From Thighland to Thailand

February 28, 2010

Thailand 3.9

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 3:00 pm

Thailand 3.9 February 27, 2010-Saturday-9th day

See Jennifer’s blog at now with video! and

QUOTE OF THE DAY by Richard Bruce on Lynelle wanting all the men to wear a sarongs for her birthday: “Lynelle may want to wear a sarong, but you will not see Richard Bruce in a sarong.” A birthday wish gone bad.

NEWSFLASH: A reputable source tells me that members of an army of a country that we briefly visited as tourists are being investigated by the United Nation Council for Women’s Rights on charges of mistreatment and inappropriate behavior of Karen Christian women. Aren’t we glad we got OUR women out of a certain geographic area in the nick of time? By the way, we got out so fast Lynelle left her underwear behind. Maybe its a souvenir for the army. Pastor’s also looking for his Speedos.

I’m laughing because it’s hard to get this picture out of my mind. I dreamt that Leroy was riding on an elephant with two huge tusks yelling “heeyah!” all the way back to the Golden Triangle Inn down the main drag escorted by motor scooters all because we forgot Leroy and left hem back at the elephant rides. Then coming up and saying, “Did you guys forget something?” It’s hilarious but it could’ve been a nightmare. It’s a long way back to Chiang Rai. Bill, faithful shepherd, you better count your sheep and get the flock out of here in one piece. We don’t want to sacrifice any lamb.

Today’s a special day on several accounts. First of all it’s Lynelle’s birthday. Happy Birthday! You don’t look a day over 35! (Have you had work done; you look so natural?) Hey Tom, I thought you were going to fly out here and surprise her on her birthday! You have one more week to come here. They have nice golf courses; now will you come? Secondly we went to the Akha Youth Development Center where we will got to see the fruits of FCBC ministry to support the various projects of the Thai-Akha ministries. There are many projects that are ongoing and Luka has an incredible vision and has great faith in God, such that, something’s in his mind are a done deal and he plans for it. The Foundation has a large property for the children’s school medical clinic, tea crops, tea processing and storage facility, catfish ponds, corn field, passion fruit crop, pineapple crop, and a 4 acre rice field that FCBC recently purchased to help the goal of being self-sustaining. It yielded almost 400 bushels of rice, enough to feed the children and some of their families for about 8 months. In one day, all the villagers come to plant the rice. They want to add additional acreage adjacent to the current field to feed them for a year and perhaps have extra to sell. YWAM (Youth With A Mission), an organization that the BYF worked with in Mexico to build a house, came from Canada and built a training facility near the agriculture fields so that others can learn from their methods. We wanted to go see the affects of the Bull ministry and how the families propagated the cows but we had udder things to do.

We saw a good number of patients, about 182 in all. Most of the children are in good shape anyway and even their teeth just needing cleaning. Lynelle gathered the children and gave a dental floss demonstration on how to actually floss their teeth. Usually the floss has been used to tie around the teeth and connected to the doorknob to pull the teeth out. Since we are in third world country we use third world techniques. A lot of reading glasses were given out so it balanced out the grinding and making glasses. We have a good pace seeing a balance of patients but sometimes it gets hazardous for the doctors. For example, Kane was demonstrating to a patient using his hands and his hand hit the ceiling fan. He’s Yao Ming compared to the natives and the buildings are built as such. Good thing all parts were there otherwise I would have had to bury his finger into his side, get it back out in the US and then try to replant it. After explaining this he almost did give me the finger. His music career would be in jeopardy as well; he strums a mean guitar and is an accomplished pianist. Ask him to play his jazz version of “Chopsticks.”

We are not picking on the newbie on purpose but I’m sorry I had to get back at him when he told me to stand in the bucket when showering to collect the run-off in Myanmar and I almost fell out. Leroy likes to video everything so someone told him to go video us doing some laboratory tests. I used my printer as a “mobile lab” so we took some brown sticky rice paste and put it in some gauze and with a rubber glove pretend it was a stool sample. He videoed the docs holding a conference and analyzing the smell and the consistency of the “stool” specimen. Oh yeah, we also tested it for taste. Kane said it was a little sweet and I thought it was crunchy but we felt it was some worm infection. We wished someone was videoing Leroy with his mouth open. Leroy you been punked.

The team has peculiar appetites. Kane has a voracious appetite and stays thin. Some of us are full of it, food that is. Bill and Gail can eat anything and they just go run 5 miles to burn off what they ate during the day. I like to conserve energy myself. The food that I have been eating is not Atkin’s friendly. I must have been in carbohydrate withdrawal and my body is craving starch and sweets. Richard eats cornflakes every morning despite a Thai cuisine at his disposal. Jack likes the fish just for the halibut. Dr. Tajiri doesn’t like oily foods and eats mostly rice. Lynelle puts food she doesn’t want to eat on Andy’s plate because apparently he is a human garbage disposal. We eat at least three meals a day, more food than we usually do, so we might have to rearrange the schedule to include a day for team liposuction. Half of the team got to eat at this great buffet at this fancy restaurant yesterday. The other half didn’t know that we went until now. You snooze you loose.

We were looking forward to a nice Thai cuisine from Luka’s wife, Ghan as we fondly remember from the last two trips when she whipped up mouth watering Thai food the spicy peppers helped too. So when we went this time to her home she surprised us with an authentic American meal. Welcome home, Americans! Spaghetti and meatballs and salad and French bread and Marie Callendar’s pie: French apple, berry, coconut cream, and cream cheese; Pepsi and Coca-Cola too. Beggars can’t be choosey. It was a great treat and a gastronomical delight. Burp! Ghan and Luka always makes us feel welcomed and at home. In fact, Lynelle was presented with a birthday cake as we sang “Happy Birthday to You” with Gi playing it on the guitar. We got to spank her; just kidding Tom.

Irma usually shops til she drops and must have been exhausted because she didn’t go on that 4 block stretch of street vendors tonight. Bill, Gail, Lynelle, Jennifer, and Leroy all love to shop and we all find in fun to bargain even for 10 baht (30 cents). They ask high, we go low. If they say yes too soon we know that we didn’t go low enough and we’ve been had. It’s the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Lena would be proud of me for not buying too many souvenirs (her definition of junk).

There is an incredible amount of energy flowing through this team; we could have lit up Myanmar. Many members of the team wake up early to walk, run, go to the market, blog, and then don’t go to be until wee hours of the night, No one complains about the long hours or long journeys. On the contrary, we complain if it gets to slow or we didn’t see enough patients. Richard was happy that every patient today who came to the clinic today was seen. But some of us are slowing down a little day by day including yours truly. Please pray for our stamina and health and continued enthusiasm despite the adversities that may encounter. Thank you for your prayers, your support, and concern. Thanks for listening.

In Christ, Medical Team International signing off.

February 27, 2010

Thailand 3.8

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 11:17 am

Thailand 3.8

February 26, 2010-Friday-8th day

See Jennifer’s blog  at now with video! and

Happy Birthday19th Lindsey Lowe!! I hope you still have that star pillow you got for your birthday because you’re a shining star!  Don’t give it to Bailey.


Now that we have been fired its time for some R & R: Reflect and Regroup. I want to clarify my last entry and sign-off.  I must point out that “embarrassment” isn’t an accurate reflection nor the sentiments of the rest of team.  I felt embarrassed.  It’s a personal thing that probably goes back to my childhood as an insecure child.  Except for these set backs I’m getting better.  I felt rejected for unwanted for perhaps viewed as meddling in foreign affairs. I have been in a position of volunteer work before and “let go” and it is embarrassing for me especially when I don’t know why I’m being dismissed.  When you give of yourself of time, money, effort, and sacrifice along with the risk of health and safety and then get dirt kicked on you it’s humiliating.  We don’t go for appreciation or acknowledgment other than as Christians representing Christ.  We are humbly just volunteers for God’s sake.  We are just trying to help, but on the other hand did they ask?

A pole of the team reveal mixed emotions about what happened.  While some were disappointed there were also feelings of despair.  Pastor felt victorious and proud.  Proud of what we did despite being persecuted.  We were willing to share but now the doors were shut on us.  But we can be a witness to others for just being there in the first place.  It tells others who First Chinese Baptist Church represents and what we stand for.  IT tells about individual efforts of team members.  We still did a lot during our brief stay.

There are a variety of emotions that go through what we are trying to accomplish.  Our mission is two-fold: 1) to serve God by serving others though our God-given talents and 2) to spread the Good News.  #1 allows us the opportunity for #2.  This experience affected members in different ways.  For Kane it taught humility in that what we think we’re doing or why we are doing something may be different from God’s plan. “We are called to go and are still glorifying his kingdom and not just giving out medications.” It may just demonstrating obedience to God and trusting in our hearts.  Cindy said “It was a fantastic testimony of the whole group working together” during the evacuation.  Bob felt that it gave the people encouragement, fellowship, and education.  It would give the people the impression that people care for them and in fact, showed up, and not just sent in money.  That will have a lasting impression.  Pastor feels that we need to be the light of the world in this literally dark country.  On a lighter note, Dr. Tajiri felt it allowed him to appreciate the Golden Triangle Inn more!  Bill said that the Lord was with us all the time and took us into Myanmar and brought us out.  He said that the driver’s name was “The Lord” but we know which Lord he meant.

We are saddened for the untreated people that we could have touched and disappointed because we didn’t get to do what we set out to do; that is, go to three different venues in Myanmar and offer services to hundreds of people.  Only a few were treated. But a restricted country we are at their mercy and it is an uneasy feeling.  They can change their minds at will.  We are on their turf.  They play by their rules.  Sometimes there are no rules.  We’re never sure what to expect but we try to be prepared and prudently take precautions.  Even Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches (head honcho, the “Baptist Pope”) was invited to come to Myanmar a few years ago and was locked up for 2 weeks.

Something of note: Perhaps the local authorities were not happy that we did not take up their offer to give them $omething, in return for allowing us to stay and to be left alone.  Sounds like extor…, you know what it sounds like.

Several Myanmar churches welcomed our medical team and the Myanmar government knew we were coming.  The State department knew we were coming; (Big Brother is always watching. ) God is watching.  The team went into the country knowing that we might have restrictions but didn’t expect to be kicked out.  But at least we tried and got an “A” for effort.  Perhaps we have opened the doors for others.  As we prepare to leave they ask “When will you be back?”   Only God knows.  Even some people called their relatives to say “Come quick; the Christians are here.”

Thank God we are safe, we can learn from this experience and move on.  Personally, I was scared, I was scared for the safety of the team and in particular, my daughter Jennifer whom I love and have a great responsibility for watching out for her.  I know she can take care of herself, after all, she demonstrated that living in Paris for a year.  But as the father watches over his children.  God, our father, watches over His children.  And like children, we often don’t understand the meaning of things.

The eviction itself may have done more good than actually treating the patients.  We may have only treated 50-60 patients yesterday and 260 the day before but we probably impacted hundreds more by our exodus.  We could have quietly treated the patients but now it is known throughout the region that Christians came to help and that they were kicked out by the government.  People will hear and people will talk about those Christians. Maybe THAT was God’s plan. That can’t look good for the bureaucrats. The repercussions will be felt, even after we are gone.  The Christians were sent packing and went home. But we let the Myanmar people know that they are not alone.

A fourteen hour round trip and only 320 patients treated and a forced mass departure; so it was worth it?  The concensus: Absolutely!  We also traveled 35 hours and at the first clinic in Chiang Rai a student accepted Christ and seeds she will sew was worth the trip.  Until I wrote this, I missed the message.  I get it.

Now we had the Lord with us all the time.  He was one of the drivers.  He knew his way all around Myanmar.  I can’t pronounce his last name, but Lord I can remember.  It’s comforting that he was always by our sides.

We sleep in today since we are still recuperating from yesterday.  Bill says “Let’s go elephant riding.” Several of us are looking forward to riding elephants. But it’s a nice relaxing boat ride up the Mekong River so most of us go.  We first play hide and seek with the two vehicles.  In our van, we past where we think we’re supposed to get off but we are patient, especially because we don’t speak Thai. Arlene suggests that we will know where we’re going when we get there.  Luka’s truck is nowhere in sight.  “Boat river” Jack gestured with his hands.  The guy says yes but we don’t look like we’re going to the river.  Our driver doesn’t speak English and then shakes his head and says, “Oh no!” and points to his head.  I can’t believe Luka got lost but we found him.  We saw a garden and then went to the boat ramp.

