The second week of camp has come to an end and man was it a memorable one! On Monday is was great to see the kids again after a weekend away from them. Vietnam showed us all what the rainy season is about with intermittent torrential downpours throughout the day. The kids weren’t fazed at all by the wind howling and whipping the rain into the school building, but us American c
oaches were in awe. At the end of the school day the coaches played a pickup volleyball game in what started off as a light drizzle.
By the end the sky had opened up on us and we were drenched head-to-toe. Making the most of the moment, we rolled around in the puddles in the courtyard and went mudsliding on the soccer field. The rainy weather carried on throughout the week, making sports scheduling a nightmare, but we definitely enjoyed the cooler weather it brought!
This week the kids also got a lot more comfortable with the coaches. We all received our first name bracelets (they are veryyy popular here) and little gifts from the kids. I had no idea the impact we were having on these kids until we had a lesson in our life skills class about hopes and dreams. I had the kids draw a picture of one of their dreams and share it with the class. One of the boys who often sits in the back corner of the classroom and seldom speaks shocked me with his response. He stood up and showed a picture of me and my co-teacher Teylar. Thinking he misunderstood the activity, we asked him why he drew us. He said his dream was that the American coaches would stay and never go back home. It was that moment when I began to understand the magnitude and importance of the relationships we are forming with these kids. We aren’t just here to teach them a subject and a sport. We mean so much more to them than that and we value them in the same way.
The schedule of this week was different than last week because the school was needed for high school entrance exam testing. On Wednesday and Thursday, our days started two hours later and included a four hour lunch break. I know some private schools in the U.S. have entrance exams, but the Vietnamese system is very different. In the education system here, it is only mandatory to complete secondary school (through 9th grade). Once you finish that, you have to take entrance exams if you want to move on to high school. From what the Vietnamese coaches have told me, these exams are very difficult and only a select number of spots are available for each high school. Five of our VN coaches went to the same high school with a graduating class of 20 (most elite schools tend to have classes with similar sizes). If you don’t do well enough on the test, high school is likely not an option for you. School is also very expensive, so you want to be in the top percentiles of your testing groups so you can afford it. To gain college admission, you go through a similar process. Several of our VN coaches have incredible stories about their struggles of getting into high school and college. Their families have sold their farms, houses, and belongings in the countryside in order to fund life for their child in the city (most colleges are in cities). Student loans exist, but they aren’t very prevalent or attainable. Learning about this process allowed me to better understand why so many of the kids didn’t think college was a reachable goal for them. Living in rural Vietnam with parents who didn’t complete higher education and inadequate funds to move to the city, it’s hard to imagine college as a possibility for you. We have spent a lot of this week telling the kids stories about our positive experiences with higher education in the hopes of inspiring them to have great work ethic and belief in themselves.
This week has flownnn by and it’s crazy to know that I only have one week left of this amazing journey. The previous camp told us that after week 1 the rest would be a blur and they weren’t kidding. This weekend we are going to a beach town a few hours West of camp, near Cambodia. The R&R is greatly needed and I’m looking forward to explore another region of Vietnam. I’ve learned so much about VN culture and life so far and I’m excited to delve deeper into this experience in the coming week!