My expectation when I arrived here is that I would walk down steps from the airplane directly onto the flight line and then into a forty something year old building left over from the Americans. The reality is I walked through the jetway into a modern airport terminal. The passport check and customs were smooth with friendly and welcoming customs agents. We were then met by all six of the program staff, put in a taxi and taken to the program house, shown to our rooms and told to sleep well.
The next day we woke up to a great bowel of pho ga (rice noodle soup with chicken). We had an orientation and in the afternoon had a driving tour of the city of Da Nang. Still catching up on sleep I fit naps in wherever I could and went to bed early. Friday morning I went out walking about 5 AM looking for the park....I found the airport instead and had a great 45 minute walk/run. We were treated to an outline of the city of Da Nang by our politics instructor in the morning and a trip to the beach in the afternoon. As I was enjoying the view a bus full of college girls from Ho Chi Minh city unloaded and one of them ran straight over and had her picture taken with me. Then they all ran off to the water acting completely silly. I thought how great it was that they could goof off that way and not have to worry about freeing their country from an invading army.
That evening we had a welcome dinner with the Friendship Union SUNY's partner in Vietnam. The occasion was a bit formal and the Friendship Union director outlined their goals and hopes for the program. We managed to ask intelligent questions and had a wonderful evening.
Saturday morning I found the park and had a great workout followed by a hot shower and a very tasty breakfast. At 8 AM we were off to Marble Mountains, called that because they are all marble. The remains of the old US Marine Corps helicopter base are still there. All of my working out like a crazy man paid off because there were a LOT of steps and a LOT of climbing. This is now a sacred site because of the Vietnamese who died during American bombing in 1972. At the shrine my prayers were for harmony, balance , and peace.
As we walk in the streets people say hello or good morning, usually respond in both English and Vietnamese. One man walked right up to me and touched my tattoos then walked away nodding. A young woman looked at my earings and said "Wow" I said "Yeah."
It seems that every one in Da Nang owns a motorbike and the only rule in traffic is that there are no rules. However when I look deeper there is a certain harmony to what appears to be chaos. Sunday we hung out with some Vietnamese folks and had an amazing breakfast. We met up with more people at a coffee shop and we all went to visit the pagoda of the Lady Budda. We had great conversation and made an effort to learn some Vietnamese phrases. Then I actually started this blog thing. Hope you enjoy it