merry christmas! last year this day was spent working a job in istanbul and having my turkish and greek friends humor me and take me for christmas dinner. roughly 25 minutes into the day and i am sitting here with coco pops, pink guava juice, and julian plenti. and ants. in my bed.
i have been excited for this day all week as i was scheduled to work in the soup kitchen. this charity provides free food to poor families of patients at hospitals, they prepare and distribute up to 2000 meals per day. having worked on the downtown east-side of vancouver i thought this would be my niche. until they told me i was actually cooking. "uh...are you sure? i am, however, very talented at dialing take-out". but they didn’t speak english. i was relieved to discover upon arrival that i was only peeling the vegetables. we sat on tiny stools on the sidewalk in a circle. i was seated next to the head grandma...and my peeling was clearly not up to her standards. i thought peeling was fool-proof!!! but she started to warm up to me after i just put my head between my legs and peeled my little heart out. maybe next time they’ll let me use a knife. think big!
we had a big break over lunch and decided to use the time to see pagodas in the area. one was ironically flanked by two banks and the other, the le van duyet temple, was built to venerate general le van duyet, a vietnamese military commander. this is one of the best examples of temples built to honor a national hero rather than a deity or religion.
meeting back at the soup kitchen, we were transported in a stinking hot van stuffed with the soup and rice in big garbage bins. arriving at the hospital, we set up shop, and i really really enjoyed serving the rice. it was hard work, and sweaty and i loved every minute of it...
man we’ve got it good. there is something heart wrenching about seeing men, women, and children with buckets in all shapes and sizes, holding up the number of people in their family with fingers so i am sure to give them enough food. i was thinking about what i could do to maintain their dignity in the best way possible...eye contact and smiles go a long way. i also learned how to say merry christmas in vietnamese :) it’s important for people to know that they matter, that they are human beings and not just another mouth to feed on the dinner charts.
i enjoyed a very special christmas eve with the program director hang and her yoga instructor husband ling, as well as the other volunteer mat from the uk. i am getting private yoga lessons all day sunday! we dined on a dinner boat down the saigon river...and what christmas eve would be complete without half-naked fire hula hoop dancers!?!