Sunday, 23 April 2017

Day 20: Who We Ride For

Day 20 of H2H is now complete with just a shade over 600KM left until we hit Saigon. Today's ride was a 50 kilometer jaunt from Kon Tum to Pleiku - a cakewalk for the mountain hardened team who took the smattering of gentle inclines in their stride. By noon everyone was either sampling culinary offerings of Pleiku (which include peanut M+Ms) or catching up on some shut-eye at the hotel.
At 3.30PM a kindly nun equipped with a minivan arrived to transport us to the Thien An orphanage one of the beneficiaries of this year's ride.
For many, myself included - this visit was the most poignant part of the trip so far. The orphanage cares for 102 children, 7 of whom are severely disabled. Most of the children are from ethnic minorities who would otherwise be sidelined by the Vietnamese education system. They are schooled in both Vietnamese and English and it was heartwarming to see extra-curricular pursuits including music, dance and art being keenly encouraged.
The orphanage is in an idyllic location set amongst coffee plantations. We were greeted by a throng of enthusiastic children holding balloons. The children seemed to enjoy their visitors very much and indeed the entertainment provided! Highlights were: the sing along to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' orchestrated by Deema and Eli; Jimmy's magic tricks (performed in his signature banana costume) and a game of tag which left the main instigators Travis, Bianca and Keith quite exhausted.
The nuns treated us to a delicious supper of spaghetti bolognese, salad, casserole, freshly baked bread and a selection of cheeses. Finally we were invited to a series of costumed dance performances the children had prepared. These were a mix of Vietnamese folklore as well a dance pop performance one group of girls had choreographed themselves. The happy and safe environment that is fostered by the nuns at Thien An shone through. It was truly an uplifting spectacle.

--Oliver Southern

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