Yesterday I went to the Expat Show which was held this past weekend at the China World Trade Center in Guomao.
It's basically an exhibition to give companies with goods and services geared to expatriates to present them under one roof.
And as a relative newbie, it was good to see what's around.
Many were for expats with huge packages, wondering what to do with their money, as there were financial planners and companies advertising real estate investments in Beijing and in Samui, Thailand.
Others were international schools in the city or overseas universities pushing their affiliated MBA programs here.
One company was selling expensive air filters we should all have, while there were at least three selling organic milk and yogurt. All the dairy farms are located just outside of Beijing, but just how 'organic' is the milk since the environment is pretty much polluted, water, land and air-wise. However, the milk samples I tasted were not bad.
There were also networking groups and non-profit associations like the Magic Hospital, which aims to cheer up kids in hospitals through clowns and art classes, or an orphanage that takes in abandoned kids with medical conditions.
And not to be outdone, several hospitals mostly for expats or rich Chinese set up booths. And one of them, United Family Hospital, in conjunction with other local health organizations, set up a blood drive in the exhibition hall.
I thought twice about it and then thought, why not?
However, the process is slightly different from North America.
I was asked to fill out a form answering a myriad of questions from if I was pregnant, to having diabetes, recently had surgery or have a number of diseases ending in -itis. While I was putting an "x" next to "No" for each question, nurses and other staff hovered around looking at my form, which really should be confidential. I had a choice of donating 200ml or 400ml and chose the latter.
After that I was sent to a doctor who checked my blood pressure. Back home I donated blood over a year ago and was told my blood pressure was low and just barely made the requirement. But here, I was pronounced just fine.
Then I moved to the next person who changed her gloves and then pricked my finger and squirted blood into a tiny plastic tube. She then put drops of my blood onto a piece of paper that she mixed with different chemicals and then wrote down my blood type.
A short wait afterwards, I was sent to a small area curtained off and sat in a kind of lawn chair. A nurse -- who didn't change her gloves -- wrapped a rubber tubing around my arm to find my vein and then jabbed a thick needle in me that was attached to a small plastic pouch sitting on a machine that rocked it back and forth.
At first she gave me a stress ball to squeeze, but after a while it got tiring and I just made a fist on my own. The young security guard next to me was done in no time, and the nurse kept reassuring me that I was doing fine. Meanwhile another person carefully labeled the pouch and packed it away.
Towards the end I was getting lightheaded and tired. Finally it was done and she put a band-aid on me and I sat around for over 10 minutes. Other people gave me grape juice, though I wish we were given chocolate instead. I was also handed a small booklet with my details and how much blood I gave.
It was a pretty smart idea to have the blood drive at this event, as most expats are willing to give blood and know the procedure. Apparently our blood will be stocked for between now and the Beijing Olympics which is neat.
I'm glad I did it and I just read the United Family Hospital's brochure, which says its blood bank meets American Blood Bank accreditation standards.
As a reward, I was given a red carnation, a bottle of water and a choice between a small travel bag or an umbrella.
Seems like they can't thank volunteers enough for doing a good deed.