Posted by: projectvietnam | July 4, 2007

Day 11, Our Last Day

The last day. It has such a tone of finality to it, and all of us strove to make the most of it and our time left together in Viet Nam. The day opened, and the project officially ended, with a press conference held in the hotel lobby. It was attended by project members, our mentees, teachers from the 15 May school, representatives from our sponsors, and members of the press. Hoai and An were our emcees, and the conference included a summary of SEALNet and our project by Misha, presentations of gifts to May 15 school and our sponsors, a slideshow presentation put together by Tuan, and short speeches by Ben and two mentees talking about their experiences on this project. After the conference went out for lunch with some of our mentees in classic style: taking over the whole restaurant.

After our final (again that word) group debriefing, we headed out to Ben Thanh Market for dinner and some shopping. For the first time during our trip, we all got to choose our own dishes with no limiting price except our own wallets. Laden down with souvenirs, clothes, and in the cases of some guys, stuffed toys, we made our way to the Jazz Club, where we shared drinks, good music, and good company. It was a perfect ending to our project, with everyone gathered together regardless of illnesses or fatigue; for the first time in a long time every member of the group was out, for that final night.

We walked back to the hotel, enjoying the coolness of the night, chatting, now pros at crossing the streets without fear (or at least less fear), and we stayed up til late, hurriedly packing and finishing our “yearbooks”. One by one we succumbed to sleep, and as you looked around the room you could see people with a pen in one hand, an open notebook in the other with an unfinished sentence trailing off, and a partially open mouth with closed eyes.

And thus brings an end to Project Vietnam 2007. An end to our project, but not the work that we have started through the mentees, nor the friendships we have made. Who knows when we will all be able to be together as a group again, coming from different schools and countries, but hopefully, it will not be too long. Cheers to everyone, for each person played an integral part in the chemistry of our group. God bless!

Long after the pictures grey

Friends shall we forever stay

Though the places and faces fade

But not memories that we have made

For while the work is never done

But if our hearts bond as one

Then in the end we’ll meet again

At the victory line; forever friends.

— Selena Tan

Posted by: projectvietnam | July 4, 2007

Thoughts from Day 10

Our last day at 15 May.

Last days are such precious things. Everything passes by in a heightened blur – senses are sharpened, but all at once, and the mind copes with the overload by muddling everything together. Even though it’s not as if we’ll never be able to come back again, we will never be able to replicate the experience, the people, the process.

Debriefing the high school mentees in the morning, one last time. Discussing the previous day’s mini-projects at the two shelters, chatter and voices filling the room that we had painstakingly cleaned, what, only eleven days ago?

Lunch, generously hosted by 15 May. Banh Xeo (is that what the pancake thing is called?), fried rice noodles, amazing spring rolls. Lychees and rambutans, and for the finale, a huge kem cake.

Project presentations – all of us sitting in our seats, eager yet apprehensive to watch and listen to our mentees share the fruits of their hard work. Words of advice, comments, questions, answers, from mentors and mentees alike. Hearing mentees speak up, when ten days ago they wouldn’t have dared. Watching mentees supporting each other and complementing each other during presentations, when five days ago we would doubt it happening. Applause and encouragement, all around.

One last glance into the room where we’d held workshops, played insane games, shared deeply with our mentees, had random conversations with each other, laughed and worked and played and talked for ten days. One last handshake, one last smile, one last photo with 15 May, the people and the place.

Saying goodbye is always hard. The blow is softened by knowing that we have left bits of ourselves in kids’ hearts, in painted letters on white walls, in laptops in a new computer lab, in the English curriculum and activities, in people we’ve had the privilege of interacting with, in the friends we have made.

