Rooting the root canal in China

Facials with the beauticians dressed in shocking pink nurse outfits and a breast massage is part of the facial!
Facials with the beauticians dressed in shocking pink nurse outfits and a breast massage is part of the facial!
Tired looking street vendor
Tired looking street vendor
A street market
A street market
You can take a boat and explore the canals
You can take a boat and explore the canals
No matter where you are in the world, a Sunday BBQ with home-made sausages is the best!
No matter where you are in the world, a Sunday BBQ with home-made sausages is the best!
Anzac Day celebrated by the Aussies and Kiwis here in Nanjing.
Anzac Day celebrated by the Aussies and Kiwis here in Nanjing.

Random glimpses of an expat's life in China

Life in China is very random. You can walk out of a beautifully designed architectural delight skyscraper that rivals the world's best, straight into a little alley way where people are selling dead chickens out of a barrel. One of the funniest sights I ever saw, was a group of elderly women sitting outside a KFC selling live chickens. I have that pic somewhere and must search for it.

A visit to a beauty salon, and you are never sure what you are in for. You might end up having a facial where they put the mask on your face and cucumber slices on your eyes, and then start to massage and knead your breasts like they were trying to make some kind of homemade bread and you are powerless to do anything about it. You can't speak and can't see as that mask on your face is as stiff as a plaster of paris cast. I remember frantically trying to turn my head and peak through the cucumber slices to see if was also happening to me friend, or if it was just me.

Then, you can be shopping and suddenly have an urgent need to go to the toilet. You already know you're going to have to use a squatter toilet and sometimes, you discover that the squatters are in open stalls so everybody can see you and you can watch old women trying to drop their poop into the squatter. Traveling Tip: Always wear closed shoes when going shopping in China, as not everybody is as good as containing their urine splash as I am and you will be standing in other's urine. Also, don't forget you'll have to navigate your way through the lovely dollops of mucous left on the sidewalks like rose petals on the aisle during a wedding.

Then you see the great shop names people have come up with. 'I like naughty boys,' for a shop selling men's clothing, 'Wee Winky,' for a shop selling kid's clothes. The translations of many signs are also a great source of entertainment. I can never understand how they can pay so much to get a sign made, and then not check the spelling or grammar.

But, the social life is good as you have to make your own entertainment. You do not have to eat Chinese food. Incidentally, in New Zealand we used to have Chinese take-aways once a week. Now, maybe twice a year or if we're visiting a town that's famous for a particular dish. The Chinese food in China is nothing at all like the food you know in Chinese restaurants in the west. There are some good restaurants and bars, especially in Shanghai where we sometimes go to escape and get some more western culture.

There are a few pagodas and historical places left that weren't bulldozed to build high rises, but the China you imagine from old kung fu movies is not the reality here. Some of the museums are interesting. In Nanjing we have the old Nanjing Shipyards where the huge treasure ships were built that Zheng He used to discover America 80 years before Colombus. There's also the Nanjing Massacre Museum which is surprisingly very tastefully done, amazing sculptures, very humbling there. One of those sorts of places that make you ashamed to be a human being. In 1937, 300 000 people were massacred in a 6 week period by the Japanese.

HP laptop to give English explanations.
HP laptop to give English explanations.
The dentist's very sterile workspace.
The dentist's very sterile workspace.
Okay, maybe the re-fitting wasn't 100% finished yet!
Okay, maybe the re-fitting wasn't 100% finished yet!
The nurse with a theatre gown covering her short nurse's uniform and boots.
The nurse with a theatre gown covering her short nurse's uniform and boots.
Working on my root canal.
Working on my root canal.
My daughter demonstrating how the crowds watched through the shopfront window.
My daughter demonstrating how the crowds watched through the shopfront window.

