A full day. After a warm welcome by the former Ambassador from Vietnam to US and the current Vice Chairman of the Vietnam - USA Society, we chatted at length with him, smiled for the reporters (newspaper, television and radio!!) and headed to Project RENEW, an organization started by VN Veteran Chuck Searcy to remove all landmines (mostly cluster bombs) from Vietnamese soil. There, we learned all about the Project, its various missions and listened to Chuck tell stories about the Vietnam War and how it affected his life and that of his family and friends. Fascinating and mesmorizing, Chuck held everyone's attention as we listened to firsthand information and emotions recounted in a most unassuming manner. We donated some funds to this Project.
Lunch was shared at the restaurant of Ryan Huang's family, class of '09. This seafood wonderland was over-the-top delectible as the dishes appeared on the table and seemed to never end. The students even ate some of the last dish, 3 beautifully prepared grouper fish with a indescribable sauce. Two hours later, we finished with rice flake ice cream and real (!) Vietnamese coffee, the kind so thick it coats the side of your cup, so strong you only get a third of a cup. We shared stories with Ryan's parents, who own other restaurants and a hotel in Hanoi. Ryan, still in NYC, has a cousin, Ashlee, who was particularly entertaining as she helped translate for her aunt and uncle. She was a real hoot.
We spent a sweltering afternoon at the Military Museum where we saw war relics and memoribalia. Things made more sense in the museum after having heard Chuck Searcy speak about the wars in Vietnam this morning.
Off to meet the families at which point some students hearts began to beat faster. It was such a warm welcome by the Head of the Home Stay Club. What a great idea for a club! Each student will stay with another GSer for three days/nights with one family. A personal taxi will bring them to and from the homestay for the duration of the stay. All families have hosted before and enjoy doing so. Hey, they belong to The Club, too!!
As Carter, Teresa and I re-organized our 10 bags of donations to a clinic, a hospital, the SOS Village, The Friendship Village, The Women's Union of Hoa Binh, families of Mai Chau and The Bac Ninh Orphanage, we imagined our students showing their host families their photos, and telling them what super friends and families they have in the States. We are certain that tomorrow, our first day of service at the Friendship Village, will be exciting and .... warm.