Now the boat people must of heard what happened with the flat tire. So they decided to divide our group into two and we took 2 boats instead of one to lessen the chance and capsizing and eventual sinking.  Luka said we didn’t need life jackets because the river is not that deep. Yeah, right.  We donned our vests and loaded the boat.  We did not have any near sinking’s.  Leroy, Kane, Irma, Lynelle, Jennifer, and I rode the elephants.  Giddyup doesn’t work with these animals.  Some of the tusks needed cleaning and flossing to get those tree branches from between the tusks.  One elephant avoided me since I weighed too much last time.  An elephant never forgets.  Lynelle was training one to nod his head.  He’s no Dumbo.  Kane wanted to ride bareback.  We had a nice jaunt around the park and through the river.  Water seems to increase elephant GI motility.  My suggestion: Do not drink from the river.  Do not swim in the water either.  I’ve been there dung that.

Leroy is year of the Snake and was playing buddy buddy with this 50 lb. python around his neck.  No one dared tell him the snake loves Chinese food.  He’s like Indiana Jones and almost needed to be Indy to get back to Chiang Rai. Remember  the motto “No man left behind”?  Well, according to Bill, it depends upon if you are punctual or not.  We went shopping along the strip to support the locals and were to meet at 1 pm.  We loaded up the vehicles and the van and truck started to leave and we almost hit this guy holding shopping bag in one hand and videotaping in the other not watching where he’s going.  Someone pointed out that he kind of reminds us of Leroy.  “Hey!” Bill chuckles, “It’s Leroy.”  Bill’s accused of not doing a head count.  He said he did but there was one OVER and besides he says, “I’m off today!” So getting extra people I guess it’s standard practice not to see who’s actually there.  Ghan and Libby snuck on board. “It’s only 12:58 and you said 1:00!”  “Well, actually we were just about to go looking for you.  We’re glad we found you; we were worried. Don’t scare us like that, Leroy!”  CYA Bill.

So far we have lost anyone and no one got stuck in Myanmar.  We have had today to regroup and ready to move on.  I overheard Bill whispering to Luka.  Yes I was eavesdropping.  He’s already thinking ahead.  “We really have to work the team.  The team likes it when they work hard.”  Who asked you?  I thought this is supposed to be a vacation.  We are tourists aren’t we?  Make up your mind Bill.  Slave driver.

Medical Team International….Sponsored by Timex

We take and lickin and keep on tickin.

February 26, 2010

Thailand 3.7post eviction

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 1:45 am

Thailand 3.7

February 25, 2010-Thursday-7th day

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FLASH!:  AMERICAN MISSION TEAM BOOTED OUT                                      OF BURMA

First of all I thank God that I am even able writing this at this time and not on a piece of toilet paper in a jail cell that I have to smuggle out and that we (see the definition of we in yesterday’s blog) are not in jail, or prison, or out in the roadside walking home empty handed, or something more terrible.

Secondly, I wish Allison Happy 18th Birthday and I love you and I want to see many more of your birthdays.  I wish I was there instead considering what happened here.

Thirdly, we are back in Chiang Rai, luckily crossing the border before it closed, which, on the bright side, will give us more time in the clinics here.

Here’s the debriefing of today’s excitement:

FAST FORWARD: Woke up. Fewer roosters. Larry happy. Wrote blog. Group to flea market. Irma bought tablecloth.  Ate crispy worms. Bumped into patient. Bob and Libby lost. Have breakfast. Turned in laundry (yeah!). Guy yells “Free Clinic” to local market.  Walked down street to church for clinic. Set up shop. Being watched. Crowds form, Car loads come. More crowd. Start clinics. Got generators. Blew fuse. Jack looses bags again.  Find bags again. See patients.  Police come to check commotion. Oh crap. Pastor confronted. Crowd grows. Some sneak up.  Kicked out. Police talk. Pastors yell.  Ready to rumble. Constable told… Pray to God.

“STOOOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPPP!“ Pastor Jack yells and tests authority.  Few minutes past.  “Resume.”

More minutes past.   Hid satellite phone.  Download ejournal to flash drive.  Police go talk.  Not happy. Ready for lunch. Lunch cancelled. Evicted. “YOU’RE FIRED!”
“Every one pack your bags, we’re leaving NOW! We have 2 hours to get to the hotel and get out of here.” “GO, GO, GO, GO, GO!!!

Frantically pack. Grab things. Grab my daughter. Stuff bins. Pee our pants. Say “Bye-Bye.” Good-bye hugs. Few tears. Dry eyes. Pack truck.  Bob MIA. Rush to hotel. Find Bob. Pack bags. Grab laundry. “GO, GO, GO, GO!!!” Pack vans. Escorted out of town.  Police follow. People wave.  Immigration office. Wait… We leave. Good Riddance. Pray to God. Bumpy road. Throw up. Check points. Wait… Pit stop. Play Squat N Point. déjà vu. Hall butt.  Take naps.  Reach the border. Stand in line. Wait… Feed beggars. Get passport. Cross the border.  Thank God. Kiss the ground. Civilization. Street market. KFC. Pig out. Lick fingers. Go home. Hug Pillow. Thank God. Go to sleep. Close call. Escape with lives.

Whew! And how was your day?

MTI teams is now known as the BOOB team: Booted Out Of Burma.  A BOOB job gone bad.

REWIND: The day started like any other day.  Woke up refreshed waiting for the generator to kick it and noticed the paucity of roosters crowing. We are looking forward to do good deeds today having been encouraged by our production the day before.  A bunch of us gather to go to the farmer’s market.  It’s a huge market several acres large just below this large nice hotel.  It would have been ideal to stay there and go to the market everyday.  This is their livelihood. Whether its pastries, clothes, stuffed animals, food, hardware, flowers, drugs, this is the place to be, kind of their version of Costco.  “The more you buy, the more you save.”  Bargain hunters think they got a steal while the sellers are laughing all the way to the bank.  Some try a delicacy of grubs, crispy worms.  “Good flavor” as Lena would say.  It’s the after taste catches you.  Some guy starts to talk to me.  I don’t speak his language but he shows me his hands and I recognize him as a patient I saw yesterday.  Small world!  We get to the vans and Bob and Libby are gone so we have to look for them but Bob is the least likely to get lost here.  We return to the hotel to have breakfast and Richard says that we just missed a guy with a bullhorn yelling down to a group in the mini-market that there is a free clinic down at the church today, which is just down the street. He chuckles at the thought.  Maybe it’ll drum up some business we think but we don’t realize what’s in store ahead.

It’s so close to the hotel, we walk.  We are relieved that we have power today thanks to the generators.  A crowd is already forming and they are choosing their spots in line and find empty chairs.  We set up shop and have plenty of room.  The dentists are downstairs and Lester nonchalantly hangs out his satellite phone in case he needs to reach the outside civilization.  People are watching.  Carloads carrying people from miles away show up.  We assumed we were going to treat mainly church members and some local folk.  You know, however, when you ASSUME you make an A.. of U and Me.  U being them and us being Me. We are being watched by the authorities, as police come around and check things out.  They get concerned about the crowds that are forming and who we are and what the heck are we doing in there and who gave us permission to do so in the first place.  I dunno.  Quick play dumb.  “Officer, we just happened to be in the area and were just observing and demonstrating how to set up a remote clinic in some 3rd world country in case they wanted to do the same.  Those aren’t real patients; those are actors!” They query, “Aren’t you guys listed as tourists?” “Hmmm…let…me…check.” They have a point.  Maybe that’s why Luka suggested for us to look like tourists and don’t wear our blue scrubs or our photo badges (I didn’t like them any way) when we go into Burma to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. And maybe that’s why we hid the bins way under the luggage. Now I get it.  Because remember, we ARE tourists just bringing our belongings with us so they don’t get lost or stolen.  We just like to play Doctor.  Hey Bill, this was all thought out ahead of time right? What was the worse case scenario that you didn’t want to talk about, the fate of Baptist missionaries in Haiti perhaps?  Luka assured us it was “Safe.”  I realize that the meaning of “safe” is lost in translation.

Pastor Jack runs in the room and waves his hands and yells, “Stop! Stop what you’re doing.”  Then we wait patiently to see what’s going on.  He feels comfortable to say “Resume” and then the church people say let’s pause and have lunch while this gets sorted out in an hour.  Then Pastor returns quickly and says, “Pack up we’re going home.”  Back to the hotel? “No, out of Burma.  We’ve been evicted!”  Then it’s a mad house but we want pack up before all hell breaks loose.  They might confiscate our things and take us to jail.  So I download 3 days of ejournal to flash drive.  We hide the satellite phone because they don’t like the fact that was have access to outside world.

The police are concerned about crowd control.  They don’t want a riot.  The constabulary want control of their turf.  They got a bunch of foreigners coming into a country that is prideful and make it look like the country can’t take of their own people and that looks bad.  We weren’t exactly invited nor welcomed and were working under the radar.  Now they see a blip and we have bogies on our tail ready to fire and blow us back across the border.  We are seen as the “Meddling Team International.” The country likes control even with electricity.  They flip the switch when they want to.  They don’t need your help. After discussing with the local pastor of the church and with the police they want us out and want us out fast.  We have two hours to get out of town and be escorted to the immigration office.  I don’t want to know what “Or else” means.  I did want to spend more time with Jennifer but didn’t expect to be cellmates.

We pack our things, pronto, faster than unpacking.  We don’t have much time.  We say our quick good-byes.  See you later; maybe not.  Bob is missing. But we have a motto, “No man left behind.”  Even Bob.  We later found him at the hotel. How he’d get there first?  I hope he was going to wait for us.  Was there something he knew that we didn’t?  We pack our bags like there is a fire approaching.  Women and children first.  “Adios amigos” Irma yells as we leave a trail of dust.  We are getting out of Dodge.  We run with our tails between our legs. We. We. We. Go. Go. Go.  How apropos that Pastor Jack gave us a wrist band with John 10:4  “We will go…” 10:4, roger that.

A private judicial escort takes us to the Immigration office where we wait nervously as they determine our fate.  Will we be let go to returned to Thailand or will we be detained?  We get through the 1st checkpoint and then the next and so on.  I wont’ bore you with our details going back but we shaved an hour off our road time because we had to get back before 6 pm when the border closes.  If we are late, then what?  Cold cell, bread and water?  We get detained at the Thai/Myanmar border and it takes some time to process and we have to fill out papers. I want to list my occupation as “journalist.” No, no, no, no, no!!! Worse thing to put down. Just kidding, “physician.” We are wondering if there will be a “problem.” We scope out the lay of the land to see if we can make a run through the border.  The runners have an advantage but we can always trip them.  There is a small stream that we can swim across but the toxic water may kill us.  Viagra might not even get us out of this, so I don’t waste them.  The end is in sight. Eureka!  We get our passports and clutch them tightly and cross the border into civilization and I mean civilized.  The feeling is different in Thailand.  The feeling is even better in America.  God Bless America!

We don’t know if we have rooms at the Golden Triangle Inn so I suggest the hotel the late David Carradine frequented.  I always liked “Grasshopper.’  It’s too bad he rubbed his legs in the wrong place.  Bill feels bad for the experience.  Don’t worry we are all in this together.  Like the Army says, “It’s not a job. It’s an adventure.”  So he decides to splurge and says “Dinner’s on me.”  So we head to Kentucky Fried Chicken for a special Thai cuisine.  Thanks Bill.  Always keeps us humble.

We make it home safe and sound. Remember, God won’t put you in situations that you can’t handle. What a relief.  Thank you God.

John 10:4 modified…”We will go…to bed.”

Signing off….Team embarrassed.

