My three-week tour of Southern Vietnam educational institutes has been full of pleasant surprises. Not only did our workshops go smoothly, I’ve made new friends and been able to explore some very cool places in the Mekong Delta. Ashley Laracy, another WUSC volunteer, and I visited Vinh Long Community College, Kien Giang TEC and Tra Vinh University. At our first stop in Vinh Long, I was so pleased to see they had made a banner to promote our workshops. Mine was “Creating Powerful Stories For Marketing and Promotion.” Ashley’s was “Partnership Development.” The college was a little outside the downtown core, so on a few evenings Ashley and I hiked the 5 km into town to enjoy a coconut water or dark beer…worth the walk! Translator Minh Chao was a wonderful help, from making sure the room was ready, to providing us with her impeccable English skills. She was also in charge of writing up the college’s “Success Stories” so I coached her and we interviewed two very impressive alumni, the president of a rice processing company and high ranking manager in an international rice company. On our last day we took a boat tour and completed our evening at a delicious seafood restaurant. Kien Giang is a seaside resort town full of charm and fantastic coffee shops. Watching the sunrise and sunset with an iced café sua da was spectacular. We presented our workshops to the largest groups yet, 50 people per workshop. The rector and vice rector attended, as did many teachers and administration staff. Each evening our hosts took us to a new eating spot. My favorite was a place that offered a huge pancake stuffed with veggies and shrimp. Yum! We also were judges at an English Speaking Contest where students competed for prizes based on grammar, comprehension and delivery. Lots of fun. One of the staff took us out to have our hair washed – an amazing Vietnamese tradition that took more than an hour and was super relaxing. My hair never felt so clean! A gorgeous campus full of sparkling yellow buildings welcomed us at Tra Vinh University. Each morning while sipping our iced coffees on the patio of the school canteen we watched exuberant students play soccer or volleyball on the nearby pitch. Here, our workshops were given to staff in charge of international collaboration and international partnerships, so we were able to give them in English with no translation. Much easier. Tra Vinh is a lovely place, divided by a canal. We spent many evenings sitting and chatting in restaurants by the water. One day we even saw a dragon boat team practicing.
The south of Vietnam is very different from the north. People are not in such a hurry. They are warm and friendly and very inclined to share a plate of seafood or an iced drink with you. The participants in our workshops were also really engaged and I’m looking forward to seeing them implement what they’ve learned in the next few months.