A Travellerspoint blog

Photos

They are coming...I hope and promise

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Our intention was to post pics concurrently with our posts. We surely are taking pics of our experiences, but yes, I know, we haven't posted any.

Spencer, I promise you, soon you will get to see you darling Conrad sticking out like a sore thumb in Vietnam.

So both Conrad and I forgot to bring our USB cords for our cameras. I figrued it would be ok since in my past most internet cafes had memory card readers. Well, the internet cafes in Vinh are not like the ones I used throughout Thailand or HK or China. These internet cafes are more for the locals to chat and game among each other. No memory card readers for sure...which is why no pics have been posted as of yet.

Our plan is to post pics from our experiences when we get to more touristy cities with tourist friendly internet cafes. We are heading to Hanoi after work on Friday, so hopefully this weekend we can find a place to upload pics for y'all to see.

Love, Kelli

Posted by Kellrad 21:03 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vinh

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So we have now settled into Vinh, a city of approximately 1 million people in northern Vietnam. Our stay in Ho Chi Minh was brief but long enough to get a sense for the craziness of the place: thousands of motorbikes, very few cars, crazy streets that can be quite scary to cross if you don't walk with confidence. The people of HCM, being familiar with tourists, don'tstare and giggle at us, they just incessantly try to get us to buy things. Our two hour flight to Vinh was actually comfortable and uneventful, just lots of crying babies.
We were met at the airport by Nga, the head nurse of the hospital where we are working. On the drive into town, we quickly realized that life in Vinh would be less busy than what we felt in Ho Chi Minh. The houses are larger and spread out and the streets are much less busy.
We settled into our hotel after an exceptionally pungent cup of green tea and then headed to the hospital to meet some of the people we would work with. Our hotel is about a ten minute walk to the hospital.
After returning to our hotel we decided to walk around the neighborhood to check out the local market and look for some good places to eat. To say we, especially myself, stick out like sore thumbs would be quite an understatement. Vinh is not at all a tourist destination so a 6'2 skinny white guy walking the streets is noticed by everyone, resulting in stares and laughs with occasional yells of hello from brave souls. As people drive by on motorbikes, they turn their heads to stare, oblivious to other riders around them. We wandered the market which was full of fruits vegetables and meats. If I was not from New Orleans, I would be a little more surprised at the lack of sanitary conditions in the market.
I have quickly learned how incredibly friendly the people are. They are all eager to ask us questions in English. Their English puts my Vietnamese to shame. Wednesday was our first day of work. In the morning we saw patients in the ER, neonatal intensice care unit and pediatric intensive care unit. We spend much of the time telling the doctors the English terms for lots of medical conditions and clinical exam findings.
There are lots of babies with jaundice, lots with pneumonia and lots with asthma.

I really feel out of my element, but already have been made to feel much more comfortbale. All of the doctors invited us to play soccer last night againsta team from another hospital. For those familiar with my soccer skills which fortuantely is only my mom and dad and a video camera since I quit at age 11, it is quite a feat that I only was directly responsible for giving up one goal. I have two left feet when it comes to soccer, and it did not help that I had not done any exercise since I had my surgery. After the game we all went out to a bar, to have beer, fried tofu (the only bad thing I have had here foodwise) and dreid fish that surprisingly tasted very good. We also were constantly standing up to toast, at which point they would point to us and say "100%" and we would all drink untitl the glass was empty. Quite similar to the US. We then went back to our hotel and fell asleep by 8. This will be another recurring theme this month. It gets dark about 530 or 6 and we have been told not to go out walking after 9 so we are in the hotel by 7 or 730 with not much to do but read. We have fallen asleep (on rock hard beds) by 8 each night, only to be wide awake at 430 in the morning.
I will continue to post more often now that we have found our favorite internet cafe and gone through the awkward exchange of using fingers and calculators with butchered pronunciations of Vietnamese words from our phrasebook randomly thrown in. The posts will also be shorter. Tmorrow night we will be taking the train to Hanoi for the weekend.

