December 20, 2011


With an estimated 91.9 million Americans traveling farther than 50 miles from home this holiday season, there are no shortage of travel advisories designed to help the people who help us along the journey.

But sometimes, these recommendations are insultingly obvious.

AAA tells us to “get on the road early.”

Police tell us to “make a plan.”

The LA Times article "Advice for the holiday traveler" reminds us: “TSA rules are inconsistently applied” so… “Be nice to airport personnel” 

Besides the suggestion to avoid cell phone reliance for all planning, emergencies and directions, there are a few more-than-common-sense strategies out there which are actually quite helpful.  Friendship Tours World Travel has culled some bits of this wisdom to help us stay safe and enjoy the ride. 

Precise strategies on *how to avoid* those capriciously-applied TSA rules: 
NBC shares its Holiday travel tips: "How to get through airport security faster" 

How to anticipate kid-centered family-travel stress (that makes parents and passengers “not-so-happy”) 
Jeremy Branham, covers "Holiday travel tips for Traveling with kids" and on his website Budget Travel Adventures.

For college students embarking on a study-abroad adventure, UC Berkeley thinks of your health:
"Helpful Health Hints For Students Studying Abroad"

Tell the Feds where to find you in an emergency abroad:
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

Airplane Advice for both the young and old:
How to be appropriate on an airplane: Wiki How and Real Simple Tips on Travel Etiquette:
"How to Practice Airplane Etiquette"
"Your in-flight guide to keeping the peace with fellow passengers."

Ezine Articles
Best Foods to Take on an Airplane

Independent Traveler's "Foods to Avoid Before Flying"
And advice on what not to wear on an airplane: "Five Things You Shouldn't Wear on a Plane"

And most importantly…. USA Today gives tips on How to sleep on an airplane . . .

December 12, 2011

Tuesday Travel Tips - Acts of God and Terrorism: How to prepare for the unforeseeable or highly unlikely events?

Visit the Central Intelligence Agency’s International Travel page Cross reference all of the health and safety information you have gathered from the research we recommended in our previous post "Health Preparations - One size fits a few, but not you".  Register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)  so the State Department knows your plans, can communicate with you in case of an emergency, and advise the local embassy of your needs. Obtain travel insurance which includes emergency evacuation services.

Conditions Change, Stay Flexible: One month before the elite travel magazines touted the Roman-esque beauty of Libya’s ruins for a “must-see” experience, Tripoli erupted in the bloodshed which ousted 50 year tyrant Mohammar Kaddafi. Make sure that you are following local conditions on the ground in terms of weather, politics, and disease. Setting “Google” alerts with your destinations as the monitored topic is a great way to inundate your inbox with quality information. Much of the content will be irrelevant to your fears and preparations, which keeps reality in check: more often than not, ordinary life is carrying on as usual in the place of your next adventure. 

November 29, 2011

Tuesday Travel Trip - Health Preparations - One size fits a few, but not you:

Navigating the travel vaccinations process with our Byzantine U.S. healthcare system seems almost as daunting as the acquiring the diseases themselves. How do we distinguish between travel health “requirements” and “recommendations?”

One size fits a few, but not you:
It’s important to be conscious of your own health needs. Don’t leave your health preparations to the last minute, as some vaccines are issued over a course. Tell your medical provider to consider what you will be doing abroad, your own health history, and what you know about health concerns in your destination. Be your own advocate: ask specific questions about your doctor’s recommendations: What does this prevent? How effective are these vaccinations? What are the possible consequences of choosing not to be vaccinated? Obtain a traveler’s script of antibiotics and make sure you know when (and when not) to use them. Copy a record of your vaccination history, include the list of your regular medications, their dosage and frequency and pack this with your travel documents. Besides helping the medical providers with accurate diagnosis in case of illness, this is an organizational courtesy for your travel companions communicating health concerns on your behalf.

