I may just take him up on that.
On the afternoon of the 29th of March the Home had a surprise visit from the winners of the local Miss Hooters competitions who also brought a substantial donation . They were escorted to the Home by FR. Giovanni’s event coordinator along with an Italian woman and a fellow from Winnipeg. Accompanying them was the Hooters brand ambassador, who is a model and an actress in Thailand. During her visit to the Camillian Home, she presented one of our CP children (Big) with a birthday cake and a present. The girls toured the Home and then spent much of their time with the severely disabled children on our third floor. The manager invited me back to Hooters for another serving of ribs like the one we had at Christmas.
I may just take him up on that.
Spent some time in Bangkok to get an entry visa for Vietnam, then flew to Ho Chi Min City (HCMC) on the 21st of March. I had booked the flight, hotel and ground transportation through Expedia Thailand so had no problem getting to the hotel that I had chosen to stay in. The hotel was in District 3 of the city because that was the address that Sister Maria had given me. There were no other European looking people in this district. I took the picture of the traffic through the rear window of the taxi and that is how crowded the streets are all the time. There are no stop signs in VN and you take your chances when crossing the street even though the MCs do try to avoid you.
Down the street, less than ten minutes away was a Redemptorist Church. I found out later that this was Sister Maria’s work address as she was a social worker with an office attached to the Church. This Church had four masses each day (5a.m., 6a.m., 5p.m., & 6p.m.). The Church is usually pretty full for the masses in the morning and over 1,000 people attend the masses in the p.m. The little plastic chairs that you see in front of the church are all occupied and there are many more on each side. The grotto is dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help that is also the church’s title. Perhaps it was because it was Easter week but somehow I feel that the VN people are very spiritual and serious about their religion.
I had 2&1/2 days visiting with George Girling and his wife Hahn: George and I were apprentice soldiers at the same time and Georgina and I had visited them in VN and at their home in Chilliwack. George and I had a great time reminiscing about our times in the CAF. We also drank some iced coffees and had some food together. He is a cook and we had dinner together at his apartment in a suburb of HCMC. Hahn was looking after her mother who is very old.
Sister Maria and I visited the Camillian Home for mothers and children living with HIV. Georgina and I had been there before when the Camillians first took possession of the building. A friend of George’s and a lady (Lorna) whom we had met in VN started looking after people with HIV/AIDS in the building prior to the arrival of the Camillians. I was so enthralled and moved by the children that I didn’t take a single picture.
I had to go to the immigration department to get my visa extended for another 90 days. After waiting inline for the whole day, I was told that I only qualified for a 7 day extension and that I would have to leave the country. I arranged for the paperwork and flew to Vientiane Laos to visit the Thai Immigration office and get a new visa. Everything worked like clockwork so I took a couple of extra days to be a tourist and see the few sites that the city of Vientiane has to offer. There are still remnants of French colonial architecture and the street names are all in French. The side streets are mainly dirt roads and the pavement or sidewalks are in need of repair. The food wasn’t anything to write about but the hotel breakfast and the coffee was great and the hotel staff was friendly. I found a hotel that was away from the main streets so to me, Vientiane was a great place to relax and vegetate in, after the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.
The staff of a company that makes components for Ferrari engines helped the Home celebrate Children’s day on the 9th of January this year. The staff dressed up in school uniforms including short pants and knee length skirts. The caregivers made sure that the children enjoyed themselves and participated in the fun and games. Many of the children from the local community joined with ours to celebrate their day. Every child that was present received a gift. I always wondered what happened with the toys and clothes that we receive as donations – now I know. It’s great that the Home shares the bounty with everyone.
The old year went and the New Year came and very little has changed. On the eve of the new year a friend of mine and myself accompanied a Fillipina professor to the center of the city. We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant and then mingled with the crowd (and crowded it was). It took us about an hour and a half to get back to our centre (thank God we left downtown early) just in time to be kept awake by the fireworks at midnight. It was interesting to see the fireworks from the balcony in my room. Things have been pretty quiet here at the centre because most Thais travel back to their home villages and their families. The lull will end as Chidren’s Day is celebrated this Saturday. A group of Izuzu employees are coming to entertain and be entertained by the children. Should be a fun time.
During the Christmas Season, the children and the CM band were busy practicing Christmas music for a good reason. On Christmas Eve, a hotel van picked up the CM Band, their caregivers and myself at three in the afternoon and took us to the Dusit Princess Hotel in downtown Bangkok. The trip took about an hour even though the hotel is not that far away but traffic conditions in Bangkok are horrific. We were seated in a dining room where we all enjoyed a buffet meal. After a period of rest, the band performed Christmas songs for the diners. There was a small but enthusiastic crowd that looked very happy with the performance. Christmas day morning, we all traveled in our own handicapped equipped van to the Oriental Residence in Bangkok. The CM Band put on a great performance and the residence’s staff and the audience were very happy and joined in with the children. The children really enjoyed themselves and were kept playing and singing for forty-five minutes. We then traveled to have lunch at Hooter’s Bangkok where the children got to decorate gingerbread cookies prior to eating them. Everyone was then treated to a wonderful spare rib lunch. (Maybe there is something to the saying that I visited Hooters for the food.) Santa Claus (aka Nicholas) visited our children again bringing with him more presents and a substantial donation to the Camillian Foundation. I hope that everyone’s Christmas was as busy and happy as mine. May the New Year bring you wealth and happiness even though I don’t know if both go together?
The Christmas season! No sooner do we get over one event, there is another one to get excited about. It all started with the children attending a charity dinner that is sponsored by the Italian-Thai Chamber of Commerce. This was followed closely by a group of employees of a drug manufacturing company that came and decorated the centre and also brought gifts and a Santa to distribute them. Santa was played by a director of the company, an American ex-pat.
On Saturday, I travelled to Rayong and joined with the centre there for their annual Christmas party. It was great: I was royally greeted by the patients and the children that we looked after and were still around the centre. The hugs that I got more than made up for the length of the trip. The next day I escorted a group of consultants a on a tour of our centre. They also brought many gifts for the children so some will be distributed in the surrounding community and next month on Children’s Day. There has many Thai visitors bringing in consumer goods and presents for the children.
HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR
I’d like to thank everyone that sent me a message through my blog – I finally figured out how to retrieve and read them. Now if I can just remember how ………