Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Gooooood morning, Vietnam!

On 11/5/16, after back-to-back keynotes (11/2 at the Connecticut Reading Association conference and 11/3 at the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers conference in South Carolina), I arrived in Vietnam. It is the fifth Asian country I am visiting for the first time in 2016. (The other four are Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, and Hong Kong, which is part of China.)

I am here on generous invitation of two schools, one in Hanoi and one in Ho Chi Minh.

When I posted the following photo with the caption "Goooooood morning, Vietnam!" (number of "o"s varies), a longtime friend wrote "Bet you've waited forever to say that." (Close. Since 1987.)

I don't know if the woman behind me looking at the camera 
counts as a photo bomb.

My first day in Hanoi, I visited three sites: a (former) prison, a temple, and a lake.

"Maison Centrale" is Hỏa Lò Prison, which became known during the Vietnam War as the Hanoi Hilton, where American soldiers who'd been shot down (including John McCain) were held and mistreated. But the horrific history of the facility goes back to the 1800s, when it was built by the French to imprison Vietnamese political dissidents.

And now there's a welcome mat.

I'm told this is propaganda. 
Oddly, the one who told me was not the museum.
There, these "happy POWs" photos are passed off as authentic.

When I learned of a site commonly (but apparently incorrectly) called the Temple of Literature, of course I had to visit. Built in 1070, it is a Temple of Confucius that was the first national university in Vietnam. Walking the grounds I felt I'd like to learn something there.

My second photobomber of the day, this one deliberately.

In near-perfect English, these adorable Vietnamese kids were 
interviewing tourists, recording the answers in their notebooks. 
When one asked my favorite place in Vietnam and I hesitated,
she said "This place?" The answer may be yes, because of them.

Hoàn Kiếm Lake is a lovely spot surrounded by roads that recently went pedestrians-only, thus allowing one to spot children sitting in the middle of an intersection.

Everybody Quang Trung tonight.

A Hanoi Halloween, still.

 Batman sighting #1: toy packaging sporting a mashup of 
Batman movie characters 
(Robin from Batman Forever and Joker from The Dark Knight).

Batman sighting #2: cutout standups at an electronics store.

A philosophical bathroom in my hotel ("Man" instead of "Men").

Notable figures depicted on pillows in a lounge in my hotel.

 Quite possibly the best menu item name I've ever seen.

 Though I was in this tiny shop for only a few seconds, 
the shopkeeper asked if I could help her by drawing 
a Christmas tree in the corner of a display board. 
A Jew creating a Christian symbol in a predominantly non-religious country. 
An allegory ever more imperative going forward. 
(The snowman is hers.)

On 11/12/16, I traveled by car about 3.5 hours to Halong Bay, where I took an afternoon cruise along with a lovely group of about 30 people, most of whom were at least 30 years older than me.

 She sells seashells on the sea.

 Inside one of the caves throughout the bay.

Good afternoon, Vietnam.

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