Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I hope that you all have a wonderful Turkey Day!  I am just on my way to home to Baltimore to have Thanksgiving with my parents and three brothers and very much looking forward to it!

Can’t wait to see you all at Zumba on Tuesday!  Oh, how I have missed it!



Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Hello from Ha Long Bay (also known as bay of the descending dragon)!


What a magical and wonderful place!  It is truly spectacular with the mist across the ocean and the limestone rocks scattered about with green plants and trees.  I can really appreciate how people would want to live here on the water.


Since I last left you, I’ve finished my meeting and departed Hanoi via Handspan Travel to the beautiful and mysterious Ha Long Bay.  It was a pretty long 4 hour drive through the back roads (well, technically the main roads), but I got to see more rural Vietnam with the rice patties, women in those pointy hats and the water buffalo.  And Vietnam has these crazy 4-5 story houses that seem to come out of no where, really narrow and skinny and rising up super high.  In the city you don’t really see how tall they are, but in the rural areas where there is just a tall building standing alone, it is pretty wild looking.  We boarded the overnight boat in Ha Long Bay City – there were 8 of us, a really small group since it isnt peak travel season, and there are some Americans, Germans, and New Zealanders in our group.  In fact, one of the American girls went to Wash U for undergrad in 2002!  Small world.  We set off into the bay to cruise around until dinner time so I got to see how majestic the landscape is with the many little islands and setting sun.  Right before dinner we stopped at a local floating fishing village – literally a village with many houses, dogs and children running around, all on the water.  It was really amazing!  Dinner was eh, but whatevs.  I’ll go eat those delicious mango crepes again when I get back to Ha Noi.  I was exhausted by the end of dinner so called it an early night.  Our boat was settled into a little “parking lot” – I saw parking lot because there was in fact a giant blue “p” sign on one of the smaller islands and there must have been dozens of the touristy boats docked there for the night in the sheltered bay.  I guess one good thing about traveling on your own is that you get the whole cabin to yourself and considering how small it is, that was really a luxury!


I was up early this morning to watch the sun rise; however, it was a little overcast and gray so there wasnt much to see.  Luckily, it turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day later on.  The 5 of us staying on for a second night in ha long bay went to visit this huge cave on the face of one of the big rocky islands.  It was spectacular!  They actually did a really great job with all of the lighting so that made it breathtaking.  After a little boat ride around the bay, we went kayaking all afternoon through lagoons, past more floating villagers and fishing farms.  The water was warm and perfectly calm.  We even stopped at a sandy beach since it was low tide to wander around and collect shells.  Ahh, love it.


Now we have arrived at the 2nd largest island in Vietnam, Cat Ba Island, where we are staying at a little resort…hence, internet.  I’m sitting here reflecting on my past day and I realize that I’m kind of rocking and swaying like I am still on a boat…yikes.  I think that my sea wavyness is really enhanced by the sound of the ocean outside.  What a lovely place this is…just dont let me be sea sick on land!  So different from the hustle and bustle and your life flashing before your eyes moments in Hanoi.  I could definitely see myself coming back here very soon!  Not enough time!!


More to come soon!!




Hanoi Update!

Hello everyone!


I am currently at the GAVI Partners’ Forum in Hanoi, Vietnam, learning tons and networking with some incredible individuals (yes, writing an email in the middle of a workshop – shhh!).  What an innovative partnership between various partners and countries.  The Asia and Pacific Alliance to Eliminate Viral Hepatitis (APAVH), my little global health baby, has a lot to learn from the successes, lessons learned and future challenges.  It’s with mixed feelings that I am learning and understanding that GAVI will not longer be providing eligible member countries financial support for the monovalent hepatitis B vaccine.  On one hand, it keeps me employed so yes, I will still have a full-time job, but on the other hand, it’s really unfortunate that the GAVI Advisory Board has eliminated the funding of the monovalent hepatitis B vaccine, which essentially is the only link to providing timely birth dose that will protect over 90% of children from contracting hbv from an infected mother to child (40% of hbv transmission).  This funding is disappearing because hbv vaccine prices have come down so dramatically within the past years to 20-23 cents (US) per dose.  GAVI is assuming that countries will be able to provide their own funding to take care of this vaccination, however, a number of other issues arise: countries may not be able to afford the vaccines, countries may not be currently giving timely birthdose (within 12-24 hours of birth), data only reflects 3-dose completion, but not birthdose, which is essential in highly endemic areas to eliminate transmission, countries believe that they can just use the pentavalent vaccine to take care of hbv vaccination, but this is not given at birth, and a lack of education among health care workers, pregnant women and the general public.  Whew!  So yes, we still have a lot of work to do!  And this meeting is just proving how important and essential APAVH is to eliminating new hbv transmission and reducing the global burden of hbv and liver cancer, especially in Asia.


