Tuesday, April 13, 2010

End of Homestay, Central Vietnam, and the First Taste of Hanoi

Well, I’ve made it to my home away from home for the next month and a half: Hanoi! I apologize that I’ve been MIA for the past few weeks, but fortunately for me and for everyone reading, I have been keeping up on my journal! The experiences covered in my last blog about the Mekong Delta seem like they occurred ages ago, and Dalat even longer still, so I know I have a bunch to update!

My homestay finished up on a really high note. I am happy to say that I’ve truly gained a friend through this experience. I feel like we really became very close during the homestay period, and I will always count him among some of my best friends. I am already sad that we live so far apart. As far as the actual program is concerned, we had a lot of Vietnamese language class during this two week period, had many interesting lectures, and toured some fascinating places in and around Saigon. Some of the highlights from this week include the War Remnants Museum, the Cu Chi Tunnels, an engagement party, meeting Bao Ngoc, May’s niece, and mastering the motorbike ride from school to home during rush hour!

Son was the one who took me to the War Remnants Museum. It was a pretty dramatic experience for me—the place really makes you feel bad to be an American. It had the most graphically disturbing pictures on the walls I’ve ever seen. Despicable things that are just too disgusting to even try to remember. The Agent Orange photos and fetuses were almost nauseating. Of note was the picture of Bob Kerry (from NE, ran for President, etc) describing how he had committed this horrible atrocity in a small village. All the placards in the entire place were extremely anti-American. There were signs on the walls describing us as war criminals. There is no attempt to be balanced in any way; there is no other way to view this place as exceedingly anti-American. I’m not surprised, because of the hideousness of the war, but it was really uncomfortable to be there. There were tons of foreigners there (the most I’ve seen in Vietnam in one place). Not all were Americans, but I could tell there was a feeling of discomfort in the entire place. Son was nice when I said something like, “It makes me feel bad to be an American” he responded that it was war, and war is a terrible thing. I asked him if he had family who had fought in the war, and he said that he had a relative that had hid soldiers in his house. Very interesting, and sad place to visit, but I think that it was important to see this place.

Bob Kerry's Photo at the Warm Remnants Museum

One day we took a field trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels located about an hour and a half from our school, right outside of Saigon. We made the drive in a small van, and when we arrived, Co Thanh gave us the solemn warning not to stray off the path because there were still unexploded landmines in the forest. That put everyone in a really solemn mood as we made our way to meet the Vice-Director of the Cu Chi Tunnel Park. We met him and he showed us to a room where we were briefed on the Cu Chi Tunnels. Basically, these tunnels are almost 100 miles long, and contain living, cooking, fighting, and planning rooms. They are littered with gruesome booby traps and were ingeniously designed to be able to protect the soldiers from bombs, gas, water, and foreign “rat soldiers” who attempted to climb through the tunnels to kill the VC. The VC could even cook down there, and the smoke was filtered out slowly so that smoke could not be seen above ground. They had multiple escape routes, including into the Mekong River from underground. This area was where from which the Tet Offensive was planned and orchestrated. I was amazed to see these tunnels knowing that these were really the places the Viet Cong used to fight the Americans. As we walked around, you could still see huge holes in the ground where B-52 bombers had bombed the area in hopes of destroying the tunnels.

We entered the tunnel through a tiny whole camouflaged perfectly in the ground. The whole is about a foot and a half by a foot and a half, so you really have to squeeze yourself in and through. The guide said that once we were down we could either go left which had been widened and improved for tourists, or we could turn right and head down the natural tunnel. Thinking I could handle it, I turned right. Even though this section of the tunnel was only about 400feet, it seemed like it went on forever. We were in nearly complete darkness for most of the time, and the tunnel was so small that I had to squeeze my shoulders together and crawl on my hands and knees after a while. It kept getting narrower, smaller, and hotter. I was starting to feel extremely claustrophobic when something hit me on the head—yah it was a bat. By the time I was out of the tunnel I’d had about 3 bats in the face and hair. People were screaming around me—it was really intense. To get out, we had to climb basically straight up and out by hoisting ourselves up onto the ground. I of course fell and slid all the way back down to the tunnel in through the dirt, and when I finally got out I was literally a mess, and glad to be out.

An entrance to the tunnels


As we were walking through the forest, looking at the horrible booby traps as well as the other important places in the tunnels (wells, hospital, VIP meeting room, sleeping quarters, etc), there was a huge boom. My heart nearly stopped, and I was sure that someone had hit a landmine. Everyone screamed, but it turned out that one of the guides had lit off a M80 firecracker as a joke—some joke, everyone nearly passed out! What an experience at Cu Chi—bats, claustrophobia, sweat, dirt, and M80’s—I think one visit is defiantly enough for my lifetime!

