In June a group of Tabor students and chaperones spent ten days in Vietnam for our fifth annual Southeast Asian Service program. The group began their adventure in Ho Chi Minh City, exploring temples and open air markets, and even took a cooking class to learn about making traditional Vietnamese dishes. The group then collaborated with villagers in the Ben Tri district to build a house for a local family, and interacted with school children to learn about local customs. These service trips provide a great chance to learn about other cultures and to experience a new ecology and environment while working together with new friends.
Before and during the trip, students shared their thoughts and insights. Read a few below:
Q: What are you most looking forward to for the upcoming Vietnam Service Trip?
Brian Nam ‘20
I'm very excited to experience new circumstances and a new culture. When I was in 4th grade, I went to Vietnam on a family trip. At that time, I didn't have an opportunity to learn about authentic Vietnamese culture. I believe that this Vietnam Service Trip will provide a great opportunity for me to actually experience the Vietnamese culture. Moreover, I can't wait to work with people with the same passion!
Laurel Evans-Diffenderfer ‘21
I am looking forward to visiting a new country where I can experience and learn about a culture different from my own. I am excited to interact with the locals and learn how we differ but also what similarities we share surrounding our life experiences. I am also very excited to try new food and learn how to cook it myself. Lastly, I look forward to being able to help out the community by the work we are going to do with building.
Mary Do ‘21
Since I’m Vietnamese and it is not a casual thing for Tabor students to go all the way to Vietnam, my hope is for everyone to enjoy this trip. I can’t wait to share my culture, language or simply daily life with my Tabor friends. Also, through the other’s learning experience about Vietnam, I will be able to learn more about the differences between our ideals and cultures even further! It’s going to be a fun trip overall!
Q: Can you tell us about learning to cook new foods?
Yaya Ma ’21
Today we learned to cook traditional Vietnamese food in a cooking class We made three classic Vietnamese dishes. The meals were very healthy and it was a fun experience!
Mary Do ’21
Today’s activity was really fun! We learned to cook in a cooking class, then eat our own meals and they were all really pretty and delicious! Of course I know all those dishes before since it is my cuisine, but the fact that I get to prepare it myself made it a thousand times more interesting and tasteful!
Q: What is the most memorable to you about the Vietnam trip?
Brian Nam ‘20
Watching food preparation using frogs in Ben Thanh market was one of the most shocking moments for me. I've heard of cultures of eating frogs; but I had never seen it before. The woman was cutting a frog's head with scissors and peeling its off skin without any hesitation. When I expressed my surprise, my friends didn't judge me but explained about the preparation. Their support opened and broadened my perspectives toward the culture of eating frogs. I even want to try frogs in the future. Thank you for being open minded to someone new to a different culture. I am very excited to learn more about different cultures by trying new things!
Colton Mairs ‘20
In Ho Chi Minh City, looking at the mass amounts of bikes and all the buildings, I realized how many differences the culture and everyday life was to that of what I am used to in the U.S.
Garrett Horton ‘20
When we first arrived in the village in the Ben Tri district, we met the family whom we were building the house for and saw their current living situation. It took me a moment to think about how much we would be helping them. Their house didn’t seem like much of a house, and looked more like a tool shed or garage. We learned that there were 3 generations living inside. I really began to think more, and I realized how grateful I am to have the living situation that I have back home and all of the luxuries that we are all so used to having. I thought a lot about how much they have to work to be able to survive with so many people in such a small house. At that point that I realized why we were here and how important it was that we all gave our best effort for supporting the construction of the house. Most importantly, we were supporting the family that would be living there.
Laurel Evans-Diffenderfer ‘21
One point of this trip that made me think was when we went to the work site and saw the home the family is currently living in. It made me realize how much the family needed a new home and needed our help. It made me think about the large impact our service would have on them for the rest of their lives.
John Do ‘21
When we first came here, I had noticed that there’s a huge cultural difference between our group and the Vietnamese. The one that stands out the most is the matter of food waste. Everyday spent here, our leftover food became another’s dinner. And yet, many of us waste precious food without much thought. Many of the locals said that this is due to our lavish standards. Therefore, I believe that the bridging of this cultural difference would be the best solution to our food waste. Once our students learned about how wasting food feels to the locals, perhaps, they would act otherwise.
John Ho ‘22
The experience in Vietnam has led me to think about how the natives were able to discover and create everything that they have today. It also led me to think about how they survive in the hot climate without air conditioning. My first impression of Vietnam is that its cities are developing rapidly but it’s still very rural in the county-side. I think that Vietnam is a country that is just starting to become a first world country.
Mary Do ‘21
I learned how to build a wall on this trip! This is so great because I never get a chance to experience this while living in the city. Getting to know the workers and the practical skill itself makes me realize how much potential I have in contributing to the society!
Yaya Ma ‘21
The trip is my ideal life. It's simple and repetitive in a good way. I didn’t need to worry too much about tomorrow or what should I should be doing. Lying in the hammock, thinking about nothing, getting away from the busy city center was just great.