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Vietnam Photo Journal Digest

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W W W . G L O B A L V O L U N T E E R S . O R G

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Global Volunteers’ service programs adhere to our over-arching Philosophy ofService in every community. Specifically, local people are always in charge ofwork projects, and volunteers contribute to community-driven initiativesalongside local people. At all times, we observe our policy stating “Safety TrumpsEverything.” Orientation sessions are conducted on the first day in-country, andmorning and evening meetings give volunteers time to organize and reviewactivities. The team journal, shared at morning meetings, is a mainstay of every GlobalVolunteers program. A daily collaborative report by one or two team members,it reflects on the day’s work and experiences. In many partner communities,volunteers contribute to several projects in different locations during the day.Through the team journal, volunteers hear about the projects and experiencesof their teammates. While such journaling requires effort, most volunteers report they love thevariety of recollections and stories. The journal becomes an enjoyable way tocommunicate shared and individual memories, and becomes a unique keepsakefor each volunteer team. Volunteers tell us that many years later, the teamjournal allows them to reminisce and cherish their time spent with local peopleand teammates. This journal digest, complete with photos, is a collection of journal excerpts fromvolunteers serving in Vietnam.2

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W h a t e v e r t h e m i n d o f m a n c a nc o n c e i v e a n d b e l i e v e , i t c a na c h i e v e . ~ Napoleon Hill

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To experience VietnamTo make new friendsTo be usefulTo have funThe day the program “begins” had finally arrived. With late arrivals on Saturdaynight, we started the program officially on Sunday morning. We all gathered fora very nice breakfast, and then at 8 o’clock we proceeded to get to know eachother better by telling who we are and why we are here. Karen started us offand I must confess I was impressed by her and our whole team. Everyoneseems to be a doer and wanting to improve the world. Our agenda included discussing the vision and mission of Global Volunteers,goals of each team member, and characteristics of an effective team. Our teamgoals came easily to this group and we came up with these four Team Goals: On schedule, our hosts from the Vietnam Institute for Development Strategiesand Blind-Link arrived and provided an inspirational introduction to theiragencies and missions. The volunteers were impressed by the English skilldemonstrated by these young professionals.Lunch was a delicious, traditional chicken Pho, prepared by the Legacy Hotel. Inthe afternoon we continued our orientation going over Global Volunteer’sPhilosophy of Service, policies, and guidelines. Karen then discussed who we willbe working with, what to expect, and safety guidelines. We also got organizedwith our different work projects for the next one or two weeks. After this, we allpicked the job that we could help do i.e., lesson planning, entertainment for finalcelebration, translating the journal writing into the computer, researching andplanning of free-time activities, and following through on any medical and/orsafety problems.TIM4S U N D A Y

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We completed our day with a beef and noodle stir fry dinner at the OrchidRestaurant. Our common perception is that our team is well prepared, as areour hosts. We anticipate Monday to unfold flawlessly, as we begin to assess thechallenges we will face with our various students.SUNDAY5I cannot help but reflect that this coming program will expose our team to theextremes of opportunity and advantage in this communist society. As we workwith the visually-impaired students, we will be helping what someone describedas the least well-served minority in the country. Most of the visually impairedstudents do not receive an education in Vietnam, and they often struggle at thelowest level of the economic ladder. By contrast, we will also be working with the young staff of what is perhaps themost prestigious government entity in Vietnam. This agency does the economicand social analysis for the nation, and prepares the comprehensive plan thatguides the budget and management policies of all government ministries. Wewill likely be facing the best of the best in the nation. A lot will be written in the coming days as we observe the remarkablecommitment of the founders and leadership at Blind-Link, Nguyen Binh Khiem(NBK) School, and VIDS, as they strive to fulfill their important missions. I ameager for this adventure in service to begin.

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We were transported to VIDS in an air-conditioned van, a luxury not lost on me asI “glow” my way through the humidity of Hanoi. As our driver expertly navigatedthe bustling streets of the Old Quarter, the charm and pulsating activity were onfull display – history and tradition meet modernity. Upon arrival, Kieu Ahn escorted us into a conference room where our studentsawaited seated around a conference table. Their energy was intoxicating, theirsmiles bright. Phan Ngoc Mai Phuong, Vice President of the Ministry of Planningand Investment, facilitated introductions and provided a brief overview of theinstitute. Once oriented, Don, Maxine, and I were accompanied to our assignedrooms to meet our first group of students: Chang, Giang, and Lan. 6PAULM O N D A YThe first day of school is always filled with anticipation, both for the teacher andthe student. Our first day was no different. I remembered what I read once –that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Volunteeringto me is much the same, I couldn’t imagine any place I wanted to be in the worldtoday than where I was in Hanoi, looking forward to meeting my students.But before we get to class, the morning brought several lovely surprises. First,there was the rain and milder weather, and second, was being greeted by KieuAhn, my student and VIDS representative who met with our team on Sunday.

