On Tuesday morning, we started with water activities while the tides were “high.” First we took a speedboat out to a boat with fishing nets on either side, and the kids (and teachers) got to jump into the nets from the deck and from diving platforms off the top of the boat. This was super fun for everyone except one of my advisees who was wildly seasick and puking constantly. Then we went kayaking on double kayaks. The directions that the guides gave the students did not include information about how to turn or maneuver, so Alison and I spent most of our time shouting directions to students who were getting stuck on rocks or in mangrove trees in the shallow water. Eventually we were all able to make our way around a mangrove island and back to shore.
On Tuesday afternoon, we finished our waste water garden project. The students got to shovel in sand on top of the gravel, plant some trees and build a brick wall around the site. The kids worked hard again, but because they had spent all morning in the water and sun, they definitely had less energy than the day before. There was a bit of time pressure to finish, so I was more actively involved this day. Though mostly I was just the hauler of bricks, I really liked the masonry work, and I was trying to coach the students to slap a little more mortar on the bricks instead of being such perfectionists and dabbing tiny bits of cement on at a time. My group actually finished early enough to go help Alison’s group haul a few more wheelbarrows of sand and finish erecting their wall. Just having our extra buckets and spades made the work go much more quickly. Unfortunately, Bill’s group’s site was too far out for us to see their work.
When we returned to Loola after finishing the gardens, we were supposed to build rafts that we would race against the other groups the next day, but the kids were too tired, so we decided to squeeze in the building during the next morning. The students from our travel day were excited to have lots of free time to visit their friends who had started their own gardens and done the coconut tree climbing, skywalk, and dragon boat races that day. Every day, the other group did what my group had done the previous day.
On Wednesday, we had another service project. This time we were delivering mosquito nets and water filters to people in the local communities. In some ways, I dislike this kind of service where you are going door to door and handing out items and waiting for thanks before moving on. It feel artificial. I am certainly not against making necessary donations, but I guess I just don’t want to feel as though I am peeking into people’s lives and demanding appreciation. The kids did well though, and it was nice that our guide from Loola had grown up in the community and could translate for us and tell the kids a bit about life in the area. He even took us to his school as we walked around, and the English teacher at the school was so excited to talk to us.
After the service projects, we returned to Loola to build our rafts, eat lunch, climb a rock wall and zipline into a pool of water. I was really not feeling well. I hadn’t slept well the night before because it was so hot, and I had bad cramps. This may have led to me getting teary at lunch and abandoning the rest of the chaperones to watch after my students while I went to have a shower and little rest. When I returned for the afternoon activities, only a few students made it up the rock wall before it started to rain. We had to take a break until the storm blew though, so we had the students work on their journals and start pre-packing since we were leaving in the morning. Then, luckily we got to finish climbing and zip lining after the storm stopped. Though I had put on a suit under my clothes, and I could have participated, I chose to pass on the climbing and the zip lining. Bill and Alison were better sports and climbed the wall to appease the students. None of us were motivated to get wet though.
Then, our advisories raced their rafts against one another. Like us, the groups from the 2nd travel day were too worn out after finishing their gardens in the rain to participate in raft building. My advisory’s raft started falling apart before we even put it in the water, but we appointed to small students to sit on the barrel that was coming unattached and try to hold it together with their legs. My kiddos took an early and commanding lead, but on the way back to shore, the raft came apart. The result was hilarity as they attempted to haul all the pieces ashore. They may not have one, but I was impressed anyway.
Since it was our last night all together, we had a huge barbecued feast for dinner and a campfire afterwards. We had told the students to prepare talents to share around the campfire, and a few of them were brave enough to sing and rap and tell jokes. Then we played a rigged game of charades where the audience knew that the chair all the actors had to sit on was a toilet, but the actors just thought they were riding roller coasters, motorcycles and bulls. It was hilarious.
Though the week had been fun and full, I was excited that we would be going home after breakfast the next day. Of course, 12 hours, three immigration checkpoints, and three modes of transportation were nothing to long for, but the end result was being home. It is nice that I really do get excited to land in Saigon and feel that it is home. Eventually, we made it back to the school, and I was reunited with my own shower and bed. Heaven!