Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dong in the House Sing Big

Over the last few weeks we’ve had some stress over violent attacks on our kids – sometimes near their schools, sometimes near the Blue Dragon residence, and usually with weapons. But last night was a complete change of pace; I took one of our street kids to the Hanoi Opera House.

The Opera House (“Nha Hat Lon” in Vietnamese – literally “House Sing Big”) is arguably the most beautiful building in Hanoi. I wanted to take one of our boys, named Dong, there to let him see a side to the city that he knows too little about. Dong has a long and very sad story; he has no parents and has lived on the streets for years. He’s only completed Grade 2 and at age 13 has lived such a wild life, stealing in the markets to survive, that it’s unlikely he’ll ever return to formal education. But since joining our Link program he has moved into a home and is attending informal classes at our drop in centre; he’s really calmed down and has given up the street life for good.

Still, he’s not exactly the kind of guy who hangs out at the Opera House very often.

Last night was a special occasion: the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Australia. To celebrate, the Embassy threw a party complete with an Australian soprano, Annalisa Kerrigan, singing with the accompaniment of the Vietnamese National Symphony Orchestra.

Annalisa visited Blue Dragon on Monday – her trip to Vietnam was organized by AFAP, who we partner with in some of our programs, so she came to meet some kids and see our centre. But until last night I hadn’t seen her on stage… and wow was she something. What a treat to be there.

For Dong, his first trip to the opera was certainly memorable. He loved the orchestra, he loved Annalisa, and he even got to go on stage with all the VIPs for a group photo. It was wonderful to see him mixing it with ambassadors and dignitaries, cheering at the end of “Let the Bright Seraphim”, and sticking his fingers in his ears when the applause reached fever pitch.

In many ways, Vietnam is the land of opportunities. The country is racing forward and developing rapidly. Who knows… maybe one day Dong will be visiting the Opera House in a suit and tie himself.

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