They warned us that it is going to be hard, but I didn’t get the full picture. There was one volunteer recently who came from Europe. She went to the orphanage once and then stayed at the dorm for the rest of her stay in Saigon, not being able to get over cultural shock.
It is a combination of several factors – extreme heat, sweating, dirty streets, loud unpleasant noise from bike’s horns, awful busy traffic and heavy fumes from the vehicles. Sometimes I feel like screaming on the street: “Shut up everyone, get lost”. We get exhausted from commuting to work place and back, especially during lunch. Walking to the bus, taking the bus, and walking again. It is hard to breathe. You have to wear a mask, which is not easy to wear as it gets hot in it and again hard to breathe. Bikes take over sidewalks, therefore making it dangerous to walk anywhere.
Then if you are not used to working with disabled children, you are for a big shock. As I was falling asleep that night there was a picture in my mind – children in pink pjs are moving their limbs and watching everything around, hardly making any sounds…
On top of everything else, my legs are still swollen from the flight. It is painful to walk. I’ve been here for more than a week, but legs don’t get better and I get tired quickly.
I was asking myself what am I doing here? Why did I sign up for it? Couldn’t I stay in Boston? I can’t go to the orphanage every day. What do I do now? Which kids will I teach XOs?
I decided to talk to other volunteers and see if they have any issues, or I am the only one having problems adjusting. I found out I wasn’t alone. Other volunteers were having similiar difficulties. Some said that they have hard time accepting what they can’t do for the disabled kids, because of lack of resources at the orphanages. Others had problems with local food, and got food poisoning. One volunteer was not able to be affectionate enough with kids and felt guilty. Another one was mad at the nurses/carers that they do not play with kids at all, but just watch the volunteers entertain the children. There were personality clashes, and some people didn’t like their roommates or other volunteers’ behaviors. Several were mad they couldn’t use Facebook as it is blocked for use in Vietnam. During peak time, buses get overcrowded and stuffy, and we all miss having more personal space.