My goal for the next 6 months is to be as open-minded as possible and to go with the flow from project to project. Arriving with no expectations has allowed me to be pleasantly surprised. I had no idea what the house would be like, where it was located, how many volunteers were there, how far work was etc and I am glad I didn’t know. You learn as you go and adjust along the way. I am living amongst the locals which is truly an incredible experience on its own. You do not see any travelers, tourists or even other volunteers from other organizations anywhere in sight. There aren’t any souvenire shops, hotels, travel agencies or anything remotely touristy in this area. In addition, none of the locals around here speak ANY English which really surprised me. Not even any of the basics!!! A few will say hello when a group of us walk by and thats it! I It’s the REAL Hanoi. Normally, with my olive skin and dark eyes, I tend to blend in when I travel however, here in Vietnam my curly hair sticks out like a sore thumb and yes, random strangers enjoy touching it, pointing, laughing and I just smile and roll with it.
Our house is organized by a local NGO called CSDS; Center for Sustainable Development Studies. They are an amazing team of talented individuals who help us transition to Vietnam and our projects as well as set up our orientation, language lessons. They are our support system while we are here if we have any questions or concerns.The house is located in a suburb of Hanoi and is 6 stories! It has a hostel feeling in the sense of shared bunk beds and bathrooms as well as a community room and kitchen. Each floor has 2 bedrooms with up to 4 people in each room and one bathroom to share. We have a lovely “house mamma” who cooks lunch and dinner for us daily and goes to the local market every morning to get all our fresh food. She also does light cleaning twice a week. There are two washing machines and we dry our clothes outside on a line or in our room. I was surprised to see that we had hot water, air-con and a big locker for our belongings! It’s the simple things that have surprised me. In addition, we were given a great orientation, had a tour of the area as well as some basic Vietnamese lessons.
The house had roughly 15 volunteers when I arrived with people coming and going weekly. Durations: 3 weeks to 6 months. Ages: 17-30. Volunteers from: Redondo Beach, Norway, England, Denmark, Slovakia, Scotland, Netherlands and Luxembourg. Situations include: gap year, internships or some that just quit their jobs to volunteer and travel for up to a year! Projects vary from assisting with environmental NGO’s, working in hospitals, teaching english and working with disabled and mentally challenged children. My project at “The Friendship Village” is the most challenging and only 1 other girl from the house works there. **newbie’s below**