Can Tho reminds me a little of Chapel Hill. There are a bunch of people walking around with lots to do, but it isn’t too congested like Ho Chi Minh. We arrived to the city a little after 7 p.m. and went straight to dinner. There was pizza on the menu so each American coach ordered a large pizza of their choice for about 40.000 VND (approximately $2.00 USD). I personally did not have any trouble eating my entire pie by the end of the night.

The pizza gave us our second wind as we all wanted to go out and explore the city. What we thought would be a quiet bar turned out to be an all-out techno dance club. With the tunes blaring, the strobe lights flashing, and a vacant dance floor, all of the coaches hit the floor and remained there for the majority of the night.

CFC 2 Reunion

We started a small battle on the dance floor amongst each other, showing off our best “American” dance moves: the sprinkler, the robot, and the electric slide. It was a great time. What made the night even more special for me was that my friends from last year came to visit! It was so good to see Thao, Ai, Tu, and everyone else again. It was hard to chat with the music blaring but just seeing them with a smile and being able to give them a hug was more than I thought I’d ever get to do again.

Once we woke up Saturday morning we headed to our first coffee bar, which was partly covered and partly outside. From our table we could see the streets of Can Tho and behind my seat was a palm tree that reached the second floor that we were on. After breakfast we hit the market, where I recognized many of the vendors from last year. I remembered which ones were hard to bargain with and tried to steer clear from them. I didn’t buy much as I had bought out the market the previous year; however, I did walk away with “Burberry” scarf.

The most memorable part of the weekend was when all the girls hit the spa. We had to split up into groups with Emily, Colleen and Morgan going first while Kendall, Ashley, Ryan and I went to a café next door. If you ever visit Can Tho definitely go to a local café. I had a little bit of a sweet craving and ordered a bac xiu da (sweet milk with a little coffee) and had ice cream for lunch… very tasty!

We went back to the spa and the group before us still hadn’t finished. When we went up to our rooms, we found all three girls wrapped in plastic.  They had ordered the mud massage and had been lying in a cocoon of plastic for about 20 minutes. We decided to opt out of the mud and stick with a traditional hour massage. The massage was amazing and was much needed. All the girls felt rejuvenated and ready for another night of dancing. It also didn’t hurt that it cost us a whopping 110.000 VND, or about $6.00 USD.

All of the American Coaches after dinner.

Dinner was at the restaurant that was connected to the market we went to earlier in the day. The scenery at this place would easily have an hour wait on a Saturday night in the States, but our group of 20 had the place to ourselves. I finished my vegetables with noodles and ordered a dessert I call the “Morgan.” Morgan and I wanted to try a little bit of everything so we asked to combine four of the most appealing options on the menu. The dessert consisted of a crape filled with vanilla ice cream and slices of banana topped with chocolate. Delicious.

On Sunday we ate breakfast at a restaurant that is known for phở, a traditional Vietnamese dish. We then hit the local DVD store before heading back to Thuan Hung, where Thao and Ai surprised me. Here I finally was able to chat with them without having techno tunes blaring in the background. They filled me in on the past year and what they will be up to during the summer.  Both will be directors in the following CFC camps. The Vietnamese students are lucky to have such amazing girls as directors, and I know they both will do a tremendous job!

I currently am sitting with Duong and Trinh in the director’s room, listening to Debussy while we grade the exams from last week. This makes me chuckle a little because I know if I ever were to become a teacher, I feel I’d have the exact same set-up as I currently do in Nam, minus my two sidekicks.

It’s crazy to think we’ve been here for 2 weeks. Some parts of me feels like I have been here for longer, as I’ve gotten so close with the coaches here.  However, another part of me remembers orientation day like yesterday with me running around nonstop scrambling to set-up everything in time for camp. But no matter what I think I still only have one more week in Thuan Hung. One more week with the students, coaches and my new little friends. My goal is to make this week the best one yet!

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Posted by: allisonbarnes | June 13, 2011

Week 2 Memories at Thuan Hung

Last week was a little busy for me and I wasn’t able to share all that went on. Below are some of my favorite memories that will remind me of camp or Vietnam in general.

1.  The boys celebrated the middle of they year on June 6 (6/6) with our bus driver Dũng and the hotel manager Vẹn. This celebrated Vietnamese holiday can also be celebrated on May 5 (5/5) for those who follow the lunar calendar. Dũng and Vẹn invited the boys outside where they had a table set up for them to eat. Duong explained to me that Dũng had sacrificed a rooster to a higher being that specifically watched over his bus in hopes to be lucky and safe when he was traveling on  the street. To describe Dũng, his ringtone is the sound of pigs squealing… a sound I hear way too often at school when the local farm is catching them. He once was in the director’s room when his phone went off, and he saw me hold my ears. He just laughed at me.

