Thursday, October 31, 2013

Youth Union at the HCMC Zoo, Team building of Lao Dong va Cong Doen Students

Off to observe student “Team building Exercises” and tour the HCMC Zoological Garden and Park.

Yesterday, Sunday in HCMC and Saturday in the US, Leanna and I had a chance to observe and take a little part in a “team building” exercise of Youth Union (FYI -- the Youth Union is a national political association of young adults) members of Lao Dong and Cong Doen students, students from the department where we are guest lecturing in this semester.  We weren't quite sure what the Youth Union team building would be like although our colleague and translator Vinh, also a lecturer for the University, told us that it would be a many hours long activity that is designed to bring the students together and develop a loyalty to each other and the department and University.  The Youth Union student activity took place at the Ho Chi Minh City Zoological Park, the Zoo and inlcuded students working as teams competing to find hidden items or information – we remarked that it sounded like a treasure hunt to was and wasn't.
Anyway, Sunday 8am we met Vinh at the front gates of the University with two big bags of fresh fruit hanging from her motorbike.  She stopped, hefted the bags over to us, told us to wait and then zoomed off to park her motor bike in the underground faculty parking.  She was back quickly, we hailed a cab and took off for the Zoo.  I estimate it was about 7 or 8 kilometers to the Park where we bought our zoo visit tickets – 3 tickets cost 36 dong or a total of $1.60 for three adults (two old farts plus 1 regular).

 The Zoo was full of students, families with lots of little kids, teenagers, young lovers,

Leanna and Vinh with "decorated" students.

 grand parents, and parents pouring into the park on buses, taxis, motorbikes and walking.  Everyone was out to have a day at your all purpose zoo and park.  It wasn't just taking in the animals and birds, crocodiles and great apes, rhinoceroses and giraffes but lots of small lakes, a bandshell (with free entertainment for the kids that included learning to play traditional instruments and a magic show), lots of shade and grass where families set up picnics and teenagers and young adults vogued for their cameras.  The Park also included play stations for children learning to paint, fish toys, from shallow pools and carnival rides. There were happenings going on in all directions a cacophony of sound, light, the noises of happy and excited children and action.
So, in the midst of all this and using every inch of the zoo park the Youth Union Organizing Team of some 12 students had planned out a full day's activities that they refer to as “team building”.  With ten teams of ten students each they worked together to complete tasks, play games, score points (or lose points) get to know each other better and have FUN.  Each team selected a color in advance and a slogan, planned their own food, drink and snacks for the day, elected a team leader and showed up wearing their colors.  And in other ways visibly showing their team identity from a glance we could see that each team included both new and senior students and both men and women.  The older students had the responsibility to break in the newcomers to being team members.  

The 12 organizers let the first two rules be know very straight forward to start.  Rule 1 – Organizers are always right. Rule 2 – If you consider questioning the organizer refer to Rule 1. And that was the rule book except for rules made up on the fly by organizers.  The teams tore off through the zoo in quest of the “treasurers” that would earn them points.  The complication was that the organizers were the ones who decided whether points were earned or not! 

