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GROW: Volume 1, Issue 3

1 Aug 2012


The Journal of Grassroots On-Site Work

GlobeMed at Oberlin College Edition Internship Week 3

Loan Lu

Kayla emrick

Paige higbie

Julie christensen

“We were assigned to design pictures of music notes for small kids, as well as teach English to some junior high school students in town.” ~Loan Lu

Amused moments teaching English by Loan Lu Just to let you know, our daily internship is not always confined to CHP office. Thursday is our getaway day to experience a bumpy, one-hour bus ride to a suburban area and two-kilometer walk through a chaotic marketplace in order to arrive at our weekly volunteering destination, known as Center for Child Development (CCD). It is a small house located in a quiet, undisturbed area that is separated from the noise of the market crowd, making it a perfect destination for town kids to come hang out and learn piano during summertime. We were assigned to design pictures of music notes for small kids, as well as teach English to some junior high school students in town. The most entertaining and funny moment was when Julie started to teach Quyen, a young girl who showed keen interest in speaking, how to pronounce English correctly by having her repeat lyrics of the popular song Boyfriend by Justin Bieber. ‘If I was your boyfriend, I’d never let you go.’ I wish that we could have recorded how Julie cunningly had her naïve student recite the whole song in a bizarre tone; just the memory makes us all laugh out loud. There was no grammar in the lesson, no new vocabulary, but we got to know the students more by encouraging them to be more confident through such informal lessons.


1 Aug 2012

GROW: Volume 1, Issue 3

The Fruits of our Labor by Kayla Emrick


We are nearing the completion of our research for CHP’s harm reduction database. In compiling all of this information, I am also in the process of putting together a document detailing our research and its benefits for CHP. Essentially, the four of us have been researching various topics related to harm reduction and HIV in Vietnam, including the principles of harm reduction and its application worldwide, risk behaviors for injection drug users, and the interplay between gender and HIV/AIDS. This research, which will become a part of the first widely accessible Vietnamese database on HIV and harm reduction, is also being written up into a document that GlobeMed at Oberlin College will keep for posterity. Hopefully this document will serve to inform future students of our first internship with Vietnam, and give anyone who reads it a solid grounding in the work we have done with CHP.

“A sense of loving, tight-knitted familial bond with everyone here suddenly emerged in me…” The First Jovial Home-Cooked Lunch by Loan Lu Hanoi, in the past few days, has not been as hot as it should be. The increasing humidity in the atmosphere, brought on by the typhoon that hit China several days ago, blends with the scorching heat and gets on many peoples’ nerves. But this is totally a legitimate reason for us to hide in the office from the unpredictability of the weather and joyfully start our cooking plan together for every lunch. Today was our first day on trial. There were no words that can express how thankful we were to all the CHP staff; they wanted to protect us from getting soaked in the pouring rain outside by cooking such a nice and warmhearted lunch. Sitting by the office door doing my research when the clock was ticking at 11.10am, I heard noises coming from the kitchen and immediately knew

that Ms. Binh was preparing lunch for us. Without delay, I made my way to the kitchen and caught her on the spot, holding a pan on one hand and brightly smiling at me: “Do you want to join me?” My passion for cooking flared up, and without any hesitation, I eagerly nodded my head and took the pan to start our one-hour lunch preparation together. We only made caramelized eggs and pork, with katuk soup and finely cooked rice – simple yet tasty in a very unique way. A warm, cordial atmosphere embraced the whole kitchen as the lunch table was finally set up and everyone sat down for a traditional Vietnamese meal. A sense of loving, tightknitted familial bond with everyone here suddenly emerged in me, and I hope that Julie, Kayla, Paige and everyone else felt the same way.


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GROW: Volume 1, Issue 3

1 Aug 2012

“…the Vietnamese have this unique ability to squat with their heels flat to the ground, and those of European descent don't. Naturally, this was only confirmed after multiple sessions of fruitless experimentation…”

The Vietnamese squat by Paige Higbie Cultural interaction, at times, heeds the oddest revelations. Don't ask how our conversation wandered into this general proximity, but it was discovered fairly early in our odyssey that the Vietnamese have this unique ability to squat with their heels flat to the ground, and those of European descent don't. Naturally, this was only confirmed after multiple sessions of

fruitless experimentation, during which we white people would inevitably roll back on our asses. Confused, and perhaps a little miffed, we set about hypothesizing as to why. It was, at length, determined that it is not just a case of lack of flexibility, but has chiefly to do with our proportions. The Caucasian shinbone is simply too long. As though we didn't feel graceless enough already.

