Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reconciliation (illustrating Marjorie's post below)

Herewith a few pictures from the clan reunion we attended on the 17th.

The clan house:

The main altar:

A clan member, me, Marjorie, and Rick Burnson:

Our genial host, who proclaimed: "We're all reconciled now."

A few toasts; "Mot, hai, ba, cho!"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Reconciliation: One Vietnamese Clan's Example

On March 17, as Rick, Margaret, and I were walking home from an errand, I asked Rick if he would be interested in visiting a clan "temple" that we passed every day. I'd visited it a year or two earlier. He said yes, so I asked a woman in the yard if we could go in. She readily led us to a side door. Shedding shoes, we went inside. There we found another woman and young girl making a flower arrangement. She said go ahead and look around. A large altar occupies the center of the wall opposite the main entrance.
Here is a picture of the founder of this particular clan who was a mandarin in the court of the king in Hue at the time of arrival of the French. He (Truong Dang Que) is the 7th generation of descendants from a Truong who came to Tinh Khe area in the 1600s after serving three successive kings, the latter two as prime minister. As we prepared to leave, the woman arranging flowers told us she had come up from Ho Chi Minh City for a clan reunion which was to take place tomorrow. She invited us to attend and we said we'd try.
Next morning we went to the market with Tinh and purchased flowers and fruit as suitable gifts to bring to the celebration. We walked through the main gate, now open, and processed with our gifts under the scrutiny of numerous people standing outside on the steps. One woman came over and asked us in halting English where we were from.
"United States," I said and explained in Vietnamese that we'd been invited by a woman yesterday.
A couple of inquiries by Tinh located that woman who confirmed she'd invited us. We were invited in cordially and, after presenting our gifts at the alter, seated at one of the tables laden with food. A silver-haired gentleman introduced himself as the ranking member of this clan. He proceeded to tell us about the people gathered here.
"During the American war, our clan was divided. Some of us fought on the side of the Saigon government and some fought with the Revolutionaries. Now we have peace and that no longer matters. We are all one clan."
He himself had been an officer in the ARVN. At least one other man there had also been an officer in ARVN. There were at least two couples present who had come back from the U.S. for this reunion. One man seated at our table had been in the NLF (National Liberation Front - commonly called VC by Americans) right here in Quang Ngai in 1969. He knew of our rehabilitation center in the hospital and said he had visited our Quaker house several times. Spoke very favorably of us and our work.
I commented to our 'host', the former ARVN officer, that this clan seemed to accomplished 'hoa-giai' (reconciliation).
"Yes!," he said, "we have reconciled." Clearly, family is more important than politics.
Local members of the clan recognized us as 'the American teachers' due to our appearance on local TV. Tinh said that they felt honored that teachers had come to honor their ancestor.
I thought, "What a wonderful occasion for Quakers to join and observe this accomplishment of reconciliation."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Teaching and Television

It's been a very busy ten days since the rest of the Madison Quakers Inc. "team" arrived on March 9. I will try to recount some of our teaching and 'wrap-up' activities since then.
Weds. morning we got up early and each had our own make-shift breakfast in our rooms (the restaurant doesn't open until 7AM) then left by 6:45 as we needed to be at Vo Bam Middle School to meet with Teacher Chi before her 7:30 class. It's a pleasant 20 minute walk: across the bridge over the estuary, past the market and along a side street rather than the main highway road. We arrived about 7:15. By 7:30 - no Teacher Chi. Tinh called Teacher Kim Thach, who phoned Chi. Chi commutes by motorcycle some 15 km. from Quang Ngai city. Traffic on that road is hair-raising during rush hour. Chi had been delayed but fortunately, no accident.
When she arrived we started for her classroom. The students who had been playing in the schoolyard streamed up the stairway ahead of us. When we entered the room, they all stood and shouted in unison, "Good morning, Teachers."
"Good morning, Class". Then Chi began her lesson calling on Margaret and I to read the vocabulary, dialogue and questions following the dialogue in the book. Students then answered us in English. Mr. Loc, the Asst. Principal whose responsibilities include curriculum, had rearranged the classroom schedules to allow us an "extended session" of 90 minutes instead of the usual 45 minutes. So, lesson finished, Teacher Chi invited the children to ask us questions.
"Do you like My Khe Beach?"
"Yes," I replied, "I like the beach but I do not like the trash people throw on the beach. So if you go to My Khe Beach, please collect your trash and put it in the trash bins."
"Do you like to swim?"
"No," said Margaret, "I like to walk."
"Could you sing a song?"
So we taught them 'Row,row,row your Boat', which they seemed to like.
"Do you dance?"
"No, I don't dance but Tinh dances very well." I replied.
Tinh asked them to sing a Vietnamese tune which they knew and she did a few graceful turns to their accompaniment.
We left that session feeling very good about the interactions with that class.