We watched for a while and got some pictures with the students, but then took off on our own and toured the Zoo.  Now I am not a big zoo pusher – I always wonder if the caged bird sings but I was happily surprised.  The animals were in large spaces, well cared for and loved by the zoo goers.  Yes, the animals were still in placements or settings and not running wild but they weren't eating the spectators either.  We were amazed to see a white tiger with very light gray stripes lounging in its enclosure.  It was the biggest cat I have ever seen – an immense fellow bigger than any lion I have seen.  The crocodiles were pretty lazy and no wonder the temperature was probably at least 35c or about 95 degrees and 80% humidity.  The signage was in Vietnamese except for the species and common name, that was in Vietnamese, English and Latin for the scientific names.  It was nice that the year of known discovery of different species was listed.  At 11:30 we felt it was time to go to the History Museum but alas it was closed for lunch hour!  Next trip.  We snared a taxi and went out for lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant that features traditional food from Central coastal provinces of Vietnam.  We ate special dishes.  One was yet another incredible pancake that you wrapped in green vegetables and then dipped in a mixture of three special sauces.  The second dish was a “fish” soup that had the best broth and unique noodle with delicious fish; mackerel and another fish prepared as a type of sausage.  Our lunch was scrumptious and filling.  After lunch we headed back to the University by taxi though we had the cab drop us off at our local supermarket where we bought food, bakery, books and a pair of sandals for Leanna to go with her new silk ao dai in turquoise and white (picture soon).  The ao dai is a gift from the President of the University that was made to order for Leanna by a seamstress that came to the University to get measurements and then craft the outfit.
Later in the week we got a chance to attend a Youth Union meeting here on campus and really enjoyed the mix of political history (great SHORT documentaries), culture -- KAROKE and practical skill building.  The students' plan all the content and conduct the meetings completely.  Vinh is the faculty sponsor, but seems to just review generally what is planned -- encouraging students to keep themselves motivated as they grow and hae fun.  Very impressive!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Flying Vietnam Airlines to Hanoi, Hanoi on the Quick

Hanoi recently (2010) celebrated its one thousand year anniversary as a City so going to see Hanoi made us feel very young indeed. Of course there have been organized “civilizations” for many thousands of years before the birth of Hanoi as a city. Like on our own continent these were tribal peoples or clans that had their own identity and culture reflecting their relationship to the world around them and many of those cultures still function here and are usually recognized by the Vietnamese government.

At the VGCL in Hanoi
Presenting at the VTU University
Our Hanoi trip lasted a too brief 5 days – but were they ever FULL! We were able to meet with faculty from both the Vietnam Trade Union University (which we learned was visited 3 different times by Ho Chi Minh) founded by the VGCL and the University of Labor and Social Affairs (which has an official relationship with MOLISA, the government ministry responsible for labor and social affairs). Later in the week we gave presentations – kind of like demonstrations – of how we are using popular education/active learning to teach students about conflict resolution and collective bargaining. The VTU presentation was to faculty and students who were labor leaders from Laos and Cambodia. USLA's presentation was a different experience with more than 150 students, faculty and a link to 2 other campuses! We learned a lot and were really made to feel welcome by both faculty and students. All three trade union universities (TDT included!) are in the process of exchanging curricula and training materials about conflict resolution and collective bargaining, so our modest collection of materials will get included.

Discussion at ULSA
When we weren't busy preparing our presentations (and getting GREAT support from translators!), we got to visit the VGCL headquarters and meet with representatives from the international section and policy/legal sections. The VGCL discussion was really inspiring – one of the union brothers (and his daughter) later took us to the War Museum and talked with us over delicious coffee next to the Hanoi Opera House. We also met with a representative of the VCCI – the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce – which seems to play a different role here in Vietnam from what we experience in USA. We also got to meet with two Australian labor activists who are doing amazing work with VGCL – we hope to connect further with them and their work. They were two impressive women! We spent a moving evening with a leader of the Vietnamese Agent Orange Victims Association VAVA who not only shared his own story of involvement but also a history of VAVA. The reach and depth of this organization throughout Vietnam is incredible as is their ongoing battle for justice for the now fourth generation of children and families living with the poison of such toxics.

That's Orchids for a special Women's Day
A great statue honoring women!
A special note is that Oct. 20 is Vietnam Woman's Day (declared by the Party to celebrate the founding of the Vietnam Women's Union in 1930), so Friday afternoon at one of the presentations Leanna was presented with a beautiful orchid bouquet – wow! We also celebrated Woman's Day at the Hanoi Women's Museum which was incredible – got to share that experience with Julie Brockman of Michigan State University who is here teaching and doing research as a Fulbright Scholar.

