Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chengdu QSI School

QSI Has a School in Chengdu. This is a message Karin Hall, the director, just sent out about the events that happened the day of the earthquake and after at the school and in Chengdu.

Earthquake in Chengdu


After School Activities had just begun and students were spreading out around the school to play sports or practice their music when at 2:28 pm the ground began to shake. At first students and teachers thought it might be a huge dump truck with a heavy load bumping over the speed bumps outside the school, but when the shaking went on they all realized what it was.

Although I have been through many earthquakes (Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Egypt) this was by far the longest. One of our teachers timed the quake at almost 3 minutes! While a 40 second quake seems like it lasts forever, a 3 minute quake seemed like an eternity. Every time you thought it was over, it started up again.

I was in the office with a student, teacher and the office staff. The first thing I heard was the familiar rumble of the earth as it begins to shift. As we are close to the outside I told everyone in the office to go out to the street. The movement of the earth was so great that although no poles, buildings or balconies were coming down it was impossible to stand up.

Watching the earthquake in Cairo I was able to see the soccer fields undulate. It is almost something that your eyes cannot quite take in, or your eyes take it in but your brain cannot process it. In the Chengdu earthquake the glass in the front windows of the school were rippling. It is a fascinating phenomenon.

As soon as the quake stopped I walked back into the building to check on where the other students and teachers were and if they were safe. Teachers who were walking their students to their after school activity had them on the lawn, away from the building, sitting down. Another group was in the computer lab under the tables and when the quake ended they headed for the open playground as well. At the back of the school the sports teams were sitting in the field. All the students, teachers and parents were calm, quiet and attentive to what should be done next. What a wonderful sight to see everyone safe and sound.

Ron Noll, our science guy, gave a quick overview of what happens in an earthquake and what they could expect over the next day and weeks to come. The students, as usual, were curious, inquisitive and happy to have some information to work with. The day we returned to school we had an assembly to discuss the type of earthquake and what to expect over the next weeks.

My next goal was to move all the students to one safe location. Teachers took students two at a time around and through the building to the front playground where there was easy access to the buses and cars. We immediately got on the phones to determine where the buses were and the status of the roads. The issue became: a city of 11 million people and a region of 20 million just had an earthquake and EVERYONE is using their cell phones to find out if their loved ones are safe. The phones were down. We would have to wait for the buses to return to school to find out what the city was like.

Notifying parents that their children were safe was our next mission. We knew landlines worked, but no one would be inside their houses at this point in time – cell phones were still not working. We had to wait. Some parents came immediately to pick up their children, others without cars were waiting for the children to come by bus. From parents we learned that although Chengdu is a city of high rise buildings there was no visible damage to buildings. Roads were very congested with people who had streamed out of office and apartment buildings, but they were calm. Also waiting.

Our first buses to return to school reported the same things: lots of people but buildings were standing and people were fairly calm. We decided to send the students back to their homes with the understanding that if parents were not there to pick them up they would be brought back to school, as is our usual policy. Students were all picked up by their anxious parents, relieved to know they were safe. Once students were home we had the staff taken into town and dropped off where they could find out if any damage had occurred in their homes. One student’s parents could not get a taxi, could not contact the school and arrived on a borrowed bike about 6 pm that evening.

QSI Chengdu closed for two days at the request of the government. The building was inspected the day of the quake by an NGO and the day after the quake by the US Consulate. It took the government longer to get to us but they also assured us that the building was safe. There is a bit of plaster coming off the walls but that will be repaired this summer along with a paint job.

The last major earthquake in the region had been 70 years ago so people really did not know what to do. Most buildings in Chengdu are high rise and since inspectors wanted to get in and check them before people came back in there were lots of people out on the street. Restaurants were not open for the most part so the ones that were open were packed. People were bringing food and blankets out onto the street to sleep for the night and one of our teachers described her experience that night, staying on one of the university campus as a cross between a rock concert and a refugee camp. Two weeks after the quake there were still people living in tents in parks, along side the roads and in open areas – not because their buildings were not safe, but because they were still afraid to sleep inside.

While most people in Chengdu lost a picture frame or a vase sitting on a shelf, many of our apartments were untouched. I have to say many of us were pleasantly surprised with how Chinese construction of high rise buildings withstood the quake. However, outside of the city 60-90 km there was major devastation. Almost immediately the NGO’s in Chengdu kicked into action and began gathering donations and supplies for the villages we heard were flattened. Food, water, blankets and tents were soon gone from every store.

Over the next week the city continued to move with constant aftershocks. Some people were evacuated to Chengdu from the epicenter, some companies evacuated their families out of Chengdu but most people in Chengdu stayed put. Aftershocks are disconcerting and cause the heart to beat just a bit faster until you realize that each day they are further apart and lessen in severity – for the most part! There continued to be aftershocks and if this is a typical earthquake, they will last for many more weeks!

QSI directors, teachers and former directors from all over the world donated over $2000 toward the relief effort. The money was donated to medical supplies and toward rebuilding people’s homes. This will be a long term rebuilding effort by the Chinese government, local citizens and the world! QSI Chengdu’s Roots and Shoots group donated the money they had toward first aide kits and the Secondary students gave the money they had raised for a party to buy medical supplies.

The true nature of people surfaces in a crisis and it was a proud moment for QSI Chengdu when the calm and caring nature of our educational community showed its best during the Chengdu earthquake. QSI Chengdu continues to accept donations to help people rebuild their homes and lives outside of Chengdu.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Yangtze River Cruise

Bev just before we decended the 100 steps down to the rivers edge.
Our boat is the one you see there is another one docked to it on the other side.

Dragons greated as as we embarked.

Part of one of the gorge areas. The high water line is from one of the previouse bad floods.

