Farewell to Vietnam!

Ho Chi Minh would approve!

Former Ambassador to the US and Vice President of VUS, Mr. Ngyuen Tun Chin and host mother singing the last song of the night

Mandy and Corin rocking the keys

Our tour guide Anh (right) for the first leg of the trip

Chuck Searcy, Vietnam veteran living in Vietnam and Carter. We donated $300 towards a water buffalo that would help suuport a farming familiy in need.

Paige tearing up the dance floor

My Nghi, our fearless leader, welcoming everyone to the farewell dinner

Interior of Museum of Military Engineering and Command

Bill and Hilary Clinton helping to normalize relations with Vietnam in 2000

Claymore mines

Our tour guide in the museum

View into the cluster bomb delivery systems

Unexploded ordinance gathered throughout the country (UXO's)

Image from the past displayed in the Museum of Engineering and Military Command

Carter receives gift from Colonel

One of sixteen SOS homes

Lost in thought

Clement steals the crayons

Mandy breaks the ice

Corin with his new friends

Kira helps color

Carly at play

Picture drawn by a child at the SOS Village

Clay tiles on prison roof

View through the prison door

Sculptures of Vietnamese imprisonment by the French at the Hoa Lo Prison. Later it would be nicknamed "Hanoi Hilton" by American POWs, the most famous of which was John McCain.

Altar at Temple of Literature

Roof of Mausoleum

Group Photo in front of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Our host family who fed us like we've never been fed before...

Cute pups everywhere in Mai Chau

Cultural Center: "before" picture

Mostly done! This is our "after" picture.

Lots of villagers attended Friday's cultural performance

Ethnic group dancers

We were the guests of honor. Of course, the obligatory cup of green tea before the performance!

Bamboo stick dance

Tambiet (good-bye), Mai Chau

On way to power plant - brick-making "oven"

View of Hydroelectric Plant area from Ho Chi Minh statue; this plant produces 14% of Vietnam's total electricity

My friend, Ho Chi Minh (2nd largest statue in Vietnam)

At Ho Chi Minh statue

House on stilts like ours in Mai Chau (Jackfruit tree in foreground)

Clement deep in "journal" thought

Backyard view of our host home

Grand-daughter of our host family

Simple beauty

Orphanage sheets

Tall One on ladder

Love that paint job

Paint line

Carly = Spot Remover


Making little friends

Mr. Dom, Long and Vinh

We need to brush up on our Vietnamese....


Taking a break

Do you have your license, young man?

Three lucky babies

Watch out!!

Paige - sweaty but stylish

Melissa and Carly painting at the orphanage

Tough guy

Vietnamese ethnic house replica

Ethnic minority house

Pho (national soup!) comes in 3 popular kinds: Ca (fish), Bo (beef) and Ga (chicken). Yum yum...

Keep out dust, dirt, debris from road (this is bridge toll collector)

Houses are built UP since owners pay for square footage of first floor.

Can't get enough sushi

Oohhh, now tuna sushi is my favorite, favorite food!!!!

The wall of our private room in the restaurant

Funeral march (on the way to Ninh Binh)

Glamour girls

Sea of sampans

Paige and Allie with their driver

Natural beauty

Watch your head!

Carly and Melissa upstream

Limestone rock formations at Ninh Binh

Rice plants removed, ready to spread and dry

Spreading rice plants out to dry

Rice chaff drying in driveway

Silly Hoa with Silly Carter's glasses

Clement and Corin's brothers rolling paint

Teresa (adult leader) doing her part

Melissa carefully (?) at work!

Pho Bo (Beef Noodle soup) in the street

Examining donations at St. Paul's Hospital

Artists Mandy and Clement at work

Jaye's new soccer player friend

Weeding intensely

Motorbikes reign

Embroidery class

Clean-up Guy, Corin.

Side by side

The class leader

Jaye and Melissa helping out

Camera crews follow us everywhere

Mr. Nguyen is Executive Vice Chairman of the Vietnam - USA Society

At Ryan's family restaurant - could we fit any more food on this table or in our bellies?!