Perhaps the most moving Hanoi experience was our visit to the Ho Chi Minh Museum – which brought Leanna and Hollis to tears several times. The museum is an amazing collection of historical artifacts about his life and the Vietnamese revolution but also art which so effectively depicts and illustrates the culture, world history, people, economic and technological events that shaped Uncle Ho's life and thinking. While there were plenty of tourists, the museum was full of Vietnamese, especially families with children. We walked around the exterior of the mausoleum where there is a big open park. One of the Australian women had described to us how when she observed the flag ceremony at night at the mausoleum she thinks of Vietnam putting Uncle Ho to bed. One of the Vietnamese women we got to know in Hanoi had another comment about the open space/park at the mausoleum – when she sees all the children and families playing and relaxing there she imagines that Uncle Ho enjoys hearing the laughter and happiness of today's Vietnamese children. Now you know why Leanna gets teary-eyed.

Having a good time in Hanoi
No way we can talk about Hanoi without mentioning FOOD. Hollis found some of the best pho to-date. We ate these beautiful, small, translucent pancakes from Hue and West Lake escargot among other delicious treats. All our new Hanoi friends were just wonderful making sure we appreciated some of what makes the food of “the north” different from HCMC.

With all the incredible work we learned about and gracious, committed people we met during just 5 short days, one thing we definitely learned is our trip to Hanoi was way too short of a visit. We are so grateful to everyone who shared their Hanoi with us – and we sure as hell hope to be able to spend more time in Hanoi before returning to USA.

Unfortunately Hollis' photos somehow disappeared, so one of our Hanoi friends shared some his great photos – thanks to Tuyen!

Monday, October 21, 2013

General Vo Nguyen Giap Memorialized and a time for thought and consideration of today and yesterday

As I sit here in Ho Chi Minh City as a volunteer worker in a land that is new to me but where I feel very at home,  I am moved to consider the meaning of the passing of a world recognized General and a courageous leader of the people of Vietnam.  Of course I am writing of General Vo Nguyen Giap who died this past week at the age of 102 years.  

Reading stories in the world press the past few days I read of the same old divisions that seemed so stark back when I was in my early 20s.  The government of the USA was pressing for war and I was of draft age back then.  I had no thought of serving after I  asked myself, "Why would I want to kill Vietnamese, they have done nothing to me nor my neighborhood?" And I pointed out to friends and colleagues, "Vietnam is no threat to the US.  They lack an air force and a navy so they can't reach here.  We are being lied to to scare us of "the Red Menace".”    My answer came down to I will not kill Vietnamese, whether from the North or the South.  At the UofA I had been forced against my will to take ROTC and maybe that was good because I had picked up literature on the concepts of people's war as it had been practiced against the French in Vietnam as well as by Mao in China and by other leaders across Africa, Asia and South America including Cuba. (I feel impelled to clarify that ROTC did not supply me with these materials.)  I even considered that when my great, great, great .... grandfather fought the “stinking British” in the War of Independence, he and others used concepts of peoples war (perhaps they learned from the indigenous peoples of North America?). In other words, we in the US shared the tradition of anti-colonialism with the Vietnamese.  Our own shared experiences should have resulted in support for Vietnam instead of invading and attempting to re-colonize it. It is one of the paradoxes of history that false patriotism and propaganda can deceive people like us in the USA to follow leaders who have no concern for the best interests of our country.  Instead these “leaders” wage warfare to steal oil fields, rubber plantations and the like from countries weakened by such warfare --- killing other peoples and our own young in the process.

