Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane...

And thank goodness, I do know where I am going...back to Omaha.  I will leave Saigon tomorrow (Thursday) around 1230p, which is about 1130p on Wednesday evening in Omaha and Chicago.  I will fly to Taipei, Taiwan and then jump on another plane bound for San Francisco.  The flights are long and it's a little bit of a 'mind trip', as I leave Saigon around 1230p on Thursday and arrive in San Francisco around 3p on Thursday.  You do the math!!

Then I will stay at the airport Hilton in San Francisco overnight, which means I get to take a really great shower and sleep in a super-comfy bed and can brush my teeth without using bottled water.  

Side note ~ 

Last night (Tuesday), I was getting ready for bed and had been brushing my teeth and the water was running, naturally.  I instinctively just put my tooth brush under the water...yikes!  Good thing I noticed and had a back-up toothbrush, so all is well!  It's amazing to me that I do not do this more often while I am here.  It's not a chance I am willing to take.  ;)

Back to my travels ~ I then jump back on a plane at 545a on Friday morning with an arrival back in Omaha around 1230p.  Don't worry about the early flight time on Friday morning...I'll be awake!  ;)

Thanks to everyone for joining me on this journey and for reading.  I'll see many of you very soon!

Great thanks to Amy for being my travel partner again and for making this adventure so much more fun!  We've had another great mission and have had a lot of laughs and experiences that we will never forget!  She's a wonderful therapist and woman, and I am so lucky to call her my friend!!

Tôi sẽ trở lại Việt Nam rất sớm! (translation ~ I'll be back to Vietnam very soon!)

Heart-felt thank you from all of you!

Yen, from the Pediatric Hospital #1 made this video for us tonight.  This video allows her to thank all of you who donated money and provided support for our efforts here in Vietnam.  

It is lovely, as is she!

A final day & night in Saigon...

It's the final morning at Ma Maison here in Saigon and the roosters/chickens were very cooperative and stayed quiet until 730a.  Yay!  Today will be a relaxed day with a little shopping and walking around to get me a little tired for the flights tomorrow.  

It's quite a lovely day here today ~ warm, but not roasting hot, so it was good to walk around District 1 and then we ventured back to District 3 to find a shop that sells tea pots (or kettles, as they say here).  I was successful in finding the tea pot I wanted for a friend in Omaha.  :)  Then a nice simple lunch of Bahn Mi with egg (sandwich) and a little watermelon juice (sans ice). 
I had time to pack earlier today and I am now ready for my departure tomorrow morning.  It always takes a little longer than I think it will as some creativity is necessary to make everything fit!  I am basically on the 3rd floor of Ma Maison and a nice young Vietnamese gentleman has to carry my bag down those stairs, so I want to make sure it doesn't crush him!  (not really possible at this point, but I can try to make it as light as possible)  He carries everything on his shoulders and it is impressive to watch, but does make us feel bad about the size of our bags!
Here's a few photos from our wanderings today...
Memorial to a Buddhist monk who burned himself alive in 1963 in protest of the government (at that time), as they were persecuting Buddhist monks and closing down temples.
His name and birth/death dates.
Flowers at the market.  They were gorgeous.

Runaway crab...unfortunately his escape ended here.


Runaway fish...he too was caught again.

Clearly a crustacean...great colors!

Cantaloupe...which is definitely imported.

Life vests...just in case

Swim floaties for babies. 

A very old building we passed while walking

Happy Flowers!!  They say 'flip flop' on the front of them.  This picture is for my niece, Meredith.  :)

I am so happy I can purchase my Oscar dress here in Saigon!!!

Great tree

We've had dinner tonight with Yen, the former director of the Rehab department at the Pediatric Hospital #1 here (who is now also a speech therapist and is basically Director Emeritus of the Rehab department) and her friend, Huong, who has been her friend since high school.  They also attended their Physical Therapy training together many years ago.  She is the Director of the Rehabilitation Department at the University Hospital here in Saigon.  These 2 ladies together are such a powerhouse and we had such a nice time at a lovely dinner.  After dinner we took a taxi to District 1 and went to an outdoor coffee cafe as well.  It was a really nice evening!

We went to a restaurant called Cuc Gach.  It is such a great place and apparently is owned by a gentleman that is an architect, now turned chef.  He apparently inherited 2 houses from a family member and he basically combined them to make a very interesting restaurant with several different levels and eating spaces.  I would not want to come to this place with high heels on, as you'll see below there would possibly be some stairs to climb.  

Outdoor patio.  It was a gorgeous night here in and breezy. 

