Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Candy Colored Land

This week was quite busy for me. I had two lessons to teach for my American culture class. My roommate and I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to teach this course to a group of 25 college students. Stephanie and I created the rubric for the course, so we have a lot of freedom to teach the topics which we feel best describe American culture. This past week we taught history and politics. Our students started out as a very shy bunch and its nice to see them open up as the weeks progress. I don't think I want to become a teacher in the future, but I am greatly enjoying the experience.
 Something else that I have recently started doing is volunteering at an orphanage that is close to my school. I am thinking that I will do my independent research project on this. Many of the children in the orphanage are affected by agent orange, autism, down syndrome, and other disabilities. I've always been interested in the Vietnam War since I read "The Things They Carried" in my sophomore year of high school. I am well aware of the chemical destruction that the U.S. government devastated this country and its people with. What surprises me is how prevalent the amount of people who are still affected by dioxin. Orphanages throughout the country are filled with kids suffering genetic defects due to the chemicals that were dropped during the war. It wasn't until this April that the U.S. government finished its first decontamination site in Da Nang, but over 20 sites still exist today. At the orphanage I spend time with the children. I teach the older kids English and I act as goofy as possible to get a smile. The toddlers love snuggling and the babies just want someone to hold their hand. I was so surprised to see how trusting and ready for love these kids are. Usually, when I babysit a child for the first time they are hesitant to leave their parents and distrustful of me. When I walked into the orphanage a little girl immediately jumped into my arms for a snuggle. I will try to spend as many Sundays as I can at the orphanage in order to spend time with these kids and learn a little bit more about Vietnam's programs for orphans.
On Thursday of this week our class went into the countryside of Can Tho to see a particular type of farming system. The farm we visited was using a closed system farming method which means that the farm was sustaining itself within itself. The farm was using the manure from the pigs to collect into gas and fertilize the plants. In turn the pigs were fed the plants. The only thing that made this system imperfect was that the farmer was also feeding the pigs grain from an outside source. I can see how this type of farming can work for one farm, but it would be very hard to implement this method on a broader scale, because it requires a lot of land. One of our professors works for the agricultural department at Davis, so he likes taking us to farms in order to see the different farming methods.
After the trip to the farm I hopped on a bus to Saigon to visit with my best friend Robin. Robin is teaching English in China for the next year and is only a four hour plane ride from me. I will be going to visit Robin at the end of my trip. We stayed in the backpackers district on a very touristy street. There are very few foreigners in Can Tho, so it was a bit strange to be around so many western faces. Robin and I filled our bellies with delicious Saigon food and we checked out the night scene. Robin was very happy with the availability of fresh produce and the "candy colored" Saigon buildings. I was just happy to see a face from home.
Love love,

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