In fact General Vo Nguyen Giap like his comrade in arms and politics Ho Chi Minh was an internationalist, a person who believes that we are all sisters and brothers in the world.  Internationalists believe though we live in separately defined nations that our needs and desires are much the same and that through the organization of the working class and peasants who produce the wealth on an international basis we can achieve a world of  peace and plenty with harmonious relations unrestricted by the jealousy, greed and other fetters of capitalism that come between people and nations and lead to destruction, hatred, and war.  I am proudly an internationalist.  On the other hand, capitalism is based on the brute dominance of the small class of the rich and super rich who always work to divide and conquer and winner take all whether in the purely personal or in international relations.
This is why so many of us continue to organize and mobilize around many issues so that we as a people in the US rise up and say no more!  We will not invade other countries for resources, for intimidation, or in an effort to force our ways upon others.  The Constitution says it is a duty of government to defend the nation.  All it takes is a much smaller defensive force to easily do just that without the invasion of other countries, without nuclear missile threats, without nuclear bombs, without chemical and biological weapons, without drones or other weapons of genocide.  We have the capacity to be an independent nation, a very resourceful nation taking care of the needs of our people and living in equality, freedom and happiness if we will just re-distribute the wealth away from the 1% who take advantage of us.  Then the rich cannot use our government for their corporate interests of profit through the inhumane (and usually illegal) invasion of other countries.  It is up to us, the people of the United States of (North) America to do this.  That is what I believe and that is what I put my life to achieving.  For all my friends for all these years, not one step back -- the future is ours.  We must seize the time. For ourselves, for our children, our grandchildren and theirs.  Ho Chi Min, General Giap, Live Like them.  Dare to Struggle.  Dare to Win.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A fine day with Union leaders from Binh Thuan who have just completed a Labor Studies regimen.

PhotoAn important community education program of TDTU is the training of local, provincial, and upper union leadership in the theory and practice of Labor Relations, Collective Bargaining, Conflict Resolution and other key skills necessary to the function and strengthening of workers organizations in Vietnam. On 10-4-2013 our Vietnam experience took a honored turn with an invitation to join a large group of recent union graduates of TDT’s training from Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet City.

 Workers were from local, industrial-park based, and the provincial unions as well as an organizer for the VGCL who works for the unions in the area. The conduct of training in far flung areas – in time if not in distance – requires the professors and lecturers who do the training to travel by motor bike to the union locations located across southern Vietnam from the Mekong Delta to the Central Highlands and east along the Coast.  The courses last several months and are conducted at the best possible times and locations convenient for the worker students: the students are from the working class and work their regular jobs and have families and all that.  Three of our good friends and advisers for our teaching in VN are central instructors in these training program.  One of the TDT Professors was the former Vice President of the Ho Chi Minh City Labor Council and the others have been instructing Labor Relations for several years (one of whom has a long career in Human Resources before becoming a Professor in labor studies).  They each are highly capable leaders who have a mountain of experience that they contribute to their teaching.

