Sunday, March 8, 2009

First Experiences At Vung Tau Beach

After struggling to wake up at 6 Saturday morning I met up with Niko and we took the bus to the Green Bamboo Boys shelter in District 1. The 7 boys were ready to go; they were chosen from the 21 based on their behavior during the past week. There were 4 other volunteers in addition to Niko and I, all in Vietnam through other organizations. Niko has been volunteering there for a month already and knows the other volunteers and the kids well. 

The 13 of us walked to the charter bus company's office and waited for our bus to arrive. The kids were really riled up because most of them had never even seen the ocean before, not to mention played in it. As soon as we got on the bus I took out my camera to snap a picture of Niko and a couple of the boys, and that was the last time I held my camera for the rest of the day. The kids were obsessed with it, I had to delete around 150 pictures after I got it back. They did take some that were pretty good though, which I am putting on facebook. One of the kids, named Than, threw up a few minutes into the ride. Luckily he found a bag first, so only a little got on the bus, but the bus driver refused to pull over, so we had to throw the bag out a window.

Pics: 1. Niko and two of the boys. 2. Than and I, a minute before he threw up.

We arrived at the beach in just under 2 hours, and as soon as the kids saw the ocean their eyes doubled in size and they immediately discarded their bags and clothing into a big pile and sprinted into the water. I followed suit, and for the next 3 hours Niko and I played with them- none of the other volunteers wanted to go in. We rented them inner tubes and floated around until going to lunch at 1. We went back in the water for another couple hours before the bus picked everyone up at 4. The oldest kid, Anh, was stung by a jellyfish so Haley, one of the other volunteers, and I went to a pharmacy to get him anti itch cream and medication. 

Pics: 1. Two of the kids running back to us after jumping in the ocean for the first time. 2. Vung Tau beach

Earlier in the week I asked Niko if they needed me to return with them or if it would be okay for me to stay another day and she said that it shouldn't be a problem. Anika (Germany) and a friend of hers from home that has been visiting her also went to Vung Tau for the weekend, so we discussed possibly meeting up in the evening. Once I saw how beautiful it was on the beach I decided I was definitely going to stay and I phoned Anika to tell her. She told me that they had rented a motorbike and driven up the coast and wouldn't get back till 6, so I had a couple hours after the kids and other volunteers left to lay on the beach by myself while watching the sun go down. It was beautiful yet surreal sitting there, I can't believe that just 10 days ago I was in the bay area, and I really can't believe that I still have 3 months out here. Amazing. 

Pic: Dusk looming over Vung Tau beach

Anika, her friend, and I checked into the hotel, the Happy Hotel, then went out to get dinner. Afterwards we walked around for a couple hours. We went to the bay to look at the boats, walked through the main drag of the town, and got coconut ice cream, which we took to a park to eat. We went back to the hotel and crashed at 10:30. The only remotely bad thing that happened to me all day was getting severely sunburnt, despite putting on 50 spf sunscreen in the morning and 30 after lunch. I was really happy to be in real cotton sheets on a real bed in a room with AC, I don't know how I will sleep on my metal cot with the synthetic sheets and only a fan on Sunday night.

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