Valuable Travel Health Web Resources

November 22, 2011

Tuesday Travel Tip - Travel Health and Safety for Teens and Adults:

Every traveler seeks to avoid violent revolutions and health emergencies while adventuring abroad. But somehow even thinking about the possibilities makes humans feel superstitious and uneasy, as if planning for the “what-ifs” will illogically manifest the unlikeliest outcomes. Navigating the travel vaccinations process with our Byzantine U.S. healthcare system seems almost as daunting as the acquiring the diseases themselves. How do we distinguish between travel health “requirements” and “recommendations?” How to assess the subtle nuances between government reports: “notices” “advisories,” “warnings,” and “prohibitions?” Safety and health preparedness for educational global travel can be addressed rationally.  Teach yourself about the risks, preventative measures and smart traveling practices in your destination.

What’s REALLY a risk in that place? Consult the Center for Disease Control “Destinations” page  with your written itinerary.   Familiarize yourself with the advisories listed therein, and cross-evaluate with other websites. Read travel blogs from people on the ground in your destination. The Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum and are great places to pose questions: “How are the hospitals in Yangon?” “Did you see more tourists than mosquitoes in Luang Prabang?” The World Health Organization is essential reading for the rogue backpacker traveler. Conde Nast’s medical editor provides some basic vaccine suggestions for the “Urban and Upscale” itineraries.

The Friendship Tours World Travel Health & Safety advice continues next week on our blog: One size fits a few, but not you...

November 15, 2011

Tuesday Travel Tip - How does Friendship Tours World Travel get the best airfare prices for students?

How does Friendship Tours World Travel get the best airfare prices for students?
Bargain Airfare Strategies:
1.     Vuela Voyeurs: Staying informed about the range of airfares to your preferred destinations helps build your flight-buying confidence. If there’s a special route (say: LAX to JFK) which you fly regularly – or would, if the price were right—sign up for automatic alerts from consolidator sites:, Scan the travel section of your favorite Sunday newspaper for published flight deals and hotel / flight combos. Staying abreast of the market value over time makes it easier to identify a deal that you can’t pass up. 

2.     Price Insurance? Reserving 21 days in advance is usually the best bet for the time / money / planning bargain, but sometimes there are last minute sales. Playing airfare roulette can be a no-fun game. Wait too long, and you’ve got an unpleasant routing. Book too early, and price drops can boil your blood. Yapta helps you get a refund for the price difference before and after you travel.

3.     Timing is Everything: Experts at Travel & Leisure recommend shopping after midnight, when the non-committal public has sacrificed their unpaid reservation holds. Those at Condé Nast recommend shopping on Tuesday afternoons, after 3:00 p.m. Seats which didn’t meet the new fare sales goals on Monday are frequently featured on Tuesday, with smaller distributors matching those prices by

November 9, 2011

Tuesday Travel Tip - Healthy Red-Eye Flight Tips

Healthy FTWT Red-Eye Flight Tips:

Arrive refreshed, re-hydrated and ready for adventure with these simple preparations:
  1. Bring an empty plastic water bottle and fill it up at the departure gate drinking fountain. Drink it immediately. Repeat. Staying hydrated is key to healthy travel. Refill your bottle throughout the flight. (Tasty tip: adding a packet of Emergen-C crystals will give your immune system an extra boost while masking the *flavor* of airplane agua.)
  2. Pack a Ziplock bag with these long flight-rest essentials: ear plugs, eye mask / bandana, hand-wipes, toothbrush / paste, mouthwash and Tylenol PM (or sleep-enhancer of choice.) Before nodding off, visit the restroom (remember all that water you drank?), brush teeth, plug ears, cover eyes and let the meds do their magic.
  3. Upon awaking, get up and S-T-R-E-T-C-H! Knee-bend squats, forward folds, arms raised overhead. Your body will respect you in the morning if you invigorate it along the way. 

