Tag Archives: spring10

The Candle Room

Shake It, Eugene is a video series about Eugene’s underground dance movement. Although they remain relatively unknown, places to go dancing in Eugene come alive almost any night of the week as people of all ages turn toward dance as a way to relax and meet new people. This series provides a look at some of Eugene’s most joyful and inviting dance venues.

Destination Surgery

With the rising cost of health care comes the controversial new trend of medical tourism.

Cristina Ramos sits on a plastic-cased chair, the back of her legs glued to the covering as she attempts to peel them off the sticky surface. She readjusts herself, looking to her left to see a tin table adorned with a blue sheet of paper and half a dozen metal tools resting on top. She takes a deep breath and turns to see her father, seated adjacent to the over-sized chair in which she sits. He smiles and reassures her that the process will be quick and painless. Ramos’s visit to the dentist is similar to any other routine procedure, except for one detail: She is in Mexico, hundreds of miles from her home in Santa Cruz, California.

Ramos, 22, is one of a growing number of people who have chosen to undergo medical procedures outside of his or her home country. In his article “A revolution in health care: medicine meets the marketplace,” Fred Hansen, physician and journalist, says that the market for medical tourism is predicted to jump from the $20 billion industry it is today to one worth roughly $100 billion by 2012.

The phenomenon of “medical tourism” encompasses people from a variety of backgrounds. According to a 2008 report on medical tourism by the Institute of Development Studies, a global charity for international development, medical tourists used to be affluent people able to afford to travel, typically in the United States or Europe, to receive the best medical care possible. As international travel has become more attainable, however, more and more people from a range of backgrounds are choosing this option. The primary motivator for medical tourists: costs. In some foreign countries, such as India, Thailand, and Mexico, the price of medical procedures can cost a fraction of what it does in the United States.

Medical tourists seek out a wide array of treatments and procedures, everything from routine medical and dental work to complex surgeries and procedures, such as joint replacements and cardiac surgery. Many of the procedures sought out by medical tourists are elective, such as plastic surgery and cataract surgery, simply because many health insurance companies do not cover surgeries that are not emergencies. Fueling the trend is the fact that the quality of medical care around the globe has improved. India, for example, is a forerunner for medical advancements like hip resurfacing procedures.

Although Ramos’s trip to Mexico was for a medical procedure, her father is from Mexico. Because her family was already getting prescriptions across the border, heading south seemed like a logical step to save money in an age of rising health care costs. “I’ve been in American hospitals for everything from concussions to torn ligaments,” says Ramos, noting her experience with costly medical procedures in the U.S.

Amy Costales, an adjunct instructor of Spanish at the University of Oregon, lived in Thailand and witnessed medical tourism on a regular basis.

“People from Australia, New Zealand, and Europe would come to Bangkok because they had a hospital set up just for medical tourism,” says Costales. “They had an online Web site where you could find your doctor, plan your trip, and they even helped with accommodations. People would fly to Thailand because it was cheaper,” says Costales, noting that later on, she became one of these tourists, flying from India to Thailand to have knee surgery.

Jim Krois, 62, from Williams, Oregon, traveled to Mexico in 2009 to have his hip replaced while he was uninsured. “I was diagnosed for a hip-replacement two weeks before I was laid off. To have the surgery in the U.S. it would [have] cost me anywhere from $52,000 to $80,000. India was the cheapest I could find for about $8,000 to $10,000, but I decided on Puerta Vallarta [Mexico] because of the shorter flying time,” says Krois. The surgery cost $12,000 with an added $2,500 for airfare and accommodations. In spite of the significant cost savings, Krois had reservations and worried about the safety of the procedure.

“I’ve been around the world a couple of times; I was never afraid of going to another country, but I was concerned with hygiene,” says Krois.

“We’ve all heard horror stories [about] Mexico, but I stayed in a brand-new hospital.”

Ramos could relate to these concerns. “My dentist at home is very upscale and fancy, and the place we went to in Mexico had old ads on the wall and a dirty exterior, but their quality of work and customer service was better than all the years I had gotten from my dentist in the United States,” Ramos says, explaining that, in Mexico, most of the time one or two nurses were at her side to comfort or assist her throughout the process.

Because of worldwide improvements in medical and sanitation standards, tourists have become more confident that the treatment they seek will be just as effective, if not more so, than if they stayed in their home country. Medical amenities across the globe are now comparable to medical institutions in the United States, which were once said to be the standard of quality treatment and cleanliness. These facilities offer the same standards of treatment at a much lower rate, presenting an opportunity for first-world countries such as U.S., Canada, and Europe to save thousands on health care bills.

For Krois, the thought of saving thousands of dollars outweighed his mild hesitation of the health-risks he might encounter in foreign territory.

Another worry for those seeking low-cost medical attention is the risk of scams. According to Ian Youngman of the International Travel Journal, medical tourism offices catering strictly to medical tourism are allowed to go unregulated by the government, and it is easy to become a victim of a trick. “Some national sounding names have been found to be nothing more than a guy using a laptop and an Internet café,” he says. Many medical tourists rely on what they read on the Internet—being that they are so far away—a source that may not be reliable.

