I've decided to combine the last three days of my Yunnan trip into one post, so get out the coffee and hemorrhoid cushion, cause you'll be here for a while.
The day after the dancing disco miners, we drove 3 hours back to the airport in the province capital. En route, we stopped at a little town that had a big military outpost from the Ming or Qing dynasty that looked like the Forbidden City. We also stopped to eat sugar cane (so delicious) at the entrance of the historic downtown. Most mojitos in NYC have little pieces of sugar cane in them, but I had never seen real cane before--it looks a little like bamboo, and you have to hack off the green covering to get the sweet plant on the inside. You chew on it and spit out the fiber when there isn't any more juice left (in the US, you might have a problem with disposal, but here you just spit on the street).
We continued our tour with a visit to a famous Confucian temple, which was beautiful!This pillar was carved from a single rock with Jade in it and took over 3 months to make: The pic below is looking out of the temple, and I just had to post it because it has both of Alison's favorite things: a doorway and a reflection.We then flew to southern Yunnan with a local gynecologist to meet with the hospital director and discuss the HIV/HPV coinfection study at the local women's hospital. Originally, I was turned off by how limited the hospital seemed in terms of resources. But my attitude quickly changed, and these two women inspired me--the gynecologist had noticed that her HIV patients had much higher rates of cervical cancer and had started a project with her own money to determine what was happening, which will become an incredibly important research study. And the hospital director has such an excellent relationship with the patients that she calls them on the phone personally to catch up and ensure they're taking their medicine...and the patients always show up to appts! Definitely two role models of making medicine work in low-resource settings. The weird thing about designing the study was that they invited a bunch of patients to discuss the protocol, which definitely wouldn't have happened in the US, where projects are designed, developed, and started in the Ivory Tower.
The town is full of various minority groups, as is much of Yunnan. So they had a beautiful Buddhist temple, which we got to see.
As well as DELICIOUS food. Each meal included some sort of bug, which were actually delicious. They also eat a lot of lotus root, which you can see a field off in the background of this picture.Apparently to harvest lotus root, you have to walk barefoot in the field to feel where the plant is. Crazy stuff. We also saw special types of flavored booze, olive, apricot, and...
...snake. They served this delicious fermented rice alcohol though. So yummy. Our last day, we started by watching a minor surgical procedure. The patient was one of the women who had discussed the protocol with us the day before. She had mentioned she had some pain in her stomach, and they did a pelvic exam and ultrasound that day, with surgery the following day! The operating room was as dingy as the hospital, and they had some key differences from ORs in the US. For example, the patient received a spinal tap (like American women in labor) instead of being knocked out in order to decrease costs, all surgical devices were thrown away after using once since they can't disinfect them, and the room is pretty unsterile, as you could see. But it worked.We then drove 2 hours and hiked for an hour through a lush, tropical bamboo rainforestto see a waterfall. We continued our tour with a trip to Ruli, a poor city that's on the border with Myanmar. Below, see a license plate from across the border!
Dr. Qiao was obsessed with getting us into Myanmar for some reason and asked the Chinese security guards if we could cross. Their response: we can let them across, but we don't know if they will let them back. Though the Lonely Planet said we could cross without problem, considering President Obama had just praised the release of the famous Burmese advocate for democracy, we decided a stamp in our passports wasn't worth a stint in Burmese prison. But here I am at the border!Dr. Qiao is negotiating with Chinese immigration in the background. We then went to this even smaller village that was made entirely of bamboo. You can see how tall bamboo gets:
Also, did anyone else notice that the tractors they use here look like those flying racing things from Star Wars from the planet with the little bears? Anyways, each house had its own little farm, was mostly empty (Dr. Qiao invited us into one)...but never fear because they all had cable television.
I entitled this photograph, "Don't mind me. I'm just sitting here playing with my machete."The last thing we did before driving back to our hotel was go to this village that was split between China and Myanmar. Residents held a special card that said something like, we are two countries, but one village of one people, and allowed them to cross over. Dr. Qiao asked again if we could run across to get our passport stamped, but the guard said no (thank god). Here's our last shot of Burma: It was a fantastic trip, and I'm excited to go back with Alison during our February holiday (or in the spring if we decide to go elsewhere).