Thursday, July 13, 2006

Days 16 & 17 Weds / Thurs


Well we've finally made it home...

Wednesday morning was last minute shopping for pressies... At one-thirty the Group started taking taxis to the airport. We had some extra suitcases and some Group gear but we managed to get through without excess baggage charges (overall I think we were probably ok anyway - but always wear you're uniform when travelling - it helps!!)... Departure was pretty slow with loadsa form filling and payment of a Departure Tax of $14 per head... We just about made it...

It was a 2hr flight to Kuala Lumpur and a four hour wait before the 13hr flight to London... It went pretty quick tho' (we were very tired this time 'round)... Three hours in London and 90 mins on the last flight of the journey... The final touchdown was greeted with the usual whooping and clapping...

And the luggage this time???? No probs, it all arrived intact and so we were able to come out into arrivals together. Just before leaving, Ger (the Venture Leader) congratulated the V's on their work and thanked them for their co-operation during the trip... All the Leaders concurred...

Ventures:: Don't forget we're meeting next Wednesday to look at the piccies.

Congrats to:

John Oxberry, Gary Oxberry, Stephen O'Mara, David O'Mara, Andy Moran, Dotty Moran, Richie Reville, Danielle Cuddy, Lukey Galvin, Kate Cowley, Chris Tucker, Pavel Wodyk, Ashley Wade, Paul Carroll, Maria Managn, Ger Fleming, Joe Marken.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Day 15 - Tuesday

The last blog report until we get home...

(Forgot to mention yesterday that David O'Mara took a tumble off a hammock when visiting one of the quaint little waterside restaurants. David is probably the heaviest in the Group and there he was merrily swinging away until we all heard a massive thump!! His pride suffered most.....)

Well today it was Cao Dai Cathedral and the Co Chi tunnels....

Cao Dai is the 'Vatican' to one of the many religions here in VN... In the middle of nowhere we were driven to a catherdral type building with the midday ceremonies about to begin... Hard to desribe the place - ye'll have to wait for the slideshow!! There was white robed 'priests', 'scarlet' and 'primrose' robed bishops, turquoise clad nuns... The place was a riot of color, chanting and gongs being clashed... Interesting stuff...

It was on then to the Co Chi tunnels... These were originally built by the VN against the French but more famously used against the Americans during the VN War. Following a video we were brought through some of the more accessible tunnels and shown bunkers, kitchens, operating rooms - all underground... Only four managed the full range of tunnels on offer - The Giller, David, Pavel and Richie - real tunnels rats!!

Just as well Joe got some practice in, because when we returned to the hotel there was a power cut and Joe had to climb out of the left which was caught between the seventh and eights floor!!

All the Group are in good form.... We're going home tomorrow (Stephen's 18th. Birthday) and looking forward to seeing our families once again....

It's been a great experience but you'll have to wait until we get home for the full details !!!

Cya!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Day 14 - Monday

After packing all our gear we cycled for the last time to the orphanage.... (Just before we left we made a presentedation to Jon - our guide). At teh orphanage a very formal rectangle of tables and chairs had been arranged.... We awaited the arrival of the TV crew (again) for proceedings to be filmed for national TV..

When they arrived there was an introduction from the Head Teacher, a speech from the Orphanage Director and the Vice-Director read a formal report of our activities to date.... The Giller replied on behalf of the Group and thanked the Staff, the Doctor, the Director (and his wife) but especially the children for the the happiness and pleasure that they had brought to the Venture Group during our time there...Then there was an exchange of gifts - we received an large embroidered 'painting' of a VN scene and ships made of shells for each member of the Group with their name on it.. and we presented sports equipment (footballs, basketballs, badminton and table tennis gear, colouring books, pens, bubbles (??), hurleys and sliotars + a framed enlarged photograph of the day we presented the bicyles. The Group then planted two trees to commemorate our visit... The final farewells were very emotional... there were tears and promises to keep in touch... (Kate fell and broke her camera while John was reunited with his luggage - unfortunately he had forgetten the combination of the lock !!!)

It was two and a half hours by minibus to Ho Chi Ming City (HCMC) and a new hotel... We're just back from dinner and a few games of pool and darts... Spirits are better than yesterday and we're off to the Co Chi tunnels tomorrow morning....

