Nina Berry's blog
After two productive work weeks with the staff of the Faculty of Business Administration and the Scientific Research and Foreign Affairs Department at Hanoi Community College, I delivered my workshop today. I collaborated with a lovely young man named Tung who undertook the translation of my reports into Vietnamese so that I could communicate my case study reviews and proposals for a new curriculum to the faculty and senior administrators at the college.
We decided that the students should have a voice in the type of curriculum they wanted, so 1st and 2nd year business students were invited to attend and we had an amazing turnout. The students were earnest and eager to participate and gave excellent feedback. Ultimately, we were striving to provide an opportunity for dialogue between the students and faculty.
At a debriefing following the workshop, the Vice-Rector told me and the WUSC coordinator how pleased he was with the progress made, and was effusive in his appreciation. They were very generous with their gifts and kind words, and it was difficult to say goodbye to Thuy Anh and Hue and the lovely people I worked with. Sincere promises were made to stay in touch and to offer continued assistance with the roll-out of the program.
This past weekend, some WUSC volunteers and I went for a night cruise to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Halong Bay means "descending dragon bay", a name given by the French for the enormous limestone karsts in this spectacular bay. We took a 4 hour bus ride to Quang Ninh Province and boarded the Green Lotus junk (boat). We explored some eerily beautiful caves and grottoes on the islands that were loaded with stalactites and stalagmites, as well as French graffiti from the 1800’s. There is a community that still live on floating fishing villages; these families make their living selling the abundant seafood to the multitude of tourist boats. We had a culinary lesson on the boat, and ate the spring rolls we made for supper...so yummy. We swam on a sandy beach, kayaked on the most placid and gorgeous water, and experienced one of the most unbelievable sunsets amidst the twinkling lights of the other boats on the bay. Monkeys, too!
There is a wonderful group of runners and walkers living in Hanoi called the Hanoi Hash House Harriers and Harriettes. Every Saturday, they meet at the American Club and board an adorable little bus (no AC) and leave the chaos of Hanoi for the surrounding countryside for a 10 km run or a 5 km walk. They come from all walks of life, but most are long-term residents of Hanoi from Canada, the States, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Holland, and Korea. They have a wonderful sense of camaraderie and many have been running or walking together for years.
Last Saturday, some WUSC volunteers, both long-term and short-term, were invited by Ashley, who has been working for WUSC and living in Vietnam for four years. We travelled about 45 minutes outside of Hanoi and walked through rice fields and climbed rock formations. We had some amazing encounters with rice harvesters and field workers. They were unbelievably kind, and took time to pause and share a smile with us - it was humbling to witness how difficult their work is.
The afternoon was followed by a hysterical bus ride back to Hanoi and then a delicious dinner with the group in a restaurant owned by one of the runners.
Met an awesome and talented artist named Ben Puah from Singapore. Check out his website at www.benpuah.com. Beautiful and inspiring work, and a really great guy.
I’ve been in Hanoi almost a week and I’m starting to feel settled after dreadful jetlag. It is insanely hot, and the humidity makes it feel close to 40 degrees. Tried pho (soup) for breakfast by day 2, and I love it. I admit that it seemed peculiar to have hot broth with veggies and noodles first thing in the morning, but it’s delicious.
The streets in the Old Market are chaotic, but exciting. There are so many colours, smells, motorbikes… people. Lots of ex-pats and tourists in this area, too, and it’s not uncommon to see young globetrotters with enormous backpacks that have flags from all over the world; hearing lots of Aussie accents.
Had my first full day at the college on Friday after doing research at the WUSC office all week. The semester begins for the students this coming Monday, and Hanoi College installed a new Rector (our equivalent to a Chancellor) today. The entire faculty and senior administration took part in this ceremony, and I was honoured to be included. The Rector kindly invited me to lunch and everyone, especially Thuy Ahn and Hue, were stellar. I can’t wait to work with them next week.
Other volunteers and I have been taking taxis to and from our hotel in the Old Quarter to both the WUSC office and the college, but today, Thuy Ahn insisted she drive me back to my hotel IN RUSH HOUR on the back of her motorcycle. She’s a fantastic driver and she weaved in and out of traffic like a rock-star, but I closed my eyes a few times and prayed I’d be able to hold on. There is a constant blaring of car and bike horns. An insane cacophony of noise. Crazy, but exhilarating.
A group of volunteers and I went to "snake market" last night for dinner. Douglas and Katrina, our intrepid foodies ate the cobra after a shotglass of blood and rice vodka…Ronnie and I watched and took pictures.
Looking forward to taking part in the Hanoi Hash House Harriers event this Saturday. Check it out. http://www.hanoih3.com
Missing my boys like crazy.
After weeks of preparation and anticipation, the time has finally come to embark on my adventure to Hanoi, Vietnam early Saturday morning, the 20th of September. Found out yesterday that the college has altered my mandate to include some additional training for students applying to co-op and internship programs, as well as for instructors. I'm nervous about making a very tight flight changeover from Tokyo to Hanoi and hope desperately that I don't get lost in the airport. Hope I can sleep on the plane...I won't be arriving until late Sunday evening.