I got up about 5 AM and quietly tip-toed to the window, taking care not to waken Mrs. Tinh, our translator, in the other bed. The window faces east toward the sea and the rising sun. A rosy glow on the horizon and mist-shrouded lights on streets below tell me the sun has not yet risen. A single motorbike moves slowly along Hung Vuong street while a light blinks on a taxi parked in front of our hotel.
Soon, as day dawns, I will be able to see Thien An mountain in the distance. This is the site of Thien An pagoda, the earliest Buddhist pagoda established in the province of Quang Ngai. It is quite famous and draws pilgrims not only from Quang Ngai but also other parts of Vietnam. During the war it was the only place outside of the city where we Quakers could go safely for a quiet picnic or Meeting for Worship on a Sunday. It was a simple temple with a few graves marked by gray stones in the field beside it back in the 1970s. Now, with contributions from Vietnamese Buddhists around world, it has been refurbished and many of the graves are now marked by large and colorful monuments.
Later this morning we will take the road past Thien An mountain out to Tinh Khe where we will be working for the next three weeks. We spent much of yesterday afternoon working on our presentation to the local teachers and officials with whom we will meet this afternoon -setting out proposals for them to consider as to how we can best contribute to the efforts of the English teachers.
We learned from Mr. Quy and Mr. Tien during our visit to their prosthetics center yesterday that the Quang Ngai Province Hospital has been moved to a new site. The old hospital where the Quaker Rehabilitation center was located is now closed. We welcome the progress but it makes us realize that we are becoming a 'part of history'. I marvel constantly at the development of the city. Last night a local acquaintance took us out for 'coffee' at a cafe.
"Vietnamese like to drink their coffee at a cafe and not at home." he explained.
We went to the cafe, on the second floor of a nearby building: up a flight of stairs past huge pots of yellow flowers standing 3 feet tall, through glass doors to a lounge full of easy chairs arranged around tables. The chairs were upholstered in bright colors. The windows looking out on the street (ceiling to floor) were curtained by dangling strands of beads. Across the street, a neon sign blinked advertising another cafe.
"Are you sure we are in Quang Ngai city?" I asked humorously. It is amazing the changes in the city from when I lived here 40 years ago.
Not wishing to be kept awake by coffee or tea, I had a mango smoothie. Wonderful dessert after a light dinner in the hotel. We chatted for about an hour then made our way back to the hotel. Today our work begins in earnest.