Yesterday I arrived to The Friendship Village around noon and instantly all of the residents were curious of me, greeted me with hugs and wanting to introduce themselves since I am Jennifer friend! Jenn is extremely popular here with all of the residents I can tell from the minute I arrived that she was truly apart of this community and had passion and love for all of the residents there. To read about The Friendship Village please click here.
The Vietnam War from 1955-1975 turned into a herbicidal warfare that killed people and still effects future generations with mental and/or physical disabilities. It was so eye opening to see all of these beautiful faces here that just were happy to see another face and play. There are kids and young adults that live and go to school here. The Village offer computer classes, sewing classes, physical therapy, vocational therapy, special need education classes and for most; a place to live. I was given a tour to all of the classrooms and get to participate in helping during the school week! I am in a classroom with Jennifer and we just play games and teach lessons and just assist the kids and give individual attention to as many as we can. I know I am a 'volunteer' here and supposed to be teaching the kids but the reality of it is the kids are teaching me. To be more patient, to love all, to show compassion and empathy and a hand in friendship to anybody. I am so lucky to be in this environment after my depression I had a few months back.
It was Friday yesterday so all the students have to help clean the classroom before the weekend. I love that the children hug me, play with my hair and are so fascinated with me. I have this sense of calm right now that I want to hold onto. Food here ranges from $1-$4 and beer is around 50 cents each. There are no celebrity magazines, no one cares what you wear, it’s about living. The food here is the same few dishes that fill you up perfectly each time. There is no processed food around The Friendship Village which I like because my diet has completely changed. From the outside The Friendship Village is beautiful, not the inside politics.
Jennifer took me to the streets outside of The Friendship Village that have all the restaurants, street food and small stores and so far I am the only foreigner I have seen around which bring me lots of starring from locals. We went out for a beer and we were the only foreigners and women in the shack. I was just trying to play dumb and not let the men's death stare affect my good time. Jennifer speaks fluent Vietnamese and does a lot of the ordering in restaurants, and shows me around how she has spent her life here the last 7 months.
Through my travels the only two pieces of technology I brought were my cell phone and my camera. I kept a small blue journal with me throughout the whole trip to document when times were quiet. I suggest everyone that travels to bring a Journal and Pencil.