This month I visited Inner Mongolia for the first time, and my trip brought me to Ordos, best known for its rugged grasslands, deserts, and also the mausoleum of Genghis Khan (unfortunately, no time to see that!).
But I went there to discover another side of poverty relief supported by the internet — in the healthcare sector. And I experienced it with the help of a local Mongolian man named Yilao Baganna.
He lives in a modest ranch-style brick home on the prairie, where he keeps sheep, cows and free-range chickens, and tends a modest garden.
The prairie surrounding his home seemed as endless as the brilliant blue sky, which looked like something borrowed out of a painting. And I couldn’t even see the home of his closest neighbor! What a contrast to Beijing, where I live, with its crowded streets and apartment buildings.
During my visit, he shared with me his story of how he became impoverished, due to his medical condition. A few years ago, because of kidney failure, he received a kidney transplant. However the new kidney still didn’t function as expected after the operation, so he would need to undergo dialysis three times a week at the local hospital.
Here, he’s getting dialysis done at the local hospital.
I learned that his public healthcare coverage takes care of over 90 percent of his medical costs, making it very affordable for him to manage his condition. Plus, they’ve put all the insurance information online, so it’s easy for him to settle the costs once he has finished; he just goes up to a designated window and it gets done in a matter of minutes.
The coverage has literally saved his life. He even told me that without this support, he would not be able to go to the hospital.
Yilao Baganna showed his hospitality by treating us to a snack that reminded me of breadsticks, as well as some tea.
He showed me around his house and the grounds, and horses were a common theme, from this picture with Mongolian script…
…to this decoration before the home, one typical of Mongolian households, which featured a replica of the renowned picture of eight fine steeds as well as horse-shaped metal embellishments at the top.
On the way to his home, we stopped by a tourist resort which featured statues of Mongolian guards — perfect for a photo!
In the process, I made a few friends too, such as with this local reporter.
I also had the opportunity to spend one evening in the more metropolitan area of Ordos, close to its airport. I discovered a riverside trail that made for a pleasant walk before dinner.
The walk capped off my short but fascinating first journey to Ordos, Inner Mongolia. The more I travel around China, the more I realize just how diverse it is.
Everyone in Ordos told me the landscape looks even more spectacular in the summer, when the prairie turns green with dazzling flowers in a variety of colors, including purple. Perhaps another trip? 😉