News from Stella in Vietnam

Stella (Susan's daughter and one of the ThriftyFun Staff) is in Vietnam working at orphanages for the months of April and May. She is working through the Global Volunteer Network and traveled there with a friend of hers, Chelsea, who is also a volunteer. Because we have received so many questions about how she is doing, we'll post her progress here and let you know when there is a new entry.


Arrival - March 31st

Hello Everyone,

I made it safely to Vietnam. We arrived last night around 7 pm, 4 am for all of you. We missed one of our flights (by 10 minutes), from Ho Chi Min City (formerly Saigon) to Danang, because the immigration line was long and slow. Luckily we were able to find someone to help us and there was another plane leaving in the afternoon. We just had to wait 6 hours. The flight was great. China airlines is the best airline ever, we had individual TVs that allowed us to pick from over 10 movies, it had video games, cameras to watch outside the plane and music. They had the best vegetarian plane food I have had. It didn't seem like I was on the first plane for 13 hours.


When we arrived in Vietnam, three people greeted us with a Global Volunteer Network sign, the driver, the translator, and the program director. I must say the driving was crazy. There were no seat belts which I have grown accustomed to since there is a seat belt law in Washington. First off the driver started honking at all the pedestrians crossing at a cross walk just outside the airport. The road was mostly filled with motor bikes and bicycles which was such a different sight to see compared to Washington State. The most disturbing part of our car ride was that a good part of the time our driver was driving down the center of the road honking. The people coming the other direction would have to move out of his way. The first place we stopped was at a restaurant where we met some of the other volunteers who just arrived. The food was okay.


Then we were taken back to the house where we will be staying for our two months of volunteering. There we met the outgoing volunteers who are leaving for either volunteering in another town or traveling elsewhere. One girl will stay. There are two girls from Sweden, a boy from Australia, a girl from London and one girl from Holland. We also met the man who is our night watch person. Our house has four - five stories, with 3 bathrooms. The floors are all marble (or marble like) and the ceilings have beautiful detail. I love our house.

We both slept well and I don't feel jet lagged. In the morning we awoke to two new people in our house, two women who cook for us. They are very friendly, one speaks English a little and the other wants to learn, she and I have already formed a relationship of teaching each other our languages.


Our first breakfast was delicious we had sweet yogurt, baguettes and soft cheese (the kind that is a small wedge shape and has a cow on it, I think you can get it at Costco and Asian Pear. Although I thought it was delicious, the other volunteers said get used to get because it is your breakfast 90% of the time. As of right now that does not bother me at all.

After breakfast Chelsea and I went out exploring for 2 hours. We had to learn fast how to cross the street when there are lots motor bikes coming at you in every direction who don't slow down, the best way of doing this is crossing kinda slowly so they can go around you. Everywhere we walked we had people saying "Hello", pointing at us, and laughing (I think even once someone threw a rotten fruit at us although they missed, we just heard something hit the ground).


Da Nang doesn't get to see very many tourists (it might have something to do with all the guide books saying that there is not much to see.) I think it is beautiful here.

When we got back from our walk we had a delicious lunch waiting for us, fruit smoothies, rice and vegetables.

Now I am here in an Internet cafe writing you this and will return to a delicious dinner. Our orientation starts tomorrow and we start working on Monday.

I think it will be hard, because I just found out that the kids are tied to their beds most of the day because they do not have enough staff. But it is nice knowing that I am here so they can be untied some of the time.

I hope I remembered all the key parts.


April 6th - My First Week!

I just completed my first week working at the Red Cross day center (for kids with disabilities) and the Red Cross baby orphanage in Danang. It has been a fun, exhausting and emotional week.


On Monday we were picked up by our driver and brought to the day center. We were met by a group of enthusiastic kids who escorted us though the building to the proper room. We did our good morning routine where we say "Good morning class" and they all stand up and say "good morning teachers, how are you?" and we reply, "I'm fine thank you, how are you?" and they say "Fine thank you!" and sit down. It has to be done just exactly like that or they get confused. After going through what day it is and what the weather is like (always sunny and hot) we separate into three different classes. The advanced, middle and less advanced. I am the teacher for the less advance class (I don't really like calling it that but that is what the volunteers before us implemented).

