Sheryl Norris

A 50 + woman with a desire to give back to the world. Have left family at home to fend for themselves while I help others (hopefully) in whatever way I can.

The week that was. ….

 Posted by Sheryl Norris at 2:32 am  Uncategorized  Comments Off on The week that was. ….
May 312016

As I sit in a hotel room in Guangzhou and quietly reflect on the last week I don’t know where to start… much has happened.

The last week at the centre was endured (yep I do mean endured)  with a mixture of emotions. It felt such a burden having to leave the children after achieving so much, sad as I’ve formed a loving bond with a couple of the children and elation as one of the children got to go home for a visit with their family. I swayed from just wanting to leave in the middle of the night so as not to have to say the enviable goodbyes, staying longer and wanting to see more of the country. But the reality was to see out the end of the week, cuddle the children as much as I could in the time I had left and document the things that I was doing in the hope that the next volunteer can continue the routines.

One of the children with disabled legs that has a gentle soul and is doing well with picking up English fron the volunteers had a surprise this week. In fact it was a surprise for everyone. The story was that her mother was dead and her father couldn’t look after her on his own, hence why she was at the centre. He remarried and took her home but the new wife could not cope with the level of need and she was returned to the centre. Father visits on occasion. Well this week four women, a grandmother and a male arrived to visit the child. It appears the mother is alive and well and working in China. She had come home for a holiday and she, her mother, sisters and brother had come to take child home for three weeks. Child was understandably ecstatic. We all cried in happiness for the child. A rather emotional sendoff had by all.

Then of course there are the children that really don’t belong at he centre and should be adopted out.  The story of one little boy who is the loveliest,  kindest child who was up for adoption. All was going well until adoptive parents arrived and noted that he had a bit of a limp. After medical checkup found a bit of an abnormality in a leg bone but nothing that would stop him from doing anything. Not good enough for them and they cancelled  the adoption. I had been working with this boy for three weeks when i heard this story and hadn’t even noticed there was an issue with his leg. That’s how noticeable it is!!

Then I met an Indian soapy star. Well not really but everyone in Vietnam thinks he is. Ronique is a volunteer that has been here before and came back for another couple of weeks this week. There is an indian tv soap showing here at the moment about an 8 year old bride. Has the same sort of following as Shortland Street. The star male character apparently looks like Ron. None of us think so and we reckon its just because Ron is the first Indian volunteer and you know how every one looks the same even when clearly they don’t. As you can imagine we have all been having a lot of fun with it.

As the last day approaches various staff at the centre have asked for various items of clothing. If I say yes to all requests I will leave the centre naked!!!!!!. So there was lots of disappointment as there was a steady run of ‘no’ until they finally left me alone.

I am asked what I thought of the centre, my thoughts about what they are doing, and what things would I like to see implemented. I find this really hard to answer as there are so many thoughts and raw emotions fighting for attention in my head and heart. I feel like I need time to process what I have seen and done, time to make sense of everything and time to reflect. There is so much to unpack mentally, so much to tell and oh so much still to do. So maybe in a week I will be in a better space to have some order to my thoughts and control over my emotions. In the meantime I leave the centre with a heavy heart and in the knowledge that the time is right to leave.

The saddest was saying goodbye to Ang whom was my motorbike taxi driver for the whole time I was there. I had dinner at her place, her husband put a banana in my bag every day (in case i got hungry) and had many conversations through what i call viet/lish charades. She made sure I was protected from the sun while on the bike, mostly made sure I had a helmet and was always happy to stop so I could take photos. The funniest time was when I saw the army training with their German shepherd dogs. I said let’s stop and watch. No problem. Well that was until I took out my camera. Before I even had it uncapped an army bloke came running towards us at the same time that Ang said hold on we are out of here. Heres Ang with one arm grabbing me so that I don’t fall off the bike with an army guy chasing us up the road while desperately trying not to drop my camera. Damn, it would’ve been a great shot.

