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Volunteer Retreat

Date:   August 17 - 20, 2001
Time:  Check in 4pm Friday 8/17/01
            Check out 10am Monday 8/20/01
Place:  Las Brisas - Surfside Beach, TX
Ticket: $20/person with meals and lodging

Hello all;

Exactly a week ago, I was sitting on the beach of Freeport thinking to myself how little I wanted the weekend to end. In reality, I wasn't the only one who felt this way. Following is the story that led up to why I felt this way.

Friday August 17, 2001

Friday morning was spent making arrangements diving people and food into cars so that the first party could depart. After a two hour delay, the first group of people arrived at the Las Brisas Beach House in Freeport. What was supposed to be just me opening up the house by myself turned into a group of ten people eager to start the weekend. Our first impression of the house was "This is Beautiful!" It was a two story house, with a beautiful porch and balcony, but what was really amazing was how well furnished and decorated the place was. It was a nine bedroom house and breathtakingly new. Most of us had expected some log cabin sort beach house; we were prepared to "rough it," but that obviously wasn't going to be the case. What a great start to a great weekend!

As soon as we were relatively settled in, we put the Bun Bo Hue on the stove and began the relaxation process. Some of us went to walk along the beach, others went to the store to pick up some last minute necessities. As the evening approached, more people showed up. All were greeted by cheerful faces and hot food ready to eat! The rest of Friday night was spent welcoming people, and enjoying each other's company. There were several games of twister (you should see the pictures!), massage circles, card games (I think we consumed several gallons of water in the process), and night walks on the beach. A group even had the energy in them to attempt crabbing. Their efforts paid off because they came home with a dozen crabs, and a HUGE red snapper. For almost a day, they had everyone at the house going that they had caught the fish themselves! It turns out a fishing boat had given them the fish.

As the wee hours of the morning approached, most people went to bed, but there was a die-hard group who remained on the porch. It started off with anh Thien taking song requests on the guitar and lots of people singing, but when his fingers could strum no more, the campfire songs turned into an intimate discussion of first love, unrequited love, and love requirements. A group of eight people stayed up together and saw the sun rise. This is what retreat is all about…bonding!

Saturday August 18, 2001

Saturday is a bit blurry since by this time, it had been thirty hours since I had a wink of sleep. As I recall, Saturday was spent just hanging out. More people, many more arrived on Saturday. The beach was popular among most, but others opted to just sleep or play checkers on the deck. Conversations were apparent everywhere. On the menu for lunch Saturday was Bun Thit Nuong. Everyone pitched in with the washing of the veggies, cutting the veggies, BBQing the meat, etc. The preparation of lunch really set the tone for the weekend. We were all there among great company and an amazing sense of teamwork. Towards the late afternoon and early evening, we tried to play some icebreakers, but everyone was too wrapped up in their own thing, so we postponed it until after dinner. Com Ga Xiu Xiu was served for dinner (hope everyone had enough to eat!). Dinner was concluded by and joint anniversary party for chi Elena Thuy and anh Tung with a birthday party for chi Bich Chi's two kids. Congratulations to Elena and Tung on six happy years of marriage. (You would think that after six years, they wouldn't be so shy!)

And then the icebreakers began! The first game gave us all clues to what we find most important in life. For some it was Money, others Love, and others Food. The next game gave us all an opportunity to vent at one another through creative nicknaming. We divided up into three teams and the nicknames began to fly. Here are some that we came up with:

Hoai ho^i ha'm
Thanh thie^'u tie^`n
Huy hu* ho?ng
Hung ho*? hang
David do* da^'y
Vera vo*' va^~n
Thien that^' ti`nh

Now that we had gotten everything off our chests, it was time to promote love with the DATING GAME! I was the lucky bachelorette who got to select a bachelor that evening. There were only a few bachelorettes at the retreat that weekend, but very many bachelors, so the selection process was a bit difficult for me. After asking some hard questions and consulting the audience, I finally chose Phuc over Cuong and Hoai. Believe me, if I had my way, I would pick all three!! After I finished my selection process, anh Dan had his shot at three bachelorettes. I have to admit, anh Dan's questions were quite a bit harder and stumped the girls on several occasions, but Hung did a beautiful job improvising and beat out Vera and Thoa for a date with anh Dan. Now the only question remains is, will these two couples actually go on a date??

After all the fun and festivities were over, most people retreated to smaller groups and quickly became engaged in stimulating conversations or simply went to bed.

Sunday August 19, 2001

Sunday was a big day of departure and farewells for most, though many were reluctant to go. However, for some, the weekend was only half over! It turned out to be the most relaxing day of the weekend with most of the crowds gone, no time constraints, basically no responsibilities. Everyone let their guard down. No holds barred. Say what you're thinking, do what you want. Some opted to retreat into a peaceful world of yoga and love music, others could be found on the porch shooting the breeze, and everyone else was just being goofy in the water. The water became less appealing when there came news that a big dorsal fin had been spotted in the distance. On the shore, we took pictures, built castles, and buried people.

When everyone was hungry, we BBQed again. It was Bun Thit Nuong again, but this time it was better than the first! Chalk this one up to experience and more leisurely cooking. With the day coming to a close and everyone but 13 people gone, we decided to try our luck at crabbing. Phuc led us to a different place that we had not tried yet, and right away it was like hitting the jackpot. I must say that Vera was our star crabber that night. All in all, the 13 of us caught 18 crabs. Not bad for an hour and a half's work. When we got back to the house, chu Hung and Huong went home because Huong has school the next day!!!! (it was 10:00 p.m. already! talk about hardcore!) The last eleven were now left, affectionately referred to as the "Retreat Survivors".

For the rest of the retreat recap, I'm going to turn it over to Huy and his online journal:

After going crabbing and having a crab-feast, we all settled down into the living room to tell stories. It started out with ghost stories, which scared the heck out of us. But then we somehow switched to farting stories, and I must say that every time I hear another ghost story from now on, I will surely bust out laughing because of this new connection. Hehe. And finally, we turned to relationships, which is where I stepped in.

I was pretty surprised with myself at how calmly and delicately I handled the subject. I guess when it comes to love, everyone's got questions no matter how old they are. Basically, everyone shared what they went through, what they learned, and what they want to see happen in the future. It's not hard, really, to figure out what you want. But 'how' is a different story. I think I helped the guys out a lot with my 'rules of the game'. The funny thing is, all the girls agreed with my assessments and I think they appreciated the fact that I 'educated' a couple more guys about the tactics they use.

We woke up well after the sunlight flooded through the windows (9:00 a.m.), and for a moment I had forgotten what had happened the night before. But then it all came back and I felt really secure and comfortable amongst these now-familiar faces. Eh, who cares about that: we had 2 hours to clean up the beach house and get out of there. So we cleaned up for an hour, and then took pictures the rest of the time. None of us were ready to say farewell yet.

In order to keep the mood going, we decided to meet in Houston to eat lunch. Cool! Pho*? sounded good. So we all piled in the cars, and headed home. And with that, the retreat came to a close. Many new friendships were created, but the most remarkable thing is that many of us confronted personal issues and formed a sort of support network. This retreat, more than any other, was more than just fun and games; it was truly a retreat filled with relaxation and healing. It was just what the doctor ordered and way past due for some of us.

Best regards,

Beach House Reporter

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Last modified: August 27, 2001