Sunday, April 22, 2012

my guru

Oh, Carolyn Hax...I love you so much.

Advice to a lady who wrote in because her friends told her the reason she doesn't have a boyfriend is that she has sex too soon:
[. . .]

So I don’t think the issue here is your jumping into bed — it’s jumping into new men. I.e., it’s not the sex, it’s the hope for romance at breakfast afterward. If you’ve been with a guy for only a few dates or weeks, treating your involvement as a full-blown sexual and emotional commitment confers more status on your relationship than your knowledge of each other is ready to support.

Unfortunately, of the two, behavior is easier to change than expectations are; telling yourself “No sex until we’ve dated X months” and adhering to that isn’t easy, but it’s clear-cut. Telling your enthusiasm and daydreams to sit in a closet till your mutual affection, rapport and trust with a new boyfriend prove worthy of them? That involves the hard work of identifying, and admitting, why you so badly need the validation a "love life" provides.

Repairing the source of the need is the answer here. Then, more fulfilling things will follow, no matter how gaily you kick off your pants.

the wild (and not so wild) life of inner mongolia

The wildlife of Inner Mongolia is, let’s say, not the most exotic, but I love me some animals and was excited to get up close and personal with pretty much anything that moved, including what may or may not have been dung beetles. Here is a rundown of my interactions with the Mongol fauna.

Sheep—I mentioned this in my last post so I’ll just go ahead and get it out of the way. On our first night, we got all Anthony Bourdain and asked our guide to arrange for a sheep to be slaughtered for us for dinner. The sheep was retrieved from the field and kept in the back of a pickup truck, along with the bloody, woolly skin of the one that went before him. He was hyperventilating (I assume...I do not claim to know the normal respiratory rate of a year-old male sheep). The slaughter was brutal and the man who did it was kind of scary. We ate the meat for dinner that night. The next day, we were served stewed innards for breakfast. I ate a bowl of rice. With some of the broth, which was, I have to admit, quite tasty.

—For a pittance, we went on an hour-and-a-half-long horseback ride through the grasslands. I galloped for the first time and it was fun and terrifying and I was bouncing all over the place and sustained a giant bruise on my inner ass cheek. Also notable: the alcoholic beverage of choice in Inner Mongolia, aside from warm 3% alcohol beer, is horse milk wine. That is, a 50% alcohol "wine" made from fermented horse milk. We bought the one with the old man's face on it hanging on the bottom right of this photo. We each took a few sips and did not save the rest.

—There were some cows. The most exciting thing about the cows was the fact that Mongolians use their dried poop to make fires for warmth at night. And, lo, a poop stove was assembled inside our yurt just before sundown. They rigged an exhaust pipe going out a hole in the top of the yurt, so, fortunately, we smelled nothing. Quoth my friend, “I’ve never had a shit fire before.”

—Camels! We were all very eager to ride the shaggy, two-humped Mongolian camels. We rode them over the sand dunes in the Gobi Desert, which were pretty and majestic and littered with trash and flanked by power plants. But back to the camels--they were super fun, and felt very safe and comfy because you sit between the two humps. They are gassy mofos. The camel in front of my camel farted pretty much continuously for the first half-hour of our ride. The one behind me was burping. We also went on a midnight camel ride, because it was my friend's birthday and he decided he wanted to go for a midnight camel ride for his birthday. One of the cool things about China--ask for what you want, offer up some money, and you will probably get it. One of the cool things about camels--when you pass by they all turn and stare at you.

—During our midnight camel ride, a 17-year-old Mongolian fugitive gave me a desert hamster. He had him (or her, I suppose, but my childhood hamster was a him so that’s what I’m calling this one) in a little plastic baggie. I became fixated on the hamster and played with it for a while, and so the 17-year-old Mongolian fugitive offered him to me. And so I had a pet for two hours. I carried him home to our yurt in an Oreo box and set him free when his nocturnal scratching woke up my roommate. I felt bad about releasing him into the unknown, but, as my friend who actually did the deed said, “I put the box on its side and that way he has the choice to stay or go.” He chose to go. I can live with that.

—I normally hate pretty much all insects, but these little guys were so seemingly harmless and, most importantly, wingless, and they made cool little patterns in the sand.

This one, apparently, had been drinking too much horse milk wine.

—these are just some regular old baby chickens, but the little peeps they made were so cute I had to capture it on video.