A couple of days before I left Ang got a puppy. It looks like a shepherd cross and the cutest little thing. Then I went white. Ang you are not going to eat this puppy are you? She reassures me that he is a pet to replace their other old dog that died ( of old age and no they didn’t eat that one either). His name is Mickey. Ang begs me to stay. She says I can live with them, she will feed me and i can work at the centre. I try to tell her that I have to go home as my family and animals miss me but she is not convinced that animals miss humans. she gives me presents to take home to my family . I am really humbled by this generosity as they are a very poor family.

Then it’s into the car taxi and Jenna and i leave the village for the last time this time and head to Hanoi to start the next and last adventure before leaving the country………



Amazing weekend…..

 Posted by Sheryl Norris at 11:03 pm  Vietnam  Comments Off on Amazing weekend…..
May 222016

Well back from another weekend away and on my last week at the centre.

I went for an overnight cruise on a junk around Ha Long Bay. What an amazing place. The scenery is spectacular and there were only 16 people on board, so made for a nice small group that got on well mostly. There is always one person whom complains about everything and yep we had one. So everyone just kept away from her. I had a room with a balcony so spent time out there watching the sun set and the world go by. We visited a floating village and pearl farm. The poor woman whom had to row us around. Six hefty Europeans  ( I was the lightest) in a boat being rowed for 60 minutes around the village. Our boat went first and came back last. We were told to tip her 10,000dong each. We all tipped her double. Apparantly, 5 years ago there were 500 families living in the village now there is only 50 families. The area is UNESCO  protected and so the people have been rehomed on the mainland. It is expected that the rest will be gone within the next couple of years. Unfortunately, like all people that are rehomed, they are not doing well on the mainland as their livelihood was the water and fishing. The bay is overfished. Then everyone was taken swimming before back for cocktails watching the sun set. Dinner was a seafood banquet where they created flowers out of vegetables. We were all up at 5.15am to watch the sun rise and then to do some tai chi before breakfast. Then off to explore a cave, more swimming a cooking class on how to make spring rolls and lunch. Then a slow trip back to shore.

Ha Long Bay consists of around 200 islands and only a small portion of them are protected. There are 550 tourist boats going out every day and 220 that stay out overnight. And of that 220 there are only 20 that go to where we went, which meant it was quiet. it is definitely worth the trip and a must see on your list. The photos don’t do justice to the views. It was the most relaxing and serene weekend I have had for a long time. 

On the way we stopped at a disabled persons production workshop and selling house. This is an orphanage that has done well in obtaining funding to set up a series of workshops where people make embroidered pictures, create sculptures, make clothes, jewellery and heaps of other stuff. They have a wall of overseas buyers of their sculptures and would you believe there was one from Invercargill New Zealand.

On the way home we had a flat tire. We pulled over next to a fruit seller outside her house. She invited us all in, fed us pineapple and banana and showed us all around her place. She had a cow and calf, chooks, a dog and numerous fruit trees. After an hour of waiting for the driver to pushbike back to town and get a repair truck and getting tyre changed we were on our way. Of course we paid the Lady well for her hospitality.

Well this is my  last week at the centre. today the staff asked when I was leaving and they wanted to swap Facebook details. Then one asked me if she could have my pants and top and another the bracelet I was wearing. I said yes to both, handed over the bracelet, but they would have to wait till Friday for the clothes. Apparantly, this Is common practice when someone is leaving. There are a couple of things clothes wise that I will be leaving behind and the bracelet was made at the centre and i plan to buy a heap anyway.

I have had a sore throat for the past week and over the weekend it developed into infected sinuses so am now on antibiotics for that. Otherwise I have been fine. One of the other volunteers also has the throat infection and we are pretty sure we have got it from the kids as there is always a few with coughs, running noses and sneezing, not to mention diahoea and lice.

Until the next installment………

And the learning continues…

 Posted by Sheryl Norris at 10:00 pm  Uncategorized  Comments Off on And the learning continues…
May 172016

Although Hanoi was a pleasant break I was glad to get back to the quieter life of the village.

