After a big evening celebrating my birthday, we wake up to an early alarm that seemed like a really good idea before we started drinking. Once again contacted via Couchsurfing, a local group of volunteers invited me and Aristo to join them this morning to visit a school for disabled children. Aristo, in worse condition than I, tries to stay in bed, but I am actually really excited about this, so we manage to get packed up and meet the volunteers to catch the bus together. Most of the volunteers speak English, and most all are 20-somethings as well, so it is a fun group of people.

We arrive at the school after several bus transfers and are shown into a meeting room by the headmaster, who goes over rules with the lead volunteer. We get several hours to play with the children in the playground, and we’ve brought a number of activities to set up. Then, we will hand out snacks to everyone, and finally, we will leave the school with some toys.

We have an amazing afternoon playing with the kids, teaching them our games and singing songs in a group. None of the children seem remotely fazed by the language barrier, and are eager to communicate with us any way they can. By the end of the day, we are both sad to be leaving, wishing we had more days in Hanoi to come back!

The volunteers take us for a delicious street meal of bun cha and then to a local-secret café, Giảng Cafe, hidden away above a market stall. It is alarmingly full of young patrons, sipping coffee and eyeing us from under hipster glasses– If you didn’t know better, you could almost mistake this for a hip new Seattle café. We are told what to order, and we end up with mugs full of coffee and egg white. It is bafflingly delicious, and we have several more before we finally make our way back to the street below. We hug our new friends goodbye and then scurry off to the bus station, Laos bound.

Read more about our travels through Vietnam:

FROM HO CHI MINH, WITH LOVE

HOT FUN IN THE CU CHI TUNNELS

BACK ON THE BEACH IN NHA TRANG & MUI NE

HANOI’S NORTHERN CHARM

A HAPPY BIRTHDAY IN VIETNAM