Welcome to my journey! I am excited to share my experiences with you; I will be posting as often as I can so that no interesting detail will be overlooked (my brain is not quite as secure as Al Gore's lockbox).
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh this morning at 11, although that is not where the trip began. After going to trivia night at my neighborhood bar with Quizzo, his dad Jaques, and John, Mark and Pedro took me to SFO. I got through security and arrived at the gate at 10:30pm. I sat near an electrical outlet to charge my laptop and noticed a group of guys sitting in a circle. Intrigued, I walked over and saw that they were playing cards. Upon further inspection I realized that they were playing a variation of deuces- Shane, I'm not sure if it was the version that you were explaining to me. I asked if I could sit and watch and they consented. They told me that they were from Taiwan and were in SF for an academic conference. The guy to my left, Huong (I'm gonna take this opportunity to make a disclaimer for all my future attempts at spelling Asian names.....), explained their rules to me and asked me to play. Thus I spent the hour and a half until my flight left at midnight...
The flight was uneventful; I tried to stay awake as long as I could to get a jump on adjusting to the time difference (It is 12 hours ahead of NY and 15 ahead of SF) and ended up staying awake until 6am SF time. I then passed out until the plane arrived in Hong Kong, where I had a 2 hour layover.
I stayed awake for the flight to HCMC. We passed over the ocean and many strings of small sandy islands, which were gorgeous, before descending into the yellow haze of pollution that envelopes HCMC. I made it though customs and was met by Minh, one of the organizers of the program. We took a 25,000 dang cab ride to the mens dormitory, dropped off my bags, then walked the 1 block to the main office/girls dorms/lounge area/kitchen. Many of the 12 volunteers in the program were there, along with the rest of the staff for the program, Ken, Diu, and the cook, who doesn't speak a word of english. The volunteers come from Australia, England, Denmark, Sweden, Maryland, and Ireland, and are mostly 19-23 except for 3 that are around 30. 3 volunteers are leaving in the next couple days and this weekend 2 more will be arriving (one of whose last name is Hoffman....).
After becoming acquainted with everyone I went on an adventure to buy a towel and cell phone. I walked for about 30 minutes to a super market called Big C. Inside there was a small mall with a food shopping area in the back. After getting what I needed I was parched so I stopped at a drink booth out front and got a drink where they took sugar cane and mandarins and put them through a juicer. It was glorious. The sugar cane was sweet but not overwhelmingly so like in soda. Delicious.
After returning to the lounge I was invited to play badminton with Ken and two girls from Sweden. We went to a sports complex that had 6 half- size fenced- in soccer pitches, 2 tennis courts, and a warehouse with 10 badminton courts, which had no windows or ventilation. It was like playing in a sauna. After an hour I was so wet that it felt like I had jumped in a pool. Tomorrow there are 2 volunteers leaving so tonight we are going out to dinner in there honor. It looks like tomorrow I will have my first day in the orphanage.
Pics in order: 1. The lounge/kitchen at the dorm 2. Street out from of the dorm 3. Alley leading up to boys dorm 4. We had dinner at a sit-down street-food restaurant. These are the cooks. 5. Pic of all the volunteers... I'm the only one looking at the camera- haha