Things to try in Hanoi…. egg coffee. Yep it is what you think….take a egg yolk and beat with condensed milk, add freshly brewed coffee, whisk and warlah. It tastes real good although a bit sweet for me.

And then there is crispy fried chicken feet. A great snack food to wash down with a local beer.

Or if you are feeling adventurous there is the boiled baby duckling in its shell. it is supposed to be high in,protein and sort after. I watched one being eaten and decided not for me.

Then the rice wine. This is more a man’s drink as it’s supposed to improve potency. Usually comes infused with either a sea horse, some animals penis ( still haven’t been able to decipher from which animal) a snakes beating heart or for the vegetarian some herbs. It’s on my list to try before I leave.

The other day while having lunch at the local cafe a motorbike pullled up at the cafe across the road with a load of 6 month old puppies. Yep…they were on the menu. They are eaten by mothers whom have just given birth to bring down their milk and apparently taste like lamb. Very strong. I couldn’t watch them being unloaded. Put a damper on the rest of my meal and the afternoon. Apparently, a certain breed of dog is raised for the table. Other dogs are pets and will never be eaten.

Monday night the restaurant we always have dinner at caught some fresh water fish from the lake. He offered it to us for dinner.. it was lovely and fresh. He didn’t charge us for the meal as he didn’t pay for the fish then we don’t either. Last night he offered us fish again. It was in a tank of airated dirty water. I asked how long it had been in the tank. Five days. Then I asked how often the water had been changed. Never. I passed on that one.

Yesterday we saw a funeral procession. Today I asked Terry  (boss) about funerals here. They go for 72 hours non stop then the body is buried for 12 months. At 12 months the body is dug up, the bones cleaned by the family and reburied for good. During that first year there are lots of pilgrimages to the pagoda to offer prayers etc to the deceased. People are usually buried on their family land and the produce is grown around the tombs. However, in the cities it is more common to have the body cremated due to lack of land space for burial.

We have a new volunteer started this week. Jenna is an OT from Hawaii. She is amazing with her knowledge and we get on well. I have been saying for a while now that most of the children in my room should be feeding themselves. so I have been slowly letting a few of them feed themselves while taking negative comments from the staff. Jenna came in today and we joined forces to get these kids to feed themselves and we won today. Let’s see what tomorrow  brings.

The weather has cooled down to around 28-30c and is cloudy most days. Much more bearable.

I hear the weather is cold and wet. I will be thinking of you all as I float around Ha Long bay on a junk over the weekend ?



Half way there………

 Posted by Sheryl Norris at 11:05 pm  Vietnam  Comments Off on Half way there………
May 132016

I was told at the beginning that it takes two weeks to settle in and you know what they are right.

I finally feel like I know what I’m doing and the kids know what I will and will not tolerate. This of course has happened through the kids doing what kids to and testing me to the limit. on Wednesday and Thursday the kids (about 12 of the 27) were the naughtiest they could possibly be and I’m sure it was because I was in the room on my own both days. They hit, spat, threw things, screamed, cried and bit me. If the govt staff had of seen they would have given the children a flogging with a stick. Of course that was never going to be something I was going to do. So next best thing…….I took all the toys off them and left the room. This made them scream all the more. After doing this 2 days in a row i think they got it. Friday they were angels, well not quite but certainly the horrid behaviour stopped.

I get on well with the staff now which makes life a lot easier as well. The translator on my phone works a treat.

The other day a child was rushed off to hospital with a snake bite. Appears to have not been poisonous but made him quite sick for a couple of days. And then another child almost stepped on a snake after that. So they are around!! They said it was a yellow green coloured one. I think they have been disturbed by earthworks that is happening at the centre.

Most days there are visitors bearing gifts for the children. This is usually lollies, biscuits and toys. There is lots of photos taken and then they leave. Yesterday a couple of female monks came to offer prayers and thanks to staff for looking after children.

