One of my friends was coming to visit and so I had to skip the morning
at the orphanage to go to DaNang and get her. The other volunteers told
me that all the kids were asking for me and just walking around going
"Anna, Anna, Anna" looking for me. Things like this just make my heart
go mushy..... how will I extract myself from them!?! So, the bus trip up
to DaNang..... my first time on a Vietnamese bus as I have been
avoiding them. But it was $1.50 for the 2 hour trip instead of $30 for
private car. So, here I was expecting to go to a bus station or bus
stop, but I don't know what I was thinking! The bus literally just goes
up the highway and if your standing on the side and want to get on, you
flag it down. The bus then slows down to a crawl, where there is a man
who stands at the open doors and his job is to grab your hand and lift
you onto the bus before we speed off again. Again, I become the tourist
attraction where for the entire 2 hours people stared at me. It was an
interesting journey where I observed: people getting on and off the bus
in random spots, people carrying live chickens, dead chickens,
photocopiers and even a fridge that made it on the bus!
My darling friend forgot to get a visa and so could not enter the
country. I then had to endure another bus ride back to Tam Ky, only to
get onto another bus back to DaNang the next morning to go pick her up
from the airport. Third bus trip was pretty much the same except there
were 100 more people on it. All these old people got on the bus and we
still had 1.5 hours to DaNang. Nobody moved for them, so I got up and
offered my seat to the Grandpa who smiled at me. Then the bus began
applauding and started giving me the thumbs up. I must have made a few
young people feel guilty cos they then reluctantly got up and gave their
seats to the other senior citizens. So, what was I to do now, in the
middle of the bus hallway, wedged in between 2 giant boxes almost as
tall as me, live ducks in front of me and dead chickens behind me and a
lady vomiting into a plastic bag next to me? Turn my ipod on and sing
and dance of course!
Just for fun, as soon as I picked my friend up when she finally made
it, we went back to Tam Ky, only to have to catch another bus back to
DaNang the day after for a Happy New Year feast at the main volunteer
house. Third day in a row. So far, 10 hours of buses. Anyone would think
I was enjoying these trips!
New lot of volunteers arrived and the norm is to go to Hoi An for the
weekend.... who am I to break tradition? So off to Hoi An again.....
the kids and carers in the orphanage were happy to see me and calling
out my name as I walked through the gates.....I swear it's the best
feeling when they all smile at you and come running up for cuddles.
We went to My Son - historic religious relics site... it was raining
and my giant purple raincoat made me look like a giant purple blob but
at least I was not hard to lose! I accidentally bought a motorbike
raincoat so I had this clear plastic square in front of me -
and because of my height, this clear plastic square ended up at my
crotch. Needless to say, the jokes began about me becoming the raincoat
In Hoi An, we go to the orphanages and then we get pampered with
massages and great food. This time I decided to get a foot peeling. You
cannot wear shoes here as you are constantly taking them on and off to
enter houses, children's rooms etc. Also because of the mud and rain,
there is no point! They get wet and stay wet for a week. So rubber
thongs it is but they leave your feet dry. This foot peeling was going
to be amazing I just knew it. We rocked up and the lady pulls out an old
fashioned blade/razor thing.... you know the ones that men used to get
in the old days when they went to a barber to shave their face? exactly
the same one! And she literally begins shaving the soles of my feet.
Ummmmmm ok. Weird. Put this one down to a Vietnamese experience!
The rain has semi - stopped and so we have been attempting to ride
the bicycles to placement. After the food and cakes I have over -
indulged in, I need to bike ride back to Sydney. Except here, " big bum,
fat legs" are considered 'sexy' so I am like model material :) Anyhoo,
back to bike riding: first attempt saw me hitting a lazy cow in the
middle of the highway who would not move.My options were: a) swerve left
and risk getting hit by a truck b) swerve right fall into the muddy
rice field or c) go straight and hit the cow. I went for option C.
Second attempt at bike riding saw me turn a corner, lose control and
fall into a muddy puddle, skinning my shin and scraping my palms. I got
back on like a trooper, only to fall off it again 30 seconds later. This
stack, was gold. I fell, let go of the bike and as the bike fell, I
jumped off the bike and landed on both my feet off to the side. Stuntman
material. Truly. After that, the other volunteers made me wear a
motorbike helmet whilst riding as they did not trust me. Just to be
safe, the 4th time we went riding, I was banned from the bikes and had
to double up with my friend. I was cackling the entire way as my friend
was riding and carrying my weight on the back. I was teasing her so much
but she threatened to drop me into a puddle so I waved my white flag.
Back at the baby orphanage the older boys left me a surprise.
Every time we get there, my camera gets taken from me where the older
children have fun taking photos. When I got my camera back at the end
of placement, I went through my pics and as I am flicking through them, I
let out a gasp and a shocked little scream. I had many pictures of the
boys' penises on my camera. I could see the headlines now: "Western Girl
here to adopt a baby, caught with child pornography pictures". I wish I
spoke Viet now to tell them off. But I had to resort to showing the
pics to the carers to tell them off for me and tell them to not do that
with my camera or they won't have it again. I didn't want to tell them
cos I was worried they would get beaten after we left.... when really,
they are only at that curious age.
At Peace Village we had some success in teaching them a few songs in
English. They loved a very simple song called "Hello, How are you?".
Thats pretty much all the words and then they go round the circle and
say their name as we say hello to them individually. I think we sang it
for 20 minutes straight. Then I taught them heads, shoulders, knees and
toes which also went down a treat. Such a simple thing, yet so much joy!
Another week has passed and so what do we do this weekend? Well.... a
new volunteer came this week and he wanted to see Hoi An so why not?
There is this cafe in Hoi An that makes the most amazing cake I have
ever had in my life. Its chocolate
and when you spoon into it, hot melted chocolate oozes out of it. The
selling point and what it took to convince us to go back to Hoi An was
that we could have this cake again. We went down for a day, just to eat
yummy food and overdose on this cake. Yeah........... so much for losing
weight over here!
So Hoi An round 3? 4? (I have lost count) consisted of eating cakes,
eating pizza worthy of Sydney standards, getting a coffee and honey body
scrub and cucumber wrap and lounging on the beach for about 5 hours.
Hard weekends here.
New Years is on Sunday (today!) so Hoi An was quiet yesterday. The
children at the orphanages who have families/parents, get to go home.
It's the only time of year they are allowed. I witnessed a few parents
picking up their children. It was bittersweet to watch their faces as they hugged their
children. I walk in with other volunteers and know these kids better
than their parents do. I could tell the little blind twin was sick, she
was not herself and when Laura approached and she heard her voice, she
outstretched her hands for her to take her and cuddle her. The mum let
her go but it was a little awkward as we didn't want to impose and take
the child from her mother, but at the same time, she was reaching for
Laura. I wonder what the mother was feeling.
The other children who do not have parents were lingering on the
sides, observing. My heart broke watching the entire scene unfold. Would
it be better to have family and go home once a year? Knowing your
family cannot afford you and 'gave you up?" Especially when some kids
like Tram, have 3 other siblings and she and her sister are the two
'chosen ones' who live in the orphanage when the other two stay at home?
Or is it better to just not have parents and know that straight out but
have to deal with not knowing where they have come from or who their
families are and they were just given up. Either way sucks. How can we
break this poverty cycle?
New Years Eve today and we have been out drinking since 11am. Home
for a 'sleep' apparently where it all starts again in about an hour. I
am told Year of the Dragon is a very prosperous time. I am just lucky I
can start my new year all over again and make new resolutions! Yay!
Chuc Mung Num Moi - Happy New Year!