Ashlee (Ryan's cousin) and Mr. Huang

At Military Museum: Ho Chi Minh in background

War Trophies

War Trophies
Collected "art" from past wars in Vietnamese soil

Mr. Chuck Searcy spoke about how these cluster bombs still maim and kill civilians

Meet the Parents!! Go Corin! Go Clement!

Dad and Grandpa

Dad and Grandpa
Mandy and Jaye (Mrs. Mom was at home)

Allie and Melissa accepting roses

The Triplets: Kira, Paige and Carly have a brother!

The Home Stay Club - no kidding - this is their title!

Mandy and Mr. Nghi

Mandy and Mr. Nghi

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday, June 10

This is Carlyn writing.

Yesterday, after leaving out host families for the first time, we went to the Vietnam Friendship Village, where victims of Agent Orange as well as the Vietnamese veterans who fought in the war with the U.S. are able to live, learn and be cared for and loved. Aftern spending my spring break moving my grandparents into an assisted living facility, I expected the worst; I imagined it to be just that, with the separation and image that goes along with that kind of place. However, this place is a sanctuary. The people who live here are just that: people, and everything they need we need and more. After visiting some classes, I truly saw the love and community that all of the patients, as well as teachers have for one another. Even after stepping into one class, the students couldn't stop smiling and giving us high-fives and telling us all about their work. I was afraid I would feel like I was walking into a zoo, where I was staring on at the subjects through the glass, and that I was the free one, with the freedom to move as I pleased from room to room. I was so wrong. Even with what we would describe as a handicap, it is not. They are free and life-loving and curious, just as we all are, and there shouldn't be anything that makes anyone second guess that. I don't think I have ever met anyone with as much compassion and openness as they were to us.
After our visits, we began the work of painting the dining hall. Honestly, it didn't really feel like work, because I felt this growing need to help these people and working with the group that we have is always the most fun and very efficient. First, we did a white coat over the walls (and sometimes ourselves) and then moved on to lunch. After lunch, we finished the white and began the layer of yellow. Once 4 o'clock rolled around, we cleaned up what we had and headed back into the center of Hanoi. From Mr. Nghi's office, we all went our separate ways to our different homestays. Paige, Kira and I spent the taxi ride laughing and having a great time. As we began to head into the more familiar area of our house, our driver stopped and said we were here, even though we knew we weren't. All of us assumed it was only down the block so we walked a bit, but it became obvious that we knew nothing. So we stopped and I called Quian, our host brother and told him where we were and he told me, "Don't move! I'll be right there." If we had been anywhere else, I don't think we would have encountered what we did. A woman was caring for her garden in front of her house, and even though Kira was taking a picture opportunity in the allies and Paige and I were laughing, she knew we were lost. She asked us what address we needed to get to and we showered her; she called out her son, who then promptly said he would take us. He was very friendly, asking us where we were from, what we were doing in Vietnam, if we liked Hanoi so far, things like that. Eventually, Quan ran into us on the street and we thanked the boy who helped us. In any other place, it would have been completely different, but I have only encountered hospitality and kindness in this place, where I look as alien too them as their whole world is to me.
After we got home, we cleaned up and had dinner. Our host parents are so kind and extremely generous, serving us way too much food than is good for us. Our host sister is very kind and even though she only speaks some English, she is very easy to communicate with. Her son, Bee, is absolutely the cutest thing I have ever seen and even with his initial shyness, last night he was all fun and games. Our host brother, Quan and I have become very good friends even with this very short amount of time. It's hard and sad to think that tonight is our last night with the people who have become our family on the other side of the world. Finally, Quan took us out into Hanoi and showed us some of its highlights.
This morning we went back to Friendship Village and did a lot more painting. One of our friends from our visit to the classrooms came and he spent a lot of time laughing at us and saying our names. He is truly the greatest example of what it means to live life to the fullest, with all of his laughing and smiles. When he left, we were sad to see him go, but he left with his contagious laugh and funny attitude.
Vietnam can not be described by what it is but rather who it is. Vietnam is its people and they have opened their hearts and homes to us, as if we were friends not seen for a long time. there are things that happen here that are numbed by the English language and just can not be expressed. One can only learn of the feeling of Vietnam after becoming a part of Vietnam, and utlimately losing a part of yourself to it.

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