2.  My new friends: Hañ, Khánh and Ngân. They usually come to visit me in the afternoon, so I try to get all of my director duties done in the morning. The little ones, Khánh and Ngân, visit me the most and the duo reminds me so much of my older sister Amanda and me. Ngân, who reminds me of Amanda, is beautiful and very outgoing. She often speaks for Khánh who is very shy; however, he is starting to warm-up to me. The other day he grabbed my hand as we were delivering snacks to the different classrooms.  I later found out that he has a slight speech impediment, which causes him to be quite around new people. Amanda used to speak for me when I was little because I also was a little shy and had trouble saying words that had the -er- sound.

Khánh is also more on the sensitive side like me.  We draw all the time and he is constantly seeking my approval after every new line he makes.  We have a routine dialogue of Khánh asking  “Allisỏn?” (pronounced Al-ee-son) And every time I respond with “beautiful!” One of the new words I have taught him. I think I fell in love with Khánh when I found his constant love for food like myself. He’s a little bit on the pudgy side and is constantly eating. When the coaches bring down the extra snacks that their class hasn’t finished, Khánh lends me a hand and helps me finish them.

A picture Khánh drew of me… glad to see I still have the swimmer’s build

3.  The American Coaches have adopted a black pup that we call Natalie.  At fist she was very timid around us, but once she realized all we wanted to do was pet her she has warmed up to us.

4.  And my final favorite moments of last week during camp were seeing all of the coaches during Team Bonding. My room is directly underneath the Red Team’s class who tends to be the loudest class. I decided to go upstairs to see what all the commotion was and was able to catch some of the action.

The Red Team Coaches scrambled the numbers 1-30 on the board and a group of three would compete in who could find each number in sequential order.

We didn’t have potatoes, but the Green Team Coaches were able to make due and played “Hot Chalk.”

The Orange Team wanted to get their kids moving around a little more and introduced the students to an American favorite Duck, Duck, Goose, which was later changed to vịt, vịt, ngẩng.

Posted by: allisonbarnes | June 13, 2011

Second Competition Day at Thuan Hung

Friday’s Competition Day went even smoother than last. Both the students and coaches are used to the hectic schedule and everyone came out with a lot of energy.

Last week in tennis the Red morning team placed first, but after a week of practice the scores changed with Orange taking the top spot.  Teams broke into pairs to see which team could have the highest number of volleys. American Red Team Coaches Nick Tsipis and Ashley Miller commentate during their team’s competition.

After tennis, the teams transitioned to soccer. Teams competed against one another in who could score 8 goals the fastest. This may sound easier than it sounds, but in goal was D1 Duke goalkeeper Nick Tsipis with  backup D1 Clemson goalkeeper Morgan Hert.

After students completed their life skills exam, it was time for the basketball competition which focused on shooting. The Orange team was on a roll after tennis and finished first again. The volleyball competition was a little more interesting for the coaches, as they were the human targets. Students would serve from the other side of the net and try to hit each coach. The team that hit the most coaches won. I was strategic enough to sit in the back right corner, and therefore was only hit once.  But boy did some of those boys have an arm on them!

Another successful competition day and I’m excited to have another wonderful weekend. It won’t be the beach but I think it will be better. We will be visiting Can Tho, the city where all of the Vietnamese Coaches go to school and where all of the coaches I taught with last year are currently in summer school.  I’m so excited to catch up with all of them! 🙂

(This post was supposed to be published on Friday, but due to lack of Internet wasn’t posted until Monday)

Posted by: allisonbarnes | June 8, 2011

CFC Health Coaches Teach About the Importance of Salt

Eric Bolden teaches about the different properties of salt and its importance in a healthy diet.

Today marks the halfway point of camp with only 5 more days of teaching and 2 more days of competition. Boy has the time flown!  I have had the opportunity to observe several of the classes, and at times I even learn a little myself.  Wednesday morning I watched Duke Soccer player Kendall Bradley and UVA Football player Eric Bolden teach about the different properties of table salt (NaCl) and its biological importance and uses.

When Eric asked for examples of why salt was an essential part of the human diet, one boy replied because it was needed to make cake.  It gave me a chuckle and I couldn’t agree more! But in all seriousness, the main lesson was something I wish I had more knowledge on when I was their age.  The lesson was about hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia is when there is a low concentration of sodium in the blood.  This can occur in athletes when they sweat and lose salt and water, but they only hydrate with water. This dilutes the sodium in the bloodstream, and hyponatremia can occur.

