Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas: A Time of Giving

"The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful"

Christmas has come early again this year, with so many gifts coming our way for Journeys of the Heart work in Vietnam. Thank you to all those Santa Clauses who have sent donations for this year's projects.

We leave for Vietnam on January 15th and are looking forward to all the smiles that your gifts will generate. ....more kids will have books to read, promising young scholars from the leprosy village of Hai Van will have a chance to go to school in Da Nang, more disabled persons will be trained at Reaching Out and victims of the effects of Agent Orange will be given an opportunity to become more independent through establishing a home based business, with the help of a small loan.

May your Festive Season be filled with joy and peace.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2011 Appeal Launched

We have launched our 2011 Journeys of the Heart appeal for funds with a letter to our supporters on our e-mail list. Friends, family and neighbours have also been asking "When do you leave again for Vietnam"? We are so heartened by the swift and generous response and already have funds for
  • one portable library for school children in a remote village
  • sponsorship of two new home based business projects for victims of Agent Orange
  • trainee sponsorship for four new artisans at Reaching Out
  • tuition, room and board for one student from the Hoa Van leprosy village to go to school in Da Nang
We want to send more kids to school, train more disabled crafts people, support more victims of Agent Orange and are hoping that you will join our home team and that we can deliver a gift from you.

Please e-mail us at elainehead43@gmail.com if you have questions or need some information about getting your donation to us.

Pictured above is Hien, a disabled painter, to whom we and our friends Binh and Quyen gave a computer last year, to enable him to sell his paintings on-line. We also went to his wedding ( see earlier post) and are happy to report that he and his bride Ly are expecting a baby who will be born while we are in Hoi An. Such a wonderful story.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A New Business Opens in Cua Dai Village

Man and Hong are seen here with Hoa of VAVA ( Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange) in Hoi An accepting the funds from Journeys of the Heart which have enabled them to purchase a ping pong table and two football games ( fooz ball?) for their at hone "recreation" business. For a small fee the neighbours can play a few games AND have a glass of clean bottled water.

After a week in operation, they are estimating that they will earn about 50,000 dong per day. Although this converts to only about $2.50 US, it is sufficient to augment their meager income and allow them to better care for their daughter who has cerebral palsy.

We hope that their example will inspire other victims of Agent Orange to establish small businesses with our help,and become more independent.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kim Anh's Report Card

Trinh Thi Kim Anh sits at her desk in her tiny room in DaNang where she lives with a friend of her mother's so that she can go to school. Kim Anh's parents live in Hoa Van leprosy village. Her father's leprosy is under control and he is no longer contagious, but he still only manages to earn about $50 a month on his small farm. Kim's mother is partially deaf and her younger brother has many health problems. Their simple home has an electric fan, but no TV...they have neither a motor bike nor a bicycle.

Thanks to our Journey of the Heart supporters and CEF- Vietnam, run by our good friend Linda Hutchinson Burn, Kim has just finished grade six in the city of Da Nang. After a faltering start to the year, perhaps due to illness and an unsuitable home placement where she was reguired to all the chores, Kim flourished in the second term, having moved to her mother's friend's house where she has her own room and her fair share of the chores, sweeping, washing dishes and cooking rice. She can walk to school and best of all, her mother's friend has a daughter the same age! Thank goodness Linda and her people keep close tabs on all of the kids that we are sponsoring and if like Kim, a placement is not working out, an alternative is found. The primary objective is to keep the kids in school.

We met Kim and her Dad in Da Nang earlier this year. What sweet people. We hope that we will be able to sponsor her again for another year of school.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Our First Project for 2011

With the help and guidance of our dear friends at VAVA ( Vietnamese Association for Victims of Agent Orange) on our last trip to Hoi An, we were able, through the generosity of many donors, to help families and individuals who have suffered health and disability problems due to exposure to Agent Orange.

As we look forward to our next Journey of the Heart in January 2011, we have been corresponding with VAVA. We have suggested to them that a version of the successful "micro-financing" model used in many third world countries would benefit these victims, not only in terms of livelihood, but also greater independence and self-esteem.

VAVA has agreed and we are delighted that Tran Van Man and his wife Dang Thi Hong are the first to present a proposal. We visited them this year and found them to be a very sweet family. We met all of Hong's sisters and many neighbours in the tiny village of Cua Dai.

