WEDNESDAY 16th March
Today it’s cold and rainy. Amie, Sarah and I went to the Texas Restaurant 10 minutes walk down the road (well I walked, they rode...) to join up with a group of ex-pat wives who meet there for lunch every Wednesday. There were nine of them – from Denmark, Sweden, Finland... I think they are all full time housewives, with husbands working with various companies in Hai Phong. Some have been here for years, and some have children here. They were talking about shopping in Hanoi, so I asked them how they get there? By private car... most of them have drivers, although it looked like several rode bikes to the restaurant today. They were delightful company.
A couple of them are keen to get us volunteer teaching at a near-by church. I think the students there are from fishing families, too poor to buy uniforms and pay for government schools. Marita (from Sweden – she’s been here for several years) was telling us about a couple of orphanages that they visit and support. One of them is a lady on her own who takes in handicapped children (agent orange victims) from local farm villages and looks after them for extended periods while their parents are busy working. We exchanged contact details, and will get involved down the track.
Apparently the people in Vietnam are very ignorant about HIV/AIDS. Anyone who contracts the disease is completely ostracised by their families. Only the church here (all Catholic) offer any assistance to these victims. Marita was telling us one such lady here. She got married and had a son, who became ill when he was about a year old. They took him to the hospital and he was diagnosed with HIV. When they tested the parents, both of them were also HIV+, the father having passed it on to the mother. Immediatel, the little family was cut off by their families and the community. The husband became very ill, and the wife had a to pay dearly to get someone to take them to the hospital. When they got there, they were ignored until she bribed someone else. But he died, and she was desperate. She went to the church and they assisted her and her son. The little boy is now 6 and she has a successful tailoring business and is supporting them both, and both are keeping well.