On Thursday night Justine and l were invited to Ang place for dinner with her family.  She had cooked pork in a broth and neither of us eat meat. Her solution ……strain some of the broth and give to us. Took a bit to explain that pork broth with the meat taken out is still meat!!! There was deep fried tofu, omelette and rice. Pineapple for dessert. She is such a lovely lady and her family are really nice. Their two children  both speak reasonable English. 

Its great to be in Hanoi for the weekend and around English speaking people, and to see Westerners  (would you believe) . And a change of food. Village food is great but limited variety. Hanoi is an amazing place. it is everything Ba Vi province isn’t . Which is not a bad thing. The village life is slow and friendly, while Hanoi is a crazy place. I would certainly not feel safe on the back of a vesper here. In fact crossing the road is highly dangerous and not for the faint hearted. The trick is to put your arm out as if to stop the traffic ( of course they won’t stop) and walk out into the traffic. Don’t stop, don’t hesitate, and don’t change direction. And if the gods are looking after you today you will get to the other side without incident!!!!! So far so good ?

The weather has cooled. It is now a comfortable 30- 32c.

Until the next instalment…….




It finally happened!!!!!

 Posted by Sheryl Norris at 10:12 pm  Vietnam  Comments Off on It finally happened!!!!!
May 102016

With so many volunteers coming through the centre it’s no wonder the govt staff aren’t particularly helpful or pleasant. For the first week I could not anything right even if it was right an hour ago. They told me off for everything…..don’t put that there…..go get that child out of bed… not that child put him back…..then a flurry of quick fire Vietnamese and they slam the door to there room and leave me to try and work it all out. I was sort of warned about this but until it actually happens you don’t think it’s as bad as it is. Very frustrating as all you are trying to do is help.

WELL yesterday I wore a pair of black very baggy pants that I hadn’t worn before. The staff were all over me asking where I got them and how cool the material was. Then a bit of a chatter amongst themselves and then they turn around to me and say…..this good (pointing to pants) we like them and you……today I got invited in for their big cook up they were having in their room. I had to turn it down as it was all meat mostly. They now think I’m ok but weird as i don’t eat meat….and i did say yes to the fruit and sweet rice dessert they made. Now im allowed to do all the things i wasnt allowed to last week, they help me, guide me and are talking to me in a broken viet/lish hand signally type of way.

Who would of thought that a pair of long pants would have done it aye….should have worn them last week,!

Yesterday one of the volunteer staff put on lunch for us. what an amazing feast. She wanted to say thank you to us volunteers for doing what we do.

Today is the bosses wife’s birthday, so there was another picnic for all the staff. Make your own Vietnamese rolls…you know the ones with rice paper. The director of the centre came as well. He sat next to me and through an interpreter we had a chat about all and nothing. He then made me my rolls asking me as he went if I wanted this or that in my filling. I was so embarrassed but was told this was normal for the eldest person there. Damn. …..there’s that ‘old’ subject again……then there was birthday cake. What an amazing cake. Two layers of the best and softest sponge cake I have ever had with egg white icing and amazingly decorated. Definitely the duck eggs.

On the way home tonight I  was feeling pretty good. I’m getting used to not wearing a helmet on the bike. So tonight as we are speeding down the road with the wind in my hair and my arms out ( think titanic) I felt on top of the world. Ang was laughing along with me as everyone stopped and watched us.

ok..ok……yes it was a vesper and yes we were only going 40kph but hey it still felt good. That was until we got back to the hotel and every one started laughing as my hair was frozen in the ‘wind through my hair’ look.

You might ask why my hair is like that …..or ….why wear product in your hair in a village in Vietnam…no product folks…..just a days worth of grime, sticky rice fingers, kids dribble and Lord knows what else really.

And then there was a really embarrassing moment this  morning. Things in the room were pretty frantic and all the kids seemed in a bad mood. Lots of crying, fighting and mayhem. Staff asked me to help change nappies and threw me some diposibles. Then they started going on at me to hurry so we could get some order in the place. Well I was so distracted with trying to settle this crying child so I could get nappy on that I put it on back to front!!! I don’t think I am going to be allowed to forget that for a while ?

i found out today that there is a psych hospital at the back of the centre. i have asked if i can have a tour. The answer is yes and just need to sort out when.

