Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Change of Pace

My day again began at Ky Quong, and the kids were much more mellow than the day before. When I arrived one of the workers asked me to take care of one of the older kids who was having a rough day and I consented. To be completely honest, I have been sticking to playing with the more active kids at the orphanages thus far. I find it much easier to run around, rough house, and play ball with capable kids than to sit and color with those more disabled. My time with this kid completely changed that. 

He has one eye that is deformed and permanently closed, his legs and arms are not fully developed, his joints are malformed such that his hands and feet are pointing in the wrong direction, and he is unable to speak and can barely see. He is not able to walk, however has gotten quite good at using his wrists and knees to drag himself around. He also is quite smart and determined. 

Once I made friends with him and he felt comfortable around me he decided that he wanted to clean up all the trash in the room. He held my hand and took me around the room, collected the trash and handing it to me. He then led me to the trash can, which was a few feet high, and directed my hand with the trash towards it. I realized that he liked to put things in their place, so we went to the toy shelf and picked out a tube that contained a puzzle and also a rack of donut- shaped blocks. He dumped out all of the puzzle pieces and donuts on the floor then took my hand and used it to pick up all the pieces and place them back in the tube. After they were all returned he dumped them out again, but this time I convinced him that he could use his own fingers to pick up the pieces (with me helping them into his hand without him knowing). After a while he was in fact doing it completely on his own. 

Another kid who has a mild case of down syndrome came over and decided that he wanted to actually do the puzzle, so all three of us hunkered down for the task. The whole time I was there I was sitting with those two kids, and afterwards I felt much more accomplished than I had the other days playing with the moderately disabled children. I now am much less intimidated by severe physical deformity and am realizing that almost all of these kids are still intelligent and capable, if only within their individual constraints. 

After lunch at the peace house I went with Nico and Katrine (Danish girls) to Tre Xanh (Vietnamese for Green Bamboo), a shelter for street kids. Despite my positive experiences in the morning, it was very refreshing to be around kids sans birth defects. There are 21 kids living in the shelter but just over half were at school for the afternoon. The kids ranged in age from 5 to 15 and were all fun, smart, and kind. They played well together and with the volunteers; they didn't get into any fights or arguments. One of the older ones, Tham, speaks english incredibly well and acts as a translator between the kids and volunteers. All of the children were eager to learn english and voluntarily got our their notebooks to ask us about the pronunciation of difficult words. Also, many of the kids came from dysfunctional and or abusive families and are happy to be at the house instead. As a result, they have become one another's family, and the older kids take care of and discipline the younger. I talked to Nico and Andy about it, and I think that I am going to spend 3 days a week there. This Saturday we are going to take the kids who behaved well this week to the beach, which is about an hour away. I am ecstatic, first of all to go to the beach, but also because I can't wait to see these kids outside of the home. 

In the evening Emma, Mikaela, Jay, Leigh, and I were taken to a popular tea house called -18C by a guy named Boh and another girl, who's name I forget. It was pretty cool to go to a local hang out spot, although the customers were mainly teenagers. We got back at 10 and I went to bed. Overall a great day to be in HCMC, I am so happy to be here.

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