Greetings from the high seas! I'm aboard the USNS Mercy right now, working with Project Hope, an NGO serving with the Pacific Partnership to provide health care services to folks in Vietnam and Cambodia this summer. It's hard to believe I'm living on a ship again after 5 years. This ship is bigger, more crowded, and way hotter than the Peace Boat, but internet and phone calls to the US are free and the work we are doing is pretty cool, so I can't really complain. :) It was quite a trek to get here- San Diego-LA-Taipei-Saigon-Quy-Nhon-USNS Mercy. We had to take a speedboat out to meet the ship since it wasn't able to dock right at the port. I would post photos of the whole trip so far, but internet is so slow here that I would probably get back to the states before very many of them loaded. We left May 28th and we'll be returning to San Diego on July 4th. Photos to come!
We spent a day in Saigon, wandering the streets, visiting sites- most notable was the War Remnants Museum which was partially an open air museum. War makes me so sick. Really. Why does it keep having to happen over and over? Why are humans seemingly incapable of learning anything? Anyway, if you happen to go to Saigon, it's definitely worth a visit. It's only something like 75 cents for entry and the remnants and photographs they have are pretty cool.
As you may expect, everything here is super cheap- Rachel Ray could do a $4 a day show here. The food is GREAT. I could eat pho and spring rolls and rice paper dumplings filled with random meat and fish forever. The chili peppers here... are great, but watch out- they're HOT! I put one sliced chili in my pho thinking nothing of it, but had to take it out after a little while because the Scofield factor shot through the roof. Still, absolutely delicious, and with a shake made from fresh strawberries, watermelon or other delectable fruit, it can't be beat. After the first day we traveled to Quy Nhon to meet the ship, but the Navy hadn't cleared us access to board the ship yet, so we ended up staying at a beachside resort instead for the day/night. If you're ever in the area, the Seagull Hotel has sweet VIP service for $20 a night, right on the beach with a pool overlooking the beach! The food at the hotel isn't amazing, but the spa, icy AC, free internet and awesome views make up for it. :-) I got a 50 minute aromatherapy massage for $19. We originally had been told we'd be boarding the ship in Danang, but somehow the itinerary changed, and we ended up a few hours south of Danang. After a day of R&R we ended up taking a small speedboat out to meet the ship the next afternoon.
Our barracks are more spacious than the ones we had originally seen on the ship when we did a general tour, so we were happy about the extra space, although had we not seen the tighter quarters, we might have been less than grateful. Our bunks are stacked 3 beds high, and I hit my head on the ceiling and my locker door at least once a day. If my memory starts to fade, someone make a note of my head trauma from this trip please, yeah?
We started work the next day, and have been working through the med surg, peds, OR and PACU areas. The patients are trickling in, but things are getting busier as the people running the show become more fluent with all the systems. We are seeing a lot of cleft palates and cleft lip babies and adult burn victims. When I say burns, I am not talking about fires, but domestic abuse in the form of battery acid and hot oil burns. This type of abuse is not uncommon. I am at a loss as to how this type of thing happens, how people do these things to people close to them, how our minds work as humans and the awful things we are capable of given a certain set of circumstances.