Hong and Man are both blind, Man has lost an arm and their daughter has cerebral palsy. Because they are very much confined to their home, they have proposed that they set up a pool table and a ping pong table on their lanai for the enjoyment of their community at a small fee per game. We think it is a brilliant idea and have agreed to sponsor the project. Imagine, for $400 US, this family will begin to augment their income AND enjoy the company of players in their home. They will have the satisfaction of beginning to support themselves, their home will be busy with gossip and laughter.

Typical projects are handicraft production, raising live stock etc. but given the disabilities in this family we think that they have been very creative in figuring out how they could have a small home based business.

We look forward to visiting in early 2011 and shooting a game of pool!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Home to Spring on Salt Spring Island

We have arrived home to our little house on Salt Spring Island and despite the fog of jet lag, we are appreciating the cool, fresh air, safe clean water from the tap, cosy flannelette sheets on a soft comfortable bed, the blissful silence in the garden and on the forest paths and the spring blooms which were here to greet us.
Our Journey of the Heart 2009/2010 has been most gratifying with lots of work balanced with sweet times with our Vietnamese family and friends old and new.
Here is a summary of all the gifts that we delivered on your behalf.
Nha Trang Home for Unwed Mothers $300 USD. This gift will feed, clothe and diaper the babies for months.

ROHO Wheelchair Cushion $600 CDN. This very high tech cushion will allow Mr. Binh to stay in his chair for more than the fifteen minutes he had been limited to by severe pain in his lower back. He will be able to continue his work as Director of Reaching Out and as advocate for people of disability all over Vietnam. Thanks to Dan and Sam of the home team for helping us find exactly the right appliance.
Global Village Foundation Typhoon Relief $400 USD. Essential food items were delivered to those whose homes were lost in the floods following typhoon Kitsana.
Global Village Foundation Portable Libraries Project $1500 USD. Three libraries of 250 books each were delivered to remote village schools.
Children's Education Foundation $1600 USD. Four children from Hoa Van leprosy village will attend school in the city of Da Nang, where they will be able to reach their potential and break the cycle of poverty and discrimination which they suffer.
Hien- Artist on Wheels $400 USD. Your wedding gift of a home computer will allow this promising young artist who is a paraplegic to market his paintings over the web.
Hoa-Disabled Breast Disease Victim $400 USD. Hoa, mother of two charming daughters will be able to buy several months supply of badly needed medication. We were also happy to pay rent for Hoa and her family, so that they could be housed safely during the flooding which follwed typhoon Kitsana
VAVA-Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange $1600 USD. Twenty seven families whose physical disabilites are attributed to this deadly dioxin and prohibit their earning a living will have food and clothing.
Reaching Out Vietnam $1000 USD. The kitchen where a nutritious lunch is prepared daily and the bathroom serving the 45 disabled workers will be renovated.
Reaching Out Vietnam $1000 USD. Training sponsorships will allow this social enterprise to hire more differently abled people and give them an opportunity to become independent.
Over the course of our stay in Hoi An, we provided countless hours of "consulting services" to Reaching Out, Bruce working with Binh on the aquisition of new computer software and Elaine developing letter templates and solving daily operational issues with Quyen. We revisited the "Strategy Map", the Business Plan and tossed around new marketing strategies. We celebrated the success of 2009 with all the staff...it was a banner year!!
Along the way, we also helped Huyen our friend in the Hoi An home for the aged and the disabled veterans in the street who sell whistles and postcards.
Support from the home team included the masterful  creation of a training manual by Janice Finnemore, gifts of red Canada hats, mitts and scarves ( a big hit because of the Olympics) from Kim at Mouat's Hardware. Stan Teitge's encouragement to Reaching Out has met fertile ground and with the donation of a lathe from New Zealand, wood working will be added to the skill set. We encouraged the locals to use cloth bags by handing out big Canada cloth bags. Canada pins from the Houssers were coveted souvenirs. The young gardeners at our home stay proudly wore their pins, declaring "I am Canadian!"

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

International Women's Day


All over Vietnam, women are celebrated on International Women's Day, with flowers, parties, recognition events, and this year it seems that the schools are even closed!

Women are acknowledged for their heroism during the wars, for their support of and involvement with the Party, their steadfast custody of the family and their business acumen. These public displays fill one with hope that the discrimination, abuse and inequities are on the wain, but we are not that convinced. Acquaintances here, who have long careers of service in Vietnam, pinpoint women's issues as pivotal in the development of this country. They feel that until there are radical changes in attitude towards women, there will not be progress. Spousal abuse is rampant, pay inequities are common, women and children's health issues receive no funding.