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Chang is my one male student and he is most interested in improving hispresentation, conversation, and writing skills – in that order. He is multilingual –Vietnamese, Chinese, and English – and with his work focusing on economiccooperation, often finds himself in international settings where English is thecommon language of communication. Giang works in the trade relationshipswith Japan, Korea, and the U.S. Lan’s field is Human Resources. All three areintermediate English learners who are seeking career advancement. Our firsttwo hours together was a balancing act of practical challenge and fun. With thegoal of ten new words a day, I feel confident that after the conclusion of twoweeks, each of them will be closer to their goals and have practice materials forthe weeks and months ahead. My afternoon class was a one on one with thedelightful Luyen, who is from the Halong Bay Area. Her research focuses onHuman Development and Social Affairs. While not as advanced as the morninggroup of students, her dedication to learning, good humor, and full-body laughmade the two hours go quickly.MONDAY7Meals are an important aspect of the social fabric in Vietnam, and after awonderful lunch with our students, we ended the day expressing ourappreciation for those we encountered along our way and for each other over adelicious traditional Hanoi hot pot style meal - Cha Ca.

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8HELENT U E S D A YThis morning to my surprise, Quang of Dao Care arrived at Hotel Legacy toensure that Susan and I would be transported efficiently to his spa. It was agood thing he was there because he had a long discussion with the taxi driver.Apparently, the driver refused to take us down the narrow street to the spa.Instead, he dropped us at the entrance to the questionable road. Thinking wewould have to walk in the rain, we were pleased that two young women fromthe spa met us there with umbrellas. They took us to Dao Care.Susan worked with the two receptionists on their telephone scripts. I put onslippers and went upstairs to greet the three visually-impaired massagetherapists. We were happy to be together again and set to work pronouncingthe sentences in their script and practicing with live clients on the massagetable. We had fun singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”. What wonderful students they are! Such motivation, dedication, patience, andcooperation. They would repeat words after me many times, wait for theirturns, and be gentle and kind throughout the session. This is an excellentprogram that emphasizes their strengths in spite of the enormous barriers theyface. For lunch, a traditional meal was prepared for us. We ate in a bare room behinda local restaurant where no tourists were present, and sat on those low redplastic stools. We had Bun Dao served on a flat basket plate with portions of ricenoodles, tofu, various pork innards, and topped with sprigs of green herbs.Delicious morsels were dipped in soy, shrimp, or fish sauce.

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After lunch, a taxi took us to VIDS (Vietnam Institute for Development Strategies).There we worked on improving the English of the young professionals. My classconsists of four women. What I had planned as a quick review activity turnedinto a difficult exercise that lasted nearly 45 minutes. They had trouble repeatingsentences, identifying the words that ended with /s/, and telling why a final /s/was needed. But we also had fun sharing information and photographs of ourfamilies.I told them an Aesop’s fable, they answered questions about it, and then theyeach had a turn to retell the story. I was very proud of them, and they werepleased that they did so well!TUESDAY9

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S t r i v e n o t t o b e a s u c c e s s , b u tr a t h e r t o b e o f v a l u e .~ Albert Einstein

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It seems especially funny that pedestrians so often have to share the road witheveryone else, but it is because the sidewalk is the only place to park all thosescooters and if any sidewalk space is left, it is taken up by street vendors. Thesevendors seem to have their daily spots where they set up each day and arecooking over open flames or hot stoves right on the sidewalks as people try tosqueeze by. I couldn't determine if they need a license or have to pay for thespace because I can't speak their language. Often our dinner table at thevarious restaurants we tried was upstairs and, each time, the stairs were sonarrow and irregular that they would be considered totally unsafe in ourcountry.Elevators and lights all seemed to work very dependably but to see the birds'nests of tangled wires and spaghetti mess of overhead power lines is quitedisconcerting. I can't imagine how an electrician could make any sense of it. Butconstruction seems to be going on everywhere.11LINDAW E D N E S D A YThis is my first visit to Vietnam. What an amazing country! Everyone is warm,friendly, and very busy! The country is, of course, very old but its population andits vibrancy feel very young. My first observation was how different the balanceis between safety and progress here compared to the U.S.A.There is almost no sign of police or any traffic regulatory authority. Traffic ischaotic but it works amazingly well as everybody rushes on their way trustingothers will get out of their way as they swerve around the next bus, bike, orpedestrian. There are very few stop lights and most of those are not taken asmore than cautions. The dividing lines on the roads for separating trafficbetween say, east and west bound, are too worn to notice and, while peopledrive on the right side, that, too, is not a fixed rule, apparently. Car seats andbaby seats are not used. The only bow to safety seems to be bike helmets.

