As a Fellow or intern at an organization, you know that your time with the organization is limited. It’s like an unseen timer that continues to count your days, your hours, and your minutes until your time is up. It’s astonishing to me that I am finishing up my 10 weeks in Vietnam and will head back home. When I arrived, I was delirious, anxious and nervous about being abroad. I had never been out of the country and after leaving the Dulles airport so many thoughts came into my head about how I would make it. I, like many people, imagine the worst scenarios and my experience, although not without its moments, has been the exact opposite of what I could have imagined. Even with a slow start, I was able to experience something that many people around me may not ever see.
I have been able to work with a group of women who are welcoming and caring. Working with AEPD was like working with a family that wanted to ensure you never went hungry and always felt safe. From the moment I arrived and had to stay with Ms. Hao (The Program Manager), I knew that I would be okay. She and her family made me feel warm even though I was very anxious about everything. Once I was able to work in the office, it was nice to see the day to day activity. The office was full of people once the Taiwanese interns came and it gave us multiple opportunities to eat dinner together and learn about each other’s cultures.
The visits to beneficiary families really opened my eyes to people I would have no way of knowing if not for this opportunity. With each family I tried to make sure I was completely prepared with my emotions pushed to the side because I knew that some heavy topics would be brought up. Naturally, I smile a lot and before leaving I always tried to remember to shake their hand. Many of the families would give me a hug before leaving. I felt saddened by their plights but I could not dwell on them for long because each family brought a smile or laughter to the conversation before we left. And I would always think to myself, “If they are still able to smile then I can smile as well.”
Along with meeting these strong families, I have also been able to meet so many people from around the world. Travelers from Sweden, England, Scotland, The Philippines, Germany and more. I think it was most exciting to meet people from the U.S. because I felt like a piece of home was here with me. Getting to know the Taiwanese interns and the Canadian intern also help with my journey in Vietnam. It was great to experience new things with other people who were also foreigners to Vietnam. I am grateful for each and every moment with them and getting to know them.
The city of Dong Hoi is beautiful and the people are so friendly, always saying hello and asking where I am from and how I got here. I have now gotten accustomed to walking everywhere and finding new places to eat by looking at the pictures when there is no English, traveling on the Vietnam train, and going on local tours to learn more about the great places in Vietnam. But out of all the places I have visited in Vietnam, Dong Hoi seems to always be good to me. The beach and park always have an amazing view of the city.
During my time here, I have also been able to watch the construction of AEPD’s social enterprise Talk Cafe and its opening. Contributing to the invitations and marketing products was a great opportunity to be a part of something that will be used long after I am gone. The memories and stories I have from my time here will last a lifetime. I can only hope that I have made the same impression on AEPD and the beneficiary families.
Posted By Mia Coward (Vietnam)
Posted Aug 15th, 2019