November 2, 2011

Agent Orange and Atoning for our Ancestor’s Mistakes

After showing a class of Santa Barbara High School history students this video —which conceals nothing of the horror Vietnamese families and American Veterans still suffer four generations after 20 million gallons of Agent Orange was senselessly sprayed on Vietnam -- I inquire of them: 

“How many of you think that the chemical companies who manufactured Agent Orange [Monsanto, Dow, among them] should pay for all the medical costs associated with Agent Orange birth defects throughout Vietnam and the United States?”

The majority of hands go up in assent.

I explain that there was a class action suit in the 1980’s and settlement for American veterans serving in the War from 1961-1972. The Settlement Fund closed in 1997 after it distributed $197 million in payment to about 52,000 American veterans and their families. The average payment was $3800.

Obviously, this doesn’t come anywhere close to redressing the injuries of everyone affected. For the Vietnamese, our chemical warfare has turned into a genetic plague:  the last victim of Agent Orange has yet to be born.

I ask another question of the class:

“How many of you think that the Vietnamese government should pay for the medical expenses to their afflicted people, and the American government should pay for the medical costs to ours?”

A few hands rise and grumbling remarks represent the diversity of student thought.

“Why should the Vietnamese pay anything? This wasn’t their fault.”

“Well, why should our government have to pay anything now? This happened 40 years ago and we can’t afford healthcare for regular people here today.” 

“Because we’re the idiots who dropped the chemicals.”

“I didn’t drop no chemicals on nobody.”

I decide to complicate the question of responsibility, compassion and care: 

“How many of you would agree that our government should pay for the health expenses to everyone –in Vietnam and the U.S.-- afflicted with Agent Orange-related disabilities if it meant that you personally had to pay more taxes?”

No hands are raised. Students look around at each other nervously.

A clarifying question from a bold student breaks the silence: “How much more in taxes?”

The room erupts with emotional opinion, everyone talking over one another. I catch snippets of their heated remarks:

“That’s so selfish, to worry about your taxes when innocent children are suffering from our stupid war!”

“Our taxes don’t give me free healthcare, now. Why should I pay more for someone I don’t even know?” 

“Maybe if we have had to pay the true cost of wars, we’d think twice before getting into them all over the world.”

“What’s done is done. The best we can do now is educate ourselves so that we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.”

I hush the class and asked the level-headed young man to repeat himself for the benefit of all the students.

He elaborates: “We can’t possibly undo all the damage we caused by the Vietnam War. Even if we paid for everyone’s health problems now, what about their children, and their children’s children? You can try to help in your own personal way, by volunteering or donating or whatever. But the best thing to do is make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Students volunteer at Friendship Village, Vietnam

And how do we make sure we learn history’s lessons? We bear witness to the horror, we heighten our sensitivity to the inhumanity, and be willing to speak up when we see it happening again.

The resident classroom teacher elaborates my point with an apt analogy to this racially-mixed group:

“Learning history’s lessons is like fighting racism. If you’ve had a terrible experience with it, or know someone who has, then the injustice becomes part of your story to tell other people. You then become the walking testimonial of that pain: “Here’s how bad it can get if we fail to do XYZ.” You must be willing to engage with those who suffer, and speak about it every chance you get. Over time, things change, because almost everyone comes to agree that it’s too horrible to go on like that anymore.”

And, paradoxically, if you’re willing to stretch your comfort zone and engage with the suffering of others in a constructive way, you’ll find a refreshed appreciation for your own life, your own health and your own challenges.

Including taxes.

September 12, 2011

How to Teach About 9/11 Without Oversimplifying

As global educators, we are entrusted with the challenge of making the incomprehensible understood.

The Los Angeles Times ran a nice cover story regarding the challenge that 9/11 presents for teachers and students.  

Ten years ago, I remember announcing the news of the Twin Towers terrorist attacks to my 9:00 a.m. 9th grade history students.  We cried. We were stupefied, brought low and unified in our grief.  I remember repeatedly answering the barrage of questions with the most honest answer an adult can give a child: “I don’t know.” 

Over the next few weeks, the kids’ questions multiplied and revealed the depth of our collective confusion: “Why do they hate us?” “What’s a Muslim?” “What did we ever do to them?” “Are the hijackers really going to be rewarded with 72 virgins when they get to heaven?”