February 25, 2010

Thailand 3.6

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:17 pm

Thailand 3.6

February 24, 2010-Wednesday-6th day

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Can’t we get any peace and quiet here in this pitched black campground?  We’re expecting crickets and owls but this sound wakes us up at 4 in the morning.  “Er Er Er…Errr.”  Then there are two roosters then their buddies join in and now we have a quartet of competing roosters. They crow a different dialect here.  I’m pretty sure that in the US “Wake up!” is pronounced “Er er Er er Errr.”

I’m depressed since it’s only 0400.  I try not to make noise but Jennifer is afflicted with insomnia as well, a trait amongst bloggers.  We have to work some time.  There is this muffled noise.  At first I thought it was a speaker system with public propaganda that is played at night.  But I think it’s chanting from the Buddhist and there is a smell of burning either fire or incense in the air.  It is unusually cold this morning as we are dressed for cooler weather so I put some clothes on.  As I breathe out there is vapor from my mouth and that’s inside the room.  The cracks in the walls leading directly outside and the cracks under the door and windows let the morning air and smoke enter the room.  I was mistaken; there is air-conditioning. We do use our laptops to light up the room until the lights come on.  Even the bugs are attracted to our computer screens. And let there be light!  Like clockwork the generator starts up at 0540 cranks up and the engine roars but it’s annoying since it’s just outside our room.  What did I expect for a large corner room with a view and air-conditioning.

We go to the fine dining area which is located on outside pouch.  I see Larry walking looking exhausted.  He’s been up since 0230.  No smile; just says “Roosters for breakfast” and keeps walking without breaking stride.  The cooks look like they are in pajamas cooking like they just got up.  The pho noodle dish is good.  The Arlean and Pastor are less adventurous and prefer the made-for-American toast and eggs, which surprised me, but I guess I don’t know Jack.  Kane put things in perspective.  “Without electricity or internet I have more time to pray and talk to God.  What else is there to do?”   Blog.

We gather in our tour vans and appear to go sightseeing trying to loose anyone who may be following us.  We get to the Agape Kengtong Church and set up.  The size of the work area is smaller and basically it’s their sanctuary.  The triage area is set up under tents outside while the medical, optometry, and pharmacy are set up inside.  The dentists learn from the prior clinic and set up outside way in the back so that the screaming kids are not audible.  Jennifer is too sympathetic and didn’t like what she was seeing and said to Uncle Bill, Uncle Larry, and Uncle Lester (who is also Jennifer’s dentist) said, “ You guys make the kids cry and you have the worse job ever! Okay Jen, don’t hold back, tell us what you really think.  Dentists, I am sure, have a different perspective than patients.  They do get the usual American grade not out-dated anesthetic and these kids and adults alike seem to be a lot more tolerant, free or not, and appreciative than some patients back home.  Pulling teeth is not a pretty site but rest assured they really are anesthetized with the good stuff.  Everything is not rosy like Dr. 90210.  It’s a means to an end for the benefit to the patient.

The optometry department saw a lot of patients who got to sport fashionable eyewear.   They continue to bring sight to the blind and continued they production line.  The medical docs saw infants to geriatrics with the usual complaints of headache, respiratory, fatigue, back pain.  I couldn’t get any facelift patients.  Two government officials popped into the clinic that we were “just visiting” to see what we were doing.  We were concerned with them confiscating equipment or stopping what we were doing.  Hopefully they were just interested in getting freebies for themselves or for cosmetic surgery for their wives.  We feel charitable.  Whatever they want; that’s what I say.

We are grateful for all of the interpreters.   We saw over 5 different ethnicities: Akha, Lahu, Chinese, Burmese, Shan, and others.   We had to use interpreters for interpreters.  Luka was great and would try several languages until he could converse with them.  It was either, “I speak her language!” or “No. I don’t know that one.”  But he alone speaks about 5 languages.  I have a hard enough time with English.

You know I am not one to complain J, but while Jack, Kane, and eye have a production line going.  Bob is on easy street.  He has his concierge practice and sees only VIP patients, especially, with the Burmese with whom he speaks fluently.  They’re like family you know.  For example, a head honcho or honcha comes in with their entourage of three or four.  Bob is a friendly guy you know and loves talking with people, for hours.  And he is a smooth talker. So after he sees one who is officially checked in, they ask, “Oh by the way, be a dear and see my sister, would you?”  Bob is a sucker for a smile.  So that scenario repeated several times until he saw over 20 extra-unregistered people who got in the backdoor.  I mean, it’s okay, since we would have eventually seen some of them anyway.  Maybe I’m just jealous that I got all the decubitus ulcers and warty lesions to cut off and he got the rich and the famous.  I miss my practice.

One interesting patient that we fell in love with was this precious one-year old infant born with a congenital disease.  The whole body was covered with scaly dry patchy skin with cracks.  She had the prettiest eyes but literally 90% of her body was covered with diseased skin.  The docs had a conference to see how to treat her.  Diagnoses included atopic dermatitis or Icthyosis (fish skin disease).  We chose conservative treatment to treat the wounds.  The mother had adopted the baby.  The story goes that the biologic mother died at birth and the rest of the family didn’t want her after seeing the horrific condition.  Their culture was Animistic Lahu those that worship spirits.  They thought the baby was demonic and got rid of her by putting it on some steps perhaps of a church.  The adoptive mother saw the baby felt pity and adopted her.  She looks and plays with the child as if it were her own.  Well, I guess she is.  Blood is not always thicker than water.   God bless her and her baby.

All together we saw about 260 patients today.  That was a good day. Another day at the office it’s Miller time and searched for the local pub for a few drinks but couldn’t find one.  Oh well, I don’t drink anyway but after this trip I might. As we walk wearily back to our rooms, knowing that there is no power yet, Dr. Chinn says, “ The Golden Triangle Inn is looking better all the time.”

We got ready for dinner and Jen entered our bathroom (the one without a definitive shower area and just a toilet and sink) and asked if I took a shower because she stepped into something wet.  I said, “No, it probably didn’t drain.”  She took her shower but I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was probably urine.  I didn’t think we HAD to use the toilet since the whole bathroom gets sprayed down…at some point in time.

After another nice Chinese dinner we only have until 10:30 pm before literally “Lights out.”  Doesn’t leave much for nightlife.  Kengtong is definitely not a party town.

Lights out Kengtong….Medical Team international, Fresno

I have been saving this personnel file to add to a relatively shorter ejournal day so it wouldn’t to be too long so please meet the A-Team:

I keep mentioning we, we, we, we.  No, that’s not my poor French.  I should take this opportunity to define who are “We”.  Here it goes…We are the world… We are the children…We are the ones who make a brighter day so let’s start given…

Okay, okay, I took that last line from Michael Jackson, may he rest in peace.  The answer to that pressing question to who went on this mission will be presented on this Who’s who or Who’s Wu list of Medical Team International, Fresno.  This team has both talent and yeeeaarrrrs of experience.  Some depts. more than others as you will appreciate.

Spiritual Leader: Pastor Danny Jack needs no introduction.  He’s the Great White Hope to some and he tells us what we are SUPPOSED to do and how to act.  Don’t get mad at him because he did not set the rules.  God did.  He has had 35 years experience in ministry.  His experience with Southeast Asians go back with the liberations of the Hmongs to the US assisting in relocating tens of thousand of  Hmongs to Kansas City and Fresno.  He doesn’t let us slack spiritually and makes us do homework with these Chapbooks that he puts together. mien

General Helpers: Jennifer Chin, Irma Jue, Leroy Gee, Richard  Bruce

Jennifer Chin, rookie.  She’s my baby girl. This talent was drafted during her 1st year of eligibility.  She was so excited to go on this trip that she was the first to submit an application last summer.  She received a total of nine vaccinations in preparation for this trip.  She got them so that she wouldn’t get sick.  She got the point. She is working temporary jobs in San Francisco that allowed her to schedule this time off at a moments notice for this trip.   Anyone reading this who may have a permanent job please contact her for her resume.  I would love to get her onto some one elses payroll! She is assigned to the optometric division and gives new meeting to the daily grind (grinding lenses that is). Jennifer, You Go Girl!

Irma Jue, rookie: public relations and marketing manager at Kaiser hospital.  She brings an enthusiasm to this group that is infectious.  Her colorful personality and optimism will continue to reenergize us.  She is a member of the diaconate board at FCBC.  Her familiarity with glasses is invaluable as her late husband, Craig Jue, was an optometric technician for Kaiser.  Through her generosity she established the annual Craig Jue Scholarship for graduating senior high schoolers.  She’s working on a Kaiser $2 co-pay with the villagers but they already told her, “Why $2 when we can get it free?”  Good point.   She self admits that she is a “glutton for punishment” so she volunteered for this trip.  As a reformed cathoholic she was doing penance by hanging around Baptists but eventually became one herself.  Baptists have that affect on people.

Leroy Gee, esquire, rookie: an attorney for the Kings County Courts.  His expertise in the legal system will hopefully keep us out of legal trouble.  With his personal legal counsel by his side, Bill warned me what I say will and can be used against me.   Leroy was interested in doing whatever he can in whatever possible position and is ready to work in whichever capacity he can.  So far he has been lugging Bill’s luggage around so Bill won’t claim a worker’s comp injury.  He’s one of the optical technicians grinding lenses after lenses and is an avid videographer.  If you want to feel what we did, ask for one of his tapes to watch.  He has about 30 hours of footage so far.

Richard Bruce: his background is classified.  He is a true patriot, serving the USA in various capacities official and unofficial.  He is the brawn and troubleshooter or the team.  We can help him best by staying out of his way.  An ex-marine (although once a marine, always a marine) whose favorite saying is, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.  He’s a real trooper and risk taker whose memorable Kodak moment is his spread eagle formation on the back of a truck moving 50 mph during Thailand 1.0.  Contrary to belief, he does know how smile.  Get that whip out and whip those newbie’s into shape.  He doesn’t tolerate slackers.

Nursing Dept.:  Andy Alejo, Cindy Wu, Ming Chong, Arlean Jack, Gail Ho

Andy “Rambo” Alejo: a two-year missions vet nurse who’s nice to have around in those dark back alleys of Thailand.  He takes his years of emergency room experience to the fields and will help triage the patients to the respective departments and go wherever nurses dare to go.  He will use his sensitive side and show compassion, as he will be one of the first contacts to this team of foreigners.  His smile is a reflection of his confidence.  I know not to get on his bad side.

Cindy Wu: the better half of the Wu couple (just stating facts as both Cindy and Bob would agree).  She is a nurse practitioner and college professor.  She will be part of the Triage dept. directing traffic with Andy and who are the gatekeepers and will determine who will or won’t be seen.  She is known for he loud HA HA! Pause… HA HA! (She just did it reading this!) and for her dual double-clutch bear hugs and genuine affection.  She is always a pleasure to be around.  She is a very sensitive person and if you are lucky enough to have her as a friend you’re blessed.

Ming Chong:  our Thai liaison and tour guide.   When we go to Thailand he’s like an American Express card…don’t leave home without him or you’ll get lost.  Wait, HE got lost last time!  As a native Thai his stomach is stronger than yours so don’t eat what he does.  He’ll work as a psychiatric nurse for Fresno County and is our very own translator as he speaks about 5 languages.  He is a wealth of information when it comes to Thai culture.   Let him pick your brain and discover your psyche.

Arlean Jack: arguably the better half of the Jacks (I see a trend here) and wears the pants in the family despite Pastor’s constant sermons on submission.  She’s an OB nurse specialist at St. Agnes Medical Center so I hope we get a chance to deliver a few babies so we can see her in action.  She’s upbeat and not as serious as we think she is and has a great sense of humor.  He keeps her husband in line and his best counsel.

Gail Ho: definitely better half of the Hos (definitely a trend).  She keeps Bill sane and her soothing voice is equal to 10 mg of Valium.  She is one of the nicest people you meet and never will talk bad about you (to your face at least).  An eternal optimist and a very sensitive, empathetic individual, she comes out of retirement during these mission trips to support her husband.  She makes a better roommate than me.  She’s his bag lady. “Don’t let that bag out of your site!”

