Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ly’s blog – trip to An Giang, day one, arrival

Twenty-two year-old Nguyen Huong Ly has been interning at UNICEF Viet Nam’s Communication section in Ha Noi for the past four months. On 3 February, she embarked on a four-day mission to Viet Nam’s southern province An Giang to find out more about UNICEF’s work and remaining challenges for children. Check out her blog!

Me, looking stupid and super excited in UNICEF T-shirt.

I am going on a field trip to An Giang province with other UNICEF staff for a mission on breastfeeding and child protection. I’m new. I’ve been working as an intern to help build UNICEF Viet Nam’s Facebook content for only four months. I was way too lucky to get the opportunity to join such a mission. I haven’t been writing for quite a while. A business student doesn’t keep blogs, she writes reports and other boring stuff that her accounting courses require! Today I’m writing. I’m so in the mood!

This morning we had to come to the office to catch a taxi together, head to the airport and get on a flight to Can Tho before having a minivan take us to An Giang. I was so excited that I came half an hour early. When we got on the airport taxi, people told me about being on field trips, about how great it is to remember what they work for, which busy schedules at the office sometimes make them forget. For me, this will be a chance to get to know more about UNICEF’s work. I couldn’t wait to feel the same then appreciate every little piece of work that I can during my internship.

We have five people in the group: Andy, Nele and Hung are UNICEF staff and consultant. Hong Anh and I are the two new interns. We arrived in Can Tho at around 2pm. It was so hot there! I even felt it was a little bit hard to breath. I didn’t want to get tanned, but for the first field trip I decided to bring back home some “An Giang skin tone”!

Vietnamese flag waving on a road in Can Tho.

We had more or less one hour on the van. We had lunch on the road. They have Vietnamese flags waving at you every two meters. I guess people in the south are more patriotic! From Can Tho to An Giang, we passed paddy fields and rivers. The fields look familiar, as you might also see everywhere in the north, just more palm trees. Rivers go along with the main road; this makes me keep wonder how it feels like to take a little boat instead of having a van.

I liked this place a lot, from the very start. I had that feeling of being different, yet so belonging to the place. I’m familiar with most of the things I see, but I’ve got a different accent and different taste when it comes to food.

We got to An Giang at around 4pm. I thought of this place as a remote area in Mekong Delta, but I wasn’t even close! We arrived in the center of the town I guess; everything looks pretty new and developed.

Mr. Quang, UNICEF Nutrition expert

Later in the afternoon, we got chance to talk to Mr. Quang, one of the UNICEF nutrition experts, about breastfeeding. He gave us an overview of the breastfeeding project in An Giang, how UNICEF supports mothers and how successful it is. At first, as a young person I didn’t care that much about breastfeeding, but as I listened to Mr. Quang, I became more interested. He was friendly and very experienced. You know, I talked to myself: it’s never too early to prepare myself with this type of knowledge. I will be a mom, in 10-year time maybe. :-j

Mr. Quang emphasised the importance of breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and about breastfeeding being the gold standard for infants and young children to grow and develop healthily. He said. “We know that breast milk is best for that. Many things influence behaviours and we can’t go to every village. That’s why we work with the health centre to create community support groups. There, our breastfeeding “champions” learn the best practice and share it with other mothers.”

I got back to my hotel room soon after the short talk with Mr. Quang. I was a bit tired and decided to take a long nap. Tomorrow will be a nice working day! For the first time, I’ll be “in the field”…

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