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We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”- Mother Theresa

While our service here in Vietnam is just “one drop in the ocean,” the experience is so much more. I love immersing myself in this new culture, bonding with other college students, Vietnamese and American, and gaining a much-needed new perspective.

Over the past week, I have learned as much from the kids as they have learned from me. Even though this is a challenging experience and some days I wake up still exhausted from the day before, teaching and interacting with these kids is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Teaching requires a lot of patience, and I have a new-found respect for all of my teachers.

A view of open-air school hallway
School Hallway

This week during one of our life skill lessons we were assigned the task of teaching the kids about the power of their words. When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers used toothpaste as a metaphor for this message.

“‘Once you squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube, it cannot go back in’ just like when you say something, you cannot unsay it.”

I decided to share this same message with my class. I had a volunteer squeeze out some toothpaste and then try to put it back in. The kids loved this activity, and the metaphor really resonated with them. Despite the language barrier and cultural differences, this message was universal, and I am glad I could share something that was so formative for me with them.

On Wednesday/Thursday of volleyball, I blew up a large globe. During our first few volleyball lessons we were using it as a warm-up activity. After the warm-up though, my co-coaches and I would get so stressed because we were worried the kids were not having fun with the other drills we planned, that things were out of control, and that the kids did not understand what we were trying to teach them. By the third lesson we decided to spend the first five minutes teaching them how to set and the rest of the time playing volleyball with the big globe. We had music playing in the background and while it was not a serious volleyball drill, the kids had fun and the coaches were reminded of the importance of meaningless play.

Students playing volleyball with giant globe
Students playing volleyball with the giant globe

The kids do not really speak English, so at times the language barrier can be intimidating; however, I have learned that a high five, smile, sports game, and lots and lots of positive energy transcends the language barrier. It has been a very long first week but worth all the time and energy. The first two days of camp were the longest, but as the days went on I got better at teaching, adjusting lesson plans on the spot, and feeding off the kid’s energy. I cannot wait to continue to step outside of my self-imposed limitations, connect more with the kids, and grow closer to my teammates in the coming weeks.

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