hiya

I’ve been inspired and shall continue. You can visit me here: kathaayy.wordpress.com

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But I Keep Cruising

Don’t care what the haters say, I love Taylor Swift too much. FINALLY A NEW SONG! 

No man can handle her because she’s too strong for them. Your guy will come one day, don’t worry Taylor. Keep bringing that talent to the world! 

Your songs make my drive to work worthwhile. #fangirling #donthate #queen 

#dontsettleforless

Have You Heard of Long Xuyên?

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That’s the adorable waffle lady I befriended at the market! One day I stopped by her waffle stand and we ended up having a pretty fun conversation. From then on she would always remember me and I’d also stop by when I have time to say hello. The last time I saw her I told her I was going to leave soon. She asked about America, my sisters, how I could speak Vietnamese so fluently, etc. I found out she’s actually only 26, but she looks older than her actual years. 

Almost every morning and afternoon I would walk through the market with my coworkers to grab breakfast and/or lunch. The market is walking distance from the office and I loved walking through all the fresh produce stands. They sold fish, rice, eggs, and just anything you can imagine, including mice (maybe you didn’t imagine that). Yes, mice. The mice is freshly skinned and cut, as if they were fish. Supposedly their meat is really good, but don’t count on me to try that. 

I always tend to buy fruits, sữa đậu nành (soymilk) and chè (traditional sweet Vietnamese dessert, beverage, or soup like pudding). Chè can be made with a variety of ingredients, including mung beans, jelly, aloe vera, lotus seeds, seaweed, pandan leaf extract, etc. I tried grapefruit chè (I don’t think they have that in California because I’ve never heard of it) for the first time and it’s pretty delicious. 

If you asked me to share one of my favorite memories from Vietnam, it’d definitely have to be grabbing breakfast and/or lunch with the staff and then walking through the market to digest all of our food. Those times were always fun and filled with laughter. It was easy to grab food with everyone because we always stayed in the vicinity and live in the area. We spend so much time together but seriously everyday was a fun day with them.

If the PALS office was not located in Long Xuyên, I don’t think I would’ve ever pinned it on the map as a “go-to” destination because it’s not known as a tourist attraction. It’s the capital city of An Giang province, which is located in the Mekong Delta. I’m so glad I got to live and work in Long Xuyên because it’s less crowded than Saigon and definitely quieter. I wasn’t used to it at first and thought of it as a boring city, but then I began to enjoy the calmness and it was a nice escape from bustling Saigon and the crazy drivers. Long Xuyên is such a cute city and definitely has a very special place in my heart. 

Vietnam I Love You!

Love is in the air. I love these notes and gifts from my amazing campers. Trying to sort through each one. At least this will allow me to practice reading in Vietnamese. <3

Love is in the air. I love these notes and gifts from my amazing campers. Trying to sort through each one. At least this will allow me to practice reading in Vietnamese. ❤

Last night in Vietnam… just read the notes that the staff at Long Xuyen put together for me and I want to cry. I also went through the notes from all the campers, and those made me want to cry too. I’m going to miss everyone so much. Every single one of them left a footprint and a huge impact on my life and my future endeavors.  I seriously adore and love the staff that I had the pleasure of working with, the university volunteers that helped out at camp, and the amazing young campers and scholarship recipients. Vietnam has been nothing but amazing to me: the food is cheap and delicious, the people are friendly and cute (minus that one trickster who lied about boat tickets), the culture is booming and bountiful, the city thrives with the working class and continuous economical development, and the countryside is gorgeous and fruitful.

I probably can’t survive too long in the countryside though. The mosquitoes will feed on me until I rot and I don’t enjoy the fob squat too much. All that adds to the experience though, and that’s what I enjoy about being in different areas and experiencing different living conditions. I appreciate and respect the environment and people here a lot. The Vietnamese people are hardworking and persistent: they will bombard you with questions and try to ask if you want this and that. People may ignore and yell, but I usually just respectfully decline because really, they’re just normal people trying to make a living. No need for me to get aggressive. It doesn’t resolve any situation and treating others the way I want to be treated has brought upon plenty of good relationships and karma. I’ve met many friendly and helpful people while travelling alone or with others here.

I still have so many adventures that I need to post but regrettably never had the time. Therefore I will continue to use this blog to post about my trip and relive some pretty great memories that I never had the chance to share yet!

Oh, I also got a bacterial eye infection. Of course everything would go smoothly until my last few days here. It’s as if Vietnam wanted to leave a scar for me because it’s been too good otherwise. As for  the eye infection,  I noticed the white spot last night. I knew it had to be bacteria colonizing my eye, so first thing today I went to the eye doctor at the American Eye Center. I was right about the infection, and the doctor said that luckily I got it looked at right away or it could’ve resulted in vision damage. Oh lord, thank goodness for sterilizing drops and hopefully my eye will get better!