Tuesday (the day before) we had gone to Tinh Khe Primary School in the afternoon to help with four classes with Teacher Luu. She has been rather ill with something that looks suspiciously like influenza to me. That day she had us teach all four of her 35 minute classes while she sat in the back of the room to supervise. The three of us managed to cover in 35 minutes what Luu could do by herself! We left tired but happy to have been able to give her at least a slight rest and cover all the material.

So on Thursday, March 10, with Rick Burnson of U. of Wisconsin English Dept accompanying us, we set out for Primary School again. A call from Mr. Do had alerted us that due, to some complications in paperwork somewhere up the line, Rick would be allowed to observe only from outside the classroom. He could meet with teachers in the teachers lounge however. So we arrived there a few minutes early so he could meet Teacher Luu and chat a bit. Some other members of the MQI 'team' were also there to observe. As we went up to the classroom, Luu introduced our 'visiting professor' while he stood at the doorway then he and Mike Boehm settled outside to observe through the doorway.
Teacher Luu taught the first class with us assisting by reading the English dialogue. Then she retired to back of the room for the next three lessons. "Now I am the student, you are the teachers." she said. Early in the second of the three lessons, a television crew arrived. Rick was still sitting outside the doorway but the TV crew came right in and began filming us and the class as we worked. They were circumspect in their business but I reflected how ironic it was to have them working there while Rick had to sit outside to merely observe.
As we left to go to the last class of the day, two women journalists with the group approached us and asked for an interview.
"After class." I replied.
"Just five minutes?" she queried plaintively.
"After class." I said firmly and kept moving. We weren't going to deprive the children of five minutes out of a 35 minute class. Publicity is fine but has to come second to our primary task which is helping teach English. I saw Asst. Principal Toan sitting on a bench in the school yard where he could keep an eye on all of us.
When we finished that last class, the TV crew came inside, placed a chair in front of the class and asked the children to all remain in their seats! They interviewed me first - wanting to know what motivated us to come volunteer here.
I replied in Vietnamese, "Two reasons. First, I wanted to see the work of Madison Quakers Inc. as I had given money for their work. When I first came 3 years ago, I met Teacher Luu. Later I volunteered to return and help her teach English for 2-3 weeks the next year. Second reason: I worked in Quang Ngai Province Hospital 40-some years ago treating civilians injured in the war. I know the suffering of the Quang Ngai people and they have a special place in my heart. I am so happy to see these students able to study in peace. They can become doctors, nurses, teachers - anything they want."
I turned to the students, "I know you want to go home. I'm sorry you can't go yet. Thank you."
They then interviewed Margaret in English and then a couple of the students who had been very quiet and patient through this all. Finally, they could leave - about 25 minutes late.
My goodness! This interview along with shots of us teaching has been shown repeatedly on local Quang Ngai TV station over the ensuing days. Everywhere we go in town, people say, "I saw you on TV!" It has had an incredible and very positive impact on our work here - opening a lot of doors. We hope to get a CD of it from the TV station to bring back to the U.S. Then maybe as we give talks, we can bring you right in to the classroom with us!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dinner with the Women's Union

On Sunday evening we were invited to go to Mr. Do's house in Quang Ngai City, where some members of the Quang Ngai Province Women's Union had invited us for dinner. "We" included Marjorie, Tinh and me, plus Rick Burnson, Mike Boehm, Mike Mossman, Cristina Bain and Dick Grum, all of Madison (WI) Quakers, and Cristina's translator and friend, Diep. The women cooked up a storm for us--southern style spring rolls, banh xeo (a sort of savory rice flour pancake with small shrimp), salad, squid, rice crackers--and plenty of beer and whiskey for plenty of toasts.

Cooking up a storm in the kitchen

The feast is spread

As the evening went on everyone became more and more mellow, and pretty soon chairs were pushed back and singing began. The women began with folk songs, and asked us to sing some American songs. So it went on, trading songs back and forth.

Mike Mossman got out his guitar and accompanied some of the singers. Below you can see him playing, with Mr. Do, our gracious host and invaluable arranger, standing in the background.

