I only got to spend a total of 10 days in Vietnam, but in that short time I worked, hungout with locals, drank lots of Vietnamese coffee and taught english to a class of Vietnamese students in the park.
My trip started in Saigon for the weekend. In the two days I was there I visited the Vietnamese Notre Dame Cathedral, their colorful and bustling post office and spend the afternoon with new friends, exploring the Vietnam War Museum.
Sunday night I was picked up by car and taken two hours east, towards to coastal town of Vung Tau for work. I spent my week in Vung Tau training an awesome group of guys on how to refurbish and repair personnel transfer devices (transfer men and equipment from oil platform to crew boat and vice versa). One of the days I rode with one of the guys on the back of his motorbike to a beach where only the locals hangout. Even though he spoke little english and I only knew how to says "cheers!" (nung li) in Vietnamese we had great conversation. Its amazing how much is understood from hand gestures and smiling. afterwards we grabbed some local street food, then hopped on his motorbike to take me back to my hotel overlooking the ocean.
Most of my nights after work, I hungout with Mrs. Oahn (my chaperone and HR person for the company I was working for) and her husband (a supervisor for a furniture making company in Vung Tau). They had me over for dinner, took me to the top of the mountain over looking ocean to watch the sunrise, and on an hour motorbike ride into the country side to see their families farm in the middle of nowhere Vietnam. I picked jack fruit, banannas and eat the most delicious mangos right off the vine.
When it was time for me to head back to Saigon after my week of work, I was reluctant to leave Vung Tau because of all the friends I had made, but they all wished me farewell and I promised I would be back in a few months to visit with my brother.
Once I got back in Saigon I met with a family friend named Sam. He showed me around the city and took me two hours north on a tour of the Cui Chi Tunnels. Cui Chi is a network of over 250 kilometers of underground tunnels about three feet high inside dug by the Vietcong over a 20 year period. These were used during the Vietnam War to attach the US forces. After touring Cui Chi, Sam and I went to the Cui Chi gun range and shot a few round with an AK-47 and a few other guns.
One of my last nights in Vietnam I was sitting at the the park in Saigon, people watching, when I was approached by a gentleman who looked local and spoke good english. he asked where I was from and if I was interested in helping his students learn english in the park that evening. I spent the rest of the night reading to the students while they repeated after me. After class they invited me to their temple the following night where they have their regular nightly english class. We ate a vegetarian dinner and I had one-on-one conversations with the students at the front of the classroom. Afterwards the students and I all went out for fresh coconut juice and I answered questions about America.
Vietnam is an experience that I will never forget. I can't wait to go back later in the year, but now I'm headed to Myanmar to meet my brother and travel the country for the next month.