According to medicaltourism.com, a Web site catering to those who are considering medical tourism, the credibility of the facility and the doctor varies from practice to practice. The key to finding a safe and suitable doctor in a foreign country is careful research.

While medical tourism might benefit those seeking treatment, it can carry some downsides for the host country. According to the Department of Tourism at Pondicherry University in India, medical tourism can create a shortage of trained health care workers for native people.

According to the department’s research, medical tourism generates an estimated $60 billion in business for India and has led to the creation of high-tech private medical facilities in India. However, questions remain about whether local residents benefit from the revenue these facilities produce. “Experience from India suggests that private hospitals attract health professionals away from the public health sector and rural areas in India,” says a report from the university’s department of tourism.

“This is a valid point,” says Costales. “Ideally, if a country has set up medical tourism, it would be nice if it benefited the country and wasn’t just a pocket of businessmen and doctors getting really rich and depleting these resources from the rest of the country.”

The idea of traveling to a foreign country for something as intimate as medical care may seem daunting to some. “There are all these fears of the unknown,” says Costales. “I think there are times when we think other countries have inferior medical care, and some do, but there are also countries with very good care.”

Despite these adverse effects, officials at the Confederation for India Industry predict that the practice of medical tourism will not slow anytime soon.

Looking back on his surgery in Mexico, Krois says, “I would do it again in a second.”

It took Ryan Dingler nine rides to get from Eugene to Florence and back.

Weekend Vagabonds

Once used strictly as a last resort, hitchhiking has become a ticket to adventure for some college students.

On the tail end of a fall weekend, University of Oregon students Ryan Dingler and Daniel Beltramo found themselves stranded in Redding, California. Eager to make it back home to Eugene, Oregon, they hastily added the words “class is on Monday” to their dog-eared cardboard sign requesting a ride north. For two hours, they stood on the shoulder of a busy road with their thumbs thrust in the air, praying that one of the blurred vehicles zooming past might pull over. Although some may see this as a desperate situation, Dingler and Beltramo had anticipated it; they had even hoped for it.


It took Ryan Dingler nine rides to get from Eugene to Florence and back.

It took Ryan Dingler nine rides to get from Eugene to Florence and back.

Finally, a 1980s van rolled to a stop a few hundred feet in front of them. “Hey get in!” yelled its sole occupant. The boys were hesitant; the ride was questionable. They approached the passenger side of the van with caution. If anything went wrong, they could still run away. But the driver was clean-shaven and wore a nice jacket. The hitchers introduced themselves, asked where the driver was headed, and got in the car.

“When you first get a ride, you’re ecstatic!” says Dingler of the hitching process. For these adventure-hungry students, hitchhiking is not a last resort but a daring pastime, a way to break free from routine. Getting somewhere is not its purpose. Some don’t even choose a specific destination before hitting the road. The purpose, Dingler says, is in the journey.

Dingler discovered his new hobby during a bout of restlessness. “I was feeling bored and stuck,” he says, “I didn’t have anything to do.” Always eager for a new experience, Dingler and a few pals tried biking to Corvallis, Oregon, but bad weather on the return trip forced them to hitchhike instead. “Not ten minutes after we stuck out our thumbs, a truck came by and took us all the way to Eugene.” Dingler knew right away he had stumbled onto something great: recreational hitchhiking. “I knew that adventure was only a thumb away,” he jokes.
Hitchhiking as a pastime has since caught on to Dingler’s group of friends. But, although there are several online resources for hitchhikers (digihitch.com is the most popular), a community has yet to emerge for hitchhiking purely for fun.


Dingler and Eddie Ouellette bond with their driver’s wet dog.

Dingler and Eddie Ouellette bond with their driver’s wet dog.

Soon after that first experience, Dingler and Beltramo planned a longer hitchhiking trip: a quest for an In-N-Out Burger. Before leaving, they researched Oregon and California highway laws to make sure their new pastime was legal—which they discovered it was. In California, however, hitchers must avoid interstates and stay near on-ramps to find long-distance rides.

Anticipating the risk involved, the pair also devised a safety phrase to use in a bad situation They decided to use “I threw it on the ground,” a joke from a Digital Short on Saturday Night Live. Dingler used the term once on a ride back from Portland when he noticed their driver drinking alcohol. He’s also found himself riding with a self-professed bank robber and a drug dealer with a trunk full of marijuana. In situations such as these, the safety phrase comes in handy. When the time is right, they excuse themselves and hop off at the first possible stop.

Despite these and other “creepy” experiences, Dingler and Beltramo say the best part of the experience is swapping stories with their drivers. Their favorite encounters involve other wayfaring travelers such as Johan, the driver of the 1980s van that drove them out of Redding. During the long ride back to Eugene, Dingler and Beltramo took turns resting and talking with Johan, a bartender, traveler, and urban climber of buildings and structures in Seattle. According to the two hitchers, most of the people who take a chance and pick them up are adventurers themselves and can easily be persuaded to talk about their experiences. “Sometimes people completely open up to you because they know they probably will never see you again,” says Dingler. “They want someone in the world to know the struggles they went through.”