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It feels like a very young country rapidly catching up with the rest of the world.All this disregard for safety allows capitalism to flourish even if the effect seemsrisky to us. But as more people find success, will they begin to demand moreprotections, more regulations? Will that improve their lives? From the moment we open the doors of the taxi and traverse through thetapestry of streets with an ever-changing slate of events, today a funeral, with apersonal driver, the adventure begins. Today Warren accompanies us as weapproach the day and with a sense of excitement, he joins us with our first class.We ask Warren to introduce himself and the children gasp, clap, and squeal withdelight with looks of glee and disbelief as he addresses them in Vietnamese,setting the tone for another wonderful day!WEDNESDAY12There is a warm feeling of connection among the team, which is evident as weintroduce ourselves to yet another new class. Can it truly be that we met onlyfour days ago? Not only are we supportive of each other, but we could alsointroduce each other in a most intimate way now, including glances that tell astory or share thoughts usually reserved for long-term friendships – instantintimacy with a single nod, gesture, or laughter that conveys a thousand words. Once again, the importance of the teacher in creating the environment forlearning is demonstrated. Ms. Linh with clear instructions to her students as wellas our team and precise expectations, lets us know our time with her studentswill be used wisely. As a team, we lead a call-and-response exercise and a lessonon Easter – keenly aware that our lesson has been refined over a period of threedays!

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Lunch is shared in the canteen with other teachers and another "foreigner", plusa student. The highlight of the day was the ninth-grade class where on Mondayan elaborate plan evolved which included students obtaining a keyboard, guitar,and amplifier, and we would bring Korean Pop music and Baby, Baby by JustinBieber -- thanks to Robert and Mary Lou, we were prepared. We also developedmultiple plans just in case something or someone did not materialize. KISS (Keepit simple, Stupid) was not our mantra!WEDNESDAY13A miracle occurred (maybe it was all that Easter talk). Everyone "stood up anddelivered", including the two female vocalists who had prepped with “Baby,Baby”. All were eager, including the newly-formed Globalettes Group (Marilyn,Robert, and myself)! Ms. Dung, who had previously appeared to be somewhataloof with chaotic classroom management, participated fully with warmth notseen before, taking pictures, and singing “Yesterday” with gusto! Everyone stayedlong after the drumbeat (the passing bell at our school). Another day at NBK, starting with a funeral and ending with our taxi drivershowing us pictures of his handsome family. All the while I am grateful for mypartners, Marilyn and Robert, in this noble endeavor who personify thefollowing: "You teach who you are before you teach what you know!"

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The way Jay experienced goodness was through the warmth and generosity,both of goods and spirit, of the students, as well as the faculty, at Foreign TradeUniversity. The way Karen experienced goodness was through the helpfulness of theteachers at NBK primary, as well as by finding a teacher shorter than she!The way Jane experienced goodness was through the friendliness of the teachersin the NBK classes because the day was fabulous and better than the chaos ofthe previous morning. Jane also found a first-grade teacher who is mill micronstaller than she!The way Karen, our Team Leader, experienced goodness was by watching Dianain her element, teaching the middle schoolers about location and navigation,through clever techniques to engage them. And also, by watching Ken bond withall the children in his class. Karen also experienced goodness when she walkedinto the Blind-Link class and saw Carole's students gathered around her, lovingly.What is good taste? For most people, taste is simply a matter of flavor. I believethe taste of goodness is about making conscious and thoughtful decisions aboutthe places we travel to, on the planet we share as global volunteers, as well asthrough the relationships we have at our daily projects.For me, this time with you, in Vietnam, represents goodness. And on this day, the way I experienced goodness was through finding my stridein being a "teacher" by not only teaching about the world map, and locationsand places, but by actually taking-off into the sky, in order to teach the conceptand aviation words of "airway and airways." (The streets of the sky for those ofyou who have yet to take my class!)14DIANAT H U R S D A Y

