Last weekend a group of us went to Dong Thap (Đồng Tháp) province. The Consulate’s locally-engaged staff organization arranged for us to volunteer at a summer camp for at-risk teenagers. It was a lot of fun, I got to interact with some young people, and help out with an NGO’s work to prevent human trafficking.
A team of us did a workshop on “soft skills,” which is a buzzword in Vietnam lately. Schools here focus on academics, but don’t teach life skills like teamwork, communication, interpersonal skills, and professionalism. The workshop we did combined English practice and communication skills. Essentially, we played games. Even though we were playing a game, I explained to the kids that in order to succeed in the game, they had to listen to what each other were saying, and strategize their own communication. Yes, OK, we played “20 questions.” Stop judging me. It was relevant. Shut up; it was, too.
We also got to do a little culinary exploration. When I told some of my coworkers that I was going to Dong Thap, they smiled and nodded knowingly. They asked if I knew anything about the local cuisine. Of course I didn’t, because I’m an ignorant foreigner who doesn’t know the intricacies of Vietnamese culture. That seemed to amuse people even more.
So the night after we finished the workshops, we all went to a local beer garden for dinner. We got a lot of the usual goodies, beer with ice cubes (you get used to it), and then, a big plate of the local cuisine.
And unfortunately, it was delicious.