Dingler hikes up on the beach in Florence, Oregon to head home.

Dingler hikes up on the beach in Florence, Oregon to head home.

But before they can hear the stories, they have to catch a ride. If hitchhiking is the game, then attracting a car is scoring a point. Earning that score is literally the work of a moment. “[Drivers] judge you and your character as they drive past on the freeway,” says Beltramo. “If you look like a nice person, they’re more likely to pick you up.” To win over a passerby, he and Dingler often dance by the side of the road or do “the wave.” Another tip from Dingler: “Make it personal.” When a vehicle approaches, the hitchers do their best to make eye contact with the driver. “Even if you can’t see them,” he says, “focus on the spot where they should be.” Once the vehicle passes, Dingler says, prolong the effect by staring at it until it disappears from view.

When the hitchhikers finally reel in a ride, they rely on etiquette they’ve compiled to make sure the ride is good. “You always approach the passenger side of the car to avoid scaring the driver,” says Dingler. “Ask where they are going, and decide if it is far enough.” And don’t forget to “shake their hand before you get in.” Dingler also takes note of the license plate number before he gets into the car, texting it to a friend, just in case. According to the travelers, the size of the group is also important. Dingler has always gone in groups of two. “Three is too big,” he says. “I want to try one, but not yet.” He recently accompanied his friend Claire Seger on her first attempt, a ride back to Eugene form Portland. “She wants to go again,” he says with a grin.

Although much of this know-how comes from online tips, Dingler says the best sources are found on the road. Tricks of the trade include learning where not to hitchhike, such as less-urban towns like Medford and Albany, Oregon, and what to wear. The ideal outfit makes one look as friendly and harmless as possible without detracting from the idea that the ride is needed. On a recent hitching trip, a homeless man asked Dingler for money. “Obviously I didn’t dress down enough,” he says.

As Johan drove his decades-old van closer to Dingler and Beltramo’s destination, the guys realized what a good time they were having. Johan pointed out a sign signaling the exit to Eugene. But Dingler and Beltramo weren’t ready to leave. Johan was headed to Seattle. In the spur of a moment, the two decided to let their destination fly by. The adventure wasn’t over yet.

Hook It and Book It

[caps]H[/caps]is eyes have peered through the barrel of a loaded shotgun. His skull has been on the wrong end of an airborne frying pan. Night after night he’s out there “stealing” cars…but legally. Meet Jay Gates, “repoman”. As long as there are debts unpaid, there will always be characters like Jay Gates. And this repoman loves what he does. In fact, Gates – a self-professed “adrenaline junkie” – hasn’t thought of quitting in nineteen years. While his signature, eight-shot black, DutchBrothers coffee keeps him awake, Gates does most of his work at night by the harsh glow of his own headlights.

Wild Child: Learning Naturally

[caps]O[/caps]n the first day of camp, they play with matches. By the time they complete the Trackers PDX course, the children will make fire using a bow drill, shoot arrows and build a shelter in the woods. For these mostly home schooled kids, Trackers PDX provides a chance to learn wilderness skills, connecting the youngsters to the natural environment and enabling them to make friends along the way.

The Fighter

[caps]N[/caps]CAA All American wrestler Chael Sonnen is training for the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title fight this summer. He stands against Anderson Silva, a brutal opponent who has destroyed some of the best fighters in the UFC. But when he’s not beating up on 200 pound men he’s going door to door campaigning to be the next State Representative of Oregon’s district 37. In one arena his opponents stand in front of him while in the other they attack from behind. What kind of man does it take to win in both?

Nuclear Renewal

[caps]W[/caps]ith growing concerns over global warming and the need for low-carbon, ‘green’ power, Oregon’s energy future may just be radioactive. José Reyes and his start-up NuScale Power, a Corvallis-based company, are attempting to reenergize the nuclear industry with its small-scale and modular nuclear reactors. But can they overcome the problems and stigma associated with the industry and bring nuclear back online as a major power player?

Adrenaline: 72-Hour Film Project

[cap]E[/cap]ach team gets a prop, a line of dialog and a genre. Then over the next 72 hours, each group of would be auteurs must write, shoot and edit a film. Welcome to the Adrenaline Film Festival at the University of Oregon. Throughout this frantic three-day madness, industry professionals mentor each team as they pitch story ideas—from action to horror, comedy or western—write scripts, shoot scenes, and make final edits. After three sleepless nights, the teams compete in a showdown as the Cinema Pacific finale. Which team will make the movie that wins it all? This documentary follows one of the teams from start to finish.

Master of the Blade

Do It (Again) Yourself: Episode 4

[cap]M[/cap]ichael Bell is an artisan of swords. Working at his forge in the Coquille wilderness, he practices an ancient Japanese art. Bell’s time in Tokyo as a child, followed by his apprenticeship with an inspirational sensei, lead him to start Dragonfly Forge, an art studio for himself and his son and also a school for any who wish to learn the art of forging a blade. “Master of the Blade” not only shows both how a Japanese sword is created but also reveals Bell’s struggles to overcome challenges–from economic hardship to the physical demands of being a craftsman—so that he can keep the ancient eastern art alive in the United States.