Thursday, July 21, 2011

Coconut Wonderland

I distinctly remember hearing a former DukeEngage participant mention at our training session that he regretted not blogging enough about his summer. If I ever become one of the training session assistants next year, I suspect I will end up saying the exact same thing.

Our fine travellers are now in Ben Tre, which is located in the Mekong Delta in the southern part of Vietnam. The difference between Ben Tre and Quang Tri is immediately obvious. Like a Starbucks on every corner of an American city, there are coconut trees everywhere. You can drink coconut milk straight from the coconut -- it costs only fifty cents to buy a coconut here. Our assistant told us not to go under a coconut tree at midnight -- apparently, people have been killed by a falling coconut. He also mentioned that the same applies to durian trees, which I personally think would be a worse way to go. For those unfamiliar with durian, a durian is a melon-sized fruit covered in hard spikes and is infamous for its smell. I cannot stand the smell, but durian is actually quite popular in Vietnam. The thought of being impaled by the spikes of a durian before succumbing to its smell is quite gruesome in my mind.

Instead of being split into two groups like in Quang Tri, here all 22 students work on building the same house for a three-person family. It takes us about 40 minutes to bike and walk to the work site -- we actually have to stop at a certain point and walk the rest of the way because we cannot bike across the multiple monkey bridges that lead to the work site. After lunch, we lead a summer camp for elementary school children in the village. I and two of our Vietnamese roommates teach art; the other five classes we are teaching are physical education, health, English, geography, and science. Dance was originally a class, but now instead the dance teachers (Katie, Devyn, Xuan) lead a group exercise with all of the children outdoors for the last fifteen minutes of camp.

Art has actually been quite a pleasure to teach. Our first lesson plan has had a music focus, and so we've taught each class of children to sing both the Vietnamese and English versions of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." Consequently, my voice has had quite a workout from singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" multiple times per class. In the future, we are planning to have lessons on origami, paper cutting, drawing, and painting. The children have very short attention spans, but they make up for it with their ability to melt your heart like butter with their cuteness.

The wireless internet connection is finally working at our guesthouse, so hopefully I will be able to update in Ben Tre much more frequently than I did in Quang Tri. If you're reading this in America, cross your fingers! But don't do that if you're in Vietnam -- it means something else here.  ;]

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