Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hoa Lo Prison

Of course no one wants to go to prision but going to Hoa Lo prison is possible for anyone. The ticket is only 10,000 dongs/person.

It is located in downtown Hanoi, not very far from Hoan Kiem Lake. It was built by French a long time ago, in place which used to be a village. Unbelievable. Now part of the prison's area is Hanoi Tower and the remaining becomes a historic site and tourist attraction. This prison was used by French to keep Vietnamese political prisoners (among whom were some of the Party's leaders) and used by Vietnam to keep American pilots who were captured alive in the North during Vietnam War.

I paid a visit to Hoa Lo this morning. Not many visitors there and the prison is small, which made my visit short. What I felt a bit afraid of was small and dark cells keeping prisoners who were sentenced to death. And what made me feel so touched was the fact that Vietnamese political prisoners survived, escaped and continued their struggles against French before 1945. And I saw on the wall in the memorial area this sentence 'Chao cac dong chi o lai. Vinh biet.' (Goodbye comrades who remain here. Adieu.) I am not sure but it could be said by a political prisoner on the way to the guillotine. So sad. In the photo, behind me are some words presented to political prioners who sacrificed their life for the country, 'Loyal, Undaunted, Glorious, Forever'

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Workload reduced

We have only 6 weeks ahead to finish the first semester. However, it seems that we feel bored and tired now. I myself finished one evening class and gave up another class in the International Relations Faculty. I have more time at home now, but relaxing time is still something luxury for me during the week. I am assigned to edit some questions in the end of term test for first year students and a review test. The deadline is 30th October, but I have not done anything on them yet. I plan to spend the whole day tomorrow to finish it. In addition, a list of interview questions for fourth year students have been read carefully. In my opinion, they are diffcult to answer, difficult to teach and to learn. This is the first time we have taught this kind of material. No experience at all. Hope it is going to be all right.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The West Lake

It is a large and beautiful lake in the northwest of Hanoi. It is a famous tourist attraction. Around the lake are so many beautiful buildings. Recently a road running around the lake has been being built. Last weekend I had a chance to go on a tour half the lake. My first place is Quang Ba. This place used to be famous for flowers and bonsai for Tet holiday, for restaurants and now a residential place for the rich and for foreigners. It is so peaceful with a lot of houses with high fences next to each ther. I think long time ago neighbours knew each other but now just stepping out of your house you meet a stranger. It is this place I saw some ponds of lotus. It must be beautiful in the summer, season of this kind of flowers. I also travelled along the new waterfront road, which is called Japan Habour road. I do not know why it has got that name. But the name sounds so romantic. My friend said that in the evening, especially at weekends this long road is full of couples. I went past the Tay Ho pagoda, up to the Ho Tay Villa and along the road near the dike, past Sheraton Hotel to the end of the road near Intercontinetal Hotel.

The next stop was Sunset Bar in the Intercontinental on the water. I has been there once before, in the evening. But this time in the afternoon. The bar was closed. I remember when we were there we just drank juice and tea. Terribly expensive.

After the Sunset bar, I paid a visit to Tran Quoc pagoda and had some ice cream in Banh Tom Ho Tay restaurant. The location was perfect but the ice cream was not high quality. This restaurant serves shrimp ricecake, speciality. I tried it but it was too oily, not my type. It was here a ride on the water swan was decided.

I did not know the name, something like water bicycle (explained by my friend). Imagine you are on the water, far from the shore, in the middle of nowhere. Wonderful, isn't it? Soooooo peaceful and windy and fresh. You just want to fall asleep there, believe me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Quoc Tu Giam

Honestly, I do not explore much Hanoi, my hometown. Here there are so many historical and cultural attractions. These are the places I have ever heard of, I have ever passed by but many of which I have NEVER visited. Perhaps I am lazy. Perhaps 'material' life and 'social' things consume a large part of my time. Or perhaps I am lazy to go out.

Quoc Tu Giam, a famous landmark of Hanoi, is the place I did not visit until today. It is on the corner of Ton Duc Thang Street and Nguyen Thai Hoc Str, which used to be my way to university. That means I went past Quoc Tu Giam so many times during my 4 years at university, long long time ago. But only today did I come into it.

Quoc Tu Giam is very beautiful and well-designed. There are a lot of big ancient trees and five small lakes inside, which makes the whole area peaceful and fresh. Moreover, it is looked after well, clean and paved roads, green grass and visitors seems to be well-behaviored (they must be well-educated). However, the text on the stelae of doctor laureates of the Royal exams is in Chinese and I cannot read Chinese. A little pity! Anyhow, I am satisfied with the decision to pay a visit there.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rat race

I told myself not to teach any classes anymore because I am working almost three classes everyday. However, one more job offer came to me. I did not turn it down. As a result, so busy with preparing lessons and correcting homework. I cannot afford to have time doing nothing. The most relaxing time for me is from Saturday noon to Sunday night. I told my friends and colleagues I am living like Suzy Stressed (a character in our English coursebook) and for me life in the week is really a rat race now. But my life will return to be calm during the time between the two semesters, Tet holiday and summer holiday. In fact, I just teach 36 weeks a year. So maybe on average I am as busy as other employees.

As I mentioned above, my relaxing time starts on Saturday noon. (I often refuse to teach for other colleagues on Saturday afternoon.) And yesterday afternoon I met my friend downtown and we had a chance to walk along the lake for a while. Hanoi is in the middle of autumn. The weather is pleasant, chilly and not raining. Many people were walking there too, hand in hand, side by side. I am sure most of them are lovers, most of them are tourists, most of them are students. Peaceful. Romantic.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mid-autumn festival

When I was young, when I was a little girl, when life was really difficult for most Vietnamese people this festival really meant to me. We looked forward to it, looked forward to eating typical things such as mooncakes, grapefruits etc , looked forward to getting some presents from parents like a star-shaped, animal-shaped lights, crowns and masks. It is Tet for children. Now it is so different when we are grown up.
I bought two mooncakes a few days ago for my son and a box of mooncake to put on the altar yesterday. Fruits? Oh, we eat almost everyday. Toys for son? He often gets them. But I still feel the environment of the festival. For young people tonight is also a good time to go out together, to watch people on the streets and to watch the beautiful moon in the sky if they are in open areas and to listen to drums. Here I just remember my father who passed away last year. When he was alive, he used to take part in the group of dancers performing in my village. This afternoon, I presented my mum some mooncakes and did not forget to tell her to put on the altar inviting my father... Time flies, he has been away for almost a year.
What is the history of mid-autumn festival and mooncakes? Honestly, I don't know. I felt so shy when my friend asked me if I knew it. I have had at least 34 mid-autumn festivals in my life but I did not know much about it. I will look it up soon.
I do not do anything special tonight, sitting on the sofa lazily and watching 'Mr. Bean's holiday', a comedian. Long time no watch TV. I still hear loud noises of drums downstairs.
Tomorrow we have to go to university, making up for last Saturday's work, while others enjoy their weekend. So boring for teachers like me. However, I think we will stop classes earlier than on weekdays: no one has mood for studying on Sunday.