Saturday, 30 March 2013

Plenty of sun and coffee

Another lovely day spent with my mum. As she had enjoyed our trip to the pool yesterday so much, we went there again this morning and swam eighty-two lengths between us. Consequently we have both caught the sun- particularly so in my case, unfortunately. After coming home to shower and change we took the bus into town as the sun crept high into the sky. Mum was nodding off on the journey so our first port of call after arriving in the city was Highlands Coffee for a caffeine and sugar hit in the form of strong coffee and warm banana cake. This revived us significantly after our morning's exercise at the pool and sustained us for an afternoon spent walking around the Fine Arts Museum and shopping in the markets. We had a late lunch at a beautiful cafe called Au Parc near the Reunification Palace, where the first floor windows frame the treetops of the park outside. Afterwards we took a stroll down the main street to have a look in to the Continental Hotel, where Graham Greene famously wrote the Quiet American from his balcony, and the Caravelle, where delightful views are offered at the airy Saigon Saigon bar on the ninth floor. With some time to kill before the next bus home we paid a visit to a mint-green mosque tucked in on Dong Du and then to some of the nice silk and cotton shops on Dong Khoi.

Mum on the balcony at the Fine Arts Museum

Lunch at Au Parc

The mosque on Dong Du with the Caravelle Hotel in the background

Children's exercise books in the mosque

It was supposed to be my job to serve as a host and guide for my jet lagged mother but in fact by the end of our six-hour visit to the city I was totally worn out and useless. I had time for a little rest at home before we went out again for an event I had already planned. We went to visit the Little Rose Warm Shelter in district seven (which happens to be a few doors down from the Anh Linh school where I am doing my teaching) for their monthly volunteer movie, pizza and crafts night. The shelter currently houses fifteen girls aged between eleven and eighteen. Its primary role is to protect girls from sexual abuse and trafficking and provides them with a safe living environment, psychological and emotional support, education and vocational training and raised ambitions for the future.

Some of the girls were sat on the floor making friendship bracelets with a group of volunteers, but most were gripped by a bizarre-seeming Vietnamese TV programme featuring a long-haired, blue faced wizard man. Pizza was served in boxes from a small table, which the girls liked to load with fluorescent orange chilli sauce. Mum and I sat with the group watching the television for a little while and chatted with one of the girls. Then we returned to our neighbourhood for tea.

Tomorrow we will have a hideously early start at five o'clock in order to catch a 7.30 flight to Haiphong.

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