Kien Giang Economic and Technology College


Gates

I am just finishing up two weeks working at Kien Giang Economic and Technology College. It’s amazing what you can fit into two weeks! There has been a lot of work accomplished. I taught IT classes, worked with various faculty, and we translated our way through several presentations and workshops.

Kien Giang is the Province; Rach Gia is the city. It is remote. It took us three hours to drive here from Can Tho airport, which is itself 170km south of Saigon. I’m not the only Westerner in town, but I haven’t met the other two.  People are sometimes surprised that I will travel alone to really remote areas to work. But, the truth is that when you work as an international volunteer, you are never alone. You are picked up at the airport, delivered to your accommodations, escorted to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You are given guided tours of the area; you are provided with a full-time translator…and you always get to hang out with the brightest and most personable people. My working visit to KGTec did not disappoint.

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Rach Gia is a seaside city; fishing is the main industry and very fresh seafood of all types is on every menu.(I tried jellyfish for the first time!) 

The city also has its share of history and temples and character..

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I got to enjoy my first National Teacher’s Day..TeachersDay8TeachersDay4 VID00020 

On the weekend, I  traveled with several staff members to the tourist district of Ha Tien. It is at the western end of the Mekong Delta close to the Cambodian border. Although a tourist spot, it doesn’t see many western visitors due to its remoteness. 049

We bought fresh crabs and had the seaside restaurant cook them for us and swam in the Gulf of Thailand…

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On the way we stopped at two mountains where stunning natural caves are used as temples.  At Da Dung Mountain a path goes around the mountain (a great up and down workout!) and there are several caves which serve as “cave temples”. It’s definitely a very special place and I’m so glad I got to visit..

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On Tuesday evening I was a judge for the First Annual Canadian- American Cultural Challenge. That was fun!..

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And on my last day at KGTec, I enjoyed a review meeting and a farewell dinner to which I wore my new áo dài…(What a fantastic gift!)

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Lots of new friends and lots of memories!

Meanwhile, in the south…

009So I’m off tomorrow to Kien Giang. Had I known I would be travelling to the very south of Vietnam to work at a Community College there, I may not have decided to fly to Phu Quoc Island last weekend on a 4-day vacation. But, I had planned this getaway with a friend long before my schedule of work visits in the south were set and before Typhoon Haiyan threatened to wreak havoc in central and northern Vietnam. And that’s why I got to spend last weekend on the beach.

Phu Quoc Island is, in four words: beaches, fish, pepper, and pearls. They also have a National Park where we went kayaking and hiking, and while we had a lovely day, at the end of it our consensus was “It’s hard to impress a Canadian with lakes and forests…” Now, back to the beaches, food, and pearls…

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Watch out for low hanging bananas!

 

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I finally did it! I jumped into Hanoi traffic on a bike…and survived! Okay, I cheated a bit, because I chose a day-trip to Middle Island where there are no roads, no cars, no trucks, and only a handful of motorbikes…But I had to navigate Xuan Dieu and cross Au Co at Yen Phu to get there and these are some of THE worst streets in Hanoi…(I’d tell you why, except I’d insult a whole bunch of expats.)  I can’t emphasize enough what a big step this was for me. Suffice to say, I left my neighbor with specific instructions about where my passport and medical coverage documents were…just in case.

MiddleislandSo, within only a few nerve-jangling kilometers my friends and I found ourselves on the extraordinary Middle Island. Extraordinary because it is a stretch of farmland in the middle of the Red River, in the middle of Hanoi. I’m not an expert on cities (realizing THAT more and more…) but as I understand it, not many of them have urban farms where produce can be transported to markets…by motorbike of course!..within an hour.producebikePatMiddleIslandOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The pathways that run up and down Middle  Island meander through fields of corn, cabbage, sweet potato, thyme (…Oh, you should smell the thyme!) and banana palms…Bunches of bananas hanging over pathways at face level were definitely the main biking hazard. 

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For the last two weeks in November I’m travelling to the much quieter Kien Giang Province…(Yeah, I know…lucky me!) and I do believe I’ll be renting a bike…