Saturday, July 24, 2010

Beyond the Barrier Salad

"Possibly I will need get samples so that you have some cells to analyze" said my new advisor Dr. Wang, in his thick Chinese accent. Dr. Wang has a long wizened face, and dark, kind eyes, which remind me of my grandfather. His hair is impeccably straight, and cut across in the sort of bowl haircut you might see on a small boy. He is remarkably slim, and most of his pants are too big for his belt such that the material cinches at the loops. Most often his belt is covered beneath a long white lab coat that hangs to his knees. Dr. Wang always has a spring in his step and a smile on his face, which reveals a large set of white teeth. Until he became my advisor, I didn't pay too much attention to him when he spoke at meetings. This is mainly because it was so difficult for me to understand what he was saying, both due to his accent and the complexity of the subject that he researches. As soon as I began to work for him, I started listening intently when he speaks, knowing how important it is for me to understand every detail.

"Can you show me how to do that?" I asked.
"YES OF COURSE" he said flashing a huge grin as though this were already implied in his previous comment.
"Okay, thank you" I said, and I followed the tail of his lab coat as he turned and swiftly walked down the hall.

Dr. Wang and I arrived in the laboratory wearing hairnets and booties. I carried a notebook and pen. Dr. Wang had magnifying glasses fastened around his head. His blue hairnet billowed underneath the strap of the magnifier, as though it contained a bun of hair. He looked a little like a lunch lady, and it was difficult for me not to laugh, particularly when he flipped the glasses down and his eyes bulged through the lens. We talked a little, but mostly we worked in the confines of our own language barriers.

As he reached for a tool he mentioned that he used to be a mechanic back in China. This peaked my curiosity. I remembered that he had been a medical doctor back in China before coming here. How does a person go from working as a mechanic in China, to going to medical school? I had thought that Chinese students went to medical school right out of high school. Then I got to wondering: why would someone who had been working for 8 years as a medical doctor in China want to come to the US only to go back to school for a PhD in nutrition? I decided to ask. "Dr. Wang, why did you decide to move to the US?"
"I was not happy with the political climate in China." He stated. Then he launched into his story.

"I was a little boy in China, even though both my parents were highly respected intellectuals, my family was given trouble during the cultural revolution. During middle school, my siblings and I were sent to the countryside to work in the fields. The conditions were horrible. My mother would have cried very much had she known. It was freezing and we had no electricity or running water. We had to work very hard, and live in terrible conditions. We did not know when we would be allowed to return home. After 5 years I was told that I could return home to take care of my parents, but my sister had to stay behind in the field. Eventually she got out and got her degree too, but that is another story.

After returning home, I got a job working in a factory. I worked very hard, and was able to get a good recommendation. After the end of the cultural revolution, when the university opened up, they administered a test to people who were interested in attending. Only the top 5 % were accepted. I worked very hard, and was very fortunate to be accepted. Some of my friends were not so fortunate. After medical school I worked in family practice, and in endocrinology. In 1989 there were the killings in Tiananmen Square, do you remember? That was what finally drove me to leave China. I applied for a scholarship, and the University of Minnesota gave me a full scholarship. I have been here ever since."

I stared, amazed, at the incredible phenomenon of human spirit standing in front of me. He blinked back at me through magnifying glasses, is blue bonnet crumpled onto his shoulder. Then I noticed the shiny silver, oddly patterned designer collar hanging over his lab coat. A symbol of a man determined to enjoy his life.

I had one more burning question. "Dr. Wang, do you miss the vegetables in China?"
"Oh NO!" he replied. "I have a big garden in my yard. I grow all my own Chinese vegetables." He grinned a huge grin.

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. I am pleased to introduce you to the incredible Dr. Wang.

Frisee salad with fresh tomatoes and sweet peppers
2 cups frisee
1 sliced and diced tomato (fresh from the garden)
1 fresh orange sweet pepper

Dress with sweet Gorgonzola dressing
1 Tbsp Gorgonzola
1 Tbsp fresh basil
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp raw honey
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp grape seed oil
whisk together vigorously for about 5 min. The cheese should partially incorporate into the liquid.

Christina's vote: "A bright surprise"

1 comment:

  1. noble/wang---what a wonderful salad!!!