Take Me to Zen Yen
By Aliza Goldberg
The young Vietnamese boy sat patiently at the Yen River’s edge, his hands resting lightly on the bamboo oars tied to the thin, red, metal rowboat. He looked up at us, wrinkles forming on his forehead as he raised his eyebrows, and waited until we had boisterously situated ourselves in his boat. Without a word, he began to back up his boat into the water and steer us out into the wide expanse of vegetation. No introduction, no complaints. Strong black coffee, the smell of burning incense, the startling clash of a metal gong, the gleam of gilded wood and lacquer statues, seven hundred and sixty two slick stone steps, the squeaks of bats, the dank wonder of an underground niche, and the tickling sensation of sweat trickling down our spines had energized us and we hardly noticed the thin boy, tan like the twigs floating aimlessly in the ripples.
He wore a maroon fake Dolce & Gabbana shirt with a white flap on the left shoulder and another white flap on the right breast. His uneven brown hair was carefully combed over his dark brown eyes, which gazed at us four American teenagers uneasily and with a hint of envy. Meanwhile, we joked around with our school friends in the other rowboats, taking pictures and splashing water. And then suddenly, all the boats were gone. That’s when we finally saw the boy struggling to fight the current.
The five of us were totally alone--no sounds but that of the oars dipping into the glittering water, nothing to see but mountains soft with tufts of green trees, tall grasses and pink lotus flowers, and the reflection of the grey and white clouds in the water. The river was ours. The silence was a peaceful break from the smoggy chaos of honking motorcycles that defined our new home, Hanoi.
His name was Trung. This was his first time rowing tourists from the Perfume Pagoda. He was sorry he was taking so long.
I was sorry he was our age, yet had dropped out of school to take us from one unfamiliar shoreline to another. I was sorry his arm muscles did not have enough strength to continue rhythmically circling the oars. I was sorry I could not help him.
He would stretch a tired smile whenever we did something silly to amuse him, like singing Santigold or daintily dangling slices of bread in front of his face for him to bite. Otherwise he wore a light-lipped grim line of a mouth, eyes squinting in pain.
Middle aged women in conical hats streamlined past our rowboat, laughing and teasing our faithful Charon.
He was sorry he was taking so long. I was sorry I could not help him.
As we inched along, I felt something puff up and expand under the bottom of my right ribcage. A sense of relief and satisfaction perhaps, or elation. After three weeks in Vietnam my regrets and hesitations had splintered and were being carried away by the river’s current. It occurred to me that we might never be reunited with the other Americans waiting patiently for us at the shore, that if the clouds decided to burst and send down rain our rowboat would fill up within minutes. But these thoughts did not worry me. I knew I would be all right. And I knew Trung would not be.
"I have spent a year studying in Viterbo, Italy and a semester studying in Hanoi, Vietnam. In the fall of 2010 I will attend Barnard College of Columbia University and try to study as many languages as I am allowed without becoming a language major." Read more travel writing from Aliza at www.alizid.blogspot.com and see see her video below:
Listen to Planet Gap Year interview the 2009 Gap Year Fairs Sponsor, Greg Cappello of Dynamy Internship Year. Discover why students and parents across the U.S. are jumping at the opportunity to attend these events.
Planet Gap Year interviews students and parents at the 2009 Denver Gap Year Fair about the 'gap year' concept, and reasons for taking a year out before committing to college.
Planet Gap Year's video productions arm visited Denver's Sherman Events Complex last Wednesday evening to find out first hand what the "gap year" buzz is all about.
Attending a Gap Year Fair may open your eyes to post-high school opportunities for self-exploration and personal growth, and is likely to lead to clearer direction and motivation for college studies and for your life!
Planet Gap Year -Gap Year Program Introductions Playlist - You Tube
1. Thinking Beyond Borders
2. Up with People - Philippines
3. Rustic Pathways - Marie's Elephant
4. City Year
5. Leaders Challenge
7. Sojourns Abroad
8. AmeriCorps NCCC
9. Outward Bound
10. African Conservation Experience
11. Utila Dive Center - Honduras
Thinking Beyond Borders is a 35-week Gap Year program which takes students around the world to study the AIDS epidemic and public health in South Africa, public education in China, sustainable agriculture in India and clean water issues in Vietnam. Upon returning to the United States, students work with the United Nations, World Bank, IMF, Homeland Security, and the Grameen Foundation.
The following video was taken at the Pacific Northwest College Fair in Bothel, Washington in October. Increasingly, college fair organizers are inviting education experts like Ethan Knight, executive director of Carpe Diem International education, to speak to students and parents about the benefits of a gap year before college.
You can also view Mr. Knights power point presentation by visiting our You Tube channel at http://www.youtube.com/planetgapyear
Hola friends! I’m currently in La Paz, Mexico preparing to leave for Cabo San Lucas tomorrow morning!!! I will take some time time to wrap up Breckenridge and the first week in Mexico!
This video was shot on location at a high school in Portland Oregon. It documents one of the first organized Gap Year Opportunities Fairs for US students, parents and educators.The gap year is becoming more widely accepted as an option before and during college for increasing numbers of US students as reported by high school counselors, proponents of the gap year, and organizations offering gap year options to students. Information on upcoming fairs around the US are available in the blog entry lower down this page titled "2008 Gap Year Opportunities Fairs in the US."
A gap year is a period of time when students take a break from formal education to travel, volunteer, study, intern, or work. A gap year is also referred to as a deferred year, year out, year off, time out, time off. A gap year experience can last for several weeks, a semester, or up to a year or more. Typically a gap year is taken between high school graduation and starting college, during college, or between college and starting graduate school or a career.
Watch this video taken at the 2009 Denver Gap Year Fair: