Aug 142013

It is not easy to summarize this last day in BaVi.  I would like to find a way to describe the mix of emotions not just about the children that I have grown so attached to but the staff and of course the many volunteers.

Let me start with the volunteers. What comes to mind when I think about the strong connections I have felt with each one of them even though we were from many different countries, cultures, languages and over all life experiences we all came with the same committment to the children.  I keep thinking about soldiers in battle.  I do not mean to overstate the circumstances , nor do I want to be overly dramatic, but there were moments at the end of the day that as I reflected on the experience , it did feel like we were commrades in the trenches.  Certainly I smelled like it.  Not to get too graphic, but I often left in the blazing sun to ride my push bike home smelling like sweat and pee. Sadly, I got used to it.  The pleasure of getting back to the hotel and taking a shower was enormous.  But, I can honestly say, that by 6am the next morning I was looking forward to seeing the kids and getting all sweaty and smelly again.  As I write this I realize to some that may be reading this it sounds crazy.

So getting back to my feelings about the volunteers I was privileged to share this experience with.  Many I have already mentioned and the work they began before I got there led the way for me and enabled me to guide those that came after me.  I hope that Paula will enjoy her last few weeks working with Nicole and Matilda (from Milan) and the new volunteers that will be coming from Spain and Australia. Paula was so generous with her knowledge and her self.  Despte the fact that I was a New Yor Jewish liberal and she was a southern military Christian who voted for the two Bushs, McCain and Romney we truly bonded.  Add the lovely  Xi from China/Oxford who was wise beyond her 19 years we made a great team!  Nicole and Matilda were a great addition. Much appreciation goes to Hahn who was always there to address the small and big glitches.  Remember, no one at the hotel spoke english and with the exception of Toan the first couple of days none of the volunteers spoke more than a few words of Vietnamese.  Calling Hahn on speed dial was often necessary.  Unfortunately my vietnamese phone kept terminating service and it was never clear why.  Of course Hahn was always there to correct the problem.  Not sure how- sort of like a computer snag at home that Jesse would fix and say to me- “You do not need to know, I took care of it”.

The staff was welcoming and supportive.  They were young women in there 20’s-40’s.  All married with children of their own.  It is common in Vietnam to ask -How old you are?, How many children you have?  It was interesting to have to say six zero and two sons 26 and 29!  Despite our age differences there was a bond and warmth.  I really will miss them.  Despite the hard work they were doing they were able to be playful and fun-with the  kids , the volunteers and each other.

Finally the children.  I have spoken a great deal about there circumstances but I can not describe them all so I will talk about saying good bye to Roi (pronounced Zoy) and Kien (pronounced Gee-an).  Roi with the the coal black soulful eyes and the deformed arms and legs.  He would very quietly use his limbs to move himself about and if food or a pencil was placed in his hand he could negotiate it in his own way.  He was not able to feed himself but he was the neatest eater!  He had a smile that was a hear breaker-  It came slowly and when he let it go it was electric.  In contrast Kien was a firecracker.  He had those dark sparking eyes and a huge grin on his face all the time.  He had the energy to go with it.  Watching him feed himself was an experience worthy of an admission charge.  You could take bets on whether more food would end up on him than in him!  He was so distractable he would forget that he had a spoonful of food and he would leave it hanging in mid air.  He always made me laugh.

Saying goodbye was hard.  I can close my eyes and feel their skin and see them smile.  But in the end I can only hope that whatever little time I had with them will have some benefit to them.  For me, I know I will never see things quite the same.  I believe I am a better person from having had the privilege to be a part of their lives.







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