Thursday, March 14, 2013

H2H Goes Back to School

Yesterday around 15 of this year's H2H riders cycled to District 4 to visit the Thang Long Vocational School, which the Saigon Children's Charity helps fund. 50% of the donations H2H raises this year will go towards SCC, so some of your donations will directly help this school. (What's that? You haven't donated yet? Let me solve that for you: https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/michaeltatarski/h2h-charity-bike-ride-2013) We were looking forward to the visit.

The problem is that Thang Long isn't actually located on the street its address says it is. For most expats District 4 is nothing more than the area you have to drive through to get from District 1 to 7, or vice versa, and I'm guilty of that line of thinking. I had no idea how complicated the numbering system is there.

We found the street we thought the school was on, but couldn't find the correct address. We stopped and I asked random man (in Vietnamese) if he knew where it was, but he just giggled and said something about bicycles. I then started riding through the maze of alleys branching off the street with another cyclist, but none of the numbers made any sense. Every time I asked someone for directions they told me to go a different way from the previous person I had asked. After 45 minutes of futility I started making phone calls and was finally able to get in touch with the SCC manager who was meeting us. He told us to go to a completely different street, and we were finally at the school shortly thereafter, a solid 30 minutes late. It was down a random alley that we would've never found, since it wasn't even close to the street its address says it is on. Clearly logical address numbering hasn't made it to D4 yet.

We were welcomed with bottles of water and smiles from the school management, who called us 'heroes' and said it was amazing that we are undertaking such a physical challenge. They explained that the school trains disadvantaged students, none of whom attend regular school, in English and a number of subjects ranging from photography to hair styling and computers. Tuition is completely free.

Then we checked out the English class that was going on at the time, where the students nervously eyed us in awkward silence. The class leader thanked us for what we were doing, and a few questions were asked. ('What do you expect to be the most beautiful part of the country?' Ho Chi Minh City, obviously.)

We then moved on to the salon training room, where female students learn to paint nails and apply makeup. (The school principal quietly pointed out that one of the students is 'abnormal' - half boy/half girl. I couldn't tell if she meant gay or transgender.) A few of the female riders decided to test out the quality of the training.



Finally we headed upstairs and visited the computer training room, where students learn how to use programs such as MS Office and put together hardware. All of the computers were donated by RMIT. The principal explained that none of the students have computers at home, and they had never had the opportunity to use one before coming to Thang Long.

It was really great to see concrete proof of where some of the funds raised by H2H will go, and confusing address issues aside this was a great afternoon. We're now under three weeks until the ride starts.

some of the gang

5 comments:

  1. I noticed that people dont use (or have) GPS over there?...why is that?

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    Replies
    1. There's no point, it's not like we can enter specific addresses into Google Maps like in the U.S. Not to mention GPS is expensive. (And you would need 3G to use it on a phone, I don't have that, a lot of people don't.)

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  2. hey michael,
    can u help provide address so that i can stop by the school. i want to see if i can help out.

    thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The address is 129F/63A Nguyen Huu Hao, Ward 9, District 4, but good luck finding it. I would contact Mr. Van at SCC instead of just showing up. He said the are looking for volunteer teachers - hoangvan@saigonchildren.com.

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