Following an exciting and interesting first week at the hospital, the group looked forward to a weekend of leisure in Vinh Long. The Saturday saw the group take a tour along the Mekong Delta to the floating markets. We stopped at several sites to see the local people making traditional rice paper, snake wine and performed theatrical Vietnamese songs. The group disembarked onto smaller wooden row boats with a single woman paddling standing up. We sat in groups of four and travelled seamlessly through smaller channels. We saw beautiful greenery and witnessed local Mekong Delta residents going about their usual day. The Sunday was a time of relaxation and immersion into the local Vinh Long atmosphere.
Our final week at the hospital went past quickly. Our Vietnamese language skills had developed and basic communication with the local women and families was possible; even if they did find our pronunciation hilarious. The professional relationships between the staff and students further grew. This allowed for open transfer of practices, culture and knowledge. We gained valuable insight into the Vietnamese way, particularly their great family involvement from pregnancy to the postnatal period. We provided information on Australian obstetric practices which that staff found very interesting.
As the week neared the end, our group was humbled to be invited to share meals with the local staff. A generous invitation for a few of us to attend an Anniversary of Death at a doctor’s home was humbling and beyond expected. On attendance a lush spread of local food was presented before us. This had obviously taken several days to prepare and tasted divine. Another generous invitation to attend a local restaurant for pancakes arrived from another doctor. On our final day at the hospital, we dined together with several doctors and midwives and enjoyed the Vietnamese pancakes. We returned to the hospital and said our goodbyes. It was a bittersweet moment to part with the wonderful staff and families as we began our trip home to our own families.
We travelled back to Ho Chi Minh City on the final Friday, ready to depart for Adelaide on the Saturday evening. We were fortunate enough to have some more leisure time. On the Friday evening we enjoyed a delicious farewell dinner and saw the views from the highest building in Ho Chi Minh City on the 52 nd floor. On Saturday morning most of the group went to the Cu Chi tunnels to learn of the Vietnamese War and its impact. Finally, we scattered to quickly buy gifts and bargains from the local markets before departure.
Now back in Australia to our creature comforts, I reflect on the most amazing experience I have had as a student midwife. Words cannot describe these experiences well enough, especially those shared with the women, families, local practitioners and as a group. We thank Antipodeans for arranging this placement and extend a special thank you to Michelle, Chi and Tam.