A day of teaching and meetings


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Asia » Vietnam » Red River Delta » Hanoi
February 25th 2009
Published: February 25th 2009
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I'm watching Johnny Bravo on Cartoon Network. Can Courage, the Cowardly Dog be far behind?

Some of you have asked about the Mekhong Whiskey. It helps to think of it as rum, because it's just bad rum, whereas it's terrible whiskey. It has heavy banana esters, but not in a good way. It's got no complexity or depth, and is sour. Mixing it with Diet Dr. Pepper was okay, but it really couldn't be drunk straight, so after a few attempts I left it at the hotel in Siem Reap. I hope it made someone very happy--it is a sort of national drink in Thailand.

It has been a bit drizzly today, the kind of precipitation that Oregonians call "mist" and ignore. My poor Vietnamese student guide was cold and dispirited.

I should mention that Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, the retired archbishop of Hanoi, died over the weekend. An extensive memorial has been going on for days at St. Joseph Cathedral, which is basically one building away from my hotel. Masses are being celebrated, what I think may be his "teaching poems" are on banners flying from the cathedral, and the bells toll continuously. He will be buried in the cathedral tomorrow and a funeral mass will be sung. The area has been full of worshipers wearing white bandannas for days.

Today was very busy at USSH. I lectured on clinical supervision, then on motivational interviewing (I was to do a reprise of MI tomorrow, but it didn't work out). I then had lunch with Min, eating chicken pho and very good fried rice followed by a cup of coffee and a long conversation. After that I met with the faculty of psychology to talk more about supervision and strategies for effectively moving their undergraduate psychology program toward a more practice-oriented model. I'm very happy to agree that I'll come back and provide more training, but I'm not in a position to agree to help co-write research grants, or pay for their faculty to get advanced degrees in the U.S. Fortunately, my task is to agree that those are noble wishes and to relay them to my program director.

I met for an hour with Professor Quy, a live wire in the Research Center for Gender and Development at USSH. I've met her before and she's just delightful. She invited me to dinner, and she and her husband took me to a restaurant called Ashima, where we supped on a variety of mushrooms cooked in a hot pot in the center of the table with generous helpings of chicken, shark, tofu, vegetables, and noodles. Other than surreptitiously hiding organ meat behind my bowl, I ate it all and it was delicious. I recognized enoki mushrooms and maybe some big white ones like what I had grilled in Phnom Penh, but not the other two. The soup was served with a sesame-peanut sauce and a lime-salt-chili mix that could be used to flavor it. It was outstanding. At one point Quy asked if I was married, and I replied, "That's a difficult question--yes and no." She apologized for asking, which I felt bad about, and I assured her that her question was okay. Then we dropped it. I outlined an article about this dilemma a while ago, but have not yet had the time to write it.

The faculty of psychology presented me with two lovely gifts, both of which were fairly impractical. The first was a huge bouquet of flowers, which I enjoyed during the day, then left with the wreaths outside the cathedral since along with the ambient pollution level, having it in my hotel room would pretty much have finished off my lungs.

The second was a very large, framed silk embroidery of the Tortoise Tower in the middle of Hồ Hoàn Kiếm (Hoan Kiem Lake, or the Lake of the Restored Sword, which was given to Le Loi by a turtle, or returned by Le Loi to a turtle, or both). This is a framed, glassed and matted piece of roughly 2.5 x 3 feet. I took off the back to see if I could roll up the embroidery for transport, but it's bradded to the backing every inch or so. I took some photos, but sadly, I'll have to leave it here. I really don't know what else to do--I'm not going to ship it, and I'm not going to try to take it on a plane where it will surely break.

Update: I took photos of it, then gave it to a friend in Hanoi who will enjoy it very much.

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