What a confusing day, its taken me a day of thinking this Thursday over to finally write about it. That morning, I woke up with an hour to spare before getting ready to go swimming with the children of the center. I eyed my pile of laundry in the bathroom, shaking my head, and saying that I would do it later that day (which I didn't!). I went next door to the dining room of my brothers at the bakery and pastry-school (which I learned the full name the following day), and was invited to eat breakfast. It had been a while since I've had a meal with them. We chatted about how my meals were at the older sisters' house, Anh Dao. "Well do they cook well?" one of the brothers asked. "Hahaha, everything is great here" I replied, quickly eating my meal. I waved them goodbye and called my uncle to come pick me up. "Sorry Ben, I'm at the home village so you will have to ask for a ride" he told me. No problem! I went down to the entrance of the center, noticing the children already leaving for the swimming center. Ms. Lang, the mother of the Ngoc Lanh house offered to take me and Dung, the brother of Phuong and Nga by blood. He was a cheery boy, quickly integrating into life at the center, as all the kids played with him and he smiled. I guess having his two older sisters at the center has made it a much easier transition for him. We left the center, buzzing past many of the children on bikes.
Wow, a lot of people from the center went swimming today, about twenty five children today. We all watched a tennis match go on before heading into the center, the sky looking slightly cloudy. The waters were still cold on the inside pool, but many of us started swimming in the outdoor pool first, which was much warmer. Dao and Vinh showed up, the two that I spoke to the day before, joining us in swimming. Vinh didn't know how to swim, so I spent some time teaching him, before returning to my swimming. Dao almost drowned at one point, causing me and many other children to rush to her aid. The pool on the outside was about four feet deeper than the inside pool, a considerable change for Dao, who still has difficulties swimming in deeper waters. Things were going quite well, all of us having fun, and running back and forth between the two pools. That was until Hieu and Phe started a fight with each other, leaving both of them in tears. I was walking around the pool and saw the two screaming at each other, children holding Phe back from swinging at Hieu. Phe is in sixth grade and Hieu is in eighth, young boy and young girl respectively. I went over to Phe, holding him, Ly, one of the older sisters from the Anh Dao house also coming to hold him. At last they both calmed down, and after about fifteen minutes of cooling off, returned to swimming. I found out the reason for their fighting was because Phe said something about Kim Anh, one of the sisters of the center, and that prompted Hieu to strike Phe, causing him to cry and get angry. I eventually understood the situation upon returning home and speaking to both of them, and now they are both over it! This would be the last time of swimming during this week, the children having to do a doctor's checkup this Saturday. Anyways, upon arriving home, I prepared for lunch with the sisters.
The center at this time was very very sunny and hot, most of the children rushing back into the houses upon returning to the center. I went back to my room and changed. I relaxed for a bit, feeling tired from all the swimming and waiting for lunch, of which the sisters have never given me a chance to cook... I went right over at eleven, the sisters promptly having all the food ready and spread out for us to eat. Their mother was gone for the day, going back to her home village for some business, leaving just the eight or so of us to eat together. Today was definitely much more talkative at the dinner table for all of us, the sisters asking me a ton of questions about myself and America. Vung looked like she was enjoying herself here at the center, also joining us for swimming, and playing around with all the children in the center. It made me so happy that she stayed. Upon finishing lunch, an unexpected, and I mean really unexpected, person arrived. It was Vung's mother.
The unspeakable came up, once again. "Oh no..." I thought to myself, "this cannot be... please... no..." And the unspeakable did come up. I didn't join the conversation at first, all the sisters of the house gathering up and talking with the mother and Vung. My brothers from the nearby house looked on as they all talked. I finally decided to join. I saw the faces of the sisters sadden, some of them shaking their heads. That was when I knew what was going on. Two of the sisters, Lan Anh and Ly went over to the older brothers' house to call Ms. Be, the mother, to come over and reason with Vung's mother, who was not budging after the sisters tried to convince her. Eve even came, wondering what all the commotion was. I translated for Eve the situation. So here it was: Vung wants to stay here, knowing its great for her future and makes life easier for her mother. Her mother also thinks it's good for her to stay here, however, her mother's parents don't agree. Quyen, Vung's cousin, came back to the home village saying many many bad things about the center, about the cooking and living situation, causing many of the villagers to chastise and berate Vung's mother. "I can't take it anymore, I want to let her stay, but there is just too much pressure for her to leave," she said, her face showing tremendous frustration. Eve told me to say some of her ideas to the mother, in an attempt to convince her to let Vung stay. It was all in vain. They both phoned the accountant of the center, Ms. Yoong (not sure how to spell it in Vietnamese), and told her their situation. "You know," said the mother, "I will take Vung to the village to tell her grandparents that she wants to stay." "She is the only one that can convince them," she continued. Well... I guess this is the only peaceful solution at this time. "See you back tomorrow!" yelled some of the sisters as we waved the two off. And there goes the third new child of the center. I didn't know what to think, standing around with the sisters for a bit. I eventually left, wishing them all a good nap. Ugh, what a mess.
I couldn't nap that day, not a single minute. Too much was on my mind over what had happened. Co Ngoc and Bac Van called me earlier that day, telling me I have to deliver a speech for a ceremony for university students in Hue, a tremendous, yet frightening opportunity for me. My jaw dropped when I heard it from them. "What in the world have I accomplished to earn this?" I told them. Regardless, I will take up the offer, and will prepare for my speech on the 25th of this month. So much responsibility... It eventually hit two o'clock the time for my class with the junior high students. Today was movie day, me trying to allow for more opportunities for fun and learning for the children.
It was so hot at the time, causing me to run down to the library. I set up the laptop and the speakers for the children, who came in, tired as ever. "It was too hot to nap today" said Phi, one of the boys of the Phung Vi house. He was quite the bright student, already know much of the grammar and vocabulary I have been teaching in the class. They all eventually showed up, some of the younger children in primary school joining. During their movie time, I spent my time working, writing, and reading. I didn't speak much during the class, I was exhausted physically and mentally at that point. I ended the class at four and spent the next one and a half hours laying in my bed back in my room, thinking and thinking and thinking, unable to sleep.
The dining table was less attended this day, and rather quiet. We all were sad about what happened and spoke very briefly about it. I thanked the sisters for the dinner, heading outside to catch some air, and talking to my brothers from the nearby house. They also felt a little sad about what happened. I decided to go visit the younger children of the center. Look who it was... Mrs. Thao, the old mother of the Phung Vi house. She was smiling, the other mothers sitting next to her talking. "So Ben, how have you been?" she asked. We talked for quite a bit, she was getting over her leaving of the center. She actually was planning to stay the night over with the house, talking with the new mother. She went around to all the houses, seeing all the children and catching. I let the children watch the Korean Drama, Dream High, while I played hide and seek with Ni and Rot (the four year of the center). It was cute, Ni and Rot running around with me, telling me I was it. After a while we joined the movie watchers. I spent time speaking to Dao about my feelings about the center, the day before, and my thoughts about my life thus far. She told me that the center was on television this day at seven o'clock, the filming of the minister's travel to the center shown on national television. Wow. What a trip so far...
After hanging around with the children for another hour, I wished them all a good night and headed back to my room to do the same. I was too tired to write, too tired to read, or think. I just needed to rest. And this sleep this night would actually be the best night's sleep I had gotten this whole trip.