Saturday, July 30, 2011

UCHANU Year book page.

It's been a while. Just trying to compile everything in one place and figured I'd post this up here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dear Tim,

I remember telling myself that I should make a conscious effort to continue blogging after UCHANU. I failed miserably at that. BUT, i've finally found something worth blogging about.

I found this in a book I was looking at for my research paper on Globalization and Vietnam Society. The book was Social Change in Southeast Asia and published in 1998. The letter was written on January 11th, 2007. I found it 4 years later, 2011. The letter is from a girl name “Nicole” to a guy named “Tim” and she was expressing her love and appreciation of him during their time spent together in Asia. I really hope he got this letter before leaving it in this book. It got me thinking about my own past experience in Vietnam. I remember crying so much at the last UCHANU dinner that all my makeup was smeared off and no matter what, the tears just wouldn't stop. It was so heartbreaking having to say good-bye to everyone, not knowing when we will see each other again, or if we'll keep in touch, and letting go of the memories. My biggest fear coming back to America was that I would forget my life in Vietnam, that I would all to easily re-emerge back into my surroundings in America as though I had never left. Reading this letter reminded me of how that can never be possible and that the experiences I've had, the people I've met have completely changed my life and myself whole utterly. I would tell everyone I've come across how much they made my experience so worth the trip. Not only Vietnam, but also the many people that I’ve come across who I’ve grown to love and appreciate and all the people that I’ve known I’ve grown attached to in my life but never really told them out loud how much I love and appreciate them and our friendship. Taking a break from my research paper, Here it is:
January 11th, 2007

Dear Tim,

I can’t tell you enough how glad I am that you came to Asia for the holidays. My tears in Bangkok were preventing me from expressing myself fully.

It’s incredible when you spend every moment with a person for a month – and suddenly that person is gone – life as you’ve come to know it is altered. There are pieces of you all around me: traces of the baby power bomb you dropped in my bathroom, Pol Poc, Red Dust, and Yrahm Yreene, the beautiful tea set (which I cherish), your stomach rubbing oil, photographs, my backpack – which I still cannot bring myself to unpack because doing so I suppose would be an admittance that the trip is indeed over.

But, what I have the most of is – the things you taught me, and the countless moments that filled me up. I’ve been thinking about how crazy we are – to have done this trip. To spend our time getting to know each other in crowded hotel rooms, bumpy buses and very intense, high-pressure situations. It was at times hard for both of us, I know… and without the ability to step away, take a break, reflect – we had to trudge forward with our adventure. It was full-on, and there are times that I regret not communicating better, clamming up or being snappy, sometimes showing the opposite of what I wanted to. I wanted so badly to do right by you. Forty-eight hours later, sorting through it all, I miss you – you’ve become someone I care about immensely. And, as I did in Madison, I feel inspired that another crazy person exists in the world- willing to do the crazy thing – to just do it, press click, to go, to seize the moment.

I’m not sure if I told you enough that I appreciate you. There are many things about you that over the past few weeks I have come to love. In the rapid pace and exhaustions of travel these are things that you sometime fail to mention. I love how you lie on your stomach and pull all the covers over your head, how you pace the room aimlessly looking for something/nothing like a reflexive morning routine, how you apply hair gel. I love watching the way you talk to people, your kind and giving smile and ability to communicate through laughter and positive energy, the way you appreciate a good hard-boiled egg on a mountain top, how you appreciate lots of little things, how you awkwardly answered, “two years” then sheepishly turned to me and said, “that sound about right?”, how you are unendingly generous, how you put yourself in uncomfortable seats in order to make me more comfortable and then lied and said you liked it better in the uncomfortable seats, how your impulse was to protect me always, how you tell assholes to “be nice”, how you always ask, “got everything?”, how your whole self is positively elated by a motorbike and an open road (me too!), how you made me feel more beautiful in the past weeks than I have ever, ever felt in my whole life, the way you eat baguettes, your sleeping morning face, the way you look at me when we make love, the way your hand feels in mine – constant, calming, gentle, trustworthy – when there are no more words to say, and exhaustion has won over me. I love your love of knowledge and learning. I love your ambition. I love your tenderness. I love your sense of self. I love your intellect and your unbridled sense of adventure. I love rolling over in bed and putting my hand on your stomach. I love your strength. I love many things about you, this is just as start.

Whatever happens – know these things. Thank you for the most intense, beautiful, eye-opening, challenging trip of my life.

