Tag Archives: Vietnam 2015

Last Day in Vietnam

Written by Cheri Mellor, Spanish teacher and Vietnam trip co-leader

We wrapped up our trip with more service today, this time at the orphanage/school for the deaf in Bac Ninh, northwest of Hanoi. This is a special place for our family, seeing that I adopted my two sons from there, and I brought one of them, Jordan, with me on this trip. Continue reading

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June 21: Bac Trang Pottery Village in Vietnam

Written by Birthday Boy, Alec ’16

Today we started off our day with breakfast in the hotel, where I was the first student up! Aaron was not completely fond of this, and didn’t make his entrance for another 45 minutes. Later, everyone else slowly trickled in and ate their breakfast of fried rice, bacon, bread with jam, and delicious croissants. After finishing our morning routines, Aaron and I headed into the lobby where I was greeted by the group singing “Happy Birthday.” Next, we filed into the bus and began our ride to the Bac Trang Pottery Village. Our visit to the village began with us creating our own pottery. We were joined by my Hanoi host family who was very amused to see me struggle at the pottery wheel. Then we split up into groups and prowled the streets for bargains and impressive art. There was pottery of all sorts everywhere.  Continue reading


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June 20: Saying goodbye

Written by Aaron ’16

Today was our last morning in Mai Chau. We all got up, packed and ate a delicious breakfast of pho while soaking in the great view for the last time. After saying our goodbyes to the host family and taking pictures with them, we hit the road. With a short stop for lunch, the drive back totaled about four hours. There was free time until 5:30 when we all gathered to have a group dinner with our Hanoi host families at the Vietnam—USA Friendship Society where we were treated to music played by a Vietnamese duo and great food (catered). Meeting with the host families again was a nice way to say goodbye to them. Many of the families brought us presents of all kinds. It was a sad but enjoyable time.


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June 19: Final work day in Mai Chau

Written by Mimi ’17

Today was our third and final work day in Mai Chau. It’s going to be tough to say goodbye tomorrow to all the friends that we made here.

I woke up to see Sara avidly reading her novel. After some contemplation, I decided to leave the cool of our upstairs loft. After I got up and dressed, I headed down to breakfast. This morning we had crepes and sugar, not very patriotic to Vietnam in my opinion, but very delicious. We worked so hard in the morning that Quynh, our guide and interpreter, told us that we had no work in the afternoon.

When lunch was done, we went to the market to look for gifts for our families, and when we returned we saw a big box full of puppies and their mom! They were at least a day old and so cute.

Once our shopping was done, we took a nap and played cards for a few hours. For dinner, we were served a somewhat American meal, complete with French fries (which were amazing) and meat. We said goodbye to Chanel after dinner with a cake and a solo sparkler. It was emotional to say the least. We said our good nights after a short game of truth or dare. I’m going to miss the little kittens and chickens that wander around freely. Bye, bye, Mai Chau. See you soon!

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June 18: Mai Chau—Day 2

Written by Kyle ’17, our group’s “foodie”

We got up this morning for day 2 of service in Mai Chau. We had bananas and fritters for breakfast, along with honey and sugar to put on top. After breakfast, we went over to the community center to continue leveling mounds of dirt from yesterday. We did that from 8-11:30 while some of the people in our group used wheel barrels to carry cement to fill holes. They also took cement and dumped it under the center to finish the patio. While we were working, the TV crew arrived (did we mention that since our first day, Vietnamese TV has been filming and interviewing us for a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the normalization of Vietnamese and American relations?!) and interviewed a few students and Cheri about the work we were doing. Then, a few students had to go shower and change so that the crew could film them doing various things (like walking through the street) aside from working.

Lunch was minted cucumbers, pork spinach rolls, ramen noodles, chicken and onion kabob, and fresh pineapple for dessert. All of the lunch food was excellent, and many students decided to play cards, shop or sleep, or even throw water at each other. We all gathered to figure out which song we were going to sing tonight at the community party. We struggled to make a decision that everyone agreed with, but we decided on “Home.” Around 3:00, we went back to work at the community center, continuing to level the dirt piles. We also dug out a long rectangle area for a garden. At 5:30, it started to storm, so we returned to our house on stilts. It was cool watching the lightening strikes on the neighboring mountain tops. We ate dinner with rain and thunder in the background. We ate amazing (wow, really amazing!) orange squash, carrots and beef, stuffed coconut chicken, green vegetables, and soup. After dinner, we relaxed until 8:00 when we headed down to the community center where there were a million children and their mothers and grandmothers waiting to see us and perform for us. Some children danced with pompoms in an almost perfectly synchronized performance. Although there was no way that we could top their performance, we still went up to the stage to perform—we sang “Home” and then Adrianna sang her great solo (“Good-bye My Almost Lover”). After a few more amazing kids’ performances, we took a huge group picture and handed out a bunch of candy to the crowds of eager kids. We went to bed shortly after the show. Everyone was exhausted and went to sleep. (Cheri’s note: No one ever whines about the 10:00 lights out rule here!!)

