Entering the Malaria Area

Entering the Malaria Area

So, on Monday we bid farewell to beautiful, cosmopolitan Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC or Saigon) and drove for 3 hours to Tay Ninh in the heart of the malaria area.  Say that a bunch of times fast!  Although we feel a million miles away, we are 88 km from HCMC!  That took 3 long hours of driving.  Dee said it was like taking Steeles Avenue all the way out.

Tay Ninh is both an area and a city and we are in the city, staying at one of the largest hotels.  I guess I would say that what Hanoi has in charm and HCMC in buzz, Tay Ninh does not.  The English here is super limited, so you can imagine our surprise when we learned that Tay Ninh hosted Vietnam’s first ever international tennis tournament.  Who knew it was a hot bed of tennis here?  Really, there was no room in Saigon or Hanoi, so they decided Tay Ninh was as good as any.

Our hotel

Our work here has been providing direct training to a group of rehab doctors and technicians.  These people are from the same group of staff I trained last year and they remembered me and I remembered them!  We have worked one-on-one with a small group of patients.  We have seen that the mental health aspects of disability are not well understood and we have tried to draw this out.  The needs here are so high – it has been quite heartbreaking.  The staff, however, have such huge hearts and passion for trying to help any way they can.  From the feedback, they have learned how to question the patients and how to observe for difficulties, as well as to be aware of mental health problems, so the training has been successful.  Today we had the staff work on specific treatment plans for some of the patients and they did a really good job.  It has been great to see this growth from their skill level last year.  It has been such an honor to be part of this and this experience has really given us both a fire to come back to try and help more.  Seeing rehab expand here is such a worthy project.

Dee interviewing a patient and his wife. He has a significant language disorder, so mixes up words
Interviewing a young fellow who sustained a significant brain injury

One of the doctors invited us out to lunch to a kitchen run by former patients that serves very inexpensively or for free to patients in need.  Their social model of care is just fantastic.  The lunch however, scared us a wee bit.  A whole lot of it didn’t look remotely familiar and we asked about 3 million questions trying to figure it all out.  We have now eaten lotus flower stem, banana leaf salad, some weird water spinach thing and papaya soup.  While trying to be so classy with my chopsticks, I dropped a piece of water spinach right down the front of my dress and it fell straight through and dropped out on the floor!  Only a tad embarrassing!

A bunch of strange stuff called lunch
Lunch with friends

Last night we ate at a pizza restaurant owned by a French dude that moved here 10 years ago to marry.  I think he is so starved for conversation that he spoke to us for most of our time at the restaurant.  We only understood half of what he said, but it didn’t appear to matter!  Tonight we might eat at the mall – imagine; dinner at Mr. Greek in Tay Ninh!  I actually don’t know what food they have, but a girl can dream!  Our lunches have been so mind expanding that we are looking for a tad of familiarity at dinner.

Happy students!



  1. An interesting food experience …. much different than the traditional spring rolls …etc. The students look happy and engaged. I guess you could swing a racket if your looking for a little exercise in your spare time. Enjoy

  2. Enjoying following along on your travel adventures and the culinary ones too! Sounds like everyone is soaking up all your rehab knowledge, a worthwhile endeavor!

  3. Looking for food you are familiar with? Why not just stick to beer ;). I hope you find something that both looks and tastes familiar otherwise, we will have to get Frank to greet you at the airport with one of his meals so you know you’re home.

  4. Sounds like quite the culinary experience, but I’m guessing you are not spending time updating your recipe book… 😜

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