5.2.08 - 5.5.08 88 °F
on our first morning in tam ky, we work up to mrs. hahn's breakfast call, "EVERYBODY! breakfast in vietnam almost always consists of a ten inch long baguette, with cheese or butter, and delicious fruit (pineapple, mango). the coffee here is delicious -- a little stronger, but so sweet. after breakfast, the taxi picked us up and drove us to the three orphanages we will be working: the home of affection, social support, and the "baby orphanage." we brought fresh bananas to the children at each, some of whom were very shy at first to meet us. they were all adorable -- though i quickly found a favorite at the baby orphanage. he was a baby and wouldn't stop jumping once i got him started!
fortunately at tam ky, the orphanages are in better condition than those in da nang. i think because the energy is focused on 3 rather than about 6, they've been able to make more progress. here in tam ky, we bring fresh fruit every morning. the children also receive daily vitamins. recently, with the help of kim the translator, they were even able to take the kids out for a day-long trip last month. the entire thing cost 80 dollars and the kids claimed it was the best day of their lives. we're hoping to maybe put on a little music show at social support, because it seems they all love to sing.
though we had only arrived thursday, many of the new volunteers in the other placements had already planned a trip to hoi an for the weekend. hoi an is a more touristy town which many westerners visit -- its attractions include beautiful markets, thousands of tailors, a ten minute ride to a beautiful beach, and plenty of bars and places of entertainment. since i had made some friends during orientation, i really wanted to meet up with the rest of the group, and since carrie and carl were already planning on going there for the weekend, the canadians and i decided to join them in a taxi! it was probably a little crazy traveling onlya day after we arrived in tam ky, however i only have so many weekends here and the other tam ky volunteers were already away for the weekend holiday.
we stayed a beautiful hotel in hoi an with not only a pool but air conditioning!! and only 15 dollars a night, with a 1 dollar breakfast. we spent the first day walking around and checking out the tailors. cat had a beautiful wool petty coat made for only 25 dollars. the streets in hoi an are beautiful, scattered with trees and brightened with the tailored clothes lined from corner to corner. in the evening we ate dinner at "Jenny's Bamboo Restaurant" whcih carrie reccomended. jenny is from australia and has lived in vietnam for 5 years; she works with the orphanage in hoi an, sharing some of her restaurant profits. we had a great time, especially enjoying the 5000 dong bia (that'd be about 35 cents??). later we met up with the rest of the GVN volunteers at the "Before and Now" restaurant. they had been drinking there and hadn't eaten, so we joined them at their table at another restaurant called the "Bale Well." This was set in a little allyway, and was a much more traditional vietnamese restaurant. we sat outside on the little patio furniture (here, always the little kiddy plastic furniture we play with at home), and were distributed plates full of food to be put into rice paper. one of the cooks continued to show us how to make the proper roll-up and shoved it in our mouths saying "cam ONNNNNN!" (thank you). afterwards, half the group, including me and pat, went to a discotech where we danced to some crazy techno music. we basically were the only people there, and definately the only ones dancing. it was hilarious.
the next day we made some more rounds at the tailors and headed out towards the beach! the beach was scorching, but the water was amazing - nearly like bath water! i got out after being scared by what felt and looked like a jellyfish but i think it might have only been the harmless type. sitting on the beach, you get swarmed by the women and their baskets of miscellaneous goods (necklaces, nuts, etc). well trained, they come with prepared lines like "oh very boring day at the beach"; "to open your heart, open your wallet"; "don't be lazy, be crazy!"; "you lucky, me not so lucky"; "i remember you, you remember me?" it's hard not to be a sucker for some of them, so i did buy two silly necklaces, one of which seems to already be breaking. after lunch at the beach & tired of the sun, i went to lay under the palm trees. mid-nap, i was awoken by a "heloooo!" and a smiling vietnamese face over my head. he wanted to meet me and practice his english, so we talked for awhile. a 22 year old, studying automobile production at the university in da nang, he was visiting his friend in hoi an. i couldn't believe that he found the ocean water cold.
we ended up staying on the beach much longer than planned when we found the other GVN volunteers who had planned a night beach party. the girls were tired so returned to the hotel, but patrick and i joined them on the beach for awhile. we soon felt tired and dirty, and decided to head back to the hotel as well. i had held my bladder since about 4 so i surrendered and peed in the plastic hole -- the bathroom at the beach. i had wanted to take the motortaxis back, but pat wanted to walk so we did. then far from catching a motortaxi, we got hungry and stopped in a roadside restaurant. maybe not the wisest choice for our stomachs, but a fun experience nonetheless. the men in the restaurant joked that we could eat their puppy for dinner (eating dog is mainly a tradition in the north). my seafood and noodles came with squid -- tenticles and all. i only ate the circular pieces. continuing our walk we happened to stumble accros carrie and carl enjoying a romantic dinner over the river! they invited us in and shared some of their wine. continuing our walk home, we realized we still had a long way so we finally found some motorbike taxis to take us back. nervous at first, i held onto the shoulders of my driver but then relaxed and enjoyed the ride. it was so much fun and the breeze felt awesome.
that next morning, we got to venture further into the central markets of hoi an, near the river. though met by the pungent smell of fish, the markets were beautiful -- little tarps creating shade, silk scarves catching your eye, and fresh produce and flowers everywhere. we returned to tam ky early that afternoon and met our housemates! angie and david are the married couple with 3-yr-old daughter lucy, and tam is the 20 year old australian-vietnamese. they are all very sweet, though blonde lucy is a little bit of a demon child. we had a wonderful dinner and a quiet night.
today we begin our first real day of volunteering. already we visited the baby orphanage. i find myself drawn to the babies. they need the attention, most of them laying on their backs so often that they have a little bald spot on the back of their heads. today i fed the baby who hardly made it 3 months ago when he came down with pneumonia. you can still feel and hear the fluid in his lungs, but otherwise he looks incredibly healthy. he drank the entire bottle and in thanking me, surpirsed me with a nice wet spot on my pants. "nappys" are all cloth at the orphanages, so there is no stopping those bodily fluids. oh well! its so neat just to be able to play with the kids and spend time giving them much needed affection. english teaching is on our agenda, but its done in smaller classes outside of the orphanages. i'll know more about that later. well sorry this is so long, but i can't help myself from putting in all the details : ) miss you all at home!
p.s. cool fact: everyone in vietnam is of age 1 when they are born, and collectively everyone turns older at the tet holiday (though they still celebrate birthdays) -- so that means i am 20 here!