While I feel very homesick this morning, I have to report that my first week in China was a success on many levels. First and most importantly, I have learned to adapt to being outside my comfort zone. I also proved to myself that mental preparation is invaluable in surviving outside of the comfort zone. I have learned a lot already about Chinese culture, veterinary medicine, and how they value their animals, especially the giant pandas. The language barrier is a little harsher than I had hoped, but by the end of last week I think I befriended a few Chinese veterinarians at the base. The funniest thing is if Chinese people don’t speak English they just keep talking to you in Chinese as if you will somehow understand.
A list of Chinese habits that are outside my Westernized comfort zone:
o Spitting inside buses and buildings
o Amusement at animal taunting
o Lack of overall bathroom hygiene- the closer they come the louder they yell
o Eastern squat toilets and no toilet paper
o Rivers of raw sewage running through town
o Honking constantly
o Driving on any side of the road
o Lack of English in well- touristed areas
o Minimal veterinary medical training and understanding of physiology, anesthesia, and antibiotic use
o Whole pig carcasses carried by scooter
…to mention a few
My adventure to Emeishan was most certainly an adventure. It included hooking up with an Irish couple backpacking through Asia, staying in a monastery, numerous and sometimes scary macaque encounters, many sets of stairs, and discovering I do not like to travel alone. I am very glad I decided to travel there this weekend. It was a little more exuberant and adventurous than I bargained for at times, but in retrospect it was one of the cooler things I have done in my life. At no point other than a stand off with a nasty macaque out for human food, did I feel unsafe. For anyone thinking of braving travel in China alone, however, speaking the language even just a little bit can go a very long way to enjoying yourself more.
This week at the panda base will involve more ultrasound, possibly on the pregnant pandas and ivermectin treatments. I am also working on presentations on anesthetic monitoring and the importance of a manual CBC. There is a training for the zoo staff in Macau this week because they will be getting 2 pandas, so it will be a busy week at the base.