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Youthful Participation with Children in Vietnam

By Ryan Harper

       When it came to be our last day in Vietnam, the group of people I had been traveling with and I decided that because the Vietnamese people had been so unbelievably gracious and hospitable to us, we owed it to them to spend the day playing with children and simply being with the people. So, in a destinationless attempt to fulfill these hopes we hired a taxi to take us in the general direction of the Cu Chi Tunnels where some people had mentioned driving by some smaller villages and settlements.
       The ride was nearly an hour long when the group began to wonder what we were doing, where we were going and if it was really going to work out as planned and even the taxi driver was confused by our request to just keep driving until we saw what we wanted. This aimless journey finally came to a stop when we suddenly screamed to the driver to turn at a random and obviously unkept dirt road which compelled us to venture down.
       We stopped to spectate and briefly participate in a local futbol game and then continued for a short while until we encountered a village-esque looking community. We got out and walked the main street in search of some kids to share our crayons and toys with, and finally found them behaving very shyly at the storefront of a small shop. We took pictures with them and covered them in stickers until we decided to walk down to a small coffee shop where we could draw with our chalk and crayons.
       We must have hung out with those four children for nearly three hours just throwing a frizbee and communicating through our bodily expressions and drawings. It was such a fulfilling experience and many of the adults that were present seemed to get just as much of a thrill out of watching a couple of western youths being so entertained by their kids. Even the taxi driver possessed a look of understanding and satisfaction from the whole experience, despite his mud and grass stained uniform which became that way because of his involvement in the futbol game I mentioned earlier. The whole experience offered an opportunity to reflect upon why I do not do more things of this nature when I am back in the states and made me wonder how I should plan to become more involved when I find myself there.

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