After a quick breakfast at the café, we headed out to the Dalin Branch of Tzu Chi General Hospital where we arrived at around 9:30 am. We were accompanied by Ms. Yao, an occupational therapy teacher at SZMC and a few students from nursing, physical therapy and radiology departments. The Dalin Branch of the Tzu Chi hospital is located in the rural area of Chiayi county, surrounded by large rice fields. This Hospital was founded by Dharma Master Cheng Yen, a Buddhist nun, when her master said to her, “Work for Buddhism and for all beings.” With this motto, she started Tzu Chi as a charity organization and then further developed into medical institutes establishing 6 hospitals in total around Taiwan and 2 international branches in the United States and in Malaysia as well.
Upon our arrival here, Dr. Chun-Ming Chang, a general surgeon greeted us and led us through the first half of the presentation and tour of the hospital. We started from the main lobby of the hospital where a large painting was the center of attention. It was a painting of a Buddha with a shrine on his head (depicting the holiness and generosity) helping a poor sick man relive from his pain. This painting corresponds to the vision of the hospital as well. We were led by Dr. Chang to different departments of the hospitals such as ER, radiology, physical therapy, prayer rooms and other common rooms which were all decorated with paintings and gave a homely and welcoming environment.
After our tour, we were led back to the conference room and served with fresh fruits and tea. Dr. Chang then presented on their Medical mission and silent mentors. He told us about the principle of respectfully treating the body of the cadavers or silent mentors. Buddhist prayers and rituals are performed before and after dissecting the body by medical students. Cremation and a funeral service is also conducted as a form of paying respect to the silent mentor and their families.
The second part of the presentation was held by Dr. Chow, in charge of the dementia department. From his interaction with other staffs and based on their opinions, it was very evident that he was highly praised for his excellent medical service as well as charity service to the community and less privileged. He believes in doing good deeds, service and charity Pre assessment for mental illness is performed in the community with AD8 questionnaires, and more detailed assessment such as brain CT scan at the hospital in just one visit to minimize the length of the diagnosis process. Physical activity, cognitive therapy, games and art are all part of the treatment process and has brought excellent results in the patients and their well being. Although the medication is very expensive, Taiwanese government has made it free of charge for everyone.
After having a very delicious, all vegetarian lunch at the hospital we headed back to Tainan. Due to heavy rain we had to cancel the tour to confucian temple. However, we were still guided by a city tour guide to the National Museum of Taiwanese Literature, the oldest department store in Taiwan, the Chi Kan tower and several Taoism temples. We spent majority of the afternoon exploring these sites and taking numerous amount of pictures. We were all mesmerized by the beauty in the very intricate details and designs of temple architecture as well as by the history behind them. After a very long day of meetings and sightseeing we were all ready for supper. So we split ourselves into two groups and went to get some delicious food and bubble tea. We met up at around 6:30 pm to take the bus to the tainan train station from where we took the train back to Kaoshung city. We insisted on walking instead of taking a cab back to campus. Upon arriving at the campus we stumbled upon a talent show and enjoyed the music for a while before heading back to the dorms to rest. It was such an eventful day were we learned about the morality of Buddhist principles, the serenity and simplicity they possess and share to everyone in the community as well as the history of Taiwan. Another day of new experiences, more delicious food and humid weather and bubble teas have passed and we cant wait for what’s coming next.