In the last few days before we left Thanh Hoa last September, I asked Mr. Thanh to help me with some shopping. I really wanted a hammock. They are all over Vietnam, in all sorts of styles. In Hanoi, street vendors try to sell them to the Westerners–“Silk. Very nice. You buy only $20.” I never took them up on the offer because one, I think they were lying about the silk part and two, I wanted the green one with a stand.
Mr. Thanh drove me on his motorbike from one shop to another, our helmets perched, unbuckled, on our heads. We finally found a shop that carried them and Mr. Thanh asked the price. 250,000 VND. A good chunk of change in those parts. I couldn’t bargain with any grace, so I asked Mr. Thanh if he would ask her to take 150,000 VND. I remember he looked a little worried; they talked back and forth for a bit and he asked if I’d pay 200,000 VND. Of course, I would. So we exchanged cash for hammock and I climbed on to the back of his bike again, holding the hammock to my chest.
Today we were, after much planning and procrastinating, able to get out to the Thanh Hoa orphanage. Located much closer to the beach than the city, it’s a good-sized orphanage that is home to more then sixty children from the area. We’d gone at the request of an adoptive mom who had brought a little girl, Thuy, home from there last year. She had a letter and photos to be brought back to the caretaker and I volunteered to do it. It’s just taken me a few weeks to get it arranged with people to come along with me.
Giang, my student from two years ago, and Thang, a current student, accompanied the kids and me out to the orphanage with a bag of clothes and an envelope with the caretaker’s name on it. On arrival, the guard didn’t seem too sure what to do with us, questioning who we were, where we were from and what we wanted. The buildings were quiet (“Where are all the kids?” Audrey wanted to know. I assumed, correctly, that they were in class) and only a few adults roamed, looking us over a few times. Thang did all the leg work and tracked down the vice director of the orphanage who invited us up for a bit of tea and a little conversation. Continue reading “B is for Babies”