A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"


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Yushu Earthquake Relief

Hey, I’m still on the ground in Shenyang and it doesn’t look like I or the other doctor here will get to go to Yushu for the foreseeable future. However, the relief teams on the ground (including two of my Shenyang colleagues) are working very hard!

I just learned about a website run by some colleagues of mine at Plateau Perspectives, an NGO based in Qinghai. It is yushuearthquakerelief.com. They have a running blog with frequent updates if you are interested.

Thanks for your prayers!


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Update to the Yushu Earthquake Update

Thanks to all of you for your concern, thoughts, and prayers for the victims and relief workers in the earthquake aftermath – the 7.1 earthquake that hit Yushu, Qinghai province in Western China on 14 April. I, and a couple of co-workers here have still not received the all-clear to go and help in the relief effort. An advance team of my colleagues in Shenyang left on Monday and they were held up for a couple of days, but sent the message that new people were not welcome but that the situation is fluid and may change. They are at the site now, but a recent update is pending on the situation. We have heard that the medical teams have been overwhelmed with need and the health care professionals are stretched to the limits. However, it seems not likely that more help will not be welcome – especially from the foreigners.

The relief effort has been hampered by the physical elements: altitude, snow, and treacherous roads on the remote and rural plateau. Furthermore, China is not immune to the corruption, cheating, and stealing for food, water, tents, and other goods that plagues relief efforts in every other country suffering a major disaster. However, there is still an incredible amount of good that is pouring out of people, crossing cultural, religious, political, and language barriers.

As I’ve mentioned before, this area is about 97% Tibetan Buddhist. Monks, as other people, from all over have been helping out in the relief effort – serving in whatever capacity. However, it seems that the government is now tired of it and perhaps fears that too much credit will go to people that the government doesn’t like – people whom it fears will be seen as heros in the effort. Over the last few days the monks have been asked to leave.

A quotation from this interesting article from the Guardian: “Professor Robert Barnett, director of the modern Tibetan studies program at Columbia University, said: ‘China has never faced this situation before, where the monks it has demonised for 15 years as potential enemies of the state turn out to be energetic contributors to social construction and community building, the same role that the party has always claimed for itself.'” Other articles on the religious and political situation of disaster relief include this one and others such as NY Times, Newsweek, and the Telegraph UK . Perhaps because this area is politically sensitive that foreigners are no longer welcome. Or perhaps China doesn’t want to appear that they need any help from anybody else, but is happy to receive funds to help them do whatever they want to.

It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out. Meanwhile people suffer not only the earthquake and its aftermath, but the ego of the authorities. Unfortunately this is not a new story here, or in other countries for that matter!


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Earthquake relief update

The situation on the ground in Yushu, Qinghai is, well, fluid. The plan yesterday was for the second part of our team to fly out this afternoon (Wednesday). However, yesterday we were notified that the security has been tightened up and the authorities are allowing fewer and fewer people through to the site. Although we are working through a respected local Qinghai NGO with a solid relationship and invitation by the provincial government to do medical relief work at the site, we have been told to hold off for now and not fly out for the moment. The situation could change later, but for the moment, I won’t be going today and remain on standby. The colleagues who went out on Monday have not been allowed to go to Yushu (earthquake site) and are staying with some friends in the capital city.

It is not clear why the security situation has changed. I do know that the disaster response in China gets better, and this one wasn’t quite as devastating as the earthquake in Sichuan 2 years ago. This earthquake also struck in a politically/religiously sensitive area, so this may have something to do with it. We can only guess, and stay at the ready!


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Earthquake update

Although the news may not be making headlines because people are stranded in Paris and airlines are losing millions of dollars from an inconvenient volcano, the death toll from last week’s earthquake in Western China continues to grow. Nearly 2000 people have lost their lives with over 12,000 people injured.

Neighboring Tibet, this province is mostly ethnic Tibetan. One report states that approximately 10,000 Buddhist monks, mostly from other provinces, are in the area to assist in the relief effort. For more information on this and other details, please see this BBC news article, or just Google it.

Because of the remoteness of the epicenter, relief supplies are difficult to get to the area. Many relief workers have had to turn back due to altitude sickness – the average altitude is around 13,ooo feet (4,000 m). Nevertheless, I’ll be heading out to the site to join the relief effort. A couple of our team left on Monday, and a couple more will fly out tomorrow (Wednesday my time). I’m packing all my medical and camping equipment and food for the whole time as each team needs to be responsible to bring in all their own food, water and shelter.

Your thoughts and prayers are much appreciated for the people affected and those going to serve them.


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Qinghai Earthquake

By now you have heard about the earthquake that struck in China’s Western Qinghai province on Wednesday, 14 April. As of today, according to BBC news, the estimated death toll is over 1,000 people, the number missing is over 400 and over 11,000 people are injured. The affected area is very remote and the roads are few and difficult to travel in the best of circumstances. Furthermore, the altitude averages higher than 10,000 feet (>3000 meters) and the temperatures remain cold most of the year – temperatures drop below freezing this time of year. These facts hinder relief efforts, but much has been already been done due to the swift action of China’s army. Some photos of the quake relief can be seen here.

Many thousands will need food, water, shelter, medical care and comfort in the weeks to come. A team of expat physicians is being assembled from various parts of the country to go and assist in the relief effort. At the moment, I’m not sure if I’ll be on that team or if I’ll stay behind to fill in for my colleagues here. Either way, we are all part of a team. Your thoughts and prayers are much appreciated for those survivors who have suffered loss of loved ones, and suffer from injuries and terror. Please also remember those involved in the relief effort.

I’ll keep you posted!