Most of the Northern California team members met in San Francisco yesterday to pack boxes of medical equipment for our upcoming trip. We're bringing everything from surgical screws to scalpels, gauze, and walking casts. And doctors, of course -- but they don't fit in the boxes.
I somehow expected we'd have a lot more boxes, but everything packed into fewer than fifteen 60-pound boxes. (I guess that means I can bring an extra pair of socks or two.)
On the night of the 28th, we'll head back up to the City with a pickup truck, load up the boxes, the Lehnerts, and head to the international terminal at SFO to meet most of the team for the flights.
We'll fly via EVA Air from SFO to Taipei, then from Taipei to Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport in Ho Chi Min City. After making our way through customs, we'll travel about four hours by bus to Can Tho and the Golf Can Tho Hotel.
The work begins on the 31st with patient evaluations and setting up the operating rooms. We'll celebrate the new year at a team dinner and start surgeries on the 2nd of January.
Although I've been involved with IEP via keyboard since about 2007, this is my first trip with the team. And my first trip to Vietnam. And, while I'm at it, it's my first trip outside of the United States other than a week in Mexico and a week in British Columbia, Canada. I have my passport, visa, travel vaccinations, iPad for blogging and taking notes, aforementioned socks, and mosquito repellant. (OK, I don't have the super-duty skeeter repellant yet, but it is definitely at the top of my shopping list.)
I get interesting reactions from co-workers and friends when they ask what I'm doing over the holidays. "You're doing what? Where? Really?"
Between work, getting ready for the holidays, and prepping for the trip, I've been busy enough that I haven't had time to get excited -- or nervous -- about the trip. That's probably a good thing. My son isn't too excited about me leaving for two weeks. He's been OK about my business trips over the past year, but two weeks seems like a r-e-a-l-l-y long time to a nine-year-old. On the other hand, he's excited about his mom going somewhere to help other kids.
The best way to sum it up: I'm setting forth with a blank page and looking forward to finding the stories and experience to fill it.