I love you too.
Nicole ~

I hope I can find you one day Tim and Nicole, and that you're somewhere married.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Service Learning - Self and Identity

In volunteering at sao mai, there are a lot of children who come and go during the class to lessons and then there are some students who don't show up for weeks and when they do they feel out of place and don't like to go to school anymore. In my classroom, there are a couple of kids who I don't see for at least 2 weeks because they don't attend, and then they would show up the next week and feel very fussy and angry that they have to come. I asked the teachers where the children go or if there has to be a valid excuse for students not to attend class and they said that there isn't any such thing. She says that because the kids are special, that sometimes they just need a break and that how the school is runned, students don't really have grades to give out or demerits if misbehaved badly or missing classes. The parents pay for their kids to come and if there they don't come then that's up to the parents as well. In thinking of self and identity I wonder what the children will grow up to be like and how they will identify themselves. In sao mai, they practice how to develop simply life skills to take care of themselves and how to talk if they have the capacity to, but I think in a way, they try to establish a sense of self for the children as well. One of the lesson plans that the teachers do involves the student going up in front of the class and pointing their picture on a chalk board. They are asked to find their picture on the board, and then say their name and then asked for find that person in the classroom which means pointing to themselves. Other times, the are asked to find a picture of other classmates and their names and to go point to them in the classroom. I think this is to establish how to say their name and to recognize other people. In this way, I think Sao Mai does try to help the kids have a self identity. In thinking about self identity, is it really all that easy to just know your name and picture and say that you know yourself? definitely not. but at least with the kids, it is a step. But I think that the teachers should start incorporating things that the kids like to do, such as ask the kids "What does (insert name) like to eat?", What does (insert name) like to play" And then the kids can answer "I" like to do this and that. I think knowing yourself has to do with knowing what you like and don't like, and what you feel. Most of the kids do have favorite things to do. Like one kid loves to eat. and will eat anything and everything off the floor. So In terms of Sao Mai, they do try to practice and teach the children who they are, but only time will tell if the kids actually know who they are or not.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

UCHANU: Integration back in US?

How can I integrate the experiences of the semester into my life, and in what concrete ways can I remain connected to UCHANU and Vietnam?"

Words cannot explain my time in Vietnam and how much I have grown and changed here. In integrating the experience of this semester into my life, I'm not sure how I will even let go of this whole experience. In returning back home, I know in my heart that there will be a feeling wishing that I was back in Vietnam where I found friends, family, and a home here. This experience has changed my life in general and the most fearful thing that would happen to me is that in going back home, and returning to the daily routines before of going to school, meetings, and all that other stuff, that I will forget that I ever went to Vietnam.

I'm pretty good at going back to daily routines and picking up things again. Hence, I'm afraid that I would get so wrapped up in everything back in the States that I would forget all the memories that I have here. Therefore, my main goals is to keep the memories that i have made here stay with me forever. I want to remember all the time i spent here and the people that I have met. The biggest way to do this is through my pictures and facebook haha. but anyways... i think it has been an inevitable change of myself that I have come here. I have changed and become more comfortable finding myself here and knowing that I can survive anything if I can survive Vietnam.

I have never cried so much in my life in that one night of saying good-bye to UCHANU and Vietnam. Vietnam was the challenging/ frustrating, life changing moment of my life and my first real Heartbreak. I will never forget my fist love, Vietnam.

Service Learning: 12 Last Week - Thoughts and Feelings

As this whole trip is coming to an end and our service learning here, everyday I get more and more depressed about saying good bye to Vietnam and everything in it. As this is our last week, we are trying to finish up our painting project and saying good bye to our teachers, kids, and staff at sao mai. Yesterday painting was one of the most productive days we've had, getting he majority of our work done and was pleasantly surprise with the outcome of it all. We were able to have a new out look on this painting expereince as i brought us closer to other people in Sao Mai. Working in the classroom's we had the most contact with only the kids and teacher. Working on the project, we met the Bao Ve and talked a lot more with other volunteers. Leaving Sao Mai, I have to admit, I'm not completely sad about it. There have been tough times going there and volunteering dealing with the culture differences of handling disabled children and with the teachers. However, it is not that fact that I am not sadden. I am not sadden because I know that there will be plenty of volunteers to come who will want to help out Sao Mai and I can understand that there with this amount of volunteer, Sao Mai will not be without help. Basically, Sao Mai will continue to fine and run when I am not there anymore. My teachers will probably not miss me that much as I felt that there was little I could do in the classroom to help besides just chasing the children and chatting it up with them. As for the kids, they are too small and young to even remember me, but they are the ones that I am going to miss the most. They are a rowdy little bunch, but they are kids and cute none the less. Hence, my thoughts and feelings of Sao Mai has now turned to saying good bye and thank you for letting me come here and learning about how this school and the society of disabled children.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Service Learning 11: Interest

Thinking about the word interest in terms of Sao Mai, I can only think about our project that we are in the middle of completing. This painting that we are trying to take on has led to many road blocks along the way from changing colors, to changing pictures, to changing even the purpose of this project.

