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1 month in Hanoi

Written on: Tuesday August 26th, 2008

A journal entry from: Southeast Asian Adventures!

The bus ride from Vientiane to Hanoi was as terrible as I had imagined, but I survived, and am glad to say I will never take another 26 hour non-air conditioned bus ride crossing borders ever again in my life.

I spent one month living about an hour outside of Hanoi with Volunteers for Peace Vietnam. I was supposed to be working for a local NGO in community development work, but instead got stuck working for VPV. I worked with my friend Tom (if it can be called working), and we were given one project to work on. We wrote up a funding proposal and made efforts to contact potential donors. The working conditions weren't great, as there were only 2 computers that people competed for, half the time the power was out, and it was so bloody hot it was impossible to concentrate. The highlight of our project was going to see the development site, at the Thuy An Center for Handicapped Children.

The Thuy An Center houses 150 children with physical and mental disabilities. The kids are from rural areas near Hanoi, and most are victims of Agent Orange. Agent Orange is a defoliant that was used by the US Military during the war to kill the jungle and reveal their enemies. Agent Orange contains highly toxic dioxin, which causes birth defects, cancer, and other diseases. Many kids are still feeling the affects of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

So when we weren't volunteering, we were usually in Hanoi partying, or at the spider infested bamboo hut across the street, drinking. I made a great group of friends at VPV and we did pretty much everything together for one month, including volunteering, weekend trips to Hanoi, laundry, and rooftop vodka parties. Hanoi is an interesting city with confusing streets, beautiful lakes in the city center, and the worst driving I have ever seen in my life. I visited a lot of the sites on my city tour with VPV, then spent a few days by myself wandering around and exploring.

Before I left, my friends threw me a ridiculous vodka rooftop party, and I nearly missed my flight out of Hanoi. Although the volunteering wasn't a great experience, getting to know Hanoi and the people I met made it a highlight of my trip.


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