From the very start of my acupuncture programme at the London South Bank University, my cohort and I have been preparing for our hospital placement in Harbin, Heilongjiang. (Don't know where that is? Think northwest China, think very near the border with Russia.) And now that time has very nearly come. I will be spending a few months in the hospital to learn from the great doctors there, to see how Chinese medicine is practised in, well, in China. We have great teachers at South Bank, both Chinese and British, who practise a variety of styles. But in our teaching clinic in south London, I treat one patient per hour, Western style -- it's great training, but you don't see the whole range of conditions even after 200 of the required clinic hours. In China, doctors treat 60 patients a day -- with the help of junior doctors and lowly foreign student assistants, of course!
My other favourite phrase is "Rang wo kan kan ni de she". "Please show me your tongue." In Chinese medicine, examination of the tongue is one of the principal diagnostic methods. The tongue colour, shape and coating all say something about the patient's condition and state of the organs. It's fascinating stuff and takes a lifetime to master. (Speaking of a lifetime's learning, don't even get me started on taking the pulses!)
So back to revising medical Mandarin. The preparations continue. I have to get my visa, sort out travel insurance, think of what to pack, and more importantly, prepare a checklist for the hubby so he is prepared for all manner of child-related emergencies that might come up!
Now how do I say, "My Mandarin is terrible, please can you repeat that slowly?"