Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Day 5: Off & Running

The doctors were off to the hospital at 8:00 a.m.

We arrived at Tan An High School to meet the Mission Peace Kids by 9:00 a.m., laden with gifts and personal messages for the students. Annamarie has a ton of stuff for the kids, including a very special book for each of the 33 students included in this year’s program. Each of the students back home prepared a book for their Vietnamese counterpart. The book includes their picture and hand-written information about them. This is a very nice way to start a relationship. Good job kids! There were t-shirts, school supplies, small toys, and more. I, of course, supplied the Tootsie Pops…LOL.

Christophe, our team photographer, was burning film like crazy! I think he had about ten cameras working all at once. He needs a couple of more arms. Mr. Loc, our professional Vietnamese videographer, was documenting the event. We will have some great video to show our American students. We even caught Annamarie leading the exercise portion of a physical education class. She had them jumping, bending, breathing, kicking, and punching. It is a wonder we didn’t have any injuries! The feet and hands were really flying. Ben Ly and I were the interpreters.

My friend, the school nurse and Catholic Sister was kind enough to tell all of the teachers that I am fluent in Vietnamese. They were speaking to me as though I was one of the natives. I was keeping up pretty well, but they get going pretty fast when they are excited. The only thing I could do was nod and pretend I knew what they were talking about. Christophe took over a French class for a period. Annamarie and I visited three other classes and answered questions and entertained the students. We ended our visit with more photographs and many smiling goodbyes and promises to meet again next year.

Following our visit to Tan An High School, we were off to the nearby Hoa Hao resturant. The Hoa Hau religious order opened two resturants in Can Tho this October to provide low-cost meals to feed the poor. Their meals cost $2,000 VND, which is about fifteen cents in US dollars. The customers receive a beautiful plate of vegetarian food and all the rice they can eat. The aromas were devine and the resturant was doing great business. All of the Hoa Hau people working at the resturant are volunteers. All of the profits go to help feed the poor. Wonderful, wonderful people!

We are off to the Hoa Mai Orphanage in Can Tho, which is sponsored by ASSORV, a group based in France that supports three orphanages in Viet Nam. One in Can Tho, one in Vi Thanh, and one in Da Nang. We will visit Vi Thanh tomorrow. The orphanage is about a 30-minute bus ride from downtown Can Tho. When our bus rolled in we were greeted by several of the children and the director of the orphanage.

Upon entering the gates of the orphanage, there was an immediate feeling of sanctuary and tranquility. Within the gates the orphans were safe, well cared for, and they treated one another as brother and sister. Most of the children were in school. The orphanage cares for fifty orphans of various ages. The accomodations are very modest. The boys quarters hold about 24 boys; the girls room has room for about 28. The double bunk beds reminded me of a military barracks. The children remain at the orphanage until the age of 18, when they go to a technical school to learn a trade.

The children and the facilities were very clean and well kept. The friendly and curious children were with us every step of the way while we were there. If we have a little extra room next trip, I would like to bring along some new clothing for the children. We made a small cash donation. I will miss the children until I can see them again next year. After we left, we realized that we had forgotten to bring the school supplies we had for them. We will stop and drop off the supplies on the way home from the Vi Thanh Orphanage tomorrow.

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