Hey everybody! Really sorry for the late post but unfortunately before leaving I forgot to factor the “Great Fire Wall of China” which blocked all google services including blogger.com. Apologies again for the long hiatus.
During these few days, we tried to help the Akar people of the Hong village as much as possible. We had a few objectives for the 1st leg of our trip.
1) Medical health screening for the villagers of Hong village
2) Initiate the constructing of a public toilet in the city
So we had a 10 hours bus ride from Kunming city to Hong village. The van was cramped but otherwise bearable. We kept ourselves entertained with Indian poker, Ellen Degeneres game and irritating Ee Jie with Pokemon songs.
Ah Bo met us at XiShuangBanna, a city just 20km from Myanmar. We met with the village head and his subordinates as well and had a heart clogging dinner of chili oil soup, chili oil blood tofu and a really bitter salad at a restaurant in the city. After dinner, another 45 minutes to the village.
Arriving at Ah Bo’s house, we met his family and his cute 3 y.o daughter, Zi Yi. Fatherly instincts in Jia Hao appeared and he started to play with her, quickly taking out balloons to make balloon animals for her. Nicolea divided us into 3 groups, clinic, construction and cooking (yupJ).
Clinic: Dr Tan, Laura, Xin Min, Jia Hao, Sathis, Sarah
Construction: Jing Yang, YiWei, Melissa, Jason, Sabrina
Cooking: Nicolea, Reginald, Amos, Michelle, Natalie
Sleeping in Ah Bo’s house needed some getting use to. His family was really hospitable, giving us the necessities for a good nights rest. However the pigs weren’t so welcoming. According to Ah Bo, the pigs would go crazy if they weren’t fed. Who said pigs ‘oink’ were totally wrong. They roared and screamed. Totally felt like I was in Jurassic park. Other than that, his house was beautiful and the mattresses were really nice and comfortable.
For construction, the whole day was spent moving rocks from point A to Point B. Some things we thought could have been more efficiently done, but due to limited resources, some things did not turn out the way that we wanted it to be. However, we persevered with a smileJ
The clinical team set up under Ah Bo’s house. We expected about 30 people to consult Dr Tan everyday. However, due to certain factors, we did not reach our target number. As Dr Tan was not licensed to dispense medication in china, she could only give advice and health screening. Western medication in this village was a driving factor for the villagers coming to meet Dr Tan, and without the medication, there wasn’t much incentive for the villages to come visit Dr Tan. However, a willing few were still able to come down to visit Dr Tan for a general health screening. The medical students were able to practice their osce skills on patients, reinforcing certain skills and techniques. In the end we were still happy to help out those that made the journey down.
The cooking crew had the main objective of feeding the entire SMSV team. So we woke up early in the morning today to go to the local market where we bought 3 whole chickens, pork and veggies. A short trip to the supermarket, and we bought a gas stove, more veggies, sweets, water, eggs and rice. So for lunch, we had noodles and fried garlic chicken and for dinner, sprite chicken and fried rice. Nothing exciting but always something good for the team who has been working hard for the whole day.
Clinic: Dr Tan, Nicolea, Reginald, Amos, Michelle, Natalie
Construction: Laura, Xin Min, Jia Hao, Sathis, Sarah
Cooking: Jing Yang, YiWei, Melissa, Jason, Sabrina
Today was a little more relaxed as compared to the 1st day. Construction did not start until after lunch. Spent the afternoon throwing heavy rocks into the drainage to make the foundation for the toilet. Amazed at how the villagers could carry huge stones so easily. Looking around, even the grandmas of the village were lugging huge banana tree trunks on bags slung around their heads. These amazingly strong villagers set an example for us city dwellers.
On the clinical side, there wasn’t much going on for us, a few elderly patients came and had their check up done by Dr Tan. However there was 1 case that really struck us. An elderly lady (We would call her Madam X) came to see Dr Tan because she her vision was getting poor. It was obvious from her cloudy eyes that she was developing cataracts. For an 80 years old lady, she was generally in very good health. However, her poor vision was affecting her quality of life. She could not work as much as before and it was just tough doing daily household chores. Furthermore, her daughter-in-law did not want her to go for surgery. We could see that she was really sad but due to several circumstances, we only could advice her on the best course of action. Sometimes, accessibility might not be an issue even in a rural setting, but the family setting that might be an important social determinant of health.
Our masterchefs cooked for us a 3-course meal for both lunch and dinner. Jason and Jing Yang minced pork using just choppers, chopping board, a really strong forearm power. Meatballs were deliciously steamed along with vegetables. Sitting around the balcony at Ah Bo’s house, we felt like a strong, close-knit family enjoying a meal after a hard day’s work. We shared jokes and made beautiful Chinese poems as we saw the sun set over the mountain while ZiYi ran around trying to bite us all.