We also saw some captive wolves, one solitary captive deer, a gaggle (or whatever) of ducks, the aforementioned giant Tibetan butt-biting dog, a few lizards, one running rabbit, and, unfortunately, no goats. I really like goats.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

6 reasons why it is good to travel with medical professionals

1. Drugs.
If, say, you were a nurse about to go on a four-day trip to rough it in Inner Mongolia with two doctors and two other nurses, and you were to meet them at the hospital at 5:15 in the morning to take a van to the airport, and you hadn't had a bowel movement in a few days and your abdomen was blown up like a balloon and you were worried because you are prone to travel-induced constipation, especially when you go to places where there are no toilets, you could text one of the doctors at 0500 hours about your condition and he could have his on-duty doctor friend put in STAT orders for lactulose (a laxative commonly given to liver-failure patients to make them poop out all their excess ammonia but which works gently and non-gut-spasm-inducingly in healthier folks) and simethicone (aka Gas-X) with the pharmacy, and then one of the nurses who works there could pick it up and hand it to you in time to leave for the airport, and then everyone would know about your condition but you wouldn't feel too embarrassed because, hey, you're all medical professionals. I'm just saying, that could happen.

2. First Aid.
When the driver of your van in Inner Mongolia is bitten on the ass by a roving Tibetan guard dog that looks like a cross between a Saint Bernard and a Rottweiler, your team leader can patch him up (but not his jeans, sadly) and you can all sustain interest in a discussion about the appropriateness and pros and cons of him getting rabies prophylaxis. And also, take pictures.

3. Anatomy Lessons.
You can watch a man slaughter a sheep for your dinner, and, after you--and only you--stop crying (because you are the only one that is crying) you can all marvel at the various stages of processing. Once the guts have been placed into a large metal bowl, you will hear comments such as, "It's still peristalsing!" and, "Is that the omentum? That's not the IS the omentum?!" Then, when you get home and write about it on your blog, you will spend thirty minutes deciding whether or not to post one of the photos of the sheep in various stages of processing and ultimately decide against it because you have at least two readers (i.e., half your readership--hi, C.G. and D.S.) who are some degree of vegetarian.

Nota bene: if the two doctors would like to practice performing a cricothyrotomy on the sheep's trachea because apparently sheep tracheas are similar to human tracheas, the two doctors should probably do that pretty soon after the slaughter and you should not offer to keep said fresh trachea wrapped in a plastic bag in your backpack and then forget about it for the next three days.

4. Fun Accessories.
No campsite is complete without a guitar and an intubation kit.*

*Sadly, but practically, this is not actually an intubation kit, but rather a regular ol'--very well stocked--first aid kit. Opportunity for making fun of doctor for over-preparing = lost.

5. Attention.
If you get some teeny tiny splinters in your foot after you step on a desert plant that your Mongolian guide has just told you to make sure not to step on because "it is bad for the skin," and when you put your boots back on and start walking it kind of hurts so you sit down and take off a boot, you will have your entire group upon you before you can say, "I think there's something in my foot." They will then inquire about the status of your foot every four hours for the remainder of the trip, and you will feel loved.

6. Hour-long Conversations About Prostate Exams.
I think this one speaks for itself.

Friday, April 13, 2012

this post has been brought to you by sally struthers

I have realized that it would appear, based on the subject matter of my blog posts, that I have come to China just to screw around. Indeed, I have done a lot of screwing around. But! I've also been putting in an arduous 24 hours a week or so at the hospital (I can finally start an IV with confidence--hooray--and have gotten to work with awesome patients from all over the world), and this week, my roommate and I spent an afternoon at a medical foster home.

What is a medical foster home, you ask? Well. It is unfortunately very common in China for parents to abandon an infant if it has any kind of abnormality. This is because 1., the government limits people to one child, and 2., the healthcare system is f***ed and most people would not be able to afford corrective surgery or treatment. So babies are dumped in orphanages and never registered, and thus the parents can try again.

This awesome nurse lady from Oregon came to China with her husband and her two adopted children five years ago to spend a month volunteering with such babies. They never left. Now they run a home for babies with cardiac defects. They keep the kids healthy with an arsenal of medical supplies, including prescription medications, nebulizers, and a cardiac monitor, advocate for the babies to get needed surgeries and medical care, and get them placed on the national adoption list. They have nannies at the home, one for every two children, 24 hours a day.

This little sweetiepants is deaf and has a colostomy.

They don't know why he has a colostomy, and they can't afford to figure out why. If they could figure out why, maybe it could be repaired and he could be back to soiling diapers like a normal kid. In any case, he was delightful. We played soccer and bumper bikes. The nannies will probably hate me for teaching him bumper bikes.

This compact ray of sunshine has Tetralogy of Fallot, which is basically medicalspeak for four heart defects for the price of one.

