23 January, 2011

Sunday = cleaning day

...Which is why I'm sitting at a cafe havin an awesome breakfast and reading a book. Oh, don't get me wrong, my house is getting cleaned as we speak. How you might ask?

Only in Vietnam can you be woken up at 7:30a.m. On a Sunday morning by your landlord providing you with no less than 6 cleaning ladies to deep clean your house... For free.

And people might ask, "don't you miss your family and friends living so far away?"

My answer, "of course, but I'm about to spend under 20 USD for an entire afternoon at the spa while 6 ladies clean my house for free"

22 January, 2011

The Flu

It comes out of no where and knocks you on your bum. Wednesday night, I felt great- had the slightest feeling that I had a fever but thought I was just tired. Thursday upon waking up- I felt as if a bus had hit me in the middle of the night. 

And now it's Saturday. And I'm one frustrated and weak little lady. All my plans and ambitions for the past few days have been beyond my reach and I'm getting antsy! 

So, what I have done with my bedridden two (going on three) days? Finished reading these:

The first two books were given to me by my sister in law for Christmas. I starting reading the first book on the plane home from the states- which was on January 2nd-4th (time zone change- don't ask) And now it's the 22nd and I'm about 100 pages away from finishing the third book.

On Wednesday I was close to finishing the 2nd book so I had to head out to the backpacker district and hope that there was a bootleg copy of it floating around, and there was!

What a great way to spend my sick days. Rather than laying half dead in front of the TV I've been fully engrossed in these novels.

 It's an excellent trilogy, the mystery throughout each book keeps you turning pages and makes it impossible to put down. It's filled with hundreds of surprises and very complex characters. 

20 January, 2011

Kien Gieng - A Medical Mission.

I mentioned to my Vietnamese assistant teacher that I was bummed to miss a volunteer trip right before Christmas where the school had a few volunteers deliver Christmas cards to a small orphanage a few hours away. She said she was heading out on trip the following weekend and asked if I wanted to join, I said of course!

The trip was lead by one of my students parents. The father is a doctor and mother used to teach literature at a University in Ho Chi Minh City.

We headed out straight from work on Friday, went straight to Thien Phuc's parents house and we had dinner and prepared some prescriptions and waited for other volunteers to arrive.

We headed out to catch a bus at about 8:30pm- the bus ride took 8 hours- arriving at Kien Giang at 4:30 in the morning. We chose our rooms, laid down fully clothed and knocked out! 

We woke up at 6:30 am to get the show on the road. We joined all of the other doctors, dentists and volunteers for a big buffet style breakfast of delicious chicken porridge and coffee. 

We hopped back on the bus for a short 45 minute trip out to the small village where the clinic would be held. We unloaded boxes and introduced ourselves to all the beautiful faces of the village. 

Ms. Tam taught them how to properly wash their hands and brush their teeth. They listened with such great intent and respect- taking in every word. Which is funny because when we give this same speech to our students at school they roll their eyes and tune us out : ) 

We also handed out Milk to many different villagers. A lot of them actually arrived by boat.

Each room held a different form of clinic. There were a variety of health check rooms, including ultra sounds and other technical equipment that was over my head : ) the room directly next to our room had a dental clinic where dental checks and teeth were pulled. 

We took a lunch break and a nap... ok only Ms. Tam, myself and my student took naps but we were encouraged to I swear! When we returned to the clinic, we took up spots filling prescriptions. The first few minutes of this was intense because I don't speak Vietnamese and I was the person on the trip who couldn't understand Vietnamese! But I got the hang of it pretty darn quick and ended up rapidly filling prescriptions and doing a great job of it! 

Finally, around 4:30 it was time to start packing and cleaning up. What a day. It was life changing, encouraging and beautiful. We took our group pictures and said our goodbyes to the village before we headed off to the prison (yikes!) to give out more medications. 

We arrived at the prison as the sun was setting. The warden (or whatever you call the head of the prison) had put together a huge feast, free of charge, to thank all of the volunteers. Complete with bottles of Vietnamese rum. 

We toured the grounds, well we didn't see the actual prison and all of the prisoners, just the main beautiful building that the head hanchos lived in. It was very beautiful, however... even the animals were in prison. : (

Dinner was delicious and different members of the police and prison staff not only served us, but took shots with us! This was followed with some good ol' fashion Vietnamese Karaoke, half of the volunteers decided to head back to the guest house we were staying at. We spent the rest of the evening drinking beer and playing blackjack! 100% Vietnamese spoken all the time, which has encouraged me to get my act together and actually learn it! It was so much fun and even funnier to watch Ms. Tam cheat. 

The following day was another early morning- up by 7 and we headed out to a coffee shop for breakfast. We were gifted with a trip down the Mekong at the U Minh Tuong National park. This was a breathtaking boat trip! 

After our trip down the Mekong we headed about 45 minutes away to have lunch at this beautiful natural reserve. They made their own honey and everything they cooked with had been raised by them. This lunch was also free of charge as thanks for all the hard work our team had done. I couldn't believe it! 

We ate fish and it was delicious but being the klutz I am, I got a pretty sharp fish bone stuck in my throat.... good thing I was traveling with 20 doctors. 

We finally hit the road... around 4pm.... I was happy to have my headphones and a book since they had a TV playing a vietnamese comedy act! We snuggled up and tried to relax the rest of the way home. 

All in all it was an incredible trip. And the first of many to come. I've done different volunteer trips in the past but this one was different. I guess I underestimated the power of medical trips. 

I've posted all of the pictures from the trip on Flickr. Feel free to check them all out here

14 January, 2011

Kien Giang

Heading out for a volunteer trip this weekend, we are bringing gifts and teaching about good hygiene to a poverty stricken provence. 

We head out straight after work tomorrow, I'm going with my Vietnamese teaching assistant Ms. Tam and the parents of one of my students. I'm really looking forward to it! 

Stay tuned for a recap and photos : ) 

12 January, 2011

The last month or so...

Holidays. Man are they time consuming! 

I haven't been able to sit down and write on here but I have had so many great things happen. 

Going to America was a trip! I mean, obviously it was a trip- but a mental trip as well. 

Christmas celebration at school:
Detour through Pasadena for the weekend : ) 
Joy rides the Polar Express! 
Rented a condo on the beach for two nights : ) 

Pops came to visit : ) 

We went to the science museum! 

Then came new years - and my new years eve kiss

Back to back Medicine for the People shows- 

I was front and center of course! 
And you can witness my mind being blown as well. 

What an amazing two week holiday! That being said, even though it was spectacular to be with family and friends- it really made me appreciate the life I've chosen for myself out here in SE Asia. I love my job(s), I love my friends, I love my routine, I love the orphanage and I love my motorbike. 

2010 was a challenging year. I'm ready for 2011 and all it has to offer! 

-Stay tuned for more frequent posts and some exciting travel plans!