Troi oi – Boonies

Ahhh can’t believe how quickly the two summer camps came and ended. I seriously wish I had the energy and brainpower to blog about it while it was happening, but it was too difficult. I was up at 5:30am and got back to the hotel at about 9-9:30pm or 10 the latest everyday for 8 days straight. By the time I got back, all I wanted to do was shower and knock out. So please forgive my lack of updates. It was seriously the highlight of my trip so I will do a post on it shortly.

Right now I am supposed to be on an island called Nam Du. But a series of unfortunate events happened so we did not make it out to any island. We seriously spent 3 days just travelling… on all forms of transportation – from motorbikes to boats to buses – but ended no where really worthwhile. My coworker’s friend said he’s been to Nam Du and tickets shouldn’t be a problem. However, when we got there this morning, there no more tickets to the island (WHAT…). We then walked out of there and passed by some restaurants that claimed to have tickets to a different island. We asked one of the lady if she had enough for 3 and she said “yes, yes, we have plenty for the ride at 10am! Just take a seat and eat something.” We didn’t eat right away because we were pretty disappointed that there were no tickets to Nam Du. We traveled by boat from Ca Mau to Kien Giang all of yesterday just so we can catch the boat to Nam Du today and spend our weekend there since staff gets a break from the summer camps. We also split with the other half of our group yesterday just so we could go to this island.

So we sat around at that street restaurant from 8am – 9am. Ate something, at 9am the guy there said he didn’t have tickets yet, and he said to wait until 9:30am. I seriously already had a hunch that they were lying because they just wanted us to sit and eat at their stupid restaurant. At 9:20 he said we may have to wait until 9:45 and I was like wtheck, if you keep pushing it back you are lying and I’m definitely not giving you any money first to buy any ticket.

When my friend and I went to a nearby market, we got a call from our third friend saying that the guy said there were no tickets left, only ones for 1PM. OMG. We waited from 8AM to 10AM, and now this stupid guy wants us to wait until 1PM? I swear, they lured us in just so we would eat. Complete BS. We didn’t want to waste anymore time sitting around so we left and took a bus back to Saigon, which was another 5.5 hours. 

Last Minute Luxurious Ride. Always trust Phuong Tran buses.

Last Minute Luxurious Ride. Always trust Phuong Tran buses.

So on the bright side, we will try for Vung Tau tomorrow, bus ride wasn’t too bad, and I had my delicious flattened banana goodness (I don’t know what else to call it haha) to munch on. 

Ngon qua (so good!)

Ngon qua (so good!)

P.S. Troi oi = oh my gosh 🙂

Katy Katy

SO TOUCHED & AWKWARD = KATHY.

There are two main medical students that we hired to treat the kids if anything happened to them at camp. I originally thought they were lazy regular volunteers who just sat in front of the camp office because I often have to run around to do many different things, so sometimes I’d pass by and see the guys sitting there. I didn’t actually started talking to them until yesterday, which I regret because they’re such great people!

Tonight one of them (who never participated in our talent show) dedicated a song titled “Katy Katy,” to me, lol. I was just sitting on the judging panel tallying up points from a previous act when the emcee announced it and I was like HUH. I found out he had to beg the the lady in charge of the music to find that song for him and squeeze him in for tonight. He has also never performed anywhere before. Man…

Seriously though, what a sweetheart.

Here’s the original song:

My Butt is Sore

10:00PM last night: Went on the bus to Saigon from Long Xuyen

3:00AM: Arrive in Saigon then went to sleep at company apartment

8:00AM: Wake up to work and finish prepping my GRACES values training for career panel presenters.

12:40PM: Quick coffee stop. Also bought cheesecake and tiramisu because I couldn’t resist 😛

1:00PM: Training began for people from various companies such as Talisman Energy, some fashion company, and a few others that I forgot. These people will be siting on the career panel at the two summer camps so my role is to train them on GRACES values, which is the central theme of the camp as well as workshop guidelines and how they should answer FAQS in way that is understandable and relevant to the girls who will be in attendance.

–> GRACES stands for Gratitude, Respect, Accountability, Courage, Engagement, and Safety. Each value is extremely important for us all to embody and practice everyday. I would love to go into further detail about each one and why it is the central theme of the camp. Those are values we wish for all volunteers and staff to embody throughout camp and all activities and workshops shall reflect them and the girls shall take away those values from the camp. My favorite part of the presentation was when I reached the part about the 6 different types of courage. Maybe I will do a separate post on GRACES because I truly believe in their importance and impact (just so tired right now).

3:30PM: Finished training and left company to go get some PIZZA HUT. I honestly have had Pizza Hut more here than when I am in the States. Somehow I just keep craving it… My coworker has never had it so I took her there. She loved it, but her stomach was only able to handle one slice of pizza due to the cheese, LOL more for me!

