Today's 6am start meant we were all up by 5:30am bustling around, rearranging, sorting, and feeding coffee into our veins via an IV. Like clockwork, however, our two vans zoomed away right at 6:30am with all of us inside but just barely. You see, as Krista walked out I told her to hop in the other van. She obliged and I hopped into my van, chatting with the folks in the back. I decided to do one more head count and zipped up to the other van. Only to find that Krista was not there. No one had seen her either.
I quickly checked the lobby, the other van, and this van yet again as my anxiety levels began to rise. She was traveling with her 15 year old daughter Georgia. What would she do? How would I explain this to her husband? "Hi, I lost your wife on the way to a van. Sorry?"
I began shuffling up and down the street peeking into shops and restaurants. A few minutes passed before my eyes made a passing glance into the window of a small van and spotted her. There she was sitting in the back seat right next to a Vietnamese man who had the most perplexed look on his face. "Krista," I said, "what are you doing? That's not our van." Her jaw dropped and I escorted her to her van before returning to mine to tell everyone one had happened before blogging it for the whole world to know.
That little hiccup behind us, we were off! The tiny winding roads of the Old Quarter quickly became wide highways that were filled with cars, trucks, and 4 million motorbikes. The congestion slowly faded away, revealing a wide open road lined with small stores, billboards, and never ending jungle. Before long even the pavement disappeared, as Tarmac turned to gravel and gravel turned to rocks and rocks turned to dirt. We had definitely arrived in the country.
Our morning turned out to be a great deal more difficult than any of us had expected. The road was washed out, which meant a solid 7km round trip walk through a village, across several rice fields and up, up, up, up, up to visit one of ChildFund's water purification projects that provides clean, potable wate to nearly 300 families. It was over 30 degrees and about 1000% humidity. The sun was beating down on us as we litany scrambled up loose scree, around trees, and through gullies before reaching the top. The walk took nearly 4 hours and by the time we were done, the sweat build up left everyone looking like they had gone for a dip in the pool! Still, the ability to see EXACTLY whe donor funds go felt incredibly empowering.
After lunch in a local house we headed to a second village to visit a primary school, pre-school, and community health center that were all made possible by donations and support via ChildFund. Once again, we were amazed by how tangible the direct impact of funds raised felt. You could feel the impact those sites have had on the community as well.
The children were warm, bubbly, chatty, darn polite, and SO EXCITED to have foreign visitors. We laughed, we ate cookies, and we even chased them all over the place. There was lots of talking of stealing some to take home. Could you say no to that face?
At the community health center we learned that infant mortality rates in this province had been reduced to ZERO over the past four years, with people having necessary access to medications, treatments, and expertise that did not exist before 2007. It was sensational and the entire group were quite moved.
From here it was onward to our hotel for showers, dinner, and an extensive briefing from the ChildFund Vietnam country director. Tomorrow we head back out to three other projects before our night train to Sapa. It's all happening!
On one final note, what year would you say Gary has fallen out of? Please leave guesses in the comments section. GO TEAM!