After doing this on the first day we got called to a meeting to be introduced to the program director, with the use of a translator he told us that the day center started in 1997 and was a place for people with disabilities to come and be trained in embroidery or screen printing. Volunteers started to come in 2004 and that is when they were able to accept more kids into the program with more severe disabilities. There are about 26 students ranging in age from 7-22.We were shown the room where there were kids doing screen printing and told us that it was training for those who are deaf. Since I know a little sign language I was asked to incorporate that in my teaching so those who are deaf can attend the classes. So now I have been working on learning Vietnamese and Vietnamese sign language. I have had many dreams lately partially in Vietnamese and sign, I just hope that means I am learning more as I sleep.

After the meeting we went on to teach our classes which are an hour long, the previous volunteers wrote up a lesson plan for all of the new comers, so on the first day we would not have to worry about having a lesson for a class we have never met. My first class went well I had 4 students out of 5.

Next we walked over to the baby orphanage (which is on the same property). The first people we saw were a bunch on English speaking people holding babies which was surprising because we were not expecting to see them. It turns out that they were all adopting 1-2 kids each. When we went inside we saw a lot of babies. There are about 20 infants. One was just dropped off a week ago and only weighed 1 kilo. There are about 13 toddlers. When we got there none of the toddlers were tied to their cribs, but I think this was because there were all the people there who were adopting which gave them the extra eyes that they needed. Since then when we come they are tied with a cloth string by their ankle or by the back of their shirts, but we are allowed to untie them.

Our first day we jumped right in and got to work changing nappies (or diapers, the other volunteers all call them nappies.) These are kitchen sized towels folded up and tied with a handkerchief, so when they are wet you both feel it, I have found my pants wet after holding a baby for a while. I got a real appreciation for any parent who has more than one baby at a time. I got skilled very quickly at picking up two babies at a time. All of the kids are so adorable. They all like to be held, you can cuddle with them and they are not trying to jump out of your arms which has been my experience with many kids their age.

All the babies sleep in wicker cribs with bamboo mats, many of them have funny shaped heads from laying down so often and always looking in the same direction, some are severe and some seem like a normal amount of flatness. All the toddlers sleep in steel cribs without mattresses, pillows, blankets or crib toys. I have found that these kids can have fun with just about anything, since they do not have many toys. I have found kids chewing on a tin foil wrapper, and piece of shiny cellophane and boxes for medicines.

On the second day we were invited to Quien's house (one of the ladies who cooks for us) and I got to ride on the back of a motor bike. She then took us to the super market which was like a big one stop shopping place unlike anything we had seen in Danang so far. There Chelsea and I bought some supplies for the orphanage, we got diaper wipes, toys, and found out that diaper ointment was the hardest thing to translate. This was our top priority for our shopping trip since many of the babies had severe diaper rash. We were able to find something but not the kind with zinc in it (which is supposed to be the best). We bought quite a bit of stuff and only spent 20 US dollars. Hopefully we will be able to go back soon to get some more toys now that we have seen which ones were the most popular.

My classes have been going well and I have had a high attendance of the older boys that are deaf, even though my signing is very simple. I just need to study fast so I have new lessons for next week.

Just today a newly arrived baby came, from what I understand they are just left on the door and the "mothers" (the women who work there 24-7) never meet the moms or dads of the babies.

I am really enjoying my self here, I feel safe and welcomed and the food is delicious, I always have a meal waiting for me even before I am hungry and it always has all parts of the food pyramid. I am probably forgetting a lot of information but I will write again with more stories to tell. If you have any questions please ask.


April 19th - Second and Third Week

Dear My Wonderful Family and Friends,Sorry is had taken me a while to update you on my second week, I have been busy and tired, otherwise, life is grand in Vietnam! I have gone on many adventures since I last wrote.

Starting with weekend before last I went to a different town in Vietnam called Hue (about two hours from our home). The women who cook for us took us there and we went to many of the major tourist stops. First we went to the Citadel which is this giant moated place where the emperor used to live. It was huge and everyone we were with got too hot and wanted to leave before Chelsea and I did. But I got some beautiful pictures that you will be able to see when I get home.