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Day 13 - Sunday

Well as they same here in Vn, today was pretty much 'same-same'... Most people had a decent night's sleep but some weren't so lucky... We left the centre a.s.a.p and went 'touring'.. This involved traversing the Delta using various waterways, canals and waterlanes - calling in to a few souvenir places along the way as well as the madatory four-course 11.30am lunch... The time between breakfast-lunch-dinner seems so short here that we constantly seem to be eating. It's superb food - shrimp, fish, beef, pork, chicken, fried noodles, rice, fresh bread, various juices etc... but the V's haven't really taken to it..All they seem to eat is bread.. (Most Europeans we met along the way pay thousands for the opportunity!).

Eventually the water-journey ended and we returned to the bus... The only thing the V's could think about was a KFC they'd seen on the way down.... When we stopped you'd be killed in the rush for the KFC... even Lukey broke into a trot (we've never seen that before...) Most of the V's chose... (yes, you've guessed...) chicken, bread and lettuce!!!! (The multinationals have really won the battle for young people's minds...If it LOOKS good it MUST be good).

So all in all not a great weekend... the singing has been replaced by the V's teaching Jon (our Guide and translator) all the English swear words and slang....and bad language is slipping...

The only good news is that John's luggage has been found and is awaiting him in HCMC. We leave first thing in the morning... It's obvious the V's are tired and want to return to their normality... Roll on Thursday....

Day 12 - Saturday

Well it was a 5am start this morning for our 'adventure' down the Mekong River. The five hour bus trip brought us to the south-west corner of VN... about 50km from the Cambodian border and about 50km from the sea... We were hosted for the weekend by Mr. and Mr. Baa (Director of the Orphanage) whose home Province we were travelling to... All manner of live (and death) were seen on the way - urban sprawl, kids going to school, workers entering factories and a fatal accident involving an elderly woman whose body lay on the motorway... The nation seems to (a) never stop moving (90% on a Honda) and (b) never stops eating...

We eventually arrived at the town of Ving Thong where we took to two long-boats (the PVG + Mr. Baa's party of eight)... We entered the myriad of waterways in the Delta with some trepidation not knowing what was to come... It was like another world of lakes, rivers, canals, and water-lanes... We stopped off for lunch in wonderful small river-side restaurants surrounded by Bonsai gardens, fountains and ponds filled with carp... The waterways are the local highways with grain-barges, water-buses, dredgers and kids diving and swimming amidst all the hustle and bustle... The novelty soon wore off tho' and the V's began to get restless...
Arriving at our destination didn't help morale either... The centre was like a cross between Butlins (in the 60's and a zoo!!). (It looked pretty ok in the brochures...). Most people were happy to make do with the situation but others were very much less than impressed... The girls definitely wanted to go home 'cause the showers were cold and there were ants in the bed!!

Feeding the crocodiles was ok (for the first ten minutes) but only the girls were able to ride the ostriches because all the guys were over the weight limit... The fishing was good craic tho' with Gary and Caroller doing well with 13 between them... Ger and Joe seemed to do as well but their fish did look pretty familiar each time it was caught!!

The sleeping accomodation was 'interesting'... Eight bamboo huts (with ensuites and air-conditioning!) but they certainly needed some work doing on them... (It was like-as-if somebody has built a lake-side chalet complex in the 70's with grant aid but the tourists hadn't come...kinda sounds familiar doesn't it??). Some of us have slept in worse but the V's were not happy campers... John Oxberry's foot went thru' one of the floor boards in the chalet and Maria fell in the lake while trying to get from a paddle-boat to the jetty... It was the first time we'd used mozzie-nets and people were glad to hit the sack after enduring some local folk-singing during what seemed like an endless dinner...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Day 11 - Friday

(Apologies for the late posting but the post wouldn't save for me...)

Today we got an lie-on (until 7.30am!!) because we were going to the Waterpark. The kids had never been before and since none of them had swimming gear they went swimming in their everyday clothes (even some of the party stuff they wore last night!)... The Park was pretty neat with all mod cons - water slides and wave pool etc. Everyone had a ball...

It was a pretty uneventful day until we were cycling home from the Park. Vietnamese drive on the right-hand side of the road but you can't assume that they ALL will! Pavel took his eyes off the road for a minute and didn't see a moped pulling out and driving towards him... It was nothing serious and he's fine. (For his family - Pavel jest mający (istnienie) cudowny czas. On przepuszcza jego rodzina (rodzinny) wiele (wielka ilość; dużo) i oczekuje do obserwacji was cały następny (następnie) Czwartek.