A much-needed athletic excursion

by Kayla Emrick I’ll be honest, I haven’t been in the best place mentally for the last week. The combination of perpetual rains and grey skies, growing homesickness for Oberlin, and feelings of claustrophobia in a busy city put me in a bit of a funk for a few days. My personal drive to work out has also been far from sated by my daily plyometric workout in the hallway of our hotel, so my need to get out and just MOVE was reaching a boiling point. Julie was feeling similarly restless. Fortunately we realized this weekend that our hotel is only a few kilometers from a large park with a lake and expansive running paths. For the first time in weeks, we went for a run. At last, sweet release! Just to feel my body moving again, engaging all my muscles, sweating because I was working hard and not just because of the oppressive humidity. Grey skies no longer mattered, longing for

Oberlin faded momentarily from my mind, and for once I felt as though I had room to breathe. Never underestimate the power of exercise, friends. A 30-minute run left me feeling infinitely more at peace; I can only assume the same is true for Julie. The park was also something of a cultural experience itself. Though the paths were full of runners, the whole time there both Julie and I only saw one other woman running. Exercise appears to be a bit more gendered here; the lack of female runners was made up for by a few pockets of middle-aged women doing what I could only describe as hyperspeed, full-body kegels. Standing, one woman thrust her pelvis back and forth at an alarming pace, while another swung her hips around in barely controlled circles. As funny as it looked, I’m sure their style of exercise was deceptively hard. It also looked way more fun than push-ups and crunches.


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GROW: Volume 1, Issue 3

London 2012 by Kayla Emrick In elementary school, I used to dream of competing in the Olympics. The screaming fans, the high stakes, the international menagerie of characters; what a rush it must be! These dreams faded as I began to understand the sheer amount of raw athletic talent and irrational determination it would take to get to that level, but my love for international sport will never die. When we left for Vietnam I was horrified by the thought that we wouldn’t have access to any Olympic coverage, but thank god for ESPN’s Asian network. We stayed up until 2:30am to watch the opening ceremonies, and have spent a solid hour or two every evening since to watch whatever happens to be on the network. I can’t get enough of the thrill of competition; granted, the third hour of badminton is somewhat less than exciting, but regardless of my own interest in the sports themselves I still get a rush out of just thinking about what the experience must be like for the competitors. I have so much respect for professional athletes, those who commit their lives to pushing the limits of the human body. Indeed, even pushing one’s own individual limits is a massively awesome feat. To perform under that kind of pressure... it honestly blows my mind. Over the rest of our time here I will religiously follow the Olympics, not really caring who wins or loses, but just to get a little contact high off of the pure awesomeness of these incredible Olympic athletes.

typical by Paige Higbie On Friday nights, we stumble through rivers of traffic back to the hotel, our home, to shed our work gear and transform back into what we actually are: ebullient college students with a week's worth of energy to burn. And with our fire, we are liable to be a little braver than usual. This past Friday night we were going for the hat-trick: celebrating the weekend by going out to dinner, watching the opening night of the final Dark Knight movie, and concluding the night with the Olympic's opening ceremony. Needless to say, we did a little strategic napping before our scheduled date with batman at ten, which would, in theory, leave us with just enough time to cab home to see London's opening act at 1:30am. A Vietnamese cinema is almost identical to an American one, lulling you into a false sense of security before it trips you up with its subtle alterations. The popcorn, innocent as it looks, is deceptive. It is not coated

in butter, but some kind of sweetened syrup. One does not simply walk into the theatre and sit down; one's seat is assigned to them. And the volume in the cinema is rather louder than you would expect, meaning that when the speakers turn on, you jump a little and then blush profusely. However, I wager that our cultural guffawing was not really that noteworthy, considering that a good third of everybody else in the theatre was also white. The predictability of the modern consumer will never cease to amaze. I wager almost every American in Hanoi was there, at the great shining megamall downtown, to see how this box office goliath would turn out. And, true to form, it was Loan, the Vietnamese local among us, who fell asleep during the movie, and the rest of us Americans who reverentially watched the completion of this superhero saga.

