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First week of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Our firs week of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) consisted of some basic classes. Topics like Meridians, acupoints, basic principles of acupuncture, Yin&Yang and five elements and so on. First it was a bit difficult to get into the mindsetting of TCM because it is not only medical practice, but it is build on cultural beliefs and religius stuff. The ideological background is borrowed from Taoism so Yin and Yang and five elements come from there.

Yin and Yang are really complex concepts. For example Yin is body and Yang is spirit, but in the body there is also different parts that are Yin and Yang. For example lower body is Yin and upper body Yang, heart is Yin and bladder is Yang. I noticed that in TCM concepts are often more abstract and have many things they refer to than in western thinking. We have strict rules in our logic and our terms have usually simple meanings. You can find the difference even in the language. For us words usually have some quite restricted meanings but in chinese even other people who speak the same language don’t always get the meaning of other because words can be so complex.

Some difficulties also come from TCM being so old. For example heart meridian is not really what western people think of a heart but rather has the function of the brain (but again, you can’t think only about the organs because it leaves out too much) and spleen meridian has the function what we westerners think to be the function of pancreas. All in all, if you think too much inside of western box of thinking, you will certainly miss out most of the stuff that is in TCM.

The main purpose for TCM is to strive for balance. Sickness is imbalance in your body, in your meridians or organs, problems of the mind like being sad, depressed or angry are also imbalance and is is curable by balancing out your problem areas. This can be done many ways: with acupuncture, herbs, acupressure, massage, lifechanges, exercise and so on. TCM is really quite holistic system. It is actually more like lifestyle than just medical treatment.

My personal opinion on the first week is complex. Because I have different belief system than TCM it is difficult for me to understand all the connections. Still I feel that maybe I can get something valuable to my own practice if I understand even a little bit of the ideology behind TCM. I already know that there is some areas that can help me improve my work, like knowledge of acupoints and their function in relaxation and pain relief. All in all this is really interesting and I already feel that I understand thid culture a bit better than before.

Overcoming my personal obstacles

This week has been already huge for me when it comes to personal growing. This Monday we had our first lesson of Chinese medicine and of course the topic was acupuncture. Some people might know that I don’t like needles. I hate going to the blood tests and I feel sick if I watch my friends using insuline. But I will tell more about that later, first some first expressions. I had thought that we would go to some back alley clinic. Somewhere small and cosy with strange decoration. Oh no, I was wrong. We went to this huge hospital that had many floors and there was one department for Chinese medicine, just like there is a department for pediatrics for example. In this department people were sitting in (kind of) orderly rows waiting for their turn just like in a normal clinic. This is when I came to realize that Chinese medicine is treated really differently here than it is in Finland. Of course.

tch

Hospital where we have our lessons.

More about the needles then! First thing we witnessed was acupuncture for stiff nose (after flu or something). The terapist just put two needles right besides the patients NOSE. He told us that he only puts them 1-2 deep because the patient is a bit scared. This was the first time I left the room feeling dizzy and a bit sick. We were told that usually the needles will be at place for 20-30 min, 1 hour if patient has time and doesn’t have any bad symptoms from them. It just happens to be that fainting is one of the most common symptoms. Ha..

acunukke

First lesson!

We had about 30 min long lecture about Chinese medicine and acupuncture and then we got to try it. Gah! But before this we went to see another treatment. This time it was renal dysfunction and he got 14 needles. And this was the second time I left the room. But this time it was a bit easier. I think that some part of my ill feeling came from not eating dinner, sleeping really badly and smelling the moxibustion stuff in the clinic. I didn’t want to get any needles to my skin, but I was brave enough to put one through our teachers skin. It wasn’t that bad actually. It is worse to look and to get the treatment. I also think that if I have tried the treatment myself it might not be that bad either, but considering my feeling of the day, maybe it was better this way.

neulamatti

Matti is so brave!

All in all it was really interesting evening! Our teacher categorised me as a heat (like not cold) person just by feeling my pulse and looking at my tongue. I cant wait for next Monday to get our second lecture. I wonder what will the topic be then..

Monday was also my first hydrotherapy day. When I first heard that we are going to have therapy in the water I was really horrified. I don’t like water. I feel that I can’t swim that well and I’m usually always a bit afraid of the water. Also, I can’t see without my glasses.. But as I have heard my classmate talk about his classes (his hydrotherapy started two weeks earlier) I started to wait for my turn quite eagerly. Our teacher is awesome! She is really into this water therapy thing and I can see that from all she does. My first class was nice. I got actually much praises for my swimming skills (not all people can swim here like in Finland) and I learned much new and interesting stuff! This will be great! From the new stuff I think Watsu is my favourite this far.

Hydro

My awesome hydrotherapy teacher.

