Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day in the Saigon life

I write this directly under my godsent Aircon. It is my saviour these hot Saigon days. For the past 3 weeks the temperatures have soared to the high 30's and I have suffered but endured it. It seems to be particularly hot even to the hardy Vietnamese so I don't feel so bad.

Life here feels somewhat normalized and I feel part of it now as opposed to merely observing it. I am now taking Vietnamese classes, which are challenging to say the least. Words that sound the same but mean completley different things; tones that feel impossible to get the right pitch; and just the alien feeling in my mouth as I attempt to say the odd word here and there. We spent about 15 minutes once on just one word-me desperately trying to get pronounciation right. When I finally got it, I asked my teacher what it means-"strain" she said. Sounds about right, I joked.

I now have my own place and finally feeling more settled and at ease with my life here. I get a Xe am-motorbike taxi-to work every morning because even though I live close by it is simply too hot to walk. I arrive to the Sunshine school kids gathered around in their little groups. They play together, chat, jump over a giant elastic band (some reach quite impressive heights) and every morning without fail one of them will come over and hug me with a hello.
Some mornings I get a small baguette from the stall lady who is full of warmth and good humour. Or I might have a cafe sou da. Its just those first moments before I start my day that put me in good stead. There is little chance I can have a bad day with that sort of beginning. But then if I am feeling low or my day is not going to plan, I will nearly always go to the ground floor of the Social and Medical Centre. These babies all at once clock eyes on me, all smiles, all wanting to be held. I put myself among them and hug as many as is humanly possible and once I have had my baby fix, all is restored again. This may sound selfish and unfair that I breeze in, show some love and leave. But the level of care, love and attention they get daily really is remarakable. I'm sure it must be hard, particularly for the older kids on the second floor. They forge bonds with the volunteers, often becoming very close. And then the volunteers leave and the cycle continues. If I spend too much time thinking of this, it can make me feel very sad. But the reality for these kids is that they are in the best possible care and no question-a much better life than before.
Last night I went to the girls shelter to visit their dance class and just see how they are getting on. They are the happiest, most positive people you can count yourself lucky to meet. They danced, beamed their smiles, joked, said their few words in English and by the end we were all dancing hand in hand around a circle. Do I love my job? I think most definitely.

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