Pharmacy Dept.: David Chow our veteran drug dealer and drug pusher (35 years).   It’s amazing he doesn’t get glasses from the optometry dept. since he could go cross-eyed counting tens of thousands of pills.  He’s a poker face with a dry sense of humor.   I like him already.  When he speaks, we listen, but we have to figure out if he’s joking around.  A man of many talents, he’s delegating the optical chores this time to Jen, a task he helped out the last mission.

Medical Dept.: Kane Kuo, Jack Patton, Bob Wu, Mark Chin (80 years of experience)

Kane Kuo, rookie: a much needed emergency room physician formerly attended FCBC for four years and moved to SoCal to practice ER medicine (SoCal vs. Fresno? What were you thinking?).  His passion to help on this trip is expressed by his very presence, a commitment that pulled him from his very busy LA practice.  He makes a valuable asset to this medical team with his expertise in acute care and trauma medicine.  The guy has an appetite and I would like to know his secret to staying thin.

Jack Patton: a cross between Marcus Welby and House.  His knowledge of medicine is equaled by his knowledge of the Bible and the history of the churches.  A walking encyclopedia I usually just nod at what he’s saying because it’s going over my head.  A gentleman with a gentle voice, he has become my mentor in family medicine.  He recently retired after 40 years in practice but is so good they asked him to come back.  If you have the time (a lot of time) he’s a great conversationalist.

Bob Wu: hey Wu, you who. He’s a passionate man indeed and very opinionated in his beliefs.  Don’t get in a debate with him.  I also just nod my head when he’s talking (but I roll my eyes too).   We have history and we go way back to medical school and residency.  He’s why I’m at FCBC.  Bob’s a talented physician and musician and has made great sacrifices and has already been serving Burmese clinics for several years.  He salivates at the thought of spending a week in Myanmar.  With an anesthesiologist on board we might get to do a little surgery.  He’ll be and asset as our translator Burma and will know his way around.  I’m going to stick by him.

Mark Chin: AKA as Dr. 93710.  He has an affinity for blood as long as its not his own and hopes he gets a chance to “Cut to cure.”  A trained plastic surgeon turned GP on these missions; he flies by the seat of his pants, with Dr. Patton looking over his shoulders.  He is responsible to accurately record the daily activities of the medical team in detail as best as he can remember.  That there lies the problem since his Old Timers disease is prematurely arriving so he might have to make up a few things along the way.  Don’t take him too seriously.  Most people don’t anyway.

Dental Dept.:   Lynelle Win, Larry Lowe, Lester Lowe, Bill Ho (108 years of experience)

Lynelle Win, rookie: a very personable and likable dental hygienist in the field for over 20 years.  She likes to get to know the inside of a person, especially their mouths.  Her commitment to this mission is supported by the fact that she risks the lives of her three children leaving them in Tom’s hand and misses them dearly.  She adds a woman’s touch to the dental team.

Lester Lowe:  down the fort and with Larry is the core of the dental team.  He’s dependable and would give his shirt off his back to you and let you keep it.  He’s the high tech guru and with this satellite phone ensures that we have contact to the outside world all the time.  Look forward to his best-selling DVD of the Thailand mission trip and ask for the last two in this ongoing mini-series.

Larry Lowe: tag team member of the Lowe Bros. He’s a happy-go-lucky guy and when you are around Larry you are probably smiling.  He’s a workhorse and troubleshooter and is the master of extraction.  No tooth can hide from him.  A man dedicated to his job at home or abroad.

Bill Ho: needs no introduction.  After a long and successful dental career he retired to commit himself to church and mission work such as this one.  He is the life force behind this team and drives to our max.  He makes us guilty because we can’t keep up with him.  His brain is always thinking and is always a few steps ahead of us.  A humble gentleman who desires no credit, he deserves accolades, but when the do-do hits the fan, he gets the heat.  He shows true grit.

Optometry Dept.: Dennis Chinn, Akira Tajiri (117 years! of experience or 4,237, 452 eyes examined, give or take)

Dennis Chinn: that O.D. means he O.D.s on effort.  Don’t let his age full you but he outpaces a lot of younger guys like me, but that might not be saying much.  He’s often the last one packing and the one of the longest ones working.  He’s a friendly guy with a warm smile and makes the patients happy especially with his God given talents.

Akira Tajiri: inventor, optometrist extraordinaire, and entrepreneur.  He’s not a man of many words because he doesn’t have time to talk because he is working so hard.  He’s a generous man donating thousands of dollars worth of equipment and supplies for glasses toward overseas mission projects.  He is the inventor of the process that allows the team to grind the lenses on the spot and make glasses to give to the patients within an hour.   At 82 years-young it shows that you are never too old to give back and serve.  No excuses now.

Luka Chermui: honorary team member who is our Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar liaison.  He is the Thailand Ministries Foundation Administrator which runs the Akha Medical Clinic and Akha Youth Development Center which provide housing and scholarships for over 100 students.  The foundation serves the hill tribe people.  He also has a tea industry to raise funds for the foundation and FCBC’s Bull Ministry provide cattle for the tribe people and we helped purchase a rice field so that it -could feed the students and make them more self-sufficient.

When we return congratulate these individuals for a job well done as they are representatives of First Chinese Baptist Church of Fresno.


Thailand 3.5

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:15 pm

Thailand 3.5

February 23, 2010-Tuesday-5th day

We met for breakfast and discussed the day’s itinerary subject to change.  Today will be a travel day so we had to pack our things up again but we will be back.  We are going into Myanmar and hopefully coming out too.  We sang “Happy Birthday” to Cindy.  She wouldn’t let us spank her.  Neither would Bob.  Dr. Tajiri handed out neatly wrapped bags of special candy for all of us to suck on.  The dentists inquired, “Sugarless?”

The plan is to drive across the border hopefully getting everything and everyone across.  We have a truck and three matching Toyota vans to disguise us as a tour group.  My van looked like the partridge family bus with all these flower decorations on the side. As we gather our things, Bill gives Gail some of his bags that, Gail hands it off to Jack who casually tosses in the back of the van.  Later, Bill is frantically looking around for his bags and asks Gail what she did she you do with his bags and she said, “I think it’s in the back of the van.  So he runs to the van and tosses out all this luggage out until he finds this crumple baggage sitting on the bottom of the pile and, somewhat relieved but still shaking, says “You weren’t suppose to take your eyes off of it! This wasn’t suppose to leave your side!”  Bill gets excited some times.  It was his moneybag that he got from the bank yesterday to cover us for the next five days, essentially our lifeline, and has all of our plane tickets back to the US.  The money may help us get out of Myanmar too.  I’m still counting on the Viagra.

It’s odd that as we fill up the vans they don’t want too many into any one van.  They don’t want to overload the vans and these aren’t mini-vans either.  They’re used to small Thai people who are used to fitting three adults on a scooter, not us plus-sized Americans.  They are embarrassing us.  They try to fit only six but then fit hesitantly seat seven or eight passengers even though it can seat10 plus a driver.  The driver looks at the tires to see if they’re flat. Don’t worry we’re not that fat. We only take up one seat on the airline anyway.  Sheeesh!

Now this is hilarious.  We start to drive and this is a deluxe van that is decked out with a customized on-board entertainment system including this 17 inch drop-down screen for viewing movies, etc. and a flip-up DVD screen on the dash.  A karaoke video starts playing so that we can learn to sing the Mambo Rock.  The only problem is that no one is looking at the words because these scantily closed women in these thong bikinis are dancing and moving and getting into positions that I did know that were anatomically possible.  The moves could have been to “Shake Your Bootie.”  The driver is proud of his collection and wanted to give us some American entertainment that he surely knew we would enjoy.  We are laughing from embarrassment.  I’m worried about Dr. Chinn and Dr. Tajiri and reach for the AED just in case of cardiac arrest.  Personally, I wanted to critique those bodies but was unimpressed because, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I’ve made better.  We ask for a different video and he has about a dozen discs all with the same dancing and singing videos.  I’m worried about the driver keeping his eyes on the road and watching those curves on not on those curves on those bodies.  To keep us from sinful lustful thoughts the driver changes the disc to a CD where there is a blank screen to allow the steamed-up windows to clear from the couple making out in the back.  God tests us in strange and unusual ways.

I am still wondering if it is safe to go into Myanmar.  Are the powers to be telling us everything?  Then why was it Luka’s suggestion to look like tourists and don’t wear our scrubs when we go to Myanmar?  I don’t get it.  I will give you other details if and when after we get out of Myanmar, if you get my drift, but if you see photos of us looking like tourist is that if anyone is wondering and monitoring this journal or it gets intercepted is that’s because that is our sole purpose is to go to Myanmar as tourists and have fun and spend lots of money in Myanmar to support there country because that is what we like to do and that’s because that’s the kind of people that we are is to travel 36 hours one day and loose sleep and unpack and repack everything in the middle of the night and then travel again 7 hours with 5 inspection points.  We might have to carry some things we brought to Thailand that we don’t want left in Thailand so we don’t loose them but we are just carrying them with us and not going to use anything because we are just going to Myanmar just to have fun and spend money to feed the economy.  We are not going to liberate anyone or bring orphans back or anything like that.  But of course being a medical dental team we might coincidentally want to visit some clinics to learn new methods so that we can add to our experience and future reference.  If they ask us to demonstrate some American technology or techniques and other things like showing optometry inventions of course we will be accommodating since they asked and we want to be like friendly Americans and maintain cordial international relationships.  Also we are grateful for Bob Wu who is a Burmese native for allowing us to accompany him while he looks up family members but we might get detoured along the way and do some sightseeing.

We stop at the Thailand-Myanmar border and have to get out of the cars and walk over the bridge.  We are escorted into this dark room and get our picture taken and have to give up our passports at the border and get them when we come back.  It disturbs me to see a row of passport on the wall under “Unclaimed.”  It took about an hour to get processed and we are let through but without a passport.  Someone is holding onto our permits so if we are stopped we have no papers and could be in trouble.  Richard says he doesn’t need any papers to get out.  I wonder what his connection is.  I carry around my Viagra in case I need to get out of situations or make friends.  Bill yells at me to put it away.  Can’t they take a joke?  There is a small baby being pushed across the border and someone is so excited and says how cute she is.  Don’t get any ideas on bringing them back, okay?

We thought we’re going on a leisurely sightseeing ride to Kengtong on one of Myanmar’s premier highways as depicted on our map.   Have you been on the big dipper at Santa Cruz beach boardwalk?  Mix that with Malibu Grand Prix racing for six hours on the road and you’ll my drift as in Tokyo Drift.   The road conditions were hazardous being one and a half wide roads for both directions with potholes and mudslides adding to the bumpy ride so much that we would hit our heads on the roof.  Pastor had no complaints since it straightened his back out!  There were swerves within swerves going fifty MPH dodging obstacles.  And this is their good road!  Our only relief was the periodic inspections where paying money gets you through.  At one we lost traction and swerved and the driver skillfully kept us from going off the cliff.  He slowed down and peaked out the window to look at the rear tire and then pulled over.  He shrugged his shoulders and then continued more cautiously which would eventually proved to be prudent.  We stopped at a food stop and closer inspection revealed a completely flat rear tire.  The drivers looked at the situation and, loosely translated, said, “Oink! Oink!  Those Americans blew out the tire!”   I wont say who was in the van that was overloaded with the wide load attached to the back or who was directly sitting over that tire but I will say that I was in there but I did my part by dropping weight before I came on this trip. Obviously others didn’t.  See, fat can be hazardous to our health; it almost cost us our lives.  Fat sucks so you guys better see me when we get back so I can suck fat.   At this pit stop I wanted Bob to help me order a Coke.  I asked specifically for Coke Zero and he was quite irritated.  “Mark, they don’t need to be on a diet!  They need all the calories that they can get. Look at that guy over there.  You think he needs diet Coke?”  Thank you for your opinion Bob.  Okay, there aren’t too many size 2 adult males in the US but maybe we could have avoided a flat tire if we were.  Someone, who I won’t identify asked, “Hey driver, do you think you can turn on the video while you fix the flat?  Take your time.”

