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 adorable...you'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.