Final dinner, “everyone dress nicely please”, so we did. A room, air conditioned to make up for the trek up and down stairs to get to the food (buffet). Good food, better company. Mouths busy with food and words, a happy noise. Penning memories, things about other people, even a love letter or two – “Your voice haunts my dreams, just like the roaring howl of the lone wolf declaring his love for the lunar goddess. But she is far away, in a place I cannot be. Where are you now Misha? With Mike?” And then, going round to find people, giving words of thanks with knots. Wrists encircled with red and yellow and the occasional white of a paper napkin. Lots of thanks, knots of thanks.

Some things never end; they simply head off in new directions.

— Gayle Esther Lee

Posted by: projectvietnam | July 4, 2007

Day 9, Thurs June 28

So, I have noooooo idea what happened to the idea of somebody blogs everyday of the project, but it hasn’t happened. I can give you a brief idea of today though. If you want to know the full story, you have to go back to last night (Wednesday night). After our de-briefing, we had spotlight on and then some of us went to go find a café.

The hours for cafés had come and gone, as it was now past midnight, and our only option was a big tall, bar-looking building which had the words, “Go2Eat” on the bottom, “Go2Drink” on the middle, and “Go2Bed” on the top floor of the building. And so, we found ourselves at the Go2 Café, Restaurant, Bar, Hotel, or whatever it was in the middle of the Backpackers’ Area on Pham Ngu Lao Street. The place had, as Martha put it, “more white guys times ten than I have seen in my entire time in Vietnam.” The place really wasn’t my style, too much alcohol and too many drunk foreigners. So, after we left the place, we decided to go for a walk.

When I was in the USA, I think it was definitely advised that you don’t go out at night but here, but especially in a group of eight or so people, it seemed quite quite safe. We walked from the Backpackers’ Area to the City Hall and then the opera house, and then to the Cathedral, Notre Dame.

City Hall

It was a beautiful night and we had the entire city to ourselves. It was silent and beautiful and the lights playing off of the pavement, sidewalks, and the glass that covers the tall buildings of the new Sài Gòn. After that, we walked back to the hotel and arrived at about 3:00AM.


This morning, I woke up at 8:00AM and went back to 15 May School. When we got there, we had a nice stretching session led by Hung. After that, we started to paint on the gigantic canvas that we primed yesterday with blue and black paint. It turned out quite nice and we will complete it tomorrow.

After painting various shapes in circular patterns and a nice lunch, we headed out to the shelters. My group of students had already met at 15 May School and had left earlier by city bus. Then, the SEALNet team followed by Taxi.

Our students had come up with games and we played the games with the little kids at the shelter for a while. At the end, the mentees presented their gifts to the shelter and gave candy out. Overall, it was quite a touching experience. The little kids at the shelter got so happy to see us all there. Afterwards, however, some of the SEALNet members voiced their concerns about how they went to the shelter for a day, got the kids there excited, and then we just left back to our nice hotel and a few days later, all of us will leave Ho Chi Minh City.

After the shelter, I split from the group and went to a coffee shop with some of the mentees to listen to some of their discussion on their service plan. I didn’t help them with it, but rather, gave them specific ideas on basic project planning and presentation.

Came back to hotel a few minutes late, had debrief, spotlight on, then the team left for dinner. I split again and headed to get kem (ice cream) with two of the mentees (Anh Tú and Nandar) and to discuss ideas about SEALNet in Myanmar in the future. Afterwards, we explored near the city hall again and then they dropped me off at the hotel to go to sleep.

What I learned in Day 9? I think that this day, I saw for the first time, the real beauty of Sài Gòn. We’ve been running around so much on the crowded streets and alleyways that I did not have time before today to appreciate the beauty of the city. I also was glad to see the high school students become so excited about the younger students at the orphanage.

—Daniel Clayton Greer

Posted by: projectvietnam | July 4, 2007

Thoughts from Day 8

Thoughts from day 8

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What is most int
eresting on the 8th day of the SEALNet project Vietnam 2007 is the circle painting. Hung and Hiep, our circle painting leaders, arrived at Le Duy Hotel and we all left for 15 May School to start our circle painting.

