Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Roller Coaster of a Week

Wednesday morning, needless to say, I didn't wake up to go to Ky Kuang. I slept until 11, then Paul and I went to the Green Bamboo shelter to take the kids to play soccer. I didn't play much cause I didn't want to put stress on my ankle so I could play in our university league game on Friday. On the way home we took the kids that were in our taxi to the cafe where some of the boys that used to be in the shelter work. Everyone had a smoothie and green tea; the kids really showed their appreciation to us. 

Paul and An at the cafe
We dropped the kids off, then went to see all of the main tourist attractions- Paul is only here for this week cause he is on spring break from Duke. We first went to Reunification Palace, which the French had built as their government building, but has since been destroyed and rebuilt using a weird kind of modernism, although a lot of the rooms are decorated in a really traditional way. It is open air, in that there are no doorways to the building and there are outdoor courtyards and walkways throughout the building.

Pics: 1. Reunification Palace 2. Me in the Disco on the roof in front of the helipad

Next we went to the War Evidence Museum. This was really hard for me, particularly the pictures and explanations of the effects from Agent Orange, a deforestation spray the US used to kill foliage to expose the Vietnamese. Many of the children in the pictures that had birth defects from the chemical looked very similar to the kids I am spending time with in the orphanages. The museum also showed examples of all of the weapons that the US used in the war.

We stopped by the Notre Dame cathedral on our way home. It is said to be modeled after the Notre Dame in France, however I was unimpressed, most cathedrals I saw in Italy and elsewhere were more beautiful and stunning. 

In the evening we went with Emma and Mikaela and two local volunteers, Huong and a girl whose name I forget, to get fresh spring rolls at a place that that Huong recommended. They had pork, mint, basil, rice noodles, shrimp, and bamboo sprouts in them and were wrapped in rice paper and served with a thick and sweet soy sauce as well as red chili paste. They were delicious. Also, Mikaela and Emma dared me to eat a large spoonful of the red chili paste, and after some discussion I got them to agree to each give me a massage for 30 minutes every day in Phu Quoc. I did it, and it was not as bad as I thought it would be. The girls then followed suit to get out of giving me the massages.

Thursday morning I went to Green Bamboo shelter with Niko. I played Deuces (a card game) with the kids for 3 straight hours. Then I met Emma and Mikaela at a travel agent to book our weekend trip to Dalat, a city in the central highlands of Vietnam about 7 hours from HCMC. We are in Dalat from Saturday morning to Monday morning, returning at 3pm to HCMC. The bus leaves on Saturday at 7:30am in District 1 (30 minutes from where we live) so we will be staying in a hotel close to the bus stop Friday night.

In the afternoon I went to Ky Kuang with Paul and Anika. After an hour of running around with some of the kids I went to check on Anika. She only goes to Ky Kuang on occasion, and when she does she spends her time with the babies without disabilities in a room that I had never been to. There were 5 kids in the room, and all but one were sleeping. We played around with the one that was awake, then another woke up and started crying. I took him out of his crib, then noticed that he had what looked like blue ink all over his legs. I asked Anika what it was and she immediately told me to put the kid down. Apparently it is some kind of ointment for a contagious rash... when I set him back down he started crying, and the nurse who lives in the room got him out of his crib and- harshly- told him to stop crying. She set him down and put his hands on a chair and told him again to stop crying. When he didn't she got out a 18 inch bamboo stick and whacked the chair next to his hands and screamed for him to stop. She kept hitting the chair, then eventually him, although slightly lighter, until he eventually stopped, mostly out of fear. The kid was about 16 months old. Absolutely shocked I couldn't move. Eventually I looked at Anika, and she told me quietly that the few times she tried to intervene she too was yelled at and that I shouldn't do anything about it. It really upset me though, the next couple hours were rough.

In the evening I went with the 4 Danish girls, Emma and Mikaela, Ludvig and Gus, and Paul to a Danish restaurant owned by a guy that we met at the Viking party. We all ate Red Sausages, which are apparently a Danish delicacy, and had a few beers. After an hour we left and went back to our neighborhood to play pool at a local pool hall, and at 11 went home.

Friday I went to Ky Kuang in the morning and had a standard day there, no bamboo sticks used on babies as far as I saw... In the afternoon we went to the university to play soccer. Paul, David (a new arrival from England), Ken, Minh, and I were the players from the PH, along with 8 or so other local volunteers and friends of Ken in Minh who I didn't know. 6 of the girls also came along to watch even though they were upset that girls were excluded from the league. 

Teams were 9 on 9 but on a full size field and we played 45 minute halves, not to mention it was 95 degrees with 50% humidity. I played the whole first half and half of the second, then begged for a substitute. I thought I was going to die. I did score a goal though, off the top bar through the goalie's hands... We ended up winning 6 to 4.

After showering Paul, Mikaela, Emma, Jay, and I went to District 1 for the girls and I to drop our stuff of in the hotel then meet up with Ludwig and Gus to go back out to the restaurant owned by the cock fighter/martial arts trainer in District 2. Again, it was ridiculously fun. This time, because there were so many of us, we sat out front of the restaurant instead of across the street, and again ate another 7 course meal and drank a few cases of beer. Bernard, the Norwegian friend of Emma, met us there as well. Noteworthy events:

1. I wandered off to buy a new shirt because the one I had on was dirty and only found a flower shop. Inspired, I bought 5 red roses for the girls and the female family members of the owner. They cost 2,000 Dong each, about 15 cents US... I will never be able to spend 15 dollars for a dozen roses again.

2. The owner pulled out one of his roosters and announced that it was past its prime and that he was to kill and eat it the following day. He invited us to join.

3. The owner decided that Ludwig and him are brothers. Obviously the only way to confirm such a bond was to become blood brothers... sketchy.

4. Jay and Gus, who had never eaten Duck fetus, were convinced by yours truly that they also had to try it. The owner spoon fed it to them and also ate it himself. Ludwig ate the head, but after chewing a bunch had to spit it out because he was so grossed out. He said it wasn't quite crunchy, but really chewy...

We left there at 11 and went to Apocalypse now. We danced until 3 am, then everyone else wanted to get breakfast, so we went back to the area around the hotel. Because there was 1 more person than earlier one of us had to get on a Xe Om. I obviously volunteered. It was a fun ride trying to keep up with the taxi... Paul left for the airport to go back to school at Duke at 4 am and the girls and I slept until 6:30 then got up and went to the bus station.

Tomorrow I will tell all about the weekend in Dalat.  

1 comment:

  1. Yankees hat kid looks like Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, and formerly of the tv show Small Wonder