Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Starkey Mission to China, 2014 - Day 8

Chuxiong, China
Patients fitted: 699

Today is our second and final fitting in Chuxiong. We are taking the bus directly to Dali after the fittings are complete today and having dinner on the bus.

It was a rough morning for me due to the President's party last night but Todd was back fitting with us so since all of the chairs were taken I teamed up with David again and his interpreter Melinda. She was great. 

We had a steady morning and things went relatively smoothly. After lunch I was feeling much better and David and I split up. I was working with a new interpreter named Cara (I think). I had a few really tough fittings in the afternoon, but we managed to get through all of the patients by about 3:00 pm. I decided to go back to my room, update my journal, and pack up for the bus ride to Dali. I think I'll be taking it easy tonight - no need to go down to the bar after last night's festivities.

Update: We made it to Dali and got checked into our rooms by about 9 pm. On the surface this looks to be a much nicer hotel than in Chuxiong, and the city could not be more different. It is very modern and we have a huge Walmart and a casino (actually, I think it is a gentlemen's club...) attached to the hotel.  

Rosaline, Eric and I were hungry so we decided to look for something to eat. Everything in the hotel was closed so we went for a short walk and found a small BBQ place (coincidentally Sonia and Maricela were already eating at the same place - managing to order vegetarian without speaking the language. Bravo!). Rosaline ordered some shrimp and fried pork for us, but while the shrimp was quite good we came to the conclusion that the pork was actually pig brain. It was disgusting and we did not eat it after trying a small amount. We made it back to the hotel and were in bed around 11 pm. Tomorrow we start the first of three days of fittings in Dali.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Starkey Mission to China, 2014 - Day 7

Chuxiong, China
Patients fitted: 683

Today was our first day of fittings in Chuxiong. Breakfast was traditional Chinese and not very appetizing, to be perfectly honest. The coffee was terrible as well. Not a good start to the day.

The day unfolded similarly. It was cold and rainy and almost every patient was a difficult one. We had more fitting chairs than normal set up today so I was on my own with an interpreter named Sophia. We struggled through the patients this morning and I skipped lunch and just went to my room and had some nuts, a granola bar, and a couple packs of sesame snacks, then I grabbed my sweater, and headed back down for the afternoon.

Since we had so many fitting chairs running we actually finished by about 2:30 pm. I stuck around for another hour and finally packed it in around 3:30 and headed to my room for a short nap. At 4:30 I headed downstairs to try to buy a beer as I failed miserably yesterday. No one here speaks English and they kept trying to tell me that I had to buy three beers, but even when I agreed to this they didn't understand and I never did get one. Today they seemed to let me take a beer. Jennifer wanted a rye and Coke and they made her buy the entire bottle of Jack Daniels. Go figure.

Tonight we have a group dinner out at 6:30 so I've got an hour to kill. Maybe I'll help Jennifer drink her bottle of Jack...

(continuing the journal entry the next day...)

Dinner was very authentic, and very interesting. It was essentially Chinese dinner theater, culminating in a scene at the end where males from the audience chose a girl from the performance as their wife (at least that is what I gathered from it). The food was pretty spicy, but overall it was quite good.

After dinner we went shopping again. Right beside the restaurant was the coolest shop that sold really cool "baggy" clothes that looked like they were made from hemp or something, hair accessories (long braids to intertwine with your hair) and really neat jewellery. They were so cool I had to buy Rhiannon a necklace even though I already got her a gift. David picked up this extremely flattering hat.

The plan after shopping was to go to a haunted house, but after I went back to the hotel to get some more cash I couldn't find the group, so I decided to go for a walk on my own. I found this really cool waterway very close to the hotel with beautifully-lit stone bridges across it that made for some awesome pictures. 

While photographing the bridges I heard quite a wild party and it looked like some of the people were wearing Starkey shirts. I decided to cross the river and walk back past the party and check it out. As I approached they pointed at me and motioned for me to join them. It turns out it was the "male" party which was organized by the President of the Yunnan Disabled Person's Federation, the man who was at all of our group dinners. They immediately brought over a woman to toast me which the translator described as "the hottest woman here" (if I recall correctly) and I am glad it didn't go much farther than a toast. They did shout "Gan Bei!" though, which meant I had to empty my glass - which was about a half pint of beer. They immediately refilled it and offered me a cigarette (I don't smoke, but what the heck) and some spiced goat meat on a stick. Another person toasted me and I had to drain my glass again (Gan Bei!). Then another woman came over and wanted to hook arms and toast and I had a third glass-draining toast, after which they joked I was now married because that is how you toast when you get married. Finally the President came and sat beside me (he seems like a pretty cool guy) and we did another toast, at which point I needed to stop. I politely told them I'd had enough, so all future toasts weren't "Gan Bei"-style. The president offered me his hookah and showed me how to inhale smoke through it. You have to press your face up to it quite tightly to make a good seal and suck very hard. This pulls air in through a hole into the side, and when you put the filter end of a cigarette to the hole it draws in smoke through some water in the bottom. I managed to get it to work on my second attempt and on my last pull I had a fairly big drag on the cigarette and was declared a "champion". Finally, they offered me a stick with spiced goat liver on it, which I ate, and then politely declared I had to leave. It was quite an experience and everyone was extremely nice and excellent hosts, not to mention really fun to party with!