Standing on the 2nd level of the restaurant...looking at 1 of the 2 roofs, as it's made of 2 buildings that kind of wrap into each other to make all of these interesting spaces.

Interior of the slanted roof.  The brick tiles were amazing.

An outdoor view

The stairs...they are about 12" apart.  Railing is definitely required!

Zucchini flowers, tasty

Catfish with lemon-pepper sauce

Banana flower salad with shrimp and peanuts

Lotus...for dessert

After dinner drink.  This was an 'iced chocolate.'
A great group with which to spend my last night in Saigon!!
 In the restaurant was a printed essay done by a young student in 1965.  It was printed both in Vietnamese and also in English.  I thought it was so well-written and beautiful, so I have included it here for you to read.  

Vietnamese version
English version
A wonderful final day and evening...



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Saying good-bye is never easy to do...

Well, our work for 2013 in Vietnam is now done!  Wow...cannot believe it's over!  This trip has flown-by and because we now know these folks so well, it makes saying good-bye more difficult each and every time.  Amy is, thankfully, as much of a sap as I am so when we finally got in the car to come back to the hotel we both had a little moment together.  It's always nice for me to be around someone who wears their heart-on-their-sleeve, like I do!!  :)

I suspect we will be getting lots of emails from the therapists here, as for many of them their English has improved greatly and they want to continue to practice, as well as to be able to ask us questions about patients, so email is a great tool for that type of communication.  Vietnam's internet capabilities have opened-up greatly in the past 2 years (and even more so in the past 8 years) and so it is the way to communicate across the world!!

Our final day began with our lectures for about 40-50 participants who are either physical or speech therapists or pediatricians and the orthopedic surgeon also attended.  Here is the sign they created for the's all very official!

And then, of course, the standard posed shots...

Yen is standing with Amy and Giao is standing with me.  We always think it's impressive when Amy looks tall here in Vietnam.  :)
So the Vice Director of the Hospital opened the course with a greeting to all of the participants and to Amy and me.  He was quite kind and the 'ceremony' of having someone of his 'station' is traditional here in Vietnam.  Amy then began the course by talking about the Development of Pre-Language Skills in Children.  She did a wonderful job and I think for the participants her lecture was quite ground-breaking.  The field of speech therapy is a fledgling field here in Vietnam and they are just at the start of learning the specifics of how communication emerges and develops, so Amy has been instrumental about bringing them information.  This trip there is also a speech therapist from Australia who is here for a month supervising Vietnamese students in the 'speech certificate program' for their clinical experiences.  So she and Amy have been able to chat quite a bit about the challenges that abound here.  All-in-all, though, Amy's lecture was really well received and they are really excited about exploring these ideas and learning more.  This will be an on-going area of learning for now and into the future.  

I then jumped-in and did a lecture about Brachial Plexus Injuries and was happy with how it went.  It was well-received as well and I think the information was helpful.  I did a little bit of Kinesiotaping demonstration with Amy as my 'model' as well.  We then took a little break, as we had been talking for about 3 hours and after the break there were a few questions.  While Amy was answering her questions, I was asked to sign the certificates the participants receive.  I kind of felt a little famous, as I had someone handing me certificates one after the other and all I had to do was signThe certificates were lovely and on very heavy paper.  I was initially having some trouble separating them from each other due to the thickness of the paper and Quyen, one of the therapists, just took the certificate pile from me and began handing them to me one-at-a-time.  Oh well...I guess every celebrity needs a 'handler!'  ;)

Here's some photos from the morning's class...

 At the start of my lecture.  We would talk a little bit and then Giao and Yen would translate for us.  The participants were given our lecture slides in both English and Vietnamese.  

Our lecture hall.  Giao is in the foreground translating for me while I am teaching.  

Amy teaching the class.  

As is tradition, we were presented with gifts upon completion of the course.  This is a physician who runs an orphanage outside of Saigon, mainly for children with Cerebral Palsy.  She invited us to come to her orphanage next time we are in Vietnam.

Amy and her beautiful scarf, which was the gift we were given for presenting.  Mine is blue and green and will be added to my already-plentiful scarf collection.  Can't have too many pashminas!

This was the opening slide when the participants arrived in the lecture hall.  I love the hospital's logo, located in the top left corner of the slide.

This is the certificate the participants were given upon completion of the course.  

After lunch we were allowed to relax and 'take a little break' and then around 130p or so, we gathered the staff to go through all of the items we had brought for them.  It is such a lovely experience getting to show them item-by-item and to see the excitement on their faces for items we can access so easily in the US.  

These 2 PTs were excited to break-open this package.  It is filled with splinting material, which is difficult for them to obtain here in Vietnam.  

