I was so happy when I landed in Saigon, I had this sense that I made it, despite all the odds, I actually made it. I was convinced I was going to miss my flight from Heathrow as the queues to get through security were so long. I ran to the gate and thank the lord I made it. Once in Dubai, again I was running to the gate, only to find that I had time! We landed an hour late so I was then worried that I wouldn’t be picked up but thankfully I was.
Whilst I was worried about where I would be staying, the accommodation here is very good. I like living in the house, initially there were two other volunteers but there are now four more. We have a German guy, who loves 80’s music and a young Austrian guy, who’s here for 3 weeks. I share my room with 4 other girls – a girl from Iceland, who lives in Amsterdam and taught me how to play yahtzee! Another young Swedish girl, who’s Vietnamese and really happy to be here. A girl from Belgium, older then me and crazier! The newest member to join us was last night, a girl arrived from Austria.
The staff at VPV are friendly, sarcastic, helpful and a little crazy! There is a sense of belonging and unity, most days lunch is eaten together and then after work we have smoothies. I love movie nights, once week on a Thursday only trouble is having to be on the look out for cockroaches and lizards. Thankfully some of the others don’t mind getting rid of the cockroaches!
Whilst I wasn’t prepared for cockroaches or rats, this is something I’m getting used to. What I struggle with the most, is crossing the road, it’s a mission and a half every-time! I don’t know how people manage it on a daily basis or why. How people drive here is also beyond me, there is a great sense of urgency and no one wants to stop!
I was very excited and nervous about teaching English. Teaching children was something I had avoided up until this point partly because I didn’t think I would be any good and partly because I didn’t want to have to discipline children. I started to teach boys at Shelter 8, many of whom look much younger then their age. Here the boys have a good grasp of English and many can spell words but are not able to pronounce them. I managed to overcome my fear and enjoy teaching children. I have just over 20 students at Vin Ho School and here some are cheeky and mess about. I have started to move some of them around and confiscate letters or reading books. There are of course, some who are eager to learn but shy, practicing with them and seeing them improve is rewarding.
The third project I go to is a Pagoda and this is two bus journeys away and reminds me of the slums in India. Here the children were bought in by a monk so the children are raised like monks – all with shaved heads and matching clothes. Whilst there living conditions are by no means great, it left me questioning whether these children were better off in a Pagoda or on the streets? Many would argue in a Pagoda as they are looked after here but they are also hit. Also, it’s the not the most caring or loving environment but the children have a roof over their heads. I don’t want to see a young child be hit with a stick, it’s something I’ve not had to witness before so here I struggle with it because I want to intervene.
At all three projects, I teach in the mornings and then I’m back at the house for lunch. I have this sense of wanting to do more while I’m here. As my job was stressful and I was running around like a headless chicken, it takes some time to get used to volunteering here. Teaching English is not stressful or demanding and the pace of life here is also slower and not as intense. I love nap time after lunch but am conscious that I may turn into a coach potato! My routine here is so different compared to back home and I like it.
Food-wise – I like vegetarian Vietnamese food but I miss Indian food! Vietnamese food consists of rice or noodles or soup and whilst it’s good I miss Indian nan bread, samosas and chutney! Vietnamese food is also not very spicy or cooked with masala so many vegetable dishes taste the same. Also there is no garlic, ginger, onion or chill- the core ingredients of a good Indian curry! I’m getting used to tofu but there is only so much tofu I can eat! There is Thai, Chinese and Western food here too. They have ketchup here but no mayonnaise!
Drink-wise – I like Vietnamese ice coffee and love the fresh smoothies! I like ice tea but miss English tea! I like the beer, it’s so cheap, how can you not! Shots here are good too, cocktails and wine is more expensive in comparison.
What do I love the most so far? I love how you can go someplace, not knowing anyone but meet some amazing people. I love having spent my birthday with new friends here; playing games, watching a movie, going shopping, getting a massage and getting drunk – all in all it was great fun! Whilst I don’t like getting wet, I love watching the downpour here. Finally I love riding on a motorbike! I’ve wanted one for some time but never got one back home. Here, riding on a motorbike, with the wind in your hair, I have this sense of freedom and it’s great feeling