Thursday, February 18, 2010

Images from the North ... Day 1 and 2

What to say?  A myriad of images and impressions.  We stopped at the children's hospital yesterday.  I scared a little boy ... he took one look at me looking at him and started screaming! 

We saw a brave 10 year old girl who is not yet testing negative for TB.    She has had 6 months of treatment and they think she is drug resistant.  Things are pretty hard for her ... in her face, as she spoke, I saw a quiet courage and determination ...

I saw several mothers with their children.  I simply can't imagine how they feel holding loved children, knowing that there is little available to assist. 

Nurses and doctors are very caring.  They often put their own lives at risk working in TB centers.  Our American doctor was saying that the TB vaccination is not very effective.  It's old medical technology and doesn't offer a lot of protection any more.

The hospital was interesting. The rooms were long and skinny, slept 6 patients, had no lights and had very little heat.  Patients were wrapped under layers and layers of quilts.  It was so cold that my breath came in clouds. The laboratory was very simple.  Some traditional equipment and then lots of glass bottles and tiny spoons ...

I found this visit to the children's hospital quite difficult.  As a teacher, each day I go to work, surrounded by children who full of energy and health ... hope and wholeness.  If they get sick, they have access to doctors, medicine, warmth and food.  Maybe they curl up in bed or on a sofa and watch a DVD ... read a book and sleep.  For the children in NK, they lie huddled under their quilts, desperately sick, with very little available to alleviate the misery.  Like our children, these children are loved, their parents do all they can, the staff do all they can ... it's just they have so little available to help.  I am seeing how important the work of Eugene Bell is.  They bring hope and medicine and integrity to monitor what they provide and ensure it is used effectively.

Other images from the day ... the roads around Pyongyang are lined with trees, but the hillsides are completely denuded.  Roads are wide and straight, but out of the city they break up ... ruts ... potholes ... makes for a bumpy ride.  We however, have a ride.  The majority of the people I see are walking ... many with handcarts ... there is the occasional bike and an occasional car and truck ... bullock carts abound, pulled by shaggy red bullocks.  Many women carry loads on their heads.

Colors ... khaki ... brown ... beige ... navy ... black, punctuated by a splash of red or pink.

Today was about -8 C.  While at the warehouses I watched a group of ladies weaving thatching ...  They crouched low, next to a big pile of straw.  People grabbed handfuls and beat it ... handing it on to the weavers ... they placed it down on 2 central threads which ran along the ground and then they whipped the threads back and forth ... no pictures allowed!

The GDP here is about $1200 USD a year.  The average worker is more likely to earn $1.00 a day.  One of our team works in poor nations in Africa and says what he saw today would compare ...

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