Wednesday, April 24, 2013

H2H 2013 Day 18: Why we ride

One of the charity organizations H2H is supporting this year is the Thien An orphanage, located just outside of Pleiku in Gia Lai province. It will be receiving $2,500 of the money we raise. The facility mainly houses children from the area's minority groups, and is run by a very dedicated group of Catholic nuns. They had invited us to spend the night there. However, we wouldn't be able to enter until after dark to avoid police suspicion (due to a variety of political issues that I won't delve into here, if you want to learn more about this send me an email).

Since the ride from Kon Tum to Pleiku was a trifling 49km, I decided to give the team the morning off and head out at 1 - that way we wouldn't have to kill a ton of time in Pleiku before we were allowed to head to the orphanage (and we would also be able to sleep over the hangovers that followed the previous night at the pool hall.)

This also allowed us to visit the amazing bun thit nuong restaurant for lunch before setting off. It had been a scorching morning, but by the time we left there were ominous clouds in the distance. We had also heard from a couple of Westerners staying at our hotel that there was major road construction underway south of Pleiku, which is exactly where we were headed. Oh joy.

Sure enough, it didn't take long to hit the construction. Everything was being repaved, and in some areas there was gravel, while in others there was just dirt. Huge trucks sprayed dust and debris at us, and we had to dodge enormous construction machinery. Watch the video below for an idea of how fun this was:

Conveniently, many of the worst stretches of construction were located right at the bottom of hills, meaning I would bomb down only to have to slam on my useless brakes to avoid getting smushed by a steamroller. Around the halfway point the road conditions cleared, so Jonathan, Conor and I stopped for a drink to let some people catch up. We were filthy.


While stopped we learned that a severe storm had torn through most of the team. I had gotten rained on for about a minute, and had no idea that havoc was being wreaked behind me. At one point thirteen riders actually piled into our rear support van to take shelter from the fierce winds and pelting rain before carrying on.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and rather unattractive. We rolled into Pleiku, found a place to eat, and then had our vans drive us out to the orphanage. I had the good fortune to visit Thien An on last year's H2H, but only for breakfast. I was really looking forward to spending an entire night there. We took a tour of the classrooms and dorms, and a few of us hung out with a few of the boys for a while. They were a riot. Tickle wars and breakdancing ensued.





It was great seeing these kids enjoying themselves, especially when we learned about the conditions they would be living in otherwise. The Central Highlands region of Vietnam is extremely poor, and the minority groups here are among the poorest population segments. Without the help they are receiving from Thien An these kids would most likely spend their lives in grinding poverty, with little education, simply extending the cycle of deprivation. Now these children have a real chance to go somewhere someday. Seeing all of this really gave us some perspective and reminded us, at least for a night, of how good we have it. Kids like the ones at Thien An are why H2H rides.

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