Saturday, March 20, 2010

Final Days in Quang Ngai

On March 17, we participated in teaching the final class of seventh graders for this year. The teacher, Mrs. Tam, has been very enthusiastic about our visit and our help. That day the lesson was about sports. Margaret and I read the introductory paragraphs on a survey of US teenagers about their favorite sports. Number one was 'baseball'. Now, baseball is an unfamiliar game in Vietnam, as I discovered last year. So as we went up to read the vocabulary list, I walked with my cane and a rubber 'baseball' I had brought. I pointed to the word 'baseball' and held up the baseball. Then when Margaret read the vocabulary list again I tossed her the baseball and held up my cane like a bat. She tossed it to me and I hit it with the handle of my cane. It bounced around the room and one little boy in the front row scrambled out of his seat to retrieve it and hand it back. I think that class will remember the word 'baseball'!
When we gathered with the teachers after that class in the break room, we used the small glasses of tea they serve to outline a baseball diamond and gave them a simple lesson in the game of baseball. They are eager to learn more about the United States - all aspects. We gave the teachers and the three administrators evaluation forms we'd drawn up and asked them to give us their evaluations of our work. "Should we sign this?" one teacher asked. "That's optional." I replied,"We want your honest opinions and often that is easier if you don't have to sign."
Thursday, 18th, we spent in Binh Son District, the district just north of Son Tinh, visiting compassion houses that Madison Quakers had built since our visit last year. Mike Boehm and Mr. Do always do followup visits to ensure that the houses have been completed as promised. One thing I always do is look at the toilet. Madison Quakers stipulate that each house they help build must have a toilet - for sanitation and to help protect the environment. It makes me happy as a physician concerned about public health! A vignette from one of those houses visited: a 48 year old woman who was wounded in the war. She suffered an injury at the base of her head which left her with a right-sided hemiplegia (weakness of entire right side of her body). She told me that for months she could only crawl around. Finally, after about 10-12 months she gradually regained her use of arm and leg on that side. I briefly examined her: hand strength in both hands is equal and she had good strength in her right leg. One of the things I learned during my work in Quang Ngai hospital is that such war injuries often do resolve over time. The initial paralysis or weakness is due to swelling and as it resolves, many of the nerves regain their function. This woman and her husband have four children. The two older ones have finished high school. We met the two younger ones: a boy in middle school and a boy in primary school. The boy in middle school is studying English and spoke to us in very clear English. We told him to tell his teacher she has taught him well. The door and windows for the front room have not yet been installed but the rest of the house is beautiful, including the toilet which both Margaret and I used. The whole family is extremely grateful to Madison Quakers, Inc. for their grant of money which made this beautiful home possible.
I hope I can get some help to get more pictures posted along with these entries but we haven't managed to connect with the internet cafe owner since I got that first picture posted. Now we are in Hanoi and I shall be returning to US in a couple of day. Hope to get at least one or two more posts up. Margaret will be staying a few days longer and I'm sure you'll hear from her too.

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