We arrived at the 15 May School at 10:00AM, and then discussion about circle painting started. During the discussion, we were told that our painting will be exhibited in Singapore and that we expected to get 2 million US$ from this painting. More importantly, the ASEAN Head of State and US president George Bush will meet during this event to celebrate the ASEAN’s 40th anniversary and 30 years of ASEAN-US relations. “WOW” $2 million waiting for us!

After the discussion, Hung and Hiep led us through some activities about movement to get us prepared. We were asked to arrange ourselves into one big circle, then into two circles the second time and overlapping circles the third time. Later on, we were grouped into pairs and learned to move together, being both a leader and a follower through eye contact.

Yeh Yeh! The time we had been waiting for finally arrived. Circle painting got started!!!!!

Anyway, before we painted, we were told about the goals and rules of the circle painting.

Ah Ah!!! Here are the goals:

To create the painting together
To learn, to play and to work together
To appreciate others and yourself

Paint in silence
The only word you can say is “WOW”
When you hear a sound, you must stop and then breathe in and listen to the instruction
Hiep, our SEALNet artist, started painting a very small circle in the middle of the canvas and SEALNet project Vietnam members began to paint down to all the edges of the canvas. Yeh!!! We finished the first step, priming the canvas. I’m afraid we’ll have to leave you with a cliffhanger, though. If you want to know what happens next withour circle painting, tune in next time (check out day 9 of project Vietnam 2007)!

— Haksym Chhay

Posted by: projectvietnam | July 4, 2007

Highlights from Day 7

Day 7,

So by this point in time, everyone’s contracted some kinds of virus. But that doesn’t stop us going out after the 12am…

In day 7 many things happened, like the rest of the days during the project.  I would like to highlight 3…

1) Project reflection in the morning by the mentees – Catherine and I got the chance to debrief and share our thoughts with 2 mentees, Thanh Thanh and Tuan.  We were talking about our impact, what needed to be improved…  But Thanh Thanh and Tuan shared their dreams and thoughts. PV’07 has revitalized their energy to dream.  For Thanh Thanh, she no longer doubts her dream of being the torch in the field of Psychology in Vietnam.  The study of people interaction and behavior is very limited in Vietnam and she would like to change that.  While hearing their thoughts, Catherine and I looked at each other and we realized we had the chill going all over our body.  It was so powerful at that moment, and so real. I can still feel it.  Any way, we didn’t expect to see the fruit of our work so soon… But we do hope that the fruit we beared will only get better and bigger… Just want to applause you guys for the work that you have done so far in Vietnam.

2) We love spot-light on.  Questions about John, animals, dreams, choice of death-liquid, and more John were asked.  We usually only have 2 spotlight on.  But tonight, we had 3.  so it was a very nice break from a hard day at work. 

3) In the afternoon, we saw the intensity that exists between mentees and their teams.  Amazingly, they become very competitive with each other.  They really enjoy their work and want to make the best.  These all are good things, except not when it has negative effects.  And especially when you are on the SAME TEAM!!! So Selena and I gave another workshop about teamwork and team dynamic again.  We did the hands-lock… making them work together to untangle each other.  We hope that it will have a positive impact on their leadership skills development.

Thank you for a wonderful day and a wonderful week so far…


— An Vo

Posted by: projectvietnam | July 4, 2007

Thoughts from Day 6

Monday June 25th

What a day! I really enjoyed the leadership component today. Boon Ming and Yenda incorporated a tremendous presentation of the different qualities of being a leader. I think it is important for the high school kids to know the characteristics and its differences of being a leader. Boon Ming and Yenda demonstrated the differences of a “boss and a “leader” by performing short skits to the audience. A boss would say, “Go!” while the leader would suggest, “Shall we proceed?”

