Painting and Story by Lehan Winifred Ramsay
I only went to that orphanage in Vietnam once, so I don’t know much about it. It had a lot of children in it, and a lot of those children were healthy and lively. Then there were the children who were disabled; there are still babies being born who are badly disabled because of Agent Orange, they said, and they were in a pretty terrible condition.
And then there was one little girl who had been abandoned in a field and rats had eaten off her toes. There were rooms full of cribs.
They said that part of the problem with the children was the lingering effect of Communism. When everyone was guaranteed basic life needs many people became disinclined to do anything. Falling onto the people below like a crowd-surfer, believing that they would be held aloft. And that these kids found, for a time at least, that it was easier and more fun to get money out of tourists than it was to work for a company that did so.
We went into the classroom. For some reason I have the impression that the style of teaching was vaguely French, I’m not sure why. I remember that there were severe desks and benches and a severe board and the style was clearly teacher-stands-at-the-front-with-a-stick. I think that there may have been no room to move. And I guess all the kids old enough and capable enough of having schooling were put in the same room.