LEAD Group 31 International Study/Travel Seminar
Wednesday, January 16
A brief synopsis of Hanoi - rainy and cool!
We arrived at the U.S. Embassy where we were warmly welcomed for a six panel member briefing on Vietnam and its relationship with the United States. The fellows had many great questions for the panel. A few of the panel members working for the U.S. had ties to Nebraska. No pictures were allowed as they have strict rules.
The fellows were then taken to the Humanity Center, which is a center that sells crafts, goods and jewelry made by disadvantaged Vietnam residents. These goods sold help employ these people who are in great need due to their handicap. Many fellows enjoyed shopping for souvenirs.
We then proceeded to lunch at KOTO (Know One Teach One) a culinary school/restaurant founded by an Australian who wanted to help teach street people a trade as chefs, cooks and wait staff. Hanoi has many poor people and the separation of the classes is very evident with few wealthy.
Photo: Nathan O. and Todd R. dodging scooters as they cautiously walk across the street to the Temple of Literature.
The traffic has been indescribable, with honking scooters, buses, trucks and bicycles. Mass Confusion! Everyone owns a scooter and thankfully there is a helmet law. Our guide informed us that the "Only Rule Is There Is No Rule".
Photo: In front of the Temple of Literature
Following the visit to the Temple of Literature, we then toured the Hanoi Prison which is widely known in the United State as the Hanoi Hilton. This prison is in the heart of Hanoi and was used to house U.S. pilots who were shot down over enemy territory. One of the most notable U.S. prisoners held there is Senator John McCain.
Thursday, January 17
We made a visit to the SOS Orphanage which was very interesting and not really an orphanage. Sixteen houses with house mothers and up to ten children. The children have already lost a family so these children are not up for adoption and have the chance for family life and a large extended family from SOS.
We made a stop at the Vietnam Farmers Union where we learned what they do to support the farmers of Vietnam. They shared their goals, priorities and challenges they have in helping the producers of Vietnam to increase production, be better business people and become more financially stable. We shared what agriculture production looks like in the U.S. and particularly in the state of Nebraska. They would like to send a delegate to Nebraska some day in order to learn more ways to help producers in Vietnam and our group agreed to assist in any way that we can.
Following the visit with Vietnam Farmers Union we traveled across town to tour the Hanoi University of Agriculture where several of their faculty addressed us in different areas of study. We found it remarkable on how well the presentations were done and the scope of information that was shared about production agriculture, research and the import / export of agriculture products. At the end of this visit we toured some of the campus and saw where some research was taking place.
Our trip to Hanoi was finished following the visit to the Hanoi University of Agriculture so we were bussed to the airport for our flight to Ho Chi Minh City.
After arriving at the Signature Saigon Hotel in Ho Chi Mih City at midnight we were able to get a short nights' sleep. We were welcomed to Ho Chi Minh City by warm temperatures and high humidity.
Friday, January 18
We started the day with a panel briefing on Vietnam at the U.S. Consulate with Greg Ibach and Stan Grabacz of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. The panel informed us of what is happening in Vietnam from a political, economic and social perspective. We found it very interesting that there is opportunity for growth in many sectors of Vietnam but government policies and corrupt business practices keep the country from moving forward at a much quicker pace.
Photo: Tunnel Entrance
After a change of clothes at our hotel, we left to see the Cu Chi tunnels which are located about 26 miles northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. This was the tunnel system that was used by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam conflict that the United State was involved in.
Photo: Inside the tunnel
Interestingly, the construction of these tunnels began in the 1940's when they were used to hide food and weapons while they were fighting the French. The tunnel system was expanded during the Vietnam conflict to house the North Vietnamese soldiers. The system housed 16,000 troops during the height of the conflict.
Photo: The catfish ponds used in research.
We then took a short bus ride to the Agricultural High Tech Park of Ho Chi Minh City. This non profit public/private partnership to foster new ideas and innovations for the southern region of Vietnam. We saw research being done on melons, orchids, Vietnamese peppers and fish. This looked similar to some of our University and private research/ extension operations.
Photo: Jared H. checking out rubber tree.
Our final stop for the day was to take an up close look at a rubber tree farm. Specifically this is a latex farm where the trees are "scarred" in such a way that the sap runs down the trunk to a spout that drops the latex into a bowl. This is the winter season so the trees aren't producing at a very high level even though it was over 90 degrees and 90% humidity..
Saturday, January 19
Photo: Lead Ladies in Ho Chi Minh Park.
This photo is in Ho Chi Minh Park, which is located next to the Rex Hotel. The Rex Hotel was the communications center for the U.S. forces during the U.S.-Vietnam Conflict.
Photo: Josh and Todd enjoying a meal in Ho Chi Minh.
This afternoon Lead Group flew out of Ho Chi Minh and by day's end arrived in Taipei.