A different way

Posted on April - 24 - 2011 2,108 comments so far

We’ve been in Kon Tum now for a little over a week and slowly our plans are coming together. The locals here are generally un-perplexed by timelines or schedules and life in the town meanders along to the beat of its own drum. Organising even small things can be challenging, so coordinating a building project is a mammoth task. In spite of the setbacks, we have managed to agree upon a layout for the new toilet, shower and cleaning area at VS2, drawn up some plans (see pictures) and almost finalised a quote for the work.

Bathroom plan - washing area

We have also met briefly with Olivier, who is funded by a French organisation to coordinate the various projects that are underway, not just at the orphanages but also across the minority villages. We hope with his input we will be able to decide on the most effective way to spend the money everyone has so generously donated.

When visiting the orphanages, the thing that affected me the most is the lack of care available to the children. Only a handful of devoted people take on the tasks of cleaning, cooking and nurturing the children, at times numbering over 200. The older children often help, especially with caring for and entertaining the babies, but I wonder how this lack of attention will resonate through their lives. I’ve heard from a few people since being here that the children don’t always get taken to a doctor when they’re sick. Of course the expense of the medication is an issue, but I also wonder who would be around to notice the need. For this reason it’s particularly rewarding to spend time playing with the kids, who seem always so appreciative of our attention.

Aside from the orphanage work, we have spent the last few days trekking up the mountains to learn more about the minority villages (from where most of the children at the orphanages are from). We spent the nights drinking home-brewed wine with the BaNa people, and the days learning about and recording their way of life. To experience their lifestyle is to take a step back in time, separated from the hustle of the industrialised world. They collect water from the stream, gather plants from the surrounding forest and hunt for meat using traditional traps. Their lives and beliefs are intimately connected to the land, which in turn supports them across all facets of life. Money is rarely needed, and communities are strong and reciprocal. This introduction to the BaNa has bred a fascination with their culture, so next week we plan to spend another day with Mr An (our friend and guide), learning more about the BaNa musicians and artists in the villages surrounding KonTum.

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