More pics soon, I have to get some sleep!!!

The last part of our trip and the high point was a cruise down the Yangtze River. The Yangtze River is the 3rd largest river in the world only superseded by the Nile and the Amazon. It begins in the center of China and flows all the way to Shanghai. Our cruise was from Chongqing to Wuhan, downstream. A major middle portion but less than 1/3 of the navigable river. This is the way to travel if you have less time. Three days on the river and you cover well over 1000 miles. Going upstream takes one day longer for the same distance.

Cruise Ship and Tour Link

Each day we had one major shore excursion. The ship is long and has a flat bottom. It is one of three sister ships on the river all made by a German company powered by three diesel engines at over 1000 hp each. It could carry up to 300 or so passengers . We had 250 for most of the trip. Most were Chinese, but we did have our group of about 50 that had our own tour guide, Howard, who spoke very good English. The 50 were not all Americans but could understand and speak English.

Our first afternoon and night we were docked on the river. We left the next morning. We were worried that we were going to have some very heavy dense clouds that were almost like fog for the whole trip. But that was primarily the first day. When we entered the gorges areas it was very clear and sunny.

1st Cruise Day Shore excursion to Fengdu Ghost City.
2nd Cruise Day Shore excursion to Shennong Stream by smaller vessels, Peapod boats also.
3rd Cruise Day
Shore excursion to Three Gorges Dam site after passing through an amazing lock system.

After the cruise we were bussed to the airport for our 2 hour flight back to Shenhzen, we had a pickup scheduled and were home just an hour after that. Wow what a great trip. It was even more fun to travel with friends from school. There were six of us and then we were joined by another couple for the cruise portion of the trip.

I felt fortunate to see what we did as much has been flooded due to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam project. The largest Day in the world. It is still filling and will continue to do so for two more years. Around six million people have been displaced by the construction of the dam. The dam is suppose to provide 10% of all the electric power used in China. That would be a lot!

Three Gorges Dam Project info Click Here.

New Post

My new post today is new to the blog but actually is back on May 15th. Pics of the train ride from Chengdu to Chongxing.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Traditional Chinese Medicine

The office is in an alley

The Dr. and Tim, She is standing Tim is sitting.
She is an amazing women, reminds me of my Grandma Hannah
She was so happy to take this pic with me.
I gave her one that hangs in the office now.

Tim is 14 on the list of patients for the day, notice no one is patient 13!
This was a day I was able to get there just about an hour after they opened.
Patients add their name when they arrive.

The Dr. is consulting with a patient at the reception desk,
notice the x-ray viewer and the patient in the foreground.

This is the view from where that patient was sitting.
I was able to take these kind of undercover shots as it was not busy yet.
Note the heat lamp that warms you to the core.
Yes men and women lay half undressed next to each other for this part.

Well I knew it would happen at some point and it did. My back tightened up and kind of went out. Carrying suitcases on vacation didn't help nor does carrying around a camera bag and well you get the idea. So I was at the point that going to work was questionable. I managed and one of my colleagues told me about a Chinese traditional Doctor.

Well it took a few attempts but I finally got to see her. She was not sure that she was going to treat me. But I used my persuasive powers to convince her to work on me. That is not as easy as it might sound. She did not understand a word of English and my Chinese will not get me far.

Anyway she saw me for two weeks a total of 8 treatments. I have a number of stories but the main thing is it is a one room Dr. Office. The reception area, exam/treatment area, well all things are done in the one room. I have been there when over 25 people were in the 15 x 25 foot room. She is suppose to be a very famous Doctor in Shenhzen. I was told this by at least 4 different people.

She uses a combination of infared heat, massage and a little bit of chiropractic as well as Chinese herbs, acupunture, and a lot of talk. A typical treatment takes an hour and a half. But the whole event will take between 2 1/5 to 4 hours. It really isn't an appointment as you don't have an appointment.

When it is your turn you lay down on the wood bench convered with a thin pad and a sheet. The sheet gets changed daily, I think. Anyway if you are modest you might not make it as your examination is conducted with many onlookers. They don't just look, they comment or ask questions about their own personal needs. They were quite interested to view the American.

Well after 2 weeks I am a new man. Well I feel pretty good. In fact very good. Oh the total cost including Chinese medicine etc. was about $60 for all 8 treatments.

Dentist Visit

Bev, Dr. Jeff, Tim

Dental Chair

This area is very popular and is called the OTC

Front of the office

I have been very lucky as far as dentistry goes this past year. But I had a tooth that was starting to have sensitivity to hot and cold. I decided that I better get it looked at before we left on vacation and back to the states. If I needed to see a dentist it would be the middle of July at the earliest. Bev had some work done here on Thurs. and was able to get me an immediate Saturday morning appointment. I took it.

Bev, as well as many of our QSI teachers have gone to Dr. Jeff and had a very pleasant experience. Dr. Jeff was trained in Shanghai. He speaks pretty good English which is a big plus. His office is just a 30 minute $6.00 taxi ride or one hour $.50 bus ride and 4 block walk away. He has hours on Saturday and Sunday! And we have been in his office as late as 7:30 p.m.! The office is very pleasant, even equipped with a computer and internet access for a waiting partner. The other pleasant surprise is the level of cleanliness of the office and the equipment that appears to be very new and up to date.

Dr. Jeff comes out and greats you when you arrive. He may take a cell phone call while he works on you, as he seems to make all of his own appointments, but he never leaves to attend to another patient, your his entire focus when your there.

Prices are very reasonable by western standards but more than some other Dentist here. His procedures are more time consuming as most fillings are a three visit affair and he uses only gold or porcelain. Well the good news for me is that my tooth can probably wait for a couple of months.

Website and location directions.