Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On the outside looking in

It is a hard thing to truely capture the life here so that people can really understand, get a true grasp on. My work is one such thing. I go into work every day and something magical happens-its that simple. It can be that I am feeling lonely or missing home or just having one of those days and there is an absolute certainty that when I take a child or baby in my arms that those feelings dissipate. Or just where I live, when I walk down through the alleyway and the mopheads curve past me like they are meant to be in the narrow street. The people at the Pho place look at me now recognizing me-some stare blankly, others now start to smile. All of these elements make some sort of sense to how I am here. No doubt, it can be bloody hard work, like getting tangled in the language barrier is a daily occurence and while a good sense of humour gets you through it most of time-there are times I could scream blue murder! I am an outsider here and that takes some getting used to, or maybe I'll never get used to it. People are still as welcoming and lovely as ever but I wonder if I will ever feel any way intergrated and part of this life here. It seems impossible right now, but who knows I might find a way to make myself feel more at one with this beautifully alien life.

The noises, the smells, the heavily polluted air once held me in a trance, like some sort of stronghold. But now, I feel part of them or just used to them. I remember coming out of the airport when I first arrived and onto the streets and just gaping, eyes wild not really believing what I am seeing. I clearly remember a man and a snow white dog on a mophead-what a sight that was. And being left to try and find my way home after 2 days here, forget it. There was no way I was going to find anything-I was dizzy, amazed and scared shitless all at once.

Once more about work-I will try to set the scene. The children all gather at the gates of the centre all playing games, eating sweets, school bags in tow all in tight groups-crouched down, chatting-playing, laughing-always laughing.The street vendors are all busy making coffees or dishing out various rice noodles and other delights. People sit around on plastic chairs. I get dropped off by Viet my Xe Am driver-a small boney man from the Mekong Delta-he has a tough life fending for himself and his sick wife. He worked at the airport for years and is why his english is so good. We chat on the way about my weekend or his wife or sometimes about family or sometimes we don't chat at all. I will usually crouch down and say my few words of vietnamese to the kids outside, they will say their 2 words in english and off I will go. Or sometimes, this one little boy in particular will come over to me and give me a hug for absolutely no reason. How to start a day on the wrong foot after that..

Hellos to all my hard working, brilliant colleagues and off I go to start my day. I won't go into detail about the in's and outs of the admin side, but it is a necessary part to keep the wheels in motion. Emails, interviews, classes, schedules....all part of the job. But more, much more it is about giving these children a creative outlet that will take them away from their often difficult lives. Sometimes when I am editing a report and reading about these same smiling faces that I meet everyday-it is very hard to make these 2 pictures fit. One picture sees the hardships, the long hours, the substandard living-the other sees gifted, talented creative beings who put all their imagination into their art work, their dance class, their singing. It is a piece of magic that will honestly stay with me for the rest of my life.

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