We crossed the road, as a jungle fire was 10 feet from the edge of the road.  It supposed to be a controlled burn, so-called “slash and burn” so that the tribes can plant in a new field.  I didn’t see any fire trucks around so what keeps it from spreading?  Lack of Santa Ana winds, I guess.  It’s a good thing we’re going away from it.  We got to stop for lunch and a few riders look green. Good thing Jack brings motion sickness medication (he charges an arm and leg for it) but they threaten to barf on him so he gives them out for free.  Gail and Irma play a game in the john to see who’s a better aim when squatting and must be having a grand ole time since they can be heard laughing down the hallway.  Irma cries, “Don’t leave me!”  I guess she was pissed.  The newbie’s carefully examined the juicy delicacies trying to decide if the dishes are edible. “Brown tofu?” someone asks.  No it’s boiled blood soup.  Coagulated blood is cut into cubes and added to soup.  I don’t think that the dish is Burmese; I believe it originated in Transylvania.

When we get there at the hotel in Kengtong we are relieved to see a large modern hotel. Finally luxury; we deserve to be pampered and we are hoping for all of the amenities.  This is what I’m talking about!  It was a really grueling road trip that we all looked forward to end.  We looked exhausted but all we did was sit and try to sleep and not to vomit on our neighbor.  We were cramped and tight and were ready to stretch out and use the restrooms.  Truly we were beat. Even Richard was tired from hanging on the back of the van the whole time.  The hotel looks nice but after careful examination the truth comes out.  God gave me an attitude adjustment.

The manager came out and welcomed us and started to hand out room keys.  Now the rooms varied from “inside cabin” rooms on a ship where space is a premium and are like a closet to cabins with a dual king sized beds.  I guess they were ready for us plus-sized Americans this time.  We hope we don’t break the bed frames.  She says, “Enjoy your stay! Oh, by the way, the electricity is only on from 5:30-7:00 am and from 6:30-10:30 pm.”   Huh? Talk about power shortage!  Richard did they forget to tell you about our rolling power outages?  This is true throughout the city especially where we have to go so Richard, our planner and organizer, is freaking out.  I’m selfishly thinking, “You can’t have my batteries.” We need power to work.  It’s nice to have someone thinking about these minor details. Generators have to be rented and taken to our area or it will be a short day. There is also no heater or air-conditioning either.  When we have black out we get these little LED lights (wow, high tech!)  that are equivalent to a night light that we can turn on to guide our way to the toilet at night.  I guess we are camping.  It brings back memories and now I remember why I don’t like to go camping.  Satellite TV is provided during those electricity times but we don’t speak Burmese except for Bob.  Oh, some of us have a dual showerhead “His and Hers” set up (Arlean and Pastor) while some have just a toilet and the sink and a spray hose and a large garbage bin sized bucket.  Leroy suggested that we stand in the bucket to collect the run-off of the water.  I think I’d trip and get a concussion.  The sink is nice but it drains onto the floor toward the corner of the room.  So we are supposed to take a shower when the electricity is available if you want a hot shower and let it spray all over the floor so it drains to the corner too.  We get a flushable toilet! “Yippee!”  But the pressing question was if there was toilet paper in the rooms.

I’m going to go into power withdrawal.  Omagosh! There isn’t cell service either and the closest internet is a 30 minutes walk. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO!?!?!? I calculate that Bill can run there in 10 minutes so we will elect him to go.  If you don’t get any internet contact or blogs from Jen or me it’s because Bill wouldn’t go.  Blame Bill; email him how disappointed you are in him.  Also, we have no pool, no spa, no concierge, no room service, no fun.  Fun is relative.  Great if we were camping.

The powers-to-be decided going to Mong La at the China border would be too hazardous to our health.  China is trying to control Burmese Mong La and they don’t like it.  It’s like Clovis trying to control Fresno.  Hah!  We’d say, “Get out of my face!” too. Splitting the group was briefly considered since Mong La was really counting on us and we did not want to disappoint.  But we’re a team!  We gotta stick together.  Besides Bill has all the money.  Any way the ride would be 3 hours long and the road conditions are even worse.  At some particular point we would have needed to get out and push the van.  (They probably didn’t want these Americans-of-size to collapse the bridge.) Then our return drive to Thailand would have taken over 9 hours on those roads.  Talk about Chinese torture!  There still is tension between the junta and the Chinese and we might get caught in the middle so we will stay visiting.  God, thank you for granting wisdom to the team leaders.

The team went into town to a Chinese restaurant and had a good meal. We do get fed well on these trips. The power suddenly shut off and we thought the electric curfew went into affect.  We got punked. “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Dear Cindy, Happy Birthday to you.”  A single candle lit the room and we celebrated her birthday.  Barely palatable Fig Newton type of cake was served and she was touched by the thought.  No spanking opportunity once again.  We are carefully watching our water consumption.  Luka is drinking the soda with ice cubes in it.  I ask him if it’s safe to drink with the ice.  He says, ”Sure, it’s safe.”  He drinks a little more.  “I’ll tell you tomorrow if it’s safe. HA! AH! HA!”  Yeah, we know what that laugh means.  I’m overly concerned since that last ice cubes took three days for my body to defecate, I mean evacuate.  You’ve hear of ring around the collar.   I had ring around the buttocks.

It’s been a long day.  We get up at least by 0600 every day.  Some of our biologic clocks are out of sync and are up at 3-4 am…so we blog.  Tomorrow itinerary is to visit locally and visit the Agape Baptist Church and hang out with them.  Remember, we are looking forward to that great tour tomorrow and opportunity for cultural exchange, aren’t we gang?

It’s lights out early tonight at 10:00 pm even before the electric curfew when the streets are completely black.  It gives quiet time a new meaning.

Nigh nigh…zzzzzzzzzz.

Thailand 3.4 4th day

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:13 pm

Thailand 3.4

February 22, 2010-Monday- 4th day

Most of us were early risers today, REALLY early due to the lack of acclimation to the new time zone.  We were in the zone but in the wrong one.  Even the rooster hadn’t crowed.  Lester and Larry went to he market, some of us blogged, and others repacked for a day trip to the Sahasartsuksa School (I got the spelling right this time).  After a pleasant meal topped with a mango/sweet rice combination we gathered in the lobby to sign documents and more documents for our visas into Myanmar.  It would have been a heck of a lot easier to stay in on place but it’s hard for Bill to sit still in one place so the team is on the move.

We looked so cute with our matching blue scrub uniforms and laminated photo ID badges with MTI and FCBC logos furnished and professionally hand crafted by Gail and Bill.  They’re so talented.  A few dedicated and proud individuals (“good listeners”) liked the badges so much that they wore them all the way from Fresno to Bakersfield to LAX to Bangkok to Chiang Rai on the bus and on the plane in their sleep and while awake; they wore them like jewelry for 36 hours!  I found out later they just didn’t want to get lost from the group.  We either look like a large tour group or a special needs group lined up with our respective photos so that we all know what we look like and say “nice picture”.  Some photos look like mug shots and others looked like models especially the one that looks identical to the one on the cover of SALT Fresno magazine. But the idea was to look professional.  I think that the badges and the lanyards are really our leashes because it’s been pretty ruff so far.  Our transportation arrived with Luka’s team that included some interpreters and church members.  It was a pleasure to see Ghan, Luka’s wife again.  She has such a pretty smile and remembered us all.  I tried introducing Jennifer as my wife but no use tricking her.  Jennifer got grossed out.  She’s pretty sharp and I couldn’t fool her.

And then I saw Auntika, or “A” as we call her.   You might recall her from the pictures we took of her condition vitiligo.  Her face had looked like a sad clown’s face with dripping tears of normal naturally normal dark skin on a pale white face and spotty hands and arms with splotchy brown and white pigment.   Her unnatural light skin always made her stand out in a people-of-color crowd and the vitiligo (MJ’s disease) patches made it more so.  The last trip I had brought her some cover makeup to blend the darker skin to lighter so that it was more uniform and   was less of an attention getter.  When I saw her from a distance I noticed that she had an EVEN skin tone.  It was either a great makeup job or maybe she had some special treatment that American medicine couldn’t treat and that I had no knowledge in treatment.  I felt humbled at first until she said that the dark spots just went away after getting married about a year ago.  We were happy that she appeared “cured” in that her skin complexion was even and looked relatively normal, to us.  Before her unevenness brought her attention but now it was just her beauty.  Aesthetically it looked a lot better.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I was truly happy for her.

Vitiligo rarely goes into remission and is very hard to treat; really it’s rarely cured.  So I jumped on the chance to brag how my magic application of the makeup cascaded into a cure.  Lester coughed and I heard muffled “God-complex”; yes I felt empowered.  A few moments it hit me and I was again humbled to my knees.  Thank you Lester for bringing me down to earth.  It dawned on me that the vitiligo was actually worse and now has spread to the other pigmented areas wiping those remaining melanocytes out.  Now she was pale white.  She is supposed to be DARK!  THAT is her natural color, not white.  Further discussion with her revealed that the condition developed in childhood it didn’t really bother her; she just lived with it.  Now she feels that she is too white like an albino and is more self-conscious about her skin because her ghostly complexion stands out amongst her native villagers.  Some in her culture believe that when you loose your color that you will die soon and she is scared.

She lacks the protective mechanism of the melanocytes and needs to protect her skin from the sun and the UV radiation that makes her susceptible to skin diseases.  Her arm pigment is fading and she doesn’t wear shorts due to remaining vitiligo patches.  I brought her more blending and cover up makeup if she wanted to blend the remaining areas.  But sadly, she isn’t cured, rather worse.  My professional business is beauty but my interpretation of beauty including even skin tone needs to be reevaluated.  Someone asked her, ”So you’re married now, is your husband cute?”  She just responded by holding her hand against her chest and said, “He has a good heart.”  Now THAT’S beautiful.

We loaded up the trucks and bus headed out to the school.  Richard yelled out “same spot” and jumps on the back of the bus clutching the bars spread eagle.  I think he was in the marine airborne division.  Go ahead, be my guest.  Richard looks death in the face and just laughs.  I think he has a death wish but he is as giddy as a school boy having a great time.  The school’s just minutes away as we passed the golf course the Lowe’s yelled “detour!” Bill had his own detour to the bank with Luka to change currency so that he could cover our expenses on this trip but I wondered as you could hear that all familiar laugh all the way to the bank!

We set up in our usual spot with Bob and Cindy manning the triage area guarding the gates so to speak.  Crowd control.   People line up crowding the entrance screaming and raising their hands waving like a Hanna Montana concert.  Remember they’re kids.  Oh, adults are doing that too!  Andy and Cindy assure them that they will be seen. Next!

We anticipate that today’ scenario is an example of what each clinical day will be like.  The first hour is to unload set up all the equipment and stations (remember the bins?): eye charts, eye examination, optical bench to grind lenses and install into frames, medical, dental, and pharmacy stations.  Today we have the luxury of a large room; at some clinics we are bumping elbows.  The triage area check-in the patients get vital signs and determine their concerns or ailments.  Do they want an eye exam and need glasses or do the teeth need cleaning or do they have a toothache?  What medical complaint do they have? Luka’s team provide the much needed and appreciated interpreters.  Pastor Jack escorts the patients to their respective waiting areas and tries to get them to accept Christ.  He only gets about fifteen seconds to do that so it’s pretty hard.

Irma and Gail do the eye chart examinations.  When the patient says, “What chart?” they know they have a problem.  Irma gets a lot of stares because she’s so hot looking.  But they are also trying to figure out what she is.  I mean ethnically.  She doesn’t think that they have seen a Mexican before.   Arlean helps Dr. Chinn with the actual eye examination determining the prescriptions.  The Rx is taken to Dr. Tajiri who then selects the lenses and guides Leroy and Jennifer into making the glasses who grind the lenses smooth to fit and pop into the frame.   They sit at a bench with this tremendous ear-piercing hum from the vacuum whining to remove the fine mist of particles from the grinding glass.  That vacuum sucks. They wear masks and eye protection.  They need earplugs but after the trip they won’t need them since they’ll probably be deaf (workers comp!) and they are at risk for developing pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovocanoconiosis (go look that up in Webster’s) from the inhaled silicon dust.  They deserve hazard pay.  Maybe it’s a bad idea to have the attorney working in that particular position.  The patients all smile as they walk away with custom made Tajiri designer glasses.  Some with 20/20 vision don’t need glasses but want to buy the frames just for their looks. Incidentally, if I didn’t mention it or if I did it deserves mentioning again, Dr. Tajiri has donated about $10,000 worth of optical supplies.  Kudos to Dr. Tajiri.

