Thursday, February 16, 2012

Then and Now 29 - Biker Blood

Then and Now 29 - Biker Blood
Time: Mid-2007, at my bud's aunt's place.

I started feeling very grateful for the life I was living abroad not long after I started taking responsibility for myself and having fun. So one day, I decided I wanted to do a little something to give back: I would donate blood. My bud decided not to come with me, and wanted to stay behind to relax at his aunt's place with a cool fan and a warm laptop, so I decided to go on my own. He told me the local words for "give blood" before I left, but I forgot them as I was halfway to the hospital, so I decided to use easy words to try and get my point across when I got there.

In the hospital, I was very careful not to disturb anyone. It was filled from wall to wall with concerned family members nursing their elderly parents in wide hospital beds, and I didn't want to intrude any more than I had to. I got to the information desk and began talking in the local language:


"Yes, what do you need?"

"Can I give blood here?"


"Give blood. Give other people my blood."

"Please wait."

She got on the phone and called a doctor, looking a little worried. After a quick talk, she put the phone down and motioned for me to go inside. The doctor was seated behind a little curtain, and a patient was seated in front of him. They both looked at me, then the doctor spoke to me.

"Are you bleeding?" he asked in English.

"No, I want to give blood. Can I give blood here?" I responded in the local language.

"What?" he asked, this time in the local language.

"Can I give blood? Give blood to other people?"

He looked at me strangely.

I blinked a few times. "If someone is sick and they need blood, I can give them my blood." I put my thumb and index finger in a pinching motion over my arm, then turned my hand over twice like I was pulling out a needle.

The doctor's face lit up in recognition. "You want to donate blood, is that right?"

I recognized the words that my friend told me. "Yes! That's right. Can I do that here?"

He smiled and shook his head. "No, you have to go to a blood donation *something* (probably "center"). I can tell you how to..." He stopped, looked at me for a second, then pulled out a piece of paper. "I can draw you a map."

I felt embarrassed, but I watched as he drew a functional map on a piece of paper and handed it to me.

"Can you read this?"

"Yes," I answered.

He nodded, finished the map, then handed it to me. I shook his hand, and asked if I needed to pay for seeing him. He said no, then I apologized to his patient for barging in, thanked the doctor, and we all smiled and waved goodbye. With that fun done, I walked out into the heat and started down the street to give some blood.

There isn't much to say about the trip to the blood donation center: it was blisteringly hot, but the path I followed to get to the center led me between several rows of tall buildings for some much needed shade, and I was there in no time. At the corner of a very busy intersection, I found the building I was looking for: it looked like any other office building, and the donation center wasn't marked by either sign or temporary banner outside. I guess enough people knew about it that they felt they didn't need to advertise.

The donation center was on the third or fourth floor of the building. I had spent my life in America giving blood only at traveling bloodmobiles or at hospitals, so to see it in a place where I would expect cubicles and a whole lot of typing was a bit strange. The main lobby was very cozy, and had several tables filled with magazines to read as people waited for their turn to donate. There were maybe half a dozen locals there, waiting and reading quietly. Luckily, the nurse there offered me a form that was in (somewhat muddled) English, so I was able to fill it out with little fuss. Then, I went to sit across from the locals, and struck up a conversation with a heavyset young man who was reading a motorcycle mag.

"Hi," I said.

"Hey," he replied.

"Do you like motorcycles?"


"Do you have one?"

"Yeah, you?"

"I did, back in America. What big is yours?"


Unfortunately, I didn't learn that question word. "Um... is it 500cc? 800cc?"

He stared at me blankly.

"What's the word for the machine in the front of the car that makes it go?"

"The engine?"

"Yeah, that's it! Is it 500, 600...?"

"Oh, it's 800."

"Excellent. My first bike was a 650, and the next one was an 800. Both Suzukis."



"Oh. Mine's a *something*."

I nodded like I understood. "Cool. How fast have you ridden it?"

He smiled. "Not very fast. The streets are small around here."

I laughed. "Too bad."

He was a good guy, but I got the feeling I was making him uncomfortable, so I thanked him for putting up with my bad language skills, and he smiled before going back to his magazine.

Pretty soon, it was my turn. The nurse had a bear of a time trying to find a vein in my left arm, probably assuming that it was my off-hand and I'd appreciate losing it for the next few hours instead of my right. I told her before she started that my right arm was better, because I've never met a nurse who could find the vein in the left arm, but it only took ten seconds for any of them to find one in the right, but she didn't believe me. She worked that thing under and around my skin for a full minute before she finally gave up and immediately found the vein in the right arm. It didn't hurt at all, as most blood donators know: it's the blood sample they take from the back of your hand, or one of your fingers, that hurts like hell.

I lay back in the chair and watched local TV for about ten or twenty minutes, then when the bags were filled, I was let loose to gorge on some good ol' cookies and juice. I even got a hat with the center's name on it, and it's still in my memories box, though I admit I never wore it. And with a little language practice and some interesting people met, and hopefully a life or two saved, I went back to my bud's aunt's place so my bud and I could go out for coffee and tea.

As for today...

I woke up at 7:30.
I played video games.
My wife and son woke up, so I turned off the computer.
I watched TV.
I ate lunch.
I talked with my wife.
She went out to the doctor's office.
I played cars with my son.
I roughhoused with him.
My wife came home.
I did the dishes.
I watched internet movies with my son.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I went out to tutor students.
I came home.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I surfed the net.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I started a load of laundry.
I slept.

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