On Tuesday it rained and the air was cooler. We visited the War Remnants Museum, which was opened to the public 35 years ago and has many exhibits from the American War. It is hard to judge now how the war started and who exactly to blame but the fact that 3 mln. Vietnamese people died is undeniable. It was wrong. Every war is wrong, because people die. It was hard to see pictures, artifacts and read stories about the horrors caused by the Americans’ chemical warfare. Effects of Agent Orange are still present, as even today children have severe disabilities due to the chemicals in water, they and their mothers drink. Volunteers come to Vietnam to help work with these disabled kids.
After lunch, our group marched to the Reunification palace. In 1954, this was the palace of Ngo Dinh Diem, the president of the former South Vietnamese government after the liberation of the South; later its name was changed to the Reunification Palace.
We also visited Notre Dame Cathedral, which was designed by a French architect and built in 1877. Its length is 93m and width 35m. The brick used for construction was taken from Marseille, France. Last stop on the tour was the Post Office, which is in a spacious building with lots of shops.
Since my arrival, I met some amazing volunteers. Kris from Spokane, WA, a retired teacher, sponsors 6 children from Albania and 3 girls from Bangladesh to get education from middle school through high school. In Saigon Chris teaches English twice a week.
Marilyn was born in the US, but now lives in Geneva. She regularly volunteers in Asia; her prior experiences were building a dam in rural Thailand and caring for disabled children in Hanoi. She told me that in the north of Thailand she found a shack full of computers, where one Dutch guy was working on building a website for the locals. He was there for a year and his project was sponsored by Microsoft. Marilyn argued whether locals really need that technology and can use it to their benefit?
Marilyn’s advice was to try to change the life of one or two individuals by taking sponsorship in them, not to try to change the whole world…
I also talked to Tuan, who lives in Virginia, but left his job in commercial advertising, and decided to volunteer for three months to work with disabled kids. He said it took him at least two weeks to get used to the environment/conditions as it is shocking in the beginning.
Matt, an English man, quit his job as an engineer, sold all his belongings on eBay and moved to Vietnam, where he plans to stay and work as a teacher.
I spoke to Andy, and he said that Phu My Orphanage has been reopened for foreign volunteers. Five of us, including me, will be going there tomorrow.