The team has arrived! It has been a lot of fun having everyone here and being able to speak in English as fast as I want to again.
Half the group came in on Friday to explore and acclimate in advance of the start of our program…a day spent in Ho Chi Minh and another out at the Cao Dai temple and Cu Chi tunnels in a contrast of the best and worst of humanity. Our hired driver took a few wrong turns. He’d hop out of the van and run over to roadside vendors to meekly ask for directions. His body language would brighten as he’d get the answers he was looking for complete with hand and arm gestures pointing the way. He’d hustle back and full of optimism and purpose, yank the van into gear. Away we’d go again only to find ourselves down another wrong path. The entertaining saga would repeat, giving us impromptu opportunities to see rural towns and villages that we might have not otherwise.
The rest of the crew came in later in the weekend and we convened Sunday at our DINKY riverboat respite for some rejuvenating pho, stir fries, and fresh fruits. After a quick team meeting, we headed to Thuan An Center.
There are moments in life that you just don’t ever forget – those logjams of memory that stay with us for all time. One of the deaf staffers met our taxis at the school gate. She grasped my hand so firmly, racing me to the back of the campus that all I could do was hope that the rest of the team was close behind. Dao came out of a building and warmly welcomed us all before escorting us into a classroom where all 95 workshop participants were engaged in our pre-workshop assessment test. The participants gave us a standing ovation as we entered. It was such a poignant moment.
I introduced our team to the group and then Thuy took everyone around to show them the lay of the land. The construction crew finished the work and the building looks great. We have two rooms for our own use and they even thought to install air conditioning at the last minute for us. It was funny…they couldn’t find the on/off remote for the AC, but at least we do have it! Dao and Thuy were both so excited and gracious. It was a completely humbling and warm experience and I couldn’t stop grinning.
When we left, Maura and Kim opted to get their first Vietnamese motorbike ride back to the DINKY. They had a blast and were talking all about it at dinner. It has been fun as everyone here has a story or experience to share from their days. As for my own…walking into that room today filled with the teachers and sharing that with the team …well, it was just amazing. We totally did it. This program is going to make a real impact. Wow.