Thursday was my big day of presentations. I had prepared two presentations and had to give them one right after the other starting bright and early at 8:00 AM. When I arrived in Vietnam I thought they were pretty much done. I had my trusty USB port, my mini net book and some lovely color copied handouts, but I was told they were too long. It was my fault. I had forgotten to figure in the time it would take to have everything I said interpreted into Vietnamese.
As you may have noticed I am not very good at being brief. Every day for three days I fussed and worried about what should be left in and what should be taken out. I am a good fusser and worrier. Eventually, after lots of editing, they both felt right and I was ready to rock and roll.
The first presentation was about the health care system in the United States. When I arrived the room was all set up and ready with a big screen, projector, microphone etc. I had a lovely and talented interpreter who made everything feel easy and fun.
The second presentation was about risk factors for breast cancer and how to perform breast self exam (BSE). I had the traditional power point presentations, but I also demonstrated BSE on myself (through clothes) and I brought some props and models. I had a whole bag of big pink cloth breasts with a variety of different types of lumps. The attendees all laughed and giggled and passed them around the room with each one palpating for the lumps. Some had more trouble than others finding the lumps, and they eagerly helped each other.
I also brought two very realistic looking breast models with lumps to be palpated. Each of those breasts had four lumps you could find by palpation and four that were so small they couldn't be found unless you shined a flashlight through them. The point being that you must do BSE every month to catch those small lumps as soon as they are big enough to feel and schedule those mammograms regularly too!
One question at the end of the presentation came as a surprise. Someone asked why I had different color breasts with me. I hadn't given it much thought, but one of the realistic breast models was caucasian and one was black. I paused for a moment to think of the best way to say it and decided to keep things light, answering with a smile that we have different color people in the United States. I hadn't noticed up till then that I wasn't really seeing any minorities. Everyone looks Vietnamese except Sandy and me. I certainly noticed that I was a minority and there was no one else like us, but where are all the other minorities and why aren't they here in Vietnam? Diversity brings new and exciting ideas and perspectives...
There are no photos of the presentation that I can attach at this time--maybe later. My good friend who has been taking pictures with his Ipad is very dignified and would have been too uncomfortable to be amongst us as we passed breasts around the room. This is very different than in the States where a bag of fake breasts would be no biggie, but I respect and understand his feelings completely.
The breast cancer presentation turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things I have done in Vietnam. As the women relaxed and began to laugh and giggle and do silly things with the models, barriers were broken down and I wasn't Lee from the US and they weren't faculty and students from Vietnam--we were just women.
I know that the women had a good time, but I also know they learned. As I demonstrated BSE on myself at the front of the room, I could see many in the room also practicing discretely on themselves. At the end, after all the fun-- many very thoughtful questions were asked. I will never know how much of an impact this will have. Will they teach their sisters, Mom's, and friends how to do BSE? I hope so! Will the teachers in attendance see that there are more ways than just straight lecturing to teach? I hope so! I have thrown a pebble in the ocean. I do not know to what shores the ripples will go... Good night, Lee