Saturday, May 10, 2008

Day Eight in Vietnam: 20 May

20 May, Viet Tri Hanoi Road
Hosted by MCC / Thanh Thuy Women’s Union;
Back to Hanoi by bus in p.m.

More meeting with local dignitaries, more speeches, and then one of the highlights of the trip so far: a visit to two primary schools in the area. We came prepared, with candy. As we handed each child a piece, they did not eat it, but put it on the desk in front of them (three pupils to a desk for most of them, on tiny chairs). Only after they had invited all to share in the food (a necessary ritual for the Vietnamese) were they given the ok to eat them. So very solemn!
Both schools had at the front of the room, in position of honor, is a photo of Ho Chi Minh surrounded by children ("HCM loves the little children, all the children of the Nam...")
The teachers proudly put a few star pupils through their paces, singing songs and giving short recitations (none of which I could understand, all of it being in Vietnamese) and we answered by singing a couple of songs. ("The Hoky Poky" was a big hit.) The we drove off, with all of the children waving enthusiastically at us.
The next school was even smaller and more remote, and intensely hot. They turned on the fans for us (Evidently they did not need them). More candy, more songs, from them and us, and this time "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" was a winner. Our guide led it in Vietnamese.
Here is a group photo of us with the children. The local dignitary is on the extreme right as you view the photo.
Lunch was at a local restaurant where the big hit was a pet monkey. Michael and Joel became its BFF.
The food was great and very authentic, including what is becoming one of my very favorite dishes, water spinach. The chicken we ate had had a rough life, being tough and lean, but the grilled pork was spicy and tasty. How they manage to turn out such fabulous dishes in the most rudimentary of kitchens is extraordinary. A cat and her kittens wandered the restaurant.
Then we dropped off our honored guests and began the long, bumpy ride back to Hanoi. Tonight we will stay at the Van Xuan Hotel in the Old Quarter, where we had previously stashed our main luggage. (We have been living out of a small backpack for four days).

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