It's in this kind of person-to-person contact that friendships are made and solidified, and it's where real peace and reconciliation have their beginnings. It was an evening of much jokes, laughter and happiness, and one we'll treasure for a very long time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

We're All Fine Here

Just a quick note here to let you know there were no consequences in our area from the earthquake and tidal wave that hit Japan yesterday. The sea has been rough, but no more so than usual. We join with people around the world in praying for the safety and comfort of those affected.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Biology and a Reunion

If you look at the two pictures: Sorting the Catch and Squid's Revenge, you will see some larger flat fish. Last night we had some of them for dinner. One of the guards who eats with us regularly informed us that the name of that fish is "rudder fish". That certainly makes sense: it is thickest along the top and the long thin bottom is reinforced with a row of sturdy bones so if the top is the rudder post and the bottom is the rudder itself, one can see where it gets its name. [It is a very tasty fish.] We have had several kinds of fish over the past two weeks at either lunch or dinner which we are eating with the staff here at our hotel. One we had this week reminded me both in size and in taste of the perch we used to catch as kids in Saginaw Bay. Yummy and brought back fond memories from child hood.

Yesterday we had some other fond memories brought up by a visit by Quy and Tien, two men whom we had trained while working with the American Friends Service Committee in Quang Ngai City 40 years ago. After completing their training as prosthetists and orthotists (limb and brace makers) they went on to work in the Regional Rehabilitation Center in Qui Nhon under the new government. Two of them subsequently have been working, after retirement there, at a satellite center right here in Son Tinh district city. So yesterday, Quy and Tien came to see us here at the hotel. Both are now in their mid-60s. We sat on the porch of our hotel and caught up on each other's lives. Tien has had a mild stroke since we saw him last year but has recovered almost completely; although he acknowledges his father, who is in his mid-80s still gardens while Tien can no longer hoe. We were happy to learn that Quy's mother is still living in Nghia Hanh which is where I met her back in the '60s. Quy's son is still working in the national malaria prevention program and his daughter is now teaching in the university in Qui Nhon. All four of us are looking forward to the arrival of Roger Marshall, a retired prosthetist, who was one of the two who trained them. We expect him to arrive here in Quang Ngai around March 18-20. Quy has promised to let a number of the prosthetists we trained plus some of our former patients know we are here and we look forward to a wonderful reunion.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

On the Beach: Biology Lesson, Illustrated

Sorry for making you look sideways. I can't find a way to rotate this picture, but I wanted to show the dexterity of the fishermen, standing up in their little round baskets to row through the rough surf.

Walking along the beach on our way to breakfast, we watched this fisherman in his basket boat coming ashore. When he got into shallow water he started trying to pull his boat up with each wave, so we decided to help him. After a couple of his relatives also came to help, we all carried it up the beach to dry land.

The fishermen and women leaning into the net, pulling in the catch.

Sorting the catch

The squid that took their revenge on Marjorie's pants. Since I'm the one who had their cousin in my breakfast soup the day before, they should have been trying for me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lessons: English and Biology

Monday afternoon when we arrived at Tinh Khe Primary School, we were met by Ms. Luu who was obviously sick. "Today you are the teachers and I am the student." she announced. Yipes! We'd prepared to assist and here we were at the front of the class on our own. Well, the three of us managed to do in 35 minutes what Ms. Luu could do all by herself. I guess we got at least a passing grade in her notebook because she told us to do the next class also. Then she did the final two sessions, coughing all the time. A lot of students have been coughing also during the time we've been here - a bad virus going around.
Yesterday afternoon Ms. Luu had us teach all four sessions. I awakened early and sketched out an outline for us to follow - who would do what when. Ms. Luu only had to give the homework assignment at end and then she gave that to us too and said, "After opening of the fourth session, I will leave to go to the doctor." The students were polite and cooperative even after she left. We were so grateful that we were there to pitch in for her in a pinch. She really was sick enough she should be at home...but she's the only English teacher in the school.
Biology Lesson:
This morning we walked the beach as usual to the My Khe restaurant. On our way back we stopped to watch about twenty people pulling in a huge fishing net that had been set up about 50 yards off shore. Four or five men wearing life jackets swam out to the outside of the net while men and women on shore pulled the net slowly in. They not only pulled with their hands but attached a line around the net and hooked it to a belt on their waist so they could lean and put their backs into the pulling... Finally the net was ashore and we gathered around to see what they had caught: a small pile of various kinds of fish interspersed with squid. Suddenly, one of the squid released a powerful squirt of ink - hitting me on hand, blouse, and slacks. SO...does anyone know how to remove squid ink from clothing? I was able to blot the ink while still wet off my hand and when we got home I tried cold water and then rubbed soap on the spots. Waiting to see if that will work.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rice Crackers