Ears full of Mandarin

Today it begun! My first real clinical practice day! I can admit, I was a bit nervous. My boyfriend will probably roll his eyes for this, because he needed to call me from Japan in the middle of the night because I was panicing. Just a bit.. Well, lets be honest, I might not have slept all night. In other hand, I must have slept some, othervise it wouldn’t have been possible to wake up so many times. I didn’t feel like the sharpest tool in the box when I started my walk forward the hospital in the morning.

kyltti

Our hospital!

sairaala

And the actual hospital too! That is the white building in the center of the pic.

Luckily just few meters before hospital door I met my good friend David (one of those local students who was in Finland last fall). He showed me where to change my clothes and kept me company for some day. Then other of my saviours arrived! James is one of the research students and he was my life line today.

We went to meet the first one of my six clinical advisors or teachers as they seem to call them here. My first expression was a bit shocked since this guy didn’t greet me, didn’t talk to me and as far as I could tell he didn’t even look at me. Just told James to show me the places. I was a bit confused and a bit scared. Would it be like this all the time? I am a person too you know.. But after the first four hours my impression was totally flipped. My teacher seemed like a really serious guy, but near the end he was smiling more and more all the time. Even thought he spoke only in Mandarin and James worked as a translater he started to aske me questions and I even got to do something small in my first hours there. I was told that since they usually have not that busy hour just before lunch, I can just tell them what I want to learn and they will provide me with lesson. My teacher also told me that my posture tells him that I might have some hip problems (and I do, my legs are not even) and that he likes to combine chinese medicine to the western way. This is a gold mine I tell you!

My first four hours were at orthopedical practice. It was a big room, full of tables and busy with physical therapists. One therapist had couple of patients at the same time and they used a lot of modalities like electricity and ultrasound. There were tables for cervical and lumbar tractio machines where patients were just put to the machine and then the therapist went to treat other patients while machine did the tractio. There were one other intern and some second year students as well. It was really nice to talk with other students and think about some problems we were given. I liked the athmosphere because it felt like people were discussing about treatments rather than just given one right solution from the teacher. James also praised my skills all the time, so what there is not to like??

sairaalanikkuna

View from the hospital window.

Other four hours were at orthopedic bedside. I felt familiar since my first clinical practice was at same kind of department in Finland. It was nice to notice that I had really learned something from my first training period and I had some selfconfidence about the treatments. I liked Matti’s teacher (mine had a meeting and wasn’t there today). She was really good at explaning everything and she provided enought info beforehand about conditions we didn’t know before.

In bedside department we discovered some unique features. All the patients we saw today had either a familymember or other caretaker at their bedside to take care of them sonce nurses didn’t have time for all of the patients all the time. And those familymembers really seemed to almost live there too! Well ofcourse it is a bit different here since they have different customs of taking care of parents and family. But I liked the feeling about it. Finland could use something like that..  Therapist used a lot of time to educate those familymembers about their relatives condition since they were the ones that were going to take care of them. They seemed to take it really seriously too. Two of them were taking pictures with their phones when the terapist showed some exercise stuff or how to for example sit down with a full hip replacement.

nohevat

Nohevat.

What else.. All the info we saw about the patients were on paper. Thay had one file per a patient and everything was put there. I don’t even know if they have files on computer. We also had to use masks all the time when we were with patients. This was more strict at the bedside than at the other department. Before this day we were also told that we should put neat clothes on (some local students even wear suits to make a good expression when they visit hospital), have shoes that don’t show toes (no sandals!) and we were given a white jackets to wear. I feel like a doctor when I’m wearing those! Our days are 9 hours long because between our two 4 hour periods we have 1 hour lunch brake that is not included to the hour count. There is no other breaks than that. So 4 hours straight without a break is a rough work I tell you.

All in all, I’m really happy about my placement at the moment. I have no doubt that this will be challenging couple of months, but it will be worth it. Even though would be easier if I could speak chinese. Today only one of the patients spoke English with me..

Studying..

Yeah. Well.. We are having quite a slow start to the studies here. For the first two weeks we only have 2-3 hours of lessons and only for 4 days. Most of the students here have been wondering why we have so few classes. Well, that will change since after our clinical practise starts, we will have 9 hours of practice 4 days a week and 4 hours on Friday. So no 4 day working week like we had thought. It is actually a bit confusing. I have no idea who has picked these courses for us. I don’t remember that anybody had asked from us what we want. Neither has anyone said that we can has a say to what we study here. That was the case in Finland. And in here it seems to me that everyone is expecting that these courses are our choices. To be frank, I would have wanted to have more influence for my studies here. But maybe I would have had to ask these things directly from Yi-Fen.

kerroskuusi

This is where we study!

