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This last week in Vietnam is incomparable to anything I have ever experienced. When I walked out of the airport, the dripping heat hit me like a wall … but it made being here finally feel tangible, no longer like some far off adventure I would eventually find my way to. Two of the Vietnamese directors found me wandering around and we joined the rest of the group, boarding the bus to our hotel. We spent most of the weekend in Ho Chi Minh City, exploring its treasures and tragedies, learning about the Vietnamese culture bit by bit.

We left for Long Mỹ on Sunday morning, traveling five hours by bus. Later that day we visited the school for orientation, and I met the 8th and 9th graders that I would be teaching and coaching. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they would teach me much more than I could ever hope to teach them.

“It didn’t take long for me to realize that they would teach me much more than I could ever hope to teach them.”

I could go on forever about all the cool interactions I’ve had with these kids over the last week, but there’s one in particular I would like to share. There’s a boy on my 8th grade team who I’ve really been able to connect with, despite the language barrier. To be honest I’m not even completely sure what it is that has allowed us to form this bond, but it is there and I am glad for it. This boy and I have wildly different backgrounds, and without this program it’s unlikely our paths would have ever crossed, but through class and sport we have been able to slowly learn more about each other. I know what he wants to be when he grows up, and he knows the same of me. And I can see how much he wants to make this dream come true, how hard he works in class to learn and progress, how difficult it may be to over come the potential obstacles that stand in his way.

There is a phrase we taught our teams in life skills: knowledge is power. It may sound cliché, but as most clichés are, it is true. Since learning the phrase, this boy has repeated it to me each day of class.

Knowledge is power.

I know he understands and believes it, he is eager for this knowledge, the knowledge me and my team mates are trying our best to develop in him. However, I realized that because we as coaches are also learning so much from this amazing country and it’s people, we too are becoming more “powerful.” And it has been a great realization to understand that together, we — coaches, directors, and students — are all growing and learning and changing, and the best part is that we could never do it without one another.

Students working on English Sentences in Classroom
Some students working on English sentences on the chalkboard at the front of the class room.

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