Sunday, May 30, 2010

fast food takes over China

Hallelujah, my diarrhea has run out of steam!

Back to eating all sorts of funky things...

I am trying out this new way of posting to my blog via email... This
helps me bypass the web restrictions while I am traveling in China,
and allows me to post on the go from my iPhone. Boy, technology sure
is cool.

This post is dedicated to the Chinese Colonel (doesn't he look Asian?
Different from the american colonel, right?) and it's legions of fans
that line up to get jook (rice porridge) and yo tao (oily Chinese
fried dough sticks) every day. There's a KFC on almost every corner of
a Chinese city these days!

There are also scores of cute fast food shops popping up every where
in China. They are distinctly Chinese: or example, i had a lychee
seaweed passionfruit drink at an adorable place called Happy Lemon in

Hello, massive obesity epidemic!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

when you're sliding into home, and your pants are full of foam...

...diarrhea, diarrhea!

I have been battling some serious loose stool and bad gas cramps for the last 3 days nicely summarized by this version of the diarrhea song:
"When you're walking like CP3O
and your crap looks like radicchio
Diarrhea, Diarrhea"

I should have known that eating 3 yuan (that's 40 US cents a bowl) street food throughout the weekend would result in this mess!

I suspect that the following cold noodle dish near the Taoist Golden Temple may have been source of the culprit microorganism. It's supposed to not be spicy, but you may notice how red the sauce is! Food is *spicy* in Yunnan. Perhaps I got too brave and felt so Chinese that I allowed myself to eat raw, not-recently-cooked cold street dishes. I don't even want to imagine how long and where these noodles and pickled veggies may have been sitting before I ate them.

After 2 days of pain and waking up with a fever yesterday, I decided it was time for some cipro antibiotic for perhaps ETEC (traveler's e coli diarrhea). When I told my work colleagues about this, they all laughed at me. "Cipro is useless! It won't do a thing against the bacteria in China!"

Bad news: since people randomly take antibiotics on their own from any old pharmacy on the street (without prescription, of course), there's a ton of bacterial resistance. That's why cipro might be useless here; it has been widely available and unregulated, so resistance to this medication is rampant. I still have loose stool after 2 doses. Hmmm.

I'll see where this goes... single case study on the use of cipro against traveler's diarrhea in China.

Hopefully this won't happen (I'm still working full force while here!):
"Now you think you're feeling better
but you keep on getting wetter:
Diarrhea, diarrhea....!"

P.S. You can check out more lovely renditions of the diarrhea song here:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

hooray! i'm blogging in China!

I made it to Kunming! As you can see in the photo above, Kunming is a large urban center with loads of people and concrete. If you squint through the smog, you can see some mountains in the background. I'm hoping to get to one of those hills this weekend. It's May Day (International Labour Day, Worker's Day) in China, so I don't have formal work duties on Monday. This is great because I have been working my butt off over the last several days (and in the weeks leading up to this trip). Yay for 3-day weekends!

Michael Pollan would approve of my breakfasts in China! Almost all of what I eat has a single whole food ingredient: bok choy greens, snap peas, soybeans/tofu, watermelon, honeydew, some fruit I don’t know the name of which has white flesh and small black seeds that come out in my poo.

I am slowly settling into life here. The downside of jet lag is that I get up each morning exactly at 5 am, and since I am going to bed at midnight because I am working late at night, that means 5 hours of sleep each night. It's not quite enough for me. The upside is that I have enough time before I go to the hospital to do sitting meditation for 30 minutes, yoga for one hour, and sometimes 30 minutes of deep relaxation thrown in. It's a great way to start my day, and I think it keeps me grounded amidst all the work intensity.

Above is one of the Yunnan special treats: rose petal cakes. It consists of dry flakey dough with fragrant sweet rose petals inside. The best part is that I bought it from a bakery next door to the apartment I will be moving into tomorrow called RAMBO Bread Works. GRRRRrrr…

In terms of work, it has already been interesting, rewarding, and a big (though good) challenge on this trip. I don’t have any pictures of me at work (since I am often running around at the hospital), but perhaps later.

I enjoy this work. I am tired from my 12 hour days, but this work definitely feels meaningful in a big way. I saw a bunch of patients yesterday, and feel more grounded to be connected with patients (who really put up with a lot here, as witnessed when the 27 year old man totally discolored and wasted from his advanced liver disease, TB in his lungs and belly, and another painful disease – MAC- smiled and shook my hand and told me how grateful he was to be examined even though it hurt like hell), and also happy that I can offer concrete, practical and real help to the clinicians. There are of course internal politics and power issues I need to navigate, so it will yet to be seen what we can accomplish. I have already a list of concrete interventions that I think we can help with, including big things like task-shifting to community organizations and small things like hand sanitizer. It's great to see it all coming together in a real, tangible way.

This Chinglish bag from my hotel room contained the Ethernet cable I’m using right now to tunnel to my blog (boy, that was an interesting challenge!). It says how I feel sometimes: while the internet miraculously connects me to you from around the globe and allows me to do this international work, it is also the “Non-Gift” that keeps me from being fully present to my environment. With that said, I’m going to upload this post, turn off my computer, and go out to explore the May Day parade and the temples of Kunming!