The focus for the visit of these union members was two fold.  First there was a visit to the POUYUEN VIETNAM COMPANY LIMITED, a FDI wholly owned by its foreign investors the POU CHEN GROUP of Taiwan, in the industrial park to the west and north of downtown Ho Chi Minh City followed by a tour and dinner at the TDT University campus for the graduates.  The Union at the plant represents 80,000 workers and the plant is enormous to say the least.  It was explained that the company has a fleet of 550 buses and provides transport to and from work for  their employees.  When our caravan of TDT Labor Relations students and the bus of union leaders from Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet City arrived at the factory and Union Offices, we were met by the President and Vice Presidents of the Local Union of the workers of the POUYUEN plant and a worker delegation.  As we were being met and greeted by the plant employees, we were also meeting the union graduates who were our hosts and guests at the same time.  Within a few minutes we all made our way upstairs to a beautiful union room where the meeting took place.  The total delegation numbered about 50: 35 unionists from Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet City, 5 staff members from the Labor Relations and Trade Union Department, and 8 students from the University.  What a day of labor and workplace lessons!
In the meeting room the President of the Local began the meeting welcoming us all again and then launched into answering the questions that had been submitted beginning with the questions from the guest unionists from Binh Thuan Province, then the questions from our TDT students delegation and lastly the questions from the guest lecturers.  During the QandA the union leader invited people to come forward and sing a song for the meeting.  The performances were very good and added a “Maslow moment” to the gathering as the union members were able to receive the applause of their sisters and brothers.  Toward the end of the meeting the Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet City delegation presented a gift to the POUYUEN Local Union.  Leanna and I presented the local union President with a bag of UE, Labor United Against the War and Labor United for Universal Health Care union buttons from the USA to be distributed to the officers of the local and a few members.  The meeting ended with picture taking.
Then it was time to have lunch at an excellent Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood.  Two women from the CSR (plant management) department joined us for lunch and conversation.  Besides eating a lot of good food we had fun doing a lot of traditional toasts with our beverages: mo, hai,  ba , YO and everyone drinks.  At first we performed our toasts at our table and then after a while we got up and moved around the room toasting the new graduates at every table.  Once we had finished lunch it was time to return to the University for the next part of the days activities.
PhotoAt the University we met the delegation of labor studies graduates when they arrived on their bus, boarded their bus with them for a driving tour of the campus.  When we arrived at a spot over near our dorm room we invited everyone to come by and receive Union buttons from us as gifts from sisters and brothers in the USA.  Then we continued the tour on foot of the campus displaying the qualities of the different areas and the administration building, libraries and meeting rooms in particular.  On the 6th floor of the admin building we were invited to visit the President’s Room, named for Ton Duc Thang, the former President of Vietnam and the namesake of the University.  It was a picture opportunity and the VP of the University posed with several people who wanted to have a memoir of this wonderful day.  A special enthusiasm was generated when the workers spoke about the meaning of this university to them: A VGCL sponsored University supported by the working class and a place where they could hope their children would attend.
Photo Two floors down we went to a beautiful conference room where we held a meeting of honor for the graduates with several speeches, three songs by different performers -- just a great time.  

Finally we all enjoyed  a catered dinner in one of the special large meeting rooms of the new Sports Arena facility.  One of the canteens catered the event with a delicious fish and seafood hot pot as the main course surrounded by lots of other goodies.  It was a very fine to sit here and have dinner with these new union friends and feel the warmth of the event.  Sometime after 8pm everyone said good bye, the workers got on their bus to go to their hotel and we retired to our room.Photo  Picture with labor leaders from the Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet City.

Days in Dalat: Dancing, Prancing, Elephant Riding and General Good Times.

      Last week was a memorable experience as we traveled to Da Lat a Vietnamese City in the Central Highlands northeast of HCMC. We left HCMC by bus at 11pm on Thursday night. [The highlands are at about 12 degrees north and HCMC is about 10 degrees north. A degree is equal to about 68 miles so go figure. Dalat is also about 2 degrees east of HCMH at 108 degrees east. That should help you calculate where we were.] Dalat is at about 1550 meters in altitude, or close to a mile high. The highest mountain in the province, Mt Liangbian, located very close to the city, is 2100 meters in altitude over 6500 foot. In other words these are not the Sierras or the Himalayas but they are some beautiful, rugged mountains forested with the gamut from pine trees to banana trees and all sorts of jungle plants. Every where you look is shades of green and the colors of the rainbow because of the multitudes of flowers and flowering plants.

Dalat is known for its floral gardens and it exports beautiful flowers as well as vegetables, milk, and other agricultural and forest products: lumber and wood products such as carved furniture and bamboo. This year Dalat is celebrating its 120th Anniversary but the civilization of the area is older going back several thousands of years. There are various ethnic groups in the area with their unique farming techniques, music, arts, dance and languages. One of our thrills was going to a cultural presentation by a singing and dance troupe that performed Saturday night at the resort where we had our rooms. The group did not just sing and dance though that would have been enough but spoke to us about their history and their love of their Vietnam home. But more about that later.

