Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Do You Speak China?

Despite China being heavily involved in a ton of infrastructural investments all around the continent of Africa, seeing someone with an East Asian background is a very rare occasion. On top of that, whenever I introduce myself to a Ghanaian, they are surprised that I have the “Christian” name (Eva) and have an American accent. Perhaps it’s too vain to think this way, but whenever this happens, I’m not offended. Instead, I feel almost proud that I’m bringing what it means to be an American Born Chinese (ABC) to Ghana.

I was prepared to explain my appearance to Ghanaians, but I thought my Chinese background would end there. Who knew that I’d be asked to use my Chinese while I’m in Ghana!

During an early car ride back to Kumasi in the new truck of one of the St. Martin’s hospital employees, one of the passengers found a first aid kit in the glove compartment. The first aid kit must have been manufactured in China, because there was Chinese on the packaging of all of the kit contents. The majority of the contents were easily identified despite the foreign packaging: Band-Aids, surgical tape, cotton balls, gauze, etc. But, there were two medications in the kit that were less straightforward. After examining the two boxes for a long time, the passenger turns to me and asks, “Do you read China?” I’m immediately startled from my dozing by his question and try to clear my head as I stare at the Chinese characters on the instructions of the two drugs. I recognized all of the characters for the first one: an analgesic cream, but the second one was much harder to figure out since it has been at least two years since my last Chinese class and I’m not the best at reading simplified Chinese. I think the second one was a blood clotting drug to stop bleeding.

As we drove down the bumpy road towards Kumasi, I hoped not only that we wouldn’t get into a car accident, but also that no injuries in the potential car accident would result in massive bleeding! I definitely didn’t trust my Chinese enough to rely on that drug to save lives.

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