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Channelling Mother Teresa? Volunteering in Vietnam!

Its taken me a while to get on the computer to send this...almost a week late

So here I am - lunch break on my on Tuesday of my second week of volunteering. I'm in once piece with some great stories under my belt, good new friends and some adventures to boot!

I am working at Phuc Tue Day Centre which is a place for children with moderate to severe disabilities, mostly autism but some down syndrome also.
The children range from 4 to 19 with varying needs and abilities. They are broken up into 4 classes. It can be very busy with up to 20 children in the rooms.

I am here with two other girls from my volunteers dorm which makes it all the more enjoyable.
Here they both are enjoying my company thoroughly each lunchtime:


We have a long commute each morning and night as we live quite far outside of Hanoi city. It's a taxi at 730am to the large mall about 6km from our place. From there we get on a bus to bring us very close to the centre. It's usually about a 1hr commute in the morning and can be up to 1hr30 on the way home dependant on the bus situation.

The city buses run pretty regularly, but the infamous 57 bus that a lot of us have to catch can be a bit of an interesting character. I think at this stage the longest we have waited at the bus stop is 30mins (we have waited for so long over time that we now have a song to sing while waiting for the 57 bus...and no it's not very inspired, but it passes the time). We are able to beg to get dropped off not at a bus stop but closer to our house on the way home which is good. I think this may be a favour that only western girls get - nonetheless, it's good.

The strangest thing about the bus is that its rude to talk in it...in a country where it's not considered rude to throw rubbish on the street, spit anywhere you want to and chew with your mouth open! It's rather comical.

The centre is interesting. Some of the kids are absolutely adorable...others, not so much.

Some of the interesting things that have happened to me here:

  • Kicked in the leg
  • Pinched in the arm
  • Spit thrown on me
  • Fan thrown at my back
  • Scratched on the hand
  • Urinated on my leg while reading a book
  • Punched in the stomach

Everyday we go home with another story. Each of the girls have their own adventures. Poor Clementine got her shoes taken one day and had to commute home in what can only be said are horrendously ugly high heels.

I have had to sing jingle bells into a teachers phone as the kids like it so much when I sing that she wants to play it when I am gone. It was super embarrassing...look out for it soon on iTunes in Vietnam.

While there is always a violent story here and there, there are also adorable moments with the kids. Today I was teaching a child to write and each time he got it right he celebrated with giving me a kiss on the cheek. Moments like that are totally priceless.

Most days we either play, sing or draw with the kids. Some of them like learning English so we do that with them.

All of the other volunteers are great. We are a mixed bunch from France, Brazil, Switzerland, Ireland, Australia, Germany, China and Hong Kong. We often play cards together at night and there is always plenty of laughter. The French are the most represented at our dorm, with only one or two from the other countries I spoke about.
It's really enjoyable all hanging out.

This weekend was the first for all of us that arrived last week so we went to the movies on friday night to see spiderman, on saturday we had a city tour of Hanoi which was interesting...I must say seeing Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body was a bit freaky though. We had a great lunch and most of us stayed in the city for the night to enjoy some much needed air conditioning. Saturday night we all went out for dinner which was nice, Steve the other Aussie volunteer shouted us all dinner which was super lovely.

Here is our view at drinks on Saturday night:


On Sunday we went to the perfume pagoda about 2 hours by bus and then an hr by row boat to the base of the mountain it was on. It was about 38c so the 7 of us that went were sweating buckets...it was a good day though, and as you can see by the photo below it was beautiful. Admittedly the hour boat and 2 hour bus on the way home was a little tedious! Plenty of laughs were had and some great photos taken.

Here is a photo of my dorm room, we are lucky as the house isn't super full at the moment so there is only me and two others in my room.


Vietnam is proving to be a super interesting place, my Vietnamese is getting a little better - well from a base of nothing it is not very hard to improve! I am now at least ok with saying my age, hello, goodbye, please, thankyou, water, eat...the very basics.

This weekend sees us take a trip to Ha Long Bay and the end of my volunteering. On Monday I am off to start moving towards Europe. Cannot believe how quickly it's all going.
Ideally I wish I had at least another week volunteering as I will be sad to leave my new little family...but there is no rest for the wicked...until next time! Xx

“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien

Posted by Rosie Anderson 05:08

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