The mad dash by Julie Christensen Yesterday, while innocently shopping in the local UniMart, we were attacked by a torrent of water from the clouds. Once we accepted our fate, a wet 3-block journey home, I hid my purse in my plastic grocery bag and tied it tight. I popped out into the threatening night, and in just two seconds I was drenched from head to yellow toe. (Yes, that’s right, yellow. We went shoe shopping earlier in the day, and I picked up some fly yellow sneakers for the equivalent of $6USD in the Old Quarter. What a deal! Anyway…) We crossed the main street and bounced up to our hotel. As we dripped and shivered in the lobby, Kayla and I decided we hadn’t had enough rain. We ducked back into the night for some last squeals of delight as we spun in circles. The hotel workers, who find comedy in most things we do, watched with amusement. The moment didn’t last long, but it was a most spontaneous joy.


GROW: Volume 1, Issue 3

1 Aug 2012 Ho chi minh’s mausoleum by Paige Higbie

“…these magnificent sound receptacles of mine have never, in all of their days, been so pristine!”

Not your average haircut by Julie Christensen The hairdresser lathered up my strands and massaged my scalp like all quality stylists do in the United States. I was lulled into a daydream as he shampooed and conditioned my hair. But suddenly something new happened. He drove both of his fingers into the tunnels of my ears and spun the digits like brushes in a toilet bowl. At first, I didn’t know what think. His fingers were pipe cleaners in my ears. I said to myself, I think this is the first time someone else’s fingers have been in my ears. And they were really in my ears. He cleaned under every ridge and behind every lobe. Then came the soap. Again, he plunged his fingers into my ears to squeegee the soap around. I thought about what my physician said when I was younger, “Now, Julie, try to keep water out of your ears. If water gets in, you should dry your ears with a tissue. But never use a Q-tip because it might go too far into the canal.” His fingers weren’t as small as Q-tips, which meant this was OK, right? It kept on for a minute or so, and then he rinsed both of my ears to complete the excavation. I must admit, when it was over I felt like my ears were shining. I surrendered to the hairstylist once again as he began to cut. He trimmed and primped my hair, and I must say I am quite pleased with the outcome of his creative vision. I will never forget this new do and the unexpected ear cleaning that came along with it; these magnificent sound receptacles of mine have never, in all of their days, been so pristine!

In meeting Vietnam's secular saint, it is striking to think that such political power once rested on the frame of such a modestly proportioned man. I know these proportions because on Sunday I saw the man, or rather what was the man. His face is on every Vietnamese currency bill, on every government propaganda poster. Ho Chi Minh, a communist general from North Vietnam who fought for Vietnam's independence from the French and against the U.S. in the 'American War', also seems to have been a good man. Even foreigners, antagonistic to communism have to admit that Vietnam is perhaps better off for having had Ho Chi Minh. Standing in line to view his tomb, I had certain preconceived notions of what it would be like: that it would be elaborate, with a carpet of flowers devoutly maintained, red banners unfurled down each wall. Upon entering the mausoleum, you are hushed by two white uniformed sentries. We weren’t allowed to take photographs inside the mausoleum, so let me paint you a picture. You ascend a staircase and pass through a door. You enter his tomb on his right hand side. He lies in a simple, but beautiful, coffin with glass walls that allow his embalmed body to be seen. The cliché that 'the dead look like they are sleeping' is true in this case. He wears a simple gray uniform, with a dark blanket that covers him up to his middle. The dais his coffin rests on is on a lowered platform, around which four guards stand watch. Their eyes gaze straight ahead. They do not lift to watch as we walk past, gawking. The walls are actually dark marble, and the only hint of red is a rather remote hammer and sickle that is anchored on the far wall behind the coffin. Nothing about it is ostentatious or ornate. There are no flowers, no engravings, no propaganda. Despite the magnificence of the mausoleum without, the tomb within is comparatively humble. One can't help but respect that.

Celebrating 20 Years! Wishing a huge Happy Birthday to Loan, who turned twenty on July 31st.

Copyright 2012 © GlobeMed at Oberlin College

GROW: Volume 1, Issue 3  

The Journal of Grassroots On-Site Work GROW 2012

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