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Published: March 30th 2010
The School's Village
Most of the families here work on coffee plantations
So - we wound our way through a hilly and sparse region of Vietnam that we had never seen before. Homes were not lined up in a row along the road -- but were dispersed throughout coffee plantations and red clay dirt mounds... We bounced and turned and climbed through the cool sunshine until out of nowhere appeared a grouping of yellow buildings and some colorful flags blowing in the wind. We had arrived!!
The scene was much more tentative than our first dedication in Southern Vietnam 2 years ago - and definitely more calm and controlled than our revisit to that same school just a few days ago. These Churu (ethnic minority) children appeared shy - and were interested in having the celebration, but not so interested in meeting our eyes. We were informed by a representative of 'The Vietnam Children's Fund' that many children were probably seeing foreigners for the first time when we walked onto those school grounds. The students sat on tiny plastic stools, all of them in hats, some with umbrellas to block the sun. Their clothes were quite soiled -- as there is no access to a river to wash clothes (like there is
in the Mekong Delta). Also - many of the children did not wear uniforms -- as the government does not provide them and families cannot always afford them.
The school children performed many songs for us -- one included the lines "Red, Yellow, White and Black - our skin does not separate the children of the world" (rough recollection of the translation - but you get the idea). They put on a fashion show with clothing examples from all over Vietnam - and some of their tribal dress as well. We were awed by the creative costumes made from recycled paper and plastic bags -- and by the poses that the young kids struck as they made their way down the catwalk. Surprisingly, a small marching band punctuated the end of the show with a loud exclamation point!
Representatives from the school, the government, Rotary and the Vietnam Children's fund all spoke -- and then it was Abby's turn. Abby was poised and elegant -- and was only interrupted by a near fainting spell that took Carly backstage. But 'the show must go on' -- and so it did. The talking was over -- and then the gift
giving began... We presented the school with a piano keyboard and many musical instruments. Then the children lined up neatly and accepted the gifts of a pencil case with supplies, a back pack and a bag of candy. It was a quiet and orderly exchange... I don't think any of us knew what to make of it.
Maybe it was the sugar starting to kick in or maybe it was the sound of a soccer ball bouncing or the sight of a jump rope -- but all of a sudden the kids started coming out of their shells. They wanted to visit and take pictures and spend time with us. We were so thankful that we could stay long enough to gain a little trust and to connect as 'children of the world' just like the song says. In the end, it was wonderful to see first hand that not only is the school building strong -- but the school community is vibrant and welcoming. What a great day.
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