Yet again, what you see is not what you get in Vietnam. The gloss of TV and newspaper coverage in the large cities can not fully disquise the hunger, poverty and hardship of too many women in this culture, particularly among villagers, ethnic minorities and the disabled.

Today however the female contingent at Reaching Out were honored for their courage and accomplishments. With the support of this social enterprise, they have become beacons of hope for their disadvantaged sisters.
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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sesame is Six

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Today is our grandson's sixth birthday. His Mom and Dad and Bruce and Elaine ( Ong Ba) all went to the school to join the kids for a party. Forty five children all in one classroom, with only one teacher for most of the day!!! She does get some help at lunch time, when they serve a hot lunch to all the kids. 

The birthday party was at 9:30 am. Mom, Quyen had brought fruit and yogurt for all AND a little silk bag for each child The girls got a barrett, the boys a small plastic car. Everyone got ONE candy!

There was a lot of singing and of course Ba Elaine had to get into the action with a few silly songs as well!

Sesame performed on his key board, focusing for all of two minutes, before having a go at his cake with the little plastic spoon intended for his yogurt.

Despite the fact that it was VERY hot and absolute mayhem we had a great time!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Salt Spring Sends Kids to School

It is still shocking and heartbreaking for us when we are faced again with the harsh reality that many children do not go to school in Vietnam. If the family is too poor to pay the school fees for the children, they do not go to school. Even though the fees are only $50 a term, if the family income is a mere $600 a year and there ar two or three children; school fees, books and uniforms are more than they can handle.If the family lives too far from the nearest school for the little ones to walk to school, they do not go. If the child has a disability they may not go to school.They have no way to get to school as there is no access for mobility impaired kids and very little Special Education because there are few trained teachers and no equipment.

For the children from Hoa Van leprosy village, the problems are three fold. There is no school in the village beyond grade six, their parents are very poor and they suffer from discrimination.

Our friend Linda has found a creative way to help these childen. Through careful screening she has found the most promising scholars, located "foster" homes or the homes of relatives on the outskirts of the city of Da Nang, sought permission for the children to attend school in the district and set up sponsorship for the fees and living expences. The annual fees range from $300-$600, depending on whether the child is living with relatives or a "foster" family.

Today we went with Linda to meet the children and deliver the next term's fees to the parents. We were so pleased to be able to support three more of these beautiful kids for a year.  Thanks to the Salt Spring team of Journey of the Heart supporters, Stan and Marie, Stan and Anne, Peggy, Richard, John and Margaret and Janice. Off islanders Ellen and Avril also pitched in and Andrea and Marty contributed last fall to support a child. SO...a total of four in the picture above are "ours"!!!

When we asked the students what they liked best about school in Da Nang, they said they liked being able to go to school everyday!!!! When we asked them about their ambitions we heard from aspiring doctors, engineers, teachers, a designer, a journalist and a tour guide. Oh we hope so....we hope so!!!

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Friday, February 26, 2010

More News of Hoa

Back in the fall of 2009, we were told of Hoa's plight. She and her family needed to be moved to safer accomodation during the floods. Her house was completely underwater. Her friends found her family temporary quarters and Journey of the Heart paid the rent.

Hoa is mobility challenged and recently has also been diagnosed with breast disease, first suspected to be cancer and now the diagnosis is "uncertain". She had been on a regimen of traditional medicine, which brought the tumors to the surface for easier removal.....but now she is on a course of "Western" drugs. She says she feels better. The medication however is very expensive and the meager monthly income which her uneducated husband earns as a motor bike taxi driver is no where near the $100 US a month that the drugs cost. So, she only buys them when she can. There were at least eight different medications which she showed us, and the irregularity of her taking them is worrisome. Because of the generosity of friends of Journey of the Heart, Tracey, Pat, Heather,Nancy and Lonia we were able today to give Hoa the gift of three months of  medication.

Our friend Linda at Children's Education Fund is seeing that the school fees and books are paid for Hoa's eldest daughter Thung, the six year old cutie on the right. CEF also took care of the house repairs after the flood. The small two room abode is now sturdy, with new windows and door. While we visited today, Thung and her little sister Thu played quietly and Thung proudly showed us her neatly written school workbook.

