I was sitting down tonight getting ready to write a long-winded report about my recent trip to Vietnam over Thanksgiving Break. After thinking about it, I decided perhaps it would be better to keep things succinct and sweet. Rather than a droning, factual chronology of what transpired over the course of nine days in that beautiful country, I decided to write about two “things” that were really powerful experiences for me.
First, as I spelled out in my last post, a primary goal of this trip was to explore the feasibility of a dual BS degree program to be jointly administered by my university (Colorado State University) and Can Tho University (CTU) of Vietnam. In a nutshell, I had the opportunity to visit with the wonderful faculty and administration at CTU, tour the campus and city of Can Tho, and give a presentation to the students. Hieu Nguyen, who lives in Hanoi and accompanied me, was utterly invaluable with his translation skills. In one million years, I could have never imagined floating down the Mekong River in a skiff before the sun was up, all to get to a floating market bustling with crude houseboats loaded down with watermelons, jack fruit, and baskets of shrimp and fish. This is what makes life so awesome. You simply never know what twist or turn life will drop in your lap. If you are patient, if you are committed to living your values, the Universe always seems to reward you in ways you never thought possible.
A few challenges lie ahead in getting the dual BS degree program up off the ground, and I know there are no guarantees it even will, but after this visit, I am quite confident that these challenges can be overcome. I looked out into the eyes of the Vietnamese students last week while I was giving the presentation. Even though I was talking, I was literally thinking about what a positive impact this program could have on their lives. This was quite a powerful moment for me. It is my hope that they get the chance to come to Colorado State University for a remarkable year they will never forget and that will forever change them.
Secondly, I am so glad I had the opportunity to spend time in and around Hanoi with three of the Vietnamese students I met at Colorado State University last year: Hieu, Thao Tran, and Lan Nguyen. Now my dear friends, I always knew our paths would cross again. It was so totally cool, if not surreal, to get the opportunity to eat dinner with each of them and their families, families that I had already heard so much about back in the US. We did our faithful best to build more memories for us to laugh about and share in years to come. I had my first, albeit terrifying, experience with the frenetic and frantic Hanoi traffic while perched on the back of Thao’s motorbike (to her credit, she is a great driver). On Thanksgiving, I felt a bit adventurous, so I did a rather long walk all the way around West Lake, fueled by strong Vietnamese coffee and a sweet street vendor treat called Bo Bia. I even did a couple of surprise stops along the way to see where Thao and Lan worked — haha! In the afternoon, I met up with Hieu and we visited, in order, Hoa Lo Prison, the gorgeous Hoan Kiem Lake, and then checked out a traditional water puppet show. The four of us ended up, after dinner, wandering the Old Quarter late into the night. Finally, the grand finale came on Friday, when Hieu, Thao, and I traveled a considerable distance outside of Hanoi, courtesy of Thao’s kind uncle, to see a large Buddhist complex (Chua Bai Dinh) and to take a boat down a river and through the caves of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex. Rather than taint the later experience with mere words, I urge you to see the pictures below of these crown jewels of Vietnam.
Once again, I was reminded in this instance of a powerful lesson I have learned in life. As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that one of the greatest gifts two people can give each other in a healthy relationship — romantic, friendship, family — is each other’s time. It is more precious than all the possessions and riches on the Earth, builds an emotional joint account that ever strengthens the relationship by engendering a sense of trust, holding enduring memories and an indelible shared history.
Remember, Hieu, Thao, and Lan … the best is yet to come. Our finest days are still ahead of us …