts to enroll in the school’s representative team and travels around to have friendly match. He loves school although his English is not yet fluent. He is happy.

Nevertheless, the woman is not totally satisfied with this situation because this high school is not one of the best in California. If her son continues his study there, he would have less opportunities to go to a famous university such as UCLA. To ensure the enrollment to a top university, she must push his son to go to another private high shool which is better ranked. Besides, she is certain that her son, like many other Chinese children, will achieve better academic performance if she pushes more.

“But, it’s highly possible that in that school I would not be enrolled in the football team!” His son is reluctant. He is right. The woman told me that in other private schools, football is more popular and the opportunities for being a member fo school team is limited.

“I cannot decide. All I do is for his good. Short-term or long-term? Happiness for today or Success for tomorrow.” sighed she.

“But why do you want to send him to a top university?” asked I.

She was surprised because my question is non sense. Who don’t expect his or her child to go to Harvard?

We stopped our talk. I have no reason to convince her, and yet I hesitate with my answer.

 

Privacy and public debate

For the past week, China’s social medias were flooded with comments on a private scandal. Former Olympic Badminton player Lin Dan had been filmed when giving some intimate gestures to a pretty woman before the hotel’s curtain was shut down. Anger and criticism went viral in the internet, especially because his wife, another former world champion just gave birth to their son two weeks ago.

Well, everyone believed to have right to comment on a celebrity’s life, where privacy and public image are confused. The majority expressed their condemnation on Lin’s betrayal, considering an extramarital behavior was the first sin of a man, especially of a successful man. His legends collapsed and people mocked about their ten-years’ true love story.

After first waves of criticism directed to the national idol, many began to point out the naive and aberrant action of all internet users, who were supposed not to take others’ privacy as an official trial. Some even claimed that all the emotions were just a show which reveals the emptiness of our social life.

The counter motion was triggered, refuting this cynic conclusion and justifying their roles in defending the moral duty. While men were accused of their compulsive animality, women were satirized though their increasing self-respect.

To many’s surprise, the wife tweeted a disappointing response several days later, claiming that she would forgive her husband since the later had acknowledged the fault.The internet went even crazier. Some cried on the typical weakness of women, some thrilled with the happy ending, some seemed  find justification of being wrong, some called love illusion and marriage a cruel trap and some just laughed at all discussion.

“You know, China is very interesting.” Many foreigners told me. A famous young writer also admits that life was even more interesting than some American TV shows because everyone seems so involved but the next episode is never predictable.

Then, one week later, other news began to top all social medias. The former champions can finally sit down and talk about their private problems while all internet users still suffer with their own problems and lose hope to seek an example to apply accordingly.

Be thankful…and Do not take it for granted

Thanksgiving is coming. We can even smell the sweetness in the could air. All the slogans, in the supermarket or at school, remind us to be thankful, generous and kind, as if every problem can be solved with a warm heart.

Be thankful is also a life motto in my family. My mom told me that kindness should be magic to solve any problem and for long long time, I deeply believed in it.

When I first went to France as an exchange student, I was full of hope and confidence, although my French was very limited. After the arrival at the airport, we should immediately find the nearby railway station and catch the last train. At that time, mobile phone was still a luxury that a student could not afford, neither a laptop computer. Unfortunately, one of my classmate lost his bag, which contained his passport and a new camera. He was desperate.

When all other classmates kept their silence and jumped on the last train, I remembered my mom’s farewell words and stayed with the guy. To our surprise, we did find the bag after looking around. One passenger had picked it up and returned it to the information desk. At that moment, we were so thankful, believing that France was an ideal world. The Autumn night was chilly but we wandered in Paris with a warm heart.

The next train to our destination was scheduled in the early morning, departure from another station in the center of Paris. We were so brave, testing here and there our limited French. We were so hungry but only ate a small bag of chips, given that the budget for the following year was only 6000$. The money was carefully stored  in our underwear pockets, pockets that moms sewed for this particular purpose. Thus, we had no money for hotel.

