Monday, August 2, 2010

Fun Run and A Day Trip in Ben Tre

This weekend was quite a busy one:

On Saturday, we had a Fun Run - a 3k race where the benefits went to scholarships for poor children in the area. We were in charge of organizing the event. We got t-shirts and invited people from Saigon to participate and donate. Teachers and students from VLS (where we learned Vietnamese at the beginning of the program) and the US Consulate were in attendance including Angela Dickey, second-in-command at the consulate. Five from our program actually ran in the race (as well as countless locals and the visitors from Saigon) and four of us placed in the top 10! Yours truly was number seven and the first lady to finish, but the true star was my morning running partner Jing was finished in first place 12 seconds before the next runner (who happened to be Kevin). After the race, we awarded the scholarships to the present students and then brought the Saigon visitors to our work-sites via bike. They were quite eager to hear all about our efforts here and were super impressed with the positive impact this project has. Although I have expressed cynicism regarding this topic, it was rewarding to hear only positive comments. One idea that, although I suppose I knew in the back of my head, had never been put into words by anyone on the trip was the idea that this program pumps money into the local economy and brings recognition to the area. Arriving at my work site to 6 kids jumping me with hugs also contributed to my positive feelings from the day.

On Sunday, we took a bus ride into "downtown" Ben Tre and went on a tour that, for lack of better description, can simply be put into the old people friendly column. We paid 50,000 dong for a tour that brought us by boat to an area where there were free samples and stuff to buy. We walked a super short distance to more stuff to buy and then another short distance to an awaiting horse ride. We got off the horse ride at an area where there was complimentary fruit and tea with honey and oranges (possibly the best tea I've had) and Vietnamese singing (as well as more stuff to buy). There were ample picture opportunities here including with quite a sizable snake and then we took a small boat back to the large boat back to the start where we got back on the bus and returned home. Although slightly contrived, I had a lot of fun and purchases some cool coconuts carved into monkeys (truly'll have to see them). I also left with an awesome picture of my with a snake around my neck and several delicious samples in my tummy. All in all, it was nice to have something to do on a Sunday.

Ben Tre Cultural Exchange

After many failed attempts to put the videos directly on the blog, I bring you links to videos from our Ben Tre cultural exchange.

To begin, one of the roommates Huy (also my partner in crime in the dance classroom) choreographed a traditional Vietnamese dance that the roommates sang to. The song is supposedly about a spider and is quite pleasant and catchy.

Next up, we have all 20 of us singing "I Want it That Way." Let's just say that the amount of times I had to hear this song was enough for a life time. Mark's dance moves make this video memorable though...

Six of us had a ton of fun learning a hip-hop dance. The two main sections were choreographed by myself and Huy and the intro was inspired by Margaux and Jing. Inspired by Step-Up 3, we decided to make an "intro" music video with "bios" and aliases for each of us. Unfortunately, the final version with typos fixed and English narration did not make it into the video on youtube so unless you speak Vietnamese, you will have to use your animation. It is quite epic though... (if I can find the complete version, I will put that link up instead)
And for the actual dance

Finally we taught the Vietnamese roommates a "country" classic - The Cotton Eyed Joe. This is the video from Quang Tri (sans roommates) because the more recent version appears to be missing, but the two were quite similar. Enjoy the awesome duet at the end!

Feel free to look through the other youtube videos which include some clips from practices, soccer games, and more!

The cultural exchange, though it started over an hour late due to Vietnamese "elastic time," was a huge hit with the audience. They loved our dances (especially the flip in Cotton-Eyed Joe) and it was a lot of fun preparing for it. I think it brought the Vietnamese and Americans a bit closer together.

Signing off,