From Cheri, Spanish teacher and Vietnam trip co-leader
Fighting off jet lag all day has been challenging. We started our day with a fantastic buffet breakfast (made-to-order omelettes, fresh fruits, veggies, steamed Shanghai tips, fried rice, various breads including croissant (thank you, the French nation, for leaving behind a few cultural remnants when you left Vietnam in 1954) and more yummy (French) coffee.) First we went to VAVA headquarters (Vietnam Association for the Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin) to learn about their mission. The students were very attentive and asked good questions. We saw frightening and disturbing photos of examples of birth defects, ailments, and diseases which began to manifest themselves nearly one decade after the widespread use of Agent Orange, the defoliant that Dow and Monsanto chemical reported would not affect humans. Indeed, there are now third-generation victims of Agent Orange.
Afterwards, off to meet Chuck Searcy, an American who almost single handedly initiated an organization to make Vietnam safe through the removal of explosive devices left during the Vietnam war. We heard some pretty frightening statistics. One that I remember is that the US dropped more bombs on central Vietnam during the Vietnam War than during the entire WWII and Korean War together, an equivalent of 8,000 bombs per Vietnamese today.
Lunch was yet another yummy meal topped off by pineapple flambée (thank you again, les Français!) and coffee. Then we were off to a private high school whose students had experienced some difficulties in other schools before their admission to this school. Our students were exemplary in asking and answering questions. When they sang a song that no one in our group recognized, they then asked us to sing a song. We produced a song led by Anneliese (“Party in the USA”/Miley Cyrus!) You go, Girl!!
Another yummy dinner, then time to visit the ATM and to pack for the four days of home stay. The students are nervous and anxious, but it’s the “good” kind, I can tell. They all are doing very well, trying all the foods so far, and accepting the tremendous heat that hits us as we walk out from AC to the tropics numerous times daily. No worries — they are hydrating (with only bottled water, naturally!)