There is lots of govt workers that come to village for holiday and training. Today there was the army with their dogs ( German shepherds) training in the lake. Never seen so many dogs in one place and didn’t expect to see them here.

organising to go to Hanoi for the weekend to stock up on supplies, money and shopping?

A day in the life of a volunteer

 Posted by Sheryl Norris at 11:19 pm  Vietnam  Comments Off on A day in the life of a volunteer
May 082016

At the moment there are three other volunteers, although they are employed by the local org here. Katie is the paed nurse from UK and has been here for around 2 years. She is amazingly dedicated to the children’s welfare and is a wealth of knowledge on the children and their personalities. She organises trips out for some of the more abled children, negotiates with the centre director and is quite good with talking Vietnamese. She has not thought about when she might move on and I’m guessing she will stay for a while yet. Then there is Justine from Oz and has been here 6 months and plans to leave in July.  She looks after the more difficult children and has a loving persona with everyone. She has also picked up quite a bit of the local lingo. Then there is Mel another kiwi and she has been here three months and is about to renew her visa for another three month’s. The locals call here meow meow. She is a go getter. She sees something that needs doing e.g water blasting the rooms, and she is off  buying a water blaster and into it. She tends to find herself in trouble a bit but she weather’s it well. They are all in their mid 20s all well travelled and committed to helping the children in whatever way they can.

I on the other hand are the old lady. This means they are always asking me if I’m alright, do I need to rest and telling me if I look particularly old today….I don’t think I have ever felt so old….I thought I as doing pretty good but here I’m treated as an elder. This means that when we went for a picnic they make my meal first and give it to me while everyone else has to make their own. Im not allowed to make my own  meal.  Feels very weird.

Yesterday we took a van full of older children to Ba Vi National Park for the day. We were supposed to leave at 8.30am so we sat outside the hotel waiting….waiting….waiting….until eventually (2 hours later) the van arrived. Apparently the first van broke down and they found it hard to find another one. But what they kept telling us was that they were washing the van to make it look pretty for us. And off we went to,pick up the kids from the centre. WELL….we only had seats for 9 and there were 15 waiting.!! So after much wrangling and negotiations with security we got 12 into the van and off we went……..but…..just down the road we noticed that one of the boy s that didn’t have permission was in the van. So we stop the van and more heated words and the boy got off and had to walk back to the centre….take two and we are off.  Thr road up the mountain is sort of like the cadrona hill road but worse….much worse and much longer. Half way up the van started smelling of ovrrheating and a few of the kids started spewing…and i mean full on …rip your guts up….spewing……plastic bag after plastic bag was filled and we got to the top just as they ran out of things to spew in.  When we got to the entrance  gate the guards wouldnt let us in as we didnt have a letter of clearance for the children. So a hasty phone call and all sorted and in we went. So decision time…go for a trek up the mountain to the pagoda or picnic  lunch. Unbelievably the spewers wanted food. I guess I’m not surprised they had nothing left in their stomachs. Picnic lunch was amazing. One of the ladies had bought boiled duck eggs, rice and pork steamed in banana leaves and various sweets for the children. our contribution was bagettes, cucumber, tomato, coriander, cheese and sausage. Interestingly the children didn’t want filled bread rolls. After feast  most went climbing. I didn’t go as the cloud was low so wouldn’t be able to see anything (my excuse anyway). The steep incline was climbing thousands of steps straight up to the pagoda. Takes around 30- 45 mins to get to the top. Katie and I found a young Frenchman whom appeared quite lost. He told us that he has been in the country for a week, is living in Hanoi for three months and is here to help establish a software company. His colleagues had to leave the country this w/end to renew their visas so he was left alone. He has never ridden a motorbike before and decided to ride one to Ba Vi which is about a 3 hour trip. It scared the shit out of him but he was there in one piece. He thought there would be food at the top but there isn’t so we gave him our leftovers and off he went. for the trip back Katie dished our travel sickness pills and the trip down was much better.

