We are losing track of time, I am quite sure we missed a week blogging as we got caught up with timezones and got synched with our new life, so I called my last post 12+. We have now calculated that in less than 6 weeks we will be debriefing back in Kona, Hawaii, followed by our return to Okotoks. So this post must be Week 14! The lack of 13 really has nothing to do with triskaidekaphobia.
Metro Cash & Carry is a very different shopping experience in Hanoi, it is a bit like Costco, or perhaps Real Canadian Wholesale, but there are noticeable differences.The fish section really stood out for me, it was larger than the meat department, with all of its beef, lamb, chicken, duck and…
The fish is fresh, very fresh. Some as fresh as it can be, we have seen lobster and crab in live tanks at the stores in Canada but here there are many more live choices in large aquariums and row upon row of ice trays displaying many varieties of fish that I didn’t recognize. Many of the small stores in peoples houses must get there supplies here, so it really isn’t our first choice to support, but it does have the advantage of being able to purchase many items in one place.
An easy walk from where we live, in Tay Ho District, is the Donkey Bakery. As a bakery and cafe this business is a socially responsible company. The owners hire people with disabilities to perform the majority of tasks; 80-90% of the staff are blind, deaf or missing limbs, although the owners are quick to communicate that we are all handicapped it is just not so visible in most of us. The bakery has European style breads and pastries, and all of our team have enjoyed lunches and delicacies and even ministry times with the staff. On Christmas Eve when Glenda and I visited with a couple of others from the team, we were surprised to see that there were Vietnam TV cameras in the shop. They were filming for a news story for morning TV.
We went to the Christmas Eve service at Hanoi International Fellowship that meets in the Hanoi Club Hotel every Sunday. It is a registered Christian church and has two campuses in Hanoi. The congregation is made up of english-speaking ex-pats, from many countries, and a growing Vietnamese contingent. The Christmas Eve service was very well attended with extra chairs having to be brought in. We were very surprised to see the Vietnam TV cameras were in the room, then we realized that the staff from Donkey Bakery were performing two of the carols, they were amazing, one of the blind workers played a đàn bầu, one girl led the singing and many others performed a liturgical dance. Part of Silent Night is in my cellphone video here.
The TV station was filming this for their news documentary and part of Israel Houghton’s Jesus, at the Center was broadcast on national television, and… one of our team leaders, Marjo from Finland, was interviewed for the broadcast. Here is the english version of the clip that went out on national TV, see if you spot anyone you know.
We have to say in all our riding buses and taxis and walking around, even walking across the road between speeding motorcycles, we have never felt unsafe. We feel Hanoi is one of the safest places we have ever visited. To our western eyes activities like these young men riding a cement mixer down the street at about 50kph (30mph) with a front wheel that was very buckled, or the guy delivering rebar on his moped to the concrete workers cutting and installing it in flip flops would cause a safety inspector to have a heart attack.
We are settling into our role as volunteer English language coaches with a couple of post-secondary schools, some of the classes have little English yet which is a bit challenging, but the more advanced classes are becoming a lot of fun as we develop relationships with the students and begin to exchange some of our different cultures and worldview. Of all the university students we have met so far, only one had parents that are not still together, it seems that the divorce rate is really low. On Christmas Eve we were blessed by a surprise delivery of cards and cake gifted to us by the staff and students of one university which we show off in the picture above.
Glenda and I found a Christian coffee shop a few days ago near where we have classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. We arrived a few minutes before closing and bought Ca Phe Sua Da which came with a glass of green tea, not unusual, but we did say “Goodnight and God bless” to all the staff as they left except for the one who stayed late so we could enjoy our drinks. This is typical of the way we have been treated since being in Vietnam. Our new favourite dish Bún chả is just 25,000 Dong ($1.25), it is grilled (BBQ’d) pork in a tasty broth with bamboo shoots and carrots and sides of vermicelli noodles, and fresh green herby plants that vary day by day, lettuce, mint, marjoram, nettles, cress, beansprouts, etc.
That’s all for this week and this year, our next post will be in 2015! Until then, be blessed and be a blessing, A&G