Monday, July 04, 2005

quick notes on a trip to 3 orphanages in and around Saigon:

the first one was an all-girls orphanage in a small Vietnamese town that feels like a little like a western film set (unpaved roads, small one story storefronts that look 2-dimensional, and instead of horses, motorcycles.) the orphanage housed around 150 girls who slept on small bunk beds (no mattresses) and played with toys donated by Americans like me. i caught myself thinking about "bad education" and wondered about how often i use film-images as memory.

the second one was in a temple with a grass-leaf roof. it's a house of the parentless that spanned many species – boys, puppies, kittens, and monkeys. the head monk built a water collecting reservoir because theriver by the town is too polluted to drink. this is the water that will feed and bathe the townspeople. they gave me a cup of ice-water with sweet bamboo in it, and it was the first time in my life i understood where the water i'm drinking was coming from. felt very humbled and grateful to drink it. it tasted so so so sweet.

last orphanage was in the middle of the city, in a small alley where grandmothers sit around and roast corn on the street. it was an orphanage for the blind run by a blind man, and the children learn how to play musical instruments and perform massages. they want to make sure they can earn a living when they grow old enough to leave. i was in small a dark room with green tiles and zithers(?) on the wall and two blind boys playing an electronic piano. felt too guilty to take a picture! but tried hard to memorize everything: a bubbly boyhead-bobbing to the music, a girl who looked at me right in the eyeand smiled. the tightness of the space, the coolness in the temperature. i thought back to "happy times," and then the fox-face biker who offered to take me to a massage parlor the night before, and i suddenly wished i took more sociology classes in berkeley (why did i study the buildings but not the people inside them?) The only blind friend i had was a Japanese girl I met in Japan.