It was tragic to witness Tuan being attacked by Ti, the little boy (resident) with weaponry such as, water balloons and other massive amounts of water. I also enjoyed participating in the mock fundraising project where the high school students had to organize a charity concert and raise funds from leaders around the town. I believed this activity helped them for their public speaking skills for their future especially to aide them in their service project. As for the Curriculum component, I was glad to hear that the 15 May kids were responsive to the teaching methods of their teacher.

— John Ting

Posted by: projectvietnam | July 4, 2007

Day 5, aka Tay Ninh “Cow Day”

Day 5

Sunday is a great day! Holiday, family day, shopping day, fun day… To me, this Sunday is the most meaningful Sunday in my life, or at least I can see a new chapter written in my life as I never get so close to someone else other than my family members. (|| ß This close)

I am supposed to work in the gardening team or help building the cow shed in a children shelter based on my body size but I end up being a bear with the kids. I think it is easier to work with the kids, at least I won’t sweat like a pig under the sun gardening or working on the cow shed, I AM WRONG!!! I end up sweating like a pig all the same…

I am skeptical at first when we are introduced to the kids. Since “Xin Chao” and “Tam Biet” are the only Vietnamese that I know, I am worried that I won’t be able to communicate with the kids. After warming up with the kids, Hoai and I finally got the connection and we start to play the ‘superman’ game with kids. It is so much fun! Martha is trying so hard but all she get in the end is to hug a baby (which seemed doesn’t know about the fear of Caucasian like other kids having… lol).

In the afternoon we have lunch together with Blue Dreams volunteers and after that, it is the most unforgettable moment for the whole project. I get connected too close with one kid who touches me so much! All I have done for him is to hug and play with him and he gets so happy even by just some simple hugs. Til a point when Daniel comes up and asks for his name, well, he doesn’t want to share that but I get his name afterwards. It is a little secret that I do not want to share. 😉

In the late afternoon all of us are leaving to visit the SEALNet Cow. He cries. The boy cries when I am leaving… and I cry. Think about it, all I have done is just spending one morning playing with him, walking into his simple life and now I am leaving. Just one morning is enough to stay connected heart to heart with him. It is so hard for me. Thinking about all that I have compared to his, I am so fortunate. I wish I can do more than that for him. I wish I can come back and spend more time with him other than just paying a visit in his life. I am falling apart…

Next few hours we spend the time climbing the ‘Black Lady’ mountain but I am speechless and staying emotionally unstable. I cannot get the picture of the kid out of my head. When we reach the top of the mountain, brightness strikes me. I am determined. I will come back for him…

— Boon Ming the Bear

P.S. from the editor, pictures coming soon!

Posted by: projectvietnam | June 29, 2007

Day 4, Excerpt

Excerpt from Public Speaking Workshop on Day 3:

“It is well-known that crossing Vietnam’s streets may be construed as a moderately risky endeavor that necessitates a great deal of preparation and constant vigilance in order to avoid unfortunate and undesired collisions between motorbikes the person crossing the road. In order to achieve this effect, it becomes important for the person crossing the road to always ensure that both sides of the road are relatively clear of oncoming traffic before beginning to cross, as failure to do so may result in a state of surprise at the emergence of various vehicles from blind spots, side alleys and opposite roads.”
Delivered in an excruciatingly boring monotone by Stephanie

“Urm… so… yeah. Crossing the street in Vietnam. Like, don’t get distracted by things, like, dresses. Speaking of which, there was this totally sweet dress I saw the other day! It had pink polka dots and this frilly flower design, like, omigawd! So, yeah, like, you gotta, like, be careful, because, like, when you’re careful, you’re like, safe. Yeah.”
No additional stage directions needed; delivered by Selena.

“The third thing to remember when crossing the streets of Vietnam is to never leave home without your suit of armor. Some people might call that extreme, but it makes sense when you think about it. The human body is depressingly soft and squishy; motorbikes are infamously hard and metallic. In order to give your squishy human body a fighting chance at crossing the street, without getting smooshed by the five million motorbikes zooming around, it is utterly necessary that you put on that suit of armor to put you on par with the motorbikes.”
Not to be taken seriously unless extremely eccentric; delivered by Ben Lo

— Ben Lo

Posted by: projectvietnam | June 29, 2007

Day 3

Quotes of the Day:

Ân: Em ỏiiiiiiiiiii…


Hoài: Would you rather lose the pleasure of food or the pleasure of sex?