The optometric dept. works like mad cranking out lenses after lenses making dozens of glasses.  You can see the cloud of dust hovering around Leroy and Jen. They are  working like mad and the team delegate at least six team members to function with efficiency. They were almost done when one patient tried to sneak in and was almost turned away but the team felt sorry so they fitted him for glasses.  When he put them on he cried, “I can see!”  They were so glad  that they let him through. The optical crew was the last to pack  up and look exhausted.

I know that they cannot see into the future but it is my opinion that this backlog could have been avoided by the Eye team. They could have been more visionary and better prepared for the onslaught of patients.  They were blinded by the fact that there was way too many patients to see in so little time.  However, their reputation proceeded them.  If they had foresight they would have eyeballed the situation and after careful examination they could have seen what was developing.   Instead they had tunnel vision that clouded their judgment.  Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 and they all wouldn’t have left red-eyed.  See what I mean?  Hopefully, they will see it coming next time.  Is that clear?

The pharmacy dept. sets out and displays their drugs organized from Amoxicillin to Zithromax.  You can identify the pharmacy with the sign DrugsRUs hanging over Dave’s head.  David is the lone pharmacist this trip and already we miss Ben and Gerry.  He’s trying to drum up business and asks, “Drugs anyone?”  After counting thousands of those pills one-by-one

The medical docs set up stations for physical examinations and are ready for poking and probing and injections of medications.  A student desk becomes a makeshift OR table and examination bed.   I requested my own boutique section for BOTOX injections but was denied. I’m a moron having not brought my stethoscope.  What was I thinking! It’s like wearing a holster without a gun. Got my scalpel though.  I sheepishly ask Cindy if I can borrow one of hers and she says, “Baaaad doc!”

Kane looked around and in a confused and surprised look asks, “Where is the CT scan?  What?  No X-rays, no labs?”  Sorry Kane but finding out if someone’s diabetic you have to use the “taste test” on the urine. Or if you’re too squeamish see if the ants are attracted to the urine.  Do you want to know how we obtain a stool specimen to check for worms?  You will pray that you get a glove 50% of the time.  In the US we’re so high tech that 80% of the diagnoses is based on tests and not by touching the patient. He’s looking for gloves that are in limited supply.  We actually have to touch the patients and risk catching what they have and our aseptic technique is far from ideal.  Jennifer knew that so that’s why she got nine vaccinations.  Masks are one barrier.  Our own skin is the other one.  But we like to be hands on.  We see headaches, dermatologic disorders, orthopedic injuries, repetitive stress injuries, tendinitis, aches and pains, GI disorders, ear infections, and respiratory conditions.  Okay, that was one patient and then we move on to the next.

We get a steady stream of patients but fortunately when it gets slow the docs get a chance to work on their golf swings. Being a surgeon I can’t help my thirst for blood and the triage nurses send me a bone now and then.  Most surgical problems can’t be dealt with here.  But this hanging, protruding eyelid lesion bothers this one patient so I quickly prepare my Ginzu knife to lop it off.   Kane is concerned with my eyesight since I have to wear these telescopic loopes that he helps me see better with his flashlight. Swish! Swoosh! Gone in 60 seconds.  Okay, I’m not that good but seven stitches later she’s cured.  Leroy is fascinated and gets in on tape.  Jack’s experience really helps out and we often bounce cases off of him for advice.  His soft and soothing voice not only calms the patient but calms me down too!  Bob is in his element and enjoys talking to the patients.  He’s done this a lot working in Myanmar helping out with the medical clinics near Mae Sot.    I’m reminded to stop telling the patients that we accept cash check or credit card with an id.  I forget I’m not at home.

The dentists always seem to be organized.  They are up and running in a flash with four treatment substations, one for cleaning and one for extractions and two with capabilities of restoration.  Lynelle gets her feet wet right away and starts going to the patients and says, “Ahhh.”  She gets a clue why their here and either cleans their teeth or send them over to the dentists.  Larry is the extraction maniac flinging teeth over his shoulder one by one.  Lester and Bill are on a seek and destroy mission for cavities, drill out a hole, patch it up with tooth bondo then delicately craft the new architecture.  Richard is at the center of attraction and has his central supply unit for instruments and cleaning.  Fortunately the loud high-pitched humming from the optical vacuum cleaner drowns out some cries and protest from the children dental patients.  Curiously a few students changed their minds and “Uh, no thanks” and bolted.  Those dentists need sensitivity training or at least turn up the music to drown out excess noise so that the kids won’t be scared away.

This was a nice day as a dry run in a controlled setting.  It’s not going to be nicer than this.  We got spoiled today with the facilities and space.  How did we do? In about seven hours we saw 52 eye patients, 57 medical patients, and 61 dental patients.  Pretty fair distribution.  We felt pretty good and we are ready for the tougher challenges and conditions and longer day.  The newbie’s jumped right in and I am amazed at how smooth the day actually went.

Of note is that a few American Baptist missionaries started this Sahasartsuksa School in 1957 in a shack with 57 students.  Now it serves 3200.   The school administrator knows the history and was appreciative to Pastor Jack for the Baptists coming back once again.

There was this 17 year-old girl, the last one of the day who was upset.  Pastor Phonekeo helped calm her down and then began to talk about Christ and her beliefs.  He shared his personal story with her and at the end, prayed with pastor and accepted Christ into her life.  One conversion; one at a time.  Yes it was a good day.

MTI, Fresno…signing off

February 21, 2010

Thailand 3.3b

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 11:34 pm

Thailand 3.3b

February 20, 2010-Sunday night-3rd day

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We lost Saturday crossing the time zones so we arrive here in Bangkok on Sunday so I’m finishing Sunday’s entry.  How time flies.  Literally.  Our weary sweaty bodies arrived into Bangkok at 10 am and the end of our journey is in sight.  The 15 plus hour flight was highlighted with an eating and sleeping and movie cycle that repeated three times.  Bread crumbs were given to the Economy class by the Premium Economy travelers as a token of their sympathy.  During the 3-hour layover we caught up with Ming, who has been visiting his mother in Bangkok, at the airport but missed Bob and Cindy as they went ahead to Chiang Rai on a different connection from Myanmar.  The Wus spent the last few days visiting the four orphanages that were the beneficiaries of the November concert proceedings to determine how the funds were to be distributed.

Our luggage check out was a fiasco.  35 tags, 31 pieces of luggage and bins.  We were short 3-4 bins that were located somewhere between Bangkok and Chiang Rai.  We hope.   Several understandably cranky and now impatient individuals had their own suggestions to figure out which ones were missing and prayed we would get them later.  It took us awhile to unload the already stacked luggage in a chronological order of 31 and match the claim tags so that they can track the missing bins.   The teams efforts and effectiveness depends upon those bins of supplies, drugs, and equipment.  We could be crippled with critical lost and missing items.  We determine that we have an extra tag.  Go figure.

We hear a soft Sawadee! in the distance get louder.  Luka, our Thai/Akha liaison greeted us in the luggage claim area and broke the tension that had been mounting with his warm greeting and smile.  His reunion with me was met with anticipation.  Did my physical training and dieting in preparation for this moment pay off?  As he shook my hand and looked me over I sucked in my gut and he said to me,  “You look the same.  Did you dye your hair?”   I took is as a complement; at least I didn’t look pregnant.  The same identifiably and unique nasally Luka laugh followed.  Doug Owyang does a great imitation.

Our reception party included our old friends Gi and Bla who work for the Thai Akha ministry and Luka’s three children. My how have they grown up; I reflected how young they were four years ago.   Libby, a nurse practitioner from Seattle who will be joining the team was introduced.  She has been volunteering on the compound for about a year.   The crew greeted us with two trucks and a school bus.   Our relatively larger American frames fit into this made for Thai-sized children school bus.  It reminded me of the Guatemalan medical trip years ago as we cramped in a small school bus with our knees to our chest and road for six hours on a bumpy road.  Just get us to the swimming pool!  We packed the trucks and as we caravanned back to the hotel Richard assumed his traditional spread eagle “human cargo net” position as Lester so aptly describes it riding on the back of the truck protecting the cargo from flying off and out of the truck.  I think Richard lives for this Evel Knievel moment.  Nanette, if you can see him now, you’d be proud…and scared.  The ride was familiar and welcomed.  It gave us a sense of enthusiasm and purpose.   Watching the people and the poverty and meager means of sustenance was humbling.

We arrived at our old stomping grounds at the Golden Triangle Inn at 4 pm about 36 hours after we left Fresno.   The team is bushed and can barely keep our eyes open.  Bob and Cindy greeted us sipping Mai Tais and eating bon bons exclaiming, “This is the life!”   Alright, delete that last vision, I was delusional.  The Inn is basically unchanged.  Tropical surroundings and familiar faces and décor are recognizable.  Still, no swimming pool.  Darn!  Electric outlets are a premium with one outlet in the bedroom and one in the bathroom hidden behind a mirror.

I am almost embarrassed at all the “essential” electronic and high tech gear that I have lugged on this trip.  Laptop computer, portable DVD drive, Canon DSLR camera with 60 gb of memory cards, strobe light, photo printer, noise-cancelling ear phones, iPhone, spare cell phone, camcorder, diagnostic light handle, two headlights, and two flashlights, no wonder my two carry ons weigh sixty pounds.  (At least I left my beeper behind.)  This techy has an insatiable appetite for electrical energy for his power consuming gear.  I LOVE THE POWER!!! At every opportunity and pit stop along the way I was an electrical outlet magnet.  Oh, you would be too lucky if my batteries died and I couldn’t journal.  I still might have to ration my rechargeable batteries.  Okay! Okay!  I AM A TECHNO JUNKY!  I admit it!  I broke the mirror struggling to get at the outlet hidden behind it and now I am subject to seven years bad luck!  I’ll have to go to that Tiger Woods retreat for rehab when I get back.  God, please have someone mug me so that I can detox and withdraw in a controlled setting! Nah, I’ll get some Prozac from our pharmacy to deal with the anxiety.

Jen and I must have a deluxe room since we have two lights with about 60 watts total.  There is an electric water heater in the shower but we don’t expect a steamy bath.  We’ll just try not to get electrocuted.  Here’s an upgrade.  The hotel offers limited wi-fi that keeps us from having to go downtown everyday but it doesn’t reach our rooms.  We have to go to the lobby where the hot spot is and fight off the mosquitoes and roaming lizards and geckos.  Bill, is this really a three star hotel?  The rick-shaw Ben and Gerry were posing in during a photo shoot is still broken but the overgrown grass almost covers it now.   Oh, I forgot; this is not a vacation but I didn’t think it was a camping trip either.  We have bottled water to brush our teeth and to hydrate.  Okay I believe it now; DON’T DRINK THE TAP WATER!

It’s really humid and we are not only sweaty and smelly but now sticky.  Gum cannot hide the halitosis since it’s going on four hours.    The only excitement is that I realize that I can grow a beard!  I haven’t shaved my legs for days either.  Some of us run downtown to get baht, the local currency, and SIMM chips for our cell phones and scout out the area for revisiting.  Ahhh! Swensen’s ice creamery is still there.  It seems relatively dead with many of the businesses closed and few people roam the streets.   If were not at risk of being hit by one of the many scooters it much be dead.  Our meeting with Luka determined our tentative itinerary for the next two weeks.  We will work at a school tomorrow and then head into Burma and try to reach China at the border.  There’s one small detail that was casually shrugged off.  There is a teeny tiny local war at the border town Mong La so going there “might” not be safe.  Luka assures us it’s just a misunderstanding.  We don’t want any civilian casualties do we? Rest assured our safety is our number one priority were told…

We gathered for a team dinner and had some nice authentic Thai dishes Chinese style (shared dishes).  It really seems that we have been eating non-stop.  Definitely not Atkin’s friendly but I’m not dieting this trip.  Not even Carb Blockers.  We look forward to the local village meals that are prepared for us when we visit them.  They are proud cooks but we definitely have to be careful especially with uncooked pork and the potential for tapeworms (though they may augment my dieting later).  Irma was absent from dinner.  The excitement either got to her or she needed quiet time.  Like I said, it wasn’t like we needed to eat again.  Smart thinking Irma, catch up on some zzzzs.  I was working on the computer at the table and at the end of our meal Bill affectionately rubbed by neck and trapeziums he stated, “I promised you a massage.”  I rudely turned to him and said, “But not by you!”  Bill, what were you drinking?

