It is crazy to think that these past two weeks have given me hundreds of stories – some funny, some sad, and some more impactful than I could have ever imagined. On the two-hour car ride from the Dulles airport to Hershey, PA, I don’t think that I stopped talking. How could I when I had so much to say?
When you are part of a group who works together like a well-oiled machine, it turns into a great academic experience. It’s in these situations where I think you can truly grow your skills as a group member. I remember our group waking up to have an early breakfast and to compose our questions for our company visit. We made sure that between the four of us, everyone had good questions to ask that allowed us to have the best final presentation possible. At Glass Egg, our class split in half into two smaller tour groups. On the spot, our group broke in half and Anna and I went with one tour, and Pat and Braden went with the other. It took good communication and foresight to make sure that everyone knew their roles so that we would get all of the answers to our questions. While we were assembling our final presentation, those teamwork skills were once again employed to help us build our final presentation. Everyone contributed their strengths, and I loved having the ability to work in synchronization with my other group members. The final example of teamwork came when the class had the opportunity to ask questions about Glass Egg. Because everyone on the team was knowledgeable and passionate, we were all able to contribute together to answer each question, which gave a more comprehensive answer. In short, I am very thankful to have been a part of the “Egg Gang” because it has made my Plus 3 experience all the more significant.
The biggest challenges that I encountered while traveling were those situations where I had to be flexible and adaptable. To me, the biggest demonstration of this was during the Mekong Delta Day. One of the activities that we did was to have a traditional honey tea, which would have been charming if I wasn’t surrounded by bees the entire time. I am a strong advocate for bees because they do a lot for our environment and I know that their population is endangered: however, that does NOT mean that I would care to have tea with them. There were bees in my tea, in my hair, and on the table, etc. This is a challenging situation where you can do two things: freak out and run for the hills or calm down, be flexible, and enjoy the fantastic tea. I went for the second option, and it turns out that it is one of my highlights of the trip. Now, granted, about halfway through the tea someone told me that all of the bees had their stingers removed (I don’t know if that was a lie or not but I appreciate it because it helped me calm down). Sometimes you need to be flexible and trust the process because you will have a much better experience.
Plus 3 left me with some profound thoughts about things that I had never thought about before and things that I didn’t fully understand. It also presented me with the challenge of having to articulate some of those thoughts in the form of our daily blog posts. That was difficult because some of the topics were uncomfortable to think about. The example I will use is the exhibit in the War Remnants Museum about the use of agent orange through the eyes of local children. Walking through that exhibit touched me in ways that no other museum exhibit ever has. And honestly, I walked away from it feeling such guilt, anger, and sadness that I knew that a few sentences in my blog post weren’t going to do the experience justice. However, the exhibit deserved to be mentioned, so I had to learn to articulate those intense feelings. I realized that sometimes we do not want to talk about certain things, but we do because it’s important to remember them.
There is so much that I wish that I could tell you about my time in Vietnam, but I know that there are some feelings and some experiences that cannot be fully described: Like the way that the sun twinkles through the lush canopy of green while the deafening chirps of cicadas roar overhead; the deliciously subtle burn of biting into pineapple coated with chile salt; or the feeling of your heart plummeting as you walk through the War Remnants Museum. My only hope is that my blog posts have given you the smallest taste into the genuinely wonderful country of Vietnam. I have tried to share the amazing experiences that I have had with you all, but if you want a complete understanding of my adventure, then I implore you to go to Vietnam yourself. You will not regret it.