Several months ago, she was in heart failure and stayed in the ICU at a "local hospital" (i.e., not the fancy private Westernized one I work at) for four weeks. While she was there she lost five pounds, presumably because she wasn't getting fed enough. When she came back to the foster home, she recoiled from people because in China the nurses are taught not to hold the babies. She has since had surgery and is doing well.

It will be a great feat of willpower if I make it on the plane back to the US without a Chinese baby in my carry-on.

*all photos by my wonderful roommate/classmate

Friday, April 06, 2012

rules rule

Nestled in the natural beauty of Beijing's Central Business District and surrounded by Russian strip clubs, little Ritan Park offers sun and fun for the whole family. That sentence was mostly sarcastic. Sarcasm aside, it is actually quite pretty.

But, there are many things you cannot do in Ritan Park. These include, apparently: biking, picking flowers, sitting with one's legs crossed while leaning backwards slightly, taking a taxi, littering, reclining in a sexy pose, roller skating, playing soccer, GUNS, walking dogs, I have no idea, and starting fires.

Fortunately, public consumption of alcohol is not prohibited, and a little hut on the lake proved a perfect spot for day drinking on one of the first warm and sunny days of the year. And, as I mentioned in my last post, rules in China seem to be made to be broken. Here are two young boys shooting fish with bb guns.

And here is one of my new expat friends demonstrating how one might use a cellphone illegally during a thunderstorm, while drinking.

Last but not least, the park has a PA system, over which a gentle sounding lady voice delivers important announcements in both Mandarin and English. My personal favorite, and one which would be hard to convey with an icon, so it would make sense to be broadcast over a loudspeaker: no "sloppy dress" allowed.

Monday, April 02, 2012

road rules

One of my favorite parts of living in Beijing is getting from point A to point B. No matter which form of transportation you take, it seems there are no rules, and if there are rules, they are meant to be broken, and if you keep your eyes open, you will pretty much always be entertained. Here is my breakdown of the various transportation methods, based on my ample two weeks of experience.

Taxi: Dirt cheap unless you are catching one in the touristy parts of town in which case if you are a white person the driver will refuse to use his meter and will charge you about three times what the actual cost would be, unless, apparently, you pretend to take a picture of his license to indicate you will report him to the authorities, in which case he will turn on his meter as required by law, a little trick of the trade I only learned after the fact. But still, my average cab ride is $2-5, so I ain't complainin'.

Rent a car and driver: I just learned that you can hire someone to take you somewhere, sit around and wait while you do whatever it is you're doing there for as long as you want to do it, and then take you home. For this service, you pay about $10 an hour. Some seemingly average Joes who work for American companies have their own personal, full-time cars with drivers. I cannot wrap my head around this fact.

Walk: A perennial favorite, walking allows one to get some exercise, chat with strangers, see old men out walking their guinea pigs, etc. The only problem with walking in Beijing is that the city is so freaking huge, you can walk for hours and not really get very far. That, and the fact that anything on wheels has the right of way, ALWAYS, and will not stop or even slow down for you. Supposedly, if you don't look the operator of the thing on wheels in the eye, he or she might stop, but I have yet to try this out, for obvious reasons. Also, many streets have so many lanes, getting across them is like playing Frogger. Which is scary but mostly kind of fun.

The bus: There is an obscene number of bus lines, so I haven't tried that one out yet, though some day I just want to get on one and see where it takes me/observe the behavior of fellow passengers, which I can only imagine is an experience in itself (and in unsanitary-ness).

Subway: I hear it's alright, but my apartment, though within the main urban area, is two miles from the nearest station. Have I mentioned how cheap the taxis are?

Bike: I cannot leave this city without riding a bike around, at least a little bit. Everyone rides them, from little kids to little old ladies, during windstorms and in the freezing cold. Pretty badass. No one wears a helmet, but at least there are dedicated bike lanes, complete with their own traffic lights. Of course, said lanes are also used by motorbikes, rickshaws, and the occasional disgruntled taxi driver.

Motorbike/scooter: The best of seemingly all worlds, motoring around Beijing allows one to see the city, avoid traffic, and get places in a reasonable amount of time. You ride in the bike lanes, for the most part, although if you want to get around something, just get right up on the sidewalk, it's no big thing. And in order to make a turn easier, you can just get in a lane going the wrong direction. I am way too scaredypants to drive one myself, but I am okay with hopping on the back of a friend's, closing my eyes periodically, praying to a god I don't believe in, and turning on my video camera*. Sorry, Mom.

*This is my first ever attempt at using iMovie. Move over Tarantino.