This sweet family welcomed us today with the gifts of their smiles, a stool to sit and a cool glass of water. Our tears came as we cycled home in the heat, our hearts and hopes with Hoa.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Hoa and Thuyet have been friends since they were nine year old kids in Hoi An. They were recruited by the Viet Cong as lookouts and runners during the American war, as were a lot of children in their community pictured here, lower left.

By the time they were fifteen, Hoa and Thuyet ( pictures upper right) were rounded up with other kids, all suspected Viet Cong child soldiers and hussled off to an internment camp in Da Lat, up in the mountains about 300 miles away.

There they spent the next three years, until they were moved to other prisons or released. Hoa was released, came home and joined the regular Viet Cong forces. Despite being imprisoned seven more times during the course of the war, she survived and rose within the ranks, retiring as a respected hero. She was 33 when her husband died, leaving her with two small boys to care for.

Thuyet ultimately became the head of the Women's Union in the province of Quang Nam, after her service with the Viet Cong.

We learned this incredible story on yet another visit with Hoa and our friends at VAVA ( Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange) where Hoa is now the Director, a volunteer position. Thuyet is a victim of Agent Orange, having contracted two forms of cancer and losing a breast to the disease. She has never married.

The picture upper left, was taken at a reunion several years ago of the survivors of the original group from Hoi An interned in Da Lat. Seven of the group of fifteen were then still alive.

It took us all morning to piece together the stories of these two amazing women, using our very limited Vietnamese, the help of our young interpreter Phuong, the pictures and a book about these war heroines. We visited both of their homes for tea and met their mother's.

The strength of the love between these two women, their love for their country and their families, their resilience and fortitude are beautiful and humbling to behold.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More News of Hien

This stunning painting is one of Hien's. We would like to invite you to view Hien's website at http://www.artistonwheels.com/ (link on the right of this blog) to see more of his work.

A few weeks ago we went to Hien's wedding (see the blog entry below about that marvelous day.) Our gift, from Journeys of the Heart was a computer for the home which he now shares with his beautiful new bride Ly. Now he will be able to access his own site and market his beautiful paintings to a wider audience with greater ease.

Hien's website tells the story of his remarkable rehabilitaton of body and spirit. In a country where persons of disability are still denied an education, job training, access to public buildings and an opporunity to live independently, he is a shining example of hope and inspiration.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Books from Friends in Canada

One of the projects which continues to capture the hearts of our home team, is the Portable Libraries project of Global Village Foundation. These boxes, each containing 250 books selected from the approved reading list published by the Department of Education, rotate from one school to the next in remote villages, where the students have little reading material. The objective is to deliver four to six boxes to each central school, so that over the course of the year the kids have access to 1000 books.

The GVF team, conducts a day long workshop, to deliver skills to the teachers, to enable them to make reading fun, incorporating drama, art, and team projects. When we have been part of these workshops we have wondered whether the teachers or the students are the most enthusiastic!

This year, Journeys of the Heart, home team supporters, Victoria, Carole and Philip and the Red Tent Book Club, gave funds to send three libraries to these receptive and eager students. That is 750 books that will reach fertile minds!

Thank you from the province of Quang Nam, Vietnam.
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gifts That Give Twice

The tag line on the Reaching Out logo is " Gifts that Give Twice". What it means is that every gift purchased in the store or on-line is not only a beautiful gift for friends and family, but a gift to the disabled person who has crafted and perhaps designed the item...a gift of independence and empowerment.

We are finding that the circle of giving includes gifts to us, in many ways. It is a priviledge to offer our talents to the endeavours of this social business and we are also proud to deliver the support from our Journey of the Heart home team.

Today we were part of the Reaching Out Annual Staff Meeting. What a celebration it was! We celebrated the fact that the revenues far exceeded the targets set by the teams for 2009. We celebrated again the two weddings and two births which caused Quyen to jokingly suggest that the next development for the business might have to be a day care centre. We celebrated the release of a video which portrays the story of our business and is being used to encourage other self help groups throughout Vietnam.

Bruce and I were delighted that a significant agenda item was the presentation of gifts from Journey of the Heart. Thanks to Suzanne and Jeff, a new kitchen facility and renovations to the bathroom will improve working conditions for the 45 people who are now employed at this location. Everyday the whole crew is fed an amazingly fresh and healthy lunch from the tiny space pictured above. ( we couldn't get near the bathroom to take a photo....the one commode is always busy!)