One night I met Bao Ngoc at her family’s restaurant. She is the niece of May, our friendly alterations lady at home. They were so kind to treat me to a fantastic steak dinner at their restaurant, Tony’s Steakhouse! Very fun to meet May, her sister, and her brother-in-law. Bao Ngoc was very friendly and nice and we had a nice dinner and drinks. Later I found out that she’s been accepted to a work-travel program in the US so hopefully I’ll see her again in Lincoln around Thanksgiving time when she comes to visit May!

Bao Ngoc on the right, with her sister and husband, who own Tony's Steakhouse

I ended my homestay with a really nice gift exchange. I realized that the shirts I’d brought wouldn’t fit Son or his dad, so I bought Son some nice cologne from a store, and a bottle of wine for the dad. I gave all the shirts to Minh (since this is my last homestay), and gave both Co Ha and Co Hai some nice perfume that I’d brought. They gave me a nice paperweight from the University of Economics, and then I was surprised by Heo, Khanh, and Tuan who gave me 5 traditional Vietnamese figures with our names written on the bottom so that I would never forget them! What nice people I’ve been surrounded with. I feel so lucky and was so sad to leave my new friends, especially Son!

With my homestay family: Co Hai, Minh, Son, and Co Ha (missing father, Chu Thai!)

Son, Heo (to my left when looking at the photo), and Khanh (Kaka) plus other girls involved in the engagement ceremony

Thus began our excursion to Central Vietnam: Hoi An, Da Nang, and Hue. We had an extremely quick flight to Da Nang (1 hour) where we made it just in time to watch the international fireworks competition from the rooftop of a building with a bunch of locals. We loved being outside in the COOL weather overlooking the river sparkled with floating lanterns and decorated boats watching an hour and half of beautiful, amazing fireworks! It was literally the breath of fresh air that we needed after two weeks in Saigon! The break from the heat and the pollution was a welcomed relief! We took a bus to Hoi An that night to our beautiful hotel, Nhi Nhi, which is a small boutique hotel that is really clean and nice, with incredibly friendly staff! We had rose petals on our bed and a really nice mosquito net was all set up for us! I think this was our reward for surviving the two week homestay in Saigon! Everyone thought they were in heaven!

We visited the Champa ruins the next day, which is an ancient civilization that occupied central Vietnam before the Viet people first moved south. These were the coolest ruins I’ve ever seen—stuff from the 1st -7th centuries that were special Hindu temples for the upper class people. The Champa people were conquered by the Vietnamese and eventually all the people converted to Buddhism and Islam, so their civilization isn’t there anymore, but UNESCO has named these ruins as a World Heritage Site, so it was really cool to see. There were tons of ruins that were left, all nestled in a huge mountain valley obscured in mist—I was thinking El Dorado or the lost monkey city from the Jungle Book the whole time. Such an amazing place to visit, and definitely worth going back to!

Ancient Champa Ruins

We were also able to explore Hoi An a bit. I bought a beautiful oil and canvas painting, a set of lacquer coasters, and I had two pairs of pants tailor made for me. Everything is really cheap, but still I’ve almost spent more money in the past two days then I have on this whole trip! I’m finding really beautiful things though! Hoi An is a really interesting town—they keep it looking like old Vietnam for tourists sake. It’s really touristy, and there are tons of foreigners in the streets, but it really is beautiful, especially at night. One was some kind of festival, so they had thousands of lanterns floating down the river. Walking along the river, hearing the traditional Vietnamese songs and seeing the lanterns in the water was another wake-up call moment—hey I’m in Vietnam right now. Wow.

The next day we left the Nhi Nhi hotel and headed for the Marble Mountains in Da Nang. The Marble Mountains are five Dr. Seuss-like mountains right off China beach (the famous US Military Base during the war). Each of the five mountains were discovered to have different kinds and colors of marble, and have been historically used for beautiful marble. There are many legends about the mountains as well. One, which we visited, was used for ancient Hindu and Buddhist religious practices, as well as a central location for Viet Cong, later. We climbed up the steep steps of the mountain, and stopped half way to pray at an outdoor pagoda. We then climbed back and up literally into a cave where there was an ancient female Buddha and pagoda that had been carved into the cave. There were monks walking through chanting and praying—such an amazing, ancient place!

