Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Back in the US

Well, finally back in the US. Currently at my kitchen table typing this while my pictures upload to facebook. Definitely a great experience. I'd say Week 2 was the hardest, just because I was so homesick and we were all so tired! But the last week was definitely the most rewarding intrinsically for me. It was the week I became extremely close to the translators, and the week I gave all my letters and gifts and received some really meaningful ones as well. Because I got sick on Friday afternoon, and we all left for Ho Chi Minh City Saturday morning at 4 AM, we didn't get to say the proper goodbyes, which really sucked. But on the other hand, the other group said the goodbyes were really drawn out and sad, so maybe that's a good thing.

The absolute best part about going to Coach for College was revealed to me during this past last week, and that was how much we truly helped the kids. I guess I never realized how much it meant to them until Friday morning, when they all started crying and taking our autographs and pictures with us on their phones. They talked about how they didn't want us to leave, about how much they would miss us, and about how much they loved us. Really got to me. I think the biggest thing that got to me, was this letter and picture from my favorite student, Hien. You can click on them to enlarge them and read them:


                                                        This is Hien and I. She was the best student in the entire
                                                              camp in my opinion. I'm a little biased though, because
                                                           I legit Loved her. She was great.
Here is the letter she wrote Eric and I. Though Nelly translated the part of the letter addressed to me for me (click on it to read it, then you'll know why I got so attached to some of the kids):  


And here is the picture she drew me, she said the girl in the front was her, and the girl in the back was me, her "sister."


Another moment that touched me from Hien was on Friday afternoon when I started getting sick. I went to the director's room, and I refused to leave the camp because I wasn't sure if I would be able to come back after that day or not. Hien came down after the camp, and she just came up to me as I was lying down, asked me "How are you?" and then squeezed my hand and stood there for awhile. I gave her a letter I had written her, as well as another one I had written to her parents, both translated by Tram and Nelly (thank God for the translators!). I just wanted her parents to know what a great student she was. She wants to be a singer when she grows up. I told her she could do anything she dreamed of. And I really believe she can. She sang for us all, and it was the most beautiful voice I had ever heard. Really talented. Anyways, that's probably the one kid who truly touched my heart. I miss her already, especially when I read that letter. Hopefully I will be able to see her at some point again.


In the morning session, one of my favorites was Hau and Hien, two boys who really excelled at basketball and were the most well behaved, nicest boys I have ever met. I gave Hau my Tech basketball, which he had all of us autograph. And I gave Hien my Tech football, which he had me autograph. Here's a picture of Hau and I with his basketball:



I guess I'll try and finish this blog without making it too sad. But really, this was one of the most moving experiences of my life. It was inspiring to see how much the kids cared about us, how much they loved us, and most of all, how much life they had in them when they really seemed to own just their bike to get around. Some of them biked an hour to get to school. Some had to skip because they had to work for their parents. But really, they were always so enthusiastic and full of spunk and respect. I wish I could describe how amazing they really were.

Though I will admit that the moment Morgan and I entered San Francisco Airport, we were singing "Proud to be an American", I'll really miss Vietnam (aside from getting sick haha).

Things I will miss most from Vietnam:
-The kids
-The translators
-The cold showers (never really needed a hott one)
-The fried calamari (yes, I will miss that)
-The KOALA BEAR SNACKS!
-The kind and spirited people

Things I missed from America:
-HEINZ KETCHUP!
-RUNNING!
-Mass
-Getting on facebook without having to use a program to surpass the government
-Grapes and pretzels
-Tap water and being able to drink it
-The Caddy
-Family and friends

Alright this is getting to be too long, that's it for now!
I'll miss 'Nam, and all those who left me with the inspiration they did.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Proud to be AMERICAN!

Wow, just got back and waiting in San Francisco for 26 hours until my next flight. So my dad surprised me, and I got an email with a hotel confirmation number. Looked it up and it's the hilton! A bigger than king-sized bed with like 8 FLUFFY (not hard) pillows and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. No bugs, no lizards, and no cold water. Oh, a GIANT TV! And it overlooks the bay. Really nice of my Dad to surprise me with this!

