Thursday, May 21, 2009

In a glance - One week in Dong Ha

We arrived in Dong Ha last Thursday morning after taking a 12 hour overnight train from Hanoi. On our first day here we visited Kids First, the vocational school where we would be doing our service projects. As a group we decided that our projects would include painting two logos on a dorm where students sleep, painting one original mural and creating a quilt to hang on the walls of the sewing room. Along with all our creative work, we endured several hours of what we like to call "dirt work" in the intense sun! This project involved us transferring dirt from a nearby wooded area and spreading it in front of the dorm to avoid flooding. 
Working on the Kids First Logo

The mural we designed in progress!

Famous dirt work!

Very tired after first day of work (especially dirt work)

After a few days of hard labor, we decided to spend Sunday afternoon at the beach after a mornings work. The beach was beautiful as it can be seen in the picture. Although we stuck out a bit, we enjoyed ourselves and spent some time playing soccer on the beach with some of the local boys. 


On Monday we toured the majority of Central Vietnam including the DMZ (de-militarized zone from the war), seeing the bridge that once separated the north and south, examining through very small tunnels that an entire village once lived in to escape the war and several historical museums along the way. 
Dak Krong Bridge on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Hien Luong Bridge - North Side Gate (bridge separating North from South Vietnam)

Entering the underground tunnel system...

in the tunnel..a tight squeeze!!!

Tuesday and Wednesday we spent long hard working days at the school trying to complete our service projects. We also embarked on a basket weaving adventure with some men from an ethnic minority group of Vietnam. 
Basket Weaving

This morning we took a short break from our work to meet with two different NGO's that are based here in Dong Ha. The first, MAG (mine advisory group), deals with de-mining and removing unexploded ordinances (UXO) from previous wars. Here in Vietnam the largest threat to current civilians are UXO's and MAG has been responsible for the removal of hundreds in the past ten years within the Quang Tri province. Their action has saved many lives because civilians often rummage through forests and open land in search of scrap metal and stumbling upong UXO's instead. The second NGO that we visited is called Clear Path International (CPI). CPI's primary goal is to support (medically and financially) those who have been effected from the explosion of UXO's. They also have a scholarship program for effected students.

Andrew informing us about MAG

At the end of the day today, we are proud to say we have successfully completed all of our service projects at Kids First! In the upcoming days we will be traveling to see underwater caves as well as a return trip to the Pacific Ocean :) At the completion of our time in Dong Ha, we will be traveling on a 23 hour train ride to Ho Chi Minh city/Saigon! See you all then :)
putting on the finishing touches

Mural Complete!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A touch from Up North

Xin chào!
This is a quick update with photos when I get back to Hanoi. And the group blog will be followed later.
We have learned how to say Thank you in Hmong language: O'chau!

We were touched by some tiny hands of different ethnic groups in Lao Cai Province. This is how we make the connection with a hand shake.

Hand touch- I wanna hold your hand

Flower Hmong women at the Can Cau market in Bac Ha
sapa 047

Our group at Tien Sa Waterfall, Catcat village, home of Black Hmong people
sapa 246

Up high in the cloud
sapa 233

Hiking down between the terrace along the hill
sapa 299

Crossing the stream with rocks
sapa 341

Quite a fair amount of work, and much more that we have seen and experienced. And now, we bid farewell to Sapa, to the little Hmong kid. Everyone is so ready for Dong Ha, Quang Tri, where we will spend most of the time doing our volunteer work.
sapa 307


Thursday, May 7, 2009

First 5 Days - Ha Noi

We arrived late on Sunday evening, May 3rd, to ATS Hotel which is on Pham Ngu Lao street in Ha Noi. On our first full day in Vietnam, we had a language lesson and met up with some Vietnamese students from several local universities for a scavenger hunt around the city. The scavenger hunt took us to many historical sites including the St. Joseph Cathedral, Long Bien Bridge, City Gate, etc. in the Old Quarter of the city.

On our second day, we had another language lesson. Then we went to the office of the U.S. Embassy to meet Jim Warren, a foreign service officer who is the head of public affairs in Vietnam. We discussed several of the U.S. foreign policies in Vietnam. Afterwards, we got dropped off in the Old Quarter to shop and explore the city. At night, some of us went to the Ha Noi Opera House to see the Vietnam Circus. The circus was phenomenal and equivalent to Cirque du Soleil in America.

On our third day, we had a city tour. We started with going to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum then we stopped by the One Pillar Temple to learn about Buddhism. Then we went to Musem of Ethnology. In the afternoon, we went to the Ha Noi "Hilton" which was the prison during the French colonial period as well as the Vietnam War. It was where Senator John McCain was imprisoned during the war and his jump suit was displayed. The actual name of the prison is Hoa Lo meaning "fire stove". Then, we visited Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam - Temple of Literature - which was the first national university in Vietnam. There we got to learn about Confucian ideology.

On the fourth day, we had a discussion in the morning about the places that we visited the previous day. Following was another language lesson. Then later on, we got to meet Mark Ashwill who is the country director of the Institute of International Education in Vietnam. He gave a presentation about different aspects of Vietnamese culture and his stories of being a Westerner here. In the evening, we met with some Vietnamese students again to go celebrate Adam's birthday.

Today is Friday, the fifth day that we stay in Vietnam. It is raining very heavily so we have not gone anywhere. But tonight we're leaving for Sa Pa, which is located in the northwestern mountain range of Vietnam. We are going to take a night train for about 9 hours from Ha Noi and stay there for a few days.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

a few photos

i did manage to get a few photos at our last group meeting. a group photo or even pictures of each person in the group along with a short bio might be fun. see everyone soon-- david.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Some Beautiful Clips of VietNam

Bonjour Vietnam:

English Version:

The singer seems to be quite well known in Vietnam. Her name is Pham Quynh Anh.

Story about her in Viet Nam News web:

(p.s. there are prettier pics of her but I'm not 100% sure if it is indeed her. Celebs can look really different with make up...)


And here is Vietnam in 30 seconds, shown on CNN "Vietnam, the hidden charm"

And Welcome to Vietnam (at APEC 2006, hosted by Vietnam)

And Smile, Vietnam ! My favorite song ^^

Cười lên Việt Nam ơi
TA ^^