From Ed Wolkis: In the summer of 2002, I accompanied a volunteer medical team into far western China to provide medical care to nomadic herders, farmers and indigent city dwellers in an area known as Old Tibet. The trip, sponsored by the Flying Doctors of America, a non-denominational non-profit organization, was led by Rachel Friday, now president of Medical Expeditions International. Our group had the opportunity to visit areas that few, if any Westerners had ever seen. The reactions to our presence were fascinating. The isolation from our culture was sometimes more that I had imagined. While photographing people in the clinic, I was watched me with interest, but it soon became apparent that most had no idea what I was doing. After taking a photo, I would sometimes turn the camera around and show them the results on the digital LCD screen. Generally the response would be a smile, but I soon realized that my subjects were unaware that the photo was of them! Many had never before seen an image of themselves. Sometimes a friend would look, and tell them, "That's you!" Many of the participants on the trip whose writing skills far surpass mine kept journals. Tom Mayberry wrote the following overview of our adventure: At nearly 12,000 feet in elevation, Dawu is a remote outpost in the far western reaches of China. The volunteer medical team included specialties ranging from gastro-intestinal, pediatric, and emergency room physicians, a dentist, two nurses, physical and massage therapists, a nutritionist, a lawyer, an investment banker, a 10-year old boy, and of course, a photographer. Representation was from coast to coast with the majority being from the middle. The inoculation of the mission was seeded by a caring person, who had by a quirk of fate come in contact with this remote town. Several hours on a plane, and thirteen hours on the bus to our destination tested the control capabilities of the organizers. Although cold and tired, and arriving somewhat late into the cold darkening windswept outskirts of Dawu, we were delighted when our bus was met by the area Khempo, the hospitals staff, and locals dressed in their wonderful Tibetan finery. We each were given a Hata, which is a celebratory scarf used to convey special blessings, and the proverbial By-Joe also showed up with the customary three-drink consumption pattern. We were then immediately whisked off for the arrival banquet. In this desperately poor area, food is a measure of wealth. This welcoming banquet was not about eating, it was about being bestowed with gifts...the gifts of food. Our medical mission began early the next day. Some patients had traveled two-three days to reach us; most had never been seen by a physician, local or otherwise. These are people of the earth, literally. They live their entire lives outside, perhaps covered by a Yak hair tent, their sometimes covered floors barely separated them from the earth. Were it not for the Yak, their way of life would cease. The environmental conditions can support only grass, which grows aplenty. They possess little, but in spite of the interminable hardships, faces are filled with smiles with no reluctance to extend appreciations. In Dawu, there were hundreds of people from far reaching places with one goal in mind, to obtain relief from pain, and they all wanted it done immediately, a typical human quality. Patients can only be seen one by one, with times varying depending upon their severity and complexity, but the needs are by many and all at once. By the end of the medical mission, the team was able to treat over 600 people whose gratefulness was as fulfilling as the meal of plenty bestowed upon our arrival. Many of the very old, before leaving, turned to us, smiling thankfully and giving two thumbs up a cross cultural OK - picked up from who knows where. As Tom mentioned, our team treated over 600 people, an incredible accomplishment. It was inspiring for me to witness the work of these dedicated people, and I'm grateful for the experience and for the lasting relationships that have evolved.
|Posted by Marijan Pejic on May 16, 2010 at 2:07 PM||2098 Views|