Desperate to convey a complex understanding of the multi-faceted tragedy, I found an excellent source:  9/11 As History Project. Created by teachers, the project gets to the essence of the tragedy: Motive. Herein are extended lessons, activities, enrichment and a concluding project for a holistic understanding of relevant history preceding 9/11. Whose history?  The curriculum explores how U.S. foreign policy since the Balfour Declaration has shaped attitudes, geographic boundaries and distribution of resources in the Middle East. 

While the killing of civilians is a horror without justification, students understand that the “What did we ever do to them?” question has answers reaching back generations. 

Ultimately, we want to use 9/11 to impart lessons of civilized conflict resolution. The cycle of revenge has no winners. Students learn this critical lesson on our educational tours to the countries of our former adversaries. One cannot spend time with the innocent victims of warfare and fail to comprehend the futility of vengeance. It is here that tragedy becomes instructive: how do we to teach kids to dissolve the enmity between “us” and “them?” 

One Answer: Peace-Conferencing. The tragedy of 9/11 inspired a visionary high school teacher, Kristen Druker, to innovate a synthesis of international relations and technology. Check out this incredible web-based global conflict resolution platform.  

Druker has created a brilliant classroom instructional tool in which students act as parties to real-world conflicts, using methods of true-life diplomatic peace-negotiations. Watch them in action:  Students understand that discovering mutually-acceptable solutions to complex world problems is far more powerful than imposing unilateral force of will.

September 2, 2011

What Che Guevara can teach student travelers

Che Street Art, Cuba
“Do you know who Che Guevara is?” The TSA officer checking our boarding passes points his question and finger at my 10-year old son. It is Milo’s T-shirt that inspires this conversational interrogation. “Che Guevara was Fidel Castro’s Chief of Staff. Did you know that?”

“Yes,” Milo stares at the guard. I can tell he’s intimidated by his authority.

I’m annoyed and unimpressed. How dare this man pose political questions to my child?

“How old are you, young man?”


“Ten, huh? Are you old enough to dress yourself?”

I narrow my eyes. And bite my tongue.  The guard is more quirky and loud-mouthed than aggressive.  Regardless, he’s holding my driver’s license, boarding passes and the power to obstruct our departure.  

“Yeah, well…” he goes on increasing his volume for the benefit of other travelers, “Castro told Che Guevara to spread his ‘revolutionary message’ in Mexico… but he did such a lousy job, that he killed people and robbed a bank just to get enough money to survive. Did you know that, young man?”

The T-shirt is a child’s size, Asian-knock-off of the ubiquitous Che icon saturated in backpacker tourist shops across Latin America.  The irony, of course, is that it is being worn with no political voice whatsoever. On our last educational adventure to Vietnam, I bought the shirt for one-dollar in Saigon’s equivalent of an American Wal-Mart store. For the global traveler on a budget, the T-shirt represented a suburban-moms’ bargain-find, a cartoon character superhero printed on cotton. Cheap. Stain resistant. It was also the only clean shirt left at the end of our vacation; I had asked Milo to substitute it for the filthy “I Support Haiti” fund-raising Tee he had initially donned. Of all the silent horror stories our clothing betrays, the emotional agitation this child’s Che T-shirt has generated in this Travel Security Administrator proves instructive.

My boy doesn’t answer the man, but instead, crosses his arms and looks down. I place myself physically between him and the guard’s inappropriate questioning, and retrieve our documents. I choose to say nothing. We usher ourselves through the intrusive survey of our belongings. Shoes off. Conveyor belt. Cameras. Body scans.
“A real loser,” the man keeps spewing after we’ve turned our backs on him. “That Che Guevara guy was a real loser. He was a terrorist. You should think about that next time you get dressed in the morning.”
“Is it true, Mom? Was all that stuff he said true?” Milo’s eyes are wide and darting about nervously. Suddenly vulnerable, he clutches the Che decal on his T-shirt, an effort to conceal it from itinerant passengers marching across the concourse. I’m a mix of irritation and pragmatism, compelled to fortify him against the awkward experience of an authority figure exercising undue power.

