I’ve been back in Canada for four weeks and I finally had a chance to put together a slideshow of my time in Vietnam (10 months in 3 minutes!). It was fun to review my pictures and select from them a variety that I hope show..
- I had a great time.
- There was a significant amount of work involved.
- I got to see and experience places and events I’ll never forget.
- I loved the people I got to work with.
- I made friends that I hope will be in my life forever.
- Vietnam is BEAUTIFUL.
December went by in a blur here in Vietnam. I started the month in the City of Phan Thiết at Bình Thuận Community College. My first thought on arriving after a six hour drive from Saigon was…”Crap…Why did I insist one week would be enough time here?!” BTCC is across the street from the beach and ten minutes away from the awesome resort area of Mui Ne where I spent a leisurely long weekend after the a week of presentations and classes…
Leaving Mui Ne we toured a Sapa Valley Wine Castle on the outskirts of town before heading to the airport. Yep…that would be Sapa Valley as in California, USA…at least that what all the labels said. Obviously, international trade has made the world a very small place…
Back in Hanoi there were Christmas celebrations and going away dinners. Although international schools closed for the holidays and many embassies hosted holiday functions…
Christmas Day was a regular work day for most Vietnamese…Here the big seasonal celebration is the ‘real’ New Year (according to the lunar calendar) on January 31st . This is Tet Holiday and it is BIG…every bit as big as a western Christmas with all the same themes: family, gifts, food, parties, prayer. January 1st may not be the official start to 2014 in Vietnam but that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying New Year’s Eve western style..er…I mean…Gangnam style!
I finally did it! I jumped into Hanoi traffic on a bike…and survived! Okay, I cheated a bit, because I chose a day-trip to Middle Island where there are no roads, no cars, no trucks, and only a handful of motorbikes…But I had to navigate Xuan Dieu and cross Au Co at Yen Phu to get there and these are some of THE worst streets in Hanoi…(I’d tell you why, except I’d insult a whole bunch of expats.) I can’t emphasize enough what a big step this was for me. Suffice to say, I left my neighbor with specific instructions about where my passport and medical coverage documents were…just in case.
So, within only a few nerve-jangling kilometers my friends and I found ourselves on the extraordinary Middle Island. Extraordinary because it is a stretch of farmland in the middle of the Red River, in the middle of Hanoi. I’m not an expert on cities (realizing THAT more and more…) but as I understand it, not many of them have urban farms where produce can be transported to markets…by motorbike of course!..within an hour.
The pathways that run up and down Middle Island meander through fields of corn, cabbage, sweet potato, thyme (…Oh, you should smell the thyme!) and banana palms…Bunches of bananas hanging over pathways at face level were definitely the main biking hazard.
For the last two weeks in November I’m travelling to the much quieter Kien Giang Province…(Yeah, I know…lucky me!) and I do believe I’ll be renting a bike…