Tuesday, June 18, 2013

All work and no play? Hardly!

Less you all think that I slaved away every day while visiting China, it's time to reveal some of the "other" stuff I did. Before leaving Xi'an and flying to Beijing we spent the morning exploring the old city wall. Xi'an"s city wall is still intact, forming a 9 mile long rectangle around the city center. The wall was built in 1370 during the reign of Hongwu, the first Ming emperor. It was built on the foundations of the Tang imperial palace. One thing I found interesting about their building methods is for mortar they used a glutinous rice extract. But enough history, here are the pictures.
 So there are a couple options on how to explore the wall. On foot, (9 miles in the hot dry smog, no thanks). On golf cart with the ambulatory impaired, nope that's why I'm exploring China before all my hairs are gray. Or aboard a bicycle, I confess to some trepidation because I have seen many bikes in China that did not look transportation worthy. But here I am picking one out that should go the distance. It might be prudent to mention that Summer, who is selecting a bike behind me had to repeatedly replace her bike chain for 9 miles, so my fears were not without merit.

 Bet you can't surmise that 2013 is the year of the snake, right?
 Around much of the City wall is a moat, no floating crocodiles though, just water.
 Taking a break, with as many miles ahead of me as I have already biked. It might be nice to mention that the pavement of  1370 is not smooth, but more cobble stone in nature where it still exists and if it doesn't exist, those are pot holes. Having seriously injured my neck years ago, I can hear my husbands admonitions on my poor choice. But I will never pass this way again, and I want the full experience. Besides that is what Motrin is for.
 A view from the top as to how we would enter and leave the city center. Interesting to note that cabs are fined if they leave or enter the city during peak hours. This may explain some of our difficulty in hailing a cab while trying to get to dinner with the other dentists.

In a country so desperate for space, it's interesting to see what remains in the old city.
It's market time in the morning inside the city wall. During our adventure with the dentists we visited a beautiful Asian Mosque inside the city wall. It was very calm and peaceful there, but somewhat neglected as I found most of China to be.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Drifting or flexible, you tell me....

So I've been wondering about all the different paths that my life takes lately. Wondering about whether or not I'm in control of any of it or like flotsam in the ocean I'm just following the tide and the path of least resistance to my present outcome. I justify that by saying I'm flexible, but maybe that's code for lazy because I'm not blazing my own trail.
I think that's how I found myself in China being a dental assistant without any dental training.

 Here is the welcome that greeted us each morning when our bus pulled up to the dental clinic.
It also showed it in Chinese but I can't do the translation. By profession I'm a registered nurse and had planned to recover oral surgery cases like cleft palate when I made my initial deposit to go to China.
 When the oral surgeon was no longer available I joined a group of dentist that had come from all over Michigan, Montana, Washington State, Utah, Wyoming and Arizona.
 Here we are with an actual patient, (photo shop cleaned up some of the bib, don't look too closely at the dentists gloves) This is Dr. Todd Hillyard, a pedidontist. We did some minor sedation so I was handy for protecting airways and before the week was out I could hand him an assortment of tools, some that he had requested, make cement and select crowns.
Here is one of our patients/victims. I've always considered dentistry to be somewhat barbaric. My only previous experience being from the other side of the chair. Now having had this experience it has only confirmed my opinion. Dentistry is barbaric. So brush and floss everyday, at least the teeth that you want to keep.
Here is Dr. Todd, Dr. Brian, myself and Patty. We saw all the children that came for free services at the Little White Rabbit Dental Clinic.
Some more (victims) patients. We had a retired dentist with us from Arizona that was quite proficient with balloon animals. They required no interpretation.

Some of the better trained dental assistants and I. The Chinese people loved to have their picture taken with us.
So back to my question, am I flexible? or am I drifting? And is the proof in the lessons I learn and the opportunities I take advantage of?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dinner and a show in Xi'an

So one evening after our humanitarian service at "Little White Rabbit" dental clinic we had dinner and a show. There was dancing and music and as always lots of food. This evening we ate and ate and ate 18 different kinds of dumplings. A specialty in Xi'an.
 This was the appetizers. Don't let the forks fool you. After more than a week in China, I'm getting pretty good with the chop sticks. Most everything can be stabbed. What I lack for in technique I make up for in ingenuity.
 These are "fish" dumplings. You can tell by their shape and they came with sub titles from the server. It's very prestigious in China to have an "english" speaking job. The Chinese language is based on tones and sounds. Each character in their language is either a root sound or syllable or a picture from which they gain information. It's the blend of the syllables that create their spoken language. That is why many Chinese appear to speak "broken" english. They give each syllable it's own importance. We say vegetable. They say Veg-Et-A-Ble.
 Patty and I sat right up front next to the stage.
I dare you to identify and name any of the musical instruments used here. In Hong Kong, we came upon an open mike event with paid singers. No offense to the talented person at the microphone but it sounded like a bag of cats being dragged down the chalkboard. My western ears did not find much pleasure in the sounds the singer could produce.