“Honey, you know that Che is a hero to a lot of people. Cubanos think he’s a good guy. He’s the symbol of resistance against oppression.” When I lead educational community service programs for American students and teachers, we discuss the many depictions of the Argentinian Martyr throughout Havana: Che adorns street graffiti, statues, museums, silhouetted iron facades, body tattoos, paintings, magnets, baseball caps, photo books, earrings and infant “onesies.” 

What does this well-fed, middle-class, American airline cop know of a people’s pride in a nationalist struggle for sovereignty?

To Cubans, Che is a unifying force, an imaginary hope of the social utopian vision upon which the Revolution is based. Like all ideologues, his biography has its blemishes. For his admirers, the fact that Che exercised the use of violence (Malcolm X-style “by any means necessary!”) in his signature zealotry for justice (“Patria o Muerte!”) contributes to bolster his appeal.  For his critics, Che represents social disruption, chaos and a frustration with the failure of US policy to end Fidel Castro’s 50-year tyranny. Neither side feels apathetic towards Che’s image. Except those who have not yet drawn their lines of battle; today, in the airport, the indifferent provocateur is merely a boy.
As I provide explanations for why it’s ok to wear the T-shirt, struggling against the urge to give this TSA guy a swipe of my Mama Bear claws, I have an “aha!” moment. This is precisely why we are passionate for educational travel in the countries of our former adversaries: to provide civil opportunities for kids to master cross-cultural dialogues of differences. It is through these experiential “teachable” moments that we may sharpen our investigation of warfare.

Like every conscientious parent and teacher, I’d like to spare all children from targeted and misdirected hostility.  And yet, as we increasingly value “global competency” in our youth, I celebrate opportunities to empower kids to investigate the complexity of human conflict through student travel. We need to explore why an icon may serve to represent both evil and good for different cultures. It’s the essence of perception. It’s the beginning of understanding. It’s a necessary step towards peace. 

These opportunities are sometimes found in the confluence of our not-totally-globalized-not-always-free-speech of fashion. How can one person feel nothing, another a surge of pride and yet another uncontrollable rage at the sight of an American flag? What emotional freight does a symbol hold for different cultures? Ideally, the messenger may soften the message: adding a reasoned voice of clarification. Here’s how can we teach our kids to communicate with authority figure who has introduced a contentious dialogue:

We want our kids to know and be able to articulate the facts:
“Che ‘Ernesto’ Guevara was a medical doctor, a military strategist, and a Marxist who helped overthrow the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Bautista in Cuba, 1959.”

Assess the facts through comparison, contrast and analogy:
“Many of our American national heroes have unsavory backgrounds that we ignore.

Use the facts to make reasoned judgments:
 “I think that the good things Che did for people outweighed the bad. I understand that you feel differently.”

Ask definitional questions that expose assumptions:
“Would you be telling me what a ‘loser’ I have on my T-shirt if it were a picture of an American flag?” 

Speak truth to power:
“It’s inappropriate that you are discussing ‘terrorists’ and ‘politics’ with underage passengers in your purview as a TSA official. Please stop.”

The aptitude that our kids develop for understanding differences across cultures is a powerful source of conflict resolution and a measure of our continued civility as a species.

Why the image of Che Guevara’s caricature should arouse this man to such a breach of professionalism, directing disdain towards the wearer of a child’s T-shirt, is not something worth investigating. If he keeps it up--- and we’re doing our job---someday, one of our kids will set him straight.

March 30, 2011

Hello from Hanoi!

Xian Ciao from Hanoi! We left the Mekong Delta today at sunrise, drove to Can Tho, and then flew to Hanoi. We landed at lunchtime and have been exhilarated with the sights, sounds and smells of the north ever since.

