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! :)