After dinner some of us retired.  Others showered.  Some set up their rooms.  The rest of us were ready to party hearty!  Yeah, Bob, Cindy, Lynelle, Gail, Jen and I headed to the local midnight bazaar.  It’s the local night market and the downtown area certainly lit up the streets.  It’s dead during daylight but people come out of the woodwork at night.  Chiang Rai is a destination city.  It’s a happening place. The streets are now packed and scooters are zooming down the streets making it difficult to cross.  We get to play Frogger again.  This city comes to life at night.  Fresh food is prepared along the streets, kiosks, and food court.  There is like a beauty contest with girls (or boys, I’m not sure) and a band playing loud music.  It’s like a flea market where a lot of locals have their businesses. Selling watches, clothes, knick-knacks, trinkets, hand-made, machine-made, souvenirs, t-shirts, bras, Zorries, hats, and food give them an opportunity to earn money.  Poor beg for handouts while a disabled blind entertainer strummed the guitar and banged drums with his feet.  A one-armed lady begged for money with her stump hoping for scraps of food or money.   Foreigners and locals alike were bargain hunting.  We ran into a couple that was also from Fresno who used to work with Kim Chang.  What a small world!  And there it was.  What I came to Thailand for…an authentic, not-yet-released-in-the-US Avatar DVD with Thai subtitles for 150 baht ($5 USD).  I bought one as a souvenir to use as a coaster since I like the artwork.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.  I looked for but couldn’t find the artist from whom I bought two chalk drawings two years ago that are hanging in my office.  They are a drawing of photos of a young and older Afghanistan girl famously known as “The Afghan Girl” from National Geographic.  We have all seen that picture.  I clutched my DVD close to me so not to loose it and we head back to the hotel.  Too tired for a Thai massage tonight.  We’ll go to Swensen’s tomorrow.

It’s quiet now.  People are sleeping.   It’s only 10 pm.  We quietly open our doors so not to wake up our neighbors. I dove onto my bed expecting a prolonged bouncing rebound and almost hurt myself.  These stiff mattresses aren’t exactly your Sealy posteurpedic.  The pillows are equally stiff.  I’ll probably have a concussion when I wake up as well as a stiff neck and aching back.  Bill, again you promised all the comforts of home.  Well I would like to see your home then.  You must sleep on the floor.  At least the lukewarm shower was actually invigorating yet overdue.  My eyes are closed before my head hits the pillow and I look forward to an 8-hour much needed restful sleep.

What’s this?  It’s only 1 am when I wake up from my “nap” and I can’t go to sleep.  Pitiful.  This is frustrating especially with no TV (did I forget to mention that basic necessity?)  or Direct TV.  I am, for some uncontrollable reason compelled to reach over to my laptop and finish the Sunday’s entry.  This is really pissing me off.  I need my beauty sleep.  If for no other reason, I do this for the sake of my lovely wife, Lena who is a stickler for details and will grill me when I get home so this is easier to remember as I go along and should suffice.  So if you enjoy reading this, thank Lena.  If you don’t, blame Lena because I’m under pressure.

Oh, no its 4 am and Jennifer just woke up even after a half of an Ambien.  She’s a lightweight.  I quietly pause my typing.  Without me even saying anything and not knowing that I was awake she seems half asleep and SHE pulls out her computer and begins her blogging!   She begins to listen to Pachabels Canon in D, my favorite.  It’s a good choice of music as it is very soothing and calming.  Even I like to operate to it.  I asked her what are you doing and she is surprised that I am awake. As Jennifer puts it, “It’s an expectation, they’re waiting for my words.”  Finally we have something in common.  Like father, like daughter.  The life of a blogger is overworked, underpaid, under appreciated.  I don’t really worry about who or how many even read my journal; it aint gonna make the New York times best sellers list.  She turned to me knowing and feeling my pain and empathetically said in a crackly voice, “Don’t worry dad, I’ll read your blog.”  That’s good enough for me.  And thank you Lena, Mom, Daphne and a handful of others…I hope that what I say is either worth reading or at least entertaining or at least helps you fall asleep at night.

It’s 0600.  Time to unpack for today’s mission.  No more fun and games.

Have a great week, because we are.  Talk to you soon.

Medical Team International…signing off.

Thailand 3.2-3.3a

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 2:11 pm

Thailand 3.2 and 3.3 (day 2 and 3)

Saturday-Sunday (February 19-20, 2010)

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Good Morning America!

We finally took off about 2 am Saturday and flew all day crossing time zones so that we are now 15 hours ahead of you.  There was some dissention amongst the team already at the airport with complaints of flight delay and preferential treatment of the Premium Economy prima donnas and the Economy (2nd, no 3rd, no 4th) class citizens.  “Economy” by the way is a misnomer especially when you’re paying over $1000-1500 for a seat.  That, my friends could have gotten you a whole vial of BOTOX!  Priorities folks, but when get back to mainland show me your mission badge for an MTI discount, especially you Bill since you’re frowning quite a bit more these days.  Pastor Jack you might want to come and see me too.

It took over an hour just to check us all in at the Thai Air counter.  Bruce is the Caucasian version of Ming and he got us through checking all of our paraphernalia and contraband and us through as humanitarian missionaries.  Psst! It’s really a clandestine attempt to bring orphans back from…wait.  Didn’t a group of Baptists already try that in Haiti?  Eight of the ten were released; the leaders are still detained.  Okay, Bill, clarification please.  Put it in writing that we are not going to bring orphans home, because you will be elected to stay on our behalf.  (Personally, Jen and I don’t know what they talk about in the Economy class).  Before our flight we all gathered at the Daily Grill with our $25 food vouchers for our last American meal.  They stuck me with the bill so everyone was happy.  (Hey, I got stuck with THE BILL on the first Thai trip too!)  That symbolically was our Last Supper as 13 of us broke bread together which coincidentally happened on a very Good Friday and over the next three days we are literally rising into the heavens and returning to earth on Sunday in our human form.  Now I swear, when we were descending we opened the window shades and a blinding white light shined through with clouds coming into view.  What a heavenly sight (beats seeing a fiery inferno!). Wow, now that was an experience!  A revelation!  Surreal.  Joseph, interpret THAT one.  Coincidence? God is in Control.  Whew!

Side bar: on the subject of orphans, the Wu family had visited a Burmese orphanage earlier in the 2009 and Bob, who is of Burmese descent and Cindy have been actively working in Myanmar clinics throughout the year.  So their children, Jonathan and Jocelyn (AKA the Jon Jon and Jocie show), treated us with a fabulous concert at our church in November benefiting an orphanage in Myanmar.  They shared their God-given talents playing the violin, piano, and clarinet accompanied by piano with a Fresno State music professor and by Cindy Wu herself.  I can honestly say that it brought music to my ears and tears to my eyes.  In a single night they raised over $10,000 for the orphanage! It’s not too late to give! 🙂  God said make a joyful noise and they certainly brought down the house.  Standing ovations.  Incidentally, Jon Jon and Jocie have played as 1st clarinet and 1st piano in the Junior Philharmonic in Seattle, Washington.  You know, they are the stars and get featured and play solo or accompanied with the rest of the symphony kind of like what Mozart and Beethoven did I think.  Jocie, maybe did violin as well. You were both truly amazing.   I wish I had the talent that you guys have in one finger, but I don’t, so I’ll stick with “Chopsticks.”  I tried playing violin one time and was shaking so hard the teacher said, “Don’t fret.”  We thank you Jocie and Jon Jon for your dedication and for sharing your gifts and for the congregation and friends for their monetary gifts.  Kudos to the Wus!

Back to our mission; we’re like Star trek: To boldly go where no one has gone before. Okay, I have been known to be cynical, pessimistic, and paranoid for our safety in the past and I am working on that.  It’s my protective nature, not my faith.  I get to vent through this email or ejournal or blog or whatever this is called and also for what purpose that still needs defining.  We are going to be more adventurous on this trip and get out of our comfort zones.  Home is our comfort zone for most of us and so we ventured overseas.  Then Thailand became our comfort zone and then we ventured into communist Laos.  We are now venturing into China and Myanmar.  Okay, I am not going to say anything negative at this point of the two countries (one communist and one junta influenced so-to-speak; more on this after or if we get out of Myanmar since some emails may be monitored or this commuter confiscated, so shhh!) because I LOVE THESE COUNTRIES.  They are three of the best in the whole wide world up there with the good ole U S of A and I wouldn’t mind living there!  You should try and visit and support their economy.  Buy Burmese jade!  Go China!  Go Myanmar!  I’m even rooting for you in the Olympics (even though were missing them BILL).  Doesn’t Myanmar have a downhill event or is that just their direction?

But I had to ask why Myanmar?  Didn’t any of you see the last Rambo documentary (should have been required viewing) where Christian missionaries went into Myanmar and were captured by the local paramilitary warlord?  Truth: actual footage in the beginning was used in the making of Rambo.  The missionaries’ church had to hire mercenaries (did we budget for this?) and with Rambo’s help they “negotiated” their way back to civilization.  Rambo quote: “Live for nothing or die for something.”  How about Live For Jesus.  Rambo needs repenting.  I guess that goes for us too.

Dare: FCBC MTI is going into Myanmar.  I am concerned because we initially got one way tickets and Bill says not to take too much money with us or anything valuable we don’t want to loose.  What about our lives?  Some of us consider that valuable.  Are we gonna get mugged?  Something you’re not telling us fearless leader who will be elected to stay?  Pastor Jack also asked the team to get “things in order” before we go and we were recommended to get “extraction” insurance.  Hmmm… We have to take doxycycline for almost two months around this mission trip so we don’t get malaria that’s endemic in Myanmar.  Bill says I never get bit!  That’s because he eats and smells like garlic.

It is comforting to know, however, that at least two of our group have State department ties and though I won’t identify the two men who are not of color and who are taller, both who have been shot at and are used to being under fire.  One guy has two purple hearts, not counting the time he shot himself in the foot, but we all do that from time to time.  The other dodged bullets in war-torn Fresno and almost got blown up on a bus on a mission in Israel.  The only CIA we know in Thailand is Christians In Alliance, Inc.  But, there is hope.  Not the great white hope but we do have our very own Rambo amongst us.  A little known fact that I discovered is that Andy is known as “Rambo” at Children’s’ Hospital.  Uh-huh, that’s a fact.   I’ve been told, “Ask Andy to do anything and he will do it.”  No questions asked?  Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.  He was recently seen at County Hall registering his weapons-his hands.  Yes they are deadly.  So is his mouth; he knows tongue fu.  He is also a black belt in karate and expert in the Filipino arts of escrima and kali.  I know he is a softy when it comes to Diane, but don’t let that boyish face and smile kid you…if looks could kill!  I roomed with him one year and while some people talk in his sleep, he ki-aiis in his sleep and sounds like Bruce Lee yelling hi-yah!.  I requested to sleep by myself because I didn’t want to die in my sleep.  I told you I’m paranoid.  Me, I’m no Rambo, just rambunctious.  Bill, I hope you know what you are doing.  Remember, women and children first.  Rest assured, Bill says that if it hazardous to our health we won’t go into Myanmar.  I think it’s just a smokescreen to test our faith.  Notify the cavalry and have them stand by just in case we aren’t seen for a few days.  But just in case, I brought Viagra and Cialis (courtesy of Dr. Jack, not Pastor, he’s already too stiff, loosen up man) for bargaining chips with the opposition in case of hold ups, need for safe passage, bartering, or bri…, no persuasion.  We just need a volunteer to show its affects.  Maybe we should get some betelnut as well.  It’ the drug of choice for missionary plastic surgeons I’m told.