I paid for it the next morning, however, as I felt like garbage. The worst part was the cigarette residue in my lungs and the goat liver was repeating with a vengeance. Needless to say, I skipped breakfast and there was no coffee so it was a pretty rough morning...but it was worth it! :)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Starkey Mission to China, 2014 - Day 6

Kunming to Chuxiong, China

Today was travel day. We started out the day easy with a relatively late checkout and then took a bus to the Kunming Ethnic Village for a brief tour. 

This local tourist attraction features 25 different ethnicities from the Kunming area (there are actually over 50 of them). It was a dreary day but the rain held off and we had a great morning touring the ethnic village and shopping for souvenirs. I bought a bracelet for Rhiannon and managed to haggle down to almost half the original asking price. It was likely still over-priced, but I felt good about the transaction.

After the tour we got back onto the bus for the 2 hour journey from Kunming to Chuxiong. The countryside was phenomenal. The terrain is very mountainous and we saw many, many locals out in the fields. I was surprised to see that the main crop by far is corn. I tried to snap some pictures through the bus window but they do not do justice to the sheer magnitude of the landscape. It was quite a sight to behold. The farms for the most part are worked by hand. I saw the occasional roto-tiller and the odd donkey or ox pulling a plow and many people laboring in the fields stacking wheat sheaves and tilling the earth.

We arrived in Chuxiong around 4:30 pm to a line of traditionally dressed people welcoming us to the hotel. The hotel is once again quite nice, though much smaller and less opulent than the last one. Everyone commented on the round bed and throne-like toilet. I'm just glad it was a sit down model and not the "crouching tiger hidden feces" version that was in the lobby washrooms (which made for a funny story - right, Britta? ;)

Chuxiong is a completely different city from Kunming. After we got settled we went out for dinner at a local restaurant and had fried pork (which was amazing), noodles, crispy duck, and lots of wine. Rosaline helped to order the food and Dennis paid for everyone (again). I hope he is claiming all of this as a business expense...

After dinner we went for a walk in the streets of Chuxiong to see the sights and do some shopping. What a night life this place has! There is basically a small carnival set up in the streets and there are tons of small vendors selling jewelry, clothing, and lots of different types of food, including goat meat. In fact we saw more than one vendor with a goat strung up and being butchered on the spot.

After walking around for about 90 minutes, I bought a scarf for one of the ladies in my life (OK, my mom or grandmother) and headed back to the hotel to pack it in and call it a night. It's off to bed early to be well rested for our first day of fittings in Chuxiong!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Starkey Mission to China, 2014 - Day 5

Kunming, China
Patients fitted: 603

Today was our last day of fittings in Kunming.

The day went smoothly and I felt good, unlike others in our group. Kevin is back after being sidelined with a respiratory infection for a couple of days and now Todd is feeling terrible with a fever and general malaise.

We had a few rough cases today of people with no hearing at all in one ear. Despite our best efforts, it was not possible to do anything for them. We had a break around noon as we ran out of patients, but around 1:00 pm they started flooding in.

After a steady afternoon things seem to peter out around 3:30 and most of the people left early to go
shopping or see the sights of Kunming. I decided I would rather stay behind and help fit the last few stragglers. As it turned out, there was a steady stream of patients until about 5 pm, making for a long day. I stayed until the bitter end with Jessie helping me by translating and Bill ever present helping with the problem cases (and there were quite a few of those).

It felt really good when the last patient was fitted, and I said my farewells to Jessie as I did not think I would see her again, and headed to my room for a shower. It turns out Jessie's family owns a photo shop and she gave me some glossy prints of her, David and I that she had taken over the past few days. It was a wonderful gesture and I am very happy to have met such a wonderful person. We've exchanged email addresses so we can keep in touch in the future.

After having a shower and doing some laundry, I headed down to the bar for a beer before dinner, then headed over to The Market for the evening's group dinner sponsored by Starkey.

As it turns out, Jessie and another translator named Nature were both invited to dinner so I had one last visit with Jessie before finally saying farewell and heading off to bed.