On Friday, we had our closing ceremony in Quang Tri. I was selected to read a speech on behalf of the American students and one of the Vietnamese roommates named Tao translated for the Vietnamese public. The following includes excerpts from that speech
It's strange to sit and reflect back three weeks to our first few days in Quang Tri. We were so unfamiliar with each other, with this town, and with the task at hand.
The night before biking to the elementary school for the first time, we divided into two groups: the painters and the fishpond fence slash small road builders that I have discussed in previous posts. Our choice to be in our respective groups was largely arbitrary and unknowing of what exactly of what our jobs would entail.
Before we knew it, the school was surrounded by a freshly painted sunny yellow fence. At the same time, the builders had become concrete making pros completing the small road, the bike station, and the fish pond fence which is now eagerly awaiting paint in order to match the bridge that is now a whimsical blue and yellow.
We've learned a lot from these three weeks together. We've dealt with language barriers and stomach flues and tonsilitis. We've had to redo work we've already completed and add unplanned projects to our task list. We've learned who among us are good leaders, who to go to when the work is tough and we need someone to make us smile, who can carry a 50 kilogram bag of cement, who is the best at painting circles, who will always be first to work (and who will always be last).
Before I got here, I received a letter from my roommate in which she addressed me as "friend." "It may seem strange" she wrote "that I am calling you friend before we have even met, but I'm confident that is what we will become." Her words couldn't have been more accurate. We are now accomplished builders and painters. But more importantly, we are friends - friends of Quang Tri and friends of each other.