Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Good Morning Vietnam...

I was so tired the other night that I forgot to hit "publish." Heck, I just sat down to write about the trip so far and was surprised to see I'd already written this! Ha!
Night view from our hotel.
Actually it's nighttime, but I saw a t-shirt with Good Morning Vietnam on it downstairs in the hotel lobby. We have arrived, collected our gear, and dispersed to our various rooms and own devices for the evening. Some of us planned nothing more than a shower and some reading, while others opted to head along the river a couple of blocks to find food. (Personally, this bag of pretzels is as fine a feast as I need right now.)

The flight from SFO to Taipei was a 14-hour marathon, the last two of which were very bumpy and uncomfortable, leading to my new self-imposed nickname of Hurley. Other options are Fiona and  Kermit. Honestly, it's not easy being green. And seriously, what international airline doesn't stock the seat backs with those handy little bags?

One of the themed gates at the Taipei airport.
If you're going to get stuck at an airport, it's a good one.
It was nice to have about an hour to wander around the Taipei airport before the flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Of course, after a few of us attempted to throw Jenni into a tizzy by being the last onto the plane, we buckled in, the plane pulled back -- and stopped. Our flight was delayed two hours while they replaced a computer. Of course, since the plane was fully boarded, we spent those two hours on the tarmac. Luckily the entertainment system worked.

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City and practiced our speed walking to get to the passport check area of customs before the rest of the passengers. We all made it through quickly and proceeded to gather up our checked bags. (Note to self: Use purple duct tape on all supply boxes to make them easier to spot among the myriad boxes carousing the carousel -- that plane birthed more boxes than suitcases.)

Once we'd gathered all the bags we made another speedy dash to get the baggage through customs inspection. With the exception of one of the surgical devices, the agents questioned nothing and we cruised through to find more of our contingent waiting on the other side. Our group of 14 nearly doubled with the addition of people who had arrived earlier in the week or converged from places other than Northern California.

We stopped for lunch about halfway to Can Tho at an outdoor restaurant under a huge thatched roof. They served whole fried fish standing in a rack as if it was swimming. The frying curls the scales, so it looks kind of like a porcupine. (Why yes, a picture of that would have been nice. I'll take one -- next time.) It was nice to be sitting still in a chair that was not flying or rolling for a change.

Due to the flight delay, we arrived in Can Tho around 6p instead of midafternoon. The beneift is that it feels more like a "regular" day, which should help with the whole time adjustment thing. It's 9p now and I'm purposely NOT doing the math to figure out California time.

So far, I've seen more Honda scooters here than mosquitos. (Thankfully this does not require repellant.) I saw very few bicycles, but maybe 100 scooters for every car? Most of the adults wear helmets, but that doesn't mean they're not carrying helmet-less children -- even infants -- with them. People rig all sorts of trailers and racks to carry things. Human ingenuity is amazing stuff.

The hotel overlooks the Mekong. The bridge and the night lights are very pretty.

Most of us will meet at 7a for breakfast to be at Can Tho General Hospital (a 20 min cab ride) by 8:30 to start our first day of work screening patients.


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