5:15PM: Arrived at bus stop to head back to Long Xuyen office. Found the lady I usually buy bread from (it’s seriously so fresh and delicious) and bartered and got my delicious bread. ^_^

9:50PM: Arrived in Long Xuyen.

DONEEEZOOOOO. I wish the bus had wifi so that so much time wouldn’t be wasted each time I have to travel back and forth to the city though. It was a good day being back in Saigon for a bit because it’s so lively compared to Long Xuyen.

This week at the office has been super hectic since the first summer camp will begin this weekend! Wooot!

 

Dumbfounded

Some examples of reoccurring themes & reactions from people in my surroundings:

“WHAAAT, your Vietnamese is so good..!!! WAIT, you are Vietnamese…….?” – bewildered & dumbfounded 10 year old Vietnamese boy.

His facial expression and reaction was so priceless, it’s ingrained in my memory forever. I was not expecting that reaction at all when I asked him a question.

WHAAAAT, how is your English so good…?” – group of surprised Caucasian people on a train when my Vietnamese coworker and I offered them some rambutan and they fell in love with it. They were super sweet and we ended up talking a lot throughout the ride. YES I AM FROM AMERICA y’all. 

Looks like I’m not doing too bad of a job assimilating 🙂

 

Also called "chom chom" in Vietnamese. We bought so many lbs of these because they're so cheap here!

Also called “chom chom” in Vietnamese. We bought so many lbs of these because they’re so cheap here!

Home Visitations at the Mekong Delta

On my first day with PALS, we got out of the office at 5:30AM to begin our first series of home visits for potential female scholarship recipients for the ADAPT program. If qualified, the girls will receive scholarships to continue higher education until Grade 12. These girls are chosen by their schools to be interviewed by PALS if they are living in extreme poverty or come from families with only one working mother/father –  any scenario that may make them more prone to getting tricked by traffickers through promises of making a lot of money through unreal job offers. 8th and 7th grade girls have higher priority for the scholarships than younger girls, but from the results of these home visits, I am sure some 6th graders will be receiving scholarships as well.

We traveled about 2 hours until we got to our first school, where we met with the teachers and broke out into groups to do home visits. We went to a total of two schools that day, and I went on about 10-12 home visits. Each home visit lasted anywhere from 45 mins to an hour.

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On the ferry

On the ferry, then we had to travel about another 1.5 hours by van to get to the schools. After that teachers took us on their motorbikes to the different homes.

 The survey questions were very detailed and included questions such as:

  • “What is your future career goal and how much do you think you’d make?”
  • “What kind of student (below average, average, above average) are you & what is your favorite subject in school?” – these girls tend to be “above average”
  • “What is your weakest subject?”
  • “How do you get to school?”
  • “Does your family have any debt/assets?”
  • “Highest education level of parents?” 
  • “Have you heard about trafficking stories?” – some have and others haven’t

and many more that went into thorough detail of the families’ living conditions and indicators of whether or not the girls are strong-willed enough to finish school to at least 12th grade if given the scholarship.

The importance of: “What is your future career goal & how much do you think you’ll make?” question: some girls haven’t thought about this yet, which was a great way to provoke some thought into this. Whereas for girls who had a career goal in mind, they would come up with a salary that was above and beyond any real salary. For example, one girl said she dreamed of being a famous singer who would make 30 million dong/mth. However, a doctor in Vietnam barely makes about 3 million dong/mth. The interviewer had to give the girl some comparison because with an MD degree, you have to go through all that schooling,and yet still do not even make that much. This girl is considered as highly at risk for being trafficked because she can easily be tricked by men who claim that they will pay her a beyond realistic salary without her even realizing that she is being fooled. We had to explain to her that if a girl had no education and was offered a job that anyone can do (for ex: a guy says he will offer her a dish washing job in another country that will pay an extremely high salary, but why would he pay her that much when he can easily find someone to do that job in his own country), that job offer would most likely be unrealistic. 

This is only one case. A few of the girls said they wanted to be doctors, among other careers. They’re book smart but some are far from being street smart, which makes them prone to being trafficked. As with parents, I met families where at least one parent was blind or deaf, thus leaving only one parent capable of making a living, further making the girls prone to quitting school to find jobs to support their family.

Shadowing the interviews was such a humbling experience. I observed so many different living situations and listened to so many stories that I never thought I’d get the chance to hear. The girls are so gentle, shy, and intelligent. However, they lack so many opportunities that American children have the luxury to easily grasp. From the results of the home visits that I attended, I’m pretty sure most of the girls I met will be getting the scholarships!! I’m so happy. 

Unfortunately due to privacy reasons, I cannot post their pictures, which is a shame because their faces show so much emotion and beauty. Although I cannot show you their pictures, here are a few shots of some of their homes & the beautiful Mekong Delta surroundings:

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We got back to Long Xuyen at about 10PM. It was a long but fruitful day <3. I’m going to miss the girls so much. 

They make me want study my GRE’s already.