The next stop was the Thien Mu Pagoda which is an octagonal building with seven stories and is beautiful. Then we went to one of the emperor's tombs, which was so elaborate I just couldn't believe this place was built for one person. You had to go up many flights of stairs, then you came to a spot with statues of elephants horses and guards. Then you went up a whole bunch of steps again and you hit the main building, the walls inside were covered in porcelain mosaics and there was a bronze sculpture of the emperor.

My description does not do any of these places justice but you get a taste of what they are like. One other interesting point of our drive to Hue was we had to go through this extremely long tunnel through the middle of a mountain (too long to hold you breath.) We were not driving very fast and it took us 15 minutes to get through, it was kinda awful because their was so much smog inside of it and made it very hard to breathe.On Sunday Chelsea and I rode our bikes (1 hour ride there) to a pagoda that has a giant Buddha statue in front of it. The pagoda was closed and we were not able to get close to it, but we took pictures outside the gate and sat down and had our lunch. After lunch we went the local water park that cost only 30 U.S. cents to use the wave pool and kiddie pool (no slides that would cost a dollar).Last week 4 children were adopted and left the orphanage and in the next couple of weeks there should be a few more leaving. It is really good to see them adopted but also is a little sad as we form relationships with each child. Also last week we had one newborn left at the orphanage.Last weekend we went to the nearby town of Hoi An and spent one night there. The majority of our stay was spent getting Tailor made clothes which was very fun for both Chelsea and I since we both have a hankering for fashion. We were able to draw them a picture or show them a picture from a magazine and pick out our fabric and they would measure us and get it made by the next day. It was cheap compared to some new clothes in the states but a little on the high end for me who tends to buy sale items or second hand. But, it was well worth it for having exactly what you want and in your size.

Hoi An was very different than Da Nang, there were many more tourists, I even met a lady from Bellevue, Washington. She said I was the second person she met from Washington state. In Hoi An instead of everyone saying hello to us they all said "Hello where are you from. Please help me and come to my store." There are a lot of children wandering around selling trinkets who would come up to your table at a restaurant and say "You buy from me very cheap, you be lucky I'll be lucky, it's happy hour, I will be very lucky." It was a nice weekend but I am very grateful to be placed in Da Nang.This week we had two newborns come in one on Monday and the other one on Wednesday, the newborns are still bigger than the little boy who came in the week before we came who only weighed one kilo (he is much bigger now but still the smallest.)At the day center I have had many of the students who are deaf that attend my class and we are able to communicate fairly well, just can't get into very in-depth conversations. I started out with a class size of 4 and now I have 8-12 kids attending my class.

We have been working on learning the alphabet, counting, colors, body parts, and shapes. These are still difficult for them so I try and revise these subjects and teach them in different ways, in hopes that seeing them in different context will help them understand and retain the information better. It is difficult because some of my students do not even know Vietnamese well.Thank to some donations I received. The money went to a water purifier for the kids at the day center so they could have lots of cool water in this hot weather. Previously they had to drink recently boiled water. Also the money helped fix the day centers van so they would have a way to take the kids on day trips and also they would have a way to take a baby to the hospital if they needed to, instead of having to hire a taxis which can get expensive. Chelsea and I thought that these to things where a good use of some of the money donated.Thank you all for your support, we all appreciate it over here.Exciting things to come:

This weekend we have been invited to take part in a Vietnamese engagement ceremony, a man from the states is coming here to get engaged to a Vietnamese woman but does not have any relatives to join him. For the engagement ceremony you need at least 15 people on your side so we are acting as stand in relatives, we are all very excited to take part in this.Also we have been invited to Quyen's (a lady who cooks for us) house on Saturday night for a very special dinner for her mother in law's 100th day after death ceremony.I will write more about these after they have happened.I love you all and miss you, I will try to write sooner this next time,Stella

First Month Completed

I have now finished my first month volunteering I can already tell that this next month is going to go too fast. I am already scheming on how I can come back here for a longer stay, like a year or two or at least a few more months. I want to see other countries too, but it is hard when you form friendships in one place, you don't want to leave. Two weekends ago was fun packed. On Friday afternoon Chelsea and I payed the extra 1.50 to be able to go on the slides at the water park (for those of you who thought we were crazy not to pay the extra money on our previous visits).

