Meet My Peeps

Saturday, April 5th, 2008, 7:46 am

One of the projects the Friends of Danang group worked on previously was building an elementary school. We visited that school on Thursday, and when our bus pulled up…well, I now know how John, Paul, George and Ringo felt at the height of Beatlemania.

The kids went NUTS. Screaming and yelling and laughing like, well, kids. We all walked into the courtyard in front of the school and music started playing and a teacher started talking into a microphone and the kids formed circles and started singing songs and dancing. I don’t know if this was planned for our arrival or (more likely) this is something they do all the time. I whipped out the camera and started taking tons of pictures.

Some of the kids seemed shy when they saw the big sweaty American pointing a gigunda lens at them. Uh, not these guys:

I started taking pictures and then showing the kids how they looked in the playback window, and every time I did they’d shriek and laugh and run around like maniacs. Kids who looked apprehensive and unsure would see the camera pointed their way and grab their friends for a quick group shot:

And

They all wore the same uniform–blue pants, white shirt, red kercheif tied around the neck. I think that’s some manner of old-timey Communist uniform, but most of the kids wore hats and if you look at the ones in the pictures above you’ll see that there’s some serious stylin’ goin’ on there. I’ll be posting a ton more pictures once I get more time and a speedier connection.

And it’s gonna take me some time to process all this and come up with something deep and profound about what I’ve seen here (and I haven’t even talked about the OTHER schools we visited, or even the bridge). When I told people that I was going to visit Vietnam the way some people reacted you might’ve thought I said I was going to visit the Moon. "Why would you want to go to Vietnam?" was a common enough question. There’s still the idea that Vietnam is still some desperate, violent hellhole. I could (and probably will) write thousands of words trying to explain how the country has changed, but I think these pictures are a good place to start. This is still a poor country with so many problems that it could drive you to despair, until you realize how much it’s changed in a very short time, and how much potential the place holds. And when you see these kids you can’t help but think, "How do I help?"

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4 Responses to “Meet My Peeps”

  1. Janetta Says:

    Your thoughts make me want to quit my job and be a teacher at that school! Love them hats!!!!!!

  2. Neal Armagost Says:

    Hi Gene; I think your last paragraph should explain a lot about Vietnam to people who wonder why anyone would want to go there.
    I have been following your blog and am glad you are enjoyng your trip. Meal

  3. BadBlood Says:

    You’re a good man Mean Gene. Great pix and mad props from G-Vegas to you.

  4. Darx Says:

    How can we help? Do tell. Those kids are clearly so full of pure kid-ness. Great photos, great post.

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