     We arrived in Dalat on Friday morning of September 29th at 5:30am and a van from the bus company transported us to our resort where we stowed our luggage and took a nap until about 9am when it was time to "get up and go."  We had a delicious breakfast at the dining room of the resort --- Soup for me and bun for the others. Then we toured the grounds of the resort which includes two performance pavilions, various museums highlighting the culture of the area from weaving to wine making, farming, flower production (we bought an exquisite orchid as a gift for our Dean), and lots of statues to do with the astrological signs.
PhotoYear of the Dragon catcher.

Here is a beautiful picture of two local ladies, Vinh and Leanna.  The women asked to have a picture with Leanna because they were all grandmothers!

     When we got to the big pavilion we found that the troupe was practicing their songs and performance materials so we watched and talked with them. They invited us to take a few licks on their instruments and we did. 

PhotoWhen the rain increased we went back to our rooms for a rest before heading for downtown Dalat which was about 6K away. As it turned out after we got up about 2pm we walked downtown passing all sorts of small businesses, a garment factory where we noticed the canteen run by the union for the workers, both new and old houses some with an art deco architecture from the last part of the French colonial period. As we approached Dalat University we came upon a family running their business on the street – they were preparing deep fried bananas, corn and sweet potatoes so we sat down and got a big platter of all three and enjoyed out lunch – delicious! After we finished our sidewalk lunch we continued our walk toward downtown passing Dalat University, some road construction, dormitories and a fancy golf course.

     Then we proceeded down a long hill and arrived at a large flower garden and across the street was a lovely little lake. As it turned out, the large flower garden was closed for the day, boo hoo. So we changed destinations and decided to head for the central market and do some shopping. To reach it we had to travel alongside the lake and to do that we rented a horse drawn quite fancy carriage that carried us to the south end of the Lake. The carriages are often rented by lovers or newly weds who come to Dalat and visit the Valley of Love. At the south end of the lake we had to start our walk again, another half mile or so to the Dalat Market where we enjoyed shopping and stopped and had atiso tea and coffee at a little coffee bar featuring a locally grown highland coffee. FYI Atiso tea is tea from dried artichoke and is reportedly a good natural medicine for your GI track, blood pressure, cholesterol, gall and other things. Then it was dark out and time to head home to our rooms to get some sleep.  

     Saturday morning we were up early and took breakfast a little after 7am again at the dining room of the resort looking out over a beautiful farming and wooded valley. On the other side of the valley low clouds covered the hills swirling about the peaks. A very peaceful way to enjoy a breakfast soup. And by a little after 8am we were picked up by our tour bus for our day of exploring several sites around Delat. Thankfully, it was not raining and we got through most of the day without getting rained on although in the later afternoon the daily rain came along for a while. 

Photo The first stop on the tour was the Summer Palace of the last King of Vietnam, King Bao Dai who was the monarch in the 30s and 40s until the end of WW2 ended French colonial rule. The King soon took his family to France where he lived for many years. The palace was a fine specimen of French colonial architect built in the 30s with many art deco aspects. The King's first wife lived in this Summer Palace with her children and the other 7 wives had their own palaces --- he did not mix and match with his wives and children.

     After finishing at the Palace our tour guide and driver took us to a Buddhist Meditation Center designed by the same architect who designed the Unification Palace, the fortress built with US money for the right wing dictators installed after the partition of the nation in 1956 by the perfidy of the US and the Catholic Church and that stands now as a symbol of the liberation of the nation and the reunification after the defeat of the US military. The Meditation Center and gardens are a peaceful place even with hundreds of tourists there at the same time. One room contained a giant jade Buddha that is magnificent. 

 When we finished touring the Meditation Center we walked down to the edge of a lake where we boarded boat #19 to go out to an Island a few kilometers across lake. The lake waters were clean, fish jumped and birds and frogs were in evidence.

