Friday, November 23, 2012

Not goodbye but a see you later...

My one year anniversary is coming up in about 3 weeks. A full year here in Tam Ky. Where has the year gone?
So I guess........ I will be coming home soon! I know a lot of you have been asking me when I am coming home so rest assured, I will let you all know when I land in Sydney to start catching up on a year's worth of gossip.
I have really mixed emotions about this impending departure.
Now more than ever I want to stay with my children as I know that no one else is going to be here with them from January till March. Yet, at the same time I am looking forward to coming home and seeing the special people in my life and catching up with family and friends. And of course, I look forward to being reunited with my Macca's (that's McDonald's for all you Americans who don't know what Macca's is!)

I have been so fortunate enough to have some friends join me here recently in Tam Ky and meet all these special little ones. They have fallen in love and want to bring them home after a week of being with them! Imagine me after this one year and everything we have gone through together.

 Today I told the older girls in the orphanage that I have to return home soon. With a mixture of my random Vietnamese words slumped together to create a makeshift sentence and charades, they understood. There was a collective gaping of the mouths and then sad faces with slumped shoulders. I wanted to cry right then and there in the silence that followed.
I then told them that for my farewell I was going to go out with a huge headache and have a party for ALL the orphans I have been working with at a restaurant. Heads came back up and celebratory 'yays' were heard around the room.

I figured I would go all out and take everyone out instead of having a party at each of the orphanages as  after I leave, I am sure they will not have the opportunity to be taken on excursions and get out of the orphanage.
Maybe I got over excited the day I booked out an entire restaurant for 200 people for my party?
What was I thinking? 150 orphans and 50 adults all together for a party?
Yep, I have lost it! But hey! When in Vietnam.....

It seems that every little thing has been setting the water works in motion today:
Sen would not let me go today. I even put her on the floor and she wrapped her chubby little fingers around my leg and held on tight. When I tried to shake her off playfully, she began to giggle whole heartily that I cried.
Nghia came up to me to show me some wounds and scratches on his back...... I asked how it happened and he told me that the 'kingpin' of the orphanage did it to him cos he thought he stole his necklace. He was whispering and telling me because if word got out that he 'dobbed', he would probably get beaten again. Orphanage politics. But I welled up again at the thought of how much trust he must have in me to come and tell me; Nghia knows that I am fair and that I would not betray his confidence, whilst at the same time, find a way to reprimand the kingpin.
It takes so much time to get through to these children and build up a relationship with them. I could tell you all 74 children's stories, personalities, likes and dislikes. They have gotten to the point where they trust me and actually listen to me! They know how far they can push boundaries with me and what my limit is. Go the tough love!
The last few days with them has been bliss. They have all been behaving and bringing me back my toys when they have finished playing with them, sharing the bicycles and my favourite... being honest! When I first got here, when I would hand out fruit, some of them would lie and come up and tell me they didn't get any and scam a second piece of fruit. I couldn't work out why I was short on fruit almost everyday and concluded that I must be worse at maths than I thought!
Yesterday, I bought them all banana fritters and I had so many left over that I figured I missed some children. So I went off to do the rounds again to see who I missed and every single one of them was honest and told me they had received one. Even the boys I was sure I did not give one to. Some smart a$$ boys came up to me and asked me for one as they never got one, but they did it in a way that I knew they were joking and teasing me. I love how I have reached that level with them. Well then... I guess my maths really is bad! The carers were happy cos they scored a banana fritter each too. Win - Win!

Even the children at Peace Village have been amazing. We took them out to a restaurant to eat on a whim and from the original 8, I smuggled 12 out in one go. Thank God for my friends who were here to help. Their faces and joy when they saw the bus and realised I was taking them out.... it was priceless. Hello tears!

Phuong had gone home mid week and I was sure something was up as it takes alot for them to miss on a day of schooling. She came back very upset and I found out her grandfather had passed away. She sat on the edge of her bed and cried. Thanh, her close friend at the orphanage was so upset for her, she was almost in tears too and sat next to her, talking to her and trying to comfort her. I sat with her and she hugged me as she cried. I of course then cried. Moments like these I wish I could speak more Vietnamese. But then again, I am sure she understood I was there for her, wiping her tears away.... Having to deal with death at such a young age as well, with really no support around her made me sad.

I was getting emotional thinking about who will take over my 'role' when I left. And 'nobody' was the answer I kept coming up with. I am sure they will get by, there is no doubt about that, however, they will get by without that extra bit (and in some cases, only) bit of love, warmth, support and comfort.

Who is going to take care of all their wounds and cuts? The nurse is still as useless as a sack of potatoes and my ritual with my little green medical box still continues today. They all come up to me and show me their wounds and battle scars and I disinfect, make things better with band aids and kisses.

Who is going to rotate and move the disabled kids around?

 Take Sen for walks?

Feed the babies their bottles without being propped up with rags?

Hand out fruit? Play the judge? Take them out?

Sit with them when they are sad and down on the world or sick?

Laugh with them and be silly?

 Make them feel special on their birthdays?

Catch them when they fall?

I will not say goodbye to these children. As Peter Pan says  "Never say good bye because goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting". I could never forget any of these children and this experience.

It's not going to be a good bye, but a see you later......


  1. I will call you "Mother Teresa" Darling Anna.The love,time and passion you have given those little gems will always stay in their hearts and will be remembered for life.No matter their age. That year in Vietnam will have the same effect on the children as breastfeeding has on babies. It's that goodness that you can't take away. Now you need to cut the umbilical cord and let go. Trust the kids and they strengths as they got the right tools to live their lives now. Trust that there will be another "Mother Teresa" out there walking through their door. Keep fingers crossed. Lots of Love to you Anna and the beautiful kids. Kindly Doris L.

  2. ANNA, you beautiful woman you! Once again you have me in tears! I know how hard the "see you later's" are going to be- believe me! .....every time I read your words or see a photo of yours, it puts a smile on my face, a tear in my eye and tugs at the heart strings as I wish I was there with you....... Nothing will take away the experiences, memories and relationships you have formed over there.... you are one in a million miss Anna and can't wait to see you soon.... Will always be here for you! Love you- Sarah xxx