Before I left the UK I tried to buy medical insurance. The first quote I got for a full year was for over seven grand. The lowest I got was for five and a half. I decided that it would be insane to spend more than my full year's pay on insurance when I could, should the need arise, pay less than a thousand pounds and fly home. So I don't have medical insurance.
In China I discovered than I can by medical insurance for around a hundred pounds.
And that's what I've been trying to do this morning.
The FAO, my Chinese liaison, came over to help me. She's incredibly helpful but her English, especially when listening, isn't really that great. So she took me off to the insurance offices where here friend works. She had already, with a great deal of difficulty, told me that I would need to pay for my insurance with a bank card. I have one. At the moment the account contains 1 yuan, the amount I used to open it. For those that don't know that's about ten pence. No problem. If someone shows me how to do it I'll put money in.
In the insurance offices I was presented with two documents listing the different levels of cover for buying one share (about a hundred pounds) or two shares (about two hundred pounds). Naturally both documents were in Chinese. She scanned them carefully and then told me that they were "complicated". I could have worked that out. Insurance companies, wherever they are, never write simple documents. After a lot of discussion between her and the insurance rep we managed to write down some numbers for how much each would pay in the event of illness accident or death. I said I'd take the one share and if anything more serious was wrong with me I'd just go home. I'm not sure anyone understood but we agreed on one share.
At this point the FAO had to go to a meeting, leaving me with someone who spoke no English at all. She called in another manager from another office who spoke a little. I signed my name in a lot of places on a lot of forms whose content was entirely meaningless to me. It's perfectly possible that I no longer own my kidneys. I have no idea what I signed. I'll just have to trust them.
I showed them my bank card. The lack of funds isn't a problem as they won't accept that card anyway. Apparently my Bank of Guilin card can't be used, they need a card on a Baiyin bank. I can, we established after much confusion, open an account with just the amount they need to take out.
Or at least I could if my passport were not still at the police station. Without it I can't do anything, change money,deposit money OR open a bank account.
So that's where we are at the moment. A lot of forms I don't understand signed and no way to pay for the insurance unless they can be persuaded to take cash. I wonder sometimes if I may be a little too trusting.