Today we start one of the most exciting days of Vietnam service learning. We participate in a community service program in building a toilet for a local primary school. The school has no toilet and we will help around 60 children to have a place to answer the natural call of their body: just go to pee.
This is really not a big think at Western countries but a real big problem for children at most of schools in rural Vietnam. There is no toilet or toilet is too bad to go to pee. School time in Vietnam is often 3-4 hours and students do not go to pee within this period. This leads to health issues at kidney. And adults does not drink enough water as they keep the habit of drinking little water at their childhood so as they don’t have to have demand to go to toilet at school.
We have a taxi drive from our characteristic hotel to the bus station to catch a pubic bus to Ben Tre Mekong Vietnam. Getting on public bus is special experience. It is cheap to save cost to our project. It is also a good observation to understand more the local people. The bus drive takes us thru the huge green rice farms of the fertile Mekong rice bowl of Vietnam. After some more great view of rivers, canals, farms, we arrive the local house of Mr. Muoi where we have homestay for our Vietnam service learning experience.
That’s a little man with small eyes and big smiles. He welcomes us to his house. We look around his house and his big garden, and then arrange every people to beds in the house.
After a lunch of steam rice with fish and pork in claypot cooked with coconut, we walk to the boat quay and cruise along beautiful green canals to the site of Vietnam service learning project. That’s a great boat trip along the river of Mekong and it amazing canals. The view is so beautiful with water coconut ranges aong those canals. We see many local factories of brick production, fish processing or other kinds of factories. On the river, there are many local boats back and forth for their distinctive transportation way. There are also fishing nets, fishing traps, sand badges, and local boats full of local fruits from gardens to market.
As arriving the community project site of our Vietnam service learning, we have some introduction to the master builders, the teachers and the local people there. We also have a brief on what to do then start to participate in building the toilet immediately. We carry sand from canal to the building site. We load bricks to the right location. We learn to mix cement with sand for a good mortar. We lay bricks with mortar, and build a real toilet.
There are many local people coming to visit us because they are so surprised about this. There is also a lady with invitation to her house to have some coconut drinks. And we feel quite excited to visit her house with the promised beautiful taste of the fresh coconut right from the trees. After the time at the project, we go along lush gardens of tropical fruits, along trails at villages and visit her house. She asks her brother to pick a lot of coconuts at the garden. We have not only the taste of good coconut, but also the hospitality of the local and the special visit to such an authentic life style of Vietnamese Mekong Delta.
On the way back, the surprise does not finish. We have low tide then we should have a short walk across gardens to the place our boat can pick us up. The beautiful sun beam makes our walking so adorable. And what is more, we end the walking at a local house where they make pickle lemon for Vietnamese drinking flavor, and we learn one more way of Vietnamese food, as well as interact more with local people.
That’s a long day but it’s a great day of beginning the service learning experience in Mekong delta Vietnam.