I was never a big salt eater and was known for wiping salt off my fries. I couldn’t stomach drinking sugary sport drinks either during practice, so I mainly stuck with water.

Kendall Bradley shows the Red Team the "Ironman-You Will Do This" YouTube video to show students what a triathlon entails.

The lesson went on to talk about how hyponatremia is common among triathletes, a sport I have grown more interested in over the past couple of years. The American Coaches talked about how 30% of the finishers of the Hawaii Ironman are both hyponatremic and dehydrated when they cross the finish line.

I have a history of dehydration and know that staying hydrated can be an issue for me. (Don’t worry Mom and Dad, I’m staying hydrated and feel great!) While in Vietnam, I force myself to drink at least three Nalgene water bottles a day (not counting meals) and to alternate water and propel. Not only is staying hydrated an issue with me, but I need to make sure I have enough sodium in my system.

I’m half way through CFC and will use the last half to make sure I learn as much as I can from the program and the culture I have been able to experience. My goal is to learn at least one new thing  every day I have left here.

Here are my fun facts for today:

  1. Sweat contains between 2.25- 3.4 grams of salt per liter.
  2. The rate of perspiration in a long, hot race can average 1 liter per hour.
  3. It’s better to get your sodium from both sport drinks and salty foods instead of salt tablets, because salty foods stimulate thirst and you risk ingesting too much salt with tablets.
  4. Foods consumed during a long race or a long duration of exercise should be low fat, low protein, high carbohydrates and provide a source of sodium
Posted by: allisonbarnes | June 6, 2011

Thuan Hung Coaches Visit Ba Hon Dam Beach

The Red Morning Team won the Tennis Competition.

Friday was the first competition day of camp, and everything ran smoothly, including the weather. Monday through Thursday students learn specific lessons in their academic and sport classes, and then are tested on how much they have learned on Friday.

Once students arrive to the school, they take a 60 minute academic test, which covers health, English, morality and physics. Students then compete in two 35 minute sport competitions on a skill they have mastered earlier in the week. Next is a quick break before students are accessed on what they have learned in their Life Skills classes, which include leadership, team building, higher education and financial literacy.  After all the written exams are finished, students compete in the last two sport competitions before the day is over.

The sport competitions began with Tennis focusing on ball control and speed. Students ran from one side of the court to the next, while focusing on keeping the tennis ball under control the whole time. In the morning session, the Orange and Green team had a tie, which then forced the teams to pick two members to have a juggle-off. The Green team snuck by at the very end to snag second place.

After the competitions were over for the day, the Thuan Hung Coaches traveled to Rach Gia City, which is a 2 hour bus drive towards the Southwest tip of Vietnam. After a quick dinner at a supermarket we traveled another 2 hours to Ba Hon, Kien Luong, where we arrived a little bit before midnight to the 4 star Hon Trem Resort.

After dropping off our bags, the coaches met to soak up the scenery.  Even though it was pitch dark outside, hearing the waves crashing on the cliff below us and looking up at the bright white stars above us was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe I had returned to this place that I had thought a year earlier I’d never see again. I was so grateful for being able to return.

Entering into the Cave Pagoda.

We woke up early Saturday morning for a quick breakfast before we headed for Ba Hon Dam Beach. While I like to think I’ve been adventurous with my food, I couldn’t resist ordering fried eggs and bread for breakfast. It was delicious.

That's a lot of Buddha's!

On our path to the beach, we stopped by a Cave Pagoda. The scenery was majestic. The Pagoda was enclosed by enormous boulders with lots of Buddha statues all around. Once inside the temperature dropped an easy 20 degrees, as the cave was nice and cool. What we thought were birds in the cave turned out to be little whistles that kids were selling to visitors. Several of the coaches bought them to bring back to the States.

My favorite part of the weekend had to have been traveling to a remote island in the Ban Hon Dam Beach. The journey by boat to the island took a little over 2 hours as the boat over heated for about 20 minutes. But the wait was worth it. After a quick lunch, which included muscles, fish, fried rice and noodles, the coaches hit the beach. The warm salt water barely hit our knees but it was perfect for just floating and playing water volleyball.

Coaches on the boat ride back

After a nice relaxing day at the beach we headed back to the hotel where we washed up for dinner. After dinner we celebrated Tran Thanh Nhu’s 19th birthday and sang karaoke all night. It was a great time.

