Most had never been on a bus and have never left their commune up in the mountains, 3-4 hours away from the coastline. Watching their faces observe things we take for granted was a privilege to see.
The collective gasp when they all saw the ocean; their squeals of joy when the water lapped at their feet on the shoreline; their amazement in seeing a crab, seaweed and shells! They all collected shells for me and for themselves to take home as a souvenir.
I was astonished at their astonishment at eating an ice cream for the first time. Thanks Zoran for providing the funds for this!
We had extra time so I took them to see the supermarket in town and the bookshop as an added bonus. They had never seen a supermarket or bookshop before.
They all jumped with glee when I told them they could also buy one book each. Thanks again Zoran and Jojo for this!
Imagine! We take for granted going up an escalator and having bookshops to browse, how the salt water feels under our toes, how crabs scurry away sideways, how to lick an ice cream cone before it melts......Their meticulous observations about everything, even the mundane and boring, made me see everything that day in a new light, from a different and more gratuitous perspective.
I was told Quyen was so excited about this day, she hadn't slept for the last three nights in fear of sleeping too much and missing out on the day. She also developed a fascination with my camera and learning how to take photos.
Little Lai thought prawns were the best thing she ever tasted and she patiently peeled her own, eating a total of 14 prawns!
16 year old Ly, wouldn't say a word to me but smiled at me from far and bowed her head every time we made eye contact. Every time I walked past her, her arms shot out and she gave me a hug. No words said or needed.
It was nice to see the mothers, fathers and grandmothers all connect and talk and share their stories with each other and have a laugh. Seeing so many smiles in solidarity placed a lump in my throat all day.
We had a huge seafood feast on the beach and they all tried everything placed in front of them. Prawns, scallops, squid, fresh grilled fish just caught from the ocean.
As much as I hate soft drinks, getting them a sprite or coke each and watching their faces was also a sight to see. The bubbles affected some of their noses and they didn't quite like that sensation!
Watching one grandma go around after we finished lunch and pour every left over coke into a plastic water bottle was also humbling for me to see.... nothing goes to waste here.
We also went to a famous Vietnamese monument and museum about the war. They walked around the museum with mouths agape. We took tourist photos out front and they all wanted one to remember this day forever. So I paid the exorbitant amount of $1 per photo and got them each their own copy!
We ended the day with me presenting them with their yearly scholarships and a collection of toys and games for each child thanks to donations to missionnampossible, especially from Rene Levenson and Annette Alis.
This wasn't Christmas Day for them. It was more. I don't have a word to describe what this day was and meant for them.
The $300 we spent for that full day (including the two buses to bring them, the five course seafood lunch, ice creams and books) was priceless to me and one of the best ways I could have spent $300.
"The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul" Robert Wyland.