So each day, I get up eat fruit a muesli bar and yogurt for breakfast along with an iced black coffee I have in the fridge. 8.15am i go find Ang to take me to the centre. Takes around 10 mins to get there. I pay her 30,000dong each way ($1.50NZ roughly). Once at the centre I walk to my allocated room. As I approach the children go wild calling out to me. I pick each one up and talk to them and cuddle and play with them until their food arrives at 9am. My job is to get the highchairs out and put the children into them ready for food. meal times are always interesting and I now have a following of children that want me to feed them. After mealtime it’s time to get the baskets of toys out and interact with the children. This can be massaging the limbs of the more physically disabled to putting leg braces on and helping children walk with the aide of the walker, or reading to the children or getting them to interact with various toys. At 10.30 – 11am the children are put to bed for their midday nap. I put everything away and now its our break time till 2pm. We all go to the local village for lunch usually consists of rice, veggies, egg and tofu for me. Then back to the centre. We hang out in a hall and can either do nothing or do something. We have been creating a few challenging games for the kids and this has taken quite a while. Today we cleaned out a room where all the clothes are kept. The one thing these children do not need is clothes. There is a room about twice the size of my office that is piled to the ceiling with clothes, plus what is in each locked volunteer room connected to each room.  I discovered that what thry do need is Indestructible  toys,  big kids nappies and medical supplies. Then at 2pm we go back to the rooms and spend an hour and a half with the children before meals arrive. I help with that feed and by then it’s 4pm and the children are put back into their beds and my job is done for the day. My ride is usually waiting and back to hotel to shower, wash clothes and chill till we all go to dinner at 6.30pm. Usually back at hotel by 8pm and so tired we off to sleep.

I have found out that there a couple of children in the room thst love taking photos. I am currently negotiating with the staff to let me take them out to photograph with the cameras I brought over (thanks Sharon). So far they are not overly convinced but I will persevere. I had a plan before I came over to let the children take photos, get them developed and let the children own their story.

This morning was  haircut day. The younger children get a number 2 cut and the older children get to choose the style they want. There are some pretty trendy cuts today. So they all have to derobe for the haircut then off to have a bath then I dry them off and put them in  clothes and/or nappies. It was so funny. I never realised that each child has a particular style of clothes that they wear from the immense pile of odd bod clothes in the room. I had a deaf 4 year old instructing me on who wears what. Between us we got there.

So so ends another day…….

The week that was…..

 Posted by Sheryl Norris at 6:40 pm  Uncategorized  Comments Off on The week that was…..
May 062016

Today I went to the supermarket about 12kms up the road in a nearby town. What an experience…… The traffic was intense and navigating the people walking, pushbikes, motorbikes and various size trucks was not for the faint hearted. Then I heard a booming horn and turned around to see a kenworth truck fastly approaching I went white. As he passed us and I was staring at the lower hub caps within touching distance I had a vision of squashed ants!!!!

Then into the supermarket. You have to leave your bag in a locker and carry around the key. Don’t forget your locker number? . Then off you go. There are at least 3 employees at every isle chatting and security guards wandering around the place and the music is loud and the lights super bright. Get your stuff and off to checkout. Then to security where they check your items against the docket before letting you get you bag from locker.

A bit about the centre.

It is government owned and run centre for orphaned children. There is around 320 – 400 (depending who you talk to) people living there ranging in age from birth to death. Some children have no disability, some have various levels (mild to severe) physical disabilities and some have mild to severe intellectual disability. They are split into different rooms of around 25 people per room. There is a nursery and some children are adopted out to foreigners. This process can take around 18 months. There are govt workers in each room and they work 24 hour shifts. Their roll is to feed, bathe and toilet the children. The volunteers role is to give children attention, stimulation, touch and love. The older children (teenagers) usually have the role of looking after the children and changing nappies when required. Although nappy changes are usually three times a day. Some children are potty trained and can toilet themselves. Some children can feed themselves and some need help feeding. conditions are basic and the children share a bed. They are fed  well usually getting rice, meat, veggies and soup. They all look healthy.

