5.15.08 - 5.20.08
it's amazing that in my last entry... going home felt so far away. now as i finally get to writing another entry, i realize it's already the 20th and i have only 10 more days in vietnam. it's hard to believe i have to leave this gorgeous place, yet i know there's much to be done and discovered this summer still at home. i'm looking forward to home after a year away at school.
so much as happened in the last 5 or 6 days. thursday night brought a party on the roof. one of the first nights without rain, we took the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful night by pulling out some mattresses, cards, and the ipod dock up onto the balcany. we all stayed up talking way too late... i of course got way too happy about the moment and pulled one of my "i love you guys" scenes. it's just that it's been amazing how quickly i've come to love the volunteers and feel so at home and myself around them. kim, patrick, and i even ended up camping out up there. we put up some mossy nets, and spooning with kim, i slept very soundly until the 6 am sun and tam ky bustle woke me.
not surprisingly, friday turned out to be a tired/lazy day. at the baby orphanage that morning i ended up spending my entire time playing with the girl who has cerebral palsy (i forget her name... she is one of the only disabled children in the orphanage & because the facility isn't equiped to help her with physical therapy and merely lets her lay in her room or sit on her bucket of a toilet seat after eating/drinking, her leg & arm function have only continuously worsened). she really got a kick out of me hitting myself and falling over & this led to her getting a kick out of hitting me herself. the headache afterwards was definately worth it.
friday night we drove to da nang to meet up with the volunteers there. it's about an hour drive and before the sunset, everything had a peachy haze. after checking in to a hotel, we went with the others to the "bamboo bar." there wasn't much to it... we sat out side and enjoyed food & drinks & a walk along the river. the bar was followed by the phung dong dance club. there was an amazing light-up stage here which made for grrreat dancing & we even met the club's dj who happens the be the only black guy living in da nang & definately the first black guy i had seen since arriving. we danced "old school" and then he tried to tell me he lived in south africa & then vietnam where he is now making shoes? he seemed pretty american to me.
saturday morning we went to the neatest restaurant called pizza plus. opened by a christian family (from australia, i think), it hires only deaf or disabled employees. AND a 17 year-old girl who grew up in the baby orphanage now works there. she and another waitor taught us vietnamese sign language during our meal, which included cheeseburgers... my first western food this month. later we got to check out the social support in da nang. it was out of the city a ways, near the hills/mountains and was incredibly different than the social support we're used to (they're both run by the same organization). it consisted of not only baby & street children, but also children with disabilities, and some elderly. i got peed on by the cutest little baby ever and was touched by the warm welcome we received just by being there.
saturday evening & yet another taxi. we drove to hoi an because all the volunteers were meeting there... mainly for the beach party that night. we went out to dinner & then to the "before & now" bar & thennn to the beach party. it was a long night. good dancing, & a beautiful ocean, but not a speck of vietnamese culture & it ended just a bit too late. that sunday we rode bikes to the hoi an beach where we bought a soccer ball. as tam and i played w/ it like a volleyball, about 5 random vietnamese teens joined in our game. the body surfing was excellent that day as well : )
riding back to tam ky was yet another gorgeous drive. nearly completely dark, a full moon lit thesky covered in whispy clouds. the houses looked like little doll houses -- all lit up with their white flourescent lights -- giving their bright teal colored walls a green sea-glass look. you could peer in and see the buddha shrine & family alter front and center & families sitting on their floors with bowls of rice & chopsticks in hand. david, ang, & lucy also got home from their trip up north that night. it was an exciting night for tam ky... apparently buddha day?! there was a huge parade down our street with about 20 colorful lit-up floats & a swarm of motorbikes alongside. lots of people took pictures right back at us.
monday was ho chi minh day. after work, took a bike ride to the tam ky market for the first time. lots of fruit, spices, tacky purses, shoes, & jewelry. cat and carrie went to the sandal store to buy about 30 new pairs of sandals for the home of affection kids!! todayyy was yet another adventure, because the tam ky volunteers were treated to an all-inclusive trip to the mountains near the boarder of laos. in the mountains are beautiful streams and the residences of one of 64 vietnamese ethnic groups. a tourist industry is attempting to market the area, so they wanted some westerners to come for the opening ceremony. the bus ride was long... we were quite packed in.. but the mountains were wonderful and i enjoyed the drive. again it was raining, so though we couldn't see how the tea on the mountains was made, we got to stop to drink some of it. we even got free gift-bags w/ the green tea leaves.
then was another ride further into the mountains to the ethnic group's village. the people of the mountains did have an appearance distinct of that of most of the vietnamese we're around in tam ky -- most noticable is their darker skin. sadly the opening ceremony was quite dampered by the rain.. us guests were quickly decked out in colorful ponchos. the most enjoyable part of the day was our meal. herded into a little hut, a good 50 places were set upon the floor & plates of food we weren't quite used to --- lots of interestingly cooked rice (bamboo rice, rice in banana leaves), fish, really bony chicken, & an oddly shredded beef. they kept forcing upon us this wine-like drink made from mulberry juice. it tasted fine.. but you wouldn't want to follow their commands and cheers to drink "100 percent!!" (bottoms up). of course the night ended in singing.. a more instrumental karaoke. somehow i got convinced to sing a song -- they claimed it was only fair to share each other's cultures. one of the older men i had been talking to surprised em with a rose made from a napkin. after taking a little nature pee, we left around 7:30 for the 2.5 hr ride back.. very glad we went.
well a couple more usual days of work and then we'll be traveling once again for the weekend. this time we're taking a sleeper bus all the way to na trang, a famous beach spot in vietnam. part of the reason for the trip is because gvn is opening an office near na trang.. apparently the orphanages there are in bad shape. i'm excited, but i most enjoy my time in tam ky and with the kids. love y'all at home, i'll write again soon!