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The way my hotel neighbor, Ken, experienced goodness was by having allattentive and engaging classes. Additionally, the best was through playing the"Stop the Bus" game because he stumped the children, (though he was stumped,too) on the letters X, Q, and Z. And not to be forgotten, Ken was told not once,but TWICE (and sincerely) how handsome he is and, for once, he said, he did notknow what to say!The way Judy experienced goodness was through experiencing the kindness ofthe students during her lunch today when the students took Anne and her to theTemple of Literature where they explored the lovely grounds and buildingsthere.The way my hometown neighbor, Wendy, experienced goodness was by beingable to relate to the two teachers because they were very sweet and competent.They really made her communication with the students easy and enjoyable.Additionally, Jay and she got to have a LONG taxi ride back, which took them tothe wrong place! From that point, they had to get another ride to the hotel in apedicab! The goodness was in getting to see a lot more of the old quarter inHanoi!The way Anne experienced goodness was through her students today, who wereso thoughtful and kind in helping her cross the streets and by bringing her coffeeand by participating enthusiastically in the lessons. Their goodness radiated intheir sparkling and smiling eyes.The way Carole experienced goodness was by seeing her students’ eyes light upwhen they (for the first time) understood the word "professional" as well asunderstanding that massage therapists are healers.THURSDAY15

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The way Gail experienced goodness was through the relationship with herstudents because one of them is so eager to teach her about Vietnam, whichincludes all different aspects of their culture and industry. It really helps them inspeaking, and understanding, English.The way the group experienced goodness (and humor) was through hearing thatthe type of Vietnamese beer, as recommended by our waiter, was good for the"Old People", like us! And it was fun to hear how the waiter dug himself deeper,before digging himself out, through lots of group laughter! I thought, "good thingtipping is not expected here!"It’s all goodness!THURSDAY16

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I realize that many of these students have a better grasp of English thandisplayed. However, conversational English is not readily available. In oneexercise, I gave each student a word and ask them to come to the front of theroom and create a story around the word given them. In this case a boy had theword “corn”. Here is his story. “This is a story about a legendary corn. This cornwas found in the toilet and it was radioactive. It had exploded and killed a familyof five. Anyone who touches it will die”. What can I say? This boy at least hasimagination. 17NANCYF R I D A YI am nearing the completion of my first week of teaching at the NBK school inHanoi, Vietnam. I experienced both challenging and rewarding moments. Thechallenge is teaching in large classes with a low level of discipline versusteaching in the older classes where the level of English proficiency is higher,coupled with a higher level of engagement. Even with the disruptions, thestudents continue to express excitement in having a guest in their classrooms. Isuspect at their age I was equally restless in school. One of the benefits of teaching internationally is surprises. Allow me to give youa couple of examples. It is customary for students to rush up to me before andafter class to share greetings and ask questions. One such boy approached me.The conversation went something like this: he reached out his hand to shakemine for which I responded. He then asked for my second hand. Upon graspingmy two hands he said the following, “We should always respect our elders”.Where did that come from? Is it a family value that he is honoring? The bottomline… it is an encounter I will never forget.

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As I reflect on my teaching role here, I think of my own academic history. I was a“B” student throughout high school and was given no encouragement either byteachers or my parents that I should even consider going to college. I came tobelieve that I should pursue other routes. After going to college in Boston forone year followed by working at a bank, significant others came into my life andurged me to go on to college. I followed their advice and years later ended upwith three degrees. I know for a fact some of the students that I encounter hereface the same lack of support to pursue their dreams. To the extent that I can, Iremind them of my story and that they should never give up on their dreams. If Ican do it, they can. FRIDAY18

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T w o r o a d s d i v e r g e d i n a w o o d , a n dI — I t o o k t h e o n e l e s s t r a v e l e d b y ,A n d t h a t h a s m a d e a l l t h ed i f f e r e n c e . ~ Robert Frost