On the Saturday before last we were invited to Quyen's house for her mother in law's 100th day after death ceremony. We bought a big beautiful cake and five different fruits for the altar. When we got there, we brought our gifts upstairs to the altar and payed our respects but after that it just seemed like a regular party. We ate lots of wonderful food and sat around a talked.

On the next Sunday morning all 18 people on the grooms side congregated at our house with all the gifts for the bride. As we understand it, they mixed the traditions for the engagement ceremony and wedding ceremony since the couple will have their wedding celebration in the states. So I don't think that we experienced a typical engagement ceremony since there may have been some wedding day rituals as well.

The man is from Oregon and is in his 50's and has been married twice and the woman is from Vietnam, is 40 and has never been married. Each of 6 volunteers got to carry a gift to the bride. We were each given something to carry and there was an order in which we had to carry the items.

  • I was at the front carrying a small teapot and tea cups with some small things wrapped in leaves and some slices of lime. All of which were on a tray covered with a decorative cloth.
  • Behind me someone carried 100 nut like things (which may be beetle nuts but we couldn't get a straight answer) but we were told you could get addicted to them and there were 100 of them to symbolize 100 years of marriage.
  • Behind that was a tin with two 1 liter bottles of soda and two boxes, all of which were wrapped in cellophane and had bows.
  • Behind her was a giant fruit basket that carried 100 fruits also to symbolize 100 years of marriage.
  • Behind that was a tin with all these rectangle box shaped things that were wrapped in banana leaves but we never found out what was wrapped within.
  • And in the back Chelsea carried two cakes which were placed on a pedestal of sorts.

After getting pictures of the gifts and pictures of us in line with the gifts we walked in line to the cars that were taking us to the brides house. Before we got there we went on a cruise around the city, this is done to help create a memory for the groom to be and those in his party. Also I think to show off to the people in the town that someone is getting married. The whole way there a photographer for the wedding followed the cars taking photographs and video while riding backwards on the back of a motor bike, this was so funny to me. They would speed ahead and then get film of us driving around the corner, etc.

We arrived at her house with many people waiting to greet us out side, we had to get out of the car and reorganize ourselves in the proper order behind the car then get another picture and walk slowly towards the door and up stairs where the ceremony would be held.

Then they talked for a while and I could not understand and then we got to eat and socialize. After the wedding celebrations we went out to karaoke which is done in the same fashion as Japan, in a personal room, so only you and your friends can hear you. They had many English songs to choose from. One of the funniest parts was after you sang you got a score like "94% good singer" Chelsea and I got a 100% on one of our duets but neither of us can agree on which one. We had lots of fun and will be returning this weekend for another session.

The playground construction is finished but there are no toys yet. We are trying to get enough money for that now. It is a very colorful playground and I really like how it turned out. For the time being we put some little bikes inside the fence and we are getting our schedule changed so we can play with the kids when it is cooler outside. So next week we should be able to utilize it better.

On my off hours I have been going to this place called Bread of Life, which is a restaurant owned by some Americans from Missouri who have been living in Vietnam for the past 8 years. The restaurant has only been open the past 9 months or so. They hire mostly people who are deaf, so I go there in the evenings and learn more Vietnamese sign language. I have progressed quite well and can now understand most everything they are saying. It is my new passion here, it is a bit difficult because each person may use different signs depending what form they learned and how much they were taught. So I have been having to learn numerous signs for the same word, the perk is as I am learning sign I am also learning Vietnamese, which has been more difficult for me to pick up without proper lessons and people always trying to speak to me in English. My favorite thing about going to Bread of Life is I can carry on a much more in depth conversation in sign with my new friends than I can in Vietnamese.

This last weekend we went back to Hoi An and went to a cooking school, which was a great experience and very well organized. It was my first time feeling like a real tourist. The day started out with us having coffee then going into the market which is very busy and stimulating to the senses. There are hundreds of vendors all trying to get you to buy from them. They are selling vegetables, fish, clothing, items for a funeral, meat (we saw a pile of pig heads lying on the floor, which made me laugh) and much more.

Our guide lead us through showing us the vegetables, tools for cooking, spices and meats and seafood and answered any questions we had. He was very witty and had all sorts of jokes up his sleeve (which I am sure he had told a million times).