Now I won't get the story straight but these dancers represent the Tang Dynasty. It ended before Columbus "found" the Americas. It's a big deal to the people of Xi'an because at that time Xi'an was the capital of China. At that time Xi'an was the eastern end of the Silk Road and they traded as far as Europe.
Xi'an served as capital for about 4000 years until the end of the Tang Dynasty. Since the U.S. can't even claim 300 years of history it's difficult to imagine the deep sense of cultural pride that these people have.
The Chinese people have many western adaptations but they still believe in luck and superstition as guiding forces in their lives. As you can easily surmise we have many more freedoms.
One thing I found really interesting while in China is the Chinese people's perspective. Now first you must know that even today, there are random people walking about that their only job is to listen, especially to foreigners, to make sure that nothing is said that is unfavorable about the government.  So we discussed the last great war that China participated in. They call it the "Anti-Japanese" war. You and I studied it in school as World War II. This leads me to a question, if we were against the Japanese and China was against the Japanese, were we allies? You know the enemy of my enemy is my friend?  I'm not ready to rewrite high school history books to solve that one.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Planes, automobiles and Sketchy panel vans...in China

While visiting China I had plenty of opportunity to try out a number of transportation devices. Some of them quite common, others not so much. I had my first ride in a rickshaw and hopefully my last ride in a sketchy panel van.
 Here we are in the rickshaw. We are in Beijing, headed in to the "Hu-tahn". This a the traditional way that the chinese have lived for centuries, before the advent of huge high rise apartment complexes. Many of the people that live in the "Hu-tahn" never leave, all there needs are met here. They have fresh food groceries and health clinics and they live their entire lives within about 4 city blocks. They have running water in their "homes" but they share a communal bathroom. Puts a whole new spin on getting to know your neighbors.

Leaving one of the many airports that we visited and headed to yet another "sight-seeing" van.
 This is a common "3 seater" (count the number of heads). The pollution from the exhaust is not enough to prevent the drivers from smoking.
 A "two-seater", sharing the common road. The traffic is incredible in all the parts of China that I visited. As near as I could tell there are no rules, I saw no stop signs and very few traffic lights. Merging is based on guts and nerves of steel.
 Because of all the traffic in town, the speeds are limited to less than probably 40 miles per hour but still a scary prospect if you are on the three wheeler.
 I don't know what he could smell, but it may just have been "china". The scent is pervasive. It's a combination of body smells based on the multitude of people that live there, a healthy dose of smog with a hint of fish and collard greens. Yum!

 I think this guy is delivering the laundry, but who knows?
 After-school pick-up with a snack.
 You've heard of 2 guys and a van? Well this may be China's version.

You know those moments in time when you are so thankful to get to your destination and you know your family won't have to wonder what happened to you in a foreign country?

This van represents one of those times. There is no seating in the back of this van, just a carpet of questionable vintage and equally unknown cleanliness over the metal. To set this up, we were desperate. We (Patty and I) had left "clinic" early with Dr. Todd and Dr. Brian in search of the great goose pagoda. Instead, our taxi took us to the small goose pagoda. Common mistake considering the language barrier, so according to the guide book we were a mere 4 blocks away, even us un-fit americans could make that walk.  Except for the fact that it was more like 4 miles across freeways and trying to be a pedestrian in China is dangerous for one's health. Pedestrians have no right of way. A number of transportation devices of dupious natures had refused to transport us, until this "fine" gentleman came to our rescue. Now you remember that we had a fairly clear idea where we were going. The longer it took in the windowless back of this van the more creative my imagination became. Being a pre-op nurse, I started considering how to prep each of my van mates for organ donation. The longer it took, the more organs I figured we were donating. When we finally reached our destination, Patty jumped out to take this picture and then the driver proceeded to try to shake us down for 10 times the quoted price. When in China, like when you face a bear in the woods, it's not important to be the fastest runner, as long as you can stay ahead of at least one other person (appetizer).  Bet you can't wait for my retelling of my "chinese massage." (some things should be avoided when faced with a language barrier, I'm just saying.