Ni hao from Chengdu. After a very long 20+ hours of travel I arrived at the apartment in North Chengdu, Sichuan Province. The next day was a little rough in terms of jet lag, in fact I didn’t sleep well my first 2 nights which reminded me of Lost in Translation. I struggled through the jet lag and got lunch and some groceries. A little RMB goes a long way here in China. People are nicer than I thought they would be. They also stare at foreigners. The children are funny, they stare and giggle and say hello in English. The bicyclists and mopeds try to run you over and crossing the street is pretty much like playing frogger. The first few days I walked out of the apartment smiling. Being in China is certainly a novelty to me, and while communication can be difficult, it has been fun.
I am proud of myself. I definitely mentally prepared to be outside of my comfort zone. I miss paper towels and cheese, but am doing okay for the most part in terms of culture shock.
The panda base is outside the city and is in a pretty setting. It is essentially like a giant and red panda zoo. The red panda exhibits are very crowded. They are nicknamed lesser pandas by the Chinese, but I think they are exquisite creatures. Many of them have tail injuries from fights and stress behaviors. The giant pandas are truly amazing creatures, appearing gentle and playful. The Chinese covet the giant panda, but the respect for animals, while changing is not on the same level as it is in America. The best way to explain this is to understand that training to be a veterinarian is simply like majoring in vet med in college. They only go to post-high school for 4 years to be a vet and many basic physiology and pharmacology concepts are missed. So while I am here to help with ultrasound, which I have been doing a lot of, I can help in many other little ways.
I help with translating documents for the panda base visitors. I started explaining to them the importance of looking at a blood smear, instead of just relying on the machine’s numbers. I plan to give a presentation on the importance of anesthetic monitoring. I will help research articles for reproductive topics they are interested in. I have been showing them how to use some of their machines, including the ultrasound.
I am by no means an ultrasound expert, but there are some basic principles I can teach them. I am very happy to be here and I hope at the end of 3 weeks they are happy to have had me here as well. I have to say being so close to the pandas is very fun and ultrasounding them is also fun. Many of the pandas have been trained to lie on their backs for us, it has been very impressive.
Every day has been an adventure and so far I am so glad I decided to take the risk and come here.
This weekend I will take a trip to Emeishan a UNESCO world heritage site and holy buddist mountain. I am going alone, but hope to find some English speakers at a Western-friendly hostel when I get into the town. Sarah, an American who works in the conservation education office at the panda base is taking me to the bus station, and then I hope it’s as tourist friendly as the guide books say it is. I will have my Chinese-English dictionary just in case.
Here’s to a great week 1 in China and hopefully a fun weekend trip.