Friday, July 24, 2009

Fixing schools and teaching children

whoops old

We have now spent two weeks in the Mekong Delta. The experience has been rather different from our experience in Saigon, and in many ways I feel that I have made a greater contribution. We have almost finished restoring the school. It has been a challenge in that we lack some basic tools. For example, to put primer on the wall we made paint brushes out of straw and bamboo sticks that were cut from outside the school. Luckily, once we began to apply the main paint we were able to secure some paintbrushes. I have to say that it looks better than expected.

There have been a few frustrations during the job. I spent an entire day painting a row of columns. The task took an entire day because I had to perch myself a bit hazardously on a desk. I was afforded with this special task as a result of my height. The next day the contractor informed us that the columns looked ridiculous, that every other school had the columns painted white rather than yellow. Despite my arguments that this was a waste of time, money, and paint, people proceeded to paint over my painstaking work. The last task at the school was to create a path. This was very interesting, for we helped the contractor mix cement. Now that we have almost finished building the school we are moving on to creating a road.

One of the best things about this campaign so far is the children. Each afternoon in between lunch and teaching we all go to a cafe. Many of the children who go to the school come and spend time with us. This is often somewhat exhausting, but they are very sweet. They give us gifts and put flowers in our hair. This is particularly entertaining when they put flowers in the hair of the males in our group. They have been pretty good natured about this.

I am constantly amazed by how much we can communicate with the children using our limited vietnamese and their limited english. My vietnamese is even beginning to improve in an attempt to communicate with the children. I have learned the words for "dirty" and "clean" very well, for the children think it hilarious to point at our mud stained clothes from the morning's tasks and say "dơ" and then point at their own clothes and say "sạch." This actually came in handy one day when i was having a hole sewn up at a store in the market. I was able to figure out that the woman was saying that my shirt was dirty, so I should come back the next day and it would be clean.

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