We woke up to another sunny day in Vietnam!
On the agenda for the day? A children's orphanage in the countryside called Can-Gio to give goody bags.
To get there, we had to take a ferry, which was a fun experience! All of us filed off of our bus and lined up to go on the boat. When they starting admitting people on the ferry, we all went up the stairs and sat on the top level, enjoyed a pretty view of the area. The bus followed us onto the ferry, but it stayed in a section designated for automobiles.
After three hours of travel, we arrived at the Can-Gio orphanage and school. There was what is presumably a church behind the front gates, and the classrooms were located towards the back.
The orphanage was Catholic-affiliated, just like the other one that we had visited just a few days prior.
However, these children were not just merely deaf of mute. They had a wide variety of disabilities and suffered from physical as well as mental impairment. In any other place, these children would not be able to attend school or get an education, or would have ended up on the streets (some of them actually were homeless). They all came from very poor families in the surrounding area.
Looking around the place, some of the kids had inconspicious disabilities while others we saw were clearly handicapped. There were a few who had Down Syndrome and other signs of mental impairment. Although most of them were young children probably from ages five to fifteen, there were a few older kids sitting at a bench on the side. They had obvious physical deformities, which was really heartbreaking to see, especially since some were very old. One of them was in his late thirties. They had to stay at the orphanage because they had no where else to go and probably didn't know much about the outside world. After conversing with them (to the best of our ability), it was clear that although they suffered from these defects, they were some of the most kindhearted people we'd met. We were touched by their stories. Through them, we learned to appreciate our own lives that much more.
Kelly suggested that perhaps some of the congenital defects were caused by Agent Orange, which the US sprayed in Vietnam during the war. The effects were devastating.
We passed out the goody bags that we had packaged. They consisted of a notebook, pencils, milk, and mini chocolate cars. Then we played with the kids. Several people like Carolyn, Sanjeev, and Christian gave them piggy back rides, which was so cute to watch! A crowd of kids also gathered around Amos, fascinated with his muscles!
Later, we got our first dose of game that kind of resembled Simon Says. If you lost, you were made to stand in the "mush pot". Then the kids would sculpt us into weird poses, which we had to keep. It was a lot of fun to see these kids with all these big smiles on their faces, laughing and playing along.
After lunch, the majority voted that we would go to Monkey Island.
As we waited for the bus to arrive, Thuy couldn't keep her eyes from a big, fat juicy coconut hanging off a tree in the front of the restaurant. A few people tried to climb the tree, but all those attempts failed miserably. We even attempted throwing rocks...which didn't work either.
Finally, Sanjeev boosted Thuy up and finally she could reach the coconut. She tugged on it, but it just wouldn't come off. Stubborn coconut. She put all her weight on it, hanging onto the dangling coconut, until it finally snapped off and hit Sanjeev squarely in the jaw.
Thuy named it Wilson.
Our ride pulled up next to the restaurant and we headed to Monkey Island.
Aha...and there it was. Monkey Island. We bought the tickets, then parked the bus, and got off to do a little exploring in this monkey haven.
The group that did not want to see the more aggressive monkeys walked out of the park and waited by the bus for everyone else. Stephanie and Evangeline got their sodas snagged by monkeys. Sneaky little buggers.
After what seemed like forever, the rest of our group finally got back, and we headed home. On the way back, our bus got stuck on the ferry behind the one we were on, so as we waited for it to arrive, we did a little exploring. Some of us went to see a really colorful buddhist temple. Others got sugar cane drinks.
Dinner at Pho2000.
After dinner, we shopped around the vendors surrounding Ben-Thanh and had a myriad of interesting conversations. We bought lots of yummy exotic fruit, and planned for a fruit party later at the hotel to relax.
Sure enough, when we got back, we powwowed, ate tons of fruit, and had a good time talking about random things.