Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Day 18: Thien An Orphanage

            The ride to Pleiku had an unusual beginning. As we only had to cycle 49 km that day, The Steak changed our start time to 1pm, which was much needed after the late night of Rory’s birthday celebrations.  We thus were able to treat ourselves to both a leisurely breakfast and another delicious lunch of bun thit nuong. Although a bit reluctant to get back on the bikes, we were excited for our destination that night, the Thien An orphanage, where a percentage of our donations would be funding. I began the ride late as usual, because while I was absent-mindedly stuffing a burrito sized spring roll into my mouth, I did not realize that most of the team had already set off. Spring roll still in mouth, I cycled hurriedly after them, only to have my rusty bike chain fall off, the first of four times that day.

About fifteen minutes into what seemed would be an average day, thunder began to rumble and grey clouds swiftly rolled in. Not long after fierce wind and rain stung our skin and streams of muddy water rushed down the road. Bad visibility and reckless truck drivers drove half of the group to huddle under some trees while a few brave souls ventured on. Once the support van arrived, we crowded in to escape the rain until it let up about ten minutes later. The remainder of the cycle was without much more excitement besides dodging honking cars and trucks that nearly ran us off the road at times.

We arrived in Pleiku around dusk and took the vans to the orphanage. It was bedtime for the children by the time we arrived, and the peaceful atmosphere was a relief after hours spent in dusty traffic. We walked quietly through the halls and peered in on some of the sleeping children, learning about many of their heartbreaking stories. Most of them come from ethnic minority groups living in such poverty that many of their mothers had abandoned them. Despite this, we witnessed numerous smiles and giggles, demonstrating the happiness and hope the orphanage had given them.

As we listened and learned, we regained perspective on why we were cycling through the thunder, rain, mountains, and harrowing traffic of Vietnam. We went to sleep in tiny beds with bamboo mattresses ready to face the final leg of the journey. Stretching with some of the children before leaving the orphanage in the morning provided newfound motivation as we headed into the hot and sticky south. 

Words: Ann Marie

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