After the market we took a half hour beautiful boat ride to the cooking school (the red bridge), when we arrived there we got a tour of the garden and got to see how they grew their herbs. Afterward we were taught how to cook squid with vegetables, eggplant in a clay pot, rice paper, and food decoration. Then we got to eat. It was a very pleasing experience.

Then of course being the fashionable girls Chelsea and I are we went out to the tailors and each got a dress made. In the evening we went to this great restaurant "The Cargo Club" and got fancy desserts. Yum!

In conclusion I am still having a wonderful time and wish I could stay longer, two months is too short. None the less I wish you could be sharing this experience with me.

With love,

Still Having Fun - May 10th

Last monday we got our new set of volunteers, we had one girl, Claudine, leave our placement and go to new one on Cham Island. We are very sad about this because she was a great volunteer and was doing great things with her class but I know she will do great things in her new placement, and we still see her on the weekends. We got one new boy from England who just came from a 7 month stay in the Phillipeans doing volunteer work and we got one new girl from Singapore, who will start working on her masters degree in the states after this project. They are both very nice people.

Last week I was asked to start teaching a two hour sign language class twice a week at the day center. I have now done two lessons, the first one was a bit difficult, but after correcting my original mistakes I was able to have a successful second lesson. What is most difficult is that a few of the students I am teaching have no sign and no Vietnamese language. So even if I learn the Vietnamese word for what I am teaching it does not help because they still do not know what I am talking about. Two of my students have well developed sign and I feel bad because I need to keep the class at a very basic level, but they seem to be having an okay time helping their peers. If anyone has any information on teaching sign to those who don't have developed language skills I would greatly appreciate any suggestions.

Last weekend we went out to Karaoke again with all of our Vietnamese family and had lots of fun. We were there for like 5 hours, but it did not feel like it.

On Sunday Chelsea and I were invited to go with our new friend Chan from Bread of Life to go to his home town in the country. It was about an hour motorbike ride from Da Nang. I rode on Chan's motorbike, and Chelsea rented a motorbike taxi to take her there. It was a beautiful ride, the hour just flew by cause there were so many new things to look at. We went to his house and got to meet his mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, brother in law and nephew.

Since we do not speak Vietnamese very well, we were not able to communicate to well with any of them, any time we would say something in Vietnamese they would shake their head no. His family had very minimum sign skills but they seemed to get along just fine. Chan did not begin to learn sign until he was 14 when he went off to a special school. He and his family would write anything down that they needed to tell one another.We had a delicious meal and then drove home. It was a great day and a wonderful way to see another part of Vietnam.

This week we got the ball pit that we paid for with all of your donated money! It is a lot of fun and the children really enjoy it. One little girl didn't know what to do and ended up sinking down until all you could see was her face buried in the balls. It was an amusing sight and we all had to laugh for a minute when we noticed it before we could help her. I put my hand out so she could grab it, after a few seconds she slowly reached her had up to grab mine. Her expression was priceless.

This weekend we will be going out to a park for a party with all the staff from the Da Nang Red Cross on Friday. On Saturday we might head back to Hoi An again so we can see Claudine and on Sunday we will go to the movies with Chan, his favorites are Korean films, it should be an interesting experience, since I will not understand the language, but I assume it will still be entertaining.

Still having fun,

I'm Staying Longer

Starting where I ended last . . . We went to the movies with Chan and it was actually very fun. The movie was dubbed rather than subtitled so we were all on the same plane of "not hearing what was being said" The movie was very enjoyable and kept me interested. Mind you this was the first movie I had seen in over a month so I was pretty excited to be watching anything (since back home I watch at least one movie a week). The movie was called Daisy and was a Korean film, filmed in Amsterdam. It was about a young starving artist and a love triangle between her and two men who happened to be enemies. Not much was different about the movie theater except that the seats were two persons wide instead on just one.

Last weekend was amazing. We left on Thursday morning to go to Cham island to visit some of our fellow volunteers who work on the island teaching English to children and adults. Cham island is probably as big a Bainbridge Island (near home) and has 3 very small villages. Tourist are only allowed on the island with special permission, but in the future that may change since they want to be a tourist destination. I think this is a little sad because tourism really changes the way people work and act. I am so grateful I got to see this place before it became a place for tourists. It will be interesting to see how it changes in years to come.