Our hotel is located in the heart of the Old French Quarter adjacent to Hoan Kiem Lake. It is a dynamic, cultural hub where ancient Chinese pagodas nestle up against 19th century French architecture. People are squating along the sidewalks with their make-shift brick stoves, cooking meals for families and passersby, while scores of scooter-drivers zipping by make stepping out into the narrow streets a sizeable accomplishment.

It's an unbelievable scene. And the kids are loving it.

Tomorrow, we are going to Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum where the Revolutionary's body is on display in the style of Lenin. Thereafter we will visit other key sites, including the Hanoi "Hilton" -- a POW prison where John McCain was held during the War. On Friday, we go to the Friendship Village, which will be the highlight of our visit here in Hanoi.

March 27, 2011

Santa Barbara Spring Trip Vietnam in Saigon

It's hard to believe we arrived only yesterday. After landing in Ho Chi Minh City, we went straight to a T-shirt manufacturing factory and observed how people work in the garment industry. Thereafter, we enjoyed a delicious traditional lunch of spring rolls, vegetables, garlic-pepper fish and fresh fruit. Upon checking into our hotel, a refreshing shower energized us for our city tour of historical highlights. Students visited the Reunification Palace, where they learned about the war for independence, French defeat at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, America's entry into the war, how we misunderstood our "enemy" and why winning "Hearts and Minds" with bombs and bullets is always a losing endeavor.

Today, the group slept in and was ready for a fresh round of sightseeing. After an expansive breakfast, we went to the War Remnant's Museum where the Vietnamese tell their side of the story in pictures, displays, and military relics. It was an intense two hours, and many students admitted to knowing "nothing" about the War before taking this trip. (They can now speak with more confidence and knowledge about the conflict than most teens in America). Following our lunch at Pho 2000, students shopped at the famous Ben Tanh market for unprecedented bargain-hunting. Our afternoon was nothing short of life-changing. We visited the Little Rose Shelter, a home for girls (ages 8-18) rescued from abuse and the human trafficking sex trade. We sat in stunned silence as we listened to the story of the facility from the director; it was founded in 1997, and operates first to provide medical and psychological care to the girls, and therafter skills-training in various vocations (manicures, garment industry, secretarial and salon work). Then we introduced ourselves and started an ice-breaker game of "musical chairs" to the "cha-cha-cha" music we brought to share. Before long, the girls were teaching us their traditional dances, Vietnamese phrases and games. We spent nearly 3 hours at the shelter and everyone found it hard to say good bye. When we returned to the hotel we spent an hour in debriefing, discussion and journal writing about the day's many lessons. Overall theme: the resiliency of the the human spirit.

Alethea Tyner Paradis
Friendship Tours World Travel

March 22, 2011

Last Day in Vietnam for Emma Willard Students

Another great day yesterday. We saw the body of Ho Chi Minh and learned more about his philosophy that he wants the government to be close to the ordinary people, how he lived in such simple quarters to make that point, and how the country evolved from independence from the French. Our girls ask such great questions that integrate their thinking on politics and link the various stories of Vietnam together. We visited other governmental sites before lunch and then sat around an inside fire with Anh Khanh a performance and installation artist who talked about how government and artists relate and how he pushes his art to the line and avoids getting in too much trouble for making art that the police do not understand. After tea and looking around his gallery at his paintings and sculptures, and listening to the rain and wind develop, we went back to the Friendship Village, which is a center dedicated to those affected by agent orange (the kids who live there for long-term and the veterans who cycle in every two months). We were late, so while we waited for the next structure, girls tried to warm up by playing some soccer or huddling together for minute mysteries. A significant part of the day was gathering in the accommodations of the Vietnamese war veterans (it grew dark until the electricity returned), where they shared with us their roles in the war (blowing up bunkers, communication, etc.), their ideas about moving on from the past into a bright future for the younger generation, and how it is to connect with each other and those with whom they fought in the war. Another scrumptious dinner o' plenty brought us home.

Now, some girls went to the neighborhood breakfast place, or packed, or sauntered around with Les Baird to check out the goods in the local shops.

