So I arrived home from vacation with lights shining from the windows of my home. I opened the front door and was greeted by my new roommate. I have lost count somewhere along the way as to what number she would be, there is just so much coming and going and saying goodbye with people who pass through here. In the two weeks I was absent my old roommate moved out and a new one took her place.
As part of the bonding process of getting to know this new girl living in my apartment we decided to go together to get our yearly medical check-up. For every foreigner living in this country we are required to have these test done every year in order to apply for a new residence permit.
We got up early in the morning to make it all the way across the town to the medical facility. As we were walking across their long icy driveway we were passed by a large bus filled with airline employees who are also required to get yearly check-ups. As we hurried forward we knew that each person that disembarked from the bus represented a long wait in line for us. Sure enough we got into the room to fill out our paper work and there was nothing but a sea of people standing between us and the front desk (people here don’t really believe in lines as much as a mass of people pushing forward all at once). You could hear their leaders voice struggling to be heard above the buzz “line-up everyone, show some etiquette”, but to little affect.
The longer I live here the more this push and shove mentality grows in me. I stuck out my elbows and pushed my way to the front. I wanted to get a form so that I could start to fill it out while she registered all of the airline employees. I handed over my passport copy and two mug shot photos of myself. She glanced at the pictures and shook her head. “Those are too small” she said curtly. “But they are the same size as hers”, I said pointing to the local women standing next to me. “You are a foreigner, you need to submit bigger ones” . My new roommate offered to fill in both forms as I headed back out the door and up the long driveway to a picture/photocopy place that was out by the gate. I was afraid it was going to take me a while as they shot new pictures and took the time to photo shop away all the blemishes on my face. But thankfully they just scanned my small ones and blew them up bigger.
I hurried back to the medical office and fell in line squarely behind the whole pack. My new roommate and I moved from room to room, having our blood tested by women who never change their gloves between clients (and were very interested in our hand sanitizer since they had never seen any), whipping off the cold jelly from the ultra sound machine, holding the curtain so that the Uyghur guys behind us in line wouldn’t stare while we were getting our EKG done. We bonded over holding each other’s coats while the other one got poked and prodded and X-rayed.