Saturday, February 28, 2009

Que Son Hospital Benefits from Canadian and Japanese Gifts

Today we traveled out to the town of Que Son, in the district of the same name in Quang Nam Province. We were part of a delegation from Canada and Japan representing Global Village Foundation.

Five years ago doctors from Japan had visited this small hospital and vowed to return to donate equipment and supplies. Today, our Canadian family and friends helped them to deliver on that promise.

The journey by van was a rather bumpy and hot ordeal for two hours over mostly rutted country roads. The medical staff were so happy to see us! Ten of the twenty beds had already arrived as had the diagnostic machinery for ear, nose and throat diseases. Included in the gifts was a "kit" of supplies for the midwife who travels to outlying villages to assist at births, when the mother is unable to get to the hospital on the only means of transportation, a motor bike.

After the usual tea ceremony and speeches we were ushered through the ER, ICU and Operating Theater. The two pictures at left are of the "ICU", a small baby close to death with pneumonia and an elderly woman suffering from unknown ailments lay listless in their beds. It was very difficult to wrap our western minds around what we were witnessing. The Operating Room was so full of mould, that we did a quick turnaround. How crushingly sad and over whelming.

Thanks to our generous family and friends the beds and midwifery kits will alleviate some discomfort
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Out To the Country

Today we were invited to Loan's family home in a village about 30k from Hoi An. One half hour before the appointed time, Loan showed up at our home stay, with Ha in tow. These two charming young women were the receptionists at our hotel last year. You have seen our initial meeting with Ha in her village at her brother's wood carving shop on a previous blog post.

We were surprised to see two additional motor bikes at the gate, so we were actually a motorcade of four bikes, winding our way through the streets of Hoi An and out onto the country lanes.

Loan's family live in a substantial house. overlooking the rice paddy pictured right. The ride, once we were over our terror as we wove through traffic; trucks, buses, motor bikes, bicycles, pedestrians with shoulder poles and little kids and dogs dangerously close to the roadside.

Once onto the more narrow country roads we relaxed and soaked in the exquisite scenery of blindingly green rice fields. We had travelled due west towards the mountains, which stood in the near distance, a deep blue grey in color.

Loan, Ha and their friends all 27 year old single women immediately began at 9:30 am to prepare lunch. Mounds of fresh greens from the garden. Elaine did her bit by Frenching the beans with Papa's straight razor! We heard, but chose not to witness the killing of the chicken outside the kitchen window. A delicious meal, with Loan's mother, father and older brother, our escort of four young women and ourselves, all clustered around a small table.

After a short siesta (Bruce and Elaine being entertained by a DVD of a Vietnamese slapstick routine while the others slept) we mounted up for the journey home. This homeward journey seemed less treacherous...we are getting the hang of being passengers behind a tiny feminine driver, but still really clutching the small bar behind our butts or the waist of our skilled driver.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

My Vietnamese Grandson is a Star

Today was the Vietnamese equivalent of sports day at Sesame's school, so off we went; his Mom Quyen, his Dad Binh and Grandma Ba Elaine and Grandpa Bruce. We were a large and fitting cheering section for our boy! Ok, OK some of the other kids were pretty cute too, especially the 2 and 3 year olds.

Each class was attired in t-shirts of the same color and Sesame proudly wore a yellow shirt, given to him by his Canadian friends Kieran and Taylor who live in Vancouver. He wore a tiny Canadian flag pin on his sleeve for good luck.

The day began with demonstrations of calisthenics, very regimented, but colorful with flags, balloons or streamers. Each class did two routines, before the relay races and games began. The old egg on a spoon race is obviously a cross cultural race!!

We were really impressed with the kindergarten and Quyen confessed that she and Binh had a lot to do with improving the standard of teaching and care there. They opened their computer school four years ago to the teachers and delivered three months of night school training. Quyen then showed the teachers how to use the Internet to research teaching skills and techniques for early childhood education. It was glaringly evident that these teachers had used well the resources made available to them. With simple equipment, colored sticks, yards of Christmas like garlands, balloons and bits of material they had plenty of equipment for their games, which were fun but also included reading and counting skills.

