I seriously feel like I have been here for months!
3 weeks in and so many stories, I don't know where to start! It has been eventful to say the least:
I went and got a massage at the most expensive place in Tam Ky (a
present from Dr Brett) which left me with a headache at the end.
Apparently massaging up my nose was part of the deal. Then I got a head
massage which entailed her grabbing fistfuls of my hair and pulling them
really hard till my eyes watered.
* I think I have already mentioned that no foreigners come through
Tam Ky. I went to the supermarket "Co - op Mart" and it's always an
adventure going there. I am like the tourist attraction. People follow
me, some go on a stealth mission and follow me throughout my shopping
experience, hiding behind shelves if I turn to look at them. Others are
more obvious and are curious to see what I am buying so just rummage
through my trolley. My fun was trying to decipher Viet writing and
whether I was buying shampoo, conditioner, body wash or body whitening
lotion.... yes, they are obsessed here with having white white skin and
all their moisturizers have body whitening ingredients in them. My
friend Sarah is a Goddess here as she has white skin!
* I have been meaning to ride a bicycle around Tam Ky for exercise
and so far have only managed it once with the rain. But even riding a
bike around here attracts me a following! It's funny when motorbikes
ride past me and they look and then do a double take with a look of
surprise on their faces "oh look! It's a westerner!" and they slow down
and say "Hello, what's your name?". The other catch phrase they all seem
to know is "Hello, how old are you?" but if you deviate from
a predictable response they get all confused and have no idea what to
say! When I say Hello how are you back in Viet they get all excited and
laugh... it is really cute!
* I ended up getting a mild case of hand, foot and mouth disease -
or something of its kind. The babies had an outbreak of it and of
course, they shared the love. My face was very attractive with blisters
for about a week...... soooooooooooooo itchy!
* Back at the Baby Orphanage, the weekend I was in Hoi An, they had a
very special visitor... the Vice President of Vietnam! She took a
special liking to Sen and even cried when she held her. Awwww! Sen knows
who to woo and when to be cute. I was abit gutted I missed her, would
have been a great chance to ask her about taking Sen back to Oz! But now
I know she has a connection to this orphanage and Sen made her cry, I
could perhaps use it to my advantage when I start petitioning and
* Sen was burning up when I went in one day and picked her up. I
could tell straight away she had a temp. She was grizzly and no one
could figure out why.... der! So I took her temperature with an old
school thermometer and it came up as 39 degrees. I showed it to the
carers and they said that was normal and she was fine! I argued with
them to give her panadol but to no avail. She was also wearing the
normal 6 layers of clothes they put on babies here and I wasn't allowed
to take any off. I then by-passed the carers and took her to the
Director and told her she needed Panadol now. She listened to me and got
the nurse to give her Panadol. 39 not a temp! I wonder what they
consider a temp to be then?
* It is the small things here that make me send messages of thanks to
whoever is up above. Some of the other volunteers bought the children
fruit to eat as they do not get any fruit - unless we bring them some.
As soon as they saw the plate come out, Brianna was charged and
surrounded by so many little outstretched hands. The plate nearly went
flying, she kept walking backwards until she hit a wall and at one point
I thought she was toast. Julia then emerges with another plate and she
was not as quick as Brianna, so her plate was demolished by the children
quick enough to get to her. It was quite sad really. It is like
survival of the fittest in there. We finally got them to sit down at
tables and divided the fruit up. I did see some of the older ones who
finished their fruit, go up to the slower toddlers table and steal their
fruit. When I yell at them to stop that they just laugh at me and
imitate what I am saying. I feel sorry for them and can't get angry....
pecking order...... all this for fruit! I think of all the fruit back at
home and the children in the child care centres I have seen who 'don't
like it' and we fight with them to eat it!
* I know I have mentioned before from a previous trip that they
feed the children lying flat here. Brianna, who is a speech pathologist,
told them she was a feeding Dr and so called a meeting with all the
carers where she explained to them the mechanics of swallowing and how
food travels down and if fed lying down it could go into their lungs
etc. We got the carers to lie flat and fed them yoghurt and they all
choked or instinctively got up to a sitting position to swallow. we
asked them how it was and they said it was very difficult. really? No!
How do you expect the disabled children to swallow then? It was a very
successful meeting. I think they responded so well because we took the
time to explain to them why it is bad. We westerners come in and tell
them ' you shouldn't do that, feed the children sitting up' without ever
any explanation as to why they should do that. Now they know why! And I
am pleased to say that for the last week, at feeding time, all the
children have been up and the disabled children, at least at an angle!
