Doing Thai Chi and getting artsy

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During J-term 2019, 367 students and 32 program leaders will participate in one of Luther's 18 courses around the globe.Each course is a different journey and has a different blogger (or several). Below you'll find a blog post from the Stability and Change in Vietnam course. Check out the January Term 2019 Course Blogs page for more on each of the courses! Although it's impossible to keep up with everyone, these blogs are designed to provide glimpses into our students' adventures.

Jan. 27

Good morning from Ha Long Bay!

After a relaxing, quiet night on the boat (something we haven’t experienced much of in the city), some of the group woke up with the sun for early morning Tai Chi. That, plus a coffee boost, got us ready to visit Thăm Làng Chài, a local floating fishing village. A 45 minute row boat tour gave us a glimpse into the simplistic, self-efficiency of their lifestyle. During the route we saw the houses of fishermen, an aquaculture farm, a community house, and Vong cave - the gate that leads fishermen to the sea (see picture below).

As Ha Long Bay is trying to balance increased tourism and sustainable development, we learned that the fishing village partnered with Centre for Marinelife Conservation and Community Development (MCD) from 2014-2017. The goal of this partnership was to promote effective ways of communication between government agencies, enterprises, social and professional organizations, and the local community. In doing so, the hope was to contribute to environmental conservation and rational use of natural resources, with an end goal of sustainable development in Ha Long Bay.

While we all would have loved more time in Ha Long Bay, we docked in the early afternoon and headed back to Hanoi to finish out the last few days of our journey. Dinner tonight consisted of small groups visiting various families of current or former Luther students. My group had dinner with the family of Phuong Anh Hoang, a junior at Luther. They treated us to one of the most incredible meals I have ever had. All of us had great conversations throughout the night as we learned more about traditional Vietnamese culture, food, and general day-to-day life for their family. With the Lunar New Year only a week away, a popular Vietnamese legend of “The Kitchen Gods” was present tonight at dinner. This legend tells the story of two males and one female who bless the household and bring happiness and well-being to the family. It is said that the kitchen Gods make an annual trip to heaven to give an annual report to the God of Heaven. A popular tradition for this legend takes the form of large amounts of traditional food being cooked for the family - which is exactly what we experienced tonight. I think I can speak for everyone in saying that this dinner was one of the highlights and that our stomachs are VERY full!


Jan. 28

Morning began when it should, after 8am. The gang once again enjoyed a bountiful breakfast in the hotel restaurant, indulging in the mysteriously bottomless pot of hot coffee. Our day’s adventure started off as many in the city have, with a honk filled bus ride through the morning motorbike mayhem.

Around 9:30am we were greeted at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi by Professor Minh. An energetic and talkative man, Professor Minh lectured to us on the international relations between Vietnam and China. To conclude the lecture professor Minh provided insight to numerous questions posed by fellow students and our professors alike. Following our time at the USSH, we were free for about 2 hours midday to roam and find some lunch. Some students chose to stray a bit from traditional Vietnamese cuisine and found themselves a hot panini, while others chose to explore a local style restaurant enjoying bowls of noodles and plates of shrimp rice. After lunch a few of us continued working on crafting and recording a song and accompanying music video.

Our adventures continued on around 1:30pm as we again took to the busy streets of Hanoi. This time we headed to a local art house and gallery called Art Vietnam. We were greeted eagerly by Suzanne Letch, the gallery owner and rooftop resident. Suzanne is an expat originally from Montana who has been living in Southeast Asia for many years. After her move from the US, Suzanne first lived and worked with her husband in Japan. After her husband’s early death, she decided to pack up again and move to Hanoi. Since that time, Suzanna has been an impactful figure in the Vietnamese art community. Living in Vietnam for the past 30 years, Suzanne has witnessed first hand the rapid urban expansions and industrial development that we have been studying over the past three weeks. Suzanne offered a unique perspective on these changes coming through her participation in the Vietnamese art world. We spent a lovely couple of hours exploring her beautiful gallery house and talking with her about everything that came to mind. My good friend and fellow student Forrest Stewart blessed us all with his lovely piano skills, playing as we toured the house, sitting peacefully by the accompanying koi pond. It was simply a wonderful way to spend our last organized day in Vietnam. Personally, I enjoyed some time at the gallery to sit quietly and reflect on all our adventures in the past few weeks while admiring both the koi fish and the incredible works of art—all the time being lulled by Forrest’s calming piano playing. Yet another great day in Vietnam.


Can't get enough of those Ha Long Bay vistas...

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