Written by Jaye.
Working in the Friendship Village yesterday tested both my persistence and my physical ability. Having painted the day before, I thought it would be the same, but I was wrong. On Thursday, we had painted inside with the fans on full blast, but yesterday was a new experience entirely. We instead had to paint ouside in the blistering heat. Let me tell you, it was the first time I had ever dripped sweat from every inch of my body. Although at times I wanted to throw in the towel, I persevered until the end, wanting to help the children as much as possible. Not only was I concerned with finishing, but I wanted the final product to look professional. People affected by Agent Orange deserve a nice clean cafeteria, at least. After we stopped for our lunch break, Corin, Clement, Mandy and I want to an old, beat up soccer field to enjoy a game of soccer. Soon, children began to watch and shortly after, join in after we kicked the ball to them. They would laugh as we tried to show them cool tricks, and pretty soon we were and playing an actual game. One girl took off her shoes, showing that she meant business.
When we went back to work, three others and I finished painting while the rest of the group worked in the garden. We evened out the coats of paint and scraped what wasn't supposed to have been painted. We then hustled back into the air conditioned reception room in order to give donations we had collected at home. The director of the village passed out beautiful pins engraved with "Friendship Village" and stopped at Mandy and me and said "Hard workers." This warmed my heart because I had put my physical limits to the test in order to provide a suitable space for these kids.
When we arrived at our host family's house, Mandy and I were exhausted. We were warmly greeted with "xin ciao" and huge plates of fruit at the dinner table. Previous nights had been filled with fried foods which were not returned with our enthusiasm. The would often tell us "try this, you no eat" in a joking way, but last night we tried everything. She had two fruit plates, softly spiked leechees and pineapple, and cooked shrimp. The mother decapitated the shrimp then offered them to us. She then motioned to a gooey sauce and we dipped the shrimp and popped them into our mouths. The fresh shrimp mixed with the tangy sauce went together perfectly. After the scrumptous meal, we laughed around the table and gave gifts. They were delighted to receive our hand-made bowls and kitchen supplies. Mandy and I were then excused from the table and dragged our feet upstairs to our bedroom and fell asleep about five minutes later.
This morning we ate pho and homemade yogurt. We then traveled to Ninh Binh, a mountainous area of real beauty. The mountains of limestone were singular and pointy, shooting up in different shapes and coverings. The rowers would often row with their feet and were covered in clothes from their head to their feet to protect them from the heat. We ventured in caves (actually, through them) and under trees basking in the surrounding beauty. Our rowers were a pregnant mother along with her daughter, and would point to different objects, trying to describe using their limited English. Ninh Binh is an experience that will never be forgotten and demonstrated how the most beautiful things in life are naturally crafted by Mother Nature herself.