Hero photograph
Photo by Kate Boyes

Community Services Tour — Vietnam April 2017

Honor Petrie —

Over the Term 1 holiday period Mrs Petrie, Mr Kane, Billy Roper, Mark Phillips, Guy Cooper, Ellison McLean, Shontelle Wallace, Theresa Joseph, Tyler Hawkins, Liberty McKenzie, Jahaana Milner, Tailah Shelton, Kaitlin Clark, Kirsty Roberts and Shawnee Hilton travelled to Vietnam to build a new building facility for a couple in the poverty-stricken  Phung village, Vietnam.

Guy Cooper 12Wd shares his experience on behalf of the team…

The first day was fun and interesting. We stepped out of the airport into a not so fresh burst of hot air. Most of us already disliked the stuffy smell of Hanoi. After we were introduced to our tour guide, Daniel, we went on a city tour seeing sights such as 'The Temple of Literature' and Ho Chi Minh's houses. Lunch was our first taste of Vietnamese food. We were taken to a restaurant with shared lunch. Not all of us liked it as we were still adapting to the culture. Almost everyone was tired and jet lagged from the long flights and wanted a rest. After seeing the sights we went and checked into our hotel. 

After admiring the view and observing how others live like hanging their pots and pans out the window we went back out for dinner. We went down to the lobby and almost immediately our bus arrived. We went out for dinner at another restaurant. I don't think most of us were a fan of this meal because they gave us food such as roasted duck with orange sauce, which tasted like melted orange fruit burst on chicken. Afterwards we went back to the hotel to rest and pack our bags to prepare us for the community project. Overall this day was fun and educational and we couldn't wait to come back to shop the markets.

Waking up to fresh air from our air conditioning most of us loved and would miss for the oncoming days. It gave us memories of a nice winter day back at home until we walked out the door into an oven of hot air that we despised. We met upstairs to the dining room of our hotel to eat some breakfast. Seeing some bacon and eggs gave us some hope for a Kiwi breakfast. We sat down with our loaded plates with noodles, bacon, egg, toast and some other Asian type food. I think a lot of us went for the bacon and after having the first bite had mixed feelings. The taste wasn't normal it was something other than bacon, eggs on the other hand tasted normal. After having some more rest and soaking in the beloved air conditioning we pack our bags and headed out to Phung Village. The bus ride took most of the day having one stop for lunch in Mai Chau. The lunch here was different from the city, we started to enjoy it more. After a walk around the town of 50,000 people we got a taste of the village life and weather.

The bus was about an hour away and we arrived sometime in the afternoon. The bus struggled to climb its way through the narrow roads of the rocky village. We said goodbye to the air conditioning and said g'day to the blistering hot 30 degree days. After hauling our bags up the shaky staircase of the two storey house we rested in our mattresses with the Mosquitos nets covering us from unwanted guests. Introduced to a beautiful looking local dinner we all looked impressed. Still slowly adapting to using chopsticks and shared meals we all looked like we enjoyed it. This day was interesting as we were introduced to a completely different culture.

The next few days were filled with dehydration and accomplishment. After a good night's sleep in our insect repelled room we packed our bags and got ready for project work. The village provided us with breakfast that looked promising. It was a long bread roll and eggs. Simple but good. We walk down the road already complaining about the heat. Sipping on our bottles we tried to stay hydrated as much as possible. We got to the worksite and we were greeted with the Vietnamese tradies and their progress on the project. They had the foundation and some bricks layered. Our jobs were to mix cement, get rid of rocks and transfer sand and bricks. Easy work for the first day. But the heat got to us and took a toll. Everyone sweating their heads off we stopped at midday. Some of us go went for a swim in the local dam. After a 10 minute walk to the dam we saw all the locals enjoying the heat but in the water. The dam was good size and was cold which suited our needs. After pushing each other in we all soaked in the refreshing water. During the damp walk back to the homestay we dried off to the heat. The rest of this day was just rest and dinner. The dinner was amazing as the local meals had gotten better than what the restaurants have offered us. 

Day 2 carried out roughly the same as the first the work being just as tiring as the first in the heat. But when we stopped at midday we went back for lunch then headed out to school. (Yes, it's the holidays and we went to school). We went to a school to greet the local kids only a few years younger than us. We taught them a bit of English and made a fool of ourselves singing head shoulders knees and toes. After being neglected by the school kids when we offered to play football with them we met with the principal. We donated the bags that we got given from the Christchurch Council to the students. After this we went back to rest and have dinner. 

Day 3 was different.  We had beautiful weather because it was cold. It reminded all of us of home. The colder weather meant that we didn't die in the heat as easily and now we were mixing cement and learning how to plaster. Sadly, this didn't offer any certificates in any trade qualifications but at the end of the project we mixed cement for the walls to be plastered and for the flooring. This being our last day we celebrated with a beautiful local Vietnamese dinner and a traditional dance from the locals. These days were hard on everyone but we ground through it for a sense of accomplishment as we made the project a lot faster to complete for the locals.

This day was one of the most fun experiences of my life. We had lunch in Phung village and said our final farewells and sang Te Aroha E to the locals. After shattering glass from our beautiful high notes we hit the road. The bus swayed side to side on its rocky way out but it managed to survive fitting through narrow gaps and tight turns. The bus drive had everyone knackered. We arrived at our hotels to rest then got dinner. We went to get a meal at the best restaurant yet with its beautiful beef. Now we headed out to the markets. The streets were flooded from the far left to the far right with hungry shoppers and scary scooters. After surviving the mob we made it to the markets. This was the exciting part because we felt like Bill Gates. From stall to stall we grabbed every bargain from the cheap wireless headphones to Gucci bags. Learning from Billy we haggled most prices down some from 100k to 70k or even 500k to 400k. This was fun as we had everything we would ever want to buy from New Zealand at our disposal and it's cheap as chips. We made our way back to the meeting point and re group. After realising we all bought the same speakers and headphones we were proud of our purchases. They haven't fallen apart yet we hope our items last a wee while.

On behalf of everyone we are grateful for this opportunity, one we would take again.