Convalescence

Click here for some background reading.

Waiting to be discharged

Instead of staying in hospital for two days as I originally anticipated, I ended up staying five days. I was kept in hospital for a day of observation after my wound was closed four days after my operation.

My stay at Oasis was generally very pleasant. I was one of three inpatients so the wards were quiet almost all the time, bar the muted sounds of nurses and doctors going about their work. The nurses got used to me shuffling out of my room and wandering aimlessly around the floor three to four times a day, getting my daily dose of exercise. I enjoyed my daily chats with the physio as he checked my progress and gave me more exercises to do with my left hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder.

Despite all this, it became general knowledge among the staff at Oasis and the friends I kept in touch via WeChat that I was desperate to be discharged. After months of exercising outdoors on a daily basis, being cooped up indoors for five straights days, even in conditions much better than my own apartment, felt like imprisonment. The temperature dropped drastically the week I was hospitalised, so the nurses were justified in denying my daily requests to go outside for a walk, especially before my wound was closed.

I’m a firm believer that God allows everything happens for a reason. In addition to a broken forearm, I was also nursing a cold while I was staying at the hospital. In fact, it was this same cold that fogged up my brain when I fell off my bike and broke my arm. If I’d just stayed home and nursed my cold that day, I’d still have an intact left forearm. If only I wasn’t so restless and easily bored…

Surviving in the real world

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Free from the cast, at last!

I was elated when Dr Miia announced I was well enough to be discharged from hospital on Friday morning, five weeks ago. The nurses were amazed at how quickly I changed out of my hospital gown into my own clothing without their assistance.

On the one hand, I was happy to finally be going back to my own apartment, sleeping in my own bed and regaining my freedom to roam aimlessly outside whenever I felt like it. On the other hand, the physical weakness of my left arm was a constant reminder that I’d had to make certain adjustments to my living habits to get by as much as possible with the use of only my right hand.

Here’s a list of bits and bobs that helped me get by in the real world:

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Kipling Keiko Crossbody

An impulse purchase at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to replace another broken Kipling bag, it turned out to be my lifesaver. I never appreciated compartments, smooth zippers and practical design until my life literally depended on it. It was big enough to hold my purse, keys, Iphone 6, headphones, office access card, transportation card and my compact cosmetic bag, yet small enough so I couldn’t overload it with things that were non-essential and overload my left shoulder.

Transportation mobile apps

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Didi Chuxing 

Uber’s strongest competitor in China, Didi’s affordable fast car  (快车)  services have been my lifesaver when I’ve taken a little longer getting ready for work and needed a ride to the office. The 15-minute ride from my apartment in Dongzhimen to Beijing Fortune Plaza typically costs between RMB 8-15, depending on traffic and weather conditions and the time of the day.

  • Chinese only interface
  • Payment method: Only accepts WeChat Wallet
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Shenzhou is the app I turn to when I can’t get a ride with Didi. Shenzhou provides chauffeur-drive cars and employs their own drivers so naturally their services are much more expensive. I started using their services when they launched the introductory offer of getting an extra RMB 100 for every RMB 100 credit I transfer into my Shenzhou account. That offer ended in September, but they still give you RMB 50 credit for every RMB 100 you transfer into your Shenzhou account.  But as I was telling a friend, when you desperately need a car to take you home on a cold, rainy night, money becomes the least of your concern. It’s reassuring to know that even if I miss the last bus, taxis are scarce and no one’s responding to my Didi request, I can always get a Shenzhou car to take me home.

  • Chinese only interface
  • Payment method: WeChat Wallet, Alipay, Jingdong Wallet, debit and credit cards issued by China banks.

Food ordering app

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Baidu Waimai

Cooking was out of the question for the first week after I was discharged from hospital. When I didn’t go out to eat, I ordered meals using Baidu Waimai. They have a huge range of restaurants, provide discounts if you pay by WeChat Wallet, Alipay or Baidu Wallet and often waive or charge a meagre delivery fee (RMB 5-7). If the food was delivered later than the time they originally estimated, they refunded 50% of the price of the meal.

