En route to Farmington!

The group is on the bus headed to campus, and we hope they’ve made memories that will last a lifetime!

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Touch down at JFK!

At last! The group made it to New York and will make their way through customs. I will update the blog when they are on the way to Porter’s!

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Wheels up! Journey to Farmington

The group is en route to Farmington! After an early morning goodbye to host families and departure from TOS, they arrived at Noi Bai International Airport with time for some food and rest before boarding their Cathay Dragon KA296 flight for Hong Kong.

The group arrived in Hong Kong on WED 1/22 @ 1:50PM local time (12:50AM EST). They had some time to stretch their legs before boarding their Cathay Pacific CX840 flight for JFK at 4:10PM Hong Kong time.

They are now in the air headed to the U.S. They group will finally arrive in New York at 7:05PM EST on WED 1/22, and I’ll update the blog when they land as they make their way back to Farmington!

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Phát Diệm Cathedral and more food

After a comfortable night’s stay in Ninh Binh, we headed to the Kim Son District to see the Phat Diem Cathedral. The stone church has pagoda-style roofs, making it a blend of Vietnamese and European architectural styles. We walked around the Lưu Phương commune and played traditional games. The next stop was a nearby restaurant, where we again ate traditional foods. Our tables were beyond filled with plates of fish, rice, goat, beef, noodles, spring rolls, chicken, and soup. With full stomachs, we made a quick stop at a tourist shop before returning to Hanoi. It’s the last night with homestays and all are soaking in their final moments of the trip.

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Traveling to Ninh Binh

Today we gathered back at The Olympia School to depart together on a bus headed to Ninh Binh, a providence 90km south of Hanoi. Here we took a cart deep into the foggy forest where we walked around the Bi Dinh Pagoda, which is the largest Buddhist complex in southeast Asia. After exploring this area, we ate at a local, country-side restaurant, prepared with several traditions, including goat. With full stomachs, we headed to the Trang Lan landscape, where we saw the beautiful mountains, which towered over the Sao Khe River. We paddled through a winding maze of caves, ricefields, and unusual rock formations. Wild goats ran along the shore and architecture seemed to appear out of nowhere. Our trip concluded with a relaxing stay at nearby accommodations, which was a significant contrast to the city. We’re falling asleep now to the sounds of crickets!

In front of the Pagoda
Lunch at a restaurant in the countryside enjoying traditional Vietnamese food
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Homestay Weekend

It has been another fun-filled day in Hanoi with our host families! What wonderful adventures we’ve had around the city, in restaurants, stores, and temples — continuing to meet new people and try new things! We feel so grateful to the students of TOS and their families for opening their homes to us and making us feel so welcome. Our students are having a once in a lifetime experience, thanks to the dedication and hospitality of our hosts. We cannot thank them enough! Tonight, we are packing our bags for our trip to Ninh Binh first thing tomorrow morning!

Sasha P, Tien, & her mom getting coffee
Anne and Emma making traditional Chung cakes for the tet holiday
Hannah Y and Haley B at the pottery district. Our host families walked around together, used the wheel to make and paint bowls, and looked at the beautiful pottery.
Today was Lauren’s host student’s brother, Tony, birthday! We had Bun Cha for lunch with the whole family and Korean hot pot for dinner with the cousins. Then we came home and had cake and fruit with the whole family!
In addition to the coffee, Sasha also went to the pagoda to make traditional chung cakes. It was hard at first, but really fun! She got to learn more about Tet and her dad explained all the traditions. She’s really excited to try the ones she made after they’re done!
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Weekend #2!

Our students are enjoying their second weekend in their home-stays! They are involved in a variety of activities and continue to get to know their families and Vietnamese culture better. They have tried many new foods and games, toured, shopped, and much more! Please enjoy some pictures they’ve shared!

Becca enjoyed having her hair done!
Haley enjoyed bowling and playing pool with her host sister and friends!
Ava went to a dog cafe!
D’vine making spring rolls!
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Happy Birthday, Becca!

