song: Dark Red – Steve Lacy

After my first semester of college and being met with the excitement of throwing myself into a completely foreign environment of North Carolina, I had caught the travel bug and wanted nothing more than to continue my exploration on a larger scale.

I was suddenly met with the inspiration for my next adventure one day when I came across a documentary on the Vietnam War. I have always been interested in war history, but the Vietnam War has always stood out to me because my grandfather fought in this war and returned with extreme PTSD from what he experienced overseas. This documentary detailed the effects of Agent Orange and how now 3 generations later, children continue to be born with physical and psychological defects due to the chemicals their grandfathers were exposed to during the war. The fields were decimated, people were hurt, and the US has not done nearly enough to compensate for the harm we still cause these people. I wanted to see a new part of the world that the Americans often neglect while trying to help the struggling families of Vietnam.

I spent 6 weeks of summer 2019 exploring and volunteering across Vietnam. I worked in a hospital in Ho Hi Minh City shadowing doctors in the orthopedic surgery unit and helping with treatments in the Pediatric Physiotherapy Unit. I specifically worked with victims of Agent Orange and children born with birth defects into impoverished families. I lived in a volunteer house with other solo travelers from around the world who were doing similar volunteer projects and teaching English throughout the city. I then transferred to the National Pediatric Hospital in Hanoi to support families living in the Nephrology, Oncology, Urology, and Hematology wards by opening a playroom for the patients and distracting them from their treatments while allowing parents time to rest.

I used the weekends to explore the greater city area as a backpacker, learning about the history of the area and America’s lasting influences, immersing myself in the culture from a local’s perspective, and meeting other backpackers from around the world. I crawled through the Cu Chi underground war tunnels, relaxed on the beaches of Hoi An, wandered abandoned temples and the ruins of the Hindu My Son temples, kayaked through the beautiful waters of Ha Long Bay with friends I made in my hostels, and many other adventures. 

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