What’s Chinese for Colposcopy?


When you take a job in China, you don’t think about the day you’ll find your feet in Chinese stirrups. Guest expat blogger, Violet Tame, shares her trip to the gynaecologist in China. 


This week I had to go for a follow-up appointment at the OBGYN. I had a couple of pap smears come back irregular so it was time to go under the scope. I arrived a little nervous with the word biopsy ringing in my head. I checked in and sat down next to a middle-aged man coming from work. I wished in a way that I was sitting next to him to chew the fat to at least take my mind off the looming exam. I did not make a move as figured I would definitely put my foot in my mouth and rather than discussing the up and coming US election, I would discuss blood clots and the risk we women take with every birth control pill we take.

I waited and waited and finally was called by the nurse after waiting over 40 minutes. She took my blood pressure and then asked me to sit in another waiting room where I could gaze for 20 minutes at a wall of baby photographs. I sometimes think that the OBGYN offices should have pictures of females with their great accomplishments and inspirational quotes including the strange species of the single independent woman, or just any random person from the non-procreating race. Is it not enough that I do not have anyone besides my OBGYN doing anything down there, I have to be reminded every six months “No, you do not have kids, and you are doing maintenance on an organ that only bleeds”.


As I am sitting there staring at the baby pictures with happy couples, thinking about my inactive vagina and fallopian tubes that are still in training I remind myself of past OBGYN appointments where one gynaecologist told me that I had a beautiful womb. This in a strange way is comforting. Then a line swoops in like a stork from the play For Whom the Southern Bell Tolls, “I have a womb, a womb for went, as Elmer Fudd would say”. What do I do with this beautiful womb? Will I ever be able to rent it out for nine months, or will I continue to carry the vacancy sign on my forehead to each dinner, Christmas or OBGYN appointment?


A dear friend rang me to check in and I immediately lost it making a puddle of tears on my baby yellow skirt. The nurse called me into the office before the conversation even started. Walking into the appointment I messaged two friends saying that I was having a meltdown and would like someone there when I was done.


The doctor had diagrams of women with see through legs so I could see where the microscope would be put. I was warned that it might hurt and given a packet that outlined what I needed to be aware of and activities that I needed to stay away from for the next 24 hours…. A girl could be so lucky to have the option to stay away from one of the three letter words.


Through the whole process massive drops were catapulting from my eyes. I was taken through an office to a room with a massive chair with stir-ups. I put on a backless blue gown that brought out my swollen eyes and lay on the table. The doctor was Chinese and so was her assistant. There were four lights above me, which meant I could see the reflection of the different tools she was putting into me. After that the doctor said “I tell you about this later, I have to clean off your cervix first”. Seriously, there has to be a technical term for that, though now I know why they name cars after women: a tune-up is just a different dipstick away from a colposcopy.


The exam continued and I was still unsure if I was passing or failing. The doctor and the assistant were speaking to each other in Chinese and all I could pick up was “Chinese, Chinese, Chinese, biopsy. Chinese, Chinese, Chinese, biopsy”…. Now for China claiming to be one of the oldest cultures and Mandarin being a difficult language with an extensive vocabulary, they honestly could not come up with their own word for biopsy? That was the one word that I could have waited to hear until the tune-up was finished and I was sitting respectably in a chair fully clothed on all sides.


After who knows how many swabs, metal dipsticks and hearing “Chinese, Chinese Chinese, biopsy. Chinese, Chinese, Chinese, biopsy,” they left me to change and closed a steel sliding door, which I later would not be able to open, and resorted to banging on like a captive mental patient. The doctor explained everything shortly after telling me that she was retiring… Upon leaving the office I found my friends that responded to my distress signal to enjoy a cold four-letter word that thankfully was not on the list of things I could not enjoy post tune-up.

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