This summer CSU faculty member Kristie Yelinek is teaching a composition class at the Forestry University of Vietnam in the city of Xuan Mai. She has been recording her experiences teaching and traveling around Vietnam in a blog, “Teaching and Other Adventures: Vietnam.”  The following is an excerpt from her blog that explains some of the adventures she has been having with her students.


kristie and the bearded man
Kristie Yelinek at Tram Ton Pass in Vietnam with Roger, “the bearded man.”

This past Sunday (May 8th), 15 of my students took me to Ba Vi National Park, which is a national park about 34 km (about 21 miles) northwest of Xuan Mai, or about an hour’s drive by motor bike. My students said they would take care of everything, all I needed to do was meet them at the front gate of the university at 9:00 am. So, at 9:00 am, I was at the front gate…but there were no students to be found. About 5 minutes later, two of them showed up on a motorbike with food and water for the trip. About 5 minutes after that, two more students showed up. As I’m starting to learn, Vietnamese time is “elastic”: 9:00 doesn’t necessarily mean 9:00. All in all, it took about 35-40 minutes for them to organize themselves before we were ready to go. There was some discussion as to who would have “teacher” ride on the back of their motor bike, but that had been pre-arranged and the student was not willing to trade his job with anyone else.

Getting ready to ride to Ba Vi National Park
Getting ready to ride to Ba Vi National Park.

So, off we went! And then we stopped so someone could pick up some soda along the way. Then, we continued on our way. And then we stopped so someone could get something else. And then we stopped again because someone took a wrong turn and was lost (there were 16 of us on 8 motor bikes). All in all, I think we made 5-6 stops along the way and it took us a little over two hours to get there. But, then we were at Ba Vi. We stopped, paid the entrance fee, and soon started to drive our way up the mountain. I could immediately feel it start to get cooler and we were soon in and out of thick and thin fog.

The drive up the mountain.
The drive up the mountain.

Our stop for lunch was amid some ruins left over from the French colonial period. We wandered around for a bit, took some pictures, and then everyone decided they were hungry. My students built a fire, put pork on skewers, popped an entire chicken on a branch (head and all), plus all of the internal organs (and feet!) on a grill, and placed everything over the fire. While some students were doing that, other students were cutting up fruit and placing it on banana leaves that they had gathered from the forest. It was all very impressive to watch!

Ruins from the French Colonial Period.
More ruins from the French Colonial Period
Preparing lunch with students. Yum!
More food prep.

After lunch, we headed further up the mountain to climb the 1,000+ steps to Ho Chi Minh’s Temple. This might have been my favorite part of the entire day because we got to see out into the valley below (when the clouds and fog allowed) and it was the closest we did to any kind of hiking that day. My students, however, were not quite as excited about it and many of them had to stop to rest along the way. A lot of them kept saying “teacher, you are so strong” because I just kept going a lot of the time. I guess all the running up the mini-mountain at the university is paying off! At the top, most of the students stopped to rest for a few minutes and soon broke out into song to recover from the strenuous climb.

the climb
The climb up to Ho Chi Minh’s Temple. 1,000 steps!
singing and recovering
Singing and recovering with students.
the view from the top
The view from the top.

The view from the top was beautiful and I took a few minutes to visit the temple. After that, it was time to head back to Xuan Mai so that students could finish homework and get ready for classes on Monday. On the way back, we stopped for some refreshing (but too sweet for me) sugar can juice.

sugar cane juice
Sugar cane juice.

Stay tuned for more updates from Kristie’s time in Vietnam!