Saturday, July 13, 2013

“Scatter joy!” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

My mission this time round was simple: it was to focus on one word only: joy.
I was here for such a short time compared to a year last time that I didn't want to commit to doing to much but focus on giving these children some joy. It's summer holidays and they are cooped up in that place with no one to take them out. I figured I would spend my time taking them out and providing experiences they can't get within the walls.
So, we went to the pool and the amusement park and ate at a lot of restaurants!

The swimming pool was of course a hit.... I had brought goggles and kick board and floating devices to try teach them how to swim a bit more.
I'm always reminded of that scene in 'finding nemo' where the seagulls are outside repeating the word 'mine, mine, mine'.
When I pull out 12 pairs of goggles they can use but have to share, all you can hear is 'Anna, Anna, Anna' constantly while I am surrounded by thirty pairs of hands trying to reach and be the chosen ones.
They were all so well behaved, I was impressed. They listened when I spoke and if they got to much and I told them to stop and listen, they did. Even the sharing was done, albeit the kingpins hogging a few pairs that the other children would not dare ask to use. The pecking order is alive and well here.
For the younger toddlers whom I couldn't take to the pool, I bought a wading pool and blew it up at the orphanage.
I was expecting chaos. But we only had to tell them once: this was for the babies, not for you guys to get in. They all stood around and watched and helped fill it up, and helped undress/dress the toddlers too.
There was such a nice vibe and energy to the interactions I was witnessing: although no one questioned the pecking order, they were a family. I really got the feeling of this, this trip around.
So the pool outings were a huge success as were their appetites!
I took them for banh xeo, a crispy pancake thing you roll with green salad in rice paper.... 23 boys ate 120 pancakes! I couldn't believe it! Duc, the eldest boy ate 12 on his own!
I was so happy they were eating and eating properly, good, nutritious food  with substantial meat. Not just filling up on rice as is the norm at the orphanage.
The amusement park was hilarious.
Tam Ky is changing and the western influence is creeping in slowly but steadily. This amusement park had a roller blading rink, bumper cars, flying chairs, a sand pit, a ball pit, tunnels, a jumping castle and plenty of video games.
Their faces as they walked in, mouths agape, just staring at everything. When I told them they could go play, feet scurried to and fro not knowing what to play with first.
The flying chairs was interesting. I should have guessed they would have gotten scared but I was to caught up in the excitement of them experiencing a real ride to think about it: half these kids get motion sickness!
So the chairs started rotating and 'flying' and I could see their faces.... Some were crying and others had their eyes closed focusing on their breathing. Oh dear! I was tempted to tell the controller to stop it, but after the initial shock of that feeling in your gut, they began to enjoy it and were laughing and smiling.
The boys enjoyed it more than the girls.
A few more rides were enjoyed before we retired for dinner, everyone on a high, dripping with sweat from running around....

The mothers even got excited and got on the rides with the kids and myself. Each ride was $1 which they all gasped and explained was sooooo expensive when they found out.
Another observation about Tam Ky: the gap between the poor and rich is widening. Salaries are increasing depending on what and where you are employed, but you could tell, an amusement park like this, would only cater to the richest families here.
I felt great watching my children run around having the time of their lives. As far as anyone knew, these kids were all part of the elite society here.
I had so many hugs and kisses and thank yous after each excursion, but especially after the amusement park. Each one of them exclaimed how happy they were as they kissed and squeezed me.
Even Thanh, the oldest girl in the orphanage who seems depressed and won't come out swimming: I made her come, even just to watch I told her, when she started protesting. I got tingles and felt like I was a bubble about to pop when I saw her on the jumping castle laughing and having a great time.
Peace Village was just as amazing. These residents never cease to amaze me.
Again, with a wave of new residents coming, the pressure is on these carers who are so stretched its not funny. They constantly seem to be working under a fog of lethargy. I don't know how they carry on. Especially in the 42 degree heat!!!!!

Again, even here, all the residents have banded together: a family unit. The more physically abled help the less so; they help supervise and go and run after them when one wanders of to far; they help feed the incapacitated ones; they try to maintain some discipline and order and sometimes I just couldn't help but laugh when ten different voices are yelling the same things all a few seconds delayed from each other.
They do their best.... Everyday is a new day.
I took 24 of them to the beach and I fell into a heap of exhaustion afterwards but it was so worth it. They joy on their faces, the excitement! I loved it when they all got down to the waterfront and jumped, rolled, crawled in. They seemed to have more guts than baby orphanage children!
Watching them made me think about the little things again and how easy it is to take for granted. I live 30 seconds away from the beach and watching them made me realise how I even take that for granted.
These kids remind me on a daily basis how fortunate I am, how grateful I should be for bare essentials such as hot water, a mattress and enough food to fill my belly.

Phu Ninh orphans made me feel the same way: these kids who have never left the mountains, came down to hoi an for a day of culture, beach and food. Their faces were priceless and I wouldn't do them justice trying to explain what and how they felt. Seeing temples and pagodas, the streets full of life.... Not to mention all the westerners.....
Seeing them see the ocean for the first time.... Wow. We caused a stir and had half the beach stare at us: the squeals of delight,cheers and screams they elicited, roused all the tourists nearby. I had to explain to them that this was the first time they had seen the ocean. And then the death stares turned to looks of understanding and compassion. Some even came and helped take some into to the water, while others were so fascinated by their reactions, they stood by and took photos! I was down there alone so I don't have many good pictures of their initial reactions as I was watching them all too closely panicked in case one drowned..... These guys are not like baby orphanage who at least splash in a pool. Some went under and gulped water as they didn't understand you had to hold your breath.... Again, the small things.....
Overall though, an unforgettable day for them and for me....