A pair of buses departed from BIS with 54 students clad in their retina scorchingly bright orange T-shirts for an enjoyable and informative trip to Ba Vi. After arriving and depositing bags, we headed straight out on a trip to a nearby river, where students intrepidly waded into the water and entertained themselves as they scrambled around with the back drop of the Ba Vi hills. The afternoon involved making delicious Bánh Cuốn before attempting traditional basket fishing in which some students exhibited an impressive apptitude. Fish that were caught were prepared then cooked and students had a chance to taste their catch.
In the evening, we witnessed performances of both dance and music, with some energetic audience participation from the year 7 students. This was followed by some enthusiastic Múa sạp dancing and then a bonfire before heading to bed after a busy and varied first day.
On the second day there were a pair of more physically demanding activities. The first involved a bike ride through the plantations to a centre for ruminants, where students had a chance to handle rabbits and goats before jumping back on their bikes and pedaling through the heat of the day on the return leg to the homestead. The second activity was a walk up a steep but steady incline, with an opportunity to inspect the local fauna and flora. With an excellent effort from all involved and reaching a decent height, we descended and returned for the evening activities.
Exhausted by the day’s exertions, we were all grateful for a slice of freshly produced local cheese accompanied by some energy boosting honey. The students still had enough strength in their legs for a big tug of war; with both teams winning and the rope losing as it broke under the strain from the two teams. It was time to retreat to bed.
Day three the students visited Ba Trai tea village in the morning and they quickly took the initiative to work together in small groups, harvesting, processing and drinking the fruits of their labour. The afternoon was spent visiting the lovely village of Duong Lam and had many conversations with the local people, bought some local produce and visited the ancient pagoda of Mong Phu.
After supper the students dispersed into their Tutor Groups and the Student Council election process took place. Once again, our students rose to the occasion and behaved well and listened to the candidates before casting their votes – it was then chill time with time aside to practice their acts for the talent show for Thursday evening.
Friday was to be no exception to the excellent behaviour demonstrated by all the students during their days at Ba Vi Homestead and it had been a pleasure to watch them develop new skills together. All tutor groups were together for the Honeybee Farm visit where students were introduced to the bees and honeycombs and how honey is harvested. The fresh honey tasted delicious.
With a last look at the mountains, the coach pulled away from Ba Vi for the last time to begin our homeward journey and every student carried with them precious memories of the last four days, unaware that their new skills, and challenges faced would last a lifetime. As each tired but happy child stepped from the coach back at BIS they all appeared taller, or was that just the Ba Vi sunlight casting it’s last protective shadow...
Edward Westropp & Phil Mockford