Clearly, we are a bit behind in posting reviews from our fantastic guide training trip in July (Can someone please tell me where August and September have gone??) . While we’re still working on writing and adding full reviews, I thought I would quickly post my favorite pictures from each location to give you glimpse of our great trip. Enjoy!
11 Jul 09 Saigon – Cu Chi Tunnels / Dinner with Mr Nam
Breakfast meeting with the guides for guide training.
Take an afternoon excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Arrive and descend into the Cu Chi tunnels where the guerilla fighters constructed an amazing underground base and meet a veteran of the Vietnamese/American war who will give you a private tour of the tunnels and recount his experiences as a tunnel rat. Finally, to end our trip, we will be taken to the private home of Mr. Nam where we will have dinner with him and his family.
I’m going to be perfectly honest, when I first saw Mr. Nam I was a bit intimidated. Here’s a man who I know was a veteran of the Vietnam/ American war, in addition he has a very noticeable and distinct war wound, a missing arm, which adds to the whole intimidation factor. In our first encounter we sat down for tea and I quietly sipped and sat without motion, wondering how the rest of the day would go. We made our introductions and quickly the intimidation faded away. He smiled and laughed, and cracked jokes and even though there was a language barrier, I could tell he was a man full of joy and he was enthusiastic to share his story with us.
After tea we walked over to a presentation area where Mr. Nam gave an overview on the Cu Chi tunnels and his daily life as a tunnel rat. He went into detail about how and where the tunnels were made, the rooms that they had, the different levels, the ventilation system, and so much more – it was extremely interesting information.
From there we went down into the tunnels. I was surprised at how big the rooms were and tried to imagine living there for 12 days, let alone 12 years as Mr. Nam did. Andrea and I crawled the whole way through and were, quite frankly, exhausted by the end of the hunched trek. Although we were exhausted, the experience of going through the tunnels was very memorable and I’m happy I did it.
Then it was off to Mr. Nam’s house for dinner. While I was really excited to visit the tunnels, having dinner with Mr. Nam’s family was what I was really excited about – and it actually managed to exceed my high expectations. It is hard to put into words exactly what made the night so special. The evening was filled with great company, incredible food as well as unique and interesting conversation.
To speak of the great company – At Mr. Nam’s home we met his wife whom he met while living in the tunnels, his daughters and his beautiful grandchildren. They were all so kind and welcoming, I felt as if I was joining an old friend for dinner.
Oh and the food? All I can say was that when I left there was certainly not a scrap left on my plate. Although, I guess I could have gone without the second “taste” of the homemade rice whiskey Mr. Nam insisted on pouring.
For the conversation, we discussed more about his experiences during the war and also went more into how he feels now about the war and also Americans. I found it very profound when he explained how he didn’t chose to fight simply to fight – he choose to fight to protect his family and his country. He went on to say that he has no ill will towards Americans and he hopes that anyone faced with the choice between war and peace, would chose peace. Having never personally had to make that choice, I found it special to hear that someone who had once had to make that difficult decision did it not to fight, but to protect what he loves most. It opened my mind to something I had never really thought about in true depth and it is something I will remember forever.
Guide training was fantastic! It was great to be able to introduce April to all the guides and they had some great new suggestions for tours and when we discussed family travel they were really interested to hear our suggestions on how to make the whole family happy. I love that I know all of our guides and I know that they will take wonderful care of our guests, which is so reassuring to me. We had breakfast and lunch with the guides and had some good laughs, a great start to our guide training this year!
Our afternoon trip was also a great start to our tour. I met Mr Nam 5 years ago while leading a group of high school students through Vietnam. I was having trouble getting through to the students and it seemed that for them the Vietnam War was ancient history…Mr Nam made them sit up and pay attention. He joined the guerilla forces at the age of most of the students and he fought and lived underground for years. Seeing Mr Nam again was a joy and I love hearing about his first-hand experience in the tunnels and the way but he answered all our questions so matter-of-factly that sometimes it was easy to forget the difficulties he lived through.
I had never been to his family home before and loved seeing the photos of him as a younger fighter and hearing his opinion on the past as well as the future. I asked a lot of questions as I wanted to make sure that he would be comfortable if our guests really wanted to know as much as they could. He took all of my questions in stride and was a pleasure to talk to. It was so fun to be a part of his family for the evening and I thanked him and his wife for all the meals they had cooked for our guests. He told me that he enjoyed the company and meeting Americans and I believe he genuinely is honored to be the host and show off his beautiful family. It made me proud that I can offer this amazing experience to guests and with that pride and the rice whiskey I drove back to the hotel glowing!
Sorry this is a little late, I got distracted with a fun trip to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh over the weekend. Here is the last of our Mother of all Weeks series by Loan, featuring Van, our Directors in Vietnam:
Sorry for the delayed reply because Van is so busy for her Seminar. I can not understand that she never drop off her huge dreams 🙂 that I admire her very much.
Please see the following for the interview with Van:
Van is my class mate at foreign languages University in Hanoi. She is a hard-working and successful woman. And now she is my boss and has encouraged me a lot in my job.
Loan : Ms. Van, I have some interesting questions for you.
Van: Yes, I am willing to response to your questions that does not make troubles for me.
Loan: How many kids did your mom have?
Van: As you may know, my mom has three children.
Loan: How many kids do you have?
Van: Wow, I have only two sons
Loan: How many do you want to have?
Van: Well, interesting question but I was thinking of having two only.
Loan: What is your favorite thing about being a mom?
Van: For me, it is teaching my kids and traveling with them.
Loan: What is the hardest thing about being a mom?
Van: My kids are so nice but sometime I am tired to solve their problems.
Loan: What is the most important advice you will or have given your kids?
Van: Being hard-working and learning so well
Loan: What was the most important advice your mom gave you?
Van: My mom always said me that you should do everything by yourself in the life and taking care of your husband and your kids very well. May be she knows I am so busy that I don’t have a lot of free time for my Family.
Loan: What do you hope for your kids?
Van: I hope that my kids can do everything by themselves in their life and they will help others
Loan: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
Van: You are welcome