The boat trip there took 2 hours, we traveled with a large group of 11 of us including the two volunteers that work on the island. Our manager, our cooks and our translator all came on vacation with us and it was wonderful. Except for the boat ride there where 3 people in our group that got motion sickness even after taking medicine. For me it felt fine since I am used to riding ferries.

We went scuba diving every day and I got to see all the beautiful fish that I normally only see on T.V. The coral was beautiful and many different colors, orange, green, pink and purple. Although sometimes being underwater and hearing myself breathe felt Iike I was in a jaws movie and something bad was going happen... da dun da dun dadundadun (just my imagination getting away with me). Scuba diving has been one of my most spectacular moments in Vietnam! Something also very amazing about Cham island was the the beaches were clean and deserted you felt like you had your own private beach, white sand and palm trees included. When we weren't swimming or scuba diving we went on a 3 hour boat ride all the way around the island which was amazing. The majority of the island had huge cliffs plummeting into the sea. The whole time we stayed there is rained which was unusual but I found it lovely but it also made me a little homesick. Oh Seattle!

Since I did not feel ready to leave Vietnam and could not afford to volunteer longer, I found a job instead. So I will be staying at least another 3 months in Da Nang. I got job teaching English at a language school. I am completing my class observations this week and will have a teaching demonstration next week where I will get critiqued in my teaching. Then I should start working right after that. I am going to work part time and on my free time continue to work at the orphanage and day center. I am very excited to be staying longer.

I will write more in a few days about my trip up to Hanoi and Halong bay.


Editor's Note: Stella said that she met a woman who was adopting a child at the orphanage in a few months. She was from New York and when she introduced herself the woman said, "Stella, You're Famous! I read about you on the internet."

August Update

Hello Everyone,

Chelsea went home the beginning of July and I have been teaching English. I have only been able to volunteer at the orphanage about two times a week in the last couple months, so I haven't felt like I had anything to tell all of you. I miss the kids like crazy when I am not with them. The GVN (Global Volunteer Network) program has changed a bit since I was volunteering full time, now we work at two orphanages. The new orphanage is more in the city center of Da nang where as the Red Cross orphanage is 15 minutes on the outskirts of town. I believe that there are about 25 kids at the other orphanage ranging in age from infants to about 8 years old, but I am not positive about this. I have found it difficult to spend my free time at the new orphanage because I am so attached to my kids at the Red Cross, so when I do have free time I want to spend it with them.

So many kids have been adopted out of the Red Cross in the last couple of months. There are only about 26 kids left compared to the 42 children that were there when I arrived. Since I only get to go in a few times a week I missed a lot of kids leaving and did not get to say goodbye. It made me really sad. I worry that the next time I go back more will be gone that I did not know were leaving and I will be sad cause I didn't get to say good bye or meet their new parents.

I hear that all the toddlers are going to be adopted and a good majority of the babies except maybe the really young ones. But I don't think that the two boys with disabilities are going to get adopted. A really great guy who is a physicaltherapist came into the orphanage with a friend who was adopting. He was a great help with the two boys. One of the boys we got a wheel chair made for him a few months ago but the way it was built was not quite right for the boy, Huy, to be comfortable in so he helped us alter it a bit to make him more comfortable.

The other boy, Hom, we believe to have autism, this boy does not walk, the man said this is probably because the sensation is too great on his feet so he showed us somethings to do with him to desensitize his feet and help him get used to holding weight on his feet. I asked him if he actually thought it was possible for him to walk in the future and he said "oh yeah." This made me really excited, I just wish I had more time to spend at the orphanage each week so I could work with both of them on a regular basis.

A couple of weeks ago I got to travel down to Tam Ky to visit the GVN program down there. I got to see the orphanages that they work in. Their facilities were much better than the ones here in Da nang mostly because they had a large covered area where the children can play. I don't know how many times the mothers at the Red Cross told us we could not take the kids outside because it was too hot and they did not want them to get sick. I also got to visit the Home of Affection which was an orphanage but also a vocational training day center. About half the kids were orphans there about 30 kids. I really enjoyed getting to see what other orphanages were like in Vietnam, it helps me see what are cultural differences in raising kids and what things may just be the "mothers" (those who care for the children) at the Red Cross.