Our first classes were easy. Just some reminding about ROM (range of motion) measurements. We also took part for one suspensio system lab class on Wednesday. It was really interesting and I would like to try more with that thing. We have had some pilates lessons in addition to these two. Those I really like! They are quite challenging, but also rewarding afterwards.  About the classes.. Well, there is somethings that differ from Finland. The class contains about 40 students, so the class is full. When using the “plintti”, research table, they don’t use paper (since it is cleaned weekly). And we have had our pilates classes ON the tables (since there is no room on the floor. Also other students are usually already in class when it is time for the class to start, when in Finland we usually go to class at the moment it is about to start. It takes about 10 min from our classes every time. Something to learn here I think.. What else.. Teacher is using a microfone, also those students who are presenting something are using the microphone.

suspensio

The Suspensio System. At the end of our class, one boy was hanging from this with his ankles and doing knee flexion combined with abdominal squeeze. It looked crazy!

I noticed that when we were doing our ROM measurements, the teacher was not as demanding than in Finland. We made the measurements clothes on and we could add the goniometer after making the full movement. It feels a bit weird.. I’m usually by-the-book person and I have always had difficulties to apply theory to the real world. It just seems a bit weird to me that we don’t for example demand to take the measurements from the skin (clothes off). That would be more accurate. The teacher told us that most of the clients don’t want to take their clothes of for assesments. Maybe because it is cold here even indoors or maybe it is not expected. But while in rome do as the romans do. Even in the Finish hospitals everything is not done right according to the book. I just need to get used to it and adapt.

Our pilates classes is teached by one of the major students. Most of the students we are dealing with are major students. That means they are studying research thingies. Unlike in Finland, here people study 4 years of basic studies to become physical therapists ( in Finland it is 3,5 years). From these 4 years they have the last year fully clinical practice. In Finland we have first year studying, then rest of the years we have a cycle of couple month of studies and couple months of practice. After completing the 4 years of basic studies people here apply for master program. In National Yang Ming University there is a lot of more research students than the basic ones. That is because this university is a research university. In Finland (if I remember correctly) after the 3,5 years we go to worklife for couple of years before we can apply for the research studies in university. Also we are learning the basic stuff in University of applied sciences and then we apply for the “normal” university for the research part. Here it is all in the same place.

Studying here is not free for the locals like studying in Finland is for us. It costs about 1500 € per year and this is why many of the students here have a part time jobs. Well.. Many of the students at home have a part time jobs too, but that is because it is so expensive to live in Finland. For a school cafeteria meal here it is about 1-2 € and if you go to a restaurant it might go up to 5-8 €. In Finland, school cafeteria meal is 2,60 € and if you go to a restaurant it is usually more than 15 €. Here it is cheaper to go to restaurant than to make food yourself.. And that is just food! But one can’t just compare prizes, because these things are more difficult than that. There is politics and stuff, so I don’t talk about this more this time, because I know nothing about politics..

tee

Bubble teaish stuff, without bubbles, 1 €.

ruoka

Meal from Uni cafeteria: 1-2 €!

jugu

Frozen youghurt = expensive! About 3,5 €

First expressions

After badly slept night I can tell you that it’s really humid here! That means when it gets dark it gets also really cold. I could sleep after I put my wollen socks on and took a extra shirt plus my jacket on too. Today I need to buy a thiker blanket.I also need to buy indoor slippers. The floor of my room is not the cleanest one and other floors are most likely a bit wet. It also rains all the time, or that is what they tell me.

The corridor outside my room.

The corridor outside my room.

Surroundings of the uni are great. We are located on a hill, so view is great and there is forest all around us. The buildings are really different from Finland. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is quite a bit of mold in here. The toilets are different. Seems like you have to have your own paper with you (wherever you go..) and people don’t dry their hands after washing them. I was wondering why my tutor asked me several times if I had some “tissues”. Well, now I know. 😀 I heard that in some places they don’t have the western type of toilet either, but a squat one. Basically that means a hole in the ground.

The dormitory

The dormitory

There is a Family Mart about 100 m from my apartment and buss stop other 100 m away. On the grocery store, there is much you can drink but not that much I can eat (I eat only food with no gluten in it). So I guess I will be eating a lot of bananas.. If I want to eat anything else, I deen to take a buss or walk down the hill (locals tell me it is a 20 min walk) to the MRT (mass rapid transportation) station where all the other stores are. Yesterday I ate stinky tofu. Not that bad, but not my favourite.

I have two roommates. One of them is from mainland China and other is from… Finland! They study nursing. The Finnish one is from JAMK also and we have met before. So small world it seems to be. Other than that I have not located that many exchange students. They might be from around here (other parts of Asia) so I wouldn’t recognise them.. Actually me, my roommmate and the classmate who came with me are the only western looking people I have seen this far.

Tap water is not drinkable, but we have a water vending machine here at the dormitory.

Forest around the dormitory.

Forest around the dormitory.

All in all I feel weird. Everything is so exciting and terrifying at the same time. But the people here are really friendly so everything is going to be okay.