Day 5

Can Gio Town
There is much to explore today as we pay a visit to Can Gio Town, a UNESCO site as well as a crucial location during the Vietnam war. Where can be a more apt place than this for our Cultural and Environmental Learning Journey!

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Taking a massive ferry which is able to transport vehicles too!

 

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Sharing the ferry with motorists

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Once we reached the other side, we hopped back onto the bus and time for some mangrove tree planting!

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A short presentation to learn more about the ecology before we head for the mangrove. Through the sharing by Mr. Hii, our local tour guide, our children were better able to appreciate how the mangrove also help to protect the city against typhoons and erosion. 
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Picking up the pieces of equipment that we will require: Boots, gloves, and shovels up!
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A long trek to our planting site. Forward forward Punggolites~
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The final challenge before reaching the mud field: crossing a muddy river by stepping over make-shift ladder bridge 
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Finally! At our work site. Walking around proves to be a huge challenge as boots get stuck in the mud. Yet, our students preserved through (with minimum complaints). Well done everyone!
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Learning the how-to

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Finding joy amidst of the tough work

The whole process was both labor intensive and physically draining. Yet, our children managed to overcome these challenges and successfully completed the task. Many reflected during our debriefing session that they never thought that restoring nature will be such hard work. This made them proud of their accomplishments and also learn to protect what we have now, for restoring them will be more difficult. Our students also showed better appreciation of the need to support the conservation of mangroves as it does bring benefits to mankind.

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Taking the initiative to serve the members on the same table. It is heartwarming to see students take care of each other through smalls acts of kindness.
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A hard to come by sight in our city life.

After lunch, we head in to visit the war memorial

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A small museum which contained preserved copies of the flora and fauna of Can Gio, as well as some old artifacts from the Vietnam war.
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The interaction between man and nature. Monkeys are bold enough to snatch food and drinks from people.

 

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More safety reminders about dealing with wildlife.
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A group shot at the picturesque mangrove
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Tired but still smiling!
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Watching another documentary on how the guerillas survive and fought back against the Americans during the Vietnam war through the use of the geographical advantages that they have.
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Finally, sharing session at the war memorial.

It was a long and tiring day but our students still took the initiative and completed their reflections dutifully during the long bus ride back to Ho Chin Minh city. We were then rewarded with a sumptuous dinner at Tandoor.

 

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Some great food to end off the day!

As we spend our last night here in Ho Chin Minh, we can feel a tinge of excitement from returning home as well as reluctance from ending this enjoyable learning experience. Students are released back to their rooms early so that they will have sufficient time to pack their items as we prepare to head back to home sweet home!

 

 

 

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Day 4

Rice Planting Activity

Morning, we got to visit a farm and got to try our hands at planting rice in a padi field.

Our hardworking boys and girls got ankle deep in wet mud and went to work planting rice seedlings.

After a hard morning’s work, we even got to sample some of the simple treats which the farmers traditionally have when they take a break.

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 Mekong River

After lunch, we embarked on a trip across the Mekong River.

Catching Fish

We got to try our hands at fish farming. The brave boys and girls got up to waist deep in the fish pond and fished by hand. Some of our students were pretty successful. Well done!

Day 3

Thien Phuoc Orphanage
After going through great efforts in planning and conducting a few dry runs the night before, today is finally the day to execute the grand plan! By 8am, we were all geared up and ready to head to the orphanage.

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Students continued with their song practices and run through of event as we journey to the orphanage

Upon reaching the orphanage, we were quickly greeted by the staffs and orphans. Despite having made extensive plans for the VIA, we learned that we would have to make some adjustments to the schedules as the orphans will be having their meal in about an hour’s time and it would be their nap time right after. Our students were quick to adapt and made adjustments to their plans. Soon, students and teachers were interacting with the orphans and lending a helping hand to the needs of the orphanage.

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The teachers are very proud of our students as we observed them stepping out of their comfort zones as they engaged the orphans. Due to their various disabilities and the language barriers, it may prove difficult to interact with these children. But our students showed high level of proactiveness and empathy as they cared for the orphans while enjoying each other’s company. We are also very heartened to hear from our students’ reflection that they have learned optimism and gained a greater respect for their new friends for how they deal with their disabilities with courage and positivity. Many have also expressed a greater appreciation for what they have after this experience. We are glad that students are able to show the true spirit of service learning, instead of entering with a mentality of being superior to the ones receiving the help.

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Everyone had a great time!

 

 

 

Gu Chi Tunnel
Right after lunch, we took another long bus ride to visit the Gu Chi Tunnel. This is a place of great historical significance as it played a major role in the outcome of the Vietnam war. As we tour through the exhibits, we got to experience the brilliance and resilience of the Vietnamese people.  Our students expressed respect for how the Vietnamese people overcome their lack of firepower with creativity and wit. Through our discussion during the debriefing session, our students were also challenged to think about what this historical event can teach us about the importance of the five pillars of total defense.