We then climbed all the way to the top of the mountain where we were able to see all of the other four mountains including China Beach and the old American Airfield. The top of the mountain was claimed by American forces and there was a spot where we stood that was an old helicopter pad with the remnants of a gun turret. Meanwhile the caves and lower mountain were all VC territory during the war, so literally the top of the mountain was American while all the VC hid below! Amazing history.

We climbed back down the beautiful mountain and down into one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It was a cave pagoda that was located in a cavern with huge ceilings 200 feet high that allowed beams of light to shoot in, piercing the darkness of the room. The thick incense smoke made the beams of light so distinct it was like spotlights hitting the floor and lighting up the room. I prayed towards the pagoda and the giant Buddha statue carved into the wall. The incense and silence and monks walking by and rhythmic drum beat of the special spot on the wall you can hit to make noise—everything was so surreal in this place. They even have special magic water that drips down in one area that I was able to touch, which will hopefully make me very fertile! We were told that even though the roof of the cave had large openings, because of the air pressure, it was impossible for rain to enter, even during the wet season, so this place always stayed cool and dry. What a special, magical, and peaceful place. The group all decided to stand around one of the beams of light and hold hands in a circle just to soak in as much of this beautiful place as possible. This was definetly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and I really hope that I can take Mom and Dad back there once they arrive! Wow!!!

Pagoda in the caves of Marble Mountain

After that we drove to the Blue Sea Hotel in Da Nang to check in. We had lunch at the hotel (one of the least nice places we’ve stayed) and then we went to the offices of a local Da Nang newspaper to learn about the city’s development. We arrived and were surprised to find that they had made an entire banner welcoming us! We walked in and were basically accosted by a ton of people from the media. They took us to a big room where we sat at a big official table. The editors of the newspaper were all there, including other reporters. There were even television crews there to report on our arrival on the television news! Kind of crazy, none of us were expecting this huge fanfare! We had a lecture from the editor of the newspaper on Da Nang’s development which is really interesting. I think that Da Nang was really devastated during the war, so it looks pretty meager when we drive through it. But these guys showed us a really intense master plan to revitalize the city. Mostly through foreign direct investment and local support, they are planning on making Da Nang a major tourist destination within the next 10 years. The plans they showed us made it look like Dubai. I really hope the plan works out so that the city can redevelop!

When we got back we headed across the street to walk along the beautiful beach. It’s not a tropical paradise, but the beach is really nice and has beautiful sand. Felt good to put my feet in the water! We had dinner literally on the beach! We had fresh squid and fish and coconut! Beautiful meal followed by a beautiful walk on the beach, but had to avoid the multiple giant jellyfish that had washed up!

Our last day in Da Nang was wonderful! We visited an Agent Orange organization is basically a school for people from age 8-30s who suffer physical and/or mental disabilities as a direct result of Agent Orange-whether acquired genetically or from the environment. Most kids looked like they had something like Down Syndrome, but all varied in the extent of their disabilities. Some were more physically deformed than others, and some were definitely more mentally impaired than others. Walking in was like walking into the greatest welcome home party ever. The kids literally were jumping up and down with the biggest smiles on their faces, waiting in a huge line to greet us! They all forgot the line and ran to give us all hugs and words of welcome! It was so overwhelmingly emotional to see these kids who were all so enthusiastic to see us, knowing that their conditions were caused by Agent Orange. We sang and danced with them for a few hours, and they performed a fashion show as well as a number of traditional Vietnamese dances! We performed a few children’s songs for them (Row Your Boat in a round, Lean on Me, Twinkle Twinkle, etc) and they loved it. Then we danced together—one little girl kept wanting to dance with me, so I danced with her most of the time. She was so cute, she kept smiling up at me and when I’d spin her she would smile a huge wonderful smile. A few of the kids only experienced deafness from the Agent Orange, so they performed their breakdancing skills for us—really impressive! That didn’t stop those with more serious disabilities from trying to breakdance too! What a fun time! The school is a really cool place because it is such a positive atmosphere. Even some of the staff and teachers are Agent Orange victims, so they are really showing that these kids can have a future. When we left everyone gave us more hugs and waved us off until they couldn’t see us anymore! Everyone was touched by the heart that each of these children had.

