by Juliette Jeffers ’17
This morning after breakfast, Julian, Devon and I walked around the Old Quarter, but it was much hotter than usual and Devon and I decided to go back to the hotel. Julian stayed out with Noah and Gavin. We all left the hotel at 8:30 and drove to SOS Village. We met with the people of SOS Village and learned about the organization’s mission. SOS Village is an NGO where orphaned children are placed with foster mothers in the village. These mothers are fully committed to raising the children (normally 8-10 children per mother). The children live and go to the on-site school until they are 18. After learning about the organization (it is worldwide, with 133 SOS Villages), we went outside to play with the children. We played “Cat and Mouse.” We stood in a circle holding hands while the cat chased the mouse, weaving in and out of the circle.
After the game, we visited a classroom of 5 year-olds after which we were invited to tour the home of one of the mothers. We continued to play with the children during our tour. Everyone had a great experience bonding with the kids despite the language barrier and it was really inspiring to see the immense sense of community that the SOS Village created.
We said our good-byes, had a delicious lunch, and then headed out to the “Hanoi Hilton” or the Ha Lo Prison. It was a prison for the Vietnamese political prisoners during the French occupation of Vietnam and for the American POWs (mostly pilots) during the Vietnam War. Through the guided museum tour, I gained new insight into the atrocities of the French occupation.
We had an hour for walking around the Old Quarter (shopping!) after which time we met our host families. Devon and I are in the same family. Our host mother’s name is Lan and she is a journalist. Our host father works in television and used to be the host for the Vietnamese version of The Wheel of Fortune! They have two children and a poodle. Their older daughter is 17 and is studying in Australia while their younger daughter is 13 and lives at home. They like to travel a lot and they seem very close. Lan’s sister came over for dinner and we met her daughter who is 8, and a is a completely bubbly and funny kid. Lan, her sister and the housekeeper cooked us a wonderful dinner. We ate and talked about our families and just generally made ourselves at home. It was a very full day!