Waking up Monday was a little challenging, as we all were still on beach time, but we were excited to see the students. Time to focus on classes for the remainder of the week so Friday’s competition day can run smoothly again!

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Posted by: allisonbarnes | June 2, 2011

Crash a Vietnamese Wedding? Check.

I was a little bummed when I found out that I would be missing a wedding while I was in Nam, but fortunately for me I was able to attend one anyways this summer. The volleyball court was transformed into a wedding reception from Tuesday to Wednesday this week for a wedding of a local couple who lives near the school.

We walked in Tuesday to the sound of what we thought was machinery but what turned out to be pigs being “prepared” for the reception. A sound I wish not to recall but it was soon replaced with music and singing.

I had a front row seat to the wedding, as the desk I sit out was looking out upon the reception. While sitting at my desk, I noticed several differences between a traditional Vietnamese wedding and an American wedding. One, the reception is first and then the ceremony. However, the party looked pretty similar. Friends and family gathered around, singing and dancing, and seemed to be having a great time.

Something else I noticed was that the bride doesn’t wear white. I was told that she can wear any color she wants, and this bride wore a cotton candy color pink. But one thing that was the same was that she looked absolutely beautiful. Her hair was pinned half back with curls and an elaborate yellow floral piece in her hair. She looked flawless. It had to have been at least 90 degrees at 9 am and the bride wasn’t even glistening. I on the other hand was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and was a sloppy mess.

I also noticed that there aren’t a lot of speeches or toasts. Instead they had a microphone that is passed around from one person to the next, and friends sing a song for them. THANK GOD THIS IS NOT THE CASE IN THE US.  For those of you who know me, I have a horrific voice and I’m sure I would lose a lot of friends if I had to sing at their weddings.

However, the Vietnamese people at the wedding did not know this. While I was trying to slyly watch the party, one of the attendees grabbed me and asked me to sing an American song for the new couple. I had no idea what to do. If I sang, I would give a bad impression of what American voices sounded like.  I didn’t want to insult the guests though so I sang… or at least tried.

So what song did I sing for the new couple to wish them good luck in their marriage? Twinkle Twinkle… the only song I could think of at the time. A little pathetic I know, but I thought the shorter the better.

The wedding festivities finished with a monsoon. A similarity between the two cultures is that both believe rain on your wedding day is sign of good luck for a relationship. With the amount of rain that poured, I have a feeling that this couple will have a very happy marriage.

Posted by: allisonbarnes | June 1, 2011

Happy International Children’s Day from Nam!

My new friends! From Left to Right: Khánh, Ngân, Me, Tháo and Lôc.

Happy June 1st! I was chatting with Duong about why one of the VN Coaches seemed so excited that it was June 1st and she told me it was International Children’s Day. She seemed flabbergasted that I had never heard of this holiday but she told me all about it.

June 1stis a day totally devoted to children. Parents will throw little parties and teachers will bring in little treats.  It reminded me of the new children that I had recently met: Tháo, 9 years old; Ngân, 9 years old; Khánh, 6 years old; Lôc, 5 years old; Liêm, 10 years old; Dạt, 7 years old; and Hân, 13 years old.These kids melt my heart!

I had met them on Tuesday as they helpedme deliver snacks to each class. They have been quite the distraction from my director duties as I find myself sitting on the ground drawling shapes as I learn Vietnamese and they learn English. It’s pretty cool how I can talk to them by just drawling pictures, even if it is just simple sayings.

Can anyone spy the Tar Heel stickers? (Hint: Second Child)

My new friends came back again today and this time I had a gift for them… pixie sticks! They were in LOVE with them. Watching them purse their lips from the sugar was priceless. They gave me ribbons and stickers in return. I just so happen to have a few North Carolina stickers lying in my bag… just in case of times like this. I had them all decked out showing their Tar Heel pride!

So far in camp the coaches have been teaching the students American songs. I can hear them from the Directors office as each team color tries to out sing the team next to them. It’s hard to tell who is having more fun though… the students or the coaches, but I think its safe to say that everyone is having a blast.

I will end this post with wishing all the Children of the world a happy Children’s day and a video of the Vietnamese students singing Twinkle Twinkle!

Posted by: allisonbarnes | May 30, 2011

Day 1 Complete for ACC American Coaches

The amazing 4 who helped get the Thuan Hung site up and running smoothly!

