Thursday, August 20, 2009

Medical mission completed in Chengde

It was a rather sad day on Friday when we packed up and left Chengde. We said goodbye to hospital workers who were so good to help us. We hugged and thanked the many university translators who did an excellent job. They were hugging doctors and nurses and crying just like their best friends were leaving.

This was perhaps the most compatible medical team we have ever had. They all enjoyed each other and some were making plans to meet and take trips together. Everyone worked together extremely well and a lot was accomplished.

There were no major illnesses with the team members, although most had some minor problem before we left. We all suffered somewhat from the pollution with allergies and there were a few stomach problems. The hospital provided a special dining room and buffet for us and the food was very good.

We also felt that our rooms were “bugged.” Each time we go to any city and stay in the same hotel, we are given the same room. Some of the medical team saw someone following them when they went to other places after leaving the hospital. We think they were watching to be sure we did not try to convert any of the patients or cause any kind of problem. No one worried about it but noticed the closeness with which our team was watched.

A total of 78 cleft lip and cleft palates were completed. One open heart surgery was also completed but they have four more heart patients. We will pay the hospital to complete those surgeries under a new agreement with them to do heart surgeries for Agape Foundation on a continual basis.

Some of the team left to go back home; others took side trips to Beijing or other cities. Travel is not easy in China, no matter how or where you go. One thing noticed by everyone is the crowds. With so many people in China, every airport, train station and subway is packed with people. It does not matter what time of the day or night, you will see the crowds. I’m going to include a picture I made yesterday at the train station. I wanted to take a picture at the subway but would have gotten run over just stopping to take a picture. The crowds are literally that bad – sometimes you can’t stop but have to go with the flow.

We waited in the crowded train station almost two hours last night but dealing with three heavy bags has been very difficult. Ron says we are not bringing this many again but half of the stuff in the third bag are his things along with the surgical tools from the medical mission. I could not have survived with fewer clothes for a month. The humidity is so bad, it takes three days for something to dry in the hotel room. We've washed everything we brought about three times and now I'm taking all dirty clothes back home. Anyway, we got a red cap service to take our bags to the train. We were told by two different people who work at the train station that they did not have red cap service but when we saw guys in red caps taking peoples' bags, we knew better. Typical of China. We were cheated however. He charged us 90 rmb for 3 bags. A young Chinese guy behind us told me he wished he had handled it for us before Ron paid him because the guy charged us three times what it should have been. We settled into the upper berths (I climbed up like pro!) and then a large Chinese girl stuck her head in and chewed us out. She demanded to see our tickets and proceeded to tell us (in Chinese) that were in the wrong room. It was the red cap guy who had our tickets in his hand and put our bags in that room. We got down, took our bags and moved to the correct room with the help of the worker on the train. We had two young guys (30's) in the lower beds. Neither of them helped me get my bag to the upper berth. So much for respect for older people. There's a generation in China now that is losing that tradition. We did not sleep very well but it was a smooth train - no stops until 6:30 a.m. when it arrived in Nanjing. The train worker came to be sure we did not get off there. They are usually very helpful, especially to foreigners. We arrived in Shanghai at 8:00 a.m. and waited in a long line (in the basement and hot as it could be) for a taxi. The line up for taxis was about 200 ahead of us. We spend most of our time waiting in China. We stood in a line at the train station to get tickets the day before we left. After 30 minutes and the line not moving, we left. Early the next morning, Ron went to an agent and got the tickets. I think you only pay a couple of dollars more to go through an agent.

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