It’s hard to believe we have been in Hanoi for one week now! Today was our last full day at school, before we have another weekend with our host families and then head to Ninh Binh on Monday. We want to wish Becca a very happy birthday! Today, we enjoyed a water puppet theater show, a tour of the Old Quarter, and a special lunch with our Vietnamese host students. To end the day, the Olympia Schools threw us a farewell party. They had prepared a lovely slideshow of pictures from the trip, and we each took turns expressing our gratitude to both the students and adults at school. Thanks to TOS, we were able to surprise Becca with a lovely cake and all sing ” Happy Birthday!” Check back in over the weekend to see what our students are up to with their host families.

Lunch in the Old Quarter
Lunch in the Old Quarter

Please enjoy a reflection from Sophie and Anne-Violette below:

Friday, January 17 – Water Puppet Show & Exploring Hanoi

Today, our class took a trip into Hanoi to explore the Old Quarter and get a taste of authentic culture for ourselves. We kicked off our day with a traditional water puppet show, a Vietnamese art form dating back to over 1,000 years ago. From when we arrived to the moment we stepped out of the theater, we were immersed in music, story, and visual art. 

After the puppet show, the class headed to lunch together. Once there, we had the chance to try a lot of traditional Vietnamese foods and of course, had lots of passionfruit juice all around. 

Almost immediately following, we had time to split off and take advantage of some free time in the Old Quarter, a city center rich with markets, food, and more. Many of us used our time to shop for souvenirs/gifts and some of us got Vietnamese bubble tea (I definitely recommend)!

We closed our day back at school with a farewell party as it was our last day at TOS today. Time has really flown by and we can’t believe we’ve already passed the midway mark of our trip! We all thanked our host students, who have been unbelievably welcoming to us all, and danced our way through our last moments together in Athena 🙂

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Day 4 in Hanoi: Cooking Class and Exploring the Imperial Citadel

Today was a very fun and packed day. We made spring rolls in the cooking class in the morning and went to Vinmart, which is a very common convenience store here. Then we went to the Imperial Citadel which was very beautiful. I learned a lot about how the place was built and saw many artifacts. It was also very interesting to see how much Chinese influence was used. In the evening I went to the nail salon with my host student, Hang, and we got our nails done with D’vine and her host student. To end the night, I had dinner with my host family at a popular small restaurant in the Old Quarter. It was very delicious and filling. -Sabrina

Photo by Sabrina
Photo by Lauren Uhl
One of the dishes at the dinner.
Photo by Sabrina
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Student Reflections

We are here at the Olympia Schools for Day 3! Our students are busy around campus shadowing classes, helping in kindergarten classes, participating in music lessons, and much more! We just had a group reflection time to discuss the new experiences and fun we’ve been having. Below are some notes and media the students would like to share:

“Vietnam has been incredible so far! I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to experience some more traditional events surrounding Lunar New Year as well as some more city events like visiting the market in the ceramic district. I’ve really enjoyed being at the school as well, and my host family has been incredibly supportive and welcoming. Looking forward to everything that’s still to come!” — Sophie

“We visited the Vietnamese Women’s Museum learning about women’s roles, fashion, etc.” — Lauren A

“I really enjoyed the music class that we took today. It was really cool to see everyone learn the traditional instruments and listen to the song at the end.” — Ella

“It was exciting to try new food; we went to a hot pot place, and there was a conveyor belt. It was delicious and flavorful.” — Anne Violette

“I spent the weekend with Lauren and our hosts. My favorite part was the arcade. Lauren and I played these car racing games, and the game moved as you played it like you were driving an actual car. There was also a motorbike version of it, and that was really cool because it was like the bikes we see all over Hanoi. Lauren and I also got to try out one of the karaoke machines which was really fun!” — Sasha

“I had a fun time bonding with my host family over the pronunciation of Vietnamese words. They were happy to see me say a few words and said I did a good job.” — Sabrina L

“I have enjoyed talking to my host just about random, teenager things. Yesterday, I went to Korean BBQ, bowling, and played pool with some of her other friends.” — Haley B

“I have really been enjoying Hanoi! I struggled at first being in a culture so different from what I am used to, but I have learned a lot out of my comfort zone. I have been making more friends in my classes, like today I met a girl who was in the Model UN club here and wanted to talk about it. She was so excited that I was Secretary-General at MPSMUN this year. I really love getting to bond with new people here. I’ve started to get my host student better too, I’m cooking pancakes for her this weekend and enjoyed going to the store with her this weekend!” – Lauren U

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Tuesday in Hanoi!

