From Morgan ’16
Today we began our return to Hanoi from Ha Long Bay. Although most of the morning was spent either eating breakfast, buying food, or sitting on the bus, it was a bonding experience. When so much time is spent together, a group is better able to understand each other as it shares stories. Through games capable of being played in confined spaces or inane conversations, I can say that I learned a lot of random information about my fellow service trip colleagues. After probably enough time spent together on a bus though, we moved on to the rest of the adventure of the day.
We touched base at the hotel and our group then headed out to lunch. Much to our very pleasant surprise, the owner of the restaurant was also the guide from our Ho Chi Minh excursion. It was a very delicious meal with the similar courses of fish, meat, and vegetables as well as the standard meal addition of chicken and rice. Besides our cultural expansion, our diets have changed drastically from our normal American meals!
Following food, we students were dropped off at the local market to fend for ourselves and survive the traffic (we walked back to the hotel). Many of us had the wonderful experience of attempting to bargain down (“haggle”) the prices for the mostly over-priced set prices for the items that may actually be brought back home as souvenirs. As each group decided that they were done blowing money, we began to walk back. At the hotel, my group of friends decided this was the perfect time to play card games and continue the ridiculousness of earlier today. Other groups soon came in, too, and joined us until we reached the end of our afternoon.
Then, we got the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing a water puppet show. It was amazing. Even though it was in Vietnamese, each skit was brilliantly expressed through the movement of wooden puppets on a somewhat deep pool of water (about one meter). Each puppet, attached to a pole hidden under the water, had many moving parts. They were intricately crafted and coupled with the complex movement of the puppeteers, a full spectrum of emotions and drama was played out “on” the water. Everything from the dances of traditional creatures like turtles, dragons or phoenixes to daily scenes of Vietnamese agriculture, were presented in simple, lively scenes accompanied by dialog and live music (with about eight musicians playing traditional Vietnamese instruments). There was even the story of the tortoise the national hero and resistance fighter, Lê Lói. The entire show provided insight into the culture that for the past week we have been emerged in.
After the show, we continued on to another glorious meal filled with a variety of nutritious dishes ranging from vegetables to meats to tiny tiramisu cakes. I can personally say that the entire meal was a success; it brought me happiness.
Post food again (we eat a lot :-)))), we returned to the hotel. There, many of us began packing for our four-day excursion to Mai Chau. Yes, Mom, I did laundry to prepare, and I can say with confidence that it wasn’t too hard. You were right. After the housekeeping period of the day, we all spent time with each other until we dragged ourselves off to bed, exhausted.
At the end of the day, I can say that this trip so far has been an amazing experience. I know my peers are with me in believing that we are blessed to have this opportunity, and, in interacting with others halfway around the world, I think that I have learned a lot about myself. This trip has been fun, emotional, tiring, and one of the best times of my life.
Also, “HI,” Mom and Dad….