Rice crackers drying in the sun

As we were driving to Duc Pho on Saturday, we noticed many houses with rice crackers set out to dry. Marjorie said she had never seen how they were made and wanted to stop to have a look, so our driver pulled over at the next house we saw. That turned out to be a serendipitous choice, as we were warmly greeted by the mother and daughter whose business this was. Below you can see the daughter measuring out the appropriate amount for a cracker, using a mixture of water, rice flour, sesame seed and a little salt.

She then spreads it on the hot griddle, covers it and lets it cook for a minute or two.

Then she lifts it off the griddle with a round stick and spreads it on the bamboo matting to dry.

After it's dried on one side, she turns it over and presses it firmly onto the bamboo to get out any extra moisture. This also makes the crackers take their distinctive crinkly shape.

As we were getting ready to leave, they gave us a couple of crackers to take with us. Crispy, crunchy and good!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A few photos from Duc Pho

Dang Thuy Tram Memorial Clinic, Duc Pho.

Statue of Dang Thuy Tram at her memorial clinic in Duc Pho.

Tinh, our translator; Marjorie; and Miss Rose, Physician's Assistant.

Tourists for a Day: Dr. Dang Thuy Tram Memorial Clinic

Shortly after I returned from Vietnam in 1969, someone shared with me an article written by a North Vietnamese journalist reporting from Quang Ngai. He described observing a woman doctor treating patients at a Quang Ngai hospital and how impressed he was by her concern for her patients. My friend asked me who that might have been, could it have been me?
I was puzzled because I was the only woman physician at the Quang Ngai Provincial Hospital. But how could a North Vietnamese journalist have encountered me? Years later, when the diary of Dang Thuy Tram (Last Night I Dreamed of Peace) was published, I understood that the journalist had been writing about her. She came to Quang Ngai province in the mid-1960s and worked as a doctor in a hospital and clinics dotted around the NLF controlled areas of Duc Pho. She was ambushed and killed at the age of 27 while returning to her hospital from visits to clinics. I had visited her mother and elder sister in Hanoi a couple of years ago and said I hoped very much to visit her clinic someday.
Saturday was a free day so we became "tourists for a day". Our driver took us down a smooth paved Highway #1, so different from 40 years ago. I recognized the rivers as we passed over them but the landscape is totally different now.
The clinic is a beautiful two story building with a goldfish pond enclosing two sides. In the side garden, a stone statue of Thuy Tram shows her stepping out of the background stone with one foot, her medical bag slung over her shoulder. All around the outside are benches bearing the names of people or groups who have donated them in her memory. We were met at the entrance to the clinic by Miss Rose, a physician's assistant, who showed us into the memorial room to one side. Here are numerous pictures of Thuy Tram, her mother and sisters, the translator who persuaded U.S. intelligence officer not to destroy the diary which was found among her effects at the ambush site, and others.
After touring this room, Miss Rose invited us into the clinic itself for tea. She explained that the clinic does both preventive care and acute care for illnesses. If a patient needs more advanced care, they are referred to the district hospital. Miss Rose works in the area of nutrition and counselling for children and expectant mothers. She also explained that, thanks to a substantial donation from an overseas Vietnamese woman, they are able to issue vouchers to very poor people in this area who don't have enough income to afford adequate food. We asked if we could make a contribution to the clinic to be used for food for the poor. She then called in the on-call doctor for the day so that he could accept our donation.
As we left, I commented to Margaret and Tinh that this is a wonderful and appropriate memorial to a woman who loved the people of Quang Ngai and devoted what short time she had to live in helping those suffering from the ravages of war. I had commented to Miss Rose, that Thuy Tram and I were working in the same province with many of the same concerns as young doctors and yet we were fated never to meet. I'm glad to see that this clinic continues to provide loving care to the people of Duc Pho.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A week of Teaching in Tinh Khe

