Monday, December 17, 2007

Dec. 16...on the river in Hue.

After the events of the 15th, and yesterday, and every day that we’ve been here, it’s hard to imagine that we could possibly do anything else in this country. As Sophia told you so eloquently yesterday, we were risk takers, to say the least! I wish everyone could fully understand the road conditions here in Vietnam, so you would know just what a big deal it was that I drove my very own motorbike, with Sophia on the back, on the streets of Hue and the countryside of Vietnam. Me, who can barely get a hold of herself enough to drive a car in the U.S. without completely losing her mind, was the first member of our group to hop up and learn how to drive a Vietnamese motorbike! This country makes me do crazy things.


Catching up on days…Sophia wrote about the 15th, but as far as the 16th goes (That’s yesterday, I think? I can hardly keep up with days anymore.) it was pleasantly laid back. So far, it almost seems like the days slow down in Vietnam, but that’s a good thing. That way, we are able to cram about a week’s worth of activities into one very full day. We have all been waking up very early, but doing so much throughout the day that by the time 8:00pm rolls around, we’re getting tired like grandmas! Last night, we went out to a place called Why Not? after dinner ,and we got home at 10:30…a really late night for us!


After yesterday, Sophia and I really wanted to sleep in. We wanted some physical and emotional rest after the motorbike rides, talking to Vietnamese students, and visiting the orphanage of Saturday, Sunday we totally slept in until about 9:30. We got a croissant for breakfast at the little bakery next door to our hotel. (I think Sophia mentioned the French and European influence of the food already…definitely a plus here. Not that the food isn’t great! The amazing food here would be a whole other blog entry in itself.) Then we went for a little walk through Hue near our hotel, which is an interesting area. We are a couple blocks away from the Imperial Hotel, which is a luxury hotel where the lowest priced rooms are $250 a night, right in the middle of the very poor area of Hue, most of which is so far below the American “poverty line” it is hard to even describe.


We sat outside the Imperial Hotel, where we discovered there is free wireless if you have your own laptop, and went on the internet. It’s really a precious commodity because we do so much during the day; it’s hard to find time to record it all. It’s difficult enough (for me at least) to sort everything that I’ve seen out in my own head.


After that, we went to lunch (where I’ve had the best fruit smoothie of my whole life…mango lemon, so delicious) and then walked to the Huang River for a “dragon boat” ride. We met more Vietnamese students there (who were so excited to see us, as usual. They are so curious about us and love talking to us; it’s really encouraging. We’ve gotten all of their email addresses and I feel like I’ve made at least 10 new friends. And, as Sophia told me, that’s world peace right there!) and then we hopped on a boat that was one level and had, what else, but a dragon on the front. We traveled up the Huang River with the students and had a chance to ask them a lot of questions about their life in Vietnam. It’s so interesting hearing what they have to say, and hearing what they want to ask us!


We rode on the boat, seeing a lot of Hue that you can’t see from walking on the road. There is a lot of poverty up the river. People fish and live out of their boats. We took the boat to an amazing Pagoda outside of the city. Buddhist monks live there from really young ages, studying and devoting their lives to their religion. It was probably one of the most beautiful places I have been in my whole life. All of the places we have been have really interesting stories. There is a lot of Chinese influence to all of the architecture and culture. It’s actually really interesting…the Vietnamese are incredibly nationalistic (hence why the government is very suspicious of a group of 17 Americans going into the smaller villages, even if it is just to provide relief) but much of their culture, language, everything, comes from elsewhere, from other countries’ influences.


Once we rode back on the boat, we had a quick drink at a café by the river, then walked to another amazing vegetarian restaurant in downtown Hue for dinner. I have had so much great food here! A lot of great tofu…they cook it so much better here than in the U.S. We went out afterward with Liz, then went to bed to get ready for another exciting day in Hue!


Hopefully I’ll have more time later to write about what we saw today. We went to some villages that Think About the Children has provided supplies to. It was very difficult to see the utter poverty that these people live in. It makes me want to help in any way that I can. I can already tell it is going to be very hard to leave here. There is just so much left to do.


Hope you all are doing well; hopefully I’ll write more later!

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