The room I am in at the moment has various aged children with various (or nil) conditions. A few of the children go to the local school. A couple of days ago one of them came home with nits. Have been checking the rest of the kids but so far they (and i) are clear. The local shampoo they use is not seen as being overly useful but it’s all you can get here. A couple of the other kid’s have diarrhoea. So every day I come home hot, smelling of sweat, grime, dirt and urine. And with a special tale to tell about one of the children which makes it all worthwhile.

Mealtimes is always interesting. The govt workers dish up the food and give out to the ones that can themselves first then bowls of food and a spoon to us to feed the rest of the children. There always seems to be a rush to get them fed so they are spoon fed quite fast. I on the other hand feed them slow (according to the staff). The children have worked this out and a group of three come to me every time to be fed. They now tell me when they want more and when they don’t and we make sure that we sit so that the staff can’t see, otherwise I will be in trouble.

I hope everyone is well and not working too hard. Now that I have got over jetlag and a bit more used to the heat I have settled into the village life. Am off to Ba Vi National Park tomorrow which is a must see if up north. A local guy has offered to take us as we go to his cafe every night for dinner and this is bringing lots of locals to dinner too to check us out. So I guess we are good for business ? hope journal not too boring. Feedback is good ?

Things I have learnt so far…….

 Posted by Sheryl Norris at 9:54 pm  Uncategorized, Vietnam  Comments Off on Things I have learnt so far…….
May 052016

With the luxury of having a day off I have been able to reflect on the things I have learnt so far.

Everyone is suppose to have equal rights on the road. However, who’s going to argue with a massive earth moving truck…..or better still a fleet of them travelling together.  The death toll on the roads on the holiday weekend was 150 in one day. Two of them were just up the road. How do I know? They mark the road with white paint the shape of the bodies where they landed. Ang  (lady that takes me to work and back) stopped the other day at the place of the accident  as there was still good pineapples on the side of the road and I had to pick them up. She said they came from the accident….

I noted that not many people smoked. Wrong!! The men smoke a huge bong. Not with THC but local tobacco. One of the volunteers that smokes said she tried it but the tobacco was very strong and bitter so she went back to bought tobacco.

The main local diet is rice and noodles various ways, greens ( mainly morning glory and taro leaves), pork, beef, chicken (expect all parts of the chicken except feathers), tofu, eggs, all with various pickles and sauces. Not overly hot but spicy, sour and salty. They eat a lot of fruit. This village sells mainly pineapple. But have mango, bananas, and various other fruit I don’t recognise but taste good. Eaten on their own or with yoghurt which is always sweet even the ‘natural’ variety.

yesterday I got to experience riding with three of us on the bike. This is fairly normal and you regularly see bikes with four and even five people on the bike. Nothing to have either two adults and two or three children or three adults and two children.

I have been thinking the weather has been 34c but checked today and it has been 38c (feels like 40) with humidity around 80%. No wonder I am stuffed!!!!. Having problems with eyes as sunscreen infused sweat is running into eyes plus dust and breeze from bike causing eyes to be constantly out of focus. Decided that being out of focus was better than 3rd degree burns from the sun.??and washing with saline drops.

Interestingly, no one drinks the water here. All bottled water even in the villages. So no problem with ice.

Always put two scoops of rice in a bowl. One scoop means you are dying and three scoops means you are sick.

You can tell how experienced a person is with chopsticks by the way they hold them. Down the pointy end you are a learner. Right up the top means you are very expert. Most people hold them in the middle.