Here I am with two friends I met at the Agent Orange Center

Agent Orange Students Performing a Vietnamese Dance


Ate lunch that day at a place owned by Americans who employed only deaf Vietnamese. They provide training, education, and housing for these kids too. The food was American and excellent! Afterwards, we headed to the beach and went swimming for the rest of the day and evening! Really fun to get some body surfing in! One thing I should mention about the beach is the swim attire. The men wear clothes comparable to an American beachgoer if not European (some trunks were a little tighter than others), but the women are in a whole different category. Whether its cultural or related to their desire to maintain pale skin, I’m not sure, but the Vietnamese girls wear long sleeves and pants in the water. Some even were wearing jeans. The looks that the American girls were getting in their bikini’s, especially from the men on the beach were hilarious, and the clash of the cultures was extremely evident here!

The next day we left for Hue! We drove over the beautiful mountain pass to get there—some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen! There is a tunnel that goes under the mountain and takes less time, but we wanted to get the full experience! Hue is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and the Perfume River. There are flowers and beautiful architecture everywhere. I’ll talk about the highlights of Hue:

We went on a tour of the Royal City—surrounded by a Citadel, the walled city is huge, and and you must enter through the gate. The royal family lived there for centuries all the way until the last King of Vietnam, Bao Dai, abdicated the throne in 1945. The city was mostly destroyed during the war, so the place is really kind of run down and there isn’t much to see unfortunately, beyond the main, ornamental gate. They are trying to rebuild it now, but it’s really not very impressive unfortunately, thanks to the war—mostly open fields, but you can imagine the grandeur of the former imperial city.

Next we toured an ancient pagoda. It is situated right at the edge of the Perfume River with a beautiful backdrop of the surrounding mountains. We got to observe some child-monks praying and chanting in the pagoda (so cute but very disciplined). They also have on display the car that the monk (who was from this pagoda) drove to Saigon to protest the Nguyen regime’s lack of religious freedom. When he got there he lit himself on fire—the photo is really famous, and we saw both the car in the photo and the pagoda which he came from. The dynamics between religious leaders and politics in this country are sensitive and contentious, even to this day.

We met a bunch of Hue University Students for dinner at a humble but delicious Hue food restaurant. All are very nice (again I love meeting the local students!) and they showed us around Hue on their motorbikes. After dinner we all went for some Karaoke, and I entertained the whole group by singing my favorite Vietnamese song, Rock Saigon! Very fun night and so cheap (the room and all the beers for 15 people was 150,000VND or a little over $7)!

The next day we visited the tomb one of the kings of Vietnam—it was like a beautiful paradise, so far removed from where all the tourists go! There were beautiful lagoons and bridges and pagodas surrounded by mountains and a thick cover of trees! While we were there, there was a group of actors filming a traditional Vietnamese movie. The Hue volunteer students were all excited because I guess the actors we saw and met were really famous in Vietnam—really funny! The tomb was beautiful and ended up being my favorite place that was actually in Hue—I hope to take mom and dad back there!

That night (after the girls went to have their ao dai’s made) we went out on a late river cruise! We had drinks and Co Thanh found some wonderful French desserts for us to eat. We had a performance by a traditional Vietnamese musical group that had 4 singers, and 4 instramentalists! They were beautiful and used instruments that I’d never seen before, so it was fun to hear the different sounds, melodies, and rhythms. We sang for them too! Our go-to Lean on Me, then Mika and Arielle sang a beautiful song and everyone had a great time. The instrumentalists were really amazing-I took a video so that people could hear them! After the performance we released lanterns onto the river as we listened to their last songs. Beautiful night, thanks to Co Thanh!