MPS and TOS at the Vietnam Women’s Museum

We had a wonderful second day at the Olympia Schools! Our students had a field trip in the morning and attended an art class in the afternoon. The girls are settling into their host families and starting to get the swing of the weekly routine at school! We wanted to share a student reflection:

“Today we took a class trip to the Vietnam Women’s museum. This was an amazing experience because we were able to see how women in Vietnamese history are celebrated. Our trip also served as a secondary view of traditional customs, such as marriage, motherhood and fashion. After our trip to the museum we stopped at the historic Hanoi Opera House where we sat for a while with our host sisters and drank coffee. Once we returned to school we had a chance to grab some lunch before our next activity, traditional Vietnamese wood carving. Taking part in this art form was quite exciting. We learned a little about it’s history and what it is typically used for. Through this learning process we all began to make our own wood carvings based off of traditional images used for wood carving. In conclusion today was filled with fun experiences and lots of memories.” –Becca

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VLog

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Day 3 – First Day of School

Today was our first day at school! Students were excited to see each other after the weekend and to attend class with the Vietnamese students. They took part in a World History class discussing Freedom Fighters and in a Humanities class where they worked with Olympia School juniors on planning library exhibits.  They also  introduced themselves to the school at the school assembly. They had breakfast and lunch in the dinning hall, enjoying the great food, including pho, French fries, and pitaya.

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Day 2 In the City

On Sunday, students had another day to get to know their host families more and explore Hanoi.

Anne-Violette, Emma, and Lauren tried hot pot for the first time today with their host students. They loved it!
Becca also tried egg coffee, and said it was delicious!
D’vine and Sabrina got bubble tea with their host sisters.
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Exploring Vietnam & Getting to Know Our Hosts!

Students spent the day with their host families, exploring the city and getting involved in preparation for Tet!

Sasha and Lauren with their host students walking around the old quarter. They tried street food, played in an arcade, and got to see the preparations for the lunar new year!
Emma and Anne-Violette, with their host student, went around to shops and a little supermarket, and got bubble tea!
D’vine taking a walk with her host family.
Ella and her host student getting some coffee after a few hours of shopping.
Lauren and her host student, Linh, at her parent’s office New Years party! Her favorite part was having breakfast and going to the Spa together.
Hannah enjoyed a walk around the Old Quarter with her host family!
The Old Quarter at night
Haley had so much fun with her host family today. They went to the Old Quarter and did some shopping. They had some traditional Vietnamese food and met up with some other MPS & host students.
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TOS Reception and Off to Host Family Homes!

The group took a chartered bus to TOS, where they were greeted warmly by their host partners and families on campus! After greetings and introductions, the students were off to their respective host family homes for a much needed night’s sleep!

This weekend, the groups will settle into their host family homes and explore Hanoi with new friends. Stay tuned for more updates!

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Arrival In-Country!

After traveling for nearly 27 hours, the group has finally arrived in-country! Everyone is tired but happy to finally be there. The moved through customs, picked up some last minute items, and boarded the bus to TOS. Upon arrival, they will be welcomed by their host families for a short reception before retiring to their host family homes. 

The group will get some much needed shut eye this evening before exploring Hanoi with their host family. Stay tuned for more pictures and updates!

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Wheel’s Up!

The TOS group is en route! After a very early morning departure from Farmington, they arrived at JFK with time for some food and rest before boarding their Cathay Pacific CX841 flight for Hong Kong. Though everyone was a bit sleepy, they were all smiles as they settled into their seats for a long flight.


The group is due to arrive in Hong Kong on FRI 1/10 at 2:15PM (THU 1/9 at 1:15AM EST). They will have a couple hours to stretch their legs before boarding their Cathay Dragon KA295 flight at 5:30PM local time, finally arriving in Hanoi on FRI 1/10 at 6:45PM local time (FRI 1/10 at 6:45AM EST). I will update this blog once the group has arrived in Hanoi.

