Thursday, July 31, 2008

2 First's

First first:

It rained in Ha Noi today for the first time since we landed last week. We got caught in the heavy rain on our walk back from dinner and had to stop by a little shop to get rain coats--the thin ones for 5,000VND and the nicer thicker ones for 30,000VND. Sheets of water poured down all of a sudden, accompanied by lightnings. Motobike riders stopped briefly along the sidewalk to put on their rain coats, and then off they went again, thousands of them, undeterred by the wet weather. The rhythm of life...

Second first:

Grace was carrying Caleb crossing the busy street in the middle of the day and was hit by a motorbike. Streets here are filled with thousands of motorbikes and have no traffic lights. The flow of motorbikes is constant and continuous, disturbed only by ocasional pedestrians trying to cross or on coming vehicles wanting to do a left or U turn. Crossing the street here is an art form and to the great risk of the pedestrian, who simply closes her eyes and starts walking into the masses hoping and praying that the on coming vehicles will see and choose to go around their obstacle. Our country director walked us through this dangerous exercise twice on our first day in the country, and Grace has practiced on her own a couple of times after that. Today, she became the first of all the teachers all these years to be run into. The motobike rider fell, but suffered no major injuries, thankfully. Grace and Caleb got only scratches and bruises, thankfully. She hurried and moved to the center divider to avoid the on coming traffic. A policeman came, saw that everyone was alive, and the rhythm of life continues... but Grace won't be crossing the street again for a while.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A lesson on VNese culture

Just to follow up on the last post, we went to the Confucius Temple as part of a cultural training we're receiving. This temple is the place where thousands of students come annually to pray for luck right before their big national exams. They burn incense and rub the turtles' heads. It's also a tourist spot. I am supposed to write a paper on this experience as part of the TEFL certificate program.

I felt really sick that day and today and have not eaten for two days--might be something I ate or drank, or just exhaustion from the heat and humidity. Caleb is also having some sort of a cold. A few in our team are also having fever and stomach problems. Most of the team looked pretty tired today. But the training continues...

We just started our real TEFL certificate class today and already have reading/writing/presentation assignments due. It feels like being in school again. I am looking forward to a little break this weekend.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jack Fruits and Things

Today we visited a Confucius Temple in the afternoon. And I spotted this jack fruit tree in the courtyard. It was my first time seeing jack fruits on a tree. They seem smaller than the ones I see in the market. They are common here, but I happen to be allergic to them.

For the past three days, I've been attending the part of the training that is required for both teachers and their spouses. Classes for teachers will formally begin tomorrow afternoon at the hotel. So Caleb and I will be spending more time together. I am supposed to start on homeschooling routines this month so when we get to the university next month we will have one less new thing to deal with.

We have yet to find cold fresh milk/dairy products in this part of town. Hopefully we'll find some soon for Caleb...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another day of culture relations training

Today was just as hot and humid as yesteday, and we again had a full day of training in the director's living room without AC. We were reminded again today that we need to be first learners in the new culture before we can be teachers. The first speaker covered topics on purpose, plan, process of what we've come here to do, emphasizing the multiplication principle. And the second speaker talked about different cultural values, taking all of us on a field trip to a cemetery nearby in the intense afternoon heat, making us think about the excluded middle.

While we were in training, Caleb got entertained by some gracious volunteers--one teacher from Cambodia and a teacher in VN. He's never been babysat so much until these past two weeks, but he didn't mind and was able to enjoy people who were willing to play and put up with him. This morning during breakfast, he turned to his favorite teacher Miss Adrianne and asked her, "Why is your skin so dark, did you fall into the mud or something?"

Sunday, July 27, 2008

First real, unguided, dinner experience in Ha Noi

Today we ventured outside the hotel to look for a place to have dinner. The place we ended up at was just across the street, inside a small little alley. From the look on the outside, we almost did not want to go in. But we were tired from a full day of training, and intense heat and high humidity and the jet lag did not help. We walked through the alley and on our left was a small room with just two tables and some plastic chairs, and there was a strong smell of sewer. I asked the lady for a menu (I was not even sure I used the right Vietnamese word for 'menu'), and she pointed me to a basket containing three kinds of noodles (pho, mien, and bun) and asked me to pick one. Next to the basket was a huge pot of boiling broth and a cabinet containing a cooked bird. Pointing at the bird, I asked her what kind of meat I would get with the noodles, and she said 'ngan'. I asked whether that meant chicken, duck, or goose, and she said neither. Even so I went ahead and ordered two bowls of "pho ngan". We don't know exactly what we ate for dinner today, but it tasted good. One of the rules we learned from training was: as long as the food is cooked and hot, it should be safe...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

in Ha Noi

We've arrived safely in Ha Noi, Vietnam. It's been a long day, long trip, and we're tired. Here are some pictures.

Team of teachers waiting at airport in HK
Shot as the airplane was landing in Ha Noi

The bus that took us from the airport to the hotel

Our country director introduced us to one of his favorite Vietnamese desserts "chè thập cẩm"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Session 2

In the second session this morning, the speaker gave 3 distinctives that he hopes should be common of all the teachers that are sent:
1. they are all sinner saints (they are totally wretched, chiefs of sinners)
2. they are divinely irresponsible (they do foolish things, like what they're doing right now)
3. they embrace certain uncertainty (they can only live for today because tomorrow is not in their hands)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's not too late to ...

