Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day Ten and Eleven: Free Day, Farewell Dinner, and Travel Home

28 February & 1 March 2010

Free Day: Chu Chi Tunnels
Fourteen of the the students ventured to Cu Chi to learn about the tunnels which the Viet Cong (VC) used during the war. We had a good time taking a look at the tunnels in Chu Chi. At the start of the tour, there was a propaganda film made in 1967 which was a bit difficult to watch as they portrayed the U.S. as the aggressors instead of the VC being the aggressors against the South. After the video, we were shown one of the original entrances to the tunnels. The tour guide demonstrated how the VC would enter the tunnel system and hide the entrance. We were then given a chance to try to enter the orginal entrance. Ekua, Saowanee, Aaron, Gity, and Chintan were the only ones who attempted to fit in the old entrance.

The tour guide shows us how the VC would enter the tunnel and camouflage the entrance

We were shown some traps used by the VC which was very disturbing. I had been told about the construction of these traps while I was in the Army but it was shocking to see them up close. I had heard how bad these traps were now I had seen them up close and know how terrible they were.

One of the several traps on display

We stopped at one of the displays for a group photo

One of the more interesting things about the tunnel system is the rooms which were built within the system. To make certain that everyone would be able to get a look at these facilities, replicas of these rooms were on display which were dug down about two meters into the earth and covered with a thatched roof. This allows even those who are claustrophobic an opportunity to view these rooms.

A workshop and kitchen rooms on display

This is a picture of the chimney from the kitchen. Do you see the smoke?

This is one of the many air vents

Later we had the opportunity to go through some of the tunnels. Several of us went through the tunnels which required us getting on our hands and knees to crawl through. You are warned before going in that you should not enter if you have any medical conditions such as heart diseases, asthma, etc. or if you are claustrophobic. After going through the tunnels I totally concur with the warning. The tunnels are rather tight and are very dark. If you have any doubts if you can make it through you would be smart not to try it. They do provide several exits in case you go into the tunnels and find that you wish you had not.

On our return bus ride from the tunnels, we stopped at a Buddhist temple and took a few pictures then returned to the hotel and prepared for our farewell dinner.

A picture at the Buddhist Temple

View video from the return bus ride.

Farewell Dinner

During the farewell dinner, Dr. Jacobina asked one member from each group to say something about their experience from the program and about the trip to Hong Kong and Vietnam. Everyone who spoke had good things to say about their teams, other class members, the program, and about some of the professors. I think we have really bonded as a group and will stay in contact with one another now that the program is over. We are a real diverse group of individuals with talents which will be able to help each of us in one way or another.

Regarding the trip, many comments were made about the differences between Hong Kong and Vietnam. Most everyone agreed that Vietnam was their favorite out of the two but I had heard the opposite from other classmates so I don't know if the people who spoke really felt that way or if they felt compelled to say that since we were in Vietnam. I know I enjoyed Vietnam more because it is more laid back than Hong Kong and is closer to the lifestyle in Laos and Northern Thailand.

I was surprised by both visits in the opportunities that exist in both places particularly in IT. I had assumed that since many IT jobs are going to India and China that there was no need for IT from the U.S. but I found that was not the truth. Most of the IT in China and Vietnam is low skill IT and there is a great demand for higher skilled IT professionals and services.

Travel Home

The travel home was uneventful. There were a few challenges however as Saowanee was not in the system to be issued a ticket in Vietnam and both her and I had some of our luggage sent to Kansas City. I did receive my luggage the next day but it was not a good feeling to have it missing and not knowing if you would get it back again.