Thursday, August 2, 2007

Fond Farewell

What goes up must come down, and all good things eventually come to an end. As we approached another full moon (ngày rằm), the UCR Summer Session Program came to a close with a final, uproarious outdoor party on a hot summer's night in Hue with live dj'ed music, first techno, then Cá Huế, then a little dance music to get people jumping. I hope that some of the students will continue to post their pics here when they get back, but for me, el profesor, I am signing out after the next post until next year... Before I do, I owe many people my sincere thanks for a great program this summer. In no specific order...

Thanks Cậu Chưởng (Mẹ Nguyện's cousin) for a great tour of the Palace and for a great meal prepared by Mợ Hoa at your place.

Thanks Bradley, Huy, Lộc and Thái for good times, especially some smoky afternoons with Craven A and cà phê sửa đá off Hùng Vương. Special thanks to Huy in particular who single-handedly did much of the work with contracts, tours, personnel at Hue University and infecting almost every event with his optimism, humor and enthusiasm.

Pictured here are Ms. Kim Dung (lower right) and Anh Hồng and Chị Thủ (lower center) sitting next to Tony and Châu. Thanks, Dung, for all of your help with visas, foreign affairs, and the paperwork involved with university and city authorities with our group's visit. Missing from our outing today was Rector Phước who had to be at a public ceremony in the mountains. Thanks Dr. Phước in absentia. No stay at the Thanh Noi would be complete without the wonderful care of the housekeeping and restaurant staff. Mr. Hồng and Ms. Thủy supervise the housekeeping and personally handled care for our group's rooms this summer.

Thanks aunties, cousins and uncle! Thanks Chị Mỹ! Dr. Mỹ is not only the Head of the Vietnamese Studies Section at HUCFL that sponsors our program in Huế but as of last summer we found out she is a cousin-in-law, a niece of O Sương and Chú Huyên. She is an important behind-the-scenes player in the program, and we thank you profusely. Pictured in the center in the green áo dài is the rock upon which our family's stay in Huế is based, the veritable Thím Lạc. Every day we ate lunch at her home, wonderful home-cooked feasts prepared fresh each morning. In the blue áo dài next to Thím is O Hồng who lent us her bicycle and since 1997 has been another generous auntie to Hồng Anh.

Especially, thanks to the students for this year - Tony, Lidia, Chau (back row), Vicky, Jonathan, Tri, and Albert (lower right) - for being great students. Your diligence, always getting up and going out there - to class, to the internships - and especially your flexibility and tolerance made this an especially enjoyable course to teach. Also pictured here are some of the other staff (housekeeping, restaurant, reception) who again made our stay at Thanh Noi a flawless one.

Not pictured here are Anh Hùng and Anh Quan - restaurant managers - who set up our farewell party in the courtyard with fresh potted flowers and custom-printed menus. This party was by far our best success for welcome and farewell gatherings, and we've decided to hold all future gatherings in the same space.

Besides the UCR students, this program couldn't have been nearly as much fun this year without the participation of nine student volunteers from Hue University who partnered with the UCR students on their internships. A very sincere THANK YOU to you all for riding the American students around Hue, for interpretation, and for your fun attitude. It was great getting to know you and I am sure to make participation from local students a bigger fixture in next year's program.

This picture I think captures the general mood.

Thanks Quyen and Duc. They are stunned by how funny the jumping shots look.

On Scuppy duty, Chú Nghiên (Ba Tô's cousin) is the other half of the rock upon which my family's stay depends. He's endlessly funny and a wonderful master of ceremonies. Thanks, Chú Nghiên, for your humor and for your incredible contacts throughout the arts scene in Hue.

Finally, thanks to Chị Hương along with Chị Mỹ for your assistance with the language class, for your wonderful staff, and for some good meals in the evenings. We look forward to seeing you again soon in Huế or elsewhere in the future.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Thanks to Family in Saigon - Hẹn Gạp Lại!

On our overnight in Saigon before catching the flight home, we visited with Em Thảo, her boyfriend Christiaan, and our friend Thơ from Cần Thơ. In the pic on the left, we were watching the many cool features of my new camera, plugged into the tv set and able to remotely shoot pics with a little infrared controller. THANKS as always to dear sis Thảo for her care and consideration of us as we passed through SG yet again. Thanks for visiting us in Hue and for taking time from the startup company to đi chơi.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Musical Boat Dinner

Sunday night we went out on one of the dragon boats, double-hulled house boats that are effectively floating restaurants and stages where musicians perform traditional Hue tunes. It was also Tam's birthday, and she was surprised to receive a birthday card from some of the students who made it themselves (!) in the arts and crafts section of the main bookstore in town. Trang, another local student, took a stab at interpreting for the mc who only spoke Vietnamese.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Firpo's Visit

Each weekend we have been in Hue, we've had visitors this summer; I guess we're getting popular. Christina Firpo stopped over for a night and we visited the palace and all the amazing mosaic work being done in various restored gates and buildings. The neo-classical world was nothing if not colorful. Besides visiting thepalace, we had a most excellent motorbike trip on the "great circuit" here from Khai Dinh's Tomb to Minh Mang's Tomb to the new highway to Linh Mu Pagoda and then back into the city. Pictured below are scenes from Quoc Hoc Academy where Ba To went to school, a stone mandarin wearing shades, and Khai Dinh's opulent, crazy mosaic palace.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Boat Trip to the Tombs

We finally got ourselves to visit some of the kings' tombs this summer. The group picture didn't quite work out as planned as Albert took the chance to visit family in Singapore, but nevertheless we had a great boat trip up the Perfume River and visited the island temple to the Heavenly Lady (an old Cham goddess) and Minh Mang's Tomb. The boat provided a good breeze so Xuan Anh finally got to fly her mermaid kite from the bow. The Tien Ca (mermaid) kite finally got a chance to fly. She's also sporting a very dep conical hat with Hue tourist sites embroidered on the outside.

Vicky gets her fortune told at the Heavenly Mother Temple

Saturday, July 21, 2007

People Living Underground

After the DMZ we headed north and then directly east along the river to a village located along the coast called Vinh Moc. This place was one of many coastal villages that were heavily shelled by US airplanes and ships throughout the war. So, to cope, people developed a network of trenches above-ground and tunnels underground where they lived most of the time for several years during the worst of the shelling. An estimated 7000 lbs of bombs were dropped per person.

This is by far one of the most impressive war sites because in walking through the maze of underground tunnels, you get a very real sense of the extreme conditions under which people attempted to survive this war.

This year we've developed a jumping theme to group shots. It is what it is ...


Crossing the Ben Hai River

Hien Luong Bridge across the Ben Hai River was the official dividing line between North and South VN during the war. During prisoner exchanges in the early 1970's, NLF or People's Army prisoners were exchanged for South VN and US prisoners (usually officers) along this bridge. Looking north to the North VN gate, Tony (Hai) and Chau re-enact a friendly crossing over. To the left is the newer highway bridge crossing here. And farther in the distance is construction going on for a new interstate-style highway bridge - the beat goes on...

Yey! We're free!!! More re-enactments.