The first formal session of our orientation started at 8am this morning! It was an introduction of the history and heritage of the organization and a welcome talk by the president. His main message to all the teachers was, and he kept emphasizing this, "It's not too late to run!" He also said that in all the past 5 years he has given this message, each time there were always people who should have run but did not. There were people who were not ready or right for the work in Asia, and it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble and money if they had taken his message seriously and called off their plans for Asia. Even though most of us are now all packed up and due to board our flight to Asia in 2 days, it is not too late to call it off at this point.

He gave us several examples of the wrong reasons to go serve in Asia, and then, taking from a text, he gave us the only one valid reason for our going to teach in Asia. Given all the difficulties and hardships each teacher will be facing overseas, all the work involved in sending a teacher out, it was good for each one to examine his/her heart one last time before stepping on that plane. I was sitting there wondering, "Should I run now.....? Am I among the ones who should be running now?..."
"Do you truly love me more than these? ... Do you truly love me? ... Do you love me?"

Full Day of Training

We had a full day of training today--long but fulfilling and informational. We start each day with time of singing in our meeting room at Best Western. We have almost 30 people from around the country heading for Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Mongolia. Caleb is the only kid in this group but he'll get to meet new friends closer to his age with families in Hanoi! Caleb joins us for the singing and then heads out with the babysitter so Andy and I get to participate in the sessions together!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Last Day of Visiting with Family

Today, we had lunch with two of my uncles in Orange County, and enjoyed a BBQ dinner at Uncle Kenny's home.

Caleb's high fever finally ended after 4 days and he started getting some red rash this morning. So we think it is some sort of a roseola infection. He's regaining his appetite after not having eaten much these past few days. Tonight on the way back to the hotel at the gas station, he all of a sudden asked for ice-cream. We both cried HPTL! and bought him a kiddie's cup right there. Thank you to those who have been thinking of him and interceding!

Old Times

We met up with one of Andy's groomsmen and his family for lunch in LA. They knew each other since college some 23 years ago. How fast time flies. At lunch time, our conversations included the need for bifocals!

Friday, July 18, 2008


It was difficult as we drove off yesterday from the place we had spent our past nine years.

Talking about being home-sick, Caleb came down with a fever and is still running 103 and refusing to take much food. Please uplift him. Thanks!

We are in LA for the weekend to visit friends and relatives before training starts on Monday!

We've left home

and now sitting in a hotel room thinking about some more old friends...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Caleb saying bye-bye to his friends

Jamie and Rachel...

he will miss them...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

One Last Meal with the Lunch Gang

I will miss all the MSG and the ranting sessions with these folks. Wishing you all the best. I hope curly has lots of fun equipping the ranch, daw1 gets valkyrie done, daw2 gets used to and enjoys his new diet, khi lun gets herself to bike to work, and her ev'l twin enjoys her new home.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Welcome Franklin!

Andy's brother gave birth to their beautiful son yesterday at 36 weeks. We are so glad Franklin got to meet his favorite aunt, uncle, and cousin just in time before they leave for Vietnam!


Besides packing we've been saying goodbyes to friends and family. We were told that a successful transition depends on a successful closure. We are blessed to have very gracious and kind friends who have said goodbyes to us in their own thoughtful ways.

Some friends took us out for a lunch or dinner or a bbq. Some made dinner and had us over. Some cooked very special meals for us. One friend gave us a camera so we can take pictures in VN. One friend personally painted "The Creation of Adam" on a canvas and gave it to us because she remembered that I have expressed interest in it to her in the past. And a friend invited us to spend a weekend at his ranch with very nice foods, accommodations, and times spent with close friends. We are very grateful for you all in the way you have expressed your support and sent us on to our next phase in our life journey.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Destination: Land of the Mangoes and the Pomelos

We'll be leaving SJ on the 17th for orientation down south, and on the 24th we'll be headed off to VN, land of the Mangoes and the Pomelos. With a week left til departure, we're still half way toward our goal of fitting all of our belongings in six 50lb suitcases.
The process of packing has been difficult because it forces us to decide whether a certain item is 'needed'. Should I bring my pair of running shoes, will I need it there, and if so, should I just buy it there? How about my rain coat, my flash light, my favorite books, and my surge protector? I wish I could bring everything with me so that I would feel more 'secured' and 'protected' in the foreign land of mangoes and pomelos.
It's hard to live out of 6 suitcases, although our director told us at one point (when she was also packing to go to, yeah, the same land) she could pack all of her life possessions in her small Corolla! Over the years, we've managed to amassed and surround ourselves with too many things. Now we're feeling like we've been stripped bare. But no worries, in the new land we'll always be able to count on, you've guessed it, mangoes and pomelos for survival.
There's of course a good purpose for all of this, and maybe, just maybe, we'll live to find out what it is...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Counting Down

We are due for departure for training in LA in less than 2 weeks!