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.
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.
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.