So just a recap of the last few days, as many of you have texted me that I hadn't blogged in a while! Well.... I got sick! Was vomitting and having major diarrhea, and I tried to stick it out but ended up having to go to the hospital. Got some IVs and medicine though and literally felt so much better the next day. Though I was feeling some major nausea right before my 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco, I literally just got on the plane and was like lift off so they can't not let me fly home if I throw up haha. Took some anti-nausea pills though and felt so much better.


Anyways, the hospital was nice because we traveled to the one 5 hours away, in Ho Chi Minh City. Nick was already there, so Allison decided to have the whole group leave and go there, which I felt really bad about because we had to leave the kids early. That was probably the biggest bummer of all. Saying goodbye to the translators at 4 AM before our trip to Ho Chi Minh and the hospital was really, really hard. I especially got misty when Tram, one of my two closest Vietnamese friends, was balling her eyes out and gave me a gift. It was two dolls dressed up in Vietnamese wedding attire. Out of everything I'll miss about Vietnam, I'll miss the people I got close to. Really amazing, inspiring people. Both the Americans and the Vietnamese coaches.

Back to the hospital though, the doctor spoke English, which was AWESOME! She talked to my dad on the phone. It's funny because she told me my temperature was "tirty point seven degree celsus" which, when we asked her what it was in Fahrenheit, she converted to "90.7"... I looked at Allison, and we were like... "uhh, I don't think that's right. Or I don't think that's good" .... Doctor/nurse was completely chill though, so we figured conversion was wrong. Everything was always in celsius over there though! Air Conditioning in the hotels and stuff, everything!

After the initial diagnosis of a GI infection (gastro intestinal??), I was put in another room in a bed with I think 4 other beds. The guy across from me apparently was there yesterday when Nick was there (Nick had been in the same room), but he was much better when I came. He was from Britain though, which was fun because we chatted for a good 20 minutes! I told him I was "British but not really" haha :)

Basically though, long story short, since I'm drawing this out way too much, they checked my vitals every hour (much better than Can Tho hospital -- apparently Kendal had to check Nick's for him, or get the nurses to... they had done it once or twice on their own I think or something like that), and there were no rats or bugs (again like Can Tho's). I got three bottles of IV fluid, with some medicine injected into me, and was there for 5 hours. I'm extremely "shot phobic" so I was really trying to hide my all out panic the first 30 minutes. Seriously hate shots and the idea of some water being injected into my veins... ugh. But got out, got more meds, had a bill of $815 bucks (thank gosh for Coach For College Insurance), and left. Felt much better after I was hydrated. I had been really, really dehydrated.

Next day, spent the day inside, eating bread, and then left the next morning at 2 AM for the Ho Chi Minh City airport. Flew from Ho Chi Minh at 5:50 AM to Hong Kong. Then left Hong Kong at 11:30 AM to arrive at San Francisco at 9 AM the same day! (Time change!) Was in the very last row of the plane the entire flight back which sucked (esp compared to first class last time haha), but made it here without throwing up, which was great! Came into the hotel and walked downtown to a nice local diner where I had a great convo about Vietnam to some kind locals, while I ate my chicken tenders and fries with Heinz ketchup (missed that ketchup so. much.) and drank out of a glass with ICE (we couldn't drink the water or ice over there, always had to be a bottle). So that was great. Then I walked back, slept for awhile on this amazing bed. Then for dinner I had a Chicken Caesar Salad at a restaurant overlooking the bay... aka first salad (can't eat salad over there because they wash the lettuce with the bad water or something like that?) in a month! Delicious. Could see the whole city and the Golden Gate Bridge from a far distance. It was really pretty. You could also follow the airplanes constantly touching down and see the very edge of the airport too.

Now I'm just chillin in hotel just watching TV.

I'm going to start one last, separate blog and post it right after this one, about the kids and our last day with them. Putting it separate though, as I felt that it should be separate.

