Truc assured us that her village in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam was so small that there wouldn’t be any access to the internet. But two internet cafes had been set up since her last visit several years before. Our experiences in the village caused us to ponder the potential of internet technology.
For most people in the village, their only access to the internet is at an internet cafe. Although a few homes have internet, computers are not the household item they are in the west. But demand for internet access is increasing and internet cafes are everywhere is SE Asia. This was helpful for keeping in touch while we were away, although the service is often slow and sometimes unreliable.
The internet cafes in the village are used predominantly by young people to play on-line games and almost no one has an email account. Makes sense since it is closer to walk to your friends house or faster to phone than go to the internet cafe on the edge of the village to send an email.
Dave helped a few people set up email accounts but his would be the only name in their contact list. To his surprise he had the explain the concept of a password to those who are not on-line gamers. Not only do most people not use the internet but there are no banking machines in the village, the other place where a password is required.
Some parents were reluctant to allow their children to have an email account or use the internet cafe. We had to remember that if someone rolled into town and wanted to introduce our kids to a technology that we had no experience with, we might be reluctant as well. And just as we have concerns about how much time Devin spends on line, some of the teenagers who are frequent patrons of the internet cafes were being questioned by their parents about their whereabouts the evening before. We didn’t have to understand Vietnamese to get the drift of those conversations as the tone of voice and body language were clear. The fact that it costs to use the internet cafe was undoubtedly viewed as a waste of money by some of the parents. In spite of the potential for misuse the internet can be a very positive and powerful tool.
The internet is opening up a whole new world of possibilities for one young English teacher in the village. As with many Vietnamese, his command of written English was very good, but because he had never conversed with a native English speaker, his pronunciation was difficult to understand and he had trouble understanding us. Dave took him to the internet cafe and introduced him to several on-line resources to improve his English. The owners of the internet cafe saw what was happening with Dave and the teacher and refused payment for the two hour session.
After Dave set up a Skype for Truc’s aunt, several phone calls went back and forth between Canada and the village in order to arrange a time for an on-line session. The relatives in the village seemed a little hesitant but they jumped right in as soon as they saw Truc on the computer screen. The session lasted for nearly two hours. It was a thrill for us to be present as the Vietnamese and Canadian parts of this extended family were connected electronically. I had to choke back tears a few times. When the Skypeing was over, Truc’s aunt who hadn’t spoken a word of English the entire week, turned to Dave and said “thank you”.
Bissky Dziadyk Family
Travelling the world as a family since 2008.
In September 2008 our family embarked on a four month journey through South East Asia. Traveling with a child who uses a wheelchair presented its challenges, but following the Mekong River through China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam with a wheelchair was truly an adventure.
When we move beyond our fears and embrace our dreams, the Universe has an odd way of not only supporting us but giving us more opportunities than we ever imagined. Embarking on a journey with an open heart we can not help but be changed forever by the experience. Indeed it would be a waste to return untouched in the spiritual realm.
September: China (Beijing, Xi’an,Kunming, Yuanyang)
October: Northern Vietnam (Hanoi, Halong Bay) and
Laos (Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Vientiane)
November: Southern Vietnam (Hue, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta)
December: Cambodia (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampot and Sihanoukville).