Note: The post from April 2nd is not yet complete (possibly too many experiences to write about!) and will be posted soon.
This morning we woke up early to visit the floating market. We took a boat ride along the Can Tho river, a branch of the Mekong River, to reach the market. The market opens every morning at 2 AM but we only had to wake up at 6. The market was hectic and busy, boats bumping up next to each other and unloading their goods. Other boats came along side us trying to sell us coffee and other drinks. After the floating market, we walked through another market. The floating market was not for tourists-it only sold goods in bulk. But this market was selling vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, frogs and snakes. Most of the fish, frogs and snakes were still alive, squirming around in small buckets because they can sell them for more this way, occasionally flopping out and having to be chased down be the vendor as we braved our way through. There was also butchered chickens being sold, feet and all. It put a tiny bit of a damper on our breakfast.
After breakfast we went to Can Tho College to meet up with our pen pals, most of which we had met the night before at karaoke. However, I hadn't met my pen pal yet and was incredibly nervous to meet her. After a brief welcome and exchange of gifts, we played traditional Vietnamese games, Flying Bird, crossing the monkey bridge and Dancing with bamboo sticks. Flying bird is a bit like musical chairs but with two people making a "cage" and the third person being the bird, running between the cages for safety. Whoever doesn't make it into the cage is left in the middle and at the end they have to sing and "fly" around in front of everyone. Monkey bridge is a game where you have to balance while walking across bamboo pole. It's called monkey bridge because you look like a monkey while you're walking across it. After crossing you have to throw a ball through a small hoop and whichever team has the most points, the most people who could make it across the bridge and throw the ball through the hoop, would win. With dancing with bamboo sticks, there are four rows of pairs, each pair holding two bamboo sticks between them. They bang the bamboo against the ground. For the first three beats, the bamboo sticks have a space between them but on the fourth beat, they come together. They continue with this pattern. You have to find the right beat to dance through them, hopping so that your feet don't get hit.
My pen pal, Thao Nguyen and I became fast friends as did everyone else. All of the students of Can Tho were very welcoming, eager to share their culture with us and learn about ours as well as practice their English, even though some of them had only been learning English for a couple months. We ate KFC for lunch along with local fruit, Nguyen teaching me the names of all the fruit as well as simple phrases in Vietnamese.
When it was time to leave, it was very hard to say goodbye. Even through we had only spent one evening and one morning together, we had all become close. We hugged, took pictures and said goodbye with tears in our eyes as we drove away, promising to continue to write each other and to visit again in the future.
After a bus ride and a beautiful ride across the river we got to our home stay. It's located on an island and away from the city, so much calmer and relaxing than in the city. We can hear the boats going by and the roosters crowing every once in a while. We're staying in a small home that's very open and surrounded by hammocks. There are so many adorable dogs here as well and we have to use all our willpower to keep from petting them. It's the perfect place to relax after the emotionally draining days we've had recently. After relaxing for a couple hours we took a bike ride around the island. There were a couple debacles, including a monkey bridge we had to cross with our bikes, sand pits and a flat tire but we muddled through. When we got back our tour guide, Hau, played the guitar and sang songs from his time in the army as we watched the sun set over the trees. It was beautiful and we are all convinced that there is nothing he cannot do.
We ate a delicious dinner made by our home stay family. We helped make part of it, learning how to make taro spring rolls. They were delicious! After dinner Hau had some team building exercises designed for us. It got a bit competitive but it was all in good fun. We ended the evening by spontaneously singing Lean on Me, a beautiful end to a fantastic day.
It's hard to believe that our trip is already half over. It been so packed with fun, with emotion, with beautiful moments and with sad. We've all learned so much and we have all grown so much closer. I think I speak for us all when I say this trip has been wonderful and we wish we could stay longer!