Day 43 - 6 December 2010
I couldn't wait to explore Vietnam for three reasons. Firstly, I would like to see for myself how Vietnam had progressed over the past decade. I was surprised to see the absence of beggars along the streets. 10 years ago, there were many children beggars. The second reason was the enthusiasm of the Vietnam youth. The youthful and vibrant nation was worth venturing and understanding.
Last but not least, this was the last homestay programme for the 37th Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Programme (SSEAYP).
My cabin mate, Nom, getting his daily dose of cigarette
At morning assembly, we received our homestay cards (which indicated our homestay parents' names and addresses as well as our homestay mate) and was glad that I was matched to Neng (Thailand). Neng could speak Mandarin and we added each other on Facebook way before the exchange programme.
Solidarity Group A went to Foreign Trade University (FTU), Ho Chi Minh City for Institutional Visit. Ho Chi Minh city was divided into various Districts. FTU is located at District 5.
Students ready to welcome us
Student introduces the schools to us
I was particularly impressed that the instutional visit seemed to be led very much by students instead of the teachers. Each student paired with each of the Participating Youths (PYs).
With Uyen (pronounced as "win") on my right
Performance by students
Uyen told me that all Vietnamese students would learn cultural dance at one point in time in their school.
Student & ex-PY welcomes all
Speech by Representative of FTU
♥ Speech by Group Leader & Vietnam Youth Leader ♥
Uyen holding on to a gift from Singapore, and me holding a gift from FTU
We played bamboo dance
The PYs also taught the students some SSEAYP cheers and songs. The eagerness to learn and the enthusiasm made me impressed with the Vietnam youth. They asked many questions and were very friendly.
With a student from Hong Kong
With 2 "Phuong Thao"s
Had our lunch (packeted from Fuji Maru)
Next, we headed to Homestay matching ceremony at Ho Chi Minh City Meeting Hall.
With Ba (Father) Mao
Right from the start, I knew the homestay experience would be very interesting because Ba Mao couldn't speak a word of English. I was also impressed with the effort put in by the Reception Committee to enroll youth volunteers to be matched with host families with members who couldn't speak English to act as translators.
On a cab ride home
Fortunately, Ba Mao took us on a cab back home. I would have preferred being the pillion rider just like many other PYs if my luggage had not been that bulky.
Iced Vietnam Coffee made by Ma (Mother) Thu
We were in a family of Policemen (Photo with Em [Sister] Nhung)
Ba Mao was a Special Force Guard to the Prime Minister of Vietnam back then
And so Neng and I had a light dinner, with the 333 beer.
Then, my host sister from SKY 2011, Thu came with her sister to fetch us to their place to join in the celebration of their father's birthday.
I felt quite bad to inconvenience my homestay family. They were initially reluctant to let us go due to safety reasons, but relented after my plea and with the condition that Em Nhung and a gentleman would follow us.
It turned out that Thu's father was a prominent Literature Lecturer and was the teacher of the accompanying gentleman. So our initial curfew of 1 hour stay was lengthened...
In Vietnam, all undergraduates had to study Literature in order to get their degree. Hence, Literature teachers were highly regarded.
Nice rooftop view
Thu playing some piano melodies
~ Birthday boy ~
When he learnt that I would be looking for employment after SSEAYP, Thu's father offered me a job to work in an educational institution in Ho Chi Minh City. While we were at his place, many of his students came with gifts, including books written by his students.
Knowing that there was some misunderstanding when we left Ba Mao's place, Thu's father sent us back and chatted with Ba Mao.
Sent a few messages to Mortal despite the hefty IDD bill.
That night, Neng and I engaged in a long discussion over Thai politics - red and yellow shirts - until the Z monster took us to....