Vietnamese are obsessed with their weight. Us foreigners can be whatever we want but they have to be skinny. although i wss told i was too tall and too fat. I was shocked when having lunch at the pagoda with a female monk that an Amway rep turned up selling her weight loss powders, pills and meal replacements. What was more shocking was they they told her she was fat and she agreed. I always thought monks were beyond that sort of superficial stuff.

Today I learnt about birthdays and age. You are one as soon as you are born and then another year can be added depending on which side of the Chinese New year you are born. So if you are born in 2013 and before the new year you will be 5 not 3 as in western world. If after the new year you are 4.



At the beginning

 Posted by Sheryl Norris at 10:58 pm  Vietnam  Comments Off on At the beginning
May 032016

Today I have been in Vietnam 4 days and in Ba Vi 3 days and man is it hot. But back to the beginning…

I arrived in Hanoi after 36 hours without sleep, hot and sweaty and in need of a shower and sleep. But lets backtrack a bit more.

From all the poor reviews I had read on south China air I was prepared for the worst. To my surprise ( and relief) the flight was pleasant and the food impressive, but not without incident. A man across from me had a turn of some sort and collapsed. A call went out for any doctor on the plane and would believe their were 8. Man got moved to first class so he could lie down……note to self…..must remember that for next time I travel long haul.

Going through airport security was interesting. No customs checks and you got to pick which gate you went through….. declare or not declare. …no guesses which one I picked. And out I walked.

Hoai met me at the hotel. As my room wasn’t ready we decided to spend time sorting out SIM card, Viet dong and something to eat. At about then I faded so back to room. Couldn’t sleep so thought I would go for a walk and buy up on some wearable clothes . By this time i was 44 hours without sleep. Got horribly lost trying to find the hotel but everyone was so friendly I worked it out.

Next day had a tour of old quarter of Hanoi  with Hoai . What I didn’t realise was I had arrived on the Labour weekend holiday which goes for 5-6 days. Demonstrations in the street and local holiday makers galore. Then off to Ba Vi.

Staying in hotel which is clean, has air con (a life saver after a day in the heat and essential for a good nights sleep), a fridge, free wifi and a western toilet. BUT BE WARNED don’t go jumping on the bed to test the springiness as the bed is a brick. Still getting used to that. Met the other volunteers that have been here for at least three months before crashing for the night.

Next morning it’s up and off to the orphanage (called  the centre from now on). You have a choice of either a pushbike (think the bike your mother or grandmother used to ride) or motorbike taxi ( on the back of a 50cc zesper, usually without a helmet). I had heard that there was a hill to climb so I thought let’s get a taxi on the first day and check out this hill.

As we approached the hill it was a nobrainer that the taxi was the way to go. That hill was not something I was ever going to get up on a bike without gears in 34c heat. I found out later from the younger volunteers that they walked up the hill with their bikes.

The centre is confronting on all levels, emotionally especially and the conditions. It is hard to put into words how I felt. The staff do the best they can with what they have and it is essential to keep this in mind at all times. The volunteers give so much of themselves to give the children a ray of hope and happiness in their lives. The volunteer staff are an amazing group of people. The compassion they have is amazing and humbling. They are always happy, smiling and eager to teach you Vietnamese  (which i am finding really difficult as every word has 4 different meanings depending on the vocal inflictions) .

I have been placed in room 7 and been given some cards with the children’s names, photos and bio to help me remember (read learn) their names. The children thrive on attention and are eager to learn and play. My day at the moment consists of helping with feeding the children, getting the children outside  (under cover) , play and some massage on the more disabled children.

Yesterday afternoon all the volunteers and volunteer staff went on a bonding trip to a resort with a theme park. What a hoot. Lots of swimming, theme park rides, feeding the wild monkeys and a walk along the river.

Today we all went to a local pagoda for lunch. Best meal yet. And such a peaceful place. This is a weekly treat for staff and volunteers.

Then I decided that I need a day off as the heat is wearing me down and so tomorrow I will spend in the village and spending some time resting.

First impressions…..friendly people, crazy traffic, intensely humid and hot and simple tasty food.

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