Ok, ok, now that you know more than you ever wanted to about what I am working on and will continued to work on, I can talk about some of the more “fun” things in Vietnam….like the food!  Delicious!  I seriously cannot get over how amazing the pho is, chicken, beef, noodles and spices, om nom nom.  Simply cannot get enough!  And the fresh fruit!  I’m seriously obsessed with good dragon fruit (that one that’s pink on the outside and white and black seeds like a kiwi on the inside).


Last night was the opening ceremony for the GAVI Partners Forum, which was held at the Hanoi Opera House, a beautiful building, where they had all of these cute kids dancing around and singing in their traditional garb – super cute!  There is supposed to be this awards dinner/gala tonight so maybe there will be more cultural performances!


I’ve also bought my little vacation getaway to Ha Long Bay!!  I leave on Saturday to spend 1 night on a boat and 1 night on this island in the middle of the bay!  There are supposed to be these beautiful karst formations and kayaking and caves and beaches…wooooweee!  It will be a nice mini-vaca after these endless meetings, presentations, dinners, etc.


More to come soon!


Hanoi, Vietnam!

Hello everyone!

Just wanted to say Sai Jiao (hello) from HANOI, VIETNAM!

I just arrived this morning after the 14 hour flight to Taipei and then the 4 hour flight to Hanoi (clearly I slept basically the entire way on both flights thanks to my sleep deprivation during the Team HBV Collegiate Conference). I’ve never flown on EVA Air before, but they were amazing! Actually good food and lots of room back in good ol’ economy. It probably helped that no one was sitting next to me on that long flight. I did wake up on flight #2 with the older man in the seat next to me practically sitting on my lap trying to get out – slightly awkward.

GAVI arranged rides for us from the airport to the hotel in Hanoi, thankfully since it is a 45 minute car ride. I actually rode with the VP of Global Programs at PATH, which is funded by Gates and does a whole lot of vaccine work similar to what we want to emulate with the Asia and Pacific Alliance to Eliminate Viral Hepatitis (APAVH) so yay! Networking in action! It turns out that this VP lady is actually kind of a big deal so I’m glad I got to schmooze with her.

I had a little time this afternoon to wander around Hanoi. Um, talk about taking your life into your own hands – try crossing the street here! I think my life flashed before my eyes at least a dozen times during my brief jaunt around the French Quarter and Old Hanoi! I was having some directional issues in my attempt to locate this little travel agency to book my trip to Ha Long Bay so I decided to try one of the little bicycle cart things…let’s just say you are up close and personal with the cars, bikes, motorcycles, scooters, people and animals! I found the travel agency and booked my travel plans for Ha Long Bay for this weekend after passing the shoe block and needles/thread block (literally, every store on the street was selling the same thing – I didnt think it was actually true). Then I HAD to try these mango crepes that my mom has been raving about and they were delicious! Possibly one of the best things ever – mango, crepes, coconut cream – how can you go wrong!?

Since I felt a little more navigationally savvy, I decided to walk back to the hotel – again, another life-threatening adventure through the streets. I definitely tagged along with groups of people crossing the street in an attempt to not get hit by upcoming traffic. I didn’t build up the courage to cross this outrageously busy street to get to the lake, but I think I’ll try to make it there in the morning before settling down to business – I’m sure the jet lag will have me up at some insane hour.

Tomorrow our meetings begin so I’m excited to learn and network!



PS I miss ZUMBA!!

Happy Thursday!

Have a wonderful rest of the week everyone!  I just love my Thursday night Zumba class to get my weekend (almost) started!  I will miss you all when I am away being a good public health professional at conferences in the US and Vietnam.  I promise that you will be in good hands and I will hurry back soon.  And don’t think that I won’t be making up new routines while I’m on the road :)

Studio Zumba offers incentives during ‘season of plenty’ – News

Studio Zumba offers incentives during ‘season of plenty’

“Stephanie Flatt, an instructor at Studio Zumba who has been teaching for six years, started taking Zumba with Jones at the Vandalia Recreation Center. She says she is now hooked, has lost two pants sizes and is much more toned.”

Studio Zumba offers incentives during ‘season of plenty,’ Beth Anspach, Dayton Daily News, November 4, 2009