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Posted by on Jan 14, 2015 in Life Reimagined, Vietnam | 0 comments

Joy Is All About Friendship

I don’t always feel terribly homesick.  I miss my friends and family and I hate missing out on everything that is happening back home.  Sometimes you just have put those thoughts aside and keep plugging away.  I really thought I had everything handled, until we received our first visitors from the US.
John and I headed into Hanoi to meet up with a group from the Washington Agriculture and Forestry Education Foundation that was traveling to Vietnam.  Among the travelers were two very good friends.  For two days I was walking on air.  You know joy?  That overwhelming feeling of happiness where you just know everything is going to be ok?Of course there were a couple of glitches.  I made reservations at a different hotel than the one they were staying at (same name, same street, and slightly different address). The weather was soooo cold, the coldest, wettest and drizzliest it has been so far.  Instead of waiting for them in the lobby as they walked in the door from their very long trip; we were sitting just down the street, waiting in a very empty and quiet lobby.  All was OK – they arrived and I got to show them all my favorite spots of Hanoi.
Checking out Hanoi with Cheri & Robin
Early morning walk and

 Cooking class at Hanoi Cooking Centre

Trip to Duong Son Ancient Village

With the hat, or without the hat???? I like it, but will he actually wear it?
I think she needs to keep the hat for sure.

Visit to Ba Vi and Homestead Village


Bi Vi Mountain in the background


Catching fish for lunch
Cooking the fish
Thuy An Orphanage
Taking one of the always popular selfie’s.  He was really happy, it just doesn’t look like it.
Since Robin and Cheri were traveling part of the time with the group, John and I slipped out early to get the house ready for a party to welcome the delegation to Hai Phong while they made their way to Ha Long Bay. Our trip home turned into a Vietnam nightmare.  Our taxi driver was told to go to the wrong bus station so we went several kilometers out of our way before we realized the error.  We told him “bus to Hai Phong” and he responded with “Okay, Okay” in such a determined manner we believed him.  15 minutes later when I finally realized we were still going the wrong way I showed him the map, and again “Bus to Hai Phong”.  Once again “Okay, Okay” 10 minutes later we arrived at the train station.
I like taking the train. It is a comfortable but long (4 hour) ride to Hai Phong where the bus takes a mere 2.5 to 3 hours. And while doing my diligent pre-trip work I knew that the last train left at 6pm and it was now 6:30 and I was pretty darn sure that the train was not going to work.  Before we could say “BUS” the taxi driver was taking our bags out of the trunk and the train personnel were taking them away.  John and I looked at each other, and in the way that you know your spouse after 27 years of marriage, with a quick nod I ran after the luggage and John went to purchase the tickets.  As I am trying to scramble onto the train the one piece of luggage that the conductors didn’t take was the very important case of wine for the party.  I looked back to see my very agile husband jump over the case of wine and run across the tracks to the train.  I start to yell, “get the wine, get the wine, get the wine,” which of course he can’t hear.  So finally – back he goes to get the wine, we heave it on the train and off we go, because of course they were holding up the train just for us.
I mentioned before previous train rides were quite comfortable with nice soft seats, a movie playing and food service.  This was a different train. Hard benches, loud train noises and even louder voices.  Most of the time I love listening to the soft tonal language of Vietnamese.  The sound is as beautiful as the people, unless they are yelling.  Ôi Chúa ơi! – they were yelling to be heard over the loud noise of the train and it was not pretty, cackling is what comes to mind when I try to describe the noise.  John and I looked at each other – can we handle this for 4 hours???? Just then the beverage cart went rolling by and I sent John after it to buy beer.
Almost 2 hours into the trip I was feeling as though I couldn’t handle the noise for a moment longer and decided to pull out google maps to see how close we were to Hai Phong.  We had somehow caught the express train – which is only 2 hours between Hanoi and Hai Phong.  All of the sudden the loud noise wasn’t so bothersome.  As we pulled into the city John and I smiled at each other – almost home.  Just then I felt something tickling my ankle   . . .  I was sure it was a rat, but only a very large cockroach.

to be continued . . . .

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Posted by on Jan 2, 2015 in Life Reimagined, Vietnam | 0 comments