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The next stop was the Temple of Literature, a university devoted only to writingpoetry. The fifth stop was lunch! We ate at the Orchid Restaurant with a setmenu. The courtyards and the pagodas were lovely and the people watching wasenlightening. We are all amazed at how many people give us looks and glances,and even taking pics of us or with us. This is a new and unusual experience.Many wore beautiful traditional dress. Many stood and prayed at the manyBuddhist statues. Many also offered their money, as the incense filled the air,especially inside the crowded pagodas.Wendy, Carole, Jay, and I took the city tour on Saturday. Our guide, Chuong,spoke English very fluently. Thank goodness! Our first stop was the Tran QuocBuddhist Pagoda where monks live. When they die, the “good and famous”monks are cremated, and their ashes are placed in a stupa. The poor monksare cremated and buried in the ground. The next stop was the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The lines to get in were verylong and it would have taken us an hour or more to enter, so we voted to skipit. A Vietnamese family of four chose to stay as the compound is only open inthe morning. The third stop was the Lacquerware Factory – a traditional village whereeveryone is involved in the creation of the most beautiful lacquer objects. It is avery long and involved process and when we went into the gift shop, we foundthem all very reasonably priced. When I asked Chuong why they were soinexpensive, he said that otherwise no one would buy them. 20ANGELS A T U R D A Y

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21The weekend was a refreshing break. It gave us a great opportunity toexperience many cultural aspects of Vietnam. For me, as well as for mycolleagues, we were impressed with the vibrant and energetic flow of energy ofthe city, the people of Hanoi, and the contrasting tranquil serene counterpointwith the beautiful and peaceful landscape of the countryside with the beautifuland peaceful landscape. To sum up my feelings and thoughts about the “ups and downs” of this trip andof the past week, I think of the “ups” as an acorn from this quote from RalphWaldo Emerson: “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” So, ourmany “one acorns” lead to so much. To serve others is to grow.

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The eagerness and inquisitiveness of my students. The sense ofaccomplishment on my students' faces. The easy smiles and laughter sharedwith my students. Adding a dash of entertainment to the Yoga class with ourstudents and their co-workers. The exchanges of life experiences, travels, andthoughts with our team. The kindness of the Vietnamese people. The energy ofthe Old Quarter. Walks around Hoan Kiem Lake. The fragment and deliciousfood, and especially the fruits and fried dumplings at breakfast. The plasticstools. Navigating the sidewalks filled with motorbikes, and people eating,sitting, and observing, or waiting for a customer. The art of crossing a pulsatingstreet. Exploring the streets of Hanoi at sunrise and sunset. Women and menwearing the iconic conical non lai hats. Vendors dotting the streets sellingfruits, vegetables, flowers, and everything else one could imagine. Women andmen with bamboo shoulder poles – a symbol of Vietnamese cultural identityevoking the daily lives of traditional farmers—their joy and their sorrow—andespecially the silent suffering, courage, tolerance, and sacrifice of the wives,mothers, and grandmothers of successive generations in the nation’s history.Bicycles and motorbikes piled high with goods, and even the legs of amannequin jutting up to the sky. The lovely and accommodating Legacy Hotelstaff. The beauty of Vietnam from the city to the countryside. And most of all –being in and being with Vietnam. 22AARONS U N D A Y

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As I begin another tour of international volunteering, it seems we are at anespecially tumultuous moment in the U.S.A. and around the world. Unless anduntil scientists figure out a way for humans to inhabit the moon or Mars, theretruly is no “new frontier”. The world we have is all we have. And, as I look outaround the world rife with political, humanitarian, and environmental crises, Iwonder how much longer humankind has to fix what we need to fix.I know that teaching English in Viet Nam will not solve all the world’s problems.It is just a tiny step. But, I am grateful that it is a step I am able to take. I feellucky to be here, doing a little bit of work in Viet Nam, a country and a culturethat I have admired. Ha Noi is a large and challenging city, especially related totraffic. I am a little nervous about teaching at NBK but excited to, and curiousabout what it will be like.23NANCYM O N D A YToday I was off to my first class at Nguyen Binh Khiem School (NBK). Mymorning classes were canceled due to my teacher assistant being ill. Instead,Karen, our Team Leader, and I were given a tour of the school by SarahBregman and Miss Huong of the school’s Bilingual Department. Sarah is agraduate of Harvard University and is developing an International LeadershipProgram at NBK. I also met with Ms. Mai Huong, who will be my primary contactat the school. We reviewed my teaching schedule for this week.NBK is a private school which has been in operation for more than 25 years. Ithas 3,000 students. Classes are 24 or more students. Teacher salaries areapproximately $5.00 per hour. I joined the students and teachers in thecafeteria for lunch. Before classes continue in the afternoon, it’s nap time foreveryone.

