Saturday, March 24, 2012

Community Service

Week Ten
Community Service Journal

     This week’s visit to the Loving House was a little bit different.  Victor went off to do gardening work while former student John and I operated the “nail salon.”  I may be repeating myself however, I absolutely love doing this for these wonderful elder women.  With each woman whose nails I trim and or apply polish to, she is my queen for that moment.  When Bernie was here she was a wonderfully willing part of our time at the loving house.  I am happy that we shared that experience.   I have a feeling that when I am home and missing the ladies at the Loving House I will be invited to polish Bernie’s nails.  It will bring back enchanting memories for both of us.  This little visit to Viet Nam is a life altering experience. Our tiny segment of time at the Loving House is a big part of that transformation and all I have to do is be present in the moment.  These words do not capture the depth of feeling the experience brings, it is quietly spectacular.
     Just as the Loving House felt different The Agent Orange group home felt different as well.  Victor and I were wondering if there was some sort of holiday this Tuesday because of something that felt different.  The energy of the kids felt less chaotic, maybe it is just the phase of the moon, or maybe leprechauns really are magical.  We chose a St. Patrick’s Day theme and had leprechaun cutouts and coloring pages with rainbows and the pot-o-gold.   I have no idea how, but our director professor Ken Herrman’s name ended up on one of the leprechauns….it is a mystery.   I was coloring with one of the boys and I started singing Monty Python’s lumberjack song with a goofy Irish accent.  The kids thought it was funny and of course had no clue what I was saying; they just thought it was fun.  We decided that just for today everybody’s name would be O’Nguyen.  I am glad that the kids were enjoying it because I had a blast and I think John and Victor did also.   In a few weeks our time here will be complete and I am realizing that I am going to miss these people.
     Our Agent Orange home visits actually took place at the Hoa Vang District office building.  The District is preparing for a musical show and parade and the families were there to watch the preparations.  One family was of a twelve year old boy who has learning disabilities and suffers from fevers a lot.  He was not feeling well today and we offered to take them home at the end of our visit.  This boy gets help from his teachers and also from his friends.  Even though school is difficult for him, he has a good network of help.  The second family we visited with was of a cute four year old boy.  This little guy has downs syndrome and although he can hear he does not speak. He also has a heart condition and almost no energy.  His mom does not have a birth certificate for him.  They need a birth certificate to get him on the list for a heart.  This is an example of the fear the people have of paperwork and government bureaucracy.  Poor farmers have a hard time with paperwork.
     I was feeling very tired on Tuesday evening during English class.  The fact that my surgery site was acting up was not helpful.  My question for the class was; “What can the city of Da Nang do to get the tourists to spend more time and money here.  Instead of going straight to Hoi An or Hue?”  Because I did not feel well I was thankful that the group took off with the topic.  Responses included; better organization and advertising in the Da Nang tourist industry.  Another suggestion was higher environmental standards for the factories thereby raising the air quality.  Someone said the city symbol should be redesigned to something that will catch peoples’ eye and stick with them.  Wow, I believe that with this kind of thinking Da Nang will eventually get its fair share of the tourist trade.
     For Thursday I presented websites people could use to sharpen their English speaking skills and why I thought they were good sites.  One student wanted to know about what keywords a person would use to efficiently search the internet for information.  A student pulled out a computer with a 3G connection so they could all see the sites I talked about.  At that point the class divided itself into two groups.  One group was with John around the computer discussing search techniques.  The other group was with me discussing environmental issues.  Our topic went from the environment to the more specific topic of keeping the environment and the habitat safe for the animals.  I enjoy it when the group takes off with a topic they are passionate about. After all, my goal is for them to do the talking so they can practice their English.
     Once again if you chose to help here is the site   Through this organization and student volunteers like me direct aid is provided to people in Hoa Vang District, the poorest District in Da Nang. Another way to help is    These are the people working to clear UXOs from Quang Tri province.  
Next vacation visit beautiful Viet Nam
Hen gap lai

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