Things We Would Tell Our Younger Selves

We have been apart for all the holiday’s this year and just got back together in time to celebrate our 27th Anniversary.  We both did some reflecting and ended up writing a few things we wish we had known all those years ago.  See below for first John’s “things I would tell my younger self” and then Dawn’s. It was interesting to us to see many of things were similar.
New Year’s Eve 2014 (John)
Just me and my music, vodka and my ever dependable 1924 Padron Aniversario. Tomorrow Dawn arrives after what seems like a forever 6 weeks back home. Another Patsy Cline sad song, another puff of smoke, tomorrow cannot come too soon.
Lots of time to think about everything; and as you get older, the more you have to think about, and the more you think about your life so far. When you’re younger you don’t have time to think or at least in my case you don’t take the time to think about your life. When I was younger I looked at 60 and thought, wow that is really old! Forty wasn’t bad, even 50 was bearable, but man when you turn 60 it really hits you; it does make you think. And being isolated in a foreign country gives you even more time to look back and contemplate, reminisce and wonder. You measure your life in terms of wins and losses, the many mistakes and the lessons learned. What you have and what you could have had, what you could have accomplished and what you did accomplish.  And yes truth be told, there are regrets… plenty of ‘could have and should have done’. But all and all, like most of us I have to be thankful, very thankful.
Great family; my partner in crime (Dawn) who really does complete me, wonderful kids that I love way too much, two beautiful granddaughters, my brothers and mom who I wish I could spend more time with, I do wish that I had had more time with my dad and sister (they past way too young); overall good health (well some would argue slipping a bit on the mental health side); great friends (some from way, way back); and I have enjoyed and found gratifying (for the most part), the different parts of my career. As for the regrets, yes I wish I had been a better son, a better father and husband, a better person overall… I’m still working on all of those things. And 98% of the time I look forward, not back.
Yes indeed life has been good and now with the Vietnam adventure, our horizons are expanded even much further than I could have ever imagined. The adventure continues into 2015.
And as a side note, I may be 60 in years but (most of the time) I still feel like I’m 25 or 30 but even better, and certainly much wiser.
The 16 things I would tell my younger self….
  1. Talk less listen more, really listen… you will learn so much more
  2. Find ways to take less and give more … you will be much happier. With that in mind, perform as many random and planned acts of kindness every day. You will be amazed at the power you have to make people feel good and to make your community and world a better place.
  3. Don’t be afraid to love, it will break your heart for sure, but it will also bring you incomparable happiness; and when it knocks you down, you will get up stronger and if you are as lucky as I am, you will find a partner that makes you smile and laugh every day, makes you strive to be a better person every day.
  4. Always, every single day set you mind to making the day the best day not only for yourself but for everyone around you. Be inspired and strive to inspire.
  5. Be positively audacious, you will have more fun and the people around you will too. Life can be boring at times; think outside the box and create fun.
  6. Don’t be afraid to laugh or cry, you are human don’t pretend not to be. Besides both will make you feel better.
  7. Learn to dance and learn to play an instrument or two. Sing (even if you don’t think you can).
  8. When it comes to a career, find something you really, really feel love and feel good about doing, then find a way to make that your career. Don’t let your career be just a job. And remember, it’s never too late to get out of a bad ‘job’. (and yes, same with relationships)
  9. Be passionate, remember the things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.
  10. Cherish and spend as much time with your family as possible; tell them and everyone that you love, that you do love them; and show them that you love them, hug them often. Remember you can’t put your arms around a memory.
  11. Exercise (lots); good for your body and your mind.
  12. Take the time to travel, see new places, meet new people…explore as much as possible. It too will make you a better person.
  13. Keep an open mind towards everything and be willing to change your mind. Don’t get locked into the so very limiting mindset of believing or thinking that things should be the way you have always been told they should be. Consider all options and alternatives and you decide for yourself what is right, what is best, what you should stand for and what you should stand against.
  14. Let go as much as possible, of your ego of any false pride. It’s okay to ask for help; again you are only human.
  15. Learn to forgive, forget the hurt and who caused you pain. Realize that the secret to being free is not revenge, but letting things unfold in their own way and own time.
  16. And finally… remember what matters most is not the first chapters of your life but the final chapter that shows how well you ran the race, how well you lived. So smile, laugh, forgive, believe, appreciate, be inspired and inspire, sing and dance, be audacious, love and make the very most out of very moment; because one day you will wish so much that you had.
New Year’s Eve 2014 (Dawn)
It is New Year’s Eve and I am somewhere over the Pacific alone on a flight with 400 or so other people. I love New Year’s because it is the one time of year that I take the time to reflect on my life and to set goals for the next year.  About 10 years ago I realized how lucky I am and what a good life I have had. It wasn’t always easy but as soon as I understood that it is the hard times that make the goods times better I was able to be a little happier with what I had accomplished.
My happiest time was raising our kids. I didn’t always do a good job and I was always tired, but there is so much joy in raising a family.  Having a partner that you can argue with and love through the hard times really helps. Being married is never easy but having someone that knows you completely and loves you anyway helps you get through the difficult days. I always wish that my kids would understand how wise I am with all I have learned, despite that I take comfort in how wise they are, I learn from them every day.
The 12 things I would tell my younger self… 
  1. Take more risks.  It is so easy to play it safe but you don’t grow like you would if you took risks. When you fail there is sadness but you learned something. Nothing makes you happier or feel more accomplished than when you take a risk and you succeed.
  2. Study harder.  I know – but I really wish I did.  The world has so much more to offer when you have good grades or you at least try hard.
  3. Find some way to be creative, to find your passion. My happiest times are when I allow myself to be creative.
  4. Find more time to walk and hike – there is nothing better than being in nature and enjoying everything around you.
  5. Find more time to bike. Things look different when on a bike and being strong and fit will make you happier.
  6. Surround yourself with creative people. There is nothing better than being around smart creative people – before you know it you are one of them.
  7. Don’t waste your time on negative people. Nothing brings you down faster than being around someone who complains and gossips.
  8. Always assume the best (or don’t assume you know what people are thinking). So often when I thought someone was upset with me and had the courage to ask what is  really on their mind I realized I had misread the situation.
  9. Embrace your inner weirdness – there is so much joy in being weird
  10. Don’t waste your time on a job you don’t enjoy
  11. Learn how to argue without getting mad or upset
  12. When things are hard, that is when you grow the most.  What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger, and there is always a reason for your hardships. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself when the hardships happen but look for the bright side and know when you conquer whatever the problem is – you will be better for it.

We wish you and yours a wonderful new year . . . .

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