Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring Break Baby!

So We've actually left Vietnam already and have settled in South Africa, but I haven't written about my wonderful last week in Vietnam (which was spring break) so I figured I should do that. But first I want to let you know a little bit about where we are in South Africa.

After one of the students was thought to be on a blacklist and almost not allowed in SA, and another didn't have enough pages in her passport to get past Qatar, we all managed to eventually land in Johannesburg, South Africa. We're staying at a wonderful group hostel about 40 minutes out from the center of the city. I can't get over how fresh the air smells and how peaceful it is out here. Our country coordinator, Jan, takes us running every morning at 6am (yes, I've been getting up that early!) and yoga on the mountain is a fantastic way to start the day. They feed us well and are extremely friendly here. We leave on the 10th for Bushbuckridge, a very rural town about 7 hours north of here where we will be living with host families for the remainder of the program. Our internet there may be limited, but I'll try and do another blog before we leave.

Alright, Spring Break! Basically, we were allowed to go wherever we would like for our spring break week, we just weren't allowed to leave the country. Pretty neat. So we split up into smaller groups (traveling with 30 students isn't always the most fun thing) and planned out our week as we pleased. I traveled with 7 other students (Sam, Genevieve, Nate, Amy, Mike, Nick, and Anna)

A great group of adventurous friends who wanted to see as much as we could while still having time to relax on the beach. And that’s exactly what we did.

We started out by flying from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, which is basically traveling from northern to southern Vietnam. We stayed at this wonderful little hostel right in the city and it turned out that another group of us was also staying at the same hostel! So we got to hang out with them as well as we wandered around Ho Chi Minh City. Our first day there I walked around with Bianca, did some shopping in the markets, had our lunch paid for by a very kind Vietnamese woman, did some sight seeing, found an adorable cupcake shop, and then went to the night market. The following day was our last day in the city, so I went on a tour to the Mekong Delta with Bianca and Nikki. The delta is known for its huge floating market, but there’s a lot more on the river as well. So we drove about 2 hours to our starting point on the river, and took a small boat from there. We visited a coconut candy factory, a bee farm, a small island where you could feed alligators and ride around on bikes, and then we took even smaller boats to go around to different markets. We met some really cool people on the tour (other travelers) and had a fabulous time!

That night, we took an overnight sleeper bus to Hue, our next location. Hue is best known for its sand dunes and wind surfing, but we only did the sand dunes. Our hostel there was right on the beach, too! We only spent one night there before taking another overnight bus to Nha Trang, probably one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen! We got there at 7am, so we literally had the entire day to sit out and swim in the ocean. One of my Danish friends, Cecilie, was also in Nha Trang so we met up at her hotel and then we ended up getting a small room there for the day, to store our bags, to use the bathroom, shower, and nice place to come back for some AC. We ate dinner with Cecilie and her three other Danish friends, and then we took our final bus trip, a 12 hour ride to Hoi An. We arrived in Hoi An around 8 am and got to watch to watch the sunrise over the rice fields on our drive there. Hoi An is an adorable little town (Mom, you would love it!) with lanterns hanging from trees and on the side of the bridge, yellow buildings with coffee and ice cream shops, small streets, beautiful temples and a market right along the river side. We spent the day there shopping and eating some of the most delicious pho’ in all of Vietnam (by our own inference). We rented bikes and took them to the beach before heading out to Da Nang, the town less than 30 minutes away where our hotel was and where we would be for the remainder of break.

Da Nang was also the same beach town that the group we met up with in Ho Chi Minh City was staying at, so we got to hang out with them again. This is definitely a developing town that hasn’t quite turned into the tourist attraction they seem to be hoping for. The beaches were nearly deserted until about 3 o’clock when school got out, then all of the kids and their families would swarm to the beach and stay until the sun went down. It was a nice change not to be surrounded by tourists, though. Most days we just chilled at the beach and ate fresh seafood, but one of the days we rented bikes and biked up to the top of the mountain/hill that had the Lady Buddha at the top of it. Even though it was extremely hot that day and it was a pretty difficult bike ride (especially since some of the bikes were a bit broken…) it was a beautiful view at the top, and the statue is actually huge! It reminded me of the Christ Redeemer Statue in Brazil.

After a fantastic week’s break, we flew back to Ha Noi for two last nights with our homestay families. After a large farewell dinner and little bit of karaoke, we were back at the airport getting on a plane to South Africa.

It’s crazy how time is flying.

All for now!


P.S. I apologize for the lack of photos, but due to our Internet situation it is nearly impossible to upload anything more than this text. If I get to an Internet café any time soon I’ll try and upload a few photos.

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