“Now we are going to visit the doctor,” Lily announced as the group waddled away from the table. She led us through the restaurant to an adjoining building. We sat down at a bunch of school desks in a large room that resembled a lecture hall. Lisa and I sat in the back. A man in a white lab coat came through a door at the front of the hall. He was very distinguished looking. Maybe he was the director of the local medical school. A woman dressed as a nurse came in with him. She had a clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other. She was the man’s assistant and interpreter.
Whoa, wait a minute. I thought I signed up for a tour of the Great Wall. So far I’ve seen heavy traffic, wrong way driving, closed tombs, jade grinders, and a food free-for-all. A visit to the doctor is not on my agenda. I avoid the doctor when I’m at home, there’s no need to see one here.
The man started to lecture us about ancient Chinese medicine. The woman translated his speech, but I tuned out almost immediately. It was time for my post non-lunch nap. He was talking about acupuncture, magic herbs, and mysterious oils. I didn’t really understand. He droned on an on for half an hour. At the end, the assistant announced that the doctor was now free for consultations. The doctor (and I use that term loosely, based mainly on his appearance) sat down on a chair at the front of the room.
The first patient was Chairman Mao. He shuffled towards the front of the room and sat down in front of the doctor. He described his aches and pains to the doctor, and the nurse translated for our benefit. The doctor prescribed some herbs for the man and the nurse got jars of some unknown substance from behind a counter. Money changed hands and Mao went back to his original seat.
“Who is next?” said the nurse.
The Brazilian father went forward. He told the doctor he had a backache. The doctor held the patient’s hands and lightly massaged his wrists for a few moments.
“Yes, I see,” said the doctor through his interpreter. “You have liver trouble. You need to take these three different herbs according to these instructions. Your back ache will go away and your liver will be healed.”
The nurse brought the Brazilian a large bagful of jars. He paid and sat down.
By this time I was really annoyed. What a scam and a waste of time. I caught Lily’s eye and rolled my eyes. Can we go yet?
No, because the Mongolians and the Chinese peasants had not had their turn with the doctor yet. An hour later we finally made it back to the bus. Lily approached us.
“I am sorry,” she said. “They make us come here every day. It is not my decision.”
“It’s OK. I understand. But I am really looking forward to seeing the Great Wall before dark! Is Mao a ringer?” She didn’t understand me.
After another hour of driving we made it to the Great Wall. We climbed the steps, walked along its ramparts, and gazed out into the distance. We expected the Mongol horde of Genghis Khan to attack, but nothing happened. The Great Wall is a peaceful place today.
Back at the hotel we talked about the day. Our tour wasn’t what we expected it was going to be, but it was certainly an adventure. My back was a little sore from sitting on the tour bus most of the day. If I had only bought some of those Chinese herbs…