It was a very early start this morning... It was still dark at 5am when 60 people gathered to go on a Charity Event with Đàm Đức Mạnh's English students to a village school four hours away - Thị Trấn, Nga Sơn District, Thanh Hóa Province. Every month, Mạnh organises a charity event as an outing for his students and I was fortunate enough to be invited to join them on this one. His wife comes from Thị Trấn, a small, poor rural village, so today was organised to bring a Mid-Autumn Festival celebration to the children from the school there.
Hiếu picked me up. It was a pleasant surprise to see a comfortable coach waiting for us, since it was going to be a lot of travelling today.
Not long after we finally left, while still in Hải Phòng, we stopped for breakfast. I had already had a shake, so I didn't eat.
I sat and watched the lady serving bowl after bowl of soup. She had all the ingredients ready to go, and had such an efficient system going she was like a machine. First of all she put noodles in half a dozen bowls, then she tipped each portion of noodles into a net and into boiling water, expertly dunking the bowl to heat it at the same time. That took about 3 seconds, all in one fluid motion. Then into each bowl went a handful of the meats, fish and patties, mushrooms etc and three prawns. A garnish of fresh herbs, then each bowl was topped off with a ladle of the steaming broth complete with more veggies...an amazing, nourishing meal served up in a flash.
The four hour bus ride passed quite quickly, with games and singing
When we arrived at Thị Trấn, a very generous lunch was laid out for us all.. ten small tables laden with delicious food.
This rice paste, pork and mushrooms (I think!) comes as a tidy little banana-leaf parcel, and tastes great.
When the meal was over, everyone pitched in to stack away the tables and wash up all the dishes, and then we rested for a while. It was very hot.
This is Mạnh and his son
and this little cutie found the strange foreign lady absolutely fascinating!
This is Bách
At about 2pm we went to the local school to set up for the afternoon program. Many children were already there waiting eagerly.
These gorgeous girls were all ready to dance for us...SOOOO beautiful!
While we were waiting to start, I was invited to sit in the Principal's office, where I was told a little about the school. There are 18 teachers and nearly 200 students aged 6 to 12. Even though it is the poorest school in the district, it is ranked 14th out of 40 schools - something they are justifiably very proud of. There are large shade trees in the yard, and the two storey school building is in good repair...but I couldn't resist taking a photo of this little shed with its broken roof...
The children were all treated to a feast of fruit, moon cake, biscuits and candy
Then we all sat down and the program began.....
Nam sang "Nothing's gonna Change my Love for You" and his friends came running out to give him cucumbers!.....go figure!
Hà also entertained the crowd with his song - another great voice.
Phương did a masterful job as MC, keeping both children and adults laughing.
After many games and presentations, all of the children were given a present and a bag of lollies. Not one of those precious gifts was opened. The children carried them carefully - to open them later at home.
Hiệp was the official photographer for the day
The local Dragon Dancers came out and capered for the pleasure of the crowd
And it was all over! A lot of very happy people - especially the children and our lot. We all had a great time. So as everything got packed away ready for school as usual tomorrow, Mạnh and I posed for a photo with the Principal, head of the P&C and some other teachers, and it was time to go.
5 o'clock...time to bring the cattle in for the night...
We loaded back onto the bus and before long everyone was asleep!
Halfway home they passed around some food - more of that rice paste as well as sticky rice with peanuts and bánh mì with pork sausage...washed down with orange milk. After that, Ha pulled out his guitar again and it was singing all the way home! We got back at 10pm.
Huge day...Fabulous day!