While I miss my family very much and want to finish my veterinary degree, I am reluctant to leave China. Over the past 2 weeks I have started making Chinese friends and they are amazing. Chinese hospitality for guests is like nothing I have ever experienced. I have also finally gotten comfortable going out alone; it only took 2+ weeks. I started becoming accustomed to the mental stimulation of just walking down the street.
My ultrasound work and anesthesia presentations went very well. The panda base definitely wants more vet students in the future and found it very helpful. I watched Luoli get much more comfortable with ultrasound, and she said she would continue ultrasounding the one pregnant panda we started working with.
The director of the panda base saw me off with a wonderful dinner of Chengdu tradition of hot pot. My flavor tolerance for spicy food increased like everyone told me and I impressed myself and my hosts with the amount of spicy food I could eat and enjoy.
I got to visit the Moon bear rescue center outside Chengdu. This is a reserve for bears involved in the medicinal bear bile trade. Bear farms are legal in China, but are slowly closing with the help of Animals for Asia. The treatment of these animals is appalling. They have permanent catheters or fistulas in their livers to collect bile. Most of them are cage-ridden for life and develop liver cancer and skin sores. Some bears develop worse medical conditions. Animals for Asia (www.animalsasia.org) works with the Chinese government to shut down one farm at a time. China feels they cannot outlaw all of them at once because of the financial ruin it would cause to the farm owners.
I was disappointed that this isn't really exposed to the American public and hope that I can increase awareness to have this animal mistreatment stopped. The bear center is amazing. These bears have unlimited enrichment and medical care to live out the rest of their lives peacefully.
There is so much more I could write about, but I have to re-adjust to life as an American, which I appreciate more than ever. In summary, my 3 weeks in China were as life-changing as I hoped they would be. Being there fueled my passion to practice international veterinary medicine in the future. The East will need the help of Western-trained vets in species conservation and fighting zoonotic diseases.
I was blessed with the opportunity to create life long friendships on the other side of the world. Because I couldn't travel around the country, I am excited to go back to see more of Asia and China and to continue working as veterinarian in the future.