Thank you for your continued prayer support. Everyday something occurs that I know is not under my control and I still survive. The traffic in Hanoi is chaos, mainly motorbikes zipping in and out. Their sense of space is less than 2 inches. The students at the school have taken pity on this old woman and have one of the brothers take me to school every day on his motorbike. Sometimes one of the dainty sisters picks me up. It is about a half an hour walking. I don’t think that they realized what an American sized body could be. I ride on the back and often have my eyes closed because I’d be reacting to every close call. I am getting better.
These students truly have the love of God in their hearts. Each is studying English to improve their chances to get into the university, perhaps to have a year in the US, be a point person for their community and to be able to teach the youth so they may have a more prosperous life. The entrepreneurial spirit is evident everywhere in Hanoi. However, the government continues to oversee and limit building, and educational opportunities for individuals. It definitely is the grass roots control all the way up the line. If I had to say what I felt the difference was between here and US, I would say that we feel we have control and true options. The people here just don’t feel that they have the true choice to go wherever they want in schooling and business. The level of scrutiny does not seem as transparent as in the US.
They just celebrated 80 years of the Communist Party with lots of sing and flags and nearly every house. This October 10, 2010 is the 1000 year of the founding of Hanoi. It is an auspicious date in an auspicious year. Many infrastructure projects are underway. Every road, building, or electric pole that can be beautified is being improved. Like the rest of the world, people from the countryside are seeking improved life in the city. The population density grows unabated. Every structure is occupied. Although, the city has several urban renewal projects underway, it seems as though it stops at the footprint of the building. Disposal of the rubble, construction materials or what we’d call waste awaits the entrepreneurial recyclers. (Often on bicycles.) It is truly amazing what is carried by bicycle and motorbike.
The students are a breath of fresh air. Each is in some stage of applying for the seminary or as a postulant for religious order. Many are here because it is with the strong support of their families. As Catholics in this Country they have a strong commitment to the faith. Catholics are 8% of the population and have always been viewed as supporting foreign occupiers. It is the double edged sword of integrating into the world and not always seen as supporting their home land. For most of the time the faith was lost. A few years ago the government allowed the opening of more churches. Now they are managing the construction of the structures, schools and the number of priests and religious. The number of Catholics has decreased significantly over this last generation as the church went into the background. And as with every generation where religion is not part of the family life, the children adopt the world. The grandmothers and grandfathers make the biggest part of the church community.
There are many A HA moments so far. Lots of asking myself how I got so lucky to be born where and when I did. Our baseline is so different. One day the students asked me why I came to Vietnam. It took me a while to verbalize it. But like many who go on mission, I was lucky to be born when and where I was, to have a good education, a safe family life, a good job, a good retirement, health and time. They of course said God has been good to you. It may not be a “Road to Damascus“ moment but the students understood it as God acting, while I might have said it was travel lust. Whatever works.
The biggest celebration of the year will be here in about two weeks. Tet, the lunar New Year, is a time for literally cleaning out the old and reaffirming the new. You scrub, repaint, and refurbish you house, your family and other personal relationships. Just like Christmas, Thanksgiving and the New Years all rolled into one. Today the student had a party for the teachers, giving each of a present of sweets. We came for (English) Mass at 8 AM. Then promptly set up for a party, including some of their pressed pork and sausage meats along with cookies, pamello, grapefruit, beer, soft drinks and water. We watched HERBIE so that they could listen to English. It had no Vietnamese subtitles, did have some English subtitles, along with Russian, Indian, and Thai. This is the first of several parties scheduled. We are also been invited to the mother house about 3 hours south of Hanoi for a meal. All part of the Tet celebrations
Thank you for your continued prayers. This process is often very personal for the person traveling and with those we encounter. Pray that I hear and follow the guidance I am given as I continue the journey on which God sent me.