Posted by Kellrad 12:02 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam War Remnants Museum

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During our brief stay in Ho Chi Minh, we went to the Vietnam war museum, an incredible experience. There were many gruesome pictures, the ajority of which depicted the US soldiers in a poor light. Lots of pictures of the terrible effects of napalm and dioxin used during the war. All the captions were quite hostile to the U.S. The most moving part, however, was one section with hundreds of pictures recently done by the local students. All of the pictures were about peace and showed the usual things kids have in peace pics: doves, a globe with people of different colors surrounding it and holding hands. Most of them also had American flags as well. Really showed how despite the strong feelings of disgust for the US for the war not too long ago, that the entire country as symbolized by the children's drawings is looking ahead and not harboring resentment. It was a really cool thing to see...

Conrad

Posted by Kellrad 11:54 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Settled in Vinh

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We have arrived in Vinh. It is much different from Saigon. We will post more details later today or tomorrow.

Posted by Kellrad 19:21 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

First impressions & Adventures in HCM City

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Conrad got his first taste of a third-world country frequented by tourists at the Ho Chi Minh international airport. We had the address of our hotel so all we needed to do is take a cab. Inside I asked the info booth where the metered taxi station was, and they pointed outside. After walking through the reception area (quite crowded and Conrad said it made him feel like we were famous and they were the paparazzi), we walked toward taxis signs. Before we made it 10 m, we were approached by maybe 3 private taxi drivers offering to drive us or far more than we were told to pay by Project Vietnam. We kept walking toward the signs, and one driver kept following us reducing his rate. As I was talking to the metered taxi agent he named a price that was what we were told to pay, so we stopped to talk to him. I just wanted to pay the metered rate (since I am very familiar with taxi drivers exploiting tourists at airports in SE asia), and Conrad just wanted to get out of there. We agreed to pay the taxi driver $10 and went into his cab. Once we got in and paid him, he said he wanted $10 from each of us, although before he said $10 total for us both. We reminded him what he told us before, and he said ok. Then as we left the aiport, there is a toll to get out. The cab driver told us we had to pay 100.000 Vietnam Dong to get out plus the $10, so we did (i did read in one of our guide books that some cab drivers make you pay this to get out); however when we went out he paid the toll far less than what we paid him...and so Conrad learned what it felt like to be had by a cab driver. Live and learn. The cab driver was nice and spoke english with us until he knew no more.

So we made it safely to our hotel. Cute place in an alley off one of the major touristy street. It's great because the reception people speak English quite nicely, its centrally located, there are lots of food options around us (both vietnamese and this tourist menu-vietnamese fusion), there is free internet, and Project Vietnam arranged it for us ;-) Our room wasnt ready, so we showered in their kitchen bathroom. basically a toilet room with a shower nozzle on the wall - alas we were clean!

We started walking to Dong Khoi, one of the major tourist areas in Ho Chi Minh. We stopped in for some Hue Noodle soup and crab spring rolls. I learned HUe noodles are thicker and more slippery than regular Vietnamese vermicelli noodles, and I ended up wearing most of my soup broth on my tank top. Food was excellent though.

We wandered through the Ben Thanh Market - a very crazy place. Filled with tourists and Vietnamese alike. Super busy, kinda like the Weekend Market in Bangkok. There were tons of Vietnamese goods (laquerware, buddha heads, chop sticks, silk products) and hundreds of food stalls filled with Vietnamese. The seafood section was fun to wander through.

We walked and took pictures with all of the nice buildings. We changed some money and felt like millionnaires (We walked out of the bank with over 5 million Vietnam DOng = ~$300 US). We bought a cell phone for our parents to phone us in emergencies. We saw the Reunification Hall, Notre Dame Cathedral and visited the Vietnam War Remnants museum. And we were spent...after this long walk and the multiple trips up to our 5th floor hotel room, my calves surely got a good work out. We ended the day with some Vietnamese tofu coconut curry and chicken-veggie-chili dish.

