Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Final Week Volunteering

This week was my last week volunteering before I begin my travels. It is also the last week for Jack, Defne, Niko, Judy, and Anika. Because of this everyone's emotions have been pretty on edge. Never before since I've been here have people bickered, but this week everyone was on a short fuse. But all in all it was a great last week.

On Tuesday I went to a lecture on Agent Orange in the morning. It was really interesting to hear more about the chemical that made the children that I'm taking care of the way they are. The lecture was in District 1, and was given by a guy who runs a non profit called the Disabled and Disadvantaged Children's Charity of Ho Chi Minh City. He gives the lecture every Tuesday with backpackers as the intended audience with the hope that they will go home and talk about the charity to friends and family. The charity actually sounded really good. 

The chemical in Agent Orange that creates cancer and birth defects is dioxyn. During the war a lot of Agent Orange was dropped all over Vietnam, however when the planes that were spreading it ran into trouble they would drop their entire load at once. In those places it absorbed into the ground and all of the insects that live there are filled with it. When a duck, bird, fish, or other animal eats them they get all the dioxin, and when we eat the animals we get it from them. Dioxin is stored in fat cells, and humans can absorb it by eating other animal's fat. As such, people here should not eat ducks because they have a lot of fat, and should pull the fat off of any other meat as well.

Women pass the dioxin in their fat on to their babies during pregnancy, and give them even more dioxin through their breast milk. One of the things the charity wants to do is provide all new mothers with formula to feed their kids. The charity's goal is not to help the people that have high levels of dioxin now, because they are a lost cause, but to prevent future generations from having the same problems. The only way for dioxin to stop being passed along is by cleaning up the dioxin "hot spots," and making women aware of their dioxin levels and inform them of how to lower it. When a women breast feeds a child they lower their dioxin levels by 50%, which is substantial. So instead of feeding their children mothers should be pumping their milk and disposing of it. 

Anyway, it was a really informative lecture, and if you want to learn more about it or donate to the charity go to 

In the afternoon I played soccer with the PH team. We played 7 on 7 on a regulation field composed of small sand dunes. There was literally grass all around the field and none on it, but instead red dirt. It was also over 100 F. We lost the game 7 to 5, making our team 1-1-1. We will wait to see if we move on, which depends on how other teams in our bracket do.

Wednesday I went to Ky Kyuang in the morning. We were told that the woman in charge of the orphanage and the head monk are in a fight about something, and as a result all of the caretakers of the kids are on a weird kind of strike. They are not letting the kids out of their rooms to play for the whole week. It is really unfair for the kids to use them as a bargaining chip, the kids seemed like caged animals.

I went straight from Ky Kyuang to the Green Bamboo shelter to take the boys to play soccer. We went to a new soccer pitch that was way nicer than the old one. It was completely fenced in, including over it, so we never had to chase balls. It was incredibly hot though so none of the kids really felt like playing, so it ended up just being the older kids and volunteers scrimmaging.

In the evening I got convinced by Emma and Mikaela to go with them to the spa for them to get their legs waxed. They decided I needed to get my back waxed before going to the island Phu Quoc. It didn't hurt as much as I thought. It took the women much less time to wax the girls legs than my back, so to get me done three of them tag- teamed me for 10 minutes. It was hilarious and an interesting experience that I don't regret but don't think I will repeat.

Thursday I went to Ky Kuang in the morning, but the women basically told us we had to leave, so we only were there for an hour. In the afternoon I went to the Green Bamboo shelter and played Sorry with the kids for a couple hours. I left early to go home and prepare for a BBQ I organized for the 5 of us that are leaving this week. I bought chicken and hamburger meat, and some of the girls made salad, fruit salad, and fresh spring rolls. We ate right at sunset on the roof of our building; it was nice and cool being high up with a breeze.

Pic: 1. Me grilling it up. 2. Jack and Defne. 3. Eating all the grub 4. The view of our neighborhood from the rooftop. 5. The sunset behind the rooftops

Friday I went to Ky Kuang in the morning and had a great last day there. I managed to get my two favorite kids out of their rooms and took them out to the pagoda. It is 5 tall stories, I didn't realize how tall it was. We ran around it for hours pretending to be T-Rexes and scaring other tourists, it was so much fun; the kids really enjoyed it. I think that they also really liked getting outside, they rarely have the chance to do things like that. I snuck them out of the complex to get cold drinks cause we were so hot after romping around.

Pics: 1. On the entry steps to the Pagoda with the kids. 2. The view from the top of the pagoda.

In the afternoon I just relaxed and played cards with Emma and Bao, then in the evening went to see The Watchmen at a local movie theatre. The movie theatre was almost identical to those in the states except for one interesting feature: they assign seats! No more having scattered individual seats throughout a crowded theatre. Also, you can see if there are no good seats left when you buy your ticket so that you can opt for a later showing. Revolutionary. They should bring it to the states.

Saturday I went for a run then went to Green Bamboo with all the Danish girls to take the kids to a Water Park for my last day with them. There were 9 volunteers and 12 kids that went, and we had a blast, although I liked the Vung Tao trip more because it was less crowded. We ran around the place for 6 hours before finally going home.

Pics: 1. One of the kids posing on a random motorbike out front of Green Bamboo. 2. On the inner tubes at the waterpark 3. Katrine and the boys. 4. Showing off the new flippers.

Sunday morning I leave at 5 am for Phu Quoc Island with Emma, Mikaela, Ludwig, Gus, and Jay. It is supposed to be one of the most pristine and undeveloped islands in SE Asia that are still easily accessible. It is 50 km long and 20 wide, and has only 20 small hotels throughout. There is still a large local community of fisherman that live in two towns, and the main product of the island is Fish Sauce, which is considered to be the best in all of Vietnam. 

We will be snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking in the mountains, hopping between the tiny islands south of Phu Quoc, and relaxing on the beaches. I bought a small portable BBQ and a cooler to bring along, so hopefully we will be eating well. I doubt there is internet connection there, so this will be my last post until next weekend!


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  2. Hoffman's dream has come true; Getting tag teamed by three Vietnamese women in ten minutes.