  • Chinese only interface
  • Payment method: WeChat Wallet, Alipay and Baidu Wallet

Cycling in Beijing – Part 2

lion sculptureEvery year when the temperature descends past freezing point, friends and colleagues have taken to ask if I’m still cycling in the cold. Depending on my mood I’d give them either the long or the short answer.

The long answer would go something like this…

I picked up my first bike two years ago on the coldest day in Beijing. It was -15 degrees Celsius with strong winds! Today’s nothing!

And the short answer is just plain…Yes!

The person I speak to will then respond in one of the following ways..

  • Give me a thumbs up and tell me I’m strong, brave or both.
  • Shake their heads while saying I’m insane.
  • Tell me what I should get on Taobao to protect my knees from the cold (how do they expect me to cycle with a blanket over my legs?)

More often than not, I meet seasonal cyclists, that is, people who cycle only during late spring, summer and early autumn (read: when it’s warm) and when the air quality index  (AQI) is an acceptable number (read: under 100). You can count the number of days these people cycle in Beijing with both hands.

There are days when I’m cycling in Beijing in subzero temperatures and howling wind, teeth chattering, nose and feet numb and battling to keep my bike heading in the right direction when I tell myself never again. But then I’d get to my destination all warmed up, relaxed and filled with a sense of achievement, and forget everything I told myself just moments ago.

People also argue cycling in filthy air probably do more bad than good to our bodies.  I recently read a WeChat post by a fellow cyclist who hated wearing face masks when cycling. When the AQI went through the roof earlier this year, he decided to take the subway instead of cycling to work. After five days of battling epic crowds to get on and off the subway and being squashed into inhumane postures for his hour-long ride to and from the office, he bought himself a face mask so he could resume cycling to work in a healthy manner.

He made a statement that very much resonated with me, “It’s natural to assume cycling an hour will be more strenuous than sitting in the subway for the same amount of time. But the truth is, I always felt revitalised and refreshed after cycling to work, but I was always stressed and drained when I took the subway to work for a week because I killed so many brain cells working out how to get on and off the subway everyday.”

Taking the subway in Beijing during peak hour traffic is a life-threatening exercise.  After falling out of the carriage and wedging my right leg in between the platform and the carriage 4 years ago, I banished all excuses about cycling in Beijing from my head, got on a bike and never looked back.

It’s interesting how much a simple thing like cycling has taught me about psychological barriers and overcoming fears. It’s always easy to find excuses not to do something. What’s yours?

communication (or the lack thereof)

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This couple was sitting two tables away from me at Muse. There was another middle-aged Chinese couple sitting side by side to each other across from me doing exactly the same thing. This is an increasingly common sight in restaurants in Beijing.  I’ve often wondered, why suffer a traffic jam, wait an hour for a table at the restaurant and put up with bad waitstaff if you’re not going to even talk to the person you’re having dinner with? 

Smartphones and WeChat are to blame for the increasing number of failed marriages and relationships in China. How does a couple cultivate the important things in a long-term relationship while staring at their smartphone screens? 

I’ve once witnessed my Beijinger friend giving a blow-by-blow account to his friends on WeChat while climbing Jiankou, a treacherous part of the Great Wall. I was so busy climbing with my hands and feet, I almost forgot to take pictures, let alone provide live commentary!

I’m probably the least qualified person to diss smartphones, since I was the first in my family to use one. I now depend on my smartphone to tell the time, store contact information, shopping lists, notes, bank account information (including passwords, the horror), take pictures and beautify them, share photos and information to friends, buy anything under the sun I can dream of, pay bills, search for restaurants, cinemas, movies, bars…. I’ll never finish this post if I listed everything I did on my smartphone. And that is scary…

So despite my gripes about smartphones and WeChat, I know I can’t live without them…. anymore. For my last birthday party, it took me three days to decide if I was going to email or sms friends who weren’t on my WeChat/WhatsApp/Viber.  I added and kept in touch with all new friends I met over the Spring Festival holidays on WeChat. I found out which of my favourite restaurants are open over the holidays on their WeChat service accounts. Hell, the last boardgame I played was organised on a WeChat group. So much of my life is tied up with my smartphone, I compulsively check it even though it doesn’t ring. How sad is that!

Come to think of it, I would literally vanish from the face of the earth if I lost my smartphone. Literally.

Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Ugh!