Friday, July 4, 2008

Day Six

This is the end of the tourist part of our journey. Mr. Wei drives us to the Great Wall in the morning. It is overwhelming in scope and accomplishment. And it is quite vertical as it follows the mountains, so that one must hold onto bars to navigate it. Up is very up, and down is no easier: it’s just very down.

The amount of work that must have gone into assembling this Wall, hauling the stones of which it consists, over a period of 100 years more than 1,000 years ago, is incredible. It is very hot and humid, but the crowd on the wall seems not to notice. Little babies are nursed as they’re being carried.

After lunch, we go to the crisis center. There is a map of China on the wall, and if you look at it out of the corner of your eye, it kind of resembles the U.S. without most of California. About 12 call takers, Helena and Mr. Wei, and Tom and Becky and Susan from ICSI (International Critical Stress Incident Foundation) and I are there. We talk about how to handle suicide calls among other things. There is one of the highest suicide rates in the world here, especially among women in rural areas, who jump from buildings or take pesticides and complete the act more often than men, which makes this a unique situation. They have about 287,000 suicides annually. Nobody knows what this year will bring.

The Foundation people have some possible approaches, but they want to organize their thoughts before offering trainings, and they are leaving tomorrow. Helena and the president of the psychological organization are going to Tennessee in the middle of the month and will be able to engage in that discussion then. Only Helena and Mr. Wei can speak both languages, so everything takes twice as long as it would otherwise have to, as it’s expressed dramatically in Chinese first and then in English or vise versa. Often something is said that causes the whole room except for the American component to laugh. At least there is occasional laughter among them.

They have put out some food, wrapped candies, little tomatoes. Bottles of water. We talk for several hours and then go to dinner with government officials, the ones who had to approve our visit. It is fortunate for our project that the official we work with is nice and understands what we are trying to do. We eat at a very famous and beautiful duck restaurant. As with the shopping, I am out of my element. And then back to the hotel.

I have brought Helena a protocol developed by another person that has the potential to move trauma out of the body without words. It involves motion, a series of physical exercises. This has the potential of working on millions at once over TV or computer, within a matter of minutes. She is excited by this.

I do believe that what we are doing here is creating a much-needed model for emotional health during and after catastrophes, and that China will be able to offer this program to the world. It can be developed from scratch, built to utilize all aspects of trauma prevention, reduction, and release, and tested on hundreds of thousands of people so that what really works will be what lasts and becomes the protocol. It is exhilarating to be a part of it all.

The other Americans in our group of “experts” leave tomorrow. Then it will be just me, to continue working with the Chinese. I’ll be training hundreds of crisis call takers on Saturday and on Sunday, I will be working with the counselors going to Sichuan, the earthquake area.


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