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My fears were allayed upon arriving on the school grounds. My first two classeswere high school juniors. All students wear uniforms. Even with all the shoutingand excitement, I knew I was in my element. It is impossible to describe thevarying stares from these beautiful Vietnamese children. An American is in theirclassrooms. At that moment, what is racing through their minds? What does thefuture hold for them? Could I have an impact during the next week? I decided tojust jump in and give it my best. Initially, I focused on teaching greetings in aneffort to engage the students and gain their trust. As I have expressed on otherservice programs, teaching conversational English is important but clearly notas important as building relationships between cultures. In the next week, I willbe exposing students to new words and perspectives. Hopefully, this experiencewill encourage some of the students to dream of new possibilities, bothacademically and otherwise. I will give it my best shot.TUESDAY24Gail, Judy, and Ann went to VIDS where they were warmly received withaccompanying tea. Each was also given very “large” classes of one to threestudents where they worked on pronunciation. It seemed like a pretty successful day.

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The highlight of the morning was Tom’s recovery of his camera at the spa, afterhe had thought it lost over the weekend. Another personal highlight was tryingthe Vietnamese “Robusta” coffee with sweetened (syrupy) condensed milk at alocal coffee shop.25LISAT U E S D A YThe day started with the usual welcoming greetings from the staff and studentvolunteers at Omamori Spa. Tom, Keith, and I, joined by our respective volunteerinterpreters/helpers, took our stations with our normally assigned “students”. Icould overhear Keith and Tom engaging their charges with ever more complexEnglish dialogues and concepts. My smiling, happy, enthusiastic, partially-sightedstudent had forgotten all that he learned the previous week, so we started overwith his greeting his customer (me) at the door – “Hello. Please follow me” (afterfour repetitions). “Please lie on bed, on your stomach, and put your face HERE (inthe hole at one end of the table).” “Where does it hurt?” “My right hip”, followedby a review of right and left. “We’ll fixed it” was his enthusiastic, smiling response.As usual, he started kneading my right thigh. He is really a very good masseur.“Where else does it hurt?” Again, the response is “My right hip”. He promptlystarted pounding my left thigh. As a result of some serious climbing at Ha LongBay over the weekend, this pounding almost caused me to leap straight up fromthe table. “Where else does it hurt?” We tried some additional phrases and thenhe resorted to massaging miscellaneous locations on my body for a short time asa diversion from concentrating so much on learning English. He has aremarkable touch and must be very well appreciated by the clients on whom heworks in the afternoons and evenings. He is such a pleasure to work with andnever seems to become frustrated. I think that our Global Volunteer Blind-Linkteam finds this to be true of all our “students”.

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Our afternoon sessions were at Blind-Link and ranged from one to five studentsper instructor plus interpreter/helper. We pretty much followed the curriculumprepared by the volunteer helpers, diverging where it seemed logical. The real excitement of the day commenced at the completion of Blind-Linkclasses when we three Global Volunteers and four of the student volunteerstaxied to the home village of one of our girl volunteers to visit her home andwatch a ceremony honoring departed ancestors. We first visited with Lea’sfamily in their home, which her father had built, and then walked over to thefestival grounds. The ceremony, punctuated by horns, drums, cymbals, andoccasional chants, was conducted with great pomp and circumstance by manyvillagers resplendent with traditional robes, gowns, and head gear. The variousphases of the ceremony consisted of brightly-robed villagers carrying candles,incense, flowers, fruits, and more up a hill to four elaborate portable altars onwhich were mounted different designs of small pagodas. After about an hourand a half of these processions, groups of brightly-dressed teenagers startedcarrying the altars (like pall bearers) along the road on the top of the hill towardthe main pagoda in the center of the village. The object seemed to be to runalong the road with the altars, sometimes spinning them around to providemaximum exposure of the ancestral spirits to all points of the compass, andthen to run back with them to the starting point, sometimes almost driving thespectators off the edges of the road. This activity lasted about another hour.Needless to say, we three Americans were real objects of attention among thecrowd of men, women, and children. They all clustered around us withwelcoming smiles as if they had never had such visitors before. TUESDAY26

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We then returned to “Lea’s” home where we partook of a very, very sumptuousmeal of all varieties of Vietnamese dishes. About 20 relatives, neighbors, andfriends gathered around the dishes of food on a big mat on the floor. Everyonewas smiling and very happy, frequently participating in boisterous banter withTom and Keith. After dinner, the ladies cleaned up and then sat on the floor atone end of the living room, while the men (including us) sat at the other end ona couch and several chairs, drinking tea. Some of the men cut up some smallround nuts (betel nuts?), “glued” them on a leaf, wrapped them, and chewedthem until their tongues turned red (a pastime enjoyed in some othercountries). Then, on to a local taxi to return the girls to Blind-Link to retrievetheir motor scooters and to return us to our Legacy palace.TUESDAY27

