Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sa Pa

Sa Pa
After the celebrations on Friday we made our way back towards the aptly named Hotel Amazing in Hanoi to drop off our bags and catch the overnight train to Sa Pa. The train was an experience in itself, and after the inevitable Harry Potter discussion everyone headed back to their surprisingly comfortable carriages for a good night’s sleep. We arrived at the station early in the morning and boarded the bus that would bring us into the town. The terrain was drastically different to what we had seen around Hanoi, with spectacular mountain ranges and terraced rice fields to keep us occupied during the bus journey. After our breakfast we were given a tour around the town and encountered some of the local ethnic minorities, of which there are fifty-four different types in Vietnam. We soon acquired our own personal escort of Black Hmong women, almost all of whom managed to sell us something or other. We then set out for a leisurely walk to where we would be staying for the night, giving us another chance to take in the beautiful scenery.

We arrived at the home-stay, were deftly parted from our money by our Hmong friends and given the rest of the evening to relax. The following day we were taken on a walk of the valley and a visit to home typical of the area. For some, unknown reason we had to leave the home quite suddenly and continue on our walk, stopping at a river along the way. Then it was back to the home-stay to grab our bags, leave their delicious cooking behind us and journey back to the town, where we were able to explore the local markets and refine our bargaining skills. On our way back to the train station we stopped by the border of Vietnam, and we were able to look across the river that divided the two countries and see China. After another, well-needed sleep on the train we were back in Hanoi.

- Nicole

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thai Nguyen Orphange Project

We arrived in Hanoi on Friday night and were greeted by Ms. Binh from Helping Hands. It had been a long two days of travel, so we had a rest day on Saturday in Hanoi, where we experienced Vietnamese culture for the first time, and got acclimatised to the heat before heading to Thai Nguyen to start work on the project.


We arrived into Thai Nguyen around lunchtime Sunday, and went straight to the orphanage to begin the project. First we met with some of the elderly people who live in the social centre, and gave 45 packages of condensed milk, sugar and biscuits to them as gifts.We then had a meeting with the Director of the centre, Mr. Van Trieu, in his meeting room to organise a schedule for the 5 days and discuss what needed to be done.We were also introduced to the children living in the orphanage.We also brought with us a new outfit for all the babies, and the older children. It was decided the main meeting hall in the complex was in dire need of a new paint job, so we launched straight into sanding and scrubbing the walls, floors and ceilings to make sure they were clean and smooth before even one coat of paint was put on.

According to our contract, our working day finished at 5 p.m. everyday, so after our preliminary sanding, we walked back to our accommodation, the Dong A Hotel. The local people of Thai Nguyen were intrigued by 13 filthy dust covered Irish people all wearing blue and white neckerchiefs walking through the back streets of the town. We received a warm welcome, a enthusiastic mixture of 'Hello's and 'Xin chào's!

Monday morning, we woke at 6.30a.m. , to avoid working during the hottest part of the day (11a.m.-1p.m.). Even at this time, the heat and humidity would even put the sunniest of Irish summer days to shame! We arrived at 8a.m to start our days work. We finished the last of the sanding, and got to work on the first coat of paint, the white undercoat. Fortunately, we were able to procure scaffolding, to access the higher sections of the building. Everyday, we took a break from 11 to 1.30, to have lunch, conveniently during the hottest part of the day. Monday saw us having the majority of the building painted white, and confused the locals even more when they saw us again, covered head to toe in white paint!


On Tuesday we managed to finish the rest of the undercoat, and get the first overcoat on, a creamy yellow. After a few minor spillages and paint roller malfunctions, we had gotten the hang of the painting, and were making good progress. We were slightly hindered by a group of hornets who had decided to make it their business to follow us around menacingly, and fly into our paint repeatedly.

On Wednesday, the final coat of yellow paint was carefully applied to the entire building, and our work was nearly done. We received a helping hand from a group from the Student Union from the University of Thai Nguyen , many of whom were avid students of English, and were keen to make friends and teach us some Vietnamese! With their help, we managed to polish off the final coat on the building.

Thursday, we spent the day finishing any odd jobs that needed doing, cleaning the area, which included scrubbing paint off the floors! We also painted the walls next to the entrance gate, which gave new life to the front of the centre. Our friends from the previous day returned to help finish the job. After all the work was done, emails and phone numbers were exchanged, and the Vietnamese students left. Preparations were started in the newly painted building for the big celebrations that were to come the following day.

On Friday, the final day of our stay in Thai Nguyen, we attended the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the social centre, visited the babies again,  and had a brilliant meal under a marquee in the complex itself, a delicious assortment of Vietnamese food, which everyone had grown to love. After lunch, the Director gave us a vacuum flask each as a gift on behalf of the orphanage. We were also all given a letter of thanks, and a copy of the local newspaper from that day, which ran a story about the celebrations.

As a group, we hope we helped in a small way to improve the lives of the residents of the social centre, and we would like to thank Mr. Van Trieu , Ms. Binh and  Sharon O' Driscoll who helped facilitate our work, and gave us such a warm welcome and hospitality. We also would like to thank Yvonne, our Venture leader for doing so much work during  the year to make this trip possible!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

County Venture Skills Overnight

Hey everyone. We had the County Venture Skills Overnight last night/today, in Blarney Scout Hall/ Iniscara. Seven different Venture troops were represented, including The Lough, Ballincollig, Ballinora, Blarney, Bishopstown, St. Finbarre's and our humble selves.  
 Firstly, there were First Aid bases, (encompassing 'Emergencies' on the One Program.) These were run by trained EMT's, which were very engaging. Maybe even Heather learned something new! This was followed by ice-breakers, and a quiz, with .....interesting questions. 20 wrong questions later, a new game was invented, frisbeeball. Think clay pigeon shooting with half inflated soccer balls. This brought us right up to around 2.30 a.m. so people decided it might possibly be good to think about considering going to bed. 

Up nice and early in the morning, for some fruit, iffy blueberry muffins, yops, and half-hearted frisbee before heading out to Iniscara for various other Skills bases. Different groups went out on the lake, sailing, or tried their hand at kite-flying with Declan. 


We successfully built a friction bridge, there was some lava that needed crossing. As a reward for not killing anyone with the sledgehammer, we all got burgers, kindly barbequed by Lucy Kay, which were subsequently eaten in Stephen's Trance Gallery. Thanks to Eoghan from the Lough and Declan from Ballincollig for organising the weekend! 

Bagpacking Mahon Point

Hi everyone. Over €2000 was made over the weekend in Mahon Point, thanks to everyone's hard work! Props to Yvonne too for getting us the weekend itself.
Good job, everyone involved!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Meeting and Bowling 2011

After a brief meeting discussing the upcoming super Venture Vietnam trip it was off to the Mardyke for a spot of friendly bowling fun.
It was quickly visible that both Calszer  and Kevin were quite good, vying for the lead from the outset and that Ian was awful, remaining firmly at the bottom of the leader board.
 As per usual Deidre arrived an hour late due to a mix up in the programs (the special Deidre edition never   materialised).
Yvonne, Heather and Nicole all gave a wonderful show of bowling  skill but none could match Conor’s flourishing shots.
Great fun and pizza were had by all but unfortunately the time ran out and no winner emerged, however all were humbled by the score of an eight year old in the next lane. Besides the fact he couldn’t get a gutter ball he played  a fantastic game.
(Super Venture Vietnam countdown : 150 days )