Tonight we're having an early night so it's shoppong, bowling and massage.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Day 10

An absolute scorcher of a day for the final painting... The final blue touches were done and then it was on to white for the pillers and balcony... The place was a hive of activity when the Television Crew arrived... (Naturally the work increased for the duration of their visit!)... The Giller and Ger were interviewed, with Jon doing the translation. They also took some photo's for the local newspaper and we'll see these tomorrow... Dizzy and Kate were also interviewed as 'young people' and they did very well... The visit was also used for the formal handing over of the 18 bikes.... We had intended originally buying mountain bikes but the ones we bought are much more common here (and are actually VERY comfortable to ride...)

It was a half-day's work... The final touch-up was done by Dotty Moran at 11.30am... The place looked amazing. It had never been painted with 'real' paint before... It gets whitewashed annually for the Tet (New Year) Festival in Jan/Feb.

Back to the Guest House then for a shower etc and change into 'blues'. Siesta followed and we raced back to the orphange for 4.30pm for the party... (It had been a scorcher all morning but now there was a thunderstorm threatening and we did the rush-hour journey in 20mins... !!!!) Mad stuff when you consider the humidity...

The party started with a table dinner for all - about 120 people... This was followed by alternative singing from both groups with traditional VN dancing from the kids in the orphanage. It was amazing stuff with all their beautiful outfits having been made during the week in the sewing room... The 'Fields of Athenry', 'Wild Rover', 'Dublin Fair City' - all the usuals were sang + revolutionary songs from some older VN guys which really got the crowd going... Neighbours look on in envy throught the railings of the orphanage at the party going on inside...

The was a four piece band and a full PA system... They CERTAINLY know how to party !!!

So the painting is complete.... More than was thought was achieved... Stephen O'Mara asked for a photo of the new (?) Aughrim Street Rover Crew to be taken (Stephen, Lukey, Carroller, Dotty, Gary and Richie are all due to leave V's in September). The V's are in great form as they sang and biked all the way home from the orphange but the party showed that Monday morning is going to be very hard for all of us.... Great friendships have been formed and the kids are sensing that we're leaving soon.... Westerners generally come to this country and give very little so they've never seen a bunch like the PVG...

Tomorrow we're off to the Waterpark... After that it's down the Mekong in two boats to sleep in bamboo huts....

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Day 9

Today was a good day... Up at 6.30am as usual... Brekkie in the restaurant around the corner and off to work.. The paint DID arrive today! So it was all hands on deck to get a second blue coat on all the exterior. The place is really beginning to look really well- (sorry we've no piccies, but the internet cafe has no card reader or scanner.. ). The fact that the place is painted in the Dub's colours is purely coincidential, tho' Ger did have a major say in the choice! The Director of the Orphange told the V's that they must not climb high - they must use the Orphanage kids for this!!!!!!!!! The next minute four bamboo ladders arrived on the back of a Honda motorbike, two each were lashed together with wire and local kids climbed 35' into the air on them - crazy stuff but absoluty no bother to them .... These are amazing kids....

Ashley wasn't feeling great just before lunch (the ol' deydration kicking in again.. but within seconds of the Orphanage Doctor applying pressure to two points she was as right as rain again...(She's fine since)...

The Grudge Match took place and the play was 'intense' to say the least... Daithi says two of the kids would easily get a trial with any team in England... Playing in their bare feet, on their home ground they gave the V's a good run for their money but were just pipped at the post for a 9-8 win for the PVG...

During all of the above the sun was beating down but guess what happend when we left for the beach??? Yes, you've guessed right... It lashed outa the heavens!! So there was plenty of 'singing in the rain' on the way to the beach... The locals think we're absolute bonkers!

The beach was good craic with massive waves and very strong tides and undercurrents (scary!)
Anyone dozing off had to sleep with their feet up 'cause rats as big as Jack Russel's were scurrying around the place... (the locals tell us their nice in a stir-fry!!!). John (our Guide & Interpreter) wouldn't believe the V's when they told him that they'd throw him in the sea fully clothed for telling them to keep quiet.... Yes, you can imagine what happend next...

Tonight was free time and an opportunity for the Leaders to go got THEIR massage.... It was like wrestling with a Sumo wrestler (even tho' they were 5' high and 7st weight!) but worth it in the end... Little or no personal gossip today I'm afraid...We'll see what the weekend brings...

Tomorrow, the local TV Station is doing a feature on the Orphange and 'Operation Vung Tau'... The place is looking real well for it so it should be good....