Katie Widner's Blog

March 11, 2011

Soccer near the rice paddies

Vietnam – and the entire third world – is interesting. There are many awe-inspiring moments today I thanked God for having a wonderful life. The trip has been absolutely amazing. I have befriended so many people – each a different character.

The scenery is beautiful and the people are nice. I was in live surgery for the first three days, which was amazing. My mom and I always loved to watch those “trauma in the E.R.” shows and that was what it reminded me of. Since there is no threat of a lawsuit here and the surgeons that volunteer to help the deformed children are some of the world’s best, I was able to shoot video footage for my story directly over the surgeon’s shoulder. I watched multiple cleft palate and eye correction surgeries and reconstructive skin graft procedure.

Unfortunately, party officials were uneasy with our program and we had to switch provinces where we operated and lodged suddenly. We are no longer in Bac Kan, but we are in a province closer to Hanoi. We depart to Hanoi tomorrow and will stay there for a couple days.

The food is horrible. People seemingly consider sanitation when it comes to food. But I should keep in mind that as a medical mission trip we are traveling to some of the most poor rural provinces in Vietnam.

I spent today with the primary care team at a school measuring height and weight and giving out toothbrushes and toothpaste. Most of these people don’t usually brush their teeth. The school was full of children whose parents are party members. They are considered as middle class wealthier people. They wore red scarves around their necks as an ode to the regime. They seemed to be well fed and better dressed than in the first province we worked in.

During our lunch break, my classmates and I walked across rice paddy fields into a villiage reminiscent ofWorld of War Craft III. It was uniquely beautiful with photo opportunities every step of the way. Beautiful moments materialized out of thin air. The greatest part was the families who interacted with us. They didn’t speak English, but we understood through a series of hand gestures and head bobs that they were inviting us into their homes. As a sign of respect, we would oblige, intrude into their homes and drink the tea they offered us. Their homes are are amazing – small, dingy and dark slabs of concrete connected to create a small room. In the middle sat a small coffee table where they eat, cook and sift the time away.

I participated in two impromptu soccer games, which makes me a very happy girl. My first overseas experience was playing soccer in Sweden and Holland when I was 17 years old. There is nothing like doing something you love in a setting you’re in love with. It’s bliss – just pure raw bliss.

The best part about this trip – besides it being such an adventure – is being surrounded by people who are interested in the same things as I am. As journalists we have similar character traits – professionalism mixed with creativity, intelligence and humor. It is intensely inspiring and increasingly exciting to be surrounded by my contemporaries in this environment. I realize how lucky I am to be going into a field that fits my personality so well. This trip has reconfirmed that I have made the right choice for a career.