Root canal with the local dentist

After my adventures with a chopstick and a flashlight by a dentist with rotting black and brown teeth, I decided to try once more at the local dentist. Either I'm brave or very stupid.  It does take me a while to learn a lesson.  When I arrived at the dental surgery down the road, I was relieved to see that the re-fitting was finished and the dental chairs and equipment looked quite modern. Okay, no x-ray machines in sight, but the dentisit seemed detrmined to make a good impression. Luckily, Dr Rotting Teeth turned out to be the manager or pharmacist and he wasn't coming anywhere near my teeth. I nearly wept with relief but I still felt the fear causing adrenalin to flow like the Zimbabwe Falls in my blood. Maybe I should have paid the $120 to be seen by a dentist at the SOS Clinic in town?

Anyway, it was too late to leave as I was by that stage, firmly ensconced in the dentist's chair. He was young and quite handsome so I deduced he'd be good and would know what he was doing. His English was limited to, "Open, close and painful?" Always asked with a question at the end. Feeling confident, I opened my mouth. "No, no, no, no," he repeated shaking his head. "Is everything okay?" I asked a little worriedly. He managed to ask if I spoke Chinese which regretably I don't. Three years in China and I can say turn left, turn right, straight ahead and stop. The dentist called over the nurse, sexily dressed in a short nurse's uniform with high heel boots. He sprayed spittle as he barked orders to her in Chinese, and she hastily left clicking her heels on the tiled floor.

She soon returned carrying an HP laptop, which she put on the counter next to him and his instruments, which I happened to notice weren't in the usual sterile containers. "Listen," he said to me, showing that he knew another English word. He played on the keyboard and I heard a very English voice come from the HP laptop, "Hello, I am your dentist today." Then there were words in Chinese, followed by the English voice, "You need a root canal. I am going to save your tooth." The dentist nodded reassuringly at me and smiled showing his perfect white teeth. "Listen," he said looking on the screen to see what he wanted and fiddled on the keyboard again. Once again the Chinese followed by the English translation. "The dentist is going to perform a root canal treatment. It will be painful and uncomfortable. You will feel discomfort." And so it carried on for another half an hour as the dentist played his dental software program to me so that I had a good understanding of what was going to be happening. It felt a little bizarre, but the worst was yet to come. I looked up and saw that a crowd had gathered on the other side of the glass shop front window and were watching me go through my root canal treatment. The next thing, some of them decided that they couldn't get a good enough view, so they actually came into the dental surgery and stood in a semi-circle around the back of my chair, to get a better view.

I have to say, this dentist had the lightest touch imaginable and would probably be a very good lover. He injected me so gently, I nearly kissed his latex-gloved hand. My only complaint, is that he kept asking, "Painful?" when I had a mouth full of clamps and suction things and couldn't even move my lips. I tried to reply with my eyes and that didn't work, as he kept repeating, "Painful? Painful?" with growing hysteria as I tried desperately to shake my head 'no' without dislodging any of his equipment. He didn't charge me for the visit or the follow up visit I had today. No injection but much squirting and tugging and then a vile antiseptic tasting fluid. I have to return on Friday for the final treatment. Maybe that'll be when I get the bill. I have to say, this has been the best and least painful root canal treatment ever. Let's root for the handsome young local Chinese dentist. Luckily, there weren't many people around so I never had the crowds gawking at me today. It was a little disappointing, as I had felt like a famous celebrity the last time.

As I've said before, China can be wonderful and frustrating. You go through days when you hate it and count down the seconds until you leave, and times when you just love the life and the culture. Today, was a good China day for me. My ayi came and cleaned up Sunday's mess from the BBQ. I gave her notice of the fact that we were leaving in June and she smiled and nodded. I guess the huge pile of folded boxes left by the removal company for the last month might have already given it away. So, here's a 'Root' for China! "Yay!"

Some of the more bizarre sights you encounter

Cooking some bird on the street.
Cooking some bird on the street.
Sombre statue at the Najing massacre Museum commemorating the 300 000 brutally massacred by the Japanese over a period of 6 weeks.
Sombre statue at the Najing massacre Museum commemorating the 300 000 brutally massacred by the Japanese over a period of 6 weeks.
Bell boy dressed in a kilt at the 1846 Astor House Hotel in Shanghai.
Bell boy dressed in a kilt at the 1846 Astor House Hotel in Shanghai.
A bottle of coke with a toothbrush as a free gift.
A bottle of coke with a toothbrush as a free gift.
Soldiers marching with spades instead of guns during last year's worst winter in 100 years.
Soldiers marching with spades instead of guns during last year's worst winter in 100 years.
Star-Ucks.  Needs no explanation!
Star-Ucks. Needs no explanation!