Construction: Jing Yang, YiWei, Melissa, Jason, Sabrina, Dr Tan, Nicolea, Reginald, Amos, Michelle, Natalie
Cooking: Laura, Xin Min, Jia Hao, Sathis, Sarah
Today we decided to focus most of our manpower on construction of the toilet, since it was in full swing today. The team was divided into 2 groups, cement mixers and pourers. Before we could do all that, we spent 30 minutes trying to get a water supply from a nearby stream to mix cement. The villagers that helped us were really good at improvisation due to the lack of resources. Using a water bottle as a funnel, making a mini dam, and the power of physics and gravitational pull, we were able to channel water through the hose upstream into our large pail below. So the girls began shoveling sand into the mixer, while Reginald was the water boy pouring the water in. Once the cement was thoroughly mixed, the boys used wheel barrows to transport them to the toilet site where they poured them. This was practically what we did the whole day, a repetitive but tiring job. However as the day went by, one side of the toilet was slowly taking shape. Although it hardly looked like our final product, it was still nice to see how the rocks were properly aligned and how oddly shaped rocks could be placed such that it fit perfectly in place.
So at the end of the day, here is our wall! A big thanks to the Chinese villagers who helped us tremendouslyJ
For our meals, we had masterchef Sarah leading the cooking team. Her philosophy was “Everything must use Sesame oil to cook one. Where got Chinese cooking don’t use sesame oil one!!!”. So yup, we had a really hearty and wonderful dinner made by Sarah and her team of big manly assistants. Tomato eggs, fried rice and soupJ
At night, Ah Bo treated us to something special. We went to Ah Bo’s cousin’s, Ah Shu, house to drink tea. He let us try some of China’s most famous teas, even brewing for us a 16 years old tea. Some of us did not have a taste for tea, but the atmosphere of him family and home was enough to warm our hearts.
Throughout this leg of our trip, the villagers were extremely hospitable to our presence. I believe the phrase “faith in humanity restored” was really profound in the village. They brought water chestnuts and other food while we worked, opening their houses to drink tea and allowed us to enter their homes to take shower. Although they may not have the luxury and comforts that we enjoy, the community spirit is a really strong pillar of support in times of need and trouble.
We are really grateful for Ah Bo and the Akar people of Hong village for accommodating us and making us feel welcomed. We would really miss them as we leave, especially the little rascal ZiYi ;)
Take away points for this leg of our trip
1) Sometimes incentives are needed to get people to visit the doctor
2) It is very hard for things to go according to plan, hence improvisation and flexibility is extremely important.
3) Social determinants of health are not the same throughout all rural settings.
4) Accessibility might not be the biggest social determinants of health in a rural setting
5) Happiness can be found in the absence of technology
6) Good tea age like fine wine
7) Living in a home rather than a hotel room really builds a familial spirit amongst a missions team
8) When you need someone to take care of your kids, you can definitely call Wong Jia Hao. 2 Wongs definitely make a right (y)
9) When you don’t have a gym, use rocks as weights, wooden beams as pull up bars and wheel barrows for dips
10) Use Sprite to make meat tender, all Chinese cooking must have sesame oil and Xiang La Jiang is freaking delicious and goes well with everything.
11) Pigs sound like dinosaurs
12) Don’t play the game of ‘Camp’ with Laura, Xinmin or Sabrina. They can talk japanese
13) Finally, if Melissa were a ‘rebel’ in a game of Resistance, ‘Resistance’ would definitely win.
Reflections from some SMSV members:
Amos: Love the people, the hospitality and the atmosphere of the village. Really wish we could stay longer and do more for the villagers.
Michelle: There is much to be learned from a people who are able to make do with so little and are wiling to welcome a group of strangers into their home and share everything they have so selflessly.
Sarah: During the span of 3 days, we were immersed in the lives of the villagers. It was heartwarming to receive the kind generosity of Ah Bo and the villagers, as they offered to let us shower in their place, a roof over our head as well as freshly grown fruits and vegetables. The spirit of communal living is somewhat lacking in Singapore and it was nice to experience that. I hope that the villagers will complete the construction of the toilet and that it will be beneficial to them. Ps, I kinda miss Ziyi. HAHAH.
Mel: I have learnt an incredible amount of stuff from the 3 days we spent at the village and am very appreciative of the warm hospitality Ah Bo and his family gave us. Although I have been on mission trips before, this is my first time living in one of the village’s house. The communal living experience was a really enriching encounter, besides learning about their culture and appreciating the simplicity, I feel that it also helped our whole group bond together. I hope that the toilet will be a useful contribution to them and would love to come back and help them again.
Reg: The Hong village reminded me a lot of my grandparents’ old house from Malaysia. The slow pace of life and the farm animals really felt like I went a little bit back in time. Although most of the villagers knew that we were visiting, they still greeted us with a smile and a nod of the head. I felt that while we were students on a mission trip, we really were one big family.
Xin Min: We often think of doing missions as a way of blessing the local community, of helping the under privileged, but in fact I can confidently say that I have been more blessed than blessing the people of the akar community. I have learnt to appreciate the comforts of living in the city and the contributions by the construction workers, would definitely wish to return to this village again.