Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lao Wai in Chengdu

I think things have been going pretty well. There is some down time, as the previous student here had told me, but that was to be expected. I have been working mainly with Lou Li, a Chinese vet, ultrasounding 1-3 pandas per day. In the non-pregnant pandas I am able to find the uterus, bladder, colon pretty easily. We were allowed to work on 1 pregnant panda and it hasn’t been as successful. They do not want to use alcohol because the pandas lick it, and this panda scratches the gel on as soon as you apply it. I also messed up yesterday by not cleaning her fur that we shaved off very well, so then it was getting stuck in the gel. Besides all of those issues, which are normal when working with animals, I can locate her bladder, but seem to be lost looking for other structures, which could be because she is pregnant. Lou Li is not mad at all and we will try again today.

We were talking about my last week and Lou Li seemed a little sad and asked if more of us will come. I said this is a trial program of what we hope to be a yearly exchange if it was helpful to you. She quickly and emphatically made it clear that she has enjoyed having us and hopes other students will come, so that was certainly a good sign. Mr. Wang Cheng Dung had attended 2 ultrasounds and seems a little frustrated to see the distinct outlines of each structure on ultrasound, which is not always possible, but I try. We all decided that I should give a presentation with our saved ultrasound images labeling the different structures, but the memory card doesn’t seem to fit in any of our computers, so we’ll see what happens with that.

There are 2 other Americans at the base, one is Chinese –American and it has been a blast to be with her. She and her family friend took me out last night for street food on Jin-Li and it was very fun. It felt good to be a tourist with locals who speak the language, and eat some pretty darn good albeit weird Chinese food.

Last night, on the panda base, and part of the time I was in Emei Shan are the few times I have felt comfortable being a foreigner or “lao wai.” I had been told it was derogatory by Americans. In the taxi last night I heard my friend say lao wai and the taxi driver say it. My Chinese friend kept saying, Chinese people like foreigners. This was conflicting since I hear “ lao wai” everywhere I walk. There is some interesting debate on this word (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laowai), but my friend and the courtesy they showed me last night proved to me that it cannot be derogatory unconditionally.

As my last week in China approaches, I am both a little remorseful and a little home sick. I am craving a sandwich like none other, but have been truly happy working outside of my comfort zone. I am also very proud of myself for coming here and handling many of the adventures China has provided to me. I really have only had 1 rough day so far, not to shabby.

This weekend I am going to an ex-patriot restaurant to see how Westerners hang out in Chengdu, a Buddhist organic farm, and some more tourist temples, tea and shopping on Sunday. I toyed with the idea of seeing some blue-sky China, but figured I should see some of the fun aspects of Chengdu before I go. As I keep reminding my travel-loving self, this is a trip for veterinary and cultural experience. If I want to more extensively travel, I have to come back. It is comforting to know, I now have a good Chinese friend to travel with if the next opportunity crosses my path in the future.