Tuesday, November 30, 2010

reflection on a year gone by

The warm air carries the Christmas jingles, the jangle bells and all that familiar sounding stuff. First Christmas away from home in years-away from the endless build up, the frenzy of shopping and those cold air smells. It feels odd, somehow-surreal being here not really aware of the time of year, just doing my day to day living here. Lately though, the children practice their beautifully pigeon English Christmas songs, swaying and smiling as they sing "oh tristmas tree oh tristmas tree". Lovely. Or the girls in the office downstairs decorating the Christmas tree, marveling at their work-for me the first glimpse of that Christmas feeling.

The year has brought an abundance of layers, mostly deeply gratifying-sometimes frustrating and moments that I will always cherish. Even today, while snowed under with reports and admin work, I leave my office for a breather and get hugged by a child. Those hugs always surprise me, always makes me feel appreciated and happy. Then I look beyond the hug and look at the child and what life they have here. I have some idea, the kind of lives they have, having seen first hand their homes. Imagine, the smallest room in your house. That was the last home visit I was on. A family of 4 crammed into a room that leaves you with no personal space, no space to call your own. This bedroom I write this in is probably bigger than most of those kids entire homes.

It is a sober reminder of the times we live in here-how people live so close to the bread line, how each day counts in terms of whatever they can do to feed their families. This is a developing city but in my eyes, it has a long way to go in terms of resources available and just support. I see vulnerable people every day in my job-mothers and their babies line up waiting for their medical check up's or medication, etc. Thanks to the work of CNCF-I believe it's on the right track and I think things are improving but it takes a lot of time...education is key to progress that will lead to these people's dignities and eventually they can carve their own ways in the world.

I hear all about the terrible situation at home and of course it makes me sad and so, so helpless. People must be terrified and very disenfranchised and just angry at how the country was let get into such a terrible mess. It is such a worrisome time and I hope we can get the country back on it's feet and give the people back some hope to hang on to.

I cannot capture this experience with words. I try to but I think I fail because it has given me a whole new perspective on life and how up to now I have been living it. Living in Vietnam is like been given a second chance, a real chance to grab life fully, take the good times with the bad and fully appreciate each day. At least I try to that and for the most part, I do and always no matter what-feel so lucky and privileged to know these humble, lovely people.


  1. I remember having Christmas dinner in China one year, the main course was a whole fish head floating in water. In my honour they did wear red fluffy santa hats and put up a plastic santa on the wall. Nobody spoke English but I appreciated their efforts to make me feel at home.

  2. Sounds like a powerful year you have had Aine.