If there are any parents out there reading and want to know about how their children are doing just send in a message and a picture of your child. I will do my best in keeping you updating with the little time I get to spend there. Also if any parents are reading that have adopted recently I would love to be updated on how your kids are, I miss them like crazy, send me a picture and let me know what there old name was and what it is now. It would make me very happy to know how they are doing. You can send your messages through the contact link or post here.

I have been getting a little stressed lately trying to make decisions on how long I will be here, what I will do and if I have enough money to do what I want. But as of now the plan is to stay until the beginning of March. I do get really homesick from time to time but know that when I get home I will be homesick for Vietnam. It feels right to stay here a few more months.

My English classes at the language center have been going well, recently two of my classes have ended so I am left with just one class, but I am subbing for a couple. I am trying to decide if I will continue working here, my 3 month contract ends at the end of August. I wasn't sure if I liked teaching English at first but the longer I have done it the more comfortable I have become with it. Although it is quite ironic that I am teaching English because I am not very good at it. I always worry that I am correcting them in the wrong way. I think what is hard at this language center that the classes don't last very long so you build relationships with your students and then the class is over and you have to start all over again with new students. I think I would enjoy it much more if I could stick with the same students for a longer period of time.

For the most part I have been working, volunteering and spending a lot of time with friends.

Much Love,

Home and Typhoon Damage

Dear Friends,

I have returned back to the states safely. I left Vietnam a day before a Typhoon hit the city I have been living in the past six months. This is a letter I recieved today from one of my best friends, Nancy, who has been volunteering in Danang for the last 3 months and will continue on for 2 more. If you have just a small amount (for example 10 dollars) to donate I will assure you that the money will be put to good use repairing all the damage from the storm and helping the children at all the orphanages served by the Global Volunteering Network volunteers. I will also attach some photos of the damage incurred by Typhoon Xangsane (only one photo attached to this post). The photographs are all pictures from the orphanages and day centers we work at.


On Sunday, October 1 at 9 AM in Danang, Vietnam, Typhoon Xangsane hit the city and has been described by locals as the worst typhoon in many years. Forty-two people in Vietnam died with seven missing, 12,000 homes were destroyed with another 113,000 damaged. At least 180,000 people were evacuated in advance of the storm. Authorities estimate damages at $623 million USD. The entire city was without electricity and running water for at least four days.

We, the Global Volunteer Network workers for October in Danang, got to see the devastation first-hand at several of our work sites. The Danang Malnourished Baby Orphanage, a home for about 15 children, had significant flooding. Luckily, the children had been moved to a safer building before the storm hit. The Disabled Children's Center, a day center for about 20 youths, had many large holes in the roof which require repairs. GVN volunteers swept up many buckets of sand from the rooms and courtyard. The Red Cross Day Care Center, a center for 22 children with various disabilities, also had large holes in the roof.

At the Red Cross Baby Orphanage, a home for about 20 infants and children, half of the roof is gone. Luckily, the children were evacuated beforehand to a hospital.The Social Supporting Center, a large complex serving 180 infants, children and adults with special needs (physical impairments, mental illness, homelessness, etc.), had the roof torn off many of its smaller houses. Many of the residents have to sleep in classrooms. It is the largest and poorest center with which GVN works. We have attached some photographs showing just some of the damage to these centres. (one is attached to this post)

Please send your donations to help with repairs and supplies! Any amount will help. For example, a pack of 44 diapers or a can of baby formula costs 100,000 Vietnamese Dong (3.31 British pounds or $6.25 USD). From donations already received, we've bought a generator for the Social Supporting Center, which they are using tonight. If you are paypal registered donations can be made through using the email address Just log in and click send money!

Thank you! Amy Coulson, Beth Moon, Jenna Mackintosh, Jenny Bryant, Jess Palmer, Nancy Le

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February 4, 2011

New Update: Stella (Susan's daughter and one of the ThriftyFun Staff) is in Vietnam volunteering at orphanages and as an English teacher in Danang.

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