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T h e m o s t d i f f i c u l t t h i n g i s t h ed e c i s i o n t o a c t , t h e r e s t i s m e r e l yt e n a c i t y .~ Amelia Earhart

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Karen experienced compassion on Tuesday when she unknowingly andaccidently left her fanny pack on a bench at school. About twenty minuteslater, a staff member found her and returned it. It turns out, one of the NBKkids found it, peeked inside, realized to whom it belonged, and got help inreturning it. Everything was in it! Karen wants to add that compassion meanslove, not pity. Karen, our Team Leader, experienced compassion at the two job sites, shevisited: first, at Foreign Trade University by being able to watch the participantsin their ceremony. It was evident that the staff has great love for each other.Because she came to really understand that people at many, if not most,workplaces do not often have that level of support from their colleagues. At Blind-Link, she also saw the way community members take care of eachother, especially the staff with extreme disabilities. At Karen's home in Harlem,she knows that many people just do not have that type of support, whichunfortunately leads to alienation. 29BILLW E D N E S D A YI have spent some time thinking about my journal theme and have settledupon "compassion". Recently I came to believe, through my constantapplication of Star Wars philosophies to my life, that the word 'passion' hassome negative connotations, while 'compassion', according to myinterpretation, is the more positive term. And so, today I was very moved by seeing a man pushing his bicycle with alarge load of bricks, in the middle of Hanoi, during rush hour traffic, barefoot.The expression on his face was one of resolve, determination, and grit. I wasable to share my appreciation for that one man on the streets of Hanoi withMs. Yen at NBK and I sent compassionate thoughts to him all day.

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On Tuesday, she was reminded that the power of love and compassion, as wellas the energy it can bring, could bring more peace and happiness to the world.Gail experienced compassion on Tuesday because her student included her inhis farewell luncheon with his employees. (The departments are being split up.)And she could tell at the lunch how much they all cared about each other fromthe boss (her student) to his employees and from the employees to the boss. For Jay on Tuesday, there were no classes, but rather a celebration of and forthe teachers. He thinks that the compassion he experiences daily at ForeignTrade University is not just for the Global Volunteers, but he also saw it in thestudents towards their teachers at the celebration, where the students showedgreat displays of genuine affection. TUESDAY30Anne learned about the lack of compassion one of her students feels from herparents (as is also the case with a fellow classmate). It seems this studentexperiences a lot of negative pressure at home. Her parents expect only perfectgrades from her, while not complimenting or praising her for her hard work.Apparently, some children are even driven to suicide. So, the student expressedthat she wished that the school itself would be more compassionate to the kids,since they sometimes do not get that type of support from home. Carole experienced compassion on Tuesday, though also really every day, withthe other students taking care of the mentally-challenged students. It isbeautiful to see how the visually impaired and mentally challenged help eachother through love.

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Wendy experienced compassion on Tuesday through witnessing NationalTeacher Appreciation Day celebrations at Foreign Trade University. She wasimpressed with the students taking so much time to honor the teachers.Wendy also feels compassion for the teachers who work so hard at schoolevery day. They have families, they come on motor bikes through rush-hourtraffic, and yet, they are so thankful, helpful, and appreciative to Jay andWendy, even honoring them with awards at the ceremony.TUESDAY31Jane experienced compassion on Tuesday, although really, she experiences itevery day in the NBK lunchroom, when the children (any children) see hercoming in the door, immediately accompany her to and through the lunch linefor specifically Pho (which is at the opposite end of the lunchroom), and whenready, carry her entire food tray to an available place at a table (which is actuallythe hardest part!) and help settle her in for the meal. She doesn't even have toinitiate her "old lady act"!

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Carole and Dick worked with some of the therapists, helping them pronouncethe English words used during the massage sessions with clients, while Phylliswas helping some of the therapists with Hot Stone Massage techniques. Eachday several English-speaking university students volunteer to be teachingassistants, which helps with our communication. These volunteers arewonderful, pleasant, young people very willing to help in any way possible. Ourlunch is always generously provided by the spa. Today we each had a containerwith rice, meat, and vegetables. As usual, it was tasty.The afternoon session started around 1:30 p.m. and again we divided up andworked with different students. Phyllis worked with two of the therapists downon the first floor, helping them with correct pronunciation of what they need tosay to clients when they arrive and when the massage is completed. Apparently,they are cross training as receptionists. A young man also joined in to learnbetter pronunciation of English.32SUET H U R S D A YToday started with our usual ride to Omamori Spa. One of the receptionists atthe spa usually brings us tea when we arrive, which definitely makes us feelwelcome. Some of the mornings we start with a staff meeting led by Ms. Huong,and today was one of those mornings. Once again, the main topic wasinappropriate behavior and sexual harassment. Afterwards, we divided up forour usual small groups. Carole went to the office, Dick stayed in the receptionarea, and Phyllis went up to the room on the fifth floor.