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Comments 19 comments

Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

As always, wonderful info, story, and humor... And photos! I'm so glad you took so many! Always a pleasure to see your pictures. Gives us readers a great look at the life and people of China. Thanks!


Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France

I love your stories, they are an absolute pleasure to read. Why do dentists all over the world always want to make conversation when you have your mouth full of clamps and hoses? I'll never understand that one!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks Frieda and Princessa. I have to admit, I get a lot of enjoyment out of writing my stories. Had my youngest daughter taking the photos at the dentist today, so was a family effort!


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

I still say your would-be Philippine adventure shall top all your Asian experiences - including the squatters and the visit to the dentist :D


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Enjoy hearing about your experiences.  I still find it interesting that throughout Asia staring at someone is culturally a very OK thing to do.  My husband is 6'5" wearing a size 17 shoe and in China especially he attracts a lot of attention. 

One old man in a food court, who had to have been about 80 years old and not familiar with Westerners -- drug a chair across the room, sat himself about a foot away from my husband and looked him up and down until we finished out meal. 

Another time, like your root canal, he was getting a razor shave in a back alley, the size of him in the barber chair made the woman barber giggle the whole time and before he was done a large crowd had gathered, some were taking pictures with their cell phones of his feet.

You are quickly becoming one of my favorite hubbers to read.


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

Cindy, I feel so inadequate now before all who have commented previously. I'm so envious of you. I dint want the story to end it was so well written, and the picutures are so riveting. Just a wnderful hub. You must tell more of these. And yes, go see Cris so you tell us all about his wondeful country too and then too you can spill your guts all about our poet Cris. haha thanks so much now


RKHenry profile image

RKHenry 7 years ago from Your neighborhood museum

Just as Princessa said, "I love your stories, they are an absolute pleasure to read."

You are a very entertaining author. I dig that about you!


Hawkesdream profile image

Hawkesdream 7 years ago from Cornwall

I love your life tales , the way you tell them ,I could imagine myself there with you.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Cris- Maybe next year the Philippines

Jerilee - it took me a long time before I stopped getting annoyed when shopping in the supermarket, when people just come and randomly peer into your shopping trolley, sometimes they pick up the items, show them to their friends and laugh.

CC - nothing inadequate about you boy!

RK and Hawesdream - Glad you're enjoying my stories! I do love telling them and giving people a different from the norm insight into the places I've been and things I've seen.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Cindy, thank you for a wonderful glimpse into real life in China! Thanks also for the tip about squatters and closed shoes. I'm filing that away under "someday I'll visit China".


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Will write more about China after I've left as they do keep an eye on foreigners here and what they write, which is why sometimes your computer is so slow and it's not letting me open any videos on anybody's hubs. Sigh...China is definitely worth a visit! Amazing ancient culture and traditions, not sure I care too much for the modern era here though.


Am I dead, yet? 7 years ago

ahh, the follow-up. I am happy that all ended well.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Final treatment is 3pm today!


juliet.howard 7 years ago

Hi there- would it be ok for us to publish your picture of the bell boy in the kilt in tomorrows financial times newspaper? its for our letters page- a lady has written in telling us about her favourite hotels in shanghai & this pic would be great to go with it.

we will pay £50 image usage fee

kind regards

Juliet Howard

UK NEWS & FEATURES Picture Editor

FT London


cindyvine 7 years ago

That's fine Juliet, but how will I get the money?


wei1010 profile image

wei1010 7 years ago from hubei province ,CHINA

very good


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks Wei


Aussieteacher profile image

Aussieteacher 6 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

I'm back in China - saw your hub. I think we communicated on blogger which of course is not part of crazy China life. I have just returned for another semester at Shaoxing. Could live here long term - but I won't. You write some hilarious stuff. Di


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Hey Di, am not missing China, I have to be honest, although I do miss the great friends I made there.

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