The next day we traveled about an hour outside of Hue to a tiny little village. We walked along literally one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen—a huge lake sized lagoon that was surrounded on most sides by mountains, and connected to the ocean. The lagoon is sectioned off for fish cultivation and other aquaculture so there are gondolas and boats everywhere—beautiful! We walked a little further to a hidden pagoda that only locals ever go to. It was located on top of a hill a little back from the water. It is very simple and not flashy like others that we’ve visited. We were met by the head monk of the pagoda—a young guy in his 20’s who had volunteered to take over the workings of this local pagoda. He exuded kindness and warmth and love, and his smile made each of us feel so lucky to be there! He talked with us about his pagoda and about the local people—even a little about sustainable eco-tourism in the area. I had another wake up moment during his talk because here we were, listening to this wonderful Buddhist monk, sitting on the floor of the pagoda looking out over the water and mountains—this was one of my favorite moments in Vietnam, definitely a reminder for all of us about why we came on this program. When else can we ever have another class like this?? After the lecture we had a discussion on our ISP papers (I need to start focusing mine down more) and then had a vegetarian lunch provided by the monastery as a gift. Apparently, Co Thanh had donated some of her money in the past for some project that the monk was working on, so from then on he has welcomed her and SIT students to his pagoda. He told us that besides our group, and one other SIT group there have only been a handful of foreign visitors to this pagoda in all his time there. We felt really special to be so welcomed in this place! The lunch was delicious and amazing, prepared by local people who the monk had asked to help (there are only 4 monks and 2 novices living at the actual pagoda). After lunch, the monk opened up the special back gate to climb up to the watch tower-something that is normally closed even to the local people except for special holidays. We climbed up and had one of the most spectacular and beautiful views of the area I’ve ever seen. Mountains and water as far as you could see, spotted with squared off sections of aquaculture, boats, and paddies. So beautiful! I loved this place—one of my favorite places we’ve been in Vietnam! By that time, the local children had figured out that a bunch of foreigners were at the pagoda, so literally about 40 kids met us back at the pagoda. We played Frisbee and soccer with them for a while and it really lifted our spirits even higher—these kids were so excited to play with us! Even the novices joined in and played in their monk robes! Brady and I kept saying “yeah” whenever we caught the Frisbee, so pretty soon, 40 kids were all yelling “yeah” at us and to each other, and soon everyone was laughing hysterically! The head monk gave each of us a gift of fruit or tet cake when we left. I made sure to take my watermelon with two hands and say “Cam on thay” which is Thank you, teacher/monk, and he was really pleased that I remembered how to say that! Walking back through this remote village to our bus was such a joy because everyone came out of their houses to say, literally “hello” to us! Meanwhile, the crowd of kids followed us most of the 20 minute walk back yelling “yeah” as we went. Looking around and smiling and joking with the locals is an experience I’ll never forget—I love the Vietnamese people! I love Vietnam!

Class in the Pagoda

View from the top of the Tower, with Vy, our wonderful Assistant Director

A beautiful gift of fruit and rice cakes from the Monk

The locals who came to play!

Playing Frisbee with the local kids and the novice monks

With one of the novices by the ocean inlet

We had our last dinner on the bank of the Perfume river at a beautiful restaurant. I am so grateful to Co Thanh for giving us such wonderful experiences. She really doesn’t get enough credit for all she does. We flew back to Saigon and checked into the 1B Guest House! Home sweet home! Son already called that night to invite me out with his friends, but I told him I’d come by the next day (since we got back late). The next day was our 3rd day off in 2 months, so I needed to go to bed early and sleep in!

Spent the next week in Saigon. It was fairly low key, we had a number of lectures on different topics and finished up our Vietnamese class with Co Tuy. I worked a lot on my ISP proposal and have decided to switch to educational reform policy after a lecture by the Vice President of Vietnam National University. He was also a member of the National Assembly for 10 years—really cool guy. Co Thanh seems to be on board and I think the people at Emory will be fine with it. We had a great cultural exchange on Friday with a bunch of the University of Economics students, including Phat and the BELL club, the folk club, and a bunch of other random students who we’ve met and not met during the semester. We sang two songs: Ain’t No Mountain High and Wagon Wheel. We were a little bit more prepared for this exchange, and Mika played mandolin. Everyone seemed to like it and we had a great time watching Co Thanh, Vy, and Phat sing a traditional song too (Co Thanh decked out in full ao dai). The Bell Kids performed, and so the group from the Netherlands sang a Karaoke song from Aladdin. This week was a real wakeup call to how long we’ve been here, and how relatively little time we have left. We finished our Vietnamese class, took the final, and was pleased to find that during the spoken section, I could understand our wonderful teacher Co Thuy, (of course when she speaks slowly), and I can understand the written language even better. I will miss Co Thuy’s positive reassurance “and don’t be ah worried!” and endless patience with us! It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come!

I spent a lot of my time this week with Son! One night it was Tuan’s 19th birthday, so we went out bowling and drinking with Kaka and Heo and I ended up spending the night at Son’s house. On Friday night we had a goodbye dinner at a fancy hotel with a bunch of the homestay families. Son, Minh, and Kaka came and we had a great time eating a ton of delicious food (and some not—a full toad with the skin still intact). I was sad to leave HCMC because I’ve become so close to Son, but I know I’ll see him again and we’re still planning on going to Cambodia after the program! Otherwise, the week was pretty relaxed—a nice last week in Saigon.