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Carole mentioned that she has noticed definite improvement in the response ofthe therapists. In the beginning of our assignment, they seemed reluctant tospeak English. Now they seem to have more confidence. We all agreed thatthere has definitely been an improvement in the therapists’ and receptionists’abilities. It’s very rewarding for us to see any improvement in the short time wehave worked with these amazing young people who are so enthusiastic and putso much effort into learning a language that is very different from theirs.TUESDAY33We ended our day at the spa around 4:00 p.m. Carole and Dick rode back to thehotel. Phyllis had scheduled a 90-minute Zen in the Heart Massage and thenwalked back to the hotel just in time for our evening meeting.Dinner was at Rainbow Restaurant and afterwards we walked to the GrandCastella Cake store. We purchased two of the cakes and will take them to thespa to share with everyone as a thank you for the opportunity to work withthem these last two weeks. Sometimes when I think back over the time spenthere, it seems like I was the student and the young people were the teachers. Asthe quote on the teacup states— “Never stop learning because life never stopsteaching.” It’s hard to believe that our time here is almost over. A big “Thankyou” to Global Volunteers, Blind-Link, and Omamori Spa for making thisopportunity a reality!

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Mary Lou, Susan, Warren, and I went out for lunch with several teachers and theDeputy Manager of the Department of International Affairs. We went to arestaurant that appeared to have the size and capacity of an NFL footballstadium. The menu offered almost everything you could imagine (apparentlynothing canine, thankfully). The food was delicious and plentiful. The facultymembers who accompanied us were gracious and convivial, and the universitywas generous in providing this sumptuous feast to send us on our way. Foreign Trade University clearly does not have the resources that the averageAmerican university has. The classrooms are primitive, the technology is hit andmiss, (or just missing), learning materials are relatively unsophisticated, and theadministration seems chaotic. In spite of all that, the students are impressive.They are intelligent, motivated, eager learners. And they are such warm andsweet people, that any teacher would feel lucky and grateful to work with them.This is how we feel. We were here to help them get some more English languageinto their heads and onto their lips, but they have found their way into ourhearts. 34JIMF R I D A YWe savored our last taxi ride to the university. Although the motorbikeacrobatics have become routine, we still witnessed several maneuvers that canonly be described as insane. So, I was not disappointed – the ride was asentertaining as I’d hoped.When we signed on for this project, I remember the Global Volunteersinformation stating that we would need to be flexible. At Foreign TradeUniversity, that has indeed been our mantra. Adjusting to changes is the normalroutine.

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I had written to friends and family at home that it would be impossible for us tohave this experience and remain unchanged. We have been changed, andclearly for the better. I confess that I had my own agenda when I came here. Iwanted Mary Lou to see firsthand the beautiful country that was the setting fora significant chapter of my life as a young man. And I came carrying the burdenof a debt to the Vietnamese people that I felt a need to repay. I have workedthat debt off, and I am at peace. Today we, the Global Volunteers, said goodbye to our new friends in Hanoi,Vietnam. Never have two weeks gone by so rapidly. We have developed veryclose relationships with the visually-impaired, the partially-sighted, and sightedstudents, teachers, and assistants on this short journey. It was quite difficult tosay goodbye to our new friends that we had made knowing that we may nevermeet them again. Yesterday one Vietnamese lady teacher gave me a huge hugand in her best English said that we would meet again beyond this world. Yes,tears formed in my eyes. My heart aches to leave such beautiful people.FRIDAY35As I leave Vietnam, I will remember the fun but serious students, the staff, andmy fellow Global Volunteers. I especially enjoyed our ‘intellectual’ conversationsduring the noon hour at the coffee shop across from the school.My noble and generous fellow volunteers have shown me the best of humanity.It has been an honor to serve with them. They are pursuing a goal that somemay think futile, but they do the work and keep the faith. They will not see thefull fruit of their efforts in their own lifetimes, but still, they keep hope alive.Coming together in this exotic land to pool their talents in the name of peace isan inspiring act of love. Bless each of them on their life’s journey.

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