One of the regular commenters on this blog is Tom. We’re about the same age, and we both share a passion for Việt Nam. Tom is a professor of education at an American college, and he recently brought four students here to see “the real Việt Nam”. I matched them up with a group of Vietnamese students – then turned them all loose. The objective was for the Vietnamese to show off their country to the visitors – and to make friends. My only admonition was that the Vietnamese could not show them any of the usual tourist stuff, but rather show them places and introduce them to people tourists never see.
I thought readers might enjoy this shot taken at the get-together dinner. One American student ordered banh khoái (a crepe filled with bean sprouts and seafood covered with peanut sauce) and asked her new-found Vietnamese friend to show her how to use chopsticks. The two of them cracked up laughing. It was obvious these students bonded immediately.
The next day was spent riding motorbikes to a village outside Huê, swimming in the Perfume River, taking pictures of water buffalo, and generally having a great time. I was happy to hear that the father of one of the Vietnamese students went along on the swim time – just to be sure everyone could swim.
They ate at Huyên Anh (the best bún thịt nương in Huê), they wandered around the An Cựu market, they went atop Vọng Cảnh hill overlooking the river for a picnic, they shared experiences of being university students, visited an orphanage where they distributed food - - and maybe even developed a short “summer love.” In the meantime, Tom met with various faculty members and officials in the hopes of developing a full-blown student exchange program in the future.