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....

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Day 8

A good day .. and a not so good day... The good part was that everyone turned up with their bike keys and no one got lost on their way to or from the orphanage!! The bad part was that people were falling on the asses all day... (Lukey, Tucker and the Teacher) + there was a serious lack of paint..

The day started well with the sun shining and the upstairs outside getting it's first coat... unfortunately by lunchtime we were out of paint and things slowed down a bit ... (It looks like the paint has to come from HoChi Ming City on special order as the local paintman won't carry stocks....) The first fall of the day was Lukey off his stool in the restaurant we use everyday for lunch... The whole place was in hysterics.... Then it was back to the orphange but we'd no paint... To conserve energy we'd agreed not to play football today (in readiness for the main match tomorrow!!) but some 'heading' developed in a circle, Tucker went for the ball and landed on his butt in a mud patch.... To amuse the kids the Giller found a rope and started a skipping tournament.... Everyone joined in (while it was lashing out of the heavens) - even the orphanage Teacher, (who had been a reserved lady until now)... When she slipped on the wet tiles and landed on her ass the place erupted in laughter... We've never seen kids laugh so much... It was magic...

The Group split for evening activities - one Group went bowling with Stephen and Daithi performing well while the other went shopping. THEY ended up in a Massage parlour (all legit and above board!!) .... After being chatted up by VN masseuses.... they started on their head, shoulders, back, legs, feet, and butt cheeks... All this for 5$!!

Tomorrow was to be a day off but we lost two hours today because of lack of paint... The V's were asked would they forego their first lie-on and do two hours at 7.00am.. They all said 'No problem' so tomorrow it's Painting - Football - Lunch - Beach - World Cup Football... Last day painting on Thurday.... Friday is Waterworld with the kids (they've never been to the local tourist attraction...) Saturday/Sunday is down the Mekong Delta (and some surprises) .... Monday morning is formal goodbyes (I've a feeling this part ain't gonna be easy or pleasant....) and then it's up to HCMC for two nights and home...

Monday, July 03, 2006

Day 7

Keys and paint (or lack thereof...!!)... Today it was Luke and Ashley's turn to lose their bike keys... We wonder is it anything to do with the fact that if your bike is out of action you (have!) to get a lift from Jon (our Guide & Interpreter) or Hey (the orphanage Doctor)????

The exterior paint didn't arrive and half-a-bucket of paint disappeared overnight (we're on the lookout for a newly painted house in lilac/blue!)... Painting went well with three bedrooms being covered and a first coat on a long corridor that runs the length of the building... Good belts of traditional Irish singing broke out with the Giller, Carroller and Richie giving it sox... You wouldn't believe how hard it is for 5-6 V's to paint a small bedroom with a couple of VN kids hanging and pulling out of you in sweltering heat !! (It ain't easy!)..

The second leg of the football tournament took place at siesta time (!!!) with the Irish taking this one 10-7.. Daithi scored a belter from about 20yds out and Carroller took a fall saving a near Vietnamese goal...

The rains came early today but we were indoor at the time and cycling home was dry this time. This must have distracted Pavel & Maria who were last seen cycling toward Ho Chi Minh City before they realised they were cycling in the wrong direction and ended up a dark alley... Pavel says he assumed Maria knew the way 'cause she was a Leader! (gawd love him...)..

Ger convinced the hotel chef to 'give him a shot' on his moped... Ger informs us that moped's CAN reach 80 mph (with a Venture on the bike!!!) However since he was outa sight most of the time we can only take his word for it!! (Mothers... relax!)

Leisure time this evening was Bowling and Pool... Unfortunately Joe M scored 208 in the bowling which means that the poor kids in the orphange are in for a fully detailed story in the morning... Of course we'll balance his exploits on the bowling lane with the fact that he led the whole group the wrong way on the way back from the bowling to the hotel.... (We'll forget the fact that the group got lost on the way to the bowling.... If you can follow all that you're better than I am!

Two full days painting to go (Tues/Thurs) and we're under pressure to get finished.. We'll prolly get it done but we may have to forego lunch tomorrow or work late Thursday (time and a half!).

BTW - John's luggage still hasn't arrived... All he has are three jox, three sox and a t-shirt!!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Day 6

Well it WAS to be a day off!! But by 8.30am we were in a beat-up '60's bus full off VN kids on a day out! It was like Scouting in the 60's with songs from both groups being belted out as we toured Vung Tau Province. The lads were a great hit with the VN girls with Dotty getting particular attention from a 19yr old aspiring hairdresser who fancied him to bits (see Richie's haircut previously!)... Joan (the mammy...) better start making up the spare room we reckon...

First port of call was a Pagoda with a reclining Buddha... Some of us lit incence sticks and prayed to Buddha for good intentions.. (i.e. less heat, more sun and less rain!!!!)... Then it was on to climbing the Small Mountain (Vung Tau only has TWO mountains and coincidentially enough they're called BIG Mountain and Small Mountain).... At the top is an enormous statue of The Christ (built by the Americans in the1970's and similiar to the one in Rio)... With the dexterity of a ferret we climbed up thru' the body and out along the extended arms for a magnificent view of VT's four beaches... Wet marble stairs (which we had to climb barefoot!!) ensured that the climb was lethal, eventful and very touchy feely with everyone having to squeeeeeze past each other to make any progress. We had to stop some of the lads going up three and four times because of this!!!!

After lunch (and siesta - we're getting used to this 'power nap' arrangement) it was off to the beach (yes!! we finally made it!)...) and some swimming in the surf-waves of the South China Sea...

Back to base then for dinner which we were promised would be a 'buffet' arrangement.... Wow ! It turned out to be on the rooftop of the Director's house (it musta been nearly fourteen flights of never ending stairs high) and a BBQ... followed by (wait for it...) KARIOKE!! It was great craic with Andy Moran (and Carroller at his best) making a great impression... Mr. Baa also bashed out a couple of VN Revolutionary songs which brought the house down...

That's it for today.... Back to work tomorrow but the weekend with the locals should make the painting arrangements a bit easier.... or will it????

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Day 5

Key, keys and more keys... Room keys and bicycle keys are all going astray with tiredness setting in... the result of Irish bedtimes and Vietnamese rising times (the Group are up at 6.30am every day!!!) They'll never learn...

Gary was back on top form and preformed well but it wasn't to be Carroller's day. As a result of self-induced 'dehydration' Paul took to the bed for a decent rest... He's fine now as I write...

The first major romance ended amicably with Danny giving Richie the elbow after only two days of intense effort on his part. Poor Richie.... this only leaves Kate, Ashley or Tucker as possibilities...

Painting went well... It was only half-a-day but the Group performed well with two rooms being done and the front of the orphanage getting it's first lick of paint in many years. The local T.V. Station have applied for a permit from the Provincial People's Committee to come and film in the orphanage... we'll be celebs on VN News!

The half-day rest was mainly spent taking siesta... This was followed by a heart-to-heart review of events so far... Overall the view was positive with the accomodation scoring well, the food being very Vietnamese (!! yes, that's what they said - so less fish and more chips....).

The Group went bowling tonight ($1.-- per game!). John went flying at one stage and ripped his shorts (not a great idea since his luggage still hasn't arrived!!).

Free Day tomorrow (we thought)... In the morning we're climbing a mountain with the kids from the orphanage... Someday we'll get to the beach!!