Jo An and Michel have once again supported new trainees....so important as Binh and Quyen contemplate the opening of another workshop, so that they can include more persons of disability in the business.

As many of our readers and followers know, Jeff and Michel were Elaine's mentors at A&W and we are so lucky that our friendships have endured, as have those with their wives, Suzanne and JoAn.

We watched Binh conducting this important meeting covering all of the pertinent financial data; the reports from his team leaders on their progress towards their targets; the honoring of outstanding performers; the "fatherly" guidance to staff about responsibly managing their sizable bonuses; the pride in seeing the success of their careful planning and decision making based on values. This is truly amazing for this small band of disabled people in Vietnam, where Western business practises are not widely known or applied, never mind some some fairly progressive ideas of involvement and ownership.

We were both struck by the significace that we were delivering expertise which our business realtionships had nurtured AND the love and trust of extraordiary friends. We know that these home team supporters of our Jouney of the Heart were there with us in spirit. Their "gifts have given twice."

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The New Challenge at Reaching Out

Last week we arrived at Reaching Out to see this road construction underway. Apparently the merchants had been warned a few days earlier via a message shouted through a loud hailer from the back of a motor bike.  This is Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, one of the main thoroughfares in historic Old Town, Hoi An. The children who live with their parents in quarters over their stores are ecstatic. In the evenings, after the heavy equipment is shut down, they scamper over the rutted sand and dig and build, but the tourists are not as inclined to be charmed by the muck and unsure footing. As Reaching Out and all of the businesses, restaurants and shops along the road rely on foot traffic for their revenues, this is a real set back.

We had an emergency meeting to come up with a plan to minimize our losses during the project. Fortunately, the shop also has an entrance on the river side, where tourists like to stroll. There are restrictions for all heritage buildings when it comes to signage, so we had to be creative. Within a day, Quyen had a flag made in the shop with the new logo and tag line "gifts that give twice" painted on both sides. This now hangs over the back door. Our unique bamboo bicycle rests beside the wheelchair ramp ( where Elaine broke her arm two years ago) and a temporary sign hangs on the wall. More customers are using the entrance than before and walking through the workshop to get to the sales floor. This is a good thing as they are seeing the producers creating the goods.

We wish we could report that we have maintained our daily revenues, but we are having to settle for a dip of about 40-50%. Quyen and I are very proud of how the sales staff are using their skills to maximze every opportunty. We are faring better than our neighbours!

The promise is that the road will be completed for Tet Holiday, February14th, when thousands of tourists and locals come to Old Town for all the festivities, fireworks and music. Sure hope so!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Working For Reaching Out

We have our assignments and we are now well immersed in our work for Reaching Out. Bruce is working with Binh to explore software options that will augment the POS system and allow greater control of inventory both in the shop and throughout the supplier chain. This means that the raw materials of silk, thread, brass, silver etc. can be inventoried as well as the finished products. They are also working on the on-line catalogue. This has been newly launched and there are some glitches and spots that could be more user friendly, like the 15 pages of Terms and Conditions which are a little daunting.

Elaine's work so far has been learning to navigate the POS system to understand the customer data captured therein and how to utilize the function which allows the creation and storage of letter templates, for communicating with customers on line. Once learned, she will then develop the letter templates and teach the staff how to access them and personalize them. Inherent in this task will be the necessary teaching of written English skills!!!!

Who would have guessed that these two, fairly computer illiterate sixty somethings would be tackling such challenges...but hey...this is why we love being here. We are doing all sorts of things that we would not do at home and we are really having fun and are grateful that we are all learning together.

One day at Binh and Quyen's house, one of the four computers that we had going, just quit. Within ten minutes a technician arrived and in the next two had the CPU apart and was cleaning it with a small brush. We could not believe the sand and dust that came out of the box, right there on the front porch. Within another fifteen minutes we were up and running.
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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Journey of the Heart Goes to a Wedding

Hien and Ly were married today in a celebration of their love, their hope and our congratulations for their happiness and courage. Hien is a talented paraplegic painter whose work is sold through Reaching Out and his beautiful bride is a physical therapist.....and yes they met much as Rick Hansen and his wife did, he the patient after a horrendous accident with a bus toppling him off his bicycle and she the loving hands encouraging him to maximize his remaining capabilities. He first began to paint while he was in the rehabilitation center where they met.

