Monday, December 9, 2013

EOS (endofsemester), Green Day and Mekong Delta here we went!

The Green House for 

Our Vietnam Experience was FULL this past week with the final classroom sessions of our two classes, a GREEN DAY event organized by students from Business Administration, coffee and dessert with two friends who are coaching us in Vietnamese, and Leanna seeing Hunger Games 2 movie with students (while Hollis grumped at home and didn't go to the movie). Yesterday, Dec. 7th, we took an out-of-town trip to the Mekong Delta area in Tien Giang Province, My Tho City and Ben Tre. The trip inlcuded a boat ride on the Mekong River to visit two islands, learning about a new part of the country, shooting pictures, having fun and eat too much great food.  
 We saw first hand some of the problems caused by global warming as we passed an area that was flooded by high tide, an event that happens more often now with more serious consequences. Yes friends, global warming is real and its effects are precipitating serius problems for folks living close to sea level.

Last Monday and Tuesday we taught our last two regular classes for the semester and one “make up” class on Thursday to fill the void that was left when our interpreter was not available a few weeks ago. All the classes were successful as we reviewed course materials in preparation for finals which begin Dec. 9 and go on for two weeks.  
  Overall we are happy with the semester even with the challenges that had to be overcome on the fly. TDT's support has been GREAT! Of course we don't know yet how our students will do on their finals but we're hoping for the best! This has been a challenge for the students as well -- dealing with some USA content as well as the challenges of translation. As they heard more English as the semester progressed it was fun to watch their comprehension and comfort levels with Englsh improve.

What's next...our inability to learn much Vietnamese has been a disappointment, but that's the reality. We're hoping a couple of patient friends can help us learn some basic words and phrases to help with travel around Vietnam in late December, January and February.  
The students raise money on GREEN Day
to support their activities.
 The University will continue to provide us with a room while we remain in Vietnam. It provides us a base of operations to scurry around and then come back home to our "home away from home." Meanwhile, various University projects will give us a chance to continue our contribution to TDT. We have helped with documents and web site translations. We're also enjoying conversational English sessions with faculty members.

TDT invited us (and we accepted) to join the international lecturer staff of the University, which means we will have the opportunity to return to Vietnam in the future to lecture at the University for a few days to months. This is really exciting for us since our position would provide us with sponsorship and the accommodations necessary to do more volunteer work.

Last Wednesday the students from the Business Administration Department produced a great event Green Day highlighting the need to create a GREEN world to ensure the survival of our species. We're including Green Day pictures. Leanna is a big hit here, everyone wants to get a picture with the American teacher. I get my share of that from the students, too, and maybe we'll include a picture of students who stopped me on the way to our office and asked me to have a picture with them. Many friends may remember that I used to shy away from having my picture taken but it was time for a change and change I have. I am even eating fish and chicken though I am still afraid of bones getting caught in my caw. Fresh fish here is very tasty -- check out the photo from the Mekong Delta of a delicious Elephant Fish we had at lunch along with coconut steamed rice (outrageously good), a hot pot fish soup, shrimp cooked in coconut milk, green vegetables that we dipped in a fish sauce: need I say more about this lunch.

At the My Tho boat dock waiting
to board and on to the islands.
    Our driver picked us up at 7:30am on 7/12/13 for our trip to the gateway to the Mekong Delta, the city of My Tho in Tien Giang Province, across the river from Ben Tre. At My Tho we boarded a small launch that took us to visit two Islands: Unicorn Island and Phoenix Island. The first island is a part of My Tho and the second is part of Ben Tre Province.

On Unicorn we relaxed at a tea house with “honey tea” made with bee pollen, honey, fresh lime juice and tea. The tea was served with dried banana, ginger candy, and other traditional snacks. We bought several scrumptious items to share with the staff back at the university.  
Modeling this years Boa, beautiful neck adornment
  Further along the island we and made port at a coconut candy workshop where we again tasted the product and bought stuff to share with our friends back on the campus. At one stop Leanna took a look at a traditional musical instrument and the musician loaned her a pick so she could hit some notes -- after we enjoyed some beautiful traditional-style music and singing.

Leanna getting music lessons while
Ms Vinh pays close attention.
Piloting the mighty MeKong
 Next we boarded a SMALL canoe for a paddled trip down a channel to meet the Mekong    rendezvous with the launch. The small boat was rowed by a man and woman who seemed pretty expert to me at following the quick moving channel without stress. Back on the larger boat we crossed more of the MeKong River or 9 Dragon River to Phoenix Island. As we headed out into the Mekong the boat man let me take the tiller for a   (very) short ways so now I have bragging rights, “I piloted a craft on the 9 Dragon River.” Whoa! 

Fancy Dining -- multi-course course on 
Vietnamese eating on the Mekong
On Phoenix Island we had our multi-course lunch featuring Elephant Fish   and other delights that I mentioned earlier. During lunch we learned that our driver was a military veteran and had seven bullet wounds while serving. That was a sobering bit of information and set us to thinking while we ate – it is hard to comprehend what it must have felt like to get hit by a burst of seven bullets. After we ate our big lunch we took a foot tour of the Island and marveled at the size of the Mekong.   We had only crossed two of the 9 dragons and each was larger than most rivers that we experienced such as the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Snake and Columbia Rivers in the Pacific Northwest. We have no idea of the total volume of water carried by the Mekong but it is a lot. The Phoenix Island is famous as the location of the Coconut Monk who was imprisoned many times by the South Vietnamese because of his work for peace.

Posing outside the Snake Zoo
Later, before heading back to HCMC we went to a reptile, snake, zoo and were amazed at the number of different snakes that were on display including some cobras that did their standing up and striking bit for us.    Not wanting to shoot flash in the eyes of the reptiles I skipped the picture taking at the zoo. It was a fine day on the River -- and our first introduction to the "western provinces" and the MeKong Delta..


  1. comments are welcome, we would appreciate them

  2. Congratulations on being welcomed as part of the lecturing staff! What an honor. It must be sad to be leaving your students and ending your coursework...but till the next time! Hope your Vietnamese comes quickly and you enjoy your travels!! Happy New Year!