After a two and a half hour flight, I landed at Ho Chi Minh International airport. I have forgotten how uncomfortable this flight could be: babies crying, children running around not to mention adults speak out loudly as though others are deaf. I can’t help admiring these daughters in law from
The temperature here is still hot enough to burn off a polar bear’s butt in late September. In
Crossing a street is a big challenge for me here. I don’t understand why there is so much traffic here. I’ve never seen a single road here that isn’t flooded by motorcycles and cars. Nobody seems to follow the traffic laws, you can easy distinguish locals from foreigners by the way they cross street. I am surprised at not seeing more accidents. It took me at least 5 minutes to walk across a road for the first time; hopefully I can master evasive maneuvers quickly.
The language barrier can be the biggest issue when living in a foreign country. To avoid being ripped off by locals I picked up my first Vietnamese “Bow New” meaning ‘how much’ but the moment I said: “how much?” I realized that I would have to learn the numbers as well to make it work. So, as always, I paid triple the price than in the supermarket for a bottle of water. Shopping in the supermarket isn’t an easy task as well. I wanted to buy a detergent for laundry, but I couldn’t tell the difference between laundry detergent and softener without an English label. I asked staff in the hospital to write down the name of laundry detergent in Vietnamese then showed it to a salesperson but they led me to the bleach aisle. It took 2 doctors and one master 2 days to finally buy detergent for laundry.
I have never seen 7up freeze right in front of my eyes in seconds before. I bought a bottle of 7up and put it in the refrigerator of my hotel room. It looked ok when I took it out of the refrigerator but it happened when took the cap off the bottle, a cloudy white ice spread out from the top of the bottle to the bottom gradually. In 30 seconds, my 7up turned from liquid to ice.
Back to the lab, I have some good news and bad news. The good news is I was worried that I would have to build up a lab for clinical diagnosis all by myself including the physical labor. It seems I get some help from the hospital, so I can just give the order and someone else would comply. But I found out it only works if I give them an exact deadline to accomplish a task or it would be only a promise but no actions. Also, we have received a few gifts from other organizations. The lab has a brand new laminar flow with a UV light installed; that is a water purification system which can produce 14 litters of double distilled water per day. The bad news is, the only centrifuge in the lab is malfunctioning, and nobody seems to know how to use the photo system for electrophoresis. It’s a tube with a porland film on top of it, just like a camera, the problem is no one knows how to focus or if we can still get film for it or not.
I was pleased to see that the PCR machine is plugged in a voltage stabilizer which is a very good move to protect the machine. I asked the director of the lab to turn it on; he plugged in the plug but the plug wasn’t fitting in so well, so it hung there like it could fall out at any second and certainly nothing was turned on. He adjusted the angle of the plug and the machine went on and off synchronized to the sparks flashing out from the socket. I was stunned! My eyes went wide open and my jaw just dropped. Finally, he found the right angle for the plug and the power stayed on. Then we tried to figure out how to set up the program. The machine can only allow one temperature and its holding time, cycle numbers to be set in each program; for different temperature settings, I would have to set many other programs and link those programs in order to get my program completed. Not so user friendly, but hey, who cares as long as it works.
We sent a real-time PCR machine and re-agents from