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Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi
February 23rd 2009
Published: February 23rd 2009
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Last night I wrapped some gifts in red paper schlepped from Oregon. I also cleaned and polished my Tevas, which is not easy when you don't want to touch the soles. I intend my last act in the hotel to be scrubbing them with a toothbrush.

The morning began with some typical Vietnamese events:
1. Construction two buildings down began at 6:10 AM. This makes the hotel shake, since all of the structures are attached.

2. Awakened by construction, I thought I might as well go downstairs, use the computer, and maybe go for a walk. Instead, I walked down to the lobby to find an employee asleep in a folding bed next to his motorbike, the front doors locked shut with a chain. This reminded me of another reason it's nice to be here in the winter: In the summer, by the time the night guy is awake, it's too hot to go for a long walk.

The temperature was by no means as high as predicted for today, which was good (though both classrooms I was in, and the university's car, had air conditioning). Weather Underground anticipated 102 F, which would have been quite warm. However, I will guess that it did not go above 74 F. It's actually been 20-25 C so far while I've been here (68-77 F).

A driver and an International Studies student who works in Min's office picked me up at the St. Joseph Cathedral this morning and took me to the university. I still couldn't tell you how to get there, but I recognized the university before we turned in. For gifts, I had a smoked salmon for Min, who studied in Oregon, and a Barron's GRE study guide for the rector's daughter, who would like to study at my university but just learned of the existence of the GRE. Min seemed to think that this was not a presumptuous gift. I also had an Oregon photo book and some calendars with pictures of U.S. parks and birds, but there were no instructors in evidence. In fact, I taught with no faculty in the room, which was a little strange for me. You may be thinking, "But we had a guest instructor in your class while you were away," but I note that those guests traveled a maximum of 3.3 miles to get to you, whereas I have traveled (in a straight line) 6985 miles to get here.

I taught three classes today--"The Ecological Model: A Tool for Culturally Sensitive Assessment" (with Vietnamese examples) and "HIV/AIDS in Viet Nam" to undergraduate Psychology students, and "Writing Essays in the American Style" to International Studies students. Min translated for the Psychology students. He was a joy to listen to, clear, crisp, concise, and lyrical even though I didn't understand the majority of what he was saying. I appreciated the student volunteers in Cambodia, but this translation was not just functional but elegant.

The afternoon class was sleepy and, I think, did not respect my authoritah as much as the morning students. After discussing U.S. academic essay writing standards, I presented the 5-paragraph essay structure. At break, one student said to me that they had been told this before but it was hard. I responded by agreeing that they had heard it before, but asked if they had actually practiced it. This was, I think, the correct question. After break, I told them that I know the theory of riding a motorbike, but knowing the idea is not the same thing as practicing. I then had them write and begin to critique each others' essays. Practice, practice, practice.

Between classes, Min and his student took me to lunch near campus at what we'd call a student diner. My colleague ate there when he visited. The deal is that each person orders a vegetable and a protein, and all of them are then heaped on everyone's plates. It was very tasty, but about an hour before my afternoon class was over, I began to have seismic rumbles. I was able to finish the class without mishap.

After a short rest at my hotel, I struck out for Cafe Mai. a venerable coffee roaster. I had only been there before by car, so I was pleased that I was able to find it. This cafe was a favorite of R's, a faculty member at my school who had strong associations with Viet Nam before he died. Min told me that R also would always look for fox coffee when he visited. I have learned through nomenclature research this evening that (at least according to that last link) ca phe chon (weasel coffee) is sold there as aliculi (undoubtedly made with enzymes, not weasels), so I'll be going back to Cafe Mai tomorrow.

Not knowing this at the time, I had a regular old mocha (sludgy espresso grind, dripped through a metal filter). Across the street is Wild Lotus, an excellent restaurant where my student Kristen and I ate with several faculty members in 2007, including Professors Quy and Nam). I know that the portions are quite large, so I didn't go. (I also wanted to be sure my stomach was okay and it's not very close to my hotel.) I admired the decor and menu, but I just wasn't hungry enough. I wished I weren't here alone, though if I do go, I'll enjoy it without being lonely, since I do in fact have a spouse and am only temporarily unaccompanied.

Walking back to my neighborhood, today's fun sight was a boy playing with a yo-yo from the back of his mother's motorbike in traffic.

I meandered back to my neighborhood and ate at Moca Cafe. I had fried spring rolls, mango juice, a banana shake, and coconut rice (the stomach upset is an excuse for bananas and rice), for an expensive meal of $7.26.

The hotel staff are all young enough to be my children. They're hanging here in the lobby watching a subtitled movie on Cinemax and eating dinner from communal bowls: Rice, steamed cabbage, boiled chicken.

I'll be staying up tonight to find out where my doctoral Counseling Psychology students are going for internship. I'm reading a good book, Lintner and Black's Merchants of Madness: The Methamphetamine Explosion in the Golden Triangle. It will be available in the U.S. in April. I've just started, so I'm getting a brief history of political conflicts in Burma and the relationship between opium poppies, private militaries, and yaba (meth, "crazy drug").

Tomorrow I'm going to try to find the UNAIDS Viet Nam office and might go to Wild Lotus. I might just drink weasel poop coffee. Sometime between now and then I need to modify a presentation on Motivational Interviewing to meet the specific requests of two different classes and write a presentation on Clinical Supervision for Thursday. I'll hope for a little sun, or I'll lose my Cambodia tan and be as pasty and Oregonian as I was when I left.

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