Sunday, January 31, 2010

food fun

Chongqing's hot pots are famous for being "han la!!!" (very very verrrrry spicy). Not being brave enough to go ALL RED, I decided to do it socialist democratic style and get the yin-yang half-and-half, with one side spicy and the other not. I dunked probably a pound of mushrooms into this pot... quite lovely. And amazingly, I was able to handle the red side just fine.

not for vegetarians

This street-side noodle vendor in Chongqing sells 200,000
bowls of sour-spicy chewy yummy yam noodles every day! It's also known among the men as the place to spot "pretty noodle-slurping ladies"...

this is what liberation looks like

The Liberation Monument in Chongqing stand in a city center square with a Rolex clock at the top and surrounded by massive multi-level shopping centers and street vendors. Somehow in China, the free-for-all-capitalist market coexists with so-called communist propaganda... and nobody seems to bat an eyelash at the irony.

Kunming is one of the most diverse cities in China. There's a large Muslim population in the city... and it was quite interesting for me to be among Chinese Muslims speaking Mandarin. This is a picture of an Islamic restaurant that I ate a tofu dish at (what, no lamb? yes, they were quite horrified when i asked for a vegetarian dish.) ... right next door one of the hundreds of KFC.

one foot in the future and a butt stuck in the past

This is the beautiful, well-resourced AIDS Care Center for Yunnan Province, which has 230 AIDS ward hospital beds and HIV viral load and genotype capability. The clinicians here are older, experienced and well-trained. They are supposed to provide support to all the HIV/AIDS care sites in Yunnan province. It's a castle on a mountain. They have one foot in the future (and definitely want both feet in the future soon).

These are two of the young doctors at the Kunming city Infectious Disease Hospital AIDS ward. Their ward looks nothing like the AIDS Care Center, and resources much fewer. A career in infectious diseases, and especially HIV/AIDS, is *not* a prestigious one in China. There's a ton of stigma simply for being around people with communicable diseases. (Though it certainly hasn't stopped millions of Chinese people from openly picking their noses and publicly spitting up in the streets.) I've been told that sometime doctors end up in the infectious disease department because they couldn't get a job elsewhere after medical school. Hopefully some of these young doctors will be inspired to do good work in the realm of HIV/AIDS care. I see part of my job to make HIV/AIDS care and treatment cool and sexy. Everyone will want to do it!

Compared to the AIDS Care Center above, most other HIV/AIDS treatment sites are quite under-resourced. Despite the rapid development in China, with all the glitz and shine of new cars and high-rises, the public health infrastructure here remains old, poor, ignored, and deeply entrenched in cadre politics. There are more doctors and better facilities in China than in Kenya and Tanzania, but the level of care at many places resembles much poorer and less experienced cousins in Sub-Saharan Africa.

I brought my stethoscope for what...? I spent countless hours in meetings such as this one, watching one powerpoint after another. It was necessary and good to meet all the public health and hospital leaders - and understand their perspectives and data... but I definitely experienced serious powerpoint burn-out.

fun with Chinglish

This is the tea that shouts in the morning, "Boy Sophy, you look terrible today!"

For China's new super-rich class: Just in case it's not enough that you're a top manager, you can also be first-class. If that's still not enough, let's be clear that it's only for the few. Gotta keep out those commoners!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

i've died and gone to Pretz heaven

So much Pretz, so little time.

above: my cousin Qing and me with GIANT POCKY. Chinese people looooove their snacks. Yum!

In other news....from the January 27th "China Global Times" newspaper:
-legislation has been introduced in China and advocates have hit the streets to ban the eating of cats and dogs
-a competition has begun to decide on the renovation of Bruce Lee's house in Hong Kong
-a man in Wuhan has sued his barber 100 yuan for cutting off his 3 lucky 20-year-old mole hairs

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

here's to an auspicious start in China!

an auspicious start to my HIV work in China: here's a pack of condoms (the orange box) with all the bathroom sundries in my hotel room. Go STD and HIV prevention!

i'm not sure what guatting a fly entails, but i am sure that the fly won't like it, even if i do it carefully.

We just finished my first meeting with the Chinese CDC managers, HIV
partner programs, and Gates China (a highly political and powerful
group of people in the world of HIV in China), and it seems to be
friendly and supportive of us visiting the sites in Chongqing and
Kunming - and identifying true areas of change. Gates says that they
will tie their funding to if the organizations respond to the gaps in
an effective way. This means that we might be able to have a real and
positive impact! Yay!

Now I just found out that Blogspot and Facebook are censored here
(social networking is dangerous for the country's stability...) so now
I am asking Young Whan to help me post these blog entries. Thanks to
the best-partner-blogadministrator ever!

Somewhere over the Bering Strait

Wow. Sitting still for 12 hours is hard.
It would probably help to think of it as a sit,
zazen meditation practice.
Rather than a long-ass flight from San Francisco to Beijing.

Maybe it’s because I’m older now,
and I’ve worked a regular week at clinic,
standing and doing pelvic exams and running around all day,
my arm perpetually lifted and gripping a pen
filling out the bajillion referral and approval forms,
the full-page notes that I write for each patient I see,
the prescriptions and ‘indigent’ medication program papers,
the endless labs and imaging studies.

It will be interesting to do something entirely different.

For the next two weeks it will be a whirlwind of meetings
with various partnering organizations in the
Chinese HIV public health world.
Running around means
going from San Francisco to Beijing to Chongqing in 24 hours.
Instead of gripping a pen
I will be tapping away at my laptop keyboard.
I won’t have back-to-back patients
but back-to-back officials and administrators.
My frustrations will not be focused on
why I can’t get a specialty service for one patient
but rather why no one with HIV in all of China
can get adequate specialty care.

In both places, diplomacy matters.
Remain calm and carry on.

In a hurricane,
if I freak out and get exhausted,
I miss the calm clarity of the eye of the storm.

I need to learn to see and accept things as they are
so I can properly identify where
we can make constructive change.

Baby steps,
slow and steady.