Sunday, June 29, 2008

Day Two - Cermonies and Food

We are staying in a hotel called The Foreign Experts Hotel. Today is a very formal day – meetings with government and medical officials that are choreographed and very ceremonial. Our title, EXPERTS, is very high in this society. There are photographs on the wall, next to the VIP dining room, of Chairman Mao greeting foreign “experts.” For this meeting there is a printed agenda, which reads:

5:20 Chinese hosts are received into the meeting room.
5:30 Foreign guests are received into the meeting room.
5:40 Both parties sit down, the meeting begins
5:40- 5:45 Deputy General Director [name removed here] invites President McSherry to introduce the foreign experts.
5:45-5:50 President McSherry introduces foreign experts
5:50 The Deputy General Director introduces[ their government organizations]
And so on until.
6:10 Gifts handing over to foreign guests
6:30 -6:40 take photos
6:40-8 banquet. End of meeting

We sit in large arm chairs around a big room, each chair next to a little table with our name plates in English and Chinese (I am pleased to see how my name looked in the host language) and hot tea ceremoniall poured by pretty young people. No one drinks the tea. It is only for the ceremony of serving it. There are American and Chinese flags by the hosts.

The dinner consists of nine courses. Each is delicious. I will write the menu, but I am given vegetables at each of the meat, chicken, and, fish courses, as is vegetarian Tom McSherry. Very considerate.

Menu, in English and Chinese:

Cold Dish, Pumpkin With Ling fish soup, Braised Abalone and shrimp with oyster sauce, Stir Fried Fish with sauce, Beefsteak, Braised Duck with Bamboo Shoots, Stir-fried vegetables, Desert and fruit, Hoptoad’s ovaty [sic] and tomato.

I don’t even want to guess what the last one is, but it does have frog’s something in it. I just am served the tomato. It is sweetened, diced and iced and very refreshing. There is so much food, we are all logy and go immediately to bed, which means, of course that we wake up at 4am. Helena, my doctor-sponsor, arrived mid-day and is sharing my room. When we awaken, we talk and talk. .

Everyone here has been very gracious. They are desirous to create programs that are the most efficient and useful they can be. Because we have a clean slate to work with, (psychological services have heretofore been sparse in this culture), they can design something that is not patchwork. This is, in a way, refreshing -- distinctly different from places in which rescue and trauma relief projects proliferate and, Topsy-like, multiply The government has the ability to approve programs, but it doesn’t execute them, and so Dr. Helena Guo has been advising the largest psychological institute here about what programs to include and how to integrate them. She believes in Verbal First Aid and has arranged to keep me over, after the presentations, so that I can meet with and work with front-line crisis call centers.

The skies are heavy. So much rain here. It is the rains that caused the flooding after the earthquakes that dislocated millions. Weather is big news across the world, just as the global warming experts warned and Rush Limbaugh pooh-poohed.

There's a good chance of international media coverage for these events. I'll keep you posted. "Posted" - this far away from my home turf and I still can't keep away from puns!


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