John: Sex.

Hoài: What? Sex is so good. But food is more frequent.


Friday morning brought pouring rain. Even though it was only the third day, the team’s ability to wake up slowly decreased.  For fear that the mentees would arrive before us, we took taxis to the school and ate breakfast there. Once all the mentees arrived, Selena and Ân ran the first workshop—an introduction to Service Leadership. The pair used a mixture of questions, activities and lectures to explain not only what service leadership was, but also how it is important. In one activity, each mentee-mentor pair was given a ball of clay. One person was only able to use his hands, the other his eyes and voice. Together they had to form an object, such as a flower or a pig. The goal was to illustrate how neither the hands (service) nor the voice (leader) could have completed the task alone. Ending with an inspirational question—”Are you the next Ghandi or Mother Teresa”—we took a break for lunch at the school. By one, the mentees were back, mentors were fed, and we were ready for round two. The second leadership workshop was on CoLeadership and Teambuilding with a focus on communication and feedback, led by Hoài and me. Through a series of activities the mentees learned how to communicate with each other positively and lead within a team setting. The last activity was Blind Corral in which everyone, mentee and mentor, was blindfolded and led into a “maze” and given the goal to find the exit. If they needed help they were just to raise their hands. The maze in reality was a roped box without an exit so asking for help was the only way out. After the workshop ended, we left 15 May for the hotel to shower before dinner. After dinner we headed over to a karaoke bar. From bad cult classics like YMCA to pop Vietnamese songs like Kathy, we bonded over terrible singing and tambourines. Not only were we successful as singers but for Ân the night was successful in more areas. Upon leaving the bar, he called after a girl in a tone that no man will ever be able to recreate. Then he proceeded to try his luck on the receptionist… who happened to be male. Later that night we had spotlight where John was given the terrible dilemma of choosing food or sex. He chose food to Hoài’s chagrin. Finally, at midnight, we crashed, satisfied and exhausted.

–Martha Smith

Posted by: projectvietnam | June 27, 2007

Thoughts from Day 2 (FINALLY)

I woke up early, excited and somewhat anxious for the day to start. After the polar bear broke the ice on Day 1, I had come to learn about everyone’s hopes and motivations; I had come to learn about our collective dream and the impact we want to make. It’s really interesting how a random and diverse group of strangers can become friends so quickly because of a shared goal. But this polar bear… that is, this goal of ours, will it catch any fish? I came downstairs after I got ready and waited in the lobby.

On the taxi ride, I stared out the window, watching Hô Chí Minh City’s traffic− a perplexing ordered chaos. Actually, I had seen Vietnam’s city traffic for more or less a week already; though it still strikes me as an unnatural phenomenon. Most of the team’s members would agree with me.

When we arrived at May 15, we were given an introduction by the school’s principal and project manager. They welcomed our enthusiasm and good will, hoping for us to achieve everything we want to. The children saw new faces and their faces lit up with eyes so bright. We played with them, but they taught us.

I met my mentees, Khoa and Daniel, in the afternoon. When I was talking with them, I realized something about myself. I love to pass down and share my experiences. Yet I know they also have a lot to teach me. I hope in the future our relationship would still last and I would continue to guide them along in whatever journey they wish to set on.

Shortly before debriefing, the guys gathered in my room and we all equipped ourselves with water guns. We had a lot of fun blasting the girls, but we got into some trouble with hotel management. Some people got hurt… but it really was fun, at least for the guys.

Exhausted after debriefing and spotlight on, I passed out on my bed, looking forward to the next day.

— Tuan Huynh

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