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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1 month left.

Almost every day now, I have that fear and sadness hit me about going home within a month. I use to remember before that my time in Vietnam wasn't that short and I have all the time to go and do a whole bunch of things. However, now with one month left, that is not the case anymore and within that month, there is so much for me to do. From finals to projects, to volunteering, to trying to spend time with family, there are few rare chances for me to go and explore Hanoi except during the night time. In the day, my days are so packed with things to do that it's crazy. i want to go out and explore, eat everything, and do something new each day now. The past few days coming back from the Southern Trip has been packed with all these things to do and it's scary. In a sense I am ready to leave Vietnam, because I am ready to go home and see my family and friends. But I'm not ready to start living my life how it was in America again. I can't even think about what it was like before I went to Vietnam. Each day I wake up with the feeling I have to do something, go somewhere, eat something new. I flip through the lonely planet desperately trying to find a guide to this new something. Sometimes it ends in success, others in failure. After all, it is a tour book made for tourist, sometimes you don't want to go to really tourist areas. However, i realized it will be the simple things that i miss the most. Waking up for a banh mi in the morning and eating sua chua nep cam, crossing the street, walking around Pho Co, hanging out at the same bars. Maybe I need to just soak in everything that I've been doing and will miss of Vietnam rather than trying to go and find new adventures. My life n vietnam has become one great adventure and maybe it's time to come back down to reality.

Service Learning Week 10 = Individual

Time is dwindling down and there is little time left for us to complete our project. The other day we bought new paint, blue and red, in order to paint clouds and stars around the column to represent the name "Sao Mai = Morning Star." We thought this idea would have been a great one except when we realized that the colors we choose were the color of the American flag...

Looking at it this way, we were almost disgusted with the idea to continue painting. Here we are, these American Vietnamese kids going into Sao Mai with all these thoughts in our head and preconceived ideas of how improve, better, and help the institute of Sao Mai by volunteering there. And now we're going to come in and paint your playground the color of the American flag?! We did not want the people of Sao Mai to think of us in this way or look at the playground and see some kind of message like that in it. It's crazy how much one individual has that kind of power and one idea or misunderstanding or over look can possibly result into something more.

So here we are, with half done blue clouds and one giant read star along random columns, not knowing what to do with the paint some more and not knowing how to fix it. Going back into the classroom to volunteer, it got me thinking about whether or not our project would have been better served if it was somehow related to the classroom now. Being outside of the classroom and coming back in, I see a different way the teachers and students behave now. In my classroom, the newest teacher has been given more responsibilities now, however the control that she has over the children is still lacking. It's like the children know she's a noOb and so they don't pay attention or respect her as much as the other teachers, or it could be the fact that she still doesn't know how to handle them alone. Anyways, when a single person enters the classroom, one individual, it disrupts the whole program of the class. If it's a volunteer like myself, the children would be more incline to play with the new comer instead of listening to the teachers. If a new teacher comes in, then the children are around someone they are not use to and so they have to adjust and become familiar with that new individual. One extra individual in the class can change the behaviors of the others.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Southern Vietnam

The past 10 days I was lucky enough to travel throughout Southern Vietnam, going to Saigon, Can Tho, lang Vinh Hanh, Rach Gia, and Phu Quoc. The things that I have experienced there are hard to sum up because so many things has happened:
1) Saigon; meeting my fraternity brothers and going to eat at Nha Hang Ngon, Cen Tech nighttime sky view, Lush club, backpacking district, eating Oc, shopping, more backpacking district, drinking beer on the street, and the famous Apocalypse Bar. Going to the Cu chi tunnels and going to District 5, known as the Chinatown and seeing all the temples there.
2) Can Tho: riding through a Thang Long farms, staying at a Nha Nghi, eating Hu Tieu, karaoke, floating market, Long Xuan Market and food hopping all around.
3) Homestay in a far away village near the Mekong Delta where the food was delicious with fish, veggies and rats, sleeping with the mosquitoes, going on a boat to catch fish, walking through the jungle and bird sanctuary where the green waters is a sight to behold, visiting a Mosque and the people of a Cham village, and the different temples.
4) Driving to Rach Gia before reaching the Superdong where the waters and rough and the speed of it was intense that made a lot of people sea sick before reaching Phu Quoc.
5) Being completely free and roaing around the entire island from the Southern point where the most beautiful beaches are to the northern tip seeing Cambodia, and visitng Chua Su Moun where the monks invited us to have tea and fruit with them and chatting it with them.

These past few days have been amazing and am so thankful that I was able to experience all of it. The only thing that would have made it any better is if I had the chance to share it with my parents. Thinking about it, and knowing that I only have one month left before going back to America, i feel extremely sad and confused. I'm confused about what to do with my time here, do I try to make a list and do everything on that? Should I just continue living my life here as it was and enjoying it as it is because I will never live like this again, or should I start somehow, someway to plan and scheme of coming back here in the near future after graduating? I guess, time is creeping up on me and it makes me confused on how I would like to spend this time here. I still have a lot of schooling to complete and things to do with family before going back, so I'm not sure where my priorities are. However, I do know that whatever I do now until I leave, I have to continue documenting and recording every single bit and pieces of it so that when I come back, my parents can share this experience with me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Service Learning Week 9? I forget - Society

Right now we are in the middle of our project for Sao Mai which is painting the out door playground of Sao Mai. In trying to paint the columns, we're faced with the dilemna of what exactly it is that we want to paint. We've had many ideas and swapped visions a lot. We finally came up with with one that incorporated the theme and name of Sao Mai within the playground. Sao Mai means morning star, so we had this idea that we would paint the columns full of clouds and shooting star to go with the theme, and to incorporate the children, have grass on the ground that would be made up of the children hands. We went up to the office to ask permission again if we could just use the children help in doing this and they said that it probably would turn out ugly because they had done the whole hand thing once before and it didn't look good. However, they liked the idea of the theme of Sao Mai being incorporated into the painting. One of the ladies who worked there walked us over to her computer where we found out she knew english and was the one doing all the translation, brochures, and presentation slides. She showed us a picture of a star that was being formed out of the hands of people where they would do like a peace sign and connect the together and that created a star. She told us the symbol behind this hand star was that society and Sao Mai want to work together and create this school, so it was a symbolic of the helping hands of society. This got me thinking about in terms of society, who helps who. I wonder who the presentation of So Mai is for because it's in English, so therefore, it probably for other people from foreign countries. Thus, it looks to the society of foreign countries for support, but just because it is from somewhere outside of Vietnam doesn't mean that the support from that society is any less. I think it terms of society, vietnam's society and foriegn countries' society work together to create on big society in order to help Sao Mai.