It is Friday evening at My Khe beach. The flotilla of shrimp boats with their bright lights form a brilliant streak across the eastern horizon. I am sitting at the computer at Reception for our hotel. We have had trouble with the wifi connection here and so Margaret has yet to be able to connect her computer to the internet.
We were delighted at our first meeting with Mr Trung, the principal at Tinh Khe Primary School to learn that the Education Dept. and the Dept. of Foreign Affairs had approved our program and we could start immediately. So we set about consulting with Mrs. Luu, the English teacher at Primary School. Pat Dewees and I worked with her two years ago. Last year she was on maternity leave and no English was taught there. Now we are working with her every afternoon to meet with her 4th and 5th grade classes: a total of 10 classes with 20-30 children in each class.
After our meeting with Mr. Trung and Mrs. Luu, we walked over to the Middle School and met briefly with Mr. Thanh, the principal there. He greeted us warmly and informed us that they were in the midst of a two day visit from the Education Dept. - an every-four-year comprehensive review: teaching, finances, and physical plant. So everyone was busy and a bit tense. However, we then met with some of the English teachers and received our tentative schedule of teaching with them. Further good news was that we have been approved for work there through March 21! All persons there seemed really happy to see us again and much more relaxed about our program. For example, the administration had temporarily rearranged schedules so that we could have extended classes with 7th graders: a time for questions and answers with the students.
Our first such session with Mrs. Lieu's class was fascinating. Questions ranged from: "How many children do you have?" through "What is your favorite color?" to "Do you like the My Lai Memorial Site?" That last question brought a lump to my throat. I said, "It would not be correct to say I like it. I honor it. It reminds of a great tragedy for the people of Tinh Khe. I am grateful to have the opportunity to attend the Memorial Service in March while I am here in Tinh Khe and so happy to have the chance to know and work with teachers and students here. I worked in Quang Ngai 40 years ago helping those wounded by war. The people of Quang Ngai have a very special place in my heart."
At primary school we have been helping children by teaching songs that relate to material in their lessons. For example, the 4th graders this week are learning about pet animals so we taught them "Old MacDonald had a farm" using "cat" and "dog" which were two of their new words. They get such a kick out of singing it along with us. In 5th grade the topic this week is "Our Classroom". We played "Simon says": "Simon says, show me your notebook" and all are supposed to hold up their notebook. Leave out "Simon says" and any student who holds up the requested item has to stand up to the glee of the rest of the class. At the end of the game, all the students standing have to hop around the room back to their seats.
Coming and going to school we encounter students who wave and say hello. We also meet other people who remember us from prior years. Sometimes it takes us quite a while to get 'Home'.
We have been invited to two celebrations this week: one with staff of hotel and the corporation currently building the new resort complex around us and the other a 'death anniversary celebration' at home of Mr. Trung. It was wonderful to meet with his family, neighbors, and many teachers from both schools. Mr. Khuong, the retired former principal of Primary School, was there. He is now chairman of a local committee looking after the needs of elderly people in the community. It was good to talk with him and hear of his current activities in retirement.
Now I've occupied quite enough time on this computer so it is time to sign off for now. Hope to post more soon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rehabilitation: Hope for a Normal Life