Now when I go to Paris, I barely dare wander after midnight and never carry a big amount of cash. But at that time, we were fearless. Exhausted, we finally found a public garage which seemed to have lights on all night. We sat down on the ground and began to kill time by telling stories of our childhood. It was not romantic at all because I began to feel the real cold. Several hours later, a black and strong guy appeared in front of us. No panic! we tried to explain our embarrassing situation. Without a word, he asked us to follow him.

The next station was the police ? No! We were so lucky and so thankful. He led us to the stairs which kept us from the cold wind. The only word we repeated was “Merci!” The next morning, my classmate suggested to treat us because of our survival and we entered a coffee shop at the railway station. That was the most expensive meal I had during the whole year in France although it was only a breakfast.

I still remember this adventure and the hope that my mom gave me with the magic motto.

However, not all things turned good even I paid attention to be kind and thankful. We were cheated by the residence owner, the bank agent, even the representative of a student union. Being kind sometimes equals being silly. However, my mom tells me that even you are hurt, your tolerance and generosity will reward you soon or later. She is right to some extent because I’m proud of my resilience. But she is wrong too because sometimes you are not willing to lose so much.

Nevertheless, I’m not as kind as before. Life also pushes me to be assertive and prudent. Sometimes, keeping a nice relationship leads to unlimited sacrifice. When the other takes it  for granted, you will never have chance to value your sacrifice.

So now I try to pass the same motto to my daughter, asking her to be kind and thankful. Besides, I also tell her to be assertive, to protect anytime her own rights and joy. If tomorrow she is willing to help a classmate at night in Paris, I would totally support her but warn her of caution and safety. If tomorrow she is asked to pay an extra rent because of her foreign student’s status, I would suggest her to seek protection by law.

We are thankful to life, who has gave us good lessons and bad ones. However, our kindness should be respected. On the other hand, we should also never take others’ kindness and generosity for granted. If we do so, we become a silly and arrogant turkey.

Why I don’t like to live with my parents-in-law

My parents-in-law are visiting us and they will stay with us for three months. It’s a pure joy for my husband, not because he can enjoy his mom’s cooking, but he has gotten an opportunity to fulfill his responsibilities as a son, especially unique son in the family. In a traditional Chinese family, the child is always obligated to take care of his parents, not only financially but also emotionally.

However, the share of our daily life, in long-term, is detrimental to our marriage. In the beginning, the peace might depend on the mutual respect and tolerance. However with the accumulation of disagreements on trifles, the atmosphere tended to be more and more stressful. There are questions of privacy, interference and culture.  But recently, I have discovered the main reason which explains why I can not bear a a long period of living together.

One night, after the dinner, my husband and his mom were discussing about the problem of a two-year-old nephew, who couldn’t sleep well in the night, crying from time to time and making his cousin exhausted. “He was once frightened by your cousin’s mother-in-law.” That was the conclusion from my mom-in-law, who holds a negative opinion of another lady that unfortunately has a bad relationship with her daughter-in-law. I was sitting in another corner of the living room, busy with my own work, but heir discussion began to catch my attention. “That happens a lot.I think it’s better to sing aloud a song anti-ghost.”my daughter’s grandma suggested. It’s not uncommon to have such a superstitious idea, less in the countryside. I was never picky with the ignorance of our parents. However, it was the reaction of my husband that shocked me and made me feel sick. “Look, I just searched online, there is a version of such song.” followed my honey, who holds a graduate degree obtained in a top university in China.”Then send it to your cousin.”thrilled his mom.

I couldn’t fall asleep that night, although it was a insignificant discussion that didn’t concern any number of our own family. If it involved my daughter, I would probably advance my opinion and treat her symptom as being sick. Besides, to practice such a silly ritual might have no bad consequence, but help to give some reliefs to the anxious parents. Nevertheless, my husband’s consentient shed lights on some something that I couldn’t accept but only ignored in our life. Was this reaction due to the respect of his parents’ opinions, given that parental authority in a traditional family is not supposed to be questionable? Was it a gesture to please his mom in order to avoid a meaningless disagreement? Or was it an indication of his ignorance and a demonstration of his true beliefs? Such doubts were all-consuming. I didn’t dear to allow myself to go on.

