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Posted by on Dec 25, 2015 in Life Reimagined, Vietnam | 0 comments

Christmas Day 2015 – Vietnam

Lost in Hai Phong

My husband is a much better writer – this is from John.

While most of our fellow Americans would be celebrating Christmas with family, opening presents, perhaps going to church service and of course eating a big meal; we had a different kind of Christmas and it would please our parents to know that church was indeed a part of it.

It was by all accounts going to be a fairly boring but very nice Christmas day in Hai Phong, Vietnam 2015. Granted no decorations, no snow and most important and most regrettably no family. That said Dawn and me have made the best of our time here and this day was going to be no different.

We started off with eggs, hash-browns, toast and phone calls with some of the family to wish them a Merry Christmas on what was their Christmas Eve. Then off to burn off our breakfast calories on a long (10 miles, long for us) bike ride. It started with a very light drizzle and no particular direction in mind and ended up being the start of a quite different and sort of magical ride.

A left turn into a nondescript village took us first to a cemetery, not just any cemetery but a very large cemetery with what must have been thousands of gravesites. First through what must have been the non-Christian section and then to a separate Christian section. I have to admit we felt a little like trespassers wandering through the vast sea of headstones but there were so many that were unique and colorful and somewhat mystical in look and design. Needless to say lots of pictures were taken.

where there aren't graves, there are gardens.

where there aren’t graves, there are gardens.

From the cemetery we could see a church in the distance and decided (because we love churches) to trek through a village or two to find the church, and we did. What a treasure; an old church with statues of saints and a mock Jesus in the manger scene outside. We wanted to go in but it was rather dark and there was someone inside praying so we admired the interior of the church through the windows, and took lots of pictures of the wonderful exterior of the building and the grounds.

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But our spiritual journey was not over; from the cemetery we had also seen a pagoda in the distance and decided to find it as well, and we did. A beautiful entrance and courtyard and the rich ornate shrine was incredible. As we were leaving we met an elderly Vietnamese woman who let us take her picture. She insisted on telling Dawn some story related to the pagoda that we could not understand but it didn’t seem to matter to this very nice elderly woman, she just kept talking and smiling.



And then the long ride home with the rain getting rainier and the temperature dropping, but after heading in the right direction and getting a little lucky, we made it home wet and tired. And then we did have our Christmas dinner, enchiladas (lots of enchiladas).

I imagine my religious friends and certainly my mom would say that God had called us to this spiritual journey on this holy day. Perhaps so, perhaps just a bit of quirky irony. In any case a very special day.

More photos from our wanderings.


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Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 in Life Reimagined, Vietnam | 4 comments

Seattle Freeze vs. Hai Phong Happy

I had only heard about the Seattle Freeze a year before moving to Hai Phong. I get it, I believe it and I am one of the people responsible. A summary of the Seattle Freeze is people in Seattle are outwardly very friendly, but when it comes to actually making a plan, especially with someone who is new to the area, we are very reluctant to do so. Even though I love meeting new people and talking with them, it is difficult for me to actually make a plan or invite someone to my home that I am not really comfortable with. To make matters worse my husband is the same way. If I do decide to break out of that cycle then I have to convince him to give up an evening of our favorite TV or gin rummy. We can easily talk each other out of expanding our circle.

The wonderful people of Hai Phong wouldn’t stand for that in a minute. I know that we stand out in Hai Phong and that our non-nativeness is obvious. In Seattle it would be hard to tell who is a recent immigrant or transplant. I guess it is easy for the locals to know we aren’t from Hai Phong. I don’t thing that is the reason that the people here have been so wonderful to us. They often invite John and I to dinners out or to their homes, to talk and to share their culture. Even with all the friendly gestures it was difficult for us to step outside our comfort zone and accept, but we have been so glad for those experiences.

School kids who stopped us to practice English.

It isn’t just people we know either. Last weekend on our walk there were two lovely ladies sitting on a park bench. When they saw me they smiled and held out their hands to say hello. We held hands as we talked and for once I wasn’t uncomfortable with that. We couldn’t understand each other at all but it was such a warm, welcoming moment.  The thing is that here that isn’t unusual. Kids will shyly smile and say hello; adults will sometimes shout and wave as we ride by, and everywhere we go people offer to help and to share their culture with us.

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My husband tends to find playmates wherever he goes. Notice to two photobombers in the back.

Becky Henchmen of Sammamish writes a great blog about this called Eat, Play, Thaw, de-icing the Seattle Freeze, one invite at a time. An enjoyable weekly read with practical and easy ways to build meaningful relationships. I enjoy reading it so much and it even motivates me all the way here in Vietnam to try to be more welcoming.

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Members of the International Ladies Group of Hai Phong out on a city tour.

One thing John and I really feel is our immortality, for some reason here even more than back home. We are on the backside of 50 and have seen friends and family leave us all too early. I don’t want to have regrets and at age 80 wish I had gone out more, made more friends and had more life experiences. One thing I know is that it is the people you meet along the way that make life enjoyable and worth sticking around for.

If you suffer like I do from the Seattle Freeze, perhaps you can add “reaching out” to your New Year’s resolutions. I can guarantee that you won’t regret it.

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