Finding my way to the hospital
The night I drove Kyra to the emergency room, it was raining. Not only that, but the roads all over Shunyi were being repaved. Everything was torn up, with traffic cones haphazardly scattered to mark the places where the manhole covers were missing.
I’d only been distracted for a moment (that’s what everyone says in the ER, I imagine), but that moment was all it took for Kyra to grab a bottle of medicine, open it up, and chug the entirety of its contents. I had to get her to the hospital, and quickly.
I said all sorts of prayers as I drove. I begged that the slow-moving taxi in front of me would pull over. I asked that the traffic on the expressway would disappear somehow. I was trying to refrain from going crazy on those rain-slicked roads, but I also wanted to get to the hospital so that someone in a bright white coat could assure me that my mistake was reversible. So I careened in and out of traffic, flashing my brights and gunning around the slowpokes until I finally pulled into the hospital parking lot, backing into the space nearest the emergency room.
Later that night, after Kyra was admitted to the hospital for observation and I was sitting in her room watching her sleep, I realized: Beijing is home now. It must be home – after all, I’d found my way to the ER all alone, in the dark. You can’t do that in a foreign land.
Not long after we arrived in Beijing, I discovered I was pregnant with my fourth child. We didn’t have a car yet, so I called a cab to take me to my first OB visit – my first trip to the hospital. I remember being near tears as I told my husband, “I’m never going to make it here. I’ll never even be able to find my way back to the hospital.” He tried to reassure me, but really, what did he know? At least he could read the street signs or stop to ask for directions. If I ever got lost, I’d just stay lost, making an endless loop around the Third Ring Road.
Soon enough, our car arrived. It sat in the driveway for days, waiting for me to build up the courage to go somewhere. I started off slowly, making quick trips to various schools and shops around Shunyi. When it was time for another visit to the hospital, I dusted off the keys, crossed my fingers, mapped out my route and headed cautiously down the Airport Expressway. I managed to find my way to the hospital and back without incident, and the experience gave me the courage I needed to try again. I’m proud to say that since that white-knuckled day, I’ve driven myself in all directions over Beijing, trying to master this city one destination at a time.
I’ve been back to the hospital more times than I can count now – for OB visits, dentist appointments, stitches and all sorts of other things. There are doubtless some families out there who will never see the inside of the hospital, no matter how long they live here. Our family, unfortunately, has a knack for getting sick, no matter where we put down roots.
As it turns out, it’s a good thing I’ve been made to drive so often. That rainy night, I knew exactly where I was going, and I got there in time. Which tells me I may still feel like a tourist, but this really is home.