Wednesday, January 6, 2016

So Many Great Experiences. . . . Who has time to WRITE about them?!

So many great experiences. . . Who has time to WRITE about them?!

As I begin writing tonight, we are one day away from completing our second-to-last set of classes teaching English at Nguyen Tat Tranh High School.  UNBELIEVABLE how the time flies.  It has been so great. . . I'm writing on January 6. . . and we leave for INDIA (and our next volunteer stint) on January 18.

I'll be merciful (and realistic).  I'm not going to tell you about everything that has happened.  I'm just going to comment on photos that I cribbed several weeks ago.  And try and catch up with more later. . .

This photo is near the lake that borders the Old Quarter in Hanoi.
A beautiful spot in a city that doesn't have many green places.

The lake's even prettier with Susan at it!

Another pretty place right near the lake --
remembering the emperor who unified the land MANY years ago. . . .

. . . with a mom deciphering the ancient inscriptions with her children.

The same day that we took the pretty pictures above, we visited the famous "Hanoi Hilton" -- the prison that held Vietnamese for many years during the French reign in Vietnam, but held Americans during the Vietnam War (what they of course call the American War).

Most of the prison is (understandably) devoted to the treatment of the Vietnamese prisoners held for many years by the French.  This touching display has lifelike figures. . . 

. . . . and this part of the display shows an actual photo of some of the prisoners.

The guillotine.   How French.  (sigh)

In the section of the Prison Museum about the American prisoners is a notebook with photos and bios of some of the American pilots who were held there.  It was interesting to me that so many of the pilots were born back in the 1920s.  My dad, who fought in WW II, was born in 1922.  The reason for this is presumably that many of the pilots during the Vietnam War were older soldiers.  It's also a reminder, though, of how long ago the Vietnam War really was.  For me, it's the beginning of awareness about politics and the hard choices that nations make.  For EVERYONE I've ever taught for bar/bat mitzvah -- it's "ancient history."

Being able to spend this time in Vietnam, knowing the hard history of the 1960s and 1970s and the complicated history of Vietnam since then, it was stunning to see this:  Capt. Douglas Peterson, shot down in April 1966 and held at the prison, eventually became the FIRST US AMBASSADOR TO VIETNAM in 1995.  Yesterday's tragedies and challenges can become today's and tomorrow's opportunities.

The Governor's Palace (of the French) became a state palace for the Vietnamese.  It's used for state events.

Lost in Translation?  Restaurant near the Hanoi Opera House:  Cosa Nostra

Of course one wonders when wandering around the prison. . Did John McCain every come back here?
Yes.  He did.

Then there's this picture of McCain being fished out of a lake IN Hanoi after his plane went down.
It feels WAY different when you realize that this lake is in the middle of the city in whch
you're spending two months.
 Maybe it was the next week that we took a couple of days and went to Ha Long Bay, one of Vietnam's really magnificent, remarkable, unique treasures.  We had sailed THROUGH Ha Long Bay on a Southeast Asia cruise a few years ago (one reason we decided that it would be very very interesting to come back for a longer visit) -- but this gave us a chance to explore this amazing place "up close and personal."

One of the remarkable things in the area is a HUGE cave that we visited. . .

Look out. . . artistic photo ahead!

One of the things they do in the Fishermen's Village of Ha Long Bay -- prepare freshwater cultured pearls. . .

Our classes have been great -- a challenge to keep the 7th to 11th graders engaged sometimes (especially the ones who speak less English than others) -- but the school continues to be filled with students who are so friendly and smiling and happy to see us and inspiring with their enthusiasm.

We have also gone on a trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), up the Mekong River, driven from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Cambodia (and tried to wrestle with The Killing Fields, the history of the Khmer Rouge, etc.), Angkor Wat (in Siem Reap -- Google it if you don't know about it) -- and this weekend, we'll be seeing Sa Pa.

We have LOTS to say about those things and places and much more. . . but not tonight.

It's 10 p.m. -- and we get up at 5:30 a.m to prepare for our volunteer teaching.

Loving it.

Thanks to all who help make this possible.

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