This small incident appeared so insignificant that I didn’t question the real intention of my husband. To my surprise, it remained significant when others similar incidents accumulated, making me rediscover my husband. Then, the life with my parents-in-law became discouraging and hopeless.

We can not always agree with our partner, neither disagree with him. As we are losing hope to influence another adult, the reality that the same person can be eventually influenced so easily by another person makes us confused and disappointed. With more people living together, there are more competitions of opinions and influence. Landmines are being settled down  while we even never payed great attention to the peaceful appearance.

Why are we so afraid of divorce?

I was back to Shanghai for two weeks and had serval gatherings with my friends and colleagues. The major topic of our talk around a cup of coffee or a table full of varied dishes is to complain our miserable marriage life. “What’s new about our other classmates? Has anyone already got divorced?” this question, although with negative response, did trigger some compulsive comments on the sustainability of our own marriage.

For our partners and our parents, gossip, whether it relates to ourselves or others, was just a killing-time leisure for women. For us, it was also an effective remedy of our depression. One began to talk about the neglect of her husband in all fields, not only the chores, but also the education of the child, the concern of her feelings, the abusive absence at home. Another followed, adding that her child’s daddy was even worse. Then, it turned out a competition of describing the most miserable life that we have endured.

However, nobody mentioned the possibility of divorce. This unwillingness to reach such a solution is not a sign to undermine the validity of all complaints but an indicator of another bigger problem : we are so afraid of divorce, at least women, at least in China. Our parents already told us to endure the common disappointment of marriage life and have cited numerous examples witch ended deplorable. The devaluation of a divorced woman is especially huge and unworthy, affecting even the woman’s job and social relationship. Besides and after all,  we all give too much privilege to our children, whom we could never imagine suffering the mock of peers.

Then, after indulging ourselves into a storm of accusation, as if letting out all harmful energy, we began offering strategies to handle with a namely miserable life. Some showed their knowledge about make-ups, believing that a refreshing image of oneself can cheer up. Some asserted the importance of career performance, holding that having a respectable income is the basic guarantee of their independence. Some even swore to take vacation alone to gain more hope and optimism. All affirmed our need to have more friends and more hand-out.

Nobody suggested a talk with her husband nor a try to reshape the life style. We all don’t want a divorce, neither another chance to meet a better man, neither to negotiate a better way to handle the current indifference in family. Why? After nearly ten years being together, we all know so much about the other person lying on the same bad. We are all frightened by our potential power to declare the war.

But still, it’s so complicated to explain the fear of divorce which is torturing and tempting. In spite of our education background which emphasized  women’s freedom and self-sufficiency, even with a decent job and social position, we are ultimately determined by our own original family.  We grew up listening our mothers complain about our fathers. Sometimes, we would rather prefer their divorce in stead of suffering the constant stress in family. Nevertheless, we clearly remembered how many nights we refused to sleep because sacred by the idea of our parents’ divorce.

Now,  when we have reached such a period where the disappointment of our partner becomes daily, our mothers’ pessimism automatically activated us. Their fear of divorce was so deeply and dramatically rooted in our mind that we repeat unconsciously their stroy.

Being busy is great!

I had a busy September. First, getting a new car means taking more responsibilities in family work. Second, preparing GRE and taking the test were stressful and my brain kept complaining. Third, I finally got a part-time job as a French teacher.  To well begin my new professional life, I should dedicate more time and  energy.

Thus, I had no time to read newspapers, to aliment my blogs, to stay online in social media, neither to hike nor to swim.

However I felt so good. I didn’t mind any annoying comments from my husband which, generally, would make us argue. I didn’t stick to some weird reactions from my friends, which normally made me upset. Especially, I had no time to worry about my future.

Being busy is great. I like to make my agenda full. Although as my husband said, you could not concentrate on everything in order to make sure of your success. He was right and predicted well the frustrating result of my GRE. But I still loved September, because I was hopeful and energetic.

The most regrettable thing is that I didn’t write much, neither for practicing nor for recording my thoughts. If it’s good to be busy, it’s not good to use it as an excuse to give up thinking. I hesitated many times before resisting a writing impulse.

I will embrace a very busy October and I hope to do better everyday.