Last year, Linh Chi, our travel agent, persuaded us to make a visit to the Buddhist pagoda near their home here in Hanoi. One of the services the monks at this pagoda provide to the community is to take in and nurture abandoned babies left at their gate. One of the caretakers of these babies was a woman, Cuc, in her early twenties. She had contracted polio about the age of ten, which left her with marked weakness of many muscles in both legs. As a result, she could only move about by crawling. Linh Chi wanted me to examine her and give my opinion on options. I did so and we forwarded this information along with pictures of her legs to some orthopedic surgeons affiliated with Red Cross.
This year, Linh Chi informed me that the original contact did not pan out but after considerable effort on her part, she linked this woman with Mr. Cuc, head of the Danang rehabilitation center; the same man that Roger Marshall works with for the branch center where Mr. Quy and Mr. Tien, former trainees of AFSC Quaker Service, now work in Quang Ngai! Small world.
Mr. Cuc arranged for this woman to have her first surgery on one leg. She was in a cast for several months followed by physical therapy. But now she is able to walk with assistance and is waiting for the second surgery on her other leg. The expectation is that after that surgery she will be able to walk upright with minimal assistance! Currently, she has been able to move back to her own village where her family lives and Linh Chi said, "She is hoping that she will be able to get married and have a normal life!" I am so grateful and happy to have had a small part in this beautiful story.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Margaret and I arrived together in Hanoi on Wednesday and were met by our driver from Indochina Explorers. We are staying at a different Hong Ngoc hotel than prior years but it is still in the Old Quarter near Hoan Kiem lake. After some 22 hours in transit, it felt good to take a hot shower and tumble into bed for a long afternoon nap.
In the evening we set out to find a restaurant we had liked last year. Our walk took us past the hotel where we had stayed last year. It is under new management and we accepted our travel agents recommendation that our current hotel is better. It certainly is nice. Further down Ma May street, we came to the site of the restaurant we were seeking: no restaurant there...changes. So we looked at a restaurant across the street and decided to give it a try.
Slowly we ascend narrow steep metal stairway to the second floor. There are a couple of tables occupied by tourists young and old. We place our order and listen to Johny Cash singing familiar songs. The food is good but we miss the old restaurant where we were on the first floor and could look out at all the life going on around us on the street.
Margaret had gone out for a little 'wander' in the afternoon, so when we had crossed the maelstrom of traffic just north of Hoan Kiem with all limbs intact, I turned the navigating over to her. We made it back to our new hotel without incident. Near our hotel there are a number of stores specializing in children's toys including beautiful rows of stuffed animals. I saw a number of mothers looking speculatively at the array - trying, no doubt, to decide which animal would be just right for their child.
Thursday morning we had a meeting scheduled with Linh Chi, our travel agent, plus Do, Madison Quakers 'man on the ground' here, and Tinh our translator and 'sister'. Do arrived with his wife, Ngon.
His first words, "Did you get my latest email of this morning?"
"No." I replied, "What's up?"
"I just heard from Dept of Foreign Affairs in Quang Ngai. They have issued approval for your project."
We all erupted in cheers and hugs all around. Do ordered a beer. And then we proceeded to make definite plans for going to Quang Ngai. I said that if I had feathers, I'd be fluttering around at the ceiling. What a relief.
We leave Sunday noon, flying to what we still refer to as "Chu Lai", now the airport for Tam Ky. From there it is less than an hour drive to Quang Ngai. As we are starting early Monday morning, we will go directly to our Tinh Khe hotel on the beach and begin planning for teaching in both Tinh Khe Primary School #1 and Middle School. All three of us are looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
I expect my next post will be from Tinh Khe.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Morning Assembly, Tinh Khe Middle School, March 2010

Once a week the children assemble in the school courtyard to salute the flag and hear motivational talks from school officials. When this boy saw me raise my camera, he proudly posed.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Evening Commute, Tinh Khe Beach

This was the view from the balcony of our hotel looking over the beach last year. We don't yet know how things might have changed this year; on the day we left, they were about to begin groundbreaking on a new resort complex. This herd of peaceful brown cows spent their days roaming around the village grazing, with apparently no one watching over them. Then each evening they would wend their way back home. This year I'm going to try to find out where "home" is.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dinner at Do's house, Hanoi

I decided to post a few images from last year, since we weren't able to do much then. This was taken at the home of Mr. Do and his wife in Hanoi before we left for Tinh Khe. From left to right, Marjorie, me, Mr. Do, Mrs. Tinh (our translator) and Do's wife (whose name I unfortunately I don't have). Mr. Do is our indefatigable "fixer." He knows everyone who's worth knowing, and fires up his mobile phone to contact just the right person to get things done. His mantra is "peace and reconciliation."

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tet, 2011; Preparing to go to Vietnam

February 5, 2011
Chuc Mung Nam Moi: Happy New Year! This is the third day of the Lunar New Year (Tet) as celebrated in Asia. People in Vietnam will be visiting friends and enjoying special feasts. I am in the midst of preparing to go to Vietnam just after Tet for my fourth year in a row. I fully expect this to be my last trip there as I'm finding the long trip across the Pacific increasingly demanding. So it will be a very special trip for me.
At the moment, Margaret Roberts and I have our visas, tickets, and plans. What is still unknown is if we will have the needed approval from the authorities in Quang Ngai province to proceed with our proposed program of volunteering as teacher-aides to the English teachers in the Tinh Khe primary school #1 and the middle school. This year they have requested additional documentation which we have submitted but no final answer yet. The District Education Dept. has approved a proposed plan and local people are optimistic and enthusiastic about the prospect of our arrival.
Margaret and I volunteered there together last year and are looking forward to seeing the teachers we met then. One of the thrilling bits of news conveyed to us by Mrs. Tinh, our translator, is that the Tinh Khe Middle School students turned in the best performance in regional English competition last spring (after our departure) in the history of the school! While we think the credit goes to the hardworking teachers and students, we'd like to think that our presence there may have contributed a little extra bit of enthusiasm in their efforts. We look forward to the possibilities this year. Hold us in your thoughts and prayers while we proceed as way opens.