We'll check out in about an hour and be on our way for a little pampering (head massage/hair wash, nails and foot massage) before our last trip to the market. After dinner, we'll arrive at the airport.
This will likely be my last entry.

Emma Willard Girls Spend Last Days in Hanoi

Our days in Hanoi have been wonderful. The weather is cooler and cloudier than in the south (typical weather). We have toured the city, spent time listening to our guide talk about the culture and history, visited religious and political sights, eaten yummy dim sum and spring rolls of all kinds. Last night they let off steam in a private room with a karaoke machine. Girls sang in the back of the bus on the way to the Friendship Village where very formally we met the director, took a tour of the facility and then played soccer with the kids. Those who live and work there are all very very friendly. Today we look forward to "Uncle Ho's" mausoleum where his body has been preserved to be viewed, a pagoda and other sites of the city, and then more play time with the villagers after talking with Vietnam war veterans who get care and relaxation for two months before going home and another group comes in. Tomorrow we pack and the day is reserved mainly for eating and shopping before we leave. Several may get their hair washed and nails done in the Vietnamese style.

Emma Willard Girls Arrive in Hanoi

The Mekong Delta has been a real adventure.  We did so much while we were there, from listening to typical music, to biking around an island, rode in sampans with little cone hats, hiked, and helped cook food in the kitchen.  We loved our hosts, our beds with mosquito netting above and the basic bathrooms.  Most of all, we loved the joyful spirits everyone shared together, along with our cooking instructors and our guide Hau.  It was fantastic being on the water and stopping to see how coconut candy, puffed rice, sesame bars are made, how salt is gleaned from the ocean, how honey is collected and how fish sauce and snake wine is prepared.  We saw so many people who lived and worked on their boats and along the water.

Now we are at our posh hotel, after walking through the night market and having a plentiful French-Vietnamese dinner.  Ice cream at Fanny's was great as well as the Water Puppet Theater.  Our new guide is Long.  We look forward to some of the historical sites tomorrow along with our introduction to the Friendship Village.

March 11, 2011

Emma Willard School Group Unaffected by Japan's Earthquake / Tsunami

We just spoke with the guide in the Mekong Delta traveling with the Emma Willard school group. All are safe and unaffected by the earthquake and tsunami originating in Japan.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), Vietnam's coastal areas, including the Mekong Delta appears to remain unaffected by the earthquake/ tsunami originating off Japan's coast. The Emma Willard group will arrive in Hanoi this weekend. They will post another blog update of their traveling adventures once they access internet access in the city.

March 10, 2011

Emma Willard Girls Vietnam Trip Continues

Vietnam is still beautiful, intriguing and fascinating! After a late night and a few troubles, we woke to ANOTHER amazing breakfast (did I tell you there's someone to make eggs for you too?) and took off for China town. They toured a Temple and learned about making wishes for the dead and alive, then we went to the unification palace where we really learned about the history of the place through several presidents. My what amazing photos, rooms, basement, etc.! Our guide really knows his stuff! We had lunch in a buffet and tried the common hotpot soup along with tons of other delicious foods. The afternoon once again was spent with our friends at the Little Rose Shelter. Sara Berry presented them with money that they said they would use toward ingredients for their food. They are only allowed one outfit a year and often don't have flavoring for their foods. We learned about the history of the center and their needs and schedule, and took a tour. Then girls taught them dances like the cotton-eyed joe and a line dance and such before they engaged us in a game of monkey in the middle. A heart felt goodbye sent us back home. We await the bus soon that will take us to a restaurant on the river. ON the river, where we will float. We'll get in later than usual tonight ( I hope they are packed) and we'll depart much earlier than usual. A wake up call is in order at 5AM.

