Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yunnan: first two days

Yesterday I got back from Yunnan Province, in the southernmost part of China. We were there for a few reasons: to participate in the 3rd Annual Cancer Progress and Prevention Symposium, celebrate the local hospital's 70th Anniversary, and also launch a larger version of a study about HIV/HPV coinfected women that was started on a smaller scale by last year's Fogarty.

But we started our trip by going to the Stone Forest, which used to be under an ocean, so has some pretty cool looking rock formations.In some places, you can see how currents affected erosion.In others, you are suspicious that the Chinese government has caused erosion.
There was this really cool part where a tree had actually grown into the rock itself.

And this last picture at an overlook is for my mother, who hates looking at pictures of just "things" because she will "forget what [I] look like."
There you have it, Mom--I'm still as much of a doofus as ever. We then proceed to travel to the tin mine town, which should have taken 2.5 hours but instead took 6 or 7 due to traffic delays. Never fear, though, since at one point Dr. Qiao got out of the car to help direct cars up a hill and across a bridge..before a car broke on the bridge and we had to do a u-turn.

He is a god among men. The next day, we gave our talks, as you can see by my fancy name tag next to a jar that looks like it's full of grass.

But never fear--that's just how people have tea here! (Sarah took a bunch of pictures of me speaking that I will post when she gets back.) We then got a catered lunch full of delicious things

like chicken heads before we went to the anniversary celebration. Before I start telling you about what happened, I want you to know that this is exactly the sort of celebration that in the US would be marked by a stuffy black tie gala or extravagant silent auction where Aunt Barbara writes the minimum bid on every item in the hopes she gets lucky (that's right, Aunt Cat in the Hat, I just called you out! ;). It's a big deal, and Sarah and I knew we were in for a treat when we walked down a red carpet, got corsages pinned on us, and were directed to our seats, with name tags that said "American Expert" on it.

Note the TV camera pole in the background. A
fter the classic 30 minutes of speeches and introductions. (Sarah and I were honored by an introduction! So cool. Also, we were the only two non-Chinese in the audience so the cameras kept panning back to us, and we had to keep smiling the whole time! Lots of pressure; thank god I'm not famous.) All of a sudden, the speeches end, these sparklers go off, and people run out and start dancing in ridiculous costumes.

I started CRACKING UP, but then a TV camera zoomed in on me, and I quickly pretended to sneeze so I didn't offend the Chinese people watching live. Actually, now that I type that, I'm thinking that my guffaw-turned-sneeze probably made me appear psychotic to those watching at home. Oh well. Anyways, the show continued with actual hospital employees dressed as miners acting out tin mining, getting sick with lung cancer but wanting to still work, nurses coming to the rescue, Chairman Mao decreeing somethingand the founding of the hospital. It was The. Most. Insane. Thing. Ever. I mean, China just keeps raising the bar on surreal moments. They also had 4 emcees.

The ones on the right spoke Chinese for 10 minutes, then the one on the left who looks like a stuffed sausage in her dress did a 15 second English translation. I hate to be mean, knowing that I've taken about 60 hours of language class and can barely say the most basic survival Mandarin (and have so much respect for Chinese people who speak English!), but I have to call it as it is...her English was atrocious. Granted, her lines were lame (Your love is like a stream, your love is like the moon shining down on us) but her pronunciation was so bad it took me a minute to realize that "er wuv is wike a stwee, er wuv is wike de mun" was my native language. The ceremony continued with some poor minority child whose parents both died from lung cancer getting paraded on stage to talk about how great the hospital was,
more dancing, this time with guitars, (notice how a lot of dancing is swaying and kicking. No choreography awards here). They also had singers who performed traditional and modern Chinese songs (with a superb rendition of O Sole Mio by a member of the Chinese National A Singing Group). The evening concluded with my favorite dance. I obviously couldn't read what it was called in the Chinese-only program, but I came up with my own title: "Disco Miners Wave Silk Fans While Images of Surgery and Medical Technology Flash on the Background Screen."

Man, I love this country.

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