Stay tuned!

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Welcome to the 19-20 Porter’s in Vietnam Blog!

We are getting excited for this 11th grade InterMission class to begin their incredible journey to The Olympia Schools (TOS) in Hanoi, Vietnam!

You can expect to receive updates once daily on this blog. Please keep in mind that the time in Vietnam will be 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time so the postings may not happen on a schedule that makes sense in your time zone. This blog is the place to find pictures, videos and reflections from students and faculty on the trip, as well as to receive daily updates about the group’s activities and experiences. We are asking our faculty trip leaders to post all materials so that students can be present for every moment and so that they will not worry about posting to the blog in a timely manner.

We also strongly encourage you to keep contact with your children to a minimum during the immersion, which will allow them to fully experience the life and community of the school. Emailing periodically is a great way to touch base with without disrupting their experiences in school and other activities. We strongly discourage texting and phone calls for the duration of this cultural immersion.

It is going to be a FANTASTIC experience for all and we look forward to sharing it with you on this blog.

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On our way to Farmington

We’re slowly making our way to Farmington and look forward to seeing family and friends.

Our ETA as of now is 12:45, you can follow our live location here https://maps.app.goo.gl/BiKrRvnN6hTdacEj2

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The Vietnam group has landed in Boston!

The Vietnam group has landed in Boston! They will work their way through baggage claim and customs then onto the bus back to Farmington. I will let you know what their ETA in Farmington will be once they are on the bus.

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The group landed in Hong Kong overnight, changed planes and are on their way to Boston!

The group had an easy flight to Hong Kong from Hanoi and transferred to their Cathay Pacific flight #812 to Boston. Everyone was sad to leave their new friends in Hanoi but excited to get home. They are currently en route to Boston Logan International Airport and scheduled to land at 8:55 pm EST this evening (Saturday). I will update you when they land.

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And wheels are up and the Vietnam group is on their way to Hong Kong!

After lots of hugs and tearful goodbyes with their host families, the group is finally in air and en route to Hong Kong on Cathay Dragon flight #296. They are due to arrive on time at 2:00 pm local time tomorrow (Saturday) morning. They are scheduled to depart Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific flight #812 at 6:05 pm local time and arrive at Boston Logan International Airport at 8:55 pm EST tomorrow.

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Day 12 Reflection

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Our Last Day at TOS. Good Bye Hanoi!

Today it was our last day at The Olympia Schools. Time to say goodbye to our new friends. They have opened their school community, their homes and their lives to us for the past two weeks and we are extremely grateful for the experience. We hope that we have also been good ambassadors in this beautiful land.

Today before our farewell we still had time to do some group reflection, to learn how to cook some Vietnamese food, to participate in school club activities and to play with the kindergartners again.

As we look back at the past two weeks we realize the incredible experience we have just lived. Not only have we become more familiar with a new and special country, but we have also had first hand connection with its life, its landscape, its identity and, most importantly, with its people.

Thanks for everything! We hope to be back soon!

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Enjoying our stay to the fullest

As we approach the final days of our time in Hanoi we want to make sure we take the best advantage of this incredible opportunity. It would be easy to start thinking about the return, but we prefer to stay in the moment and enjoy the last hours of our stay in Vietnam.

Today we learned the personal pronouns, numbers, and bargaining vocabulary in our Vietnamese class. We also attended Chemistry class, we tried on traditional attires and for a special treat we helped out with the English class for Kindergarten. We sang songs, taught crafts and played outside with the cutest little ones from the Olympia Schools.

Finally we had a little goodbye gathering with our families and faculty and administrators from the school. It was a great opportunity to say thank you and goodbye to this community that has welcomed us with open hearts.

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Reflection Day 10

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Traditional Vietnam

 

Our friends at The Olympia Schools provided for us an experience of the traditional Vietnam. As soon as we arrived to school this morning we boarded two buses for a trip to the countryside. We drove alongside rice fields for about an hour to arrive to the small town of Phuong Trung. We followed the narrow streets of the town and visited a traditional house where we were welcomed with some tea. There we learned the process of making the traditional conical hat. We had a chance to practice hands on all parts of the process and we finished our own hats to bring with us. It was a very fun experience.