Emma Willard Girls in Vietnam go to War Remnants and Little Rose

After another lovely breakfast, we toured around town in our fancy bus and ended up at the War Remnants Museum (formerly the American Atrocities Museum). The girls had a chance to hear from our tour guide about the American War (our Vietnam war) from the side of a Vietnamese person. His father fought for South Vietnam, and he was a soldier for the unified Vietnam in Cambodia against Pol Pot. Father and son reunited in philosophy after the son regained the family home after it was confiscated after the American war. The museum was full of photographs and items from the wars, as well as a model of a tiger cage where they kept prisoners of war. Captured US tanks, helicopter, and various field artillery pieces were on display.

The girls really wanted to plan their play with the girls at the Little Rose Shelter, so they bought lots of beads and string and a soccer ball at the market after lunch, and so we ended up playing games (musical chairs, duck duck goose, hand/floor slapping and other games), learning more about each other and communicating in other ways as we made beaded bracelets for each other. It was the favorite part of the day for many. One said that she thought it was astounding how close she feels to these girls without the commonality of language. Of course Ngoc helped a lot too, but encouraged us to make our own connection without her being the go-between.

After returning to the hotel, we had an hour to get ready for dinner. We all took a side trip to the dress shop down the street. Dinner was fun with typical food. Another 4-5 course meal with seafood, pho noodles, fruit and more. We had plenty! Now the girls are tired and ready to settle down.

Tomorrow, the reunification palace and return for our last day with the Little Rose Girls.

Emma Willard School Girls Arrive in Vietnam

We made it last night around 2AM to our hotel after a long visa processing adventure. Sara Rahimi passed the immigration officer at the last minute of her birthday 12AM, with about 15 seconds to spare!

Girls were a little excited last night but finally fell asleep. We got up and had a delicious breakfast: dumplings, yogurt, sausage, pancakes, fried noodles, dragonfruit, watermelon, and much much more.

Les Baird made signs for each of their water spigots to help them keep from using the tap water to brush teeth and all were on the road for a little tour of Saigon. We saw the French architecture of the post office and city hall, a beautiful statue of "Uncle Ho" (Chi Minh), the old US consulate building and the hotel where war journalists stayed. We drank coconut water from the seed itself, ate pho where Bill Clinton ate pho (noodle soup) called Pho 2000. We stopped to see a rehearsal of a fashion show, complete with dancers. The biggest surprise was sticking our heads into the entrance way of Ngoc's middle school!
Everyone seemed to enjoy the market. Some were proud of their bargaining skills, others showed off their new clothing and other stuff. We enjoyed watching girls try on wigs and shoes, and eat their lunches from round metal containers.

Speaking of Ngoc, she saved the day by initiating our connection with the girls at the Little Rose Shelter by translating all we needed to know. The afternoon was improvised and all the girls rose to the occasion by offering up and playing various games. We learned to count to 10, how to say each others' names, and the words for I, you, left and right. It was a spirited afternoon with lots of smiles. We gave them lots of VHS movies for kids, but alas they didn't have a machine, but promised to give them to someone who could appreciate them.

After a short break (swimming in the pool, nap and organizing), we went out for dinner at the Chateau. Dinner had little animals made of fruit that escorted in our courses: coconut soup, fish (whole fish), morning glory, meat dish with pork and fruit for dessert.

As we returned all voted to sleep until tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow the highlights are visiting the war remnants museum and return to the Little Rose Shelter. We hope to get to know those girls even more now that the ice is broken.

Cam on and bye bye.

January 19, 2011

Michelle Obama Urges Students to Study Abroad

While President Obama met with Chinese leader Hu Jintao at the White House, first lady Michelle Obama used Hu's visit to encourage students to become part of the global community. "Studying in countries like China isn't only about your prospects in the global marketplace. It's not just about whether you can compete with your peers in other countries to make America stronger," Obama said. "It's also about whether you can come together and work together with them to make our world stronger. Its about the friendships you make, the bonds of trust you establish and the image of America that you project to the rest of the world."get out of their comfort zones and help to "develop that habit of cooperation."

Click here for the full story via The Washington Post: At Howard U., Michelle Obama urges students to study abroad, form bonds outside U.S.