Our tentative itinerary is a follows so you know where we’ll be so you can send help, goody baskets, care packages, postcards, or ransom (I understand that they take cash, Paypal, check, or credit cards with an I.D.).  We arrive in Chiang Rai Sunday evening, midnite Saturday PST.  Monday we will set up clinic at the Saskurwatsura (spelling) schoo.  We’ve been there, done that.  That’s where American Baptist missionaries first made contact in Thailand in the 1950’s and said, “I’ll be back” (Arnold Schwartzenegger stole and popularized that line).  When we returned to the school in 2006, one of the administrators said, “I knew you would be back.”  They were faithful because the missionaries said so.  In the school we will set up a dental clinic to extract and restore teeth, have a medical clinic and pharmacy to treat mainly school-aged children ailments, provide eye examinations and grind lenses and make glasses on the spot and give the gift of sight.  It’s Dr. Tajiri’s invention that allows optometrists that work in the field to create instant prescription glasses.  Before the optometrists used to eyeball the prescriptions and give out old donated glasses.  The patients would choose, not the best prescription for them, but which designer glasses looked best and made a spectacle of themselves.  Hindsight is 20/20.

Then the next day, Tuesday, we will cross the border driving into Myanmar/China and stay there til Sunday.   We wil first head to Kengtong and then to Mong La, China, and work our way back down to Mong Hpayak.  Then next week we will be working in Chiang Rai and throughout the villages.

Just an afterthought, we all should have been implanted with a microchip like Kona in case we get lost.  Good thing Lester brought along his satellite phone since we might have a black out period of incommunicado throughout Myanmar especially if they confiscate our electronic gear.  I’ll feel naked.  Not a pretty site I might add.   For satellite phone access see Lester’s email for that phone number and how you can call or text us through

Okay, a quick plug for SALT Magazine.  It’s a Christian based magazine with free subscriptions.  Go to and you’ll see a familiar face and an article about FCBC and the Thailand trips in 2006 and 2008.  You can read it right now by clicking the digital edition right.  They took excerpts from the 2006 emails chronicling our mission trip.  It will come out on hard copy in March 2010 and we will have a launch party at our church March 25th so that the public can meet the mission team and discuss our past trips. Another related article should also be in Fresno Magazine, ,  in March 2010 where they talk to some of the Fresno docs who have been on mission trips.  They interviewed them including myself and I talked about FCBC’s Thailand mission trips as well. Good PR for FCBC.  I’m hoping to have a follow up photo shoot with a 3-paged fold out/pin up using my head on Bill Ho’s physique.  It will display me pumping iron and flexing my/his sinew dripping with sweat discussing how the body is the temple that can be renovated with plastic surgery.  Just a thought.  A portion of the proceeds will go toward mission trips if Bill agrees to the photo shoot.

Okay, enough for today.  Lester is accusing me of having diarrhea of the keyboard.  It’s either this or watch Rambo again on my computer, and then I won’t get off the plane.  It’s still up in the air.

Thanks for listening and please pray for our travel mercy and safe landing.

In Christ, Medical International Team, Fresno.

Thailand 3.1

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 2:05 pm

Thailand 3.1 (1st day of 3rd Thailand trip)

From Thighland to Thailand: a plastic surgeon’s perspective on overseas missions.

Dear faithful followers of Team Fresno or MTI (Medical Team International) as we are now officially known,

This year you have two Internet choices to follow the mission team and two different perspectives so it will be interesting to compare notes. I direct your attention to for Jennifer’s blog or go to and search for the blog site link for a young invigorating accurate view from the mission newbie Jennifer chin. You will find a more expanded version of the journey of the mission team through the mountains of Thailand, Myanmar-formally known as Burma, and China through the eyes and fingers of yours truly, Mark Chin through my ejournal or emails. Incidentally Jen’s a great blogger having blogged for a year in Paris. I will be corresponding through my own blog and email to my loyal readership (Lena, mom, and dad) and give a more verbose account with personal perspectives and epiphanies that are experienced throughout the trip. I anticipate that for some it may be too long to read and I will try to not ramble with run-ons but once I start typing there is really not much else to do here especially during the bus trip and lay over’s.

Reflecting upon the tragedies in Haiti, one can realize the need of struggling countries for help, not only at the time of calamities, but actually everyday. I am impressed with the outreach and the monies raised for assistance but people need to go and help if at all possible and not just write a check. Someone said, “It is far easier to give of money than of yourself.” Yet we are commanded to go and serve by God, the Almighty. So we go. And go. Like the Eveready bunny rabbit I think God just wants us to keep on going, and going, and going. Believe me, I wouldn’t mind staying in my comfort zone and continue keeping America beautiful…cha ching! But we all need to get out our pocketbooks or get off our blessed assurance and help our neighbors and to spread the Good News.

We have been asked, “Why Thailand? Why not closer to home?” Good question! Well although the Thai massage is second to none and everyone raves about a happy ending and we can get those “early release dvds”, it is a fact that 90% of Thais are Buddhists and have not even met a Christian. So unless someone goes to them they won’t be coming to us anytime soon. Spread the word. Can you hear me now? MTI is fortunate to be able to go on these mission trips.

We have dynamic leaders in our church such as Pastor Jack and Pastor Dennis and those on the mission and outreach committees. Bill Ho has been working on this project since 2008, just after we got back from Thailand 2.0. Bill has a vision and plans for the big picture and unlike him just tell me where and when to show up and I’ll show up most of the time. That’s why he was awarded that Disney Goofy Medal for running the race for God. Well, MTI has a marathon of a trip ahead of us and we will be traveling well over 26.2 hours, more like 35 hours door-to-door. In fact, our first leg of the journey will be 12 hours, and that’s just to LAX! We haven’t even left yet and it’s now, oh 11:00 pm. Yeah, already the plane to Bangkok has been delayed for mechanical failure and is arriving late. Well you can just keep that plane as long as you need for us to make it at least to Bangkok. Now we’ll miss the connecting flight and end up in Chiang Rai in the evening.

We had a nice send off at the church. About 20 of you nice folk saw us off. Thanks Lanny, Irene, Gerry, Lena Vicki, Ali, Mike, Patty, Bailey, Pastor Dennis, Michele,Vi, Ginny, Lynette, Nanette, Jean, Linda, Elizabeth, Colette, Diane, and Bailey. (I feel like I’m at the oscars forgetting someone. If I did, I didn’t see you sorry but thanks y’all for the send off. Auntie Sylvia and Naomi Tajiri hitched a ride to LA. We met up with Kane in LA and were greeted by Kelly and Lindsey Lowe and Stacy Chinn. Ming is already in Thailand and Bob and Cindy are in Myanmar and will catch up with the rest of the team. So where are we going I’d like to know and what are we going to do you’d like to know.

Stanley Kubrick had made 2001: a Space Odyssey and our postponed trip to China was to be our Grace Odyssey. 9/11 put an end to that trip. 2010: The Year We Make Contact is what we’re doing; we’re making contact with the Burmese, Chinese, and Thai people. Two weeks doesn’t seem to be enough time and we will have to cover a lot of territory and work our derrières off. As I tell my employees, “That is why they call it WORK!” Now Bill, how did you come up with these dates? Don’t you realize that we are missing the 2010 Winter Olympics.!?! Where’s your patriotism? It only comes once every 4 years. Okay, who won gold? Bill, I’m already a terrible father and now I’m missing my daughter Allison’s birthday again! First it was her 16th I missed during the 2008 Thailand mission and now it’s her 18th birthday. Readers, please call Ali on the 25th and wish her “Happy Birthday” AND send her some money to lessen the hurt and make me feel less guilty. Lester is missing Lindsey’s 19th on the 26th as well. Have you heard of milestones man? You better not schedule the next one on Ali’s wedding day cause I’m not going, I’m telling you that now. We’re missing Chinese New Year’s parade too. You can gung hay your fat choy! No time for celebration of birthdays either. Just because you stopped counting (Bill Ho just had another AARP birthday on the 15th, Jack Patton just had his yesterday, the 18th, Cindy Wu is on the 23rd, and Lynelle’s is on the 27th. There is already diuscussion about time and a half working on their birthday. Let me calculate 0 X 1 ½ is still 0. Oh, and you are so generous to offer them double time. We are going to miss those Oscar parties and miss the walk down the red carpet and study fashion trends. Who will win best picture? Avatar of course. Hey we’ll be a day ahead of you so we will know before you do. Hah! I know Bill it’s not the best picture but rather the BIG picture. Well when God says he comes first, he means it. Care to challenge that? I’m cool.

For some reason its been hard to get up for this trip. The enthusiasm has been lukewarm. An informal pole of the team reveals less excitement for this trip. Perhaps we have been there done that. Maybe now it feels routine, less anxious since things are well-planned. Maybe because we have confidence in our fearless leader, Bill Ho. But still we often leave loose ends that are waiting for us when we return. Our medical and dental practices slow down a week before the trip and is slow one week after so it’s like taking a one month hiatus. My desk is still a mess and piles of charts will be higher than when I left (I wish I was as organized as my significant other, Lena). For example, just yesterday I attended a memorial service for my former office manager, Vicki. God took her at 61 years young. Folks, we don’t have much time. I recall a week before my 2006 Thailand mission when a very dear loved one got into a horrendous car accident landing just inches from a telephone pole and resting against a tree. He could’ve died, twice that night in fact. Once from the accident and once after I found out he was okay I wanted to strangledhim he scared me so much. It’s hard to prepare to go. And God’s plan may sweep you up at any time. Can’t plan for that.

About a month ago my foot was acting up again. Tendinitis more specifically, enthesopathy, that’s my Achilles heel, literally and figuratively. Call me a gimp, a wimp, a limp. A I’m already a chimp (year of the monkey). It seems to act up just before we go on these trips. Maybe it’s a self-preservation mode, my body saying “Don’t go!” Definitely wimp material, definitely. Admittedly I’m not one of your fittest individuals on this trip. Bill, Gail, and Jen fit the mold. I want you to know that I did prepare for this trip by going on Atkin’s diet and dropping 15 or so pounds getting my BMI less than 25. My incentive is to carry my own weight and keep up with the rest of the pack on this arduous journey. The last trip I was carrying excess baggage and not the kind Bill complains about. So Luka greeted me in Thailand my hitting me on the shoulder, did an up and down gaze and said “You look bigger.” I didn’t know how to take that. Was it my IZ (Israel Kamakawiwoli) physique or my Bruce Lee abs. No, I later found out that “You look bigger” translated in Akha means “Are you pregnant?” I’m even taking kung fu again to work on my chi since it got a little big around the mid section. I don’t want to look like a have no respect for calories.

Well my excitement comes from getting to go with my daughter, Jennifer on this trip. I campaigned for her last trip but was vetoed by I won’t mention BH’s name. So more lobbying this year, feigning illness asking for someone to push me in a wheelchair got Jennifer elected for a general helper position. Now she was soooo excited she ran out and go nine vaccinations: seasonal flu, H1N1, polio, chicken pox, Measles/Mumps/Rubella, tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis, HPV, hepatitis A, AND THEY WERE ALL SHOTS! I hope that she doesn’t like needles. Also oral typhoid, no shot since she lost too much blood from the other vaccinations. Just don’t welcome her back with a hit on the deltoids cause she’ll still be sore. I am also excited for father-daughter bonding. I missed that while in med school and residency and work and welcome the opportunity to room with her. God works in mysterious ways. God is good.

Okay, enough for one day. We’re boarding soon. ETA is 23 hours from now, Saturday midnight. That’s when we get to our destination. I hope we get a nap. Lena and Vicki please disseminate this to interested parties. See Jen’s blog at Now on with the Bible Olympics.

Let the games begin…..

In Christ, Medical Team International, FCBC signing off. P.S. this blog will be posted on my blog in a few days.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 12:27 pm

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