PEACE

Oh and one last thing, the moment Morgan and I walked into San Francisco Airport, we were singing "Proud to be an American" haha. GOD BLESS AMERICA, did I miss it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hump Day!

So today has been going pretty well so far. Though once again, you really have to pump yourself up in order to really be positive and active the entire time. But once I get started, I don't mind at all. In fact, I really enjoy helping them. It's crazy to think there is only 4 days of camp left after this afternoon. And only 1 more day of lessons and teaching! The rest are competitions, jeopardy, tests, and awards.

Anyways, today it was raining, and usually the kids don't like to play in the rain, but when we asked them today, they all said YES! YES! YES! And for basketball, we finally taught them how to play full court. They were doing pretty good. We said they couldn't run up and down the court right away, so whenever the defense got the ball, they had to wait until the other team and their own team got back and set up, which was quite a difficult concept to teach.

As for physics... well let's just say VERY difficult. I got stumped on a problem, and the translators were stumped too. Luckily Ashley was there to help me out a little, but still, there was no way those kids could follow the end of that lesson. I just wrote the questions for jeopardy though for that lesson with Tran (translator), and it strictly did NOT include such a difficult task. Basically they had to graph a parabola, and then write its equation. Doesn't sound hard right? Until you realize that plotting a graph of 6 points takes a total of 10 minutes. It seems that math isn't too stressed in their curriculum. Just simple equations and substituting numbers for variables is difficult for them. But Ashley and I and the translators have really been helping them I think. AB and Tran are two of the best translators ever I think haha. They are AMAZING. And really smart, so if Ash and I can't figure something out, they usually can!

Also brought the ukulele on Monday, which was fun because all the coaches sang “Hey Soul Sister” and “I’m Yours” and what not.

The only bad thing that has happened recently is that Nick has gone to the hospital, which was really scary. I was actually a lot more scared than I thought I would be when I first found out he was sick. He was constantly throwing up. But the idea of going to a Vietnamese hospital, along with a doctor that possibly didn’t speak English, is really just scary. He is still there, but he is doing much better. Keep him in your prayers for me!

Alright well that’s it for now… Here's some photos of the day:

                                     Little boy we all call "nugget" reppin' the Uke

Yellow team warm up for basketball

                                      Part of our physics lesson to the kids... yikes


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Oh, Can Tho

So this weekend we have gone to Can Tho, which has been lots of fun. Definitely the highlights of the trip include the legit club/bar we went to last night and the massages we got today. I'll start with the bar.

So we roll up to this empty hotel lobby, and our Vietnamese director tells us this is the bar! We were like... great... it's gonna be just us at an empty bar in a hotel... we go up to the second floor, into some doors that led to a lit up hallway... and into a crazy rave dance club! Haha it was great... aside from the uber loud music blasting in our ears... Here's a pic of the place...

Anyways, needless to say, the techno music and the one Justin Bieber song that played made my night haha.

Then in the morning, we went to a coffee bar/restaurant cafe sort of thing and spent 2 hours there (an hour for them to figure out how to split our checks haha), then went shopping where I got some fun souveniers and what not, and then, of course, the spa.

At the spa, the 6 girls went in two groups, as they couldn't do massages for us all at once. After apparently figuring out that a "mud massage" was cheaper than a head to toe massage, the first 3 (myself included in that group) of us decided to do mud massages. 

So the first 45 minutes went great, we got full head to toe body massages, and I felt like I was in a dream. Literally the most relaxed I had ever been in my life, except when they did my feet of course (nearly kicked the lady in the face because I was so ticklish). For some reason though, they kept doing me first for everything (my head, the heated stones, etc.), and I happened to be lucky #1 to go for the "mud bath." They walked me over about 10 feet to another bed with plastic all over it, and told me to lay down, and I did. Then they took my towel, and just left me there, butt naked on top of this bed. Apparently Morgan told Emily "I think there's someone butt naked over there on that bed... I think it's Colleen..."