Despite their deep and tender love for one another their lives will not be easy. Ly's salary will barely cover the rent of a suitable house and although Hien's paintings fetch a very handsome $120 a piece, the unsteady income against the ever escalating cost of his therapy and medical expenses is a constant worry for the young couple. In his bid to become independent, Hien has discovered the advantage of using the internet to network and seek other outlets for his art. His immobility means that until now, he has had to wait for Ly to finish her shift at the rehabilitation center, to take him to an Internet cafe to access the web. Journey of the Heart, in patrnership with Binh and Quyen of Reaching Out presented Hien and Ly with a computer, modum, web cam....the works!!! as a wedding gift! It was a surprising gift, beyond their wildest imaginings. There were tears of joy all round....Hien and Ly, Binh and Quyen, Elaine, Hien's mother and his sister, the Sister, could not utter words....we simply hugged, smiled, nodded and said many many Cam On's ( thank you's). Thank you to Nancy and George and Dan and Bryna for making this possible. Your gifts will launch this young couple toward a more independent life.

Around large tables of ten, we enjoyed a five course luncheon in the court yard of the rehab center. As with all Vietnamese weddings, there was much loud karaoke music, with the Doctor in charge, Binh's therapist from 30 years ago, many guests and even the bride groom belting out the songs. One resident, not an invited guest, but who had watched the procedings from behind a curtain, could not restrain herself and at last wheeled her ancient self onto the "stage" and offered her musical tribute.
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fun is Universal !

Sometimes, we forget to record and share with you, that in addition to our work, we really have fun here in Hoi An! In the evenings our bike rides through the villages and rice paddies always offer vews of rural life....water buffalo with their young calves, the mothers munching on grass, the young nuzzling at udders for a snack; fields of brilliant green, straw conical hats dotting the carefully laid out plats. It is a veritable visual feast.

Of course, our friends and family are a joy. As you can see technology is the bridge with the young. Nam is our housekeeper's 13 year old son who is happy to come to feed and walk the dog if he can use the internet for a a few minutes. His friends seem to want to come along too! We practise our Vietnamese ( Bruce is getting fairly good at the basics) and they their English. Our conversations are often better than a game of charades, with lots of laughter and cheering if we manage to understand each other.Not to be outdone, by the youth Binh and Quyen are very computer savvy and have duelling I-phones!

One of our favorite recreations is to cycle to the local beach An Bang ( not Cua Dai where all the large hotels are!)Here we walk on the sand, wade in the surf and drink strong black coffee at a small bistro. The bistro , La Plage is run by two expat friends, who have been conscious since they built the place last year that it would be accessible for persons of disability and also kid friendly. There are beach toys and table games. We are all at home here.

Of course our days are sprinkled with visitors to our house, invites to others' homes, dinners out, wedding parties and celebrations of every kind. Nga and her sister My came by one day with both Sophia and Lucky, their three year olds...they were very sweet but a little intimidated by our resident Doberman, both mothers and children. Zen seems to them a very big dog!

Gentle pleasures sparkle through our days. The newspaper seller in Old town remembers us from our previous stays in Hoi An. He watched us this morning trying to share the crossword puzzle. He was back in two miuntes with copies of the previous two days papers, so that we could each have a puzzle AND still have one to bring home. This kindness is so endearing and we can not count the times in each day, wherein, someone is particularly helpful, and welcoming. How lucky we are to be here!

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Room With a View

The house, which we are fortunate to be sitting, is large and airy with comfortable furniture. We sleep to the hum of an air conditioner on clean sheets, under mosquito netting. There is plenty of hot water and indoor plumbing. We are well cared for by Lien, Linda the home owner's housekeeper, who comes every day. Today Elaine had a lesson in cooking rice. Lien has brought some very special, very white, almost translucent rice for Ong and Ba (old man, old woman with respect!)

Lest we get lazy and forget why we are here, all we need to do is look out our bedroom windows. The pictures are what we see, depicting the life of typical working Vietnamese. On their small patch of earth, they live, grow vegetables and raise the chickens, ducks, geese and pigs whose serenades awake us each morning. Some are wood workers, others metal workers. These "home based businesses" happen right on the front porch or under a leanto. The average income has risen from about $300 annually to about $500 over the past three years, but this surely is a statistic which is skewed by the much higher salaries in the large urban areas, rather than what our neighbours earn.

Humbling this reality.
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