Great Expectations

by Zoe Pham

This work camp is the first time my brother and I asked to go without prompting or “volun-telling” from my mom; this was my 3rd trip with Sunflower Mission and I felt way more confident and excited to learn more Vietnamese, get out of my comfort zone, and make new connections with fellow volunteers and the students the primary school would be serving.

After the familiar and weary 19 hours on a plane, our group of volunteers arrived in Ho Chi Minh City late Saturday night, where we ate a late dinner at a local street food market. We left early the next morning for a 6 hour bus ride to Da Lat, where all of us volunteers introduced and got to know one another through games, since we would be together for two whole weeks. Because of an alarming screeching noise coming from the bus, we decided to take a rest stop and switch buses, which was a great way for me to mingle with the SEEDS, learn each other’s names for good, and play cards and draw together while eating snacks. We played a game taking turns to draw a picture together and made this masterpiece:

unnamed (1).jpg

After an hour, we switched buses and rode until we stopped for lunch at a scenic restaurant and wolfed down the great food. We rode for four more hours where everyone took the time to nap, read, or play games on the bus. We passed rolling green hills as we climbed up winding mountain paths, multicolored lively homes and shops nestled in valleys set to the sound of the rumble of our bus among motorcycles.

Lighted signs and decorations and shimmering water signalled our arrival in Da Lat. I was enthralled and amazed to see this new cityscape which seemed so unique from the lush forests we traveled through and the big city, yet distinctly Vietnamese.

We debriefed after dinner about our tasks for the upcoming week and were placed into teams. Although I was tired from the long journey, I was excited to begin the most rewarding part of the work camp: outfitting and preparing the school for its new students, and leading workshops with them. I had a commitment to put in even more this trip (you get out what you put in, we’re continuously reminded), learn Vietnamese, and make lasting connections with fellow volunteers and the students.

Exploring my interests and finding my dream has been a large source of worry for me moving forward as a college student. I hope to use this trip to reevaluate my goals and perspective of success, and appreciate what education means to me and how I can use it to pass my opportunities forward. Here’s to another exciting, hectic, and fun work camp!