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