I had previously volunteered in India during this trip and it was amazing! Not only for the place itself, but also for the people I got to meet and my task: taking tourists to a non-touristic viewpoint of Taj Mahal. I had planned another volunteering as the first one was such a great experience. I will be volunteering in Ho Chi Minh in an English center.
I found this volunteering opportunity through workaway, a website where you can find hosters all over the world, you can be a hoster yourself and connect with other volunteers too. After a few messages exchanged, I agreed on volunteering for 2 weeks in Ho Chi Minh in an English center where all the teachers are Vietnamese.
My task is to talk with the kids for a while so they can practice English, as otherwise, they don’t speak with foreigners. If you have been to Asia, you know that the English accent is not really good among the locals. In fact, I remember many times in Thailand when the guides were explaining the tour in English and I could only understand 30% of it… So, this is not only a problem in Vietnam.
These kids were no exception. At first, it was hard for me to understand them, but gladly I had a paper with the questions written down, so I quickly understood the Vietnamese- English accent. They don’t read all the letters, cutting off the consonants of the word changing its meaning completely. Words like “rice” turn into “rie”; “like” turns into “lie”; “five” turns into “fie” and so on…
So, I felt like my volunteering was something that these kids really need to help them improve their accent. I was glad I could help even in such a short period. The kids were super cute and shy, and the teachers were so nice. It was a good place to have this experience.
I was working 3 or 4 hours maximum per day and also had some days off, so I could still have time to explore the city. That’s why volunteering is such a great thing. You are helping someone while you also have time to explore the area. Plus, you don’t spend any money as in the exchange of your work you get paid food and accommodation.
I confess that I was sleeping the latest I could, but also managed to visit more things in the city like the zoo. I was having lunch every day at the same place. A restaurant with a young waitress that was always very nice to me, although she couldn’t speak English. I was spending a lot of time there and eventually, we started talking through google translator and she reveals that she would like to learn English, so I decided to help. Since then I wasn’t waking up late anymore and was going to the restaurant to help this girl with some basic English. In exchange, she would offer me breakfast. She wanted to pay but I didn’t accept! I was just volunteering in Ho Chi Minh and not looking for something in return.
And this was my life for a while until one day, while coming back to my place after finishing at school, I was approached by a random woman on the street. She starts talking to me, but I truly don’t understand what she wants from me, so I open google translator on my phone and write: “How can I help you?”. Her answer is: ” I want you to teach my son English”. I was surprised and mesmerized at the same time. I’m just walking on the street and someone that knows me from nowhere asks me to teach her son. We agreed on meeting the following day.
Nowadays I think it was meant to happen, cause I’m here in Vietnam, and the greatest reason why is this family, and this random woman that now I call a friend. Since that day I went to her home after school to teach her son. I did it for a week but the bond we created was real. It felt like much more than that. Feels like I know them for a long time. They were super nice to me and even took me to eat pizza together on my last day in Vietnam. I felt like they were my family now!
On that day I had no idea that a few months later I would be back to spend all my evenings at their home that welcomed me in such a warming way during my volunteering in Ho Chi Minh.
That day when I met a random woman on the street, made me change my whole life, and I truly believe that it was written on the Universe.
A few months after going back to Portugal, I decided that I would go back to Asia and follow a dream. That’s when my bike trip to Myanmar happens. After that, I moved to Vietnam to live close to this family and to volunteer in the same place. That was in December 2018, and since then, I’m here.
So, basically, volunteering in Ho Chi Minh was the reason why I changed my life.