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Snot and Drool | Playground

Snot and Drool | Playground

July 18, 2010

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of my week of service with my partner, Vi, at Thi Nghe Orphanage in Saigon.  So far we have worked three days at the center, and I am preparing for our upcoming week.  If the piece below seems at times disjointed and even random, it’s because that is exactly how my thoughts and feelings have been all week   I tried to bring all that I’ve seen together in some coherent unity, but I came to realize that that would belie the wide range of my experience and the uncertainty and often frustration that characterizes these past few days for me.

Snot and Drool

July 15, 2010

Snot and Drool.  That’s what was covering me and my clothes at the end of my second day at Thi Nghe.  It’s not as attractive or catchy as blood, sweat, and tears, of course, but it serves my purposes well.  Vi and I were helping in two different rooms at the facility, both of which were home to children with numerous physical and mental disabilities.  In both rooms, very few of the kids could even talk, and many were completely unresponsive.  At feeding time, I was given a boy whose hands and feet were strapped down to a bunk; I had to just do my best to drop the watery rice into his mouth.  As I was trying to feed him, I realized the reason for the bonds: he would every minute start squirming and banging his limbs on the metal sides, with his face contorted as if he were in great pain.  At the same time, every time I would lower the spoon, he would make what I could tell was a tremendous effort to regain control and I raise his head up to me.  I never found out his name.

This was emblematic of my experiences that day.  I felt overwhelmed by a sense of sorrow and hopelessness.  It looked as if the kids just stayed in those sterile rooms (basic metal bunks with not much else) all day, with the nurses tending to them, but only as if they were just trying to survive day to day.

I struggled with this depressing state all day, but I also grappled with another problem.  I chose the title for this day because I wanted to convey the exhaustion, filthiness, and even disgust I was feeling as the clock ever so slowly ticked towards 5.  At times I felt like this was the worst day in my life, and that I would never ever be able to survive a week and a half of this.  But then I’d also realize how much my discomfort paled in comparison to what was around me.  I can’t say that I had a sudden revelation where I set aside all my problems to help others selflessly.  I spent the day struggling to keep perspective, and constantly chiding myself for feeling sorry for myself.  It’s something I still haven’t come fully to terms with, and I don’t think I will anytime soon.

Thi Nghe Playground - Photo by Ben Kane


July 16, 2010

I have less to say about our third day at Thi Nghe, but that is because much of what I felt the previous stay still held.  But the thing that stood out most to me about Friday was the very first thing we saw that morning.  We came in an hour earlier that the previous day, and this time arrived to see all the kids we had been taking care of the day before out in the playground in the central courtyard.  The change from the previous day was dramatic.  Again, I found myself grappling with perspective, but of a different sort this time.  I was shifting from a perspective of only seeing hopelessness and despair surrounding me to one that saw the joy, love, and even hope that were also present.  My third day was much easier on me, as I thought about that little bit of good we were doing, even if it would only brighten a couple kids’ days in a very small time span, it would be something.



  • Vi says:

    aw! Partner oi, you did an awesome job! You even saved my life twice this week…and kept me from getting lost. I’m glad we experienced Thi Nghe together! Thank you. =)

  • Carol Lam says:

    What you’re doing is truly amazing and honorable Ben. I cannot begin to tell you how proud we are of you. It blows my mind to see and hear about what you’ve been doing. You’be definitely put things in perspective back here at home. Love you.

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