It was a hard fall from luxury to come back to bunk beds and a horrifically mouldy room.
I arrived into Hanoi late on Wednesday and after a hefty ordeal sorting out my visa – I was told in Kuala Lumpur that there was a chance that my visa wouldn’t be granted as I hadn’t booked a ticket out of Vietnam because there was so proof that I wasn’t going to outstay my visa, I was taken to the volunteer house.
There are so many volunteers at CSDS at the moment that I am actually in the overflow volunteer house which is such a blessing. There are 6 of us who all started together in our own little house and we have a cook who makes us lunch and tea. This sounds better than the reality as the food has been somewhat questionable – with most things being referred to as mystery meat.
Our first full day was spent learning about Vietnam and our placements and a Vietnamese language lesson as we have to speak it at our placements. I am working in the Khan Tam Centre alongside one volunteer that I live with. Our centre was founded to help those with autism.
In Vietnam the government does not believe that autism is a disability therefore, there is no funding for centres like ours nor can they claim any sort of disability allowance to help with any care that they may need. Because of this there are many children born who have no choice but to live at home as their families can not afford to get them the help that they need to fulfil their potential.
This situation is extremely sad and the centres do their best to accommodate people who cannot afford to pay the rate which is why they are so dependant on volunteers. I am working in class A3 which caters for children aged 10-19 trying to integrate them into school and give them the best chance at a “normal” life. However, if you cannot pass my class then you are sent to A4 to learn life skills before being sent home to help there as the centre doesn’t have the facilities to look after people once they are over 20.
I can already tell that the placement is going to be extremely challenging and emotional but I’m hoping to be able to do something worthwhile and make a difference.
We spent the weekend wandering the city and practicing our Vietnamese ahead of our first proper day at the centre tomorrow.
I’m back in a country where dog is a specialty and for lunch today we were served a noodle soup that smelt exactly like a wet dog which was slightly worrying but we were assured it was beef!
Other local delicacies is egg coffee. An initially confusing concept but it’s just coffee with egg yolk whipped with condensed milk which is actually really nice!
Two local “treats” that I’m definitely not trying is the blood slushie- frozen pigs blood with peanuts, a peculiar mix, and a chicken egg which had the embryo half formed in it – absolutely horrific!!
I’m excited to start work tomorrow and we have a weekend away booked in Sapa next weekend which should be fun!