January 13, 2012
From the first moment when we walked into the Loving House nursing home I felt a connection with the women there. I still have no Vietnamese language skills so that is a barrier I hope to soften with some time and work.
I believe that contact and touch are important for people. Trimming nails and holding the hands and feet of these women I sensed that they just appreciated the touch. I believe that our elders should be honored and as I understand it this is part of the culture of Vietnam. With this in mind I take the attitude of being of service to the elders. This demonstrates sensitivity of the culture and tradition of Vietnam and the elders.
The Agent Orange group home visit was full of energy. Those kids are amazing. Whatever their situation in life they seem to be happy. The kids appeared to enjoy making sure we were doing the exercises correctly or participating in the games correctly. I felt drawn into their circle and their energy. I could not help but engage with those kids in tasks that were of benefit to them and I believe I demonstrated that.
I never think much about my tattoos or my large earrings. It is all just a part of who I am. The kids were fascinated by the tattoos and just wanted to keep touching them. In this way these kids are just like all Vietnamese people with their curiosity. One day a man walked up to me on the street and touched one of my tattoos, smiled, nodded, and walked away.
Handing out gifts to poor families for Tet seemed to be on the other end of the spectrum from the Agent Orange group home experience. I felt honored to be allowed to do this, and at the same time I felt humbled. Particularly in a setting like this it is my hope that I act in a way that is culturally proper. I was thankful for the cues we received from My Hoa and Nga. The formal setting of having the people up on stage and having the event filmed kept me aware of the how this is taken seriously by the Vietnamese people. Once again I demonstrated sensitivity for Vietnamese culture and tradition.
On our trip to Marble Mountains with Xuan we had the honor and the opportunity to make prayers at the Buddhist shrine there. As the incense (nag champa my favorite) was passed from Xuan to Victor to me it felt very natural to be in that place praying in that way. I felt honored to be included. I was also rather proud of myself to be able to climb all those stairs particularly after my time in the hospital in August and September.
The common thread in all of this is that these people are my teachers. My classroom is all of Vietnam and no matter how much I give as I interact with people here I know I will receive so much more. The elder women at the Loving House, the kids at the Agent Orange group home and the children of the poor families all have a lesson for me; all I have to do is have the wisdom to see it and learn from them.
At the end of each week that we have community service a journal entry such as the one I included here is due. I will copy and paste it here also. This will give you all an idea of the most important aspect of my time in Vietnam.....Being of service to the people.
Balance and harmony