The Thuan Hung Coaches have officially met everyone at camp. At the end of the first day, everyone seems excited for the next couple of weeks, and the coaches are already finding ways they can improve their teaching style. I think the coaches get their ability to be flexible and adjust to certain situations from the different sports they play. At the Thuan Hung site, we have three soccer players, a cross country runner, a football player, a rower, a lacrosse player and a swimmer.

I remember last year it taking a few classes for both sets of coaches to get used to teaching, but camp 1 seems to pick it up naturally. Not only are the American Coaches doing an awesome job but the Vietnamese Coaches are INCREDIBLE! I’m amazed at how well they speak English, and their ability to get the students participating in class is a gift. Several of them are majoring in education in hopes of becoming an English teacher, which I can see many of them doing in the near future!

One of the Vietnamese Coaches who is majoring in education is Tran Anh Tuong, aka Nino. Below is a video clip of a game called “Slap the Board” that the English Coaches (Ryan Rotanz, Nino, Morgan Hert, and Nguyen Ngoc Thanh Xuan) created. (Note: the Vietnamese male coach in yellow is Nino.)

We just wrapped up meetings for the night. I had my own meeting with the Vietnamese Coordinator Tinh, Program Director Trinh and the Vietnamese Director Duong. We were playing around in the Director room and had a little photo shoot. Duong said her American name was “Jessica,” so I obviously wanted to know what my Vietnamese name was. She calls me “Kim,” which translates to “princess.” I know if my family is reading this they are chuckling, as that is a name that I am called often in my house.

Time for bed. It is approximately 9 p.m. and I am absolutely beat!

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Posted by: allisonbarnes | May 30, 2011

Adventures Before Camp 1 of CFC Begins

Today was the first day of Camp 1 of the 2011 Coach for College program. Student-Athletes traveled many different paths to get to Vietnam. Some traveled from Chicago to Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh, while others traveled from San Francisco to Korea to Ho Chi Minh. My personal travel started with a wakeup call at 3:20 a.m. on Thursday, May 26 to arriving in the hostel at 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 27, but it was all worth it as everyone made it to the city safely.

After spending the night in one of the hostels in Ho Chi Minh, we traveled to Cai Be Town of Tien Giang Province.  Once there we went on a boat tour of the Mekong Delta where we passed the local floating market.  Our guide pointed out the numerous boats and what they were selling. You could tell what a boat was selling by what was on their rod.

The floating market tour ended at a local village. We received demonstrations on how to make rice paper, coconut candies and popped rice. I remember how last year I tried to make rice paper and failed miserably, but Marlotte Van den Bergh, a field hockey player from Boston College, mastered the art of making the rice paper on the first try.

One of my favorite things of the day was watching the popped rice.  I hadn’t seen it before, but watching the hot sand pop the rice was very cool to see.

After the tour we picked up the Vietnamese Coaches from Can Tho University and then traveled to Coach for College’s new site at Thaun Hung. The site is so much different from Hoa An as I don’t have to blow bugs off me as I shower, and I don’t have to sleep in a mosquito net. In a weird way though I sort of miss that blue cocoon!

Sunday was a busy day as  Duong, the Vietnamese Director, and I helped to prepare the coaches for camp. We went to the school to introduce ourselves to the kids, and everyone was so excited! It was hard to get the coaches focused on passing out surveys as they all were eager to meet the kids. But I’m glad the coaches and kids are excited about getting to know one another, and I can’t wait to see both groups grow.

Off to round 2 for the day. Hope all runs smoothly like this morning!

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Posted by: allisonbarnes | May 25, 2011

Follow ACC Student-Athletes as They Travel to Vietnam

In 15 hours a group of four UNC student-athletes will begin their trek over to Vietnam to participate in Coach for College. They will be accompanied by 13 other ACC student-athletes representing Duke, Virgina, Virgina Tech and Boston College.

Coach for College is a program that motivates youth in rural Vietnam to reach higher education by teaching lessons on how sports can affect their daily lives in their academics.  This is the 4th summer that Coach for College has been providing four 3 week sport-learning camps, and this summer the program has expanded to two sites: Hoa An and Thuan Hung.

I will be traveling with the program as the Camp 1 Thuan Hung American Director. My main responsibilities are to assist with daily operations with the program and to guide the American Coaches while they teach. During the program I will be keeping a journal of the camp. I hope to use this blog as a brief diversion from Carolina Athletics and to focus primarily on Coach for College. Depending on my internet access availability, I hope to post pictures, videos and blog posts throughout the camp.  If there is something at camp that interests you or that you have a questions about, please comment on the post, email me, or skype me at anbarnes13.

For now,TAM BIET, HEN GAP LAI! (Goodbye, and see you soon!)

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