Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More information on the program

Dr. Jon Storslee has created his own website with information about the Vietnam program. He was a particpant in the first program last June.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Quang Nam province

This map shows Hoi An, along the coast just below Da Nang. It was founded in the 1600's, and prospered as a major trading port for Vietnam for 200 years until the harbor became unsuitable for larger ships and Da Nang became the major port. However, many of the buildings from its early age have survived.

This photo shows the main altar in the Chinese Assembly hall, built in 1773.
Walking around the old town of Hoi An you have the feeling of walking through a time portal back in time yet alive today.
The people were so friendly, even more so than my experience in China, where people were friendly, but not as much as in Vietnam. Walking down the street people would invariably smile in greeting, and not just if they were selling something!

2014 Trip

Enrollment is going on now for the May, 2014 Bridging the Gap program in Vietnam. A maximum of 12 students will travel to Hoi An, Vietnam for 2 weeks to learn about the art and culture of southeast Asia, but also to tutor Vietnamese college students in English. Last June's trip was a fabulous success. Our group of 10 had an amazing time spending one week in Hoi An and one week in Tam Ky. We worked with groups of students at two colleges in the two towns giving them the opportunity to practice speaking English.
Having led many study abroad programs to Mexico and China for the purpose of studying the ceramics in each country I have to say that this program was the most rewarding for all participants as we were given special insight into the present culture of Vietnam and to make close friends with the students and their families.
This time we will travel a little earlier than before with the hope it will be a little cooler than it was in late June. We will travel May 16-June 1, 2014, with an optional extra excursion to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. We will fly from Phoenix to Hanoi, Vietnam, spend a day and a half touring museums and other sights before hopping down to Da Nang, from which we will drive to Hoi An, about 20 minutes south along the coast. We will stay at the same hotel that we stayed in last June, as it was very comfortable, centrally located, and with very good service.
We will work with students at the Quang Nam Vocational College who are in vocational programs in tourism industry jobs. I decided that we should stay in Hoi An for the full two weeks this time so we can provide even more assistance to the students with their English but we will also be able to take advantage of more of the sights of interest in and around Hoi An.
The Vietnam students were so friendly and appreciative of our coming to help them, we were continually amazed by the lengths they went to to make us feel welcome and special. The photo above is from the welcome ceremony held at the college on our first day. These young girls danced, faculty members sang traditional songs, the director of the school gave a welcoming speech, then we went outside to play folk games as a "break the ice" activity. 
This photo is from the closing ceremony at the end of our first week working with the students of Quang Nam vocational college. This time our group got on stage and sang and danced, then invited all the school students onstage to join us in dancing. It was emotional and poignant to say good bye.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Enrollment ongoing

As of today 9 people have enrolled in the program, leaving 3 spots. I feel sure we will have a full group soon. I have been visiting many classes on campus to tell students directly about the program. Many recognize the value of the trip but can't take advantage due to financial obstacles, or having children, or no time off from work. My heart goes out to them because I can remember being in the same situation as a young undergrad in the 1970's at La. Tech University majoring in painting. La. Tech had, and may still have, a summer program focused on art in Rome that I craved to go to, but, due to financial limitations in my family, couldn't.
As I speak to classes I feel more and more the potential value of a trip like this recalling my own transformation from traveling to Mexico, China, Argentina, and France. From each trip I have gained firsthand knowledge of a culture, a place, a world view that I only knew threw media. As an artist I understand very well the ways that communications can be crafted so that a particular point of view is stressed, while sacrificing a whole picture of a place or a people. Being able to talk to people in person, in their home environment, smell the smells of their place, taste their food, see their world gives you a much more viable understanding than what we get through movies, TV and the internet.
Vietnamese students in Tam Ky, Quang Nam province.

Myself with Yen Nhi, of Vietnam Tourism Department, and Hu Phong, Tam Ky University administrator.

Vietnamese student at Quang Nam University, Tam Ky.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spreading the Word

I have been having a great time visiting my colleagues' classes to tell their students about the Bridging the Gap program. Today I visited Hedy Fossenkamper's CIS class and was really gratified by their positive attitude, in general, and their sincere interest in going to Vietnam as part of this program. I intended to only be in the class for 10 minutes but ended up answering questions for 20 minutes.
Most students wondered about prerequisites for the Art111 class, of which there are none. One asked if we will visit any war museums, to which I related about my touring the "Reunification Palace" in Ho Chi Minh City during a layover. I noted that I was surprised by the lack of ruins or evidence of war activity at all. You would never know the war had been there by the scenery, architecture and positive attitudes of the people.
Growing up the sixties, the war was front page news daily, and led the evening news, in fact, until my visit last May my first thought of Vietnam always was accompanied by "war". Now I have real firsthand experience to stand instead of those associations in my mind. Its amazing to consider how an idea of a place can be so strong for so long, but can be displaced by another so completely. Now when I think of Vietnam I think about the friendly smiles I saw everywhere, I think of the beauty of the blooming flowers, the flavors of the fantastic foods, the richness of the historical heritage still surviving.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Its an investment in your future

I have been visiting as many classes on campus as I can to spread the word about this program, and I can see it in the students' eyes when I say it will cost $2500+, because I know what its like to be living on the edge, paycheck to paycheck.
I try to make clear to everyone that this program is a great opportunity that can cause amazing positive change in one's life.
I have traveled quite a bit since becoming full time faculty. I have taken advantage of the funding available to faculty for travel to China, Mexico and various cities in the US, and have found that not only have I learned about the region visited, but that my own understanding of where I live has been transformed by the exposure to new ideas, new ways of relating to a community, new ways of viewing my role in my society, and new concepts of how a culture can operate.
That's the first benefit, but in addition, for this trip to Vietnam participants have the opportunity to experience providing a humanitarian service for Vietnamese people. We will be working one-on-one with Vietnamese college students in vocational programs for training in the tourism industry. To be employed as tour guides and in hotels, they need to be fluent in English. As native English language speakers, we can help them with pronunciation, vocabulary, sentence structure, and understanding English idioms. We will be helping them improve their employability and consequently their quality of life.
So the benefit for pariticipants it twofold: Imagine being an employer looking at stacks of resumes, job applications for a job opening and seeing one that has all the same qualifications as all the rest, but in addiition, shows that the applicant has traveled abroad, to Vietnam. Not only traveled there to experience the culture, but has provided a service to Vietnamese citizens as part of a college Study Abroad/Service Learning program that was paid out of the participants' own pocket and not a free trip. I believe that any employer would understand that this represents a lot of positive qualities about the applicant.
It represents experience interacting with, and understanding a foriegn culture. It represents experience dealing with unexpected situations where patience and flelxibility are necessary. It represents experience providing a service to an underserved constituent.
I believe these are qualities and experiences that are valuable in most occupations.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hoi An

We will be spending one week in Hoi An, Vietnam. It is said to be one of the most beautiful cities in Vietnam. Check out the Unesco website here for more information about Hoi An.