Small steps....... Sen wasn't swallowing 3 weeks ago when i got here -
they just lie her flat and drip the food into her open mouth until she
spits half and they shovel that back in or chokes on the other half and
it goes down somehow. She started swallowing this week! I been feeding
her at an angle every day and every day i prop her a little bit higher
and higher. Im nearly at a sitting position!
* They moved the disability room over to the other block last
week and when they were doing it the Director came and asked me which
room I liked best and that they would put Sen in there. I told them it
didn't matter, it was the carers that made the difference, not the
walls..... but I was touched that she would ask me anyway!
* A preliminary assessment on Sen shows that she has curvature of the
spine - kyphosis I think is what they called it.... if we do not get
this rectified, little Sen is going to be a hunchback for the rest of
her life. I am told I will need to get a brace for her as now is the
time I can fix it and teach her how to sit up straight and train her
spine. I am having trouble finding a brace here in Vietnam, in fact,
finding any disability and OT materials for the children is almost
impossible here unless we get it made from scratch. I torture Sen every
morning to try and sit up straight and I hold her shoulders back to
force her and she gets so cranki with me.... she swipes at me and has a
whole body tantrum where she kicks her legs. Fiesty!
* Feet are considered dirty here and I was told that when you sit
down on the floor, you should never have the soles of your feet facing
or pointed to anyone..... I have had toe rings and anklets on since I
was 16 and forget they are there. One of the first things people here
notice about me are my pretty feet! It's really weird and they almost
make me wanna take em off but I feel naked without them and have not
been able to take them off yet! I am in an agrarian community where
pedicures are unheard of unless they are elite society and they do not
work in the fields. They point to my toes and anklet and then point to
themselves, gesturing for me to buy them some also. When I returned from
Hoi An on the weekend, they were all eyeing me out and checking my
wrists to see if I added any bracelets..... They all asked me to buy
them jewellery from Hoi An but here, word spreads like wild fire and if
one gets something, you have 18 other carers surrounding you for them to
get their piece also. It's not only survival of fittest for the
children, but for the carers too!
* I wanted to do something for the carers to show that I do
appreciate their hard work.... New Years is coming here and wow is it
major! Picture Xmas, New Year and your birthday events all in one.
That's basically what this is. Families here save up all year for this
"Tet" holiday. Literally. It is the one time of year that they buy
clothes, shoes, new products for the house..... celebrations go for like
a week before and a week after. The entire town is decorated in yellow
flowers and they sell flowers on every corner. Mandarin trees are also
bought as gifts. At midnight at Tet, you go visiting other people's
houses. If you are 'unlucky' and have had bad luck for the year, then
you are not allowed to visit other houses! Our program managers husband
died 4 months ago and so she is not allowed to visit any
houses because now she is unlucky. One of my favourite carers at the
orphanage got divorced and so she is also considered
unlucky. Interesting! I digress... sorry! Soooooo..... I went and bought
24 hair clips, one each for the carers at the orphanage. Think of the
ugliest, fake bling bling chunky hair clips you can and that is what I
got. They love them. the bigger, the better. So, for Tet and for Happy
New Year, I gave them a clip each after a meeting I had with them. I
told them that I was here to support them in their roles but that we
cannot do it without their help and cooperation. I asked them to give me
feedback in regards to what they wanted us, the volunteers to do to
help make their job easier, what we did to annoy them and since I was
staying for longer term, I could implement changes and help tell new
volunteers what works best. They were good and responded well when I
told them I wanted to improve things! And then I gave them their
clips.... they were so excited and I got so many 'sniff kisses'. The
carers that randomly got the bigger clips with more fake bling bling on
them were parading them around and thanking me telling me that I must
think they were the prettiest carers since they got the best ones! I was
glad they were happy. Some would not open them and said they were
saving them for actual Tet to wear them then. Awwww!
* Peace Village has also been great so far. The older children are
amazing and so happy to see us every time! We have been doing YOGA with
them and the other volunteers have said that when they started doing it,
they could not even cross their midline! And now? They can do
stretches, cat poses, coordinate their movements and even do deep
breathing! All these children have physical deformities and
intellectual disabilities. Yoga is not an easy thing for them to do. I
have no idea about yoga so we have started doing aerobics and body
combat with them now too... not that I exercise and know about these
either but it's easier for me to just jump around..... we pump the 'doof
doof' music and punch the air and walk around in a circle marching to
the beat.....aerobics Vietnam style!
I going to love and leave you all here.....