All in all, we had a great day wandering around. This morning we are going to meet Dr. Quy, one of our project coordinators, to get briefed on everything. Then we fly to Vinh.

For people wondering about the city, It feels very Bangkok-esque with only a few skysrcrapers but tons of close-knit 5 story buildings. It's smoggy, humid, with fewer stray dogs and hundreds of motorbikes (far more than BKK).

Posted by Kellrad 16:16 Archived in Vietnam Comments (3)

Flight

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Well our 27 hour journey to get here has ended finally. Not much excitement on the trip:
The River Why, a fly fishing yarn, is the first book I am reading and has so far been hilariously well written
-Kelli frantically called her mom from Houston and led her step by step through changing her Facebook status. 20 minutes later and "Kelli is en route to Vietnam." Another reason why I have no need for virtual friends...
-Los Angeles airport is bad
-I spent 8 of the 14 hours on flight to Taipei playing a game called Luxor on my personal entertainment system. Might be more addictive than facebooking...I couldn't sleep mostly cause there was a crying baby in front of us and also cause I was in the middle seat and don't really sleep very well sitting up.
-China Airlines definitely makes sure that you are well fed and well entertained.
-The airline also allows you to see cameras from two different angles (the nose and the belly of the plane) which allowed us to ensure that both landings were actually very well done.
-All in all the flight wasn't too bad and after settling in at our hotel we set out to explore the city.

Posted by Kellrad 04:03 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Posting Comments

We have made up a log-in for everyone to post comments so that you don't have to subscribe to make comments on our posts.
UserID: vietnam09
Password: vietnam09

Just sign your name at the end.

Posted by Kellrad 21:35 Comments (1)

Safe in Saigon

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Well after 27+ hours of traveling we have finally made it to our hotel in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). We will post more later

Posted by Kellrad 21:25 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

The Journey Begins

About to head out to the airport to begin a trip to Ho Chi Minh that will end on Feb. 2. Since we cross the international date line, we will have no Feb. 1, 2009. We will also be on a plane during the Super Bowl. From here we go to Houston then on to LA and from there we go to Taipei Taiwan before catching our flight to Ho Chi Minh. We'll spend Monday night there and then fly to Vinh to begin our work. Here is the tentative schedule for the month we will spend at the hospital.
Week 1: work in Newborn Unit and Ped Intensive care, round with staff, take census and report on patients
Week 2 + 3: work in Respiratory dept (in and outpatient) visit local schools for asthma survey. census of inpatients on respiratory. Work on environmental survey
Week 4: continue work, Infection control

Should be fun, we can't wait to get over there. Will post again once we arrive.

-Conrad

Posted by Kellrad 09:45 Comments (0)

The Battle of the Bags

So the subplot for this trip will actually revolve around luggage. As those close to me may know, I have a piece of luggage made by a company (that will remain nameless for now) that touts the bag as the max size for a legal carry on. I received it several years ago for Christmas (thanks Mom!), having no idea that it would change my life. This bag is easily the best present I have ever received. I can't remember the last time I needed to check a bag for a trip that wasn't a 2 week fly fishing excursion http://www.flyfishinglodge.com/.
This bag fits everything and you can just keep stuffing junk in it and the zippers will still close and it will still fit in an overhead bin. I am pretty sure I could fit my chocolate lab, Nola, into this thing and no one would notice. My love for this object rivals my man crushes on Drew Brees, Chris Paul and the entire peds cardiology staff at Ochsner.
Kelli got so sick of me rambling on about this bag during our interview season that she finally broke down and decided to buy one. While looking online she was unable to find one in stock in her favorite color (Colgate red, of course). So, ever doubtful of my advice, she decides to purchase a bag from another company. She is quite confident that it will hold up as well as mine. My money is on the fact that I will be cramming her stuff into my wonderful bag for the return trip home since hers will have fallen apart somewhere between the Mekong Delta and Cambodia. Stay tuned...

Posted by Kellrad 20:05 Comments (2)

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