A really great day and we were so pleased to see a small pocket of creative education going on. Uncle Ho Chi Minh would be very happy!

Note: if you want to view only the pictures on each blog post, rather than going through the whole slide show ( icon on right) you can click the picture on the post and it will enlarge to a full screen.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Away They Go

This picture says it all!!! Mom is a teacher or librarian who has attended the Global Village Foundation Workshop. Her expression tells us about her delight in being able to take a box of 250 books back to her school.

The mode of transportation and its crew tell us much about the ingenuity and courage of the Vietnamese people. Papa, Mama and baby will somehow manage with what they have and not only be grateful, but joyous.

The child perched precariously on the bike is an example of the conundrums we see daily. Children here are cherished and pampered, especially boys, but those of us who are used to expensive car seats and strict laws about the transportation of our young, cringe to see the little tykes whizzing along unfettered, no helmets, no safety straps.

The clothes are amazing, simply because this day was about 80 degrees with extremely high humidity. Our Western team was sweating ungraciously the whole day, while our Vietnamese friends as you can see wore jackets and toques!!! If you could see the women's feet you would gasp at the tiny, strappy, cllittering high heals which they wear, hobbling about and climbing onto their bikes! The legs and ankles look great, but I'm not sure the joints will survive!
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Mission Accomplished

Early this week we accomplished one of our most passionate goals. Along with the Global Village Team of 20 or so rotating volunteers we delivered more than 50 portable libraries to children in village schools. The libraries move from school to school (usually on the teachers motor bikes), so that over the course of a year the children have use of more than a 1,000 books.
The workshops which accompany the books are to educate the teachers on creative reading skills training.The children, chosen to attend because of their scholastic achievement, are also read stories which they act out. They also get to play all sorts of games, sing songs, learn a little English and how to clean up the school yard after their snacks and breaks. Sad that the teachers themselves are the worst offenders when it comes to throwing packaging etc on the ground! We were so proud to present 5 of the libraries on behalf of our Journey of the Heart support team. Our Canadian and American friends contributed 10% of the total number of library gifts....well done team!. We love you all. Other individuals and organizations from the US, Japan, Singapore and Europe sponsored libraries or contributed to the expenses of our workshops.

Bruce and I this year were the "food team". We delivered 1200 snacks and 600 hot dogs over the two days. Bruce was a hero, cooking all those dogs on make-shift grills. On the Wednesday, the improvisation was startling. Two huge soup pots were filled with a layer of sand over which the large charcoal pieces were spread ( no starter etc.) He, our bus driver, the school caretaker and another volunteer from the US managed to get these 36 inch pots of fire going in the misty rain and the 300 dogs were grilled from a squatting position. Adult Vietnamese females were fascinated to watch males cooking and probably ate the dogs out of courtesy!

In the end, it is all about the kids and the pictures above and on the web album ( click slide show to the right on this blog) show their joy and excitement. Le Ly Hayslip the founder of GVF is tireless in pursuing her objectives in stimulating young minds and hearts, knowing that the children are the future of her beloved Vietnam and it will rest on their shoulders to continue the rebuilding of this struggling yet vibrant country.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Cruising Down The River

Despite the frenetic preparations for the 10th Anniversary Celebration for Global Village Foundation and the workshops to deliver portable libraries next week, we are finding some respite cycling along, boating on and sitting beside the river, which is a short two blocks from our place.

The newly completed promenade is a perfect cycling route to "old town", the Reaching Out shop and good restaurants. In the evening we often walk home from dinner on this deserted path feeling quite safe and comfortable in the cool breeze.