      The tour guide had said that on the Island that we were going to we could ride an elephant if we wanted to and like sure, why not ride an elephant? It had to be much like riding a horse or a merry-go -round, right. Well it was and it wasn't. You don't put your foot in a stirrup and swing yourself up on to your ride --- rather you climb a tower, the handler brings his elephant to the side of the tower and you climb into the box and you are ready to go. Now elephants can run quite fast but our handler, Pham, only let our elephant, Roc, walk while we were on board. When elephants walk slowly they rock and roll a lot but when I asked if Rock has fallen down the handler said that elephants don't fall down.

The view from an elephant is different than a horse, too. First you are close to higher limbs on trees and small trees and bushes are below you. Roc occasionally stopped to grab some plants he wanted to eat and the handler would have to tell him to get going. Incidentally, the handler who rode on the elephants neck did not hit or act abusive toward his friend. Whenever a trip would finish Roc got a reward of three stocks of sugar cane --- to get the cane he ran from the tower to the cane storage. When he ran he moved at a very smooth quick pace and as far as I could see the rock and roll pretty much disappeared. Rock carried his cane around in his trunk and with some in his mouth as he chomped away. When he finished one piece then he would deftly move another piece into his jaws and eat while walking along.
Photo I don't believe that Leanna or I ever expected to ride an elephant but there you go. If you get a chance, don't pass it up! We boated back across the lake where we met our van and driver and went off to another temple to view the tallest Buddha in Dalat and the province at 22 meters. After this visit to the temple we had lunch at a cafe downtown by the central market and then visited the National Heritage Railroad Station. Our food included a nice pork and noodle preparation, atiso soup, cafe, and rice. Delicious. The picture above right is of one of the train engines from the period before the US destroyed the railroad with bombing during the American War.  Dalat still does not have rail service.

Then it was off to visit a flower shop at the site of a large flower grower. The flowers for sale were spread over several rooms and included paintings/tapestries made of dry flowers as well as the live flowers for sale. The dry flower art works were said to last for five or ten years but we decided not to try to carry such things in our luggage – we would get home with flower crumbs. When we finished at the flower shop we had one more stop on our tour but we had the guide drop us off at our near by resort since it was raining fairly hard and steady by this time.

It seemed like a wonderful time to catch some sleep and the three of us took a nap. After maybe an hour we were awoken by a booming drum and decided the concert by the dance and song troupe must be on even with the rain. Before 7pm we trooped down to the theatre and since we were early had our choice of seats and sat back for others to arrive and for the show to start.

Photo The program opened after a short speech with two people being called out of the audience to light a bonfire, this is a pantheistic culture and fire is one of the gods, in the middle of the stage. To my astonishment I was called out and I looked around at first to make sure that this was true even after Leanna and Vinh said that I should go out on the stage. After we were standing on the stage for some time with the moderator or production director by the stacked wood that was seasoned with kerosene or some other burning fluid, two women brought out burning torches and shared them with the volunteers. The women held the torches with us and we stepped to the wood pile and lit it up. As the fire burned a dance started around it and people came down out of the audience to join us as we circled the blaze. There were more dances as the evening progressed and in almost every instance the audience was drawn into the performance --- a brand new caring community growing before our eyes and through our feet. Another dance that was wild and enjoyable was a dance of water buffalo. The picture below shows the performance area but was shot in the day time.  Unfortunately the night time pics didn't take well, it was dark and I didn't want to use flash.

Dancing as a buffalo I miscued a few times but the beauty of the dance was that no one called you to task, you just kept going. There were also dances centered around hunting, fishing, and getting water. I had a few swigs of wine from one of the traditional jugs you will notice in the pictures and it was a bit hard to keep up with all that was going on when the wine took effect. The program lasted a couple of hours by which time the audience as well as the troupe were happy, tired, and ready to call it an evening. Next morning we got packed, stored our bags at the resort office and went shopping, again. At 10am we boarded our bus and headed back to HCMC where we arrived at 5:30pm, caught a taxi to the University and collapsed about 9pm to get some sleep and be up at the classroom teaching at 6:50am.