This is a balance board, which several of the PTs tried-out upon taking it out of its package.  They were excited!

We gave them 3 large rolls of Theraband, which is the stretchy, rubber-band-like material that you can use for strengthening.  The 3 different colors represent different tensions.

Amy brought lots of jigglers for them, which can be used for oral motor preparation, providing sensory input to the hands, legs, body and face, and they are just kind of cute and fun.  Atop each one is either an elephant or a crocodile.  

Bubbles...bubbles...and more bubbles!!!  Amy, this year, got the no-drip containers, as in the past we have had the basic bubbles and by the end of the day she and I would be so sticky it was kind of bad.  So, we upgraded this go-around!

Amy really searched and found lots of people figures and puppets that are Asian-inspired.  The staff instantly noticed that the figures looked like them and were very excited.  :)

Therapists watching the unveiling!

Amy brought some books and DVDs that are quite instructional with videos to help direct their treatment, specifically of children with Autism. 

The guys loved these Mardi Gras masks Amy brought for playing peek-a-boo and dress-up.  It was quite funny!
Our annual photo of the staff of the Rehabilitation Department at Pediatric Hospital #1 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!  They always like to take the photo holding and/or wearing an item that was donated and brought by us for them to keep and use.  They are a very grateful bunch and specifically wanted us to say "Thank you so much!!!" for all of the donations!!!
Amy and I explained to them that these items were purchased through the generosity of donations given by our friends and our family and the therapists were overwhelmed that people who do not know them would donate money in order for these supplies to be purchased for them.  Their gratitude was palpable and both Amy and I were struggling not to shed a tear or two.  We were then both given lovely purses for our work in their Department (along with some lovely scarves for presenting the course this morning).  Their generosity is lovely!!

Then, it was back-to-work for our final afternoon.  Amy was escorted to her little 'speech' closet (literally, it was the size of a closet) and I made my way to the PT room, which is much larger and has ventilation via open windows and a door, as well as 2 overhead fans.  I think Amy mentioned her little closet had a little 'air conditioner' in it??

Here's some pictorial evidence of the smallness of Amy's 'closet'...

In this room were 5 adults observing, Amy, a child and a parent.  Those are some really small chairs, which is the norm here in Vietnam.

The speech therapists!!!

There's the speech closet in which Amy was working for the past 2 days.  You can see the 'air conditioner' in the background though.
I was happy to see 2 other little children with Brachial Plexus injury...

This little 1 year old guy was not too sure of me, but he did like the camera, clearly!!  He has a right brachial plexus injury, but is able to crawl on his hands and knees and is pulling to standing.  We were able to talk about some treatment ideas and taping suggestions for him.  

Here he is working with his treating therapist on trying to turn his palm up to the sky (supination).  He liked the beaded necklace, but not when presented by me.  ;)

This cute little lady was Nghi and she is 3 years old.  She was quite shy with me, but never cried and did everything I asked her to do (via translation, of course).  She has a right brachial plexus injury too.  

There was a lot of discussion and engagement with the staff about how to manage these children and we talked about kinesiotaping and some serial casting, as well as general treatment ideas.  I challenged the staff today (and yesterday afternoon too) to make some decisions and answer some questions for me and they did a great job!  It was a great way to end our time at the Pediatric Hospital #1!!

Amy's boyfriend, Robert, has arrived in Vietnam, so we will all have dinner tonight.  Tomorrow is a last-minute opportunity for me to do some final shopping and then try to pack my bags!  Here's hoping I will be able to zip my big bag shut and that it will not be too heavy.  Fingers crossed!!

A few random photos from the past few days...

Taken by Amy as we were walking back to the Rehab department after lunch.  Waving is Yen, followed by Thu and then Quyen.  They are all such lovely people!

Another picture of the hospital grounds.

A woman, about 70 years old, pushing an enormous cart of bagged items down a busy street.  We think she might have been collecting materials that can be recycled, but weren't sure.  

Uncle Ho (Chi Minh) on watch, during our lectures today.  He is ever-present here in Vietnam, as you'd imagine.

After lunch when we returned to the Rehab department, there was this huge stack of Heineken beer just sitting in the office.  Thought it a strange place for about 8 cases of beer!?!?

Piled next to the beer was about 8 cases of Miranda soda.  This is super-sweet and made with real sugar!

Our pathway to our dinner tonight at Tib.  We have dined here before and it's always delicious.  It's a long alley, but always so beautifully lit with these lights.

 I will do one final post tomorrow night before I leave and that will be itI appreciate all who have read this blog and thanks for your emails throughout my trip!  

Have a great night!!