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Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Travel, Vietnam | 4 comments

Finding Happiness

I am curious if anyone has read “The Happiness Project“ by  Gretchen Rubin? If so I would love to hear your comments. 

I somehow found this book at the King County Library website and I have just checked it out for the second time. It is one of those reads I want to take slowly and savor every chapter.  I am only on March and the book chronicles an entire year of one woman’s journey to become truly happy.
I know I have been offered wonderful opportunity and I don’t want this time to go to waste.  I don’t want to live my life with regrets. Such as, why didn’t I take opportunities, or spend more time with kids, or laugh with my parents, travel with my sisters.   Why don’t I enjoy every day instead of trying so hard to fit everything into my schedule.  For years I haven’t been able to find the time to do things I need and want to do. 
Now I have time.  I can read a book (and I am reading several – and not just fiction this time).  I can look up all those movies we have missed over the years and download them.  I can finally watch Call the Midwife and I can take long walks.  I have time to think and to plan. 
Before I left the states I spent several weeks with a life coach and now I get weekly emails which somehow always seem to answer the question I am asking myself that week.  The last newsletter she wrote about taking September as a time to relax or ‘Dolce far niente’ which is Italian for ‘sweet doing nothing.’ The deliciousness of doing nothing and saying yes to life! It sounds so simple, right?  With a life of living running on high speed it is so hard to slow down.  I am hard wired (as are my sisters, although they much more then I am, especially now) to work hard, all the time.  We don’t know how to just sit. If we have spare time we go for hike, or plant a garden, or cook.
Having so much time on my hands is interesting. I find I have been here almost two months now and haven’t even tried to find a job, although it is always on my mind. I want to find something that I can continue to use when we return because we are a part of the growing number of boomers that will always need an income to help supplement their retirement.  Which is ok because I am happiest when I am working, especially if it is something I am passionate about, I just don’t want to work too hard anymore.
Of course all that time on my hands makes me dread the big D.  When I find myself lacking, and by lacking I mean not trying hard to help others; I tend to start sliding into depression and wondering if I have value, or something worthwhile to offer.   
To keep myself busy I am going to take the month of September to plan my year of finding happiness.  What one change can I make each month that will help me become a happier person? I only need to come up with 12 things to work on, it won’t be too hard I hope. 

You can find Etka’s blog at this link:  If you think #18 on Dolce far niente is good be sure to check out #17.
What is happening in Hai Phong this month?  Typhoon Kalmaegi landed and besides keeping us locked in the house for a couple of days we were OK.  There were some trees down and power outages but Hai Phong was OK.  Other area’s, not so much.  We are settling in, gaining back the weight we lost while I was struggling with cooking. I am getting more comfortable with the lack of everything we take for granted in the US. We have found some OK wine and a place where we feel comfortable buying meat.  We are settling in and becoming more comfortable in our surroundings. I am volunteering to help teach two English classes, one a group of women expats and another is a business college. It sounds like I might get to plan a couple of fund raisers, one for a blind school and one for a music class at an orphanage.  But really, most of time I am learning how to have peace with dolce far niente.

Below are pictures from the storm and one of me shopping in the local IKEA.  I was so excited to see it listed by google as a home goods shop.  What you see is the entire store.

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Posted by on Sep 6, 2014 in Travel, Vietnam | 1 comment

A Visit to Cổ Am Village

This story has been the hardest one to write so far.  I can’t put into words how enjoyable this visit was.  The entire day was a very moving experience. The people here in Vietnam treat us so nicely.  I hope that a take away from our time here will be to somehow return the hospitality we have been given. 

We joined our relator Mr. Xi (pronounced C) on a trip to his home in the countryside.  It was about an hour and a half to get to Cổ Am Village from Hai Phong. We went to this village to celebrate the new moon. In August they celebrate the Harvest Moon which is also a children’s celebration.  Mr. Xi’s company donated money to his countryside village to buy books and gifts for the children.  Mr. Xi was obviously well known and loved in his country village.  His parents have a family home there, his Auntie lived next door. He must have had many Aunts and Uncles because almost everyone we met was introduced to us as Aunt and/or Uncle. His aunt was pretty funny – she keep pointing to her arms and legs and my arms and legs to show how tiny she was compared to me. Ha Ha.  

Upon arriving in Cổ Am village we met up with some friends of Mr. Xi, a policeman and an army officer and their families.  They were all dressed up to visit the pagoda and give thanks. I immediately regretted my decision to dress for comfort.  We were ushered into the pagoda area which included several museums, and places of worship.  Please forgive my lack of knowledge here – I am trying to learn.  It was obviously a place of great respect for the people we were with.  Much money had been put into the park in this remote village which included several building and statues. We were introduced to the Area Director who oversaw the park which was about 31000 meters. The Director offered our group a tour of the entire park including all the buildings. After the tour we meet up with the Director as well as the head of security and another gentleman (not sure what he did but he sang very well). 

It was such a nice day, topped off with a wonderful lunch and several toasts.  John tried to keep up with the rice wine toasts.  I was trying to just sip the wine and not swig it.  Eventually they noticed that I wasn’t fully participating and started offering toasts directly to me. Somehow even with the language challenge I realized they were insisting that I finish the entire glass (about 1 oz) for each toast.  At first I wished I had faded away to the women’s table but after finishing off the first glass I started to really enjoy the wine. The gentleman that could sing, sang a couple of Vietnamese anthems which were beautiful even though I didn’t understand the words.  We enjoyed them so much that they suggested we sing.  Oh dear – my family knows that being able to sing on key is one of my biggest challenges.  John and I quickly went through our song list.  Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog – probable wasn’t a good choice. We didn’t know all the words to the God Bless America, and couldn’t hit all the notes for the Star Spangled Banner – so we settled on Hey Jude.  They were very nice with their polite applause.

During the toasts they thanked us for being the first foreigners to visit the pagoda.  It is hard to imagine this could be true – perhaps the first since this director was in place. But it felt good to be able to represent the US, and particularly the northwest. The people were lovely and we really enjoyed learning about Ngueyn Binh Khiem who was the founder of the park and pagoda.  He is the Vietnamese equivalent of Nostradamus and you can read more about him at this link. I found it  fascinating to learn about him and how he stood up to the government, and because of it became well respected throughout the country. I also really enjoyed that the singer just wanted to hold my hand and stayed close to me during all the photos.  Unfortunately the ones on my phone camera didn’t turn out so you just have to believe what I say.

Here is a link to the photo’s Be sure to hit full screen when watching them.

We enjoyed our day and getting to know Mr. Xi’s friends and family. Mr. Xi is a young man – in his mid to late 30’s and he runs a very successful real estate business. He exemplifies what it means to give back.  He shares his success with his village and family. He is modest and so friendly.  It was wonderful watching him take the time to stop and visit with everyone who wanted say hello. He made sure to buy from the ladies selling bread and incense, and talk to everyone who wanted a minute of his time.  He is refurbishing a villa in the village and will retire their eventually. I can see him getting into local politics which would probably be a great thing for the little village. 
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