Report from Vietnam --- a trip to a resort that is a union specified/negotiated activity for organized businesses and public or not-for profit employers: practically speaking covering the employees of many employers of size in Vietnam. In our case we as faculty of the University were invited to the annual Team Building retreat along with the rest of the faculty and what would be called the "classified staff" in my experience in the USA. In other words all the employees who are not faculty. Many spouses, children and grandchildren also participated. Impressive to see the TDT administration (both the President and one of the Vice Presidents attended) and the VGCL Union leaders working together to see that all of the trip details were a success.
Anyway, 500+ employees of the University boarded some 9 large buses and headed for a resort that was about a six hour drive from the campus (which is located in eastern Ho Chi Minh City). The buses were not just your average bus but were accommodations that were as good or better than those on an airliner --- well coach class anyway. On the way to the resort got a few photos that tell a bit of the story of these provinces of Vietnam but can't explain anywhere near the whole of this nation of about 80 million, 60% percent of whom are under the age of 30.
We crossed the Saigon River on the second highest suspension bridge in the country that was built in the past few years and has only been open for about a year if I understood correctly. As we rose high over the port we could see the ocean going ships as well as the shipyards that have been part of the nation for many years. We were heading north and soon passed through the port and city of Bien Hoa, an Industrial Zone that is HUGH and one of the oldest zones (dates back to the French) and still growing at a fast rate. A few more miles and we passed the Long Binh area and then out into the countryside. There are roadside businesses along the highway and we saw lots of fresh produce for sale as well as hundreds of motorbike repair shops, gas stations, and small cafes and restaurants serving pho and other foods. One of the great sights was outdoor cafes that also include hammocks so travelers can eat, drink and take a nap. At one point we passed through several rubber plantations and noticed rubber workers at the side of the trees collecting latex and it brought to mind that one of the products that the west had for trying to hold on to Vietnam was natural rubber --- the Michellin plantations if my old brain remembers accurately. But it might have been Perrelli, Firestone or all. Michellin is the best remembered because it was the remains of the French colonialism that the west hoped to preserve in the south.
Noted the highway to Vung Tau as passed by the turn off --- it is another large port and maybe a place to take a trip one day while we are here.
In the last miles before reaching the resort we passed through the land of the "thanh long" the dragon fruit that is delicious and nourishing at the same moment. The fruit has the ability to make you feel cool on the hottest days. We ate some several times and I will attest that it did seem to provide relief from the heat or maybe I was willing for relief and accepted an illusion as fact --- in any case dragon fruit is delicious. The red fruit that you see stacked like pyramids is dragon fruit - thanh long. I will try to get and post a close up of a piece of the fruit, we have some in our refrigerator.
The resort in Phan Thiet in Binh Thuan province was gorgeous with beautiful beach (there was a marathon volleyball competition of departments and Hollis played hard in the sand as part of the Labor Relations/Trade Union department -- we did not win the prize), lots of local fisherman and boats nearby, formal team building but mostly informal singing, drinking (we finally experienced the famous Vietnamese homemade white lightening), delicious meals, swimming in the ocean and in saltwater pools and an outrageous marathon when each department performed a song or skit. Not sure we'll ever post it, but the Labor Relations/Trade Union Department (including us) performed Solidarity Forever with Hollis and I attempting to introduce us all in Vietnamese. We even got to enjoy FRESH seafood on the beach under the moonlight with TDT friends who included us in their knowledge of the countryside tradition of fishermen informally cooking and serving their catch. We really do feel like part of the TDT family as we meet and get to know more and more of the faculty, support staff and students!