This was my first full day in Hanoi! I’m so excited to be here, the weather is cooler, and the city itself is beautiful, vibrant, and fun—so different from everything I’ve heard about it. I’m excited to be spending more time here! We arrived late last night after a frustrating flight. I of course took all my stuff and ended up having to pay $50 of excess weight fees and deal with all the frustration it caused. When we got there, we took the long bus ride from the airport to the city, and checked into our government guest house, and went out for some late night pho. Brady and I went out for some beer at a random place and enjoyed walking through the beautiful streets of Hanoi. We live right next to the lake in the center of the city. The lake itself is beautiful and there are couples sitting around it all the time holding hands and kissing—a very romantic city, I think! There’s supposedly a huge turtle in the lake that guards an ancient sword. When it surfaces, it brings good luck to those who see it! I hope I see it!

Today, we left early to see the tomb of President Ho Chi Minh as well as the Presidential House. The line to get in was shockingly long but Co Thanh somehow got us into a short line so we got into the mausoleum pretty quickly. You have to leave your camera outside, and be dressed appropriately to enter. They line everyone up in pairs and you must enter silently and with your arms at your side in a respectful manner. You walk through the building and enter a big room with a big pit. In the pit are 4 soldiers guarding a huge glass box that contains Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body. A really weird sight—they followed what the Soviets did to Lenin. The body looks waxy and fake and it’s just lying there like its sleeping. Really weird to see. After the mausoleum we walked across the grounds and viewed the Presidential House, which Ho Chi Minh refused to live in—he wanted to live more humbly. The building is huge and designed with French architecture (it was originally a French colonial building). Today, the President of Vietnam still uses it for his offices. Next to the building is Ho Chi Minh’s two small houses (one was on stilts). Both were very small and humble. The one on stilts has a downstairs open meeting area where much of the Vietnam war was planned by top officials.

Outside the Presidential Palace, where the current President of Vietnam works

One Pillar Pagoda, a symbol of Hanoi

One of the Turtles at the Temple of Literature

After that we had lunch at the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever eaten at outside of Italy. We had wonderful pizza, pasta, salad, and garlic bread. Not sure whether it was really the best Italian ever or if I’ve just been craving it for a long time! Fun either way! Co Thanh is in a markedly better mood being back in her native Hanoi. I think she is spoiling us so we like it the best too! After a nap break, we had a drop off. Emily and I were assigned to visit the pagoda in the middle of the lake. It’s a beautiful temple dedicated to an old Vietnamese war hero and also to the turtle of Hanoi lake. Funny place, but really gorgeous. I want to go back to do some reading there sometime during the ISP! After the drop off, Vy took the few of us who are staying in Hanoi around to look for places to stay. I found two options located in the backpacker district which are really great: $15-$20 per night and I have a great bedroom, bathroom, AC, internet, TV, and breakfast. I’m getting more and more excited for the ISP period!

We’ve seen the Temple of Literature, which is an old confucist “university” where people would go to study, learn, and take their national exams. Those who passed were immortalized forever by having their names inscribed on huge tablets that sit on stone turtles—a symbol of age/wisdom. We went to a slightly bizarre water puppet show last night which is very traditional in Hanoi.

I had dinner with a few of the girls, then we met Co Thanh and Vy to debrief the dropoff at Fanny’s a delicious ice cream place located near the lake. I had a rum ice cream drink and I’m going back there for sure! Long day, but I’ve loved Hanoi so far! It seems even more unique than Ho Chi Minh City, and they understand my Vietnamese better here (we’ve been learning the northern accent the whole time), woohoo!

I found out that I can use my blog as part of my final project for our class section. So I’m going to try to spruce it up a little by adding some photo and maybe some video soon!


  1. Patty Pansing BrooksApril 13, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    Wow! Great posting, Tato!! I am soooo glad that you are still connecting with all sorts of people and having such life-changing, heart-warming experiences. Love the pics, too!!! By continuing to make friends with the kids you meet, you can actually affect our world's future & prospects for peace! Proud of & glad for you! Love you! Love you!

  2. Lulubel Emerson PansingApril 14, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    "Of all of the places that I have been, which seem like quite a lot, Vietnam seems like one of the most wonderful places to visit, and I would love to have my family see some of the wonderful things and meet some of the wonderful people that you have met." --Nana (Direct quote after I read what you had posted!!! She was really aware, engaged and excited about your experiences!)

  3. Lulubel Emerson PansingApril 14, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    Oops! Nana also said, "I love you and am VERY proud of you, Taylor!"

  4. i believe this place is great and have nice personality
    we will recommend this to our family :)


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