Starting out, we wanted to paint the playground and give it new life and color so that when kids come in and play they have this feeling of enjoyment. It was suppose to be an artwork and our contribution to Sao Mai. However, we had to stop and rethink about what it is that we are actually doing. Time is getting close and everytime we go into volunteer now, our minds are on this project because we are scared that it won't get done in time, now we're scared that it won't even get accomplished at all. We came in with the vision that we would paint the area with children running, jumping rope, doing things that are active so that when children look at the picture, they become inspired. However, we are not artist, let alone great painters. We were gonna do blue and yellow on the pillars as background colors. The background color that we have chosen was suppose to be blue so that it would be bright and stand out. Instead, we ended up choosing this baby blue color that looks identically like white. and had to paint the entire playground that blue because if we were to utilize yellow, then it would not pop. so now the whole pillars are this blue and an already opened bucket of yellow paint that is going to waste. not what we wanted. Making due with our white blue sky, we decided to incorporate the name Sao Mai and do clouds and stars. We chose a really bright shiny color blue to outline the clouds with and do red stars. Painting the clouds there was a cute choice, but when we added the red stars, we realized we were painting the colors of the American flag. we were disgustd. I think i've already mentioned this part in my other blog. So here we are, still unsure of what to do because we don't know what is in the best interest of Sao Mai or for ourselves. We have turned this into a community project along the way with other volunteers at Sao Mai helping us paint. Except, i feel that they see this painting time as a way to escape the classroom instead of in the same way that we view this project. Therefore, their interest is different than ours.

Painting the playground we are now conflicted about who's interest we should paint the playground for? It should be in the interest of Sao Mai who has to utilize this space for years to come, so we should paint it how they would want it to look like. However, their visions are different from ours because our interest are also consumed with time, space, and money. We are concerned about getting it accomplished and looking good. In the interest of Sao mai, I guess we have to keep in mind that this project was for them in the first place and secondly for us. It was originally intended for Sao Mai's interest so that their playground would be better, and the second interest was for us to contribute and give back to Sao Mai. Keeping both these interests in mind, we are now at the dilemna of what exactly to do with this playground. We have little time left, and we must complete the painting in both interests before we leave Vietnam.

Monday, November 22, 2010

One Heartland

Over the past week, UCHANU has been able to come together and fund-raise to buy enough jackets to fit the small children of Nghe An and gather donations of clothings for the poor families there. Tabling, classroom talks, coffee selling, coffee shop fundraising, food selling, and High Roller Night were all successful in gathering enough donations for this trip. Honestly, UCHANU were not the biggest contributers but it were the people's support that we were able to gather that made this possible. One Heartland was just successful in bringing it all together.

Working in a group with One Heartland was honestly a very gratifying experience. However, it does take individual initiative in order to get a group working together. There has to be a leader within a group from what I've learned over the years. There has to be leaders and followers within a group. With in each group, there was a person in charge of getting things together, and without them, we probably couldn't get the materials that we needed in order to sell food and drinks, or collect clothes, etc. The boys too initiative and started selling coffee and that honestly was the bread winner of the group. We were able to generate a lot of revenue from selling coffee and food and without them, we couldnt have raised enough. However, it does take good followers in order to make the group efficient. Not one person can always be there to take charge and so the followers have to be good followers in order to keep the group going. In my opinion, sometimes the followers are the most important part of a group because without the followers, who will the leaders lead? Anyways, working with UCHANU there were fair shares of people who were willing to take initiative and come up with creative ways to fundraise and there were people willing to put in the time and effort in order to carry out those creative ideas.

I've worked in another group in HANU with my International Relations class and the group was for a research project. It was of a different scale and for class, but nonetheless it was a group. In a smaller group, there has to more communication and less dictatorship I believe. We all had to convene and do our parts before any body else was able to do their part and make sure we were all on the same page etc. So there was less of the whole follower and leader aspect. But more communication I believe went on. For One Heartland, the UC students were busy traveling while the HANU students were in Hanoi, so we lacked this communication for a while. We held 3 meetings, one for UC and one for HANU and then one together. Ideas were being reiterated so it took us a while for us to formulate who to carry out the fundraising. In bigger groups it's harder for people's voices to be heard or for everyone to jump along with the idea. But once, something is initiated then you can either hop on the bandwagon or not. In this case, the bandwagon was going in the right direction and we were able to achieve more than what we had expected.

In a group, you can do a lot, but it takes the initiative of each individual in order to be successful.