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Xin chao!! So this is my first blog post here in Vietnam, and I’ve got to be honest: I’m not quite sure where to even begin. It’s been eight days since I’ve landed from the brutal 40-hour journey, and the list of things that we have done, the different emotions that I have felt, and the things that I have realized, are about as countless as the number of motor bikes that you have to dodge as you cross these Vietnamese streets.

Maddie and I were the first to arrive and were given the opportunity and freedom to explore the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh (formerly known as Saigon). The next day was our day of touring around the city all together before heading South to where our camp is set up.

The first — and definitely one of the most important — things to learn if you wish to survive here is the technique of crossing the streets. There are zero rules for motorcyclists, which, bear in mind, is the primary mode of transport here in Nam. “Crossing is like wading through water,” Seth would tell us as he calmly strolled across. We all practiced “wading” through, holding back our natural urge to frantically run to the other side. Anyways, I guess you could say that we are getting the hang of it since we are all still here, alive and well.

Speaking of being “alive and well”, I was, not surprisingly, the first soldier to go down. On day three, I was the victim of the 24-hour vomiting bug. We all put it down to brushing my teeth and washing my water bottle with the tap water, as well as not effectively closing my mouth while I shower: the three things that we were specifically told NOT to do (oops). Anyways, luckily that happened early on so I was reassured that I didn’t miss that much. So I guess, apart from the constant itching of my one hundred mosquito bites, my reoccurring jumps of fear as I see enormous insects scuttle past my feet, and the early 4:50am wake-up times to ensure that I get my training in, I am here, alive and well and enjoying every moment.

“…there are so many amazing people here that I have already been able to meet, connect with, and learn from.”

Since we arrived at Long My, the village that we are staying in, we have bonded with each other, the Vietnamese college students that we work with, and the children in the school where we teach. It is day three now of school camp and I am definitely starting to pick apart the troublemakers from the shy ones. I am even already in the middle of a very serious and competitive game of invisible soccer with one of my students. (I’m 2-1 up, in case you were wondering).

Orange Team Preparing for Competition Day

Unfortunately, the ability to write concisely has never been one of my strengths, and for that reason I have not even been able to relay to you a fraction of the many incredible moments that I have been given the opportunity to experience here. Thus, I am going to conclude this first blog just by saying that there are so many amazing people here that I have already been able to meet, connect with, and learn from. This ranges from my fellow Stanford ACErs to the 8th graders that I teach. The best part of it is that I am only 1/3 of the way through and this crazy adventure that we call ACE in Vietnam is just taking off, and I am so excited for the rest of the journey.

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