The open living rooms of the houses along the way often are a mere four feet from the path and so we get a good look at family life therein. The television is always on, the children playing on the path in piles of sand. Renewal and fix it projects are constantly underway, so there are piles of rubble, broken bricks and sand which are playgrounds for the kids, sleeping places for pigs, nesting places for chickens.

Bruce was delighted on our boat trip last week to see our "Captain" so alert and attentive....driving with his feet and smoking a cigarette. We thought that maybe we could get him a job at BC Ferries!!!
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Kitchen From Salt Spring Island

The Catholic Nuns who run this kindergarten in Hoi An, not only provide a nutritious lunch for all the kids in their care, but every day make enough soup and rice for patients in the local hospital who would not otherwise get food. The food is prepared here and transported by motor bike to the hospital. Our friend from Britain and Journey of the Heart Team member Brenda Smith, goes daily to help serve the soup and comfort the old folks in the hospital whose families are too poor or far away to see their elders.

Until very recently these hundreds of meals per week were prepared on an old charcoal stove, the fumes wafting into the kindergarten rooms. Thanks to a new friend on Salt Spring the Nuns now have a spiffy new gas stove, an exhaust vent, a water purifier, a water heater and large gas cylinder! They are so ecstatic. Marta, the Nun here with Quyen speaks a little French and we were able to communicate well enough through my three French words and four Vietnamese words for me to know that the gift of this new kitchen will make their lives so much easier and that their concerns for the children's respiratory and gastronomic health are lessened.

Thank you to yet another Salt Spring angel, whose generous heart has made this all happen.
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Bay Is Very Happy

Bay and his partner Tuan at Reaching Out are expert weavers. They have been without looms for a year, as the one that they had been using broke down, beyond repair.

Thanks to a most generous donation from our Canadian friends they have a new loom with another on the way from Japan.

Today Quyen and I talked about how the beautiful fabric which they produce will be used and we think that the material will be very suitable for making handbags which are a top seller in the shop.

Bay and Tuan both suffer with Down Syndrome, but with the training provided by the shop, they are able to make a living wage.

We are so grateful for the support of our home team and know that the gifts from Canada will continue to help these two lovely people prosper.
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Friday, February 6, 2009

Ancient Skills

Our friend Le Ly Hayslip, founder of Global Village Foundation, has dreamed of recreating the village of her childhood, displaying the skills of times past. The universe has provided!!!!..a hotelier here in Hoi An had developed the concept and now has tired of the business. He has offered Le Ly office space in the cavernous lobby of the hotel and friendly room rates for her volunteers. Below on the river bank, the replica of the village, with "staged" pajama clad villagers awaits some active promotion. Le Ly is so enthusiastic about Westerners knowing the real Vietnam and its traditions, that she may be able to breath new life into the attraction.

Here you see her wielding a huge mallet, grinding and pounding the remains of peanut shells, which are strewn on the fields as fertilizer. Le Ly took us around the village where we saw planting, watering, harvesting, processing of food, the harvesting of silk, carding and weaving of cotton, the making of hand carved wooden shoes.

The pottery wheel is activated by foot. This woman's partner is just beyond the picture, rythmically sweeping her foot across the wheel to keep it moving at just the right speed for the potter to throw the pot. In the space of a few minutes three jars were made.
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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Welcome Home to Hoi An

We have travelled far and had many adventures, but at last we are home in Hoi An. The hugs and squeals of delight from our family and friends have been heart warming, almost overwhelmingly so. Posted by Picasa
The young woman you see pictured above is Ha. She was the receptionist at our homestay last year, but now works at a different hotel and also with her brother in his woodworking shop. we took advantage of the river tour offered by our hosts and went over to the village the other day. Ha knew we were coming and could barely conceal her excitement on seeing Bruce. Such affectionate people.
Of course we have also been hosted by Quyen and Binh at their home and it was Sesame who stole our hearts once again. He is a typical five year old and could sit for about three minutes to do letters in the book which JoAn had given him. Sesame's English is surprisingly good and he shakes hands upon meeting.