Afterwards we drove to the Experiential Center of Nha Dieu. This center is an educational facility affiliated with The Olympia Schools where students connect Vietnamese traditions, art, and history with other disciplines such as economics or biology. Today we had a traditional Vietnamese meal and then we practiced traditional puppet making and printmaking.

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Reflection: Day 8

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360 View of Our Boat Ride in Trang An

Here is a quick 360 video of our boat ride. Especially fun if you watch on your mobile device for a more immersive experience.

 

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Trang An

It’s hard to describe the serene beauty of Trang An. The river flows calmly between the pyramidal limestone formations. The rainforest vegetation around us dresses the riverbanks while the fog adds a whisper of mystery to the mountaintops. Water lilies give a touch of lavender to the shore.

Our group climbed on the row boats and glided down the river for a two and a half hour ride. We enjoyed every minute of this calm journey around and under the rock formations of Ninh Binh. Definitely one of the high points of this trip so far.

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Day 6 Reflection

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Bai Dinh Pagoda

This weekend we are outside the city of Hanoi visiting the region of Ninh Binh. Today Saturday we woke up bright and early. We were excited to go on this two-day field trip to the countryside where we would be able to see farming land, beautiful landscapes, and where we would learn more about the culture of this beautiful country.

Our first stop was at lunch time. At a restaurant in Ninh Binh we savored an incredible meal with several traditional dishes. This group is never afraid to try new things and they are happy to share how much they are enjoying the Vietnamese cuisine during this trip.

We then visited the Bai Dinh Pagoda. It is the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam. It consists of the original, almost millenary temple, and other additions built in more modern times. We were all impressed by the size of this complex, and by the amount of work and craftsmanship that has been invested into this spiritual space.

We finally settled for the night and for dinner at the Emeralda Resort. We are very fortunate to stay at this very comfortable hotel where we are enjoying some swimming, tasty dinner and restful time before we visit the Trang An Landscape complex Sunday morning.

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Art day

Today was art day for us at The Olympia Schools. Our group attended music and visual art classes.

In music class we learned about traditional Vietnamese instruments. We even learned how to play some simple songs with the percussion instruments. The musicians in our group even took a stab at more melodic ones.

In the afternoon we went to art class and produced some wood carving boards. It was a great opportunity to hone our creative spirit in this beautiful land.

 

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Reflection: Day 4 at TOS

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Water Puppet Theater and Ho Chi Minh Museum

Today we went right back to the Old Quarter to see two sacred pieces of Vietnamese culture. We spent the morning in the Ho Chi Minh complex visiting the museum and the Mausoleum. The museum celebrates the life of Ho Chi Minh, his early days, his travels, his decision to convert to Communism, and his battles with foreign invaders such as France, Japan, and the United States.

How to describe Water Puppet Theater? Amazing, surreal, bewildering, hilarious. It’s a tradition that dates back to the Red River Delta in the 11th Century. It is said that the shows helped pass the time when the rice paddies were flooded. The puppets are wood and controlled by puppeteers with large bamboo rods behind a screen. The show was entirely in Vietnamese, but it was easy to follow the “plot”of each skit. The themes are rural and feature Vietnamese folklore. Ours featured dragons, ducks, fishermen and fish, a tiger(?), rowing boats, and spinning babies (??). One of the puppeteers was kind enough to stay after the show and allow the girls to take turns controlling a puppet. It really has to be seen to be believed. Check out the video below.

 

 

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The Old Quarter of Hanoi

The girls have settled into their homestays and largely shaken off their jet lag. They are being incredibly open-minded and adventurous. Santi, Christine, and I are like proud parents.

It was time to get out and explore. First, though, a couple of Wednesday morning classes. The girls had a lesson on the European Union in their Humanities Class. After that, the Drama Club came to pay us a visit. Most of them were in 2nd and 3rd grade and a little intimidated. However, after a warmup game of “Splat!” they were much more confident. They practiced their “Toy Story”scripts with us. Everyone enjoyed it, particularly our many thespians.

