Today was dedicated to cultural excursions around the city and to learn more about Vietnam and its history. We had two locals, Tú and Chûm, meet us at our hotel and they were our tour guides for the day. We started off the day with visiting the Temple of Literature, which in Vietnamese is called Van Mieu. The temple was created in 1070 by emperor Ly Thahn Tong. In 1076 is was established as the first university in Vietnam to teach the children of those that were royalty and aristocracy. The temple functioned as a university until the emperor transferred it’s functions in 1802. Today the temple is used as a historical site for tourist and locals to enjoy. Our tour guides told us that high schoolers go to temple to pray for good luck and that they will pass exams for entrance into any of the universities. We were told that it’s customary to light incense and to offer fruits and money to be healthy and accomplish studies at university. There is even a statute of a Phoenix standing on top of a tortoise that students rub for good luck.
The temple is full of beautiful shrubbery and the buildings and artifacts are awe-inspiring. While we were visiting we saw about a hundred schooled aged children visiting the temple on what seemed to be a field trip. The kids were absolutely fascinated with our group. They proceeded to wave at us from the distance and when some of us got closer they started shaking our hands and wanting to take pictures. We were even able to snap a photo of Jody Donovan and Mary Ontiveros with a small group of them (see below).
Next we took a walk over to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum. We didn’t actually go into the mausoleum today to see Ho Chi Minh, but have plans to go before we leave. However, we did get a chance to go into the museum that is dedicated to him and his legacy. Many of us talked about how cool it was that an entire museum was dedicated to one person for everything that he has done. Ho Chi Minh is so revered here and it was a cool experience to be able to learn more about him and what he did for his country. We are looking forward to going back to the mausoleum to see where he is currently laid to rest.
After the museum we went to a coffee shop that was situated on the famous lake in Hanoi called Westlake. Here we indulged in some much needed caffeine and pastries for a quick pick me up. We also spent a good amount of time to reflect and process in small groups about our experiences here in Vietnam so far. We talked about the process of actually getting to Vietnam, most of us had a smooth process getting here but a few weren’t so fortunate. Next we took time to talk about our visits to the two universities. We made connections about what we read about higher education here in Vietnam in preparation for our field experience and how things were similar or different from what we read. Lastly, during our reflection we discussed what we hoped to gain from the rest of the experience including the cultural excursions and the other campus visit that we have planned. It was great to be able to have this time to reflect and make meaning of our experience here so far and to talk about what we hope to gain from the rest of this field experience.
After our delicious lunch the last activity we did was take a visit to the Hao Lo prison. The Hỏa Lò prison was used by French colonists for captured political prisoners. In later years, the prison was used by North Vietnam for prisoners of war, which came to be known by captured Americans as the “Hanoi Hilton.”
We are all enjoying ourselves and learning so much about higher education and Vietnam! We look forward to continuing to share about our experience!
-LeRoy and Kenneth