Of course, the most memorable portions of this portion of our excursion had to the experiencing the entering and moving through of the very tunnels that allowed the Vietnamese soldiers to perform their guerrilla tactics so successfully.

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Started off with a 40-minute video on the tunnels

The disappearing act by our first volunteer through the entrance of the Gu Chi Tunnel!

And learning about the innovative yet deadly traps that the Vietnamese people used during the war.

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Making out of the 100 m crawl is no small feat. Yet the Vietnamese soldiers were able to thrive in these tunnels. Their resilience and determination for independence are really worth learning from.

 

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Finally, a group photo around an old tank used by the US army!

 

 

Looking forward to tomorrow…
While we might have sweated and worked some muscles today, this will only be the warm-up for tomorrow as we are heading to Mekong Delta to experience the lifestyle of the people in the paddy fields and other exciting activities.

Stay tuned!

 

 

Day 2

Ben Thanh Market

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We started off the day with a visit to the Ben Thanh market. The students got to see the famous wet market in full swing. Sights and smells greeted our curious boys and girls. We don’t get to see many wet markets in Singapore anymore, let alone one of this size and scale.

Mai Market

Next on the list, a cooking lesson at the Mai Market School of Culinary Arts.

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 All of us successfully completed the cooking course. Yay!

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Our boys and girls were brought through the delicate process of preparing Vietnamese cuisine. Step by step the dishes were prepare with great care and creativity. At the end, we all enjoyed the fruits of our labor and were treated to our very own Vietnamese meal. It was definitely delicious. All successful participants were presented with a certificate of completion.

Pottery Class at Minh Long 1 Ceramics Showroom

After lunch, we went down to the Minh Long 1 Ceramics Showroom for a lesson on pottery.  We learnt how ceramic products are made as well as the history of how the production of ceramics has progressed and change through the years.

We got to express our artistic talents later when we decorated our very own plates. Some of us did designs of nature while others made geometric shapes. Whatever the designs, we are all proud of our plates. It will take at least a day or two for the curing process to be completed. We can’t wait for the finished products to arrive.

Back…. Tomorrow will be a big day.

We’re back at the hotel. There’s much to do. We’ll be visiting the Thien Phuoc Orphanage tomorrow. The plans for all the activities will have to be completed tonight. Keep it up guys!

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Day 1

Taking off from SG~
Everyone gathered early at Changi airport T2 early in the morning at 7.30am, with our luggage (mostly) full and hearts filled with excitement. With the great support from parents and the school, everyone entered the gates on time and ready to embark on our adventure!

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All smiles and ready for our learning journey!

 

Touching Down in Vietnam
Well occupied by the in-flight entertainment and nice meal onboard our SIA flight, two hours flew past and before we know it, we are here in Ho Chin Minh! Students reflected that one of the key difference that they immediately observed about Changi Airport and Tan Son Nhat International airport is the stark difference in retail shops present. This is especially obvious since they spent 30 minutes walking the duty-free area before entering the gates at Changi Airport. This observation allowed the students to form the first indication of the difference in the level of development in Singapore and Vietnam.

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Meal in the air (dessert included).
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And soon after, more food for lunch. Most of the food was still cleared. Kudos to youth.

War Remnant Museum
Our first stop was the war remnant museum where students got to learn more about the Vietnam war. With their better understanding of the implications of chemical warfare used in the war as well as the various vicious torture methods used on the prisoners, students’ reflections showed deep empathy for the casualties of the war as well as the lose-lose outcome of a war. Teachers also led students to think through how it is necessary for Singapore to adequately prepare ourselves in the prevention of war and also the importance of our military defence.

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Reading information boards on the various torture methods used in the War on Prisoners.

Notre Dame Cathedral & The Old Post office
We continued with a city tour as we visit the French architectures that remained in Ho Chi Minh city.

 

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A group photo in front of the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral

 

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Beautiful interior of the post office, designed by the same architect that designed Effiel Tower.

Water Puppet Show at Golden Dragon Theatre
Despite the show being in Vietnamese, we were all amused by the puppeteers’ ability to coordinate and control the puppets to perform various seemingly impossible stunts as well as the live orchestral performance for sound effects.

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Golden Dragon Theatre
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Flanked by the orchestra on both sides, the puppeteers work their magic behind the green curtains of the grand set.

Ending the day

After a good show, we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner and had a surprise cake cutting ceremony for Ms Sindhya for today is her birthday!

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A photo before dinner!

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a thorough reflection to consolidate the rich learning experience. Light off is at 10 pm and students are informed to head down for their buffet breakfast by 7.30 am tomorrow.