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…….


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