This afternoon we took a bus ride through the chaotic Hanoi traffic to the Old Quarter section, accompanied by a teacher and nine students from our host school. As others have written, there’s something hypnotic about the traffic, the sounds, the smells, and the French-inspired architecture. It’s a bustling–and incredibly charming–city. The girls were perhaps less interested in the aspects above and on the lookout for bubble tea, baguette sandwiches, and egg coffee. Immediately upon returning to campus, the Porter’s students were off with their host families.

Another whirlwind of a day. And there’s no rest for the weary as we’re spending tomorrow morning seeing a famous Water Puppet theater show. More great pics then.

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Reflection: Day 2 at TOS

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A full day of school

Today we experienced a full day of classes at The Olympia Schools. During our first period we had conversation practice with students learning English. It was an interesting experience to assess their fluency, grammar and pronunciation. We also joined the Humanities, Economics and PE classes. It was all very interesting and we were able to experience life at the school almost like the local students.

In the Humanities class we learned about traditional dresses and we even had the chance to try them on! During PE we practiced Volleyball and at the end of the day we even had a class taught by our peers at TOS about how to navigate life in Hanoi, from dodging the crazy traffic to learning how to get fair prices at the local stores.

It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed every minute. Our hosts from TOS are taking amazing care of us and we cannot wait till tomorrow for another full day of learning in this beautiful country.

 

 

 

 

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Reflection on our first day at TOS

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First day in Hanoi

After our long trip yesterday and our first night with our host families we were very excited to come to The Olympia Schools today for our first day at the school. Our day started at 7:15 with a udon noodle breakfast at the school cafeteria. Later we had our first class, toured the school and introduced ourselves to the school community.

In the afternoon we went off campus to visit Van Mieu, which is also called the Temple of Literature. It is the site of the oldest university in Vietnam and it is one thousand years old.

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Students meet their host families and settle into their homestays

Tired but happy to meet their host sisters and parents, our students are off to settle into their new homes for the next two weeks. Santi reports that everyone is in great spirits!

 

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The group has landed in Hanoi and off to TOS to meet their host families!

The group landed on time in Hanoi after traveling for nearly 28 hours! Santi reports that everyone is tired but happy to finally be there. They moved easily through customs, exchanged their USD into Vietnamese Dong and boarded the bus for TOS. They will be welcomed by the school and meet their host families at a short reception. There should be some delicious food and refreshments waiting for them before heading to their homestays to get some much needed rest.

I will post again once everyone is settling into their homestays for the night. Stay tuned!

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And wheels are up, the group is off to Vietnam!

After an early departure from Farmington, the group arrived at JFK with plenty of time for breakfast and naps before boarding their Cathay Pacific flight #841 for Hong Kong. Santi reported that everyone is in great spirits, a little tired but very excited to set off on their adventure.

Their flight is due to arrive in Hong Kong tomorrow, January 6th at 2:10pm local time, which will be 3:10am EST tomorrow morning. They will have a couple hours to stretch their legs before boarding their Cathay Dragon flight #295 for Hanoi at 5:30pm local time, finally arriving in Hanoi at 6:50pm local time tomorrow (7:50am EST). I will update this blog once the group has arrived in Hanoi.

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Welcome to The Olympia Schools – Porter’s in Vietnam Blog!

We are getting excited for this 11th grade InterMission class to begin their incredible journey to The Olympia Schools (TOS) in Hanoi, Vietnam!

You can expect to receive updates once daily on this blog. Please keep in mind that the time in Vietnam will be 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time so the postings may not happen on a schedule that makes sense in your time zone. This blog is the place to find pictures, videos and reflections from students and faculty on the trip, as well as to receive daily updates about the group’s activities and experiences. We are asking our faculty trip leaders to post all materials so that students can be present for every moment and so that they will not worry about posting to the blog in a timely manner.

We also strongly encourage you to keep your contact with your daughter to a minimum during her experience at TOS, which will allow her to fully immerse herself in the life and community of the school. Emailing periodically is a great way to touch base with her without disrupting her engagement in school and other activities. We strongly discourage texting and phone calls for the duration of this cultural immersion.

It is going to be a FANTASTIC experience for all and we look forward to sharing it with you on this blog.

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