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> Trẻ Mồ Côi Và Những Tấm Lòng Vàng
M&N
post Jul 1 2012, 11:05 AM
Post #13


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Dear friends,



We finally made it back safe & sound!

I have to tell you, finding good charity organizations that are not backed by the government was not as easy as I had thought! One has to be very careful nowadays in VN, including charity givings as many organizations are now run by the government. I was fortunate enough to meet up with my cousin who is an architect for several charity organizations. He had seen first hand how the communist officers got rich, very rich, from charity donations. I came to find out that many Buddhist temples, churches, orphanage, senior centers... are only on display. The money giving to those places would never end up with the people who need them most. We spent a good part of our trip scouting out independent charities to be sure the money you've entrusted us with would end up with those who are truly in need. We relied on the help from the Vietnamese Scouting group and family members who are familiar enough to steer us away from government backed places.

We ended up visiting 6 places. The most memorable visit was an outing with a center for the blind call Mai Am Thien An MATA. With the help of 10 Vietnamese Scouts, we took 25 students & 5 teachers to a river/water park for a whole day. The kids had a blast! After swimming, a big lunch, and a quick nap, they put up a great show for us! Another memorable visit was to a VN-YMCA, run by a handicapped individual. the VN YMCA opens it doors to all underprivileged people who want to learn computing, English, crafts... I brought back several beautiful key chains/windshield displays made by the handicapped, will send some to each one of you soon!

Attached is a letter from Mr. Trung from the Y & an article about the outing with MATA. Will send more pictures when I get some time to recoop.

PS. Overall, it was a bitter sweet experience. I really don't understand all the rave about tourist in VN! We did the "tour" thing for one day just to see what the fuss is all about. You're at the mercy of the touring company; they drop you off at tourist traps, the food was bad, every place they took us was overcrowded. The 2 ladies on the canoe complained about their hard lives in hopes of a good tip, next was the horse carriage driver, more hardship stories. We were thinking to ourselves, if we give too much tip, are we being tricked by those folks? If we didn't give enough, are we being cold & heartless? So much battling & emotions just on a one-day tour; how can we see past all that and enjoy ourselves?

I personally enjoyed seeing so many relatives & love ones I haven't seen in 30+ years. We visited Pleiku, my hometown & Nha Trang, my Husband's hometown. The feelings were mutual, we had to visit those places so our kids get an opportunity to see our birth places, but they no longer hold any sentimental values for us. We were home-sick after 2 weeks. VN is a totally different country, different cultures, holds very different values. One should always be on guard, it's hard to trust anyone you should come in contact with. We didn't enjoy being approach at least 1/2 a dozen times from street vendors (selling lottery tickets, gum, candies, peanuts...) just walking down one small block. Unless you dine at fancy restaurants, you could not eat in peace with more street vendors begging you to buy junks. There were even more street vendors at the beach, they would stare you down & swat right next to your face until you give up & buy something from them; and if you do, more vendors would flood to your site being easy target. We only saw one beggar the whole time we were there. I came to realize that the beggars are getting more sophisticated, instead of asking for spare changes, they all now selling junks for lots more. Even so, the street vendors are being run by mobs who live in high society places (who undoubtedly also backed by the government). We saw many young kids selling goods, but behind them there were often grownups fast to fetch their cash. Many of those kids were bought from poor families to enslave those mobs.

I was so sad, depressed, ashamed of what had become of my beloved country. Couldn't sleep more than 3-4 hours/night the whole time we were there. It is good to finally be back!

Hoa

06/2012


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M&N
post Jul 19 2012, 09:15 AM
Post #14


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Những điều chứng kiến khi về thăm Việt Nam



Dear friends,

As some of you know, my family had recently returned from our vacation in Vietnam. I have a little experience at the airport that I would like to share with you.

After 26 or so hours on route, we finally arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport at 1AM. First stop is to line up to have our visas & passports check by some low-ranking security officer. There were a few single travelers and a family of 4 in front of us, the single travelers got through rather quickly. There was a little held up with the family, the wife was at the counter while the husband and 2 kids waited on the side, the wife went back & forth a few times, finally they got through ok. The whole time this was going on, the airport employee didn't crack a smile. The passenger behind us commented how unfriendly those employees were & we agreed. Finally it was our turn! The officer was very pleasant, he strike up conversation with us, asking us if it was our first time visiting, what would we be doing there... I was thinking to myself I had him all wrong! He was so nice & friendly! Boy, was I wrong! He couldn't give a crap of what we were doing or who we were seeing! He was just sizing us up to see whether or not we were easy target (bingo! Being Viet Kieu, 1st time visiting, traveling with young children). Perfect prey for those vultures!

After checking our passports, he asked if I and the girls would wait from a distant while he was "finishing" up some paperwork with my husband. As soon as we were out of earshot, he asked for "coffee money". We heard enough stories and knew these kinds of things are happening for us Viet Kieu, but we never discussed how we would handle it if it ever occurred. I had a $5 bill ready to give to those low-life. Unfortunately, they sent us away, Binh didn't have a $5 bill on him, so he ended up giving the bastard $10 to go through. This upset me a lot, I would rather give a thousand to those in need than give $10 to those jerks!

I gave this some thoughts and thought of a few things perhaps we could have done differently and maybe you could use to protect yourself and other passengers.

Refuse - This is easier said than done. Who wants trouble after a long journey? If you're traveling alone & have the time, this might work well for you. I would do it in a heart beat if I was traveling by myself & the girls.

Tell them you're going there to attend a funeral, visiting a dying family member, sick relatives.... Don't let them know if you're going to a wedding or any type of celebrations, or just visiting; no fun socializing or vacationing.

If those bastards still demand "coffee money" after finding out you're going to see a dying grandmother, humiliate them a bit before you give in, don't make it too easy for them. If we were to do it over, Binh would have gone through ALL of his pockets, open up all of his luggage, backpacks... take a few minutes to go through them; of course we wouldn't find any cash on him. He would then ask me loudly if I had some cash on me. I would then go through ALL of mine and my kids' luggage, backpacks, purses, wallets... take a few more minutes, shed a few sweats. By then, the rest of the people in line would get restless & would clearly see what is going on; hopefully the officer would be thoroughly humiliated (maybe not, tụi này mặt dày chưa chắc biết hổ thẹn). Finally, I would wave some dollar bills and said loudly that those are the last of my money. I wouldn't give them more than $5, in singles! They have no reason to give us trouble then. We're not doing anything "offensive"; we're only "complying"! Perhaps this would also prevent them from preying on the passengers behind us.

While waiting, I've seen some Viet Kieu on the next line automatically put $5-$10 dollar bills inside their passports. Please DON'T DO THAT! Don't cater to those low-life! We're traveling to see our country and our family, it's not a crime! What do we have to fear? If you don't want trouble, resist a bit, humiliate them a bit, let them know it's not ok to steal. give only the minimum. Together, we could stop this shameful practice!

Please share your stories and advices!

Best,



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