Sunday, January 24, 2016


Our last days are coming to a close. It has been an amazing two weeks. We met Helena and Joe, Ms. Vinh, and Dean Hoa. We crawled in the Cu Chi Tunnels. We learned in the Vietnamese classroom. We bargained in the markets. 

On Thursday, we had a celebratory breakfast of Dim Sum and ca phe su da. 
After breakfast, we went to the market and tried to buy a durian--a strong smelling fruit. 

Friday, we started the day with a group discussion on collective labor rights. Helena led the discussion and we collaborated on appropriate and beneficial solutions to collective conflicts-like remedies that go beyond the one instance and may address a larger problem. The Vietnamese students had insightful answers and we continue to learn a lot from them. 

After class, John and Chris went to pick up their hand-made suits. They made good friends with Kong, the tailor, even through a translator. 

The final closing ceremony was held in the English zone. Dean Hua and the students presented us with gifts and we sang. We each spoke about some of our most memorable moments and how we look forward to our continuing friendship. It was a lovely ceremony and a genuine closure to our excellent two weeks in Vietnam.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Factory Visit

Ms. Ha Dang, the co-founder of RespectVN and a Cornell alumna, led the group on a factory visit to Far Eastern Apparel VN (FEAVN).  FEAVN is Taiwanese owned and is a major supplier to Nike and Columbia, as well as other major sports apparel companies.  Since 2011, Ha has been working with the FEAVN human resources department in improving the communication between workers and management.  
(Left) Ha Dang and Mary Le, HRM & CS Department Manager at FEAVN.

Talking to a worker in the design-prototype room.  The women (all were female) are the highest skilled seamstresses, thus earn higher wages and work in an air-conditioned room. 
Meeting with the HR and CR Teams
We had an active Q&A, with the TDTU students, Vy, Phat, and Lucie, helping with translation for the ILR team.
FEAVN told us about many CSR practices for pregnant workers, including additional bathroom breaks and special parking. 
Temperature and humidity monitoring to ensure a comfortable work environment. 
The production floor.  The different colored shirts indicate distinct jobs on the floor.

Ha with the FEAVN union representative on the production floor.
We thank Ha and the FEAVN HR team for welcoming us!  We are especially grateful to Mr. Andy Truong, the CR Senior Chief, for arranging all of the details for this fruitful visit.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Amazing Weekend Outside HCMC

This weekend, we took a break from our academic schedule to visit some historic sites around Ho Chi Mihn City.

First, we went to the Cu Chi tunnels. They were started in the forties during the War with the French and expanded during the war with the United States. They are truly astonishing to experience. The tunnels solved such problems as bathing, cooking (which creates smoke), sleeping, and education. They even had a movie theater. 

We got the opportunity to test it out. John volunteered first.

This trip was not possible without our Vietnamese student partners. Left to right is Phat, Andy, Vy, and Nhi.

We are at Vy's house for lunch. 

On Sunday, we went to the Mekong Delta. The whole southern end of Vietnam is delta. We traveled to the south and took a beautiful tour of the river and local villages.

One of our stops was this traditional singing.

One of the most amazing parts was this small boat trip down the smaller delta rivers. Two women were rowing each boat. 

Fish for lunch!

Impressive development alongside some older boats and docks.

Our last stop was one of the few island. This is a coconut press that separates coconut milk and oil from the meat.

Getting off the boat, we got this photo of Liem, our awesome tour guide.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Meeting the TDT Students

This morning, TDTU planned a welcome ceremony for us and we met the students we will be working with for the next two weeks. Here are each of our groups

It was great speaking with Tam and Phat today. Both are 3rd years in labor relations at TDT. It was my first time meeting Phat, but Tam came out to pick us up the other night (absolute trooper, staying up until 3am at the airport with Lowell...) It was interesting to hear about their program: how tightly knit their cohort is; how their curriculum works. Compared to ILR, it's a smaller program. Other than that, we talked hobbies. We all had a good amount in common -- photography, sleeping, and eating. Talk about a small world.

I met my new friends Vy and Nghia. Both were incredibly friendly and wanted to know all about America. They seem to really enjoy their education and were very excited to get a job. One student used to bus two hours just to get to the university. 

Today I met both my TDT students, Hoai Thu and Gia Linh. Both are 2nd year labor relations students and it was so interesting to talk with them about their school work and the way that college is America is both different and similar to college in Vietnam. We also got to talk about their interests and I learned that Thy is an amazing singer - she even sang "Hello Vietnam" for us during the welcome ceremony- and Linh loves Vovinam. I look forward to seeing more of them and learning more about Vietnam from them!

Today I met two of my student peers. Giang is 20 and enjoys swimming. Nhi, also 20, loves anime and manga. After a tour of campus and a great lunch spent getting to know one other, we headed to Ben Thanh Market to brush up our negotiation skills.

I am paired with two students, Lucie and Thanh. Thanh had class today, but Lucie and I met and had great conversations about Vietnam, her view of foreigners and tried to share some experiences. Lucie loves school. She 19 and is interested in English Club, labor relations and trade unions conferences, and meeting up with foreign students to improve her English. I look forward to meeting Thanh and spending more time with them.

Here's our photos.

After meeting our students, we got a tour of campus.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

First Views of Ho Chi Minh City

Most of us arrived last night at 1:00am. Two students from TDTU met us at the airport along with Lowell. It was nice to see some familiar faces in this new place. It is beautiful and the trip to the University and dorms where we will be staying was filled with great views of the quiet city. 

Today we've been catching up on news and settling into our dorms. We met Joe and Helena who are here from the states teaching in the Labor Department. Conversation with them about TPP and the upcoming changes were very informative.

Here is our first daylight view from the top floor of our University. Most things are still closed due to Sunday and the Holiday.

Our funniest moment today was when Lowell was ordering coffee. He did a great job of saying "sau pham cafe su da" to ask for 6 coffees with ice and milk, but when the waitress responded with a long slew of Vietnamese, he had to apologize. Good luck next time.