So anyways, here I am laying on top of this bed while they rub mud all over my ENTIRE body... felt EXTREMELY violated haha... but after that... they wrapped me up in this clear wrapping paper (I called it ceram wrap), with mud all over me, butt naked. So I'm wrapped up in this clear paper with a very thin layer of some sort of "mud" that was clear... I just started laughing really really hard. Morgan and Emily are like what is going on...

"Guys. I'm currently wrapped up in clear ceram wrap, butt naked, with mud all over my body. DONT LOOK" hahaha. They literally died. Morgan stood up next to get her "mud bath" and saw me and just started losing it haha. And then Emily. And this whole time we were contemplating how we were going to pretend like this mud bath was the best thing ever so that the next 3 girls did it too and had to go through this... experience haha. And, of course, they walked in for their massages, right after all of us are wrapped up butt naked in clear wrapping paper hahaha.... Oh gosh. Allison, our director, took some pictures... we looked like we were about to go into surgery...

^that's a picture with a towel over me (thank gosh)^

Anyhow, needless to say, that was one of the most memorable experiences, if not THE most memorable experience, of this whole Vietnam trip so far haha.

Alrighty, I'm exhausted and about to hit the hay. Will post again probably a few times more before I leave. Get back on the 21st! Aka 10 days!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 8, 2011

Today went so much better after being sick with diarrhea for 5 days! Finally took some Cipro, and it worked like magic. So glad that's over. I stayed home yesterday afternoon and just slept for literally 4 hours, and I think that was honestly the best thing I ever could have done. Feel so much better!

Anyways, today went well, the kids seemed to really enjoy duck duck goose haha. They really do make you smile a lot. I love the girls on the green and yellow teams, though the yellow team guessed my age at 36, which was just fantastic. They thought Ashley (a college graduate) was 22-23... I asked another class and got 38. So great haha. When I told them I was 19, they all gasped majorly. They did that yesterday, then today they brought me candy and said "Sorry Cul-lean!" They're so sweet though, I really think this whole thing's worthwhile after things like that.

Anyhow, I should probably shower, as humidity is 87% here today, which is pretty normal I think. You literally start sweating right when you walk out of the air-conditioned hotel room door.

Love getting emails and facebook wall posts, because I miss everyone so much!
Hit me up at colleenerinjoycethom@hotmail.com or thom7@vt.edu or facebook me! Miss everyone!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June 6, 2011

Wow. After literally working on my computer for a good 2 days straight, I finally found the problem, reset my entire adapter and am back on the Internet again! agh! So what I wanted to post but couldn't...

Friday night, we arrived at our weekend relaxing destination... which happened to be a legit bungalow on cliffs overlooking the water, full of tons of islands everywhere. It had to have been the prettiest place I've ever stayed at in my life.
On top of that gorgeous view, we had a really nice place... only to deal with chirping lizards in the room! Aka no bugs! It was seriously a great place. I roomed with two translators, Nelly and May, and it was Nelly's birthday on the Saturday, so that was fun to see her be super thrilled in a four star resort on her birthday.

We also got to tour the beach, shop at the bargain markets, took a long boat ride to a beach full of water that you could literally just walk around in (no jellyfish or anything!), and it was pretty clear water... legit, it was a blast.

When we toured... we got to go inside of a cave built into a worship place built into a mountain/cliff. There were giant Buddha statues everywhere:


We took a boat ride from the beach market and worship places to the beach. This is the view of where we got to stay from the water :)


After a good hour and 45 min. (boat temporarily broke down -- of course, the translators started singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star...), we finally got in view of OUR island (we had thought all the islands we had passed were our island we were going to...)


Later that night and back at the resort, we took a group picture of the American coaches at dinner:


Sorry, out of order, but here's another look at the Buddha statues everywhere:




Anyways, I have to go to camp now for the afternoon session. We are all dead exhausted; got to see the other camp at the Hoa Ann site last night, and we stayed late. Will post again soon... as in probably tonight with more pictures!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Bungalow?!

Currently at a bungalow in Vietnam near a beach... wow. Will put up pictures of the amazing view when I get back! Got some great souveniers!