Oops – Should Be Second Photo

Oops - Should Be Second PhotoOops, I just realized there’s one more photo that I want to put up
here. These are some of the kids that stopped playing ping pong to
pose when they saw me pointing my camera in their direction. This shot
should really be appearing AFTER the next shot, which explains more
about the project and stuff. Sorry.

A Trip to Baoji (and Xian)

A Trip to Baoji (and Xian)It’s Thursday morning here in Nanning, and I returned yesterday
afternoon from my first trip to our project in Baoji, which was simply
a great trip. To give you some general context, Baoji is in the
southwest of Shaanxi province, more or less in the geographic center
of China. This puts is roughly 1000 km north of Nanning, in an area
where the climate and landscape are much closer to the climate and
landscape of many parts of the US and Europe — lots of farms, grass,
dedicuous trees, rolling hills leading to larger mountins, etc. It was
interesting for me how my heart reacted to seeing green grass and
deciduous tress and “normal” mountains again, after spending a month
here in Nanning where the vegetation is tropical and the mountains are
closer to the unusual (for me) steep mountains of the old Chinese

Baoji is also in a fairly narrow valley between two mountain ranges,
one of which you can see rising in the background in this photo. The
range opposite this one (this shot is looking south, toward Sichuan —
or Szechuan — which begins not too far away to the south of Baoji) is
more of a long high ridge than a mountain range, but together they,
and mountains that continue on both sides of them north and south as I
understand, combine to make Baoji one of the good flat areas from
which to journey westward out of central China, heading most
immediately into the south-eastern reaches of Gansu province, and
ultimately into the Gansu corridor, another much longer defile between
mountains further north and west that, like Baoji, was on the old Silk
Road that we’ve all heard so much about.

Adding to the historical interest that really appeals to me, as a
former student of Chinese history and culture, is the fact that the
nearest airport to Baoji (2-1/2 hours drive away) is the airport for
Xian, which you may have heard of as the city closest to the site of
Chin Shi Huang’s tomb with the terracotta warriors. Though this trip
presented no time either to visit the tomb or to explore the general
area, I am very excited that my job — yes, consider: this is my job
now! — allows me to visit these places and that in the future I’ll be
able to extend a weekend or take a week’s break after a visit to
Baoji, to get into the history of the silk road or visit the tombs.

Then there are the kids, at our project in Baoji — The Children
Center. In the next several shots you’ll see the kids at the center,
and me playing or posing with them. I am not really going to put shots
of our AIDS project in Nanning up here, partly because it’s not really
a photogenic building or area, but mostly because confidentiality and
patient privacy with our patients there is important. In the case of
the children center, as you will see, the kids LOVE (for the most
part) posing for pictures, and the project’s field coordinator tells
me it’s OK to put these on my personal site. This is a project that
provides all round care (housing, meals, school classes as well as
general social and socialization support, and medical care) for street
children. The kids come from literally all over China, because Baoji
is an important railroad crossroads. Some have run away from home;
some have families that left them with relatives or friends when the
parents moved to a big city on the coast to find work, and then when
the parents stopped sending support money the friends or relatives
told the kids they could no longer support them; some simply ran away
from abusive or unhappy homes. The individual stories can be quite
upsetting, but the truly amazing thing about these kids — nearly all
of them — is how well behaved they are, how active they are both in
classes and at playtime, how little they fight or argue with each
other, and so on. Anyway, let’s just say that both these projects here
in China are ones I’m very proud to call my job now.

Badminton Time

Badminton TimeIn the mornings and afternoons the kids take formal school classes
(almost all in the center, though a few go to outside public schools)
with teachers employed by MSF. After lunch, and after the afternoon
classes, they get an extended playtime in the courtyard in front of
our building, where there are two ping pong tables (yes, the kids are
amazing and I will never dare to play against them — at a young age
they are already holding the paddle in such a way as to apply very
specific spins to the ball, depending on what they want it to do after
it bounces), a basketball net, and space to play badminton or other
games. Having not picked up a raquet of any sort since leaving LA
(boy, do I ever miss tennis!), I was delighted to see that I have a
workable backhand in badminton and could hold my own quite well with
the kids. The goal, not having a net, is to hit the birdie over the
head of your opponent — or so it seems, at least. I’m really glad I
have some Chinese, because it allowed me to really talk to some of
these kids.

New Friends

New FriendsAll I’m going to say about this kid is that I had a blast playing
badminton with him, talking with him, and just seeing him interact
with everyone. He is really a great kid, full of energy and with a
real sparkle in his eyes. I’m torn between really hoping he will be
reconnected with his family soon (and that the reconnection will work)
and hoping he’ll be there next month so I can see him again…though
of course if the first happens we’ll all be very happy.

Play Time

Play TimeAnother shot of one of the kids, with me in the background. Once
Selina, my colleague from Nanning who is medical coordinator for our
two projects here in China, started taking pictures of me playing, and
the kids saw that I was enjoying taking them on in badminton one by
one, many of them started crowding around either for a picture (many
of them are definitely hams when there’s a camera around!) or to play
badminton, or both.

Group Portrait with Paul

Group Portrait with PaulThe guy on the right in this photo is one of the older kids in the
center, and he had a lot of fun trying out his English with me and
showing me all the drawings and cartoons in his notebook. It seems he
hasn’t yet quite made his mind if he wants to be Batman or Jackie Chan
when he grows up. Next time I go up, if he’s still there (there was a
rumor he might be able to go home to his family in Shanghai), we’ll
see how his career plans are progressing.

Play Ball!

Play Ball!What can I say about this one? 🙂