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June 17: Mai Chau

From Matt

Today was the start to our three days of service in Mai Chau. We began our day with a fantastic Vietnamese breakfast of bread (French bread), jam, and eggs. At 8:30, we started working near the community center (where GS groups have done much service over the past four years). At first, we were clearing out bricks and shoveling dirt. We also picked up the soccer fields behind the center. Next we cleared out the space under the house, moving bags of cement to a shed and generally rearranging everything in preparation for laying a new floor/patio for the center. We also shoveled gravel into wheelbarrows to be spread out for the foundation of the patio.

We broke for lunch at 11:20. Lunch was great and fresh as usual. There was a very delicate fried fish (from the host family’s pond) as well as other tasty dishes. We always have two vegetable dishes, too. After a short break, we all went off in different directions to do some local shopping in the little shops in this village and in the neighboring village. After shopping, we went to the community center where the job was to level huge piles of dumped dirt (from the construction of a house). Much of it was destined to go into a pond, but some of it was just to extend the land around the pond. It was tiring work but we eventually made progress.

After the work, I went to the “boy house” and showered. We all showered soon after returning to the hosts’ home. It felt great except that the humidity in the air kept me wet! Finally, we had a fantastic dinner of rice, chicken, home-made fries, fried beef rolls, and vegetables. Mangoes for dessert!

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June 16: Mai Chau

Written by Anneliese ’16

You never appreciate your washer and dryer at home until you’re stuck using a bathtub and a sink in your hotel room. Anyway, life in Vietnam has been amazing and has been an eye opener. Visiting the orphanage has made me grateful for the family that I have and love dearly. Being away from home is also a new experience that I have to deal with. The first day I was excited to “be on my own.” These past few days I have been feeling homesick, especially missing my little brothers. All in all this trip is an amazing opportunity that I’ve been given and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.

Tam biet!

From Cheri:

Today we drove to Mai Chau, but first we stopped at the Women’s Union in Hoa Binh, the capital of this province. We spent an hour there listening to all the great work that the Women’s Union does for the many communities in the province. We made our donations (three suitcases worth and money $$$$) and then continued on our way to Mai Chau. Mai Chau is actually a commune, made up of a small town, and Ban Lac and Pom Coong, where we are located. The boys stay in one house on stilts while the girls stay in another. Each of our mattresses on the floor has a mosquito net around it and we have plenty of fans “cooling” us off. The hosts here sure know how to cook! We sat down to a scrumptious meal of chicken legs, green beans and garlic, rice, soup, homemade potato chips, fried spring rolls, meatballs in sauce, and little bananas. Such a yummy dinner—everything, virtually everything, is grown or raised in this small village or in the neighboring one. This family, like most, has its own fish pond, rice paddy, vegetables and banana trees. George School has been coming to this family for over a decade.

We spent the evening relaxing in anticipation of the long, hot work that we will do tomorrow! We are going to work at the community center preparing a patio and sidewalk. To bed by 10:00 to the sound of crickets competing with one another (or perhaps mating!)

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June 15: Return to Hanoi

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….

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June 14: Ha Long Bay

From  Leslie ’16

Beloved fathers and mothers,

Have no fear! All 10 toes and fingers are still intact thus far.

After being cooped up in the bus for what felt like an eternity, we finally arrived at our destination, Ha Long Bay. Promptly reacting to a schedule, we boarded a private boat (a “junk”) that took us out into the open waters to further adventure — a World Heritage site, named by UNESCO. We had a seafood lunch and stuffed ourselves with shrimp, clams, fish and spring rolls. Yum. The ride to our first stop lasted about 90 minutes. It was quiet and serene as we passed a few boats like ours. Over 1600 limestone islets dot the waters of Ha Long Bay.

Our first dock was at Surprising Cave. Maybe I need to hit up the gym, but it was a brutal climb up to the cave. The natural make-up of the cave’s rocks is absolutely incredible! (See link: http://www.halongbay.info/attraction/surprise-cave.html

After our cave hiking, our second dock was at Ha Long Bay’s designated beach, where we cooled off and swam. Altogether, it was a surreal experience. There are no words that can describe the beauty of this place. Today was a day that I will never forget. It was definitely worth the four-hour bus ride.

We send you hugs and kisses from this end and we’ll see you soon!

xoxoxo Leslie

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June 13: Visiting Ho Chi Minh

From Adrianna ’16 

To the parents and family members who are reading this update: I can tell you that we’re all alive and extremely happy, but I cannot write down what we’ve experienced because it wouldn’t do this amazing place justice. I can tell you, however, that coming here was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Expanding any further would sound cheesy and I simply cannot do that. We send you all of our love and we’re anxious to tell you ourselves about everything we’ve done.

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