Saturday, July 17, 2010

First assigment in Bac Ha

So surprised when I got a call from Thao, office worker for SNV in Hanoi at about 8.30 on 12 July to offer me the first job: interpreter for a workshop in Lao Cai and that I left with two other women that night. At that time I was still in bed. Oversleeping because I watched the World Cup final match between the Netherlands and Spain from 1am to 4 am or so. You know, I signed the contract with this organization long time ago. When I let it be, not much expectation from it, job came. In fact, I felt a bit nervous and excited anyhow. I just discussed with my friend that I might take another tour in my vacation and thinking of Sapa to explore mountains. Now suddenly opportunity came. What I found nervous was that the training workshop was divided into three sessions. The first and second had an interpreter. I was responsible for the last one. It is much better if you follow it from the beginning to the end. So you know the content well and you are familiar to the foreigner's accent and speed (maybe). I could turn the offer down but I didn't. I thought it was a good chance for me to learn and to apply what I teach to a real situation and to travel. We do not know what we can do until we do it. :-)
It took me time to read the material and pack my suitcase. And at 8 pm I caught a taxi to the train station. I met three accompanies there and as soon as we got to the cabin people started to sleep. The cabin was in the last coach. The interior was nice but it was so shaky to be at the end of the train. Luckily I had 'travelsick' medicine.:-) A bit sick.

We arrived in Lao Cai station early in the next morning. We stayed in a hotel, near the station, until 8.30 am, when a bus came to pick us up to move to Bac Ha, a poor district of Lao Cai, 80 km far away. I could not brush my teeth. Dirty. Cleaned my face with wet tissues. First time. During the time in the hotel, the two trainers explained the programme for me so that I knew what they would talk in the workshop.
We left for Bac Ha on time. Half way through it was fine. But the rest was so winding and up to mountains. On the one side was cliff. On the other side was abyss . So dangerrous. The speed was 30-40 km/h. My first experience, a woman living in flat areas.
We got to the town at around 10.30. It was a town but not very populous. So quiet and peaceful. Therefore a bit boring here. We stayed in a two star hotel. No air conditioner, no mini bar, smelly sheet, broken TV, no wardrobe but wifi. I still got in touch with my friends in Hanoi on skype and via sms. I stayed there for two and a half days. We worked intensively. No time for exploration. In fact nowhere to go in the evening.
When the workshop finished on 15 July, everybody was eager to go home. The participants were from 8 different northern provinces. On the way back to Lao Cai, down the mountains I feft really sick. But nothing came out, I still survived. We got to the hotel at 4 pm and our train was 8.45 pm. I spent time walking around the town while the two women were busy with their project. Hot. There were some bruises on my feet because I walked in shoes. Poor me. According to the map the border gate was just two km from the hotel. I tried to walk there but could not far enough to reach the gate. :=) Too tired and I gave up my wish and came back. Perhaps another time. I sat in the bar on the top of the hotel and enjoyed the view and drinks. At 6.30 I went back to the room and walked together with the two women to a restaurant serving Vietnamese food next to the restaurant my friend suggested. Couldn't eat much. And at 8.15 we checked out and walked into the station and started our journey back to Hanoi. The coach was number 5, which meant I was in the middle of the train. Not much shaky. Lucky. We got to Hanoi at 5.30. My normal life came back again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Canada in Bob's eyes

While we were in Cat Ba, Bob's art teacher informed me that Bob was invited to the prize-awarding ceremony. His painting was chosen to be in the final round of the contest with the theme 'Essays and paintings about Canada and red-haired Anne (a charater in a story for children)'. This contest was organized by some organizations including Canada Embassy.
At first, we thought he won a prize (we often receive an inviation to the prize-awarding ceremony when he wins a prize). We felt very happy. But it turned out to be that he didn't. He got the certificate saying that his painting was chosen to be in the final round with 29 other paintings. He was a bit disappointed when he knew that. I told him that no big problem if not winning a prize. He needs to try more. The most important is that we do with all our best.

I took a photo of him and his classmate in the art club. Bob's painting is about a hill of pine trees and it is at the top on the left.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tour of Hue and Cat Ba

Recently I have been Hue. Again. For the third time. So I can say I get to know that city better and better and this time I travelled to different destinations: a ride on bicycle along the outside walls and to the Vong Canh Hill and a ride on motorbike to Thanh Toan Bridge and Minh Mang Tomb and Thuan An Beach (the beach is clean and you even can see your body in the water). I also went to the tailor's to have two long dresses made. Nice ones. Unforgettable holiday. To prepare for this trip I read some articles and checked maps to make sure that I would not miss my target places. Everything went smoothly, even better than planned. There were only two things I regretted. One is Tinh Tam Lake and the other is Kim Long Village. The lake was full of wild weed and not well-preserved. It is said that the lake is very beautiful. But not. And I could not find a garden house in Kim Long.

Unlike the tour of Hue, my stay in Cat Ba was a disaster in term of journey time, service and hotel. All of my colleagues said that they did not want to come back here at least in five years.:-). It took us nearly 10 hours to get back to Hanoi. What consumed our time was the ferry. But luckily I travelled with my best friends so we chatted and made jokes to kill the time. The streets were full of people and litter. Beaches were crowded and waves were too strong and dangerous. One beach on an island we visited in Lan Ha Bay has got sharp stones in stead of soft sand. I hurt my feet when swimming there. I liked travelling on boat around the bay but suffered a bit from seasick.
Enjoy some of my photos.