Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.
—Leonard Cohen (via 408lurve)
—Leonard Cohen (via 408lurve)
I took both these pictures in Asia. The first one I took was 3 years ago and I was in love. I was in love with Chinese culture and I wanted to consume it whole. I took Chinese classes when I came back to the states and thought I could fix my identity with textbooks. I was ashamed that I had lost so much of what I thought was mine: my blood and my right. The second picture I took last month, waking up to another day of shadowing doctors in a Taiwan hospital. This time around I am still in love. But I am in love with a person who is ABC like me, who navigates the treacherous waters of that hyphen in between Taiwanese/Chinese/Asian-American. I still take similar pictures 3 years apart, entranced by the hues when light filters through the curtains. Both times I was laying in a bed that I had called mine for a month, both times I am still a stranger in a foreign land, both times I was looking out a window romanticized by light filtering through curtains. I’m still a tourist of a culture that is supposed to run in my blood.
Nowadays I accept that I am a lot of America and a little of Taiwan. I am not completely one or another. I am strange in both lands, yet somehow I find that it is all right. The collectivism of Chinese people allow them to make statements about me as if they were talking to their own children. They have a family member just like you, born in English speaking lands. They think that they know you. They think that they know how to take care of you. I went to a big temple in Kaohsiung last month and a monk said, “Even if you give someone everything, your love, your care, your attention, your money, ask yourself - is it what they need? did they want it in the first place?” I think that my Grandpa has grasped this concept. He offers his house and tells me that I should treat it as my own house. He doesn’t nag me. He doesn’t express pride or disappointment in my life; he is just happy that I am there with him. Sometimes I feel that he is a stranger, but I ask myself what is there really to know about me? I am a student here to study. I read a lot, I’m sort of quiet, and other than that we can barely communicate as it is. We play charades punctuated with our heavily accented Chinese. His accent leans towards the old world, the motherland. Mine leans towards the new land, the place of dreams. It is comfortable to just sit together and eat in silence.
Meanwhile, complete strangers assume shit about me. Nurses say that I “should” be able to speak and read Chinese fluently because I have a grandpa here. I cried pitifully later feeling the cut of that remark: that after my years of studying I still fall woefully short of fluent. I still can’t express myself, I still can’t read patient charts, I still can’t can’t can’t, and all my studies result in stuttering and incomplete Chinese sentences. Doctors speak at lightning speed and tease me in an overly familiar way when I have a deer in the headlights look. They feel like they can treat me like their child. Just because I have black hair and brown eyes like your own does not mean I am one of yours. Group mentality and familiarity has its benefits, but I am not someone that you know. Americans put all Asians in a box. The Chinese put all ABCs in a box. It sucks to be put in either one, always desperately trying to not be the foreigner.
At the end of the day, I am always most comfortable when I am by myself, in my thoughts. I will forever feel like an anthropologist in both worlds.
—The Circle, Dave Eggers
I appreciate that for all the selfie loving, peace-holding, skinny arm Taiwanese person, there is one disgruntled oncologist in our hospital who despises pictures and thinks that having an experience is already reward enough.
I love that in Guan Shan (關山) there is one 24 year old nurse who chose to work in rural areas in need of medical attention. I love that she knows about insects, animals, people, trees, landscape, and geography. I love that she is a walking encyclopedia and understands how farming works. I love that she is dark skinned, doesn’t wear any jewelry, wears kickass puma gear and a fly watch, and finds interest in a place where nobody else has. I appreciate that although I am inundated with glittery, high-heeled, long-lashed, designer’d out urban twenty something year old girls everywhere forever in Taipei, there is one person out there who wears the same shirt three days in a row and gives zero fucks about it.
We liberal Americans hold up Taiwan as the perfect picture of universal healthcare. After shadowing for 3.5 weeks, I have realized the picture is far from perfect. Tired, jaded, and disgruntled doctors who are trying to provide the best care possible find themselves stuck between anxious patients and insurance restrictions. Patients go “hospital shopping” and treat the doctors like vendors of a product called health care. Insurance companies keep a sharp eye on the amount of tests doctors order to make up for the waste generated. Patients come to the ER for a paper cut. Patients consult cardiologists based on the fact that “their friend told them to come”. When shit is cheap, is it human nature to devalue and waste it?
"What do you think of TCM?" I asked to other physicians in the hospital. Answers: Neutral to antagonistic feelings. A resident tells me, "First, do no harm". TCM is not evidence based. It fucks with kidney function, especially if the pt has chronic kidney dz. Holistic care providers are in synergy with OMM, yet the doctors had little patience for their patients, and treated me the worst. When push comes to shove, it’s not for the little miracles that ‘holistic’ modalities give you, it’s the hard and cold facts of evidence based medicine. It’s all about the numbers, baby.
My student points towards a tree whose trunk has grown straight through a rock—and then marvels at it.
Joy is infectious.
A really great read, especially if you’re a current medical student (or are helping to train one). I’ve had days at the clinic where patients have given the students—premed, med, and nursing alike—those “looks” and exasperated sighs or under-the-breath remarks inquiring as to where the “real” doc or nurse was. Fortunately those are only a small percentage of our patients, and we’re grateful for the majority who are patient and understanding. I think the few who do complain don’t realize that in free clinics like ours, students are the clinic’s life force. They work 100% for free, and often times aren’t receiving class credit either (in the case of the other senior interpreter and I, we’ve exceeded any credit allowed by our school but have stayed on as volunteers). There is absolutely no way we’d be able to afford to pay a team of 6 NPs or docs everyday, and there’s no way we’d be able to see near as many patients as we do if we had only the usual 2 full-fledged NPs working. Some days they’ve had to even call interpreters in just so we’d have enough staff to stay open! We (students) love our patients, and it’s not unusual for us to text one of the NPs about how a patient’s follow-up appointment went if we’re not working that particular day. We even spend our lunches cutting out pocket-sized, Spanish birth control pill guides so the NPs always have something in writing and in their language to give our Ob/Gyn patients who need BC consultations.
“They care. They are young. They are at the magical intersection of theory and reality.”